Trying to Undertand Evil

Photo: Jeremy Papasso – Reuters

Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.  ~Douglas Malloch

    It’s been a tough week in America.  We are all having to come to grips, again, with another random, senseless act of slaughter and mayhem; this time it’s the Colorado movie shootings.  TV and Blogland is rife with details, and all try to answer the question everyone wants to know:

Why?

     Anyone who attempts to answer the question is going to fall short.  My six year old who is just barely old enough to process such horror is starting to realize the world of reality is far more sinister than the Disneyesque existence he’s experienced the first five or so years.  Somewhere around six he’s learned that people not only die and loss is unavoidable, but sometimes it’s even a result of something completely nonsensical that defies understanding.

     Evil exists.  That is what I told him, when he asked me the one word question, “Why?”   We were at the beach and I turned on the news only for a few moments late Saturday evening.   I had gotten word even while playing in the ocean tide and completely absent from technology.   When it comes to the sensational and dreadful, word travels fast.

But why does evil exist?  And a dozen other reasonable follow up questions that still, when boiled down to the core, come down to why.  I don’t know and it just does seems like such a lame answer.  Yet it’s the only truth I can provide.  This is where our faith is tested.  Many want to know how a good and loving God can allow this to happen.  It seems reasonable to me.

I am not a theologian, just a person who is trying to navigate life and keep believing and trusting in a God who remains in control, even when I am not, and clearly the world isn’t it either.  That’s where the rubber meets the road and your faith is truly tested.  This is where choice actually comes in to play.

It’s essential to choose well in life.  If we begin to doubt God’s goodness, it’s easy to then wear shades of cynicism and doubt.  This causes us to pull back in life, unplug, and lament rather than to seek ways to alleviate suffering or bring about peace.

Events like this are always our reminder to hug our own families, and not get out the door without reminding them of the three little words.  Eternal words our hearts can carry with us as a shield against the evils of this world!  I LOVE YOU!  Say it more.  Say it TO more.  Show it more.  Live it more.  Don’t hold back.  Find those in life who are isolated and intervene with love. 

I don’t know if the shooter James Holmes was adequately loved.  Plenty of people don’t feel adequately loved, and don’t respond the same way.  To me the scariest part is how someone can live a so-called normal life, and then something snaps inside them.  It starts with a one-second decision, but from that point on, they decide to follow and promote a culture of darkness, evil, and death.  It is one thing to acknowledge evil exists; I think that’s why so many people wanted to go see Batman.  We love a superhero who vanquishes evil!  It’s another thing to emulate evil and join it.

I’m sure in the days ahead media will analyze what caused this.  Was it lax gun laws?  Were the fictitious characters Batman or Joker responsible for his delusions?  In the end, it won’t matter.   Evil exists.  We can’t legislate it away; we can only choose which trait we wish to nourish in our own life:

  Good or Evil

      I find it interesting that EVIL spelled backwards is LIVE.  Even more true, is that when we speak and make our choices that value and promote LIFE by valuing others, even those that believe and behave differently than we do, we promote a culture that respects life.   Jesus said, “He that tries to keep his life will lose it, and He that loses his life will save it.”  (Luke 17:33)

The shooter will get his fifteen minutes of notoriety for his despicable act of evil. His potential for living a good and productive life are now completely over.  He will live in that reality much longer than his few moments of fame.

Yet the victims of his carnage and their survivors will have the last word, because of the way they lived.   Those will be the stories that the majority of people will remember:  When superheroes stepped in, when the brave successfully rescued the injured despite personal risk, or when one sacrificed one’s self so that another could live—these people and memories are the people we became inspired by.  They represent the love and hope we cling to.

Aurora and America will move forward.  The families of the victims have no choice now but to live life and see it and appreciate it in all its magnificence, and sometimes heartache, not only for themselves, but they will be required to see with a vision for their loved ones whose lives were cut too short.  In order to most honor their loved ones, they must rise above the evil, and truly live.

I pray the survivors can find ways to enjoy life again after their time of grieving, and even during.  I pray they can eventually not dwell on the manner in which their loved ones died, but in the ways that they lived.  I pray they can live without fear and love without limits.  I especially pray they can find big and small ways to forgive others so that they may live in freedom and not bondage to that which they never had control of anyway.  I pray they will know that God is good and that He loves them.  I hope they feel the prayers of America and the world surrounding them during this devastating time.  I hope every tear of sorrow will be redeemed and ultimately turned into tears of joy.  Above all, I pray they live.   I pray they live long, they choose to do good and love well, and that they live strong.

When we choose love and life intentionally in our own life, the oxygen is removed for evil to thrive and its roots shrivel until they die.  Choose life.  Choose love.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

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LMFAO! (Live My Faith; Accept Others!)

The other day I was having a lovely lunch with my young son and mother.   Though my mom is an extremely youthful octogenarian, she amused me when she asked, “Liz, tell me something, what does LMFAO mean when people comment with that on their Facebook page?”  Oh boy!  Not one who enjoys cursing in front of my mom, I told her what the acronym’s letters stood for and assured her that I never use it with the middle letter attached when someone tells me something funny.

Long after I answered her question, I was still thinking about what it could stand for.  You see, in the deep cranial cavities of Liz Logic, I am kind of an acronym aficionado, if there is such a thing.  When I see unfamiliar acronyms, I love to see if I can figure out what they stand for based on context of a website or article etc.

At church, we have sermon notes, with blanks left out for key words that will be divulged during the sermon.  Pastor, I’m one step ahead of you; I got this one I always think to myself.  I like to think I know my bible well enough, that I can guess the key words before he teaches us with an amazing sermon.  And you guessed it, I often get it wrong.    I see an L__________ (fill in the blank) and go ahead and put LOVE!   Only to find out, the answer was Live!

It’s a mental game I play with myself, seeing if I can decipher answers before sitting still long enough to receive the answers from someone who just may possibly know more than I do.

Get to the point Liz!  OK, here’s the thing.  So I was pondering a better answer I could have given my mom for the off-colored acronym for a response to a humorous comment one makes on Facebook.   EUREKA!  It just came to me, like this, in a Liz-Flash of inspiration.

Live My Faith; Accept Others

It seems like the last year of my life has been one of the best years I’ve ever had.  But it’s not because every situation in my life is hunky dory all the time.  Far from it!    I don’t know if it’s because the sands of the hour glass are heavier on the bottom side of my life, or God has just graced me with more wisdom, but this message just keeps ringing true these days–repeatedly!

Here’s why:  I have been involved in a neighborhood bible study group with the loveliest friends I have ever known for the last fifteen years.  Some of us leave for a season and come back; some simply move on to other things in life, but the core friendships remain the same.  We are a platoon of moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends and we have seen it all and been through it all in our own lives.  We’ve been through multiple deaths, births, and struggles with our families and deep within ourselves.  We’ve laughed and cried together all these years and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to face some of the things we faced, had it not been for one another.    Sometimes we look back, and think, how in the world did we even survive that?    Only one answer rings true, but for God.

Something one dear friend said, especially grabbed me last night.  She said, “You know the answer in life is just so simple.”  Impossible at times to execute, but so simple to understand:

“Just love one another”

 If we all could just truly love one another, and accept one another, we wouldn’t be at war within our families, or within the world, and even within ourselves.  You don’t think you’re at war within yourself?  Think again.  Do you ever participate in self-condemnation?  I’m so fat or I’m so stupid?   Do you ever participate in pride, or judging others?

See, this truth is the heart of our faith–to just love one another!   Where do you feel the most free in life?  It’s probably in the friendships and relationships where you feel totally accepted in life, despite what they know about you, or your quirks, or your flaws, or your areas that you are working on.

We’ve learned some other things in life too.  It’s not enough to just love each other in our little “holy huddle.”  There is a hurting world outside just beyond the smell of our fresh coffee and raucous laughter.    We know!  That’s the world we always go back to when our time together is up.

Our personalities, political persuasions, professional choices, and how we school and parent our children vary vastly.   Yet we are in agreement on this bedrock principal.  Just love!  We don’t have to beat the others in our family or in the world with bible verses.  It’s not our position to save, but our privilege to share.  We can share our testimonies and our faith as we understand it if asked, but ultimately it is our kindness or love (or sadly, lack of) that tells the truth of who we claim to be.

Sometimes I personally feel like I’m the worst as far as being an effective ambassador or servant of Christ.  I’m so full of inconsistencies!  I’m full of pride sometimes!  I still sin, not only as defined in the bible, but as that voice in my head that says this doesn’t honor God.   Yes, I struggle!    I’m real!    I think we’ve all taken turns passing the self-condemnation ball around but I also know that this is a tactic from an enemy who wishes to see us destroy ourselves, and NOT the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day I know God is a mighty big God.  He has a sense of humor and strength that far surpasses mine.  After all He’s God!  He knows my obsessions, my fears, my tears, and my confessions!  (Whoa…that rhyme just tumbled out!).  But He does!  He probably laughs and says, “There, there my precious child.  You’re going to be okay.  I’ve got it covered.  I know ALL about this, but I love you anyway.  That situation that’s making you nuts or you’re totally afraid of?  It’s all going to be ok.  Trust me.  Be patient.  Have faith.  Don’t be angry at others; just love.  Yes, grow in love.”

I’m still growing up.  But the love comes easier these days.  I don’t have to stay confined to this group or that group of people.  I don’t have to put people in a category.   It’d be better if I ignore any splinters in my neighbor’s eye, considering I have enough planks in my eye to build a deck, quite possibly on a ship.

Though I still get mad, and frustrated, and lose it sometimes, I’m learning I have a place to return.    It’s the heart of our creator.  Proverbs 4:23 teaches us “Guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” has never been truer than now.    I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to build a fortress around it, as to not contaminate it, but to build bridges from it and let the love spill out into the world.  I think this verse is misunderstood as to not let anything corrupt us.  This is true, but I think it also means to not fear those that believe differently, those who have a different opinion of truth.    I think of it as guarding your heart from falling prey to fear, cynicism, judgment, condemnation, or categorizing.  Just breathe life-affirming love into others.  Let God worry about the rest.

Is our faith so fragile, we could lose it by loving those that are different?  I hope not.  That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what I want to do either.  Though I’ve certainly been guilty of that, it’s not who I am anymore—at least I’m trying not to be that person!

For me, Jesus was perfect and I’m so not, and honestly neither has anyone who speaks in His name for the last two thousand years or so.   I think He would be a lot more popular if the world could see more love from those that claim to follow Him.

Love is not to be contained, or given to only those we deem lovely or loveable.  It is not reserved for the deserving, or folks like us.  It’s so much more than a cliché too; it’s actually a commandment…to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but don’t forget the second part—to love our neighbor as our self!

The world and its inhabitants have always and will always need more love and peace.  Just start with you.  Start now.  Where is the love?

Bye Bye Baby Girl

Dance Photo: Bob Stuart Photography
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Partial Lyrics – Daughters – John Mayer

Who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when they look at their baby girl and see the incredible young lady you knew they would be.  We look in the mirror at ourselves and often think Oh my; what happened? But our daughters—well, that’s different.  Sometimes we have these moments that just seem to freeze time.   As we do, we  observe with amazement and are  shell shocked because this realization hits us so hard; where did all the time go?

I’ll tell you where it went.  You bring the little apple of your eye home and your days get consumed with nursing, stimulating, putting down, comforting, and watching every first in amazement:  First  smile, first tooth, first step, first words.  You have more fun dressing your baby girl than you ever did playing dolls.    I was born to do this, you think.  My happiness is complete now.

You don’t realize it; it’s gradual, but you leave the cocoon of infancy quicker than you thought.  Now your packing diaper bags with goldfish crackers snapped in plastic, a few wedges of apple for good measure, sealing  sippy cups, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and Barney tapes (my baby missed the IPOD and even CD generation).   You’re meeting the other moms you’re friends with for play dates at the park, or Gymboree class, gymnastics lessons, or trips to the library or museums. You’re in full blown motherhood!  You’re concerned about every morsel they ingest, every habit they have and every milestone they either exceeded or lag behind.  You put character band aids on every boo boo and you kiss the tears until they vanish.

All former identification with career status only has now taken a back seat, most likely, to motherhood, regardless of hours worked outside the home.   Sometimes you may go to work because you desperately need a break, or perhaps you have to work, but it kills you.   Either way, you’re desperate  to hurry  home,  afraid of what you might be missing.  The ache of not being with her catches you off guard.  You always thought you could do both easily.   You learn having it all, is not just an illusion, it’s clearly obvious that you don’t even harbor that desire now.  Less becomes more.

As you learn to make peace with work and motherhood, time ticks on.  Soon you’re packing back packs, lunch boxes, and learning how to French braid hair, and sanitize freshly pierced ears.  Baby girl plays with you;  she plays with her dolls or Build-A-Bears, or with friends.  You don’t even feel it, this sudden pull as she becomes  the pretend role of mommy, Queen, finger painter Picasso,  clown, gymnast, dancer, singer, artist, pot-holder weaver, tye-dyer extraordinaire,  and a million other choices. Yes, she’s leaving you, alright.

You referee sibling fights and arguments amongst friends and you too, change hats more frequently than you once changed diapers.  One minute you’re craft mom, the next minute you’re nurse, the next you’re mentor mom, homework mom, PTA mom, and chauffeur mom.  Yes, before elementary school is finished, you will start logging miles that would make a truck driver say, “Whoa momma….slow down.”     But you keep going, because you know dance lessons, help with homework, music lessons, summer camps, play dates, museum trips, are all what will make your daughter super amazing someday.  Or at least you delude yourself, if you can just keep on striving towards that ultimate Queen’s Crown of PERFECT MOM, all will be well!

Time doesn’t pardon you or slow down, just because you can’t seem to get it all done in a day.  More than half her childhood has passed already.  Middle school is a complete revolving door of hormones, physical changes, and a mental maturity that arrives without warning.   Stringy uncombed hair is suddenly combed.  Make up is applied.  Bras go on first.   “That time” arrives and leave you both a little sad.   Even little girl is more a memory now.  Hints of a woman are lurking in your subconscious, but you chase it away.

High school arrives.  Day after endless day of activities ensue.  First car, first date, first job, first prom, first boyfriend all take place.   The cycle of firsts repeats.    My daughter is a dancer.  EVERY night of her entire high school life was spent at a studio.   Dinner with family was rare, but the dashboard dining table was common.   Rebelling or excelling is common during these years.   You learn to deal with the stress of either, or both sometimes.  Your daughter’s friends sometimes become your friends, or sometimes become the thorn in your side.  But deep down you love all of them; especially the thorny ones.

Since you often feel like you are feeding and mothering a clan, you admit that maybe Hillary knew a thing or two when she said, “it takes a Village to raise a child”.  You are Village Mama trying your level best to supervise, teach, befriend, and intervene when necessary.  Your former status as CEO on the domestic frontier has been diminished to that of an adviser.  Unlike your day job, you were not informed of your demotion.

Suddenly you went from  turning baby girl on her back in the crib, to this moment where  you’re watching  young lady turn her tassel.   In our case, we wrapped childhood up with several amazing final senior recitals, a graduation party, and tied a pretty bow on her life with a big trip to NYC,  a final nod to the amazing world of competitive dance.

Then–.BOOM!  It happens.  This is the day she leaves you!  Bags are packed,  room is cleaned out, pictures are taken, hugs are exchanged, and you go back home with one less.  You tell yourself not to cry.   But of course, you do.   You’re happy for her.  But you’re sad for you.  You knew that day they placed her in your arms this day would come; you just tried to pretend it wouldn’t.

We say goodbye and let this beautiful woman God crafted all those years ago inside of you into the big wide world.

You nurtured her, taught her, laughed with her, traveled with her, joked with her, ate with her, made things with her, drew with her and sometime when she wasn’t looking tried to just draw her.  Above all, you just loved her.  You loved her so much and so hard, you realized when she left, you weren’t sure what was left inside of you.

If she’s your first, you know the first time in every big step is the hardest and you take comfort in the children who still keep you busy.   If she’s you’re last, or your only one, you feel pain the most acutely, because now time demands of you to answer the question who am I now and what in the world am I going to do.

But like her, you will find the answers to these questions in time.  Take time to listen to your heart; what is stirring in your soul just for you?   And just like baby girl, you will step out bravely into the new world and find the answer.  Trust God.  Reach out.  Go forward.   And find your life in a new way.

When I saw her first in a pram they pushed her by
Oh my, my how you’ve grown
Well it’s been, it’s been…a little while

In a Little While…U2