Do we talk about it again? Do I list the names in worship and have people stand up so we can viscerally see and experience that real lives were lost and not just names and numbers and additional statistics proving how violent we are as a nation? I don’t really want to today, to talk about it again.
Today I’m looking at the sun. Today I’m grateful for a wise presence in my life that came unexpectedly several years ago when I decided I wanted to talk to somebody about direction and meaning and ministry and depth and width and breadth and life and hopes and dreams and cares and guilt and sadness and burdens and hope and delight and the color of a season of the year and of existence. And I marvel at how things happen and when, and the people that somehow are connected in ways that are unpredictable but no less important.
How many people would we miss meeting if we talk about it again? Because we disagree on intent, because we disagree on amendments and freedom and responsibility. Because we disagree on causes and solutions and legislation and leadership and power and money and position.
Today I’m dwelling in memories. My friend Mary died. An accomplished scientist and chemist and lab rat and welcome-er to Sunday night dinners and weeknight drop-ins and share-er of hearts for dogs – dogs that get so excited they streak back and forth from one end of the house to the other because they are so excited to see you and now struggle also with a broken part of the heart in a noticeable absence. Did Mary know that she made a difference in countless lives, some she knew and some she did not in her 93 years of living?
How many lives missed meeting and connecting with 26 people because of gun violence in Texas? Or in Las Vegas or San Bernardino or Sandy Hook or Orlando or Charleston? Because somehow a white gun-toting fear-based man was convinced he was a powerless victim that needed to fight back against some invisible threat, from family members, from community, from church, from school, from racial diversity, from a spouse and child on whom he perpetrated violence? Are these harsh words of assumption and judgment? That’s why we shouldn’t talk about it I suppose, you know, again.
Today I’m reading again from one of my favorite authors. Frederick Buechner. He has a unique perspective on life and a unique way of writing about it, and he’s done that in rather ubiquitous fashion, but somehow I never feel like the quantity is for quantity’s sake. Maybe I’m naïve. Here’s my latest favorite quote:
“There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind. Be kind because although kindness is not by a long shot the same thing as holiness, kindness is one of the doors that holiness enters the world through, enters us through, not just gently kind but sometimes fiercely kind. Be kind enough to yourselves not just to play it safe with your lives for your own sakes, but to spend at least part of your lives living out loud, for God’s sake, and thus to come alive truly. Be kind enough to others to listen, beneath all the words they speak, for that usually unspoken hunger for holiness that, I believe, is part of even the unlikeliest of us, because by listening to it and cherishing it, maybe we can help bring it to birth both in them and in ourselves.” (Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons)
So today I’m trying to focus on kindness, gentle kindness and fierce kindness. To others, and more difficultly perhaps, to myself. Random acts of kindness that go unnoticed? Maybe not unnoticed by the anonymous recipient of a cup of coffee at the drive-thru already paid for, or a door opened when hands are full, or a conversation about nothing and everything and about and not about the task at hand that brings laughter and spirit and acceptance to all kinds of different voices and genders and ages that in those moments are more the same than different.
I’m not going to talk about how we can’t hope to stop a lone gunman living outside communal and communicative reality whose inner voices direct him more than the outside voices of civil? society. Because somehow the lessons of civil? society were lost on him/them in the midst of mental dis-ease. But in that lacking of mental health in our civil? society, the access to an AR-15 easily modified to shoot multiple rounds in seconds, is easier and takes less time and training, than obtaining a driver’s license to legally use that 4-wheeled weapon of possible mass destruction. I had a semester of driver’s ed and an open-book test along with a vision test and being able to parallel park within 12” of the curb with an instructor in the car. You?
Today I’m thinking about life. And lunch, I’m thinking about lunch. And I’m thinking about Thanks-Christmas coming in two weeks and the drive west on I-70 with presents and a suitcase and Bud and Ringo and Oscar and remembering to slow down from around the exit toward Manhattan to west of Salina toward Russell because Salina has the Highway Patrol Training facility and those in-training/newly trained cadets are often enthusiastically on the look-out to keep drivers safely aware of speed limits.
Even when I don’t want to talk about it, you know, again; violence (gun, car, domestic, religious, national/international) fills a lot of my mental, emotional, and faith space. Actually, it’s not so much the violence filling the space, it’s the lives, so many, many lives lost to the world. They’re not lost to God, none of us are ever lost to God, but they’re lost to this world. Beloved, valuable in their own right, gifts unlike any other anywhere and anytime, suddenly gone without possibility of seeing what impact they would have had if allowed to keep living, a day at a time. What do we miss in their loving and making mistakes and dealing with the consequences and joking and arguing and doing laundry and sleeping and crying and playing music and playing games and riding horses and riding bicycles and raising kids and teaching kids and going to the grocery store and on vacation and having lunch? There are so many other things that already make life in this world fragile, it simply makes no rational sense to me that we can’t stop proactively destroying human life.
I’m thinking about lunch, that’s all, lunch. Lunches I will have with people that make me laugh. Lunches I have had with people with whom I work and plan and serve and risk and fail and succeed. Lunch around a table of turkey and dressing and green bean casserole and mashed potatoes and gravy (dear sister and host of T-giving, are you listening?) and crescent rolls and olives (both green and black) and pumpkin and cherry pie (mom, are you listening?) with vanilla dairy queen ice cream (dad, are you listening?) And a game of basketball on the slab, (Austin and Angela, are my little great-nephews listening?) and a recounting of the Nebraska state high school volleyball tournament (Jessie and Avery, are you listening?) and football games sort-of watched while snoozing in the chair (bro-in-law, are you listening?)
Maybe just one more piece of talking about it, you know, again. We have power collectively to decide if we want to actually do something along with thoughts and prayers for the dead, the dying, the recovering and the grieving loved ones. What? Decide how to use our power. What does our economic power support and not support? What does our power of presence and time support and not support? What does the power we have in daily actions and behavior at home and at work support and not support? What does our power in words to and with one another at home and in our community support and not support? What does our faith lived each day of our lives support and not support? It all makes a difference. Claiming to have no power doesn’t. We have the power to live on purpose, we have the power to decide how many more, how many…agains.