Siolence.


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It’s 5:05am.

The room is dark, except for the tiny dot of light from the lamppost outside my window.

My wife breathes quietly beside me, and off in a distant room I hear a low hum.  Probably the refrigerator.

Other than that, everything is still.

The world is asleep, mostly.

I should be too, for another hour or two, but the calm and quiet around me has captured my attention.

Funny, how peaceful things are outside,

because meanwhile… inside?

IT’S A CIRCUS.  A CROWDED DEPARTMENT STORE.  AN AIRPORT TERMINAL.

MY OWN HEAD IS LIKE AN ALARM CLOCK WITH A BROKEN SNOOZE BUTTON!

My “things to do today” list flashes past me like the crawl on the bottom of a 24 hour news station.

Highlights (and lowlights) from yesterday rattle around my brain.

It’s not just my brain making noise.

My heart seems to have woken up early, too. Worries and fears explode like water balloons filled with angst instead of water.

And is that my own voice I hear shouting at me with ideas and strategies and lists and details?

I guess it is.

Why am I doing this to myself?

Although you wouldn’t know it if you were standing in the corner of my room, there’s a complete racket going on inside my not-so-sleepy head.

i hate when this happens.

When the world presents me with silence…

and my own mind responds with violence.

I’m not alone in this, am I?

Insomniacs, workaholics, worriers, and folks like me who just have a busy week ahead may all be able to relate to the sensation of Siolence:

Silence on the outside, violence on the inside.

You know, the world seems to so seldom give us an opportunity for peace, it’s a shame to miss even one.

Actually, God is the one who prescribed Sabbath time. It’s meant to be a regular part of our lives – an opportunity to cease from all of our busyness, inside and out.

No violence. Just silence.

. . . . .

It’s 6:52am now.

Instead of just stewing in my own personal edition of CNN, I got up and made some coffee. I prayed. I wrote this devotion.

It turns out I didn’t have to face this Siolence lying down (literally).

Just like Jesus, getting up early in the morning and going off by himself to pray, I accepted this invitation to silence and welcomed the peace of Christ into this brand-new day.

This beautiful day.

Whatever comes, I’m ready to embrace it…

(including, I hope, a half an hour nap at some point.)

Have a great week,

Mitch

Psalm62_5-2

Are you a HULK?

“Mr. Mcgee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” – David Banner AKA The Incredible Hulk

And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’  – Jonah 4:4

I knew a guy, back in the day.

He was a nice enough guy, popular for a 4th grader, good looking, well behaved. We were almost friends.

But when we would play football on the playground, he became a different person. He would begin to scream in rage.  He would stand up tall and flex his muscles, seeming to double in size. Veins would throb in his head. His shirt would rip at the seams. He would tackle unsuspecting opponents with a vicious satisfaction. You could see the adrenaline transforming him into a monster.

After every game it would take him a good fifteen minutes to calm down and return to his mild-mannered self. It got to the point where the other guys didn’t want to play with him anymore.

I talked to him about it once. I said, “you get so angry when you’re playing games. It’s like you’re out of control”.

He nodded reluctantly. “I know. I think there’s something wrong with me.”

No, he didn’t turn green, but in just about every other measurable way, he was our playground’s Incredible Hulk.

I know, I know, the Incredible Hulk is a superhero. A good guy. But not for this devotion. See, there are lots of Hulks out there, and more often than not, Hulks Smash through life in an unhealthy way.

Do you know any Hulks? Contrary to what comic books and TV has taught us, Hulks come in all shapes and sizes (and colors). The one thing all Hulks have in common is that, no matter how they appear on the outside, there’s a ticking time-bomb of anger inside, just waiting to go off.

You may have one at your office. You may have one in your family. You may be married to one.

You may be one, yourself.

Anger is one of the hardest emotions for us to control. I liken it to rocket fuel. Powerful, explosive, dangerous when it’s unfocussed. While it is possible to channel your anger into something productive, there are millions of people in our society who never learned how to do that.

A surprising example from the Bible is the prophet Jonah. God sent him to Nineveh on a mission of mercy, but Jonah exploded back in a barely concealed rage. He was angry at the people of this foreign city, whom he believed should be destroyed. He was angry at God, whom he believed was being too easy on these people.

If Jonah had his way, he would have turned into the Jolly Green Giant and stomped the city to the ground. His uncontrolled anger kept him from listening to reason, and listening to God.

Some of you know all too well the danger that comes from living in close proximity to a Hulk. Some days may be good days, and other days may be nightmares. Domestic violence, dating violence, and bullying are all examples of out-of-control Hulk behavior. If you feel trapped in a situation involving a Hulk, please know that God wants more than that for you  (and them). Make sure you are safe, and talk to a pastor or a counselor.

Others of us come across Hulks in traffic, in lines at the DMV, and quite often at the ball game (especially if there’s beer involved). My advice? Walk away. Hulks tend to deflate if there’s no one around to get their blood pumping.

And if YOU are the Hulk, ready to explode with rage, even when you do your best to avoid it, know this: There is nothing about your great anger that makes you incredible. In reality, it’s a detriment to the grace-filled life God has called you to live.

It’s probably time to get some help,

And a new shirt.

Have a Banner Week,

Mitch

Duel-istic


It started last week.

I was standing in the produce aisle, inspecting peaches.   An employee standing next to me was humming along with the music from the speakers.  Absent-mindedly she said, “I just love Kenny G”.   I chuckled and said, “To be honest, I’ve never liked him.”

Almost immediately, she turned and glared at me.   She took off one of her latex gloves, and slapped me across the face with it.

“Choose your weapon,” she growled at me.   I sized her up briefly, looked at the pricing gun in her hand, and then bolted for the exit.

Two days later I was talking with somebody at the ballgame.   He said he hated the designated hitter rule.   I told him I thought it made the game more exciting.   Wham!  He slapped me across the face, whispered “Pistols at dawn”, and turned and left.  I’ve decided to start rooting for a different team.  Just to be safe.

What is going on?  I’ve been invited to four duels in the past three days!   I told someone I voted for Obama, and she pulled a sword!  I mentioned to someone else that I was against Capital Punishment and before I knew it we were arm wrestling.

Has the world gone mad?  It’s as if anyone who has an opinion contrary to yours is suddenly an enemy!  This sort of all or nothing thinking is dangerous…and contagious.

I’m worried.  This morning a parishioner told me they hated the Harry Potter books.  It took three people to hold me down!

It’s been shown time and again that dualism can lead to duel-ism.   Remember Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton?  They took their political frustrations out with firearms! While I don’t see that kind of violence on C-SPAN, who could deny the divisive, violent undertones in modern political rhetoric and legislative debate?

Come to think of it, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter came to “magical” blows during a dueling lesson at Hogwarts.  It’s true, the Slytherins and the Griffindors seem to be at odds much of the time.

What about you?  How do you respond if someone picks the other side of an issue you’re passionate about?  Do you rush in to argue? Do you challenge your “opponent” to a battle of who is superior?  Do you feel compelled to fight for what you think is right?  Hmm. But what if the fighting part is what’s wrong?

Here’s some advice from the writer of Timothy:

Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  –2 Timothy 2:23-25

This doesn’t mean you’re can’t choose to like (or not like ) Kenny G.   It doesn’t mean you can’t choose to approve (or disapprove) of some elected official.   It doesn’t even mean you can’t state your opinion, make your case, and try to share some of your accumulated wisdom in conversation with somebody who disagrees.

But the next time you feel like it’s time to take the gloves off…

Think twice before getting Slap Happy.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch