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Monday, July 18, 2016

Tunes, Tragedy, Teaching

Part of me wants to run away and find a big hole to hide from all the agony around... Alton Sterling,
Philando Castile, 5 Dallas police officers, a coup in Turkey, utter devastation in Nice, and now 3 officers murdered in Baton Rouge. Reading Psalm 14 this morning captured much of my malaise:

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.
(Psalm 14:2-3)

Yet if I stay in this empty, hurting place, I am paralyzed. There is so much more to say here, but for now, these lyrics from a new Avett Brothers song wake me up and pull me back in:

I cannot go on with this evil inside me
I step out my front door and I feel it surround me
Just know the kingdom of God is within you
Even though the battle is bound to continue

So I move forward, one day at a time... Here are a few resources I've used in the past couple of weeks. May we prayerfully and persistently press on through these dark days. 

True Sadness by the Avett Brothers. Here is the full song on YouTube. I want to be the kind of friend described in this song. It's also got some deeply scriptural lyrics. Allow them to dig deep into your soul.

Spiritual by Jay-Z. So much of what we each need to do is to listen to the stories of people's lives. We must seek after understanding, and not build fences around our own experiences and demand that they are the "right" and "normal" way. The lines, "I am not poison / No I am not poison / Just a boy from the hood that / Got my hands in the air in despair / Don't shoot / I just wanna do good" are haunting, and grieve my spirit. 

5 Ways to Process Tragedy with Teenagers. In 2005, a student from our youth group took his own life. Despite having over 25 years of youth ministry experience at that point, I had NO idea what to do, and fumbled through that first week (monthly?) blindly. While one article cannot solve it all, this one is a good start.

Revisionist History ~ a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell. A lifetime of working with students makes me continuously fascinated by all aspects of education: how are the best ways to teach and engage, what resources are available, what are others doing, etc. There is a current series on education in America in this podcast that is spell-binding. It starts with the episode titled, "Carlos Doesn't Remember." I nearly missed a turnoff on the freeway last week because I was so riveted by it. The entire series is excellent.

What I'm Reading I just started The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New by Annie Dillard. With all the bad news rolling out this summer, I needed something to help me take a step back to breathe and reflect. As an ever-recovering English major, good writing just slays me. You have to concentrate when reading Dillard -- she is incredibly precise in her language, and miniscule in her observations. But it is lyrical, amazing writing.

I will end with this simple thought from Dillard. In the midst of our huge struggles and pain, we need to pace ourselves for a long journey. We must keep Sabbath, and seek after refreshment from the Lord. Dillard instructs us with a simple reminder:

Opening up a summer cottage is like being born in this way: 
at the moment you enter, you have all the time you are ever going to have.

May we each get to "open up a summer cottage" and receive deep, restorative rest this summer. We desperately need it.

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