Growing in Knowledge

I’ve carried the subtle idea around with me that going in knowledge will mean that I get to depend less and control more. But Jesus indicates the opposite. The humble knows the most and knows it not.
— Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, p. 113

When is it easy to do a great thing for God?

It is easy to do a great thing for God so long as greatness does not require interior humility, practical love for the people right in front of us, or submission to the presence of Jesus in the place we already are.
— Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, p. 42

Silicon Valley Suicides

Here are a couple of things that stood out in The Atlantic December 2015 cover story,The Silicon Valley Suicides:

Dysfunction rates are high for kids at class extremes.

[Luthar’s] research suggests a U‑shaped curve in pathologies among children, by class. At each extreme—poor and rich—kids are showing unusually high rates of dysfunction. On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

As resignation has replaced rebellion, school is now the blamed as the source of stress over parents and friends.

Since Levine wrote The Price of Privilege, she’s watched the stress in the Bay Area and in affluent communities all over the country become more pervasive and more acute. What disturbs her most is that the teenagers she sees no longer rebel. A decade ago, she used to referee family fights in her office, she told me, where the teens would tell their parents, “This is bad for me! I’m not doing this.” Now, she reports, the teenagers have no sense of agency. They still complain bitterly about all the same things, but they feel they have no choice. Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a “mass delusion” that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow. Adolescents no longer typically identify parents or peers as the greatest source of their stress, Levine says. They point to school. But that itself may suggest a submission of sorts—the unquestioned adoption of parental norms.

The Power of Music on Display

If you haven't yet seen SNL's take on the ability of an Adele song to bring together folks from different backgrounds, classes, and political positions, then you should click play. 

This video is funny, but also points out something we know but don't often think about: music does bring healing, encouragement, and unity to tough places. 

Malden Overcoming Addiction Opening Remarks

These were my opening remarks from the Malden Overcoming Addiction Vigil on November 22, 2015 at Malden High School.

Thank you to Malden Overcoming Addiction for partnering with the City of Malden to host this vigil and thank you to Malden High School for providing this space.

Tonight is important … tonight is important because:

  • lives have been wrecked, interrupted, and ended too soon by the disease of addiction … We get to remember those that have been hurt the most by addiction tonight.
  • Tonight is important because many here have lost loved ones … We get to love one another.
  • Tonight is important because many aren’t getting the help they need to beat the disease of addiction because they feel trapped, not only by addiction, but also by the stigma that comes with it.
  • Tonight is important because babies are being born with an addiction, but without parents.
  • Tonight is important because four people/day die in Massachusetts from opioid-related causes.
  • Tonight is important because we need help … All of us need help.

Tonight is important because, there’s someone else that’s going to become addicted tonight, tomorrow.

Tonight is important because someone is going to overdose in the coming hours.

Tonight is important because we all know this is all wrong. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable and if we sit back and think about it, we all know that we shouldn’t be gathering to remember those lost. We all know that we shouldn’t be crying right now. We all know that we shouldn’t be worried about what is going to happen to our children.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be … But it is.

I was reading a story the other day, a story from the Gospel of Mark, in the Bible. Some of us here believe this story is true and some of us don’t. Whether you believe or not, please hear me out because I’d bet we can all agree that we want this story to be true. Even more, I bet we all want it to be true in our own lives.

We aren’t told their names, but the story tells us that four men carried a paralyzed man to see a man that was preaching in a small house. We don’t know what caused this man’s paralysis, but he was paralyzed and his friends had heard that this man, named Jesus, was able to do miraculous things. Unfortunately, they arrived to a house so small and a crowd so big that no one else could get in. We might expect that they would turn away, grumble a bit, and hope for another day.

Instead these four men carried the guy onto the roof, began chipping away at the mud, at the dirt, at anything that was keeping them from getting this paralyzed man to Jesus. The hole got bigger and bigger until they could lower the paralyzed man down, on his bed, into the room.

And, when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now their were some folks around that didn’t like Jesus or the things he said so they started questioning him. Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say “Your sins are forgiven” or to say, “Pick up your bed and walk.” “But that you may know that I have authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And the man rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and gave glory to God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!””

I love that story for so many reasons. One of them is that I believe everything that it says about Jesus and the forgiveness and healing that can be found in him. I stand here a broken-down mess that has been forgiven by Jesus.

But I also love it because of the paralyzed man’s friends. I love this story because the paralyzed man couldn’t get to Jesus on his own. Healing may have been waiting for him at Jesus, but he just couldn’t get there.

But he didn’t have to because some men, some unnamed men, picked up this man’s bed and carried him to Jesus. And when they couldn’t get close enough, they carried him on top of the house, dug a hole through the roof and lowered him until he got healed up … And he walked out of that joint a new man … Legs that worked and a soul that was free.

I’m telling this story tonight because there are many in our lives that are being paralyzed not only by the disease of addiction, but by the stigma, the mark of disgrace that comes with it. We have family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers that need healing but are trapped by the disease and the stigma.

Healing is needed, but there are giant obstacles. Obstacles like stigma … Crowded rooms in buildings that are too small… Folks that don’t want anyone to have forgiveness … Folks that don’t believe healing can come. This world has tons of obstacles.

I told you that story because I not only want Malden to have the forgiveness and healing that comes from Jesus. I want stories of healing to be told of Malden that are like the four friends.

Don’t you want to live in a city full of friends like the ones the paralyzed man had?

  • Friends that will find out where healing is and get you there.
  • Friends that will carry you when you can’t walk
  • Friends that will see that there’s no more room and then step back and put a whole in the roof so that you get the care you need.
  • Friends that will believe for you when you can’t on your own.

If we’re going to fight against all of the things that aren’t supposed to be, alcohol, heroin, prescription painkillers, and all of the loss that comes with them, we need friends like that and we need to be friends like these.

That’s what tonight is about … Let’s stop blaming the paralyzed man for not walking and get him help. Let’s carry people … not addicts, people … not junkies, people … To where healing is.

Tonight we get to do that through connecting to one another, connecting to resources, and finding out how we can all be friends like the ones in the story. One practical step you can take tonight is to be trained on Narcan.

Let’s be friends that fight against what’s not supposed to be.