Blue about yellow.

Recently my 5 year old daughter came through the front door after school with quite the frown on her face. I asked her why she looked so sad and she sheepishly made her confession, “I turned yellow today.” Her school has a new color-code behavior policy, where green means the student is behaving well, yellow is a warning, orange is a loss of some privilege, and so on.
So, as sweet and well-behaved as she normally is, I was quite curious as to why her color changed to yellow. She went on to tell me that she received her color change because she was waving her art project in the hall and also talking in the hall, which is against the rules. Well, her art project was a black-and-white checkered racing flag. So, put a checkered flag in a kindergarteners hand and tell her not to wave it? Can you spell entrapment? But she knows that the voice level in the hallways is zero–that means silence. Now, I’m not one to really hound my kids on small stuff, especially when they’ve already gotten some kind of reprimand. So, I went right to talking with her about what she might do the next time she’s in the hallway and wants to talk. I said, “When you feel like you want to say something to your friend in the hallway, just pretend your lips have a zipper and you zip it up until you’re allowed to talk.” She looked at me with a straight face and said, “But Daddy, my zipper broke!”

This mourning…

On September 11th, 2001 I was finishing up a breakfast meeting with a fellow youth pastor, Nick Simpson at a great little spot on Broadway in Nyack, NY where I lived. The spot was called “Strawberry Place”. I can’t remember what I had to eat but when we walked up to the counter to pay for our breakfast, we found ourselves in the horrific shock of all the other humans around us at that moment. Nyack is in the shadow of New York City, a small town nestled directly on the Hudson River. In fact, the backyard of our home WAS the Hudson River. And in this bedroom town of NYC, we felt the shockwaves of steel colliding with steel just minutes away. I left Strawberry Place immediately and went directly to the church office. Hysterics of the attacks were there, too. Right away, our church office became a clearinghouse of sorts for the donations of supplies that would be needed in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. One of my youth ministry interns was a volunteer EMT and he went directly into the city as soon as he could to offer his help. He was assigned a number and it was written in bold black permanent marker on all his limbs, for obvious reasons.

This morning, 6 years later to the day, I woke up with a kind of involuntary somberness. The morning seemed heavy and a smile seemed unnatural and forced. It was as if my subconscious knows precisely what day it is and knows exactly what happened on this day.

I poured my morning coffee and as I turned on my under-the-cabinet tv in the kitchen, the screen warmed and dissolved into the very imagery I just want to erase but can never forget. For me, like many–there is burned to our psyche the image of a living person freefalling next to the World Trade Center. Unfathomably faced with the choice of burning to their death or falling to their death. As much as I can grasp that, the logic seems to say that the latter would be quick while the former would be excruciating and drawn out. Nevermind that. Imagine having to make that choice at all. I was sickened all over again this morning in my kitchen, 6 years from the fact, but thrust right back to that day. I felt anger and hatred welling up in my heart and mind toward the people who birthed the thought, planned the day, and carried out the act. As a man of God, I’m ashamed to say that I have thought terrible thoughts, profane thoughts, and unholy thoughts toward those who terrorized America that day–and in some way, every day following since.

I stewed there for several minutes this morning in my kitchen. Until I somehow put it aside to get on with the day, caring for getting the kids breakfast and off to school on time. Later today though, I just couldn’t not think more about that hatred I’ve felt. And then it happened. A thought that perhaps thousands, even millions have thought. Those, at least, who know and understand something of the character of God. And this God is not the god of extremist Islam. This God is not the god who turns planes into missile bombs. This God is the God of the Bible. This God is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. This God is the triune perfection–the Creator of the universe and the ground we walk on and the air we breathe. And this God loves those who hated America enough to so atrociously attack it. God loves them. God loves them. God loves them with an everlasting love. God loves them. God’s Son, Jesus–whoa this is hard to embrace–died for those men who took control of those planes.

The love of God has never been dependent on reciprocation. And whether humans deny the very existance of God or acknowledge Him to whatever degree, He loves. He reaches. He just loves.

Did the events of September 11th 2001 anger this God? I truly believe that they did. I believe this God seaths with anger toward any injustice, let alone one of this magnitude. I believe God mourned and grieved that day the way He mourns and grieves every day over the lostness of His creation.

This day in history will never ever be forgotten. No one will allow history not to tell the events of this day every year on this date, if not every day of every year. It’s just too large to let go of.

But here in the mourning, a choice is made–we either stay in hatred; willing the very fire of hell to burn hotter over the flesh of those who flew those planes; Or we take the side of their Creator. We choose to redeem this day, to redeem this memory, and to redeem this country.

The Phenom of the Brain

This past weekend, I drove my family (6 of us total) down to NC to visit my mom’s mom who we lovingly refer to as “Grammy”. Several weeks ago, Grammy had a massive stroke which essentially wiped out most of her brain. I was there with her within just two days of the stroke and hadn’t seen her since. I knew I was in for quite a visit. She has moved from teetering on the verge of death due to her initial inability to swallow and her clearly documented desire not to be attached to any type of artificially life prolonging equipment, including a feeding tube–to now able to somewhat look around, recognize people, and speak–well, kind of.

When we arrived at the nursing home, we walked to the hall where her room was and could already hear her. My mom had told us that her speech is very limited. In fact, her two words she’d repeat are “No Way!” So, I could hear her speaking long before I saw her in her bed. But to hear her speak was wonderful simply because it is her voice. It’s astounding to see her respond to questions and things we say–all with a variety of inflections, intonations, and emotions wrapped up in those two words, “No Way!”

I turned the corner of her room door and looked in. When she was able to focus on me, she stopped talking and just puckered up. I leaned down and kissed her and sat and talked with her for a few minutes. Well, as long as the response was “No Way”. What astounds me is that when we’d begin to sing a song, she could sing anything beautifully. As long as a word was in the context of a song, she could form it. We sang “You are my Sunshine”, “America the Beautiful” and even “Happy Birthday” since it was my Mom’s birthday that day.

What is it about the brain that would chain her mouth to only speak “No Way” and yet unchain her mouth to sing any song you’d like? It was simply incredible to watch.

Ironically enough, it is the same situation we’re in with our youngest son, Hudson. He can sing any tune he knows, but can’t truly carry on a conversation with you. I shared with my wife this morning how baffling I find that and she told me that its because those two things (singing and speaking) are not cerebrally related to one another at all–they literally come from two different parts of the brain.

The doctors and those caring for Grammy have said it may be as many as 6 years before she returns to normalcy in speech and functionality. 6 years.