Two Years Later: Processing the PULSE Nightclub Shooting

Two Years Later: Processing the PULSE Nightclub Shooting

There is so much material online about the PULSE nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016. I can’t possibly do a better job of honoring the victims—both living and dead—of the massacre. But I can share with you the weight of it, the heft, the residual dread and anxiety, that this anniversary stirs up for someone who wasn’t there and didn’t know anyone who was hurt or killed.

But I know a lot of people who do. And I watched with them as the day unfolded and the horror became known and real.

Chaos Theory and the Mind of Christ

Chaos Theory and the Mind of Christ

I need to thank my friend René. He got me thinking about chaos. 

I’ve been working lately to create a new life—one where I am the “Master of my fate…the Captain of my soul.”⁠1 One where there is less chaos, more peace; less insanity and more grounded-ness. But wow, have I been frustrated. Sad. Even depressed. My now doesn’t match my vision and that’ll drive a Type-A creator like me just about crazy-pants.

Dottie the Cat Demonstrates Quantum Entanglement

Dottie the Cat Demonstrates Quantum Entanglement

Meet my cat. Her name is Dottie. She is a cat of different color, if you’ll excuse my usurping of a familiar phrase. You see, Dottie is both cat and companion to me. “Companion” doesn’t really cover it though; she has been an unexpected comforter, empath, and confidante to me. We nap together—I would say, “peacefully,” but she is on a never-ending quest to get all four paws on me at the same time, and therefore and has a squirm-factor that is off the charts. She is my co-writer of music and editor of articles. She touches my face when I am sad, and makes me laugh with silly acrobatics. She is my spirit animal and I love her beyond measure.

And she is dying.

The Conversational Nature of Worship

The Conversational Nature of Worship

Mankind has been grappling to understand the nature of worship for thousands of years. As we take a spin through the Old Testament we see the elaborate formal rituals of the temple, the joyous celebration of Israel as God moves on her behalf, and the spontaneity of Davidic worship. In the New Testament, we find people meeting together to share, and eat, and drink. Each person brings an encouragement, a song, a prayer, or a testimony.

Many theologians tend to describe worship as something along the lines of being "the response of the created to the creator." I definitely believe this is correct. But it seems somehow incomplete, and even--dare I say it?--unfulfilling.

And before you hit the "comment" button, I'm not a heretic! I know that worship is not about man, but about God. The purpose and point of worship, from our point of view, is to magnify the creator of the universe, and please him with our offerings of praise and our whole hearts devoted to him. But is that all there is to it?

A Conversation

A Conversation

Me:  The Lord is my shepherd. I will not lack anything. He gives me rest in beautiful, green fields. He lets me lay down and take a nap beside quiet, cool water. He refreshes and restores the very best and most inner parts of me. Even when I walk through the most horrible and fearsome of places, I don't have to be terrified, because he guides me along, and when i wander too far, he breaks me for my own protection.

Blessed is...

Blessed is...

You don’t often hear anyone say, “Turn to Psalm 1 please.” It seems that with the grand exposition of the glories and downfalls of humankind, with the declarative exclamations, praises for and pleading with God that follow this humble Psalm, it is often overlooked. But this small Psalm, a simple setting of God’s feeling toward the righteous and the unrighteous, gives a compelling frame of reference for the entirity of the Psalms.

When Retreating Pushes Us Forward

When Retreating Pushes Us Forward

I just returned from the Visible Music College Winter Retreat. A great concept, the retreat takes all the students and staff--140 or so total--out to a retreat center and they spend a few days together in a completely relaxed environment. Rather than over-programming the time, there is a definite focus on worship, on input from the guest speakers, and on hanging out and sharing free time fun together.

I've been to ten previous winter retreats with this group of people, and God is always faithful to move in big, lasting ways.

shawn, part 1

I didn't know until we moved to downtown Memphis that I could really love a homeless person. I had never seen homelessness up close. I had been annoyed by panhandlers, afraid of being followed, and resistant to engaging in conversation. It wasn't that I was aloof or felt myself above these folks. I was just scared. Intimidated. In the same way that you might be uncomfortable with the elderly or disabled; what do I say? What shouldn't I say? What if I can't understand them? What if they won't understand me?

And then God showed me Shawn.

Shawn is a big ol' black man. The first time I saw him, he had laid down on the backless park bench by the trolley stop in Court Square. It was perhaps 11pm; July, if I recall, and hot and miserable in that wet way that only Memphis can be. I looked down from my ninth floor apartment and saw him lying there in a light-colored shirt, his body flowing off the bench on both sides. "Oh," I thought, "poor man."

I saw Shawn for the second time sometime in the quiet middle-of-night hours that night. He slept, still, on the bench. I couldn't stop watching him. As the minutes ticked by, I began to wonder if I was watching over him.

The third time I saw Shawn was at 6am. I awoke, looked down from the window, and saw that he had shifted to a bench with a back and was sitting up as best he could. The downtown cops will let homeless folk stay overnight in the park as long as they keep their feet on the ground and don't lay down on the benches. Clearly someone had come along and asked Shawn to be more presentable.

"Talk to him."

I felt the impetus of my faith move me. Nervous, I awoke my husband and told him we were going down to talk to the homeless man. When we got to him, we discovered that Shawn had a difficult time speaking, not from drug use or intoxication, but simply from exhaustion. I had no idea what to say to him. I don't remember what I said to him.

I do remember asking how he got on the streets. He told me; I couldn't understand him. Something about his sister. I felt completely foolish asking him this question when he was clearly in so much immediate need: his shirt and sweat pants barely fit and were filthy; his left foot was encased in bandages which clearly needed to have been changed days ago; he was downcast. Besides, what business was it of mine what landed him on the street?

He was in trouble. How could we help? We went and got breakfast for him; McDonald's sausage biscuits and orange juice. We went and purchased a couple of nights for him at the local rescue mission. We went back to the park to take him to the mission.

He couldn't put his medical boot on--he was too big to reach it. As I knelt down to put his boot on his foot--a kind action I realized was probably a rare sight on the streets of Memphis--the homeless men sitting on the next bench down all leaned forward to watch what was happening. I wondered what they must be thinking, and then realized I had no idea whether we would anger them or whether they would think we were busybodies, or do-gooders. Mostly, I just felt stupid.

We finally helped Shawn lift his mass upward and slowly limp over to the car. I hadn't realized how large he really was until we tried to put him in our element, and had to push the seat all the way back, and then push the seat back nearly all the way back. I hopped in the backseat. All I could think was, 'I wonder how long it's been since he's been touched by another human?'

I reached out my hand to touch his shoulder. His smell filled the car.

When we reached the shelter, Shawn would not allow us to help him from the car. I couldn't tell whether he was embarrassed by our charity, wanted a fellow homeless man to assist him, or was too proud to let the white couple help him.

He stumbled in to the shelter with Dave tagging along behind, looking every bit the apprehensive middle-class white guy that he was. I sat in the car and watched any number of homeless guys roam up and down the street, and wondered what their lives were really like. I felt angry that they let this happen to them; I felt unsafe; I felt dejected at the loss of human potential.

I felt helpless in the face of the massive human catastrophe that is homelessness.