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Some things you never forget.

14 years ago, I was a senior in college. I was sleeping late when my one of my roommates nudged me awake to tell me there had been a plane crash in New York City. We all thought it was an accident, at least for the first few minutes. But as the second plane hit, news outlets quickly changed their reporting and informed us that our country was under attack.

I remember patriotism being at an all-time high, at least during my lifetime. I remember President Bush’s approval rating climbing sky high. I remember people being sad, scared, and angry all at the same time–and I was one of them.

Images like the one above still bring back memories and the accompanying feelings of being lost and alone. It was during this time that I began attending a Bible study which allowed me to ask the hard questions of life, purpose, and meaning.

I’m still sad for the loss so many endured that day. But I’m grateful that it’s during these times where we remember that we’re all weak people doing our best to make it through life. And I’m grateful that evil isn’t the final word in our world and that goodness will ultimately prevail.

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At the close of his second letter to Timothy, Paul tells his spiritual son about some of the hardships he’s endured on his ministry trips, as well as some things to bring to him. He lists several people who have abandoned or withstood him, and those names far exceed those who are currently with him. In fact, he lists only Luke as his current companion (4:11), and he’s requesting Timothy’s presence along with Mark. I find it fascinating that he also asked for several personal effects to go along with the company: his cloak and his scrolls and parchments. Could it be that after a discouraging trip, he’s turning to the comfort of friends? And he also wants his reading material and something to keep him warm? Of course, I’ve always read Paul through pragmatic lens–he only uses what’s necessary to get the job of spreading the gospel done. But, does a desire for some earthly comfort perhaps soften this no-nonsense man of God? It certainly does in my eyes. And who can’t relate to wanting something familiar and comforting in the face of discouragement and setbacks? And why not, like Paul, expect it in friends, books, and a cozy covering. Wasn’t it Linus from the old Peanuts strip who said, “Happiness is a warm blanket”? Too bad Paul didn’t have awareness of a good cup of coffee as well, because I’m sure he would have also asked for his French press.

It’s been a very good day. I love being a dad, and I appreciate a day where I’m reminded of all the good dads there are around me. Especially my Dad, David Siders, and my Father-in-law, David Newman​. What a couple of excellent men God has blessed me and my family with.

Before becoming a dad, I didn’t know my life was incomplete. Knowing now what I didn’t then, there’s no way I’d ever go back. It’s kind of like this commercial:

Fatherhood. It’s a dirty awesome job, and I’m glad I get to do it.

I’m glad for what my friend Ryan–and others like him–are saying about Charleston and other incidences of violence towards the black community. I agree wholeheartedly and echo his call to do our part for justice.

Ryan_Jacob

This hits especially close to home for me as a pastor. To think that someone could be welcomed into the church, observe (and maybe even participate in) the activities, and then perpetrate brutal violence against the people in the room while spouting hate is almost unthinkable. I say almost because this happens more than we’re comfortable admitting–even in houses of worship. And it should sober all of us to the fear that many carry around everyday because of their skin color, speech patterns, or attire.

So, how are you being prompting to get involved? Perhaps it’s by asking tough questions that invite correction to your skewed view of reality. Or perhaps it’s by marching for justice. Or by weeping with those who weep. But whatever it is, do something. Don’t just sit there and accept this as someone else’s problem. We’re called to more as Christians–a higher standard where we cry with the Old Testament prophet Amos, “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24).

Rant on, friends.

A photographer in Vancouver has presented a thought-provoking take on the role of religion in our current culture. Gods of Suburbia is Dina Goldstein’s “visual analysis of religious faith within the context of the modern forces of technology, science and secularism.” Between Jesus in the Vancouver slums, Satan as a tow truck driver, and Darwin in a casino, no one’s religious notions are exempt from being poked and prodded.

Jesus’ meal with the apostles is reimagined as “Last Supper, East Vancouver.” The table is scattered with beer cans and the apostles are captured as chain-smoking derelicts. Goldstein says,

My reenactment of history’s most famous dinner party is meant to portray the treatment of the most vulnerable by society. I have placed Jesus and his Apostles, a street gang, specifically in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This is Canada’s poorest postal code and a place of chronic drug abuse, alcohol addiction and mental illness. Jesus and the Apostles consume the diet of street people: cheap packaged noodles, cheap beer and canned tuna, while Judas plots his betrayal of Jesus.

Check out the Huffington Post’s video coverage of her shoot:

What thought about who Jesus would hang out with are provoked when you look at these pictures? What do you think about the intersection of other religions and suburbia?