Tears Have a Way of Washing the Blindness from Our Eyes

Oscar A. Romero once said:
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”
He also said,“There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”
There are days and weeks our hearts must be broken by the lovelessness and hurt in our world. Society tells us that productivity, power, popularity and point-blank speech are virtuous and worthy pursuits. Yet, we see a world increasing with systems of violence, coercion (power-grabbing), anxiety, and fear mongering. When our hearts are finally broken by what we see tears will fill our eyes and we will long for a different kind of peace. It is then, in the words of Romero, we can see things as they really are and that these so-called virtues are not the fruit of virtuous character at all, rather the fruit of godless idolatry and pragmatism.¹ Productivity, power, popularity and point-blank speech will be seen as they should, instruments that work against peace, generosity, and the “tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.”
Tears have a way of washing the blindness from our eyes.
May our hearts break and eye be filled with tears. Perhaps then our hands will open, our feet will move, and we will follow the Way of Jesus, and become instruments of peace.

¹ By pragmatism I am drawing from the philosophical tradition and the notion that meaning or worth is determined by practical consequences. It’s close to the meaning of utilitarianism, that usefulness is the standard of what can be called true or good. This understanding aligns with the works of ‘classical pragmatists’ and philosophers like William James, John Dewey and George Santayana. Ironically, pragmatism and a philosophical system of thought originated in the United States and is considered the West’s gift to philosophy.
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Label Makers and the Lord as Maker

Liberal. Conservative. Progressive. Republican. Democrat. Libertarian. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I’ve been called all these and more. I’ve even thrown some at others. I bet you have too. 

After years of label making and label taking I agree with Danish philosopher, theologian and poet Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) who once said, “When you label me, you negate me.” 

Placing labels upon another demonstrates a woefully pitiful tendency to childishly avoid dealing with whatever issue is at hand. Casting down labels is a stubborn refusal to deal with another’s personhood. 

However, as one who has confessed that Jesus is Lord there is one label I’ll readily take: Christian. It is what I am. All other descriptors and labels are frail attempts to categorize others based upon a faulty logic of managing one’s own party-political ideology. 

Jesus won’t be managed. He won’t fit in our ideological categories no matter how hard we squeeze and cram. 

Jesus is the Redeemer, not a Republican. Jesus is the Lord, not a Libertarian. Jesus is the Day Star, not a Democrat. When he chose to walk this earth he was a brown-skinned man hailing from Nazareth, not a white man hailing from the West. In self-giving love on a blood-stained cross He showed us that He would rather die for His enemies than kill them. As risen Lord and God of all creation we must come to realize that He may “fit inside your heart” but he will not fit inside our preferences. He is Lord of lords. He is King of kings. He is the ever-present almighty God of life-changing eternal Love. When all other kingdoms become a footnote in the pages of history, His will stand. And He won’t accept split allegiances. 

I think Christians in these United States would do well to remember this. 

As for me, I am a Christian. I pledge my allegiance to the Lord alone and I am grateful that His grace welcomes a wretch like me. 


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Poetry: Free

I wrote this simple poem around 2003. It was a season of profound transition and hurt brought about by a most unexpected disappointment. In a desperate attempt to reconcile my failures with faith, I was pushed to consider Jesus in a way I never had before. The poem become a psalm of personal reflection clinging to the hope that despite all my imperfection I wasn’t lost on Christ, the embodiment of Love and only One capable of setting me free.

Lately I’ve been wandering
Why You came to rescue me
From this life I have made
And my waves of restless peace

My life is so off course
What is it that You find
That You would come for me
To save me from a heart
So darkened by my pride
That You would leave everything behind

Lately I’ve been wandering
Why You would die for me
To give up beauty indescribable
Just to set me free

My life is so off course
What is it that You find
That You would come for me
To save me from a heart
So darkened by my pride
That You would leave everything behind

Brighter than the sunlight on a hot summers day
Cooler than the autumn breeze that could take my breath away
Higher than the farthest star any eye could ever see
Is the Love that came to this world
And He came to set us free
Oh this love
God’s love
Has come to set us free.

~ Fred Liggin, 2003

Below is a musical recording of the poem. Me (guitar and vocals) and my extraordinarily talented friend Simon (guitar and vocals) recorded it at least 15 years ago. We used to play quite a bit together. Although years and miles have separated us, his friendship has left an indelible mark on my life.*


*Words by Fred Liggin, Music by Fred Liggin & Simon Sakatos
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Lonnie, Jason, 3e Restoration & #GivingTuesday

Hey there! I know it has been a while since I have written. Let me explain. One of the reasons why is due to my work with 3e Restoration Inc. Led by our staff and partnering churches, God is using 3e Restoration to change lives in profound ways. It keeps me hustling and makes it hard to take time to write.

When it comes to 3e Restoration I could offer you story after story outlining how God is rewriting people’s stories through gracious hospitality and friendship. Instead, I will just point you to one  in the form of a video, specifically of my dear friends Jason and Lonnie (click their names or click the picture below).

I want you to see why giving to 3e makes sense. I want you to see why God’s work through 3e is unique. (There are several other videos you can watch on our Vimeo page).

Please, watch the video and consider giving on #GivingTuesday. You can give HERE. Together we can make a difference, alleviate poverty and eradicate homelessness one friend and family at a time.

Oh, and if you’ve never heard of #GivingTuesday, here’s the deal. #GivingTuesday is a movement to celebrate and provide reasons to give rather than consume. This effort harnesses the collective power of unique partnerships—nonprofits, businesses and corporations as well as families and individuals—to transform how people think about and participate in the giving season. People are inspired to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better ways to the causes they celebrate and help create a healthier society.  Finally, it harnesses the power of social media to create a movement dedicated to giving in every community, city and country around the world.

Thank you for considering 3e Restoration Inc.

Grace and peace to you,

President of 3e Restoration, Inc.
On Behalf of the Board of Directors

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Reordered Lives, a Disordered Society and Eucharistic Living

10505272_10154290548015508_8732401184129308556_nIf this election season has accomplished anything, it has been the disordering of many relationships. Political ideologies mixed in with a commitment to a particular set of values, virtues or fears have put friend against friend. Sadly, the Church is no exception. There are many reasons for this, for which I will not attempt to unpack here. I am only interested in the way forward because November 9th is coming. Jesus will still be Lord, neighbors will still be present to love, and the Church will still be called by God participate in his work in the world by the Spirit. If the church is stay oriented to this invitation, we will need to reorder what has become (sadly) disordered–lives, relationships, ethics, politics; we will need a renewed invitation to the eucharistic Table.¹

In my church family, we have a eucharistic orientation to our weekly worship gathering, which moves us directly from the proclamation of the Word (sermon, teaching or open conversation) to the Table. We no longer offer an “altar call” (in my tradition we call this an “invitation,” usually to repentance and baptism). We invite people to tend to the presence of Christ among us by coming forward in two lines side-by-side to the Table. Now, I do not believe there is anything wrong with the former and I do not mean to shun or devalue different liturgical impulses. Each church has it’s tradition based upon theological commitments. But for us, it is a renewed theological (and missiological) commitment that has necessitated our shift from Word to Altar, to Word to Table (Sacrament or Eucharist).

We have found that coming together to the Lord’s table after the Word has been proclaimed reorders our lives. It calls us to submit all ideologies to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The way to guard ourselves from allowing our ideologies to overshadow the truth and cultivate eucharistic living—the way of gratefulness, hospitality, the culmination of the common life rooted in our true identity, and in preparation for mission–is our weekly practice of Word to Table.

Rehearsing the Gospel

Coming together to the Lord’s table serves as a rehearsal of the gospel as we practice receiving the welcome of Christ. Through the Word we reflect upon the dramatic unfolding of God’s redemptive work in and for the world. At the Table we prayerfully submit to it’s authority and participate in what God has done for the sake of the world as we discern his presence among us. The Lord’s table becomes the embodiment of submission and participation both to and with Jesus as Lord, and to and with one another as his Church. The inseparability of Word to Eucharist reorders our lives and reinforces our identity in the presence of Christ: we are the children of God delivered from the reign of sin and death and transferred into the reign of grace as citizens of his kingdom.

Cultivating a Grateful Community

As we come forward together to receive the bread and wine with an attitude of faith and self-examination, we remember and proclaim the death of Christ, receive nourishment for our souls, and signify our unity with Christ and one another. At the Lord’s table we remember our need and God’s provision, which becomes our training for grateful living. All we are and have is a gift of grace, no matter how mundane or seemingly ordinary. God uses the ordinariness of the bread and wine to help us remember the nourishment he provides to us in Christ. Just as eating and drinking is basic to life and captivates all our senses, the presence of Christ in the midst of his people leads to human flourishing and captivates all aspects of life. Our hope is to leave the Table with gratefulness as the disposition of our lives so we may resist the disposition of selfishness.

Cultivating a Common Life in Community

At the Lord’s table we acknowledge both our need for one another and common belonging, which becomes our training for cultivating a common life. In the Eucharist we remember the announcement that all wrongs have been forgiven by God, so we must become a forgiving community. In the Eucharist we remember that God shares all he has in Christ, so we must be willing to share all we have with one another. In the Eucharist we remember that the walls of hostility which once separated us from God and one another have been torn down, so we must become a peace-making, reconciling community. At the Lord’s table the ideologies and antagonisms that drive wedges between us are placed in submission to the presence Christ as he draws us toward each other. The fear-driven, death-dealing narratives of party-politics and society’s “-isms” at work among us are exposed and placed in submission to the lordship of Christ. The permission we give ourselves to choose who sits at our daily tables is called into question as we acknowledge that we do not get to choose who sits at the Lord’s table. As our gracious Host, the Lord alone determines who is welcomed and he has made it clear that any one can come.

The Table as Training for Hospitality and Homemaking in a Inhospitable Society of Displacement

Therefore, the Table becomes our training for hospitality in a inhospitable society. The same kind of welcome extended to us by Christ becomes the same kind of welcome we extend to others. In the bread and wine we remember that we have made our home with God and are summoned to become homemakers in society. We have received his hospitality and are summoned to live hospitably before the world. If we understand the Eucharist this way, our personal tables become an extension of the Lord’s table. Our lunch tables become extensions of the Lord’s table. Our cubicles become extensions of the Lord’s table, because we remember that we are to be as welcoming to the person who cleans our trash as to the person who signs our paychecks. The Table forms us a people, a family, on mission with God in our society.

  1. Eucharist means thanksgiving [eucharistēsas]. The word is found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Scholars believe it is used by Paul to point back to the Last Supper in Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:14-20. I tend to agree.
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Donkeys, Elephants, The Lamb and His Sermon on the Mount


The sermon on the mount still fascinates me. Generations of dialogue between theologians concerning how to interpret sermon equally fascinates me. There are three things I would like to share. At the end I will attempt to make a connection with what I believe are the politics of Jesus and the politics of the USA. I will get after it by working out the Sermon on the Mount in three categories in this order: the end, the beginning, and the middle.

1. The End (Matthew 7:24-29).  Jesus ends the sermon with what will become a Sunday School song. His conclusion leads me to believe that Jesus’ sermon isn’t merely about “understanding,” e.g. Martin Luther, but doing (the one who “hears and acts on these teachings of mine“). I’ll close the post with some observations on Jesus’ conclusion in a bit, but for now I think it is important to see his sermon as a call to action, outlining both the politics and ethics of God’s kingdom.¹ Jesus’ sermon is a summons, calling us to adopt the politics and ethics of God’s Kingdom. It is a practical guide toward living under the Lordship of King Jesus.

2. The Beginning (Matthew 6:3-8). Before Jesus gives any commands it is important to see that he starts out with a pronouncement of blessings. The politics of Jesus offers a blessing before issuing a summons for action. Jesus postures his hearers with a specific understanding of how they should view themselves in society (in this case under the rule of a foreign empire). It is an invitation to a different way of being in society, to see as Jesus sees and believe that the kingdom of God is a place where:

  • those who are poor in spirit, the ones who have had the life sucked out of them, are viewed as hopeless causes, are actually blessed because they have inherited God’s Kingdom, because Jesus is Lord.
  • those who mourn and weep, the ones viewed by the world as inconvenient needy burdens, are actually blessed and find comfort, because Jesus is Lord.
  • those who are gentle and meek, the ones the world would call unworthy and weak, are actually blessed and made strong, because Jesus is Lord.
  • those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the ones who long for the wrongs and injustices of this world to be set right, are actually blessed and find their hearts filled with peace, because Jesus is Lord.
  • the merciful, the ones viewed as foolish because they do not give people what they deserve, are actually blessed because they receive mercy from God the Highest Judge, because Jesus is Lord.
  • those who are pure in heart, the ones viewed as naive idealists in the matters of life, are actually blessed because they see God, because Jesus is Lord.
  • those who are peacemakers, the ones the world labels as push-overs, are actually blessed, because they are called sons and daughters of God.
  • those are persecuted for doing what is just and right, the ones the world mocks and places on death row, are actually blessed because the Kingdom of heaven is theirs, because Jesus is Lord.

3. The Middle: Love your enemies and bless them. Give to those who ask without expectation of return. If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, give them your coat too. Don’t worry about tomorrow because the birds and flowers are doing alright. Love generously and graciously just like your heavenly Father. Wow. Who can do this in a world racked by fear and drowning under the dominant narratives of consumerism, anxiety, fear, violence, and self preservation? Who can adopt these politics and embrace these ethics?

I think the answer is found at the beginning in Jesus’ words, blessed are you. Our blessedness is secure. God’s sovereign love can satisfy and his life-shaping presence can give us peace. We are blessed as we rest securely in his presence. We can participate in his life and love, therefore we can faithfully participate in his work in the world, adopt his politics and ethics, and make his kingdom tangible by the power of his Spirit.

The people blessed by God trust in His reign and have nothing to prove, nothing to fear and nothing to lose. This leads me to the middle, the core of Jesus’ politics and ethics.

A Life that Works

Before you scoff at this thinking that is some sort of romanticized idealism or pollyanna way of living, I must tell you something. I’ve not experienced this to be true when I’ve trusted Jesus as Lord while I faced the choice to embrace  his politics and ethics, or not. I’ve witnessed many others more faithfully do the same. These men and women embody the life of Jesus in how they live and love and stand as witnesses to the blessed life, even when the storms of life rage all around them. On that note, back to the end of the sermon.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” Matthew 7:24-27

Do you notice what both men have in common? They hear his words, they build a house, and they experience a storm and the pounding winds and torrential rains of suffering. The one whose house is built upon the sand—the hearer of the sermon who chooses not to adopt the politics and ethics of God’s kingdom—his house is washed away by the storm of suffering. But the one whose house is built upon the rock—the hearer of the sermon who chooses to trust Jesus and adopted his politics and ethics—their house withstands the storm of suffering.


You and I have been given the freedom by God to choose which political system we will adopt. The politics of our country matters, but they do not matter as much as our country would like us to believe. Either way, you and I are free to choose whether we will pledge allegiance to the Lamb of God that was slain for the sins of the world, or pledge our allegiance toward a donkey or elephant (or porcupine if you’re the libertarian party-type). By “pledge of allegiance” I mean what the phrase means: offering our whole-hearted devotion and unconditional commitment. The choice is ours. Just remember, placing trust in the Lordship of Jesus sometimes makes a fool out of what “makes sense.”

I pray that the revelation of God’s love for us in the beautiful life, scandalous death, and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus will be enough to compel us to re-order our lives in light of his politics and ethics. I pray that his love will compel us to pledge all our allegiance, our whole-hearted devotion and unconditional commitment, to the Lamb of God so we will have no allegiance left to pledge to the elephant or donkey.

We cannot place our hope in two kingdoms and cannot pledge our allegiance to two kings. When you feel that you are faltering or overwhelmed by the worry or anxiety of this election season, or when you feel you are placing too much trust in the kingdoms of the world, remember the first few words of Jesus: as a child of God and a member of his beloved family you need not fear because you are blessed. You can trust his Lordship.  You can embrace his politics and live by his ethics because you are a citizen of a Kingdom that is not frail, will never falter, and never fail. All other kingdoms will one day become a footnote in the pages of history, but God’s kingdom will stand forever. Pledge to him your allegiance and live the blessed life, my friend.

1. By “politic” I mean the ancient greek word politikos with its root meaning found in the greek word “polis,” meaning the state or community as a whole. According to Plato and Aristotle, who seem to be the first people to employ the word when speaking of communities of people, the concept of polis was an ideal state where the society would function at its best for all. A simple definition of politic that honors its root word and original intent is, the rule by which a people live an orderly life.
* The artwork is Before Jerusalem (1949) by Gaylord Flory.
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An Atheist, Pastors, and the Presence of God’s Spirit Between Us

This is the gist of a post I offered on Facebook last week. I found out some details from my encounter with this wonderful woman so I felt was worth deepening the conversation. This the 1st in a 2-part series. 

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at the state convention for the Virginia Association of Housing Counselors. Filling the conference center are men and women who tirelessly work to bring hope to the hopeless, all in their own specific way. They are social services workers, unsung heroes in every city in the commonwealth of Virginia.

I met a wonderful woman. She selflessly works to help families in poverty rise out together. She works to help single mothers raise their children well. She works to help wayward fathers stay the course and be a daddy for their children. She works to help abused and abandoned children find healthy homes. She not only “preaches” this way of being human in society, she practices it. She has adopted several children herself. She fosters others. She models the life she preaches. Consequently, she has asked local churches to join her in this work of redemptive love. But many won’t. Why? Because this woman, this lover of orphans and people oppressed by poverty is a self-proclaimed atheist.

Instead of pastors listening to her story; instead of pastors humbly bearing witness to how love is being worked out for those Jesus called the “least of these” in her life, they set their sights on converting her away from atheism. Somehow these very well-meaning and sincere pastors, of which I am one, are so driven by their agenda, of which I too have been, are missing a glimpse of the Jesus they bear witness to each week. Perhaps they do not expect to find his love reflected in the life of an atheist they miss what his love looks like with skin on. Having eyes they do not see; having ears they do not hear. And sadly having able hands and feet, they do not join God in his work of redemptive love and hope at work in and through the life of this atheist.

She heard me speak. She was forced to be there because she was the time-keeper. I wondered shy at first she was a bit defensive toward me. After my presentation she told me all about her struggle, hurt and disappointment. She used to be a christian. Now she is not and no longer wonders why. She was gracious and kind toward me after the presentation. She was grateful that there are pastors willing to lead people of faith to engage the city as a people of hospitality working to make hope and love tangible to all; to practice what we preach. Then she asked me how she, an atheist, could simply be welcomed by a pastor long enough that he or she would be willing to hear the stories she longs to tell so they could join her in this work.

Not knowing what to say, I apologized to her. On behalf of all pastors she has ever encountered I apologized that she was treated like a project to be fixed or a problem to be solved. I apologized that we as pastors are often blinded by our own agendas. We do not mean to hurt or harm or marginalize. We are imperfect people driven by a deep belief in a Lord who has charged us with a sense of urgency with a gospel, good news, that requires more than lips that proclaim and requires lives the welcome and demonstrate love. As a result we often miss the One called “the Friend of Sinners” who still befriends us as sinners, and we inadvertently hurt and harm and marginalize others. I reminded her that many of simply fail to be loving and gracious and welcoming like our Jesus, and that Jesus is so much more loving, gracious and welcoming than what we often demonstrate to others. For all of this I had to apologize.

She said thank you.

Then I reminded her that there are pastors and faith communities more than willing and desperately wanting to welcome those for whom she labors. I reminded her that there are pastors and faith communities willing to simply love and welcome her, just as she is. She thanked me. I reminded her that I am not the one deserving of thanks. She is.

So I thanked her.

She knows she needs help to bring hope and life to the broken in her community. She knows that the people she should be able to call are those who proclaim to be the people of God. She wants to, despite the way she has been treated. Her love for the poor and orphans is more important than her own personal feelings. I invited her to read Matthew 25:31 and on, which she did. She liked it. I reminded her that no matter what she or I thinks about the divinity of Jesus, the truth between us is his love for the least of these. I told her that she models this kind of love. She agreed. I invited her to gently remind pastors that this is the truth between them. She said she would. She will press on. She is no longer a hero to her city, she is a sort-of prophet to God’s people. May we listen.

My heart ached for her. My heart aches for God’s people who fail to truly ache for those for whom this wonderful woman aches. Yet my heart rejoices for her and how she taught me. My heart rejoices that God is at work among us, despite his people, and longs to be found in unexpected places.

Say what you will, but this dear wonderful woman, this atheist, looked a lot like Jesus to me.

I pray that God’s people will continue to awaken to the presence of Christ working between us and others. I pray that we as pastors will humbly re-posture our hearts to be a people of hospitality, willing to listen, welcome and walk alongside those bearing witness to love and hope to the unloved and hopeless.

Friends, God is at work in your cities. Join him there. Trust that you will find him at work in unexpected places through the lives of unexpected people. And when you welcome and embrace all others as you have been welcomed and embraced in Christ, you may one day have the opportunity to bear witness to the presence of the Spirit of Christ between you.

I found out later from good friend that she overheard this wonderful woman saying that though she is an atheist she would “go to a church that showed compassion like that.”
God’s Spirit was working between us that day. May he continue to bless that wonderful woman. She and I committed to stay in touch. May he continue to work between us and raise up his people to join in.

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