Transformational Forgiveness

In March 2010, 19 year old Conor shot and killed his 19 year old fiancée, Ann. Conor  had never been in serious trouble before that day. It was the final moment of an argument and fight that had stretched over the course of three days. It ended with Ann on her knees with a shotgun in her face. Conor then turned himself into the police.

That is not the story to be told today, only the beginning. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to deal with the tragic death of a child at an age still full of life, hopes and dreams.

Ann was still alive when emergency crews arrived that afternoon; she would remain on life support, unresponsive for several days until her parents had to make the decision to let her go. As Andy sat with his daughter in the hospital, he kept hearing her voice, “Forgive him, forgive him.”

Andy didn’t think that he could ever forgive anyone for this, even Conor, someone that had grown to be part of the family, someone he loved. It wasn’t possible, not realistic, too much to ask. Yet he kept hearing her voice, “Forgive him.”

It was his faith that finally allowed Andy to listen to her voice. It was Christ’s call for him to listen that allowed him to begin the process of healing and forgiveness. If only we could all hear that call, the world would be a different place.

While Ann was still in the hospital on life support, Kate visited her daughter’s murderer in jail with a message of forgiveness, and the two cried together. Her faith led her to a place Conor never deserved and could never earn.

True Christ-like forgiveness and compassion by Andy and Kate paved the way for a healing process unprecedented in our court system. A restorative justice process seeks to open the lines of communication between the offender, the victim(s), and their community. Justice then is restored through accepting responsibility, making amends and forgiveness rather than traditional punitive measures.

In the case of Conor’s actions, few would even attempt a path of restoration, and no amount of reparations can restore justice. Andy and Kate, however, were called to forgive, and with exceptional compassion they refused to define Conor by this one moment (or allow their daughter to be defined by that single moment). In a restorative justice community conference, Conor shared his entire story, each parent expressed their loss and hopes for moving forward.

Jesus stood next to a broken and guilty woman and asked for compassion and forgiveness from her community. As Jesus hung on the cross, he asked forgiveness for those responsible. I don’t pretend to understand the compassion necessary for those words, but Andy and Kate offer us an example of how it transforms lives and how forgiveness speaks louder than any words.

Christianity is defined by Christians and their actions. Our community is transformed when we strive for forgiveness and compassion that shocks the world around us. This is the example set for us in Christ. This is our call, “Forgive him.”

Read the full story of Ann Grosmaire and Conor McBride written by Paul Tullis in the New York Times Magazine, 6 January 2013.

A version of this article was published in the Maple Ridge News, 8 February 2013.

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There’s a Lot of Book Choosing Going On

Photo Credit: Flickr user, Mr. Ducke, used under CC license

Photo Credit: Flickr user, Mr. Ducke, used under CC license

“There seems to be a lot of book choosing going on here.” expressed one of my church members in a recent conversation. I knew exactly where she was headed, because it’s a common sentiment among evangelicals, especially those out of the Restoration Movement, of which I’m a product.

The follow-up question is always a plea, ” Why can’t we just study the Bible?” It’s not a bad question, but it is a question that is self-limiting and self-preserving, a question that doesn’t lead us to also ask, “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of so many great Christian thinkers that allow us to enrich our understanding of the Bible?”

To begin to answer, we need to know why the question is being asked. It is assumed that “book choosing” is happening, because we’re lazy or we have a lesser view of the Bible, but it takes a serious amount of time to create a quality Bible study even with the tools and knowledge to do so. Why reinvent the wheel when someone has spent years in study and practice and is possibly (though unlikely) wiser than your pastor? But this is only a side point to their real concern.

The concern in my tradition comes in the form of a sola scriptura argument combined with a firm belief in free will and accessibility of the Bible. If our theology is determined by the Bible alone, and we’re fully capable of reading and understanding it, then reason follows that we only need to pull out our text and study the Bible. We don’t need someone else telling us how to think.

The reality is that there are deeper issues at hand in these arguments, and we can only address them briefly today. If we are honest, we recognize that we are not approaching the text for the first time or in a vacuum. We bring to it our preformed beliefs and our own context.

When we read, and even study, someone else’s thoughts and approach to scripture we are exposed to new perspectives on texts we’ve read many times before. Not only do we learn more about the text, we also learn about ourselves and our own beliefs. Sometimes when asked about my theology, I reveal that the person that had the most impact was a professor that I disagreed with.

To wall ourselves off from other Christian thinkers becomes a form of self-preservation. Our beliefs are always right, if we’re unwilling to hear from another. When you are unable to listen, disagree and grow, you cease to grow entirely, and so it becomes a self-limiting question as well.

There are a wealth of quality resources available to us, that can help guide our conversations, help inform our studies, lead us into new understandings, and sometimes reaffirm our current beliefs. We are squandering our resources and our time by reproducing materials.

Worse than that, we are slowing down our potential for growth, understanding and action, if we fail to identify and use these resources appropriately.

Next time I’m asked (church, if you’re reading this), I’m going to respond with my own question, “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of so many great Christian thinkers that allow us to enrich our understanding of the Bible?”

God is a Mystery

While talking with the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu commented on the greatness of God, saying, “The glory of God is a mystery.” In a world where lives, families, communities and nations have been built upon our knowledge of God, where this information determines our politics, our ethics, our beliefs, and how we treat our sisters and brothers of humanity, Tutu reminds us that God is a mystery.

It is his following reflections that really begin to make us think: “God is actually quite incredible in many ways. But God allows us to misunderstand her…but also to understand her.”

“He can watch us speak, spread hatred, in his name. Apartheid was for a long time justified by the church. We do the same when we say all those awful things we say about gays and lesbians. We speak on behalf of a God of love.”

It is the Christian that can do (and has done) the most damage to the faith of another, or the faith of multitudes. We have watched Westboro Baptist Church drag Christ’s name through the mud, and we’ve watched Christians committing hate crimes, burning down mosques and treating the LGBT community with the kind of hatred only found in the self-righteous Christian.

As Tutu reminds us that part of God’s glory is in God’s “incredible reverence for [our] autonomy,” we are reminded that we can use this freedom and our knowledge of God to oppress God’s people, or we can use this freedom to liberate God’s people.

In these instances and thousands of others, Christianity is used and abused for the sake of power, to control, to maintain the status quo, to promote and sustain the elite. Isn’t it ironic—a little too ironic (sorry)—that God has created a world in which we are given autonomy of thought, belief and speech even at the hindrance of God’s work, yet we use this precise freedom to control and create power structures over others, stifling this God-granted autonomy.

Our God is omnipotent and chooses to love us in a way of pure sacrifice. We, in turn, choose to run with this love and freedom to create and gain power, which our loving God is relinquishing. Ironically, these are our feeble efforts to imitate our loving God…to hate, to oppress, to attack. These are our efforts? This is our legacy? This is our impact on our communities?

In following his thoughts through, Tutu sheds light on religion, “And you have to remember that religion is of itself neither good nor badReligion is a morally neutral thing. It is what you do with it…Religion is good when it produces a Dalai Lama, a Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King.

He asks, “What does your faith make you do? Make you become?

This is the question to ask of our faith. The fruit of your vine is your witness and the glory of God.

 

Find the full story of Tutu’s interaction with the Dalai Lama in THE WISDOM OF COMPASSION: Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan.

Is the Church Radical? Jesus Was

Reposted from my Maple Ridge News article July 27, 2012.

Jesus was radical, but you wouldn’t always know that by looking at his followers. I am consistently amazed at how Jesus re-envisioned the heart of the scriptures.

Radicals are scorned, hated, attacked and persecuted. Jesus was, as were the early Christians, but most of us today (save those facing intense persecution in places like China) are generally unaware of persecution due to our radical Christianity.

If these are true statements, we need to ask two questions: what was radical about Jesus? and, what isn’t radical about our Christianity?

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he replied with two. Both of them came direct from the legalistic laws of his misguided adversaries. “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbour as yourself.”

This is not new information to his audience. They know these laws forwards and backwards. The message, however, has been re-envisioned and radicalized. Jesus expands neighbour to include the broken, the impoverished, the outcast foreigner, and even your enemy.

Jesus consistently asked his audience to pause and rethink the religious order, not to refute the law, but to challenge his listener to a higher authority found in the author and the intent.

He was scorned and hated, because his message challenged the status quo and threatened authorities. Jewish leaders feared the passion and challenge, and Roman authorities feared the threat of disruption to societal order.

Christians do have a growing sense of persecution in North America, but I’m pretty sure it’s not because we love our neighbour in a way that threatens the fabric of society.

What if it was?

A recent Nat Geo documentary (When Rome Ruled: The Rise of Christianity) had an interesting story to tell of the early Christians. The radical Christianity, inherited from Christ, which led to their persecution and scorn, may also have had an impact on the growth of the church.

They even suggested that Christians lived longer, fought off diseases more frequently and survived better in harsh times. This documentary attributed much of Christianity’s growth to how they cared for their community, the poor and the outcast.

That is to say that, “love your neighbour as yourself” was a radical message that caused both growth and scorn, liberation and hatred.

What if we did love our neighbour in a way that threatened the fabric of our society? What if the scorn Christian’s faced today was not because of our piety and condemnation but because of our radical love, passion and care for people?

Is there a problem with that? Sure, in the process we will also disrupt the religious order, the status quo of our churches. In the process of living our faith, we’ll probably give in to all of society’s pressures and fall victim to secular culture. Well, that’s what I’m told.

Radical faith has to constantly fight against the human desire to create a new law that makes obsolete the radical message and love of Christ.

Pastors Are Searching for the Same Thing You Are

My article from the local paper, Maple Ridge News, reposted here:

The church is in crisis mode, as the number of people leaving church each Sunday continues to outnumber the number that return. The crisis, however, isn’t about the numbers, an increasingly ‘secular culture’ or some kind of societal pressures to dismiss God.

The crisis is internal. It is in the reality of our faith, and the numbers are simply a symptom. We have ended our genuine and persistent exploration of God’s love in lieu of doctrine, programs, services, and contentment.

Just this week I opened my email to read, “Bradley, you know I had trouble with church and ‘God’…” The trouble with ‘God’ is an expression of the trouble with church, it is the ‘god’ we’re representing, a ‘god’ that is not present, a ‘god’ that doesn’t transform our life or our community, a ‘god’ that doesn’t impassion us to live and breathe our faith, a ‘god’ that doesn’t reflect the most perfect expression in the life of Jesus.

Our faith isn’t touchable or real or visible. At least it doesn’t appear to be. Countless of my conversations begin just like that email, because the world cannot see what a Christian community is supposed to be in the midst of our crisis of faith.

Hugh Halter asks in The Tangible Kingdom, “If Christianity was only about finding a group of people to live life with, who shared openly their search for God and allowed anyone, regardless of behavior, to seek too, and who collectively lived by faith to make the world a little more like Heaven, would you be interested?”

Halter was met with an exuberant response, because, like the rest of us, the man was searching for tangible faith, a place where faith impacts life in our community, a place where Jesus’ words come to life.

I assure you that pastors are aware of the crisis (although sometimes misunderstood as a crisis of numbers), but we, just like you, are searching for this tangible faith. We sense too the inconsistencies between Jesus’ passionate message of love and our internal and un-impactful faith.

Seven words have become increasingly significant to my personal understanding of the Christian’s call. You’re probably familiar with them, “on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re not simply called to pray about it; we’re called to live out our faith in a way that God’s kingdom is present on earth.

Your pastor is searching for the same thing you are: a tangible faith that produces a “tangible kingdom.” Real, visible, touchable faith is hard. Our God has endless mystery and a love that should infiltrate our entire beings, our lives and our community. Exploring God’s love is an act of receiving and expressing that love in our community; it is an act that brings God’s kingdom to earth.

Pink Shirt Day: Lessons from our Youth

Source: pinkshirtday.ca

Source: pinkshirtday.caIn 2007, a 9th grader wore a pink polo shirt on the first day of school, and the bullying ensued. He was physically threatened and called a homosexual (probably not the bullies’ chosen verbiage) because he wore a pink shirt. Two older students had heard enough and decided to buy 50 pink shirts from a discount store for students to wear the next day. They contacted as many students as they could to provide a “sea of pink” the next day in an effort to stop bullying in its tracks. In addition to the 50 discounted shirts, literally hundreds of students showed up to provide a truly unique “sea of pink” to support victims and to stand up to bullies. There was never another comment about the pink polo.

This “sea of pink” envisioned by these two (17/18 yr. old) boys has sparked a movement, and yesterday was the 5th annual Pink Shirt Day, where more than 160,000 students and teachers across Canada will wear pink to demonstrate support and to shed light on the serious nature of bullying.

Fast forward to 2010, when another 18 yr old boy, Dharun Ravi, took a different road when he chose to use the webcam on his computer to view his gay roommate with another man, tweet about it, and invite others to view. As his trial gets underway, it is still unclear if there were any criminal actions involved; however, the intent to mock and bully (regardless of the reason) certainly appear to have been his motivation. Unlike the first story, nobody stood up to this bully. Instead of setting an example to follow, he followed the example that was set.

The truth is that bullying doesn’t stop when you turn 18 or 19. Some grow up and mature, but many more discover that institutions, politics or accepted beliefs can be used to mask their bullying as legitimate responses to minorities and outcast. Disparagingly, the church is often one of these institutions and Christian faith is often one of these belief systems manipulated to mask hate and bullying.

Ironically, it is the central figure of our Christian faith that is most notable for standing up against hate and discrimination. The shame of persecutors who marginalize and bully in the first century is consistently brought to light in our gospel accounts. Whether it be a Samaritan, a child, a sinner, a hated tax collector, a disabled beggar, an unclean disease ridden man or a woman, Jesus teaches through his actions of love that we are not to live with hate and superiority that has captivated the world. It is a constant in Jesus’ ministry.

This may be best exemplified by a woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11. As the story goes, the woman is brought before Jesus, having clearly sinned and broken a Jewish law that is punishable, according to the law, by death through stoning. Jesus calmly receives the crowd, asks “he who has not sinned” to throw the first stone, and tells her to be on her way and sin no more. She is at fault. The crowd has reason to hate. Punishment is written in the law books. Yet Jesus stands in opposition to hatred, even when it is masked by religious tradition.

I don’t know if the two boys with a vision for a “sea of pink” were Christian. I do know that they resemble Jesus better than many Christians. Our youth yesterday stood up against the oppressive powers and the passive bystander. Jesus taught us to learn from our children; however, we often fail to see their value in our society and expect little from them. In response they often live up to our expectations.

Religious-Political Rhetoric: Where’s the line?

The religious rhetoric seems to be at an all time high in the political campaigns of Republican presidential hopefuls, and interestingly, there is no evangelical to be found. Rick Santorum, however, is filling in quite well.

Last weekend Santorum made a media splash when he criticized Obama’s “phony theology.” The firestorm of responses from the media and the public required Santorum to “clarify” that he wasn’t attacking Obama’s faith, but only his worldview, which puts the value of the earth above the value of humanity. You can be sure that his highly charged language achieved their aims, and his conservative base heard the statements clearly, further engraining their skepticism of Obama’s faith. Similar to a lawyer leading a witness (and the jury), it can be stricken from the record, but the damage has already been done. Even if stricken from the record through clarification, the intention to cast doubt on Obama’s faith, or orthodoxy-ness, has already taken root (especially given Santorum’s history of similar comments regarding Obama.).

It may be one thing to talk openly about your faith informing your political decisions. Turning the political debate into a theological debate is quite different and is more appropriate in an elders’ meeting.

The Huffington Post Religion ran a great piece earlier this week that highlighted the first presidential candidate attacked for religious beliefs, Thomas Jefferson. What was Jefferson’s response to the accusations of being an atheist and a heretic? For the most part, he simply ignored the accusations, believing that his policies, actions and leadership would speak for themselves. He felt his personal life (and personal faith) should be of little concern to the American people.

Faith is certainly an indicator of decisions a candidate will make in the Oval Office, but Jefferson may have had the better campaign strategy here. If Santorum has crossed a line with his religious rhetoric, it will ultimately cost him a presidential election primed for the Republican Party.

Dirty political campaigns, especially when charged with theological and religious rhetoric, make great news and even better SNL skits, so I’ll watch with eager anticipation if Santorum gets the nomination.

Giving up Washing Diapers for Lent

Lent, Lenten Season, Sacrifice

Lent, Lenten Season, SacrificeMy tradition doesn’t really follow the liturgical calendar, and I’ve learned about many different Christian traditions after being involved in inter-denominational communities, like seminary and ministerial associations. That being said, I’m joining millions of other Christians this year in giving up something for lent, something that I haven’t done for several years and never really took seriously when I did participate.

Lent is a time of reflection and spiritual discipline. Jesus spent 40 days praying and fasting before beginning his ministry, and likewise, the Lenten season is intended for us to center our lives on what really matters, the heart of God. When we give up something as a spiritual discipline, we intend to call on God for help during times of weakness and distraction. It both draws us to God in humility and draws us away from sin and distraction in the world.

The obvious thought is that I should give up Dr. Pepper, but I quickly realized (as my Tuesday Dr. Pepper rolled over midnight into Ash Wednesday) that 1) I’m from Texas and giving up Dr. Pepper is not realistic, and 2) I felt like I could be more creative and productive in my Lenten sacrifice. Washing diapers is the bane of my existence, and it would be a huge load off my soul to give up washing diapers, but I decided the negative impact on Jenna would adversely affect my ability to successfully sacrifice washing diapers. So I gave up on that too. Those of you that know me might be shocked to hear what I have decided to “sacrifice.”

For Lent, I’m giving up raising my voice in frustration. I’m a very easy-going, happy-go-lucky, comedy-loving person, and this isn’t really about anger, yelling or rage, as that’s not my struggle. To gain attention, out of frustration or for some kind of ineffective emphasis, raising my voice has become more common than I find acceptable. I deal with almost all things in a calm and even-keeled manner, but life is stressful, kids seem to get louder everyday, and sometimes my reactions reflect these pressures instead of my love and gratefulness for my family. At some point, I told Jenna some of my own childhood experiences, and one line really stuck with her: “I don’t remember my Dad ever raising his voice.” This is a statement I want my kids to say about me someday. It will require me to rely on God, to seek persistent humility (even in writing this), and to continually ask for peace and patience.

Additionally, in the spirit of making these 40 days an active spiritual practice, I’m committing to blog everyday during Lent, hopefully not about my above failures. This is an effort to keep my mind churning and my faith fresh, because when I am consistently blogging, I am consistently seeking God’s truth in the world around me. I pray this will be uplifting for myself, my ministry and my readers.

While this is a 40 day commitment, I have sought out “sacrifices” that can be life changing if these 40 days can help me grow in faith and consistency.

What have you given up for Lent? Is it helping you rely on God?

Teen Suicide & Glee: What can Christianity Offer?

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/thumbnail_570x321/2012/02/glee_karofsky_a_l.jpg

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/thumbnail_570x321/2012/02/glee_karofsky_a_l.jpgDo I have to admit that I watch Glee to write this post? It’s not my fault, but I might as well get something out of it if I have to watch it.

Inevitably a show about a high school show choir, Glee, is forced to address major themes of hate, discrimination and societal pressures to conform. Glee has taken on a role of bringing to life the realities of bullying and hate that is pervasive in our schools and our society. Is it often done with over-dramatized storylines and unbelievable stereotyped characters? Yes, but due to a growing lack of responsible parenting, a disconnect from others in our community and celebrity (or reality) role models, our youth (and many adults) learn about human relationships, in a large part, from television and other media. With this in mind, one has to respect Glee’s work at better educating viewers in living with dignity and treating others with dignity.

This past Sunday I had to ask our congregation to pray for a 14 year old boy (a friend of one of our students) who attempted to commit suicide earlier in the week, the second announcement of the kind within a couple of months.

Last night, Glee’s storyline included an attempted suicide after, Dave Karofsky, a gay football player, was outed on Facebook and harassed.

With these two stories, albeit one fictional, I began thinking about a Christian response. What does Christianity have to offer?

As strange as it sounds, I believe you have to think outside the box to offer these kids anything of value in such a hypersensitive social awareness. Without wanting to be too simplistic, the world places so many expectations on us to conform to various standards, and these expectations play a large role in our identity, acceptable behavior, contentment and even our future hope. The result is imprisonment.

Glee writers did an excellent job of highlighting various pressures and influences leading up to Karofsky’s attempted suicide. It would be easy to pin this on society’s homophobia, as illustrated by his teammates and Facebook responses. Instead, the show rightly identified the counter pressures and failures from his peers, adult authorities, his mother, and a searing jar, from another gay teen, to “go back in the closet.”

The dialogue covered many of our common reactions to these events.
“I could never do that.”
“That’s so selfish. He not only wanted to hurt himself, but he wanted to hurt his family, his friends, and everyone else that knows him.”
“You just have to let it go.”

In this context of societal pressures and responses, traditional Christianity would simply serve as one more of these pressures. “Let go of your sin,” or, “God doesn’t approve, and we can fix you” is, without reservation, among the worst responses to address the real problems facing teens. I recently observed a woman evangelizing to teens in a mall food court. She had all the right religious jargon and theology, however shallow, to talk a young gentleman through being saved and accepting Jesus. I was shocked to see him actually listening, but he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. It all made sense to me, a lifelong churchgoer, but neither the need for change, the theological jargon, nor the reward of life registered in this teen’s mind – at all. It’s just one more societal pressure expecting him to fit into a social standard.

If we’re going to offer our youth anything tangible in dealing with the pressures and imprisonment of the world, we have to see Jesus for who he really was and what he really did.

Jesus, reflecting God’s own heart, came to liberate people from oppression. Imagine here more the uprising in Egypt or Syria instead of some theoretical picture of a red-devilish figure torturing people with a trident. Imagine women standing up for the right to vote or Rosa Parks on the front of the bus or the Glee show choir defending Kurt from homophobic bullying. Jesus stood up and fought for these people in society…the oppressed…the least of these. We are great at oppressing others and ourselves through the constant imprisonment of desire to conform to others, whether it be peers, reality stars, pro athletes or what we’re told is good Christian behavior. Jesus offered something different.

I hope for a new life, a restored life when the time comes, but if that’s all I have to offer the teenager in the mall facing real-world imprisonment, I have nothing more than any other oppressive pressure she meets. I believe Christianity does have something to offer these teens. Jesus offered real-world liberation, human dignity, love, and gracious community. They have to belong before they believe. We can offer that too.

**There are many resources for teens and their families facing issues of homosexuality, discrimination, crisis and bullying. This USAToday article has some great links (and a healthy perspective on last night’s episode) to some of these resources for teens, parents and families, as well as some research on bullying and homosexuality in teens.

Baby Names: a Prophetic Act?

Giving meaning to baby names and the process of naming babies

Giving meaning to baby names and the process of naming babiesLast week, my second son was born (more on that in an upcoming post), and a long and arduous process came to a conclusion: naming our son. I’ve known parents who didn’t finalize a name until they were asked in the hospital to fill out the paperwork, and I know others who don’t have any kids but have three names chosen for each of their three forthcoming children. Jenna and I are not these parents, but we were both getting worried as we closed in on the “deadline.” Thankfully he wasn’t early, because he would have gone by the Real Canadian Superstore brand name “no name.”

The process of naming a child is difficult for most, and for the two of us, it was extremely difficult. Let me tell you why.

I have long found my favorite biblical characters to be the prophets (Jesus included) for their commitment to issues of social justice and the outcast. They speak out against the wealthy, the powerful, the sources of oppression, and they do so with passion and style. The eccentric and prophetic acts of these were probably what drew me in to begin with, as there is nothing more powerful than demonstrating God’s love and compassion for the oppressed. The old adage is true: actions speak louder than words.

In one of my favorite texts, Hosea is called to marry a prostitute, a woman who left him, as a prophetic act illustrating God’s love that searches incessantly and forgives immensely. She bears him three children, each of whom have their own role to play.

The naming of children is an oft-reported prophetic act in our text, and there is no better example than the harsh names given to Hosea’s children: Lo-ruhamah (not pittied) and Lo-ammi (not my people). In the prophetic tradition, however, pain, suffering, condemnation is never far from restoration and new life. And the names that follow in that community are Ruhamah (pittied) and Ammi (my people).

It was Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination that first led me to thinking about my own (and others’) actions and ministry in terms of the prophetic. Many are speaking out against the paradigm of privilege, but countless more are lulled into apathy by it. It is in this context and in this passion that we named our two sons, Khaim and Teaken.

Khaim is the Hebrew word life. In the context of scripture, it conjures up the breath of God being breathed into humanity. It lingers with the purpose and intent of God in every living and breathing creature. From the saving narrative, it evokes an understanding and hope for new life, renewed and restored in God’s creative process.

Teaken is taken from the Hebrew (Jewish) phrase tikkun olam, which means repairing (or restoring) the world. In the context of our faith, this is our call as followers of Christ, to restore dignity to the marginalized, liberation to the oppressed and hope to the hopeless. God’s power and graciousness is most visible in the restoration and renewal of a world undeserving.

My prayer for these two boys is first that they are able to answer the question, “What does your name mean?” and second, that they live in such a way that they do not have to.