First Responders…with a dash of hope

Sometimes terrible things happen and there’s absolutely no reason why. Sometimes there are reasons. And sometimes it just doesn’t matter. I don’t know much about this story, I’ve been watching from a distance and am unfamiliar with many of the details, and…well, I’m not sure it matters. Our local newspaper, The Columbian, writes about it here: and here

Essentially my friends had a shooting happen not only in their neighborhood but in their front yard. What was so amazing, what was so beautiful was that my friend is a firefighter. So as the person to call the police and as the first person to make it to victim who had been shot six times he was fully prepared to care for this boy in ways that you or I would not have been. Even further, however, my friends family (including his wife and boys) are people who have spent the last many years learning to respond with love, grace, and compassion to anyone and everyone who comes their way. So not only was he equipped to deal with the physical stuff (and it looks like the young man is going to survive!) but their family has been an overwhelmingly amazing ‘first responder’ to the family and neighborhood’s needs as well. From coordinating meals for the victim’s family for a month to now coordinating a neighborhood-wide effort to honor the family through inviting a communal voice of hope with chalk (I’ll explain in a moment) they are finding ways to be responders with hope.

Once again, The Columbian writes about it here:

So here is what I’m getting to. If you live in Vancouver or Portland, I want to invite you on August 21st from 10:00-1:00 to join the Hough neighborhood to “Chalk the Walk“. Chalking the walk is a Vancouver tradition (and a very cool one at that) but this year at 1114 W 21st, Vancouver, WA 98660 it’s going to be a tradition marked with a deeper message when neighbors and friends counter the senseless violence that happened with messages of hope, life, and togetherness. Want to join?

Here’s the thing. I’m tempted to end this blog by saying something like “It’s not about Nate and Jasmine and how they’ve responded. It’s bigger than them. It’s about the neighborhood, it’s about you, its about…” but you know what? You know what the reality is? The reality is that we have so much to learn from this family, from Nate, Jas, and their boys (yes, their boys seem to always be a integral part in leading the charge as well!). If it were not for their posture of responsiveness to their neighbors none of us would be entered into this story. If it were not for their families core of love, grace, and compassion none of us would be invited to be ‘second responders’, if it were not for them this story would look very differently. So, you know what?, while this blog would probably feel better if I expanded it here at the end to include all of us as the ‘moral of the story participants’ the reality is that we’ve got to be learners here! We’ve got to learn from the Cook fam’ how to be first responders with a little dash of hope.

While we cannot (and should not…and I WILL NOT) try to pretend like any form of response at this point will dull the pain and terribleness of the situation–our hope, as always, is that God can transform shit into something beautiful. That’s what he does when we allow him to enter into our story. He doesn’t always get rid of the messiness (oh how I wish he would) but he is willing to enter into our narrative and do something magically beautiful. None of us know where or how this story is going to end, but because of this families willingness to enter into the fray we all are being invited to bring a candle of light into the bleak narrative in hopes that light might one day shine through it.

So will you join with us on August 21st from 10-1 at 1114 W 21st, Vancouver, WA 98660 as a second responder of hope?

Sometimes it’s wrong to be right

In my opinion you can absolutely be right and yet completely in the wrong. Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be and is not the most important thing in many situations. In fact, I’d suggest that often times when we’re in pursuit of being right we often end up on the wrong side of that to which we originally were in search of. In other words I think that often times it’s wrong to be right.

There are moments when our compulsion to be right leads us down a dirty path. A path where we can be









If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that I help you find the path to rightness.

If I am right and you are wrong then what is most important is that you understand why you’re wrong so that you can be rescued from your wrongness.

If I am right and you are wrong then me helping you understand the error of your ways is the right thing to do.

If I am right and you are wrong then the most loving thing I can do is fight for what is right.

If I am right and you are wrong then I have the freedom, nay, the responsibility to speak into your life even if that word is unsolicited.

If I am right and you are wrong then my job is to speak not to listen.

If I am right and you are wrong then…

Oh, there are so many “if’s” that we could list! When we believe that we are right we so often believe that this gives us additional freedoms. But it does not. Being right (which is quite subjective in the first place) does not in any way give us a platform to speak into another’s life. It just doesn’t. We think that it does, we feel like it should, we genuinely (with good intentions I think) want to help. But being right does not equal doing right.

You can be right and still be a jerk.

You can be right and still be unkind.

You can be right and still be undignified.

You can be right and still be completely lacking in grace.

You can be right and still be completely miserable.

You can be right…

I don’t believe it’s wrong to be in pursuit of being right. But I do think that sometimes (honestly…often times) I could care less if you’re right. For one, you’re never right as often as you think (you do know that right?). Secondly, I personally value people more than I value being right and I often find that those two values clash. Thirdly…I didn’t actually have a third point here…but if I were to have a third point I think I might say that when our goal is the pursuit of rightness (a goal that I do not think is inherently wrong) I think we run the risk of missing out living rightly along the way. We work so hard to BE right that we forget to do right by others. The worst part is that, speaking personally here, many of the things that I knew were absolutely right ten years ago I find to be absolutely laughable today! What I used to bank on as right I now understand completely differently!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we never suffer from doing good and we can never over-love. So…what if we spent our energies

Listening to people instead of telling them how we’re right

Extending dignity to people rather than telling them how their wrong

Being humble in our understanding of ourselves rather than taking an arrogant approach of assuming our own rightness

Being compassionate in our interaction with others instead of fighting for our own ends

Pursuing understanding over and above proving how our own ideas are correct

One might argue that being right and being kind are not in opposition to each other–which is absolutely true…sometimes…oftentimes…occasionally…in theory…In my experience, however, what  I often observe and am tempted to live into is that when faced with the opportunity to prove myself right over and above another person (or their opinion) I will sacrifice kindness or generosity to prove myself the winner. I’ll prioritize truthiness over and above grace or gentleness. Being right usually wins out and it often costs something–and that cost? More and more I’m discovering that it’s people’s feelings, it’s potential relationships, it’s the dignity of others. Beating you down with knowledge–even good knowledge–is still a beat down. And that’s not right.



When Do We Stop Listening

On a recent blog post a person commented “how long should we listen?” This question was in regard to me suggesting that regardless of your theological position on homosexuality–whether it’s right or wrong or whether the answer is to embrace it or live celibate or whatever*, we should take a posture of listening and open dialog.

I think there is a major assumption that underlies many people’s questions regarding the idea of listening and dialoging with those who see things differently from us. That assumption is that the only reason we listen and dialog to others is in order to achieve our desired outcomes. The assumption is that if somehow I know ahead of time that you will never ‘come around’ to my point of view there is then no reason to dialog with you. What’s the point if you won’t ever agree with me? While it is obviously impossible to know if someone will ever agree with us I think it is important that we challenge this assumption head on and question it for what it is…

We all do it at times. We do. Don’t deny it. But to only engage in dialog and to only listen to others when we think it’ll achieve our goals is unkind and denies the dignity of the other person. It assumes that they’re ignorant. It assumes they’re wrong. It assumes that we have nothing to learn. It assumes a lot. It is also slightly deceitful. Am I really listening to you if I’m only doing it in order to make you think as I do? I may pretend like I value your opinion, but if my purpose is to invalidate that opinion then how honest am I being?

What if we listened to each other because we valued the other’s voice? Because we valued that their opinions and thoughts represent who they are, what they value, and how they’re creating meaning in the world. What if we lived out of a place that recognized that while we cannot walk in their shoes and experience the moments that have shaped them, we can honor those experiences by valuing their voice–not because we want to change them but because we value who they are and who they are becoming. We’re all becoming something, we’re all being changed and transformed, and none of us are truly certain of who we are becoming (though we all hope to be changing in some kind of intentional direction don’t we!). So to listen to others, to make space in our lives for a posture of openness to dialog to those who think differently and see the world differently does not require that try to change them but rather that we believe we’re both being changed–that life is not static, and that life is not done in a vacuum but in relationship with others!

So how long should we listen? We should listen until they’re done talking or until dinner time ’cause then it’s time to eat and everyone knows it’s rude to talk with your mouth full.


* Not to suggest these are the only two options…or even to suggest that ‘options’ is a word to be used in this context!

Everyone Deserves to be Loved

I post this about every two years…and it’s time again. Fred Rogers beautifully captures what it means to follow Jesus, to live a life of love, and to honor the image of God in every single person. He may not use Jesus-y language but he lives it out and it’s inspiring to say the least.


Children and the Imago Dei

Watching my son walk through the living room just now I was struck by the fact that he’s such a little person. I don’t mean to say that he’s a small child, but that he’s actually a functioning, living, breathing, thinking, feeling short person who has not yet lived on earth for an extended period of time.

I realize that right about now I’ve confused or annoyed you, but here’s the thing: we treat children as if they’re sub human (definitely sub ‘adult’ human). We naturally desire to control them, to manipulate them in order to facilitate meeting our own needs as adults. We don’t view them as little people (think human being) we view them as sub-human people. Think about it, if you’re in conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee you will either ignore your ringing cell phone or you will give ample explanation why you’re going to answer it in the middle of your conversation. What do you do if you’re talking to a kid? If you’re in conversation with a child and your phone rings how often do we simply answer the phone without worry about the fact that we’re interrupting our conversation with a child? I teach my children constantly (not intentionally) that my phone ringing is more important than my conversation with them. How tragic!

How much easier is it to scream at a child than it is to scream at an adult? How much easier is it for some to justify hitting a child (think spanking) than to justify hitting an adult (please don’t think spanking)?

While children are obviously in a much earlier place of learning–learning how to function, how to read and write, how to use their words kindly, how to cope with stress, etc. the fact that we’re helping to train them should not give reason to treat them with lesser respect than we’d treat an adult. Adults are learners as well right? We’ve just had more time to learn more things…sadly I question whether we’ve learned more than children about how to respect others (could this be because it wasn’t modeled?)

We’ve probably all heard that respect is earned not given and I think I agree with that to an extent. But there’s also that small little fact that as a follower of Jesus I believe that every person (whether tall or small) was created in the image of God and therefore deserves respect and dignity because of his or her identity as beautiful icons of God himself. Age or learning curve cannot change this fact…can it?