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Category: Current Events

Why we need Advent now more than ever

5598559126_90f2e2024c_bAdvent—beginning with the first of four Sundays before Christmas—is usually my favorite time of year. I start anticipating it around June 21, when the days start getting shorter. I love the lights and colors, the smells of Christmas trees and warm fresh-baked cookies, the sounds of bells and carols, and the sight of Rudolph and Charlie Brown running across my television screen. But there’s a deeper reason for my love of Christmas.

For years, I have wrestled with my broken life, and Advent is a season to remember how God stepped into humanity’s story—my story—and lived among us for the sole purpose of saving us. Have you ever suddenly realized that you find more excitement in the days leading up to Christmas than the actual day itself? That is Advent. The “secular” Christmas season of anticipating Santa Claus is merely a shadow-like reflection of what Advent is. Advent is waiting, knowing Jesus will come. So for me, Advent is a reflection and celebration of the magnitude of Jesus’s birth, and what it means in the mess that is my life. read more

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Seriously, what is going on with this presidential election, and what do we do now?

hillary_clinton_vs-_donald_trump_-_caricaturesIn the last few days – amid yet another outbreak of scandalous news items and a second debate involving the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates – traditional and social media continue to warn us that if the “wrong” candidate wins, the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.

Then there are thoughtful commentaries by Christian writers and leaders, trying to present biblical reasons why Christians should vote one way or the other. Theologian Mirasolv Volf says the policies of Hillary Clinton best represent Christian values; theologian Wayne argues that Trump is the better choice.

Christian progressives wag their fingers at Christian conservatives for being single-issue voters, without admitting that they themselves often are too. And don’t get me started on the old argument that “if you don’t vote, then X will win and the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.” read more

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Will we ever find utopia in a broken world?

IMG_1201I just returned from a week in Helena, Montana.

It was utopic: silent mornings, sitting alone on a wide deck overlooking Hauser Lake; loud middays, talking and laughing with family under the big Montana sky; and brilliant evenings, watching the horizon erupt in a blaze of colors as the sun dropped below the western mountains.

The scenery was fresh and spacious. The air was tranquil and clean. And most important, I was out of the city.

The whole time I was there, I fought back dread of the day when I would have to return to the city where I live – Portland, Oregon.

But  before that day came, something worse happened. Shortly after the Fourth of July, the country exploded with violence, protests, and domestic terrorism. Two videos went viral, showing police officers shooting African-American men in St. Paul and Baton Rouge; then five officers were gunned down in Dallas. The nation cracked in two, and the schism spread wide. I knew—absolutely knew—the next several days would be filled with raging debates and groundless conclusions made from hundreds or thousands of miles away, based on a few seconds of unclear video. read more

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The virtue of saying nothing

ap_shooting_dc_160612_4x3_992-900x675It’s been quite an emotional week. If it weren’t so sad and tragic, it would have been absolutely bizarre. When news broke of the massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. America followed its new pattern: one millisecond of shock and horror, then an avalanche of finger-pointing and political posturing.

Before the blood was even dry, we jumped to exploit raw emotions, jockeying for any political advantage we could get. We blamed immigration, guns, conservatives, progressives, Christians, Muslims, homophobia, prayer, God’s wrath, and my favorite, the lack of safe spaces for the shooter to question his sexuality. We managed to blame everyone and everything but the guy who shot up the place. read more

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Reclaiming my identity in Christ, not politics

Especially during election season, politics make me crazy – and Facebook is the first place I show it.

Usually, it begins with news of some political action or position I find untenable. I sink into a funk and share witty quips to expose it – but too often I take personal aim at its supporters, devolving into biting sarcasm. Since my ultimate goal is to be loving, not biting, I’m constantly asking God to save me from myself (and constantly thanking him for the “delete” function).

One recent funk started on a Tuesday, the day of the Oregon primary election. All morning I tried to ignore my ballot on the corner of my desk, debating whether it was worth the effort to turn it in. I have never been so unexcited about voting in my life. read more

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“Hosanna!”: The presidential election, terrorism, and the state of the world

Last Saturday in Arizona, protesters tried to silence a presidential candidate while supporters retaliated with fisticuffs.

Hours later, on Palm Sunday, Christians commemorated Jesus’s kingly entrance into Jerusalem.

The next day, in Brussels, terrorist attacks killed over 30 people and injured at least 200 more.

This year has been that kind of surreal.

The elections, the unrest, the terror—all of this craziness makes me feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and afraid.

I can’t quite describe my feelings, but they include anger, horror, frustration, numbness, bewilderment and more, depending on what’s in the news each day.

I am distressed and heartbroken over the terrorism, crying out to God for the victims. But I can’t stop it. So I focus on something closer to home: election year, and how our next president might respond to terrorism and all of the other problems facing us, both here and abroad. read more

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Why I am already giving up on 2016

20130704-defeat-chess1When things are beyond our control, we tend to “give up” in one of two ways. The first way, which does little good, is to appear to give up by saying, “I’m done” – and throwing up our hands in disgust. The second way, which I recommend, is to truly give up.

Let me explain.

In 2015, I tried the first way.

I immersed myself in the news, trying to get my mind around the emerging crises of city riots, global terrorism, leadership vacuums, and the uneasy feeling that we may be headed toward another world war.

I couldn’t discuss these issues on social media, because the response there is always character assassination from angry people with pat answers which they (wrongly) believe will solve everything. So I internalized my concerns and frustrations. But that choice led to worry and despair. Many nights I couldn’t sleep because my mind raced with headlines, talking heads, and complete nonsense I had heard during the day. read more

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Walking through the valley of terror … then and now

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The Eiffel Tower. Photo by Daniel Hochhalter.

The last—and only—time I visited Paris was in the summer of 2005.

I was studying in England over the summer, and had taken the Eurostar to Paris to meet my wife and sister-in-law for a wonderful couple of weeks exploring Paris, Normandy, Mont Saint Michel, and the Loire Valley. We had a glorious time—a dream vacation.

On July 7, I dropped off my family at Charles de Gaulle airport, then returned to Paris and boarded the Eurostar to go back to England.

But during the train’s stop at Calais—the last town before crossing into England—the doors opened and the PA system announced an unexpected delay, followed by the strange recommendation that everyone deboard and be transported back to Paris, free of charge. The announcer gave no explanation, nor any estimation of the length of the delay. read more

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Five reasons I hate debate on social media

Recently, I broke my cardinal rule to avoid joining political debates, especially in social media. Just before heading out to see a movie with a friend—like a real, actual human in the flesh—I went online and checked my Twitter account.

And there it was: A provocative political comment at the top of my feed, beckoning me to respond. Such comments are my kryptonite, my greatest danger. They often come across as punchy and irrefutable to those who agree, but shallow and half-baked to those who don’t – and they tempt me to respond with some quick, off-the-cuff remark which I immediately regret. So I am constantly on the alert to ignore them. But this comment was especially hard to ignore; it was one of those that seemed ripe for a ready-made zinger. read more

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Remembering D-Day: “The eyes of the world are upon you”

On June 6, 1944, on five French beaches—Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, and Juno—the U.S. and other Allies launched the largest military operation in history. Their objective was to establish a beach head, liberate France from the Nazis, and ultimately move on to Berlin to defeat Adolf Hitler and win World War II. And they succeeded. Today, seventy-one years later, we honor the 3,000[i] Allied heroes who died in that “D-Day” offensive which turned the tide of history.

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Near the visitors’ center of the Omaha Beach Cemetery and Memorial, at Colleville-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast of France, there is a slab of pink granite with a time capsule, set to be opened on June 6, 2044—the 100th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. The plaque on the slab is emblazoned with the five-star seal of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the European theatre during that invasion and later the President of the United States.2005 Paris-England 913 read more

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