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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.

Police-Car-LightsAnd I was not let down.

It was like wading through sewage. Before anyone knew the facts, hashtag activism erupted from those who weren’t even there. People spewed half-baked answers which they were sure would usher in a national utopia. Even Christians rushed to “out-compassion” one another with simplistic solutions, subtly accusing other believers who disagreed with them of being uncaring.

My Montana escape suddenly seemed so distant. Instead of being grateful for all of the blessings God has given me, I grieved over the tension and strife. I wished I could stay in Montana and never return to the city. But duties called, so I returned.

2016-07-15T005439Z_2_LYNXNPEC6D1N2_RTROPTP_4_FRANCE-CRASH-e1468556054591Then, more shocking events: On Bastille Day, a truck-driving terrorist in Nice, France, mowed down scores of people, injuring hundreds and killing over 80; and a college student was shot dead in the streets of Helena, Montana. The Nice attack was stunning in its unspeakable scope and depravity; the world reeled from the shock. But for me, the Helena attack was even more personal. Helena was my utopia, my retreat. And just like that, my little self-made haven crumbled into dust. I realized that even there, evil is present. Even there, tears flow and hearts cry out to God. Even there, despite my best attempts to get away from it all, none of us can escape a broken, sinful world.

In fact, as I write this (Sunday, July 17), even more tragedy has erupted in Baton Rouge, leaving several police officers dead.

So why do we all try so hard to find utopia? Some fight to create it politically, by working to pass laws and elect leaders they believe in. Others, like me, seek it by physically fleeing to some place we hope will be better (we all know that tired old threat, “If so-and-so is elected, I’m moving to ____!”).

But for Christ-followers, utopia is not the goal.

Jesus is.

Following Christ isn’t about “what’s in it for me” – it’s about being in an intimate relationship with Truth. And it seems that the closer we get to him, the easier it is to step into the brokenness with those who suffer.

During all of the violence and chaos, I did see something good this week. It was a video, apparently filmed the day after the shooting in Dallas, of people stepping up and hugging police officers. As one hugger turned to walk away, the camera caught his t-shirt message: “God must matter.”

Godmustmatter3That grabbed me.

The brokenness of remote Montana is no different than the brokenness of inner-city Portland. If Jesus matters in Montana, then he matters in Portland. And if I cannot be a Christ-follower here in my city, then I cannot be one anywhere.

If God does not matter—regardless of where we are—then all we are doing is fighting for a utopia that will never come, or trying to flee to a utopia that doesn’t exist.

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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.

And in the midst of all of this jockeying, the victims and their families cried and grieved and started down the painful road toward healing.

The tragedy in Orlando should have brought us together as a nation. Instead, it created a cacophony of political blame, insults, mockery, scolding, demands, attacks, and counterattacks which are not helpful.

So I sat down to see if I could write something – anything – which might be.

But I’ve got nothing.

This is curious. Given all of the garbage which has passed through social media and the press, there are plenty of comments and opinions to answer. Yet I have no response.

What could I say that hasn’t already been said? What could I possibly contribute to the discussion? Absolutely nothing.

Will offering opinions or commentary ease the suffering? Will critiquing the callous inhumanity of journalists, politicians, and social media know-it-alls show that I care more than they do? No.

As families start the process of burying their loved ones, I know that there is nothing I can say, and that saying nothing is the best response.

I am beginning to see that all of the finger-pointing and posturing in the secular world is similar to what we do in the Christian one: hitting grieving people with scriptures like Romans 8:28 (“…all things work together for good to those who love God…who are called according to his purpose”). We can’t explain suffering and it makes us uncomfortable, yet we still want to show how much we care. So we place blame and demand action which, like quoting Romans 8:28, makes us feel better but solves nothing and doesn’t help the one who suffers.

So if platitudes, rhetorical arguments, and knee-jerk reactions don’t help, is there anything we can do?


We can be present in the suffering. We can stop assigning blame, spouting clichés, and demanding quick fixes. We can pray for the victims’ families. We can ask God to bring comfort through the body of Christ. And we can do all of this silently, fervently, continually. We don’t even need to announce that we are doing it.

The truth is,  this massacre will not be the last. Our world is broken. Evil exists. And shouting down our political opponents does nothing to promote healing.

After a week of shock, it seems right to be still and seek God. Only he can fix this.


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The gift of “angry eyes” on Halloween

I love fall, and that includes the guilty pleasure of Halloween.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a great community event. I have fond memories of trick-or-treating on crisp, windy nights in a town where every home was filled with light and candy, ready to greet small visitors whose costumes were mostly covered by winter coats to block the Montana chill. The coats weren’t in character, but then again, neither were shivering zombies.

So, a few years ago, I decided to get in the spirit: I turned our house into a “monster house,” with two angry eyes to watch over the neighborhood at night.

Our house has two upstairs dormer windows, so I illuminate each one with an orange outline, a red iris, and a scowling purple eyebrow. This year I also outlined the garage door below them in a clumsy attempt to make a mouth. Then I replaced our two white porch lights with red ones, right about where the dimples should be. (Do monsters have dimples?) The resulting monster face is crude and unrefined, but I enjoy it and so do the trick-or-treaters.

Here’s my best photo, as an amateur photog, of our Monster House. 🙂 The reflections below the eyes are unintentional.

However, this year the project turned into a headache. I was swamped by other household chores and business matters, and frustrated because my well of possible blog topics had run dry. The last thing I wanted to do was to feel the October sun beating down on the rapidly-expanding bald spot on the back of my head as I crawled around on my roof with cords and tools, wrangling strings of lights and screwing them into place.

And on top of that, this year the process did not go well. I had forgotten the cardinal rule of plugging in and checking the lights before attaching them to the roof. After I got them all up and plugged in, I saw that one eyebrow and half of one iris wouldn’t light. So I took them down again, only discover the problem: I had not plugged them in correctly. After fixing that problem, I put them up for a second time and everything was fine – until I learned we had to caulk all of the windows and doors before winter. Once again, the lights had to be taken down and then put up for a third time.

I really was not thrilled about my Halloween decorations this year. And every time I had to crawl out onto the roof yet again, my grumbling about it became more and more pronounced.

So why do it? What’s the point? Aren’t there better things I could be doing?

I never asked that question until this year. And this year I asked it many, many times – each time with more, shall we say, gusto than the last.

I didn’t have an answer until I finished the job for the third time, all sweaty and cranky and sore.

I called my wife outside to look.

As we stood in the dark, looking up at that silly, cartoonish monster face, she commended me for choosing to put it up three times and then said, “You’ve brought a gift to the neighborhood.”

That’s when it suddenly made sense why I went through all the trouble.

You see, we live in one of the many neighborhoods, more and more common these days, which has earned the nickname “Felony Flats.”

Far from the hip, trendy parts of Portland, this neighborhood is dotted with junk cars, drug houses, shouting matches, and occasional police raids. In fact, shortly after we moved in, just after Halloween and before we got an alarm system, our own house was robbed of whatever the robbers could carry, including that year’s leftover Halloween candy. Ironically, though, I don’t feel unsafe here – partly because the drug dealers (whom we greet by name as we get the mail or take out the trash, and who may or may not know that we have observed their drug dealing) try to keep the neighborhood crime and disturbances to a minimum since they don’t want the cops coming around.

So Halloween is different here than it was where I grew up. Here, most houses remain dark and unwelcoming, with the occupants turning in early or going elsewhere to avoid the constant doorknocks. Yet despite my dream of living someplace less crowded, noisy, and stressful, I am coming to the conclusion that—at least for now—this is where God wants me. And when I get beyond my own selfishness, it is not hard to understand why: Jesus loves the people here. He died for them. He is the light in their dark world.

And that is why I climb up on the roof every year to hang the lights. Despite my constant  complaining, even in past blogs, about living in this neighborhood, I choose—in a moment of spiritual enlightenment—to be a gift to our neighborhood. The local kids don’t have much, but our house is one of the few which deliberately invites them in. Families escort their children from blocks away to trick-or-treat here. Under the glow of the eyes, they waddle up our driveway in a long, comical parade. The rule is, no candy until after they show us their costumes, so we can “ooh” and “ahh” over them, and ask them to tell us their names and where they live. After many smiles and much laughter, they and their parents grab handfuls of chocolate eyeballs and other body parts from our big candy bowl, and go happily on their way.

We’ve been told that visiting the “monster house” is an eagerly anticipated event, for kids and parents alike.

In the entire scheme of things, decorating my house doesn’t seem like much. Some people do much greater things to serve others. However, in God’s kingdom, any gift to others – no matter how small – can be used.

When my wife reminded me that this effort is a gift to the neighborhood, I realized that it is an act of love. Jesus wants us to be a gift to our neighbors

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Imago dei … even when I don’t want to

Jesus said the first and most important commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) – and coming in at second is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The first one is pretty easy—at least, it is pretty easy to make an appearance of loving God. Whether it is real or not, only God knows.

The second commandment, however, is a little harder to fake. Merely saying I love my neighbor doesn’t mean much; I have to live it out. Jesus didn’t just say “I love you” to humanity; he put himself on a cross to show it.


Last weekend, my dodge of this second commandment was painfully exposed. My church participates in “Love Portland” – a Saturday in August when we prepare local schools for the students’ return. The work involves mostly simple tasks like trimming, weeding, and painting, which these under-resourced schools don’t have the staffing or funding to do; If we don’t do it, the campuses simply remain untrimmed, unweeded, unpainted.

The purpose of this event is put hands and feet to loving our neighbors, expecting nothing in return. The underlying desire of the organizers and participants is give a gift of service to our community.

In my case, however, my underlying desire was to avoid giving that gift. I had my reasons, some of them legitimate. First, I work graveyard on weekends, and big events like this tend to get me stirred up so that I have a hard time sleeping to prepare for work. Second, the temperature was supposed to hover in the upper 90s that day, and I turn into a real crab-bucket at anything over 80. Third, the wind was full of smoke from raging forest fires some miles away, and the news kept warning everyone to stay inside and avoid breathing it. Fourth, I have a bad back, so I always try to avoid activities that might tweak it.

Unfortunately, beneath all of those reasons—or excuses—for not loving my neighbor hid the truth: I just didn’t want to.

Once again, Jesus’ command to “love my neighbor” came down to an ultimate cage-match between my spirit and my flesh (sin nature). I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. I didn’t want to share another’s burden. To which Jesus responds: “Love your neighbor.” And then, as if to seal the deal, he adds: “as yourself.”

Jesus’ words launch an inescapable circle of reasoning inside my head. I do love God, I insist. Then show it, he says. How? I hedge. Well, he repeats, by loving others exactly the same way that you love yourself.

Every day, I expend an ocean of effort to get my own needs met, look out for myself in the name of self-preservation, and pump up my Facebook profile to impress everyone else. And that ocean is the amount of love I am called to pour out on others.

Wynants_Jan-ZZZ-Parable_of_the_Good_SamaritanIn other words, as much as I don’t want to be inconvenienced—that is how much I am to love my neighbor. As much as I don’t want to leave my comfort zone—that is how much I am to serve others. As much as I don’t want to share another’s burden—that is how much I am to come alongside the needs of my community.

Just because God—who I say I love—commands it. And loving God is loving my neighbor.

Suddenly, as all my selfish excuses fall flat, these two commands combine to trigger another spirit-versus-flesh battle within. I think Jesus intends it to be that way. These are not commands with which to impress others; they are internal. They create a struggle between the self-centered desires of my flesh and the God-centered desires of my spirit.

This struggle between my flesh and my spirit went on for an entire week before the service day. But two things helped my spirit win out.

Self-awareness. We must be aware that we consist of flesh and spirit. After we put our trust in God, our spirit desires to please him, but our flesh still wants to please itself. So ignoring our flesh, and pretending it isn’t there, gives it the advantage of stealth: we never see it coming. Instead of engaging us in a full-frontal assault, it can sidle up next to us and woo us with sly arguments. I believe this lack of self-awareness is how I can rationalize away bad choices and even sin.
Last Saturday, I was completely aware of the source of my resistance. I knew full well that it was my flesh which was copping the attitude. And the Holy Spirit used this awareness to show me just how self-centered I was being.

Accountability. In my case, accountability came through my wife. She encouraged me to join her in serving the schools, but she also allowed me to talk through my objections, helping me get to the bottom of my resistance. She even gave me the freedom to back out. All of this processing helped turn my heart away from selfishness and toward loving my neighbor.

It’s no secret that Jesus called his followers to be in community with one another. We need close friends who will challenge us to fight against our own flesh, give us the freedom to reach our own conclusions, and pick us up during those times when our flesh wins the day.

Fortunately, on that hot, smoky Saturday last week, my spirit won out: I did participate in the event. My flesh kept screaming its displeasure even as I walked into the school; but my spirit fought back and did what was right.

But how about the next time I am confronted with the opportunity to carry out the second greatest commandment? Will my flesh gain the upper hand or will my spirit win? The battle between flesh and spirit will continue as long as I live. Starving the flesh and feeding the spirit is an ongoing process. I will take the wins whenever I can get them.

For now, I will be grateful that this time, Jesus helped me choose to love my neighbor. In his name.

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Four mistakes that keep me from loving my neighbor

It’s no secret that I have felt out of place in the Portland metro area where I live. I’m a Montana boy in a big city, and after living here for 17 years, I still fight the culture shock—and the fact that despite my wish to live elsewhere, I seem to be right where God wants me.


I crave peace, quiet, and elbow room, all of which are virtually nonexistent in my densely packed neighborhood with its traffic-clogged streets. And the neighborhood is visibly deteriorating.

My inner turmoil reached critical mass recently as I walked my dogs. It’s a beautiful time of year, but I couldn’t enjoy the warm sun or budding flowers. I didn’t even notice them.

Instead, I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of disgust. It wasn’t because anyone had wronged me. It was about aesthetics.

My whole neighborhood looks like a junkyard.

I live on a small flag lot, wedged in behind some other houses, and the neighbor in front of me recently parked a decrepit old 24-foot travel trailer with covered windows in his back yard. So this eyesore now fills my view from my front porch. I think he is renting it out. I hope he’s not doing something worse.

As I passed his trailer and walked down my driveway, I noticed the neighbor across the street has followed suit with his own travel trailer—only far bigger, grimier, and uglier than the first. Again, I hope he is just renting it out, but I suspect he is doing more.

Trailer2Another neighbor has started up an auto repair shop in his home garage. And business must be really good because both sides of the street are packed with broken-down vehicles in need of a mechanic. Since my street has no sidewalk, all of the parked cars leave no place to walk except in the street itself.

Finally, I witnessed a drug deal. Unfortunately, our neighborhood is dotted with drug houses (and maybe trailers). People park, run up to a porch, and exchange cash for packets of goods. Then they get back in their cars, drive around the corner, and light up their pipes. My other neighbors have reported seeing this activity too, but it is not easy to document all the evidence required to stop it.

The longer I walked, the angrier I became. I was angry at my neighborhood and everyone in it. I could see that the whole place is going to seed, and I just wanted to get home, shut the curtains, and pretend I live someplace else.

But for now God has me here.

True, I may have legitimate concerns about the people who live around me. I could call their landlords or other authorities and report evidence that they are subletting their trailers (which, on these rental properties, I suspect is illegal), starting an auto repair business in a private garage (which, in this residential zone, almost surely is), and making drug deals (which definitely is). And I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to support what is good in our neighborhoods, and push back against the bad.

But this time, I realized after my walk, perhaps I’m called to “love my neighbor” in a different way.

As my anger cooled toward my unneighborly neighbors, I began to identify with the disciples James and John. These two “sons of thunder”— offended by some similarly unneighborly Samaritans—asked: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54)  – as if they themselves actually had the power to do so. But in response to this grandiose and vengeful suggestion, the Bible says Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:55). We don’t know what he said, but I’m sure it was sharp. In their arrogance and pettiness, they completely missed Jesus’ whole message of love and grace.

Then I thought of Peter—who, when commanded in a vision from God himself to eat “unclean” animals lowered down in a sheet, boldly declared, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean (Acts 9:14).” To Peter’s haughty statement, God replied: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean (v. 15).” Similarly, God seemed to be showing me a vision, too, about how he sees people—not as clean or unclean, but as lost or found.

These scriptures are just another reminder that the big picture, the Story, is not about me and my concerns. It is about God and his.

So, with hat firmly in hand, I took some time to reflect on my response to my neighborhood, and four personal mistakes that keep me from loving my neighbor.

Mistake #1: I fail to remember that there’s no escaping the corporate effects of sin. Sin is collective; each person’s sin affects everyone else—maybe not immediately or directly, but corporately. All sin affects humanity as a whole, and no place on earth is untouched by the fallout. In a cleaner, wealthier community the specific sins might look slightly different, but they are still there. So even if I move to a different neighborhood, a different town, or a different country, I can never escape the “junkyard” created by sin. Our job is not deny or ignore the sin all around us (and inside us), but to join Jesus in healing it.

Mistake #2: I see my neighbors through a “me vs. them” lens. It’s easy for me to look down on my neighbors because what they are doing disgusts me and makes me uncomfortable. But the Lord never tolerates that attitude in his followers. He soundly corrected Peter, James and John for looking down on their neighbors—because his focus is loving one’s neighbor. In a “me vs. them” mentality, love for my neighbor is often the first thing to go.

Mistake #3: I don’t see my neighbors through God’s lens. The houses and apartments around me are filled with people whom God loves just as deeply as he loves me, and many of them are dealing with far greater challenges and far fewer opportunities than I. Am I more concerned about my own comfort than about the souls in those homes? In the entire scheme of things, the universe doesn’t revolve around me and what I judge to be disgusting. My neighbors and their problems are more important than my prim sense of aesthetics. Maybe I’m being called to remember that God seeks not to condemn all of these people, but to save them (John 3:17).

Mistake #4: I forget that even if I try to run away, the common denominator is me. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that I “have it all together.” But the truth is, in the same way that I have felt disgusted by my neighbors, they could just as easily feel disgusted by me—because like them, I am filled with brokenness and sin which often hurts others. So some of my disgust is caused by my own sinful attitudes and responses—not theirs—because wherever I go, all of that baggage goes with me.

Jesus loved my neighbors enough to die for them. They are neither good nor bad; they are just lost. Maybe one day I will live somewhere else. But if I can’t learn to reflect Jesus right here, right now, in this time and place, it’s a good bet I won’t be able to reflect him in any other.

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New life in the zombie apocalypse, part 3: Abandoning self-sufficiency

Note: I love zombie apocalypse stories because they are a great metaphor for life crises. This blog series on the topic has four parts: 1) waking up in the crisis; 2) defining “alive”; 3) abandoning self-sufficiency; and 4) spiritual weapons and sustenance. All scriptures are NIV unless otherwise noted.

The Walking Dead, a zombie show based on a serialized graphic novel, is one of the most-watched shows on TV, while other zombie books and movies continue to sell like hotcakes.

Why is the zombie genre so popular?

I think one reason is the compelling question at the heart of it: In a zombie apocalypse, what would I do? Or more specifically, excluding the suicide option, what would I do to survive?


This question faces all fictional people in zombie stories, and stirs such passionate interest in actual people that a real-life industry has grown up around it. sells a survival manual, and other websites offer real-life training camps on the topic. In 2011, even the History Channel aired a special (Zombies: A Living History) about outlasting a zombie takeover. The History Channel!

The question of survival can be broken down into more specific questions, such as: Where would I go? With whom would I associate? What about weapons for self-defense? And what about sustenance (food and water)?

Each of these questions has spiritual applications. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

First, where would I go?

Would I go to a city or to the country, and would I settle into a secure, well-equipped home base or stay on the move?

A city contains more scavengeable resources for greater self-sufficiency (or the illusion of it), but it also has more zombies. To get around the zombies to the resources, I’d need massive courage and ninja-like stealth – attributes rarely possessed by a guy of my size and agility. Also, in the city, there’s more danger of getting trapped in tight spaces (narrow streets, tall buildings) with no escape, whereas in the country there are fewer zombies and more escape routes. As for establishing a well-equipped home base, doing so could attract other survivors who’d kill for it; better to stay mobile.

Zombie wisdom says: Don’t follow the crowd to the cities, and don’t settle in one place. It’s safer to keep moving through open country and live off the land, even though resources might be scarce. At least, according to my sources.

In the Old Testament, the dichotomy was the same. As people built cities, they began to “follow the crowd” and develop wealth, resources, and delusions of self-sufficiency, all of which laid the foundation for many evils. Think of the people of Babel building a tower, seeking to become almost godlike: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). Or think of the Hebrews establishing cities in the Promised Land, then rejecting God as their leader and demanding a human king like “all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).

In actuality, a city in itself is not evil. But symbolically, it is a monument to human strength. Living in a “city” (metaphorically), we can forget our dependence on God and find ourselves trapped in dangerous places, like in the delusion that we are self-sufficient.

Perhaps this is why, before the Hebrews became a nation, God led them away from the cities and toward complete dependence on him in the wilderness, where they had to trust him to provide manna every day (Exodus 16).

Personally, in the real world, I prefer books and computers to rugged outdoor life. But metaphorically, I believe that living in daily dependence on God’s provision – to me, represented in zombie literature by living off the land in remote places – is the way to go.

165c_aluminum_zombie_shelter_signSecond, with whom would I associate?

Would I remain a lone individualist, join a small group, or become part of a large group?

On one hand, a loner requires fewer supplies and can escape more quickly and easily—again, creating an illusion of self-sufficiency—but she has no one to watch her back or cover her blind spots. On the other hand, a large group poses logistical problems and offers little sense of true closeness. The third choice, a smallish, close-knit group, offers real interconnectedness and the best chance of survival.

Zombie wisdom says: Go with a small group. Small groups are stronger and safer than large groups or loners.

Jesus supported this model by forming a small group of disciples who knew each other intimately. He prayed that they, and we, would experience true unity (John 17), which is essential for spiritual strength.

I’m an introvert and I’m also from Montana, where personal freedom is a core value, so I tend to favor being “on my own.” When my world imploded in 2008, I just wanted to withdraw and be by myself. Thankfully, though, my church stressed the scripturally-based point that everyone, even an introvert like me, should join a home community for close relationships. So I found the nearest one and started attending. And this ragtag band of Christians surrounded me and lifted me up. They bound my spiritual wounds and defended me from further attacks of the enemy. They cared for me through prayer, encouragement, and many other forms of support. Had I stayed alone, I might still be living, but I probably would be more dead than alive. In the zombie apocalypse and in real life, living in a small, caring community is best.

So depending on human self-sufficiency, whether in a “city” or on one’s own, is not the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse. Instead, it’s better to depend on the strength of God and a few believers who know you very well.

In my next blog, I’ll wrap up the last two questions: What about weapons for self-defense? And what about sustenance (food and water)?

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