Monthly Archives: November 2015



I have become friends with an older black gentleman named Lawrence. We met at the Peet’s a block away from my office.

I forget how we began talking the first time, something about rap music.  Lawrence does not like rap music.  “It’s not bad music.  I just like to think about positive things. They sing with such attitude and dress with such attitude,” he said, “Sometimes things work better than anger.”

He talked about putting good things in your body.  He told me how he likes looking at the stars,  watching the sunsets, seeing rainbows.

I told him my favorite L.M. Montgomery quote, “rainbows are just as real as mud puddles”  The world has enough mud puddles; you might as well make more rainbows.  Lawrence agreed.

Today, he recognized me and called me to sit down at his table.

He opened like this, “Quite a few things have happened since the last time we conversed.”

And I wanted to talk about it so badly.  So, we did. We talked about Paris and Syria and all those mud puddles.  He talked about how Jesus put positive things in his body.  I talked about how we don’t have a safe God.  He quoted Hebrews and James.  I quoted Isaiah.  And we talked about the Indians at the first Thanksgiving.

“Oh, if they had know what we were going to do to them!” Lawrence said.

“Yes,” I said, “Would it have made it any less right to help us? Would it have made it any less wrong not to help us?”

Lawrence and I must’ve looked an odd site, because people were staring.  An old black man and a young white mother, tucked in the corner, huddled earnestly over coffee cups.  What would we possibly have to offer each other?  On what level could we possibly meet?

Or maybe they were seeing our rainbows.




“Let me sing for my beloved

my love song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.


He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

and he looked for it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.


And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem

and men of Judah,

judge between me and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard,

that I have not done in it?

When I looked for it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?


And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.


I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and briers and thorns shall grow up;

I will also command the clouds

that they rain no rain upon it.


For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the men of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

and he looked for justice,

but behold, bloodshed;

for righteousness,

but behold, an outcry!” Isaiah 5:1-7

We did this passage last week in Sunday school.  The second grade class went long.  They were talking about Paris.  A wise mother navigated the discussion and led them in prayer.  And they all learned that church is exactly where you are supposed to talk about justice.

We have been supposed to talk about justice since the beginning.  It’s not new.  It’s not liberal.  It’s as old as the exile.

And it’s really really simple.

We should take in all the refugees.  Even if there are terrorists among them?  Yes.  But it may not be safe!

I would like to know where in the Bible it tells us to be safe.  I would like to know which stories of outsiders being folded into the bloodline of Jesus are the exceptions to the rule. I would like to hear how the Good Samaritan was cautious.  I want to hear how Jesus only fed half the people because of limited resources. I want to know where God says fear is greater than love.

I don’t pray for safety for my children. I don’t tell them to be safe or careful. I tell them to be wise and do good. I pray that God goes with them.

We, like the Israelites, have built God a temple in the land.  And we, like the Israelites, make the mistake of thinking we have him domesticated.  But there is nothing safe about God.  There is only everything good about God.

You know what else is good?  When you see a dead Syrian boy the fact that you can do something about it is good.  The fact that we can do something about it feels very very good.  We can help.  We are required to help.  God does not promise us safety.  It is still the right thing to do.