Even in the Silence

Recently I was introduced to artist Makoto Fujimura. In exploring his works, I discovered his love for another artist, novelist Shusaku Endo. This admiration led to Fujimura becoming an advisor for the movie production based on Endo’s book Silence, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. With all this overlapping of creativity, I decided I would read the book and then watch the movie. Today I finished the book and managed to find the movie on demand to watch this afternoon.

First, let me say what a joy it is to receive the creative gifts by these three artists-a contemporary artist, a novelist, and a filmmaker. Not only are they masters at their craft, but they engage all of who they are into their work, including their faith and beliefs. Unafraid of transparency, they allow you into their wrestling and therefore make it acceptable for you to acknowledge yours.

Endo’s Silence is set in seventeenth-century Japan. The tale challenges your commitment to your faith as you follow two Portuguese Jesuit priests encounter the forced renouncing of beliefs by their Japanese Christian brothers and dialogue with a silent God. You are forced to acknowledge persecution has always been a part of Christian history and will always be, something we prefer to forget Jesus told his disciples to expect.

Such stories produce various responses. Responses usually focus on what ifs and reminders to not forget those currently experiencing persecution. My biggest response today is this: I am the sole guardian of my faith. It’s not up to the church, a pastor or priest, or anyone close to me to secure my faith. In decisive moments where I have to live out my faith, it’s entirely up to me. When my mind tells me I’m alone and God has abandoned me, my faith reminds me that he said “I am with you always,” even in the silence.


Robin’s Wish

I just watched the newly released film Robin’s Wish. Came across it ondemand. Didn’t know anything about. Hadn’t seen any trailer or news about it. But after looking up the trailer, I knew I wanted to view it.

I imagine most people are in my shoes, thinking they know what ended Robin Williams’ life. Many have learned-now everyone can know as I now know-that it wasn’t what they first heard or thought. A few months after his death, his wife was told that Robin had Lewy Body Dementia. There is no cure. This film, with much storytelling by his widow Susan Schneider, captures the reality and challenges of this disease both of the sufferer and their caregiver.

Watching a documentary like this provides loads of takeaways. You should watch to see what yours are. Mine are the importance of knowing the truth and the need to share it.

“There’s No Crying in Baseball”

(This is the eighth post in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

It’s a movie line. It’s funny. It’s memorable. But it’s not accurate. 

We may try to maintain an “it’s only a game” mentality in our recreational endeavors. But like it or not, our passions have a way of seeping out. Positive and negative, character and opinions, warts and all. 

In the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, actor Tom Hanks plays character Jimmy Dugan. Dugan is a washed-up former ball player, who’s now a drunk managing a women’s baseball team. Not exactly how he thought his life would turn out. Dugan didn’t want his players showing any emotion that wasn’t related to the game. He didn’t care about his player’s personal lives. He wasn’t interested in contributing to their lives off the field. Why? Largely because he wasn’t managing his own life off the field very well. Here’s the truth: You can’t lead, manage, or contribute well to a team when you aren’t managing yourself well.

Suppressing your emotions isn’t managing yourself well. Crying along with other forms of expression is our body’s relief mechanism. Hurt or joy. Confusion or celebration. Frustration or praise. Disappointment or worship. Doubt it? Watch the World Series. Guaranteed there will be tears from these men, both the winners and the losers, once the final game has been played.

As fans, we understand this, expect it. In a way, it makes these superheroes of their sport somehow more human. We can relate to them more this way.

What about non-baseball life, the emotions of average life day to day? Many people choose to join Hanks in deceiving themselves into believing this line, “There’s No Crying in Life.” The reasons why are varied: perceived as weakness, doesn’t help the situation, there’s no time, real men don’t cry. These are all based on concern about how you will be perceived by others.

Perception can feel like reality, but that doesn’t make it true or beneficial. Brené Brown addresses some of this in her book Daring Greatly. She writes,

“We’ve come to the point where, rather than respecting and appreciating the courage and daring behind vulnerability, we let our fear and discomfort become judgment and criticism. We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. Vulnerability is life’s great dare. It’s life asking, “Are you all in?””

The reality is there is crying in life. Choosing to live otherwise leads to many wrong efforts in dealing with life. Frankly, it’s full of pride and selfishness which tears down a team rather than unites it.

With my best Hanks impression I’ll say this, “Get over it. Crying is a good thing. Go ahead. Let it out. It’s part of life. Your teammates will thank you. And mostly, so will you.”

Stop Swiping That Card

Last night “my boy” Aaron and I went to a movie at a theater on International Drive in Orlando. Parked in a garage where you had to get a card to park. No person at a booth. Pretty normal city life thing, right?

One would think. Except there were all these signs all over the garage telling you to pay at these pay-with-credit kiosks. To the outoftowner, confusing. Am I supposed to pay now or when I leave? What’s with all the kiosks?

So we asked the movie ticket seller how it works, paying for parking that is. She said, “There’s a scanner on the wall around the corner where you validate your card.” Found it; got validated.

My understanding and assumption was that validation meant the system knew why I had parked in the garage, and I’d pay at a booth or kiosk when I left. Paying for parking confusion solved.

So imagine my surprise after the movie when I’m at the garage exit swiping my validated card at another scanner with credit card in hand prepared to pay when I don’t actually have to pay anything. I was intently staring at the scanner, swiping my card over and over, looking for some light to go off or message to appear saying, “Insert card for payment.”

“My boy” Aaron jolted me out of my overswiping when he said, “Hey, the arm is up. You can go. It validated your card.” I turned my eyes away from the scanner, and, sure enough, I was free to exit.

“Oh. I don’t have to pay. Validation meant the movie ticket was the payment. Got it.”

This scenario reminds me how we can be confused about seeking forgiveness for sin from God. 

We are constantly figuring out how to “cover it” or “pay for it.” 

We have a validated card in our wallet and don’t even know its power. 

We can walk through life still thinking, “I hope when I leave, I’ve got what I need to pay for my time here, that I haven’t screwed this all up.” 

And we can stand there at the scanner swiping and swiping and swiping, praying over and over and over again hoping God is listening, and the whole time he is saying, “Stop swiping that card. Take your eyes off the scanner. Look up. I’ve already taken care of it a long time ago. Move on.”


Yesterday, for the first time I can recall, I watched the entire movie The Shawshank Redemption. I’d only seen portions before, so now I know the full story of the two main characters, Andy and Red. Andy, falsely convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and Red, serving a life sentence for a just conviction, both battled hope. Andy’s hope was stronger because he envisioned something beyond what he could see; he placed his actions and his beliefs in that hope. (That’s all the plot I’ll divulge; get some popcorn and watch it and enjoy to see how it works out for Andy and Red.)

The lines from the dialogue and the theme of the movie led me to think further about my hope, where is it and where should it be. I was reminded that my hope isn’t in temporal things but in eternal things. My values aren’t satisfied by temporal things, as much as I’m tempted to go after them.

Turning to scripture then, here are 10 passages that define my hope. May they give you a starting place for yours.

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:1-5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:24-25 HCSB

“Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭39:7‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭62:5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭147:11‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“The hope of the righteous is joy, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭10:28‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is still young. Let him sit alone and be silent, for God has disciplined him. Let him put his mouth in the dust — perhaps there is still hope.”‭‭ Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-29‬ ‭HCSB‬

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry. The Lord frees prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are oppressed. The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭146:5-10‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

A Letter to the Couple in the Movie Theater 

To the couple who sat by me yesterday to watch the new Star Trek movie,

You had no idea how your arriving 20 minutes after the 4:20 start time put you in a certain category in my structured world. You also had no idea that I watched you ascend the steps toward me in the top row, corner seat, somehow knowing this wasn’t going to go in my favor. And then you had popcorn. You really had no idea.

The theater wasn’t even half full. But yet you somehow determined that walking up to the furtherest corner was the best move. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. You, ma’am, had some sort of wrap on your lower leg. That drove you to my corner. You were looking for the best seat in order for you to prop your foot somehow. You had no idea that my plan was to raise the armrest when the movie started in order for me to prop whatever healthy part of me I wanted on the seat next to me.

Sir, I’m sure you had no idea when you sat down next to me that I seriously considered moving down to one of those dozens of seats you passed to get to one next to me that I also considered mine. And, I hope you had no idea that for about the first ten minutes of the movie God and I were talking a lot about you and your wife.

Actually, God was talking, and I was doing a whole bunch of listening; and you and your wife wasn’t what he talked about much to me at all. Although he did point out that you paid for one seat, actually two, just like I did. And the seats at Royal Palm are certainly not reserved, so you had every right to pick a seat wherever you liked or your wife needed. He also reminded me that some people enjoy the whole movie experience (refreshments, getting up to go the bathroom) unlike I do, and that is also perfectly normal, even acceptable.

After God pretty much told me to get over my introverted self, you had no idea that I started watching both of you. Yes, the distraction of your hands going in and out of the popcorn bag initially annoyed me, but I chose to appreciate that you graciously shared the popcorn between you. Ma’am, I watched you adjust yourself as quietly as you could throughout the movie to ease the pressure on your foot. And when you openly engaged with the movie by laughing and commenting, I moved from wanting to relocate to actually enjoying your company.

So, by the end of the movie, which I recommend seeing, you had no idea the lessons I had learned that had nothing to do with the content of the movie. It had to do with you, with how to enjoy any movie experience, and with accepting people for who they are, especially when they aren’t like you. Couple, thank you for coming to the movie and choosing to sit next to me. You had no idea.

Redeeming Suffering

For those in my circles, they are probably about tired of my latest references to podcasts. It’s much like hearing from someone who’s back from a conference or a vacation. It’s better for you if you experience it yourself.

Sorry for those people, but here’s yet another reference. I heard this quote from Donald Miller talking about what makes a good hero and villain in a story plot. “A hero redeems his suffering while a villain becomes bitter about suffering and seeks vengeance.” The word that grabbed me was “redeemed.” The concept of redeeming suffering is a new one to me.

But think about it. That’s pretty much what heroes do. They make their suffering useful. Batman redeemed his suffering of losing his parents. From other movies, William Wallace (Braveheart) and Maximus Meridius (Gladiator) both redeemed their suffering of losing their wives. One of the most familiar biblical and historical heroes is David. What did he redeem? He redeemed his people from their longtime enemies, the Philistines. These four men made a choice. They chose to redeem their suffering.

Redeem means to make something that is bad or unpleasant better or more acceptable, to buy back something. Suffering is often the result of something bad or unpleasant. Suffering certainly is attached to loss. 

We suffer in our workplace when business slows. We suffer in our families when our parents age. We suffer in our sense of security when bombs explode. We suffer because we live in a broken world. And in our suffering we have a choice. Make the unpleasant better or become bitter, making ourselves unpleasant. Redeem what was lost or cause more loss through our lack of redemption. Be a hero or be a villain.

Truth is, we all know what the right choice is. Truth is, being a villain is easier. Being heroic is hard. Ask Jesus. By the way, when you ask Him, stop to thank Him for your redemption that He gave you through His suffering.