” . . . gave orders to kill . . .”


“When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger—this was done in accordance with what he had learned from the visitors about the time when the star had appeared.” (Matthew 2:16)

As I walked to my car in the church parking lot one day last week I glanced up at the cross on top of the church and noted to myself that the white cross looked especially nice against the blue, blue sky. Then my attention was drawn to something new in the picture. I noticed that there was something hanging from the corner of the church roof.


When I focused my telephoto camera lens on the object I was disturbed by what I saw.


I’m hypothesizing that the bird was working on a nest under the eve of the building and somehow got caught up in the nesting material – falling and hanging itself. The first thing that came to my mind was tragedy . . . What a tragedy that the bird lost its life as it was working to help bring new life into God’s creation. I was reminded of the story from the gospel of Matthew where Jesus’ entrance into the world sparked the deaths of so many innocent children. Strangely, the encounter with the dangling bird kept me wondering about tragedy.

I’m remembering how many times I’ve answered the phone only to be greeted by tragedy on the other end of the line. Encounters with so many tragedies have changed me. I’ve been forced to see things I never wanted to see. I’ve been forced to hear things I never wanted to hear. I’ve been forced to know things I would have preferred to believe happened only in the movies. Tragedy has a way of stripping away any veneer that might hide the ugliness of human life, revealing the harsh, bitter reality of pain and suffering.

Tragedy first starts my brain wondering about the why and teases me with the thought that if I can only explain, then all will be well. What a wild goose chase that is down a dark hole toward despair. I’ve learned not to chase that goose. Tragedy makes me want to run. I don’t want to have to face the terror and anguish tragedy brings to town. I’ve learned not to run. Tragedy makes me want to say something – anything that will make everyone feel better. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.

As tragedy has taught me not to try to explain, not to run, and not to try to offer cheap or shallow utterances, tragedy has also pushed me to dig deeper. Tragedy has forced me to face the darkness and uncertainty of life head-on, and there I have found the mysterious assurance of God’s presence. I was fortunate when I was a boy that significant spiritual leaders in my life taught me about God and first led me to experience God through Christ. Yet tragedy has taught me to experience God with unexpected lessons of suffering, doubt, and hardship. Tragedy has taught me to question and wonder. Tragedy has taught me that sustaining faith comes in the midst of suffering. Tragedy has taught me not that God is a myth or irrelevant, but rather, that God is real, present, and helpful.

I guess the dangling bird has reminded me once again that tragedy is only a heartbeat away. Tragedy has taught me that God is even closer. I pray that when tragedy strikes again, I will be open to its lessons, available for others, and ready to offer God’s healing love through Jesus Christ. How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and
Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”


~ by revgenelson on July 23, 2014.

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