#911Anniversary

It is almost exactly 13 years since Mohammed Atta flew American Airlines flight 11 into the 93rd through 99th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Every generation has its own defining moments, and I know with certainty that this was mine.

I had just started my day at Verizon in Normal, IL. I did inside sales with a talented group of colleagues, and we were all logging onto our computer systems.

And then…one by one, we started noticing the radio that was piped in throughout the office.

A plane has hit the North Tower.

I saw heads pop-up around each of our cubicles, but we all thought it was just some Cessna that flew off course because of a disoriented pilot. Sad, but not a tragedy of terrorism fueled by hate-filled ideology.

After making our first phone calls of the day, about 17 minutes later, we heard that United Airlines Flight 175 had just flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

This was no accident. This was on-purpose. America was under attack.

And 34 minutes later, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. And 30 minutes after that, Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

The day became still. Work stopped. Hearts were blended together. Tears were mingled. Grief was shared. There were no democrats or republicans.

Only unity.

13 years later.

We aren’t united. We’ve forgotten about what matters. We chase after nothing and call it something. We have lost our togetherness.

But we need it more than ever.

Last night, as President Obama addressed the nation about the threat of the Islamic State. the Islamic State is more organized and has more money than al-Qaeda ever has. And they are filled with a hatred that made al-Qaeda shudder and disavow them. Their goal isn’t terror. Their goal is world domination through the form of an Islamic Caliphate.

We must unite. We must remember. God, make us remember. And act.

13 years after the worst terror attack our nation has ever seen, we are facing the likelihood of facing even greater attacks on our soil. So what can we do?

Remember.

But not the kind of remembering we do to simply recall information. Remembering in a way that transforms our actions.

On the last night of Jesus’ life, he had dinner with his close followers. He took a loaf of bread and said that it represented his body, that was going to be broken for them. Then he took the cup filled with wine, and he said that it was like his blood which would be shed for them for the forgiveness of their sins. Then he said: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

This was no casual thought or religious ritual. This was life-informing and life-altering.

His followers knew that he was demonstrating what kind of lives they were to lead from that point on:

broken and poured out for the sake of others.

And we are, too. 3000 Americans died on 9.11.01. And because of that, we have a responsibility and even a calling to live differently. To live AWAKENED. To live PASSIONATELY. To see everything as SACRED.

And to respond to terror threats wherever the exist.

Anything less is simply not acceptable. Remember.

Peace,

Neil

Open Letter to Janay Rice

Janay~

I want you to know how sorry I am for what has happened to you. You were violently attacked by Ray and the whole world saw it on video. You were probably embarrassed, and I would guess very afraid. After all, Ray is an elite athlete, and more importantly, your intimate partner. Then just a couple of days ago, you had to be humiliated again with the release of the video that showed exactly what was done to you in that hotel elevator.

Please don’t feel blame for what happened to you. You can’t do anything to make anyone hurt you. Nothing. You are not in charge of any other person’s emotions, or lack of self-control. Please hear that and internalize it.

Don’t listen to the voices that blame you for staying with Ray. They just don’t understand. They don’t understand how fearful a person can be because of the repeatedly frightening actions that one person can perpetrate upon another. They can’t comprehend how you could possibly stay in a relationship after seeing what was done to you in the video.

But I can.

I understand it because I’ve met and assisted countless victims of domestic violence. I was Stacy Peterson‘s pastor and counselor. She was married to Drew Peterson before she disappeared. Drew is the former Bolingbrook, IL police sergeant that you may have heard about…and is spending the next 36 years in prison because he was convicted of murdering a different wife, named Kathleen Savio.

Since meeting Stacy, I’ve helped many women around the country get renewed courage. Courage to believe that they were worth more than what their abusers told them. Courage to believe that they could make it alone. Courage to believe that they could be wanted by another person. Courage to leave.

I don’t know you, but I’d be honored to help you.

I hope you will take a look at this site: documenttheabuse.com ~

There is hope, and we are waiting to help you…with NO judgment, whatsoever. You are not alone. You are loved.

Peace,

Neil

I Demand Action in #Iraq

I’ve been overwhelmed with a desire to do something to help the victims of persecution in Iraq, at the hands of the vicious new Islamic State. The Islamic State, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the entire Muslim world, has moved quickly and brutally, and has taken control of large portions of Iraq and Syria. They’re now focusing on Lebanon and on Jordan, while making it clear to the world that Jerusalem is always the end-goal.

To compare this organization to Hitler and the Nazis is not too extreme. They plan to destroy anyone and everyone whom refuses to submit to their radicalized version of Islam, and they do it with a kind of media savvy that is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Their beheadings are recorded and put on Facebook and Twitter as a way to recruit the next generation of directionless Mujahideen.

What I’ve been wondering recently is simple: what is the responsibility of the world community? does the rest of the world respond to such a blight on the face of humanity?

It appears that while the world, for the most part, recognizes that the Islamic State “has it wrong,” they’re unwilling to put much skin in the game.

I’m so thankful that President Obama reacted to the humanitarian crisis of the Yazidi minority, as they sought refuge from the Islamic State on Mount Sinjar. But he ended the mission before it was over. So the crisis continues. And it will keep going until we say “enough is enough,” and demonstrating our commitment to eradicating the Islamic State from the face of the earth.

But who has the guts to do it? It appears that few have it. But while we wait, more are executed each day. The Yazidis are being exterminated. The Assyrian Christians are being killed. Shia Muslims are being destroyed. Anyone who refuses to declare allegiance to the Islamic State is killed in grand fashion for the whole world to see.

We must quickly act to do three things:

1. Build a coalition of countries willing to do whatever it takes to soundly defeat the Islamic State, even if it requires ground troops. While I understand the desire to avoid another ground war, it seems inevitable: now or later. I guarantee that later will be more difficult.

2. Create a safe haven for all of the persecuted minorities in Iraq. No one should have to live the way they are “living.” These are true crimes against humanity and must be dealt with with extreme prejudice. Nuri Kino (@nurikino on Twitter) started an organization called “A Demand for Action,” and is asking for help in lobbying President Obama and the United Nations Security Council to quickly create a safe haven for the persecuted.

3. Use social media for GOOD. One of the great things about social media is that we can get a united message out to millions of policy makers and the influential, simply by sharing a compelling message and a call to action. Please tweet for good. Use this message to get started:

Please join me in urging @barackobama to create a safe haven for the persecuted in #Iraq. #demandforaction

Please join me in getting this message out to the world. Don’t allow complacency to control you any longer.

Peace,

Neil Schori
Hebrews 13:3

I Dream of The Church

Over the 6 years that I’ve been the lead pastor of Naperville Christian Church, I’ve experienced tremendous highs and deep lows.  We’ve had growth and loss.  We’ve seen the beauty of unity and the shared pursuit of vision, but we’ve also experienced the pain of division.  What have we learned through it all?

I believe more than ever that God has a plan for all things.  His very nature is redemptive.  So when the Apostle Paul says that God is working for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose…I’m seeing and living that in a whole new way.  God really does take the dirt that is tossed on us and cause us to grow.  It’s painful.  I don’t want more of it.  But I see the promise of the future!  And the future is bright and full of goodness.

I dream of The Church (not just MY church) being a hub of wholeness for the hurting.  And it will be messy.  And that’s ok.  I dream of The Church being a place where transparency is not only encouraged, but anticipated.  I dream of a place where people can receive the rest that Jesus promises when we bring all of our baggage to him.  A place of respite.  A place that values wholeness psychologically and socially, and physically and spiritually. 

I dream of a place where the broken flock, but don’t stay that way.  A place where we walk through the valleys of the shadow of death with each other, and then offer the helping hand that encourages us to move beyond the broken to healing and wholeness.  A place where we serve the world together and demonstrate the sacrificial love of the Savior we claim to follow.

God is doing a NEW thing in The Church, and Naperville Christian Church is one expression of God’s extraordinary plan.  And I’m grateful for the mess that led us to this place.

 

Peace,

Neil

Echoes of Eden

What do you want to be when you grow up? It is one of the first questions that we are asked as children and it is one of the first that we ask our own kids when they’re little, too. When you think about it, it is a pretty daunting question. The question behind the question is deeper. And that question is this:

Who ARE you?

In our society, our identities are, for right or wrong, inextricably linked to what we do. That’s why no little kids describe a not-so-glamorous future for themselves. You’ll always hear about dreams of rocket science and doctors and pop-stars and lawyers. But then reality hits, and most of us realize that those things are not going to happen for US. Because our parents were wrong. We can’t do whatever we set our minds to.

And then the emptiness sets in.

We feel like we were meant for more, but our realities aren’t matching our hearts’ desires. But what if we did have a greater purpose, but we had simply bet our dreams on the wrong race horse?

I’ve been on a journey. It has been hard. Journeys aren’t significant unless they are, are they? This journey has made me look deep into my own heart and into my church and more deeply into who God is and who I am. And the results have been awe-inducing to me. I’m fully convinced that we were all made for so much more…

In the bible in Genesis chapter 1, God is almost finished creating. But his masterpiece has not yet been completed. In Genesis 1:27, He says this~

So God created mankind in his ownimage, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

I’ve read that so many times that it had lost its meaning to me…but suddenly it had more meaning. Deep, life-changing significance. Of all His creation, only one piece was the image of God. The literal representation of God on earth.

But just two short chapters later, His image-bearers, Adam & Eve, were deceived into trading that untarnished image for something feeble and fallible. They traded THE image for a lie. And they were broken in every possible way. They were psychologically wounded. They were relationally challenged. They were spiritually disconnected. Even the earth was broken. Death had entered the world because of this unnatural great image-exchange.

But God had a plan. From the beginning of time, God knew that we’d give up his image and our truest selves for a lie. But lies will not have the last word. Truth does.

And God sent the Truth to earth in human form to remind us of what our image was meant to be. Colossians 1:15~ The Son is the image of the invisible God…

Jesus came to show us the Way back home. Jesus showed us what God looks like. And that makes me feel homesick. Not like I’ve been away from my house in Aurora too long…but something deeper and more mysterious. Something redemptive. Something so powerful and good, that it is nearly irresistible to me.

I sense something in me that wants to go to a place that I’ve never been physically, but feels more like home than I’ve ever experienced. I feel the echoes of the Garden of Eden, where all was right in every way. There was no strife or alienation or shame. And I need that…and I’m pursuing that kind of wholeness.

And in this place, God is encouraging me with a deep sense of goodness and healthy doses of longing. Longing to agree with the amazing work that God wants to do in me and through me. Agreeing with the work that Jesus did on the cross so that I can once again become a full image-bearer.

You can do this, too. You’ll never meet your longings in your careers, or in another person, or in any other charade you can think of or do. Your craving will be satisfied only when you surrender to Love and allow yourself to become the truest version of YOU that could ever be.

And the only way that will happen is if you allow God’s love to scrape off the veneer that you’ve so artfully decorated yourself with and give in. Become the you that was designed before there was time. Become fully alive.

Peace,

Neil

A Bullying Culture: The NFL and Richie Incognito

“I never saw any of the signs.” “I thought they were close.” “I’ve never heard him speak THAT way in public.” “But…he is such a nice guy.” These are common things for people to say after learning of domestic violence and or bullying. And we shouldn’t be surprised.

Rarely do bullies walk up to their victim in public and shout racial epithets at them. Bullies are too clever and too cowardly to do that. They care about their reputation to much to do that. They’re to selfish to act in such an outward way that they’d actually have witnesses to their bad behavior.

It is sad, but unsurprising to me to see so many Miami Dolphins players coming out to support Richie Incognito. Incognito just became famous for being revealed to be a tyrant to a young man named Jonathan Martin, a teammate of his on the Dolphins.

Today, the “leader” of the team, Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said: “If you had asked Jonathan Martin a week before, who his best friend on this team was, he would have said Richie Incognito.” Later, Tannehill stated “All I know about Richie is that he’s a great teammate to me…”

A couple things:

1. Tannehill only knows what he observed in public. Bullies are too smart to do what they do in public. They save their venom for their victims in private moments. Why? No witnesses.

2. Tannehill is at best, naive, for stating that Incognito was a great teammate to him. Great teammates don’t leave hate-filled voicemails for another of their teammates. Cancer does that. Incognito was a cancer to the team, and they should be thrillled he’s gone.

We all need to open our eyes. If YOU were being bullied by a co-worker or a teammate…what would YOU want someone else to do? I know that I’d want to be believed and that I would want others to stand up for me.

I choose today to stand with the oppressed. I choose today to open my eyes to the plight of the downtrodden and the silenced. I choose today to never bully another person. I choose today to believe victims, and to help them get back their voices. I choose today to pray for victims and abusers, alike. We all need grace.

Peace,

Neil

Last night, I met Richie Incognito

Last night, I met Richie Incognito at Lambeau Field. Ok, it wasn’t actually Richie Incognito, but he was just like him. If you don’t know who Incognito is, you probably will soon.

Incognito is/was a star on the Miami Dolphins football team. Sadly, though, it appears he was far more than just a ridiculously talented athlete. There is mounting evidence that he is also a vicious bully. His former teammate, Jonathan Martin was picked on unmercifully by Incognito, on various occasions, and even received racially-charged texts, emails, and voicemails from him. Incognito reportedly referred to Martin (whom is bi-racial) as a “half n—–.”

Martin was disturbed enough by the treatment to leave the team. Bullying doesn’t end in high school, does it?

Last night, I was thrilled to have the chance to see the Chicago Bears defeat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. It was an amazing experience, until I stood up (with almost the entire stadium) to see the Bears score a touchdown. After standing for a few seconds, I was shouted at from behind: “DOWN IN FRONT!!”

My friend and I turned around to receive angry glares from two large, middle-aged men, seated directly behind us. We told them that we’d sit as soon as the people in front of us sat down. They swore at us and made belittling, and hate-filled comments to us the rest of the night.

The abuse continued throughout the REST OF THE GAME. I saw unruly and drunk fans being kicked out at record speed, and several times I thought about asking the cops to get rid of the guys behind us, too. Then something happened inside me…and I turned around and asked:

“HOW OLD ARE YOU?” He yelled back “I’m 53 years old and I’ve had these seats since 1971, and NO ONE STANDS IN FRONT OF ME!”

I just turned back around and said nothing. His curiosity was killing him, so he asked: “why did you ask how old I am?”

I turned quickly back to him and said: “because I’m surprised that by YOUR age, that you still think it is ok to act like this.” That must have stuck with him, because he got up and walked out of the stands, swearing up a storm.

Then something interesting happened…the man sitting next to him leaned over and apologized for his behavior. And told us that his brother was terminally ill, and that his bitterness had overwhelmed him. Before he left, I asked the man what his brother’s name was and he said that it was Kenny. I told him that I’d pray for Kenny’s health and that he’d walk away from his bitterness. The man graciously thanked me and he left.

I certainly don’t know Richie Incognito’s experiences in his life, but I do know human behavior. And the truth is that HURT people hurt other people. Kenny lashed out because of his pain, and I would bet that Richie does, too.

Don’t get me wrong…Kenny is responsible for his ridiculous actions, and Richie is, too. And they both need to reap the consequences of their bad behavior. But…they also need people to see through their angst-filled exteriors to the heart of the matter and to offer them tastes of grace.

Kenny, I’m praying for you today. Richie, you can change, too. Own your bad behavior, ask for help, and move on. You’ll both be so thankful that you did. All of us will be, too.

Peace,

Neil

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