This is my response to what I heard from the President last night. ūüė≠

What Did He See?

By Ivanildo C. Trindade

I saw a group of people armed with torches, echoing the words from the graves of forgotten haters, but what did he see?

I saw symbols proudly displayed, emblems of division from an era now condemned by all people of good will, but what did he see?

I saw a car leap forward like a blunt instrument, driven by nothing but a desire to inflict pain, but what did he see?

I saw men in pathetic uniforms, pretending to be heroes of a war in which the losing side seems to be hungry for a rematch, but what did he see?

I saw the anguished looks on the faces of bystanders forced to remember the atrocities committed against their ancestors, but what did he see?

I saw confusion and chaos, grief and lament for a time when little children could still be spared the rod of racial bigotry, but what did he see?

Were we looking at the same image or did our brain waves go haywire as they went from plasma to persuasion?

We are left to wonder whether what is seen is the real deal or only what we choose to see.

Is this ‘selecting seeing’ a new type of moral imperative for those too lazy to bend to the canons of common sense?

Did we see the same thing or do we simply have two sets of eyes — one irrevocably bent to scan the cry of solitary humans and another, burdened by a drive for self-preservation, which renders the owner incapable of noticing the river of tears already flooding our cities?

While the ancients said you have to see in order to believe, what irony such times bring — that one sees but refuses to believe while claiming everyone else sees what he sees. Or at least they ought to.

To reset the order of the cosmos, shouldn’t we at least demand to know what for the love of God did he truly see?

August 16, 2017

I was honored to preach at Celebrate Christ Church today. If you would like to watch some (or all of it), please click on the link below:

In a world marked by easy connectivity and rapid mobility, we tend to forget the beauty of the concept of “home.” Ask a typical young person today where home is and chances are they will not know what to tell you. Home could be where you spent most of your life, where you went to college or where you met your now husband. But mostly, when we speak of “home,” we are talking about the place of our childhood, sometimes even the physical place where you spent your formative years — a house,  city, a farm. But mostly, home is where your strongest affections still reside. As they like to say, “home is where your heart is.”

Followers of Christ often make the mistake of living as if the current zip code where they now receive their mail is their permanent dwelling place. Without realizing it, they make preparations to stay here and thus lose the joy of anticipation for heaven. In fact, heaven becomes an after thought, very much like a trailer attached to the luxury SUV in which you travel comfortably to your vacation spot. Instead of a dstination, heaven becomes a fading imagination; instead of longing for it and bringing the reality of it into our mostly mundane existence, we fix our eyes on the stuff of earth and fail to see the luxury of heaven. We live for 9 to 5 when we should be looking for eternity. 

Having been born overseas, I understand very well the reality of living in one place while longing for another. That, to me, is the ultimate calling of every Christ-follower — fully engaged here while fully excited about the hearafter. 

I still remember the first time our whole family went back to Brazil after being in the U.S. for a few years. For months we talked about it. We spent endless hours packing and made many trips to stores in order to buy gifts for our relatives. As we got closer to the big day, the excitement only grew. We were pulling many all-nighters, spreading things all over the house, being more lax with the children’s bed time, and (gasp!) eating microwaveable food. 

None of this, however, mattered to us. And for one simple reason: We were going home! And when you are going home you savor every moment leading up to the big trip with extraordinary anticipation. We talk about some of the things we will do as soon as we got there, we make lists of people we have to see, foods we have to eat, places we have to visit. We get simply consumed with the thought of going home and it’s okay.

Later, as I pondered on that experience, I thought: Wow, if this is true of going home to be reunited momentarily with our earthly family, how much more should we get excited about being forever united with our Father and our beloved Messiah, Jesus Christ? We should be shouting for joy right now at the thought of going to heaven and living today, as the old hymn says, as one who is passing through, only on business for the King. But are we?

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God‚Äôs dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’‚ÄĚ (Revelation 21:1-4). 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Those who know me will know that I am very people oriented. I can’t help it: I love being with people. They challenge me, they make me laugh, they energize me. 

But the one thing I am not a big fan of in people is this general tendency they have of volunteering categorical opinions of one another to each other. Now, I don’t mind if people opine about your looks, your temperament, even your work style, but there are people who think they have broken the code when it comes to the core of your calling — the things that make your heart pound hard and skip a beat when you are in reverent attention in the sight of God. That, my friends, is a sacred space, reserved only for you and God; no one else is allowed in there and thus people on the outside are generally clueless. In fact, often, what you decide to do will not make sense to the majority of people around you. Because following God’s calling is not a popularity contest. 

Case in point: one of the narratives about my recent job experience was that I am passionate about evangelism, compassionate about “the least of these,” and eager to help the broken-hearted. So far, so good, but it doesn’t stop there. The implication was that something was missing. So to try to explain that, remarks were offered: “He would make a great missionary. “He will find a role as a mission or evangelism pastor somewhere where he will be a lot more comfortable,” etc. Those things may very well be true but does this brace the whole sum of a person’s calling? These are all good things, but are they “the most excellent things,” the things that “God prepared beforehand for us to do”? And with what authority does one make those types of statements?

You see, when people pontificate about one’s calling, it’s the equivalent of intuiting that they know what God’s will for your life is. So, what was once an opinion, now graduates to the level of grand proclamations. They are repeated ad infinitum. And things that are repeated often enough give birth to “facts.” That, by the way, could be a good definition of “fake news.” To make themselves feel better, people will now, categorically, if not condescendingly, say: “He shouldn’t do X; he should do Y.” 

I reject that entire practice as bunk. Yes, it’s true that we each have unique personalities, skills, training, strengths and weaknesses. But God’s calling in one’s life is so much more than “unique” or “personal.” It speaks to that intangible part of your soul — the core of your being. And that’s why I called it “the core of our calling” in the opening paragraph. No one, except the person being called, knows exactly what that calling is and sometimes even the person being called does not know precisely how to explain it. God’s calling is supernatural and supernaturally enabled. 

Moses thought he was slow of speech for a prophet. Jeremiah seemed to think he was too young. Amos was a sheep herder and a sycamore fig farmer. He didn’t even dare call himself a prophet. David wasn’t even brought from the fields to be presented to the prophet Samuel, along with his brothers, as a potential future king of Israel — no one even bothered to think of him who was just a little boy tending sheep. John, the baptizer, was seen as an eccentric, if not as a madman. Mary was a fragile teenager in whose womb the hope of mankind would rest. 

In my own personal life, the missionary who had the greatest impact in my life as a young man in Brazil, because he hit the field at a later age in life, was the one who spoke the worst Portuguese of the bunch. The one who was mocked by his peers is now famous in heaven because of the difference he made in the lives of people like me.

All those people, if God had taken a poll or even informally asked the opinions of their peers about whether He should give them the responsibilities He did would probably never get the job. Such is the nature of people — we look at the book cover and think we already know how good the author is based solely on a clever title, a photograph or a computer generated design.

Paul may have been thinking of this when he wrote these words: “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). 

I guess the practical implication for all of us is this: be very careful not to go around pontificating about what God’s calling on another person’s life should or should not be. When asked to give an opinion, feel free to share, but don’t call to yourself a role that belongs to God and to the individual involved. I can categorically say: that’s NOT your calling in life!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

While sorting and packing my books yesterday, I found this old box with the words “Trusting God.” At first, I didn’t remember when and why I had written those words on that box. But before I went to bed, I remembered.

A couple of years ago, I preached a series on worrying. I ended the series with an appeal for our people to write out their worries and come forward to throw them inside what I called “the worry box.” By doing that, they were symbolically surrendering their worries to God. 

So, today, it’s my turn to use “the worry box” in light of recent drastic changes in our lives. And my list is extensive at this point in my life.

Will any of the conversations I’m having turn into a job opportunity for me? Where will we finding housing now that our income is dropping by 50%? Is it time for a complete change of vocation for me? What should we pack, give away, sell, toss, etc., now that we will have to downsize significantly? Where would the ideal temporary place of residence be until I find a permanent job? Since I’m planning to go school in the fall, would it be better for us to stay in the area for a while? How’s this move going to impact my son? How about his future plans for education, marriage, etc.? Will we be able to see clearly through the mist and pain where God is leading us?

These are some of the unanswered questions, why not say “worries,” that I am dealing with right now. So, I’m symbolically throwing them into “the worry box” today and trusting God to take care of them. That’s a practical way to cast my anxieties on Him. The Bible says He cares for me. May I never doubt that. 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Minimizing Your Suffering

A good friend, who has had a front roll seat to my recent travails, after reading my previous post, told me to that he thought I didn’t do justice to the severity of my losses. 

If I did that, it was by no means intentional. Minimizing suffering — whether yours or your neighbor’s — is never helpful, and especially for someone who, is seeking some measure of healing for his soul through sharing his story. But we must be careful not to overdue it. Even our lamentation must come with moderation.

My friend pointed out Paul’s lists of hardships, as if to say that “if it was good enough for the good Apostle, it must be good enough for you.” Indeed, at least on two occasions, Paul gives us some pretty disturbing accounts of the kind of trials he had to face as a follower of Christ, including such things as torture, famine and stoning. 

Paul’s list in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 would in those days be a bad tool for any recruiter trying to convince soldiers to join the ranks of the ‘Christian army.’ Imagine the scene: “Before you sign your contract, you need to see this video of the greatest missionary that ever lived talking about his exploits for Christ. Roll it!” By the time it was over, potential recruits would be bolting for the exit. And modern-day evangelists would be left wondering: “whatever happened to the whole part about God having “a wonderful plan” for my life?

But like I told my friend, I am no Apostle Paul. The first part of my first name means ‘John’ and my last name means ‘Trinity,’ but as far as I know, there is already a best friend of Jesus named John and there is no vacancy in the Trinity, which makes me feel a little sheepish sharing the details of my sufferings. 

But there are other (serious) reasons for my reticence. Even Paul, in the passage I just mentioned, only acted when he was provoked by some bragging by his opponents that was unfair and not based on facts. Twice, Paul speaks of how irregular his kind of response was. Before he starts with his litany of suffering, he says he’s speaking like a fool. When he gets into it, he quite bluntly says that only a madman talks the way he’s talking. There is a warning there to tread lightly. 

Another reason is that it is nearly impossible to be specific about my desert-like experience, while isolating it from the people who were responsible for the decision that put me in that position. No matter how objective I might try to be, people will work overtime to discover connections to individuals who were part some recent decisions in my life. In this small universe in which I live, it would be easy for someone to go on a witch hunt. Beware: even your well intended laments can potentially turn into a libel against people you would never intentionally want to hurt. In the end, your words may become fodder for innuendos and speculations. I’m having none of that.

That is not to say that the pain isn’t real or personal. Believe me, it’s the real thing and it is extremely personal but for that very reason, I have to remember that when I try to describe it it’s like seeing things through my own set of 3-D glasses. Humans don’t simply react to experiences, they interpret them, attribute value to them and often assign blame. It’s enough that I do that in my own head — believe me, I am no saint! — so I will choose to spare you from an ugly display of my own propensity to carnality by not speaking ill of my detractors. 

Speaking of carnality, when we go around “sharing our troubles,” if we are not careful, we end up often serving some red meat, whether we intended to do it or not. And that’s what so many people crave for, isn’t it? We are surrounded by people who dream of seeing others air their dirty laundry! I have been goaded to serve red meat on a silver platter, but I keep asking myself: what would that prove except perhaps that I might be an old fool that can’t move beyond an offense?

Again, this is not saying that there isn’t stuff bleeding in my ‘fridge.’ The events surrounding the loss of my job have enough red meat in them to allow me to open a thriving meat market. But what would the point be? By now the meat is all spoiled and only the vultures would relish it. 

No, I am not giving you any red meat. But that doesn’t mean that I might not indulge in some foolishness like Paul did. So, in order to satisfy my friend who has been in the mud with me, I will give you not red meat but a little bit of the vinegar mixed with gull (of much better quality than the one they served Jesus) we have been given to drink. 

As part of our suffering, my wife and I have done a fair amount of crying, of the type we had not experienced since the loss of our first son. The first couple of months we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Weekends were especially hard, sleeping was nearly impossible and the false alarm of the Sunday morning anticipation kept ambushing me mercilessly. To give you an idea, it was the first time in twenty five plus years that I was not involved in some aspect — planning and/or speaking — of an Easter Sunday. Talk about a very ironic way to mark the occasion of the sufferings of the Messiah. Resurrection couldn’t come sooner! As far as my dear wife, to this day, she still has a recurring nightmare about trying to get inside the church building from every entrance and being barred access. And what to say about her missing the children she watched while their mothers met for Bible study? I could go on and on but now I am truly speaking like a madman. Enough of that!

Humans are not only bound to interpret their experiences, they are also apt to absorb them. Live long enough and you will eventually laugh at your troubles and realize how ephemeral they really are. In this world, we are just passing through. The best is yet to come. Try to avoid blaming anyone for how you react to, interpret and absorb your sufferings. Individuals or groups may get you off track temporarily but they don’t have the power to derail you. That is something only God can do but the good news is that’s not His game. On the contrary, it is often through your groaning that God is growing you. Learn to embrace that. 

I must not close this commentary before mentioning the example of our Lord. Peter says (in the KJV): “… when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23). There you have it: Jesus didn’t take revenge and the reason he didn’t is because He knew that God would ultimately take care of the situation and that He would do that with absolute and perfect justice. That no doubt is still the best reason to date to not retaliate against others. It’s an effective deterrent to a bad habit we have — that of blowing the trumpet loudly with the menu of our own sufferings at the hands of our fellow humans. Forgive and let God take care of the rest. Try to handle it yourself and you will be doing a job above your pay grade. As we say in Portuguese, “Learn to stick to your station.” Translation (in any language): stay humble. And keep working for God’s shalom.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade 

June 2017


O Ato de Minimizar o Seu Sofrimento 

Um grande amigo meu, um daqueles que t√™m observado de perto as minhas agruras desses √ļltimos meses, depois de ler a minha √ļltima postagem, reclamou comigo que talvez eu tenha pecado por ter minimizado a severidade das minhas perdas. 

Se eu fiz isso, n√£o foi propositalmente. Minimizar o sofrimento, seu ou alheio, nunca √© ben√©fico e especialmente para algu√©m que busca algum grau de ajuda para curar sua alma atrav√©s do ato de compartilhar sua hist√≥ria. Mas sem exageros, claro. Tudo com modera√ß√£o, at√© a nossa lamenta√ß√£o. 

O meu amigo assinalou o exemplo das listas de auguras de Paulo, assim como que dizendo: “se o pr√≥prio Paulo se prestou a isso, por que n√£o voc√™?” De fato, em pelo menos duas ocasi√Ķes, Paulo nos descreve alguns epis√≥dios pouco agrad√°veis de suas aventuras como um seguidor de Cristo. 

A lista de 2 Cor√≠ntios 11:16-33 √© de meter medo, incluindo tortura, fome e apedrejamento. Seria uma p√©ssima pe√ßa de recrutamento de um poss√≠vel soldado do ‘ex√©rcito de Cristo’ naqueles dias. Imagine a cena: “Antes de voc√™ assinar o seu contrato, voc√™ precisa assistir a esse v√≠deo do maior mission√°rio que j√° existiu falando de suas aventuras em prol de Cristo. Rola a fita!” Nem bem o v√≠deo termina e o cara sai de carreira pela sa√≠da mais pr√≥xima. E os evangelistas modernos ficariam se perguntando: e o que aconteceu com a hist√≥ria de que Deus tem um “plano maravilhoso” para a minha vida?

Mas, que me desculpe o meu amigo, eu n√£o sou nenhum Ap√≥stolo Paulo. Sim, √© verdade que a primeira parte do meu nome significa “Jo√£o” e o meu sobrenome √© “Trindade”, mas se n√£o me falha a mem√≥ria, Jesus j√° tem um melhor amigo chamado Jo√£o e n√£o h√° vaga na Trindade, o que me deixa meio que sem jeito para falar falar dos meus sofrimentos.

Mas h√° raz√Ķes mais s√©rias para a minha relut√Ęncia. At√© o pr√≥prio Paulo, na passagem mencionada acima, s√≥ agiu quando foi provocado pelos seus antagonistas. Isso deveu-se a certas jact√Ęncias que eles proferiram, as quais n√£o eram nem justas nem baseadas em fatos. Duas vezes, Paulo aponta o qu√£o an√īmalo esse tipo de resposta era. Antes de come√ßar, ele avisa que est√° falando como um incauto. E quando ele come√ßa, vai direto no ponto e afirma que s√≥ loucos falam do jeito que ele est√° falando. H√° um aviso muito claro a√≠ para pisar leve quando se trata desse assunto. 

Uma outra raz√£o sem d√ļvida deve-se ao fato de ser praticamente imposs√≠vel falar dessa minha experi√™ncia no “deserto” sem estabelecer um elo com as pessoas que me fizeram chegar at√© l√°. Mesmo que eu me esfor√ßasse ao m√°ximo para ser objetivo, as pessoas ainda tentariam fazer conex√Ķes com indiv√≠duos que fizeram parte de certas decis√Ķes recentes da minha vida. Nesse pequeno universo onde eu vivo, seria muito f√°cil para algu√©m sair de ca√ßada √†s “bruxas”. Muito cuidado: At√© os seus bem intencionados lamentos podem acabar servindo de libelo contra pessoas que voc√™ intencionalmente jamais desejaria prejudicar. No final, suas palavras correm o risco de virar muni√ß√£o que podem dar origem √† meia-verdades e especula√ß√Ķes. T√ī fora.

Isso de maneira nenhuma indica que a dor seja impessoal ou irreal. Pelo contr√°rio, ela √© dor de fato e √© extremamente pessoal, mas justamente por essa raz√£o √© que, ao tentarmos descreve-la, temos que reconhecer que o fazemos com os nossos pr√≥prios √≥culos de 3-D nos olhos. N√≥s, humanos, n√£o apenas reagimos √†s nossas experi√™ncias. N√≥s as interpretamos, a elas atribu√≠mos valores e com frequ√™ncia distribu√≠mos culpa. J√° basta que eu fa√ßa isso dentro da minha pr√≥pria cabe√ßa (santo mesmo eu n√£o sou, podem crer!) Portanto, vou poupa-los de uma demonstra√ß√£o feia da minha pr√≥pria carnalidade e n√£o vou detonar os meus delatores. 

Por falar em carnalidade, esse neg√≥cio de “compartilhar o meu sofrimento”, quando feito sem pensar, pode resultar em que se exponha os podres dos outros. E √© isso que muita gente gosta, n√£o √© mesmo? Como estamos rodeados de gente que quer ver roupa suja pendurada! J√° fui tentado, mas fico perguntando: o que isso provaria, al√©m do fato que talvez eu seja um n√©scio gra√ļdo que n√£o consegue sequer superar uma ofensa? Isso, claro, n√£o quer dizer que me falta material para trazer √† tona os podres dos outros. A minha “geladeira” est√° cheia desse tro√ßo. Os eventos que culminaram com a minha sa√≠da do emprego est√£o rodeados de intrigas capazes de manter a “geladeira” estocada por meses, mas quem ganharia com isso? √Č carne podre e de carne podre s√≥ os abutres gostam. 

Ent√£o, de minha boca n√£o sair√° podrid√£o. Mas isso n√£o significa que n√£o possa dar uma de louco, assim como Paulo fez. S√≥ pra alegrar o meu amigo que comigo esteve na fossa, aqui vai n√£o o podre dos outros mas um pouco do vinagre com fel (de qualidade bem melhor do que o que deram pra Jesus) que a mim me foi dado beber. 

Como parte do nosso sofrimento, minha esposa e eu temos chorado a mi√ļdo, tal qual n√£o chor√°vamos desde a morte do nosso primeiro filho var√£o. Nos primeiros dois meses depois da dispensa, nem sequer sab√≠amos o que fazer com a nossa vida. Fins de semana eram especialmente dif√≠ceis. Dormir, nem pensar, e aquela adrenalina da antecipa√ß√£o do domingo ficou me assaltando como um algoz. S√≥ para dar uma id√©ia, em mais de vinte e cinco anos, foi a primeira vez em que eu n√£o estive envolvido com o planejamento ou prega√ß√£o em um culto da P√°scoa. Que maneira mais ir√īnica de marcar a passagem dos sofrimentos do Messias. A ressurrei√ß√£o n√£o poderia ter chegado mais r√°pido! Quanto √† minha querida esposa, at√© hoje ela continua tendo um pesadelo no qual ela est√° tentando entrar na igreja por diversas portas e √© barrada em todas, uma por uma. E n√£o vou nem falar do quanto ela sente falta das crian√ßas de quem ela cuidava enquanto as m√£es se reuniam para um estudo b√≠blico no pr√©dio da igreja. Poderia continuar, mas chega. J√° estou falando como um louco mesmo. 

Seres humanos não somente tem fraqueza por interpretar suas experiências, eles também têm uma tendência de adaptar-se a elas. Se você viver bastante tempo, chegará o dia em que rirá de seus problemas e se dará de conta do quão efêmeros eles são. Aqui nesse mundo só estamos de passagem. O melhor ainda está por vir. Esforce-se em não culpar ninguém por como você reage, interpreta e absorve os seus sofrimentos. Indivíduos ou grupos deles podem temporariamente nos tirar dos trilhos, mas eles não têm o poder de descarrilhar-nos. Isso só Deus pode fazer mas não faz parte do jogo dEle. Ao contrário, Ele usa os nossos grunhidos para nos tornar mais aguerridos. Às vezes o melhor crescimento é acompanhado de torcimento. Dói mas não destrói. Mói mas não mata. Pode crer.

N√£o poderia fechar esse coment√°rio sem mencionar o exemplo do nosso Mestre. Pedro diz sobre Ele: “Quando insultado, n√£o revidava; quando sofria, n√£o fazia amea√ßas, mas entregava-se √†quele que julga com justi√ßa.” (1 Pedro 2:23). Mais claro n√£o poderia ser. Jesus n√£o procurou retaliar. E por que n√£o? Porque Ele sabia que Deus iria resolver o problema e que o faria com absoluta e perfeita justi√ßa. Ainda est√° pra se criar uma raz√£o melhor que essa para evitar qualquer retalia√ß√£o. √Č um detente perfeito para o p√©ssimo h√°bito que temos de anunciar em alto e bom som o menu dos nossos sofrimentos √†s m√£os dos nossos semelhantes. Perdoe e deixe que Deus fa√ßa o resto. Se voc√™ tentar resolver o assunto voc√™ mesmo, vai certamente fazer servi√ßo de amador. Como a gente diz em portugu√™s: “Aprenda a ficar no seu lugar.” Tradu√ß√£o (em qualquer l√≠ngua): pratique a humildade. E continue trabalhando pela shalom de Deus. 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Junho, 2017