Where Were You… On 9/10


“Where were you…” Tomorrow everyone will be asking that question. The blogosphere will erupt with evaluations, pontificate with predictions, and commiserate with the current cultural zeitgeist surrounding the 13 year anniversary of the horrors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. This is good. It’s much better that we remember and learn then forget and live in ignorance. I woke up this morning realizing there was something I hadn’t learned yet from all of this.

I remember with vivid accuracy exactly where I was and what I felt on the morning of 9/11/01. I was at work early in the morning as the grocery backroom manager for a small independent grocery store in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. It had to have been around six in the morning when I noticed my fellow employees, who were normally moving like bees in a hive to have the store open in time, all gathered around the TV mounted in the Deli section of the store. When I came to inquire what everyone was watching the words didn’t even get out of my mouth as I watched the first plane hit the first of the Twin Towers in New York. My mind wouldn’t let me believe this was actually happening. I then noticed the “Live” button in the corner and was reduced to shivers, silence, and shutters up and down my spine as we watched what happened next. I grabbed the nearest phone and called Cyndi who was at home with our newborn Elijah and I told her to turn on the news and pray. I just wanted to be home and hold my family close as it felt very much like the world was coming to an end. I prayed and I stayed. Yes, the store was still opening and customers were still coming and I still had to do my job. As many of my vendors and co-workers knew that I was also a pastor I ended up praying with and talking with many of them on a deeper level then ever before in the days and weeks to come after 9/11. The fear that we were not as strong or as safe as we thought we were was palpable. For a while this fear drove many to explore a faith in God they had long since ignored or abandoned. Attendance in the local church surged as people sought answers for why they were still alive when so many had tragically lost their lives. Prayer was commonplace everywhere I looked even in such bastions of secular thought and aversion to religion as Hollywood and University campuses. Weeks turned into months, months turned into years and before I knew it everyone was back to business as usual. Even my own fresh perspective on what really mattered in life began to be overcome by the petty worries of daily existence and the shallow cravings for the things of this world.

This brings me to the title of my blog “Where were you… on 9/10.” Tomorrow, on 9/11/14, we will remember the day the world stood still 13 years ago and watched helplessly as lives were lost. We will be reminded all over again of mankind’s limitations. Yesterday, on 9/9/14 many stopped what they were doing for an entirely different reason. The Starbucks coffee shop where I was working, the Facebook posts of family and friends, and the tech bloggers and analysts were all abuzz about the introduction of the Apple Watch, Apple Wallet, and bigger iPhone 6. Whether a fan of Apple or not we were all reminded of mankind’s limitless possibilities to create, design, and innovate. Many of us woke up yesterday morning not having a single thought about needing a new watch and yet went to bed last night feeling that our lives would not be complete until we have an Apple Watch on our wrist. Such is the power of great marketing and invention playing to our innate craving for new toys that will improve our lives. So, this morning, 9/10/14, as I shaved my scruff in preparation for my day, I enjoyed the only product from Apple’s announcements yesterday that, realistically, I will actually be able to call my own for quite a while- “Songs of Innocence”- the spectacular new album by U2 released for free to all 500 million iTunes customers worldwide. As I listened to my favorite arena rock band I realized that after all of these years, like many of us, they still haven’t found what they are looking for. This is where we all live. We live life on 9/10 most of the time, the day in between. There will be “9/9” days that are pinnacles filled with possibility, purpose, and intoxicating promise for the future. There will be “9/11” days that are pitfalls filled with pain, panic, and sobering perspective. Most of the time, though, you and I live on “9/10” days that are plateaus filled with the patterned, perpetual, routine demands to keep producing for our employers, our families, ourselves. It’s the “9/10” days that are the stuff life is made of. We can choose to live in the constant craving for what we don’t yet own (9/9). We can choose to live in dread of what might happen until fear owns us (9/11). Or we can choose to live in this moment right here, get all we can out of it and thank God for it! It’s how we live in the “9/10” that keeps us grounded on the “9/9” days of high highs and keeps us from giving up on the “9/11” days of low lows. In his song “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) Bono sings “I wanted to be the melody above the noise, above the hurt.” That’s what “9/10” days are! It’s taking the consonance of the highs and the dissonance of the lows and combining them for the melody that carries us through our everyday lives.

Now, maybe you think it’s trivializing the 9/11/01 attacks to put it alongside the 9/9/14 release of Apple’s new tech and U2’s new album, but it’s this very combination of lows and highs that is opening my eyes this morning and I pray will do the same for you. I don’t want to be finding 13 years later that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for so I keep looking for the next thing. I have what I need to be content right now. My melody is Christ. He brings my highs and lows together and keeps me from a roller-coaster Christianity of ups and downs. Where was I on 9/10/14? Finding my contentment in Christ and finding a way to serve those around me.

“12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” Philippians 4:12-13