In the end, as Paul the Apostle said, all things work for the good for those who believe.
Just gotta believe to receive the blessings we all too often take for granted, especially in the tough times.
Archive for April, 2009
In the end, as Paul the Apostle said, all things work for the good for those who believe.
I’ll be in Section 204, Row F, seat 10, the one jitterbugging with the daughter and son-in-law to-be. Give me a shout out, will ya?
If you’ve never seen travel guide Rick Steves’ TV film about his travels in Iran last year, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Anybody who’s done the least bit of traveling in the world–and I’m not talking tourism but doing mission trips or the kind of travel in which you get to meet the real people of the world–will tell you that real people in other nations want all the same things that the peace-loving people of the world want.
Namely, peace and prosperity and the desire for their children and grandchildren to have better lives.
Rick Steves drives home the point powerfully in showing what the people of Iran are really like, and what they really want, in spite of all the hostile rantings of leaders over whom they have no control.
Check out Rick Steves’ blog and “Rick’s Iran Travel Log” for enlightenment about this enemy of ours.
“If we are to be peacemakers we need to take on . . . a mentality of abundance and put away from us the mentality of scarcity.
“This sense of scarcity makes us desperate, and we turn to competition, hoarding, and a kind of parody of self-preservation. This greed extends not only to material goods but also to knowledge, friendships and ideas. This is especially true in a society that grows more affluent, experiences more opportunities for hoarding and more fears of losing what has been stored, and in the process creates enemies and wars.”
– Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and theologian and prolific writer of powerful and spiritual little books available at your local bookstore or on the net.
If anything can be imagined, it can be done.
Dismiss me as a idealist if you will.
The hardcore realists said slavery could never be abolished and besides–the Good Book never condemned slavery and in fact appeared (and appears still) to be perfectly fine with it.
The hardcore “realists” always love to sit quietly by in their comfort zones, never rocking anybody’s boat, never speaking out against things they know are wrong for fear of somebody thinking they are a fool or worse, making them look like a fool in front of someone else, if not a lot of people.
And so, they scoff and attack and dismiss the idealists and visionaries as dreamers and bleeding hearts and do-gooders and always, always trot out that all-purpose word used for dismissing just about anything or anybody that might have a hint of idealism or change attached to it, and of course that word is:
But if you believe in God and believe that God can move mountains and are willing to meet God halfway and cooperate with God and work toward a vision of peace and prosperity and justice for all, then you’re not going to worry one twit about what anybody might think of you or say about you.
God made you to be you, not to be some masked man or masked woman who wants to be like by everybody and never wants to rock anybody’s boat for fear that somebody will blow you out of the boat.
Moving mountains like poverty and war and peace requires a vision, and without a vision, as the Good Book said, the people perish.
Ending poverty, ending war, will require new ways of thinking and envisioning and imagining, but our Good Book is filled with the visions of visionaries who inspire us to stay connected with God and doing what we can to nudge those mountains just a little further on.
Our Good Book makes reference to us “do-gooders” and bleeding hards and idealists as being “fools for Christ.”
So by all means Christians should do things foolish in the eyes of the world to move the mountains of resistance we face in making for true peace and prosperity and an end to poverty.
“Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
– Matt. 11:28
“It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus.”
– Therese of Lisieux
So one day years ago I’m in Washington on Houston Chronicle assignment and have time to do the whole tour thing and I’m standiing in front of Lincoln in absolute awe.
No matter how many times you do Washington and the monuments and incredible Americana sites, you just stand in awe of it all, right?
So I’m looking out over the mall toward the monument, soaking up the moment, getting goosebumps, thinking about how blessed I am to live in the greatest and freest country in the world, pinching myself at the beauty of this seat of democracy, looking out and imagining that sea of people that was out there when Martin Luther King Jr. gave that historic speech in front of the historic monument of the historic great Abe Lincoln, thinking I’ll mosey over to the Vietnam Wall when I hear a kid say:
“HEY, THIS IS WHERE FORREST GUMP WAS!”
What a great country.
One week from today!
Jitterbugger will be there with two daughters, jitterbugging to the high heavens!
There is a time for silence (see post below), and a time for Jitterbugging!
Be aware of the volume of that TV you’re not even watching.
Be aware of the music blasting from the radio.
Tune out all the clamoring voices around you.
Turn it all off and think about this wisdom from Isaac of Niniveh, the Syrian monk:
“Every man who delights in a multitude of words, even though he says admirable things, is empty within.
“If you love truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sunlight will illuminate you in God and will deliver you from the phantoms of ignorance. Silence will unite you with God himself. . . .
“More than all things love silence . . .
“It brings you a fruit that tongue can’t describe.
“In the beginning we have to force ourselves to be silent.
“But then there is born something that draws us to silence. . . . If you only practice this, untold light will dawn on you. . . .”
I’ve had a good and quiet Saturday morning with coffee over the Scriptures, with time to reflect and meditate on whatever comes to mind and in that process, it came to my mind that in the Christian life the beginnings never end.
Thomas Merton said something to the effect that we who are faithful and obedient followers of Christ will never be anything else but beginners, all our lives.
We don’t want to be beginners, he noted. But as Christians we are. If we ever think we’ve “arrived,” we need to get back on our knees and think again.
The entire Christian faith revolves around the notion of new beginnings, fresh starts, second chances–and third, and fourth, and seventy times seven beginnings and then some.
A graybeard staffer at the hospital where I do ministry as a chaplain said to me once, “Chap, I’ve done so much rotten stuff in my life that there’s no way God could ever forgive me.”
(How many times have you heard someone say this, fellow Christians and preachers and priests?)
I asked him if he’d ever murdered anybody and he laughed. “That’s about the only thing I haven’t done,” he said.
“Well, I hope you never do, but Moses murdered an Egyptian, and the great man of God David committed murder and adultery in one fell swoop. And yet God chose them to do God’s work in powerful ways in spite of their sins.”
I told him about the great Abraham, deceitfully offering his wife (poor Sarah!) to the Pharoah in order to save his own neck, and yet Abraham remained one of God’s greatest.
I pointed out that in the great parable of The Prodigal Son, the Father not only forgave his wayward and sinful son–he ran out to greet him and threw a lavish party for him because he, the Father, was EAGER to forgive him and reconcile and start over and wipe the slate clean and begin again, much to the chagrin of the other son, who was miffed because he’d been such a good boy.
Jesus, I pointed out, told the sinner on the cross next to him that he would see him in Paradise that very day, allowing him to begin life anew moments from death.
“Whatever you’ve done in your past,” I pointed out to the staffer, “is forgivable in God’s eyes.”
I am happy to report that this staffer began to see God and Christ in a new way. He began to see the Bible, which he really knew absolutely nothing about, in a new and more accurate way. To this day he’ll begin a lot of our conversations with a question about God or the Bible or faith, even though I don’t think he’s ready to kneel down and begin a whole new life in Christ anytime soon.
Still, the operative word there is “begin.” My relationship with him is now largely about beginnings, and his seeing faith in a different and new way may lead him to a new life in Christ yet.
This whole faith thing is about beginnings, about new life, about the healing power of mercy and forgiveness and reconciliation with God and others. It’s all about transformation–constantly shedding our skin in order to take on new life and new beginnings.
It’s about planting the past in a deep hole. It’s about the pledge of new life and new beginnings in the resurrection.
Amid all the gloom and doom of Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations is this word in Chapter 3:
“Because of the Lord’s great love,
we are not consumed,
for his compassions will never fail,
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will wait for him.’”
“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him.”
God’s mercies are new and tender every morning.
Every morning opens a new beginning.
“Morning has broken like the first morning.”
That popular song by Cat Stevens, who began life anew in the Muslim faith and took on a Muslim name, is actually an old hymn, one that we Methodists have in our hymnal, along with another of my personal favorite hymns, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” from Lamentations (see verse above.)
It matters not what we’ve done yesterday or how we misspent our youth or even who we’ve murdered lately with a slanderous and gossip-prone tongue. God invites us to begin again and try to do better, to grow and to seek perfection.
I’m only beginning to get this whole faith thing down myself, knowing I’ll never arrive at anything but God’s mercy.
But that, at the end of the day, is good.