Tuesday, July 26 2016
“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Good afternoon, friends. I sure hope you are focused on safety today. I’ve invoked my “100 Degree Rule”; whenever the weather approximates 100 degrees or more I wear shorts. I just don’t see any reason to be miserable…
In yesterday’s sermon I spoke more than I ever like to about hate. Hate, to me, is like the briar patch at the edge of the woods. You see it, you know it’s there, but you’re much better off if you simply avoid it. Yesterday I couldn’t, but today I can so I’m attempting to soothe my soul by thinking about love this morning.
I am absolutely fascinated by Goethe’s quote and not just because of the love. More and more I’m aware that our lives have much in common with soup. Whatever we introduce into the soup of our lives will ultimately flavor us. Some additives come from the outside while others come from the inside. Some additives are intentional while others are accidental. Some are conscious while others are anonymous. Our lives are crazy, mixed up soups!
But let me not leave you with the thought that we are without any influence on our own lives. If fact I would suggest the opposite; we have the lion’s share of influence over ourselves. We choose (mostly) what we do, and we certainly choose how we receive. We choose to whom we relate. We choose the majority of our lives and Goethe points to the big choice: to love or not.
If you want to make the flavor of your life better then practice love. But I warn you: love is akin to opening a door to your heart. You will, as Goethe attests, begin to be shaped and fashioned by that which you love. Love wildly. Love freely. Love aggressively. Just be aware of what walks into your life, flavoring it so to speak, from that which or whom you love. The risk is worth it, I say, just be aware of the risk you are taking. So love, friends, and be loved. And have a great week!
Monday, July 18 2016
“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.”
Good morning, friends. I hope you are doing well today. That’s saying something, really, given the state of the Union these days. That’s my matter today, so let me get to it, please.
These are troubling times in our country. Every day more and more unnecessary death. The news has become so bad that a diehard reader and watcher of news like me has become allergic to it. You can blame it on the President, or on the NRA, or on guns, or on anything, but I think you’re missing the real culprit. Look in the mirror. Chances are you’re looking at an intolerant person. I may be, too.
If there’s anybody sitting in the room with you then guess what? You’re different. You’re different from every person you’ve ever met or ever will meet. The thing is, you accept the diversity in the people you like, and they accept yours too, but not so much for people you don’t like. Their diversity somehow becomes a problem, one that blossoms into intolerance and flowers into rejection. This is the root of the problem in our Union: we don’t understand that our own intolerance is part of the problem.
We celebrate our own uniqueness as a wonderful thing, but for some reason we deny that wonder in the other. We believe all is right, beautiful and wonderful in our world, and wrong, dreary and terrible in the world of the other. We believe the sun shines on us most of the time and it rains constantly on the other. Call it whatever you want, but we have a judgement problem, and we are reaping the world that we’ve sown. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What if we were to celebrate every “other” as unique and beautiful just as they are? What if we were to seek understanding just as desperately as we seek justification and rationalization? What if we were to stop, as Martin Buber taught, seeing the other as “it” and began seeing them as “you”, personalized, with emotions and feelings and hopes and dreams just like me and you?
I refuse to live in fear no matter how much fear rages around me nor will I be led to fear by fear mongers no matter how popular or prevalent they are. Nothing good comes from fear anyway. Join me in a campaign to champion kindness and love and peace and understanding and forgiveness. We can make this a better Union not by who we elect or reject or blame or exclude, but only by who we become, personally. Selfishly I want this, and I hope you do to. Let’s encourage each other to be sparks of the better Union. I can’t wait to see the bonfire. Have a great week.
Monday, July 11 2016
“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.”
Good morning, friends! I hope you had a great week last week. I was at camp with three great kids, and now I’m beat! But it is a great kind of beat, so off we go.
The events of the past week and the direction of our country cause me to reflect on our ability to create and maintain community. We seem to be trending away from community and symbiotic relationship and I shudder for the consequences. What can I do? What can you do? We can be champions of community and relationship.
The commonly understood basis for our declining sense of community is fear. I would like to add ignorance but I cannot speak well of it, so I won’t; I’ll stick with fear. This past week at camp I was asked to define “freedom”. Easy answers came quickly but soon faded like smoke. Examples left too many spaces untouched. It proved to be a very challenging exercise. So too is defining fear. I can neither define it nor describe it well but I can recognize the evidence of it and the damage it leaves in its wake. I can also confidently say that most fear comes to us through our eyes. Much less fear comes through our ears. And very, very little comes through physical touch. Most of our fear is collateral damage of judgement; we create our own false monsters.
The supermajority of fears I’ve had in life were unwarranted, like spider webs holding me back. They had no real power; I simply allowed my emotions to get the best of me. Can you relate? I’ll bet you can.
Recently my wife was challenging our kids on a matter that is common to homes with multiple kids: sharing. That’s mine. You stole it. You took it. Don’t touch it. Blah, blah, blah. My wife wonderfully touched the heart of the matter: choice. Speaking to the kids she said, “You have to decide if you want to be a person who shares or not. Your stuff may be lost or damaged or not returned. It happens and you can’t control it. You have to choose to be a sharer or not.” She is a wonderful mom. So too with fear. You have to decide if you will live in fear or in community. You will be rejected, opposed, offended, offensive, overjoyed, saddened, bored, angered, everything. Your choice is whether to live in community or fear. I choose community. I reject fear. I pray you will, too. Have a great week.
Monday, July 04 2016
Let freedom never perish in your hands.”
Happy Independence Day, friends! What a blessing to have this important national holiday fall on Encouraging Word day! I’ll be at camp with church kids the rest of this week, so a holiday Word is what you get! Enjoy!
My best memories of the 4th of July as a child and teen involve corn, always corn. My mother taught summer school every year, so July 4 was the best day in early summer to freeze corn, so we did. Dad and I would collect 2 or 3 bushels of corn early that morning and we would shuck and silk all day long; mom would cut and freeze. As a child I considered this work a chore but soon enough I began to appreciate the benefits of the work: fun fellowship, great food, and feelings of accomplishment. This work even carried on for years after my dad died, but sometime in my mid-20s when I moved out of that home the work ended. Other things took the place. The whole experience perished in my hands and I still grieve for it.
Our quote today reminds us that we are guardians, protectors, of freedom. So much of what takes place in our national conversations (arguments too often) are debates about freedom. We must never take it for granted and we must forever be willing to work and sacrifice and compromise for it lest it perish in our hands. But I am struck just how true that is for every good gift in our lives. Consider your relationships, your health, your achievements, your joys, your everything good and great. Might they, by indifference or inattention or ineptitude, also perish in your hands? God forbid.
Importantly we have a day every year to remind us to cherish freedom but few other institutional opportunities exist to remind you to cherish everything else of value in your life. You hold these blessings in your hands. The life and continuity of these blessings are yours to protect, guard and enrich. You and you alone know what they are, so you and you alone can protect them. Perhaps make a list today of what matters to you. Perhaps imagine actions you can take to maintain and protect them. Now move beyond perhaps to certainly make certain that nothing you value perishes in your hands. I think I’ll join you! Have a great week, friends!