Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's the use?

A couple evenings back I met with my spiritual director. We meet about once a month. I tell him what I'm experiencing and thinking. He gives a different perspective on that which usually challenges me. This week I shared how I am moving toward a more unified view of humans. We in the West have inherited a Platonic dualism that affects pretty much everything we do, including relate to Yahweh. We perform mental and theological gymnastics that allow us to separate ourselves into various compartments. I guess that helps some people organize their lives. But, as I read scripture, I see a more in a more Semitic way. God formed humans and breathed the Ruach Elohim into them. They became living souls. Not living dust and breath. Anyway, I digress. As we were talking I told him that I was finding it increasingly easy to see Yahweh's love as it is directed toward me. I don't see God keeping a running tally of my many shortcomings and mistakes. For anyone out there who knows me, that would be a very long list. Rather, I am coming to realize that God knows what I'm made of. I'm dust. God is not surprised when I act like dust. I see God smiling at me as I try to come alongside the Spirit and cooperate. My feeble attempts amuse the Almighty. So, my director's response to this was to ask if there was any way that I could see God writing, not a list of sin and mistakes, but a love letter to me. I had to stop a moment, but I said 'yes.' He then challenged me to take this to God in prayer.
I did that. And, I felt God's smile. I confessed to Yahweh that I could not understand why I had been chosen out of the billions of souls on this planet. God's response? "So that you can enjoy Me."
Not so that my sins would be forgiven, even though that's true. Not so that I can preach and teach. Not so that I can live a godly life. But, so that I can enjoy God. I can experience God's love and acceptance. I can, in a word, be free to love God and God's very good creation.
Thank you, Yahweh!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Might makes Right?

Yesterday we went to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. My daughter's college room mate and her son have been staying with us this weekend, so we took them to 'see the sights.' We did all of the things that an inquisitive and energetic 4 year old could want. There is so much to see and do there. I was impressed. But, what really caught my interest was the Cleveland Air Show that was going on next to us at Burke Lakefront Airport. As we arrived in the parking lot, a military jet fighter was giving a demonstration. So, we sat and watched from our vehicle for a while. Later, at the Science Center, we saw people flocking to the deck outside. My wife and I walked out there and saw that the Navy Blue Angels were performing. The pilots were making these multi-million dollar machines dance with incredible skill. It was obvious that many hours had been spent honing their skill. As these huge war-birds screamed across the sky and maneuvered with apparent ease into various loops and rolls; seeming to just miss each other at unbelievable speeds, the crowds clapped and waved. The thing that impressed me the most was the sound. When I said that they 'screamed' across the sky, I was not exaggerating. The noise was incredible. Chills ran down my spine as these 'swords' of the U.S. military flashed and cut their way through the air.
I have to say that I watched with mixed feelings. There was a sort of pride in the fact that these machines were built by humans whom God endowed with the brains to imagine and create them. Also, I have lived my entire life in the U.S., and these are part of our culture and heritage. But, at the same time, they are also weapons with incredible abilities to kill and destroy. I mentioned to my wife after one pass that I wondered what it would be like to be in a small village in a developing nation when these jets howled past them at several hundred miles per hour. The sound and spectacle alone would be enough to panic. Then, there is the destructive capability that these planes carry in weapons payload. In many cases, people on the ground would never hear or see a thing. Their world would simply end.
Yes, the technology and human achievement on display was magnificent. However, I hope to be present when these swords can finally be beaten into plowshares.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

endings and new beginnings

Well, it's Labor Day weekend. The accepted, if not astronomical, end of summer. And, in many ways, I'm glad. This summer has been a difficult one for me. There have been a lot of changes in my life. Not all of them pleasant.
I started in a new position at work. After 36 years as a prepress specialist I am now part of the company's E-Commerce team. This is a challenge in that I am dealing with a particular customer's needs in real time. (Actually, a really short amount of time ;o) It requires immediate action. Sometimes, as old and feeble as I am, that's difficult. I am also charged with integrating the online needs of the customer with our prepress and production departments. The plus is, I'm out of prepress and am getting a tad more money. The downside, it's still printing. While I've been in printing a long time, (41 years), it's not my passion. I've been trained for Christian ministry. I earned a Master of Divinity from Ashland; graduating with high honors, (thanks be to Yahweh). Not that I want to toot my own horn, but it was a pretty significant accomplishment. And, I believe a fulfillment of a calling God made to me 40 years ago. Ok, I'm a slow learner. BTW...if anyone is hiring out there, I'm open to talk about it.
Another thing about this summer has been the difficulty I have had really connecting with God. From about the time I had a heart attack last November until some time in June, I had experienced a dynamic relationship with God in prayer and in daily life. It was good and growing. However, sometime in late June/early July, things became a bit more tenuous. I found that passions and desires I thought long dead were resurrected. Prayer became difficult. Although I slogged through it, the time could be what St. John of the Cross described as the "Dark night of the soul." The ensuing period of time was not just dry, it became a trial of faithfulness. But, Yahweh is faithfulness. I am now, thankfully, finding my way back. Paul's writings in Romans has been of great help and comfort. Maybe I'll write more about that later.
In late June my wife and I received a notice from the I.R.S. They were disallowing a deduction I had taken on my 2010 return for college tuition. Now, no one EVER wants to hear from the all-powerful I.R.S. They said we owed a fairly substantial sum in taxes and penalties. I got out the documentation that I had received from the university and sent a copy back with a form stating that I did not agree with them and was not sending payment. I was, at best, apprehensive about our chances of prevailing. I spent the next couple months trying to figure out how we were going to pay after they decided against us. Such is the fear that this department of the government instills in its citizenry. Anyway, yesterday I received a letter from them. I put it on my desk, unopened, until this A.M. When I opened it, it stated that they thanked me for the additional documentation and the inquiry was now closed. We owed $0. Yes, Yahweh is good! But, it would be easy for me to take the position that it was my answer to the I.R.S. that made the issue go away. After all, what I did was no different that what any other person in the U.S. would have done. There was nothing 'miraculous' or magical about it. I simply did the responsible thing. This is the area that, I think, many people find gray. Was it the grace of Yahweh, or simply the act of a human? Too many Christ-followers would look at this in some magical, super-spiritual sense and totally miss the fact that God inspires people to act like people should. Justice; faithfulness; righteousness. They are all attributes of humans that God desires us to use. I was simply being faithful to God in finances and seeking justice from the government. Welcome to the Yeshua-do...the "Way of Yeshua." If I've learned anything this summer, it's that Yahweh works through the ordinary. We humans are to live in the ordinary and to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting" (Ps. 118:1).Or, something like that.
I'm looking forward to the Fall. It's my favorite season. I think that the righteousness of God as it has been displayed through the faithfulness of Jesus will continue to reveal itself in my, and my family's lives. In spite of a half-empty Summer, the Fall is beginning to look half-full.