Posts Tagged ‘community

06
Oct
22

Scratching the Choir Itch

Let’s get together and SING!

There is something magical about singing. Especially when that singing is done in harmony with other people. 

I am not musically intelligent enough to know how it all works, but when those people over there sing one note, the folks behind them sing another, my buddies and I add a third, and then a completely different group of people come flying in over the top with yet a FOURTH different, resonant note, I attest to you (as truthfully as I can) that I feel myself start to levitate a little. 

And THEN… when you add some profoundly poetic lyrics to that tune, I can’t help it. My eyes begin to leak a little.

I was reminded of the enchanted quality of choral music yesterday when my granddaughter sent me a video clip of her freshman girls’ choir singing O Sacrum Convivium, or The Sacred Banquet. It was absolutely transcendent. They blended and harmonized. They hit their all their notes. They nailed the cut-offs. They rose and sank and soared, all in perfect synchronization.

Did I mention this choir is comprised of high school freshman girls?

 One reason I love choral music so much is because in it I find community. A shared mission. Mutual sustenance and encouragement. Choir members have one another’s backs, even when one of them (usually me) struggles to land the tone accurately. The vibration of a carefully cultivated harmony excites us as we imagine the joy it will bring unseen future audiences. 

There is WORK in choral music. First, in understanding the composer’s vision. Next in faithfully fulfilling its finest nuances. Hours and hours and hours of sweat and strain are needed to help a choir avoid a public faceplant. 

There is ART in choral music. True, singers are only re-presenting the creative genius of the composer. But music – by its very nature – is ephemeral… here in this moment, then gone forever. A painting or sculpture or novel is fixed in time and space exactly as it left the hand of the artist. In contrast, the beauty of any piece of music depends both on the creator AND the performer(s). In that sense, composers and singers become artistic co-creators.

And so, for those reasons and many others, I also find God in choral music. I will take that a step further and suggest that those who listen to a finely composed, artfully presented choral work also find God… whether they realize it or not.

Now before you get all excited and label me a heretic, consider this; King David was a musician extraordinaire. He regularly rocked out on the lyre, and we know he composed AT LEAST 150 different little ditties designed to praise, question, lament, and glorify his Creator. They are collected there in a book you might know as Psalms. I’m not sure how many of those tunes are meant to be sung by choirs vs. individuals, but I’ll bet the group approach works for a whole bunch of them. 

He was such a big fan of singing, in fact, that he wrote one entire psalm – Psalm 100 to be precise – specifically to sing the praises of SINGING THE PRAISES. When David said, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing,” (Psalm 100:1-2, NRSVU) I think he really meant it.

Singing with a group of people is one of the things I miss most about our new life in Fort Collins, Colorado. The church we attend only has a choir during Lent and Advent. Besides that, there is no nearby equivalent to Kansas City’s Heartland Men’s Chorusand I flunked my audition with the Larimer County Chorale (“You’ve got a nice voice, Russell, but you really suck at reading music,” were their exact words, I believe). 

So, until I find a way to scratch my choir itch, please say a little prayer for Joan. She has to listen to me sing in the shower, sing while I mow the lawn, and break out into song at random moments for entirely random reasons. 

I suppose it could be worse. 

I suppose I could be a frustrated bagpipe player.

Abundant blessings;

14
Jul
22

Viva la difference!

I’m sorry, but it’s true; I am married to the best cook in the world.

Sorry. This picture of the leftovers just doesn’t do justice to the thing in its prime.

The votes are in… tallies have been verified by Price-Waterhouse… the verdict is final.

How she does it – consistently night after night– I’ll never know. But mine is not to question why. Mine is just to dine and sigh. 

Just two nights ago, for example, Joan made some chicken thighs. “No big deal,” I hear you say. “What’s so amazing about chicken thighs?” But these were MIND-BLOWING chicken thighs. I can’t offer 100% validation on this, but I am reasonably sure Joan had at least DOUBLE the Colonel’s trademark “…eleven herbs and spices…” sprinkled on those bad boys.

I detected salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric, a little Turkish spice we picked up at the Istanbul Bazaar a few years ago, garlic salt, cayenne, and a couple of other things my tongue is not sophisticated enough to discern. 

But here is the thing: in the realm of cooking and the enjoyment of food, DIVERSITY seems to be the key. Our (between 2,000 and 4,000, according to the interwebs) taste buds get all excited and LIGHT UP when they encounter a multiplicity of stimuli. They cry, “MORE! MORE! We LOVE this avalanche of input you’re giving us!! Pile it ON!!”

Our visual receptors work the same way. We see something and label it, “beautiful,” or “awesome,” when we see a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, all converging in the same place. 

[Unless, of course, they happen to converge in the form of that blue and yellow plaid leisure suit I owned in 1983]. 

The same thing happens in the world of SOUND. One musical note is great. But add two or three other, different notes to that one and you get what we call HARMONY, which most of us call “pleasing to the ear.”

All of which brings me to the question that is the real point of this post; if you and I are hard-wired to find beauty in diversity and variety in sight, taste, and sound, why doesn’t this same wiring extend to our SOCIAL world?

That is, why do we seem to continue to insist that PEOPLE all adhere to a lockstep line of undifferentiated homogeneity?

Our nation’s horrible history of segregation, for example, suggests we once believed people should associate with only ONE race… their own. Maybe some still do.

We also seem to have an extremely hard time accommodating more than one OPINION or VIEWPOINT when considering the issues of the day. Anymore it isn’t just, “Sorry… I disagree with your position, and here’s why…” Today it is more like, “People who see things THAT way (meaning NOT the way I see it) are wrong, evil, and should honestly not even exist.”

“But wait!” you say. “Aesthetics and sociology have absolutely NOTHING to do with one another! Beauty is in the eye (or ear… or taste buds) of the beholder, whereas truth is ABSOLUTE and unwavering!”

Wise old King Solomon gave us a warning about our commitment to absolutism when he said, “Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end, it is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25, NRSVU). Even earlier in his book of wise sayings he helpfully advised us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” (Proverbs 3:5, NRSVU).

And remember… this comes from the man widely considered to be the smartest guy who ever lived. Yes… even smarter than Elon Musk!

True. The world today is filled with wacky and outlandish ideas. There is, for example, an active Flat Earth Society… there are moon landing deniers… 9/11 conspiracy theorists… Bigfoot chasers… even (if you can believe it!!) people who still deny the reality of climate change and the 2020 presidential election results! 

Am I saying that we ought to give even these a place of honor and legitimacy in our picture of the universe? 

No, I am not. Not when the item has been thoroughly and repeatedly proven to have no relationship to reality, as is the case with all the above.

What I AM saying is: let’s worry more about our level of COMMUNITY than our level of CORRECTNESS. Let’s make the search for ACCURACY secondary to the quest for AUTHENTICITY. Let’s prize KINSHIP over KNOWLEDGE. 

Does that mean smiling silently and nodding at Uncle Billy while he sits down at the Thanksgiving table and starts railing about Bill Gates planting microchips in your COVID vaccine?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

But if you do, you might just find Uncle Billy doing the same for YOU!

Abundant blessings;

03
Apr
22

Lent and the GTS

The ubiquitous logo

I miss Facebook.

You see, my chosen Lenten discipline this year was pursuing a fast (i.e., a period of intentional self-denial) from Facebook. Facebook had become something I found myself being sucked into WAAAAY too often. I rationalized that I used it mainly to stay in touch with out-of-state family members. But the truth is, I used it for many other purposes… most of which were much less noble than I was willing to admit.

But mainly, Facebook had become a GIGANTIC TIME SUCK (GTS) and I decided I needed to forcefully wean myself from for a time.

Thank you, Lenten fasting discipline. Your timing was perfect.

For the first four or five days, it was rough. Gone were the photos of other people’s dream vacations and new toys. “Adios” to the truly groan-worthy puns and memes. Vanished in a puff of smoke were those ill-informed political opinions – and sports takes – that I so enjoyed ripping into and exposing the fallacy of. 

And believe it or not, I really came to miss those times when friends would post truly profound truths about life that made me pause, scratch my chin, and say, “Hmmmm. Never thought of it that way before.”

And oh yes… this “fast” has also caused me to live without those delightful pictures of grandchildren, siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews that so regularly warm the cockles of my heart. 

Who am I kidding… here now on Day 33 of my fast, it is still rough. Every day I have the sense that some genuinely good “stuff” is passing me by… never to be seen again.

At the same time, I don’t miss Facebook AT ALL!

I don’t miss all the trivial nonsense. I don’t miss the disruptive ads. I don’t miss the pointless bickering, based on the mistaken notion that it is possible to argue someone over to your side of any question. I don’t miss the “VagueBook” postings that make me guess where that picture was taken, or what that bizarre phrase really means. I don’t miss the invitations to jump into a multi-level marketing scheme. I don’t miss the crowing, “Hey! Look what WE’RE doing right now! Don’t you wish you were this cool, too??” posts. 

But most of all, I don’t miss the GIGANTIC TIME SUCK (GTS) Facebook had become in my life.

They warned me about it before I even signed up. But did I listen? NOOOO! “I’m too smart for that,” I replied, with a thinly disguised air of superiority. “I’ll be the master of my own domain. I won’t fall for those schemes designed to draw me in and trap me. I am immune to their fiendish addiction tricks.”

As it turned out, I wasn’t immune. 

Not at all.

Which is really the point of any kind of fast, isn’t it? When we become so dependent on a THING that we imagine that we can’t do without it (of course except for essential things like air, water, food, God, and human community), it might be a signal that it is time to take a step back and reevaluate our affections. To ask ourselves, “Is that _____ really that important, in the grand scheme of things? Do I really need it as much as I think I do?”

I know – without the slightest shadow of a doubt – that the very SECOND Lent is over (on Easter morning, April 17, 2022), I will be eagerly scrolling through to see what I missed. I will lap up all those vacation photos, corny memes, passionate political punditry, and hot sports takes like a man in the desert laps up water. 

I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but it’s true.

But hopefully, in the meantime, I will have gained a little distance. Maybe this period of intentional denial will teach me to stop for a beat or two before diving so readily into this (or any) form of electronic voyeurism. 

Maybe I will emerge from this fast on Easter morning with a new commitment to things like silence… reflection… prayer… listening… meditation… and rest.

It’s a long shot, but who knows?

After all, this is the time of year of resurrection and new birth, isn’t it?

Abundant blessings;

01
Nov
21

My Saints

He was a slick-fielding, light hitting second baseman for the church softball team.

He sold microscopes for the E. Leitz Company.

Later, he heard a call that changed not only his life, but the lives of everyone in his family.

He taught me how to tie a tie, shine my shoes, throw a spiral, dry the dishes, and dig a hole.

He wielded The Paddle.

He whistled duotone harmonies.

He struggled. He persevered. He dreamed. He played. He sang. He laughed. He cried.

He served his family, his church, his community, and his God.

He taught me how to see the unseen, seek justice, speak for the voiceless, advocate for those on the margins.

He was my dad.

She saw the world at an early age.

She was the darling pet of her three brothers.

She wrote prolifically and well.

She always made sure her children knew they were safe and loved.

She threw a baseball “just like a boy.”

She baked the best, most fragrant bread in the world.

She loved her God and her neighbor as herself.

She loved, supported, encouraged, and followed her husband through thick and thin.

She was beautiful.

She was my mom.

These are the first saints I think of today, on this “All Saints Day.” 

They are the most important ones who shaped my life in profound, lasting ways… but far from the only ones.

They both taught me that as they lived, they also stood on the shoulders of others… paying forward the blessings conferred on them.

Today, in some small way, I hope I have followed their example. 

I love you mom and dad… and all the other saints I’ve been privileged to meet along the way.

Abundant blessings;

12
Aug
21

Well, I declare!

Despite instincts to the contrary, I regularly try to keep an open mind.

Life has shown me again and again the hazards of latching – iron-fistedly – onto a particular thesis or paradigm.

God seems to take great delight, in fact, at throwing cherry bombs into the middle of my settled certainties and watching as they are blown to smithereens.

Multiple burned fingertips and shrapnel wounds have taught me to tread very, very carefully before puffing out my chest and declaring, “HERE I STAND! MY FEET SHALL NOT BE MOVED!!”

[I have no such hesitation, you understand, when it comes to standing up and declaring Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That is what we refer to as a “layup.”]

All of which is prelude for this moment of puffing out my chest, ascending the soap box and declaring, 

“HERE I STAND… MY FEET SHALL NOT BE MOVED!! COVID VACCINES SAVE LIVES and CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.”

I feel compelled to make these declarations for one simple reason; because WAY too many people are sending exactly the opposite message (with great conviction, I might add) to the peril of MILLIONS of humans… present and future.

They say, for example; “Whether I am vaccinated or not is a matter of personal freedom.”

BZZZZT! WRONG ANSWER! Vaccination is a matter of community compassion, not personal freedom. Because of the VERY lethal and VERY infectious nature of this disease, your decision NOT to vaccinate endangers ME, your neighbors, your family, and total strangers. 

Contrary to what someone might have told you, you are not free to kill people.

They also cry; “The climate has gone through cycles of increasing and decreasing temperatures for eons. All this ‘climate emergency’ nonsense is just a liberal plot against Big Business.”

BZZZT! SORRY… WRONG AGAIN, Chucko. In defense of my central premise, I’m not going to wear you out with a lot of mind-numbing statistics. Instead, I am going to ask you to visualize our Precious Blue Marble as a living organism… sort of like a human body. 

(This analogy is not actually as far-fetched as you might imagine. Google “Gaia Hypothesis” – or click here – and read it for yourself.)

Then I am going to ask you to imagine what happens when you repeatedly inhale poisonous smoke into that body, or repeatedly wound its outer layer of skin. 

For a while, it doesn’t seem to matter much. But then that abuse eventually catches up. The relentless assault overwhelms the healing process. Permanent damage starts being done. 

And that is what we are seeing today with unprecedented events like the flooding, hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, and droughts that are all happening at the same time.

Once again, people will cry, “PERSONAL FREEDOM!” and yet again they are as wrong as wrong can be. Action that will prevent our planet from burning, shaking, flooding, or choking to death is – yet again – a matter of community compassion. 

The apostle Paul hit the nail right on the head for BOTH of these issues when he sent his first letter to the members of the church in Corinth, Greece. He was trying to resolve issues of dissension in this fledgling church by reminding them of their common bond and connection when he wrote, “Or do you not know that [each of your bodies are] a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NRSV).

When did we forget these essential truths? When did MY RIGHTS come to matter more than OUR COMMON FUTURE?

I pray that we figure out a way to recognize the divine bond that links us all and then join hands to help save one another…

… before it is too late. 

Abundant blessings;

23
Nov
20

The Eye of God

Beneath his mask of anger, bluff, and bluster, God sees…

  • God sees the fearful, insecure child hiding inside.

Beneath the surface of the spreader of careless gossip, God sees…

  • God sees the fragile, wounded heart, yearning to belong.

Beneath the exterior of the wild, risk-taking daredevil, God sees…

  • God sees the calloused heart aching to revive a sense of the wonder of life.

Beneath the veneer of the driven, polished, professional high achiever, God sees…

  • God sees the yawning deficit of love and self-regard.

Beneath the façade of cool indifference, God sees…

  • God sees the ocean of anxiety and insecurity.

Beneath the symptoms of depression and despair, God sees…

  • God sees a tender, hopeful heart, eager to connect.

Behind towering walls of debilitating addiction, God sees…

  • God sees the beautiful, flawless mirror of the soul, created to reflect its Source.

God sees what is.

God sees what was.

God sees what could be.

God sees it all.

God invites each of us to open the eyes of our hearts and see… REALLY see. 

… to see as God sees.

… to weep as God weeps.

… to love as God loves.

And then, having seen, to give thanks.

Abundant blessings;

18
Jun
20

Order out of Chaos

Extension cordsLook at this.

Isn’t it amazing?

My organizational genius of a wife took our laundry basket full of a mishmash of all sizes and styles of extension cords and – armed with only her labelmaker and a few plastic containers – turned it into this miracle of peace and harmony.

Ahhhh! Satisfaction.

So inspired was I by her de-cluttering, systematizing prowess that I immediately turned my attention to the task of taming the long-ignored Garage Beast!

Mission accomplished!

Satisfaction AGAIN!

In spite of the fact that I occasionally seem to be content to wallow around in an untidy environment, there remains something deeply satisfying about bringing order out of chaos.

It seems almost as if this ordering drive might be hard-wired into our humanness, doesn’t it?

Some theologians, in fact,  have argued that the Genesis creation story begins, not with God creating SOMETHING out of NOTHING, but rather with God creating ORDER out of CHAOS. Indeed, we read in Genesis 1:2, “… the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” (Gen. 1:2, NRSV).

But I wonder… if it is true that the impulse to ORDER our world is an essential, defining quality of the human experience… can we ever go overboard with this impulse? In other words, can there be such a thing as TOO MUCH order… and not enough CHAOS?

Lately we have certainly seen a whole lot of chaos in the streets of our major cities. Violent protests have erupted in the wake of murders by armed police officers. Chaos erupts. Order is imposed. MORE chaos erupts. And even more order is imposed.

But then sometimes… somehow… something new gets born out of that chaos. Ask anyone who has ever been present at the moment a brand-new baby is delivered into the world; it is a moment with more chaos and mess and disorder happening all at once than you will likely EVER see anywhere else!

And lest we forget…

  • From the chaos of 40 years of wandering in the desert, the new people Israel was born.
  • From the chaos of the American Revolution, this country was born.
  • From the chaos of riots and unrest in the early 60s, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was born.

There is no doubt that this moment is calling forth the need for something new to be born in the way our governments go about the work of ensuring public safety. The day when we need heavily armed, militarily trained phalanxes of police officers to keep the peace is gone… if indeed it ever existed in the first place.

Yes, we need order. Yes, we need peace. But not at the price of our freedom. And not if it means whole segments of our population end up living in daily fear of the very institutions appointed to ensure their safety.

You see, God has been trying to teach us this lesson from Day One… first through Abraham, then Moses, through the judges, the prophets, the kings, and through his only begotten Son, Jesus. God desperately wants us to understand that the only sure path to both peace and freedom is by following the Big Two…  1.) Loving God, and 2.) Loving Neighbor.

Loving our neighbors… WHO they are, AS they are… can be a little chaotic at times. Because let’s face it, some of them are just not that lovable.

But it is also an essential part of the people we are each made to be.

 

Abundant blessings;

30
May
20

Tipping the World

Angry guyI had a great bike ride yesterday.

The sun was out, the sky was blue, and my bike shorts were clean, so why not?

It had been a while since my last ride, so I cut this one a little shorter than usual. As I pedaled out of the driveway, I put in my earbuds, dialed up one of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcasts, and hit the road.

As you would expect, the podcast was really solid, first-class stuff. Brene interviewed Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. Murthy, as you might recall, was the Surgeon General of the U.S. from 2014 to 2017. He has just written a book called Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes-Lonely World.

It was a great interview and sounds like it would be a great book to read. Murthy talked about the actual, physiological effects of loneliness as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and emphasized the powerfully healing effects of human connection.

As they concluded the interview, Murthy and Brene both emphasized the need for each one of us to take an action every day that, “… tips the world in the direction of love.” It was one of the most secularly Christian (or maybe it was Christianly secular?) examinations of the Gospel I have ever heard.

Then… as I wheeled into our cul-de-sac… I was confronted by a truly ugly sight. My neighbor Tom’s (not his real name) two kids were standing in his front yard crying. Tom’s ex-wife – who had just dropped them off – was standing by her SUV yelling something I couldn’t understand. At the same time, Tom was striding angrily across the cul-de-sac screaming at our other neighbor Al (also not his real name), saying, “AL, YOU JUST SHUT YOUR F**KING MOUTH AND STAY THE F*** AWAY FROM MY FAMILY!!!”

I was stunned. The scene playing out in front of me was nothing like the warm, friendly Fort Collins, Colorado we have experienced since moving here six months ago.

Al, for his part, was standing in his garage holding his baseball hat by the brim. I hadn’t heard what he had said to Tom, but our remodeling contractor told us earlier that it seemed Al had been drinking as early as 9:30 that morning.

Because I have talked with both of them individually on previous occasions, I know that Tom is very politically progressive and not a churchgoer while Al is very politically conservative and a regular churchgoer. Tom is in his mid-30s and Al is retirement age.

For my part, I just wheeled my bike into the garage, took off my helmet and gloves, and closed the garage door, anxious to remain uninvolved in whatever was going on out there.

Is this how it starts?” I wondered as I poured myself a drink of water. “Does the tension of months and months of isolation, on top of mounting financial pressures, combined with a highly charged political atmosphere finally set neighbor against neighbor and unleash a widespread ‘Lord of the Flies’ scenario?”

That thought was followed quickly by this one: “What would it mean for me to take an action that might ‘tip the world in the direction of love’ in that very moment?”

I stood. And thought. And prayed. And came up with exactly nothing.

You see, that’s the really tough part of this whole discipleship thing. I am good with saying the right words in church or offering a cheerful greeting to the people I pass on my morning walk. But when it comes to stepping up, right in the middle of a situation that is fraught with pain, fear, and anger, I evaporate quicker than the morning dew.

Thinking back to yesterday, I feel I failed. And yet, I still don’t have a solid idea of what loving discipleship might have meant in the middle of that dust-up.

The thing I DO know with absolute certainty, however, is that there is no better time than RIGHT NOW to choose to live as an agent of love toward ALL of our neighbors.

 

Abundant blessings;

20
Mar
20

Change is Coming

CoronavirusThink back; do you recall events in your life that CHANGED you? I mean, changed you in a profound, lasting, BC/AD kind of way?

I believe I was forever changed that time my dad suffered third-degree burns on his upper thigh.

He had left me at home by myself when he went to bring my mom and new baby brother home from the hospital. I was nine years old at the time.

As he left the house, dad accidentally left a pot full of boiling water and plastic baby bottles on the stove. The water boiled away and the bottles all melted. I didn’t know what the bad smell in the house was and so I went outside to sit on the front porch to get away from it. When dad, mom, and baby brother returned, the house was filled with smoke and the pot was in flames. When he grabbed the pot to run out the back door with it, dad splashed hot, melted plastic on his leg, causing third-degree burns.

I blamed myself for his injury and spent the rest of my youth trying to atone for my mistake. I believe that childhood episode engendered my overblown sense of responsibility for the well being of those around me… a trait I carry to this day.

My mother’s death was another event that wrought a change of the deepest, most elemental kind in my life. Mom died of lymphoma, exactly one month after I graduated from high school. For most of my life, she had been my cheerleader, encourager, friend, buffer, and confidant. After her death, I drifted rather aimlessly through life… rudderless and self-absorbed.  My grief wounds ultimately healed, of course, but the change her death caused in my life was long-lasting and fundamental.

I can bring to mind several other intersections along my journey that had similar effects; our family’s cross-country move the summer before my senior year of high school… my marriage… the birth of each of my children… my divorce… my spiritual rebirth… my first U2 concert. (JK!)

In each case, as I think back on those personal milestones, I can clearly describe pre-event Russell and post-event Russell. Sometimes it was a change for the better; sometimes it was a change for the opposite of better. In every case though, these events jolted and dazed me… knocking me off of my feet and leaving me grasping for a handrail.

This event we are all experiencing right now – the COVID-19 outbreak – is exactly one of those kinds of haymakers. Except in our case, it is a haymaker that has landed on the chin of the entire world at the same time.

Collectively we are still right in the middle of the landing of the punch. The opponent’s fist is in mid-swing… still connected to our jaw. It’s like one of those artfully choreographed fight scenes shot in super SLO-MO.

Soon we will spin around… hit the mat… see stars… and then shake our head and wonder what the hell just hit us. Sadly, we are a LOOOOOONG way from getting back on our feet and putting up our dukes, ready for the next foe.

Not even the wisest soothsayers can tell us how long this time will last or how bad it will get before it is over. But it doesn’t take a King Solomon to know that ALL of us will somehow be different on the other side.

What kind of change will it bring? Will we be kinder to each other? Will we have a better understanding of community and interdependence? Will we show a deeper appreciation for the world and people around us, remembering how concerned about each other we were?

Maybe. Hopefully.

Or will we quickly revert to our standard, “Every person for themselves, look out for #1” approach, becoming even more self-centered and callous than we were before?

Gee, I sure hope not.

Even though I roundly reject the idea that God sent the COVID-19 virus to teach us to love one another, I passionately embrace the idea that we can emerge from this pandemic as new, transformed people… with a new awareness of the intricate interconnection of our lives.

Every day I pledge to surround each of you with love and prayers for your wholeness, health, safety, and security. I am also asking God to open my eyes to ways I can directly serve my neighbors in need.

I am already feeling just how precious you each are and how much I need each one of you in my life.

Together – with God’s help – we can make it through this.

22
Jan
20

What a Wonderful World Wide Web

graphic internetI am not sure anything else even comes close.

The World Wide Web should be considered – hands down – the most important innovation of the last fifty years.

Without it, how could I instantly know the current temperature of Kansas City, Missouri (34 degrees), Fort Myers, Florida (57 degrees), Ketchikan, Alaska (41 degrees) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (83 degrees)?

How could I (or anyone) come up with the correct answer to the question: “Who was the Referee for the first Super Bowl ever played?” (Answer: Norm Schachter).

I’m sure we would have eventually been able to come up with that answer, but not without spending hours in the library.

And of course, how could we possibly entertain ourselves for hours and hours looking at videos of delightful cat antics, hilarious “Bad Lip Reading” videos, or photographs of the food on our friends’ dinner plates?

Huh? I ask you, HOW?

But all kidding aside, can you think of a single invention that has had a greater, more widespread, more profound impact on humanity than the World Wide Web?

And what is it, exactly?

Someone explained it to me once as a kind of electronic “backbone” with jillions of nerves that branch out and connect with each other, all over the world, all at the same time.

I kid, but I honestly believe the overall quality of human life on this planet has been enhanced by the invention of the World Wide Web. Thanks to the Internet, doctors can now “visit” patients hundreds of miles away and provide life-saving diagnoses. Communication and coordination between a crisis location and aid workers is now brisk and efficient. Long lost friends and relatives can be reconnected again.

Yes, Al Gore, we owe you a tremendous debt of thanks for this miraculous invention of yours.

Except for that small, “inconvenient truth” that the World Wide Web has actually existed since the very beginning of time.

Maybe not in the electronic form… But that recent innovation is merely a “tweak” on the fundamental hardware God wired into Human Being 1.0.

You see, interconnectedness was the Big Idea from day one. Genesis 1:27 gives us a peek onto the primeval factory floor when it declares: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”(Genesis 1:27, NRSV).

The book of Acts also reminds us of that essential fact; “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.” (Acts 17:26, NRSV).

It was really God’s idea – sorry, Al Gore – that human beings from across the earth, from different times and different cultures, with varying levels of education and income, with different genders and orientations, human beings with brown skin, black skin, yellow skin, white skin, and red skin, all be able to see themselves as intricately woven together…

… as if they were all part of some kind of amazing, far-flung, world-wide WEB.

I believe God further hoped that once we each grasped that essential fact of life, we would begin to act accordingly. No longer would one of us be able to look with pity on another one and say, “Sorry, mate… it looks as if YOUR end of the boat is sinking.”

Sometimes it can seem as if we each live in a World of One, with no connection to or responsibility for anyone except ourselves. Sometimes we hear messages telling us that “… looking out for Number One…” is all we really need to do.

But that’s not the world God designed.

And besides… who would we share our vacation pix with if it were?




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