Staublog

Expanding Networks of Mediocrity.

Expanding Networks of Mediocrity.

Today Luke, my daughter’s dog, awoke at 5:30AM on a morning, I confess, I had hoped to get a little more sleep.

I decided to stay up, read the news and peruse some Facebook postings. Often I sense in them an underlying desperation; a desire to be heard, noticed and known.

“Heard, noticed and known” came to me as a result of my career in broadcasting and also writing. When I began my broadcasting career, blogging, twitter, Facebook and all the other outlets for self expression did not exist. We who had been granted a platform for communicating our thoughts and ideas were among a select few given access to a broad audience to do so. The same was once true of writing. Only those with access to publishers of books or periodicals had an outlet to distribute their written thoughts. Self-expression via music and film similarly was the domain of a select few.

I am sure we select few overestimated our worth. We inevitably sensed the world needed and wanted to hear our thoughts, because we had made the competitive cut and were given a distribution outlet to express them!

Today, thanks to technology, everybody can distribute written words, musical compositions or homemade films. Some of these are quite good and deserve a broader hearing and viewing; some are not, probably most. But most think they are worthy and good! (Think of the talentless contestants auditioning for American Idol).

This monster of boundless indiscriminate self-expression is due in part to America’s educational philosophy of affirmation absent objective critique. Kids have been told they are really good at things they are absolutely not good at. Technology allows them to give it a go anyway!

The elitist, snooty gatekeepers of the past are being displaced by the often intellectually and creatively clueless consumers of the present. They decide what is worthy, though generally ill equipped to distinguish craft from crap.

In such a world networking replaces craftsmanship.

Ironically, the older among us leveled the same critique against the gatekeeper system. As it became increasingly commercialized, the gatekeepers selected first and foremost what would sell, not what was well crafted. It became more important to be part of the inner circle than to concentrate your time and energy on your craft.

This is a the Achilles heel for most arts movements aimed at “changing the culture.” Evangelicals specifically have always been good at marketing and technology over attentiveness to intellect and craft. Traditionally they have been networkers, marketers and celebrity makers and whatever contributions they made to culture generally reflected that. Today, too often I’m seeing them perpetuating an ever expanding network of mediocrity.

When we started the Kindlings Hearth our aim was to build relationships with thoughtful creatives and craftsmen for whom God is of central importance. We were interested in people doing good work, not people who were known or part of the inner ring.

Ironically, as our alumni group has grown to over 100, we now have people eager to be part of the movement, and we suspect many of them simply want to be in the “inner ring” we set out to avoid becoming in the first place!

What Lewis said seems to be a useful corrective for a generation eager to “reach out” and “increase their reach.”

“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises, which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Do good work. Make good friends.

Posted in Staublog in December 20, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

That we all may be one

That we all may be one

It all started when I mentioned to some guys that one of our fellow parishioners, John, stopped attending because his left-leaning politics made him feel out of place at coffee hour, where he felt sometimes like he was at a Rush Limbaugh convention.

 “The liberals are trying to get our free religious speech out of schools and the public square,” one person said. “We sure as heck should be allowed to express our views at the church coffee hour.”

 Fair enough, but then another added, “John should just go to church somewhere else,” adding a dig: “That’s why Episcopalians were invented.”

 The hearty laugh was followed by silence as all eyes turned towards me for a response. My mind wandered.

 I thought of my conversation with Deborah Tannen about her brilliant book, “The Argument Culture,” which says our culture has lost the ability to dialogue about our differences. We’d rather engage in hostile talk than listen to each other.

 I thought about my dad’s warnings when I considered leaving an NBC affiliate to do a talk show on a Christian-formatted radio station. Though a conservative, he talked about how religious radio had become a politically charged atmosphere, one where reasonable seekers would conclude that the decision to follow Jesus requires first and foremost adopting a certain set of political positions on issues ranging from abortion and gay marriage to global warming and lower taxes.

 He reminded me that there is no litmus test for following Jesus and that everybody — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, anarchist or Marxist — will be changed by their commitment to Jesus, but not as a precondition to following him.

 I thought about a disheartening interview I did in the 1990s with Ralph Reed, then president of the Christian Coalition, who had just released the Contract with the American Family, an obvious knockoff of the Republican Contract With America.

 I distinctly remember his silence when I asked for the biblical basis for each of the points on the contract. “Who does the biblical exegesis or theological assessment of the policy positions for the Christian Coalition?” I asked as he struggled to answer.

 Then again, conversations with my friend Jim Wallis had sometimes made me think Sojourners was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

I thought about the church growth movement of the early ‘70s with its emphasis on “homogenous units,” the essential rule for growing larger churches. Experts had learned that churches grow faster when the people attending them are demographically and socially alike. The result was larger churches filled with people who look and think alike and think it should be that way.

 I thought about Jesus’ prayer to his father for his followers, “that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

 I thought about the radical words of the Apostle Paul, “In Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I thought about the diversity of Jesus’ disciples: one a zealot who wanted to overthrow the Romans, and one a tax collector who collected taxes for the Romans. I thought about how those disciples bickered about which of them was the greatest.

 I thought about how Jesus called us to a kingdom that transcends our differences and changes our focus from what we will eat and what we will wear to seeking first and foremost the king of justice, righteousness, love, peace, joy and life eternal.

I thought about what hard work it is to be in community with people different from you. I thought about how rare it is to find a community that is truly diverse and willing to work at it.

 I thought about the Woody Allen line from the film “Hannah and Her Sisters”: “If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

All eyes remained on me, and I didn’t know where to start.

(Art=Man Weeping brunijazzart.com)

Posted in Staublog in December 16, 2011 by | 6 Comments »

From Nick Park to You via me.

My friend Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Grommit, and also a Kindlings Hearth Alum, sent me this today. ENJOY!

“I hope you and all things Kindling are well. I thought I would just send you these links to the music video  I just finished, for  – Joe Rose and ‘Native and the Name’ a UK Sheffield based band I’m trying to help ‘make a splash’ this Christmas that I think are very talented. Please pass on to chums if you think anyone would be interested. Happy Christmas and hope to catch up soon, Nick xx.

 

Posted in Staublog in December 9, 2011 by | No Comments »

A Holiday Prayer for Today and Every Day

A Holiday Prayer for Today and Every Day

 

The holidays often bring out the worse in us, not the best. High expectations, busy schedules, money is tight, tension-filled family reunions, are laden with past disappointments and unrealized hopes.
Here is a daily prayer for the season (and everyday)
Prayer of St Francis: A Prayer for Today and Every Day
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen

 

Posted in Staublog in December 8, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Secrets of the Christmas Universe: Handel’s Messiah, Slag and You.

Secrets of the Christmas Universe: Handel’s Messiah, Slag and You.

 

Our Orcas Island Community Church advent series is based on Handel’s Messiah: Secrets of the Christmas Universe. This week the text was drawn from Malachi 3, the basis for The amazing bass solo “Who Can Endure the Day of His Coming.”  “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.”
Not being an expert on the process of refining, I looked into it because the refiners fire is used to purify precious metals like gold by separating the metals from impurities or other unwanted materials. The first step in the refining of precious metals is smelting. Gold is melted in a furnace until the impurities separate and the gold sinks to the bottom. The second step is getting rid of the slag The molten metals are then poured into a cone shaped container where the gold goes to the bottom and the slag remains at the top where it can be scraped off. The third step is to make gold bars. Once the impurities are removed, the gold is melted once again and poured into bars.
Getting rid of the slag in our life allows us to present ourselves to God as an offering of righteousness. Our salvation is based on the messiah’s work (“All we like sheep have gone astray and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquities of us all.”); our righteousness is the gift we bring to when we allow God to purify us.
Malachi is very specific about the “Slag” in the Jewish believers of his times. They had gotten mixed up in sorcery, witchcraft, sexual immorality, lying, perjury and divorce. They withheld their tithes from God and defrauded laborers of their wages, oppressed the widows and the Fatherless and deprived aliens of justice. Most of all, they no longer reverenced God. (“You do not fear me,” Says the LORD Almighty).
When Paul updated the list to young Timothy he described our contemporary age perfectly! “In the last days, people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
God will not refine us until we know we need it, until we can say like actress Tallulah Bankhead. “I’m as pure as the driven slush.”
In his book Confessions, the great church father Augustine acknowledged that for a long time he did want God to purify him, saying the his prayer instead was,  “O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet!”
But Jesus reminds us that without purity we cannot see God. “BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN SPIRIT, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.”
Take a look at the picture above. It is not an asteroid. It is slag refined off the gold.
Christmas is a great time to welcome the Christ more fully into our lives AND to refine us down to the gold and knock off the slag!

 

Posted in Staublog in December 7, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

The Making of:“Something Big is About to Happen (Wish I knew what it is!). A behind the scenes look.

The Making of:“Something Big is About to Happen (Wish I knew what it is!). A behind the scenes look.

Since I posted a simple blog titled “Something Big is About to Happen (Wish I knew what it is!),” I’ve had a lot of response from readers, and one friend, Chris Fabry, asked me to come on his nationally syndicated radio show for an hour.

My blog was written on the spur of the moment as a way for me to process my own thoughts about the current world situation, and more significantly, the local situation on Orcas Island where I live.

I would summarize the blog by quoting an excerpt: “We are on the cusp of something and I do not know what it is.  I sense God is about to do something really big, but I do not know what it is.”

When Chris asked me to come on the show I answered this way. “Chris. The point of what I wrote is that I DON’T know what God is up to! I wouldn’t want you stuck with an hour of dead air!”

He responded, “I was thinking more of asking you WHY? What evidence do you have that God is doing something big?”

I answered, “That’s the thing~ it is a feeling more than anything else-maybe a revelation?”

If you are interested, here is my reflection on “the making of the blog.”

Just before writing the blog I had read W.H. Auden’s September 1, 1939. Auden wrote this when he learned that Germany had invaded Poland and WWII was about to begin.

Here are a few of Auden’s haunting observations, which seem to me applicable to today.
September 1, 1939

“I sit in one of the dives On Fifty-second Street Uncertain and afraid As the clever hopes expire Of a low dishonest decade: Waves of anger and fear Circulate over the bright And darkened lands of the earth, Obsessing our private lives; The unmentionable odour of death Offends the September night.

Faces along the bar Cling to their average day: The lights must never go out, The music must always play, All the conventions conspire To make this fort assume The furniture of home; Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night Who have never been happy or good.

Defenseless under the night Our world in stupor lies; Yet, dotted everywhere, Ironic points of light Flash out wherever the Just Exchange their messages: May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame.”

I followed Auden by reading W.B. Yeats “The Second Coming,” which he wrote as Europe was recovering from the devastations of WWI.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spritus MundiTroubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleepwere vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

The two poems taken together, are reminders of the chaos and seeming hopelessness of our human situation,” But each also tucks in a little hope.

Auden refers to “Ironic points of light flashing out wherever the Just exchange their messages.  And then vows he wishes to be among these points of light, “May I, composed like them Of Eros and of dust, Beleaguered by the same Negation and despair, Show an affirming flame.”

Yeats finds his hope in the second coming of Jesus, an invasion he believes will change history as much as Jesus’ first coming did.

Immediately after reading these two poems I wrote the blog, but a week’s worth of contemplations on other matters led up to it.

It began the previous Sunday morning when I woke early and read the headline news about more messiness in the Middle East.  The intractability and impossibility of the Middle East chaos often lead me to feelings of hopelessness, but before I could go there it occurred to me, “God is about to something big and new in the Middle East; something that will surprise all of us.”

A sense of hope flowed over me as I was reminded that God, after all, is in control.

A few days later I was preparing for an advent sermon for our series on “Handel’s Messiah and The Secrets of the Christmas universe.”

This week’s lyric is from Malachi, “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming? For he is like a refiner’s fire and he will purify.”

That humans need purification is captured in the classic words of Tallulah Bankhead, “I’m as pure as the driven slush.” In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus reminds us of the problem with our impurity, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” That we are resistant to being purified was captured in Augustine’s reflections on his life of rebellion against God, “O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet.”

I thought about the contrast between the darkness of the Messiah’s lyrics with the cheerful lightness of lyrics in Christmas songs like. “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, Right down Santa Claus Lane.”

This frothy glibness about Christmas stands in stark contrast to the words Handel draws on from Haggai. “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.”

This sense of impending Messianic judgment probably triggered another thought captured on this excerpt from the blog, “I hear a voice in my head, I know it is Howard Beale from the classic movie Network ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!’ But it seems like it could just as easily be the voice of God.”

Jesus first coming was as a child in a manger who grew up to announce good news. Jesus second coming will be as judge of all the nations and all people. This return is good news for the faithful, but bad news for anyone whose life is not centered on God and obedience to God’s commandments.

Malachi gets rather specific about God’s complaints: “1) I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers. 2) “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 3) Then Malachi recites the most grievous violations of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness, saying God has a complaint “Against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.” 4) Things have gotten so bad that people no longer know the difference between good and evil. After God’s refining fire Malachi reports, “3: 18 THEN you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

So if you read the blog, you know it started with comments about my friend from the sixties and the “Occupy movement.” Those of who remember the sixties can see obvious similarities and vast differences with today’s protests. My sixties friend is almost sentimental about the sixties protests and views the Occupy movement of a return to the good old days.

The point of my blog? As tempting as it is to look back fondly on the past, we need to live in the present. Few people are discerning enough to understand what is happening in the present and our challenge is to try to get God’s perspective and then live accordingly.

A few things I know. We’re living in a a low dishonest decade. The center cannot hold. We are lost in a haunted wood and are like children afraid of the night who have never been happy or good. We are called to show an affirming flame. (As my friend Kendall Ruth put it, “we must love each other or die.”) The hope of all mankind was born in Bethlehem and will one day reappear. Better be ready.

(Image=Life in the Gyre, Valerie O’Flynn)

Posted in Staublog in December 2, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

Something Big is About to Happen (WIsh I knew what it is!)

Something Big is About to Happen (WIsh I knew what it is!)

I ran into an old friend today.  We met in the 60’s and he looked like he still lives there. Long unwashed hair, one of the 99% of occupy SF. Locked in to the same music, trying to make yesterday his today and hoping others will join him.

Who am I to judge? No not me. I am all too aware of the pattern of history, the masses clinging to what was, afraid to raise their heads and look at what is.

We do not understand what is. We CANNOT understand what is, for “what is” unfolds before our very eyes and most of us won’t understand until we look back on it. As has been said, “life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”

We are on the cusp of something and I do not know what it is.  I sense God is about to do something really big, but I do not know what it is.

Prophets are not so much people who see the future. They are those who see the present through God as revealed in the past, yet very real and still speaking today.

They seem wise because they have sunk deep roots in God’s patterns throughout history. They seem wild and unruly because seeing today through God’s eyes, they speak words like these: “Who may abide the day of his coming? For He is like a refiners fire.”

I hear a voice in my head, I know it is Howard Beale from the classic movie Network “”I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”

But it seems like it could just as easily be the voice of God.

 

 

Posted in Staublog in November 30, 2011 by | 1 Comment »

It was 30 years ago today…

It was 30 years ago today…

Thirty years ago.

Thirty years ago today.

Thirty years ago today a very lucky man took as his wife, Kathy, who also (in a rare lapse of otherwise sensible judgment) took him as her husband.

This, they both said, was for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

As it turns out it was not luck that brought them together. It was God.

How else to explain their closeness now despite ups and downs?

How else to explain a love that grows deeper and more textured each day?

How else to explain her sentiments on this day? “The truth is, I would rather do nothing with you than something with anyone else?”

What great joy, friendship and companionship…

And love, love, love.

Posted in Staublog in November 28, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

Give Thanks in All Circumstances. My Accidental Epiphany.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances. My Accidental Epiphany.

Into each life come epiphanies, insights born of a new thought, or the combination of ideas hitherto unconnected, or encounters with a person whose very life illuminates a previously misunderstood truth, or an experience, so radical it takes you to a higher plane.

Turns out, for me to understand the giving of thanks in all circumstances, required hitting the ground with my face at 65 MPH.

It was 1967. I was nineteen years old. I was in college on a full scholarship, secured through my participation in a performing arts group, which one particular night meant a concert at Alliance Redwoods Camp on the Russian River.

The scheduled program included a song that referenced the giving of thanks and Ray, our leader, asked me to follow it with a few words on the subject. I remember, as if it was yesterday, asking Ray to find somebody else. The next week was finals week. I needed to study. The last place I wanted to be was in front of a bunch of high school kids and the last thing I wanted to do was give thanks.“It’s finals week…I’ve got nothing to be thankful for.”  I don’t recall his reaction and I don’t recall whether I said anything that night or not.

Back in San Francisco the next day I was in my room studying, when out of town friends called and announced they were in S.F. Would I join them for lunch?  Evidently the ingrate on full scholarship who lacked the will to sing, though paid to do so, or to give thanks had plenty of time to eat and party with old friends.

I was currently without wheels, having just sold my motorcycle, so I walked down the hall and asked Ted if I could borrow it back.

Moments later I zipped up my green quilted jacket, mounted the bike and headed out on Interstate 280 towards S.F. Just ahead I saw a car moving erratically from lane to lane at 70 MPH, and as I pulled alongside I saw the back window rolled down and two young children crying and screaming for help. “Daddy is drunk.”

Traveling at 70 with your eyes fixed on a car to your left means you aren’t watching the road ahead. Not good as I was to discover, because the four lanes were about to merge to three and the lane I was in was an “exit-only lane”  leading into a 15 MPH exit ramp, which then turned left onto an overpass passing over the three lanes below.

What happened next is a blur.

I knew I couldn’t make the curve at 70.  To not make it meant hitting the overpass rail and probably dropping onto the three-lane highway below. Straight ahead I saw a gravel path and my only way out. I glanced at the speedometer, 65MPH. I jumped the curve. The bike was going down. I tried to roll. I vaguely recall impact. I did roll and the puffy green jacket cushioned the blow to the body. But my helmetless face hit the ground straight on.

I jumped up, amazed that my body seemed uninjured. The bike was pretty mangled up and the engine was still running. I thought, “Ted’s gonna be pissed.”

I could not feel my face, but in the bike’s mirror I saw a lacerated, swollen, ripped up, bleeding blob of flesh. Though energized by adrenaline, I also felt ready to pass out.

I walked back to the highway, and stood between the exit ramp and the three lanes and waved for help. Car after car slowed, looked at me and kept going. I remembered the story of the Good Samaritan. Will anybody stop?

Finally an African American man driving a Cadillac pulled over. He got out, looked at my face, asked what happened and said I was in shock. He told me I needed to lay down so he could get me to the hospital. He opened his trunk, pulled out a blanket and towel and told me to lay down in the back seat of his car.

Funny how in times of crisis little details jump out at you. Did I mention his car had a white leather interior? Did I mention that he announced he was a physician? Did I mention he knew, given my injury, which hospital to take me to and exactly how to get there?

He ushered me into the emergency room and I extended the bloody towel to my side, laughed, made like a wounded, bloodied bull-fighter and said, “here bully, bully.”

Ignoring me, my guardian angel talked to a nurse who swung immediately into action.

Literally in minutes the painstaking work of pulling gravel out of my face and inside my mouth began.

Later I would learn that inside my mouth the gravel had ripped the skin below my bottom teeth away from my jawbone on both sides of my mouth.  There was a tiny extra hole in my nose, and my chin and the area above my upper lip were ripped to shreds. My face was badly swollen, my eyes closed to slits and blackened.

I was rolled into an operating room where it seems like I got a dozen shots of local anesthetic before the stitching began. I could watch, though by now I had mellowed into a drowsy haze.

As I watched the Doctor stitch I had a mental image of a muddy rice paddy in Viet Nam. I pictured a soldier with wounds worse than mine lying there unattended by medics. I imagined it was one of my High School friends, for many in my High School senior class were in Viet Nam, and I wept. I wept at their plight and my ingratitude.

Just then the surgeon broke the silence. “No helmet? 65 Miles per hour?”

“Yes.”

“Young man, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

I wish it did not take painful experiences to teach me life’s important lessons. I wish I wasn’t in the slow group. But in that moment, even I knew I would never ever gain be guilty of thanklessness.

I now understood these ancient words of wisdom. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

PS-It took months to heal.I still have a jagged inner mouth where the flesh reattached to the jaw via stitches.Look close and you can see the healed hole in the nose and you can see scars above my upper lip.

I never got the name of the Good Samaritan and never saw or heard from him again.

I don’t know what happened to the little kids in the back seat of the erratically driven car.

I only know I will never ever again say, I’ve got nothing to be thankful for.

Blessings on your day. With love from me to you!

 

Posted in Staublog in November 23, 2011 by | 8 Comments »

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast.

I am running behind.

My inbox holds 1669 unanswered emails. My Facebook tells me 20+ people are waiting to be confirmed as friends. This is not a boast ~ it is a confession.

Yesterday 5PM was the final due date for the twice extended deadline for “The Kindlings” IRS tax return. It was postmarked at 4:40PM.

Personal friends are waiting for return phone calls.

A month ago the guy delivered wood for our winter’s needs. Last night our home answering machine carried a reminder to coordinate a time for him to pick up his payment.

I don’t think I am busier than ever before. I think I am less driven by the tyranny of the immediate. I am trying to do each day what God leads me to do in that day.

This is new territory for me because, being Swiss I take time and due dates seriously, and being a type-A recovering workaholic, I’ve always prided myself in doing whatever to takes to keep abreast of all the details of daily life, while still concentrating on the big picture. I’ve tried to be a “See both the forest and trees guy,” a fly at “30,000 feet while “zooming in where the rubber meets the road too.”

I wonder about this change in me. Sometimes I think it is old age or maturity. The latter seems unlikely.

Sometimes I think it is a new tranquil spiritually rootedness God-directedness. Jesus came down from the mountain after praying, saw a long line of people waiting to be healed, and told the disciples they needed to go to the next village. Comparisons of myself to Jesus, especially when they are flattering about me, are generally completely and utterly ridiculous, so I wonder what else is going on.

Maybe it is realizing and accepting my limitations. I want to be everywhere for everyone at once. Omnipresence is reserved for God.  I wonder if this was the most difficult sacrifice Jesus made when he took on flesh. What a bummer to know the universe exists and to be stuck in time and space in a provincial village in a country the size of Rhode Island. Did he miss communing with the Chinese, Africans, Latin Americans, Native Americans and Europeans?

Did he look at the befuddled disciples and narrow-minded religious elite and ask, what in the heck am I doing here? Why me?

Place has become really important to me. Having hosted a national radio show and having been involved in international business that took me to 55 countries, I now live on a small island in a small state where I am part of a small church.

It is all very local, grassroots and relational. Facebook, email, writing for a broader audience, an occasional foray off-island and into the world, these are all part of my life, but they are not the core of my present life.  (My friend Mike’s maxim is, “a day off the island is a week off your life!”)

The core of my life consists of daily encounters with my wife and one daughter living at home, my co-workers, the members and attendees of our little church and my friends in the community (only about 4,500 live on the island in the winter).

This merry, motley, ragamuffin, local band of folks occupy most of my time.

I finally get the line, “when you’re not with the ones you love, love the ones you are with.”

When you do this, love is your daily guide. You give all you can in the present moment to those in front of you. You pray for God’s grace on those reaching out to you who you have been unable to respond to, knowing you love them dearly and hoping they understand. You pray that God’s will be done in this day on earth as it is in heaven.

You start the day, end the day and devote all of rest of the day by seeking God’s guidance in revealing to you what you should accomplish that day. You give it your all, then at day’s end you go to bed, get some good rest and the next day  you start all over again the joyous process of being fully human and fully alive, with the wind of God in your sails, going where He wills that day.

Today, it meant setting aside of few minutes to write this little bit as an act of love for whoever might read it.

 

Posted in Staublog in November 16, 2011 by | 9 Comments »