Fully Human: The Risks.

I’ve been burdened to prayer for Jill Carroll, ever since this young freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor was taken hostage on January 7, 2006.

I resonate with her reason for going to Iraq as described in the NYT. “Ms. Carroll, who graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, was glad for the chance to work on such a big story. She described the motivation in an article for The American Journalism Review published last year. “The cubicle walls are closing in,” she wrote. “You’d rather jump off a cliff than cover one more zoning board meeting and just when one of the biggest stories in years is developing in Iraq, those foreign correspondent aspirations seem ever further out of reach.” “There’s only one way out,” Ms. Carroll wrote. “Pull up stakes, clean out that savings account and get on a plane to Baghdad.”

She was driven by a cause bigger than herself and such dreams require taking risks mere mortals seldom take.

In the 1950’s five missionaries were killed in Ecuador in a story now told on the big screen in “The End of the Spear.” One of the five, a young visionary named Jim Elliott journaled before leaving: “He is no fool for losing that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” His paraphrase of Jesus referred to losing physical life and gaining eternal life in God’s kingdom.

Not every dream is birthed in faith, but each is the product of a vision and sometimes they flourish and sometimes they die. The liberal The New Leader magazine is closing its doors after eighty-two years of being “either the most influential of the little-known magazines or the least well known of the influential ones.” Long form writing is dying out as described by Charles McGrath who writes,” text-messaging liberates communication from intimacy and substance. No wonder we love it.”

I would argue that living an authentic human life requires taking risks. Committing to a full spiritual, intellectual, creative relational, moral life requires swimming upstream in a go-along superficial age.

Superficial Age? Yesterday after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship one young man in the crowd was overcome with emotion saying, “this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” I’m a Seahawks fan, but this young man’s heartfelt declaration struck me as a sad commentary on human existence today.

Superficial Age? (Yesterday’s NYT editorial) “The news that “American Idol” has started a new season with ratings even more enormous than last year’s reminds us of an old query. In a nation with a disquieting surplus of moral arbiters, why isn’t there a call to clean up television programs that specialize in humiliating the weak? People devote untold hours to worrying about the sexual orientation of cartoon characters, but nobody seems disturbed that more than 30 million American households watch a “family” show that picks out hapless, and frequently helpless, contestants solely for famous and powerful judges to make fun of them on national television¢â‚¬¦ Most of the [contestants] (sic) are extremely young, naƒ¯ve and deluded. Many appear terribly vulnerable and some seem to border on mentally impaired. The fun is supposed to come from seeing the celebrity judges roll their eyes, laugh, and tell them that they are tone-deaf, fat, funny-looking or, in the case of one young man, “atrocious” and “confused.”

It is appointed unto humans to eventually die and you can choose to die while pursuing the good, the true or beautiful or you can die trudging in line with the lemmings.

Pray for Jill Carroll and others like her who pursue a full human existence and take the risks associated with that pursuit. Better yet–pray and join our merry band of sojourners!

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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