Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hope and Love Amidst the Sorrow

Today is the seventh day of December in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight. Some of you may be expecting this email from me, and for others you still have no idea why I am writing. It has become a bit of a tradition for me to take a few moments to put some of my incoherent and scattered thoughts down on paper  a few times a year on days that mark a significant moment of pain and sacrifice for our country. The greatest and most significant of those days for me is today, December seventh.

It was 67 years ago that our country was rocked by the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. That is the reason for me writing at this particular time on this particular day. In years past I have focused on the significance of that day as a day that would "live in infamy" for all time and talked about our world today and the infamy that still surrounds us. I have thought a lot about what I wanted to write today and I have been very conflicted. But I think I know now what I should write. I want to make it a little more personal this time. I want to write a bit more about me than I usually do.

I am sad today. Several things have occurred in my life recently that have combined to really make me quite sad. I have experienced a wide range of emotions and have been feeling very unsettled. I suppose you could say that I was attacked, bombed, torpedoed, and am now trying to deal with the chaos that comes with such attacks. Much like the Americans stationed at Pearl 67 years ago I was not ready to deal with the magnitude of what has hit me and ships in my fleet have been sinking. I know the metaphor may be silly or unwarranted, but it is helping me to think of it that way, so I am running with it. So really you are getting a glimpse into my thoughts and mind. I don't know if you care to see inside, but for good or ill, you are in it if you have read this far.

It is easy to become to focused on the negative in life, on the things that seem to be falling apart and out of our control. It is easy to wallow in misery and be caught in the snare of depression and the trap of angst and worry. There are times when it seems like the whole world is against you, like all you can see is fire and destruction, like the ships around you are sinking and it is all you can do to keep from sinking and burning up yourself. Those are not fun times, Those are not good times. But those are significant times.

We have a choice in such times. Do we cower in fear and anguish, do we run away, do we isolate ourselves in our pain and suffer alone, believing that there is no hope? Or do we do something more than that? It is in such times that we are most open to God and his leading. It is in times of sorrow, amidst the pain and amidst the loss that God is often most able to get through to us. We listen better, we pay more attention, because we are hurting and our hearts crave solace and comfort.

It was because of the determination and courage of those men who did not simply lie down and give up on December 7th, 1941 that America was inspired to take action and enter into the great war that cost so many lives and caused so much pain. I recently watched "Saving Private Ryan" again and was reminded anew of the significance of each and every life that was sacrificed on both sides of that war. Life is precious. Do not throw it away.

There is no pain that is too strong, no loss to overwhelming, that God cannot work in us and heal us if we let him. Life doesn't always go how we think it should. In fact, in my twenty five years I have found that it often doesn't. We cannot control many of the circumstances in our lives and we often make mistakes in the things we can control. But we can learn from those mistakes and learn to recognize what we cannot control and not be consumed by the doubt, fear, and pain that threaten to rob us of joy and peace. God is bigger than anything that we will every face. I am keenly reminded of that as I sit here today.

I am working on creating a video commemorating the 60th anniversary celebration for my grandparents that I was a part of last week. It is reminding me of the power of love, or devotion, and of forgiveness. Their marriage has been far from perfect, and their family is far from perfect, but I am proud to be a part of it. And when I see my name on that family tree it means something, something that is worth fighting for.

So I guess all that is really to say this. We cannot control much of what happens in our lives, but we can control how we respond. We have to make changes, we have to take action, we have to persevere in faith, hope, and love, no matter what.

As I think of how to conclude my ramblings for the day I am once again reminded of the words of Gandalf in that great and epic story we know as Lord of the Rings (you had to know I would work it in somewhere! :p) If you have known me long you have doubtless heard me speak of these words before. I end with them once again today...

Frodo: "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."

Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."

Use your time well. Live a live filled with faith, hope, and love, no matter what may cross your path.

Living in Dangerous Wonder,


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering What Really Matters

Seven years. There is something oddly holy and more transcendent about that number than the ones that have come before. Some of you have received an email from me on this day for the last six years, and for others of you this is the first such email of mine that has crossed your path. Whatever the case, I believe that there is value in me taking a few minutes to reflect on the significance of what this day should mean. 

September 11 was a significant day in the history of our country. Many people (including myself) have compared 9/11 to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in terms of the surprise, devastation, and shock that affected our country. But there is more than just the pain and destruction of that day that is worthy of note. It was a day of hope and of the common man making a difference and showing love and compassion. Like the attacks on Pearl in 1941, the terrorist action on 9/11 proved to be a catalyst for simple common individuals to step up and make a difference in the lives of other people. While it is important to think of the big picture as well, today I want to focus on the individual moments.

It is those little moments that live forever in our memories. 9/11 is already just another page in a history textbook for many grade school students. There isn't a child in my Mom's class who was even born when the attack happened. For most of us it is only a distant memory, akin to Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, or a myriad of other significant causes of death and mourning in our country's history. But at the same time, the moments are still with us. Watching the movie with Nicholas Cage portraying the heroic police officer who was willing to give his life to save those in need, seeing a picture on the internet, or hearing the story of someone who was there can all bring something back and give us pause. This morning I listened to the world trade center tribute set to the music of Enya in her song "Only Time" and it made me remember that day very clearly. It is the only day of my entire life that I have intentionally ditched school and just not gone to a class. It was a significant day.

So remember 9/11 today. Take a moment and stop and remember the significance of that day. Say a prayer for the thousands of lives that are still attempting to recover from the sudden ravishing of seven years ago. And then expand your prayer. Think of the 30,000 children that will die today from stupid preventable poverty and hunger related illness. Think of the thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed by flood, fire, and famine. We are a blessed people who have been given a task by our God in Heaven to bless the world we live in. So lets remember what really matters and seek to love each other and advance God's kingdom in the world rather than just being focused on ourselves.

This is an important season for our country. We will soon be facing one of the most significant presidential elections in American history. It is a big deal and our future will look very different depending on what happens in that election. But as we think about who to vote for and listen to the rhetoric of both candidates, lets think beyond simply our own personal needs and think about what we should do as citizens of God's kingdom. I don't really care if you profess to follow God or not. I don't really care if you show up in a church building somewhere on Sunday mornings or not. I do care if you think and operate out of a base of love and compassion. Lets be who God told us to be. Lets live out of love and fill each day with the kind of selfless loving sacrifice that we saw exhibited on 9/11. 

I hesitate to quote Edmund Burke because so many people do and I don't want to just seem like everyone else, but right now his oft quoted statement comes to mind...

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

Frequent usage does not make it any less true. Evil will indeed prevail if the good stands by and watches. Don't watch. Don't wait. Be a part of the solution.