Monday, December 7, 2009

New Life Out of the Ashes

In the classic image of the Phoenix new life is birthed out of the ashes of fires that have come before. As I sit this morning in the quiet of my home in Phoenix, AZ the image stands prominently in my mind, made more potent because of what this day signifies. Today marks the 68th anniversary of the day that will forever live in infamy, the day that Japanese bombers and torpedo planes launched a remarkably effective surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor.

It was an attack that had many repercussions, most directly serving as a catalyst for the overt entry of the United States into WWII. No other conflict has ever so captured the multi-facets of humanity as profoundly. Ranging over much of Europe, North Africa, both western and eastern Asia, and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it was a great conflict that affected the entire world and touched the lives of all of us. The number of people who remember those days is rapidly dwindling as the years roll by, and we who live now would do well to pay attention to the stories before they are lost to history. For the events of those years continue to influence and impact our lives today in diverse and multifaceted ways.

We are poised on the edge of a new era. Of that I have no doubt, but I also believe that we have the power to influence and determine what that era will be. Oft called the "greatest generation", those that lived through the experience of WWII and came out on the other side shaped world we are living in today. We have a responsibility to do the same. Must we wait until the fires of war consume us before we act, or are there enough fires already burning that we might affect change now and be born anew from the ashes?

Causing positive change is often far easier than we realize. Perhaps we can't rebuild the whole structure, but we can do much to make the existing structure better. I have spent much of the last two weeks working to repair, rebuild, repaint, and shore up an old chicken coop in my backyard. During the era of WWII it housed chickens in downtown Phoenix. Since those days it has sat idle, slowly falling into disrepair, filled with the accumulation of generations gone by. For decades it has sat in disrepair because it was too big of a job, too overwhelming to tackle, and too hard to fix the many problems contained therein. So the problems just kept growing worse and we did little more than watch it happen. Finally, we decided to do something about it, and it has been amazing to see the slow transformation, out of the dust of apathy, and into something new. It doesn't look pretty. It doesn't look new, but it is beginning to have a new identity. And perhaps someday soon we might be able to once again use the greek term Telios to describe it as "perfect," fulfilling its created purpose once again. See, the original intention of the structure was to house chickens, but the larger purpose was to provide shelter, so although the chickens have moved on we can repair and modify the structure to fulfill its purpose in a different way. It can still find a place and purpose in the postmodern world.

Perhaps the world at large isn't so different from an 80 year old chicken coop in downtown Phoenix. Perhaps by tackling the many issues one at a time and sticking with it we can begin to see our world take a different shape, one that still fulfills the intended purpose of its creator, but transformed into something new out of the old. Perhaps rather than sitting idly by we can remember that day of infamy as a catalyst for action and a catalyst for change and continue to carry on the legacy of those of have come before and help to bring new birth out of the ashes surrounding us.

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