These are interesting times

in the United States.

Those of us who’ve lived long enough have, of course, seen these before, more than we can count and, of course, each presents itself as “the” crisis of our times as if there was no before or after. For those who are younger without that history it must surely seem that way.

The genius of the American experiment is not that everything has always been perfect. In over two centuries there have been injustices, crimes, scandals, and any number of cringe worthy moments. It’s as historically blind to say these never happened as it is to say everything has always been riddled with them.

Rather, the wisdom of this Union lies in its capacity for self correction. Within its mechanisms has always been the means to face and correct what has gone astray, even if those mechanisms are, in and of themselves, riddled with human frailty. Of course, some things took too long, decades too long, but the point remains; they did happen and they still can.

Contrast this with the experience of those states where totalitarianism, of the Left or the Right, has been proposed as the avenue of utopian social change and been implemented on the promise. The record is clear, massive human rights abuses, a complete lack of respect for human persons and property, wealth for those in control with poverty for the masses, and death on an industrial scale.

Is our Union perfect? No, there is perfecting to be done. However the mere understanding that such perfecting can be done is why this Union, its constitution, its laws, its customs, and its potential for improvement, should be preserved if for no other reason that, even flawed, it is still the better alternative to any other and especially to those proposed by people who believe they can create the future by vandalizing the present.

Looking for Light

There are dark things happening in the world.

As much as I try, for the sake of my soul, to keep the news at arm’s length, it finds a way in. Its hard to watch cameras sharing scenes of violence, especially knowing they’re doing it mostly to keep your eyes glued to the screen for their commercials.

Illness? In my work with Seniors with dementia producing illnesses I’ve experienced more people who’ve died of Covid than I have fingers and toes. So have all the others who work with me. So have countless nurses and providers all over this country. A decade or more, perhaps to the end of our lives, we’ll remember these days and those faces.

But the light, the light is still shining out there if you dare to look for it, if you choose to turn off your yammering TV and see beyond the walls of quarantine. First the light of God which is undimmed by any of the darkness of this world. Second, the light of God shining through the goodness of humans who’ve chosen to do good for each other, sometimes even at their own peril. Third, the goodness of God in the creation that reveals itself like a rose in the middle of thorns. All of it is there, undenied, undying, and real to those who have the faith to see with eyes attuned not to just the present but also to that which is real beyond the present.

We all see what we want to see, what we’ve been conditioned to see, what our culture tells us to see. Some much of it is one dimensional, a present of only the here and now and that’s both unreal and a shame. Unreal because truly there is so much more than only that which meets the eye in any given moment and a shame because if a person hasn’t figured out how to see with the eyes of faith they will be forced to live without seeing the whole picture, to live as if the TV was all there is.

What if

they invited us all to a civil war and we refused to show up?

At the far edges of the news, and sometimes not so far, is talk of civil war here in the United States. Our politics are too divided, they say. They opine that the level of anger is rising as the level of difference increases. People on the fringes are already prepping for such an event, they believe, and all it takes is a spark to set it off.

Still, what if they gave a war and the observant Christians of this country simply refused to participate, refused to buy into the anger so carefully manipulated by those who have the most to gain from it?

What if we chose not to take human life for mere politics? What if we chose, instead, to find a way to reach out to, and live with, people who may even be very different from us and squeeze the potential peace out of every process before even contemplating violent solutions for temporal issues?

Mass violence, in fact even individual violence, requires a choice to thrive. Someone, or a group of someones, needs to cross an invisible line in their conscience that lets violence towards people or property become an appropriate response to, not the threat of physical harm as there can be some justification for this, but an idea or a person simply because they hold such an idea.

For a war to occur there needs to be a mass of people who have, somewhere in their hearts, crossed that line at the behest of an ideology, a government, or a group of people that has determined such to be in their best interest. For a war to occur there need to be cooperators, those who assent to the reasons behind the call to violence. Without them the whole project eventually fizzles out.

So what would happen if we, as observant Christians, simply refused to buy the arguments of the mobs and their leaders, even those who claim to be on our side? What would happen if we said “I choose not to burn building for building, vandalism for vandalism, and threat for threat?”

Peace?

Simplicity…

Walking down the street tonight on a cool, late spring, evening, a Facebook post from an acquaintance sending me down memory lane.

The post was a church somewhere in northern MInnesota, a building plain inside and faux log cabin without. There were musicians with guitars and people singing and it called to mind a simpler time, a time of college and gatherings like this in a world that seemed somehow less byzantine than today.

I know, we weren’t sophisticates and a certain kind of naivety oozed from us and yet the world seemed full of potential, of faith, of a certain kind of possibility. We weren’t sure where we would go and how things would play out and yet there was a kind of joy because we understood that God was with us.

Frankly, that seems absent now. Too many agendas. Too many things on the task list. Too many competing influences and not enough time sitting around campfires singing songs of praise and thinking only of the moment and the stars above.

My heart is too often filled with noise. My soul is too often shaken the jackhammer of busyness for its own sake. Where are the evening stars? Where are the loon sounds? Where is the simple faith I remember having and the joy that followed it?

I want my memories back and I hear their call like the call of Jesus telling us to come with our labors and burdens and find, in Him, our rest.

Survivor

It’s a long time time since I’ve been here, a world away from those days just back from Kenya and the missions.

A little thing called Covid 19 was between there are here. I got it. I survived, and then I went back to work with others who had caught it. Most survived.

The price was high. Not just the illness but the hours breathing through a hot mask, the sweaty PPE, the showers at the end of the day, watching the funeral home come. Crying when they did and crying when the survivors left the unit. Communing a sweet lady while wearing a haz mat helmet for vestments. Praying hard. Worrying for my wife and family. Sleeping alone to keep others safe.

People ask me what I want.

I want a month somewhere quiet. I want people to stop calling us “heroes” because we do this every day. I want people to understand I’m not myself yet because that jolly, caring person, has been pushed real hard and is very tired. I want people to know that I’m glad I experienced what I did and returned to do the service I could, but there was a cost.

Everything seems different now. I cry very easily. I roll down the windows in my car every time I can because fresh air has become like gold to me. I sleep when I can, sometimes too much and sometimes too little. The day determines the night. They say one needn’t fear in the valley of the shadow of death but that doesn’t mean it won’t take a piece out of you as you walk through.

Still, my faith is still there and so is my hope. I’ll catch up with the rest of the world in a little bit.

See you there.

I often ponder…

God’s unfathomable love for such a beligerent species such as we are.

How can God, knowing full well what we have done, to His creation, to each other, to ourselves, and knowing not just what is seen but even the darkest recesses of what is inside of us, love?

Who would, who could, blame God from erasing existence as we know and starting again in the hopes of something, anything, better? Who could judge God for saying “This experiment has failed it is now time for another?”

Yet God has mercy, even on those who hate Him to His face, those who would destroy, those who would deliberately promote evil on the Earth, and me when I am at my worst.

Unimaginable, yet real. Beyond understanding, yet available to any truly seeking heart.

Against the Darkness…

I wish things were different. I wish the world I live in was different, less noisy, less angry, less obsessed. For now, though, this doesn’t seem to be its path.

Anger won’t help either. What would my anger do to help things become less angry?

There are times, as well, when I simply want to be left alone. And as much as a safe hiding place would be nice eventually I would be forced to come out of my bunker if, for no other reason, to get coffee. People aren’t my problem anyway.

I think the only thing to survive these days is to fill yourself with light. Go to church. Read the Scriptures. Bathe, frequently, in any holy waters you can find. Pray and absorb every small bit of God and goodness to fill the empty places and then live as much like heaven as possible.

Do that and the worst that can happen is joy and the best is that you join the Saints.

As I get Older…

I’ve come to even more appreciation for this Orthodox way.

It’s not because there aren’t struggles and personalities and challenges. There are, and there are moments when I cringe. Still there’s something deeper.

I see the fluidity of history. Times change. The world changes and often not for the better. In the turbulence I seek a place of calm, a place that at it’s core is unperturbed by the times whatever they may be. A place where I can come out of the world so when I return I return knowing there is more and better and a destination other than being a child of my own time and place.

Time is a current necessity but timelessness is where the necessity can be survived. Along the Orthodox way there are moments of timelessness and if I cannot be in them at least I know that they, and some semblance of hope, are there.

I suppose that may sound esoteric but I know there are more years behind than ahead. That’s just the way of things.  And in those years behind I’ve seen and experienced enough to realize that holy, timeless, moments, those glimpses of heaven breaking through into time, are among the greatest of gifts.

What is money? It’s what people think it is and you never get to keep it. What is notoriety? Everyone forgets in the end. It’s just a matter of time. Even health, preserved by long struggle, will eventually give way. Any moment spent in eternity, in the presence of God, in God’s world, is worth more than all of these. This beautiful path, this Faith, can be a narrow and difficult way but it’s destination is worth the struggle and the moments when that destination meets me while still on the path keep my feet light and my face towards the sun.