Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Opposite of False

I spent much of Friday trying to find something I could write about Ryan Braun which would be worth the effort.  Every time I would get close to a worthwhile thought about the lies and deception of Mr. Braun, the opposite of what he represents appeared before my eyes. The truth was revealed.

I was thinking about how easy it must have seemed to Mr. Braun, gifted with rare athletic skill, the owner of a multi-million dollar contract, charming and head-turning handsome; how easy it must have been for him to believe that he could turn a lie into reality.  He really believed, I guess, that he could charm his way out of an outright lie about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.  I was ready to conclude that everything in his public life is now suspect.  And just then, right before my eyes on my morning walk,  were three deer, two adults and one fawn, still with white specks on its fur. I stopped. They stopped. We  all stared.  I raised my hand and pronounced God’s blessings on their heads. And they glided away, feet barely touching the dew on the fairway. And I thought about how creation always outshines our human-made false “reality”.

Later that morning I was preparing to bless a group of missionaries about to head off for 10 days.  I was thinking about the smear on the Brewers, Mr. Braun’s team (for now); how their recent success is tainted by his lies.  But just as I was working up good line of indignant anger, I saw a little brother being peeled away from his farewell hug for his big sister.  Letting her go, he said, “This is the worst day of my life.”  And that became the truth that I could not stop thinking about, how life-changing a good “family” can be. I raised my hand and blessed that family, the mission group and their vehicle, and they all went off to tell the truth to strangers half-way across our nation.

I came home at the tail end of a thunderstorm.  I was thinking about how the “Braun” jerseys now read “Fraud” across the back. I wondered if it was worth telling a lie. I was listening to the awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping choral movement of Beethoven’s masterpiece 9th as I pulled into our driveway. I saw in the house window the reflection of a rainbow which had appeared behind me at the trailing edge of the storm. With the perfect notes rising and the perfect colors dancing I decided I didn’t need to write about Mr. Braun’s false reality when all around me is truth. Luther got it right,  “God’s Truth abideth still.” God’s Kingdom is forever. And that is the opposite of false. Hallelujah.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Oh What a Tangled Web!"

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." - Sir Walter Scott

I have been living a lie. A big lie. Well, some people would call it a white lie. But, frankly, even with my best word search tools, I can’t find the version of the Bible which reads: “Thou Shalt Not Lie (except for little white lies.)”  And after this experience, I can see why God went to all the trouble to carve this command on the Top Ten list.

You see, today is a very big day in my wife’s life, a BIG birthday. No, I will not reveal how big. I will just say that I got married as a junior in college, and my bride was of “marrying” age. You do the math. Now, as this big day approached I had to come up with some really big surprise. I knew the one thing that my wife would love is if our children and their spouses and our grandsons would all be here. Getting them here was easy. The surprise was not. Which is where the web of lies became necessary.  The problem is that over the course of two months the lie had to get bigger and bigger, and the number of people who had to play along grew.  In the last days I was making fake hotel reservations, doctoring the pages to make it appear we were going away for the weekend.   And each time she would bemoan that “Too bad the boys can’t come to see their grandma on her birthday,” we all would need to create a complicated fabric of untruths, each of us trying to remember who said what and when. Add to the weekend a surprise dinner party, and now the big lie involves 14 adults. Some of my wife’s best friends haven’t called her in a week for fear of spilling the beans! And whenever someone would say something contrary to the agreed upon outline of deception, I needed to come up with even more devious and deep, dark stories of deception. All of which was resolved in joy and tears when children and spouses and those little boys showed up out of “nowhere” last night. 

But I think God, and Sir Walter, got it very right.  Just don’t lie. The web gets tighter and tighter.  And pretty soon, the whole deception hangs on one tiny strand of the vast web which, if it breaks, will cause a bigger mess than getting a spider in your hair. After this experience I cannot imagine the pressure that must exist from living a real lie. I don’t want to find out, and I strongly recommend against it. Well, actually, God’s words on the subject are a little stronger than a recommendation. And one day we can ask God if deception which has a greater good as its end is breaking the commandment or not.  I am not going analyze that right now, because the big birthday surprises are still coming.  And that’s no lie.  Happy Birthday, dear. (Don’t worry; she never reads these until Monday. That’s what she tells me anyway. That’s the truth, right dear?)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Where Did All the Money Go?"

Jason Trigg is working very hard to earn as much money as he can.  I am trying to think of what is the opposite of that goal.  Working as hard as I can without worrying about how much I make?  Or, working as hard as I need to work in order to meet the needs I have?  Or how about, I am working as hard as I need to work to pay for all of the “wants” I have added to my list of needs? Which of those options describe you? There are certainly others ways to describe why we work, but our work choices:  how hard we choose to work and why,  do say a great deal about us.

Which brings me back to Jason Trigg.  Mr. Trigg is a smart guy with very marketable skills, being a graduate of the prestigious MIT computer science program. (Christian Century 6.26.13) What is unique about Mr. Trigg’s vocational choice is not that he is working as hard as he can to make as much as he can, but that he is doing so for the express purpose of giving away as much money as he can.  The story I read explains that Mr. Trigg works at his Wall Street hedge fund company so that he can give money to his favorite charity, Against Malaria Foundation, which estimates that a gift of $2500 saves one life.   The philosophy behind this approach to work is that it is just as important, if not more important, to give money so that Africans can dig wells than to actually go to Africa to drill them.  The whole concept of “mission” work moves from “going to Africa” (or wherever you might see a need) to sending money so that the people there can help themselves.

Now, this isn’t to say that mission trips are not important. They are important and they do serve a valuable purpose. But, frankly, in today’s world there are fewer and fewer people who are able to take time during their “work years” to take even a week for a mission trip.  So what if we thought of our “work” as our “mission.” What if we could see our hours clocked behind a machine or a computer or a lawn mower as a contribution to saving a life?  Then, when at the end of the month we ask where all the money we earned went, we could smile because we would know that we worked as hard as we  could to give away as much as we can.

Why will you work this week? What will you do with the money you earn?  Would you like your job better if, like Mr. Trigg, your goal in making money was to give it away?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Too Many Fireworks?

There were celebrations in the streets, fireworks included.  Joining the celebration were a dozen fighter jets, leaving trails of colored smoke representing the colors of the flag. The people were jubilant, shouting, singing, hugging.  Yes, it was quite an independence day.  Wait a minute, didn’t this all happen just last year?  I wonder if this is going to happen every year, or if at some point the people might decide that there is such a thing as too many fireworks.

That’s what I would be thinking if I lived in Egypt.  President Morsi, the man who was the symbol of the return of democracy to Egypt in 2012 is now a political prisoner. The military responded to the protests of the people  against the president they had elected.  Of note, for our purposes, is the fact that Mr. Morsi was a religious man.  He was a former leader of a group called the Muslim Brotherhood.  It is too early to know, but was the mix of religion and civil power too much for the people, or for the military?  Would the “people” really rather be ruled by the military?  What were the Egyptian revolutionaries protesting against, what freedom did they seek?

Which is what I was thinking on a spectacular July 4th in the United States, a day when the nation where I live was engaged in days of fireworks to celebrate not that the president was in jail, but that the nation was still, 237 years (!) later, free from the tyranny of an unelected government.  What exactly is it that holds the United States of America together for 237 years while Egypt’s revolution didn’t last but a year?  I began my 4th of July reading the Declaration of Independence.  It is a mostly timeless piece of political brilliance.  The power of the government rests in the “consent of the governed.”  It sounds a note of caution: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light or transient causes”, and that a people should “suffer…while evils are sufferable… .”  I think the U.S. persists because the vast majority get that idea.  But, for me, the most brilliant move of the revolutionaries is that they did not impose a state religion.  They knew that politics and religion are a dangerous brew which can boil over at any time.  They knew that their “unalienable rights” came from “their Creator”; they acted “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence”; but they understood that human freedom means religious faith is a personal relationship with God and not a matter of governmental dictate.  So, as I watched the fireworks this year, I celebrated this truth: no president, no congress, no army, can choose my God for me.  And that is a truth worthy of fireworks forever.