Saturday, January 28, 2017

La La Dreams

Dreamer.  I admit to being one. How about you?
My day “off” is Tuesday.  This past Tuesday my wife, Jill, and I went on a date to a $5 Tuesdays movie. You get a $2 hot dog and free popcorn.  As I entered the movie theatre building I suddenly found myself amid all these older looking people. Standing in line for our free popcorn I whispered to Jill, only half in jest, “We don’t look that old, do we?”  We laughed pretty hard.
Which was all prelude to seeing La La Land, the new musical romantic drama/comedy/tragedy (you can pick the category after you see it). The plot is familiar (boy gets girl, boy loses girl, etc.). There is a twist to the familiar plot, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. The singing and dancing, while not traditional, work as the music enhances and expands the storyline.  The film is beautiful, and I mean to use that precise word.  I loved everything about this movie, especially the acting of the lead, Ms. Emma Stone.  She does an Oscar-worthy job of allowing her face to reveal her heart.
But what most interested me, and what caused my ride home to be quite melancholy, is the film’s treatment of dreams: dreams realized, dreams deferred, and dreams denied. We all live each of those phases of life’s dreams.  There is a dinner scene in which the two leads have a conversation which, if I was alone, would have caused me to sob out loud.  I wept quietly through it because it reminded me of my dreams of decades ago, some realized, some deferred, some denied. It was a good cry, though, honestly earned by the actors and the script’s author.
But, here is what I am thinking as I struggle with the movie’s ending. I am nearing 63 years of age. I don’t want to be done dreaming. I do not believe God is done giving me dreams, and I want them, even though some will be some deferred, some denied. I want to still have La La Dreams. I hope that, at this age in which I have a deeper appreciation for the fact that the final credits will one day roll, and with the wisdom which comes from having failed and succeeded before, I will be able to know which dreams to strive to make a reality, and which to let die.
You still dream dreams, right? If you want to live the dreams that sing the best tunes, then you need to let die the dissonant dreams, the ones that get in the way of the most important dreams. 

May God give you the grace to dream dreams and the wisdom to live into the dreams which have your favorite melody.  La La! 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

How To Become a Great Person

Larger than life. This week made me think about larger than life people. Monday was a day set aside to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. You have to be among the largest of larger than life figures to have a nation honor your memory with a day.  Friday was a day set aside to observe the transition of the world’s most powerful political position, the President of the United States of America, also known less formally as the Leader of the Free World.  No pressure there.  The transition happened with all of the pomp and circumstance which this most important transition of power commands: President Obama flies away and President Trump is escorted to the people’s home past many thousands of cheering supporters.

Today many thousands of people march those same streets to register their opposition to the policies of the same man who was yesterday cheered.  The juxtaposition of these two “parades” shows the genius of our nation’s Constitution and character, for, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."  Our nation functions, left and right, conservative and liberal, with two wildly different understandings of what it means for a nation to be “great again.” Genius.

But the other thing that these two parades show is how fleeting fame, or glory, or greatness is; the difficulties that arise for one thrust onto the “larger than life” stage.  At the end of the movie, Patton, the great and controversial General is walking away from the camera reciting the words that are spoken to ancient conquering heroes, “All glory is fleeting.”  I pray success for our nation and our new President, but I also pray for the loyal opposition to be allowed to function with gusto.  Presidents and their policies come and go, one flying away and another marching home, but the power of the people must remain the constant.  These are the “great persons”, the larger than life people upon whom the functioning of the world depends as they live and serve the greater good.

“Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness…(R)ecognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness….You don’t have to have a college degree to serve…You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve…You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. Source: Drum Major Instinct (last sermon 4 Feb 1968) (discovered at inward/outward)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Winter's Joy

I love winter because it is so different from summer. The sun dances on the new snow in a way no artist can replicate. And, how about this word: SNOWBOUND. Now there is a word of pure joy.  You wake up in the morning and the snow drifts are so high that you cannot even think about going to work. So you stay in your soft clothes, make some coffee (or hot chocolate!), and spend a day doing nothing, except maybe playing in the snow, and then having more hot chocolate!

Speaking of soft clothes, are these not the world’s greatest fashion discovery? Soft clothes are wonderful because they are so, well, soft, and warm and generous. After a big meal of comfort food (two helpings of meat loaf and potatoes and corn covered with butter), you take off the working day clothes, especially that belt, and you put on your warm, expandable soft clothes and read a book or watch a movie and take a nap before it’s time to go to bed. Did I mention I love winter?

As a friend mentioned to me this week, which has been a particularly brutal one with snow and sleet and something they all “wintry mix”, she loves winter because her life slows down. Life forces her to stay inside enjoying the fire burning from the firewood she collected from the outside.  The slower pace of winter is just what the soul needs a few months of ever year. You can find joy in slowness, and sometimes it takes a “wintry mix” to force us to discover the joy of a slower pace.

Which all reminds me of Pablo Picasso’s words: “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” (discovered at “inward/outward”)  The joy of winter is that it offers opportunities for solitude, which can only happen when we “slow down, you move to fast…”.  Great work doesn’t happen necessarily happen during solitude, but it is the fertilizer of the mind and heart which produces great work.  If you want to really talk with God this week, try first slowing down, seek solitude, and, if necessary, pray for a snow storm. I will enjoy every moment of it with you.

Oh, and for our warm weather readers, you will need to find solitude on a hot day as you sit by the pool, sipping one of those drinks with little umbrellas, dreaming of snow. We will pray for you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Death, Birth and Epiphany

I was deep in the middle of thinking about the death of Stephen.  I did not know Stephen well. But I knew that he was a kind and compassionate soul, whose thirty years on this earth were complex. I was trying to figure out how to say well, “But, while death is the final battle in this life, for those who die in God’s merciful arms, we have the promise that death has been defeated.”  It is an easy message to write; it is a hard message to deliver to the grieving.  Either way, honestly, their young son and brother is gone, absent from them. For now.

In the middle of that thought the phone rang and it was another mother I had been praying for earlier that day. The mother announced, “Our baby was born today!”  And so we talked about the birth process, and all that went with it, and how, in the end, when Evelyn was revealed, the room was filled with joy.

As we talked, I told Mom, “I am so excited that Evelyn is an Epiphany baby.” That didn’t get a big reaction. I explained that Evelyn was born on January 6, the day the Church celebrates Epiphany, the revealing of Jesus to the world as the long-awaited Messiah; the day when the Wise Men show up with gifts. Evelyn will be celebrating as long as she lives Epiphany as it should be, with the exchange of gifts to celebrate birth.

As I turned back to my funeral message I was still thinking about Evelyn, how exciting it will be to baptize her, to tell her that Jesus is her brother, and that God has marked her as his own forever. Which led me to think about Stephen’s baptism, some thirty years ago.  God gave a sign then too, to Steven and his parents: “this child is my own forever.”  It is good to remember baptism’s meaning. Perhaps this is why, on the first Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, because baptism is a time of revelation, of discovery. Baptism is an epiphany.

Epiphany is a season of discovery. Discoveries made as baby Evelyn cascaded through the canal into the light; as Stephen was drawn from the darkness of his own hospital room into the Light of the presence of God-With-Us.  Discoveries are still to be made, by you, as you look for God’s revealing light through the “thin places” that separate earth from heaven.  Jesus is still being revealed and discovered. The wise set out on a journey of discovery in this season, praying for eyes to see Light and Hope revealed in dark places.  Let the journey begin, o wise ones.