Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hunting Silence

Maybe I will need to take up hunting. I am not a hunter, not because I oppose it, but because there are other things I prefer to fill the “hunting hours” of my life.  But many hunters I know tell me that as they take up their places today in their favorite trees the true success of the hunt has already happened…they have found silence.  The leaves fall. The critters crunch the underbrush. Peace is found in the quiet of the woods.  Now, what happens in the deer hunting cabin may be less quiet, but that is another story.

I have a friend who wrote a book about the mystery of what happens in the cabin ‘up north’, and in the surrounding woods.  Dreams of Hidden Forest, by Ronald R. Strahl, tells a story which brings out the joy of finding a respite from the hurried life as one explores the relationship of all of trees and deer and bears and, oh yes, hunters, past and present.  One of my takeaways is that often the time spent hunting is as much a time of meditation as it is anything else. 

Simon and Garfunkel wondered about these Sounds of Silence, when the air is filled with “people talking without speaking/people hearing without listening.”  Prophetic words, don’t you think? Do we avoid silence because we need to make sound to prove our worth, to give life meaning? Or, do we fear silence, because of what we might hear in those sounds of silence. For people who pray, the constant challenge is not telling God what we want or need to say, but rather listening in the silence for God’s reply.  We fear the answer, perhaps.  We cannot fathom the silence of a God who speaks only when the time is right and when we can hear. So, we keep on talking, filling the silence with sound.  Thus my challenge to you: Find a silent place, and quietly mediate there for five minutes on this verse from Lynn Unger’s poem, Boundaries.

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

On Serving in a Divided Government

As I observed the formation of a new federal government and a new state government, I imagined what I might preach to the victors on the first weekend after their hard-fought campaigns. With the political campaigns behind, with the seemingly impossible task of governing ahead, consider how a crew of nine men learned to row a Gold Medal boat.

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting his feelings hurt…. ‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.’”

The ‘Boys in Boat’ “…were all tough, they were all fiercely determined, but they were also good-hearted. Every one of them had come from humble origins or been humbled by the ravages of the hard times in which they had grown up….The challenges they had faced together had taught them humility-the need to subsume their individual egos for the sake of the boat as a whole-and humility was the common gateway through which they were able now to come together and begin to do what they had not been able to do before.”
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, pp. 235, 241

May those who now have the privilege of serving our nation and states, divided as they may be politically, find within them the rare ability to row the boat together.  ‘We The People’, we whom they are called to serve, we deserve it.

For those who wonder if humility, if striving to learn to ‘row among the stars’ is unrealistic, there is always the alternative with which humankind has struggled since Cain and Abel.

‘First pride, then the crash—
    the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.’  Proverbs 16:18 (The Message)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Define Neighbor

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus (Mark 12:31a)

Say you lived next to Burt and Tillie.  One day Burt and Tillie’s house is struck by lightning and it burns to the ground.  You look out your window at the destruction and, as you look to what used to be the back porch you see them. Burt, Tillie and their cat.  They are wrapped in a blanket to keep warm from the cold penetrating their pajamas. You see that they, Burt and Tillie, not the cat, have slippers on.  They look stunned. They aren’t so much weeping as just in shock.

So you wander over to the neighbor’s house and you try to think of what to say. You know them as good, hard-working people who take care of their house and family. So, are you thinking, “I wonder why God punished them with a lightning bolt?”  Are you thinking, “I am sorry it happened to you, but better you than me?”  Are you thinking, “Do you think insurance will pay for this? What is an ‘act of God’ anyway?”  What you finally settle on to say is, “How can I help?”  They answer that they don’t know where to begin; they lost everything in the fire. But, they tell you, they are happy they got out of the fire alive.  You nod in agreement that escaping death by such a means is one good take-away.

You stand there a while longer, staring at the destruction, shivering with them.  You realize you have a full day of activities planned. So, you say, “Well, I am really sorry for all of this. I can’t imagine what it must be like. But, like I say, if I can help, let me know.”

You get home, turn on the television and see the film footage of the fire. Someone has started a relief fund for Burt and Tillie to help them get back on their feet.  Money is starting to come in, they say, from people all over the viewing area.  “Well,”, you think, “that makes me feel better! They’re going to be fine.  I sure am glad I told them how sorry I was for their loss, and I even offered to help. That’s what a neighbor is for, right?”