|Let's Choose Joy||
I'm thinking that August may be, after all, a pretty decent month. A few weeks ago, I was out with a friend talking about transition times, how it takes us a while to move from one thing to another. I was lamenting that August seemed like the twilight zone, hanging somewhere between here and there. July, that quintessential summer month, full of lazy afternoons, picnics, fireflies and fireworks, is over. September, with all of the energy of a new school year, the possibilities of what could be, is just around the corner.
But then Dan came home with a boatload of vegetables - tomatoes, corn, beans, zucchini, cucumbers. I bopped down to the local orchard and picked some blueberries and bought a peck of orchard-fresh peaches. Suddenly our kitchen was full of the bounty of harvest. I had an epiphany; August is the month to enjoy the fruit of the summer!
Are there times in our lives when we can enjoy the fruit of our labors? Perhaps more accurately, can we enjoy what the Spirit has produced in our lives? If we are serious about partnering with God, in becoming the person He is calling us to be, it should not surprise us that our live begin to look like well-stocked roadside stands.
I've been struck lately while reading 1 Peter that there is a joy he expects us to have as we anticipate Christ being revealed in us. Recently, as I've been reading a book about sanctification, I'm starting to ponder whether we haven't set our sights too low - pushing off our anticipation of fruit-filled lives til old age, or maybe in heaven. There have been those in the Christian community, who believe that God can fill our lives now with fruit, with his abundant love and all that comes with it. I want to explore that in the next few posts - while I'm relishing a refrigerator crammed with August goodness.
Is there really an opportunity for me to do what I love?
Not too long ago I was watching the film "Every Little Step, " a documentary which traces the casting of the revival production of the Broadway hit, "A Chorus Line." Life imitates art which imitates life as we follow the stories of some of the 3000 dancers auditioning for a show about dancers auditioning for a show. During the grueling process (which takes over a year) we get to know some of the artists who are putting their lives on hold for this opportunity. At one point, one of the dancers states " I was made to dance. If I can't dance, it's as if my life isn't meaningful."
While I could in one way resonate with that comment, I found it sad to think that someone might allow their value to be defined by something beyond their control. Especially for dancers in New York, the odds of getting a job are astronomical.
Why would God give us gifts if we can't use them? Why make dancers and then not the opportunities to dance? I wonder if part of the issue is that we limit ourselves by defining when and where we will use our gifts. There's a phrase my husband introduced me to several months ago - "a zero sum game." If I adhere to this philosophy, I buy into the belief that there's only so much to go around. I need to make sure I get mine, and if that means there's not any left for you, oh well. It promotes unhealthy competition, greed, and panic. If I believe that the only place for me to be successful is in this situation or with these people and that doesn't happen, I'm left with no choice to conclude that I'm a loser.
In the practical philosophy model I'm exploring, the goal of life is described by the phrase "Creative Community-Quality Life for Everyone." In Creative Community, there is room for everyone to do what they are called to do. It requires the community not only to be generous, but also creative. Are there dancers? It's the calling of the community to develop an appreciation for (or at least value) dance, to provide the opportunities for dance, and be the audience for the dance. It's the calling of the dancer to work hard at their gift and be open to using it wherever the opportunity presents itself.
A few years ago, Oprah had a show where she was giving away free cars to well-deserving people. At the end of the show, as she unveils the gift to the surprised guest, she suddenly turns to the audience and says, 'Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!' There's a moment of stunned disbelief, then the shock turns to joy and the audience erupts into cheers.
Everyone has a gift. It's up to us all to make sure they're not wasted.
The oil spill in the Gulf has been front and center of the news for the past 3 1/2 months. I'm hopeful, after listening to the radio tonight, that the well may be capped soon, with only the clean up to contend with. However, even with this good news, there is still the possible longterm damage of the chemical dispersants that were used. It's probably true that we won't know about the total damage that this spill caused for a long time, if ever.
There's no doubt that this spill was a major environmental disaster. And given that, there's every reason to be cautious and proactive in setting up guidelines for future drilling, especially given the greed so common to humanity - greed which sets aside precautions for expediency, and substitutes inferior products to save a buck and enhance profit.
When I think about these sorts of catastrophes, especially those caused by man-made blundering, it's hard not to despair that we will ever learn how to care for our earth. It's easy to imagine that we may make choices that are truly irreparable. As I was pondering this, I was heartened a bit, by remembering the lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, The Grandeur of God.
Here's the poem:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God,
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why then do men not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.
And all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil.
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent.
There lives the dearest freshness, deep down things.
And though the last lights off the bleak West went,
Oh, morning, at the brown brink Eastward springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings.
As he writes this poem, Hopkins is no doubt dismayed by the inroads of industrialization of his day. The lines "All is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil, /and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell" seems to speak of the move from natural to manmade, perhaps even pointing towards the smells and sights of factories, smokestacks and urban sprawl.
Yet Hopkins was able to affirm the strength of the power God infused in nature. I'm constantly amazed that if you break up and tear out the concrete that covers so much of the American suburban landscape, there is still dirt . Dirt that, once exposed to the sun, will become green with weeds and shrubs and eventually trees, if left long enough. Truly "there lives the dearest freshness, deep down things".
The poem ends with a resounding hopefulness. God has not left his creation, although it is being despoiled by man, but continues to breathe into it. The Holy Ghost who hovered over the chaos before the earth was formed, still "broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings" over the world in which we live. Despite the ways in which we manage to wreak havoc upon this precious gift of creation, the energies of God continue to pour forth renewal.
I trust that that same power will graciously bring restoration to the Gulf Coast. And that we will learn humility in our dealings with the earth, becoming better stewards of a cherished gift and see with clearer eye the granduer of God in the world around us.