The author, Paul Franklin, is a sort of friend…meaning he and I knew the same people while growing up without knowing each other. He kept up with old friends, and I managed to reconnect with a few, and we have become friends because of one of those people.
I count that as a good thing, as Paul’s attitude towards life and “things” give me an example of how I might tweak my way of thinking. Every time I read something he’s written I am forced to stop and think, and usually wind up noting to myself that that is an interesting way of seeing something, usually a better, calmer way than I would.
Well, not everything he’s written. He’s a compulsive pun-er, and some of his puns… ~Bob
They say that when things get tough, the tough get going. That’s a load of crap. A few weeks ago, my dad went for an X-ray to rule out pneumonia. They found a spot on his right lung. No problem, we thought. Stage 1, a couple of centimeters. A quick clip. A little chemo. No problem, even for a 78 year old man. Until the biopsy came back. Cancer was in his lung, but it is metastatic. He’s not a candidate for surgery, but there is a drug they’re going to try.
Even the tough get bounced to the ground. I’ve been thinking about a few words from the beginning of the Gospel of John.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory.
This phrase “made his dwelling among us” has gotten a little sanitized for some of us: it really says: “he pitched his tent in our middle.” The Word, the Lord, moved right into the house. He camped out in my den. They say a bunch of people have seen His glory. Somebody else, some saint, some holy woman may have seen His glory come down in some flash of light, but I was probably sitting in Atlanta traffic, trying to avoid some crazy driver, and I missed Him. Again.
But God isn’t absent, powerless, out there. God is here, intimate, present. He pitched His tent and camped out in my den. Is that glory? What does it mean to see glory, anyway? For starters, the word “saw” means something like “gazed at” or “stared at,” as opposed to a quick glance. Sure, a miracle would be really cool. That would be something to stare at. But who’s seen that in the last couple of days? Weeks? Months? Years?
Well, I have. A daughter who was so depressed that she was actively thinking about suicide is alive and experiencing all the wonder of being in love. A son who turned his choices around is on track to graduate college, through his own effort. I’ve known men and women of faith who have helped the marginalized when they didn’t have to. And it’s not just the epic successes. There are moments of grace all around us—even the little ones count—especially the little ones. And I’m foolish enough to believe.
Yogi Berra once said, “You can see a lot by looking.” The trouble is that there’s more. We like to say, “It is what it is.” That’s crap. All is not what it seems. There is more.
St. Paul said, “No matter my circumstances, I have learned to be content.” The “more” is simple. No one, anywhere, under any circumstance is too far away from God. The Christian message, at least in part, is that God redeems everything. Every suffering, every brokenness, every disappointment is within the reach of God. It may look and smell like a dirty diaper, but there’s always this voice saying, “I have called you by your name, and you are mine.” (Is. 43.1)
And that’s what changes things. I cannot judge. I cannot turn away. I have to turn to hope. It’s what keeps me from wanting to teach the crazy driver a lesson… with a bazooka. It keeps me in traffic, with my goal in mind. That’s grace. It may not seem like a lot, but experiencing grace is life changing.
And when I experience grace, very often I’m afraid of the encounter with God. And I think I’m in good company. Moses was afraid of the burning bush. Isaiah was afraid in his vision. The shepherds were afraid when the angels announced the birth of Jesus. And God’s response: Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid, because God will go anywhere to redeem anyone from anything. That’s grace: keeping my will and my reason and my imagination open to what God will show me how he is present, powerful, and intimate.
Don’t think I’m being sentimental. I am not. An old friend from high school lost her son in a tragic accident 3 years ago. She has taught me a lot. What’s happening isn’t part of God’s “master plan.” It isn’t some test to see if I’m good enough. It is a lousy situation. It is a lousy situation that is within the grasp of God’s redeeming love, if I too, will do my part.
I don’t know what the coming weeks and months will bring, though I’ve seen people in similar situations. But there is something I know; and I cannot say it any better than St. Paul did in Romans 8.
“If God is for us, who can be against us? It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”
“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I thank you for your past support. And I continue to ask your prayers for my mom and dad, of course, and also for me and my family. A miracle would be nice. But, and more importantly, I would ask that you pray that I will always be aware that God never quits saying, “I have called you by your name, and you are mine.”