Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Pause in Advent #3

 I'm joining Angela and a gaggle of other fine folks for a Pause in Advent. 
By accident I have stumbled on a wonderful book for my Advent reading: C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath. I've read one other Lewis biography and have read and re-read Surprised by Joy, so I was excited to discover this relatively new look at Lewis's life. I find him to be a hugely sympathetic figure, in part because he's one of those Christians who stays ever-mindful of his own wretchedness, and I find that comforting.

I'm a wretch; are you? I'm prideful, ambitious, judgmental. I hold a grudge. I am in many ways a thoroughly crappy human being. Those of you who know me in person might think I'm being hard on myself, but I'm not. I have my good moments, and I have good manners, and I do genuinely like and love a lot of people, which probably makes them think more highly of me than they should.

Here's a quote from the book that had me nodding: "One of the major themes of Till We Have Faces (1956)--arguably the most profound piece of fiction written by Lewis--is the difficulty of coming to know ourselves as we really are, and the deep pain that such knowledge ultimately involves."
It's a horrible thing to really look at yourself--to look beyond the carefully constructed facade and the blue ribbons and the perfectly organized pantry, the shiny resume, the A+ report card. I try not to do it very often. But something has happened in the last six months. I am finding myself completely unimpressive, and while it's kind of a bummer, I also recognize it as a good thing.

God comes to us in the form of a baby born to a poor woman. God comes to us in the most deeply humble way one can imagine. I think to appreciate such a god, we have to also appreciate our own humble state, our own poverty. If you worship power and status, you're not going to worship a god who seems to have no interest in who has the most toys or guns or money.

But if you understand that your poverty is no different from that of the tax collector or the prostitute or the leper, then you might be happy for the birth of a savior who finds you--wretched, messed up you--worthy of redemption.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Pause in Advent: 2


 I'm joining Angela and a gaggle of other fine folks for a Pause in Advent.

I'm having trouble coming up with something to write about this week. There are all sorts of things that I could write that would sound good--inspirational sorts of things, spiritual tidbits. But for some reason I don't have it in me.

Do you ever get tired of words? I don't often get tired of reading words, but I get tired of hearing them. Right now I'm very tired of opinions. I'm tired of people telling me how I should feel in in the face of Ferguson and the Eric Garner non-indictment. You know how I feel? Sad. I feel really, really sad. And tired.

We talk, talk, talk. We talk past each other and over each other. I'm tired of talk. Talk doesn't change anything unless the talk is between two or three people who are willing to be generous listeners.

I heard a story on NPR tonight about a group of people, black and white, who have been gathering regularly in Ferguson, MO, ever since August to talk about what they can do to make things better. I like their kind of talk. They seem like they're trying to be truthful and open-minded. They seem like they've learned to trust each other enough to tell the truth about their experiences.

That's the kind of talk we need. We need talk that builds relationships. We need talk that builds trust. If there is no trust, there is no love, and if there is no love, there is no change.

What does this have to do with Advent? I'm not sure. Except that maybe one thing we need to keep talking about is the fact that God is with us, and if God is with us, all things are possible. Even peace. Even love.

Those people who meet in Ferguson to talk about how to make things better? They close their meetings with a prayer. I believe God is with them, and that change will begin with them.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.