Endurance

IMG_E8454

It’s the Fourth of July…our nation’s birthday.  As I returned from walking this morning clouds were building, sometimes blocking the sun briefly.  The view captured here struck me…the sun shining through the blue field on the flag just before disappearing.  I thought of endurance.

Our nation was formed two-hundred-forty-two years ago.  Today’s newspaper carried the full text of the Declaration of Independence, which I read at breakfast.  The ideals that formed our nation were like sunlight bringing faith, hope, purpose–a higher view into a world landscape frequently marred by greed, self-interest, intolerance, and hatred–clouds that confuse and disrupt life.

Clouds always fascinate me.  They can move in with a vengeance, bearing storms that kill and destroy.  They can also paint an overarching canvas of majestic radiance across a sunset landscape.  Clouds change constantly.  Sometimes, as this morning, they can swallow the sun, dimming its presence.  But the sun has endurance.  the storms pass, the sun returns.   

At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln described this enduring sun that our nation represents.  He defined it as government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  That’s what makes us different, strong, flexible, tolerant, and durable.  Sometimes clouds of dissent dim the sunlight of our character, but we come through those ordeals with strength and resolve, wiser for the experience.  We have endurance.

It was on a July morning sixty-two years ago that I stood in a U.S. Army recruiting station and took an oath to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic–to be part of the sun that endures beyond the clouds.  Recently one of my grandsons did the same thing.  He said his country had given him so much, and he wanted to give back.  He wanted to be part of keeping the sun shining.

At the heart of this nation’s formation was a faith in God’s enduring love and purpose, and a desire to order life around that source of sunlight.  That center of endurance will persist with us as long as we remain connected to God at the core of who we are.  Today there are many clouds moving across our landscape.  Sometimes the sun seems to disappear.  But clouds always dissipate, and the sunlight is still there.

Faith, love, hope, and trust in God are essential at the heart of life…of our choices, actions, attitudes, behavior, hopes and dreams…in order for us to be people of sunlight and strength.  We will suffer, grow, and change over the years, but endurance for such times comes from the sun, not the clouds.  Psalm 136:1  says it well:  “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  (NRSV)

 

 

    

BLOWOUT!

 

100_0076

Our country is experiencing a blowout!

What’s happening to us?  Where is our respect for each other?  What has happened to civil discourse?  How have we become so splintered, self-focused, polarized?  What has happened to our beliefs that overarch the specifics of race, gender, place of birth?  Where have we ditched ethics and morality?  Where have truth and trust gone?

When a tire blows out you have to stop and deal with it.  A blowout disrupts your direction, energy, and purpose.  You have to do something definitive.  Oh, you could keep on driving on the wheel rim causing sparks to fly, eroding control of the vehicle.  Eventually, however, the blowout will stop you.

There are many actions available.  You might blame someone…the tire manufacturer, highway engineers, careless drivers who throw things from their cars.  You might blame yourself.  Blaming only prolongs the agony of the interruption.  It doesn’t fix anything.  Ultimately you have to change the tire. 

Our current societal blowout feels like we’re just continuing to drive, throwing out sparks, playing the blame game, certain that if we persevere the tire will just mend itself.   We throw out some of our passengers–they must be why it happened.  The road ahead is rough and extremely dangerous.  Preoccupied with ignoring the blowout for what it is, we will miss the bridge that’s out just ahead.  

When you buy a car the manufacturer provides a book with instructions about care and wear, and how to handle emergencies.  Even if you don’t consult it regularly, you know what’s in it and follow its wisdom.

One of the most universal human experiences, in all ages, from primitive to digital, has been the awareness of an intelligent Creator we call, in one form or another, God.  This Manufacturer of human life has provided us with instructions.  Our Creator has designed us to live in community, to experience joy and pain, success and failure, ease and hardship.  It is a given that we will sometimes be locked in conflict and other times embraced in love.  We fare best when we keep the highest values central.

One man of faith spelled this out in writing to an ancient civilization.  He said to inflate life with God’s Spirit.  When we do, our Creator will plant, restore, and enhance qualities that provide balance and healing for our emotional and societal blowouts.  The writer called the roll of those qualities:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

School shootings, violent intolerance, rude and vicious rhetoric serve only to throw sparks from the speeding rim.  What we need is to fix the tire, correct the problems that are destroying us.  Thoughts and prayers are part of it, but they must spur us out of the box of the usual.  Let us intentionally consult our Creator’s instruction manual for the path to renewed health.  Change the focus from self to God and others.  Let’s put down the verbal and physical guns, and absorb the Creator’s healing qualities into the fiber of our lives.  

With God’s help, we can fix this blowout.