Three Surprises –
In a recent conversation that included a range of topics including heaven, I told a friend what had been said to me many years ago. “There will be three surprises when we get to heaven. People will be surprised who made it. People will be surprised who didn’t make it. Lastly, people will be surprised we made it!” It’s a humorous yet true statement about the afterlife and Heaven’s membership. There will be surprises aplenty so don’t be so convinced in your beliefs, ability, and acceptability that you lose the mystery of a God who knows more than you, sees more than you, and is bigger than you can imagine. Heaven mirrors God’s nature and love not ours.
Wisdom teaches us that our ways are not God’s ways, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. In the Benedictine tradition, we are to keep our; “eyes tilted toward the ground.” We are to keep our sin and shortcomings always in front of us. Not as a burden to bear but a constant reminder of God’s goodness and a reason to rejoice.
Several years ago I was leading a Bible study and we were talking about God’s grace. I made the statement; “Without God, no matter what we said or did, we had no true goodness or love.” A man in our group spoke up and asked; “If we don’t have anything worth redeeming why does God love us?” “That,’ I answered, ‘is why they call it grace.”
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This morning, in worship service, the pastor asked; “Who’s rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles tonight? Who’s going for the New England Patriots? Who doesn’t care? Who didn’t know the Superbowl was being played today?” There were hands and voices raised for each question.
Around 120 million people will watch the Superbowl tonight. That’s over a third of the population of this country which is roughly 323 million. Amazing to me that we can watch a football game together but can’t seem to unite over much else. It’s also a surprise the 2/3 of America doesn’t care about the game at all!
I will be rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. I don’t have anything against the Patriots they’ve just won it so many times I think it would be nice to give it to someone else for a change. The coverage for the big game started early this morning. The network broadcasting the Superbowl had a great interview with a Patriot’s receiver, his wife, and children. It was a reminder that individual people, with unique stories, make up the teams.
It’s a shame we don’t remember that when we are attacking others for their political, cultural and religious opinions and beliefs. We cast a large net over those who don’t think like us and label them; “bad” or “good” according to our own fallible judgments.
Maybe, if we could see the individual, listen to their story, discover we’re all trying to make it the best we know how, we would realize when we fight all of us lose.
Wait, Hurry Up! –
This past weekend I went to see “The Last Jedi,” the latest movie in the Star Wars saga. Beth with went me and when we bought our tickets they told us to go stand in line while we waited for the designated theater room to open. We were first in line and as time ticked by we noticed some people who had bought their tickets weren’t waiting. They were going into the theater room while the rest of us stood by and watched. After this happened several times the line behind Beth and me started to grumble. Finally, a man a few people behind us broke from the pack, hurried to the room and then signaled for us to come. We were swept away in the wave of frustration and elation that at last something was happening. I’m not sure what the manager thought when the line broke but people would not wait any longer!
When we arrived in the room showing the film it was large, seating over 1200 people. The people who had not followed the protocol were already seated but didn’t seem nearly as many in such a sizable place. Everyone found their place and the disgruntled ones settled down and after a few moments and too many previews the movie started.
Afterwards, Beth and I were talking about the movie and what happened before. There was a sense of injustice of the rule breakers being rewarded while the rule followers were punished. This isn’t how its supposed to happen. However, there are reminders around us every day that good doesn’t always win, the righteous aren’t always rewarded, and injustice triumphs more than it should.
So, what do we do? Do we all become rule breakers, go our own way and let the rest of the world be damned? It is a choice we all must make but remember what the Master said; “What good does it profit a person if they gain the world, yet lose their souls?”
Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
Better Things –
A few weeks ago we bought a new riding lawn mower (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/06/15/need-help/). At checkout we learned that we’d receive in the mail a $50 gift card. This past week a letter arrived in the mail stating that unfortunately we had not met the requirements for the receipt of the gift card. Beth knew we had more than spent and done what was necessary to receive the card and called to complain. After explaining what had happened to the Lowe’s customer assistant, she was assured that not only were we eligible for a gift card but that it was $200 instead of $50. Awesome! If a $50 gift card would have arrived in the mail we wouldn’t have thought twice about it, spent it and moved on with life. Only because we were denied what we thought we earned did we receive an even greater gift.
When I was in high school I dated a young woman my junior and senior year. I graduated a year before she did and went off to college. Not long after arriving at school I received a phone call from her stating she no longer wanted to be a couple. Her words broke my heart. I remember praying that somehow we’d get back together but it never happened. A few months later I met Beth and we’ve been married for over 26 years.
Often in life we don’t receive what we expect or think we deserve. Our first reaction might be to complain and demand satisfaction for the loss. Perhaps we should not be so hasty. As C.S. Lewis wrote; “there are far greater things ahead of us than what we leave behind.”
Ego breeds ego.
I have a friend who is dealing with the impact of another person’s giant ego. This person throws his weight around, reminds subordinates of their place in the company’s food chain, bullies, threatens and seems completely unaware of his self obsession. He feeds his ego by feasting on others. Meetings are uncomfortable because other employees aren’t sure who the target of wrath will be for the day. “It seems selfish,’ says my friend; ‘but when he chooses someone else I’m relieved that it isn’t me even though I feel the other person’s pain.'” My friend has tried fighting back, confronted his rudeness, challenged his preconceptions, pointed out mistakes, but it hasn’t seemed to matter. “I’ve found that when I begin to focus on taking him down a notch or two, proving he’s not as great as he thinks, my ego begins to grow and manifests itself in ugly ways.”
As we worked though this issue I reminded my friend that; “Ego breeds ego. When your goal is to win or someone else to lose, you both suffer.” One of the most difficult people to deal with are those with an inflated opinion of themselves, especially when they are in positions of power. Wisdom teaches us that humility, even in the face of the egotistical, is the path we should walk. Power, pride, personal gratification always slips through the fingers of the grandiose. Starve ego, don’t feed it or breed it.