Saturday, September 20, 2008

"We're not in Indiana anymore, Toto..."

My apologies to Dorothy. But that's how I felt when I woke up to the sound of shotguns going off this morning. Not that I don't hear shotguns in Hoosierland. I do. Fairly frequently at this time of year. But I live on 50 acres of land surrounded by lots of other acres of land -- cropland, woods, lakes, creeks. This morning in Texas I awoke to the sound of shotguns going off while ensconced in bed in my sister's house in a subdivision in Frisco. Surrounded by houses.

"Dove hunting," my brother-in-law reported. Hmmm, at least it wasn't Texas justice gone amok -- posses of cowboys gunning down rustlers.

Actually, haven't seen any cowboys yet. Lots and lots of houses and shopping malls and the like. But no cowboys. Must have moved from Dallas.

The best thing I've seen so far is the sign above. That was at the new Frisco Senior Center. A lovely facility open to people my age (55+) though I do not consider myself a senior. And old boomer, but not a senior! My sister and her husband gave us a tour and it is really quite nice. But I had to chuckle when I saw the sign advertising "Senior Kick-boxing."

Now this is probably a nice form of exercise, but all I could think of was a bunch of grey haired or bald old geezers like me flailing the legs around an panting like a winded cow pony just off the range trying to defend themselves. "Watch out, young 'un. I'm a certified senior kick boxer and these spindly limbs are deadly weapons." Yeah, to me! I'd try to kick box something, break a hip, fall down and die.

What's next I wondered? "Senior Cage Fighting?" Would give "A Grudge Match to the Death" a whole new meaning....


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace

I just finished a book that I found simply stunning. It was well written, thoughtful, helpful, encouraging, challenging, and hopeful. It's Cathleen Falsani's Sin Boldly: A Field Guide To Grace.

I had a feeling it would be a good read. After all, Falsani authored another book I really enjoyed (The God Factor: Inside the Private Lives of Public People). So even though I got my copy of Sin Boldly a while ago, I put it aside until I had time to really read it with the attention it deserved. And I'm happy I did.

This "field guide to grace" is exactly that -- a pilgrim's guide to see God's grace in and around us and others and our world. There were many little gems that I highlighted - her thoughts, the epigrams, and quotations. It was a book that became a friend and one which I highly recommend to those who aren't afraid of finding God in all the right places.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Of Sunflowers and Souls

Light. Without it we die. Physically. Spiritually. Our very lives depend light for photosynthesis -- energy from sunlight that converts into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel used by all living things. That’s why sunflowers track the sun across the sky, sea otters bask while floating in the ocean, and I look for an excuse to go to Florida in January. All God’s creatures move toward the light – flowers, trees, people. Light is constant and ever present. At least that’s what we assume. Then the power goes out or a month of clouds rolls in. We grumble and moan and whine until the light comes back. Here's a reading on that subject from Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes.

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Happiness & The Good Life

Happiness -- I've been thinking about it a lot lately. The political season probably has a lot to do with it -- since each party is promising me I'll be happy and better off if I vote for its candidates. Yeah, and my teeth will be brighter and shirts whiter, too.

Then there's news from a recent survey. It revealed that the United States was out-happied by Nigeria. That despite our per capita income being seventh in the world and Nigerians making an average of $520. Per year.

Besides Nigeria, we’re beat out by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. Hardly a group we consumerists would even think of as our competition.

The good news is we beat out Romania.

We may be proving that the old joke “Money can’t buy happiness, but it allows you to be miserable in style,” is more than a joke. It’s the truth. For all the material things we have, many of us sense that we are lacking something. Something important. Something inside. The upside is that this sense of a deep interior helps us realize that the good life is more than having things. The good life is one of soul satisfaction.

But how do we find it?

One way is, I think, by doing some reordering of our lives around four basic ideas.

The first is that the good life is about following God. While this may seem obvious, it one of those things that is so obvious that we often forget it. We need to ignore the artificial division between sacred and secular move through life while inviting God to be involved in every part of it.

Second, we need to remember that God’s will can be known and obeyed. As we learn God’s will, and obey it, we soon learn that we are participating, with other people of faith, in God’s work in this world. The good life calls us to partner with God in doing Divine work in this world.

A third idea is that following God leads to a life that is balanced and deeply satisfying. This is not to say that life is always happy and filled with all sorts of good things and pleasant experiences. Rather it means that following God in the daily divine dance of life provides a soul satisfaction and sense of rightness. This rightness brings balance to our lives.

The fourth thing is that the good life is also about being good. About being honest, care-full of others, actually behaving in ways we know would be pleasing to God. Much of the good life, they found, comes about by asking God to worth with them in thinking about and going those things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. The actions that come easily, drawn as they are from a heart of love for God and God’s people. Actions that come from the desire to please the Great Lover of Our Souls, in the same way we delight to please the people we love here on earth.

All of these lead us to the good life -- a life of true happiness. Beyond party and polls, beyond things and into some thing deep and rich and life-giving. The hard part is putting them into practice daily. Which leads to a fifth lesson I guess -- the good life is about total dependence on God, without whose strength we can do nothing.

-- Brent