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May 04, 2009

To Dream the Impossible Dream?

When a drama instructor told several disabled students that it was time to give up on their acting dreams, they decided not to take no for an answer. In 1989, they formed the theater company PHAMALY (pronounced "family") which stands for Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actor's League. Today the company wows audiences with their performances. On stage this summer, Man of La Mancha. If you need a little inspiration today, watch their video. If I'm ever in Denver, I want to stop by and see a performance.

Loss of a leader

Kemp Former cabinet member, congressman, and vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp died Saturday at the age of 73. My former co-worker (and occasional BreakPoint writer) Leslie Carbone has a heartfelt tribute to Kemp's leadership, energy, and encouragement at her blog. R.I.P. to a strong and principled leader.

(Image © Reuters)

April 30, 2009

Daily roundup

Understanding Why We Suffer

We all experience periods of suffering in life. If you or someone you love is currently suffering and in need of encouragement, I suggest you check out two lessons by Dr. Ken Boa, available at his website. I know you will be strengthened by what Ken has to say about suffering from a biblical perspective. 

April 28, 2009

Daily roundup

A Reading for Christian Pandemic Preparedness

Plague_of_rome While I'm skeptical that the swine flu will ever reach truly pandemic proportions, it's still a good time to stop and brush up on Christian emergency preparedness. I dusted off my volume of Eusebius' History of the Church, and give you excerpts here from the time of the reign of Maximin, who ruled between 286 and 305 AD. 

Notice that when pestilence and famine come, Christians do not a) run, nor b) hoard. Instead, they stay and tend the sick and dying. They also give of what they have. I know that if such times ever come to us, there will be a cloud of witnesses cheering for us to act with such self-sacrifice.

Hundreds were dying in the cities, still more in the country villages, so that the rural registers which once contained so many names now suffered almost complete obliteration; for at one stroke food shortage and epidemic disease destroyed nearly all the inhabitants. ... Some people, shrunken like ghosts and at death's door, tottered and slipped about in all directions till, unable to stand, they fell to the ground; and as they lay face down in the middle of the streets, they implored passers-by to hand them a tiny scrap of bread, and with their life at its last gasp they called out that they were hungry--anything else than this anguished cry was beyond their strength. ...No less terrible was the pestilence which consumed every household, particularly those which were so well off for food that famine could not wipe them out. Men of great wealth, rulers, governors and numberless officials, left by the famine to the epidemic disease as if on purpose, met a sudden and very swift end. Lamentations filled the air on every side, and in all the lanes, squares and streets there was nothing to be seen except processions of mourners with the usual flute-playing and beating of breasts.

Such was the reward for Maximin's loud boasts and the cities resolutions against us, while the fruits of the Christians' limitless enthusiasm and devotion became evident to all the heathen. Alone in the midst of this terrible calamity they proved by visible deeds their sympathy and humanity. All day long some continued without rest to tend the dying and bury them--the number was immense, and there was no one to see to them; others rounded up the huge number who had been reduced to scarecrows all over the city and distributed loaves to them all, so that their praises were sung on every side, and all men glorified the God of the Christians and owned that they alone were pious and truly religious; did not their actions speak for themselves? (p. 366-367).

April 27, 2009

The Soloist

The-soloist To fix or befriend? That is the question that plagues journalist Steve Lopez (played by Robert Downey, Jr., in the poignant true-story film The Soloist, which premiered Friday).

When Lopez, a popular columnist for the L.A. Times, stumbles across Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a schizophrenic homeless musician, a story is born. Soon, Lopez finds himself caught in the tension between crafting a brilliant story about a Juillard student turned homeless man, and looking out for a guy who simply needs someone to care.

But for Lopez, that tension is soon overshadowed by a deeper tension: to help Ayers or simply be his friend?

Like any well-intentioned citizen, Lopez tries to help Ayers find housing, medication, and cello lessons. Those good designs end with Lopez lying flat on the floor under Ayers's foot. Here, Lopez must make a choice: to give up on Ayers because he is beyond changing, or to love him unconditionally, schizophrenia, homeless shopping cart, and all.

As the curtain closes on Ayers and Lopez sitting next to each other enjoying the glorious strains filling an L.A. concert hall, it becomes clear that helping and befriending aren't all that distinct. Perhaps, they are even one and the same.

I usually dread paying $10.50 for movie. But this film earned every cent. It's not an armrest-gripper, but rather, a simple story of friendship that transforms. That's one plot that never grows outdated. In short, go see it!

(Image © DreamWorks)

Steven Curtis Chapman Shout-out

On Thursday night, the Dove Awards honored singer/songwriter and longtime friend of Prison Fellowship Steven Curtis Chapman with the Artist of the Year award. Chapman, who lost his daughter Maria Sue in a devastating accident last May, has been a wonderful example to all of us of what standing firm in the face of tragedy looks like. He's wrestled openly with doubts, but continued to see the opportunities this tragedy brought as occasions to share the hope within--and he has done that faithfully. Chapman performed "Cinderella" at the ceremony. It's a beautiful song he dedicated to Maria. He tells the story behind it here:


In related news, the orphans' ministry of Steven and Mary Beth Chapman recently unveiled a new name and new logo. After stumbling over the long name Shaohannah's Hope and misspelling it too many times to count, I like the simpler Show Hope. It keeps the continuity with the original and is a lot easier to say and remember. And the website looks super snazzy--hats off to all our friends over at Show Hope! If you're not familiar with the work of this wonderful nonprofit, take a few minutes to see all that they do and how you can get involved.

April 24, 2009

Daily Challenge: Walk the Walk

St. Patrick's nephew, Sechnall (St. Secundinus) wrote a poem about his uncle, outlining his many virtues (humility, love for God and people, a devoted prayer life, a life filled with good works). 

These stanzas in particular caught my attention since they challenge me to make certain my walk matches my talk:

Christ's holy precepts he keeps in all things,
His works shine bright among men,
And they follow his holy wondrous example,
And thus magnify God the Father in the heavens.
...

Greatest indeed will be called in the kingdom of heaven
The man who fulfills with good deeds the holy words he teaches,
Who by his good example is a leader and model to the faithful,
Who in purity of heart has confidence in God. 

April 23, 2009

Daily roundup

April 22, 2009

Four-year-old girl wows America, offers hope

Holding the microphone close to her little mouth, Kaitlyn stares confidently out into the audience, and begins the first few lines of her favorite song, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me ..."

About a year ago, on her way to an audition for America's Got Talent, then 4-year-old Kaitlyn Maher told her father, "Daddy, I want to see the sparkles come down." Gently, Reuben told his young daughter that it would be nice if she would make it all the way to the Top 10, but that if it didn't happen it would be okay.

"Daddy, I'm going to ask Jesus," Kaitlyn responded, bowing her head to ask Jesus to let her see the confetti fall at the night the winners of the show are announced, but adding that if it wasn't His will, she didn't want it.

Continue reading "Four-year-old girl wows America, offers hope" »

April 20, 2009

Daily roundup

What he’s spending his prize money on

Merga Deriba Merga, who just won the 113th Boston Marathon, plans, according to those covering the run, to spend the $150,000 prize money (plus additional money from various product endorsements) on supporting his extended family back in Ethiopia. Race commentators say that back home, $150 a month supports a family of four quite well. This means Merga has just become the Bill Gates of his hometown.

I was rooting for the American runners (male and female) to win until I heard this. While I'm sure the money would have been nice for American winners, it's probably lifesaving for those who run out of desperation, so they can feed their children and give them a better life.

I watched the race live this morning--my husband was participating, and finished with a good time.  

(Yes, Dave, I'll have that BreakPoint script ready on time....)

(Image © AFP)

April 16, 2009

Daily roundup

April 15, 2009

The beauty that matters

Boyle Diane, thank you for posting that video of Susan Boyle. I simply loved the way she wiped the smirks off all those faces!

I came across an excellent article by The Herald's Colette Douglas Home that sums up just why that performance was such a triumph -- and what we should learn from the woman who gave it.

Susan Boyle's story is a parable of our age. She is a singer of enormous talent, who cared for her widowed mother until she died two years ago. Susan's is a combination of ability and virtue that deserves congratulation.

So how come she was treated as a laughing stock when she walked on stage for the opening heat of Britain's Got Talent 2009 on Saturday night? . . . 

The answer is that only the pretty are expected to achieve. Not only do you have to be physically appealing to deserve fame; it seems you now have to be good-looking to merit everyday common respect. If, like Susan (and like millions more), you are plump, middle-aged and too poor or too unworldly to follow fashion or have a good hairdresser, you are a non-person. . . .

Susan is a reminder that it's time we all looked a little deeper. She has lived an obscure but important life. She has been a companionable and caring daughter. It's people like her who are the unseen glue in society; the ones who day in and day out put themselves last. They make this country civilised and they deserve acknowledgement and respect.

(Image © TimesOnline)

Our Own Easter Day

With Easter just past, it's a good time to reflect on these hope-filled words that C.S. Lewis wrote for his wife's memorial plaque: 

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hope that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In Lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.

(And don't miss the sobering but inspiring reflections at the link I provided above.)

Beautiful!

Bravo to Susan Boyle, another surprising contestant in the Britain's Got Talent competition. I hope she wins. 

April 14, 2009

Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel Speaks to the Dry Bone

The hand of the Lord was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley, it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

I said, "O, Sovereign Lord, you alone know." (Ezekiel 37:1-3)

I had an email yesterday morning from one of the Rwandans I interviewed in my book, As We Forgive. As you may or may not know, this is an especially hard time in Rwanda, as this April marks the 15th anniversary of the genocide. My friend was particularly asking for prayer amidst this season of remembrance, and shared with me that they've just unearthed some more bones and will be able to finally bury his fiancée's father.

In Rwanda, so many bodies were dumped into mass graves. When I read a passage like Ezekiel 37, I can't help but think of these piles of bones bleached by the African sun in open graves. Here's the thing that gets me: The hope of the resurrection amidst a picture like this. 

Continue reading "Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones" »

April 13, 2009

Daily roundup

The gift of perspective

Perry Kenny Perry, the golfer who was poised to become the oldest Masters winner ever, nearly broke my heart with his loss in the playoff yesterday. Or so I thought at the time. It took some wise words from the man himself to help me get my perspective back:

"I'll look back the rest of my life saying what could have been. But I'm not going to go there. Because if this is the worst thing that happens in my life, my life's pretty good," said Perry, who was down to his last penny 24 years ago when his church lent him $5,000 to keep chasing his golf dream. Since then, improving at a brutally slow rate, but always trending upward, he has won 13 PGA Tour events, $28 million and built a scholarship fund for that generous tiny-town church that now sits at $1.4 million.

"I got my mom struggling with cancer. My dad [85 years old] is struggling. I got a lot of people who are hurting now. And here I am playing golf for a living and having the time of my life," said Perry, who was adored by the crowd all weekend.

Of course, after reading that, I wished more than ever that he could have won. But with an attitude like that, even if he never wins a major for the rest of his life, both Perry and his fans will have reason to be proud and satisfied.

Thought for the day

A Russian priest, Father Anthony, told me, "To say to anyone 'I love you' is tantamount to saying 'You shall live forever.'"

I am slowly beginning to learn something about immortality.

Our children are hungry for words like Father Anthony's. They have a passionate need for the dimension of transcendence, mysticism, way-outness. We're not offering it to them legitimately. The tendency of the churches to be relevant and more-secular-than-thou does not answer our need for the transcendent. As George Tyrrell wrote about a hundred years ago, "If [man's] craving for the mysterious, the wonderful, the supernatural, be not fed on true religion, it will feed itself on the garbage of any superstition that is offered to it."

Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet, pp. 110-11

April 12, 2009

Easter miracle

Captain Richard Phillips is free. Thanks be to God. (H/T Some Have Hats)

Music for Holy Week (3)

The perfect music video to watch on Easter Sunday! Christ is risen ... He is risen indeed!

Herbert’s ’Easter Wings’

The English poet George Herbert (1593-1633) penned this beautiful "shaped" poem he titled "Easter Wings":  

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
               Till he became
                  Most poor:
                  With thee
               O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
        And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did begin
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sin,
               That I became
                  Most thin.
                  With thee
               Let me combine,
            And feel thy victory:
      For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me. 

Easter Communion by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesus; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,

God shall o'er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.

April 10, 2009

Unlimited grace

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." --Luke 23:34

This statement from Jesus ought to have a dramatic impact on the way we live. Perhaps it loses impact because we assume that Jesus is in a league of His own in the forgiveness game; there's no way we could match His grace. Or perhaps we see this as an example of how God forgives without realizing the implications it has for us. Meanwhile, we forgive those who are sorry for their sins -- which does not describe these crucifiers at all; and we forgive those who haven't hurt us too badly -- which also does not describe these crucifiers. Somehow we've confined our mercy to definitions that Jesus never embraced. We've limited grace.

Think of the drama of Jesus' statement. These aggressors were committing the ultimate crime: an unjust execution of their holy Creator. There has never been a more evil act. And yet, Jesus forgave. Without their asking. Without their even being remotely sorry.

Chris Tiegreen, "Amazing Grace," April 10, The One Year Worship the King Devotional

The Heavens Declare His Glory!

How cool is this picture, especially as we celebrate Easter! Take a few moments and watch the video as it zooms in on this "crown of thorns" galaxy (NCG 7049). 

April 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting will be light tomorrow because of Good Friday. Have a blessed Easter weekend!

April 08, 2009

Daily roundup

April 07, 2009

Music for Holy Week (2)

If you liked their song "In Christ Alone," check out another video by the Gettys, this time performing "The Power of the Cross."

April 06, 2009

Hope amidst the Bones

Rwanda_slah This week's Newsweek features the Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana, who returned to his Rwandan homeland after the genocide to help rebuild the broken nation. Ellis Cose documents some of his experiences in this week's piece:

When Rucyahana got back to Uganda in mid-July, he rented a minibus, hired a driver and took to the road with 10 other pastors. They crossed into Rwanda and made their way to Nyamata, near Kigali, the capital. The violence had died down but death was everywhere: "We saw mass graves; we saw dead bodies. In one home, we found 27 dead bodies. . . ."

Rucyahana had to act. Initially, he ran seminars, urging people to repent and rebuild. But that wasn't enough. So in 1996, he packed up his family and returned to the land of his birth to preach hope standing on "a pile of bones," as he puts it. One of his first tasks was to build a boarding school for orphans: "Having lost a million people, lots of babies were left behind." The school in Musanze, near the Volcanoes National Park, opened in 2001. It is now one of the best schools in the country. It is called Sonrise, which, Rucyahana explains, "means the Son of God rises into the misery, into our darkness."

I share part of Bishop John's story, and one of the stories of a student at the Sonrise School/Orphanage, in As We Forgive. To read his full memoir, take a look at his own The Bishop of Rwanda. I'm so glad that the wider world is being introduced to Bishop John, the recipient of BreakPoint's 2009 Wilberforce Award, and to the amazing things God has been doing in the aftermath of this tragedy.

By the way, on this day, 15 years ago, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane plummeted from the sky after being hit by a missile. It became the albatross around the neck of the Tutsi people when Hutu claimed that the RPF shot it down. The sudden streak of a missile and the fiery light of a falling plane were a diabolical kind of fireworks that night--evil's unseemly opening ceremonies to a hundred days of slaughter that would consume the country.

(Image © Newsweek)

Music for Holy Week (1)

This is a wonderful video of Kristyn Getty singing "In Christ Alone." Her husband and accompanist, Keith, is one of the writers of this incredible contemporary hymn. I hope you will watch, listen, and be blessed. 

March 31, 2009

Creation Cries Out: March BreakPoint WorldView Magazine

Creation Cries Out I love the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. He writes of "God’s Grandeur," saying, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,/It will flame out like shining from shook foil …”.  Sometimes that charge is electric, as in the roar of a waterfall or the magnificence of a canyon in the fading light of the sun. Other times God’s grandeur is experienced in a way more like the whisper in Elijah’s ear.

In this month’s BreakPoint WorldView magazine, T.M. Moore examines how the Celtic Christians experienced God’s grandeur in nature. Crag and forest, fawn and fern, all spoke of wonders and ways to praise the Creator. How can Irish spirituality inform our own? The answer, T.M. writes, is that Celtic Christians show us “the creation is a vast book of revelation – the very speech of the Father (Ps. 19:1-1) ….”

But the Christian can find reflections of God and his moral order in more than just the fields and the flowers, but also in the works of men and women who bear his image. Gina Dalfonzo shows us, for example, religious elements in a very unexpected place—in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. From the shadow of the cross in the film Notorious to the curve toward justice in films like Rope, Gina explores what we can learn about how Hitchcock’s Catholic upbringing informed the worldview of his art.

Reverend Robert Lynn moves our thoughts to examine our own role in creation and preservation. He begins with the premise that Christians today are known more by what we oppose than by what we support. He urges us to consider what God calls us to be for in the world and how we can be a part of more than simply critiquing culture or copying culture. In the words of Andy Crouch, Rev. Lynn calls us to be a part of creating culture.

If you haven't signed up to receive BreakPoint WorldView magazine, I hope you will today. And as you explore the articles in this month's edition, I hope that it will open your eyes to how creation and created work speak of God, and how we too can participate in the task of creating culture.

March 30, 2009

Daily roundup

Walter Hoye update

Pastor hoye The pastor in jail for peacefully protesting abortion is serving God as he serves his 30-day sentence. Last week, Walter Hoye's wife, Lori, reported, "Walter had already been in Bible study with some of the men in his unit. On Sunday just prior to my visit Walter had led one man to Christ. God is truly blessing Walter's presence in Santa Rita, and many men are seeking his counsel about their lives and situations."

Jill Stanek has contact information for Rev. Hoye at her blog, for those who would like to send him a letter of encouragement.

March 27, 2009

Daily roundup

Corroborating ’The Truth about Forgiveness’

Bernard Williams Since Sunday, folks have been telling me about the Washington Post Magazine's piece "The Truth About Forgiveness." I finally had the chance to read it today and was blown away. The story follows Bernard Williams and the murder of his son, nicknamed "Beethoven," by a neighbor, William Norman. 

The writer, Karen Houppart, does a fantastic job recreating not only the crime, but the subsequent meeting in prison between this bereaved father and the neighbor who killed his son. I won't give away the ending but there is definite movement toward forgiveness and reconciliation in this piece.

It struck me while I was reading it that this is the same story I've told in As We Forgive, only in a different context. The chronology is even the same. This murder happened in Baltimore in 1994. The murders I write about happened in Rwanda in 1994. And so the length of time that has gone by for the bereaved is also the same. The methods used to bring healing are very much the same: restorative encounters between offender and victim, marked by remorse and repentance on behalf of the guilty and risk and radical grace on behalf of the offended. The truths that get them there transcend context.

The writer mentions a movement in our society toward embracing forgiveness, not just for those from a religious background, but by scientific research also. Here's a snippet:

While spiritual leaders have long asked folks to accept the benefits of forgiveness on faith, the secular world has lately jumped on the bandwagon -- and proffered scientific evidence to support this view.

Continue reading "Corroborating ’The Truth about Forgiveness’" »

March 26, 2009

Daily roundup

March 24, 2009

When all else fails...

Spiderman ...dress up like Spider-Man.

(Image © AFP)

Quote for the day

One of our longtime and highly esteemed Pointificators once asked to be reminded when it was time once again to check Dorothy L. Sayers's great play cycle The Man Born to Be King out of the library. He had the Christmas season in mind, but my own preferred time for a rereading of this classic is right before Easter. So everyone consider this quote (one of my favorites) your reminder!

"The Master's the only good man I ever met who knew how miserable it felt to be bad. It was as if he got right inside you, and felt all the horrible things you were doing to yourself. . . . But I don't suppose Judas ever let him in. He was too proud. I think it was harder for him than for people like Matthew and me and that poor robber on the cross. We know we're so awful anyhow that it's no good pretending we're not, even to ourselves."

Spoken by Mary Magdalen, Play 12, "The King Comes to His Own," in The Man Born to Be King

March 23, 2009

’As We Forgive’ Q&A, parts 3 and 4

Mary DeMuth has two new installments of the interview with Catherine on her blog, here and here.

Quote for the Day: C.S. Lewis on Money

Money

One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realise your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. 

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Is it possible that one of the hidden blessings in our current economic meltdown is that many of us will turn away from worshiping the god Mammon, and instead turn our hearts to Yahweh? That is my hope and prayer, for myself and for others in my country. 

March 17, 2009

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

Continue reading "St. Patrick’s Breastplate" »

March 13, 2009

The Terri Schiavo Story

Terri Has anyone heard any buzz yet about this documentary from Joni and Friends?

(Image © Joni and Friends)

’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms

Slumdog-millionaire6 How did Jamal Malik, a slumdog from Mumbai, win 20 million rupees on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A. He cheated
B. He’s lucky
C. He’s a genius
D. It is destiny

In a swirling explosion of triumphant hope and relentless love against the darkness of poverty, exploitation and violence…that question is answered.

(Spoilers after the jump)

Continue reading "’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms" »

Quote for the Day

Here's a little something for contemplation.

We do not need more material development, we need more spiritual development. We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.

— Calvin Coolidge

March 12, 2009

Putting his money where his mouth was

A new book details a Victorian-era attempt at what we today might call "restorative justice," conducted by -- guess who?

March 10, 2009

Daily roundup

March 06, 2009

Gratitude for a grocery list

Storelist Jennifer at Conversion Diary has a profound post up . . . about grocery lists.

. . . I got out a pen to add some things to the store list. I do this about five times every day. But this time, as I wrote "bread" and "black beans" on my little pad of paper, it hit me: I am doing something really, really amazing here. Out of the blue, I suddenly saw writing items on my grocery list in a completely different light: I realized what an incredibly -- almost unimaginable -- luxury it is to be able to simply write down what I want to feed my children, and be able to go get it. Quickly. Easily. Cheaply.

Can you imagine my great-great grandmother watching me do this? Or anyone who lives in a poverty-stricken part of the world today, or who lived more than 70 years ago? Imagine what their reaction would be to the concept that you can create your dream list of the food you'd like to put on your table, and have it there within the hour if necessary. I imagined such a person standing there, watching me write "swiss cheese," "mozzarella cheese," "olives," and "ice cream" in disbelief, perhaps asking, "You can really just go get that?! Are you royalty?", and probably not being able to fully comprehend how much abundance there really is at my local grocery store, asking, "What about butter? They don't have that ready for you, do they? Surely they don't also have things like fish, or juices, or candy?" To most people who have ever lived, the concept of regularly having enough food to feed themselves and their children would seem like a fantasy come true -- but to always have more than enough of whatever you want would be just unimaginable.

Today, as I gazed in amazement upon my store list, seeing it as if for the first time, fully appreciating how amazing it is that I can write down a wish list of things I'd like to feed my children and presumptuously assume that they will be readily available to me, I realized that this is what God's grace feels like. In my life I've occasionally been able to muster up some appreciation for my cushy American lifestyle, but to be caught off guard and just thunderstruck at the beauty of such a simple, mundane daily task...that didn't come from within me.

She goes on to say, "I realize that to some I might seem like a bit of a lunatic for writing 700 words about a store list." Not to me. I was deeply moved, because I was reminded of something that my mom recalls every time she doesn't feel like cooking: that she remembers stories about her own grandmother crying because she had nine children and not enough money to buy food for them.

We are so amazingly blessed in this time and place in which we live. And all it takes to remember that is one look at our grocery lists.

(Image © Conversion Diary)

March 04, 2009

Practicing the positive

Cl-booksign Speaking of Catherine's new book, here's a photo of her reading from it at her PFM book party yesterday, with Anne looking on in the background. And here's a snippet of what she was reading:

We've seen how important empathy is in the process of forgiveness. Empathy rehumanizes the other. It removes feelings of contempt as we discover an emotional understanding of the other person's thoughts, actions, and motives.

But just as the offending person or group needs to be rehumanized, so too there is a need for the groups to be depolarized. That means moving away from "you always" or "they always" statements back into a more nuanced view of group culture. If this work of depolarization hasn't happened in the forgiveness process, it must happen before parties can move from neutral to positive ground in the reconciliation process. Empathy can be a first step. Humility is a second. And we must understand, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, that "the line of good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." In other words, in all hearts there is a mixture of good and evil.

There can also be merit in learning, remembering, or rehearsing the positive aspects of the other person or group. . . .

Where reconciliation has occurred, to maintain the health of the restored relationship, positive actions and thoughts need to replace the negative ones. Amends, restitution, and generosity on the part of the offender move the relationship back into the positive direction. But both parties need to practice positive interactions.

(Image © Gina Dalfonzo)