Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Well, All Things Considered…

December 8, 2010

Every day when we get home Dan and I exchange news over the dinner table and take time to evaluate the day's happenings. This day I had to say, "Well, all things considered, it was a pretty good day." And it was pretty good, actually. I got to go to my classes, learn more about my pop art hero, Wayne Thibeaud in my art history class, discovered that I don't have to sit for half the final exam*, do an impromptu pen-and-ink portrait in drawing class, and as if that wasn't good enough I got to ring the bell for the Salvation Army! (Thanks, Toni!)

Of course, Dan picked up on the "Well, all things considered" part. There's usually a shadow side even to the greatest joys of life. Before we touch on that, you are invited to center, take a minute to become truly present to this moment and venture. Breathe….

Prayer: "Loving God, we dream of days that can progress perfectly from the time we awaken refreshed after a good night's sleep. Too often we awaken dreading what the coming hours may hold. Remind me of your continuous care and mercy when I am apt to forget."

Today's scripture comes to us from the seldom-opened file, "Words We Wish Jesus Had Never Said".

Matthew 12:33-37 (New International Version, ©2010)

33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Sound familiar? John the Baptist liked that "brood of vipers" epithet also. (See this column for Dec. 6) Sometimes we can ignore John, and sometimes we can talk our way around Paul, but when Jesus himself holds forth on a subject, it's pretty difficult to shut him out.

You see, Jesus doesn't equivocate very much when he's teaching. You either love or you do the opposite of love: you don't give a rip. You either bear the fruit or: you're not contributing. I believe that our personal motivation either brings up good things out of the depths of the soul or it brings up garbage that gets dumped in the streets of your world. There are no statements such as, "Well, all things considered…"

December 7th was widely remembered as Pearl Harbor Day, a day which the late President Roosevelt claimed would live "in infamy forever." It was a day the world will look back upon for decades and wonder how to avoid war in the future. 2,000 Americans died on Dec. 7, 1941. People of conscience everywhere have worked steadfastly to avoid repeating the kind of conflict that led to such destruction. It was not the kind of time when anyone would have said, "Well, all things considered, it was a pretty good day."

A woman who probably won't be remembered forever died on Dec. 7, 2010. Her name was Elizabeth Edwards. She died of cancer. Under other circumstances she might have occupied the White House as First Lady. Instead, she lived a very challenging existence, by most measures. At the end, I wonder how she imagined this day would be evaluated by history. As I consider her story, I can only say sorrowfully, "Well all things considered, it was a pretty good day." Rest in peace, Elizabeth. I hope you had many good days.

We sometimes wish not to be reminded by Jesus, John, or anyone else what responsibility we have for the making of peace. Most of us certainly don't have the opportunity to affect the peace of the world on a grand scale. Yet, here we are, "Dreaming" in the light of the Peace candle. What will come out of our mouths? What will be our fruit? What opportunities might we seize for the making of peace in our own small worlds?

Prayer: "Prince of Peace, help me heed your words so that when I have the chance to engage for peace, I am not reduced to lamely saying 'Well, all things considered, I did the best I could.' Amen."

Peace be with you! (And I'm not just saying that.)

Further reading for today:

Psalm 21

Genesis 15: 1-18

*In the grand scheme of things, it may not matter much that my art history grades are good enough that I don't have to sit for the last slide quiz of the semester. But at the moment I am so grateful for my inner nerd kicking in (or maybe I'm just channeling Hermione Granger). It's all good at this point. I am so happy to have fewer hours during which I must devote attention to memorizing artists' names, titles, and dates of their works! I thank God for the good wishes and prayers from family and friends.

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