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Tag: humility

the president we want … in a word

the president we want … in a word

We hosted a pre-caucus house party this evening at our home during which I asked our guests to express what it is they are looking for in a presidential candidate in one word. Their answers make quite a list!

  • integrity
  • compassion
  • inspiration
  • honesty
  • justice
  • humility
  • diplomacy
  • reconciler
  • character
  • change
  • moral

I do hope and pray that our next president will be marked by attributes like these!



From I Like Being Five Years Old, an entry by Debi Sanders last week on the inward/outward website:

My friend Kim, who worked with Good Shepherd Ministries for the last ten years, just returned from a year in Haiti where her only “job” was to be with people and build friendships. The Haitians were in awe that an American would come to live with them and not try to “fix” them or improve them or undertake a project.

Jesus certainly did “fix” people’s lives. He healed their diseases, forgave their sins, challenged them to give up their “idols.” But, first of all, he was Emmanuel, God with us. He ate with “undesirables.” He engaged in lengthy conversations with Jewish lawyers and Samaritan women. He invested himself fully and personally in a small group of close friends. Jesus modeled for us a lifestyle of service, but a servanthood that begins just by being there, by being with, by entering into relationship.

That’s why I like Debi Sanders’ description of her friend’s “job” and the reaction of her Haitian friends so much. It takes profound humility — and deep respect — to be ready to spend time with people instead of “coming to their rescue.” And when you are ready to do that, you may just find out along the way that you have as much to gain as to give. You may find out that you needed rescuing just as much! And you will be doing what Jesus does …

mia or barry?

mia or barry?

Mia Hamm and the 1999 World Cup Trophy

On our way home to Iowa from our vacation in Maine, we stayed with a friend in Oneonta, New York, and visited the National Soccer Hall of Fame. On August 26, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy will be honored there as 2007 inductees. Here’s hoping that Barry Bonds, the new “home run king” of baseball, will not merit such an honor in nearby Cooperstown …

Let’s see, Mia or Barry?

One an athlete of character, intensity, passion, compassion, humility, generosity, and unselfishness. The other almost certainly a cheater.

One a player of America’s game, discrediting the game, discounting his teammates, and casting a long shadow over a hallowed record. The other a player of the world’s game, doing more than any other single individual to inspire a new generation of girls (and boys) to a love for that game, for sport itself, and for joy of being team.

One taking the fun out of the game. The other reminding us that fun is what games are supposed to be about!

the desire to please you

the desire to please you

A prayer from Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I had never seen this prayer quoted before, but now I have “happened” upon it twice in three weeks! Three weeks ago, I used it in my eulogy for a ninety-two year-old retired music teacher and unretired Christian who had it cut and pasted into the front cover of his Bible. And today I read it again quoted as an afterword to a book entitled Listening Hearts, a book about discerning the call of God and the role of community in discerning call and supporting ministry.

It is a wonderfully humble and wonderfully hopeful prayer!

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

There is much that we do not know and much that we will never know. And it is true that even when we want more than anything else to do what God wants, we may struggle with knowing just what that is or how to do it. But if wanting itself matters … If it is our passion itself that pleases God … If it is our love itself that honors God … May it be so! And may we love God with all our heart minds and strength!

And may we walk side by side with our Christian sisters and brothers with this prayer on our lips, because if we do, if we come to our common Christian enterprise with this kind of humility, with this kind of passion, with this kind of trust, there will be little to drive us apart, and much to hold us together. I do not stand over against you or your values or your opinions, but with you in our common desire to please God, as we acknowledge to ourselves and to each other that even in our zeal we are not always certain of the way!

a politics “of the people”

a politics “of the people”

They are out there … those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way — in their own lives, at least — to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves. I imagine the white Southerner who growing up heard his dad talk about niggers this and niggers that but who has struck up a friendship with the black guys at the office and is trying to teach his own son different, who thinks discrimination is wrong but doesn’t see why the son of a black doctor should get admitted to law school ahead of his own son. Or the former Black Panther who decided to go into real estate, bought a few buildings in the neighborhood, and is just as tired of the drug dealers in front of those buildings as he is of the bankers who won’t give him a loan to expand his business. There’s the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion, and the Christian woman who paid for her teenager’s abortion, and the millions of waitresses and temp secretaries and nurse’s assistants and Wal-Mart associates who hold their breath every single month in the hope they’ll have enough money to support the children that they did bring into the world.

I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don’t always understand the arguments between left and right, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting.

They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.

I have purposefully omitted the attribution of this quotation, because I want you, the blog reader, to consider its assertions as free as possible of the political gamesmanship and polarizing caricaturing it seeks to surmount, and because it is not my intention, as the blog author, to endorse any particular political candidate or party, but to endorse the kind of thinking about politics it proposes — thinking with a healthy dose of humility, a readiness for cooperation, and genuine hopefulness.

happy new year

happy new year

Humility is the first step
Acknowledging that you cannot
Pull the right strings, making life dance to your beat, or
Push the right buttons to guarantee the future
You have in mind.

Now is the time! the time to release pride and fear, the time to
Embrace the God who embraces you, to
Welcome the future God has in mind, to say

Yes! to God and Yes! to God’s way, to
Expect that God’s way leads to a glorious future for us all, and to
Act on that expectation, hoping and loving and serving and making peace,
Right here, right now!

whose church is it?

whose church is it?

Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts.

So, then, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Nor can the head say to the feet, “Well, I don’t need you!”

But that is just what we are doing! Saying we don’t need each other. Saying we’d be better off without each other. It breaks my heart! We call ourselves The United Church of Christ, but I wonder. Sometimes, it seems, we are hardly “united” and hardly “of Christ.”

We are increasingly polarized as a church, mimicking the increasing polarization of American society when we should be resisting it and showing the world another way! We show ourselves to be “just like everybody else,” as resentful and stubborn and proud and controlling as everybody else. When we don’t get our own way, we pout and call names.

It is increasingly difficult to “live in the middle” in the United Church of Christ, which is probably a poor description of what it is I am advocating. Being “in the middle” is not about compromising, but about being a bridge; not about being lukewarm or noncommittal, but about understanding and loving both “sides” … the eyes and the hands, the head and the feet.

The church belongs to Christ. not to us, and Christ the Lord hardly needs us to defend him! He wants us to love him … and to love each other.

The evangelical “wing” of the United Church of Christ has something of great value to offer the whole church. But to accuse the church of “abandoning historic Christianity,” to seek to divide the church against itself, to encourage and support churches in withdrawing from the United Church of Christ shows no love to the church nor to the Christ to whom the church belongs.

The liberal “wing” of the United Church of Christ has something of great value to offer the whole church. But to mock and ostracize and marginalize evangelical folks who are genuinely concerned about the integrity of the church and its witness, who genuinely love God and want to discern and to do God’s will only does harm to the cause of Christ and cripples the church’s witness.

It is about doing God’s will, about praying with Jesus: Thy will be done. It is about discerning God’s will — together. Sometimes, it will take time and patience and generosity and selflessness and lots of humility to reach a place of agreement — or better, a place of discernment — where we do know together what it is God is calling us to do.

But in the meanwhile, there is much that God does will that is abundantly clear!

  • God calls us to love the Lord our God above everything else, everything else. It is hard to imagine that we could turn our backs on each other if we would genuinely join hearts and voices in professing our love to God.
  • God calls us to love each other. Not to judge each other — that job God guards jealously — but to love each other.
  • And God calls us to be one. We know that! We take our motto from Jesus’ prayer: That they may all be one. Do we mean it? Can we show the world what Jesus wanted us to show the world, a people united, not by ideology or politics or race or even religious agenda, but by love alone, a love for God and a love for each other that never gives up?
a moral imperative for victims?

a moral imperative for victims?

When hateful people produce lasting hatred in us … hate wins. When violent people make us violent … violence wins. When cruel people leave us with nothing but a burning desire for revenge in our minds and hearts … cruelty wins. When evil done to us gives birth to evil done by us … evil wins.

As I drove to work this morning, I listened to reports on NPR of the Israeli pullout from the Gaza strip. I heard interviews with militant Palestinians who credited the pullout to the armed resistance alone, giving no credit to the political process, showing no support for the diplomatic efforts of their own leadership, calling only for more violence to oust Israel from the West Bank as well. It was most disheartening.

It was disheartening to see once more that steps toward peace — baby steps though they may be — do so little (do nothing!) to soften the hardened and entrenched hatred of one people for another, do so little (do nothing?) to change the tide of history and move people toward rapprochement.

Is there a moral imperative for victims? Or does their victimization “excuse” whatever choices they may make? Can we expect the victim of oppression to show grace and mercy and restraint and maybe even love to the oppressor? Or is that a preposterous expectation?

There can be no shalom until victimizer and victim alike are set free from the cycle of oppression. There can be no shalom until the oppressors humble themselves before God and until the oppressed humble themselves before God. There can be no shalom until God does it … and until we are ready to let God do it!