Observation #1 (On Suicide)

When a man commits suicide--a known man to be specific--other men will use his death to make some sort of point. You don't have to suffer alone or Know that you're seen or It's never to late to call this particular hotline or reach out to that particular therapist. These sorts of sentiments (normally written in 280 characters or less) are meant to be compassionate, but beneath those words, isn't there a tarry layer of judgment? What are they but sticky ways of saying He chose to suffer alone or He chose not to be seen or He didn't do the hard work of calling the hotline or reaching out to that particular therapist.  There are hundreds of ways to condemn a man. Some sneakier than others.

 

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The Truth About Failure

We live in an era of bite-sized wisdom, of perpetual self-help, of too many mini-gurus. Yesterday, I cruised Twitter for less than thirty seconds, and in that thirty seconds, I found all the answers to life's pressing problems. Allow me to recap. Mini-Guru No. 1 shared how I might maximize my profit by working less and living more.

Mini-Guru No. 2 offered a pinnable platitude (a cliche, really) about who-knows-what-? by stringing together an embarrassing number of pseudo-Christian words that were meant to inspire my faith.

Mini-Guru No. 3 instructed me on the "6 Ways to Avoid Delayed Adulthood," an article that was strong on motivation and short on substance.

[tweetherder]This is the way of so much of our media these days--strong on motivation and short on substance.[/tweetherder]

(Let's drop the pretense. I'm just calling it like I see it. Straight, no chaser.)

It's a motivator's market these days, and the market is always open. People have questions. These gurus have answers (or so they claim). Answers are marketable things.  But is it really as simple as the internet motivators say? Can I maximize profit without work? Can faith be inspired without substance? And how can any ill be cured in Six Simple Steps (Patent Pending)? The question governing all of these questions was asked by my internet acquaintance Myles Werntz:

This brings me to the problem, a problem I'll unpack a little more this week.

THE PROBLEM Modern self-helpism is built upon this little self-aggrandizing untruth: Failure can be avoided if you apply the right formula, my formula.

Hope as you might, following cliche after cliche will not help you avoid the pain of failure. Personal. Professional. Moral. Spiritual. Failure will happen. This isn't a truth that sells well in the market, but that doesn't make it less true. So, this week I hope to convince you to bypass so much of the guru-spun motivational gobbledygook of the day and to take an honest inventory of your failures.  I hope to convince you that this inventory of failures is where true growth starts. Personal. Professional. Moral. Spiritual.

Where should we start, though? How about here: today, scroll through Twitter, Facebook, your favorite lifestyle magazine, and identify the mini-gurus, the people who'd give you easy answers to very complicated issues. What substance are they offering? Any?

 

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June 14: The Day the Politicians Were Shot

The alt-right or vitriolic left.The anger filling the spaces between. "I'd like to punch him in the face," might be the most extreme iteration. "You should be ashamed," might be the most docile. Every thread of outrage pulled with itching fingers leaves us naked as cavemen and just as refined. Look around. Is anything any wonder?

"Once you see [anger and contempt] for what they are, the constant stream of human disasters that history and life bring before us can also be seen for what they are: the natural outcome of human choice, of people choosing to be angry and contemptuous. … We have to remember this when we read what Jesus and other biblical writers say about anger. To cut the root of anger is to wither the tree of human evil.” ~Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our  Hidden Life in God

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Sacraments Within Sacraments Within Sacraments

On occasion, the boys and I head out into God's first sacrament, the place he first made his grace known to men and women--nature. Our favorite among The First Sacramental places is Steel Creek, a short stretch of the Buffalo River with the best little swimming hole in all of America. (This is not hyperbolic.) After a day in the water, we walked upstream and were treated to witness a sacrament within The First Sacrament. We happened upon them just as the preacher invoked the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just as he named them husband and wife under the banner of the Trinity. And if this sacrament within The First Sacrament were not enough, after the first kiss, the bride and groom made their way into the river. No, it wasn't a formal baptism, but it turned into a baptism nonetheless.

 

The world is a sacramental place, a place where God's grace is made known to us through the elements, through vows, through the things that otherwise seem ordinary. Sacraments unfold within sacraments within sacraments, and in that unfolding, somehow, the world is preserved.

Thanks be to God.

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A Non-Anxious Presence

Here is the thought I can't seem to shake: we are a people aflutter, flitting from hate to hate, from conflagration to conflagration, from anxiety to anxiety. We are a people on fire--skin, heart, solar plexus, brain, everything. Is it any wonder? The world is on fire, and we take that fire by contact. Twitter, Facebook, the local coffee shop, every small group at church, the conversation on aisle 6 at Kroger--everywhere I go, the people carry political anxiety. Russia, Paris, North Korea, North Carolina, Covfefe (huh?). In the news, another black man's house is defaced because he was a black man with an extravagant house (aren't the small-minded prone to burn down every holy place?). Before I can process the politics, the house burning, CNN streams images of people attacking people--men attacking women, race attacking race, straight attacking gay--and now my head whispers to my inner ear.

"Humans are intent on burning each other down."

...

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