Thursday, November 13, 2008

Something to think about

The most boring or boorish person you know has a story that will bring you more tears and joy than the finest Shakespearean play.

The most rude and difficult person you know has a struggle and pain that you wouldn't want to carry around.

Just something to think about.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why am I not praying constantly?

Pray constantly.

I am often praying for situations and people, sometimes at dedicated times, other times impromptu based on what is going on around me.

But last night, as I was sitting in on a women's prayer group that is starting up at our church (pastors often get to sit in on stuff where the categories of qualification are suspended), and they were talking about each woman praying for herself, that they might be transformed and help transform others, several thoughts occurred to me.

First, I have heard many women speak of the difficulty of doing for themselves what they would do without reservation for someone in their circle of care. I recognize this in other men and myself as well, but women are far more likely to articulate it, in my experience.

Second, praying for myself can feel selfish (to me, your mileage may vary) even when I do so out of fear, pain, exhaustion, worry, illness or any other condition where I would pray for someone else in that same condition without reservation.

Third, praying for oneself is not selfish unless it is done for selfish reasons. To use an example that grossly exaggerates the point: If I pray to win the lottery so I can always be comfortable, that is a more selfish prayer; If I pray to let God help me steward my resources for the betterment of those around me, that seems a much less selfish prayer. And yes, how I pray even that prayer may also reveal my motives as well.

Fourth, every Sunday as I get robed to lead worship, I pray "Lord, help me be the best minister I can be," as I put on my stole, the symbol of the office of minister in our denomination. In my brief time with these praying women, I was convicted with the realization that I should spend more time praying this prayer each day, not just right before show time.

Lord, help me be the best minister I can be.

And as I am praying that, I need to use other words in there, too. Help me be the best husband...friend...son...prayer partner...colleague...manager...chaplain...person...I can be. The list is as long as roles that I have in my relationships with others.

But for today, as I type from the office of the church, I am going to start where I am.

Lord, help me be the best minister I can be.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Moment in History, pt 2.

An African-American woman, during some of the post-election coverage on television, said that her children will never know a world in which someone who looks like them could not be president.

It is hard for me, as a guy who has so little pigment in his skin as to be close to clear, shy my freckles, to understand how much this means to people of color. And yet, I feel it, too.

Part of what is going on is the end of an election cycle, when the country held its breath until the results come in.

Part of it is the end of a time in history when many in our country held their breath wondering if there would ever be more than historical changes and small, incremental changes in what is possible for people of color, and with that, all people, in our own lifetimes.

The pundits on both sides have already started spinning and twisting. But in this moment, the nation took a breath, stepped into a future that many saw impossible just a short time ago, and we are still breathing.

A Moment in History

There have been several moments in my lifetime which I pray will be in my great-great-grandchildren's history books.

The Vietnam War will be there (I add this, even though I wasn't alive for all of it).

Perhaps the twin space shuttle disasters of 1986 and 2003 will be included, but probably not by the time several generations have passed. Such things, traumatic and overwhelming at the time, seem to be overshadowed by other events a century later.

The tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1986 ought to make it. I also hope the image of the single man facing down a column of tanks in the Tienanmen Square demonstrations and protests of 1989 makes it in.

Certainly September 11, 2001 will be there.

With it, the twin Gulf Wars of 1991 and today will be mentioned.

The recent crash of investment giants might make it in, depending on how far-reaching their effects wind up being. This would be the problem of predicting the future view of history.

But today, I am writing about something that will be included beyond any doubt. The election of Barack Obama to be the 44th president of the United States is going to be in the history books as long as we have history books.

January 1, 1863, Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in Confederate states.

December 6, 1865, the practice of slavery is abolished by constitutional amendment (#13).

February 1870, restrictions on the right to vote according to race is abolished by constitutional amendment (#15).

January 23, 1964, poll taxes, often used to intimidate African-American voters and unfairly bias elections, are abolished by constitutional amendment (#24).

In 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously rules that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. These were the laws in various states prohibiting mixed-race marriages, such as that of Barack Obama's parents.

November 4, 2008, by both popular and electoral vote in a record turnout year, Barack Obama becomes the president-elect of the United States of America.

This moment will be in my great-great-grandchildren's history books. For good reason.