Come hungry. Really? It seems everyone is stuffed to the gills these days. Whoever would want a Thanksgiving turkey?
I had a delicious and delightful lunch with old high school friends this week. It was coordinated by a friend who is a Muslim, whose family emigrated here from Pakistan in 1958. (I didn’t know this about her when we were in high school, but now I do.) I had contacted her about “things Muslim” in my sports writing about Ramadan and the World Cup athletes and more recently about quotes I heard bandied about in anti-Muslim rhetoric. What I have learned about me is, I do better when I “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”
This was alive and well among these friends, nerds all, of a sort: male and female, married and not, widowed and not, children and none. Employed, retired, stay at home, volunteer. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, agnostic … quite diverse, except for our ages. We were once classmates and, now take an interest in what was important and meaningful to the other. Conversation is lively and relationship comes alive. Current events are front and center, honesty and forthrightness abounding. I just love these people. I was hungry for their company.
Afterward, I joined my Muslim friend at a gathering of community leaders, religious leaders and citizens in Montgomery County where I felt more companionship than I sometimes feel among “my own kind” these days. As some leading Christians claim that God put Donald Trump in office, the dissension in our own ranks is palpable. I keep asking, how could people following the same Lord be headed in such different directions?
Then I see this Amazon commercial and think, that is simply genius. How can anyone disagree with that? Yet, one commenter did, saying, “Supporting magical thinking, regardless of what you call your imaginary friend, is still harmful to humanity and the planet at large. Theism is a form of mental illness that needs treatment … cult… addict … delusion,” Seventy people gave her the thumbs up. The originator of the post replied frankly but politely and got many more thumbs ups. Still, I am shocked at this viewpoint I did not know even existed, let alone had a healthy following. Where did this distrust and hatred of God come from?
These times have been allowed by God (if we believe in a sovereign God). I don’t think He wanted this for us, but this is what we have chosen for ourselves. As Dusty Baker, manager of the Washington Nationals baseball team, said (and I heard prophetically) about removing his starting pitcher from a game, “I didn’t take him out. He took himself out.”
We are a people who hunger and thirst for God, yet we come to the table so full we don’t want Thanksgiving. God will not force feed us, and He would have every right to excuse us. But, in His great mercy, He invites us to sit and eat among those who disagree and with those who are disagreeable to teach us how to pitch in such a way that we can go the whole 9 innings, and one day pitch the perfect game that He catches.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Wendy, the Kinesthetic Christian
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
We live in a world where new and improved is always better than old and decrepit. Of course. New has the benefit of advanced methods, complete research, and dedicated study applied liberally over all that has come before it. Old, well that was just a starting point. Those were the blocks we stood in to give us leverage when the race began.
One of the things that new has ushered in is statistical…accuracy. We can fact check, provide proof, cite our sources, justify our positions. We can qualify, and oh boy, can we quantify! We know exactly how many people would vote thus and so, believe this and that, trust him or her. We know. We are new and improved people. We are reasonable.
So, it’s a bit alarming to read in the morning paper that “Recent polls show that 29 percent of Americans and nearly 45 percent of Republicans say he (President Obama) is a Muslim.”
How do we say this? We tell a pollster who reports it, I guess. Do we know this when we say it? Have we asked Mr. Obama about his faith? Have we read deeply concerning his opinions, positions, actions and responses? This would seem reasonable before we say anything.
What we report in the media is, perhaps, what we believe to be true. Given what we think we know, this is what we conclude. Perhaps those numbers reflect what people believe about President Obama, but that doesn’t make it so. (The article actually goes on to debunk this belief.) Just because we think it, doesn’t make it so. Any more than thinking I am President makes that so.
If we think we can do make something true, right, happen, reasonable, or real, just because we think it, we are mistaken. That isn’t ours; that’s God’s. God thinking something actually does make it so. When we think something, we move in its direction, but we’d do well not to presume that our thinking it actuates it. That would presume we are God, which has very grave consequences, indeed.
Fleming Rutledge, an Episcopal preacher that a friend has me reading, writes concerning what she calls the battle of the billboards. “Upon entering the Lincoln Tunnel you stare at a billboard showing a Nativity scene and the words ‘You know it’s a myth.’ When you come out of the tunnel you see a billboard with a Nativity scene and the words ‘You know it’s real.'”
She goes on, “The atheist billboard says, “This season, celebrate reason.” I revere reason as much as the atheists do—up to a point. But what faith knows is that although reason is a gift, it is not a god. Reason cannot explain everything. Certainly it cannot explain the purposes and promises of God.”
Our believing, remembering, repeating or tallying does not make something so. But setting our minds on the things of God may bring them nearer.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
When God remembers His mercy, He is not calling it again to mind. He is taking action on our behalf. As Rutledge puts it, “God’s mercy is not static. It goes forth from God as a promise already becoming a reality.”
We can pray to be like-minded. That’s as old and original as it gets.
I am mailing a package at the Exxon station down the road, (Yes, they are the only place without a line at the first of the year.) and the owner comes to weigh and post my parcel. I don’t know him well, but he is a kind and gracious man. We have never had a “faith” conversation, but the books and tracts on the waiting area table tell me he is a devout Muslim. He is dressed immaculately in a starched white shirt and shimmering magenta tie.
“Did you have a big job interview?” I ask him. This is, after all, a service station. I am standing among racks of processed package foods, while customers enter and exit paying for their gas, cigarettes and sundries. Behind the counter are two doors leading to the service bays where men with greased hands regularly pop in and out to ask about this transmission or that oil change.
He smiles at me, shakes his head, then looks and points upward. “With the Creator.”
“Ah, well, that’s every day,” I respond, rather lamely.
But after I paid, collected my receipt and stepped outside to make my way into my day I wonder, what would I wear to a job interview with my creator?
I mean, do you dress to impress? Put on your Sunday best? Shine your shoes? Make sure you’re matching, nothing clashes? Try to stand out in the crowd? To get His attention? They are all kind of laughable thoughts. I mean, who are we kidding here?
Yet, this Muslim man got me thinking. If each day as I went to work (or play or school or family) I dressed as if I were coming before my Lord to perform the day’s task in a way that was so pleasing to Him He would hire me, how would I dress?
We Christians tend toward the casual Friday, I think. “Oh, God accepts me any old way so why try so hard?”
Well, by His grace He does invite me for the job interview, and I know I don’t have to wear something that will make a good impression – because He won’t be fooled by what I wear. But what an opportunity – to dress up for God. To show up in a way that honors Him and His intention for me.
And then, what will I be wearing when I leave that moment? Will people ask me if I had a big job interview this morning? And if they did, would they be surprised to hear “it was with the Creator?” Or would they smile and nod as I did toward my Muslim friend. And wonder…
What would I wear for a job interview with my Creator today?