22 September, 2010

The Firefight for Life

Every year wild fires tear through neighborhoods and mountain parks. Most of these are started by the forces of nature: lightening striking water starved underbrush and trees and fueled by the winds which are created by the heat of the fires. All too often they are started by a human who has either been careless or who has a need to create a stir for their own needs for power. Both of these fire-starters would love to remain anonymous -- the former out of embarrassment or ignorance of their part in the problem, the latter so they can maintain control over their source of joy.

The fire in Utah this week is a striking example of what I call "consequential ignorance." The commander of the National Guard did not think about the consequences of firing live ammunition into a parched tinderbox of a training ground. There had been posted warnings about extremely high fire risk in that region. But the commander didn't apply it to himself or his troops. He had only in mind that the Guard had to complete the annual renewal of their skills. He only did what he's always done and what he felt was best for his people.

The consequences are enormous. Hundreds of people have been uprooted for their own safety. Homes have burned to the ground. The lives of a whole community have been injured, changed, pained. Firefighters are out there risking their lives to protect and save what they can of their neighbors' -- and their own -- homes. The very National Guard Troops whose leader brought on this disaster are the ones who have to put out the fires, clean up the mess, and bring aid to those whose houses and homes are at risk.

How similar are our struggling faith communities! They are a tinder box of raw sores waiting for relief and renewal. They are struggling for their very survival. The leaders of these communities are trusted with the daunting task of empowering, enabling, and encouraging the community members to be faithful to the mission of Christ. And along comes one who is either not paying attention to the weather conditions or is in need of a control fix. The spark ignites, and the community is aflame in a hurtful and destructive way.

In the midst of the drought of faith-life, our faith communities are at high risk of wild fire. Alarms and the warnings are ignored -- or denied-- by leaders and members alike, and too often work only to draw the attention of those who need control. Otherwise petty and routine issues cause explosive results that rage out of control. They are fueled by the winds of change and panic. They are fed by the drought of trust.

Here am I, a firefighter in the midst of a wildfire. I am hot, exhausted, and in need of a break in the weather. But the sparks are flying into new quadrants while the first fire is barely contained.

Most days I work despite the exhaustion and the seemingly impossible task of a healthy community. These days I am fueled by the hope and promise upon which my faith is built. I am fed by the cool water of visible grace and comforted by the encouraging hand of the Spirit.

But some days I just wish God grant this Body a quick and peaceful death so that I can move on to greener pastures where the risk of wildfire is very low. Some days the sparks are multiplying too quickly for any firefighter to extinguish. Some days the energy of the Spirit is snuffed out by the attitudes or carelessness of communities members.

Today is one of those days. In such times as this, all I can offer is a prayer as I turn everything over to the One who soothes, heals, energizes, enables, and empowers.

God, grant me the...
Serenity to accept things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that I have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of my past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for me and my love for others and the
Strength to get up and try again even when I feel it is hopeless.

May it be so.

21 September, 2010

Reclaiming Real Life.

I'm deactiviating my Twitter Account. And my Bebo account. And possibly my LinkedIn account. I might even put Facebook on hold for a week or so. Just to see what difference it makes.

I'm anything but Anti-Social-Networking. I love being able to pull up a screen and see what all my long time friends and acquaintances -- and my more than 70 neices, nephews, cousins, in-laws, and siblings are doing. But I'm wondering if this is a healthy connection. I'm wondering if it isn't superficial, pretentious, or a cheap fix. I'm wondering if I'm missing out on the deeper connections, the deeper listening, the deeper knowing. I wonder if I am really connecting with people or just brushing their sleeve as I pass them amidst a busy and distracted journey.

Don't misunderstand me -- Social Media is a wonderful place for me to put my 250 character thoughts as a witness to my moment on the journey called life. I certainly enjoy the quips and slices of life my connections share out here on the cloud. But these feel skin deep. I am missing the deep soaking rains of face time, the long cups of tea, and leisurely walks where the sinew and bone of life are exposed and examined; where tight and sore muscles in relationships are massaged; and where wounds are cleansed and dressed with gentle care. A computer screen cannot wrap its arms around you with joy, sigh deep sighs, or cry on your shoulder.

Maybe it's the resurgence of hot weather on this September day, or perhaps the distance between my work and home. It could even be that the sentimentality of Fall. What ever the source of the affect, I'm cutting the wires and renewing my claim on face time, on hot cups of tea, on long walks, and real life.