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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Toughest Choice in the World

The easiest decision to make is the one between good and evil. No one comes to Sunday Mass thinking, "Should I take $10 out of the basket or put $10 in?" It's pretty clear one thing is evil and the other is good. The evil choice is hairy, hunchbacked, and full of carbuncles. Good choices are clean shaven and guiltless. So when you want to become a monster you take one path and when you want to become a gentleman you take another. Confusion is minimal. To make it easier, evil choices always come with unwanted consequences and so sometimes we'll avoid them simply for that if for nothing else. Spending a summer in rehab isn't fun, nor is scheduling in an HIV blood test - even if its free. Not to mention that what happened to Dorian Gray could happen to you. Nobody sane wants that to happen.

The toughest decision to make is the one between good and better. You will deliberate on that one, if not for days, at least long enough to leave the usher wondering if you're going to leave Benjamin in the basket or take out a twenty for change, as well. Giving a little more is hard because there aren't any bad consequences to scare us into doing it. You can choose either "some" or "more" and still live without regrets. So why choose more? That's a tough question to answer; maybe because it's also a tough decision to make.

Take for instance a young man who gives of himself completely to care for sick people for, let's say, 14 years. 14 years is a good fairy tale number. Then, one day he himself gets sick. He can easily say to himself, "I'm going to stop this work, make some money, and just look after myself." He would be completely justified in doing so. After all, he's already put in 14 years when much of the world would probably get tired of it after 14 days. He's given not just some, but a lot. It would seem that giving doesn't get easier but only tougher and each time we'll want to give more we'll need a better reason to. 

Maybe one day the decision between good and better, some and more, will come my way; and then I'll probably wish that it were as clear as right and wrong.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Right Place

"Would you like peanuts, biscotti, or trail mix?" she asks.


The gentleman next to me responds, "I want peanuts and then some M&M's, as well,...peanut M&M's that is."


"I'm sorry we don't have peanut M&M's."


"Then I don't want the M&M's, just the complimentary peanuts."


I like to help people enjoy their flight, so I contributed, "You know, you could just eat your peanuts and your M&M's at the same time and it would be like peanut M&M's."


"No, no." Without-a-doubt tone. "It's not the same, the peanuts need to be INSIDE the M&M's."


"I un-der-stand," I said sympathetically. If you can't be helpful at least be sympathetic.


Why is it better to worship in a Church rather than outside on the back lawn? Certainly not because peanuts are better inside M&M's. But if I'm going to be particular about having my M&M's pregnant with peanuts or bunching my empty hangers on the left side of the closet, I should probably give God a chance, as well, to have a few favorite places for favorite things. Christ chose to have the Last Supper in an upper room rather than picnic style. He took the trouble to lose his temper and whip the temple into a "house of prayer". Toss out the sacred structures and special places for prayer and half the Bible doesn't make sense. It's good to praise God everywhere but it's very good to worship in a sacred place; in God's opinion at least. Pray in church when you can.
  
So when someone asks me why I don't squat on a mountain on Sunday rather than kneel in a church, my answer is, "Don't ask me, ask Christ." It was his idea. If that's the way he likes his M&M's, I don't always ask why. I just look at my own particularities with places and try to say, "I understand."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What makes us strong

Last week I was selling hats. I don’t sell hats for a living. If I did they would have shut off my utilities a long time ago. I design them when I’m when I'm bored and then sell them to make people happy cover my designing expenses. The hat had only one word on it. 

One lady told me, “You’re an excellent designer. I want you to design apparel for my youth group.” That was nice of her to say. With her patronage I may get my water back.
So the word on the hat was "Strength". Strength Wear. Wear Strength. The point is you don’t need a lot of words to inspire.  You just need one word that means a lot to you. Just as you don't need a lot of people to inspire you either. Sometimes just one good person will do.  
"Strength" is important to me, almost romantically important, because like the pearl from the oyster it comes from only one place. Strength comes from weakness. No one is born strong. You're born 7 lbs 8 oz, maybe 10 lbs if both your parents were linebackers. The rest of life is a journey to become strong. Weakness begins, strength follows.

Now there was one man who actually learned to become both strong and weak simultaneously. "When I am weak then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10)." His name was Paul. Not my brother Paul; I would never quote someone from my own family to support my arguments. This Paul was still just a man, but not a man alone. No human power could be weak and strong at the same moment. Even Superman had his kryptonite moments and his "on top of the world" - literally - moments. Paul was something more than Superman. He was supernatural. He was a Christian. Christ's grace made him strong in the midst of his human tiredness and temptation.

Grace doesn't always heal human weakness but it can help you to get beyond it. Then you'll be both weak and strong in the same moment. Paul didn't need a hat to remind him of that; but like the hat he had one word that inspired him - Christ. Take the hat or Christ, or both. Just be strong.