Today is Independence Day, marking the anniversary of the the colonies’ independence from Great Britain. The intent and terms of this independence are housed in the Declaration Of Independence, that was adopted on… you guessed it… July 4, 1776. 

This was a challenging time for our nation. It was unable to worship to freely, trade freely, or to command its own militia. The colonies had come to a conclusion. They wanted to be free, a self governed  people.

Today, 238 years later, we share a close national friendship with our former oppressors. In fact, we’ve shared a friendship for very long time. It’s hard to believe that a nation we now count as an ally could ever have been deemed our oppressor, and yet there was time in our past where our two nations were enemies, at war, hostile, and divided.

The mysterious hands of time, negotiation, debate, and dialogue work wonders. These shaping forces have, over time, molded a friendship- a partnership- a shared view of the world between our two countries.


 

What can we learn from this as individuals in our relationships and in our beliefs?

IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Who do we have a history of division and conflict with? A relative? A co-worker? An old friend?
Is there room for dialogue? If so, are we open to reaching out and beginning some renewed dialogue? 
If not, are we able to make a shift in our own heart that from this moment forward, the past is the past- and we move on to truly living in the present?

 

IN OUR BELIEFS
What about our beliefs? Is there room for dialogue there? Are we open and willing to seeing God in ways that we may never have before? Are we willing to be challenged? Unconvinced? Renewed? Solidified?

Are we all willing to be shaped by the hand of God as we engage in dialogue with other God-followers?


Independence Day reminds us that atmosphere’s of conflict can, over time become something we call, “good” if we are willing to work toward that end. 

May we look at all of life through that lens, this Independence Day.



"All things are permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial."

(1 Corinthians 10:23)

Every Friday morning, I go into work a little later and I walk my daughter to daycare. We stop at the same coffee shop every week. She gets a three dollar banana, I get a triple espresso, and we take our time carving our way through the midtown-commuter-hive to her daycare.

Midtown Manhattan is crazy during business hours. It’s crowded. It’s loud. It’s hot. It’s chaotic. Everyone’s in a hurry trying to get to where they need to be as quickly as possible. This is good because it keeps everything moving, but then there are times where something goes wrong and the rhythm is disrupted by a police car, an ambulance, or a fire truck. 

Everyone obliges and gets out of the way… once they notice the emergency vehicle needing to get through the traffic. The downside is that the sirens on the emergency vehicles have to be even louder than the noise of the city in order to be heard.

This morning, as my daughter and I were walking out of the coffee shop onto Madison Avenue, a fire truck barreled around the corner and turned on its siren. Elise screamed, dropped her three dollar banana, covered her ears, and started writhing in pain.  The siren was so loud that even my own adult-ears felt the sting. It was like knives were being shoved into my skull on either side! I dropped my espresso and put my hands over my daughter’s ears until the fire truck passed.

I’ll be honest. I was very angry. I considered tweeting at the mayor about the disregard of the fire department for the city’s taxpayers, putting my child’s wellbeing at risk. I thought about finding the firehouse where the truck was housed and telling the chief just exactly what I thought of his team and their disdain for my daughter’s health and future.

The siren was so loud! Inappropriately loud!

It didn’t need to be that loud… at least not for me.

Here’s the thing. Fire trucks flip on their sirens for a very serious reason. Someone, somewhere else in midtown was in a crisis- likely even in mortal danger. 

On the other hand, my daughter was standing on the street screaming in pain from the volume of the siren. 


QUESTION

Q: Is it true that the siren was harmful to my daughter? 

A: Yes.


QUESTION

Q: Is it true  that the siren had to be as loud as it was so that people inside of their cars could hear it in order to get out of the way so the fire truck could reach its destination and save lives?

A: Yes.



QUESTION

Q: If my toddler’s hearing is permanently damaged from the siren (and the many others that she witnesses in midtown on a weekly basis) is the volume justifiable because it resulted in the saving of another life?

A1 : For me, no. Of course not! It’s my kid! My kid comes first. 

A2: For the person that the fire truck saved? Yes, of course. They are someone else’s kid or loved one. Their loved one comes first.


Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Is truth relative?

Context, friends is everything. 

We don’t like to talk about context because it forces us to have to deal with the glaring reality that we can’t evaluate, judge, or classify people in herds as easily as we think we can.

Why? Because people are individuals.

It’s entirely possible that what is right for one is wrong for another depending on their context.

Does that make truth relative?

No. It makes it something “other.”  It makes it less rigid. It makes it more like a living thing- something organic- something courageously adaptable- and less like a list chiseled into stone that’s never open for discussion, debate, or questions.

Truth is alive. God is alive. The word of God is alive.

It is not absolute.

It’s not relative either.

It’s something far above and beyond that kind of logic. It is a living truth that meets us right where we are. It challenges each of us, in our own life context, to get busy working on ourselves and to allow others that same process-oriented-grace to develop and grow in their own walk with God.

Does that terrify you? 

It should.

Does that bring you comfort?

It should also do that.



"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) 



This past week, I was waiting to catch a flight to San Francisco at JFK airport and I noticed a bottleneck of sorts at the gate next to mine. Everyone was standing and staring at the screen or hovering around the customer service desk. You could sense the tension in the room. Apparently the earlier flight was cancelled due to an “electronic malfunction” and people were hurriedly trying to fill up the remaining seats on a (slightly) later flight.

I overheard the grumblings from some of the passengers standing near me.

Passenger X: “Electronic malfunction?! What the @#$*% does that mean? The airine probably just wants to save money so they cancelled the other flight!”

Passenger Y: “This happens to me every time I fly! I should just drive myself! I’d get there in the same amount of time! Probably sooner! They cancel these flights for the stupidest reasons!!!

(side note: Is “stupidest” even a word?)

Needless to say, tempers were high.

What’s always interesting to me in these situations (and I’ve been in many of them myself) is how we passengers tend to make comments as if we know better than the mechanic, the pilot, or the airline does.

Would it ever… in any instance… be profitable for them to take a risk with people’s safety?

Of course not. Take out ethics and morality for a second. From a purely-business standpoint, not even a full plane flying the longest journey would ever make up for the loss of life that would occur if the airline knowingly overlooked a malfunction.

From a human standpoint, would we really want to place ourselves in the care of airline that was willing to overlook a malfunction (no matter how small) just to save a few hours? No way.

But when these things happen we often get very frustrated, disappointed, even angry because we think we (the traveller) know better than the experts who only have our good in mind.

I think we’re like this with God when he delays our plans. We may have been making plans to “go” somewhere for a very long time, and yet God is the expert. He sees the whole trip, not just the timing it takes to get started. He isn’t willing to gamble with our destination just so we can get started right now.

God wants our longterm good to be the destination, and when he makes us wait he is often saving us from our own impatience that leads to destruction.

Delays in our life plans can be good. The key is to stop and ask God what he’s doing in the delay. Maybe he’s saving you from something terrible? You may find out what it is one day. Maybe you never will. But he only has your good in mind, even though it’s incredibly frustrating to wait at the gate right now.

Selah, traveller.

A mind too active is no mind at all;
The deep eye sees the shimmer on the stone; 
The eternal seeks, and finds, the temporal, 
The change from dark to light of the slow moon, 
Dead to myself, and all I hold most dear, 
I move beyond the reach of wind and fire. 


Deep in the greens of summer sing the lives 
I’ve come to love. A vireo whets its bill. 
The great day balances upon the leaves; 
My ears still hear the bird when all is still; 
My soul is still my soul, and still the Son,
And knowing this, I am not yet undone. 


Things without hands take hands: there is no choice,
Eternity’s not easily come by. 
When opposites come suddenly in place, 
I teach my eyes to hear, my ears to see 
How body from spirit slowly does unwind 
Until we are pure spirit at the end.

" What makes me, ‘me’ is my ability to grow through my experiences- so basically I’m always evolving. "
by Samantha the Computer
" Who has not found the heaven below will fail of it above. God’s residence is next to mine. His furniture is love. "
by Emily Dickinson
" Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints:
where sorrow and pain are no more;
neither sighing but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of man:
and we are mortal formed from the dust of the earth,
and unto earth shall we return:
for so thou didst ordain,
when thou created me saying:
“Dust thou art und unto dust shalt thou return.”
All we go down to the dust;
and weeping o’er the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
"
by Eastern Orthodox Memorial Service
"

I stood in this sunsheltered place until I could see the face behind the face. All that had gone before had left no trace.

Down by the railway siding In our secret world- we were colliding. All the places we were hiding love- what was it we were thinking of?

So I watch you wash your hair underwater, unaware. And the plane flies through the air. Did you think you didn’t have to choose it? That I alone could win or lose it? In all the places we were hiding love- what was it we were thinking of?

In this house of make believe- divided in two, like Adam and Eve. You put out and I receive.

Down by the railway siding in our secret world we were colliding. In all the places we were hiding love- what was it we were thinking of?

The wheel is turning spinning round and round and the house is crumbling but the stairways stand. With no guilt and no shame, no sorrow or blame- whatever it is, we are all the same.

Making it up in our secret world. Shaking it up. Breaking it up. Making it up in our secret world.

Seeing things that were not there- on a wing on a prayer- in this state of disrepair.

"
by Peter Gabriel’s, “Secret World”
" Harriet Beecher Stowe once said “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” "
by Jason Gideon, Criminal Minds (via peppermintygh)
" Adapt, react, readapt, act. "
by Michael Scott
" The Master… creates confusion in those who think that they know. "
by Lao Tzu
" I came to this world with nothing and I’ll leave with nothing but love. Everything else is just borrowed. "
by Mike Skinner
" If I could open my arms
And span the length of the isle of Manhattan,
I’d bring it to where you are
Making a lake of the East River and Hudson
"
by Ben Gibbard
"

What is ‘real?’

How do you define ‘real?’

If you’re talking about what you can feel- what you can smell- what you can taste and see- then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

"
by Morpheus
" I was held back by mere trifles, the most paltry inanities, all my old attachments. "
by Saint Augustine