Phases of Life

What are you looking forward to?

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself in a conversation with someone who has no idea of what I’m talking about. It’s all about context, you see. OK. Sometimes it’s about my inability to communicate clearly. But most of the time it’s about context. Our phases of life just don’t match up.

phases

It’s disheartening sometimes to mention a song, or a movie, or a book — or a President! — and have the other person look back at you with a puzzled expression. I sometimes inwardly groan as I anticipate how hard it will be to bring this person to my level of experience.

But then I think “I don’t have to.” Each of these good folks have their own phases of life to look forward to. Looking back at mine is not something they need to invest in. And, to a large extent, it’s really not something I need to invest in.

We all have a chance to live our phases. We can only imagine what those times will bring.

Socially Medium

I have to admit that there are times that I would like to close down my social media accounts. To bend a phrase of Winston Churchill, “Never was so much bad said about so few by so many.” It is the ease and spontaneity of social media that makes it so great and so damaging — all at once. In fact, observing the rancor and the vile ideas that are often promoted, I have found myself becoming socially medium.

Photo on 7-13-14 at 7.39 AM

 

“Socially medium” is the online equivalent of the passive bystander — quietly observing the mayhem of a moment and then slipping unnoticed into the crowd.

I wonder how many of us are out there being socially medium.

Don’t hear this as a call to join the boisterous inanity of those who attribute evil to practically everything. And, you know who you are. Perhaps we all should be thinking about who we are and what we stand for and make sure that we are, indeed, standing.

I know. Being socially medium keeps us out of the controversy and safe from the attacks of others. But being socially medium also allows us to simply not think and never do if we let it become our standard.

A step away from being socially medium takes us to a place where we think, where we explore new ideas and perspectives, and where we become curious. Dialog builds relationships. Relationships build communities. Communities, when bonded over care and concern for others, become the birthing place of all manner of goodness.

Care to join me as I think more, explore more, and feed my curiosity?

Life and Hope in the Face of Death

Have you ever wondered about how you will leave this earth? Illness? Accident? Simply a last, calm breath from a well-used and mortal body? Have you ever wondered what the face of Death will look like?

I have. Although many folks I know have had these same thoughts and ponderings as they face tumultuous  conditions, my moments of contemplation are from a perspective of relative ease in both my physical and mental being. And perhaps from the human tendency to try to find a dark lining to even the wispiest of clouds.

On this Easter Sunday, I join my Christian sisters and brothers around the world in celebrating the ultimate victory over death. I believe that a Galilean carpenter was the incarnate word. I believe that he walked this earth as a man. I believe that he brought a totally counter-cultural way of living to us all. I believe that he broadened the family of God by making it possible for all people to be accepted into the kingdom. All people. I believe that he brought grace to a planet consumed with a love of judgment. I believe that Jesus was sacrificed as an intimate showing by God that people who love should do things differently. I believe that my Savior, Jesus Christ, was raised from the grave on the third day. I believe that, as he promised, he has gone to prepare an eternal dwelling place for those who believe.

I believe he is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Yet, as I glance through the news stories that bombard us daily about massacres and atrocities against children, women, and men of all faith origins, I do wish that there was a judgment and an iron fist that would stop all of those things. And I wish that the absence of that violence would open the rest of us to a life of giving and helping.

Even though the ugly things of this world are frightening and sickening, I need to remember that my role in this is to release all things into the soft and tender hands of God. Through the sacrifice of Christ, he has shown us that great power comes from the death experiences. Indeed, life and hope are best understood in the dark shadow of the valley of death.

Through the gift of the Savior, I know that I can gaze steadily into the face of Death without fear. In fact, because of the life and the hope we are promised, I feel certain that Death will tremble in that moment.

13 Days and Counting – Credentials

When we start boarding the plane in just 13 days, airline personnel and government officials will be paying a lot of attention to our credentials. Boarding passes and passports will be the key items of the moment. And, even though a lost boarding pass or a defective passport has caused many a problem at the gate, those things aren’t nearly as terrifying as a lack of credentials in some other key areas.

Team4When Dr. Betty Gilmore selected her Africa team, she was looking for some specific characteristics. Fortunately, she had the advantage of having the SMU students in her classes. She had talked with each one, seen them interact with large groups, and read their assignments. Yet as well as she had come to know each and every one, there was something else she was hoping for — a dedication and commitment that’s a little hard to foresee.

An experienced hand at assembling student teams to travel to other countries, Betty knew, perhaps better than any of us, how much time and work would be required in preparing for this trip. Just as a passenger’s credentials are carefully scrutinized, Betty had to look carefully at each one of us.

Team3While the best case scenario would be a perfect fit, we all know it’s rare for that to happen when assembling a team. For a team to come together, it must experience struggle. People have to learn to deal with the blemishes. For in seeing the good and the bad in our mission partners, we begin to develop a real sense of the strength of the team. And, fittingly, we come to love and respect each other in a very special way.

In the day-to-day world, credentials are things that are earned. A degree, a license, an honor. We love people with credentials. And once credentialed, it does feel rather nice to have someone take notice.

On this trip, the hope of each and every one of us is that our special credentials are noticed by everyone we meet. Our special credentials will be well earned. We’ve worked hard. Yet, the magic ingredient is our willingness to stick together.

Team5When Betty, Robyn, Aaron, Malcolm, Allison, Dan, and I set foot in Africa, we want to be seen as a peace movement. Holding each other up, carrying each other’s burdens, looking out for one another, respecting each other. These are the credentials that will speak most loudly as we move together to train others and model peace.

 

15 Days and Counting – Mascot

All great teams have a mascot. A mascot inspires. A mascot invigorates. Occasionally, a mascot just kind of lies there.

Meet Mazzie Star, mascot of the SMU Rwanda Peace Mission 2014.

When we see photographs of glamorous celebrities, we often wonder what life in the spotlight is like. Well, you won’t learn much about that from Mazzie Star. Sure, she’s the glue of our team and some say that we owe what we are today to her. But Mazzie just moonlights as a mascot.

In real life, she has important duties. During the day, she covers not just one, but two windows in her best friend’s house. From those vantage points, she has a clear view of two streets and a working knowledge of every neighbor and every other dog living within a half mile. But just because she knows them, she doesn’t let them off with the silent treatment. Mazzie Star barks.

You see, that’s her main job — warning Robyn of anything moving outside the house. Or, when the team is there, anything moving inside the house. And nothing can be said or done to dissuade her from her sworn task. Nothing. Except maybe a snack. Or a belly rub. But sometimes not even then.

Mascots are believed to bring good luck. And certainly Mazzie Star outshines any rabbit’s foot or four leaf clover. But dear Mazzie captures an even deeper meaning for us.

Mazzie1Finding common ground is a unique experience in teams with deep ties. When tension is a little high, a little time with Mazzie brings a measure of calm. When she’s not barking, she is the epitome of the non-anxious presence.

As a team, our tasks aren’t much different from Mazzie Star’s. Be vigilant. Speak up. Reassure. And, if appropriate, eat snacks.

Mazzie won’t be making the trip. Yet she’ll be in our thoughts. As we travel, we will follow her lead. We will be vigilant for each other. We will speak up when a strong voice is needed. We will reassure and comfort.

Undoubtedly, we’ll eat snacks. And we’ll stand together.