Reflections On living In Response To The Creator of Our Garden Planet
The other day I ran into my scout merit badge sash and looked at the large swath of round emblems. It brought back memories of my early teen years and all the work that I did to acquire them, enough to reach the rank of Eagle Scout.
Some of these merit badges came easy, such as reading and cooking and government and orienteering. Anything that involved math, or science or using my hands, or bookwork of any kind, came pretty easily to me. On the other hand, there I saw the single most difficult and at the time seemingly impossible merit badge on that sash, life saving.
Unlike my wife, who swims several miles per week, I did not and do not find anything fun, relaxing or exhilarating about swiming any amount of distance, preferring to explore the water world from inside a boat, and better still, from the beach. Yes I did it, swimming the mile in the lake at camp 12 pines and doing the whole “reach throw row go” thing, and I hope that if I ever need to use those skills i can faithfully execute them, but no, I did not enjoy it. Well, I did enjoy finally accomplishing my goal, and yes I am grateful I did it.
If I were to pursue some merit badges at this point in my life, I think the first one I would acquire would be for napping. I have the 60 minute, Sunday after church nap down to a science, and a few times a week, I can sneak in a 30 minute (or longer !) nap in at lunch time. The napping merit badge is foundational to all other adult merit badges, such as washing dishes, doing laundry, pulling weeds, grocery shopping, checking email, holding an intelligent conversation past 9PM, focusing your attention on your spouse.
Yes, I think I should get a napping merit badge. It can be a lifesaver.
I became an architect, in part, because I thought that I could help to save the world. As I understood it as a young high school junior, an architect can design buildings and cities that help people to better live in the world, protecting the planet from harm while meeting human needs. And while subsequently I have learned that designers are often not listened to in the rush of business and politics, I still believe that architecture, in part, can help create a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable world.
One area of world-saving that I have been involved in has been the rescue of historic buildings from demolition, and the conversion into useful facilities. On several occasions I have had people come to me in the effort to save a building, and on some occasions move a building, so it can be re-purposed. What I have learned from these experiences is that while the world, and even highly paid professionals can see a building as a lost cause, someone with the time and energy to do a rehabilitation can transform a ramshackle shell into a glorious edifice that can inspire and facilitate many other things.
When a building is saved from demolition all of the energy that was used to create it is conserved. This embodied energy is many times the energy that is used to maintain it over time, and if the building is demolished, this energy is lost. While not all buildings can and should be saved, the amount of building stock in our country that is now abandoned is tragic. Many of these buildings are built much more substantially than contemporary construction.
The challenge we face of course is that most of the abandoned buildings are located in the same places where there are abandoned people. As cheap gas and wide roads have allowed the middle class and jobs to follow the upper class out of the city into the exurbs, left behind are large swaths of the unemployed.
Many people have been working on the challenge of the shrinking city, but it is not a problem of just planning or transportation or economics. It is a matter of the heart. Our landscape belies our spiritual condition, our preoccupation with what is best for us and our families, with the need to live in neighborhoods with people just like us. So while we know how to save buildings, ultimately what needs to be saved are people. Some need to be saved from a system that is stacked against them, and others need to be saved from a selfishness that has become embodied in the very landscape of the city.
The world is going to end.
We know this because the bible tells us it will.
While the date and the time are not known,
and indeed Jesus Christ is explicit in telling us we cannot know,
we know it will end.
The question is, what difference does it make?
For some, recent pronouncements by a southern pastor,
who named the date of the Eschaton,
only to see it come and go,
make Christians into nutjobs,
who want to burn Korans,
and want to draw attention to ourselves.
The World is going to end,
the only question is when,
but really the only question is when will it end for each of us.
While we all think we are the center of the world,
its end and ours probably won’t coincide.
But surely as there will be a tomorrow for most of us,
for many there will not.
So when a pastor picks a date that the world is going to end,
and those who believe him sell their possessions in order to buy billboards
that warn of the “day of the Lord”
We ought to at least remind those around us
that the world is going to end, for each of us,
as surely as we were born.
We have heard the name Armstrong in the news a lot lately.
First, we learned about the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, the man who coined the immortal words, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Then we heard that Lance Armstrong, one of the most storied athletes of our generation, winner of 7 Tour De France races, has lost his honors by being found guilty of using illegal chemical enhancements to improve his athletic performance.
The remembrances for Astronaut Armstrong have been powerful and moving, his dedication to the space program, his fearless flight of spacecraft, his willingness to risk his life in pursuit of exploration. He was able, with the backing of many millions of dollars and the ingenuity and hard work of thousands, to represent his nation and indeed the world, by visiting a place so far off it is hard to imagine, and in so doing, raised our level of imagination.
The reflections upon Lance Armstrong have been contradictory and confusing because on one hand he had almost single handedly raise the profile of a sport as well as the fight against cancer, yet on the other participated in what appears to be the widespread use of steroids to transform his already physically gifted body into a superhuman bicycle riding machine. He was able, with the backing of chemists, sponsors, his team of riders, supporters, physicians and fans to inspire the nation and indeed the world to “live strong” as he overcame cancer and the mountains of france.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of Neil Armstrong and deeply disappointed in the dethronement of Lance Armstrong.
In the contest, Armstrong versus Armstrong, we are reminded that while we think we need our heroes to inspire us, they are in many ways just like us. Human, gullible, weak, and in need of those around them to make them successful and to be humble in the face of failure.
There are so many voices
crying to be heard,
blogging late into the night
jogging the mind with memories.
There are so many voices,
with key pads in their pockets
locked in their bedrooms,
while on the street there are people,
who cannot read.
There are so many voices,
some shouting loudly,
broadcasting far and wide
others, mumbling to themselves,
as they labor in the hot sun.
endlessly seeking enough to eat.
There are so many voices,
that are never heard,
because they are tuned in to the voice they want to hear,
when we need to change the channel.
There are so many voices
each wanting to gain influence
to be heard,
even as the voice of God himself,
sits silently on a dusty bookshelf.
There are so many voices,
a babel of speakers,
We have heard a lot lately about our national debt, some of it bordering on hysterical. Being curious about all things political and the way issues are used as a wedge by the political parties I have done some looking into the different perspectives on debt, and of course looked into what our Lord and Savior had to say on the matter.
In simple terms, a debt is something you owe others. We often hear the term “debt of gratitude,” that we hold towards someone who has done something for us that we can never repay. Christians often say this about our Lord.
When it comes to finances, be they personal, corporate or governmental, debt is borrowed money, given by one to another with the promise of repayment over time, most often at a cost that we call interest. Such loans are most often collateralized by the very thing that is being purchased, such as a piece of land, a home, a vehicle, etc. The borrower gets to enjoy something now and is willing to pay extra, a little bit at a time, to the one who sees the loan as a good investment.
In national politics, Alexander Hamilton saw the public debt as generally a good thing, so long as the nation has the means to pay it off. Our debt allows the government to operate in much the same way that we run our households. Having a debt to pay means that we have good reason to get up in the morning and go to work, and as a nation it means that we have a common interest in making sure that we work together. Without the ability to borrow money from the Dutch and the French, our nation would not exist, and likewise, the north would not have likely won the Civil war.
On the other hand, debt can become costly, as the cost of money, what we call interest, can erode our ability to use the money we do have productively. Some believe so strongly that we should not have debt that they see the level of debt, approaching the amount of the Gross Domestic Product, as a crisis from which may spell doom for our nation.
The challenge of course is that the national debt is subject to the same sinful forces that want to rule the lives of individuals, families, churchs, groups and corportations. We want to have more than we can afford, and are willing to add to the debt and blame it on others. We want to cut taxes, work less, spend more on wars, projects and plans without taking the long view.
What is interesting however from the biblical point of view, is the central place that the forgiveness of debt plays in the lives of believers. Sometimes debt cannot be repaid, and sometimes the interest is unjust, and those who hold the debt forgive it anyway. We can never repay the debt we owe our Lord, but he has graciously ransomed us from it . We all have a debt crisis. Will we let the Lord take care of it?
Some say that we have just elected the devil,
some say a savior.
Some say he is a socialist,
some say a crony capitalist,
Some say he is weak against our enemies,
some say he is a warmonger indiscriminately killing civilians.
Some say he has taken away our freedom,
others say that he has finally set us free.
Some say he he is spending our nation into oblivion,
others say that he has saved us from a depression.
Some say there is no hope,
others say, finally there is.
Some say they want to tell others how to live their lives,
others say they want to be left alone.
Some say he is un-American,
others say he is the very face of America..
Some say he isn’t a Christian,
others say his enemies aren’t acting like they are.
Some say he isn’t “one of us”,
others say he is all of us.
Some say he will take away our guns,
others say he will help us that we need to build a world where people don’t think they need them.
Some people say they want to “take our country back”,
others want to join the president in going forward.
Some say he will only divide us more.
Others say we cannot be more divided
but are we listening to each other?