It seems like only yesterday there was snow
And the ground so soggy
You were forced to pick your way.
But today the trees
Which long ago
Had shrugged off the beauty of the early winter snows
To stand bare and brown against the sky
Begin to show their true colors.
The willows, yellow.
The white birch, brown
The maple, red and burnt yellow.
Sometime in the last couple weeks I read an article about the power of stories. I should have bookmarked it to save it, but I didn’t. Now that I am retired I no longer bookmark or save articles like this in the file folders which I used for so many years. But what I remember and why I remember it is this. The thesis of the article was that the stories we remember and the stories we tell and retell ourselves shape who we are and how we act, particularly in times of difficulty and decision. I found myself thinking about this not just in terms of my own life, but also, given the deep divide in our country, how the stories we remember and tell shape our public perception and discourse. In the stories we tell…
Is their enough?
Does goodness prevail?
Is life about survival of the fittest?
Is there hope?
Do we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps?
Who is our neighbor?
Who should we be afraid of?
Does that long arc of history really bend in the direction of justice?
Then yesterday I read this interview with Reza Aslan by Daniel Jose Camacho of Sojourners. On of the things he says in that interview is that religion is storytelling. Aslan’s insight resonated with me because the part of Christian and Hebrew scriptures which resonate with me are the stories.
Moses at the burning bush.
Do bushes around us also burn inviting us to something new?
Jesus feeding the 5000.
What does it take for us to feed those around us who are hungry?
The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus.
Is new life possible when we find ourselves surrounded by darkness and despair?
I could go on.
In light of these articles I have found myself thinking about several questions.
- At this age and stage of my life what stories am I telling myself about responsibility and courage and learning new things and growing older?
- How do I begin to let go of stories which are not helpful?
- How do I begin to learn new stories which are?
- So many of the stories that have meaning for me are rooted in the Bible. For that I am grateful. But, for those who have never heard those stories in a meaningful, life-giving way, what stories do they draw on?
- What stories which I/we have forgotten which would be helpful if we remembered again?
I am sure there are more…questions that is.
I have loved good stories for as long as I can remember.
And, I agree with the author of the first article.
The stories we tell ourselves and each other are powerful.
Which leads me to this…
What are the stories you tell yourself about who you are and and what you value and our place and role in and relationship to the world around us?
A friend sent me the above picture.
Taken from inside the ring of lights which tonight will shine from lower Manhattan.
A reminder of where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood.
Lit again as we remember the horrific events of that day.
And the heartbreak and anguish of the days which followed.
For many those lights will shine as a sign of defiance.
Representing our strength and resolve.
And, that despite the hatred and horror of that event we will not be crushed.
My heart tugs me in a different direction.
Instead of defiance, I long for those lights to be for us and for all a beacon of hope.
A sign of welcome and promise.
A sign of the best of the American dream.
A sign that pushes back against the darkness of terrorism and fear and hatred and bigotry.
A sign that violence is not the way to solve/resolve the world’’s problems.
A sign to the world that that is who we are and this is what we value and this is what we will stand for.
Right now in our country, we are a long way from that.
But I can still hope.
And, long for the day when America will live up to its creed of liberty and justice for all.
O God, you call us together
That we might find strength and hope and direction with and from one another.
Then You throw open the doors
And send us out to be Your people and Your presence
In the world You continue to love so much.
Light in the midst of darkness.
Hope in the face of despair.
Compassion where the harshness of life overwhelms.
May we continue to strive to do just that
As we do our best to follow in the way and the spirit of Jesus.
Today, O God
I ask for a rainbow.
Some small sign that goodness will prevail.
Some sign that the flood waters
And the chaos
Are not permanent.
That the harm we are doing
To each other
And to ourselves
Does not have
Will not have
The final word.
I ask for a rainbow, O God
Because all I see right now
Feel right now
Are the waves
The leaky boat which is my life.