Light Always Shines Bright When It's Dark

 

For reasons both comforting and curious, the loneliest, darkest, and coldest time of the year plays host to Christmas. The shortest day of the year is around Christmas making it the physically darkest holiday, next to New Year’s, on the calendar. So, the time of year when we are supposedly the most generous is also the time of year where we are fighting depression and good old fashioned darkness.

 

Yet, that’s when the light truly shines.

 

The current news cycle seems very dark and while I can go on various rabbit trails lamenting a variety of things, I am reminded that this time of year always gets dark. Lights on trees and holiday lights on houses, lining streets, or in the malls announce that something is different. Lights that flash and lights that look like impromptu runways accompany lights that spell out encouraging words and lights that point the way to shopping, restaurants, or special events. All of these lights come when the sun starts to set earlier in the afternoon.

 

So, yes, the world is dark. At this time of  year, it’s always darker.

 

But, that’s part of the meaning behind ideas like generosity, grace, and sacrificial love. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” isn’t about preserving a mobile, middle class life, but it’s about being attentive to the life we already have. What would it be like to bring light in to the darker parts of our world? Frankly, it’s not that difficult to ponder. We simply need to recall that generosity doesn’t go out of style and can be done all year long. Grace never gets old and everyone needs it. Sacrificial love changes everything and is always worth the effort.

 

As the days get shorter and the darkness extends in to our afternoons, lights truly do get noticed and truly do make a difference.  I’ll list a few quotes so  you just don’t take my word for it:

 

From William Shakespeare—

 

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

 

From Vincent Van Gogh—

 

“Those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done with love is done well.... Love is the best and noblest thing in the human heart, especially when it is tested by life as gold is tested by fire. Happy is he who has loved much, and although he may have wavered and doubted, he has kept that divine spark alive and returned to what was in the beginning and ever shall be. 

Rantoul, Illinois

Ok, it's been a while and you can track my progress at www.bomwhite.com

With that said, here's the new focus on this site and let's call it 'Stories can Walk'....I am asking you to journey with me to simply pay attention and find one thing in each of your own travels to hang on to. One thing. Don't try to remember everything, recount every detail of your travels, but just one thing to remember each new city, each new neighborhood. So, here goes:

Rantoul, Illinois, is less than an hour from where I live. It's a declining city in some respects, a victim of higher than normal unemployment and the closing of some factories. It's also home to the Chanute Air Force Base or the Chanute Air Museum, which is on the campus that was formerly an active air force base. Having helped with my daughter's recent field trip there my goal was to pay attention. I have recently been to Spain, Wales, England, and Ireland on work related trips and also returned from Chicago and Boston within the last few weeks, but none of the aforementioned sites moved me to tears. But, something at Chanute did.

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Through the Prism of ---Isms

Today, marks the first day of an indefinite series on the -isms shaping the week's current events and global discourse. Why do this? Well, two main reasons motivate me to make each Friday post a different -ism......First, I actually heard someone say the other day, 'I am glad communism fell and I love capitalism, but there's so much cynicism and pessimism and not enough optimism, don't you think?' I was exhausted and energized listening to the onslaught of -isms thrown out. Exhausted because I wondered if the speaker truly knew how nuanced some of the words are and energized because I thought to myself, 'hey, I bet there's a lot of -isms, worth talking about.' And so, I am talking about them, but not in a worldview catalog sort of way, but in a week in review manner. The theme of this blog is to ponder ideas that impact us both locally and globally understanding that ideas have consequences, so each Friday, I will focus in on an --ism that has been particularly raised in the global discourse for the week. And since it's been an odd week, my first --ism post will have two words featured, one of them spelled differently than conventional --isms.

Capitalism should be mentioned this week not only because of recent discussions surrounding whether or not Capitalism can survive or if faith and capitalism mix (see also a recent Duke University Press release by William Connolly entitled, "Capitalism and Christianity, American Style" ), but because Goldman Sachs was charged with fraud by the SEC and once again we're left wondering who is telling the truth and if capitalism can survive its own success. The markets reacted by going down and the blood pressure of many reacted by going up. Is this relegated to a chosen few or has capitalism run its course? Furthermore, those of us who are convinced of the truth of the Bible need to assess if we fear the decline of capitalism more than God. We should not confuse the current version of capitalism with Scriptural teaching letting the former inform the latter. We always critique capitalism in light of Scripture and if there's a discrepancy, well, then capitalism, not the Bible, must go. There may be challenges ahead, though, as the predominant prosperity gospel takes a beating in the public square.

Cataclysm is the next --ism of the week, although the spelling will challenge the anal retentive among us. As a synonym for disaster, the China earthquake and the Iceland volcano remind us not only of the power of nature and the enormity of creation, but we should also be reminded of the need for humility. When Jesus calmed the winds and the waves, the Gospel writers tell us that the ability to calm the storm frightened the disciples more than the storm itself. Jesus is actually more powerful than volcanoes and earthquakes, but we treat him lightly and take disasters far more seriously. In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, millions of dollars were raised very quickly, but missionaries continue to struggle to make ends meet. Of course, this is not an either-or discussion, rather cataclysms often reveal other cataclysm. Hurrican Katrina revealed a broken government and a neglected group of people living in poverty. What will the Iceland volcano (already wreaking havoc on the airline industry) and the China earthquake reveal? It's not what goes into a man, but what comes out that makes him unclean. What is coming out of our hearts when we see capitalism run amuck and cataclysms multiply...maybe that's worth paying attention to in our quiet time tomorrow morning.

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::informed by the end of the world::

I attended a lecture this week from teacher and author Michael Goheen. He said something striking and it's worth noting. Here's my paraphrase: how you understand the end of the world will inform what you believe your mission to be.

The band, R.E.M., used to close many of their concerts with their song 'it's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine.' Interestingly, the song is informative and not far from Goheen's point. To feel fine about your mission, you must come to grips with what you believe about the end of the world. But, for many, the world may never end and for others, this is simply paranoia. But, think about it. Goheen's point is that the end of the story informs what we believe our part to be in the story. In fact, Goheen writes,

 

Michael W Goheen
 Heaven, which has been separated...by sin...now is joined in harmonious unity with earth.
 
 (it's worth reading the entire article here)
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Partnering with God's Creativity to Save the World

In the endless troubling issues of today's world, do we believe that our creative God has ideas that we can tap into to bring hope?  I believe he is overflowing with creativity that he would love to share with us... 

It was just that I wanted a fruit dryer.  We’ve dried fruit in several different ways here in Africa but I’ve never been very happy with any of the methods we’ve employed.

I just wanted to dry some mangos and bananas, you know?

My husband was in the States so I ordered one for him to bring back to me.  This snappy little machine was cool and efficient and fairly green to boot. I was starting to get excited. I do love tasty slices of dry mango.

It was on the plane returning to Africa that God interrupted my husband’s thoughts.

The Economy of God

Sermon on the economy of God.


5 Minutes in Congo

There are two countries in Africa named Congo. One is the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and the other is the Republic of Congo. To distinguish between the two, people generally refer to the former as DR Congo and the latter by the name of its capital, Brazzaville.

On my recent visit to DR Congo, we also scheduled a trip to Congo Brazzaville in order to assist with some of the necessary planning with setting up a new microfinance institution there. Both Congos are desperately poor and HOPE International will be launching a new program in Brazzaville in the near future to meet the unmet demand for financial services there. My assessment is that there will be some challenges (but a forthcoming post will show how to overcome those challenges).

The Congos are separated by the Congo River. It’s quite a large river, about three miles wide at the point where the capital cities lie.
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The Economy of God

My wife, Laurie, and I lived in Munich, Germany for several years. When we got there we discovered that Germans, by and large, do not have built-in closets. In place of closets they use schranks, large pieces of furniture that function like a closet, something like an armoire, only a lot bigger.

They are huge pieces of furniture and for novices, as we were, they are quite complex to assemble. After spending hours putting ours together we realized we had made several mistakes. Thankfully, however, the schrank was functional. Breaking it down and putting it back together again was just out of the question. It would be just too much work. But over time the imperfections of our assembly job became annoying. It didn’t look right and the doors were awkward.

A year later, for a wide variety of reasons, we had to move. Moving is always a lot of work and presents many challenges. But we were excited for one reason: we had a strategic opportunity to re-build the schrank the way it should have been in the first place.
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