Aleppo, Rolex, BMW, & Light

Aleppo, Rolex, BMW, & Light

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The Fall of Aleppo (image from The Economist, Dec 17-23, 2016 issue)

The cover was pretty striking. The image to the right with the headline: “The Fall of Aleppo: Putin’s victory, the West’s failure”. I tried to imagine what it would be like to care for this child in such a place. Then, what was maybe the most disturbing point about this issue…I turned the page. 3 times.

 
  • First page: 2 page ad for “Rolex, The Cellini”: retail value $15,200. “It doesn’t just tell time. It tells history.”
  • Second page: 2 page ad for BMW 750Li xDrive: beginning MRSP $98,000. “Sheer Driving Pleasure”. Has a remote control key to park the car for you into tight spaces. So you don’t have to actually drive it yourself.
  • Third page: Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator: retail value $3500 (had interior cameras for “food management and direct grocery ordering). Comes with app for your phone so you might look in your refrigerator from your phone…rather than the annoying practice of opening the door.
 
The tragedy, and the irony printed in the first 6 pages of this magazine was a gut shot for me this morning. And it will haunt my Christmas. This isn’t a guilt trip post for the holidays. It’s not intended as a political statement per se. But, for me anyway, its my morning meditation on the closing of Advent 2016…the coming of the Christ…the hope and savior of the world. Where have we who call ourselves the “Christian West” gone wrong? How do we return to be the light the Christ showed us how to be to this hurting world? We are chosen by God not to be singled out and special. We are chosen to be witnesses to this light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. —John 1:5 (NRSV)

Peace On Earth

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It’s been a difficult Advent to try and speak about peace.  Every where one looks the evidence of its absence is overwhelming.  I would write a few sentences here summing up the news headlines of late but I’d rather not. We all know them far too well.

If I turn from the headlines toward my expanded neighborhood of friends and acquaintances on social media, it seems there is an election looming.  In fact, there seems to be one looming 365 days a year.  And a cursory look at the posts on my feed seem to imply that one particular brand of politics or the other has the solution[s] and/or “leader[s]” to remedy this chronic lack of peace we’ve all been experiencing for quite some time.  Call me cynical but, I’m not really buying what they’re selling.  Seems as though this has been the claim by all sides of every issue for as long as I’ve been alert enough to pay attention.

So, what to do?  Do I give in to the cynicism of the age?

I don’t have an answer.  But I do have my faith.  The faith I have is rooted in a God who loves.  Call me naive.  Call me idealistic.  But, the older I get, my cynicism toward the powers of this world only grows and my faith in this loving God is continually confirmed.  Even when someone throws the turmoil of this world at my “loving God” saying the chaos is proof that my faith is in vain, I realize that I would rather live my faith in this loving God than in the false hopes and unfulfilled promises of the powers that be in our world.  It’s simply a better way to live my life. I would rather live in that love of God than in the fear and frustration offered by the alternative.

One of my favorite quotes about peace is by Nicholas Wolsterstorff:

“The state of shalom is the state of flourishing in all dimensions of one’s existence: in one’s relation to God, in one’s relation to one’s fellow human beings, in one’s relation to nature, and none’s relation to oneself…An ever-beckoning temptation for the [American] evangelical is to assume that all God really cares about for human beings here on earth is that they be born again and thus destined for salvation…  [However], what God desires for human beings is that comprehensive mode of flourishing which the Bible calls shalom…God’s love of justice is grounded in God’s longing for the shalom of God’s creatures and in God’s sorrow over its absence.”

—Nicholas Wolsterstorff

If the system you subscribe to isn’t offering this type of peace…this shalom…then, well, it might not be worthy of your faith.  And it just might be contributing to the absence of peace we’re all enduring in our world.

I think my favorite Christmas song is Christmas Bells and my favorite rendition is by John Gorka.  Check it out here.  (Here is a live version of the song.)

Peace.

“Scared for health, afraid of death, bored, dissatisfied, vengeful, greedy, ignorant, and gullible—these are the qualities of the ideal consumer.

—Wendell Berry, from Our Only World

kmart storage binsMy wife and I spent much of a recent weekend going through boxes with the goal of reducing the pile down to a point we can actually use our garage for our cars rather than storing stuff. We had really good intentions to have this done before we moved.  But you know about that particular road to hell and the intentions with which it’s paved.  So the boxes were stacked high.  They are filled with things we at some time or another felt we would need or use again.  To be fair, much of the contents are sentimental…things to remind us of days gone by when children were babies and family members were still living.

However, if I dig a bit deeper into the archeology of our little garage excavation project, I come to the striking realization that there was a point in time that someone was faced with a decision: Do I buy this particular item or not?  Every single item now cluttering my brand new garage and now taking up my precious day off…EVERY ITEM…was the result of someone answering that question with a “YES”.

Wendell Berry’s sobering description of the “ideal consumer” is a mirror that provides clear and precise reflection of our affliction.  We, western consumers, are easily manipulated.  That, and we’re addicted to the purchase.

I’d like to challenge you to a little experiment.  Take the Wendell Berry quote with you and go pick up something you’ve purchased recently.  Touch it.  Handle it.  What was the motivation for buying that?  Does it spark joy?  How long before this item finds itself in a box in your garage?  Go to your garage and look at the things you have stored there.  Do you remember why you bought them?

I realize I’m getting a bit preachy. So I’ll stop.  However, today is “Black Friday Eve.”  Black Friday to me is the most vulgar of our American Holidays.  It’s unbridled and unapologetic consumption.  The picture above was taken at our local Kmart.  Two weeks before Thanksgiving, taking up huge amounts of valuable shelf space in the “holiday section” are rows and stacks of storage bins.  The irony is obvious.  Lets buy some bins to store the crap we bought before so we can make room for some new crap that we’ll need to store next year to make room for still more crap.  I’ve heard so many people complaining about the stores decorating for Christmas before Halloween, completely skipping Thanksgiving.  I don’t think retailers do this is because they are evil people with a corrupted agenda.  It seems that we all are skipping Thanksgiving.  The stores are only giving us what we think we want.

Today is actually Thanksgiving.  A day we’ve set aside for giving thanks.   Gratitude.  I’m particularly thankful for family today.  My gang all slept under my roof last night.  Other extended family are here for the holiday weekend to share food and memories and create new ones.  Others extended family members will be gathering around other tables doing the same.  There is much to be thankful for.  I wish all of you a joyous and very Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope you will be able to spend it with people you love.

And about this Black Friday thing looming tomorrow.  Skip it.  Extend your Thanksgiving.  And when you do go out shopping this Christmas, enjoy it! (But stick a copy of that Wendell Berry quote in your pocket before you go…and maybe a picture of your garage.)