Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sorry Been Busy

My rap star son—yep, the one who performs for crowds of 50,000 in France—has a new album coming out called Sorry Been Busy. That’s pretty much been my tune the past few weeks—though my life is thankfully not as exciting as a rap star’s—trying to start new work while keeping up with other commitments. It will get better. I’m just glad it’s worthwhile work. Too many lack even that.

Been up and down Indiana twice since mid-June, meeting with people who are banding together to make changes—in their homes, sanctuaries, and towns. This week in Terre Haute I met a newly forming group at a United Methodist church, and the next night in South Bend a group of eleven representing six churches and a mosque, all pooling information on how best to lower their utility bills and protect Indiana’s air at the same time. The Muslim and Mennonite folk were excited to hear they are receiving solar grants from Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light.

Last week I also spent two mornings with Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) students at the
University of Louisville hospital, studying human trauma through painful stories in Genesis—stories of exile, extinction, child abuse, and rape, plenty of material for chaplains in the Bible’s first several chapters.

And I’m preparing to speak next month at a conference on the Palestinian Diaspora at Diyar in Bethlehem. Insha’Allah, God willing. Every day’s heartbreaking news is too wretchedly familiar: more than a thousand Gazans dead, hundreds of children caught in the endless cruel crossfire between Israel and Hamas. I could not agree more with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s words yesterday in New York: “More suffering and siege conditions in Gaza will only hurt innocent civilians, further isolate Israel, empower extremists on all sides, and leave our world far less safe.” I wish more American politicians had the nerve to speak as straightforwardly as he did.

But I’m also preparing to speak next week at Massanetta Conference Center in Virginia on creation in the Psalms. It’s hard to square the traumas—from the local hospital, from the war zones—
with such hopeful words. “You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing,” says Psalm 145:16. It’s as if the Psalms and the news are describing two different planets.

Yet I believe that if the violence is true, and it is, that God’s provision is also true, through the little things taken for granted, such as fresh daily supplies of oxygen, and the kale leaves that keep on growing, rain and sun, self-regulating temperatures, and verdancy. These fall quietly, incessantly on a chaotic world, making the next day possible.

I’m reading a book called What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? by Tony Juniper, mostly because of the great title. What would happen if humans everywhere realized that the biosphere’s free gifts to us far outweigh all grievances and greed? I don’t expect to see it happen, but nature’s divine gifts, rightly remembered, do tend to keep hope alive.

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