Meditations on my Finger

Well, my finger’s OK now, though it really had me worried Saturday, the night of the accident (my original post on the accident is at How Long, O Lord?). Portions of the skin had turned blue and numb.

So on Sunday I went to St. Luke’s Medical Center to have it checked. They gave me a hand x-ray and a complete blood count (CBC). Finally, the doctors said I was OK, there were no fractures, and I had no infection. They said the discoloration and numbness were just normal for the type of injury I had sustained. Thank God!

Still, perhaps morbidly, I got to wondering: what if I HAD lost my finger?

This accident had driven home to me the folly of taking things for granted: my fingers, hands, tongue, and eyes; my legs, my short-term memory, my health, my life. I go merrily through life frittering away time at trivial pursuits. I squander opportunities, procrastinating and putting off the more important in favor of the “urgent”, the comfortable, and “the usual”. All without realizing that, if I lost just one finger, or my hand, or my sight, or my short-term memory, then the chances of my accomplishing the things that are really important would be severly diminished, maybe even be lost forever.

Jesus said, “We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over.”*. He was of course referring to working for the spread of the Kingdom of God. But I believe the command can also be applied to working at one’s life mission, working at the relationships that are really important to you, so that when something happens and you cannot work on those things anymore, there will be no regrets.

My ambition now is to be like St. Paul. When he knew that he was about to be executed, he was able to say “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race”**. No regrets for wasted opportunities. No remorse for unforgiven sins. No wasted time.

My dear, dear wife recently received this email from a friend***:

TWO GLASSES OF TEA

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of tea…

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. 

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two glasses of tea from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.”

The pebbles are the other things that matter; like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there will be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Take care of the things that really matter****.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the tea represented.

The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of glasses of tea***** with a friend.”
 

* From John 9:4 (The Message)
** From 2 Timothy 4:7 (Revised Standard Version)
*** The source of the email did not say who was the original source of this story. If anyone knows, please tell me so that I can attribute it properly. Thanks!
**** I would include here feeding one’s spirit and developing Christian hedonism.
***** Personally, I would much prefer mugs of coffee, but hey, that’s just me 🙂

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What Would Jesus Buy?

It’s Thanksgiving! It’s Christmas! Time to get alone in a room and meditate on the spirit of the season, time to think seriously about…shopping!

Just in time to call us away from the gods of consumerism, comes Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. Christianity Today quotes him: “The Shopocalypse is coming! Who will be $aved? Let me exorcise your credit cards! Changellujuah!”

Rev. Billy is featured in the new documentary What Would Jesus Buy?. It’s directed by Rob VanAlkemade and produced by Morgan Spurlock, the same guy behind Super Size Me. It’s based on VanAlkemade’s earlier documentary, Preacher With an Unknown God, which won an honorable mention award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. CToday says:

“The film…takes a unique look at the epidemic of over-consumption in America, most egregiously evident during the Christmas shopping season—which begins in earnest next week. Reverend Billy and his “Church of Stop Shopping” are on a mission to apply the WWJD ethos to our shopping habits—forcing audiences to consider the implications (for themselves and for the world) of what they consume.”

Rev. Billy is the first to claim that he’s not a Christian. He says he grew up Dutch Reformed but abandoned the faith as a teenager. His real name is Bill Talen. And, of course, he’s not an ordained minister.

But renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann considers him a a modern-day prophet. He says “I have no doubt that Rev. Billy is a faithful prophetic figure who stands in direct continuity with ancient prophets in Israel and in continuity with the great prophetic figures of U.S. history who have incessantly called our society back to its core human passions of justice and compassion”.

Dr. Brueggemann says that Rev. Billy has four marks of a prophet:

1) He employs a dramatic “performer” style to call attention to his message. “That style of the prophetic… consists in parody that teases and makes fun of both corporate seductions and the long list of consumers who sign on for lattes and much else“.

2) Rev. Billy uses an identifiable rhetoric. In his case, he uses rhetoric and conduct which are usually found in a church setting, particularly in crusades and campaigns. Use of rhetoric stems from the need to stand apart from, in fact, to be easily identified as opposing, a dominant ideology of the prophet’s time, in Rev. Billy’s case the “totalizing consumer ideology”.

3) His pronouncements are context-specific and appeals to a specific constituency.

4) And, most important of the four characteristics, Brueggemann claims that Rev. Billy proclaims a truth “rooted in God and enacted in society”. Doc Walt says:

“The divine judgment Rev. Billy pronounces concerns a condemnation of religion that has been “hijacked” by the right wing, the resignation that we have “nothing to love but fear itself,” and the self-deceptive illusion that commodities can make us safe and happy. The shopping he assaults is seen to be an ideological practice whereby we keep “the demons in the zoo.” All of that will come to a sorry end for which he uses the term “shopocalypse,” a play on “apocalypse,” that imagined end of the world in a divine judgment as a great conflagration. Like every good poet, Billy has no interest in when or how that may happen, but only a conviction that this ideology that drives our society can only end in failure and raw disappointment.

But prophetic practice is not finally about judgment. It is about hope. Hope for Rev. Billy is the deep conviction that there is a viable, choosable alternative to shopping that will make possible a human community of neighborliness, peace, and justice”.

In this season of giving thanks and remembering the incarnation of the Savior of the world, maybe it might indeed be a good time to pause and think…what would Jesus buy?

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Note:
Just found out today (Dec. 11 ’07) that the writer of the Christianity Today article has his own blog, also here at WordPress!. Cool!

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