For a majority of people around this globe, a belief in a “Higher Power” is a shared experience. Whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Shinto, Bahia or any other number of belief systems, a God of some making is at the core of their belief system.
I grew up in the Methodist church. I went to church camp. I attended Sunday School. Sunday night youth group played a key part of my spiritual and social development throughout my school years. While in college, I worked as a youth pastor at a local Methodist church and after college, I attended Seminary and then entered pastoral ministry for a number of years. While no longer affiliated with the Methodist church, I still believe in one God who is my “Higher Power” and Jesus, as God’s son, is who I follow by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For those who don’t adhere to this, it might sound a lot like magical mumbo-jumbo. But I’m okay with that. I accept that I don’t know all. And I understand that I might never fully understand. A central tenant of faith is…well…Faith: Believing in things I cannot see.
Perhaps I’m naive. I will even concede that my perspective may be limited. But I believe, all things being equal, we are a Global Family. We are from one heart. We are from one mind. If you want to be technical and scientific, we come from one very small gene pool. Under our skin, we are all sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and parents.
For those who struggle to find answers, there is a simple solution: Song. All credit for this video goes to Choir! Choir! Choir! You will not be disappointed by the music or the message of people from all walks of life coming together to sing Halleluiah!
It was the summer of 1995 and I took a group of youth to Colorado Springs for a retreat. We drove from Muncie to the Mountains and it was an amazing trip.
During our brief stay in the most beautiful state of the Union, we crammed in as many opportunities as possible, including horseback riding in the Garden of the Gods, whitewater rafting through the Royal Gorge, visiting the Cheyenne Zoo, and of course, a visit to the top of Pike’s Peak, where even in the middle of summer, there remained a layer of heavy snow covering the 14,000 foot mountain top.
As we stepped out of the cog rail car we were dizzy with excitement (or a lack of oxygen). We ran around the viewing area throwing snowballs and having a great time together. Soon the cold became too much for many, who soon went inside the visitor’s center to get some hot chocolate. But three of us remained in the cold to continue taking in the view. We realized this was an important moment. We were three Indiana residents who’d never been this high in our entire lives. We stood at the edge of the Rockies, moved in our hearts and souls.
We stood in silence, trying to take in the scope of what we were seeing, trying to understand the vast expanse before us. After a time, I broke the silence by asking what they were thinking and how they felt in that moment. Very soon we were talking as men do in those rare moments of true honesty.
We spoke of our feelings of awe, how we felt incredibly small in that moment. The world was so much bigger than we understood. We were nothing in comparison to this landscape…and yet, we were everything to the world and to one another and to the day-to-day life happenings at sea level. Life was not perfect. Our relationships were flawed. There was pain in our hearts and in our community. But we could be agents of change. We could stand together.
After several minutes we agreed that this was a powerful moment in our lives, and one that should not be forgotten. We determined to mark the occasion as they did in the Old Testament of the Bible by erecting a monument to the moment. A marker would be our reminder. And so we gathered stones and stacked them, one on top of another. We raised our Ebenezer, our stone of help, as a reminder of the fact that in all of life’s trials, pain, and suffering, we are not alone in the fight. We were not alone in the battle. We had our faith in a higher power; one who could create this majestic vista. We also had one another.
I doubt that twenty-years later the rock monument still stands; after all, the winds on the mountain are ferocious and the snow piles deep. But my memory of that moment remains: Three young men, black and white, standing together, understanding even if only for a few minutes that the problems of the world are huge and our ability to change them are limited, but our unity in the fight is core to our success.
We stood united around that pile of rocks. Not for a particular cause, or in the face of a specific injustice, but for the purpose of unity itself. It was a mountain moment that speaks to me to this day…perhaps more so today.
I believe we could all benefit from a mountain moment in which we gain a different perspective and unite for the greater good.
The news accounts are grizzly. The video footage is shocking. The loss is tragic. The reasons are inexcusable.
Bastille Day celebrations.
Black Lives Matter marches.
Turkey political unrest.
Hate crimes. Anger. Pain. Death. Darkness.
Each day the news brings accounts of violence of one against another. Every paper declares the injustice. Every network anchor looks into the camera with sincerity and tells the story of another horrifying moment in our nation’s collective story, our global community’s painful legacy.
We are unable to find a solution but we are able to point fingers of blame.
We have no answers, only excuses.
We can find no common ground, not even common enemies.
When will we ever learn? When will we begin the dialogue?
Balance is critical to a successful life. Like a tightrope walker in a circus working without a net, perfect balance keeps us moving forward rather than falling.
Unfortunately, our nation is out of balance today and the results are going to be catastrophic. Too many have chosen an extreme side of every issue. And rather that seeking solutions or viewing options, we deal in absolutes. We live in a world where there is no longer any discussion in the grey areas of life. You are either for the topic or against it. You are either fighting or defending. And in the process, we are falling into the abyss.
When did this start happening? At what point did we decide it was better to fall to our death than find a middle ground? When did our outspoken and over-stated points of contention replace civil debate and resolution?
If we aren’t careful, our lack of balance will take us beyond the point of no return.
I’ve been trying to think of ways to make a difference in this broken world. I’ve been hoping that an answer might enter my mind and work its way to my heart. I’ve been praying for solutions. I’ve been begging for insight. I’ve been dreaming of a cure to the ills that ail us.
But nothing has come. I have no grand plan. I have no vision that will make it possible to achieve peace. I have no agenda or 10-point plan.
And so I turn to you, my brothers and sisters of faith, my global family. What is the solution? What actions have you taken to bring justice to your corner of the world? What movement have you made to help with the healing?
I want to hear from you. I want to start the discussion. I want to have a dialogue of hope and peace. What are your thoughts?
If you plant an apple seed, tend it well, prune appropriately and care for the flowers, you would expect nothing less than a good crop of apples. A cherry pit should provide a tree full of red fruit. A peach tree should only produce peaches. It is what is expected.
One would never look to an apple tree for a banana, or a palm tree for grapes. Seeds produce fruit of their own kind. We expect nothing less.
Yet, somehow, we are surprised when words of hatred, anger, bitterness, and violence are planted and do not reap a harvest of love, unity, and peace. How is it possible that we do not understand that the seeds we plant will produce its own crop? And are we unaware that a single seed, a lone grain once planted will produce a great number of seeds in turn?
One word of hatred does not result in one hateful act, but can sprout many. One act of injustice does not grow one isolated action but produces many.
Thankfully this truth applies to those acts of kindness, those words of love, those seeds of hope that we plant. For every gracious deed, many sprout. For every word of gratitude spoken, many take root.
We all plant seeds every day and the harvest we reap is the fruit of that labor, for good or for evil.
What harvest are you reaping today? What seeds will you plant tomorrow?