Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

Antidotes to reading the newspaper

Venturing outside my door and learning about what is happening in the world can be a frightening, and at times, hopeless experience. I am trying to be an informed citizen with an understanding and appreciation for what is happening in my country and around the world. While the temptation to shut down the computer, cancel subscriptions, and cut the television cord can seem like easy answers, they certainly aren't practical and wouldn' t help me with my goal. From Israel and Lebanon to Iraq and Afganistan and from the Congo to Somalia, we shouldn't shelter ourselves from the horrible news and images and realities; to be ignorant would certainly not make the problems go away. So, I've found some helpful and healthy ways to deal with the bombardment of bad news and horrible injustices that keep coming our way.

Pray. I am not always open about my Christian faith, and indeed, things done in the name of religion often cause and exacerbate problems. But the power and healing that can come from a true desire for God's peace and mercy is overwhelming. Done alone or in a group of believers, as I recently had the opporutunity to do, "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:20). Prayer won't always make one feel better about problems, for looking for an emotional response isn't necessarily the goal; reliance on a feeling can be misleading. However, there is a sense of peace that comes from letting go of worries and anxieties and giving them to God, who has a plan for each of us (Psalm 139). Prayer is a time for building a steady relationship with God, who can bring us hope and eternal life in this not-so-steady world.

Read about inspirational and amazing people. I just finished Greg Mortenson's and David Relin Olin's Three Cups of Tea. An account of climber Greg Mortensen's efforts to build schools in Pakistan and Afganistan over the past decade, it is an important and timely book. Mortensen's perseverance and lessons learned can certainly be used by everyone, from one tiny individual in a town to the world leaders and militaries. I can certainly relate to Mortenson, who felt hopeless after returning from a climbing trip in Pakistan, where he saw how many children had little or no access to education. It took him a long time, with huge physical and mental challenges, but eventually he attained his goal through the Central Asia Institute, the nonprofit he founded. Mortenson learned that education is one of the most powerful, peaceful, and humanitarian ways to curb terrorism. One of the most interesting points of the book is that Mortensen received just as much as he gave. He mastered several Middle Eastern languages and gained an understanding and respect for the Muslim faith. He showed that timetables can not always be imposed, and he learned to think differently and openly. Building relationships, over many cups of tea, is one of the most important things we can do.

Spend time with children. I am blessed to spend most days with my two-year old daughter, Sylvia, who has a knack for helping me to keep things in perspective. We spent a beautiful morning at the beach just down the hill from where we live. I'm not a big fan of sand in my food, wet clothes sticking to my skin, or frosty waves splashing me all over, but somehow these things just don't matter to her. Her job is to have fun and enjoy life, lessons I often forget.

Slightly naive these suggestions may be, they make up my present and blessed world. Perhaps I will be led in other ways to "help" the world. But I feel confident that I'm doing all that I can right now.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

 

Find something beautiful and good

On many days, this is the view I see out my back window. It's not hard to see why it's so beautiful here on the central coast of California. But there are other days when the fog, as Carl Sandburg once said, creeps in like a cat. This particular cat just lies on the coastline, sometimes all day long, blocking out the warmth of the sun and spilling forth a gray cold. On these days, it's a little harder to remember why I love it here. Often I don't pause to make a mental image of the beauty I know is there somewhere, and my day can dwindle away with compalints and drudgery. But if I choose to see the beauty that waits beneath the fog, or better yet, the beauty that is in the fog, my day is much more positive and hopeful. All it takes is a moment, or maybe a few, to try to change how I look at things.

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