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“If you give God a hair, he will give you a mountain,” said my friend on the phone. She’d just finished telling me about something that happened to her on a recent trip. She’d been arguing with her sister, and decided to choose peace instead. She swallowed her anger and let tolerance prevail. Then she walked to a local church where what I can only construe as a miracle occurred. I won’t describe it because I don’t want to water it down — or subject it to skepticism, which, Good Readers, despite your best intentions, you’d be destined to color it with. I myself briefly fought against my own tendency toward eye-rolling incredulity. But I believe my friend. (And for all of you in the “pictures or it didn’t happen” crowd, there are pictures. It happened.)

But the miracle isn’t the point here. It’s about how generously God loves us. My friend made a tiny step away from her usual pattern of combativeness, and was lavishly rewarded with a life-changing moment. Imagine that! Imagine what might happen if you were to change in a larger way!

We all have things we’d like to change about ourselves. I’m not talking about the size of your waist or your wallet. I’m talking about your soul. We all have flaws we need to work on. But just like proud parents encouraging a baby to take his first steps, God encourages us in our journeys, too. When we wobble, he provides support. And when we take a tenuous step, he cheers. If we happen to do the unimaginable — traveling, say, from a distant land of spiritual rejection, squandered potential and sin and back into God’s arms — that’s when the real celebration occurs. Fatted calf? Check. Magnificent robe, rings on every finger, and a party for all our friends? Check, check, and check again.

Don’t believe me? I understand. It’s easier to live in skepticism than to make the improbable journey to belief. There’s a lot more evidence for skepticism than there is for belief. Just go on-line for ten minutes. You’ll get your fill — and then some — of negativity. But if you want something better, something different, all it takes is the slightest movement. A single hair. You’ll be surprised at the mountain you receive in return.

In New Jersey, experts tell us that the economy is improving – based partially on the fact that there are fewer people receiving unemployment benefits than in previous years.

The assumption is that those formerly unemployed are now working. But actually, there is a sizable percentage no longer receiving unemployment checks, as they’ve exhausted their benefits. They haven’t found jobs but are no longer counted because they no longer receive unemployment benefits. In the meantime, the poverty level in the state is rising.

In Newark today, the police are advising those filing simple assault complaints to take these matters to municipal court instead. There aren’t enough police officers in the city to address violent crime, so they’ve taken this approach to deal with “lesser” criminal matters.

Because of this, it might seem as if the crime rate in Newark is going down. Crimes that aren’t reported to the police don’t get counted in the police department’s figures.

And in some ways, we judge ourselves and others by flawed figures as well. We seem to measure success by “false positives.” Things such as what’s in your bank account, what sort of car you drive, and the amount of jewelry you have. These things in and of themselves are not negative, but using them as a barometer of accomplishment can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. It can leave you feeling empty.

The question is: are you happy? Do you have projects that make you feel as if you’re tapping into your creative impulses and allow you to contribute something in the world? Have you found the people who “get” you so that you don’t have to explain yourself, and yet you know that they’ll always have your back? Are you walking the path that you’ve chosen, or have you fallen into a life of what’s expected of you?

Don’t let the world’s definition of success skew your sense of who you are. Peace that travels with you, a Co-Pilot you can count on and faith that moves mountains. These are the things that keep your soul whole.

Last week I watched an amazing TED video (see below) with Kimberley Motley.  Kimberly is an American lawyer who works within the Afghani legal system, using the laws and customs of that country to protect women and girls.

In her own words, she works for justness using the law for its intended purpose, to protect.  She reeducates communities about little used or forgotten laws.  She shows fathers and brothers and elders how to protect their own girls. She reminds them that they know what is right and good. And, given these reminders, they choose just-ness.

What does this have to do with prayer and spirituality?  As Lori recently pointed out, it is hard to be spiritual in our consumer driven world. It is hard to do what is right and kind when so many people choose what is cruel but easy.

The thing is I believe that there are a wealth of people out there who know what is right and kind and good. They don’t often speak out or act in obvious ways because they feel outnumbered.  Like us, they feel like they are the only ones.

I’m not saying that we all need to take things to the court room.  After all, we aren’t all lawyers.

Last week at our final meet, I saw what a group of swimmers could do to influence others for good.  As the coaches gave out medals, the winners stood on the starting blocks so that everyone could be photographed by their parents in the stands.

Because relays involve four swimmers per team it gets a little tricky. As one group approached their block, two swimmers stepped up and wouldn’t make space for the others.  They shook their heads no, clearly telling their team mates that they had gotten there first and there just wasn’t room.

One of the swimmers gestured to another block.  On it stood four boys, arms flung around each other’s shoulders as they held each other in place, celebrating their work as a team.

When they saw this, the first two boys made room for their team mates.  No lectures were needed.  No coaches stepped in.  They just had to see someone else doing it to remember “hey, this is what we should be doing too.”

As a Christian, I am often frustrated by the world around me.  But, if I do what is right, I know that sometimes my actions will remind other people that they too know what is good and right and just.  Sometimes it just takes a gentle reminder.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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