Think on these things

I took yesterday afternoon and evening off. My wife and I reconnected with old college friends of hers, more recent friends of mine. We spent hours talking. We were with them on a Chris-Craft boat that has been in his family since his grandfather bought in the year when he was three years old (= the year I was born). He remembers his father holding him up to look into the boat’s cabin windows when they first saw it. It has been part of his life ever since.

Yesterday they took us on a ride on the lake their cottage is on, and out into Lake Michigan. It was a gorgeous afternoon in a beautiful place. It was overcast and later afternoon, so the sun was not too much. They and we have both been isolated, and we were moving at a good clip through open air, so weren’t worried about giving each other an airborne virus.

Before and after the boat ride, we sat on their deck. Food, drink, conversation, a gorgeous view of the trees and the lake. Conversation that moved over the hours from casual, through remembering the old days (for my wife) and getting-to-know you (I had previously talked little with him and not at all with his wife), through the history and current life of our surroundings on the lakes, and finally to heartfelt sharing of things that matter deeply to us—our families, our world, and whether and how we can participate in bringing the loving grace of God into lives around us that need it. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening.

It feels that this sort of thing is that what life is for.

I also feel a little self-conscious telling you about it, and more than a little—I am going to use a word that is much in our ears lately forces itself upon me—privileged. Our friends’ neighbors on the lake are millionaires and multimillionaires. For example: our friends’ antique Chris-Craft is docked a few yards from their next-door neighbors’ two boats, whose combined value is probably a cool million.

Our friends are not members of that class. He is a pastor. Through his career he served churches in several locations across the United States. Their lovely cottage came to them as an unlikely blessing. And they use it to bless people like my wife and me—us whose story is in some ways similar to their own, though without the lake and the cottage and the boat—by making it a setting for sharing precious moments (I refuse to give that two-word phrase over to the vendors of sentiment! —they apply, and I will use them) in our life together in Christ.

So while “privileged” comes to mind, I will use a different word. I feel blessed. Our friends’ life, despite hardships and changes, has been on balance good: preceded, accompanied, and followed by the generous grace of God. And so has ours. And our time together was good, and wholesome.

I do not ascribe to a health-and-wealth gospel. I despise preachers who tell you that if you send them money, or do this or that, God will bless you with a cottage and a boat. That is not the gospel. If you love and serve God, you may be crucified, as your Lord was crucified, in any or several of a thousand possible ways.

But God, according to his own mysterious purposes, in his own time, also provides moments of rich blessing. And sometimes a lake and a boat may be involved. Sometimes conversation more valuable than many boats is involved. Why? I don’t know. But I am deeply grateful—to God and to our friends—for yesterday.

Stop there if you want. But I will not stop there, and I don’t think you should either. I am going to go a little further and draw a contrast.

One contrast we could draw would be between our blessed lives and the lives of so many less privileged people. That would be worth some meditation.

But another contrast—more painful perhaps, certainly more grotesque—is the contrast between on the one hand a life of receiving and sharing blessing, not just individually but throughout a family, across generations, and in community with other families, in the family of God, and on the other hand a life—again, not just individual, but transgenerational, and within networks of like-minded folk—of rejecting grace and blessing and grasping—other things.

We got home late last night and went to sleep. This morning I awoke. I looked through the headlines. I believe in getting away from the news. But not for long. That is a privilege I will not take. We are in this together. What is happening is happening to all of us. And strange things are happening.

Why, for example, does our nation have a president who, when a person with whom he has significant, documented shared history is arrested and charged with enticement of minors and sex-trafficking of children, announces to the world that he wishes her well?

What element of the preceding sentence makes sense to you? What element of that preceding sentence is acceptable to you? This is a question not just for my Christian friends—though it is especially for them—but for any decent American.

And I mean the “Why?” seriously. An American president—even this one, especially this one—does not wish such a person well for no reason. What is the reason?

I do not know. The possibilities that occur to others are—not good. If you prefer to ignore the possibilities, if you don’t want to be offended by them, do not follow this link and read this Twitter thread. But this is what is out there. Some of it is hard cold fact. Some of it engages in speculation based on fact. This is what is out there. If you’re willing to face it with eyes wide open, go ahead and click on this Twitter link and read the replies. Then come back here. . . .

When the Apostle Paul instructed us in these words—

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

—he meant that we should pursue, and receive with gratitude, lives full of these things.

He did not mean that, if we should find ourselves entrusted with shared responsibility for determining the civic life of a whole nation by selecting its leaders, we should stick our heads in the sand and pretend that things that are not true are true, or that things that are true are not true.

He did not mean that we should pretend that people who are not honest are honest, or that things that are impure are pure, and so on with “lovely” and “of good report” and “virtue” and “praise.”

And he certainly did not mean that we should make ourselves complicit in the abandonment of our fellow citizens to the hegemony of a person who is none of “these things.”

Think on that thing.

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