T O T A L I T Y

totality1

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.
–Exodus 10:21-22

On August 21st, 2017, a word I’d heard but never used sort of sprang up into my mouth, where I uttered it many, many times:  TOTALITY.

Everywhere I went people were saying that word!

Totality.  Referring to that narrow band of geography, spreading across the United States, that fell completely into the shadow caused by the solar eclipse.

Like a status symbol I never knew was attainable or even existed, I was suddenly one of the millions who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and to have the clouds (literally) part and reveal the sun, fully eclipsed by the moon.  Totality.

It was very cool.  I hadn’t even been expecting much of the event, but watching the world around me rapidly descend into nighttime was like something out of a global disaster movie!  It was somehow palpable, pervasive.  It was darkness that clings to you.

I was instantly transported back to ancient Egypt.  To the showdown between God and Pharaoh, to Moses stretching out his hand and bringing sudden darkness on the land. This was not just a heavy cloud cover kind of darkness.  This was, as God puts it, “darkness that can be felt”.

A plague of totality.

I experienced 3 minutes of it, and felt a little relief when the light began to return.  I can’t imagine what 3 days of that would have felt like, knowing God was punishing you.

Some folks feel that way. That God is punishing us.  Can you recall a moment when everybody you knew was walking around in the dark at the same time?  When it seemed like the whole Earth had crawled up inside a shadow?

September 11th comes to mind.  And our world today can feel like the new Dark Ages.  There are so many scary, hateful signs of despair, whole swaths of us that are living in the shadows. Many turn their eyes towards heaven, and blame God for the dark.

Darkness is so often portrayed as something to be feared and dreaded, but on August 21st, 2017, I experienced the thrill of life on planet Earth, in its totality. We praised God, even in the dark!

During this totality, what I heard were screams of joy coming from a neighbor’s front yard.  A jubilant firework being shot off across town.  We whooped and hollered and stared right at the sun for a few moments.  This was a once in a lifetime experience that was shared by those “in the zone” and those hundreds of miles away.

Let us remember that God created darkness along with the light.  God is not out to punish us, or banish us, or deprive us from joy.  God created the sun and the moon and the earth.  God created the universe in its totality, and all the many lives who inhabit it,

not for us to revel in despair…

but to eclipse it with joy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Seeing, and Nazi-ing.

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Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.  –Luke 11:34

I have sympathy for Nazis. But by no means does that make me a Nazi sympathizer!  In fact, there are few groups in the world that disgust me as much as they do.

With their marching, and swastika waving, and saluting, not to mention their racist, fascist words and actions, I might be persuaded to punch one in the face, and I’m a man of peace!

Remember that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Nazis open up the Ark of the Covenant, and the Spirit comes out and basically smites all the Nazis?  Well, I don’t really think that’s something the Holy Spirit would do, but I can’t help but cheer. 

I try not to hate, and it makes especially little sense when that hate is directed towards a “hate group”, but groups like the Nazis, and the KKK, and ISIS make me want to scream in rage.

Oh, you too?  Alright, let’s leave a little space here for some primal screaming.  Ready?  Go!

(scream)

Okay.  I feel a little better.  I, for one, angry as these hate groups may make me, have to be sure not to just stuff down my emotions and ignore them. I think it’s okay to let it out, but as a controlled burn, not a wildfire.  I think we have a right to be angry, but not give in to hate.

So how is it that I can feel sorry for these jerks?  These walking, talking time bombs of intolerance?  Isn’t that like having sympathy for the devil?  (Rolling Stones reference, by the way).

No, it’s having sympathy for people who don’t see the light.  Who don’t see light at all.  As Jesus mentions in the passage above, people whose eyes are unhealthy, and all they can see is darkness.

What damaged their eyes?  What caused these folks to see such hate?

Maybe it was their parents.  Racism is often a passed-down trait.  They were raised to hate and fear types of people, and so they do.

Maybe it was their situation.  Maybe they need somebody to blame for their social status, or their poverty, or their unemployment.  Or course, that makes it sound like Nazis and other racists come from the lower class alone.  Racism, so to say, does not discriminate.  It can be found in all levels of society.

Maybe they never heard of God.  Or never learned to see the good in others.  Maybe they willfully stared at the wrong things, dark things.  Or saw hatred as a way to get ahead.

I don’t know why Nazi’s choose Nazi-ing (“Not Seeing”) the light of God in all God’s people, but I can attest, that light is there.  Even a Nazi is not immune from the power and love of God’s light.  There is hope.

So, although I find myself tensing up in frustration at the sight of a swastika, I just keep praying for a little of God’s light to break through.

Maybe, instead of a full-on smite, the Spirit can give those Nazis

a painful, yet eye-opening sunburn.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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Light, Beer

There’s a convenience store in my town. Here’s what the sign out front says this week:

“WE SELL
BEER ON
SUNDAY
NOON TO 8PM
1 JOHN 1:5″

One sentence, no breaks.  Just a beer advertisement and a scripture reference.

The family that owns that convenience store is clearly Christian.  There’s even a cross on their logo.  And this is not the first time they’ve posted a scripture verse on their sign.

This is just the funniest.

Do you notice that they wait until noon to start selling beer?  I wonder if that’s to catch everyone on their way home from church? I suppose that’s better than folks picking up a six pack on their way to church that morning!

Seriously, though…

These folks have a sign with five lines, and they reserve one of those lines for sharing scripture.  That’s double tithing of their space!

And the single-verse scriptures they’ve picked are good.  I like this one especially.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  –1 John 1:5

I wonder what it would mean to someone who got curious about that “1 John 1:5” line, and typed it into Google?

“God is light; in him there is no darkness”.  That’s a statement of God’s immense power and goodness.  It would definitely leave me wondering: Who is this God?

And, think about this:  While there are many out there who can drink beer responsibly, there are others for whom alcohol has become a source of great darkness.

What a strange twist, then, to have this verse of hope at the end of a advertisement for Sunday beer sales?

It seems to me that this family is undermining their own ad–with something, Someone, who brings more joy into the world than anything else.  Even beer.

Well, the store’s sign has gotten a few chuckles in my town.  Who knows, maybe it brings in the Sunday afternoon crowd as intended.

For me, I’ll keep watching for signs to come,

and raise a glass to people who put Good News into the world…

Even when it isn’t a Convenience.

Have a great week,

Mitch