David's Monday Morning Musings 05.21.18
From the desk of Dr. David Swanson
MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018
"Gird your sword upon your side, O Mighty One; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness..." Psalm 45:3-4
I turned 55 over the weekend, and perhaps it was because the AARP mailings started arriving or perhaps it was something else, but I did some serious reflecting. This was deepened when I learned of the latest school shooting, this one in Santa Fe, Texas. I thought of Dan D. Rogers Elementary School at the corner of Lovers Lane and Abrams Road in Dallas, Texas where I attended through 7th grade. I had lots of issues to contend with mostly centered on unrequited love or athletic failure, but at no time did I feel unsafe. Not once. The thought never occurred to me, and yet today we live in a world where that is precisely how students feel. Their assumption is that violence will eventually happen at their school. It's only a matter of time. As I listened to students express those thoughts, I kept thinking "What's happened to us? How have we moved so far down this dark path?" The answer is not contained in politics or social reform, though that's where most people immediately go. No, the answer isn't that easy - or easily understood. As I lingered there, my prayer was "Come, Lord Jesus." It was the echo of Psalm 45. I felt like throwing up my hands and saying, "Enough already. Just come back and take care of this." And then I remember CS Lewis' words: "God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when he does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks out on to the stage, the play is over."
So short of a return of the King, how do we go about living in "the turbulent here and the terrifying now?" We come to terms with the current state of affairs. We can offer explanations for how we got here or who is to blame, but ultimately that's of little use. We must learn to live in THIS reality in a way that makes some contribution to the larger whole without being swallowed by despair. Whenever I have those moments like I did over the weekend - big, existential moments - it helps me to go back to the Scriptures and to God's purpose for me. The best thing I can do in the wake of another tragedy is what God has called me to do.....and that's the same for all of us. 1 Peter 4:12 "Do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal you are going through...." God told us that these are the things that would happen, so our task continues to be singular: bear light in darkness. We all do that differently, but we must each one consider HOW we will do that. EACH person can make that Kingdom contribution.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "That's the earth farting, man. All I know is that volcano is demanding some respect." Rufus Daigle, a 69-year-old poet who runs a fruit stand near the Kilauea volcano.
SABBATICAL: This will be my last MMM until the fall, but somehow I think you'll be able to manage without my weekly nuggets. Much will be happening at FPCO this summer, including the ongoing sermon series on The Year of the Book. We'll also continue our work on the future vision and mission of the church through conversations with small groups and Sunday School classes to get your thoughts on where we are to date. Summer interns will arrive, Student Ministry will be in high gear, and VBS will offer its annual ministry to our children. Stay connected, and I'll see you later in August.
GET HEALTHY: I was a bit dismayed to learn that Orlando ranked 38th among the nation's 100 largest cities in overall health. On the plus side, 73.3 percent said they have exercised in the past 30 days, but only half of those actually got their heart rate to a level called "aerobic activity." And only 19 percent of us consume 3 vegetables a day. 32.4 percent of our city are "not considered to be in good health." So, take a step. Do something to get healthier.
BIRTH RATE FALLING: 3.85 million babies were born last year, down 2% from 2016, the lowest rate in 30 years. As the population ages, this becomes an ever-increasing problem. Woman are having children later in life or electing not to have them at all. There are lots of factors in all of that, but I'm grateful for the Christian admonition from God to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it." Known as the "cultural mandate", one of our primary calls in life is the call to raising Godly families.
DECLINE IN MENTAL HEALTH OF CHILDREN: Related to 1 and 2, a new study shows the proportion of young people treated at US Children's hospitals for suicidal thoughts or attempts doubled from 2008 to 2015. Rates were much higher during the school year and 67% of the visits were girls. Again, the reasons are complex, but clearly school stress and lack of safety are reflected. How we raise our children (#6), including how we impart faith, are essential in creating for them a foundation of security.
FPCO FELLOWS PROGRAM: Our first group of fellows were celebrated yesterday in worship as their nine-month stay with us draws to a close. I was thrilled to have 12 recent college grads doing a deep dive with us on church, theology and work, but I didn't realize what an impact they would have as a whole. They lived with 12 families. They worked for 12 employers. They were mentored by 12 individuals. They served weekly in Student Ministry and took part in 20's Ministry. They went to the Dominican Republic to work with our mission partners. We loved pouring into them, but they also poured right back into us, touching hundreds of lives along the way. I'm grateful.
WHAT I'M READING: Rejoicing in Lament, J. Todd Billings. Using the Psalms of lament as foundation, he weaves his cancer treatment together with a study of God's role in human suffering. READING LIST THIS SUMMER: For starters....The Triumph of Faith, Rodney Stark; Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, Jon Meacham; Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker; Some Pastors and Teachers, Sinclair Ferguson; Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World, Kelley Nikondeha; Culture Care, Makoto Fukimura.
This is an excerpt from David's regular #MMM Monday Morning Musings on Facebook. Read the full post.
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The Rev. Dr. David D. Swanson is the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. In his spare time, Dr. Swanson enjoys reading, running, playing pick-up basketball and golf. More about David.