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Cynicism and Forgiveness

“Forgiveness” is my wife’s favorite song on my new CD.  (Click HERE to listen to the song)  The chorus goes:

It’s impossible to give forgiveness

It’s even worse to have to ask

If letting go is the answer

Living like it’s gone is the task.

How else you going to deal with the past?

Lance Armstrong and General Petraeus in one year are maybe more than we can take, even in our jaded time.  I find myself turning it all off more and more just to preserve my soul.  Cynicism can cripple the spirit.  It can rest on the

How else you gonna deal with the past?

belief that everything is a con, everybody is out to get you, all politicians are evil, and all human beings’ motives are bad.  While Christians might be seen to have a lot in common with that, what with the fall of humanity and all, I’m here to say, “Not really.”

The Christian gospel is not as much about how bad we are as that God knows it and loves us anyway.  Sin is not what lives on at the end of the day.  Its moment is the middle of a Friday with a dark sky and a rugged cross and a man yelling, “It is finished.”  But the last word is an empty tomb, followed by a hopeful church, a Holy Spirit, and a kingdom to come.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, it might do well for us to think about how to defeat it in our lives.  I want to offer two helpful practices from our faith that can be an antidote to cynicism. Read the rest of this entry

Whitney Houston and the Biggest Devil

Whitney Houston made your heart soar with that magnificent voice.  You kept hoping for her—so lovely, so achingly vulnerable, so fragile.  “Come on back, girl,” you hoped.   In the end, she didn’t.  There will be moralizing—drugs, bad choices, all the rest.  But such times are wrong for moral lessons.  There is a time to criticize, and a time to refrain from criticizing.  A time to learn a lesson, and a time to let the dead alone and mourn.

The story of Whitney Houston makes me think how hard it is to care for one’s own soul when there are so many other agendas vying for us.

Diane Sawyer recounted on the news last evening about that famous interview in 2002, when there was so much speculation about how thin she was and wondering about her condition.

Sawyer:   If you had to name the devil for you, the biggest devil among them?

Houston:   That would be me. It’s my deciding, it’s my heart, it’s what I want. And what I don’t want. Nobody makes me

Whitney in happier days

do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision. So the biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy. And that’s how I have to deal with it.

I respect her right to assess her own life.  But to take it a little deeper, I would add that it is important to understand what it means to genuinely accept the responsibility to care for oneself. If that sounds easy to do, it is not.  We are stewards of our lives.  A friend of mine told me of a seminary teacher colleague who used to say, “The first spiritual law is this: God loves you, and everyone has a plan for your life.”

Whitney said on the interview played on the news that the most terrible sound in the world is the sound of 10,000 disappointed fans.  That in my opinion is the demonic temptation of being an entertainer or for anyone who works with people on a large scale.  Preachers know: one or two venomous critics can cancel 100 who are blessed by us—if we give them that power.

But why would we?  And then there is that restlessness in oneself.  I asked an ambitious classmate of mine, who was never satisfied that the current church he was in was not a “good fit” for him,  “How many people will it take to tell you how wonderful you are before you can be happy?”  That’s the question you have to answer before you can do this work. That was three churches ago for him.  Hope he finally found the grass above the septic tank.

A pastor friend put it this way wants:  “I’m not bothered by what the critics said nearly so much I am bothered that I let it bother me.”   THAT is the place where the devil does his best work.

Rest in peace, Whitney.  Sing with the angels, and fear the critics no more.  In heaven, every judgment heals and purges, and there are no more tears or pain, for the former things have passed away.