Sunday, August 24, 2014

Everything Changes

Much has occurred since the spring, the last time I blogged.

The kids and I vacationed in Glacier National Park in July in an RV. It was an eye-opening experience in several ways. Of course, the scenery was unbelievably breathtaking. God’s awesomeness was everywhere, as you can see.

When you get out of the house and spend a week in an RV with two teenagers, it’s a lot of quality time. Even though Dori wasn’t with us, she was there. Her physical absence was magnified on vacation, while her meaning to us was more apparent than ever.

During the trip and upon our return, waves of grief took turns hitting our shores. We’ve been dealing with deeper layers of emotion, what I call peeling back more of the onion. We’ve had some tough days, but the trip was well worth it. We have been presented with new opportunities to grow.

On the trip, I read Eleven Rings – a great book by basketball coach Phil Jackson, given by my friend Maureen. Jackson’s unorthodox techniques resulted in 11 NBA championships, 10 as coach of the Bulls and Lakers. Long story short, Jackson drew upon Lakota Sioux Indian ritual, Buddhism and Christianity to help shape thinking and focus to build united, high-achieving teams.

Jackson wrote about the Buddhist belief that you cannot be happy or live a purposeful life unless you recognize “everything changes.” I alluded to this in my last post, in fact, citing Father Jerry’s Easter homily.

Change seems to be a recurring theme. Last night, Maureen and I went to the Belcourt Theater to see the movie Calvary. Father James, an Irish widower and now priest, is the protagonist, a Christ-like figure. His parishioners are struggling, to say the least; most have no spiritual or moral compass and some are evil. In fact, one parishioner who was raped as a boy by another priest has pledged to kill Father James in seven days.

Father James is tormented and mocked by his entire congregation. Two men beat him. Adultery and debauchery are everywhere; hope isn’t. His church is burned to the ground and his dog’s throat is slit. His daughter, who recently attempted suicide, wonders aloud about her own meaning. Father James, knowing his death is likely imminent, seems to be on a journey to pay for all these sins.

At one point, Father James discusses the inevitability of change with his daughter. At another, he comforts a woman who has experienced tragic deaths in her immediate family. Father James opines that if your faith is rooted in the fear of death, it isn’t very deep. Faith isn’t a comforter so much as the knowledge you are forgiven and welcomed to His Kingdom, if you believe.

When called by parishioners to their homes, Father James asked if he was there to be tormented, tempted and ridiculed, or if they wanted to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness. Did they have true remorse? Were they seeking redemption?

Calvary is dark and graphic. I sensed many left the theater is disbelief, after Father James is murdered in cold blood, threat carried out. At the end of the movie, you could hear a pin drop. Where was the happy ending?

If everything changes, and it will, then what are we waiting for? Why is it so hard to ask forgiveness? Why are we so prideful and judgmental?

My wife taught me the living example of faith. Now, reminders are everywhere – in gifted books, in movies and on vacations. The Holy Spirit is speaking through others now, trying to connect me to righteousness and redemption, as I face my own ongoing challenges and shortcomings.

The only lasting happy ending, if we believe, is after this life. I’ll pray about this more, and ask that you pray with me, and for those who seek redemption and those who choose another course.

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