To be honest, I was in another world. My thoughts and emotions were light years away. To say I was conscious of my surroundings would have been stretching the truth. Yet, it was in that nebulous moment, of being neither “hither nor yon,” that my mind picked up a snapshot of life.
It was a group of people somewhere off to my right, clustered around a new bicycle. There was the recipient, obviously enthralled with the new purchase and its proud statement to the world. The siblings were enthusiastic, caught up in the moment as only brothers and sisters can be. But it was the Mother who showed it all. There was a smile across her lips and the “crow’s feet” pattern of laugh lines at the corner of her eyes. The reading of her face revealed the sheer pleasure of the moment.
The Mother had offered of herself, embraced by a love that went beyond cost, to the sure affection of unbridled giving. She had purchased the bike for her child and was aglow, basking in the warmth and grace of the transaction.
In that moment, I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that indeed, “it is more blessed to give….”
I have used them both, the sextant and the GPS unit. Both are wonderful tools that aid in the process of navigation. The former demands a degree of skill that comes only with time and usage, while the latter, in the hands of an informed operator, is a push button affair that through the advances of micro processing and satellite technology displays an instantaneous position.
As an operator becomes familiar with both instruments it becomes clear that each device has its own idiosyncrasies that a user needs to adjust and compensate for. Nevertheless, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, the sextant or GPS unit can and does perform admirably, enabling the user to pinpoint their location on the planet.
Each instrument depends on a host of conditions to gain the desired accuracy; human error, technology, weather, antenna reception, cooperative celestial bodies, available satellites and a myriad of other factors that combine to affect their reliability. Yet both technologies are flawless in the right hands and have offered salvation on more than one occasion.
Born in two different eras of scientific and mathematical discovery, both instruments have enabled the lost to be found. Reminiscent of theology, where views of one era seem to make redundant those from another, each instrument provides a degree of accuracy and truth that is as valid today as that of yesteryear. The difference lies in the method of extraction and the manipulation of the data presented to the operator. Though seemingly divergent and at times antagonistic toward the other, each takes us through a journey while providing the signposts to ensure the arrival at the desired destination.
Throughout history, Celestial bodies have offered the potential of enabling the lost to be found. Instruments of varying accuracy help us navigate the sea of life. Neither better nor worse, each provides an understanding that is equally valid to the defining question of “Where are we?” Perhaps it is better to move beyond the shallowness of debating the merits of one over the other and concentrate instead on developing the skills of use so as to proclaim our position to the world.
From being lost to find our way home – now that’s good news!
Nondescript, yet funky, the bookstore stood as a refuge from the mad world careening by, just beyond its plate glass windows. It was a tranquil setting, an oasis for those who wished to revel in a few moments of self-indulgence. Sentinel like, the books upon the shelves silently supported each other as if tired from the thoughts and passages of time. Yet, under the watchful eye of the shop proprietor, the recorded nuances and reflections of life offered beckoning pages of picture and word to the seeker.
She entered in a charming and expressive way, full of life and spontaneity. In the proffered silence, amid the racks of books something caught her attention. Bending low to examine the treasure of her pursuit, an embarrassing and all resounding resonance of ripping material cascaded off the shop walls echoing in the ears of those caressing their literary choice. Caught in an unredeemable predicament, the young woman stood up and in an audible yet, unflappable voice asked “…and the diet section would be?”
For better or for worse the unexpected is always present. It is an unpredictable force that seems to demand our attention. Potentially delightful, but at times equally disruptive it can test to the core. Whether through curiosity, challenge, anger or opportunity, taking ownership of such moments and turning them into stages of nurture and growth is paramount. Such is especially prudent for the Christian, for by proclaiming a belief, a faith and a story, moments of awkwardness, embarrassment and even fear will beckon throughout the pages and chapters of life. It is our call, our mandate and our mission to respond with discernment, purpose, knowledge and wit, thereby offering witness to God through Christ with unflappable grace, proclaiming the eternal title on the book of life “…to God be the glory!”
Certain things from my childhood days, beyond the friends and the escapades of growing up remain etched in my mind. One of the haunting memories is the peel of bells. It seemed that no matter where I was it was only a matter of time before I would hear their toll echoing across the countryside. They offered a primordial call to an ordered discipline of prayer and devotion as the day was transformed from the business of doing to the stillness of being in relation to the Almighty. Especially significant on the Sabbath, I was drawn to ring them, to learn of their intricacies, to feel the rope between my palms and to hear the clapper hammer its note home.
I remember the day when I thought my dream was to come true. My Father had been posted to a new military base and we were leaving the congregation. It was the perfect send off for a little boy. As the priest stood beside the car saying his farewells to the family, he put his arm on my shoulder and pointing to the steeple said, “It is to bad that you are moving for next year you would have been old enough to ring the bells.” Crushed, I turned away with a grieving heart and more than a few tears.
Though the years passed, I carried the hurt of that moment deep inside. Upon my own ordination, I vowed with the best of intent to never prohibit anyone from ringing the church bells. Recognizing that I may be breaking an age-old order of the “ Carillon and Bell Ringers Society”, I prefer to do so than to shatter a little one’s heart.
Not so long ago I found myself looking up at the infamous steeple and at the un-rung bells of my youth. I entered St. Jude’s and spoke with the receptionist who in turn spoke to the curate. He emerged with the keys to the belfry and said, “Mr. Dean, let me right a wrong.” Forty years late, I rang those bells to my heart’s content conscious of our Savior’s words “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”