Moving into the future

My denomination believes that God continues to speak to us through a contemporary prophet. So what does that mean?

Well, in some ways, maybe it’s easier to say what it doesn’t mean.

  • It’s not an automatic rubber stamp of what our prophet-president says. There is lots of discussion about what he shares.
  • Believing what he shares as the mind and will of God is not a requirement for belonging to the church. (This is closely related to the first point.)
  • It doesn’t bring automatic answers to all our questions.

We have been called in the recent past to be a “prophetic people,” not just a people with a prophet. And that, I believe, is the key–both to our belief in continuing revelation and to the title of this post.

Our prophet-president recently shared inspired counsel to our church. It partially answered some questions–but in many ways raised more. How can we worship together with understandings from so many different cultures? (We have membership in over 50 countries–with very diverse beliefs.) What things that we have always believed are truly foundational? and which are cultural? How do we relate previous revelation with current revelation? What does it really mean to believe in continuing revelation?

God calls us to move into the future in faith…with God. That doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily going to know exactly where we’re going or how difficult or easy the path is going to be.

But being a prophetic people–rather than merely a people with a prophet–calls us to trust…to be willing to listen…to sometimes live with ambiguity and questions as we let God work with us to make us who and what God wants us to be.

It’s not easy. But being a prophetic people calls us to move into the future in faith–with each other and with God.

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Living from crisis to crisis

I sometimes wonder what causes / allows some individuals / families / countries to seemingly live from crisis to crisis…with apparently no hope for a better future.

One case in point obviously is Haiti. It seems like every time the people of the country just begin to get back on their feet, something else smacks them down–either a political crisis or a cause created by a natural disaster.

Another situation is a family I know who seem to constantly lurch from crisis to crisis…job loss…abusive situations…relationship problems…and the list goes on and on.

I cannot subscribe to the belief that has been unfortunately too widely voiced by some “good Christians” that people / countries who suffer like this are being punished by God for some unknown sin they’ve committed or some devilish pact they’ve made. That is not the God I worship.

Some situations are created out of events beyond immediate human control…although human decisions do have impact on how the crises affect situations.  Causing / allowing unstable areas to be crowded with people who have no safe housing or clean water will create dangerous situations when the earth rumbles. But when people have no other choice as to where to live, do we then turn around and blame them? I don’t think so.

In other situations, allowing hormones to overrule common sense definitely can impact the lives of individuals–when unexpected pregnancies cause people to live in situations that are not healthy for any of them…physically or emotionally. Are they to blame? Well, they have some responsibilities…but blaming does not get them the counseling or other help they need.

But I also know other people who have been in similar situations who have been able to turn their lives around…to somehow have at least one thing work right that causes a small change that leads to bigger changes.

Why them and not others? I don’t have the answer…just questions. The one thing I do believe is that it is not some kind of divine punishment!

Making the catastrophe real…

A catastrophe by its very nature is almost impossible to fathom, and the results of the earthquake in Haiti fit that category. There is so much destruction…so many injuries and deaths… How does one make sense of it?

For me, it became real in the story of an 11-year-old girl, a child who was trapped for hours in the rubble of her home. I didn’t know her name or anything else about her…just that she had–for the moment at least–survived the earthquake.

And her plight caught the attention of many. I think for many of us, she became the face of the thousands of nameless others whose fates we could not comprehend.

I shuddered when the news indicated that there was a possibility that her leg might have to be amputated in order to extricate her, but I also thought that at least she had a chance. And when the story came that they had decided they did not need to amputate it–and the exciting news came that she had indeed been extricated–I felt a sense of hope and joy.

But then…

Then the story continued. It wasn’t one of those “happily ever after” stories. Yes, she was pulled from the wreckage of her home–but her injuries were too severe, and she simply was not able to survive…not without more advanced medical help that she was unable to access in a timely manner.

For me, that’s the face of the tragedy in Haiti. There are over 100,000 stories like hers…so many that it’s hard to fathom–until something happens and we see a face that makes it real.

 11-year-old dies

Been haunted…

I’ve been haunted all night by a video I saw on CNN yesterday. It was taken right after the earthquake, showing the immediate aftermath.

There was a warning that it contained graphic material. I thought I could handle it–figured it would deal with severe injury and death. And there was some of that.

But the scene that continues to haunt me came about a minute in.

The camera is focused on what appears to have been a school. You can see faces through a small whole…and a few seconds later, in a different place along the wall, there is a hand reaching through a crevice and waving as though asking for someone to help. You can almost see the face, but not quite…and there is no way for anyone to get through because the space is too thin.

As I said, it haunts me. I think the odds are pretty good that the hand will continue waving for help–until the building either collapses more or the lack of food / water brings an end. And there is nothing I can do…

 CNN video

Haiti…

I’m not even sure what to say…

Why is it that those who have so little seem to be the ones who are hardest hit in any kind of disaster? And this disaster–this horrible earthquake–in Haiti feels like a nightmare that keeps unfolding.

A country that is so poor, that in many ways is barely functioning, now has to cope with the loss of most of its capital city as well as one-third of its population being affected by the quake…and as yet unknown casualties.

And for those who have survived…now what? Dealing with the loss of hope with the deaths of children–and I know of at least one school that was destroyed while it was in session… Trying to rebuild when you’re lucky to make $2 a day (if that)–where do you start? And the fears of the aftershocks…

I feel so helpless. I can’t go there–and if I could, I’d be more in the way than a help. Money and prayers seem so impersonal and so little…and yet at this point they are all I can offer.

That…and somehow helping the people of Haiti know that they are not forgotten, that they are not dealing with this catastrophe alone…

Eyewitness accounts

New year…new start…

There’s something about “January”–just saying the name of the month–that brings with it promise.

There’s a whole new year stretching out in front of you…a clean slate and a fresh start. The “stuff” of the past year has been wiped away and we’ve got a chance to try to get it right again this year.

Yes, we’ll make mistakes. That’s part of being human.

But when we talk about a clean slate, that’s hope. Probably many of us aren’t really aware of what that term means. There’s a couple of possibilities that I’ve heard, both related to the education field. Before notebook paper, students did lessons on a slate board with chalk. If you made a mistake, it wasn’t easy to correct! Also, students who got in trouble had their names listed on the slate board. Each night, the slate was wiped clean–either from the lessons of the day or from the names of the miscreant students–and the next day started with a clean slate. The mistakes were no longer visible, and there was a chance for a fresh start.

And so this month gives us a clean slate. It’s possible to focus on the mistakes of the past year–but it’s far more productive to see this as an opportunity to start fresh. A short statement I read in a magazine quite a while ago said “The past is a signpost, not a destination.” Rather than getting stuck in the issues / problems of the past year, the mistakes we’ve made in the past can point us toward a different direction…a new start.

Let’s take advantage of the clean slate we have this month!