The Eagle Family–Part 2

Father eagle bringing a fish to the nest for the juveniles.

Father eagle bringing a fish to the nest for the juveniles. (click to enlarge photos)

This morning the male Bald Eagle flew in with a fish for the juveniles. These parents seem to bring fish or shore birds for the young to eat. I’ve seen no evidence of other types of prey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You're not eating my portion are you?"

“You’re not eating my portion are you?”

The second-born began to tear at the fish, and the first-born looked on as if to say, “You’re not eating my portion, are you?” I don’t think it has anything to be concerned about, however. The first-born was noticeably larger than the second, and was advanced in flapping its wings and practicing flying, so he/she need not fear being overtaken by the second. It came up with a feather from a past meal, but it got to the fish as well.

 

 

 

 

 

The look. It just comes naturally.

The look. It just comes naturally.

This is the first-born practicing his eagle look. He’s got it down pretty good, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Family

Circling the area to make her presence known.

The female circled the nest a couple of times this morning as she guarded the area while the male hunted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spectacular landing on a familiar perch high in a tree across the field from the nest.

A spectacular landing on a familiar perch high in a tree across the field from the nest.

She landed in a tall tree after taking perches in two other locations, perhaps to let me know she has her eye on me.

I imagine it won’t be too much longer until the first-born attempts flight. Both juveniles are flapping their wings and hopping, especially in a strong breeze. I hope to be there to see it.

The Eagle Family

The eagle nest (1 of 1)

The eagle nest from the road. (click to enlarge photos)

Driving down a one lane road in the late winter this year, Sharon noticed a bald eagle nest. It was a surprise because we were looking for another bird.

I took a few photos and resolved to come back and take more; and to see if I could get permission from the property owners to follow the nest through the hatching and fledging of the eaglets. Eventually, I was able to secure that permission.

Mother eagle on nest (1 of 1)

The mother eagle standing guard on the edge of the nest.

As a result, I’ve been able to watch the male and female eagle guard the nest against interlopers,

 

 

 

 

Male eagle vocalizing in flight (1 of 1)

The male eagle circling and vocalizing at an intruding eagle.

 

and I witnessed them chasing one away as it tried to encroach into their territory.

 

 

 

 

Eaglets in downy feathers taking a look at their new world.

Eaglets in downy feathers taking a look at their new world.

 

I’ve seen the newly hatched eaglets peek out over the edge of the nest, looking at the world for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Mother feeding eaglet (1 of 1)

The mother pulls meat from the prey and feeds the eaglets until they learn to tear it for themselves.

 

And I’ve watched them as they were being fed by their parents.

 

 

 

 

 

The eaglets outgrew their downy feathers after a few weeks, looking more eagle-like.

The eaglets outgrew their downy feathers after a few weeks, looking more eagle-like.

They’ve grown rapidly, adding more mature feathers to their downy ones.

 

 

 

 

 

The female changed course in mid-air directly above me one day. As she twisted she also flew upside down momentarily.

The female changed course in mid-air directly above me one day. As she twisted she also flew upside down momentarily.

I’ve seen the parents do aerial acrobatics, which were startling, and bring in fish and water fowl that they’ve hunted from a nearby lake and surrounding woods.

To learn their habits and flight patterns requires standing sometimes for hours waiting for something to happen.

 

 

Adults perched vocalizing (1 of 1)

The adults vocalize with a high pitched screech-like sound. It’s more comical than regal or menacing to my ear.

The adults fly to a nearby tree and perch on the same limb, often vocalizing to each other in a strange sounding screech that is almost comical coming from a bird that looks so menacing and regal.

 

 

 

Eaglet wings raised (1 of 1)

The first-born has developed noticeably more quickly than its sibling. Here he/she is flexing it wings in preparation for the day when it will fly. And that day is not long off.

 

I’ve seen how the first-born has developed more rapidly than its sibling. He/she stands in the nest and flaps her wings as it’s trying to fly.

 

 

 

 

 

Second born eaglet (1 of 1)

The second born was more reticent in taking food early on. Today it’s more active and is maturing rapidly.

The second-born is developing more slowly and is much smaller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male eagle on dead tree.

The male recently perched on this dead tree trunk in the morning sunlight after circling the nest and bringing in a fish for the eaglets.

I’m waiting for the first eaglet to fledge with something like the anticipation a parent has when its child takes its first step. Until then, I watch with admiration at the sight of new lives being launched and behold the beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

Unity, Schism, or Something In-between?

The bishops of The United Methodist Church proposed a path forward that forestalled debate on human sexuality when they offered a plan of action to the delegates of the 2016 General Conference of the church in Portland.

The plan includes a call to an extended time of prayer, review of the sections of the church’s law book referring to human sexuality, the creation of a commission to consider how to move the church forward and the possibility for a called session of General Conference at some future date to consider how the church manages its conflict over human sexuality.

Exclusionary policies regarding homosexuality spelled out in the law book of the church, called the Book of Discipline, are the source of the dispute.

I watched as an outsider after having been part of the general church staff for a number of years.

Parliamentary procedure became a proxy for action in a session that looked like the church was slowly unraveling. Delegates called for multiple points of order and made amendments to motions that brought the proceedings to a standstill.

One delegate even made an unprecedented request (at least I can find no precedent) to ask the bishop presiding over the session to step down due to “bias” and allow another to take his place.

This was an indication of how brutal the situation has become and how deeply entrenched are the different factions.

A Theological Problem

At root, this is a theological problem of great importance. But it also a cultural issue. And even some conservatives who are holding fast to exclusion concede that it is a battle lost. The church is fighting over values from a world that is already past, but not yet fully accepted by some.

It seems reasonable to say that there is no theological solution to the division. The differences are too great. The hurts too deep. The positions too fixed.

The denomination, once a cornerstone of mainline theology, has become irrelevant in the public conversation about human sexuality in the United States due to its exclusionary policies and practices.

On this issue, it is now in league with theologies that are more accurately situated in 19th and 20th century fundamentalism than in the traditions, teachings and practices of Christian faith over the centuries.

For a lucid discussion of this, see a statement by Timothy Eberhart, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ecology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Assistant Professor of Theology and Ecology at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Only time will tell if the proposed commission can provide alternatives that keep the church from making a formal split. On the other hand, it may determine that a split is preferable to the theological differences that are eating away at the church’s mission and witness.

Revisiting Regionalism

Past proposals for reorganization into semi-autonomous regional bodies will likely be given greater consideration. This would, in theory, make it possible for the church in different parts of the world to follow the theological perspective most acceptable to that region—schism without calling it schism.

What it would do to common mission and witness is open to question. What it would do to the nature of the community and how United Methodists view themselves in the world is worth considering as well.

Discipleship and the Kingdom of God

The call to discipleship is a call to see oneself in relationship to the whole world that is God’s good Creation. It is not a call to sectarianism, chauvinism, or cultural isolation.

In fact, these are the very things that are tearing the world apart, many of them under the guise of religious extremism.

If the church moves toward regionalism and does not simultaneously begin to teach more intentionally that to follow Jesus is to become a citizen of a kingdom that knows no geography, and that demands that one become a globally aware citizen who stands for justice for all and respects the sacredness of human personality, it will have failed its missional responsibility.

The call to be a disciple is the call to rise above the divisiveness that so characterizes religion in these days, contributes to the diminishment of the global community, and continues to do great harm to people around the world.

This is the challenge the church must face.

______________________________

There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28.

______________________________

This discussion by David Brooks of social fragmentation and decentralization is pertinent to the deliberations that will be conducted in The United Methodist Church in the future.

Practice and Learn, Practice and Learn

Female Eastern Towhee (1 of 1)

A female Eastern Towhee at eye level in the shade of a tree. Females of this species are equally colorful as the males, in my opinion. That’s not always the case with birds.

In an opinion piece in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, Gerald Marzorati, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine, writes that immersing yourself in something new and difficult, and improving at it, is a key to better life as we age.

He took up tennis and gained new insights about himself. He also experienced physical improvement.

Marzorati says it should be a difficult activity—a craft or discipline—that takes effort and coaching. It’s more than reading a self-help book or thinking good thoughts.

Much of his insight is consistent with my own learnings in photography.

My activity didn’t start that way. It started as an attempt to get more exercise. As Sharon and I began our daily walks we discovered anew how much we enjoyed being outside as well as being active.

One day we saw a red-winged blackbird on the hiking path and I said I should bring a camera the next time we walked. That started it, and my effort to perfect my nature photography skills have become a daily discipline.

Marzorati says “practice, practice practice” is the foundation for this rejuvenating effort. In photography, subject, composition, lighting, focus, framing, angle of view, shutter speed, and f stop all figure into making a photograph.

So does post-processing and printing which are disciplines unto themselves.

Pine Warbler. This is a photo I should have left un taken. The light alters the color of the bird and the background is busy. Discrimination is something I continue to learn when I get enthusiastic about seeing an attractive subject.

Pine Warbler. This is a photo I should have left untaken. The light alters the color of the bird and the background is busy. Discrimination is something I continue to learn when I get enthusiastic about seeing an attractive subject.

I still need to be more discriminating in selecting subjects. Along with those things I’ve listed above, poses and backgrounds make a photograph.

It’s more difficult to do this in a forest in subdued light than on a shoreline in the sunshine. I also trek in the rain and snow because photographic things happen on rainy or snowy days as well as sunny or overcast days. For some creatures it’s necessary to lie down to get eye-level views. I hadn’t anticipated lying on my stomach in the wet grass in spring or frosty weeds in winter when I started this venture.

I also hadn’t thought about how I would get up the first time I laid down but I figured out a way do so without looking too much like a hippo rolling in mud.

I’m still a long way from where I’d like to be with the photos I’m making. I can see improvement but there’s still room for more. Making photos of birds in flight is much different from birds in trees, or those on shore. Small subjects such as birds are more difficult than large ones.

Wild things move. Sometimes quickly and erratically. I’m told that practice is necessary to make adjustments on the fly, to adjust without thinking. Sometimes when I think about adjusting exposure or speed, the opportunity to make an image is gone.

So, it’s a process of practice and learn, practice and learn. Undergirding this is the need to stay alert, to remember, to be aware, and to be present in the moment. None of this will make me younger. But it does make life more interesting, adventuresome and meaningful.

 

I’ll have some additional reflections in future posts.

The Cedar Grove Owls

Female on nest. (1 of 1)A pair of barred owls have mated and established a nest several feet off the trail at Radnor Natural Area and Wildlife Refuge in Nashville. The nest is in a tree with a cavity about 30 feet from the ground in a shaded area. It’s difficult to see with the naked eye, but with telephoto lenses or binoculars you can see the opening and the owls moving in and out.

Several photographers (self-named “the Radnor paparazzi”) have been keeping watch. We must stay on the trail, so we peep from a distance, and now that spring foliage has blossomed, through leafy branches.

Mrs. Owl has been confined to the nest incubating the eggs until recently. I’ve read that female owls are the sole incubators. They develop a “brood patch” of sparsely covered skin in the breast area. This has a higher density of blood vessels for warming the eggs.

 

Male in cedar tree. (1 of 1)The male has brought the female food but he has taken his time, often resting in cedar trees not far from the nest. Because he’s so often found here, the pair has been named the “Cedar Grove Owls.”

 

 

 

 

 

Male in flowers (1 of 1)Recently he perched near the trail and dropped into a patch of wildflowers.

 

 

 

 

 

Male with snake, (1 of 1)He had found prey. When he flew up he carried a snake which he dispatched and carried, at least that part that he didn’t consume himself, to his mate.

 

 

 

 

 

Female leaving the nest (1 of 1)We suspect the eggs have hatched, but are not certain. Our suspicion is based on the observation that Mrs. Owl is now leaving the nest to hunt.

 

 

 

 

 

She doesn’t go far, but she stays out for longer time periods.

 

 

 

 

 

Female with vole (1 of 1)Recently she caught a vole and took it back to the nest, and then left again for more hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

Feamle looking out. (1 of 1)We’re anxious to see the owlets and we’re keep a watchful eye on the nest and the parents.

 

 

 

 

 

A One Year Anniversary and a New Life

Two Roads Diverged

Two Roads Diverged

In a few days it will be one year since I exited the formal work environment. It’s been a year of reflection, learning, activity and renewal; and the beginning of a new life.

I’m healthier than I’ve been in several years. I get more exercise but for the time when I was a young person active in various sports.

I wake each morning looking forward genuinely excited about the new day. Sometimes I even find myself whistling! That’s a surprise to me.

When I considered making this move, I wasn’t sure how I would use my time. A  job provides its own structure and time commitment. Being out of that environment means you’re responsible for your own use of time, setting priorities, and making engagements.

It’s a self-directed life in which you set your own agenda.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that on most days there’s not enough time to do all that I want to do. Any fears of boredom or ennui quickly faded.

I’ve taken a hiatus from writing in favor of daily hikes of 3 or 4 miles, concentrating on photography, and being outside in nature.

I’ve met lots of interesting people and had many enjoyable conversations. I’ve discovered new interests and activities.

I also have time to read books and articles that interest me, no matter how unrelated the topics, but not one book on organizational dynamics, leadership, or management.

After positions in which I traveled internationally, most recently about 40% of the time, I haven’t gotten on an airplane but once this past year, and that was to deliver three addresses to a group in Dallas about communicating faith in the 21st Century.

Until Sharon grew tired of hearing it, I’d often say, as a plane flew overhead, “Thank God I’m not on that.”

All of this leads me to reflections on what I’ve discovered as I’ve stepped out of the institution and into the so-called “real world.”

I’ll be writing about this in the next few posts and I’ll welcome hearing from you about your perspectives on life in this rapidly changing, sometimes harsh and difficult world.

But that’s not the whole picture. I’m more interested in how we celebrate life, find the sacred in our daily activities, and discover hope and meaning in a world of great blessing.

So I hope you’ll stop by and engage in that conversation.

Oprah on Belief

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.11.54 PMIn a conference call on Monday night, Oprah Winfrey told the 800 people who connected that her calling is to share ideas through storytelling to connect people.

The call was designed to promote the series Belief that she produced and will air beginning Oct. 18 -24 on the OWN channel.

The series was three years in the making and tells stories of faith from around the world. She said “the way to connect people to their own life story is to allow them to see their story in another’s story.”

“Stories help us to understand what makes us unique but also show us the beautiful things that we have in common,” she said.

The series is built on the belief that the thread of love is the same across all the world’s major religions. When we hear stories of love, we understand each other differently and find out we have more in common that we knew before, Oprah said.

This isn’t a new concept but it comes at a time when religion is being used to divide us and spread hateful rhetoric that does harm.

Jim Winkler, President and chief executive of the National Council of Churches told the group the individual stories illustrate the power of faith for good in the world. He cited the Civil Rights movement as an example of a movement built on moral and spiritual values.

He said the interfaith stories on Belief had inspired him to consider extending interfaith dialogue through the NCCUSA to include conversations with Buddhists and Hindus.

The thought that stories of belief can connect us is a helpful corrective to the pervasive cultural narrative of individualism and isolation in Western societies that has been documented by Robert Putnam and Shirley Turkle.

It’s particularly notable that faith is being presented as unifying. The isolation fostered by technology in common spaces increases our sense of loss of community and connection. For example, sit in an airport public lounge and see how common space has become more atomized as we turn to handheld devices to avoid the invasive ads, noise, and television monitors that distract and annoy us today.

Religious belief offers us many helpful tools, but one of the most distinctive and constructive may be that it provides us with a sense of connection with others and, at its best, a unifying spirit in a world of diversity.

The Belief team is calling on people to organize watch parties and conversation groups and to promote the series on social media.

By using her resources and celebrity to encourage a more unifying spirit and reinforce the thought that belief can have value if it teaches compassion and offers healing, Oprah is giving the world a valuable and timely gift.

Aylan, When Did We See You?

NY Times Page (1 of 1)I awoke this morning from what I thought was a dream, or nightmare. I had dreamt I was profoundly sad and on the verge of tears.

I saw in my mind’s eye the photo of a little boy who was a refugee.

He had drowned. His body washed ashore and was picked up by a Turkish gendarme.

I touched my arm and realized if I was dreaming I was now awake and the scene was not a dream, it is reality.

The body of 3-year-old Syrian, Aylan Kurdi, lying lifeless on a beach has galvanized the world to become aware of the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

News reports say his mother and sister died as well when their overloaded boat sank in rough seas. They were trying to get from Syria to Europe.

11 million Syrians have been displaced by war and more than 2,600 Syrians and Africans have died this year trying to make the crossing.

The most conservative estimate I’ve seen is that 20,000 people have lost their lives attempting to reach Europe from the African continent through extrajudicial means in the past two decades.

The Global Crisis

Opinions about the crisis abound. World leaders, particularly European politicians and policymakers, have ignored the humanitarian tragedy that’s been underway for years.

The U.S., neighboring Middle Eastern countries, and other civil leaders could have done more, sooner.

I am complicit, too. I wrote to leaders of my own religious community meeting in Europe asking them to speak publicly and they chose not to. And I did nothing more.

At that moment, I became part of the problem. One more inattentive, distracted, distant person whose empathy means little if it does not lead to action.

I awoke this morning to the guilt of my own complicity. And it’s painful.

There’s enough blame to go around. But blame won’t solve anything.

Nor will guilt. Guilt isn’t enough. It’s only useful as a motivator.

I hope the visual awareness that comes from that stunning photograph is motivation for millions to do more than feel guilty for a brief moment.

Global Citizenship

I hope, for example, that for those who, like me, try to follow the values that are in the teachings of Jesus, recognize that we are called to be citizens in a different way.

We are citizens of what Jesus called the kingdom of God. It is much greater than our neighborhood, state, region or nation.

To be in this kingdom is to be called to global citizenship, caring for and taking responsibility for how the dispossessed, vulnerable and voiceless are treated, no matter where they reside.

In this kingdom we are connected, and responsible for one another; even in the conflicted, messy, complicated, and difficult to understand world we inhabit.

The image of a lifeless child lying on a beach reminds us of the consequences when we forget this connection.

Jesus was clear about what it means to follow him. It means to live into this understanding of our global responsibilities and to act on them.

In explaining what is expected he said, “When you have done it (provided food, shelter, clothing, water, comfort) for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25: 40 Common English Bible)

We have seen Jesus. His body washed ashore on a beach three days ago.

Making Personal Change

What must happen? First, I must change my interior.

It’s too easy for me to distance myself from the suffering of those an ocean away in a culture I don’t understand caught in a conflict so complicated I cannot fathom.

But I can understand the human suffering that results. This is a starting point.

In his current meditation series, Fr. Richard Rohr discusses the practice of tonglen as a pathway to interior change.

In  tonglen we “breathe in” others’ pain, “so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness.”

This builds our awareness and also gives us insight into our own brokenness and need for wholeness. A quick read of his meditation gives a more complete description.

Championing Institutional Change

I believe I must advocate for a change in budget priorities including greater amounts for humanitarian aid and changes in foreign policies that seek peaceful resolution to conflicts over armed force.

In a commentary in The Guardian, Sabrina Hersi Issa writes: “To continue to under-fundundermine and ignore humanitarian fallout from our military actions and foreign policy failings is moral malpractice. To do so because of xenophobia and Islamophobia is an even greater sin.”

There are many worthy organizations at work relieving the suffering. We can take immediate steps to support them with financial and material aid. Others are working on policy. And Pope Francis has called on Catholics across Europe to take in the refugees.

Seeking Wholeness

It’s clear that the systems that allowed Aylan to die are broken.

And it’s also clear that we who live in these systems are broken and must seek wholeness.

The way to healing is to seek change–individually and collectively.

We need not ask, as did those who followed Jesus centuries ago, “Lord, when did we see you?” We already know what we have seen. And who.

 

 

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Juvenile Barred Owl

Juvenile Barred Owl

The headline is tongue in cheek. But since taking leave from my work responsibilities in early May, I’ve also taken hiatus from blogging.

In the next few posts I’ll catch up. So, as children returning to school write about their summer vacations, I plan to follow suit.

I was concerned that in stepping away from the office work routine I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Was I ever wrong about that! Summer has been a time of non-stop activity.

Sharon and I have walked approximately 4 miles daily, mostly in a nature preserve near our home. It’s a wonderful learning experience, a time of meditation and contemplation, and, most importantly, a time to be together.

We’ve made new friends and enjoyed seeing and hearing the narrative of the woods. I’ve practiced refining techniques of wildlife and nature photography and learned a program to process the photos digitally. One of the great gifts has been watching the growth of the juvenile barred owls at Radnor Lake Nature Preserve in Nashville.

I’ve read four books: My Life: Willie Nelson, an autobiography; The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan; The Fly Trap, Fredrik Sjöberg; and Dorothea Lange:A Photographter’s Life, Milton Meltzer. I’m well into Inside a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, Alexandra Horowitz. I’ve also been re-reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

I’m often asked what I miss most since I’ve left. The only thing I miss is daily contact with the some of the finest staff colleagues I’ve been privileged to work with.

Because I traveled for my work, today every time an airplane flies overhead I catch myself saying, “Thank God I’m not on that.”

I’ve been exploring new growth in spiritual practice and concepts, which I’ll write about in future posts.

I’ve become aware that many of the things I used to worry about in the wee hours of the morning don’t matter that much at all. That worry was wasted time and many of the issues largely irrelevant. That’s biblical. We learn.

Is Saving the Church Saving the World?

Cross at Lake Junaluska, NCEconomist Don House believes if enough local congregations spend enough money on the right things it will put The United Methodist Church on a growth trajectory. It’s a novel approach to the challenges faced by religion in the 21st Century.

House says the church has 15 years to turn around or it’s kaput. His analysis is based on the U.S., not Africa and Asia. The church’s presence in Europe is tiny. For years the U.S. church has carried the financial load.

Urgency for Change

Whether a denomination with the institutional ballast of this church can turn around that quickly is a big question. But the urgency is underscored by recent surveys in the U.S. that show an increase of “nones,” (people who don’t identify with any religion), the “spiritual but not religious,” and growing secularism.

Combine this with decline in mass membership organizations, civic clubs and voter participation and it’s clear we are losing faith in the institutions that once were the glue that bound the society together.

Many thoughtful leaders say the world is at an “inflection point” in history. Something significant is happening but we can’t foretell its outcome.

New forms of human organizations and religious communities will arise. And if sociologist Thorsten Veblen was correct, by the time we create something suited for today, it will be outdated by tomorrow.

Culture, social connections and technology, will have moved on, he says. The challenge is across the culture, and it’s deeper than how groups are organized, or even what they do.

Status Quo is Unsustainable

The dilemma facing the Boy Scouts of America is instructive. The counsel President Robert Gates gave the Scouts is similar to House’s comments to the church. Maintaining the status quo is unsustainable.

And these things–social interactions, economic pressures, and technological changes–all influence religious values and beliefs. Equally important, they affect how the faith community is perceived.

So far the conversation about the House proposal, as it has been reported, hasn’t focused much on these challenges. It’s been presented as a spending plan and less as a theological document.

Plans for a more engaged ministry are being formulated. They include addressing poverty in 30,000 schools and reaching 1 million children with life-saving health interventions (not a real stretch but a good idea), creating a culture of call, and training in discipleship.

Will this be enough? I don’t know. I hope so.

But as it stands right now it isn’t awe-inspiring and it doesn’t sound like the transformation of the world that is called for in the second half of the United Methodist mission statement–to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Faith Gives Meaning

Religious faith is the means through which we define meaning and purpose in life. It connects us to our Creator and to each other.

It helps us to act responsibly toward others and experience dignity ourselves. It demands justice.

It’s what guides us to treat the Creation with respect and leads us to understand the sacred in our midst and to reach for transcendant values that cannot be captured in mathematical formulas nor scientific propositions.

In this transcendant reach we find a vision for life that takes us beyond our limits, our fears, and the finite frustrations that confound us.

The Great Challenge

And in this lies the great challenge to the church, to give us a vision of life that is brighter and more hopeful than the conflict-riddled, hungry, hand-to-mouth survival, job-loss threatening, gritty world that all but the privileged few live in.

It’s not the challenge to save itself. It’s the challenge to present the biblical vision that life is sacred, filled with meaning, and to be lived purposefully.

This challenge involves communicating with people who are oblivious to, perhaps even unbelieving of, their sacred worth.

It involves addressing the fear that rapid changes are passing us by, making us irrelevant, robbing us of purpose.

We are challenged to address a lifestyle that traps us in a consumptive quest for meaning that fills recycle bins but not the soul.

Christians are challenged to translate the teachings of Jesus in the sermon on the mount into a compelling and inviting narrative for lost souls in the 21st Century, for in this lies saving grace.

A formula for spending might be a good starting place, but it’s far from the full effort necessary to address the challenge. Christians must tell us where they see God at work in this mess and how we fit into God’s future. And invite us into it.

They must offer us reason to believe and something to believe in.

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