Isaiah records an inspiring vision for anyone looking beyond or above their current circumstances, of life or heart: "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (40.31). That's a passage that has lifted my heart a lot of times, especially when facing uncertain times or in some personal griefs.
However, I've also found that I can't exactly just grab that verse and leap into the blue with it, as if I were hang gliding off the Hawai'ian cliffs, or like Wile E. Coyote test-flying a new contraption designed to give him the latest advantage over the Roadrunner. Hope and inspiration lifting your heart are one thing; grabbing hope and insisting that it transport you above the clouds is a taller order. A few years ago, millions of hearts in this country soared on the idea of "the audacity of hope", and on the promise of fresh, positive change; fast-forward to recent times, and more and more of those same people are more or less clicking the teevee remote in growing exasperation, hoping they can change a lot of the disillusionment and frustration they're experiencing from those hopes being repeatedly dashed or frustrated.
Or betrayed. Talk about slamming down to earth, like the coyote inevitably does when his contraption fails or backfires. I won't use this space to slog through the quagmire of political moves, countermoves, inability to move, or failures-to-move that the nation has been mired in over the last couple of years and more: I'm sure you've heard and read enough about it already to spoil your appetite for any more. (But wait ... there's more! Yay, we can't wait.) And this column really isn't about politics anyway, but about us, what we do when our wings fold up under us.
So what do we do, give up? Nah, people's nature is usually not to give up. (That's how we've made it these 100,000 years or more as a species, and is why certain teams go on forever even if they never win the World Series.) What then? Lean over the back fence (read: post on any Facebook page, or news story, or blog we come across) and gripe back and forth with our neighbors, maybe getting into a spat about how It wouldn't be nearly so bad if ... or We could get ourselves out of this mess if ... or We wouldn't have gotten into this in the first place if ... ? Sure, why not, it's a national pastime, though it's better over a real fence, and even better if you invite your neighbor over and there's BBQ involved. But aside from blowing off steam and maybe having some good BBQ and beer, what does that accomplish? (Okay, I know that BBQ and beer can be worthwhile ends in themselves, but that's also another matter.)
I know, vote! send petitions! start whole new blogs or Facebook pages! dream up ways to rally people in genuine grassroots movements, not like, you know, those Astroturf tea party things, but real grassroots movements! ... Wait, you might be onto something. What was that last thing you said? Grassroots. Yeah, but what was that other word you used ...? "Tea party"? Eww, no! Something starting with "d". .... Dream ...?
THAT'S IT!!! ... sorry for shouting. Dream. Dream up ways. Look at what people in this country have put their hopes in, and what they've been frustrated by: hopes for change that someone else presented to them. And of course, look at what's happened: people beating futilely against an invisible barrier to try to make those dreams become reality, like a bird on a window; or else feeling it's all just dropped right out from under them, like ... well, you know who.
Yeah. We've been hoping in someone else's dream, or promise of it anyway. Or hoping for someone else to make that dream come true for us. It's kind of like grabbing hold of even that promise from Isaiah, and having it fold underneath us in midair. What's wrong? No one else can do the soaring for us, that's what. The way a dream or vision becomes reality is when you and I take wing with it, no matter what anyone else does or doesn't do about it.
Am I just drifting off into unrealistic idealisticspeak? I'm not meaning to; actually, anything begins with a dream, vision, or idea, that someone just did something about. The computer you're reading this on; the chair or sofa or bed you're sitting on; those cartoon pics in this article; everything you see around you, including who you see in the mirror and what you see out the window. It was either some human's idea, or God's idea, or both. So dreams and visions aren't unrealistic; that's how life actually happens all the time.
Start dreaming up ways to change the world. Don't wait for someone else to dish up hope or change (although, obviously, appreciate and make the most of it if they do!); take examples from other people you've seen actually do something ... start a cause, get a group going, find out who to focus on with any articles or letters or petitions, start asking around to find out about people who might be interested in helping (and especially if they have the connections or resources to add to the mix). Dream up ways to bring your dream to reality.
And whatever you do, don't let anyone dump on your dream with something like this:
LONG WALK OFF A SHORT PIER. It'll never work. You don't have the resources. You don't know where to start. You don't know what to do or how to get there. You don't, you can't, you won't. Bleagh. Phooey. So what if you don't know what to do? Neither do most other people who have an idea, vision, or dream; they set out anyway, and discover it all, or make it up, as they go. How do we change our country, or the world, the way a lot of people hoped to do a couple of years ago? Haven't the foggiest. But I do know who can change it ... it's you and me and every other person whose heart was soaring a few years ago with the hope that the world could change.
It's not that it "can't" happen; it's just that we were counting on someone else doing the soaring, when it really always happens from us. Hey, wait a minute ... I remember something about a guy being commended (or sometimes poked fun at) for having been a community organizer. Look at what that actually is: did "he" do any of the changing in any community? Maybe helped draw them together ... but it's always the community that does the real changing, no one does it for them. They catch a dream, a vision, and they do the soaring.
Well, that's who is waiting to do the changing, to bring the hope, this time, today, now. No dream has died, or fallen flat out of the sky, or in any other way been squashed. It's actually still as alive as we are, as alive as we want it to be, and it can stretch its wings and head toward takeoff any time we're ready for it to.
Dream up what you can, talk with other people who dream, watch the examples of people who have brought their dreams into reality (or are still in the process), join ranks with likeminded dreamers, join hands and link arms and band a lot of those dreams together to make a broader dream for more people. Nobody changes the whole world at once, of course; they just keep figuring out a step at a time. Nobody sees a whole plan or vision at once, or draws up plans for a building at one sitting, or plans anything else in one step, let alone does or builds it in one step; every dream is a kind of construction project. The world has always changed ... for better or worse ... on the power of ideas and dreams, and every dream is a process, not a sudden event. But don't let someone else do the dreaming ... unless you catch it yourself, spread those wings, and really make that dream yours now. You know what the real difference is between Martin Luther King, jr., or Gandhi, or Mother Teresa, and you?
Nothing. Yes, of course every person's circumstances and resources are different; but different, that's the point. It's not as if there's some magic formula, where life has to line up in a certain way for some vision or dream to unfold; people, whoever they are, with whatever is at hand, speak out, stand up, draw others together, make their dream contagious, and in whatever way they can dream up, they do something about it. And keep doing it, and learning how to do it as they go. That's really all.
The rest is called flying.
(Post submitted by featured blogger, Roger Smith, who also blogs at Roger's Shrubbery)
by: Rev. Zac Bailes and Rev. Mark Sandlin
(The opinions shared here are Zac and Mark's who, other than attending the camp mentioned in the article, are not affiliated with Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America).
Over the Forth of July week, we traveled to Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virgina to attend Peace Camp. Think of it as a multi-generational hippie convention. OK, now throw that idea completely out of your head. While that's the image “Peace Camp” may evoke, it's not what it is about. (OK, ok... a few hippies were there, but still, you are missing the point).
Peace Camp is actually the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America's (BPFNA) Summer Conference. BPFNA is an international organization focused on building “a culture of peace rooted in justice.” We are talking solid, intellectual pursuit of peacemaking rooted in biblical perspectives and pursued with a passion for all people. Hmmmm. Can't help but wonder where that idea came from? Sort of reminds us of that Jesus fellow.
So, anyway, we were having a wonderful and informative time at the Summer Conference, making connections and expanding community with others who are interested and invested in peacemaking when we find out that there is a mole in our midst! Egad! The conference was all a tizzy (yes, we said “all a tizzy”) and we weren't sure if we should even continue on. Ok, not really, but that'd make this curious case much more curious wouldn't it? But alas, we actually were just intrigued and not much more than that. Frankly, most of those attending Peace Camp probably didn't know about it and even more people probably weren't even effected by it.
As for the rest of us, the game was afoot! Our magical mystery mole was providing a welcomed distraction from the dead space between lunch and the next presentation! Oh, thank you Mole Man! We learned that he was blogging for the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) and a quick investigation of the web site gave us a name: “Vinnie 'The Mole' Malone” (OK, again, not really, but how cool would that have been?). His name was Bart Gingerich. Yeah, Bart Gingerich, really.
A quick search of conference registrants also told us that he was not paying to take part in the conference. By our superhuman powers of deduction, we reasoned that he therefor would not have a name tag. The mole was practically in our clutches! Then we realized that we had registered for the conference and even we weren't wearing our name tags. Drat. Foiled again.
Upon further investigation, including speaking with Irving Hall whose presentation was critiqued by Mr. Gingerich, we also learned that IRD was, unfortunately, doing a poor job. With articles like “Anti-Zionism Escalates at BPFNA Conference” and “Liberal Baptists Displace Christ for “Peace” Activism” their coverage not only mislead (we had to being wondering if this was not at least somewhat intentional) and was full of inaccuracies, but it also didn't adequately engage BPFNA. (Specifics on these misrepresentations have been posted by Irving Hall at notinkansas.us)
Mark Tooley, the President of IRD, says of BPFNA, “This Baptist Peace Fellowship surely represents very few mainstream Baptists. But its conference accurately showcased the current obsessions of today’s Religious Left elites.” Tooley also states, “Seemingly, Christ takes a back seat at this event, where the Savior was overshadowed by political advocacy or equated with political liberators like Gandhi.” Tooley’s statements are highly unoriginal and demonstrate a lack of concern for positive collaboration. Had his hidden away reporter actually engaged the community rather than slipping in and out of the conference in secret, he would have found a great diversity of people and perspectives all centering on the biblical mandate for peacemaking. But instead he unartfully wields a large brush, painting with falsehoods and vast generalities. It is unfortunate to say the least.
Sure, Tooley and IRD do what many Right-Wing organizations do – distort and defame. It’s an easy act, and allows for the demonization of your opponent. However, there is no hope for the advancement of relations, let alone the advancement of peace, with that kind of games play. We even made contact with IRD during the conference to invite Mr. Gingerich into conversation in hopes of correcting some of this misrepresentation and to advance our mutual understanding of each other. While they positively acknowledge our request, ultimately, Bart continued hiding behind a computer and avoiding authentic conversation that might have allowed a demonstration of the power of collaboration.
Peace will only happen if we can work together, across the aisle. We may be either extraordinarily crazy or remarkably hopeful, but we believe conservatives and liberals can inch closer together. However, if IRD believes so strongly in their message that they cannot open themselves to conversation then so be it. We are left with yet another example of the ignorance and unwillingness that plagues our common humanity.
So, we close this curious case of the misinformed mole with this thought: genuine relationships and authentic conversations are important in securing the peace to which the Prince of Peace call us all. IRD and Mr. Gingerich demonstrated over and over again a clear lack of interest in authenticity and conversation. It is safe to assume that peace is not truly central in their pursuit. The sometimes lighthearted nature of this article is an acknowledgment of that reality. While we would love the opportunity to engage in a respectful discussion, we recognize that is not their desire. So, we simply ask, in the name of truth, they retract their misrepresentations and apologize to those whom they have misrepresented.
(Zac Bailes blogs for Those Crazy Liberals and Conservatives and Mark Sandlin blogs for The God Article).
About TCL Blog
We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.