My Hope for Hunter Greene (343)

Hunter Greene was the second pick by our beloved Cincinnati Reds in this year’s Major League Baseball draft. He can pitch a baseball over 100 miles/hour. But he also can hit and play the field. Baseball scouts say he fields the shortstop position with the smooth grace of someone like Derek Jeter. At the plate, his power and hand-to-eye coordination remind people of the legendary Henry Aaron. He may someday be better than anyone who has ever played the game. And, by the way, Hunter Greene is only 17 years-old.

Once again, our sports culture is having their way with a young man, heaping hopes and expectations on him unfairly in a way that’s sure to disappoint. What happens if Hunter Greene turns out to be just a good Major League Baseball player? Let’s say he plays seven or eight years, has a decent won-loss record pitching, maybe in one of those years he even leads the league in wins and makes the All-Star team. Right there, that would be better than 99.9% of those who have ever played the game. But that wouldn’t be enough for our sports culture. The hype is too great. He can’t just have an average career in the future. Anything less than being one of the greatest will be deemed as him not living up to his potential. Articles will be written about “the disappointing career of Hunter Greene.” I remind you, Hunter Greene is just 17 years-old.

Can we not let him just be a high school senior where his own teachers are not asking him for his autograph (it’s happening)? Joon Lee, a staff writer for Bleacher Report, quoted Hunter Greene in a recent interview as saying: “I definitely feel like an adult 24/7. It’s hard to be in the moment because everything is happening so fast, and I’m so young. It’s hard to slow down because everything is moving so fast. I have something way bigger going on than all these other people,” referring to his high school classmates. His best friend (and high school catcher), nicknamed “Boogie,” says: “He knows he can’t make everyone happy,” Boogie says, “but he wants to feel like he at least tried.”

I hope he stops trying right now to make everyone happy or to prove all the hype is justified. The weight of expectations from scouts, the media, his teachers, his friends, his family, and yes, our beloved Reds, isn’t only unfair to the young man, it’s potentially a crushing diabolical force. The judgment of others never ends, especially in sports. No matter what he achieves on the baseball diamond, there will always be someone who says: “He didn’t live up to expectations. He was no Sandy Koufax. He was no Bob Gibson.” That’ll be the voice of the Evil One, Old Uncle Screwtape, who sows the seeds of failure and unworthiness in us all.

None of us lives up to expectation. We’ve all earned the right to fail and just be human. And God has provided for our human failure by his crucified atonement of the world. We need to redefine what success and failure means. My prayer for Hunter Greene is that he grows up learning to love and be loved; that he can learn to be compassionate and merciful to himself and to others, and that’ll be enough. It won’t be enough for the insatiable judgment of the world, but it’ll be enough for the God who created him and who more wonderfully redeemed him in Jesus Christ.


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Hot Dogs and Healthcare (342)

When we talk about eating a hot dog, what we usually mean is that we’re not going to just eat a hot dog. We’re going to eat a hot dog…on a bun. But we don’t usually add the word “bun” when we describe eating a hot dog, because in a way, it’s merely the gratuitous delivery device by which we eat the hot dog. To be sure, most people like the bun as well, but the bun isn’t the hot dog. I guess some folk just eat a hot dog bun, but I don’t know any folk like that, at least not among true hot dog lovers like me.

A hot dog in its bun comes to mind as I follow the current debate over the recently proposed health care legislation. The proposed legislation isn’t really about “health care.” That’s just the bun. It’s about a massive tax cut for wealthy persons and corporations that will redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich. That’s the real hot dog here. The Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan committee of Congress assisting both parties on tax legislation, estimates that over the next ten years the legislation will redistribute one trillion dollars from health coverage for the bottom fifty percent of the population to give a tax cut to the top two percent.

Since the proposed legislation must be revenue neutral (due to the rules of the byzantine “reconciliation process”), where will that redistributed wealth come from to cover this enormous tax cut for the top two percent of the population? It will come from massive cuts to the Medicaid program, which provides health care to the poor, the disabled, and the elderly, who need it for nursing home and home care services (my daddy receives it now that he’s depleted most of his other assets). It’s Robin Hood in reverse. It’s a huge wealth redistribution (hot dog) masquerading as health care legislation (bun). It’s a punishment of the poor for being poor and thus for not being able to afford to buy health insurance.

Do those supporting this legislation think that, if passed, the poor, the disabled, and the elderly will stop needing health care simply because they can no longer afford to pay for it? How naïve! They will delay getting care until their situations are chronic or they won’t get health care at all. Estimates are that if over 20 million people lose health insurance coverage it will cause over 24,000 persons/year to die needlessly simply because they have no insurance. We end up paying for these costs one way or another.

This ought not to be a partisan issue among the political parties, but it’s become so. It’s become about which party will “win this fight.” I have no affection for either political party. They both seem to care more about “winning” than they do about caring “for the least of these who are members of [Jesus’] family” (Matthew 25:40). This or any healthcare legislation should be judged on its morality concerning the poor, not on its political expediency and certainly not on how much money politicians can redistribute to the rich. How we treat one another in this country when we need health care shouldn’t be about which party wins the day. Even hot dog lovers like me know that hot dogs aren’t a very healthy food. And when they’re in the form of a tax cut for the wealthy, they can really be unhealthy for “the least of these” among us.


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Louis C.K. and God’s Non-Reciprocal Grace

For my money, comedian Louis C.K. is the second greatest public theologian of this generation (Singer/Songwriter John Prine is the greatest). His comedic insights into the human condition on his TV shows and in his stand-up comedy unmasks much of the posing we do. He can be harsh in that unmasking, but he can also be vulnerable and remarkably insightful. In 2006-2007, he had a short-lived (unfortunately), 13-episode show called Lucky Louie. The conceit of the show was how he and his wife, Kim (played wonderfully by Pamela Adlon), navigated (or didn’t) their working-class jobs, their marriage, and parenting their young daughter. In an episode called Flowers for Kim, Louie and Kim arrange for their daughter to stay with friends for the weekend so they can rekindle their lost romance. With their daughter away, Louie comes home and bursts into the kitchen ready for romance. He tells Kim he has a present for her. She beams and then he unveils a bunch of red roses. Her face falls and the viewer can see her heart drop. She calmly reminds him that she’s never liked red roses, as she’s told him so many times before. And yet, he persists in getting her red roses. His mood now changes and he says: “Well, you can still thank me for giving you the roses. Why won’t you even thank me?” Her reply is “why should I thank you for giving me a gift you know I don’t like?” He feels he should be rewarded for having been gracious in giving her a gift. She contends he doesn’t listen to her or care about her feelings, what she likes and doesn’t like. Surely, all married persons can relate to this scene, painfully so.

The Rule of Reciprocity is a social norm we share. It basically says that when someone does something nice for us, we feel a social obligation to return the favor. Business marketers understand this social norm. They use it to convince potential customers to make purchases by offering them gifts or incentives to entice such purchases. We feel this norm on birthdays. If someone gives us a birthday gift, then we feel obligated to give them a gift on their birthday. But this Rule of Reciprocity causes havoc when we feel the other isn’t responding reciprocally. When we’re “tracking” on one another, we stay balanced emotionally in reciprocity. But when that goes awry and we “switch-track,” where we switch down a new track (“I expect to be thanked for giving you the red roses”) and the other person switches to an even newer and different track (“You don’t care about my feelings, what I like or don’t like”), then we experience a profound relationship disequilibrium. There’s a lack of reciprocity on a deep, subconscious level and a powerful, in-grained social norm is violated inside of us.

Our humanity is complex, isn’t it? The possibilities for misunderstanding, as the Bible might say, are “legion,” as we “switch-track” in our relationships leading to hurt feelings and, possibly, estrangement. Our expectation for reciprocity is so deep inside of us and when it doesn’t occur, we feel crossed and violated. That may be why we have such a hard time accepting the gift of God’s grace. Grace is the ultimate violation of the Rule of Reciprocity. With Grace, God gives us the gift of forgiveness and mercy for which we can never possibly reciprocate. God has acted non-reciprocally, and on some level, we may even be angry with God and outraged for this gift of pre-emptive Grace. This isn’t how we believe it should be. But, thank God, it’s how it is with God.



Like me, you may be curious about what motivates us to do good for others. We’d all like to think we do so out of the goodness of our hearts, solely for the other. Christians, in particular, would like to think that our motives for helping others are driven primarily by our faith in God’s work through Jesus’ redemption of the world on the cross. I’d like to think that Christians are more generous in doing good for others than people who don’t have such faith convictions. Except, it’s not true. There’s no reliable data supporting such a claim. There’s only our desire to believe it to be true.

In their book, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life, behavioral economists Uri Gneezy and John List delve deeply into what incentivizes our behavior. Through exhaustive field testing and research, they allow the data of human behavior to speak for itself rather than make assumptions about what should be. What they discovered makes me uncomfortable. I’d like to think that because Jesus has shown me undeserved mercy, I’d be more generous in showing mercy than others who don’t have such faith. This should also be true of my financial generosity, without having to experience some reciprocal good for myself. But it’s not true.

The subtitle of their chapter on why people give to “good causes” tells it all: “Don’t Appeal to People’s Hearts: Appeal to Their Vanity.” While they don’t reference this in their book (but it’s consistent with their findings), I noticed this spring when Georgia Public Radio (GPB) was doing its semi-annual fund drive that the recurring tag line their on-air presenters were using was “Be a Public Radio Hero!” We’d all like to think ourselves heroic. “I could be a hero if I support GPB! I want to be a hero!” GPB was just appealing to my vanity. It worked. I upped my donation this year. “I’m a hero!”

Gneezy and List consistently show that the Church or other organizations that depend on people’s generosity to support their mission need to incentivize giving. Historically, the Church must’ve known this intuitively. After all, for centuries the Church financed much of its mission through indulgences, better known as “Get Out of Hell for a Price” cards. For a sizable gift, donors could ensure that they (and their loved ones) were prayed for, thus assuring that their souls were never (for the right price) in eternal peril. Now, that’s an incentive to give! But, thank God, we don’t offer indulgences any more. So, what motivates people to support the mission of the Church today? Do we really have to appeal to vanity and self-interest? I’d like to think that we don’t, but the data, as well as my own look in the mirror, tells me there’s truth there.

What hope then is there for us? Are we all just vain and selfish creatures? Well, yes, we all are, but that’s not all we are. We’re loved, forgiven, and redeemed vain and selfish creatures. God will use even the worst about us to work his grace in the world. Isn’t that what God did on the cross, use our shameful human proclivity for scapegoating and punishing to redeem us? God isn’t stumped by our vanity or our selfishness. Even when our motives to be generous aren’t pure, God will somehow still be glorified. Meditate on all that as we look forward to our stewardship campaigns this fall.



Hearts Reconstructed (339)

What the heart desires, the will chooses, and the mind justifies
– attributed to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

Oh boy, can our minds justify what our will chooses so we can get our heart’s desire! If that’s not self-evident by observing your own life and the lives of those around you, then I humbly suggest you’re not paying attention. Sin is the only tenet of the Christian faith that’s provable through basic human observation. It’s also being increasingly verified through social science. Social Scientists, however, don’t call it sin. They’ll often refer to it as a bias we humans have. And they can’t say for sure whether such bias is innate or culturally-conditioned. Either way, such biases are present in all of us.

Take, for example, something called Social Desirability Bias. In his book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz uses aggregated data from Google searches to get past this bias. You see, in research done through surveys, even anonymous ones, we’ll lie when we answer questions. We’ll over-report that we engage in behavior our culture deems good and we’ll under-report our behavior that we think society frowns upon. But Google searches show what we really search for, revealing our true behavior and heart’s desire. Anglican moral theology just calls this concupiscence.

Then there’s Choice Supportive Bias, which I suffer from in the extreme. I’m loathe to admit I was wrong after I choose something. This bias is the tendency to justify a choice we make even after it’s patently obvious (maybe except to ourselves) that it was a poor choice. So, that shirt I bought turns out to not fit well at all and is ugly as can be. But I’m still going to wear it, downplaying its poor fit and ugliness, because I don’t want to admit I chose poorly. Over time, I’ll actually convince myself the shirt fits like a dream and is stylistically impeccable. Social Scientists call this a type of cognitive bias. The Christian tradition just calls it the sin of pride.

And then there’s Confirmation Bias where we only interpret, favor, or recall information that supports our already held conviction. Contrary to what we may think, such a bias isn’t a recent phenomenon caused by social media. We humans have suffered from this since our creation. Social Scientists have just now documented it as a universal bias we have. Our prejudices are like rats and our minds are like traps. Once they get in there, it’s hard to get them out. That’s why racism is such a powerful force. Once it becomes a mental construct, it’s continually reinforced in our racist mind. That’s why it’s rightly called “America’s Original Sin.”

Our biases simply betray the truth about ourselves. We might think our minds direct our wills, but they don’t. Our minds are captive to what our will wants, and our will itself is then held captive by what our heart desires. The spiritual medicine for this are hearts reconstructed by God’s grace where our hearts, marinated in such grace, learn to will virtues like love, compassion, and mercy. Only then do our minds begin to change.



‘Mind the Gap” (338)

In London, when traveling on the Tube, a polite, recorded voice reminds people exiting to “mind the gap.” The “gap” to which the voice refers is the gap between the train and the platform. Riders are reminded to pay attention as they exit the train. These days between our Lord’s Ascension, but before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we’re in a similar place spiritually. Jesus has “already” risen and ascended, but a profound event, the coming of the Holy Spirit, is still “yet” to happen. This “already, but not yet” time” is good spiritual preparation for facing the world as it currently is. It seems the entire world is trying to “mind the gap” between what has been and what will be. We’re going through a transition from the “modern” to the “post-modern” world. That alone should indicate why so many people are afraid, anxious, or confused. We don’t even have a name for the time we’re in. It’s not “modern.” It’s “post-modern.” That defines what it no longer is, but it tells us nothing about what the future will be. The modern world has passed away, but what’ll replace it has not yet come.

There are different ways people “mind the gap” in response to living today. Some, reacting out of their fear and anxiety, hunker down and refuse to accept that the world has changed. In religion, these are the fundamentalist groups in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. They refuse to live graciously and open-heartedly “in the gap.” Their refusal shows itself in their misplaced anger born out of their fear and anxiety. Still others, reacting to a constant need for novelty, embrace every new thing that comes their way. But they have no depth in anything. They get lost “in the gap,” steering a course with multiple navigational tools, so they unwittingly find themselves traveling in circles concluding facilely that there’s absolute truth at all. Their morality and world-view proceeds from a spirituality based on whatever feels right at the time to them.

There’s a better way and we have it in the Church. As disciples of Jesus, we’re a people equipped to live “in the gap” between the “already” and the “not yet.” We have faith that God is sovereign, steadfast, and immovable. As St. Peter says, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” As we “mind the gap” waiting for what will be, we trust in God’s never-failing grace. We can say with Dame Julian of Norwich that “all things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” only because of the merciful love of God in Jesus. Thus, we’re prepared to face the future and its uncertainty. We worship a Lord who says, “Behold, I make all things new.” St. Paul tells us: If we’re in Christ, we’re “new creations,” therefore “the old has passed away and the new has come.” We can welcome the new thing God’s doing. We’re a gap people living in a world experiencing a major shift from what’s been to what will be.

But how will we know what’s “of God” what’s not “of God” as we “mind the gap” during this time? That’ll require us to pay close attention to what God is up to. If it looks like Jesus’ mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and grace, then it’s probably “of God.” If it looks cruel, cold-hearted, unforgiving, or vengeful, then it’s almost certainly not “of God,” at least not the God who’s revealed to us in Scripture as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, if it looks like Jesus, then it’s almost certainly “of God.”



Amos & Ephahs (338)

I first read Robert Merry’s work in his wonderful 2005 book: Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition. In that book, he made a compelling case for why our foreign wars end up thwarting the very values and outcomes we desire as a nation. Merry now writes for The American Conservative, an online publication I read regularly. He wrote a recent column that turns his astute observations about American foreign policy to the domestic crisis at home between our two rival political cultures. The election of Donald Trump isn’t the problem, Merry argues. He just exploited the pain many people were experiencing. Although Merry sees Mr. Trump as “supremely unfit for his White House job,” he contends that the election was but a symptom of far deeper crisis in the soul of America.

Merry believes the crisis is caused by how out of touch the prevailing elites of our rival political cultures are with the lives of most people in this country. Merry quotes economic consultant David M. Smick, author of The Great Equalizer, who described what happened after the Great Recession at the end of the last decade. Smick says it was “the greatest transfer of middle-class and elderly wealth to elite financial interests in the history of mankind.” This further exposed and accelerated the growing income disparities between these elites and the rest of the country. Merry says this has “contributed significantly to the hollowing out of the American working class—once the central foundation of the country’s economic muscle and political stability.” The recent proposals for tax and health care policy changes, if adopted, will further the accelerate the disparity and serve to create even more instability in our country. For much of the country, modern democratic capitalism is simply not working for them anymore. This isn’t capitalism’s fault, per se. It’s the fault of those who manipulate the system (without any consequences) for their benefit at the expense of others.

The prophet Amos spoke eloquently about people enduring persistent economic injustice. Amos, prophesying in 8th Century B.C. Israel, condemned the elites who manipulated the poor through debt and financial deceit. Amos writes: Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely, I will never forget any of their deeds (Amos 8:4-7).

The ephah was a measuring unit for grain. By making it small, the elites were deceptively selling less grain than they promised. Likewise, in making the shekel great, they were overcharging their customers while underdelivering what they promised. Making the ephah small and the shekel great, in other words, was the way the elites in Amos’ time increased the financial disparity between them and the rest of the people. No culture can endure such disparity forever. It creates social and political instability and eventually more pain and suffering for more people.



The Vacation We All Need to Take (337)

“The key isn’t to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
— Stephen Covey

When I first read that quote from Mr. Covey, I said to myself: “Oh great, now that’s one more thing I’m doing wrong in my life. I need to start scheduling my priorities. But my schedule isn’t my own. I have commitments to keep and others counting on me.” Makes me kind of sound self-important, doesn’t it? And that’s what I want others to think. But maybe you and I have far more control over our schedules than we care to admit? Maybe we use our busyness to avoid facing certain truths about ourselves? Our schedules become nothing other than a distracting drug narcotizing us from ourselves.

Recent labor data show that, in the aggregate, we work longer hours than we used to. We also work those longer hours with increased productivity, but we do so for less pay than in the past. And we don’t take all the vacation time we’re allowed. Such busyness in our work lives must then be a surrogate for something else. Maybe it’s our way of proving our self-worth to ourselves and others? Bragging about how busy we are has become a new status symbol. And that must make us important, right? It proves we’re indispensable. Yet, it might be just another way we engage in self-justification.

Earlier this year, Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, reported on some ironic practices by experts whose jobs are to help us find appropriate work-life balance. Kathy Simons, the Director of the Work-Life Center at MIT, has advocated for years for more humane workplace policies and family-friendly benefits. Her research indicates that people who don’t take vacations are 30%-50% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who take vacations. And yet for five years, Simons herself hasn’t taken a vacation. Talk about “physician heal thyself!”

And Phyllis Stewart Pires traveled the world helping people who worked for her global tech company to improve their work-life balance. One day she found herself in an ambulance racing to hospital. She later said: “I was missing family events. My friends were calling me out on being AWOL. My husband was calling me out on not doing my share. It was almost like I was obsessed with this idea that people were counting on me to really make a difference in their workplace. I couldn’t let them down.” So, she let her friends and family down instead. We all have this need to justify ourselves, don’t we?

”Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10). As my Daddy would say: Jesus has her number, doesn’t he? Martha was using her busyness as a distraction; as a way for her to avoid facing her anxiety about her life and relationship with God, which is the “one thing” needed. And Jesus has our number, too. But rather than exploiting that, he simply says:” Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11). Jesus offers us an eternal vacation from what seems to be our life project at justifying ourselves. That’s a vacation we all need to take.



Hubris Syndrome: It’s Officially a Thing (336)

“It’s good to be the king”
Mel Brooks in The History of the World, Part 1

There’s a group called The Daedalus Trust. It’s named for the character, who in Greek mythology created wax wings with which his son could fly, but warned him not to fly too close to the sun because it would melt his wings and he would fall. His son, Icarus, however, didn’t heed his father’s admonition. He was too captivated by his flying prowess. He thought himself incapable of crashing. Icarus’s hubris led to his downfall. As a leader of the Daedalus Trust contends: “There is a growing body of opinion that the exercise of power can distort thinking and create personality changes in leaders that affect their decision making. The Daedalus Trust’s mission is to raise awareness of such changes and understand them better.”

This, of course, isn’t new in the human family. It’s as least as old as the story of King David in the Bible, who desired Bathsheba as his own, and so had her soldier-husband killed in battle. He could do that because he was the king. The above quote from Mel Brooks satirizes King Louis of France whose exercise of power bent his conscience and led him to despicable abuse of the poor. There’s historical evidence in every generation of people in power behaving like Icarus (It appeared in Greek mythology for a reason. The writers of such myths probably saw such distorted thinking among their leaders).

In more recent times, we’ve experienced the hubris of leaders that led us into the Iraq war. We’ve seen how some leaders of our financial institutions created the conditions for a world-wide financial crisis in the last decade. We all watched in horror as hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico because everyone connected with Deepwater Horizon, from BP to Transocean to Halliburton, were convinced that nothing would go wrong because they were who they were. The U.S. District Judge who later presided over the legal case described their behavior as “reckless.” And “reckless” is one of the important words used by the Daedalus Trust to define what they refer to as the Hubris Syndrome. When people in power get in the grip of this syndrome they engage in high risk behaviors and make reckless decisions. For example, think of Bill Clinton recklessly deciding to have sex with an intern in the Oval Office. Who would ever think that was a good idea? But yet he did it. These behaviors and decisions also escalate over time until the perpetrator is stopped by a disastrous event, which always happens, and often to the detriment or death of the people around the one with Hubris Syndrome.

The Daedalus Trust claims that Hubris Syndrome is a legitimate psychological disorder. They want to assist governments and businesses with how to recognize the signs of this in their leadership, thus encouraging them to engage in prophylactic efforts to prevent such behavior in the organization’s culture before disaster happens. I wish them luck in their efforts. I’m afraid, however, the human condition will continue to churn out many a modern-day Icarus. That’s why we don’t need Jesus to affirm us as we are. We need him to forgive us for what we do to ourselves and others. He most graciously does.



What We Can’t Control, Thank God (335)

The Broadway musical, Hamilton, is the story of the life of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. The musical ends with a mournful, chilling song that asks this question “Who gets to tell your story?” with these lyrics:
But when you’re gone,
Who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?

St. Benedict wrote in the Rule of Life for his monks: “Keep your own death before your eyes each day.” In writing this, St. Benedict wasn’t being morbid. He had no unhealthy fascination with death. For St. Benedict, keeping one’s death before one’s eyes was all about humility because death levels everything for us. It comes to all of us and as the old saying goes: you can’t take anything with you when you’re gone. This reality humbles us (or at least it should). It can help us in our learning to depend radically on God’s grace alone. By keeping our deaths before us, we’re nudged into a more spiritually healthy place where we must recognize (eventually) that we’re not in control of everything around us; that as our Burial Office in the Book of Common Prayer says:
For none of us has life in himself,
and none becomes his own master when he dies.
For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,
and if we die, we die in the Lord.
So, then, whether we live or die,
we are the Lord’s possession.

I try to remind myself (at least) weekly that I’m the 10th Bishop of Georgia. There was a 9th and there’ll be an 11th. I’m just the steward of this holy office for the time being. In other words, bishops come and bishops go. Some part of God’s Kingdom will come a little bit closer because of my ministry as bishop. Some will remain distant. I’ll at times succeed in being the bishop God has called me to be, but often I’ll also fail miserably to live into that calling. If there’s a story of my life or of anyone’s life who trusts in Jesus and his Cross, then it’s a story that’s but a footnote to that one, great, and true story.

Rather than hamstringing us or leading us toward spiritual apathy, this practice of keeping our deaths before us is, actually, liberating. It frees us from being held captive by the future, which we can’t control. It helps us release the stranglehold we so often keep on our lives thinking we can control every future outcome (which we must know we can’t). Thus, it opens us up to the possibility of the present, whatever is before us today, so that we may experience the action of God’s grace right in front of us.

We should look to the future, plan for tomorrow, save for retirement (contribute to your IRA!), etc., but we also should learn to be content with the day God has given us. When such contentment comes, our anxieties will take a back seat. That’s when there’s room daily for God’s grace to convert us.