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Inspired by daily life

This month’s Drinking the Cup describes how ordinary things can inspire extraordinary experiences.

Clergy Assistant to the Bishop

Over the last several days there have been some normal events which have proven to be quite inspirational for me beyond what I might have expected. As I transition toward retirement age, I find myself seeking and finding much more inspiration in the warp and woof of daily life, leading to more joy, and hopefully leading to more love and grace. Here are some things just from the last week. 

Air TravelLike most of us, I have flown commercial air more times than I can count. I used to take it for granted. Not anymore. Last week I flew to Denver for the annual meeting of other Clergy Assistants to the Bishop in the United Methodist Church.  While flying —  not enough leg room, luggage problems, and regular delays — can sometimes be a pain in the neck, I now find air travel inspirational. The air travel system of this world borders on miraculous. That human beings can operate a vast system like this, and that hundreds of thousands of people every day travel safely all over the world, and that it largely works, just boggles my mind. I mean, how do those jets even stay up in the air at all? I’m glad there are brains bigger than mine to make it all happen. It’s inspirational.  

ColleaguesSo at the meeting of Clergy Assistants to the Bishop, we spent two days talking about the UMC and our role in it. I had known a few of these colleagues, but not the vast majority of them. To hear them tell their stories, to ascertain their dedication in trying to keep the denomination together, and to hear of their commitment to their local congregations and their pastor, was invigorating. I am inspired by my colleagues.  

Astrophysics.  My airplane reading was Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s recent book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.” I have always had an interest in astrophysics, but don’t have anywhere near the brainpower to immerse myself in it.  Tyson ends his book with a description of what he calls “the cosmic perspective.” He describes the cosmic perspective as being humble and spiritual, as calling us above our circumstances to allow us to transcend our primal searches, and as opening our eyes and ears to the extraordinary and to our need for other human beings. Here are his final words: 

During our brief stay on planet earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore – in part because it’s fun to do. But there’s a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us. In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource-hungry people and nations would be prone to act on their “low contracted prejudices.” And that would be the last gasp of human enlightenment – until the rise of a visionary new culture that could once again embrace, rather than fear, the cosmos.

 Being pulled out of my comfort zone into the cosmic perspective of astrophysics is a spiritual experience, and is inspiring.

 Jury Duty.  Yesterday, I was called for jury duty in Kalamazoo County. I was actually seated on a jury to hear a felony case involving the discharge of a firearm in a domestic dispute. This case was an example of how the judicial system works, and works well. Although no longer a practicing attorney, despite its warts, I will still defend the American Judicial system. (“It’s a lousy system, but it’s the best system anyone has ever come up with.”) 

The judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the court staff, the witnesses and the jury all conducted themselves with reasoned, dispassionate professionalism. This is how disputes should be resolved. The jury deliberated as it was supposed to and, in the end, an almost all white jury acquitted a young African American man because the charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I can’t help but think that at other times or places, that young African American man would have been lynched or otherwise convicted due to the color of his skin. A jury of people not known to me proved to be totally fair, competent and courageous. I was inspired by how this one-day trial, tiny in the grand scheme of things, showed that the system can work exceedingly well, and that justice can be attained.   

Thanks be to God when the normal and ordinary becomes the extraordinary, the miraculous, and the Divine!  

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