This week's "thought" comes to you from Gary Thomas, and is taken from his book, "Simply Sacred."
As I was reading through the book, this particular entry caught my attention. Why? Because I can sometimes be disappointed at the way things are going in this world. All it takes is glancing at the days headlines -- "Man kills another over parking spot dispute...," "Suicide bomber kills 13 and injures 24 at Baghdad ice cream shop..." "Brother who drugs and rapes sister gets probation..." The values, the priorities, the political rants, the greed, the language, the unreasonableness, the selfishness, the lack of respect, love and common sense... it can tend to bring one down.
That's why I chose this entry. It helps us look at all that from a different perspective. A redemptive perspective. A perspective that reminds us that Jesus' call is for us as His followers to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). And what we sometimes forget is this: Salt is the most desired where the food is the most bland, and light is the most cherished when our surroundings are the darkest and our path littered with dangerous obstacles.
Gary's entry for today reinforces this biblical idea, and in doing so helps turn our disillusionment with this world into a motivation to carry out Christ's mission for us. That of being salt and light. Enjoy.
"Years ago on a trip through southwestern Washington [state], I traveled through miles and miles of tree farms... Interspersed among these tree farms were occasional stretches of clear-cut logging projects. The land looked devastated, broken, and abused. Even knowing that the land would come back after planting new trees, it's still a bit sad to see such brutal scarring of a forest.
Yet, as I passed another clear-cut stretch, my eye caught something that almost made me pull off the road. There, in a devastated patch of land, stood a startlingly beautiful maple tree, in full autumn colors. Somehow, the loggers had missed it.
The contrast could not have been more stark -- or more beautiful. Beauty surrounded by beauty begins, after a time, to seem mediocre. But beauty in the midst of chaos or ugliness stuns us. It seizes our attention. In a barren and broken stretch of land, this tree captured my imagination and told another story. Had it stood in the midst of New Hampshire's White Mountains during autumn, it likely would have been missed -- one stunning tree in a forest of thousands of other stunning trees. Here, however, in a broken, hurting land, this glorious tree proclaimed a transcendent truth.
In the deepest part of us, we truly yearn for such "defiant beauty." In a world where people choose self-centered lives, where ugly things happen, where sin seems to spread unchecked, where daily assaults take their toll, we can point to the defiant beauty of a selfless life, seeking first the kingdom of God, putting others first, and even sacrificing (if need be) -- all to proclaim a transcendent truth much greater than ourselves.
I invite you to develop this defiant beauty..., the kind that has shone through all generations of the church. At your office, in your house, at school, during walks through the malls, or visits to friends houses, let's carry the defiant beauty of our Savior's love and hope to a sin-stained world."
The apostle Paul put forth this same truth in Romans 12:9-21; I Corinthians 13:1-13; II Corinthians 5:11-6:13; Galatians 5:16-26, and elsewhere. There will always be things in the world that will tend to bring us down. Yet, it is in the face of all such things that we have the opportunity to add the most flavor, or shine most brightly. Love in the face of hate, caring in the face or indifference, sacrifice in place of selfishness, generosity in the face of greed -- can not help but be noticed.
Like that one, solitary, beautiful maple tree decked out in its autumn splendor, in the midst of a clear cut swath of destruction, we can make a difference. We can hide our light under a basket of self-protection, or lose our flavor by associating only with those who live and believe just like we do. Or, we can do what Jesus called us to do and go out into the world, without being a part of the world, and seek to be His ambassadors of love and reconciliation. Negative situations can discourage us, or they can be what Jesus and Paul both suggested they could be -- our renewed motivation for mission! Determine that it may always be the latter, for Jesus sake.
Make it your goal today to be the light that shines into some dark situation, Pastor Jeff