“Woe is me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
The prophet Isaiah
If we think of the Hebrew prophets as those who climbed a mountain to look ahead, John the Baptist climbed the highest and saw the most. But Isaiah was not far behind. And what did Isaiah see? In chapter six of his book he reports a purifying vision of a God so gloriously good and powerfully majestic that Isaiah collapsed in his sight. We would do well to rehearse this vision. A right view of God – and ourselves – changes everything.
How are you?: When I ask people how they’re doing, many say, “I’m very busy.” On the one hand, I get it. I’ve said the same ad nauseum. And yet…given that we work barely half as many hours (33 per week) as people did in the 19th century (60 per week), and given all the labor-saving devices we own, it’s worth wondering why we feel this way. Sociologists tell us the more options we have the more we feel the crush of time. And we have options! But we feel busy because our hearts are rest-less and our minds are cluttered. “I’m busy” is a statement about our soul.
Haidt Strikes Again: Last week’s WSJ ran this brilliant – and chilling – piece by NYU-Stern professor and best-selling author, Jonathan Haidt. Consider it a must read. BTW, in response to a friend’s invitation to speak at the college he leads, Haidt returned the following email: “Jonathan Haidt is unavailable indefinitely. At the insistence of lawyers for Penguin Press, Haidt has entered a Writers Protection Program. He has encased himself in an electronic bubble and cannot emerge until he hands in a book manuscript for Kids In Space: Why Teen Mental Health is Collapsing. Email can enter the bubble and he will read your message, but he is only permitted to send 3 emails out of the bubble each day, and any that express a willingness to read any attachment or talk to anyone will automatically be deleted by The Program (unless you are a student at NYU-Stern or a first-degree relative).”
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She Will Prevail: G.K. Chesterton famously noted, “that on five separate occasions in history, the Church went to the dogs. And on each occasion, it was the dogs that died.” Were he writing today, GKC might list this moment as a sixth time that the Bride of Christ looked seriously ill. But he would only do so to set up the punchline, “She will prevail.” And She will. I am certain of such not only because She is growing rapidly outside the West. I am certain of such because Jesus said as much.
Feedback: Last week’s email prompted comments from three groups: 1) Those who wanted to get a word banned – e.g., one hopes to end the use of right? at the end of a declarative sentence. Another wants to banish just from public prayer: “God, we just pray that you would just meet…” (That is annoying, right?); 2) Members of TSWAC (the Southwest Airlines cult) who took issue with my selection of flightmare for last week’s WOTW and wrote to tell me how wonderful SW’s boarding process is. (They are annoying, right?); 3) Those sending me various articles celebrating the prayer for Damar Hamlin.
Speaking of Feedback: In last week’s sermon on John 12:20f – which you can access here – I opened with a 90 second clip from Les Mis in which the Catholic Bishop (played by Colm Wilkinson, the original John Valjean in the musical) extends grace to Valjean. Based on the flood of comments I received, I can tell you there are a lot of Les Mis fans out there. (BTW, Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Fantine is also worth watching. I suspect her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream is why she won on Oscar for her performance in the 2012 version of the movie.)
It Seems to Me (IS2M): 1) IS2M that ever since Musk named his son X Æ A-12 the number of unpronounceable letter/number salads has been increasing – e.g., ChatGPT, the AI program and XBB.1.5 (the new strain of COVID). These are annoying, right? (OK, I’ll stop.) 2) IS2M that those who work from home via Zoom should not be allowed to dis the tech nerds who make their commute-free life possible. Only those of us who use technology nonstop at work can claim to be morally superior to those who created it.
WOTW: Since meteorologists got their own TV channel, they have been adding drama and new words to their reporting. Three were nominated in previous weeks: Bomb cyclone, storm parade and atmospheric river. But I am selecting charity gap as this week’s winner. It describes the difference between the amount of money donated by secular people compared with religious ones. I found the term used in Mary Eberstadt’s witty Screwtape Letters-like book – The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death and Atheism. In it, A.F. Christian (a former Christian) writes to the New Atheists (e.g., Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc.) alerting them to weaknesses in their arguments and asking questions. One of the things she notes the atheists need to account for is the charity gap that exists between the amount of money religious people give to charity versus the amount given by secular people.
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Without Comment: 1) According to the American College Health Association (see their graph in the Haight link referred to above), since 2010 the following changes occurred in the mental health of U.S. undergrads: anxiety increased 134%, depression increased 106%, ADHD increased 72%, bipolar disorder increased 57%, anorexia increased 100%, schizophrenia increased 67%, and substance abuse increased 33%; 2) The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is currently 57; 3) According to a report by the nonprofit child advocacy group Common Sense Media, 73% of U.S. teenagers seventeen years of age or younger have viewed online pornography, as have 54% of those age thirteen or younger.
Lakelight: The Lakelight Institute – which quietly launched in 2022 with a goal of providing timeless wisdom for modern life – has several initiatives up and running. You can access the website here, find an article I wrote about the forces and factors shaping our “when,” here, or subscribe to the monthly newsletter here.
Closing Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon;Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (St. Francis of Assisi – 1181-1226)