Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Groundhog Day - Time for a do-over?

Every year on February 2, many Americans celebrate Groundhog Day. Why a holiday for a rodent, though they are kind of cute?

From Wikipedia: "According to folklore, if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks."

Associated with the holiday is the 1993 Bill Murray movie of the same name, Groundhog Day. Surly weatherman Phil Conners, who grudgingly covers the festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, seems doomed to relive Groundhog Day over and over, again. As the film suggests, he may have been stuck in this time loop for many, many years. Only when Phil changes his self-centered ways and finally gets it "right," he is released from this cycle.

The desire for a do-over - to change and go back in time to do things right this time - is very appealing.

St. Paul had that yearning to change and do the right thing when he wrote:

"...I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing."... When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. ... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"from Romans 7 (New International Version)

From his failures, Paul could not change and get it "right" on his own power, but he knew only the Spirit of God, living in him, working through him, would allow him to change and do the right thing.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, ...
"... You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you."
from Romans 8 (New International Version)

As for the time loop and the do-overs, according to Scripture, there aren't any:

"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..."from Hebrews 9:27 (New International Version)

King David in the Old Testament may have had the desire to go back in time and correct some very bad choices, which had tragic consequences. He had no opportunity for a do-over, but he did know that the Lord would be there to catch him, even when he stumbled.

"If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand."
from Psalm 37:23-24 (New International Version)

Whether or not that groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow this February 2nd, Spring is coming and we have this promise and a cause to rejoice:

"See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land."
from Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (New International Version)

For Groundhog Day 2010, be safe and may the Lord uphold you in His hand.

Photo from Ground Hog II

Sunday, January 17, 2010

MLK, Malcolm X & Epiphany

As some Protestant churches reckon, we have entered the season of Epiphany, which extends from January 6 to Ash Wednesday.

In addition to the traditional church holy day, merriam-webster defines epiphany as:
3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
(3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
b : a revealing scene or moment

So befitting, Martin Luther King Day falls within the season of Epiphany.

One fascinating book I have read on the civil rights struggle was The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley (author of Roots). What I found most intriguing about Malcolm X was the story of his epiphany.

Born in 1925, Malcolm Little grew up with personal tragedy. His father was brutally murdered. His widowed mother struggled to keep the family together, as social workers tore the family apart. His mother's emotional break down got her committed to a mental institution.

Spending his youth in criminal activities, Malcolm landed in prison. There, he educated himself and converted to the Muslim faith associated with the Nation of Islam. Malcolm dropped his "slave" surname "Little," and took "X" for his unknown tribal origin.

Smart, articulate, Malcolm X rose to power in the civil rights struggle of African Americans in the late 1950s and 1960s. Though the Nation of Islam preached personal responsibility and self-reliance, they also vilified the dominate white race, fueling deep racial hatred.

Later, Malcolm X saw the flaws of the leaders, who did not live up to their own strict moral code. When he questioned them, he was disciplined and ostracize. Eventually, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam to become a Sunni Muslim.

While embarking on his Hajj, his lifetime trip to Mecca, Malcolm X opened his eyes to the multitude from diverse races and ethnic backgrounds, who had come together to worship in this faith. This event was his epiphany. He admitted near the end of his autobiography that he had been blinded by hate and disavowed his racism.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the very few Christian ministers and civil rights leaders of the 1960s that Muslim minister and activist Malcolm X had any respect for. Dr. King undoubtedly was most familiar with the New Testament teachings:

I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
Acts 10: 34-35 (NIV)


There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

These principles are behind Dr. King's famous words - men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character.

And Malcolm X was just beginning to learn this when he was unfortunately assassinated in 1965.

Photo from everystockphoto: Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eucatastrophe for 2010?

Since I got the DVD set of the JRR Tolkien trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, with the extended scenes, I have made it a habit to watch them all (almost eleven hours of movies) at least once a year. And I did just that over the Christmas/New Year's holidays.

The Peter Jackson version of The Fellowship of the Rings first came to the big screen a couple months after September 11, 2001. After such a catastrophe, Tolkien's trilogy seemed to resonate with the angst for the new millennium.

According to Merriam-Webster, catastrophe is:
1 : the final event of the dramatic action especially of a tragedy
2 : a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin

But JRR Tolkien coined the word - Eucatastrophe. As the prefix "eu" means good, eucatastrophe is quite the opposite of a catastrophe. When disaster seems certain and all hope seems lost, there is "the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears."

In the trilogy, the mad Steward of Gondor ruled with a bent on self-destruction. Misinformation prevailed. The overwhelming forces of evil marched to devour Middle Earth and destroy all that was free and good in life. It looked like the evil ring of power would never be destroyed.

Then came the sudden turn of events - the eucatstrophe. The ring was destroyed in an unexpected way. The forces of evil were vanquished. Good ultimately triumphed.

Such are the times as 2010 on planet Earth when madness reigns in the world. Leaders do not seem to have the good of the people, which they serve, in mind. With terrorist threats from without and the enemy within, the forces of evil march on to devour all that is free and good in this world.

In this season between Christmas and Easter, consider Him:

"The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy."

from the Epilogue of ON FAIRY-STORIES by J.R.R. Tolkien

The power of the resurrection is that when all seems lost, there is the eucatastrophe.

And there is hope for 2010.
photo from:
everystockphoto: Map of Middle Earth

"catastrophe." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.
Merriam-Webster Online. 5 January 2010