Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I see that Wal-Mart has decided to turn Black Friday into Black Thursday. Competitors are following suit.

Given the state of world affairs right now, the diversion to the aisles of discount stores seems to be the thing to do. There’s no need for sack-cloth and ashes. As Solomon observed long ago, in a seemingly meaningless world where “the righteous get what the wicked deserve,” it may be better to just, “eat, drink, and be glad.” Had there been discount retailers back in his time the wise king probably would have included shopping.

I’m amazed at how quickly things can change. A week or so ago we were breathing a collective sigh of relief. The election season was finally over. The pundits were wrong; it wasn’t that close. Compared to 2000, it was a breath of fresh air. No lawyers had to get themselves involved, much less the Supreme Court. It didn’t linger into the Christmas season. We didn’t have to endure the spectacle of Democrats or Republicans desperately trying to sell baby Jesus to the highest bidder in exchange for Florida’s electoral votes.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the wheels to come off the wagon this year. I just read that the Eurozone is once again, “officially,” in recession. The Germans and the French are hanging on by a fingernail. Even the industrious Dutch are in the tank. Then I read that the Middle-East is on the brink of all-out war. Fire is raining down from the heavens. The people of Gaza City and Ashdod are in hiding. The Syrians are creeping ever closer to the Golan Heights. The Iranians are conducting massive military maneuvers. The Egyptians are waiting in the wings.

I opened my e-mail, hoping for some relief. I was greeted by a message from the American Red Cross in response to one I’d sent them yesterday when I found out that they’d spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars housing Red Cross relief workers at a luxury hotel in Soho. Their answer? It wasn’t really too many people at all. And besides, they had to stay somewhere.

There’s not much in the way of good news on the home front. I drove down Industrial Road last night. As I passed by the Flint Hills Mall I saw the picketers protesting lost wages and a disappearing pension. By the time I got home I’d heard the news that Hostess would “liquidate” if the strikers didn’t come back to work by 4:00 today. If the worst happens, our poverty rate, which is already obscene at 27%, will almost certainly go even higher.

Liquidate! What a terrible word. You were solid, but you're liquid now It’s like adding insult to injury. The refrain is cold, clinical, and eerily familiar, reminiscent of the days of Enron. “Shred your dignity, concede, and come back or we’ll ‘liquidate’ you and pour you down the drain!”

After that there wasn’t much need to read about Benghazi or the unemployment claims report.

There’s a part of me that wants to explode, but, thanks to Nancy, I’m at peace. I think there’s a gentle, prophetic strain that runs through her veins. About a week and half ago she had me listen to a song she’ll be singing as a member of the Community Chorus. It’s Michael W. Smith’s “All is Well,” a simple piece about the birth of Jesus. By the time the last note was struck we were in tears, clinging to one another.

It was one of those overwhelming moments in life when one senses power and peace embracing in a marriage that the temporal events of life can’t “liquidate.” The only appropriate response is to be reduced to tears.

We sat quietly for a few minutes, then I shared about a time when that same overwhelming sense of power and peace invaded my life. It was during the Christmas season, 1965, in Vietnam. For months the hard shell of unbelief I’d clothed myself in for years was slowly cracking. I didn’t know what to make of it at the time, but I think that shell broke when I attended the Bob Hope Christmas show. As the show closed, Anita Bryant led us in singing “Silent Night.” Somehow, as it did a few days ago here in Emporia, a sense of peace and power overwhelmed me in spite of the conflict all around. I found myself hoping for the first time in my adult life. “Could it be true?” “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were?”

I don’t fully understand why the world works the way it does. It’s enough for me to say it’s fallen. But I do know that humble birth we’ll be celebrating in a few weeks shifted the world’s power paradigm. Human events ebb and flow, but the message from that stable is timeless. Whatever else may happen, “all is well.”