Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It's all around us, every day

All good things come to an end. In this case, one of my favorite television shows will be going off the air this May. NBC has announced the cancellation of "TheWest Wing".

Politics aside, it was a show marked by incredible writing, some amazing plot twists, and fine acting. Some of the characters were so real, many wished they could vote for them. Of course, like real life, there were the characters, (Toby Ziegler comes to mind) that you loved to hiss and boo!

Martin Sheen, the fine actor who played the president on the show, was interviewed the day after the cancellation was announced. He mentioned that his experience of being on the show was, "Amazing, incredible, grace-filled."


Now that is not a word one expects to emerge from the mouth of an actor on a TV show. While Sheen is a man of strong faith, it was still surprising to hear that phrase from his lips.

The reality, though, is that we rarely hear that phrase from anyone's lips these days. I go home and Bonnie asks how my day was and I might say something about a lot of meetings, stress, hospital visits, but she could probably count the times I have said 'grace-filled' on one finger.

People I ask, folks who go to this church, other churches, those who are clergy, those who are generous and good and kind, rarely use that phrase in describing their days or lives.

Yet, the evidence is all around us, isn't it? From a crisp, cold winter's night to a gorgeous sunrise; from children laughing at the movies to a daughter caring for her elderly mother; from folks willing to go to places like Pakistan, the Gulf Coast, Banda Ache to provide relief to those mentoring our children in schools - God's grace fills our lives, our days, our every moment.

Maybe, like Sheen, we need to develop the ear, the eye, the soul to see and hear and feel such grace throughout our days, so that when someone asks us, "How was your day, your week, your month, your job, your trip, your life, whatever?" our immediate response, our grateful response, will be simply,


(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Patron Saint of Cynics

In the story of the call of Nathanael (you may
know him better as Bartholomew) told for
us in John 1:43-51, he asks a rather cynical
question of Philip, "Can anything good come
out of Nazareth?" Implying, of course, can
anyone good come out of that extremely small
town filled with extremely poor people.

But before we dismiss Nathanael and his
question, let's admit that he is the patron saint
of all us cynical people.

Can anything (or anyone) good come out of
Tehran or Baghdad? Many of us doubt it.

Can anything (or anyone) good come out of
Crawford, Texas; Hope, Arkansas; Glasgow,
Scotland; Perth, Australia; anywhere you want
to name? We have our doubts.

About 40 years or so ago, if anyone asked "Can
anything (or anyone) good come out of Montgomery,
Alabama?" the answer would have been a resounding
"NO!" Deep South Montgomery; racist Montgomery;
first capitol of the Confederacy Montgomery? Are
you kidding?

But then came the day when Rosa Parks was too tired
to move to the back of the bus; then came the moment
when a black minister named Martin Luther King, Jr.,
was asked to head up the boycott in that city; and then
came a few, then hundreds, and finally thousands of
folks coming from all those tiny, insignificant, poor
backwaters where we never expect anything, or anyone,
good to come from.

So today, let's remember, and give thanks, for Rosa,
Martin, and all those who, with their dreams, with
their hopes, with their lives answered the question
first asked by Nathanael so long ago.

And let's remember, and give thanks, for this patron
saint of cynics, who discovered for himself that, oh
yes, someone good could come out of Nazareth,
someone so good that He is able to bring hope
out of the worst cynic.

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, January 01, 2006

One New Thing

Got your list done?

I've been working on my list of New Year
resolutions: walk more; eat more fruits and
fiber, less fat; lose that 'spare tire' around the
middle (though now it is more like a complete
set!). And you know what I noticed?

It's the same list I had in 2005. In fact, it is
the same list I had in 1995, 1985, 1975 . . .

it's always the same, old things I am working
at improving. There is no 'new' thing on my
list, that activity I have never tried, that event
I have never attended, that place I have never

We fall into the trap of thinking God uses the
same list year after year, that God will always
do things the way they have always been done.
Yet, the New Testament Lesson we read today
(Revelation 21:1-6a) reminds us that God is
in the business of 'newness': new heaven, new
earth, new Jerusalem, new me, new you.

Shouldn't surprise us, though. Scripture makes
it clear that God is always willing to risk, to dare,
to think (and do) outside the box, to do something,
everything new! And God wants us to be open to
that new thing offered to us, to that new person
who will enhance our life, to that new challenge
which will make us grow, to that new opportunity
we will have to serve.

So, let's tear up all our old, dated lists, and be
open to that one new thing (probably more,
actually) that God will do for us, to us, through

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman