Friday, June 30, 2006

Playing the Silence

Mr. Pete, the Drum Man, is back for Vacation Bible School - and the kids are thrilled! They get to play on different sizes of drums, and try to learn something about rhythm. Perhaps not so surprising - the girls are seem interested in the different 'tones' the drums make; the boys just want to be the loudest!!!

This is Mr. Pete's ministry. As he exposes kids to the sound of the drums, their texture, their tones, he also exposes them to the gospel. He talks about how the kids (and the lucky adults who are with them) become a part of a community: the Drum Circle. Every drum has a different 'voice' and every voice is important to the circle. Every drum has a part, and if one part makes a mistake, the next drum or the circle brings us back onto the rhythm. He teaches them about beats, and about the sounds that can be made.

But Pete also teaches them about silence. In the teaching of a particular rhythm, he puts in a measure of silence. Boom, boom-boom, boom, boom-boom, silence, boom is the rhythm. And he has us hold our hands up in the air to play the silence. And Pete believes, as I think Jesus does, that silence is the hardest note to play - on any instrument: drums, piano, voice, life. But the silence is as important as all the sounds we make, and Pete wants the kids to listen to the sound that the silence canc reate.

Some people think that Jesus went away from the crowds and the disciples to recharge his batteries, to get some rest, to take a retreat, to be closer to God, to pray. All good and commendable choices, which few of us do ourselves. Me, I think he went away to listen to the silence he was trying to play in his heart.

We know how to be loud, we know how to soften our voices. We know how to argue, and we know how to whisper. We know how to talk and talk and talk. We know how to use words to intimidate, to manipulate, to criticize; we know how to play our voices so people will feel sorry for us, or love us, or want to rescue us.

But when do we learn to play the silence?

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Being Remembered

We all want to be remembered for something.

After developing an incredibly successful (and controversial) compute software company, Bill Gates has announced that he will donate 95% of his wealth to help people throughout the world.

And people will remember him.

After taking vows to remain inside her cloistered convent, Mother Teresa stepped into the streets of Calcutta, to serve the people of the world no one else wanted to touch.

And people will remember her.

When it seemed that no one could break through their set-in-stone perceptions of how to handle the problem, rock star Bono turns out to be the one who has convinced presidents and prime ministers to actually do something concrete about poverty in the world.

And people will remember.

We all want to be remembered for something.

This week, we are having our Vacation Bible School at church. And, so far, three different kids have come up to me and said, "I remember you! You're the guy we wrapped in toilet paper last year!!!"

Not exactly in the category of the others, but I'll take it!

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, June 15, 2006


It all has to do with a scientific thingamabob called 'bioluminescence' which refers to thingamajig cells which contain a whatsit called luciferm. This whatsit can somehow make a gizmo called luciferase which, when combined with oxygen, makes a whatchamacallit commonly known to all as oxyluciferin.

And, of course, it all has to do with sex! At least, that's what the scientists tell us when we wonder how and why fireflies light up on a summer evening.

But maybe it's because Jesus, who couldn't wait for Thomas Edison to create the lightbulb, needed something to help him, since he liked to stay up late at night reading.

Or maybe God turned to the Spirit one night and said, "We need something to keep Jesus busy on summer evenings, instead of him running around creation all night long. Got anything up your sleeve that he could chase?"

Or maybe the Spirit saw that group of insomniac gnats that God had created, and sprinkled a little stardust on their tails, so they could find their way in the dark.


I just let them light my walk home from a late meeting at the church, whispering, "Wow!"

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, June 09, 2006

If not me . . .

Let's see:

- the hurricane season has started and there are
neighborhoods in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi,
and Alabama which are still littered with debris
from storms from as long ago as two years;
- thousands have lost their lives, their loved ones,
their homes, their livelihoods from the earthquake
in Indonesia;
- two top executives of Enron have been convicted
for their roles in the fall of that corporation;
- former Vice-President Al Gore has released a
movie which provides a close-up look at the
consequences of global warming;
- 17 people have been arrested for possible
terrorism activities in Canada, a country which
prides itself on diversity and tolerance;
- and this year marks the 25th 'anniversary' of
the discovery of the AIDS virus.

Woe is us! Woe is me! We are a people who look around and see great grief, daunting devastation,unbelievable suffering. And when we go to the
sanctuaries of God, we hear God crying out, "who can I send? Who will go?"

Send me? "I don't think so" is the response many of us who follow Jesus seem to say. Call it compassion fatigue, call it xenophobia, call it 'focusing on our own before we reach out to others,' a lot of people are talking as if we just cannot do it any more, we just are not able to serve others, we just don't have the time or energy or resources to respond to God's call.

But what makes us so different from all the other generations which preceded us? What gives us some sort of exemption, some 'free pass' from having to respond with love, with hope, with reconciliation to a world that struggles to find its way? Every generation has faced tragedy, every generation has dealt with some sort of major crisis, every generation has had to decide HOW it would respond, not if it would.

On a cold, gray, grief-filled November Friday afternoon, I walked with my family down to our Presbyterian church to hear what the preacher had to say to us, to hear what comfort the Word would offer, to hear what God might say to those of us numbed by the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And of all the passages he might have chosen, the preacher read from Isaiah 6, "In the year when King Uzziah died . . ."

It is in the years in which the king dies or the president's life is cut short that we see God high and lifted up before us, reminding us of who creates us and calls us.

It is in the years when the foundations of the world shake from the armies at war that the heavenly choirs sing of the One whose glorious peace waits to fill our lives.

It is in the years when people's ears are filled with the false promises of the politicians and the empty rhetoric of anger and hatred, that God reaches out to touch our lips so we can speak the Good news of hope, of grace, of steadfast love for all people.

It is in the years when we seem most broken that God's healing power is poured out upon us; it is in the years when we seem most helpless, that the Spirit is poured out upon us so we can help others; it is in the years when despair threatens to fill every crevice of our souls and our hearts shatter from the suffering we see before us that God makes Jesus most present in the world - through us!

It is in these years, and every year, and this year that God most needs us to minister to the world. It is in these years, and every year, and this year that God cries out, in pain and anguish, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"

Then I said . . .

(c) 2006 Thom M. Shuman