Sunday, August 28, 2016

Look What I Did!!

I was at a small charity golf outing yesterday.  My friend and I were paired up with a nice younger couple, whom we quickly befriended.  The four of us had birdies and bogies, but when we reached the last hole we were hoping for one more birdie to get back to even par for the round.  But we eagled the par 5 finishing hole, perhaps the first eagle I have ever carded!  Amazing!  And even the rain held off until we were back in the clubhouse.  What a day!
Meanwhile, last week a representative from a local organization told me he nominated me for an award, for all the work I’ve done with charities, and so at his request I prepared a paper listing all my accomplishments in this area.  Perhaps I’ll get another certificate or plaque to add to my pile on the bookcase.  Well of course, when your good, …
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Perhaps, to be totally honest, I should add some clarifying words to those above, about MY accomplishments.  First of all, relative to that miraculous eagle we scored:  my implied participation is a loose wording of the truth.  I didn’t keep score, so the words about carding an eagle weren’t exactly true.  And as for US having carded an eagle, if you count the foursome in total, that is true --- kinda.  Well, what really happened was that the young wife hit the first shot we used, in the best-ball round, and the young husband crushed a 3-wood onto the distant green, 5 feet from the cup.  And so we happily let his spouse tap in the eagle putt.  Yes, WE had an eagle!  As for it being MY accomplishment, well …
And as for all those other accomplishments and awards of mine, well, in truth I can recall many good things I set out to accomplish in my life --- but looking back on THOSE, all I seem to recall are my many failures.  I can’t recall many major accomplishments of my own.  Now there WERE many events in my life which were triggered when someone else set out to accomplish something, and they asked me along to help.  Eventually God helped me use the many talents He gave me on those opportunities, and then much good was accomplished.  And because I was there at the end, many said:  Wow, great job guy!  But did I really accomplish those things?  Were they MY accomplishments? 
Well, let me tell you about the time I got an eagle at a golf outing …
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I was at a 4-day silent retreat last week, my first ever.  I went with thoughts of asking God what He wanted me to do, to perhaps help our country.  I planned walks, time in the chapel, meditation readings, and quiet time alone with God.  And at the end of the second day I recorded in my journal:  Lord, why am I here?  I heard no answers to my prayers.  (Another example of MY accomplishments)
It was at breakfast on the last morning of my retreat that I met a young lady from China.  A sophomore at the University of Michigan, she came to the retreat center for a couple of days of peace.  “My generation in China,” she said, “is questioning all the emphasis on money and power.  We look at the many big cities and crowds in China and ask:  Is this all?  And when I found my student friends here in America with the same focus on money and power, well, …  I need time to think on the meaning of my life.”  Aha, the magic words, I thought!  I gave her the copy of Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning, which I had re-read on the first day of my retreat.  She thanked me profusely.  Who knows if it will provide her some “accomplishment.”
Was this the answer to my question: Why am I here, Lord?  I suspect He may have smiled at this new question, but I don’t expect to hear any answers.  And that’s our problem, our lack of humility, we want clear-cut answers to our questions.  We want clear-cut directions, or we’ll set out devise them ourselves.  But, I’ve already written about how things generally turn out when I try to accomplish MY plans.  Enough said on that.
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Today is the feast day of St. Augustine.  Here’s a man of some intelligence who set out to lead a great life, even as I did.  And his writings tell of his self-perceived failures, AND his search for meaning in life:
It is not as if a good life of some sort came first, and that thereupon
God showed his love and esteem for it from on high, saying
 “Let us come to the aid of these men and assist them quickly because
they are living a good life.”  No, our life was displeasing to him, but
 what he did in us was not displeasing to him.  He will, therefore,
condemn what we have done, but he will save what he himself has done in us.
Augustine came to see that goodness and meaning in his life did not come from his efforts alone.  And he prayed some prayers which inspire me today:
O eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity.  You are my God.  To you
 do I sigh day and night.  When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself
 so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not
yet ready to see them.  Meanwhile, you overcame the weakness of my vision,
 sending forth most strongly the beams of your light,
 and I trembled at once with love and dread. 
I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you. 
I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you.
And eventually, late in his life, he found God --- or perhaps more in truth, let God find him:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! 
You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for
you.  In my unloveliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created. 
You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called,
you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone,
and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath
and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. 
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
                                                            --- From Confessions, by St. Augustine

I so appreciate St. Augustine’s prayer, and I desire to accomplish all God wishes to do in me.

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