Saturday, September 09, 2006

Light a candle...

I was bouncing between Christian blogs, following various bunny trails from my SiteMeter, and found myself in the midst of a number of ugly, ugly discussions on supposedly-Christian sites. I saw one site with more than 120 comments volleying back and forth about whether Spencer Burke's A Heretic's Guide to Eternity really WAS heresy or not. Blah, blah, blah...

The deeper I dug, the more I saw various folks - supposedly all children of the Heavenly Father - decrying denominations, anti-denominationalism, Lutherans, Catholics, and the entire emerging-church movement (not to mention Emergent Village, Brian McLaren, Jordan Cooper, and virtually every other so-called "emergent" critter). On and on it went...yuck-o-rama.

By the time I was done, I wondered, "Can there be any real hope for peace between Christians?" The initial answers weren't too encouraging...

And then, I stopped by my dear friend Penni's blog, and she posted this beautiful quote from CS Lewis on her blog. And it got me smiling, and it got me thinking and thanking God for her.

Then I stopped at my brother-of-the-heart Rick's site, and was uplifted by this post, too. Ditto [rhymes with kerouac], ditto Jeff's So I Go Now, ditto Poor Mad 12:30 AM, it was a much better day, trust me.

Penni, I'll see your Lewis quote with this one, which has a deep anchor to the recovery community...forgive me, in advance, for gender-neutralizing br'er Lewis' male-only language:
True friendship begins at the point where one soul says to another, "You too? I thought I was the only one..." (CS Lewis, The Four Loves)
I believe that part of the thing that draws us together - these sisters and brothers across timezones and miles and terabytes of data - are the common themes, ideas, and experiences of faith which touch us in such powerfully similar ways. It's why I identify with Renee's stumbling towards faith; why I long to meet Jeff's savior on his Harley; why I stand in awe of Penni, Rick, Hope, Chris, Tim B., and so many others living out the kind of faith that first drew me to wander in the dust behind the spirit of Brennan Manning...

I think we see in each other what folks in recovery call "the God-shaped hole" - that emptiness which folks like me have tried to fill with everything but the One who can fill it.

I used to believe that my problem was (as one wag put it) that I was just "born a half-pint low" (whether bourbon or butter-pecan ice cream, doesn't matter). But if I had been wired differently, it would have been sex or money or possessions or looks or talent or whatever else I could find. There was just something missing...

Lewis said, "We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul" - but each soul that resonates with me out here in the blogosphere does so because of that same hunger, that same longing. And I believe that in the best of us, it transcends dogmas, creeds, traditions, worship styles, social status, sexual orientation, cultures and taboos.

Like a ring of people gathered around a campfire, it never looks the same to any of us, depending on our position and our vantage point. But we all bask in the glow of the same Light, we are all warmed by the same holy fire. And this image reminds me...

Nearly 30 years ago, I stood on a hillside overlooking the lake at Craftsmen Park, just south of Akron, Ohio. We had gathered with more than a hundred fellow DeMolay members for a leadership conference, and the end of this conference was a rededication ceremony. We stood in complete darkness, and heard a advisor named Bob Walker speak of the events of the conference we'd just completed, the friends we had made, and the blessings we'd received.

"Dad" Walker began to speak of the "light of brotherly love," and he struck a match, lighting a torch on the lakeshore. As he continued to speak, from that single torch, the other advisors lit candles, and shared that single flame with each of us as chapter leaders. We in turn passed the flame to our brothers - and soon, from a single torch by the lake, the whole hillside was illumined by the gentle blaze of candlelight.

We stood in silence and awe as we looked about, seeing the light illuminating the faces of friends, who minutes before had stood in utter solitude. The darkness had isolated us; the candlelight united us. And as the ceremony ended, we were charged to remain silent until dawn, reflecting on the lessons we'd learned and the blessings we'd received. So as we walked slowly away from the hillside, to "say" our farewells in silent, heartfelt hugs, each of us saw this sea of candlelight disperse to be tiny islands of lights, gathered in twos and threes across the darkness of that Ohio summer night.

Twenty years later, I heard the Christian band Whiteheart sing this song, and it seemed to embody the spirit of that long-ago rededication. And tonight, I think of my sisters and brothers in the blogosphere - who are beacons in the darkness to me, showing the light of Christ in new and powerful ways. I wish I could play the song for you all - but for now, the words will have to do.

Light a Candle - by White Heart
(From Tales of Wonder - 1992)

A flame is rising up in you
A spark is struck, electric blue
For the Hand of Love has brushed your eyes
And now, it's Love that shines
Light a candle

There's a surge of hope within your heart
And you want to play a bigger part
For you've heard the words that Jesus said
You want to turn the world upon it's head
Now lift your hands up high to the sky -
And light a candle

The city of faith can not be hid
Let the fire burn on the holy wind
So if you want to change the world
And be a living flame
Light a candle

So on a cold and moonless light
In your window, place your candle-light
And let it burn for all to see
Your holy torch of liberty

And pray for love
Pray for peace
Pray the world can be released
From the fear that locks us in the dark
From that hate that pulls us all apart
From the ashes there will rise a sacred flame -
Light a candle (light it up now)

Your back may be against the wall,
But you've seen the Love that conquers all -
You know that He can change the world
So be a living flame
Light a candle....
Light a candle....

You can change the world
If you believe
You know you can light up the world...

Light a candle...

1 comment:

isabella mori said...

wow, steve, this is so beautiful. your words here express wonderfully why, since way back in the 80s, i've been attracted to the internet. i just knew and felt that "out there", in that dark and immense forest of the world wide web, there would be people like you whose signature of the soul i would understand just a bit, and who might see in mine somewhat more than an incomprehensible scribble. interestingly enough, my first internete community (back then, "bulletin boards") was initiated by an older man who was very much an evangelical christian. my christian leanings are very strongly liberal but the beautiful thing was that that didn't matter. he did his thing, i did mine, and we recognized the light in each other and the other people who participated. thanks for being there in this blogosphere, steve. you are a candle on my path.