A sobering report to digest this Fourth of July
How the U.S. Constitution misshaped Indigenous history

Opening the eyes of our hearts to daily miracles

I want to back up a few weeks and think again about the catastrophic implosion of the Titan submersible (pictured here) near the wreck of the Titanic.

TitanAs Rabbi Avi Shafran notes in this RNS opinion piece, most, if not all, of us were praying for a miracle that would have allowed the survival of the Titan's five occupants.

"(W)hat a wonderful miracle would have been celebrated," Shafran writes, "had the happy ending actually happened. How enthralling it would have been to witness the jubilant welcome of the explorers as they emerged, wonderfully, into the light and fresh air, into the welcoming arms of their families and friends."

But, of course, we now know that all the passengers died instantly. Some of the pieces from the craft have been returned to the surface and are being studied to see what can be learned.

But what can the Titan story teach us about ourselves? Shafran is right that we can use it to learn to notice and appreciate the everyday miracles all around us. Simple miracles. Miracles we don't even notice are miracles. Like simply waking up from overnight sleep.

"It’s not only the fact that in sleep we are unconscious, out of control or that people can, and do, die in their sleep," Shafran writes. "Or even that sleep, like death, is insistent and will only allow itself to be postponed so long.

"The rabbis of the Talmud said something more; they considered sleep itself to be a virtual microcosm of death β€” 'one sixtieth' of it, in their turn of phrase and thought. Today we hardly stop to think about the return of consciousness as anything remarkable. We understand the science of sleep better and what might cause us to die before we wake. Resuming our lives β€” life itself, in a sense β€” seems a given."

Two things are at play here: Gratitude and mindfulness. When we aren't mindful, when we simply don't notice life and beauty and the astonishing (when we pay attention) ways that we live and move and have our being, we have chosen to be ungrateful. Shafran writes about the simple act of waking up in the morning. But once we're awake, do we notice that if we didn't blink now and then our eyes would dry out and become useless? Do we notice that if we didn't cough occasionally we might suffer a fatal congestion of some sort? Do we notice that we don't have to tell our bodies to breathe? They simply do it to survive.

It may be silly to call such happenings miracles, but I have some sympathy for whoever first said that there are two kinds of people: Those who never see miracles and those who see nothing but miracles.

Yes, of course, we are right to grieve the Titan implosion and right to question whether it was an accident waiting to happen. But we also can use that experience to notice -- and give thanks for -- the many ways that the miraculous is simply built into our quotidian lives.

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Newly released figures show that more than 6,000 congregations now have chosen to leave the United Methodist Church, this AP story reports. That's about one-fifth of the total. I've written plenty about this over the past several years, but here's a brief explanation: This is a dispute over how to treat LGBTQ+ people in light of biblical passages that some people read as calling homosexuality a sin. To understand why that's a misreading of scripture, read this essay on the subject that I store elsewhere here on my blog. The people who prefer that misreading are the ones leaving the UMC. Here's a simple way to think about how to interpret scripture: If your interpretation leads you to oppress people or to consider them somehow subhuman, you can be sure you're getting it wrong. Healthy religion liberates and affirms the goodness of God's creation, even while acknowledging that God's justice and mercy are always fair and good.

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P.S.: Earlier this spring I was filling in on the editorial page of The Kansas City Star (where I spent a lot of years) and wrote this editorial about what was wrong with a bill that would allow public schools in Missouri to teach courses on the Bible. Well, now that state lawmakers have ignored that advice, Maria Benevento of The Kansas City Beacon has written this piece that outlines some problematic things about the law. What? There are problematic things about it? How shocking. Gov. Mike Parson, by the way, to one one's surprise, has signed the bill into law. Sigh.

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ANOTHER P.S.: You can get an email for free each time my blog publishes -- almost always on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- by clicking on this link and filling out a simple form.


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