The delegates of the Second Continental Congress sit, pace, and sweat in Philadelphia. It is June, 1776 and the different faces of the colonies are struggling to become united in vision, plan, and action. Members of congress know soldiers are weakening, yet more fight is needed. They ask, “What can be done to rally our troops?” If I could travel back in time, I would join with those who risked their lives to answer this question with a written document that could also act as evidence of their treason. I would stand side by side with the founding fathers as they embarked upon writing the Declaration of Independence which articulated, without compromise, the American dream for all.
The Declaration of Independence was written when the colonies were already deep at war with Britain, the world’s most terrifying and advanced adversary. The first “Hurrah!” had sounded many months before, and the soldiers’ confidence and energy was beginning to wane. The declaration shines as a beacon of hope, a way to bring everyone back to the point of determination and pride present when the war began. The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of five men; Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. These five men represented five colonies, had five different writing styles, and five different personalities. Franklin, the well known bard of American lore; Jefferson, a quiet academic; Adams, a loud and opinionated patriot who prided himself on being disliked; Livingston, a farmer and lawyer; and Sherman, the man who Thomas Jefferson said “never said a foolish thing in his life.” Early on, the committee decided that Thomas Jefferson would take the lead on writing the declaration. Jefferson was the most accomplished writer of the group and the most widely liked. On June 11, 1776 Jefferson hid from the public and began writing. On June 28, 1776, only seventeen days later, Jefferson had produced a document of such depth, wisdom, and clarity, which could have taken a lifetime. The Congressional Committee revised the Declaration and submitted it to the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, refined the Declaration, and released the document to the public amid grand celebrations on Independence Day.
As a writer and an American, I love this point in history. The Declaration of Independence is among the best known documents of our nation and the world. Five men accepted the task of writing a document that would declare objective truths in a way that inspired their countrymen and affronted the enemy. Perhaps the committee did not grasp the significance of the task before them. I believe that they did. Based on their knowledge of the significance of their roles in history, they produced more than a mere declaration. The Declaration of Independence rallied the troops in 1776 and continues to rally the hearts, minds, and actions of those seeking freedom.
February 23, 2010
It’s with a sigh and a shrug of my shoulders that I return to Lent. Not necessarily excited, rather ruefully aware of the growing gap in my peace. I have been working and playing; squeezing in mud fights with my four year old brother, and staying awake till the wee hours trying to be concise and verbose at the same time. All the while my heart has been filling with cacaphony and distraction.
I readily welcome Lent and all that it brings. What’s that on your head? Do you know you have a smudge on your forehead? Did you put out a cigarrete on your head? …is it not amazing that people see the ‘smudge,’ not the cross?
Lent is one of the most powerful, and most counter culture seasons in the Church. Advent, most people can ‘get’….Sure, sure…something about getting ready for the baby Jesus – yeah, put Christ back in Christmas! Ordinary time is…ordinary…Those days between Easter and Advent. Lent is something foreign indeed. Why would a community focus on the most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, painful, uncomfortable part of their faith right before the triumph? Why would we prepare for victory by sacrificing and focusing on our sin?
Those in the fold of the Church understand. If we do not humble ourselves, where is our victory? If we are not willing to forego pleasures for forty days, who are we to appeal to a God who lived and died a sacrifice?
This said, Lent is definitely not a time to judge or show distain for our seemingly gluttonous brothers and sisters. Lent is a time for tender sacrifice. Forty days to note the dehabilitating habits picked up over the past year, identify them, and attack them at their root. Lent is a reminder to peer up at the face of God and be solemn, but not despairing. If we ignore this part of our faith, the glory and awe of Easter will pass us by like a weekend sale.
God is inviting us to live with Him for all eternity, if we do not first take up our crosses and walk staunchly towards our destination, who are we to beg for mercy?
February 11, 2010
At first there is no sound. Life is a still, endless wasteland of simpering and lonely nights.
Then along comes a stranger who looks on with sorrow…
They know not, nor do they seek. Theirs is the present, the unknown is unwelcome. How little they love.
It is not with a shake of a self-righteous head that the stranger observes, it is not with a reprimand his heart is filled. It is with a heartbreak and hope only a man in the midst of great love can comprehend.
Then a child cries…..
a long, loud exclamation of want.
Then there is sound, at first
a foreign thought, but now an actuality.
Some do not rejoice.
Some hide their hearts in frivolous, demeaning acts.
Some hide their hearts in fear and wanting.
Some hide their hearts in arrogance and intelligence.
Some hide their hearts in meaning that has no meaning.
Some scream out and struggle against the sound
and all it brings….
the one that all must battle to accept.
the Stranger…who is not so strange anymore…says
I have not come to lead an easy way. Suffering is a tool to bring us close. Rejoice in your suffering, as I rejoice.
Still, some hang their heads and hide their hearts even deeper in the death and decay that clings to this world with a vise-like grip….
But not all…
A band of mighty warriors has formed. A Church Militant. A church with a mission…and they should not be taken lightly. With the Stranger by their side, they are invincible and weak, courageous and timid, bold and meek, joyous and sorrowful. They know the world, they are the world, and it will take their earthly efforts with the grace of the Stranger to forge ahead to a truthful existence.
The Stranger spreads his arms…
Come to me, all who are brokenhearted and I will give you rest.
Aren’t we all brokenhearted?
Why, then, do we wait?