Monday, July 25, 2005

A Serious Case of Heartburn

FYI: This is a continuation of last Thursday's blog, so read that one first if you haven't done so already.
Those two men who had the privilege of walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus had what Oprah refers to as an "aha moment" once He disappeared from their presence. They looked at each other and asked, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" Looking back on their conversation and meal with the Master, they realized that His presence, His voice, His wisdom, His patience with them had set something to simmering on the stovetop of their hearts.

My question is this: why don't I pay closer attention to the times when my heart burns within me? Why do I usually only notice in hindsight that I have been in the company of beauty, grace, kindness, and love? Truthfully, my heart has become increasingly aware of and responsive to the many, no, the countless times that I look up, listen up, and perk up because I am being accompanied on my journey by beautiful, thoughtful, intriguing, captivating, wise companions.

This past Saturday as I sat enjoying a super-sweet coffee drink at a local cafe, I eavesdropped on conversations, watching with wonder as fathers wrestled with their children, mothers cooed at their babies, baristas greeted customers with grins and warmth, listened to the fountain bubble nearby, and my heart burned within me. I sat in awe at the simple beauty of the setting, and I wondered if anyone else there on that quaint little plaza felt the same. Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I strolled through an art exhibit at the local museum of art absolutely fascinated by the technique, the process, the collaboration, and the unimaginable results of the work of Chuck Close. Several other couples made their way quietly through the show along with us, reading the wall boards, gazing at the finished pieces, and shaking their heads in wonder just as we did. At one point, I turned to an elderly couple nearby and couldn't help but exclaim, "It's incredible." They both nodded and laughed. She said it was her third visit to the show because the first time was simply so overwhelming that she had to return and see it again. Exactly. I will soon return. There at the Mint Museum of Art, my heart burned within me.

Does not my heart burn within me everytime I:
- see the full moon?
- hear a baby cry, especially on an airplane?
- see anguished faces after subway, skyscraper, and train station bombings?
- hear tales of kidnappings, beheadings, and missing teenagers?
- watch in awe as those penguins march across miles of ice for the sake of the next generation? How on earth do they know how to do all that?
- read that another 10,000 hard working people are about to lose their jobs?
- comfort a grieving friend or family member after the death of a loved one?
- hold a newborn baby?
- make a new friend or reconnect with an old one?
- see evidence of abuse on the face of a woman or child?
- listen to movie stars, athletes, celebrities, powerful business people, and "perfectly normal" people alike say that all they want is a peaceful life, a restful vacation, a trustworthy spouse, and friends that care deeply about them?
- am shown an engagement ring and listen to the excited lovers as they plan for their upcoming nuptials?
- listen with sadness to the details that led up to another divorce?
- groan with sorrow over the senseless slaughter of innocent people in countries all over the planet?
- remember the wonder of the birth of those puppies in a friend's back bedroom?
- cheer for Lance Armstrong as he wins yet another Tour de France?
- cheer for the disabled athletes whose only reward is finishing the race?
- cheer for Tiger Woods as he wins yet another major golf event?
- read about how much time, energy, and money Tiger gives to charities to help others whose lives are not so blessed as his own?
- consider the overwhelming evidence of how excessively this culture, this nation, and I exalt certain individuals due to their athletic, artistic, or financial success?
- see the wonder of spider webs and birds' nests in the yard?
- smell the roses growing adjacent to our back deck?
- clip a handful of gardenias from the bushes out back, place them in a small vase, and breathe their heady fragrance in my study room?
- listen to my children playing, laughing, building forts, and playing hide-and-seek in their bedrooms?
- am told that I am too liberal, too conservative, too tolerant, not tolerant enough, too friendly, too standoffish, too strict, too lenient, too aggressive, too passive, too religious, not faithful enough, too patriotic, and not patriotic enough?
- hear the increasingly dismal statistics on divorce, poverty, homelessness, AIDS, alcoholism, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, abuse, unemployment, and abortion?
- watch movies like "Whale Rider" and know that there are countless girls like her all over the world, hoping to be noticed, loved, and appreciated for who they are, not ignored, abused, and resented for who they are not?
- read books like "A New Kind of Christian" and take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in looking for a new way, a different way to live out Christianity in this world?
- recognize and embrace the fact that the list of "heartburn moments" never has to end as long as I keep my heart open to the wonders, the joys, the mysteries, as well as the terrors, the sorrows and the despair that this life has to offer???

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