A Bearing in the Night
November, 2009

                                                   I have been listening to
                                                  Kevin Keller’s Ensemble, “In Absentia.”  

                                             We continually experience
                                             the absence of life as we once knew it.  
                                             November’s days get shorter
                                               and darkness enlarges itself.  

This year I have reflected                                                   
on this theme more than usual.                                                   
It becomes easier to lose our bearings,                                                 
harder to find the paths to walk upon:                                                 
we find less light to lead our way.                                                

Some have written passionately                                                
that America and Western civilization as we know                                        
is at the cusp of a new dark age                                               
that will unfold over the next century.                                               
We grow concerned for our children and grandchildren.                                  
And, we see this theme of a “dark age”                                              
being used in the “digital” populous;                                               
the church; government; sexuality, and western culture.                                  

I feel this at the edges of so many thoughts these days.  
Books even have more dark tones than usual.
With darkness, we grow narrow-minded,
almost tyrannical in trying to control life.  
We become hoarding, self-absorbed, and narcissistic--

welcome to November’s moods and tones.  

                                      We use many phrases to express darkness.  
                                       Some use phrases like “on a dark day”,
                                        “my life is dark right now”,
                                       “a dark room (even though a light is on)”,
                                          “the dark side”, “dark tones”,
                                      or “a darkness that comes from shutting our eyes.”  
                                         Darkness can blind us momentarily
                               until the pupils of our eyes adjust to what light there is.  
There are many abuses that come in dark times—many tyrannies.  

The purpose of this letter is
to reflect on the ways we tyrannize—
the ways we enter into the growing darkness.  
It is always easy to see it in others.  
We so easily fail to see our own darkness and are quick to judge.  
We don’t do the work that reflection and contemplation calls us to.  

Dark times tend to spawn fear                                                    
to what we can’t imagine or visualize.                                                    
In fact, some write that we are growing                                                    
in an “individual darkness”—                                                   
a fogginess about what God is up to,                                                   
the neglect of the poor and outcast,                                                   
self-righteousness, a loneliness, a sense of being lost,                                       
a false security, fearful, and a tyranny of selfishness.                                    

     Timothy writes:  “But mark this:  
There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness but denying its power” (II Timothy 3:1-5).  

This is true darkness.  

     One word I take out of that litany of darkness:  
We mark a moment in our American culture
                                         every year called Thanksgiving.
                                          Maybe a place to begin reflection
                                           that might be a “bearing in the night”
                                             is to be

                                              It is fitting as days grow “shorter”,
                                             that we enlarge our capacity to “give thanks.”  
                            The giving of thanks nurtures appreciation and affection.  
                               Thankfulness expands our ability to see in dark places.
                    We have been given so much by the sacrifices of many people.
We first give thanks for God’s presence in our lives,
for our faith, for our children and families,
for the graciousness and mercy of others where we find it,
for the advances of science, for this wonderful earth,
for our bodies, our country, and multitudes of blessings.

Scriptures encourage us to:

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving”;

“And let the peace of God rule
in your hearts and be thankful” (Col. 4:2; 3:5).  

  May the “blessing of thankfulness” overwhelm us----

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