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Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I'm Reading Today: Genesis 6-11

As some of you know by now, I was raised in a small town (population of less than 3,000 at the time) in Eastern Washington. There was little diversity in that town. The lack of diversity was true not just in racial/ethnic terms – it was true in almost every facet of life. This meant there was a lack of diversity in spiritual belief and practice. The consequence is that I was raised with the impression that there was only one way of thinking about and celebrating God.

Then I went off to college across state to attend a private school in Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma was more than 100 times bigger than my hometown, and it had much more diversity represented. This diversity included diversity in thought about – and experience of – God.

I remember my first quarter at college very well. The college was an undergraduate institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I learned many things in my classes that first quarter that challenged some of the traditional things I had been taught growing up.

At first I didn't know what to do. I went through a stage of denial – thinking these people didn't know what they were talking about since they were saying things that went against my beliefs. I didn't care what fancy degrees or titles they had in front of their names – they were wrong! Next, I went through a stage of anger – wondering why no one back home had bothered to teach me such important things. Finally, I rushed through the stage of acceptance and landed smack dab in a stage of cynicism. I thought, "Boy, you have to be pretty stupid to hold on to childish beliefs that you were raised with and be willing to ignore the evidence that calls such beliefs into question!"

Over time, I grew to have a HUGE amount of respect for one of my history professors – Dr. Phillip Nodrquist. He was a brilliant man who knew his areas of study backwards and forwards, and he was a tremendous human being who contributed so much to society!

Then one day I learned something shocking about Dr. Nordquist. Not only was he a Christian, but he participated regularly in the life of his local church. I was shocked. As someone who held on to a huge amount of cynicism about Christianity, Dr. Nordquist made me wonder, "Can you be a well educated, thoughtful, caring, compassionate individual AND be Christian?"

To make a long story short, I learned the answer to that question was "Yes!"

At a time in my life when I was ready to walk away from the faith with which I had been raised, it took just one person to encourage me to hold on to that faith and NOT give up. What a difference Dr. Nordquist made for me.

In today's reading, I was reminded of the difference that another individual made in the course of our faith – we heard the story of Noah. And in today's story, it wasn't just a cynical, arrogant eighteen year old that was ready to toss in the towel: it was God who was getting ready to give up on humanity. Along came that one individual, and voila – God's relationship with humanity was restored. At so many junctures in our stories, that's all it takes: one person to come along and help get things back on track.

On some days, I might take a less challenging course and simply ask you to think of the one person who came along and made such a dramatic difference for you in your life. Today I'm feeling a bit more rambunctious. Today, I'm going to ask you to live into the notion that for someone out there on the planet – you are that one person who is preventing someone from giving up on life and/or humanity. Find the time to center yourself in that overwhelming realization and ask for the continued strength to be that presence in another's life.

Til next time …

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