Monday, May 31, 2010

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Originally written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. More well known as "The Sunscreen Song" by Baz Luhrmann.

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Truth on its way to being truer

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

A phrase sticks in my mind from recent reading. . . . "Truth on its way to being truer. . . ." Can something true become truer? In absolute terms, no, it's either true or it isn't. But, in terms of our understanding of truth, surely the answer is yes. Our understanding is only partial, and our grasp of the truth something that has to develop and mature. An apple's an apple from the first swelling of the bud, but there's little joy trying to eat it at that stage. It needs time to ripen.

If we could grasp that it would save so much pain and conflict. We fight so hard to protect "the truth", yet often we are only fighting to protect our own imperfect understanding of it. Like children, we cling to our first experiences. We hold tight to a few proof texts we learnt in our spiritual adolescence, as though that was the limit of what God has to teach us. Really, the truth we know is only the hors-d'oeuvre, a first course to whet our appetite for what comes later. The problem is that we're too insecure to follow the truth wherever it leads; we prefer to cage it, tame it, pretend that we possess it all.

Truth has to move on, not abandoning but enriching what went before. The end result is a deeper truth that may look very different from our original version. I remember an early orchestral concert in my teens. The power and drive of Sibelius' Second Symphony floored me. It opened my mind to new things, but it's not the only music I listen to now.

Truth is a life-long, inner pursuit, but we make it with him: we in him, he in us (John 17:21,23). The truth lives in us, encouraging, leading us into deeper truth; and helping us to work it out in daily living.

"God is on the point of your pencil, on the edge of your ploughshare," as Teilhard de Chard in says. I'm not sure I grasp the full meaning of that, but it contains the assurance that he's part of my life, sharing what I do, what I am. Even sharing my search for deeper truth, and leading me into it.

It's comforting, Lord, to think I have the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Reassuring, to peg the world down,
hold it fast in the chains of my small knowledge.
Tie it up and relax.

But Lord, the truth's a sleeping giant.
And when he wakes
all my Lilliputian certainties are torn out, screaming,
by a twitch of his hand.
My little dogmatisms damaged past repair.

Your truth stands towering over me.
However far I reach on tiptoe,
however much I try,
it stays beyond my reach.
Too great to hold, too high to comprehend.

Forgive my arrogance.

I can't reach further than truth's shoelace
and yet I claim to know it all.
I try to tame you,
hold you in the cage of my timidity.
Make you predictable and safe.
The truth is -
and there I go again, Lord, telling you -
it frightens me to think that all the world I see out there
is only a beginning..
That as I walk, hesitating, towards the far horizon
it moves away.
However much I see and learn, there's more.
And what I hold, though precious, is still partial,
the dim image of the glories yet to come.

Lord, turn my mind around.

Help me to realise that what I see
as never-ending quest, a constant learning,
is not a threat, but an adventure, lived with you.
Help me to understand that the infinity that beckons me,
is an infinity of love.

And as I take the road afresh, each day,

I’m not sure where it leads, or where I’m going,
but I’m going there with you.
And that’s enough.

From: No Strange Land by Eddie Askew
(all proceeds support The Leprosy Mission)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean (Acts 11:9)

Fred Craddock, tells about a church he knew. He remembered it as the status church, First Church Downtown, it was called. Everybody who was anybody went to that church, when Fred was a boy. Not just anybody could walk in there and join. Income and proper attire seemed a membership requirement at First Church. Need was say? People of Color need not apply.

As you might imagine, First Church did not receive many new members. Members simply grew older. As an adult, Fred learned that First Church had closed. Too few people of the “right type,” I guess.

Fred had occasion to go back to town and discovered that old First Church was still standing. But now it was a restaurant, a fish restaurant. He walked in the big gothic doors and, sure enough, where there had once been pews, now there were tables, and waiters, and diners. He looked down the nave of the old church and where the communion table had once stood, now there was a salad bar.

He walked out the front door, back down the steps, muttering to himself, “Now, I guess everybody is welcome to eat at the table.”

(From a sermon by William Willimon, "When the Outsiders Become Insiders")