Every day I read the front pages of the main, Style and Metro sections of the "Washington Post." I'm updated on who is rearranging which body parts how; what it means to find one's identity in the object of one's desire; the state of bathrooms in Fairfax County public schools; the scary, international workings of what I call (forgive the 1970s Saturday morning TV reference) the "Shazam! ISIS Hour;" and a host of unsavory issues--my pre-breakfast nibble as I wait for my coffee. No wonder my stomach churns.
But after two recent get aways with different sets of folks (some dear, long time, annual fellow "Summer Campers" in NC and then this past weekend with my parents at the beach), I've realized that I have become a problematically skilled, cultural decay commentator. Now, part of this is good--one needs to know what's happening in the world, and it really helps to talk about it with friends. It helps knowing that the churning in my guts is shared by others whose minds also swirl with the lightning speed of cultural shift.
But a steady diet of this is neither good for the cortisol in my body nor for the state of my heart. This morning I awoke pondering the Scripture verse which years ago I'd repeat daily while driving to teach some very crazy public high school kids: "You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You; trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal" (Is. 26:3,4). Lying in bed, I kept picturing myself hugging a big rock--and it felt wonderful. Waters can swirl, tides can come in and out (I pictured my feet falling and rising with the tides)...and the Rock is there. In the center. Cool. Solid.
So the question emerges: what really does it take to hold on to The Solid Rockness? At the oppressively hot beach with my parents (even the nicest southern family can only pretend for so long that burning sands and sauna like non-breezes are relaxing), we decided one evening to can the news and play a "game" to get our minds momentarily off of candidate announcements, jail-busted murderers, and scorching heat.
Sitting at the dinner table, we decided to focus our attention on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (the contents of Philippians 4:8). Glasses of wine in hand, around the table we went: "Dad, what's something that's true about this cultural moment in which we live? Mom, what's something that's right about it? Hey, self, what's actually pure about this era?" You get the idea. Another round reviewed our childhoods (so revealing!). We did a third round asking where we'd seen such things in Scripture stories.
In the end, it was a strangely encouraging, mind-re-maker--which makes sense. When Paul was writing the Philippians and admonishing these anxious people to "think about such things," he knew about a crazy world. He was under house arrest in Rome. His beloved Philippians congregation was having theological, lifestyle, and relational issues. And in the midst of all the stress, he turns their attention to developing muscles not just for critique but for discovery of the daily and present goodness of God.
So, in whatever swirls you are encountering, consider grabbing on to Philippians 4:8 soon--alone or with a few friends over a glass of wine--and thinking on such things. It is one small way to hold to the cool, Solid Rock even when the heat is hot and the cultural waters seems to swirl with an unprecedented speed.