Thinking Out Loud

September 28, 2020

Lost Embraces: A Lament


by Capt. Sheldon R. Bungay

originally published as The Phenomenology of Embrace; used by permission

I see the images flicker across my news feed and my heart yearns for justice,
yet another unnecessary black death, another riot, another shooting,
another political party fueling the fire and building a platform founded on a lack of truth.

I see the vitriol, the hate, and hear the cries of the oppressed,
I see the disease, the hunger, the lonely, and the dirty faces.
I see the mother who named her child, “Jihad” so that he will never forget.
I also see the sign that reads “stay six feet apart,”
and I cannot help but feel:
If I had the ability to wrap the whole world in a vast global embrace,
I would.

Alas, I cannot.

There is much that I miss from the time before now,
Near the top of that list is the simple embrace.

Why?

Because a hug is more than a form of greeting, or a nice gesture,
It is a drama that unfolds in four acts that has the power to convey much about the relationship between the participants and walks a fine line between love and oppression depending on the intentions of the one who initiates the contact.

Act One: Opening the Arms

This act is an opening of one’s self to another that says “come, be part of who I am.”

Found within these open arms are both a twinge of pain because we feel incomplete without the other, and a welcome sign that suggests I have created space within me for you!

Like a door left open that requires no knock, you are invited in.

Act Two: Waiting

What humility and risk! What courage it takes to extend your open arms to another without guarantee of acceptance or a reciprocated act. The other cannot be coerced or manipulated to respond if the embrace is to have full positive effect;
We have no confirmation that this is what the other desires, or longs for,
and so we…. Wait.

Act Three: Closing the Arms

There it is — goal achieved!

Isn’t it wonderful to think that a hug is only possible when what is being offered is fully reciprocated?
Do you ever think about the beauty of that moment when you are offering yet also receiving?
A true embrace cannot be one-sided, it only works when what is being given is also taken.
And it just feels right.

Act Four: Opening the Arms Again

Notice that an embrace is only love when it is released, if one does not let go the embrace turns to oppression and things get uncomfortable fast.
In a weird twist, an embrace can only be appreciated for what it is when we let go,
only to begin the longing process all over again.
And so, I open my arms to you, and know not if I will be
misunderstood,
despised,
appreciated,
or reciprocated.
But “embrace is grace, and grace is gamble, always.”

Anyone need a hug?


Based on Miroslav Volf’s concept “The Drama of Embrace”
Embrace is Grace Quote – Lewis B. Smedes.

Capt. Sheldon Bungay is a Salvation Army Officer currently serving in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada as Divisional Youth Secretary. Husband, Father of two, student, persistent question-asker and listener.

Graphic: File image, credited to James Sword

September 28, 2010

The Tranquility Prayer: Spiritual Wisdom from Planet Trid

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:06 pm

A re-post from September of last year…

It was a dream that I woke from remembering it vividly.

I was living on Planet Trid, very similar to ours in many ways. I was an activist, an angry activist pushing for every type of change, from major social change to why the clothing store never stocked enough of the statistically verifiable most common sizes.

I wrote letters. I left messages. And they even had blogging on Trid, and not to be outdone, I had a dozen of them; venting each day on a variety of topics that were the target of my latest frustration. I would be attacking the government for a flaw in its tax plan on blog one, while on blog two chastising a local restaurant for having seating capacity for 200 but only a dozen parking spaces.

Ranting had become a lifestyle. It was hard to change this pattern because, for one thing, I was always right. Not that everybody else was dead wrong, they just didn’t have my wisdom. How could I see these anomalies, I could I know so many better ways of doing things, and how could I be aware of so much injustice without commenting?

Then some of the Tridians came to me and had the nerve to suggest that it was I who wasn’t getting it.

“Nonsense;” I replied; “Yes, some things are good; but some could be better; others are on the threshold of being great. What’s wrong with a little concrete criticism? What’s wrong with a little objective commentary?”

“We have a something here;” the Tridians informed me; “It’s called The Tranquility Prayer, and it goes like this:

“God give me the peace and tranquility to realize that I can’t reform or renovate everything; the insight into those situations and structures that are actually pliable; and the discernment to know which is which.”

I paused and thought about the wisdom that one sentence contained. You can’t fix everything; certainly not all at once. And where I came from, only one man ever lived about whom it might be said he truly, totally revolutionized the world.

It was time to relax and experience the tranquility about which the Tridians spoke instead of trying to force my suggestions or my agenda on their lifestyle.  Their little one-sentence saying had much wisdom.

“Alright then;” I said; “We need to get that sentence on some plaques, and maybe some posters and bookmarks and greetings cards, and then after that we need to…”


(NIV) Phil 4:11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.


June 3, 2010

The Difference Between Religion and Christ

At least once a week, I have the opportunity to share a simple overview of the difference between religion and Christianity with someone.   I wrote about it in September, 2008, but the essence of it is:

Q. How do you spell religion?

A. D-O — Do this, do that, do the other thing. Your standing before God is/will be based on what you do.

Q. How do you spell Christianity?

A. D-O-N-E — It’s all been done for us. There is nothing we can do to earn it, it is the gift of God.

The response I’ve had to this over the years has always been positive — it shatters many false perceptions — and I’m grateful to the former YFC staff worker who introduced it to me over a decade ago.

Justin Buzzard, who blogs from California, has taken a look at Tim Keller‘s The Gospel in Life curriculum, and has extracted more detail on the contrast between religion and the Good News, and has put it in chart form on Buzzard Blog.  (Check out the whole blog!)   Here it is for your consideration:

September 28, 2009

The Tranquility Prayer: Life on Planet Trid

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:14 am

It was a dream that I woke from remembering it vividly.

I was living on Planet Trid, very similar to ours in many ways.   I was an activist, an angry activist pushing for every type of change, from major social change to why the clothing store never stocked enough of the statistically verifiable most common sizes.

I wrote letters.   I left messages.   And they even had blogging on Trid, and not to be outdone, I had a dozen of them; venting each day on a variety of topics that were the target of my latest frustration.   I would be attacking the government for a flaw in its tax plan on line one, while on line two chastising a local restaurant for having seating capacity for 200 but only a dozen parking spaces.

Ranting had become a lifestyle.   It was hard to change this pattern because, for one thing, I was always right.    Not that everybody else was dead wrong, they just didn’t have my wisdom.   How could I see these anomalies, I could I know so many better ways of doing things, and how could I be aware of so much injustice without commenting?

Then some of the Tridians came to me and had the nerve to suggest that it was I who wasn’t getting it.

“Nonsense;” I replied; “Yes, some things are good; but some could be better; others are on the threshold of being great.   What’s wrong with a little concrete criticism?   What’s wrong with a little objective commentary?”

“We have a something here;” the Tridians informed me; “It’s called The Tranquility Prayer, and it goes like this:

“God give me the peace and tranquility to realize that I can’t reform or renovate everything; the insight into those situations and structures that are actually pliable; and the discernment to know which is which.”

I paused and thought about the wisdom that one sentence contained.   You can’t fix everything; certainly not all at once.   And where I came from, only one man ever lived about whom it might be said he truly, totally revolutionized the world.

It was time to relax and experience the tranquility about which the Tridians spoke instead of trying to force my suggestions or my agenda on their lifestyle.

“Alright then;” I said; “We need to get that sentence on some plaques, and maybe some posters and bookmarks and greetings cards, and then after that we need to…”

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.