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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Power of Yes

Man at Radio - FDR Memorial

God is not indecisive about whether I am worthy of love. On the contrary, even in spite of my sinfulness, God says yes to my worth.... To fallen and sinful people, God continually says yes. We might shy away from a homeless person or a starving man in Haiti or a woman dying of AIDS in Uganda or a child who rummages through a landfill searching for clothes. But to all of these and to all of us, God says yes. (The Upper Room "God's Amazing Yes" by Gregg Bunn, February 5, 2013).

When I look back over my life and identify those people I especially cherish, they are inevitably those people who have said yes to me--to my worth as an individual. Whether it be a warmly remembered teacher or chaplain, a casual acquaintance or virtual stranger or friend--or Jesus himself--it is those who have said yes to me that have most positively impacted my life. Jesus said yes to people accustomed to hearing the opposite. In the Beatitudes some of those he found blessed were the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, those who are insulted, persecuted, or falsely accused. These he found to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Under the leadership of those who have said yes to me, I have thrived: under the teacher who said yes to me years ago and brought out my best in effort and creativity then and even now; under the chaplain (now deceased) who was convinced I had something to offer and thereby invested much faith in me; under the passing stranger whose kind words encapsulated a moment in time--a memorable tableau underwriting my self-worth even now. Leadership at its best entails the quality of yes. Think of FDR in the dark days of the Great Depression: his cheerful affirmation--his yes to the American people--had a profound and uplifting impact.

Of course, it is not only God and well-meaning people who can say yes to us, the devil and his crew can say yes as well and in doing so offer lurid temptations. In his employ can be the gang leader who cynically offers the down-and-out a sense of self-worth through ensnarling them in cruelty and lawlessness. We can tell the difference between God and the devil by their fruit--divine outcomes are positive and further well-being and self-worth while evil ones cloak hatred within a charade of kindness.

from The People, Yes
By Carl Sandburg

He was a mystery in smoke and flags
Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,
Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
Yes to the hopes of government
Of the people by the people for the people,
No to debauchery of the public mind,
No to personal malice nursed and fed,
Yes to the Constitution when a help,
No to the Constitution when a hindrance
Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?

Lincoln? Was he a poet?
And did he write verses?
“I have not willingly planted a thorn
in any man’s bosom.”
I shall do nothing through malice: what
I deal with is too vast for malice.”

Death was in the air.
So was birth.


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