Clint Eastwood turned 81 this week. A rugged hero of many a movie (I can’t remember Eastwood playing a villain; flawed hero but not villain.) He often portrays a conflicted loner who cannot remain detached or self-focused when facing an injustice. Perhaps one of his best in recent years was one whose language was not suitable for general audiences but whose message of life change unmistakeable was Gran Torino and ranks right up there in my “favorites” list with In the Line of Fire and Space Cowboys. I certainly hope he isn’t finished making great and memorable entertainment. (Did you have a favorite Eastwood flic?)
Oprah Winfrey ended her long-running daytime show last week. Christianity Today recently called her one of the most (if not THE most) influential spiritual leader of this day.And sadly that was true. She attempted to portray spirituality in a nebulous, self-focused sort of way that introduced a tragic vagueness into the lives of many people who needed a genuine and lasting anchor. Her “all roads lead to God” faith has confused and misdirected many a person whose idea of godliness is simply doing good to others instead of the deeper and more life transforming message of Jesus Christ. Faith became even more anchored into how you feel under her proclamation, and even serving others was more a way of causing people to admire you and/or for you to be more blessed–than the selfless and self-sacrificing love that focuses on others as taught by Jesus Christ. The church of Oprah hasn’t closed its doors but a void has now been created in the daily lives of those who saw her as their spiritual leader. I pray that in this vacuum people will again open themselves to seeking the Truth that sets us free, And as Henry Blackaby has written, “Truth is a Person” and that person is Jesus Christ. Blaiaw Pascal once said, “There is a god-shaped vacuum in all of us that only God can fill.” Now that Oprah has left her pulpit, maybe more persons will stop trying to fill that vacuum with Oprah and people like her, and let God occupy the space that belongs only to him.
I am back at work now following a 10-day vacation. In my line of work, that’s a fairly long time to be gone; but since my last vacation had been just around Thanksgiving, it is more than overdue, as many people who have to work with me each daily could attest. I am still employed in a profession that believes vacation is important to the health, productivity and longevity of its workers. People who spend their lives pouring out into others need some time and detachment to be refilled. As a friend of mine, Steve Binkley, once told me, “You have to have a self to give away, so take care of yourself.” I intentionally chose a type of vacation that was not filled each day to the brim with things to do. I allowed myself the freedom to do nothing on some days –nothing productive, nothing noteworthy, nothing …. and found that now I have a little more than I started with in terms of energy, attitude, and desire to do what I am called to do. I didn’t spend a lot of money so that I would to work overtime to pay for the vacation I have already taken. And I took time to spend quality time with the two most important persons in my life-my God and my wife, Dianne. I hope during this summertime, especially, you allow yourself some genuine vacation time. You, your work, and your world will be a whole better for it.