A Great Time to Be Alive

Lucky to Be Alive Right Now

When we meet the Schuyler sisters in “Hamilton,” they sing a line that recurs throughout the show.

Look around! Look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

Few of us would say that right now!

The converging crises of the relentless spread of the COVID-19 virus, the economic collapse, our long over-due reckoning with systemic racism, and a deeply divided Presidential campaign are more than enough to make most of us wonder who would sing with the Schuyler about “how lucky we are to be alive right now!”

Great Leaders for a Great Time

We’re not the first people to feel this way.

In the early war years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Harry Emerson Fosdick described what people in congregation at The Riverside Church in New York City were feeling when he opened his sermon by saying, “This is certainly a ghastly time to be alive.” He captured the mood of the time in words from the 4th Psalm: “Many there are that say, ‘Who will show us any good?”

Churchill in the remains of Coventry Cathedral.

Fosdick spoke with the same unflinching honesty with which Winston Churchill named the very real dangers, defeats and disappointments the British people faced during the Blitz. (My wife and I highly recommend Eric Larson’s brilliant book, The Splendid and the Vile.)

Like Churchill and FDR, Fosdick knew that people can handle the truth, in stark contrast to our current President who “downplayed” the COVDI-19 crisis because he didn’t want people to “panic.” (He now denies that he “downplayed” it, but we heard it from his own lips and have become almost immune to his denial of the truth.)

Genuine leadership begins with telling the truth. It also means giving hope and calling people to rise up to the challenges and opportunities they face. Like Churchill and FDR, Fosdick declared, “Nevertheless, this is also a great time to be alive, and alike the personal and the public issues of it depend on whether we see that.” He concluded with words that could not be more appropriate for our time.

This is a ghastly time to be alive–that is true, but it is not the whole truth. This is a great time for spiritual adequacy, for wisdom and courage to face and create momentous change, for realistic appraisal of our false reliances, and for profound convictions about God and [people] and the kingdom of righteousness on earth. We are living:

In an age on ages telling;
To be living is sublime.
(A Great Time to Be Alive, p. 10)

With you, I’m weary of the crisis. I grieve for all the things we’ve lost. My heart and prayers are heavy with concern over all the hard truths that make this “a ghastly time to be alive.”

But people of faith have been through times like this before. By God’s grace, they’ve found a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity to dig deeper, reach higher, believe stronger, and stretch out their arms to love more widely. They’ve learned to pray Harry Emerson Fosdick’s words that became one of our greatest hymns, God of Grace and God of Glory.

Set our feet on lofty places;
gird our lives that they may be
armoured with all Christlike graces,
pledged to set all captives free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
that we fail not them nor thee,
that we fail not them nor thee!

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the search for thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.

May we, facing the hard realities of a ghastly time, find ways to make it a great time to be alive…right now!

Grace and peace,

Jim

P. S. This could be the right time for you read the stories of ordinary people who found their own way to Make A Difference.

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8 thoughts on “A Great Time to Be Alive

  1. As always, brilliantly said! >

  2. Thanks, Jim!

  3. Jim,

    Super piece!

    I wrote in the same vein on my blog this week.

    Struby and I are ding well.

    Peace,

    Gil

    http://www.shufflingeditor.com

    Gil Thelen President, Me Over PD gthelen1@icloud.com 813.787.3886 Co-author “Counterpunch: Duking It Out With Parkinson’s” http://www.shufflingeditor.com “Love. Laugh. Hope. Pray. Persevere. Adapt.”

    >

  4. Having just received the news about RBG, it intensifies every observance you wisely make in your blog this time. May God have mercy on our country, Jim!

  5. Jim I have thought long and hard and said some prayers about whether to write this email response. But I came to the decision that I must. I was offended that you included a political statement within a religious message; I do not think it is appropriate. If you want to share your political thoughts with your readers, it should be done in a separate email. But I also have to point out that other elected people that I am sure you support are also guilty of not making truthful statements. Do you remember Obama’s statements “if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it, if you like your doctor, you can keep him”—a total untruth which he knew wasn’t correct when he said it according to reports. How many people were negatively affected? Also Biden’s statements that he doesn’t discuss his son’s business dealings—but how can you take your son to China on Air Force 2 and he returns with $1.5 billion deposit in his hedge fund without wondering why your son wanted to go with you on this government trip or while Biden is overseeing our relations with the Ukraine, and Hunter is placed on the board of a Ukraine oil company there and paid $60,000 per month and he knows nothing about oil. And Biden doesn’t talk to his son about it. We are not stupid. Please forgive me for sharing my feelings about this at this very sensitive time. Dave

  6. Thank you, I needed this, especially with the added grief of RBG. With my God of Grace and God of Glory, we will make it.

  7. Good word Jim,

    Gary

  8. Thanks very much, Jim. Carolyn & I appreciated your blog…Our best to you & Martha…Archie

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