Is there a hint of optimism in the air these days? The Covid numbers seem to be lifting a bit, even as the vaccine portends more relief out ahead. Perhaps things are a little more quiet out there, generally, in any number of ways. I hope so.

From the ancient poet of wisdom, Ecclesiastes, we know there is a season for everything, “a time,” we are told, “to break down and a time to build up.” I suspect we’ve been enduring, for a long time now, so much of that breaking down. I’ve had it. It’s time now to begin again to build up, isn’t it?

I’ve decided I want to devote myself in the next chapter of my life to building up. That’s what I will be writing about out ahead.

I think often these days of those familiar words from Isaiah:

Stop dwelling on past events
and brooding over days gone by.
I am about to do something new;
this moment it will unfold.
Can you not perceive it?

Something new? Don’t you see it? It’s about to happen! We have no choice but to rebuild, do we? But even as we begin, in our own small ways, we must stay alert to the new thing God is about to do, or is already doing, all around us.

I am one of those who believes our nation has come close to a breaking point. I have read widely on this point. I have written about it in any number of places. With many others I believe we may have begun a time of civilizational decline. We listen to various proposals about how to rebuild, how to heal, and then the old skepticism creeps in all over again. Faith in our institutions is broken. Trust in our leaders is challenged. Faith in politics, a trust we’ve been banking on for far too long, is close to shattered. One place not to begin rebuilding, I’ve come to believe, is with politics.

No, I think a new chapter of rebuilding must begin close to home, in our hearts and minds, with our families, our marriages, our places of work, our neighborhoods, those places where we might have some small influence, from the bottom up. I can do something there at least, can’t I?

And here’s my deepest conviction: Rebuilding will not happen until we rise to a new level of spiritual reorientation, nothing less than revival, conversion, deep changes of heart and mind for each one of us, changes as well in the way we live together in human community. True rebuilding will require, first of all, a radical refocusing of our attention on the presence of the living God. We’ll need to do this daily, each morning. As we do, we will find ourselves reshaped. What we pay attention to will change. And then we will find the way to radiate God’s love, through us, into the lives of those we touch. This is the promise of ancient teaching.

Sharon and I have moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. We’ve joined a marvelous community called Maravilla Scottsdale. We can’t believe it either (more on that at a later date). But we find ourselves on the threshold of a dramatic new season in our lives. We have no choice but to begin rebuilding our lives. We watch so many things we have accumulated over a lifetime, each guided by Sharon’s careful touch, march out the door. I sense we are moving into what Joan Chittister calls the “relaxed grasp.” We are beginning to “travel light.” That’s a place to begin to rebuild, isn’t it?

In the Celtic tradition there is a lot of talk about thresholds. Throughout our lives, at certain moments, we stand at a threshold, just on the verge of stepping over into something new. It happens all the time, spring arrives, sunrise unfolds out of darkness, new beginnings emerge out of sometimes hard endings. The Celts remind us that these threshold moments can be sacred. Don’t miss the crossing over. The Celts would often put up stone markers to sanctify a place of passage.

The Celts also called this threshold moment a “thin time,” meaning a time when God’s time and our time come closer together than they may ever get. That’s where I think I am right now. Maybe that’s where we are as a society. Maybe that’s where you find yourself.

These thin times are those times when God can do something new! It can be a time full of mystery, sometimes a little painful with all the letting go, but exhilarating too. A time of waiting, a pause, all the while watching expectantly. I have this sense God is about to make a move. It may come soon. Don’t you see it? I think I do see some of the signals, a few of the signs. I sure hope so.