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July 23, 2008
This, I think, is the edge of the current tropical storm, which really means business a few hundred miles south of here but blesses us instead with a steady, gentle fall of welcome water. An accident, our good fortune -- as all things are, the good and the bad. Things don't happen to send us messages from heaven. Things just happen. We supply the meaning ourselves.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't look for signs and meanings in the events of our lives. We can find them if we look, if such wondering is part of a larger process of discernment. There is pattern in life -- not in the randomness of its events, but in our response to them. The unfolding of our biographies is a conversation between us and God, a show and tell between us. Look at this, and this and this, God says. Look, we say back. See? And God says, Yes, I see.

Many people are angry because God doesn't fix things. Many have concluded that there is no God, in fact, because of this; if God were God, they think, the world wouldn't be so messy and hard. God would fix it. But the world is not a model train layout. It's alive, each tiny part of it with a history of its own, and our histories often collide. Once, my history collided with that of a legally blind maker of reliquaries and religious art who was trying to park his girlfriend's car, and her Toyota leapt up on the sidewalk and smashed me against a building. There was a nursery school in the same block; he could have hit a child. But he hit me instead. I was the only one injured.

Did God choose me to spare the children? I don't think so; that was just an accidental blessing. Choose me to teach the young reliquary maker a lesson? Or choose him to teach me one? Nah. But I learned so many lessons as a result of that, and I can only hope the young man did, as well. I think God is a God of possibility more than of intent. And that means anything can happen. As for what we can learn from what happens, the sky's the limit.
Do you fully understand Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac's problems? Neither did I, not fully, but I get it better now, thanks to Carol Stone's Ways of the World commentary on the mortgage crisis. She examines and explains the world of economics in ways that I can understand, and explores the moral and spiritual issues at stake in its complicated categories. Visit Ways of the World at If there's something you wish you understood better, you can leave her a comment or a question and she may address it in a future column.
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