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A Thousand Acts
Photo: Wojciech Gajda
The phrase “death by a thousand cuts”, long used as metaphorical currency in the western world, actually refers to an ancient Chinese execution method called Ling Chi. And while we currently see this phrase employed as a catchy book title or political polemic against taxes, I would much prefer a new phrase to enter our common vernacular. A phrase that plays against the notion of death and lingering decay. Simply put, “life by a thousand acts”. Yes, this is less a metaphor and more a personal constitution, but I see a grand usefulness for this phrase in a time of constant barrages of doomsday scenarios, melting ice caps, tsunamis, earthquakes, calls to change the world, and the all too easy feeling of complete helplessness in the midst of it all.

There is an ancient legend told of a man walking along a shoreline during low tide, the hot sun beating down on his back. Gazing around him, he sees thousands of starfish that had washed up onto the beach during the night and are now withering away under the heat of the midday sun. As he walks, he comes upon an old man picking up starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the ocean. He says to the old man, “You cannot possibly make a difference throwing them back into the sea one at a time.” The old man briefly looked at him, threw another starfish into the ocean and said “I made a difference for that one.”

I Can...

The old man of the legend exemplifies the idea of living a life of a thousand acts. I will never be able to solve the problem of garbage laying waste to our planet, but I can shop with reusable bags. I will never be able to solve our dependence on dwindling natural resources, but I can ride my bike more. I will never be able to solve the painful existence of homelessness in a land of plenty, but I can give of what I have to organizations that seek to cure the causes of homelessness. I cannot in one fell swoop solve any of the world’s ailments, but I can live a life of a thousand acts. And I believe that this is what we are called to.

Jesus said "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He appointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord... Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:16-21).

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By Garrett Gladden. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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