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Things aren’t always as bad as they seem-just ask Conan O’Brien. Everyone was talking about the budget-busting skits he ran during his last week as host of “The Tonight Show,” vindictively punishing NBC for replacing him with Jay Leno. Now it turns out that none of the routines exceeded the show’s budget.

Today’s New York Times quotes the show’s publicist, who refutes the financial gossip surrounding Mr. O’Brien’s exit. For instance, Mr. O’Brien appeared to bring the Kentucky Derby-winning horse Mine That Bird onstage while showing Super Bowl footage on a television screen. Both would be extravagantly expensive, but “the horse was a standard rental and the Super Bowl footage wasn’t from the NFL.” Mr. O’Brien showed off an expensive Bugatti Veyron car, but it was loaned to the show for free. So much for vindication.

People are wondering what President Obama will say in tomorrow night’s State of the Union address, fresh on the heels of his party’s stunning loss in the Massachusetts senatorial campaign as the nation continues its financial struggles. Perhaps he could turn to Picasso for encouragement.

Last Friday, according to the Times, a woman fell into “The Actor,” one of Picasso’s larger paintings, causing a six-inch tear along the lower right-hand corner. The painting is (or was) valued at $100 million. If experts can fix the canvas as officials are promising, the episode may actually add to the painting’s allure.

One more example of bad news turning into good news: the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island is becoming a 2,200-acre park and bird sanctuary. What used to be the largest landfill in the world is already attracting bird watchers from around the world. The Times tells us that trash piles often attract bird populations. Maybe my college dorm room wasn’t as bad as everyone thought.

A “theodicy” is a theological attempt to explain why a good God allows bad things to happen. One such approach is the “soul building” model. Dating back to Irenaeus, who died around AD 202, this theodicy reminds us that spiritual growth comes most often from suffering. Charles Spurgeon, the greatest of all Baptist preachers, once admitted that he “never grew half so much as upon a bed of pain.” Mother Teresa told us that “you’ll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”

Romans 8:28, one of the more famous biblical promises, doesn’t claim that everything is good. Rather, it assures us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” In other words, as I often assure people in hard times, God redeems all he allows. If we ask ourselves what we can learn and how we can grow from this time of suffering, we position ourselves to receive all that God’s grace wants to give.

God is in the business of making landfills into bird sanctuaries. What could he redeem for you today?
Dennison

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