Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Long, Long Ago, Thanksgiving Day

I remember a long, long ago Thanksgiving Day that has always held a special place in my memory. I was very young, but I remember it with mind and heart.

The hunting season opened in early November back in that day and many came from distant cities and towns to the more rural areas (where we lived) to enjoy the sport.  The sportsmen came with much eagerness and in that eagerness were often careless.  During one particular hunting season, my Grandpa, walking from his house to his barn, was mistakenly shot by one of the careless hunters.  Fortunately, the bullet struck him in the leg, but even so, it was a serious wound and Grandpa was hospitalized just a week or so before Thanksgiving Day.  

My mother and father hosted our family Thanksgiving dinner each year at our home.  (My grandparents hosted the family Christmas dinner).  Grandpa and Grandma each had a special seat at our Thanksgiving table, and it was always Grandpa who gave the prayer of thanksgiving as we all sat down to partake of the bountiful feast.  Grandma was present that day, but Grandpa was still in the hospital. I remember all us moping about and feeling like somehow this particular Thanksgiving Day would not be the same without Grandpa.  Just as we were about ready to sit down at table the local ambulance showed up.  What a surprise to see Grandpa, with his crutches, helped out of the back of the ambulance and led to his special seat at the head of that Thanksgiving table—and just in time to pray.  I do not remember what Grandpa said in his prayer—I only remember being at one with the many grateful hearts gathered about that table—we were living out the words Grandpa prayed.

“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends…” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Grandpa would pray:  We give thee thanks, O Lord.  Amen.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

Give Sadness Words

Sadness is a common emotion and one we cannot avoid if we are really alive and in tune with reality. A friend recently wrote, “Just realizing…that there was a ton of sadness in my day.”  She then went on to list some of the things that brought on her feelings of sadness.  A friend she has known and loved since childhood is moving away, another friend is in the throes of dying, and a grandchild will soon be going off to college, and so on.  “Tears have been shed and will be shed.”

Sadness is considered a negative and painful emotion by most of us.  And it really is!  Like many of its cousins, sadness is one of those emotions we resist, avoid, suppress, or try to ignore.  Feeling sad can be simply a general sense of melancholy or it can be a despair that leads to serious depression.  It  is caused by a variety of experiences:  a friend moving away, feeling hurt by the actions or words of others,  or feeling anguish and worry for a loved one.  Feeling sad happens when one feels  and experiences disappointment, regret, shame, loneliness, and rejection, etc. 

What do we do with our sadness?  First, it cannot be resisted, avoided, suppressed or ignored—that will only produce a greater sadness in days to come.  Like any emotion it must be faced head-on and its source identified.  Shakespeare gives good advice:  "Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break."

Give sadness words—put your feelings into words and share those words with another person.  Give sadness words—by writing down (I recommend journaling) what you feel and why.  Give sadness words.  Sadness brings tears and tears are a release—but always “Give sorrow (sadness) words; the grief (sadness) that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”

Steeples symbolize the lifting of the human spirit.
 Giving words to sadness is like building a steeple.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

“Churchianity” & “White Protestant Evangelicals”

Churchianity displaced Christianity a long, long time ago, perhaps beginning in the first century A.D. when the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish) confronted the Gentile Churches of Asia Minor  (Acts of the Apostles).  “No word in our language,” wrote Harold Bell Wright at the beginning of the 20th century, “is more abused, misunderstood and misapplied than the word ‘Christian.’”  But the same could have been said of the word “Christian”  in the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 19th centuries, and it certainly can be said today.  The “Church” (of whatever denomination or grouping) with its rules, dogmas, creeds, and doctrines, has determined what Christianity is for its members.    

The Fundamentalism of the early 20th century grew out of FEAR, as did the so-called Moral Majority of the mid-twentieth century.  It was and is the same FEAR that has created the group erroneously labeled the “White Protestant Evangelicals” of today.  In the early twentieth century that fear stemmed from broad changes in the American culture (growing awareness of world religions, the teaching of human evolution, and the rise of biblical higher criticism).  The fear stemmed, too, from the social changes of the time  (“old stock whites” felt displaced by the waves of non-Protestant immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, felt betrayed by politicians, resented the elitism of professional educators, deplored the teaching of evolution in public schools, and felt like the Bible was being attacked and destroyed by modern science).   

The Moral Majority was a fundamentalist Christian organization founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell in 1979 and was based on the same fears.  Its goal was to preserve “traditional” American values (which were from their perspective Christian values) and to combat the increasing acceptance of movements and cultural and social changes (which had only multiplied since the earlier days of the century) by aligning itself with the Republican Party.  Critics said of the movement:  “The Moral Majority is neither.”  It was short-lived as a political organization, but, with the Fundamentalist Movement of the early part of the century and its followers, the Moral Majority produced the Christian Right or what is called the “White Protestant Evangelicals” of the present.  This group, too, is founded upon fear—the fear of losing what to them is holy ground. Four-fifths of this group voted Republican in 2016, even though the Party views did not fully safeguard the holy ground they seek to save.  

Just as Churchianity displaced Christianity, so “white Protestant evangelicals” may displace their own holy ground by their penchant for the GOP no matter who the candidate may be.

The ancient door is still open.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Inevitable Change

There is an old saying:  nothing endures but change.  Change is inevitable.  One day everything is as it always has been and the next day everything is as it has never been before.  Change sometimes comes in tiny doses; sometimes in big doses.  Sometimes change is slow; sometimes sudden.  However it comes, we can count on change.  Life is not static, nor are we meant to be static.  Change is a part of our nature and life itself.

Reinhold Niebuhr is credited with what has become known as the Prayer of Serenity:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  The late Annette Funicello (1942-2013) one of the original Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club, and later a popular singer and actress, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992.  She wrote, “When you are young and healthy, it never occurs to you that in a single second your whole life could change.”  She could not change the diagnosis, she could only accept it and live with it.  She did that with great serenity.

We have to accept the fact that change will and must happen. We also have to accept the fact we will instinctively be resistant and fearful of change of whatever kind, good or bad.  Such resistance, and the fear as well,  is a natural human response, but it will not stop the change.  If we continue to resist and fear change (of any kind) we will become nervous wrecks.  Far better, if we pray, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Knowing the difference between what we can and cannot change is crucial.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Who among us has not been mendacious?  What a word that is!  Mendacious.  It has a nice ring to it.  It sounds like a word that could be used in a resume; one of those words that would illustrate the depth of our vocabulary and build us up.  One word can make or break a resume.  Mendacious sounds similar to adjectives like agile, flexible, and resilient, which experts say should be included in every resume.  In spite of its ring and sound, however, mendacious is probably not a word you would want to use on your resume.  To be mendacious means “not telling the truth, lying, deceitful, dishonest, dissembling, disingenuous, insincere, fraudulent, and two-faced.”  However, if you want to present yourself truly, as you really are, you could use the word, but you would probably not get the job.  Who among us has not been mendacious?  The only exception I know is George Washington who is reported to have never told a lie—and that myth is certainly a fraudulent one.

“We love old travelers:” wrote Mark Twain, “we love to hear them prate, drivel and lie; we love them for their asinine vanity, their ability to bore, their luxuriant fertility of imagination, their startling, brilliant, overwhelming mendacity.”  Have you ever had a conversation with an old soldier?  A retired preacher or teacher?  Oh, the stories they can tell (sometimes called “war” stories).  Their “luxuriant fertility of imagination” often creates a “startling, brilliant, overwhelming mendacity.”  “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…” writes Walter Scott in Marmion, “when first we practice to deceive.”  It doesn’t really take much practice.  It seems to come naturally and begins at an early age when we tell a “fib” to our parents, etc.

We live in a mendacious world and we are all citizens of that world.  No one is exempt.  Has that world become more mendacious?  I think there is evidence to support that conclusion.

Antelope Canyon, Page AZ

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Whirlwind Will Come

"For they sow the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind" is a phrase from the Old Testament book of Hosea (8:7), one of my favorite prophetic books.  Those who heard Hosea's proverb understood what he meant.  The proverb illustrated the agricultural process familiar to all in that ancient agrarian society—the process of sowing and reaping.  

The kind of seed sowed by the farmer determines the type of plant that will eventually grow. An apple seed will yield an apple tree and a kernel of corn will produce corn.  What you sow produces its kind.

The farmer planting his one kernel of corn expected to reap a whole ear of corn from that single seed.  The seed you sow not only produces its kind but also multiplies. 

Sowing the wind ("wind" meant something worthless and foolish in Hosea's mind) would result in reaping exactly what one sows—wind—a storm of consequences. Sowing something foolish and worthless will bring forth its kind and will multiply.  Sowing the wind will reap a whirlwind eventually, just as the one kernel of corn multiplies into a  whole ear of corn.

Sowing seeds of division will produce its kind and will multiply into a whole ear of division.  Sowing seeds of hate will produce its kind and will multiply into a whole ear of hate.  Sowing seeds of bigotry will produce a whole bunch of bigotry.  Sowing seeds of lies will produce more lies.  Sowing seeds of unity will produce its kind and multiply into greater unity.  Sowing seeds of love will produce its kind and will multiply into whole communities of caring people.  We reap what we sow.

Grandson Ethan trying to hold it together in Washington DC

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Promise Kept

The promise I made to two of my grandsons has finally been fulfilled.  It only took me a year to do what I promised to do:  visit their respective colleges and take them out for lunch.  I connected with Austin back in October and yesterday I met up with grandson Nick at his campus in Shepherdstown, WV.  Naturally, I think these guys are special; they’re my grandsons!  They are, along with my four other grandchildren, “the apple of my eye” (Psalm 17:8).  

It was a three hour drive to Nick’s campus, traveling west to Frederick, Maryland and then south toward Harpers Ferry, WV.  It was a beautiful fall day and some colorful foliage till clung to the trees along the highways.  Of course, the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia (separating the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains) is beautiful at any time of year.  

Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet.  It has a long history, starting way back in 1733.  Thomas Jefferson and his daughter Patsy passed through Harpers Ferry on their way to Philadelphia in 1783.  Jefferson called the site “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”  And it still is a stupendous scene. The abolitionist John Brown led his famous raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Nearby Harpers Ferry is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) which was once called the “Grand Old Ditch.”  It operated from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac from Washington DC, to Cumberland, Maryland, hauling coal from the Allegheny Mountains.  It is now maintained as the C&O Canal National Historical Park.  Antietam battlefield is nearby, as well as the Appalachian Trail which passes directly through the town of Harpers Ferry.  

This land is yours!  This land is mine!  What a beautiful land it is, though scarred, marred, and dangerously polluted by our misuse of it.   It is still “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”  

Austin and Nick--Only Yesterday