Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Through the Window

As she looks through the window on Christmas Eve
What kind of world will my great granddaughter see?
Will her tomorrows be filled with wonder and awe?
Or will our todays prevent her from seeing the wonder of it all?

She peers through the window pane with her wistful eyes
and watching, I ponder her future with tender sighs.
Who can fathom the future or know its mystery?
We only know of yesterday because we have a history.

The future unknown, she gazes out the window still 
as she leans against the window sill.
And great grandad begins to dream a dream
of all that she may become in the midst of life’s stream.

Perhaps, he dreams, she will be a person who cares,
reaching out to embrace God’s people everywhere.
Maybe she will become a person of hope, 
who knows when it fades just how to cope.

Great grandad looks out the window this last day of the year,
as his great granddaughter did on Christmas Eve, and dreams.
He sees the barren trees, brown grass, and yes, the rising of the sun,
and knows, deep down, that at the heart of this world is Love.

Looking out the window of both history and the present,
one has difficulty seeing this love ascend.
The days are sometimes dark as night, but light comes,
and as we look through the window; the darkness succumbs.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

“The Wrong Shall Fail”

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is one of my favorite Christmas carols because it speaks about the harsh truth of our situation, not only on this Christmas Day, but every Christmas since the first one.  Perhaps that is why it is seldom sung!  It is based on the 1863 poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The song tells of the narrator’s despair, upon hearing the Christmas bells, that “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”  But Longfellow, grasped by “hope” concludes that the bells of Christmas shall never be silenced and the message they peal out on this day and all days, shall never be eradicated.

On this Christmas Day 2016, in the United States of America, and in the world at large, the bells on Christmas Day still ring and will continue to ring, however dimly, calling us to rise above the “least common denominator” of human behavior, which expresses itself in bigotry, hate, greed, falsehoods, and ugliness.  This darkness shall not prevail.  It cannot quench the Light that has come, nor silence the angel song, or cause the bells to cease their ringing.  “The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail.”  Love (which is at the heart of all things) came down at Christmas and this Love cannot be smothered, ignored or destroyed.  “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet 
the words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent.
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, 
The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wishing You A Troubled Christmas

Christmas comes once again with all its wrappings.  The lights on the lawns and in the windows of many homes brighten the darkness of these winter nights.  The old familiar carols, the family gatherings around the tinseled tree, the giving and receiving of gifts, and candlelight vigils, these all lift us for a little while above the normal, the usual, and the routines to which we are so accustomed.  Visions of sugar plums dance in the minds of children as they await Christmas Day.

“This Is Christmas,” writes Howard Thurman:
“The evergreen singing aloud its poem of constant renewal,
The festive mood spreading lilting magic everywhere,
The gifts of recollection calling to heart the graces of life,
The star in the sky calling to mind the wisdom of hope,
The warmth of candlelight glowing against the darkness,
The birth of a child linking past to future,
The symbol of love absorbing all violence.

But there is more to Christmas than these things.  God comes, not to pat the world on the back and make things merry and bright, but to disturb, upset, and change it.  God comes to turn the world upside down!  In the midst of all our Christmas celebrations are we troubled and perturbed by this discordant note?  Matthew writes in his gospel, “King Herod was greatly perturbed when he heard this…”  Are we perturbed and troubled when we sing, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all?”  Paul Scherer writes, “Could it be that the only trouble God has with Christmas is that it troubles us so little?”

We celebrate Christmas but we are slow to set it to work!  This ought to perturb and trouble those of us who celebrate the season.  Again, Howard Thurman speaks:
“Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,
And the heart consumes itself, if it would live,
Where little children age before their time,
And life wears down the edges of the mind,
Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,
While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day’s life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.

In you, in me, in all mankind.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Sadness

I wrote about Thelma, my 100-year-old friend in West Virginia last year during Advent and again a few months ago.  Thelma will celebrate her 101st birthday on December 28th.   Yesterday we received a Christmas card and letter from Thelma.  We have received a Christmas card and letter from her every year since leaving West Virginia in 1967. Her letter this year was a sad one.

Thelma’s daughter came to visit over Thanksgiving weekend and while there suffered a fatal heart attack.  Thelma’s daughter was 66-years old and had no known health issues. Thelma wrote, “This will be a sad Christmas for us, but we pray that each of you will have a wonderful holiday season and that you remember the reason for our celebration.”  

So often we think that everything is supposed to be perfect at Christmastime.  I don’t know where that mistaken notion came from because it certainly doesn’t represent reality.    The first Christmas had its sad moments—remember?   “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” Each time I read those words in Matthew’s gospel a great sadness comes over me, the same kind of sadness I feel as I see the innocent children fleeing the city of Aleppo.  And who cannot feel a similar sadness when a 101-year-old mother loses her only daughter!  

There has never been a Christmas without a Rachel, a Thelma, or someone, somewhere in the world,  feeling a deep sadness, feeling a deep hurt.  There has never been a perfect Christmas, or a Christmas where everything was rosy and bright.  Do we, as Thelma writes, really “remember the reason for our celebration?”  “Christ always seeks the straw of the most desolate cribs to make his Bethlehem,” writes Thomas Merton.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are You Listening? Watching?

Advent is about annunciations. Have you heard your’s?

We’ve made God’s annunciations in the Christmas story so spiritual, so angelic, so other-worldly, that we miss the gist of the story’s message. We never stop to think that the very same thing can and does happen here and now. It is not a fairy tale! God still comes down to poke around in smelly stables, and still calls stubborn Josephs and receptive Marys. God still announces His intentions not only to mend this broken world, but His intention for each of us to be a part of the mending. Listen! 

Have you seen a star (they come in various forms, and not necessarily in the heavens) or have you been visited by some Gabriel (angels are simply God's messengers; an angel could be just about anybody).  Watch!  You just never know.

Redeemer, come, with us abide;
our hearts to thee we open wide;
let us thy inner presence feel;
thy grace and love in us reveal.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Isn't For Children

“Cease to dwell on days gone by, to brood over past history. Here and now I will do a new thing…”

Some say, “Christmas is not Christmas without children.” Or some say, “Christmas is for children” and we aren’t children anymore. We’ve grown old, our children are scattered, we don’t get excited, we don’t find Christmas very meaningful anymore. Hogwash! Read the Bible: Moses was 80 when his annunciation came; Simeon waited for years to see God’s gift; Elizabeth was old when she became pregnant with John the Baptist; Anna, the prophetess was 84. Annunciations are for all ages. Listen for your’s. Such annunciations are what Christmas is all about!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent: Day Three— and some new things!

My study is in disarray due to the painting project which I began right after the Thanksgiving holiday.  My mornings since have been crippled by this situation.  I anticipated the dilemma to some degree,  but never imagined that it would be so traumatic.  Normally I spend my first three or so hours each morning in that little space, pondering, journaling and reading.  Without that space I tend to simply wander from one room to another in the house—never finding a “space”  in any of them!

Yesterday I suggested that Advent is about “new things” breaking forth. I’m experiencing a few “new things” on this third day of Advent. I have a stiff neck from painting the ceiling yesterday, my arms feel like heavy weights from rolling the first-coat on the walls today, and my legs are bitterly complaining about the ladder. There was, once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a time when such a simple project would not have fazed me at all.  New things are happening.

The new things revealed to us in Advent are not always positive ones.  Think, for a moment about Mary’s situation in Nazareth.  Joseph, when he realized she was pregnant, was ready to abandon her and probably would have done so, if it hadn’t been for that dream.  Just think of what they had to go through in their relationship to make it all work out.  They also had to put up with their community, which like all communities ever since, enjoyed a good scandal.

Then there was that tax enrollment business which forced them to go to Bethlehem when Mary’s time was very near.  There was, too, that episode at the Inn—no room!  Spending the night in a stable was not a very pleasant development—and just then the baby was born.  New things are not always positive.

The stiff neck, sore arms, and aching legs are new developments—a new happening, a new chapter in life. They are not imagined ailments.  I cannot escape them by entering “a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent.”  Yes, new things come in Advent and we adjust as Mary and Joseph adjusted.
Perhaps more zip-lining over the rainforests of Costa Rica is in order?

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Second Day of Advent..."new things"

Advent is the beginning of the church year for many.  For Orthodox Christians, this period is known as the Nativity Fast and lasts for 40 days, starting mid-November until Christmas.  The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “advenio” which means the  “beginning, or the arrival of something anticipated”.  In the Western Church, Advent focuses on the comings (or  advents) of Jesus Christ:  his birth, his coming in our lives through grace and the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and his Second Coming at the end of time.

Advent seems a logical starting point for the New Year 2017, in spite of the calendar and with or without the religious connotations.  Thanksgiving weekend offers the opportunity to express gratitude for the year gone by.  Advent offers a wonderful opportunity to begin to look forward to what is yet to come.

What will this
Great Granddaughter Addison's first
visit to Grandad's house! (a new thing)
New Year bring?  Can I hope for some positive  change in myself and in the world?  Advent means a new beginning and the arrival of something anticipated.  Can I gather up hope within myself to anticipate and to feel that something is about to happen?  Something special, something mysterious, something beyond my dreams, something  spectacular, something beyond my wildest imagination will happen, if I am open to it. I don’t mean the remembrance of a child being born in Bethlehem long ago, or of some spiritual experience that happened to me in the past, or to some vision of the world’s final chapter. No!  What I look for is not “smooth words and illusory visions,” but of a “new thing” happening that can make me a better person, some new thing that can alter the pattern of my life and the life of the world. My hope is deeply rooted in the scripture and in this new year of my life, in this new advent, I anticipate “glad tidings of great joy.”

See how the first prophecies have 
come to pass,
and now I declare new things;
before they break from the bud I
              announce them to you. 

(Isaiah 42:9)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The First Day of Advent

The coming of Advent marks the beginning of a new year for me.  This Advent, however, I’m engaged in renovating my study—installing crown moulding and painting.  This means my morning “space” is unavailable for a week or so.  Oh, my, what a difference that is making in my normal morning routine.  It did not prevent me from accomplishing one of my annual Advent activities—selecting photos of the year and displaying them on two glass-covered tables in the living room—but it did hinder my usual morning pondering and writing time.

Advent is a very special time—a time of promise:
    a time of preparation for the new about to happen,
    a time for new beginnings.

Advent is a time of expectancy...a time of happenings: 
   annunciations are heard if ears are opened,   
   and  dreams are dreamed and guidance given.

Advent is a time of giving birth to God:
Morning company at my study window last year
 during the big blizzard.
    we carry God around with us and do not know it,
    Advent is a time for a new birth within.  

Advent is a time of waiting:
    waiting for mountains to be brought down;
    hills to be brought low,
    and for valleys to be lifted up and crooked places made   straight.

Advent is a time of moving—a time of transition:
    not a movement backward, but forward,  
   moving all inhabitants of the world
   to a place we’ve never been before.

Advent is about newness—a time for the "New Things:”
    a season of receptivity and openness,
    a time of new vulnerability.

Advent announces a Way—a time of new dreams:
    a time to sing our own song, dance our own dance,
    a time of searching and for finding.

Advent is all of the above—it is also kairos time:
     time to start anew, to begin again,

  Advent is the time to follow your star. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Continues….

Thanksgiving Day is now past, but gratitude continues into today, hopefully into tomorrow and in every day that lies ahead of us.   Eighteen  members of our extended family gathered round the festive table yesterday at the home of our son, Paul,  and his beautiful wife, Helen.  I can’t believe it, but it is true, Paul and Helen celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary just a few days ago!

Each year brings remarkable change and newness to our Thanksgiving Day as it does for every family.  This year we celebrated Shawn (Katie and Liam’s friend from Wales) being a part of our family, adding an international dimension to our gathering.  (This was Liam and Shawn’s first encounter with our American Thanksgiving).  Helen’s mother and sister were present—they were born in England, but have lived most of their adult life here in the US.  

Megan and Katie, daughters of Helen’s sister,  were with us too.   I’ve watched these two girls grow up!  What an incredible experience!  I am grateful for it!  With Megan’s permission I share her photo on this blog today.  Our two grandsons, Austin and Nick, were with us.  Now college students, they always bring their grandad a sense of pride and a deep feeling of gratitude.

Thanksgiving continues today at our home—not with turkey and all the trimmings—but with additional family members gathering round the table with thanksgiving.  Grandson Matt, his wife, Emily, and our first great-granddaughter, Addison, will be here, along with others.  Can it get any better than this?  Yes, says Browning, “the best is yet to be.”

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace, and guide us when perplexed; 

and free us from all ills, in this world and the next.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day 2016

Yesterday, the aroma of pies in the oven, and the day before,  the delightful smell of cookies baking, reminded me of those Thanksgivings in days of yore. Those long ago days when my paternal grandparents and my parents were still living and made Thanksgiving a very special time.  The smell of the turkey roasting, the festive table with all the condiments, and my grandfather’s Thanksgiving prayer before we enjoyed the feast are an indelible part of my Thanksgiving memories.  Eventually my parents assumed the responsibility for the feast in their home to relieve my grandparents.  As the years went by, and I had a family of my own, we traveled back to New Jersey for years to be with my parents (my grandparents for a little while) and siblings to celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  

Somewhere along the way we began to celebrate Thanksgiving at our home with our own growing family, no longer making the annual trip to be with my parents.  In fact, my parents began to have Thanksgiving dinner with my eldest brother and his family.  Now more years have passed and we no longer have Thanksgiving dinner here at our home.  Our eldest son and his wife will host us today.  How the years shape our lives and our celebrations!  Remembering Thanksgivings of my yesterdays awakens deep emotions.  Gratitude is an emotion.  Gratitude would mean little if it did not include “feelings.”

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let's not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God” (Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

National Thanks-giving With Penitence

Thanksgiving Day, as we know it now, did not originate with the Pilgrims, though we have through the years romanticized the connection.  There is nothing wrong with romanticizing and connecting the Day with Native Americans welcoming and helping the first refugees to these shores, who, in turn, invited the Native Americans to give thanks with them for their survival in a new land.

While there were occasional thanksgiving celebrations dating back to the early days in Virginia and Massachusetts, there was no established tradition, nor were these by any means national celebrations.  An obscure woman, Sara Josepha Hale, is credited for our present observance.  In 1863 she wrote President Abraham Lincoln requesting a meeting to propose that the scattered celebrations of Thanksgiving be unified into “A National and fixed Union Festival.”  On October 3, 1863, Lincoln issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation, and presidents ever since have continued to do so.

It is interesting that Lincoln did not suggest that Thanksgiving be a “Church” event,  but that it should be celebrated by families in their homes.  It was a time, he said, to give thanks for the many blessings that we have enjoyed in our nation, but it was also declared a time for “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.”  Giving thanks to “the Most High God” for blessings and confessing our faults and failures went hand in hand according to Lincoln.

That first Thanksgiving Proclamation also called upon the American people to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”  

We are no longer engaged in a civil war, but we certainly know “civil strife” and we, as a nation, suffer from many wounds still.  There are people all across the land who are “widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers” because of our “national perverseness and disobedience.”  So it is, that we, as a people, give thanks—but recognizing our foibles—we must also confess and implore forgiveness, as a people, on Thanksgiving Day.  We often forget that the two go hand in hand.  Lincoln, in the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, would remind us that this is reality.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Handling Life’s Circumstances

How do we react to trouble?  How do we deal with the vicissitudes of life?  How do we handle the things that often tumble in on us?  Life tumbles in on everybody, young, old, and in-between.  Disappointments, sickness, and tragedy appear suddenly and without warning.  How do we handle the circumstances of life?

There is a little fable about the gravel path and the rose bud which had fallen upon it.  “How fragrant you are this morning,” said the gravel path to the rose bud.  “Yes,” said the rose bud, “I have been trodden upon and bruised and it has brought forth all my sweet fragrance.”  “But,” replied the gravel path, “I’m trodden on everyday and I only grow harder.”  

Some of us react to misfortune and suffering like the gravel path.  We grow cold, hostile, and hard.  We become bitter and curse the darkness of our circumstance.  We mourn and complain about our fate and often fall into despair.  We lay broken and defeated by adversity.

Would that we could react as the rose bud?  The suffering and pain experienced is the same as that of the gravel path.  The rose bud, too, is acquainted with the storms of life; however, out of every experience the rose bud finds a way to use the suffering as a means of bringing forth the sweet fragrance of it’s being.

We do not always choose our circumstances—sickness, disappointment, heartache, pain—for these things have a way of intruding into our lives helter-skelter.  But we do have the freedom of choosing how we react to them.

Fanny Cosby was blinded as a little girl, but from her blindness she wrote 442 inspiring hymns, including “Blessed Assurance,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” and “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”    

John Bunyon, while a prisoner in Bedford, England, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.

Beethoven, so deaf he could not hear himself play, would bend over the piano, painfully seeking to find chords of beauty.  

“A cheerful heart makes you healthy; a broken spirit dries you up” (Proverbs 17:22).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Blessing, Affirming, Encouraging

Affirmation is important.  It is saying, “Yes” to someone’s hopes, dreams,  and goals.  Henri Nouwen writes, “To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘Yes’ to a person’s Belovedness.  And more than that: to give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.” How well do we affirm  (bless) others?  How well do we nourish the divine seed in another?  How well do we affirm our children?  How well do we encourage one another?  Affirmation, this “Yes” for another person has the power to turn that person inside-out and to turn the world upside-down.

The reason we fail in giving affirmation, I suppose, is our inability to get out of our own skins long enough to see what lies beneath the skin of the other person.  We are always coming at other people from our world.  To be able to affirm someone we need to enter their world.  Sharing another person’s struggles, hopes, and dreams is to participate in a divine mystery.  But we can never know this mystery nor can we affirm the person if we are always coming at them from our world rather than entering their world.

One way of affirming another, of saying,“Yes,  is to give encouragement.  This is so simple, yet so seldom given.  We tend to be critical of others, putting them down rather than lifting them up.  We come at them from our world, telling them what we think they need to be and to do.  A Methodist Bishop told the following story:

A Pastor-Parish Relations committee approached their Bishop to say that they wanted to be relieved of their pastor.  His preaching was extremely poor, they said, and they would just love to have another church take him off their hands.  The Bishop thought for a moment and then suggested that every Monday morning, members of that committee and congregational members as well, call the pastor and tell him what a wonderful sermon he gave on Sunday (“Yes, Yes, Yes), and that they do that continually.  What will happen, the Bishop told them, is that he will either become such a great preacher that some other church would be glad to take him off their hands, or he would work so hard that he would die trying to preach the very best that was in him.  Saying, “Yes,” affirming, encouraging another can make that kind of difference.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Pool of Tears

“Nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”  (Carl Jung)

Have you heard about the Celtic paradise?  I don’t know where I came upon the story, but it is described as a place where the souls of the redeemed are filled with a joy that is so joyful that it feels like pain.  The light in this Celtic paradise is so bright that it literally blinds those who look upon it.  Unable to look upon that great light, the redeemed are led to a pool which is fed by all the tears shed on the earth and there they are told to stoop and bathe their eyes.  Only then are they healed from their great gladness, and only then can their eyes withstand the great light.

As I ponder the story of this Celtic paradise this morning, I think it would be good for us, living in this country, to find our way to that sad little pool of tears.  We are the most pampered of all people upon the face of this earth.  We eat better than anybody else (though often the wrong stuff, which is why we lead the world in obesity).  We consume more of the world’s resources than any other nation upon the earth.  Our life styles (no matter what our income) are affluent and opulent compared to those of other people in the world.  We ought to be filled with a joy and happiness beyond measure—the bright light in which we live day to day ought to blind us.  

I think it is time for us to find our way to that sad little pool, fed by all the tears shed upon this earth and bathe our eyes in it.  Perhaps then, our eyes would be opened to the ache and agony of the world around us and we would be saved from our selfish happiness.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

“Practicing What We Preach”

“Democracy does not succeed by creating a system of counting votes.  It depends far more on whether we retain the essential dignity of man.  Can man, the individual, respect himself and his neighbors?  If he cannot, the most elaborate system will break down.  Lacking respect for himself and failing to trust others, he is easily appealed to by a demagogue who asks the citizens to trust him and him alone.”  These words were written in 1938 by D. Elton Trueblood in his little book, The Predicament of Modern Man.  

America has never practiced what it preaches.  Our forefathers wrote that all men [people] are created equal with certain unalienable rights, but failed to put that ideal into practice.  It took a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement to lift us closer to our own standard (and we still have a long way to go). For years, women were denied equal status (still are) in the voting booth and in the work place. The foibles of the human heart are such that we as individuals and as a nation seldom practice what we preach.  Rejecting in practice what we say we stand for has always occurred and still does. But so long as we have the principle, the theory (all men [people] are created equal with certain unalienable rights) there is always hope, because some of us will be disturbed by our hypocrisy.  But when the theory goes, too, there is no hope; there is nothing to give us a bad conscience, since we do not hold any longer to the theory that all men [people] are created equal.  It is bad enough that we fail to practice what we preach, but it is far worse if we lose the principle and take pride in that loss.

We all make value judgments and have preconceived notions—subjective thoughts, feelings and opinions.  It is our nature to do so.  With the advent of social media, however, these value judgments run rampant without evidence to support them as truth.  Some people make money misrepresenting the truth and providing fake news stories on Facebook (as we have recently been made aware).  If we lose the sacredness of truth, we lose everything.  For then, whatever I say is true, whatever you say is true—not based on any solid evidence, but based on your values or mine.  When these values do not jive, we end up having “truths” galore, without any factual basis.  Democracy cannot survive under a barrage of many “truths!”

A secession from theory (all men [people] are created equal) and from the sacredness of truth leads us to a secession from the moral grounds that have made our democracy possible.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

The “Humming” in My Mind

As I sit here in the quietness of my study this morning two Afro-American spirituals are humming within me.  Have you ever had that experience when suddenly a song pops into your head and you wonder why and from whence it comes? 

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.  Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain. But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”

“When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.  When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea, thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.  In the midst of tribulation, stand by me.  When the host of hell assail, and my strength begins to fail, thou who never lost a battle, stand by me. In the midst of faults and failures, stand by me. When I’ve done the best I can, and my friends misunderstand, thou who knowest all about me, stand by me. When I’m growing old and feeble, stand by me.  When my life becomes a burden, and I’m nearing chilly Jordan, O thou Lily of the Valley, stand by me.

Is there a balm in Gilead, an ointment to relieve our discouragement?  Is there Someone to stand by us when the storms of life are raging—when tossed about, in tribulation, when hell assails, in the midst of faults and failures, and in and through the passing of the years?  

In the quietness of this morning, in a world of suffering, anxiety and hurt, with the words and the tunes of these two spirituals singing within me, I sense “There is a balm in Gilead,” and there is Someone who stands by me (and you).  God is a person, and in the deep of God’s mighty nature God thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers just as we do.  God communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions.  God breaks through in the words and the tunes humming within my mind.  God is just as discouraged as I am, but God presses on with God’s dream.  God is tossed about too, and lives in the midst of tribulation WITH me and WITH you.  It is because God is in it all with us that we discover there is a balm in Gilead and there is Someone who stands by us in all that we experience as we trod the trail  of life.