Monday, April 24, 2017

A Matter of Trust

This story is told of Albert Einstein traveling on a train out of New York City.  As the conductor came through the coach, Dr. Einstein began to look frantically through his coat pocket for his ticket.  By the time the conductor arrived at Einstein’s seat, the renowned scientist had pulled out all of his pockets in both his trousers and his coat and was beginning to search through his briefcase.  The conductor, immediately recognizing Einstein said, “Don’t worry, Dr. Einstein, I trust you.”  The conductor proceeded to collect the tickets from the rest of the passengers and about 30 minutes later, was walking back through the car where Einstein was located.  The Princeton professor was blocking the aisle, down on his hands and knees, looking and feeling under the seats and baggage for his ticket.  The conductor reiterated, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry about finding your ticket.  I trust you.”  To this Einstein turned his head and from his position on the floor said, “Young man, this is not an issue of trust, it is an issue of direction.  I have no idea where I am going!”

I know where I am going today.  I’m going to Greece.  I know in what direction I must go to get to where I’m going (because it has all been arranged for me and I trust those folk).  I have the tickets, the passports and all the necessary papers tucked away safely.  I’m ready to go, I know where I’m going, and I have everything together that I’ll need to get there, including trust, “the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

Invariably, whenever I take a trip “across the pond” some friends will say, “Be very careful, it isn’t safe flying these days and it sure is scary and dangerous over there.  Aren’t you afraid?  You wouldn’t catch me in any of those places!” Many of these well-meaning folk have never been to “these places” and will probably never go!  They will never go because they “fear” and fear does not allow for trust.  “Trusting” is letting go of fear.  “Trusting” makes one extremely vulnerable, but it also brings a joy and a sense of freedom that actually becomes more pleasurable than the experience itself.  
Athens, Greece--1997

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Never On Sunday

Oh, if only I could come up with a great thought this morning!  But the only thing on my mind is getting the lawn mowed before I leave for our trip to Greece tomorrow.  The lawn mower broke down earlier in the week.  It is now fixed, but it has rained every day since it was returned.  It is not raining today, but it is Sunday.  I never mow the lawn on Sunday!  Never on Sunday!  Now that brings a song to mind!  

I first heard the song, “Never on Sunday,” in Greece back in 1960.  It was sung by Melina Mercouri in the film by the same title.  The movie is a somewhat comic story of Ilya, a free-spirited prostitute who lives in Piraeus, Greece, and Homer, an American tourist from Connecticut.  Homer tries to reform Ilya, encouraging her to change her life style, while Ilya attempts to loosen up Homer’s morality a bit.  Melina Mercouri sang the theme song which became an international hit in the 60’s and one of my all-time favorites.  The composer, Mano Hadjidakis, received an Academy Award for the song and Mercouri won the award of Best Actress for her role in the film, Never on Sunday, at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.  

Oh, you can kiss me on a Monday
A Monday, a Monday is very, very good
Or you can kiss me on a Tuesday
A Tuesday, a Tuesday, in fact I wish you would
Or you can kiss me on a Wednesday
A Thursday, a Friday and Saturday is best
But never, never on a Sunday
A Sunday, a Sunday, ‘cause that’s my day of rest
Most any day you can be my guest
Any day your say, but my day of rest
Only stay away on my day of rest
Oh, you can kiss me on a cool day, a hot day
A wet day, which ever one you choose
Or try to kiss me on a gray day, a May day
A pay day, and see if I refuse
And if you make it on a bleak day
A freak day, a week day, why you can be my guest
But never, never on a Sunday (Manos Hadjidakis)

I’ll pretend today is Monday, mow the lawn, and sing the song, “Never on Sunday!”

Nothing like a newly mowed lawn!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

“Perfectly Imperfect”

A Church committee was searching for a new pastor.  The committee interviewed the candidates and called at least three references on each of them to get background information.  The following is a confidential report to the Church on the committee’s progress.

Adam:  A good man, but seems to have problems with his wife.  One of the references reported that he and his wife enjoy walking around nude in the woods.
Noah:  Held a former pastorate of 120 years with no converts.  Prone to unrealistic building projects.
Abraham:  Though the references reported wife-swapping, the facts seem to show he never slept with another man’s wife, but did offer to share his own wife with another man.
Joseph:  He is a big thinker, but something of a braggart.  He thinks he can interpret dreams and he also has a prison record.  
Moses:  A modest and meek fellow, but a poor communicator, even stuttering at times.  He occasionally blows his stack and acts rashly.  Some say he left an earlier church over a murder charge.
David:  The most promising leader, both young and handsome, until we discovered the affair he had with his neighbor’s wife.
Solomon:  Great preacher, but our parsonage would never hold all his wives.
Elijah:  Prone to depression—collapses under pressure.
Elisha:  Reported to have lived with a single widow while at his former church.
Hosea:  A tender and loving pastor, but our people could never handle his wife’s occupation.
Jeremiah:  He is emotionally unstable, an alarmist, and always lamenting things. He is reported to have taken a long trip to bury his underwear on the bank of a foreign river.  
Amos:  He is backward and unpolished.  Has a hang-up with wealthy people.  Might fit in better in a poor parish.
Deborah:  Female!
John:  He says he is a Baptist, but definitely doesn’t dress like one.  He has slept outdoors for months on end, has a weird diet, and provokes denominational leaders.
Peter:  Too blue collar.  Has a bad temper and has been known to curse.  Aggressive—a loose cannon.
Paul:  Powerful CEO-type leader and a good preacher.  However, he is short on tact, harsh, and has been known to preach all night.
Timothy:  Too young!
Jesus:  Has had popular times, but once his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all and this church dwindled down to twelve people.  Seldom stays in one place very long and is single.
Judas:  His references are solid.  He’s a steady plodder and a conservative.  Has good connections.  Knows how to handle money and make deals.  We are inviting him to preach this Sunday.  There are possibilities here.

A wood carving called "Twisted"

Friday, April 21, 2017

What I See

There is a very interesting little story tucked away in the book of II Kings, chapter 6, in the Old Testament.  When the army of the king of Aram, with all its horses and chariots, surrounded the prophet Elisha on the hills of Dothan, Elisha’s aide thought they didn’t have a chance of survival.  “Look at all of them out there,” the aide complained, “we can’t possibly challenge them and we certainly can’t prevail.”

Sometimes, and quite often these days, I get the same feeling.  What chance do we have against the present powers and principalities?  How can we possibly confront and combat, what seems to me,  to be an assault upon the American dream?   So many are aligned with the forces that seek to build dividing walls, who support strong-arm tactics against our neighbors (foreign and domestic) and who join in the malicious rhetoric that promotes fear and apprehension both here and abroad? Who can stand against this dangerous and insidious insanity (as I see it) when so many seem to agree with it and support it?  Sometimes I feel surrounded by Aram’s army—there are a lot of horses and chariots out there!

The prophet Elisha prayed for his companion in the midst of his frustration and fear in the face of Aram’s massive forces.  “O Lord,” Elisha prayed, “help him see what I see.  Help him get a handle on what it means to be in your care.  Help him know that there are more who are for us than those who are against us!  Give him eyes to see.”  Elisha’s aide looked up again at all of Aram’s horses and chariots, but this time he saw with new eyes of faith what is really real—he saw the army of God—thousands upon thousands of horses and chariots of fire on every hillside arrayed against the forces of Aram!

“Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see,” according to the writer of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.  Where is my faith in our present predicament?  What do I see?  What do you see?  The “belief that God is on the side of truth and justice comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith,’ wrote Martin Luther King, Jr.  “There is something at the very center of our faith which reminds us that Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter.”  
Truth crushed to earth will rise again."
William Cullen Bryant

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Breakfast With Vernon

It is always a pleasant experience to have breakfast with my colleague and friend, Vernon.  His subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) humor makes me laugh!  As we were leaving Sue’s Restaurant this morning after our hearty breakfast and many a laugh, Betty, one of the patrons said, “You guys are just having too much fun!”  Yes, we were having fun!  Is it possible to have too much fun, to laugh too much?  I don’t think so, especially at this stage of life.  Vernon is an octogenarian and I’m a septuagenarian. Laughter may be the best medicine for any and all things ailing us in these golden years.

St. Theresa of Avila once said, “God preserve me from people who are so spiritual that, come what may, they want to turn everything into a perfect contemplation.”  Henri Nouwen suggested in one of his books that Jesus calls his followers to a Party rather than a Funeral.  Jesus came eating and drinking and having fun (called a glutton and a wine-bibber by his foes)—enjoying an abundant life, rather than a dull one—and His call, or so it seems to me, is that we should do the same.  Have you ever thought of Jesus laughing?  Have you ever seen a painting or an icon of Jesus smiling?  Isn’t that interesting?  How we have distorted things!  Our misguided piety has caused us to suppose that Jesus was always deadly serious.  We have  missed His smile, laughter, and partying, fearing this view of Jesus would somehow appear blasphemous or sacrilegious.  What a shame?  

I cherish the remark of my neighbor, Libby, who, years ago, when I would stop on my way to the church and dance on her porch whenever I heard her playing the piano, would say, “I don’t know how you ever became a minister!”  Henry Ward Beecher once wrote:  “Grim care, moroseness, and anxiety—all this rust of life ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth.  Mirth is God’s medicine.”  This is why I’ve always encouraged the recommendation of the writer of Ecclesiastes (8:15)—“I commend mirth.”

Dance, laugh, sing--"I am the Lord of the Dance," said He!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Them Is Us

It happens all the time.  It happens to us.  It happens to “them.”  It happens between friends, it happens in families, it happens in churches, it happens in communities, it happens in our nation and it happens among the nations.  It is happening now.  It happens whenever there is disagreement.  It happens whenever there is argument.  It happens out of thoughtlessness.  It happens whenever selfishness and ego strut about.  It happens when greed runs rampant.  It happens when we refuse to listen to one another.  It happens when we put someone down.

We all know about it.  It happens when no one will budge from a particular idea or position.  It happens when families try to deal with a difficult issue. It happens when nations seek their own “self-interest.”

Disagreement, argument, conflict, and anger is aroused.  Hurt feelings and resentment take over.  We bicker.  We stop talking to each other, or listening to each other, and sometimes we won’t have anything to do with each other.  We blame them.  It’s their fault.  They started it.  They brought it up.  We get mad.  We strike back.  We say nasty things about each other.  We point our finger at each other and our anger smolders.  It happens.  It happens to all of us and it happens all the time.

What happens?   Division, alienation, and separation happen.  We are pitted against each other: parent/child, husband/wife, them/us, Muslim/Christian, East/West, Republicans/Democrats and on and on.  Love and care are thrown out the window.  Peace is gone.  Harmony is diminished.  Community collapses.  It leads to isolation, the building of walls, and to wars.  “Them” is always us!
We can get along together....

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trimming Back The Bucket List

There is no way I can get it all in!  My List is far too long!  I must cross-out, eliminate, and erase some of the items on my Bucket List!  It is a very difficult thing to scale back, to squash dreams, to erase hopes, to cancel yearnings, and to cross-out those many places I’d like to go and those many things I’d like to do before I “kick the bucket.”  One of the things I’ve wanted to do for years is to go back to the island of Crete, rent an apartment for a month in some small village, and simply enjoy the enchanted island and its people again.  [I lived on the island for a year and a half some 55 years ago.  I returned 35 years later and visited for several weeks and then again visited for just a day or two some 15 years ago].  For several years now I’ve tried to work out my Bucket List visit to Crete for a month and it just hasn’t panned out.  What should I do?

Crossing-out or erasing such a fantastic dream as spending a month on Crete from my Bucket List is just more than I can handle.  Trimming seems wiser than crossing-out.  So it is that next week we will go—not just to Crete—but to Athens and Delphi, Greece, and to Santorini, Mykonos, and other Greek Islands.  This trip will be very special because one of my brothers and one of my sisters with their spouses will join us on the journey.  

Yet, even as I ponder this “trimmed version” of my Bucket List with excitement and expectancy, the desire for a month-long visit on the island of Crete remains.  I haven’t crossed it out!  Maybe someday it will yet happen.  

Crossing-out, erasing, eliminating is quite different from trimming back.  Crossing out those things we dream of and hope for has a finality that just doesn’t feel good to me.  Trim the dream, never cross it off!
Athens, Greece--1961

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Easter Experience

“Easter, rebirth, the new phase of creation, is either a convincing inner experience which changes our character and our life, or it is nothing at all,” writes Fritz Kunkel in his book, Creation Continues.  “We do not need the empty grave.  To us every grave is empty, every corpse is darkness.  But darker than all this is our own failure.  We know what love is, but we do not love:  we only want to be loved.  We know responsibility and self-sacrifice and creativeness, but we choose to be arrogant or evasive, indignant or apologetic, greedy or frightened.  We do not help to create the new world.  We only complain that the old world disintegrates.”

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and,  therefore,  all is well.  Jesus died to set us free and,  therefore,  all is well.  I am a believer and,  therefore,  all is well.  It doesn’t work that way!  It is not a one-sided relationship.  This is what Kunkel means when he writes, “We know what love is, but we do not love:  we only want to be loved.

Whatever else, Easter may mean, it must be “a convincing inner experience which changes our character and our life, or it is nothing at all.” Did Easter change my character and my life?  Will it?  Jesus calls us to love as He loves, neighbor and foe alike.  The whole message of the Bible calls us to “act humanly” (love) in a broken and estranged world.  Life (being fully human)  my life and yours, once lost, is found, and returned to us at Easter.  Easter is that event in which “a man (woman) confronts and confesses the presence and power of death in his own life—in every facet and detail, in every fact and experience of his own biography, in recollection of every word he has ever uttered and of every one he has ever known, and of every thing he has ever done while in the same event he is exposed to and beholds the power and presence of God which is greater than death.  In that event he is given the power to discern God’s presence (the Living Jesus) in the world” (William Stringfellow).   In the Easter event we have that unequivocal assurance that we are loved by One who loves all others, which enables us to love ourselves and frees us to love another, any other, every other, all others.  

The Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) Blooms.
An Easter Experience in my own backyard.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Reality

The Easter story is recorded in the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Each tell the story a little differently—they tell the story “according to” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  It is natural for each of us to see things from our own perspective.   Even eye witnesses viewing the same event see it and report it differently. What is the Easter Gospel according to you, according to me?

Two passages in Matthew and Mark’s Easter story have always spoken to me. The women are told to go tell Jesus’ disciples: “He has been raised from the dead and is going on before you into Galilee; there you will see him.”  Then as they hurry away from the empty tomb to deliver the message, “Suddenly Jesus was there in their path…

My grandparents, parents, and others have gone before me.  Each has given me some direction, some guidance, some awareness of what to expect and anticipate along life’s path.  They were models for my adulthood, my parenting, my values, and the ideals that have shaped me.   It certainly helps to have someone go ahead of you, to show you the way, to teach you the ropes, to blaze the trail for you. Many are the moments, especially in these later years, when I see on my path, my granddad, my mother, or my father, even though they are no longer living.  They have gone “before me” yet in my wandering through the Galilee of life, there are moments when suddenly they are there in my path!

“He…is going on before you…and there you will see him.” Easter reality is not based on an empty tomb we have never seen.  Easter reality is not found in the scripture.  Easter reality is not based on tradition or what the Church, or the Apostle’s Creed say about it.  Nor is Easter reality based on what others have handed down to us.  Easter reality comes when “suddenly Jesus is right there in our path!

Bangor, Wales--2015

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Great or Holy Saturday

The cross on which Jesus was crucified is empty now.  He has been placed in a sepulcher—a borrowed tomb—belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, so scripture tells us.  

Today is the last day of Lent (the forty days preceding Easter) the last day of Holy Week, and the period called the Easter Triduum, the three days preceding Easter:  Holy or Maundy Thursday, (the Last Supper in the Upper Room, the betrayal in Gethsemane) Holy Friday (the crucifixion) and today, Holy Saturday.

According to the Liturgy of St. Basil, "He (Christ) gave Himself as a ransom to death in which we were held captive, … Descending into Hades through the Cross ... He loosed the bonds of death,” or as the Apostle’s Creed has it, “He (Christ) descended into hell,” and there released those held captive in the “prison of death.”  (By the way, The United Methodist Church deleted the phrase “descended into hell” from their version of the Apostle’s Creed some years ago). 

Whatever one may think or believe actually happened on this Saturday called Great or Holy those many centuries ago, it does provide an element of hope (whether taken figuratively or literally).  "Despite the daily vicissitudes and contradictions of history and the abiding presence of hell within the human heart and human society," life is liberated!

Kimberlee C. Ireton, in her book, Circle of the Seasons, describes an Eastern Orthodox icon showing Jesus "striding victoriously into hell and reaching out in love even to the dead and the damned."  She suggests that this image reminds us that there is no place where God is not.  And in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, even on Holy Saturday when Jesus' body lay in the tomb, he was bringing freedom to captives and prisoners.  I like that thought and it makes Great Saturday for me, Holy!
Antelope Canyon, AZ--2016

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday (“Good” means Holy).  Millions of Christians worldwide will observe the day commemorating the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.  Some of the faithful will walk through the streets of Jerusalem and other cities around the world carrying a wooden cross and wearing a crown of thorns to symbolize the event that happened centuries ago.  In Jerusalem, the procession will follow the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, retracing the steps of Jesus on that fateful day.  

Who can explain the meaning of this cross and the death of Jesus—this Good Friday—this Passion of Jesus Christ?  It is difficult, maybe even impossible.  Perhaps that is why it is most often expressed in song.

“In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story gathers round its head sublime.”

For some of us, Jesus embodies God:  loving, gentle, caring, compassionate, taking on all the pain, grief, and struggle of this broken world and calling out to us in love to be in communion with him.  So it is, when I ponder this Good Friday and stand at the foot of the cross,  what I come to see and to  know is that no cost, no passion, no suffering, not even death can break God’s nature—God’s love for the world and for me.  Jesus embodies God.  Jesus carries the world to the cross; Jesus carries me to the cross, and calls both to me and the world to embrace, as Jesus embraced, the pain of the whole world’s family.  All those who hurt, who hunger, who are lonely, who are sick, who are frustrated, who are grieving, who are depressed and downhearted, all those who are mentally ill, physically handicapped, and those who are in prison.  These I am called, through the cross of Jesus, to carry in my heart with God—just as Jesus carries me and the entire world upon that cross.  That is what I see and feel and know as I stand at the foot of the cross of Jesus…and thus I sing:

“When the woes of life overtake me, hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me.  Lo! It glows with peace and joy.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure, by the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure, joys that through all time abide.”

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Sunset in South Carolina--2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Conundrum of the Cross

Howard Thurman is visiting with me this morning through his book, Deep Is The Hunger.  He has been a friend for a long time.  His words have often electrified my spirit and given me hope.  This morning as I ponder this week called Holy and the events of long ago that have caused us to name it so, Thurman’s words help me understand it in a new way.

“The crucifixion of Jesus Christ reminds us once again of the penalty which any highly organized society exacts of those who violate its laws.  The social resistors fall into two general groups—those who resist the established order by doing things that are in opposition to accepted standards of decency and morality:  the criminal, the antisocial, the outlaw; and those who resist the established order because its requirements are too low, too unworthy of the highest and the best in man.  Each is a menace to organized society and both must be liquidated as disturbers of the peace.  Behold then the hill outside the city of Jerusalem, the criminal and the Holy Man sharing a common judgment, because one rose as high above the conventions of his age as the other descended below.  Perhaps it is ever thus.  Whenever a Jesus Christ is crucified, there will also be crucified beside him the thief—two symbols of resistance to the established pattern.  When Christianity makes central its doctrine the redemptive significance of the cross, it defines itself ever in terms of the growing edge, the advance guard of the human race, who take the lead in man’s long march to the City of God.”

The teachings of Jesus were a menace to his society and continue to be a menace today. William Stringfellow writes, “The demonic powers (what the Bible calls “principalities”) curse human beings who resist them.  I mean the term curse quite literally, as a condemnation to death…In earlier times, American Indians were cursed as savages in order to rationalize genocide….slavery involved cursing blacks as humanly inferior.” Hitler officially defamed and cursed the Jewish people condemning them to death.  What group is being officially defamed and cursed in today’s society?  “Behold then the hill outside the city of Jerusalem, the criminal and the Holy Man sharing a common judgment, because one rose as high above the conventions of his age as the other descended below.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


I’m not a foreign affairs expert.  However, any cursory glance at human history reveals that nations have sought for untold generations to bring peace into the world by the use of violence or the threat of violence.  Saber-rattling is defined as “a show of military power, especially when used by a nation to impose its policies on other countries.”  President Trump is doing a lot of saber-rattling, both by word and deed.  The recent US missile strike in Syria in reaction to the use of sarin gas on the town of Idlib was an act of violence, and the deployment of a US Navy Carrier Strike Group near North Korea shores is a blatant form of saber-rattling (the threat of violence).  North Korea has done its own saber-rattling in recent weeks with the test firing of ballistic missiles and aggressive and threatening rhetoric of Kim Jong-un.  Saber-rattling breeds violence and violence breeds more violence.

Violence (in whatever form) is very deceptive.  It appeases those who are in a hurry to retaliate or to demonstrate their sense of power and control.  These people believe violence is efficient and effective and that it speaks louder than mere words.  They argue that violence creates fear and at first it does.  But, it is also true that violence creates resistance.  It breeds revenge and retaliation.  Violence is very deceptive.

Why is it that we act with violence before we sit down together and talk things over?  Why is it that peace agreements and treaties are made after the wars have been fought?  I am not a foreign affairs expert, but I am aware of history and it tells the story:  violence does not beget peace!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Knowing and Doing

An ancient Greek philosopher insisted that to know what is right is to do it.  I’ve always thought this to be true, but it has not been my personal experience.  If we could but know what is true and right, and if we could help others know what is true and right, then the social chaos that permeates our world could be resolved.  If we could but get at the facts, then it would inevitably follow that our attitudes would change. This idea suggests that we behave as we do because we are ignorant of the facts.  Is that really true?

Education (an increase in knowledge and in facts) can make a difference, or so we have assumed.  But, alas, this assumption that to know is to do is only a half truth.  Human nature is not moved to do on the basis of fact alone.  Something else is needed.  I may know the facts, but facts alone do not arouse my will to do anything about them.  Facts may not stir my conscience.  Information may not charge my spirit with sensitivity, concern, and emotion.  Without an emotional response or connection to the facts, my attitude is not affected and the world is not changed.

This dilemma plagued the spirit of the Apostle Paul, “…for what I do is not what I want to do, but what I detest…though the will to do good is there, the deed is not” (Romans 7:15ff, NEB).  It takes more than knowing, more than “just the facts” to actually do what is right. We have to care!

Monday, April 10, 2017

“We Think, and Let Think”

Jesus reprimanded his disciple, John, when John tried to stop an exorcist from using Jesus’ name.  “Don’t try to stop him,” Jesus said, “for he who is not against us is for us.”  I suppose what Jesus’ meant by that is if the fellow is not demeaning us, he is not against us.  If he is not doing evil, then he is not against us.  Be tolerant—let him be.

Later, Jesus visited a Samaritan village and extended a hand of friendship to a people whose religious and political opinions were quite different from his own.  They did not welcome him.  He was not received.  That made his disciples, James and John, furious.  They wanted God to come down from heaven and wipe out the village!  Jesus reprimanded them:  be tolerant; let them be.

Like James and John, we tend to react negatively to people who are different from us, who hold a different opinion, who reject our ideas, who do not accept us, and who do not respond to our offers of friendship and dialog, or think as we think. 

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement had this to say, “I have no more right to object to a man for holding a different opinion from mine than I have to differ with a man because he wears a wig and I wear my own hair, but if he takes his wig off and shakes the powder in my face, I shall consider it my duty to get quit of him as soon as possible.  The thing which I have resolved to use every possible method of preventing is a narrowness of spirit, a party zeal, a miserable bigotry which makes so many so unready to believe that there is any work of God but among themselves.  We think, and let think.” 

Wesley actually practiced what he preached.  When his nephew, Samuel, entered the Roman Catholic Church, Wesley wrote to him, “Whether in this Church or that I care not.  You may be saved in either or damned in either.”  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Paralysis of Fear

We all live with some degree of fear and are stymied by it.  A prevalent fear among the older population today is the fear that their financial resources will run out.  They fear a fixed income will not meet their future needs.   They fear that Social Security and Medicare won’t be there for them when they need it, especially if those resources are used up by those who have not contributed.

This is the same fear that paralyzed the widow in that Elijah story recorded in the Old Testament (I Kings 17:8ff).  Elijah asked for a little water.  The poor widow could manage that.  Then he asked for a piece of bread and that brought out her fear, a deep-seated, paralyzing fear.  “As the Lord your God lives, I have no food to sustain me except a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a flask.  Here I am gathering two or three sticks to go and cook something for my son and myself before we die.”  Her fear was real.  She was at the end of her rope—ready to cook the last meal for herself and her son.  There was nothing imaginary about her fear—it was real and it was draining the life out of her, as all fear does.

“Never fear, “ said Elijah, “go and do as you say; but first make me a small cake from what you have and bring it out to me; and after that make something for your son and yourself.  For this is the word of the Lord the God of Israel:  ‘The jar of flour shall not give out nor the flask of oil fail.’”  She went and did as Elijah had said, and there was food for him and for her and her family for a long time.  The widow’s fear left her.  She gave what she had to Elijah and still had enough left for herself.  “The jar of flour did not give out nor did the flask of oil fail.”  

When we fear that the jar of flour will give out and the flask of oil will fail, we live a fearful life—afraid that there is not enough to go around—and we become paralyzed as a people, a nation, and world!
Monument Valley, Utah--2016

Saturday, April 8, 2017

“Put Through The Wringer”

Over two weeks ago I was embraced by a many-tentacled and anonymous bug!  This “bug” has put me through the wringer!  That  means I’ve had a severely stressful experience that has left me the worse for wear.  It means I’ve been sick and being sick means passing through a difficult and unpleasant ordeal, which makes one feel like being  “put through the wringer.”

Do you know what a “wringer” (or mangle) is?  It was a device attached to washing machines  (before the tumble dry era).  A wringer was a pair of rollers through which wet laundry was passed under pressure to “wring” the laundry of water (to press the water from it).

To understand my experience you need to take on the perspective of a piece of laundry being “put through the wringer.”  You have to imagine being subjected to intense pressure—starting at one end and proceeding very slowly to the other end—a very traumatic, flattening kind of  experience.  The “wringing” part is not the end of the story for the  unfortunate laundry item, nor was it the end of the story for me.  After the wringing the laundry still has to experience being “hung out to dry,” which is precisely where I am this morning!

This “bug” has put me through the wringer,  deliberately and systematically subjecting me to distressingly intense pressure over (so it feels) a long period of time (two weeks) with the express purpose of dehydrating me and leaving me “hung out to dry.” 

But “wrung out” and “hung out” can only deter us momentarily.  Easter comes with its resurrection promise, encouraging us to rise up, move on, and live.