Monday, May 27, 2019

God Bless America

My grandmother thought Kate Smith was the greatest.  She loved hearing her sing Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” as most people did.  Kate Smith was a star in the 1930’s and 40’s.  When I was young I remember watching her TV show which she always closed with her rendition of “God Bless America.”   Just recently Kate’s rendition of the song has been silenced,  and one might even say banished by the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Yankees.  Even a statue of Kate in Philadelphia, erected by the Flyers in her honor, has been covered over.  Why the banishment?  It has recently been discovered that Kate Smith sang some very racist songs in her early movies and performances.

The New York Yankees gave the following statement: “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivity very seriously.  And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity” by brandishing the recording of Kate Smith singing, “God Bless America.”  If I remember correctly, the Yankees were once upon a time an all-white team, excluding African-American players.  Even the U.S. military has a history of racial segregation, discrimination, and prejudicial behavior. The truth of the matter is that our whole American society has more racial undertones and overtones than any song poor Kate may have sung.  Kate Smith’s niece is “appalled,” and I am, too.  

I watched the 30th PBS National Memorial Day Concert last night and heard Patti LaBelle, along with all the other performers, sing “God Bless America” at the close of the event.  Are all of those performers free of “taints” of one kind or another?  Are any of us free of such taints?  Can any of us throw the first stone, or the second stone, or the third?

As I listened to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” lyrics, I wondered if perhaps when we hear the song sung, we only hear the phrase “God bless America,” and let the rest of the words kind of fade out.  The song is addressed to God—not America.  The song asks for God’s blessing and presence—“Stand beside her and guide her, through the night with the light from above.”   I think we do this with other songs as well, like “America” (“My Country, ’Tis of Thee”) and “America the Beautiful.”  We tend to miss the impact of the fourth stanza of “America,” “Our father’s God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing; long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light; protect us by thy might, great God, our King.”  The same is true with these words from “America the Beautiful”—“God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea…May God thy gold refine, till all success is nobleness, and every gain divine…God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.”

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above

This is my prayer on  Memorial Day 2019…

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Poppies And Taps

Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer vacation for many.  Labor Day marks the end of the season.  Tomorrow, the last Monday in May, is Memorial Day (my mother always called it “Decoration Day”).  It became a federal holiday back in 1971. Prior to 1971,  Memorial Day was observed on May 30th (1868 to 1970).   It is a day for remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.  It was originally called Decoration Day, based on the practice of placing flowers or flags at the graves of the fallen.

In 1915, a Canadian Lieutenant Colonel, John McCrae, wrote a poem, “In Flanders Fields.”  The opening lines refer to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldiers’ graves in that cemetery:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place…
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields….

In 1918, a woman, inspired by the poem, attended a conference wearing a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed a few poppies to others present.  In 1920, the National American Legion adopted the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance.  It was the practice of the American Legion in my hometown to visit the public schools and  distribute poppies made of crepe paper to the students—reminding us of the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives on our behalf.  We wore those  poppies on our shirts and dresses with a sense of pride and gratitude.  So it is, even now, when Memorial Day comes, I remember (no doubt with countless others) that crepe paper poppy and what it symbolized, both then and now..

We are all familiar with the bugle call “Taps” played at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and at military funerals.  It is a bugle call—a signal, not a song.  Sometimes words (not lyrics) are given as a mnemonic device.  The words given to Taps are appropriate as we remember on  this Memorial Day:

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh….
Thanks and praise for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Trump Sees It, If You Don't

Back in February, I posted the following quote from Abraham Lincoln:  “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure….If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him?  You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us,’ but he will say to you, ‘Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.’”

“I see it, if you don’t” seems to be what is happening these days and we are allowing it!  Is Iran a real threat at the moment, or does Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolton, simply “deem it necessary?”

“I see it, if you don’t” seems to be happening also in the recent call for an “investigation of the investigation” concerning Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.  But this new investigation really isn’t about Russia’s interference.  No!  Mr. Trump “deems it necessary,” and says so, to prove his point that the Mueller investigation was a hoax, an attempted coup on the part of his political enemies.  Even before the investigation begins, he “deems it necessary” to announce acts of treason and names those he “deems” guilty!  “To allow the President” to do what he sees, and you don’t, is to “allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary.”

“I see it, if you don’t” happened just the other day when Mr. Trump released a “doctored” video on Twitter showing what he sees and most of us don’t see about Nancy Pelosi.  He sees her as “a mess” and “crazy.” Talk about “Fake News!”  Fox News and Trump allies are using the edited video to question Pelosi’s mental capabilities.  “I see it,” Trump and his allies say—it is right there on the video—if you don’t.  It is absurd!  It is crazy!  But Trump sees it, if you don’t!  And we “allow him to do so…” and he says to you, and to me, “Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.” 

And yet another iris blooms....

Friday, May 24, 2019

Thinking About US

I try to be optimistic about our kind—humankind.  I believe there is “that of God” in every person—well, at least most of the time.  I struggle with us, you and me, with us, as Americans, in particular.  I’m not naive about human nature.  I do not live in an ivory tower.  I do not idealize humanity. How could I possibly do that with Hitlers, Mansons, and “me and you” in our history?  I’m a believer in the biblical “Fall,” not just the “fall” of persons, but the “fall” of the whole of creation. I’m a believer in God, who is in the mess with us, seeking us and calling us to become what and who we are meant to be.  I’m always thinking about US.

I’m thinking of US—all of us together—and our history. My sparse gleanings from three years of high school Latin was the phrase attributed to Julius Caesar:  “Veni, vidi, vici!”  I used it all the time when I was young:  “I came, I saw, I conquered!”  No other phrase describes US better. 

We came to a new land, uninvited and as illegal aliens.  We occupied, settled, and despoiled it.  We decimated the natives. We plowed the prairie.  Felled the forests.  Shot and trapped or poisoned the wild animals.  We called it “taming” the land.  We exterminated the Passenger Pigeon and nearly did the same with the bison and the whale.  The wilderness was ravished; the country was “developed.”  We were unable to see and too busy to care about the devastation we were wreaking.  We were too greedy to recognize the waste and the immorality of what we were doing.  

We’ve covered the grass with asphalt.  The skies darken over our cities—the fog of pollution.  The fish have died and if they haven’t died, they are contaminated by mercury.   We’ve washed the soil and refuse into the ocean. We’ve poisoned the rivers and streams.  We’ve besmeared the earth with our waste. We’ve effectively “put down” the natives and those not “like us”  by forcing them to live in barren places, from deserts to ghettos.  We boast of our “Veni, vidi, vici” mentality, our innovations, our technology, and our gadgets.  We acclaim our rugged individualism, our acquisitions, our deal-making, and our shrewdness as our national virtues.  We’ve appropriated, accumulated, and now demand that we should be, ought to be, and will be  number “ONE!”  That’s US!  That’s the U.S. where 90% of all consumable goods produced on the earth are devoured by US.  I just can’t help thinking about US.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Constitutional or Spiritual Crisis?

There is much talk among media pundits these days about a constitutional crisis and for good reason.  In political science, a constitutional crisis is “a problem or conflict in the function of government that the constitution or other fundamental law is perceived to be unable to resolve.”  There are many variations, but typically, constitutional crises happen when there are severe conflicts between the different branches of government and/or conflicts among various factions within society.  The secession of seven Southern states in 1861 was a constitutional crisis. The Watergate scandal (1972-1974) became a constitutional crisis when Nixon and his staff obstructed investigations into their political activities.  Are we now engaged in a constitutional crisis?  I think so.  However, there is another underlying crisis going on that has created the constitutional one, which we tend to ignore.  I suppose we ignore it because it involves us—not Republicans, Democrats, President, Congress, etc.,—but us:  me, you, and every Tom, Jane, Dick, Harry, and Sally.

“The malaise of the American spirit cannot be blamed on wrongheaded policies, inept administrations….The reasons are more fundamental…arising from the kind of people we have become…,” wrote a professor at Cornell University fifty years ago!  What kind of people have we become? (Or, maybe it can be said that we’ve always been the kind of people we are now).  Our whole world has changed and changed drastically over the past fifty years.  Have we? Our constitutional crisis now, as in the various constitutional crises of our history, are a result not of political leaders and administrations, but the result of a spiritual sickness in us—in the spirit of the American people.  

This spiritual crisis has to do with the loss of our sense of morality and justice:  from (if ever it were true) “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”—to—“Build a wall!”  And the “wall” is more important than building roads and bridges, more important than cleaning up our poisoned waters,  or resolving the problems of the inner cities, more important than our own people in poverty, and more important than those people who want to become our people.  That is a spiritual crisis—not a constitutional one.  It has to do with our rationality, our decency, our consciences, and our humanness.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Blistered Behinds

Some think government (local, state, and federal) is something “out there” and “foreign.”  They see government as “foe” rather than “friend,” as “threat” rather than “safeguard.”  Thus, a post appeared on my FB Timeline saying that “125 years ago, you didn’t have to ask permission from the government to:  collect rain water, go fishing, own a property, start a business, build a home, get married, hunt, own a weapon, cut hair, sell a product, protest, sell food.  You can do virtually nothing without being extorted by the government and obtaining their permission first.  If you still think you’re free, you’re deluding yourself.  You are just a free-range human living on a tax farm.”  I checked the source for this quote and found it on a site called

At first reading, you might say, “By golly, that’s true!  We can’t do anything on our own anymore.”  But wait, there are two-sides to every story—sometimes three or four-sides.  Do you really want to collect and drink rain water today?  Have you heard of acid rain?  Have you noticed those streaks on asphalts rooftops?  If the government had not regulated fishing, there would be no fish left to fish in the ocean, or the rivers, or streams.  The FDA (government) saves us from E.Coli, salmonella, listeria, and parasites.  If not for regulations about “hunting,” our national wildlife would no doubt be extinct (like the Passenger Pigeon) by now, and our National Parks would be gas and oil fields, coal mines, and lumber mills. I think my point is made without belaboring it further.  Government can be a friend, a safeguard, and of great help to us.

I’ve adopted Abraham Lincoln’s definition of government as my own:  “The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but can not do at all, or can not so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities.” Given that definition, I must also reiterate, in the event we’ve forgotten, that our government is a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  The U.S. government is US!  It is not some separate or demonic power that lords it over us.  It is not a swamp—and if it is a swamp—we are responsible for it being so.  Lincoln had something to say about that too:  “Elections belong to the people.  It’s their decision.: (There have been, as we all know well, several exceptions to that statement, including the present situation). But, Lincoln isn’t finished, he goes on, If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their own blisters.”

The trouble is, with a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” the blisters of those who turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, become the blisters on everybody’s “behind”.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Purely Political—Wholly Religious

A Border Patrol agent is accused of intentionally knocking down a Guatemalan migrant with a government-issued vehicle.  The agent has pleaded not guilty to the charge.  The agent’s lawyer, however, is trying to prevent his client’s text messages from being used in the courtroom.  Those text messages include calling migrants “mindless murdering savages, PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!” and “I used an f150 to do a human pit maneuver on a gnat running from an agent…just a little push with a ford bumper.”   In another message the agent texted that migrants are “disgusting subhuman (expletive) unworthy of being kindling for a fire…”

A Republican congressman, Justin Amash, said in a tweet last Saturday that “President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.” On Sunday, Donald Trump tweeted that Amash was “a total lightweight” and a “loser.” Amash’s Republican colleagues seemed to agree. Amash now has an election challenge for 2020 by  a “pro-Trump” Michigan state legislator.

On Monday a federal judge ruled that Donald Trump’s accounting firm must hand over his financial records, making the point that Congress has the power to hold a President to account. The judge said it was “simply not fathomable that a Congress that is constitutionally authorized to remove a president did not have the power to investigate him.”  Trump will appeal with his ever-present argument, that he believes justice can be delivered only by a judge who shares his politics, which contravenes basic democratic principles.  Thus, he politicized the judge’s decision, saying it is invalid because the judge was appointed by Trump’s predecessor:  “It’s totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama-appointed judge.”

Yesterday, Mr. Trump ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn not to honor a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.  A subpoena is a court order.  Not to honor it is to break the law.    

These incidences speak loudly.  When a Border Patrol agent writes, “mindless murdering savages, PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump”….and suggests that other agents agree with him in the use of his terms—law enforcement becomes something other than it is meant to be.  When everyone or anyone who takes a position against Donald Trump becomes “a total lightweight” and a “loser,” we’d better take a closer look at what is going on.  When a president decides which judge is capable of making a “right decision” based on who appointed them to the office, we are treading on dangerous ground.  When Donald Trump  and the Attorney General of the United States defies the subpoena power of the Congress, we’d better beware of what may come next.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Legend of Creation

Rufus Jones in his book, New Eyes For Invisibles, tells of an old legend of Creation.  There are many such legends about Creation.  The ancient Babylonians had one called “The Enuma Elish.” The Greeks had one and the Navajo, too.  Almost every culture had their own story of how all things began.  Rufus Jones added this one to an already long list of Creation legends:

“There is an old legend of Creation which tells how all the tiny seeds of life came up before God and He let them choose what they would like to be.  One wanted fins so that he could swim the seas.  Most of the surface of the world was water and he wanted to be in it.  Another one wanted wings, for there was even more air than water and he wanted to be in the air.  A third wanted a powerful mouth and swift feet so that he could catch and eat plenty of food.  God made him a lion.  One tiny seed came near being overlooked, he was so quiet.  ‘Well, little fellow,’ God said, ‘what would you like to be?’  ‘I don’t want fins,’ this tiny seed said, ‘And I don’t want wings, nor crushing weapons in my mouth, like the lion.  Just let me be made in your image.  Then I can make the things I need for the water and the air and the earth.’  So God made man in His own image.”

“So God made man in His own image,” but man isn’t quite sure that is what or who he  really wants to be.  He is still trying to decide if he would prefer to have fins, wings, or a powerful mouth, or maybe even all three.  Sometimes he isn’t satisfied with just being made in the image of God—he would much rather be God!  

There are so many different kinds of iris--doesn't that tell us

Sunday, May 19, 2019


When I use the word “downsizing,” I am not referring to the 2017 movie by that name.  Downsizing for me and for thousands of other older folk means reducing (unloading) my “stuff.”  Some people have so much stuff that they have to buy a big house to hold it all.  Some people can’t find a big enough house to hold all their stuff and have to rent a storage unit or two or maybe a garage to house their collection of Porsches or whatever. 

Downsizing is a “thing’ only the affluent can consider—those of us who have lots of stuff!   My grandparents would have been unable to grasp the concept of downsizing.  They struggled all their lives toward “upsizing” and never quite made it. Millions of people cannot grasp the concept.  How can you downsize when you don’t have anything? 

One-half of the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—live on less than $2.50 a day.  One-third of the entire world’s urban population is living in a slum. There is no way they can grasp this downsizing business.  They have nothing—and thus, have nothing to get rid of!  The U.S. Census of 2011 reported 46.2 million Americans were impoverished—about 15% of our population.  

Only the affluent talk about downsizing.  What irks my soul is that we do it without the slightest  thought about the many who cannot begin to grasp the concept of downsizing.  “Oh,” we say, “how God has blessed us!”  Or we say, “I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”  Or worse, “I deserve what I have.” By such statements we imply that the impoverished aren’t blessed, do not work hard, and are undeserving!  Affluence produces an attitude as well as bounty (so much bounty that we have to downsize).

“I want to live more simply," we, the affluent say, “and so I’m in the process of downsizing—we’re selling our big house and buying something much smaller.”

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Count the Cost

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “The Cost of Discipleship” to help Christians understand that if they take discipleship seriously, they will always be in trouble and paying a cost.  Many have echoed that warning through the centuries.  Simone Weil wrote, “If we want a love that will protect the soul from wounds, we must love something other than God.”  William Russell Maltby insisted that Jesus promised those who would follow Him only three things:  that they would be “absurdly happy, entirely fearless, and always in trouble.”

There is a “cost to be paid” for any stand (position) one takes, no matter what that position may be:  religious, moral, or political.  My youngest son got riled up years ago (and I didn’t blame him a bit) when right-wing Christians wanted certain books banned from the public schools.  He wanted to resist and to respond by writing an editorial letter to the local newspaper.  I warned him that doing so would create feedback and that feedback (cost) might be very difficult to handle.  He wrote his letter and received a barrage of negative responses—and a few positive, but he handled it well.  There is always a cost in taking a stand.  A “stand” includes just standing by watching and doing nothing—even that kind of  stand carries an extremely heavy cost.

There was a cost paid that day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Congressman John Lewis, and others attempted to walk across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama.  The cost of the venture nearly cost John Lewis his life! 

Do you remember the little restaurant (The Red Hen) that refused to serve Sara Sanders? Some argued that such an action was totally unjust (even if done in protest). Yet some of the same folk protesting that happening think it is perfectly okay to refuse service to persons of certain lifestyles,  or as a pharmacist to refuse to sell birth control pills because of one’s religious belief.  All of these are “stands” and every stand is costly.

America is all about being free to take your “stand.”  That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to cost you “a pretty penny” for doing so.  In fact, the cost is more costly now, given the hate and division of our times. The owners of The Red Hen received this note after the incident:  
‘‘Hello Intolerant, intellectually-challenged, psychotic, socialists! Your so-called business is in jeopardy. Rest assured this is not a threat but simply a warning that predicts your downfall. ... When your treasonist hypocrite lowlife Obama took our nation into despair (for 8 yrs) we didn’t do or say the things you do. Get over it, before it’s too late! BTW, there are a lot more of us than there are of you (italics added).’’

The Peonies Awaken

Friday, May 17, 2019

Living in Our Own “Far Country”

Yesterday morning I wrote about an Air Force chaplain friend of many years ago and of my inner urge over the last several days to locate him. I’m happy to report a fruitful search.  My 86-year-old chaplain friend has been found.  Last night we communicated via LinkedIn and Email—and this morning we will talk by phone.  

In 2009, I experienced a similar urge to locate another “lost” friend.  We lost our connection in 1964.  He, too, was found after a long search that stretched from Minnesota, to North Dakota, and finally to Florida. We now communicate with one another almost every day via Email and we have visited several times over the last ten years.

We are all prodigal sons, daughters, and friends (as in the story of the Prodigal Son,  who left home for a far country—Luke 15).  We wander off to our own “far countries” and become engaged in our own work, family, and new friends.  We never forget those we knew in our earlier days (back home, or in another place, another time), but we lose our connection with them.  This separation occurs in every person’s journey and is as natural as growing old.

We lose so many friends through the years and most of these are lost forever, because they no longer fit into our “far countries,” and we do not fit in theirs.  Thomas Wolfe said,  “You Can’t Go Home Again,” and that, I think,  is reality.  

I may live in my own “far country,” but sometimes it is meaningful to reconnect,  to touch base with someone from another time, another place, knowing that they will be living in their “far country” just as I am living in mine.  What we can share is the “far country” we once knew together.  Sometimes that can be a very pleasant and meaningful experience.

The choir of iris are singing...

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Now Is The Time

Many years ago I heard a sermon delivered by an Air Force chaplain based on Mark 14:3-9, the story of the woman who came to Jesus in Bethany with a “very costly perfume” and poured the oil over his head.  Jesus’ disciples complained about the waste, but Jesus said, “Let her alone.  Why must you make trouble for her?  It is a fine thing she has done for me.  You have the poor among you always, and you can help them whenever you like; but you will not always have me.”

Some people use the story to suggest that the “poor” will always be among us and we’ll never solve that social problem, thus missing the point Jesus was attempting to make:  “you will not always have me.”

We will not always have our grandparents, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our friends with us.  At this stage of the journey I know this is a fact of life.  Our family, our friends, our neighbors are with us but for a little while.  

The chaplain who delivered that sermon (one of the few sermons I remember, including my own) would be 86 years old now.  Is he still living, I wonder?   I met up with him years ago (early 1980’s) in Tucson, AZ.  I remember walking together for hours one evening reminiscing about our time together in the early 1960’s.  Later, at the outbreak of “Desert Storm,” I received a call from him (out of the blue).  I have not heard from him since and he has not heard from me.  Where is he?  I hope to find out and give him a call, because a poem he used in his sermon is still speaking to me.  Years ago, a friend, copied the poem in calligraphy and framed it for me.  It has had a place in every one of my cubicles (study, office) since, so I see it everyday.  Is it too late?

Here are the struggles and striving;
Here are the cares and the tears;
Now is the time to be smoothing 
The frowns and furrows and fears.
What to closed ears are kind sayings
What to hushed heart, is deep vow?
Naught can avail after parting,
So give them the flowers now.

And yet another iris blooms...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Out of Solitude

These mornings alone in my little cubicle are precious moments—quality time.  I don’t think it makes me antisocial, for I feel closer to others at this time than I often do when in their company.  I don’t think it causes me to reject the rest of the world.  In fact, in these moments, there is not a place in the world where I am not.  In this time alone I do not experience life epiphanies or discover some form of truth or reality no other brain has ever managed to encounter.  “In solitude,” wrote Virginia Woolf, “we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.”

Four years ago, I wrote in my journal:  “I am grateful that in this season of my life I am able to spend some time in solitude….There are so many things I want to do still, so many places I want to go, so many questions yet to answer, so many problems yet to solve, so many dreams yet to dream.  I will not give in to melancholy or despair in this season of my life.  I think about the past…thinking how I might have done things differently, knowing in some cases I should have.  But I also think of the here and now—and the tomorrows yet to come.  To ‘ponder’ the journey—the past, the yesterdays, to live as fully as I can today, and to dream of the tomorrows to come, is to push away the mist of age and live.”  

Erich Fromm, however, suggested that in solitude something even more exciting than  thoughts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow may happen.  He wrote: “Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world.  Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before.  Let your soul take you where you long to be….Close your eyes.  Let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”

Carl Jung had it right when he wrote, “Your visions will become clear only when you look into your own heart.  Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”  What more could one ask for in this season of life than to “live as you’ve never lived before.”  It is a gift out of solitude.

Another iris blooms....

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Abundant Living

Some people see all the gospel in Isaiah’s cry:  “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.”  But is that really what the gospel is about, “to comfort the distressed”?  If that is what the gospel is all about it never undertakes that role very regularly, at least it hasn’t in my journey.  The gospel seems to be equally concerned about and even more focused on “distressing the comfortable.”  

It is interesting to me that Jesus never seemed concerned about the way out.  To him it seems it was the way through that mattered.  In this sense he was unlike us.  Our big issues are the problems of living, but with Jesus, it was always the problem of life.  It was and is LIFE (the challenge, the bewilderment, the anxiety of it all) that the gospel addresses, and the gospel addresses it by increasing it. 

Sigmund Freud called religion an “irrational delusion;” man’s assumption that he is somehow invulnerable, immortal, and backed up by being saved for heaven by the Almighty.  But I must ask:  Where in the Bible is that?  For when I read the Bible I see nothing like that at all.  What I see is vulnerable, mortal, and distressed human beings backed up in a corner, always facing impossible odds, always attempting to be more fully human than they are, always distressed with the problem of life—but never wanting to find a way out of LIFE—but rather always attempting to find a meaningful way through LIFE.  It is called “abundant living.”  This “living” is always more stressful than it is comfortable.

Iris bloom, #5...

Monday, May 13, 2019

Our Common Vocation

What is our vocation?  The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “voco,” and means “call”.  What is my call?  What is your call?  Are we called?  Is there a Voice in the midst of all the myriad and incessant voices in this world that calls us by name and bids us to become all we are meant to be?  Is there a seed within each of us that seeks to make us more fully human?  Is there an “image of God” in each of us that yearns to be liberated?  Is there, as the Society of Friends suggest, an inner light that seeks to “light up” that within us which enables us to act more humanly in the world?  What are we essentially?  What does it mean to be more fully human?

The vocation of every man, woman and child is to enhance human life—not just one’s own humanity, but that of all others, no matter what religion we may profess.  It is a matter of living up to our own potential, our own humanness, which from the Christian perspective is modeled in Jesus of Nazareth.  For the Jewish person it may be modeled by an Isaiah, Moses, or a Jeremiah—as the “image of God” that abides within.  The Christian sees  Jesus as the “image of God” within, the “Light Within,” the “Seed,” the “Good Shepherd.”  Whatever the case, we are called to let that “Jesus in us” or that “image of God” in us (Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah) be liberated, thus becoming who we are meant to be (a more fully human person).

Any system, government, law, community, or behavior, therefore, that attempts to assault, captivate, enslave,  or  dominate human beings , requires us to protest, oppose and resist.  Any institution, even Church and government, any leader, or organization, therefore, that seeks to override, attack, or attempts to rid people of their rational thought or to corrupt their moral comprehension, or aims at getting them to abandon their conscience, is to be resisted at all cost.  For it is our rational thought, it is our moral comprehension, it is our conscience, that distinguishes us as human beings from all other creatures.  We are called to this—it is our vocation—to be more fully human.

The fourth Iris bloom...

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A "Motherless" Day

We are “motherless” now, my wife and me 
There is no way to express such loss to thee
Unless you, too, are  “motherless” like we.

No poem, no thought, no song, can begin to tell
This “motherless” life we now know so well
The emptiness it creates--nothing can dispel.

Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen’s poem tries….
“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore…”

Whittier seems to see something of what it means…
“A picture memory brings to me;
I look across the years and see
Myself beside my mother’s knee.
I feel her gentle hand restrain
My selfish moods, and know again
A child’s blind sense of wrong and pain.
But wiser now, a man gray grown,
My childhood’s needs are better known.
My mother’s chastening love I own.”

Even Kipling, in “Mother o’ Mine” is in touch with the “motherless”…
“If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

What do the “motherless” do on this day?
We remember and honor our mothers, and say,

Celebrate, honor, and love your mothers, too,  while it is day.