Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Recently our eldest son and his wife returned from a trip across the pond to England.  They visited with “our Katie” (granddaughter) while in England, and reunited with other friends.  They toured York, London,  and many other wonderful places, some of which we have seen and visited and some which we have not.  We enjoyed hearing all about their experiences when they were with us a few days ago.  (Paul and his wife also visited China a few years ago).

Our youngest son and his family are currently visiting in Australia—having survived that grueling 17-hour flight from Dallas, TX to Sidney.  They are having a grand adventure—an adventure we are enjoying vicariously as we follow them via Facebook posts. I always hoped to visit “down under.” That land of kangaroos, wombats, and platypuses has always fascinated me.  But I need not go now.  For it is even more exciting than actually being there myself to have my son and grandchildren experience it!  (Luke studied in London during college days and has traveled in Europe and Asia).

In another week or so, our daughter will take off across the pond for England where she will visit her daughter (our Katie). She will also travel to France to do some sightseeing there.  (Rachel has traveled previously to Spain and Scotland).

We had planned to join my two brothers, and one of my sisters (and their spouses) for a riverboat journey from the Swiss Alps to Paris in October.  Due to unfortunate circumstances, Cher and I have had to cancel.  But we will enjoy following this adventure on Facebook and living it vicariously.  One brother and his spouse have not been to Europe—but my other brother and sister (and their spouses) have traveled extensively and will show them the way.

I’m grateful that my siblings and my children are “Globe-trotting!” And I hope they continue to trot around this great wonderful world, meeting the people and seeing the sights. A world perspective is essential these days.  Our world is a world of geographical oneness, we are a global village, and we must strive to make it a spiritual world as well.  This is part of the American Dream described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1961:  “We must all learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will all perish together as fools.  We must come to see that no individual can live alone; no nation can live alone.  We must all live together; we must all be concerned about each other.”  Globe-trotting, when done with the right perspective, helps us see this reality.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Sacred Journey

Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote of Frederick Buechner’s book:  “For me THE SACRED JOURNEY was not just the interesting story of the maturation of a very talented artist, but also the awesome story of God in the life of an attentive human being.”  The latter part of that statement has stuck with me for years since first reading it:  the “story of God in the life of an attentive human being.”  Religious people talk a great deal about the “story of God” in the Bible as the final word, and thus often fail to see or hear the “awesome story of God” being told in new ways in the lives of other human beings and in the life of this world in which we live.

It is a grave mistake to claim that the “awesome story of God” has been fully revealed in the life of only one man (Jesus) two thousand years ago (end of story), or that the “story of God” was brought to a stop or a conclusion with the Book of Revelation—now bound up in  the binders of a  book.  The story of God will never end for it is continually being revealed in your life and mine—and in the history of our world.  No one man or woman, be it Moses, Isaiah, Deborah, Ruth, Jeremiah, or Jesus; no one book whether it be the Bible, or Pilgrim’s Progress, or The Imitation of Christ, can tell the full story—it is still being written, still being told, still unfolding, and always NEW.  We sing “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, write on my heart every word, tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard,” and miss “the awesome story of God” (perhaps just as precious and just as sweet)  being told and revealed within the journeys of our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, and friends.

George Fox (founder of the Society of Friends) wrote:  "“You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say?”  The Bible says this, and Moses says that, and the Apostle Paul says—but what do you say?  What’s your story, what’s the “story of God” being revealed to you in your journey.  Rufus Jones said that there really isn’t any Gospel until we write our own—the story of God in our life—who wanders along with us on this sacred journey.  We can’t hear these stories (even the story of God in our own journey) if we’ve closed the book on the possibility.

Monday, July 29, 2019

See It Through

When life tumbles in (as it does on all of us) we have to make new choices and set new goals—we can no longer go on the way we have before.  When life tumbles in we have only two choices really:  ignore it (give up, pretend it isn’t real) or “see it through” as the poet Edgar Guest suggested:

When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer, 
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don’t let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you’re beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fail still fighting;
Don’t give up, whate’er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish,
See it through!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Ticked Off! Really Ticked Off! (Part II)

Another thing I’m ticked off about—really ticked off about—is the autocratic role Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has chosen to take in regard to Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.  When told by the Obama Administration and US Intelligence agencies that Russia was engaged in an all-out attempt to tamper with the presidential election, he refused to support a bipartisan American response to the foreign attack.  That response was never made in a formal manner because Mitch McConnell didn’t want it to.  He continues to ignore reality,  refusing to bring to the floor of the Senate several bipartisan bills to prevent Russian interference in the 2020 election cycle.

The election interference in 2016 was real.  It is a fact.  It has been confirmed over and over again.  It was not a hoax, nor was the Mueller investigation into the matter a “witch hunt,” in spite of Donald Trump’s continual rants and all the various conspiracy theories being touted about. 

While I’m at it, I might as well mention a few other things that tick me off.  Today the White House is on a campaign to spin the tale that Trump’s tweets concerning Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore are not racist.  That ticks me off, because they are aiding and abetting a demagogue, and I believe they know it!

Another thing that ticks me off is the silence of the Christian Church in any and all of its various expressions.  For some who claim the label, Trump is being hailed as the reincarnated Cyrus of Old Testament times who set the Israelites free from their Babylonian captivity.  They seem to prefer a Cyrus over a Jesus!  They are silent about the blatant lies and the treatment of persons by their “chosen Cyrus.”  Their former “Lord’s House: has become “Trump’s House.” And there are others who claim the name Christian, who say “Jesus died for all” but they remain silent while people are denigrated and belittled by the leader of this country.  That ticks me off! To be silent is to be complicit.  Others who bear the name Christian are big on idolizing the flag and patriotism, making the “Lord’s House” an “American Lord’s House”—as a friend wrote this week:  “Worshiping the flag at the expense of the Bill of Rights is not patriotic. That’s like worshiping the cross while ignoring Jesus.” I guess this is my “ticked off” day—I mean, I’m really ticked off!

There are a lot of wormy apples just now.

Ticked Off! Really Ticked Off!

A week ago I spent several days in Baltimore, Maryland during an almost unbearable and sweltering heat wave.  I was visiting my wife, who was a patient at the University of Maryland hospital—one of many excellent medical facilities available in the city.  I saw the “homeless,” the “addicts,” and the “locals” struggling to survive the heat and trying to make a life in their worn-out neighborhoods.  My heart went out to them because there is no way on earth, in heaven, or hell that they (by themselves) have a chance to escape from the bondage into which, by no choice of their own, they were born.  Oh, you can lift up a few examples of those who have “made it,” and been freed of it,  but that number is very small. These inner city residents are a diverse group, but mostly black and brown people.   I’ve seen this same scene in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York City and every U.S. city I’ve ever visited.  This hellish situation has been around for decades—and for 55 years I have been engaged in ministries and missions that have attempted to remedy it.  But it will take much more than these to make a difference.

BUT, I get ticked off, really ticked off, when the President of the United States tweets that this particular city, Baltimore, is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess…FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than the US-Mexico border. I get ticked off when that president says that a part of Baltimore (meaning the  7th Congressional district served by Rep. Elijah Cummings) “is considered the Worst in the USA” and “no human being would want to live there.”  There is an element of truth in the phrase, “no human being would want to live there”—but the whole truth is, Mr. Trump, that there are human beings living there!  And not by choice, but by the very racist attitudes, Mr. Trump, that you have expressed and that have pervaded our society for two and a half centuries. I am really ticked off! 

Not many Americans (black, brown, red, or white) are born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  Not many of us have been handed a couple million dollars by our fathers.  Not many Americans live in a “Tower,” or own our own private golf courses and a jet, too. Not many Americans are a part of that 1% (which in my opinion is a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" as much as any US city) who haven’t the slightest idea how most Americans live and work. 

Baltimore has many issues and problems like every other city in this country.  Those issues and problems need to be addressed and solved and you don’t do that by saying “no human being would want to live there” when in fact, there are human beings living there.  It is, as Baltimore Mayor  Bernard C. Jack Young wrote:  “completely unacceptable for the political leader of our country to denigrate a vibrant American City like Baltimore,” but it is even more unacceptable to denigrate the human beings who live in that city, or human beings anywhere, for that matter.  

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Everything's Going My Way"

Mr. Trump and his supporters must be singing “Everything's Going My Way” this week.  That seems to be the only way anything and everything can go these days—Mr. Trump’s way.  “"Stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.”

The Supreme Court voted in favor of allowing Trump to proceed (to some degree) with his “Wall” using money from the Pentagon budget (as per his State of Emergency several months ago).  All the Republican-appointed judges voted in favor; all the Democratic-appointed judges dissented with the exception of one.

On Wednesday, following Mr. Mueller’s testimony before the congressional committees Trump had this to say:  "It was a very big day for our country, it was a very big day for the Republican Party and you could say it was a great day for me.:  Yep, everything seems to be going Mr. Trump’s way, with a few exceptions.

One of those exceptions was the Fox News poll which showed him losing in 2020 by 10 points to Joe Biden.  Trump’s “Proud Warriors” at Fox were immediately chastised:  “@FoxNews is at it again. So different from what they used to be during the 2016 Primaries, & before - Proud Warriors! Now new Fox Polls, which have always been terrible to me (they had me losing BIG to Crooked Hillary), have me down to Sleepy Joe.”  You can stop watching Fox News now—they, too, represent fake news!

Another exception was Mueller’s clear confirmation of Russian interference in the 2016 election—and I might add the conclusion of every U.S. Intelligence Agency in 2016—which every agency continues to affirm to this day.   Since that kind of conclusion does not jive with Mr. Trump’s delusional way—he continues to say:  "This was a fake witch hunt and it should never be allowed to happen to another president again. This was treason. This was high crimes. This was everything -- as bad a definition as you want to come up with.” And he continues to claim, in spite all known evidence that the investigation was not only treasonous, but also an attempted coup:  “This was an illegal takeover,” he said, “…this was a coup attempt, in my opinion. And this is the United States.”

Yes, Mr. Trump, “this is the United States.” It is a democracy where “my” way and “your way,” is not The Way!  But, I suppose if we take your advice and we don’t believe what we see and ignore what we see and what we’re reading (because it is not really what is happening) and "stick with" you, everything will continue to go your way—even though delusional! 

Friday, July 26, 2019

"That's Life!"

One of my Facebook friends recently wrote about his “hatred” of GLAD Cling Plastic Wrap—and the frustration it creates for him:  “Every time I have to get that bloody box of clear torture out of the pantry, I can feel my blood pressure begin a somewhat rapid ascent. I do not have a clue how people use this. I grab an edge and pull it out to what I am assuming is the proper length at which point I attempt to use the serrated edge of the box to rip it cleanly from the roll. I can assure you, it does not rip cleanly. It does rip unevenly and then proceeds to bunch up upon itself so that when I have that piece I had so accurately determined to be the right length, it has now shriveled up into itself to an eighth of its correct dimension. Now I have to try to pull at a multitude of corners to try to unseal it from itself. Of course the slightest bit of air will then push one of those corners I have freed back into the full sheet and it is stuck together again. Finally I may have a semblance of a sheet somewhat unraveled, but there is most assuredly not enough now to cover what I had originally intended to cover….”

I immediately thought of Frank Sinatra’s ditty, “That’s Life!”  Life is one big roll of GLAD Cling Plastic Wrap that seldom comes off the roll the way we would want or prefer.  It gets all shriveled up sometimes, and never “rips cleanly” and often “unravels”  and “clings” in ways over which we have no control. When “Life Tumbles In” (a phrase borrowed years ago from a sermon by John Arthur Gossip) life "feels and sometimes looks like that entangled GLAD Cling Wrap my friend gets so frustrated about.  

It is written, “When you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18).  Having reached some maturity I’m beginning to understand and to grasp what this passage might mean. Doctors, dentists, etc., when asked “why?” such and such is going on with body parts or teeth will simply say “age!” There are more days, months and years behind us than there are ahead of us.  That which we were once able to do we can no longer do as Life Tumbles In.

Life Tumbles In unexpectedly and it is no respecter of age—it tumbles in no matter how old we are. Our GLAD Cling Plastic Wrap isn’t coming out the way we wanted or expected.  But “That’s Life!”  It isn’t what happens to us that matters really—it is, rather, how we handle what happens to us that counts.  We do not know what the future holds, but it is very helpful to know Who holds it and Who it is Who will gird us and carry us  even to those places where we do not wish to go.  I trust that “Who” will not be frustrated and knows how to handle a roll of GLAD Cling Plastic Wrap.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I Wish I Were A Poet

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.  (An African-American, Hughes’ refrain throughout was…)(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America for me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

This Is Really Scary, Folks!

A Commission on Unalienable Rights?  Yes, that’s right.  Earlier this month Trump’s Secretary of State launched such a commission.  The proposed purpose is to “provide fresh thinking” about returning the government’s focus to promoting “natural law and natural rights.”  Beware!  This is a very serious happening.  It is a threat to human rights—everybody’s rights—everywhere, including you.

Secretary of State Pompeo said “that people in the United States take rights for granted.”….The aim of the commission, he said, is to go back to the grounding, how our Founding Fathers thought about this (human rights).  This is ridiculous.  Our Founding Fathers lived in another time when slavery was the accepted norm—we live in a different time, a time we’ve grown into after years of struggle.  Whenever the government, any government, begins to determine what “natural law and natural rights” are, they are treading on your liberties.  They are treading on dangerous, extremely dangerous, ground.

Pay attention, America.  If only 75% have read the Mueller report—I suspect that very few citizens are aware of this new ploy.  This is really scary, folks!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Bruised Heart

E. Herman in her little book, The Touch of God, reminds me that we only know light because of darkness.  Without the darkness we would not really know what light is.  Night brings the dawn. I know that sounds corny, but isn’t it true?  It is often in the darkest times of human experience that we discover the secrets of truth (of love and light).  

In the darkest periods of history light has come and it was the very darkness that called it forth.  It was the frustration and the suffering felt by the American colonies that prompted the bright light that burned the noble words upon the parchment called the Declaration of Independence.  It was the darkness of brother pitted against brother, Cain against Abel, the terrible, violent darkness of  fratricide, that freed this nation of the plague of slavery.   It was through the darkness of segregation that light came in the form of the Civil Rights movement.  Yes, without darkness we might never know the light.  Without strife, suffering, anguish, and pain (the  darkness)  there could be no dawning of new awareness or new truth.

The present time in our American life looks and feels dark to me, but I am convinced that out of  the darkness the light will break forth.  It is often through the dark times that we receive the gifts of wisdom and insight.  I really believe that we, as Americans, will bridge the gap that presently divides us, that we will discover in the present turmoil that our long-held value of every person, created and endowed with certain unalienable rights will break through—not just for some—but for all.  When I sing the National Anthem (a song born out of darkness) I see that “star-bangled banner” not as a flag, but as “light”—the ideal, a dream, a vision of what we can be as a nation and what we proclaim to be as a people.

The light breaks forth from the darkness that often pervades our personal lives, too. “Suffering is not a mystery,” wrote a person who suffered deeply, “it is a revelation!  It seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering (darkness) that there is in the world.” (You may have to think long and hard over that statement as I have done and still do).  E. Herman says, “There are songs that can only be learnt in the night of weeping. There is a grace that can only be born of sore travail.”  

Those who have glimpses of the light breaking through the darkness (whether in our society, nation, or our personal lives) “march to a music which only bruised hearts can hear.”  Is your heart bruised by the darkness?  Mine is!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Beware of Shackling Yourself

To be critical and/or to complain about the government (local, state, or federal) has never been unAmerican.   It is as American as “apple pie.”  Our nation was born out of such criticism and complaint!

To be critical of Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic.  Where in the world did that notion come from?  How is being critical of another government or nation unAmerican?  No one seems to mind when we are critical of Iran?

Being critical of a president is not unpatriotic nor treasonous.  Whenever a president says it is so, we are in deep trouble.

Socialism is not a bad word.  “Social” Security is a form of socialism, so is Medicare. You may argue that you contribute to these “social” benefits.  Well, we all contribute through state and federal taxes to provide all other kinds of  other forms of socialism, from our armed forces to our public schools. “Democratic Socialism is taxpayer funds being used collectively to benefit society as a whole, despite income, contribution, or ability.”  Is there anything wrong with that?  (In fact, for those who say they adhere to the teachings of the Bible, you might note that socialism was the accepted governance of the early church:  “All whose faith had drawn them together held everything in common:  they would sell their property and possessions and make a general distribution as the need of each required” (Acts 2:44).

Being Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Christian (even those with no faith) in a democracy means that each and every person of these faith groups are created equal with certain “unalienable rights.”  To say one is more important or should be treated differently undermines the Declaration of Independence.  

Whenever any of these rights and freedoms are denied to some, or to anyone, we are all threatened.   Be careful what you buy into—you may be putting shackles on your own rights and freedoms as a citizen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

It Irks My Soul!

Donald Trump’s tweets on Sunday represent a malfeasance of office.  His news conference yesterday only confirmed this wrongdoing. He failed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States by railing against four Congresswomen and implying that they were not Americans.  They are natural-born citizens, just as Obama is, but truth-telling is not Donald Trump’s forte. These Congresswomen, representatives of the people of their districts, are accorded by the Constitution, as all of us are, the right to speak their grievances.  They have a right to find fault, criticize, complain, and petition their government, just as Trump did (and still does) during his presidential campaign.   They have a right to complain and to say what they don’t like about America and Donald Trump has no right, and in fact, is misusing and abusing his office, when he says they should leave the country.  Every person of color and every person with a foreign accent knows the “put down” in the words:  “Go Back Where You Came From.”

Trump has made unfounded and unsubstantiated claims about these women.  They “hate Israel,” they are “Socialists,” they “hate America,” they love “Al-Qaeda.” These accusations have no basis in reality and yet Sen. Lindsey Graham repeated those unfounded claims on Fox News, becoming the new Joe McCarthy of our time, calling the so-called Squad a “bunch of communists” who are “anti-Semitic” and hate the United States.  “They stand,” Graham said, “for all the things that most Americans disagree with.”  Who is Trump, who is Graham, to say what “most Americans disagree with?”  It was only three years ago that Graham said in a CNN interview:  “Trump is a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot.”  Two years ago, Graham said, he thought Trump “a kook.” “I think he’s crazy.  I think he’s unfit for office.”  

America has been polarized before—aiding  and abetting that polarization was the use of this very same slogan “America Love It or Leave It.”  It was a common bumper sticker in the 1960’s and 70’s.  The country was divided then over the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement.  Merle Haggard topped the country music charts with “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” which had this line:  “America, if you don’t love it, leave it.”  It was a time of protest and it was a time of great “government/establishment” resistance.  It was a time of deep division.

Who decides who loves America and who does not?  Who determines what “most Americans disagree with?”  Who decides who can complain and criticize government and who cannot?  Not Donald Trump!  Not Lindsey Graham!  Not wishy-washy Democrats or cowardly, silent and complicit Republicans!  The Constitution precludes such judgment—allowing every person to agree, disagree, argue, petition, and criticize within the law.  To tell somebody to leave because they think differently is a violation of our rule of law—The Constitution of the United States.

There is not one way or the highway! There are many openings
to a brave, new and radiant world.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Sunday Tweets Undermine the US Constitution

How many times in the last two years have I heard this comment or something similar spoken about the person who sits in the most powerful seat in the world:  “If anybody else had said it (done it, tweeted it, wrote it)…they would be fired…or forced to resign!”  If anybody else, politician, even former president, school teacher, governor, actor or athlete, tweeted the following tweet yesterday morning, they would be out of a job this morning!  

“Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.  Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they come.  Then come back and show us how……it is done.  These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.  I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

The “tweeter”, Donald J. Trump, fails to name the “Progressive Democrat Congresswomen,” but everybody knows who they are.  He implies, falsely, that they are not natural-born American citizens—the same thing he implied about his predecessor, President Barack Obama.  His tweets of Sunday morning were met with condemnation.  Congressional Democrats and presidential candidates declared “the rhetoric racist, xenophobic  and bigoted.”  But there was no immediate sound or fury, no rebuke, no condemnation from any Republican, other than Rep. Justin Amash (who left the Republican Party a few weeks ago) who denounced Trump’s comments as “racist and disgusting.”

Trump continued his twitter attack on Sunday evening:  So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion.  Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, ‘RACIST.’  Their disgusting language….and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged….

If anybody else [Republican or Democrat] said or wrote these things they would be out of a job this morning.  Donald Trump should be out his job this morning—but since we can’t fire him just yet—he ought to resign.  He failed yesterday to be faithful to his oath to support and  defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

We don't need a wall by which we keep people out...
We need a wall on which we can weep...
A Wailing Wall!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Deification of the State

A biblical person, writes William Stringfellow, must always be wary of claims which the State (nation, government) makes for allegiance, obedience, and service under the rubric of patriotism.  Such demands are often put in noble, or benign or innocuous terms.  Stringfellow suggests that in any country where the “rhetoric and rituals of conformity and obedience to a regime or ruler” are demanded, we are in danger of deifying the State, that is, subverting, overturning, undermining and invalidating the First commandment of the Ten:  “You shall have no other god before me,” or as rendered in the New Testament, “Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment (and the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself”).  

Patriotism is not “my country, right or wrong.”  Patriotism is not an allegiance to a flag, or a national anthem, nor is it the acceptance of whatever is handed down as being patriotic. Patriotism is not a Republican Party thing—just as it is not a Democratic Party thing—it is bigger than either—and bigger than both combined. Patriotism is much bigger than that—unless we decide to belittle its meaning by making it mean my party only, my country only and my kind of people only (above all other countries and people)  are my god!  “Thou shall not make a carved image for yourself nor the likeness of anything in the heavens above,  or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”  I love my country, I honor the flag, but these are not my god.  A biblical person must always be wary so as not to be sucked in by the faux patriotism running rampant in America today.  One wonders, given some of the rhetoric of alleged Christians, whether the Lord’s House has become the Trump House!

Howard Zinn reminds us “that the words of the Declaration [of Independence] apply not only to people in this country, but also to people all over the world.  People everywhere have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  When the government becomes destructive of that, then it is patriotic to dissent and to criticize—to do what we always praise and call heroic when we look upon the dissenters and critics in totalitarian countries who dare to speak out.”

Our flag, our anthem, our country, are not the only things to which we owe our allegiance.  We owe our allegiance to justice and to all humanity.  James Bryce writes, “Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.”

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Who You Gonna’ Believe?

Who are you gonna’ believe?  It is a very important question.  VP Pence visited the US-Mexico border yesterday to view the conditions facing migrant adults and children being detained there.  He was joined by a group of reporters, Senate Republicans and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.  VP Pence’s office (according to CNN) invited Senate Democrats to join him on his visit, but none were in attendance.  Democrats will visit detention facilities today.

After the visit, Mr. Pence said, “CNN is so dishonest.” (This opinion was based on how Mr. Pence viewed CNN’s coverage of his visit—which he said focused on the overcrowded facility for adult men—with little attention being given to his talking with some of the children and mothers, asking them if they were well cared for—and they all nodded yes).   “Today we took reporters to a detention facility on the border for families and children and all told us they were being treated well…We also visited an overcrowded facility for adult men, many of whom have been arrested multiple times.” (No evidence was  provided for Pence’s  assertion: “many of whom have been arrested multiple times.”)

Pence continued:  “Rather than broadcast the full story, showing the compassionate care the American people are providing to vulnerable families, tonight CNN only played video of men in the temporary facility and didn’t play any footage of the family facility at all…ignoring the excellent care being provided to families and children.  Our great CBP agents deserve better and the American people deserve the whole story from CNN!”

What is the “whole story?”  Several weeks ago unannounced inspections of Border Patrol facilities were made (by DHS inspector general)  which found many violations of detention policy.  Since then there have been numerous reports concerning the squalid conditions in these facilities, prompting a $4.6 billion allocation from Congress to remedy those conditions.  Mr. Pence and his entourage told quite a different story.  Who you gonna’ believe?  

One Representative of the people says “they were told to drink out of a toilet bowl.”  Another Representative of the people says, “They’re not drinking out of toilets.”  Who you gonna’ believe?  On what “evidence?”

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Larger and More Radiant World

Yesterday—fifty-nine years ago—the world I had known for the first 17 years of my life exploded.  It was blasted to smithereens, thanks to the experiences and travel opportunities that opened for me through the United States Air Force.  Within just a few months I discovered that all of life is interrelated.  That the world is of one piece.  That people are people everywhere even though living in different lands, cultures, and religious expressions. I learned that the God I had known and experienced in the small world of my youth was not my possession, nor was that God limited to a particular country, creed, people or geography.  It blew my mind!  It shattered the world I had known and it has impacted every “next step” I have taken since.

Would this new world have dawned upon me if I had stayed in that little world of my childhood years?  I don’t know.  Shakespeare never left England as far as we know, but this new world that dawned upon me so many years ago also opened for him. This is evident in following quote:

“I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?  If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

What was it that enabled Shakespeare to see that all of life is interrelated and that the world is of one piece?  He never left his homeland.  No records exist of his traveling abroad.  Traditionalists argue that Shakespeare could have gotten his knowledge (awareness) from foreigners living in London or from reading.  

On the other hand,  there are those who have traveled all over the world, but do not see that world as I do—that all of life is interrelated and that it is of one piece.  How they have missed it, I do not know.  At the same time, there are those who, like Shakespeare, have never traveled the world and yet know that all of life is interrelated and that this world is of one piece.  

So strange—some see and some do not.   

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Meandering Thoughts

On this day fifty-nine years ago, at the age of 17, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I took seriously the oath of enlistment that day:

“I _________, Do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.

Later, in 1969, I took a similar oath as a commissioned officer (chaplain) in the United States Air Force:

I,__________ do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.

That is partly why my spirit sags when I read about this nation’s actions against Japanese citizens some 75 years ago.  My spirit sags when I read of our treatment of Irish and Italian immigrants in the early 19th century.  My spirit sagged when I heard Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) say today (reference the photos of the father and his daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande and the conditions she witnessed personally at the migrant detention centers on the Southern border):

“When you saw the pictures of the kids at these detention facilities.  When you saw the pictures of the father, the little girl drowned in the Rio Grande.  And if you didn’t feel shame, pain. If you weren’t appalled by these pictures, then something is dead or dying in your hearts and in the heart of America.”

Do you feel any shame?  Any pain?  Are you appalled by the pictures of the dead father and his daughter and those detained children?  Has something happened to us?  Is there “something dead or dying in [our] hearts and in the heart of America?”

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea
With a glory in His bosom that  was meant to transfigure you and me. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Obliteration of Truth

According to a Pew Research Center study, Americans rate “fake news” as a larger problem than racism, climate change, or terrorism. What is this fake news?  Is it CNN or Fox News?  Mr. Trump has said that CNN (along with MSNBC and the NY Times, even the FBI and the CIA) are engaged in fake news.  Last Sunday, Trump took swipes at Fox News.  Fox News he tweeted ““is now loading up with Democrats & even using Fake unsourced @nytimes as a ‘source’ of information.”  He even suggested just last week that his own Administration was “fake news” when it announced that the citizenship question would not be included on the 2020 census based on the Supreme Court’s ruling.  

In a speech at the VFW annual convention, Trump, in the midst of his usual anti-media rants, said “Stick with us.  Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news….What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Homeland Security’s Inspector General, along with others say that the situation with migrant children at the border is a serious problem.  Mr. Trump says, “We’re doing a fantastic job, under the circumstances.”  

The obliteration of truth is happening right before our eyes and it isn’t the media doing the obliterating.  Trump is saying, has been saying, and will continue to say, that he (and his parrots) are telling the truth.  Anything you hear from anyone else who is not me, Trump seems to be saying, is not to be believed.  Don’t believe anyone else but me.  I alone have the truth. Anything you read or see, anything that doesn’t originate with me should be ignored and considered “fake news.”

Authoritarian regimes always begin by obliterating truth and they do it by discrediting the media.  Typically such governments seize control of the press so that only what “they” say is seen and heard by the people.  So, when Fox News is not “Trumpy enough for Trump” it, too, becomes fake news. 

“Hear this, foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear” the truth is being obliterated.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

"In My Father's House There Are Many Rooms"

A bit of history:  “The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.  In its original form it read: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'

In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration."

O God of every nation, of every race and land,
Redeem your whole creation with your almighty hand;
Where hate and fear divide us, and bitter threats are hurled,
In love and mercy guide us, and heal our strife-torn world.

From search for wealth and power and scorn of truth and right,
From trust in bombs that shower destruction through the night,
From pride of race and station and blindness to your way,
Deliver every nation, eternal God we pray.
(Hymn, O God of Every Nation, William W. Reid, Jr.)
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands a-far and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover-leaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies every-where as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Love be lifted up till all shall love,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;…
(Hymn:  This is My Song, Lloyd Stone & Georgia Harkness)