Saturday, November 30, 2019

Journal Excerpts

A Journal can be a daily record (a diary) of events and experiences.  It can be a way of self-examination and reflection where one works with his/her own private thoughts and feelings.     I’m not quite sure how to describe my journaling through the years.  I guess it is a little bit of both.  Here are some excerpts of thirty-plus years ago.

"Do I (do you?)  have a cause to live for?  Do I  (do you?) have a dream to inspire me?  Do I know (do you know?) a power that will carry me through all things?  If the answer is “Yes”, then we must work for that cause, follow that dream, and use that power!  This is the Christian journey: the Cause, the Dream, the  Spirit."

"Shakespeare has Prince Hal say of the unoriginal mind that forever tramps along with the crowd: “Thou art a blessed fellow to think as every man thinks…”. But what if you do not think as every man thinks?  To think differently (than the crowd) is the Christian way and it isn’t always popular.  As Goethe puts it, “The Public is a great baby, you must give it what it wants, or it will cry.”  And what does the crowd want?  It wants the status quo and the Christian Way rejects that!  The great temptation is to succumb to public opinion, to become one of the crowd."  

"I have often done what so many others do.  I have had the tendency to create a god in my own image.  To picture god in my own likeness is to make a god who is but  a shadow of myself, a god blurred and distorted by my own finite mind.   I make god small when I think of god as my god.  Jesus made his father larger than himself…"

"Jesus tells his disciples to cast their nets wide.  I must cast my net wide in terms of my reading and study.  I can’t be a man of “one book,” as John Wesley claimed to be. I must read and study all kinds of books:  biography, philosophy, history, science, so as not to lose touch with the realities of life.  I am called to love God with all my mind, as well as with my heart, soul and strength."

Thursday, November 28, 2019

I’m Not About to Get Over It

Eugene Robinson (Pulitzer Prize winning journalist) wrote on November 14, 2016: “No one should be over it (the election). No one should pretend that Trump will be a normal president. No one should forget the bigotry and racism of his campaign, the naked appeals to white grievance, the stigmatizing of Mexicans and Muslims. No one should forget the jaw-dropping ignorance he showed about government policy both foreign and domestic. No one should forget the vile misogyny. No one should forget the mendacity, the vulgarity, the ugliness, the insanity. None of this should ever be normalized in our politics.”  

“No one should be over it”! None of it should be normalized in our politics or in our society.  John Pavlovitz in September 2019 wrote about what American children are learning from this President and this Administration.  In the process, Pavlovitz is also stating what is being accepted as the new normal.  Here is his list:

“People don’t matter. Never apologize.  Diversity is dangerous.  It’s all about you.  Compassion is a flaw.  America is the world.  Women are less valuable than men.  Cheat to win.  Whiteness is better.  Your convictions are for sale.  Laws don’t apply to you.  Religion is a prop.  When in doubt, lie.”  

"Donald Trump is everything we teach our children not to be," according to my sister-in-law, and I agree.  Are you going to get over it?  Let it be?  Let it stand? Make it the norm? Are you going to let the Trump character become your child’s character?  Your character?  The American character?

“Character counts.”  That was the rallying cry of evangelicals against Bill Clinton in 1993 and throughout his presidency.  They saw Clinton as a “draft-dodging, pot-smoking, honesty-challenged womanizer,” unfit to be president on the basis of his character.  Now, two decades later they have “endorsed the draft-dodging, foul-mouthed, honesty-challenged womanizer”—Donald Trump.  I guess character doesn’t count any more.  But it does to me—and it should to you—for the sake of the children.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Give Thanks for Life!

“Be always joyful; pray continually; give thanks whatever happens…” (I Thessalonians 5:18, NEB)

I wrote part of this blog last year on the day before Thanksgiving.  Since then much has happened.  What has intruded into our lives was wholly unexpected, totally unwanted and quite devastating.  Can I give thanks today for what has already happened and will I be able to give thanks whatever happens tomorrow?

No one is immune from the ups and downs of life.  Life is not a rose garden.  Life is not just chaos.  Life is a mixture of the two.  Douglas Malloch’s (1877-1938) little poem, “Thank God for Life,” helps me remember this  truth.

Thank God for life!
There! A meadowlark sings!  
Do you hear it?
For the sigh of the heart,
The contagion of laughter,
For the longing apart,
For the joy that comes after,
For the things that we feel
when we clasp, when we kneel—
Thank God for the sharing,
The caring, the giving,
For the things of Life’s living.  

Another poet, whose name nobody knows, but whose inner spirit everybody knows, will help me give thanks today and tomorrow…. 

Thank God for life!
E’ven though it bring much bitterness and strife,
And all our fairest hopes be wrecked and lost,
E’ven though there be more ill than good in life,
We cling to life and reckon not the cost.

Thank God for life!

The Forms of Abuse

Abuse is the improper use and treatment of a thing, a person, or an office.  The abuse typically seeks to gain (unfairly and improperly) some form of benefits.  Abuse has many forms:  physical, verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression.  Abuse (in all its many forms) has no regard for the worth and value of the human person.

We are hearing a lot about the “abuse of power” these days. Abuse of power has many forms.  Malfeasance in office and official misconduct is the commission of an unlawful act while acting in an official  capacity. The impeachment hearings allege malfeasance in office and official misconduct by the 45th President of the United States.  Such abuse of power must be challenged and if proven true, punished.

If the Ukraine issue doesn’t seem to be an abuse of power to you, allow me to suggest other abuses by the 45th president. These abuses are well documented and we have all witnessed them.

I would suggest that the president is guilty of the abuse of discretion.  This is the failure to take into consideration the facts and laws in a given matter.  Mr. Trump’s recent arbitrary and unreasonable departure from the precedent and established judicial customs of the Department of Defense is an abuse of discretion.

I would suggest that he is also guilty of the abuse of authority. He has used his position and his power for illegitimate private and political gain.  He abuses his authority every time he singles out parties, groups, or persons, and ridicules them publicly.

The abuse of authority is also seen as an abuse of rank.  The president holds the highest office in the land—he holds the highest rank in our government.  The abuse of rank is treating people of a lower rank in an abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative way.  Mr. Trump does this every day, in almost every tweet, and in almost every news conference!  It is sometimes called “Ad hominem abuse” (personal abuse) in which the president insults and belittles his opponents. 

If these abuses are not enough, I would add the following: “character assassination,” “defamation,” discriminatory abuse, bullying, and manipulation abuse.  From my perspective, all of these abuses, when inflicted upon others by the president of the United States make him unfit for office and fall under the rubric of “Abuse of Power.”

Monday, November 25, 2019

What Fake News?

“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016.” (Fiona Hill)

All 17 US intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) concluded that the Russian government and military, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, meddled in the 2016 US election.  This attack was an attempt to weaken Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump.  No one knows if this attempt affected the election results of 2016. Russia’s involvement was confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Mueller investigation.

Donald J. Trump, for the last three years has dismissed, contradicted and questioned these findings, and has developed his own alternative reality about the 2016 election.  His followers have bought into it.  The narrative is that the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 election with the purpose of aiding Clinton.  Ukraine framed Russia and coordinated with Democrats to smear Trump.  The conclusions of the bureaucrats (the US Intelligence agencies, the Mueller report, etc.) are not to be trusted.

US Intelligence officials say that Russia has, in fact, promulgated the Trump story, shifting blame away from themselves to Ukraine.  Nine witnesses in the impeachment inquiry over the past several weeks have testified that any story of Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election has been fabricated by the Russians and is unsupported by evidence.  

Louisiana Senator John Kennedy was asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace yesterday if he believed Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.  He answered:  “I don’t know, nor do you, nor do any others….It could also be Ukraine.  I’m not saying that I know one way or another.”  Reminds me of Donald Trump saying, “It could have been a 400 pound couch potato.”  Representative Lee Zeldin yesterday on TV said, “I believe that the Russians interfered in the 2016 elections…It’s also true, it’s indisputable that there were Ukrainians who interfered in the 2016 election.”  Senator Roger Wicker yesterday said that Ukraine—as well as Russia—interfered in the US election and “I’m concerned about both.”

Can you believe it?  The President of the United States and his Republican colleagues repeating and validating Vladimir Putin’s fictional narrative, a narrative “perpetuated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves.”  It is like saying my favorite Bible verse is “God helps those who help themselves” when, in fact, and the truth is, that verse is not in the Bible!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

At War With Words and Labels

Is a “realist” (someone who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly) a “pessimist” (someone who has a tendency to see the worst of things or believe the worst will happen and there isn’t any way of turning things around)?  Is a “realist” (someone who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly) the opposite of an “optimist” (someone who sees an opportunity in every difficulty and situation)?  Is a realist an “idealist” (who envisions or see things in an ideal or perfect manner)?  Or is the optimist an idealist?

Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Which am I?  Am I a realist, a pessimist, an optimist or an idealist?  Which attitude or label fits you?

I am a realist.  I see and accept the fact that I am now in the so-called “Golden Years” (call it “old age” if you like).  How will I deal with the situation? Will I blithely continue to repeat with Robert Browning, “The best is yet to be,” (which smacks of pseudo optimism and idealism) or will I face old age without gullibility, and without evasion, accepting the impediments and difficulties of old age?  I have accepted it and am prepared to deal with it.

I am a pessimist.  These so-called “Golden Years” aren’t what they are chalked up to be.  I can’t do what I use to do without significant consequences.  I climbed a ladder to clean out the rain gutters the other day and have suffered aches and pains ever since.  Samuel Johnson wrote of this—“unnumber’d maladies his joints invade.”  There isn’t any way of turning the lack of energy, the dimming eyesight, or the arthritic pain into what use to be no matter how many pills I pop.

I am an idealist.  I still see things as they ought to be rather than what they are right now.  I can’t help myself.  All manner of things and life ought to be better than what now is.  Without such a vision, we perish.

I am an optimist.  I see a “full glass” much of the time even in old age.  I treasure being liberated from work and having the time to read and think without being captive to a schedule. Many worries that consumed me in those yesteryears do not plague me now.  I see opportunity even in old age—and that is a form of realistic, pessimistic, idealistic optimism.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Lack of Clarity

Clarity is the quality of being coherent and intelligible.  We’ve lost it!  Have we lost it because we aren’t interested in being coherent (being logical and consistent) anymore?  Or do we just have a hearing loss?  Mild hearing loss, something that happens to us as we grow older, is most often characterized by “sound voids”—the periodic loss of clarity when certain speech sounds are lost or scrambled.

These “sound voids” in our hearing loss affect the brain. The brain is the organ of message interpretation. When the brain tries to interpret what we hear it consumes a lot of blood sugar and other bio-chemical resources of the body.  With “sound voids” (loss of clarity in hearing) the brain has to use even more of these resources to bring some clarity to what we hear.  The effect is that it makes us tired.  We become exhausted trying to get what we hear (and the “sound voids” we don’t hear) interpreted by the brain into a coherent message.  

What speech sounds are lost or scrambled in my hearing?  What “sound voids” affect your hearing?  

Do you often hear people talking but have difficulty understanding them?  Do you struggle to hear clearly when there is a lot of background noise?  Do you have trouble following a conversation?  According to audiologists, if you answer “yes” to any of these questions you are probably experiencing “Sound Voids.”

“Sound voids” occur in the political arena even if we do not have a physical hearing loss.  Our hearing loss in the political realm is based on our particular bent.  When we hear the word “Never-Trumper” what do we hear?  For some, the name, Pelosi, creates “Sound voids.”  

Sound voids are a serious problem for those with mild hearing loss.  Sound voids are an even greater problem in the political realm because they wipe out clarity—the quality of being coherent and intelligible.  

Friday, November 15, 2019

Pondering Prayer and Also Praying

The disciples asked Jesus: “Teach us to pray.”   Jesus gave his disciples what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” a prayer we now say by rote and usually think little about in terms of its content and meaning.  It is a powerful prayer and a deeply meaningful one if we take time to ponder it.  It addresses “Our Father”—not mine or yours, or the possession of any particular group—but the God (Father) of us all.   “Give us our daily bread”—not give me…”Forgive us”—not just them. The prayer does “not heap up empty phrases” (Matthew 6:7-9) and like most of the recorded prayers of Jesus the prayer is short.  (The only exception is what is called the High Priestly prayer found in the Gospel of John).  

In 1937, John Baillie wrote A Diary of Private Prayer.  I have found it helpful in both pondering what prayer is, and learning to pray, and doing both at the same time. 

“O holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until eventide.  Inspire all my thoughts.  Pervade all my imaginations.  Suggest all my decisions.  Lodge in my will’s most inward citadel and order all my doings.  Be with me in my silence and in my speech, in my hast and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening, and give me grace at all times to rejoice in thy mysterious companionship.”

To pray is not to use God, as Meister Eckhart suggested many of us do,  as a cow whose only purpose is to give us milk, but rather to know and experience what Baillie calls that “mysterious companionship.”  

“You are hidden from my sight:  You are beyond the understanding of my mind: Your thoughts are not my thoughts: Your ways are past finding out.  Yet You have breathed Your Spirit into my life:  Yet You have formed my mind to seek You: Yet You have inclined my heart to love You: Yet You have made me restless for the rest that is in You…”

Perhaps we could say that prayer is our restless search for God’s company along our pilgrim way.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"The Circus Is Coming to Town"

Mr. Trump tweeted yesterday:  “The circus is coming to town.  The corrupt, compromised, coward & congenital liar Adam Schiff Show on Capital Hill, brought to you by his raging psychotic Democrats & the top allies in the Media Mob.  Everything you’re going to see in the next two weeks is rigged….”

Forty-six years ago on November 17, 1973, Richard Nixon at a televised press conference in Orlando, Florida said, “And I want to say this to the television audience.  I made my mistakes.  But in all my years of public life, I have never profited—never profited from public service.  I’ve earned every cent.  And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice…because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.  Well, I’m not a crook.  I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

Twenty-one years ago, January 26, 1998,  the 42nd US president, Bill Clinton, said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…” and then went on to say, “I never told anybody to lie, not a single time.  Never.  These allegations are false and I need to go back to work for the American people.”

Yes, Mr. Trump, “The circus is coming to town…” AGAIN.  Most of the time, the public relishes the coming of a circus to town, but not this kind of circus.  We could do without it.  We could have done without the previous circuses.  But the circus today, as with the previous ones, is happening because there appears to be “something going on” that requires scrutiny, in spite of all the protestations, the bashing of others, and the cries of innocence from the Oval Office.  

The People’s House is doing its job, one of its exclusive tasks, mandated by the US Constitution, which is to initiate impeachment proceedings when evidence deems such as necessary.  No matter how the hearings go, no matter what the outcome, the People’s House is doing its job, just as it did back in the Watergate days and in the impeachment proceedings of William Jefferson Clinton.  Call it a “circus” if you like, but it is an essential part of the  “oversight” responsibility of Congress and of a government for, by, and of the people.  To suggest that the People’s House and the People’s representatives are corrupt, cowardly, compromised, psychotic and congenital liars shows a contempt for the very Constitution, both houses of congress, both parties, and the president have pledged to support and defend.  That very attitude, publicly proclaimed would seem to me to be “the obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Life of Search

D. Elton Trueblood’s little book, A Life of Search, was published by Friends United Press in 1996, two years after Elton’s death.  I underlined the following paragraph when I first read the book:  “If any one thinks that he has wisdom, the one sure truth is that he does not.  The more we advance, the more clear it is that we still have a long way to go.”  I underlined that paragraph twenty-three years ago and today I underlined it again, realizing that even all these years later I “still have a long way to go.”

Life is a journey.  If you are alive you are on this journey.  It is an inward journey (who am I and Whose am I, really?) and an outward one (who am I to be, what am I to do?).  It is a journey of search.  There is no arrival point.  The journey goes on and on as a great adventure; full of mystery, mistakes, sufferings, complaints, and wonder.

Frederick Buechner in his book, The Sacred Journey, describes this life of search:  “We search for a self to be.  We search for other selves to love.  We search for work to do.  And since even when to one degree or another we find these things, we find also that there is still something crucial missing which we have not found, we search for that unfound thing too, even though we do not know its name or where it is to be found or even if it is to be found at all.”

My experience is “that unfound thing” of which Buechner writes is also searching for us, as eager to find us as we are to find this “unfound.”  Rufus Jones called it “The Double Search.”  Albert Schweitzer tried to explain it:  “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those who knew Him not.  He speaks to us the same words:  ‘Follow thou me!” and sets us to tasks which He has to fulfill in our time. He commands.  And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship [company], and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

Life has tumbled in on me in ways I never expected, just as it has tumbled in on you and every other person in this world unexpectedly.  When we say “we are not alone,” we speak truth, for every other person keeps us company.  No human being can avoid “the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings, which they shall pass through” in what Buechner calls this “sacred journey.”  It is “sacred” in the sense that our life of search is not one-sided.  The “unfound” is seeking us with all the energy and passion with which we seek it.  Life is “an ineffable mystery” through which we learn that we are sought in the same manner in which we seek.  I “still have a long way to go” in the search, but it is a remarkable thing and a comfort to sense that the Love at the Heart of Things is also seeking me.

Monday, November 11, 2019

They Also Serve

I know it is Veterans Day today.  I know there are some 18.2 million veterans in the United States.  I am one of them. I know that 99.5 percent of the American population have never served in the military and probably never will. I honor and respect all my comrades from every branch of the Armed Services today, and particularly those with whom I served throughout my 36-plus years of service both as an enlisted person and as an Air Force Chaplain.  I thank all veterans for their service.

Veteran’s Day, once called Armistice Day, originated on November 11, 1919, one year after World War I.  Congress made it an annual observance in 1926, and November 11 became a national holiday in 1938.  On Veterans Day we pay tribute as a nation to all veterans, both living and dead, who have served their country honorably in both peacetime and in war.  

I remember a time when veterans were not honored or respected. I recall a time when military personnel were encouraged not to wear the uniform when off post, ship, or base.  I’m glad things have changed in that regard—but I am also concerned that the tide may have moved too far. Why?  Because as a veteran, I am conscious of those who have also served their country and kept us free even though that service was not in the Armed Services.  They served by making my service possible.  Mr. Jeffers, Mrs. Gilman, Mr. Lee, Mr. Sim,  Professor Tideman, indeed, all my teachers and mentors, in elementary,  high school and college contributed to my mental and character development that instilled in me what was needed to serve my country.  Some of these teachers were veterans—most were not, but they served their country by preparing me for service.

I am conscious today of the politicians throughout America’s history whose lives I read and whose patriotic service inspired me to serve.  I remember Miss Beatrice Smith, my Sunday school teacher, and her almost weekly letters during all four years of my military enlisted time,  which encouraged me, helped me with the issues and problems I faced, and thus enabled me to better serve my country.  I cannot ignore the input my parents and my grandparents had on my life of military service.  Neither my parents or grandparents were ever in the military, but they prepared and supported me and my two brothers in our service to country.  They also served.  I cannot think of my military service without remembering the times my wife was left alone to carry the burden of household and family.  She also served, who stayed and waited.

No veteran stands alone or apart in terms of  service to country.  Others have also served their country without serving in the military.  So, while today we say to our veterans, “Thank you for your service,” I hope on the morrow we make every effort to say to teachers, politicians, doctors, nurses, factory workers, and to every other citizen of this great land the same: “Thank you for your service” for they also serve and secure our freedoms.

They also serve, who light the way....

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wisdom (Help) Comes From Many Sources

I’ve always been a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Emerson was a minister, a poet, an essayist and philosopher.   He visits me occasionally in these early morning hours through the written word.

Have you ever read something in a book that spoke to you and when you wanted to refer to it again have been unable to find it?  It happens to me a lot these days, and I thought I was alone in my dilemma.  What a relief to know that others, even sharp fellows like Emerson, have experienced the same frustration.  

Emerson wrote, “I suppose every old scholar has had the experience of reading something in a book which was significant to him, but which he could never find again.  Sure he is that he read it there; but no one else ever read it, nor can he find it again, though he buy the book, and ransack every page.”

Or have you ever thought a “thought” in a passing moment and then let it slip away?  Emerson writes:  “Look sharply after your thoughts.  They come unlooked for, like a new bird seen on your trees, and if you turn to your usual task, disappear; and you shall never find that perception again…”

Will Rogers visits me occasionally, too.  Unlike Emerson, Will Rogers was not an educated man—he was just an Oklahoma cowboy.  Yet, Will Rogers, just as much as Emerson, provides wisdom for the living of my days.  His quips are simple and easy to understand, if only I remember them: “Don’t squat with your spurs on.” “When you’re throwing your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.”  “Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.”

Then there is Kris Kristofferson, singer, songwriter, actor, Rhodes Scholar, and an ardent admirer of the poems of English poet William Blake.  An unlikely source of help you may say, and yet he has helped me greatly as I seek to learn how to pray: “Why me, Lord, what have I ever done/To deserve even one/Of the pleasures I’ve known/Tell me Lord, what did I ever do/That was worth love from you/Or the kindness you’ve shown/Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so/Help me Jesus I know what I am/Now that I know that I’ve needed you so/Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand/Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way/I can try to repay/All I’ve taken from you/Maybe Lord, I can show someone else/What I’ve been through myself/On my way back to you.”

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121)” and from those through whom He speaks to me and helps me, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Will Rogers, Kris Kristofferson and so many, many more.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Learning to Pray

Gilbert of Hoyland lived a long, long time ago.  He died in 1170.  He was an Abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Lincolnshire, England.  His treatises and sermons are dull and boring.  But when he prays his words have a contemporary freshness.  “Lord, teach us to pray,” the disciples asked Jesus and he gave them what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  We pray that prayer by rote these days without much thought to its content.   We have memorized it, and say it often, but have we learned how to pray through it?

I am still learning how to pray honestly, rationally, and emotionally.  Gilbert of yesteryear has been one of my teachers.  I’ve adapted his prayers for my personal use.

Come to Me
When will you manifest yourself to us in the bright sunshine?  Yes, we are slow to understand and slow to see.  But we are quick to  believe; and we believe that if you chose to reveal yourself to us, you would do so this very day.  So please appear to us, at dawn or at dusk or at the height of day.  Come to our table at mealtimes, that we may share our meals with you.  Come in the night, that we may share our rest with you.  Come to us at our prayers, that we may be glad for your company.

River and Sky
Move our hearts with the calm, smooth flow of your grace.  Let the river of your love run through our souls.  May our souls be carried by the current of your love, towards those who need our care.  Stretch our hearts, as you stretch out the sky above the earth.  Smooth out any wrinkles of hatred or resentment.  Enlarge our souls that we may know more fully your truth.

I am still learning how to pray, honestly, rationally, and emotionally.  It is not an easy task.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Breaking News from Yesterday

In the midst of all the hullabaloo of the Impeachment inquiry and the daily “breaking news” surrounding the Trump administration, I suspect many will miss the import of the ruling yesterday by a New York state judge in reference to the former Trump Foundation.  The ruling found that Trump and his family used the nonprofit Foundation as a slush fund for the 2016 campaign.  The judge ordered Mr. Trump to pay $2 million to nonprofit organizations as a penalty for that abuse.  Mind you, this is a court of law that found sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Trump family abused the Foundation for their own benefit.

In January 2016, then candidate Trump, held a fundraiser for the foundation to benefit veterans.  $2.8 million dollars was raised, but it never went to veterans.  Instead, according to the court ruling, the money was used “to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.”

Mr. Trump closed down the foundation last year because of allegations that the Trump family used it as a personal checking account for both personal and political purposes (which had been going on since the foundation was formed in 1987).  The civil lawsuit, however, was not shut down.  

Trump tweeted last year in his own inimical style:  “The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) AG (Attorney General) Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000.  I won’t settle this case!”

The case was settled yesterday in spite of Mr. Trump’s bravado and false statements.  I think the judge was lenient in her ruling.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that Mr. Trump claimed that the foundation had done nothing wrong in spite of the evidence—a tactic he uses in every instance.  And the second point, perhaps the most telling of all, is that he raised money in honor of veterans and then used it for his own political gain.  These “two points” can be found in the midst of the hullabaloo and in every “breaking news” story about the Trump administration. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Inner Dialogue

Within me there are many selves.  There is an elder brother always urging me to stay at home, to be safe and secure in my Father’s house.  There is the sister who scolds me for being foolish and wasting my time.  There is the Preacher who admonishes me to put all into God’s hands. “What is your name?” Jesus asks me.  And I reply with the demoniac, “Legion,” for there are many within me (Luke 8:30).

Why do you rant and rave so about current politics? He asked me.
You may not even be around, old as you are, for the next election cycle.
Your admonitions and concerns are futile in such a divided and partisan situation.
Why does it matter to you?  Enjoy your retirement without fret or worry. 
Things work out.

Why are you so upset about the world situation? She asked me.
The world situation is like climate change.  Is there anything you can really do about it?
The poor will always be among us, so the Scripture says…and the hungry, too.
Things have a way of working out, no matter what you say or do.
After all, God is in charge and you need only to trust God in all things.
Jesus will come again soon and everything will be fine.  Why worry?
Things work out.

Why are you so obsessed with these issues of the world? The Preacher asked me.
God calls us out of this world.  Set your eyes on God’s kingdom.
You cannot change anything.  You cannot make a difference.  
You have troubles enough of your own without taking on more.
Give yourself to Jesus.  Be born again. 
Put all these things that concern you in God’s hands now.
All things are possible for God.  Let God handle it.
God will work things out.

Do things work out if we just sit back and say nothing, do nothing, and ignore? I ask myself.
My words may be futile, but in order to be a human being, I must speak them.
If I do not speak out and you do not speak out…who will?
In the present situation, I believe the very stones will cry out if we do not.
It is that kind of moment. Things won’t work out without me, without you.

We swim in the same ocean.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The New Cult of Censorship

The New York Times has been awarded 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. They won their first Pulitzer Prize in 1918 for their complete and accurate coverage of World War I, and the most recent in 2018.  But, Mr. Trump calls the Times a “failing” business, “the enemy of the people,” and he says, “The New York Times reporting is false.”

Mr. Sulzberger, the Times Publisher, has personally urged Mr. Trump on several occasions to curb his use of the phrase “the enemy of the people.” “In demonizing the free press as the enemy,”Sulzberger says, “simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle.  It’s a principle that previous occupants of the Oval Office fiercely defended regardless of their politics, party affiliation or complaints about how they were covered…..I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”  Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has also created a cult of censorship that can and will undermine the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution if not curbed.

This new cult of censorship came to the fore last month when the commissioners of Citrus County, Florida, decided to bar the New York Times from the county’s public libraries because they “agree with President Trump” and believe the Times to be “fake news.”  “I don’t want the New York Times in this county,” said one commissioner, “I don’t agree with it.  I don’t like ‘em, it’s fake news…” 

There you have it—the new cult of censorship and it is a dangerous development.  The free press—free to investigate and criticize the government—is absolutely essential for a nation of self-governance.  Self-governance and the free press is dependent on an educated and enlightened citizenry—not on the dictates of the Oval Office or on a group of county commissioners who happen to agree with those dictates.  

There is a Voice in the desert calling...BEWARE!

The Loss of Candor

Most of the news I watch, read, and see is “fake news,” according to Mr. Trump.  The only news, polls and “truth,” that is not fake, he tells us, is that which he reports.  “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not really happening…”  He makes no bones about this.  Many of his supporters like a “straight shooter.” They think Mr. Trump is such a person, but these supporters are re-defining what “straight shooter” really means.  They think it means a person saying what is on his or her mind, regardless of what that may be and/or what that may do to others.  I think there is that in all of us that admires the bully on occasion.  There is also that in all of us that sympathizes with the victim.  Mr. Trump says he is both at the same time.  He beats up on people constantly, making them victims,  and yet claims he is the one who is the victim (of the media and any and all who oppose him). His supporters say they like the way he says what’s on his mind, but the word “straight shooter” is defined as “an honest and forthright person.” A straight shooter is a “direct and out-spoken” person—but a straight shooter is also a person who is honest.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in another context, “To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”  But has the world (America) lost its candor?  A candid world is one that is openhearted and sincere, free from reservation, disguise or subterfuge.  Have we lost our candor in the present mendacity where “facts” are ignored and/or reinterpreted by a self-proclaimed “genius” (“a stable genius”) with a “very good brain” who admonishes us to ignore what we see and what we read, because what we see and what we read is not what is happening?  Have we become so dehumanized, so fearful, so manipulated, that we are no longer candid?

Monday, November 4, 2019

An Update on the Joy of the Joy’s

Back in May 2019 I wrote:

“I’m basking in the “joy” of the Joy’s this morning.  Mr. and Mrs. Liam and Katherine Maria Joy of England, FaceTimed with us yesterday to share that joy with us. They are expecting their first child in November.  This anticipated joy of the Joy’s will be our third great grandchild. 

Katherine Maria (aka Katie, and for me, her Grandad, aka “Katydid”) is the daughter of our beloved Rachel.  Katie is our oldest granddaughter.  We have only two, Katie and Eleni, and both, as the song goes, “light up our life.”  Matthew, Austin, Nick and Ethan, our grandsons, light up our life, too.   Our first two great granddaughters, Addison and Delaney, daughters of Rachel’s Matthew and his wife, Emily, only add to the brilliance of that light, as will the joy of the Joy’s.” 

Yesterday, our Katie called from across the pond to tell us Baby Joy has arrived—a little girl—our third great granddaughter!  Little Baby Joy of the Joy’s gives us great joy!  

We identify with William Blake’s poem of years ago:  “Infant Joy:”

I have no name [yet]
I am but two days old.—
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name,—
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee;
Thou dost smile.
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Change of Mind or Abandonment of Principles

Have you ever changed your mind?  I have, many times over.  What I thought about a person, an event, or a situation 25 years ago has often changed with the passage of time. It is the prerogative of every thinking person to change their mind on occasion.  Our perspective, our point of view should change as we read, learn, think, and grow.

Senator Lindsey Graham said in February 2016, “I’m not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of space there.  I think he’s a kook.  I think he’s crazy.  I think he’s unfit for office.”  Then after a game of golf with Mr. Trump, Graham changed his mind.  His point of view in 2016 is no longer his perspective in 2019.  In November  2017 (after the golf game) Graham lamented, “I’m concerned by the media’s attempt to label Trump as a kook or not fit to be President.”  

Twenty years ago (1998) Graham said in reference to the Clinton impeachment proceedings, “The depositions (behind closed doors), I think, will determine whether or not we go forward with hearings.  I think it is a very smart thing to do, to depose these people and find out what they’ve got to say and not drag this thing out unnecessarily…”.  He has changed his mind and has slammed House Democrats for conducting their impeachment inquiry with depositions behind closed doors.  

Two decades ago, Graham said in a press conference that impeachment was all “about overturning an election.”  He has changed his mind now and with fellow Republicans has attacked the impeachment inquiry as an evil attempt to “overturn an election.”

In 1999, Graham said, “You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body (Congress) determines your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role…Impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”  Graham went on to say back then, “The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is that day that he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress and he became the judge and jury.”  But Lindsey has changed his mind in his maturity.  Now he ignores (even tacitly supports)  Mr. Trump’s defiance of multiple congressional subpoenas!

Everyone has the prerogative to change their minds.  Most of us do. But that isn’t really the issue in Mr. Graham’s change of mind and heart.  He has not just changed his mind, he has abandoned the very principles he once proclaimed.