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The Future is no Scarier than the Past / Old Age has its Perks

 

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I finally figured out that all the people I ever was from infancy on still live inside me. It makes for an interesting group most days. And if I don’t like how I feel today, I just return and watch the world when I was having a better time. Young people actually seem impoverished, because they haven’t got a clue about the riches we old guys carry around within us. I wouldn’t trade, because we can go back and be their age inside our memories, but they can’t come forward and enjoy the pleasures of a party without having to drive miles, spend hundreds or pay later with a hangover.
We do know more dead people and we have seen more tragedies up close and personal, so sometimes we hover protectively over our grandchildren. But we can look back at the past and our track record helps us trust that grace will continue to get us through even the hard things the future may bring.
As bad as our world seems in 2015, anyone having experienced life even in America for almost eighty years has witnessed a lot of rough history. Though we now know more about the evil in the world than we once did, the evil was always there. I find when I focus on the evils we haven’t overcome, I fear for coming generations. But when I look back even just on the changes in the world that I have experienced personally, I become more hopeful for the future.
Is having an armed presence in your school any more terrifying than living in homes with blackout curtains for fear of enemy bombers in the nineteen forties or huddling in a school hall during practice warnings of atomic attacks in the fifties. Is the number of families in this generation with members lost fighting in foreign countries anywhere close to the number in the second world war? Is fear born of lack of information as severe now as it was when we huddled around a radio to listen to news of Pearl Harbor or the beaches of Normandy. Children still die or are crippled from disease even in first world countries, but nothing like the numbers in the years before the polio vaccine. Are the numbers of African Americans isolated in ghettos, killed by police, harmed and held back by prejudice anywhere near the numbers in the fifties? Are all the top jobs in the corporate world still held by men? Are people still dying from aids at an alarming rate even in the first world? No matter how horrifying terrorists are today, have they managed inhumanity on the scale of Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, or even Harry Truman at Nagasaki?   The answer to all of these is no.
Yes, there are new diseases, new dangers, new stresses and new groups struggling for equality. It is obviously not heaven on earth, but humanity is a work in progress. Our track record gives us reasonable hope that we will find ways to overcome more and more of these problems in each era.
Age, if we look at even our own life span’s historical picture, can give us a perspective.

Law is a Transitory Solution – 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6

Reality: Law is a transitory solution. Law was needed for humanity to survive long enough to grow past survival of the fittest into living in community. (Sumerian Code 2100-2050 BC; Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi circa 1760 BC; Hebrew Torah 1330 – now; Twelve tables of Roman Law 450 BC)
But law, by its set in stone nature, becomes a tool of condemnation, a way of labeling and separating people even within a community. Law protects people and property, but does not nourish the spirit needed to create a community of love.
Paul says, “Only in Christ is the veil of condemnation (by the law) removed.” Without knowing in heart and mind that we are loved unconditionally, we have no way of getting free of the need to earn and prove our value, often at the expense of others. Since in reality “All fall short of perfection” (the glory of God), no matter what we accomplish or how good we become…..it is never enough. Generally, this leads to settling for believing that we are “better than” another person, another group, another race, another nationality, even another religion. Instead of recognizing our shared humanity, we see people as the “Other” in order to feel good about ourselves. (Pharisees)
But when freed by recognizing the glory (love) of God in Jesus, we begin to become transformed into His image by God’s Spirit within us.
When we acknowledge Jesus as both our Redeemer and as our Lord, we have found the source of grace to grow free to be servants of all. If we continue to go to that well of grace there is less and less need to outperform, have power over, label, or reject others in order to feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s a big “IF.”
We are all imperfect and all loved as we are. As we grow in our belief in that, we realize “That we are not competent in ourselves. Our competence comes from God.” We do not have to prove anything. Jesus proved with His life and death that we are of infinite value, as servants not only of God, but of ALL others. (Radical inclusivity)
The gospel displays the love (glory) of Christ, who is the image of God. Christ who did not cling to power or importance, but walked in our skin and learned from others, and grew in wisdom and openness to God within, but also accepted failure, rejection, pain, and death for our sake, so we would know we don’t have to earn, win, achieve, anything in our short span here on earth.
All we are called to do is to admit our limits, focus on God’s love for us expressed in Christ and pass it on in whatever ways God gives us.

My Introduction to Violence and the Miracle of Martin Luther King

About 1954 when I was seventeen, someone set a bomb off in our entrance hall. It was the night of an election with a black woman running for the school board in Houston, Texas. Segregation and the myth of separate, but equal schools were still firmly in place, and the black schools had never had representation on the board. I believe she was the first black candidate.
My father was a newspaper editor and had written editorials supporting her.
The bomb was not like bombs today. It didn’t destroy walls or knock down the door, but it had enough impact to cause the confetti packing and sharp pieces of slate to become embedded in the door and walls. It was set off about three in the morning, my father was still at the newspaper covering the election, and I was half-way down the stairs before I decided not to go to the door. That was my first personal experience of the human capacity for senseless violence.
Though my mother was from Mississippi and my father was from Louisiana, they had taught me that prejudging people on the basis of their skin color was not only wrong, it was ignorant. And ignorance was THE mortal sin in our family.
When I married and moved to Nashville, Tennessee our friends were mostly doctors and lawyers and college professors. In the middle sixties I decided to join the NAACP after one of my friends, who was a volunteer at a local hospital, informed us all angrily that, “There was no way in hell, she was going to carry that n_____ baby out to their car. And she told them that right then and there. She didn’t care who heard her.”  Obviously, a college education isn’t always a cure for ignorance.
So in 1968 I was working at the NAACP office when the Poor People’s March came through Nashville. There were many young blacks from out of town, who belonged to more militant organizations like SNCC and CORE, going in and out of the office where I was answering the phone. Their obvious strong hatred of whites, even those of us working for the NAACP, was frightening.
It seemed to me that America was headed for a bloody race war where many innocent people on both sides would be destroyed. I began to pray fervently for a miracle that would prevent that.
I have come to see Martin Luther King as that miracle. I believe whites should be as grateful to him as blacks.
I thank God for Martin Luther King.

bloggers-for-peace-badge                              Peace Begins Within

Conflict is not the same as hatred. Differences of opinion, conflicting needs, and misunderstandings are part of the human condition. But hatred is a whole other ballgame. And where there is hatred, there will be no peace.

Most, if not all, hatred and prejudice are rooted in a sort of primal human fear of being the least, of being at the bottom of our world’s value ranking.  Being at the bottom means being helpless and vulnerable to the ill will of others.

One way we assure ourselves that we are not the least valuable is finding others to consider inferior to us in some obvious way, perhaps morally.

Another way is to focus all our personal or group resources on developing a particular competitive talent or skill, so we can feel safely superior in that area and trust society to overlook our disdain for or even violence toward others.

Or, if intimidated by another person or group’s abilities, like the childhood bully, we can try to cut them down to our size with ridicule, or like Hitler, make them the scapegoat for everyone’s woes.

Hatred is a fear based response. It depends on denying our shared humanity with the “other.”
It allows us to demonize those we choose or are taught to hate, to project on them all the evil that we struggle to repress within ourselves.

I believe the increased incidence of suicide among our soldiers comes from wars that now involve being up close and personal with those in the invaded countries, who turn out to be just ordinary people like ourselves.  Then our shared humanity and helplessness expose wars of today as being murder.  And while fighting for our survival might be noble, fighting for our lifestyle is not.

Scripture says that faith casts out fear. Faith in what? Not faith that we are the chosen and somehow better than others, but rather it is faith that we are all loved by our creator.   In the hymn Amazing Grace, ‘without one plea’ means we are loved for no reason other than being God’s creations, God’s children, not for being good, or right, or a certain religion, or nationality.

Jesus says such extreme things as, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.’ Does that mean that Jesus literally is in those we consider the lowest, those we ignore and avoid, treat condescendingly, or even hate and persecute?

He goes on to say that ‘in the kingdom of heaven, those that were last on earth will be first and those that were first will be last.’ Friends, I’m pretty sure the kingdom of heaven lasts a lot longer than our days on earth. It’s something to keep in mind when evaluating our priorities, particularly those that grow out of a need to not be the least or last in this world.

Paul’s treatise on love in First Corinthians 13 insists in no uncertain terms that without love, we are nothing. If we give everything to charity, if we become the poorest of the poor, but have not love, we are nothing. If we have great spiritual or intellectual gifts, but have not love, we are nothing.

Love is kind. Love is not arrogant, envious, boastful, rude, or resentful. Love does not insist on having its own way.
Wow.
When my need to be “somebody” raises its ugly head, I reread these words, and  I have to  quickly go mentally to the back of the line.

So who are the least of God’s brethren? Those that know that without God, they are nothing. Those that walk humbly with  God.

Mother Teresa was able to undertake and persevere in her calling because she experienced both the unconditional love of God and even His discernable presence in her life before she ever began her mission and also during the times of struggle with church authorities to be allowed to do what she knew God had called her to do. Toward the end of her life, Mother Teresa went through a terrible dark depression. She had succeeded in doing what God called her to do and she had even received worldly honors and fame. But at the last, she no longer experienced God’s presence. And compared to that, nothing else mattered, not success in her mission, nor worldly acclaim.  She felt bereft.

The least are those that know that without God, who is love, we are and have nothing of eternal value. But that with God, we need nothing else.  Only then do we not suffer from the illusion that we are, or need to be, better than anyone else.

Peace begins within each of us as we grow in faith in a God who is love.

Related Article: Bloggers for Peace