Today

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Today I awoke to a cold, rainy, blustery day filled with one main heart-wrenching memory; this was the day mom left two years ago.  She didn’t want to go, but she was ready, her spiritual, as well as her emotional suitcases were packed and in the quietness of her room after all her loved ones had moved to other parts of the home, she alone, tiptoed quietly into eternity.

Queen Elizabeth II stated that, “grief is the price we must pay for love”.  She did not tell us that grief is like the national debt or your credit card balances that seem to continue to grow.  It does, but it is something that you just learn to live with, sometimes you even embrace the grief.  It reminds you of the value of that one’s life  to your own.

In all of life’s many different events one tries to make sense of them.  You try to learn, to mature, to grow as a person emotionally as well as spiritually, but with mom’s death all I can do is feel.  I feel longing for her voice, for her touch, the sound of her laughter, the bright rays of her smile, the counsel of her hard-earned wisdom, the taste of her magic in the kitchen.  I feel the gratitude of having had these things in my life and I feel their loss today.

So today I’m not teaching or preaching, I’m going to allow myself to feel, to cry, to smile, and to remember.  Today I’m going to go back into the world and try to live the life she gave me in a way that would give her pride.  Today I know that my memory is real, life (her gift) is good.  Today I’m creating others’ memories.

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AN EXPRESSION

AN EXPRESSION
Le chef was thinking about something he saw on TV yesterday.  He saw were the FDA was asking a company to remove one of its ingredients from it nutrition label.  They said it wasn’t a true ingredient.  What was it ?  Love.
Technologically speaking Le chef agrees the FDA is correct.  You can not quantify love, it is not measurable in the scientific sense, but who among us doesn’t remember some time in their life when they felt (tasted) the love behind the effort to make a special food or meal?  Le apprentice still can’t and probably never will look at a home-made biscuit without his heart soaring in memory of his mother’s love.  Or set at his dining table and not hear the memories of meals, round table discussions with his children and friends.
The dining out experience is fun, often exciting, and even sometimes educational, but the intimate act of preparing and cooking food for those one cares about, is love being displayed in such a fashion that even a Baptist preacher can’t criticize.  The FDA is wrong on this one, Love is the most important ingredient in any food’s preparation.DSC_0089

Image

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My family owes quite a bit to the textile industry.  My mother and father met while working in a textile plant and my siblings and I grew up around textiles.  We even worked for a while in the plant mom and dad worked.  Textiles is in our DNA.  As a teenager I started to learn to weave and became a weaver in my early twenties before entering grocery retail, but I’ve always been proud of my textile heritage.  That’s why in my late thirties I tried my hand at hand-weaving.  The scarf in the photo is the first hand-woven thing that I produced.  It’s over thirty years old and it still keeps my neck warm on those really cold days.

I think I did a decent job.  But the other day I got to thinking about this piece of cloth.  It has held on to its looks and is very functional.  I’m kind of proud of it; it’s held up well over the years.  It still fits, not many articles of clothing from thirty years ago do.  The thought hit me that others who would see this article of clothing might think it looked good too, might possibly would like one of their own, especially on some of these cold mornings or evenings.  Heck, from a distance they may even think it’s a perfect piece of cloth with no blemishes.  But I know better.

I worked very hard to make the warp (the vertical threads of the cloth) and carefully wove the filling (horizontal threads of the cloth) through those warp ends (threads), counting the picks (a pick is one filling thread across the warp ends) as I pulled them tight making the cloth.  Counting the picks was necessary to keeping the color pattern consistent.  The weave was a simple two count alternating every other warp end-one up, one down with the filling going across, then raising the end that was down and lowering the one that was up on the return of the filling on the next pass.  It really was a simple weave and pattern that I was doing.  But if you look closely at this piece of cloth that I’m so proud of you’ll see even with so simple a pattern I made mistakes.  I miss-counted picks on occasion, I missed picking up an end here and there.  To the casual observer it looks good, but I see the mistakes.  Yet to me this cloth has tremendous value.

I relate the making of this cloth to life.  One can look at another’s life and see something that looks good, but only the person living the life, making the life sees the imperfections.   The scary thing is when one allows the imperfections to consume the function and value of their life.  Learn from them, improve on them.  But never discount your value to the one who created you.DSC_0233

 

SEPARATION

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Our nation’s founders were wise to question the involvement between organized religion and government.  I find this to be a very unsettling quote:   “Though it had many Catholic leaders (including Hitler), the Nazi Party relied heavily on Protestant support. Protestants had given the Party its principal backing during the years leading up to 1933 at a level disproportionate to their national majority.[25] Evangelical youth was especially pro-Nazi. It has been estimated that as many as 90 percent of Protestant university theologians supported the Party. Indeed, the participation of so many respected Protestants gave an early, comforting air of legitimacy to the often-thuggish Party. So did the frequent sight of Sturmabteilung (S.A.) units marching in uniform to church.”   from The Great Scandal: Christianity’s-role-in-the-rise-of-the-Nazi/.
The Concordat was a classic political kickback scheme. The church supported the new dictatorship by endorsing the end of democracy and free speech (the fourth estate, free press was attacked and destroyed). In addition it bound its bishops to Hitler’s Reich by means of a loyalty oath. In exchange the church received enormous tax income and protection for church privileges. Religious instruction and prayer in school were reinstated. Criticism of the church was forbidden. Of course, nothing in the Concordat protected the rights of non-Catholics.
Most extraordinary and telling is the Rosenstrasse incident.[43] Some 30,000 Jews lived openly in Germany as the spouses of Christians. Nine in ten such marriages remained intact despite ceaseless harassment. Oriented toward family values as they were, the Nazis could not decide how to handle these Jews without violating the sanctity of marriage. Early in 1943, Goebbels, then in charge of Berlin, decided it was time to cleanse the capital by rounding up these last Jews. Hitler agreed. Some 2,000 Jewish men from mixed marriages were seized and taken to a large downtown building on the Rosenstrasse, from which they would be deported to the camps.
For a week their Gentile wives stood in the winter cold, chanting “We want our husbands back!” Ordinary Germans sometimes joined them. All told, the protests involved about 6,000 people. They continued in the face of S.S. and Gestapo threats, even threats to use machine guns. They continued though British bombers pounded the city by night. But the Nazis dared not fire upon these defenseless, unorganized Aryan women. Berliners saw the protests directly. Foreign diplomats spread word of it to the world press. The British Broadcasting Company broadcast the story back into Germany.
What was the outcome of Nazi Germany’s only mass demonstration to save Jews? The 2,000 Jewish husbands were released with Hitler’s approval (even in a dictatorship when the people hold the leadership accountable morality can win). Two dozen who had already been sent to Auschwitz were returned. Jewish-Christian couples continued to live openly and survived the war. They would comprise the great majority of German Jewish survivors.
Goebbels later commented to an associate that the regime relented “in order to eliminate the protest from the world, so that others didn’t begin to do the same.” Sadly, this strategy was successful: during the rest of the war, no similar action would ever be taken in defense of Jews in general.
When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, with the slogan ‘Wipe out the shame of Versailles’, Niemoller was wholly in agreement.  (this slogan sounds a lot like “Make America Great again” my comment.)  Niemoller is best known for this quote:                      
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
One can only surmise he came to understand the foolishness of  accepting at face value everything that was promised.
Bonhoeffer was one of the first Christians in the Confessing Church to recognize clearly the significance of the ‘Jewish question’ in Nazi Germany. As early as spring 1933 he pointed out that the Jews were becoming victims of the state’s policies – but his was a lone voice. He saw that the age-old policy of confrontation, which Christians had practiced towards the Jews from the Church Fathers through to Luther and later, had made Christians in Germany passive, blind and indifferent to the fate of the Jews. (is there a parallel to Moslem issues today)

Bonhoeffer wanted to awaken the church to the fact that a monstrous injustice was being done to the Jews, and that the place of Christians was alongside their persecuted Jewish brothers. He challenged Christians to regard the Jews as the ‘neighbour fallen among thieves’, as in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. He saw that the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament, is part of the Christian Bible too; that Christians and Jews believe in the same God; that the Bible concept of ‘the people of God’ refers to both. But he could not persuade the Confessing Church to make a public statement on behalf of the Jews. As the Second World War progressed, the growing persecution of the Confessing Church by the Nazi authorities crippled the church’s ability to help others.   http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-9/christians-against-nazis-german-confessing-church.html  Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz

I see parallels in today’s political climate that are resoundingly like those of Germany in the 20’s and 30’s.  I see a Christian right movement embracing a form of  theocracy that could destroy the republic and ultimately shame the cause of Christ.  I pray that the reality is I’m seeing monsters under the bed and I shall awake to normalcy, but Bonhoeffer never did, he and 70 million others.

HELPLESS NOT HOPELESS

“CALL ME WHEN YOU CAN”, showed up on my phone today.  Nothing overly concerning, but that message brought a chill to my heart.  I’ve been accused of having radar by my children; the ability to foresee what’s coming or know when things aren’t quite right.  They may right.

I was driving down a busy highway when my phone gave me the alert of a message.  I had the radio on blaring some 60’s tune.  I really enjoy 60’s music, yes, I’m an old f_ _ t.  But I turned the radio off, I knew in my heart this wasn’t going to be an easy call or pleasant news.  I was right.

It isn’t often that I feel helpless, but this call revealed my weakness and lack of power in shaping and moving the pieces in the chess game of life.  I hear the grief in the voice of one who is a reason life has pleasure for me.  The difficulty in her saying the words resound in each syllable of the statement, “Monkey died”.  As did “Nugget” and “Little” in the prior pregnancies.

I know that now isn’t the time for platitudes or religious jargon…nor to ask for a play by play of what has taken place, or DSC_0098for reasons.  She says, “I know life isn’t fair”, but “Why”?  She knows as do I, that I don’t hold the answer.  There are no words that I can say to bring comfort or peace, my only hope is that by simply being there…by caring…by grieving too, that helps her and her husband.  We have dreams, hopes, desires that now go on a shelf in our heart and for a moment we swirl in a flood of helplessness.  Yet within that same heart beats life and life is a thing called hope.

COURAGE

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When is a decision not a decision? How long before an action bears fruit? When is a blindness a blessing? How do we choose our heroes? What impact does the smallest acts have on a life? All of these are good questions and perhaps we all find different answers. Today I received a slight glimpse to my answers.
My family moved to Ramseur, North Carolina in the fall of 1964. My father had received a promotion from Klopman Mills and entered into supervision. He being the rookie supervisor led him into catching the extra duties of a community minded company. That spring dad became the company’s little league team’s coach. Not a real big deal, it was just something that was expected of the freshman supervisors.
So fifty years ago my dad reported to the ball field behind the school where he was met by the other coaches and several dozens of young boys wanting to play baseball. Again there is nothing unusual or extra-ordinary about these events. But there was something unusual-this was the first summer of integration of Blacks and Whites in Randolph County. I’m not sure what the procedure was at the time for picking the players for the teams, but I know that dad chose the first black child to be picked for a little league team after integration. He didn’t do it to make a political statement, nor for pity’s sake, he did it because he saw the face of a child that wanted to play ball. He was blind to color. For us today that may seem small, but put yourself back in the 60’s and all the racial turmoil and the expected, as well as the accepted bigotry of that time. This small act of picking a kid to play on your team while not meant to be political statement or even an act of kindness-was. Dad that day earned the title of hero in my eyes.
I wish I could say I recognized his courage that day, but I didn’t. The reason I didn’t was he really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary for him-so the decision to pick this child for his team wasn’t really a decision for him. He just did what was right.
There was another hero that day. The child whose love of baseball out weighed his fear of rejection, who showed up wanting to play. Billy Joe made the team and became one of the team’s better players that season.
Billy came by to see dad after fifty years to thank him for picking him. And even after fifty years, there were tears of gratitude in his eyes for dad’s simple act of doing right. In our day to day walk in life we can forget that they’re eyes watching what we do, how we live, and that we’re impacting lives of others. I wish that when we look at each other we would see without bigotry of color, but that we actually have the courage to see each other as we really are.

Forgiveness

Matthew 6:9-15

The model prayer has so much to teach us, not just about how to pray, but how to live. It declares the holiness of God as well as his position in heaven. It teaches that the earthly kingdoms are temporary…that our will should be subject to His; it acknowledges oor physical needs as well as it recognizes that we are sinful and in need of grace-forgiveness. And that our own forgiveness is hinged on how we forgive; that being sinful creatures temptations will assail us, but He has the power to deliver us from the evil ones snares; that God is eternal, all-powerful, and worthy of all glory. If I counted correctly they’re 66 words in this simple, but powerful prayer…that teaches us honesty counts more than wordiness.

ESSE QUAM VIDERI “to be rather than to seem”. This prayer challenges us to live up to our state’s motto…to look in the mirror and expose ourselves as we are. It can be easy in reciting or reading the model prayer that we may quickly gloss over the pearls of truth that lie so openly before us.
Today I want to talk about one major topic in the prayer, one that I find to be the most difficult to accept and to live up to-Forgiveness.

consequences of forgiveness
depression
bitterness and negativity
hurt to those around us (those that are innocent)
physical, spiritual, and emotional sickness
loneliness
benefits of forgiveness
freedom to move on
healing
antidote for resentment and anger
the situation no longer has power over us
forgiveness is not
a feeling
a minimizing of the offense
condoning the other person’s behavior
trusting the other person
letting the other person off the hook (Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17)
expecting an apology
forgetting
forgiveness is
life-changing
is a decision only you can make
obeying God
a process…the same sin 7 times 70
unilateral
a reflection of your maturity, your growth as a believer
the process of forgiving
ask God to forgive me
transfer hurts and offenses I’ve been carrying
turn the other person over to God

how do I know that I’ve forgiven
how do i know that I’m forgiven

 

Each line of the above outline isn’t original to this writer, but how he sees, interacts, thinks, and interprets their meaning reflects his own unique life’s decisions.  The impact of this prayer isn’t its form, but the heart of the one speaking.