Friday, March 24, 2017

Lenten meditation: A Prayer for a Hard Time






photo by Melissa Baldwin / Flickr

This morning on there eve of the Health Care vote --thinking of this new budget--I opened my Bible to read the lessons for today. I don't always do this...I should but the everydayness just sometimes covers it all. I remember Carlyle Marney saying, "When I get into trouble I always turn to the Psalter." Today these words from a Psalm spoke to me. Maybe they will speak to you too.



"O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
Even now your enemies are in tumult; those who hate you have raised their heads,
They lay crafty plans against your people;
They consult together against those you protect
They say, 'Come, let us wipe them out as a a nation;
Let the name of Israel be remembered no more.'
They conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant...
Fill their faces with shame, so that they may seek your name, O Lord.
Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
Let them perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you alone, whose name is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth." (Psalm 83. 1-5,16-18)


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Maybe Langston Hughes' poem, "Mother to Son" says it in another way:


"Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair,
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places wth no carpet on the floor--
Bare.
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turning' corners;
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall down now--
For I'se still going', honey,
I'se still climbin'
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair."





photo by Linda Dee 2006 / flickr





--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Monday, March 20, 2017

Meals on Wheels Under Attack

photo by Roger W - Sarasota Meals on Wheels / flickr


Looking over the proposed National Budget I have studied some of the places the Administration plans to cut. The list is long and alarming. School lunches for the needy, National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities, dismantling Americorp, heating subsidies for the poor. Legal Aid for all 50 states. Job training programs will be cut. Block grants that help states with daycare and adoption assistance. But scanning that long list I stopped reading at Meals on Wheels which is also on the hit list. Meals on Wheels?

Volunteers have been delivering meals to older people since the 1950’s—67 years. Last year 2.4 million people received these meals. In protest to the cuts in this program in particular—I discovered that there are 5,000 Meals on Wheels projects in all fifty states. 

The Budget Director is a South Carolinian, Mike Mulvaney, In defense of these cuts in these programs—and Meals on Wheels in particular he responded, “We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good…Meals on Wheels sounds great—again, that’s a state decision to fund that particular portion too. But to take federal money and give it to the states and say, ‘Look we want to give you money for programs that don’t work—I can’t defend that anymore.’”Huh?

Unlike Mr. Mulvaney I know a little something about the Meals on Wheels program. When we l llved in Memphis my wife and a friend went into some of the poorest and roughest part of that city. She came home talking about some of the people she saw every week. They were poor. They were old and lonely. Many of these citizens who lived alone and saw no one all week except the “Meals on Wheels Ladies.” She told me that the visits were just as important as the food. But that for so many of these folk this was the only nutritious meals they had all day. 

Later when we moved to Birmingham—the AIDS crisis was epidemic and scary in the mid-nineties. So my wife began to deliver Meals on Wheels to people HIV positive. Many of them had been abandoned by their parents. Most knew that their chances of living were slim. Just to see a friendly face, especially bringing a hot meal meant much to those whom the larger community felt were untouchable.  Sometimes my wife would call a Doctor the person needed to see. There were occasions when she would call the person’s Social Worker to handle a problem. The Meals on Wheels program opens the door to help in many ways. Thank goodness we have dealt with the AIDS crisis in ways that have helped many live because of the availability of new drugs.

Mr. Mulvaney must not know that we cannot measure such programs but their success. Not showing any results? I dare the Budget Director to follow around some of these volunteers and see how wrong he is. I appreciate Senator Graham coming to the defense of Meals on Wheels. He said, “I think rebuilding the military we all want to do. But you're not going too rebuild the military by cutting  Meals on Wheels.” Only 35% of this program is funded by the federal government and it is such a tiny part of this whole budget.

The Meals on Wheels program is a symbol of many of the cuts in this proposed budget that will weaken the compassion that has run through the nation’s budgets for many years. People all over the world have looked to this country as a place that cares for people. This is one of the reasons that so many would love to come here to live and work.

In the last parable Jesus gave he said,”I was hungry and you gave me food…” But it looks like in 2017 in the richest country in the world we might just heed the challenge of Jesus. “Inasmuch,” he said, “As you do it unto the least of these you do  it unto me.”

Someone has said that if you open up your check book and study what you paid and when, you will begin to see what your priorities are. I think as we study this new proposed budget we will also begin to see what kind of a people we truly are. 

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com



Friday, March 17, 2017

The Health Care Debate--Please Explain

flickr


One of the problems about this debate over Health Care is its complexity. I fault the Democrats and the Affordable Care Act for not explaining in laymen's terms what this Health Care program was all about. Twenty bullet-points on the highlights and brief paragraphs would have helped us immensely. Consequently many people who did not understand ACA hate it. Big government rules again! Over 20 million people received health care that did not have it. Abolishing this program will throw millions of people uninsured once again. 

If the changes made in Health Care by the Republicans are so good--they might well do what the Democrats did not do with their Bill. Give us 20 bullet points on what your bill means. Prove your points for the person on the street. Mr. Trump has called Health Care more complicated than we thought. He is right. No one would disagree with this. It is very hard to simplify complicated issues I know--but the people of this country need to know what their legislators will support  and why.

Today I read a Letter to the Editor in the New York Times by a Pediatrician in Seattle. It is worth reading. Check out Dr. Elizabeth Meade's letter. The letter is worth pondering.


--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Health Care Bid-ness




Wise Prophet Ken Sehested published this on Prayer and Politics--which I recommend to everybody.

Are we gonna let millions fall through the cracks? There was a whole lot of talk during the hoopla over the Affordable Health Care Act about Death panels.

Well--ignore millions and see what happens.  Trumpcare or maybe we ought it Deathcare will be a shame for this country. Colin Powell said of other crazy things: "If we break it we own it."

By the way--Nicholas Kristof, columnist for "the lying New York Times" has written a great article about this health care dilemma. Good good reading.

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com


Monday, March 13, 2017

Lenten Thoughts: Wear it Till it Fits!


photo by MHS Wildcat / flickr



As I move through Lent--for some reason I remember a story that I heard once from the President of Princeton Seminary. It seems that David Hubbard who was then President of Fuller Seminary told of an incident that really happened in his life. Dr. Hubbard was given a tee shirt one day by Tom Landry who was then Coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It was a big shirt and emblazoned across the front in large letters it read: "Dallas Çowboys." The next day one of Tom Landry's scouts took Dr. Hubbard to play a round of golf. He wore the big tee shirt. The caddy kept looking at Hubbard's tee shirt. Hubbard was not a young man but the caddy asked, "Do you play for the Dallas Cowboys?" Dr. Hubbard laughed and said, "No. I don't play for the Çowboys." The caddy said: "I would give anything in the world to play for the Dallas Cowboys." Dr. Hubbard said, "Why don't you talk to this man here. He's one of the scouts." So they talked about what was involved as the game moved on. When they finished Dr. Hubbard turned to the scout and said, "I think I'm going to give him my tee shirt tp the caddy--but it looks awful big." It was Extra-extra large. So he turned to the caddy and said, "You know I would give you my tee shirt but I don't think it would fit. It's too big." The caddy said, "Mister,  give it to me. I'll wear it till it fits."

Wear it till it fits. Hmm. I love that story. All my life I have been following the Lord Jesus mostly. Like everyone else--like Thomas in the Bible--I believe and sometimes I don't believe. Even after all these years the tee shirt still doesn't fit. No wonder there has been a lump in my throat when I've sung: "Prone to wander, Lord--Prone to leave the God I love." Because faith, for me,  like those
photo by Ryan Woolies/ flickr
Israelites has been for me an up and down thing. I've asked over the too-muchness of my life or somebody else's--the old question: "Why, Lord why?" And I've pulled off the too-big tee shirt and cast it aside. Why the wrong headedness of Trump? Why that war in Afghanistan seems to be an unending war? Why all those Syrians keep fleeing with nothing but a little sack they could carry--while I sit here in a house of too many rooms and more than I will ever need? I remember Annie Dillard asking Paul's question: "O death where is thy sting--O grave where is thy victory? " And a friend answered, "Honey,  just about everywhere." Yep--that's true. Just about everywhere. And my faith flickers like the stub-end of a candle.

And then I stumble into church and it's Communion Sunday. And as the people row by row stand in line to receive the Bread and the Cup--I know so many of them. Some of them have faced unbearable problems. Suicides. ALS. Losing their best friend with Alzheimer's. Bankruptcies. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Or just hobbling down the aisle on a cane--him and her--leaning on each other. And I feel the tears. Why do they keep coming here after all they have been through? Surely it isn't what the atheist's say--wishful thinking. No. They have found something that have kept them going. And all over again I look for the tee-shirt and put it on. God knows it still doesn't fit. But this Lent I will keep hoping that maybe, just maybe one day it might not be so big.

And so, like all the others I get up out of my seat and stand in line, too. Hoping as I take that tiny piece of bread and baptize it in the cup--maybe I'll be able once again to sing the rest of the old song: "Here' s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above." And this--the third week  in Lent--this is what I am thinking of. Fitting. Failure. Hope.


photo by George Martel / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Health Care--Listen to the Stories


photo by Montgomery County Plan / flickr

                                


We've got a health crisis in this country. We've had it for a long time. The Affordable Care Act opened the door. It was far from perfect--but for the first time in our history the country finally promised health care for all. Despite all sorts of political roadblocks--20 million people who had been uninsured now have health care. Many for the first time. 



photo by Sage Ross / flickr

When Social Security was first passed into law there were a lot of complaints and many problems. Many politicians from then until now--hated Social Security. But after much work--we do have a system that helps people in this country enormously. Before Social Security there was no safety net. Watch carefully in the near future--all those antigovernment folk who have always hated Social Security will not point their guns in this direction. But back to health care.


The question is Health Care a right or is it simply a luxury for those who can afford it? Trump Care is said to leave out over 15 million people. The Office of Bureau Management and the Brookings Institute give us these figures. Republicans mostly are trying to discredit the this Bureau and the Brookings Institute. When these opponents do not get what they want they chip away at the recognized sources whom we have looked to for a long time for fair truth.                                                                                                      


We heard a lot during the Affordable Care Act debate about death panels. Doctors and hospitals that would decide who would live and who would die. This did not happen. It was a scare tactic. But if any plan put forth in health care does not cover the people of this country and especially those in need--there will be no picking and choosing of who lives and who dies--all those not covered will simply quietly slip away.


Listen to the stories that are out there. Listen to the pain. Listen to those who very much a part of who we are as a people.

Diana B.
Diana became ill in 2012 and started missing work. She was fired and lost her health insurance. In 2013 she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Because she was weak her friends helped her file for disability and started helping her sell off personal possessions to pay for some minimal care. In May of 2013 she said she was refused disability and had to re-file. She died in October 2013. ACA Healthcare was not yet available.

Donna B.

I lost my job with the NASA Space Flight program in July 2013 and used Cobra for health insurance. Because Cobra was so expensive (over $700/month) I had to drop it. I signed up for insurance on HealthCare.gov in December 2013. I never experienced any of the problems with the online system, but then, I was an IT person familiar with software systems. My health coverage with Florida Blue started on January 1 2014.

On March 21, 2014 I went to the emergency room because I could not breathe. On March 24, I was told I had stage IV lung cancer. I was the first cancer patient in Brevard County to be prescribed one of the new target drugs for patients with the ALK receptor. When the cancer mutated again I was placed on another new target drug in January 2015. I was still using a Florida Blue health insurance plan through the Healthcare.gov. I have been on this target drug now for over 2 years and have great quality of life.

We heard a lot when the Affordable Care Act was being considered with the words: Death Panels. It was a scare tactic. But if we do not cover the people of this country, especially those who are in
need--the Death Panel scare will become a real reality. Although I no longer qualify for any assistance, I was able to keep the same insurance privately. Without insurance I would be paying $8,300/month just for the drug. Thank you, President Obama!


                                          And now a story from Canada. 


My story. December 27, 2016 I couldn’t breathe, so I went to the Walk-in-Clinic across the street and they suggested the Emergency Department immediately. January 4, 2017 I decided to go to Emergency. Up until last week, which made it 6/7 weeks, I’ve had chest X-rays, blood tests, ultrasound on the thyroid, stress test on the heart, echo-cardiogram, more blood tests. All it cost me was the bus tickets to get to the various places. Since I had breast cancer three years ago I have a mammogram every year. In January I had my third one, clear, and also picked up my pills, free. Because cancer is rampant in the family I have become involved in genetic testing. If it proves that it is hereditary, I will be given the opportunity to have a hysterectomy and all my relatives will be given the opportunity to be involved in the family decision and will be offered counselling. Because the pills I take for cancer leech the bones of calcium I get a bone marrow density test every year. All this because I was triaged for shortness of breath. Now on the other hand, I have knees that are not working properly. Orthopedist says that there may be a growth on one of them. Because it is not an emergency, I have to wait for an MRI on it. May take a few months. We triage, but get the care we need. Free.

All I paid for all of this was bus tickets. Sometimes friends drove. I have stock in American medical insurance companies. I’m making money on your health.

I live on my pension as a public school grade teacher. I have investments, but don’t use them. I spent 10 weeks in the Mediterranean last year. Don’t skimp or cut corners just to save. ( I do because I don’t want to waste.) My taxes are probably higher than yours, but I still have a great life. Where did I go wrong?


photo by Sage Ross /flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lenten Words: Antidote for a Hard Time

photo by Ana Karenina / flickr


Somewhere in a place I cannot now find I remember a story that Frederick Buechner told. It seems that this man who was married was anything but a good husband. As the time wore on he became more and more abusive. Finally in desperation she left him and divorced him. She could not get out of her head all the monstrous things he had done to her. Years went by. She heard that he had started a new life. He had a new family. He had a good job and was well-liked by all those that knew him. As she heard about this man who had hurt her 
so--she could not let all the pain from back there go.

One day, years after their parting she met him. He looked good. People loved him. He was a pillar in the community. And all the betrayals and the meanness and the pain. surged up again. She couldn't help herself. She railed out: "They don't know you. They don't know you at all. The monster you are. All the terrible things you did to me. You are a hypocrite--and you are wearing as mask."  "Take it off," she said, "and left people see you for who you really are." Slowly the man reached up and began to peel off his mask of many years. She stood open-mouthed not able to say a word. He had worn the mask so long that he had become the mask he wore.

This Lenten season for some reason I remember that story. All of us, deep down are sinners. Nobody knows us like we know ourselves. The old book is right, "All we like sheep have sinned and turned to our own way..." Deep in our hearts we know this. For we have sinned--fallen short--again and again. But the promise is this: We become what we give ourselves to. And if behind the real self we take on what Philippians called: whatever is true...,whatever is honorable...whatever is just and pure and pleasing and commendable...who knows? We might just become the things we give ourselves to.

This Lenten season maybe we need to ponder this story until it fills our hearts. Paul ended those above words with these: "...think about these things. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you."

I don't know about you but I could use some peace in my life there days. It is a hard time. The old quote seems appropriate: "Be kind. For everyone you know is fighting a hard battle."

There are masks and there are masks. Maybe the old Gospel song is right after all:


"Turn your eyes open Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of glory and grace."


photo by The Manic Macrographer / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com