Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mark Sanford--A Profile in Courage?

photo by VEB Zardoz, the gravyboat / flickr
South Carolina does not have a moratorium on weird politicians. I used to think maybe the South provided Washington with more than its share of politicians that turned our faces red. But no--it seems that all over the country we have politicians running for yet another term in the House or the Senate whose morals are,  to say the least, shabby.

A classic example is South Carolina's Congressional representative, Mark Sanford. When Governor of our state he claimed to be on the Appalachian trail hiking while he was in Argentina with his girlfriend. After being caught he announced before God and everybody in a televised interview that "he had found his soul mate." I wondered when I heard that what his wife and his children thought.

 After this debacle he was elected to the House as our state representative in Washington. Well, he's running unopposed this time around. And just today word has come to his girlfriend-fiance from Argentina and the rest of us on Facebook, of all things, that "for the sake of his children" he is giving up his soul-mate and the marriage is off. It took 2,346 words on Facebook to explain his trials and tribulations and courageous decision to everyone. Remember TMI--too much information--well, Mr. Sanford has not learned this,

With all hell breaking loose in Washington and the world--Congressman Sanford seems to think none of this matters. It is all about him. Whatever happened to public servants? I've often said of all of us with sins and foibles--"God writes straight lines with crooked sticks." Well--some sticks are so crooked writing might just be illegible--even for God.

cartoon by Keith Tucker, whatOnowOcartoons / flickr

(You might want to read Gayle Collins' Op Ed piece in today's New York Times, "Sex is the Least Of It.")

                                       --RogerLovette /

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Boyhood--A Great Movie

"If you feel as if your life is somewhere out there as opposed to right here, stop and ask yourself:
  • What is missing in my life?
  • What have I put on hold?
  • What am I waiting for?
  • What would really fill my heart and make me happy?
  • What would I regret if I died tomorrow?"    --Charlotte Davis Kasi, Five Questions

Once in a while I see a movie that I want to tell everybody about. “Boyhood” just hit the theatres weeks ago. It took twelve years to make this movie. Twelve years, I thought. It is the story of one family’s struggle to make it in life. The Director uses the same actors for all twelve years at different stages in their lives. It begins with a little boy, Mason Junior, lying on the grass looking up. He is five years old. The film follows the boy and his family all the way to college.

Why has this movie struck a chord with so many people? Because this film deals with the subject we all know something about: the passage of life, the relationships of our lives, our hopes and dreams and the disappointments of our days.

Mason’s parents are divorced like about 50% of the marriages today. His single mother is struggling to bring Mason and his sister into some kind of secure setting. Mason’s father follows the family through his ex-wife’s constant moves and changes in their lives. He like his divorced wife, cares deeply for his kids and also tries to let them know they are loved and appreciated although he is only a weekend father.

The single mom is struggling to finish her college degree while juggling all her family responsibilities. She hopes to become a teacher. We see her trying marriage after marriage with men that are just losers emotionally. Like a mother hen, she leaves these abusive men and tries to protect her two children from the stormy relationships these men bring with them.

We follow Mason and his sister through the struggles of each stage of their lives. So we can all resonate with the terrors of the early school years, the hardships of simply trying to grow up and find your place. Mason has a creative streak which most of the teachers and adults in the film try to stifle—calling his creativity just a hobby and a nice way to keep him busy. But—they say—if you want to get ahead in the world you’ve got to take practical courses, subjects that can help you make some money and be a success. The big word the adults keep preaching to the kids is: You must be responsible and practical.

The single mother comes off as some kind of a hero for keeping her kids together and safe. She is emotionally present for them and the thread that runs through their lives. The father who keeps them just some of the time loves them and tries to be a good father though he is not there all the time.

But men as a whole come off looking lousy in this film. Mean, cruel, abusive—drinking too much—caring little about anyone but themselves. Many people who see this film will nod again and again and these poor role models and father-substitutes.

The film is long—over two and a half hours. Yet I forgot the time and was deeply engaged in the life of Mason Junior and his family. This is a realistic film but a hopeful film about life and family and struggle and hope.

Most movies today ignore the fundamental issues of our lives. Nobody gets blown up, not a ghost or murderers in the film, there are no vampires. Foul language is at a minimum. This is a story about struggling, growing up, and finding the way. I recommend this film because it really is a mirror of so much of the saga of life where we might just see ourselves. I recommend this movie because it do for you what it did for me: lifted me up, brought back memories of some of my own growing-up days. Once again I saw the faces of some of the people who have shaped my life. These two and a half hours praises the human season—and that’s why I say: see it.

                                           --RogerLovette /

Friday, September 12, 2014

War--the Answer?

photo by STML / flickr
When the Iraq war started thirteen years ago we were in Oxford England for a month. The whole town was in an uproar over the Gulf war. There were large protests up and down the streets. Walking by one little row house one day I saw a small sign in the window. It read: "War is Not the Way." The English folk knew something first hand about war. They were bombed over seventy times by the Germans in World War II.

We did not know then that the basis of our response to 9-11 was flawed by misleading information. We were all sure that we had to mount a "war on terror." We were told by Mr. Cheney and others that this war would be over in a matter of weeks. Thirteen years later--yes, 13 years later--we are still fighting. Over five thousand of our young men and women have come home in boxes. Our attempts to help Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan--and the rest of that part of the world has been disastrous. Costs of War estimates that more than 4.4 trillion dollars has been spent on this war to date--and that between 298,000 and 354,000 of their citizens have been killed. We stirred up a hornets' nest which seems to be unending. ISIS is only the latest response to our folly.

I have no answers of course to this troublesome time, this monstrous enemy and the direction we need to take. Who does? We ought to know that all those that championed our tanks and planes and bombs 13 years ago did little to help. We say we will augment the native soldiers to fight their own war. All the training with them we have done the last few years has accomplished little. They are not prepared. Why will this time be different.

Our beleaguered President talks about coalition forces and the allies that will join us. He doesn't give us their names. If we think we can march in yet again mostly alone--we will pick up the tab and we will suffer the casualties. Will we make the same mistake we made thirteen years ago by listening to the wrong voices?

Jim Wallis wrote a piece years ago about our beginning war. He repeats it in Sojourners. Let us pray and hope that we can find some resolution to this tangled and scary situation.

Memorial honoring our dead in the war--Grace Church - San Francisco
photo by california cowgirl / flickr

--RogerLovette  /

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th Meditation

"May the pain of every living being
Be completely cleared away, 
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed... 
May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed."
  --from the Prayer for World Peace by     
    Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden

Last June when we were in New York our granddaughter wanted to visit Ground Zero and the World Trade Center Memorial. It was her first visit there. So we took the subway all the way down town, got off with all the other visitors that seemed to be going where we headed.

The first thing we saw as we looked up, up was that new skyscraper--called: Freedom Tower. It is impressive but I felt somehow it was a mite arrogant.

When the sun is just right the Tower casts its long shadow on the World Trade Center Memorial. All its tallness and its spectacular dominance of the skyline dwarfs what we find in the shadows of the Memorial. The over-three thousand names chisled into those two square fountains where the Trade Center Towers had stood. It was hard the find a place to stand. People were everywhere around those two square monuments holding names and names and names. Then we traveled that winding path that led us to the Museum.

After getting our tickets you begin the journey of that terrible day. We saw the sad faces that desperate people had placed on the fences saying; "Have you seen..." and there would be a picture of someone that we now know would not return. We followed the photographs of that day until we came to twisted metal, a half-burned fireman's uniform.There were bits and pieces of people's lives scattered throughout that memorial. I was struck once again by the faces of so many of those that lost their lives. Photos that could not tell the story of loved ones left
behind grieving still.

My granddaughter didn't say much as we left. What is there to say? Silence sometimes says it better than words.

It's been thirteen years now. We still are neck-deep in the longest war we ever had. Five thousand of our brave men and women did not make it back. Will, one day there be a monument to all those that heard a call and responded--not knowing how hollow and wrong that call was. What have we learned. The Generals want us to march back into the war. Saber-rattling, it seems is fun. It looks like we Americans are once again going it alone. Who do we need--we can do it all--that is, if we forget the price in lives and in all those thousands and thousands that came back broken forever--not to speak of our credit card from the "war on terror" yet to be paid.

We are as divided as we have been in a long time. Surely ISIS has picked up the word that we will not follow our Commander in Chief--but that we would rather squabble and posture and make sure our behinds are covered for the next election.

Did they all die in vain...those three thousand...those five thousand over there and all those we have sent sorta alive-ones that try to hang on after their third-fourth-fifth deployment? Could we still learn something that might just make this country, this world better. Who knows?

I keep coming back to that poem written by J.J. Goss, entitled "Aftermath of  9-11".

"The line at the Dunkin' Donuts is long again
people are considering
a honey dipped and a hazelnut dunkacino
important business once again
some have switched to vanilla chai though
in a drive-through attempt at the semi-spiritual 

a woman driving an extra long mini van
with a baby in the back seat 
and a little girl even further back
talks loudly into a cell phone
laughing as she waits in the line
oblivious to her kids once again

most cars don't have flags on them anymore
especially the Porsches and the Volvos
but the beat up Chevy Lumina
and the motorcycle
sport well worn ones
patriotism is alive and well
in the empty wallets 
of those who can only afford
a small regular 
to go."

--RogerLovette /

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Loss--The Tie That Binds

In her novel, The Living , Annie Dillard, there is a funeral scene where one of the characters, Norval, reads pompously from the Bible, "O death, where is thy sting?" To which Hugh, sitting in a pew, thinks, "Just about everywhere, since you ask."


Why do we feel that we, alone carry this 
  heavy load?
Of course it’s real.
That lump...
That missing breast...
That dug-out prostate...
That awful shattered marriage...
That broken heart...
That lost job...
Or all that money gone...
Or that child that drifted away...
Or the years—where did they go...
Or that used-to-be-friend...
Or that faith or status or place or just somebody.
Why do we feel that we, alone carry this heavy load?

Look at their faces—just look—
Don’t turn away too soon. Look.
They carry a heavy load, too.
Who among us has not lost—every single one of us?
So maybe there is no only me or mine.
Maybe it really is us after all.
We’ve all lost—every single one of us.

Will we remember the we—as she stands
  angry and solemn
  demanding a refund for the food she ordered and does not like?
Or when we see that scowling checker...
Or hear that frightened preacher...
Or that coach or team that lost yet another game.

There are no they’s.
Only we’s.
These losses—whatever they are should not separate or isolate us.
Maybe we should remember we are all—like pearls on a string—
Members of the same club.

So whenever we see the faces—whoever—whenever—
Let us remember how heavy the load has been.
Let us remember out there
  down the street,..
  in a classroom...
  or on some droning plane...
We all have lost...and there really is no they or them.
But only us and we.

photo by associazione orlando / flickr

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kindness is Never Obsolete

photo by Bisons Mom / flickr
It's starting in our town. You can feel it in the air. The streets are practically covered in eighteen-twenty-year-old runners. The roads are swamped by bicycles. It's early fall in this college town where I live. Kids are back in school. And football is in the air. The papers are filled with story after story of how the team has done and will do. Though we've already lost one game--the promise of a big  bowl game is still a longing and perhaps a promise. Most Saturdays our sleepy streets will be transformed into one giant parking lot or tail-gating-party. It's wild and it's fun.

But I keep remembering the story of the football game where this carried-away fan kept yelling: "Kill that guy! Knock him down! I've never seen such a dummy. Coach--take him out--he's a loser! He ought to be a water-boy and not sitting on the bench!" On and on the rants continued. Until on the row in back of him a woman tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Mister why don't you just shut up. That's my boy you're talking about."

"That's my boy."In this age of mud-slinging and ugliness toward just about everybody--maybe we need to remember that the person we're hurling the rocks at is somebody's boy (or girl). Not just an enemy. Not just someone playing on the opposite team. Not just some President or Congressman. Not just some policeman or dead young black man in a casket. Not just our coach or theirs. Somebody's son.

It's time for us to lower the temperature everywhere and just remember that all of us on this planet are human beings. We all ache and dream and have enormous disappointments and wish and wish and wish. I keep thinking about all those little children in Texas that sneaked across the border. Somebody's mother, in desperation,  paid dearly in dollars and heartaches to send their little ones to this country in hope that they would be safe.

Martin Luther King told us that we have to learn to live like brothers (and sisters) or we will perish as fools. So next time you get that Checker with a scowl on his or her face--or some poor telemarketer trying to eke out a living doing a terrible job--remember on the other side of the phone or check-out counter is a bonafide human being.

In the great play, The Death of a Salesman the heart-broken wife stands over the newly dug grave of her husband, Willie. He never did all he wanted to do. He missed the brass ring by a mile. People just walked by on the street and never even noticed him. I n the world's eyes he was a failure. And so his widow, dear Linda spoke from her heart when she said, "Willy was a human being. And he shouldn't just be put in the ground like a dog. Attention must be paid." She's right, you know--every single one of us deserves a place at the table and recognition that we are all important.

Somebody's boy.

I love the quote : "Be kind everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Somebody's son.

photo be SweetOnVeg / flickr

--RogerLovette /

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"I Gotta Be Me?"

photo by Ferda Hejl / flickr

 Ever heard this story—it’s priceless. The preacher Tom Long told it first. After church was over and everyone was filing out a little boy looked around at all the empty space. He started running all over the room and then ran up on the platform—saw the mike—said something and discovered the mike was still on. He began jumping up and down and yelling into the mike, “Mommy, Mommy—look at me. Look at me!” One member standing in the back observed, “ I think I’ve heard this sermon before.”

We’ve all heard this sermon before: “Look at me! Look at me!” Sometimes the “I’s” just take over the preacher. We minister-types know all about the spotlight—every Sunday we mount the platform steps and stand before the mike and begin to talk. Those of us reverends that are retired miss those Sunday mornings. I laugh sometimes and say: “God only calls ego-maniacs.” But deep in our hearts we know that if we enjoy the spotlight too much—it really spoils what we are trying to say. They don’t want to know about our family, our dog, our vacation or any story that makes us the hero.

We’ve all heard this sermon before. “Look at me! Look at me!” Maybe those of us that focus on the “I’s” are simply reflecting the rest of the culture. Christopher Elliott of USA Today tells about a recent flight that was diverted because someone on board suffered a severe asthma attack. After making an unexpected landing, an irate passenger made a beeline toward the flight attendants treating the sick passenger, demanding the plane take off immediately. “This is ruining my vacation,” she screamed. Because the woman refused to return to her seat she was expelled from the plane. Most of the other passengers cheered as she was dragged her off the plane.

 Experts say in times of high anxiety selfishness seems to be worse. And we are living in a time when the thermostat had just about gone off the charts. “Me first” seems to be everywhere. Unmannerly drivers, honking the horn and cursing at some other driver out there. Parents demanding that Johnny and Suzie have special privileges. Church members who tell the Pastor that if the church doesn’t do something they want—they are out the door. They are simply trying to hold the church hostage. Ever heard anyone say: “My needs are just being met.” Chances are that marriage or any other relationship is on shaky ground. Whatever happened to commitment?

Years ago Harry Golden wrote for the Carolina Israelite. Wonderful writer. One column was called: “Was isn’t Johnny happy?” The whole article was about parents who worried about little Johnny wasn’t happy.” Golden went on to say little Johnny is not the center of the universe. He needed to realize there are other
Lawrence OP / flickr

people in the world—and that scowl or those pursed lips won’t get you to the head of the line. At home. At school. Church. Anywhere.

Watch the pronouns. If we hear “I” too, too much—most of us tune them out. But when some one says: “You”, or “We” or Us”—we perk up our ears.  Maybe John the Baptist loved the spotlight as well as anybody. But when people came clapping and cheering him on he reminded the crowd, “He (Jesus) must increase—I must decrease.” Maybe that’s why he occupies such a prominent place in the New Testament. He got out of the way and let the light shine where it should.

We’ve all heard the sermon before:” Look at me! Look at me!” So let’s watch our pronouns wherever we go—they might just save the day and make our little circle a little better.

                              --Roger Lovette /