Sunday, January 31, 2010

Remembering the Fallen

The Bishop tells us: "When the boys come back
They will not be the same; for they'll have fought
In a just cause: they lead the last attack
On Anti-Christ; their comrades' blood has bought
New right to breed an honorable race,
They have challenged Death and dared him face to face."

"We're none of us the same!" the boys reply.
"For George lost both his legs; and Bill's stone blind;
Poor Jim's shot through the lungs and like to die;
And Bert's gone syphilitic: you'll not find
A chap who's served that hasn't found some change."
And the Bishop said: "The ways of God are strange!"
                                              --Siegfried Sassoon

I began this series of reminders months ago. I keep doing this for several reasons. Selfishly, this forces me to read through the long
sad list of young men and women who will not be coming home. I do not know these that have given their lives for us--but I stop by every name and lift them and their families up to the care of the Father. As the war goes on and the war news slips from the front pages of our newspapers I do this as a reminder to those that read that we must not forget those that have served and that this terrible war goes on. Will you join me in remembering?

Sgt. Daniel M. Angus / age 28 / Thonotosassa, FLA / One of three Marines killed while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan /  January 24, 2010.

Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Poole / age 22 / Bowling Green, KY / One of three Marines killed while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan / January 24, 2010.

Lance Cpl. Zachary D. Smith / age 19 / Hornell, NY / The third Marine killed while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan / January 24, 2010.

Lance Cpl. Jeremy M. Kane / age 22 / Towson, MD / Died while supporting combat operations in Hewlmand province, Afghanistan / January 23, 2010.

Petty Office 2nd Class Xin Qi / age 25 / Cordova, TN / One of two Marines killed when a roadside bomb detonated while supporting combat operations in southern Afghanistan / January 23, 2010.

Staff Sgt. Thaddeus S. Montomery / AGE 29 / West Yellowstone, MON / Died of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident at Korengal Outpost, in Kunar province, Afghanistan / January 20, 2010.

Pfc. Gifford E. Hurt / age 19 / Yonkers, NY / Died of injuries sustained from a non-combat related vehicle accident in Mosul, Iraq / January 20, 2010.

Tech. Sgt. Adam K. Ginett / age 29 / Knightdale, MC / Died of wounds suffered from a roadside bomb near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan / January 19 / 2010.

Capt. Paul Pena / age 27 / San Marcos, TX / Died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with a roadside bomb in Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar province, Afghanistan / January 19, 2010.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. Shannon / age 52 / Canadensis, PA / Died of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident in Kabul, Afghanistan / January 17, 2010.

Spc. Robert Donevski / age 19 / Sun City. AR / Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Abad, Kunar province, Afghanistan / January 16, 2010.

Sgt. Christopher R. Hibek / age 25 / Westwood, NJ / Died while supporting combat operations in Helmand, province, Afghanistan / January 14, 2010.

Sgt. Lucas T. Beachnaw / age 23 / Lowell, MICH / Died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit using small arms fire in Darya Ya, Afghanistan / January, 2010.

Staff Sgt. Daniel D. Merriweather / age 25 / Collierville, TN / One of two soldiers killed when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with a roadside bomb in Logar province, Afghanistan / January 13, 2010.

Pfc. Geoffrey A. Whitsitt / age 21/ Taylors, SC / The other soldiers killed when enemy forces attacked their vehicle in Logar province, Afghanistan / January 13, 2010.

Spc. Kyle J. Wright / age 22 / Romeoville, IL / Died of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with a roadside bomb in Kandahar province, Afghanistan / January 13, 2010.

Staff Sgt. Matthew N. Ingram / age 25 / Altoona, PA / One of three Marines killed while supporting combat operations in Now Zad district, Helmand province, Afghanistan / January 11, 2010.

Cpl. Jamie R. Lowe / age 21 / Johnsonville, IL / The second of three Marines killed while supporting combat operations in Now Zad district, Afghanistan / January 11, 2010.

Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski / age 21 / Tomball, TX / The third Marine killed while supporting combat operations in Now Zad district, Afghanistan / January 11, 2010.

Pfc. Michael R. Jarrett / age 20 / North Platte, NEB/ Died of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident in Balad, Iraq / January 6, 2010.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

49 Years

Anniversary Poem

49 Years.
Where did they go?
49 Years.
What do they mean?
49 Years.
It all began under an October harvest moon.
49 Years.
She was 21 – I was 25.
49 Years.
We are much older now than our parents were
dressed in their finery that snowy evening.
49 Years.
Loving the little girl, then the
little boy who graced our lives.
49 Years.
Wearing a gold ring that never
turned green.
49 Years.
Of struggle, fear, frustration and
fun, fun, fun.
49 Years.
Of lying next to the one
who keeps you warm and safe.
49 Years.
Of packing and moving and packing
and moving and packing and moving.
49 Years.
Of saying goodbye and hello and
goodbye and hello.
49 Years.
Of fighting over the tiniest of things.
49 Years.
On agreeing on what really matters.
49 Years.
Like water on a rock—altering, changing
making smooth and shiny.
49 Years.
Of stretching and forgiving
and hurting and healing.
49 Years.
Where did they go?
49 Years.
What do they mean?
49 Years.
Finally learning love not an emotion
or an act or a word but much, much more.
49 Years.
Love is a bridge that helped me/us
Over many troubled and peaceful waters.
49 Years.
Grateful. Humble. Joy-filled. Maddening.
Comfortable. Confusing and Right.
49 Years.
Where did they go?
49 Years.
Much, much too fast.
49 Years.
What do they mean?
Every thing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Epiphany Meditation

"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for
        --John Henry Newman

Most of us Baptists discovered Epiphany late. We knew about Advent, of course and Lent and Easter. But Epiphany? What was that? Digging around in my books I learned the word in the Greek means manifestation. For the Eastern Church Epiphany was older than Christmas in celebration. By the Fourth century the three great festivals of the Church were: Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost. In Rome it was linked to the coming of the Magi bringing gifts to the manger. It is also a reminder that the Magi were non-Jews and that Christ came for them, too. Out of this understanding Epiphany came to mean missions for some. But the central meaning of the word is light. Like the star the Shepherds first saw and then the Wise Men. John would interpret this to mean:"the light has come into the world and the darkness cannot put it out." Even though Epiphany began right after Christmas--it is a wonderful time to meditate on the wonder of God's great light.  I thought about the season of Epiphany as I wrote the lines that follow.          

I read somewhere on the ship that sunrise came at 4:22 or some ungodly hour. I never get up this early—seems like the middle of the night. Consequently, I had never seen the sun rise. Yet I crawled out of bed in the darkness—careful not to wake my wife. I slipped on my sweats and grabbed my camera. Everything was quiet on the top deck. The old ship rocked along. Most of the 3,000 of the passengers must have been asleep. Not a person in sight. I looked up at the blinking stars waiting in the silence and the dark. Just waited. On the far horizon in the East I saw what I thought was a slither of light. Slowly, ever so slowly that old yellow thing began its upward climb. Across the dark water came ripples of light. The blue-black water was changing color. And slowly the sun crept over the horizon. It was a new day—opening alike a present before my very eyes. The tall white ship rocked. It was now covered in light. Far below people began to stir. The old book is right. “From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.” (Psalm 113. 3) Thank God for the light.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is the Sky Really Falling?

Now let me get this straight--a man I never heard of (until lately) named Scott Brown has completely destroyed singlehandedly the one year tenure of our president. Huh? This man whose claim to fame is that he appeared in Cosmo years ago and drives a great big green truck has pushed the democratic party off the cliff. Huh? This one man in knocking off the 60th Democratic Senator in the Kennedy neighborhood has totally dismantled the one-year work of all those who have struggled so hard for health care? Huh? I think not. Let's at least try to put a little perspective on this Chicken-Little-the sky-is-falling brouhaha.

I know Obama should have probably given more attention to those long lines of the unemployed and all those home foreclosures. But let us remember in all fairness President Obama he inherited a colossal mess. Understatement.The economy was in the tank--we were tettering on the brink of a depession as deep and wide as the last. Torture and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has made all the rest of the world really wonder if we really do believe what we say American truly is. He inherited a war or wars--Afghanistan and Iraq--and trying to figure out how in the world to end this mess was left on his doorstep.

Despite the cruel and racist attacks on his birthplace--and the treasonous whisperings if he really, really is a Muslim --or if he really is black enough--not to mentiom the former Vice President's daily rants about his incompetency, his inability to just about anything.  Not to speak of all these wild and wooly rumors of how he will set up these death panels and clear out the population of all or almost all the wood. Huh? Seems like to me we need to give our President a medal for just still standing.

Zogi Berra used to say: It ain't over until it's over. Pundits and columnists please get off your bandwagons. The sky is not falling.One man's surprise election is not the end of any era. After all somebody ought to remind us that Mr. Brown just got elected to the Senate--not the Presidency.

I do hope the President has gotten the message.We must do something about the unemployed. We must give serious attention to all those who do not have enough money to stay in their homes. This man whom many have called one of the most brilliant men ever to grace the White House--surely will serious attention to some of the crying needs that have yet to be addressed.

So--let us stop wringing our hands. Let's get back to work. Let's give our President three more years. And let's look carefully at Mr. Brown and see who he really is and what he is made of. Hopefully he will surprise some of us who wonder. For God's sake let's turn down the temperature--and remember the sky really is not falling.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. King's Birthday makes me remember

This particular Martin Luther King meditation began on an airplane years ago. As the plane took off from Birmingham I began to talk to my seat-mate. She was a distinguished-looking black lady from Birmingham. I asked her if she might be a member of the Sixteenth Street Church--I was to preach there soon. She told me she used to be a member of that church. I asked her if she was there when the church was bombed. And she said: “My daughter was killed in that bombing... Her name was Carole with an 'e'." Carole Robertson was fourteen years old, a clarinet player, lover of fancy dresses, in the 9th grade. Her mother told me that she was getting ready for church when she heard the noise that would change her life forever. Her husband came home with the saddest of news: Their church had been bombed--Carole was dead.

Since that chance meeting on a plane our paths crisscrossed several times. She promised to speak in our church on Black History Sunday but her health would not permit. Through the years we talked from time to time on the phone. I would call her, sometimes she would call me.

Mrs. Robinson was born in Birmingham over ninety years ago. Her father, John Anderson was a Postman and dealt in insurance and real estate. Her mother founded the first PTA Council for African Americans in the city. Her husband served as Principal of the Martin Elementary School.

When Thomas Blanton was arrested and charged as one of those who did the bombing, they wheeled her into the courtroom and she testified in the trial. Was it hard to sit there in the courtroom and to speak? “No,” she said, “it was what I had to do”. She told those in the courtroom that her daughter would have been 52 years old the day she testified.

What kept her going? I asked her. “Hope, I think. That one day things will be right, not just the bombing, many things. You never know how justice is going to work its way out. But Blanton and the others”, she said, “will have to pay whether there is a conviction or not.”

Mrs. Robinson was featured several times in Spike Lee's Four Little Girls. The movie told the world the story of what happened that sad day in Birmingham when Sixteenth Street Church was bombed. As the movie was coming to a close, Spike Lee asked Mrs. Robinson about what this whole terrible event did to her. I will never forget how movingly she spoke as the cameras captured her face. “I have worked very hard not to feel anger and hatred. I had to keep my spirits up so I could help my husband's spirits up and the folks around me. We had good friends and family who gave us a lot of support. But”, and her voice was colored with emotion, “ you have to work with it and pray...Gradually,” she said, " healing came about because hating people would not do me good and it would do me more harm than it would them”. She continued to speak: “I think I conquered it but every once in a while it comes out, not the hatred but anger...It comes out in different ways. I've tried to put all that behind me and go on and live. My husband is gone, three brothers, my sisters and parents are gone. I still have my son and daughter and three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. So I have something to be thankful for after all.”

She called me one day and said, “Guess what? I just got back from the Academy Awards. Spike invited me to come and sit with him—it was wonderful. We had the best time.” And then she laughed with that deep down wonderful chuckle she had.

I wrote and article one Mother’s Day for The Birmingham News about Mrs. Robinson. She called me that Sunday afternoon and thanked me for writing. She said, “Dr. Lovette, it was wonderful even if it was about me.”

Not long after that she died. But meeting her and that friendship has been one of the great blessings of my life. On this day when we remember the great King I remember another great one. The mother of one of the four little girls that was killed that sad Sunday morning in Birmingham Maybe the old book is right: “Weeping may last through the night…but joy comes in the morning.”

(The above photograph was taken at the new Lincoln Memorial on the Ohio River in Louisville. There is a very impressive larger than life stature of Abraham Lincoln and nearby  this bronze plaque is part of the memorial to remind us of the great part that President Lincoln played in freeing the slaves.) 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When Jesus Comes through the Line

The scenes, the voices and the dead bodies in Haiti have touched us all. With sorrow so deep and so all-encompassing there is not much to say. The low estimate is that 100,000 have lost their lives-- many buried under debris and will never be found. And then all those others who suffer and cry out in pain for themselves and for their lost loved ones.

I think a Jim Wallis story is appropriate. Twenty blocks from the White House the door of the Sojourners Neighborhood Center open early for the Friday morning food line. About 300 families regularly are fed. Just before the doors open, the volunteers all join hands for prayer. Wallis said that most of those volunteers come from the food line themselves. That particular morning Mary Glover, a seventy year old African-American women offered the prayer. She prayed; “Thank you, Lord, for waking me up this morning. Thank you that the walls of my room where not the walls of my grave.” And then she added: “Lord, we know that you’ll be coming through this line today, so help us to treat you well.”

I thought about that story when I watch the pain and pathos in Haiti. Most of the people there have known nothing but poverty and hunger and fear and pain all their lives. And now this. We can’t turn away, you and me, we can’t turn away. Jesus is standing before us in the faces of those in Haiti. Let’s pray and then put legs on our prayers and send money to whatever organization that you feel comfortable with.

That old prayer-poem by Langston Hughes seems an appropriate way to close.

At de feet o’ Jesus
Sorrow like a sea.
Lordy, let yo’ mercy
Come driftin’ down on me.

At de feet o’ Jesus,
At you’ feet I stand.
O, ma precious Jesus,
Please reach at you’ hand.”
          --Langston Hughes

(The above photo was taken in Barcelona, Spain just as you enter the beautiful church, La Sagrada Familia. Note how as pilgrims have passed this plaque they have touch the name of Jesus until it shines like gold.) 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Remembering our Fallen

IRAQ. There have been 4,693 coalition deaths thus far in this war. 4,376 of these are Americans. At least 31,616 U.S. troops have been wounded in action.

AFGHANISTAN. There have been 1,569 deaths so far. 949 of these are Americans. At least 4,748 U.S. personnel have been wounded in action.
--CNN World

This story comes out of the Civil War. The names of those men who had been lost in the war for several weeks were posted on this wall in Washington. President Lincoln stood looking at the names. And a woman came up, ran her finger down the long list and said: “Thank God, my boy’s not on the list.” And Lincoln said, “But somebody’s boy is on that list.”

Let us, once again read through these names and ages and the places they come from and remember our fallen were somebody’s sons or daughters.

Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert / age 20 / Fort Atkinson, Wis. / Died while supported combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan / January 10, 2010.

Lance Cpl. Mark D. Juarez / age 22 / Bakersfield, CAL / Died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan / January 9, 2010.

Spc. David A. Croft, Jr. / age 22 / Plant City, FLA / Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with a roadside bomb and small arms fire in Baghdad, Iraq / January 5, 2010.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason O.B. Hickman / age 35 / Kingsport, TN / Died at Forward Operating Salerno in Khost, province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with a roadside bomb earlier that day at Combat Outpost Bowi Tana. / January 7, 2010.

Spc. Brian R. Bowman / age 24 / Crawfordsville, IND / One of three soldiers killed when insurgents attacked their unit with multiple roadside bombs in Ashoque, Zhari district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan / January 3, 2010.

Pvt. John P. Dion / age 19 / Shattuck, OK / One of the three killed when insurgents attacked their unit with multiple roadside bombs in Ashoque, Zhari district Kadahar province, Afghanistan / January 3, 2010/

Sgt. Joshua A. Lengstorf / age 24 / Yoncalla, OR / This is the third soldier who was killed when insurgents attacked their unit with roadside bombs in Zari district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan / January 3, 2010.

Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith / age 24 / Troy, Illinois / Died of wounds sustained while supporting combat operations near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan / January 3, 2010.

Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Spino / age 45 / Waterbury, CT / Died of wounds suffered when he was shot unloading supplies at a base in Bala Murghab district, Bagdhis province, Afghanistan / December 29, 2009.

Spc. Jason M. Johnston / age 24 / Albion, NY / Died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with a roadside bomb in Kandahar province, Afghanistan / December 26, 2009.

Staff Sgt. David H. Gutierrez / age 35 / San Francisco, CAL / Died at Kandahar airfield, Afghanistan when insurgents attacked his dismounted patrol with a roadside bomb / December 25, 2009.

Lance Cpl. Omar G. Roebuck / age 23 / Moreno Valley, CAL / Died as a result of a non-hostile incident in Helmand province, Afghanistan / December 22, 2009.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Were Things Really Ever Green?

"In the midst of winter, I learned that
there is in me an invincible summer."
                           --Albert Camus

I remember Carlyle Marney the great preacher saying that what we all need is a bucketful of hope. Some days watching the news and listening to the commentators my heart sinks. Why are people so mean to each other? Why are so many of our elected officials acting like whining babies? Foreclosures, people who have lost their jobs or been downsized, wondering if we will ever get a Health Care Bill and if we do--will it just be a monstrosity. We haven't  even gottten around to this war which seems endless.

It was in such a setting that God's people first began to reckon with hope. A dove came back after the terrible waters of the flood had swept everything away--and that dove came with a olive branch in her mouth--and old Noah knew that the waters had gone down and life could begin again.  Frederick Buechner once said if Paul were writing today he would change the sequence of those words in First Corinthians. Instead of : "faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love"...he would now say "faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is hope."

Years ago Temp Sparkman, a minister lost his little daughter to leukemia. In  his terrible grief he penned these words that I keep coming back to.

Was the grass really ever green
Were the sounds of birds really clearly heard
And did we picnic in the park only six short months ago
Here in mid-winter they seem so far away
The naked trees, the leaden skies seem always to have been
Were things really ever green
And will spring come back again? 

Yes, spring will return
The gray, dull days of cold will pass
The routine now imprisoning us will be broken up
A nerw excitement will be awakened by new possibilities
The despair which now engulfs us will subside
A word of hope will come to us
Our presumption that all is lost will be replaced
  by a newed expectancy
Future will become a possibillity again
The crush of demand will not dominate us forever
Out of liberation we will learn to choose
And in our choices be secure.

The sadness now weighing upon us will be lifted
Joy will speak her acknowledgement of grief and 
   will sound her call to us
The cause of sadness will not have vanished
But joy will come in spite of it
We will laugh again
We will sing and dance
We will celebrate the life now given us.

The conflicts now engaging our energy
  will be worked through
No wind will sweep them from us
We will go through them

And we will survive
Redemption will come of our transactions
Relationships will be rescued and restored
And where breaks are too deep to be one,
Healing will come in time, though apart
The tensions tearing at our being will be resolved
We will not be destroyed.

Were things really ever green
And will the spring come back again
Yes, yes as sure as e're it were here
Yes, yes as sure as winter's here
Yes, yes, as sure as God is
The spring will return
And it will be green again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Standing By Our Man

My friend at the Y stopped me to say, "I'm pretty down on our friend, Obama. He's let me down. I'm worried about this Afghanistan thing,looks like his health care bill has been about whittled down until it only benefits the insurance and drug companies. I just thought it was going to be different." President Obama is getting it from all sides. This war thing troubles me and I worry about our messing with Yemen. And I am disappointed in the direction Health Care has gone. I do hope, though that we will open a door which can lead to further changes that will be helpful to all our citizenry. So when I sat down this morning to read The Birmingham News' editorial section Mark Whitaker's article made me stop and think. He talks about the rocky year Obama has had but comes out hopeful that this man that so many of us believed in will come out as a great leader.This article was first printed in the Washington Post ,December 29. I recommend it to everyone. Healthy words in an unhealthy time. I think Whitaker puts things in perspective. Our President started his job with a whole lot on his plate. I wish him well and I still applaud his efforts.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Bible is not a Club

I like the bumper sticker that says: “Stop using my religion to sell your politics.” Looks like every election in Alabama each candidate tries to out-Jesus his or her opponent. A good example is Bradley Burne a Republican gubernatorial candidate. He was quoted as saying recently: I believe the Bible is true—every word of it.” Weeks before he was in New Hope speaking at the Piggly Wiggly. That day he said: “I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.” His enemies immediately jumped on him for being an unbeliever so he set the record straight. You would think we were voting for Pastor in Alabama and not the Governor’s seat. I’m not particularly picking on Mr. Burne—almost every candidate can be seen in church just before election time singing their hearts out.

If hopeful-Governor-to-be Burne (and his opponents) believe every word of the Bible is literally true we are in bad trouble. What about all that pre-scientific stuff we find in the Good Book that was accurate in the time ion which it was written. Like? The earth has four corners. That snakes talk. That Jonah was literally swallowed by a whale. Axe heads float. Those who dash the heads of little children against the rocks are called blessed. What about the sun standing still? Or parents of very sick children who refuse medical treatment saying they have to go by what Leviticus say about blood transfusions. And what of those passages about those caught in adultery where the culprits are both to be stoned to death. Gays along with blasphemers get the same punishment. Murders will be put to death and if you are injured the attacker gets the same as he gave. And we haven’t even gotten to the subject of polygamy. Some of those old timers had a whole lot more wives than the lead character on Big Love—not to speak of the concubines.

This doesn’t even touch the New Testament. All those passages about women keeping silent in the church, making sure their heads are covered and if they want to know what’s going on they are to ask their husbands at home. What about those verses on slavery that were used to keep black folk down for centuries? And later the proof-texting that was used to keep black folk from infecting white churches. You can believe the Bible with all your heart and still not take each word literally.

I would stand by Mr. Burne’s original statement: “I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.” I hope he will rethink this matter and tell his opponents to go fly a kite. The Bible is not a club to be used in political campaigns pro or con. The Bible is God’s word written by inspired human beings as flawed as we Christians today. They wrote out of their own cultural biases as we do today. They saw only partially as we do today. In the Bible we find poetry and history and parables and ethical instructions that have stood the test of time. Jesus got into trouble by updating the basic rules his people had followed for decades. “You have heard it said…but I say unto you…” The highest standard for judging the Bible is Jesus Christ. Everything in the book is to be filtered through Jesus’ loving, all-embracing life and teachings.

I would say to all the political candidates stop using our religion to sell your politics. Let us know what you believe about health care. Will you help us write a new Constitution we desperately need in Alabama? We want to know your stance on education, on equal opportunities for men and women and how you feel about pay-day loans. Tell us your convictions on taxing food which cripples many families in this state. Go back to that Piggly Wiggly Store in New Hope, Mr. Burne. Take your opponents with you. Tell those that are trying to check out and those that would throw rocks at you: “Folks, I believe the Bible. But that’s not the issue. I am not running for Pastor—I am running to make this a better state and I refuse to use the good book as a club or a smoke-screen that ignores the crying issues in Alabama.” Now—that is the kind of candidate, Mr. Burne I could vote for.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rush meet Lola

Rush Limbaugh has been dismissed from a hospital in Hawaii saying he did not have a heart attack. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I am glad that he seems to be on the mend. But this recent scare doesn’t seem to have changed his attitude. He proclaimed: “I got the best health treatment in the world right here in the United States.” He went on to say: “I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the American health care system. I got no more special treatment than anybody else…” This is true Rush, if you happen to be rich and famous.

But I wish he could meet Lola. She called me the day after Christmas to wish me a happy holiday. We hadn’t talked lately. She works in a framing shop and we struck up a friendship years ago. She is a great framer—and I always asked for Lola when I had my pictures framed. Her life has always been hard. She has helped her daughter and son and Mama keep going. She has raised her grandson. She has been the glue that has held her family together. She told me on the phone that they had cut her back to half-time at work. Lola has been there for over 15 years and worked faithfully. I asked her about her benefits. “They been cut off,” she said. “I don’t have no health insurance at all. That went when they cut me back.” She went on to say, “I can’t drive anymore because I am about blind in one eye. I need cataract surgery and it would be OK—but without insurance I can’t afford it. If I go anywhere my kids have to drive me now. I hate it.” Standing on her feet everyday, she said, she has terrible back pains and needed to go to the Doctor and see what is wrong. But, like so many without insurance, she just suffers. She is in that great number of 46 million without insurance. Sure, Rush, we do have the greatest health care system in the world if you can write the checks. If you can’t you just shuffle along and suffer. Maybe this new Health Care bill will do something for Lola and her family and all the other Lola’s out there.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Praying for Mr. Limbaugh

I guess by now we have all heard that Rush Limbaugh has been taken to the hospital in Hawaii and word is that he may have had a heart attack. I wish him well…and I hope he has a speedy recovery—and I hope that maybe some of his mean-spiritedness might just mellow as he recuperates. Perhaps I could follow the birthers and say: "How do we know he is in the hospital and this is not just a terrorist plot? What proof do we have that he is really a patient? Until I see the hospital register this might just be a plot hatched up by someone like Osama ben Laden or Ahmadinejad."

Seriously—we ought to pray for Mr. Limbaugh.

But I am reminded when we pray of some of the prayers prayed for enemies throughout history. Lyman Beecher prayed: “O Lord, grant that we may not despise our rulers; and grant, O Lord, that they may not act, so we can’t help it.” Samuel Eaton, Congregationalist who despised the Madisonian foreign policy: “Lord, Thou hast commanded us to pray for our enemies; we would therefore pray for the President and Vice-President of these United States.” But Henry Ward Beecher may have won the prize when he prayed after Buchanan left office: “Thank you Lord for removing rulers imbecile in all but corruption.”

Beginning Again

  I wish there was some wonderful
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our

And all of our poor, selfish grief
Could be dropped, like a shabby old
   coat at the door
And never put on again."
               --Louisa Tarkington

After Christmas, on the eve of the new year I went to see the film, "Invictus." I came away from the movie moved by the towering presence of Nelson Mandela. Mandela grew up in the segregation of South Africa. He fought it all his life.

He was arrested countless times for his role in trying to end apartheid. He made this statement before he was convicted to five years imprisonment:

"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is am ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

He did not die for those ideals but was incarcerated by his government to life imprisonment.  He was finally released February 11, 1990 after spending twenty-seven years in prison. He continued to work for equality for all South Africans after his release. He was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State President of South Africa in May of 1994. 

The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood begins with his election. Needless to say, many white citizens of South Africa were furious at his election. He refused to be heavy-handed with the white population. He knew that unless the country could unite regardless of their color, nothing would be gained. And so the movie focuses on his dream of bringing his people together through the universal language of sport. Most of Mandela's black leaders thought he was crazy to support the mostly white Rugby team. How could this man who had been imprisoned by his white oppressors for so long not retaliate? But he refused. He responded, again and again: "We must let the past go...we must forgive all the terrible things that have happened to us and move onl" When so many black South Africans would root for any team but their country's their new President campaigned to bring the World Cup to South Africa in  1995.

In the film he challenged the suspicious National Rugby Team's Captain Francoise Piennar to lead his team to win the World Cup. The movie's title, "Invictus" comes from a poem by William Ernest Henley which means: "unconquered." I came away from the movie feeling that the conquererors are those who can forgive. I recommend this movie to everyone. 

I couldn't help but think of  President Obama as the movie unfolded. So many have wondered why he has not been harder on his opponents and some of the difficult world leaders he has met. I have been impressed by the way  he has moved from crisis to crisis. Maybe for Mandela and our President and for us all is to find our conquering by "forgetting all those things that lie behind and press on to what lies ahead..." Not a bad way to start a new year. 

(Probably no greater symbol do we have of forgiveness than Coventry Cathedral. When the bombs destroyed this Church and many of the citizens of the town, they rebuilt the Cathedral and left the charred remains so all could see. The above photo is taken from the altar which stands in the bombed out building between the old and new church.)