Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gays Acting Like Conservative Straights?

photo by Charles Tilford / flckr
Funny on the day the Supreme Court is struggling with if gay citizens are going to have full rights and privileges in our country--I couldn't believe this article about two gay hotel owners who have gotten into hot water for co-hosting and event for Texas' Senator Ted Cruz. There have been countless emails and the LGBT community has boycotted their hotel because of this invitation.

Seems like only yesterday that gays (and many others) have been infuriated by the florists, wedding planners, cake bakers etc. who refuse to deal with gay weddings because of their "religious beliefs." They call their stance religious freedom--which sounds strange to me. Until everybody is free--nobody is really free.

Wouldn't it better for those Christian folk who deal in the wedding business to say to gays who want to get married--"I really don't believe in your cause--but since you have decided to do this I am going to do all I can to make this as meaningful an occasion as possible for you." Wouldn't that be a better stance and witness to the faith--than folding one's arms and pursing one's lips in judgment. Everybody loses when this occurs.

Which brings me to my second rant. Aren't the gays that protest Ted Cruz' visit just as guilty in wanting to deny him this place to speak? Wouldn't it be much better to open the hotel doors, sit around the table and have some kind of dialogue or conversation. I am no fan of Ted Cruz (understatement) but if all we do is turn our backs on the opposing side--nobody gains anything. Maybe Mr. Cruz would learn that gays are real live human beings just like everybody else.And just maybe gays might be able to see under the crust of all Cruz' pontificating, he too is a member of the club called the human family. 

The rainbow does not discriminate.  It hovers over everything--and that hope should touch us all.

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baptismal Memories

Sunday morning three children were baptized at the end of our church service. The Pastor called all the family members to come forward and to stand close so they could see their loved ones baptized. There were Mothers, Fathers, brothers and sisters,  a smattering of grandparents and an Aunt or two from out of town. After the family members stood close—the congregation was invited to move from their pews down to the front and get as close to the Baptismal pool as they could. The most moving part of that service was when the Pastor’s eleven year old daughter stood waist-deep in the water as her Daddy-Pastor raised his hand and intoned the baptismal formula. His voice broke under the emotion of the hour.

Looking around, I saw a young man in his forties. My son’s age. In fact he and my son were buddies. And I suddenly remembered that special time when they were baptized one evening years ago. After Sunday's service I went down to see my son’s friend. I hugged him and asked, “Do you remember?” “Oh yes,” he said, “I do remember.”

I remembered too. The year was 1978. It was a Sunday summer afternoon. We were scheduled to baptize that evening. But there was a hitch. When we got to the church we discovered that someone had forgotten to fill the baptistery. No water. We had planned the service carefully around one particular young man who was to be baptized. His father was seriously ill with cancer. We had structured this service between chemotherapy treatments when the father was not so sick. We had asked the father to have the baptismal prayer for his son and the other candidates. So, as happens so often in church, we had to come up with a contingency plan. We called a family in the church with a swimming pool and asked if we could have our service there.

I was heartsick. My own son was to be baptized. This man with cancer had come with great pain to participate in his own son’s baptism. I could just see people standing around snickering. But this was not the case. Something happened that late afternoon with the sun setting and the birds singing. The grace of God moved among us and across that water. None of us present will ever forget that particular baptism. One of the things that made that service so special was the bald-headed father dying of cancer. He pulled from his pocket a prayer he had written for his nine-year old son and the other candidates. This is what he prayed.

“Heavenly Father, at this time we would like to dedicate these young people to You as they choose to become members of Your intimate family through the sacrament of Baptism. Remember how you led Your chosen people out of Egypt by Your show of power at the waters of the Red Sea? Please show the same power for these boys tonight and protect them as You protect us all of Your children. Remember how You led Your chosen people through the waters of the River Jordan to let them enter the Promised Land? Please lead these boys through the trials and joys of life to the heaven You promise to those who follow Your way. Remember how You gave salvation to the world by the blood and water that flowed from your Son’s side on the cross? Please give the same salvation to these boys as they enter the waters of baptism as Your adopted sons.  Remember how You sent the Holy Spirit to Your close followers on Pentecost and gave them the courage to be brave Christians in their words and actions. Please send the same Holy Spirit into these boys tonight so that they can carry out Your teachings in their lives. Be with us all. Heavenly Father, so that we can also live out the power of our baptism in our own lives. Amen.

It was a holy night standing there by the swimming pool.  When the candidates had dried off, the Father with the bald head did a wonderful thing. He opened his car doors and the boys piled in and he took them down to McDonald’s for a baptism celebration. 

This was the Father’s last public appearance. He was a Catholic and I remember when they brought his casket through the doors of the church. There was a quiet pause just before they rolled the coffin down the aisle. The Priest took a tiny vial of water—flung it on the casket and said: “Bernie Caffrey has been baptized!” And the water shimmered and glistened on the top of the casket.

I remembered all these memories as I stood looking up at last Sunday's baptism.

photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Old Dog--New Tricks

Ok--I'm 79. Time to kick back, take it easy. Just coast. You would think. But noooo-all the how-to articles in US Today, Time, Newsweek--not to speak of Dr. Oz, Oprah and the ocean of information that keeps seeping into my computer saying: "Want to stay with it? Not lose what grey matter you have? Not be forced by your children into a nursing home or take away your car keys. Well--you've got to keep exercising your brain. You've got to stretch whatever you have up there. No rest."

Scary business. Or as we say in the South: "bid-ness." I tried Sudoku--didn't work. Crossword puzzles. No. Can't jog anymore--lousy feet. Read, read, read. But--the articles all say you've got to learn new things when you're old or you will be toast. New things? Sounds exhausting.

Well, it is. My children, desperately afraid that people on the street will think their parents have lost it or have slowly but surely turned into dorks--tell us what not to wear--what kind of shoes not to buy--not SAS! How to get your hair cut--and stop listening, for God's sake to, say Lawrence Welk retreads. (We never did.) Maybe Eva Cassidy, Nat King Cole and Aretha. Reckon I could add Johnny Cash?

So with the encouragement of my son who has been insisting for a year that I ought to get an Apple computer--I finally, reluctantly gave in. "That old thing you are using is crap--you need to trash it. Don't you know they are hopelessly out of date in five years." Five years?

It didn't matter that I had an I-pad, an I-Pod, even, at long last an I-phone. "Why people on the street see you with that flip-top thing and they'll laugh all the way home." So--I broke down and got this new I-phone which, truthfully I am still having trouble with. Longing, most days for my old flip top. "Not up to date, " he says.

So--I went to the Apple store and looked around and all the new-fangled treasures that glitter on every counter top. I hardly knew what to ask. Finally I settled on a desk-top. I think they call it an I-Mac. All the young people working  the Apple store kept saying: "You're going to get a desk-top?" Well, yes I am. One guy even sidled up to me and talking out of the corner of his mouth said a little too enthusiastically, "You gotta get an I-watch, too!" I shook my head. That thing was not only expensive, it was scary.  A computer on my wrist? Well, no. (Maybe next year--perish the thought!)

So I brought the thing home in a box--Big box. I was scared to open my new challenge.  Finally I carefully took it out of the box and tried to figure out what should happen next. A friend came by and told me I now needed an Apple ID and, of course a new Password. He fixed this. Knowing I was hopelessly lost I had signed up (another $99.00) for a year's tutorial and the promise that they would transfer all my information from my aging antique to this new with-it computer.

Thirty miles away is the closest Apple store. I took my hard drive and my new computer and left them. A week later I went to get my new computer and have my first tutorial. I had carefully written down passwords and Id's, etc. But--when my teacher at the store asked for my Apple ID and new Password--guess what? I had left them at home. Somehow, miraculously he was able to open up this new challenge and gave me yet another password.

I came away from my first session know just a little more than when I got there. The guy was great. His pupil was--well--slow and nervous and asked strange elementary questions.

Back at home I tried a few kindergarten undertakings. Then I branched out. E-mail. Now I could do this. But if I wanted to attach something from my documents--this was hopeless. Where was the Spell Check? If I wrote something how would I know it was saved and if it was--how do I access it tomorrow?

I'm doing better. A little. I have even typed this pathetic piece on my brand new machine. (I call it a machine ever since the Anita Hill hearing when Senator Strom Thurmond leaned over the table and said, "Miss Hill--please speak into the machine.") Well--I didn't talk to "the machine" but I did do a pretty good job of typing.

Practice makes perfect. They used to say about my piano lessons. And just about every new thing I ever tried to do. But this old dog is finding this new undertaking quite a challenge. I guess I will get there and will probably be on Oprah or Dr. Oz talking at age, say, 100 about how an old dog really just might learn new tricks.

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marriage is Not a Noun

photo by Jo Christian Overhauls / flickr

"Dearly Beloved...we are gathered together to join together...in holy matrimony..."

It’s wedding time—mostly. Brides-to-be have picked up their dresses and they hang in some closet carefully wrapped. The place for the ceremony has been chosen with great care. The Mother-of-the-Bride has selected her dress and is trying to hold her weight down. The bridesmaids know what they will be wearing. The Father-of-the
Bride is looking at the mounting stack of bills and scratches his head. The Groom, of course, hasn’t a worry in the world. Neither do his groomsmen. The Bride’s mother runs her fingers down the list. Church. Pastor. Invitation list. Invitations. Florist. Reception place. Caterer. Wedding cake. Bridesmaids’ gifts. Honeymoon site. Wedding present registrations. Thank-you notes.

The average wedding in this country costs $29,858 which is higher than the 2009 figure of $19, 581.00. In Upstate South Carolina a wedding will cost somewhere between $17,843 and $29,739. What’s wrong with this picture? Lots.

After the wedding and the honeymoon are over, the couple settles down for a life together. What then? Fifty per cent of those marriages will end in heartbreak and divorce. I never counseled a couple about to be married who did not believe that their relationship would last forever. They walk down that aisle hopeful and sure that the knot they tie will hold.

Many couples make a serious mistake. They spent all their time and energy on the big day and what comes later is often a letdown. A great many confuse a wedding and marriage. They are not the same. Marriage is not a noun—it is a verb. And if I remember my English—a verb is an action word.

What follows the wedding is the relationship. This partnership is foremost in any healthy marriage. Somehow the “for better or for worse…in sickness and in health…”has gotten lost for many in our time.

Many spend more time buying a car or a house than is spent on marriage. A wise marriage counselor of another day, Dr. David Mace has said that every couple is given a plot of land and two deck chairs when they get married. After the honeymoon if the couple just sits down in those two chairs and just holds hands—that little plot of land will slowly become a jungle.  But if the couple decides to prepare the ground, work the soil, plant seeds, fertilize and tend their little half-acre they can expect a beautiful garden. But Dr. Mace added the problem is that many couples just sit in the chairs and let the plot called marriage go to waste. The weeds and the bugs take over and heartbreak ensues.

Once my wife and I spent a week in Miami on vacation. At the swimming pool one day there was an old woman, very close to her eighties in a bathing suit. She and her husband were having a great time. I will never forget watching her stand on the edge of that swimming pool. Those eighty years had taken their toll. There were varicose veins and more bulges and lumps than a real figure. She called out to her photographer-husband who was about to snap her picture, asking if she looked all right. His words still move me: “Honey, you look great—you really look great!” They had learned through the changing years that real love is a verb after all. Real love is hanging in there through thick and thin. Real love is forgiving one another. Real love leaps across the very real differences in any relationship and makes it work. Real love hangs in there on good days and bad. Maybe beside every wedding altar we ought to place two deck chairs, a shovel and a bag of fertilizer among the candles and the flowers.  

photo by Garrett Wade / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Blogging--My Journey

A theological group I am in asked me to talk to them about blogging. This is what I had to say…

The word blogging is so new it isn’t even found in my old college Dictionary. One definition is: a web site that contains personal reflections, comments, and often links to other by the writer. A blog is really an internet journal.

My own experience with blogging goes back to December 2008.  I don’t know about you but my adult
photo by eleaf / flickr
children are petrified that their folks will be out of touch, laughed at by the masses, not knowing what is going on and embarrass the daylights out of them.

So my son said in 2008, “What you need is a blog. You like to write--you ought to do this. “ I didn’t know what he was talking about. “It’s a way of communicating and you need something to do.”

He was right about “something to do.” After six churches and seven Interims my wife proclaimed, “Ok. It’s time to stop. Living out of suitcases, sleeping in somebody’s else apartment or condo—not ever being at home—besides you are tired. And I am definitely tired of wearing the preacher’s wife’s hat.” So like a dutiful submissive husband, which I usually am not—I said, “Yes ma’m.”

Well, I did need something to do. You retirees know what I am talking about. Suddenly the spotlight fades and the phone quits ringing and your business cards are yesterday and nobody asks you your opinions or tells you how Billy Graham couldn’t hold a candle to you. All this is gone with the wind.

photo by photosteve101  flickr
So—my son nudged me into the blogging business. Even though I have used a computer for a long time—I am still a pathetic beginner. So, taking me by the hand, my son showed me how to begin this new thing. “You’ll need a title for the blog”, he said, “some kind of theme that will tell folks what you are writing about”. So—I started thinking and finally came up with a title: Head and Heart. Subtitle: Roger Lovette writes about cultural concerns, healthy faith and matters of the heart. I know it sounds pretentious—but folks I was under the gun.

For years I have said of preachers and all Christians that we shouldn’t park our brains at the door of the church. I’ve also said if you come away from a sermon having no idea what century you’re in or what is going on in your world—or theirs—you have done a lousy job. So—I figured a preacher’s blog should deal with the real. But it shouldn’t be so heavy and ponderous that it hardly ever strikes a human chord. The blog ought to tug at the heartstrings, too. It’s what the black preacher calls “Aunt Jane.” “If you don’t put some 'Aunt Jane’ in your sermon, nobody will listen.” So I decided to call my Blog: Head and Heart.

My son, a photographer, set up my masthead and design. And so that December morning in 2008 I sat
down before my computer and a blank page wondering what in the hell I had gotten myself into.

What was I going to write about?  I could just see this blank page stretching endlessly forward. And I remembered something that Anne Lamott, in her book on writing, said about her little brother. He was given the assignment in school to write an essay on birds. And he sat down at the kitchen table one night and began to cry. “I don’t know how to write this. I don’t know that much about birds.” And his father said, “The only way you can write this is bird by bird, Buddy.” Bird by bird. Start off small and specific. Well—I decided to put my fingers on the keys and see what would happen. After 40 years of writing sermons surely I could come up with something. And I remembered a book I had read years ago by Arthur Gordon who was then an Editor at Guideposts. He wrote, a book of essays entitled, A Touch of Wonder.  And I remember thinking I wish I could express my feelings like Arthur Gordon. One day at Seminary James Cox, my preaching Professor asked me one day, “Have you ever thought about writing? Why --don’t you try your hand with say, the Baptist Bulletin Service.” On the back of those pre-print Bulletins they had little articles. I sent one in and they took it. I think they paid me two cents a word. I got the courage to send in a sermon to Pulpit Digest—and they took it. Now I have had my turndowns and rejection slips aplenty from Editors and Pulpit Committees.  And each one hurt. For you see, we egomaniacs want everybody to love us—which is a joke and a heresy. Ain’t gonna happen.

What I learned about writing sermons and other things was staring at that blank page sometimes—often—I did not know what I thought I believed until I put the words down on paper. You follow your head and sometimes your heart and you never know where this will lead or where you will come out.

So Christmas 2008 I started. So I wrote about what I knew and observed. The tiny star my daughter had made in Sunday school fifty plus years ago. It has hung on our tree every year. I wrote about Christmas cards and Christmas ornaments and how both took me back, sometimes way back. I wrote about my tiny Mexican Nativity set and the After-Christmas blues. That first New Year I wrote about Starting Over and Letting Go.

Since I started preaching and writing—especially writing—I found myself wanting to talk to those on the edge—insiders of course but especially the outsiders. I tried to say over and over in all sorts of ways: “Hey, there’s more to this faith business than you ever thought—and you don’t need to park your brain at the door.” I have tried not to use too much Scripture though it is just below the surface in much that I write. But it still drives the fundamentalists crazy. I try to keep my Democratic leanings to a minimum but in this day and age I find it very hard. I also try not to be too judgmental –and this drives some people crazy—they want me to bring out the hammer. But mostly I want to speak to the head and the heart.

Since my blogging beginnings I have written 731 pieces. Bird-by-Bird, I guess. I could not believe I have
written this many pieces. One of the strange things about blogging is that your stuff goes all over the world.  I’ve had 80,000 hits in the US. 3,825 from the Ukraine; 3,786 from France and 3,298 from Germany. 2,577 have read from Russia and there have been some from India and China and Australia and all over.

So this experience has given this egomaniac a chance to get the spotlight turned back on—sort.
But never enough applause which my fellow-ego-maniacs can resonate with. We just cannot get enough. I believe there is another word for this phobia.

Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell it slant.” Tell it different. That’s why Fred Craddock and Barbara Brown Taylor and Walter Bruggemann and so many that have forced us to listen. They tell it slant. Now I am no Fred or Barbara or Walter but I have tried to see things around and within me a little different.  I’ve written about social issues like: Race and a black President and Selma and Voter Registration and Immigration and Gay Rights and Torture. I’ve written book reviews of books that have turned me on like Pat Conroy’s book My Reading List. I’ve tackled movies like ”Boyhood” and “The King’s Speech” and  “Way, Way Back".  I wrote a review of “Unbroken.” I have even included some sermons—but not many.

Because we all seem to be obsessed with New Spring I couldn’t help but comment on the Pastor’s Christmas vision about re-writing the 10 Commandments. The baby Jesus seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. A little later when he apologized I wrote another piece thanking him for being big enough to do this and telling everybody we all have to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Trying to be fair—but as you know it isn’t easy. Even with people we think are a little crazy.

 For about four Lenten seasons I have tackled The 14 Stations of the Cross as my own meditations. I wrote two pieces on the war in Iraq and reviewed Dennis Finkel’s two books, The Good Soldiers and The Forever War.  I grieved over all these mostly young men and women who come home in flag-draped boxes and so for a while—about once or twice a month I wrote pieces called “Remember the Fallen.” Some had been deployed as many of four times. I plowed through the long, sad list of those who had died that month—put down their names, ages—where they were from and how they died. Most were under 25 and many of them had been deployed time after time. But I finally had to stop doing that—there were too many names and the list was seemingly endless.

There have been a great number of pieces on personal things in my life. Buechner in his book, The Sacred Journey has said that when we tell our stories it is like we are putting together photographs of our life. And the hope is that when they see these pictures and these stories it will enable them to open up their own album of stories and pictures and remember. Sometimes I have taken excerpts from Funerals for good friends and published these. Like my cousin Ray who killed himself at age 50—and left me a note asking me to do his funeral. I wrote about losing my buddy in Tennessee that I have known for years. I gave a tribute to an art teacher who had made such a difference in our community. I included my remarks at the private funeral of dear Beth who just drank herself to death before she was fifty. These were a way, I think of dealing with my own grief. We all do it in different ways.  I have written about our anniversary, the closing of my home church, my kid’s birthdays. I wrote one piece recently on my tribute to Fred Craddock.

I just read a poem by Michael Dennis Brown. His last stanza on “Consider the Lilies goes like this:

Consider the lilies;
   there where your wealth lies,
   you will see where your heart lives:
   all petals, all leaves.
Know the lives of the lilies.”

But the poem that really nudges me to open my eyes just a little wider is that poem by Frances Cornford. She was on a train and she looked out and saw this woman wearing gloves—just walking this path and she wrote:

“Why do you walk through the fields with gloves—
Missing so much and so much?”
Oh why do you walk through the fields in gloves—
Missing so much and so much.”

Maybe blogging is a way I am trying to open my eyes and take the gloves off and experience what is around me. We all miss so much. The train just goes too fast and these days it seems to go faster and faster.

What has gotten the most hits? You won’t believe this: Pay-Day Loans. I have had 7,361 hits. Guantanamo and John Grisham had 1624. Is the Pope a Catholic? produced 909 responses.

Of course I have had a lot of frustrations. Some of the pieces I thought were great nobody seemed to care about and some of the blog pieces I wrote off in a hurry have brought many more responses. I’ll never be a household word if you want to get back to my egomaniacal phobia. But my blog keeps me fresh and forces me still at age 79 to use some of brainpower—what’s left, that is.  It keeps me off the streets and makes my wife happy that I am not downstairs running her crazy and invading her space. This blogging gives me a pulpit, which I dearly miss—even though most churches think we old timers are over the hill.

--Roger Lovete / rogerlovette. blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Holocaust--A Day to Remember

photo reserved b USACE Europe District / flickr

One of the great Biblical words is remember. The people of God always got into trouble when they forgot. This is why the Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust is so important. At sunset tonight this remembering one of the most painful experiences in our history begins. George Santayana once said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” No wonder the Jews mark this day and say: “Never again.”

This whole sorry picture of hatred and vengeance boggles our minds after all these years. But this day should
photo reserved by lapidim/ flickr
give us all pause to remember. Do we leave Palestinians out? Can we push the immigrants out of the circle? What about the Muslims? Or the black folk after all these years are scared every time one of their own leaves the house. Will they ever come back? What about sexual trafficking and rape and abuse, abuse, abuse. What about all the lies and smears that have rained down on this black President and his family? What about the gridlock so powerful in Washington that, falling through the cracks are so many with enormous needs?

I am told that a group from the US Army Corp of Engineers European District volunteer to clean the individual memorials found all over Weisbaden, Germany. Maybe it is time for all of us to pick up our brooms and rags and buckets and cleanup the mess that we, and so many others, have made.

We say never again and yet we know that across this troubled world we must have forgotten all the tears and the graves and the mental illness and the horror of so much. Maybe it is too much to ask everyone to help make this world better—but we can in that tiny spot where we live and work and do.

I keep hoping the gospel writer of the book of John was right when he said: “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.” The vision and the dream is still with us. Dear God: Let it shine, let is shine, let is shine.

"Abraham, Father of Faith, could it have been
  what you thought was God's voice, commanding you,
then only with Isaac bound, the Divine hand
  dragging down your wrist
to halt the war on your boy?
  And Sarah, what of Sarah? Did the two,
did the three of you, speak again, ever,
of that or anything else again, ever?'
    --excerpt from poem, "In a Bar in Chicago,"
          by Michael Dennis Browne

Names of more than 2400 people inset in pavement slab of Jewish victims in Mannheim.
photo by lanier67 / flickr

--Roge Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Bible--Club or Hammer?

photo by knowhimonline  /  flickr
Every once in a while I just have to rant. I am so tired of the media writing about Christians as if we were all narrow-minded, judgmental and self-righteous. Well, maybe sometimes we are.

But with this current tempest in the Indiana tea-pot the Church has come across looking like a bunch of mean-spirited Yahoos. Well, maybe sometimes we are.

The press takes one group of Christians--say the Fred Phelps' folk and implies this is what it means to be a Christian. But there a whole lot of good folk totally unlike the Fred Phelps crowd that have simply been misled in their understanding of the Bible.

The Bible, written over thousands of years by many people from varying cultures reflect two different strands. One: culture. Other: time-tested faith. Every book usually reflects the time in which it was written. So--we can't expect folk that were blood-thirsty and downright cruel to reflect anything but their own time. Consequently, it was perfectly all right to "bash the heads of little children against the stones." It was ok to stone those committing adultery and even kill your children if they back-talked. It was a time in which ax-handles really could float and the world was flat and had four corners and night demons could gobble you up at night. It was a book that was deeply suspicious of whatever their idea was of blood transfusions and a whole lot of different foods. No wonder some groups think women should be not only submissive but should be treated like women are still mis-treated in many parts of the Middle East today. All this and more is culture representing primitive times and primitive ideas in many places.

Now let's turn to time-tested faith. In more places than I can foot-note in the Old Testament (as well as the New) the blinding light of a faith that heals, sustains and enables can be found. John Calvin and others said if you want to understand the Bible you need to filter the whole book through the prism of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus was and is the high-water mark. And if this idea is true--so much of culture just falls away in the light of the teachings and life of Jesus. He never, ever used the Bible as a hammer or a club to hurt people. (But he did raise hell in the Temple when people were desecrating that holy place.)

So when I read in The Daily Kos this article on "I am a Christian Business Owner in Indiana" I wanted to share it with you. This writer, tongue-in cheek talks about all the people he could not serve if he were a real Bible-believer. The list is long as well as hilarious. It reminds me of something that H.L. Mencken said of Puritanism: "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." I could even paraphrase his remark like this: "Speaking of Atheists and maybe some Christians--"The haunting fear that someone, somewhere will find joy through the Christian faith."

(Sorry I couldn't make is easier for you to read the article from The Daily Kos--but you can dig it out for yourself. I am still a babe in the woods when it comes to computers.)

                                                                   --Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspotcom

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Post-Easter Poem--What Now?

photo by kaiyanwong / flickr

The service  yesterday was glorious.
"Jesus Christ is Risen Today!
Alleluia! Alleluia!"
And  we move toward the altar
   to get the lily we bought.
The flower that remembered someone
    living or dead.
From all over the church people came--
   picking up lily after lily--
Until the altar was sparse and bare--
With only a lone lily or two left here and there.

 One by one we moved to the parking lot.
We carefully placed our lily
    so it wouldn't fall over and break--
With luck I'll dig a hole today or tomorrow
    and hope next Spring I will see my lily again.

So I start the car
   and move toward home.
All over town others follow the same ritual.
The music has stopped.
The Alleluias are over.
 I take the key out of the ignition.
I am home.
What now?
What now that the Alleluias are over?
                       --Roger Lovette

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Easter!

photo by Sheree / flickr
Every Easter I remember a scene at the Passion Play in Oberammergau in Germany I saw years ago.The play opened with Jesus riding into Jerusalem for the last time. The play ended with the . Resurrection. And in-between, the drama of the last days of Jesus’ life took six hours to tell.

I was not prepared for the Resurrection scene. The crucifixion had been particularly graphic. The stage went dark after Jesus was taken down from the cross by his loved ones. In the last scene of the drama the weeping women move through the darkness and stood behind these huge doors that represented the sealed tomb. They knocked on the door and nothing happened. Then an angel came and without saying a word she unrolled an aisle cloth from the door down, down the steps toward the audience. As the women looked on, the door slowly began to open. Light, dazzling light slowly filled the stage and bathed the darkened room where we sat with light. After a long pause through that open door and the streaming light Jesus came. He walked down the steps and from stage left and right a hundred children come running forward and grabbed his legs laughing and laughing as the chorus sang joyously.

That’s Easter for me. Year after year, the memory never grows old. Light and hope and new beginnings and love and laughter. Somehow my old nine-to-five appointment book is disturbed once more. The predictability of my days is thrown off kilter. The thus and so-ness of my life--worries about money or health or children or just the weary world—is suspended for just a moment. And I can make it another year.

(This is my favorite Easter memory--I have written about this more than once. It expresses for me what can really never be expressed fully in words.)

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com


Jesus is Laid in the Tomb -- Station 14

"Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble...tremble...
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?"
          --Negro Spiritual

"So we have come to the last Station, " the Priest says."We have moved," he continues, "from the trial and sufferings and nailing and death--all the way to the end."

The disciples knew it was all over.  Thank God," we whisper, "that's over. The suffering. The pain. At the last it was just unbearable. She's better off".

But us, you and me--what about us? Where do we go now as we leave this last station. This is the last stop.The tracks just run out. This is the getting off place. So we gather up our belongings, making sure we have everything, and begin to shuffle out into the sunshine. We go our separate ways.  Back to life--our lives.
But we are different having made this long circuitous journey. Different, different indeed.

It was the same back there. Mary Magdalene the other Mary, the well-heeled Joseph, Nicodemus, the soldiers that stood guard. The frightened disciples. Weeping broken-hearted Peter. Even dead Judas.

What now? This is interim time. Somewhere between the no longer and the not yet. Later, because it still had not sunk in they moaned sadly, "We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel."

Leaving this last station we hoped too, didn't we. Doing something about our loved one's cancer. Taking on ISIS, for God's sake. Changing the stupid, pathetic American political system. Turning back the old age clock. Doing something, anything to reach out to him or her and help them off this destructive road. Bringing home those 150 plus girls in Africa that were kidnapped so long ago--they have almost slipped from our memories. But not their parents.We had hoped we could resolve once and for all the crazy madness of  the Middle East. We had hoped even our lives and the lives of all those we love would be kept safe from harm's way. Walking into the sunlight--heading for home with our satchels or little suitcases. We had hoped when we opened the door things would be better. We had hoped.

So this is interim time. Maybe the quietest of the Stations. When a friend lost his little daughter at age nine he wrote me back after I had called him and said, "Thank you for what you did not say." This is the time for grieving and weeping, weeping and just feeling flat and empty and numb. It really is not-saying time.

This is the last station. But not really. There is more to be continued. But in this Interim time--it seems like the end of the line.

photo by dmelchordiaz / flickr

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Religious Freedom Act and Good Friday

On this Good Friday as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act swirls around our heads, I am thinking of the cross. Not just a two thousand year old cross—but the green wooden cross that hangs on a picture in my office.

Last summer our son and his partner decided to get legally married. They had been together twenty-five years and thanks to their state of Pennsylvania’s new law they could be joined in holy matrimony.

My son asked me if I would do the wedding. Knowing no couple whose love runs deeper, I agreed. So one morning after breakfast  last summer we gathered by their fireplace in their living room. Mark, my son’s partner said, “You may want to wear this cross” And he handed me a green wooden cross.

So I slipped the cross around my neck and they pledged their vows to one another. It was a holy moment for me and for them  too, I think. Tears ran down all our faces. And that morning I simply did what I have been doing for over 40 years—I married two people in love.

What does my little green cross and Good Friday have to do with the hoopla over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Everything. And even though Indiana has backed off parts of this bill—this battle is far from over. This law would allow businesses to refuse to serve gays out of religious conviction. A whole lot of Christians in Germany felt the same way about serving Jews. I thought of all the Christians that stood at the front door of their churches and shook their heads to blacks. In the name of religious conviction both groups thought they were protecting their faith and their values. Some even cited Biblical evidence on both occasions.

The word religion comes from the root word, to bind. Faith should unite and not separate or divide. Real religion should never discriminate against fellow human beings.

The word freedom is also misunderstood. Whose freedom are we talking about in this law? Sponsors say we infringe of the freedom of those of religious convictions if we do not pass laws that allow people to pick and choose whom they will serve. This freedom is narrow because it excludes many in the name of the few. Martin Luther King was right when he said, “Unless all are free no one is free.”

So on this Good Friday we remember a hill long ago and far away. And we recall the One who stretched out his arms to everyone. And I think of my little green cross and a day last summer.

(I took this picture in my office. The self-portrait is of my son who drew this years ago.)

--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross --Station 13

photo by timabbott  /flickr
"Near the cross of Jesus
there stood his mother,
his mother's sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene."
       --John 19. 25

“We’re almost finished,” the Priest said. But not quite. Grieving takes a long time. We must linger here before this sad Station. Looking up we now know that it is over. It must have been hard for that little cluster that came—the Mary’s and the Mary and that one disciple. Hard to believe that the one that held them and healed them and listened to them and loved them—was dead.

But like that long line of grieving mothers and sons and daughters and fathers and friends—there is nothing to say, really. And little to do. "Do something.” they tell us. "Don’t just stand there.” But looking up at the dead Jesus there really is nothing to do.All the casseroles and flowers and sympathy cards will not change this scene.

Joseph and Nicodemus and some we do not know will tenderly take the dead Jesus and place him in Joseph’s tomb. The old Negro spiritual captured this scene: “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” And looking up we nod a yes.

What does it all mean this dark Station with the mother and the other women and the beloved disciple and those that did the dirty work? Who knows really?

The story goes that after the great Abraham died and the crowds gathered up and down the Washington streets where his body would pass—there was a black woman holding her tiny child. And as the caissons and the horse drawn carriage passed she held up her baby and whispered, “Take a long, long look, he died for you.” And perhaps all we can do as we stand looking up is to know that once upon a time there really was one who, knowing us through and through—loved us more than we will ever, ever know.


Lord—on this holy day we know this is Friday. So much of us and ours sloshes through Friday after Friday. The headlines tell us the breaking news is all there is. Fridays everywhere we turn. Help us to remember that time they lifted Jesus’ body down from the cross. Help us to know that this Friday—or any Friday--is not the last word. Amen.

                                   --Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Jesus Dies -- Station 12

photo by jimforest / flickr
"A choir of angels glorified the hour
the vault of heaven was dissolved in fire.
'Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?
Mother, I beg you, do not weep for me...'

Mary Magdalene beat her breasts and sobbed,
His dear disciple, stone-faced, stared.
His mother stood apart. No other looked
into her secret eyes. Nobody dared."
                 --Anna Akhmatova

There is only silence now.
We onlookers, led by the Priest—
   move quickly to Station Twelve.
It is so quiet you can hear the
   beating of your own heart.
For once our leader-Priest is silent.
He only points upward.
And we all look.

Even after all these years—
   something powerful tugs at our heartstrings.
Jesus is dead.
It has all come to this.
The trial…
The scourgings…
The falls…
The weeping mother and women…
The nails…
The terrible nails.

As he breathed his last, he moaned,
‘It is finished.’
And so we stand looking up.

Like the Priest we say nothing.
There is nothing to say
  when someone we love dies.
We weep—if we can.
We hug—if anyone is there.
We stumble out of the room
   and lean against the wall.

There is nothing now except
Prayers don’t work.
Words don’t help.
Forget Scripture.
And so we look up—
pondering the mystery.” 
     --Roger Lovette

“Surely he has borne our grief, and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.”
                                                              --Isaiah 53. 3-4

                                                                      --Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com