Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I sometimes wonder today if children in America could ever possibly visualize what it was like to play guessing games or read the Sunday “funny papers” under a mountain of covers on Christmas Eve in a freezing bedroom. Never mind there was little prospect of any Chirstmas gifts except for the school classroom exchange (local merchants anticipated these exchanges with a good supply of sacks of marbles, dainty handkerchiefs, Big Chief writing tablets and boxes of crayolas.) I was astonished not long ago to learn Big Chief writing tablets were no longer being made, alas, alas! There was of course the Christmas Eve church service with children receiving sacks of candy with an apple or orange in the sack. Later, under our mountain of covers we laughed, imagined, created wonders of our minds, thought of the unfortunate children in India and Africa, told stories, ghost and otherwise to brighten our lives with magic and wonder. When we would finally settle down for the night it was in anticipation of knowing we had hardly begun to explore all that magic and wonder. A whole world awaited us.
Most modern families give the best they can for one another in the family at Christmas. There will be a young person who will receive the gift of a new car perhaps and mom or dad may find a new expensive watch under the tree. Children will give and receive from the abundance of all the good in the stores of America. We will each celebrate Christmas as we are wont to do, sometimes frugally, sometimes excessively. This is Christmas as we’ve learned to express it. But for me, one of the greatest of all Christmases would be if I could have my three-year old brother back, he of the fatally ruptured appendix. What he and I would do would be this: He and I would turn down the heat in the house until it was freezing. We would jump into our bed with a mountain of clothes on and a mountain of covers over us. We would make a tent of the covers and we would tell stories, ghost or otherwise. We would play “Three sailors went to sea, sea, sea to see what they could see, see, see.” We would laugh and be merry and would know of a certainty that to be a child in Kansas, in the winter, was the greatest of all blessings. I like to think, my imagination is at work here, that just before we snuggled down to sleep I would say to Billy, “Merry Christmas, little brother” and he would repeat it back to me.
Such a time that was, so much laughter, so much happiness, so much pleasure, so much joy. And here is where my spirit soars to the starry sky. Just before sleep, from under the covers, out of the great winter night, my brother and I might hear, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, to people of goodwill.”
MAY GOD BLESS US EVERYONE.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Such is the form and nature of our human community. It is always the wanting of newness, the release from oldness that permeates all of Christmas. There is a cleanness somehow buried in the carols and readings and prayers of the Christmas season and we are eager to have our children, our husbands and wives, our family and friends, experience this. I would like to feel no one is excluded by their own inflexibility from what is offered by all the season's presents. The thing about wanting life to be good and hopeful and renewing is that it's always, forever, already good and hopeful and renewing. To feel all this in our spirits we may sometimes need to change the linen. Christmas is not only a season, a holiday, a date on the calendar, it is real when we recognize what is already good and hopeful. No, I can't come and do your laundry. I can do the next best thing. I can point you to a laundromat. For all appearances you might mistake it for a manger.
Monday, October 17, 2011
To some extent the world we live in, and the world that has always been as far back as the one we see in the movie 1,000,000 B.C., has been a world where the traces of our having lived in that world are sometimes hard to find. Who in this year 2011 can tell us who Amico Bignami was or Elijah Lovejoy or Vaclav Havel or Lucretia Mott or Leonidas La Pucelle D'Orleans or Hugh Latimer or William Rontgen or Charles Dodgen are or were? The perplexing thing about these persons is, they made the world healthier or richer or more beautiful or more liveable because of their small traces. Yet in this age of our knowledge of nuclear power and complicated mathematics and science that boggles our mind these living souls are unknown to most of us even though their traces leaves to us more than any science will ever do.
Well, lest we find it difficult in our busy lives to look up Lucretia Mott or Vaclav Havel to see the effects of their footprints in our lives and our world perhaps we can take one moment each day to be wise enough to look for traces within our own households. To look is to see the traces left by our own children, traces we seldom acknowledge or even recognize, the traces of our husband or wife which are left in our lives every day, the signs of our parents which we sometimes eulogize at their funerals but seldom during their life's journey with us, a neighbor perhaps, or someone in our community, that person who has touched our lives, or perhaps tried to, while they and we were still living. How many times have we said to ourselves, "O, I wish I would have told her (grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, cousin, brother, sister), how much I loved them? The fact that we feel this debt to someone from our past is witness to our sometimes delayed acknowledgement of the traces they left in our lives.
Today, perhaps, or tomorrow at the latest, we may leave off the TV, the newspaper, a few minutes from our job, and create a few traces of our own in the sands of this human community. Then, perhaps sometime in the future, others will be wise enough to look for the traces of love and patience and courage and kindness and forgiveness and generosity which we have planted in and for them.
Friday, September 23, 2011
The times call us to arms! Ring the bells, sound the tocsin, cry out a new world crusade for the restoration of benevolence and empathy from those of us who have reaped the joyfulness of Tooth Fairy's gifts and have sown nothing but childhood despair in its place. To arms, all who love children! Let your own memory of 'The Morning After' $3 in the little white box be your guide to a new economic age of Tooth Fairy.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The 1960's and 1970's were years of great change in America especially in the area of race and social change. In some of those years I worked as pastor in the Inner City of Omaha, Nebraska. In those days the Inner City anywhere in America was a place of danger and violence. Parts of Omaha were burned down following the assassination of Martin Luther King. Those years were also years
of challenge for people everywhere in America who ventured out into society with words and actions of reconciliation and creative relationships across racial lines.
A week ago I watched and listened on PBS an entire program, rich in memory for me, of nearly all the folk singing groups that flourished during those years. Peter, Paul and Mary, The Limelighters, The Kingston Trio, Pete Seegar, The New Christy Minstrels, so many others. Their music enriched and encouraged, challenged the status quo in America. Last evening, also on PBS, I watched a program of some of these musical prophets. There was Peter, Paul and Mary again, and my mind went back to those times in the Inner City when, with others in different forms of ministry, we gathered in churches, community halls, back rooms and even vacant buildings, talked together, prayed together, and above all sang together the songs of faith, protest, affirmation and hope. There were times when these small clusters of workers with their prayer and song, were about the only voice of hope there was to be found.
So, in letting these two programs wash over my spirit with their memories, I sang the songs as they were being sung by the groups. I sang the song which was really the theme song of the whole protest movement in those years, "We Shall Overcome". I can never forget in those halls and churches and community buildings standing in a circle, holding hands, often with tears on our faces, letting the world know of our hope:
We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome some day,
O, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.
So much of what was believed in that time has come to pass. But the message remains. There is still much to overcome in our society and of course always in our personal lives. Singing and believing, and acting on that singing and believing with creative and courageous action, is an everyday event in lives everywhere. In the midst of fractured families, breaking or broken marriages, children losing their way, dealing with our own personal demons,
We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk in hand some day,
O, deep in my heart, I do believe, we'll walk hand in hand some day.
When that walk is one of freedom from bitterness, freedom from strife, freedom from selfishness and hardheartedness, we can come to that freedom and let it wash over us like the Balm of Gilead. O, deep in my heart, I do believe!
Friday, May 6, 2011
What are the odds for such a thing as this happening twice? They are astronomical at best. Yet in the world of Mathematics there is something called the Law of Probability. By virtue of this law one can predict the odds of such and such happening. One uses ratios, accumulated data, time factors, then poses a hypothesis as to an event occurring or reoccurring. I am confident in utilizing the Law of Probability in making the following predictions:
God will be goodO, and lest I forget, sometime another little boy will come and ask me if I can come out and play. I count on it. It's the Law of Probability.
A mother will be cured of breast cancer
An alcoholic will find new and sober life
An errant child will rediscover his or her family
A husband/wife will forgive his/her husband/wife
Someone will find laughter after a season of grief
The sun will shine
God will be good
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
But 3-D of course is an illusion, it enables us to see what isn't there. So, I say, off with the 3-D glasses! Only then can we see the beauty of the trees along those walks, parents loving their children, people doing impossible things and overcoming improbable odds. In looking at life as it turns we know the blind "see," the deaf "hear" and the beauty of things that so boggles our minds we want to break out in some Te Deum of praise. Just now the world is turning and so can we. So, excuse me now, I've got to go sing a duet with Luciano Pavarotti from the DVD "Rigoletto." He needs me to sing the bass part. Besides that, before the world turns too far today, I'll go say "Good Morning" to the priest across the way who lives with an oxygen tank. So many blessings, so little time to be blessed, how fast the world turns.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Christmas is still here of course and will likely come again. But as I watched and listened and read the deluge of animosity, diatribe and accusation from all along the political spectrum, I thought: at the dedication of the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863, the orator Edward Everett spoke for two hours; he spoke of conflict. Abraham Lincoln spoke for seven minutes; he spoke of reconciliation. Who remembers Edward Everett? Abraham Lincoln is immortal.
My unasked for advice to politicians, and to myself, comes from the first two words of one of Theodore Roosevelt’s most famous lines, “Speak softly……” As far as the next five words are concerned, “…..and carry a big stick,” we would do well to wish those five words to the Devil in American life.