Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who Do You See?

I know...I's Wednesday again...hey what do you do when the Gremlins are still lurking within the computer...think it's time for som computer geek maintenance.

On Sunday, my friend and brother, Pastor Greg Ott, in his message at Trinity Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) asked the question, 'Who do you see?'

Watch this video and think about the question.  

Check out his sign.  "I have a God given gift of voice..."

I was struck by Greg's question,"Who do you see?"  We see people like Ted Williams every day as we go about our daily lives.  Do you see a homeless man, a bum, a black man, a vagrant, a panhandler, a nuisance, a  liar, a father, an uncle, a brother, a husband, a son, a man or the face of God?

I especially liked Biblical scholar 'Arthur Weiser's quote that Greg shared with us referring to Pslam 27 as a song; a "courage of faith'.

“...we are confronted not with the exuberant strength of a courage characteristic of an untroubled and lighthearted young man, who treats with indifference the seriousness of a dangerous situation, but with the strength of a mature man which is grounded in faith and has been acquired in the course of many conflicts and has been tested in many battles; such a man reckons with the grim facts of life, but on that account does not only not lose courage but on the contrary ’lifts up his head’ the more confidently, being inwardly strengthened and fortified by the power of a faith that rejoice in HOPE. It is in this attitude and spirit that the song has been written as a striking testimony to the fact that the faith of a human cannot at all be equated with cowardly subservience to the facts of life, BUT [faith] steels man’s heart in the struggle for existence and lifts him up to the higher level of heroic greatness.”  

Greg read this quote before showing the video.  This quote said a lot and made me say 'Amen' when I heard it then.  Now that I've re-read it and thought about it more in relation to Ted Williams, the man, I'm more hopeful and more optimistic about the resilience of the human spirit and the knowledge that indeed faith is uplifting and up to us no matter what happens to us during this life.

Thanks Greg for making me think.

Peace be with you Ted Williams.


PS- I always like to share music I'm currently listening to.  Today I was listening intently to 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', by the Beatles.  The famous Eric Clapton guest solo in this George Harrison written tune is awesome, combined with Paul McCartney's very prominent bass drives and John Lennon's backing guitar this tune will stick with you again and again.  Listen to it closely musicians and music lovers.  Remember it was recorded in 1968.  It think it sounds great!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


NOTE: Due to those pesky computer gremlins we all occasionally deal's a Wednesday post!

In 2002 Kim and I traveled to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico as part of a unique work camp mission program.  We spent a week working and living among the Dine people.  We learned about the amazing culture with all its traditions and stories.  We learned so much about the similarities between Christianity and the 'Navajo Way'.  Being part of this program has been an integral part of our spiritual growth.

Dr. Carlos Gonzalez
I thought a lot about our dear Navajo friends this week and all Native American tribes people across the country.  I've thought about how, as a collective people, they must have felt proud to see one of their own, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, give the opening blessing at the remembrance ceremony for the victims of the shootings in Tucson last week.

As I watched Dr. Gonzalez perform the blessing I began to feel uneasy.  Not because of anything he said or did, but because he was so wonderfully different.  I felt proud for him, but I remember telling my wife as we watched that I wouldn't be surprised if there would be displeasure with his blessing and just the inclusion of him, a Native American in the ceremony. Naturally, at the ceremony's conclusion the punditry commenced.  The negative reaction and ridicule directed toward this Pascua Yaqui man was, as has so long been the case in this nation, one of ignorance.

Here are some of the specific words that were used by both media and Internet bloggers reacting to Dr. Gonzalez blessing: 'rambling', 'babbling', 'ugly', 'pantheistic', 'paganism' and the one that really bothered me, 'peculiar'.

The blessing referred to Mother Earth and Father Sky.  He called for prayers on all present at the event from the 4 directions of East, West, North and South.  In the blessing he also called for prayers for all of the world's creatures to be blessed by the Creator.  Finally, he asked that peace, balance and harmony be restored to the people and the community that had suffered such a terrible tragedy.

Why is it that when something is different, when something is unfamiliar or is, as a friend of mine recently wrote, 'the other' some people act with disrespect, fear and ridicule.  I'd say it's mostly because of ignorance.

This past Sunday my good friend, Ben Saunders gave a brief presentation at our church about his new
documentary film project, 'Blank Street'.   For most of the summer, Ben traveled around the state of Virginia filming the faces of poverty and misfortune.  He got to know people who are different.  I thought about the significance of his film and his attempt to give a voice to the voiceless or, to put it more bluntly, the ignored.  I thought of my Navajo friends in New Mexico and how so many people don't know the beauty of the Dine people or any of the numerous Native American tribes and their cultures.  They live in this country and are virtually ignored.  I think of how so many people have no idea as to how these wonderful spiritual people, the only fully authentic Americans, have suffered from hundreds of years of hate, ignorance and the ridiculousness because of something called 'manifest destiny'. 

I am so thankful to the Creator that I have such a wonderful friend in my Navajo brother named, John Henderson.  He is without a doubt one of the most proud, spiritual, respectful and peaceful people I have ever encountered.  I am a better person because of his 'way' and his unselfish giving to show me and others the importance of his culture.  Is that 'peculiar'? I think about my friend and all Native American peoples across this land, it saddens me that in 2011 people are still so ignorant of these great people and all that they have to offer the rest of us. 

Kim and I have been so fortunate and blessed that the Creator has seen fit to allow us the opportunity to be among these people and to learn and experience the world and people around us in such a spiritual way.

I thought too of Martin Luther King, Jr. naturally this week and his dream to, " day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." To many then and even sadly, many today, King was and still is viewed as 'peculiar'.  He was eventually murdered by ignorance.

Then I think of Jesus and how he was viewed by those in his day.  The ignorant called him 'peculiar' and he too died because of ignorance, but ignorance was and is forgiven in spite of itself.  Thanks be to God.  Seek the truth and share the goodness of humanity with someone in your midst each and every day.  But be prepared to be labeled 'peculiar'.

I watched this video by Peter, Paul & Mary and felt inspired.  I hope you will too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Faithless Energy Against Reason…

Theres been much written and said since Saturdays tragedy in Arizona.  Ive thought about how were all so vulnerable to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or in the case of those who saved lives, the right place at the right time.  Ive also been thinking about how we always seem to have such knee-jerk reactions to these type of occurrences.  Were all so very quick to point fingers and to lay blame because we demand retribution.  We neglect to step back and seriously contemplate the consequences of our actions When I saywe I mean both as individuals and as a nation/government.     

As a nation or in regard to our government, Ive seen the following question asked in retrospect and have often wondered myself,what if wed thoroughly thought through the consequences of our actions in our response(s) to 9/11? 

Regarding our individual reactions; whether were reacting in conversation around the water cooler at work or now, more often than not, the vast virtual world of social networking; where we all too often post before we take time to digest and think reasonably about an issue.  I wonder what if a couple friends of mine would have thoroughly thought through the consequences of their actions?  What if in their rush to judge others with their knee-jerk accusatory Internet posts theyd taken time not to succumb to faithless energy against reason.   If they had taken that time to reflect, to contemplate, they might still besocial network friends.  Sadly, Im wondering what this means to those individuals who happen to have real, face to face contact with one another through family connections, work or other variousreal world encounters?

Sadly, I feel that many around us are filled with perpetual fear.  I call it an exertion of faithless energy against reason.  We dont take the time to think or surmise like we used to.  Weve been swept into the Internet world of instant gratification and where fast just never seems to be fast enough.  Were overloaded with information and partisan opinions lacking in any real analytical thinking or factual basis. 

Scores of homeless sleep in cardboard boxes under bridges, more and more people are giving up looking for gainful employment, a child suffers from hunger, addicted teens cry out for help, volunteering young men and women are dying in a land far away to protect our freedoms, inner city youth exchange gunfire over territorial gang related issues or drugs or disrespect and then theres the psychotic lunatic who buys a gun and leaps upon the world stage for all to see committing unspeakable heinous violence.   The sense of innocence, our pursuit of happiness and tranquility is suddenly and viciously ripped apart in a hail of indiscriminant spraying of bullets.  Lives are lost , headlines begin flooding the airwaves and the blame game commences in the virtual world.  Major league conjecture season begins with the pitching of incomplete information.  Accusations fly from keyboards in a whirlwind of unfounded and baseless tirades.  

I admit, Ive done it, that whole leaping before you look thing.  Why are we so susceptible to it?  Dont get me wrong the Internet is a great place, but its all in how we use it.  Just like television.  Does anyone remember what the famed pioneering TV journalist, Edward R. Murrow said of the future of television?
“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”

Faithless energy against reason will get the best of us unless we decide to take the time to be faithful, to expel our energy and time in respectful contemplation and meaningful dialogue with those who we disagree with; to reason and perhaps, in the end, learn something about others and heaven forbid perhaps we might even learn something about ourselves.

The deaths this past weekend should bring us together in prayer and remembrance for the souls that were lost and the souls of those saved.  It should not ignite us into raging partisan political fury and fear.  Living in a world of perpetual fear is not the answer.

Comedy Central's, Jon Stewart had some interesting somber comments regarding the shooting tragedy, he said,  "I urge everyone: Read up about those who were hurt and or killed in this shooting," Stewart said. "You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world. You read about these people and you realize that people that you don't even know, that you have never met, are leading lives of real dignity and goodness. And you hear about crazy, but it's rarer than you think."

Hanover Co., VA Habit for Humanity
Unfortunately most of the good in the world goes unnoticed, unreported and unrecognized.  What if as followers of Jesus we were as dedicated to leap into action to speak, write or exclaim at the instance of any good deed being done in the world?  What if BREAKING NEWS consisted of just stories of joy and compassion happening in the world or perhaps there were live reports about the burning bushes we ignorantly pass by.  Optimistically, I think if we just gave that approach a chance we'd be very surprised at how many good people there are in the world doing a myriad of compassionate and uplifting things.  The trouble is that the 'noise' is really deafening.  Let's stop the promotion of hate and the faithless energy against reason that tries to drown out all the good in the world.

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Happy 2011! 
Austin, PA Dam Remnants
Amundsen at South Pole

Mexican Revolution Postcard

I've been thinking about 1911 this week.  I'm a history buff, so I wonder what the big news events of that year were?  It's hard to believe that the 2nd decade of the 21st century is now underway.  I wonder if people a hundred years ago thought about the passage of time in the same way?  Could the everyday people of 1911 have ever imagined what their future would look like?  Being born in 1911 meant being born at the time of the ongoing Mexican Revolution; the Mona Lisa painting being stolen; the town of Austin, PA destroyed by a bursting dam and Norwegian, Roald Amundsen arriving at the South Pole.  My grandfather was almost 3 years old during this time and the US was made up of 46 states; Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico and Arizona were still yet to become part of the union.  Sports saw the groundbreaking of Boston's Fenway Park occur and the very first Indianapolis 500 auto race is run.

Mona Lisa Being Stolen

Fenway Park Opening

All these instances in time were witnessed by our family ancestors who came before us 100 years ago.  100 years from now in 2111 people will look back on 2011 as we do on 1911 with interest.  How different the world is today from 1911.  Can we even imagine how different things will be in 2111?

As I stepped out this evening to let the dog out I saw flickering in the sky peeking through the trees, Orion's Belt.  The last couple of times I've looked toward it, I've thought about how everyone who has ever looked into the sky has been able to witness the beauty of it.  Everyone.
Orion Constellation

How interesting to think of the many multitudes of humanity that have gazed upon it.  Some things never the stars in the sky, like the love of a parent for their child or God's love for humanity.

May 2011 be a year of peace, joy and remembrance for you and may you take the time to witness those timeless wonders around us.