April     ►
Archive RSS
Creative fun in
the palm of your hand.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/howellbard3/sort_by/entry_order DESC, entry_creation_time DESC/page/2
Rated: E · Book · Writing · #2044345
Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
For those of you who have been following, you will see that I moved my reading list into the body of the blog. I will be adding book commentary as new articles instead of listing. New entries will be the first thing you encounter. All book comments have BOOK in the title. The blog is organized chronologically. Please feel free to comment. I especially like challenging comments.

Previous ... 1 -2- 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... Next
May 22, 2020 at 12:57pm
May 22, 2020 at 12:57pm
72. Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, (novel, first published in book form 1880) Penguin Audio, 09/26/2019, accessed at Audible.com
A friend told me they started to read this and found it tedious. I loved it. According to some critics, this is the best of James’s early books. It examines
issues of misogyny, female independence, modern vs. traditional relationships, and presents James’ thinking about the definition of a “lady.” The writing is detailed and precise. There is a quality of objectivity in detailed descriptions. The characters are well developed. I have nothing to say negative about this book and found it deserves its esteemed place in literature written in English. Because I enjoyed it so much, I started The Ambassadors, have struggled with maintaining interest, and have yet to finish it. The word “banal” may best describe what I have so far encountered. I intend to wade on and will write more when I finish. After all, how bad can it be when written by Henry James?

73. Every Word You Cannot Say, Ian S. Thomas read by the author and Roshina Ranstam (poetry) Andrews McMeel, pub. Released on Audible 03/05/19.
This, as it turns out, is great bedtime reading/listening. It is gentle, introspective, and full of subtle suggestions toward self-acceptance. Ian Thomas is a South African poet writing in English and respected internationally for his innovative work. Was I still working as a therapist, I would suggest that everyone struggling with anxiety in relationships consider reading this.

74. When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams, narrated by the author, (memoir) Wind Over Earth pub., Released 05/18/2012 on Audible.com.
I have enjoyed this book greatly. It is another great book for bedtime reading/listening. Terry Tempest Williams is a naturalist and a teacher and a devout Mormon. I think this is her fourth book. I like how she works to integrate her relationship with her mother with her relationship with nature and how she talks about her faith. She also discusses the politics of ecology in some detail.

75. Alex and Me, Irene M. Pepperberg, read by Julia Gibson (memoir) Harper Audio pub. 10/29/08. Audible.com.
I inherited a lovebird last summer. She was about 7 years old and a widow. I knew nothing about lovebirds, so I started reading. I learned that lovebirds are the smallest of the parrots and was reading about parrots in general. In the process I encountered this book. Alex is a parrot who lived in a research facility where his capacity for learning human speech was studied carefully over his entire life. The author is the scientist. This memoir includes a biography of Alex. I was fascinated by the things the author learned from Alex, and by the fact that he actually internalized and used English to express himself.

76. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, Olivia Hawker, narrated by Jackie Zebrowski (novel) Brilliance Audio, 10/08/2019, Audible.com.
This is a story about two families living as isolated neighbors on the frontier. They have the normal struggles that come with subsistence farming including weather, wildlife, and having no supports close enough to easily access. There are issues between the two households that are addressed. The story is about conflict, loss, and healing. I very much enjoyed this book.
May 21, 2020 at 12:23pm
May 21, 2020 at 12:23pm
Growing up in a Christian home, I learned that Jesus was “the Good Shepherd,” that He would seek out the one who is lost and would welcome the prodigal child back into His flock with as much energy and celebration as His most devout and loyal follower. We were told stories of His kindness as part of being taught to be kind, of His mercy when being taught to forgive, and of His love when being taught how to manage our grief. I thought this was how all Christian children are raised. I was wrong.

People seeing me as their counselor have told me stories about growing up with the Bible used to justify the abuse of them, their mother, and/or their siblings. They told me stories about churches that frightened them in order to get them to obey. All of these stories included tales about hell, darkness, and the rapture.

“The rapture?” I would ask. I had never heard of it before moving to the Bible Belt. A child told me about being unable to sleep for fear her family would be raptured and she would be left behind.

The more stories I heard, the more horrified I became. What happened to the Good Shepherd? What happened to the prodigal son? What happened to the loaves and fishes and blessed is the peacemaker? What happened that Christianity could be distorted in this way?

Then came the “right to life” movement. I learned that means no one can have an abortion. “Abortion is murder” they say. Some extended this to punishing women who miscarry. These same people, I discovered, were defending their right to own guns. What were the guns for? To kill people who commit abortions? Guns are to protect themselves from the liberals who want to take their rights away. “Guns are essential!” They would say “you’d better get down on your knees and pray for God to put you in the righteous way.”

What do they mean when they say, “righteous way?” Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself.”

How do I love my neighbor when my neighbor shouts at me that I hate him? I say “no, I want to be your friend, to stand up for your right to be safe and happy.”

My neighbor says to me, “no you don’t! You hate me!”

I ask where they learned that, and they just repeat that I hate them.

Is rejected love still love?

This is all very frustrating. We as Christians seem to be pulling apart and the rift between us is growing. How did it happen? Why is it happening? How will it end? I guess I had better get down on my knees and pray.

(I accidentally hit the "like" icon and now cannot undo it.)

{image # 1445398}
April 28, 2020 at 12:33pm
April 28, 2020 at 12:33pm
Ponderings about forgiveness and the crucifixion. 04/26/20

Recently, I said aloud to church friends, “I don’t want anyone to die for my sins. They are my responsibility.” I have said this a number of times before. This time, however, was different because I was talking to people of faith. What I said has been hanging around rather than fading away like most talk does. I have decided to write about it and see where I go.

Jesus was brutally murdered publicly, and his murder was sanctioned by both his faith community and the state. He was not convicted of any serious crime. He was murdered by people who feared him, who feared the power he was building with the people, and who felt attacked by his message. He never tried to escape. He never backed away from his message. He didn’t engage in self-defense. Instead of “standing his ground,” he stood in his faith. Even from the Cross, he continued to teach, to pray for the least of his brethren, and he made plans for the care of his mother, from the cross. This bothers me, a lot. The story is so sad, so horrific, I can hardly stand to focus on it long enough to write this.

But then, there is this thing called the resurrection. Almost as if nothing had happened, he appeared alive after being put into the grave. He just walked into death and back out of it, just like that! And, more remarkable, he didn’t come back mad or vengeful. He came back and stood in his faith. Then, he did the most amazing thing: he simply offered peace to his disciples and asked them to bring forgiveness to the world. He didn’t remind them of the things he’d been teaching them. He didn’t try to control their emotions or behavior. He simply said, “peace be with you,” and “forgive sins.”

I look at the story of his crucifixion and resurrection and I cannot see how that is him saving me from my sins. What I see is him setting an example of how to be a person of faith. I see that even torture could not make him stop loving humans. Thus, it is easy for me to believe that I have a positive source of strength available to me as it was available to him. This source of strength saw him through the worst life can offer and through to the other side without losing his soul. He didn’t take my sins away. He demonstrated how to rise up out of human sin into peace. He taught us that sins are forgivable. He commanded his followers to forgive sins. He guides us from sin into forgiveness. In this way, he leaves us with a clear path and a command to follow it.

As a teenager with issues that seemed unsolvable to me, instead of forgiveness, I longed for a clean heart. I sang words from Psalm 51 over and over in my mind, in my voice, and in my movement as I walked:

10. Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11. Cast me not away from Your presence;
take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
12. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
and sustain me with your free spirit.

I really didn’t know what a clean heart would be. The church told me that it is a heart that has received forgiveness. My problem was so hard for me to define; that definition of “clean heart” just didn’t seem correct. Forgiveness from or by God was not then and is not now my primary need. I am confident that the life source which we call God is not sitting around wanting to chastise me for my sins. In addition, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to take care of God’s problem with wrath. He said, “as I was sent by the Father, so I send you.” Send them to do what? It appears he commanded them to forgive and to bring peace. I think my need has always fallen in the latter category. I need peace in my heart. Peace, then, seems to be my best definition of a clean heart.

As a teen, I was angry and living in a world that forbids anger. This felt like everyone was telling me not to exist as I am, but instead, to pretend I was someone else. I became skilled at pretending I wasn’t angry while expressing my anger very indirectly in ways I never suspected were anger. All the time I kept singing and saying, “create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I don’t remember if I thought of it as a prayer, but clearly it is prayer. All I wanted was to be free of all that anger.

As I went through life, I resolved some of it: you know the kind I mean. I was mad at my mother for having her own wants and needs that differed from mine. I was mad at my brothers for calling me a girl making it sound like an insult and shutting me out of their doings. It took some work to get through those issues, but I did. However, instead of my anger decreasing, it was increasing. I became rageful. I had to curtail many social activities because I would get into arguments with people I didn’t even know.

Working as a Social Worker had a lot to do with my rage building. I was seeing so much injustice and so much pain in good people who had the connection to the spirit alive and well in them, but who were being hurt over and over. They looked like one Christ after another, hanging on the cross, and they wanted to forgive. Too often, their gift for forgiveness just left them more vulnerable. So, by the time I retired, I was so full of rage, I was toxic to myself and had to be very careful around others.

Those wounded people were not dying for anyone’s sins. They didn’t need to be tortured. The people mistreating didn’t need to hurt them. So, it is very hard for me to see how Jesus’ murder on the cross has anything to do with my need for any gifts from God. Nor does it make any sense to me that a being that can invent a universe and live within it can’t forgive without creating the disastrous end to Jesus’ life. The crucifixion seems to be less about getting forgiveness from God to us, and more like a way to show how forgiving is done in the human world.

I think that Jesus came to teach us how to forgive. He came to teach us the nature of forgiveness. He came to put the power of forgiveness into us so that we would stop torturing each other.

I learned a lot about that over time. I forgive those who mistreat me. Sometimes it takes quite a while, but I can’t say I carry any old grudges about hurts sent my way. What I have trouble forgiving is what people do to others. I need that rage cleansed from my heart. What will remain when the rage is gone? Peace. But it seems wrong to be at peace when others continue to suffer. This is where I get stuck.

{image # 1445398}
April 21, 2020 at 2:37am
April 21, 2020 at 2:37am
Stand in Your Faith
The message of April 19, 2020, for
The Church of the Brethren, Cabool, Missouri.

May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Ps.19:14
As I prepared my message for today, in honor of the 50th Earth Day coming on the 22nd, I reviewed some speeches by environmentalists. In honor of the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4th, I reviewed his Christmas Sermon of 1967 and some of his other sermons. I also reviewed the scriptures presented here. I was most impressed with the King sermon and Psalm 16. I hope that I can put my impressions together in some orderly way.

I remember vividly the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. I assume many of you listening remember as well. The story of those events in my life is of little use here, but my reaction to it was complex and heavy and that day, I became physically ill.

A source of wisdom, Dr. King gave me a sense that although the problems we face are numerous, complex, painful and longstanding, they can be addressed constructively. He taught us to work together, side by side, rather than to compete. He demonstrated how to act on Faith as Jesus had acted. And, like Jesus, he walked forward knowing he would not live to finish the work he had set for himself to accomplish.

As I look back, I wonder if my feelings about King’s death were something like the feelings the Apostles experienced after the death of Jesus. I wonder if they felt confused about what to do next. Did they feel afraid after the crucifixion as they had on Good Friday? Did they stay together the whole time between Good Friday and the gathering to which Jesus presented himself, or did the group fragment into two or three here and there? Did anyone go off alone in their despair and weep and ask God why?

In the Gospel lesson, we learn they were together when Jesus came to them. It says they were afraid of the Jews. It is important to remember; they too were Jews. They feared their own kinsmen who had turned on them rather than listening and trying to understand what they were saying.

There is no doubt in my mind, those same Jews felt Jesus and the disciples had turned on them. The division in their community was deep and violent. It was in this context the Disciples grieved.

They grieved the death of the leader they loved and believed in. They grieved the death of their connection with kinsman who had killed him. They grieved their sense that they could count on their community to love and support them. They grieved a sense of security that was present when Jesus was with them. I have no doubt they felt powerless and lacked a sense of direction.

In their grief, even if they had separated for a few hours, they came together to jointly hold the flicker of faith that remained theirs. It was in this context of togetherness that Jesus came.

What did he say? “Peace be with you.” He said it twice. “Peace be with you.” He showed them that it was truly him by having them examine his wounds, the evidence of his suffering. He could have done a miracle. He could have given a great speech. He could have told them all how wonderful he was and convinced them with words. But scripture says he did none of that. He just offered them peace.

Then he said a most profound and central thing, right up there with “Love your God with all your hearts and all your minds and love your neighbor as yourself.” He said, “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you.” Then he told them they have the power to forgive and to retain sins. He didn’t say who’s sins. He didn’t say others. He didn’t say their own. He just said sins.

There are so many things he could have said. I am confident that each of us could come up with some suggestions. However, he did not. He breathed the breath of the spirit into them and sent them with the directive to forgive and retain sins. That’s it.

Here we are, you and I, receiving this directive. Forgive sins.

Today finds us, as Dr. King said that last Christmas in his church with his home folks and kin, we are “a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Everywhere, paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night.”

Today, we fear a disease that is killing thousands and could kill us. We fear the destruction of the ecosystem that sustains our physical selves. And, like the Disciples, we fear each other. It is sometimes hard to tell who will help and who will harm in this political environment.

Dr. King said to us: “If we don’t have goodwill toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power.”

He told us: “our loyalties must be ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. We are interdependent.”

I recall the members of the Charleston Church, who when faced by a gunman, stood in their faith. They offered the gunman love. They offered this stranger forgiveness even before he did anything wrong. They offered him fellowship. It did not change his behavior. However, they died in communion with their God. They died in faith that their path was the better of the paths before them. They died in peace as they were living when he walked in those doors. He did not have the power to take that from them. He could take their bodies, but not their souls.

I have noticed a number of people are using this stay-at-home-time to assemble complex puzzles. When my niece was a child and learning to put puzzles together, she turned the pieces over so she could see the shapes better. Sometimes, the picture someone else has of a situation can distract or confuse us in our search to discover where we fit in.

Sometimes, like Martin Luther King, Jr., the environmentalists of the last century, and Greta Thornburg, the place we fit seems less like fitting and more like:
Standing up, and speaking out
Speaking up and standing out.

How do we do this when weighted down with fear and grief? Sometimes it just seems too hard to face. I have known times when I wanted to scream and run and never notice if my fears were well-founded. So, have we all. In times like these, it is hard to believe in a positive outcome. It is hard to find the good in the middle of our fear and grief.

Governor Cuomo said last week that he just wants it to be over. Then, he said what he really wants is for us to succeed. This means “staying the course” as President Bush was fond of saying.

What about happiness? Is it possible to be happy in the midst of so much sadness? Is it even okay to be happy while the world is under the pall of a pandemic?
The Psalmist, David, found happiness in his faith. He said:
“A fair heritage is indeed my lot!
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
Who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord before me always;
With him standing at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in hope.”

What does faith give us? I think it gives us internal integrity, a sense of direction, and a battlement against powers that may overwhelm us, or even kills us. Faith protects the most important part of us from destruction.
What is that most important part of us?: The capacity to connect, to act in the best interest of those around us, to feel empathy, to reach out when we are our weakest selves. The most important part of us is our life source. We are born with it, it is ours to care for, enjoy, and share or just keep to ourselves. No one can take it from us. No one can ruin it. It is always good, and it is always ours. The fact is, living in the context of faith, of connection to our life source, brings us a kind of joy unavailable any other way.

Recently, Nancy Pelosi said she prays for President Trump. She explained this in terms of her Christian faith. She didn’t say she is trying to change or influence Mr. Trump. She is merely living in her faith in a way that gives her solid ground from which to do her work.

Is faith a feeling we can depend on; a sense that we are loved even when we feel alone? Yes, but it is more than that. Faith is a sense of direction when the guide is lost. Faith is an awareness that good is always available even when things look hopeless. Faith shows us the power we have to make things better when we all work together. Faith does not protect us from grief; faith helps us grow through it. Faith does not stop our fear; faith helps us grow through it. Faith gives us the one thing no one can take from us: the capacity to live joyfully, no matter what.

Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday, April 14, 2020, “whatever we do today changes the infection rate tomorrow.”

It isn’t up to some specialized “best Christian,” or some distant leader to solve what worries us.
It is up to us to stand in our faith and do what is needed in our lives.

When we stand in our faith we stand with Abraham, David the Psalmist, St. Peter, Thomas the Twin, St. Francis, the ecologists, Martin Luther King Jr. and the individuals who nurture faith in us. We experience and express the power that gave us each other and that maintains the stasis of gravity and other natural forces that hold existence together.

We Christians call this power “the peace of God that passes all understanding.”

May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


{image # 1445398}
April 21, 2020 at 2:34am
April 21, 2020 at 2:34am

John the Baptist and Baptism
May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Ps.19:14

Thank you all for the challenge and opportunity of presenting my thoughts to you! As I reviewed the Biblical references for today, I realized that in the church year, we leap from the visitation of the Magi to Jesus’ baptism in just one week, so here we are considering baptism. And there are lots of threads leading to this particular event. We are led to read Isaiah’s prophesy, which John the Baptist quotes as the purpose of his ministry: “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight!”
I decided to start my preparation with definitions. I was surprised to discover the meaning of anabaptist is re-baptize. This is rooted in a belief that one must consciously confess their own faith and their intention to follow the ways of Christ to be baptized. I was baptized as a toddler. In that tradition, baptism is acceptance, welcoming into the community of Christians. The covenant with God is presented to the child through the actions of the parents and the body of the faithful. In this way, a commitment is made by the grownups to raise the child in the ways of Christ, and to teach the child how to live within the love of God.

I am reminded of the story Roger told of his mother putting a lamp in the window and welcoming a family out of the blizzard. This was an important part of his learning and participating in the love which is God. It is through actions such as these that Christians help the child to work out their own relationship with God. Roger had to decide if he would love the baby who was placed in his bed in the night. As we can see, he did.

As the child grows, in the tradition in which I was raised, at or around puberty, children are offered the opportunity to prepare for confirmation. In this process, the child learns formally about the Bible, about the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments. We were also taught about communion, how it connects us to all Christians and reaffirms our participation in the covenant with God. Confirmation is also offered to people wanting to join that denomination who have been baptized in the past.

The learning process completed, we are offered the opportunity to accept an adult role in the church. For me, this is the first time I was expected to act like an adult. I was just turned 12 and my grandmother had died three months earlier. What a weight fell on my shoulders. I needed all the help I could get, and grandma was gone. So, I prayed like crazy. I went to church every time the doors were open. When I moved and had to change churches, I couldn’t always find what I wanted so, in addition to being confirmed into the Lutheran church, I was confirmed into the Episcopal church. I attended the Unitarian church while working for the Lutheran church in Erie, Pa, the United Church of Christ while living in Chester, CT, and the Ethical Society while living in St. Louis. When I moved to Mountain View, I joined the Presbyterian church. This is where it all ended for me, until now. Sandy told me she was re-baptized when she joined the Brethren. She said it with real emotion as if it was truly life-changing. I am curious.

Next, in my exploration, I read about John the Baptist. I was amazed to discover that John and Jesus were Kin through their mothers. The Bible doesn’t identify the kinship, but it was close enough that Mary went to Elizabeth after the annunciation and stayed 3 months. It would have to be a pretty close relationship for me to have someone in my home for three months! Of course, in addition to genetic kinship, each became pregnant after an annunciation by the Angel Gabriel. At the time of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and Mary’s time in her home, Elizabeth’s husband, Zacharia, was mute. Because he had trouble believing Elizabeth would bear a child, Gabriel gave him this sign. I find it interesting that taking spoken language from him somehow increased the value of his words.
Elizabeth and Zachariah were past childbearing age. Does this remind you of anyone? Of course, Abraham. God seems to like to use the birth of babies into families to expand his covenant with humans. Could this have contributed to the idea of infant baptism? I wonder. Which of you would like to be Pregnant in your old age? It is no wonder to me that Zacharia needed encouragement to believe! What an audacious thing for God to do!

I tried to imagine what Mary and Elizabeth discussed during that time. Perhaps they pondered the complications this brought to their lives. I expect they experienced wonder. Mary was 14 just entering her childbearing years, and not yet wed. Elizabeth was post-menopausal. Perhaps they wondered about the response of the neighbors to these events. Perhaps they shared both gratitude and fear. I picture them holding hands as they prayed together, and tears rolling down their faces. There is that sacred water again.

I wonder if they comprehended that they could not change the destiny of their sons. These babies, not yet born, would experience great honor and grave difficulties and die at the hands of the unfaithful. Because they were chosen by God, they were oddities in their communities. My initial impression was that God intended for them to die in that way. I now doubt that. I think God just wanted and now wants people to know that following in the way of the Lord is more important even than physical safety.

What a mixed message for these mothers to consider. These will be your son’s, yours and your husband’s, but their destiny is with their Father in heaven. In the end, they will change the destiny of all humanity. Perhaps this communicates to all parents that their children are gifts from God and destined for something they cannot foresee or control. All children. Hmmm.

Here comes another radical idea; God’s covenant was with the people of Israel, not all mankind. Surely this would lead to trouble for these sons. And, as you know, it did.

John became “the Baptist” after reaching maturity in the wilderness. He was the first prophet in four hundred years to come to Israel. I tried to imagine the Hebrews sitting around saying “Why no prophets? When will we get another Prophet?” They were still pondering over the teachings of the old prophets. It seems improbable they were looking for another one. Nevertheless, people flocked to him and accepted that he was speaking and acting for Yahweh, delivering a message directly from the Lord.

I got to wondering where John got the idea to Baptize and why did people seem comfortable with the idea? So, I looked into the history of baptism. It was widely practiced in many if not most of the religions of the region. The Egyptians practiced infant baptism to cleans the newborn of blemishes from the womb. The Babylonians engaged in the baptism of infants also. There were forms of baptism by immersion as well as by sprinkling. Jews used immersion to help converts be reborn as Jews. In all cases, water was understood as a source of spiritual and well as physical cleansing. John expanded our understanding of the Jewish tradition reserved for conversion into Judaism. He offered forgiveness of sins and rebirth into a new life in the spirit to all who repent of their sins setting a goal to not sin again. He got this straight from God and told his listeners so. He also told them Jesus was coming and would baptize with the holy spirit. Well, I think the Jewish people had been sitting around waiting for someone to do what was prophesied in Isaiah. So, many were open, grateful, and elated to be baptized.
Then came Jesus.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus asked John to baptize him. Well, John was astonished. It doesn’t say that, but he did tell Jesus he thought Jesus should be baptizing him. Jesus said no to that and with that, John baptized Jesus. Do you ever wonder why Jesus did that? I have wondered. There is a gospel according to Mary Magdalene that has been recovered either as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls or like that. In it, Mary says, in the spirit all are equal. So, could it be that Jesus was teaching us that there is no hierarchy? It seems to me he teaches that in other ways quite directly. Perhaps, he was also teaching us that baptism is interpersonal, that the involvement of another somehow strengthens the attachment to the spirit achieved through this ritual.

In Jesus’ baptism, others watching were also very important to hear as Jesus came up out of the water, the voice of God come down as a dove saying, “this is my son the Beloved. My favor rests on Him.” What a supportive thing to say so publicly to your son whom you are sending out into the world knowing he will end up a sacrifice for the well being of humanity. These events seem to make it very clear that the whole point of Jesus, John, and baptism is the well being of humanity.

What about the water? What a wonderful way to tie us to the physical creation all around us. We immerse ourselves into the world through the water and the water cleans us physically and spiritually. Without water, there would be no life. Without baptism, we might feel disconnected from everything. Through this act we truly become “one in the spirit and one in the Lord.”

It seems as if people were pretty comfortable with God speaking out loud to them. Do you ever wonder why that is so infrequent now? Is it that we don’t know how to listen? Are we too distracted? There are volumes written about this, but I don’t know if anyone has really figured it out. I do know that occasionally people report actually hearing directly from God, but Christians are not united now, any more than the Jews were back then, about what and whom to believe. Perhaps the problem is disconnection from the body of God, from water and the earth.

How do we go about receiving what is offered? I don’t know about you, but I sure as anything don’t deserve any of this. I don’t have my spiritual house in order. Besides, the whole thing is so preposterous. I remember a mother of a 4-year-old student in my Sunday school class telling me that there was to be another child born into the family. When she told her daughter about it, the child asked, “where is it coming from?” Mother replied, “Well your daddy had a piece and I had a piece and we put it together in my belly where our baby is growing now until it is big enough to be born.” The child’s response was “That is the silliest story I ever heard.”

Well back in John’s ministry and up until and including the present, a lot of people shake their heads and think “this is unbelievable.” According to my reading, it is the task of each believer, like it was for John the Baptist, to find ways to help un-believers accept the gifts that come with faith. With this work to do, it is good that we remember, from today’s Psalm 29 verse 11,
Yahweh gives strength to his people.
Yahweh blesses his people with peace.
Prayer: May the Peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our teacher, and redeemer.

{image # 1445398}
April 5, 2018 at 1:41pm
April 5, 2018 at 1:41pm
I, like most people who did not vote for our current President, am increasingly at a loss for words. I can’t wax poetic in a slam. When I try to say anything, the images that come to my mind are unspeakable. I look to my friends for support and encouragement. That sometimes helps in that they do say I am still in reality. Oh my! This reality! How do I escape? It is too late to just stop watching, to turn off the TV and stop listening to news on the radio. The callous, racist destruction of our Democracy is going on right around me and I can’t stop it. I can’t forget.
So, I have developed a list of coping mechanisms that bring about temporary reprieve:
1. Focus on what I am doing in the present so completely that nothing else exists.
2. Do yoga.
3. Pet the cat.
4. Write about anything but the you-know-what.
5. Make jokes.
6. Take a walk with my headphones focused on a pleasant novel.
7. Participate in Stand and Resist.
8. Make quiche.
9. Trim my toenails.
10. Did I say pet the cat?
11. Create a community of stuffed animals that say only what I want them to say.
12. Listen to jazz.
13. Walk in the yard looking at the flowers.
14. That is a really good time to pet the cat.
15. When I lay down to sleep, listen to recorded poetry, then, dream of the cat.
Right now, I am going to try once more to write a slam poem. Stream of consciousness is a good place to start… You fill me with hate…. Well, I’ll try again.
March 17, 2018 at 1:22pm
March 17, 2018 at 1:22pm
I heard this morning that Franklin Graham says the evangelical Christians have backed off from their support of President Trump. I hope that is true. As I understand it, forgiveness requires confession and behavior change.

The firing of Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, by tweet, directly after he joined 6 other countries in condemning Russian poisoning of British citizens can be viewed in several ways. Mr. Trump had been threatening to fire Mr. Tillerson for a long time. Perhaps you may be inclined to overlook the timing. Perhaps you take at face value that Tillerson had been informed as Mr. Trump says. However, put yourself in the place of Mr. Tillerson and think through how he has been treated after pouring his life hours into representing American interests internationally without any statement of wrongdoing from Mr. Trump beyond once losing patience and calling the President a “moron.”

Then comes the firing of Mr. McCabe 26 hours short of his retirement causing him to lose his pension, and then the next day calling for the end of the Mueller investigation. This petty, vindictive behavior appears self-serving. Of course, it could be appropriate based on the report of the investigation into the FBI handling of the Clinton Foundation and the behavior of the FBI in releasing information about it in a way that influenced the election. Have you ever heard Mr. Trump express genuine concern for Hillary Clinton outside of the context of the Mueller investigation?

This week’s dramatic developments are typical of the Trump administration and you might say “so what. You are a liberal. This is just business as usual. The silence of the Republican Party is clear indication that all is well with the clearing of the swamp.”

While all this drama progresses, decorated by the titillating pictures of Stormy Daniels all over the TV, the Republican Congress is busily repealing the laws passed to protect average Americans’ finances and prevent another 2008 economic disaster. There are hundreds of thousands of voices objecting to this behavior and the Republican response is to say, “this is what you want.”

I am very troubled. I have been reading the book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Plan for America by Nancy MacLean. I find her work very credible as she is a scholar, a teacher at Duke University, and she refers repeatedly to primary documents. In addition, her writing validates what I have been seeing and thinking about the functioning of the Republican Congress. Briefly, the goal of the “Alt-Right” is to destroy democracy. Does this sound radical to you? It is. The “Alt-Right” has co-opted many Libertarians who prefer oligarchy (rule by the wealthy) to democracy. The initial impetus of this movement was Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision requiring the end to segregated schools. Seeing the Ku Klux Klan join in is totally consistent with Alt Right thinking.

Some of you may think this is all hunky dory, just what needs to be done. Pay attention to this. Russia is an Oligarchy with huge problems of racism and history of war based on ethnicity. You are living in a country that has tried to be better than that. Of course, we aren’t much better if you look at the mess we’ve made of the Middle East, and what we have done and continue to do to Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans. Nevertheless, it is easy to say the grass is greener over there. You haven’t tasted it. Do you really want to live in an oligarchy? We are very, very close to that today. Your vote counts! Informed voting is our tool to save Democracy.

March 4, 2018 at 12:47pm
March 4, 2018 at 12:47pm
This week, according to MSNBC and CNN, has been extraordinarily disrupted at the White House. At the same time, the Republicans continue to dismantle the work done over the last 60 years to level the playing field for everyone, reducing advantage for those with a lot, and increasing advantage for those with little: the labor law that requires employees who benefit from union activities to pay dues is about to be dismantled in the Supreme Court. Bears Ears National Monument has been shrunken to allow for mineral exploration against the wishes of the people most affected: Native Americans who hold the area to be spiritually important, and the people of Utah, as well as everyone who sees dependence on carbon-based fuels as leading to our doom as a species. This is just one example of the many plans and choices made to give Mother Earth a chance to thrive without letting her most influential species destroy ourselves are being decimated. Choices that will impact generations to come, such as the national debt and international relationships have been made without listening to those who will pay the bill. Despite almost unanimous (98% by some polls) desire for gun control, the President is taking his direction from the NRA leadership. I find it all very distressing, as does, apparently, President Trump:

As another friend abandons me
My heart burns hot with tragedy.
It used to burn with simple greed
but now I face another need.
I wish that I, as President
could cloak my friends with armament.
I hated it when Michael left.
It felt real bad when Bannon went.
Now, the worst of all for me
is watching Hope abandon me.

I keep hoping, though, that the Meuller probe will lead to changing all of this but my hope is weakening. I don't really know what the President feels. I hope he is learning in a way that will help him make a few reasonable decisions that will have a positive impact on us all.
February 21, 2018 at 4:16pm
February 21, 2018 at 4:16pm
I am encouraged by the actions of the surviving students from last weeks school shooting. They are saying what needs to be said with a lot of energy. Unfortunately, they are up against an unresponsive legislature at both the state and federal level. They are also up against Russian misinformation campaigns. And most of them are not of age to vote, yet. Nevertheless, I am so pleased to hear them raise their voices.

I got to thinking about the Arkansas school shooting in 1998, so I looked it up. The boys, 11 and 13 at the time, are out in the world now and have been for a decade. They were not charged as adults. They are having some problems, but nothing that is hurting the people around them. I also learned that Arkansas has had no more incidents. I wanted to think they have made wonderful changes that brought that about, and perhaps they have. I found no documentation on the internet to support that idea.

I do know that in some Arkansas schools, there are school-based mental health services. This seems sensible to me. One of the things that may have contributed the most recent incident of school shooting is the school gave up on the child. Nevertheless, he received very significant support from kind families in his community. It looked as if he hadn't given up on himself, but he had. I suspect no one recognized how vulnerable he truly was to his own emotions and irrational thoughts until the last month of his freedom. When teens are talking about having killed animals, they should be hospitalized until someone has figured out what he needs. This didn't happen. I don't know why.

What if instead of giving up on him, the school had increased their investment in him? We will never know. However, we can support our schools in not giving up on troubled youth in the future. We can ask our schools if they have school-based mental health services. If they do, we can support those services. If they don't, we can attend school board meetings and ask for services for students and their families. We don't have to have children in school to participate. We only need to speak clearly and politely and demonstrate concern for the well being of all members of the community.

It is one thing for an adult to dedicate his life to teaching, but no one should be shot for doing so. It feels to me like we are going backward at breakneck speed into the lawlessness and related trauma of the past. We can stop this with our voices and our votes.
February 17, 2018 at 1:59pm
February 17, 2018 at 1:59pm
Another shooting. Seventeen dead while at school. There is a hero or two, and a villain. We are developing shooting leagues: school league, shopping mall league, entertainment league, political rally… the school league is in the lead I think. A lot of people are angry that government does not act to once more ban assault rifles. Others say everyone should be armed.

Picture this: armed first-grade students, prepared at any moment to shoot down the guy with the assault weapon because you never know when the next shooter will show up, or where. The teacher leads the children in regular drills during which they all must wear bulletproof outfits because they aren’t strong or well enough coordinated to be certain to keep the bullets in the gun. Why not just provide the children with bullet-proof clothing to wear all the time? Then the kids would be safe at the theater and at Walmart. They could finance this extra cost by selling candy bars. Of course, they would need a new size every few months or year. Handing the safety clothes down would help, as long as the outfit hasn't been ruined by a bullet.

The focus on arming all children requires a lot of practice. As school shooters usually come from the school they attack, the next shooter will have the best information because they will have participated in these drills. The shooter will know all the safety strategies and be able to plan to defeat them. Knowing this, the schools will identify potential shooters early and expel them so they won’t have this information. How will they know who the shooter is? Why it is the black kids, isn’t it? Gangs? No. When they look at what is happening, they will see the most talented school shooters are white males who come from families that can afford guns. We don’t know a lot more about them because there is a federal law prohibiting research into the problem. Good work America!

77 Entries · *Magnify*
Page of 8 · 10 per page   < >
Previous ... 1 -2- 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... Next
© Copyright 2020 Louise Wiggins is Elizabeth (UN: howellbard3 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Louise Wiggins is Elizabeth has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/howellbard3/sort_by/entry_order DESC, entry_creation_time DESC/page/2