Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Princess and the Dove

     I tell this Italian folk tale once again, this time in the midst of an ever evolving saga of sexual exploitation, the fallout of which is sending shock waves through our culture. It certainly does not adequately addresses guilt too long denied or anger too long repressed or suffering so long endured nor does it offer, in itself the formula to lead us out of this moral swamp. So why tell it all? Neither the princess nor the spellbound prince are romanticized as the tale begins. One cannot help but be disturbed at the princess' unhealthy willingness to sacrifice her own self worth or the spell-released prince's contempt for her sacrifice—the loss of self-respect as well as the lack of respect for the other. The transformation occurs, of course, when the princess forces the issue. The prince faces his own guilt and asks for forgiveness. The princess, who has discovered her self-worth and power, forgives and both are healed.

     I like happy endings so, of course I like it for that. But deeper than that, it speaks to me of the virtue so long denied—genuine respect which I believe is foundational for the healing of our culture. And that is the reason I tell it again and again.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The leader of the United Church of Christ, saddened and sickened over the loss of life in a mass shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas, offers prayers for those killed, the injured, their families, the first responders on the scene, and those who continue to provide physical and pastoral care in that community.
At least 50 people were murdered and more than 400 injured after a gunman opened fire on an outdoor concert on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
"Every lost life is a name, a history, a hope, a story - an unfulfilled future," noted UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer. "Every lost life leaves behind loved ones who mourn and grieve and piece together a future of their own torn asunder by matters we cannot comprehend. I can't find words to capture this pain, this collective grief and anger. I cannot reach deep enough into my soul to express fully the pain, the anger, the rage, the confusion, the anxiety, the emptiness. When will it end?"
On Oct. 1, a 64-year old local man repeatedly fired into the crowd of 30,000 people at a country music festival, from a 32nd story window in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. The gunman was found dead, and while the Las Vegas sheriff hasn't yet established a motive for the shooting, investigators said at least 10 rifles were recovered from his room.
"Moved by grief, let us transform our pain into action," Dorhauer prayed. "Let us set our hearts and our minds and our hopes on a future of meaningful action that seeks to undo (violence like) this and restore onto us a tomorrow filled with hope and promise."

Monday, September 25, 2017

all  right in their place
         reveal    heal
then to announce silence
        slip away
so the spirit can move
{on the occasion of slowing my anxiety rate

on my 86th Birthday}

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Old Joe and the Carpenter
      Early in my ministry as the pastor, I hosted a guest preacher for a revival in a church I served. Some time later, a fellow preacher asked me about the revival. I responded that it was an outstanding success. He asked how many members we received. I told him, "None." I went on to tell him that on Thursday night of the revival two elderly sisters, both members of the church who had not spoken to each other for almost twenty years, stood on the front steps of the church, hugging and crying and forgiving each other. My friend said, "you don't have to say any more, I understand."  
     The more you think about it, I think you will also.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Moon Family

Taegu, Korea—Summer of '52©

For the entire ten months of my tour in “The land of the morning calm,” I lived under the impending threat of violence. But when I turned in my M-1 rifle upon my release from active duty, it had never been fired in combat. I do, however, have stories.
I met Kang-Koo-ri who as an infant survivor grew from “the little boy who wouldn't smile” to the little boy who under the loving care of the Bo-Yuk Won (orphanage) couldn't stop smiling. I met and became friends with the adult children of the Moon family. Peter, Choon, and Myung were all in the integrated military/civilian Chapel Choir. I remember them most for their irrepressible optimism in spite of the loss of literally everything but t
heir lives. Through them, I understood that we don't have to deny the horrors of war to still find and hold on to the joy of life.
I profited from the discipline of my military experience. The Army put me on a fast track to maturity. I believed that our military presence was necessary to defend the freedom of the innocent. I volunteered for duty in Korea and I served with pride but I was no hero. There were heroes and I honor them without reservation but I am offended by the notion today that everyone who puts on a uniform is a hero. I was a reluctant warrior then, a repentant veteran of war and I hope to be remembered as a veteran of peace. I started taking life seriously a long time ago and seven thousand two hundred nineteen miles, give or take a mile or two, away from my home in Alabama.
Two years before I got to Korea, Taegu was under bloody siege as United Nations forces finally succeeded in fighting off the North Korean offensive. One year before I got there, the on-again, off-again rumblings of a truce had begun. It would be a year after I left before a truce was signed. By that time, casualties killed were nearly three million, thirty-three thousand seven hundred forty one of whom were American. And that war isn't over yet.
There are all kinds of stories that came out of Korea. Some will wound your heart, others will show you joy, and some will give you hope. Many are punctuated by agony and defined by courage. And some are of hanging-on undramatic survival. The storytellers are American and Korean, civilian and military. Their stories are well worth hearing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bishop's Castle

Bishop's Castle©
a one man's massive-obsession labor of medieval construction
in the San Isabel National Forest, southwest of Pueblo, Colorado

There's more to the story--there always is. One cannot help but admire the imposing majesty of the structure and appreciate the work that one man has committed to realizing his vision. A visionary to be sure, but also an angry man. Today his spine is permanently curved as a result of the work. I can't help but wonder if emotional scars dating back to childhood have contributed to his anger, most of which is directed at government. I also understand that he and his wife have created a foundation to care for needy children in the area.
All that being said, Jim Bishop's Castle stands as a challenge to all who would make their dreams a reality.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dr. Steve Joel, Superintendent *Lincoln Nebraska Public Schools
February 2, 2017

I am writing this on February 5 and the immigration issue is worsening by the  moment. Dr. Joel's message in the video above is one sign of hope and encouragement--would that all our schools were so  morally centered. How we invite and assimilate refugees into our society is a daunting task but that we welcome the stranger should never be in question. I am heartened by voices I hear from widely divergent citizens in our country--voices that keep us in touch with our humanity and open the wells of compassion. May their tribes increase--our very lives depend on it.

*The first English Language Learner program for refugees and other immigrants began in 1986 with 118 students. Today Lincoln Public Schools serve  2,970 students from 114 countries who speak and collectively they speak 100 languages. Lincoln residents are justifiably proud of the welcoming spirit and life skills our schools give to our new neighbors and friends. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Refugees
Into the wild and painful cold of the starless winter night
came the refugees, slowly making their way to the border.
The man, stooped from age or anxiety,
hurried his small family through the wind.
Bearded and dark, his skin rough and cracked from the cold,
his frame looming large in spite of the slumped shoulders;
He looked like a man who could take care of whatever
came at them. . .
from the dark.
Unless of course there were too many of them,
One man he could handle, two, even. . . .but a border patrol, . . .
they wouldn’t have a chance.
His eyes, black and alert,
darted from side to side, then over his shoulder,
then back again forward.
Had they been seen?
Had they been heard?
Every rustle of the wind, every sigh from the child,
sent terror though his chest.
Was this the way?
Even the stars had been unkind—
had hidden themselves in the ink of night
so that the man could not read their way,
Only the wind. . . . was it enough?
Only the wind and his innate sense of direction. . .
What kind of cruel judgement that would be,
to wander in circles through the night?
Or to safely make their way to the border,
only to find the authorities waiting for them?
He glanced at the young woman, his bride.
No more than a child herself,
she nuzzled the newborn, kissing his neck.
she looked up caught his eye and smiled.
Oh how the homelessness had taken its toll on her!
Her eyes were red, Her young face was lined,
her lovely hair matted from inattention.
her clothes stained from milk and baby,
her hands chapped from the raw wind of winter.
She’d hardly had time to recover from childbirth
when word had come that they were hunted,
and they fled with only a little bread,
and the remaining wine,
and a very small portion of cheese.
Suddenly, the child began to make small noises,
the man drew his bread in sharply:
the woman quietly put the child to breast.
Fear . . . .long dread-filled moments . . . .
Huddled the family stood still in the long silence.
At last the man breathed deeply again,
reassured they had not been heard.
and into the night continued
Mary, Joseph and the Babe.

Ann Weems

Thursday, January 19, 2017

John Wesley, founder of The Methodist Church, once said, "If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand." That disposition was one of the compelling forces that drew me into ordained ministry. Life in south Alabama in 1957 was not what one would call multicultural. I never met a Muslim or a Jew until I was old enough to be grown, years later. The ironclad and inherently evil system of segregation of the races was yet to be ruled illegal. But Wesley's vision was implanted in my soul.

The cultural landscape today in no way resembles that of the 18th Century England of Wesley nor that of 20th Century Alabama. But my soul is nourished today by those who refuse to be reduced by angry divisiveness and who show us a reconciling spirit. May their tribes increase.

Please share the above video posted by the United Church of Christ. It will make a difference.