Down for a Couple of Weeks

My weakened kidneys are susceptible to infection and I like to get things over with all at one, so two weeks I decided to have four different serious infections at once. Well, I guess I should admit I didn’t seem to have much choice in the matter.

It is a helpless feeling, one which for some people is extremely maddening. It was not pleasant for me, of course, yet there was a certain familiarity to it. Not just have I spent more than a little time in a hospital in these past years but I’ve spend my whole adult life saying, “Please Lord” and “Thank You, Lord.”

Such words, seemingly so innocuous and merely courteous, are powerful  They affect not only those to whom we speak but they transform us by shaping our life toward the deeper truths.. Saying please reminds us that no one — not even the Creator — owes us anything. As that thought begins to permeate into head and heart, we come to understand that we live by grace, that everything is a sheer gift to us.

And that in turn leads us to thanksgiving. If we receive all of life as a gift, we find ourselves saying a great many times each day, Thank You.

A friend of mine some years ago was talking with a college student what seemed to have everything going for her. Highly intelligent, Phi Beta Kappa, good looking, outgoing, enjoyed and respected by all her knew her. My friend was actually a bit overwhelmed by this wonderful young woman. Than my friend asked her, “Do you ever wish you had someone to thank for all this?”

And the girl broke down an wept. She felt she was no different from anyone else but everybody kept telling her how special she was. Everyone liked her but no one wanted to be her friend, apparently because they couldn’t believe she would want them. And she knew that someday or another she was going to make a mess of things and then get tossed out of everyone’s life. All her gifts added up to a burdensome responsibility

She would love to have said Thank You but she had no one to thank. She would love to believe that her gifts were real and not on the verge of disappearing.

So the two of them sat on that campus bench and talked for a long, long time about the love and grace of God. And at the end she said Thank You.

 

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Another Dimension of Trump

There seem to be a thousand pejoratives that apply to our president. One that I can’t recall hearing, though it seems very important to me, is that Trump is incapable of feeling obligated. He can’t stand being responsible to anyone. While he values loyalty as the only virtue he expects of others, he himself cannot tolerate the thought of being loyal.

When we look at his dealings with his own chosen governmental leaders, his rejection of obligation or loyalty is obvious.

But it is just as obvious and even more dangerous in his dealings with other nations. He has no notion of whether the Iran deal is good or bad, no notion of whether the TPP would have been positive or negative, no notion of the meaning of the international climate agreement. What he does know is that he wants out of all obligations.

It is, of course, just another dimension of his incapacity for holding himself a responsible individual. Despite the utterly blind loyalty of many of my fellow evangelicals, Trump doesn’t even sense any degree of obligation to God.

Trump uses people — and God — but does not serve them. He never has and he never will. Were he to hear the Lord saying to someone else, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” he would simply scorn the fool who earned such an insult.

We can be sure Trump will never hear such a commendation from the Lord. . .

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The NRA and the 2nd Amendment

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (2nd Amendment to the US Constitution)

I believe I have a greater respect for the 2nd Amendment than does the NRA, a deeper appreciation for it than those who insist the government cannot exercise control over the sale and ownership of guns.

There are two parts to the Amendment. We have to understand each half and then see how they relate to one another.

First, it states that a well regulated Militia is necessary for national security. That seems a pretty obvious thing to say at a time when the country had no standing army. Absent an army, it is clear that farmers had to bring their own rifles to a war. Now, of course, not only do we have a standing army, it is better equipped and trained than any Militia could ever be. So the Founding Fathers envisioned what is now no longer necessary or even meaningful.

Second, the right of the people to own guns is not to be infringed. This seems to be the only part of the Amendment the NRA bothers to read. Unlike the other Amendments, this half of the 2nd is absolute and allows no room for taking context in mind.

The 1st Amendment, certainly at least as fundamental to our nation, has always been seen to be limited in scope. You can have religious beliefs to suit yourself, for example, but if you believe good religion requires regular sacrifices of human being, you have no right to practice that part your religion. Or if your religion requires polygamy, the laws of the land forbid you to indulge in that part of your religion.

You can have free speech in a very broad sense but not if you are openly espouses rebellion and insurrection. You have freedom of assembly but under some circumstances you must have a permit.

On and on we could go to demonstrate that we have always understood that the Amendments are not absolute. The gun-control opponents, however, want us to believe that this half a sentence is just that.

Now to put the two halves together. The first half of the Amendment gives the purpose for the second half. But that reason no longer exists, therefore there is little sense in treating the second half as if it were fundamental to our freedom.

I own two rifles and a shotgun. I’ve taken many a deer and countless ducks with them over the years. I cannot imagine a sportsman having any interest in owning a semi-automatic assault rifle, let alone modifying it to be nearly identical to a machine gun. A hobbyist might think that’s fun but there are very serious reasons why America cannot afford to pander to such a hobby.

To protect the fun of a few folks, we are calling on unwilling Americans to sacrifice their lives. Surely we as a people are more civilized than that. Surely we are.

Three vacuous arguments: Some say we ought not to pass any gun control laws because such laws won’t guarantee that we’ll have no more multiple killings. By such logic, we ought not to have speed limits on our highways, an obviously stupid idea.

And some say when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. That’s true but irrelevant for two reasons. First, no one is talking about outlawing all guns. That has never been the subject. Second, if it were not for such silly arguments for more than half a century, we wouldn’t have such an abundance of guns available for the outlaws. Thanks to the NRA, we will now find it extremely difficult to bring the weapons of mass murder under control.

And, third, some say the solution is to arm all or most of our citizens so that, when under attack, we can defend ourselves. There is some weight to that argument but one has to ask, why did America work so hard in the latter part of the 19th century to move beyond the rule of the six-shooter in the westward expansion of our country? Wasn’t it because we had moved beyond the law of the jungle in which the best guns fired by the fastest shooters substituted for law and order? Like conservatives in many other areas, those who use this argument want America to retreat backwards in time to the 19th century. We have no time machine and cannot erase the last century and a half. The world is simply too different now.

Once the friend of hunters across the land, the NRA has become one of America’s most deadly enemies.

 

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Trump and the Russians

Thanks to our free press, Trump cannot do as much as he apparently would like to accommodate Russian plans in America. Most place around the globe are more vulnerable. Listen carefully to this YouTube video from the Rachel Maddow show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_kVizMD-Rg

Pretty scary to have a president who wants to cooperate with the Russians and who, at the very least, has been continually trying to block or impede the Russian investigation.

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You’ve Got to be Taught to Hate and Fear

An insightful song from South Pacific:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be carefully taught.


It is a sad, sad shame that in 21st century America racism is still be taught to a great many of our children. And an even worse shame that we have chosen a president who has been a great encouragement to the racists.

If you are like a great many Southerners, let me make a confession. You keep saying you’re proud of the Southern lifestyle, which you say is represented in the Confederate flag. I confess that I cannot imagine what you’re proud of. It seems to me you have much of which to be ashamed going back to the 17th century. Yes, Virginia produced some of America’s best thinkers and finest gentlemen. . .but they were deeply flawed, infected by the southern racism which has continued to poison the American soul.

Tell me which is worse, to kneel during the national anthem in protest of our failure to live up to our ideals of freedom and justice or to cynically claim to be a good American while denying equal rights to a huge portion of our citizenry? We’d be better off with 10,000 kneelers for every single racist, wouldn’t we?

 

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Kneeling Is Patriotic

All this fuss over a few players kneeling during the singing of the national anthem is pure silliness. With all the crises in the world right now, it is incredibly childish for Trump to be engaging in such trivia.

Part of my problem with Trump’s silliness is that he shows — as usual — a deep inability to comprehend anything at all about what he’s talking about. His words — as usual — show what an amazingly thoughtless person he is. That is, he is incapable of a substantial thought about anything whatsoever.

Were I a professional football player I would stand for the national anthem. . .with my hand on the shoulder of my Black teammate. He would be kneeling and that would mean that each of us would be showing the same respect for the flag and the song. I would stand in respect for the ideals for which we stand. My Black friend would kneel to protest how very far short of those ideals we are falling.

Those football players are showing no disrespect at all. They are simply proving that they know we can do much better at being the kind of nation we have professed we want to be. we are each showing the same degree of respect for the American idea(l)s of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are each devoted to liberty and justice for all. We are, then, one in spirit.

Hooray for the NFL!

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Trump Is Easy to Read

We’ve noticed it before. When Trump is stymied and in over his head on some complex but important issue, he creates a tempest in a teapot, picking some trivial issue to distract from his utter incompetence in significant matters.

Now, as his childish exchange of name-calling with North Korea threatens to push Kim Jong Un to some sort of rash move, Trump switches our attention to the more crucial issue: a couple of professional football players don’t stand for the national anthem.

This is far, far too trivial for the attention of the president but — precisely because of its smallness — it fits just fine in Trump’s soul.

As I’ve noted before, a manipulator tends to have only two choices available in his tool chest: flattery and intimidation. Trump boasted that his skill as a manipulator (or “deal maker,” as he preferred to say) would pay rich dividends in the oval office. The past nine months have proven quite the opposite.  People who are not trying to cash in on Trump’s financial schemes are flattered or intimidated by him. The lion thinks he is roaring but in fact he is just mewing, proving his pettiness over and over again.

No one is intimidated. We read his smallness of spirit too easily. He is simply a fraud.

And he holds the nuclear codes. . .

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