Pentecost 78

Pentecost 78
My Psalm 78

Virtues: Carpe Diem!

We all have them. We express them differently but I firmly believe we all have them. Sometimes they are like a song that you know. Maybe you have sung it the same way forever and ever but then you hear a different arrangement. It is still the same song and yet, it is its own composition.

Virtues are a great deal similar to the familiar song. Virtues are a positive characteristic. Sometimes called a moral excellence, a virtue is a positive trait or quality characterized as being good. The ancient Egyptians called such a concept Maat and it included truth, balance, order, law, moraliry, and justice. Maat was personified as a goddess who controlled the starts, the seasons, and the actions of mankind as well as the other deities. The counterpart of Maat was Isfet who symbolized chaos, lies, and injustice. While Maat represented virtue, Isfet represented vice.

Classically, there were four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice. Most would agree that those are indeed good things to have and ways to live. To live by those traits, though, can be tricky. No one virtue can stand alone. Prudence is concerned with knowledge and not action. Yet, prudence must be a part of all action if it is to be productive and moral. Knowing when to temper punishment with praise, when to act with courage and not recklessness, knowing how to administer justice….These all are virtuous acts if done properly and with prudence.

Aristotle described this in his “Nicomachean Ethics”: “At the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue.” Aristotle defined a virtue as a “golden mean”, that perfect point between excess and deficiency. Many people reach for the golden mean when donating to the homeless. You don’t want to simply walk up to a homeless person and give them a thousand dollars and yet, you don’t want to ignore them either. Generosity can be a virtue that fits nicely in the middle of being stingy and being excessive. Similarly, courage should be the golden mean between abject cowardice and foolhardy behavior.

Confidence is a golden mean most of us struggle with each and every day. It lies between crippling low self-esteem and arrogant narcissism and vanity. Aristotle saw virtue as the key to succeeding at being human. He felt virtue to be the key to not only surviving life but to thrive at it. Virtues are those things that enable us to create lasting relationships, succeed at a career, and find happiness.

It is said that doing something for twenty-one days will make it into a habit. The Virtues Project is all about making virtues a habit. Their statement reads: “ Virtues are the very meaning and purpose of our lives, the content of our character and the truest expression of our souls. For people of all cultures, ethnicities and beliefs, they are the essence of authentic success. Virtue means power, strength, inner quality. Virtues are the content of our character, the elements of the human spirit. They grow stronger whenever we use them.

What is The Virtues Project? Quoting their website: “It was Easter weekend in 1988 when Linda Kavelin Popov, her husband Dr. Dan Popov and brother John Kavelin were discussing the state of the world over brunch at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. They decided to do something to counteract the rising violence of children toward others and themselves. They believed that violence is a symptom and meaninglessness is the disease. They spent a summer of discernment reflecting on what would give children a sense of meaning and purpose. Tapping into Dan’s years of research in the world’s sacred traditions, they had an “Aha! Moment”. They discovered that virtues are at the heart of meaning in every culture and belief system, from indigenous oral traditions to the world’s Sacred texts.”

The first client for their project proved to be the leader of one of Canada’s indigenous American Indian tribes, one of the First Nations as they are called in Canada. The Virtues Project is now in over 52 countries. They explain their success: “Each of us has both Strength Virtues we can rely on, and Growth Virtues that are the challenges of our character. A lifelong learner never gives up hope that at any moment, we can awaken a virtue by choosing to live it.”

We will not all portray the same virtue in the same way. Diversity has been a part of Creation from their beginning and evolution has simply enhanced it and taken us steps closer to perfecting it. However, nature and our world will not be continuing if we do not all develop virtuous living. We must treat each other with respect in order for the planet to thrive and live harmoniously with happiness for all.

My Psalm 78
Dear Creator,
You have given us a planet;
Yet we seek others.
You provided us food;
Yet we taint it with chemicals.
You gave us beautiful flora and fauna;
Yet we destroy it with pollution.
You offered us a Prophet;
Yet we forget His words in our daily living.
You love us in spite of everything;
We treat your children, made in your image, as trespassers.
Help, O God, do develop virtues for living.
Help us improve ourselves.
Lead us into the future with goodness.
Help us not destroy the future.
Guide us from gluttony to appreciation and respect.
May we learn the daily habit of gratitude, Lord.

Pentecost 77

Pentecost 77
My Psalm 77

Unseen footprints

We all hear them: those voices of our youth, those murmurs from the past. Sometimes they berate us, reminding us we are human. Sometimes they urge us to take a chance and live outside of the predictableness of our daily life. Sometimes they simply remind us that while our life might not be perfect, there is still much for which we have to be grateful.

Hun Sen once said “lessons of the past should steer us towards ensuring lasting legacies for generations yet to be born.” AS one of the world’s longest ruling prime ministers, Hun Sen’s opinion is an interesting one. Before becoming Prime Minister, He once served in the Khmer Rouge but later joined anti-Khmer Rouge factions. His time in his native Cambodia is not without controversy. In his early 60’s, this man who serves one of the world’s only countries whose king is a trained classical ballet dancer, has not succeeded in putting to rest the voices of Cambodia’s past as it moves forward. Just this week he was quoted as calling a human rights aid worker “an idiot”.

Throughout history, man has given advice on how to move forward. Many great leaders felt the only course of action was to attack. After all, if one is attacking, one is doing something. Others have felt it far better to improve the quality of life for all involved. After all, happy people seldom revolt. Unfortunately, happiness is but a fleeting moment and fear lives in most.

While we all have dreams and hope for the future, they often are drowned out by the clamor of the voices of the past, the unseen footprints of experience that constantly proves our shadow. In his book “The Zahir”, Paulo Coelho addresses the past and the future: “It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” “Study the past if you would define the future” said the philosopher Confucius.

Certainly the past can teach us but often it serves to be a reminder of pain, of failed attempts, of things not yet resolved or accepted. Robert Longley has written a beautiful poem about this entitled “lessons from the Past”:
“Whispers migrate through the halls
Responding to forgotten calls
It seems that man has come so far
Yet forgotten how to reach the stars
In days now past in years before
You have a glimpse of what’s in store
Though nothing is as it will be
Most of man must wait and see
Some can see those things today
It’s they who soon will lead the way
To take man down a different path
To flee the course of heaven’s wrath
The light of sounds return is soon
To charge the halls of sun and moon
And teach the lessons of the past
That man may reach the stars at last.”

Joseph Benziger said: “We should know the difference between cherishing the lessons of the past and living in the past; likewise the difference between being prepared for the future and being worried about the future.” It is an often used cliché but true – a butterfly must give up everything it knows in order to become its destiny, a beautiful butterfly.

So often we prefer to remain the cocoon of our past. After all, we know it; it is comfortable; it is safe or so it seems. What the butterfly may or may not know is that it cannot continue to live in its cocoon. The cocoon cannot continue to sustain its life. It must make the transition into its future.

Faith and spiritual beliefs are often what enables a person to move forward in a positive manner. The belief that we have a purpose, that we can accomplish something greater than the past and present enables us to take that jump from that past into the future. It gives our present living a bridge for us to journey across and connects our past life to a future one.

In her book “The Comeback Season”, a love story, author Jennifer E. Smith sums up how we can all move forward, gaining strength from the footprints of our past as we walk into our future: “She understands now what she, in all her worry, had forgotten. That even as she hesitates and wavers, even as she thinks too much and moves too cautiously, she doesn’t always have to get it right. It’s okay to look back, even as you move forward.” For those with religious or spiritual beliefs, their footprints do indeed have a shadow, the unseen footprints of our God or Great Spirit.

My Psalm 77

Dear Mother/Father of all,
You are the compass of our souls.
We pray that we might go forth
With grace and mercy,
In love and generosity,
Forever moving toward unity and prosperity.
May the expectations and potentialities of life
Envelope us all
As we travel the road to peace,
Remembering the glory is Yours and not ours.

Pentecost 76

Pentecost 76

My Psalm 76

Rainbows: Happiness or Anger?

Look up the word happiness and most dictionaries will define it as a state of feeling good or positive. Research further and somewhere, at some point, you will see that happy people are suppose to be generous, joyous, even charitable. Usually, my commentary for the day has some relativity to the psalm; however, it is not focused on the psalm. Today will be different. Today’s psalm is a summary of what should be and what is in the current political climate of many parts of the world.

Matthew Henry’s “Concise Commentary” on Psalm 76 states: “Happy people are those who have their land filled with the knowledge of God! Happy persons that have their hearts filled with that knowledge!” Ii is interesting that so many people worldwide describe the believers that worship with the psalms not as happy but rather as being judgmental. Whether in the Middle East or in local political contests within the USA, the largest country founded for religious reasons in the world, religion is used more as an excuse for suppression of others rather than as a source of happiness.

Henry continues in discussing Psalm 76: “God’s people are the meek of the earth, the quiet in the land, that suffer wrong, but do none.” Does that mean the believers of the three Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, are suppose to be doormats for the rest of the world? How did the leaders of the Crusades, the pilgrims immigrating to the New World, the Turkish invaders, even more recent attempts at conquest justify their actions in light of Psalm 76 and others like it? Were these attempts at finding happiness and glory for their God?

Carolyn Gregoire, writing for the Huffington Post, quotes Harvard psychiatrist and Columbia-trained Buddha scholar Joe Loizzo is discussing happiness and the contemplative sciences. “There’s a growing understanding that we need to move back in the direction of the contemplative traditions — the ancient wisdom that says slow down, pay attention, be kind, be at peace — whereas our modern wisdom has said that we need to just push forward and move into the future. We’re realizing that’s not sustainable for us either as a civilization or for our individual minds and brains. It’s wearing and tearing us down just like it’s wearing and tearing the planet down.” Our quest for happiness, inner peace, and defining our faith is killing us and the planet.

Recently, over the past two decades, a great deal of psychological research has centered around the concept of happiness and the quest people undertake to achieve it. Several interesting things to note have surfaced. There are varying degrees of happiness and too much happiness is not always a good thing. Many people experiencing great success or a sudden influx of cash inhibit themselves from enjoying it fully. Like the old saying, they end up “waiting for the other shoe to fall” and the other shoe is a negative situation. This keeps them from enjoying their current happiness.

There are also good times to be happy and times when it can be detrimental. For instance, being overcome with the beauty of nature and creation could make you delighted to turn a corner while on a hike and find yourself approaching a large wild animal. Instead of turning around and getting away from the dangerous situation, your happiness might lead you to go closer and possibly end up in danger. The same is true for a false happiness derived from substances such as alcohol or other rugs, even something as seemingly harmless as caffeine or tobacco. These drugs interact with our synapses and affect our feelings, effecting our emotions. The person who has a daily nightcap to relax does achieve a sense of happiness and relaxation but that is because the alcohol is a depressant, not because it is helping them achieve a sense of happiness or alleviating any source of the stress. What they perceive as happiness is just a masking and delaying of their real situation.

The above example of the nightcap is one example of the wrong way to achieve happiness. The nightcap cannot change anything and therefore is not a true path to happiness or resolving an issue. Always seeking happiness for happiness’ sake is another incorrect path and often leads to more negative emotions. Trying to “be happy” begs the question of how much happy is enough and all too often, there never is enough happiness, hence the unhappiness.

There are also different types of happiness and some could be considered harmful or just plain wrong. Hubristic pride, more commonly known as vanity or narcissism, is a common incorrect type of happiness. The person who defines happiness as having the most possessions will soon find themselves unhappy because there will never be enough. Having a snazzy, fancy car may be nice at the outset but soon one realizes it is still just a car. Eating an entire plate of brownies may seem like a well-earned indulgence but, in truth, the brain responds more positively and with greater happiness to small rewards spaced out. Not only does the brain get greater satisfaction from the “less is more” concept of rewards, the body also finds it healthier. Having great wealth does not lead to happiness. Spending what one has wisely does.

Consider the rainbow. Rainbows are beautiful and almost always invoke a sense of happiness to those seeing them. They are similar in concept to the wonderful beach house or lake house that people dream of for vacations or retirement. The reality is that the rainbow only follows the rain and rain seldom invokes feeling of great happiness or calm in people. When we envision ourselves on the sand or deck of that lovely waterfront home, we forget about the angry mosquitoes or sunburn that accompanies it. Often the anticipation is of greater happiness than the reality of the purchase or event.

So what makes the difference between happiness and a negative emotion like anger? Research and history attest to the fact that most of mankind cannot predict what will make one happy. A focused approach on combining passions and purpose, however, does provide long-lasting happiness. So why aren’t more of us happy and why all the strife and conflict among people who are supposedly happy?

The appeal and, some would say, the purpose of religion is to make the individual part of the whole. When people have a purpose, a higher purpose, they are happy. When man or woman feels they are contributing to something outside of themselves, their life takes on greater merit. In short, though the rain may cancel plans for an outside activity, most of us realize the rain provides nourishment for that outside environment in the first place. The rainbow is the bow on the package, the icing on the cake. When we accept the journey of our life not in garnering the most prestige or toys but make our purpose for the greater world’s good, then we become not an individual but part of something much greater. That is when we experience true happiness.

My Psalm 76

You are my reward, my joy, O Lord.
In you is my peace, my calm.
May I walk by your teachings,
Thinking not of myself
But of my neighbors and enemies.
May I look toward You, O God.
In You is all I need.
Let me know that after the dark comes the dawn.

Pentecost 75

Pentecost 75
My Psalm 75

Uh…gulp…Stress!!!

When Pentecost began, I had just completed a theology course which included a brief discussion about the psalms. During the four year program I discovered that many people thought David, the boy who faced a giant and won and later became king, wrote all one hundred and fifty of them. Historians, Linguists, and theologians do not believe that to be true. In fact, it is estimated that the composition of the psalms, songs of prayer and praise as well as supplication, were written over a span of five centuries.

What really amazed me during the four years of hearing people discuss the psalms was the general agreement in the various translations of the Torah and Holy Bible containing them despite a great deal of dissension among readers and my classmates regarding what they really mean. It seemed that experts agreed but readers did not. Some of the psalms were written after great battles; some preceded them. Similarly, in class some psalms caused total agreement while others complete differences of opinion. And people would become a bit worked up over their interpretations!

I have read all of the psalms via my chosen religious denominational service countless times over but had I really read them, really thought about them? Sadly, I confess that the answer was no. So during Pentecost I thought I would not only read each psalm but write my own, using updated language and thoughts. There are many formulas for writing a psalm but I wanted mine to simply be verses – verses of praise, question, and adoration. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

There are, in case you did not know, one hundred and fifty psalms. I like poetry and I like writing it. I completely understand those poets who communicated solely in haiku or iambic pentameter. After all, we all have our own accents based on where we have lived or our ethnic backgrounds, rhythmic patterns of speech that help people recognize our voices. The thing is….When you commit to writing one hundred and fifty psalms, you need to write one hundred and fifty psalms. And that is daily. Talk about stress!

As I sat wondering why I had put myself through this stress, I realized two things: First, I was already half-way through my goal. Secondly, did I know exactly what stress was that made it so bad? You see, while it has been stressing at times, I actually admit to being a bit pleased at this challenge. At times I feel a bit guilty not following the formulas but then again, I’m not sure David and his helpers always did either. I think the most important thing is that you say whatever you say from the heart and with sincerity. I also learned I did not particularly like all of the psalms. They are all beautiful but some are full of negativity. Were the writers stressed? Probably!

So what exactly is stress? According to the national Institute of Mental Health, a part of the National Institutes of Health, “stress is the body’s response to a demand”. Say what? That’s it? Stress is a response? Turns out that is exactly what it is and there is good stress as well as the bad stress we all have experienced. The fight or flight response we’ve discussed here is one way the body handles stress and it can save your life. Chronic stress, though, can be harmful to your health – physical, emotional, and mental.

There are three types of stress. Routine stress is that which we associate with our daily lives, those pressures of work, family, and other normal and daily responsibilities. Stress brought about by change, a sudden unexpected negative event, is the second type of stress. This includes losing a job, divorce, or illness. Traumatic stress is the third type and is just what the name describes – a major accident or natural diasater. War is also considered a traumatic stress.

So which type of stress was my writing one hundred and fifty psalms? Other than the mental exercise, which was really a good type of stress, it really has not been that stressful. Once I got over a lack of faith I could do it and just did it, it wasn’t that bad. By the grace of the Eternal Spirit and Creator, words have flowed. By your kindness and grace, they appear to have been somewhat accepted for what they are and in spite of my needing to edit and re-edit at times!

The psalms were a type of song back in David’s day. A warrior in training who dared to put his faith in action, the psalms were his way of relaxing, of praying, of meditating. All of those are great ways to cope with stress! I have found writing my own daunting but also helpful, not stressful.

Many people today have taken up journaling and for a great many, writing a blog is a digital journal. I tend to pose more questions than answer them and that is intentional. I want to think and expand my thinking and I am inviting you to join me in doing so. Writing a psalm a day has helped me do that. More importantly, I have realized that, while the clothing and lifestyles are very different, the basic concerns and confusions of David are the same as those of us who are living today. We have leaders who are distrustful. We have episodes of complete joy. We have times of fear. We are subject to hatred by some. We want to live a life of faith. We sing glory to our Maker.

The psalms overall are a way to give thanks for our wonderful world. Writing a thank you note sometimes seems a bit daunting but really, all we have to do is let our heart speak. When we write a psalm and begin by describing God, we are not telling Him who He is but reminding ourselves.

Writing these psalms has been a reminder for me of the wonderful world that exists and the beauty of the people that are in it. This of course includes you, my followers. You are a rainbow of ethnicities and professions, locations, and beliefs. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”. (Philippians 1:3)

My Psalm 75

To you, O Heavenly Father, do I give thanks.
For myself, family, friends, and life, I say thank you.
You alone know me well, very well.
For all you have given me,
In spite of myself at times,
I give you thanks.
There are those who dislike me;
Your love makes the hurt dissolve.
Thank you, dear Lord, for all the mercies of this life
And the promises of the next.
You alone are the Most High.
Thank you, my God.

Pentecost 74

Pentecost 74
My Psalm 74

Faith & Strength

It is a Wednesday (or should be if I have scheduled this correctly!). One of my favorite commercials is the one of the camel walking through the office asking: “What day is it?” Camels are wonderful creatures and, I believe, a life lesson that God has given us. They provide life-essential transportation in terrains that make it virtually impossible to traverse on foot for any great distance. Their ability to trek long miles with little sustenance or water defy the basic way most of us live which, I think, offers us a reminder to expand our knowledge.

Camels are not the most beauteous of God’s creation. Though graceful in their own way, they lack the peaceful movement of a butterfly, the grace of a gazelle, and even their coats are not the calming smoothness of a cat or dog. Their faces are….interesting and even their dispositions do not give credence to a happy disposition. In short, they will most likely spit on you if you are near them and they seemingly do it without cause or provocation.

So for a camel to walk through the office in a manner that seems to suggest the camel is happy and excited to hear the answer to his or her query is humorous. More than that, it is memorable. The punch line, of course, to the commercial is that “It is Hump Day!” A seemingly not gorgeous, rather mundane beast of burden, takes the least special day of the week, Wednesday, and makes it memorable for being “Hump Day”, that day that tells us we have gotten through the first part of the week and are heading into the home stretch towards the coveted weekend.

As I have said before, life is messy. This isn’t a news headline. We all know that life has its challenges, its ups and downs, its mean people, and those times that you did everything right and it all blew up in your face, hopefully metaphorically speaking and not literally. Faith can sometimes be like that as well.

As mentioned previously, I firmly believe we are to garner strength from our beliefs. After all, if they do not serve to make us stronger and better and healthier, then why bother with them? Churches across the world are suffering demise in attendance. Many have made attendance numbers their focus while others have turned their spiritual centers into little more than social gatherings, a country club that occasionally mentions their doctrine. There are those greedy, power-hungry fanatics who even twist their doctrine into vendettas to accomplish irrational goals that benefit only them and not their flock or community of believers.

Living in the Western world as I do, I have access to multiple cable television channels and radio stations that broadcast religious programming. If I defined faith or religion as listening to someone berate me or explain the lessons of holy teachings, I could do that at home….in my pajamas….drinking hot tea or eating cupcakes…petting a silky-haired pooch or being intimidated by a hungry feline who would really prefer I spend time paying homage to it and not some deity.

I attend my house of worship for the strength that a community offers. The temple, mosque, church, meeting house are all places of family. We should greet each other as such. Our identity as believers is not based upon any leader other than the Great Spirit, the Creator, your Lord. If the purpose of attending such is not for the strength that comes from corporate worship, why not stay home in your comfy clothes sitting in a comfy chair. You can even record the religious program and watch it at your leisure, sleeping later than the timing of most religious services.

Unfortunately, many people do not feel welcome in their religious community. If they don’t drive the fanciest car, live in the largest house, make the largest public monetary donation, then they feel more like a camel than a beautiful butterfly. Faith serves to release us from our cocoon and sees all of Creation as worthy and beautiful. I am more like that camel than a butterfly or a gazelle but faith tells me I too can serve. I too have a purpose.

Camels may be ugly but try riding a butterfly across the Sahara Dessert. We all serve a purpose. We all have value. Faith turns us into valued members of the world and Creation. Faith takes our grief and makes it beautiful. Faith gives us purpose, meaning, life. However, it does not one any good if faith divides or inhibits. We need to be welcomed and free to get over the hump of our differences and value each other. We need to sing out our faith. We need to let the transformation that faith brings be heard.

My Psalm 74

They mocked me, O God.
They cast me out and I was alone.
Where are you, my God?
Why do you let your words be twisted?
Where is the truth in your teachings?
Help me, O Lord, to remember I am loved.
Deliver me from the vileness of others;
Protect me from the evil around me.
I call out to you, my God and Savior.
I need you with me.
I need your love around me.
I need to remember I am not alone.
I am your child, Great Father/Mother.
You cannot make anything without form or function.
I need to trust in my existence as evidence of my worth.
In you do I place my trust, O God.
I will sing of your love forever.

Pentecost 73

Pentecost 73
My Psalm 73

Long Way Home

What is the reason that we do what we do? Many would respond with the answer that we are constantly trying to better ourselves and so, we do what we can to make that happen. Others might simply say they are following their way of life, their beliefs. Still more are simply doing what they do because it is expected of them; it was taught to them as children and so what they do is not perhaps their own individual expectation but that of their family, their tribe, their community. For the spiritual and faithful, we do what we do in an effort to arrive at our eternal home.

IN a 2011 article for “The Atlantic”, Julie Beck discussed “The Psychology of Home: Why Where You Live Means So Much”. In her article, Beck references environmental psychologist Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster. Clayton maintains that, for many people, their home is part of their self-definition. Their home, exterior and interior, and even the yard are part of the public face people put on. They see their home as an extension of themselves.

However, as Beck notes, people seldom stay in one house forever, especially in Western society. As people gain promotions or change positions to a better job with a higher salary, they often purchase a larger home or move to a perceived better neighborhood. So, if our homes are an extension of ourselves and part of our identities, does the person change when their address changes and seemingly becomes “better” as determined not necessarily by looks but by purchase price? Beck says conventional Western viewpoints would say no. The individual remains unchanged.

Writing about a Hindu pilgrimage, author William Sax explained the Asian view: “People and the places where they reside are engaged in a continuing set of exchanges. They have determinate, mutual effects upon each other because they are part of a single, interactive system.” Wax believes that in Western society a person’s psychology and consciousness are not dependent upon their address or home. “They come from inside – from inside your brain, r inside your soul or inside your personality.” He contrasts this with the south Asian concept that one’s home is not just where one lives; it defines who the individual is.

How does this affect our belief systems? A professor in human geography at the University of Exeter, Patrick Devine-Wright explains one possible effect, based upon Western expectation of growing up, buying a home, and then jumping “through all the hoops that home ownership entails”. “That kind of economic system is predicated on marketing people to live in a different home, or a better home than the one they’re in,” Devine-Wright says.

The endless options available in the real estate market can leave us constantly wondering if there isn’t some place with better schools, a better neighborhood, more green space, and on and on. There is always that nagging question hiding in our subconscious: Could there be a better place out there for me?

If home is where the heart is, then wherever we are is our home because our heart is always with us. For most of us, home may not be where we are from, as it is in the Asian communities Sax discovered. Home is that place [or places] that has meaning, that left a mark on our hearts and, possibly, helped influence our personal identity.

In her article, Beck notes that our personalities are not context-free. We live in both social and physical environments and they have an impact on us. The important thing is to make note of those factors influencing us and strive to live where it is most healthy for us and our belief system. She describes the various places she has called home this way: “Looking back, many of my homes feel more like places borrowed than places possessed, and while I sometimes sift through mental souvenirs of my time there, in the scope of a lifetime, I was only a tourist.”

Whether renting or owning, we all have the chance to own our lives. We need to actively dust out the chaos and clear out the past. We need to walk in the present using our beliefs as our pathway to the future. Above all, we need to remember that we are actively living and residing in ourselves. We should not be tourists in our faith but lifelong residents, wearing the identity of the believer not only in our mind but in our hearts and through our actions.

My Psalm 73

You are my home, dear God.
I walk the days of my life
With you as my compass;
Your teachings are my guide.
I walk in your mercy, Lord
Through the thorns others place before me.
Because I follow my faith,
I expect it to be easy.
It is not, Lord; it is hard.
They mock my faith
And say I should not have tears.
Jesus wept, Lord.
I can expect no less at times.
But you comfort me with your grace.
I walk in your mercy, Lord,
Amidst the treacheries of others.
You lift me up, God, when I stumbled.
As I walk all the way to you,
You are there beside me, holding my right hand,
Leading me to your glory.
By the grace of God,
We walk through the floods of life to the rainbows of heaven.

Pentecost 72

Pentecost 72
My Psalm 72

Moving Forward

The railroad was a lifeline to settlers in the expanding United States. It carried everything from people to farm supplies and produce to cattle to cars from the Henry Ford Company. One particular railroad serviced states in the Midwest and the province of Ontario. It made stops along all five Great Lakes and crossed the Mississippi, first as a ferry railroad and later over the bridges constructed.

In 1855 a man deeded ten acres of land to the Wabash Railroad for a train depot which was named after him. The station led to a settlement which was named after him. The settlement became a town which was incorporated in 1895
This town was similar to many in the country just as the railroad responsible for its birth. The railroad company was a product of small companies merging with larger ones, that company going bankrupt and being bought out by a stock holder who then expanded again only to suffer losses and sell out, merge with another railroad or again go on the auction block. Such companies were then bought again and the whole financial carousel repeated itself until the railroad became a part of one large conglomerate.

The town, however, stayed much like it had begun. A community for the people in the area, today it covers six square miles. The 2010 census reported that over twenty-nine percent of the residents are Caucasian with sixty-seven percent identifying as African-American. Like many towns of its size, the economic turns of the 1990’s and first decade of the twenty-first century took a toil on Ferguson. The 1990 census reported seventy-three percent Caucasian and twenty-dive percent African-American.

Thirty percent of the people in this town were married as in reported in the 2010 census while thirty percent were also single households led by a female. Thirty percent reported as non-families and, to continue the theme of “thirty”, the average age of a resident in the town was….thirty!

Not surprisingly, as typical as this town is, it is located on what is commonly known as the Main Street of America. You probably know it best as Route 66. This historic highway, crossing the United States of America, was the main thoroughfare for those traveling in more updated transportation than covered wagons as they moved west. It was especially popular during the Dust Bowl Days of the 1930’s.

For many, Route 66 is the USA. Traversing the country, communities along its route represent the average American. From Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California all 2471 miles offer a slice of Americana. From its beginnings as part of the “Bunion Derby” to helping advertise the 1932 Summer Olympics, Route 66 and the towns located along it have helped been a part of the campaign known as “America on the Move”.

Unlike some parts of Route 66, the area surrounding our town has not fallen away. While economic downturns have been experienced and census numbers testify to the changing population, it is still located in a thriving county in its Midwestern state. Though over one hundred years old, it has weathered the test of time and sadly, even the decommissioning of Route 66 in the mid 1980’s.

However, our snapshot Americana town has not been serene this past week. You see, the town I have described is Ferguson, Missouri. Age old suspicions and discriminating habits coupled with hasty actions on the part of many are tearing this town apart. Unfortunately, recent disturbances have changed Ferguson from a town on the move to a town torn apart.

A teenager was shot and the person doing the shooting was a police officer. No matter the justification or lack thereof, the loss of life must be mourned. Elected officials must assume their place as leaders and the community of educators and religious leaders need to step forward and provide leadership and counseling. Fear, anger, and grief cannot override decency and common sense. Just as in the clip below, we must come together, different people, different ages, different colors, and harmonize a productive community.

My Psalm 72

Dear Father, please bless our land and its people.
Let us live with justice and righteousness.
Grant us wisdom in moving forward.
Bless us as you have preserved us in the past.
Help us practice goodness and mercy to all, Lord.
Grant us a future as protected as we have been in the past.
We sing your praises, O Lord, and glorify you.
Protect your children and receive those who perish into your loving arms.
You, O Lord, are the Most High.
We sing your praises for ever.