Showing Up

Showing Up
Detours in Life
Pentecost #81-89
Mega Post #3

In my last blog post I quoted Corrie Ten Bloom: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Prayer is often synonymous in today’s world with faith. Today’s battle cry of “Take a Stand” and “Take a Knee” is all about showing one’s beliefs and/or patriotism or the lack thereof. Everyone from the NFL’s youngest fan to the President of the United States has an opinion. Everyone, it would seem, firmly believes in freedom of expression… as long as the person expressing is saying or doing what the listener/observer believes in.

I was not around during World War II but a Caucasian Christian had to think they were relatively safe from the witch hunt that the Nazis were conducting in rounding up people of the Jewish faith and sending them to concentration camps for eventual extinction. And before I go any further, let’s address the issue of “Did it really happen?” Yes and the hundreds of thousands who died and are buried are the proof that it did. Six million of the Jewish faith from all ages and walks of life were killed for nothing more than believing. Germany became a killing ground as did the countries invaded by Adolf Hitler. He had promised to make Germany great. Instead it made it a graveyard.

Corrie Ten Bloom was something of a superstar in her chosen field. She was the first woman in the Netherlands to become a licensed watchmaker. Corrie also ran a club for young girls which provided them an opportunity to learn and expand their lives. She believed in these young women and in a bright future for them all. Such actions were considered dangerous by Hitler and when he invaded the Netherlands in 1940 he instituted restrictions that banned Corrie’s club for these girls.

Because of her Christian faith, Corrie and her family helped their neighbors who had been targeted by the Nazis and were in fear of being sent to concentration camps. As father stood up for his faith, different from those he was helping, by stating: “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.” Word of their actions eventually reached the Nazi authorities and Corrie Ten Bloom and her family were arrested. Her sister and father both died in the concentration camps. Corrie Ten Bloom spent time in two such camps over a span of eleven months. On New Year’s Eve 1944 she was released due to clerical error. The following week everyone in her age group in the unit in the Ravensbrück concentration camp was sent to the gas chambers.

Corrie Ten Bloom returned home and continued to help the disenfranchised, particularly the mentally disabled. She established with her remaining family members a rehabilitation center in Bloemendaal. The refugee houses consisted of concentration-camp survivors and sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the Occupation exclusively until 1950, when they accepted anyone in need of care. She returned to Germany in 1946, and met with and forgave two Germans who had been employed at Ravensbruck, one of whom was particularly cruel to her sister.

Corrie Ten Bloom lived her faith, standing up for what she believed and showing up by living it, even when the going got impossibly rough and life-threatening. You might say her faith created the detour her life took by being sent to a concentration camp but really, isn’t that what faith and our beliefs do at times? Life is not all about smooth sailing. Any sailor will tell you that the most exciting times out on the water are not those where everything is calm and bland.

The recent furor over whether one stands or kneels during the playing of the National Anthem is not just about one song. It has become a battle cry to respect those veterans who defend our nation’s ideals every day. But is that really the only way to show such respect?

I would suggest that perhaps we should use our faith as our own personal steering wheel and follow in example of Corrie Ten Bloom. Faith should not be something we pull out only when we get in a tough situation or are scared. Neither should patriotism. Both faith and patriotism should be active parts of our living each and every hour of every day. They should be as evident and visible as the noses on our faces.

I would suggest that we should be respectful and attentive during the playing of the National Anthem of our own and any country. I do think we should take it a step further, though. Because this has become such an issue involving our veterans, let take it all the way. I’d like to see people continue to support the NFL so that the NFL can support our veterans. Let each team donate fifty tickets to Wounded Warriors, injured and disabled veterans that could then attend the game. I would like to see those Wounded Warriors who bravely lived their patriotism escorted to the sidelines for the playing of the National Anthem by team players with all present on the sidelines for the flag and anthem.

To be sure, some of those Wounded Warriors will not be able to stand but certainly no one can doubt their patriotism. Let’s stop the shouting and start taking real action. Let’s show up for what we profess to believe in and take a stand… or a knee… or a wheelchair to honor the true heroes of the game of life.

 

 

 

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Taking a Stand

Taking a Stand

Detours in Life

Pentecost #66-80

Mega Post #2

 

If you live in the United States, then it was very hard to escape the detour in concentration regarding nationally televised professional football games recently.  The focus has, quite simply, been detoured from sports and centered on actions, taken or not taken, during the playing of the National Anthem.  The speed with which this occurred, stemming from the actions of one player almost one year ago, would give a marketing specialist reason to take notice.  Rather than it being something that occurs without much forethought at the start of each game, those ninety-four seconds of the national Anthem  suddenly became the most talked about action of the games.

 

The National Anthem of the United States should, if played and sung in its entirety, take over five minutes but seldom are all four verses sung.  Most deem it too lengthy and so, only the first verse is played or sung at games.  At the time he penned the verses of his poem, Francis Scott Key was aboard an English ship during the War of 1812, attempting to broker a peaceful resolution.  As he stood on board in the harbor of Baltimore a prisoner of war amid the ammunition being volleyed by both sides, he wondered which flag would be waving victorious at dawn.  He called his poem “Defiance of Fort McHenry”.  The words were later put to a tune composed by John Stafford Smith.  Most people only know of Francis Scott Keys and few, if any, know of John Stafford Smith. 

 

John Stafford Smith was a British composer and church organist.  His song “The Anacreontic Song” became the melody for the new nation’s anthem which was not officially adopted as the national anthem until 1931.  You might be curious as to the irony of a song of spirit to encourage independence being composed by a member of the enemy country.  It is a rather interesting detour.  John Stafford Smith belonged to the Anacreon Society, a group of amateur musicians who were bonded by their love of music.  The name of their society came from the name of a Greek poet known for his drinking songs and hymns.  The young nation was a group of amateur politicians – many simple farmers elected by their neighbors to defend their rights.  Few had served in the British Parliament so the appeal of another amateur group is certainly understandable.

 

In the fourth verse of Francis Scott Keys’ poem is the line “free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.”  It should be noted that only someone white (Caucasian or of European descent), male and over the age of 21 could be considered a “free man”.  This is the only place in a legal document that mentions standing in connection to the National Anthem, by the way.  There are codes of conduct and protocol for the playing of the anthem as well as showing respect for the flag of the USA but standing is never nor has it ever been a requirement.

 

During the 2016-17 professional football season a player became distraught over the way he perceived people of color were being treated and how the disproportionate number of their deaths was being ignored.  He wanted to pay tribute to these American citizens that he felt were being forgotten.  Out of respect he did what many in Congress do at official meetings during the playing of the National Anthem – he sat down.   A team player noticed this and after much discussion together, the player decided to kneel instead of sitting.  His sitting was never noticed but his kneeling was and it created a media storm that has escalated over the past ten months to the past ten days, in part because of a politician who needed something to get a crowd interested.  In a state with more football championships than most and no professional teams, he highlighted this player’s actions in a negative light.

 

To fully understand the rights of the American citizen and just who is considered an American citizenship who would be expected to show respect to the National Anthem, we need to look at a timeline of citizenship.  In the beginning a citizen had to be male and own property to vote.  In 1791 this was changed to all white males so that they could vote even if they did not own property.  In 1795 free white persons could become citizens after living in the U.S. for five years but still only men could vote.  In 1848 approximately 80,000 Mexican residents of the Southwest were granted citizenship after the Mexican-American war.  In 1857, because of the Dred Scott v. Sandford case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African Americans who were brought into this country as slaves could never be citizens.   Please read that last sentence again because many do not realize a specific law denied forever these victims of slavery from becoming US citizens.

 

In 1868 the 14th Amendment overruled the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, giving citizenship to African   Americans.   Citizenship did not, however, mean they could vote.  Still only white males could vote.  In 1870 laws were changed to say that white persons and persons of African descent could be citizens and the 15th Amendment gave African American males the right to vote.  In 1913 California and other states enacted the Alien Land Laws which prohibited non-citizens from owning property.   In 1920 the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote.  Then, in 1924, all Native Americans were granted citizenship; most states prohibited them from voting, however.  During the 1940’s, all laws banning Asians from becoming citizens were overturned.   In 1947 Native Americans were given the right to vote but many states put obstacles such as literacy tests in their path and many were unable to vote. 

 

In 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march to protest lack of voting rights, and the Voting Rights Act was enacted to get rid of all barriers to voting (literacy tests, taxes, etc.).   The last change to citizenship and voting laws occurred in 1971 when the voting age was changed to 18 by the 26th Amendment.  It should be recognized that the Voting Rights Act did not just benefit African Americans.  Finally, all people of color were to be treated as equals.

 

Corrie Ten Bloom once asked:  “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”  Many consider the most devout evidence of prayer to be kneeling.  In the earliest churches, prayer was done most solemnly when the person praying was prone.  In mosques worldwide, men pray in a semi-reclining position, on their knees with the torso laying outward and down.  Many churches of a historic episcopate use kneelers in their churches and people pray as a sign of devotion and obedience.

 

Last week many teams took to their knees; others stood solemnly with arms joined.  It was the first time in my life I had seen entire teams show respect while the National Anthem was played.  It should be noted that no stadium closes its concession stands during the playing of the National Anthem.  Public restrooms remain open as do ticket agents and sports memorabilia stands.

 

Showing patriotism is much more that simply wearing a red, white, and blue outfit or combining stars with stripes.  Wednesday we will discuss Corrie Ten Bloom and how a respectful Christian came to be detoured to a concentration camp during WWII.  For now, I ask you to ponder her query.    I hope the respectful action of one professional football player has become your own personal steering wheel in thinking about your own patriotism and how it is displayed.  Loyalty to the concept of freedom for all and those who teach it, protect it, and live it certainly deserves much more than merely being derailed by some politician’s spare hot air.

Stretch

Stretch

Detours in Life

Pentecost 33

 

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.  So they really don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.  The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

 

Steve Jobs said the above quote and while I do not know the exact setting in which it was said, I do know the multiple settings to which it could apply.  In fact, they all can be summarized in one word – life.  Tomorrow the earth will undergo a total eclipse of the sun.  For some, it will be a spiritual event and for others, a most frightening one which will bring to remind all sorts of superstitions.  How one figuratively views this eclipse will be determined by their living and so, this week, we will discuss detours and perspective.

 

A solar eclipse occurs when the earth’s moon passes between the sun and the earth.   This results in the moon fully or partially blocking the sun.  On August 21st, a total eclipse will occur, meaning the disk of the sun will be completely blocked and fully obscured by the moon.  Such an event is called a syzygy, the alignment of three celestial bodies in a straight line configuration. 

 

One important thing to remember about syzygy is that it occurs between opposing things.  ON Monday, August 21st, the primary celestial body of the daylight hours known as the sun will be aligned with the primary celestial body of the nighttime, the moon and both of these will be in alignment with the planet earth.  The sky on the earth will grow a little dark as the moon obscures the sun but not everyone’s perspective will be the same and it will still be obviously daylight hours.

 

Goreville, Illinois is a small town but it is there that the eclipse will last the longest.  The totality of the sun in Goreville will take about two and one half minutes.  The just fewer than two thousand people who call Goreville home will undoubtedly be sharing their view with many others but people across the United States will experience the eclipse in their own fashion. 

 

I am currently in an area with a great view for watching the solar eclipse this year and people have stood in line for hours to obtain a pair of safety glasses for doing just that.  It is most important that no one attempt to view a solar eclipse without proper protective eye protection.  Serious damage can occur to your eyes unless you take the proper precautions.  Many people are eager to experience what they consider a once-in-a-lifetime event – a solar eclipse.

 

Again, perspective is an important element in an eclipse.  First, solar eclipses are not rare.  They actually occur about every eighteen months.  According to Joe Rao, writing for space.com, “It is a popular misconception that the phenomenon of a total eclipse of the sun is a rare occurrence.  Quite the contrary.  Approximately once every 18 months (on average) a total solar eclipse is visible from some place on the Earth’s surface.  That’s two totalities for every three years.  But how often is a total solar eclipse visible from a specific location on Earth? That’s another story altogether. “

 

It is estimated with great accuracy that a viewing station will experience a total solar eclipse once every three hundred and sixty to three hundred and seventy-five years.  That is once every three-and-a-half life times.    However, because there are different types of eclipses, a viewing station will probably experience an eclipse once every twelve to eighteen months.

 

What if we took a detour from our normal everyday living to align ourselves with something opposite, or something we might never had imagines doing?  What type of syzygy could that create?  Would the result be chaos or could we possibly find peace?

 

For approximately an hour on August 21st, people will come together to experience a solar eclipse.  Regardless of color, race, creed, religion, socioeconomic level or musical taste, we will all experience the same thing, although with different perspectives.  For that brief time we will stretch our imaginations and be amazed at the brief moment of peace that the darkening can create,  all the result of syzygy.  If we but stretch our belief in the possible, we might just realize we can have a broader understanding of the human experience.  We might just stretch into finding better designs for our future living.

 

 

We Need to learn

We Need to Learn

Detours in Life

Pentecost 28

 

Some difficult parenting moments?  The mother and grandmother thought for a moment and then spoke.  “My now grown daughter’s favorite animal is the bunny and I still remember trying to explain to her as a seven-year-old why the neighbors poisoned her two pet bunnies because we were biracial.  A few months later, coming home from church to find front door shattered because I put up a mezuzah on the inside casing of our front door, a gift from Jewish friends.   KKK neighbors ramming our old Dodge van and then sitting outside our house holding automatic assault rifles.”

 

The Rt. Ref Steven Charleston writes:  “We have seen those faces before, the ones at Charlottesville, the faces contorted by hate, the faces twisted into anger or frozen into ignorance. They were shouting. They were screaming for the pleasure of having someone to blame. We have seen those faces before at other times, on other streets, but the results are always the same. There is no compromise with this kind of hate. No appeasement or denial. Prejudice to this point is virulent and must be confronted head on. The faces at Charlottesville tell us why. They are images of what cruelty can become when it is left unchallenged, unnamed and under estimated.”

 

Color is not a right. Color is a hue, shading that adds interest, not detracts from one’s unalienable rights given by God and the law.   This was affirmed in the Declaration of Independence. Racism is the opposite of patriotism.  Whether it is called racism or terrorism, whether its cause is religious discrimination or racial discrimination, it accomplishes nothing and it based on even less. 

 

Someone once asked me if I believed in the Devil, a capitalized name.  I believe in evil.  The history of the world tells us it exists.  It can live in each of us if we allow it.  Life happens and we do not always like it.  We look for answers and sometimes, instead prefer to seek blame.

 

There is no basis for discrimination.  There is a great deal of evidence for the foundation of love and what it can accomplish.   Screaming hatred and spewing unfounded insults accomplishes nothing.  Positive action to improve the world does.  When will we ever learn this?

The Road Taken

A Road Taken

Detours in Life

Pentecost 23-24

 

We tend to think of detours as this unavoidable deviation in our day, that long way around that is uncomfortable and detracts from our carefully planned living.  Often that is exactly what they are.  We’ve already discussed how the aftermath of detours can affect the detour itself.  What about those detours that end up being positive, though?  After all, some diversions end up being the very thing that puts us on the right course.

 

Robert Frost spent several years in England and it was there he penned the first poem in his “Mountain Interval” collection.  “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth; then took the other, as just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same, and both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black.  Oh, I kept the first for another day!  Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”

 

Life gives us a chance to select our path almost every day.  Most destinations have more than one road leading to them; we choose which to take.  A friend is approaching a milestone birthday.  That in itself is a gift not offered to everyone but this friend, rather than celebrating, is in despair.  Because of a healthy lifestyle, she has attained this soon-to-be new year of life and yet, she is not thrilled.  Instead, she is focusing on the number itself and bemoaning she has reached it.

 

All too often we plot a course and if we cannot walk it exactly as planned, we consider the trip a failure.  Whether you travel by foot, auto, plane, train, or pony and cart, we all travel through our life each hour.  Sometimes we just sit but even out sitting is taking us to another phase, another place, another hour of living.  Most of us have a choice in how and when and where we travel and how we do that traveling will determine its success.  We all find ourselves at the divergence of at least two roads every day.  Which road do you choose?

 

If we keep doing the same thing, we can expect results but are they the results we really truly seek?  Several years ago I was traveling a familiar path when suddenly, caught up in conversation, I missed a turn.  I took the next available turn and realized it was a quicker route than the one I had been taking for at least three years.  The road was not as heavily traveled and the scenery was very pleasing, almost pastoral.  My unexpected detour reaped great results and it has become my main course now, not just a once-explored detour.

 

It takes courage to travel a detour, something we often do not realize.  We simply take the detour because we must.  IF we stop and think about our path, we might just discover that we really could take another and perhaps find greater success.  “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” 

Detour Around the Bullies

Detour Around the Bullies

Detours in Life

Pentecost 19

 

Physical appearance is often the most often-used excused for bullying.  Whether it is because of the color of one’s skin, the shapes of one’s eyes or height, weight, or disfigurement, appearance can affect a person’s life.  The old cliché “never judge a book by its cover” has failed to translate into our reactions to people.  We might prefer it to be otherwise but appearance does matter and it is the number one reason people are bullied.

 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Most of us, after a certain age, start to see our parents or grandparents.  We realize that we have Grandma’s nose or Dad’s ears.  Perhaps we’ve always known about the family stature and delighted in either reaching it or passing it.  For some, their vocation is also a matter of family tradition.  There has been an on-going debate about what skills and talents might be genetic since man first realized inheritance applied to more than just land holdings and revenue.  No one has ever denied that we often inherit our appearance, though.

 

I had an acquaintance once that looked very much like her mother.  She was not very happy about this and I could understand why.  It is to be hoped that all parents nurture and support their children but the truth is that some people never really mature in their roles as parents.  In short, some people bear children without having a clue as to how to nurture them.  My acquaintance’s mother was not a supportive person to her daughter and often was a hindrance.

 

Having known this person for several decades and upon a chance meeting, I inquired about her mother.  I was being more polite than expressing any real interest but was very surprised nonetheless when my acquaintance smiled and said her mother was doing well, having outlived most of her contemporaries.  I asked if their relationship had improved.  My friend smiled and said that it had not.  She then casually said that while one might grow older, one did not always mature with age.

 

I had seen this acquaintance through several crying bouts when we were younger because of the pain and neglect of her mother so her offhanded remarks caught me by surprise and I told her so.  She replied that she still looked like her mother but now had accepted the resemblance.  “Just imagine,” she asked, “what the woman would have done if my looks were not proof I was her own child!”  While her mother’s behavior had not grown with age into a more loving relationship, my friend’s acceptance of her familiarity of physical appearance had brought her comfort.

 

All too often our value as a person is based upon anything and everything except who we are inside.  Regardless of which creation story you believe, we are uniquely made and individuals in our own right.  When we allow the behaviors of others to be the currency of our souls, we are denying our right to self-worth. 

 

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Do you see what the bullies are screaming and taunting at you?  I hope you are looking into your mirror and seeing past your reflection.  Our true value is found not only in physical appearance but in our actions and our words, our compassion and treatment of others.  At some point we are all alone with ourselves. We should strive to get to know ourselves and then become a person we can like, a person we feel as value. 

 

It is not easy to stop hearing the words of a bully but it is necessary.  We need to be sure to detour around the negativity of bullies and be true to who and what we are.  We create our own currency.  No one else can do that.   No one else can be us.  When we allow someone else to deny us the right to be ourselves, we are abdicating our own presence and bankrupting our self-worth.  Remember the sage advice of Harvey Fierstein:  “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” 

Pay It Forward

Paying It Forward

Detours in Life

Pentecost 9

 

When was the last time you did a good deed for someone?”  I recently asked this of a friend.  My friend thought for a minute and then described something over two weeks ago.  Last year about this time my Pentecost series was about “making the ordinary extraordinary”.   It was about making each day count. Most of us would love to have that happen except … Life takes us on a detour instead.

 

Last year I told you about Kim Atwood, a woman who focused on doing a good deed a day.  In the year 2000 another woman named Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a book upon which a movie was based entitled “Pay It Forward”.  Kim took this same premise and put it into action.  “One morning, on my drive to work, I was thinking about the law of moral causation and the karmic energy that surrounded my life.”

 

Kim was not just interested in doing a good deed but it that deed having a ripple effect.  She encouraged her friends to follow her example as well as the strangers who were the recipients of her actions.  The first day she stopped at her favorite donut shop for a pastry and coffee and then bought the same for the person in line behind her, asking the clerk to tell said person what had been done.  The next day she bought a potted plant and left it with a note on a car in a parking lot.  On another day she ordered some pet products from www.totallyfreestuff.com and donated them to a local animal shelter.  Soon life closed in on her and it was bedtime one evening when she realized she had not accomplished her good deed that day.  She went online and in five minutes had donated a few dollars to a charity.

 

The point of sharing with you Kim’s story was that she turned her ordinary commute into a period of retrospection and then took action.  She made each day extraordinary for the beneficiaries of her actions.  Kim was not some millionaire and often her actions took only a few extra minutes.  One day she simply stood at a store and held the day open for people sharing a smile and a brief greeting for a few minutes.  Each smile was returned and as she finished her shopping, she saw others holding the day for those entering.  Kim create her own detour from her normal pattern and started finding a way to make each day count.  She was doing for others but discovered it took her on a trip of her own as well.

 

Behavior is contagious.  That is why gangs are successful and cults have a following.  Kim Atwood used her time wisely and her detour from her normal routine made positive behavior contagious.  The ripple effect of her actions created more extraordinary moments for more living things. 

 

Joni Averill is a columnist with the Bangor Daily News and she wrote about Kim in 2010.  “ Civility. Manners. Thoughtfulness. Understanding. Compassion. Respect. Tolerance.  Our society seems to be losing its grip on those essential virtues.  What a much nicer world it would be if we all made the attempt, daily, to be kinder to one another.”

 

Bangor, Maine is a town that is often the last US stop for soldiers going to the Middle East.  Those arriving and departing usually deplane as new planes are to be boarded, different connections made.  Each soldier is greeted as they enter the Bangor Airport by citizens of Bangor and usually handed a cup of hot coffee or a cool drink.  They all receive a smile and hero’s greeting, justly deserved and earned.  These humble residents, however, are also heroes.  They make an exhausting trip better and remind our brave men and women why they are doing what they do.  Regardless of the weather or the time of day, each plane is met, each servicemen thanked.

 

Steve Jobs once said “If you are working at something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed; the vision pulls you.”  Hopefully, today something extraordinary will pull you to action, something that benefits another person and makes their ordinary day a time of extraordinary living.

 

We think of detours as nuisances but they can be a wonderful way of paying it forward.  Yes it is scary to deviate from our normal and really, who thinks they have the time?  Truth is, we have all time to take a detour of meaning and to pay it forward.  We’ll end up helping ourselves as well as the world.