Reflections……………………Civil War

Statue to Union Soldier in Massachusetts. Similar statues appear in Southern United States to Confederate soldiers.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Abraham Lincoln-1863)

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war that is tearing us apart, and unless a truce is called, the end result will be more tragic than the losses of our Civil War.” (Kirkham, Nashville, Tennessean, 2017)

The present casualties of the on-going civil war are staggering and the greatest of these is respect and civility. Destruction to the very fiber of our nation, country and fellow Americans is appalling. Equally disturbing is the destruction to public property and the dignity of life, creating scars beyond common decency. “….the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” “……..it is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” The unfinished work Lincoln made reference to is not what we are presently witnessing, but rather, a continuation of the American Ideal and not our own agendas. “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” Lincoln would hang his head if he witnessed what we are doing to the monuments that mark the elimination of a way of life that has passed and grown into a blossoming society beyond any other country in the history of civilization. It is these monuments that remind us of the progress we have made together, not of what was…. But what is……….It is not in the rear view mirror we should gaze but the front window that provides a panoramic view of what has been accomplished and what can be.

Certainly one of the most revealing scenes of the state of affairs in our culture occurred in the recent mayhem in Charlottsville, Virginia where several people were kicking and beating a demonstrator, while another group stood idly by taking pictures and not offering any help to the disabled person lying in the street. What has caused us to deviate from the agenda of building this great nation into a self-serving “me” and “I” society? Let’s be civil in word and deed.  Let’s show respect to all peopleLet’s teach social etiquette in all circumstances.  It is time for us to come together before it’s too late.  Let there be peace and let it begin with me.

“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Reflections…………………….Spiritually Present

 

Several years back it was a goal to personally stay abreast of current events and newsworthy items. The benefits of such a goal allowed for engagement on a variety of fronts and topics. However, the evolution of this process has lead to stress. Watching the news is not so much for information as it is stressful. People are worked up and on edge.

Twice weekly I meet with two separate groups of adults for casual discussion and camaraderie. One group is all men with a spectrum from traditional to progressive (conservative, liberal) viewpoints. The second is a mixed group of men and women whose viewpoints would be considered left of center. Invariably, with both groups, the discussion goes in diametrically opposing directions. These opposing viewpoints become a real challenge for those of us seeking to maintain a sense of spiritual centeredness in an age of growing fear and anxiety.

Reverend Clay Stauffer reminds us that all human beings, whether we admit it or not, hunger for the spirit. We are spiritual beings. We long for something deeper and more meaningful. We long for connection, not only with each other but also with God. But the great irony is that we are too busy, too preoccupied, too restless, too fearful and too anxious for this to actually happen. There are a lot of closet Christians.

One of my favorite writers, Henri Nouwen says, “the spiritual life is not a life before, after or beyond our every day existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of pains and joy of the here and now.” When you think about this statement it is an accurate description of the challenges facing today’s Christians

On more than one occasion, June, my wife, has nudged me under the table or silently pinched my arm when I have boldly taken on some political rhetoric or something contrary to God’s word. “One way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but can’t be found there.”(Norwin). It is like we cling to our “holy huddles” where we readily express what God’s word tells us, but become autistic when outside those huddles. Outside of our huddles we are not good at being present. Presence and civility are the challenges. This is our spiritual crisis and one that must be identified and taken seriously.

Some hints I have learned when in a group with mixed ideologies that are not God centered: Guard your integrity and remain civil. It is tempting to become an attack dog when you are confronted with something that goes contrary to the Spiritual Truth. Remember, you have the “Good News” and you want to share it. Begin by practicing reflective listening. “This is what I hear you saying.” Using this response, repeat back to the individual his/her major talking points. Secondly, if possible, discuss places, situations etc. that practice or promote the viewpoints being espoused. For example: “Have you reviewed what this philosophy has done places like Denmark, France or Detroit?” “How is that philosophy working.” Follow this reflection with the results the philosophy has produced. Be outcome driven, stay away from gender, race ethnicity, and other social issues and be driven by behavioral outcomes. “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.

Romans 13

Ramblins…………………………..Spotter

On a daily basis I walk by the fitness center at the University of the South. A rather intriguing sign is outside the ‘free’ weight room…….”YOU MUST HAVE A SPOTTER” What’s a spotter? What does a spotter do? Upon close observation, the weight room is busy with both males and females doing all types of conditioning exercises with free weights (no machines). Something you notice immediately, they are working in pairs. While one of the individuals is working with the weights the other is watching closely to be sure everything is done in an orderly and proper fashion. Occasionally the ‘spotter’ will assist by partially lifting the weight and taking the pressure off the person involved with the weight. Safety is top priority! Another role the ‘spotter’ plays is that of a cheer leader. Throughout the room spotters can be heard saying “you can do it,” “go for it.” “you da man” Thankfully. I have never heard….you da woman. There are times when cheers or applause can be heard. It is a festive place primarily due to positive reinforcement and safety provided by the spotter.

I have never been in the weight room, but I have had spotters most of my life. We guys call them “a bud”. Basically they fulfill the same role as a spotter, i.e. watching out for our welfare, listening, non-judgmental, encouraging. Everybody needs a “bud.” It is that person you can telephone without a reason. It is someone with whom you can share anything and know it will be kept between the two of you. It is that individual you can count on to listen and not be judgmental but encouraging. When the sky is falling you know your ‘bud’ will be there. You are blessed if you have a ‘bud.’

The development of a healthy emotional life is directly correlated to your ‘presentation of self’ and ‘self-worth.’ Speaking personally and professionally both of these concepts come into play as part of the aging process. The gradual change that occurs in your physical appearance and the decline in areas such as memory, and mental processing, if allowed, will have a negative impact on ‘self.’ To assist in this transformation, that occurs to all of us, I encourage you to have a ‘bud’.

Ideally your ‘bud’ will be your spouse. However, due to the differences in brain function and bio-chemistry of males and females, common interest and activities may vary. This should not be perceived as a negative. A bud should never supplant the spouse. The objective is to have an active lifestyle rather than one of passivity. If you don’t already have a ‘bud’ begin the process. I hasten to add you will know when you meet the person that is right for you. The chemistry between the two of you will immediately be compatible.  Stay away from gossipers and individuals who are negative.

Taking a walk together is a good start. You may want to designate a time to meet for a cup of coffee or similar activity. Try establishing common interests, “just for the love of it.” Try your hand at something new: historical adventures, music, writing, nature, whatever you do discover the details and secrets and share them with your ‘bud’. A day trip to that quaint store or village, a trail, a city is especially meaningful. In the beginning you will have to make it happen. I guarantee it will lift your spirits and your self-worth will soar.

Remember, Everybody needs a “SPOTTER: (a bud).