Political candidates and church

church and politicsChurch provides a fertile setting for observing human behavior. I don’t intend for that to indicate some judgmental revelation is about to be offered. No. I simply want to make an observation; one that caught me off guard at the time.

Any member of a predominantly African-American church, especially one of significant size, knows that during political campaign season, candidates for office frequent Sunday morning services. (Let me confess my ignorance here. This may also be true for other churches, too; however, I know little of those environments.) The church I attend, years ago, allowed candidates to speak, but now we only acknowledge their presence among the worshippers from the pulpit. That adjustment hasn’t seemed to dampened the questionable reason for seeing candidates in our midst when the campaigning has peaked. I honestly feel that all are welcome whenever our doors are opened, but I still can’t help but ask myself, “Who’s that well-dressed person and why are they here?” Although all are welcome, I also wonder why is that person, of a certain hue, with us this morning. Before services are over, their presence is made clear.

I also wonder if some of these vote chasing visitors check off their visit on a list of activities that must be completed, during the campaign season. If so, is there any earnest intention of doing anything further should victory on election day be eventual?

Recently, I witnessed something I had never seen before. There was a woman (of another hue) in our congregation, whom I thought I had seen before; however, I wasn’t sure. After the sermon had been delivered, and all felt they had been served up an elevating word from God, our pastor acknowledged the visitor’s presence. Her reason for being there was surprising. She had run a political race against one of our members, and she hadn’t been victorious. She was actually present to offer thanks for us allowing her to visit during the campaign, and for any support she might have received from among our congregation at the polls. Now, that’s a shocker, isn’t it? That kind of made me wonder if she would have been a mold-breaker had she won the election. Just when you think you’ve got them (of all hues) all figured out, one throws you an easily handled soft ball. If there are stranger things to have ever happened with political candidates, I’m pressed to remember any.

I must admit, I went home from church with a reinforcement of my belief, which has waned significantly recently, in the integrity of political candidates. That’s a good thing to experience from time to time, don’t you think so?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Why I Blog

 

 

 

blogger

Anybody ever tried their hand at writing, a short story, a book, poetry, a blog? Of course, you have. If you’re reading this, you are probably a writer, a write want-to-be, or someone with an itch to translate your thoughts to written words. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now; however, I’ve yet to consider myself a writer. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever consider myself as such. The thought of me writing the great novel has never graced my mind.

I think I can say, with some degree of certainty, that those of us who have decided to step out and expose a part of ourselves to the world, through writing, are some brave souls. So, you think there’s nothing brave about forming a few words to a computer screen, laboring over them to try to get them just right, and casting them to the winds of cyberspace for strangers to sift through? I remember when I posted my first blog. My nerves were a bit on edge. I was in hopes that the world would come to my cyber door, read a small part of me, and lavish me with accolades. No. I didn’t really feel that way. I pray that my ego is much smaller than that of a consummate narcissist. I did, however, feel that I was laying a part of me open for scrutiny. The kind of scrutiny that would move someone reading my musings to think I can identify with that, I can see where he’s coming from, and I think he might have something there.

As I’m quickly approaching the end of my sixth decade of life, I’m finding myself more motivated to share my thoughts. All my life, I’ve been somewhat of an introvert. Though not chronic to any degree, an introvert none the less. I’m one of those types, who invest a lot of time sitting quietly, listening intently, and speaking passionately about an issue whenever I do decide to speak my mind. In recent years, I’ve felt an increasing urge to write my thoughts down, and to share them. Blogging provides the perfect venue for me to scratch this itch; an itch fed by a desire to share my thoughts in hopes that they just might be of benefit to maybe a few people reading them.

I write because I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I write for all the reasons stated above. I write because I feel there’s someone dressed in a black robe, hooded similarly, and carrying a sickle, stealthy approaching me from behind. Not to be morbid, but I do feel my mortality with much more fidelity these days than ever before. There are a lot of things I want to say, and I have less time left to say them. I just pray that my God gives me many more days, months and years to share my thoughts. Sharing on these pages will by a part of my meager legacy.

Thank you for reading my musings!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A bankable promise vs. a temporary feeling

hands of blessings

I try to write something every day. That’s right, I try, but I’m not always successful. One thing this effort produces is several unfinished pieces. Lately, I’ve been looking back through my files, and I’ve been discovering some unfinished efforts. Here’s one (…changed a bit to reflect more accurate tense):

On Valentine’s Day, two years back, my wife and I went out for a nice dinner. The restaurant to which we went had nice ambiance, and the food was just as good. We enjoyed every bite, as we enjoyed each other’s company. Later that night, I started to feel bad (for lack of a more descriptive characterization). As the night wore on, symptoms started to accumulate: fever, nausea, diarrhea and more. Around two a.m., following Valentine’s Day, my temperature had risen to 103, and I felt as if I had been run over by a Mack Truck. Being the Multiple Myeloma patient that I am, we knew it was time to make a trip to the emergency room. Fortunately, the ER I go to is part of an academic medical complex that also houses the cancer treatment center where my oncology team resides.

I was hopeful that I would spend a few hours in the ER and be released to go home. This was hope against the reality I’ve experienced on more than one occasion. There is no way the ER staff, after consulting with Myeloma caretakers, would ever allow a Myeloma patient to return home, even if the symptoms were less severe than what I was experiencing. Compromised immune system, plus the symptoms I displayed make for a life-threatening scenario.

After being admitted to the hospital and connected to an IV, containing powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics, I finally dosed off to sleep. Of course, anyone who’s ever been in a hospital knows that peaceful sleep just doesn’t happen. Nurses and medical technicians are disturbing your slumber throughout the night to check vital signs and administer medication.

I ended up spending three days and three nights in the hospital, which were just long enough to find me skirting the depths of pity. During my stay, I found myself so tired that I didn’t even have the energy to eat. Standing, sitting and, of course, trying to walk around my room were pathetic attempts at displaying normal activity. For a short time, I felt so bad that I found myself telling God that if it was His will to lift my spirit on, that would be fine with me. Then, I remembered a promise contained in the Holy Scriptures from Matthew 28:20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

You might be wondering why I didn’t think of something more appropriate at the time, given the emotional and physical imbalances I was experiencing. I’ve learned to not question whatever the Holy Spirit brings to my mind, especially when He brings flashes of comforting light. Anyway, it was the latter part of the verse that resonated loudly with me. I realized that God had promised to be with me always, even during times such as what I was experiencing. I was not lone, and I had Him fighting this battle with me/for me. His promise was one I could take to the bank and there would be more than enough funds to cover my much-needed withdrawal. What I felt would soon be gone a few days later.

I’m old and blessed with the knowledge that God is carrying me through my life-threatening journey. I hope you will be blessed to have this confidence too, if not already.

Is service better than being served?

providing service

As I sat in church today, the first Sunday of this new year, observing the installation of new officers, I was drawn to the moniker they held: servant leader. Servant leader is the title given to those members of our congregation who are charged with setting the direction of auxiliary groups and committees, established to serve the congregants. This, of course, is done with focus on God and the evangelical calling for which the church is responsible.

Servant. That’s an interesting word and far beyond that, it’s a very powerful one. Think for a moment about the many people in society who have been appointed, elected, or risen to certain positions where the assumption is that they are to be servants. Politicians are elected to office with the promise they will work hard to serve the needs of their constituents. Doctors, nurses and all members of the medical community are in their roles with the clearly defined responsibility to meet the needs of their patients. Haven’t you visited a commercial establishment or made a phone call to a service center and received a warm greeting, “How may I serve you?”

The concept of, and the receipt of service, is something that makes all our hearts feel warm. It gives us the feeling that someone is interested in our welfare; that they aren’t in their position to benefit themselves first and us, if time permits.
One thing I told myself before I put the first word in a blog is that I would try to focus on the positive things of life on these pages. Unfortunately, the gray at the least and the dark at the most must be highlighted often, in order to see clearly what the “should-be” looks like. For example, do you feel at this moment that your government (of the United States) is concerned with providing you the best service? Don’t you honestly feel that the politicians, elected by you to serve you, should sort out a way to navigate pass the roadblock they can’t get around. Shouldn’t they have service to you in mind first when they are preparing to deal with any complex issue? Shouldn’t the health insurance industry be working hard to develop a model that would allow executives and stockholders opportunities to make decent profits, without financially scalping consumers? Shouldn’t parents view themselves as servants of their family units and not be so anxious to seek something more pleasurably self-serving?

providing service 2

Getting back to my cerebrally-charged moment while sitting in church, after the installation of officers, our pastor spoke on the issue of service. His presentation showed Jesus as a servant. He was the perfect example of what a servant should look like. Shortly before He went to the cross to make the ultimate sacrifice, He took a towel and a basin of water and washed the disciples’ feet. (John Chapter 13, verses 3-14 provide the context for this event.) God, in the person of Jesus Christ, demonstrated this attitude of service during His time on Earth. You, though you may not be a Christian, probably feel a calling to serve others for the betterment of society in general.

Is service better than being served? Ponder that for a little while and think how much better things would be for us all if we thought of others first, before ourselves.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Wouldn’t more grace be nice?

 

 

grace

I read two very nice letters to the editor of my daily newspaper the other day. These were two letters that got me thinking about how civil society would be if people had the kinds of attitude, all the time, these writers exhibited.

One letter was from an older gentlemen, who noted his age as eighty-six. He felt compelled to tell the story of how a younger person had stepped forward to prevent him from suffering a potentially harmful fall on an escalator. The second letter was in the same vein, expressing gratitude from a woman who had received assistance from someone to help her change a flat tire.

One might think why someone would take the time to write a letter to the editor of a daily newspaper to express how grateful they are for acts of kindness shown by total strangers. Let me offer an answer. I think most of us are moved by displays of kindness, especially from strangers. In the examples I just gave, the lady even apologized for not getting the name of the person who had extended grace to her. As I read her letter, I couldn’t help but think whether the individual to whom she was expressing gratitude even read the paper. I’m sure that had very little influence on her writing a heartfelt note of public thanks.

In case you’re wondering why I am spending time bogging about this. Let me count a few reasons: 1) There just doesn’t seem to be enough displays of kindness anymore; 2) Most of us welcome a smile, the opening of a door by someone, especially someone we don’t know; 3) It makes us feel good when we genuinely show kindness, as well as when we receive it; 4) If there is a God in Heaven, and I believe there is, this is how He wants us to behave toward each other; 5) Displays of kindness and the reception of such are invaluable lessons we should be teaching our children. I could think of many more reasons; however, I think you get the point.

We live in a time when the paucity of displays of grace, kindness shown toward each other is woefully lacking. News reports of our political leaders behavior toward each other is something we don’t want our children to know about. It contradicts how the workings of government are ideally described in their civic lessons. A quick tour of social media shows how people express opinions about each other that they would probably dare not do face to face. Grace toward each other seems to be too high of a price to pay towards having a more civil society.

Wouldn’t more grace be a pleasant change? If it broke out all over, it would be a welcomed epidemic.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

god's grace

Close of the old year?

Happy SunToday is December 31, 2018. We’re swiftly coming upon a new year. That’s what we’ve been accustomed to thinking. The little blue ball on which we reside is about to complete a 365-day revolution around the life-supporting star we call our sun. We think because this annual event is about to come to completion, new and fresh things are about to happen.

Consider this: you’ll carry most of what started in your life in 2018 into 2019. You’ll have the same body, the same family, the mortgage, the same old same old everything for the most part. The 365-day revolution around our star will start again, but there will be no line of demarcation in the heavens that will separate the old year from the new. Everything will be continual. Your life will be continual. To use football jargon, which is probably good for this time of year, there’ll be a line of scrimmage, no mark on the solar turf.

Knowing what we know about life, that it’s a continual process, moving along through time and space, why do we mark the 365-day cycle as a time to make improvements, turn over a new leaf? In think it would be safe to say that most of those resolutions we come up with at the end of the year are concocted to address issues we’ve been struggling with all year. Why then, do we think a new solar cycle is going to encourage us to do a better job at addressing them? Think how much sooner our lives would be improved if we adjusted where necessary soon after the cracks occur. Don’t wait for some magical moment, one-minute past midnight to starts making improvements.

Here is something I wrote and posted to my Facebook page three years ago, that I’ve been trying to follow as a personal rule:

As I review 2015, I can’t help but be thankful for so many things. Despite my imperfect self, good things were put in my path by the awesome God in whom I trust and believe. However, in my review, I must be honest and admit that there were some things I could have done better. The good thing though is that if God gives me 2016, I can do those things not done well in 2015 better. Well, I see something here: I don’t need to make a New Year’s resolution, I just need to live life better. (That’s not a resolution, that’s a commitment to write a better life story.”) And with God’s help, I can do it, and so can you. Here’s to a better year in 2016, in the Lord!

Happy new solar cycle to all in 2019!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

You don’t choose some positions

Family elders

This has been a good holiday season, as they go. Of course, there’s always something that sheds a bit of a dark shadow on things. This year, it was the theft of my sons wheels off his car a couple of weeks ago, and the extensive damage the scoundrels caused to the body of the vehicle in removing the wheels. We just found out yesterday that the insurance adjuster has deemed the beloved vehicle (my son’s a lover of cars) a total loss.

Let me get to the point hinted at in the title of this piece. My aunt, the sister of my dear mom, who passed this past July, wanted a formal sit-down Christmas dinner party. Aunt Mary is the last of the off spring from the union of my maternal grandparents. I think she felt a strong urge to get as many of the four generations under her together before she’s ushered into that fine, gold-laden, eternal place of residence. Except for the dressing-up requirement she placed on us all, I looked forward highly to the somewhat abnormal holiday event.

My aunt lives in Memphis, Tennessee, which is a short, two-hour drive from Little Rock, Arkansas, where I live. Chris (the good wife) and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. We drove over to Jonesboro, Arkansas, a couple of hours from Little Rock on Christmas Eve to spend some time with our eldest daughter and her family. Jonesboro is about one hour from Memphis, so we were able to get up early on Christmas Day, revel in some good family time, and drive to Memphis in the afternoon for the dinner party. Whew! This sounds like a lot of activity for and old guy like me. By the grace of God, the old bones held out well.

Although I had a minor degree of trepidation about the event, the party was a joy to experience. Of course, I knew a lot less of the people in attendance than were present. There was a time, when I was young, that most of our relatives lived close by. We all knew each other, and family gatherings were often impromptu. We were all just plain old country folk, who didn’t put on a lot of airs when it came to fellowship with each other. It wasn’t uncommon to just drop by someone’s house without notice at all, sit a while, catch up on the latest happenings and move on.

As I sat amongst the crowd of cousins, (first, second, third and a smattering of little ones, who brought up the fourth rank), I truly did feel old. I don’t use the term old here pejoratively at all. In fact, I felt a sense of blessed honor. I was the second oldest of the cousins, stemming from the union of my maternal grandparents to be at the event. My first cousin, born a few months before I wasn’t there. The reality hit me that once my beloved aunt Mary transitions (and I’m in no hurry for her to do so) the number one cousin from aunt Mary’s oldest sibling and I will be the elders of the clan. We’ll occupy positions for which we didn’t choose. The natural shedding of generational layers will place us in the positions of family elders, currently occupied by aunt Mary. This natural unraveling reminds me of Commander Spock’s often-used farewell, “Live long and prosper.” It’s indeed true, if we live long enough, we’ll occupy a position of honor and prosperity (not necessarily with a high price tag) for which we’ll be grateful.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.