Love and Country: A Christian Perspective

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day of love.  Usually this is love focused on romantic love.  But there are many types of love, including brotherly love, erotic love and agape love.  Those of us who are Christian are commanded to “Love Thy Neighbor,” a form of brotherly love.  It is to be a way of life.

That brings me to my perspective.  My father is a retired Lutheran minister.  When a couple came to him to be married, he would counsel them and challenge them to love as St. Paul wrote in II Corinthians, the Love chapter:

Chapter 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

My father would take the verses 4-8 and challenge each of the pair to substitute their own name for each reference to love, to see how they would measure up, as Paul gives us an ideal to shoot for.

 

______ is patient, ______ is kind. _________  does not envy, _________  does not boast, _________  is not proud. _____ does not dishonor others, ______ is not self-seeking, _______is not easily angered, ________ keeps no record of wrongs. _________ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ______ always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 ________ never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

 

If you put in your name for the spaces, you may find the fit is reasonably good in some places and not as good in others.

What happens if we substitute the name of our elected president in the spaces?

 

___ Donald Trump____is patient, ___ Donald Trump____ is kind. ___ Donald Trump____does not envy, ___ Donald Trump____does not boast, ___ Donald Trump____is not proud. ___ Donald Trump____ does not dishonor others, ___ Donald Trump____is not self-seeking___ Donald Trump____ is not easily angered, ___ Donald Trump____keeps no record of wrongs. ___ Donald Trump____does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. ___ Donald Trump____always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

__ Donald Trump______ never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

 

How good is that fit?  Shouldn’t our President be someone we can look up to as a model of moral behavior?  (You can also try this with Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller or Michael Flynn, those advisors closest to the president, if you know them well enough.  Or try Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.)

Is it any wonder, then, that some of us Christians are having a terrible time supporting this administration, much less respecting the president?  Donald Trump would clearly have much work to do to measure up to this ideal of love for fellow man.  It is not out of the realm of possibility, but for some of us it would take a Saul to Paul-type conversion to be able to respect this man.  …again, not out of the realm of possibility, but not very likely.

Sometimes I focus too much one what I see as a beautiful country’s vision at war with a not very loving administration.  I worry about our government and how best to respond to the attacks on our constitution.  My wonderful wife Doris reminds me to concentrate on God’s vast love for us, which is summed up in another of Paul’s letters:

Romans 8

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I will try to remember that.

Paul ends the love chapter in this way:

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Beneath One Layer

* Prompt: Challenge: write a fantasy involving magic.  (Perhaps a turn of events occurs because of some magical event.)

Beneath One Layer

— a short story/parable

I wasn’t planning on turning around.  I was late already for a meeting at church.  …an important meeting…to decide which charity to offer a sizeable gift that was willed to the church.  But something tugged at me to take a second look at the rumpled figure on the curb near my car.  Against my better judgment, I turned and looked at the man.  He looked to be in his early thirties, dirty, unshaven, destitute.  He looked down at the street in front of him and then up at me.  Why me?  Why now?

I expected a hollow look.  That look of desperation that street people seem to practice to perfection.  The look that says, “I need your pocket change more than you do.”  But instead, he met my eyes with a growing smile.  His eyes exuded a warmth that I usually associate with a generous man of means.  A wealthy philanthropist.  Or an uncle who provides you with whatever you need.  But this man was a jobless, homeless beggar.  What could he have to offer?

 ‘I must go,’ I thought.  And yet his gaze held me transfixed as he arose and stood before me, his eyes now level with mine.

 “Look,” I said, “I am late for a meeting.”  I dug into my pocket for my loose change.  I had all of 57 cents to give him, and I held the coins out in front of him.

His smile broadened, and he said, “I don’t want your money.”  He looked down at his tattered boots.  The smile was disappearing, and in its place, a serious, yet caring look took over his visage.

 “My grandmother lives in Northview.  She is not doing well, and I feel I must go to her.  Spend some time with her.  Brighten her day.  Share a meal.”  He looked down again, and then back at me.  The man nodded in the direction of my car, and pleaded,

“Do you suppose you could give me a ride there?  I know the way – 40 minutes on foot – but it is getting cold and dark to be walking in this part of town.”

 I knew what the man meant.  From here to Northview was a corridor rife with muggings and murder scenes, or so it seemed from accounts on the local news.  I really couldn’t say no, so considering the danger, I offered him a ride.

 Now, when I had made the decision to give the man a ride, my inclination was to speed and make this trip as short as possible.  Get him there, and then get over to church.  But something about the man’s demeanor made me relax.  When he got in the car, he was purposeful and deliberate, closing the door slowly and carefully.  He talked to me about his grandmother, turning his face toward me when his words needed emphasis.  Circumstances had thrown the man and his grandmother together the year after her husband had died.  He needed a place to stay near the summer job he took in Northview, and she needed companionship.  It was heartening to hear how the two had come to adore and care for each other, across the generations.

 I parked my car on the street and walked the man up to the house.  He walked right in, and there was his round little grandmother in a chair near the front door.  She beamed at the sight of her grandson, who leaned over and kissed her.  The house smelled like a wonderful mix of foods – vegetable beef soup and warm bread.  After the grandson introduced me to his grandmother, she invited me to stay for the meal.  The meeting was starting now, so if I left right away, I would be no more than fifteen minutes late.  But something compelled me to accept her offer.  I sat down in the chair she pointed toward.  A steaming bowl of soup was placed in front of me, and then we bowed our heads to give thanks.  The street man turned to me, a warm smile on his face.  He took a piece of bread from a plate, and then passed it toward me, saying, “Take and eat.”

 Then my eyes were opened, and I recognized the man, as he disappeared from my sight.

 Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the meeting at church, not knowing how I got there.  I looked in amazement at those around me, and exclaimed, “I have seen the Lord!  And I know where he wants our money to go.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Goodbye Debbie

I hardly knew her, but it seems now that she was a person worth knowing. She was my second cousin, Debbie.  Just 51 years young.

end_of_life

She was in a terrible car accident, the details of which I do not know, and passed away about 2 weeks later.  She was a mother with three children, a wife and so many other things, I am learning.  She worked at her church, a life of faithful giving of herself.  They had a beautiful service to celebrate her life in her home church, which they livestreamed.  My wife and I watched.  She touched many lives and had a strong faith.  She loved to sing, and offered her voice on many occasions.

Debbie is now in a better place, as they say.  Yes, ‘they’ say that, but I truly believe that.  She no longer has pain.  But she had so much more to give.  It is hard for us to understand why God would allow for this to happen.  Still, it is not for us to question.  Life must go on.  I am sure it will be very difficult for those closest to her.  At a time like this, though, I am so happy for the strength of the family that I share with Debbie.  We will do what we can to surround her family with love and care.  Goodbye Debbie…I wish I had known you better. And, well done, good and faithful servant!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What can you possibly say?

sunset 2

What do you say to a friend who has told you that she has just learned that she has four months to live?

I wrote about my co-worker who was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma shortly after giving birth to her second child.  Her husband just finished his training to be an elementary teacher, but he does not have a job yet.  For now, she is the primary breadwinner for her family of four.

But last week just a few feet away from where I was working, she was on the phone when I heard her sobbing.  This is a woman I have never seen shed a tear.  In fact, I could not imagine her crying.  She is a tough cookie who has made it clear to anyone who knows her that she demands her personal space, and that she doesn’t give (or receive) hugs.  But I didn’t care.  The only thing I knew to do when she came to tell me what she had learned was to hug her, if only briefly.  She tolerated it.  I told her I would clean up her experiment for the day.  She said she didn’t see a need to be coming back to work, and I said she should go home to be with her children.

But now what?  What do I say at this point?  We chat a lot at work, but we don’t have any social life outside of that.  We don’t chat on the phone evenings or weekends.  Also, she is not Christian, as I am.  The usual avenues of giving comfort to another believer are not there.  On top of that, this co-worker has a tendency to keep her problems to herself; she does not ask for help.   I was afraid she would hole up and I would not see her again.  So as she left work I told her I would be sending her text messages, which is a new thing for her, as she only recently purchased a smart phone.

But what would I write?

“How are you doing?”  No.

“How are things going?”  No.

“When will you be coming back to work?”  Probably not.

How about, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life?” …or some other inspirational message.  Definitely not!

What I decided to do was to send her funny/inspirational quotes…quirky things that she would appreciate.  The message is this: I am still here.  I am thinking about you.  Here is something to take your mind off the enormity of your challenge, if only for a short while.  She seems to appreciate it.

What would you say?  What would you do?

Posted in Daily Post, Six Minute Challenge | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Mental Health Moments

world-mental-day-2009

We often hear people say they are “taking a mental health day” — usually meaning that they’re taking a day off work for their own good (one hopes).  I am having a day like that, sort of. I am taking an airplane to go to the east coast this evening, and as I often do a day before travelling (and yes, sometimes a day after), I stay away from work longer than is really warranted. Part of that has to do with the anxiety I get when I travel.  I worry about whether I have packed everything I will need. I worry about how long it will take to get to the airport and through security…those sorts of things. But I also use the time to feel grounded. To feel comfortable in my own skin before giving up my freedom of time, and freedom to even take a water bottle past the TSA. I will read a novel, or will play piano. This time I decided to write here. Sometimes I indulge in a food I would usually avoid. It’s like a personal holiday. I don’t take them often. But as a blogger friend of mind mentioned, it is not wrong or selfish to do things foroneself. In fact, it is necessary to take care of yourself if you are ever going to be any good for helping others. …which is why I am flying to the east coast, to help my wife clean out some of her mother’s things.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few other things to attend to before leaving…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Evil or Illness

mental

The Aurora Theater Trial has finished its second week.  So far it is only been testimony from the prosecution.  I am interested because it happened in my backyard.  More than that, the defendant – to use the legal term – was a student for a brief time in the lab I am in.  So yes, I have been watching the case, as my colleagues have been on the stand testifying.  It is gut-wrenching in a way that I had not anticipated.  Until now, I have felt somewhat removed from what happened then.  The day it happened my wife and I flew to Minnesota to be with family, and it wasn’t until I got back that I found out that the guy who did it had been in our lab.  He was that unknown to me.  The name enough was not enough to trigger recognition.  Just one of many rotation students than spend a couple months in the lab.  But now I am watching with interest.  Wondering what so-and-so will say.  Wondering what else will come out that we did not know.  Wondering what the jury is thinking.  Wondering whether they will convict him to death or decide he was insane…to be put away in a mental institution for life.  Not knowing which is worse.  And what do I think?  Should anyone be put to death by the legal system?  I have a lot of trouble with that.  But if it was my wife, or my 6-year-old daughter who fell victim to this senseless crime, would I then think retaliation is the only justice?  I haven’t always slept well this week, and I think I know why.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Today is the Day!

Living more fully

Face it: our days are numbered.  No matter what situation we find ourselves in, our physical bodies will give out sometime.  One could be morbid and give up, knowing that.  Or one could choose to live more fully.  The way I see it, we are placed on this earth for a purpose…to do a job.  My perspective happens to be Christian, so the purpose is from God.  But, any moral person – believer or not – can discern a purpose for one’s life.  An introspective person knows what they are good at, and what gifts they can contribute to society.  Now, I am somewhat musical.  I used to play guitar and piano.  I don’t have to know how those interests could help the world, to know that honing those skills could be useful.  If nothing else, it might bring joy to my wife or my extended family.  Even that is something.  Another area that could be developed is my position on the church council.  I don’t know why I was asked to do that, but now I am charged with helping a committee identify a leader and hold regular meetings.  I have been dragging my feet, but now it is time to make some phone calls.  Some items are already being attended to.  I am a regular reader (fiction mostly, as I like to write in that genre).  I have been doing mindfulness meditation — not every day, but nearly so.  Those things will continue.  And I believe that the mindfulness sessions are helping me to live more consciously.  To think about how I am using my time…not in a judgmental or punitive way, but in a way that sees more fulfilling possibilities for my time.

Another person’s abilities and available choices are undoubtedly different and varied.  But I am sure each of us could use wake-up calls.  We don’t have forever.  Which is why we need to make the most of today.  And as they say, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life!’  Hokey? Maybe.  But just think about it for a moment before discarding it out of hand.

Posted in Daily Post | Tagged , , | 2 Comments