Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Congressional Autumn Leave Tour . . .

It is autumn.  It is my favorite time of year, mostly for all the reasons that everyone else gives. In the past six years I have written a books-worth of Saturday Sofa Coffee posts about my love of this golden season, detailing my favorite things about fall.(See Chillin', from last year,  for example.)   But one event not included in many top ten favorite-things about-autumn lists is the November elections.  

I like it.  I think it is a wondrous thing that we the people collectively make choices that determine the future of our town, our state, and our nation. It is exciting. It is a privilege. It is an opportunity to advance civilization.

No really, it is.  I hear your snickering. I see your eye rolling. Shame on you.

Electing our representatives is our part, and the most important part, of making sure our representative government is exactly that, representative.  

And that it works.

And so it is important that we do our part of the work.  Dig for the truth and when you find as much of it as you can, make a reasoned decision.  We complain about government not working.  I suggest that is our fault. We have not done the serious work of being voters. There are plenty of elections when most of us don't even vote. And when we do, we may not be voting based on truth.  There are a lot of people spending a lot of money to control the things we watch, listen to and read who have no regard for the truth.  They are well trained at pushing our emotional buttons, with no regard for veracity.  They are hoping for our ignorance. And far too often we oblige.

Consider a couple of tonight's sobering headlines:  

A person who was infected with Ebola is hospitalized and quarantined in Dallas. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) is the primary agency of the federal government addressing the crisis.  Two weeks ago special American troops were deployed to Africa to assist in controlling the epidemic.

ISIS continues to hold its ground in Iraq despite continued air strikes from the United States in Iraq and Syria, and the UK in Iraq, assisted by other middle eastern nations.  Questions abound in the minds of Americans, like others world wide, about whose boots will be on the ground.

Domestic violence and particularly violence against women, failure of the secret service to protect the President and his family, and continuing incidences of violence that appear to be race based are the secondary stories.

The economy, which everyone is concerned about, barely makes the news. Immigration, minimum wage, fair pay for women, tax reform, poverty, health care,  the budget, the debt, all hot topics in the past few months, struggle for attention.

Struggle for attention, not only from the news outlets.  Not only from us.

But these critical issues long for attention from Congress.  The folks we will be voting on.  

We wonder whether we are at war.  We wonder if more is needed in the Ebola fight. We wonder if our nation's capital is safe for public officials and American citizens.

And during the months of August, September, and October, while the nation is facing crisis after crisis that cries out for the input of the people, our representatives are silent.

Congress has chosen to be in session for twelve days in the months of August, September and October. While we don't know if we are at war, in Syria and Iraq, or against a horrible virus, Congress is AWOL.

Fortunately, microphones can pick up their sound bites from anywhere.

But not in the halls of Congress.

It is empty.

I guess they're just chillin' the autumn away as well.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Daylight saving . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It was still dark as I dragged myself out of bed.  I would like to think that I am becoming more industrious, more Ben Franklinish in my early-to-risability.  But it is the sun that seems to be getting a little lazy once again. It is an annual thing, this solar sloth, inevitable after months of late nights and early mornings, rising and setting on the beach and the mountains and the playgrounds, keeping company with anyone who wants to stay out or get up and play.  It is a little irritating that these days become shorter with each sunset, because they are the best, the prime, the solid golden and deeply blue, these days between now and the middle of November.

This is my time of the year. I wake up. I breathe deeply.  I savor the gifts of this season, the long golden rays of the sun,  the deep blue skies that reappear after the summer humidity heads south for the winter, the inimitable potpourri of the forest floor, the cooling air that proves to me that I am still breathing, that I am yet alive,  and the ever changing palette of nature.

 I tend to think about more serious things.  Maybe the shortening days instinctively remind my inner consciousness of the need to prepare for winter, or perhaps of the brevity of life.

So maybe it is the season's fault. Or the sun's fault.  But it seems to me that there is a lot of silliness going on.  Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of appropriate silliness, even in these days.  Throwing a loved one into a pile of leaves. Tricking someone into eating a persimmon before the frost.   Football fanaticism.  And all things Halloween.

But seriously.

Time is running out.  The days are short. Daylight is fading.  And there is much to be done.  For the sick, the poor, the homeless, the oppressed, the imprisoned,  the widow, the orphan, and  the lonely.

Sure, the time is running out for them.  If help does not come soon, the pain will be greater, death will come quicker, or for some, not quickly enough.

But it is running out for us also, those who are not in such dire straits.  Those of us who are invited to help, are invited to come, to whom so much has been given..   Clever political soundbites, or bumper stickers will not ease the pain.  Sinful judgments by religious hypocrites  will not save anyone..

Not those in pain.

And not us.

Wow, I didn't mean to get so serious so early.

But really, it's later than I think.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pax time

Pax is a Latin word meaning peace.  

I have a friend who suffers from anxiety and depression. He takes a prescription medication that helps him find a little peace. I am glad for what it does for him.  The medication is not magic,  It does nothing to change the external factors in my friend's life.  It just affects the way his brain reacts to the world around him.  The chemical name for the drug is Paroxetine.  

The most famous brand name is Paxil.  I suppose the brand name could have been derived in part from the chemical name.  But I am sure the marketers were thrilled with an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant whose very name means peace. 

Wouldn't it be great if we could buy a prescription for peace. Peace with a capital P. World peace. Peace between nations, races, political parties, families, friends, couples . . . everybody. An international six pax to take the edge off of a very edgy world..

We already have. Over and over again.  It is not a modern drug. It is a home remedy that has been in use since the beginning of uncivilization. .  Instead of dealing with the causes for the lack of peace from which we suffer, we turn to the primitive potion of cave men wielding sticks and stones.

The rich and powerful oppress the poor and weak to the point they can offer no resistance. Truth and justice hold no sway in declaring the winner.  But there's no more violence. That's peace, isn't it?  

A very expensive prescription.  And a fraud worthy of a snake oil huckster.   It gives the illusion of peace. An absence of violence resulting from destruction and intimidation.  Hegemony.  But it does nothing but suppress the anger, depression and violence until the balance of power shifts, the oppressed becomes the angry oppressor, and the whole cycle begins again, with violence escalating to higher heights by the righteous indignation of the formerly oppressed. 

This prescription of power and violence is used by the good guys and the bad guys.  One of the side efffects is that it might make it difficult to recognize which is which after repeated use. 

And it is addictive.  The pains of withdrawal will be intense after such prolonged use.

But for humanity, survival does not depend on its continued use, as the foolish addict normally believes.  

Survival requires intensive long term rehab.

Jesus is often called "The Great Physician."  He offered  a new prescription for peace.  But it was radically different from the world's remedies of the sticks and stones of the cave men and the chariots and swords of the Romans.

 "You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 
                                                                                              Matthew 5:38

Sounds crazy doesn't it?  But I guess either we start believing the guy and taking his medicine instead of the world's home remedies .  . . or we don't.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
                                                                                             John 14:27

Pax out.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hold still . . .

Sunday. Deck. Coffee.
.
It is a beautiful morning on Lake Murray. It is one of those sights that tempts me to continue taking pictures of the rising sun and the lake, still, except for the ripples of the wake of the ducks and the occasional turtle head disturbing the glassy surface as it pokes its head up for air.  But photos are futile.  I cannot do the subject justice. Moments like these cannot be captured.  No more than I could catch the wild geese flying low across the water, breaking through the rising mist.  And I miss so much when I try (taking pictures, not catching geese)

Yesterday Alan Storey presented a one day version of Manna and Mercy at Meyers Park United Methodist in Charlotte.  He came all the way from South Africa to lead us in considering the story of God and us through the lense of Jesus, more specifically the prayer of the Rabbi Jesus, the one we know as the Lord's Prayer.  Alan's program is based on a book, Manna and Mercy, written by Daniel Erlander. The subtitle is:

 "A Brief History of God's Unfolding Promise to Mend the Entire Universe."

That is a lot to cover in one day.

And of course we didn't.
Because some things, like the wild, noisy geese, are impossible to capture in a snapshot, in a moment. And we miss too much if we spend all our time trying. But still, the photos, imperfect and incomplete as they are, cause us to remember. And it seems like that is an important thing.
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