Tag Archives: America

Monday Morning Moment – Poet Langston Hughes on Life and America

Photo Credit: The Wisdom Daily

American poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. His life as a black man in such a time as this gave voice to that of many in America. Especially blacks, but to others as well who also found themselves marginalized by the powerful and influential of their day. He died much too young at 65.

I discovered his poetry in 2020…very late to the party or revolution.

Raised by a loving, Godly mom, I was taught to be color-blind regarding races of people. It turns out that didn’t prove to be healing to black friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. Blacks whose lives had been deeply and darkly affected by a racism I simply had not learned or experienced. How could that be? Yet, it is true.

[My mom had a pure heart; I’m sure of this. She wanted to believe that there was only one race, the human race. She grew up poor, worked hard all her life, mostly making minimum wage, held her family together, and kept her faith. Much like the black women who lived in that distant, unknown part of town. She just didn’t know what was happening in government and the private sector that divided us…and diminished some. All of us, by degrees.]

Racism is wrong and must be exposed and wrestled down. I don’t believe that what has happened in the US over 2020 will move us in that direction.  I could be wrong. For sure.

Still…I’m so thankful for people who, despite the wrongs done to them or around them, have flourished. Like the rising tide, raising all boats in its wake. My desire is to recognize and support those who resist street-level thuggery and use platforms that don’t divide but draw us all in.

Langston Hughes is an example of that sort of person. [Now, he died during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, a year before Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. Had he lived longer, I don’t know how his thinking or poetry would have changed.]

I’d like to let just a few of Langston Hughes’ words speak for him:

“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you–
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still can’t see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
Langston Hughes

On this day, commemorating Hughes’ birthday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the two following poems (one by Walt Whitman followed by a poem of response by Langston Hughes):

I Hear America Singing – Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

*I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”*

I, Too – Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.”*

Hughes wrote about America and life as a black person in America. Especially as it related to freedom of expression:

“This is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America — this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible...Then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority — may the Lord be praised!…These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself.” – Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues

Here, on the first day of Black History Month, in a more somber America 2021, I salute the great poet Langston Hughes. May we learn from him and from each other.

[May we also beware of those who “seem to be influential” in our culture today – those who would divide and diminish us – when we have the capacity and capability to help each other flourish…all of us. – This warning coming of all places from my reading in the Bible this early snowy morning, Galatians 2.]

I’d like to close with just an excerpt of the powerful Hughes poem “Let America Be America Again” (recited in full in the YouTube video above):

“O, let America be America again– The land that never has been yet– And yet must be–the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME– Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose– The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain– All, all the stretch of these great green states– And make America again! “

I Dream a World – Langston Hughes

*Poets – Lesson plan, which features poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Alexander

10 of Langston Hughes’ Most Popular Poems – Rachel Chang

The Bold Wisdom Within Langston Hughes’ Poems – Ellen Levitt

Black Lives Mattered to Langston Hughes – Robin Bates

5 Friday Faves – Big Birthdays, Long Life, Words on Inauguration Day, the Life and Wisdom of Hank Aaron, and Bonuses Make 5

Fastest week ever. Here I am late again for Friday Faves, but they have to be posted. It was a beautiful and amazing week for this woman here. Hope you will find something through which you are encouraged or amused. Happy week ahead!

1) Big Birthdays – I had a big birthday this week. Big. One of those with a 0 in the 1’s place. Another year, it would have been celebrated by a beach somewhere. With a dinner in a nice restaurant or a movie out with Dave and a family-size buttered popcorn. COVID. So…my kids planned a birthday lunch for me, and that would have been sweet enough. Coming so close after Christmas, I just couldn’t come up with any gift ideas. It was going to be ok…just being thankful for life and with my little family. Well…this birthday turned into a one-day-after-another, full of surprises huge hurrah!! Dear friends and neighbors showed up in so many sweet ways. In so many humbling and satisfying ways. That birthday joy was spread through a full week. Wow! So many thanks to you who knew this was going to be a bit bewildering for me. Can we do this again next year?!

2) Long Life – During my younger years, the Bible verses promising long life to those who honored their parents were easy to grab hold of. My parents were easy to honor. It just wasn’t much work for me. In fact, it was a joy.

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
 – Deuteronomy 5:16

Here’s to long life! And wonderful parents! Especially after one of those “big” birthdays.

3) Words on Inauguration Day –  Every four years, this large day is observed in the United States of America. The peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next (after a two-term presidency or if the incumbent doesn’t win the second term). There are speeches, songs, and oaths. Many highlights. The most special for me? The 22 y/o poet laureate Amanda Gorman asked to recite one of her poems for President Biden…as the rest of the world listens.

Below is just a bit of her poem. Click on the video for the whole.

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished.”

‘Not Broken But Simply Unfinished’: Poet Amanda Gorman Calls for a Better America – Camila Domonoske – NPR

Caleb McDaniel – What Is America? Is It a Place? Is It a People? Is It an Idea?

4) The Life and Wisdom of Hank Aaron – Baseball great Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron died this week. He was a great athlete and a great man. my Dad loved the Atlanta Braves…so much so that whenever they lost in the playoffs, the World Series no longer had interest for him. Hank Aaron spent most of his baseball career with the Atlanta Braves, and I grew up watching him and hearing Dad talk about him.

I should have known, but didn’t, how much racism Hank Aaron endured. Especially as he edged closer to beating the homerun record of national hero Babe Ruth. Aaron could bring homeruns…Photo Credit: Hank Aaron, AZ Quotes

…all day long. Hammerin’ Hank. He was a champion and a man with deep character. How is one’s character forged? With Hank Aaron, he probably learned it from a mom and dad, but he also unfortunately learned it through suffering. [“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5]

I thank God for Hank Aaron – for enduring the racism of that era without bowing to bitterness. He was a shining light to so many.

Please find below some of what Hank Aaron said about life and baseball:

“In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.”

“I need to depend on Someone who is bigger, stronger and wiser than I am. I don’t do it on my own. God is my strength. He gave me a good body and some talent and the freedom to develop it. He helps me when things go wrong. He forgives me when I fall on my face. He lights the way.”

“What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all of those institutions that have helped to make you who you are.”

“I am very proud to be an American. This country has so much potential, I’d just like to see things better, or whatever, and I think it will be.”

“The way I see it, it’s a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it’s a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit. So as long as there’s a chance that maybe I can hammer out a little justice now and then, or a little opportunity here and there, I intend to do as I always have — keep swinging.”

Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream (1995 film)

YouTube Video – Vin Scully Calls Hank Aaron’s Historic 715th Home Run

5) Bonuses Make 5 – The week flew by. Any of the following could have been #5, but you can choose. I could not.

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world! – Langston Hughes
“A high school class learning about the Salem Witch Trials, and their teacher told them they were going to play a game.
“I’m going to come around and whisper to each of you whether you’re a witch or a regular person. Your goal is to build the largest group possible that does NOT have a witch in it. At the end, any group found to include a witch gets a failing grade.”
The teens dove into grilling each other. One fairly large group formed, but most of the students broke into small, exclusive groups, turning away anyone they thought gave off even a hint of guilt.
“Okay,” the teacher said. “You’ve got your groups. Time to find out which ones fail. All witches, please raise your hands.”
No one raised a hand.
The kids were confused and told him he’d messed up the game.
“Did I? Was anyone in Salem an actual witch or did everyone just believe what they’d been told?”
And that is how you teach kids how easy it is to divide a community. Some adults can learn a bit about this too.”

Monday Morning Moment – Chef José Andrés Feeds the World – Inspiring Us to Do Likewise

Photo Credit: Screenshot from The Richmond Forum; Chef José Andrés, speaking to us from Honduras, where he and his team were feeding people after the Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

The first offering of the Richmond Forum‘s 2020-21 season was this past weekend. Because of COVID, it was virtual. Dave and I would miss our traditional pizza before the show, and talks with our friends at the Altria Theater, but comfy at home was not a bad option either.

We didn’t know this evening’s speaker, José Andrés, but with all who come to the stage of the Richmond Forum, we knew we would come away with a larger sense of the world and our part in it.

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen, Bahamas, 2019

Chef José Andrés is an extraordinary person who challenges us to move that descriptor into the ordinary column. Here’s a brief intro to this amazing man – just a bit of his extensive bio from his website: “José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, New York Times bestselling author, educator, television personality, humanitarian, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of more than 30 restaurants located throughout the country and beyond, ranging in a variety of culinary experiences from a food truck to his multi-location vegetable-focused fast casual Beefsteak, to world-class tasting menus…As a naturalized citizen originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform. In 2010, Andrés formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides smart solutions to end hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Notably, his team served over 3.6 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.”

Photo Credit: José Andrés, World Central Kitchen – 2019 in Review

This celebrity chef who owns restaurants all over the US, writes cookbooks, and entertains us with his TV appearances.

However, you look at his face and see his heart. He says, “I am a cook. I feed the few, but I love to feed the many”.

He grew up in Spain with parents who were nurses. At times, one parent heading to work, would bring their four sons to the emergency room to exchange with the parent leaving work.   His parents also loved to cook for the family and for friends and neighbors. He tells the story of his father making a huge pan of paella. When his mother asked his father what if too many people come and there is not enough food. “We just add some more rice”.

Andrés credits his father with an early love and understanding of cooking. His father would tell him “Learn your fire. Control your fire. Master your fire. Then you will be able to cook anything you want.” He took that cooking lesson and applied it to his life.

As a young man, he dreamed of coming to America, of being a part of “We the People”. When he finally was able to immigrate to the US, he wasted no time in beginning work in a restaurant. He continued growing and learning…and before long, teaching others himself. Not just about cooking itself but what food brings to all of life.

“Respect people. Teach them to work. Give them a plate of food.”

He feels very strongly about giving back (especially to his beloved America) as well as giving to all who are suffering. “There’s nothing more nurturing than a plate of hot food.”

After responding to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, his vision to “feed the many” came to fruition with the World Central Kitchen. Andres took his ability to cook and his experience in leading and mentoring staff in his restaurants and applied it in the worst of situations. Through this non-profit, he and his teams would be “boots on the ground” after earthquakes,wildfires, wars, flooding, hurricanes, and other disasters. They came and found a kitchen and bought local food. They listened and learned. They mobilized others to help, and thousands upon thousands were fed.

[We sat mesmerized at this man and his stories of real life. This immigrant. This cook. With a heart as big as the world. He could have just enjoyed the great successes of his American dream realized, but this is not who he is.

We spent our evening with him (thanks to Richmond Forum). Hearing stories of how a few fed many…in Honduras, in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and years ago in Haiti. These were just some of the many stories of the work of this chef and World Central Kitchen.

As questions came in from the Richmond Forum audience, he taught us, just as if we were standing in his kitchen, or his classroom. As if there was already a relationship there. As, for sure, he cared for us, somehow.

Nothing he said was the stuff of unapproachable genius. He put his hand to a cascade of difficult situations and made a difference. It gives hope to any of us willing to try. He changes recipes to fit the circumstances and peoples they served. He looks for new ways to make things happen. He uses food not as a charity but as a healing connection in a community – sustenance and support, pulling people together to heal and restore their lives and livelihoods.

His goal: to do good in the world.

“I have work to do. I’m here to be an improver of the world. Not by talking but by doing. There will always be a job to do.”

Andres has even worked with the US Congress on the Feed Act and the Restaurants Act that have come out of our battle with COVID-19. Food insecurity and restaurant closures should not be happening when the former can be helped by the latter – subsidizing restaurants to feed people in need. Who knows what will come out of all this, but that can-do creativity and great generosity of heart are at the heard of what makes America great.

Get to know José Andrés. It will not be one-sided.

He closed the evening with this: “Maybe I’ve added an ingredient or two to your life. I look forward to one or two from yours one day.”

Youtube Video –  José Andrés on 60 Minutes in 2017; Feeding Puerto Rico

YouTube Video – José Andrés on Giving Back to America

YouTube Video – When Disaster Strikes, Jose Andres Brings Hot Food and Hope – PBS

The 10 Best Lines From Jose Andres’ GWU Commencement Speech

Worship Wednesday – The Bruised Reed – Abigail Miller

Photo Credit: Myfriso, Pixabay

“Here is My servant!

I have made Him strong.
He is My chosen one; I am pleased with Him.
I have given Him My Spirit,
and He will bring justice to the nations.
He won’t shout or yell or call out in the streets.
He won’t break off a bent [bruised] reed or put out a dying flame,
but He will make sure that justice is done.
He won’t quit or give up until He brings justice
everywhere on earth,
and people in foreign nations long for His teaching.”Isaiah 42:1-4, CE

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break – Sam Allberry – for Desiring God

We wake, this morning, to the news we don’t have a clear outcome for our Presidential election.

I was walking recently with a friend of mine in a Civil War battlefield park. The irony wasn’t lost on us as we talked about our country’s troubled situation. COVID-19. Harshly divided in our politics. Racial unrest. Rioting and looting in the streets of our cities.

As we finished our walk, we prayed. Looking out over a field where fellow countrymen fought and died, we cried out for our country.

With her permission, I captured some of her prayer below. It moved my heart so…absolutely positive it moved the heart of God as well.

“Lord, we are a bent country. Smoldering…we stand in the power and protection of Your righteous right hand…We’ve seen you move the heart of kings…You can change hearts today as You have through the centuries. You love Your children…please Father, make our country’s bent straight.”

We hear so often how our news media is broken, the family is broken, our country is broken. No, not broken. I refuse that…not just me, but God’ Word gives testament.

We are bent and He will not allow for us to be broken. Our wick may be flickering, but He will not let it go out. He will bring justice.

Now, I’m no prophet. Only God knows what will happen in decades ahead with our country or yours…but this is sure: God is in the mix. He is strong and He is good. He will carry His children through it all. Hallelujah!

I came across this songwriter Abigail Miller whose song The Bruised Reed fits this reality so well.

Worship with me (she begins singing 1 minute in):

Crushed, shaken by wind,
Darkened within
Staggered by sin,
I was afraid.
Bruised, covered with shame
Until He came,
Calling my name,
Lifting me–tenderly,
Changing my wounds for the good,
As only He could.

For the bruised reed He shall not break
And the smoking flax, He will not quench
For He loves and tenderly cares for His own.
He will not leave me alone.

A flame–once burning bright,
Shining through night,
Flickering light–
Now it is gone.
Smoke rises like a sigh
‘Til He draws nigh.
Light’ning the eye.
He will heal and reveal
All He has worked for the good
As only He could.

(He will not leave you alone.)

If you are weary and heavy within,
Trampled by pain,
Bruised by your sin,
He will not leave you or cast you away.
He turns the midnight to glorious day.
He’ll exchange ashes for beauty again,
He’ll replace sorrow with joy in His name!

He will not leave you alone.*

Take heart. With eyes fixed on God. We stand and we help others stand, in the truth that God “will not leave (us) alone”. He is here.

*Lyrics to The Bruised Reed by Abigail Miller

A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break – Sam Allberry – for Desiring God

A Bruised Reed and Smoldering Wick – Rhonda Maydwell

Thanks, Friend (you know who you are), for the comfort God gave me as He breathed into your prayer His own words.

Monday Morning Moment – a Non-partisan Prayer for America on the Eve of the Election

Photo Credit: Savio Sebastian, Flickr

[6 minute read…and prayer]

Oh God,

We come to You because “where else would we go?”. You alone, Lord, hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). How thankful we are that nothing can separate us from Your love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Father, You call us to love You, not because You need our love, but because You know if we do harm to ourselves in loving anyone or anything more than You. With loving You as our primary call, You also urge us to love others as we love ourselves. Help us to daily become more like Jesus, that when we love others, they will experience His gracious love through us. Even our enemies.

God, You remind us how we work out that love in our lives – by “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with You” (Micah 6:8).

Forgive us, Lord, when our identity as partisan citizens takes priority over Your Kingdom rule and reign. You remind us that You have created “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities”. You have given us the blessing of being Americans. Forgive us when we elevate that blessing over Your place in our lives. You are God – You “exalt and You bring down”, “remove kings and establish them“, “appoint authorities”. Thank You, God, that no matter the outcome of this election, we can be confident that You are ever at work in the world.

How do we vote, Lord? Guide us to vote not just our sensibilities but out of conscience drenched by your Holy Spirit. Some preachers and writers counsel with us that neither candidate may deserve the vote of a true follower of Yours. Then there are Godly responses that followed of how we must live “in this world but not of this world” (John 17:9-19) – not drawing away from voting. There are so many opinions, so many platforms…both outside Your church and inside.

Teach us how to be as fully a part of our culture as possible, but without sin. How does that work with voting in a post-Christian country? Lord, our hearts burn with desire for You to be glorified in this place. We need Your clarity.

Will voting our conscience drive away or draw others to You?

Please help us, Lord. Are we to be silent in the arena of politics?

Guide us, Lord. We need Your wisdom. We also surrender ourselves to Your will in this…just please lead us. Whichever side we align with politically has its unique secular agenda. With no interest in Godly outcomes. Give us discernment, God, as we make our decisions and act on them.

We need Your humility. Help us Democrats to fight for the unborn; help us Republicans to intervene for children at our country’s borders.* Help us see Your love for the whole world, and move us to act, not just on election day, but every day thereafter.

You call us to demonstrate Your love to the most vulnerable in our society – the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the poor. Help us, Father, move from intention, from words only, to be the hands and feet of God…following the life-giving (and life-giving-away) example of Jesus.

How ever the election ends, whatever the outcome, Father help us, each of us, to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Also, we pray for the grace to continue to obey You by praying for those in authority over us, whoever that might be.

Thank You, Father, for the amazing grace You give us to quieten our hearts and still our resolve.

Thank You for Jesus, whom You’ve given all authority. He has given us a great work in this world, from which we do not want to be distracted. Praise Your name that You are always with us…even in these moments ahead of the election. It is a small thing for You. Help us keep that perspective.

Lord, many of us came to faith in a supportive environment where we had freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembling together. Forgive us when we fall to fear of losing these currently protected rights. Should we experience persecution, Lord, we know from Your Word and the testimony of Your saints, that You continue with us always. Thank You, Father.

We keep our eyes on You. Whether we line up to vote tomorrow…or decide we won’t be voting this year. You are God. You are good. Your purposes are not thwarted. Every morning, Your mercies are new to us…just what we need for each day. Thank You, Father, that You love Your children and You remind us, throughout the Holy Scriptures, to be strong, to not be afraid, and to not lose heart.

We will ever keep our eyes on You, to finish Your work, in each of our lives, in this country, and in this world. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Oh, and Lord, could I pray for one thing more? Please, Father, please rid our world of COVID-19. We pray in the name and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not just divided by politics; we are divided by this terrible virus. Free us from the bondage and hardship that has come out of this disease and its mitigation. Lord, You have told us to come boldly in prayer to Your throne. This is a time of great need for us, all around the world. We ask for Your mercy. Thank You, Lord. Again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*YouTube Video – Politics: How Would Jesus Vote? – Scott Sauls – He also encourages us in how we vote. Best sermon I’ve heard on this topic in this election season.

Positive Living: No Matter What You Do – God’s Plans Cannot Be Aborted! – Margaret Hodge – Great passages of Scripture included

What Christians Should Do If Their Candidate Loses the 2020 Election – Andy Stanley

A Facebook post from a friend – short and worthwhile read

Monday Morning Moment – Lies – and What Makes Us Think We Can Sort Them Out?

Photo Credit: Ask Ideas, Facebook, Enchanting Minds

Freedom of speech is a precious right that deserves our protection.

We are free in this country to speak. We can choose to treat truth as a lie or lies as truth. Without penalty in some cases. Even the Supreme Court has protected the right to lie in one instance (maybe others). The justices’ in-court conversation is fascinating and telling of the sanctity of free speech in our country.

As a nation, our values have included the adage “with rights come responsibilities”. Unfortunately, in the political arena, we may need to ask the question: has lying become an accepted “means to an end”?

For this first (maybe final) term of the Trump presidency, he has been accused of lying on a daily basis, by the Democrats and the main-stream media, among others. Now we are in the last days of a presidential election. Vice-President Biden, the Democratic candidate for President, is also under fire for lying. Even his own Vice-President candidate, Senator Harris, not many months ago, accused him of the same.

Let’s just say, for a moment, that telling the truth is not an American value in 2020. It seems it still is, if we base that assessment on the varied and verbose outcries, on each side of the political aisle. However, how is it that we, the American people, believe our particular candidate is always telling the truth and the other is not?

Here’s what I think? Take it for what it’s worth to you. I don’t think any of us can know who is lying and who is telling the truth.

We live in a political era of spliced sound-bytes, seamless film editing, brilliant speech writing, and high-dollar coaches and advisors. Our party and policy preferences are gathered from our social media posts and internet searches. What we want to hear and see is well-researched and incorporated into political campaigns. Then we have the tech giants and news media fueling what we believe about our preferred candidates…or the other catastrophic choices. This is where we are…in the political arena.

Many of us are disappointed in the amount of pandering politicians do. But that pandering is more a symptom of our high unadjusted expectations and abstract consumerism than it is of flaws of political characters. You can’t compete for the presidency these days without pandering, including meta-pandering — pandering about pandering, saying “You’re good honest folk. You don’t want pandering. You only want straight talk and that’s all you’ll ever get from me.” – Jeremy E. Sherman

The quote above speaks to the jaded nature of politics. “Pandering” is essentially saying what we think others want to hear to get what we want out of the transaction – a political win, in this case. Sad.

The win is what matters. Lie if you have to, to end up on top. Lying, and not getting caught in the lie, is even better. So what if you get caught? Then you lean on your allies to whitewash the lie or create doubt, especially, when possible, by casting doubt on the veracity of the one who exposed the lie. Round and round and round we go.

There’s so much more I’d like to say on this topic, but will stop here. In the US, a huge election is days away, and we are weighing our candidates by what we believe about them. Who has our best interests at heart? Some say they are voting for the “lesser of two evils”. Some are very relieved at their option. Still others believe the whole future of this country is at stake.

What is true here, and what are the lies? What makes us think we can sort them out?

Here’s how? We look past our party affiliation. We start the clock wondering:  how is it that this friend, colleague, family member, educator, legislator, celebrity, thought leader, media talking head…thinks differently from me? Be willing to ask the question, “Could it be possible that I’m the one who believes the lies? Could it be I have drunk the proverbial KoolAid?”

The sleek advertising notwithstanding, lies abound right now. Freedom of speech protects a certain level of lying. The end justifies the means…or so it seems. What we hope is that when the smoke clears on this election, and a winner is finally declared, that we as a people haven’t sold our souls to the Devil…the Father of lies.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. – 2 Timothy 4:3

Here is the positive, the hope. We can be those who don’t need our ears tickled. We can, no matter the outcome of this election, choose to look for truth (not in the use of the word as in “my truth” or “your truth”) and stand there…together. When we dig down through all the political pandering and propaganda, we can hopefully find bedrock… if not in today’s popular culture…then elsewhere.

Peace.

Monday Morning Moment – Chadwick Boseman’s Legacy and Ours

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Shock waves shot around our country and the world at the news of actor and Black Panther superhero Chadwick Boseman‘s death Friday. He was/is a bigger-than-life figure in our culture. [Boseman still “is”. I struggle in using the word “was”.] As we all know now, he had late-stage colon cancer since 2016. That we didn’t know isn’t a surprise given Boseman’s private nature and also the incredible production of 10 of his films from 2016 until now (one of them Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom still to be released). As he fought his battle with cancer at the same time, what grace, focus, and courage he displayed through all the making of those films!

Chadwick Boseman, ‘Black Panther’ Star, Dies at 43

Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day – August 28, 2020 – at the age of 43.

This weekend, violence raged on in our cities as we grieve not only the senseless deaths and woundings of recent weeks…but now the loss of Chadwick Boseman. I spent my free time this weekend studying his life through his films, interviews, and the words of others who knew him well.

‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Pens Emotional, Beautiful Tribute to Chadwick Boseman – Ryan Parker, Borys Kit

Boseman was very commited to raising the opportunity and quality of life for fellow black people. I couldn’t find where he supported the riots that our country is enduring right now, but what I did find was illustrative of his character. He used his work to reflect the dignity of humankind. He showed his own respect for others not only in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther but in all his films. Several of which were biopics – two of my favorites being Marshall (on the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall) and “42” (on the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson). Both movies are timeless in their handling of justice for blacks in America.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After seeing the incredible film Black Panther some time ago, I was reminded of the relatively small part Boseman also played in Draft Day. Two very different films, but both where he played one who took his platform to champion others. This seemed to be true of Boseman’s public and private life.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

After a weekend of trying to get hold of the life and character of this man from Anderson, South Carolina…this man who became a Christ follower as a boy and served in his church’s choir and youth group…I couldn’t get to sleep last night.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What Boseman accomplished in his relatively short life as a public figure will last as long as we watch the movies.

What can a regular non-celebrity do in our world gone mad? What really can this older white woman in the suburbs of a small city? What can you do?

Last night, in the dark trying not to wake my husband, I grabbed my phone and wrote the following list. It came quickly. Hopefully it is understandable.

  • Listen hard with ears, mind and heart open.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Ask the question: “What are we hearing?”
  • Ask the question: “What are we not hearing?”
  • Ask the next layer of question without judging: “What sounds true? What sounds like deception motivated by something else? How can we know?
  • What is the source of what we are hearing? [Sidebar: Where we get our news is often where we get our attitudes. If we take in news at all, we need a mix of views or we won’t critically be able to sift for what is true…or hopefully true.]
  • Then…
  • Speak up on behalf of one another.
  • Stand up against evil and for the truth.
  • Act up? NO. Act in love.
  • Mobilize our resources, relationships, and influence to actually make a true, lasting difference for those most vulnerable in our country.
  • Who has the courage to say “Enough” to what is hurting more than healing, to what is destroying more than building up, to what is not really for change for those who most need the change?

Boseman once said: “The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use that power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people.”

Therapist Kalee Vandergrift-Blackwell wrote a beautiful piece (below) on “a brown, immigrant, refugee, colonized Jesus”.

Did You Know Jesus Is Brown? – Kalee Vandergrift

He died at the hands of the political and religious leaders of the day, but…He did not die a victim. He gave his life in all its beauty, courage, and truth – for our sakes…and He gave his life for the political and religious leaders of the day.

I can’t even imagine Jesus burning and looting, hurting people and neighborhoods. Even when He called out the wrong motives of religious leaders and turned over the tables of opportunists, everything He did, He did in love. He calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors…and even to love our enemies. Not a soft celebrity life, oh no. We aren’t allowed to just take sides…we are to full-bore, wide open love people – to recognize, respect, and validate in all we do the worth, dignity, and God-breathed humanity of all.

This is our legacy…this is what I want to have the courage and the depth of love to leave when my life is over.

Not complacency. Not comfort. Not smugness. Not arrogance. Not blaming another party or one president over another (if there’s blame it extends much farther…). Not violence. Not isolation.

So…that is the burn I got this weekend after taking in and grieving over the loss of Chadwick Boseman.

One last quote from Boseman that is especially poignant and inspiring right now is this: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Chadwick Boseman – AZ Quotes

10 Inspiring Quotes From Chadwick Boseman That Could Change Your Life – A. R. Shaw

YouTube Video – Chadwick Boseman Tribute – Marvel

Monday Morning Moment – Protests, Pleading, and Prayers

Photo Credit: John Englart, Flickr

What kind of world do we call home where we can actually watch a man die in minutes, in handcuffs, begging to live? George Floyd died May 25, 2020. We hear of such things in other nations – public murders, executions – but to see them in the US awakens us more to the injustice and the utter wrongness of such situations. No wonder there is so much outrage right now. How we respond to that pain and anger matters…moving us either toward needful unity or worsening division.

How do we respond?

1) Protests – In the US, we have the Constitutional right to right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.  There is a way to protest that gives pause; that rivets our attention; that demands a hearing. A protest that doesn’t destroy its very own cities.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

In Richmond, Virginia, friends on the police force see themselves on the streets, during these protests, there to protect the protesters. So they may be heard.

Whatever turns the protests to violent, destruction raids on businesses and neighborhoods makes the loss of George Floyd and others even more painful.

That’s Not Going to Bring My Brother Back’: George Floyd’s Brother Calls for End to Violence – Janell Ross

Atlanta is where I was born. Hear from this city’s police chief:

2) Pleading – As a mom myself, I’m so thankful for other moms who use what platforms they have to cry out against the evil in this world and call us together for the sake of our children. So many are doing this right now. We have to put our politics aside. People matter more. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms used her office to plead with her fellow Atlantans to “go home”. Don’t miss her impassioned appeal below.

Dear White Moms, Here’s What I Need You To Know – Jehava Brown

Now, I don’t believe Senator Susan Collins is a mom but she is a  fearless advocate for change, standing her ground for what she believes is right. Here she is speaking from the Senate floor on killing of George Floyd:

3) Prayers – The Scripture gives us clear direction in this response to the division in our country right now: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

We need to take God’s call to prayer seriously. He calls us to come to Him. He will listen. He will act.Photo Credit: Needpix

Songwriters Andy and Rachel Graham, on a visit to our own divided city, wrote this beautiful prayer song in response:

Cry Out – Susan Lafferty

Photo Credit: Facebook, We Are That Family, Brick House in the City

“Oh God, help us to listen. To You. To those in so much pain around us. Help us to listen. Our words take up space that needs to go to others right now. Help us to listen, Lord. Right now, we see in the news the chant “Take the knee” as police and protestors confront each other. Heavenly Father, we would all do well to take the knee, in humility, before a just and loving God. Forgive us our sin toward each other. Forgive our sin toward You. Thank You for the life of George Floyd. Have mercy, Lord. We need You now. We’ve always needed You…in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Monday Morning Moment – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Where Are We Now? – Deb Mills

Today’s reading with our grandchildren…

Monday Morning Moment – Cultural Contradictions – Why We Can’t All Just Get Along*

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ

Right through college, I wondered, with hope, at the question:

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

With enough will, effort, and care, we should all be able to find some common ground…where we can agree more than we disagree.

That was decades ago, and the world has changed so much. We still remember how it once was (we all do, no matter our generation), and we examine our world today with those lenses…and are mortified.

I am still hopeful…but not in the somewhat childish idea that it is possible to agree if we care enough. However, I do believe we can understand each other, if we care enough. And be gracious.

It is not necessary, and no way helpful, to blame, and boil over in anger at what we consider the stupidity or short sidedness of “the other side”…whatever that is. It just alienates and isolates and dims the possibility of working toward real solutions to problems.

Monday Morning Moment – Life and Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry? – Deb Mills

I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to treat people with grace, and respect, and genuine interest. Including people who don’t agree with me…and I’m not alone.

Defuse America’s Explosive Politics – Politicians in Both Parties Need to Clean Up Their Own Side of the Street – Peggy Noonan

America is divided along so many lines. Those lines are blurred by cultural contradictions. What does that mean? When we say we believe one thing but our actions communicate something very different. Or vice versa.

Examples?

  • We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America, expressing gratitude for all we have, and then make a mad rush to the stores hours later to buy more.
  • Our elected officials say they care about the poor and yet the economically disadvantaged continue to be so, but our politicians get richer and richer.
  • We talk about health care for all, but in its current state it’s too costly for those who can already afford to pay for some measure of insurance. We do nothing about health care reform but want health care for all.
  • Americans have a high regard for life, and yet the most vulnerable – those who can’t defend themselves – the unborn – are, at times, considered disposable.
  • We see the painful racial divides in our country, and yet the walls continue to go up (built by the major political parties in their own unique ways, along with educators and celebrity influencers).
  • We feel a sense of ownership/stewardship over the earth, but again, we mainly just point fingers in blame, rather than coming to a policy table to wrestle through the problems and solutions.
  • We are proud of being a nation of immigrants, and yet for decades our government has been unable to exact reform in our sluggish immigration system – except either to temporarily protect or bar illegal immigrants or to wall off our borders. Our immigrant numbers dwindle and we blame…rather than work across our differences.

[Even in writing these examples, I find myself blaming. Forgive me. As an evangelical and political conservative, I have my own hopes for solving the contradictions listed above…but it would be thrilling to have the opportunity to observe or participate in problem-solving that “reaches across the aisle.”].

As another example, it’s a grievous thing when we Christians rabidly go after each other – on social media mostly – over our choices of political platforms or candidates. If we follow the teachings and life of Christ, we are always to forgive, no matter what, and to love even our enemies. How would our social media posts look during an election year if we, just us Christians, practiced our faith in this way?

How would our conversations go if we would keep listening and asking questions across our cultural contradictions? And determined not to judge each other in those contradictions?

What got me thinking about this is the increase of fairly surly posts popping up as the Presidential primaries are upon us…We agree on so many things…but some of the “loudest” things currently being broadcasted divide us and get personal. Righteous indignation doesn’t stay righteous when it moves from issues to individuals.

Then Trevin Wax‘s blog got my attention – The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment . He engaged with the British journalist Douglas Murray on his book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity . Two brilliant men who agree and disagree and yet give us much to consider in this contentious culture of ours. Take time to read that post…I learned so much.

Another place that helps me, as a passionate but somewhat passive observer, is Twitter. I follow some who are very much like me, somewhat like me, and nothing at all like me. They teach exquisite lessons on our post-Christian culture…where we do not have to interact in a post-Christ way. We can still be civil, caring and clear.

This is its own form of cross-cultural communication – learning how to winsomely engage people given all our cultural contradictions. We find ourselves in an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, but we can learn to recognize distinctions and learn how to keep talking and to stay engaged with each other.

[Don’t miss these writers below – whether you agree with all they say…their clarity is refreshing. Let’s learn from them.]

Must Pro-Life Mean Pro-Trump? – Karen Swallow Prior

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao and Luke Smillie

Four Lies on the Left That Make It Tough to Change Culture – David French

Managing Cultural and Emotional ‘Contradictions” at Work – Michael Moffa

*Can’t We All Just Get Along? – Warren Berger

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat