Pastoral Rant in thinking about Trump, God, and the future….

This upcoming election has taken me into a dark place.  This upcoming Presidential election has taken me into a dark wilderness.  Where is the Promised Land?    Donald Trump has taken me, spiritually, into this dark space.   I fear for our nation.  I fear for our children and grandchildren!  I fear that the ways of the world we have enjoyed may come to an end!   Or can faith in an almighty power – GOD – help us recapture a path through this wilderness?  Can faith in the living Christ help us walk a path that leads us through trying times?

 I.  LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS—WITHOUT GOD

Donald Trump in his campaign to become President is projecting hatred and fear into the lives of people from coast to coast.  With all the struggles of the world surrounding us, Trump is giving uimple answers without serious solutions.   He is saying he is the “parent” who will make America great again!    How?  We don’ know.   I don’t hear the slightest hint that Trump knows what he’s doing.  In my opinions, he doesn’t have any credible leaders surrounding him.  We hear more deceitful lies than anything else.  And there are his taxes!  Trump won’t let anybody see his tax returns.  What is he hiding?

Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer of “The Art of the Deal” says:

 “Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true.” 

I need to hear Trump answer questions without dancing around avoiding serious answers.   I want to hear the truth.   I want to hear serious answers to questions about how our next President will lead us for the next four years!

I wonder what America will look like if Trump becomes President.  I sense our nation will become divided, once again, by race and religion and class.  People around the globe will no longer trust us.  Who knows what will happen with Donald Trump’s index finger just a few inches away from that button that can destroy the globe?   How are our global partners to relate with a nation that reaches a point of no longer caring for the globe?  Is this great experiment called “America” failing?  Are we losing our constitutional anchor?  If Trump is elected, what will happen to the ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

Some have suggested that Donald Trump is on the road to becoming another Hitler.  I share this fear that Trump will become a Hitler-like global leader—and he may not even recognize this is the road he is leading us down.  Another topic for debate!

Donald Trump is fueling fires of hatred and fear.   People of many different walks of life are listening to this negative rhetoric.  Trump has created a ‘Cult’ with millions drinking from the cup of hatred, violence and division.  From the wilderness, I wonder if Donald Trump is leading us toward another civil war?

II.  FAITH IN GOD LEADING US THROUGH THE WILDERNESS

From a spiritual dark place, I now search for ways to think about this election knowing God is always with us.  What hope emerges from faith?  Scripture?  God?  Christ?  With my training as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian tradition with over forty years of experience, what do I/we as women and men  who believe in God need to teach?  Preach?  Where is God’s love and hope?  What are some of the biblical themes that can help us work with all this broken world throws our way?  With the help of some colleagues, several themes come to mind.   I acknowledge this is a rather short list of just a few of the positive things that emerge from scripture that can help women and men of faith live through these troubling times.

Preaching / Teaching Ideas:

1.  Let’s teach and preach advocacy for non-violence in managing conflicts.  Perhaps we also need to become non-violent “activists”, like Christ,  if we are to find our way through  darkness and wilderness periods In life? 

2. Let’s teach and preach “truth to power”.  I for one will re-read some of what Walter Wink has to say on this subject.  Where is the divine presence of Yahweh or Allah or God in our world?

 3.  Let’s recapture what it means to preach, without fear, the gospel of God’s love for all people of all walks of life—even those we may feel are our enemies.

I also lift up one of my favorite texts:  Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hears and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Each and every day, I commit myself to affirm God’s presence as a source of light in times when darkness consumes me.   On those days I fear this American Experiment is going to fail, I need to look to God for hope for God’s Will to prevail.  God (or whoever we believe is our divine foundation) is always going to travel with us leading us toward those things we believe God promises all people…..love and peace and hope and life and liberty and joy and freedom  —  and happiness!

Ending this rant I come back to an ancient, confessional question and my personal answer:  What is the Chief End of Humankind?   My chief end is to give glory to God and to find ways to enjoy God (and life God has given me) forever!

 

TOOLS IN ADDRESSING CONFLICT

This past few weeks I have learned or heard about some minor conflicts between neighbors in the community where I live.  It has become way too easy to voice grievances using Social Media Networks.  Others have been more formal in writing their complaints.  While not a desired result, personal feelings have been hurt.

While this has only happened with a small number of people in the community where I live, I have decided to take a few minutes to write on the topic of “Addressing Conflict”.   Some basic, common sense guidelines:

1.  Direct Communication!  Two-way dialogue with those whom we disagree is the first and most desired first step in resolving conflicts.  This is preferably done face-to-face.       

 2.  Be sensitive to the reality that there will differing opinions when it comes to issues and conflicts.  The more diverse the community, more likely opinions will exist.

 3.  As neighbors, we need to listen and hear what others are saying—especially those with whom we may disagree.   Use of hateful or demeaning rhetoric will never be helpful in resolving conflicts.  

 4.  As leaders in the community, we need to be open to the possibility of adapting or changing ones viewpoint or opinion.  We must also be open to apologizing when it is discovered we have been wrong.     

 5.  We need to be open to the idea of ‘agreeing to disagree’ in avoiding the escalation of a conflict.  

There is a wonderful document published by the Presbyterian Church Mission Agency titled, “Seeking to be Faithful Together”.  Persons who wish to explore the subject of managing disagreements may wish to look at this link.  This PDF document is free.

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/seeking-be-faithful-guidelines-presbyterians-times/

When it comes to living in harmony in a community—whether it be a neighborhood or church or some other type of business or organization, a typical goal is the uplifting of people and their relationships with others.  To this end, I hope this blog will help in underscoring the need to resolve conflicts in applying the “Golden Rule”:   “Do unto others as you would have them to unto you!” Luke 6: 31  NIV (New International Version)   “Face-to-face” conversation is the best tool we have in resolving conflict.

A Day with Grandson Tommy–August 28, 2016

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A few days ago my wife Nancy said she was missing our grandson.  We miss him a lot!  Living only 30 minutes away from him, she called our daughter Emily and asked when Tommy could spend a day with us.  Yesterday, we drove to Concord to pick him up for a ‘play day’.   After a McDonalds breakfast we made the drive to Rio Vista looking at the cows and sheep and the beautiful mountains – Mt. Diablo standing in majesty.   Grandma was in heaven sitting in the back seat with Tommy—and he was all talk and laugher and smiles.   We had a lot of fun thinking of words that start with the letter “P” our favorite word being “POOP”!

Arriving in Rio Vista we drove through the downtown toward city park.  Tommy had to have his morning “fix” on the swings.  Then after a stop at the Farmer’s Market, we were on our way home.

After a few minutes of getting settled along with a small snack, Tommy found his way to my study and desk where he pulled up a stool along with a huge case of Lego’s—Lego’s I have now had for over 40 years.  We spent I don’t know how much time building Lego towers and bridges.  I wonder if Tommy remembers the three bridges over the river we crossed to get to Rio Vista?   The tower was my idea.  The bridges were his idea!

We also managed to get a dozen of his toy cars and action figures out to play on those Lego bridges—with a few trips to the living room to play with Nancy.  Tommy also made a quick trip to the kitchen to locate and bring me a small container of cookies.  With a quiet whisper he asked me:  “grandpa, can I have just one more cookie?”  I was sure, because of his whispering, that grandma didn’t know he had the entire container J.  He managed to talk me into spitting one more cookie.

In all of this Tommy had a full day of playing with grandma and me – complete with blueberry pancakes for lunch.  It’s amazing how much this little guy can play!  I’ve lost track of all the things a three year old can do in a span of just a few hours.

During the afternoon, I had the need for a nap—while grandma took Tommy on a long walk to see the pond, fish, birds – and a special toy train that some of the men where we live had built near the clubhouse.  Then, after watching a movie in trying to get him settled for a nap (that he didn’t take), it was time for dinner and his trip home—still wide awake!

Rather than go on with the litany of events that occupied our day, I’m now spending some reflecting on this blessing of a day I had to spend with Tommy and Nancy.  It was a good, happy, fulfilling day!   I was tired and my hips were sore—worth a couple Ibuprofen.

My reflections take me back to the 30-40 years of ministry and all the opportunities I missed in playing with our daughter Emily.  Don’t get me wrong.  We had our quality times together—just not enough time for play.  Now we have plenty of time to spend together now that we have made the move to live in California.

The message of this blog-post is simple:  Retirement is a special time to play and spend some quality time reflecting on all the blessings God has bestowed upon all of us.  I return to the words that are the anchor of this blog — We are all “BOUND AND NURTURED IN LOVE!”  May God bring to those who read this blog the same love I experienced in playing, yesterday, with my grandson Tommy.   God truly binds ujs together and builds us up—nurtures us—in LOVE!

 

Random Thoughts about South Korea

Insights from sister-in-law teaching at the Dankook University, S. Korea. I wonderful experience. Sharing her blog with some of my friends….

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The illustration here is of Dankook University, cut out from the hillsides of green just outside of Seoul in Yongin.

After about five days in South Korea, here are a few of my observations and thoughts:

* It’s great to be paid in millions of won (makes me feel rich!) but not so great to pay 1,000 won for a bottle of water.

* South Korean people are extremely nice. They never look crabby. They are also extremely helpful to foreigners with dumb questions.

* Eating South Korean food is quite a ritual. WmTJ and I had dinner at a nice restaurant last night and we kept looking for cues as to whether we were doing things right. Is this a soup, or a finger bowl? Do we eat these garnishes as a side dish, or dump them onto our entree? We seem to have figured it out because our…

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Thoughts After Dallas Shooting

I am spending time today reflecting on the death of five police officers in Dallas.  Two civilians also died in this shooting that took place the evening of July 7.  Words cannot describe the depth of my feelings.  Let these five devotional thoughts be a beginning:

1                    My prayers are with the five police officers who gave their lives in serving the Dallas community.  Lord, hear my prayers for these officers and their families and friends.   Lord, hear my prayers for all the officers who put their lives on the line each and every day protecting citizens—both black and white.  Hear our prayers!

2                    My prayers continue to be with the two young men who were shot in Louisiana and Minnesota:

Hear our prayers for Alton Sterling (37) shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.    Be a source of strength for his family and friends.

Hear our prayers for Philando Castile (32) shot near St. Paul, Minnesota.  Surround family and friends with your love.

3                    My prayers for the communities around this country struggling with a wide range of race-based issues dividing us as a nation.  I pray for those who fail to see this as an issue that belongs to all of us.  From the co-moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Tawnya Denise Anderson, who had this to say on Facebook on July 8th.

“For those of you who ask “How long?” or “How many times must this happen?” I’ll tell you precisely when it… will stop. It will stop when people en masse are aware of the ways in which whiteness/white supremacy have shaped the way people of color are viewed, engaged, and treated in this world (even by other people of color). To come to this realization, however, white people will then have to be self-aware and convicted of the ways in which they have benefited from and promulgated the lie of whiteness. As necessary as this is for the well-being of society, it is also an uncomfortable undertaking and there is literally nothing forcing white people to do it. White people, then, will likely have to create the force.

 White people, you have heard it said that you must talk to other white people about racism, and you must. But don’t talk to them about their racism. Talk to them about YOUR racism. Talk to them about how you were socialized to view, talk to, and engage with people of color. Talk to them about the ways you’ve acted on that socialization. Talk to them about the lies you bought into. Talk about the struggles you continue to have in shedding the scales from your eyes. Don’t make it “their” problem. Understand it as your own problem, because it is. To not do this would put you in danger of being yet another well-intentioned racist, convinced of their own goodness and living a life wholly unexamined and unaccountable to anyone. We don’t need anymore of those. It’s confession time.”

Yes, Lord, I have to acknowledge that I too am complicit as a citizen of this world with these issues that divine us.  As a white male, I have not always had an open heart and mind to hear what others of various races and religions and cultures are saying about these deep-rooted conflicts that divide us.      Hear my prayers for my brothers and sisters struggling to understand what it will take to mend deep wounds in bringing about unity and peace.

4                    I look to what President Obama had to say this morning, once again, in responding to these tragic shootings.

“I spoke this morning with Mayor Rawlings of Dallas to convey the deepest condolences of the American people. I told him that the federal government will… provide whatever assistance Dallas may need as it deals with this tremendous tragedy.

 We still don’t know all the facts. What we do know is there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement. Police in Dallas were on duty doing their jobs, keeping people safe, during peaceful protests. These law enforcement officers were targeted and nearly a dozen officers were shot. Five were killed. Other officers and at least one civilian were wounded, some are in serious condition and we are praying for their recovery.

We are horrified over these events and we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas.

According to police there are multiple suspects. We will learn more about their twisted motivations, but let’s be clear there is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.

Anyone involved in these senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.

Yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned as all Americans, about racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I also said yesterday our police have an extraordinarily difficult job and the vast majority of them do their job in outstanding fashion.

 Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us.

 We also know that when people are armed with powerful weapons unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well. In the meantime our focus is on the victims and their families.

Police across America, it’s a tight knit family, feels this loss to their core, and we are grieving with them. As a nation let’s remember to express our profound gratitude to our men and women in blue, not just today, but everyday.”

 5                    Finally, love is that which binds us together and builds us up.  Hate is not the answer.  Love is the bond that will unite us in times of national strife.   “God is our refuge and strength—a very present help in times or trouble….”  (Ps. 46). 

 

In prayer…..

Life in Rio Vista: Lions and Coyotes

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As a ‘newbie’ in Rio Vista, California, I am now an official resident of the California Delta—located between Sacramento and San Francisco along the Sacramento River.  I am learning that residency requires large doses of sensitivity and tolerance toward those who live in this agricultural/ranching community.  It’s hard to imagine, but Trilogy, the 3000 resident golf course complex where we live, is like an Island in the middle of tens of thousand acres of some of some of the most fertile land in the country that provides billions of dollars to the economy of California.

In the Trilogy community, where Nancy and I have purchased a lovely home, there are heated conversations about the threat of fires, dust, farm-traffic, and noise that go hand-in-hand with living in Rio Vista.  For me, the biggest adjustment has been the heat.  In the month of June we’ve experienced many days in the mid-90’s reaching well in the 100’s.  We’ve had no rain…sun every day!  On the plus side, we also enjoy evenings with windows wide open with temps in the 50’s.    This is great sleeping weather.   The ‘Delta Breezes are a new reality for us – winds that seem to be blowing all the time.   In the negative column are all the threats of fire—a reality for all of us living in this delta community.

Of interest these past few days is the issue of guns and canons going off throughout the night as farmers combat the Coyotes coming down from the hills to feast on the sheep and cattle—I also understand horses are occasional victims of the Coyotes!  One farmer said he has lost as many as 15 sheep in one night!   The guns and canons are a common deterrent – and residents of the residential complex where we live have been complaining to the local authorities about the endless noise.  I have also heard that some of the canons  are set on timers to go off every few minutes as a deterrent.  Not sure if this is true, but I have also heard that Mountain Lions also come down out of the hills looking to feast on lamb or beef.  Lions have been spotted near highway 160.

What is required of me living in this new reality of the California Delta?  Two things come to mine:

First, sensitivity toward those who have lived and work the land around where we live for many, many years. There is a lot learn about the history and people of this beautiful delta land!

Second, tolerance is required of me an my neighbors when it comes to the inconveniences that go with living in this resort community in the Delta.

One question comes to mind that still has to be answered: Why did the developer of TRILOGY pick this particular place, Rio Visa, to plant a golf course and resort community?   All I know for sure:  I’m glad they did—this is a lovely place to live!

Needless to say there is a lot for me to learn as a neighbor and friend committed to living in this agriculturally rich Delta!

Thoughts From Rio Vista 06/09/2016

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We love our new home in Rio Vista, California.  This is a small town on the shore of the Sacramento River on the East Bay of San Francisco.  Some would also say it is located on the North Bay.  We are only about 30 miles from Sacramento.  Referred to as the Delta, we have already experienced the high temps of over 100 degrees with high winds blowing through the night.  The landscape near our home is covered with wind farms—I am not sure what else to call them.   Endives are a major crop. Again, I know little about them.    

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Having always lived in large cities, Rio Vista is going to be different.  We are getting used to one grocery store, two banks and one pharmacy.   There is a McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC and Subway.  We will soon find out if the only pizza place delivers.  There is one self wash car wash–we’re not used to carrying dozens of quarters with us in getting our car washed.   While Rio Vista doesn’t have a doctor, we see signs for several dentists.  We will be driving to Fairfield, Antioch or Lodi for most of our major shopping.  We also plan on making many trips to Concord, roughly 30 miles, where our daughter and her family live.

This being said, I am looking forward to living in a community where we can really get to know our neighbors.  Population of about 8,000, we live in a beautiful gated 55+ community of about 3,000 — called Trilogy,  Trilogy is on Highway 12 on the north side of Rio Visa.  With dozens of small clubs and two pools and restaurant, we will have plenty to do without leaving this small city complex.

We will be shopping for a church home.  There are no Presbyterian Churches in Rio Vista. We will soon be checking out the Congregational Church located in downtown Rio Visa.   I am also looking forward to learning more about the Presbyteries around this small town (San Francisco, Sacrament, Red Woods and Stockton).  We are located at a point where these four Presbyteries meet!      

We love our home.  We are glad we made this move to Rio Vista.  We like the people around us. We are going to thoroughly enjoy being close to where our daughter and her family live. 

All is good as I write this blog from my desk overlooking a beautiful courtyard.

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