First and foremost?

My husband shared a webpage this morning that surprised us both. A page from his alma mater’s website stated, as a headline: “Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.” It went on to state “First and foremost, Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity.”

This comes from a university that has many students of multiple races. Black lives matter, before any other lives.

Is this not the very essence of racism? To place one race above all others? To value one race, first and foremost, above all others?

I don’t know what disgusts me more: Is it the fact that a public university stands with an organization that is dedicated to “keep dismantling the organizing principle of this society?” (BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, Maine Beacon, 6/28/19). (what does “stand with” really mean, anyway? You stand next to them? You make donations? You riot protest with them? Or you just say something because…well, you want to say something?)

First and foremost, all lives matter. There are those who might find my comment racist, “code,” or “dogwhistle” or some other insanity. But all lives do matter. We are all made in the image of our Creator, and therefore, all lives matter. Have we made mistakes as a society, as a country? Of course. And the greatness that is America means that we learn from those mistakes and try to right them. In a free society, we can do that.

To state that one race, first and foremost, is above all others goes against our belief in justice, equality, and freedom. It goes against all Christian beliefs and ethics. It goes against the beliefs of millions of non-Christians as well.

The mistake that many make is to assume that BLM is merely a movement to remind us that “yes, black lives matter!” And they DO matter; that should go without saying (yet I say it here to clarify). But the organization Black Lives Matter is founded by those drenched in Marxism and steeped in communist philosophy. Their goal is not to ensure equal opportunity and equal representation for anyone; it is to crush America and diminish other races. If you doubt that, you slept through much of 2020 and were watching Hallmark movies (or CNN, or MSNBC) instead of what was really happening as 140 American cities saw incredible damage, riots, fires and destruction at the hands of Antifa and BLM last year. Small businesses (owned by people of many races) were destroyed, all in the name of “dismantling the organizing principles of society” and in some warped idea of “justice.” Where is the justice for those who lost their businesses, their livelihoods?

I cannot reconcile a movement like this with Christianity. It makes no sense. I have a very hard time reconciling ULL’s (University of Louisiana, Lafayette) viewpoint on this. My husband only saw this today (on the English department page) because a friend sent it to him. A similar statement appears on the university’s history blog in June, 2020, so this isn’t exactly news – but it was news to us. We are saddened, as many of our family attended UL. There is a request for a donation on the kitchen counter. Or…there was one. It’s been filed in an appropriate place; we don’t support this type of thing.

First and foremost. Above all other lives, black lives matter the most. Everyone else – everyone – is a second class citizen. If that’s not what you meant, perhaps you should reword it. After all, you’re English majors…right?

September

September sucked.

That’s really the only word for it. September has been over for a month now, and I can finally write a bit about it and say briefly why it was such a rotten month.

In September, I lost two people that I love dearly. (And because so many people have asked, no. It was not CoVid.) A longtime friend and mentor, Deacon Diane, at the beginning of the month, is with her Savior now. If not for Diane, I would not have made (and hopefully will continue to do so) nearly as much music in my life.

In the middle of the month, I lost my dad.

He was always there for me, even when he didn’t quite understand why I was doing what I was doing. His love and encouragement made me who I am. Pop exemplified a father’s love. He nurtured his family and started a successful business. He was a man of faith, and never gave up on his dreams. He taught me to do likewise.

Both of these individuals are superheroes in their own right. I miss them dearly, and thank God for their beautiful lives.

Another Prayer.

Lord God, we ask your outpouring of grace, love, mercy and peace upon the families of Nicole Gee, Maxton Soviak, Kareem Nikoui, David Espinoza, Rylee McCollum, Jared Schmitz, Hunter Lopez, Daegan Page, Ryan Knauss, Darin Hoover, Johanny Rosariopichardo, Humberto Sanchez, and Dylan Merola; brave members of our Armed Forces who were murdered by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

We thank You for their lives, their courage, and their calling to be members of the United States Armed Forces. We thank you for their families and loved ones. Without men and women like this, our country would be in a less safe place. Have mercy, dear Lord, on their families whose anguish must be inconceivable to those of us who have never walked in their places. We ask for your love, support and grace for all families who lost loved ones in the bombing at the Kabul airport.

Lord God, we ask for protection for those Americans who still remain in Afghanistan. Shelter them from evil, and deliver them home safely. Let them know the grace and protection of the Holy Spirit. We ask, also, Your protection and deliverance for those Afghani citizens and all those who have aided and worked with Americans in Afghanistan. They are all in danger, and we beseech You to protect them and deliver them to safety.

Leaving. The question was not whether or not to leave, but how to leave. This departure was a disaster.

Lord, only You may judge and direct judgment upon those who do evil. Forgive me if I feel that I wouldn’t mind a bit if You unleashed your wrath upon those who ignore wise council and change plans for selfish and political purpose without consideration of those who lie in harm’s way. I wouldn’t mind, either, if You unleashed Your wrath upon the Taliban and ISIS.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. – Ephesians 6: 10 – 13

Lord, this is a struggle beyond flesh and blood. I truly believe it is a struggle against evil. Please guide our leaders to good judgment, and forgive me as I really don’t find that possible right now – only You know their hearts; only You know who stands for You and who stands against You. Give strength to those who stand with You; may they put on the full armor of God so that they may stand their ground. Give strength to all of us us to know truth and to do everything we can to stand for You.

I do know and believe that anything is possible for You, and Your solution will probably look very different from anything I could imagine. I give thanks that those who have died because of faithfulness to You and / or faithfulness to America are already in Your glory and are at peace. You have already given rest to the fallen; please give the comfort of the Holy Spirit to all who grieve and rescue to all those who live in terror.

In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

A Prayer

Lord God of all, we ask your grace, mercy and protection over all Americans and those who have helped us and are in danger in Afghanistan. Lend aid to those who would help them escape in safety, and let none be left behind. Strike fear into the hearts of the enemy, Lord; hold their fire and destroy their weapons so that our people may escape. I know that You are all powerful and all knowing, and ask Your protection for those who fight against evil and those who desire death. Amen.

I have been following the news of the American military’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan with growing horror, disgust, and a feeling of utter helplessness.

While I can’t disagree with the need to get out of Afghanistan, I am astonished over the way it’s been done. I’ve asked a few military friends about their thoughts on the matter, and the answer was unanimous; this was NOT the way to do it.

A prayer from August 16 in my desktop Jesus Today calendar says “This world is increasingly dark, but the Light of My Presence is as bright as ever.” Well, the world is very dark for Americans and Christians in Afghanistan. Americans are being told to “shelter in place” and cannot be guaranteed to have safe passage to the airport. Another slap in the face is that the State Dept Overseas Security Advisory Council stated (August 14) that “Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid. Cost may be $2,000 or more per person.”

I call that adding insult to injury. Meanwhile, people from other countries pour across our southern border and are given free passage to various cities throughout the country. They don’t need a covid test, either. In what universe does all of this make sense?

Americans, as a kind and caring people, most of whom believe in God (or at least some sense of morality) can’t really wrap our heads around the fact that the Taliban think nothing like we do. This is a culture of death, where children are recruited as sex slaves or as suicide bombers. Immediate beheading is considered an appropriate punishment for possession of a Bible, and women and children are considered chattel.

Deep breath. Serenity prayer. OK. Right now, I have work to deal with. If all I can do right now is to work, do my job, and pray, I’ll do that and invite you to do the same.

Know thyself?

It was Socrates who said to know thyself was the beginning of wisdom.

Smart guy, Socrates.

How well do you think you know yourself? Are your ideas and opinions truly yours, or are they formed by random factoids and sound bites?

The average attention span has shrunken to equal about that of a goldfish. We’ve become a world where fakebook “likes” and similar responses form our outlooks. Journalism has become lazy, quoting Twitter as source.

Seriously? Twitter? The entity quoted may not even be human, for heaven’s sake!!

Are you sticking with opinions like “I’m for the little guy” and “everyone deserves help” (honorable and worthy ideals, to be sure) and letting that identity form your “opinions?” If so, you’re being lazy. Constantly looking inward as we learn and thinking beyond the sound bite isn’t easy. And yeah, we’re all busy.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

Think with sober judgment. Think with faith. Knowing yourself is key to not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to. (Frankly, I think everyone in Washington, DC should take this to heart.)

BUT — and here’s where that measure of faith comes in — God gave you a brain, so USE IT! Don’t just respond to the headlines, because that will give you a very distorted view of things. Dig deep into the information. This goes for everything, whether we’re talking politics or scripture. There’s that old saying that even the devil can quote scripture for his benefit…keep that in mind.

This is on my mind today because of recent news that New Orleans (and they aren’t alone) wants to implement “vaccine passports” for public places. The military is requiring covid shots for all members. Certain private companies are doing the same. I’ve already heard the sentiment expressed that “I don’t think they should do that, it’s too much. Not that it really matters to me, I’m vaccinated, so I can go and do whatever…”

It should matter – deeply – to all of us, vaccinated or not.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

The founding fathers were well versed in the study of philosophy, and considered the writings of Locke, Rousseau, Hobbes and others while focusing on the ideals and values that would shape our country. It was John Locke who stressed that the NATURAL RIGHTS of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were present in the state of nature. These are, as Thomas Jefferson later wrote, inalienable rights. Also critically important were property rights.

What kind of property do you own? Does your body count as your own property? Of course it does. No one owns you. YOU own your body, and the right to treat it as you choose.

One could make the arguement that to legally require any kind of medical treatment, procedure, or shot infringes private property rights. And yes, I know that there are many vaccines that are required for children to attend school, and I think that’s a good idea; we’ve wiped out smallpox that way.

But covid isn’t smallpox, and those vaccines have mostly withstood the test of time. This is an illness with a 99% survival rate, and those at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from it can be identified.

The covid shots have never been through animal testing. WE are the animal testing. According to VAERS, over 10,000 shot-related deaths in the US have been reported, and many more adverse reactions were related. As of July 30, 2021, it was over 12,000. Source: https://www.openvaers.com/covid-data

Many people, wanting to do the right thing, got the shot early in the program, believing that it would indeed help to slow the spread, and protect their neighbors as well as themselves. Those with compromised immune systems got the shot, for good and understandable reasons. Many, many others went with the advice of their doctors.

There are also many doctors who are NOT sold on the shot…but that’s another story. And sadly, we are seeing that having gotten the shot isn’t necessarily protection. The CDC quit counting positive cases among those who were vaccinated.

The thing that ALL Americans, regardless of “vaccination” status, should be concerned with is the assault on personal property and individual choice. Do you truly believe that a government or a business should be able to require someone to accept a medical treatment in order to function as a member of society? A medical treatment that is still experimental? (Even if the FDA rushes an approval, the covid shots will still lack the years of investigation, trials and safety reviews that other vaccines have.)

Sure, one could say “well, you don’t HAVE to get the shot, you just won’t be able to go to restaurants, sporting events, weddings, funerals, your job or engage in interstate travel.” (yes, that HAS been proposed). Or, you COULD opt to get tested for covid every time you want to go somewhere. Translation: We don’t want you in society.

Your getting the shot – or not – is your own business. But having it (or a recent negative covid test) as a requirement for entry IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS.

Added to this kerfluffle is the fact that the PCR test commonly used in covid testing has been shown to be grossly inaccurate, resulting in a high number of false positives. Its EUA will expire at the end of this year. Meanwhile, a vaccinated individual can still TRANSMIT the virus.

There is no reason to require “proof of vaccination” do do anything. Life is a crap shoot. If you are severely immunocompromised, don’t expose yourself to large groups, and limit your interactions. Make up your own mind as to what you feel comfortable with. But to require something that may or may not work? Remember, we’re still in the testing stage here, and will be for a long time.

The Apostle Paul goes on to say ” For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12: 4-5)

We are many members, and individually members one of another. I know that’s why many people, regardless of faith, got the shot when they could – to protect not only themselves, but others. Caring about neighbors is what we do. Now it’s time to do the same thing – protect your own liberty and freedom – and that of your fellow Americans.

Do you know yourself? Do you believe in personal liberty and your right to control your body (your most precious private property)? Don’t show your vaccine card, even if you have one. Let those who would infringe your rights deal with the lost business. Stand up for your own personal and property rights, because who knows what you’ll have to agree to next.

Friends

My friend Keith pointed out that August 1 is National Friendship Day. How timely! Over the recent years, many friendships (and family relationships) have been tried over deep divides in our country, many of them political.

It’s pretty insane, when you think about it. For decades, I never really cared that I have a lot of friends who are on the “other side of the aisle” from me politically. I still don’t. Politics has nothing to do with why I love them and consider them friends. There are more important things in life, and those are the things that we hold in common and that has led to our friendships.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case. My sis-in-law sent a link to a very thoughtful (and nonpolitical) article on the loss of friendships and family relationships caused by disagreement over CoVid. You can find it here: LOSING FRIENDS AND FAMILY DURING CORONAMANIA | by Mark Oshinskie | Jul, 2021 | Medium

I won’t tell you that I haven’t experienced some difficulties (and shunning) because of the Wuhan Flu. But what the hell are we doing here, letting something like this divide us?

I can hear some outraged comments: “It’s a matter of public health!” OK, fine, I don’t exactly agree, but that’s ok. I’ve written before about public mental health; suicide is a lot more deadly than the Wuhan Flu.

As people of faith, we must not give in to letting something worldly divide us. I have actually heard comments stating “well, I don’t feel sorry for so-and-so, s/he wouldn’t get vaccinated!”

Wow. Just…wow.

Sadly, I don’t think this mindset is going away anytime soon – but we can combat it by avoiding the trap of division.

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. ~ Mark 3:24 – 27

My friend Keith Horcasitas shares this invitation for August 1 at 7 AM in Baton Rouge:

National Friendship Day, August 1, 2021. With all the discord and polarity in the world, I have a modest proposal for fellow Redstick citizens – to tie in to the great “Let There be Peace on Earth” song which notes “…and let it begin with me!” A friendship Promenade for Peace, sponsored by Prayer Care, LLC – in line with social distancing and masking – will be held tomorrow, Sunday, August 1, 2021 – National Friendship Day, 7 AM, Baton Rouge City Park, starting by the City Park Labyrinth. Come out for a simple meet and greet as we, of all walks of faith and life, come together as friends to exercise and encourage one another to promote peace in our hearts. And please bring your 4 legged friends, who sometimes help us at meeting and greeting!

This is a 15 minute walk with unitive prayers and songs. If you can’t be there in person, be there in spirit, and let the Spirit remind you of what is truly important.

Woke?

Jesus was “woke.” Or…was he?

According to that bastion of knowledge, Wikipedia, “woke is a term referring to awareness of issues that concern social justice and racial equality. Originating in the United States, it has also been used to refer to awareness about broader social inequality on issues such as gender and sexual orientation.” Wikipedia, accessed 7/6/21.

Well, Jesus was certainly concerned about unqualified justice and equality. As for prejudice, well, just ask the Samaritan woman. According to this definition, Jesus was a pretty woke guy.

So I wonder how he’d feel about so many corporations and highly visible individuals who fall over one another in order to display their wokeness (or would that be wokedness)? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired about reading that “Company blah blah is proud to support fill-in-the-blank.” Well, goody for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all against corporate (or other) donations, and they certainly deserve to have a thank-you sign or banner at the ball game or their name on a teeshirt or a big thank-you plaque. I also really appreciate that some companies have causes that are sincerely close to their heart, and they spread information about their causes through their business (such as the Dave Thomas Foundation and Wendy’s Hamburgers).

But I roll my eyes when wokeness is clearly an afterthought. I wonder about those company board meetings: “Quick! Who’s in the such-and-such category can we give some money to so we’ll look like we’re not the robber barons that take home millions in bonuses every year? How fast can we get it on the Twitter feed?”

Jesus spoke about this:

“When you give to needy people, do not announce it by having trumpets blown. Do not be like those who only pretend to be holy. They announce what they do in the synagogues and on the streets. They want to be honored by other people. What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward. When you give to needy people, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Then your giving will be done secretly. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly. “When you pray, do not be like those who only pretend to be holy. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners. They want to be seen by other people…

Matthew 6:1-5, NIRV

Do not be like those who only pretend to be holy.

Wise words from the original “woke” guy.

A Holiday of Faith

Yesterday we had a conversation in the choir loft about secular vs. religious holidays. While not a religious holiday, Memorial Day is a day of faith, and yes, a sacred one that should transcend all faith traditions.

We in the USA mark the last Monday of May as a day to honor and remember those who gave the gift and sacrifice of their lives in their service in the armed forces of the country. Sounds secular, right?

One of our most basic recognized rights in this country is the freedom to worship freely. While we take this for granted, we don’t often stop to think how rare this was in 1791 when it was included in the Bill of Rights.

Without the sacrifice of those we remember today, there’s a good chance we would not have been allowed to worship as we please.

As it is, church attendance has dropped to an all-time low, perhaps in part because of the avoidance of government to support religion in any way. When I was growing up, heaven forbid that any school would host a sports tournament that included play on Sunday morning. This is no longer the case.

Whatever you think of the reasoning for certain wars in our history, never forget that each individual who took an oath in the armed services agreed to pay whatever price was asked by our nation, including the cost of their lives. 

I don’t know who said this, but it’s worth repeating:

(This may be said of some of soldiers of certain other countries as well, but right now I’m talking about our own Memorial Day)

Today, please take time to remember and give thanks for the sacrifices of those who gave their lives so that we may worship as we please and live in freedom.

National Day of Prayer 2021

Lord, pour out Your love, life and liberty.

Today, the first Thursday of May, is the National Day of Prayer. We always need prayer; but we need it now more than ever. Please take some additional time today to pray for our nation, and to pray for one another.

This morning’s scripture from BibleGateway.com is from James 5:16:

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Our country is divided and drenched in anger, hatred, and fear. Let us pray for our country, our world, and one another. Please join me in prayer today, and pray in your faith tradition as I pray in mine.

From the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Visit the National Day of Prayer page here: National Day of Prayer Task Force

Download a copy of the Collect for the Nation from the BCP here: Collect_for_the_Nation.pdf (edow.org)

Alleluia!

This is the second Easter of CoVid. How strange it feels. Last year, we understood the need for being locked down. Besides, it was only to be for a few weeks. But a year later, we still aren’t doing the usual Easter things today; no vigil service in the early morning. Easter egg hunts for children – at least public ones – are few and far between. Everything is curtailed, muffled, depressed and suppressed.

In CoVid Year 2, we need Easter more than ever. But then, we always need Easter. Right now, the message of Easter – salvation and the eternal, fierce, unending love of God – is more necessary to our psyches and souls than I can ever remember.

We are a world in uproar; a nation divided by many foolish, superficial things. “How can the saving of human lives be foolish and superficial?!” you may ask? It’s not, and I’m not referring to masks and lockdowns etc. Besides, the saving of lives is never superficial. What IS superficial is where our focus lies. This is no political commentary; rather, I believe we would all be better off if we were to focus on something other than fear, division, who feels insulted and “offended”, what someone’s preferred pronouns are – and instead focus on the promise of Easter, which is open to all of humankind, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender, and so on.

For those who might cry “enough of prayer and talk, we need action!” I would ask what greater action could there possibly be than a loving God who gave humankind the greatest gift imaginable?

To simplify (greatly), can you imagine this loving God saying “how can I POSSIBLY make these people understand how much I love them?!? And how much I want them to know me, to join me in heaven to be with me forever? Ah! I know, I will send my own son to earth. Maybe HE can get it through their thick skulls. I will ask him to do whatever it takes to make them realize my love.”

Jesus did whatever it took. That, my friend, is action.

Yet we divert our attention away from the most amazing, freeing, incredible gift in the history of humanity and stand around quibbling about…oh, I don’t know, the correct amount of social distancing at the Easter egg hunt?

The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is the miracle of Easter, and the core belief of Christianity. It doesn’t matter what Christian tradition you follow, and it doesn’t matter what you read and study as “Science.” It really doesn’t. None of us gets out of here alive in body, but through the love and sacrifice of Christ, we can all get out of here alive…forever. With a God that loves us beyond all understanding. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t that something you’d rather focus on? We cannot seek the living among the dead, and never forget that the strife and division that we see daily in our country and in the world is death to the spirit.

The cross is empty. The tomb is empty. Alleluia! The Lord is risen!

Another Easter post you may enjoy is from 2017: The Gift of Skepticism.