Kindness

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain

I routinely go up to the altar to pray in church after I have listened to Pastor Eddie’s sermon and as the congregation is signing the last hymn. I use the time to pray for family and friends, Pastor Eddie, and the congregation, as well as to confess sins and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Often, my confessions and prayers lead to tears, as they did today. I am not embarrassed about my frailty in the moment; it is cathartic. I let the Lord lead me, as I did this afternoon.

For the past few months, I have been walking up to the altar feeling an uncomfortable weakness in my legs, a result, I am sure, of my having sat too long—months at a time—and exercised too little, not daily as I should have. Others may not notice it, but I feel it most definitely. My footfalls are increasingly tentative. Time will tell if I can rebuild my strength. For now, I will leave the situation in the Lord’s hands.

As I was walking up to the altar this afternoon, a bright young lady—in all senses of the word— arose from one of the pews across the aisle with the same idea in mind that I had. For whatever reason, she wished to take my hand and to travel as a pair until it was time to kneel. At first, I was taken aback by this most unexpected gesture on her part, not knowing what to make of it. I knew it wasn’t a romantic gesture as much as a courtly one. Be that as it may, the epitome of kindness will forever be represented in my mind by her simple desire to take my hand at that moment.  I will forever remember her smile and the contagious joy she radiated.

Sandman’s Fifth Rule of Chivalry: If pretty girl takes your hand, let her. (I’ll pass on the first four rules, as soon as I have written them down.)

Unbeknownst to her, I had wrestled with feelings of abject loneliness throughout the night, spinning in my bed from side to side all night long with Raleigh to the right of me and Georgia on a pedestal at the foot of my bed. Both cats, it seemed, were doing their level best to make sure that I knew they needed me. To be clear, this feeling wasn’t despondency, nor even close to what Pastor Eddie refers to as “the dark night of the soul.”  I just have to feel, and if I do, I am going to feel with an intensity which scares most, but not me.  I am glad I do. Feeling even profound sadness proves to me that I am still very much alive, and that I have a soul.

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Photo credit: salmon-negro/Shutterstock

As the day began, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it through church without falling asleep during the sermon—as I had embarrassingly done last week.  Throughout the service, I sipped some iced tea, hoping the caffeine would provide enough of a lift to get me through to the end. Thankfully, our church secretary had asked me to read scripture, Mark 14: 32-42, and the fear of wanting to do it well also contributed to keeping me awake. (You can Google the scripture.)

I was struck by this beautiful young lady’s kindness toward me this afternoon, and I have thought about what she did ever since I left church. She made my day a happy and fulfilling one by shifting my focus. The first thing I wanted to do after church, if I had the chance, was to thank her, which I did.

How often do we go through our days so wrapped up in our own lives that we never stop to be kind to someone whom we don’t know or don’t know well enough?  How often do we bless others with our words and actions?

Thank you, my dear friend, for bringing joy to my heart today.

Sandman

 

(Photo credit at op of page-holding hands: lightpost/Shutterstock)

Reluctant Warrior

Tonight, as I sit here, I am just about out of energy. For me, like most people, I was busy with life today, working in the morning and tending to a doctors appointment in the afternoon. As I recall, I sent the Republicans to congress with specific in instructions to undo the damage done to our country by former President Barack Obama, the greatest danger to this republic since Franklin Roosevelt.  I sent the Republicans to Washington to neutralize the opposition, not to cave into it or to adopt the opposition’s agenda.

With the news that a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill has left the House for the Senate, I am finished with the Republicans. Finished. Rumor has it that President Trump is going to sign the bill after it leaves the Senate. If so, I am finished with him too. Finished. He was America’s last hope. I voted for him for that reason.  Hillary would have destroyed this country in about the time that it has taken President Trump—fighting the Washington establishment at every turn—to implement just a portion of his his much touted conservative agenda.

Initially, I was a Ted Cruz man, backing him with donations and purchases of his book until it was clear he was not going to win the 2016 election. Reluctantly, I turned to Donald Trump, ultimately voting for him for only two reasons: In a speech before the Union League Club of Philadelphia, he came across in no uncertain terms for strong borders and a strong, powerful military. Those two issues stood out, because I would argue that one cannot have a country without those two elements: strong borders and strong military. One must have a strong, enforced, impenetrable border, and one must project a strong military in order to have a country, not to mention be a great power. Open borders are unenforceable borders, carrying with them so many of the social ills—gangs, the violent crime, rampant drugs and re-emergent diseases—we have today.  

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Photo credit: Susan Schmitz/Shuttersock

If I were to list my top six goals for the Republicans and President Trump, they would be these: 1. strong borders (immigration), 2. strong military, 3. defund and replace Obamacare with a free market healthcare system, 4. reform or replace the Veteran’s Administration, 5. protect the Second Amendment, and 6. defund Planned Parenthood. I haven’t heard much about items 3 through 5, but I know that it doesn’t look like President Trump is going to get much of what he wanted, except more military spending and a small down payment on the border wall. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrat Party—crowing—seem to be implementing their agenda lock, stock and barrel. Particularly disgusting to me as a right to life advocate is that Planned Parenthood will still be funded. Yes, Planned Parenthood, the organization that sells human body parts from aborted babies. Ugh. Reminds one of the apostolic Israelites sacrificing of  their children to Moloch. 

All my voting life, I have heard the same inefficacious Republican song and dance and watched the  same vapid dog and pony show.  “We don’t have the House or the Senate or the White House. We are powerless. We only have the House. Give us the Senate, and we’ll stop the Democrats. We need the Presidency before we can really effect change.” O.K., so now you Republicans have all three branches of government, and and what do we get? A Democrat fantasy wish list come to life.

As I said, I am finished with the Republican Party.  Finished. Henceforth, I shall give no money to you, not a dime.  If you want money, go sleep with Tom Donohue, again.  

President Trump, a long, long time ago, I met you. For a short while, I was beginning to like you, because you stood up to the Democrats. I was able to overlook some of your quirks and moral failings. You took the Democrats on. With every victory, I cheered you from the sidelines.  If you want my vote in the next election, you had better veto this outrageous $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. Lack of resolve against such egregious government waste will put you in the same base category as the Republicans—whom I detest. If you don’t have the spine to veto the bill, I wouldn’t blame Melania if she left you. Wives will put up with a great deal, but generally they don’t like feckless husbands.

Sandman

 

(Photo credit at top of page-Fork in Road: Pavel_Klimenko/Shutterstock)

 

Parkland

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Photo credit: Ahturner/Shutterstock

After a tragedy as horrific as the Parkland shooting, many among us wonder, “Where is our God?” A great friend of mine, a/k/a (“Curmudgeon”), posed just such a question in one of his morning emails. With his permission, I share it with you, as well as my reply:

I have been thinking a lot recently about the religious implications of the recent Parkland shooting. This in part was stimulated by watching a recent spot on TV showing Billy Graham looking heavenward, and saying with all the emotion he could muster over and over, “Jesus loves you… Jesus loves you.” I thought to myself, “How could this be? How could He allow those innocent children at Parkland and Sandy Hook to be slaughtered if he ‘loved’ them?”

Christians will always retort, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Well, that sure is a mysterious way in my book. If God wanted those children to be with him in heaven, then why not simply ascend them into heaven as was done with Jesus, so sayeth the Bible?

Anyway, I do not put these things forth as a challenge to you or your religious faith or beliefs. I thought to myself that this subject might provide a backdrop for one of your blog posts? I am sure that I am not the only one who has had these thoughts cross their minds. To me these horrible events simply do not mesh with the miracles recited in the Old and New Testaments.

Your friend,

The Curmudgeon

My reply—with some editing for clarity—was this: 

Dear Curmudgeon,
When horrible things like this happen, I always remind myself that however horrible they are, they are, after all, the acts of men.  Man has turned his back on God, and yet, always wonders where God is in moments like those of the Parkland shooting.  The Bible is replete with stories of man turning away from God—bad things happening—and then man turning back toward God.  As one who has spent the majority of his life making his living by interpreting both the letter of and the spirit of the law (you), I say it’s time to look to both the letter of and the spirit of God’s law. Were not the Ten Commandments, the original basis of all our laws? Our major universities have done a magnificent job of removing the fundamental pillars of the legal foundation of this country.  

Just look how far from the teachings of the Bible we have strayed: Look how few people go to church; how many divorced parents there are; how many broken families we have.  What about the births out of wedlock? How about our refusal to properly restrain our mentally ill? Look how cheap a value we place on the unborn. They are disposed of like scraps of meat, their organs sold for parts in an open market. All this is condoned by the majority of society, because it actively condones it, or it condones it by its silence. So when you say, “How could God let this happen?” (Paraphrasing.) The first thing I say is “How could man let this happen?” How can we let this happen? And yet we let it.  I can’t really write about this in my blog, because some of these ideas are not mine. They belong to a young man who was a summer intern at Sharon United Methodist church. He preached them to us in a sermon. At least, that is the way that I remember it. (On second thought, maybe I’ll just give him credit.) Thank you Spencer, wherever you are.

Look at what we have just learned about the sheriff’s department in Broward County. As it stands now, it looks like up to four deputies stood by and did nothing in the crucial moments during the shooting when they could have intervened, taken out the shooter, and ended the bloodbath.

I can’t give up my faith. I’ll never give it up. I live by it, and faith in Jesus Christ has served me well.  Jesus is mine, because I claim him, and I am surrounded by his love. The first question I ask myself before any action is “Am I living more in accordance with the Lord’s Commandments?”  Just think how different society would be if more people embraced His teachings.  Even if one were to prove that God did not exist, and Jesus were a fantasy, how different would the world be if everyone’s first act was to love his God with all his heart, mind and soul and to love his neighbor as himself.

Have a blessed day,
Sandman

 

(Photo credit-top of page-Church: Betty Shelton/Shutterstock)

Who Controls the Past?

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Photo credit: RODKARV/Shutterstock

I think we all ought to reread George Orwell’s 1984, as we are living it. Do you remember this quotation?  Every once in a while, I remind myself:

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

I would argue that those who want to pull all of the statutes down of anyone whom they consider offensive for representing any ideology with which they disagree is attempting to control the past.  They are, it is rumored unwitting dupes, “useful idiots,” to quote Lenin, of men like George Soros, who learned well the lessons in propaganda the Nazis taught:  “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

Sandman

 

(Photo credit at top of page-Clocks-Pawan S/Shutterstock)

North Korean Missile Crisis

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Photo credit: Rex Wholster/Shutterstock

As I listen to the various statements by President Trump in response to the missile provocations by North Korea, I am reminded of this address by our late President John F. Kennedy, which I present in its entirety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgdUgzAWcrw. As of tonight, this YouTube video has had only 173,546 views. If more people took the time to study history, perhaps events like those we are witnessing now would not repeat themselves with such alarming regularity.

Now is the time when we all ought to pray that our leaders, indeed all world leaders, exhibit not only courage, but forthrightness and wisdom in their thinking as we navigate these treacherous straits. I further earnestly pray that President Trump takes the counsel of our Lord in every decision.

Sandman

Reflections on the Fourth of July

I remember Dad urging me to read the Declaration of Independence as it was reprinted in The New York Times on at least one Fourth of July.  He unfolded the paper on the floor in our living room at the shore and started reading it aloud to me. By recollection, I was 13 at the time. It is in that spirit that I offer a reprint here, courtesy https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript. Here it is reprinted in all its Times New Roman, eminently legible glory:

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

In my preparation for observing this day, I came across this quotation from Frederick Douglass from “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” July 5, 1852

“I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.”

Who better than to understand and to comment upon the timeless principles contained within the Declaration of Independence than a freed slave? “The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.” Imagine the slave reborn though that document as the soldier of freedom.  

What a beautiful use of metaphor— using ring-bolts and chains in a manner contrary to that with which all slaves of that time would have been, unfortunately, acquainted. Instead of holding them captive as these iron enforcers of their master’s nefarious will once did, adherence to and fidelity to the principles enshrined Declaration of Independence and the Constitution now make them the masters of their precious freedoms.

Who better than to refine what Frederick Douglass said in 1952, but Martin Luther King Jr. in his epoch-defining speech “I Have a Dream,” delivered August 28th 1963:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . . . I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Martin Luther King understood that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution which followed it—both of which documents he revered—were in effect “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir” He went further and consigned these rights to not just his fellow Americans, but understood that “all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As Americans, we all have a sacred duty to make Dr. King’s dream a reality and to make good on that “promissory note.”

Thank you Matthew Spalding Visiting Research Fellow to The Heritage Foundation for drawing my attention to these and other reflections on the Declaration of Independence  after I read his essay:  “Independence Forever: Why America Celebrates the Fourth of July.”

You can find it here: http://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/independence-forever-why-america-celebrates-the-fourth-july.

After a sumptuous breakfast of eggs, sausage patties, hearty English muffins, peach preserves and fruit, consisting of strawberries, blueberries and pineapple—one in which I am sure George Washington and his generals, let alone his men, would have been delighted to have partaken, even just the sausage—the question I ask myself this morning is this: More than mere words, does the eloquence of the Declaration of Independence profoundly resonate within my heart? I forced myself to retrace a customarily lightly trod path this morning to remind myself of those eternal truths with which I should by now be unquestioningly familiar.  In so doing, I saw the enduring majesty of its creation through the sober light cast by the words of a freed slave more than 165 years ago. I encourage you to do the same this day and to do it every Fourth of July.

Enjoy the blessings of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” paid for by so many this day.

Sandman

(Photo credit at top of page-Fireworks: S. Borisov/Shutterstock)

 

Christian Faith