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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is for all those who sacrificed however righteous their cause.  In case of death, the sacrifice was total.  In case of serious injury, the effect could be a lifetime of disability.  Memorial Day, as the name indicates, is a day to remember the awesome, simple fact that mortals are called upon to accomplish immortal acts.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Legacy & Leaving

Sunday we had a guest trumpet player who was so excellent you never had to worry that he might miss a note.  I thought for a moment I was at Carnegie Hall.  The sermon was on the Holy Spirit, and they showed a short video where they compared sailing a sailboat --as the wind catches the sails--to us being powered by the Holy Spirit. It is our responsibility to man the tiller and trim the sails.  To close the service everyone in the congregation held hands and sang a cappella "God Bless America."  In Sunday school we talked about our legacy as human beings and how we take this legacy for granted.  We have a material and a spiritual legacy.  By material legacy we were referring to all the inventions that have been made throughout history.  In other words, each of us benefited immensely the day we were born--we didn't have to reinvent the wheel or any of the many other material achievements we benefit from.  Likewise, spiritually we have a great legacy passed on to us.  As it would be dumb of us to reject our material legacy (even a hermit could not shake this legacy entirely), it would be dumb of us to reject our spiritual legacy.  That God is love, and that he has shown us through Jesus the way, the truth, and the life is a great legacy that is almost insane (and in any case almost impossible) to ignore.  We also talked about the grief we feel when a family member dies.  We remarked how easy it is for us to accept that all those human beings living in the 1700's are now dead.  We feel we have a forgiving God, and our generation somehow will be exempt from the same remote fate.  Then, a family member dies, and death suddenly gets personal.  No longer is it a remote concept for past generations, but a fact facing each of us in our generation.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Sunday school

Every week I write my son Alton who is in prison in Jasper, Florida.  These letters include happenings of the week.  I include Sunday happenings in church and Sunday school.  In Sunday school we use Upper Room devotionals for our lessons.  I am enclosing excerpts here from my letters to Alton that deal with our Sunday school.  Mitch is our teacher.
This week we talked about overcoming fear and the value of gratitude.
In Sunday school Kunte brought up several issues that we discussed.  As you may know, Kunte is slow.  When he was growing up, kids would make fun of him and pick fights.  This experience still haunts him.  We tried to help him understand that this was in the past (actually, many years in the past) and that it should not condemn him to fear in the present.  Those that taunted him have probably matured and would not treat him the same today--maybe even be ashamed of how they treated him.  Not everyone was or is his enemy.  He has had and now has many friends.  He also said that at Trade Winds where he works, he is tired of washing dishes--he doesn't want to wash dishes all his life.  Mitch encouraged him to do a good job and have a good attitude, to mention to his boss that if the opportunity came along he would like an alternative job assignment.  Mitch said that by having a good attitude and being a good worker, he would have the best opportunity to impress his boss and get a job assignment more to his liking.  (I know how ambitious Kunte is, and know how frustrating it must be.)
In Sunday school we talked about the feeling each of us has for justice. We want justice. As Kunte pointed out, that's why we have superheroes like batman and superman--they swoop down and accomplish justice. But Mitch pointed out we have to be careful about always thinking WE know what justice is all about. As Jesus says there's more rejoicing in heaven when one lost person is found than celebration over those who are already righteous. That doesn't seem just or fair, but that's a glimpse of heaven's justice. Actually, probably that is a case where love trumps justice.
Bryan was not at Sunday school. He had been Baker Acted last week. Bryan has disabilities and lived in an assisted living facility. He was typically a very angry person and something just snapped. He may not be readmitted to the assisted living facility, so we may never have him in Sunday school again. The Sunday school lessons and discussions dealt with several important ideas. The desire for material goods is strong, but we will never be content or happy unless we desire other things as well--such as a desire to be generous to others, to realize the need for patience, the importance of getting satisfaction and happiness from serving the Lord in everything we do.   We discussed how it is important to face the reality of a broken world. If we try to deny reality, sooner or later bad things will happen. I mentioned I thought my mental illness in the 80's and 90's was such a consequence (my subconscious took over and in an unproductive way made my dreams materialize--at least in my mind.) We also discussed how the church when it is true to the spirit of Christ, is bound to produce something impressive. As the space shuttle or Starship Enterprise are products of purposeful organizations (no one person alone could achieve them), so the church as an organization can achieve remarkable results well beyond the abilities of one individual or even a group of individuals unguided by the holy spirit.
Good news, Bryan was back in Sunday school.  In Sunday School Vinney (who is blind) said that he appreciates God Bombs when he is down.  A God Bomb, according to Vinney, is when someone completely changes his mood by exercising kindness and goodwill in a loving, Christian spirit.  We also discussed that manipulation of others, while it can be done in an unchristian spirit, is not always bad.  For example, the Constitution and Bill of Rights (and laws & rules generally) are a positive way that human behavior is manipulated.  Just so, we can be more effective when we exercise Christian beliefs and tools in our behavior as we attempt to manipulate or control our environment for Christian ends.  Christ, while giving us freedom, clearly indicated the way to life and sought to lead us in that direction.  When parents seek to establish a Christian home, they are intentionally manipulating for good ends the environment in which their children are raised.  In other words, it is ok to use Christian tools (such as the Golden Rule, Jesus' parables, sayings, and loving approach) to influence and change our world--this is a form of manipulation (using tools for desired ends) but it is a good one.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Open Secrets

Friday morning Mark told of seeing a science program Thursday night on television that talked about the moon and earth.  If it weren't for the moon stabilizing the rotation of earth on its axis, we would not be able to have life as we know it.  The weather on earth would be a complete mess.  And the moon has to be just the right size for just the right gravitational force.  Then we got to thinking about the fact that the earth is just the right distance from the sun to support life.  In other words, everything that had to be exactly right was.  So it may be possible that even though there are billions of stars in the universe, the number of times conditions could be exactly right for life could be less than one would think.  Most everything about the universe boggles the mind.  I said it was a little difficult for the atheist to satisfy me that eternal life is not possible.  How do we know what God is capable of or the breadth of the manifestations of perception and sentience or the full ramifications of love as a creative force?  Mark said either view may be right (the atheist view or the faith view).  We just don't know.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit & Intelligence

I want to tell you I am a happy man. First of all, I have been most fortunate. I was born into a family that wanted me and loved me. They treated me with love and respect all my life. My father was graced with humility of spirit and a sense of humor, and my mother was graced with a pure heart. My father gave Bob & me a great gift when he said (no matter what the circumstances or what others may do), "Do your best, and that's the best that you can do." In other words, he gave us freedom. He realized that we would never have complete control or be "perfect," but that should not paralyze us. Just do the best that we can do.
So, as I say, I am happy. Of course, mother adds much to my life. Now I see for the first time how lonely I was before marriage. Now just to have her around to share experiences with is very meaningful and comforting. She has a Christian spirit and, as I've said before, I think a loving Christian spirit and a strong intelligence have much in common. The fruit of the spirit and the fruit of intelligence are similar I think. It reminds me of the plaque I have in my computer room which I got when we were in Jasper to visit you. I will scan it and include it below:

One sure sign of intelligence is the recognition of limits and a certain humility when confronted with the environment around you. Intelligence gives others their say and listens objectively (but not without love, goodwill, and respect) to the physical world. (Blind fear, as much as possible, should be avoided.) We are surrounded within and without by many messages. Sometimes we have the tools to pick up on these messages, and sometimes we don't. As my father said, "Just do the best you can." This is the voice of love following Bob and me throughout our lives. I have sometimes (not often enough perhaps) thought, "what helpful advice can I give Alton?" Now I know, it is the same advice my father gave Bob and me.

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On Beliefs and Opinions

After finishing for the day at the lab, I returned to the office. Jeff wanted to talk politics. I told him I think that most democrats and republicans look for things to confirm their already deeply held beliefs set early in their lives--beliefs not just about politics, but philosophy-of-life beliefs and opinions some of which have political implications. Devotees of a particular persuasion appear to reason and search for facts to back up their position, but all this is secondary to their strong beliefs deeply confirmed in their characters. Facts and rationales differing from their beliefs really don't have impact and are easily ignored--or in any case, not the least bit persuasive in the end. For example, I feel comfortable with big government. Highly evolved regulation to meet the present challenges presented by many and various factors is deeply reasonable to me--even if it is big, since the challenges it is designed to meet are big. But to a conservative this is anathema--the conservative is quick to find government excesses and abuses. We are both comfortable with our deeply set beliefs and can easily withstand any evidence mustered against our positions. The neat thing is that we are probably better off with incorrigible believers since the political fray is not an erudite pursuit, but rather a rough and tumble mediation of passions. People are not very successful at "just pretend" for very long. They want to express what they really feel, deep down. By both sides being true to themselves, truth in the end will be excruciatingly accommodated. That is, the results frequently will not be pretty, but will have the beauty (if it can be so called) of the manifested truth of human experiences and consequent beliefs.

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