Every Day to Us Is Easter

This morning as I was waking up, the words and melody of a hymn we used in worship this Easter Sunday morning were running through my mind. “Easter people, raise your voices, sounds of heaven in earth should ring.  Christ has brought us heaven’s choices, heavenly music, let it ring. Alleluia! Alleluia! Easter people, let us sing.!”

Living here in this part of the south where we have a full four seasons throughout the year we are often consumed with a particular season.  We just came through an unusually cold winter, one with some crazy weather, a winter which has been talked about not only in our immediate group of friends and acquaintances but even in the national news media.  We are all thankful that we have come through that winter and are grateful for the beginning of spring.  Soon, summer will be here and we will all be traveling on vacations to the beach or the mountains.

The seasons are very important to us. We also have seasons for the church year, although, regrettably, these seasons go barely noticed and hardly discussed or talked about.  This past Sunday we eagerly worshiped our risen Christ, our Savior and Lord Jesus.  Sunday marked the first day of the season known as Eastertide.  Eastertide began with Easter Sunday and will run to the beginning of Pentecost on June 8 this year. The hymn I quoted above was written by Methodist pastor William M. James.  Rev. James was pastor of Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in Harlem where he served for 33 years.  In the final stanza of the hymn he writes “Every day to us is Easter, with its resurrection song. When in trouble move the faster to our God who rights the wrong. Alleluia! Alleluia! See the power of heavenly throngs.”

In these lines we are reminded that Easter is not something we celebrate one Sunday out of the year but on every day in the life of a believer. As we go about soaking in the beauty of the season of spring, as we begin thinking about keeping cool during the heat of summer, I hope that we all will keep in mind also the season of Eastertide.  I hope that we would all live our lives each day in celebration of the Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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To a Nobler Way of Life

I have been going on lately about guns and violence and hatred and anger.  All of this has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now, with all the growing violence, not only in America but throughout the world.  I was reminded of it most forcibly once again last week by the awful mass murder in Newtown Connecticut, a horrible and destructive event beyond the pale of human comprehension.  And again today I was reminded of the insanity of our world with the remarks of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA who said “”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” I believe that I am a relatively good guy and I know many good guys just like me, in fact, most of the world is made up of good guys who don’t want to have to defend themselves with a deadly weapon.

I have already spoken, in an earlier blog, to the statement that many in the gun lobby have made that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  I have said that while that statement is somewhat true the fact is that a person with a gun can kill many people in the time it would have taken them to kill a single person without a gun.  I could go on but I have previously discussed this issue.  We need to be thinking beyond the act of violence and looking toward a way to bring it to an end.

What is this force that makes us think this way?  We, the people who tout “freedom” as a way of life shouldn’t have to fear for our lives, the lives of our loved ones and children.  And, “freedom” was never intended to mean free to do whatever you please.  Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.”   I say, “Your right to own a gun ends at the point where you become a danger to me and my family.” But, we shouldn’t have to argue these points.

There has to be a better way.  And, there is.  If we are all going to live together in freedom without fear that we and our families are in danger we are going to have to change the way we think about things.  I don’t want to always be quoting the Bible as a source of what I have to say but this quotation is particularly poignant in this situation.  The statement was made by the Apostle Paul but it can be appreciated by people of all faiths.  He says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

I propose along with Paul that we as a people begin to look toward a nobler way of life.  Let us cease our hostility toward one another.  Let us look for the good in all situations rather than looking for the bad.  In everything let truth pervade our speech and our dealings with one another.  Let us all look to do the admirable thing in all situations.  This is the only way to have true freedom.  So, to all of us let this be our mantra: “To a Nobler Way of Life.” And, if that means we need to place some restrictions on some people in order to achieve this nobler way of life then I say so be it.

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A Call To Goodness and Kindness

I remember the moment well.  It was many years ago when my son, now forty years old, was just a young boy of maybe eight or ten.  I was just finishing up my bachelors degree in music.  Jeffery and I were standing in front of our piano and he was asking me for the umpteenth time if he could take karate lessons.  Tiring of the continual battle, I posed this question: “Jeffrey, why would you ever want to study the martial arts where you are learning how to bring pain and suffering into the world when you could apply yourself in the fine arts and bring happiness and goodness into the world?”  Jeffrey pondered that question for a while and never asked to take karate lessons again.  Instead, he began to work harder on his trombone and piano studies and eventually went to the university on a music scholarship.  Many years later, Jeff reminded me of that conversation and told me of the positive impact it had made on his life.

It seems to me that we Americans have become a very self centered, selfish and mean spirited people.  Everywhere you look someone is suing someone else.  We no longer find peaceful ways to resolve our differences.  If a neighbor walks into your yard, steps into a hole and breaks his ankle he is more likely than not to sue you.  A plethora of TV ads by personal injury attorneys is evidence of the fact that people are suing one another in record numbers.   When our lives don’t suit us for some reason we immediately begin looking for a scapegoat.  Anything unpleasant or uncomfortable must be the fault of someone else.  The problems that we encounter are, to us, insurmountable and must be rectified by someone else in order for us to have peace.  None of us ever feels like we might even be partially responsible for our own problems.

It amazes me, also, the amount of hateful talk that we encounter every day and the divide that seems to be widening between people espousing different philosophies.  Republicans versus Democrats, fans of this football team versus that, Roman Catholics versus Protestants. The list is endless.  There was a time when those of us with differing philosophies could agree to disagree but now the airwaves and the social networks are filled with hateful talk.  I have never in my life seen the level of hatred between the two political parties as we see today.   And, it wouldn’t be so bad if we could be truthful in our hateful talk but we fill that mean spirited verbiage with lies and half truths.

It seems that we are all looking for something to be angry about and it’s not all politics and religion.  If the person in front of you at a red light hesitates for two seconds when the light turns green expect for several horns to begin blowing.  If someone does something you don’t like look for the finger to be displayed or a volley of vulgar vitriol to ensue.  Then there are of course the more extreme cases; Road rage, for example, where physical violence is acted out, and these seem to be more and more common.

Violence seems to have become a way of life nowadays, it is everywhere.  We read about it in the newspapers.  We see it on the news.  Murder, rape, beatings, spousal abuse, child abuse and on and on it goes.  Occasionally, we view it as entertainment.  Take the most popular movies for instance: gangsters and good guys shooting it out, beatings, road rage… And, then there are video games and popular music that promote violence as an acceptable way of life, even exciting, maybe even pleasurable, that is, as long as you are the perpetrator of the violence and not the receiver.

What has happened to us?  Why are we so angry? Why have we become so mean spirited?  How did we become so violent?  I honestly don’t know.  There is something we can do about it though and we must do something about it before it it too late.  We can choose to bring peace and goodness into this world.  This seems like a daunting endeavor and it is.  It has taken us a long time to become the way we are and it will take a while for us to become what we ought to be, a kinder gentler people.  I hope I don’t lose you by quoting scripture but The Bible puts it this way.  “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 7:12] It seems a bit simplistic doesn’t it? But, the statement is pregnant with truth.  How can we possibly imagine that someone will treat us with kindness and understanding if we don’t treat them that way? Why should they?  Goodness begets goodness and kindness begets kindness.  As I told Jeffrey, Why do you want to bring pain into the world when you could be bringing goodness? And, guess what, when you begin working toward bringing goodness and kindness into the lives of others, goodness and kindness will come back to you.

I am this day issuing a call to goodness and kindness.  We needn’t be so self centered. I ask that we as a people begin to think more about the wellbeing of others.  I ask that we seek peaceful solutions to our differences.  I ask that when trouble or suffering comes into our lives that we don’t jump to the conclusion that someone else or some other outside force must be responsible.  I ask that we enter into more civil dialogue with others and that we focus on the truth.  I ask that we seek ways to turn off our anger toward one another and that we try to find ways to bring more love and kindness into our world.  I ask that we avoid turning to violence and learn to deal peacefully with others.  I ask that we start looking for better more wholesome forms of entertainment rather than that which is filled with violence.

I don’t know about you but I am thinking about working toward a gentler and kinder version of me during 2013.  I am going to stop looking for the bad in people and instead begin looking for the good.  Maybe that person in front of me at the traffic light is having a rough day.  I’m not going to compound that by blowing my horn when he or she hesitates at the green light.  If I slip on a wet floor at the grocery store and twist my ankle my first thought is not going to be to sue them for neglect, it will be to think of how silly it was of me not to pay attention to my surroundings.  I will not return anger for anger.  I will not act out violently.  As far as I am able, I will love my neighbor as myself and seek for the good in all things.

I hope those of you who read this will take a look around you and see if there are ways that you can, through your behavior, bring some goodness and kindness into our world.  If enough of us will begin treating one another with respect, if we will be kind and look for goodness, this world will become a better place for all of us.

 

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We Don’t Need Guns!

We don’t need guns,

We need love

We don’t need guns,

We need joy.

We don’t need guns,

We need peace.

We don’t need guns,

We need patience.

We don’t need guns,

We need kindness.

We don’t need guns,

We need goodness.

We don’t need guns,

We need faithfulness.

We don’t need guns,

We need gentleness.

We don’t need guns,

We need self-control. 

We don’t need guns,

We need brotherly love.

We don’t need guns,

We need community.

We don’t need guns,

We need tolerance.

       We don’t need guns!

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Is Gun Control Needed? Yes!

Is Gun Control Needed? Yes!

Ok, I’ve been quiet for a long time now but I must speak out on this issue.  Gun control.  We need gun control.  I don’t know what form it will take or how it will be implemented but something has to be done.  Now before you begin your rant saying “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Let me just say this – You are right!  People do kill people but people with guns can kill a lot of people.  If a deranged person decides to murder someone they are going to try to do it no matter what anyone says or what laws are in place to prevent it.  The difference here is that this same deranged individual can kill 20 people with an automatic weapon in the same amount of time it takes to bludgeon someone to death with a baseball bat or stab someone to death with a butcher knife.  Why do we want to give murderers the capability of killing so many people with such little effort?  It makes no sense at all to put high powered weapons in the hands of anyone who wants them.  Additionally, think of the fact that if a person is going to use some other means than a gun to kill someone, it requires them to be in close proximity to that person.  With a gun it is possible to kill from across the street or down the block.  A person can kill someone while driving by in a vehicle.  A whole crowd of people can be taken out in a matter of seconds with an automatic weapon.  The murderer can complete the heinous deed and be gone before anyone realizes what’s going on.  How can we defend ourselves from such as this?

Recently a friend of mine said, in reference to the mass killing at Virginia Tech, “well, if everyone at Virginia Tech had been carrying guns that incident would never have happened.”  Really?… Really?…  Are you kidding me?  Can you think of the mayhem that would ensue if this were the case?  Let’s control guns by making sure that everyone is armed.  I can’t even imagine how ludicrous this statement is.  But, believe it or not, it is quite a common sentiment among the anti gun control group.

We must get a handle on the proliferation of guns in this country especially assault weapons and semiautomatic weapons.  I believe that no one in the world, with the exception possibly of a military combatant, needs to possess an assault weapon, nor do they need to have access to a semiautomatic weapon of any sort.  But, if a person is of the persuasion that they should have the right to own such a weapon, I propose that those weapons be strictly controlled, registered and locked away until needed.

Some say “well, there’s the black market… or, what if someone gives or lends an automatic weapon to a friend…  what if someone steals a weapon. there are all sorts of ways for people to get weapons of this sort.”  Ok, that’s possible but we must begin somewhere to get control of this situation.  We need to be thinking of stringent gun control laws.  We need mandatory, lengthy waiting periods with strict background checks in order to purchase a gun.  Then, we need to place mandatory, stiff penalties on the improper transfer of a weapon to another person for any reason without going through proper channels.

Listen, I don’t hate guns.  In fact, I once upon a time was a member of a rifle team.  I think sport shooting is a great sport.  I’m not a hunter but I believe in hunting for those who like to hunt.  But, you don’t need an assault weapon nor a semiautomatic handgun for these things.  If a person is a collector of guns and insists upon having assault weapons or semiautomatic hand guns I propose that they be required to keep these things under lock and key in a secure location away from their residence and that they be required to get a permit each time they are taken out.  Frankly, I don’t know the full answer but I do know that something must be done!

Here are some facts:

On Friday morning,  December 14, 2012, 27 people were shot and killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. 18 of them were children.

September 27, 2012. 5 people were shot to death  at Accent Signage Systems August 5, 2012. 6 Sikh temple members were shot and killed

July 20, 2012. 12 people shot and killed and 58 were wounded.  During the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO.

May 29, 2012. 5 were shot and killed in Seattle, WA.

April 6, 2012. 5 black men shot and killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma

April 2, 2012. 7 were shot and at Oikos University in Oakland, CA.

October 14, 2011. 8 were shot to death in Seal Beach, CA.

September 6, 2011. 5 shot to death and 7 wounded Carson City, NV

January 8, 2011. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head  in Tucson, AZ. Six people died, 19 total were shot

August 3, 2010. 9 were shot to death in aHartford Beer Distributor in Manchester, CT .

November 5, 2009.  13 were shot to death and 29 wounded at the Fort Hood army base in Texas.

April 3, 2009. 13 people shot to death and 4 wounded in Binghamton, New York.

March 29, 2009. 8 people shot to death at the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, NC.

February 14, 2008. 6 shot to death and 21 wounded a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University.

February 7, 2008. 6 people shot to death and two were wounded at the City Hall in Kirkwood, Missouri.

December 5, 2007. 9 were shot to death and 4 in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE.

April 16, 2007. 32 people shot to death and 24 wounded at Virginia Tech. February 12, 2007. 5 shot to death and 4 wounded In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall.

October 2, 2006. 5 girls were shot to death and 6 wounded at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA.

March 25, 2006. 7 were shot to death and 2 were wounded Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA..

March 21, 2005. 11 people were shot to death and 5 at Red Lake Senior High School.

March 12, 2005. 9 shot to death and 4 wounded at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, WI.

July 8, 2003. 7 shot to death and 7 wounded Meridian, MI.

September 15, 1999. 7 shot to death and 7 at a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX.

July 29, 1999. 12 people shot to death and 13 at two Atlanta day trading firms.

April 20, 1999. 13 people shot to death and 13 wounded at  Colombine High School in Littleton, CO.

Just think of the lives that were lost.  Innocent people… men… women… children… husbands, wives, mothers, fathers….in every one of these cases, and, believe me, this is not an exhaustive list, all because a deranged person had access to a powerful, semiautomatic weapon…   Something must be done!

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Lent, Lint & Lindt®

I was reading a blog on a diet and exercise website this morning and the writer was trying to decide on a way to get her diet under control. She thought a good approach might be to give up alcohol for Lent but then decided that she liked beer too much and might need one following an upcoming 5K run. That set the wheels spinning in my head thinking about some of the things people give up for Lent.

My wife’s boss once said that he was going to give up cussing for lent. “You can’t do that” she said. “The hell I can’t!” he rebuffed. Quite often people give up things they don’t want or like. A youngster might say “I’m giving up broccoli for Lent.” Easy to do when the child doesn’t eat broccoli anyway.

Of course, the way my head works, being a bit of a wordsmith, I started playing with the words. I was going to respond to the blog with this line of thought: “I think I’m going to give up lint for lent… you know that fuzzy stuff that collects on your wool jacket or in your belly button….hmmm or maybe I should give up Lindt® for Lent…. you know that luscious dark chocolate covered caramel that causes fat to collect on your waistline. I just don’t know, it’s a tough decision.”

But really, why do we give things up for Lent? What’s that all about? Traditionally, many Christians give up things for Lent as a way of honoring Christ’s voluntary self-deprivation during His forty days in the wilderness. Our self –deprivation has a theological basis in that when we think of that which we have given up it helps us to focus on Christ and His sacrifice. And, while our sacrifice pales in comparison to His, it still serves as a reminder to us of God’s love through the sacrifice of His Son.

I don’t know what I will be giving up for Lent this year. It is not required in my worship tradition but I still like the practice and will participate. I might not even be successful for the full forty days but I will make an attempt. All I know is that the benefit to me will certainly outweigh the small sacrifice I will be making, a benefit to me both for my physical health as well as my spiritual health.

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Folrida High Speed Rail – Rejected

Florida Governor Scott’s Rejection of Stimulus Money For High Speed Rail

Let me begin by saying this is my opinion.  It is based solely upon what I have read in the papers and on-line as well as TV reports that I have heard.  The fact is that Governor Rick Scott has rejected over 2 billion dollars of Federal Government stimulus money that was offered to the state to create a high-speed rail system connecting the Tampa Bay area to Orlando.  This seems extremely short-sighted to me.  Most of the people I have discussed this with who are also against the project say that they don’t believe the rail system will benefit them.  They cite their belief that neither parking nor mass transit will be available at the other end or in the very least it will be limited.  I say that if we base the acceptance or rejection of this project on how it will affect us individually then we are looking at it all wrong.  I say we look at what kind of impact it will have on everyone in the area and also the indirect impact it will have on each of us as individuals.

My stance is that it may be true that the rail will not directly benefit me.  I may never have the opportunity to use the rail system.  But, the indirect and long-term benefits I believe will be tremendous.  Indirectly everyone in central Florida will benefit by the creation of jobs and business during the construction phase.  It has been said that over 9,000 jobs will be created during construction.  That in itself would be a tremendous boon to central Florida.  Additionally, no one in their right mind could imagine this system being built without considering the need for parking or mass transit at either end.  Surely, that will develop throughout the planning and construction.  It has been estimated that ridership will be in the millions.  Think of the tourists who have flown in to either Orlando or the Gulf Beaches.  These people are generally here for a week or more at a time.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful spark to the economy of Central Florida to have those tourists spending money at each end of that rail line rather than being confined to one end or the other?  And what about the future? I can imagine a future Florida with a north south high-speed rail connecting Miami Dade with Tallahassee intersecting in Orlando and possibly another connecting Pensacola and Jacksonville through Tallahassee.  This would connect the major sections of the state via high-speed rail and make it possible for our state politicians to travel back and forth without having to use state airplanes (since the governor owns his own and has sold all the state planes.)

To me it would have made good sense to accept the money and go ahead with the project.  I believe there is more to this story than meets the eye.  I believe Governor Scott has decided to reject the money solely because it was “Obama Money.”  Governor Scott has allowed his bias against the president and the democratic party, and, by the way, many in his own party who were in favor of accepting the stimulus money, to cloud his judgment in regard to what is best for Florida.  I believe Governor Scott has made a dreadful mistake, a mistake that will negatively impact the economic growth of Florida, a mistake that will haunt us for many years to come.

I know of a town in central Kentucky that many years ago had the opportunity to have a major interstate highway come through.  The townspeople said “no way in hell do we want that highway and all that traffic.”  The interstate was diverted through other areas which have since grown beyond the dreams of the residents there.  That small town that “avoided all the traffic” is basically now dying on the vine.  They had an opportunity and they let it pass.  I am afraid that is what will happen to central Florida.

Now that the stimulus package has been finally rejected and all the fighting is over, Governor Scott says he can proceed with what he has planned for Florida.  Maybe he will be successful, I don’t know, time will only tell, but for now there will be no high-speed rail, there will be no jobs created, there will be no new business, tourists will be stuck at one end or the other unless they rent a car, and we will still have to make the drive down I 4 to get back and forth from Tampa to Orlando.  What a waste.  Congratulations to some other state who will surely accept the stimulus money intended for Florida, a state where broken Floridians will probably go in order to get work.

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