A father’s love

In a question and answer session with children this week, Pope Francis was addressed by a little boy overcome with emotion.

Francis beckoned the child forward, and on camera and in public, listened to the child’s story privately.

Follow the link to see the video: https://youtu.be/cwREgr43_x0

Here’s a translation of the Pope’s words:

If only all of us could cry as Emanuele does when we have pain in our hearts. He was crying for his father, which he had the courage to do in front of us, because in his heart there is the love of his father. I asked permission of Emanuele to speak in public about his question and he said yes. “A little while ago I lost my father. He was atheist but had all four of his children baptized. He was a good man. Is he in Heaven?”

How beautiful that a child says of his father, “He was good.” A beautiful testimony for that man to give to his children that they can say, “He was good.” And a beautiful testimony from that child who inherited the strength from his father that he had the courage to cry in front of all of us. If that man was able to make children like this one, then it’s true, he was a good man, a good man.

That man didn’t have a day of faith, he wasn’t a believer, but he had his children baptized. He had a good heart. And he [Emanuele] has the doubt that his father, for not being a believer, could not go to Heaven. He who decides who gets to Heaven is God. But how is the heart of God in front of a father like that? What does it seem to you, the heart of a father? God has the heart of a father and in front of a father who is a non-believer, who was able to baptize his children, who gave his goodness to his children, you think that God would be able to leave him far away from Himself? Answer loudly, with courage! [Crowd cheers “no!] Does God abandon His children? [Crowd shouts “no!”] Does God abandon His children when they are good? [Crowd shouts “no!”]

Here you go, Emanuele, there is your answer. God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier, being a believer, to baptize your children, than it is to baptize them if you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much. Speak to your father, pray for him. Thank you Emanuele, for your courage.

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Slipping through the time-stream

When I was in high school, I went into my girlfriend’s house to find her dad standing in the kitchen, looking at the stove.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Waiting for the kettle to boil.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s not going to boil, if you keep watching it.”

I don’t remember his response, but I do know that time is relative.

Eight seconds in a warm shower goes by much quicker than eight seconds on the back of a bull.

Eight seconds spent watching a child under water is much longer than eight seconds hearing a child laugh.

We experience time differently, based on what we’re doing while time passes.

Some people question how God can do the infinite, in infinite time, while still responding to prayers.

Because our own interpretation of time can shift, it may be easier to understand C. S. Lewis’ theory of how God makes time for each of us.

“God is not hurried about the time-stream of this universe anymore than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being he had created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.” ~ C. S. Lewis

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Facing the Unimaginable

No one in the lynch mob that murdered Walter Johnson was ever convicted.

Government officials tried to save his life by hiding him in the woods when the armed crowd attacked the Princeton City Jail in Mercer County, West Virginia.

Led by railroad foreman Gordon White, on Sept. 5, 1912, more than three hundred people stole a train, cut the telephone lines and set out to avenge an alleged assault of White’s daughter.

The bloodthirsty mob ignored the assertions of Judge J. Frank Maynard and an assistant prosecutor that Johnson was innocent as it dragged him into the dark, autumn night.

Before his bullet-riddled body was cut down from the telephone pole, White’s 16 year-old daughter recanted her accusations against Johnson.

Four or five thousand black Americans were lynched in the United States between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and 1952, the first year on record without a lynching.

According to Wikipedia, “…nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and three passed the House. Seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 asked Congress to pass a federal law.” Southern senators successfully stopped the passage of legislation. Local courts seldom convicted white murderers and without federal law in place, federal prosecutors couldn’t bring charges.

White nationalists used public violence and terror to befoul the American dream of tens of thousands of forgotten people. An entire race was terrorized, and nothing was done about it.

Until now.

The Equal Justice Initiative, of Montgomery, Ala., is working to ensure the victims are forgotten no more.

EJI has built the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

A part of the memorial includes the Soil Collection Project, hundreds of glass jars containing soil from the sites of lynchings, each jar labeled with the name of a victim.

Forgotten no more.

EJI has documented 36 African Americans lynched in West Virginia, including Walter Johnson.

We collected soil to remember Johnson’s forgotten life and horrific death.

We traveled the small road out of town, a few miles from where the police department stood, and found a telephone pole that might have replaced the pole that replaced the improvised gallows.

In its place, we left a painted marker and a stone of African malachite, a stone of transformation.

It was a powerful moment, imagining the terrorists who murdered an innocent man in cold blood, their children and grand children living nearby. The fear in the mind of the man who was about the die. The helplessness of the men who risked their lives to save his.

The ghosts of Johnson and his murders blew across the mountainside.

The governor called for a special grand jury to investigate the crime. Between 50 and 75 arrests might have been made, include White, the leader of the mob. But when he was arraigned, 500 people marched on the office of the justice of the peace demanding his release.

A local paper described feelings at a high pitch, predicting “a bloody race war or the lynching of officials may come at any time.”

No one was convicted of the murder.

But Walter Johnson is no longer forgotten.

We remember him.

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Hope – finding abundance in lacking

First Mennonite Church, Richmond, Va., has conducted a bread service the Sunday after Easter for 20 years. Five breads representing five themes are paired with five hymns. I shared this message.

Tumeric Bread: Hope

Mark 6:34-43

34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.”

Feeding the hungry is the only miracle in all four Gospels.

What does this mean?

It means helping the hungry, helping those without, is important. This miracle may be more important than any other miracle in the ministry of Jesus. Feeding the hungry. Helping those in need. Helping others.

In the scripture, the disciples approach Jesus believing they were lacking.

But then Jesus provides abundance.

He gives them hope.

The hope of the Israelites.

The hope of Dr. King for a better tomorrow.

The hope of our neighbors to be treated respectfully and with dignity.

Hope as our bodies weaken, and our spirits grow stronger. Hope when we are sick, on our backs, staring at the sky. Broken.

Broken like the body of Christ.

Broken like the bread.

Turmeric Bread: representing Hope.

Hope follows Jesus into a deserted place, without food for the journey. Hope is going on that journey with 12 empty baskets, and returning with the baskets filled.

Lacking and abundance.

There are times where we feel like there isn’t enough to go around. Not enough to make ends meet. Times when we are lacking. We aren’t good enough. We fall short. We lack what we need. We lack the energy, the faith, the character. We are empty.

Like the disciples we focus on what’s missing.

Like the disciples, we don’t realize there is abundance in God’s blessings.

Where we think there is lacking, God provides abundance.

Where there is doubt, God gives us a way forward.

Where there is fear, God provides strength.

Where there is guilt, God gives grace.

Where there is opposition, God offers optimism.

Where there is regret, God gives redemption.

Where there is fear, God gives us hope.

Christ gives us hope.

My hope is built on nothing less.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

On Christ the solid rock I stand.

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March for Our Lives – Williamsburg, Virginia, Part 2

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March for Our Lives – Williamsburg, Virginia

Through the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. Literally in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

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March for Our Lives – Richmond, Va.

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Moderate Nazis are called Nazis

The Nazi Christian flag.

Germany’s authoritarian Nazi Party had members who were moderates.

Moderate Nazis were called Nazis.

There is no ‘moderate,’ middle ground when a portion of the population supports bigotry, racism, and discrimination, and a larger portion accepts it by not rejecting it.

Vitriol and lies pour out of the Trump White House – stoking the flames of hatred and encouraging the mainstreaming of previously extremist bigotry.

For example, because the president agrees with their racism, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan is crawling his way into acceptable, mainstream society alongside a quasi-American Nazi masquerading as a pseudo-intellectual.

As a result of the White House making bigotry acceptable, people are suffering. Real people are really being victimized, because the bigots in the White House, their co-conspirators across Washington, and Russian agents on Twitter continue to spread bigotry and fan the flames of hatred.

It’s been said, all that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.

Good women and men are doing nothing, perhaps because they are stunned into silence, appalled by the racism and bigotry sweeping across the United States. Perhaps they are overwhelmed by the volume and depth of the damage being inflicted on the poor and elderly, on children and immigrants, on women and people of color, on the environment and on our Democratic government.

Injustice is being inflicted on every segment of society that isn’t white, male, Republican or millionaires.

Perhaps good people are sickened by the sight of so-call Christian leaders supporting what is clearly evil. So-called religious leaders are as culpable and as guilty as the autocratic plutocrats they support and defend.

Evil in the United States is triumphing, and more good people must step forward and demand a change.

This isn’t the time for moderates.

When a Nazi sits down with three moderate Republicans, they because four Nazis.

Racist, bigoted, discriminatory, unjust or violent policies must be opposed.

The Biblical example is clear. It is a moral imperative and a Biblical challenge to support the poor and oppose injustice.

Moses and the prophets opposed governments and leaders who victimized the people.

Jesus opposed the government, the religious establishment, bigots, and bullying crowds.

Followers of Jesus are called to do the same.

In the name of Christ, we must stand up to the bigots and bullies, oppose unjust laws and evil systems that place profits over people.

In God’s name, good people must do better.

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To my 4-year-old little girl: Walk Out

March 14, 2018

To my 4-year-old little girl:

Walk out.

Leave. Stand up, and walk out. Lead the way out the door.

Across the country, young people got up and walked out of school, to call attention to gun violence.

When it’s your turn to walk out, I hope you do.

Have the courage to face wrong, to stand up for justice, to speak for the voiceless.

Oppose unjust laws. Demand change. Imagine a better world, and then work towards it. Do what needs to be done.

Risk everything— your money, your feelings, your dignity, your reputation, everything but, God forbid, your life— to do what’s right.

There will come a time when you will be the only one to see what’s right. Be strong enough to be the person who speaks up, when no one else does. Stand up for the weak, the defenseless, the helpless. Be there for others.

Some will try to silence you, with violence, with threats, with very real repercussions and punishments.

Walk out, anyway.

There’s a time for peaceful protest. That time is when you and others say it’s time, not when the system allows it.

People don’t get justice when they wait for permission from people in power. Justice comes when people demand it.

Unjust systems and laws and and people will try to stop you. Hate will try to stop you.

Hate killed King and Kennedy and Óscar Romero.

Hate killed Joe Hill and James Chaney and Jonathan Daniels and Heather Heyer.

Have the courage to step up, anyway. Risk it all, so that others may be free and safe. When you are afraid or discouraged, keep going.

Step up for love and justice and equality and peace.

Raise your voice for the victims.

Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly.

When your time comes: Walk. Out.

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The power of positive thinking. Really.

Positive thinking seldom cures debilitating diseases.

All the prayers in the world won’t regrow an amputated limb.

But how you respond to situations lays the foundation for future situations.

Scripture says the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

How do you react to the rain? How do you respond to difficulty?

Your reaction to situations impacts what happens next in your life.

Life is short and difficult and astonishingly beautiful. Moments of wondrous miracles are intertwined with the mundane. You can look for difficulty or look for beauty, you will find what you look for.

The energy you project into the world is the energy you attract to you.


The video is about seeing the world differently and reacting in a different way. A different way of being. Creating your own environment by focusing exclusively on the energy you want in your life and ignoring everything else.

This isn’t about Prosperity Gospel — that’s unBiblical, unsound and ultimately spiritually destructive. This is simply about responding with a positive mindset.

It’s a basic precept of nature, positive and negative cannot occupy the same space. Protons and electrons are opposite charges, attracted to each other, but not occupying the same location.

Peace and anxiety do not live together in the same heart. One will crowd out the other.

Paul asked the church in Corinth, “what fellowship is there between light and darkness?”

Light and dark cannot exist in the same place.

Too many focus on the negative aspects of the Bible, and are therefore unable to fully embrace the positive. With eyes focused on sin, they fail to see grace. They may pay lip service to God’s love, but fill their minds with thoughts of condemnation.

Too many focus on Genesis 3 and sin, and not enough on Genesis 1 and creation.

If you believe people have a “sin nature,” then you’ll come to expect sin as their nature.

Sin and grace can’t exist in the same thought. We focus on one and diminish the other.

You will find what you look for.

See the world differently.

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Cultural Christians ~ when Christianity isn’t Christianity

A prominent voice in mainstream media is Cultural Christians who care more about the culture than they do about actually following the teachings of Jesus.

You know who they are — sycophant, sympathetic apologists for sexist, racist bigots and patriarchal white men who worship a god of power, not the God who gave us Jesus.

They are enmeshed in politics and use hot button issues to appeal to their base — abortion, marriage, birth control, sex — they claim the issue is morality, too often the issue is controlling women. And gay people. And separating their base from everyone else. They follow a faith that divides rather than unites.

Too many are little more than Cultural Christians.

They wave nationalistic flags, are more concerned about party over people, and speak as though they’ve never read the Bible. (Jesus would oppose executions, sexism, bigotry, bombings and torture, for example.)

Cultural Christians think they “have a relationship with Jesus,” or feel they are doing “God’s will,” but seldom are they called to do things they didn’t already want to do. (This is the actual point of the story of Jonah, for example, which is not a story about a whale.)

It’s curious how the wants of Cultural Christians somehow become God’s wants.

Miraculously, their view on abortion, marriage, birth control, and sex somehow becomes God’s view on abortion, marriage, birth control and sex.

It’s no surprise so many Cultural Christians excuse the blatant, amoral sexism and racism of Donald Trump — they are ignorant of the actual teaching of Jesus and their morality is a moral relativism.

Cultural Christians worship a god of their own creation, a hollow, cheap knock-off of the actual Creator of the universe. Their message of god is whatever suits their politics and bigotry.

They rationalize and excuse un-Biblical behavior among those they support, and ignore true manifestations of faith among political opponents.

Cultural Christians are not Christian. Mistaken and misguided, they demonstrate their lack of true Christian values when they show little regard for the damage they do to the lives of others or the reputation of the Kingdom of God. Cultural Christians project their own biases and bigotry onto the god they create and overlook the God of Creation.

What’s the difference between Cultural Christians and Christian followers of Jesus?

Love.

The message of God, delivered by Jesus is, “love God, love others.”

Jesus followers follow his example and love others. Jesus said loving others is the most important thing.

Bigotry, sexism, racism, and nationalism aren’t how we show others the love of God.

Jesus called out hypocrites who discriminated against others and opposed those who abused power, and then he walked with broken outcasts rejected by the mainstream.

Followers of Jesus stand with the oppressed. Cultural Christians are oppressors.

Jesus is always on the side of the oppressed. Always.

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Initial J: Saint John the Evangelist

Saint John the Evangelist

(Click the image for an extraordinary closeup)

Georges Trubert (French, active Provence, France 1469 – 1508)
Initial J: Saint John the Evangelist, about 1480 – 1490, Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 11.4 × 8.6 cm (4 1/2 × 3 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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