Monday, November 26, 2018

Arms Control, Then and Now

When I was in junior high school, back in the late sixties, I took a required first aid course.  The premise of the course was built around the notion that if one was prepared, one could survive a nuclear war.  The course included training on what to do for the sickness induced by radioactive fallout, how to bandage compound fractures caused by falling debris, what sorts of supplies to keep in a basic survival kit, and so on.

The course was designed to augment the drills we periodical had.  Sometimes we were required to take cover under our desks, at other times we were marched down to the school basement to spend a few minutes in the school's fallout shelter.  It was dark, and dank, and stocked with many boxes of dried foods, bottled water, and the first aid kits we were learning how to use.

I suppose such training was worthwhile at one level.  After all, knowing some first aid skills can come in handy under a wide array of circumstances.  But the notion that we could survive a nuclear attack, when my town was less than twelve miles from a large Air Force Base and a large Naval Shipyard, was ludicrous. Fortunately, the powers that be came to realize that in the interest of saving lives it was far more effective to work towards scaling down the number of nuclear weapons scattered around the globe.  Far more effective, and far more realistic.  That work, of course, is not complete.  But the shift in strategy has made the world a bit safer.

I thought about all that when I heard about the introduction of the Stop the Bleed campaign being introduced in Florida's schools.  The basic idea is to teach teachers and students how to deal with gunshot wounds, how to minimize the blood loss from such injuries.  This, of course, coupled with ongoing mass shooter drills that are being held in our schools as well.

Teaching such skills may indeed have some real value, and it might save some lives.  And that is worthwhile.  But I can't hep but wonder if it is also a way to avoid the real issue.  Just as there were (and are) too many nuclear weapons, so too there are too many guns, especially automatic weapons.  And until we get the proliferation of such weaponry under control, we will be finding ourselves bandaging more and more wounds, losing more and more lives, living with more and more fear.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Praying Like a Pilgrim

Did you know that when the Pilgrims prayed they did so with their eyes open?  Their Pastor, John Robinson, once said, "The eyes of the mind are lifted towards God, why not the eyes of the body also?"

I don't know about you, but I pray with my eyes shut.  It helps me to focus, it helps me avoid visual distractions.  But praying with ones eyes wide open is nothing unique to the Pilgrims.  I think, for instance, of praying with icons, a practice in Eastern Orthodox churches.  Or focusing on a candle's flame, or a particular object, as practiced in a variety of traditions.

I am reminded of the an old story in my family that recounts how as a very young child, I clearly must have had my eyes open, as I prayed for every single item on the dinner table.  Asparagus, turkey, potatoes, and so on.

Maybe the Pilgrims were on to something though.  Maybe praying with our eyes wide open provides us with an opportunity to see God not in the skies above, but rather in the faces of those around us.  Try it some time!

And then, if that is helpful, move on to another Pilgrim approach to prayer.  At every meal they prayed twice--once before they ate, and once afterward.  Makes sense to me!  If the meal was extra delicious, you can offer up special words of thanks.  And if it wasn't?  You can offer up a word of gratitude that at least you had something to eat, unlike so many others around the world.

Have a blessed and prayerful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2018

25,000 Meals--and a Whole Lot of Fun!

This past Saturday the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club and the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ joined together to package 25,000 meals.  Meals that will be used in food pantries here in Southwest Florida, and well beyond, including those parts of the country ravaged by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

Close to 100 volunteers of all ages gathered to do the necessary work.  One eight-year old was so short that he had to stand on a chair to complete his task of pouring pasta into a funnel to fill plastic bags.  Some of the older folks in their seventies and eighties, had to sit down to do their work.  Everybody worked hard to reach the common goal of helping folks who needed something to eat get a good, nutritious meal.

And here's the kicker.  Several people, kids and adults, told me, "It was so much fun!"  How often we think of providing for the needs of others as a duty, as drudgery, as anything but fun.  But this work was so well organized by church and club volunteer leaders, and the staff of Meals of Hope, that it proved to be anything but dull!  As cases were loaded up and filled with plastic bags of food, cheers would go up from the team responsible for that unit.  When milestones like 5,000 meals or 10,000 meals packed were announced, the whole room would erupt in hoorahs!  

The work of volunteers helping those in need isn't always fun.  But maybe it would be more often if we approached it as a joy and not as a duty.  Three cheers for the volunteers this past Saturday!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Here's what may strike you as a radical thought:  prayer is not about results.  If it were, it would be as simple as one of my grandchildren's making a Christmas Wish List (which they are already doing, I'm sure!)  No prayer is about our relationship with God.  It is about recognizing that we are not self-sufficient.  It is about aligning my will with that of the Holy One.

I don't understand all its implications.  I don't understand how it works.  But despite my intellectual dilemma, I continue to pray, everyday.  For my needs and for a very long list of others.

I take comfort in a true story I once encountered by Elisa Morgan.

One evening as she was putting her then eleven-year old daughter Eva to bed she was distracted.  Kids pick up on such things, and so Eva asked her mother what was wrong.

Elisa told Eva that she had just learned that Amy, the teenaged daughter of one of her friends, was suffering unexplained hair loss.  Later, when young Eva said her bedtime prayers with her mother, shge made a simple request:  "Jesus," she prayed, "Please hold Amy's hair on her head."

But Amy's hair kept falling out./  And several different treatments failed to stop it.  In time she was diagnosed with a rare disease called alopecia, which can result in total and permanent hair loss.

Elisa finally shared this news with her daughter Eva, and that night as she held her mother's hand, and closed her eyes, she p[rayed a different prayer.  "Dear Jesus," she said, "If you won't hold Amy's hair on her hear, would you please hold Amy?"

I do not understand the economy of prayer.  I don't begin to comprehend its inner workings.  But I do know the heart of God.  And in that heart56 there is room for every Amy.  For in the end, God is not Santa Claus.  In the end, God is love.  All encompassing, never-ending love.  Love made known in Jesus.  Love made available to you and me each and every time we pray.