GOP Convention: The Epitome of Hypocrisy

I believe that the epitome of hypocrisy was seen this past week when the GOP convention leaders asked Governor Kasich to  waive the open carry law in Ohio so that their national convention could be gun-free.   It appears that when it is their lives that are endangered by guns  they suddenly become gun control advocates while denying the same protection to others.  I was bemused that Kasich used their own G.O.P. position in replying  that current federal  law and the U.S. Constitution does not allow a governor to do so.

Their request for a ‘no-gun’ convention flies in the face of the GOP’s  current legislative position, which is to not even allow debate on any bill that would curb the right to bear arms–including any type of arms or ammunition such as AR-15s and  armor-piercing shells with extended magazines.   It is the epitome of hypocrisy that the G.O.P. convention goers do not want to operate under the rules they have set.

The G.O.P. and the “Trumpsters” are now reaping the results of what they have been sowing the past years after they took control of the legislative branch of government.  They have played the politics of fear to the hilt, they have sowed divisiveness and hatred.   They have refused compromise making governing almost impossible.   Now the country is reaping the results of their policies of negativity and advocacy of divisiveness.

In Donald Trump they have found a demagogue who will take their divisive and inflammatory causes to new heights and expose them to what happens.   Hand in hand with the NRA they have created a gun culture that leads to what we see is happening today in our country–an explosion of mass shootings in theaters, schools, malls, and other places that call for police protection which leads to calls for mass police intervention, which leads to further killing of police officers in ambush now these past two weeks. They have “sowed the wind” and are now “reaping the whirlwind.”

After each shooting event those in power say “This must stop!!”   but it doesn’t stop.   And it will not stop until there is a deep cultural change in this country away from the gun  culture and fear and disregard of human life to a culture that  values human life–that is inclusive of all and does not scapegoat  those who are different;  that sees all human life as sacred;  that practices respect for differences of opinion in politics and deals with difference of opinion without attacking the character of the one with whom we disagree;  in short; that lives the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor as we love ourselves.

The roots of the problem in America go far deeper than race relations to human relations.  If we continue to ‘sow the wind’  we will continue to “reap the whirlwind” as we are now experiencing! (Hosea 8:7)

The Vicious Circle of Fear

This has been a week of Violence. Two black men were senselessly murdered by police—one in Minnesota and one in Louisiana. Their deaths were recorded by cameras.   Although it is just Friday we got up today to read of 5 policemen slaughtered by a man with a high powered rifle who ambushed them in downtown Dallas, Texas while they were guarding peaceful protesters of the first two killings. In attempt to show the demonstrators they were there to protect and not harm they did not wear their body armor.  Police were the targets—-seven were wounded in addition to the five killed.

At the press conference this a.m. both the mayor of Dallas and the Chief of Police said the words we have heard many times before—-“this has got to stop” But it doesn’t stop and we need to make some fundamental changes in our culture before it will stop in my opinion. We must look at the cause of this mindless slaughter and it goes even deeper than racism.

The basic cause is FEAR.   For the last two decades the American people have been exposed to the politics of fear.   Politicians trying to gain political advantage;  the so-called “religious right” ;   radio commentators such as Glen Beck;  and Fox News,  to name a few of the many,  have all contributed   to this  culture of fear.  Added to this list is the influence of the social media as one of the main avenues of information—often false—and you have this toxic culture we live in  today.  It is a culture of fear!

The culmination of this fear culture we have been building and the major example of a person using this culture of fear to build political power is Donald Trump.  He has built his presidential  campaign on fear.   For example:  Mexican illegal aliens are invading our country and taking  American jobs—so build a  wall to keep them out and deport all illegals.   Or—do not allow Muslims who are seeking refuge in our country to enter  because some of them might be terrorists.  His rhetoric in campaign speeches is violent and is matched by violent supporters in the streets and at his rallies.

Franklin D Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech to the nation when our country was in the deepest part  of the Great Depression spoke words that are as relevant to our country today as they were to his listeners that were also  gripped by fear:  “Let me assert my firm belief,” he said, “that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to retreat or advance….”

Anyone who studies human behavior will tell you that fear causes violence.   It is a kind of paranoia that causes us to want to strike first before we are hurt.  And it is part of a cycle—-fear always eventually leads to violence and then the violence causes even more fear. As the violence accelerates so does the fear and vice versa.

America is near the breaking point as it was when FDR spoke.   Just as major and revolutionary changes were made by FDR and the New Deal, so do some major and revolutionary changes need to be made now.    It cannot continue to be” business as usual”. We need new leadership and fresh ideas if we are to survive and not implode from within.

That is why this coming election selecting our leaders is so crucial!  If we choose those to lead us that do so by fear, this may be our last election!

Living on the Edge

While life on hospice has become more normal for me, I still have the feeling that I am “living on the edge.”  Today is all I really have for certain and I need to live each day with that in mind.   While my strength is waning a little each day, signs of the inability of my heart not being able to pump blood to my extremities point toward heart failure and I face a heart attack at any time.  I realize that tomorrow may not be mine to live and therefore  make sure to tell my loved ones every day of my love for them and thank them for their loving care for me.  And I try to live each day as fully as I can—not knowing whether I will have another one.     I am blessed that I have this foreknowledge of my condition so I can prepare, as many do not have that foreknowledge. Others are not so blessed.

But as I look at this dangerous world in which we live I think  all of us are in a similar position to mine.   Illnesses strike us down unexpectedly; terrorists set off car bombs or blow themselves up in large crowds;  automobile accidents snuff  out lives quickly and without warning;  we are gunned down by bullets meant for others but we are unluckily in their path or a deranged shooter chooses the  place we are in to open fire —it may be a shopping mall, a movie theater, a school or a church.  It seems that we are not safe anywhere!

The principle is the same or all of us—without warning we and our loved ones lives may be snuffed out.

So when we tell our loved ones goodbye in the morning we need to tell them that they are loved   That may be the last time we have a chance to do so   Death is so final—-it erases any attempt we might wish we had to express our love; to express our need for forgiveness;  to express our own forgiveness to those we love.

That is the life we all live as we are “living on the edge”.   We may not think the phrase applies to us, but it does.   Give your husband, your wife, your children, your mother and father, your grandchildren  and your siblings the love you feel for them every chance you are given  because, like it or not we are all “living on the edge”  every day.

May we build our lives as the French writer Stephen Grellet (1773-1855) wrote:

I shall pass thru this world but once.

Any good I can do or any kindness I can show another human being

Let me do it now.

Let me not deter or neglect it—

FOR I SHALL NOT PASS THIS WAY AGAIN.

Questions for God

If you had one question that you would like God to answer what would that question be?    My hospice Social Worker posed this question to me this week and I must admit that I did not have an answer.   She did, and told me what her question would be .   I will respect her privacy and not reveal it,  but it was a good question.

I was reminded of a patient I had as a hospice chaplain.   This patient (who I will call “Chuck”) was experiencing the ravishes of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   The disease had struck him at a young age in his late thirties’  and had moved rather quickly in his case.     He had lost all movement ability except his head and was confined to a nursing home.  He was bitter about his life.   On one of my visits I remember him saying “Chaplain,  when I die and see God, I have just one question I want to ask.   I asked him what his question would be and he replied with a single word:   WHY?

Like many people do, Chuck was blaming God for his disease.    How often people blame God for the bad things that happen to them but fail to thank God for the good things in their life!   I myself do not think that a God of love who wants relationship with his children would cause harm to them.  Instead I believe in a God who weeps with us when disease and harm befalls us and encourages us and is there giving us strength to deal with the pain that is our lot as humans beings.  And I think that scripture backs me up in both the Old and New Testaments that God is a God of love and forgiveness:

For example:Read Psalm 27 and 34.   Read Isaiah 35:3-10    Read Matthew 11:28-30    Read II Corinthians 4:16 -5:2.  Read Revelation 21:1-4

I haven’t decided what my question will be.   What is your question?   I would love for you to share it with me and with those who follow this blog.

 

What is important?

What is important?    In the busy lives that we live we are flooded with things we need to do.   Often we are overwhelmed by all these claims on our time and energy.   I am discovering  that there is nothing like facing end of life that  inspires us to sort out these claims and prioritize them as to which are important.     I have found by experience that many different criteria may be used to sort out what is important.    Let me share a few of the criteria that  I have found to be helpful as guidelines, not just at end of life, but throughout life. I  try  to place ”  Relationshipw with loved  ones” in top priority.     The following questions may stimulate your thinking about this priority.

If you should die tomorrow do those closest to you know how much you love them?   Have you told them daily and shown by your actions that you love them?  Those of us who have been married a long time may have began taking our spouses for granted and are not saying “I love you” or showing our love for them.    Our spouses may be feeling unloved and unappreciated.   Tell them every day something that you appreciate about  them  and  and be sure to tell them they are loved.  Make sure your actions match your words.   The same is true of  our children.   I have a son and daughter that are middle aged now.   I never hang up the phone from talking to them that I do not close the conversation “Love you much!!”  There are a large number of kids in this world who feel unloved and unappreciated.   I have spent my life trying to insure that my children always feel loved and appreciated.  I’m sure I haven’t always  been successful but I try!

A second area of priority involves communicating things that only we know about to our loved ones.  We wh0 have lost loved ones know that there are many times when we have questions that only those who have passed could answer and the answer went to the grave with them.  

Although we can’t anticipate all of their questions, we can take some steps that may be helpful.   Here are several ideas that might be helpful.   

1,   Write your autobiography.  I have worked on mine several years and had to speed it up as I’m not sure how much time I have left.  Since I have trouble typing, my son helped me finish it by recording it on his cellphone and then transcribing it on the computer.   Not only is this a present you can give your children and grandchildren, it is a gift you can give yourself as you look at the fulness of the life you have led. 

  2.  Journal.  Since I retired from teaching in 1994 I have kept a journal and have added an entry almost every day.   I have filled almost 47 spiral notebooks with my journal.    Not only will it tell much about my life for those who I leave behind, but it has been a way to get down my feelings and understanding of myself.    I typically write in it every morning right after I arise and am having my first cup of  coffee.

3.  Financial and Business records.    As much as possible, we need to make sure our loved ones understand our finances and are able to take them over after we are gone.    It’s best we do it wherever we are in our lives as we have no guarantees we will have time to do so.   

Family Stories.   Pass on family stories to your children and grandchildren whenever you get a chance.    All families have stories about their past.   My son is staying with us since I went on hospice, and I am passing family stories on to him and also to my wife as they pop into my head.   Make sure they are stories about your early life and about their grandparents and aunts and uncles.

A third area  in setting priorities is to ask yourself the question:   If I choose to do this how will my doing this affect others for good or evil?    In other words—How will my actions make a difference in the lives that will be impacted by them?  And will the impact be positive or negative?    Here the choice will be easy—if the action taken  will have a positive impact on others it  should have higher priority, if negative it shouldn’t be done, if it is neutral in its impact it is low priority.

Ask also what difference the action will have on your own life.   For example,   “Will I regret it later if I don’t do this?”  Will I feel guilty?  Will I feel good if I do it?    

Acting according to our priorities is very important.   If we have not set priorities then we tend to react to “grease the wheel that squeaks the loudest”  and that is not a good guide.   The demands on our time and energy that are the most vocal may not be the most important, but too often those are the demands we succumb to if we have not thought about what is important and have no priorities for choosing.  When this happens we often have guilt and regrets for the rest of our lives.     What our your priorities?

Forgiveness

When I was a Hospice Chaplain, I was trained to use this list of  5 phrases to help patients deal  with end of life issues,  They are:  (1) “I forgive you”…(2) “Please forgive me”….  (3) “Thank you”….  (4) “I love you”….   (5)  “Goodbye”  The first two are the most important in my experience.   Many times I have seen patients who “hang on to life” and suffer until issues involving them are worked out.

As I am approaching end of life I am paying attention to all of them and feel that I have accomplished most of them.

I’m passing them on to you for two reasons:   (1)  You don’t have to wait until a terminal illness to be aware of the importance of these things in your relationship with loved ones.   If you or a loved one dies suddenly  due to an accident you will not have a chance to express them and deal with them—-so do it now.   (2) Because I feel the first two that deal with forgiveness  are extremely important for everyone.

Forgiveness is the foundation of all relationships.   Without love and the forgiveness that grows out of it enduring  relationships with God or with our fellow human beings is impossible. If we do not feel that God forgives us we cannot forgive ourselves, and if we cannot forgive ourselves it it is impossible to forgive others.

Both Old and New Testaments from Genesis to Revelation are narratives of God’s forgiveness.  Adam and Eve are guilty of eating the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God told them they would die for doing.   Yet God, while driving them out of the Garden did not kill them but fashioned clothes to cover their nakedness.   Even Cain, who killed his brother Abel was protected from being slain wherever he went by the “mark of Cain.”  In Revelation the last and final words are that God will create a new heaven and earth and that sorrow and suffering and death shall be no more and in this new Jerusalem where God rules “they will be my people and I will be their God.”  Both Jeremiah and Isaiah contain similar prophetic  words.  (read Jeremiah 31.)

God is a God of love who seeks relationship with God’s creation.   God’s actions prove that to do so there must be forgiveness.    Without  God’s forgiveness for all of us who are broken and lost, there would be no relationship.

If you truly believe God forgives us for the many times when we have done the wrong thing instead of the right thing; that we have hurt rather than healed; that we have lied rather than told the truth; that we have been selfish rather than caring; that we have disregarded our neighbor rather than loved our neighbor; that we have held a grudge instead of forgiving those who hurt us.    If God can forgive you with all the thing only you know about and still love you—-then you can forgive yourself and then be able to forgive others who have hurt you and restore relationships that have turned sour because of grudges held.

Read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.  The son hurt his father deeply when he collected what would be his inheritance before his father died and spent it foolishly.   When the son came back in rags planning to beg to be his father’s hired hand he was welcomed by his father with a new robe and with a feast and dancing after his father ran out onto the road and greeted him with open arms as he was returning home,  This is a picture of what God’s forgiveness is like, Jesus told his disciples.

Part of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples was:   “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.    Forgiveness is important.    Ask yourself if there is someone you need to ask for forgiveness or that you hold a grudge against and needs to hear your forgiveness.  Don’t wait—tomorrow may be too late!!

 

 

 

Practicing What We Preach

Yesterday I spent an hour with my hospice Chaplain.    I shared my concern about “leaving things hanging”,  and gave her an example of where my files are and my loved ones not being able to find them.   Before she could reply,  my son spoke up and said;   ‘Don’t worry about those things,  Dad,  we don’t want you  to spend your time shuffling files and papers—we’d rather spend the time with you  and we’ll  find what we need when we need it.

That led to a discussion about “letting go” of our anxieties.   My chaplain asked me to tell her a time that I felt God working in my life.   I gave her an example from the time of my first wife’s death.      She fell and in a week died of severe brain bleed.  It was so sudden that I had a hard time dealing with it because I was dealing with a situation that I couldn’t fix.   At one point I remember crying and telling God “help me, I can’t do this alone”!!    And a sense of peace came over me that let me know that God was present and would help me cope with my grief.   That moment changed my relationship with God forever…I truly knew God was in that room!! I felt  his presence.

As the chaplain left she gave me this advice:    “You need to take all of your anxieties and give them to God.     Let go of your anxieties and put your trust in God !”

How many times I have given this advice to people who are approaching end of life, both in the role of a hospice chaplain and a pastor?—yet I had not done it myself.   I realized I need to practice what I preach!

I think there is a lesson for all of us,  particularly ministers,perhaps,  but really it should be a lesson for all Christians.    The lesson is that if we really believe God is a God of love and is present in our lives we should put our trust in God in all things.   Our anxiety means we are not doing this.  We are not trusting God.

We need to read again what Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew, chapter six, when he told his disciples to consider the birds of the air who do not toil or spin, and yet God takes care of them.    He tells his disciples that if God does this for birds, why will he not also take care of you for you are worth many birds to God.