Give Us This Day

I didn’t want to get up today. It is my day off–and I wanted to sleep in. Besides, I knew that even though it is my day off, I had work to do. I did not feel inspired.

But I got up anyway–remembering Ted Kennedy. Besides, Jonathan wanted me to go with him on a walk, and it was the only time I could be with him until fairly late this evening.

After our walk, I went to my study to pray.

And in a meditation book, I read this from Zig Ziglar, the corporate excellence guru: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”

My greatest motivator is God–as Bruce Boardman wrote yesterday about our “cheering section”–and daily prayer is how I receive not only the motivation but also the coaching I will need for the day.

breadsWe pray: give us this day our daily bread.

The day is God’s gift. And so is the bread, namely the motivation, the direction, the love, the hope, the courage, the wisdom that God provides.

I am glad I got up this morning to receive these gifts . . .  and to learn more about using them.

A Zest for Life

In watching the funeral for Ted Kennedy today, and parts of the Celebration of Life at the Kennedy Library last evening, it is impossible to avoid the fact of his faith, and how central it was to his entire life.Senator Ted Kennedy

He was no armchair Christian, no lukewarm, Sunday-only practitioner. He was not a public man who mouthed a faith and then lived as if it did not matter.

As many assess his political life, it seems clear that the core of Ted Kennedy was his God and his faith as a Christian. And, true to that faith, he wrestled every day with the implications of it for his life.

Of course, he fell short, sometimes with hideous consequences. But his faith told him to get up again, and he did. And at other times, he soared.

Ted Kennedy on boat
Ted at the helm

I believe the essence of Jesus’ life and teachings is not to live a perfect life so much as it is to exhibit a zest for life–for giving life everything you’ve got. Ted Kennedy came about as close as anyone I know to doing that.

Thanks, Ted. We are better for having known you.

Never Give Up

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins writes, “Being people of faith doesn’t keep us from facing challenges, but our faith tells us we are equal to the challenges.”

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

Durrell, senior pastor of Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Ft. Lauderdale, is responding to the 28th anniversary–today–of the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that a task force had been formed to investigate the cases of Karposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis in gay men. What we now know as  HIV/AIDS  begins to be isolated and named.

28 years. So many dead, and still dying (especially where the drugs are not easily available).

And many now living with what has become a chronic, and mostly manageable, condition–so some refuse to take elementary precautions against infection.

Still, there is stigma and shame attached to those with the disease.

AIDS red ribbonOur challenge is to keep the dialogue open, to resist in every way perpetuating the shame, to pray for a cure, to care for those whose immune systems do not respond positively to the drugs, to agitate until everyone in the world has easy access to the medications, to put condoms everywhere, to demand funding for cure and care.

Keep the faith, share the faith, live the faith. Never give up.

My Health Care Crusade

At the  center of my personal campaign for improvements in health care for our nation is a daily walk.

I also write to my Senators and Representative, and I have improved my eating habits, but it is walking every day that is the core of my campaign.walkers

As Jonathan and I walked together this morning, and as we met various neighbors and dogs on the road, my spirits lifted. We came to a small hill and I lengthened my stride, pushing myself and feeling the endorphins kick in–and I felt as if my feet would soon leave the ground. Then, we encountered our neighbor Rebecca, and I believe I did rise above the earth. 

I thought to myself: I want everyone to have this opportunity, to walk or engage in some activity that pleases them and helps them be more healthy.

Yes, everyone needs access to adequate and affordable insurance (the debate should be over how best to do this, not whether we can do it), but most of all we each need the personal commitment and socio-economic opportunity to take good care of ourselves.

I know the Creator of Life wants that for us. What can you do today to make that more possible for yourself and others?

Working Together, for Good

I was standing in a line behind five people at the post office at 4:55 pm. A man came up behind me, muttering, “Only one clerk–think they’d plan ahead and have more just before closing.”

I bit my tongue. There were two other clerks, who had momentarily gone to the back for their customers.

USPS,Then he said, “Wouldn’t be like this if it were privatized.”

I loosened my tongue. “Only time I ever lost a package, with no explanation or apology was with FedEx,” I said.

“Hmmmph.  All I know is that when health care is taken over by the government, it will be like the post office–inefficient, uncaring . . . .”

Just then the two clerks reappeared, finished up with the two customers, called the next two forward; then the third clerk called me.

“Hey,” I said, “not bad–joined a line less than five minutes ago and already at the window.”

The man looked away. 

I sympathize with his frustration: government is often inefficient. But frankly, business is often about the same. Government is not evil, any more than business.  Senator Ted Kennedy

One of the great things about Ted Kennedy was that he believed that together we can work together, through our shared institutions, to create a better life for everyone. And he practiced that every day.

My Own Botswana

I have been home for a week, spending part of each day working our yard. The work has been ordinary–trimming, weed pulling, that sort of thing.

But the experience has been transformative.

Peace has settled deeper into my soul than it has in a long time. I have begun to see our yard as a beautiful universe of color, texture, energy, and joy. 047

Thomas Friedman, writing of a visit to Botswana, quotes his guide: “If you spend enough time in nature and allow yourself to slow down sufficiently to let your senses work, then through exposure and practice, you will start to sense the meanings in the sand, the grasses, the bushes, the trees, the movement of the breezes, the thickness of the air, the sounds of the creatures and the habits of animals with which you are sharing that space.”

I discovered that without going to Africa, in my half-acre south of the James River in Richmond, Virginia.

Prayer is like that, too. If you spend enough time with God, and allow yourself to slow down sufficiently to let your senses work, then through exposure and practice . . . you will start to sense the meanings of  . . . life.

The Truth about Hawaii

Hawaii state sealFifty years ago today, Hawaii became the 50th state.

I remember the debate that preceded approval by the Congress. A bunch of influential people–on the conservative side of the political spectrum–opposed statehood because they claimed that Hawaii was secretly controlled by communists–the Longshoreman’s Union was a hotbed of radicalism and it was very powerful in Hawaii.

It turns out that they may have been more prescient than they knew. About two years after statehood, one Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii.

Some folks today are saying this Obama is a socialist. They are not saying so–probablythey do not remember the statehood debate–but maybe it is so because he was born in Hawaii (his father, supposedly a scholar and teacher, may have secretly been a member of the Longshoremen’s Union).Kuhio Beach Park Hawaii

Of course, that would put them in conflict with another group–potentially related to the earlier anti-Hawaii group–whose members claim he was not born there at all. They are sure that the folks in charge of the vital records for the State of Hawaii–no doubt offspring of those original communist sympathizers–are lying when they sustain Obama’s claim of Hawaiian birth.

Besides, how can you trust a department whose address is 1250 Punchbowl Street?

Either way, we are indeed fortunate that some people work so hard to share what they know is truth.

Spare Tire Gets Me Every Time

While on vacation this week, I have been doing chores.

Working outside–trimming trees, cleaning weeds from beds–for a couple of hours each day has worn me out. Sure, it has been hot and humid, but the main reason I tire easily is simple: I am really out of shape.

I watched President Obama today talking about health care. I like his priorities. I know others do not.

spare tire pictureThe last question to which he responded was about something that transcends what kind of plan is adopted. The questioner asked about health–what can we do improve health in the United States?

The President mentioned obesity rates, diabetes, heart disease, and unhealthy eating habits–and how we need everyone, especially young people, to unlearn bad habits and learn good ones, and also exercise.

I thought about my exhaustion after a couple of hours of yard work.

Frankly, we do not have the best health care in the world. If we did, the numbers of healthy people would be growing, not shrinking–not because anyone tells us we have to be healthy, but because we’d want to be the best we can be and our health care system would show us how to do it.

Health: its my job, and yours, and it is a matter of national security (more about that another day).

Can We All Just Get Along?

I am home this week, on vacation, reading, napping, working in the yard, and enjoying lots of quiet time (Jonathan is working so I am home alone during the day).

I am so comfortable being home alone. It feeds my introverted self.

But I also am missing community. Community is very important to me. Like it was, and is, to Jesus.

That’s why I am saddened to see debate about current issues become shouting matches, and name calling. Community doesn’t mean we all have the same ideas, but it does mean we treat each other with respect. Obama go home picture

It also means that we care enough about those 45 million fellow Americans who don’t have health insurance to find a way for them to have it.

Right now I am sitting comfortably in my study at home, all alone, enjoying the quiet. And, thanks to the Holy Spirit and my own sense of faith and hope, I also am feeling connected with you and others.

I believe that together we are better, more alive, more caring, more just, that any one of us can be alone.

Googling God

google logoI learned something on vacation, thanks to my new son-in-law, Kevin.

When I wanted to find the nearest Radio Shack (Jonathan needed to buy a charger for his cellphone because he forgot to pack it), Kevin told me to text GOOGLE (456453), put in the store name, and the zip code. I did, and back came the addresses and phone numbers of three stores in the vicinity.

Later, on the way home to Virginia, when Jonathan and I wanted to stop for lunch, I entered Panera and the name of the next town in Maryland. Voila! We called the number listed and got directions. A few minutes later, we were enjoying tasty Greek salads.

It got me thinking about prayer.

Adam God Sistine Chapel
God reaching to Adam, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling

We dial God (463), identify our location (e.g., sad, angry, guilty, needy, happy, grateful), say what we’re looking for (peace, blessing, love, nurture, feeding, freedom, e.g.), and wait for the response.

Of course, sometimes there is no Radio Shack or Panera in the area. Google can’t help much then. 

And sometimes God’s answer doesn’t feel like the one we want, or we wonder if the call was dropped.

But, unlike Google, God is never off the case and always has something to offer. Even silence is an answer, with God–a time to ponder if what we are asking for is actually what we need.