Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Protect us from the violent ...

A few words from King David, the Psalmist ...

the author of Psalm 140

(Any minor alterations, mine.)

"Deliver us, O Lord, from evildoers;

protect us from those who are violent,

who plan evil things in their minds

and stir up wars continually.

They make their tongue sharp as a snake's,

and under their lips is the venom of vipers.

Guard us, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;

protect us from the violent

who have planned our downfall ...

Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;

do not further their evil plot ...

Let the evil of their lips overwhelm them!

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,

and executes justice for the poor.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;

the upright shall live in your presence."

Amen, King David. Amen. 

May it be so.

Charlottesville ...

I am disgusted, deeply saddened and troubled by what transpired in Charlottesville this past weekend.

I am not even sure I have words to describe what rumbled up in my soul as I watched people marching with torches and banners of hatred.

The darkness of spirit,

the ugly, arrogant, stupidity of racism,

the cancer-like spread of hate, all on the move.

And then to watch the leader of our country apparently unable to articulate any kind of appropriate moral response without being goaded to do so ...

it made me angry,

beyond frustrated

and profoundly sad.

And to think that - in ANY way - the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of Scripture, the message of Christianity, could be used to perpetuate this kind of racial bigotry ... well, this fueled the flame of indignation in my soul to the level of a raging bonfire.

A couple thoughts:

1. This whole episode caused me to ponder our relatively recent family trip to Cape Town, South Africa, where my daughter was studying African History. We saw the dark underbelly of the aftermath of church-generated Apartheid. Slums that stretched out further than our eyes could see, surrounded by wealth on every side; white wealth. What felt like stolen wealth. Wealth now fiercely proteced behind barbed wire and guns and multiple locked gates. This stunningly beautiful country - filled with so much hope, yes - ravaged and rent asunder by racial bigotry and hatred, too often fueled by a mutant strain of religion. To read of it is one thing, to see it quite another.

Lord, have mercy ...

2. I thought of my parents, over 50 years ago, during the height of the racial tensions of the late 1960's in this country, bravely moving their family of 5 - the two of them, and three young children - across our racially divided town, into the heart of what was then known as the "black side" of the river. They did this in an effort to show solidarity with their black brothers and sisters as they put their shoulders to the plow of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement. How proud I am of them for taking courageous action in the midst of strife, for throwing typical "white" caution to the wind, and doing what they felt they were called to do -- to move toward those who were suffering discrimination, rather than away. To move toward their neighbors, rather than away. To move toward the pain, rather than away. To move toward the marginalized, rather than away. To move toward solidarity, rather than blissful isolation. To move toward the good fight, rather than away.

Lord, give me this kind of courage ...

Those are my thoughts right now. I have no answers, no bow, no tidy little 3-step program to end racism.

I just know I am part of the problem.

But I can also be part of the solution.

And if the leader of our country will not speak what I know to be true, then I guess it is up to us, all of us, to do so.

And so that starts with me.

Lord, have mercy ...

Lord, give me courage ...

What can I overlook?

When my kids were young I would often find myself overwhelmed with all of the chaos.

The homework,

the play dates,

the sports schedules,

the chores,

the parties and doctor's appointments and laundry and toys and clothes and decisions and

everything.

One thought helped me mentally dig out from under the pile of constant, daily, hourly, minute-by-minute decisions about where to give my attention, where to expend my energy, where to put my focus.

William James, the father of American psychology, said this:

"Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook."

I found this quote in a magazine,

ripped out the page,

and taped it on my wall in the kitchen.

It was the perfect piece of art for those days.

It is still a guiding force in my life today where different kinds of decisions must be made,

many more weighty than those I made decades ago.

What good work do I want to give my energy to?

What people can I make space for today?

How do I keep my attention freed up enough to hear God's wise, guiding voice?

What can I let go of?

What can I say no to?

What should I overlook?

What or whom should I NEVER overlook?

King David writes in Psalm 90,

"O God, teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well." 

As you pursue a life of wisdom, a great question to ask yourself each morning is:

What can I overlook today?

Grateful at the pool ...

This summer I have been swimming laps at noon at our local public outdoor pool.

It is so beautiful there.

Just a few folks swim; it is a well-kept secret.

Picture a large, clear, Olympic-sized pool,

our roof, a blue, blue summer sky with just a few puffy white clouds,

a touch of a warm breeze,

and the quiet sound of people swimming.

Some of the swimmers choose to walk their laps, however, rather than swim.

Often as I swim by them, I catch little bits of their conversation.

Here was one bit I caught the other day:

Walker #1 - Hey! So great to see you! How are you?

Walker #2 - Well, I'm here ... that's all I can say.

Walker #1 - Yea ... I guess it beats the alternative.

Me (under the water so no one could hear me)  - Are. You. Serious?

Now, don't get me wrong - I understand that some days aren't great.

Some days are hard.

Sometimes it really does feel like our experience of the day is just one step away from what we think it might feel like to be dead.

I am not a Pollyanna, and I certainly don't espouse silly, perky talk.

I despise it.

But, here we were ... in a swimming pool at noon! In the middle of a work day! The sun was out. The air was warm. And we were just swimming and walking and chatting and no one was forcing us to do anything else. We were well enough to move our bodies. We were well-fed enough to exercise. We had transportation. We had lungs breathing in beautiful clean air!

We were not being bombed.

We were not being imprisoned.

We were not starving.

We were not oppressed.

We were not fleeing for our lives.

"For the love of God", I thought, as I continued to swim ... "for the love of God, look around you,

realize how very blessed you are on this earth,

and practice, even on the hard days, being grateful."

It was a little mini-sermon I preached (silently) to the walkers, but also to my (sometimes ungrateful) self.

This all reminded me of Alice Walker's brilliant quote from The Color Purple:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” 

Amen, Alice Walker, Amen ...

For what are you grateful today?

And how can you express that gratitude as others ask how you are?

 And for the love of God, don't piss God off!