Deeply disappointed…

I am disappointed today…disappointed that in the United States we seem to be traveling further down a road that leads backward.

I understand concerns about being forced to do something that goes against your religious beliefs–but I don’t think the Hobby Lobby case is a good example.

Hobby Lobby says that because of the owners’ religious beliefs, they should not have to offer some options for women’s contraception because they may cause spontaneous abortions. Okay…

But…

If they are so strongly opposed to that, then why do they purchase so many of their products from a country that is noted for forced abortions?

Where is there concern about other human rights…including the right to a living wage? to safe working conditions?

Why is there no concern about covering Viagra for men?

I hear some commentators (granted, mostly ones who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me) raising concerns about possible Sharia law being enforced in the United States…despite the Constitution’s separation of church and state…and yet so many decisions being made seem to be forcing us to a very fundamentalist version of Christian law–a version that does not agree with my understanding of Christianity.

Where are concerns about helping women have healthier babies if they are in financial trouble? Why the severe cuts to programs that help women and children–many in working families who do not make enough to meet basic needs?

What about those women who use some of the birth control options for reasons other than contraception? (And yes, there are other issues those hormones can help with.)

Now that this precedent has been set, what’s the next issue that will be raised? What medical process/medication/surgery will some company object to because of the owner’s religious beliefs? What about the rights of the employees to have medical coverage for their needs if they do not agree with the owner’s beliefs? Where will it all end?

I do not want to return to the 1950s (or earlier).

I want us to be willing to have honest–and sometimes difficult–conversations about how to help each other…how to acknowledge each others’ medical/social/religious understandings and find ways to work together. I want us to recognize that we are a diverse society. I think today’s decision has moved us away from that conversation–and I am disappointed.

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Let the little children come…

baby blessing

Yesterday I was privileged to take part in one of the sacraments in my faith tradition–the blessing of children. This is modeled on the experience reported in the Gospels when Jesus took little children in his arms and blessed them.

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way. (Matthew 19:13-15)

It is a sacrament that is available to anyone who desires it–whether they are members of my denomination or not. It does not imply membership–it is simply bringing the child before God to ask for God’s blessing for the child (and also for the family).

There were two children blessed yesterday. One of them was Nolan, a little boy who is about 6 weeks old. We have had connections with her mother since she was about 14, and were also involved with her wedding–Charlie as the officiating minister and me as the minister of music. We have also had the opportunity of blessing their first child–Nolan’s big sister Emi. In this service, I was the minister who offered the prayer of blessing for him. What an incredible responsibility! But also, what a wonderful experience.

The other child blessed was our granddaughter–who is now 11 months old. She was (obviously) a little more active than Nolan and was a little squirmy and wiggly as she was being held by two of her grandfathers.

Services when this sacrament is held are always a joyful experience. There is such hope represented in these new lives–such faith in the future.

This is true, even when there are issues and challenges during the service. Our air conditioning was out yesterday–on a day when the temperature and humidity were both pretty high. We had some technical issues with the microphones. But in spite of all of that, it was a wonderful service.

Children bring joy…they bring trust…they bring hope for our future.

Let the children come…

How many more?

In December 2012, 28 people were killed in a shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut…and we as a nation said,”Never again.”

That’s a year and a half ago…approximately 79 weeks ago. What’s happened since then?

According to a report by the gun safety organization Everytown there have been 74 shootings since then–a shooting in/at a school almost every week since then. That includes suicides, homicides, assaults, as well as mass shootings.  That’s only stories that were reported in the news media…not the ones that weren’t deemed newsworthy, which means the numbers were probably underreported. Never again?

How many more tragedies will it take before we can have a civil and much-needed discussion pertaining to how we treat mental health issues and the need for sensible gun control?

We need to be willing to listen to each other…to truly listen, not get caught up in political posturing and media soundbites. We MUST have conversation that acknowledges the very real challenges that face us,if we want to create a safe world for our children and grandchildren.

Do we really need people running around carrying assault weapons? Weapons designed for no other purpose than to kill as many people as quickly as possible?

We have to acknowledge that mental illness is real…and be willing to spend what is required to get people the help they need. We have to figure out ways to do our best to keep weapons out of the hands of those not mentally stable.

Is this going to be easy? No.

Is it possible? I think so…but only if we can put aside our preconceived prejudices and ideas…and are willing to listen to each other and work together for the sake of the generations yet to come.

 

The power of “I’m sorry”…

Like many, I was enthralled by the story of California Chrome–the possibility of a Triple Crown winner after a drought of so many years. It seemed like such a fairy tale story–owners who were just plain ordinary people, a trainer who had been waiting his whole life for this possibility, a horse “of the people”… But it wasn’t to be.

California Chrome just didn’t seem to have it all together at the Belmont, and was defeated…so the Triple Crown will have to wait for another horse.

What disappointed me more, though, was the rant of Steve Coburn, one of the co-owners afterwards. While I understood his disappointment–and while I agree that the way the races are run should get another look–it felt like a tarnishing of the story that had played out. He came across as a petulant, whiny, sore loser…and that was just such a sad way for the story to end.

But it didn’t end that way. This morning (Monday morning) I had turned on “Good Morning, America” briefly. Just before they went to an ad, they announced that Steve Coburn would be on. I almost turned the TV off, because I didn’t want to hear any more ranting…but I didn’t get it done, and now I’m glad I didn’t.

He came on with a special message–an apology to everyone who had been touched by his rant. Sometimes apologies are just window dressing…sometimes they come across as “I don’t understand why you feel that way, but I’m sorry you do”…but this was the real thing. Without making any excuses, he apologized. He issued sincere congratulations to Tonalist (the winner), his owner, jockey, and trainer…and apologies to his co-owner and everyone involved with California Chrome, the fans…and to his wife. He said, “I was wrong.”

It takes a big man to come onto national TV and to admit that what he said was wrong without making any excuses for himself. I don’t know about others who may have heard his rant and been sorry that the fairy-tale story ended with such a sour taste–but his apology this morning went a long way to changing my opinion of him.

I’m glad I didn’t get the TV turned off.

To truly know someone…

Two events–at first glance, totally unrelated–have converged to create this post. I find it interesting to see how events separated by so much time and distance can bring up similar questions…

The last couple of days I’ve been trying to get caught up on some of my magazine reading, and one of those magazines included the March 2014 Smithsonian. In there is a story about the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in 1961. I vaguely remembered hearing about his disappearance, but it wasn’t part of my world and didn’t really affect me. The article, however (an excerpt from a book) was fascinating! The author has done a lot of research, including finding materials that have not generally been made public and talking to individuals who now are willing to share…at least partially. He went to the area where Michael disappeared and tried to talk to the tribespeople. But after spending two months there, he had more questions than answers. Then he made the statement that caught my attention:

…despite so many weeks in Asmat, I’d only visited Pirien and Otsjanep twice, once for 24 hours and once for four days, and always with a retinue of translators and hangers-on. Michael’s notes on his travels had left me with the impression that he had embraced the Asmat without understanding them, and I wondered if I’d been guilty of the same thing, trying to obtain their deepest secrets without taking the time to know them.

I decided I had to go back, and to go deeper. Back in the United States, I studied Bahasa Indonesian, which has been rapidly supplanting the Asmats’ native language. Seven months later, I returned to Asmat. …

Back in Agats I ran into Kokai, who was there visiting his son. For the first time we could speak directly to each other, and I felt a veil had been lifted. He invited me back to Pirien to live with him for a month.

 Then he began to find answers.

That statement triggered some thoughts related to the last few years of my mother’s life. After my father died, she remained in their condo for a while, but it eventually became too much for her. She talked off and on about moving to an assisted living facility where many of her friends were, and we encouraged that. But getting her there was a challenge! One day she would call to let me know she was thinking seriously about it…the next time we talked, she absolutely denied every having considered it. This happened numerous times. Then she called me to tell me she had started the paperwork…but two days later, she informed me she had no intention of moving. It took us at least six months of going through this process before she finally made the decision to move.

I was frustrated. I never knew what to expect from her–and at the time, while I knew she needed some help, I didn’t understand the growing depths of the dementia.

The move ended up being a success…but then there was another issue. She began forgetting to take her medications. Not just occasionally, but frequently. We talked about getting her help with that, but she was adamant that wasn’t going to happen. Finally–after one of my brothers had come to town to visit her–she had agreed that she needed help and needed to sign up with a home health care service who would package her medications in ways to help her remember. Whew! Then the nurse came to sign her up while I was there…and Mom was angry that we had signed her up without her consent. She didn’t need that service…didn’t want it…and when I showed her the memo she and my brother had written up about signing up for the service, she refused to acknowledge that she had written it or signed it. We did finally get her signed up–but only after there were angry words and tears (for both of us).

I wish then I had known what I know now…that Mom was scared of what was happening to her…fearful of loss of control and so easily becoming defensive. As Carl Hoffman said in his article, I wonder now if in some ways I was “trying to obtain [her] deepest secrets without taking the time to know [her].” I thought I did know her–and I knew the woman she had been. But I wasn’t willing to allow her to be the woman she was becoming.

I wonder how our relationships with each other would change if we decided we were willing to take the time to really come to know each other…rather than simply hurl insults or sound bites at each other. It’s not easy…but so important. Maybe it’s the only way we’ll ever find the peace we want.