Memorial Day 2013. A Still Small Voice…through the ages

mem 2013

For Memorial Day- A still, small voice

 

         As the media drown us in allegations of malfeasance at Benghazi, IRS overzealousness in scrutinizing the tax deductibility of politically motivated contributions, sequestration, tornado devastated cities and the other traumas faced by so many, I thought today of Elijah the ancient sage who had hid from the king in a cave. The king, threatened by Elijah, would have him killed. Elijah questioned where God had gone, given all the torment the sage faced. Even in his cave refuge, a storm raged, holding him like a captive.

         After many days had passed, the storm died down and an ominous silence took its place. In this silence, the sage sensed the presence of God. In this moment of reflection, touched by God, the sage knew what he must do, so that he could continue in his work. Empowered, he went back to the city where he found strong allies.

Now this imagery of a sage communing with his god thousands of years ago may, admittedly be a tough act for us modern secular types to wrap our minds around. How does one experience this ‘ominous silence.’

         Yet this Memorial Day, another image comes to mind that also illustrates the set of mind I’m talking about. I wonder if this ‘ominous silence’ occurred again after Abraham Lincoln spoke at  Gettysburg.
The War Between the States still raged on when Lincoln had gone to help dedicate the cemetery for the war dead. In November, 1963, letting the south secede, dividing one nation into two, could have become a possibility. In the ultimate ‘political soundbite,’ in a speech a little over two minutes in length,  President Lincoln urged those in the North to press on for Union.

And so, the war continued on for many more months until Robert E Lee at Appomattox urged his troops to return home and accept the peace that was offered them.

         Even today, here and there, this ominous silence is present, touching people, helping pave the way for a commitment to the larger values, whether it is service to a belief or a nation; or both. Something to think about for Memorial Day.

Listen to the Gettysburg address and other documents that made democracy on ‘Those Self Evident Truths,’ a CD produced and presented by Ted Magnuson
400 years of democracy in the making in 72 minutes.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

It’s All About ‘Enough.’ Saying that Last Farewell

elderly people

As this is the season for often lengthy holiday trips and family visits, I’m posting this story:

At an airport I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her plane’s departure and standing near the door, she said to her daughter, “I love you, I wish you enough.” She said, “Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom.” They kissed good-bye and she left. She walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” “Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Mom had done for me. Recognizing that her days were limited, I took the time to tell her face to face how much she meant to me. So I knew what this woman was experiencing. “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?” I asked. “I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral, ” she said. “When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” She began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” She paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, she smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with enough good things to sustain them,” she continued, and then turning toward me she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory. “I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Good-bye..”

A post from Amanda Morris, K-Love Radio Portland, Oregon.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Auld Lang Syne.

If you enjoyed this story, Ted Magnuson has written The Bouchard Legacy, about a fourth generation family business that changed with the times 1968-1979.

Link to the Bouchard Legacy

Copperheads and Haunting Dread; A Land More kind than Home

CAsh

This is one of the best ‘off the wall’ books I’ve read recently. While the material itself may not on first glance entice one, I soon became drawn into the story. It’s all about what goes on inside a storefront whose show window is covered over with newspaper. There is a so called Christian ‘snake-handlers’ church going on inside that building in a small town in Western North Carolina. People are dying, a kid saw something (what?) that he shouldn’t The preacher is a manipulative (potential spoiler) charalatan. The narrators are:

1) a kid

2) a church lady

3) the sherriff.

This is an account of a time when things went terribly wrong for a number of people and yet…how they came to terms with their circumstances and…life goes on. Once I became  hooked on this story, there were times, when I just wanted to jump right into the book and ‘set folks straight’ on their faulty thinking patterns. And in the end, one can only wonder what will become of the kid-Jess Hall. He certainly had seen a whole lot of strange goings on for an eight year old.
A great character study of individuals and group dynamics.

The Grand Staircase of Life

The Grand Staircase of Life

A friend of mine once explained it all to me. Life is like a giant staircase—something on the scale of the Grand Canyon. You go through periods of intense activity and growth, climbing up a step or two but then a year might go by, or two, where you consolidate stuff, don’t learn much, and just put life on autopilot. “It’s less hectic that way,” he explained.

His analogy may be very apt—depending on which plateau you happen to be on at the time. For the analogy does break down, doesn’t it? The ‘Staircase of Life’ aren’t necessarily navigated on autopilot.

The ‘prompts to climb,’ the times for growth, change, turmoil; call it what you will are many, are sudden, and can be trying.

The appearance of a ‘staircase’ could be as simple as boredom, or a new assignment at work. It could be as intense and tumultuous as the loss of a job, or of someone close to us. Whatever it is, crises/growth/the spur to change…happens. Can we choose to ignore change? Will it then go away?

Not in this life!

Change is inevitable. Our response to change is what makes all the difference.

In his book ‘A Stranger’s Gift,’ Tom Hallman describes how on Sept 11, his flight home to Portland from Chicago got grounded. He spent the next two days coming home on Amtrak. Conversations at dinner with fellow passengers prompted him to ask the larger questions; what did he want out of life, what direction was his life taking?

As a result of this train trip, Tom Hallman changed. He took a spiritual journey, which he generously laid out for us in his book ‘A Stranger’s Gift.’

Now, change is admittedly difficult. There is something in human nature isn’t there, that stubbornly insists “That’s the way it’s always been and always will be.”

But whether we see them or not, these facts, these prompts for change happen. We are the better for it, then; if we train ourselves to both recognize and act on these prompts for change.

How?

Mainly, I believe, by the people we meet, the books we read, the broadening of our experience that we do in times when we are ‘on the plateaus’ of life.

Then when it’s climb time, we are ready.

In my own life, this past month saw the release of my novel The Bouchard Legacy. I have been working on this change, this project, this book for the past 15 years! Several things prompted me to write this book. And I could easily have ignored them. But having acted on them, look what I’ve got: my very own book. You may have heard it said; “Everyone has a book inside them? Or as Paul of Tarsus said “We are all books written by God.”

That being so, now I know that at least in my book, there are pages with stuff written on them!   Hoo Haa!

How about your book? Are there pages with good stuff written on them? I hope so, for all our sakes.

If my own case rings true, I know there won’t be much good stuff on the page if I haven’t gone to the trouble of putting it there. Good doesn’t’ happen on autopilot.

How then does it take place?

Lately there’s been some talk about ‘hope.’

But what is hope?

A cure-all panoply?

Some kind of sleight of hand, woo-woo hocus pocus?

How can we nail hope down?

What if we reframe the concept of hope as believing?

Once we believe there is a solution.

We believe that we can tackle the job before us.

Then achievement is possible.

In my own situation, I’d always enjoyed reading, the idea of writing a book had always appealed to me, but it wasn’t until I decided I would believe, that I took steps towards writing my book. Suddenly, opportunities began to appear.

A writer’s conference is announced in the news; I will go.

A cheap computer/word processor appears at a garage sale; I buy.

I plug it in; it works!

And so day by day, change took place and now I have a book to my name. Hoo Haa!

Whatever the stimulus for change may be for you; an uneasy feeling, ominous undertones at work, a pink slip, a personal tragedy or even an unconscionable streak of good fortune, first keep your head.

Believe.

Next: Be alert to your opportunities, your resources and your direction.

Finally; the last step is much the same as the first: Keep believing.

Again, to my own example. My novel, The Bouchard Legacy is about a family whose wealth is about to be passed on, possibly to a fourth generation.  It’s about coming of age in the mid America of the 1970’s.

It’s about the journey from child to adult, boy to man, girl to woman, perhaps one of the most phenomenal changes of them all.

I offer this book to you as a proof, a product of what happens when we accept the challenge change presents to us.

What changes would you like to see in your life?

What changes in the world around you?

Can you can be that change?

About that staircase in your life? Is that a wall you see before you now…or a step?

[https://www.createspace.com/3833507]

What about the North Korean Escapees? How do they cope with the changes in South Korea?

Trouble keeping up with the changes in the modern world?

Take a walk in the shoes of North Koreans who travel south

until they are breathing free.  In the Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2010

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/0805/North-Korean-refugees-adapt-to-life-school-and-prejudice-in-South-Korea

Christmas at the White House

God is not dead

While it may delight scholars like Christopher Hitchens to throw brickbats at Christmas, some of his information is more a reflection of his agenda then a reflection of mainstream (common) Christian practice.
1) Christmas does not celebrate the birth of a ‘Miraculous Baby.’ It is a celebration of ‘the Godhead appearing in human form.’
2) As a nation founded in large part as a refuge for persecuted Christians, Americans need not look to the Quoran for proof ‘Mary mothered a prophet.’

We read in Luke 1:46-55 where Mary herself says:
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.’ RSV

Note also Mary’s commonness. She refers to herself as a ‘lowly handmaiden,’ much as Michelle Obama refers to the White House as ‘the People’s House.’ By all means, the midwinter celebration of common people should be celebrated in the ‘the People’s House.’ It is not an accommodation to the President. Indeed, has there ever been a President of the United States who said ‘God is dead?

Christianity is a religion of the people. It makes no claim to exclusivity. Over the years, as new adherents were welcomed to the faith various trappings have been added to the celebration of Christmas. There were no carols or Christmas trees in Bethlehem in the year ‘0.’ Indeed, there was no year zero. But more on that later. Christmas trees were added by the tribes of Europe as Christianity spread there. Evergreen Trees…Evergreens/Eternal Life/Get it? It is a bit of a reach, I know, but go for it. There is a metaphor in there somewhere that makes a kind of statement on how life goes on, despite famines, wars, crime, the storms of winters and…ad infinitum.
To confront the disasters of life, some people may rely on ego defense mechanisms; others practice faith, such as Christianity preaches.
So; who says when it is Christmas? –I agree completely with Mr. Hitchens and his adherents. No one knows the exact date The Christ was born. According to the Gospel accounts of ‘shepherds in the fields,’ theologian William Barclay speculates it was likely spring–when the shepherds stood guard over the baby lambs. Attacks from predators necessitated the additional protection. This again demonstrates the flexibility of Christianity meeting the needs of common people. The Christmas celebration was established in mid winter as this is a time when people are more often in a more reflective frame of mind, as they tightened their belts, planned their futures and engaged in other such chores as are appropriate to Christmas. In the old days, in the spring, folks were too busy planting crops (and guarding lambs).

We really should explore the question of ‘When is it Christmas’ much deeper? There actually is no year ‘zero. There is only a year 1 BC and a year 1 AD. But no year zero. The Julian Calendar was not even established until 525 AD, about 100 years after the fall of Rome. The concept was simple. Basing our calendar on the birth of Jesus, the eternal king, allowed everyone to use common series of years.

Prior to this uniformity, people might say ‘in the 23rd year of the reign of King John,’ or ‘in the year King Uzziah died.’
I am however, not so rigid a Christian thinker as to NOT believe that at some future time (whether it be 500 or 5,000 years from now) some other Great Event may occur that utterly changes how we common people synchronize our calendars. I will only say this. Whatever that future event might be, it will have to be really BIG to beat Christmas.

Is Genetic Engineering for You?

How will behavior change when our thoughts are no longer our own?

It almost sounds like the Messianic Age is upon us. Bubble Boy Syndrome patients are able to live normal lives. There are blind people in Portugal who can now see, thanks to optic circuit implants. The life spans of laboratory rats is doubling and more. Understanding and mapping the gene strands, as well as advances in nanotechnology is making all this happen. Imagine the implications. The pundits are having a field day. Will the new hegemony of 120-150 year old people be resistant to change, entrenched in the status-quo or will long-range planning now take on new significance since more people will be living to see the consequences of short range planning? For further information check out http://www.morethanhuman.org/

“People who stop learning at 30 are dead. They just haven’t been buried yet.”