A Pacifist Reflects on the Meaning of Memorial Day

American holidays like Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and the Fourth of July pose something of a dilemma for me. Like Bruce Springsteen, I was “born in the USA.” I am grateful for the many positive and admirable qualities this country contributes to the family of nations and for Pic 4the benefits I have enjoyed as one of its citizens. But not everything about this country is positive and admirable. And I feel that tension most keenly on these distinctly American holidays.

I felt it again last night as I watched the annual Memorial Day Concert on PBS. I hadn’t intended to watch it, but there were a couple of artists whom my daughter, who was visiting, wanted to see, and before you could say Francis Scott Key, I was caught up in the pageantry. I was also really, really “conflicted.” Continue reading

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I Feel It In My Gut

Most people who know me would agree that I have a high regard for human intellect and the potential of the human mind. Many of those same people, then, might be surprised to learn that most of the really important decisions I have made in my life were based more on intuitive sensing than on cognitive reasoning.

For example, I met Shirley Clairmont on February 12, 1973. She played the piano for a series of meetings at which I was the guest preacher. We were married exactly three months later, on May 12, 1973. There were numerous reasons why it would have been prudent for us to postpone our marriage while we got to know one another better and worked out a variety of practical and logistical issues. More important than all of that, however—at least as far as I was concerned—was the sense, deep inside of me, that it was the right thing to do. She apparently agreed, and next spring we will celebrate our forty-third wedding anniversary. Continue reading

I Do What I Can

There is very little I can do about anything these days. I have no wealth, and I own no property. Financially, my net worth is roughly zero. I have no power and an extremely limited sphere of influence. Seven years without a paying job will do that.

I do have a loving wife who has stood by me without complaint for more than forty-two years, even when things have been really rough and our circumstances difficult to comprehend. I also have an eight-year-old grandson, whom I adore, and a beautiful daughter who is making me proud as a hard-working nurse and single mom. I am trying to do everything I can to pour myself into their lives and to use my limited means and resources to help make their lives richer. Their happiness is my reward. Continue reading

The View from the Other Side

I’ve recently begun to think of my life as a long train ride to a destination about which I know very little for certain, but my impression is that it is a good place to go. Arrival time is not announced, but the older we passengers get, the more the conductor encourages us to be ready to disembark at any time.

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One thing I’ve noticed. For most of this journey so far, I could observe the passing countryside through the windows on one side of the train only. The windows on the other side were obscured in some way. I could see movement through them, but the images appeared blurred or distorted. Continue reading

A New Direction in Simple, Practical Faith

Have you ever noticed that, when you first identify with a new group and adopt its beliefs and tenets as your own, the members of that group commend you for your wisdom and discernment? Later, when your experience and careful consideration lead you to change 1your mind about one or more elements of the group’s shared beliefs, you are regarded as having somehow lost your ability to be wise and discerning. Instead, you have apparently succumbed to influences that have led you into error.

Or, as a friend of mine put it, “I was a prophet right up to the moment I became a heretic.” Continue reading

That Kind of Church (Part 2)

Radical Christian discipleship is simply a commitment to follow Jesus at the most fundamental level of life experience. It is the mark of a fully-functioning citizen of the 4kingdom of God. It understands that faith is not simply a veneer which we add to a life that is shaped and influenced by the culture more than the values of the Kingdom.

It is true that nobody but Jesus has ever been a perfect example of radical discipleship. Nobody but Jesus has ever lived according to kingdom values with absolute consistency. Despite that, our responsibility, and our great privilege, is to aspire to that kind of devotion and consistency. Continue reading

That Kind of Church (Part 1)

If you’re like me, the word radical might seem a bit scary and could make you nervous. When I was a kid at home, my parents used the term to describe people or behavior they considered extreme and, by extension, irresponsible and unreasonable. That is still1 probably the most common way the term is used—to refer to something that is extreme, maybe unreasonable, a bit “out there.”

I was still thinking of the word radical in those terms the first time I read the phrase “radical discipleship.” I couldn’t imagine that such an expression could refer to anything positive in relation to Christian living. Then I learned that our English word radical comes from the Latin word radix, which means “root.” So, to be precise, we should understand the word radical to mean “that which relates or pertains to the root” of something. Continue reading