Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday 27 February 2009

Today we enter into King's conversation on nonviolent resistance.

A third way is open in our quest for freedom, namely, nonviolent resistance, that combines toughmindedness and tenderheartedness and avoids the complacency and do-nothingness of the softminded and the violence and bitterness of the hardhearted. My belief is that this method must guide our action in the present crisis in race relations. Through nonviolent resistance we shall be able to oppose the unjust system and at the same time love the perpetrators of the system. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for full stature as citizens, but may it never be said, my friends, that to gain it we used the inferior methods of falsehood, malice, hate, and violence.

King certainly points down a distinct path. Though he is speaking to those who were under the oppressive system of racism in our country, remember that this is also for all of us to hear. We are not a whole people...we are not a healed people...we are not a part of the shalom of God's Reign unless the welfare of all people is considered and we lean toward working for the liberation and care of all. That means we are all in the same boat and must be willing to walk the same path even when it appears as though we have everything and do not need anything. Yesterday I heard an very active advocate for the homeless brothers and sisters who are scattered around Franklin County. We usually hear of the fine work being done to house the homeless - and it is good. Unfortunately the numbers of homeless far exceeds the beds available in Columbus. He said that racism is still at the core of the shameless way we approach homelessness. So how do we seek out the welfare of all in this kind of real situation that is not far from our doors. One rabbi in town said that they wanted their synagogue to be used to help shelter the homeless during the winter months - use a wonderful building to do some good for people who could never pay anything back. They were told there was no need way out on the far east side. Our guest speaker smiled and pointed out that all around that immediate neighborhood there are popular campsites for the homeless - the woods and creek banks are the homes of the forgotten and rejected.

Connection: It takes an army of non-violent, tenderhearted people to step up to change the world. Most days, it is difficult to raise up one voice. And yet, we are called to rise up of saints of God.

You call us to be caretakers of your creation, O God. In too many ways we do not take responsibility for the care of the earth and the air and the water. Most alarming is that we do not take care of others who are created in your image but who have been cast out as being worth less than we might ourselves or the groups we long to enter. Continue to remind us of your love that is the ground for our actions in word and deed. Amen.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday 26 February 2009

Before moving into a 3rd way in the quest for freedom, King addresses himself to the potential for violence.

And there are hardhearted and bitter individuals among us who would combat the opponent with physical violence and corroding hatred. Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace. I am convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never-ending reign of chaos. A voice, echoing through the corridors of time, says to every intemperate Peter, "Put up thy sword." History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that failed to follow Christ's command.

The most painful part about reading today's piece is that I can be that hardhearted and bitter individual. Ahhhhh! It may not be in regard to race...but it infects other aspects of life and it is not creative at all. There are too many ways to carry a sword and whirl it around in an attempt to make the world into what I would like it to be. Even those "good reasons" that call forth some type of violence (even violence of the tongue) bring about only more and more violence and the degradation of all of life. The cycle must be stopped. The community of saints must find ways to confront and face down hardened hearts so that new life will emerge. Otherwise, we simply continue to spiral into the abyss of hatred and division that is this "never-ending reign of chaos."

Connection: When you catch yourself pulling out the sword what you can to put it back or lay it to the side. Then may be able to help someone near you do the same. We will all benefit from such action.

God of Peace and Love, we too easily walk away from your Reign and begin to rain down terror upon one another. Open our hearts to the way of your peaceable Reign and inspire us to walk there. Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Today's piece is directed to the "Negroes" of King's day - but we must listen to his wisdom as he writes of the integrity of all.

We as Negroes must bring together toughmindedness and tenderheartedness, if we are to move creatively toward the goal of freedom and justice. Softminded individuals among us feel that the only way to deal with oppression is by adjusting to it. They acquiesce and resign themselves to segregation. They prefer to remain oppressed. When Moses led the children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, he discovered that slaves do not always welcome their deliverers. They would rather bear those ills they have, as Shakespeare pointed out, than flee to others that they know not of. They prefer the "fleshpots of Egypt" to the ordeals of emancipation. But this is not the way out. Softminded acquiescence is cowardly. My friends, we cannot win the respect of the white people of the South or elsewhere if we are willing to trade the future of our children for our personal safety and comfort. Moreover, we must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to co-operate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.

As we begin the season of Lent, it is good for all of us to consider the road that is before us as free people who are invited into a life where all people are honored and respected. It is in such a place that we will find ourselves having to pick up the cross and follow our Lord - for not all people are concerned about nor will they work for the welfare of all. The promised land is not just for is for all.

Connection: How often does liberation and new life become that which we ignore or walk past because what is has control of us?

God of our weary year, you have been alongside us in all times and yet we do not remember your presence. When we forget, we fear and tremble and do not live as the beloved we are. By the water of our baptism, remind us of whose we are and the life that comes to us as we walk wet with your love that overflows all the days of our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Today's piece follows very closely on yesterday's - again from "The Strength to Love."

Jesus reminds us that the good life combines the toughness of the serpent and the tenderness of the dove. To have serpentlike qualities devoid of dovelike qualities is to be passionless, mean, and selfish. To have dovelike without serpentlike qualities is to be sentimental, anemic, and aimless. We must combine strongly marked antithesis.

This weekend our church council went through our council Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory. Everyone took the inventory and then we spend time explaining what the various letter meant. It is an exercise in seeing what our gifts are and how we are more strongly gifted in one area and less so in another. The key to this is to remember that if I am an "E" (extrovert) it doesn't mean that I do not have the gifts of an "I" (introvert). Rather I have a preference. What is most helpful to us all is to nurture that side that is not our dominant preference. If we completely ignore it, we will miss out on gifts we have that will help to make us well-rounded. King offers this kind of look at how we are to be followers of Jesus. Balance is vital. Obviously we will each lean one way more than the other. In the context of a community of people that is not all bad. In fact, when we are able to see that we can be dove like more than serpent like...but there are others who are quite the opposite of us, we can then be helpful to one another so that the community of saints is balanced. I consider this balancing power in the community - the Holy Spirit. It is a power that comes to life and shapes the body of Christ when there is a body of people to shape.

Connection: It is always good to check ourselves to find out when and where we move between dove and serpent...and when and how we keep them balanced. This need not be an involved exploration - it will be visible throughout the day.

Lord of Life, you have gifted us as individuals and as a community. We do not always avail ourselves to your gifts. Remind us of the different sides of our lives that seem to be so different and yet are needed to see the fullness of your Reign begin to blossom and shape this day. Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday 23 February 2009

A balance of tough-mindedness and tender-heartedness is essential to living within the Reign of God - from "The Strength to Love, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jesus frequently illustrated the characteristics of the hardhearted. The rich fool was condemned, not because he was not terminated, but rather because he was not tenderhearted. Life for him was a mirror in which he saw only himself, and not a window through which he saw other selves. Dives went to hell not because he was wealthy, but because he was not tenderhearted enough to see Lazarus and because he made no attempt to bridge the gulf between himself and his brother.

Tough-minded people can be tenderhearted. Sometimes it is easy to think that those who are able to make sharp decisions and question why things are "this way" and not "that way" are people whose hearts can be hard. But that is not at all the case. There is a balance that must be a part of every one's life so that we avoid the movement toward being hard-hearted. Tough-mindedness and tender hearts must go together as we enter this day as the beloved of God walking within God's Reign. When this balance is lost - the community in which we live is easily torn apart. The tear happens because we fall in the trap of considering other people as objects we can use to make our own lives better. And yet, our own lives are not better when we go through the day seeing others only as we want to see them - something to be used or something to be cast aside. The Good News of the Reign of God is news that makes our hearts fertile ground for a whole new way to be a community in which the least and the greatest are connected and the welfare of each other is of utmost consideration as we move through the day.

Connection: I think tender hearts must be nurtured. It is a daily discipline. Otherwise, it is very easy to become so self-absorbed with the stuff we think is so absolutely vital for our well-being, that we never leave the mirror no matter who we are with.

Within the bounds of your Reign, O God, we see the vast collection of your saints. It is a gathering that is quite beyond our comprehension and therefore a community we do not let ourselves enjoy. But you continue to invite us to share in a life that allows us to see others as gifts to the day and ourselves as a gift that can be given to others. Continue to inspire our vision and our action. Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday 20 February 2009

The week ends with words on the hard-hearted person - from "The Strength to Love."

The hardhearted person never truly loves. He engages in a crass utilitarianism which values other people mainly according to their usefulness to him. He never experiences the beauty of friendship, because he is too cold to feel affection for another and is too self-centered to share another's joy and sorrow. He is an isolated island. No outpouring of love links him with the mainland of humanity.

We would be wrong to think of the hard-hearted person as an isolated individual that is easily isolated because his/her life is so obvious. This is more about all of us when we turn-in-on ourselves...when our relationships are broken - with God and with others. When we are turn-in-on-selves, we see others as objects and each "thou" becomes an "it" that we think we can use like a stick or a rock or any other object. When we lose touch with the individuality of the other, we become less human. That is, we lose that part of us that is essential for each of us to be truly human. We are human when we are living as people in relationship. Without that - without being in relationship with other people - we go by the way of any tyrant and bully and self-absorbed fool who will not find a place among the rest of humankind. When we are like this, others become disposable and worth-less.

Connection: The mainland of humanity needs people with hearts that are open to the experience of being with others. When we are open to that, we are open to new life and a more full expression of what it is to be human.

You created us in your image, O God, and we find ourselves both draw to and pushed away from others who are also within the image of your creative will. Be for us the encouragement to step beyond our wants and needs so that we can enter into the relationships that more fully display your divine image among us. Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday 19 February 2009

Pardon me for missing yesterday. Today we move on into a section in "The Strength to Love" that will pull us from tough & soft mindedness into a consideration of tenderheartedness - again, M.L. King.

But we must not stop with the cultivation of a tough mind. The gospel also demands a tender heart. Toughmindedness without tenderheartedness is cold and detached, leaving one's life in a perpetual winter devoid of the warmth of spring and the gentle heat of summer. What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to be the disciplined heights of toughmindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness?

Last night we were walking through some of the voices of the prophets. There were some tough-minded words and images - frightening at times. Then again, those words were never left to stand alone. They were never the foundation of a hardheartedness of our God. Rather, within the sound of those tough-minded words was the tender heart of our God whose love does not fade away. Time and time again when one would expect God's heart to turn hard - there was liberation, salvation, compassion, mercy, forgiveness...and new life. Today in the ELCA the long-awaited statement on human sexuality and the report and recommendations on ministry policies will be put out for public consumption. It is my fear that we will choose to stay put where we are. Though there is no consensus on how we are to be the church with GLBT saints among us, will we have the courage to step forward and say for some the church may run like this...for others there will need to be another way - but we will be one body? As is too often the case, we do not step up onto the platform of liberty and freedom and amazing grace. Too often we stay in the same place so that we may appear to be "tough-minded" and not letting things "get out of control." That stance is often a good one to take - but not always. Today we must be willing to be courageous and bold and act with tender hearts. That does not do away with any "law." Rather it rests alone on the gospel. For today, in our church that lacks consensus on these matters, we must gather in the lost on both sides of these issues and like a parent bring all the children - without excuse - to the table to share the meal and be fed of the same food and be sent out with the same news that brings hope and life to all. I don't think we will go there. Rather, more than likely, we will set several tables, be pleased with ourselves that we are at least in the same room, but it will be very clear where each of us is allowed to sit...and not sit. Tender-hearted?

Connection: When we act, it may still be good to count to ten before we act. That may be when we give ourselves the time to let the tenderness of our hearts inform the tough-mindedness that we are trying to nurture.

When you bind us together in you love, O God, we are all bound up in you alone. We may differ and not want to be with one another, but you bind us together in love. Your love is the power that helps us hear and see your good news as though it is all tied up with us...and becoming us. Let you Spirit of unity be our breath. Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday 17 February 2009

This is the concluding lines of King's direct conversation on tough-minded and soft-minded people.

There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness. A nation or a civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.

Fear that is able to brew into hatred not only works to destroy the one who is hated, it destroys the one who fears. No one really sees it coming. In fact, most of the time it goes unnoticed. In the meantime, there are many scapegoats created and eliminated. This happens within the light of daylight but within fear-filled lives that must stir up the world around them so that they do not have to deal with the death of their own spirit of life. The victor in many wars often is consumed in the victory because they do not see the fear that drives them to hate. They lose touch with themselves and must be healed - made whole. The only way to be made whole is to become whole with all who would be cast out as evil, other, wrong, broken, dirty...etc. When we are soft-minded people, we do not take the time, energy or prayerfulness to face the other side and entertain how we can be one whole. Fear avoids healing....therefore we are left with hate and brutality when we could be living within the promise of God's Reign.

Connection: It is not easy to be healed. It is a process that keeps opening us up to new ways to be healed...and that is not always a welcome part of our life journey. And yet, today becomes an opportunity to face the healing tough of our God through our life with others.

Connect us to your people, O God...all your people. We know it will not be easy, but we know that we will be blessed along the way. Be our encouragement. Amen.l

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday 16 February 2009

Today we will start up the week by including the selection from Friday and continuing on in that paragraph - from "The Strength to Love" by Martin Luther King,Jr.

Soft mindedness is one of the basic causes of race prejudice. The tough minded person always examines the facts before he reaches conclusions: in short, he prejudges. The tender minded person reaches conclusions before he had examined the first fact; in short, he prejudges and is prejudiced. Race prejudice is based on groundless fears, suspicions, and misunderstandings. There are those who are sufficiently soft-minded to believe in the superiority of the white race and the inferiority of the Negro race in spite of the tough minded research of anthropologists who reveal the falsity of such a notion.... With insidious zeal, they make inflammatory statements and disseminate distortions and half-truths which arouse abnormal fears and morbid antipathies within the minds of uneducated and underprivileged whites, leaving them so confused that they are led to acts of meanness and violence which no normal person commits.

Oh I would not want to use only "uneducated and underprivileged" when speaking of such people who become afraid and act out of their fears. It is also the well-educated who know of ways - well-worked ways - to keep the world as it is best for them. "Best for them" may mean the oppression and the brutalization of others. Though King does a masterful job at drawing a picture of the racial prejudice and bigotry of his day, we must also take this kind of rich imagery to look at ourselves and how similar "inflammatory statements and disseminate distortions and half-truths" are being used even today whenever we find others who are not like us and need to be removed so that we can have the world as we want it. This same kind of language and imagery can be used against various people in the Islamic world and against GLBT people here in the U.S. These words can be whipped up by regular folk who are so convinced of their own opinions and understandings and views that others outside of their world can quite literally "go to hell." The goal of some folks is to make life now like "hell" for people who are not like them. In reality it is hell for all.

Connection: Normal folk can do some ugly things to one another - everyday. How do we help one another not step into that territory of ugly fear and hatred?!?

Your word among us, O God, is a grand 'YES' that is the creative force of all life. Open our ears that we will hear that word of refreshment and in that hearing become such refreshment and life for those who long for such creativity. Amen.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday 13 February 2009

Here is a short piece of a longer paragraph on race and soft mindedness - again in "The Strength to Love" by MLK.

Soft mindedness is one of the basic causes of race prejudice. The tough minded person always examines the facts before he reaches conclusions: in short, he postjudges. The tender minded person reaches conclusions before he had examined the first fact; in short, he prejudges and is prejudiced. Race prejudice is based on groundless fears, suspicions, and misunderstandings. there are those who are sufficiently soft-minded to believe in the superiority of the white race and the inferiority of the Negro race in spite of the tough minded research of anthropologists who reveal the falsity of such a notion.

Making sure we maintain that tough mindedness that allows us to investigate and step outside of the boundaries we have set up within our lives is necessary for building a wholesome community that is able to welcome all into the embrace of the community. We must always be willing to step outside our box. First of all, I guess that means we must all admit that we all do live in our own boxes - sometimes. At that point, we have the ability and power to step out of the box or at least begin to investigate what is already out of the box. That investigation may lead us into a whole new world that opens us up to more of the beauty of God's creation. Fears and suspicions and misunderstandings too often undercut the truth and when truth is undercut, we tend to fall for anything that is offered.

Connection: What are the boxes in which you can find yourself within this day? They are there. We need only see them and we begin to see everything new.

When you Reign over us, O God, it is over all of us. Inspire us to see the all that we miss when we focus on that which simply reflects me. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday 12 February 2009

This piece from "The Strength to Love" is chilling.

We do not need to look far to detect the dangers of soft mindedness. Dictators, capitalizing on soft mindedness, have led men to acts of barbarity and terror that are unthinkable in civilized society. Adolf Hitler realized that soft mindedness was so prevalent among his followers that he said, "I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few." In Mein Kampf he asserted: "By means of shrewed lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell - and hell, heaven.... The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed."

Therefore, we must always remind one another of what it is to be within the Reign of God - in heaven. Hell cannot have its way with us and it must not - even when it demonstrates the ability to create order and peace and community. Hell is a community where the Reign of God has been silenced...or simply forgotten for something that will fit our visions for life as we want it. I think of all the build up to the Iraq war. Lies - unremittingly repeated. We must be diligent - even in times in which we think we are doing so well.

Come, Lord of Life. Come and shape us into the truthfulness of your Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Here King looks at science and religion in this same discussion on soft-mindedness.

This has also led to a widespread belief that there is a conflict between science and religion. But this is not true. There may be a conflict between soft minded religionists and tough minded scientists, but not between science and religion. Their respective worlds are different and their methods are dissimilar. Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling in the march of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.

"They are complementary." We need to hear that more often. Let science be science and let religion be religion. In the meantime, the two can have a meaningful and vital discussion about where we are going and who we are being called to be. Often, fundamentalism is the religious side that is not willing to let itself be the gift that it is. Instead, soft-minded people must have religion be the all-in-all. When that is the case, religious people can lose so much of the beauty of scientific progress and science loses the beauty of prophetic vision within the religious community. In faithful conversations in the church, it is necessary that we not fear the gift of science and what it can bring into our world view as we use the lens of faith to look more deeply into the meaning and value of that which is discovered or uncovered through science.

Connection: There are many parts of our modern day lives that are a part of the ongoing history of scientific research. How has this journey engaged the storytelling of your faith tradition?

You oversee all things, O God. You encourage us to learn about this creation that embraces us and calls us to be all that we are called to be by you. Remind us to stay fluid and open to what is presented to us as new and focused on what are the gifts of the vision of your Reign that you have handed to us through the years. Amen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Now let us move to soft-mindedness in religion.

Soft-mindedness often invades religion. This is why religion has sometimes rejected new truth with a dogmatic passion. Through edicts and bulls, inquisitions and excommunications, the church has attempted to prorogue truth and place an impenetrable stone wall in the path of the truth-seeker. The historical-philological criticism of the Bible is considered by the soft minded as blasphemous, and reason is often looked upon as the exercise of a corrupt faculty. Soft-minded persons have revised the Beatitudes to read, "Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God."

Following up on the line of thought in these devotions from two weeks ago, I find that this is what the church does in regard to our inclusion of GLBT saints into the complete fellowship of congregations. Even in light of scientific teaching of our day and the respected differences in interpretation about passages that have been used to exclude GLBT people from the church, there is a mountain of protest and a passion that burns hot to keep things as what once was. Talk about an "impenetrable stone wall" being put up! Rather than lift up the vision of the Reign of God we often find it more valuable to live within the trenches of old thoughts and patterns that allow bright, tough-minded people to become soft-minded and live outside the bounds of truth.

Connection: We all are a bit soft-minded when it comes to the things around which our piety is built. Therefore, part of our daily journey is to question all that we hold so dear in our religious life...and do not fear the questions.

All-Knowing God, you have created us in your image and given us the ability to face the things in life that we fear and know that you abide with us in and through all things. Continue to endow us with the wisdom of your Reign even as we contemplate that which we hold so dear. Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday 9 February 2009

This week we will continue King's conversation about soft mindedness in "The Strength to Love." Once again, please excuse the male-centered language used in his writing.

The soft minded man always fears change. He feel security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea. An elderly segregationist in the south is reported to have said, "I have come to see now that desegregation is inevitable. But I pray God it will not take place until after I die." The soft minded person always wants to freeze the moment and hold life in the gripping yoke of sameness.

Let us not think that King is saying all change is good. Rather, he is looking at us when we are so "turned-in-on-self" that we will not contemplate the worth of that which is not yet a part of our lives. When we fear change it is often because we have so much at stake in what is - the status quo - that it is no longer simply the "status quo," it is the god that orders our days and our deeds. To that god of what is frozen in time, we give up our life. I'm sure we are all tempted to follow such a god. It is what is known to is how we have defined is how we find a way to view the world around us and to make judgments for and against what we see.

Connection: Have you ever experienced a new idea as "the greatest pain" in your life? Sometime the pain may not last long. At other times, it can begin to control everything else.

You, O God, have led your people through time with the promise that you will preside over our lives and be our guide, our stronghold, and our place of rest. But as we have witness in Scripture and in our own lives, we are ones who so easily turn away from the new paths you place before us within your Reign. Forgive us and inspire us. Amen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday 6 February 2009

Great story for a Friday - again by MLK in "The Strength to Love."

Soft-minded individuals are prone to embrace all kinds of superstitions. Their minds are constantly invaded by irrational fears, which range from fear of Friday the thirteenth to fear of a black cat crossing one's path. As the elevator made its upward climb in one of the large hotels in New York City, I noticed for the first time that there was no thirteenth floor - floor fourteen followed floor twelve. On inquiring from the elevator operator the reason for this omission, he said, "This practiced is followed by most large hotels because of the fear of numerous people to stay on the thirteenth floor." Then he added, "The real foolishness of the fear is to be found in the fact that the fourteenth floor is actually the thirteenth." Such fears leave the soft minded haggard by day and haunted by night.

The one who pursues false gods - idols - can never stop following them. In fact, no matter how ridiculous is the false god or how damaging it is to life, the one who follows such an idol must give his/her life to its service. Such it is with the soft-minded. When we are soft-minded about the way we look out at the world...when we buy the "word on the street" as though it is true. We must live by it and sacrifice all other life. Just now I thought of the conversation around torture in our country. For years, the world community has agreed on what constitutes torture. We have said we are in complete agreement with such a worldwide opinion. And then, we pretend that some things are not torture. We live on the fourteenth floor even though we are on the thirteenth. We really know it is wrong but we will live according to the lies that are ruled by our fears rather than live within the realm of truthfulness.

Connection: We all must learn to identify the ruling gods that try to grasp control of the day and turn us into people we are not.

Keep us turning to you alone, O God. Keep us looking for the truthfulness of your Reign that cannot be overturned by the gods of our lives that continue to try to win over our hearts and lives and turn away from you. Amen.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday 5 February 2009

We are continuing on with a look at tough and soft mindedness - Martin Luther King, Jr.

This prevalent tendency toward soft-mindedness is found in man's unbelievable gullibility. Take our attitude toward advertisements... Advertisers have long since learned that most people are soft-minded, and they capitalize on this susceptibility with skillful and effective slogans.
This undue gullibility is also seen in the tendency of many readers to accept the printed word of the press as final truth. Few people realize that even our authentic channels of information - the press, the platform, and in many instances the pulpit - do not give us objective and unbiased truth. Few people have the toughness of mind to judge critically and to discern the true from the false, the fact from the fiction. Our minds are constantly being invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices and false facts. One of the great needs of mankind is to be lifted above the morass of false propaganda.

We are all fed many different points of view and must make decisions about what is closer to the truth of a situation. Most times, we hear those half-truths that we may accept or reject. Sometimes it depends on what half of this so-called truth suits us as we are. It is not easy to step aside and be able to face down the various facts that are presented and decide what is the truth. Our hearts are often leaning in one direction before we hear the various voices that are presented to us. At times it only takes a nudge to move us further along in a direction we are already leaning. That does not always help us with discerning the truth. I suppose even "tough-minded" people can be soft-minded when it comes to their side of the story. A tough minded person needs to be aware of how easy it is to rest among like-minded folk. For in those cases, how much truth do we really see and hear. The community of the church is needed to be a community of truth discernment so that each of us can be drawn a bit more closely to what may be the truth in our day. We must also be willing to trust in the power of forgiveness because we will at into propaganda that smells so sweet but is really quite a rotten piece of work.

Connection: Count up - if possible - the number of times within this day that you hear propaganda of one type or another. Some of it may be so subtle or what we want to hear, we don't even know it is propaganda attempting to steer us.

Lord of All Truthfulness, we live in a world that rings with so many voices that claim to be the way, the truth, and the light. Unfortunately, few voices really bring such truthfulness with them. Inspire us to hold up the voices of the world alongside your vision and promise that is meant to lead us to truthfulness. Amen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wednesday 4 February 2009

We continue with "The Strength to Love" by King. Since there are so many male images used in place of inclusive language, I ask that you forgive me for not making all the changes. I trust you can and will do that.

Let us consider, first, the need for a tough mind, characterized by incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, and decisive judgment. The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. The tough-minded individual is astute and discerning. He has a strong, austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment.

A person like this does not need to be well-educated and hold degrees that are suppose to be a statement to one's mental status. King is talking about a character that is available to all of us. I know that I have to really work at this. It does not come easy for me and I often fall flat on my face. Then again, I love to be around people who have the gift for such tough mindedness. It is a gift when it embodies the wisdom and gentleness that was discussed yesterday. Sometime the tough-minded can get lost in their tough-mindedness and therefore no one benefits. When we are able to help one another "break through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false," we begin an adventure that will reshape us all and bless all.

Connection: A discipline of the day may be to again learn to see things with a sense of balance. In that seeing, we begin to display incisive thinking and have a greater appreciation for the grand diversity of God's creation.

Within your loving care, O God, we are pulled out of ourselves and given the opportunity to take in more of the world you have created. Continue to pull on us and offer us new ways of seeing and hearing and living within your Reign that is so near. Amen.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday 3 February 2009

More from "The Strength to Love" by M.L. King.

Jesus recognized the need for blending opposites. He knew that his disciples would face a difficult and hostile world, where they would confront the recalcitrance of political officials and the intransigence of the protectors of the old order. He knew that they would meet cold and arrogant men whose hearts had been hardened by the long winter of traditionalism. So he said to them, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." And he gave them a formula for actions: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." It is pretty difficult to imagine a single person having, simultaneously, the characteristics of the serpent and the dove, but this is what Jesus expects. We must combine that toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a touch mind and a tender heart.

I love this section - A call for an observance of and participation in life that demands two sides. We must be able to see what is going on around us and then to also act with two agendas that are really centered in the good news of the Reign of God. There are so many ways we can be pulled off the way of the Reign of God. Therefore, we must be aware of the need to resist and at the same time not let the resistance deny us the opportunity to love. Quite a tension can exist when we become available and vulnerable. King had the gift of holding these two gifts in balance - a blessing to everyone.

Connection: It is always easier to look back and see the two sides of a scene. The discipline we are asked to hold close is to see those sides as we step into the action of this day.

Blessed Lord, when we are caught up in your amazing grace, we are given the eyes to see and the ears to hear the way of your Reign. Help us to embody that grace and take hold of the insights it brings to life. Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday 2 February 2009

Today we start a series looking at Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writing "The Strength to Love."

...The strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites. Not ordinarily do men achieve this balance of opposites. the idealists are not usually realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic. the militant are not generally known to be passive, nor the passive to be militant. Seldom are the humble self-assertive, or the self-assertive humble. But life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony. The philosopher Hegel said that truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

But it is so hard to hold onto both of these opposites. It is a challenge...but more so it is a discipline. Again and again we are invited to see from many sides and often the various sides present a reality that is hard to keep together. Therefore, it can be so easy to drop one side and claim that the other is right and good and true. What is so important when we are placed between two different views or opinions is to listen and then...listen again. The miracle of change and transformation comes when we hear all the voices and become familiar with their gifts and their draw backs. Unfortunately, too often we are asked to pledge allegiance to one side without considering the other. How quickly we descend into a world of "us" and "them." How quickly we give up the miracle of full life that comes within the harmony of voices present to us.

Connection: Do you know your own bias - the voices to which you listen and the ones that you rule out without even giving them your ear?

When you come to us, O God, we do not always hear you because we are waiting for something we want to hear and not something that will pull us out of our way. Encourage us to open our hearts to the many voices you use to bring life to the world. Amen.