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Fear and anger, set on a perpetual spin cycle, doesn’t begin to approach the love Jesus showed us.
Now that Thanksgiving dinner is behind you, or maybe around you, please answer this question: Was your dressing cooked inside your turkey or in a separate dish? If it was inside, it’s called stuffing. Stuffing is my favorite T-day dish, regardless of where it was cooked. Yum!
Each of us wears a variety of masks, so we’re all susceptible to tunnel vision, a most un-Godly characteristic. Any kind of mask, literal or metaphorical, blocks our peripheral (sideline) vision, so that all we can see is what’s straight ahead.
I didn’t really want to write this column. Most of it is uncomfortable to write – if not for me, then for whomever will disagree with me. It will look like I’m focused on the horrific, disrespectful language that so many people seem to feel “entitled” to spew at or about other people. But what I hope you will come away with is the understanding that disrespectful language is only a symptom of deep-seated, often unrealized, fear. That fear breeds uncontrolled anger that comes out in outrageous, impulsive statements. Most of my own frustrations come from hearing or reading things from ordinary people.
Dear Katie, Claire and Andy, A few months ago, I was visiting with a friend who mentioned he and his wife were going to Maui, Hawaii, this summer to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. “How did the years go by so fast?” he said.
Some biblical stories are too serious to be taken literally. Jonah’s little prophetic episode is one of those stories. When we get so obsessed with whether the “big fish” was a whale or not, we tend to miss the writer’s outrageous “God gotcha” altogether.
Dear Katie, Claire and Andy, Thank you so much for the stimulating dinner conversation at your Hillsboro home earlier this week! As proud as your grandma and I have been of you your whole lives, we find we are also proud of your growing maturity. We can see you, at (nearly) 18, 15 and (just) 12, in new ways.
This month, I began my 51st season playing golf. One eye-rolling golf-quirk for me is the verbal tendency of golf announcers to declare a shot as “perfect.” They use perfect so, well, imperfectly. Because the object of the goofy game is to get the ball into the hole, I think the only perfect golf shot is one that goes in the hole. A hole-in-one? Perfect! A one-inch putt that goes in the hole? Perfect! Every other shot is not really perfect. Does this make sense, even if you’re not a golfer?
For some time, I’ve participated in a Benedictine spirituality group in Coeur d’Alene. Almost a year ago, I mentioned to the group a book project I was contemplating, based on all of the margin notes I seem to write in many of the books I read. My working title: “Finding God in the Margins.” The book may never be written, but my fascination with finding God on the margins of life is never-ending. Everywhere I look, including within my own spiritual journey, I see God’s presence in people and experiences outside religious circles.
Editor’s note: This is one of Graves’ occasional letters to his grandchildren.
When it comes to physicians, patients have to remember one thing: Doctors are human, too. That was the advice from retired physician Jim Arthurs during a gathering of the popular Geezer Forum on Tuesday in Sandpoint. Nearly 60 people, mostly in the 60-plus crowd, attended Arthurs’ talk on “How Doctors Think.”
For some time, I’ve watched the political skirmishes that pit religious people and/or organizations against cities, counties, states or our country. It’s past time that I publicly ask my question: Why do religious people want the right to discriminate against other people? The issue bubbled to my surface after watching news reports of the owners of The Hitching Post in Coeur d’Alene fight against the city’s human rights ordinance. Because of their religious beliefs, the owners wanted to be able say “no” to same-sex couples wanting to be married.
It seems in recent months I’ve heard the words “relevant” and “relevance” in a variety of settings. It’s been years since these words were used to describe the ways of communicating in meaningful ways. But last week, I saw a feature article in this newspaper that brought “relevance” rushing back to me. The article’s headline was “Churches increasingly market services to young media users.” Above that headline was the photo of a billboard in downtown Spokane that asked the rhetorical question: “Have You Tweeted Jesus Lately? “ (I hope it was only rhetorical.)
“Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” Mark Twain said that in his “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar” many years ago. I wonder if he ever read the prophet Jeremiah.
Occasionally, writing this column takes some very unexpected twists and turns. My original thought for today was to begin with last weekend’s inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame. A statue is made of each inductee’s head. It will sit in the Hall of Fame for people to “ooo” and “ahhh” over for decades to come. These little statuettes reminded me of the golden calf worshipped by the Israelites after their Exodus from the grip of Egypt’s Pharaoh. I had wanted to rant about idols and how they differ from icons. (My righteous indignation can become too predictable – read “boring” – at times.)
Red-white-and-blue isn’t black-or-white. (The connecting words “and” and “or” should be a linguistic clue, but we usually skip right over them.) This is THE weekend of fever-pitch patriotism for our country. And it is right to be proud of our country. Its opportunities are astounding.
Dear Andy, Katie and Claire, I mixed your names in the salutation on purpose. I wanted to see you three in a little different way (not always in age order), and mixing the names helped. Looking at people and things in different ways is a good way to clear up our heart-sight, if not our eyesight.
Today is the second Saturday of the month. As it happens, I’ve been convener of a Dementia Support Group in Sandpoint since September. So today is the day when adult children and spouses of loved ones living with dementia gather to find a glimmer of hope. At every meeting, I silently wonder whether any of the participants see that hope glimmer, and if seeing it, embrace it as their own. Today, I won’t be silent. I plan to ask these loving people where their hopes lie. Their hopes certainly cannot lie in “someone” finding a way to reverse the dementia in their spouses or parents. No answers there yet!
For those of you who are “into Lent” as the run-up to Easter, I invite you to think with me about one of the primary Lenten doctrines, atonement. You might be surprised to learn that atonement has been a source of controversy since the early centuries of the Christian church. Simply put, there is no agreement on what “atonement” really means. For many Christians today, atonement’s focus is strictly on Jesus being sacrificed by God to “pay for our sins.” The “faithful skeptic” in me asks, “What does that really mean?” Does it mean that God is really so bloodthirsty that he is only willing to purify humanity if “we” enter into an agreement to kill an innocent man? I hope not. But I sense that is what too many people in and out of the church think atonement means.
For those of us who try to be followers of Jesus to some degree, let’s begin today with some words he addressed to his favorite foils, the “scribes and Pharisees.” In Matthew 23:23, he called them play-actors. He clearly challenges their legalistic pride, self-sufficiency and resulting hypocrisy when they give their “temple tithes” but “neglect the weightier matters of the law – justice, mercy, and good faith.” They did the light lifting of legalism but forgot those “weightier matters of the law.”