Monday, May 26, 2014


The Good News from Jesus that we strain not to hear—loving, and killing, your enemies are completely incompatible.   Everything that Jesus does and says proclaims God’s love is unconditional and nonviolent, and ours is to be the same.  This is particularly hard to bring to mind and acknowledge, when we are celebrating the real courage of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, or when a country is under threat and being marshaled towards impending wars. 

Saying attributed to Osama Bin Laden -- Not the Gospel, but should be an admonition to us all.
Art work by Jack Comstock

Yet to fight and kill for God and country are not the Way of Jesus, and His courage went to the cross, death and Resurrection—showing us the only method to truly conquer evil.  There have been many who’ve risked their lives under threat of death, to struggle for what is right, without taking up arms.  During World War II many, yet not enough, refused to fight for Hitler, or resisted his persecution of the Jews.   A significant number of these moral heroes paid with their lives, for not being willing to kill for the cause, or turn over others to be killed.  I hope to write more of their stories in the coming years.
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, d. Aug 9, 1943

Otto Schimek  d. Nov. 14, 1944

Some people overseas [their side and ours], and here in the U.S., were not willing to fully enter the hell of war.  The last U.S. soldier executed for desertion, and refusal to follow orders, was Eddie Slovik of Detroit, in France on Jan. 31, 1945.   His story is well worth reading, and viewing [more references below].

There were a few conscientious objectors in the U.S. also, who because of their faith conviction not to be trained in violence, were sent to prison.  A great many of our soldiers in World War II, 75% in a study [apparently more anecdotal than statistical] by General S.L.A Marshall the army's official WWII combat historian, admitted to firing their guns over the heads and inaccurately at the enemy.  Although specific records weren't kept, the conclusion was that even in the midst of battlefield chaos, soldiers did not want to kill their foe when they could see them--fellow human beings.  Focused efforts have resulted since, to include dehumanization of the enemy in combat soldier training.

We are told in the Gospels not to judge individuals.  This is very important.  But we must come to recognize what constitutes Christian courage, what are we striving to live up to, as we move towards the heavenly kingdom.   Can we find the way to be soldiers of Christ who fight evil by every courageous means that does not employ violence, taking the risk of loving enemies -- or do we further invest in our modern system of trained warriors embedded in an industry of war that often uses and discards them?

From the final words of last week’s Gospel {and John Pilch in his commentary, The Cultural World of Jesus, cycle A}  ---
“ ‘The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…’ John 14: 12   The works of Jesus are the works of God: to give life, and to restore meaning to life or enrich life’s meaning.  Already at creation God called us to take dominion over evolution {‘to till the garden and keep it,’ Gen 1:26-28}.
       This is our challenge to engage in life-giving activities rather than death-dealing ones.”

You can’t hug your children with nuclear arms, nor truly protect them with any weapon.   Let’s remember on Memorial Day, God’s call, so difficult for us raised amidst the world’s most advanced war technology, to put away the sword.

Deserter's execution remains vivid for Whitehall man – Pittsburgh Tribune
The Example Of Private Slovik – The American Heritage Magazine
The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) – TV film starring Martin Sheen

Monday, May 19, 2014


In God we trust {so say our dollar bills}, but in weapons and targeted killings we've trusted more.  The linear
thinkers can’t see the vast universe of God, and so think they can control by imposing death on enemies.  But because of the mystery of oneness of all existence, we are repeatedly self-bitten by the space-time curve—this grief created where good means could have been, and still mercifully may yet be.  Pray and ask good strong questions first—never have to shoot.
“When I receive Communion, the risen life of Christ becomes part of my life.  It’s not something promised in the future…it’s not something that perhaps will start after death.  It’s happening right now.  It’s a strong and vibrant life and it will last forever.” [from 5-15-14 Little White Book]
THE Singularity has come into our souls, center of all being, all cause, all effects, all reality.  Hope, life, do spring eternal.

Today we celebrate the birth of twins, Hazel and Elizabeth, to Sam and Kristen.  

Monday, May 12, 2014


I’d lost my old favorite Woody Guthrie songbook.  I was sure of it.  Unloading the guitar case from the car, continuing our trip through Iowa, where the book should have been there was an open gaping zipper pouch.  That quick sinking feeling that grabs me too frequently on the road.  It’s gone, lost.  Back at the last motel?  First check the piggy-backed smaller pouch.  No, only a couple of papers—too tight for it anyway.
Then the thoughts and suspicions surround me.   Why didn't I have it zipped?  Must have fallen under the bed in the tight space next to it where I’d stowed the guitar.   Or was it my compulsive brother Jim, who for more than 50 years has been hording, sorting, itemizing, checking re-checking almost every object he comes in contact with.   It’s part of his autism, unavoidably who he is.   Most often only a slight aggravation for the rest of the family, but something you must at times keep in mind.

I ask Jim, “Have you seen my Woody Guthrie songbook?  I've lost it.”  He seems concerned and repeats the name.   But doesn't appear to know anything more about it.   I call back to the previous hotel.  That’s the most likely solution.   The front desk clerk, says she will check, but when I call back 10 minutes later, there has been no sign of it in the room.   Now I begin to get worried.   Jim notes this and says “call back later.”   Or maybe, “make a copy, make a copy.”   I’m feeling the loss more now, and answer that I had some old song sheets in it that are not replaceable, and that the book is out of print, not replaceable [though there is a newer edition—all is not really lost].

Our  roots tour started at the museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa

Through the next hours of the day, I’m still somewhat miserable as we do a rambling tour of the Fort Dodge, Iowa museum with my 90 year old Dad, my brother Dave, and his two older children.  My Mom had ancestors in these parts.  This is a roots tour.

s we walk together, Jim repeats more frequently, “Find the Woody Guthrie book,” as he leans in close to my ear, his way of showing the importance of a subject.   His concern mounts, though his voice is soft and steady, as my worry persists.   Finally he’s returning to this every 10 minutes.   He then grabs my attention more fully by having me spell each letter slowly as he writes them down in his slightly scraggly-dark but precise hand [that has drawn thousands of engineered figures of people and cars].  WOODY GUTHRIE SONGBOOK. 

Then I realize, as he leans in close with me on this task, that he has been trying to reassure me.  To calm my fears.  He understands those fears, and wants me not to worry.   We shared a bedroom growing up during my later school years, and I thought by simple word games and talk I’d initiate, that reassurance would always be my job.   Not so in this present moment.  I do let go of the anxiety, and am comforted by the surprise of his love in this small but not insignificant crisis.   The peripheral suspect has become a centering guide.

A day later, before doing some singing and playing with brother Dave, I decide to take a closer look in that smaller guitar case pouch.   Pressed tight under the papers I’d seen but not looked behind is my Woody Guthrie songbook.   I tell Jim, I’m thankful, it’s been found.  He's pleased too.  I am grateful.

This game of the bait and switch on myself, the lost that was never lost, I've played a couple of times in my life.  Most disconcerting—but has made me a believer, that in the end, following in God’s footsteps, accepting the help that comes in unexpected ways, we really do have nothing left to lose.

Worried Man Blues -- Listen to, sung by Woody Guthrie
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands -- Listen to, sung by Odetta


           The Cardiff Giant Hoax, our great great uncle Michael Foley had been marginally involved, Barnum Bailey                                               taking the lead.   Part of the story on this plaque in to Fort Dodge Iowa museum.

The ten foot tall gypsum quarry "Cardiff Giant"

CARDIFF GIANT lies in exhibition - discredited, but acknowledged, in Fort Dodge, IA

Grave of the son of the stone cutter at Fort Dodge cemetery
On our trip we rambled through many graveyards to get to the bottom of our stories.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney