Stand in the Breach…

…So I have just spent the last thirty days writing political posts on a blog that was never supposed to be political.

But these last three years have left me with something that needs to be more than a month-long rant. What unsettles me the most are the reasoned, thoughtful,  pieces that discuss the loss of democracy through authoritarianism. Do you know how it happens? Good people like you and me simply tune out what is happening because: A) We can’t believe it has come to this; B) We simply zone out because of A;  C) We don’t know what we can possibly do against something so BIG; or D) We don’t talk about it because our friends voted for the other party, and we know what discussing politics has done  does to friends and families.

But this is important, friends: It is no longer Politics As Usual. We bury our heads in the sand at our country’s peril. (And believe me, I am a long-time ostrich…) And so I pulled my head out of the sand, blinked in the sunlight, and wrote some things here that might offend, but I have tried to write them in the most reasoned way I could. We do not need to add another screaming voice to this already polarized country.

I was reading my morning scriptures today — I’m in Ezekiel (!) — and I was struggling hard to understand what Chapter 22 was telling me, when I came to verse 30: “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

No, it isn’t about building a wall. (Please read this post, if you need to hear my views on walls….) It is about being righteous, standing up for righteousness, for justice, for mercy, for love. Righteousness must be tempered by love, or else we have someone who is a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal; love must be tempered by righteousness or we have wantonness. Justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy on its own without justice makes us doormats. Love & Righteousness, Justice & Mercy–they belong on opposite sides of the same coin; one without the other is an imbalance, a lack of harmony, a breach…

These days the country is certainly imbalanced, harmony is hard to find, and perhaps the breach is miles wide, but what is democracy worth? For my entire lifetime, democracy has not needed to be fought for, and perhaps we have grown soft and complacent, thinking the United States of America was the founding of democracy, and we needn’t worry about it.

  • After all, don’t we have the Constitution?
  • Don’t we have three branches of government that balance each other?
  • Aren’t we all certain of our freedom and our voting rights?
  • Dictators and tyrants and authoritarian rulers are not our allies, are they?

If the events of the last few months have you wondering or worrying about these questions, I suggest that we remember that it  wasn’t so long ago, we needed to fight for democracy. The odd thing about now is that it seems our democracy is deteriorating from within. And we can’t agree about who is doing the crumbling as the walls fall to pieces with people on either side shouting and throwing rocks.

What we need is courageous people to stand in the breach. Courageous people to say  “Stop shouting.” “Stop Tweeting.”  Put down the ugly sign in your hand, turn to the person next to you, and offer it to them.

If the last three years have taught us anything, it is that Donald Trump cannot do that. He is a divider, not a unifier. He thrives on deceit, aspersions, boasting, and bullying… If we have four more years of this division and anger, I fear the democracy we used to pride ourselves on, will be gone.

Will we stand in the breach, or have we gone too soft after years of easy living? Will we offer our hands to those who are different from us? Are we willing to do the hard work of reconciliation or is it just easier to keep shouting and interrupting? Jesus stands in the gap for us, and calls us to do the same. How will you stand?

 

 

 

All We Need Is Love…

All of March, all of April, all of May so far, posts have been swirling around in my head and then rejected. Too serious, too stupid, too sad, too banal, too ubiquitous, too churchy, too inappropriate, too depressing, too inconsequential… So instead I wrote an inconsequential post on baking dessert, and an inconsequential post on our bathroom remodel. (I confess that the beautiful new bathroom isn’t inconsequential to me!)

I kept thinking of the Lennon-McCartney line, Nothing you can say that’s not been said… but it turns out that isn’t the right lyric. It is close to a line from “All You Need Is Love” and that’s the lyric we all need to hear right now. “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need…” So have a listen to the song, while you’re reading my words that have all been said before.

This stuff we’re going through is scary. We’ve probably all read enough dystopian novels that start simply enough with oh, say, all the grass dying from a disease (No Blade of Grass, by John Christopher) or  women no longer being able to give birth so humanity is dying out (The Children of Men by P. D. James) or climate change causing  social structures to break down (The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler) or a viral pandemic that starts in one small area and spreads worldwide (Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; The Stand by Stephen King; )… It’s easy to look at what’s happening now and say, What if… Okay, yes. Too depressing.

I myself have been having trouble reading, concentrating. The librarian! So if dystopian novels are too depressing,  I told myself, read something light. So I chose 14 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith, but all that did was remind me of the ten days in Scotland that is not happening. Non-fiction, I brainstormed, and soon after I was reminded that The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher was on my life to-read-list, but it had always been pushed to the bottom because I didn’t think I had time. Duh! There are no events on my calendar, and I’ve got time. I’m reading it now on my kindle and thoroughly enjoying it.

Since we’re on the topic of song lyrics, how about John Prine’s song, Spanish Pipedream: Blow up your TV, throw away your paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus, on your own…)

Garden for Joy

Plant a little garden: We’ve already covered that in this post, but just in case you didn’t read it, go out and plant something. On your patio. In your back yard. In your front yard. Grow cosmos. Or lantana. Grow yellow tomatoes. Or seven different varieties of basil. Grow a lemon tree…

Turn off the Television: I admit to wanting to blow mine up.  24-7 broadcasting of Covid-19 statistics and scares is not good for anyone’s mental health…Neither is 24-7 broadcasting on the current president’s stupidity. Sorry. I just had to throw that in there because that has me as depressed as the virus statistics. So turn off the news, turn off the president, turn off the divisiveness. Play games, go for a walk, make homemade ice cream, order pizza delivery for a friend.

Try to find Jesus: Now is the time. Do you need hope? Do you need comfort? Do you need the ability to get rid of the belief that you are in control? Take comfort in what Jesus told his disciples: So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring fears of its own… There are you-tube church services abounding right now, and you don’t have to actually walk into a church. I remember how daunting that was when I was finally ready to take that step. It took me a month to get up the courage.

Pray: “Prayer and meditation are highly effective in lowering our reactivity to traumatic and negative events,” says Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage, family and addictions therapist. “They are powerful because they focus our thoughts on something outside ourselves.

Giving comfort to someone else brings comfort to you: Find something to do for someone who is worse off than you. Donate your time. Donate your talent. Donate your money. We were going to donate our stimulus check, but we haven’t received it yet. That’s okay; it’s giving us plenty of time to decide how to donate it…

So yes, all of this advice is everywhere. And frankly, I’m tired of those sappy commercials of “We’re all in this together”. I appreciate the sentiment; it is true. And I’d rather see one of those commercials than the tv news of protesters dressed in camo carrying guns. I admit to being a child of the sixties: I want to walk up and put daisies in their gun barrels.

I took this picture today when I was outside decorating my house for spring. These ajuga and lilies of the valley are growing together and cooperating beautifully in the same space. Even though they are different colors; even though they are different species. When will humans learn from them? In truth, some of the most beautiful landscapes are those with incredible variety. With all that is going on the world, we are being called to rise above the division, the noise, the ugliness and reach out in love to someone who might be different from us.

Take one step forward today. Be kind and love on someone. Be kind to yourself. Pray. Be grateful for what you do have. Love isn’t love till you give it away

 

 

Walls or Bridges?

I used to tell a story in my days working in libraries with kids, and its been on my mind lately. I know reading is not the same as hearing, but do your best to hear it being told…

Once upon a time there were two neighbors who were also farmers and friends. They’d been all three for almost forty years. Trading stories, tools, helping each other put up hay–all the things that farmers, neighbors, and friends do for each other.

And then one day they had a falling out. Oh, it was over something stupid, like Paul lost Joe’s favorite hay rake; or Joe called Paul a name in jest and Paul took it wrong. What they argued about doesn’t really matter because the next day Paul took his tractor and dug a big ditch between the two men’s properties. Water from the top of the hill searched out the ditch and now a decent-sized creek was the boundary line between the two farms, when before, there had been none.

There was a terrible silence between the two men for weeks.

One day Joe looked up from working in the barn to see a man standing in the doorway. He was carrying a wooden tool box that was well filled with awls, rasps, screws, and nails. He had two saws in a pack on his back. “G’mornin,” he said with an easy smile. “Got any projects you need done or things you might need fixin’?”

Joe thought a bit and then smiled back. “You’ve come at a good time. Follow me.” Joe led the carpenter down to the rushing stream. “Ya see this crick? T’wasn’t here three weeks ago. My neighbor put it in to spite me, and I’m mighty mad about the whole thing. I want you to build me a nice wall with that pile a lumber I have in the barn. And I’ll pay ya well if ya do a good job.”

The carpenter nodded. “I have just the project in mind for you. I think you’ll be pleased.”

“I have to go to town today,” Joe told the carpenter. “I can get ya more wood if you think you’ll need some.”

“I think this will be plenty,” the carpenter told him. He took his saws from his sack, spread his tools on the ground, and hurried off to haul the lumber he needed to get to work.

When Joe returned from town late in the afternoon, his jaw dropped at the sight. There across the creek was a graceful wooden bridge with sturdy railings and a deck big enough to support a tractor or a truck or a wagon. And there on the other side of the bridge was his neighbor Paul waving and smiling. He crossed the bridge and grabbed Joe’s hand, shaking it up and down with abandon. “I have to say I don’t know what possessed you to have this bridge built after these last weeks of ugliness between us, but I am so glad you did. I’ve wondered and wondered how we could ever make a bridge over what happened, and dog gone it, you went and done it. Built a bridge right over it.” He shook his head in amazement.

Joe was stunned into silence, but he had a grin smeared all over his face. “T’wasn’t me,” he finally stuttered to his friend. “It was this here carpenter gent’s work.”

They turned to look at the carpenter who was packing up his tools. Joe called to him, “Please don’t go. I got several other projects for ya — you did a fine job on this one.”

The carpenter shook his head and smiled.  He shouldered his saws, picked up his tool box, and waved at the two friends. “I can’t stay,” he told them. “I’ve got other bridges to build.” And with those last words he disappeared over the hill.

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We live in a world that builds walls, but bridge building can be done by anyone–you don’t have to be a carpenter or an engineer. What kind of bridge can you build? A footbridge? A covered bridge? Or a glorious bridge that overcomes fear and unforgiveness? Imitate the carpenter–love your neighbor and build a bridge, not a wall.

This story has been around for a long time, mostly as Author Unknown. I found it as “Old Joe and the Carpenter” in Thirty-Three Multicultural Tales to Tell by Pleasant DeSpain. Margaret Read MacDonald published a version by the same name in Peace Tales. When I searched the internet I found an original version–much longer and more colorful–as a story On the Hills and Everywhere written by Manly Wade Wellman (ca. 1956) in a book of stories called John the Balladeer.  This is my own version.