WEDNESDAY WORDS – WORD #25 – ALWAYS LEARNING

WEDNESDAY WORDS[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday (or thereabouts) I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #25.]

ALWAYS LEARNING

Educational institutions, when they fulfill their highest calling, do not merely prepare students for better jobs, or career advancement, or the establishment of a stable financial foundation. When educators truly educate, they teach us how to learn. May we always know and know always anew the multiple meanings of learning.

Learning is the expansion of a child’s heart as well as her mind. Learning is a young one fashioning dreams, and an old one sharing visions. If we pay attention, learning is what takes place when knees are skinned, egos are bruised, and souls are stretched by new awareness.

Learning is to knowledge what burning is to fire. Learning is the beginning of new life and the closing off of that which has passed the point of usefulness. To learn is to encounter every present moment as a potential blessing.

Learning is an adventure in uncharted territory. It is the challenge of all good managers, all insightful inventors, all masterful musicians, all wonder struck painters, and all worthy teachers.

Learning takes place by staying awake, paying attention, and doing our homework. Learning also happens by simply sitting on the edge of a peacefully gleaming lake or watching clouds pass by overhead or listening to the gentle rhythms of rain. Learning is not kept under lock and key at the schoolhouse.

Learning is essential for every effort toward quality, and it is unavoidable in the natural scheme of maturation. Either we learn or we wither. Learning inspires the mind and checks our brazenness. Learning humbles the highest and ennobles the lowly.

Learning is the breaking of poverty’s shackles. It is an escape hatch out of the pit of prejudice. It is the living link which draws disparate groups together. Without learning, history moves in retrograde. With learning, we take the next authentic step into the future.

Learning shines on a graduate’s face. Learning empowers the disenfranchised and lifts up the downtrodden. Learning is the great democratizer. Learning is the ultimate check and balance system. It is the stimulus for all virtues and the corrective for all vices.

– Bob Hill

(From LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE, 2015, pp. 11-12.)

WEDNESDAY WORDS- WORD #24 – THE TEACHING TOMATOES

WEDNESDAY WORDS[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday (or thereabouts) I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #24.]

THE TEACHING TOMATOES

Another year, another bumper crop of tomatoes in our Brookside garden! And, even though I know more about concrete than I do about dirt (or tomatoes or arugula or snap peas or banana peppers or any other edible piece of vegetation), our little 8’x 15′ “Le Metarie” patch on our home’s south-side is teaching some obvious lessons. And mostly, for me, the tomatoes are the instructors.

First of all, I now know what “prodigious” really means. It means you can’t harvest the sun gold cherry tomatoes fast enough to keep up with their fruition.

Secondly, there is pleasure, rich pleasure, deep olfactory bliss, in the sheer smell of tomatoes. If you ever need a reminder of life’s unmitigated goodness, all you need to do is walk by our tomato plants. Gardens are the original aroma therapy centers.

Thirdly, a great harvest of tomatoes is achieved when there’s a grand balance of sunshine and rain. Now, I admit that this should be as obvious as the nose on my face, but remember I’m a city kind of guy, and the rhythm of sunshine’s power and rain’s nurturing comfort can sometimes elude us city-slickers. But during the month of August, amidst the undulating rain-heat-rain-heat-rain-heat-rain weather cycles, even I was able to see the rate of growth among the tomato plants, their burgeoning heft weighing down the tomato cages almost to the point of collapse.

Fourthly, certain sorts of tomatoes are prone to disease and others are disease-resistant. So you need to find the best kind of tomatoes for your kind of soil. We definitely hit pay dirt again this year!

Fifthly, a torrent of tomatoes – or a plethora of peaches or a cornucopia of corn or a pile of pears – builds community. When a harvest is so effusive, friends (and also some strangers) will be graced, and the gracing binds people together in a unity of enjoyment.

Finally, an abundance of tomatoes inspires an abundance of curiosity about recipes for tomato dishes. And, wow, what an array of possibilities! Ever tried tomato grits?

I think I’ll take the fried-green-tomato BLT, please.

– Bob Hill

(Adapted from LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE, Woodneath Press.)

MONDAY MEDS – MONDAY MED #24 – WORK

MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)

[Normally, each Monday, during the current COVID-19 crisis, I post a chapter from my GREAT SOULS, GREAT PRAYERS manuscript as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Today, given that it’s the Labor Day holiday, I’m posting an excerpt from my book LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE. Partake, use, and/or share this as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, and/or contemplation. Here’s MONDAY MED #24.]

WORK

How we work is at least as important as what we actually work at. In an age when the average American changes occupations and/or jobs 12 times during their working life, the attitude we bear through the changes is central to success and contentment. During this year’s Labor Day holiday, let us consider carefully and prayerfully the ingredients for healthy and useful attitudes toward the work we do.

Working, of course, entails a paycheck. This is partly what the establishment of Labor Day was and is all about. The dignity that obtains when fair pay is available for all workers.

Working also entails compensation in addition to a paycheck. Monetary wages do not necessarily attend meaningful and significant work. Working conditions and benefits are utterly important.

I know older persons who are working harder in retirement than they ever did during their “workforce” years. Their satisfaction is found in volunteering for good and great causes and thereby making a meaningful contribution to the wider community.

I know homemakers of all stripes — housewives and househusbands — who work mightily but don’t receive a penny for their efforts. Their compensation is satisfaction in adding to the moral development of others, doing something they love doing, time with children and grandchildren, peace and fulfillment for their families, well-managed households, the happiness that a fulfilling partnership brings.

There are also students, from kindergarten to graduate school, whose work is a daily and exciting challenge, though their compensation can hardly be calculated in the gross national product.

Without these forces for goodness in our society, our social fabric might very well come unraveled.

Let us also recall that our work, apart from the love of our families and our relationship with God, is our most valuable possession. Here I am adapting something I first heard James Carville describe when he was assessing his colorful career as a political consultant. Far away from raucous political campaigns and the calumny of adversarial relationships with the media, Mr. Carville mused eloquently about work — any person’s work — and its significance on the earthly scales of what counts as important.

My questions this Labor Day weekend are these:

* Do you regard your work in such a manner?

* Do our communities regard work in such a manner?

* Does U.S. culture regard work in such a manner?

* Is work one of your more prized “possessions”?

* How many of us regard the work of others as worthy and valuable?

* And, to add an urgently pressing question, when will we do what is right as a country and raise the minimum wage to $15/hr?

May we always remember that good work, well done, fit for a good purpose, shaped for the sharing in the wider community, is always a cherishable treasure. When we do such work, we are then engaging in what Marge Piercy describes as being “of use.”

— Bob Hill

(Adapted from LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR ANYTHING BUT LOVE, Woodneath Press)

WEDNESDAY WORDS – WORD #23 – FRIENDS

WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday (or thereabouts) I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #23.]
FRIENDS
Friends and friendships are integral parts of what it means to be a member of the human race. Friends and friendships are essential components of what it means to be part of a community of faith.
What are friends to you? Who are your friends? As we approach the possible answers to those questions, allow me to offer the following acronym of definitions for what friends are all about.
F – Friends are faithful, in season and out of season. Not perfect, mind you, but faithful in the end. Faithfulness is the testimony of person after a person when they list their greatest assets in life.
R – Friends are the way we know what reconciliation is all about. Of course, along one’s journey, reconciliation is appropriate in all of our relationships. And we are challenged — by tradition, heritage (religious and otherwise), and sacred texts — to be reconciled with our adversaries and enemies. But our friendships depend upon reconciliation, too. Sometimes, in the face of great disagreements or grievous wounds, reconciliation with our friends just may be the most difficult thing to achieve.
I – Friends help us experience the inspiration of God’s powerful presence. Sometimes, a friendly face is the only way we know the face of God. Friends inspire us with their example. Friends offer us inspiring challenges. And friends continuously inspire us with their forbearance and acceptance. When we experience such gifts, we know that we are in the presence of God.
E – Friendship relationships, in addition to our families, are the primary source of energy for human life. What could you do, really, without the affirmation of your friends? How enthusiastic could you really be without friends in your life?
N – Friends know our names. And we know theirs. To know and be known by name is the foundation for an empowering and meaningful life. And not only do our friends know our names, they also know the nuances of our personalities, the nettlesome problems which puzzle us, and the numinous moments that give us hope. But first they know our names, and we treasure the instant when they call us by name.
D – Friends provide the extra dose of delight which is so necessary for a life worth celebrating. Our friends are the pizzazz in the midst of a drab and dreary day. They are the “carbonation” in the drink of life. They are the “spice” in the feast of life. They are the “syncopation” in the rhythms of life.
S – Friends sustain us in hard times, support us in times of grieving, and show us their true affection and affirming regard when we encounter joyous triumphs.
– Bob Hill
[Excerpted from LOVE ALL WAYS, forthcoming from Caroline Street Press, late 2020/early 2021.]

MONDAY MEDS – MONDAY MED #23 – CARLYLE MARNEY

Carlyle Marney 2019 (2)
MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Monday I’m posting chapters from a manuscript (“GREAT SOULS,GREAT PRAYERS”) as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Partake, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, and/or contemplation. Each posting contains a week’s worth of suggestions for use. Follow the suggestions or the leadings of your own creativity. Here’s MONDAY MED #23.]
CARLYLE MARNEY
Among American Christian clergy, few preachers have offered more provocative theologizing from the pulpit than Carlyle Marney. With the personal background of a Baptist, the heart of an ecumenist, and the mind of an existentialist philosopher, Marney was acutely in tune with the cultural twists and turns of societal transformations in the latter half of the 20th century.
Whether preaching in pulpits in Tennessee, Texas, or North Carolina, or prophesying at seminaries and college lecture halls across the land, Marney marked his feverish engagement with the issues of his day by an emphasis on certain themes:
* Iconoclasm — in all of its enlivening, well-thought-out forms — is always welcome when it helps us grow in grace and trust in God.(1)
* Ministry, when it is enacted most authentically by both the ordained and the laity, is person-centered.(2)
* God is best understood as “Person,” (3) as “One who loves.” (4)
* Humility is in order in all theological, ecclesiological, Christological, biblical, and philosophical discussions. About Karl Barth’s voluminous trust in words to describe God: “Nobody knows fifteen hundred pages about God, even in German.” (5)
* Relation is the key to understanding life, faith, family, and all institutions.”In the beginning is relation…. All real living is meeting.”(6)
One of the keys to understanding Marney and his take on faith and spirituality was his voice, a rich basso that could boom with enraged incredulity in the face of the idiotic and, alternately, could woo his hearers with soft entreaty.
Marney always understood himself to be still “seeking another way to be a true believer,” (7) ever on the lookout for “new light.”(8)
Inspired by John Bunyan, Marney eventually understood the Church to be a place for rest, renewal, instruction, and self-integration, “a house for the relief of Pilgrims.” (9) From Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress Marney got the name “Interpreter’s House” for the retreat center he would establish, with the programmatic assistance of James Fowler, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, for the renewal of clergy and laity.
Marney also described what he called one’s “private church,” (10) which is made up of those most intimately included in one’s life sphere, those, who “know so much about gospel and forgiveness and joy-filled love and what welcome is all about that they are the closest approximation, this side of glory, of what the face of Christ surely looks like.” (11)
Marney became famous for “Marney-isms”:
* What the author of Hebrews calls “the great cloud of witnesses” Marney would term “balcony people,” (12) those who behold our faith journeys, inward and outward, and offer their encouragement, their examples, their legacies, their losses, and their love.
* In giving advice to a clergy colleague regarding leadership, he said “You know, if you get too far ahead of your folks, they mistake you for the enemy and start shooting.” (13)
* To a man who once asked “Have you ever seen God?,” he said, “No, but I have known a couple of Jesuses in my lifetime.” (14)
* About guilt and responsibility, Marney said, “It’s too late to learn innocence. And, besides, who would teach the course?” (15)
* Always, the person and proclamation of Jesus was central to Marney: “A person who keeps Jesus too godlike doesn’t have to be responsible as a human being.”(16)
Regarding prayer, Marney was straightforward, blunt and humble. During his pastorate in Austin he mused during one evening service, “I am just beginning to learn that the study of prayer is a major obligation of the pastor and that there is an awful lot to know that none of us know about prayer.”(17) During that same occasion he also uttered a firm resistance against provincialism, a conviction which he would live out the entirety of his ministry: “I am not interested in the kind of prayer that tries to make God a tribal chieftain who will give this tribe or that tribe victory…. With all my heart I deplore and decry the kind of prayer that assumes the God to I whom pray is on my side.” (18)
PRAYING WITH CARLYLE MARNEY: SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
Day 1 On this day, give thanks for God’s “personal” love for you as you launch a new week of activities.
Day 2 Pray today assuming God is One who is a Person in deep relation with you.
Day 3 Today, confess to God what you do not know, where you would like to receive “new light.”
Day 4 Pray today for a sense of release from guilt and a renewed sense of responsibility to act ethically in all aspects of your life.
Day 5 In the evening, offer a prayer of gratitude for those instances today when Jesus’ life was present for you and for others, particularly in relationships.
Day 6 Give thanks for the growth in grace you have experienced today.
Day 7 Consider the people in your “private church” and your “balcony people.” What would they (what do they) say about your endeavors this past week?
BIOGRAPHICAL TIMELINE — July 8, 1916, born Leonard Carlyle Marney, in Harriman, Tennessee, the oldest of three children of John Leonard Marney and Sarah Victoria (Mays) Marney; long before entering ministry he is known for having a gift for speaking; during his boyhood reads over three thousand books from the Andrew Carnegie Library in Harriman; 1925, Scopes “Monkey Trial” occurs in Dayton, Tennessee, forty miles from his home; his extended family includes Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Catholics, and Unitarians, along with the ever-present Baptists; 1933, enters Carson-Newman College on football scholarship; 1935, after “academically disastrous” experiences, dean of college advises a year off, which Marney spends digging ditches; 1936, itinerant evangelist inspires him to commit to church vocation; during his last two years at Carson-Newman is re-baptized; 1938, graduates from Carson-Newman and becomes Education Director at First Baptist Church, Kingsport, Tennessee; June 20, 1940, marries Rita Elizabeth Christopher at First Baptist Church, Kingsport; enters Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; 1941, ordained as a Baptist minister; 1943, earns Th. M. in church history from Southern;1943-1944, serves small congregation, Fort Knox, Kentucky; 1944, accepts call to First Baptist in Beaver Dam, Kentucky; 1946, completes dissertation and receives Th.D. from Southern; 1946, accepts call to Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, where abject poverty of members and citizens makes a lasting impression on him; 1948, accepts call to First Baptist, Austin, Texas; serves as adjunct faculty at Austin Presbyterian Seminary; begins publishing sermons and other writings; his commentaries on television and in other venues are noted for opposition to racism and segregation; because of his free-thinking ways and his ecumenical attitudes, becomes known as a “renegade” among Southern Baptist circles; his theological liberalism begins to be reshaped by the impact of person-centered pastoral theology; 1958, accepts call to Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, on the conditions of open membership, open communion; 1960, Beggars in Velvet published; 1961, Structures of Prejudice published; 1963, The Recovery of the Person published; begins to be regarded as “pastor to pastors;” 1965, Christmas services are nationally broadcast (NBC) from Myers Park sanctuary; September 1966, suffers first heart attack, which is subsequently complicated by lung surgery and colon difficulty; Good Friday 1967, resigns from Senior Minister position; moves with Elizabeth permanently to their Wolf Pen Mountain retreat home; establishes Interpreter’s House, a retreat center for clergy and laity, at Lambuth Inn, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina; serves as guest lecturer in many venues, including Cunningham Lectures (Austin College), Peyton Lectures (Southern Methodist University), Wells Lectures (Texas Christian University), Willson Lectures (Texas Tech University); 1967-1978, Vice President, National Council of Churches; also serves on U.S. Commission on Rural Poverty; 1972, begins 6-year stint as Adjunct Professor of Preaching at Duke University Divinity School; 1973, PBS special on Interpreter’s House; 1974, Priests to Each Other is published; 1976, Visiting Professor in the Conquest Chair in Humanities, Virginia Military Institute; is awarded D.D. from University of Glasgow, the first American pastor since Harry Emerson Fosdick to be so honored; invited to give the 1980 Beecher Lectures in Preaching at Yale; July 3, 1978, dies of a massive coronary at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina; July 5, 1978, Memorial Service is held at Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina; at Elizabeth’s request, is buried in his crimson Glasgow doctoral robe, in Evergreen Cemetery, Charlotte, North Carolina; memorial services are also held at Princeton and Duke universities.
NOTES
(1) One of the most powerful examples of Marney’s iconoclastic capacities is to be found in “Peace But Not Yet,” his 1965 Christmas sermon at Myers Park Baptist Church, in Charlotte, North Carolina, in which his text is the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4ff. The service and sermon, which was broadcast live on the CBS television network, prompted more than 800 letters of negative criticism. See https://myersparkbaptist.org/forever-forward-interviews/ and/or Carlyle Marney, “Christmas Eve,” Dec. 24, 1965, Original Sermon Recording, CD-1, issued in conjunction with Marney and Ministry: A Symposium on Carlyle Marney and Ministry for the 21st Century, Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, February 8, 2004; see also Mary Kratt, Marney (Charlotte, North Carolina: Myers Park Baptist Church, 1979), pp. 20-23, and John J. Carey, Carlyle Marney: A Pilgrim’s Progress (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1980), p. 102.
(2) “Fundaments of a Competent Ministry,” Duke Divinity School Review, Vol. 41, Winter 1976, No.1, pp. 5-15.
(3) Carlyle Marney, The Recovery of the Person: A Christian Humanism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963), p. 51.
(4) Ibid., p. 52.
(5) Ibid., p.53.
(6) See Carlyle Marney, “The Tent of Meeting;” Carlyle Marney, The Recovery of the Person: A Christian Humanism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963), pp. 149-150; and John Stanley, “Carlyle Marney: An Essay of Pastoral Biography,” Highland Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, 1993.
(7) Quoted in numerous lectures by Marney and in Carey, Carlyle Marney: A Pilgrim’s Progress, p. 56.
(8) Carlyle Marney, The Coming Faith (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970), p. 141.
(9) See Carey, Carlyle Marney: A Pilgrim’s Progress, p. 50.
(10) See Carlyle Marney, Priests to Each Other (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1973).
(11) While the search for the origin of this beautiful phrase has been exhaustive, the securing of its exact source been elusive.
(12) One of the most quotable “Marneyisms,” frequently cited by Christian preachers in reference to the celebration of All Saints Day and Hebrews 12:1ff; see one of the more recent citations of this phrase in John Buchanan’s Editor’s Desk: “City prayers” column in The Christian Century, October 5, 2010, Vol. 127. No. 20., p. 3.
(13) Kratt, Marney, p. 14; see also Carey, Carlyle Marney: A Pilgrim’s Progress, p. 45.
(14) This quote is recalled from remembering a recorded lecture by Marney, the specifics of which are now lost.
(15) Ibid.
(16) Kratt, Marney, p. 89.
(17) “Prayer,” June 28, 1953, evening service, Carlyle Marney Papers, 1899‑1979, Duke University Libraries Archives, Box 55, File: May 1953 – Oct. 1953, p. 1.
(18) Ibid., p. 2.
FOR FURTHER STUDY, AND REFLECTION
John J. Carey, Carlyle Marney: A Pilgrim’s Progress (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1980)
John J. Carey, “Carlyle Marney as Ethicist,” Theology Today July 1980 37: 170-182
Mary Kraft, Marney (Charlotte, North Carolina: Myers Park Baptist Church, 1979)
Carlyle Marney, Beggars in Velvet (New York: Abingdon Press, 1960)
Carlyle Marney, The Carpenter’s Son (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1967)
Carlyle Marney, “Christmas Eve,” Dec. 24, 1965, Original Sermon Recording, CD-1, issued in conjunction with Marney and Ministry: A Symposium on Carlyle Marney and Ministry for the 21st Century,Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, February 8, 2004.
Carlyle Marney, The Coming Faith (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970)
Carlyle Marney, Priests to Each Other (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1973)
Carlyle Marney, The Recovery of the Person: A Christian Humanism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963)
Carlyle Marney, Structures of Prejudice (New York: Abingdon Press, 1961)
© 2020, Robert Lee Hil

WEDNESDAY WORDS – WORD #22 – DEMOCRACY

WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday (or thereabouts) I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #22.]
DEMOCRACY
Democracy — the kind of democracy that we Americans say we participate in, the kind of democracy that is at the foundation of the U. S. experiment at its very best, the kind of democracy that countless patriots have believed they were fighting and dying for — is excruciatingly difficult to fulfill. Any leader who promotes an “easy” solution for the plethora of nettlesome problems within a democratic nation is only peddling snake oil, as they used to say. In other words, such a leader is a charlatan.
Democracy is hard because it is complicated. Democracy is hard because it involves compromise. Democracy is hard because it is suffused with competing visions and alternative approaches to nearly every issue engaged in public life.
Despite the difficulties of democracy, I am absolutely convinced it is still worth it. The old aphorism, while admittedly hackneyed, is still true: Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.
Of course, the best form of democracy is based on the premier values within the human community. Chief among these values are honesty and truth-telling.
As history has shown again and again, those who wish to dissolve democratic ideals and establish dictatorial power will first attack journalists in particular and the truth in general. Fascists galore have practiced what Joseph Goebbels codified for Nazi propaganda: Tell a lie long enough and usually people will come to believe it.
Honesty, like democracy, is difficult. Honesty is difficult because it entails the limitations of human discourse. (To say one thing is to refrain from saying something else.) Even when rendered with absolute conviction and good faith, one’s assertions can require restating, clarification, and reframing. Such discourse takes time, patience, and care, all of which are difficult to manage. When an elected official regularly unleashes a barrage of vitriolic attacks and inane assertions via Twitter or Facebook, patience and care are severely undercut. The “Twitterization” of our public discourse contributes mightily to what John Dewey once called “the cult of irrationality.”
I’ve also been thinking about another key component of any functioning democracy, namely integrity.
Personal, communal, and national expressions of integrity — that is, meaning what you say and saying what you mean, acting on the basis of consistent morality, and coherently reflecting and expressing one’s moral convictions — are also essential for any democratic nation to achieve its highest goals, particularly the United States and our lofty ideals of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Along with honesty and integrity, I can’t help but think about respect as a key ingredient of democracy and its flourishing.
Respect is often reflected in our language, especially the language we use to describe others. Truly respectful leaders in our nation know that we are a vast stew of a nation, blessed by the rich reserves of diversity inherent among a rainbow array of U.S. citizens. Also, respectful leaders do not sully the reputations of other leaders with petty slighting or vulgar slandering. Leaders who are committed to respecting all persons would never use racist innuendo to attack any group of human beings — such leaders would not speak of immigrants as “infesting” our nation.
Along with honesty, integrity, and respect as key features of a strong democracy, I’ve been musing a lot about compassion.
Compassion is as crucial to democracy as justice is. Without compassion, a nation’s government can deteriorate into reptilian brutality.
The quality of compassion, and the concomitant virtues of kindness and mercifulness, are the ultimate characteristics that determine the legacies by which our greatest leaders are remembered. No leader can authentically claim to love freedom who lacks compassion for those yearning for a more fulsome experience of freedom and freedom’s gifts.
– Bob Hill
[From ALL YOU NEED IS (MORE) LOVE, Caroline Street Press, 2019, pp. 153-155.]

MONDAY MEDS – MONDAY MED #22 – ROSA PARKS

MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Monday I’m posting chapters from a manuscript (“GREAT SOULS,GREAT PRAYERS”) as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Partake, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, and/or contemplation. Each posting contains a week’s worth of suggestions for use. Follow the suggestions or the leadings of your own creativity. Here’s MONDAY MED #22.]
ROSA PARKS
In the tradition of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Phillis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Marian Anderson, Rosa Parks would add her efforts to further civil rights for African-Americans, and indeed for all Americans, through an expression of great courage. In a simple act of nonviolent resistance in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, she would ignite a powerful protest against racial segregation in the U.S. by refusing to move to a bus’s segregated seating section.
Others, like Alabama State professor Jo Ann Robinson, organized the bus boycott. Dr. Martin Luther King, then pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and would thereafter galvanize the transformation of Montgomery. But it was Rosa Parks who would become known as “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Rosa Parks would later say that she defiantly refused to give up her seat on the bus on that day because she was tired, spiritually and existentially: “I did not want to be continually humiliated over something I had no control over: the color of my skin.” (1)
Parks’ bold witness was founded on the insights she had garnered from involvement in the N.A.A.C.P., through training she had received at Highlander Folk School, and by long years of practicing her deep Christian faith. As a child, each day, before supper, there would be daily devotions, with her grandmother reading the Bible and her grandfather praying. Her mother also played a strong part in her faith development, tendering simple, practicable guidance. Chief among the adages she learned from her mother was the proverbial wisdom of “If you live life yard by yard, it sure is hard. But if you live it inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”(2)
Parks maintained all through her life that the book of Psalms was her favorite book in the Bible, particularly Psalm 27:1-7. Among her favorite hymns were “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Jesus;” “I Am Bound for the Promised Land;” “O Freedom Over Me.”
For Rosa Park the church was the foundation of her community, as it had been for countless other African-Americans for centuries. In the church, she found refuge, inspiration, information, haven, and life-giving sustenance. Meeting, praying, singing, reading Scripture, helping others, giving testimony, connecting with her Creator in intimate communion, organizing for the betterment of the community – all these provided the strength she needed to resist hatred, violence, and injustice.
In a tense moment in her life, after being arrested in 1955 in Montgomery for refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks told interviewer Douglas Brinkley, she was sitting in a pew in her church, St. Paul A.M.E. when she experienced a “[t]rue peace of mind” sweeping over her as a blessing from God.(3) The holy visitation confirmed her bold action and strengthened her resolve for the further work required for the fulfillment of civil rights for all people.
Because of Park’s upbringing, the gifts of the Bible, and the spiritual resources provided by the Church, she could live a life of steadfast gratitude. “I am always grateful for each day God has given me.”(4)
BIOGRAPHY TIMELINE – February 4, 1913, born Rosa McCauley, daughter of James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona (Edwards) McCauley, a teacher, Tuskegee, Alabama; baptized as an infant in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; attends AME church third Sunday of each month, attends Baptist church on other Sundays; when parents separate moves with her mother and brother Sylvester to Pine Level, Alabama, near Montgomery, where she grows up on maternal grandparents’ farm; 1918, attends elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama; 1924, attends Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery, Alabama; 1929, leaves school to care for grandmother; later stays home also to care for her mother; December 18, 1932, marries Raymond Parks in Pine Level, Alabama; 1934, receives high school diploma; December, 1943, becomes secretary of the Montgomery NAACP; 1943, tries to register to vote and is denied; is forced off bus for the first time for not entering at the back door; 1944, is again denied the opportunity to register to vote; 1945, finally receives certificate for voting; 1949, becomes adviser to the NAACP Youth Council; Summer, 1955, attends workshop at Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, for the first time; August, 1955, meets the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.; December 1, 1955, is arrested for not yielding her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus; December 5, 1955, stands trial and is found guilty; attends meeting of a group who have formed the Montgomery Improvement Association; Montgomery bus boycott begins; January, 1956, loses job at Montgomery Fair department store; February 21, 1956, re-indicted for boycotting; November 13, 1956, segregation on buses declared unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court; December 21, 1956, boycotters return to buses; 1957, moves to Detroit; August 28, 1963, attends civil rights march on Washington; speaks at annual convention of Southern Christian Leadership Convention; March, 1965, participates in Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march; 1965, begins working for Congressman John Conyers in Detroit;1977, husband Raymond Parks, dies; brother Sylvester McCauley dies; 1979, mother Leona McCauley, dies; receives Spingarn Medal, NAACP’s highest honor; 1987, co-founds the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, with Elaine Steele; September, 1988, retires from working for John Conyers; February 28, 1991, bust of Rosa Parks is unveiled at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; 1992, meets Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, founder and president of Soka Gakkai International; publishes her first book, Rosa Parks: My Story with Jim Haskins; 1994, trip to Japan; receives honorary doctorate degree/Soka University; 1994; trip to Stockholm, Sweden, to receive Rosa Parks Peace Prize and light the Peace Candle; publishes Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation with Gregory J. Reed; 1995, speaks at the Million Man March; fortieth anniversary, Montgomery bus boycott; 1996, receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton; 1999, receives Congressional Gold Medal; 2000, Rosa Parks Library and Museum dedicated on campus of Troy University, Montgomery, Alabama; Time magazine names her one of “The 20 most influential People of the 20th Century.” February 24, 2002, The Rosa Parks Story airs on CBS ; October 24, 2005, dies in Detroit, Michigan; October 29, 2005, coffin flown to Montgomery where she lies in repose at St. Paul A.M.E. Church; October 31, 2005, casket transported to Washington, D.C., where she lies in honor in the U.S. Capitol, with 50,000 viewing; memorial service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church; November 1-2, 2005, coffin lies in repose at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, Michigan; November 2, 2005, funeral held at the Greater Grace Temple Church, Detroit, Michigan, lasting seven hours, with 4,000 in attendance; interred next to her husband and mother in mausoleum, Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan; February 27, 2013, statue of Rosa Parks is placed in U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall; 2015, after years of legal entanglements, her papers are catalogued in the Library of Congress.
PRAYING WITH ROSA PARKS:
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
Day 1 Pray the first verse of Psalm 27 – The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Say it at least three times this day.
Day 2 Memorize one your favorite Psalms, or a verse from a Psalm, and pray it several times throughout the day.
Day 3 Set a time each day, either morning or early evening, for reading short portions of the Bible (such as a Psalm each day), then take fifteen minutes to pray, using the themes and thoughts suggested in the Bible reading as your guide.
Day 4 Recall Rosa Park’s mother’s wisdom: “If you live life yard by yard, it sure is hard. But if you live it inch by inch, life’s a cinch.” Now consider the three top problems/dilemmas/challenges in your life:
(1) ________________________________________
(2) ________________________________________
(3) ________________________________________
Note the “yard-by-yard solutions you’re using to solve them. Now ask yourself, “What are some new inch-by-inch solutions that God might suggest?”
Day 5 Pray today by humming or singing a favorite song or hymn that relates to God’s grace-filled provision of care for you. If you know the words of the song, speak them aloud as a prayer of gratitude for such provision.
Day 6 Begin this day with a prayer of thanksgiving for your earthly persisting through the night into a brand new day. At midday, say a prayer of thanks for the activities that have been set to your hands. At the close of day, give thanks to God for the encounters that have enriched your life this day.
Day 7 Ponder today what new training you might need for your walk of faith. Recall that Rosa Parks was a life-long learner when it came to living out her faith.
NOTES
1 Rosa Parks, with Gregory J. Reed, Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), pp. 65-66.
2 Parks and Reed, Quiet Strength , p. 57.
3 Douglas Brinkley, Rosa Parks: A Life (New York: Lipper/Viking, 2000), p. 150.
4 Parks and Reed, Quiet Strength , p. 86.
FOR FURTHER READING, STUDY, AND REFLECTION
Douglas Brinkley, Rosa Parks: A Life (New York: Lipper/Viking, 2000)
Joyce A. Hanson, Rosa Parks: A Biography (Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood, 2011)
Rosa Parks, with Gregory J. Reed, Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994)
Jeanne Theoharis, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Boston: Beacon Press, 2013)
© 2020, Robert Lee Hill

MONDAY MEDS – MONDAY MED #21 – MARTIN BUBER

Buber - 2020
MONDAY MEDS (Meditations)
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Monday I’m posting chapters from a manuscript (“GREAT SOULS,GREAT PRAYERS”) as a potential source of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Partake, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit, as a resource for prayer, meditation, and/or contemplation. Each posting contains a week’s worth of suggestions for use. Follow the suggestions or the leadings of your own creativity. Here’s MONDAY MED #21.]
MARTIN BUBER
Once regarded as the world’s greatest Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber expressed his remarkable gifts in the fields of philosophy, politics, religion, and literature, leaving lasting spiritual resources for those yearning for authentic relationships with other persons and with God.
The forces, dynamics, and events which shaped his thinking and character are notable: his parents’ divorce early in his life; a multilingual culture which provided him with exceeding linguistic capabilities; his grandfather Salomon’s scholarship on Jewish midrash; his encounters with and advocacy of the gifts Hasidism; his translations of Hasidic tales for mass reception; opposition to Herzl regarding his leadership of Zionism; his marriage and his wife’s subsequent conversion to Judaism; the ravaging evils of Nazism and the Holocaust; the creation of the modern nation‑state of Israel.
Buber’s faith rested on a fundamental assumption that all of life is a dialogue with God. At work, at school, playing, struggling — all of life is dialogical. Whenever he made public presentations he called them “experiments in dialogue.”

Buber believed religion was to be used for purposes of liberation. In its essence, religion is the revolutionary principle that destroys old forms and releases suppressed power. To Buber, the divisions casually assumed in human discourse (e.g. the difference between the”sacred” and the “profane”) are artificial. Life is always to be apprehended as a whole.
In the tales of the strange, mystical traditions of the Hasadim, Buber found fresh revelation about authentic religion. In the inspirational stories of the Hasidic master rebbes of the 17th and 18th centuries, Buber discovered new life for rejuvenating Judaism and, in turn, the world’s prospects for goodness and justice. His translations of their fetching tales (from Yiddish into German and then later translated by others into most of the languages of the world) were wondrous, lasting gifts to world culture.
Buber’s towering contribution to contemporary theology and philosophy (and some say psychology as well) was his description of the importance of “I‑and‑Thou” relationships. When such relationships are established between God and ourselves, we come to the fullest experience of what it means to be truly human before God and to live authentically in community with others. In Buber’s thinking, God is not a notion, an idea, or an abstract principle, but rather a “Person” who relates with us “in creative, revealing, and redeeming acts, and thus makes it possible for us to enter into a direct relation with him.”(1)
Prayer for Buber is turning toward God. Learning how to pray has less to do with choosing the proper words or embodying the most novel and inspirational gestures than it does with orienting oneself directly toward God.(2)
Through prayer, we discover that forgiveness is an ever present salve to heal us from sin.(3) In our prayer moments of seeking forgiveness (and all other mercies from God) our access is direct. No mediator — no person or institution or organization — is necessary to effect the connection between God and the individual.(4)
For Buber, the possibility of redemption exists for every human being, regardless of how wretched they become or the evil they commit. In 1962, after the state of Israel had captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the notorious Nazis to torment the Jews in the horrors of the Holocaust, and brought him to trial, he was found guilty of war crimes against the Jewish people and the rest of humanity. His sentence was death. Buber could not abide the death sentence and appealed to Israel’s Premier David Ben‑Gurion to commute Eichmann’s sentence. Instead of doing to Eichmann what he had done to the Jewish people and the rest of the world, Buber argued that it would be far better to sentence Eichmann to till the soil of Israel for the remainder of his days. Buber was unsuccessful in persuading Ben‑Gurion, and Eichmann was put to death. But, his courageous challenge perdures as a shining example of Buber’s singular courage and audacious imagination.(5)
SIMPLE SAMPLES OF THE HASIDIM
“Let everyone cry out to God and lift his heart up to him, as if he were hanging by a hair, and a tempest were raging to the very heart of heaven, and he were at a loss for what to do, and there were hardly time to cry out.”(6)
“Let us find you [O God] in our prayers!”(7)
PRAYING WITH MARTIN BUBER: SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
Day 1 Pray today by turning toward God in a new way.
(a) Take time to be silent, quiet, and still.
(b) Focus on one small aspect of who you are, clearly, carefully, kindly.
(c) Offer this portion of who you are to God for consideration
(d) Consider the response(s) you receive in this dialogical encounter.
Day 2 Let your prayers today focus on your need to be forgiven. Name the sins for which you yearn for forgiveness. Can you begin to understand that forgiveness for such sin(s) is available to you right now? All that remains to be enacted is your acceptance of such a forgiveness. Consider what you will do in response to God’s forgiveness.
Day 3 Pray today with a meditation on “Encountering I‑Thou‑ness.” Ponder I‑Thou relationships that are possible with others. Name the person(s) with whom you connect in a posture of I‑Thou‑ness. Consider some new occasion coming up soon when you might have an encounter with as yet unknown persons. How will you greet them? What will you expect from your dialog with them?
Day 4 Before beginning your prayers today, recall that Martin Buber often urged people to pray “in the name of Israel.” For Buber, praying “in the name of Israel” is to pray in the name of and for the sake of Israel, which is another name for the whole of the human family, since “Israel” can mean “prince/princess of God” and the one who struggles with God. Pray today for the welfare of the whole human family by praying “in the name of Israel.”
Day 5 Pray today knowing that you have absolute direct access to God, with no go‑between, no courier, no “middle man” necessary. Give thanks for God’s eternal accessibility!
Day 6 As a prelude to your prayers today, recall Buber’s plea for Adolf Eichmann’s sentence to be commuted. Give thanks for Buber’s audacious and merciful imagination. Ponder with God as to how your imagination might be infused by such audacity during this coming week.
Day 7 Pray today by reciting Buber’s translations of two simple sayings from the Hasidic tradition. One is a suggestion of great existential desperation. The other is a looping prayer pleading for God to be found within prayer itself.
BIOGRAPHY TIMELINE: February 8, 1878, born Martin Mordechai Buber in Vienna, son of Carl Buber and Elise Wurgast Buber; 1882, parents separate; lives in Lemberg (Polish Ukraine) with his paternal grandparents, Salomon Buber (well‑to‑do property owner and banker, scientific editor of Hebrew Midrash literature) and Adele Buber (caretaker of the property, enthusiastic reader of German classics); grows up multilingual: Yiddish and German (at home), Hebrew and French (during his childhood), Polish (at secondary school); 1892, moves to house of his father, who has re‑married; experiences religious crisis leading to a break with Jewish religious customs; reads Kant, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard; 1896‑1899, studies art history, philosophy, psychology, and German literature in Vienna, Leipzig, Berlin, and Zurich; 1898, becomes a Zionist; participates in congresses, organizational work, agitation; encounters controversy with Theodor Herzl regarding political and cultural directions; 1899, meets Paula Winkler from Munich, (writer with the pen‑name Georg Munk), who later becomes his wife; 1900, moves with Paula to Berlin; birth of first child, Rafael; becomes close friends with anarchist Gustav Landauer; 1901, birth of second child, Eva; editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist world organization; 1903 begins focus upon Hasidic message; 1905‑6, in Florence, working at the (later abandoned) habilitation in art history; 1909, participates in the founding conference of the German sociological association; 1916, responding to Landauer’s criticism of his being overly enthusiastic about Germany’s war involvement, begins to move away from mysticism orientation about social problems and toward an emphasis on dialogue; he and family move to Heppenheim, near Frankfurt; founds monthly magazine Der Jude (The Jew); advocates for Jewish‑Arab cooperation to fight for independence from British rule in the Middle East; 1921; meets Franz Rosenzweig in Frankfurt; 1923, first German publication of I and Thou; mastership at University of Frankfurt in Jewish Religious Studies and Jewish Ethics for the ill; starts advocating for a binational Jewish‑Arab state; 1925, begins translation of the Hebrew Bible into German; helps create Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) organization, which advocates creation of a binational Jewish‑Arab state; 1926‑28, co-edits a quarterly,The Creature; 1930, honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt; 1933, resigns professorship immediately after Hitler seizes power; 1937, first English translation of I and Thou, by Ronald Gregor Smith, published; March 1938; leaves Germany; assumes professorship of social philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; participates in the discussion of the Jews’ problems in Palestine and the question of the place of the Arabs; becomes member of the group Ichud, which aims at a bi‑national state; 1947, first lecture tour in Europe; 1951, retires from Hebrew University, Jerusalem; 1951‑2, lecture tours in the USA; 1951, Goethe Award of the University of Hamburg; 1953, Peace Prize of the German Booktrade; 1958, Paula dies in Venice; Buber endures lengthy illness; 1962, pleas unsuccessfully for Israeli Premier David Ben‑Gurion to commute Adolf Eichmann’s death sentence; 1963, Erasmus Award in Amsterdam; June 13, 1965, dies at home in Talbya, Jerusalem; buried in Har‑Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.
NOTES
1 Martin Buber, I and Thou, transl. by Ronald Gregor Smith, 2nd Edition (New York: Scribner’s, 1958), p. 135.
2 Martin Buber, Two Types of Faith, translated by Norman P. Goldhawk (Harper & Row, 1961), p. 157.
3 Ibid., pp. 159.
4 Maurice Friedman, Encounters on the Narrow Ridge: A Life of Martin Buber (New York: Pargaon House, 1991), p. 293.
5 Encounters on the Narrow Ridge, pp. 430‑431.; see also “Israel: Philosopher’s Plea,” Time, March 23, 1962, and Paul Mendes-Flohr, Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), pp.317-318.
6 Martin Buber, Ten Rungs: Hasidic Sayings, translated by Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1962), p. 27.
7 Ibid, p. 32.
FOR FURTHER READING, STUDY, & REFLECTION
Martin Buber, Good and Evil (New York: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1953)
Martin Buber, I and Thou, transl. by Ronald Gregor Smith, 2nd Edition (New York: Scribner’s, 1958)
Martin Buber, Meetings (LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing, 1973)
Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim: Later Masters, translated by Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1948)
Martin Buber, Ten Rungs: Hasidic Sayings, translated by Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1962)
Martin Buber, Two Types of Faith, translated by Norman P. Goldhawk (Harper & Row, 1961)
Maurice Friedman, Encounters on the Narrow Ridge: A Life of Martin Buber (New York: Paragon House, 1991)
Paul Mendes-Flohr, Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019)
© 2020, Robert Lee Hill

WEDNESDAY WORDS – WORD #21 – GRATEFUL

Firehouse 29
WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday (or thereabouts) I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #21.]
GRATEFUL
Grateful. That’s the word. No other word will do. Ten years ago this month, I experienced what is technically called an AMI (acute myocardial infarction), otherwise known as a heart attack. The EMTs from the KCFD who swooped to our house 2 ½ minutes after being called whisked me to St. Luke’s Hospital, where an angioplasty procedure and stint were completed in a little less than 1 ½ hours by premier surgeon Ken Huber and his stellar team.
Yep, grateful for the past ten years and the years to come. Grateful for the excellent efforts of front line first-responders and health care providers. Grateful for what those same heroes provide for countless persons everywhere, especially now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grateful.

WEDNESDAY WORDS – #20 – PICS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

WEDNESDAY WORDS
[During the current COVID-19 crisis, each Wednesday (or thereabouts) I’m posting musings, meditations, poems, and wonderings as potential sources of hope, encouragement, and resolve. Imbibe, use, and/or share the postings as you see fit. (I won’t be tagging colleagues or friends, but if you choose to do that, that’s fine.) Here’s WEDNESDAY WORD #20.]
Since the July 4th weekend, it’s been great to see these sites on my regular bike ride through Brookside and Waldo. I’ll let these be the WEDNESDAY WORDS this week!