Monday, December 22, 2014

Emotional Leadership Style of NYC Mayor De Blasio offends his 'thin blue line'


It feels like eons since I heard the expression 'the thin blue line' until, during the end of the year's tragedies in the news, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio mentioned it in an effort of public respect for his police force that he treated shabbily in late-December days leading up to the murders of two on-duty officers.

Then, the mayor finally spoke from his head, with reason and thought. He said, in effect, that the [blue-uniformed] police are what hold the thin line between civilized society and anarchy.  

Unfortunately, he had not spoken from his head when he earlier used personal comments about his bi-racial son and his own fear of how NYC police might treat him. That remark cut, and it reflected the worst of leadership, when emotionalism and personal fears overrule good judgment and, therefore, effective leadership. It's too easy to come up with remarks that show empathy that favors one 'side' over the other.

Mayor De Blasio's personal sympathy for those who disrespect police undermined his relation with the highly trained men and women in blue who risk their lives every day they work. Many do not take even any appearance of back-talk or resistance for good reason: theirs is a dangerous job.

I know someone who wished a Baltimore city police office a good day, after he pulled her car and discussed a suspected violation. He took her final remarks, her good wishes, as sarcasm and arrested her, took her to jail, and put her in jail. She is a white woman with a good steady job, a mother, sister, and friend; she helps people wherever she goes. The police officer did not know those things, and did not need to know. He only knew that he had a job to do and it included no back talk. I don't agree with how he handled it; his 'perp' today laughs about it and holds no grudge against an officer for whom approaching strangers anywhere is serious business. Maybe her good wishes to him came at the wrong time, after his having a rough day heaped with sarcasm and worse. Maybe to him any possible suspect's having the last word is a sign of disrespect and, therefore, another violation. 

Whoever realizes the importance of the Thin Blue Line's presence in our communities will take them more seriously. In New York City, two police officers were sent to the neighborhood where they eventually were shot and died, in the police car, no guns drawn. Their wives and the surviving children will never see them alive again.

When arrests are made, the story is only beginning. there are lawyers, often free ones, to defend; there are laws to be followed, and processes. There is recourse. All of this procedure came through thought-out, if imperfect, experience and improvement. The law is designed and intended to be dispassionate, to weigh facts of true statements and records. It moves slowly; that's true.  

Who has not felt pain, helplessness, and anger over perceived or real injustice or delay of justice? Who has not wished to take the law out of the hands of those responsible for it or to ignore the law in order to exact citizens' justice? It is basely human to have such feelings; it is illegal to act on them.

What alarms this writer is that the hate speech of protesters in the streets of New York City continued on the days the assassinated police officers were buried.The protesters were 'encouraged' to keep down the harsh rhetoric. Who allowed hate speech toward police go on parade through the streets in the first place?

The NYPD's Thin Blue Line has lost forever two of its own. Who takes their places? And among the rest of us, how many are willing to support the thin line of slow, honest reason and justice that pushes back against citizen revenge?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

In a Tough Spot?

Matthew Henry's thoughts on reading in Psalm 31:
Instead of yielding to impatience or despondency under our troubles, we should turn our thoughts to the goodness of the Lord towards those who fear and trust in Him. ... Let not any yield to unbelief, or think, under discouraging circumstances, that they are cut off from before the eyes of the Lord, and left to the pride of men. 
I could not dare to quote the comments above if I had not seen the Goodness of the Lord in the Land of Difficulties and Troubles. The secret way of access into God's Goodness, I discovered, is no secret at all. It is found and used through fear of the Lord and trusting Him. Fear in this case means Awe. It means Amazement at the Wonder of the Love of God for all who desire its comforting, providing embrace. 
Awe of God yields trust in Him. When we see no way forward in times of need, we trust. How often I have reaffirmed, in a conversational and intense way, " God, I trust You. I have put all trust in You, and You have promised that You will not fail me in good or desperate times!" I have dared to leave it there and wait, reflect, and trust in the Lord. He has never failed me, although sometimes the answers were surprising or so practically normal- seeming that I felt amazed at the ways God works to meet the needs of anyone who loves Him.
Maybe the difficulties lie at home, or maybe at work or not having enough work. Maybe they are financial, or the expectations of others. We could name a long list of possibilities.
It is the need or worry of now that seems to be drowning us in such times. I recall, as I write, a true story in the news after a California earthquake. Rescuers searched for any possible unresued survivors of a crumbled, leaning apartment building. It was the third day they had been searching. Suddenly, they found an old lady, alive, in what had been a third or fourth floor apartment home. Her greeting to them was, in effect, "I knew you would come. I knew the Lord would not leave me here." 
They noted immediately, of course, that she was weak, thirsty, and hungry; yet she was also calm. They had water and food bars with them, and immediately gave aid, checked her out, and began to execute the plan to get her safely out of the rubble and dangerous situation. No one knew if another quake or after-shock might come at any time.
For three days and nights an old woman had escaped panic and fear, trapped among  the detritus of her former haven-home. She had prayed, trusted, and prayed and trusted more. Whatever happened, she was not alone there, hoping and waiting for the help she was confident would somehow find her.
God knows every need, everything large and small that is important to us. I sometimes wonder how many more wonders of His care I would have witnessed and experienced if trusting Him even more.
One said to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." Jesus taught that faith as small as a mustard seed is powerful with God.
Lord, I believe. Help us all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

God's Love in Simple and Strong Music of the Years

As a child I loved to play along a creek behind home. When I got older, I went on family trips to the mountains of North Carolina. As a teen, I was one summer a church camp counselor in a large wooded setting; when I returned home my mother said she was amazed that I not only liked to see nature but to live within it.

Mother encouraged me to play the piano and managed for me to have one at home, and I have that piano in my home now. When I concentrate, I can play a few old songs on those keys.

The love of God, for me, resounds through nature, music, and giving, caring people.

I have chosen to include today a few special old songs that I found on YouTube. The first choice is intentional. It tells of the cross that stands over the world of history and faith; I like the presenter's photo that contains the words--for Lift High the Cross--and shows a stream of people crossing a city bridge. In the outdoors, with  nature's sky above, it speaks of the assurances of God that lift the mind and spirit.

Another selection, For the Beauty of the Earth names facets of nature, and this peaceful yet strong hymn was one of my favorites when I was a child. There are at least two music compositions for this song, and I chose this English one because John Rutter has put beautiful photography with it. It speak of love and nature, and both lift my heart to God..

Some of the most secure music memories for me include the voice of George Beverly Shea, whose rich, round tones and phrasing carry so well this message of God's love. "Beyond the eyes horizon, there's more, much more," he said during this singing. If you want to hear him sing at nearly age 103, here is the link. You will not be disappointed, I think. YouTube has many selections from his much younger days.

What more should I add now? Perhaps the great faithfulness of God, with whom we are never lost in loneliness. This song has reassured me on many an occasion when it seemed too easy to think discouraging thoughts. God is with us through "the valley of the shadow of death" and in every joy, sorrow, testing time and resting time.

Whatever is going on in our lives in these days, remembering the love, faithfulness and beauty of God moment by moment is our great strength for the day. And the love shown on that Old Rugged Cross  signifies the perfect payment for everyone who believes this, so that freedom is there from sin and iniquity of the world. The version here was sung and signed by Johnny Cash.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Precipice of an Age ~ Demagoguery

There is this concern that free civilizations, whose survival has depended on firm principles adopted in the past, have reached a precipice. What lies below the precipice is air; one may hope for a saving ledge to stop the fall, although people of western nations have avoided wrestling hard or fast enough against the hold of emotional and moral relativism.

The established boundaries of moral reason in the past were marked by fact plus devotion. This helped guide to a form of reliability in freedom. This pursuit now appears to be buried beneath soft grass of what feels right, now, and whose words sound the best. Right does not mean good or moral anymore, but is somewhat defined by emotional drive that evades the tough questions. 

To question this place at the precipice goes against the tide of popular thinking; its pull works like a magnet. How to recognize the pull of the precipice? Look for signs of less value placed on the lives of some than the value placed on the lives of others; this is as true today as at a prior precipice, the one that hid behind rhetoric that fooled nations before World War II.

Demagoguery accompanied the 1930s rhetoric that enslaved nations. Demagoguery wears a face of humanitarian concern; it springs up from different soil to disregard prevailing moral and ethical views, which it twists; it hates dissenting voices and thrives on fear. Its category has an example in the words of atheist of the day, Richard Dawkins, and his claims of devotion to reason and science and disdain for those who refuse to be manipulated by claims of superior thinking.

Religious freedoms and protection of free speech in an arena of competing ideas and motivations were  basic settled rights of the promise of civilized community in recent history. To speak freely means, in theory, absence of pressure to accept or to deny current trends.  The danger near the precipice is the rising of an effective demagogue voice within any formerly free place. Demagoguery has an air of confident ridicule. God, in such a setting, is either denied or quoted, as suits the purpose.  

Who garners the trust sought by demagogues? To recognize the threats requires informed diligence, of which each of us is capable. Those whose reasoning and belief run counter to the prevailing tides of opinion need to protect their minds, including their ways and means when solving problems. Hope to find a saving ledge below the precipice is not enough.

Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.--Will and Ariel Durant10

Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Thanksgiving is Different, like all the Others

It's the 'day of,' so not much time to write, although turkey is in the oven covectioning slowly at 300 degrees, with bacon strips on top and legs, homemade stuffing inside with large with-peel orange slices near the opening, and tied with turkey string around the legs. Turner Classic Movies is playing the 1949 version, my favorite, of "Little Women," irreplaceable (though I thought the 1994 movie version was excellent.) Jo still pursues her writing and learns more about not copying what is in vogue at the time.

Our family is spread out today, with three of us at home in MD, at least seven in NC, a grandson and cousins in TN, two families together in CT-one from MA, one family in FL, and relatives in AR. I bet a lot of families have the same story today, including those having 'Thanksgiving Alone' for the first time. Older brother's sons and extended family in NC, one recently married, and I wonder where the newlyweds are this Thanksgiving, when you decide to be on your own or find you may have to choose between one family or the other this year.

I remember being a 22-year-old newly-wed in Syracuse, NY, unable to go home at Thanksgiving to visit family in NC or my husband's clan in TN. We went to Rochester, NY, thankfully, at the invitation of a college friend whose graduate school mentor/professor and his wife included us with other young people far from home.

The week before, my dad had sent to me an envelope-clad postcard where he had typed the entire poem he always recited at Thanksgiving:

"Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day," said Mary to Little Sue. "There're cookies to make 
and pies to bake and ever so much to do...."

Have you heard that one? His sending it to me, typed by himself, helped me somehow "hear" his voice saying it, as he had done spontaneously every year that I could remember.

Our non-American friends around the world are at work this day, as usual, or sending kids off to school, going shopping, likely unaware of American Thanksgiving today, until one of us emails.

Back to "Little Women": now Jo March/June Allyson is learning that Beth/Margaret O'Brien is not well. Jo has moved to New York, the center of book publishing. Her sister Amy is giving Jo a hug before Amy heads off for Europe with their wealthy aunt. Jo and Professor Baer, also a boarder at their fancy rooming house in NY, have been to an opera together, and as her first such artistic exposure, the opera transfixed Jo's attention. A few days later and after Amy's visit, the professor answers Jo's questions about her latest fictional story, unaware of her low point, and he tells her that her story has disappointed him, for it is full of artificiality and overly-contrived characters.

Jo begins to cry because "everything happens at once," and Laurie, her male friend and neighbor, did not visit her in NY when he was there recently. Also, she really wishes she could go to Europe, too, for that had previously been the plan. And now, the professor's comments. He apologizes for his ill-expressed critique of her writing and she says, "If I can't stand the truth, I'm not worth anything." Nevertheless, he tells her he could have spoken more gently, and he believes she has talent and encourages her to write genuine things from her heart.

I remember with a smile the time my grown-up daughters took me to see a newer version of "Little Women," putting me in the middle and calling me "Marmie" in whispers now and then. We smiled, laughed, and cried, and then grinned at the happy ending. Together. And we laughed later, remembering when they were very young and the dressed our overactive Cockerpoo dog "Rascal" in a calico head scarf and told him to lie down, which he amazingly did, on the sofa, playing Beth to their "little girls"  re-enactments of part of their "Little Women" scene in our family room. 

I wish to each reader a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe if you are alone you can find a really good movie that uplifts and holds your attention no matter how old it or you may be.

Oh, the family March is together again, after Amy and Laurie return from their honeymoon, and it looks like Thanksgiving to me! But, look, there's more. A lone figure walks in the rain and asks forThey "Miss March, Miss Josephine March." He hears Jo calling Laurie's name and turns away. Sadness. Lost opportunity. He assumes that Jo has finally found happiness with "her Laurie."

But wait! Jo opens a gift handed to her by Laurie. It is her manuscript in published book form! She dashes out of the house and into the pouring rain, calling, "Professor Baer! Professor Baer!" He stops and she reaches where he stands, waiting. From under the large black umbrella he tells her that her book has much "simple beauty."

Now, as the movie closes, they return together to the March house, after she assured the professor that she accepts his "empty hands" (which he called them, due to his lack of wealth to offer) and rainbow arcs  in the darkened, moonlit sky above the March house.

And I, too, must close. I have potatoes and green beans and other goodies awaiting the process of being put together in their dishes. They will come together with visions of rainbow in my head.

All the best to you, wherever you are, alone or with many! I hope you make it a simply beautiful day,  even if you think that you have "empty hands" like the professor's actually being-filled ones, even if this Thanksgiving is different, like all the others.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Let Your Heart Be Your Guide"? - Thoughts on an Impassioned Immigration Speech

What is among the best of America is our compassion that applies to strangers in need. However, we are at our worst when we let emotion trump what is right. To justify emotionally-charged actions, the heart can get embroiled in anger or revenge. That can lead to murder, as police records show increasingly.  Or,  the heart can get caught up in fear or hate and make other very bad decisions.

In listening to President Obama tonight on the topic of immigration reforms I heard his moving examples of compassion and, to a point, of reason. However, what stopped me from buying into the stand he would like me to accept is that the good plans--and I agree, in principle so far, with what he proposed--are not backed by good-enough strategy or reason. The strategy to go around the law does not convince me, because I've learned that presidential actions such as the one taken tonight must be attached to existing law as an extension of it. What the president proposed falls short of that standard.

The heart can get caught up in humanitarian love and lead to breaking immigration law, as this personal story shows: 

I once investigated sponsoring someone from another country from a poor background. She wanted to come to the U.S. to study. I had this idea that she could live with our family, perhaps have a part time job, and pursue what she had told me was her main goal, to become a pharmacist and return to her home country.

My feelings got caught up in how such a move to the U.S. might change her life for the better, for she was struggling. But I had to stop there and explain why she could not do that, when I learned that she could not legally study and work on any visa. She would have to come claiming to do one or the other for a limited time. Even with a guaranteed place to live and a job, helping in our home or outside, immigration law for a visa would not allow her to come if she also took college courses. To do so would be to break the law.

We might have been able to go around the law. It happens all the time. But we knew we had to honor and obey the law as unhelpful as it was, for what we wanted to do for the young woman. That was that. I think our president should do no less and not try an end run, as I was for some seconds tempted to try in this young woman's case.

Apparently, the president could have raised or lifted one or more caps on immigration numbers in special categories, such as certain skills. Why, I wonder, did he not do that and bring in more legally sponsored immigrants right away?

I think that the president's focus is his deal with illegal workers in the U. S. Yet, he introduced the wrong approach, in my view, by ignoring more rounds of congressional talks. Surely no president lacks confidence in the proven skills of influence,the making of convincing arguments. That's why I am not pleased that the president chose an easier way, to "create" new terms unattached to any law, and to do it by fiat, the stroke of that famous yet limited pen of the Office of the President. 

Every president should solemnly and with awe do what he or she swears solemnly to do, to uphold the laws of the land, to be faithful to them, including those that irritate or may take decades to change. Every legal fight for solemn opportunities has been costly in frustration as well as work. Every important thing must be tested, put through the fires, so to speak. But when they do pass the tests, how sweet and lasting is the victory. It is worth waiting for if it is good. Not easy, but worth it.

We definitely need immigration reform now, is my view. I hope members of congress will not get caught up in chasing the president because they do not agree with him, his actions, or his proposals. I hope they will pay attention to the need for reform now. I hope they will forgive when threats or something else uncomfortable leads them into finally doing something. I hope they will let the law, above their emotions and desire to help, be their main guide as they work it out. The way it is done must be as defensible as the end goal that is achieved. That's my take on it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are You Getting the Facts or the Truth?

'What's the difference between fact and truth?' I wondered, about a lawyer's advice to his clients:
Always think 'tell the truth' rather than 'tell the facts' when appearing in court.

I puzzled over the words and later realized: I can know only some of the facts to relate to a person, a situation, or a report. But I always know the whole truth of my conscious thoughts or feelings, or how I experienced something, how it affected me. Truth has no 'spin' on it, and first I must know it for myself. True things are first-hand, up close, and personal. Truth encompasses fact, whereas fact cannot encompass truth.

Telling the truth is tricky for some. Lies have been their modus operandi for so long that they often seem true to the teller. There are also mountains of gossip along with weird news claims going around in print, on video, audio, and yodiyo, and it is very hard, nay, impossible to know all or even some of the facts or the truth. Sometimes claims of 'fact' are clever inventions. The truth, well, that can be hidden for a while, too. Who wants to believe what is shown, written, or said--without thinking, questioning, and testing, or without considering the source? I think of the professional magician's tricks, seeming so real to the untrained eye.
This is a little window on how I think of these things. Maybe it connects for you. It is as true for me as home and love.

Ever wonder if you getting the facts or the truth these days? How can anyone tell the difference? 'Am I  using my brain to test much of the chatter of news, business, and the offers and requests that come my way?,' I wonder. I know I don't know the public people announcing 'facts, news, information, or opportunity.'  

Those are some of my thoughts these days. And, by the way, we've noticed how winter's arrived and spills  snow over many parts of the country. That's a fact. Soon the southern flights of birds will be heard over the houses, most likely, as our winged friends squawk to each other. We are layering up here. I hope you're staying warm if it's colder in your part of this world.  

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Privilege to Vote!

This past Tuesday, November 4, was another big voting day in the United States. I did not vote for members of the county school board, because I did not find enough information with which to make my decisions. On other offices, I cast my votes. I voted for two Democrats and the rest are Republicans. I tried to vote on the basis of record and ability, as far as I could discern by reading and listening. 

Voting is a terrific privilege. American women have been voting since my grandmothers' days, so I have no quarrel about women's right to vote. African American men have been voting for generations, undergoing resistance in certain states, a wrong that was righted by the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the U.S.. These days, I hear no objection to the fact that all registered voters that are American citizens aged 21 and older have the right to vote that is protected by law. I am not against voter ID, since we need IDs for almost everything important in this age.

Many countries now have voting as a new institution and one very much valued. Some have risked their lives around the world to go to voting polls, to be identified as someone casting votes, and to hope for better days. I admire them immensely.

An "I voted" sticker was given to me after I voted in my neighborhood, and I wore mine all day, noticing that other voters wore theirs too. Camaraderie went all around, regardless of political parties. I enjoyed a couple of conversations outside the voting area, and one man influenced one of my votes for Orphan's Court judge.  He made a convincing argument for a Democratic candidate seeking a return to that seat.

I always think especially of my parents on voting days. They set a good example for me when I was growing up. This is what I noticed: (1) they voted in every local, state, and federal election, (2) they never "bashed" anyone running for office of any party, although they did occasionally mention their preferences, and (3) they were happy to express their preferences through their votes. I get that same refreshed feeling after I vote.

 I am grateful for the British Magna Carta, which began the development of constitutional law and voting rights in their historic infancy. That document made a vitally important beginning  almost 900 years ago (1215 AD/CE)!

The residents of a local retirement center put up with all of us who are assigned their building as our voting place, second floor, right turn. In return, I detect that many voters try to be respectful of the residents' space. I enjoy seeing some of the wise elders reading in an open sitting area or leaving the building with friends or family. After voting, I hope! Smile. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Pilgrimage Spark for Macau

If you like this article about pilgrimage and Macau, I hope you will share the link with others through Twitter, Facebook, text, or email.

Along with several other people recently, I took the challenge to choose where I would want to take a pilgrimage and why. I had a week to think about it and my thoughts turned to the Chinese island of Macao, or Macau. Macau is a large and prosperous gambling center, attracting visitors from all parts of the world. It is also the home of Christian families dating back several generations of Chinese life.

The Macau of Chinese Christians brings to mind European names like Robert Morrison, J. Hudson Taylor, and Charles Gutzlaff, German missionary to mainland China who went to Macau toward the end of his life, according to a reliable source, A. J. Broomhall.  

I think of places like China as fertile places to share the gospel of Jesus Christ if you look at it this way: If you have turned on a pen light or struck a match, then you know what a small amount of light can mean in the darkness. Sometimes our questions about God or a "higher power" seem like questions in the darkness. One song says, "It only takes a spark to keep a fire going." The spark of faith flared in my life long ago.

And a spark flared in my mind years ago about China missions and Charles Gutlaff while reading about his Christ-like response to attacks from some of the other European Christians in mainland China. That story kept a little fire of interest in my mind about Macau, where C. Gutzlaff went not long before he died. 

The question that led to my thoughts of pilgrimage to Macau, and the why of it, prompted new interest: Are there now in Macau the results of  generations of Chinese Christians;  what are their generational stories like, up to the present time? I realized I would very much like to know their ancestral stories of faith. I would like to meet the families and hear the living generations' stories with my own ears. And I would like to write about what I hear and learn, if given permission by those I might listen to. 

To research Christian life in Macau today, I found the Global China Center in Charlottesville, VA, USA, online. I now begin to read and to learn more about Macau, Christ-followers there, and how the community of Christians fares in the present time. I also remember two young adult believers whom I knew while living in Switzerland over 15 years ago. Both were from mainland China, as I recall, and worked in the Geneva area in business and science, respectively. I never heard either of them speak of Macau, but I wish I would have asked them more about their stories. .

In my hope to learn more about generations of Chinese Christian families in Macau, I have a spark of interest in being allowed to visit, worship,  and pray with them on a pilgrimage to Macau.Like many people whom Jesus talked with on this earth, as a modern-age believer I have little official knowledge in to qualify me for such a venture. That's why I have no idea if this idea to visit Macau with a purpose in mind might go farther than an answer to a question about pilgrimage. If this spark should grow, then I hope that others could help me in educational and contact ways.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Don't Miss Exceptional Movie Focus on a Part of Africa


Africa Tree - Cover Copyright 2012
The upcoming October 3, 2014, release of The Good Lie movie should interest a wide audience, not only those involved with refugee or immigrant issues. I hope readers here will make a point to see this movie.   

Resse Witherspoon's dark-haired lead is on the dramatic side, reminiscent of her June Carter Cash role in Walk the Line. She draws more seriously on the comic side that movie-goers remember from Legally Blonde, as The Good Lie trailer shows. The film includes performances by former refugees from Sudan who returned for scenes they had left behind in their homeland.  

I wrote about Sudan and a place called Juba years ago, and named the article "No Place to Call Home." I feel some connection with other parts of Africa, having studied some and walked streets and driven through towns in Zambia and South Africa. I visited those countries as an onlooker with people vitally involved with refugee and migration issues. I tried to listen and observe as fully as possible.

You may see ads for The Good Lie movie and note the Africa tree photo. It's the same kind of tree on the cover of Refugee Was My Name by Mogama (2012), shown also in the lead photo. Sudan (The Good Lie) and Liberia (Refugee Was My Name) have in common certain historical and present-day experiences. 

Regular people today quietly involve themselves with the ongoing millions of refugees and needs for places to call places. They continue to take part in good answers, however complicated the moving parts of solutions.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Death by Marriage"

Death by Marriage is a free ebook (Kindle) mystery novel by Jaden Skye. I have not read it, but I might. I enjoy a fast mystery story.

The title of this book generated thoughts about the deep pools of dangerous relationships. We hear of harm, even murders, that end either once-promising or always-dangerous relationships. I also thought of questions sent to Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post, an advice columnist and one of my favorites.

Letters to Carolyn Hax reflect parent-adult child, adult child-parent, live-in lovers, engaged couples, about to become move-in friends or lovers, in-laws, siblings, employees-employer, and almost every other relationship combination you or I might think of. The array of dilemmas should be no complete surprise to anyone in circles of relationships.

Relationships gone or going wrong, whether in or outside marriage, flood the news with tales of shock about lives of celebrities in sports, entertainment, and politics. The majority of troubling relationships, however, do not make the news or do so only when tragedy has occurred. What I notice in the letters or regular people to Carolyn Hax of the Post is how often people seem to be very uncertain about themselves, their actions or lack thereof, and others' actions or lack thereof, all at the same time. This is part, I think, of being in situations that hit life at its fullest points of hope or dreams.

It's a good sign, I believe, when people seek advice, help, confirmation, affirmation, or a more objective views. Many of the problems are not uncommon, if most of us would admit, although the situations may be somewhat unexpected. They are, basically it seems to me, part of personal identity and being so close to emotionally-charged challenges that it's difficult to admit the solution, or resolution, or even to think of it. 

Unreal expectations often lie at the bottom of our close relationship problems at one time or another. I could also say "unagreed" expectations, for many people in relationships seem to keep a lot of their thoughts and hopes to themselves. There is fear of really talking, face to face, honestly. There is fear of telling oneself, and so it seems easier to tell Carolyn. And I don't blame or judge anyone for that. To seek guidance from someone good at giving it is, in my view, a wise move.

I cannot help wondering if a third party not impressed by others' money, influence, appealing ways, or other circumstances might have been available to people at risk who were ready and willing to ask, talk, and listen to words in their own best interest, for the future. It's scary when one wants something or someone so much that truth is covered over...or second thoughts are pushed aside, those nagging hints of trouble that are quickly blanketed over with hopes, dreams, and fictional thinking.

Coming from a close, loving family and being in a long, close, and loving marriage and family situation, I find that my heart goes out to those in the news or in the advice columns who are in the midst of some extremely uncomfortable situation. Who among us has not been "there," at some time, I wonder. I am relieved and happy for those who seek, ask, and consider carefully...before deciding to continue further into a relationship that bruises the spirit.

Everyone can choose freedom for themselves, however hard-won it may be, and each person can allow their future to have the best opportunity. Beautiful doors of love, and I include friendships and family here, are often just ahead, although as yet unseen. I have seen this happen in almost mysterious ways. To prepare for a better life often requires letting go of the person we now are, the one avoiding change, and  letting ourselves out of boxes of limited expectations. Emotional turmoil and unrest in relationship can often end with a clearer eye to recognize patterns and our own roadblocks, rather than disasters we see in the news.

Beginning with honest admissions to one's self can be freeing, especially when a caring and wise listener can be there, even at the end of a letter. To hear and to offer another that freedom of honest expression is, to me, a great gift. In addition, there is much to be said for writing thoughts down...and for praying, often, from an open, ready heart. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Humanitarian View of Unborn Human Life

There are resources where girls and women help each other, including: Silent No More.

Jean P. Purcell

Among the most frightening times in some young or grown women's lives is dealing with the fact of pregnancy not intended, expected, or wanted. There is an abundance of responding counsel on both sides of the question, "What can I do!?!"

I became a counselor of girls and women in the crisis of unwanted pregnancy after I investigated what abortion was from surgical to post-surgical points of the process.  The facts convinced me where I would stand on the controversial subject. To me, saving unborn human lives became a humanitarian effort. These lives develop in the same way that every human being a woman's womb. I believed, and still do, that the womb, designed for this, should be the safest place possible for human life to strive to keep growing until the time of birth.   

I saw first-hand a young woman return to the counseling clinic where I volunteered. She had had an abortion, and the second time she visited the pregnancy clinic she brought a pregnant high-school friend. She said she wanted her friend to know there was another way. She wanted her friend to hear facts, and she stayed with her friend throughout the walk-in meeting. I saw the relief on her face when her friend agreed to see a video about abortion, what the surgical procedure involves, the risks, and what some post-abortive women had to say about their abortions and their regrets.

Women I know who stand with pro-life efforts to protect two futures--the biological mother and the biological human life she carries--show deep compassion for the woman in the cross-hairs, so to speak, of different opinions and voices. They give of their time freely, to try to help two lives.

We now know that DNA is part of every human system, early on. We did not know that until relatively recent times. Criminal convictions are being reversed in light of what DNA tells about specific factors of the human identity. However, every abortion decision, once carried out, cannot be reversed and a unique identity, with unique DNA, perishes.

Many unborn human lives are spared, born, and either are raised by the mother and/or her extended family or by one or more adoptive parents. All of this happens within less than one year of the mother's life. Whatever the difficulty of allowing adoption of one's baby, there is always the knowledge that he or she, the unborn child, lived to receive the gift of time to strive for life and a future. In this knowledge, the mother can go forward with her dreams for her future, having taken care of another human life's chance at a future, the life in her hands long before the little human being's birth.

Women I know who stand with pro-life deep compassion for the young girl or woman in the cross-hairs, so to speak, of different opinions and voices.

Are you in an unwanted pregnancy situation? Are you a post-abortive woman? There are resources where girls and women help each other, including: Silent No More.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 11 - Remembering the brave and the comforts of God's people

Prayer was an instinctive response on 9-11-01 after two passenger jet airplanes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City. A church called Trinity right next door was spared and immediately opened its front doors for entrance to food, water, and coffee for the courageous responders at Ground Zero. This was the church to which the first U.S. President, George Washington, walked after his inauguration at Federal Hall, New York City.

Soon, prayers and action grew on 9/11/2001, as more news arrived: an airborne attack on the Pentagon building and a fourth plane crashed into farmland in Pennsylvania. Thinking about the tragedies felt around the world and the future of freedom in the world, I remember that this country was founded by men and women of spiritual resolve. As for the past and the future, the hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past" has come to mind:

O God our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
and Our Eternal Home...

This year I think of the helpless victims and of those who gave their lives to try to save others. Whether walking, running, or driving toward the disaster, firefighters, police, emergency medical responders, and others instinctively or by training did not count the cost of their lives. They went to try to help save others. I suspect many of them had already, upon assuming their jobs, counted the costs as best they could and committed themselves to serve their city and its people, wherever they originated.

This Sunday night, I watched some minutes of footage of that day in Manhattan, New York City, when the Twin Towers were attacked as the first sign of terror. As the towers fell, film shows the always-alarming cloud of debris that threatened to smother people fleeing on the ground, through the streets. 

There is no denying terrorism anymore. Tonight, watching and remembering, there is also no denying courage. We can trust that there are untold stories of those who did not survive the destruction of that day. Many very likely died because they drew on courage not to leave others trapped and alone. I know that such a supposition has a basis, due to stories of those in New York and at the Pentagon who survived due to the help of others who did not panic, did not run, did not give in to their own pain, and assisted others.

In New York, at the Pentagon, and in the field of Pennsylvania where the fourth airborne terror-driven plane crashed, the world watched terrifying and deadly scenes. The world later heard cockpit and plane tapes of passengers of great courage. From reports based on cockpit talk we now know that the terrorists were terrified at the end. They knew they had completely lost control of their mission in every respect.

Like those who have perished at home and in other lands, 
we will one day face death, 
whether from natural cause, illness, or tragedy. 
We have no idea how or when 
our deaths will come.

Many wait now to decide what they believe about their lives, their courage, and Eternal Life.  Many believe that their inevitable death will bring a void, a nothingness. Others have heard that Jesus Christ is worshiped as the Son of the living God and shed His blood on a cross at Calvary to cover the sins of every person who would accept that substitution payment for wrongs done to self and others.  Many postpone a major decision about faith, hoping that first they can answer hard questions about the Bible and good/evil. I understand the hesitation, because I once lived that way, wasting years lived without peace with God. Yet, God has restored those years and more: "I will restore the years the locusts have eaten," He has promised. Since 1980 I been able to say with certainty and as an adult, "I believe in Jesus Christ and have placed my life, which I value, fully into His keeping."

I love to offer what God has taught me about how to live, through biblical words and other explorations of Christian faith since 1980. I have learned that understanding begins, to whatever extent, after faith is settled regarding Jesus Christ. Delay does not help. I do not know why it works this way. Only when we no longer desire understanding more than we desire God do we see a door of faith opening to vast territories of understanding.

My soul is in God's hands by faith, which is the evidence of the unseen things. Even that statement of being in God's hands is an image of something larger than words. It seems to me, although I cannot and have no need to prove it, that God has had my life in His hands since I was 12. My years of doubt, due to failure to trust Him in every situation of life, have been forgiven. That forgiveness is a vital part of what the Cross and the Resurrection mean to me.

One thing I have learned as a Christian 
is that true understanding is unavailable
outside of faith. First, I began to believe and
to express needs and questions to God; 
then came understanding that I was unable to gain
before I trusted in Christ, from the heart.  

I try to encourage others not to be stubborn as I was. I try to encourage those who seek without finding to seek God's face first before being distracted by religious or theological questions. Knowing God by faith in Him opens the door to asking all the questions we desire to ask.

Even now, even if you do not realize it, you are beloved by the loving God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I dared to believe that truth after I read C.H. Spurgeon's written words saying that this is so. I began to realize, slowly through ensuing days and months, that God helps me with any question I desire to ask Him. Without Him, answers seem to hide. And, answers I still do not understand I can, by faith, lay aside for whatever time needed.    

Without understanding how it works, by God's grace I do know that this living hope of Christian faith is indestructible. Once a person sincerely decides to trust God through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection...there is a life within an amazing, living hope. There is also, among innumerable other graces, an amazing inner peace that comes in as one faces unavoidable troubles of living in the world. 

Death will find you and it will find me, eventually, in the realm of time. I am in God's hands for life beyond death, and I hope the same assurance and confidence for you and everyone. How and when death does comes, I have the promise of life in the reality of the eternal Life. Trusting God and seeking Him daily, with thanksgiving, I leave with Him the matters beyond human control in the now and in the future.

Physically, death will find you, and death will find me. 
It is only an unknown matter 
of moments, days, or years.

There is the living hope of Jesus Christ. While we are living on this earth, there is love for one another, help to one another, and remembrance of  those who have died and those who may yet die at violent hands. On September 11, 2001, for helpless villages of Iraqi citizens in recent weeks, for those beheaded as innocent men in recent days...I hold this living hope that is in Christ. I, along with you and others, honor their lives on earth. We remember in our prayers their families and friends. We hold a promise of free eternal life bought on a cross at Calvary and verified by the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day. By faith in Him, I have this promise of an Eternal Home, through the Person of the living Lord. I earnestly desire that no one fail to claim this great and precious promise.

...Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according 
to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again 
unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
(I Peter 1:3, King James Bible).


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Abortion: A response to a recent Washington Post featured columnist

ThumbnailLeslie T. Dean is a guest writer on the topic of a Washington Post article by Janet Harris, "Stop calling abortion a 'difficult decision'," (August 15, 2014).

After reading Janet Harris’ opinion article in The Washington Post, I was profoundly moved to respond to her comments. Ms Harris transparently shared that she is a post-abortive woman, and her strong “pro-choice” advocacy helps me to understand her need to defend her platform. And that is a good thing, because now we are on level ground. Only first-hand experience gives someone the right to argue life and death issues with intelligence and knowledge.
Informed decision
In her comments regarding the use of the term “difficult decision,” Ms Harris states: “. . . it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning 'informed consent' laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it.” 

As an RN of 35 years who has stood at many bedsides reviewing huge packets of paper with patients before they have any invasive surgery, I fully understand the need for informed consent. It removes any surprises in patients' post-op care and prepares them for any side effects that may be unwanted, but unpreventable. It’s “fair-warning," as is almost every medicine ad we see on TV today. The possible side effects almost outweigh the good intentions of the drug. However, the patient is fully informed before they enter into the therapy—or the surgery.

Why should abortion—also an invasive surgery—be treated any differently? Could it be because it’s a hot political issue? Who is truly at risk? The baby’s fate has already been decided, but what about the welfare of the girl or woman?

Parental consent
Parental consent is an issue that goes hand-in-hand with informed consent. If a parent must give permission for an aspirin, why would they not be needed for a surgical procedure? Ms. Harris only addressed this issue briefly, yet I take this opportunity to say that teens are incapable of making a decision this complicated without a parent’s guidance. Cognitively, they are not ready.
Two studies prove the outcome of teen-abortion choices. 
  • Teens are at much higher risk of a suicide attempt after abortion. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found suicide attempts increased ten-fold for teens who were post-abortive in the preceding 6 months.
  • New Zealand researcher David Fergusson and colleagues found that 50% of post-abortive teens (15–18 years) had suicidal thoughts and behaviors, double the rate for teens who had become pregnant but never aborted and double the rate of never-pregnant teens

Moral decision respects two lives
Ms. Harris shared:  
“An unwanted pregnancy would have derailed my future, making it difficult for me to finish college and have the independent, productive life that I’d envisioned.” Ms. Harris candidly gives her opinion, and also shares, “women who have their first child out of wedlock get less education and are more likely to be unemployed and single—even many years later—compared with other women.” 

The blatant missing piece in these comments is the obvious: adoption as a consideration. Ms. Harris could have still finished college and gone on to live a productive life—with the knowledge that her baby was safe in the arms of a couple that was unable to have their own baby. All the women she refers to could have been educated, had a job, and married—after giving up their babies for adoption. 

How sad that adoption is rarely considered an option in an unplanned pregnancy. This issue became a place of introspection for me. Years ago, when asked why I didn’t choose adoption, my quick, pre-formulated answer was always the same, “I didn’t want strangers raising my baby!” But, I could abort my baby,and that was a better option?

Psychological research results
Ms. Harris quoted a study reported in the Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health journal, which found the vast majority of women seeking an abortion—87 percent—had high confidence in their decisions. The study was based on 5,000 women in only one clinic, and made before counseling. Here is the rest of that story: “Certain variables were negatively associated with abortions, being sought by women with high confidence: being younger than 20, being black, not having a high school diploma, having a history of depression, having a fetus with an anomaly, having general difficulty making decisions, having spiritual concerns, believing that abortion is killing and fearing not being forgiven by God.” (italics added) 

Let me offer another study: In 2011, a study conducted by Priscilla K. Coleman from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA, was based on 22 published studies. Only the strongest studies were included, with a combined number of participants totaling over 850,000 women, with research published from 1995-2009 in The British Journal of Psychiatry. In the largest study of its kind, researchers concluded that women having abortions experience an 81% increased risk of mental health problems.
"Years ago, when asked why I didn’t choose adoption, my quick, pre-formulated answer was always the same, 'I didn’t want strangers raising my baby!'”- Leslie Dean
The British Journal of Psychiatry also reported that almost 10% of all mental health problems are shown to be directly linked to abortion. The study is the first meta-analysis of research conducted on abortion’s impact on mental health.  It found that post-abortive women are 37% more likely to suffer depression, 110% more likely to engage in higher alcohol use, and 155% more likely to engage in suicidal behavior. The post-abortive women I have met over the past 22 years, have repeatedly shared these problematic issues. Present company included.

In the following statement, Ms. Harris makes the most crucial of arguments. Actually, she has laid bare the psychological truth of this “difficult decision.”  Here is what she says, “In fact, most women—even those who obtained abortions within the first six weeks of pregnancy—would have preferred to have their abortions earlier than they did.” 

She later states there is no moral or religious reasoning behind it; the reason women want to have an abortion as early as possible is the “mother-baby bond” phenomena. The earlier the pregnancy, the less form the baby has. The less form the baby has, the easier the justification—“It’s not a baby—just tissue.” It makes the abortion “easier.”

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in February 1983 that looked at the impact that ultrasound has upon the choice that a pregnant mother will make concerning abortion. (Please remember, this was way before the 3-D and 4-D sonograms we have now; they were much more rudimentary in the 80’s.) The article entitled "Maternal Bonding in Early Fetal Ultrasound Examinations" observed the following:
One of us pointed to the small, visibly moving fetal form on the screen and asked, 
How do you feel about seeing what is inside you?
She answered crisply, It certainly makes you think twice about abortion! 
....asked to say more, she told of the surprise she felt on viewing the fetal form,
especially on seeing it move:I feel that it is human. It belongs to me. I couldn't 
have an abortion now.

The mother was asked about her experience with ultrasound. She said:It really 
made a difference to see that it was alive.

Asked about her position on the moral choice she had to make, she said:  
I am going all the way with the baby, I believe it is human.

The physician/authors of this study concluded by saying:

Ultrasound examination is likely to increase the value of the early fetus for parents who already strongly desire a child. Viewing the fetal form in the late first or early mid-trimester of pregnancy, before movement is felt by the mother, may also influence the resolution of any ambivalence toward the pregnancy itself in favor of the fetus. Ultrasound examination may thus result in fewer abortions and more desired pregnancies.

“Humiliating evidence of failure in judgment”
There is one last issue Ms. Harris raised that I would like to address. She wrote, “An unplanned pregnancy is highly stressful, and for many it is humiliating evidence of a failure in judgment.” 
A humiliating failure in judgment?  As a woman who had two abortions, let me share a real-life failure in judgment:
In the past you have had an abortion. Then, you become pregnant with a baby you do want to keep. You go to the doctor, and he performs a sonogram so you can see your precious baby. (The doctor) is excited as he points out the parts of your baby. You see the baby's heartbeat and him moving inside you . . . and you catch your breath. You know. You know, without any doubts, what you did to your other baby. You know it was alive.

That is a failure you can never erase. You bought the lie, and you made the choice, That was my humiliating failure in judgment. Not once, but twice, and no one cared enough to tell me the truth. The truth allows informed decision. Sometimes the “difficult decision” doesn’t become difficult until years have brought wisdom, and wisdom has brought truth.

About the guest writer: Leslie T. Dean is the author of a published novel, Forgiven Much. She is part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign in Maryland, a Registered Nurse and licensed counselor. Ms Dean is in demand as a speaker on college campuses and other venues. Look for her on social networks, or comment below.

The Washington Post article that prompted this response has a link here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mogama's Ebola-Infected Liberia

Disturbing dreams about guns and killings arise in REFUGEE WAS MY NAME by Mogama, his story of late 20th century civil war in Liberia. He escaped the war and became a refugee, then earned a graduate degree in the U.S., got married, and began a new life. He could not envision the deadly Ebola outbreak this year in his native land.

Mogama once told a roommate in refugee camp about a significant dream for which he foresaw "...a woman who, due to her maturity, becomes the actual leader of Liberia." Almost 20 years later, in 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Liberian peace activist and Liberia's first woman president, part of the prediction in Mogama's book. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first woman elected president of any country in Africa.  Mogama also predicted in his book that peace would come only "in the distance."

Liberia made its slow climb out of the pit of civil war and up to a new presidential election from the news until...Ebola. Today, Ebola quarantines continue in Liberia, and in Liberia's capital of Monrovia, West Point neighborhood, thieves broke into a clinic treating Ebola patients. They stole linens and equipment, infecting the halls and rooms with such fear that some Ebola or supected-Ebola patients fled. It is thought that they, in turn, might pass the the disease to anyone close to them. Ebola is believed to spread by direct contact.

On Mission Liberia updates, Mogama has reported that Dr. Oluwole Olusola, whom many call Dr. Wole, "is a medical doctor, surgeon and psychiatrist who has worked in the medical field for decades...currently lives in Maryland, where he works as the Medical Director at Brentwood Meadows Hospital. 

"Presently Dr. Wole is writing a book on natural health and healing, because he is determined to bring God's natural health and cures to people." 

Natural Ebola treatment ideas follow in this report by Mogama
Refugee Was My Name by Mogama. Published by Opine Publishing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wisdom for Ferguson, Missouri, in Light of Tragedy

Desire without knowledge is not good—
   how much more will hasty feet miss the way! 
 ~Proverbs 19:2


Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, touch everyone listening to news about the day that one policeman attempted to stop a young man in the street. Resistance followed, then physical engagement, and finally a tragic end. A young man died.

Blessed is any young man with loving parents, and that appears to be the case in this instance, for the one who died. 

It may also be the case for the young policeman who shot him six times. It may be the case for many protesters who took to the streets fearing, it appears, that justice would not be done unless follow-up action occurred, unless they spoke out. It may be the case for some who took advantage of the ensuing confusion and looted innocent citizens' shops. It may be the case for law enforcement personnel and elected officials, as well as local clergy.  

I remember a loving mother I met at a conference once. She asked me to pray for her son. I agreed, and asked a few questions for some details. Her goal was that her son be released from prison, where he was serving time for DUI, driving under the influence. In his case, alcohol was the snake coiled around his neck. 

The more I learned told me that this young man had had other DUI arrests, with lighter punishments. I told the mother I would definitely pray for her son, but I would not pray for him to be released early from his DUI sentence. 

"Maybe prison this time will help wake him up to what he is doing and how dangerous it is," I said. "It is very possible that he could kill someone by driving drunk, and then he would face murder charges." 

The mother did not argue. I thought that she was wise to reflect how easily her son's reckless behavior could take a life, could kill one or more irreplaceable loved ones of other families.     

Wisdom, I believe, is needed by every person that is part of what is happening in Ferguson in these days, from policing officials to elected officials, to appointed officials, to citizens and outsiders.

I feel the range of emotions one can have upon hearing another news story of continuing distrust of such magnitude, being played out on a town's streets and televised widely. Last night, a young man blatantly shot into an apartment building, and I heard that no one was hit by his bullets. I cringed at the fate he escaped, that of a charge of murder; many young children, even infants, have been killed by such random shots fired in haste. I cringed even more, and breathed a prayer of thanks as well, for the spared lives behind those apartment windows.  

Many people outside Ferguson are praying for the city, for everyone involved, so that justice may be done in the courts, based on the facts being assembled now. How many will cooperate, though, with prayers for justice within the law and with peace? It appears that a dangerous few do not relish calm, being in the throes of angry excitement that is likely, in some cases, to be fed by cameras and microphones. Many decisions face everyone on the ground about just, legal, and peaceful processes going forward after the death of a young man so recently at the age of majority, of adulthood.

A certain kind of love can lead attitudes of patience and perseverance in such tragedies. Law enforcers love to know who fired shots and that they have not fled. The judicial system loves legal process

The laws by which a community lives are intended to operate fairly, although sometimes that fails. The wisdom to keep trying to get it right is, I think, what the protesters now seek. I believe it is what the officials, local clergy, and others want, what we observers hope for. May it happen without further bloodshed. 

Watching a few minutes of Fox News near midnight last night, I heard reporter Shepard Smith question at what point the press can add to a tense situation. One of his colleagues, Steve Harrigan, had estimated there were 100 protesters in the streets, 200 reporters, and 500 police officers. Such a time calls for consideration of a reporting pool, to lower the numbers of cameras and journalistic questions, reliving events and focusing on emotions. It is easier to contribute to  peace with one's mouth closed long enough to think and apply serious, unselfish reasoning. 

That would be a wise change by the press, I opine.