history


If you are interested in reading a true story of uncommon bravery, I suggest you read Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. It’s about a 17 year old Italian boy, Pino Lella, who risks his life to help Jews escape capture by the Nazis during World War II. I’m not even half-way through it yet and I’m already incredibly moved by it.

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I keep hearing on the news about how polarized and divided our country is and how bad it is that this is the current state of affairs. If you are distressed about this I encourage you to look at it from a broader perspective, i.e. –

1. Our country was so polarized over slavery in the 1800s that we actually divided into two nations and went to war with each other.

2. Our country was so polarized in the 1930s about participating in the war in Europe that Roosevelt delayed entering the war even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Perhaps if the United States had stepped in sooner, the war would have ended sooner and fewer people would have died.

3. We were also very polarized in the 1950s, ‘60s and 70s over civil rights and the Vietnam War. These divisions led to numerous acts of civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in which countless individuals were injured and/or killed.

Our country survived all of these very trying times, and we will survive this one.

“MY FAMILY IS NOT DYSFUNCTIONAL!” When I hear individuals vehemently make this statement I want to reply “How do you know? Are you familiar with the characteristics of a dysfunctional family?” As a trained marriage and family therapist with 27 years professional experience, I am familiar with these characteristics. I have a plumb line regarding this issue.

What is a plumb line? “It is an instrument or a tool, a cord with a lead bob attached to one end, used to determine perpendicularity, the depth of water, etc.” (dictionary.com)

“The instrument has been used since at least the time of ancient Egypt to ensure that constructions are ‘plumb’, or vertical…Until the modern age, plumb-bobs were used on most tall structures to provide vertical datum lines for the building measurements. A section of the scaffolding would hold a plumb line, which was centered over a datum mark on the floor. As the building proceeded upward, the plumb line would also be taken higher, still centered on the datum. Many cathedral spires, domes and towers still have brass datum marks inlaid into their floors, which signify the center of the structure above… Early skyscrapers used heavy plumb-bobs, hung on wire in their elevator shafts.” (Wikipedia)

Do you have a plumb line? In the context I am using it here, a plumb line is a standard or a set of guidelines by which one can live one’s life. My own personal plumb line is the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’s most famous sermon, found in the gospel of Matthew 5:1 – 7:29. In this sermon Jesus touched on every conceivable area of life, giving us clear guidelines by which we can choose to live.

Josiah is a biblical example of an individual who made a choice to live by God’s plumb line. Josiah was ruler over the people of Judah from 641 until 609 B.C. The choice he made to live according to God’s plumb line not only affected his life, it also affected the lives of the people in his kingdom.

Sometime during his reign, a priest “found the Book of the Law of the Lord that was written by Moses” (2 Chronicles 34: 14). It was found while repairs were being done on the Temple and is believed to be what later became the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Old Testament. The book, which was in the form of a scroll at the time, was taken to King Josiah and read to him. “When the king heard what was written in the Law, he tore his clothes in despair” (2 Chronicles 34: 19). He had not realized until then just how far off track, how out of sync with God’s commands, his people really were. He then sent some of his most trusted advisors “to consult with the prophet Huldah. She was the wife of Shallum” (2 Chronicles 34: 22). When the king’s advisors told him what Huldah said, he instituted major religious reforms throughout his kingdom.

The full account of this event is told in 2 Kings Chapter 22 and 2 Chronicles Chapter 34.

“… a great nation is a compassionate nation. … America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor. … One day we will have to stand before the God of history, and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we’ve built gargantuan bridges to span the seas. We built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, ‘That was not enough! But I was hungry and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me.’” Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington D.C.

I am currently reading American Gospel by Jon Meacham. The following excerpt grabbed me, speaking to me very loudly. I am sharing it with you because I am hoping that it speaks to some of you as well. Here it is:

“What is essential–and what has long been part of religious intellectual traditions–is to draw not only on scripture but on reason and experience when contemplating the nature and problems of the world. In the seventeenth-century battle between the Catholic hierarchy and Galileo over whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, it was Galileo–a Christian–who understood better than his persecutors how to reconcile apparent contradictions between faith and science. ‘If Scripture cannot err,’ he said, ‘certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways.’ In other words, if reason leads humankind to discover a truth that seems to be incompatible with the Bible, then the interpretation of scripture should give way to the rational conclusion. In this Galileo was echoing Augustine, who wrote, ‘If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets scripture does not understand it correctly.’ … Augustine’s work enables thinking Christians to take advantage of scientific and social advances without surrendering the authority of revelation. Guided by these lights, believers have (however slowly) removed the biblical support for the ideas that the earth, not the sun, is the physical center of the universe, that women are property–and that slavery is divinely sanctioned. The lesson is that purely religious arguments may not be sufficient to get us to the right result. The faithful should see that God meant for them to use reason as well as revelation as they make their way through the world.”

As I was doing research for the manuscript I am currently working on, I came across an excerpt from one of President Obama’s speeches in Diana Butler Bass’s book Christianity After Religion. I decided to post it as it really resonates with me. Here it is:

“In May 2011, President Obama began a speech by telling a story about Miami Dade Community College, a school where immigrants from 181 different nations had earned degrees. ‘At the commencement ceremony,’ he said, ‘181 flags–one for every nation that was represented–were marched across the stage, and each one was applauded by the graduates and the relatives of the graduates with ties to those countries.’ He explained. ‘When the Haitian flag went by, all the Haitian American kids shouted out; when the Guatemalan flag went by, all the kids of Guatemalan heritage shouted out.’ So it went with 181 different nations, 181 different flags, and 181 different ethnic groups cheering their native places. ‘But then,’ the president continued: ‘The last flag–the American flag–came into view and everyone in the room erupted in applause; everyone cheered. It was a reminder of a simple idea as old as America itself: E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals and America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here so they could be free to work and worship and start a business and live their lives in peace and prosperity.’ This, President Obama concluded, was the American future: out of many, one.”

My ancestors came to the United States from Ireland during the potato famine, the Great Hunger. They came because their survival depended on it. I hope that we continue to be a nation of immigrants, offering hope and safety and a second chance to those who need it.

Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization based in Minneapolis, posted an awesome review of my book When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, on their website. For those who are interested, here is the link to the review: https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/review/book-review-when-going-flow-isnt-enough

What’s more, they are now stocking that book in their online bookstore! PRAISE GOD!

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