Posted in Poems

The Shapers

Last night I dreamed the Shapers came around again.
They dropped by the cottage as we were sitting down to dinner.
I invited them in.

Jesus and I laughed about the first time I gave my life to him down deep inside a sleeping bag trying to make the tears come while my mocking friend pulled the covers back to see what I was doing. It was he who had told me that I could not eat the Lord’s Supper unless I was born again.

A rocky start I guess, but honored nonetheless. Jesus loved me for who I am.
And I began learning
to love myself and everyone around me,
It and I always turning, turning from truth and back again.
Jesus loved me for who I am.
I still do, he said.
My Shapers and I bowed our heads in silence while the Prince of Peace broke the bread.

After grace, I turned to Dr. King.
“I’m Martin to my friends.”
He pointed at his head and then they all showed me the places where the bullets and the nails had gone in.
Loving your enemy is no guarantee he will reciprocate or give love back again.
I used to wonder whether I would go up and out like Martin.

I grew up in Mississippi and I met him though his people,
still getting used to the changes,
showing patience with the foot draggers,
paying no mind to the word daggers, the tut-tutters and finger waggers,
so willing to forgive and forget.
Martin smiled. “I have a dream,” he said.
“And the dream ain’t done being dreamed yet.”

Next I spoke to Gandhi.
“Please pass the Satyagraha.
I need some more spices from the mouth of the Mahatma.”
So we spoke of truth and love, with a dab of philosophy,
how the tooth for tooth just leaves everyone’s mouths empty.
“Did you like Ben Kingsley and the length of the movie?”
“Not bad,” Mohandas smiled. “Though I would have made it shorter with a little less of me.”

My church saw the movie together.
I was young, and it was long, but my life was changed forever.
I remember how I cried,
how it felt to be with the adults outside
at intermission talking peace to the cool Southern night air.
I’m still figuring out how to be salt of the earth and
where.

“How are you, Romero?” I asked.
“I’m well,” he replied.
I told him of the time I spent at the church where he died,
how I wore a black cross around my neck for years in solidarity with his people, who shared their hopes and
fears with a naive college student, how we cried and laughed,
how reading Exodus could make you disappear,
how the soldiers who killed the priests shot up his photograph. “Monsignor, you were more alive dead than
you were before.”
To which he said, “My son, that is the essence of resurrection.”

After that I spoke to Menno and thanked him for my heritage. “I would gladly have been martyred like these,”
he said. “But I did not have the privilege.”
“How does a mortal, fearful man have such courage?” I asked.
“Be faithful. Life is in God’s hands.
Do not take upon yourself what is the Creator’s task.”

After too short a time, it seemed,
they pushed back their chairs to take their leave from my dream.
“We have far to travel yet,” Jesus said. “And many more Shaped to see.”
So I bidst them farewell and thanked them for their lives.
They laughed and laid their hands on me.
“Freely given, child, freely receive.”

When I awoke, I lay still for awhile and listened to her breathe,
this woman whom I’ve known for a short time who is already shaping me with her love, encouragement, and commitment to peace
in our lives together and communities.

I thought of Mom and Dad, my friends and my family,
the shapers I carry inside from their stability,
the learnings and the laughings,
and our shared history.

These are my Shapers, the makers of me,
the famous and the not so well known
who have scribed these patterns on my bones.
There are many, many more unmentioned, and more shapes for me to see,
for I am a grateful man who contains a wonderful
geometry.

September 2003

Posted in Longreads & Essays

True Acts of Valor – Biting Off Buttons

A MIDWEEK ESSAY

In past postings I have called attention to the troubling trend of merging entertainment with the military.

(see https://peacegrooves.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/going-past-midway-dont-tread-play-sing-dance-on-me/ and  https://peacegrooves.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/817/ )

Not too long ago a movie came out that featured Navy Seals in action – I guess as a way for the media to continue the Special Forces love fest so fresh after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. I have wanted to write something about the movie when it came out but wasn’t able to. It seems fitting to do so on Memorial Day.

I have many problems with the movie, but I will simply whip the same dead horse I seem to do so often. Such “entertainment” glorifies violence, trivializes the sacrifices of soldiers, citizens, and their families, and diminishes the enormous human and monetary costs of war. On this day, when we honor those who “serve” or “who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” I felt it was important to highlight those whose acts of valor are not memorialized, who in some cases gave their lives rather than kill others, and whose sacrifice paved the way for more democratic freedoms for citizens whose conscience objects to them going to war.

The following is an excerpt from an Amish Country News Article by Brad Igou http://www.amishnews.com/amisharticles/peopleofpeace.htm

The “war to end all wars” spelled problems for the Amish and Mennonites, whose Pennsylvania German dialect made them suspect in some people’s eyes. By this time, Amish dress and customs also made them more distinct from average Americans. The Amish declared conscientious objector (CO) status. As Albert Keim writes in THE AMISH AND THE STATE, “CO’s were drafted into the army and posted to military camps with the hope that they would enter noncombatant service.” The question then became one of how much to “cooperate.” Their resistance to wearing uniforms rather than their plain clothes, and their refusal to bear arms, resulted in harassment, beatings, and humiliation in many cases.

A book recounting these incidents called NONRESISTANCE PUT TO THE TEST was published in 1981. Particularly shocking were the experiences recounted by Menno Diener at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, where he witnessed the bayonet stabbing of one Amish boy. During the course of his stay, Menno protested having to wear a military uniform and take orders. Here is how he describes what followed…

So the commander got a broomstick and beat me across the legs till he broke his stick. I had streaks and swelling on my legs. Then he got a 2×4 about three feet long that had four spikes in one end, and threatened to hit me in the face with it. He put it near to my face and then back again like a ball bat and said, “If it weren’t for the law, I would like to see how far I could sink these spikes into your face.”

A few days later another boy, his face black and blue from beatings, was placed on display by a public road. Someone placed a sign on him that read, “I refuse to fight for my country.”

When camp officials were court martialed for their actions, the Amish refused to testify against them because “it would be helping to punish them and cause ill feelings between resisting and nonresistance, and be a poor light of Christianity in our church and background.”

The book contains stories of suffering in many other camps, including one where a boy was pulled for half a mile on the ground by a horse. At another camp in Georgia, a man was hung by a rope until unconscious.

According to Steven Nolt in his HISTORY OF THE AMISH, “Officers occasionally ‘baptized’ Amish COs in the camp latrines in mockery of their Anabaptist beliefs.”

In Kansas, Amish bishop Manasses Bontrager wrote a letter urging his members not to buy Liberty Bonds, and urging support of the Amish youth serving in the camps. In his words…

Many people can’t understand why we don’t want to defend our country. Christ said, “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God.” Caesar protects our property, for which we should willingly pay our taxes as Christ asked us to…. But our coming in this world, our intellects, our physical powers — these do not belong to Caesar. If he claims them to defend him, Christ’s laws strictly forbid our yielding to such a claim.

A few months later, Bontrager was arrested by a U.S. Marshall and put on trial for Violation of the 1917 Espionage Act and was fined $500 for “inciting and attempting to incite subordination, disloyalty, and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States.”

When I was in college, one elderly gentlemen told me a story from WW I involving Amish as well. Amish Mennonite men imprisoned for their beliefs would take the buttons off of the clothes they were forced to wear. When they were handcuffed to keep them from doing so, they would bite the buttons off. I also read that some men were then forced to stand naked in their cells. The image of simple men behind bars with lips bloodied rather than wear clothes that resembled  a military uniform is one that shames and inspires me.

Contrary to popular belief, the military does not have an exclusive corner on fighting for one’s beliefs. Acts of valor have been occurring every day throughout the history of this country. Countless times, citizens (pacifists and others) have put their lives on the line to help, rather than kill others. Yet we do not see fit to memorialize this “army.”

My forbears, some of who are mentioned above, would not want to be recognized.

Yet doing so perhaps will redefine within the body politic such terms as: valor, freedom, sacrifice, service.

Then and only then will our country truly live up to the ideals it was founded upon and be a nation that exports life rather than death.

Originally posted May 28, 2012

Posted in Longreads & Essays

The Not So Wicked Bible (or the Worship of Prince Baalberith)

A MIDWEEK ESSAY

In 1611, Barker and Lucas, the royal printers in London, published what was meant to be a reprint of the King James Bible. There was one major omission. In one of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:14 which should have read “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the not was omitted. The printed passage read “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Needless to say the printers got into big trouble and most copies of the Bible were destroyed.

I find the story ironic in two ways. Based on current statistics, it seems that the mistaken commandment in the Wicked Bible is the one that is being followed. Polygamy is still being practiced, only now it is done so in secretive and illicit affairs. Pornography, sex trafficking, and prostitution continue to feed insatiable lusts. The Church continues to be so obsessed with sex that other principles are not emphasized with equal importance.

Which brings me to my second point. Would there have been as big an uproar if the printers had omitted not from verse 13 so that it would have read “Thou shalt kill?” I don’t know. But for all practical purposes in this day and age we act as though the “not” does not exist.

We continue to glorify killing through incessant media broadcasts of tragedy that feed our insatiable appetite for such. We justify killing through our continuous need to be engaged in one “Holy War” after another. The two are not unrelated. For when we approve of killing in any form we create an opening for that spirit to be present in our society. The murders and violent tragedies so prevalent among us are a direct result of our justification of killing through war and other “accepted” means. There are those among us who have more compassion for the unborn than for those birthed and living.

My friends, this must not be so. Thou shalt not kill. Period. We must close the portal that allows such things to invade our society. We must defeat the Red Horseman, Prince Baalberith, and his legions.

We can do so only through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Originally posted October 21, 2011

Posted in Religion & Sprituality

Revival

I once heard that if you want to have revival, draw a circle around yourself and have revival in that circle.

Yet what good is the revival if the circle does not expand? And can one really have revival alone?

Perhaps a rephrasing is necessary.

If you want to have revival, join a circle of God’s people and have revival in that circle.

Posted in 490 Words

Forgiveness Is An Unending Circle

Most are aware of the tragic shooting of Amish school girls in Lancaster County, PA in October 2006 and perhaps many have heard of the Amish’s gracious response to the tragedy. I found the excerpt below to be well written so I include it here:

In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.

The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.

Later that week the Roberts family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.

It’s ironic that the killer was tormented for nine years by the premature death of his young daughter. He never forgave God for her death. Yet, after he cold-bloodily shot 10 innocent Amish school girls, the Amish almost immediately forgave him and showed compassion toward his family. http://www.800padutch.com/amishforgiveness.shtml

And forgiveness has a way of coming full circle.

Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles Roberts, has found peace in the midst of her pain at her first-born’s anger at God and the horrible actions her son committed. She spends her days caring for her son’s most injured victim yet alive – an 11 year old girl who is paralyzed. Each week, Terri bathes the girl, brushes her hair, talks to her and sings hymns.

As she says: “As we reach out in ways that bring a touch, we can find great healing.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-29/amish-schoolhouse-shooting/50609184/1

Originally posted February 2012

Posted in Musings

A Lover of Truth, Justice, and Peace

On this Valentine’s Day, it is important to remember he who gives the holiday its namesake, St. Valintinus.

While there is some confusion around the life and identity of this early Christian martyr, I found some interesting characteristics that go beyond the sweetness of a heart shaped box of chocolates.

Most histories state that Valentinus was a Christian priest in Rome. He was arrested on countless occasions for proselytizing. While under house arrest, a judge, Asterius, put the priest to the test, saying he would do anything he asked if he healed his blind daughter. Valentinus did so and when Asterius asked what he should do, Valentinus told the judge to destroy all of the idols in his house, fast for three days, and be baptized. Asterius complied and he and his entire household were baptized. The judge also freed all of the Christian captives under his jurisdiction.

Another legend has it that Valentinus secretly married Christian couples so that the husbands would not have to go to war. As a result, he was arrested and sent to the prefect of Rome, the emperor Claudius himself. The emperor took a liking to the priest, but when Valentinus refused to renounce his faith, Claudius had him executed. Valentinus was beaten with clubs and beheaded outside the Flamian Gate on February 14, 269.

So on this day when we celebrate love, it is important that we remember St. Valentine, who helped the blind to see, refused to bow down to idols, spoke truth to judges and emperors, helped set the captives free, and used his authority to keep men from having to go to war.

Above all, he could not stop talking about the great Love of his life and in the end was martyred for his faith.

Originally posted February 14, 2017

Posted in 490 Words

On Thin Ice

Late at night, in the cold of a Dutch winter, an innocent man flees before his pursuer.

If he is caught, he will be put to death for his faith.

Coming to a body of water, he runs across the ice and despite the danger, makes it to the other side.

His pursuer is not so lucky and falls through the ice.

The man, Dirk Willems, hearing the cries of his enemy, returns and saves his life.

The “thief-catcher” wants to free his savior, but the authorities insist he follow the law.

Willems is arrested and burned at the stake, literally giving his life for another, his enemy.

(A note regarding numbers: As he died a long slow death, Willems “was heard to exclaim over seventy times, ‘O my Lord; my God,’ etc.” Strange to find this number in the account of a man who exemplified the Rule of the 490).

Source: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/dirk-willems.htm

February 5, 2012

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

My Worst Death Later

Dude, I’m glad you’re happy, but its mammon you serve.

You do practice what you preach and there’s money in your words,

but being blessed is not synonymous

with riding in a limo that’s as big as a bus

or possessing houses and cars and yachts

and lots and lots and lots

of money and the souls of those who listen to you,

but me thinks that something is possessing yours too.

I could ask for you to share some with me but I’ll refrain.

It’s 30 pieces of silver for the One you have betrayed

and someday my friend the deposit is going to come due.

I am not the Judge, but I sure in Hell wouldn’t want to be you.

So I am coming out with my own book. The title is above.

It won’t be a best seller, but then you can’t buy love

and the idea of a Suffering Servant on a cross to save

is a bitter pill to swallow in the home of the brave

but the gospel of the meek has never received rave reviews.

Please tell me then why it’s called the Good News.

Stumbling blocks and millstones and pigs flying off of a cliff,

A temple losing its thieves by the crack of a whip.

This Messiah ain’t playing. He’s right outside your door.

He’s got his fist raised and he’s ready to roar.

You see liberation is good news for those who need liberated,

not so much for those who’ve grown rich and satiated

on the things of this world. You say, Screw the masses.

Mr. Megawatt, I think it’s time for some sackcloth and ashes.

Posted in Longreads & Essays

Join the RE Generation

I’ve always been a little confused about what generation I am a part of. The social labelers say I’m a member of Generation X. Sometimes they call us the Baby Busters or the 13th Generation.

Then this morning I got to thinking about one of my favorite Menno Simons quotes:

“The regenerated do not go to war, nor engage in strife…. They are the children of peace who have beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and know of no war…. Spears and swords of iron we leave to those who, alas, consider human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.” (1550)

I like words. In this instance, the word “regenerated” fascinates me. It is not a word used very often today – unless you’re watching a sci fi movie about regrowing limbs. But regenerate means to reform spiritually, to create anew, or to give new life or energy to. In this context, Menno is using it to refer to those who have been revitalized, renewed – born again – i.e. Christians.

When Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door, he opened the door of the Reformation. Menno and other Anabaptists pushed it open a little further, believing, unlike Luther and other reformers, that they could not justify any violence to protect their faith. Hence the reason for Menno’s statement.

“The regenerated do not go to war . . .”

Rather than Gen X, Y, or Z, Lost, Baby Boom, Silent, or Greatest Generations, I’m choosing to be part of the RE Generation.

Which begs the question:

Are you regenerated?

Originally posted here November 16, 2017