Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama's choice of Rick Warren for Inaugural Invocation

The Brooklyn Bridge at Christmas time, with two of my eight grandchildren
(Anabelle, seven and Patrick, eight).

My son, Jack, is a structural engineer—designing bridges—so naturally he is interested in bridges, and especially the famous Brooklyn Bridge. He wanted his children to have the experience of walking across it. Through the years I have sent bridge postcards to him, and in so doing have thought of a different kind of bridge—bridges of understanding between people.

We can't build big bridges if we can't build small ones;
we can't have peace between nations if we can't have peace between individuals.

I'm happy about Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the inaugural invocation. I believe both to be men who wish to build bridges of understanding—they are willing to listen and consider opposing views in the path to finding solutions.
For decades our country has been caught up in the log jam issues of abortion and gay rights. Two years ago, when Rick Warren invited Barak Obama to speak at his church, some people said, "Oh, no, how could he invite Barak Obama?" Now there are those on the opposite side saying, "Oh, no, how could Barak Obama invite Rick Warren?" Because these two men are supposedly on opposite sides of these two issues—but are they?
In the process of writing this, as so often happens, the universe has brought relevant material to my attention that seems to go together like pieces of a puzzle.
Just a few days ago I heard Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, give her testimony at the West End Collegiate Church here in New York City. Her books, Left Behind, and Led by Faith, are on the New York Times best seller list.
From Publisher's Weekly:
"This searing firsthand account cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires. This book is a precious addition to the literature that tries to make sense of humankind' seemingly bottomless depravity and counterbalancing hope in an all-powerful, loving God."
Coming from babysitting my six month old grandson, Noah, I walked in late and took a seat on the back row. At once the speaker's voice arrested me—I felt God's presence. And later, as I saw her up close, I noticed how beautiful she was—her face had the quiet radiance of someone who has spent much time in prayer. Her communion with God enabled her to have victory over unforgiveness and grief.
Being reminded of the Rwandan Genocide, I realized all the more the importance of resolving our conflicts in such a way as to not tear our country apart. Could we not release unnecessary pressure for our elected leaders by praying for them and looking for the things they do that are good instead of being so quick to criticize and revel at every seeming misstatement?. In our elections, isn’t there much digging into the past rejoicing to find something against an opponent? Do we know what happened between that person and God even yesterday? Consider our prison system—are there not many wrong judgments and a lack of belief in redemption?
At the church I saw these two quotations and thought they belonged in my paper:

With malice toward none and charity toward all. . .
--Abraham Lincoln

Our diversity unites us.

In realizing our nation, our world, individually and collectively, faces challenges and perils too vast for human strength, what can we do? We must enlist the heavenly host—going beyond what we see and hear. (I love the story found in II Kings 6: 8-23 which illustrates angelic help and also gives an example of, "If your enemy hunger, feed him.") We must stop eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which is still a tree of death), jumping to judgment, but must be quiet in our spirits waiting for the discernment and wisdom from The One Who Inhabits Eternity.

Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
(John 7:24)

Situations can be so different from what they appear to be. Judging "according to appearance" is judging with human understanding alone; judging "righteous judgment" is judging with the discernment that God gives which is available to everyone if they will listen. Our Father/Mother "delights in mercy" and is "plenteous in redemption"; if we would be representatives of the divine, we must let mercy, love and redemption flow through us.
As we begin this New Year with a new administration may we deal with our differences as assets to enlarge our perceptions and not as liabilities to divide us.

God bless the friendship of President-elect Barak Obama and Pastor Rick Warren. May they, with us, help to lead our country with wisdom.

In the background, at the same time I’ve been writing this, I have been listening to PBS--Wayne Dyer:

Change Your Thoughts; Change Your Life.
These are sayings he gleaned from the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching and seem to go along with what I'm writing:
Learn to die while you are alive.
Have a sacred place in your home to pray.
Shift from fear to curiosity.
Less rigidity; more openness. Move from stiffness to flexibility. Flexibility is the companion of life.
Stop chasing life—let it come to you.
Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know. I'll look it up."
Heaven's way is to conquer without striving.
Hidden in all misfortunes is good fortune.
Nobility is rooted in humility.
Think small; accomplish great things. A seed becomes a tree.
A journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step.
No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.
The absurdity of having an enemy. . .
You accomplish more by trying less.
There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.
(I can think of Biblical verses that say the same thing. For example:"If you save your life, you will lose it. . . except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die. . .if you have faith as a mustard seed , ye shall say to this mountain. . .love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. . ..enter into thy closet and pray and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . ."

The PBS program ended with a woman’s lovely voice singing, Amazing Grace. How many people have been blessed by this hymn written by John Newton who had been in the slave trade before he was converted and became a strong opponent of slavery?
All these thread are weaving together. Wayne Dyer was instrumental in getting Immaculee's book into print and on the front cover of her book is an endorsement by Rick Warren. ( I did not know this when I began the paper. ) I discovered that Nightline (July 31, 2008) had a program entitled, "Rick Warren's Long-Term Relationship with Rwanda." He has made numerous trips there, he says, "to help alleviate the suffering in a deeply wounded nation, a place where 200,000 people have HIV and 800,000 children are orphaned." Right now Charlie Rose is interviewing actors from the Holocaust movie, Defiance. I heard one of them say, "Just because horrible things have been done to you, you can't do them back."
No, as Immaculee so strongly demonstrates in her book, we must break the hatred cycle and let the Spirit of God cleanse our hearts and give us love, joy and peace.
After President Clinton's second inaugural address, I remember a news commentator saying, "There were no quotable quotes." (I suppose he meant nothing like, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.") I disagreed! I heard one wonderful, marvelous, earth transforming quote and with this I close:

The greatest progress needs to be made in the human heart.
I've attached my writing: (actually it is in the next post)
Wisdom for the Abortion War:A Peaceable Solution for Everyone Without Compromise

Time, December 6, 2006
Some time ago, Rick Warren, megapastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County and author of the mega-seller The Purpose-Driven Life, along with his wife Kay, invited Democratic Sen. Barack Obama to speak today at the second annual AIDS conference at Warren's church. Other politicians were to participate, notably Sen. Sam Brownback, a born-again Christian turned conservative Catholic who, like Obama, may have presidential ambitions. But while Brownback was to speak to his natural constituency, Obama's participation is a divisive issue for one overriding reason: he is pro-choice. . .
Obama told the Rev. Rick Warren that "we still don't abide by that basic precept of Matthew: that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.
Obama said that although he's pro-choice and supports Roe v. Wade, his goal is to reduce the number of abortions in America."On this particular issue, if you believe that life begins at conception ... and you are consistent, then I can't argue with you on that," he said. "What I can do is say, are there ways we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?"
He also touched on same-sex marriage. When asked to define marriage, he told Warren, "It's a union between a man and a woman.""For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. God's in the mix," he said. Obama added that he does support same-sex civil unions, saying, "I can afford those civil rights to others even if I don't have ... that view."
And Warren, responding to the controversy, said "I've got two friends here, a Republican and a Democrat, why?" Warren asked. "Because you've got to have two wings to fly."
My note: Though Rick Warren is not for gay marriage, he is for Civil Unions. My sister and her friend have been partners in a stained glass business and have lived together for 30 years raising my sister's two children. They definitely are a family—though not lesbians. Rights that married people have could be realized with Civil Unions.

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