Saturday, May 30, 2009

Still At It With Faithful Eyes

Heard some staggering statistics yesterday. In South Carolina 50% of the births are to unwed mothers. In Sumter County, the percentage rises to nearly 70%! What? And what is equally amazing is where I heard the figures - in a happenstance visit with an obstetrician who probably is in her late 70's, and yet who is mounting her own campaign to address this social delimna.

In retrospect, I don't know which had more of an impact on me, the high number of children growing up without a father figure, or the social concern of Dr. B. As for the first, Dr. B. says we talk about a lot of social issues, truancy, gangs, high cime rate, number of males in prison, number of children living in poverty, etc., but we don't talk about the etiology (the causes), because it isn't politically correct. The truth is that we need to put emphasis and incentives into encouraging and preserving stable families. She recommended a 1995 book by David Blankenhorn, Jr. titled Fatherless America (which I have ordered.) How do yo even begin to address this?

Now, for the greater impact, this successful doctor, well into retirement, has a heart for "the least of these." She spoke to a state newspaper reporter about all this and the reporter questioned her statistics. So she went to the state agencies and researched it on her own. She's spoken to several representatives and state senators, and even the governor, trying to highlight the concern. And locally she has been connecting with male African American role models who "can give her insight to the causes."

I left that chance encounter inspired. I personally am not feeling like Elijah, who in his depression complained to the Lord "The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword, and I am the only one left." (1 Kings 19). But I did think of the Lord's response to Elijah, reminding him that thousands were still faithful. And I thought of Dr. B. as one of God's thousands, with faithful eyes to see what Christ might see, an open heart to care, a sharp mind to seek truth and answers, and the courage to believe she can make a difference. In many amazing ways the Kingdom of God is in the midst of us.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Thoughts

Making small talk at a wedding reception recently a friend and I realized we have in common an odd bit of history. We are about the same age and we both know we are probably here because President Truman decided to avert the invasion of Japan by dropping the atomic bomb. How can this be?

My father was a signalman in the Navy. At the end of the European theater of war, he was sent with other selected signalmen to train for the invasion. They were to be dropped offshore, were to get on land the best they could, dig in, and help direct the invasion from their vantage point. The Navy expected a survival rate of 1 out of 10.

My friend’s father was an Army sergeant. After time in Europe, he was assigned to a special force being made up for first wave of the invasion. I don’t know what survival rate was expected for this, but pretty sure it was slim.

Anyway, they were in training at bases in California when the news came of the atomic bombing of first Hiroshima and then three days later, Nagasaki. Six days after the second bombing, Japan surrendered.

This post isn’t made to offer rational for the use of nuclear weapons. I cannot imagine the horror they created and pray the world will never see them used again. But here on Memorial Day as I think of so many who have died in service to our country, I do give thanks that two young soldiers got the chance to live, and to become dads. And it reminds me that we who live peaceable lives owe a debt of gratitude.

Friday, May 15, 2009


My friends and family know I have been deeply involved in the Aldersgate Special Needs Ministry here in S.C. Our goal is to provide secure dwellings for adults with developmental disabilities. I have been chairman of the Board for the past year and it has been a job dealing with governmental agencies, regulations, revenue sources, worried parents, disgruntled board members, etc., etc. - especially since I really have no experience in the gov regulation area. Fortunately I serve a church where they don't worry about the days I give to Aldersgate, though I do try to schedule most of that on my days off.

Honestly, there have been several times over the past couple of months when I've asked myself why. There's no one making me do this extra work. It's frustrating, and it's all volunteer. Well, yesterday I got my answer.

In the past two months we finally got both our homes operating. The women's home has six residents and the men's home has one resident, with three other young men in process to get the funding lined up. I went by the women's home for a visit yesterday, my first since the residents had moved in. What a good move for me.

I was greeted by two of the residents and their first words to me were: "We love our home!" I met with some of the staff we've hired to run the house, but the residents cut that short, wanting to show "their home" to me, and to show me how they'd decorated their rooms.

You could tell they were so comfortable there, and with one another. One of the young ladies usually speaks in a whisper, but the other girls knew that and encouraged her when I asked her a question. You could readily tell they were already becoming "family" for one another.
We were worried about the transitions these girls would be able to make from their families. What's happened is that the residents have told their parents they don't have to come visit and check on them. They are enjoying their new found "independence."

There are many times in ministry when we work and serve and never get to see the fruit of our labors. Wow, am I fortunate. The experience yesterday does make the six year journey to get there feel so worthwhile. It has been a blessing to work with some dedicated parents and board members over those years, and to witness how so many people have given time, effort and resources to this cause. There's still a lot of work to do, and a lot of money to raise, but now I know in a new way what a difference it all makes. Thanks be to God!

Monday, May 11, 2009

What to do during the Lord's Prayer?

When the Lord's Prayer is sung by a soloist, do you bow your head/close your eyes for a public prayer, or do you watch the singer as you would with any other performance? This delimma came to mind at the National Day of Prayer breakfast last week. After the welcome the local Lutheran pastor, an excellent tenor, sang the Lord's Prayer. I considered it a performance and turned to watch him. There are many other prayers set to music and we do not bow for them.

But I noticed that the event leaders across the stage, except for the guest speaker, all sat there with their eyes closed or heads bowed. To me it looked rather odd. So I looked around me and found the group comflicted - most bowed, a few watching like me, and many sneeking glances.
Does anyone have a proper protocol for this?