Today’s Joy: February 2020

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Giving Up Your Power
“Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.” — Proverbs 15:32
I have known many folks who have decided to ignore those who express a different opinion on politics or religion. I, like them, have been taught that ignoring conflict is the polite thing to do.
I decided a few years ago that when I don’t speak up to another who has a different option is giving away my power to those who WILL SPEAK UP.
A lifelong friend sent out a note in which I differed. I politely responded that I think she didn’t want to include me on her mailing list on that subject. She agreed to take me off that mailing list. We had several exchanges where we intersected at many other places in our history.
My teacher, Dr. Natalie Haimowitz, told me about a meeting where the American Association of University Women gathered the anti-abortion folk and the pro-abortion folk to a meeting in the local library. The AAUW leadership suggested that both groups look at the places where they could come together to help their community. An extended Sunday afternoon discussion resulted in several places they could work together: help young women in the city by identifying them and offering ways to help them in daily living as well as their educational desires. A committee formed to accomplish the tasks. I know that is a powerful way for both sides to claim their power and serve humanity. I would have liked to have known the results of this project.
You and I are called in life to speak up instead of ignoring the situation. You give away your power to others who will speak up. Sharing your thoughts may bring good news, as in the two above illustrations.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Pursue Love
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Pursue love …” First Corinthians 13:13-14:1a

First Corinthians 13:13 is ordinarily used in a wedding. I have insisted that people use the first part of the 14th chapter. 

The 13th chapter reads as a familiar scripture which adequately describes love. I think the first phase of the 14th chapter adds the missing part of love. The missing element is action.

“Purse love” is the New Revised Standard Translation while the New International says, “Follow the way of Love.” “Make love your aim” is the Revised Standard Version’s translation. The consensus is that love requires action. 

On this Valentine’s day, I suggest that love is more than celebrating one day of love. Love requires action by living a life of love by performing.acts of l

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Larry’s Story
“The Lord sets the prisoners free;” Psalm 146:7b

Larry was the Saturday Yolkfellow leader at the Garden Chapel, California State Prison at San Quentin. I was the chaplain on duty Saturdays when I met him. He was a star among the inmates.

Larry was once one of them, an inmate. He resisted Chaplain Byron’s overtures to get him involved in the chapel program. Gradually, he started working in the chapel program. Larry answered a Call into the ministry.

He was released on parole to the Baptist church and met Evelyn, who was a widow and church member. She sat by him at dinner after she donated her deceased husband’s suit. Gradually, they started dating and were married. Larry went to seminary and received credentials in the American Baptist Convention.

Through Chaplain Byron, he received clearance from the California Department of Corrections to do ministry in the Garden Chapel. He was one of the few former inmates who returned as a minister to SQ.

Larry and my friendship grew, and we developed a relationship as fellow ministers. Larry attempted to teach me fly-fishing, his passion. We went out several times. My favorite was fly-fishing on the Merced River, near the entrance to Yosemite National Park.

Evelyn, her son, and Larry stopped by Baker, Montana, the first summer I was there. We visited for a couple of hours. They had been on vacation to the Black Hills in South Dakota. I learned a few years that Larry sadly died from cancer. I felt deep sadness when I learned of is death.

I saw a TV movie about Yosemite last night and remembered Larry’s story. I once spoke to a women’s church service on “Prison Reform.” Larry and Evelyn’s love story served as an example. God works through ordinary human channels. Larry’s story is a “super” example of God’s love.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Saddle Buds
“Some friends play at friendship, but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest” — Proverbs 18:24

I was twelve years old. My dad died a few months before, and my mother was in a hospital in a town two hundred miles away.

I lived on a ranch with my mom’s cousin and her husband. Georgia cooked for the family and became like a mom to me during that time. She said to me that she was concerned that you don’t have anyone to play.

She brought her nephew on a play date with me. He had never ridden a horse before. I saddled up a gentle horse for him. He did well in the saddle as we rode for an hour or so before lunch. We sat down and ate lunch together. I had fun, for this was the first time I had a buddy my age to enjoy. I enjoyed riding horses with him.

He came out several times that summer to ride with me. We bonded and had fun with each other. We sat and broke bread together as we enjoyed Georgia’s fried chicken. He had visited when the family was away on business. We ate in the kitchen together. 

When the family was home, I had to leave my saddle buddy in the kitchen to eat alone. Georgia and my bud were African-Americans. Texas culture separated the blacks and whites from eating together at home or in public.

I experienced the issue from 12 years old to an adult in graduate school. In graduate school, students of all races ate together in the college cafeteria. The public restaurant was a different story. One drive-in wouldn’t serve us because of an African-American friend was in the car. I sat in a cafeteria across from the campus on Sunday night with my African-American friend. One of the customers came after me for eating with a person of a different race.

My Christian belief has always felt that all races were equal in God’s sight. I had to work to navigate to find places that were open to my friends of color in Texas. I found a way to eat with my friends of color because that’s the right thing to do.

I invite you to be intuitive and find ways to laugh in your everyday life. Remember someone like Bob, whose laughter brought joy into the room. Look for those moments today and breathe new joy through laughter.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Laughter Breathes Joy
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” — Job 8:12

Dr. Robert L. Goulding’s deep laughter surfaces in my memory this morning. His laughter breathed joy into those around him. 

I met him at a Methodist Single Adult gathering at Asilomar, YMCA retreat center on the Pacific Ocean at Monterey, CA. I liked him for his jolly personality, and he had fun teaching psychotherapy with his partner, David Kufer. I learned more psychology from him on a Friday night and a Saturday morning than all of the psychology courses from college and seminary.

I spent a month studying with him during a difficult period in my life. The experience was liberating. Bob’s laughter breathed new life and new hope for me personally. I learned to distinguish between gallows laughter and healthy laughter. Gallows laughter is laughing at my misfortunes or another’s misfortunes. It is making fun of another’s issues is gallows. 

My dear colleague, Sister Betty, studied for a week. Betty said his laughter helped her. She learned to be a better school counselor. I think the same was right for me. I learned to laugh in my ministry and personal life. 

Bob and Betty have passed away. Bob’s laughter lives in my heart. I look around, and l look for ways to laugh and breathe new life and health into the world around me. 

I invite you to be intuitive and find ways to laugh in your everyday life. Remember someone like Bob, whose laughter brought joy into the room. Look for those moments today and breathe new joy through laughter.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Leadership Leads to Community
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds …” — Hebrews 10:24

My colleague mentions the coronavirus in the below statement on the community.

“ you know what I learned from offering mental health support to high-risk industries during the SARS outbreak? It’s moments like these that people tap into their personal leadership. People initially responded to a deadly virus in a variety of different ways- some panicked, some made a fist and fought it and some went into utter and complete denial. Some also adopted hateful thoughts rooted in fear. But these initial responses were the beginning of a journey. They developed and transformed to become courage, compassion, care, and strength. These human qualities were way more infectious than the virus. Leadership is a vital component of crisis and community trauma management. A sense of community emerges and we see such beautiful leadership blossom. With this coronavirus outbreak, I am seeing similar processes. The core of the human spirit is connected and timeless.” Cheryl Leong —–Author of the forthcoming book “Leading With Consciousness”.

Ms. Leong became a part of a council and committee in which I serve several years ago. She came from Singapore and lives in San Francisco. She is a fellow jazz fan.

She and I join together as soul mates for an emotionally healthier world with all people living in peace. She may be called a social scientist. She is also very tech-savvy in setting up websites. We are working on setting up an educational website where people can learn the basics of psychotherapy for free which is taught by certified specialists. We join together in believing good education should be available to all people.

Ms. Leong and I come from worlds apart. We intentionally work together to make the world an emotionally safe, healthier, and kinder place to live for today and every tomorrow.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Faith Is a Journey 
“for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers.” – Third John 1:7
My Wesleyan heritage comes to mind this morning. John Wesley asked his followers, “Are you moving on to perfection?”

As a child, I thought perfection meant doing everything perfectly as my parents wanted me to do. My Biblical professors taught me that Wesley differently. Moving on to perfection meant loving God, self, and neighbor completely.”

The longer I live the more difficult the task. Faith and love is not a static exercise. Life does not sit in one place. Join the life experience or be left behind.

As an 82-year-old man, I have decided that my faith is a journey of loving myself and others as time marches on. Love moves to keep the body fit with movement and following medical leadership. Love means to keep the mind alive and thinking. 

I decided to remain active in my church by being involved. And, continuing my passion to promote joy in self and others in my writing and teaching. I want to have fun and joy in music and drama. 

I pledge to be kind and gentle with those who me I come in contact with whom I come in contact daily. I want to find an avenue to monitor stress and tension in daily encounters with family and life.

Summing up the joy list today requires keeping going with joy and love. Faith is a life journey with the daily task to love as the bumps, highs, lows, and ordinary events of daily living. Amen.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Off the Diamond
“… while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.”— Acts 6:4

Chicago Cubs’ first baseman works to help children who have cancer in his home state of Florida.

Anthony Rizzo is a cancer survivor from his childhood. He had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008 and was treated and the cancer is in remission. Since then, he has created a foundation that has contributed to cancer hospitals and other charity events. 

Recently, The Rizzo Foundation recently donated a million dollars to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. His charity has donated to the local children’s hospitals in Chicago.

Off the diamond, Anthony Rizzo gives joy to children in hospitals as he visits. He signs baseballs and treats them with kindness and respect.

Not only is Rizzo a joy to watch of first base, but he is also a joy to the highlighted as a servant to fight cancer through this charity and his visiting of them in hospitals.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

“For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.” — James 3:2

As James states, “all of us make mistakes.” I make mistakes writing Today’s Joys. I usually re-read several times. I run the “free Grammarly” app before publishing it on FaceBook.

Filmmakers call errors MIS-TAKES. They do a second take or a third take until the film correctly follows the script. Musicians make mis-takes all the time. Rehearsals are the performer’s time to correct the wrong notes, timing and syncing all parts into the number for the performance. 

I judge myself too harshly when I make a mistake. I experience others and society judging self and one another too harshly. Often, we associate the scripture with being perfect is NOT to make ERRORS.

My New Testament professors taught me to be in “perfect love” to myself and my neighbors because God is “perfect love” This is a hard task to do in everyday life.

I invite myself and you to have mercy when we make a mis-take. Instead, do a second or third take until mis-take is fixed to your wants.

Wednesday, February 6, 2020

A Divine Reminder

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.” —Psalm 98:4

This cold wintery day in February feels boring.  I. think it is time to look back at the purpose of Today’s Joy. 

First, I felt a Divine Call to serve God and answered the Call fifty years ago. I retired in April of 2013 when St. Petri UCC, Chicago, closed.  Though I love our family church and its pastor/members, I felt a longing to serve in my retirement. 

Second, I felt a lack of joy in our world. I saw joy in the presence of a baby. Everyone seems to feel the joy around a child. The process of growing up appears to strip us of our joy. I wanted to find a way to help people find joy. 

The genesis of Today’s Joy came as I listened to the final speech at 31st General Synod, the national UCC governing body in Baltimore in 2017. She challenged us to go home and do one thing to make a better world.

I thought I could find ONE thing to be joyful about each day. Ten days later I wrote my first Today’s Joy. I thank you who read it regularly or once in a while. I thank those who like. Your comments have been heartfelt and appreciated. I feel fulfilled in my endeavor.

Let us continue to find ONE JOY to lift up each day. I trust you will join me in the Joy friends who group or “congregation.” Or, whatever, you view yourself as a reader. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

In a Concert, Worship Occurs  
“In the beginning, God …” —Genesis 1:1a

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the latter part of the 1960s. I went to the Oakland Civic Auditorium one evening to listen to “The First Sacred Music Concert” by Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. 

Ellington had performed this program as a part of the festival of the opening of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco during 1965. I watched the YouTube video of the public television broadcast recently to remind myself of the concert

Ellington in an opening statement said the first four words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God”. He said these words would be repeated musically over and over. The first number’s theme said “in the beginning, there was only God, ….nothing…no dogs or cats…no main streets or back alleys….no poverty or Cadillacs ….. nothing….” and the litany continued. 

A number with orchestra and choir stated each book in the Bible. Another number stated that God’s love was “Too Good to Title”. “Little David Danced before the Lord with all his might” offered scat in a solid jazz form.

My favorite was a soprano solo, “Come Sunday,” which was in the form of a prayer, “Ooh Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty, God of love, please look down and see my people through….” The concert included an upbeat version of “The Lord’s Prayer”—a form of praise to God.

The whole concert wed jazz and the scared into a song of praise to the Creator God.

During Black History month, I lovingly remember how an African American genius led a white man to worship at a jazz concert in Oakland.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rodent Meteorologists
“Whoever observes the wind will not sow, and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.”— Ecclesiastes 11:4

On 02/02, each year the groundhog takes over the role of a meteorologist. The village of Punxsutawney, PA., soars to thousands as Groundhog Phil predicts the coming of Spring. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of Winter. He predicted an early Spring yesterday because he didn’t see his shadow.

In Woodstock, IL, another groundhog, Woodstock Willie, saw his shadow yesterday in a crowd of onlookers so we have six more weeks of Winter. 

The Super Bowl commercial about the movie, “Groundhog Day,” for Jeep autos was hilarious. It was filmed partly in Woodstock, a city northwest of Chicago. I invited you to check it out on FaceBook. It was released early in this space. 

Groundhog Day is great entertainment. I don’t think they are real meteorologists. We celebrated yesterday for we had the second sunny day in 2020 with a record-breaking temperature of 52º in Northern Illinois.

Today, we return weather predicting to the regular meteorologists. Phil and Willie entertain us for one day each year. It was fun in the year 02/02/2020.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Souper Bowl Sunday
“On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;” — Romans 2:20

While most people are tuned to the Super Bowl, churches are tuned to the Souper Bowl. The theme for 2020 is “The game is big. Our mission is bigger.”

The Souper Bowl of Caring’s website from Houston reports: 686 registered groups are reported to collect $5,846,034 and 100% will be given to their specific charities.

Churches have joined in a drive to feed the hungry. I have known churches who have served soup in a meal following worship. The soup was provided by the church members. Gifts for the meal were given to the local food pantry. 

Churches I have been associated with have collected funds for the local food pantries. We had coffee hours where soup was served and funds collected for the local food drive.

I invite you to pause for a while to remember the mission to feed the hungry is much bigger than the big game in Miami. Take part in your church’s or synagogue’s Souper Bowl Sunday.