I admit I was deeply disappointed this past week when the voters of Glendive defeated a school bond issue. There were lots of pros and cons in the local newspaper and for the most part they had legitimate rationales for their concerns. But the bottom line for me was the importance of education and the need our students have for the best a community can offer. Education has become a low priority for most people and I am afraid the level of knowledge and understanding our world in a positive way, is in decline. The idea “Oh, it’s good enough” is ‘not good enough’. I remember one person saying that an education was not only about getting training for a job, but it was perhaps more importantly to help us live together in the world with our fellow humans. To see the world as a bigger place.
As a liberal arts major in college I know I had a wide-ranging introduction to all the good things the world has to offer. To be a “nay-sayer” is to shut my eyes to the world outside and to live only inside my own head. I have often wondered why it is so much easier to say “no”, than to say “yes” or at the very least, “let’s think about it.” To say “no” shuts the door on discussion. It prevents learning, growing, stretching to see the possibilities in another person’s viewpoint. To watch a baby is to make me think we are born with a certain level of negativity. “Mine” and “No” are often what we hear a child say early on. We need to be taught to share, to say yes, to understand the small things we sometimes have to give up to work for the greater good.
Once in Dawson County we had a state representative who was overheard to say there was no need for him to travel to Helena for the session. He could vote “no” right from his home without wasting the taxpayers’ money. Again that brick wall opposed to progress for the greater good and the bottom line to give our children the very best that we can.
While this negativity has been around a long time, I think the current political climate has given people permission to be “against” anything or anyone that does not think as they do. The harshness with which disagreement is met does not leave the door open to compromise or coming together to at least talk things through.
The sad part in all this is that the kids are the losers. And the future of this world is more hesitant and cast in a darker hue. We have to be positive, we have to look ahead with hope. To believe this is as good as life is going to be, is losing the point of living in the light.
Last Saturday night I was watching, for the tenth time, the DVD THE POST. And of course I was sitting there blowing my nose and wiping away my tears. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is the heroic story of The Washington Post newspaper editor Ben Bradley and publisher Kathryn Graham and their decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Now later the Post would be the paper that broke the story of Watergate and the crimes and corruption in the Nixon White House, but the Pentagon Papers came before that. The Pentagon Papers were released by Daniel Ellsberg (a whistle-blower) because he had seen first hand the war in Viet Nam and he had read the secret report that had been commissioned by Bob McNamara on the history of the Viet Nam war from 1947 to 1967. Ellsberg says in the movie that 10% of the war was to fight Communism and 20 % of the war was to help the people of Viet Nam so that meant 70% of the war was just so the U.S. could save face by not losing the war. Seventy per cent of the men dying in Viet Nam were dying for a president to save face and that covered Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Not one of them would admit we were losing the conflict. The New York Times and the Washington Post defended the first freedom in the Bill of Rights which includes freedom of the press, “Congress shall make no law. . .abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” by taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judges ruled 6 to 3 that the American people had the right to know. Justice Roberts said the newspapers exist for the right of the governed and not those who govern. It really was monumental.
Today we find the battle for freedom of the press continuing. Many of the big city newspapers are gone now, lost to news from the internet and a public that continues to read less and less. But freedom of the press is a liberty worth fighting for. Dictators go after the media when they take power and journalists in television and newspapers are the first to be attacked. The murder of journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi by the leaders of Saudi Arabia shows the long arm of tyranny. But it really has been good to see this basic American right being upheld in our own community’s discussions concerning the school bond issue. Long, impassioned pleas by both sides have given attention to the importance of truth and the freedom to express our opinion openly in our small community. Another issue that has received attention is the activity of the DEQ and the issue of oil waste disposal in Eastern Montana. Farmers and ranchers and the Northern Plains Resource Council have been given an opportunity to be heard at public hearings as well as expressing their opinions in a free and open press.
We must not ever take freedom of the press for granted. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, fighting the Nazi regime in his native Germany during World War II said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” To suppress a free press is to bring down a silence that destroys truth and a government in a democratic society made up of free men and women must never be afraid of the truth. One newspaper had on its masthead the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
Say “thank you” to the men and women of our local radio and tv stations and our newspaper who lift up the issues that are important to us right here. It is through their work we are heard.
Long ago volunteering was a part of surviving. You helped your neighbors and together you built barns and made quilts, and built school houses, and cleared the land for plowing and planting. You fought fires together and built churches and helped tend the dying and bury the dead. When someone with a wagon went to town they took orders from everyone as to what to pick up. When the snows were deep, the neighbors brought out their team of horses or oxen to help clear the roads. There was a sense of building a community, of knowing that surviving wasn’t a solitary journey, that it was shared by those around you. There were barn dances and hay rides and ice skating on the creek on a chilly winter’s night. To volunteer was simply to step out your door and knowing the needs of those around, the suffering as well as the accomplishments, it was to help. To help because that is just what human beings do for and with each other.
This sense of purpose, of mission, continued for a long time and it was a good thing. But at some point things began to go askew and there grew to be economic classes in society. There were the very rich and they had no clue as to how the poor lived. When the Industrial Revolution and increased mechanization changed the way things were done, the owners and the workers moved farther and farther apart. The rich could help with a donation of money, but the poor were not grateful because it wasn’t money they wanted, but friendship, joining hands and working together to make life better. The financial disparity between rich and poor has reached to astronomical proportions where a tiny percentage of humans control the wealth of the planet.
Then the urban areas began to grow in size and population increased and the rural areas diminished in numbers. As the speed of transportation increased, we covered long distances faster, but in so doing the places and the faces along the way began to blur and the freeways allowed us to speed past the small towns and the people where life was a little simpler and slower. Cities became the places of bright lights and excitement and now the stars in the Milky Way on a clear night in the country were not bright enough. Communication changed as well and rather than take time to type or write a letter, dwelling on the thoughts we want to impart, really thinking about what was important to us to say, we texted and tweeted and sent Instagrams until all sense of knowing what other people were really thinking deserted us completely. We walked down the streets intent on the instruments in our hands, our fingers flying and sending out short messages that have no depth or purpose.
There are some signs that perhaps volunteering and working together is not a lost art. Young people are joining those folks with grey hair who have seen the Earth fade away in lost glaciers or blow away in horrific hurricanes; living without the song of a bird or seeing the polar bears frolic on the ice fields is a precious treasure to lose. There is a new wind blowing. Will it be strong enough to save our land, to once again build community? To turn toward each other, joining hands to reestablish a human network? Or have we already seen the last volunteer and everything we do is too little, too late.
Last week I had the fun of showing Makoshika Park off twice. Once to a pastor friend and then to some relatives. Fortunately the Park cooperated beautifully and I was able to wheel them through the main parts without mishap. Of course the thing ever able-bodied person wants to do is climb into the draws and coulees in the area and there are lots of them. Makoshika is a wonderful spot for hikers, those who love climbing and even mountain biking lends itself as well. This photo is a view to the north and east.
The prairie flowers have lasted well into late summer due to the abundance of rain and cooler temperatures. A bow to climate change. As I said in an earlier post we have had more humidity as well. I lost a couple of bushes in my yard to a blight which the greenhouse person said was due to the wet, cool Spring. The bush was my strawberry hydrangea bush -- flowering and one I look forward to every year. I hope it comes back next year, but time will tell.
I have had to really slow down the last month as the pain in my leg has shifted to the hip. I keep on with the PT and will see the ortho specialist again today. I haven't been able to do all that needs to be done at church because of the issue. It really is frustrating, but I know many deal with structural issues.
There are so many sorrows in the world today one really does go into neutral. The political campaign we have with us for months to come and much can happen in the between times. Economics and world affairs are more than I want to tackle most of the time. I am grateful for the badlands and the river and the good people who cross my path; for quiet times; for good reading -- "Be still and know that I am God. . ." Psalm 46.
I gulped mighty hard yesterday. I was out in the yard cutting off some flowers that were done AND being chewed on by mosquitoes, when I found a red leaf in the yard AND a yellow gold leaf. The same day -- always a sure sign that Fall is sneaking in the back door! The past few weeks have been really humid. We get a rain shower almost every night and then when the sun comes out we are looking at 83% humidity or more. Now if you are laughing and thinking, "That's nothing!" Remember we usually sit in the 20 or 30 % ranges. I seem to be wet and dripping most every day and I don't like it! Period!!
Four more Sundays and then I will be through with my time as interim at Zion. It has been a joy and a blessing and has gone by very quickly, but I am ready to retire "again". The past five years since I retired in 2014, have been busy ones. As I look back I did pulpit supply for multiple Sundays in the area. Then I did a 5 month interim in Savage, Montana, and a 10 week interim in Baker, MT. and now an 11 month interim at Zion in addition to many, many Sundays hither and yon. It is always difficult to let things go, especially good things that give you joy, but "for everything there is a season" and I believe we have to bow to whatever season we are in. It doesn't mean I am done pastoring, but a rest and a reorganizing my life is always good. Something to stimulate the mind as well as the body.
I have really had to slow down this year with hip, leg and neck issues. I have now had an epidural and a cortisone shot and lots of physical therapy and I am moving around much better. Also lots of prayers (thank you, Lord). There is still pain and stiffness, but it is so much better. I even started painting my kitchen cabinets. Very slowly and trying to be patient with the process and enjoy the results. Hard for me. I always just want to get things done.
Today a friend and I are going to a retirement coffee for the local museum curator and then out for Sunday dinner. We always find plenty to talk about.
Raining this morning. Last week-end we had almost 4 inches which is highly unusual. Of course if the wind starts to blow it won't last long. But we will take what we can get.
Had the cortisone shot in my hip yesterday. Still limping around but hopefully it will at least ease the pain. I have had my eyes opened to the disabilities of chronic pain. After a day at work or trying to do things around the house it is exhausting. I pray for people who live with pain as a daily part of their lives. I appreciate the prayers that are going up.
Zion's new pastor will arrive the end of September. My last Sunday is the 22nd. You are always ready to be done with a job and project, but in the church there is the Spiritual realm as well and that ties you to people so much more closely.
This year I have buried three people I loved. Joan Schmidt died August 7th, 2018; Carole Dick's funeral was August 2nd; and Merle Aus' funeral was in April. All of them were special. After doing over 225 funerals, including Dad's funeral, through the years I think I am ready to wrap up that part of my life.
Being on City Council has been a fun experience. Everyday I learn something from the team of experts that run the City. Several on the council have been on several terms as well so it is best to listen. The local paper is always there so whatever you say is put out there for everyone to read. Not sure I am so crazy about that!!
I am pretty well moved back into my house again. That adventure in Real Estate was a learning experience. The time was well-spent, however, in down-sizing. A couple of boxes left and other things to carry out, but I am liking what I see. Will have someone in to paint this fall. White is the color of the day! Swedish colors they call them (Pinterest). It will go well with my little Dala Horse collection.
Made blueberry muffins this morning. Heading out now to the post office, the hardware store and filling up the car with gas.
Trying to pretend the administration in Washington D.C. does not exist is not working. For my own peace of mind I have tried, but today the news out of the capitol once again was explosive, unreal, and senseless.
First, the Endangered Species Act which has protected disappearing animals has been gutted. The new rules will go into effect in about a month. The idea of God’s creation, the beauty and wonder of these creatures with whom we share this planet is being threatened. This past week-end I had time to appreciate Makoshika Park with its long, majestic vistas, soaring hawks, eagles and turkey vultures. The quiet beauty of this little corner of the world is just a sampling of what a marvelous world we live in. Have you stood and looked into the depths of the Grand Canyon, or craned your neck to see the tops of the redwoods, or hiked a mountain trail and shared a meadow with deer or antelope or coyote, or watched a trout swimming lazily in a mountain stream, or landed a paddlefish at Intake? When we recognize the natural world, we move beyond our narrow little lives. Without nature, animals, forests, lakes, rivers we are only a shell of everything we can truly be. A few quotes came to mind: The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness (John Muir). There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before. (Robert Lynd) Touch the earth, love the earth, honor the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. (Henry Beston). The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest. (Annie Dillard)
Second, today the regulations for allowing people to enter this country as legal immigrants are going to require a good credit rating, having private health insurance, and having substantial financial means. Wow! That really threw me because then I should not be here. Nope, my grandfathers would never have been allowed to enter the United States. My Norwegian grandfather was the youngest son in a large, very poor family. His oldest brother came to this country and began to work and build a little nest egg. Finally he was able to send for his mother and father and little brother to come to America and have a place to live. My grandfather was 7 years old, and he always remembered his father’s frustration that when they came through Ellis Island the people were put in pens “like animals” (Sound familiar.). It wasn’t until Grandpa was 40 years old that he was able, through the Homestead Act, to get land in western South Dakota and make a life for himself and his family.
Grandpa Anderson was the youngest in his family in Sweden. His father died when Grandpa was nine years old. Three of his siblings came to Minnesota to find a way to work themselves out of poverty. When Grandpa came he was 19 years old. His older brother was going to get what was left of his father’s copper business so Grandpa had nothing. Coming through Canada he entered at Pembina and went to Minneapolis to stay with his sisters for awhile. Finally he went to South Dakota and also filed on some land in the hopes of making a life. It was never easy. But Grandpa Larson served in the South Dakota state legislature for a number of years and Grandpa Anderson was a World War I veteran and raised three sons who served in World War II and Korea and helped educate his five children
Credit? Health insurance? A savings account? I am wondering if I will have to pack up my bags and go back to the “old country” because I certainly don’t qualify under these new rules. What is your story?
The past 10 months have been a whirlwind of being back "in the saddle again". The congregation at Zion was kind enough to take me back to help fill a gap when our pastor left. I offered, they accepted. It was a good thing for me. I haven't had time for too much else since writing a sermon every week takes away from other things and requires a lot of concentration and prayer.
But it has been a blessing as ministry always is. The new pastor will arrive in about 6 weeks so I have my bags packed. I am ready to get back to my retirement!!
The plans I had for selling my house and building a small house were derailed by falling house prices and rising construction costs where never the twain shall meet! So I unpacked boxes and re-arranged furniture and am now living in my old/new house. I have unburdened myself from lots of odds and ends and it is a good feeling. Less truly is more.