Wow! Last week in July! We finally have a couple days with temps in the 80s. I went out this morning and mowed and trimmed my yard, dug up a small bush that couldn't withstand the shock of being transplanted, watered my petunias, etc. and am now back in the house finishing breakfast after my shower. The windows are open which is lovely and the A.C. is not running full tilt.
Any of you who have lived in this region or at least have kin this way know that we endure the extremes of temperature hot and cold. But this summer we have added drought, drying winds and extreme fire conditions. Almost daily we hear of prairie fires somewhere in the Great Plains, most recently in Wyoming where folks were being evacuated from their small town. It is frightening because it is a force of nature that nothing can seem to stop.
Our rural and volunteer fire fighters deserve every kind of credit for the work they do. Sometimes fire departments are called in from several communities to try and contain the flames. It gives pause for thought when you think of what they give us in the way of protection.
After a month of temps 90+ and over 100 some days. I find I am a little accustomed to it from the standpoint that I have to get out of the house once in awhile. I watch the roofers re-shingling part of our church in temps over 100 and I give them every credit. Everything looks a little worn and tired -- trees, lawns, flowers.
Usually as we move into August we get through the Dawson County Fair and then school activities begin. Everyone stirs themselves to new life and plunges into the activities important to the kids. Fun!
The first week-end in August I will be off for a quick trip to Cheyenne to see Cole and family and then go to down and spend one night with Aunt Dorothy in Denver. Then my traveling will be done for the fall as far as I know.
For some reason when I hear the political slogan, “Make America great again”, I tend to fixate on the word ‘again’. The word ‘again’ means to do something over or to return to something in the past. It is like the statement I heard about a church where the desire was to return to ‘the old ways’. There is something so comforting about the past, but ‘again’ speaks of a dangerous repetition where we believe our human comfort zones function best when we know what to expect and how to deal with it.
That idea belies the book title by Thomas Wolfe, “You can’t go home again”. You cannot go back. Those attempting to roll back the affordable care act are beginning to see that to rectify the situation is to include both parties, study the issues, talk to those most affected and then move forward with something different, but hopefully better. To go back to what was whether it is environmental standards, public education, care of the poor is to regress into a darker, more difficult time. To face a difficult situation by going forward with reforms, compromise, and an acknowledgement of the struggle brings a greater light to bear upon the situation. We cannot return to what was and we cannot remain static. Both places may be comfortable for the short term, but determination and open-mindedness are needed for the long haul.
I was reading a couple of meditations recently which, while referring to personal issues, seemed to echo the national political scene as well. Brian McLaren speaking of Christian beliefs: Those beliefs themselves may have been liberating and helpful when they were first introduced, but having fulfilled their purpose became unhelpful and even imprisoning. But eventually, by defining itself as a settled system of beliefs, Christianity . . . became a leash or a locked door impeding ongoing growth instead of a force for liberation and forward movement. In 1517, the Protestant Reformation faced these issues. The changes which took place within the Western Church over the next two hundred years have altered the world forever.
Father Richard Rohr writes: Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts. Logic has nothing to do with it. Truth has nothing to do with it. “Don’t bother me with the truth—I’ve already come to my conclusion!” If you need certitude, you will surround yourself with your conclusions. Rational certitude is exactly what the Scriptures do not offer us. They offer us something much better and an entirely different way of knowing: an intimate relationship, a dark journey, a path where we must discover for ourselves that grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness are absolutely necessary for survival in an uncertain world.
Both of these men speak about change in a way that fits all the institutions of society. You can read “Christianity” into their comments, but you can also think of cultural and political institutions in any society. When we defy change, when we demand absolutes in our lives, when all we want is the certainty of a settled system of beliefs, then we deny freedom and we are stalled in the middle of any natural growth.
I do not do well with change. I like things the way they have always been, but life is not that way. People die, society struggles, in fact, the only constant in life is change. That is not change for the sake of change, but rather change with purpose, with direction, with compassion and understanding.
You cannot make America great ‘again’, that is as it once was, but we can move toward greatness with deeper understanding for our fellow humans; we can welcome the stranger; we can bless the water, the land, and the air we breathe and seek to keep it clean for the generations to come. Life is not about “me”. I am only a small part of a larger picture. Americans have the capacity to create a new definition of ‘great’ to the rest of the world when we teach our children, through our example, to accept challenges. To enjoy the struggle. To be able to see new possibilities when building out of old dreams.
Just want to share some photos with you from an early evening in Makoshika State Park.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
—St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) 
The older I get and the more of the world I see I am experiencing a growing sadness. What I perceive is a growing disparity between rich and poor, a quantifying of human life (how much is a single life worth when there are billions to deal with), and an understandable struggle with ‘compassion burn-out’.
The health care discussion seems to be narrowing its focus to the question of cost (which is understandable) but at the same time avoiding the question of human cost. Perceptive people reel at the huge amounts of money needed to care for the poor and there is a legitimate question as to where the money will come from. Economists shake their heads over the national debt and the burden it places on the generations who follow us. Political conflicts in developing nations result in famine and disease and terrible suffering. It really is not surprising people just try and push it all away and take a pill to sleep at night.
I am always heartened when I read articles about individuals who are trying to make a difference even in a small way. None of us have the financial power or prowess of a Bill Gates who can support programs that help whole nations. Most often we feel powerless to understand our own financial needs and I sometimes wonder where I will be should I live another twenty years.
Self-identity is another part of discussions these days. Society tells me that who I am as a person can be defined by what political party I vote. If I am a Republican there are a number of characteristics religious and social, that identify me and the same if I vote as a Democrat. There is a tendency to ‘demonize’ people as unredeemable if a particular bumper sticker appears on their car or a sign shows up in their yard. This is living with blinders. None of us are all one thing or the other.
When asked if I am a conservative or a liberal I find myself wandering all over the page. Sometimes I say I am a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat. Sometimes I am an independent and walk the road between the two parties. I believe firmly in a two party political system, but one of equals where civil discourse and compromise are the ruling precepts. When one party is in overwhelming control, the precepts slip away and legislation is passed because “we can” rather than through discussion and compromise.
Reading history we recognize our days as much like the days preceding the Civil War when the question of states’ rights versus the federal government tore the nation apart. From the time of the framing of the Constitution until the middle of the Twentieth Century the questions that divided the nation continued to simmer and boil. I would shudder to think that the lines being drawn in these days will be a part of the generations who come after.
When I visit with thinking, rational people, (a disappearing commodity it sometimes seems) I end up with the thoughts that I am only one person, but I am one and what I can do for the people who cross my path in my life’s journey I must do. Reading some of the work of Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan brother, I am told that each person is on an individual Spiritual journey. First, I must empty myself of self, and then turn to the One who has shaped who I am to fill me with what is right and good. I learn not to judge, but to simply walk my way and where I can help do what I can. Being open to God cleanses the mind of all that is unnecessary. My journey is mine. I share it with all humanity. We are in this together. The journey is long and difficult, of that there is no doubt, but power, wealth, and greed will not help me through the hard times. It is when I turn a listening ear or reach out my hand to those in need, it is when I lead with my heart I find my direction for the years that lie ahead.