Shimon Peres, 1923-2016

“It’s better to be controversial for the right reasons, than to be popular for the wrong reasons.”

“Israel is moving from the realm of poetry to the realm of prose.”

“You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.”

“There are two things that cannot be achieved in life unless you close your eyes a little bit.
And that’s love and peace. If you want perfection you won’t obtain either of them.”

“For me, dreaming is simply being pragmatic.”

“I was learning, as I did in the Ministry of Defense. I never knew, but I always learned.

“The Jews' greatest contribution to history is dissatisfaction! We're a nation born to be discontented.
Whatever exists we believe can be changed for the better.”

“If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.”

Buck's Bridge

I can see this bridge from my loft. I love that it is being renamed for one of my heroes.

One of the highlights of my life happened about 20 years ago when Buck came to speak at a Diversity event at the company that I worked for - Buck embodied both Diversity and Love. Buck began the meeting by shaking the hand of everyone in that place - he was so warm and caring. I will never forget that day when this beautiful gentleman spoke to us all about his experiences growing up in segregated America and about how he learned to love people.

I remember Buck talking about his friend Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League. He closed the meeting as he did on many occasions by asking everyone in the audience to hold hands and sing a song with him about loving each other. He had everyone in Cooperstown singing it when he spoke at the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Here is the way that he concluded his speech:
Now, I want you to do something for me. I’m fixin' to get off this stage now. I think I done my six minutes. But I want you to do something for me. I want you to hold hands. Whoever’s next to you, hold a hand. Come on, you Hall of Famers, hold hands. All you people out there, hold hands. Everybody hooked up? Everybody hooked up? Well then I tell you what. See, I know my brothers up here, my brothers over there -- I see some black brothers of mine and sisters out there -- I know they can sing. Can you white folks sing?

I want you to sing after me:

The greatest thing -- come on everybody --

The greatest thing in all of my life is loving you.

The greatest thing in all of my life is loving you.

The greatest thing in all of my life is loving you.

The greatest thing in all my life is loving you.

Thank you, folks. Thank you, folks. Thank you, folks. Thank you, folks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Now, sit down. Now, sit down.

I could talk to you 10 minutes longer, but I got to go to the bathroom.
Thank you Buck for a life filled with grace and love. I will remember you when I see your bridge. See you in Heaven!

Citizen Einstein

On October 1st, 1940, Albert Einstein was sworn in as a United States citizen in Trenton, New Jersey.

A few other notable immigrants and when they became US Citizens ...

  • Comedic icon Bob Hope in 1920 from England
  • Physicist Enrico Fermi in 1944 from Italy
  • Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel in 1957 from Transylvania
  • Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang in 1978 from Taiwan

Anyone notable that you might add to the list?

Jesus will choose the next president?

The next president will receive 100% of the vote- Jesus alone will choose.
Whomever He chooses will be better than we deserve. -RC Sproul

A friend posted this quote from Sproul on Facebook yesterday with this verse:
"The LORD says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool." (Psalm 110:1)
Here is our dialog about it [my friend's comments are in indented and in italics].

Jesus will choose the next president?
More like "has" from the foundation of the earth.
I know that Sproul is a Calvinist. Are you a Calvinist too?
For 30 years I have believed in the sovereignty of God.
Yes, I would consider myself reformed theologically.
When I think about the word sovereignty I see a pyramid where God has delegated sovereignty to nations, to communities, to families and finally to the individual. Both groups of peoples and people themselves exercise an incredible amount of sovereignty in the world. Small wonder, with this amount of sovereignty (even at a micro level) that the world is not worse than it is. Perhaps that speaks to the overarching (macro) level of sovereignty that God exerts as He brings beauty from ashes and works all things together for our good? That said, I do think that many embrace Job's theology.
I believe that nothing has touched my life that did not pass through the hand of God. I believe that God is continually working all things together for my ultimate good and His purposes. I believe that whatever Satan or people have meant for evil, God is simultaneously working for good. When I do not understand why various things occur, I still trust in God's wisdom and goodness.
No problem with that. Yet the idea that God chooses presidents is a bit outside of the definition of sovereignty. And it presents a troubling image of God not only appointing presidents like Reagan but also despots like Nero and Hitler.
Jesus said to Pontius Pilate. "You would have no authority over me unless it were given to you from above." (John 19:11).
Yes. Leaders have delegated sovereignty. No argument there.
I guess I am missing your point then. Did God, at least permit, Hitler and Nero to have authority?
Since the beginning God has delegated sovereignty over creation to humans. US citizens exercise their God given sovereignty when they vote. Regarding Nero and Hitler, humans made them sovereign over others by their actions and inactions.
Are you saying God had nothing to do with it? Could have God intervened and stopped it?
You bring up issues regarding how God interacts with the world.

1) Firstly, he acts through creation. Natural laws of physics constrain much of what we do. Delegated sovereignty to humans also impact creation. The effects of Adam's sovereign actions (and humans since him) affect us still.

2) Secondly, history has proven that he also directly intervenes in the affairs of men. Miracles sometimes, albeit rarely, happen.

The existence of one form of sovereignty does not negate the other. In the end, God is more about influencing us and not controlling us. He wants us to be led by the Holy Spirit in the way that we exercise our sovereignty in the world. I think Ernie once put is this way: God leads. Satan controls.
Man's sovereignty is limited - "The heart o the king is in the hand of the Lord and he turns it wherever He wills." Prov. 21:1
I do love that verse in Proverbs. LOL. Not surprising that Solomon saw himself in that light. Many times leaders sense that their heart is being directed by God. Yet I am not sure that Solomon's heart was being turned by the Lord when he was amassing wives and concubines. In reality, no person is perfectly led by God.

I am not saying that human sovereignty is unlimited. Delegated sovereignty by nature is limited. Yet it seems obvious that God has delegated the election of presidents to the limited sovereignty of human beings. Which is where we began.
Brother I think this discussion could go on indefinitely due to the fact that my view of God and how He orders creation differs with your own. Here is how I see it based upon my understanding of the Reformers:Contrary to the “deistic” approach that some Christians take regarding God and His creation, the Biblical worldview insists that God rules over every aspect of nature. God is not like the “clockmaker” who creates the clock, winds it up, and then walks away. God has not walked away from His creation allowing nature to function by the “laws” that He established. Instead He is the One who moves the “hands of the clock.” According to the Bible, nature does not function by “scientific laws” but by the action of God. What we refer to as “scientific laws” are in reality the way God normally does things. Science is the study of “God’s pattern of behavior.” He is quite predictable. In fact, He is so predictable that you stake your life and occupation on His “routine” hundreds of times each day. We can be fairly certain that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, because that is “normal” way God functions. But it is God who causes the sun to rise (Matt.5:45, also see Ps. 147: 8-9, 15-18). The sun does not operate independent of God according to the “laws of nature,” that is deism, not the teaching of Scripture. The Bible never uses the term nature in the sense of an autonomous entity, with unity in and of itself. The unity of the created order is in the Creator. The world works according to God’s acts and decrees. (See Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:37-38).
The view that I presented you is not Deism - just read what I wrote about God directly intervening in the affairs of men. That is not Deism.

Yet the one that you present looks more like Pantheism because it really does not separate the Creator from the created. When the scripture speaks of God causing the sun to rise it is speaking of how God created the universe and not a divine micromanager of atoms. Really, if you are speaking about God manipulating atoms then I am not sure that you are making a clear distinction between the energy that moves the atoms and the God who created the energy. In my view God is not the energy who moves the sun but the One who created the energy.

That said, I do appreciate the dialog. And I can see where it could go on indefinitely.
I likewise appreciate the dialog. Let's end it for the time being, but I'm
So what do you all think? Will Jesus choose the next president?

Coffee Day Q&A

Today is National Coffee Day. Supposedly sponsored by Juan Valdez. ツ
To honor the Day I offer you a few caffeine flavored questions and answers.
  1. Favorite Brand? Nespresso by the cup and Starbucks by the bag.
  2. Favorite Blend? Nespresso Intenso by the cup and most Starbucks dark blends.
  3. Cups per day? I usually have one cup coffee in the morning and occasionally a decaf latte in the afternoon.
  4. Cream or Sugar? I do like sugar but can live without it - not!
  5. Favorite Specialty Coffee? Foamy decaf latte in the afternoon.
  6. Favorite Cafe? I like Starbucks but enjoy the Opera House down the street from my place.
  7. Alone or with Company? I enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with my fabulous wife Ann!
I did this in (2011) and (2014). My answers have changed a bit since we bought a Nespresso Italian coffee maker.

Please chime in, answer a few of the questions and share a bit about your caffeine addiction.

How To Avoid Getting Picked for a Jury

Last night Ann and I watched Bull, a new TV series about an expert in picking and evaluating jurors.
Interestingly enough, my friend Barbara wrote this on Facebook today.
I had jury duty today and right off the bat was sent to a courtroom. I was there most of the day and as they chose the ultimate 12 jurors and 2 alternate jurors I definitely saw a pattern. Both attorneys asked a lot of questions and the people who were very opinionated and refused to answer yes or no were the ones who were dismissed.

For example, the case involved a guy getting a DUI while on Norcos and Xanax and one of the questions was it possible to identify if a person was under the influence, most people were able to say "yes" one said "no" and several wouldn't commit to either (possibly, maybe, it depends) those people were dismissed. People who kept asking a ton of questions got dismissed too. And then there were the obvious ones who just came out and said they didn't trust cops. Very interesting experience.
Been 40 years since I was on a jury. Have you been called for jury duty lately? What was your experience?

Just Mercy

Our small group just finished reading "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" by Bryan Stevenson. It is a story about our broken criminal justice system. Here are a few excerpts from the book.
Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.
We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. I desperately wanted mercy for Jimmy Dill and would have done anything to create justice for him, but I couldn’t pretend that his struggle was disconnected from my own. The ways in which I have been hurt—and have hurt others—are different from the ways Jimmy Dill suffered and caused suffering. But our shared brokenness connected us.
We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.
There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.
The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.
The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.
Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.
This book is heartbreaking and troubling. It is an essential read for all who love mercy and desire justice.

How to Respond to Questions about Terrorists and Terrorism

Some advice from my old blogging friend Danny Sims:

I was asked, by a Christian,
"What should I do or say about terror, refugees and
all the trouble with radical Jihadism in the world today?"
That's an important question. Here are a few guiding principles:
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
  • Doing something is often better than doing nothing, especially if it is kind and helpful.
  • Saying nothing is always better than saying something unkind and hateful.
  • If many people tell you again and again what you say is unkind and hateful, it probably is.
  • You can personally stand against evil, including radical Jihadism, without returning evil with evil. 
  • The only thing that will overcome evil, in your heart, is good. And we are talking about your heart, right?
The odds are, you are not in charge of anyone's policy but your own.

Choose goodness, prayer, kindness, and helpfulness in all you say and do.

Seek justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Please pray for my friend Mike

One of the joys of blogging is the virtual relationships I have made over the years. One such friendship is with Mike Erich - the Mad Theologian. I have had so many wonderful conversations with Mike over the years about the bible and our shared faith. Today Mike posted this on the Daily Prayer blog.
Last Thursday I went in for surgery for my pancreatic cancer. I believed and prayed right up to last minute that surgery might be possible and that this could be God's way of healing me. But I found out that the cancer had spread and it would do no good to operate. What that leaves me with is either God is going to do a miracle (I believe in miracles, but I believe God does them according to His will. I have no reason to be convinced He will do so in my case), or it is my time to go home. I appreciate all past prayers and all continued prayers, and I am trusting God for His will in this situation.
Mike posted a prayer at Daily Prayer that you can pray with him. Please pray for my friend Mike.

Why I Read the Bible

In September 1975 my newly born-again wife Ellen approached me one evening asking if she could ask me a few questions. Ever since she had become a Christian the month before I had become wary of these "conversations" but in my typical New York manner I invited her to bring it on. Her first question was
"Do you believe in the Bible?"
I answered like this:
"Of course I believe in the bible ... all Episcopalians believe in the bible".
I hadn't practiced my faith in years but I wasn't going to let her get the best of me.

Ellen followed up with another question:
"Do you believe in evolution?"
I told her that all intelligent people believe in evolution - it is science!

Ellen then said something that rocked my world ... she said this:
"Then you don't believe in the Bible!"
I quickly retorted:
"Well, I don't know about that but whatever the Episcopalians believe is what I believe."
That conversation really shook me because I had never read the bible and really didn't know what it said about evolution ... or about anything else for that matter. This haunted me for months. The idea that I had been an Episcopalian for most of my life and I really didn't know what the bible said really bothered me. In April 1976 I gave my heart to Jesus and almost immediately began reading the bible. I ate it up ... it was like food for me ... and within a year had read the whole bible. My life began to change as God used the scriptures to teach me how to live.

The scripture is powerful. In Hebrews it is described this way:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The way that the Holy Spirit uses the scripture to speak to us is simply amazing. He lifts the words off the page and penetrates the deepest recesses of our hearts. I have found the Bible to be a great source of comfort in times of trial. It has been a great encourager when I have been depressed. But reading the bible is more than a quest for knowledge ... reading it has done more than informing me about it's contents ... it has introduced me to God and helped me to know Him ... to know His ways ... His love ... His mercy and compassion. Reading the bible helps us know God like nothing else can.

Presidential Checklist

My Facebook friend Duane offered up criteria for his ideal candidate. Here is his list combined with a few of my own.

The President of the United States should:
  • be a person of demonstrated high moral character;
  • support equal rights for all citizens;
  • have plans to strengthen the middle class of Americans;
  • make the path to the middle class easier for those less fortunate;
  • change our leadership role in the world from one of police officer to one of peace officer;
  • have plans to strengthen Social Security and Medicare;
  • have specific plans to make government more efficient;
  • enforce existing immigration laws and go after people who hire illegal workers;
  • appoint people to the Supreme Court who understand the constitution and are not politically biased;
  • be a leader who can bring consensus to controversial national issues.

Thanks again to Duane for the first seven on the list. Let me know what items you might add or subtract from the list.

In Remembrance

In remembrance of those who died in the terror attacks of 9/11.
And for our dear ones that we miss so much.

Woman in Gold | ★★★★★★★★★☆

I really enjoyed this movie about Maria Altmann (played by Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman who tried to reclaim family paintings that were seized by the Nazis. Sixty years after fleeing Vienna, Maria enlists the help of a lawyer (played by Ryan Reynolds) and returns to Austria to retrieve 'The Woman in Gold', a famous and valuable portrait of Maria's beloved Aunt Adele. In her quest for justice she encounters many difficulties.

The movie spoke to me on many levels. I loved the flashbacks to Maria's youth in Vienna. The images of her close knit and loving family were very moving. I enjoyed seeing her lawyers journey of change as he reconnected with his Austrian roots. The movie had strong messages of love, healing and persistence. I thought it to be an inspiring story.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★☆.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The Day I Became a Cliché

It was about 10 days ago. A Friday morning. Headed to an appointment about 12 blocks from my place. I missed the Streetcar. I decided to walk. A few blocks from my destination I tripped, fell and landed on the edge of a raised manhole cover. I remember feeling my head bounce off the sidewalk. My first thought was good, I do not have a concussion. My second realization was that I was in a lot of pain. Shockingly, I had fallen and could not get up.

I heard the voice of a stranger. "Are you okay? Can I help?" I told my Good Samaritan that I needed help. He took hold of me, got me to my feet and led me to a place that I could sit. Before I knew it, Patrick, one of our pastors, came and brought me to the Emergency Room where my son met us. I sat in the ER for a long time before they found the cause of my intense pain. I had suffered a few pelvic fractures when I fell.

In thinking back over the past week or so I am very thankful for all of the ways that I have been helped. I have sensed God with me from that first day when the Samaritan picked me up, Patrick brought me to the ER and my son stayed with me all day. I was grateful when a good friend stayed with Ann that first night and when my sister-in-law stayed the second night. My stay at the hospital was filled his presence as nurses, aides, technicians and doctors helped me begin to heal.

I am beginning to be able to get out of the wheelchair and use the walker more. Healing seems to be happening and strength seems to be returning. I am thankful for this. Also very appreciative of the food that has been delivered and the care that has been shown to me by so many friends. In reflection, the "I've Fallen" cliché is probably more accurately stated a "I fallen but I will get up with the help of others". And perhaps it is a lesson we all need to hear. ツ