Wednesday, June 24, 2009

P4E.111 A Letter from Sullivan Ballou

We've been re-watching Ken Burn's epic "The Civil War." At the end of the first disc comes the letter of Sullivan Ballou, judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia. How I wish I could express myself as Ballou did in his wonderful, emotional, gripping letter to his wife. This is from npr's website:

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

P4E.110 Do I Make You Feel That Way?

The basic question that Twitter asks is, "What are you doing?"

A more probing and revealing question that I'm learning to ask is,
"Do I make you feel that way?"

So far this week, I've experienced these feelings:

unjustly attacked
bewildered by another's anger
unable to rationalize with another's anger
like I'm a bother
like I don't have what it takes

I have no end to the ways that I can offend people. I'm trying to acknowledge that there is some seed of truth in the criticisms I've gotten this week, but that's the practical lesson.

On the other hand is the spiritual lesson. What is the reason for this particular set of circumstances that brought on these feelings? Is it so that I can understand how it feels to feel them? When I do recognize how awful it is to feel these feelings, I ask myself, "Have I ever made anyone else feel this way?" Many times the answer is "Yes, I have." And, more often than not, it's my wife and children that I've offended. It gives me the opportunity to acknowledge how wrong I have been, to apologize for it, to ask forgiveness and to promise to do my best not to repeat.

I feel like a broken record , but this approach also gives me the opportunity to connect with Christ by asking the question "Did He ever feel that way?" In many instances, I'm sure that He did experience the feelings that I do. That was the point wasn't it? To experience what we experience and remain sinless? When I think of my own reaction to the relatively mild circumstances that brought about my feeling "unjustly attacked," I can hardly imagine what Christ felt at His trial, flogging, mocking and crucifixion. But, it's a start.

So my question for those of you who know me is "Do I make you feel that way?"

Peace, Kim

Thursday, June 4, 2009

P4E.109 Question Authority Redux

Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989

In 1616, the Roman Catholic Church suspended the work done by Nicolaus Copernicus that asserted that the earth revolves around the sun and labelled the idea as "false and altogether opposed to Holy Scripture."

I wanted to quickly follow up on the Question Authority post. I think it is important to ask questions and I want to explain my interest in a more direct way.

I'm interested in questioning the "authorities" who have defined Christianity, what it means to be a Christian and especially those who have defined husband's and wive's roles in a Christian marriage.

In particular, I question how and why, as American Christians, we find ourselves reduced to being defined by the issues of abortion, homosexuality, and evolution. I question how and why we got consigned to the conservative right wing of the Republican party. I question how and why we willingly relinquished our roles as defenders of the defenseless and the caregivers to the poor.

I question those who've defined the roles of husbands and wives in the Christian community. The definitions of "head" for husband and "submissive" for wives that the Christian community have created are particularly onerous.

I question those who would have us believe that we are not part of a community of Believers if we do not attend services at a formal church facility on Sunday.

I question those who tell us that, as Believers, we need to be culturally relevant to attract non-believers to the Faith.

I question those who distilled our entire religious belief system into "Four Spiritual Laws," and relegated Feelings to the caboose of the train pulled by the engine of Fact and the coal car of Faith.

I question those who would unwaveringly claim to have a lock on the truth and the only true interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

After Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door (1517) he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and branded an "outlaw."

Peace, Kim

Monday, June 1, 2009

P4E.108 Question Authority

"The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know..."
John Adams


A mother ran away with her son to keep him from receiving court-ordered chemotherapy treatments for his cancer.

I saw the movie "Flash of Genius" which tells the story of Bob Kearns who fights for years to have the Ford Motor Company acknowledge that he was, in fact, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. He is portrayed as a "man of principle."

I saw a documentary on John Adams, 2nd president of the United States and one of the founders of the country. In a very unpopular stance, he refused to enter into war with France.

The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and the objections to her nomination.

The political rancoring over the Bush/Cheney war in Iraq and the torture of prisoners.

I saw the movie "A Man for All Seasons" based on the true story of Sir Thomas More who, under enormous pressure to do so, would not consent to give his blessing on the divorce of King Henry VIII from his wife, Catherine so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Eventually, he was executed (beheaded) for his refusal.

A man shot a prominent doctor, presumably because he performed late-term abortions.


When is having a deeply held conviction no longer admirable?

When do principles cross over to fanaticism?

When does the "man of conscience's" deeply held conviction begin to "smack of pride," arrogance and stubbornness?

What if that deeply held conviction is "wrong"?

Who gets to decide what is right and wrong?

How do we decide right vs. wrong?

Is every "right" position held by one person "wrong" in someone else's view?

Are there universally right positions to hold?

What about majority rule?

Does the majority decide what is right?

Does "might make right"?

Can we (should we) avoid selfish motivation?

How do we act based on what we believe?

Does "money talk"?

Does everyone have a price?

Is it right that the strong prevail?

Do we naturally favor the strong/rich/handsome/beautiful when we decide?

How do we account for other's opinions/positions?

How do I handle new information in my decision-making process?

What about "the Law"?

Does every circumstance have a moral/spiritual interpretation?

Is the world black and white or a million shades of grey?

How do I decide which hill to die on, dig my heels in, set my jaw, stand firm, hold fast?

How do we balance deference and backbone?

Where do I fall between spineless and principled?

Am I wavering, waffling, flip-flopping, ambivalent, unprincipled, non-committal, unsure, lack of confidence, confused, uninformed, undecided, swayed by polls, indecisive, blowing in the wind?

Am I uncompromising, dogmatic, stiff-backed, judgmental, prejudiced?

Am I confident, principled, self-assured, committed, sure, well thought-out, willing to listen to both sides, disciplined, balanced, open-minded, compromising, fair, non-judgmental, well informed, unprejudiced, unbiased, deferent?

Am I a leader or follower?

Am I afraid of making a mistake?

Am I overthinking, brooding melancholy?

Am I unable to make a decision and make a commitment?

Where do I fall between dogmatic - moderate - spineless?

"Don't be evil." Google Corporate Motto

"Primum non nocere."