Saturday, August 19, 2017

I Love the South

I was born and raised in the South. In fact, I have never lived anywhere but the South (assuming that Texas counts as Southern). But I have traveled a little bit. And I have heard what people from other parts of the country notice about our region.

Here's what I like about the South.

Sweet tea. Oh yeah.

College sports. The colors you wear here say much more than the casual observer would realize. My dental hygienist keeps trying to give me a Carolina Blue toothbrush. Are you kidding?

Waving at strangers. I wave at people I have never seen before as I ride down the road. Sometimes they wave back.

Conversations in the checkout line. Weather is always a good starting point. People matter, even strangers, and small talk lets people know that they matter.

The sounds of summer nights. I was at Hanging Rock last night and the sound of the bugs--or frogs or whatever they are--was pleasantly deafening.

Seasons of the year. Okay, in the deep South they don't get much winter. But here in NC, we get four discernable seasons, all glorious in their own way. I like it hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I don't like it when the thermometer skips spring or fall.

Respect for others. We don't treat people unkindly as a general rule. We may bless their hearts, but we don't speak rudely.

The food. I miss grits when I'm in other parts. Why would anyone not like grits, especially a Southerner? Bless their hearts.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Stick it to the Yankees


I get an uneasy feeling when I see Confederate monuments. It seems that such monuments say more about those who built them than those they honor. When the South lost the Civil War, Southerners were forced to give up important social and economic conventions. Building monuments seems to be a passive-aggressive way of holding on to unhealthy attitudes.



The surrender at Appomattox meant that outwardly the South had to change. Somehow hearts did not follow suit. Changing hearts takes more than pointing a loaded gun. So while the South had to end slavery as an institution, many Southern communities held on to all the trappings of slavery that they could: separate water fountains, restrooms, hotels, restaurants, types of employment.



As a way to stick it to those damned Yankees, Southern communities did all they could to hold on to the idea that they were right. Just because they won the war doesn’t give them the right to tell us what to do. They weren’t all that noble themselves, those Union soldiers. So decades after the end of the Civil War, Southerners were still constructing monuments. Cold soldiers on horses proudly looked down on all passersby, reminding everyone what the South was all about.



I hope that is no longer what the South is all about.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Confederate Monument Debate

The debate over the removal of Confederate monuments prompted me to list the reasons to keep and remove the monuments. I'm seeking to be as objective as possible, listing all the reasonable or almost reasonable arguments I can think of. Saving my comments for later, I present my lists.


Monuments should be kept in place because:
  • The monuments stand as reminders of our country's bloodiest war.
  • The monuments honor the cultural pride of Southerners.
  • The time is not right for removal. Maybe they should go, but not yet.
  • Those who appreciate these monuments deserve the respect of keeping these familiar landmarks.
  • These monuments aren't hurting anything. There's no compelling reason to remove them.

Monuments should be removed because:
  • The monuments honor those who fought for an abusive, reprehensible institution.
  • The monuments represent a cause that was rightly lost.
  • The monuments offend Americans who believe in justice and equality.
  • The monuments do not represent soldiers of the United States of America.
  • The monuments were erected by the descendants of a vanquished cause who will not accept defeat.
  • The monuments are better kept in museums where Americans can remember the enduring feelings of rebellion among Southerners.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Growing Up at Serving

Our church had the privilege of serving at LOT 2540, a salvage ministry in Mayodan last Saturday. We served food, helped clients shop the market, and carried groceries to their cars. A couple of us, including myself, interviewed the clients before they shopped. God met me there.

I find that my attitude toward helping needy folks has developed a lot recently. I see now that in helping ministries we find the kingdom of God.

Not long ago I had a bad attitude about helping people. I say this as a confession. I would wonder why the person would not get his/her act together, why they needed help again already, why they couldn't make better choices. My attitude must have tinged and tainted my ministry.

But now God is helping me realize that both the helper and the recipient together get to participate in the work of the kingdom of God. This is the time and place where God shows his love. I get to be part of that. It is a joyful occasion. It's a time of celebration. It is a moment of heaven touching earth.

It becomes a joy, a delight. I get to work through the power of the Spirit to make a difference in someone's life. And even if they take it for granted, or don't really need it--that doesn't even matter. Because through this time, regardless of their attitude, God is reaching out to them.

When I need help, I'm so grateful that those who help me allow God's love to flow so freely. I'm only beginning to know how to do that. It's about time.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Blood on the Page

I heard a podcaster today talk about writing. Luke Norsworthy said that writing is simple. You just find a vein, open it, and bleed onto the page. That's really graphic, but makes so much sense.

My problem is finding the vein. Sometimes I poke and prod and search for that thing to say. My brain allows so many deep thoughts to rattle around. I have to catch one of those flying shards of truth and craft it into a sensical presentation, something worth saying in a form worth hearing.

Sometimes finding the vein is fun. Sometimes it is frustrating. Sometimes I have so many veins begging to be bled that I can't begin to tap them all.

Now maybe I can un-mix my metaphor. The flying shards can, with a bit of guidance, pierce those veins of the heart. A shard of truth slicing into a vessel of life--now that can shed some serious blood.

Seriously.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Write

Having lunch with a friend recently, the subject of writing came up. He's working quietly on a book. I mentioned that I also enjoy writing. I just don't write as much as I wish I did.

He said, "I can help you do your writing." Oh cool. I need all the pointers I can get. I took the bait.

"OK, so what's the secret?" I asked.

"Write."

That was his answer: Write.

It took me a moment to realize that he had completed his admonition. He repeated it. I processed the simple clarity of the imperative.

Even though I'm not currently working on a book, even though I journal daily, even though I lack focus in my subject matter, I simply need to write. You are reading part of my writing experiment now. I have committed to post a blog every day in the month of August. Some posts are more profound than others. Some posts get more hits than others. But at least I'm writing.

It may not be doing any good to others, but it's at least therapeutic for me.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville

I kept thinking that the stories of white supremacists were overblown. Wow am I naïve. The events of Charlottesville this weekend show the dark underside of American society.

Demonstrators have the right to express their opinions just as counter demonstrators have the right to express theirs. When we start killing each other for having differing points of view, we've really got problems.

Freedom of expression, at the heart of the Bill of Rights, would probably be defended in principle by protesters on both sides of yesterday's violence. But all too often someone resorts to force, thinking that silencing dissenters wins an argument.

Ideas are much more powerful than a floored Dodge Charger. Heather Heyer lost her life yesterday, standing against hate. In the days ahead, thoughtful people will dig into the ideas that met head-on in Charlottesville.

It will be easy to dismiss all of "those people" who stand up for their own superiority. Somehow they believe they are right. Reason may not win them over. Love may not even win them over.

But those who pursue truth must not lose hope, and must not resort to violence. How can such wicked hearts dwell in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Good people must stand up, stand firm, and stand for truth. May God change hearts. Start with mine.