Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Olympic Standards

posted by Ruth Graham

It has been exciting to watch the young athletes compete in Russia – against lots of odds they went to compete against the best in the world. They knew the rules when they signed up. They knew what was expected. They knew they had to do certain things and not do certain things. There was a requirement for training, behavior, dress…they didn’t try to change the rules. They met the standards.

As we think about safe places, what threatens our safe places? What makes us feel threatened? I’m beginning to feel threatened by our culture of raunchiness. It’s more than raunchiness. It is vulgarity at it’s worse and no one is saying “enough”! I am dismayed by what is generally accepted now. There was a day when cursing was a behavior of those with limited vocabularies, sexual behavior was limited to the bedroom, “gay” meant “happy”, clothing was modest, manners were expected, honesty a given,  integrity honored, faith respected, marriage was between man and woman and Jesus was not a swear word.

We have accepted the unacceptable so as not to appear “racist” or “intolerant”. We want to be seen as open-minded, inclusive, loving. And in order to be seen that way, we have lowered our own standards and erased our own boundaries for what is decent. We have allowed our culture to be unsafe for decency, integrity, honesty, marriage and Christian faith.

On February 6th the Washington Post ran an editorial, “Scuzz World”, by Daniel Henniger. He likens the Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber’s antics to the freak shows of the circus. Except the freak show used to leave town until the circus returned a year later. Now we are bombarded with scuzz all year long. He wrote, “Adjusting ourselves to vulgarity on such a vast scale is like rust; eventually it is going to erode standards for pretty much everything. Even hard-to-shock entertainers were aghast at the content of the Miley Cyrus inicdent. Putting it on television makes moral baseness the new normal. At some point, even the devil gets grossed out.”

I hope that he is correct – that even hard-to-shock entertainers were aghast. Proverbial wisdom is that there is no bad press – celebrity feeds on attention. These days controversy gets attention instead of ostracism. I recently went to an Andy Warhol exhibit. So empty. Vapid. But he wanted celebrity and we gave it to him.

At what point will we become aghast? Have we lost the ability to be aghast, outraged by vulgar behavior. Why do we tolerate it? A small percentage of our culture is behaving this way but they, the small percentage, aided by the secular press,  make us believe they are in the majority. They are not. Why should we tolerate the decline of our culture?

I want a culture that is safe for my grandchildren. I want absolutes. I want standards. Just like the Olympics have standards – everyone admires those that can meet the standards for competition even if  gold, silver or bronze aren’t involved. Everyone knows what the expectations are and no one is calling the IOC “intolerant”; they are lining up to be chosen to compete. Being an Olympian is a label of excellence. Discipline. Hard work. And failure but not defeat.

Let’s demand that of our culture. We can do better. We are not defeated.

 

 

Thank You to Those Who Serve

posted by Ruth Graham

I was visiting friends in Florida this week when I noticed the news of a snow storm headed to my home area of Virginia. I was enjoying warm, clear weather; I was with, as I said, dear friends; we had plans for some fun outings. I had one more day to soak it all up. A snow storm was not on my radar!

But I remembered several years ago I was traveling home when I got caught by a huge snow storm. I got as far as Philadelphia when the Virginia airports began to close and flights were cancelled. Nothing into D.C., Roanoke, Richmond, Charlottesville. Nothing. So I quickly got a hotel room nearby and hunkered down. While I was safe and warm and had roomservice, I did not want to do a repeat of that. So sadly, I called the airline  yesterday morning and got a flight out a day early. I informed my gracious hosts who were kind enough to fuss about it but took me to the airport anyway.

All the flights were crowded but on time. I arrived in time to go to the food store. The shelves, predictaley were bare…I wanted leeks. And would you belive even they were gone! Who shops for leeks before a storm?! Milk. Bread. Yes. But leeks?  (I plan to make a hearty soup. I found the receipe in Simple magazine at the airport! It sounded good and I was hungry when I read it. At that point everything sounded good! )

So far, no snow…but I do have bread and milk – and leeks. (They say the snow will begin later…)

I felt fortunate in both cases to be able to get out of the storm. I think of those who head into the storm to protect us: emergency personel, highway workers, police, power crews…all those that serve us. Even this morning as I heard the garbage truck outside my house…it was so cold but they came – I can almost set my clock by them. Faithfully serving in the cold, dark winter. Do folks  notice or care? They would if the garbage collector didn’t show up. They would if the power crews didn’t come. They would if the roads didn’t get plowed…

And what about their families? They also serve us as they send their loved one out. They do the heavy lifting at home so their loved one can do it for us…

While not the same, I saw my Mother stay home to tend us while she sent my father out to serve time after time. While you are thanking our public servants, thank your pastor and spouse – even if you don’t much care for his/her preaching. They are serving in one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

Maybe it is time to write a “thank you” note to your police department, rescue squad, highway patrol, garbage collector, pastor…at least say ‘thanks’ when you see them.  It’s been  a long winter…they need encouragement. And while you are at it – say a quick prayer for them.

PS – I’ll let you know if the soup is good!

 

Guided Prayer

posted by Ruth Graham

This is a prayer I sometimes use to guide my confessional prayer time…It may seem a bit formal but I find it helps. I am not sure of its source – perhaps the Anglican Prayer Book…

I find this formality helps me to see the holiness of God and His ways – that I am a truly sinful person! My righteousness is as filthy rags. I have nothing to stand on but His mercy and in His righteousness.

“Holy and Merciful God, I confess to you that I have sinned agianst you in thought, word and deed, by what I have done , and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbor as myself. I have not forgiven others as I have been forgiven. Have mercy on me, O God.

I have not listened to your call to serve as Christ served me. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on me, O God.

I confess to you, O God, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy and impatience in my life, not waiting on You. I confess to you, O God.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people. I confess to you, O God.

My anger, my own frustration and my envy of those more fortunate than me. I confess to you, O God.

My love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life and work. I confess to you, O God.

My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me. I confess to you, O God.

Accept my repentance, O God, for the wrongs I have done. For my neglect of human need and sufferings and my indifference to injustice and cruelty. Accept my repentance, O God.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt for thsoe who differ from me, Accept my repentance , O God.

Restore me, O God, and let your anger depart form me.

Favorably hear me, O God, for your mercy is great.”

I find this caused me to think…at first I was offended to confess I was indifferent to injustice…or exploitaion of other people… surely, that’s not me!

But is it? Am I indifferent to the sufferings of those in Syria, the Sudan – do I hear the news and it doesn’t affect me? How ’bout those in my own community suffering from the cold? Am I too usy thinking of my own needs and agendas?

Surely I do not exploit others…or do I? What about the products I buy? Where are they made and under what conditions?

 

 

Forgiveness Questions – Help

posted by Ruth Graham

I want to ask you some questions and I hope you will repsond. I have been thinking about forgiveness…

I hear the term thrown around – especially in church or religious circles. Oprah and othere social gurus talk about it a lot. It’s supposed to be a key to unlocking your past, your pent up emotions, releasing your shame…

When do you forgive?

What do you forgive? Does every hurt require forgiveness?

Are there levels of forgiveness?

Is there ever an “easy” forgiveness? If not then is forgiveness always a struggle?

What is the difference between “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me”? Is it the depth of the infraction?

Can you share with me a time when you asked someone for forgiveness? Or had to forgive someone who hurt you? Was one easier than the other?

Is it easier to do if you are a Christian? What about if you are Muslim? Or Hindu? Or Buddhist?

What are signs of unforgiveness?

I hope you will enter the conversation…

 

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