held to a higher standard

“Who stands fast?
Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom,
or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible
action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man,
who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
Where are these responsible people?”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The notion of being held to a higher standard is a fast and dying concept.

This sad thought came to mind yesterday as I sat on a non-moving interstate with a screaming
3 month old in the back seat.

There were four lanes on this particular stretch of interstate, with a sea of cars and trucks
inching forward here and there by the slightest margins, while drivers kept jockeying for lane
changes.
The jockeying was due to every driver obviously thinking the other lane was actually moving at a
more rapid snail’s pace than their own.

Suddenly a car in the far left lane had the bright idea to cut all the way over,
over the four lanes of jam-packed cars and trucks, making its way to the far-right exit lane
as in right now this very moment…

As in it was suddenly a brilliant idea to stop all four lanes of traffic because this one
selfish bozo was tired of inching.

The tractor-trailer truck behind me was not having it.
He refused to let them in.
And in his defense, this car was being dangerously aggressive in their maneuvering,
giving very little care to anything or anyone around them.

When this car saw that they weren’t going to be allowed to squeeze in, they shot up two spaces
and actually cut off the cars two up from me and proceeded to cut until they flew up the exit ramp…
all the while, an arm was raised out of the open passenger window which was boldly shooting a bird
to each and all.

I use to think we humans were better than this.

Better than this self-centered, defiant, ‘to hell with you’ mentality we have now become so
smugly accustomed to.
A mentality we are readily, happily and eagerly embracing–
not to mention accepting and even expecting.

I was offended and I felt angry.

I could see they were young and of a minority.

And in my having just said that, the PC police out there have just labeled me a bigot, a racist,
probably a homophobic, xenophobic and out an of touch white supremacist right winger.

Shall we talk about labels…?
I digress.

But why should have I felt offended, let alone angry??

Why should I feel mad at someone who was obviously
an obnoxious self-centered thoughtless jerk who gave no-never-mind that they were
putting everyone’s safety in jeopardy just so they could get the hell out of dodge…
not to mention that they were being offensive with the hand gesture.

We use to be better than this right?

And in being better we actually held others up, thinking of one another with a higher
level of esteem and even feeling that we were all being held to a higher standard.

Meaning we should still know better, act better and be better….
but the thing is we aren’t.

Back during a certain day, we were more considerate,
more thoughtful and not so blatantly mean…and heaven’s forbid, blatantly offensive.

We actually use to take things such as politeness, prudence, judiciousness,
expertise, pride in doing one’s best, courtesies and citizenship all for granted.
We were taking all of these characteristics for granted because we simply expected such
from one another.
We were living our lives to those higher standards.

And maybe that’s our problem today.

But why now, why today should any of this be such a problem?
A problem in that we actually once expected more and received more from one another?

Perhaps it’s a problem because our society has become numb and desensitized to what is
offensive, endangering and even uncivil.

It’s as if someone suddenly clicked a switch and all of that changed…we changed.

We use to hold one another to higher standards and we use to hold various professionals to
higher standards.

We use to think of folks like doctors, members of law enforcement, members of the military,
athletes, youth leaders, coaches, members of the clergy, teachers, etc…as exemplary.

These were all folks that should and could always be held to a higher standard.
These folks were to be respected as were their jobs and roles in life.

Be it due to the amount of study or sacrifice that went into their profession…
to the seriousness in which they took their life’s calling…
or maybe simply because theirs was a choice of sacrifice for others.
They gave up their own time and often wellbeing to serve the rest of us.

Whatever the reason, we had a sense of peace with and for these folks.

We respected folks and their positions, their leadership, their expertise, their
learning, their teaching, their care, their giving of self…

But with time, all of that has eroded as scandal upon scandal had chipped away at each
group.

Sexual molestation.
Sexual predation.
Sexual solicitation.
Drug abuse.
Tax evasion.
Embezzling.
Money laundering.
Advantage taking.
Bullying.
Lying.
Cheating.
Abuse.

The sad little list goes on and on.
As we now view these sorts of folks with sideways glances and curious raised eyebrows.

Instead of rising upward or at least expecting to rise upward, we are sinking downward
and we do so with very little thought to it all.

We hear of something scandalous and we are no longer surprised or as outraged
as we once would have been.
We even produce and name television shows over such..as we sickeningly find it all so
entertaining.

And yet movements like all the hashtags, those movements such as #meto,
merely take us from one extreme to another.

And in lies much of our trouble.

We go rabid.

Because it appears as if rationality also left long ago…along with
both its friends esteem and expectation…
leaving us with only reactionary involuntary knee-jerk responses.
And much like wounded animals…we lash out.

We seek to throw scarlet letters on all perceived offenders.
While frantically searching with our spears and pitchforks for any hint of suspicion
in order to toss everyone in the wagon-cart of shame just so we can parade them around
for all to see.

We only thought we left stockades, pillories and public displays of punishment
behind in darker ages.

So is it surprising that we see no real change from the shaming and the shunning?

Instead, we simply become more and more numb.
It’s as if we’ve come to expect the idea of lowliness and rapidly diminishing expectations.
So much so that it is to the point that we are simply full of smugness and apathy.

We assume the worse.
Yet we continue being tolerant and even hungry for more.

However, all is not lost.

I am reminded that our God continues to hold us, his children, to a higher standard.
He’s never wavered in His expectations.

Despite knowing that we will fall…
Knowing that we will fail time and time again…

He continues to point upward rather than downward.
He continues reminding us that so goes the world, we are not to go.

He also expects us to hold those around us upward as well.
‘Sink not into the abyss’ He admonishes us while expecting us to do unto others
as we would wish done to ourselves.

So before we act and react in ways that are lowly, crude, hurtful,
hateful and dare we say evil…
may we remember to keep our standards set higher while never losing sight of
Godly expectations…

“…obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it,
not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor,
but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:22-24

“Do not repay evil with evil”

“Anger is a brief madness.”
Horace

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

DSC01223
(a new crop of mockingbirds waiting to hatch / Julie Cook / 2015

Ours is an ever increasing culture of anger.
Where anger begets violence.
While in turn, anger and violence are answered by the lack of personal responsibility.

Turn on the news, read a newspaper, witness it first hand. . .
Road rage as the result from the slight of a thoughtless driver. . .
Rage and violence at the workplace. . .
Unmitigated violence in our schools. . .
Violent eruptions at the mall, the movie theaters, a parking lot. . .
Multiplied by the madness that ensues from the perceived sense of the witnessed injustice. . .
all of which spiral downward into death, murder and pure chaos.

The victims of arrests, or near arrests, or searches gone bad,
which in turn cast entire cities into the descent and abyss of the madness of anarchy.
Communities angry over injustices, lose sight of the issues at hand when mob mentality masks frustration, sadness, disbelief with an ill conceived blanketed notion
to the “right” to loot, steal, destroy, hurt, kill.
With everyone having lost sight of one original death,
which has only begotten an ad infinite chain of violent acts and deaths.

Yet no one wants to address reasons why.
No one wants to take responsibility.
No one really wants the truth.
Everyone prefers pointing fingers.

Everyone shouts. . .
“It’s their fault. . .”
“NO, it’s their fault. . .”
“It’s his fault. . .”
“NO it’s her fault. . .”
“It’s the police’s fault”
“It’s the poor people’s fault”
“It’s the rich people’s fault”
It’s the black people’s fault”
“NO, it’s the white people’s fault”
“It’s the Latino’s fault”
“NO it’s the Asian’s fault”
“It’s the immigrants fault”
“It’s the Government’s fault”
On and on and on it goes. . .

Anger, morphed into violence will only beget more anger and more violence.

All actions, good or bad have consequences, good or bad.
Responsibility must exist for all actions, good and bad. . .otherwise mob rule and anarchy are allowed to fester, breed, and grow.

Yet no one wants to take responsibility for wrongs. . .
it’s wrong to kill
it’s wrong to steal
it’s wrong to beat
it’s wrong to hate
it’s wrong to hit
it’s wrong to loot
it’s wrong to burn
it’s wrong to hurt
and therefore the wrongs are simply left to multiply. . .

Maybe, it’s just everyone’s fault.
Or maybe, it’s the fault of ignorance, prejudice, skepticism, and an inward hatred. . .
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fault of a lack of faith in our hearts in the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the begotten Son of God and the power in that Resurrection. . .

“Do Not Repay Evil With Evil”
Do not raise your hand to strike.
Do not open your mouth in anger, but remain still.
How can the one who wants to do evil things against you hurt you?
It does not hurt you: it hurts the other person.
Suffering injustice does not hurt the Christian, but doing injustice does.
Indeed, evil can do only one thing to you, namely make you also become evil.
If it does, then it wins.
Therefore, do not repay evil with evil.
If you do, you will not hurt the other person; you will hurt yourself.
You are not in danger when evil happens to you,
but the person who does you wrong is in danger and will suffer from it,
if you do not offer help.
Therefore, for the sake of the other person and your responsibility for that person—
do not repay evil with evil. . .
How does that happen?
Not by our giving nourishment to the other person’s evil,
hate to the other person’s hate,
but by letting evil strike out into empty space and find nothing
that can inflame it.
How can we overcome evil?
By our forgiving it endlessly.
How does that happen?
By seeing enemies as they really are: as people for whom
Christ Died, as people Christ loves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I Want To Live These Days With You
A year of Daily Devotions
Reading for May 11
taken from Illegale Theologenausbildung: Finkenwalde 1935-1940

“Bring back our girls!”

Suffer the little children. . .
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV)
(Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. KJV)
Matthew 19:14

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
― Margaret Mead
DSCN0263
(Stain-glass window of St Anthony of Padua / located in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist/ Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

I cannot allow one more day to pass without noting the terrible barbarism taking place in Nigeria.
With the abduction of the nearly 300 girls, taken from school–the place they had gone, thinking they would be safe in order to take their end of term final exams—my heart cries out within me.
I cry out as a mother who’s heart shares the anguished grief of so many other mothers in Nigeria.
I cry out as an educator for the safety of those students entrusted to a teacher’s care.
I cry out as a human being who is outraged by the barbaric treatment of children by cold and calculating adults.

Our world grows ever darker.

The sinister shadows of sex trafficking and of a modern day slave trade twist and distort what bright light remains shining in this world. When we allow the marginalization of our children– be it in the latest trauma in Nigeria, the shanty drug dens of Rio de Janeiro, the impoverished isolated communities of southern Appalachia or the myriad of children living in squalor worldwide–the light of our hope grows ever more dim.

Boko Haram, which roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”, is the latest group in a long list of terrorist organizations hell bent on jihad against humanity. Abducting then selling children–children which are seen as simply as the spoils of war, is one of the most heinous and reprehensible acts that one human can inflict upon another. It is beyond my soul how terribly detached a human can become, so much so that they regard children as a mere commodity for human depravity.

Helplessness and an unquenchable sorrow now strangles almost 300 Nigerian families.
300 families that we have knowledge of—the question remains. . .
how many more families suffer without the world’s knowledge?
How many more families, in the family of humankind must suffer?
How many more children must be exploited and used for the sick twisted pleasure of disturbed individuals?
How many more people must become less than, before we, the people with the voices, join together to shout a collective “NO MORE!”

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
Matthew 18:10