The Foolish, Unexamined Life
A Word in Season

Twenty One Years of Memories

Remembering Emergencies
911 emergency
We have learned to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.
On this day, many dialed and many responded.
What happens when 911 is the emergency?
What do we do with the trauma and the memories?
What we cannot do is sweep them under a rug.
There are always things we do not want to forget even though remembering is painful.
There are always people that we always want to remember and honor.
There are always lessons from the past that we want to build upon.
There is nothing in our past that is tragic that we want to define or confine us.
9-11-2001 was one of our collective travesties and tragedies and it brought to light the best of those folks who united across all sorts of lines to make a positive difference in the darkness.
Tragedies and travesties continue around the world. Our past is cluttered with them. We have perpetrated some as a people. Our ancestors from most every culture have done so, likewise.
We do not live in shame or regret. But we do not forget our shame or regret. We find redemption, reconciliation, and resolve to be better people individually and collectively by the grace of God.
We look for areas where we, in agreement, can stand together and work together.
We are human. We are frail. My theology teaches that we a "mark-missers (sinners in translation)."
But we are also beloved and called.
Grace, mercy, and peace are God's gifts to us in the gaps that our resolve cannot fill. As a follower of Jesus, I am always looking through the lenses of God's desire for the redemption of everyone and everything, the call to a possibility and necessity of mind/life change (repentance) as good news, and the message of the rule of God (the Kingdom) as always present and imminent in every situation.
That is my bias and leaning and it opens doors to vast possibilities of love in the presence of hate, peace in days of war, hope in times of despair, light in darkness, possibilities at the place of dead-ends, handshakes and hugs when the gloves are off, and salt on the unseasoned mundanity of humanity.
911 was a day and is an emergency number. We do not live in a world dominated and ruled by emergency, but possibility.
Let us live!
Let something positive emerge from the emergency.
Another perspective on 9-11 is crisis.
Payne described a day of crisis and crisis always tries both the pen and the soul.

It tries the soul because all of life is caught up in processing the critical moment.

It tries the pen because we struggle to formulate an appropriate response.

Every generation is riddled with crisis.

There is no way it could not be true of our times as it was true of my parents' times and those of their parents'. It will be so for my grandchildren.

Crisis is a cyclical perpetuity.

Something is emerging - emergency!


Reflections from Past Years

We Have Not Forgotten
We are being reminded to remember, but I would suggest that we also reflect. It is something I do on this day every year.
I wrote most of this in 2009. I am just touching it up a bit and maybe adding a thing or two or three or four or more.
After all, it has been two decades and we have hopefully learned something.
We have not forgotten what happened on September 11 in our recent past.
It has now been twenty years.
I remember where I was when the first hint of news came across the wave via NPR. I remember my thoughts.'
I remember how we came together and put our differences aside.
As Randy Sparks wrote in a song, "On September the 11th, we became just Americans."
It was sort of true, but we had some conditions and there was an expiration date on the sentiment.
I remember how some folks said that nothing would ever be the same again ... but they are in most ways except the ways that time and progress change everything.
Would that we might capture some of the spirit of empathy, caring, helpfulness, and community.
Then, we started using the tragedy to move from being a people who valued freedom above everything else to being a people who would surrender freedom for safety and security.
And we started a couple of wars, at least one clearly in response to a very real threat of terrorism in the world.
And we started rethinking the meaning of our Constitution - not that we shouldn't from time to time. We just need to hold on to what is true and just and good.
And we started bickering again.
We bicker a lot now and we divide entire groups of people along rather arbitrary lines.
Yet, we have not forgotten.
We are not exactly sure what the lessons were, but we learned what it meant to share a common heartbeat and a common heartbreak.
Let me say that again because words slip by:
Common heartbeat.
Common heartbreak.
They go together.
We remember what it was like to deeply care about one another.
I know, I said that. Some things bear repeating.
We remember what it was like, for a moment, to respect our leaders and give them a great deal of leeway and trust along with much prayer.
But, in the long run, we must also hold them accountable while also honoring their humanity and respecting their capacity to be wrong.
What stands out for me in my memory is a heightened value for the heroes among us, in and out of uniform who are willing to lay down their lives for others. Many of these are still placing themselves in daily harm's way.
Again, there is a balance. With any uniform, assignment of limited authority, and permission to use force, there comes great responsibility, accountability, and expectation for a higher degree of integrity and restraint.
We flew flags.
We did not always understand what those flags meant and sometimes forgot that they meant the right not to fly them or bow to them.
flags are great reminders and rallying points and very poor masters. What they symbolize at their best are ideals that are essential to what it means to be free.
We sought the comfort of God and of one another.
We sang together, mourned together, and worked together.
We can remember, but we cannot be defined by tragedy. Nor can we live in a perpetual state of emergency.
The world is dangerous. Horrible things could happen. We could all die -- but that is not the most important thing.
The most important thing is whether or not we will choose to live, and to live as free people until we die.
Will we love each other?
Will we pray when we are not in crisis?
We will show each other respect?
Will we be "just Americans" and not blue or red or whatever that is and whatever that means?
If we will remember, then we can commit to being our best as Americans and working together for common good.
The pictures that move me most are those of tears and hugs and moments of silence, workers tirelessly digging through rubble, first responders moving toward the danger, and people helping people.
You can't bomb any of that away.
For now, let us pause to remember.
And let us grow and keep growing.
Years ago, Mad Magazine parodied an attitude that I so often see cropping up. It is of a caricature of a man who boldly proclaims how much he love America with the Mad editorial tag, "while hating most of the people in it."
Remember this, that patriotism is not about you loving your self-interests, your group, or your ideologies. Patriotism is about loving the central ideas and people that honor people, protect their dignity, and create an environment where we can love one another.
Patriotism is about love and loving people.
God bless you as we all remember and reflect today.
9 Years Ago
9/11 - I remember well. It touches a place of sadness. It also touches a place of admiration and appreciation for the humanity that was so much stronger than the inhumanity and the courage, heroism, and sacrifice that have been an example to our generation. I also pray for peace and justice and a world where we demonstrate God's love to each other and receive love, even across the great divides of strong convictions. May God bless our country during these days of division and ideological sparring. If we could but join hands for the things that are not in dispute, we could find the time for our disputes, but always come together again as fellow citizens who esteem each other.
1o Years Ago
I had written something profound & when ready to post, the dog & 5 yr old conspired in play to disconnect my plug. Upon reflection - Who cares? What I say, what I remember, where I was - everyone has their own. We are here - still here - same heroism, courage, compassion, love, grief, anger, more love, and grace of a present God as then - at the ready to be summoned. The summons is now, daily. We can be great. We can love & work together. We must do it now. The plug could be pulled any time.
Also 10 or 12 Years Ago
My friend got me thinking about something in a Toastmaster meeting as he was lamenting the controversies and perceived restrictions in the open arena on religious symbols.
We think a lot about symbols these days..
There are lots of protests for and against the cross as a symbol of Christianity being displayed in public places - as a symbol, or even as a decoration. It made me think. Just thinking, 
His question was, "Just where is the cross lately?"
My musing answer was, "Hopefully, it is on our shoulders."
I think we sometimes think the cross is a symbol or a decoration rather than something we are called to take up daily and bear --- that it is always bearing, as did Jesus, the burdens of others. I suspect that if all Jesus followers would do that .... well, you can finish the sentence "
I am thinking, with this 2021 interjection, about symbols, flags, crosses, and others.
I am going with this thought.
If all the symbols came down and all the decorations disappeared, would the cross still be visible in America?
And, in light of the day, would there still be the liberty represented in our flag?
Would Jesus followers bear the cross into the streets of our cities?
Into hospital rooms?
Into jails and homeless shelters?
Into homes and workplaces?
Would it be visible in our selfless services? In our willingness to suffer? In our willingness to forgive? In Our love for people that Jesus loves?
The right to display the cross is not in the hands of any government or anyone outside of ourselves. the display of the cross in entirely on the shoulders of believers who decide to bear it upon their shoulders.
Are we taking up our crosses daily and going on display?
Just thinking ... and praying...
And asking myself as well.
11 Years Ago - Why I Never Called it a War on Terrorism
On 9/11, over 40 nations lost citizens.
Among these, Australia lost 11, Bangladesh, 6 Canada, 24, Colombia, 17, Germany, 11,Jamaica, 16, Mexico, 16, Philippines, 16, South Korea 28, and United Kingdom, 66.
Some were secular in religious persuasion; some were Christian, some Jewish, some Muslim, and some other.
The perpetrators were criminals who distorted their own religious teachings for their own fanatical and political ends.
They represented no legitimate government and no official religion.
To call it war legitimizes what they did. It was a crime inspired by irrational hate.
Many heroes rose to the occasion and went up the stairs to save as the masses (many of whom were also heroic) sought to go down to safety.
These we honor and remember.
Same Year
They said nothing would ever be the same. Not true. Things settle down. We mustn't forget what happened this day, but it does not define us.
It refines us.
Some of our responses have been noble, pragmatic, wise, necessary, and compassionate.
Others have been driven by fear, irrationality, and unbridled anger.
We cannot live in fear, hate, suspicion, and anger. Nor can we cling to grief. Ours is to live and love.
Just Americans
I heard Barry McGuire sing this and so, I dropped him a note asking about it. His wife got back to me and said it was Randy Sparks' song. Thanks, Randy Sparks!
"On September the eleventh
We became Just Americans
Other names were rendered obsolete
All I know about my neighbors
Is that they are Just Americans
Shoulder to shoulder, now, the circle is complete
And we will fight, side by side, in the trenches of the universe
The cause of precious freedom to defend
And let it be remembered that
We are Just Americans
May this day never end
And I pray this day will never end"
- Randy Sparks
God, help us to overcome our legacy of racism, classism, along with our vestiges of  bigotry, partisanship, nationalism, and pride in order to welcome one another into an idea of America that is bigger than all of these distractions. Amen
Psalm 119:49-50
Remember your word to your servant,
because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble,
that your promise gives me life.
"God reigns over the nations;
God sits upon his holy throne."
- Psalm 47:8
More Heroes
Oswald Chambers put life on hold to become a YMCA chaplain in WWI. Egypt, 1917: He suffered an appendicitis but would not go to hospital for 3 days, unwilling to take a bed from wounded soldiers. He died of complications at 43 years old. 100 officers carried his casket. Mostly unknown during his lifetime, his wife spent the rest of her life transcribing his lectures including, "My Utmost for His Highest."
911 from Space
A Day of Remembrance
Music Heals the Soul

God bless you.