Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



The summer when I was ten, we moved to Midland, Michigan for a couple of months. Dad had left his job as publicity director for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and we were yet to move to Susanville, California.

Phil Rich was the editor and publisher of The Midland Daily News. Phil and his wife wanted to take an extended vacation (even though this was 1944, still in the midst of World War II.) Anyway, Phil hired my Dad, Larry, to manage the paper in his absence. It's the only time Dad ever ran a daily.

I have two vivid memories of Midland. I had impetigo on one of my knees, so I was housebound for a while, and one of my joys was listening to Paul Robeson's recording of Ballad for Americans. It was on two ten-inch seventy-eight rpm records. Our record player was in a portable box, and it had a wind-up crank. So between turning the four sides of the records and winding-up the little Victrola, I did a lot more than listen. I participated in the music.

I didn't realize what was happening either. I didn't know any African-Americans—who in those days were called Negroes—and I didn't know any political radicals. But here I was, immersing myself in the music of our leading African-American radical. It was good training, and when Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, I was ready. The dream of radical equality in 1944 had become conventional wisdom in the 21st century.

(The lyrics to Ballad for Americans are available on this blog site. Go to the right column, and scroll down to the section "Tales I Like." It's the first entry.)

My second memory was of a small factory. Down the street in a garage, some junior-high boys were manufacturing M-1 rifles. (The M-1 was the standard infantry weapon in World War II.) The boys' weapon, however, was for playing, not for shooting.

They took a 2 x 4 and cut it to the right length. They shaped it, so it looked like an M-1. They grooved the forend, and then they stained the whole stock. They stapled a piece of black pipe in the forend groove to make the rifle barrel. They drove in a finishing nail for the trigger. They shaped and tacked on a piece of tin for the trigger guard. They nailed on an old belt for the sling. And then they charged $8 for the elegant, finished product. Their product was so popular that they were filling back orders.

I asked Dad to buy me one. He considered, and said, "No, that's too steep a price. I guess you can keep on using a piece of tree limb when you play war with the boys."

Well, I thought he was unreasonable. Here he was running the Daily News. We weren't poor. He could afford it. I was an obedient boy, so I didn't raise a fuss, but I resented his being so stingy.

On my computer today, I have an inflation calculator, and it tells me that $8 in 1944 is the same as $107 in 2014. So, now I agree with my Dad. A hundred bucks is a lot to pay for a toy that a ten year-old boy could lose in a week.