Who Are You

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Who Are You?

Well, who are you?
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you?
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know
(Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

“Who Are You?” a song written in 1979 by none other than The Who, is one of the most repetitive songs of all times. The word who is repeated 150 times to my count. Well – who are you? Do you really wanna know?

Emily Dickinson answered the question in a poem and then turned it around with her own question,

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?

I might think that’s an easy question to answer. But what if you ask me, “Who are you?” I might say, “Well, I’m Jim Melvin, of course.” That doesn’t satisfy you. “Those are just words on a page,” you say. “Who are you really?” I answer, “I’m a seventy-one-year-old man?” Unsatisfied you press on. “You were seventy last year. Are you a different person now and will you be a different person again next year when you turn seventy-two?” I decide to turn to my profession. “I’m a Lutheran pastor.” You’re ready for that one. “Were you someone else before you were ordained? Does that mean you’ll be somebody else when you retire?” I’m getting frustrated. It’s around election time so I guess maybe you want to know my political affiliation. “I’m a Democrat,” I say definitively. Of course, that won’t satisfy you, so you press further. “What if you don’t like the person your party nominates for president this year and you vote republican? Will you be a different person then? Who ARE you?”

At this point I’m going to call time out to take a little break and think about this question more deeply. It wasn’t so easy after all. As I go deeper and deeper it occurs to me that there is a part of me that has never changed. I can remember looking out at the world as a little child and I recognize that the same me is looking at the computer screen as I write this. The same four-year-old me that looked up at my mother’s face as I sat on her lap is the same me that looked down at her lying on a bed the day she died. There is continuity in my me-ness.

Who am I? I am the subject of my own life. I look out at the never-ending river of experiences that flow by me. I am the one who from the inside watched this body around me age for seventy-one years. I am the one who my parents named James Edmund Melvin and others called pastor. I am the one who assigned labels to myself like Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, depending upon my time in life and the current situation in our country and world. Who am I? I am consciousness. I am my soul or what the Buddhists call Atta. I am the stable part of being. I am eternal. I am the one who looks out at the world in wonder through the portals of my eyes. I am the one who is relationship with God, with the divine.

This may seem like a frivolous exercise, the epitome of naval gazing. If we stumble through life without this realization, however, we live as prisoners of our own illusions. Our illusions become delusions when we believe that they are real. There is great freedom in this knowledge. Now we are free to redefine the artificial identities that we have constructed and make ourselves new. The only thing that cannot change is me. With greater insight we can redefine our outer identity to match the inner. When we do, we experience greater happiness, freedom and authenticity than we have ever known before.

I invite you too look in a mirror. Look past the worry lines that have developed over the years. See if you can envision the child that looked in a mirror many years ago and saw him or herself for the first time. Say hi to you. Sit quietly when you have a moment to be alone. Listen to the thoughts swirling in your head. Who is doing the listening? That’s you. That’s who you are watching and listening to your life. Enjoy the show. Enjoy life. You have been liberated.

To turn the question of Emily Dickinson’s poem around again –

I’m Somebody! Who are you?
Are you – Somebody – Too?

Let There Be Light

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Pastor Jim Melvin

I have good news for you, my Vitamin D deprived friends; the days are getting longer. We’ve already gained over half an hour of daylight since the sun started coming home to the northern hemisphere on December 21st. The bad news is that it’s still almost two months until spring. We have the darkest time of the year, both physically and emotionally and perhaps spiritually to endure.

It’s no accident that the first thing God created was light. Light is associated with good and life. That’s why Jesus was called “the Light of the World”. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate Jesus’ birth during the darkest time of the year. At a time when we feel at our lowest, it gives us hope to hear that light will be returning to our lives.

There are some things that we can do to help us through this remaining period of light deprivation. One of the most important things is to realize that we are not alone if we feel down or lack energy during this period. Our bodies are chemically reacting to decreased light exposure including the production of Vitamin D which takes place in our skin with exposure to light. So have hope. This too shall pass. Your feelings are normal. The days are getting longer.

In the meantime, there are some simple steps that we can take to feel happier and more energetic right now. Here are a few:

1. Get as much light as you can, natural and artificial. You can buy special high intensity full spectrum lights at the pharmacy.
2. Get outside and breath in the fresh air even if it is cold.
3. Exercise frequently.
4. Take time to enjoy the sunrise even if you have to adjust the time you get up in the morning.
5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
6. See your doctor if you feel unusually depressed or your sleep patterns are seriously disrupted. Your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants on a temporary basis to help elevate your mood.
7. Get social. Find plenty opportunities to socialize with family and friends. Isolation worsens depression.

Those are a few physical things that may help you survive until spring, but don’t forget your spiritual life. Take time each day to pray and reflect on the light of God which dwells within your heart. Close you eyes and visualize a warm glow emanating from your heart. Remember that the promise of new life through Jesus Christ is yours.  And let there be light.

Working Man Blues

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Wish I was down on some blue bayou,
With a bamboo cane stuck in the sand.
But the road I’m on, don’t seem to go there
So I just dream, keep on bein’ the way I am.

Wish I enjoyed what makes my living,
Did what I do with a willin’ hand.
Some would run, ah, but that ain’t like me.
So I just dream and keep on bein’ the way I am.

“The Way I Am” by Merle Haggard

Who of us can’t relate to the feelings that Merle Haggard touches on in “The Way I Am”? Did you ever find yourself daydreaming on the job wishing that you were sitting on a beach drinking a Corona or up north making tracks in fresh snow on your Skidoo? Did you ever feel like the path that you’re taking through life will never get you to either of those places? So, you just dream and keep on bein’ the way you are.

I’ve always loved Merle Haggard’s songs and how he can put his finger on the struggles of everyday people. It probably comes from the fact that he grew up poor in the depression and spent some time in prison, including the infamous San Quentin, when he was young. He probably never did much manual labor himself because he made his living as a country singer after he turned his life around, not that being a musician isn’t hard work. But he could see how difficult life was for the hard-working men and women of America.

Many of Haggard’s songs express a sense of helplessness and a woeful acceptance of the way things are. None does this better than his song “Working Man Blues.” He sings, “I drink my beer in a tavern, sing a little bit of these working man blues. In this song, the working man is saddled by his responsibility to support nine kids and a wife. Despite his blues he vows to “keep his nose to the grindstone” and work as long as his “two hands are fit to use.”

It’s kind of tempting to put his songs on the jukebox in the tavern and wallow in our own working man (or woman) blues. Although a little self-pity feels good once in a while, it profits us more to stop crying in our beer and head down the path of our choosing.

Dreams can be put into two categories, passive or active. When Haggard dreams of sitting on a blue bayou with a cane fishing pole stuck in the sand, he is describing a passive dream. We call that a daydream. He has no intention of acting on this dream. He seems to imply that there is no way to get from where he is to that idyllic destination. He is resigned to the fact that his dream will remain just a figment of his imagination. He settles for the small pleasure that he gets from the act of dreaming. He’ll just drink his beer after work and sing the working man blues. Passive dreams are pessimistic. They feed on self-doubt.

Active dreams lead to action. Active dreams bring a vision of a better future toward which we want to move and toward which we can envision a path. Instead of resignation, these dreams lead to action. Instead of heading to the bar every night, when we commit to realizing our dreams, we spend at least some of our spare time drawing a roadmap for the future. That doesn’t mean there’ll be no time for enjoying life with our friends along the way. Active dreams are optimistic. They require and inspire confidence.

The good thing is, we get to choose the type of dreams we dream. We all are confronted with challenges and obstacle in life, some of us more than others. But we are all fortunate enough to live at a time and in a country that presents us with opportunities if we are willing to take the time to figure out where we can realistically go in life and are willing to put in the hard work to get there. Even if we have to support nine kids and a wife or husband, we don’t need to sing the blues.

Which type of dream will you invest your time and energy in? I would encourage the latter. Here’s how you can get started. The company for which serve as chaplain employs two professional “dream coaches” to help our associates identify and realize their dreams. If you don’t have someone to guide, try working through the following steps on your own.

1)Make yourself a Dream Planner Book. This can be a fancy journal you buy in a bookstore, a spiral bound notebook, or even a yellow legal pad.

2)In your planner, start brainstorming with yourself or with your spouse and/or other members of your family your dreams for the future. Be bold. You don’t have to worry about being realistic at this point. It may help you by thinking about different aspects of your life to focus on such as professional, educational, spiritual, emotional, recreational, material, health/fitness. You may think of others. Try to write down one or two dreams in each area. See if you can come up with twenty dreams. Some examples might be to own your own home, get a specific promotion at work, spend time each day doing something fun with your family, eating a more healthy diet, etc. Your dreams can be as big or as small as you want them.

3) Circle five of the twenty which energize you the most. What is most important for you to achieve? Then narrow your list down to two. These are the dreams that you are going to work on.

4) After you have identified your most important dreams, write out the steps that you will need to take to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Pretend that you are using Google Maps to find the route to your own “blue bayou.”

5) Write out a realistic timeline on when you are going to accomplish each step. Keep returning to your Dream Planner Book and check off the steps as you take them. Make yourself accountable to a trusted person whose job it is to encourage you to keep on schedule.

6) Celebrate your victories along the way and really celebrate when you reach your final goal. Then keep on dreaming. This is a lifelong process.

I encourage you to find someone to accompany you on your journey. You may be able to find a professional dream manager. If not seek out a life coach, counselor, or trusted pastor who is willing to work with you.
So, what’s your dream? At this point in my life, I’m setting sights on that blue bayou; you might have something grander in mind. Either way, let’s leave the blues singing to musicians.

Pastor Jim

We Celebrate the Death of No One

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Pastor Jim Melvin

It is human nature, when spurred on by a sense of righteous indignation, to take joy in and celebrate the death of heinous people. We may feel like fist bumping our neighbor when a mass murderer receives a lethal injection. We saw televised images of mobs of Iraqis dancing in the streets following the violent hanging of Saddam Hussein. It is not surprising, therefore, that immediately following the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani in Iraq that social media lit up in celebration of the death of a man responsible for the death of thousands. Those who did not join in the festivities were denounced as unpatriotic.

As a Christian, I turn to scripture, especially the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, for moral guidance. If I did not do so, I would be a hypocrite. If we bear the name Christian, we are bound by the authority of Christ as we learn to know him in scripture through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Let me therefore turn to the words of Jesus himself that I find enlightening in our current situation. Jesus, laying out his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount told those assembled there,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45

Admittedly this is a hard teaching. Loving our enemies runs contrary to human instinct. Praying for those who are doing us harm seems impossible. Few if any of us, hanging from a cross would be able to pray as Jesus did for his tormenters, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

We cannot change our gut reactions toward the punishment of radical evil. We do, however, have control of and a moral obligation to be imitators of Christ in our subsequent actions. That would include refusing to join in the celebration of Suleimani’s death. If we cannot bring ourselves to pray for him, we can soberly pray that his death was just and will serve the greater purpose of peace. Peace is truly a cause for celebration.

Being a faithful Christian does not make us any less patriotic and it certainly does not make us traitors to America. To the contrary, there is no higher form of patriotism than to adhere to the religious and moral values that inspired our forefathers to establish this great nation under whose flag we live. We can also pray for those who continue to celebrate Suleimani’s death, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

You Must be Present to Win

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Pastor Jim Melvin

I bought a raffle ticket at a charity event the other night. Several times during the night the host got on the microphone to spur ticket sales and each time announced emphatically, “You must be present to win!” I’m on to their game. They do that to keep their crowd numbers up through the evening. Anyway, it reminded me of a main teaching of insight meditation, live in the present moment.

This seems like stating the obvious until we stop to examine where we place our awareness most of the time. Much of our time is spent regretting the past or worrying about the future. It is hard for us to keep focused on the present moment. We keep getting distracted. We live in a social media fueled world and everywhere we turn we are confronted by lighted screens demanding our immediate attention. Ever go to a sports bar and experience how hard it is NOT to keep your eyes from wandering to the nearest TV, even if it’s reruns of Chinese ping pong matches? (Which is pretty amazing, come to think of it.)

Living in the present is important for us individually, but it is also important in our relationships. How much of the time are we “really present” for the important people in our lives, our friends and family, and the people we work with? When we stop for a moment of self-reflection, we’re likely to find that we often aren’t present for those people much at all, even when we’re working beside them or sitting butt to butt with them on the couch.

Being in the present moment is obviously important on the job. If I’m fuming over that guy who cut me off in traffic on the way to work while I’m swinging a hammer, somebody is likely to get hurt. Or if I’m dreaming about the party I’m going to tonight while I’m entering payroll data on the computer, somebody might not get paid this week. You get the point. Being in the moment is vital to safety, productivity, and eventually to our success in life.

Being in the present moment is vital in our relationships. We can’t love anybody in the past. Love in the past is just a happy memory. We can’t love anybody in the future. Love in the future is a fantasy or a daydream. Only in the present can we love another person meaningfully. Love is best accomplished looking someone in the eye and connecting with a gentle touch. We must be present to love.

When you get a free moment today, stop and engage in this little mental exercise. Find a quiet place where you can sit and close your eyes. Try to think of a time today at work or when you were involved in a household task when you were really present and focused on what you were doing. Then think of a time when you were doing one thing while your mind was somewhere else. How does this make you feel?

Do the same exercise again, only this time recall a time when you were truly present with someone you care about. And when was a time that you were physically near someone, but you weren’t really present? How does that make you feel?

These recollections can bring up some strong feelings. Not only does a lack of mindful presence make us less safe, productive and a good companion, it leaves us with feelings of guilt and regret. When we engage in these behaviors day after day, those negative feelings grow and can eventually having a crippling impact in our lives. Regret and guilt are horrible companions.

Back to what that ticket seller said the other night, “You must be present to win.” That’s not only true with raffle tickets; its true with all of life. It turned out the jackpot the other night was four hundred and thirty-six bucks. (I was present, but I didn’t win.) The jackpot in life is much greater, happiness. But unlike a raffle, when you are truly present in life, you always win.

Don’t Burn Your Turkey: How to Deal with Holiday Stress

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Although I saw a few Christmas trees going up before Halloween, for me the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving. That’s when the joyful expectations start ramping up. We begin to look forward to holiday parties and gatherings. We prepare for travel or welcoming visitors into our homes and seeing people who have been absent from our lives for a while. We ponder the gifts that we will give and receive.

In my experience, the joyful expectations are equaled or exceeded by the dread of the chaos and stress that we are about to subject ourselves too. We wonder where we will find the time to pack more into our busy lives. We may be forced into spending time with people who we would just as soon avoid. Not to mention, how are we going to handle all of the extra expenses that come with the celebrating?

Here’s my laundry list of suggestions to help us not only survive but thrive through Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

1) Put the phones away. Holiday gatherings are a time to enjoy each other in real time. Consider having everyone deposit their phone in a basket – at least during dinner. The fact that this radical action seems nigh on to impossible is a sign of how addicted we are to our little screens. At the very least, have everybody silence their phones and keep them out of sight. Maybe come up with a catchy silence your phones announcement at the dinner table like they do in theaters or on the airplane. Good luck!

2) Everybody pitch in. I can remember waking up on Thanksgiving morning back in the good old days to the first smells of the turkey beginning to bake. My mom and aunts would slave in the kitchen all morning, serve everybody seated at the table while they seldom sat down, and wash the dishes and clean up while the menfolk retired to the living room to talk about important stuff and the kids played games. Maybe there were some things that weren’t so good about those old days. Make sure that you do your share and encourage everybody else to do the same including the kids.

3) “Be thee not a drunkard…but take thee a little wine for thy stomach.” (Ephesians 5:18 & 1Timothy 5:23) Wine and other spirits play a central role for many of us at holiday celebrations and dinners. Holiday toasts and good cheer contribute to the joyful atmosphere. But alcohol use also contributes to many domestic disputes and violence at holiday events. The abundance of alcoholic drinks at our gatherings is a particular hazard for those struggling with addiction. The Bible counsels moderation. Simple steps like not starting to drink too early, providing alternative beverages, and offering designated drivers for those who overindulge can help keep our celebrations happy and safe. Consider an alcohol-free Thanksgiving this year.

4) Don’t talk about religion and politics. It is no secret that we live in divisive times. Differences in political and religious points of view can create serious divisions within families and among even the best of friends. While it’s important that we engage each other in honest and open conversation about important issues, holiday gatherings, particularly around the dinner table, might not be the best time for political and moral debates. Our emotions are already amplified this time of year. Focus instead on positive and personal topics that will unite rather than divide. When somebody presses our buttons it’s okay to back away from arguments with words like, “Let’s get together and talk about that later.”

5) Honor the empty chair. Many of us will have experienced the death of a family member or loved since we last gathered. The void opened up by their absence can cast a pall over the celebration. Loss and grief are inevitable and are best dealt with openly. Acknowledge the loss and provide an opportunity for everyone to deal with their feelings. Tell stories and show pictures, shed some tears, and name your lost saints in prayer. Most of all, give thanks for what they meant in your life.

6) Give thanks. Speaking of giving thanks, especially at Thanksgiving, take some time to name the things that you are grateful for. Some families go around the table or the room before they eat and have everyone speak aloud one thing that they are thankful for from the previous year.

7) Say a little prayer. Whether or not you’re religious, physically connecting by holding hands around the table for a prayer provides a spiritual connection that can put the HOLY in HOLI-day. The prayer can be as simple and inclusive as “We give thanks for our family and friends who are gathered here and for how we bless each other’s lives. We thank you for the food we are about to receive and for the loving hands who have prepared it and serve us. Amen.” If nobody feels comfortable praying off the cuff, write it down and read it.

8) Take a hike. Does the following sound familiar? You eat too much, you drink too much, and then you fall into a coma in front of the T.V. The next morning you feel groggy and guilty. Adding a little exercise to the holiday menu can help. After dinner, before you wash that stack of dishes and greasy pans, have everyone put on their coats and walking shoes and take a stroll around the neighborhood. Walking is not only healthy for the body; it is a stimulant for conversation. It will make everybody feel better.

9) Lower your expectations. We want our holiday gatherings to be perfect. They never are. Not everybody will show up on time. Not everyone will be on their best behavior. Somebody’s favorite dish will be missing or cooked wrong. All your problems won’t magically go away. Start out by thinking of the holiday as just another day. Then all of the good special stuff will be, as we say, gravy.

10) Invite the lonely and less fortunate. Your holiday may be almost perfect. That’s not true for everyone. Be on the lookout for the lonely and the less fortunate around you. Invite them to dinner and lavish your hospitality upon them. In blessing them, your whole family will be blessed. Or, forego your own dinner and volunteer as a family to serve in a community meal.

And most importantly, don’t burn your turkey!!!

My Father Was A…

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Pastor Jim Melvin

How would you write the story of your origins in a few sentences? Mine would go something like this. “My father was a coal miner born in Southern Illinois who moved to Iowa as a young man to build a better life where he met my mother, the child of hardworking German immigrants who came to America also seeking a better life.” Variations of that story could be told by millions of Americans.

Near the end of their forty-year Exodus wandering in the wilderness, Moses reminded the children of Israel of their story of origins. They were to recite this story when they entered the land flowing with milk and honey and make it a part of their worship forever. These words were to be said in the temple on Shavuot each year as the harvest offering was presented,

“A wandering Aramean was my father,
he went down to Egypt and sojourned there,
he and just a handful of his brothers at first, but soon
they became a great nation, mighty and many.
The Egyptians abused and battered us,
in a cruel and savage slavery.
We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers:
He listened to our voice, he saw
our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight.
And God took us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,
with signs and miracle-wonders.
And he brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I’ve brought the firstfruits
of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.”

That wandering Aramean was Abraham the ancestor of Jews, Christians and Muslims. All of us who identify with these three “Abrahamic” faiths have in our past been called aliens, immigrants, foreigners and refugees. Whether we are Jewish or not, in our settled and secure lives we should regularly recite these words so that we remain appropriately thankful for our blessings.

We are not indigenous people. We are all, to use the language of ecology, invasive species. All of us sre immigrants to whom God has granted a resting place on our journey. We thank God for that. We show our thanks by acknowledging those who still wander in the wilderness waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a homeland. The children of Israel were required by their own religious law in their sacred scripture to not only welcome but to care for the dispossessed strangers whose wanderings brought them to their land. Here are some of those references,

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 10:19

“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34

“You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore, I command you to do this.
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore, I am commanding you to do this. Deuteronomy 24:17-22

And in Jesus’ description of the final judgement, God says to those whom he welcomes into his kingdom,
“I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35

For a variety of reasons including war, political oppression, drug violence, and drought and famine caused by climate change, we are witnessing massive shifts of human populations on an unprecedented scale. Today more than 70 million people are displaced from their homes including 6.7 million in Syria, 2.7 million in Afghanistan, 2.3 million in South Sudan, 1.1 million in Myanmar, and .9 million in Somalia. There are about 5 million Palestinian refugees, of which 1.5 million live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Closer to home, there are 4.5 million refugees from Venezuela and 650,000 asylum seekers from that country. The list goes on.

It is no wonder that we who live in America and people of other developed and prosperous nations feel a need for self-protection. The flood of humanity seeking a secure place to call home is overwhelming and seems to threaten our way of life. That does not, however, absolve us of our biblical call and the demands of our basic humanity to help our neighbors. The scale of the refugee crises should create a sense of urgency among us.

America has a long history of welcoming refugees to our shores. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants and refugees. But it has never been easy. Even after the horrors of the Nazi holocaust were exposed through graphic pictures to the American people as the concentration camps were liberated, few Americans were in favor of increasing the number of Jewish refugees allowed to our own shores. Still, we have found the courage and the will to help the dispossessed. For the past 40 years we have led the world in the number of refugees whom we have resettled in some years topping 100,000.

In the past few years, however, that number has been reduced to under 30,000 per year. In other words, the number of refugees and the number that we are accommodating are diverging. Once again, we find ourselves struggling to balance our self-protective instincts with our call to sacrificial love. It is time for us as people of God to seriously align our personal advocacy and our governmental policies with our religious and humanitarian obligations.

One of the greatest obstacles that we face in dealing with the immigrant and refugee crisis is our own fear. We fear that that immigrants will bring with them crime. We fear that terrorists will arrive in their midst. We fear that they will overwhelm are welfare, healthcare, and welfare systems. We fear that they will alter our culture and even our language. We fear that instead of us raising them up, that they will drag us down.

These are all legitimate concerns, but America has faced great challenges in her past and met them with integrity and moral courage. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged the American people in his first inaugural address, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” And Jesus reminded his followers, “Have no fear little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

We can only put aside our fears by first committing ourselves to work together. In the polarized environment in which we find ourselves, we cast the people with whom we should be working to solve problems as our enemies. We are wasting most of our time and energy attacking each other rather than attacking the problem. We don’t have the time and energy to spare.

Here is my simple proposal for a commitment that each of us can make as we seek to deal with the plight of immigrants and refugees in America:

1) I will listen to and acknowledge the fears of my fellow citizens and treat them with respect so that we make seek solutions together.
2) I will not use the language of hate nor be triggered by sarcastic attacks on immigrants, refugees or people who are labeled as other.
3) I will live out my biblical and moral mandate to care for the alien, the immigrant, the stranger, and the refugee in our midst.
4) I will seek to educate myself on the religious, social, political and moral issues to the best of my ability seeking out reliable and objective sources of information.
5) I will always remember my own humble origins and thank God for how I am blessed to live and prosper in this land.

My father was a wandering Aramean. So was yours.

Me Too!

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Most of the people who I know like it when men and women work together with mutual respect and mutual recognition. Me too! Most of the people who I know believe that different men and women contribute their own unique skills and abilities to the workplace. Me too! Most of the people who I know believe that no one should be harassed or assaulted due to their gender or because their rank or position makes them vulnerable. Me too! The Bible affirms that God created men and women as partners in life’s journey. Me too!

I’m not trying to co-opt the title of the #MeToo movement for my own ends or minimize its importance. The #MeToo movement was born out of the need to address widespread incidents of sexual harassment that had been too long tolerated in our culture. The #MeToo movement is not a matter of political correctness. The women and men who identify with and participate in the movement have raised our awareness and have accomplished much in bringing justice for abused women, especially in the workplace. Much yet remains to be done. I would add my own “me too” to their mission.

But I also want to add my personal “me too” to all of the men and women I see living working together around me who already embody the biblical partnership to which I have referred. Here are some of the positive things I see going on around me.

1) I see women, many of them young, working and advancing in careers once reserved for men. I see women construction workers, truck drivers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, scientists, pilots, soldiers, CEO’s etc., etc., etc., who are competing and succeeding in the workplace.
2) I see men accepting, supporting, trusting and relying upon women coworkers in all of these jobs.
3) I see men and women paying attention to their language and behaviors out of respect for one another.
4) I see all of us relating together comfortably in social settings with the understanding that not every man/woman interaction needs to be sexualized.

We are witnessing the birth of a new age in the way men and women relate to each other and work with each other; but we’re still in a painful time of transition. The Apostle Paul said 2,000 years ago in another time of societal and religious transformation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Do you want to be a part of the new creation? Me too!