America’s Sort of Wars

As a young child, I watched my father go off to war, the big war, WWII, into the Pacific, with lots of other fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, and even some women, though as I recall women weren’t drafted. My dad signed up before he could be called up: he was an ROTC 2d Lieutenant, “prime cannon fodder,” he said later.

At home, I learned from my mom and grandparents that everyone had to help, had to do all we could “for the war effort.” I was a small child, but I too had a patriotic duty, though mine was mostly not to whine too much about my daddy being gone, and to be cheerful about all the things that were in scare supply because many things were rationed then.

Now my sadness is that we have these “wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq–or where? If we, the USA, are at war, then I want Congress on line, facing up to the duty to declare yes or no. Taking the flak from us ordinary citizens–because isn’t that the job each and every one of them signed up for? Not just to curry fat favors from the wealthy, but to answer to all of us. Isn’t that what their campaign ads said?

I don’t know that there was ever the golden yesteryear when politicians were more honest, more accountable, more reliable–probably not. Maybe there were a few moments of that, but not many, I’d guess. 

So whose job is it to hold their toes to the fire of public opinion? Whose job to let them know the public cares? Or do we simply acquiesce? Too busy to notice, or tired, or bummed? Or think it doesn’t matter? It does.Image

 

 

Endings, a Sort of a Poem

 

I wouldn’t mind being eaten

     by a grizzly bear, tiger or shark

As long as I’m dead first.

 

I wouldn’t mind electrocution

     Or turning to ash in fire,

As long as I’m dead first.

 

Death is such a long time.

     We fall, generation on generation,

Over the rock face of time.

 

The beautiful, the ugly,

     Rich, poor, smart, slow,

Drift one by one into the great whodunit.

 

Do we survive? Live in Elysian Fields,

     Heaven perhaps or Sheol?

Since life began, no one has cracked a clue.

At the Water’s Edge: God’s Grace in Everyday Life

At the Water's Edge, Vol. 1 by Joan Uda

At the Water’s Edge, Vol. 1 by Joan Uda

More than nine years ago, I was suffering from congestive heart failure because of a genetic problem whose name I still don’t know. Long story made short, when I first got to a cardiologist, he recommended open heart surgery as soon as I could get on the schedule. Feb. 10, 2005, I had my first open heart surgery because my aortic valve had blown open.

During more than six hours on the operating table, and in the following days of medically induced coma, with who knows what chemicals flowing through my system, I met God–God as absolute, utter peace, God as a presence so loving that to remember that time brings tears to my eyes because what I learned is that God’s promises are true–though no one really knows how they will manifest. Our job is to love and trust God. So simple. To say. But I had no doubt that I was in God’s presence. There was no gold, no throne, no angels of any type, just this incredibly peaceful and loving darkness in which I was utterly content.

This first volume of At the Water’s Edge, taken from the old hymn and now a praise song, Come to the Water, or For Those Tears I Died, consists of my earlier newspaper columns written out of my most joyful experiences and the person they made me.

Pockets

Everywhere a person looks there are pockets. Pita pockets, traffic pockets, even–yuk–pockets of pus.

Except, these days, in much women’s clothing. I actually have jeans without pockets. Heresy! Craziness of the “what are they thinking’ variety. I asked one of my daughters why no pockets these days. She thinks clothing designers don’t like pockets because we women stuff too many things in them, a thimble, say, or a tissue, and these giant objects destroy the lines of the clothing. Well phooey, I say. I guess I’m too pragmatic to enjoy the designers’ wisdom. They can hang their creations on models and I’ll keep truckin’ on wanting pockets.

When I was growing up pockets were even in skirts, which we wore a lot of then.  Pockets are where you carry stuff when your hands are full of other stuff, like babies or puppies. I’ve even been known to put a full glass of water in an apron pocket–can’t remember why I thought that was a good idea–and yes of course I spilled it.

I wear glasses for reading, commonly called “cheaters” around here, and where would I carry them if not in pockets? Besides, if your hands are cold, as mine often are, where would you put them for a little extra warmth–I feel silly walking around with my hands  in my armpits to warm them up.

Pockets are a joy. Pockets are necessary in my life. Pockets seem to me essential. Maybe I’ll try a one-woman boycott of women’s clothing without pockets.

Spiritual & Religious

Just now I heard yet another writer eulogizing “spirituality” and dismissing “religion” with a little sneer, and once again I found myself gritting my teeth. Like the other writings of this type I’ve encountered, this writer doesn’t bother to define terms: neither “spirituality” or “religion.” Spirituality, apparently, is wonderful in some vague, sometimes rather fluffy-sounding way, whereas religion is–well, reading these writers, I couldn’t glean what religion actually is. 

One simple way to talk about religion is simply that it is an outward practice developed to embody a particular spirituality, sometimes with lots of doctrine or dogma and sometimes not. My religion is Christianity, meaning most simply that I am the follower of the Jesus of the Gospels. In other words, I try do things the compassionate way Jesus taught and the compassionate way he did them. I try to be kind to everybody I encounter, and bear malice toward no one, and forgive myself and others for our failings. In my particular belief system, my charge is to love God, and to love others as I love myself. (That “Love myself” has at times been a bit of a hurdle.)

The problem with adopting spirituality and rejecting religion, is that religion without spirituality is religion without spirit–essentially dead–and spirituality without religion, which is to say without some kind of outward practice, is that it can too easily become intensely egocentric–all about me, instead of others–or it lacks the inner passion and commitment that is the mark of spiritually mature persons.

I also believe that everybody has to come to a belief system that makes sense to her or him. That’s why my brand of Christianity is Methodism, which has historically rested on a four-legged stool, Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason:

•  Scripture is essential, meaning primarily the Bible, but I’ve also found scriptures from other faiths helpful.

•  Tradition has to do with the traditions people have developed to live out their faith: church traditions; worship traditions; practices that have become traditional, and so on.

•  Experience, most simply, is about what has happened to generation upon generation of human beings, including me.

•  Reason is each person’s ability to make sense of one’s experience, and the Imagespiritual and religious beliefs and practices in one’s own life, including, in my view, how to understand my own life in light of the Biblical narrative.

Just one way to look at these things.