Book Review: A Full Life, Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter

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I will admit that the majority that I knew of Jimmy Carter was just what I learned along the way through conversation or an occasional article I may read. Yes, he was the President when I was born, but I never took time to do any specific research on him. I knew that he was a peanut farmer and also a Lions Club member. I also knew that he was instrumental in the success of Habitat for Humanity.

Reading A Full Life reflects truly on the fullness of life that Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, Rosalyn, has lived. Now that he has been diagnosed with cancer, I am glad that I took the opportunity to get to know him a little better.

He was virtually an unknown when elected governor of Georgia and was still widely unknown when launching his campaign for President. Social media as just word of mouth back in the seventies and took a little longer to travel than it does today in virtually nano-seconds through Facebook and any other social media application. His ability to win the election in 1976 was just one step in his full life. The impact that he has had following the presidency around the world has be tremendous. While not a popular President, he has made played essential roles in helping ending disease in certain parts of the world, building houses, and attempting to bring peace to areas of tension and turmoil.

In doing all of this, he has maintained a closeness to his roots; he still attends the same church in Plains, Georgia and enjoys teaching Sunday school. His desire to respect the full humanity of all of those he has encountered throughout his life his one to be set as an example.

Overall, A Full Life, sets a tone for the life that Carter has lived thus far. It is simple in its presentation and speaks clearly to the reader. Within its pages are many pictures that touch upon various aspects of his life. The one thing that truly draws your attention is his own personal paintings within the pages which range from portraits of his parents to his home in Plains. The few poems included within its pages also show someone that is in touch with his inner-self and is open and willing to share with others. While this memoir may move slow at times, it is a great reflection upon seasons of Carter’s life.

May God Bless him and his family as they live into the future and bring healing to them as they face their newest challenges, like they do everything else, head on.

Fear Breeds Hate

Why is it that we are so often afraid of those things that we know little about? This weekend there are protests that are taking place near Muslim mosques around the country, most closely Dearborn, MI. Not only do these protests appear to be anti-Muslim, they are also being promoted by open-carry gun groups.

This does not speak to anything that Jesus would have promoted within his life or to this day. How does this reflect the idea that we should love our neighbors? ELCA Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, questions this as she speaks in opposition to these protests:

“As Christians, we are freed in Christ to love and serve our neighbors. Today our neighbors include Muslims – upstanding faithful Americans. The enemy we face is not Islam but hatred and fear. I join my sisters and brothers in calling for gestures of solidarity with our American Muslim neighbors. Together we can witness to the world that God’s love will have the last word.”

Why a mysterious way?

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I view God through the lens of someone that has not grown up in the church and been shaped by the tradition that seems to think it knows what is right and what is wrong. I am open to the possibility of anything happening in our midst and welcoming God into all spaces of life, because truly God is already present in those spaces. I don’t believe we can explain it away either. It is something that we sense in our inner being and something that reaches out to be accepted and loved. Truly, it is a mysterious way. God may call us all in different directions, yet we are all centered in the one eternal being.

William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way speaks some to this. It conveys a message of God’s presence in all things and a desire to be with us in our lives.

  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

What Constitutes Adultery?

I will admit that as a pastor I was confronted by the usual internal question of, “how am I going to preach good news to this text” this past week. The assigned gospel lesson for this past Sunday was Mark 10:2-16, which has Jesus responding to the Pharisees question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” I thought I did a decent job responding to this text and looking a little deeper into what Jesus speaks to and how he seems to be speaking of an equality in the entire passage. After Sunday, I figured I would be done with this text and could then move forward to the next weeks lesson.

However, as I sit down Monday morning to read the assigned readings from my devotional, Bread For the Day, I found texts relating to divorce and adultery once again. It happened again yesterday. And once again the readings this morning spoke to these questions. The thought of adultery today does not seem to have the same weight has it did centuries ago, even though there was probably just as much promiscuity occurring. They just didn’t have television, internet, or Facebook to share the lurid details!

In marriage I have committed my life to my spouse and the thought of doing anything to risk that does not entice me. At one point Jesus says that even by looking at someone else you may commit adultery in your heart; I guess in this regard most of us could probably be found guilty.

As I read this mornings readings though, I began to think of more of those things that we can do that lead us to commit adultery against God. What in our lives have we placed before God? It could be an addiction (alcohol, drugs, pornography), the love of money, misplaced priorities, and many more things. We are called to be in a relationship with God, just as we are with our partner in life.

As we turn away from God and are distracted by other things, we may not be committing adultery in the common understanding of the word, yet we are still sinning against God’s word. No one is an exception to this and this is where we can accept the gift of grace which is bestowed upon all of God’s children. In God we find healing and forgiveness as we come back to God.

The way of St. Francis

stfrancis2St. Francis has got to be one of the most popular saints spoken of around the world. The election of a new Pope and his decision of choosing Francis as his namesake has only garnered more attention in the last couple of years. Yesterday, October 4, was the Feast Day for St. Francis, and I had the opportunity of presiding over a Blessing of the Animals. This was a wonderful way to celebrate St. Francis as we honored all creatures, great and small.

St. Francis’ mass appeal could be reflected in the message that he preached to all his followers in the regard of living a simple life. As we look around today at the many temptations that have been placed in front of us, St. Francis is a reminder that all of the glitz and glam that pervades our current culture is non-essential for our lives. We are therefore called to lives in relationship with God and to have as little distractions as possible. The way of St. Francis is not for everyone, yet it beckons us all towards a love for the creation that God has gifted us.

This is just a brief glimpse into St. Francis, and is just one of the people who has shaped my faith and life. I look forward to sharing more as I continue in the mysterious way.

How did I get here?

If someone were to tell me ten years ago that I would be serving as a pastor, I would have looked at them as though they had two heads. Yet, I am now serving my second congregation and loving being able to fulfill the calling that God has placed upon me at this time in my life.

I have done this blog thing in the past to some consistency but am now re-energized and looking forward to keeping it updated. You may be wondering a little bit about the title and what exactly it means, overall, and especially to me. It is my hope to share that with you as we journey forward together in this thing we call life. The amazing thing though, is that we are not alone, God is present and working among us in all that we say and do.