It’s been 18 days, and it’s time

It has, indeed, been 18 days since the elections on November 3rd and it’s time — way past time, actually — for Donald Trump to acknowledge the results of the election and get on with the transition.

The fact that he won’t is not a surprise. But it’s still important for Americans — including those in faith communities — to speak up and say that the delay is self-serving and is harming the Country.

Many have been doing that, of course, but with each day that passes, the need to speak up and stay focused and engaged becomes even greater, even more urgent.

I know as I write this that the situation is not likely to be resolved quickly. There no reason to believe that it will.

But we must keep calling on this lawless President and his allies to do the right thing and help our Nation through this difficult transition.

A situation where our Nation’s Chief Executive refuses to help in this situation would be bad enough. But actively, intentionally trying to sabotage the process?

It’s just one more reason why this President’s legacy will be one of ineptitude, failure and shame.

Ben Basile

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Mr Falwell is out at Liberty

August has been a really tough month for Jerry Falwell Jr. That’s putting it mildly.

And things got worse in the last 24 hours. Much worse.

He just resigned as the President of Liberty University, the Virginia school founded by his Father.

As you know if you’ve looking around here on this blog lately, I have been following this matter. My time in seminary was at a well-known University which was also led by a charismatic leader who garnered headlines on a daily basis.

Sadly, we often discover that ministers, evangelists and University Presidents in powerful positions lead lives that are not consistent with what they preach.

When that’s the case, they’re rarely successful at keeping the secrets secret.

I don’t wish Mr Falwell ill. But it’s a good thing that the charade is over.

Rev. Falwell has a myriad of tasks ahead of him. It will be a difficult, arduous process. A lot of sorrow, some humiliation, no doubt, and–most of all–a lot of work. That’s true for the University community as well.

I’m hopeful that it will make possible some measure of healing for everyone whose lives are touched by all of this.

I wish him, his family and the University well.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

It’s a Happy-Sad Thing

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:13

I came upon this familiar verse from Proverbs this morning and it got me to thinking.

Its message clashed with my dour mood of the moment — there is certainly no shortage of things happening here and all over the world right now that can really undercut our serenity and leave us emotionally and spiritually drained — and so I found the verse comforting.

Like so many of us, I have my share of life’s ups-and-downs and get into a funk fairly often. This passage reminded me that whether or not I stay in those occasional foul moods for very long depends, in no small measure, on my response.

As a younger man, I tended to stay trapped in that depressive space for what seemed like very long periods of time.

It’s a good thing indeed that I’ve progressed as I’ve moved along life’s path and I’ve developed the skill of turning, or re-orienting myself when “trapped” in these dark spaces, turning in a more positive direction.

If you’re anything like me, you may well find yourself navigating those decidedly unpleasant places often. It may seem that you’re more acquainted with the heartache part of that brief verse than that happy heart way the verse begins.

If so, you’ve got plenty of company. Don’t forget that we all experience those sometimes heart-wrenching highs-and-lows and that we can steer ourselves towards the happy heart end of the polarity by thoughtfully, consciously turning towards the light.

It’s a good thing indeed, to turn in that better direction — even when we feel as though the last tiny shred of happiness has been torn from our grasp — and ready ourselves for the return of those moments of blossoming joy.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Not Here, Not Now

More than two millennia ago, the writer of Proverbs had this to say:

Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.

Proverbs 8: 6-8, italics mine

Let’s take a closer look at verse 8. In the text, Wisdom is speaking, and says this about the words she utters: “none of them is crooked or perverse.”

What a wonderful thing it would be if we — in these troubling times — could say the same thing when we hear or read of things our leaders have said!

We hear a lot of spin, evasions and outright falsehoods virtually anytime we listen to, read or view the news these days.

The lies we’re hearing are pervasive. They’re deliberate. And they’re causing untold harm.

We might wonder how long this tragic state of affairs will go on.

I don’t know.

But I do know that it’s imperative that we recommit ourselves to speaking the truth. To recoil from deception and lies.

And to refuse to accept lying and deceit from those who hold positions of power and authority in this pivotal time in which we live.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

What next? Bill Gates has some thoughts

Like so many of us, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last few weeks wondering how our current devastating health crisis is going to affect our lives going forward. 

Our lives and our collective life, together, on this planet.

I just came across an article laying out some of  Bill Gate’s thoughts about where we might be heading and it sounded very plausible to me.

I’ve always respected Bill Gates for his obvious business acumen and the visionary way he led Microsoft in its formative period.  

And I certainly laud Bill and Melinda for taking a wide world view and for their extraordinary philanthropy.

I think his thoughts about the COVID-19 crisis here deserve a very wide reading and I recommend this article for anyone who’d like to read some cogent and well-informed thoughts on where we might be heading.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Heroes in the Medical Profession

There’s no doubt that the healthcare catastrophe the world is facing now generates almost unlimited bad news.

Like so many of us, when I read or hear good news, it’s a real ray of sunshine piercing through what seems like an impenetrably dark cloud.

I read a story yesterday that provided one of those occasional bright moments and I’m passing the story along today. I’m hopeful that it might provide a bit of relief to you while we’re dealing with this dark, unfolding tragedy.

As you most likely know, New York has been hard hit by the coronavirus. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is holding daily press briefings while his state and her medical professionals are straining to deal with the crisis.

He’s repeatedly appealed for more Doctors, Nurses and other professionals in the healthcare field to come to the aid of his beleaguered state.

A band of dedicated, compassionate professionals from Georgia heard those appeals and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight bound for New York yesterday.

I have no doubt that what these dedicated and selfless folks did yesterday made a lot of their hard-pressed colleagues smile.

If only for a few precious moments.

And it most definitely inspired me and brightened my day. At a time when I truly needed it.

I hope there are some moments of budding happiness for you and your loved ones today.

As I read and hear more about the crisis we’re facing, I look for those rays of sunshine.

I’m grateful that I’ve found a few.

And very grateful that we have people of compassion — like the ones who boarded that flight yesterday — while we endure this dreadful scourge together.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines

But not this Sunday

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in Florida. Just a few minutes ago, I was looking through a folder of photos I gathered from all over the internet quite a few years ago when one of them caught my eye.

It’s of a beautiful, awe-inspiring Cathedral, and it seems at first to be unremarkable.

But when you pause for just a moment, you realize that there are only a few people in it.

On this Sunday, the photo seems to me to be a pretty potent symbol of what life is like at this moment.

This moment in our shared experience when so many of us are struggling to practice the social distancing techniques we’ve been urged to use.

And we’re trying to wrap our minds around that creeping awareness that it may be quite a while before we can recover, can fully experience again that comforting, life-sustaining practice of gathering with others to share and celebrate our commonality and shared values.

There are many reasons and many ways that people come together. It’s not only gathering for worship on a Sunday morning that many of us are missing right now.

But that’s the part of our shared human experience that’s uppermost in my mind at this moment.

I know that when we can comfortably gather with like-minded folk once again for worship and a thousand other things, we’ll clearly see how very much our lives are diminished when such a precious and vital practice is taken away.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo credit: Ben is not the owner of the uncredited banner photo and believes it to be covered under Fair Use.

Blessings and a dark cloud

Today I find myself in one of those “happy-sad” situations.

There’s nothing unusual about that for me. I’m pretty sure that all of you can relate to that.

The things I feel good about today: it’s the first day of spring and we’re having a truly beautiful day here in Florida.

And I’m happy to note that our Fellowship turns one year old today.

Those are great blessings.

I don’t have to tell you about the sad part.

Today–like all of you–I’m living under this dark cloud and the great weight of uncertainty that comes with it.

I’m referring to the Coronavirus, as I’m sure you know.

I know this a really serious situation and we’re paying attention and following the instructions of our elected officials the medical professionals who advise them.

I’m apprehensive as we brace for very difficult and dark days.

These huge threats and those dark days do come around, of course. They’re nothing new.

Sometimes when we least expect it.

And we’ve got to use the resources we have. Our faith is one.

Our determination to go through this together is another.

As we continue to go through this unsettling trial, the words of the Psalmist found in the 46th Chapter come to mind.

Pray. Help in ways you’re able to help. Look out for those who are the most vulnerable.

And take comfort in these words:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Psalm 46: 1-7

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Coronavirus, the danger of comparisons and our task today

It’s natural that when we have a new threat–talking about the Coronavirus–that we compare it to something we already know about.

But the Coronavirus is very different from the flu that we’re all very familiar with. Different in several important ways.

This article will help greatly if you’d like to know more and see why this is a much bigger deal than, for instance, a new strain of flu.

This is a time to look out for each other.

A time to ask for help if you need it, especially if you’re in a high-risk group.

A very good time to keep one another in our prayers. And most of all, to help one another when we’re able to do so.

That was a great priority for St Francis in his day; the need was very, very great.

And that’s certainly true for us today.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Wisdom and Critical Thinking

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.

17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Proverbs 3:13-18

In this passage the writer of Proverbs really wanted to drive home the point that acting wisely as we go through life is a good thing.

Yes, it’s a very good thing.

And who would disagree?

I love the way it’s stated so poetically here. And it’s true, very true in our day, just as it was when this pithy poem was written.

The point I want to make here is that some discernment, the ability to think critically is a very big deal, too.

I would say that’s it’s foundational, that wisdom absolutely depends on our ability to think critically, to clearly pierce through the rationalizations and half-truths and arrive at sound decisions.

As I take a look around the cultural and, especially, the political landscape these days, I don’t see a lot of wisdom.

And it’s clear to me as I look around or read the news that a lot of folks–people who hold the reins of power in particular–are sadly deficient in critical thinking skills.

Or have, perhaps, stopped using the skills they’ve got.

This is a very bad thing and bodes ill for our country.

May we all–those who make important decisions that affect the common good, especially–seek and employ the discernment and critical thinking upon which wisdom and wise decisions depend.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.