Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Discussing Race Relations with Our Son Matthew

Discussing Race Relations with Our Son Matthew

Your mom and I appreciate having the opportunity in discussing race relations in America.  One thing you said that triggered this note that I must clarify.  It was in reference to my statement that I got jobs because I was black.

Saying this I don't mean to imply that my positions at universities were any way inferior to whites or other races.  I work hard studying at the universities I attended.  I earned my degrees like everyone else.  I recognized that I was competing with many other brilliant students.  Some were more talented than me.  Nevertheless I always had a good self esteem.  I considered being black a gift, and was happy that I was born in Georgetown, Guyana.

In America I was considered a foreign black.  This designation was never derogatory to me.  I was always proud of my heritage.  You see I came to America at the right time.  Barriers were being broken down in the 1960’s with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.  It was at a crucial time and the place to be, and your mother and I greatly benefited from these changes.  Rest assured that we were protected by living mainly in campus communities where students were more liberal.
But your mother and I always thought about our future, and we found our dream in living lives as educators.  We also had many good friends that were always willing to support us.  So undoubtedly living in the United States was a great blessing.  We never did anything stupid since we were an interracial couple.  This was so wherever we lived whether it was in Eugene, New York City, Oswego, Milwaukee, Columbia, or Virginia Beach.

In spite of the civil rights unrest that raised its head throughout these 50 years of our marriage we were still able to persevere and live safely.  Our only real difficulty was when I suffered from manic depression that nearly cost our marriage.  But all in all we have always empathized with the poor and downtrodden.  Your mom does a great deal of charitable work that I admire.  To this day every month I send hundreds of dollars to help out my family members in Guyana.  As I have said that in the time of crises we could only do so much.  All of us have to play our part in making this world better.  Thanks for all you and Shannon are doing.  Keep up your work for greater social change so that all lives in this nation would continue to improve.  God bless!
@  (Dfurstane) Website

Friday, June 26, 2020

Holy, but Dirty Water

Holy, but Dirty Water

Holy, but dirty water might kill religious believers
When they emerge themselves
In the Jordan River to be baptized
Or, take a dip in the Ganges River
As part of their ceremonial rite

Many people might be unaware
That these waters are polluted
They are filled with human waste, and chemicals
From agricultural and industrial products
This is the case of the Jordan River
That flows southward through northern Israel
Where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist

The same is true for India’s Ganges River
That flows from the Himalayas
Where there’s raw sewage,
And remains of cremated corpses,
Chemical dyes from tanneries,
And animal carcasses
Yet Hindus fulfill their religious duties
For ritual purity, by emerging themselves in these waters

Infectious diseases could be spread
Through such contaminated waters
Like typhoid, cholera, paratyphoid fever,
Dysentery, jaundice, and malaria,
By chemicals, pesticides, nitrates, lead, and arsenic
These pollutants are all dangerous
To our nervous system and could even cause cancer

“Eternal One, help believers to be wise by safeguarding their health for God might bless them, but not prevent illness, or death.”
@ (Dfurstane) Website    

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Father's Day Blessing

Father’s Day Blessing

Holy Spirit guide our dads
That they may always do
What’s right in your sight!
Keep them safe
As they go about their daily lives
So that they may be at peace

Help them as parents of their children
And good husbands to their wives
Give them wisdom and understanding
To know what’s best in these troubling times
Comfort them and walk with them
All the days of their lives

Universal Spirit, you who makes no distinction
Of race, color, or creed
Be with our dads in every home
Help them to be good mentors in their families
Teach them how to take criticism
When their efforts fall short
As dads, grand-dads, and great grand-dads

Bless and keep our dads
Universal Spirit, walk with them
Talk with them
And guide them
To be good leaders of their families,
Community and nation

“Eternal Presence by the grace of God, watch over our dads.  Lift them up to be the best dads, grand-dads, and great grand-dads that they can be.  For these blessings we pray.”
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth Freedom Day

Juneteenth Freedom Day

Over 200 cities in 49 states
And the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth
Either as a state or ceremonial holiday, or a day of observation
And activists are pushing Congress
To recognize June 19th as a national holiday
On June 19th, 1865 General Robert Granger
Issued a proclamation notifying black slaves
That they were free in Texas

This “Juneteenth Jamboree” grew in stature
And in many states it has become mainstream
The Anacostia Museum of the Smithsonian Institution
Has an exhibition Juneteenth ’91, Freedom Revisited
Reading of the works of African American novelists
Like Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou are popular
And singing of traditional songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
And “Lift Every Voice and Sing” are sung at ceremonial gatherings

Celebrations on “Jubilee Day” include picnics, rodeos, and cookouts
Families have reunions, park parties,
Attend blues festivals
And there’s a Miss Juneteenth contest
But all revelers never forget to have a Strawberry soda –
The drink associated with these festivities
And for the more serious minded
There are lectures, exhibitions of African American culture
Accompanied by a voter registration drive
But to top it all everyone should participate in a barbecue cookout
The centerpiece of most Juneteenth celebrations

“Divine Providence, bless these Juneteenth festivities on this notable day of remembrance when African Americans began enjoying the fruits of their freedom.”    
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Gift of Faith

The Gift of Faith

Job was sure of the gift that God can do all things and that none of his plans will be thwarted (Job 42:2).  The Lord has declared himself the refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble, and he never forsakes those who seek him (Ps. 9:9-10).  By being obedient to God’s law we may be successful wherever we may go, so be strong, courageous, and be not discouraged, for the Lord will be with us (Josh. 1:7,9).  We must continue to trust in God’s love, rejoice in his salvation, for he’ll be good to us (Ps. 13:5-6).  God promises that he’ll guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked he’ll silence in darkness (1 Sam. 2:9).  David was sure of victory when he assured Saul that with God’s help he’ll defeat this Philistine because he has defied the army of the living God (1 Sam. 17:32-37).

A Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist, Ann Landers (1918 2002) wrote, “Love is friendship that has caught fire.  It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  It is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”  Believers must have the gifts of confidence to move forward in loving ways.  Remember to share this friendship by forgiving those who have done them wrong.  Norman Vincent Peale (18981993), a minister, author, and progenitor of “positive thinking” said, “Believe in yourself.  Have faith in your abilities!  Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”  That’s right.  True confidence only comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  So you should believe in him, do his will, and he’ll guide you.  It’s God who brings people across our paths to show us the true way of life.  Through prayer people know the actions for them to take.  Helen Keller (18801968), an author and political activist wrote, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”  When believers meet people they have to be positive in bringing them the good news of Christ. 

Behavior is Key

It’s for believers to show kindness to those they encounter.  An ancient Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu (6th to 5th Century531 BC) said, “Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love.”  Amazingly, it’s through the gift of kindness people are able to do what’s best.  Eleanor Roosevelt (18841962), a politician and first lady of the United States said, “You gain strength, courage, confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.’”  Roosevelt reminded us not to be daunted by our fears.  People must face them head on, recognize them for what they are, and handle them in the best possible way.  There’s victory in overcoming fear.

An English naturalist Charles Darwin (18091882) wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”  Interestingly, the more people know the more they realize how little they know.  But some people work at enhancing their own reputation.  Robert Kiyosaki (b. 1947), a businessman, author and motivational speaker said, “Confidence comes from discipline and training.”  When all is said and done people have to be well-trained, and disciplined to succeed in life.  This ought to be through hard work, dedication, and persistence.

@ (Dfurstane) Website    

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Prayer for Healing

Prayer for Healing

O God! Help us during these challenging times.  We have been hit by the coronavirus that’s reaping havoc in our midst.  To whom can we turn, but to you, to find release from our isolation and this pain.  As a result tens of thousands around the world have died terrible deaths from this disease.  There have been countless hospitalizations with many patients on ventilators, and our loved ones are forced to live in isolation.  When will there be relief?  When will this epidemic pass? God enable those working on the front lines to develop a vaccine, so that people could eventually be free from this deadly affliction.

In addition, America and other nations around the world are in crisis.  Your people are crying out for justice.  God put it in our hearts whether we are able-bodied, handicapped, gay or straight that we all have compassion.  Let us see that we are all equal in your sight, and we should love our neighbors as ourselves.  And God help our legislators and justice systems to uphold the tenets of equal justice in the land for all men and women of different races, national origin, and creeds.

Omnipotent and Merciful God, please hear our prayer!

@ (Dfurstane) Website

Sunday, June 14, 2020

50th Wedding Anniversary Tribute

50th Wedding Anniversary Tribute

Fifty years ago today my parents were married. Three years and one day before their wedding, the Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia. Coincidentally enough, my parents moved to Virginia ten years later and where they live to this day. But the first house they were supposed to move into was "no longer available" when my white mother was joined by my black father to sign the lease they agreed to over the phone. The Fair Housing Act passed in 1968. This happened in 1980. This is just one of their experiences of discrimination over decades of marriage.

I would not exist without a landmark court decision. I was born and raised in a loving home by parents who emphasized advancement through education and unconditionally supported me even when they weren’t exactly sure what career I was pursuing (“Matthew, remind me again... what is a genetic counselor?”). However, a major civil rights law did not stop my parents from being denied their first home merely because of the color of my father’s skin.

It’s beyond obvious that Black Lives are valued less in our society. It’s equally clear that we must fix this. Some change may come from the courts or from new laws (please vote), but nothing changes unless we support individuals and groups who are tirelessly fighting on the right side of history.

In honor of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, Shannon and I have donated $5,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Thank you to everyone who has already joined this fight and for those who have reached out to offer support to our family over the last few weeks.

Although my parents would never speak of themselves as pioneers, they are. I admire their courage and resolve, and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities they've given me. Thank you mom and dad. I can’t wait to celebrate with you in person.

Matthew & Shannon Thomas

Friday, June 12, 2020

50th Wedding Anniversary

50th Wedding Anniversary

Oh! How life has been good to us
And has graced us with such amazing gifts
What else could we ask?
Loving God, “We thank you!”
It isn’t only us you have blessed.
It’s our family, and friends who have walked with us.
They have comforted, and helped us along the way.

To all our anniversary well-wishers, “Thank you!”
You were with us on this journey of challenges
But as we faced these realities we grew stronger
For such blessings, “We thank God!”

To honor this day June 13th, 2020
We light a candle of hope and look ahead.
“It isn’t just getting older,” we say,
“But wiser in mind, body, and Spirit”
Nor must we forget to thank our son Matthew
And daughter-in-law Shannon,
For being wonderful blessings
Plus all the members of our family and friends,
Who have support us along the way

 Let our candle continue to burn
And let us pay homage to the Divine in our lives,
—The Supreme Being guiding us
And like radiant beauty of life we welcome
The golden flowers that have sprung in our garden
“Omnipotent and Omniscient Creator! Thank you for guiding us these 50 years,
And blessing our marriage; be with us as long as we shall live.”
@ (Dfurtane) Website   

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Compassionate Living

Compassionate Living

"Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength."
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, as quoted in Words Of Wisdom: Selected Quotes by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (2001) edited by Margaret Gee, p. 71.

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World is a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and even neuroscience.  His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he has become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisions no peace unless there is peace among religions; 3) every religion’s uniqueness; 4) the meaning of religion today—the Dalai Lama sees a religious believer as one who collaborates in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness is working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—of which he has no clue what will happen.
Still the Dalai Lama presents the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He put his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who are Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong was also most pertinent for the 21st century too. Armstrong uses the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it means to live compassionately. She envisioned twelve steps, but thought that such an approach could take a life time. In the introduction to the text readers are introduced to the major faith traditions, and concepts based on compassion.  Later Armstrong weaved these steps carefully by explaining what people ought to do to benefit from them. At each step they are presented with a discussion about how to use each teaching. These compassionate goals were carefully calibrated, and based on the major religions. Although every goal could stand alone, Armstrong was able to integrate the goals of each affirmation with an explanation.

This book was able to relate each topic to contemporary issues. Armstrong recognized all of us have problems with which we are struggling. She explained how important it was for us to transcend the thinking about ourselves. Armstrong wrote that people should reach out to the good and bad aspects of life alike. People should treat others the way they would like to be treated. This dictum should also include our enemies that are suffering just like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her 2008 TED talk on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus her thinking as a religious historian and interfaith advocate on the promulgation of the Golden Rule, and compassionate living in the world.
@ (Dfurstane) Website

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Routledge Handbook of Religious Naturalism

The Routledge Handbook of Religious Naturalism 

“Not when truth is dirty, but when it is shallow, does the enlightened man dislike to wade into its waters.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher

The Routledge Handbook of Religious Naturalism was edited by Donald A. Crosby and Jerome A. Stone.  The handbook is divided into several parts:
• Varieties of religious naturalism and its relations to other outlooks
• Some earlier religious naturalists
• Pantheism, materialism, and the value-ladenness of nature
• Ecology, humans, and politics in nationalistic perspective
• Religious naturalism and traditional religions
• Putting religious naturalism into practice
• Critical discussions of religious naturalism

Religious naturalism focuses on the world and its sacredness. An examination of early religious naturalists is analyzed with commentaries.  The religious faiths of Buddhism, Shawnee, Daoism, Christian, Judaism, and Confucianism present perspectives of religious naturalism in their traditions.  In some cases there are disagreements about their beliefs, but often there’s overlap with the recognition of the importance of nature.

With religious naturalism there isn’t a belief in sin, heaven, or the resurrection like the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.   With religious naturalists faith and hope are based on scientific proof.  In a sense their beliefs are dualistic in nature for they see the world as “sacred” as opposed to “profane.”  This was unlike the belief in Zen Buddhism that isn’t dualistic.  In the indigenous Shawnee’s and Buddhist faiths people are viewed as being in a real way interrelated with other species of their environment.  There isn’t a hierarchical structure like people in the West who consider themselves over other species.  And when it comes to an afterlife, according to religion philosopher Loyal Rue (b. 1944), people when they die will disintegrate with nature for there isn’t a soul.