Monday, July 18, 2011


     I have heard no argument against having a balanced budget at any level.  It is always a good idea for individuals and families to have a spending plan that includes the servicing of any debt as well as day to day expenses, and something left over for savings.
     And I have heard no good argument against any local or state government having a balanced budget.
     I'm fairly sure we can all agree that it is a good idea for even the federal government to have a balanced budget, although it has been very rare indeed in our history.  Even before the constitution was written, we were in debt.  There was, after all, a reason for the saying, "not worth a continental."
     The problem is, if we require a balanced budget through a constitutional amendment, there will be consequences, foreseen and unforeseen, that will be unacceptable to one party or the other, or even both; and in case of some disaster, whether natural or man caused, it could contribute to our response as a nation being even slower than it already is by restricting the ability of congress or any other part of government to act decisively.
     If there is a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget, it could be construed as mandating draconian tax increases or new taxes.  It could also be seen as requiring drastic budget cuts, even to Social Security.  There will certainly be something for everyone to hate.
     There is one other concern I have not heard anyone mention.  If such an amendment became part of our constitution, and congress and the president did not come up with a balanced budget, do we really want some federal judge to order changes in taxation or impose a budget on this country by court order?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


   This column was published in the Spokesman-Review June 18, 2011 and is used by the kind permission of the author.

Christ challenged the 'purity system' by teaching compassion, justice

by The Rev. Paul Graves

     To call Jesus a subversive in first century is a harsh judgment.  But it is also accurate.
     He was born into a social and religious culture that, centuries before, had been designed around a "purity system."  It seemed to begin with the purity code found in Leviticus.
     In Leviticus 19:2, we read these words belonging to God; "Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'"
     Holiness was understood to mean "separation from everything unclean."  Thus holiness meant the same thing as purity.
     A whole social, economic, political and religious structure was built around the social vision of purity.  people, places, things, times and groups had their "proper places" in society.
     So Jesus grew up learning those cultural and religious expectations.  He was told God was holy/pure and "that's just the way it is."
     Yet as he matured, he experienced God in a dramatically different way.  He experienced God as concerned with justice for people and with compassion.
     What should he do with that contradiction between his culture's conventional wisdom and his deeply personal experience of God?
     In his book "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time," Marcus Borg asserts that "Jesus deliberately replaced the core value of purity with compassion.  Compassion, not holiness, is the dominant quality of God, and is therefore to be the ethos (fundamental character of the community that mirrors God."
     Jesus' subversiveness may not seem so radical for many of us today, but he was a dangerous man in his time.
     When he said "Be compassionate as God was compassionate' (Luke 5:36), he proclaimed this imitation of God as more accurate than Leviticus' "Be holy as God is holy."  His gauntlet was thrown down!
     Jesus criticized a system that emphasized tithing and neglected justice (Luke 11:42).  He spoke of purity as what happens inside, not on the outside (Mark 7:15).  His "Blessed are the pure in heart" (Matthew 5:8) meant to lift the burden of the so-called impure people by challenging the rigidity of that very purity system.
     The beloved parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of how we settle for a watered-down interpretation of his actions because, usually, we don't understand the background of the parable.
     We normally think of the Good Samaritan as a "good neighbor."  And he was.  But Jesus had more in mind.
     The priest and Levite who didn't stop to help the "half-dead" traveler were obeying their highest allegiance to the purity codes.  Being near or with dead people was seen as an act of impurity.  They didn't know if the man was dead or alive, so they took no chances.
     Perhaps they actually felt some compassion for the man, but obeyed their purity training and allegiance to that code.  The "impure" Samaritan was not bound by that code, so he was free to follow his compassionate urge.
     All of this makes me wonder about the different social and religious visions found in our Christian churches, and our own personal visions.  Where do we fall in the spectrum between an inclusive vision of compassion and an exclusive vision of purity?
     Jesus treated everyone with inclusive compassion.  Some couldn't handle that approach, so they rejected him.  I see the same thing happening today, church-to-church, Christian-to-Christian.
     It really makes me wonder: We who say we are followers of Jesus seem divided by that inclusive, compassionate vision.  Why do we insist that shutting "certain persons" out is what Jesus wants us to do?

     The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is founder of Elder Advocates, an elder care consulting ministry.  He can be contacted via e-mail at


            [This was originally posted May 31 on Cousin Sam.]

     Most of the posts in this blog are concerned with the who, what, when, where, and how of the people to whom I am related, or at least connected.  This post address the why.

     One of the most important things in a family's history is what the members of our family did with their lives.  That, at least in part, is why I am including here a link to a syndicated column by Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, which was published May 30, 2011.   In the Miami Herald the headline was "Doomsday preacher wrong in more ways than one".   Here in Spokane, the Spokesman-Review gave it the headline, "Focus on life, not mortality", which I think is more to the point.  It is one of the best I've read on the subject in a long time, and I believe everyone should read it.

     Where Mr. Pitts stated, "It suggests mortality is a thing to be feared," I was immediately reminded of the words of Shakespear in Julius Caesar (Act II, Scene IV):

Caesar:   Cowards die many times before their deaths,
               The valiant never taste of death but once:
               Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
               It seems to me most strange, that men should fear:
               Seeing that death, a necessary end,
               Will come, when it will come.

     See also Anthony's oration in Act III, Scene VI:

               Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears;
               I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
               The Evil, that men do, lives after them;
               The good is oft interred with their bones;
               So let it be with Caesar!

     And where Mr. Pitts said, "Seasons change, years pile upon years," Ecclesiastes 3 (King James Version) comes to mind:

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born , and a time to die ; a time to plant , and a time to pluck up that which is planted ; 3 A time to kill , and a time to heal ; a time to break down , and a time to build up ; 4 A time to weep , and a time to laugh ; a time to mourn , and a time to dance ; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together ; a time to embrace , and a time to refrain from embracing ; 6 A time to get , and a time to lose ; a time to keep , and a time to cast away ; 7 A time to rend , and a time to sew ; a time to keep silence , and a time to speak ; 8 A time to love , and a time to hate ; a time of war, and a time of peace.

     Mr. Pitts concludes, "The key word there being, live."  This takes me to Deuteronomy 30:

15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.  

"Get done what you came here to do, give the gifts you meant to give, do the good you’re able to do, say what you need to say."

     I do not believe that salvation is about what you know, or who you know by name, but rather it is most importantly about what you did or did not do for the least among us: Matthew 25 (King James Version):

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come , ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred , and ye gave me meat : I was thirsty , and ye gave me drink : I was a stranger, and ye took me in : 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick , and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying , Lord, when saw we thee an hungred , and fed thee? or thirsty , and gave thee drink ? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in ? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed , into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred , and ye gave me no meat : I was thirsty , and ye gave me no drink : 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in : naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying , Lord, when saw we thee an hungred , or athirst , or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying , Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

     It does not say here that the righteous were religious, or that they had even ever heard the name of Jesus before this moment, but He received them, and they Him.  But those who thought they would be saved because they knew His Name, and followed all the rules of their religion, met instead with everlasting punishment.

     The purpose here, however, is not to condemn,  but rather to say, be encouraged.  We have some great examples of people who have done what they came here to do, given the gifts they were meant to give, said what they needed to say.
     Col Lloyd Robert Salisbury, is a great example.  His father was an attorney who argued Indian treaty rights before the Supreme Court and instilled in Bob strong values about respecting the environment, advocating for people of color and doing the right thing.  When he was 17, Bob left the Episcopal Church because they would not admit his black friend.  This was in 1934, and his family were prominent members of St. John's Cathedral in Spokane.  Bob graduated from West Point in 1941 and was immediately deployed to England where he awaited the great invasion.  Entering France on D Day +2, he served in the artillery of the 90th division under General George Patton, marching into Paris, surviving the Battle of the Bulge, liberating concentration camps and finally meeting the Russians at the Czechoslovakian border.   He left Europe as a Lt. Colonel and was assigned to the Pentagon where he wrote a white paper advocating the integration of African Americans into all military jobs.  When the Korean War broke out, he served on General MacArthur's staff, helping to implement the Truman order to integrate combat units.

     I posted his complete obituary May 3, 2011 in this blog.  I only met him a couple of times many years ago at funerals, and knew very little about him until I began to research our family history a few months ago.  And I'm sure we all know of many more great examples.

     One of the fundamental rules of interpretation is the rule of consistency.  Any interpretation not consistent with who and what God must be if He really is God must be rejected.  Any interpretation not consistent with the clear words of received Scripture must be rejected.  Any interpretation not consistent with observable, testable evidence, must be at least suspect, if not rejected.  This holds whether you follow the Bible, The Koran, or any other form of Scripture.  Where the Scripture speaks clearly, we are bound.  Where the Scripture is silent, we have liberty.

     Anyone who sets dates for the end should not be followed.

     Anyone who calls for the extermination of others in the name of his god should not be followed, for God is a God of life, and we are not the judges, but he is the Judge.  (This is not to say that we are not to exercise discernment, or that we should not defend ourselves in the face of evil.)

     And anyone who says that we will escape tribulation in this world should not be followed, for that flies in the face of the clear words of the very place of Scripture where those who suggest a "pre-tribulation rapture" get the term, "rapture": 1 Thessalonians 4 (King James Version):

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep . 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

     This is clearly a resurrection event.  Those who hold to a dispensational interpretation of the Book of the  Revelation and hold that it is a sequence of future events must admit that at chapter 20, the "Great Tribulation" is over, the end of this age has come, Jesus has returned, and the millennium is beginning: Revelation 20:

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image , neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished . This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

     The Scripture is clear.

     Before Dispensationalism appeared in the 19th century, The Revelation was generally viewed as Idealist / Allegory, particularly by most of the Reformers.  This view is much less problematic.


     [This and the posts of Morning and Evening Prayer and the Mid-day Prayers were originally posted in a much different and abreviated form as a single post under the title "Shiloh Prayer Requests".   Shiloh was the place where the tabernacle was set up for the first time in conquered Canaan, and where Hannah prayed for a son.  That was my namesake, Samuel, who was brought back to Shiloh as a young boy to serve God.
     I thought it convenient for my own use to put together an editable, copy-paste friendly form of these prayers.  I also thought others might find them useful, much of what I have so far found on line being difficult to follow for anyone not familiar with them.  These posts are a work in progress.]

     "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. "  2 Chronicles 7:14
     "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee."   Psalm 122:6
     "Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks."   I Thessalonians 5:17-18
     "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed . The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  James 5:17

                                     BEFORE MEALS

LEADER:         The eyes of all wait upon thee, O Lord;
RESPONSE:     And thou givest them their meat in due season.
                                                                                                     PSALM 145:15

LEADER:         Thou openest thine hand;
RESPONSE:     And fillest all things living with pleantiousness.
                                                                                                     PSALM 145:16

LEADER:         Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
RESPONSE:     As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

LEADER:         Bless O Lord this food to our use and us to Thy service.
                    Give us grateful hearts for all Thy mercies bestowed upon us,
                    And keep us ever mindful of the needs of others.
                    Through Christ our Lord.

ALL:              Amen.



Sunday Morning.

        O God, Who makest us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of Thy Son our Lord ; vouchsafe us this day such a blessing through Thy worship, that days which follow it may be spent in Thy favour ; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.     Amen.

Sunday Evening.

        O Lord, Who, by trampling over the powers of darkness, didst prepare our place in the new Jerusalem, grant us, who have this day given thanks for Thy resurrection, to praise Thee in that city whereof Thou art the Light ; Were, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, Thou livest and reignest, one God, world without end.  Amen.


                                            General Requests

    For the President of these United States, and for the Governor of this State, and for all who are in authority; for Congress, and for the Legislature; for our City and County governments; for the Supreme Court, and all our courts and judges; and for all who are in public service.

     For pastors, and for all who minister in the churches and among the people;  for teachers, and for all schools, colleges, and universities.

     For all who travel by land, sea, or air;  for all prisoners and captives;  for all who are in sickness or in sorrow;  for all who have fallen into sin;  and for all who, through temptation, ignorance, helplessness, grief, trouble, dread, or the near approach of death, especially are in need of prayer.

                                    Praises and Thanksgivings

     For rain and sunshine; for seed-time and harvest, for the increase of the ground and all the fruits thereof; for the products of all honest industry; and for all good gifts and graces, temporal and spiritual, to us and to all people.