Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category
We get Chinook winds here in northern Colorado that can get up to 100+ mph. The strength and force can blow over even the strongest trees. That happened recently to some trees we had up on our mountain property northwest of Fort Collins. We don’t live up there full time, but when we went up there recently we found some of our largest, even healthy looking trees toppled over, uprooted completely from the ground around the rocks and boulders with the roots exposed.
It reminds me of how vulnerable our country and government administration is right now. The media running amok with ‘leaks’, compromising influences, immigration bans, repeals, etc. further adds to the already weakened, wobbly foundation. Add to that all the protest marches of people taking their gripes, complaints, personal vendettas and agendas to the streets with chants, signs and slogans like ‘a day without immigrants’ to change what they can’t, or won’t abide by, and we have a volatile situation that can only get worse, not better. If things continue as they’re going ‘We the People’ will destroy and topple what was set up to protect all when our country was founded.
Everyone has an immigrant story to tell. My grandfather and his family were immigrants from Odessa, Russia who set down roots, and established a life based on the values our country set forth in the constitution. He went through legal channels, became a U.S. citizen, was naturalized, and valued every right and freedom in this country. He voted his candidate choice, but he did not put down others who voted differently, or disagreed with him. If he disagreed on something, whether one in political office or another who wronged him he did not pick up a sign and take his offense to the street, but chose to pray over it instead of protesting over it. He carried a bible instead, and lived by the principles in it, with respect for others, regardless their political perspective, faith or life choices. If only we could return to the things that really did ‘make America great,’ what a wonderful country we would have. Like him or not, disagree if you want, but we now have a man who is trying to do that, for the good of all people.
In the New Testament bible (Matthew 13: 3-9) it tells about Jesus’s parable of the seed sown. He talks about the seed sown by the sower planting a crop. Good seed goes down deep in the soil where there are no rocks or boulders obstructing its growth. It takes root and nothing but the forces beyond our control will topple it or blow it over upon itself. Seed scattered and tossed among the rocks and weeds will be easily uprooted, blown over, and not grow. We are known by the fruit of our tree. Good seed was planted in this country when founded, and the constitution enacted. It rooted, grew, flourished and prospered. But, today much of that root system is in jeopardy of toppling a great tree.
There will never be harmony or unity here in our country when thousands choose to defy all that our president is trying to do for the whole of this country. Wisdom comes in knowing how best to reflect our voice, disapproval or disenchantment of things we don’t like. Marching in the streets, shouting chants, carrying signs, does little to affect real change. It is just a lot of noise, and fodder for CNN News.
Joyce E. Johnson, 2017
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jan. 15,1929-April 4, 1968
Our nation honors today a man who reflected the values he lived by. His life represented all the things this country fought for, men and women died for, people marched, demonstrated and stood for. Our country knows well the violence, death, destruction, prejudice and bigotry that marred its history. This man took up the fight for civil rights and liberties so all can enjoy the rights and freedom that comes with walking the streets without fear or retaliation, prejudice, injury or death because of their color. Eating in a public restaurant at any table, attending the school or college of their choice without being bussed across town, riding in the front of the bus instead of walking to the back, serving in the military, all of the things this man hoped to realize in his lifetime, but did not. He marched not to the beat of a drum, but with chants and voices raised, and thousands followed.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who did not cower to those who mocked him, distrusted him, despised what he stood for and tried to change. He was a man of honor, of faith, one who loved God, and relied on Him in everything he did. He was a pastor, but he was also a rising political leader with a dream, and a vision. He stood before 250,000 thousand people who came to hear him deliver his, ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington, D.C. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, yet gave it up for the cause of peace to further the work he started.
It was not just for the people of color that he stood up to protect. Preaching about the love for all men and women, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness from a pulpit was his platform for the message he hoped to deliver, the dream he wished to share. Marching down the streets in Birmingham, Alabama was his way of demonstrating it with those of the same color and standing with those who had the same dream, that one day we all could get along, no matter our color, faith or lifestyle, and no matter our political differences and perspective. But, Martin Luther King’s dream was shattered. Down through the years we’ve become more a nation of distrust, division and disruption. There are those who choose to act out their prejudices and disfavor with violence and acts of terror. Hate is demonstrated in many forms. Evil will find a way to rear its ugly head. Martin Luther King Jr. did not live to reach the finish line of his march. He was shot down, by the bullet of an assassin on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.
Can we work together, unite for the cause of peace, live together in harmony? We have nothing more to lose that we have not already lost. But, we have everything to gain, what we hope to achieve, yet have not realized, if we have a dream.
Joyce E. Johnson (2017)
On July 4th, 1776, a group of men from thirteen colonies came together to sign and date two important documents of the newly established United States of America. We were united as, “One nation under God, indivisible with life, liberty and justice for all.” Today, we are a country with laws looking more muddled, manipulated and misinterpreted.
Will God forsake a country founded on the principles of a democracy created to serve and protect all, regardless their color, faith, background or lifestyle? No. But, can he bless one that has so drastically moved away from the founding principles by which it was created? The pendulum swings in a different direction today, the country so divided, the parties so diverse. We can affect change from lessons learned in our history, but not if people don’t want to learn from its mistakes. There seems little likeness anymore to the original constitution created when our first congress came together, unified in spirit, like-minded.
Our laws today allow us to live however we choose, marry the same sex, change our sex, and silence the voice of the unborn, with little conscience of what we’re doing. The Muslims can meet, pray and attend their mosques, but a Christian’s rights are scrutinized, questioned, defended in court, and not allowed in our schools. That is not ‘equality’.
People want laws to keep guns out of the hands of killers. But, guns are only a means to a killer who will gain access to a weapon regardless of the kind, or how it is defined. If the intent is there to kill, he/she will find a way, and a weapon because there is evil intent in his, or her heart to begin with. Guns can still be found on the black market if gun laws are instituted, and those needing the protection with one have none.
People want to secure our borders, keep terrorists from coming in, but our country is already hosting and harboring thousands of refugees allowed into the country. Many more have gained access across our borders via Mexico with lax measures in place by illegal immigration. Terrorists can be recruited on the internet, even build their bombs from instructions found there.
Yet, how can this country pass judgment on those who enter our country illegally when thousands of unborn babies die every day in this country? Can we still expect God to bless this country? Are we living in grace, or disgrace when that kind of murder goes on? Where is the ‘justice’ for the unborn when our supreme court justices are appointed by a president who supports and allows such a law?
Is this the America we created when our U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence was signed? No! It is a new America. One that is in trouble, one only God can fix. Can we, “Make America great again?” (Trump). That depends on whether we are willing to get on our knees and pray, seek and acknowledge God, and trust him to heal our land. “Come together, work together?” (Clinton). Only if we are united under God, will we stand together, but divided without him, we fall.
“We the people… to form a more perfect union…” With reported scandals, dishonesty, and accusations seen in both of our presidential candidates we are wondering who we can trust to lead us. We are a country torn asunder, not one striving to form a ‘more perfect union’. We are states in despair, struggling to get along, agreeing on little and it keeps us in a pervasive civil unrest.
II Chronicles 7:14 (Old Testament Bible) says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will 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.” This was God’s covenant to Solomon after he built the temple for his people. Who will we choose to reside in our temple (White House), and sit in our congress?
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
Spring brings everyone outdoors once warm weather hits like a brilliant sun on a clear blue sky. Everything seems new again; blooms with delicate petals opening like arms raised to the sky in praise. Grass and trees with new buds so small it is hard to see with the naked eye, but slowly we begin to see new growth and even the birds and small game come out to celebrate the new season.
This squirrel nest is in our neighbor’s tree which hangs its low branches over the fence and into our yard, so from our back yard swing I am able to see the trees as they turn green in the spring, or yellow gold in autumn.
I have watched and wondered about whether the nest might get knocked out by a strong chinook wind, or blowing snow storm. When I saw no activity near it I even wondered if it was abandoned. But, one recent morning I noticed a squirrel climbing out of it as it hopped down onto the branches below.
Our dog, Maggie loves to go after the squirrels in our yard who are plentiful anymore, often hurrying along on the top of the fence racing to the end before she can lunge at them, but they know she is not fast enough or large enough to gain advantage over them so they tease her, screeching, twitching and snapping their tails as if slapping at her. They seem carefree, unafraid of anything happening around them. I watch them, and think, what if we could have that same feeling of unconcern in our world and take each day without anxiety, or stress.
Life can be unpredictable, never certain. We face the realities of our times, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves in, and our world can seem in jeopardy of falling apart. It can be our home, our comfort zone, or our very life that can hang in the balance because there is no monopoly on our tomorrows, only a down payment on our todays. What we put into our ‘todays’ can affect what we leave behind. A legacy that defines us, like a footprint left in this world where we’ve walked can make a difference. Recent events, terrorist attacks, political upheaval, the election woes with its unpredictable outcome, whatever it is, catastrophic storms or events can bring down our nest, our world. A strong wind can shake us, upset our nest, but a storm we have no control over can destroy us.
There is much said about securing our borders, our transportation systems, our investments, economy.” but, it is my own ‘nest,’ my own foundation that I am more focused on building and securing. Sure, I will make my mark, vote my choice, express my voice, but all else I leave in God’s hands where I can trust His judgement, His control, not that of a campaigning candidate, or world leader.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
The news last Friday of the passing of Harper Lee, author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize award for her bestselling novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and her more recent, Go Set a Watchman was perhaps the spark that ignited the controversial civil rights movement. Her characters, Atticus Finch, his daughter, Scout and son, Jem became embroiled in the lives and events of their friends and neighbors. The fact that they lived in a town in Alabama’s south where their neighbors included both white and black people put them in difficult positions, while taking sides to defend that which they felt the need to preserve and protect; tolerance, equality and fairness, whatever one’s race or color, leaving an imprint on their lives from that day forward.
The subject matter she wrote about in her novels dealing with issues of race discrimination became nothing less than a volatile time bomb erupting during the civil rights era with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., cutting short his realization of the ‘dream’ of equality for all, and his own fight to protect and preserve the same.
Today again, we see the rise of conflict, and a feverish animosity of hatred and intolerance whatever one’s color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or lifestyle. It is like the beginnings to a crescendo pitch of the civil rights era all over again with demonstrations, shootings and mistrust in a country that was founded on the principles of equality for all.
I was a teenager during the civil rights era and remember well the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and found myself on both sides of the conflict. I had friends who were black, but I also felt the fear of rape and victimization of those of color whom I felt I could not trust with good reason as I was stalked and followed home from work one night fearing I could not get home in time. We also lived close to black neighborhoods. Later, the aftermath and rape of one I knew, and having been a witness to the crime left me bitter, and fearful, living across the street from where it was committed.
But, it is the hate instilled in one’s heart, whether or not they inflict harm, or worse, death on one they stalk, or target that becomes an even worse crime.
February is designated as a month when Love is encouraged, emphasized and sold by the millions in advertised products and displays. But, need it be just one month, or one day only that we show kindness, love, fairness, equality, tolerance to those who are not only different from us in color or style? Can we truly choose to love one, regardless of who they are? Does it need be only the ‘dream’ of one man of color who lived his life in peace, and demonstrated it, so that love and equality could be realized in this world, not merely dreamed?
1 Corinthians, chapter 13 is known as the ‘Love chapter.’ It says in chapter 13:4-8 (NIV), “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” And, finally, in verse, 13, it says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I choose to love.
Joyce E. Johnson © 2016
An old ketch of mine from many years ago of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and George Washington
The above sketch I did so many years ago that I cannot remember when it was. At the time I had been watching the campaigns of candidates running for president and read up on some of our former presidents, and found an old photo of these three from which I could practice my sketching. I was not an American history buff, but have always followed the presidential candidates, their platform, ideologies and campaigns so I could make an informed decision on who I wanted to vote for on election day.
But, this year will be what I think one of the most decisive election years I have ever seen as the American people watch with feverish anticipation, their attention riveted to the debates, repetitive news media coverage, interviews and promises made by the White House hopefuls.
What should we expect? Who can deliver what they claim they will do for the American people? Will they even be able to when we witness continued civil unrest and conflict on our streets? Opposing sides differ and argue on issues that range on everything from immigration reforms and securing our country’s borders, to the justice, or lack of concerning the guilty of crimes against one group, race or another. The refugees and illegals that push across our borders and the terrorists that merge undetected inside them with no forthcoming answer or solution raises our alert status to unprecedented levels. The list of issues goes on with no end to those that exist as new ones arise. For a newly elected president he, or she has the insurmountable task to lead our country into a safer, more secure place where people can live in peace and harmony with prosperity and equal rights for all. Will we ever see a time when everyone believes their voice matters, that they can live their life without intrusion, obstruction, compromise or fear?
But, whomever that one is the people choose next November it is ultimately God who remains in control, regardless what they can or hope to do, and that is where I place my greater faith and trust. I pray that God will grant us grace and wisdom, that it is His plan put into effect, and that He is invited to reside in the White House, and in our Congress, because His presence has all but been eliminated, and we see what happens when He is pushed away.
Joyce E. Johnson (2016)
Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson, 1998
World Trade Center Twin Towers, New York City, April 1998
It was April 1998, when my husband, Wayne and I took this vacation, and these pictures. We flew into New York City to Laguardia airport on a weekday, picked up a rental car and traveled north up to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, across upper New York to Niagara Falls, down through Pennsylvania, in to Maryland, Washington D.C., Delaware and back into New York City and Staten Island before leaving for home from Laguardia. It was a whirlwind trip in nine days as we covered all of the upper northeast and New England from the east side to the west and back again in a loop.
While in New York City those final three days we took a ferry-boat over to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Battery Park. As we toured scenic sights of Manhattan taking pictures we stood in front of a memorial at Battery Park dedicated to the early immigrants who came ashore to the U.S., processed through Castle Gardens there before Ellis Island opened up in 1892. It was a very emotional time for me as I walked about that park, looking up at the Statue of Liberty and wondering what the immigrants thought, what they saw when arriving through the portals of our country’s immigration processing centers.
My grandfather and his family were Germans who came over from Odessa, Russia, and were processed through Castle Gardens like thousands of others. Enduring hardships, making sacrifices to come over to America immigrants by the thousands came over on ships, hopeful to begin a new life here. They were as diverse in color of skin, religion, faith, occupation, and status in life as those in our country today. But, the one thing that bound them all together was their desire to begin a new life in a better place than the one they had come from, and live it in freedom away from tyranny, and anarchy. Poor, destitute, seeking a new life in a country offering so much, to those having so little, they came, hopeful, committed, and excited to become an American.
New York was at that time the primary gateway into America. The hope of prosperity, the right to choose their own destiny, occupation and the promise of an education gave them a sense of purpose without rules and regulations enforced upon them by a dictator.
My grandfather was only three years old when they immigrated. His greatest dream was to become a naturalized citizen and vote in a real election for his country’s president. He worked hard, got an education and cherished every day and moment he had in life to be all he could be with God’s help.
As I stood in front of Battery Park taking pictures I was amazed at how tall and large the Twin Towers of the WTC were, as they towered above all other skyscrapers in Manhattan. Such a stark contrast to all the rest of those in the skyline they were like beacons to our country’s business district, icons of the American dream of success.
Who would have believed that just a few short years later we would see the annihilation and obliteration of the World Trade Centers’ Twin Towers, and attempts made to destroy our country’s capitol, and the pentagon as well? The horrific event on September 11, 2001 killing almost 3,000 people will live forever in our memory and hearts.
As Americans we owe a debt we can never repay to our military servicemen and women for what they did so we can have this freedom. Having fought, or died in wars protecting it we can only support them, honor them, pray for them, and thank them for their sacrifice, and service. This is my way of paying tribute to them, to our firefighters, and police officers for what they did then, and do now to protect our lives and freedom here in the U.S.
May we never forget.
I am re-posting this blog post today, in commemoration of the fourteenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York city.
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)