Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Who Gets the Last Word?


Whose Side is God On, Anyway?


“God is on our side.”  I hear a lot of people saying this lately.  Yes, there is the verse in Romans 8 that says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  And I believe that in the sense that Christ died for our sins--yes, God is now on our side.

But that doesn’t mean we can hitch him to our individual wagons of likes and dislikes—politics, economic systems, cultures, or even our favorite sports teams.

A sobering reminder of this can be found on old Nazi SS uniforms (Hitler’s elite soldiery).  Their brass buttons said (in German, of course) “God is on our side.”

Fortunately for our current civilization, He wasn’t.

My conclusion is that no matter what we claim about whose side God is on, He reserves the right to say, “I’ll be the judge of that.”

God gets the last word.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Reflections on an Inauguration


Thoughts for an Inauguration

By M. Frances Erler


Every four years, we swear a president into office.  About half the time, it’s a new one, not the one who served the previous term.  People tend to talk about how our system of democracy works, as each transition passes.

          I’m not going to comment on this year’s transition, though.  My thoughts are being drawn to an inauguration that took place 60 years ago.  Can it really be that long?

    Recently, I came across an old paperback of Robert Frost’s poems and noticed in the back of the book, the poem Frost wrote for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in January 1961.

          I was eight years old, and in third grade then.  I remember that our teacher brought a black-and-white TV to school, so we could watch it.  Technology was not a classroom fixture back then.  In my mind’s eye I can see the gray-headed Frost reading his poem in the snow and cold wind.  Then the wind blew his papers out of his hand.  But he continued from memory.

Too young to have understood any of the poem back then, I was fascinated to read it with my adult eyes this past week.  In one place he says:

“There was the book of profile tales declaring

For the emboldened politicians daring

To break with followers when in the wrong,

A healthy independence of the throng,

A democratic form of right divine

To rule first answerable to high design.”


Years later I read Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, and now I understand what Frost was saying—that we as citizens and politicians in a democracy need to remember we are still answerable to a higher power, a moral compass, if you will.  Our personal needs are not the measure of all things.  There is a greater good.  Frost concludes his poem with these words:


“Firm in our beliefs without dismay,

In any game the nations want to play.

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.”


Yes, many had high hopes for the presidency of JFK, a new era, maybe even a “golden age” as Frost intoned.  But Robert Frost died in the winter of 1963,  and JFK was assassinated the following November.   Now I think I envy Frost because he didn’t have to live to see the dream die.

In one of those ironies of life, an eleven-year-old paperboy from Gary, Indiana was at that 1961 inauguration.  He and several others had won the trip by selling subscriptions to the Gary Post-Tribune.  That boy would become my husband a mere fourteen years later.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Her Name Was Linnie


When I was about seven or eight, my parents hired an African American maid to watch us kids after school when Mom had bridge club.  She also did the ironing while she was at our house.  I remember her running the hot iron over a Colonial Bread wrapper, to get the wax melted on it.  This made it really smooth out the wrinkles in the clothes, I guess.

          My brother was three years younger than me, so he doesn’t remember her.  She was to my childhood eyes an older woman, with maybe a little gray in her hair.  Soft-spoken, but I could tell she was a loving person  If we wanted to talk, she listened.  I don’t think she tended to start the conversation, though.

          Both of my grandmothers lived in other towns, so for those years, Linnie became a surrogate grandma for me.  I never felt uncomfortable around her, like I did with my ‘real’ grandmas sometimes.  I guess I didn’t see them enough to know then well.  

          One evening, Linnie stayed late and made supper for us.  I’m wondering if it was the night my youngest brother was born.  She warmed a can of cream of chicken soup, using water to dilute it.  Mom always used milk, so I thought it would taste strange.  But it was fine.  Every time I make a can of condensed soup with water now, I think of Linnie.

          I don’t know for sure who brought Linnie to our house.  Maybe Mom went to pick her up while I was a school.  It’s odd the things you don’t notice when you’re a child.  She was just there when I got home, and then she went home somehow when her work day was over.

          Once, though, she needed Mom to drive her home, so we children went along.  This was the only time I saw where Linnie lived.  It was in a shabby part of El Dorado, Arkansas, with only dirt streets, and little rundown wooden houses.  It looked rather sad.

          After we’d dropped Linnie off at her house, I remember asking Mom: “Why do the colored people live in such poor places?”  (The N-word was forbidden in my family, even then in the 1950s.)

          “It’s not their fault, Frances,” she said quietly.  “People who are poorer than we are in things are still just as good as people.  Always remember that.”

          I can still picture this entire scene, even though it took place at least 60 years ago.  The words my mother said took on more and more meaning for me as the years went by.  She went out of her way to make sure we didn’t look down on any of the poorer people who lived in our town.  I never knew, until many years later that her childhood had been lived in poverty, too.  Out of it she forged an understanding of all people less fortunate, and compassion for them.  It’s one of the best legacies she left me.