From Jon Meacham last night on MSNBC’s All In, when Chris Hayes asked for the historical context of possible criminal charges against former president Donald Trump:

What are we going to do when a huge chunk of one of the two major political parties … would still walk through fire for this guy? That’s a central problem that no legal action can take care of.

(For) those of us who think … Trumpism is a virus … (we must say) that … the Constitution matters, the rule of law matters, the Declaration of Independence matters.

If we don’t … we’re going to be locked into this endless reality show, and the problem … is that it’s not a show. We’ve seen that on January 6th (2021). … I believe firmly that this generation will be judged by our success or failure at standing up to a totalitarian impulse in the United States.

Meacham quoted Thomas Paine’s January 1776 Common Sense statement that in some countries the king is law, but in this soon-to-be-birthed country, the law is king.

From “Thomas Paine,” by Norman Provizer, The First Amendment Encyclopedia, Middle Tennessee State University

A double dose of grace

It was a double dose of grace. In Sunday School, John Draper introduced us to the teaching power of children. In worship, Stephanie Arnold told us a Jesus story about the healing power of refusing to categorize people.

Part of a hymn by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” connected with my soul. “Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to cover all my sin; let the healing streams abound….”

John showed excerpts from John McCain and Barack Obama at the Al Smith Dinner in October, 2008. Today’s us versus them atmosphere reveals an attacker’s weakness. Respectful good humor reveals one’s strength. We saw excerpts from eulogies given for McCain by Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Plenteous, refreshing grace.

An unintended consequence

In 1974, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, preventing an indictment. I thought he did the right thing to put Watergate behind us. Now, I think Ford should have let the judicial process run its course before issuing the pardon. Ford’s preemptive pardon created an unintended consequence. Michael Beschloss said an indictment and conviction would have sent a clear message to future presidents that they are not above the law.

Donald Trump is telling his supporters that he will be arrested this week. He’s calling for protests.

I pray for calm, for our legal system to work without fear or favor. Justice is a societal expression of love. I pray for Angeles Arrien’s call for “the way of the Visionary” in her book, The Four-Fold Way: “Tell the truth without blame or judgment. Nonjudgmental truthfulness maintains our authenticity, and develops our inner vision and intuition.”

I need this way. I see it as our universal need. On March 4, George Conway tweeted:

A bit lighter

Long ago, while attending school and serving as a pastor, my dad was in the office supply business. He kept me in file folders. I became a file-a-holic. Years later, when a friend showed me how to “drag” data to a “folder” on a personal computer, it seemed magical.

Yesterday, I began to travel a bit lighter. I dragged an enormous amount of data to the “trash can” at the bottom of my computer screen–Spring cleaning in cyberspace. Fully 90% of the material I’ve been “filing” is archived elsewhere, by others, available to me 24/7.

In 3.5 years, I haven’t needed any of the “back up” material I’ve “saved” for these posts. It’s easy to retrieve material via the WordPress search function. It’s the same with other resources. All that stuff is in the “cloud,” which leaves me free to roam planet earth.

“Emptying” the digital trash can is much easier than the one I haul to the street. No heavy lifting. I know it’s pure psychology, but my laptop now feels a bit lighter.

From “How to declutter your digital space,” by Marijana Stojanovic, Clockify, March 7, 2023

The Main(e) Thing

Yesterday morning, while it was still dark at West Quaddy Head, my day began on the right note by reading Heather Cox Richardson’s March 14, 2023 installment of “Letters from an American.” She wrote of anti-slavery Mainers who migrated west and helped shape America. The historian’s every word was well-crafted. From her conclusion:

In 1859, Abraham Lincoln would articulate an ideology for the (Republican) party, defining it as the party of ordinary Americans standing together against the oligarchs of slavery, and when he ran for president in 1860, he knew it was imperative that he get the momentum of Maine men on his side. In those days Maine voted for state and local offices in September, rather than November, so a party’s win in Maine could start a wave. “As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” the saying went.

So Lincoln turned to Hannibal Hamlin, who represented Maine in the Senate …. Lincoln won 62% of the vote in Maine in 1860, taking all 8 of the state’s electoral votes, and went on to win the election. …

I was not a great student in college. I liked learning, but not on someone else’s timetable. It was this story that woke me up and made me a scholar. I found it fascinating that a group of ordinary people from country towns who shared a fear that they were losing their democracy could figure out how to work together to reclaim it.

West Quaddy Point Lighthouse, Lubec, Maine, from “The Sunrise Views From The Eastern Most Point Of The U.S. Are Truly Unforgettable,” by Beth, Only In Your State, January 21, 2020

One and done, sadly

Pat Summitt was a basketball legend at Tennessee. She excelled in developing players’ skills. Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to 25 consecutive NCAA tournaments. John Calipari has led three schools to basketball’s Final Four. He has an eye for talent, though this season has been a disappointment (so far) for his Kentucky team. When at Memphis, Calipari turned out several “one and done” players–those with such skill that NBA teams drafted them after just one year as a college player. This puts great pressure on a college coach to rapidly maximize a player’s ability.

This year, for the first time in the school’s history, the University of Alabama men’s basketball team is the number one seed in the NCAA tournament. The team has been only an occasional participant in the tournament through the years. My late friend Charlie Hayes introduced me to “bracketology,” picking the winners of every tournament game before the tournament begins. I thought of Charlie yesterday morning when I completed a CBS Sports 2023 bracket. Alabama’s #1 seeding was a “once in a lifetime” feeling, like Appalachian State’s upset of Michigan in 2007.

Alabama freshman Brandon Miller is expected to be this year’s number one NBA draft pick–ending a “one and done” career at Alabama. Sadly, it has been scarred by Miller’s connection to a murder, and by head coach Nate Oats’ unfortunate response to a reporter’s question about the incident. Gun violence in the US is so prevalent that it can numb our consciousness. This year–in many ways “Bama’s year”–on the hardwood, will be remembered for Miller’s dramatic “one and done” season, and for the memory of a tragic death that will accompany it.

From “Alabama’s Championship Push Arrives with Murder Indictment,” by Billy Witz, The New York Times, March 10, 2023

Shaping our priorities

It’s hard to imagine a more timely, more urgent topic than priorities. We’re facing several simultaneous global crises, including whether democracy will remain a priority among the nations of the world. Ideologies of authoritarianism are challenging the effectiveness (and even the legitimacy) of democracy.

Recently, I was asked to submit a podcast for Pray Together UMCNA, a series of weekly podcasts about prayer produced for the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church by my friend Lyn Cosby. It’s 8-minutes. I said, in part:

… when I was a child, I decided to make prayer a priority. Over the decades, my understanding of prayer and my experience with prayer expanded my horizons and deepened my consciousness. I noticed that by making prayer a priority, the Spirit was changing all the other priorities of my life. Now, in my early 70s, my top priorities are inclusiveness and intentionality.

In this week’s podcast Rev. Ted Leach shares how making prayer a priority might just change all the other priorities in your life.The Pray Together Podcast is posted on Sundays. Search for Pray Together UMCNA on iTunes and other popular platforms, or click here to listen online.Visit our Facebook page for commentary and discussion opportunities.

Worldly priorities

Megan Don’s meditation “Prayer Leads to Purpose” captures the essential balance of what Elizabeth O’Connor (1921-1998) called the “journey inward/journey outward.” Don points us to Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582):

At the age of forty, Teresa … returned to her prayer of quiet … and as she walked further on her spiritual pathway, she came to understand that this external Beloved also “rests within.” It was to this place that she would constantly return to receive guidance, love, and a feeling of deep peace that she could not find elsewhere. 

… the mystical life is often lived in the world, even though it is not of the world. … displaying an extraordinary energy for the work required. This energy is none other than the divine force working in and through this willing worker of the Beloved, and it far surpasses anything we human beings can do alone.

Tomorrow: How prayer shakes up our priorities

From “Publications,” at Megan Don’s website


This was the second of eight Sunday mornings that I’m working with youth around the issue of confirmation. For some, it’s an introduction to some basic themes of faith. For those who haven’t yet been confirmed, it’s an opportunity to make a statement of faith and become an official member of the congregation. The church goes to great lengths to declare in its life and message that everyone belongs (already). This makes it easier.

We’re exploring the six priorities that the congregation established a few years ago. As we go through this process, I’m examining my life to see whether and how my priorities mesh with these congregational priorities. Last week we focused on practicing hospitality. Today we focused on embodying diversity.

After a break for spring holidays, we’ll resume our study by exploring the last four congregational priorities: doing justice, encouraging authenticity, creating an inclusive community, and embracing tough questions. The young folks’ approach to these pertinent topics encourages my faith and stimulates my thinking.

We Are All Uniquely Awesome,” by Natasha Lamb, asks “What is Diversity?” Natasha and her deaf sister Kelly-Ann Lamb collaborate on videos promoting British Sign Language, via YouTube