Means of Grace – Jerusalem Cross

Jerusalem Cross

A couple notes on the pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

Chapter 3 is a barnburner.

Chapter 4 discusses that faith is a reckoning not just a spiritual feeling.

There’s a prayer at the end of each chapter. It is somewhat of a summary of the chapter but also a progression upward toward the pursuit of GodIt is somewhat of a summary of the chapter but also a progression upward toward the pursuit of God.

Be present at our table, Lord

table grace

sung to the Old 100

UMC Hymnal # 621

Be present at our table, Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
Thy creatures bless and grant that we
May feast in paradise with thee.

Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage

from Thinkr

from book Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage.

Praise the Father, praise the Son (with lyrics) by Hillsong


Ideas on love by Bob Lepine

Your good is my goal, should be a driving force to maintain love for a lasting marriage. It involves commitment and self sacrifice.

Philippians 2:3-4

Psalm 34:3

Initial thoughts

(This is far from finished and far from ready to be shared.)

Thesis: Work toward a more just, inclusive, and harmonious society, for everyone.


  1. What we’ve learned and are learning.
  2. Tenets of faith in God and Christ that come to bare here.
  3. Challenges of reducing racism and for the underprivileged.
  4.  What we need to do.


(1) What we’ve learned and are learning.

  • Racism is still here, significant, and disturbingly widespread.
  • This discrimination casts fear into and takes a negative toll on black citizens.
  • In the past 400 years, black people suffered severe oppression for 350 of those years. In the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act some black people have been able to gain success, but there are long-term effects and enduring effects of racism which are significant.  Discrimination is still here and widespread. We need to work to help people overcome these effects.
  • The view of the history of the US is different for black Americans than ‘white Americans’ (the history that is usually emphasized in US history textbooks).
  • We can’t flip a switch and turn it off. It will probably be with us perpetually. What we need to do is work to reduce it and minimize it.
  • Terminology make a difference to people. We need to learn and use the proper terminology.
  • This time around, after George Floyd’s death, there is a bigger movement than in the past (we’ve had demonstrations, rioting, and looting in the past) against racism and police brutality.  Bigger: geographically in US and outside, involvement, groups and organizations and businesses making statements against racism and police brutality (even the AMS-mathematicians).

Understanding systemic in our society:

(2) Tenets of faith in God and Christ that come to bare here.

  • All people are created and are a child of God.
  • All people are are created, by God, equal.
  • We are called to love our neighbors.
  • We are called to meet the needs of our neighbors.
  • It is our job to build one another up.
  • Humility is a trait we need to strive for.

(3) Challenges of reducing racism and for the underprivileged.

(4)  What we need to do.

  • Lament over the discrimination that continues in our country.
  • Continue Learning (which is includes “unlearning”) and understanding.
  • Relationships.

Listening, understanding, relationships, rapport.

Work toward a more just, inclusive, and harmonious society.

In this time, when we are listening and learning, so that we can work for a more just, inclusive, and harmonious society, it is good to look to God’s love and powerful grace, remembering the words of Isaiah 64:8 and Philippians 1:6. ‬

Learning: Race in America, by Phil Vischer.

Discussing and describing unconscious bias in schools, Phil says, “Are the teachers racist? No. Are they affected by bias?  Yes, and it affects black students every day.”

Phil Vischer does not offer solutions. He asks us to do one thing: Care.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17 NIV

Clint Smith says ,”Everyone should approach this moment with a level of empathy, a level of humility, and a willingness to step into conversations and think about things in ways that you might not necessarily been willing to do so beforehand.”

Consider: Blind spots…Your brain on autopilot

I wrote to Jim Dallmeyer:

I think it’s a watershed period for our country.

We have to be able to build trust, relationships, and rapport.  We (each of us) need to grow on a personal level.

I hesitate to use the phrase “take the next step*” (our country is ready to take the next step to reduce racism) because (as we are realizing) this is an ongoing growth process.

Isolated things such as new laws, new government spending, or even the taking down of a statue** will not grow trust, relationships, and rapport. I think we are realizing that we need (continually, and indefinitely) work for a more just, inclusive, and harmonious society.

There is no flipping of a switch or ending of racism.


*One does climb a mountain one step at a time – so, OK, let’s take the next step.

**laws, spending, and statue-removal feel good (OK, for you left-ists, spending money that doesn’t exist feels real good – haha-I couldn’t resist) but are mere bandaids and may not do a lot of good long-term.

Empty and pious platitudes (without works, faith is dead). Shouts of enough is enough.  We’ve seen the story over and over: A few days of headlines, a few days of protest, short-lived initiative, hallow acts of repentance. A spark of hope is dosed by something else comes along to grab the headlines or financial resources are inadequate.

A piece of legislation that tempts us to feel as if we’ve done something. Not just increased awareness and ‘sensitivity’ without changes in the culture and the way people interact.


OK: An honest conversation that can create a movement for lasting change // responsible // pulpit into the pews into the world // transformation

A journey that intentionally walks into the pain, knowing that lament, confession, a deepened awareness, a deliberate plan, a change of heart, a conversion, an acceptance of a changed heart, and a deepened commitment to change the story will bring about the change we all long for and desire.

As MLK said.

We have people that are unheard (and disrespected and unappreciated and more). We need to improve communication. This is the hard challenge. We don’t know how to communicate very well.


  1. Civility
  2. Respect
  3. Honor
  4. Glory
  • (Number 4 is for God. The first three are for humans.)
  • God told us what to do: Love our neighbors. Unfortunately, he didn’t provide in a book somewhere the specifics of how to do it. He does sometimes provide us some specifics through prayer. in any case the first three on the list require intentional effort, and the characteristics that Christians are to learn and display (the characteristics that God teaches).


Police brutality is wrong. They are to serve and protect. The use of force needs to be balanced and appropriate, remembering that they are here to serve and protect.

Tweet: (video)

29 sec. video

We don’t want more chaos.  We don’t want to destroy. We want to build up. Find the root of the problem and destroy it.


WE 22 statement from 22 coaches at Arizona State University

Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change (TED panel):

  • “Everyday people need to get involved.”
  • Racism is like water pouring over a floor with holes.  It will find the holes.  We cannot accept charitable solutions to structural problems, but we have to work for actual structural change.
  • Now is not the time for reform around the edges.


A couple comments on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. I do believe that the lives of black people matter. The lives of everyone matter, but I believe it is warranted to have a BLM movement to call attention to the many issues involving racism and that black people are still discriminated against in our country.   However, the BLM movement has become a bit too multi-faceted. See


  • Shock that our country would act this way.
  • Grief over the killings, brutality, destruction, and that our country would act this way.
  • Outrage that humans would act this way.

Things to Understand/Realize

  • All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • There is police brutality.
  • To be effective, police do need to use force.
  • There is, often unintended and imperceptible, systemic racism.  It is ingrained in the culture.
  • Privilege exists. There are those is society that are more privileged than others. (It is generalized as ‘white privilege,’ but there are whites who do not have the privilege and there are non-whites who do have  privilege.)
  • Anger, hate, and the mob mentality will lead people to do things they normally would not do.
  • We can not have anarchy in an society.
  • Education makes a difference.
    • It can help reduce our (listed above) problems.
    • It can help people to be successful.

Issues to Work Out

  • Police learn to use force in a balanced way.

Attitudes and Values We Need to Cultivate

  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

Things to Do

  • Build relationships, especially with those who are not like us.
  • Learn to show not just civility, but respect and honor for all.
  • Find ways to empower people, especially the underprivileged.

Actions to take


Not good enough

  • we’ve got to do something. Doing a ‘thing’ won’t solve racism.  We need to work at reducing it and work at building up people and relationships. It’s an ongoing growth process. It’s not “doing something.”

In summer 2020, after the death of George Floyd there as been a huge amount of discussion about racism.  I have done much reflection (which I won’t log/detail at this time) and discussed it with people. My four take-away’s/goals I am setting for myself

  1. Continually grow my awareness,
  2. Develop relationships,
  3. Build people up,
  4. Cultivate opportunities for people.

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Excellent hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Author: John Greenleaf Whittier (1872)

Whittier started as a shoe salesman (as did D L Moody).  He was an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery.

Most of the verses can be used as prayers.

There are quite a few town (and a college) named Whittier, including Whittier, IA (unincorporated), just NE of Cedar Rapids.

Music Videos (all have lyrics)

  1. With beautiful scenery.
  2. Sung in Westminster Abbey.
  3. Nice version with pictures.

Need to look up

Michael Rydelnick touched on some things to look up

The matzoh bread as a symbol for Christ body. For example it was pierced.

The wind as a symbol for Christ’s blood.

At the last supper the wine was in the 3rd cup. Why the3rd cup. There were 4 cups all together.

Coronavirus, 6 days later, post

Some reflections. Wow, it’s been quite a wild ride already. Written 3/17/20.

Marilyn, I, Rachel, and Diane went to Washington, DC for spring break (March 7-12, 2020). The coronavirus (COVID-19) was already a big concern before we left home.  Luke decided not go.  Good decision.

We had a great 5 days, going to the (new) African American Museum of History and Culture, the (new) Museum of the Bible, a great Segway ride, Mount Vernon, and the Chart House restaurant.

We were scheduled to leave Thursday (March 12), so that I could attend a 2-day math conference in Chicago (which ended up being cancelled).

Wednesday (March 11) night, after we walked home from the Chart House, the Internet lit up.  Things came crashing down and the snowball really started to roll.  They cancelled the NCAA ‘Big Dance’ basketball tournament, the NBA, and on and on (I could list 50 more examples, but I won’t).  Thursday morning, as we were getting ready to get on the plane for home, all the newspaper headlines were ’emergency,’ ‘panic button,’ ‘ring the bell,’ etc.  As we sat in the airport, all my spring math conferences (for example) and everything was being cancelled.  By the weekend they closed the Smithsonian museums (some 20 or so).  So, we can say we were some of the last few hundred to go through the new African American Museum of History and Culture! For me, that Wednesday evening, 6 days ago, will stick in my memory.

We are so glad we had plane tickets to come home Thursday, rather than staying a whole week. The plane was only 2/3 full.

WIU will have no classes for an extra week after spring break and then we are to deliver our courses in an ‘alternative format.’  We/I have started the planning for that.  I will not be turning Math 100 into an online course (for many reasons).  The instruction will still be at the normal meeting time, MWF 11-11:50 am.  We will use Google Hangouts Meet.Old wood bats

The Macomb HS students were on the Denmark trip.  It was decided to have them come home early.  It turned out, just in the nick of time.  President Trump has now restricted planes coming in from Europe. (Again, more could be said. This is a news report. This is a reflection.)

We did have one Sunday of church worship (3/15).  It was very settling for me.  Pastor Scott Grulke had on the schedule (which was set months ago) the sermon topic of healing.  He gave an excellent message on healing. I got to do the children’s sermon and also be the second adult in the youth SS class.  I enjoyed it. Kathy Grulke is a wonderful teacher with a great personality and approach.  OK, next Sunday, and for the foreseeable future we will not have the congregation in church but putting the services online.Two sections of today's paper.

Today I took a run. I’m glad I can still do that.  I’m scheduled to run a half marathon at the Drake Relays. OK, that might not happen.  I’m following Jeff Galloway’s half marathon prep plan.  I’m thankful it’s going pretty well.

On my runs I’ve been listening to The Gospel In Life podcast sermons by Tim Keller.  They are great.  He is doing a lengthy series on sin.  Wow, you’d think it would be a downer, but Pastor Keller is wonderful at teaching for understanding and showing that being rooted in God and trusting in Jesus is the good news.  It is amazing to me how each sermon in the series is different and how he seems to take it to a higher (deeper) level as the series progresses.  It is a good series for me.  We need to continually humble ourselves and be rooted in God and trust in Jesus.

Walking back from my run I had two fairly long, driveway discussions with neighborhood men/friends.  One (retired) neighbor was cleaning out his garage. We had a nice chat. He was actually getting rid of a couple old ball bats (no one in his family wants them).  He gave them to me.  Classics, Stan the Man (yes, with black, electrical tape, Mick Steiner) and Al Kaline Louisville Slugger wood bats.  MLB greats from my childhood.  So something positive came out of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Today’s newspaper had two sections (see pics).  There is no Sport Section, but it is a section inside a section (starting on page B3).  There is no Scoreboard page!  There are no scores to report!  It is just a bunch of reflections, for example, Bradley’s very good BB team, who had their dancing shoes taken off when the Big Dance was cancelled.

I’m thankful I have Marilyn.  (Marilyn, BTW, got up at 5 am this morning to work at the Illinois Primary Election, so I’m reading the newspaper alone today).

OK, I need to wrap this up. I need to write emails to my students and get ready for the Communications Team meeting at Wesley Church (it will be done remotely) tomorrow.

I’ll end with some concluding reflections.

  • We were unprepared for this emergency.  I’m not sure that would could have been.
  • This rates up there with September 11, in my lifetime, in terms of the idea of We Live In a Different World Now.  I think the long-term impact on the economy may be greater than the impact of September 11.
  • Our world has come to a screeching halt.  We probably won’t be able to go on the mission trip, which is generally the best week of the year for me.
  • For the last 6 days our heads have been spinning trying to figure this out.  It is a struggle because we like to solve problems and plan for the future, but we can’t really plan for the future.
  • We are getting better understanding what is fundamentally important and foundational (which is typical of emergencies).  Faith, family, and the 2 great commandments come to mind.
  • The church is needed more than ever.  We need to work together more than ever.  God is on the throne and Jesus is Lord.
  • At some point, perhaps in another week or so, when our heads aren’t spinning so much, we can start creating new models for doing things. Necessity is the mother of invention. For example, could we have a men’s Bible study using Google Hangouts Meet?

(I’ll close with the disclaimer I’ve mentioned already.  This is a reflection and not a factual news report. The examples a mathematician gives are frequently abstract, with no claim that they are the best, or only, examples.)

May you experience Grace in Pilgrimage.

Jim Olsen, March 17, 2020