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Preliminary Design, coming next month: All eyes will be on the design plan coming in August for our church parking lot and Peace Stones.  Our church leaders will present the preliminary design and engage our congregation in offering feedback.  Now in July, having removed diseased trees, we arein a quiet period of executing a survey of our lot, recording the elevations, and allowing the architect and engineers to design the best outcome and way forward for our church.  We await with much anticipation.

 Timely pledge payments:Following through on our pledge contributions is critical when the demands are great on our church. As you make your financial contributions whether by check or online payment, remember to note if your contribution is for our Operating Budget (OB) or for

Great Expectations (GE).

 Blame and Vain:There is no small amount of blame going around on the unending war in Iraq.  Few in our Congress actually voted against the invasion but the worst predictions concerning the consequences of military adventures are, sadly, coming true.  In July we fly the flag and many of us sing, "bombs bursting in air," as our National Anthem, but not only on Memorial Day do I think of lives lost in war.  I think at other times when we fly the flag –Independence Day, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day— how each generation has its war, some generations more than one war, and how easy it is to be caught up and march to "the drum major instinct," as Martin Luther King, Jr., often said.  King was criticized for infusing his non-violent ethic into foreign policy and the subsequent wars of southeast Asia in which our country was involved at the time.

 I don't think I've heard a political leader suggest that any soldier ever died in vain, or that a veteran now suffering from combat injury paid such a price in vain.  But what do family members of soldiers lost and suffering veterans think?  I think there are needless wars in American history and wrong-headed and misguided decisions, no matter how well-intentioned or patriotic those decisions and causes seemed at the time.  I think there have been flat out mistakes, creating death and destruction that was unnecessary and in vain, for soldiers and civilians.  Elected officials are typically loathe to say such things for fear of being unpatriotic and losing elections. But I have thought ever since my generation's war, Viet Nam, that we, as a nation, ought to acknowledge the men and women who enlist in good faith who occasionally (maybe often) die in vain, for a wrong-headed or misguided cause. Telling the truth about the ambiguity and fog of all wars might buffer the next generation from becoming overcome by the drum major instinct, inherent in us all.  And we might prevent misadventures in the name of nationalism.  And it might be patriotic to speak such truth.  We might regard lives lost more dearly. I'm reminded of what one Benedictine draft counselor monk said to me years ago, "Each generation must be taught about war." These things I will be contemplating this Fourth of July as, I hope, all citizens will be doing each time someone is singing, bombs bursting in air.