Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday, Baptists, Thai food, latte, sunshine and basketball . . .

The last few posts have been a bit heavy. There are heavy things going on in the world and in my heart.

But today was Saturday. The rule is that one should do what he or she wants to on Saturday, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. I needed to have a bit of fun.

Today I went to a Baptist meeting in Birmingham. Now I know at first blush that does not necessarily sound like a light hearted day, and especially, some of you might be thinking, for a United Methodist Wesleyan kind of guy like myself.

But, my friend Becky had been working for a long time on this particular event and it looked promising. It was a celebration of the new Baptist covenant. The morning featured great sessions on issues of poverty, injustice, racism, education and health issues. After checking in at the Civil Rights Institute I went over to the 16th Street Baptist church where Wayne Flynt led a session on poverty. The fellowship hall was packed out. Then it was up to the sanctuary, a bit early, where a worship service was going to be held at 10:30. The choirs, dancers, and dramatic readers were practicing. It was awesome.

Then in came Jimmy Carter, who was the main speaker for the worship service. I cannot adequately describe the worship service. The music was incredible. There were probably a hundred or so folks in the choirs, about two thirds of which sang from both sides of the balcony. The dancers were beautiful. The dramatic readers from Troy did a presentation of God's trombones creation story. (Apparently that is where the phrase "darker than a million midnights in a cypress swamp" cited in a previous post, came from). The choir's main anthem was U2's MLK, covered by the Birmingham Chamber choir.

Jimmy Carter is amazing. His main point was one we all need to hear, that all of the issues that we are all so passionate about are important, but secondary. First the body of Christ must have unity in the essentials (which is very Wesleyan.) Then we can address the matters of disagreement with more success. The feeling of unity created by the worship was so refreshing.

After the worship service we walked out into the brilliant sunlight and the cool air. Hundreds of people were hanging out, eating lunch. I saw several friends and stopped and talked. I spotted James Evans and once again introduced myself like the fan that I am, bless his heart.

But we talked too long, and they ran out of lunches. So, it was a sacrifice, but we went to Surin. Then to O'Henry's. Then the long way home with the top down on the convertible.

Then I got home and remembered that Alabama was playing Georgia tonight. A quick trip back to Tuscaloosa to see a win.

A good Saturday. Thank God.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Killing time . . .

Capital punishment is the killing of a human being by the state. That is to say more accurately, by you and me.

In Alabama, our executions are usually done late at night, or early in the morning, down in south Alabama, far from population centers. The identity of those who administer the lethal drugs is a secret. But make no mistake, you may not know when the execution will take place, and you probably couldn't find the institution where they take place, but it is your will that directs the hands that inject deadly poison into one of God's children.

Jesus will not cut any slack for rendering the wrong things to Caesar.

So this is personal. We cannot wash our hands of this. What would be sufficient reason for you to strap a stranger down, push needles into him him or her, and flip the switch that begins the chemical flow that first paralyzes the body, then collapses the internal organs?

That person strapped down is no threat to anyone anymore, hasn't been for years, living his life in a 8 x 8 cell, except for an hour or so each day to go out into the area just outside the cell for a little exercise. He or she probably did the horrible, horrible thing they were convicted of. Maybe not. But probably. How certain do you want to be before you kill him? Because as long as it is done, it is you and me that is doing the killing.

But Bob, you may be saying, he did such horrible things. He deserves to die.

But if we do this, we are killing too. Not to defend anyone. So why do we kill? We don't make that call. There are laws, right? Only the ones we have allowed Caesar to make. It is our decision. When is it okay for you and me to kill a child of God?

But Bob, surely the victims and their families deserve justice. He deserves to die.

A life for a life is revenge. Is revenge the peace we offer the broken hearts of a victim's family? Once it is done, it cannot be changed. But that is ultimately why we kill. We want to kill. We want revenge. And we can let the folks at the prison do it. It's their job.

But it's our will. We are the killers.

I don't know when it is right for you and me to kill intentionally with pre-meditation.

But how can it be wrong not to kill?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dead man walking

Last night I saw the Birmingham Southern production of "Dead Man Walking," the play by Tim Robbins based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean. The play will run through Friday night at the College Theater, at 7:30 p.m.

I have not read the book on purpose. I did not think I could handle it. (See my post entitled "That's Why I Cry," back on December 17, 2008.) Sister Helen recounts her experience as a nun who, with no previous prison ministry experience, becomes the spiritual counselor of a death row inmate who is ultimately put to death.

I was right. I could not handle it. However, through the tears and sniffling I did manage to see and hear the production. Many things are impressive about the play, but two things stand out today.

First, Prejean and Robbins were fair. While clearly opposed to the death penalty, all the emotions and pain of the victims and their families were equally and powerfully represented. Society's failure to deal with the victims of crime was as strongly criticized as the death penalty itself.

Second, the play was authentic. The reason I was so affected by last night's performance was that I had heard much of the dialogue before. Not in a book.

The attitudes, comments, questions, reactions, even the humor of Sister Helen, her condemned friend Matthew Poncelet, the victims' families, the corrections officers, the lawyers, the governor, and society reflect the universal dynamics of what happens when the State schedules an intentional death.

As Prejean is sitting with Poncelet shortly before his execution date, he is getting another Marlboro out of the box. Prejean comments, "You know those things will kill you." They both laught. Ghoulish? Certainly. And real. Nervous laughter is part of waiting for the death date to come.

I hope that if you have a chance, you will go to BSC theater this week. There are many, many examples of the fairness and authenticity of the play, but since you may go to the play, or read the book (maybe I will now), I will not go into any more detail and let you discover them yourselves.

As I was driving home I was still thinking about the play. The phrase that I remembered, and I am sure Robbins and Prejean wanted me to remember, was, "It's my job."

At every level of the death penalty process, the characters carrying out the wishes of the state of Louisiana would excuse themselves, often with regret, by saying, "It's my job."

I was praying about it as I drove along, making the observation to God about how impossible it seems to do anything about the death penalty because of all the real, honest, intense emotions that were so accurately portrayed by the young troupe. I prayed that He would do something because I know that nothing can reform the human heart other than the power of His love.

Then I thought I heard a still quiet voice saying,

"I am here. I will help. But it's your job."


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


In order to get out of these bad economic times we must spend more money that we do not have. Apparently this is a well accepted truth of our national economic policy. I do not doubt that it is true for the short term. Okay, maybe I doubt a little bit. But it's probably true.

I just wonder sometimes how things really are. Just thinking out loud now. I don't have any evidence for what I am about to say. Just wondering (or wandering).

For decades the American middle class, the workers, has taken hits. While corporate management and investors have lived in a golden era of obscene salaries and profit, workers have lost benefits and real wages. This has not just happened in the past few months as the economy declined. This happened during the economic boom. The industrial labor force diminished in numbers and power as our economy shifted from industrial to service based. Unions lost power. A power, that to a great extent, has not been replaced in the middle class that works in non-industrial jobs. A portion of corporate profits were nothing more than gains made from worker benefits no longer paid.

Now, in order to save business, which has been so benevolent, middle class America is told to spend. Get under the sofa cushions and find spare change and get out there and buy, buy, buy. Max out those cards. Don't save. That would be unpatriotic.

So maybe, after the consumer militia has waged a heroic war, shopping without regard for life or limb, our way of life will be saved through spending cash. Long live the green.

At the end of it all, middle class workers will have heroically propped up those businesses that have screwed them for more than a decade. Salvation through consumer spending or government bailouts, on the tab of the middle class.

And the middle class worker will have a job. No guarantees of any lost benefits or protection against wage reductions. And a tax bill that will keep coming for decades.

If the present economic stimulus bill passes as proposed, the price tag will be close to a trillion dollars. Add that to what we have already bailed out, and you're closing in on two trillion dollars.

That would be about six or seven thousand dollars for every man, woman and child in the USA.

Why do bailouts have to start at the top?

Because they wouldn't work by starting at the bottom with the workers? Yeah, it's been working so good the other way.

When this bailout thing first started last fall, I joked about just giving the taxpayers the money and let them spend. Now I'm not sure it's so funny.

The workers have been trickled on long enough. The guys at the top have proven what they can do. Maybe we should just hand out the bailout checks directly to the people. Let them decide who is worthy of a bailout.

Maybe it's time for the last to be first. Sounds crazy doesn't it? What kind of fool would say something like that?

But everything is crazy. Amazon dot com is advertising an Obama Chia head for sale this morning. You know, a bust of Obama that, when you water it every day, grows grass hair.

So another means to save the economy. Go to Amazon and buy one. It's an act of patriotism.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Of Nard and sound systems . . .

You remember the story in John 12 when Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) breaks open the expensive jar of perfume made of nard, pours it on Jesus feet, and massages it in with her hair?

Some standing close by, one being Judas Iscariot, criticized Mary for wasting the expensive perfume, which could have been sold and the proceeds used to help the poor.

I went to a church yesterday that I had not visited in over a year. They had recently completed a major renovation project creating a new worship space out of a sixties style fellowship hall. It was expensive. No corners were cut. I sat in the congregation and basically salivated at the thought of leading worship there.

I am sure some were critical. Is it worth the money? What kind of mission work could have been done instead?

But yesterday alone there were three baptisms, adult and children. Two services in the room are filling up after only three weeks. I imagine average worship is already up by a hundred or so at least. Worshippers are excited. And the excitement is contagious. Which means more will come to worship. And those that come are challenged to live as Christ. Yesterday the crowds were challenged to feel the rhythm of forgiving and being forgiven. No softballs there. But the people are coming to hear the challenge.

Notice part of Jesus' response in the Mark 14 version of the story:

"I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told . . ."

God loves us extravagantly. With ridiculous abundance. He wants us to love Him the same way. And we should want to. Sometimes even if it doesn't seem to make sense.

There was a joy in that church yesterday for what had been offered to God for His purposes.

I am Judas, more often than not, in this story. But sometimes the Judas anong us have to be reminded that God will multiply what we give out of love for Him in faith, whether it be fishes and loaves, or mortar, brick, lights, and a super cool audio/video system.

So here's to the Mary's among us, who have chosen the better part.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

All are Created . . .

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted . . . "

Excerpt, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, in Congress, July 4, 1776.

There is a debate in the United States about legally sanctioned torture of human beings. There is a debate in the United States about imprisoning human beings indefinitely without due process. There is a debate in the United States about the extent to which the government can violate the privacy of citizens without due process. The debate has heightened in the past week in response to President Obama's executive orders and official statements which signal an eventual end or signficant restrictions to these issues of human rights.

Fear, cowardice, ignorance and laziness have caused us to forget who we are.

We are Created. Not by any government. We can debate and believe differently about who or what did the creating. But there is no debate that the individual existed before this government or any other was created. That notion was a pillar in the foundation of our declaration of independence and our constitution.

Our fear has caused us to forget. The rights of the individual so highly proclaimed by the Declaration and embodied in the Bill of Rights were supposed to be inalienable. For all. No mention of nationality. They are acquired by being Created. Inalienable.

We have become so twisted, so far from the bold experiment launched by that small band of visionaries in 1776. Government had no rights to give. They were already given. Government's only purpose was to preserve these rights. When it fails to do so, allegiance to that government should be dissolved. Treasonous? Revolutionary? Sure. But that's what we were about when we started.

I go along with Patrick Henry. Life without liberty is hardly a life worth living.

It is ironic that so many in our country that desire a "Christian nation," are some of the most vocal in support of these violation of human rights. Forgotten is the message of 1st John 4:18,

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

Idealistic? No doubt. But we who find God through Jesus are called to that ideal.

Do you really believe that when Jesus was holding the Roman coin in his hand and said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," that He was advocating giving Caesar anything?

No, in typical Jesus fashion, He was saying to us that the question is important and one for which we are accountable. What do we turn over to Caesar? What do we turn over to God?

Security? Caesar or God?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cloudy day . . .

I just got back from Camp Sumatanga. I was there for only a couple of hours for the beginning of a Walk to Emmaus.

Sometimes, especially in times of stress, I withdraw into myself. I think that is part of our natural self-preservation instincts left over from the ancient days when food was scarce and we had to fend off wolves and weather with jawbones of dead animals and rock outcroppings. Every (person) for him or her self.

When in the self-preservation mode my eyes never get too far from the ground under my next step.

But occasionally something makes me lift my eyes. Camp Sumatanga and Walks to Emmaus are two of those things. I am doubly fortunate because I get to be at both on nights like this.

The main thing I miss when my gaze is fixed on my feet is that great cloud of witnesses that surround me. I think Paul the Apostle coined that phrase "great cloud of witnesses." I am not sure whether he was talking spiritually, like the spirits of saints who have died, or physically, like the people who are very much alive that surround us and support us. Some of you theologians feel free to post a comment-ary if you wish.

Tonight at the Walk to Emmaus at Camp Sumatanga it didn't matter which way the phrase is supposed to be interpreted. I was blessed to look up and experience both. There was a preacher who I knew before he was a preacher, just a motorcycle driving, guitar hacking elementary school principal. A couple of Sundays ago he preached in a Superman costume. There was another preacher I knew before he was a preacher whose heritage is Barbecue. He has a singing voice like none I've ever heard. I have heard foghorns that were similar. Another preacher was there that could be Kevin Bacon's lost twin. They all made me laugh just seeing them again. But there were times in my life when they all touched my heart. They still do.

There were non-preachers there too, thank God. A beautiful woman who I once shared a dressing room with. And she can sing too. A wordsmith who could turn a phrase on a dime, and write a poem to make you laugh or make you cry or both, quicker than I could find a clean sheet of paper. There were many I had sung to and sung with, creating music like none I have heard anywhere else. Others who had laid hands on me and prayed, sometimes when I could not pray for myself.

And the spiritual cloud was hanging around too. A dry-witted preacher who was very much a kindred spirit and supportive co-leader. An old rock and roller CPA who helped me learn how to lead music (I've still got a banjo he gave me. I still can't play it). A grizzled old grandfather who began his talk about Christian Action with the words, "If you pray for potatoes, you better grab a hoe." A retired railroad engineer who used to place his hands on my shoulders with grip like a steel vice and pray. And many, many more. Such a great cloud.

Even in my stress mode, I sometimes can vaguely feel the great cloud of witnesses, living and dead, that surround me, supporting me, loving me. But the thing about clouds, you gotta look up to see them. And when you do, oh what a beautiful sight.

For more information on Camp Sumatanga

For more information on the Alabama Walk to Emmaus

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pointless post?

I was meeting with a bunch of guys this morning. We have this accountability group that meets every week. We've been meeting for several years. You would think if we were any good at it we would all be straightened out by now. But we still meet.

Anyway, a couple of the members of our group are deer hunters. They really enjoy it and occasionally are successful, often heading off to south Alabama to thin the herds. They tell some great stories of all the effort and time that go into a successful deer hunt, all aimed at those moments of sitting in a stand and waiting for the deer and the perfect shot that may come, or it may not. I can't divulge anymore detail than than because what is said in the group is confidential.

One of the deer hunters regaled us with his most recent exploit, which resulted, finally, in bagging a deer, after extreme effort and perseverance. I don't think you "bag" a deer, but I can't think of the right word right now. He finally killed one after much effort.

The next person in our circle of accountability is not a deer hunter, as far as I know. But last night he was driving the church van home with a bunch of youth in it when he hit a deer. He wasn't trying to hunt the deer, much less kill it, but the van and the deer ended up in the same place on the road at the same time and that's not good for the deer, or the van for that matter. He didn't know whether it killed the deer or not. It's kind of hard to get the van stopped and turned around in time to take a second or third shot. Too bad, because that rack would have looked great mounted in the fellowship hall. If we sang "As the Deer" there wouldn't be a dry eye in the room.

I've been laughing about that all day. I don't know why exactly. Part of it is because of the two characters telling their juxtaposed stories.

Life is just funny like that. For example, some people work round the clock to become rich. They dedicate their lives to it. They do all the "right" things. Eighteen years of education. Climbing the corporate ladder. Sucking up. Taking risks. Sacrificing a personal life. Then Jed Clampett is just shooting at some food, when up through the ground comes a bubblin crude, oil that is, Texas tea. What's the point?

I don't know what the point of this is, except that sometimes life doesn't seem to have a point. Why work so hard to hunt down a deer in the wilds of south Alabama when they more often voluntarily jump out in front of church vans less than a mile from the house? More accurately, life often doesn't seem to have the same point as we do. Maybe that's it.

Life is not pointless. Sometimes we just miss it. On the first shot. But you can always take a second shot. Or a third. We can persevere. And that may be the best we can do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I was in court until late in the afternoon with no lunch break, so I did not get to watch the inauguration. It was an interesting reminder for me that although I, and millions of others, are excited about this historic day, for other millions of Americans life went on much as any other day, with little thought about what was happening in Washington D.C. Probably not a shocking statement in Blount County, Alabama, one of the brightest glowing red counties in the whole USA.

So I did not get to celebrate the day as I thought I would. But I knew I would get to watch it later. My sister said she would record it for me when I told her I was still in court. I had planned to go to her house to watch it live.

About the time I talked to Terri I got a text from another friend whose message reminded me of the early days of the Lowry/Bentley think tank. That's what I called it anyway. Lowry got first billing because it was their house, coffee, fireplace and food that sustained the great mental operations of the group. You probably haven't heard of it, because the discussions were so sensitive we were afraid to record our conclusions. Or we couldn't find a pen and paper. And sometimes we all talked at once, making transcription impossible.

There was a time, which began a few years ago, during the 2000 election, that a few family members and a couple of might-as-well-be family members, would gather and sit around the table if the meeting was in the morning, or on the sofa and chairs if the meeting was in the evening, and talk, sipping on an appropriate beverage for the time of day.

Of course, this was not a talk-tank, We also thought. And agonized. Over elections, terrorist attacks, wars, scandals, tax reform, constitutional reform, social justice, religion, and other things that require thinking.

I won't tell you who thought what to protect the opinionated and prevent boycotts. And while many of my memories of the LBTT involve hilarity, it was also serious. Seriously, it was. There were observations and predictions about the above listed topics that were actually quite amazing, in retrospect. We reached some sound conclusions out of our curiousity, dialogue, and passion for the topics of the day.

Sadly, one of the reasons the LBTT came to be and lasted for a few years , other than the need for free coffee, wine or snacks, was that we felt like we would not be heard anywhere else. Worse that we could not voice some of these opinions without unpleasant consequences. There was no room elsewhere for dissenting thought or opinion. Not to our government, not to our churches, not even to most of our friends. Paranoia, you may be thinking.

If you're not with us, you're against us. Remember? Sure, now you think it's silly and counter-productive. Now you're part of the 70 plus percent that dislikes that kind of talk. That means that about sixty percent of you changed your minds since then.

Anyway, it felt good to remember those times today. First because they provided so much laughter and release. But I am also thankful because today things are different. Differing opinions, if thoughtful, are respected, actually encouraged. We the people are being asked, exhorted, to participate in the discourse, to get our ideas out there even if they are a bit different. That inaugural address was full of new hopeful ideas for the world. It was an example for all of us.

So let's get busy. The more ideas the better. And might I suggest they get so much better around a table, with coffee and good friends.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The best seats . . .

There are too many things to write about today. I struggle with words appropriate to describe what is going on in our country.

Because words of my own will not come, I have been spending my time this morning reading words to which I often return, and on this day seemed necessary, words that brought tears to run down my cheeks, and even a soft sob or two. It is a good time to be alone.

Tomorrow is the inauguration of an African American president. But today is Martin Luther King day. It would seem that God has taken part in the inaugural planning, because Martin Luther King, and thousands of foot soldiers, came before Obama. The grueling two year presidential campaign so deftly negotiated by Obama has been well documented and was an enormous accomplishment. But it pales in comparison to the fifty year campaign for equality that has allowed this moment to come.

King's words are always powerful, always prophetic, and often haunting. I re-read many of his speeches this morning, but ended with the final speech, in Memphis, on the eve of his assassination. You know the one. He was urging unity for workers, in Memphis and across the country, a stand that he knew would bring strong, violent opposition, even as he re-affirmed the peaceful expression of protest to despicable conditions. This is how it ended.

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Tomorrow millions will be present for the swearing in of the first African American president. Most will not be able to see what is going on.

If God does have a hand in the planning, I like to think that he has given Martin Luther King and his friends the choice seats, perched high on that Mountain Top, so that they can see and hear all that has come to pass in the promised land.



Saturday, January 17, 2009

Achilles heel . . .

It is Saturday morning again which means coffee, sofa, and pre-inauguration coverage on the television, presently muted so I can listen to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR.

I love basketball. I particularly love University of Alabama basketball.

So I was disturbed last Sunday, even though Alabama beat LSU, to see Ron Steele, our talented point guard and incredibly good human being, clearly hurting, unable to push off one foot, which for a point guard, is serious business.

The news reports originally said he had a stone bruise. Now the report is plantar faciitis. I am not a doctor. But I have started to drive down the lane in a pickup game and felt the pain in that little place on the bottom of the foot which didn't allow me to walk or stand on that foot for several weeks.

Anyway, I'm praying for Ron Steele. He deserves better.

Whatever that injury, it is isolated in a very small area on the bottom of one of Ron's feet. The rest of him appears to be in great shape.

It is amazing how one tiny thing can mess everything else up. Have you ever been on a hike or a jog and felt a pain in your foot? You think, how did something that big get in my shoe? You try to go on, because it is always an aggravation to stop and take off the shoes and lace them back up. But after a few steps you realize you just can't go on like this. You stop, take off the violated shoe, and turn it upside down and shake it. If you are lucky you see the tiny piece of gravel or stick fall out. Sometimes you don't even see it. What felt like a large jagged stone is smaller than the diamond chip in a hundred dollar engagement ring.

I don't like that about life. One thing can mess up all the other good things. You don't want to stop and unlace the shoes because the pace is good, the rhythm is good, you're making good time. Sometimes it's hard to get started again after you stop.

Occasionally you can run through it. The stone or the splinter is pushed to the side by the motion of the run and the pain is gone. At least for awhile. But the offender is still in the shoe and it may find its way back underfoot again if not dealt with.

But sometimes, like in Ron's case, the pain does not come from a rock or a splinter that can simply be shaken off. The pain comes from somewhere within. It is not from an invader, but from an injury to things as they are meant to be. The doctors will give you some anti-inflammatories and advice about what therapy to do and what activities not to do. They will tell you that to get rid of the pain you have to take care of yourself. And then they will tell you that it just takes time for things to get right again.

I've thought a lot about pain lately. The pain in Ron's foot is a message that he needs to keep the weight off of that injured part of his body for awhile.

So apparently pain is good and necessary for our health, as painful as pain is. It tells us we need to take the pressure off the injury so that restoration can take place.

But it's hard to quit playing, to quit running, to not pick at it, especially when the pain focuses attention like a magnifying glass on the source of the pain.

But that's all that is left to do to be restored. God bless Ron, and all the rest of us who are injured.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Bye George I think we got it, finally.

George Bush conveyed his final final official farewell last night. Thirteen minutes of avoiding the elephants in the room: failed foreign policy, economic disaster, energy crisis denial, the gutting of sound environmental policy, the tragedy of New Orleans, the erasure of the Bill of Rights, government sanctioned torture, war crimes, sweet deals for political buddies who made money off war and high gas prices . . . lots of elephants. No wonder the goodbye took only thirteen minutes. He couldn't afford to bring up anything of substance. It's hard to keep those elephants quiet. The late night talk show guys had a good time with it, and it continues today. I am making a point to watch Letterman tonight for the final Great Moments in American Presidential Speeches. It is open season on the lame duck.

But to be fair, while many citizens' retirement plans have been devestated by this administration's negligent leadership, Bush almost single handedly created a bubble comparable to the dot com or real estate boom. . . for comedians. It has been so easy. But I fear I hear the bubble bursting. Hard times could be coming.

I am one of those people that never understood the support for George Bush to be president, and certainly not for a second term. How any one who had paid any attention to him prior to the 2000 election could think he was prepared, motivated, or intelligent enough to do the job still mystifies me. His performance in every debate he was ever in was abysmal. And it did not get better with presidential experience.

I enjoy making fun of people as much as the next guy. Shoot, I'll make fun of the next guy if I get any kind of opening. Sarcasm is my second language.

But I just can't seem to get on the bash Bush bandwagon. At least not in a funny way. I think I am just ready to move on. It just isn't funny any more. It never was. It was tragic.

Amazingly, in his next to the last final farewell, Bush told the press that they had "mis-underestimated" him.

At last, in these farewell words something I can agree with. The press mis-underestimated Bush from the beginning. And it damaged America and the world beyond description.

They should have underestimated him a lot more and a lot sooner.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's hard to strangely warm a heart when it's so cold . . .

It is really cold tonight and is getting colder quickly. In the cold night air out on my mountain (some would call it a hill) side the navy velvet drape of the sky cannot contain the light of the Creator as it explodes through tiny pinpoints. I still exhale through pursed lips just to see my breath in the frigid air as I did in childhood. I like the cold. It makes me feel alive.

But one of the reasons I like the cold is because I can get warm. I like to turn the heat down and pile on the blankets. There is no feeling like coming in from the cold into the warmth of a fire in the fireplace. A hot cup of coffee is even better when warming cold hands. An arms-wide-open-wrap around hug smothers the chill while it warms the body and the soul.

But without the hope of warmth the cold is just cold. It is harsh. It is cruel. In that kind of cold, the kind that seems endless, survival is ultimate. Looking for beauty or silly notions of childhood, or the comforts of home or companionship are pointless.

There are lots of folks out in the cold tonight, as they are every night. They probably do not share my romantic notions of the arctic air that has descended upon us. They are probably worried about survival, praying for the sunlight of morning, if they still have enough hope to pray, or still believe in prayer at all.

And there are those that suffer in a different kind of coldness. It too seems endless, without hope of warmth. It too robs the soul of the ability to see beauty, or find joy in memories, companionship, or even home. It is a coldness of the soul, a depression of the spirit.

This post has certainly taken a downer tone. Sorry about that. Besides, guilt does no one any good. It is usually no more than a cheap penance we impose on ourselves, so that we have suffered appropriately for our failure to live up to our own expectations. But that is the only purpose it serves, our self-prescribed absolution.

The only thing to do is to share the warmth, with those who may be stuck out in the cold nights of winter, or with those who may be stuck in the cold dark nights of the soul. Guilt is easier. You can do that at home alone without dealing with anyone but yourself. But to share the warmth it will be necessary to take a walk into the cold, out beyond the safety of the driveway, and bring folks in from the cold, folks who may have been cold so long that they can't afford to hope for warmth anymore. So it may not be easy.

But maybe you can help someone lift their eyes and see the lights of the Creator.

And the warmth will be even better.



Ask not to know for whom Bell tolls . . .

"Jesus Wants to Save Christians, a Manifesto for the Church in Exile" is the Rob Bell book I picked up as I gave up on writing at the end of the last post. I finished the book. I finished reading it that is, Rob had already finished writing it. It was a really quick read because Rob Bell writes as if he is in a sprint, or maybe a game of tag, or maybe like one of those guys that spins plates on sticks and keeps them all suspended at once. It is like running down-hill. His style causes one to read faster and faster as he tells a story that begins with Adam and Eve and moves to Revelation in about 180 pages. And,



of those pages,

have lines spaced

like this.

I enjoyed the book. Bell again tries to convey the urgency of the need for a functioning Body of Christ in the world. The footnotes alone are worth the purchase of the book. But the writing is engaging as well.

Bell addresses the ills of materialism and consumption. He is critical of the attempt and need to make Jesus "cool".

Then someone in our book reading bunch raised the question, if Bell is critical of consumption and trying to make Jesus cool, how does he justify the way cool production of the hip hardback book we all held in our hands, with the suggested retail price of around $20.00 permanently affixed to the back, and printed in a style in which the same text could have been printed on half the number of pages?




But I think I understand. Bell's interpretation of the message is unique, condensed and sharp. But the message is not new. It has been spoken in every generation. God is looking for a Body to do His work in the world. A Body that will move, a body that will serve, a Body that will love. A Body that will keep its focus on God, rather than becoming self-centered and thus self-sustaining and ultimately self-destructing.

People like Rob Bell are blessed and cursed to be able to see the sickly state of our world, and the dire need for the Body of Christ to be worthy of its namesake.

And that blessing and curse comes with a sense of urgency that the rest of us don't have for some reason. That urgency drives Bell, and many other writers, preachers, and just ordinary Joes to keep trying. To present and re-present the message to every generation in hopes that the Body will one day

put the most recent study book aside,

turn off the meditation tapes,

blow out the candles,

get out of the recliner,

and go out into the world.

I pray that we may all become so blessed and so cursed.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Around the writer's block a time or two . . .

There is nothing new under the sun. That's another great line already written (by Solomon in Ecclesiastes). It would have been a lot easier to be original if I had been born earlier.

I like to read. But a few months ago I decided to embark on the discipline of writing daily, or almost daily, in an effort to hone that craft. I quit reading fun stuff. I read newspapers and newsblogs and statutes and cases. Mostly I made myself write this blog and the first chapters of several great American novels.

But I started reading fun stuff again a couple of months ago. Anne Lamott, Wendell Berry, Harper Lee; you can't read TKaM too many times.

Jim Wallis, Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, Barbara Brown-Taylor, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Charles Dickens. . .

Darn them all, and all those thousands of other writers like them . . .talented. And greedy. Some days it seems like they have already written all the good stuff.

And today is one of those days. So I'll quit writing and pick up a book by Rob Bell, that selfish rapscallion.


Saturday, January 10, 2009


We the people voted for change last November. And just in case you haven't been paying attention, change is already underway.

It doesn't look like what some Obama supporters dreamed. Gays and lesbians were shocked when Rick Warren was chosen to pray at the inauguration.

It doesn't look like what many Obama detractors feared. Obama's economic package includes more tax cuts and closer scrutiny of spending. . He has not abandoned Israel.

Change is coming. I am reminded of Jack Nicholson's famous line in "A Few Good Men," "You can't handle the truth." We the people are not used to handling change, espcecially if it is not exactly as we ordered.

I am also once again reminded of Corinthians 13, the definition of real love, which I bemoaned in a post a couple of weeks ago. "Love is not overbearing. Love does not insist on its on way."

Agenda driven ultra-liberals desired, and agenda driven neo-conservatives dreaded, an ideologue, a mirror image of what we have had for the past eight years; opposite in almost every way, but just as closed to conversation with the those who disagree. But that is not the change that is coming if this pre-inaugural activity is a harbinger. How long has it been since a leader, the leader, suggested in response to a critic, without sarcasm, "if he has a suggestion to improve the proposal, I want to hear it. If it is better, we'll use it." Obama said that after a speech yesterday when he was questioned about Paul Krugman's concern about his economic plan. No more "if you're not for us, you're against us." This is going to take some getting used to.

And his appointments list contains no yes-people. In fact, some disagree significantly with Obama from the outset. He recently appointed an economic advisor that strongly believes that tax cuts will rev the economy, that spending stimulus does not. That has not been Obama's position.

No doubt Obama, as far as his personal beliefs, is a liberal. And there may some change coming that reflects those personal beliefs.

But if those issues are all that change, this pivotal moment in our history will have been wasted.

The first change we need is not a particular issue. It is a change in the way government works. Or as some believe, that government can work at all. It must be primarily a change in the way we deal with substantive issues, before we actually deal with those substantive issues.

One of the common observations that speaks volumes about how twisted our thinking has become is that Obama is caving in, is not being true to himself or his supporters, by listening to people who disagree with him, by including people in conversation with whom he will probably never agree, by treating so called opposition with respect. Some are disappointed. Some say that he is not what he claimed. Some say that this inclusiveness is a sign of weakness. Some want proper punishment (revenge) for the conduct of government during the past few years.

It is risky to allow ideas other than your own to have prominence if your only goal is to protect and advance your ideas. But if one's goal is to allow the best ideas to come to the surface, no matter the source, then it is far riskier to restrict the "marketplace of ideas." We have forgotten the glory of that free and open market. Our menu of ideas has been so limited for so long. But change is coming. The new market is slowly opening. All are welcome.

It takes a strong leader to pull it off. Give him a little help. Let your ideas be known, to those around you and to your elected representatives. And listen to those around you who share ideas, even if they are different than yours, especially if they are different than yours. And do it with respect.

It could be fun. It's not new. It is, in fact, the real American way. So maybe we're not changing. Maybe we are just rediscovering our true selves.


Friday, January 9, 2009

You gotta have faith . . .if you know what I mean

I've been thinking lately about faith. Maybe we could call it "cheap faith." Sorry Dietrich. ***

You can't swing a live cat without hitting a preacher, book, magazine article, blogpost, podcast, song, t-shirt, bumper sticker, tatoo or coffee mug making some statement about faith. Faith is hot.

But what is faith?

I am not sure. Rick always quotes Hebrews when we talk about faith, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." I love the words, but I still am not sure what they mean. Like Bonhoeffer, these are words that are good to chew on for awhile.

Trust, belief, reliance. Many words come to mind. But I don't think I'm up to defining faith tonight. I would like to just make a couple of observations about stuff I am learning these days.

More than one friend has recently hoped i would find peace during my "dark night of the soul." ("La noche oscura del alma") which it must appear I am going through. (I think it is more like a dusk of the soul) One of my favorite preachers uses a similar phrase with a southern twist, "darker than midnight in a cypress swamp." The dark night of the soul is a mystic notion most famously defined by Saint John of the Cross, a Spanish monk and poet, based on some earlier thoughts of Aristotle and others. The dark night of the soul is a period of emotional and spiritual isolation and seeming despair which inflicts a normally spiritual person. Saint John believed the despair and feeling of isolation arose from the reduction of one's ego to the point that God could first reveal those things that need to be changed, and then change them. The vulnerability that results creates fear and the appearance of faithlessness. Praying becomes difficult, spiritual disciplines become empty. Faith is exercised by going through the motions of spiritual discipline, without the good feelings that are associated with them. The upside to the notion is that the night does come to an end, although some, perhaps like that of Mother Teresa, last thirty or forty years. I don't really think I am in the dark night of the soul. I think I am just a bit whiny. But it has made me think.

Faith is not created by accumulating enough evidence to attain a reasonable degree of certainty. It is not about discovering the truth through study, as important as that may be. It is not about the warm, wonderful palpable presence of the spirit that comes while we are in fellowship with one another.

Faith is what happens, what allows us to act, when there is no certainty, when there is no obvious truth, when there is no warm feeling to rely upon. Faith is that decision made, that action taken, not based upon evidence, but rather in the presence of no evidence at all, or at times, in the presence of what appears to be evidence to the contrary.

Faith is my choice. An abundance of certainty and evidence requires little faith. Faith necessarily increases with the scarcity of evidence and certainty.

Faith is not in the thing to be done, the correctness of the choice to be made, or the consequences of either. Faith is in the one who requests obedience.

I am so thankful that God expresses His love and grace abundantly and diversely. This love and grace helps us to know God better, whether it comes through study, worship, prayer, service or fellowship. Through these expressions of love and countless more, we learn about God.

But strangely I am also becoming thankful for those times when God loves me enough to let me think I am alone with only my faith.

That's when I learn about me.

***.I have sat at many a table and discussed Dietrich Bonhoeffer's notion of "cheap grace," which is described in his "Cost of Discipleship." It's a good book to have on the table by the bed or sofa because it is slowly digested and must be read deliberately and more than once. I am not writing about it tonight, but since I brought it up you can get a taste of it on many websites, like this one: Go ahead and get the book. It is a classic.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Actually, I did start the fire . . .

There is something about a fire in a fireplace. It was quite cold tonight when I got home from work. The air was clear and the moon was bright. One of those nights when the temperature drops quickly after sundown.

It's my birthday today. For the most part it was a regular work day, court in the morning, writing and appointments in the afternoon. It was fun to receive birthday wishes throughout the day, an undeniable benefit of text messaging, emails and facebook. And I received a couple of great old fashioned cards as well.

But I was a bit melancholy as I came home into the cold house. The perfect answer to my dilemma was to build a fire. No, it wasn't the most perfect answer, but it was the only one that was going to happen. So, I stacked the firewood, stuffed some paper, and lit it. The logs, dry hickory and oak, caught up quickly and cracked as the sparks flew up the chimney. Melancholy in a cold house is sad. Melancholy in the light of a glowing fire somehow holds promise of something more.

There is something primordial about a fire. I like to turn the lights down low, or off, lay back on the sofa and gaze into the glowing embers and leaping flames. I love getting sleepy as I warm in the radiant heat. I do not understand why, but being still and looking into a fire connects me with something that gives me peace, something that does not require that thought be formed into word.

Then a friend brought a surprise dinner. We shared the dinner, a glass of wine and part of the football game, all in the warm glow of the fire.

My friend is gone, and the fire is burning slower. The pile of embers has grown and is glowing bright orange. Staring into the embers somehow stirs memories, good memories. The melancholy is back, but it is sweet. I am thankful.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lean on me . . .

I just got out of the Shelby County jail. Fortunately I was just visiting, but the visit lasted several hours. Seems like I should get a jail credit or something, but no one offered.

So it was dark and cold as I left the correctional facility and home was about an hour or so away, which is much shorter than it was on the way down through the I-65 parking lot. But I was out, a free man, having paid my debt to society, and enjoyed the bracing slap of the cold wind against my face as I jumped into the Sebring and headed home. I have a habit of talking to God as I drive . It may surprise you, after reading a couple of my earlier posts, that the vast majority of the time I do not yell. I still feel pretty shabby about the whole fit I threw with God the other day as I was driving, so I started out this time by using a little prayer method that I have not used in a while, which is just giving thanks. It was a little bit of a strain, since I was regretfully out of the habit and have been enjoying a prolonged period of self-centered pity. The idea is not to give general thanks, but to be very specific, and just keep listing things I am thankful for. God helped me out a bit tonight, because as I was getting in the car a flock of geese flew low overhead, silohuetted against the moonglow. Sort of like a dad pushing his kid on a bike with training wheels. I am a sucker for God's creation. He was showing off a bit. So I began to give thanks.

I was a couple of minutes into the conversation when I saw a hitch hiker on the side of the road. As usual, the passenger seat was full of the necessities of life, clothes, computer, a loaf of bread, a briefcase, an assortment of coffee mugs, and other stuff like that. I was ready to get home and I was praying and my car was full, and a hitch hiker a half-mile from the jail . . . I drove on by. I have a friend who talks about following the nudges of God, and the regrets if the nudge is ignored. I don't know if it was because I was in conversation with God at the time or not, but this was no nudge. This was more like a really heavy lean. I drove on for awhile, but it was hard to drive being leaned on like that, so I turned around.

Turns out the fellow had indeed just been released from the jail and didn't have a ride, or money, or a phone. Like him, I had no money. But I had a ride and a phone. I cleared the passenger seat, which I think the appearance of gave him pause about accepting a ride. But he got in, used my phone, and I gave him a short ride into town before I headed north. It was no big deal. No Guidepost kind of story. In fact, it was just a little companionship for a few miles.

Heading back toward the interstate I passed a Starbucks in Alabaster, which I did not know was there. A friend had given me a Starbucks card a while back which still had enough for a latte on it. I felt the need to stop and relax awhile before I drove on. As I sat and sipped the latte a friend called and we talked awhile about life. I had my laptop with me and another friend wished me happy birthday and visited with me awhile online. By the time we finished, the latte was gone and the folks in the Starbucks were wiping down the counters and cleaning those little nozzles that come out of the steamer machines. I hit the road again. As I walked into the house another friend texted me as he drove to Gatlingburg. I called him and we talked awhile.

Sometimes we have the car and the phone. Sometimes we're the hitchiker. Sometimes we feel the nudge, sometimes we are blessed because someone else responds to the nudge. That may be the best thing on my thanksgiving list tonight. I am thankful for all of you who respond to nudges


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My deer friends . . .

There are deer in my yard every night and early in the morning, usually a doe and a couple of her fawn. A buck was among the group today. The others are here everyday. One morning I had to ask them to move so I could get in my car. Twice. And then they seemed put out. But the buck, that is a different story. I had never seen him before, and he acted as if he had never seen me.

I have enjoyed watching the deer grazing on acorn salad in my yard. They are graceful, fluid animals of such pastoral beauty, with dark eyes, long smooth neck, and strong, shapely legs. I can see where Solomon got that whole Song of Songs analogy (check your Bible, you might want to study with a friend). Anyway, back to the deer in my yard. I'll get the Bible out after you're gone.

For weeks the deer had become more and more tame. I enjoyed it because I was able to look at them up close for more than a fleeting second. But it did not seem right. As a child I spent a lot of time in the woods, these same woods as a matter of fact. I don't remember seeing a deer, ever. So to see them in my yard, grazing like cattle, seemed unnatural. What if enemies showed up, like coyotes, or Joe and Rick? The easy life they had become accustomed to could be their downfall. They had lost their awareness of the world around them. They had lost the innate knowledge that God meant for them to use to live. They had forgotten who they were,because they were safe, or they thought they were.

But not the buck. I saw him, and he saw me. I'm sure my eyes got as big as his, but that's where the similarity ended. He jerked his head straight up, his eyes wide and intense, then swung his head back and forth to the left and right, and bounded off in a frenetic route of escape. While not pastoral, it was a thing of unspeakable beauty.

And the rest of my deer friends? They were reminded who they were. Not domestic cattle, but wild animals. In a moment they were all out of sight.

So, my dear friends. Have we lost the innate knowledge that was placed within us? Have we chosen the deception of "safety" at the price of never really living? Have we denied who we are, the wonderful, dangerous adventure God has given to us?

If you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . well just graze.


Bonus blog. Thought you might want to read Dan Randall's post about Dan and Courtney and what is going on with them personally and with the Hope Center. Please keep them and their work in your prayers and offer them whatever support you can. His blog address is

Monday, January 5, 2009

All hail the power . . .let angels prostate fall . . .

That last post was a bit troublesome I've been told. A couple of phone calls and an email or two gently inquiring about my stability were welcome. It is not that difficult to write about everyone else's politics or religion, nor is it a problem to recount some amusing happening, even if I am the butt of the joke. But sometimes I just need to admit that I am about as untogether as a person can get. It is helpful for me to publish that to the world for some reason. But I've been assured that its going to be alright. Just needed to whine a bit. So thank you for being the whinees this time around. From now on I'll put a whiny label on the title, and you don't have to read it if you're not in the mood. Also, if any of you need to whine and you don't have your own blog, feel free to whine at any time as a comment to any post. And I am pretty sure God understands me quite well and tolerates these outbursts. Actually I am pretty sure He uses them to instruct me. At least I hope so.

So let's look for brighter news.

I acted like an adult today. Went to the doctor for the first of a series of visits to get myself checked out. I've been feeling great lately (physically, that is), so I felt like it was the optimum time for a check-up. The last time I had a check-up the doctor arrived at the house in a buggy with a black bag in hand and a tank of leaches. So I suppose it was about time. My new doctor thought so too. The good thing about not going to the doctor often is there are very few pesky medical records for the new doctor to peruse. A clean slate for him to work with. And what is the first thing that the doctor wants to write on that clean slate for a fifty something male?

The doctor was extremely complimentary of my prostate. At least that awkward moment while I was picking my composure off the floor was made victorious as he practically gushed about what good shape that odd little gland is in. Now wasn't that better than that last whiny post?

After such a successeful late afternoon I naturally motored over to O'henrys for a coffee. It was dark and raining, so sitting in the coffee shop and sipping the hot brew was really nice. I considered sharing my good prostate news with the crowd gathered there, but most of them were studying or reading, so I just kept it to myself and pondered it in my heart. During the ride home I caught up with Vann, who is happy to be back at Vanderbilt, and talked with another friend who had heard of the last post, but made me laugh about it. A good sign.

An award winning prostate, hot coffee, happy children, and friends that make you laugh. Life, even while the pain still lingers, is not all bad. And yes, God is good.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

God in the hands of an angry sinner . . .

It is Sunday, so now for a bit of a spiritual rant. It is intentionally obtuse.

I yelled at God last night. Probably an understatement. Afterwards I prayed for forgiveness, not really meaning it, for which I also asked for forgiveness. That little cycle went on for a couple of rounds, and then I got angrier. And that's the frame of mind I was in when I finally went to sleep on the sofa after hours of trying. Then I got a confused return call from a friend who I had accidentally called as I tossed and turned on top of my phone which was in my pocket. That call woke me back up, and the whole process began again.

So after my brief nap I was still angry as I headed to church to worship this morning. I would like to say it got better, but it hasn't. Why shouldn't I be angry with God? I already hear Sunday School answers: God is with us in times of trial, all things work for good for those who love the Lord, He has been through it all before, He has a plan for us, consider the birds of the air or the lilies of the field, just as a few examples. I could go on.

Then why all the pain? Why all the mystery? What is my role in this relationship with God? What is God's role?

Sometimes I get tired of making apologies for God. I believe in Him, and make no bones about it. But I am hurting right now (it doesn't matter why), as do millions and billions of others. And who started it all, knowing all, which I assume includes the pain and hurt? Where is God, the creator, in all this? No, really, where is He? I do have friends that try to help, and the most helpful ones simply acknowledge that they can't but they wish they could. They cannot take the pain away. But God could. He just won't.

As I have said before, it is hard to be in a relationship with someone who is never wrong. And if I believe anything about God, it is that God is never wrong. So I have to assume that this pain that only seems to grow stronger is something that is supposed to be, for some reason, for my good or the good of someone else.

I've got my nose fully pressed against the glass darkly. Praying for light.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Low sugar . . .

I decided to see how the writing skills held up during this time of debilitation.

Maybe if I were getting paid.

Gotta get over this one. Tomorrow Georgia Tech comes to T town and Coleman coliseum. Basketball. Now there's a real game.


Half time talk . . .

It's half-time. I thought I would see how the writing skills do under pressure. Actually I just need to do something to keep me busy.

We are a strange lot, we human beings. If you pay attention to this blog, you know it is not unusual for me to give thought to important notions that I am passionate about: poverty, hunger, economic disparity, social injustice, war, spirituality, politics, cheetohs, coffee . . .

But right now my stomach is churning, my heart is pounding, and I think my calves are cramping up. And football is not even my favorite sport.

I rarely get this intense about the aforementioned important notions. But there is something about being for a team. I'm even for the band. They are on right now. Looking for JRay and his big drum. I think I saw the drum. Anyway, I get pretty intense. I love people, but I don't really like to watch games on TV with more than three or four people, and they don't need to do a lot of chatting. We got to focus. I love to be a part of the crowd at the game. I'm one of those fans that thinks I make a difference by being there. I really believe that. Of course I believe that talking to the television also makes a difference. That may not be quite as valid. But it is fun.

I don't think there's anything wrong with this feeling. A win makes me feel good, and it only takes me about three hours to get over the debilitating effects of a loss. So right now I am enjoying a bit of escape from the bigger notions of life and the sad stuff that plagues me. That can't be a bad thing, can it?

How about that Javier Arenas? If we didn't have him, this season would look quite different I think.

Anyway, one of the things I am resolving this year is to figure out how to tap into that Bama passion that I am obviously capable of having and applying it to those aforementioned important things. Maybe that is what games are supposed to be about. To teach us things that will be helpful. Another high minded notion.

Right now let's go out, get a quick turnover, and kick some Ute butt.

RTR . later.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Just give me a second, will ya . . .

I have made a critical mistake. I misunderstood a recent news report concerning the addition of one second to the calendar to allow for a deviation between time as calculated by the rotation of the earth and time calculated by an atomic clock. Apparently earth is slowing down slowly. I understood that I was to get an additional second in 2009. This morning, this first day of 2009, I found out that they gave us the extra second in 2008. Dang. I wish they had made that more clear.

It's not everyday you get additional time given to you. And I let the offer lapse. I don't know how I used that extra second that apparently we got in 2008. It's a shame, because I had big plans for that extra second in 2009. I was going to go the second mile. Not really, I just had to use that line. It was too good to waste, and after all, I've already wasted a free second.

What could I have possibly done with a second had I known? I could have run five or six yards. Driven my car 85 or 90 feet. Read about a half a line of print. My heart could have beaten nine tenths of a beat (I didn't plan to use my extra second exercising). I could have held a hand, a hug, a gaze just one second more.

That's silly, you may be thinking. (which took much less than a second) Just one second won't make any difference.

But what about that second in which a decision was made?

I don't make decisions in a second, you may be thinking. What about huge, life changing decisions that consume days, weeks and months? You would need a second helping of seconds to make much difference, wouldn't you?

A decision is not made until a decision is made. Everything up to that point is process, which is a good thing. Usually makes for better decisions. But the decision, that moment in which process turns into an action or choice that is manifested in reality and sets a distinct course of events in motion, occurs in a second, no matter how large the decision or how lengthy the deliberation. To choose a college, to quit a job, to take a job, to have surgery, to get married, to get divorced, to move, who to vote for, whether to forgive, or seek forgiveness, all require a process, but at some point, some second, the decision is made and everything changes. A path that excludes other paths is chosen.

And then there are split-second decisions. Whether to say that last word in anger. Whether to raise the fist, or some other gesture. Whether to pull a trigger. Whether to say I love you. Whether to press "send". Whether to take that exit or not. All decisions mostly made in a second or so.

2008 seemed like one of the longest years. In fact it was. It had the February 29th that comes only in leap years plus the extra second. But I don't think it was the extra seconds that made the big difference. It was the choices made during all the seconds of 2008 that made it seem interminable.

So I make a motion that we all pay attention to each moment in 2009, and the possibilities and consequences each one holds. Do I hear a second?
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