Sunday, December 27, 2009

Silent nights . . .

The traveling is over, for most of us (Ben and Kate are somewhere in Oklahoma winding their way back to Denver). The gifts are bought, delivered and opened. Friends and family have visited. Vows have been made to fast until the new year. The house is quiet.

Maybe that is the way it was for Joseph and Mary. The hard journey to Bethlehem was over, leaving behind the talk of the hometown about the young, pregnant, unwed Mary and her husband to be who had such a social, cultural, religious dilemma. I am sure he was not lacking for helpful advice. The beginning of labor. The struggle to find shelter. The odd assortment of visitors. The angels that kept showing up saying "Fear not."

I wonder if the fact that the angels kept saying "Fear Not" was one hundred percent comforting. If angels keep telling you to "Fear Not," maybe there is some reason to be afraid.

But for now all that had stopped. Now it was just Joseph, Mary and a brand new addition to the family, Jesus. Except for the animals noises, and Jesus' occasional crying, things were mostly quiet.

What was to happen now?

I received a few emails today from friends of different political perspectives than mine angling for a fight, or at least a bit of sparring. For a moment I felt the hackles rising.

But they laid back down. And so have I. On the sofa, looking out the window at the last light of the day, a beautiful, cold, bright sunny day.

And it is quiet at the house. Don't know what's going to happen next.

But for now the quiet suits me just fine.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve ramblings . . .

For a few years my dad read the Christmas story for the outdoor pageant at church. He has a great voice and I always loved to hear him read the King James account of angels, Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men.

I prefer modern translations of the Bible for most purposes these days. But I miss the beautiful, powerful, poetic words of the Christmas story that became part of my memory before I was old enough to know I was remembering. I think some of the modern translators feel the same way because they seem to have kept more of the King James language in this story than in other places. Some things are just too good to leave behind. The babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. Fear not, for I bring to you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass. Mary pondered these things in her heart.

Read it for yourself.

Today I am reminded of a verse in the beginning of Luke, Chapter 2.

"And all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city."

In my own family travellers will come from Denver, Nashville, South Florida, Montgomery, Savannah, Hartselle, the Panhandle of Florida, and Tanzania. There will be a few from Birmingham.

To Oneonta. Hopefully not to be taxed, or to feel taxed. No, that is not the nature of our gatherings. It is a place of belonging, whether you are kin or not. Chaotic and loud sometimes. A bit competitive during play time, maybe. But everyone is welcome. Everyone belongs. All the taxation is left behind in the stores and malls, with the crumpled lists of things to do, on the office desks or lines of the day planner and on the crowded highways and freeways. This is a time to remember the things that have come to pass, talk of those things that we hope will come to pass, and savor this rare moment of the present that lies in between.

Home is that place of connection which familiar hearts seek because of what has come to pass and the hopes of what will be.

Bon voyage, on this Christmas Eve, for your journey home.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Even now in my older age, Christmas evokes a feeling of anticipation. While I would like to claim a heightened level of spirituality celebrating the coming of God onto our planet, that is not entirely true. Not even mostly true. It is a leftover feeling.

Like the leftover feelings of freedom I feel when school is out for the summer. Sure, I still have to go to work in my coat and tie, but when I see kids leaving the school on that last day before the summer break, that wonderful light joyful feeling comes back, just as if I too were walking out the door of the school with arms full of an academic year's worth of accumulated stuff from desks, cloakrooms and lockers, struggling to get to the car and get away as soon as possible.

When I was a child the anticipation of Christmas was almost more than a person could stand. In November or so the Sears and J. C. Penney catalogs, Christmas editions, came out, with huge toy and bicycle sections. Cousin Cliff of Channel 13 Popeye/Three stooges fame and Benny Carl of Channel 6, Bugs Bunny/Clutch Cargo fame hawked the latest toys from Mattel, Hasbro, and Parker Brothers. The window of Wittmeir Hardware, on the second floor of that building, which was kind of like Macy's in Oneonta, was decorated in green and red and sported bicycles, bb guns, and little red wagons. There were probably dolls, but I never noticed. Huge fake snow covered bells were strung across the streets of Oneonta, which was kind of odd because we never really got snow at Christmas and we never had any real bells anywhere, except for that one really big bell that rang at the elementary school for several years, but that had little to do with Christmas. In fact, the feeling it evoked every morning at 7:40 was the Anti-Christmas as far as I was concerned. Our school principal came around every Christmas to every classroom selling those wonderful looking Claxton fruitcakes. He was a Civitan. We always bought one. My dad and grandfather were also Civitans. I never really ate one until I was a starving college student and the brick of candied fruit and nuts was all I could find in my dorm room to eat. But it was great when warmed in a toaster oven.

But back to the anticipation. The tree was up and gifts began to appear. There was a whole lot of shaking going on, clandestinely.

So I watched. I watched the mail for the new catalogues. I watched Cousin Cliff and Benny Carl for the latest toy offerings. I watched the store windows and the decorated streets. I watched the Christmas tree and the gathering gifts. I even watched for our principal to come around with Claxton fruit cakes.

And I watched the calendar.

Watching is a part of Christmas. Joseph watched his young wife and wondered what this all would mean. Mary watched her stomach grow and awaited the blessed delivery. The shepherds were watching their flocks. The wise men were watching the star.

It is not Christmas yet. But it is time to make room. Room to wait. Room to watch. Room for the Holy child, who I think, being a child, would really love all this watching.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scenic Christmas . . .make that cynic

Politicians battle for control and power. Religious leaders aren't much different. The world is changing as nations and economies are rising and falling according to their ability to wage war. The homeless wander the streets looking for shelter, many of them children. Only the wealthy can afford to be healthy. The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer. One race blames the other. One nation blames the other. One religion blames the other. The only thing that is for sure is death and taxes, and it seems that the governments will only keep you alive if you owe them money.

Thus was the shape of the world when Jesus was born.

Thank you Jesus that we're different from those heathens.


Something competely different part 1, 2009

I posted last year's part of the story on December 14th. Let's see where it goes . ..

"Great," thought Michael, as the first huge drops of rain suddenly splattered against the windshield. He reached to turn the wipers on, but the turning indicator came on instead, a mistake he had made a hundred times before, a mistake which always brought laughter from Kristen and Joey. Jan would smile and look down at her lap. Is it his fault his wife drives a car with all of the instruments in the wrong place?

The windshield was a crystal blur as Michael fumbled for the real wiper switch. With one swish the rain was cleared away and he could see clearly. There was a road to the west up ahead. His indicator already being on, Michael decided to turn. This would drive Jan crazy. The road had no number, no name. But it was paved and it headed generally west. They didn't call him the human GPS for nothing. Actually no one called him that, except for Michael while everyone else rolled their eyes. But his naysayers were nowhere around, so, "turn left in fifteen feet," Michael laughed at his own joke, which was also something he had to take care of himself while others rolled their eyes.

Maybe it was loose gravel, or maybe the road had begun to ice over, or maybe Michael was just driving a little too fast to make the turn, but he almost missed the road as the rear end of the car fish-tailed. He felt the rush of adrenaline shoot from his toes to his head as he strained to remember whether he was supposed to turn into the direction of the slide or against it.

The cedar trees along the roadside whizzed by like evergreen Rockettes in the stage lights of Michael's high-beams. Finally the headlights were aimed down the road, and Michael slowed to a stop to gather himself. He looked over into the seat next to him where he had put Jan's gift. The bag had fallen over. The gift was still inside. No harm done. But a slight glimmer of light caught his eye. He reached into the dark floorboard to see what had fallen. His hand touched something cold and hard. He picked it up and looked at it in the soft glow of the dashboard light. Apparently the saleslady had given him a gift.

"You must turn it upside down and shake it up to see what it is really supposed to look like."

Michael laughed thinking that this was probably not the way the kind lady would have suggested to shake the snow globe. But in the glow of the soft light the snow was swirling around the carollers, and the warm yellows of the interior of the house seemed even brighter than in the store.

"I guess it doesn't matter so much how you shake it up . . ." Michael took his foot off the brake and started down the road as he was finishing his thought, his eyes still partially on the snowglobe.


Michael had run over something. And apparently what he had run over was still under his car as a horrible scraping sound vibrated through Jan's car. Once again he stopped the car and began to open his door, and even though it was Christmas Eve, he was cursing under his breath, though no one was close enough to hear even if he had screamed obscenities.

Except for the guy standing outside his window who did not seem to care who heard him curse. He was letting it fly. In the direction of Michael.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Some of the rest of the story . . .

I started a Christmas story last year and ran out of time before I ran out of story, so I'm thinking of adding a bit more this year. There will still be other kinds of posts, but this is kind of fun for me, so please humor me. The following is what I started last year:

Michael stood self-consciously at the counter, trying to look like he knew what he was doing, running his fingers up and down the scarves hanging on the display rack. His eyes fell upon a memory. A glass globe sat in front of him. There was a tiny house with yellow lit windows, and carolers standing in the yard by a Christmas tree. It was not quite like he remembered. A slender hand picked up the globe, turned it upside down and shook it, then placed it back on the counter. “You have to turn it upside down and shake it up if you want to see how it’s supposed to be.” The snow swirled around the house, the tree, the carolers.The voice and hand belonged to a woman behind the counter. Michael spent the greater part of the evening with the cheerful saleslady guiding him toward the perfect Christmas gift. One would have thought she was an older sister preparing her little brother for his first date. Her smile as she helped him spoke clearly, “Bless your heart, you are so clueless.” As he turned to leave, possessing the perfect gift, tastefully wrapped and carried in a bag with a store logo that said “I may not know much, but I’m not cheap,” Michael’s new retail sister affectionately called out, “I know she’ll just love it.” It sounded like she really meant it. Above the store’s holiday music came knowing chuckles from a few women standing close by. Another man entering the store looked jealously at Michael’s bag, then pitifully at Michael’s saleslady. Michael joined in the chuckling this time.This was a Christmas tradition, enjoying the camaraderie of the last minute shoppers. There was a feeling of family among these procrastinators; the kind of intimate knowledge about one another that comes from shared experiences, shared weaknesses, struggles, and finally, hopefully, triumphs. Those who are not part of the family would not understand. So it was with a strange, sweet sadness that Michael left the store, smiling and nodding at his seasonal kin. The warmth of the experience spilled out onto the sidewalk as he passed the hard-core last minute shoppers who were only just arriving at the stores. Reaching into his wallet and tucking a ten in the Salvation Army bucket, he remembered doing that as a kid with the change his mother gave him. He missed the sound of the quarters clanging on the sides of the bucket. As Michael walked toward his car the air seemed colder. The chuckles and holiday music tracks were far behind him now. So far, the best feelings he had felt during this season of love were among strangers.

At the office, where Michael usually felt the most comfortable, everyone was stressed over holiday spending and end of the year reports. The office party last week was nothing more than an excuse to have a few drinks on the company tab, not a bad thing at all, but it was more of an occasion designed to help one forget rather than to remember. And then there was home. Not that Michael was the most qualified to comment on the status of the holiday atmosphere at home. He too, had been caught up in the end of the year rush at work, trying to get things wrapped up so that he could enjoy Christmas day with the family. By the time he walked in the door every night after work, the house was quiet. Everyone was either in bed, watching TV, or in their rooms doing whatever kids do in their rooms these days. Jan was usually at the computer, searching the world wide web for whatever toy was in short supply. There apparently had been time for someone to put up the Christmas tree, he had noticed one late night as he tip-toed in quietly. But he had not yet seen it with the lights on this year. There would at least be time for that on Christmas Day.

Suddenly Christmas Day was tomorrow. Michael would have to hurry to make it home in time for the Christmas Eve Service. If he could not make that, he simply had to get home in time to say good night to the kids and help Jan with the Christmas Eve duties. And then maybe, if he were lucky, there would be time for Mr. and Mrs. Claus to conspire by the fire. But she was probably already worn out from working on the pageant at church and cooking for all the family coming for Christmas dinner. Michael‘s mind wandered for a few moments, remembering the first time he used that “conspire by the fire” line on Jan. There were no children then; just the two of them in that little apartment. And there was no fireplace. But when Michael came home that Christmas Eve, the small potted Norwegian Fir was sitting in the middle of the dining table, decorated with tiny ribbons and a few homemade construction paper ornaments. The room was full of candles, Christmas music was playing quietly, and the smell of spice tea and cookies filled the air. And there was Jan, sitting on the sofa in a crimson velvet gown, holding out a glass of wine. Nat King Cole crooned, “Later on, we’ll conspire, as we dream by the fire, we’ll face unafraid the plans that we made . . .” The wine disappeared, plans and dreams were shared, and then the wonderful conspiring . . . now that’s a tradition worth keeping.

Apparently he was not the only one in a rush to get home. The expressway was a stream of red tail lights as far as he could see. Everyone in the world must be on the way back home. “Just keep moving,” Michael thought to himself. Tail-lights were fine. A long stream of brake lights was a totally different matter. “Fifty miles per hour. That’s not too bad if we just keep moving.” But as he topped a hill he saw the dreaded sight, brake lights, and tail lights, glowing red and white. When he was little he would have squinted his eyes almost shut and imagined a huge Christmas tree decorated with brilliant lights and ornaments, But now a sick feeling came over him as he thought of Jan and the kids going to the church without him. In desperation he jerked the steering wheel to the right, immediately hearing the thumping of the tires crossing the reflectors in the highway marking the lanes of an exit. It did not matter that it was an exit he had never taken, he just had to get off this road that was going nowhere fast. Michael could feel Jan grab his forearm and scream,”you’re going to kill us,” just like she had done a hundred times before. But she was not here now. “What if I die?” Michael thought. “If I die in this accident, they’ll tell her how it happened, that I jerked the wheel to take this exit. If I weren’t already dead, she would want to kill me. Then she would figure out that I was trying to get home for the Christmas pageant and for the kids and for conspiring. She would find her gift . . .”Michael was amazed to find that time slowed down to allow him to have this one man conversation in his brain. “Then she would be horribly, horribly sad and she would cry.”Jan with tears in her eyes had been the catalyst for some of Michael’s greatest moments, times when he became more than he ever thought he could. Now he would have to become a Nascar driver. He could not see much detail, everything was a blur as the car went into a spin. The orange and white stripes of the sign on the guardrail buttress whizzed by, then headlights and taillights. Then he saw them all again. All the while he was gripping the wheel, as if that made any difference. He braced himself for impact, but it never came. It was over as quickly as it began, and the car came to a rest.. Michael looked up, having no idea what to expect. What he saw amazed him. It was the yellow YIELD sign at the bottom of the ramp. He checked to see who had seen his ordeal, like we all do after an embarrassing moment. There were no cars behind him.“Now I can get somewhere”, thought Michael, smiling as he remembered something his dad used to say. “I’m not sure where we’re going, but at least we’re making good time.” . The numbers and names on the road signs were not familiar, but the cars were moving. Turning right, which would have been south, Michael figured he could find the way home by looking to the west a little way down the road.

The traffic became lighter and the driving was easier. There was no point in searching for different stations on the radio. “It’s Christmas Eve,” he thought. “All Christmas music, all the time.”“You better watch out, you better not cry . . .” Michael found himself singing along. “You better not pout . . .” “ A cruel conspiracy by parents to control their children,”, Michael thought, laughing to himself. He was the youngest of three children, his brother, his sister, then Michael. David was four years older than he, his sister two years older.“En guard,” and the fight would begin. No moment of life is wasted as a child. “Take up your sword and fight like a man.”At the end of an evening of wrapping presents just so that mother could re-wrap them according to her specifications, an emotional outlet was needed. For what seemed like hours mother gave instructions on how to cut paper straight, line up the patterns, tuck the ends of the packages just so, hide the tape, don’t throw the scissors, and not waste ribbons. Fortunately, the means of release were found as a natural result of the cause of the stress. At the end of every roll of wrapping paper was the remedy, a cardboard tube about three feet long, the exact specifications of a musketeer’s sword. Sister’s bedroom was the wrapping headquarters, her twin beds becoming wrapping tables for most of the days before Christmas. The beds were also the perfect staging area for swashbuckling sword fights. Usually Michael and his sister would team up against their older brother. Back and forth, thrusting, parrying, from floor to bed to floor again. Theatrical at first, almost a choreographed dance, but usually devolving into flailing the daylights out of each other immediately before knocking over a lamp. This could mean real trouble. Forgotten in the excitement of the moment was the admonition to watch out, a real dilemma during the days before Christmas. Knowing your behavior was putting your “good list” status in jeopardy was easily enough to make one cry, or pout. But that was not allowed at such a time as this. The evening usually ended in quiet, hoping that mother did not notice the damage, or the repressed pouting. So, the parents’ and Santa’s conspiracy was somewhat effective.

The four lane road was now two lanes. The stream of tail lights had become one set of dim lights that disappeared from time to time in the bends of the highway ahead. “There must be a turn toward home somewhere along in here,” thought Michael. He turned the radio off, as if the noise were somehow keeping him from finding his way. The night had turned quiet, and the lights of the city were miles behind. The stars twinkled against the velvet blue sky.“Which one is it?” Michael remembered the unexpected question. Joey was four. It had been a rough holiday season. Jan had some problems with her pregnancy with Kristen and had been ordered to stay in bed. Since that first Christmas in the little apartment Jan had taken care of Christmas at the Dennison house: the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, everything.. She loved to make it special for as many people as she could. But that year she could not. She was so sad. Joey and Michael struggled to get things done and wanted most of all to make Jan happy. But they did not know what they were doing. Michael wished he had paid more attention to his mother’s instructions on wrapping gifts. But they did have a couple of good sword fights. That made Jan smile. One night shortly before Christmas Michael was walking Joey home from pageant practice. Joey stopped and looked into the deep night sky. “Which one is it?” Michael did not know what to say, so he asked, “Which one is what?”“You know, the star. The one that the smart guys followed to find Bedlamb. It must be magic. You know, like the one in Pinnochio. Maybe if we wish on the star of Bedlamb everything will be all right.” They stopped right there on the street. Michael was not sure whether they were wishing or praying, but they looked for the star. Joey was sure he spotted it. “I wish that mommy be okay, and that baby Kristen be okay, and that daddy be okay . . .” Michael blinked and rubbed the tears from his eyes. He was straining to find a road that headed west..

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's a Wonderful Lifetime . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

We have had several cool, wet days lately and I have been holding off a head cold. I'll use that as an excuse for having watched more made for television Christmas movies this year than all previous years combined. I have ordered the Fa la la la Lifetime Alert pendant necklace which automatically changes channels when my seratonin levels dip after an all night Lifetime session, and the Hallmark value pack of kleenex and Welbutrin should arrive anyday now.

It is interesting the picture of Christmas that these movies create. I cannot justify any condemnation at this point because I confess that I enjoy a good, or even a really bad, Christmas movie or two.

But according to the cinematic gospel Christmas can be reduced to three basic plot lines.

First, a romantic relationship that is ordained to be is facing some worldly obstacle and the magic of Christmas is required to make it work out right.

Second, weary travellers go through trials, adventures and often comedic mishaps to arrive at the place they are supposed to be for Christmas.

And third, a question of belief.

Hmmmm. This post isn't turning out like I thought it would.

Unlike most of the movies.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let your lights shine . . .

It is common to wonder whether what we do at Christmas has much to do with the birth of Jesus. And sometimes we are probably right to wonder as we wander around the streets and malls fretting about finding the right gift for the right price, or wander from party to party, or become so stressed as we wonder which will run out first, our money or our time.

Truly a season of wonder for us poor o'rnery people wandering around.

But maybe we are a bit hard on ourselves.

When my sons were small and even now that they are not so small one might hear an exclamation from our car as we wander.


The warning is set off by lighted Christmas lawn decorations, the gaudier the better. Baby Jesus in the manger surrounded by Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, cattle, sheep, wise men, camels, Rudolph, Santa, Frosty the snowman, and an inflatable Grinch.

One of our favorites in the past was outside of Oneonta on a small side road. A former city employee had salvaged years of worn out municipal decorations and strung them all over his yard. It was great. Big silver bells, snowflakes, a veritable history of Christmas light bulbery, and random Christmas icons were creatively placed in glorious splendor. The display was only a mile or so from the Oneonta municipal airport. I am sure many pilots were guided through cold foggy advent nights toward the place where they should land.

I loved it. And I still do, although my sons reside in other more sophisticated cities which I am sure are not quite as advanced in this particular art form.

As long as I remember one of the highlights of my Christmas season was looking for the big star on the side of Pine Mountain in Remlap, visible from Highway 75, the route for our Christmas pilgrimage to Birmingham. I still don't know who did that, but it was quite a feat. I wonder how many people waited to see the star each year just like me?

So is looking for the light shows just another one of those traditions that have little to do with Jesus that just makes me feel good?

Nope. At least I don't think so. Check the story in Matthew 9. The wise men had been looking for Jesus and had spotted a star that in their studies was a sign of the Messiah. Suddenly they arrived at the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were. There was the brilliant star, right above it, the first lawn decoration.

10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

I suppose it seems silly to give such spiritual weight to lawn decorations.

But the whole improbable story is full of silliness. God, creator of the universe, entering this world as a poor, ordinary baby lying in a feed trough in a cave, being born to a virgin, visited by mysterious visitors from the East who followed the star, and a bunch of rough shepherds coming to see a brand new baby because angels told them to.

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood

John 1: 1-5



Monday, December 7, 2009

Art History

I walked up to the judge's bench before court started one day last week where I noticed a docket from the previous day. When I picked it up to look at what I may have missed I saw something on the back of the docket. The judge had sketched two faces in pencil. He had copied them from a rehab brochure sitting on the clerk's desk. If I had drawn portraits like that they would be framed and hanging on my den wall. But he just left it to be thrown into the trash.

When I was in first grade we received pictures to color. I sat next to a pretty girl with long blond hair that she used as a weapon while standing in our single file line, swinging her head from side to side, lashing anyone who came close with golden razor wire. Okay, that was a little strong, but it did sting. But I tried to get in line beside her anyway. But I digress.

Her dad owned the local dime store. For you younger folk, Dollar Tree and Dollar General are like dime stores adjusted for inflation. Actually dime stores were more local. Japan rather than China was the major manufacturer of the stuff we wanted. There was generally a popcorn machine, a candy counter, a great toy and trinket section, comic books, and, before school started each year, everything a student would need to matriculate. Shiny book satchels, compasses, protractors, rulers, pencil sharpeners, mechanical pencils, notebooks (all the current year models), paste, glue, fountain pens . . . and crayons.

Being the daughter of the dime store magnate you can imagine that the little blond haired siren had all the latest and coolest school supplies. She had a faux patent leather candy apple red book satchel with green plaid lining.

But best of all, she had the box of 64 Crayola crayons with the built in crayon sharpener right on the box.

I had the box of colors that the school supplied. They were not the small, precise sticks of waxy, nuanced chromaticity that Crayola was known for. They were more the size and smoothness of a small raw carrot, with no real point, just a blunt end, and came in packs of eight.

About this time of year our teacher handed out a coloring sheet. It was Santa Claus. We were to color in the lines of our Santa Clauses which would then be hung with Scotch tape along the chalk holders under the chalk boards all around the room.

I don't know who taught that little blond haired girl to color, but she was a first grade Dorothea Lange. Santa came to life. You could see the twinkle in his dark eyes and the blush on his cheek was subtle enough to indicate exposure to cold air rather than intoxication. I think his eyes followed us, judging the naughty and nice, as we moved across the room.

My Santa looked like I had left red and black crayons too close to the radiator and cleaned it up with our assignment paper. And my hands and face had also become part of the canvas. It was awful. Horrible. Traumatic. I'm glad my mother did not waste good money on buying me the deluxe 64 Crayola crayon collection with built in sharpener. I think she knew of my artistic deficiency from the whole paint by numbers/spilled apple juice debacle. But that's another story.

So I have known I have no gift for the visual arts for quite awhile now. But an artistic friend chastised me last week. She said I just haven't really tried.

There was a time in my life that I didn't like turnip greens. For years the thought of them made me gag. But at some point in time all that changed. Now I love them.

So, my friend, who is artistic and acted like she knows stuff, convinced me to try again. I thought perhaps my artistic muse had just been delayed. Maybe it would be like my taste for turnip greens.

I did. Try that is. It was like ripping open old first grade wounds. It was horrendous even in the much maligned stick figure genre. I sent my effort to my friend as a Christmas card. She deserved it. I wish I knew the little blond haired girl's address. I would send her a copy too. Perhaps that would put an end to my demons.

I think one of the reasons I love to watch sports is that, having played at a few games, I marvel at what real athletes can do. Things that I could only dream about. I still dream of dunking a basketball, in slow motion. One of my favorite dreams. But these are real people, not dreams, doing these amazing things.

And I love visual arts. Partly because it is such a mystery to me how people create such amazing things, creations that I could only dream about.

And that's okay. I bet most of those artists cannot play tunes by hitting their skull with their fists and adjusting the notes by manipulation of the mouth. We all have our gifts. I'm working on a Christmas CD now. Stay tuned.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Of Jesus, America, Family and snow. . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It snowed last night, a wet soupy snow. The weather guys called it a dusting. A bit paradoxical.
There is nothing dusty about this stuff. Very pretty, but so sloppy to walk in. Being a southern boy I still get excited when I get up and see something white on the ground. It requires personal inspection simply because it just doesn't snow much around here. But I've done my inspection and am back on the sofa.

I am too lazy this morning to look a bunch of stuff up. But if I had a little more energy I might write about any number of things.

"C Street" for instance. It is a brick building on the edge of the capitol complex, designated as a church, where many U. S. Senators and Congressmen reside. They are members of "the family" or as some of them have called themselves, "the Christian mafia." I have read a little bit about the group, and it disturbs me greatly. My own Congressman, Robert Aderholt, is a member of The Family. One member explained their view of bipartisanship.

"Jesus didn't come to take sides. He came to take over."

That's wonderful, you may be thinking. But I hope not.

Another topic this morning might be Uganda. There is a constitutional provision proposed in Uganda that would criminalize homosexuality and make certain offenses capital. Having sex with someone of the same sex could be punished by death under certain circumstances. Touching someone in a gay way will get you put in jail. No kidding. And this is not lunatic fringe stuff in Uganda. It is mainstream.

And then there is Uganda and C Street.

The Family is playing a major role in the Uganda legislation to criminalize and incarcerate homosexuals.

It would be nice if U. S. Congressmen who are also members of The Family strongly condemned the proposed legislation. Some have. But it is difficult. A devoted member of the family, Senator James Inhofe (R, OK) has taken many trips to Uganda, befriending the sponsor of the legislation, and brought him, as well as other leaders in Uganda, into "The Family."

Jeff Sharlet, whose new book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power", exposes the existence and complexities of the Family, also explains these connections with other countries more fully.

The story seems too crazy. But it is true. I think that is one of the secrets of the continued existence of powerful secret groups in America. Most of us normal folk just can't believe it can really happen.

Kind of like when it snows in Alabama. Hard to believe. But it calls for inspection.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ezekiel saw the wheel, with a cute little hamster running in it . . .

I saw a news item the other day about a theme hotel where one can go and live the life of a hamster. Guests receive a hamster uniform, drink water out of a little plastic tube hanging from the wire walls of the cage, eat from a little trough, and play on a little hamster playground including the ever-popular hamster running wheel.

Those wheels always disturbed me. In a caged hamster universe the wheel becomes more than recreation. It appears to become the hamster's raison d'etre. The successful hamster gets on the wheel and churns away on his cute little hamster feet. I wonder if he ever wonders why he never seems to get anywhere. Maybe he just never knew any different. Neither did his parents, or their parents. Hamsters have run on the little wheel for hundreds of generations.

Kind of like a couple of things we humans have been doing for generations.

War, for instance. What is it good for, after all? (Reference Edwin Starr )

A war may have an end. But War does not, or at least it will not until some good and brave people are willing to risk another way. Because winning a war has nothing to do with what is right and good. In war might makes right. The violence may end for awhile, as long as the victor can oppress the vanquished. But so far in human history, the oppressor cannot hold on. Inevitably the weak rise up, re-arm and re-load, and the wheel just keeps on spinning.

And when we step off for a moment, we realize we've gotten nowhere.

No war? A ridiculous, naive notion, I know. Only an idiot would suggest that there is another way. It's always been this way.

What fool would suggest that we shouldn't fight back? Or that we should give away what we have to an enemy who asks for it? That we should put away the sword? That we should love our enemy? That the way to be first is to become last?

Come on, you know. Surely you've heard about Him as you've wandered through the malls the past few days.

Time to get off the wheel and follow Him.

Now we're getting somewhere.

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