Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wake up, look up, it's Christmas morning . . .

And so it came to pass. In the middle of the hustle and bustle, the crowds and the business, the One for which they had been waiting and hoping and watching for centuries had been born. But almost nobody noticed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Frosty window panes . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Christmas Eve.

We look through a frosted window darkly. We can't make out exactly what's happening on the other side of of the crystallized aperture, but for some reason we cannot turn away from the warmth of the light that streams from the other side, piercing the darkness of the cold, cold street. Something is happening on the other side of the glass. Something that draws us in, like the light from a kitchen light in our favorite memory.

The light melts our heart and makes clear our next few steps into the darkness. In that light we scurry about, not knowing what to do, or for what or who we are preparing. We clean our houses, we cook our food, we look for the right gifts to give. We are charitable.

The world is different because of the light that we do not understand, coming from a place that we have almost forgotten, yet there is a faint memory, something warmly familiar.

It is Christmas Eve.

We do not yet understand. Yet we have seen strange, wonderful light from another place.

Light from a rising star.

Light from the angels.

And this Light streaming through the frosty window. We press our faces against the thin glass, straining to see a clue of what is coming, of what is being prepared on the other side.

But it is Christmas Eve.

All we can do . . . is wait.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Thurvey Christmas Special, 2011

Tis the theason for a Thurvey . . .falalalalalalalala.

Yes it's Thurvey (Thursday survey) time once again. The Christmas Thurvey Special. . . Andy Williams and the Osmonds are not available so the staff here at the Thurvey needs your help. This is the opportunity for you readers to spread a bit of Christmas cheer by sharing your thoughts about the Thurvey questions. If you wish to share a comment, simply type it in the comment box below, including your name if you wish, click on the anonymous button, and click publish. If the box does not appear, click on the little "comments" below and one should appear. If you haven't sent Christmas cards yet, just forget it. Share your good wishes through the Christmas Thurvey Special 2011 . . .

#1. We mark time by clocks and calendars. But we mark time by many other things too. I think this is particularly true of our Christmases. I mark time by popular toys, popular to me in particular or popular in culture. My favorite, and perhaps the best Santa Claus gift of all time was a U. S. Navy pedal propelled jeep when I was about five. And for me, nothing says Christmas like Silly Putty. Still. What favorite toys do you have memories of? What year?

#2 Following up on question 1, we have marked Christmases by music since that heavenly choir of angels serenaded the shepherds abiding in their fields. Sometimes it is the romantic Christmas hit of the season shared with a girl wearing a maroon velvet dress to a junior high Christmas party, or it may be a church music program, or carols sung around a piano or on a cold windy street. What is your favorite Christmas song or Christmas music memory, and when was it?

#3 I just back from a Christmas get together with some colleagues. Nice folks, a warm, beautiful house, and some seriously good food. I fell off the low carb diet wagon a couple of weeks ago and it seems to have left me hopelessly behind in Candyland as everywhere I go sugar is pushed on me in an infinite number of confectionery delights. It is worth the coma that follows shortly thereafter. What do you like to eat at Christmas? Or drink? What do you like to cook, for yourself or others?

#4 One of my favorite memories of Christmas is riding around looking at lawn decorations. I have never forgotten my mother's comment about one house when I was extremely young.
"That just looks like a honky-tonk." I didn't know what a honky-tonk was at the time, but I figured it must be a wonderful place, because the house we were passing had long strings of red light bulbs outlining the roof of the house. Not Christmas lights. Just regular light bulbs, only they were red. It was magnificent, from my perspective. I still enjoy the Griswoldian lawn/house decorations. Have you seen any outstanding or unique lawn decorations this year? or in years past? Where, and why did they stand out for you?

#5 There are a few stores, some in Oneonta, one or two in downtown Birmingham, a couple in Homewood, a couple around Five Points, and a few others, that I never go into except to shop for Christmas gifts. I love those places. Maybe it's just the feeling of tradition. What are your favorite places to Christmas shop? Do you have particular shops or stores that you would recommend? Do you having shopping traditions? (Like last minute shopping for instance?)

#6 Some people think some of the Thurvey Christmas Special 2011 topics are excesses and contrary to the real meaning of Christmas . . .the hours of shopping for stuff, the over indulgence in food and drink, and the attention given to toys and games. On the other hand, Jesus was not opposed to a good time, or to giving good gifts. Can you reconcile the life and teachings of Jesus with how we celebrate Christmas? C'mon, this one might take a little effort, but give it a whirl.

#7 Many people are contributing to charities instead of exchanging gifts? This is your chance to help your favorite cause. What charities do you recommend? Include a link if you have it.

#7 What would you like to say about Christmas this year?

#8 What would you like others to comment on about Christmas?


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Turning on the light . . .

When I was very young I slept in a bedroom with stained pine tongue and groove paneling. As I lie in bed at night, trying to go to sleep, the room was almost dark. In the darkness the pine paneling came alive, the lines of the grain of the finished planks creating images of wolves and monsters that seemed to move, straining to jump out of the wall that contained them, and eat me up. No one could go to sleep with all that going on all around him. Having wild animals and monsters lurking in your room presented a difficult dilemma. As we all know, the bed offered some degree of protection against such evil entities, though not certain. So, I lie in bed, staying still for as long as I could take it. At some point I reached the tipping point, sure that the attack of the wood grain wild things was imminent, and sprang from the bed and flipped on the light.

In the light there were no wild things, no wolves or monsters. Just pine paneling.

That is what light does. It allows us to see the truth.

Christmas is about light. That's what John said in Chapter 1 of his gospel:

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

Light, as we know it in our physical world, is a form of energy. It has power.

Darkness, on the other hand, is simply the absence of light, the absence of that illuminating energy.

Darkness has no power, other than that which we give it through our fear of things we cannot see.

If you attend a candlelight service this Christmas Eve, let me make a suggestion. As the room is still dark except for the light of the Christ candle, get into a position where you can turn and look at the crowd, preferably at their faces. In the beginning, before the flame is passed from the Christ candle, the room will be full of shadowy figures and faces. Then, as the light is passed from person to person, from candle to candle, the light is not diminished as it is shared. It is multiplied. The room will begin to glow. The shadowy darkness will retreat in the face of the warm, lovely, loving light.

Jesus was born into this world as a tiny baby, a single white-hot pinpoint of undefinable light. But the light did not stay in the stable. It was passed from heart to heart, from generation to generation.

Even to this generation.

In the darkness that remains in this world it is tempting to lie still, trembling with fear, hoping that the wild things and monsters that lurk in the shadows will not notice us.

But if this world is dark, we are the ones at fault. We have been given the gift we need.

We must simply reach for the Light.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Haven't you heard, the war is over . . .

A significant moment happened late Saturday or early Sunday morning.

The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was complete. In the past few weeks, in a massive transport operation, tens of thousands of American troops returned to American soil. They completed a complex and difficult mission with honor, fulfilling strategies that shifted with politics and conditions. The national news outlets gave this historical milestone considerable air time, column inches, and web and blog posts over the weekend. But the public has not seemed that interested. When that happens, the news media moves on to the next story. How sad.

This should be no surprise. We have not been interested in the Iraq war for several years.

I wish that were a surprise.

Four thousand four hundred seventy four American service men and women were killed in the eight year war. Over 36,000 suffered injury. Tens of thousands suffer from PTSD. Thousands developed other emotional or mental illness, Over a trillion U. S. dollars were spent. Conservatively over 100,000 Iraq civilians were killed.

And we hardly notice when it is over?

What is wrong with us?

If you were against the war, where is the relief? Where is the gratitude that it is over? Where is the reflection on the toll and the conviction that such a thing will not happen again?

If you were in favor of the war, where is the relief? Where is the gratitude that it is over? Where is the reflection on the toll and the conviction that such a thing will not happen again?

Where is the national appreciation for those who served? Where is the public policy that will address the physical, emotional and mental injuries suffered?

Where is the national discussion?

When the war began we agreed that it wasn't appropriate to discuss the war while our troops were on foreign soil in harms way. Now eight years have passed.

We can't even remember what it is we were supposed to talk about. We have moved on. But we left some precious people behind. Our sons and daughters who wear our uniforms and carry our weapons.

I hate war. It is a preposterous, obscene, barbaric means of dispute resolution.

But I just finished waging one, a long, horrible one, and so did you, if you are an American. And we let our children do our killing for us, let them drive across IED's for us, let them spend the golden years of youth in a foreign, harsh, fear-filled land.

Not to mention what we had them do to hundreds of thousands of non-military men, women and children of Iraq.

That's the problem. We really don't want to mention any of it. We just want to forget the little that we ever really knew about this war.

But this war will be with us for at least a generation. We will see it in the faces of the soldiers who so honorably did our bidding without question as they struggle to catch up, struggle to hold on, struggle to get back to normal.

The troops are home. We didn't do so well by them during the war or in their homecoming. It's time for us to join them in the fight for their lives. It's not too late.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Roomers of Angels . . .

There are people making room.

I saw a few of them this morning.

One is a businessman, good at what he does for a living. Too many people rely on him at work for too much. No one would blame him for being selfish with his time off. You remember the tornadoes from April that left so many without homes? So does he. But he does more than remember. He heads up work groups to go and continue the work of restoring homes, even in December, when there are plenty of other things he could be enjoying on his off days. He doesn't talk about it much. He just works. He and the others he encouraged to work with him are quite literally "making room."

One is a "jackess of all trades." Okay, that didn't sound right, although this woman would probably appreciate that title. She prides herself on her feistiness. She is constantly busy, most of her money-paying jobs involving working with children in one way or the other. I've seen tears of pain in her eyes for a child in need. She quietly bought a new outfit for a child in need of self-esteem to wear in a Christmas program. She's not nearly as tough as she lets on. And she definitely made some room.

One is a gifted young professional, with small children in tow. She spent much of her week exhorting her colleagues and anyone else in earshot to give to families in need during Christmas by adopting families through the Hope House in Oneonta, another real room-maker. She is not just talk, although she is world-class at talking, and spent quite a while shopping for children other than her own during this week before Christmas. She is making room.

One is a young, skinny man with a heart that seems bigger than his slight frame could hold. Due to his work and leadership there are people who are fed hot meals who might otherwise go without . . .without the hot meals, and without a human touch. He is a bit goofy sometimes, which is a ministry to me, but he is making room.

One is a preacher saying bold things in the pulpit. A preacher in a church where it would very easy to get comfortable, especially during the happy, joyful Christmas season, with its growing crowds, children's' programs, beautiful music, warm fellowship, inside the walls of the church. This morning he said to the crowd that had gathered in that spirit, "we must get over the warm, fuzzy feeling that we get at Christmas. We must remember that God came to be among us at Christmas, but then he commanded us to go . . ." He is making room.

There were so many more. None were famous, or powerful. Just ordinary folk. Making room. It was humbling to get to hang around that crowd.

The Book of John opens with these powerful words:

"1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

There is hope. Hope that comes from ordinary people carrying the light into the darkness. Preparing room.

Maybe there will be room after all. And the One who seeks a place there will bring the light.

And He'll always leave it on for us.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Less than ten days till Christmas . . .

I cannot believe Christmas is less than ten days away.

I have made many lists since Thanksgiving, none of which had anything to do with Christmas. Deadlines. Due dates (bills, not babies). Appointments. Meetings. Politics. Taxes.

Maybe that's why Christmas crept up on me. It hasn't been on my lists.

It is hard for me to listen to anyone read the Christmas gospel story aloud without being a little critical, because my memory contains a gold standard. When I was young Lester Memorial UMC presented a live nativity on the front lawn of the church. There were a few live animals, but the camels were plywood as best I remember. As Joseph and Mary walked across the illuminated yard to the stable, a beautiful, clear baritone voice boomed out of the loudspeaker, reading from the King James Version, Luke Chapter 2:

"1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed .2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."

That clear voice belonged to another Luke, my dad. Maybe that's why I remember this passage so clearly. It has always evoked an image for me, an image of a weary, anxious young couple making their way along the crowded roads, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They were making the trip, not to be with friends and family to assist them during the birth of their first child. They were making the trip because they were ordered to by Caesar Augustus of Rome. A young Jewish couple, leaving behind a hometown whispering gossip about the young woman obviously pregnant before marriage, trudging along a crowded road toward an even more crowded city, to register their existence so that Rome could be assured of their tax payment.

This was the world around Bethlehem, around Mary and Joseph right before Jesus' was born.

Mary and Joseph had both been told that the baby that was to be born was going to be special, that he was the son of God. I wonder if they wondered why, if that was so, this whole thing seemed to be so hard.

Dealing with gossip and tough family decisions. Travel plans. Lodging problems. Due dates (Roman registration and baby). Politics. Taxes.

It should have been easier to anticipate the joy of the imminent birth of their first child.

But the world was too much with them. And so it has been for me.

William Wordsworth wrote a poem titled "The World is Too Much With Us." Consider the first four lines:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The weekend is almost here. Surely there will be time to escape the world, the strife and the gossip, the toil and the taxes, to be still and wait for the miracle that is to come, or truly, has already come.

Surely I can make some room.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thurvey 12/15/2011

After a long post Thanksgiving hiatus the Thurvey (Thursday Survey) staff is rested and the weekly questionnaire extraordinaire is back in production. You know the world is in desperate need of your reasoned input, but you you just haven't had a soapbox to stand on. Step right up, your box is ready. Just be careful. The thing that no one tells you about a soapbox is that it may get very slippery. To respond to any of the Thurvey questions simply type your answer in the comment box below, click "anonymous", and click "publish". If the comment box does not appear below, click on the tiny "comments" below and it should appear. If you want to be unanonymous, simply give us your name with your comment.

Christmas questions

#1 Have you ever roasted chestnuts on an open fire? Or rode in a one horse open sleigh? What is your favorite Christmas song that includes things that you have never done?

#2 What Christmas song do you like least (or drives you crazy)?

#3 Have you ever substituted words in Christmas songs to amuse yourself or annoy others? If so, share with a larger audience. I would give my own examples, but, I don't want to steal anyone else's thunder.

#4 What is the best Christmas gift you ever received? Feel free to list Jesus first, but then give us the next best.

#5 Some folks have started donating to charities as part of their exchanging of gifts. What charity would you recommend to give to and why?

Political questions

#5 We are coming to the end of another year. What were the greatest, or worst I suppose, political or government mistakes of the year? (By candidates, legislatures, governors, Congress, President . . .) You may include stupid quotes if you wish. To get going on the quote thing, google Christine O'Donnell or Rick Perry or Herman Cain. Sorry Michele, you've just been a little too sane lately.

#6 So, who are you presently supporting in the Republican Presidential nominee race? I know this question has been asked, but the issue is fluid. It runs downhill . . . This question is not just for Republicans by the way. Tell us the reason for your current position. Feel free to flip flop. It seems to be the trend.

#7 What do you think about the Alabama Immigration law now? How should the State proceed?

#8 A recent study said Alabama is the worst State in the nation regarding the plight of homeless children. What, if anything, should be done?

Other stuff

#9 How bad is Bama going to beat LSU in the rematch?

#10 What question of your own would like answered?


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sweet homeless Alabama . . .

So one of the big questions that should ring in our ears as we look forward to Christmas is "do you have any room?" (from yesterday's post)

Do you have any room?

Room for a poor family on the road without a place to stay?

Shelter for a helpless child?

Do we have room, Alabama?

Apparently not. Or if so, we're saving it for company.

Alabama is the worst place in the nation to be a homeless child, according to a report published in the Washington Post today. States were ranked by the extent of child homelessness; the well-being of children; the risk for child homelessness; and state policy and planning efforts. According to the study Vermont is best in the nation and Alabama is worst. Nationally the average is that one out of forty-five children experience homelessness during a one year period.

Since Alabama is the worst state in the union, we can assume that the percentage is higher here.

We can react to this as we have been taught for decades. Ain't no pointy headed intellectuals from up north going to tell us anything, certainly how to take care of our children. That Washington Post is the same liberal rag that started Watergate, ain't they?

And while we ignorantly defend ourselves, children will die. Right in our own back yard. Like the countries we visit to do mission work, spreading the love of the Lord.

The same Lord whose birthday we are preparing for with lights, and music, and presents and parties and food and drink and parades. The same Lord who was born homeless because there was no room for his family.

The same Lord who said, when you did it to the least of these my children, you did it to me.

If we really want to celebrate Jesus' birthday with the birthday Boy, we will have to change our party plans.

Cause I guarantee, He will be with the children.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Make a little room . . .

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:7

What was Jesus' thinking?

He had to know there was no room for Him in the world He was born into. He is God after all. He didn't arrive in the manger by mistake. At least not His mistake. He had to know his whole life would be an uphill battle. His whole ministry had Him going uphill. Perched high on a precipice to be tempted. Climbing the hillside to share the dangerous truth. Moving up the steps of the temple to challenge the powerful. Hiking up a mountain with James, John and Peter to meet Moses and Elijah, and that last hill, it was brutal, a real killer . . .

So why did He come to this place where He didn't fit, where there was no room for somebody like Him?

I get it wrong.

I find myself feeling sorry for Jesus.

When I should feel sorry for myself.

Let's say, for instance, Bono was coming to Oneonta, and needed a place to stay. I don't know why he would come to Oneonta, but just work with me here. Maybe he wanted to see the Covered Bridge capital of the world. Anyway, Bono and I share some similar interests, music, social justice, etc. He wrote an edgy Christmas song. He has just been slightly more effective in his cultivation and expression of those interests. If I couldn't find room or time to be a host to Bono, he would make it with or without me. I doubt it would be a huge problem for him. But I would feel like an idiot and spend the rest of my days kicking myself, stuck in the moment and I couldn't get out of it . . .

When we don't make room for a special guest, who suffers? Not the special guest. A special guest can find another host, if that's what he chooses.

No, the one who is in need of sympathy is the host who can't find space or time for a special guest.

It is true that Christmas is about the God who comes. Emmanuel.

But Christmas is not just about a God who comes.

It is about us. About whether we make room or not.

God is not the variable in this story. I don't know what He was thinking, but He decided to come and be with us. And God can do pretty much whatever He wants. Maybe He wanted to build a few bridges . . .

We are the ones who get to write the rest of the Christmas story, a story that started with a "No Vacancy" sign.

There is a story in the gospel that seems just as appropriate for us as the traditional Christmas passages. It is the story of a visit the grown up Jesus was having in the home of the sisters Mary and Martha. While Jesus was visiting in the home, Martha was busy doing, cooking, and then washing the dishes and getting things put away. Mary was in the den visiting with Jesus. Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping her . . .

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

I don't know what God was thinking, but He said He came because He loves.

As hard as it is to believe when we look at each other and at ourselves, God came because in His heart He was choosing the better part . . . amazingly, us.

The only part of the story left unwritten is whether we will find room, whether we will find time . . .

for the best part of all.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Run faster, jump higher . . .secrets of the sole

When I was a child, shortly after recorded history began, and with it, advertising, things were much simpler. I generally watched Cousin Cliff in the afternoon on Channel 13. I occasionally watched Benny Carl on Channel 6. Mr. Carl seemed like a nice guy, but he carried the adventure cartoon "Clutch Cargo," who was no match for Cousin Cliff's Popeye and the Three Stooges for cinematic artistry. Channel 6, your clear picture station, did, however, feature Bugs Bunny. I did, and still do, like me some Bugs Bunny and associates. I don't know what was up with Clutch Cargo. It was like watching a comic strip with the characters having human lips a la Conan O'Brien, animated by flipping the frame every three seconds. I can still whistle the theme song, I just discovered. Haven't thought of that for awhile. Hope I don't dream like that tonight. Comic strip characters with live lips. Scary. But I regress . . .

About this time of the year I anticipated the commercials on both programs more than I anticipated Popeye, the Stooges, or Bugs. The breaks were full of slinkies and wheeloes and silly putty and Operation and Mouse Trap and banana bikes and frisbees and walkie talkies and model trains and racetracks . . . Way better than the Sears or J. C. Penney's Christmas catalogues. Mattel, Hasbro, and Parker Brothers were household names, at least in my part of the house.

I believed what those advertisements said. If you couldn't trust Cousin Cliff and Benny Carl, who then?

One advertisement that really hooked me was not about Christmas toys. It was about shoes. Back then all athletic shoes were called tennis shoes, even when playing basketball, football, or baseball. I thought they were "tinney" shoes until I was about 40.

These particular shoes, not when I was 40, but back when I was six or so, were called P.F. Flyers. I had always been a Keds kid. But this television ad rocked my world. P. F. Flyers had a "secret built in wedge." I don't know why they chose to let the secret out of the bag on national, or at least Birmingham TV, but there it was right there on both Cousin Cliff and Benny Carl. They showed a engineer's rendering of the wedge buried underneath the rubber of the sole, doing what it did. I never really knew how the wedge worked, but, according to the 60 second documentary, it promised to make me run faster and jump higher, which is pretty much every six year old boy's goal.

I harassed and harangued my poor mother until she finally bought me a pair of P. F. Flyers with the secret built in wedge. I don't think she knew the secret. Shortly afterward I won the gold in the Olympic decathlon.

Not really. But when I put those shoes on I felt like I could, except at that age I didn't know what a decathlon was. I most definitely felt like I could run faster and bound across ditches in a single leap, which I did for a few days, annoying all who came around. Feeling like I could run faster and jump higher probably helped me do so. I'm not sure the secret wedge did.

Looking back I wish I had cut into the soles of those P. F. Flyers to check out that secret built in wedge, sort of like I unwound the coil on my brother's Cub Scout crystal radio to see how it worked. The consequences of that experiment are probably why I kept my curiosity in check for awhile.

So I never checked. And I guess I'll never know.

There are a lot of secret built in wedges around these days. Things that we are told exist, and will make things great, if we'll just trust and buy it, without looking too closely.

I don't think we can afford to do that anymore . . .now without some serious sole searching.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Expecting someone?

My friend Deb Welsh (yes, that sound you heard was a celebrity name being dropped) posted on facebook acouple of days ago:

"Hmmm. You know the book of Esther doesn't mention God, but the context makes it understood. I wonder if that can happen other places as well ;)"

Deb says stuff like that when she already knows the answer.

During the LSU-Arkansas game the TV guys were talking about the unexpected death of Garrett Uekman, an Arkansas player, just a few days before the game. I did not hear who they were quoting, but whoever it was said something like:

"It is one thing when you have 'something' to play for, but it is an entirely different thing when you have 'someone' to play for."

That was kinda like the Book of Esther to me. Didn't mention God, but it seemed God might be mentioning something through it.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent for many western Christian denominations. Advent is a period of time, beginning with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, to reflect upon the anticipation and expectation of the coming of Christ. It ends on Christmas Day.

It is clear that the world around us is getting ready for something. Neighborhoods are awash in Griswoldian luminescence. Christmas trees are trimmed. Stockings are hung. Snow men and grinches are inflated. Plywood cutout reindeer stand rampant along city streets. Gift lists are in a state of flux but almost done. Malls and stores stay open late with warm lights on and cinnamon scented air welcoming you in with strains of "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" . . .(oops, I mean Christmas. Sorry Al, some would say your lyrics need an update, though it seems you actually wrote the song about Thanksgiving).

Yes it's beginning to look, sound and smell a lot like Christmas.


At the time of the birth of Jesus, the world in which he was to be born was a dark place. The Roman government, the latest in oppressive foreign powers to rule over the Jews, was increasingly oppressive. Poverty was prevalent as the gap between rich and poor was great and heavy Roman taxation was unforgiving. There was strife even among the Jews. Hope was in short supply.

And in Bethlehem? The only light in the cave/cattle stall may have been a fire or oil lamp, if Joseph and Mary had money for oil. There were plenty of sounds. A woman in labor. The cry of a new-born. The breathing, lowing, and stomping of hoofs of the cattle. The quiet, joyful weeping of a new mother. The pacing of a father made heavy with what seemed like the weight of the world on his shoulders . And the smell?

It was a cattle stall.

So, when we sing, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, what Christmas are we talking about? What Christmas are we getting ready for?

Are we doing what we do for something?

Or for SomeOne . . .


Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's Black Friday, but Sunday's coming . . .right after the Alabama Auburn game

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It's a crazy week-end here in Alabama. All week-end long.

Black Friday in Alabama was huge. Florence police had to use a stun-gun on a WalMart shopper. Apparently he was intoxicated on more than huge discounts. A woman in Trussville was knocked out during a bed linen fracas. Bed linens- $19. Embarrassment for the rest of your life - priceless. Shoppers in Saraland who had been standing in line for a couple of hours for wii's and xbox's were rushed and assaulted by a group of marauders. Other shoppers heroically sprung into action, attempting to defeat them by manning the nearest xbox controllers, but got distracted when a torrid Dance Central challenge broke out instead. That pretty much covers the State of Alabama from North to South. Just wanted to be fair.

On the positive side, the weather was beautiful and crowds were huge. The "Occupy Target" movement spread across the state, as tent villages sprung up in front of mall and store entrances by those excitedly leaving their homes, anticipating the coming of the promised one . . . a 42 inch flat screen for $185.00. Songs proclaiming Jesus' birth, romantic snowy nights and toys filled the air. Parking lots were slam full from the pilgrimages from every village and town to the mall meccas. Cash flowed like a mighty river of gravy on a Hardees breakfast biscuit.

Early estimates indicate a five percent increase in shoppers and sales over last year.

But, in Alabama, there is only one force capable of stopping the fervor of the consumer madness spawned by Black Friday. According to retail experts, that madness will stop abruptly at 2:30 this afternoon, when a football lifts from the tee in a tranquil village nestled in the southeast part of the state.

Today is Iron Bowl Saturday. For you readers outside Alabama, the Iron Bowl is the annual football game between two universities in the State of Alabama.. The University of Alabama and Auburn University. The intra-state war will resume this year on the loveliest village of the Plains. That would be Auburn, for you outsiders. The description comes from a pastoral poem, "Deserted Village," by Oliver Goldsmith, more specifically the line that says, "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plains . . ."

The city of Auburn, Alabama will be anything but a Deserted Village today. And the atmosphere will be anything but lovely.

A football game is played with 22 players on the field, eleven from each team. But the Iron Bowl is played by about 4 million people, roughly 2 million on each side, facing off on every square inch of the state of Alabama, and world-wide courtesy of Armed Forces Radio and CBS.

It is difficult to describe the Auburn-Alabama rivalry to outsiders. The only thing the opposing sides unite on is that their rivalry has no rival. Even that can become a weapon, as in some years one or the other may claim they have grown bigger than this one game. That team often loses that year. Fans on both sides arrange their lives around the it. . .menus, wardrobes, vacation days, wedding dates, surgeries, children's names, funerals, entertainment center and vehicle purchases, and other significant decisions, based upon allegiance or the scheduled time of kick-off, which is really challenging in these days of shuffling TV schedules. The pain or glory of the game, depending on your perspective, lasts for a year, until the next chapter is written. I am still trying to awaken from the nightmare of the second half of last year's contest in Tuscaloosa. The last thing I remember is going to get a hot dog at half-time. Then I vaguely remember fumbling the hot dog into the end zone and someone else eating it. All other memory is repressed, which I consider a means of grace. Hopefully I will be fully awakened from that horrible dream by about 5:30. Hopefully sooner. But after last year any good Bama fan knows it is not over till its over.

So, all over the state, ordinary life will stop at 2:30. Real life shall commence with a referee's whistle.

But the real action will be in Auburn, Alabama, at Jordan Hare Stadium. Somewhere around 125,000 fans, by my scientific estimate, will be on the loveliest campus of the plains. The stadium itself seats about 87,500. It will be at capacity. Outside the stadium thousands of tailgaters without tickets will be watching on satellite TV's hooked up to generators in front of RV's, pickups, and tents full of chicken wings, barbecue, hot dogs,obligatory vegetable trays, potato salad, and any beverage you might desire. Many arrived yesterday to set up. It is a huge party. Decorations of orange, blue, crimson and white adorn everything and everybody. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, businesspeople, old and young, rich and poor, sport outfits featuring elephant trunks and tiger tails, boxes of Tide detergent and rolls of toilet paper. T-shirts featuring demeaning, yet clever artwork about the opponent is common. Yes, it is quite a party.

But the party stops at 2:30. Then it's time to get serious. By 6:00 we'll know who is happy and who is sad.

And the roads of Alabama will be jammed as everyone returns home.

Returning home after a crazy Friday of shopping. After a crazy Saturday of football.

To get to church on Sunday morning, right? Alabama is the buckle of the Bible Belt after all. And most of the football heroes we love so much make sure, before saying anything else about their performance, to give glory to God, sometimes even pointing up at Him as they run into the end zone. The money we spent on Friday says, "In God We Trust." We are told that our consumer purchases will help save our society. That's what Jesus came for isn't it? To save our society?

So, surely our churches will see a gain in the offering plate of at least five percent over last year, right?

And folks will be camping out at the doors of the church tomorrow to get the best seats, right?

The crowd at church will be so big some of us will have to watch in the parking lot, but it will be kind like a party cause we just want to be there, right?

And all our decisions, weddings, funerals, menus, wardrobes, purchases, children's names, and vacation days are based on our love of God and the schedule of our church, right?

I don't mean to be a downer. I love it all. At least the football part. I am not much of a shopper. But I am a true Bammer (Alabama fanatic). I have paid too much for tickets. I get temporarily depressed after a loss. I own a good selection of shirts. And one cap. I keep a shaker in my car. I break out into Rammer Jammer whenever I hear those iconic notes of Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll, part 2 (also known as the "Hey Song"). Nna, Nna, Nna, Hey Tigers . . . I have spent uncounted Saturdays in Tuscaloosa enjoying all that I have talked about, and I hope I will continue to do so. I have strained to hear the internet broadcast of the Auburn Alabama game, way into the night in Riga, Latvia. Today I will sit on my sofa, eat nachos, and be tense until the Tide finishes the task at hand. So, perhaps to justify myself, I don't think the passion and fun of Auburn-Alabama is a bad thing (unless it just gets stupid or harmful).

It is obvious we know how to be passionate. Let's just show it in church tomorrow, if we love God more than anything as we often claim,, even more than we love Alabama or Auburn football. And like our Alabama-Auburn feelings, let's do it throughout the year.

Making buying so much stuff okay spiritually? I'm still struggling with that.

I'm glad Jesus didn't talk much about football.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thurvey, 11/24/2011

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you spend part of the day giving thanks. To whomever blesses you, be it your God, family, friends, country, boss, employee, church, preacher . . .
Because being aware of how you are blessed is only half of thanksgiving. It is just as important to remember who blesses your life. For instance, I am thankful that I get to write random thoughts on the One Day at a Time blog. But I am thankful to you who indulge me by reading what I write. It would not be nearly so much fun without you.

Thanksgiving is always on Thursday, so, the Thanksgiving Thurvey should become a tradition, but we'll have to wait a couple of years and see if it achieves the status of turkey, cramberries (yes I know I mispelled it, I just like to do that), football and naps. Ironically those traditions are what may prevent the Thurvey tradition, as I tend to get lazier and lazier as Thanksgiving Day progresses. I was up early cooking collards today though, so here we go.

If you wish to respond to any of the questions, just type your comment in the comment box below, type your name at the end of your comment if you wish to be known, don't if you don't, click on anonymous and then click on publish. If the comment box does not appear below, click on the tiny "comments" below this post. Now to the Thanksgiving Thurvey 2011 questions:

1. In the last post I remembered Julie Andrews as Maria in the Sound of Music, singing about "favorite things." We all have favorite things that help us get over the dog bites and bee stings of life. A simple cup of coffee sipped (okay, truthfully, I am not really a sipper), music, a good Alabama basketball game, a meal with my sons, a walk in the woods, or time with my favorite pastoral counselor are salve for my bites and stings. So what about you? What are the simple things that heal your heart or soothe your soul?

2. Who should you thank today? Many of you will naturally say God, which I believe as well. Sadly this year two members of the legendary class of '73 OHS passed away. As I was standing with other classmates at the funeral home I felt regret that I never told either one of these special characters how much I appreciated their lifelong friendship. Express your thoughts on being thankful to God if you wish, but, consider what humans you should thank as well.

3. I love words. I love music. And I simply cannot comprehend how some people can use paint or clay to create beautiful things. Creative people who share their gifts change the world with inspiration, insight, comfort, criticism, and beauty. I cried when I read Daniel Clem's post on facebook this morning. Who'd a thought it? Another example, Neil Diamond is singing right now in the middle of the Macy's Parade. You laugh. But how much joy does the world still receive by joining together in stadiums and coliseums and singing "Sweet Caroline . . . bom,bom,bom . . .What author, musician, or other artist are you thankful for in your life? Why?

4. For some reason there is always a football thrown in the yard somewhere between the initial stuffing and the sofa collapse. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? (Including after the foodfest)

5. I like food, so there is not much that I won't eat. On the other hand, there is always that awkward moment when you are asked the question, "How did you like my beet salad?" Or "would you like another serving of tomato aspic?" Feel free to substitute a dish that wasn't your favorite. What is your favorite Thanksgiving menu? Which traditional Thanksgiving menu item would you just as soon be left out?

7. One of my childhood memories is a little poem that went something like "on thanksgiving day, on thanksgiving day, if you want to be happy, give something away." What blessing do you have that you wish you could share with the rest of the world?

8. Anything else?

Thanks, from a grateful heart.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens . . .and cute nuns

You remember that scene from The Sound of Music during the thunderstorm when Maria, really Julie Andrews, gathered the Von Trapp brood around her and invited them to sing a song about their favorite things? Perhaps I remember it a little more than you because the scene was first emblazened in my memory when, as a pre-adolescent, I thought the aspiring to nun-ship Maria was incredibly hot. I suppose I should bring that up in counseling now that I think about it, but that's a different story.

Maria and the children were popping off lines quicker than an old skool free style rapper.

I have occasion to lead worship from time to time. That is one of a few of my favorite things. But there is something that bothers me. In many services there is a time for worshippers to offer up prayer concerns, celebrations and thanksgivings. We are quick to offer our concerns to our community and to God. We are proud to offer celebrations of anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and t-ball championships. But thanksgiving? Not so much.

Thanksgiving is encouraged by most religions, giving thanks to a higher power. But I suspect that an attitude of thanksgiving is considered to be a good thing by the non-religious as well, whether it is directed to a higher power or not.

I tend to focus on the negative in the big ol' world, even in my little life. Wars, injustice, poverty, inhumanity. Bills to pay with too little money, too much work to do-not enough time, broken heat pumps, lower back pain, loss of ups, losing reading glasses, spaghetti stains on white shirts, touch screen on my droid not responding to my pounding . . .

I overlook the incredible joys of my life while ferreting out every thing, big or tiny, that is not so good.

Perhaps I am the only one with this problem. If so, I would be thankful for your good fortune, if I weren't so focused on my own problems.

Maria had it right. In times of fear and uncertainty it is helpful to exercise the discipline of thanksgiving. Once you get the hang of it, it can become a much longer song than the Rodgers and Hammerstein ditty.

I encourage you to try it if you haven't already. It can be a miraculous exercise, even if in the beginning it seems silly or unnatural, like it is with me. Just start where you are with what you are doing. Kinda like when Maria paused for a moment before the song and had this exchange with one of the children:

"Whenever I'm feeling unhappy, I just try to think of nice things."

" What kind of things? "

"Well, let me see. Nice things. . . ."

She was so cute.

For instance. as I look around the den . . .

I am thankful for the warmth of a soft sofa, for the aroma, taste and lift of a hot cup of coffee, for early morning light, for deer that visit my yard every morning, for bananas with their healthy nutrition, sweet taste and handy, easy open wrappers, for a fire in the fireplace to calm and warm me when the world seems cold, for hot showers, for my sons, whose pictures around the room remind me of a zillion happy moments and hope for the future and a daughter-in-law who is more like a daughter made to order, for parents whose house I can see from my kitchen door who instilled in me the parts of me that I like the most, for siblings who helped me grow up, and still help me, for the mystery of music, for books full of words and wisdom by writers who worked so hard to share their gifts, for the brilliance of the writers' of the U. S. Constitution (a copy is on my bookshelf) for friends, many of whose gifts scattered around the house remind me of special times and special love and that are always there when I need them, for a most unlikely new relationship with a wonderful woman who likes me, for the fun of games, for laughter, for the beauty of falling leaves, for the calming patter of falling rain . . .

Just a few of my favorite things to be thankful for . . . once I remember to do it. The list could go on and on and on.

Yeah, I've got it pretty good.



Monday, November 21, 2011

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . .

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered this now famous assertion in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, against a backdrop of 25 percent unemployment, pervasive bank failures, a near collapse of the manufacturing and agricultural sector, and increasing homelessness.

FDR was fighting fear. A nation fearing failure. Fearing uncertainty. Fearing poverty. Fearing the future. Because we humans are not so different from the rest of God's creatures when survival is in question. Fear evokes two reactions. Fight or flight. Thoughtless, reflexive reaction or paralysis. The first would cause mass hysteria, perhaps anarchy. The second would assure that the free fall would continue. FDR knew that his first job was to expose the enemy, fear, harness its energy for survival, and give the nation confidence to move in a positive direction.

People still argue about the radical policies instituted by FDR. But few can deny that by giving the nation a positive, hopeful way to move despite and beyond its fears, the nation recovered.

Meanwhile, across the pond, in February, 1933, 32 days before FDR's inauguration, another leader ascended. Adolf Hitler became .Chancellor of Germany. The good people of Germany were suffering the same fears that came with the world-wide Great Depression.

Hitler also harnessed the energy of his people's fear. He spoke of protecting the Christian faith against the immoral, against the atheists, against the inferior, against the Jews. He spoke of the superiority of the true Germans and the inferiority of just about everyone else.. In 1922, as he was laying the groundwork for his rise to power, he said:

"I say: my feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to the fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as sufferer but as fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and of adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before—the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some two thousand years ago—a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people."
And the good people of Germany, paralyzed by fear of the future, followed. They allowed and assisted in the holocaust, the brutal torture and murder of millions of human beings. How in the world could that have happened?

They were afraid.

When I was younger, much younger, I took a lifesaving course. We were taught how to go out into deep water and assist swimmers in trouble. We were warned that a drowning person is not rational, they are afraid, and as a result of that fear, they might overpower you, grab onto you, and take you under with them. It was difficult to arrange a real drowning person to participate in the lessons, so we just did the best we could to simulate as we took turns being the drowning swimmer, flailing and grabbing and struggling against our rescuer.

I passed the course and got the card to tote in my wallet.

Then, one day at a camp, I had the chance to use what the card said I was qualified to do. But this wasn't a simulation. The swimmer was a skinny young fellow, smaller than me, so I wasn't worried. I was a certified Red Cross Lifesaver, after all. I approached him cautiously, trying to say calming things, but before I could say a whole lot he lunged for me. Somehow this slight young boy had morphed into a raging eight tenacled monster octopus intent on dragging me to the bottom of the lake. Fortunately another swimmer arrived about that time, and saved the young swimmer from the water and me from octopus-boy. We all made it back to the dock.

Octopus boy was tiny and shaking..

Fear is a powerful thing. It makes normally intelligent people do crazy things. It makes normally good people do monstrous things. And it does it powerfully.

We live in a fearful time. But what is it that we fear?

It's an important question.

Because we may be fighting against our best hope of rescue.

Or we may become monsters.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unattended consequences . . . I mean unintended

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Last night as I was watching Alabama basketball and listening to OHS play-off football, both of which ended well, I experimented with Twitter. I opened an account a couple of years ago, so long ago that I had forgotten my user name and password. After searching old emails I found them.

I was all a-twitter.

The only tweet I had previously uttered was 490 days ago. All it said was "test." I recall that was the last time I thought I should experiment with Twitter. I had problems with the Twitter concept. What could I possibly tweet that was worth my time and anyone else's time to type or read in the space of 140 characters? I still don't know. However, it is possible to post my tweets to this blog-site, as you see on the right. I'm not sure how I will use it, but we'll see. It seems like a cool thing to do.

Last night as I began my experiment, I was trying to tweet about the Alabama basketball game. Tony Mitchell began the game playing above the rim as he is known to do, slamming the ball down through the hoop after swinging on the rafters of the gym. In an effort to tweet colorfully, I attempted a simile to describe Mitchell's antics. I tweeted, "Tony Mitchell has more dunks than a brush arbor revival." It was a clever reference to creek baptisms that often occurred after such events, during which the baptisee was dunked under the water.

But after I tweeted, I noticed that I had not said that at all. My tweet said, "Tony Mitchell has more sinks than a brush arbiter revival."

I did not appear nearly so clever as I had planned. Colorful, maybe, but not clever. More like nonsensical.

Auto-correct. It will be the downfall of modern civilization.

It didn't recognize "arbor" or "dunks." It is illiterate. For your information it does not recognize "fecal matter" either. That ruined a clever text about the movie "Rango."

And when you need its help, where is it? No, I did not mean that your signature must be acknowledged by a "Notary Pubic." Where the L was auto-correct then?

Auto-correct can be a source of embarrassment and pain to the one it is supposed to serve. It is not given the ability to think. It just follows the rules it has been given.

That leads to unintended consequences.

In Tuscaloosa, the home of the other Robert Bentley, Alabama governor and primary advocate of the Alabama immigration act, a visiting employee of Mercedes Benz was arrested Friday under the Alabama immigration law and taken to jail. He was a German member of a management team here for a few days. He was released after one of his colleagues retrieved his documentation from his hotel.

It appears that the arresting officer followed the law to a T. The German visitor was driving a rental vehicle with an improper tag. The officer stopped the car and asked for identification. The driver did not have it with him. The officer arrested him and took him to jail. The law gave him no choice. If he did not do everything he could to fully enforce the immigration law, the officer was subject to legal sanctions. He was just following the rules he must observe.

Unintended consequences.

This guy was German, not Hispanic.

Need a special session to correct that one.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thurvey for November 17, 2011

Time once again for the Thurvey, that is the Thursday Survey, a chance for you to let your opinion, or your brilliance, ideally both, be displayed and scattered across the Internet universe. If you wish to respond to any or all of the questions posed, or just free-skate, type your comment in the comment box below, click on anonymous from the drop down list, and click publish. If the comment box is not visible, click on the little "comments" below the post and it should appear. Type your name in your post if you wish to be unanonymous.

1. The "Occupy" movement is in the news. It is a variation, or expansion, of the sixties,"sit-in," in which peaceful protests are held by occupying spaces normally occupied by the persons and institutions being protested. This one began with Occupy Wall Street in New York City. In your life, if you could choose anywhere in the world to occupy, where would it be, and why?

2. Alabama Congressman Spencer Bankus (attribution to Courtney Hayden, read his stuff in Weld) got a big shout-out on CBS 60 minutes last Sunday. He was one of most Congressmen who take advantage of what amounts to legalized insider trading, just for Congressmen. (Today he scheduled a hearing to investigate it. A bit drafty what with the barn door just now being closed) By law (wonder who passed that) it is legal for Congressmen to use non-public information gained from their jobs as Congressmen to buy or sell stock based on that non-public information before it becomes public. That kind of behavior might land you in prison if you are in the private sector. Ask Martha Stewart. Or don't. I've heard she's not nearly so friendly off camera. She might make a Thanksgiving centerpiece out of you . . . Anyway, since Congress has set the precedent, what criminal law would like to be able to violate with impunity? Or if you'd rather, just rant about how crappy this is.

3. Is it too early to buy final four tickets to watch Bama play some hoops in March?

4. What is your favorite R.E.M. song? They are calling it quits after a short run of 30 plus years and selling about 85 millions albums. Slackers. If you need help recalling their songs, click here.
Or if you don't know anything about the band, describe your most memorable dream.

5. Pretend that you had been foolish enough to get elected President of the U. S. in 2008. What would you have done to address the freefalling economy?

6. Huddle House, Waffle House, or IHOP? Why?

7. What question of your own do you want answered this week?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A History lesson . . .

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a line in a post about the Republican Presidential field. All Herman Cain had to worry about was defending the sexual harassment allegations. Rick Perry had just had his now second most embarrassing public appearance in a speech in New Hampshire in which he was either drunk or just crazy. I wrote,

It's Mitt.

I deleted the line. Not because I didn't believe it. I deleted it because I wasn't ready for the entertainment of the Republican nomination campaign to come to an end. But I believed it. I was sure that within two or three days all Republicans, conservative and moderate, would join hands and read excerpts from "Atlas Shrugged," and hoist Mitt Romney on the back of the big elephant and go in hunt of Barack Obama.

I was wrong. I can't believe it. Not because I'm never wrong, but because it just seemed so obvious.

Not only is it not Mitt. In several polls he trails Newt Gingrich and is neck and neck with Herman Cain.

I still believe Herman Cain is done. In a Perryesque moment, Cain took about a minute to not respond to a trick question about whether he agreed with President Obama's handling of the U. S. role in Libya. But then again, I thought he was done last week.

And now Newt Gingrich?

I have a nephew who is a history major, and is quite good at it. I hear he is headed to graduate school and I hope he is.

Especially in light of the money historians are making these days. Newt Gingrich said this week he was paid $300,000.00 for his advice as a historian, according to news reports arising from a question asked of Gingrich in last Wednesday's Republican debate.

He was paid that fee by Freddie Mac, the controversial government sponsored enterprise otherwise known as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, who contracted with Gingrich in 1999 and again in 2006. Officials of Freddie Mac say Gingrich was hired to build bridges with Congress at a time when Congress was being pressured to take them over. Some would call that lobbying. Gingrich maintains he simply gave them a history lesson.

A $300,000.00 history lesson. But there was no lobbying involved. Gingrich said he would never do that.

And one would assume that he wouldn't, at least for Freddie Mac, which he excoriated as recently as last month's New Hampshire debate. Perhaps Freddie Mac would have been well advised to get a confidentiality clause in their employment contract with Gingrich similar to the one in Herman Cain's sexual harassment settlement.

He taught them a lesson alright. An expensive one. I hope they learn from history. I hope everyone does.

But on the brighter side, perhaps there is hope for other Arts and Sciences graduates.

When I was young, tobacco companies were allowed to advertise. TV commercials and magazine advertisements featured handsome men and sexy women sitting by cool, babbling streams, smoking a popular brand of cigarette, especially menthols. They were the coolest.

The Marlboro man was iconic. A handsome, quiet, grizzled cowboy riding his horse into the setting sun.

The ads made it look cool. Not the menthol kind. The kind that said of cool that said surely you want to look like this.

It worked. Generations of Americans lit up.

But it was a lie. And a lot of beautiful people died too young.

Sadly, it still works. The truth is the enemy. It can be covered up with something attractive. Or it can be buried.

About three years ago I wrote a post about shooting the messenger. The point of the post was that an old tactic was being used in the public discourse. Folks like Karl Rove had revived the Machiavellian-like tactic that if you kill the messenger, the truth he carries will never be seen nor heard. If the messenger is successfully assaulted, the truth will be trapped, undelivered, under his fallen body.

It's worked throughout history.

And now we are being taught the same history lesson . . . by a very pricey teacher.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

I don't want to see that . . .put something on

I wonder what it is that I see or know but refuse to acknowledge.

I would like to be a writer, but sometimes it seems like the good stuff has already been written. And for the purposes of this post, Hans Christian Andersen wrote the perfect fairy tale way back in 1837, The Emperor's New Clothes. You may remember it from school, or even from childhood storybooks, but I invite you to click on the link and read the translated story once again.

I have referred to the short story in a previous post, as have many others.

It is often difficult these days to find the facts we need to know for an informed opinion. Issues are so big, or so technical, or so obfuscated by those who might suffer loss from the discovery of underlying facts that it requires more time and energy than most of us have to find the truth.

On the other hand, we often choose to ignore the facts.

Herman Cain settled two sexual harrassment cases for around eighty thousand dollars. That is not an unfounded allegation. It is a fact.

Voter fraud in the United States is not a problem. In more than five years, the Bush administration, using the full force of its Department of Justice, aggressively investigated the "problem." Less than 100 people were successfully prosecuted nationwide during the five year investigation. Republicans have insisted on and enacted voter identification laws to address that massive fraud.

The Obama administration has been far tougher on illegal immigration than its Republican predecessor, deporting almost 400,000 illegal immigrants in each of the last two fiscal years, more than his Republican predecessor.

There are a lot more examples I can see. It makes me wonder what is going on that I refuse to see.

It's an important exercise.

Because Herman Cain could be elected president despite being a multiple sexual harassment offender.

And hundreds of thousands of elderly and poor citizens who have voted in the past may be effectively disenfranchised for no good reason.

And Republican states like Alabama pass draconian (not to mention ridiculous) legislation based on the assertion that the federal government is not enforcing the immigration laws.

I have good friends who question my liberal, Democratic ways. Most of the time I argue with them. Okay, I admit that I will continue to do that.

But I think I'll try to listen more.

Cause it is possible that I am missing something. I think we all must have our blind spots. You can let me know by commenting.

But I'm going to cut us all some slack. Let's face it. Looking at the naked emperor can be an ugly, and embarrassing sight. It is natural to want to cover up an ugly truth.

So I guess that's why we dress him in our minds, in something more tasteful.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thurvey for November 3, 2011

I just can't seem to give up on the Thursday survey (Thurvey), so here we go again. If you wish to participate, just answer any or all of the survey questions by typing them in the comment block below. If the comment block is not there, click on "comments" below and poof, it will appear. After you have finished typing your survey responses, click on "anonymous" and click on "publish" and you'll become part of the answer and not just the question, whatever that means. The Thurvey questions for this week are, from light to heavy by popular demand:

1. How bad is Alabama going to beat LSU?

3. With what song could you win any karaoke contest, no matter the competition? Why?

3. The cable news shows and talk radio have been dominated by she-Cainery this week. Conservative talker Ann Coulter was incensed by the liberal media coming down unfairly on Her man Cain. Coulter came to her man's defense by stating, "our blacks are better than the Democrats' blacks . . ." How do you feel about any of that? If you don't know what I am talking about, be thankful . . .

4. What did you do last week to celebrate our troops coming home from Iraq? Or to mourn continuing loss of life in Afghanistan? If not, why haven't you thought about that?

5. How do you feel or what do you think about Mississippi's proposed state constitutional amendment that would define human life as beginning at the moment of fertilization? Keep in mind that if you were conceived while your parents were visiting in another country, you will still be a U. S. citizen, but probably will not be eligible to run for president. Just thinking out loud.

6. What question of your own do you want answered this week?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Republican campaign update . . .

And so it has started. Sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain from a few years ago were discovered a couple of weeks ago and published today by Politico. The charges were settled out of court in a confidential settlement years ago when Cain was a lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association, so it is not yet known whether Cain's assertion that there was nothing to them is accurate. Sometimes such cases are settled for what is called "nuisance" money, meaning that the money paid was not because the accused was guilty, but that it would cost more to defend the case in court than pay a small amount to the complainant. That could be the case here. Cain should have been forthright from the beginning. His avoidance, vagueness, and inconsistent answers today did not help him at all, especially having been given ten days by the reporters at Politico to prepare a response. That may ultimately cost him the nomination, even if the accusations turns out to be minor. But the guy can sing.

Like chum to circling sharks the issue will draw every news agency, pundit, and opponent. We will know the complete truth soon, I expect. So let's move on.

Perry is gone. I mean he is on another planet. If you did not see his blast-off during a speech in New Hampshire last Friday, check it out. It defies description, other than he would fit in well in a smoke filled dorm room sitting on the floor discovering the apparitions hidden in the floor tile next to the nacho bag.

Michelle Bachman has yet to go anywhere. Like everyone else I continue to consider her a viable candidate, but I don't know why. Perhaps we would all just miss the joy of seeing what she says next. Ms. Bachman's mantra regarding her qualifications to be president is that she is a former federal tax litigator and has the knowledge to reform the tax code. Currently she is expounding the merits of the tax flavor of the day, the "flat tax." The problem is, many of her opponents are also "flat tax" advocates. So, using her vast tax lawyer knowledge and experience, she proposed her own "flat tax" during an appearance a day or two ago on ABC's This Week.

"I would not have just one rate, but I’ll have several rates,” she said.

I'm no federal tax litigator, but that sounds more like a progressive tax than a flat tax. She is just too much fun to lose.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are not funny. But we may hear more from them as the rest of the field disintegrates.

John Huntsman is actually a good candidate. But, he believes in science, which is apparently a deal breaker in Republican circles this year and has struggled to break the three percent polling ceiling. He had the quote of the weekend regarding Mitt Romney, who he has really been going after.

Huntsman, in an ad, pointed out Romney's flip-flops, and at the end called Romney a "lubricated weather vane.

John Huntsman may be the only one left standing at the end of this all.

As he pointed out, the front runner can't seem to stand for anything for long.

To be continued. I am sure of it.

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