Tuesday, December 18, 2012


He watched, devastated, as  the children were being torn apart by relentless, vicious evil.  To enter into that place, once a picture of idyllic happiness, would require putting Himself in the midst of the horrific destruction, becoming almost as helpless as the children themselves.  But the children were powerless to get out on their own.

And so He came.

We are the children.  All of us. From infants to senior citizens, from the beginning of time until the end of time, we are the children being torn apart by an unnatural evil.  Our childish ways and weaknesses leave us helpless to find our way in the dangerous darkness.

And so He comes..

But He comes empty handed, no shield, no weapons. Is He kidding?  We hesitate to follow because the evil has convinced us that evil can only be vanquished with greater evil.

And the darkness grows.

But, the darkness has no power.  It is a fraud.  It is defenseless against the light of the One who comes.

His hands he leaves empty, and open, perfect to hold onto, or to carry the ones who are too weary..  But how does He carry the light into the darkness?

In His heart.

And in yours.

And mine.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

A memory surfaced this morning.  As I poured my cereal and placed the box back down on the counter, for a moment I was six years old again, sitting at the breakfast table at the Tropical Breeze Motel in Panama City, Florida.  Fred, an adult close family friend who also made the annual summer pilgrimage to PC, was sitting with me.  He was making fun of me because I was reading the cereal box.

So, as I put the box down this morning, I felt compelled to do a little reading.  (Weirdly, I am doing all this in a house that Fred built fifty years ago. Perhaps he is still laughing at me from the great beyond. I hope so.)

Grape Nuts cereal has no grape nuts in it. No grapes. No nuts. No grape nuts because there is no such thing.

I never really thought about it before.  I just enjoyed the nutty,crunchy goodness of the Post product mainstay.  I always assumed it exuded a natural healthiness, especially containing that mysterious essence of grape nuts.

There is no mysterious essence.  Grape Nuts is made of whole wheat flour and barley.

Sometimes I wish I didn't like to read so much.  I would still believe in Grape Nuts.

I'm not eating mysteriously healthy Grape Nuts.  I am eating flour and barley.  Good thing I am not gluten sensitive.

Bummer.  Better double up on the fish oil.  If that's what it really is.

I should have learned my lesson years ago.  When I was a child Cheerios advertised itself as a grain version of Popeye's spinach, with commercials featuring Cheerios Kid and Sue. (Please look at that link, especially you who are younger than 50. It will help you understand your elders)  If you ate it your biceps would immediately bulge, and a big round Cheerio tattoo would appear on the inside of the upper arm and you would do heroic things.   I skinned my knuckles during a test punch against the pine panelling in the hallway to my room.  I guess I buried that painful memory until this morning and the unraveling of the whole breakfast cereal mythology.

The truth is, I still like Grape Nuts.  And Cheerios.  And the truth is, I really had an idea that Grape Nuts was not really made of grape nuts.  And that Cheerios did not instantly make me Herculean.

But it was nice to ignore what I knew was probably the truth. It just made me feel so good.

Feeling good was good enough for Janis and Bobby McGhee.  But it didn't last. Janis let Bobby slip away.
And Janis did too, at the age of 27, when she died of an overdose.

Feeling good at the expense of the truth can result in relatively harmless, maybe even humorous, results, like a skinny six year old kid trying to punch a hole in a wall.

Or, it can be deadly.

Some good, Christian Germans who allowed the Holocaust, the cruel murder of millions of innocents,  felt good that their homeland was being cleansed. .

Some good, Christian Americans, felt good that black bodies were left swinging from the limbs of southern Oaks or exploding into pieces in Birmingham.

Some good, courageous explorers and pioneers felt good about eradicating native Americans from their homelands.

Some good, religious Muslims feel good about killing Christians and Western devils.

Some good folks feel good about treating Hispanic men, women and children so cruelly that they had to "voluntarily" return home.

The crowd that screamed "free Barabbas" and sent the Truth to the cross to die a torturous death felt good about it, while Pilate, whom we in that crowd tend to blame for the way things turned out, asked, "What is truth?"

Jesus said that the truth will set us free.  He said that He, Himself, embodied the Truth.  The truths that he revealed are clear.  Love God. Love everyone, including, especially, your enemies (anyone can love their friends). Turn the other cheek.  Do not judge others. Take care of and love the poor, the widow, the orphan, the children, the sick,  the outcast, without condition.  Love and serve. Sacrifice. Do not store up treasure for yourself.  The least are the greatest and vice versa.

But that's not the way Jesus' truth has been packaged by those of us who have been called to advertise it.  We have not been truthful.  We just want to justify feeling good.  Feeling good about being judgmental. Feeling good about the failures of others. Feeling good about revenge. Feeling good about winning at all costs. Feeling good about our wealth and excused for the plight of those less fortunate.

Maybe it's time we got back to the Truth again.  It's simple enough for a six year old to read and understand.

Maybe it will renew our strength.

To truly do heroic things.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the house . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It's good to be back.  As happens to everyone from time to time, I have had to put much of my normal life aside for several weeks to focus on other things.  It is peaceful to be back on the Saturday morning sofa.  Deer are grazing on the acorns under the huge canopy of the white oak down the hill. A ridiculously bold coyote struck a Rin Tin Tin pose on the hill behind the house.  And a mostly white skunk, with similar hair problems to my own, looking as if he had a pretty rough night, seems perturbed by something as he waddled by the window a couple of times.  I will leave him alone. Even though I suspect he eats my cherry tomatoes. Or perhaps he uses the juice as cologne.

There is much to be done.  I have absolutely ignored house maintenance for a couple of months. This requires a deep clean.  When I moved into this house, there were some things I didn't do.  One of them was removing the layers of old contact paper lining the shelves of the kitchen cabinets.  When I moved in I tore off  small pieces which came off easily, but left the rest.  I was satisfied with just covering it up with rubber mesh liner.  It looked fine.  But every time I opened the cabinet doors to get a glass or a bottle of olive oil, the shelf never seemed clean, even though it looked good. So, last night I decided to go deep. Take everything out of the shelves.  Remove the rubber mesh shelf liner.  Remove the old, nasty, glued on generations of cover-ups. Get it back down to the bare wood shelf. Then I would know it was clean.

The kitchen was a wreck before I started.  But now it qualifies for an EPA Superfund cleanup.  Everything has been removed from the shadows of the cabinets and is stacked on the counters, the floor, and even extending to the few empty spaces on the den coffee and end tables.

I knew the task would be daunting.  The covering that had been in place that long would not give up easily  So last night I perused the shelves of the local building supply for something to make the removal easier.  I bought a bottle of blue goo that made bold claims about easy removal.  It also warned me that it might remove my own skin if I was not careful.

First thing this morning I slapped some of the goo on a portion of the old shelf liner and waited as instructed. With great anticipation I dug my fingernails into the side of the covering and pulled. A micro-sliver of the blue speckled paper ripped away.  I tried again, with a knife.   Another sliver.  And both slivers left another layer of glue and covering underneath.  I tried again, this time scraping. Nothing.  The blue goo was not going to work.

Then I remembered what I forgot.  I had used heat to remove wall paper, so maybe that would work on the shelf liner.  Brandishing the hair dryer like Marshall Matt Dillon on the hunt, I drew down on that crusty old paper. For  a moment I tried to remember if the blue goo had mentioned anything about being flammable, but then I thought, what the hey, the worst that could happen is that the dadgum liner burns off.

Holding my blazing heat gun in one hand, I searched for an edge with my other hand, digging my thumbnail around the edge.  Eureka.  It began to come up.  In large sheets.  I kept applying the heat, sometimes having to linger over the places that the covering hung particularly tough.

Thirty minutes later, the nasty layers of shelf liner were gone, wadded up and tossed at the trash can across the room.  String music.

The shelving wood is completely bare. Now it can really be cleaned  up.

Like the Refiner's Fire or Aroldis Chapman, sometimes the only thing one can do  is bring the heat.

Now to clean up this mess.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thurvey 8/30/2012

Thursday is here and it is time for the Thurvey.  The poll questions are on the right.  If you are on a mobile device you may have to go to "web version" to see the questions.  If you want to comment further on the questions, just do os below.  There will be no separate essay questions.

Last week we learned that most people look forward to the Autumn weather after Labor Day, with football season a close second.  Medicare needs to remain as is with fixes to make it sustainable.  Climate change should be addressed with an aggressive program for green energy.  And we don't know much about what to do about Alabama's budget/revenue crunch.

I like my politics, but there are things that trouble me about this political campaign.  Maybe you are troubled as well. Feel free to let your thoughts be known.

Otherwise, have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Forty percent chance of heavy pain . . . schools, public office, and hospital closings will scroll beneath the post

Seven years ago  Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.   For an hour or two it seemed that the Big Easy would withstand the storm's fury with less wind damage than expected.  But then, within hours, the word came that the pump and levee systems were failing, and the Crescent City was flooding.  Soon tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people were stranded because of man-made failure.  Nearly 2000 people died, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and about half the population never returned. Millions of dollars were spent on disaster relief as a result of Katrina.

In the past seven years the government has spent about fifteen billion dollars to construct a new system of levees, pumps, and flood gates to protect most of the city and surrounding parishes from the heavy water surge and massive rainfall.

And just in the nick of time as Hurricane Isaac made initial landfall tonight.  Officials are confident that the new system will handle the resulting flood of water.  I pray they are right.

Fifteen billion dollars.  And some people say that at least that much more is needed to adequately protect New Orleans from future Katrinaesque storms.

There is a bit of irony in the path Isaac took to get to New Orleans.  It first had to pass the city of Tampa, where the Republican National Convention has convened to officially nominate Mitt Romney to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

And it passed by Tampa and the Republicans without slowing up.

If Mitt Romney is elected president, it is likely Isaac will not be the last hurricane to get by the Republicans.

If one believes what Mitt Romney now claims to be his budget proposal, the federal government will have little or no money for such frivolous things as new pump and levee systems, comprehensive weather forecasting, and national disaster response and relief.

Mitt Romney has said he will increase Medicare spending for the next ten years.  Medicare presently represents fourteen percent of the federal budget.

Romney says that he will not cut defense and security spending.  Defense and security spending presently represent twenty percent of the federal budget.

Romney says he will not cut Social Security benefits. Social Security spending presently represents twenty percent of the federal budget.

So, Romney has promised to not cut, in fact to slightly increase, fifty four percent of the present federal budget.

But Romney also promised to make some dramatic cuts in spending right?  Yes he did.  He promised to cut 7 trillion dollars from the federal budget over the next ten years, or an average of 700 billion dollars per year.

So here's how that would look if you used the 2012 federal budget.  The total 2012 federal budget was 3.8 trillion dollars.   Romney has pledged not to cut anything off of 54 percent of the budget, which amounts to  2.05 trillion dollars.   That leaves 1.75 trillion from which to cut 700 billion.

Or to put it simply, nothing will be cut from social security, medicare, defense and security.

Everything else must be cut by forty percent to make Mitt Romney's proposal work.

Like hurricane forecasting, new levees and pumps, and disaster relief.

And medical and energy research. Medical insurance for children and the poor. Disaster relief. Education.  Public Safety, NASA, infrastructure . . .

It doesn't matter how nice a levee and pump system are, if forty percent is missing, you might as well forget the whole thing . . .

Maybe that's the whole idea.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Birthers, bakers, and big wave makers . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

A few things to ramble about this morning.  As usual, Saturday morning is not a time to get too het up.

Addressing a crowd in Michigan this week, Mitt Romney said it was great to be back in the place where he was born.  He then went on to say,

"No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate . . ."

The comment was greeted by the friendly crowd with laughter and applause.  It was greeted by those on the other side of the political fence with an explosion of tweets, posts, texts and messages of outrage that Romney would be pandering to the lunatic birther crowd.

That was not my initial reaction.

My intitial reaction was,

"I don't doubt they never asked for your birth certificate, they probably asked for a warranty, maintenance record and instruction manual . . ."  or

"Is flash photography allowed?" or

"After that snoozer of a speech I would imagine they were more curious about your death certificate .  . ."

I'm not proud of my reaction.  Okay, actually I am. Sometimes I wish we would just let the candidates say what they want.  Maybe even let one of the debates be an insult contest.  The notion has a classical, historical basis reaching back over a thousand years in Europe. It even has a name. Flyting.   Seriously. I was thinking of selling it sort of like a major heavy weight boxing match.  Proceeds to reduce the deficit.

"Flyte or Fight, 2012"  the Thrilla in Wasilla (only because it rhymes so well), or better yet, Mobilla or Huntsvilla.  Alabama needs the money.  Trust me.

Mitt Romney should be able to make a good natured joke about the birther issue.  Barack Obama should have been able to laugh at Romney's remark and send a zinger right back.  Because the idea that President Obama is not an American is a joke, which should be laughable.  It is okay to make a joke if everyone knows you're only kidding.

But some folks just don't get it.

Speaking of taking yourself a little too seriously, I must poke a little fun at my alma mater this week.  The University of Alabama makes a lot of fortune from the fame of its athletic programs, particularly football. Hundreds of thousands, probably millions of fans buy shirts, caps, shorts, mugs, car tags, mouse pads, coolers, oven mitts, dog vests . . .the list is endless . . . with the University's trademarked athletic logos displayed prominently.

At this point I would normally insert a photo of the distinctive Crimson A which has become shorthand for excellence in Academics and Athletics.   But due to the events of this week I feel safer just referring you to rolltide.com, the official website of UA athletics.

 Northport is a city separated from the University of Alabama campus only by the Warrior River. It is as close to the campus as most of Tuscaloosa, which is the municipal home of the University.  In Northport, only a skipped stone's throw from the University, there is a small bakery called Mary's Cakes and Pastries.  Mary, the owner of the small business, received a "cease and desist"  letter this week from legal representatives of the University of Alabama.  The University of Alabama was poised to sue Mary over her illegal and unauthorized use of trademarked Alabama logos, like the Crimson A, on cupcakes, cookies, and cakes (some of which, an insider discloses, have been ordered for official University functions).    To view how far Mary had fallen in her lawlessness and where to order the cookies and other treats because she deserves it after what the University did to her, click here.

The University apologized and retreated after their threat became public.  Our A  turned even redder after the incident, and rightfully so.

On another, brighter Tuscaloosa sweet treat note, Krispy Kreme has reopened in a new building on McFarland Boulevard.  I think it is where the old building was, but, as is true throughout Tuscaloosa, it is difficult to tell exactly where things were before the tornado.  The week set an opening crowd record for the franchise. Anecdotal reports say that the crowds have been almost prohibitive.  By the time you got inside, what was advertised by the neon sign as "hot now" was more often neither.  But that doesn't matter now.  I'm just glad my Kreme-filled happiness cakes are back.  Sunday morning, Krispy Kreme and coffee. All is right with the world.

Which brings me back to the Republicans.

Hurricane Isaac is threatening the Republican convention in Tampa.  But I don't think the Republicans are in any danger.  They've already moved so far from the center they won't even notice . . . 

Sorry. Just wanted to give you a Flyting chance . . .

Have a good weekend.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thurvey 8/23/2012. Right before the fall . . .

Thurvey time again.  Once again we will do this differently.  The multiple choice survey appears on the right. If you do not wish to elaborate, simply make your choices by clicking on the answer. If you want to elaborate, enter your elaboration  by commenting. For you on mobile devices, it may be necessary to change to "web view" to take the multiple choice poll, or just wait until you can come back to this site on your computer.  Other wise, the questions are as follows:

#1  What should be done about Medicare?
#2  What should be done about global climate change?
#3  Do you favor the amendment to be up for vote in Alabama to allow about 400 million dollars to be transferred from the Trust Fund to the general fund?
#4  Labor Day means the end of summer, but the beginning of several things.  What is your favorite thing that begins after Labor Day?

If you need starter ideas for your essay answers, look at the multiple choice options.  The multiple choice poll will stay up all week, so feel free to answer at any time.

Last week almost everyone liked the cooler weather of Autumn. Bad diet, followed by laziness was the cause of obesity. Alabama's biggest problems are poverty and education.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cinnabon voyage . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

I was trying to book a flight this week, looking for the cheapest ticket I could find.  I assembled my team of experts . . . the travel gnome, Captain Kirk of Priceline, and the rest of the websites that contain the words "cheap flights", though I don't really like the word "cheap" attached to my flying machine.  In an effort to keep my cost down I checked the prices from Birmingham, Huntsville, Nashville and Atlanta, and as many different flight time permutations as I could manage.

Flights from Birmingham may be a little higher, and the flight schedules don't always fit my plans, but it is hard to beat the thirty minute drive to an easily navigated airport where security takes twenty minutes.  There is a Starbucks close to all of the gates.  But it doesn't have a Cinnabon.

Huntsville is about forty minutes farther drive than Birmingham.  Sometimes its fares are cheaper, sometimes they are not, and like Birmingham, the flight schedules are limited.  But  you barely notice security. They seem happy to have someone to talk to.   The traffic at the Huntsville airport is so low that I can park just a few yards from the terminal. Again, no Cinnabon, but the hotel restaurant has a nice breakfast buffet.

Then there's Nashville and Atlanta.  I thought Atlanta was farther. After checking, the mileage to the airport in Atlanta is actually shorter.  It's just the walking distance that makes up the difference.  First from the parking lot to the terminal.  Then inside the terminal.  If you stop to have your shoes shined you might have to get them re-soled.   Both airports are over a hundred miles farther away, but often have much cheaper fares and a variety of flights.

Both Atlanta and Nashville have all kinds of food and coffee places. But Atlanta alone has a Cinnabon.

Some airports have TV news playing in the gates area.  I like that.  Some are locked into Fox News. Not my preference. Some have wi-fi. I like that. Some make you pay for it. I hate that. Some airports have high quality sound systems. That's good. Some apparently use a tin can and string with a cat screeching in the microphone. Not a plus. Some airports have those moving sidewalks.  I love them.  I love them when I am tired because I can just be still and get where I need to be.  If I need a boost in confidence I can run while on the moving sidewalk and pretend that I am a world class sprinter, watching those less amazing slow people fall by the wayside.  If I need a challenge I don't take the moving sidewalk, but try to beat those poor losers who did, even those who are running along, pretending they are world class sprinters.  And all airports have those annoying carts that try to run you over, making you disabled so that you have to ride in one of their carts.

Sometimes I wonder, as I walk with head down through the first six or eight rows of seats on the plane what it would be like to be first class . . .

But money is an issue.

As it turns out, there is a lot for me to think about before I purchase my ticket.

But the first thing I have to decide, before I do anything, is my destination.  If you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter all that much how you get there, and you can probably get there cheap.

Cinnabon is wonderful.

But Cinnabon will never get me where I need to go.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thurvey 8/16/2012. The long and short form . . .

If you are looking at this on a mobile device you may need to go to the bottom of the site and click on @view the web version" to be able to take the short form thurvey. Thursday is a day of hope, as it seems we can make it to the weekend.  We can hold our breath that long if we have to.  So it is the perfect time to take stock. The weekly survey. The Thurvey.  We'll try something different again this week.  You can give essay answers to the Thurvey, as usual, or if you wish, simply take the simple survey that appears above or beside or somewhere close to the post depending on the device you are using at the time. I know some of you don't want, or don't have time to write your thoughts, but, this will give you an opportunity to simply click on a few responses.  Of course, it is important to hear the thoughts of those who still wish to respond to the traditional survey, please continue to do that if you wish.  There have been some really cool responses the past few weeks.  The point and click Thurvey is self-explanatory and quick once you find it.  The traditional essay is the same as always.  Enter your responses as comments to this post.

#1   A fact about Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan that has been overlooked is that he loves to noodle.  Before you women (or you men who may have a man crush or otherwise) get too excited, please check the link, it may not be what you think.  If you think you're significant other is a cold fish, then perhaps you can relate.  Anyway, do stories like this affect the way you view a political candidate?   What other present or past candidates' favorite past times have affected how you feel about them?  Have you ever noodled or anything like that?

#2   It seems the Iowa State Fair has become an important forum for Presidential candidates as they stand on a stump and speak to the crowds.  But the Iowa State Fair has a larger claim to fame.  You can buy almost any food at the concession stands, all deep fried.  Being a southern boy, this claim by Iowa to frying superiority is troubling.  What is the most unusual food you have eaten, or refused to eat, fried?

#3   Speaking of fried foods, a new report out this week ranks Alabama as the fourth most obese state in the union.  Why is that?  (You can go either way.  Why are we so obese, or why are we only number 4?)

#4    The days are getting shorter, the leaves are fading, the vegetable vines are wilting, the temperatures are slowly dropping.  Autumn is a month away.  What are you looking forward to the most in the fall?

#5   What is the solution to our health care cost problem?

#6   Do we pay enough taxes in Alabama?  Why or why not?

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

The all you can eat buffet rule . . .

Alabama has the fourth highest obesity rate in the United States.

But don't worry.  Our fatness cannot be blamed on us.

It is the federal government's fault.

If only the federal government would get busy on a good anti-porker policy, we could get off our formidable derrieres and do something about it.

Darn that federal government.

Silly isn't it?

When President Clinton left office in 2001, the United States economy was booming. Or at least bubbling. Debt and deficit were under control.  Revenues were good.

Shortly after taking office, in 2001 and again in 2003,  President George W. Bush advocated, and achieved, a dramatic reduction in income taxes.   Additionally Bush began a dismantling of the evil government regulation that would set the job creators and business investors free to create.

Still drunk on the excesses of the internet bubble,  big business and job creators deftly transitioned to another champagne, the real estate bubble.  Happy days were here.again.

Big business and job creators got everything they ordered.   Lower taxes. Less regulation. Life was good.  And it got real good.  With trays loaded with money to invest and fewer pesky regulations, business and investment speculators took advantage of the plentiful offerings of delights at the all you could eat business buffet. Their appetite was insatiable.  They even found a way where they didn't have to pick up the tab.

And they stayed at the trough for years, feasting at the excellent Bush concession stand.

But it turned out, there is no such thing as "all you can eat."   We call that the other Buffet rule.

In 2008, the all you can eat buffet closed down.

By the end of the year the economy had been picked as clean as a turkey carcass at the family Thanksgiving by big business and job creators while willing Bush Administration  waiters served it up on a silver platter.  The tips made it worth the while.

As far as government policy is concerned, nothing much has changed, even now.  The same tax rates are in place.  Actually the rates are a little lower. The anticipated regulation reform by the Obama administration has been restrained, at best.

Big business and job creators have had it their way for over a decade.

Big business and job creators got obese, diabetic you might say, after years of eating up any and everything they wanted without a concern for health, theirs, or anyone else's.

But it's the federal government's fault.  If they would only fix it.  Just another deadly Whopper. And we the people have swallowed this ridiculous logic.  I can't believe we ate the whole thing . . .

Silly, isn't it?

No, it's not that simple.  I know that.  

But spoiled big business and job creators have been having their cake and eating it too.  The collapse of our economy was in great part their fault.  They indulged their gluttony but refused to repent.

And now they insist that the federal government fix the problem they created.  They insist on help.  On government welfare.  They must have more tax cuts.  More deregulation.

More of the same sweet diet they enjoyed for the last decade.  The same diet that almost killed them. And took many of us with them.  Now that is really silly.

I'm sick of this feeling of entitlement, this idea that the federal government is supposed to be their nanny.

It's time they went to work like the rest of us.

Or at least be drug tested.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday sermon. Class favorites . . .

As a disclaimer, on Sundays I often write about something that is bothering me in my faith life. I am a Christian, and today's post refers to the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  

The Mobile Press Register reported today that Governor Bentley will cut another third of a billion dollars from the State budget. He has already cut two-thirds of a billion.  He is shooting for more than a billion in budget cuts. The governor quoted from the Bible, the Book of James, Chapter 1, verses 2 and 3:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

He cited the passage in a speech to  five hundred members of one of the most powerful religious denominations in the state,  the Business Council of Alabama,  suffering as servants at the austere accommodations of the Grand Hotel at Point Clear.  We are all feeling the pinch, I guess.

I wish he had continued to read aloud from James.  It wouldn't take long to get to chapter 2.  Forgive me for using a long passage, but there really is some great stuff in the Bible:

2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”  you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 

I don't mean too be hard on the governor.  Being a governor of a welfare State, that is to say, a state that is dependent on the Federal government, is challenging in these tough economic times.

But the governor attempted to justify the deep budget cuts to education, to youth services, to food safety, to services for the poor and elderly by quoting scripture.  

Perhaps James (Jesus' brother, not the former governor of Alabama) would have suggested that the Governor go to a shelter, or an orphanage, or an inner city or rural school,  or the Church of the Reconciler in Birmingham this morning, for instance, and discussed the needs of the people gathered there and how the state can best handle those needs in a terrible economy.

But, as many are quick to point out, meeting the needs of the poor and hungry is the job of the church, not the government. Apparently it is the task of government to meet the needs of the business and wealth.

So we quote scripture to the Business Council of Alabama to justify balancing the budget on the backs of those who have no voice, no power . . . no money.

I am sure the Governor addressed this with the Business Council.  I mean, he didn't have to bring up the Bible in a meeting of business leaders, but he did.  So I am sure he insisted that James also called on us all to take care of the poor and needy.  I am sure he told them that it might be necessary to raise their taxes just a little bit so that the needs of the least of these Alabamians could be helped.

I am sure he reminded them he couldn't play favorites, cause it says so, right there in the Book of James.

Surely he did.  It's in the Bible.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

We're only human . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Wow.  This morning is perfect. Cool. Sunny. No massive lightning displays.  Most of the flooding has subsided, except that apparently my roof is leaking a little bit, evidenced by a small puddle of water in the hall.  I will have to pick up a few limbs out of the yard later before I mow, but I need the exercise. Of course I can't get to outside chores until I load the dishwasher and do the laundry. I need to go to the grocery and drug store. But I can't do that any of that until I sit on the sofa and drink some more coffee. At some point I will brush my teeth and groom and do other necessary things.

This week  I spent considerable time watching  TV.   I watched the Olympics a lot, far more  than I had time for. In addition to the games there were the side stories about British Royalty since the Olympics were held in their backyard. And Rafalka.  Then there were the  highlights of the Mars landing of Curiosity and the reactions of the folks that got it there. I watched the continuing saga of Chick Fil A and gay rights.  And of course there was the ever present politics on the cable news channels and Comedy Central when they weren't preempted by the games.  Or more accurately, the other games. And I saw two movies, The Dark Knight Rises and The Campaign.

Perhaps this explains why I've got so much to do today.

So my week was filled with watching the lives of bigger-than-my-life characters.

Considering my life and days I wonder about these bigger than life characters.  Do they have mornings when they sit on the sofa in their boxers, drinking coffee and breakfasting on popcorn left on the coffee table from a day or two before?  Do they know how to load their dishwasher so that the tops of the glasses don't have a Cascade residue after they dry?  Do they wonder how a two foot high weed suddenly grew up in the middle of their driveway?  Do they spend part of their Saturday trying to find where the roof is leaking?  Do they occasionally forget to buy new toothpaste and end up sucking the toothpaste tube to get the last bit for the final brushing?

Do they ever go to the bathroom?

Okay, that's a little gross, but it makes my point pretty well, I think.

Everyone I watched and followed this week is human, except Rafalka, and that horse dances better than most of us. Anyway, sometimes I wonder about the real lives of our celebrities.  We keep them in their spotlights.  But you know they have to come down from the stage sometimes to take care of business.

Michael Phelps addressed this in a real way last week. He told the Wall Street Journal that competitive swimmers pee in the pool, since they don't have time, during training, to get out and go to the bathroom.  Fortunately most six year olds won't be reading the Wall Street Journal.

Mitt Romney also tried to set my mind at ease this week.  He went to the Hardware Store. By himself. When asked what he bought, he replied, "hardware stuff."  Then he went to the grocery store.  By himself.  He bought an ear or two of corn and wasn't sure whether to get a cart or a basket.

Not completely unlike me later today, except for the video crew that was filming his outing for public release and the security detail assigned to him.  The only security and video involved in my outing will be the little camera aimed at the check out counter at the store to prevent me from shoplifting or writing a bogus check.   But still, it's sort of the same.

It's easy to forget that we are human, all of us (except Rafalka).

Especially when we get to know people in two dimensions.  No depth. No context.  It is easy to believe that we know people because we see them on a flat screen for a few seconds or minutes, or read someone else's opinion about who they are or what they've done. The spotlight is bright, after all.

And it is easy to be mean, because, despite what Captain Kangaroo or Grandfather Clock told us, as grown ups we know that they cannot hear us when we say mean, judgmental things about them back at the TV screen .  .  . or on facebook, or around the coffee table at McDonald's.

So that makes it okay.

But what if Mitt Romney was drinking coffee with me this morning (after I cleared him off a space on the sofa)?   Or President Obama was eating a sausage biscuit around the coffee drinking table at Jack's?

Or what if a friend sitting next to you in church told you he or she was gay?

The spotlight is only a few feet wide.  And there are shadows all around it where nothing is revealed,  shadows created by the spotlight itself, shadows that are cast and fall behind the person in the spotlight, for sure, but huge, endless shadows that fall outside the spotlight's dimension.

Maybe we fool ourselves into thinking the small circle of white light reveals everything we need to know, that there is nothing outside its illumination.

But that tiny circle is so small in comparison to the darkness of our ignorance.

Sometimes we are critical of each other for making fun, making fun of Mitt Romney's staged shopping trips, his dancing horse, or his car elevator, or President Obama's method of eating ice cream, his need to burst into an Al Green tune,  or even his efforts to quit smoking.  Of Boehner's propensity to cry and his fake tan. Of Harry Reid's exciting demeanor.  Of the unique problems of gayness and straightness.

Of course we shouldn't be cruel or mean.

But I'm not sure we are really making fun.

We just need them to be human.

And I am sure that outside the spotlight, we all really  are.

Except Rafalka.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thurvey 8/9/2012 . . . favorite contests, protests, vice pres and the rest

Thurvey time.  Your chance to take a stand without  blowing your diet or elevating your cholesterol.  Enter your answers to any or all of the Thurvey questions, or just freelance if you wish, in the comment box below, click on the "comment as" drop down menu, click on "anonymous" and click on publish.  Use your name if you want the fame.

#1  What has been your favorite Olympic moment so far?

#2  If it is necessary to go out to eat to send a moral message, where would you most like to take your stand, or possibly be seated on the back patio?  What would you order?

#3  Your pick for Republican VP?  Not necessary to choose from the popular list. Serious is fine. Humor is better.

#4  What is your favorite conspiracy theory?  Current theories preferred, but golden oldies are also nice.

#5  What would Jesus do?

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


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mittle white lies . . .

When I was a child my dad would often punish his children as a group.  On Sunday afternoon he wasn't all that interested in taking time to ferret out truth and blame.  He just wanted a good nap as soon as possible.

That's the way we look at politics and politicians these days.  We have been told that they all lie, so we make no effort to discern who is misleading us and who is not. Nor do we want to take the time to ferret out truth and blame.  We just want a good nap.

I'm not talking about normal politics. I would expect a candidate to tell me his story in the best light that he can cast it.  For instance, I would expect Governor Romney to use his business experience as a positive.  Much of it is.  He should be hammering on that experience.  I don't expect him to tell me the negatives.  That's why he's got an opponent. It's not lying to put your best foot forward.   It is helpful. I am also not talking about putting a questionable spin on positions and performance of your opponent.  If Romney wants to claim that the economy has gotten worse under Obama, then it is up to Obama to refute that.  I'm not even talking about the minor mistakes or mis-statements about statistics or experiences.  That is politics.

But Governor Romney has lied about President Obama.  Intentionally,boldly and repeatedly.  And no one seems to care.  There have been many. So many that we seem to accept Romney's lying as normal.   It is not.  Well maybe it is for Romney. Here are a few.

#1 Romney lie

It began with one of his first TV ads against President Obama in November, 2011.  The commercial showed the President speaking to a crowd, saying,

“If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

The Romney campaign later admitted to editing the video.  The President actually said,

“Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

Obama was quoting Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.  Romney's edit made it seem the President was expressing his own fears. You can see how the Romney campaign edited Obama's words in this video.  The ad was withdrawn shortly after the news media universally questioned its veracity.

#2  Romney lie

This one is famous now.  Most people still believe that President Obama told business owners that they didn't build their businesses.  On July 13, 2012, Obama said,

 "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridge If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."s.

Obama was clearly referring to the "American system" and "roads and bridges," not the business. Nearly every major news outlet agrees.  But most of the country didn't see the whole statement.

The Romney editors once again went to work. All you saw and heard Obama saying on the Romney ad was,

" If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Romney's campaign admitted the edit, but never backed down.  Romney went on to express the identical sentiment as Obama less than a week later.

#3  Romney lie

 Last Saturday, Governor Romney issued a statement headlined,


In the statement Romney called a lawsuit filed by Obama's organization in Ohio,

“an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote.”

Romney's statement, and that of his legal counsel, clearly left the impression that the President was attempting to limit the military's voting during an early voting period.

The lawsuit was actually attempting to restore the rights of Ohio citizens to the early voting period. If you are wonky enough to care, check out the lawsuit complaint.  This article from Time Swampland is a good explanatory piece as well.

#4 Romney lie

In an ad released today, Governor Romney claims that President Obama gutted the 1996 Welfare Reform Act by executive action back in July.  Romney said that the President's action did away with the requirement that welfare participants work.

The ad is a lie.  The President's action merely invited the States, who are in charge of administering welfare programs, to apply for waivers to manage and operate their welfare systems in a different, more cost-effective way.  The federal government would have no say so in the proposed changes, other than saying no.

It is like an action  requested of the federal government by Republican Governors and endorsed by Mitt Romney when he was Governor of Massachusetts.  You can read the letter here if you wish. Or this article in Boston.com.

President Obama did not gut the Welfare Reform Act.  He simply turned over more control to the States, as any good Republican would ask. Or already have.

There are more, but this is getting too long.

But it's okay, they all lie.

No they don't. Not like this. And it's not okay. Not for the candidates.

And not for the rest of us.

It's time to wake up. We can nap later.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thurvey 8/2/2012, go for the golden arches

Thursday again. Time to survey. The Thurvey is open for business and looking for a piece of the public opinion pie  that has been selling like hot chicken sandwiches this week. Don't waffle . . .try.  If you have soured on public discourse, here's your chance to make sweet lemonade out of the lemons of the week.  Just enter your answer to any or all of the Thurvey questions, in the comment box below, click on the "comment as" drop down menu, click on "anonymous", and click on "publish."  I feel a good Thurvey coming on . . .

#1  This one may take some effort, but I have confidence in you.   It has always been tough for the socially conscious consumer.  Do we buy the world's coolest shoes made in the world's hottest sweatshops?  Do we by gasoline from a company that burned the people of Africa?  And now this whole Chick Fil A thing.   .   .  Maybe fast food places and other businesses should just go ahead and identify themselves with a political or moral position.  Chick Fil A could go either way.  Chik First Amendment Filet, or Chik Feeling Homophobic Today, depending on your viewpoint.  Be creative.  What politically revealing names would you suggest for popular businesses?  Humor will score higher than relevance here . . .

#2   The Olympics have been great.  Which Olympic events would you like President Obama and Governor Romney to compete in, either separately or against each other? Why?  Predict the winner.  Be serious on this one . . . not really.

#3   August is here. The Alabama legislature gave us a couple of extra weeks before school will start again. What would you like to do for the last fling of summer?

#4   There is a campaign under way to let Blount County vote on whether to make the sale of alcoholic beverages legal . . .a "wet-dry referendum."    Here's your soapbox . . .or whiskey barrel.  Step up and take a stand.  Even if you don't live here.

#5  As summer begins to wind down, what fresh fruit or vegetable will you gorge yourself on because it won't be around much longer?  How do you best like to eat it?

#6  What question of your own would you like answered this week?


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Magical Mittsery Tour . . .

Governor Romney rightfully and unequivocally (sort of a new thing for him) claimed some of President Obama's legacy this week.

The Apology Tour.

For those of you who have forgotten, the newly elected President went on a tour of nations a few months after he took office in 2009.  Conservative spinsters (I mean spin-meisters) and broadcasters deemed the trip "Obama's Apology Tour," claiming that the new President left American shores and travelled the world making apologies for  the United States.  The clever right-wing campaign was debunked and called foul by countless political fact check groups and ultimately every news organization, including some at FOX news, but the theme was revisited as recently as last week by Mitt Romney in his address to the VFW shortly before he left for his own international tour.  Romney also said he would never apologize for American exceptionalism.

Romney's trip was certainly exceptional.

The only question that remains is whether his trip will result in just a stumble . . .or a fall. There's something about us that makes us laugh when someone trips.  But it doesn't feel so good to be the one laughed at, whether it be Romney, or us, as in U.S., in the eyes of a questioning world.

During what had been carefully planned to be a week of looking American and Presidential with no chance of making a mistake, most of the Governor's time seemed to be backing up from, you might say apologizing, for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and wrong place.

And to make it worse, Romney tripped over his own feet.  Brian Williams tossed him a softball, asking Romney for his view of the readiness of the Brits for the Olympics.  He could have said that Great Britain has a history of doing what needs to be done, or about their famous resolve, or he could have just said he thought they would pull it off swimmingly, if he really want to be glib.  But he didn't.  He said some of the things he had heard  about the preparations were  "disconcerting," and went on to painfully, arrogantly elaborate.

Romney spent the rest of his time in England backing up as if he were exiting an audience with the Queen herself.  His comments brought the sarcastic retorts of the Conservative Prime Minister and the colorful Mayor of London . . . and thousands of rowdy Brits.  He brought a new unity to the Empire. None of them like him.

Not even the warmth of Dressage could melt the hard feelings.

Then in Israel Romney blamed the poverty in occupied Palestine on Palestinian culture.  He inferred that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel (I don't have enough time to explain how big a  diplomatic gaffe that was) and one of his advisers was making Iranian policy on the side, within earshot of officials and microphones.

Poland was looking good, at least from a neo-con perspective, but still, it was being executed well, until Romney's aide told reporters to "kiss his ass", not in an affectionate way, and to "shove it."  All on video.

So give it up Obama.  The Apology Tour is now Red.

And not just from embarrassment.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Boycotts off target?

We live in a free country, or so I thought.  Free to express religious thought and belief without fear of intimidation.  Free to run our businesses and churches according to our understanding.  I thought we were grown up enough to understand that there would be people who interpreted faith matters differently, and that our Constitution would assure a safe space for differing opinions to exist and duke it out in the market place of ideas.

We may not live in a "Christian" nation, but no one can deny that the teachings of Jesus' are woven throughout the fabric of the Stars and Stripes.  We may not all attend our church every Sunday, but we know what Jesus said and did, and most of us still  want to be like Him.

That is why it is so hard to understand the criticism of organizations that simply make a statement about what they believe about the desires of Jesus for our lives, even if it presses a few of the "hot" buttons of social discourse.  Isn't that what Jesus' did when he stood up to the Pharisees?

And even worse, how is it American to suggest a boycott of such an organization for speaking out for its religious beliefs?  Speaking out for Jesus?

But let's try to have a Christian response to these ridiculous actions of the  NRA.  The National Rifle Association.  The national champions of the boycott.

Oh, perhaps you thought I was being critical of proponents of same sex marriage and their opinions in opposition to the Chick Fil A guy.  Nope. They are amateurs when it comes to boycotts, compared to the National Rifle Association.  So if you've been questioning the technique of boycotts, you should get after the NRA.

On its website the National Rifle Association maintains a list of businesses, organizations and individuals who have hinted that they may be in favor of limiting one of Jesus' most passionate tenets, the second amendment right to bear arms.  Please check out the list. You may be on it. Everyone from Art Garfunkel to the Church of the Brethren to Sprint to Sara Lee to the Kansas City Chiefs are named.

Ask Conoco Phillips, a huge corporation, or Primanti Brothers, a small local restaurant about NRA boycotts.

I guess it is ridiculous, anti-American, to suggest boycotts, unless you are defending something as clearly Jesusy as being able to possess an instrument of death in the name of protecting one's self or material possessions. I am sure Jesus was packin' when he stood with the outcast and oppressed. You can't be too careful with those types.

I will eat at Chick Fil A.  Or more accurately, I will drink the lemonade and the cookie dough milkshakes, which, by the way, are sinful in themselves.

I do not agree with the head guy's opinion, and will be glad to talk with him about it over one of the afore mentioned creamy delights. I will do what I can to understand.

But others may boycott.  That is as much their right as it was his right to take his stand.

Americans will disagree on very important issues.  But we must never suggest that one man's opinion has more right to be heard than another.  Even if you think the opinion is wrong, or crazy.  It needs to get out there and be tested.  It would be great if we could get to a place where opinions, rather than people, were being shot at.

This week has featured an exercise in the absurd.   One man in the chicken sandwich business expresses his heart-felt opinion about the nature of marriage of others.  Others express a heart-felt opposing opinion.  One is defended, the other is castigated.

Isn't it ironic?

Sort of like the last becoming first.

Doing good in secret.

Loving your enemy.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Going for the gold . . .and while you're up, grab me the Cheetos

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

NBC will broadcasting every minute of the London Olympics this year.  I watched the opening last night until I just couldn't stay awake. It appeared that the Queen might have had the same problem. I was afraid I might dream of gigantic Mary Poppins and Voldemorts doing battle, or my bed lighting up with a strange glow,  but was graciously spared.  I didn't need to stay up late watching the ceremony.  I had to rest up for the actual competition.  I've already watched some cycling and swimming this morning. Time for a rest.

For the next few days millions, maybe billions of couch potatoes world-wide will become experts at athletic events that we know nothing about.

Fencing will become more than post-holes and barbed wire.  Those of us who take pride in our finely honed swimming pool dives (cannonballs, watermelons, and can-openers), judged by the magnitude of the water splashed upon nearby sunbathers, will adjust our sensibilities, cheering splashless perfectly vertical entries.  Disregarding our history of being mired up to the axles in a recently rain-soaked field, we will offer critiques of whether gymnasts' landings have been properly stuck.  The flamingo pose of synchronized swimmers will replace our image of pink, plastic lawn decorations.  We will muse whether Michael Phelps is really the super-hero Elastic Man. Have you watched this guy stretch before he swims?  I think he could touch the other side of the pool without diving in . . . We will remember that Olympic Handball is not played against a wall down at the gym, and will try to understand that Dressage is more than regular horses playing dress-up because it may help us to better understand Mitt Romney.  And futball?  That takes some adjustment.

For a few days we couch potatoes will indulge in the fantasy that we know about the Olympics because we watch them and learn the language.  It will be fun. And we need some fun.

It is a wonderful thing to celebrate the achievements of the athletes.  It is inspiring to be reminded of the ability of humanity to go beyond what was previously thought unattainable.

And as much fun as we will have learning the lingo and judging the performances, we know that we are really on the outside looking in.  We know that most of these athletes have led a different life than us. These wonderful performances that we will see, some lasting only a few seconds, represent a lifetime of work, a lifetime of sacrifice.

Every athlete must be prepared.  But that's not enough.  When the game begins, there are decisions to be made that depend on the circumstances of the moment.  When to stay in the pack and wait for your chance. When to kick.  When to be conservative. When to take a chance.

More often than not, the gold will hang around the neck of the one who made the correct decisions during the games.   A fall or stumble or bad exchange may require a full sprint instead of a  comfortable pace. A great performance by an opponent may require an unexpectedly difficult dive or exercise.  I don't know what might be the considerations of a Dressage competitor, but I imagine the dynamics are the same.

And it is a general truth that there will be no  gold for the ones who rely on the way things have always been done, or the magnificence of performances past.  World records may last for awhile, but not forever.  Techniques change. Training regimens evolve.  Strategies adjust.

Resting on laurels will result in being run over.

C'est la vie.

Excuse me, I'm missing something I know, so back to the TV.

And finally, of course.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thurvey 7/26/2012 ics . . .Olymp, Polit, and Philanthrop

Thursday. Survey. Thurvey.  I know I didn't build this blogsite all on my own, although I never have worked on it while on the interstate.  No, I have climbed to the this pinnacle of the world wide web on the infrastructure of you, the engaged and intelligent readership.  Once again it's time for your input on the Thurvey. Lean for the finish line, stick the landing, go for the gold.  Support the USA, answer the Thurvey.

#1   Will you watch the Olympics?  What is your favorite Olympic  sport?  What Olympic competition do you know the least about or care the least about?  If you could skip the torturous training and  just become a champion Olympic athlete, which competition would you wish to win?

#2   Both presidential candidates have now said that we don't achieve the goals and successes in life without help.  Where has your help come from?  A good chance to say something nice about somebody.

#3   What is a "negative campaign?"  Is it ever a good thing?  What do you think the limits should be?   Is it excusable for candidates to lie about their opponents?  What tactics of either presidential candidate would you consider to be beyond the bounds of decency, if such a boundary exists?

#4   Governor Romney is travelling this week to other countries.  Unfortunately for him the world will be watching him, so it probably won't be much fun.  What foreign country would you like to visit with Mitt Romney?  Why?

#5   You can enter a lottery to be invited to President Obama's birthday party. What do you think the theme of the President's birthday party should be this year?  Games?  Refreshments? Location?  Guests?

#6   About half of the residents of Oneonta have been on mission trips this summer. Have you ever been on a mission trip?  Where?  Do you have a favorite story about the trip?

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

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday sermon.Let's get political, political . . .let me hear the Body talk. . .

First, this post is from my perspective as a follower of Jesus trying to understand.   So, for those of other faiths or no faith at  all, I just wanted to warn you.  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on your own struggle, if you have one, with the same issues.  For those of you who are also following Jesus, I welcome your thoughts as well.  Feel free to comment.

The church is no place for politics.  Politics has no place in the church.

I've heard that all my life. 

We know how Jesus told us to act.  You remember,  love each other, love our enemies, they'll know us by how we love each other.  Take care of the poor.  Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the lonely. Take care of the children. Tend to the sick. Visit the prisoner. Give more than expected. Expect nothing in return. Turn the other cheek. Don't judge.  Throw a party, invite everyone. Stand with the oppressed and care for the alien.  Don't story (typo, but a good one which I will keep, but it was supposed to be "store") up treasures. Give away what you have to the poor. If you've been given a lot, you'll be expected to give a lot.   Put away the sword.

That just doesn't fit our politics.

So obviously, Jesus just didn't understand.  He is too nice for our politics.  He wouldn't survive.

It's not that Jesus can't handle politics..

Our politics just can't handle Jesus.

If we tried that, our politics would not survive.  Many of churches might not make it. And we might not do so well either, unless we change.

It's not that Jesus is too nice. One of his last times at his "church", the temple in Jerusalem, where the political power of his immediate world sat,  during a rather hard hitting week-long series of "come to Jesus" meetings, he said a lot of tough things, not to mention turning over a few tables of merchandise.  Take a look at Matthew, Chapter 23.  The whole thing is pretty scary.  But in case you can't handle more than a sixty second bite, here's an excerpt, verses 23-24:

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Talk about a negative campaign. Apparently Jesus misread the polling data.

Jesus paid attention to politics because the world he came to address was political.. The politics of his world to a great degree directed his earthly journey, his life.  And had a great deal to do with his earthly death. It still does.

 Think about words we hear in  political rhetoric every day.  Rich, poor, wealth,  health, sickness, justice, prison, taxes, war, peace, sexuality, immigrants, religion.

Jesus spoke the same words two thousand years ago.

And he wants them spoken today.  The way He spoke them. With the meaning that he plainly spoke them.  In truth. In love. Expecting nothing in return. No matter the costs.

But the politics of his day helped  nail him to a cross and Jesus, the man, died. But his Word did not.

Because He left behind a living, breathing body.  The Church.

And the only audible voice that Jesus has in this world is the voice of that Body.

That voice would never tell lies, but would speak in truth.  That voice would never be cruel.  That voice would always be uttered in love, and with love for the world, even when spoken with passion, yes, even anger.  It would always be sacrificial.

That voice would always speak out for the least, last and lost among us.

Jesus can handle our politics.

But can our politics handle Jesus?


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cool shadows, hot sun, red clay and other good things

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

There are good things.

I've probably been looking a little harder for them lately.

Take the photo on the right.  No, I am not claiming that a shrine should be set up in my den, at the foot of the sofa, based on the cross that appeared on my wall. I would have to really clean up the rest of the house if folks wanted to come in to await an apparition or visitation.   But as I sat on the sofa on a sad quiet morning last week the first rays of dawn projected this spiritual PowerPoint on my wall.   If my windows were a little cleaner, the image would have been clearer. But that's a different sermon.

The cross on the wall was just the shadow of the window pane as the sun rose. It happens almost every sunny morning on some wall in my house.

But that doesn't matter.  That morning I looked up and saw it, and however it happened, it reminded me of goodness and love and hope, and made me wonder whether a cross appearing above a painting of my guitar had any prophetic wallop.  It was a good thing for me.  A very good thing.

Barney was my dad's dog, an old, big, blind, black lab that rarely left my dad's side, spending most of his later years stretched out on the rug in the den beside Dad's recliner or by Dad's bed.  Barney had a cancerous eye which was spreading to the socket, and after taking him to the vet last week, we decided, since Dad had gone on, it would be okay to put Barney out of his earthly misery so that he could once again take his appropriate place with Dad.  A few weeks before Dad died, he told me he wanted Barney to be buried up on the hill behind his house.  I did not plan the day so well, so I found myself digging a grave for Barney at about 2:30 p.m. on a bright, sunny, July afternoon.  I had to leave for Tuscaloosa at 3:30.

Did I mention Barney was a big dog?   As I dug in I rediscovered a few things.  I had forgotten the purity of the red clay just under the thin layer of top soil in the yard above dad's house.  There were no rocks, no insects or worms, just solid, bright red clay that became smooth and shiny at the stroke of a shovel.   I remember seeing it when I was very, very young and the foundation of the house I am now living in was being dug. I remember crawling in and among it and am grateful now that my siblings thought more of me than Joseph of Hebrew Testament's siblings thought  of him, leaving him in the pit.  On the other hand, if I had an amazing technicolor dreamcoat it probably was a hand me down from one or more of them.   I remember the distinct smell of the clay, and how the redness would get on everything, which made me think of little league baseball, because baseball fields around these parts always had a high red clay content, which quickly turned white uniforms orange, which made me think of Benjamin and his widely acclaimed laundry prowess.  The bright, smooth, pure clay made me want to give pottery making a whirl, thinking I could create a pot and let it bake all in the same place. Did I say it was a hot day?  I was in a hurry.

Which made me rediscover just how much I could sweat if I needed to.  And how good water can taste when one's body really needs it.  I guess I haven't been working hard enough lately.  Anyway, the grave got dug and Barney was given a proper place and proper respect with a bouquet of black eyed Susans poked in the soil at his head.  I don't know that Barney was partial to any flower at all, but they grew close to where he lived most of his life, so I imagine he would have liked it.

This morning I had to make a house call around ten o'clock. It was a sad visit made necessary by a cruel illness suffered by a client. I did not have time to finish this post before I left for the appointment, so I just took it easy.  As I was thinking about what to write, thinking about my client, thinking about Dad, and Barney, and hearing in the background the continuous coverage of the Aurora tragedy, my cell phone vibrated.  I had received a text message.

It was from Rick.  He, Lynn and Sarah are with a bunch of Lesterines (members of Lester Memorial UMC, downtown Oneonta, services at 8:30, 9:02, and 11:00 every Sunday morning)  doing some mission work in the Philippines.   He said that they were among serious misery and chaos and so he was thinking of me.  Rick has a way with words.

But then he said, among the misery and chaos, he sees the face of God in the smiles of the children.

And it occurred to me that I have seen God in smiling faces thousands of times during the past month.

Which happens everyday somewhere in my life.  It's just that this morning, a text message from the other side of the world from a clumsy fingered operator, made me look up and see.

And that is a good thing. A very good thing for which I am thankful.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thurvey 7/19/2012

Open wide and stick the Thursday thermometer under your tongue, or elsewhere depending on the source of  your words, it is time for the Thurvey . . . the Thursday survey, taking the temperature of the nation, nay, the world, on the hot, cold or non-issues or the day.  Enter your response to any or all of the questions in the comment box below, include your name or nom de plume if you wish, click on the drop down menu and click on anonymous, and click on publish. If no comment box appears below, click on the little "comments" word below and the box should appear.

#1   I went to the Alabama Theater in downtown Birmingham a couple of Sundays ago, where the  matinee was "To Kill a Mockingbird."   If you haven't been to the Alabama in the past few years, you have missed an easy treat. Check the link for more info including an event schedule. Harry Potter and the Wizard of Oz are coming up this weekend.  If you could see any movie from the past in that incredible movie venue, what would it be?   What other easy getaways would you recommend?

#2 Speaking of Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), what literary character, movie or written fiction, would you like to see run for political office?  Why?

#3  Monday last the One Day at a Time Staff posted about the plight of the poor in Alabama.  On Tuesday the Mobile Press Register published a stinging editorial on the same topic. The New York Times also published an editorial on a similar national theme later Tuesday.  Surely when three such highly revered and respected outlets raise the same issues in such a limited time, something is going on.  Do you consider the plight of the poor an important issue?  Is it a matter to be addressed by the government, by religious institutions, or is it just to be ignored, since the poor will always be with us?

#4  President Obama said the following in Roanoke, Virginia earlier this week:

"I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something, there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help."
"There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

Do you agree or disagree with this proposition?

#5  On facebook some of my friends post that Democrats and/or liberals are "stupid", "naive", "evil", and "anti-American," which concerns me a little because I make no secret that my views tend to go that way (Democrat or liberal, not stupid, naive, evil or anti-American.)   How did we as Americans get to this place? Any suggestions? (other than de-friending, cause I personally think less dialogue is not the answer).

#6  One of the lesser, yet regrettable consequences of the sentiment in question 5 above is that it is harder to really enjoy the funny things that happen in politics.  Let's face it, Obama looked like a goober this week eating an ice cream cone with a spoon.  It is funny that the sport Romney is most known for is dressage, a fancy expensive dancing horse competition.  It is healthy to share a national guffaw, but partisanship is getting in the way of even that.  What has any candidate or public official done that has made you laugh or wish to poke a little fun?  It's okay. Do it for the sake of national unity.

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



Monday, July 16, 2012

A poor excuse . . .

If you want a short, inspirational, somewhat troubling read for anytime, pick up Ron Hall and Denver Moore's "Same Kind of Different as Me."  This post is not a review of the book, but I was thinking about it today as I reviewed the Alabama news of the last few days.

The book is the telling of a real story by Hall and Moore, Hall being a rather wealthy art dealer and Moore being a homeless man,  and how their life-paths crossed. It will make you cry.

In part of the book Moore describes his childhood in Mississippi as the son of a sharecropper.  Slavery had been abolished after the Civil War.  But an insidious system took its place .  Education and opportunity were effectively denied to the former slaves and their descendants.  There was no escape from the former plantation lands of Mississippi for the poor black families who worked in the fields for a share of crops and a minimal existence.  Moore describes an economic system that, while better than slavery, was still oppressive and hopeless, trapping the descendants of slaves just as surely as the muck of a cypress swamp.

Do you remember that Tennessee Ernie Ford song, "Fifteen Tons?"  It was about coal-mining, not sharecropping.  But it describes a similar life.  Who can ever forget Ford singing the last line of that song,

"I owe my soul to the company store."

Many sharecroppers had the same deal.  They bought their meager necessities from the landowner for whom they worked.  The landowner charged convenience store prices and quick loan interest rates. Sharecroppers  often died owing the landowner.

Which brings me to the Alabama news of the week.

Alabama has the fifth lowest median income in the nation.

Alabama has the ninth worst poverty rate in the nation.

Alabama taxes its poor more than any other state in the nation. We are number one.

Alabama consistently ranks in the lower ten to twentieth percentile in public education rankings in the nation.

If you are poor in Alabama, you are among the poor of the poorest in America, you pay more taxes than any other of the poor in America, and your opportunities for escape through education are among the lowest in America.

You pay taxes on the food you need to live, unlike most of the rest of America.

And maybe you'll never read this blogpost, either because you can't read, or because you don't have access to a computer or the internet.

But I can write this, and some of you can read this, because not everyone in Alabama is poor.

Because Alabama is in the top ten, in fact number five in America, in another statistical ranking.

Alabama boasts the fifth largest income inequality gap in America according to Wallstreet 24/7.

We have chosen to ignore the poor.  Lately we have even begun to blame the poor.

So here's a very short read  for we who dwell in the buckle of the Bible Belt.

Headed for a goat barbecue if we don't change our ways.




Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lawn, tennis and love . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It is a perfect summer morning up here on the hill, the cooler night air still lingering while the birds and the noisy bugs set off their alarms. Of course that will change by late morning. Everything changes. It is the nature of life.

Okay, that was a bit philosophical, but on Saturday morning here on the sofa with my coffee that is okay. The rule for everybody on Saturday should be that you do what you want to and don't do what you don't want to before noon,  unless your action or inaction is injurious to someone else.  I propose that as a constitutional amendment, a notion clearly articulated by our forefathers when they talked about the "pursuit of happiness" and "inalienable rights."

So,  I want to talk a little more about my dad this morning, because for the last year or two I would spend a portion of Saturday with Dad.  The last normal Saturday we shared was only a couple of months ago, when we attacked the formidable lawn together, riding the tractor and the lawnmowers, weed-eating and lopping, and taking breaks to fix whatever equipment we had broken that hour. It was a beautiful late spring day. The yard looked great after I gathered up all the tools and machines strewn about the grounds.  We worked together, yet apart most of the time. We would laugh, with and at each other, as the one riding the equipment that was still functioning drove by and waved at the other who stood, aiming and figuring about how to get going again. If the problem was formidable, there would be a conference, and we would work together to fix it or decide to park it.   What a great day.

I have been amused in recent decades at my dad's interest in yard work.  He accumulated an arsenal of equipment to use, break, and repair.  A tractor, two riding lawnmowers, weed-eaters, loppers and other instruments adorned his carport, tool shed, and pole shed in the last years.  He kept his acreage groomed and it seemed to be one of his favorite past-times.

This amused me because I never saw him touch a lawn-care implement while I was growing up. I saw Danny mow a lot.  My mom mowed from time to time. And it seemed like I mowed forever. With a lawnmower that was held together with a coat hanger. We had to get a new one once after I caught the old one on fire, but that's a different story.  I'm glad he finally got to share in the joy.

But there was a time when we did other things on summer Saturdays.  One of them was tennis.

If you were at the funeral, or read my last post, you might get the idea that my dad was this kind, thoughtful man concerned only about the well-being and happiness of others.

That may have been a slight exaggeration.  If you ever played tennis against him, you know what I mean.

Dad was not an orthodox tennis player.  In warming up, if he ever really warmed up, you never saw him stroke the ball cleanly with a little top spin.  His back-hand looked like he never really figured out how that was supposed to be done.  And that never really changed after the match started.

My dad loved to win.  But just as important, it seemed, was torturing his opponent. He was the master of spin. Perhaps this was a result of his political or broadcast or sales experiences, but it was most lethal on the tennis court.  He delivered thousands of serves that were never touched.   The ball would leave his racquet, rotating on its axis so fast that the seams of the ball disappeared, pass a micron or two above the net, bounce on the outside line of the service square, and scoot immediately, about three inches off the court, sometimes almost rolling, toward the side fence of the court, out of reach of the futile lunge of an uninitiated opponent.  A couple of these serves inevitably led a wise opponent to cheat to the outside, further and further until finally they got a racquet on the ball before the second bounce.  The next serve would then be straight down the center court line, with little spin, again untouched until the humbled opponent walked back to pick it up. He would laugh.

He was the champion of dinking.  Dinking is putting a shot just over the net, so softly that the ball barely bounces.  Young, athletic opponents would celebrate very brief victories as they raced, headlong, toward the net, scraping their racquets on the court before picking up the shot for the return.  Then they watched helplessly as Dad softly lobbed the ball over their head into the backcourt.  Dad would be laughing as the younger player would race backward to return the softly bounced ball back at the baseline. It seemed he was hoping that his opponent would be successful, because, if he were successful, there was another opportunity for the deadly dink, and the whole cat and mouse game could continue. An unexperienced player would be worn out after the first couple of points.

He loved to win.  But it almost seemed he loved to play the game even more. We played and played back then. It was important to win because there was only one court, and you got to keep playing as long as you won.

But most of all is that time we all spent together. Our whole family played. And lots and lots of friends played.  And laughed.  And sweated. And talked.

In scoring tennis, love means no point has been made.

The way dad played, there weren't too many love games.

I miss you dad.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Dad

My dad died a few minutes before midnight Sunday.

I've spent the time since then with family and friends, focused on planning for a Wednesday afternoon funeral.  We cried and laughed, called, texted and emailed, sifted through about a million photographs and papers, and took comfort in the kindness of others expressed in presence, food, flowers, smiles, stories, hugs and help.

And now I am alone, for the first time since Sunday night.

This is a post that I never wanted to get around to, but, I knew it was coming someday. It happens to everyone, I know.  But it never happened to me and my dad. I wasn't ready, even though I knew he was terribly sick.  So, if you will indulge me, let me say a few things about L.D. Bentley, since he is not around to help me sort this thing out.

First, let me refer you to the obituary written by my sister Emily.  I know many of you don't click on the handy links I provide, but please do so this time, even if you never get back to this post.  I called her and asked her to write that piece around 11:00 a.m. Monday morning.  She said she would be glad to do so. I told her we had a deadline of 4:00 p.m.  She still said yes even though she had a ways to drive before she could get down to it.  She finished a little after three and we made our deadline.  Emily is a truly gifted writer with newspaper journalism experience.  She knew about deadlines.  There is no way that even someone as gifted as Emily could write such a beautiful piece  in a couple of hours if she had to research the subject to find something to say.  I am sure she would tell you that her time was not spent finding things to say about her dad. The problem was deciding what to leave out.  Good material was not a problem.

L. D. Bentley did a lot of things not included in the obit.  He ran a sales barn, started a newspaper,  owned and operated coin laundries, invested in an oil well in New Hope, Alabama,  helped in the creation of the 4C program in Blount County, which served the needs of immigrant workers' children and others in need, served on the board of the Oneonta Public Library, served on the Board of Directors of the Blount County Department of Pensions and Security/DHR, assisted in the Blount County literacy program. If I left something out important or interesting, just let me know by commenting.  As I said, good material about what L. D. Bentley did during his life is not a problem.

But a life is not simply a list of what is done.

A life would be better defined by who someone is, if that were really possible.

To me, he was Dad.

I looked up to my dad, not just for all those wonderful things he did, but more for why and how he did them. It was never about him.  He would not let it be about him.  It was about helping other folks have a better life, particularly those who were powerless and needed help. True, that is not a formula for political success, which resulted in a short career in office, but a long life of respect. He had a strong, clear baritone voice, "network quality" he used to say, laughing, as we listened to his most recently recorded radio ad spot.  It was a voice perfect for radio.  But it was a strong, clear voice heard in many other places as well.

 It was heard in the halls of the Senate Chamber of the old Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery for hours and hours as he and 12 other Senators committed political suicide by filibustering until the clock ran out on segregationist Governor George Wallace's effort to change the rules so that he could be elected for a second term.

It was heard in Oneonta in the fifties as a new public school system was born, and later in the seventies as a new school complex was built.

His voice was clear in board meetings addressing the needs of adult mentally challenged adults and the concerns of their aging parents and worried family. It was strong when advocating for poor immigrant workers' children and their need for education.  He was generous with this gift of voice.

His voice was one of his best assets.  Not just the smooth sounds that resulted from "a set of good pipes." A voice that came from a deeper place, somewhere beneath his vibrating vocal cords, somewhere within his big, big heart.

The world, at least around here, will miss that voice. Will miss that heart.

I know I will.

 I do.

Because he was my dad.  He loved me and all his family with that same big heart, that same strong voice.

I was blessed to be with my dad Sunday night. I was looking directly into his eyes. Seconds before he died he lifted the oxygen mask (which he hated) from his face, weakly smiled the mischievous smile that he often used to lighten the mood, cut his eyes toward me as I stood by the side of his bed and said,

"Will you tell me a story?"

A few seconds later, I saw the light disappear from his eyes and he was gone in an instant.

I don't know what he meant when he asked me to tell him a story.  But he left us a story to tell.

And a lot of voice lessons.

I love you Dad.


Real Time Analytics