Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Second Wedding Day

Today our granddaughter, Katie, and and her husband. Liam, will be wed (the second time around) in Stillington, a little village located in North Yorkshire, where Liam grew up, went to school, and lived out his formative years.  The wedding or blessing will be held in the same village church where Liam was baptized.  The Church of St. Nicholas dates back to the 15th century.  The Reverend Stephen Whiting (Vicar) will conduct the service and Grandad will provide him a wee bit of assistance. What a great day it is going to be....

Yesterday we toured the city of York.  It is just a ten minute walk or so from our apartment to the Bootham Bar (one of the gateways through the remnants of the old wall that once surrounded the city).  Just beyond the gate stands York Minster, the largest cathedral in Northern Europe, with its towers reaching toward the heavens.  It is a magnificent sight.

From York Minster we walked down High Petergate and turned right on Stonegate.  It took just a few minutes to reach Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms where we splurged for morning tea and pastry.  The waiter who served us last time we visited Bettys in 2014 served us again this time with his elegant British grace and charm (for a moment I felt like a King Charles or George).

Then we walked to King's Square and through what is officially known as Shambles, a maze of twisting, narrow lanes with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century.  The lane actually called Shambles is the best preserved medieval street in the world.  It is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086.  The Shambles was a street of butchers' shops and slaughter houses (1350-1475) but is now a street of tourist shops, pubs and restaurants.

A leisurely stroll back toward York Minster brought us to the 400-year old Pub called "The Punch Bowl" where we enjoyed a respite from the heat of the day and some traditional pub fare.  

After a brief rest at our temporary home in York, our favorite driver, Liam, arrived to taxi us to Stillington for the wedding rehearsal and dinner.  What a great day it was in Merry 'Ole England--two pubs down and 362 to go--and today--a Second Wedding Day for Katie and Liam.   

Friday, June 29, 2018

Morning Greeting from Yorkshire

I awoke at 4:15 AM this morning on our second day in the United Kingdom.  That would be 11:15 PM, yesterday--last night--June 28, 2018--back home!  I'm now having my second cup of coffee at 6:30 AM here in York on Friday morning, which would be 1:30 AM (Friday--today) back home.  Time can get rather confusing when traveling.  The best way to handle it is to "go local" and just forget where you came from until you return!

Some years ago we were visiting in Athens in the early spring when temperatures there reached the hottest it had been in that city for over a hundred years.  We are hoping we do not bringing such a heat wave to England, but I'm beginning to wonder.  It is currently 11°C here in York at 7 AM--which translates to about 52°F.  The high today is expected to be around  28°C (82°F).  Quite warm for England!  

We last visited York in 2014--and on Easter Sunday we attended worship at York Minster.  What a great experience.  Today we plan to visit this magnificent 800-year old medieval Gothic cathedral (the largest in Northern Europe) again. Along the way, we will have "Tea" at Bettys.  No visit to York, so they tell me,  is complete without a trip to this famous CafĂ© (Tea Rooms) on St Helen’s Square. The beautiful interiors were inspired by the Queen Mary ocean liner, and according to one tourist pamphlet "it’s been making a splash since 1936."

We plan to have lunch at another Pub (The Punch Bowl) and then return to our apartment for a brief rest before Katie and Liam's "rehearsal" for their second wedding (they married each other at the first one as well) on Saturday. This will be followed by dinner--and our second day in "Merry 'Ole England" will wind to a close.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

“Leaving, On A Jet Plane”

Two songs come to mind this morning as we prepare for a new adventure across the sea: John Denver’s “Leaving, On A Jet Plane” and one of my favorite scouting songs of many years ago, “The Happy Wanderer.”  

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go….The dawn is breaking, it’s early morn.  The taxi’s waiting.  He’s blowin’ his horn….Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane…I don’t know when I’ll be back again!”

I love to go a-wandering, Along the mountain track, And as I go, I love to sing, My knapsack on my back. Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Val-deri,Val-dera.  My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream That dances in the sun, So joyously it calls to me, "Come! Join my happy song!” Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Val-deri,Val-dera.  My knapsack on my back.

I wave my hat to all I meet, And they wave back to me, And blackbirds call so loud and sweet From ev'ry green wood tree. Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Val-deri,Val-dera.  My knapsack on my back.

High overhead, the skylarks wing, They never rest at home, But just like me, they love to sing, As o'er the world we roam. Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Val-deri,Val-dera.  My knapsack on my back.

Oh, may I go a-wandering, Until the day I die! Oh, may I always laugh and sing, Beneath God's clear blue sky! Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha Val-deri,Val-dera.  My knapsack on my back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Life Tumbles In…In Many Ways

Almost a month ago, while my wife was in California dealing with her mother’s passing, we received the news that our second great granddaughter, Delaney, had entered our world.  She arrived a few days earlier than expected, but weighed in at 7 lbs, 7 ozs.  Her parents, Matthew and Emily, were elated, our daughter, Rachel, was beside herself with a grandmother’s joy, and old great-Grandad and great MomMom just couldn’t imagine themselves being old enough (or even Matt being old enough!)  Fortunately, Emily’s mother and sister were able to get there in time to help with Addison (Addie) our first great granddaughter while her sister was making her debut.  What an exciting day!

A few hours later, however, the elation, joy and excitement was stilled and fear and concern overwhelmed our spirits. Delaney was having difficulty.  Within a few hours of her birth—and in the middle of the night—she had her first helicopter ride.  She was flown to a major Children’s Hospital where she could receive the care she needed.  Surgery was performed upon her arrival and the following day yet another procedure.  The doctors and nurses were optimistic.  Matthew and Emily exhausted, but hopeful.  Emily’s mother and sister, both nurses, were there by their side, helping and encouraging.  We were doing what we could to help and encourage from a distance (in Maryland and in California) holding Matt, Emily, and Delaney in our bundle of love and care.  

Every new day brought good news.  My nephew, a pediatric cardiologist in Michigan, had a connection with the hospital and followed Delaney’s progress each day providing comfort to us.  Matt and Emily’s inner resources blossomed  They were given an extraordinary strength and courage to face each new day.  And Delaney continued to get better and better.  We are so grateful!  Our daughter, Rachel, has just spent a week getting acquainted with her newest granddaughter, Delaney, while spoiling her first granddaughter, Addison.  And life goes on….

And what of old great grandad?  Well, I just can’t get over how life tumbles in, even though I’ve  seen and experienced it in the lives of so many others through the years as a pastor. Life tumbles in!  But we must be careful what we say.  Life tumbles in not just in loss, trouble, or sadness—Life tumbles in with gladness, too.  It is with gladness and an inner feeling of gratitude I can’t find words to describe, that I share how life has tumbled in on me in two beautiful little great granddaughters: Addison and Delaney.

Monday, June 25, 2018

“Coddiewompling” Again!

It is time to get on the road again.  But there are no roads to take us to England which is where we want to go.    I wish there were a way to put pontoons on our Odysseus (our miniature RV) and cross the “Pond” that way, but, alas, that just won’t work according to my mechanic friend.  So, I’m grateful that British Airways has agreed (for a price) to take us across the Pond on Wednesday evening where we will meet up with our granddaughter Katie (aka Katydid) and her husband, Liam.

Katie and Liam were married here in the United States last October.  I had the honor and privilege of officiating the wedding service.  Some of Liam’s family were able to come for that event,  but other relatives and friends were unable to do so.  Thus, a second wedding (or “Blessing” or “Vow Renewal”) has been planned in England on the last day of June.  (Liam and Katie want to be sure the knot is tied securely both in the US and in England).  

We are delighted to have my brother and his wife journey with us.  We’ll spend several days visiting in England and being with Katie and Liam.  Then, we will go on another adventure while in the area.  We will fly from England to Denmark, board a cruise ship and sail the Baltic Sea visiting ports in Berlin, Germany,  Tallinn, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Russia, Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland and back to Copenhagen, Denmark.  What an adventure it will be!

Yesterday, my friend, Frank, posted a photo on Facebook that caught my immediate attention.  I’m sure it had much to do with our upcoming journey.  I laughed at first, but then began to realize the truth the photo revealed.  I can’t coddiewomple like I did a few years ago.  If  you want to be a Coddiewompler, then you better get to it now.  Don’t wait.  Coddiewomple while it is day. We know not what tomorrow holds. 

“Why NOT to postpone travel until retirement.” 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Unchartered Water

For years we have argued over “the values to be applied to objective reality,” writes Hayden in “The Assault on Intelligence,”  “or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, not the existence or the relevance of objective reality itself.”  The importance of reality and truth is emphasized by Timothy Snyder, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.  If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis to do so.”  And Snyder adds, what Hayden calls this chilly observation, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

In February 2018, Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced "to the press, to the world, and to Vladimir Putin that the United States was indicting thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies ‘for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 presidential election.’”  “Let that sink in,” writes Hayden.  “Crimes.  Real crimes.  No ‘phony,’ no ‘hoax,’ no ‘witch hunt,’ no ‘fake news.’

On the other hand, the president condemned  Obama-era intelligence leaders responsible for the Russian report as “political hacks” and tweeted, “I mean, give me a break.  So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey.  Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker.”  Trump has followed this pattern of devaluing and delegitimizing institutions of government, the press, and persons continuously.  He insinuates that a free (though certainly imperfect) press is “fake news,” unless it is Fox; the FBI is in “tatters,” led by a “nut job” director and conducting a “witch hunt”; the Department of Justice  is weak; the intelligence community, in addition to being led by political hacks is “Nazi”-like; the courts are manned by “so called” judges, Obama is an illegitimate president and Hillary sold uranium to Russia.

This is unchartered water—what is truth?  Does only the president speak truth? Are we living in a post-truth era where what he says is true, what I say is untrue, what I think is right, what you think is wrong?  What CNN reports is fake, what Fox reports is real? The existence and relevance of objective reality is being questioned.  If there is no such thing, then Snyder’s words become chilling,  “If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis to do so….Post-truth is pre-fascism”

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Subtle Re-Making of America

Michael V. Hayden, retired United States Air Force four-star general and former director of the National Security Agency (NSA),  and director of the Central Intelligence  Agency (CIA) has written an important book (“The Assault on Intelligence”) for our time and I encourage everyone to read it.  

Hayden writes about NSC-68, a policy document written seventy years ago about American engagement in the world.  Hayden, reading the document, was “struck by its deep sense of history, the scope of its vision, its reverence for American values, and the toughness of the actions it was willing to countenance (like developing a hydrogen bomb).  It even had a section devoted to describing the fundamental purpose of the United States:  ‘to assure the integrity and vitality of our free society, which is founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual.’”  The document also emphasized “the free society does not fear, it welcomes, diversity” and seeks to “foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish,” while rejecting “the concept of isolation” and affirming “our positive participation in the world community.”  It is, Hayden says,   “a policy [of] attempting to develop a healthy international community.”

A subtle (and sometimes not so subtle)  re-making of America is happening now.  The issue of immigration is being given priority while Russian interference in our election process (it did and is occurring) is seen as a “hoax”  and a “witch hunt.” Health Care is tabled and the “Flag” and National Anthem are used to denigrate and divide people and undermine the First Amendment.  Allies are being ignored and ridiculed and tyrants are being praised.  The judicial system is mocked and delegitimized. The dignity and worth of the individual is being crushed by name-calling and defamation. Children are being detained in internment camps.  The values of America are being de-valued.

Hayden sees the subtle remaking of America in the vocabulary used  in a new NSC policy document framed by the Trump Administration, where it is written:  “The world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors, and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” 

The most blatant (not subtle) re-making of America happened when the president said of those who oppose him:  “These are very, very bad and evil people.  They know who they are.”  He would later call NFL players taking a knee  during the national anthem S.O.B’s.”  Yes, in subtle and not so subtle ways, America is being re-made into a non-America.

Is "Lady Liberty" fading away?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Why Don’t You Believe Me

The song, sung by Dean Martin, “Why Don’t You Believe Me,” popped into my head this morning as I looked at my Facebook Timeline filled with posts from my Trump-supporter friends.   I’m not complaining, well, maybe just a little.  But, after all, I can “snooze” them, “hide” them, “unfriend” them, “delete” them, or “unfollow” them.  My friends who do not like what I post on their Timelines can snooze me, hide me, unfriend me, delete me, or unfollow me as well.  If I can post my anti-Trump rants then my friends have every right to post their pro-Trump rants and we are both free to do with those posts what we will.  One of the things that I liked about developing a blog was that it would not be foisted on my Facebook friends.  The only part of this blog seen on your Timeline is the “quote of the day,” a photo, and the subject of the blog and the first few lines.  You have to choose, or click on the blog, if you are interested in reading it.  Perhaps all posts should be that way?

I wonder about my Facebook friends and I’m sure they wonder about me.  In fact, several told me in recent days that they are worried  about me and that I ought to ease off Facebook (some even worry that I might have a heart attack or stroke).  The issue seems to boil down to the song ringing in my head:  Why don’t you believe me?  And why don’t I believe you?  Most of the time it has to do with our “sources.”  Where do we glean or find our information?  According to the President of the United States, if you watch Fox News and I choose to watch CNN, you are getting the truth and I am getting “Fake” news.  The President is the highest authority in the land (not exactly, but figuratively)—so I suppose one could say—he has it right. What better source could one find?  After all, he has claimed more knowledge about ISIS than the generals and labels himself as a genius.  But, do you really believe that every cable network except Fox is presenting lies and falsehoods to their audience?  What is the basis for this belief?  What is your evidence, your source for such a pronouncement?  Ah, got it!—Mr. Trump, the President of the United States said so.  Well, why don’t you believe me?

Mr. Trump has said a lot of things since that day (three years ago) when he descended the escalator in his gilded “Tower” and declared himself a candidate, saying,  “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems….It's true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Dear friends, that simply is not true.  Why don’t you believe me? With Mr. Trump it is always someone else’s fault, he is absolutely faultless:  it is the Democrats, Crooked Hillary, Obama, Immigrants who are responsible.  Don’t you get it?  Why don’t you believe me?

Don't be buffaloed!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Purpose Is To Inspire

A comment on one of my several Facebook posts yesterday asked if I “could be more positive and put something inspirational on Facebook.”  My posts of yesterday were in one sense, a ranting and a raving, but in another sense they really were meant to be inspirational.  If they were not then I failed in my purpose.  To inspire is to influence (the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something), to animate (bring to life), and to move the intellect and emotions of another.  

My aim, through yesterday’s posts, was to get the reader to do and to feel something about the situation on our US borders where children are being separated from their parents and placed in internment camps.  I wanted to encourage, stir up, rouse, awaken, enkindle, trigger, ignite, incentivize, induce, prompt, stimulate, motivate, cause, and energize the reader’s spirit to react to this despicable and unAmerican behavior.  To inspire, to “in-spirit,” or to "bring new life” or even a “new idea” to another person meets the meaning of inspiration.  I mean to inspire!

In spite of all the braggadocio at yesterday’s White House meeting and the signing of the Executive Order by Mr. Trump, the situation on our borders today is worse than it was yesterday.  The Executive Order continues the “zero-tolerance” directive initiated on April 6, 2018.  It will be in effect until such time as new immigration legislation is passed.  (In other words, the zero-tolerance policy is being used to force legislation).  You can check out the details of the EO for yourself at…/affording-congress-opportunit…/.  

The New York Times reports, “There will be no grandfathering of existing cases.” There are also reports that the perpetrators of this horrific criminal action against children will not make any attempts to re-unite the families they have torn apart.

Can I inspire you (if you are a person of faith) to PRAY for the children and their parents?  Can I inspire you to VOTE?  Can I inspire you to SPEAK OUT and TELL THE TRUTH?  Can I inspire you to make use of Social Media to inspire others?  Can I inspire you to PROTEST?  My reason for writing is to inspire—to uplift, encourage, stir up, rouse, enkindle, and energize the “better angels” in our American life.  My task, while it is day,  is to call forth the better angel in myself and the better angels in others.  Always has been—always will be my number one task.  

The Yucca inspires--it is called the Candle of the Lord.
It is a'bloom.  There is hope!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

If The Shoe Fits

The United States will withdraw from the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council.  There are several reasons cited for this withdrawal according to U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley:  the Council’s “chronic bias against Israel,” its “hypocritical and self-serving” attitude and its unwillingness to make “essential reforms.” "For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias," Haley said, and added that the "essential reforms" that would have ensured continued U.S. participation had not been achieved. 

It should be noted, too, that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently rebuked the Trump Administration’s “Zero-Tolerance” policy which has led to the separation of some 2000-plus children from their immigrant parents at U.S. borders.  Haley fired back at this rebuke by saying, “Once again, the United Nations shows its hypocrisy by calling out the United States while it ignores the reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council….While the High Commissioner’s office ignorantly attacks the United States with words, the United States leads the world with its actions, like providing more humanitarian assistance to global conflicts than any other nation….We will remain a generous country, but we are a sovereign country, with laws that decide how best to control our borders and protect our people.  Neither the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders.”

It hurts when “the shoe is on the other foot.”  Usually it is the United States making broad and sweeping condemnations of human rights abuses in other nations.  Apparently the U.S. has the right to make these statements because of  “our generosity”  and by “providing more humanitarian assistance to global conflicts than any other nation.”  But no other nation or group of nations dare mention our own human rights abuses!  We “do our own thing” as a sovereign nation and “neither the United Nations or anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders.”  

Hypocrisy means “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.”  It is a common practice (and no one is immune) among individuals, groups and nations.  It makes us think it is okay for us to throw the first stone at others caught in bad behavior—but it is not okay for anyone else to throw stones at us.  It hurts when “the shoe is on the other foot,” especially when the shoe fits!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why Are You So Shocked?

No one should be shocked by what is happening at our borders.  The current President announced   his position on immigration and his  attitude toward immigrants at the very beginning of his candidacy.  Ill-informed as that position and attitude might have been then and ill-informed as it may be now,  no one can say that what is happening comes as a surprise or as a shock.  The decision made to remove children from their parents as a means to deter immigrants from seeking asylum or access to the United States has become Administration policy (a “Zero-Tolerance policy”announced by the Attorney General on April 6, 2018).  We now know that the plan to do so was discussed by the Trump administration immediately after the inauguration (February 2, 2017).  However, the President and his Secretary of Homeland Security maintain that such a policy is not of their own making—that they are simply obeying and enforcing the law.  The fault lies elsewhere (as it always does with this Administration).  It is the fault of Congress, or the Democrats, or they are justified because former presidents did it, too.  

The current President has announced through his former attorney and his current attorney that he is “the law.”  John Dowd said, “The President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under the Constitution (Article II)…”  Richard Nixon said something similar, “when the President does it, that means it is not illegal.”  I disagree totally with this interpretation of the Office and of the Constitution—BUT, if the President believes it.…

Well, then, if the President is “the law” he can stop the present practice of separating children from their parents at our borders immediately!  If he is “the law” he doesn’t need the Democrats to come to the table, nor does he need a  new “Immigration Bill” (that covers what he calls the “loopholes” in current immigration laws). He can just make his own!  Why, he doesn’t even need Congress, even if “his people” are currently the majority and in his pocket.  He doesn’t need the Supreme Court either—but if he can nominate one or two more justices—he’ll have the court in his pocket and his “Muslim Ban” will stand!

Why are you surprised?  Why are you so shocked?  Ah, I see, you took him seriously, but not literally.  What a mistake!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Biblical Justifications

Somewhere long ago I read the words, “Laws do not change men’s hearts.”  Just recently the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions,  now also chief theologian of the Trump administration, quoted a passage of scripture to support the policy of separating immigrant children from their families as a deterrent to future immigrants.  “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” the chief theologian said.  “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”  Later on, the Trump administration’s chief theologian’s statement was confirmed and affirmed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now professor of New Testament Exegesis (the task of exegesis is to understand the divine-human intention locked within the biblical text), who said, “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”  The passage read by Sessions was Romans 13:1-2.  Taking a passage out of the Bible (and out of historical and literary context)  to prove a point is called “proof texting” and has been used “religiously” by the religious for centuries!  Such a practice distorts the biblical message.  The first two verses of the 13th chapter of Romans used by Mr. Sessions to support the administration’s policy, for example, did not include verse ten of the same chapter, which suggests that laws (those commandments prohibiting killing, stealing, adultery, and coveting) “are all summed up in the one rule, ‘Love your neighbor.’  Love cannot wrong a neighbor; therefore the whole law is summed up in love.”  Curious enough, it was comedian Stephen Colbert who reminded the White House chief theologian and the professor of New Testament Exegesis of this verse 10!

Romans 13:1-2 was quoted by loyalists who urged the American colonists to obey King George III of England instead of resisting.  The resisters used the same passage to suggest that Paul was not referring to despotic rulers like George!  The passage was cited as a support for the Fugitive Slave Act, thereby making slavery lawful because runaway slaves were to be forcibly returned to their owners in the South.  It was cited by both priests, ministers, and politicians in the 1960’s during the Viet Nam War protests and during the Civil Rights Movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  You can use biblical proof-texts to prove, confirm and affirm anything you are of a mind to prove, confirm and affirm—but by so doing you will be distorting the biblical message.

Laws do not change men’s hearts.  We have passed many laws about equal rights, and yet many have found ways to circumvent the laws.  We have passed laws about voting rights, but politicians have used gerrymandering to abridge those laws.  We have laws galore—some are good and just; some are bad and unjust—and while the law may help bridge societal and governmental gaps, they do not change men’s hearts.  What does change a man’s heart, I wonder?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

My Paternal Bonds

Today is Father’s Day.  It is a celebration of fatherhood, of paternal bonds we have known beyond the immediate family connection, and the influence fathers have had upon our personal  life and society.  According to some accounts, Father’s Day in the United States got its start from a memorial service held for a large group of men who died in a mining accident in Monongah, West Virginia in 1907.  A national Father’s Day was first proposed, according to other sources, by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1909. 

I am a father of three children.  I know that I have been “like a father” to a few others along the way for they have told me so.  Much of what I know about fatherhood was derived from my own father and my paternal grandfather and maternal grandfather.  I cannot remember my great-grandfathers.  My Dad, my grandpa and my grandad are now gone from my life, but their influence lingers on.  They taught me a lot about what being a father means.  But they weren’t the only “father figures” in my life.  There were so many other men  who influenced me.   There was Willie “at the garage” who helped me fix my bike, took me fishing and swimming, and provided tools and paint for “go-carts” I tried to create.  There was “Julie,” a single fellow, no wife, no children, and yet was “father-like” to me in so many ways.  There was “Churchill” who always lifted me up and “Jim, the mailman,” who made me feel like a “winner.”  There were many “fathers” in my life and I am grateful for each of them and for what they taught me about being a father.  It seems most appropriate to me that Father’s Day may have gotten its start from “a memorial service held for a large group of men”—for the “fathers” I celebrate and honor today were a large group.

Whenever I hear John McDermott sing “The Old Man” the tears begin to flow—tears of gratitude not just for my Dad, Grandpa, and Grandad, though I loved them dearly—but also for the paternal bonds that linked me to Willie’s, Julie’s, Churchill’s, and Jim’s.  My version of the song includes all “The Old Men” who were and are still my fathers:

The tears should have all been shed now 
We’ve said our last goodbyes
Their souls blessed
They’re laid to rest
And now I feel alone.
They were more than just like fathers
They were teachers, my best friends
They can still be heard
In the tunes of life we shared
As I live my life alone.

I never will forget them
For they made me "what and who I am"
Though they may be gone
Memories linger on
And I miss them, my old men

Tha's me in Mother's arms--and the
family of three would grow to be seven in all!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

God, You, Me

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was born in France.  He was a child prodigy and became a noted mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and a Roman Catholic lay theologian.  His most famous religious work is the Pensees, considered by some to be a masterpiece of religious philosophy and for others a Christian spiritual classic.  One of Pascal’s thoughts stuck in my mind years ago when I first read it:  “It is not from space that I must seek dignity, but from the government of my thought.  I shall have no more if I possess worlds.  By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom:  by thought I comprehend the world.”  Everything in the created world is inferior to a person.  Because I am aware, have purposes, and am able to know and to care, because I am a person, I am in a very real sense superior to the stars!  

Pascal affirms that to be person is to be able to be aware, to have purposes, to know and to care.  If this is so, and I believe it is, then it is absurd to think of God in nonpersonal terms such as a Life Force, a Cosmic Energy,  or as the Absolute.  Could it be that the Creator does not have the same powers (awareness, purposes, knowledge and care) that mark the brightest of the world’s creatures?  I doubt it.  If God is not a Person—if God cannot know a man and I can know that man, then God must be inferior to me!  “God may be more than a Person,” writes D. Elton Trueblood, “and probably is, though we do not really know what that means, but unless God is at least as personal as we are, God is not One to whom we can pray.”

Trueblood wrote something else that has stuck with me through the years:  “God is completely what we are partially.”  This is the main testimony of Jesus given throughout the four Gospels. It is true we must be careful of not seeing God in our own image, but we must also be careful of turning God into something inferior to our image.  To speak of God as a Person, in my mind, is to talk about God in the highest terms we know.  God is “He” and “She” because He/She is not “it,” and God is “Father” and “Mother” because God is not uncaring.  So Jesus tells us—and so does Pascal.

Rocks do not feel, nor does the sea--but I feel
the rocks and the sea

Friday, June 15, 2018

America’s Warning: Purple Toes

My little toe turned from a rosy pink to a deep purple last October.  I paid little attention to it until it became painful.  When I finally had the doctor take a look at my little purple toe he immediately said, “Ischemia,” and sent me off immediately for vascular tests of all sorts—from head to toe.  Somehow and for some reason the blood flow to my little toe had gotten stopped up—it wasn’t getting enough oxygenated blood.  This “stopping up” can happen in your brain, legs, and just about everywhere else in between.  Fortunately for me it was my little toe which shouted out a stern warning.

Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) is a progressive condition that begins in childhood and becomes more evident as one ages.  Cholesterol deposits in our arteries create plaque buildup. This is dangerous because fragments of plaque can break off and form a clot that blocks your artery and stops blood flow to your heart, brain, legs, or even your little toe.  Age isn’t the only thing that can affect your arteries.  Lifestyle matters—extra weight, lack of exercise, and eating the wrong food (high in trans fat) can all take a toll.  

In a figurative sense, it seems to me that we in America are experiencing a hardening of the arteries—to our brains, and especially to our hearts.  Has our capacity to “think” been stopped up?  Have our hearts grown cold and hard from a stoppage in our capacity to care?  Has the “fat” of our bigotry, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, intolerance, selfishness, ignorance and injustice through the years turned into deposits of plaque, pieces of which are now breaking off and blocking both our capacity to think and our capacity to care?

There are all kinds of “purple toes”—warning signs—showing up, every day, indicating a hardening of those arteries (equal rights, the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty, civil rights, immigrants, unalienable rights) that have carried the American Dream down through the years.      These “purple toes,” this ischemia, cannot be ignored and must be treated.  To ignore the warning signs will lead to a hardening of both mind and heart—and eventually will become the stroke of death to the soul of America.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Suppose I Told You….

Suppose I told you “I have the greatest memory of all time.”  Suppose I told you this over and over again.  

Suppose I told you  “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.  Believe me.  I would bomb the [bleep] out of them.  I would just bomb those suckers.  And, that’s right, I’d blow the pipe, I’d blow up the re - - I’d blow up every single inch.  There would be nothing left.  And do you know what?  You will get Exxon to come in there in two months. They will rebuild that sucker brand new, it will be beautiful…and then I would take the oil.”

Suppose I told you “I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.  You’ve seen that, strongly.”

Suppose I told you “You know, people don’t understand.  I went to an Ivy League college…I was a nice student.  I did very well.  I’m a very intelligent person.”

And if you are beginning to wonder about my mental stability, let me tell you straight out:  “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart….I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star….to President of the United States (on my first try).  I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius…and a very stable genius at that!”  Suppose I told you this about me at every opportunity?

Suppose I told you that I lied to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.  I informed him that the US is running a trade deficit with Canada without knowing whether it was true or not (it isn’t).  But since it worked on Trudeau, I’m now using the same line with all the rest of you.  I’ve lied about a lot of things—and offered alternative facts—while continually bashing the media as being fake news.  So far you have swallowed it hook, line and sinker. 

Suppose I told you these things not once, not twice, but over and over and over again.  Would you believe me?  Would you get sick of hearing it?  Or would you become convinced that I was speaking the truth?  Suppose I told you all this?

Comedian Stephen Robert coined a new word about ten years ago—“truthiness,”—while criticizing the Bush administration.  He said, “We’re not talking about the truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth—the truth we want to exist.”    “The Wikipedia entry for the word characterized it as a truth ‘known’ intuitively by the user without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.”  Are we living in a new world of “Truthiness?”

The Myth of Narcissus

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Living In A Post-Truth Era

MSNBC’s Katie Tur shared her attempt to talk with some of her friends on various political issues and presenting the  “facts” about  each topic discussed.  Her friends responded by saying they really didn’t care about the facts—they weren’t sure her “facts” were really fact anyway,  Her friends refused to listen to “objective reality,”  preferring instead to accept their already established political opinions.

Two congressmen were interviewed.  Each one had his own set of facts and the facts of one contradicted the facts of the other.  The moderator presented his facts during the interview and his facts were not those being expressed by the two gentlemen!  Three sets of facts?  A fact is “something that actually exists; reality, truth.”  Are there three different existences, three different realities, three different truths for these three different people?  Is there no such thing, then, as objective truth, reality, fact?

Michael V. Hayden in his new book, The Assault on Intelligence, writes about this new and  strange phenomena:  the question of truth.  “It was no accident,” he says, “that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion or personal belief.”  Hayden’s friend, a British philosopher characterized this  emerging post-truth world as “over-valuing opinion and preference at the expense of proof and data.”  The president of Oxford Dictionary has predicted that the term “post-truth” could become “one of the defining words of our time.”  Within the last  two years since “post-truth” was the “word of the year,” I am more and more convinced that the new word is indeed defining our time.  

Can I live in such a world?  A world where expertise, scholarship, education, data, study, rational evaluation of ideas and happenings—the centrality of fact—is no longer deemed important or central to our life?  No, I cannot.  More than ever, now, today, we need “truth-tellers”—scholars, journalists, scientists, and politicians, writes Hayden, “to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.”  Can we overcome our narcissism?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Blanket Won’t Cover It

I have an aversion to blanket statements especially when they appear on Facebook and someone suggests that I “agree and share.”  A blanket statement is a statement covering an unlimited amount of people “across the board.”  It assumes the statement is true and all-embracing  for everything or everyone covered by the “blanket.”  A “generalization” is a “blanket statement.”  Both are all embracing.  A generalization is a sweeping statement (not allowing for exceptions) which fail to acknowledge other factors, ideas, or circumstances.  Examples of a generalization or blanket statement might include the following:  All apples are red, All buildings are square, Men never ask for directions, or All Christians are good people. 

When people urge me to agree and share that I  “Support the military” or that I “Support Law Enforcement” they are asking me to embrace ALL there is about the military and ALL there is about law enforcement.  They are covering the whole of the military and the whole of law enforcement with their blanket statement.  Such statements place me in a quandary.  

When I am asked to support our troops or our military I cannot help but think of Mei Lai.  I cannot help but think of Abu Grabe or Guantanamo.  I cannot help but think of the “some” and normally they are the “few” who make the blanket statement an unacceptable one.  The same is true of the blanket statement Support Law Enforcement and of course, I do—BUT….  I cannot help but think of March 7, 1965—Bloody Sunday—when law enforcement meted out an unnecessary violence on those unarmed and wholly innocent men, women and children crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  I cannot help but think of the law enforcement officers now taking children from their parents at our borders, or the police in a nearby city using their power for unlawful harm upon the people they were paid to protect.  

Every basket of apples is bound to have a few rotten ones.  Please do not ask me to lie and assert that all the apples in every basket are good.  I know better and you do too.  Blanket statements and generalizations are nebulous and there are better ways to make our point without sacrificing our mental integrity.