Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay."
We're back home from a flying trip to Texas for the wedding. It was great to see family and to spend time with them. To see friends at the wedding and take a part. The only downside there is that everything moved too quickly.
The part that I do not miss is the drive. I am so glad that is behind us and that we will not be making a substantial drive again for a while. We did both legs straight: 14 hours going, 13.5 coming back. Add in losing an hour yesterday coming back home and we're a family of just plain worn out people.
I've told Jamie I think I'm getting too old for that long in a car. Especially, as I'm not one who gets to sprawl out in the back seat anymore. We were near loaded to the brim both ways, so everyone stayed in their seat. I only got to swap back and forth from driver to passenger seat, and neither really allows one to stretch out at all.
My back can't take it and I'm definitely looking forward to the chiropractor this week.
The next trip back I think we are flying. And then Christmas, I think I've convinced her to break up the return trip at least.
It's funny how we change. I'm one who has made more 4-5 hour trips in the car than I can count. Went home from Austin to Buna a lot. Went from Baylor to Buna a lot. Went from Wills Point to Buna and to Austin. And while those could start wearing on you, I could generally keep up.
I loved long road trips as well. We generally could spread out, just the three kids. Taking turns as to who got the back row all to themselves to lay down and spread out.
I understand now why those were not as fun for Mom and Dad. Driving or just being a passenger in the front seat does not carry near the fascination.
At any rate, we're back home for a while. Next month, family is coming our direction, so we'll look forward to having them here and showing them around.
Posts should pick up a bit more regularly, including one this week about why it is so hard to write in 2020.
Hope you are all having a great start to the week.
As always, thank you for reading.
Yesterday marked a personal first - I performed my first wedding ceremony. One of Jamie's students, and the daughter of her best friend, had requested that I officiate her wedding. She made the request over a year ago, while we still lived in Texas. I was to officiate, Avalyn was to be the flower girl, and Jude was to carry a sign. Much has changed over this past year, but this request remained, only Jude got upgraded to ring bearer.
It is for this reason I recently got ordained by the Universal Life Church. Non-denominational online church primarily designed for ordaining wedding officiants. Ideally, I would have found a way to be ordained through our denomination. I have been ordained as a deacon a couple of churches ago, and have filled in giving a message a couple of times, but am not ordained as a minister. This at least got me legal as an officiant.
Last night was a beautiful ceremony. For my part, I was short and sweet, keeping my thoughts/message very brief, and moving right into the vital parts of the ceremony. Having Jude and Avalyn a part of the ceremony made it an even more special night for our family.
I don't know when I'll ever put this to use again. I don't see when I'll be asked, especially with the now near 12 hour distance between us and most family and friends. But for a once in a lifetime opportunity, it was pretty special.
Congratulations John and Ashlyn! Many blessings on you as you continue forward in your marriage!
In honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, a bit of poetry, from Robert Louis Stevenson.
Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.
Where shall we adventure, to-day that we're afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?
Hi! but here's a squadron a-rowing on the sea—
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we'll escape them, they're as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.
Pirate Story, Robert Louis Stevenson
A fun and silly holiday to divert our attention from the doom and gloom that seems to be this year. Hope you get to enjoy today however you talk, and drink up me hearties yo-ho!
"Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made. ... It shouldn't be that women are the exception."
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away today at the age of 87. An iconoclast, she remained a vital advocate for gender equality and women's rights right up to her passing. It is not a stretch to say her advocacy and legal career created the framework for modern gender discrimination law. Her tireless work as an attorney for the ACLU and as a judge and Supreme Court justice, only the second woman nominated to the Supreme Court, remain a bedrock foundation in this area.“The work is really what saved me, because I had to concentrate on reading the briefs, doing a draft of an opinion, and I knew it had to get done. So I had to get past whatever my aches and pains were just to do the job.”
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
I’ve been reading through the Psalms with Avalyn each time it’s my night to get her to sleep. This evening we got to Psalm 51, which has become one of my favorites over the years. This dates back to undergraduate where I was part of the choir at First Baptist Georgetown and we would sing a beautiful choral arrangement of this piece. When I read it, I still go through the vocal arrangement of the song, not necessarily the written words in the Bible.
There are so many portions of this passage that get referenced and rightly so. What keeps jumping out to me now, though, is less taught. Less focused on, at least from my reflection.
Verse 16 seems to perfectly encapsulate one of the great struggles that we have in our lives. “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;”. A recognition of that pattern where we have tried to bargain with God to let us feel right with him, but still keep doing what we want. “All I have to do is just bring a sacrifice to the altar and then I can do what I want. I don’t have to change anything else.” David recognizes this pattern we can get into of wanting to do something for our salvation, wanting to do something to feel better about our lives, but not being willing to make the change that God really wants. Because the truth is that a physical sacrifice could be less costly. But rather, “You do not delight in burnt offering.”
That is not what God wants from us. What God wants is much more costly. It costs us everything. For us to recognize how broken we are, to admit how broken we are, and to ask him, to allow him to fix it. That is subsequently the sacrifice of least physical value and most taxing cost.
We get this reminder throughout scripture. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” This verse quoted by Jesus is another of my favorites. Part of that idea that while we are to be working out our salvation and participating in good works, that is not ultimately what God desires of us. He desires our humility, he desires us to be loving, he desires us to be merciful. For these are the qualities that He has displayed to us.
It’s a good reminder both for when I get too overwhelmed I’m doing things for God and for when I get too caught up in myself, trying to keep doing things my own way.
Purge me, wash me, restore my joy.
"A day there was of monumental villainy. A day when a great nation lost its innocence and naked evil stood revealed before a stunned and shattered world.
A day there was when a serpent struck a sleeping giant, a giant who will sleep no more. Soon shall the serpent know the wrath of the might, the vengeance of the the just.
A day there was when Liberty lost her heart - and found the strength within her soul."
" 'And There Came a Day, A Day Unlike Any Other...'
'when Earth's mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat.'
Those words were originally written about the Avengers, a band of fictional heroes battling fictional foes. But they apply as well to the harrowing events of September 11, 2001, and to the men and women who responded to those events.
The firefighters, police, and emergency workers who plunged into danger to aid the trapped and injured.
The rescue personnel of other cities, other states, who came without being called - some who drove all night to come to New York and do what they could.
The ordinary citizens who dropped everything to walk to the site and offer their help. So great was the turnout that in the end, volunteers were turned away. There were too many - too many men and women lining up to risk their lives to aid their fellow man.
New York journalist Katie Roiphe may have put it best when she wrote, simply, 'We also have men who are wiling to die for an idea.'
To those who came, those who helped, those who died trying to save others: We thank you. We honor you. We will never forget your heroism."
Have we finally reached it? Are we finally at bottom? The last straw?
There has been a great downward spiral of news regarding the President over the past couple of weeks. There were reports from Michael Cohen’s tell-all book. Beyond revealing information entirely consistent with Trump’s past record on misogyny and sexual proclivities (commenting on Cohen’s 15 year old daughter) and revealing the secret of the infamous comb-over, Cohen revealed Trump’s apparent true feelings toward the evangelical movement. “Can you believe that bullshit? Can you believe people believe that bullshit?” This was after a laying on of hands for prayer before he was elected. This might be one main reason why you don’t turn on your fixer. This shouldn’t be surprising to those paying attention as he has consistently misrepresented the Christian faith when he tries to affect it. If we know the followers of Christ by their fruit, he has never demonstrated any.
Then there was the article in The Atlantic that was independently corroborated by even Fox News revealing Trump’s comments behind not attending an American cemetery in France. Calling wounded veterans and dead American soldiers “losers” and “suckers”. Again, not surprising as we have seen how he similarly disparaged John McCain for being a prisoner of war.
Now we have one of the largest bombshells of them all - that he told Bob Woodward over a series interviews that he knew how deadly the COVID-19 virus was but he deliberately downplayed it. In a February 7 interview he relayed, “This is deadly stuff.” “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.” Then later, on March 19, he revealed “I always wanted to play it down. I still like to play it down because I don’t want to create a panic.” Trump knew how deadly and serious this virus should be treated and he deliberately mislead the American people. We are still feeling the impact from that decision from having the virus still raging on to having his most ardent supporters still convinced it’s all a hoax. Not to mention knowing there could have been around 59,999 lives saved at least had we acted sooner and treated this as severely as he knew it should have been.
The bottom is out of the tub.
I have to believe people are finally starting to realize the con man that this president is. I know there will be ardent supporters who believe he is the second coming. I can’t wrap my brain around how they can believe it, but I can acknowledge the fact that they are out there. I do see him losing supporters from these revelations. From the veterans who cannot support him based on his complete lack of understanding of the purpose of sacrifice, to evangelicals who see that he is not one of them, there are cracks in his base.
This does not mean we must not be vigilant. This election still requires us in record numbers rejecting his presidency. It requires citizens of this country putting country over party, particularly as their elected officials are so loathe to do so. It requires us holding our president to the ideals that we have founded this country on.
Someone who recognizes sacrifice.
Someone who has beliefs in something bigger than they are.
And someone who conveys the truth, especially when it’s hard and leads us through.
I can’t tell you who to vote for in November. I can’t tell you which other candidate to chose. But I can tell you that Trump does not fit any of those descriptions.
That man is not Trump.
Today we honor American labor and the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of this country. To the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into the construction of our country, to the infrastructure that makes its backbone, and to the role that labor plays in our society today.
To those who have the day off, enjoy it. To those that must continue to labor, we thank you.
To all, remember, it's more than just grilling or time off. It's a recognition of the work it took to get here. It's for the dream of a better work life in our future and for our posterity.
This year, perhaps Labor Day takes on a particular significance, as we are all longing for the ability to go back to normal. To be back at work in offices. To be back at work period. A greater recognition of the purpose of labor in our lives.
To that end, may we celebrate all the more.
Happy Labor Day!
Yesterday, we took the opportunity to visit Newfields and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Our bank offers free visits to certain museums on the first of the month and Newfields and its grounds was one of the largest to visit in the Indianapolis area.
It was our first museum that we have been able to visit in Indy, and it was great to be able to explore. African, Asian, and Mediterranean art, Fashion and Design. A special exhibit on Edward Hopper and his artwork of hotels in particular.
The piece that jumped out to us, though, the one that had the greatest impact was the piece of art shown above. A representation of the flag by Thornton Dial. Entitled Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together, Dial created the piece in 2003 out of mattress coils, chicken wire, clothing, can lids, found metal, plastic twine, wire, Splash Zone compound, enamel, and spray pain on canvas on wood.
It's still unmistakably the flag.
The piece was set off in a separate room, used to highlight the purpose of art. It was placed on the back wall of the room, and viewers were asked a prompt to start their evaluation of the art.
How does it make you feel?
There was a table with pencils and card stock for visitors to write and submit their responses. The museum evaluated responses and the placed them on the side walls of the room. The responses ranged from anger and disappointment with the country, to pride, to conflicted emotion.
Jamie submitted, as did Avalyn. I did not, it took a little longer to come together. My response is below.
This is us.
This piece of art is wholly symbolic of us. Of U.S.(A.). Of these United States of America. Our history, our reality, and our future.
This isn't the version that we like to present of ourselves. It's not the shining, exceptional, "Greatest Country in the World." This isn't the perfect flag marking our national religion.
This is our reality. A flag closer in relation to the war torn, battle scarred flag at Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key, than any we fly today.
This is a flag soaked in blood, born in blood, overpowering the white innocence of our ideals and blue perseverance of our character. It reminds us of our struggles. Of the conflicts of our past and the conflicts of our present. How they pervade all aspects of our history and heritage.
A flag cobbled together from the common, from junk, hanging together by a thread. In which there is still beauty, so long as it holds.
This is a flag that reveals why people both stand in reverence to the ideals of the nation and kneel in protest when we fail to uphold them. A flag we would all do well to consider.
This piece does what art is supposed to do. It moves us. It makes us think.
It grows us by forcing us to reckon with it. To wrestle with it. To be uncomfortable.
To hold a mirror to ourselves and say:
This is us.
"But I'd like to use a subject from which to speak this afternoon, the Other America.
And I use this subject because there are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.
But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
In a sense, the greatest tragedy of this other America is what it does to little children. Little children in this other America are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority forming every day in their little mental skies. As we look at this other America, we see it as an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams. Many people of various backgrounds live in this other America. Some are Mexican Americans, some are Puerto Ricans, some are Indians, some happen to be from other groups. Millions of them are Appalachian whites. But probably the largest group in this other America in proportion to its size in the Population is the American Negro."
"And I say that if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn't stop us, the opposition that we now face, including the so-called white backlash, will surely fail. We're gonna win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the Almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands.
And so I can still sing "We Shall Overcome." We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward Justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right, "No lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne — Yet that scaffold sways the future." With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and live together as brothers and sisters, all over this great nation. That will be a great day, that will be a great tomorrow. In the words of the Scripture, to speak symbolically, that will be the day when the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - 1967
Marvel Comics celebrated its 81st birthday yesterday. The day commemorates the release of Marvel Comics #1 on August 31, 1939, featuring the first Marvel characters: The Human Torch and the Sub-mariner, as well as minor characters the noir detective the Angel, the western Masked Raider, and the jungle lord Ka-Zar. The first print of 80,000 quickly sold out, leading to a second print that sold out of 800,000 copies.
Since then, Marvel has been a hit. And in the decades since it has become a household name. There have been lean periods. The post Wertham Seduction of the Innocent period pre-1961, where all comics companies were struggling to find what genre would be a hit. The Marvel bankruptcy and speculator boom and bust of the 1990s. But the company has come through each with innovation and storytelling.
All comic companies are facing a particularly difficult season this year, like other entertainment businesses. Individual comics are still primarily sold through the direct market, a collection of small business comic shops across the country. Margins are generally razor thin, and many comic shops have been going under even prior to the whole shutdown.
To compound things, comics are primarily distributed through one company, Diamond Comic Distributors. The shutdown and shipping restrictions meant that for nearly two months, no new comics were being shipped to comic shops, though there were finished products that could have been available and ready to ship. Even digital copies of these issues were withheld from the digital storefronts. The major publishers are just now starting to find a new rhythm for shipment, though the standard Wednesday shipment of all issues has come to an end. The era of the Wednesday warrior is over.
Marvel's recent success with film has likewise ground to a halt, as Hollywood is still unsure how to proceed. No one is lining up to return to movie theaters, though they are reopening across the country. Marvel's last film in its old 20th Century Fox deal, The New Mutants, released last week, earning only $7 million, the lowest of any X-men film. Marvel Studios tentpole Black Widow film is supposed to release in November, but with how this year has gone, who knows. Production is likewise uncertain, as only certain countries are allowing filming to resume.
In recognition of this difficult year, Marvel has recently added an icon to its covers, visually similar to the old Comics Code Authority approval seal. It's an image created by Diamond Comics Distributors, reminding us that this too shall pass.
Our Comeback Will Be Bigger Than Our Setback.
That these momentary and fleeting afflictions shall not be the defining characteristic of our future. It's a reminder that echoes the optimism inherent in Marvel Comics. Echoes of that great moment in Amazing Spider-man #33, where Spider-man has been crushed under heavy machinery following a fight with Doctor Octopus. Trapped there, he finds the situation hopeless; he's too exhausted from the fight, the machinery is too heavy, the situation is too impossible. And yet, through grit and determination he finds the strength needed to lift the machinery off of him. To fight on. He remembered what he was fighting for.
It's an incredible two page sequence, one of the most remembered from Spider-man's storied past.
That's where Marvel and we are right now. The situation looks dire, the weight seems too much. But there is always hope.
Happy Birthday Marvel! Keep reminding us to look up!