Wednesday, March 22, 2023

In Support of NPR

As has been shared by several personalities, this looks to be a tough week for NPR.  Budget cuts and restrictions are going into effect, leading to many staff at the public radio station losing their jobs.  The budget crisis at NPR is largely involving a shortfall in corporate sponsorships and federal grants.  Last November, the station had announced a total $20 million decline in sponsorship revenue, leading to planned hiring freezes, budget cuts on items like non-essential travel and discretionary spending, and now layoffs.  The layoffs account for 10% of the workforce.

While it is not as much a part of my daily life now, NPR was my lifeline for a very long time.  Growing up, I couldn't have imagined it, but I've become a fan of talk-radio.  Of talk shows.  I like feeling like I'm joining into a conversation, whether it be on radio and on podcasts.  

Because of that, my hour long commutes were filled with NPR or podcasts.  And I loved a lot about NPR.  Marketplace Morning Report, BBC News Hour.  I love the irreverent part in Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me... and Ask Me Another.  Classic favorites like Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion.  While I have issues with her interview style at times, I enjoy Fresh Air.

NPR provides that essential lifeline of information.  Freely available.  Open to all.  About as center of the political spectrum in news that you can ask for.

This is why it should be a priority in society.  Sadly, like many media outlets, this seems to be the new reality.  "We're not seeing signs of a recovery in the advertising market," NPR CEO John Lansing said in an interview.  "Nothing is nailed down yet except the principles and what we know we have to reach."

Here's hoping a solution can be achieved, for the continuing health and life of NPR.  For our overall national discourse.

Though individual support does not directly affect the current crisis, it is still a part of the overall health of the network.  Why not support your local station today?

"The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due."
Winston Churchill, 1938


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

World Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day, and in recognition, I thought it appropriate to share a poem of the season.

March
by William Cullen Bryant,

The stormy March is come at last,
With wind, and cloud, and changing skies,
I hear the rushing of the blast,
That through the snowy valley flies.

Ah, passing few are they who speak,
Wild stormy month! in praise of thee;
Yet, though thy winds are loud and bleak,
Thou art a welcome month to me.

For thou, to northern lands, again
The glad and glorious sun dost bring,
And thou hast joined the gentle train
And wear'st the gentle name of Spring.

And, in thy reign of blast and storm,
Smiles many a long, bright, sunny day,
When the changed winds are soft and warm,
And heaven puts on the blue of May.

Then sing aloud the gushing rills
And the full springs, from frost set free,
That, brightly leaping down the hills,
Are just set out to meet the sea.

The year's departing beauty hides
Of wintry storms the sullen threat;
But in thy sternest frown abides
A look of kindly promise yet.

Thou bring'st the hope of those calm skies,
And that soft time of sunny showers,
When the wide bloom, on earth that lies,
Seems of a brighter world than ours.

Monday, March 20, 2023

First Day of Spring 2023

As of today, we are officially in Spring.  The time when snow melts, ice thaws, and the sun traditionally begins to shine more.  When the planet warms, bringing forth new life, springing out of the ground.  Plants bloom, hibernation ends, and our whole outlook tends to become brighter.

It's a season of celebration.  Of Carnival, of Easter, and May Day.  Of Saint Patrick's Day and Cinco De Mayo.  Of Spring Break.

And it is a time of new beginnings.

In that spirit, I wanted to to give a reminder that now is as good of a time as any for a fresh start.  If there is something you need to give up but missed lent, why not start now?  If you need to leave a relationship that is toxic or abusive, why not start that new life now, just as the rest of the planet is doing? If you need to change jobs, change majors, pursue new opportunities, why not now?

Pursue that new job, seek that new relationship, start that new project.

Live.

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time.  We are the ones we've been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek."

President Barack Obama


So stop waiting for some other time.  Stop waiting for things to be different.  Stop procrastinating.

There has never been a better day to make a change.  No day but today.  So if there is anything you are looking to improve, to change, or to start, the only way you can guarantee it will happen is to start today.

Because the truth is, there will never be a perfect day.  There will never be a perfect time or situation.

So go for it.  Dream.  Strive.  Change.

You've got this.

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that's gone astray, and is lost.

The Enkindled Spring, D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Easter 2023 - Laetare


Today marks the fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday, also known as Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, mid-Lent Sunday, and Rose Sunday.  It's primarily named for the first line of the Introit read today. Isaiah 66:10 "Rejoice ye with Jerusalem; and be ye glad for her, all ye that delight in her: exult and sing for joy with her, all ye that in sadness mourn for her; that ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations."  

Laetare Jerusalem et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam; gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis, ut exsultetis et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.

The theme of this Sunday is rejoicing, as Laetare means rejoice.  It's a bit of a breather in the middle of lent, as we look forward to the hope of Easter.  In the readings, we see manifestations of the hope that we have.  The Old Testament reading from 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a, focuses on the anointing of David as king.  A physical culmination of the hope of Israel at the time, the annointing of the good earthly king, one they have been continuing to look for.  

The Gospel reading focuses on John 9, with the story of the man blind from birth, the restoration of his sight, and the investigation by the Pharisees.   The story begins with a question that has implications for our larger study on suffering.  The disciples ask Jesus what caused the man's blindness, his sin or his parents.  Jesus response tells us a lot.  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

This response runs contrary to our primary beliefs about suffering, that they are punishments. Jesus is clearly saying that is not always the case.  But the beauty is that the suffering can still be used by God for something wonderful.

After Jesus puts mud on his eyes and instructs him to wash in the pool of Siloam, a simple task, but still with great impact.  The man went and washed, and came home seeing.  Which stirs up the community greatly.  His neighbors become very inquisitive.  They bring him before the Pharisees, who put him through a rigorous cross examination, even calling in his parents to confirm his prior blindness.

Through the entirety of the cross examination, one response from the man rings out for me.  The Pharisees  are upset with Jesus because the healing took place on a Sabbath, so of course, Jesus could not be of God. The Pharisees were men of God and followed all the rules.  How could they tolerate a man who cut through all the rules to care for the people?  They become more and more irate with the man's story, so they ask him point blank, "Give glory to God by telling the truth.  We know this man (Jesus ) is a sinner."

The man's response is all the defense of the gospel that we ever need.  It is the summary of our hope in Jesus.  The very essence of our testimony.

"Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know.  One thing I do know.  I was blind, but now I see!"

That's all we need; the beauty of telling what He has done for us.  That's our hope.  That's our joy.

May we now go out like the man and spread it.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Spring Break

Today marks the start of the kids' spring break.  It's one of the many things we've loved about the local schools.  Two week fall break, two week Christmas break, two week spring break.  The kids have been looking forward to it.  We have been looking forward to it.

Because the break being two weeks has greatly enabled us to really enjoy it.  We have been able to go back to Texas, to visit family, to celebrate, and for Jamie and I to take trips.  It means a lot of time on the road, but it's been worth it.

This year should be no exception. We'll get to go visit family.  Jamie and I are going to take our yearly trip over the break and go to Costa Rica.  Jamie has been a couple of times, but I have never been.  So, I'm looking forward to experiencing the country.

All in all, it should hopefully be another wonderful break.

Today, we just have the drive.  So prayers for traveling mercies and a good time for us all on the road.

Friday, March 17, 2023

St. Patrick's Day 2023


Today we have a reminder of the influence of the Irish on our American heritage. Thirty- three million people or 10.5% of our population tracing their heritage to Ireland. There are over five times more people with Irish heritage in America than there are Irish in Ireland.

Today, we recognize them as a pillar of the American melting pot. Celebrated communities in the Northeast. Pioneers in the westward expansion.

And yet, for the majority of their immigration pathway here, they were discriminated against. Viewed as less than. Inferior.

Hated and feared for their religious differences (Catholics v Protestants). For their ethnic differences (Celts v Anglo-Saxon). For a language barrier. For their work class. No Irish Need Apply.

On this day when we celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. His capture into slavery and conversion. His ministry and dedication to Ireland. His driving out Druids, or “snakes,” out of Ireland. And the Irish history and heritage of our country.

Why don’t we celebrate by honoring that history. By owning up to complicated history that it is. And by looking at how we treat any immigrant to our country. By committing to not making the same mistakes.

We can keep up the old traditions. Wear green. Drink green beer. Raise a glass high.

But I think that the list above might be a far better way to celebrate today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

He's All Risk

The title is a quote by Doris Hardoon, recruited by Crump in the late 1970s for the development of EPCOT. 

For Disney theme park and animation fans, there are certain artists whose style is easy to identify.  Mary Blair's mid-century, colorful style that would make it's a small world come to life.  Claude Coat's moody and atmospheric art that would fit the Haunted Mansion to a T.   Harper Goff's paintings, which would come to define Disney park concept art.

Roland "Rolly" Crump was one such artist.  

If artist could be summed up in a phrase, Rolly's would be, "wouldn't it be cool if we..."

Crump started as an assistant animator on such film classics as Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians.  In 1959, he would join WED Enterprises, the former name for Walt Disney Imagineering.  And it's here that Rolly proved to be a trailblazing pioneer.

Crump would be a key designer on attractions like The Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room.  With the Mansion, it was Crump that brought the funny, blending together with Claude Coat's spooky and atmospheric to create the attraction that is loved by millions today.  Crump would also be a key imagineer for the Disney attractions at the 1964 World's Fair, contributing to the it's a small world attraction by notably creating the Tower of The Four Winds structure that served as the marquee.  When the attraction was moved to Disneyland, Crump designed the animated clock face that served as a timepiece and exterior for the beloved attraction.

His art always went to the whimsical and weird, perfectly encapsulated in his famed lost attraction The Museum of the Weird.  He created many, many bits for this attraction that ranged from a clock with 13 hours, to a chair with a face, to a melting wax man.  It would have been a wonderful attraction and I still hope that it will be resurrected someday.

Rolly passed away Sunday, March 12, 2023 at his home at the age of 93.  His art and legacy will continue to entertain children of all ages for many, many years to come.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Ides of March 2023


"SOOTHSAYER
Caesar!

CAESAR
Ha! who calls?

CASCA
Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!

CAESAR
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.

SOOTHSAYER
Beware the ides of March.

CAESAR
What man is that?

BRUTUS
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

CAESAR
Set him before me; let me see his face.

CASSIUS
Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

CAESAR
What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.

SOOTHSAYER
Beware the ides of March.

CAESAR
He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass."

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

In Ancient Roman days, they did not number their days from start to finish of a month.  Instead, they had three fixed points in the month, the Kalends, the 1st of the month, the Nones, around the 5th to the 7th of the month, and the Ides, the 13th or the 15th.  In March, the Ides falls on our March 15.  

The Ides of March are most associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar, particularly as dramatized by William Shakespeare.  In 44 B.C., as many as 60 conspirators stabbed Caesar to death at a meeting of the Senate.  Caesar had been previously warned to "Beware the Ides of March!"  On his way into the senate that fateful day,  Caesar joked to the Soothsayer, 


"CAESAR
[To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.

SOOTHSAYER
Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
"

Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I

So, should someone tell you to beware today, perhaps you should keep an eye out.  Or at least don't laugh at fate. 

"Why should Caesar just get to stomp around like a giant while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar, right? Brutus is just as smart as Caesar, people totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar, and when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody because that's not what Rome is about! We should totally just STAB CAESAR!"

Mean Girls

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Pi 2023

Happy Pi Day all!  A celebration since 1988, Pi Day recognizes the mathematical constant pi (π), whose first significant digits are 3.14.  Pi day is celebrated with the homonyms of both savory and sweet types.  Pizza pies and dessert pies are often eaten.  Our church distributes slices of dessert pies to all the teachers in the Brownsburg School district this week. 

For this monumentous occasion, I can think of no better words to share than the following:

3 . 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3 8 4 6 2 6 4 3 3 8 3 2 7 9 5 0 2 8 8 4 1 9 7 1 6 9 3 9 9 3 7 5 1 0 5 8 2 0 9 7 4 9 4 4 5 9 2 3 0 7 8 1 6 4 0 6 2 8 6 2 0 8 9 9 8 6 2 8 0 3 4 8 2 5 3 4 2 1 1 7 0 6 7 9 8 2 1 4 8 0 8 6 5 1 3 2 8 2 3 0 6 6 4 7 0 9 3 8 4 4 6 0 9 5 5 0 5 8 2 2 3 1 7 2 5 3 5 9 4 0 8 1 2 8 4 8 1 1 1 7 4 5 0 2 8 4 1 0 2 7 0 1 9 3 8 5 2 1 1 0 5 5 5 9 6 4 4 6 2 2 9 4 8 9 5 4 9 3 0 3 8 1 9 6 4 4 2 8 8 1 0 9 7 5 6 6 5 9 3 3 4 4 6 1 2 8 4 7 5 6 4 8 2 3 3 7 8 6 7 8 3 1 6 5 2 7 1 2 0 1 9 0 9 1 4 5 6 4 8 5 6 6 9 2 3 4 6 0 3 4 8 6 1 0 4 5 4 3 2 6 6 4 8 2 1 3 3 9 3 6 0 7 2 6 0 2 4 9 1 4 1 2 7 3 7 2 4 5 8 7 0 0 6 6 0 6 3 1 5 5 8 8 1 7 4 8 8 1 5 2 0 9 2 0 9 6 2 8 2 9 2 5 4 0 9 1 7 1 5 3 6 4 3 6 7 8 9 2 5 9 0 3 6 0 0 1 1 3 3 0 5 3 0 5 4 8 8 2 0 4 6 6 5 2 1 3 8 4 1 4 6 9 5 1 9 4 1 5 1 1 6 0 9 4 3 3 0 5 7 2 7 0 3 6 5 7 5 9 5 9 1 9 5 3 0 9 2 1 8 6 1 1 7 3 8 1 9 3 2 6 1 1 7 9 3 1 0 5 1 1 8 5 4 8 0 7 4 4 6 2 3 7 9 9 6 2 7 4 9 5 6 7 3 5 1 8 8 5 7 5 2 7 2 4 8 9 1 2 2 7 9 3 8 1 8 3 0 1 1 9 4 9 1 2 9 8 3 3 6 7 3 3 6 2 4 4 0 6 5 6 6 4 3 0 8 6 0 2 1 3 9 4 9 4 6 3 9 5 2 2 4 7 3 7 1 9 0 7 0 2 1 7 9 8 6 0 9 4 3 7 0 2 7 7 0 5 3 9 2 1 7 1 7 6 2 9 3 1 7 6 7 5 2 3 8 4 6 7 4 8 1 8 4 6 7 6 6 9 4 0 5 1 3 2 0 0 0 5 6 8 1 2 7 1 4 5 2 6 3 5 6 0 8 2 7 7 8 5 7 7 1 3 4 2 7 5 7 7 8 9 6 0 9 1 7 3 6 3 7 1 7 8 7 2 1 4 6 8 4 4 0 9 0 1 2 2 4 9 5 3 4 3 0 1 4 6 5 4 9 5 8 5 3 7 1 0 5 0 7 9 2 2 7 9 6 8 9 2 5 8 9 2 3 5 4 2 0 1 9 9 5 6 1 1 2 1 2 9 0 2 1 9 6 0 8 6 4 0 3 4 4 1 8 1 5 9 8 1 3 6 2 9 7 7 4 7 7 1 3 0 9 9 6 0 5 1 8 7 0 7 2 1 1 3 4 9 9 9 9 9 9 8 3 7 2 9 7 8 0 4 9 9 5 1 0 5 9 7 3 1 7 3 2 8 1 6 0 9 6 3 1 8 5 9 5 0 2 4 4 5 9 4 5 5 3 4 6 9 0 8 3 0 2 6 4 2 5 2 2 3 0 8 2 5 3 3 4 4 6 8 5 0 3 5 2 6 1 9 3 1 1 8 8 1 7 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 3 7 8 3 8 7 5 2 8 8 6 5 8 7 5 3 3 2 0 8 3 8 1 4 2 0 6 1 7 1 7 7 6 6 9 1 4 7 3 0 3 5 9 8 2 5 3 4 9 0 4 2 8 7 5 5 4 6 8 7 3 1 1 5 9 5 6 2 8 6 3 8 8 2 3 5 3 7 8 7 5 9 3 7 5 1 9 5 7 7 8 1 8 5 7 7 8 0 5 3 2 1 7 1 2 2 6 8 0 6 6 1 3 0 0 1 9 2 7 8 7 6 6 1 1 1 9 5 9 0 9 2 1 6 4 2 0 1 9 8 9


Happy Pi Day!

Monday, March 13, 2023

Oscars 2023


Yesterday, the Academy held the 95th annual Academy Awards presentation at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.  While the events went off without a hitch, after the shock of last year's ceremony, this year's ceremony seemed downright boring.

And boring, in that respect, was welcome.

Even better though, it had several heart-warming moments.

The event was just what I would have scripted, with minor changes.   Back to a singular host.  Every category included back in.  Winners generally allowed to make their speech.  Not really caring about the length, just letting it be what it should be.

Sure, the memoriam section still needs to be turned over to TCM or someone else to produce.  There were odd choices made in the song performances.  And some of my choices didn't work out.

Generally, though, it was a successful show.

Everything Everywhere All At Once continued its successful march that led up to the ceremony and largely swept the categories with seven awards including Best Picture, Best Director(s), Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay.  This included great celebratory wins for Ke Huy Quan, the first award for Jamie Lee Curtis, and a historic win for Michelle Yeoh as the first Asian American to win a best lead actor/actress award.

A24 as a studio is really the one to watch out for, becoming the first studio to win in all the major categories in the same ceremony.  Its fare has become more varied and is drawing more attention, so it will be a major player to watch.

It made for a late night, as on the east coast, we didn't wrap until 11:30 pm, but it was fun to make it through.  Will have to see what next year brings.

Hopefully another boring, but heart-warming show.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Lent 2023 - Oculi


Today marks the third Sunday of Lent, Oculi Sunday, named for the first line of the Introit read today.  Psalm 25:15-16.  "My eyes are forever turned towards the Lord; for he shall release my feet from the snare; look upon me and have mercy on me, for I am abandoned and destitute."

Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, quia ipse evellet de laqueo pedes meos: respice in me, et miserere mei; quoniam unicus et pauper sum ego.

The theme of this Sunday is on having open eyes, being able to the spiritual around us.  To recognize the hidden world around us.  To recognize God working around us and to recognize the evil He is opposing.  

The Old Testament reading is focused on Exodus 8:16-24, set in the middle of the plagues of Egypt in which the fate of Egypt is set and Pharaoh's heart is hardened. Pharaoh saw the wonders of God, he heard God's call, but still refused.  His heart was turned over to its natural end and hardened by his lack of response.

The Gospel reading then turns and focuses on Luke 11:14-28, recounting Jesus's banishing a demon from a mute man, and the response his action garners from the onlookers.  Jesus banishes the demon, the man is able to speak, and the crowd is amazed.  There are some in the crowd though that begin to question Jesus's power.  To say he is driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebul.  Still others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Those so close to see the physical power of God and miss the point.

We still find that today.

To be so close to the truth and to miss the point.  The church sees this and expects this in the world.  "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 4:4.  

But how often do we see the same thing within the church.  To be so close and miss the point.  To squabble over petty disagreements.  Church splits on music preference.  The type of carpet.  Minor theological differences that have no impact on salvation or Christian living.

How often do we get hardened on our side in church matters and keep drawing lines around us?  

The solution is the one that Jesus offered to those in his crowd at the time.  "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."  We keep our hearts from hardening by keeping our ears and eyes open to the Lord around us.  We remain humble and pliable to where He leads us.  

That's how we avoid the snare and remain free.

Eyes on Him.


Open my eyes that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!


Open my ears that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear,
and while the wave notes fall on my ear,
ev’rything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me,
Spirit divine!


Open my mouth and let me bear
gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere.
Open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my mouth, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Spring Forward 2023

Tonight is the night that clocks will need to be set forward one hour, as daylight savings time begins at 2:00 am tomorrow.  A barbaric practice, robbing us of a precious hour of sleep, and leaving most confused in the days following, it is nonetheless the law of the land.


"You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time."
Dave Barry

We move into that time where the sun beats down mercilessly longer into the evening.  Why in certain areas of the country we would want to extend that, I'll never know.

"Daylight time, a monstrosity in timekeeping."
Harry S. Truman

So, adjust those clocks under protest.  Ease yourself into it and do it this afternoon.  Leave an hour early from work in solidarity.  Write and petition your local congressman so that maybe we can finally change it.

"The sun got confused about daylight savings time.  It rose twice.  Everything had two shadows."
Steven Wright

Until then, soldier on.  We'll get that hour back.  Eventually.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Chaim Topol

I've seen a handful of truly masterful performances in my life.  The Van Dyke brothers in The Sunshine Boys.  Sutton Foster and Joel Grey in Anything Goes.  Jerry Lewis in Damn Yankees.  

One of the most exciting ones was in 2009 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, watching Fiddler on the Roof.  This production marked Chaim Topol's farewell tour in the role of Tevye.  He was 73 at the time we saw him in Dallas.  And you would never have known it.  He looked as if he had just stepped off the screen from the movie filmed 38 years prior and continued right on the stage.  He played the role with such vitality and power, it was an exceedingly great tour-de-force.  This show created a life goal to be that passionate, to be doing what I love with such energy when I am that age and beyond.

Topol first starred as Tevye the Dairyman in a 1966 Israeli performance of Fiddler on the Roof, starting a career in which he has played the role an estimated 3,500 times.  A role which has brought him international acclaim.  

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has issued a statement honoring "one of the most prominent Israeli stage artists, a gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and, above all, deeply entered our hearts."  Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated "his wide smile, warm voice, and unique sense of humor made him a folk hero who won the hearts of the people" and former prime minister Yair Lapid remarked "He and his smile will continue to accompany Israeli culture, his rich legacy will forever remain a part of Israel."

Topol passed away March 9, 2023, at the age of 87.

He remains a legend.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Three Years on this New Journey

It's amazing how fast time flies.

Three years ago today, we started this journey in Indianapolis.  March 9, 2020, I got to go into the office for one week, to meet all my coworkers and to start getting adjusted to this new life.

Jamie and the kids had not come up yet.  They would wait another week so Jamie could spend a little more time, see Wills Point's OneAct, and stay through her mom's birthday.  Splitting it also allowed us to drive both cars up.  I drove up first, would fly back and leave my car at the airport.  Then would drive back with Jamie the next week.  

For this first week in Indiana, I stayed at a Stay Alfred apartment just a few blocks away from the office.  Got to walk downtown Indy for a bit, past Soldiers and Sailors Monument every day, and generally get to know the city.  Everything was still open at this point.

When we brought up Jamie and the kids, everything closed down.  Work from home and Zoom training.  We still didn't have a house at this point and spent a month in an AirBNB in Old Northside.  

We've since found our home to rent and have settled in very well.  We've found our hometown here in Brownsburg.  We've met and made friends with neighbors.  We've found our church and developed deep friendships with members of our church and our small group.

We've seen family and friends come up to visit, and we've shared a lot of good food we've found, and the aspects of this life we've come to love.  The trails and the walkability of the town.  The great bakeries.  Snow and sledding.  

We've laughed a lot, we've cried some.  We've started and re-started our adoption journey.  We've explored the states around and had a lot of fun trips and journeys along the way.

I've continued to grow at Cummins and started to become more comfortable in the role.  Jamie has started subbing at the kid's elementary school.  Avalyn and Jude have greatly enjoyed their schools.  The best in the state.

It's been an amazing journey and it really is hard to believe how quickly it has happened.  It seems like just yesterday we moved up here.  And it's hard to think that Jude has been up here in Indiana now longer than he lived in Texas.

We wouldn't change a thing.  It has been one of the greatest changes we have made and we're looking forward to see what the future brings.  

edited because I can't math, apparently

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

International Women's Day 2023

Women belong in all places decisions are being made.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Today is International Women's Day.  Originally created and celebrated on February 28, 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, March 8 became the day of celebration after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917.  The day was finally adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.  In some places, it is a day of protest, in others, a day that celebrates womanhood.

The day is a national holiday in 26 countries.  In others, it is widely observed but not an official public holiday.  In the United States, it is recognized but not an official public holiday, though attempts have been instituted since 1994.

Each year since 1996 has had an official theme named by the United Nations.  This year's theme is
"#EmbraceEquity," reminding us of the importance we all play in embracing gender equity.  It focuses on the differences in equality and equity.  Equality puts the importance on equal resources or opportunities.  While this can be beneficial, it can also lead to absurd results.  If all people are given the same style bike for a race, regardless of their height and age differences, and regardless of their ableness, those able-bodied adults would have a greater advantage over those in wheel chairs or children.  In fact, in that example, for those in wheel chairs or for children, that size bike, that style bike is actually a hindrance to them being able to join in.  Equity would account for those differences, seeking to provide each with the appropriate resources to reach the desired outcome.

Gender equity is one of the things that always amazes me that we are still fighting an uphill battle for it. That we haven't solved it yet.  And that there are people who would view it as a negative for society.  Sure, they won't couch it in such terms, they'll focus on traditional women's roles or "family values."  Look no further this year than the pastor who encouraged women to be trophy wives to keep their husband's interest, and relayed that Melania Trump was the ultimate trophy wife.  Yeah, there's a lot to unpack there in a future blog.

Here's what we still have to fight:

  • Women on average still make only 80% of what men make for the same job
  • That gets worse in minority populations ranging from 53% to 77% (the discrepancy is slightly less in Asian populations at 85%)
  • The gender pay gap shrank between 1980 and 2000, but has largely stalled since then, closing by less than a nickel up to 2017.
  • One in eight women live in poverty and women are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men
  • 90% of adult sexual assault victims are women
  • Every 98 seconds an individual is sexually assaulted in the United States
  • One in three teenaged girls in the United States is reported as being a survivor of sexual violence, with young women of color and LGBTQ being particularly vulnerable
  • Girls are sexually abused at a rate 4.4 times higher than boys, and their behaviorable reaction to trauma is often criminalized
  • Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under 12
  • Nearly half of all female rape survivors were assaulted before the age of 18
  • Girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault
  • One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college
  • Only 66% of voting age women have access to proof of citizenship with their current name
  • About two-thirds of individuals in the United States believe it is easier for a man to be elected than a woman
  • We still cannot pass the Equal Rights Amendment, making gender discrimination unconstitutional
  • Maternal mortality rate has risen in the United States by 27% from 2000 to 2014

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

We have a long way to go, but we can get there.

Together, as equals.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:2

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Lone Star, But Still A State

I know I've joked about this, but joking is one thing.  This is something else.

Texas State Representative Bryan Slayton has filed HB3596, the "Texas Independence Referendum Act" or TEXIT, which, if passed, would enable Texans to vote in the next general election whether Texas should seek to become an independent republic and secede once again from the Union.  "The Texas Constitution is clear that all political power resides in the people," Slaton said. "After decades of continuous abuse of our rights and liberties by the federal government, it is time to let the people of Texas make their voices heard."

It's a popular idea, and a bill that has been suggested before.  It's just amazing that we have to keep shooting this down.

First, despite what you may have heard, there is no special provision that gives Texas this ability.  Some clause or provision that allows Texas because it once was an independent republic to return to that state.  It doesn't exist, and likely never did.  Further, there's no right to secede.  If we do, it's defection against the United States, just as it was before.

A vote would not even work.  The 1869 case Texas v. White determined that individual states could not secede from the United States, even if voted on by the people.  "The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States."  Again, if we vote, if we force a separation, it's defection.

Plus, recent events should show us that an independent Texas won't survive.  The ERCOT energy crisis in the state in 2021 should show us that.  That mess largely happened because the Texas grid remains isolated and not connected to the larger United States energy grid.  Add to that the small fact of Texas needing to replace the $41.4 Billion that the national government spends in Texas.  And many other entanglements that would have to be unwound.

This ridiculous self-determinism has fatal consequences.

So while it can be a funny joke, it's just that - a joke.

No TEXIT, no secession.

We Texans may think of ourselves as Texans first, and Americans second, but we're still Americans.

Always.  

Monday, March 6, 2023

Remember the Alamo!, maybe


The Battle for the Alamo ended 187 years ago today.  Following a thirteen day siege, the Mexican army under President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo mission.  Most of the occupants and fighters within the mission were killed.

"Remember the Alamo!" 

The battle cry of the Texians in the Battle of San Jacinto would become an unofficial motto of the state, propelling the site into the public consciousness and to perhaps a loftier position that it deserves.  Within weeks of the battle, it was even compared to the Battle of Thermopylae in the Greco-Persian Wars.  Like many things, the myth is more understood than the reality.  And that myth has a tangled history.

The myth often ignores and downplays the contributions of the native Tejano population in the defense of the Alamo and their contributions to the broader Texas Independence movement.  It downplays the problematic underpinnings of Texas Independence, started in part as opposition to Mexican policies regarding the abolition of slavery and the curtailing of immigration from the United States to Texas.  It overplays the certain death the defenders of the Alamo felt, as there was initial hope for support coming to aid them.  It creates dramatic lines in the sand that never existed.

As such, your perception of the Alamo depends on your background.  Especially because the myth is popular.

"There can be little doubt that most Americans have probably formed many of their opinions on what occurred at the Alamo not from books, but from the various movies made about the battle."  

Films certainly have done much to continue to perpetuate the myth of the Alamo.  Films of the Alamo date as far back as 1911 with The Immoral Alamo by George Melies.  And this spirit continued in the Davy Crockett television show (all myth) and the 1960 John Wayne The Alamo, which have continued to present the battle as the ultimate heroic sacrifice.  "There is not a single scene in The Alamo [1960] which corresponds to a historically verifiable event."  Meanwhile, the more character driven and historically accurate 2004 film, The Alamo, while praised by critics for its accuracy, bombed at the box office.

So, here's my plea for you today. Please, do remember the Alamo.  We don't need to go as far as the call of "Forget the Alamo" that was written in opinion columns a few years ago.

Instead, let's just remember it completely.  Let's understand all of the complexities of the battle.  All of the actors, all of the contributors.  

Let's enrich our understanding of history, not just continue to perpetuate myth and legend.

Because the truth is so much more interesting.



Sunday, March 5, 2023

Lent 2023 - Reminiscere

Today marks the second Sunday of Lent, also known as Reminiscere, so named for the first line of the Introit read today. Psalm 25:6a. “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love.”

Reminiscere miserationum tuarum, Domine, et misericordiae tuae


The theme of today is on wrestling with God. If last Sunday focused on our struggles with temptation, this focuses on our struggles with God. The Old Testament and Gospel readings are then Genesis 32:22-32 and Matthew 15:21-28.  Jacob literally wrestling with God and Jesus’s encounter with the Canaanite woman. 

In Jacob’s encounter, the wrestling is quite explicit.  When Jacob is in the wilderness, a man shows up and begins wrestling him. This wrestling will occur all through the night, which is very odd to think about. Jacob is able to hold his own wrestling against God all night long. Even when daybreak comes, and God strikes Jacob’s hip to dislocate it, seeking to end the fight, Jacob refuses to stop. He keeps holding on, keeps fighting with God, determined to persevere.  It’s this spirit that changes Jacob’s name. From supplanted, usurper, cheater to “he who struggles with God.”  Israel. 

In the Gospel story, we also have someone confronting and wrestling with God, though this time more through a debate.  The Canannite woman that Jesus meets on the way to Tyre and Sidon represents our persistence in the face of what we see as God's silence.  She finds Jesus and begs him to heal her daughter from demon possession.  And Jesus does something very unexpected.

He ignores her.

Nevertheless, she persists.

To the point where Jesus's followers have to come to him and beg him to tell her to go away.  She's continuing to follow after them and shout at Jesus, to beg his healing of her daughter.  He tells his disciples that he was sent to the lost sheep, to the people of Israel. 

The woman continues to persist.  She comes before him and bows and asks "Lord, help me!"  This time, Jesus tells her that he can't take from the children (the Israelites) and give to the dogs (the Gentiles).  This seems very harsh; but her response is what is amazing.  She tells him essentially that even the dogs get scraps.

Jesus replies that she had great faith.  And at that moment, her daughter was healed.

This story seems odd in view of the rest of the Gospel.  Jesus seems cold and uncaring, in direct contrast to many of His other interactions.  I think we see this only if we stick to a surface reading.  If we dig a little deeper, I think we can understand his motives.  

Like his delay with Lazarus, his responses to the woman surely have more to do with the people around him and what they will see and hear than they do with the direct interaction with her.  He's letting his followers see this play out so they get to the woman's persistence and her final response.

Like with God in the story of Jacob, Jesus seems to be letting the woman continue to wrestle with him.  Encouraging it even through his continued evasion.

I think this should be an encouragement to us.  Especially to those of us who have a questioning nature.  Us hard heads.  

It should show us that God isn't afraid of us wrestling with him.  He's big enough to not only handle it, but also seem to encourage it.  He kept wrestling with Jacob through the night, though He could have ended it in a moment.  And Jesus kept avoiding the woman, knowing she would continue to pursue.   In both,  God knew the persistence of each and let them continue.

I don't want this to be mis-construed - he's not encouraging us to question everything he does.  He's not encouraging critics.  But it does seem that he would rather us come to him with our struggles, our wrestling and to face him head on with them, instead of turning in other directions.  

It's what healthy deconstruction should look like. Bringing our concerns to him and tackling them head on.  In a manner that is determined to stay close to Him.  To seek Him in the resolution.  

That's worth remembering.

Reminiscere, indeed.

Friday, March 3, 2023

A Safe Place to Land

I've written before about songs that I've been introduced to in the Cummins Diversity Choir.  This week, we were introduced to a phenomenal piece.  A song called A Safe Place to Land, written by Sara Bareilles three years ago in reference to the refugee/immigration crisis.

The song cuts through the politics and other issues surrounding the crisis and focuses on the humanitarian aspects.  Making us identify with those facing difficult decisions.  When letting go is safe than keeping.  When holding your breath is a safer choice than the sound of your breathing.  Or being told when standing in a room on fire, to remain still.

The call is for us all to be a safe place to land.  A safe harbor.  A refuge.

The very least we as human beings can be to each other.

You can read the song as a broader call for us to be a help to anyone, to everyone in the depths of their need.  To be a support structure to those who are in the worst of their hurting.  To come along side during their struggles.

I pray we can all be that at times, and find it when needed.

Bring tissues.  I sure needed it.

Til the sun comes up…


Thursday, March 2, 2023

Texas Independence Day 2023

On March 1, 1836, a committee of five delegates of the Convention of 1836 were appointed to draft a document declaring independence from Mexico.  The draft was produced, quite literally, overnight, as the Alamo in San Antonio was under siege during its preparation.  After a brief review, the declaration was then adopted by the delegates of the convention at Washington (now on the Brazos) then next day, March 2, 1836.

From that period on, Texas has always maintained a sense of independence.  A defiant attitude that is all its own.  An individualism that runs to its core.

It's a place that is big enough for everyone.  That embraces its oddballs, and we have our fair share.  Whose vast and wonderful geography contains the best of all possible worlds.

A mix of cultures and races that continue to create and develop the best in art, food, and music.

And one of the only states with international recognition and perception.


"Texas is neither southern nor western.  Texas is Texas."  Senator William Blakely

Though we may no longer reside there, we will forever be Texan.

Here's to you Texas!  Happy 187 Birthday!  To many many more...

I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study, and the passionate possession of all Texans.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

In Like A Lamb

"In like a lion, out like a lamb," or so it goes, right?

So far, for us it seems much the reverse. "In like a lamb..."  It's 67 degrees and on its way to 70.   The sun is shining and only a few clouds in the sky.  Now it will be only 52 degrees for the high tomorrow, but for now, it almost seems like it's spring.

So unnatural.  I'm not sure I like it, but here we are.

"In like a lamb, out like a lion."

That seems a bit more appropriate for the season of Lent.  More appropriate for a March where the beginning of Lent has preceded it at the end of February and where the first of April will bring the celebration of Easter.  Reflective of the transition from Jesus going to his death as a quiet lamb, and overcoming death as a roaring lion.

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." Isaiah 53:7

"and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." Revelation 5:5

The solemnity of Lent, the thoughtfulness of Lent puts in the mindset of the lamb.  Peaceful, silent, receptive.  But we know, that coming at the Resurrection, Jesus comes back, roaring like a lion, triumphant over death.  

It remains to be seen if March is going to go out with a roar.  If it will be rainy and stormy, if it will contain big weather events.  But I have to image that it will.  It seems to work out that way.  And knowing Indiana weather, I'm still fully expecting another freeze coming at some point.

We're at the beginning of the weather pattern.  I'll just be interested to see if it holds true.  Especially given my mental wonderings.

Monday, February 27, 2023

The Theology of Natural Disasters

Our six a.m. men's Bible study got a little heady this morning.  We're working through an apologetics study, designed more to get us in the mindset of continuing conversations and asking questions.  To that degree, we've started raising questions that can be naturally posed by those that are seeking a deeper understanding of the faith or by those that will challenge different aspects of the faith.   Today we hit on a variation of the questions regarding the goodness of God.

"Why does God allow natural disasters?"

The question stemmed from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.  And while that formed the central theme, the questions got deeper and more complex.

"Are they really natural or caused disasters?  Are they natural/caused forces that existed before the fall or are they a result of sin?  Are they a form of judgment, natural/caused expressions of creation, or both?"

Not easy to discus when you are just getting your caffeine fix.  But it created an interesting discussion nonetheless.

We noted there has to be a natural component to the disaster.  The earth in and of itself is a creation and natural disasters can have specific functions in regulating the earth as creation.  As a living creation.  Look at the wildfires in our west, which are often responsible for clearing out old growth and making way for new growth.  Likewise, earthquakes coming from the result of tectonic plates rubbing against or smashing into each other.  This can result in new ground or from new ground, quite literally.

From there, we have identified a purpose for these disasters.  Whether they existed prior to the fall is another and much harder question.  If everything did not die, if death did not exist before the fall, it is unlikely these did as well, as often their purpose is to clear out the old and make way for the new.  Either way, in our current environment they can have some net positive effect, potentially. 

But even phrasing it like that, raises another question - positive in relation to what?  

Why is an event a disaster? Is it only from a "human" perspective regarding the loss of human life or property damage?

Put another way, if a hurricane strikes and devastates a deserted island, was there any disaster?

We focus on the human because this is the context is raised.  Part of the "why would God allow such loss" cry.  And in that frame of mind, we can rightly call them disasters, for they can have a great impact on human life and existence.  They can be great tragedies.  And it can lead us to wonder why.  To wonder if it is judgment, fate, or chance.  

I am greatly skeptical of anyone who can definitely state that a specific natural disaster is God's judgment. The one's we have described in the Bible all seem to have a supernatural component to them.  There is a prior proclamation of them as coming, a warning of destruction and then the supernatural event.  To ascribe God's judgment to an event afterward is stretching for a reason, in my opinion.

Such attribution often comes from those who deem that every event is one that God is controlling or causing.  That his sovereignty requires that He is controlling everything that occurs, as He is all powerful. But this does not have to be the case for Him to be all powerful.  There is a difference in having power and exercising it.  It's often in the restraint in using power that we see the greatest display.  After all, this is the idea of mercy and grace.

But if God does not cause the disaster, then we have the question of why God allows them to occur.  Why God does not spare the people?  The deaths, the tragedies, the loss.  Why does God not supernaturally intervene?

This circles back to the larger question of suffering that we have been exploring.  And there are a multitude of reasons that suffering occurs.  Sometimes it is the result of the consequences of our actions, of our sins.  If we keep building houses in a flood plain, it is likely they will flood and often.  Sometimes suffering is the result of other people's actions, of their evil.  Other times, it's to teach us a lesson, for some lessons we learn the hard way.  Or it is to prepare us for something that is coming ahead.

There are multitude of reasons why suffering occurs, even with an all-good God.  That doesn't change his status.  For what we see in the tragedies are how God can take the absolute worst this world has to offer and make something beautiful.  

We didn't come to any final answers this morning.  That's not the point.  It's to think, it's to discuss, it's to listen.  To ask questions and to keep the discussion going.

I just pray I'm more awake next Monday.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Lent 2023 - Invocabit

Today marks Quadragesima or the first Sunday of Lent, so named because it marks forty days until Easter Sunday. The day is also known as Invocabit, named for the first line of the Introit read today. Psalm 91:15a. “When he calls to me, I will answer him.”

Invocabit me et exaudiam eum

The theme of the Sunday is on temptation. The Old Testament reading is focused on Genesis 3 and the temptation and fall of man. Highlighting our great need. Our inherent brokenness and need for salvation. 

The Gospel reading then turns and focuses on Matthew 4:1-11. The Temptation of Jesus, from which we can draw several interesting parallels, both with the temptation of man and with the Lenten period. 

To start out of order, we see both the temptation and Lenten periods as forty days.  This is not a coincidence.  This season of fast before the greatest celebration reminds us of that prior forty day fast. Where Jesus prepared for his ministry, where he prepared for all that had to come, with intense reflection and  dedication to his father.  In this Lenten season, can we be similarly reflective?  Can we keep our minds to the severity of what Jesus will endure for our sake?  For our blessing?

Secondly, in this temptation, we see Jesus as the perfect counterpoint to Adam.  While both Adam and Jesus were tempted, we see only Jesus able to overcome it. Able to resist all that the devil throws at him. 

This had to be so. Jesus had to be tempted, to show that he was man. He had to overcome it, to show that he was perfect.

There is, though, greater disparity between Adam and Jesus. Jesus was tempted in harsh circumstances.  Jesus’s temptations came in a time of struggle. Where Jesus was testing the limits of his physical body through a fast in the desert.  He was hungry, he was tired, his body was stressed. Likely hot and sweating. He was being tempted with food in a time of hunger, protection from a place of danger, and power from a position of submission. 

Adam was tempted from a place of plenty. 

And yet, Jesus overcame and Adam did not.

Doesn’t this also seem to be the case with us, if only on a much smaller scale?  

Not to minimize Jesus’s victory - for I believe none of us could have stood as he did. 

But when we are struggling, when times are tough, aren’t those the very ones when we turn to God?    And in times of plenty, when things are going well, that’s when it’s most easy for us to trip up.  To remove our focus and give in.

It’s why we need these intentional times of refocusing in every season. “To prepare for a truly Christian life, to have God sanctify our heart and cleanse it of self-love and sin.”  Jesus’s actions in the desert show us how to achieve this. Through prayer. Through the study of the scripture, to such a degree as to be able to hear when it is being manipulated and to address it with appropriate context. And through utmost dedication to the life to which we have been called. 

We can celebrate in knowing that Jesus is rooting for us. He’s been there.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  Hebrews 4:15.  He’s not aloof, he’s not distant, he’s not unaware of what it is like. He’s caring, he’s close, and he remembers. He knows. He has overcome!  And he desires that we should too!

I pray this season of Lent is such a refocusing for us all. Imagine if all Christendom came through these forty days having wholly committed to seeking the Lord’s will through steadfast prayer and petition. 

What an amazing celebration that would bring, indeed!



Saturday, February 25, 2023

My Sense of Humor, Part 2


As with the previous post, I thought I would continue to share my sense of humor, this time focusing on my favorite comedy films.  The comedies that formed my humor, for good and bad.  

They aren’t the best films.  In fact, some might be considered down right bad.  But they give insight into specific areas of my sense of humor.

So now, in no particular order, here are the top ten films that have truly informed my sense of humor and continue to tickle my funny bone.

  • A Night at the Opera - “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause.”  Rapid-fire wit, with out and out farce. The Marx Brothers are geniuses and created so many of the gags that influenced so much of the cartoons and television that I love. That they created the mirror gag fascinated me. I singled out this film for the contract negotiation scene. One of my favorites. 
  • Singin' In The Rain - “Well of course we talk  Don’t everybody.”  Musical comedy, along with a self-deprecating look at Hollywood. And while the whole cast is great, Jean Hagen just jumps off the screen.  The voice, the self-confidence. It’s amazing. 
  • Arsenic and Old Lace - “You don’t think I’d stoop to telling a fib.”  A comedy of subverted expectations. The most unlikely murders and pitch perfect black humor. I loved being in this play and I love watching Frank Capra’s film. 
  • Some Like it Hot - “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Billy Wilders masterpiece. Each piece just works. From Tony Curtis doing his best Cary Grant, to the lunacy of Jack Lemmon’s performance. I just love it. 
  • Blazing Saddles - “You know, morons.”  Comedy is best when everyone is a target.  I don’t know if they could make it again today. But I’m glad they did. So many pieces that come together as a greater whole. I’ll always remember watching this at the Alamo Ritz, busting out into a pie fight on Sixth Street. 
  • Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail - “on second thought, ‘tis a very silly place.”  Silly, silly humor. This was the best thing to get introduced to in high school. I’ll also never forget that midnight show. My introduction to British humor. 
  • The Birdcage - “Actually, it’s perfect.  I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.”  This one is a guilty pleasure for me. Great performances by Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Hank Azaria, and the wonderful Robin Williams. This might be my favorite performance of his next to the Genie in Aladdin.  It’s wry and sardonic and acidly funny. 
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous - “The communal wine just proves too tempting for some people!”  “That's why we Lutherans use grape Kool-Aid for the blood of Christ.” A true under appreciated gem. The darkest of dark humor, showing how lethal beauty pageants can be. A mocumentary style film before that was the rage. Great early performances by a host of actresses. Hard to find but worth it. 
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back - “I’m Jay and this is my hetero-lifemate Bob.”  I have a soft spot for Kevin Smith films. They are filthy but part of my college years.  While other films do land a little better, I appreciate this one for seeing it at the Paramount with smith himself holding a marathon discussion after. 
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople - “He's molestering me!” One of the funniest films of recent years. While not his best film, this is perhaps Taika Watiti’s funniest. Sam Neil and Rachel House make this film. Clever and touching, and very well put together. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Cost of Being Right At Any Cost

I struggled with what to name this.

I started with something pithy like Just Say Gay Already, to reference the law that got us into this mess.  Or No More Words to reference the lack of books.

I then went to something angry and factual, like Life Under Fascism.   

I settled on a slight pun, but a sobering reality, for this image reflects the sad future coming to much of our country based on the trajectory of the laws that we are looking to pass.


“There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

This photograph was taken on January 27 by Brian Covey, a substitute teacher at Mandarin Middle School in Duval County, Florida. He posted it as proof of a prior post that he had made where he told his followers that the district had removed every book from his children's classrooms.  This was a photo of all the fiction books removed from the library of the same school.

Covey has indicated the district was aware of the photograph when he posted it, and had never indicated it was a problem.  Covey, instead, had been recently praised in a staff meeting by the school principal for bringing order and stability to a previously unruly class of math students.

The was no issue with the photo until February 14, when reporters asked Governor DeSantis about it.  They specifically asked him about photos of "bookshelves empty" in schools.  DeSantis responded that this was a "false narrative" and not true.

The next day, Covey was fired in a 45-second phone call, for violation of the schools social media and cell phone policies and had been the subject of several complaints.

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon.”
 

Representatives for the school have since described the video as manipulative and shown other "full" shelves in the library.  They have confirmed that the books were the school's fiction titles, but that they had been removed pending review by a media specialist, as required by the state's "curriculum transparency" law.  Each book is required to be reviewed to determine if it violates the states broad child pornography law and the new STOP Woke Act and Parental Rights in Education Act, i.e. the Don't Say Gay act.

This review has made more than 1.5 million books inaccessible to students in Duval County Public Schools.

Let that number sink in.  1.5 million books.  In one county's school system.  The entire media collection for the DCPS is around 1.6 million.  This put nearly 94% of the school system's books under review.

To make matters worse, though it is supposed to have many more media specialists, the school system currently only has 54.  54 people assigned to review 1.5 million books. That's 27,777 books a person to review.  

And if they get it wrong, they can lose their jobs, or, at worst and most crazily, face third-degree felony charges.  

No wonder it's moving so slow.  Up to February 17, the specialists had only reviewed 6,000 books and returned them to the schools.  Counting for 0.275% of the total in their review.  

A pittance.

And this is on top of their other responsibilities to the school like supporting teachers.  No, their time is now focused on reviewing all these books.

A wide variety of books.  While the image showed the fiction section, even non-fiction titles are still being held under review.  Books like:
  • Roberto Clemente The Pride of The Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Henry Aaron's Dream
  • Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army
  • Thank You, Jackie Robinson
  • The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend
  • Barbed Wire Baseball:  How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Interment Camps of WWII
Notice a pattern?

These were all books in the Essential Voices Library Collection, highlighting the stories of a variety of ethnic, religious, and gender minorities.

The thing is, it would be really, really surprising, if it wasn't so transparent.  DeSantis may claim the laws were designed to remove only the books that 99% of the public would oppose.  But anyone who actually read the bills could tell him this was what was going to happen.

It's a feature, not a bug.

Plus, this is only one county, one school system in Florida. 

It's happening all over the state.

“The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.”

We often seem to forget the purpose of art, of literature.  While it exists for many functions, literature, like art, exists to hold a mirror to ourselves.  Literature is meant to push us.  To expose us to new opinions, new ideas, contrary opinions, contrary ideas.  It's meant to make us empathize with people we could never otherwise identify with.  It's meant to shock us.  And yes, it's even meant to offend us sometimes.

We are best served by a wide exposure to as much literature as possible.

Can we agree that there are somethings that should not be in an elementary school, a middle school, a high school library?  Of course.  There are such things as grade level appropriate. 

Remember, though, there are always those who read above grade level.  Who think above grade level.  Those who have life experiences that would not be deemed grade level appropriate.

Are we really so afraid of our students actually learning something and growing, that we will strip away all access to non-lowest common denominator information?  To only provide the most sanitized of sanitized material for our children?

I realize knowledge is a weapon.  

I just didn't realize we wanted our children un-armed.

“Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."

Throughout this post, I've been including quotes from one of my favorite novels.  I read it in high school and it has continued to impact me since that first read.  I've read it multiple times since then and it continues to get more applicable, more prescient, and more frightening.

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury imagined a future in which books were burned.  There firefighters didn't stop fires; they started them, burning any books they found.  The masses were controlled by removing their access to information.  Or I should say, by removing access to information that the state didn't like.  The people had video walls full of information, enough to overwhelm the viewer.

Drowning in information for a lack of comprehension.

I wonder if my kids will have the experience of reading this book as part of their high school English curriculum.  Or will it be deemed to controversial?  

Too dangerous?

There are similar bills being discussed and enacted across the United States.  Here in Indiana.  In Texas.  And at least thirteen other states.

We're not to burning books, yet.

But it's hard to imagine a future with so many empty shelves.

With everything "pending review."

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Asbury

I don't know if you have been following the story of events at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, but they are worth a note.

On February 8, 2023, the University began a regular 10:00 am service in its Hughes Auditorium.   This service has just never ended since.  The congregants and students didn't want to leave.  They "felt what they interpreted as an unusally palpable presence of God."

Since that initial service, thousand shave flocked to this small university in Kentucky to be a part of what they see as an overwhelming revival.  These visitors have included faculty and students from over 22 schools across the country.  International travelers from as far as Singapore.  The service began to peak on February 14, 6 days since the start, with over three thousand attendees.  Two-thirds of which were from out of state.  The service has since spread to four additional facilities to handle the number of the crowds that are attending.

The movement also seems to be spreading to other campuses including Lee University in Tennessee, Andersen University in Indiana, and Ohio Christian University near Columbus, Ohio, to name a few.  

It's become so much, that the university President has announced that the official service for the general public will be wrapping up tonight, marking a celebration of the National Collegiate Day of Prayer.  Services for the general public will continue at other churches in Central Kentucky.

Much has been made of this event, with many referring to it as the start of a revival movement among generation Z.  There has been much debate about the use of the term revival and whether that is appropriate.  On what revival really means.  And there has even been those that have picked at the theology of the services.

Whatever you call it, I don't think you can ignore that this is a real movement of the Holy Spirit.

And I don't think you can ignore the hunger that remains for true, genuine interaction with the one Creator of us all, particularly among the younger generations.

I think this is surprising to most people in "church" circles. 

There's this prevailing thought that the younger generations are just turning away from the church.  You can look at the exvangelical movement and the rise of the religiously unaffiliated or "nones."  People look at lagging attendee in the current church and equate it with a lack of appetite for Christianity.

That is a logical fallacy.  

Just because people reject church the way you are doing it now, does not mean they reject the faith.

Because, there's a little secret to this - maybe some of what you are doing now or requiring now in your church has nothing to do with the faith at all and has everything to do with tradition, preference, or comfort.

This is the same thing we were talking about in the early 2000s when I got to be a part of the launch of terranova, a church within a church aimed at college students.  Even then, study after study identified a hunger for a real connection with something spiritual, and a great excitement when the younger generations found that connection in Christianity.  

The problem was they found that genuine, real spiritual connection to God missing in most churches.

Churches too locked in the way of doing things as they have been done to be receptive to the faith.

And that points to one of the biggest questions that Asbury raises - why can't this happen where we are?  Is this just a one time thing at a Christian college, an area primed for it if you will?  Or can we see genuine revival break out where we are?

Can revival happen in my church?  In my community?

And I don't know the answer to that question.

Think about it this way, what would happen at your church if people just refused to leave?  If they kept on worshipping and the service just wanted to keep going for hours on end? 

Could your service go on and on?

It gets hard when you have a second service starting an hour after one is designed to finish.  I know the heart of the people on the worship team and the pastoral staff, and I know our church would love for revival to burst forth and to have a genuine supernatural religious experience, but we also are pretty scheduled.  I would hope we would continue the moment, but the rubber hits the road when people start getting uncomfortable.  When there's no more room, when it starts to really hit home.

That's the challenge of Asbury.

Are we willing to be uncomfortable to see God really move among us in really powerful ways?

Lord, I pray we are.

"Lord send a revival, and let it begin in me..."

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday 2023

"Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God.  The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior."

Thomas Merton


Today, much of Christendom enters the period of Lent.  The 40 days leading up to Easter.  A time of fasting and devotion, mirroring the 40 days of Jesus' temptation in the desert.  And one of the most prominent aspects of Lent is the self-denial.

This often manifests as a goal to give up something for the 40 day period. To give up sweets, alcohol, caffeine, meat, chocolate, fast food, television, internet, etc.  Something that represents a challenge.  That is a true denial.

It's a form of fasting, like the full-fasts on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as the abstinence from meat on Fridays during the period.  In that aspect, it is important to remember the purpose of a fast.

Fasts in scripture are generally used for two purposes: to seek direction or to beg for mercy.

Both require the proper attitude for the fast to be fruitful.  With those purposes, it's easy to see why.  A half-hearted attempt to seek mercy will be clearly seen through and reveal unresolved issues that must be dealt with first.  Likewise, an attempt to seek direction that will likely not be followed is folly.  Both purposes have the ultimate goal of bringing the supplicant closer to God.  That should never be done lightly.

For God warns us of the fasting that He desires.  And of what follows from self-serving fasts.

"For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.  'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?' Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?  Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.   If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yoursevles in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-sorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will rise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."

Isaiah 58:2-12


Oh, what the world would be if all of Christendom took these next 40 days to fast as the Lord has indicated.  How far His mercy would go.

May we use this time well.