Friday, November 30, 2018

The Travelers' Report Part 10 - Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving

In the continuing travels of the Keeler crew, we spent Thanksgiving in the Smoky Mountains, in a cabin outside Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  We had a wonderful time and it became a visit of a lot of firsts.  It was Jamie's first time for a Keeler road trip, as she left on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to head out with my parents and the kids, as well as my sister's family, to get there early and enjoy a few extra days.  My brother and I were able to fly in early Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving to enjoy the rest of the week.

Below are a few pictures and thoughts on the week from our combined collection of photos.

Strapped in and ready to travel.  Both kids were actually troopers and handled the road trip well for the most part.  On the way out, they made it to Birmingham, Alabama the first night, giving them a lot shorter of a trip on Monday morning.

Our cabin - God's Grace in Sevierville, Tennessee.  The entrance does not convey the beauty of this cabin.

This is what PapaRock and Granna really wanted.  All four of the grandkids together and with them, enjoying the morning.

Our room at the cabin.  Perfect for our family.  A king for Jamie and me, an appropriate twin bed for Avalyn and Jude.

The view from the back porch.  This was great to wake up to.

I love this photograph of the four grandkids.  Particularly Jude being hidden away and Archer disappearing in his coat.  Lots of shopping Monday and Tuesday, as well as lots of good food.  Crockett's Breakfast Camp, Paula Deen's, and the Pancake Pantry were all mentioned as standouts.

The grandparents and grandkids at The Island on Wednesday, a great shopping and dining destination in Pigeon Forge.  I think they all appreciated Paula Deen's Family Kitchen.

Jude and his buddy PapaRock.

Avalyn, Ezra, and Granna.

For Thanksgiving dinner, we went up the mountain at a place called Anakeesta.  To get up the mountain they had a combination chairlift and gondola system to get up to the top.  We rode the gondolas going up and it was a very smooth process.  Going up.

Our view from Thanksgiving dinner.  There was a surprisingly excellent Thanksgiving dinner buffet at the Cliff Top Bar and Grill here.  The turkey was excellently seasoned, the side dishes were great, and the view was amazing.  We hit it right about sundown, so it was an unforgettable experience.

Avalyn wanted to push the stroller around for Jude on the mountaintop.

So, going up we road the gondola.  Coming down, we had to break up into various groups.  Because there were only four pairs of gondolas on the system, the wait to get down via the gondola was over an hour by the time we reached the line.  Taylor went down by himself early on in a chair lift.   A little while later, Ryan took Ezra down via the chair lift. Eventually we got Mom, Brooke, and the two littlest ones in a gondola.  The four of us above followed in a chair lift.  It was an experience and Avalyn was extremely proud of herself for making it down. 

All important hot chocolate from Donut Friar in Gatlinburg.  We went in for hot chocolate while in line for breakfast at the Pancake Pantry.  We went back after breakfast to get donuts because they smelled so good. And they were.

It was hard to convey to these two why these type of phones once existed.

Friday, we went to Dollywood.  It's hard to see in this picture, but my daughter is very much not happy to be on this little kiddie coaster.  Her younger cousin in front of her is very much enjoying himself.

It's rare to have a theme park with a church in it, let alone with a church that still has services on Sunday morning.  It's a beautiful little church.  I tried to get a picture of the statue of Jesus behind the altar, but it did not come out well.

One thing I loved about Dollywood, besides the decorations, was the change in Christmas music as you visited each different section.  The country sections had more bluegrass and folk Christmas music.  The Jukebox Junction section here had the great classic rock Christmas songs by artists like Elvis, the Drifters, the Beach Boys, and many others.

Jamie wanted to get a picture of Avalyn on this ride as it is very similar to a picture of her sister.

The front of Dollywood makes an incredible entrance.  It's nearly as beautiful as Main Street, though a little more winding.

We headed out Saturday morning after Thanksgiving and pushed hard that day to make it as far as possible.  With four under four, that becomes a bigger challenge than it normally would. We were still able to make it to Monroe, Louisiana that night before stopping, reflecting about twelve hours on the road, stops included.  It's always incredible how kids entertain themselves.  I think they had as much fun all hiding under the sink in the hotel in Monroe as they did all trip.

We all made it home safe and sound Sunday, already planning the next trip.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Question of Missions

Much has been written regarding the death of John Allen Chau.  The twenty-six year old was an adventurer and missionary, who traveled the world to spread the gospel, but felt a particular draw to the Sentinelese people on the North Sentinel Island off the coast of India.  The Sentinelese represent one of the major "unreached people groups" for evangelical Christianity.  They are a small population (15 to 200 people) of indigenous people of the Adamanese and are considered one of the world's last "uncontacted people."  In fact, they are openly hostile to outsiders and have refused contact with the outside world.  They have assaulted and killed people who have approached or landed on the island.  The tribe and island is protected by the Indian government, in particular protecting their way of life and privacy as there is a great fear the tribe could be wiped out by diseases they have no immunities to, like measles or influenza.  Accordingly, the Indian government enforces strict control on access to the island.

John Allen Chau had a zeal to spread Christianity to the island.  He had taken a scouting trip to the Andaman islands several years ago and had told friends of his desire to return.  This November, he returned and convinced local fishermen to help him in his quest.  On November 14, Chau paid local fishermen to take him to the island, starting after nightfall to avoid detection.  On November 15, he attempted his first visit.  The fishing boat took him around 500-700 meters from the shore and he continued in a canoe onto the shore.  Once he reached the shore, the islanders attacked him with arrows as he had greeted them with Christian quotes and attempted to offer gifts.  On further visits, the islanders greeted him with a mixture of amusement, bewilderment, and hostility.  On November 17, Chau instructed the fishermen to leave without him.  It is presumed on this attempt, the islanders fatally shot him with arrows.  The fishermen later saw the islanders dragging Chau's body and the next day they saw his body on the shore.  The fishermen have been arrested for their assistance in getting Chau close to the restricted island.  Attempts are being made to recover his body, but it is uncertain that they will have any success.  Human rights group Survival International is urging that no further attempts to recover his body be made, as to not further expose the Sentinelese to any foreign pathogens.

Reaction to Chau's death has been mixed.  Christian groups have praised him as a martyr for the spread of the gospel. Other groups, like the previously mentioned Survival International, have focused on the potential harm to the Sentinelese people, however unintentional, and have denounced his actions.

I must confess, I am extremely conflicted about John Allen Chau's actions.  While his zeal to spread the gospel is laudable, it can also be true that his actions were fooldhardy at best.  At what point do his actions go from noble to problematic?  From beneficial to endangering potentially for him and the entire tribe?  Would he have been better served working with a indigenous tribes' rights group like Survival International, to ensure that the tribe is well protected and including materials in any care packages that are sent to the island?  Or was there another way to achieve his goal that could better protect and serve the Sentinelese people?

There in lies the question in missions.  We know that there are benefits to missionary work that are relayed to the people the missionaries serve.  Beyond potential eternal benefits, studies have found positive societal impacts in the areas where they have worked.  "In cross-national statistical analysis Protestant missions are significantly and robustly associated with higher levels of printing, education, economic development, organizational civil society, protection of private property, and rule of law with lower levels of corruption."  Further, missionaries have made significant contributions to linguistics and the description and documentation of many languages.  "Without missionary documentation, the reclamation [of several languages] would have been completely impossible."  p. 223, 224.  Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove. 2000. Linguistic Genocide in Education - Or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

We know the ills of historical missionaries.  Forced conversions and assimilation driving out all aspects of the old culture.  Introducing diseases to the new populations, such as smallpox, measles, and the common cold. The ties with slavery in mission work.  And that is excluding the more openly problematic missions like the Crusades. Even modern mission work, particular American mission work, still carries the associations of the "white savior" complex.

Jamie and I have often talked about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in relation to mission work.  Maslow's Hierarchy is represented by a pyramid of needs with physiological needs at the base, safety needs just above, love/belonging needs just above that, esteem needs just above that, and self-actualization needs at the top.  Some have added transcendence above self-actualization.  Originally, the idea was that each lower level must be completely satisfied and fulfilled before the next level can be addressed.  You cannot adequately address safety needs like personal security, emotional security, financial security, or health and well-being, until the most basic physiological needs like food, water, sleep, and shelter are addressed.  Likewise, you cannot get to addressing a transcendent need like spiritual needs, until the physical needs are addressed.  Modern interpretations of the Hierarchy recognize the overlapping nature of the different levels, but the core idea remains the same.  Can you attempt to address someone's spiritual need when they are starving?  Or naked? Or imprisoned?

I feel this is why Jesus placed such importance on feeding the hungry and thirsty, sheltering the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned.  Such importance on meeting the physical needs around us.  On loving our neighbors.

Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me."  

Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?"

And the King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me."
Matthew 25: 34-40

We need to meet these needs in order to be able to get to a spiritual need.  These are prerequisites.  It's meeting people where they are, developing an understanding for their needs, and then appropriately assisting them and working with them.  It's getting involved where it's messy.  And it's so important, Jesus also included a warning for not doing so.

Then the King will answer, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me."
Matthew 25: 44

I do not know the answers for the Chau situation, but I still have so many questions.  Was he seeking to evangelize in a way that was truly concerned for the best for the Sentinelese people, or was he going about it the only way he knew how to?  Were there other needs he was needing to learn and address first?  Do we need to change how we view missions?  Is there a better way?

How do we change in response?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 29 - Lucasfilm

Everybody has the attitude of 'no one has ever done it, but let's do it.' Why not?  If there's going to be a first, let's be the first.
Doug Chiang, Lucasfilm

This was a great opportunity: when you look at the world of entertainment, there is almost nothing like this.

This is one of the most iconic, one of the most successful, one of the highest-quality entertainment brands that exist in the world.

And we thought it was a wonderful opportunity for this company to bring it into Disney and continue the great legacy that George created over 35 years ago.
Bob Iger

Lucasfilm was founded in 1971 by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971.  Beyond serving as a production company for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, Lucasfilm served as a place for George to continuously push the science of filmmaking further.  Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound became industry standards for special effects and sound effects.  On October 30, 2012, Disney announced a deal to acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion.

Lucasfilm had many earlier ties to Disney than one would imagine.  It had previously collaborated with Disney on two theme park rides in Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Adventure, as well as an Indiana Jones stunt show.  George Lucas had even shopped Star Wars to Disney in 1973 thinking Disney would be the perfect home for his style of film.  Disney chose to focus instead on its own properties like The Black Hole.  PIXAR even grew out of Industrial Light & Magic.  It's fitting that everything has come full circle.

The goals for Lucasfilm include diversification and a focus on its core competency.

Primary Goals for the Division:
  • Move Beyond Star Wars - There is no question that Star Wars is a cash cow, but Disney has access to many other Lucasfilm properties, including ones that tie into other Disney properties (such as Labyrinth and Howard the Duck).  They are expanding into Indiana Jones, but it is time to look at all options.
  • Pull Back on the Star Wars Releases - This one ties into the above, but it's time to move the Star Wars pictures back to at least every other year, not one a year.  There are a lot of options for how to move Star Wars forward, but one thing is clear that there is no need to milk the cash cow dry.
  • Don't Reboot Indiana Jones, Continue It - There is no need to reboot Indiana Jones.  Recast yes, reboot no.  There have already been five actors who have played Indiana Jones throughout his life and the canon as it exists has perfect opportunities to insert new adventures into the mythology.  Keep expanding the story-line, not redoing it.
  • Long Live the Serial - Lucasfilm's strengths have always been modern versions of the old movie serials.  This should inform how additional Lucasfilm movies are selected.  A Lucasfilm movie should be part of a continuing serial under the Lucasfilm banner.   Different pieces of continuing stories from different genres.
  • Have John Williams Create a Fanfare for the Lucasfilm Banner - The new Star Wars films have felt like there was something missing without the 20th Century Fox fanfare.  And though Disney now owns 20th Century Fox, I do not want that fanfare placed back in front.  I want John Williams to create a Lucasfilm specific fanfare, perhaps reminiscent of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores, to accompany the Lucasfilm Logo at the beginning of the film.  Disney, Marvel, PIXAR, and 20th Century Fox all have instantly recognizable fanfares and intros.  Lucasfilm should as well.
  • Add a Lucasfilm Short Film Department - This is a recurring theme among the Disney Studios.  I want most of the the studios to have a thriving short film department.  These are great training grounds for new talent and great compliments to the feature film offering.  Lucasfilm shorts can be their own serials cutting across the various Lucasfilm properties, could be Star Wars Detours-esque films like a Tag and Bink story, animated or live-action additions to the universes.  Shorts would be the place where Lucasfilm can experiment.
  • Push the Science Forward - Beyond anything else, Lucasfilm should be the studio pushing the science of moving making forward.  It should be a mission statement that Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker sound should live by.  This should never determine the films, but it should affect the films.
With that, I want to now turn to a small specific film slate I envision for Lucasfilm.

Star Wars:
  • Star Wars IX - Let's close out the Skywalker series well, without undoing everything that The Last Jedi set up.
  • Obi-Wan on Tatooine - a bit of a more direct throwback to Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven in the Star Wars universe with Obi-Wan protecting the young Luke Skywalker without making his presence known
  • Agent of the Empire - James Bond in the Star Wars Universe working for the Empire.  That's a cool concept.
  • The Adventures of Tag and Bink - Two bumbling stormtroopers who fumble through the greatest hits of the Star Wars movies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern style.
  • William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope - Alternate take - I would love to see the plays adapted into a new series of movie.  Parchment scrolls or a town crier replacing the opening crawl.  A very theatrical style of filmmaking for this alternate universe.
  • Knights of the Old Republic - let's go way back and look at the founding of the Jedi. 
  • Beyond the films above, I'm ready to just explore the vast wilds of the created universe, with a similar approach to the way Marvel differentiates its films. A war film, a spaghetti western, a heist film, a period drama, etc. all set against the Star Wars backdrop.  Imagine for a minute what the Star Wars version of Casablanca would be.
Indiana Jones:
  • Indiana Jones 5 - Let's finish out Harrison Fords involvement in Indiana Jones strong.  More 1 and 3 than 2 or 4.
  • Indiana Jones 6 - New actor, moving the time period back to the early 1930s, perhaps covering the time period between the Young Indiana Jones television show and Temple of Doom.  This would start the new continuing arc of films.
  • Willow 2, 3, and 4 - If the original Willow is the Hobbit of this series, it's time to make its Lord of the Rings.  Willow is now our Gandalf and Elora is our protagonist.  Ron Howard, Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer all back.  Improved special effects, a more epic story-line.  This opens Lucasfilm to a fantasy serial and a great world to expand and explore.

American Graffiti:
  • American Graffiti 1977
  • American Graffiti 1984
  • American Graffiti 1993
American Graffiti should be a series of films with a simple concept - a single night in the lives of teenagers in small-ish town America married with a great soundtrack of the greatest hits of the era.  Each film would be a new cast, a new setting, and a new year, with the films only connected in spirit.  The reason to make the films is the soundtrack. These could also be great films for visionary directors under the Lucasfilm banner. I'm picturing Richard Linklater's American Graffiti 1984.  (And we'll all pretend like American Graffiti 2 never happened)

A 1950s/1960s B-Movie Series:
I would want to create a 1950s/1960s B-movie serial, centered around the odd happenings of a college town in the 1950s with alien invasions, nuclear testing, giant monsters, and scientific experiments gone wrong.  Movies with coeds, greasers, beach bums, bikers, big-men on campus, G-men, and straight-laced professors.  What Mutt Williams movies could have been if he wasn't shoe-horned into the wrong genre in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or played by Shia LeBouf.

Dick Tracy or similar:
If Disney could get the rights back to Dick Tracy, Lucasfilm would be a perfect home for a series of movies.  If not, the one serial category Lucasfilm is really missing is a lawman/detective pulp.  If would be great to see Lucasfilm lean into a colorful noir style for a new pulp crime serial.

These are just a few of the ideas and films I would propose Lucasfilm create.  This kind of film slate would help Lucasfilm create a very specific film niche that is not solely limited to Star Wars, as well as help round out the film offerings from the Disney Studios.


As always, thank you for reading.  A few more studios to go for this part of the series.  Next up, 20th Century Fox, Disney's newest acquisition.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Caravan

"These aren't people.  These are animals."

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.  They're bringing drugs.  They're bringing crime.  They're rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people."

"That's an invasion.  I don't care what they say.  I don't care what the fake news media says.  That's an invasion of our country.  Build the wall."

"I am telling the caravans, the criminals, the smugglers, the trespassers marching toward our border, turn back now, because you are not getting in.  Turn back."

"Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border.  Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process.  This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!"

"The Caravans are made up of some very tough fighters and people.  Fought back hard and viciously against Mexico at Northern Border before breaking through.  Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable, or unwilling to stop Caravan.  Should stop them before they reach our Border, but won't."

"Why do we want these people from all these shithole countries here?  We should have more people from places like Norway."


The irony of the comments Trump has made regarding the caravan and current immigration should not be lost on anyone.  While we are a nation of immigrants, more than any other on this planet, we have a history of wanting to close the door once our particular branch gets in.

The quotes are not hard to find and are all cringeworthy.

"Few of their children in the country learn English ... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of their importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious.
Benjamin Franklin, founding father, on German immigration to Pennsylvania, 1750s

"We should build a wall of brass around the country."
John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, regarding "Catholic alien invaders," 1750s

"What means the paying of the passage and empyting out upon our shores such floods of pauper emigrants - the contents of the poor houses and the sweeping of the streets? - multiplying tumults and violence, filling our prisons, and crowding our poor-houses, and quadrupling our taxation, and sending annually accumulating thousands to the poll to lay their inexperienced hand upon the helm of our power?"
Lyman Beecher, Leader of the Second Great Awakening, on English immigrants, 1834

"Standing behind them are Christian employers of this land, who would rather import heathen willing to work for barely enough to sustain life than retain a brother Christian at a wage sufficient to live as becomes a Christian.  We do not want Opium or the Chinese who grow it."
Terence Powderly, Irish-American labor leader, 1892

"The people of this country are too tolerant.  There's no other country in the world where they'd allow it ... After all we built up this country and then we allow a lot of foreigners, the scum of Europe, the offscourings of Polish ghettos to come and run it for us."
John Dos Passos, early 20th century novelist, on US immigration policy

"They are coming in such numbers and we are unable adequately to take care of them ... It simply amounts to unrestricted and indiscriminate dumping into this country of people of every character and description ... If there were in existence a ship that could hold three million human beings, then three million Jews of Poland would board to escape to America."
Congressional hearing, 1920

The last two are particularly hard, for they were trying to escape, and we know what from.  This has to represent one of the lowest parts of our history.  It makes me think of the voyage of the MS St. Louis - the "Voyage of the Damned." The ship set sail from Hamburg to Cuba on May 13, 1939 carrying 937 passengers, mostly Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi Germany.  The ship, helmed by a non-Jewish German made sure his passengers were treated well, a great change from their treatment in Germany.  Upon arrival at Cuba, the Cuban government refused to accept the foreign refugees.  After five days of negotiation, only 29 passengers were allowed to disembark.  The vessel then headed toward the United States, hoping for permission to enter here, but was prevented by the Coast Guard.  The St. Louis then headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, but were denied again.  The refugees were finally accepted in various European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France.  It is estimated that approximately a quarter of the passengers died in death camps during World War II.  All because no one wanted to deal with the refugees.

The caravan that is coming to this country has been blown out of proportion for political gain.  This is not the first migrant caravan to come through Central America to the United States, though it is a larger one. It is not as large as it has been reported, instead containing only around 4,000 people and growing smaller as the journey continues.  This has not been orchestrated by George Soros or the liberals in America to bring in a large swath of constituents or to drum up a wedge issue.

And contrary to what you may believe, the caravan is not looking to enter the country illegally - they are looking to claim asylum.  "The vast majority of Central Americans have been presenting themselves and requesting asylum.  It's not a picking-somebody-up-if-they're-sneaking-across-the-border situation.  When they encounter the Border Patrol, they're saying they need protection."  That's why the people in the caravan are willing to walk 2,500 miles to get here.  Why they press on despite illness, the weather, and even potential death.  Why they are willing to press on despite potential incarceration at the border, despite a very uncertain reception.  They are not looking to sneak in.  They are walking here as a last ditch effort to ask for help.

For they believe the promise we make of a better life here.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We've got to better than an increased presence of active duty military at the border.  We have to do better than family separation as a deterrent, a horrendous policy we are still trying to put right.  We have to do better than a threat to end a time-honored practice of birthright citizenship.  We have to do better than to turn off all avenues of legal immigration.

We have to do better than this -
It's fundamental to who we are.

"Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, November 26, 2018

Birthright Citizenship and the Fourteenth Amendment

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.  No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1

There is a current movement in this country to end birthright citizenship - that is to end the automatic citizenship of children born in this country.  It's a measure designed to end the manufactured crisis of "anchor babies" or "birth tourism."  Designed to curb illegal immigration by making sure the children of illegal immigrants would still be illegal as well.

We are one of around thirty five countries that have this concept of citizenship by birth.  Birthright citizenship, or jus soli (right of the soil), has a long history in America.  It stems from the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."  This clause was meant to override the 1857 Dred Scott case that denied African Americans citizenship.  And while the Amendment seems clear and direct, the controversy and potential for ambiguity comes with the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof."  It is this phrase which Trump and other conservatives are using to point to the possibility of changing birthright citizenship to exclude children of non-citizens or residents.

There is support for this particular tactic in the Amendment's history.  The sponsor of the Amendment Jacob Howard argued the clause had the same content as the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and should be read to exclude American Indians who maintain their tribal ties and "persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers."  However, this merely goes to framers intent which is persuasive but not controlling on our governance.  In fact, you can also find support in the Amendment's history from three senators, including the author of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 Lyman Trumbull and President Andrew Johnson who argued that children born in the United States to parents who are not U.S. citizens and not foreign diplomats would become citizens by birth, with no opposition.

Further, the Supreme Court has addressed the issue of birthright citizenship in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), looking squarely at the "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" phrase.  In the case, the had to decide whether a child born in the United States to parents of Chinese descent, who were subjects of China but had a permanent domicile and residence in the United States at the time of the child's birth.   The court decided the "Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owing direct allegiance to their several tribes. The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born, within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States. Every citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States. His allegiance to the United States is direct and immediate, and, although but local and temporary, continuing only so long as he remains within our territory, is yet, in the words of Lord Coke in Calvin's Case, 7 Rep. 6a, "strong enough to make a natural subject, for if he hath issue here, that issue is a natural-born subject;" and his child, as said by Mr. Binney in his essay before quoted, "if born in the country, is as much a citizen as the natural-born child of a citizen, and by operation of the same principle.

If there were any question as to the courts intent in Wong Kim Ark, the court re-affirmed this principle in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).  Though the Plyler case focuses on a state statute denying funding for the education of undocumented immigrant children in the United States, the opinion contains a dictum footnote in the majority opinion that stated that according to Wong Kim Ark, the Fourteenth Amendment's phrases "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" and "within its jurisdiction" were essentially equivalent, both referring primarily to physical presence, not political allegiance, and that Wong Kim Ark benefited the children of illegal as well as legal aliens.  It's also important to note that while the dissent may have disagreed with the overall opinion in Plyler that the children had a right to a public education, they agreed with the majority regarding the applicability of the Fourteenth Amendment jurisdiction to illegal aliens.  It would seem that birthright citizenship at this point is "settled law" and should rightly be considered so.

So when Trump says the following "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment.  Guess what?  You don't.  You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress.  But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order.  We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits.  It's ridiculous.  It's ridiculous.  And it has to end," be aware.  He cannot do it with an executive order.  That would be unconstitutional for it's not in his powers.  An Act of Congress could be enacted, but its constitutionality would be challenged given the Supreme Court precedent and it would need to be decided by the court.  

Let's pray this does not need to go that far.  Let's pray we affirm a fundamental principle in our Constitution, for we are not a country that is defined by race, origin, or creed.  We are a nation of immigrants born here or naturalized and dedicated to an idea.  A dream open to all who want to partake in it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

"I believe that Jesus gave us an eternal truth about the universality of feelings.  Jesus was truthful about his feelings:  Jesus wept, he got sad; Jesus got discouraged; he got scared; and he reveled in the things that pleased him.  For Jesus, the greatest sin was hypocrisy. ... Jesus had much greater hope for someone like [a tax collector or prostitute] than for someone who always pretended to be something he wasn't."
Fred Rogers

Jamie and I recently watched the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? regarding the life and work of Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood fame.  And I cannot recommend this documentary enough.  I was never a Mr. Rogers kid, but as I've mentioned before, I wished I could have been.  We didn't have access to PBS in Buna and only got to watch it when we would go on trips.  As a young child, I know I would have been more drawn to Sesame Street, but I'm becoming more and more of a fan of Mr. Rogers.  The more I learn about him, the more I appreciate him and see what I missed.

If you do watch Won't You Be My Neighbor? make sure to have a handkerchief ready.  Now I know I'm a sentimentalist, but everyone I watched the film with admitted that they were at the point where if they made a noise, it was going to be a full on ugly cry.  What fascinates me about this is that there is not the typical format of building to an emotional climax.  There's not that one moment that makes you cry.  The payoff of the emotional storyline built through the film.  Rather, you cry at the little moments. You cry because of how pure his life and mission was.  At how much of a truly extraordinary human being he was.  As the New York Times editorial review put it, "Often people are moved to tears by sadness, but occasionally people are moved to tears by goodness."  Such is the case with this film and his life.

One thing I greatly appreciated in the film was how it handled Mr. Rogers' faith.  An ordained minister, Mr. Rogers viewed his television program as the outlet for his mission.  He was fiercely protective of children.  They were his mission in life and he saw television as a great medium to reach them.

In research after the film, I came across the quote above from Mr. Rogers, which stood out to me, particularly in light of our continued study around the Prodigal Son.  How the divide even goes to how we handle feelings.  The divide in truth and hypocrisy.  Of emotional intelligence versus emotional hypocrisy.

Emotional intelligence is a term that has been gaining strength over the past twenty-plus years.  It refers to the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, to discern between different feelings and to label them appropriately, to use that information to guide their behavior, and to be able to manage or adjust one's emotions to adapt to changes and achieve one's goals.  It's emotional honesty and empathy.  The idea of recognizing emotions as an important part of our lives and working with them, not pretending that they don't exist or suppressing them so far down as to never surface.  And over this period of twenty-plus years, there have been many studies showing the benefits of a higher emotional intelligence including greater mental and physical health.

It's that idea of tearing down the mask we present to society and getting to the true person underneath.  Of working to reach the point where the mask is no longer necessary.  To where there is no pretense.  I think that's why Mr. Rogers liked working with children.  There is no pretense there.  No guile.  Children are honest to a fault, and emotionally expressive to a fault, though they may not know how to process it.  It was this honesty that he celebrated.

"And here is the radicalism that infused the show: that the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer than the healthy; that the poor are closer than the rich and the marginalized closer than the celebrated."

Jesus would even indicate this. "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God."  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The older brother and the pharisee so often forget this.  The are so concerned with appearances, with not lowering themselves, not debasing themselves, that their own refusal to bend gets in their own way and the way of others.  You see this in the film where Mr. Roger's insistence that every child be told that they were deserving of love and attention simply because they existed was seen as the root of the problems with the modern generation.  He was blamed for the "everyone gets a trophy" and entitlement mentality.   A reminder that from the perspective of the older brother or pharisee, works are the ultimate measure.  You have to do something that merits praise or affection.  That merits kindness or attention.

And this is so hard to break through and so damaging, for it requires a complete reversal of the mentality of the elder brother.  It requires an understanding that what they did would never be good enough.  That such works were never the standard.

That's why Mr. Rogers would say that Jesus had more hope for the tax collector or prostitute.  It was easier to show them their need.  When someone starts reaching bottom, they tend to look up, to look for assistance.  When someone believes they are already at the top, they are already good enough, they tend to only look down or inward.

I think we see an interesting variation on this idea in the story of the Good Samaritan.  For me, it always helps to remember that this parable came in direct response to someone asking Jesus what they greatest commandment was.  And Jesus would answer to love God and to love your neighbor. While that generally sounded appropriate to everyone listening, the pharisees in the audience wanted one point of clarification - "who is my neighbor?"

The pharisees wanted a neat box tied around who their responsibility to love covered.  Fellow Israelites would be certain.  Showing hospitality to foreigners and travelers was to be expected.  But surely Jesus could not expect them to love a Samaritan, or worse, a Roman.

Jesus responds with a familiar story that I've written about before.  He tells of a Levite and a priest that pass by the injured man and worry more about themselves. What will happen to me if I touch this man?  Will I be defiled?  What has he done to deserve such a fate?  It's important to note that both the Levite and the priest could not imagine themselves in the man's position.  They could not empathize enough to see his need for assistance, so they crossed on the other side of the road to avoid him.

The Samaritan on the other hand worried about what would happen to the man if he did nothing.  Perhaps, the Samaritan could imagine himself in a similar situation.  He knew the treachery of the road and saw how it could have easily been him in that fate.

From the story, we see that the only response to Jesus' question at the end, asking who was the neighbor to the man who feel to robbers, is "he who showed mercy on him."  We see that all we come in contact with are people who are our neighbors.  And we have the opportunity to be neighborly in response by being the ones who show mercy and love.

Fred Rogers always asked "won't you be my neighbor?"  It's an invitation to be one of the people he cared about and prayed for.  From my research into his life, once you came into his circle, you were continually in his thoughts and prayers.  You were in his life.  You were his neighbor and he was going to be the one who showed mercy and love.  It was a deliberate and thoughtful choice on his part.  And it should be for each of us.

So for my part, I ask you - won't you be my neighbor?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Top 10 Favorite Alternative Thanksgiving Recipes

Because good food should never be limited to just one day.  I'm not quite ready to transition into Christmas mode.  For me, with Thanksgiving this early, it's still a little too soon for that.  With that in mind, I wanted to chapter a top 10 list that is still fall and Thanksgiving related.

What follows are ten recipe alternatives for traditional Thanksgiving classics, with one being a simple purchase.  Shared because good food is good food and should be always be shared.
  1. Cajun Fried Turkey
  2. Mole
  3. Cranberry Salsa over cream cheese
  4. Quinoa Salad with Roasted Squash, Dried Cranberries, and Pecans
  5. Roasted Green Beans with Harissa
  6. Sweet Potato Fries with Marshmallow sauce
  7. Pull-Apart Stuffing Rolls Recipe
  8. Pecan Pie Muffins
  9. Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Bluebell
  10. And finally, for those that imbibe, Thanksgiving Jungle Juice
And as a bonus, a place to collect all the top 10 things I'm thankful for:

  1. A God whose love can appear reckless to us  
  2. A wonderful family surrounding me  
  3. A job that while challenging is freeing as well  
  4. A country with the greatest of all ideals   
  5. A church family that pushes us to growth   
  6. A health I have taken for granted   
  7. A vast wide world to be explored   
  8. A universal language to express the most powerful truths   
  9. An optimism for the future   
  10. A readership that surprises and humbles me   

I hope you and yours had a truly great Thanksgiving holiday, and wish you the best for the coming season.


Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday

Today marks the day where retail businesses supposedly get "in the black" or turn a profit for the year.  It still remains an odd name for the day, sharing the Black Friday moniker with financial and natural disasters.  It's also slightly an odd pairing to have a celebration of thanks for what you have and then immediately go out to grab all the stuff you do not, but such is life.

The busiest shopping day of the year, celebrated with often ridiculous appearing sales to get you in the door.  I've only inadvertently participated a couple of times (and usually much later in the afternoon).

Growing up, the Friday after Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite days working at the store, because it was the day I got to decorate the windows for Christmas.   That's translated into a day at home pulling down all the Christmas decorations and decorating the apartment.

We're not shopping today, but we are enjoying time off.  I hope you and yours are able to enjoy the day as well.  May your shopping go safely, work pass quickly, and all be enjoyable.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord."  Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.

The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.

In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.

It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!  As stated yesterday, I want you all to know that I am greatly appreciative of all of you that are reading.  I pray you have many things to be thankful for and that the list only grows over the coming days, months, and years.  I hope you are able to take the time to be with family today, whether it be the one you are born into or the one you choose, and are able to take the time to reflect on the blessings in your life and to express that gratitude.

Give thanks.

This holiday may be overlooked and under-appreciated, but it remains an important day for us to stop all the craziness, especially as we gear up for a season that can be incredibly commercialized, and to remember the blessings great and small in our lives.

"Thanksgiving is a very important holiday.  Ours was the first country in the world to make a national holiday to give thanks."
"In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast.  They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food.  Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests.  Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: 'We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land.  We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.'"
Linus, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Out of the mouths of babes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #10 - A readership that surprises and humbles me

No matter what you write, it's a matter of putting words in a certain order so that the reader will be interested in what you are writing.
Stan Lee

Finally to close out my top 10, I'm thankful for you.

I'm thankful that you have taken the time to read this blog or any blog that I've written.  I'm thankful for those that read in silence and surprise me when I find out they are reading.  I'm thankful for those that have liked a post or commented.  I'm thankful for those that have told me they appreciate it.  I'm grateful that anyone takes a moment out of their day to read the sometimes coherent thoughts and ramblings that I can put to paper.

I'm thankful to have this outlet, to get ideas out of my head and to find my voice on events and issues.  It forces me to learn, to grow, and to develop my ideas and skills in order to keep up.  I'm at nearly two-thirds of a year with a daily entry.  And thankfully this has kept the creative spirit going instead of quenching it.  There are new and different ideas that keep coming, keep progressing.  It's now a matter of timing to keep up with them.

So, again, thank you.  I cannot tell you enough how much it means.

To new ideas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #9 - An optimism for the future

It is hope that gives life meaning.  And hope is based on the prospect of being able one day to turn the actual world into a possible one that looks better.
Francois Jacob

I'm thankful for hope.  I'm thankful for the belief that things will get better.  For the recognition that despite how dark things may seem or how dark people may try to convince us the days are, we are in the greatest time that has ever been.  I'm grateful for an energy that is growing to make things better.

I'm thankful for developments that give reason to hope.  For record turnouts in our election process.  For changes in our representation in Washington, D.C. making it more diverse and more reflective of the great body of people that they serve.  Hopefully making it more responsive to the people they serve.  For a potential for a massive criminal justice reform, that has been long supported and hoped for.  For developments in the treatment of Alzheimers and cancer.

I'm grateful for the hope we have in Christ.  I'm thankful for the hope we have for this life.  "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10  I'm grateful for the hope we have for the next life.  "So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I'm thankful for the hope I have for the future.  For the excitement of the years to come.  To looking forward to the future with my wife.  To watching my children grow and discover and learn.

I'm thankful for hope.  Pure, distilled, hope.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #8 - A universal language to express the most powerful truths

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
Thomas Merton

Today, I am thankful for a more abstract concept.  I'm thankful for good art.

I'm thankful for artists would can find an portray beauty in even the most simple of creations.  I'm thankful for vibrant colors and lines. I'm thankful for good art everywhere from Kirby to Rockwell to Monet.

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo

I'm thankful for music.  I'm thankful for good music.  I'm thankful for songs that perfectly convey emotion without a single word.  For chords that blend or crash together perfectly for the sentiment of the song.  I'm thankful for the music that you just can't help but dance to.  I'm thankful for the music that moves you to tears.  For the songs that remind you how small you are, and what a might God we serve.

I'm thankful for instruments that speak better than any human voice and for voices that sing with conviction beyond this lifetime.

I'm thankful for Journey.  For Queen.  For Louis Armstrong.  For the Sherman Brothers.  For the genius that is Lin Manuel Miranda.  For Gershwin.  For Selah, for Tomlin, for Crowder, and Hillsong.

The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental.  It's so much like life.
Arthur Miller

I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.
Oscar Wilde

I'm thankful for theater.  For side-splitting comedies.  For dramas that plumb the depths of the human soul.  I'm thankful for the opportunities to see good shows.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to be in good shows.

I'm thankful for that communal experience that brings an audience together, draws them in, and never lets them go until the curtain call.

I'm thankful for Shakespeare, for Miller, for Stoppard, and Sorkin.  For Lewis, Sayer, and Shields.  For Kander and Ebb, for Andrew Lloyd Weber, and Lin Manuel Miranda.  For the Fiasco Theater Company.

I'm beyond grateful to live in a world surrounded by some much good art.

Here's to old favorites and new discoveries.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #7 - A vast wide world to be explored

I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.
Susan Sontag

One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.
Edith Wharton

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
St. Augustine

For this entry today, I'm grateful for a great wide world open for exploration and discovery.  I'm grateful for travel.  I'm grateful for the places that I've been and I'm grateful for those that I am anxiously waiting to see.

I'm thankful for the ability to travel.  To have a job that enables me to travel and that allows me to take the vacation time to do so.

I'm grateful to have a partner who has as much wanderlust as I do, if not more.  Who has spearheaded a travel program to bring those opportunities to her students.  Who is ready to see the world.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to start showing my children some of my favorite places in the world.  For that excitement of seeing them through new eyes.

I'm thankful for that spirit of adventure, to keep on exploring.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #6 - A health I have taken for granted

When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.

Health is the greatest possession.  Contentment is the greatest treasure.  Confidence is the greatest friend.
Lao Tzu

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
Mahatma Gandhi

I'm not a health nut by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm overweight, tired, and out of shape.  And I like food too much and therefore eat what I know I should not.  These, however, are things in my power to change.

For a variety of reasons, I've been checked out fairly thoroughly this year tracking down the source of a seemingly continual fatigue and am in better shape internally than I would have expected.  Apart from needing to watch my blood pressure, I'm not having to take any other continual medication.  I do not have signs of any other serious disease.

I'm thankful for my health.  I'm thankful that my tests have all come back normal, particularly the calcium scan.  I'm thankful that my fatigue seems to come just from the lack of sleep caused by two young children and being out of shape.  I'm thankful for a kick in the pants to be healthier and to do and feel better.

I'm thankful for health insurance and for having health insurance covered by work.  While I'm not excited that I had to meet my deductible this year, I'm grateful for all the other treatments I was able to seek because my deductible had been met.  I'm hopeful for a time where we can fix the mess we created in this area.

I'm thankful for having a healthy family.   For no major injuries or illnesses beyond the experience with Avalyn's broken clavicle.  Thankfully a relatively minor injury that just required her to be in a sling.  I'm prayerful that we continue to remain healthy and well.

I pray for those who need healing, for those that need coverage, for those that need strength and support.  I pray for those who are recovering, for those who are struggling.  I pray for healing for us all.

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.
Jeremiah 17:14

L'chaim.  To life.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #5 - A church family that pushes us to growth

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13

I've written a few entries on specific services and ministries I love about our church, but I want to take a step further back.  In that series, I've specifically avoided discussing the fundamentals (ministers, preaching, teaching, worship, etc) of our church because those are things that any healthy church should be doing well.  I wanted to highlight unique and different things that our church does, showing my appreciation for the "outside of the box" ministries.  Today, I want to express my gratitude for a church that is striving to meet those fundamentals and doing it well.  I want to say thank you for having a great church home in Stonepoint Church, Wills Point.

I am thankful for having godly leadership in those on staff at the church.  I am thankful that they take serious their duties as shepherd to the flock entrusted in their care.  I'm grateful to get to know and serve along beside them.

I'm thankful for Biblical teaching grounded in the Truth and not on feeling, politic, or tradition.  For pastors who will proclaim the Truth that needs to be heard and not falling into either trap of too much "truth" or too much "love."

I'm thankful for a church that calls us all to action.  That requires service.  And reminds us that we all have a function and purpose to play within the body, however small, however remote, however unseen or unsung.

I'm thankful for a church that pushes its members to growth.  That checks in on our progress regularly and holds us to development in our faith.

I'm thankful for a church that works with other churches in the community.  I'm especially grateful to have seen the turnout and unity at the community service on Sunday.

I'm thankful for a church that knows how to celebrate and that has fun.  From baptism, to family worship, to Facebook challenges, and blooper reels, I'm grateful for a church that shows its enjoyment in life and spending time together.  If we believers are family now and will spend eternity together, we should probably start learning to enjoy each others' company now.

I'm grateful to be in a church that is alive in the Spirit of God, for the sad fact is that there are many, many churches across this nation and the globe that are not.

So, to the members and staff of Stonepoint Church, thank you!  Your spirit and service are recognized and appreciated.

If you are looking for a church home, to find a place to truly connect and dig in deeper, you can find out more about Stonepoint here.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #4 - A country with the greatest of all ideals

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Americanism is a question of principle, of idealism, of character.  It is not a matter of birthplace, or creed, or line of descent.
Theodore Roosevelt

It seems fitting on this most American of holidays, to express my gratitude for the country that I call home.  Now this is not going to be a post on American exceptionalism.  I do have dreams of living in other countries and from my travels I could be at home in quite a few.  I am and will always be grateful to have been born in this great country.  For the grand experiment in which I am a part.

More than anything else, America is a country founded on the greatest ideals and principles of self-governance that have existed on this planet.  That the power lies with the people and government is to be of, for, and by those people.  That every person (regardless of how we have ill-applied this truth) is born with innate human rights.  Rights to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of their happiness.  That government exists to protect these rights.  And that we have taken provision to secure these rights through codification in our laws and in the provisions of a organizational document for our government that exists solely to protect these rights of the people, the Bill of Rights.

Through this, our revolution truly changed the world, and creating a beacon for those around the world yearning to be free.  We were always a nation of immigrants, a melting pot of different people groups, backgrounds, creeds, faiths, races, and tongues.  And from the beginning, the colonies represented various factions united around one central, specific idea - that there is a better way.  It's why we are the United States of America and not simply America; we have a built in recognition that we are an assembly of different pockets of people, united by our ideals and belief in the country we call home.  It's why our country continues to grow more and more diverse, as people from every corner of the globe buy into the dream and experiment that is America.  It's why we have a statue dedicated to Liberty, calling them home.

Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal.  We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow.  Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.

Robert Kennedy

We have always been great because of these ideals.  There is an apocryphal quote mis-attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville stating "America is great because she is good.  If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."  While the attribution may not be correct, the sentiment still remains true.  When we model and proclaim the ideals that we cling to, we are the greatest country on Earth.

We seem to be struggling with our ideals of late.  Closing ourselves off from the rest of the world instead of engaging it.  Fighting amongst ourselves instead of against the ills of this world.  Seeing groups long thought vanquished gaining ground again.  Attacking some of our most fundamental freedoms.

The good news is that there is hope.

There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.
Bill Clinton

Tomorrow will be better as long as America keeps alive the ideals of freedom and a better life.
Walt Disney

Lord, I thank you for this country that you have ordained under the guiding principles of liberty and justice for all.  I pray we remember those blessings and strive to uphold those ideals once again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #3 - A job that while challenging is freeing as well

No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry.  Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
Theodore Roosevelt

I've often joked that I never wanted to actually be a lawyer in real life, I just wanted to play one on television.  And even now, I'm not one looking to go into the courtroom, to be involved in that kind of drama.

I'm very grateful for the job that I have.  It can be a challenge and it can be overwhelming, especially given the project nature of the work.  The hours can be long, the drive can get grueling, and the work can get monotonous depending on the case.  But I'm grateful to have a job with more built in flexibility than other forms of law.

I've written about my work before, but it bears repeating that in many ways, the emphasis in my job is more on project management than application of the law.  I'm the one ensuring that the deadlines are met, utilizing resources to their highest efficiency, working through project strategy to make sure we identify the type of documents we are supposed to find.

This makes the job part investigative, part contemplative, part reading and part scheduling.  It can present a new challenge every day and an opportunity to find a new and creative solution.

I'm ever grateful to have a job.  I'm grateful to have a job that I'm good at.  I'm grateful to have a job that has such flexibility.

I'm also grateful my company is fostering something like Idea Day.  We took a whole day off as a company for the entire company to work on brainstorming ideas to make the company better.  And I think we identified a few really exciting opportunities to make our company standout in our industry. I'm looking forward to tackling those in the days and months ahead.

To work worth doing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #2 - A wonderful family surrounding me

"The only people who truly know your story are the ones who help you write it."

For the second thing that I am most thankful for in all of the world, I think of the wonderful people that surround me.  That I call family.

I'm eternally grateful for my wonderful wife.  For my best friend, for my confidant, for my equal and match.  She is my helper and I am hers.  She is my patron and I am hers.  I am ever thankful for the decade we have been together and am hopeful for many more to come.  To the ends of the earth...

I'm exceedingly thankful for my two crazy and charming children.  For my daughter who made me a father and showed what a wonderful experience that would be.  For her amazing mind and personality that continue to surprise us.  For my son who shows us how to explore the world.  Who's sweet smile can brighten up the darkest of days.  I'm so thankful for learning that love is the one resource we have that cannot be depleted.  It is never divided, only multiplied.

I'm extremely thankful for the family that I was born into.  I'm thankful to have been blessed with parents that nurtured their children's dreams and equipped them to run toward them head long.  For parents that loved the unique qualities that made each of us different and who challenged us to be our best selves.  I'm thankful for a sister who was my closest friend and near twin growing up.  For a traveling partner.  And I'm thankful for a brother to share a room with, an apartment with, and a variety of interests and hobbies with.  For someone to share comics with.  I'm grateful to have known my grandparents, all five of them, to still have two with us, and to have briefly know two great grandparents.  I'm thankful for aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of whom left an indelible mark on my life.

I'm especially thankful for the family that I've married into.  I'm grateful for two in-laws that have welcomed me into the family as if I was always one of their own.  I'm grateful for new brothers and sisters to share movies, food, and life with.  I'm grateful for a new extended family, it's warmth, and it's wealth of knowledge and experiences.

I'm equally grateful for the family I've chosen.  For friends throughout my lifetime that have made this life enjoyable.  For memories that will last a lifetime and for new experiences yet to come.  Even if I haven't seen you in a while, I'm still thinking of you and looking forward to catching up.

There's a quote that I love - "when you have more than you need build a bigger table, not a higher fence."  My cup runneth over from blessings in family and friends.

Here's to bigger tables.