Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Prayer for the Start of School


Though Avalyn started school two and a half weeks ago, I recognize many schools across the country are starting back now, or in the near future.  This year has made it very interesting to plan for a prayer for the start of school, because this year is so abnormal.  Some schools are going back though modified, some are starting virtually first, then planning to go back, others still are planning for both, not knowing exactly yet what they plan to do.  

It's in this environment I would like to offer a prayer for this 2020-2021 school year.  For the students, the parents, and the faculty involved.

-----------------------------------

Dear Heavenly Father,

We come to you in a time of uncertainty and stress.  Facing a year that has already tested us and an upcoming school year which we are not prepared for.  A time in which we desperately want things to get back to normal, but recognize that it may not be for a long time yet.

It's in this environment in which we pray for, above all else, grace and mercy this year.

Lord may we find your grace, amazing grace, upon us.  May you protect us and guide us through this school year.  May you watch over all the students and keep them healthy and safe.  May you lead them to be kind to each other.  If nothing else, may they be kind.  May they wear their masks, may they learn to wash their hands well.  May they find a way to be friends and friendly even through social distancing.  May they listen to and help their teachers, not adding any additional stresses.  May their innocence and youth guide us through this difficult time.

May you watch over the teachers and grant them wisdom and patience.  May you give them grace in their interactions with their students. With parents who may not agree with the school's precautions.  With other faculty who might make things more challenging.  May they find joy, even in this chaos.  May they find the ability to give themselves grace when this year does not go as planned.  When everything changes on a daily basis.  May they give themselves permission to relax and let go.

May you watch over the parents who are trying to balance it all.  Praying that school continues to go forward, praying they don't have to work from home, make sure the kids are doing their school online and also try to get everything done around the house.  May they find grace in their interactions with teachers, recognizing they too are trying to figure out how to navigate this crazy time.  


May we all grant each other the grace to recognize that we're all trying our best in a very challenging situation.

May we be agents of grace in making someone else's day better, brighter in some small way.

May we be agents of your grace in finding the good, even now.


May we be merciful.

When school goes back to virtual after being open.

When the school gets its first case of COVID-19.

When it's just gotten to be too much.


May we be merciful.

And let us find you.

Let us find you in the ability for kids to play together for the first time.

Let us find you in the new resemblance of a routine.

Let us find you in a Zoom call.

At the dinner table after school is out.

In the pickup and drop off line.

Let us see you more clearly in this time.

For that is how we will get through it.


We thank you for all you have brought us through and we pray for your wisdom for this year.


In your most precious name,

Amen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

That's Enough 2020

You know, we've handled the quarantine.  We've handled masks.  We've handled social distancing and work from home.  This may be a step too far.

Dr. Pepper is having a shortage.

Dr. Pepper is my coffee.  I've never really developed a taste for hot beverages, coffee even less so.  For a dose of caffeine, the Dr. is my drug.

I'm working on drinking far less of it and trying to limit it to the weekends at most, but this week is a semi-staycation and with the big birthday coming up, it's been a little more regular in our house.  

It's my addiction.  Not a good one, as if there are any good addictions, but at times a necessary one.  It keeps me awake on long road trips.  It helps combat the grogginess after a long night.  

It's the perfect pair for a hamburger, or pizza.

It's a taste of Texas in our new home.

It's making this pandemic bearable.

At this point, can we go back to the toilet paper shortage.

Seriously, it's time to go stock up.   

So, again, enough 2020.  No more.

Let's turn this around and move on to happier things.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

National Spider-man Day


Today is national Spider-man Day, celebrating 58 years of the amazing, spectacular wall-crawler.  First appearing in Amazing Fantasy 15, August 1962, everyone’s neighborhood friendly Spider-man has since become an international icon. 

“With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”  More than anything, the years of Spider-man material have served to remind us of the characters great motto. A variation of the promise that “to whom much is given, much is demanded.”  That we are responsible for how we live our lives. What we do with what we are given. How we improve the world around us. And how we care for those around us. 

That we have a responsibility that extends beyond ourselves.  And in this current environment, I cannot think of a better reminder for us. A reminder that we have all been entrusted with some amount of power. And it is our responsibility to wield it well. That it is in our power to protect our neighbor, to help prevent the spread of this virus. And we have the responsibility to do so. That we have the power to make others’ lives better during this crisis. The power to help provide meals, provide aid, provide support, provide an ear. And we have the responsibility to do so. 

That we have the power to be kind, and we have a responsibility to do so. 

There’s a meme that goes around that says “always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.”  Let’s change that. Batman is a little extreme, and potentially a little psychotic depending on the writer. Spider-man is a lot more balanced and teaches us a more valuable lesson. 

Let’s be Spider-man. 

Excelsior, true believers!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

First Day of School


Today is the first day of school here in Indiana.  They've gone to a schedule that allows a little more flexibility in the year, so we start really early, but get three two week break periods throughout the school year and get done before Memorial Day. 

Avalyn is going to 1st grade and is attending Elementary school here. They are meeting in person with accommodations and it went well for today. 

Avalyn is looking forward to school. She’s ready to make more friends. Jamie and I have commented how it’s so weird her being the first one to leave the house on a regular basis. It’s an adjustment but we’ll get used to it. 

Hopefully this is the start of a great, though very different school year. We’ll keep you posted on her progress and how we are dealing with this crazy year as well.                                

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Olivia de Havilland

By studio - Flickr, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26528818

Award winning actress Dame Olivia de Havilland passed away Saturday, July 25, 2020.  She was 104 year old.  Over her career, she appeared in 49 films and was one of the leading actresses of her time.  That career spanned 74 years, up to narrating a documentary in 2009 at the age of 93, and included such well remembered films as The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Gone With the Wind.  de Havilland was the last surviving cast member of Gone With the Wind.  

She was also famous for her long-running feud with her sister Joan Fontaine, one that had its roots in their childhood.  This feud first came to a head in 1942, when de Havilland and Fontaine were both nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress‍—‌de Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn and Fontaine for Suspicion. When Fontaine's name was revealed as the winner, de Havilland reacted graciously, saying "We've got it!"  Fontaine rejected de Havilland's attempts to congratulate her, leaving the other offended and embarrassed.  The reverse would happen in 1947 when de Havilland accepted her first offer.  The feud would reach a fever pitch in 1975 over disagreements with their mother's cancer treatment and would continue until Fontaine's death in 2013.

She will be most remembered in Hollywood as the woman who took on the studio system and won.  Growing dissatisfied with the types of roles that she was being offered by Warner Brothers, her contracted studio, de Havilland longed for the more dramatic roles offered her in films like Gone with the Wind and Hold Back the Dawn, she began refusing certain roles offered to her.  In 1943, she announced that her seven year contract with Warner Bros. was up.  Warner Brothers responded that there was six months remaining because of her refusal on certain roles.  de Havilland decided to fight back arguing that Warner Bros. was violating labor laws.  She won in a decision that would be dubbed the de Havilland Law, making her a free agent.  It was the start of other stars breaking away and doing the same.  In short, she won where Bette Davis and James Cagney had lost before.

"She was tough and she stayed with it, and as a result she brought the studios to their knees.  Other actresses have won Academy Awards. Other stars have been as famous. But few had as far-reaching an impact as de Havilland did.”  Jeanine Bassinger, Chair of Film Studies at Wesleyan University

Rest in Peace, Olivia de Havilland

Friday, July 24, 2020

Mitchuation: Tested

A little delay in posting a bit.  We've fought off a little bit of sickness around the house.  Last week, Avalyn and Jude got sick with cold like symptoms. Avalyn ran a fever for about a day and a half and had a bit of congestion.  Jude had a nose that ran like a faucet, with a wet cough.  They got sick early in the week, so of course by the week's end, it moved to Jamie and I.  

Jamie just had a day of a sore throat, and recovered completely otherwise.  I started with a sore throat on Thursday and then had a light continuous headache with lightheadedness over three days of the weekend.  Not too fun.  

So by day three of headache and lightheadedness, I went to the clinic to get checked out.  And part of that included a lovely COVID-19 test.  I could feel them tickle my brain.  Thankfully I only had to get one nostril done.  I don't know if I would have been able to sit still through the second.

Thankfully, the results came back negative Tuesday.  A likely viral infection, but not that one.  Still out of an abundance of caution, because of the possibilities of a false negative, I've been sequestered inside.  That should end soon.

Generally, I've just been tired this week.  So, I've let a few things slip.  Like more regular posts.

Things will be picking up again now.  Work is definitely increasing with a several projects moving up in the timeline, requiring a few different machines running at the same time to keep it all going forward.  Avalyn is getting ready to start school.  She's gotten to see the building and found out who her teacher will be.   So, we have that transition to look forward to.

We're now under a state wide mask mandate.   Again, it will not really change how we have been operating outside of the house.  Hopefully, it will help curb some of the future spread, especially as schools start again.

We have seen our plans change a bit though.  We had looked forward to a get away in the Smokies with Jamie's family.  It had been planned since last year and was going to be almost a family reunion.  Due to the current COVID-19 situation in Tennessee and the ability of the resort to adapt, that will no longer be happening.  

We do have a silver lining with this though.  A lot of Jamie's immediate family will be coming up to spend the week with us.  We are very much looking forward to this.  We're ready to show them around to the extent we can, let them try the foods we've come to love, and give them a bit of a taste of the place we call home.  Capped off by a pretty big celebration.

It's going to be an interesting few weeks ahead.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Good Trouble

"Do not get lost in a sea of despair.  Do not become bitter or hostile.  Be hopeful, be optimistic.  Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.  We will find a way to make a way out of no way."
Rep. John Lewis


Representative John Lewis passed away Friday at the age of 80.  Civil rights icon, representative for over 30 years, comic book graphic novel author.  Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Lincoln Medal recipient, John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Lifetime Achievement award recipient, Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize recipient.  In his lifetime, he achieved more for civil rights, more for his constituency could imagine.  

We need more people today willing to get into his good and necessary trouble.  We need people willing to risk it all for the advancement of society.  Willing to push for civil rights for all, to recognize that making a way where there is none is trying, tedious work.  That it takes a lifetime, but it is what makes a life truly matter.  

Here's to good trouble.

Rest in Peace, sir.  Your work is appreciated, perhaps now more than ever.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Happy Birthday Disneyland!

To all who come to this happy place:

Welcome.
Disneyland is your land.
Here age relives fond memories of the past - and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.  Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America - with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
Walt Disney, July 17, 1955



Sixty-five years ago today, Disneyland opened its doors for its first visitors.  A special “International Press Preview” event was held, only open to invited guests.  Six thousand invitations were mailed, but by mid-afternoon, over 28,000 ticket holders were headed for Disneyland.  

Even as the gates opened, workmen were still planting trees.  Paint applied earlier that morning was still wet to the touch and asphalt poured that morning on Main Street was so soft that women’s heels were sinking in.  

Southern California was suffering from a record heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees.  Drinking fountains were dry, rides broke down shortly after opening, and many places ran out of food and drink.   The park would even suffer a gas leak in Fantasyland, causing Adventureland, Frontierland, and Fantasyland to close for the afternoon. This would leave only a very anemic Tomorrowland and Main Street USA open.

It wasn't the best opening ever.

This year, Disney's celebration is a little muted as well.  Of the twelve parks Disney has internationally, only seven of them are open.  Disneyland itself remains closed indefinitely, as plans for California keep getting pushed back.  Though Walt Disney World is open now, there is talk with rising infections in Florida, it may have to close again, or scale back to just the Magic Kingdom and a few resorts.

No matter the current situation, Walt's dream remains.  The idea of a place where families can gather and all participate.  Where you leave reality beyond.  Where you are truly transported to some place often magical.  

That is why so many people are waiting for it to open back up.  In watching the Imagineering documentary on Disney+, they talked about how in Japan after the tsunami, the government does not give an official declaration that everything is back to normal.  How the populace looked to Tokyo Disneyland to be the arbiter of when things were truly ok again.  When Tokyo Disneyland opened again, there was a sense that normalcy had finally returned.

We're all waiting for that magical moment, and it seems so far away.

Until then, Happy Birthday Disneyland!  May you weather this one, to brighter ones to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Amazing Grace, Indeed

I discovered this today and had to share.



When people ask me how I imagine Heaven, I often joke that I picture a Gaither Homecoming concert.  That large group of singers, singing all kinds of worship and praise music.   Singers gathered from every country, every era.  Mozart and Elvis together.  Mahlia Jackson with Lecrae.  DC Talk with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  The best concert you could ever imagine.  

This comes the closest I've heard.

This is the Church.  The nation of God, united not in country, not in language, not in color, but in worship of the one true living God.  

This is worship.  Every language, every style, joined together in praise.

Do you ever think about how, on Sunday mornings, your voice in joining in a global time of worship and praise, as worship starts all throughout the day, circling the globe as the sun rises in the different time zones?  How your voice joins that global choir of praise, lifting high his holy name?  How high holy, modern praise, country and bluegrass, and gospel join with global variations of the same?

How no matter how mega the church here in the states, we are just a small part of the world wide song of praise that is taking place?

We're singing the eternal song.  The greatest message, the only thing that makes Christianity different from any other religion or creed that has existed on this planet.  That of grace.  Amazing grace, indeed.

Let's join that chorus.

Lift every voice, and sing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Lift Every Voice And Sing!


"Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and Heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as The list'ning skies,
let it resound loud as the Rolling sea

Sing a song
full of faith that the Dark past has taught us,
Sing a song
full of The hope that the present has brought Us;

Facing the rising sun
of our new day Begun,
Let us march on till victory is Won.


Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the Chast'ning rod,
Felt in the day that hope
Unborn had died;
Yet with a steady Beat,
Have not our weary feet,
Come to the Place on which our fathers sighed?

We have Come
over a way that with tears has been Watered,
We have come,
treading our path Through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from The gloomy past,
till now we stand at Last
Where the white gleam
of our star is Cast.


God of our weary years,
God of Our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus
Far on the way;
Thou who has by thy Might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us Forever in the path, we pray

Lest our feet
Stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Least our hearts,
drunk with the wine of The world, we forget thee,

Shadowed beneath the Hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land."  

There has been a lot of debate about this being sung before the first week of NFL games alongside the National Anthem.  I think a lot of it stems from being referred to as the Black National Anthem, not recognizing that the title was given to the song by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1919, for its power of voicing a cry of liberation and affirmation for African American people.  

I don't know about you, but looking over the lyrics and listening to the song, this seems to be a fitting anthem for our country right now.  In many ways, more fitting for the America we want to be than the Star Spangled Banner.  If there were to be a proposed change, I would be in agreement. 

If you haven't, I implore to you listen to this hymn.  Let it speak to you.  Let God speak to you through it.   Meditate on its words.  I guarantee they are easy to find.  It's in your hymnal now.

We'd be in a much better place if we could all lift our voices and sing this in agreement.
  

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bastille Day


Today, the people of France celebrate Bastille Day, in remembrance of the storming of the Bastille on July 11, 1789.  King Louis XVI dismissed the Finance Minister Jacques Necker, who was sympathetic to the Third Estate, the working class.  The working class became afraid that their representatives would be attacked and sought ammunition for the general population.  The Bastille, the fortress-prison of Paris, held a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder, and acted as a symbol of the French monarchy, holding political prisoners.  Previously in the day, Les Invalides had also been stormed, for similar reasons. 

The storming of the Bastille marked a turning point in the French revolution.  Within a little over a month, feudalism in France would be abolished on August 4, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen would be proclaimed on August 26.  

Celebrations for the day started as early as a year later.  On July 14, 1790, the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the unity of the French people.  Nearly one hundred years later, the celebration would be made official, the Fête Nationale, or National Celebration.

Typically, the day would hold one of the oldest and largest military parades in Europe.  This year, because of the global pandemic, the military parade was suspended.  Instead, the celebration was recalibrated to honor medics, postal workers, and other essential workers that have been heroes of the pandemic.  President Emannuel Macron used the celebration to admit past mistakes in handling of the pandemic and to focus on French recovery, instituting a mask mandate for all enclosed public spaces starting August 1 and outlining a €100 billion recovery plan.

We remember these events, we remember the French revolution, the American revolution because of what they created.  The French revolution decriminalized heresy, blasphemy, and witchcraft; ended one of the oldest European monarchies with a republic based on universal male suffrage; introduced no-fault divorce and easy adoption; embraced the ideal of formal equality before the law; and for at least a short time, championed universal employment, education, and subsistence as basic human rights.


Prior to the revolution, fear swept across the country.  Businesses started collapsing.  A select few made huge fortunes.  Panicked customers start hoarding - paper, food, weapons, whatever they can get their hands on.  The government's reaction was inconsistent and ineffectual.  Ordinary commerce ground to a halt.  Political factionalism grew more and more intense.  

Then everything fell apart.

That sounds eerily prescient, doesn't it.  

Are we on the precipice of a similar revolution?  There is so much division in this country, so much rancor, to the point we've even politicized public health and safety.  We're attacking each other over whether someone wears a mask to protect the general population.  We're at each others throats with so much change necessary.  We still have to address deep racial issues in this country.  We have to address an ever increasing wealth gap and the destruction of the middle class.  We still have many situations in which we still allow legal discrimination on what should be protected classes of people.

A change is certainly coming.  The question becomes do we learn from history.  Do we go through a Reign of Terror and a military dictatorship like France to come through stronger, or do we forge a different path?

In that spirit, I hope we learn the lessons of Bastille Day well.  

bonne Fête Nationale

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Every Wound is an Opportunity


Every wound is an opportunity for either healing or infection.

This was the theme of our sermon last week. And it’s a statement that I’m has been replaying in my head all week. Largely because of the incongruity. We don’t like to think of our wounds, our hurts as opportunities. They are things inflicted on us. They are things we want to get past, to get over, to forget. We don’t want to think of them as opportunities, especially while we are in them. 

And yet, each wound has one of two paths. Healing, leading to life, or infection, leading to death if untreated. Think about it. Up to the mid-twentieth century, more soldiers died of infection from their wounds revived in battle than died in combat. In the Civil War, for every three soldiers killed in combat, five died from infection of their wounds. 

Our problem is that infection is easy. Infection is the result of our apathy. If we do nothing, if we leave things untreated, infection is a natural result. This is true in our bodies and is true in our social and spiritual lives. 

Much of the problems we are facing in American society today is the result of untreated infection.  I think this is most closely seen in the racial issues that we are seeing flare up again this summer. These issues keep arising because we have still never dealt with the underlying wound. We treat the flare up. We take some of the anti-biotics and put a bandaid on the situation, but we have never truly dealt with the wound. 

We end slavery, but then start passing the Black Codes. We end Jim Crow and segregation, but start redlining.  Two steps forward, three steps back, never fully addressing the wound. Always treating the symptoms. 

Healing takes work. Full healing requires recognition of the wound, active participation in the treatment, and a commitment to see it through to the end. But the result often makes us stronger than before the wound. A scar will leave the skin stronger in that spot than before.  Bones are temporarily stronger at the site of the fracture. We come through stronger. 

Infection makes us weak. Untreated infection makes the whole body weaker. Not just at the sight of the wound, though that will continue to hurt. It makes us tired, we run fever, we ache. Infection spreads. Untreated infection starts jumping into previously healthy areas, until it is fatal. 

I know I’ve used a macro example, but where is this playing out in our personal lives. What untreated sin is lingering out there that keeps causing an issue in your life?  What infected relationship do you have that needs to be healed?  What broken friendship, broken marriage, broken family relationship do you need to address?  What part of your past are you treating the symptoms but not healing the wound?

Healing can take many forms. Licensed therapy. Counseling. Mentors. Twelve step programs. Confronting a brother or sister. Confession. Forgiveness. 

There are a lot of ways to start that process. 

What’s your first step toward healing today?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Presumed Intent

"Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples - while judging ourselves by our best intentions.  And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.

But Americans, I think, have a great advantage.  To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values.  We have never been held together by blood or background.  We are bound by things of the spirit - by shared commitments to common ideals."
President George W. Bush

We're doing our nightly reading through Joshua and we've finally gotten through the land division descriptions.  Last night, we read the last half of chapter 22, where the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh return across the Jordan to the east side and the land they claimed.  When they got back across the river, they built an altar of imposing size at the edge of the Jordan.   At the sight of this, the rest of the tribes were convinced that these two and a half tribes had violated God's commands, as the altar for sacrifice should have been at Shiloh.  And because they were convinced that the two and a half tribes had done wrong, they were prepared to punish them.  "And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them."

They were ready to go to war against their own kinsmen because of what they saw and what they thought they understood.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and they sent emissaries to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh to ask why the altar had been built.  They sent the son of the chief priest and ten chiefs, each a head of a tribe of Israel.  And when they asked the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan, they discovered that they completely misunderstood why those tribes built an altar.

The tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh had a vision of the future.  They foresaw a future division that would become an issue.  "No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, 'What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?  For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad.  You have no portion in the Lord."  They foresaw a time when the people would forget their history, when they would forget why the two and a half tribes settled on the east side of the Jordan, and forget their tie to the rest of Israel.

The altar was built to be a reminder of that history.

You can imagine, this explanation, combined with the two and a half tribes assurances in "The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord!" three names of God used as a form of an extreme oath, put the relationship between the two parts of Israel, the two sides of the Jordan back right.

This story gives us a prime example of how we should proceed in circumstances of disagreement.  First and above all, we should seek understanding.  "The one who gives an answer before he listens - this is foolishness and disgrace for him."  Proverbs 18:13.  Before we ascribe intent, before we act as if someone else is in the wrong, we should seek to understand their perspective.

How can we as Christians presume someone else's intent?  How can we presume malice?  

And yet, aren't we the first to do so?  

Haven't we painted much of the rest of the world out to get us?  Democrats are out to destroy us.  Socialists are out to destroy America and Christians.  This faction is ruining Christianity.  That faction is persecuting us.

I love that quote from George Bush and have referred to it often.  Because it's true.  We grant ourselves and the groups we belong to all sorts of latitude because we know the intentions of those involved.  And yet, when we look at other groups, we presume their intent.  When it's someone we disagree with, we presume the worst intent.  And only evaluate the evidence that supports our position.

We're fracturing in America, we're on the verges of conflict because we presume the worst intents of others and will not seek understanding.

We as Christians should be the first ones seeking to break this cycle.  To extend grace.  To seek understanding.  Yes, to speak up and stand firm when someone's intent is un-Biblical, particularly with those who are claiming Christ's name.  But not to leap to that condemnation as the first step in conversation.

We should also be the first ones to acknowledge the malice, the ill intent, the recklessness in our own pasts.  To admit that our pasts are not as rosy as we would like to paint them.  To admit and recognize that we have been great recipients of grace and should likewise extend it.  To take the plank out of our own eye before even speaking.

We can and should do better.  If nothin else, let's at least follow Hanlon's razor, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."  

I hesitate a bit with Hanlon’s razor, as I don’t want us presuming stupidity either.  That plays into another into another problematic us versus them mentality in Christianity, the idea that we’re right and everyone else who does not share our particular variant of theological understanding, our particular eschatology, our particular hermeneutic is wrong.  a model that inflates our own intelligence over everyone else’s. Perhaps we should focus instead on one of the quotes from which it is derived. “Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives.”  Jane West, The Loyalists: An ahistorical Novel (1812).  In short, let us presume the best. 


And if we want to presume intent or intelligence, let's take into account our own stupidity first.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Mandatory Masks

Today, masks become mandatory in Indianapolis and Marion County.  Everyone over two will need to where them out in public in places where it is not possible to stay more than six feet away from those that are not in the same household.  It is a similar order to the ones already in affect in three other counties in Indiana and has no expiration date.

This is not a surprise to us.  We have been operating as if this order was always in effect.  We where masks when we have to go out and shop.  Even the few times we have gone in somewhere to eat, we have worn them while waiting and ordering.  We each have multiple masks and have had fun picking out styles and patterns that matches our interests.  Jude has been so excited about having a Nightmare Before Christmas mask, he has frequently worn it in the house.

We've even made a point of making it exciting for Avalyn to get the multiple masks she will need for school.  She's gotten to pick one out each week at the local farmer's market.  So she can have styles like Frozen II and Star Wars that she really likes.

I have my Marvel mask that I wear everywhere out in public.  The only major exception is on the morning walk on the trail, where I'm basically isolated.

So, this will be business as usual for us, even though it is not affecting our specific county yet.

This order comes not because of an increase in cases in Indiana, but out of an abundance of caution.  Especially as the number of cases in neighboring states has been increasing.

Which highlights the problem we have been having in this country keeping COVID-19 under control.  Without national guidance, without leadership that is factoring the differences of specific states into their guidelines, we've created a system in which has fostered the petri dish that we have in which our national numbers keep growing exponentially.  

We have thirty-six states with rising positive cases.  Texas has become the 11th largest pocket of cases per million people in the world, leaping over many countries.  Florida likewise is seeing a tremendous rise in cases.  

We've never had a decline cases, we never flattened the curve, we're still in a first wave.  

We never got this under control.

Largely because we never had leadership on this issue.  And what leadership there was frequently combated their experts, undermined their recommendations, and caused unnecessary confusion on pretty simple issues.

Like masks, for instance.

Despite masks being the simplest way to get this under control, we have had too many people in high positions that have been outright combative to the need to wear masks for public safety.  

And before the comments start coming, I'm going to start muting people that continue to spread misinformation that masks lead to hypoxia or that it's part of some slow-burn conspiracy to keep conditioning us toward having our rights taken away.  One represents a fundamental misunderstanding of science, the other a complete misunderstanding of government.

If you look at the countries that are starting to see a positive trend, if you look at Asia as it has been reopening, masks have been the key.  Countries like Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, all provide ample evidence of the benefit of masks.  Japan in particular is interesting, as masks were largely its primary tool in fighting off the virus.  Japan has had no lockdown, but encouraged people to stay away from enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places, and close conversations.  They also have high mask use.  Yet, even with densely packed cities like Tokyo, their transmission and death rates have been shockingly low.

So, once again, I urge you, all of you, everywhere, wear the mask.  It is, quite literally, the least we can do to fight off this surge in cases and deaths.  Literally the least we can do to help get everything back on track.

And if you are not, if you won't, why not?  Seriously, what keeps you from doing something so small for to protect yourself and others?  I understand breathing related health issues and I understand claustrophobic anxieties, but everyone else who refuses because of some misguided notion of freedom, I will never understand.

Do your part.  Wear a mask.

Please.

I would like this all to end at some point.




Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Irregardless


I know, I just made a lot of English teachers and grammarians cringe.

In another sign of the impending apocalypse, Mirriam Webster has confirmed that "irregardless" is apparently a word, when it listed it in its Words of the Week column for Friday, July 3, 2020.  

Paradoxically, the definition listed for "irregardless" is "regardless".  This definition alone would seem to point out its irrelevance.  The purposelessness of its existence.  Were we being literal, the definition should be "not regardless" or "without without regard."

It's nonsensical.

Mirriam-Webster tries to provide a vigorous defense of its use and inclusion.  "It may not be a word that you like, or a word that you would use in a term paper, but irregardless certainly is a word. It has been in use for well over 200 years, employed by a large number of people across a wide geographic range and with a consistent meaning. That is why we, and well-nigh every other dictionary of modern English, define this word. Remember that a definition is not an endorsement of a word’s use."

Still, it is a word that should not exist.  It serves no purpose, beyond being a misstatement of the proper word.

Regardless of what Mirriam-Webster might say.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Morricone


There are few people who rise to iconic.  Ennio Morricone is one.  There are few composers who are instantly recognizable.  John Williams is well known and created many iconic scores, but they are tied to the movies and characters that they underscore.  

Morricone transcended film.  When you think of a shootout in a western between the good guy and the bad guy, your mind goes to his score, without even knowing it.  That high whistle followed by a chorus of wah-wah-wah.  That piece of music, his score for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is considered one of the most influential soundtracks in history and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  He composed over 400 scores for cinema and television and over 100 classical works.

Morricone passed away yesterday, July 6, 2020, at the age of 91.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Ten Albums #10: The Essential Harry Belafonte



I'll close this list out with the album that is getting the most play today.  A reference to how my musical tastes are always evolving. 

This album started as a gift to Jamie for Mother's Day.  And it has been in rotation since then.  

Belafonte's smooth voice provides great interpretations for the standards and covers on the album.  His interpretation of Midnight Special is a particular favorite.

The other great benefit is the exposure to world music.  The music of his heritage and its traditions.  Jamaican folk songs and songs from the islands Episcopal tradition.  It also includes his exploration of other musical legacies. In Hava Nagila and Danny Boy.

Like Belafonte, my list is eclectic and varied.  In that respect, I think this is a fitting album to close with.  For the song, a favorite discovery of the family.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

And Many More, Gorgeous!

Happy Birthday to my favorite weirdo!  The one who will take a leap and move cross country with me.  The one who brings me out of my shell.  The one who jumps at dying our hair on whim for Mother's Day.  Who decides when we don't have the kids for a family photo session, to turn it into a couple's session in which we semi-recreate old paintings in our own unique way.

Here's to the fun.  Here's to being unique.  Here's to you and to many more returns ahead.

Love you!  To the ends of the earth...




Saturday, July 4, 2020

Let Freedom Ring!


This year, as we remember and celebrate America, let us strive to hold it up to its highest standards.  Of liberty and justice for all.  That all are created equal.  That no one is above the law, regardless of the position they hold.  That separate is inherently unequal.  

That we are stronger together.  Out of many one.

Happy Independence Day!  May we celebrate wisely and well.

"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”"
Martin Luther King, I Have A Dream, August 28, 1963

Friday, July 3, 2020

Ten Albums #9: Illuminate



During law school, I primarily attended University Baptist Church (UBC) in Waco.  David Crowder was the worship leader at UBC.  At this point, the band had released three previous albums, two live and one studio.  Can You Hear Us?, their first studio album, had been a success.  And though they were touring with the Passion series, they made a point to be back in Waco on Sundays to lead worship.

This album is the one time that I bought a ticket to a pre-release party.  The band held a concert/worship evening prior to the album dropping and our ticket included a copy of the cd.

This marks the point where the band started experimenting with format and style to a small degree.  Short transition tracks, with essentially a prelude and and outro.  Experimenting with instrumentation.

To put things in church terms, Selah was Special Music.  This is worship.  And while Specials were always fun and Selah covered the music of my youth, my foundation, Crowder covers where my voice is most often now.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Ten Albums #8: It's Time



This album is on the list for a lot of the same reasons that yesterday's album made it.  Modern updates of classic songs.  Standards interpretations of more modern pop hits.  Both things I was pleased to discover.

While I would love to have a voice for rock and roll, I am an American Songbook standards singer.  My voice is built for gospel and standards, and I can draw out the vowels with the crooners all day long.  Buble has given me a lot of great singable material.   

My favorites on the album are a Nina Simone classic and a Stevie Wonder cover.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The 2000 Year Old Man

Mel Brooks on Carl Reiner:


So, in tribute to Mr. Reiner, the 2000 Year Old Man:

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Ten Albums #7: Be Still My Soul



This album filled a need I didn't know I had.  Growing up in the Baptist church, I had an appreciation of old hymns.  I know the Heavenly Highway.  I know my way around the 1975, 1991, and 2008 Baptist Hymnals.  Their songs make up a large part of the fabric of who I am.

But, it is also true to say, that the way many of those hymns are presented can be very dry.  Simplistic and rote.

Selah breathed new life into this material.  Missionary kid siblings Todd and Nicole Smith and friend Allan Hall, brought influences of gospel, of soul, of Subsaharan Africa into these traditional hymns and found new depths.  

The focus on beautiful arrangements, very tight harmony, and excellent vocals lifts this album among other Christian gospel music.  For this album, they didn't have much of a budget, leaving it largely just their voices and a piano.  And this remains one of their best albums.

The group would also release their sheet music for the album.  Since it was just a piano playing, they released exactly what is heard on the disc, not the simplified or approximated versions that are normally released.  This put in me an even greater appreciation for what they were able to accomplish.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Ten Albums #6: Rent


There was always going to be a Broadway cast album on this list and I debated on which one to go with.  I settled on Rent because I discovered it at just the right time.  A rock opera update of La Boheme, set in the late 1980s/early 1990s Village in New York City.  My college self was the perfect age to discover this show as it toured Austin. This was a show for outcasts and we naturally were drawn to it.

The music is consistently amazing throughout the show, even in what would be considered smaller numbers like Life Support.  Larson's ability to heavy material lyrically is unmatched, as is his ability to use comedy in song.  

There comes a point though, when you know you've reached an age where you can no longer identify with the characters in the show.  Sure, their struggle against the hopelessness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic will always resonate. But, the fight to not pay rent, not so much.  I've crossed that line.  Jamie and I saw another tour version of the show recently and while the music still connects, the storyline gets a bit aggravating.  

I've still got most of the soundtrack memorized, though.  That part will be forever etched in my brain.  It will serve as a remind of how best to spend out time here on earth.  One year.  565,600 minutes.  How do you measure a year?

How about in love?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

50 Years of Pride


Fifty-one years ago today, at 1:20 am, six police officers arrived at the double doors of Stonewall Inn and announced, "Police!  We're taking the place!"  There had been a rumor that a raid would take place, but it was much later than any raid in the past.  There were 205 people in the bar that night, including two undercover police officers already there.  The lights were turned on, the music stopped, and the police called for backup.

The raid did not go as planned.  Both police and patrons would recall a sense of discomfort setting in very quickly.  Within minutes 100 to 150 people had gathered outside, either from being kicked out of the bar by the police or from seeing the commotion and deciding to observe.  When the first patrol wagon arrived, the crowd had grown to ten times the size of those being arrested.  Before the second would arrive, the situation would explode.

Pennies and beer bottles were thrown at the patrol wagons.  One woman being escorted in handcuffs would get in a scuffle with four police officers, fighting them off for ten minutes and inciting the crowd to act up.  "Why don't you guys do something?"  Marsha P. Johnson, a Black drag queen, sex worker, and activist, is credited with having thrown a shot glass at a mirror at the onset of the fighting.  "The shot glass heard round the world."

The police tried to restrain the crowd, leading the crowd to react further.  The commotion attracted more people, coming to fight for the cause.  The police ended up being outnumbered by some 500 to 600 people, leading ten of the officers to barricade themselves along with several detainees in the Stonewall Inn.   The Tactical Patrol Force was sent in to aid the trapped officers, leading to a standoff with the crowd.  Night sticks on one side, and I kid you not, a kick line on the other.  

The TPF cleared the street by 4:00 am; thirteen people were arrested, several were hospitalized, four police officers were injured.  The battle had just started.  The next night there would be over a thousand people gathered and protesting, with a similar battle to take place.

And that was just the start.  The ensuing riot inspired more riots the following nights as well as civil disobedience and marches across the country.  The first Pride parade would take place in New York, exactly one year from the Stonewall Inn rebellion.  The parade would cover 51 blocks from Christopher Street, to Central park.  Similar events would be organized in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.  And in the subsequent years, it would continue to spread.  "The Stonewall Rebellion was crucial because it sounded the rally for that movement. It became an emblem of gay and lesbian power. By calling on the dramatic tactic of violent protest that was being used by other oppressed groups, the events at the Stonewall implied that homosexuals had as much reason to be disaffected as they."

The bar was raided that night simply because people in the bar loved people of the same sex.  Or they dressed like the other sex.  Or they refused to be identified by a gender, or recognized that the sex they were born into did not match the sex of their soul.

Homosexuality was a crime.   At the time, it would also still be listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.  It would remain there until 1974.  Being dressed in drag was a likewise a crime.  Patrons of the bar were arrested if they were not found in the "appropriate" attire for their sex.

It's easy to look at all of this as a relic of the past, something we've outgrown.  And we have made progress in this respect, but it's important to remember how long it has taken.  Anti-sodomy laws were not declared unconstitutional until 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas.  This was the case that finally recognized sexual privacy, the ability for two consenting adults to make their own decisions about what happens in the bedroom, without the state's intrusion.   LGBTQ+ were not included in hate crimes protection until 2009.  "Don't ask, don't tell" was only removed in 2011, allowing LGBTQ+ officers to serve openly.  Committed homosexual couples were allowed to have their unions recognized just four years ago, with Obergefell v. Hodges.   It took to this year, for discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community to be prohibited.  

We have come along way.  And in this season of America's history, it's important to remember that this only happened through sweat, through tears, through protest, through violence.  Pride has its roots in a violent opposition to the police.  In violent opposition to a system that was set up to marginalize a segment of the population.  

Sometimes, this is what forces us to acknowledge the issue.

Because there is still a long way to go.  To end housing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ population.  To restore health care to the transgender community that has been taken away by the current administration.

In the meantime, to any LGBTQ+ readers, stay proud.  Keep up the good fight!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Ten Albums #5: Dosage



Alternative rock was the music of my high school and college years.  97.1 The Buzz in Houston.  101X in Austin.  Those were constants.

This album represents the first album that I can remember buying and paying attention to the whole album.  Not buying for a single, or just a couple of songs, but buying for the artist and the whole album.  It has a couple of my favorite Collective Soul songs: Needs and Not the One.  It also introduced me to the hidden track.  Track 10 has two songs, the named track and several seconds later She Said, unadvertised on the album.

Below is the full last track, with the hidden track included.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Ten Albums #4: Queen Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2



The greatest rock band of all time, period.

The genres they covered, the complexity of the music.  To even attempt something like Bohemian Rhapsody is insane.  Can you imagine trying to convince a record label to record a rock opera single?  Still, it is probably one of the most iconic songs of all times.

And these two discs are packed with the hits.  Under Pressure, Another One Bites the Dust, We Are the Champions, This Thing Called Love, Somebody to Love.  The amount of talent on display on these discs is mind blowing.

I made a comment recently that if I could have anyone's voice, I would want Freddie Mercury.  His range and control make him top of the field.  His willingness to experiment makes him excel.

This time, my favorite deep cut from the album.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ten Albums #3: Once Upon A Christmas



As a kid growing up, this was the Christmas album.  I can still sing most of the words to this entire album.  It represents a few things in my musical background and education. Duets, Christmas music, and classic country.  

As a fan of harmony, I'm a sucker for a good duet.  Ones where both parties trade melody and harmony.  Dolly and Kenny melded so well on this album and in songs like Islands in the Stream.  Their talent shows in their ability to compliment each other without overpowering the other.  

Christmas music is one of my favorite genres.  I'm a bit of a purist, so I won't start listening to it until after Thanksgiving, but there is such a wealth of good material, I enjoy rediscovering every year.  I also look forward to discovering new songs and new arrangements of classic songs to keep updating my My Favorite Things playlist.

Now for classic country.  This also falls under your first musical influences being the music of your parents.  To that end, I got a lot of 1970s and 1980s country music in my background.  I'm probably one of the only people my age that was a member of the Barbara Mandrell fan club.  To me there is a magic in that music, the mixture of electric and steel guitar.  The point before country went nearly full pop.

For those of you that can stand Christmas music out of season, my favorite from the album below.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Ten Albums #2: American Graffiti



When you are a kid, the foundations of your musical taste start with the music that your parents listened to.  The album was one such album that played a big part in my childhood.

And, it is, without a doubt, the greatest movie soundtrack ever assembled.

It's because of this album I know Wolfman Jack.  The name of some instrumental tracks like Green Onions.  

I learned tight harmonies from girl and guy doo wop groups.  To practice and perfect a mean false with songs like Little Darlin' and Since I Don't Have You.

This was my introduction to rock and roll, which remains one of my favorite genres.  And below is one of my favorites from the album.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ten Albums #1: The Sherman Brothers Songbook


'

Though this cd was not released until 2009, it is the perfect encapsulation of my musical education as a child.  And it was likely not only me.  In the Playbill article for Robert Sherman's obituary, the writer included "If you don't know at least a half dozen Sherman songs by heart, there's a very good chance you were never a child."  The reason for that quote is the incredible volume and quality of their songs.  

The Boys, as Walt called them, were his go to songwriting duo.  When he needed songs for an animated feature, for a live-action hybrid, for a theme park ride, for a live action film, this was the team he relied on.   In their repertoire:

The Wonderful World of Color (from Disney's Wonderful World of Color TV show)
The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room (from the Enchanted Tiki Room)
It's A Small World (from the ride)
A Spoonful of Sugar
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Feed the Birds
Chim Chim Cher-ee
Winnie The Pooh
I Wan'na Be Like You
The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers
There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

They would go on to work on projects for other studios, that have just as fond a memory for families and kids who saw them at just the right age.  Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn musicals from the 1970s.  Charlotte's Web.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Snoopy Go Home.

From the Sherman Brothers, I developed a fondness for intricate word play, particularly with made up words.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  Gratifaction.  Fortuousity.  Higgitus-figgitus.  

I also developed a great appreciation for point and counterpoint.  The Boys were great at it.  To the point where some of their songs with point and counterpoint melodies can be played at the same time as their other songs with point and counterpoint melodies.  

The above combined with tight and straightforward harmony, meant their songs got played and sung a lot in my childhood.  

This is the foundation of my musical development.

To that end, I've included a special version of probably their most famous song, It's A Small World, containing the third verse that no one has ever really heard.


Monday, June 22, 2020

Ten Albums That Greatly Influenced My Musical Taste Introduction

I was challenged by Jamie to list the 10 albums which greatly influenced my taste in music.  It's a social media challenge that was going around recently, and unlike others that listed more personal information, this one looked fun.  

The challenge as provided on Facebook asks for one title per day for ten consecutive days, with no explanations, no reviews, only covers.  It also asked that you would nominate someone else to play along each day.

Rebel that I am, I'm forgoing the rules and proceeding in my own special way.  I'll still be posting one album a day, but I'm going to give a little background on why this particular album and its music is so important to me.  How it influenced me.  Why it was so impactful.

And you can all breathe a sigh of relief, I will not be nominating anyone to play along.

This page will serve as a hub for the full list once it has all been revealed.  I'm looking forward to sharing my musical influences over the coming days so everyone can see how weird and eclectic it is.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day 2020


Jamie and I are taking a parenting class with our new church that is focusing on parenting through the stages.  Identifying what questions children are asking at each age as they grow and what we can do to equip them. 

As an icebreaker, they have been asking questions about what we remember from our childhoods.  What sayings that our parents made that have stuck with us.  What things they have done with us that we remember.  

For Father's Day, I start thinking of what I remember Dad teaching me.  And I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thank you Dad for teaching us that anything is possible and we could do anything, but that awe have to put forth our best effort for it.  For teaching us the value of work.  And to help anyone we can when there is a need.  The store is open, even when its not, and if there is a need we can meet, we should.

Thank you for teaching us the importance of getting away and prioritizing a break.  The importance of finding good food.  Of laughing and enjoying time together as a family. 

Thank you for prioritizing family.  

Thank you for loving God, loving Mom, and loving us well.

We love you PapaRock!  I hope you know how much.  Also, hope you are enjoying your day with the other Dynamic Duo.

Happy Father's Day!


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Taking A Break

Brief update today.  Wanted to pass along that I will be taking a short break from posting on current events and trying to write daily.  This does not mean that there will be no posts, but that I will be posting the scheduled series on the Ten Albums that Influenced My Musical Tastes over the coming days (with a few minor exceptions).  We will be driving for a while and the work week next week is pretty stacked, so I'm going to use this opportunity to answer that challenge and distance myself from the craziness in the news.

I reserve the right to jump in and post on something that just cannot be ignored, and those may definitely happen.  But for the most part, these next few days will be a little lighter in content and a bit more fun.

There's still plenty to come after this.  At some point in the future, I plan to address Defund the Police, what it actually means, and why it could be very beneficial.  Whitewashing the Bible.  The power struggle the Attorney General is engaging in with New York and the lies he's putting to paper.  Shopping small.  The list goes on.'

For now, hope you are getting to take a bit of a break as well and thanks always for reading.