Thursday, April 8, 2021

Shot #1

One down, one to go. 

I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine today. Now scheduled for my second on May 6. 

I’m glad to join the ranks of the at least partially vaccinated. Indiana opened up vaccines those 40 and over while we were back in Texas and I signed up as soon as I could possibly do so.  They dropped the age limits even further during our stay and Jamie was able to get scheduled for next week. 

No real side effects to mention. My arm is sore, but so far, I’m no worse for wear.  So far the microchip isn’t even noticeable. 😉

But seriously, get vaccinated. I know for those in Texas, there aren’t too many limitations on who can get vaccinated - just an unwillingness to do so. 

Stay safe, wear your mask, get the shot. Let’s really beat this thing. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Resurrected Monday 2021

Easter is now officially over.

The question is, what now?


The Resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.  If Christ is not resurrected, then what hope do we have.

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.  In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God.  For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men."
1 Corinthians 15: 12-18

The greatest hope of the Resurrection is not that Jesus was raised once.  It's that He remains alive.  He is alive and omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  He is alive and at the right hand of the Father.  He is alive and reigning on high.

And that is something we can and should celebrate each and every day of the year!

For too many people, Easter is the one time of year that the Resurrection is given any thought.  It may be one of only a couple of times the enter the church, likely as a responsibility to family.  It's the only time they hear the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  And with the Monday after Easter, everything is back to normal.  Easter is over.  The obligations are complete.  Reality sets back in.

Sadly, I think this is the case for far too many Christians as well.  

Oh, they can quote the verses.  They sing "My Redeemer Lives," "He Lives," and "Resurrecting."  They are in services every week, and they would say they believe every word of the Easter story.  They believe in Jesus' death and literal resurrection.

They just don't live like it.

For far too many Christians, the Resurrection is brought out at Easter and then celebrated, but then Jesus is put back in the tomb or back on the cross.

Others may only be celebrating this one time a year; gathering with family for the annual obligation.  Without being able to gather this year, what happened to that obligation?  Did many still view a service out of habit?

Jesus on the cross is marketable.  It's fashionable.  It can be worn on t-shirts and jewelry.  It can be put on Bible covers, hung on walls, and be used as an easily recognizable symbol.  And when Jesus remains on the cross, when he remains a savior that died for our sins, then we have been saved and our present obligation ends.  Likewise, with Jesus in the tomb.

The resurrection is something different.  If Jesus not just rose again, but is alive today, then we have obligations to him.  We have to recognize him as Lord.  As the ruling King of Kings.  And we have to live accordingly.  Jesus as Lord requires more of us.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you."
2 Corinthians 4: 5-12

Leaving Jesus in the tomb or on the cross misses out on the power that He can demonstrate in our daily lives.  On the mission that He has for us today.  Now.  On the blessings, the comfort, and the LIFE that only He can provide.

This seems to be a great part of why the early church did not use the iconography of the crucifix.  The cross was too recent, too painful, perhaps too close to the reality of what the crucifix did.  It was seen as the instrument of torture that it was.  

Instead, the imagery was focused on the Good Shepherd.  Jesus with a lamb resting across his shoulders.  Jesus with the shepherd's crook.  

And to me, that really re-centers the focus of the Christian life.  Don't get me wrong, the crucifix is still powerful imagery and represents the greatest victory that we have.  There is, however, also a tendency to treat it as a one-time historical event, both in the life of Christ and in our lives.  It's too easy for us to leave Christ on the cross.  To stop at our salvation and not pursue sanctification - to just get "fire insurance" and that's it.  To treat Jesus as just Savior and not Lord.

Focusing on the Good Shepherd reminds us that He is still watching over us.  He is still guiding us and protecting us.  And that we are still required to be listening for His voice.  To follow His voice and His voice alone.  To go where the shepherd guides us and to graze there.   To lie down in good pastures, to drink still waters, to graze along the Paths of Righteousness.

It reminds us that the Good Shepherd is and should be a part of our daily lives. 

So don't let your celebrating end.  Don't let Easter be the end of your remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.  Don't keep Jesus in the tomb.

He's alive!

Hallelujah!

Now let's live like it on more than just Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday 2021

"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen!  Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'"

Luke 24:1-7


Today marks the greatest celebration of the Christian life.  The greatest news that could be shared.  He is not among the dead.  He's alive, He's alive, He's alive!!  I'm forgiven, Heaven's gates are open wide!

We have hope because He has won the victory over death and the grave.  No matter how dark Friday was, no matter how difficult the waiting on Saturday, it's Sunday and Christ is victorious!

May the joy and grace of the Easter season be on you and your family!  If you do not know the reason why we celebrate, I pray you find yourself surrounded with friends who exemplify the good news and are overjoyed to share. There are plenty of online opportunities today to join a celebration.

God’s blessings on you today and continuing through this year.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Holy Saturday 2021

Here the whole world (stars, water, air, and field, and forest, as they were reflected in a single mind) like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hopes that, in lenten lands, hereafter may resume them on Easter Day.
-  C.S. Lewis - 


This year, I've been looking over a post from a couple of years ago on Holy Saturday.  The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  That period between death and resurrection.  The period between the event that causes suffering and the event that brings deliverance.  The eternity between sorrow and joy.

In the Easter week, Friday is definitely a difficult day.  It's the infliction of pain.  It's the day where the death occurs, the suffering is inflicted.

But to me, Saturday, that next day has to be the worst.  It's that period of waiting.  Of reality setting in.  The shock wears off, and everything is real.

On Friday, they were experiencing everything as it was happening, perhaps holding out hope for a miracle to completely change their circumstances that day.  Perhaps in complete shock through the whole experience.

Saturday is the day everything sharpens.  Jesus died.  And for all the disciples know, he is not coming back.  It's that period we all find ourselves in, where all we can do is just wait in our suffering.  And I do not know about you, but I'm terrible at waiting.  I want solutions. I want action.  I want to change things, now.   And the fact always remains that you cannot rush this time.

We're all in the waiting now.  With rolling state-wide and nation-wide stay at home orders, lockdowns and shutouts, everyone is waiting on a change.  Waiting for this to end.  Waiting for hope that this too will pass.  Some of us are adjusting better than others, but we are all struggling to adapt.

The good news is that we know it does end.  It does get better.  "Every storm eventually runs out of rain."  Especially, for those that follow the Way, for those truly living the life He has called us to, we know the end.  Even if we do not see the victory here, we know who holds it in His hand.

It's Holy Saturday.  But Easter is Coming!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday 2021

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
"

Luke 23: 44b-56


Today, for those of faith, represents the darkest day in human history.  The day where it seemed all hope died.  Good Friday remembers the day when Jesus Christ, Son of God, was crucified by the Roman government and died a criminal's death.

He suffered through the mockery of a trial, in which the prosecution presented trumped up charges to a judge who found no fault but still sided with the mob and gave into their demands.  He was beaten, tortured, and jeered.  Stripped and dressed in a costume designed to mock the charges against him.  He was forced to carry the beam of his cross in a walk of shame through the city where the same people who cheered his arrival now gawked at the parade of criminals as they worked their way to the site of their execution.  He was then nailed to that beam, in both his hands and feet, raised between two criminals and left to die.

Crucifixion was one of the most cruel forms of death that humans have ever created.  It was public and designed to dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating similar crimes.  Victims were sometimes left on display after death as a warning to any other potential criminals.  The death it provided was particularly slow and painful, leading to the term excruciating, or literally "out of crucifying."  The person executed was usually attached to the cross by a range of methods including rope and nails.  The executed could be tied to the cross such that the ropes would cut into his skin.  To support the weight of a body, nails would be driven into the arm just above the wrist, between the two bones of the forearm.  Nails would also be driven into the feet, also to support the weight of the body, usually without the foot-rest or the seat that is placed on our decorative crosses.  The entire weight of the body would be placed on those nails as the body would continue to pull downward in gravity, keeping the person in continual pain.

When the whole body weight was supported by stretched out arms, nailed to that cross, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation.  The executed would have severe difficulty inhaling and would have to draw themselves up by the arms, leading to exhaustion and pain at the nail sites.  This process could be sped up by the soldiers breaking the condemned's legs, preventing them from pushing up, leaving them to die choking for air.  The executed could further suffer cardiac rupture, heart failure, hypovolemic shock, sepsis, acidosis, arrhythmia, and pulmonary embolism.  The scourging before the crucifixion would exacerbate the potential for sepsis.  Add in dehydration and you have a slow, agonizing death on display for all to see.

And Jesus willingly chose that path.  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly going to cross to redeem his creation.

To his followers, this day marked a feeling of hopelessness.  It was the day hope died.  Their hope in change for the future.  The possible hope for revolution.  They saw everything they had hoped for vanishing in an instant.

For Jesus, this was also an unprecedented day.  The day when Jesus, the pure, spotless lamb would bear the sins of the world, past, present, and future.  It would be the one time Jesus was completely separated from His Father.  Where God would turn His back on him, for he could not see his son stained with sin.  Eloi; Eloi; Lama; Sabachtha.  My God; My God; Why have you forsaken me?

The first time Jesus experienced despair.

Many of us today on this Good Friday might be experiencing despair.  Might be feeling hopeless.  The physical isolation.  The loss of a job.  The loss of income.  This might indeed be the darkest night.

But we - we know dawn is coming.  We celebrate that Friday is not the end of the story.  Things may look at their absolute darkest, but morning is coming.  Friday may be death, but Sunday is resurrection.

No matter the outlook, it gets better.

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Praise the Lord!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday 2021

"On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
"

Matthew 26:17-30



Today marks Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday.  The fifth day of Holy Week, it is truly a day of remembrance.  Remembering Jesus' service.  The way he prepared for his sacrifice.

By washing his disciples feet.

By breaking bread and sharing wine.

In service and in fellowship, with those closest to him.

With all we've gone through over this past year, we long for those larger gatherings.  To enjoy a meal together and to break bread.  There are those with servants' hearts that are longing to get back out and be a blessing to those around them, helping in any way they can.

Remember this feeling.

Just before the darkest hour of his life, Jesus valued service and fellowship above all.  He spent time with those closest to him and showed them how much he cared for them by stooping down and washing their feet.  He took care of his friends.  And what he asked of them, was to remember him.

To remember him when they drank.  To remember him when they ate.  To remember him when they were gathered together.

That's our duty today.  To remember Him.  To remember His sacrifice.  Partake in your own Lord's Supper at home.  Do it in remembrance of Him.

And then, serve in every way you can.  Serve remotely and virtually.  When we can get together, serve physically.  Put that remembrance into action.  Follow his new commandment, from which we get Maundy.

Make the day count.  In remembrance of Him.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spy Wednesday 2021

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”  And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Matthew 26:6-16



Today marks Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday.  The point in the Holy Week that begins the transition from Triumphal Entry to betrayal, torture, and death.  The events of the day reflect two disparate treatments of Jesus: lavish praise and betrayal.  Two responses to Jesus we still see today.

The passages for today open with Jesus at the home of Simon, identified as a leper.  Likely someone who has previously been healed by Jesus.  Its into this scene a woman enters, bringing an alabaster jar of spikenard, a very expensive perfume or essential oil.  The alabaster jar in itself is significant.  It was an expensive jar to hold an expensive oil.  It was special to signify the special contents inside.  And it had to be broken and cracked to pour out the contents inside.  This woman took probably the most precious thing that she had and poured it out to anoint Jesus's head and feet.  Lavishly adoring him.  Her praise, her love literally spilling out because she had been forgiven.

And in response, what do we see?  The disciples quarreling because of her lavishness.  Because the gift could have been put to better use.  Because the money could have been spent "better" in their estimation.

How often do we do this?  How often does our inner voice question the extravagance of someone else's worship?  Of someone else's gift giving?  While I'm not calling for us to put aside all scrutiny, perhaps we should start from a place of granting the benefit of the doubt more often.  To start from a place where we assume the best intentions of other people more often than not.

We also see on this day Jesus's greatest betrayal.  The day Judas decides and confronts the chief priests to discuss handing Jesus over to them.  Selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  We can debate Judas's motives, whether he was a zealot trying to force Jesus into action or whether he fully believed Jesus had become too dangerous to allow him to continue his ministry.  Either way in Judas, we see that it is possible to be so close to the truth and completely miss the point.  Judas had the best pastor, the best teacher, the best leader, the wisest and best friend, and an incredible small group of friends to help provide guidance, but still ended up betraying Jesus.  Our reflection for today should be how often we miss the point.  How often we are in it for our own motives, our own pursuits, our own desires.

Where are you this holy week?  Are you one lavishing praise on Jesus today?  Are you questioning someone else's motives?  Or are you pushing your agenda through your Christian life?

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts through which thou hast given unto us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Letter From Birmingham City Jail


In thinking of the events of the last few weeks, of the insurrection, of the lukewarm condemnation from the right, of their half-hearted calls for unity, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day yesterday, it led me to King's Letter from Birmingham City Jail, written April 16, 1963.  

On April 12, an ally had smuggled him in a newspaper dated April 12, that contained an open letter from eight white Alabama clergy.  Called "A Call For Unity," this letter referred to King as an "outsider" who was directing the events, and urged activists to take up their issues in court not in the streets.  

King rightly saw through these calls for unity for what they were - attempts to control the environment.  To maintain the status quo and avoid the hard fights.   In response, he penned his letter, his famous Letter from Birmingham City Jail, explaining exactly why such actions must continue to occur.  What struck me most, I have highlighted in bold.

"My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals."

What we have seen over the past couple of weeks are the privileged trying desperately to cling to their privilege.  The privileged that have convinced themselves that they are the oppressed and have been assured of that "fact" by their leadership.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Satellites

When we think of satellites, I think Sputnik and the like are usually the first things that come to mind. Those man made objects that give us television, internet, and radio signals. The things we keep littering space around us with. But the word originates from a much earlier concept. A celestial body orbiting another larger celestial body. The moon is our satellite.  The earth is a satellite of the sun. And so on and so forth. 

The idea of satellites is an interesting one in our faith. As followers of Jesus, we called to be in his orbit. Constantly circling him. Staying close, pulled in his direction. Our smaller body orbiting his heavenly body. 

Another aspect of satellites is their reflective properties, particularly when we talk of those orbiting stars. The moon as a satellite has no inherent ability to emit light. The only light that it gives is what it reflects from the sun. From space, that is also why the earth is as colorful as it is. The earth doesn’t naturally emit its own light. The colors we see on the shots of earth from space occur from the sunlight reflecting off earth. 

Again, so it is in our Christian lives. The only light we have in our lives is what is given to us from the Son. That is what should be radiating out of us.  The overwhelming brightness of the Son. “As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are becoming more like him with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18. 

This is such an important concept in our faith and such a simple one. It highlights why it is so dangerous for us to rely on people, even godly people to spiritually enrich us. At the end of the day, each and every one of us is a cold, dark rock, only reflecting what light and life we receive from the Father. The best and most on fire preacher you heard and the backsliding believer - both the same in that they cannot generate light on their own. The spark you see in them is what comes from the divine. They are just in different phases. One may be more like a full moon, fully facing the Light and reflecting it back to the world. The other may be in a crescent stage. A little light coming in but mostly turned away. 

Think of it, it comes in phases in our lives too. Times when we are fully facing God and His light is just radiating off us. And times when we’ve turned away to some degree, reflecting less, hiding more. 

Two things about that our pastor recently reminded us about. 

1. You cannot face the sun and the moon at the same time. You cannot be looking at the light source and the reflective satellite at the same time. When they may align, one necessarily blocks the other - an eclipse. So in the context of our spiritual life, you cannot be fully facing God and someone else at the same time. When you elevate your pastor, your spouse, your friend, your mentor to a level that they do not belong, you will find yourself seeking light from the satellite. Something it cannot give.  Something that is destined to disappoint. Other Christians in this world are going to hurt us, to disappoint us, to injure us. We’re all fallen and broken people. We’re all cold, barren rocks orbiting the true Life.  This isn’t to excuse that behavior, that disappointment. It should, however, contextualize it and remind us to put our full trust in God, the source, not men. 

2. We don’t stop seeking the sun because we find out the moon is a lifeless rock. 

This is the big point. The reminder that for everyone who has been burned by the church, who has been hurt by other Christians, etc. that this is no reason to stop seeking God. We didn’t stop seeking the sun because we realized the moon reflected its light. Likewise, we shouldn’t stop seeking the Son because of the people who may be poorly reflecting His light.  It’s a reminder for those of us who are hurting and a challenge to those of us who are serving - to remember that there are people watching us. Who are getting some of God’s light from us.

That is humbling. 

That should push us all to be better satellites. To orbit more closely.  To send better signals. To reflect more fully  

Fully face the sun, fully embrace His light. And be that reflection to the world around you. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Ides of March


"SOOTHSAYER
Caesar!

CAESAR
Ha! who calls?

CASCA
Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!

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

SOOTHSAYER
Beware the ides of March.

CAESAR
What man is that?

BRUTUS
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

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

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

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

SOOTHSAYER
Beware the ides of March.

CAESAR
He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass."
Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

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

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

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

SOOTHSAYER
Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
"
Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I

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

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

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Pi Day

Happy Pi Day all!  A celebration since 1988, Pi Day recognizes the mathematical constant pi (π), whose first significant digits are 3.14.  Pi day is celebrated with the homonyms of both savory and sweet types.  Pizza pies and dessert pies are often eaten.  My office is celebrating tomorrow and sent us gift cards for pizza to enjoy during the Zoom call.  Our church distributed slices of dessert pies to all the teachers in the Brownsburg School district this past week. 

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

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

Happy Pi Day!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Norton Juster


"It provides the same shock of recognition as it did then - the same excitement and sheer delight in glorious lunatic linguistic acrobatics.  It is also prophetic and scarily pertinent to late-nineties urban living.  The book treats, in fantastical terms, the dread problems of excessive specialization, lack of communication, conformity, cupidity, and all the alarming ills of our time.  Things have gone from bad to worse to ugly.  The dumbing down of America is proceeding apace.  Juster's allegorical monsters have become all too real.  The Demons of Ignorance, the Gross Exaggeration (whose wicked teeth were made 'only to mangle the truth'), and the shabby Threadbare Excuse are inside the walls of the Kingdom of Wisdom, while the Gorgons of Hate and Malice, the Overbearing Know-it-all, and most especially the Triple Demons of Compromise are already established in high office all over the world.  The fair princesses, Rhyme and Reason, have obviously been banished again.  We need Milo!  We need him and his enduring buddies, Tock the watchdog and the Humbug, to rescue them once more.  We need them to clamber aboard the dear little electric car and wind their way around the Doldrums, the Foothills of Confusion, and the Mountains of Ignorance, up into the Castle in the Air, where Rhyme and Reason are imprisoned, so they can restore them to us.  While we wait, let us celebrate the good fortune that brought The Phantom Tollbooth into our lives thirty-five happy years ago.  Mazel tov, Milo, Norton, and Jules!"

Maurice Sendak, 1996 in his introduction to the book

Norton Juster passed away yesterday at the age of 91, from complications from an earlier stroke.  An architect by trade, Juster had been given a grant by the Ford Foundation in 1954 to write a children's book about cities.  Instead, he began to be preoccupied with the story of a boy who asked too many questions.  This grew into his most popular and beloved book, The Phantom Tollbooth.

The Phantom Tollbooth was a foundational book in my childhood.  There is a reason that it made my top seven books.  My sister read it first and originally had the copy, I would discover and devour it later.  The wordplay and the concepts resonated deeply with me.  It's a book I revisited in college, as a new parent, and will start re-reading now.

The book is a love letter to learning.  In it, Juster created a version of Wonderland, Oz, or Neverland filled with wordplay and puns, celebrating language and math.  Ruled by King Azaz the Unabridged and his brother, the Mathemagician, the world was filled with the most interesting characters.  The Whether Man.  The Which.  Tock, a literal watchdog.  The Humbug.  The Spelling Bee.  If you saw my online presence in the early internet, you would have discovered my appreciation for Dr. Dischord and the awful Dynne.

Beyond The Phantom Tollbooth, Juster has written such beloved works as The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, The Hello Goodbye Window, and The Odious Ogre.  

Though he will be missed, we are fortunate his work lives on, continuing to delight and surprise new readers, and to inspire us all.

"You must never feel badly about making mistakes ... as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons."

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

One Year of Change

My first photo in Indiana

It's amazing what all happens in a year.

One year ago today, I started this new journey - my new job at Cummins, my new home in Indiana, and not far removed from an adjustment to work-from-home life.  March 9, 2020, I got to go into the office, to meet all my coworkers and to start getting adjusted to this new life.

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

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

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

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

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

We've laughed a lot, we've cried some, we've been stretched and we've grown a lot this year.  We've started our adoption journey, and have a lot a plans a head to travel when everything is open.

It's been a year of change and it has felt like a decade, but it has been a great year.

I can't wait to see what is ahead.

Monday, March 8, 2021

International Women's Day 2021


Women belong in all places decisions are being made.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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

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

Each year since 1996 has had an official theme named by the United Nations.  This year's theme is
"Choose to Challenge," reminding us that a challenged world is an alert world.  That a challenged world leads to a changed world.  We can join in by challenging and exposing gender bias and inequality where we see it.

The goals for the initiative seek to:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

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

Here's what we still have to fight:

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

And that's the tip of the iceberg.

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

Together, as equals.

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

Galatians 3:2

I #ChoosetoChallenge

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Remember the Alamo ... Drafthouse!

In one of the saddest bits of corporate news for me personally coming out of this pandemic, the Alamo Drafthouse has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The company is selling all of its corporate assets to Altamont Capital for restructuring and reorganization. The worst part is the closure of three of their theater locations:  Kansas City, Missouri, New Bruanfels, Texas, and the Alamo Ritz, Sixth Street, Austin, Texas. 

The Alamo Ritz location closing hurts. This was a rescue of a classic movie theater on Sixth Street, restoring it to its hey-day. Built in 1929, the prime location at 6th St and Trinity had been a first run movie theater, an adult film theater, a music hall and a comedy club. Restored and reopened by the Alamo in 2007 as a replacement for their original location, the Drafthouse at the Ritz became the center of the Alamo world. A fixture of Fantastic Fest, of Butt-Num-Athons and many of their unique offerings. Sure, the Alamo had several other theaters around town, but they looked like the Alamo product opened in cities across the country. For those of us old enough to know so, the Ritz was the Alamo. 

For me, the Ritz was home to several of my favorite film experiences. The 70mm road show presentation of The Hateful Eight, with the overture and intermission. The Holiday Sing Along with two friends of friends that I just met, leading into caroling the bars on Sixth Street. The Blazing Saddles quote-along, with Tim, complete with whoopie cushions for the beans scene, a cap gun, kazoos, and a very uncomfortable confirmation that the audience was all white. Then busting out into a pie fight in the middle of Sixth Street, with oncoming traffic. 

An apple pie fight I might add. 

I’ve seen films in a lot of great theaters in Texas. The Paramount on Congress Ave for White Christmas. The Texas Theater in Dallas for a special TCM presentation of Rio Bravo with Ben Mankiewicz and Angie Dickinson.  Jaws on the water in Lake Austin. 

But the Alamo Ritz will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Remember the Alamo Drafthouse!  Here’s hoping the new owners don’t change you too much more. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

800

Another milestone in the blog - post number 800! 

First, I want to thank you all for your readership and your kind words.  I remain humbled by the response.  To everyone who has let me know you are reading, ever liked a post, or commented, thank you.  It is appreciated more than you could know.  To those of you who read in silence, thank you as well.

I would also like to use this time to post a reminder of the blog rules, and to provide advance warning.  There will be blogs that will either make you mad or will upset you or challenge your position on a particular topic.  The blog is my personal writing exercise and soap box, so it will reflect my biases and my contrarian streak.  I will also likely question things that many people believe are and should be settled.  I am open to civil discourse on almost any topic.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a reminder that I have an email subscription option on the page.  With that, you'll receive an email link each time a new post is added.  There is also an RSS feed option, in case anyone prefers that method.

Further, an update of the reminders previously posted:

  1. This blog represents largely a writing exercise and an outlet for me to get thoughts out of my head.  It contains my opinion on variety of issues from serious to silly and is filtered through my experiences, biases, etc.
  2. I promise, I will post on topics that are so niche-focused, so utterly nerdy that anyone but me is going to be bored to tears.  I try to keep those to only once or twice a week and to rotate through a variety of topics throughout the week to keep it interesting.  I use the labels so that you can screen out certain topics if you want to.
  3. I will post things that you will disagree with and that will potentially make you upset.  I know I am more liberal than the majority of my audience.  Probably regarding doctrine and politics both.  These are both topics I'm going to write on from time to time.  I personally favor moderation and lean center-left, but will post on a variety of viewpoints from center-right to hard left (maybe even hard right in a few instances).
  4. I am going to be harder on Republicans than I am on Democrats.  While I am not a fan of many politicians of many different political parties, I am growing to despise what the Republican party is becoming.  And I reserve the sharpest criticism for them due to one fact above all: the perverse mixture of politics and religion that Republicans promote. Because they purport to hold themselves out as the Christian party, I'm going to hold them to that impossible standard.  I also hold them more accountable partly because they are in power, and I'm going to criticize whoever has power more than those in the minority.
    • I'm going to be extremely hard on the current administration and this president in particular.  This administration has moved much farther beyond normal bounds and are in completely new levels of deterioration.  Their actions must continue to be called out and we cannot allow them to be normalized.  
  5. I am likewise harder on churches and Christians than I am on non-believers.  Those who profess to believe have identified themselves as recognizing a higher standard.  To put it simply, "we should know and act better."  And do so based on a reading of the entire Bible.  Sadly, we all to often fall far short of this.  While I do want to extend grace to those that slip, when errors occur as abuses of power in the church  or in ways that belittle the faith they claim to hold, I will be discussing it. 
  6. I'm generally more interested in questions than concrete answers.  I think we as a collective are less curious than we should be and settle for comfortable answers when we should still be asking harder, more difficult questions.  
  7. I am completely open to disagreement and debate. Honest and open dialogue is the only way we can move forward in any civilized society.  However, I have a few ground rules for debate:
  • I will not tolerate name calling or muckraking.  When the thread resorts to calling each other racists, "liberal snowflakes," "libtards," or four-letter words, I will shut it down.  Likewise, I'm not going to let stereotypes and sweeping generalities go unchallenged.  All liberals do not want the destruction of our country, all conservatives are not bigots, etc.
  • I hope for discussion that will foster conversation, not end it.  So I expect more than "guns don't kill people, people kill people" in a discussion on gun control, for example.  I will not let those conversation-enders stand unchallenged.
  • Compromise is not a dirty word.  And likewise, I do hope people change their mind from time to time based on what they learn. Including me.
  • I follow this hierarchy for the value of information: facts then informed opinions then general opinions.  Saying "that's just my opinion" is going to get nowhere with me if it is not supported by the facts.
As always, thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Texas Uncovered

Well, I guess Texas really wants a fourth surge.  Citizens of Texas should start preparing now.

Yesterday, Govern Abbott issued an executive order lifting the state's mask mandate and occupancy restrictions.  "We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent."  Businesses are left to their own discretion regarding individual mask or social distancing requirements within their doors, but starting next Wednesday, March 10, 2021, any business in the state of Texas will be able to have 100% capacity with no mask requirement if they so choose.  It also removes any kind of enforcement capabilities local governments could have to enforce their own mask and social distancing requirements.

Meaning - Texas is taking off the mask come hell or high water.  And damn the consequences.

It's hard to write about this without being punchy, because it's so short sighted.  Yesterday, when Abbott made this announcement, Texas had 7,747 new cases.  271 new deaths from Covid-19.  Only around 7.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated.  Texas is no where near where it would need to be regarding potential herd immunity either from the virus or the vaccine to where it could start easing restrictions designed to stop this virus from running rampant.

The sad thing is, by easing restrictions in the name of "freedom," Texas is only making things more difficult for small business owners who want to continue to protect their employees and families by continuing a mask or social distancing requirement for their business.  Make no mistake, masks are still going to be required at your big national chains.  You will still have to wear a mask at Wal-mart.  You will still be asked to wear a mask at HEB.  And there will be small businesses who wish to continue to require it there as well.  What Abbott has done has encouraged entitled egotists to flaunt the requirements and provoke altercations with front line employees at those businesses.  

It's been sickening to scroll through Facebook and see the number of people praising this decision as if it were on the level of Texas Independence.  Or as if it "restored a fundamental freedom" on the level of the Civil Rights Act.  In reality, it revealed that we do not have it within us anymore to sacrifice for the greater good.  We do not have it in us anymore to care more for the people around us and make small concessions for their well-being.  It revealed that we don't have what it takes to endure a minor setback in the grand scheme of life.

That's the most frustrating aspect of the whole ordeal - we only had another few months to go through to where easing restrictions could start to make sense.  The announcement today indicated that vaccine production should be ramped up enough to where all American adults could get vaccinated by the end of May.  Two more months, and we could really start pulling things back and restoring normalcy, whatever that was.

But we can't wait.

Make no mistake, this was political theater.  It was designed to distract Texas from the utter failure that the Texas government displayed through their lack of preparation for a winter storm, not learning the lessons from 2011, and their total mishandling of the whole affair during the storm.

We're at that moment in Jaws where the citizens have caught a tiger shark and the mayor goes out and proclaims that everything is safe.  Everyone should go back out, everyone should go to the beach and visit Amity Island.  We need those tourist dollars.  Think of the Fourth of July.

That decision didn't work out well for the citizens of Amity and I fear this decision will not bode well for the citizens of Texas.


Stay safe.

Wear your mask, no matter what the governor may say.

Keep your distance.


There is light at the end of the tunnel; we just have to persevere.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Texas Independence Day 2021

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Here's to you Texas!  Happy 184 Birthday!  To many many more...

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday 2021

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

Thomas Merton


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 58:2-12


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

May we use this time well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Fat Tuesday 2021

"It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans."

Mark Twain


Today marks Fat Tuesday.  The end of Carnival, of Mardi Gras.  The end of Shrovetide.  A day of the feast, for tomorrow brings the fast.  The last day before Lent.

Today is a day of celebration. Of joy. It's time for good music and great food. To embody that special joie de vivre.

So grab another slice of king cake or fry up some beignets.  Put on a little Preservation Hall Jazz Band or Marsalis Family.  Add a little rum to the punch.

Celebrate this wonderful world we live in and make an effort to enjoy as much of it as possible.

I realize for many, that looks very different this year and celebration may seem very difficult.  Covid for one has changed everything.  The parades have changed to 'home floats' where New Orleans residents have decorated their yards.  Recommendations against partying, a different kind of mask requirement - all things that make even a warm Fat Tuesday very different.

This year, we also have a once in a lifetime blizzard across the south that is hampering the celebratory spirit.  Thousands without power, sheltering in the cold, and facing the potential of more to come and a long haul ahead.  Enough to dampen even the best revelers.  

Do what you can to enjoy the day today.  Bring a little spice, a little music, and a whole lotta love to the day.

To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.

Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD's in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year--people whose names you may or may not even know but you've watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they're not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now that part, more than ever.

It's mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88's until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don't and promising yourself you will next year.

It's wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who--like clockwork, year after year--denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.

Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic: Post-Katrina Stories.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!


Monday, February 15, 2021

Presidents' Day 2021

Today marks Presidents' Day, a state holiday set aside to honor and remember all who have served as the President of the United States of America.  The holiday falls on the third Monday of February, a date chosen as a midpoint between Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and Washington's birthday on February 22.  

Since 1862, there has been an ongoing tradition that Washington's Farewell Address be read in the United States Senate.  I can think of no better way to remember and honor the office of the president than to do likewise.  

It's surprising how much it is still applicable to us today.  He pleas for unity and warns against partisan fighting.  He emphasizes the purpose and importance checks on political power.  He pushes for neutrality and free trade.

I've included the text of his address below, with my emphasis added, as well as a bonus at the end.

"FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS:
The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions, with which I first undertook the arduous trust, were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; than, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of american, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds, in the productions of the latter, great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the union as a primary object of Patriotic desire. Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope, that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to Union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those, who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.

All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of our common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric ?

Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices ?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April 1793, is the index to my Plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your Representatives in both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations, which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers."

George Washington
United States - September 17, 1796

One last time.