Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021


“They do not need our praise. They do not need that our admiration should sustain them. There is no immortality that is safer than theirs. We come not for their sakes but for our own, in order that we may drink at the same springs of inspiration from which they themselves drank.”
President Woodrow Wilson

Today is a day for remembrance.  To remember the sacrifice of those who have served and gave the last full measure of devotion.  To honor their legacy.

May we never forget.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Indy 500

Today is the Indianapolis 500.  Not something I normally would have kept up with, but living here, it's hard to ignore.  There are yards that have been decorated all month for the celebration.  And references everywhere.  I understand that it normally would have been an even bigger affair, but still muted a little by the pandemic.  They are allowing the stands to be at 40% capacity for fans to observe, but that will still be 135,000 people.  That makes it the largest sporting event yet of the pandemic.

There have been other modifications this year.  The infield "Snake Pit" will be empty and the pre-race concerts will not be held.  They will, though, allow local broadcast of the event, so that Central Indiana gets to watch it on television as an alternative.  

If we didn't have other plans for today already, we'd be watching on television at least, just to feel a part of it.  This remains one of our goals to attend to feel like we've really experienced Indianapolis.  Hopefully next year.

For now, hopefully, it's a great race.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

School's Out For Summer

It's finally here...

Today is the last day of school.  It's hard to believe it is already that time, and yet, it feels like so much has happened in this past year.   It's easy to imagine why the kids and teachers are so ready to be finished.  

Particularly this year, I think it is important to show our teachers that we recognize how difficult this year has been and we appreciate how much they have done.

Hopefully everyone has a teacher that they can thank in their life for inspiring or motivating them.  Recognizing the impact teachers have on the lives around them.

I feel blessed to have had so many wonderful teachers throughout my lifetime, at all levels.  There really are too many to mention here in any meaningful way.  I'm proud to have so many teachers that I would consider family and I'm proud to have teachers that I call friends.  I'm especially proud to have married one.

The hours go way beyond whatever you imagine a regular school day is.  The pay is far too low for what we ask of them.  They cobble things together from duct-tape and baling wire to make sure they have what they need for the class.  And they succeed in spite of the ridiculous tests that we ask them to prepare students for.

This year, they were challenged in ways that cannot be imagined.  Having to add safety protocols on top of their curriculum.  Managing in-person and online learning at the same time.  Having to worry about quarantine periods and potential exposure.  So much change that they could not have been prepared for.

They do it because it is a calling.  Because they know that they have the potential to reach someone.  To make someone else's life better.

So go hug a teacher. Go shake their hand.  If one of them truly made a difference in your life, please let them know.  You cannot imagine how much it means to them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Amazon's New Secret Agent

Film distribution sure looks different these days.  

Gone our the old studio days.  Now streaming rules the roost, and that is very evident in today's acquisition.

Today, Amazon's finalized its purchase of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $8.45 billion.  This marks Amazon's biggest push into the streaming wars, with the acquisition of the MGM brand and the library dating back to 1986.  Please note, the Forbes article linked to is wrong.  Amazon will not be getting access to the full historic MGM library.  The MGM film library prior to 1986 are already owned by Warner Bros. through Turner Entertainment.  This is what makes TCM possible, and is why Amazon doesn't own The Wizard of Oz.  It does however now have James Bond, Thelma and Louise, Robocop, and Silence of the Lambs, for example.  

This represents the other strategy in the streaming wars - acquisition.  Disney leapt ahead because of its deep library.  Netflix maintains its position because of its commitment to the creation of original content.  Amazon is buying the deep bench to keep content on its platform.  As each studio is launching their own service, this is the quickest way to have content.  And at this point, with MGM for sale and floundering, bets were on either Amazon or Apple purchasing it.

Current CEO, Jeff Bezos basically admitted as much in his remarks today.  “The acquisition’s thesis here is really very simple: MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much-loved intellectual property. With the talented people at MGM and Amazon Studios, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21s century… People who love stories are going to be the big beneficiaries.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out on Amazon's Prime Video Service.  Does Amazon start prioritizing MGM films over all others?  Does Amazon in its storefront do the same?

It's certainly interesting times.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

One Year Out

Around the time of the George Floyd murder, we watched the movie Just Mercy as a family.  It tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard educated lawyer who travels to Alabama to found the Equal Justice Initiative, a program to help fight for poor people who cannot afford proper legal representation.  Much of his work takes the form of appeals for death row inmates, including Walter "Johnny D" McMillian.  McMillian was an African American man convicted of the 1986 murder of a white woman, Ronda Morrison.  When Stevenson studies McMillian's case, he discovers that the entirety of his conviction hangs on the word of another convicted felon, who traded his testimony for a lighter sentence.  All evidence favorable to McMillian was excluded, including several eye witness testimonies that confirmed that McMillian could not have been involved.  The testimonies were excluded because the witnesses were black.  McMillian was convicted because he had "looked like a criminal" in his mug shot.  And so there is no mistake, he was wrongfully convicted.

He was guilty of existing while black.

Stevenson is also African-American.  The film depicts other instances of Stevenson suffering for existing while black.  He is forced to strip naked before visiting his clients in the prison, something no other attorneys are required to do.  He is pulled over by the cops while driving.  They offer no reason for the stop, but threaten him at gunpoint.  Guilty of the crime of driving while black.

"Driving while black" is the usual way this crime is referenced.  It refers to the tendency of African Americans to be pulled over for no apparent reason.  The thought is the very fact that an African American is driving that type of car, in that neighborhood, at that time of day, and so on and so on, is inherently suspicious.  "Driving while black."

We're seeing that the list of suspicious activities and crimes that African Americans can be stopped for, questioned about, convicted of, and killed for is rapidly increasing.

At that time a year ago we added:
In the year since George Floyd's murder, we've added
And those are just perhaps two of the most noteworthy.

There have been 181 Black people killed by police since George Floyd's murder.  Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than white people. These figures are amplified when looking at the country's largest cities.  In 47 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, police killed Black people at higher rates than white people. In Chicago, police killed Black people at a rate 22 times more than that for white people, based on killings per 100,000 population. In Miami, racial disparities could not be calculated because every person killed by the city's police department was Black or brown.  Of the 181 police killings of Black people since Floyd's death, the highest number of killings occurred in Florida, with 19 victims, followed by California, where there were 17, and Texas and Georgia, which each recorded 13.

We would like to think things have changed, and they have in small ways.  But there are so many large scale changes that still need to be implemented.  We have to remember that we are here because of long standing wounds of our past that we have never atoned for completely.  We've always pushed it down the road, because we don't want to deal with harsh truths.  

The thing about wounds is, though, if you don't fully treat it, it just becomes infected.  That's what we have.  A deep infection in the country regarding race, that must be treated.  And the treatment is going to be painful.  It's going to require a lot of substantial change.  And it requires our full attention to it.  All of our attention.

This can't just be a fad cause for allies, like so many others.  We're seeing now that white ally support for change is starting to fade.  Just after Floyd's murder started attracting national attention and starting a conversation about race relations and power, corporations pledged $50 billion to causes on racial equity.  To date, only $250 million has been spent.  Initial investor's meetings and earnings call transcripts had a ten-fold increase in mentions of "systemic racism" and "Black Lives Matter," but those mentions have dropped back down to original levels.

Recent polling numbers show that the support for Black Lives Matter has severely declined. Despite the litany of evidence, a May 21, 2021 PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll insinuates that most white people still don’t believe Black people are treated differently by law enforcement officers. While it shows that ethnic minorities’ support for the movement and for other key indicators for racial justice are higher than they were before George Floyd’s death, white people’s support has declined to levels lower than they were a year ago.

We can't keep going on like this. 

We have to pay attention and do something about it.

Not debating the appropriateness of Critical Race Theory in the Southern Baptist Convention and then conveniently setting it aside so that no action is required to be taken.

Actually committing to make a change in this country.

I know it's hard, but it's simple enough even for children to understand it.

We get it as kids, we've got to do better as adults.  After the Ahmuad Arbery murder came out and there was a call for a Run With Ahmaud on the celebration of his birthday, we participated in that 2.23 mile run.  Jamie and Avalyn ran, I walked Jude in my arms or on my shoulders the whole way.  Jamie asked Avalyn why people do such hateful things.  Avalyn replied, " I think some people just don't like other people because they're black or they think that they are better but I really think it's because they just don't understand that we're all special to God.  We all get happy.  We all get sad and angry.  We're all loved by God."  

Your mouth to God's ears baby girl.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Super-Fan

The Basketball Hall of Fame held its induction ceremony on Saturday, May 15, 2021.  This years inductees included Patrick Baumann, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich, Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, and Barbara Stevens.  

They also included a first, a former car salesman that has never played in, coached, or broadcasted a single NBA game, inducted as the first fan inducted into the hall's new superfan gallery.

His name is Nav Bhatia, and his story is incredible.

With political turmoil making life in India unsafe, Bhatia fled his home country, immigrating to Canada.  Despite having a degree in mechanical engineering, he struggled to find work because of his "long beard & turban."  After a great deal and months of searching with no luck, Bhatia finally accepted a job as a car salesman in the rough part of town.  Though severely overqualified, his mission was simple: "To prove hard work trumps hate."

Through a combination of hard work, a friendly personality, and some catchy radio ads, Bhatia became the best car salesman in Canada.  To put it in perspective, he sold 127 cars in his first 90 days on the job, a record that still stands today.

From there, he was recruited to become the general manager of a larger dealership across town.  This business was close to bankruptcy, and the current owner felt Bhatia might help turn it around.  When he arrived, all but one of his employees quit.  They refused to work for him,

Faced with this opposition, Bhatia did what he always does - he got to work, even harder.  He hired an entirely new staff and started to transform the business.  Within a few years, the near-bankrupt dealership was now one of the largest in all of Canada.  Bhatia ended up buying the dealership, along with the original one that hired him in 1984.

After spending a decade working for, purchasing, and building up two car dealerships in Toronto, he was now a self-made millionaire, giving him the financial flexibility to pursue his other passion, basketball.  Which brought in his connection with the Toronto Raptors.

When the Toronto Raptors were named the NBA's 28th franchise through league expansion in 1995, Bhatia purchased season tickets.  Even though the team was terrible at the time, Bhatia showed up at every game.  He was the loudest guy in the arena, cheering from start to finish.

In 1998, after years of loyalty and dedication to the struggling franchise, General Manager Isiah Thomas took notice and bestowed on Bhatia a new title, "Superfan."  Bhatia has remained a superfan of the Raptors, through their thirteen losing seasons, multiple blizzards, and even blackouts.  Bhatia hasn't missed a single home game.  He never leaves early and he's still the loudest guy in the arena, even as he nears 70 this year.

After the Raptors won their first NBA title in 2018, Bhatia became the only fan in NBA history to receive an official championship ring.  He's now the first fan to be inducted in that hall of fame.  After being inducted, Bhatia remarked, "I made a promise as a kid to my mom I would never remove my turban.  Today it is in the Hall of Fame.  Embrace what makes you different.  It is your superpower.  This is the crown I wear each day.  Thank you, mom."

The best part, and what truly makes Bhatia a superfan - he spends $300,000 annually to send thousands of kids to Raptors games.  He intentionally makes people from different backgrounds - black, white, brown, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim - sit next to each other.  He is using his favorite pastime to bring people together.  To bring communities closer together.   

That is one super-fan.

Credit to Joe Pampliano (@JoePampliano) on Twitter for sharing this story.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Rapture Party Day

In preparing blogs, I sometimes check to see what holidays may be celebrated on the day.  Sometimes, it reminds me of important holidays to other cultures and faiths.  Sometimes, it introduces me to a niche holiday that sounds particularly interesting.  

Today, it brought up an interesting day - Rapture Party Day.  The day was created to memorialize Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio, making the prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011.  Camping's followers began preparing for the impending rapture, selling off their possessions, and some quitting their jobs and spending their time trying to save souls. A retired subway worker spent $140,000 on billboards that told of the rapture. 

Of course, the rapture did not happen. After this prediction did not come true, Camping changed his story to say the rapture, as well as the destruction of earth, would then take place on October 21. On October 16, he admitted he didn't know when the end would come, and he didn't comment after October 21 passed. In March 2012, he said he had been "humbly mistaken."  This wasn't the first time he had made such a prediction either; Camping had made a similar prediction back in 1994.

Why is it that so many Christians spend so much time worrying about or rushing the world to end, instead of doing the work God has called us to here?  Why are we so obsessed with figuring out the time when the rapture will occur, when God himself has said none will know the hour?

Below is an updated prior post on the rapture and my thoughts on how we should view it as followers of Christ.

"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 4:17


The rapture of the church is one of the most debated concepts in any discussion of Revelation.  While there is no specific chapter or verse that specifically mention a rapture, there are a handful of verses that can lead to the interpretation of a time where believers are "caught up" or raptured in the air.  The general accepted idea of the rapture is that there will be a time in the future where the trumpet will sound and all believers, both living and dead, will be called up in the air to meet with Christ, thus physically uniting Christ and the Church and removing the Church from the world. 

The main question regarding the rapture is usually one of timing. When exactly does the rapture occur with regard to the other events of the Revelation?  One of the most widely held beliefs is in a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture. This means that the rapture would occur at the beginning of a seven year period of great turmoil called the tribulation, followed by the millennial rule of Christ, all before the ultimate final judgment.  First proposed and popularized by John Nelson Darby in 1827, this is the view of most Evangelicals.  This particular view has been further popularized by the Left Behind series, as it is the main view of the rapture where the events of Revelation start with a great disappearance of all the believers.  

Great for dramatic tension.

There is one verse in chapter four which can lend to this interpretation of the rapture.  "After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.  And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'"  In this passage, John seems to be referring to a separate event from the initial vision in chapter one.  In chapter one, John heard the voice like a trumpet, turned around and started seeing the visions of Jesus and the seven churches and seven spirits.  Here John hears the voice again, the sound of a trumpet calling him up to heaven.  This interpretation goes that this sound of a trumpet is the one that will call up the believers to heaven prior the the events of the tribulation unfolding ("what must take place after this").

There are many other interpretations of when and whether the rapture will occur.  Ultimately, it is a mystery and a non-essential for a believer.  There is room for disagreement and lively discussion among believers, because there are only passing references to it in scripture.  At the end of the day, when the rapture occurs is the least interesting question about the rapture.

The more interesting question, the more cutting question about the rapture is the one that is most often unaddressed.  At our prior church, there was a motto for our study on Revelation.  "Don't be mesmerized by Jesus' second coming if you're not going to tell people about His first coming."  The question relating to the rapture is similar.  The pastor discussed how after the rapture of the church, the world would see what happens when the influence of the church and the Spirit of God are removed.  

I agree that the world will be dark indeed when the influence of the Spirit of God is removed, but I wonder about the church.

If your church disappeared today, would the community even notice?  Would anyone other than the members notice if your church just stopping meeting tomorrow?  Would the influence of the church be missed?

Even worse, has the church been such a damaging presence that the community would be better off without it?  Has the church hurt so many people that it has done more harm than good?

These are the tough questions.  It is wonderful to know where you stand on when and if the rapture will occur as described.  To be prepared for that future day.  

But it's more important to be a beneficial influence on your community.  To be the salt and light to the world around you.   That's where a lot of conservative churches have often fell down.  You know the types.  Those that believe Jesus is coming back so soon, they've stopped all other work and are just waiting for it to happen.  Praying "come soon and save us from this wicked world."  The hunker down, doomsday preppers.

{  Side note - This brings up to me a curious thought about doomsday preppers that I have - many preppers are religious and believe in a rapture, but still prepare for the coming apocalypse as if they would be present.  Are they all mid or post trib?  Do they not fully trust that they would be raptured?  }

While God instructs us to be prepared, one of His greatest commandments is to "love they neighbor," which requires us to be out there in the world doing His business.  The church should be the most impactful social organization in each community.  It should be have the greatest charitable effect, it should be the greatest agent of positive change in the world.

To do that, we can't just be waiting for it to end.

Don't wait so expectantly for a rapture that you miss being a servant today.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

I'd Like to Take a Minute, Just Sit Right There...

A heads up for a fun diversion for my Gen-X/early Millennial friends.  

Go to Google.  

Search for "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Click on the FRESH license plate.

It's worth it.  And every link is awesome.

I love Easter Eggs like this.  Like the Google Pac-Man.  Like image searching Atari Breakout. Or searching for "askew" or "barrel roll."  Just fun pieces of code to help make the daily a little sillier, a little brighter.

Like the one house here in town who has taken to putting up their own yard signs in the pandemic to make people smile.  The first, declaring the stretch of sidewalk in front of their house under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Silly walks.  Subsequently, putting up song lyrics to brighten people's days.  Now it has "Jesus loves me, this I know, so I'll keep rolling with the flow."

We all need it every once and a while.  Something just to break the monotony or the seriousness and give us a smile.  

And the Fresh Prince fun above certainly does that.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Can I Take Your Order?

I've had this blog in my back pocket for a while now.  There was a social media challenge that went around several months ago encouraging people to place their fast food orders for a list of locations.  While I'm typically loath to recommend participating in these, as they can often be thinly veiled attempts to gain password or challenge question information, this one has less potential to do so and is a little fun.  So, should the mood ever strike you to order for me, these are my favorites.



SUBWAY: Footlong steak and cheese on Italian herbs and cheese, toasted, toasting the green peppers as well, with lettuce, tomato, olive, and mayo.


CHIK FIL- A: Original Chicken Sandwich, waffle fries, a large Dr. Pepper and Chick Fil-A sauce


STARBUCKS: Only if I’m forced to


CHICKEN EXPRESS: chicken tenders, fries, jalapeño poppers and a couple of rolls, large Dr. Pepper


WHATABURGER: Honey butter chicken biscuit on the jalapeño cheddar biscuit, large Dr. Pepper


DAIRY QUEEN (TX): 3 tacos, a regular nacho, and a Dr Pepper


SONIC: Mayonnaise hamburger no onions, tater tots, and a Dr. Pepper


PIZZA: Stuffed crust, pepperoni, with marinara sauce to dip it in


MCDONALDS: 10 piece chicken McNuggets, fries, hot mustard sauce and a large Dr. Pepper


TACO BELL: Crunchwrap Supreme, Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and a large Dr. Pepper



You'll notice the large Dr. Pepper as the constant among all the orders.  I'm currently off caffiene and most soda until our vacation, so I'm particularly missing that right now.  And I had to add the distinction of this being an order at a Texas Dairy Queen.  As we've discovered, Texas has a very different menu than the rest of the country.  Up here, it's not surprising for us to see a Dairy Queen that is just an ice cream stand.

Anyway, those are my favorites; what are yours? 🍕🍔🌮

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Toothless


We finally have the first tooth out. That tooth had been so wiggly, so loose and hanging on by a single thread of a root for the past week. Over the past two days it seemed to drop an additional millimeter each day, but she would not let anyone touch it. We finally convinced her we had to pull it last night because we were seriously concerned it would fall out in the night. 

At least now she knows the process doesn’t hurt. Hopefully the next tooth, which is the other one on the top, will be a lot easier of a process. 

Otherwise, it’s going to be a very involved ordeal as she keeps losing these baby teeth  

At least for now, she’s so excited to show it off. I’ll try to convince her that if she can avoid sticking her tongue through the hole, it will come in all gold (as my family tried to convince me). 

I’m sure she’ll buy into it as much as I did. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Eighth Plague

The plague has started.  The Brood X cicadas have started to come out across the country.  This species reappears every 17 years from their burrows in the ground.  The longer winter has delayed their arrival a little bit, but the season starts now.  

This summer, we can expect up to one million cicadas per acre to emerge in the affected states.  That includes us, as well as Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and New York.

So, we missed this last year, and it will be an experience this year.  We can look forward to them emerging from the ground, shedding their skin, flying around for a few weeks, laying eggs, and starting the 17 year cycle again.  

Yay!

If we start to get a little punchy, you'll know why.

We'll keep you updated on how the plague is going.


Friday, May 14, 2021

The State of Israel =/= The Nation of Israel

A re-post of a blog from March 14, 2019.  The sentiment needs to be reiterated again, especially in light of the current conflict in Israel.  We would like to think that the government of the modern nation of Israel always acts honorably, but that is not always the case.  Especially, towards its non-Jewish citizens, of which, there are many.  In this particularly incident, Israel barred tens of thousands of Muslims from prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a move which drew criticism from all but the most hardline of Israeli leadership.  Israel has also threatened eviction of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district, a move which has received the condemnation of the EU, the UN, and the UK governments.  And as tensions and conflict grew as a result of Israeli actions, the Israeli government authorized the use of CS gas and stun grenades in the Al Aqsa mosque on May 10 to help quell the conflict.  Imagine if our police started using tear gas and stun guns in a church here (or think back to when US troops used pepper spray on those at a church so Trump could have a photo op with the Bible).

It's one thing to support Israel.  It's another to blindly allow it to act however it likes.  There are times when we have to call out our allies.  And this is one of them.  The Netanyahu government has been increasingly hostile to a significant portion of the nation's population.  That cannot stand.

If we are going to fully support Israel because of Biblical pretexts, we should expect that they uphold their faith obligations as well. 

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

This is likely not going to be a popular entry, but it's one that needs to be said.  The title should effectively read the current state of Israel does not equal the biblical Nation of Israel.

We can see many instances in which a government is not its people.  Government's can be corrupted, governments can be broken.  Further, the full Nation of Israel is still dispersed across the globe with its people. God's people are in nearly every nation on earth, while the government of Israel is protecting its promised land.

A land that is contentious and controversial.  Leading to need for diplomacy in the area and international relations with the government that are plagued with mine fields.

The United States has had a close relationship with Israel since the recognition of the state of Israel in 1948.  This bilateral relationship is a very important factor in the overall policy in the Middle East and considerable importance has been placed on the maintenance of a close and supportive relationship. This is particularly true among political conservatives and especially heightened by the evangelical influences in the Republican party.  This can be seen in comments like Senator Lindsey Graham's recent "reminder."  "Here's a message for America: Don't ever turn your back on Israel, because God will turn his back on us."

For many, the deep nature of this connection stems from biblical warnings to the enemies of Israel and protections for its allies.

"I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Genesis 12:3


"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'"

Psalm 122:6


"For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined."

Isaiah 60:12


And while I do not want to suggest that we should not be an ally to Israel or that our relationship should not be maintained, I do think it's time we take a hard look at how that relationship is manifesting in our country.  Because we seem to be getting dangerously close to "Israel can do no wrong."  To a position where any questioning, any criticism, any rebuking, any statement or action against something Israel has done is not tolerated and labeled "anti-Semitic."

We can see it in the discussion after Rand Paul blocked a bill that would send billions of dollars of aid to Israel, though it came from his strict Libertarian position.  "I'm not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren't doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America.  This is a stance I've taken for many years."

Or in the firing of Marc Lamont Hill following a U.N. speech endsoring the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel, but closing with the call for a "free Palestine from the river to the sea."  The phrase drew criticism from some conservatives and staunch Israel advocates, who view such remarks as echoing language used by Hamas and other groups that seek to eliminate Israel.  Hill emphatically denies these allegations, and reiterated that while he supports Palestinian freedom, he does not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to him.  He petitions for the return to pre-1967 borders, to give full rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to allow right of return.  The full rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular will come up later.

More recently, look to the controversy around Representative Ilhan Omar's latest comments on Israel.  While speaking to a bookstore, Rep. Omar suggested that pro-Israel groups were pushing lawmakers to "pledge allegiance to a foreign country."  This led to Congresswoman Nita Lowrey responding in a tweet that "Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry.  I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel.  I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful."  Omar fired back, "Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman!  I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.  The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest.  I am sure we agree on that!"  The exchange resulted in the House shifting their focus to overwhelmingly pass a broad resolution Thursday afternoon, March 7, 2019, to condemn all bigotry.

Rep. Omar's comments, like Hill's, were claimed to draw on anti-Semitic tropes, particularly those that play on Jews hypnotizing the world or running the world behind the scenes.  And while she may need sensitivity training on how to phrase her comments, she does have a point.  We're seeing a pattern where every attempt at a discussion of American-Israeli policy is met with a hard stop.

And we're seeing a need for that discussion in the actions of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu has tried to rally his religious and nationalist base for re-election by charged accusations that his challengers will form a coalition government with Arab political parties.  This was met with a post by Rotem Sela, one of Israel's top models and TV hosts, stating "What's the problem with the Arabs?  Good heavens, there are also Arab citizens in this country.  When the hell will somebody in the government tell the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people are born equal?"

To which Netanyahu replied, "I would like to clarify a point that, apparently, is not clear to slightly confused people in the Israeli public."  Israel "is the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people."

There are around 1.8 million Israeli Arabs.  20% of Israels nearly 9 million citizens.  And its prime minister has just written them off.  It's one thing to say the religious, the biblical Nation of Israel is just Jewish.  That would be correct and as I've stated, reflects the Jewish population across the globe.  But it's true of only about 75% of the citizens of the state of Israel.

And so far, American politicians have been silent. Our president can tweet false claims regarding the co-founder of Greenpeace, fan the claims of anti-Semitism in the Democratic party, and continue to stoke his ego, but nothing about a country clearly disregarding a subset of its population.

This should be concerning even for those believing in the biblical call for supporting Israel.  In our Journey Groups, we have four core values, the final of which is admonishing biblically.  It's a reminder that when you are someone's ally, when you are interested in the growth of a friend or family, you speak up when they are acting inappropriately.

"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."

Titus 3:10-11


Further, we know that historically there were times that even the Nation of Israel "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord."  That there were times they needed to repent and return.  And even if the current government of Israel completely represented the nation of Israel, there would be times where we could not support them.  That we should not support them.  If we are a Christian nation as we claim to be, we should be following the Lord's instructions and speaking up when admonishment is necessary.  To bring our friend to repentance.

We have to be able to do this.  We have to be able to talk about this.  Otherwise, we're supporting the exclusion of a minority population in that country.  And that can't be who we are.

Abraham Lincoln believed the political religion of the United States to be liberty.  Liberty and Justice for All.

If we believe in that like we say we do, we have to call out our allies when they infringe on the liberty of their citizens.

Especially when it's not popular.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

No Longer Grand, Just Old

Here lies the Grand Old Party, and all it once stood for. In its place, we recognize the Old Party. And May God have mercy on us all. 

Seriously, though, any vestiges of the ideals of the GOP are long gone. The party of Lincoln is now firmly and unalterably the party of Trump. They finalized that switch yesterday with their removal of Liz Cheney from leadership

Removing her for telling the truth. For refusing to continue to propagate the Big Lie. For refusing to bow down to their kingmaker Trump. 

In short, they ousted her for having principles. 

There used to be an ability or at least a desire to present an educated and principled Conservatism. The air of William F. Buckley and his brand of conservative thought. The ability to debate and spar at the same level as progressives and liberals. The hope to win on thoughts and ideas. 

Today’s Republican Party could barely spell Buckley much less identify him. 

Just look at Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon favorite, accosting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the hallways.  The gloating by Madison Cawthorn on Twitter after the ouster of Cheney. 

We don’t have statesmen anymore, we have thugs. 

This isn’t surprising; it’s been the trajectory of the party ever since Trump took power. At least, up to this point, there was hope that some of the party was resisting.  That people like McCain, Romney, Cheney, and others were fighting for and speaking for the traditional conservatism. Fighting for the great roots of the party.   

It’s clear that fight is now over.  

The powers that he have determined that Trump is the only hope for success at the polls. If Biden’s approval numbers are any indication, it would seem they are making a grave error.  And if my suspicions are true, it will take a long time for the Republican Party to recover, if ever.   If they err here, demographics are already turning against them, decreasing the likelihood of any success without a great change in policy.   They know these things and are unwilling to do so.  Hence the perpetuation of the Big Lie and the voter restriction laws they are trying to pass. If you can’t win on principles, you win on technicalities.

Thus begins the slow death of the Old Party.  No longer Grand.  No longer in power.  Appealing to an ever dwindling minority, promising to bring things back to the good old days.

Whenever those were.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Limerick

A bit of silliness today, to ignore the news of the day for discussion tomorrow.  Today is Limerick Day, celebrating Edward Lear, who made the short poems widespread.  Born on May 12, 1812, he wrote 212 limericks, not all of which follow the strict construction we think of today, but nonetheless helped popularize the short poetry.

To celebrate, I thought I would share a couple.

First a favorite of Lear's.

"There was an Old Man of Peru,
who watched his wife making a stew;
But once by mistake,
In a stove she did bake,
That unfortunate Man of Peru."

And then, the clean version of perhaps the oldest, and most famous American limerick.

"There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
But his daughter, named Nan
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

But he followed the pair to Pawtucket,
The man and the girl with the bucket;
And he said to the man,
He was welcome to Nan,
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket.

Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset,
Where he still held the cash as an asset,
But Nan and the man
Stole the money and ran,
And as for the bucket, Manhasset.

Of this story we hear from Nantucket,
About the mysterious loss of a bucket,
We are sorry for nan,
As well as the man - 
The cash and the bucket, Pawtucket."

Monday, May 10, 2021

Sanctuary, Updated

The following entry is a post that was shared previously on Facebook and has been previously shared here before.  Because I have just come off of a viewing of the 1939 film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it has been updated and presented here again as a way to raise again for discussion and archive the content.

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I've been thinking a lot lately about The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I've been listening to the cast album from the Paper Mill Playhouse production and it has quickly become one of my favorite musical compositions. The moment, of course, that always stands out to me is when Quasimodo finally breaks his chains and fights back against Frollo, yelling "Sanctuary" over and over, claiming Notre Dame as a place of refuge for all.

And that got me thinking...
When did the Church stop being a Sanctuary for all?
I know the specific laws of Sanctuary have long been overturned and those had their own unique problems, but there is something truly Christ-like about the image of anyone regardless of their background and sin being able to enter the church and claim sanctuary.
And it just doesn't seem like we live up to that any more. It seems we are more interested in the privileges and perks afforded our members, making sure they are well taken care of, than in providing refuge to the weary. A spa or country club as opposed to a fortress and refuge from the battle outside.
It's time to be honest. How do we act when a stranger comes in to the church? Does it depend on the stranger?
If an illegal immigrant sought aid from your church, would it be provided for or would you report and deport?
If a Muslim sought protection from a group of persecutors or if a homosexual person sought refuge from the same, would it be extended? Or would the church and its members be more likely to be the ones persecuting them?
Is the church out there speaking up for Black lives, or is it insisting the whole thing has just been stirred up by the media?  Claiming "All Lives Matter" in the face of specific hurts to specific populations?  Generally true, but not helpful?  
Is it speaking out against Asian American hate crimes, or is it stirring up conspiracy over the "Chinese virus" or the "Kung Flu"?  I'm not sure which of those is more offensive.
Is your church accommodating and carrying for those that are still affected by the pandemic, that are still scared of the deadly consequences it can bring by taking simple precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing?  Are the members putting aside their personal liberty in service to strengthen the faith of those around them, or are they the ones boldly proclaiming their rights have been infringed? 

I've been wondering if the church failing to do its job in this area is what has led to things like the  "safety pin" symbol. For those of you that have not seen the "safety pin" discussion so far, the idea is that people are starting to wear safety pins on their clothing as a symbol that they are an ally to the anyone who needs it, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, religion, immigrant status, etc. I've unfortunately seen many in the Christian Right dismiss this idea because they view it as a partisan response to the election. It actually started in the United Kingdom after the Brexit as a response to an increase in racist and homophobic persecution there, and has spread to America as a result of the increase in attacks here post-election (2016). And it's sad that it is viewed as partisan and foolish, particularly by Christians, as it represents how Christians are truly supposed to love the world and speak up for those who are being persecuted or oppressed.

I know many are trying. I just pray that we can do better.

“God help the outcasts, or nobody will.”
"Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place." Jeremiah 22:3
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35


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Posted to Facebook November 17, 2016, 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Happy Mother's Day 2021!





A great big Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the mothers in my life!

To my Mom, Sheila Keeler, you are the best mother and Granna that anyone could ask for.  Thank you for all your guidance and love throughout my life.  For always being someone I could talk to and always being there for us.

To Karen Hamrick, I lucked out in getting the best mother in law and Mimi.  Thank you for bringing me into your family and helping me feel welcome.  Thank you for your love and support and for opening your home to us.  

To Jamie Keeler.  To Gorgeous.  I love you to the ends of the earth.  You are an amazing wife and are an amazing mother.  I cannot think of anyone else who I would rather be on this journey of parenthood with.  You inspire me, you teach me.  And you have been my rock for these near twelve years of marriage and seven years of parenthood.  I hope for many, many more to come, Beautiful.

To these and all the moms in my life, both biological and spiritual, Happy Mother's Day! 

I wish you all the best this day can bring.  

Saturday, May 8, 2021

TCM Film Festival 2021

This weekend has been the eleventh annual TCM Film Festival. Typically held in Hollywood at the Chinese and Egyptian Theaters and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the festival has been virtual for last year and this year because of the pandemic. This has allowed us to enjoy the activities from home. 

We miss the festival. We were fortunate enough to have attended the 2012 and 2013 festivals and had the time of our lives. We got to see Mel Brooks, Julian Sands, Debbie Reynolds, Kirk Douglas (!!), Burt Reynolds, John Voight, Ned Beatty, Stanley Donen, Jane Fonda, Mickey Rooney, and Max Von Sydow(!).  We saw films we loved on the big screen for the first time, films that were new favorites, and incredible interviews. We are itching to go back. 

The virtual experience gives a taste of the in person experience, with the great interviews and discussions of the films. There is still something magical about the in person experience. 

Nothing compares to the magic of sitting in a theater with a group of like minded people, watching an incredible film, in the way that it is meant to be seen. 

To see Casablanca at the Chinese Theater. To see How the West Was Won at the Cinerama Dome in the right aspect ratio. To see cartoon shorts on a theater screen where they first aired. 

Film is magic. And I can’t wait to fully experience it again. 

Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy these films at home and thank TCM for this virtual experience. 
 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Shot #2 - I'm Vaccinated

As of yesterday, vaccinations are done. Jamie got her second shot on Wednesday afternoon. I got my second shot yesterday morning. Tried to stagger them a bit so that our recovery periods wouldn’t overlap too much. 

Yesterday worked pretty well. Jamie did feel pretty awful, but seemed to have bounced back quickly. Today, I’ve just been tired and a little achy. GERD seems to be up as well. 

Right now, though, we’re trying to see if a norovirus is one of the side effects we’ve somehow caught. Jamie has had it pretty rough this afternoon and we can’t tell if it is side effects or a virus. As much as I wish it wasn’t her side effects, I’m really praying it’s not a virus. Those seem to go through our family hard and the last time I had a norovirus was went I went to the ER for acute colitis. 

So, we’ll see. Hopefully the next few hours settle down and give us a break. Regardless, we’re glad to have the vaccinations behind us and to feel safer out there in the world. 

We’ve done our part to help stop the spread. We’ve protected those around us and thankfully avoided the disease up to this point.  

That light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting brighter. 

I hope. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

National Day of Prayer 2021

Today marks the National Day of Prayer, an annual occurrence on the first Thursday of May designated by Congress, on which people are asked to "turn to God in meditation and prayer."   The modern annual observance was first established in 1952, though it relates back to similar days of prayer and fasting that started as far back as 1775.  Traditionally, the President of the United States marks the day with an official proclamation.  This year is no different.

Below, find the text of President Biden's proclamation for the day.

"Throughout our history, Americans of many religions and belief systems have turned to prayer for strength, hope, and guidance. Prayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements — including essential fights against racial injustice, child labor, and infringement on the rights of disabled Americans. Prayer is also a daily practice for many, whether it is to ask for help or strength, or to give thanks over blessings bestowed.

The First Amendment to our Constitution protects the rights of free speech and religious liberty, including the right of all Americans to pray. These freedoms have helped us to create and sustain a Nation of remarkable religious vitality and diversity across the generations.

Today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation. As we continue to confront the crises and challenges of our time — from a deadly pandemic, to the loss of lives and livelihoods in its wake, to a reckoning on racial justice, to the existential threat of climate change — Americans of faith can call upon the power of prayer to provide hope and uplift us for the work ahead. As the late Congressman John Lewis once said, “Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”

On this National Day of Prayer, we unite with purpose and resolve, and recommit ourselves to the core freedoms that helped define and guide our Nation from its earliest days. We celebrate our incredible good fortune that, as Americans, we can exercise our convictions freely — no matter our faith or beliefs. Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one Nation to meet this moment in history.

The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2021, as a National Day of Prayer. I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth."


Oh, Lord, we do petition you for wisdom and grace.  May we move past division, move past convenience and truly seek your will.  Speak to us, and make us listen.  Teach us, so we may learn.  Guide us and give us the courage to truly live as you have called us; not as we have interpreted your will.

Amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Cinco de Mayo 2021

Today is the fifth of May.  A day marked on the calendar for a Mexican holiday to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862.  The victory of the smaller Mexican army over the larger French army was a boost in morale for Mexico.


The holiday has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, and has spread to the greater United States.  It is virtually ignored in Mexico - it is not a statutory holiday, though the schools are closed.  It is an official holiday in the Mexican state of Puebla and the neighboring state of Veracruz.

In the United States, it has largely become a celebration of Mexican food and alcohol.  In fact, in 2013, more beer was purchased for Cinco De Mayo than for the Super Bowl or St. Patrick's Day.

It should be a celebration of Mexican culture.  It should be an opportunity to learn about the history, heritage, and culture of our neighbors to the south.  To see how intertwined our histories and destinies are.  To celebrate the music, the art, the food, the dance, and the style of Mexico.  There have been proposals to this end, including a resolution from Congress dating back to 2005.

Hopefully, we will make that official soon.

We will be trying to teach Avalyn and Jude about Mexican culture and history today.  Hopefully, over time, some of that will stick.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

May the Fourth 2021

If you traveled back 44 years, little could anyone imagine how big Star Wars would become.  At that time, Star Wars was just a movie that was set to premier 20 days later.  Given the recent performance of sci-fi at the time, it wasn't expected to have much of an impact.

And yet, here we are, with Star Wars a global phenomenon.  A multi-billion dollar, multi-media franchise.  Star Wars land, aka Galaxy's Edge, has finally opened.  Jediism is even a registered and recognized religion.

Yes, the movies can be clunky, they can be corny, they don't always work that well.  But there is still a magic in them.  Particularly in the original trilogy.  Lucas stayed so close to the mono-myth, to Campbell's Hero's Journey, that he created a new mythology that still resonates today.

We still connect to hope.  We still want to see good triumph over evil.  To see the evil Empire fall.  We like seeing Nazis lose, even if it's space Nazis.

Plus, the story, the world is so big, there is room for all kinds of storytelling, witnessed recently by the success of the Mandalorian.  Since we've viewed a lot of Akira Kurosawa, we can see his influences on Star Wars.  The touches from Hidden Fortress, from Yojimbo.  We talked about how we now want to see Seven Samurai in Star Wars or what Throne of Blood looks like.  What Casablanca looks like in Star Wars.  A more James Bond inspired Agent of the Empire.  You can tell almost any war story, any samurai story, any western in the world Lucas created.

If you are looking for ways to celebrate, for the best content, may I suggest the Original Trilogy, the Clone Wars television show (particularly the later seasons), The Mandalorian, and Rogue One and Solo of the newer material.

Or just dive in fully and embrace the weird parts, like Caravan of Courage or Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.  I mean, even the Star Wars Holiday Special has its moments.  Look it up on YouTube.

Enjoy the day.  Remember, there is hope, even when the world looks its darkest.  Look for good to win out in the end.

And of course, may the Force be with you, always.

Or, for my more orthodox Jedi,

May the Force be with you.
And also with you.



Monday, May 3, 2021

NPR@50

NPR marks its 50th birthday today.  May 3, 1971, NPR started its first broadcast.   While the station had began airing Senate hearings of the Vietnam War on April 20, 1971, May 3 marked the first day it aired its own programming.  All Things Considered, their afternoon drive-time newscast, premiered with host Robert Conley, discussing the news of the day.  The broadcasts could not be aired live during the first week, but could be recorded to be played later.  Thankfully things have exploded from there.

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

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

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

It's amazing that it has lasted this long.  Let's pray to keep it funded for another 50 years into the future.

Happy Birthday NPR!  To many more...

Sunday, May 2, 2021

John Paul Leon

 


Today the comic community lost a giant.  John Paul Leon passed away from complications from cancer. He was 49. 

JPL began working in comics at the age of 16 and quickly developed his signature style. A heavy reliance on thick black inks creating a moody atmosphere. A page by JPL was instantly recognizable. 

He was also a master draftsman, with such inventive layouts  in one of his signature series, Earth X, each issue contained a double page spread that outlined the history of a single Maeve icon.  It remains an incredible encapsulation of each hero.

From all accounts, he was one of the nicest people in comics. And to lose him at such a young age is shocking.  I don’t typically curse here but can definitely echo the sentiments of the popular hashtag about it.  Cancer sucks (and that’s the cleaner version).

His art, his person will definitely be missed.

Rest In Peace John Paul Leon


Saturday, May 1, 2021

May Day

Sing a song of May-time.
Sing a song of Spring.
Flowers are in their beauty.
Birds are on the wing.
May time, play time.
God has given us May time.
Thank Him for His gifts of love.
Sing a song of Spring.


Today marks May Day, a traditional holiday celebrating spring. And spring is definitely in the air. 

We’ve finally gotten past the hopefully last snow fall last week and now have gotten to 70 and 80 degree days. It’s still cool in the mornings and in the late evenings. It can feel brisk with the wind up in the shade.  But it is spring nonetheless. 

The flowers are starting to bloom. Everything is getting lush and green. And with hope for the end of this pandemic, kids sports are in full swing. Tuesday night there were baseball and softball games all around us, a track meet at the high school and lacrosse practice in the fields just a block down the road. 

We’ve cut the grass for the first time. And we’ve started prepping for a garage sale. Spring cleaning. 

The town seems busier. As if everyone has just been waiting to be outside. 

I hope your able to get out and enjoy this weather. I hope where you are it hasn’t gotten too hot yet. I hope you’re having pleasant weather and can see the beauty of nature. 

It’s what this time is for. 

So put up the maypole and spin around. Crown the May Queen. 

Spring is finally here. And may it be a long and pleasant spring, before summer gets just unbearable.