Chronicles in Ordinary Time 128: Forefathers

July 10, 2017

Forefathers
Dan Fogelberg

They came from Scandinavia, the land of midnight sun
And crossed the North Atlantic when this century was young
They’d heard that in America every man was free
To live the way he chose to live and be who he could be
Some of them were farmers there and tilled the frozen soil
But all they got was poverty for all their earnest toil
They say one was a sailor who sailed the wide world round
Made home port, got drunk one night, walked off the pier and drowned
My mother was of Scottish blood; it’s there that she was born
They brought her to America in 1924
They left behind the highlands and the heather-covered hills
And came to find America with broad expectant dreams and iron wills
My granddad worked the steel mills of central Illinois
His daughter was his jewel; his son was just his boy
For thirty years he worked the mills and stoked the coke-fed fires
And looked toward the day when he’d at last turn 65 and could retire
And the sons become the fathers and their daughters will be wives
As the torch is passed from hand to hand
And we struggle through our lives
Though the generations wander, the lineage survives
And all of us, from dust to dust, we all become forefathers by and by
The woman and the man were wed just after the war
And they settled in this river town and three fine sons she bore
One became a lawyer and one fine pictures drew
And one became this lonely soul who sits here now
And sings this song to you
———————————-

Dan Fogelberg was a ‘lonely soul’ we lost too early, to the C-word. I miss him; though we never met. Dan and I had a lot in common; he provided the soundtrack to several of my carpentry projects over the years; back in the days when it was safe for me to take on such projects.

‘My mother was of Norwegian blood,’ she came here with her mother and two sisters in 1927. She left behind the fjords of Norway, and fish caught directly from the ocean, minutes before. I think my grandmother missed her home, although she and I never talked about such things. She made me cinnamon toast on my way home from elementary school; I think she let my Mom know, by telephone, when I passed her house on my way to school in the mornings…

My Dad had worked in ‘the steel mills’ of Portland. By the time I came along, 9 years after their marriage, he was a Public Accountant. I think he worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for nearly all of the time I knew him. I also think that may be the exaggeration of a son who never got to know his father. Having taken an unexpected ‘right turn’ after leaving the Army with a Medical Discharge, Dad went to work in the shipyards of Portland, working as a welder and a machinist. In the years that followed there were more machine shops, until all of his tools were destroyed in a fire. Then came carpentry and a very brief career as a realtor. I don’t know what he expected when he turned 65; as I tell people, he died at 62 and we buried him at 67. The stroke that forced him to retire came at 62; he hated his life from that point forward—except for the births and visits of two of his grandchildren. He went Home during the pregnancy of our third child. I had my only ‘heart-felt,’ ‘conversation’ with him at 67 in a hospital, as he lay in a coma. He had contracted a flesh-eating disease in a place where no man wants such things to occur; ‘Fournier’s gangrene’. The docs were trying to figure out what to do with what was left, and Dad fortunately had a lower-brain-stem stroke and went Home.

‘The woman and the man were wed just after the war; And they settled in this river town and three one fine son she bore…’

My folks lived in Portland for much of their lives; Portland, sometimes called ‘the City of Bridges’. Our middle kid and his wife now own my parents’ first home, purchased in 1946, when there was a forest across the street. I’ve lived here all my life. My Dad was installing the bright red kitchen floor tiles while I was being born. The tiles remain—they may be made from Red Kryptonite…

I don’t much like birthdays. For some reason, they seem irrelevant to my life. I am the age I am; and I am here by the Grace of the One who created me. The intervening years have been a mixed bag of frustration and wonder…

I spent the last two weeks arguing with my computer and upgrading my website. www.mjarts.com  There are still some kinks to work out, aesthetically; but I don’t have the time to continue at this point. So many images. I find that I have trouble remembering all the names… For a few years, I trolled Craigslist every day, finding work to pursue; every day I went through a folder in my computer that contains all of the images I use for marketing myself [1300 files]; I stopped trolling a couple of years ago, and now have to hunt visually to find the images I want from, past work—I don’t remember the names.

I had a strange experience a couple of weeks ago, being invited to talk to a group of ‘children’s illustration junkies’ from Ohio about my work; I explained that if there is a list out there of ‘least successful, published, children’s illustrators’ I must be on that list. While I’m still a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, I don’t participate all that much. I got tired of hearing ‘civilians’ [children’s book buyers] praising my work, and the ‘professionals’ [editors and such]—telling me that it wasn’t ‘accurate enough’…although they buy up cartoons all the time. Accuracy?

I have a biography of Amelia Earhart on my desk, Amelia with a very large head, to remind me to pursue such work… Sort of like this:

Who is Doctor Who?

What’s ahead for this next year?

A trip to Colorado.

Converting a couple of books to Kindle.

Continued work on my new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, A Scandal in Bohemia.

Beyond that? I have no idea.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 127: Brokenness Can Be the Beginning

July 2, 2017

Independence Day Holiday, 2017

It is when we are broken that we realize we cannot be what we want to be; we cannot accomplish the things we want to accomplish in our own strength. We see our faults for what they are, and we stop hiding from them. These broken places can become places of strength. The broken places are where the Light shines through.

America once had a standing in the world as the ‘home of democracy’; the place of freedom for anyone to be who we can become. Where every citizen can become President. In the words of Abraham Lincoln:
My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.

“Once again”—presumably a reference to the Civil War. Hopefully applicable to the less-than-civil ‘war’ that is happening in America today.

My maternal Grandparents and their family, at different times, came from Norway to America in the early 1920’s. I don’t know why, exactly. I realize now that I really didn’t care, all that much. One of my less-positive attributes, a problem of being ‘asocial’; perhaps a consequence of being an ‘Only’ raised by working parents. I’ve recently learned that there was a famine in Norway in the early 1920’s; my assumption is that this was a contributing factor to their emigration.
My conclusions, based on growing up in my family, is that when my Grandparents left Norway [which was referred to as ‘the Old country’], they decided to become Americans; rather than Norwegian-Americans. I’ve never bothered to find out much about their lives… I know that my Grandmother traveled by train with her three young daughters, across the US from New York. My Grandmother’s first experience of seeing people of Color. She was surprised by the dark brown skin, but found the porters on the train to be very nice. My Grandmother spoke no English at the time; my guess is that she learned a lot from her three daughters, as they learned to speak English. We had Norwegian cookies at Christmas; a small Norwegian flag sat on the mantle. Occasionally Norwegian relatives visited Portland. My Grandparent made at least one trip back to their Norwegian home.

I don’t know how they would feel about today…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…”
It doesn’t take long, if one reads stories from the International Press, that we aren’t there anymore. America is failing the world, in terms of our example. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is rightly being called the “Leader of the Free World.”

The Bible uses a word called, “repent” to symbolize this understanding of our own brokenness, our weakness, and our determination to move beyond our failures through the strength of a Higher Power. The Greek word, usually translated as “repent” actually means, ‘to see the world through new eyes’. Over the centuries, the word “repent” has taken on a moralistic tone regarding one’s behavior. This understanding is incorrect.

Four Presidents, I believe, found the strength to be dynamic leaders of our country, through having discovered their brokenness. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. The moment some people finish reading that sentence their minds race in rebellion. Do I believe that these are America’s Greatest Presidents? Probably not; I’m not a Presidential historian. There were a lot of Presidents before Lincoln; there have been a lot of Presidents after JFK, who, I believe, never had the opportunity to fully prove his Greatness.

All of these Presidents were flawed; which is part of my point.
Abraham Lincoln, clinically depressed, married to a bipolar wife, lost three children to death by illness; two before the Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt lost his wife and mother on the same day, early in his political life. He chose to suffer hardship in the Dakotas, leaving his newborn daughter with his sister; possibly in some strange act of penance.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken with polio eleven years before he became President. He taught himself to ‘walk’ using iron leg braces and the assistance of a son.
John F. Kennedy severely injured his back in the Pacific, during World War II, and was in continual pain for the rest of his life, and addicted to pain killers while in office.

Four men, labeled by history as a “Leader of the Free World,” who inwardly realized they could not accomplish anything in their own strength and power, regardless of how the world might view them. Men who became broken by circumstances, and found the strength to overcome their brokenness. I am of the opinion that all these men came to rely on a Higher Power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own. Men who decided that they dare not fail.

Today our President is failing all over the world, and he seems to be oblivious to it. Some critics say that rather than ‘Making America Great Again’, he is making China great. Rather than encouraging the country to become more than it currently is, leading by example, he gets in ‘twitter wars’ with journalists and celebrities…To me, it seems he still thinks he’s on a ‘reality TV show’; rather than attempting to be the ‘Leader of the Free World’. A President who seems to mainly be interested in his own popularity rather than caring for the least of us. A President who supports a Tax Cut for the wealthy at the cost of health care for the poor.

From my reading of Facebook, some will think that I’m whining about the result of the 2016 Presidential Election; this isn’t true. I’m a ‘progressive centrist’. I voted for the Jewish Socialist who spoke the words of Jesus, the words of Torah, whether or not he realized it. I’m writing about character. ‘Leading by Example’; something any Senior Patrol Leader in the Boy Scouts will affirm; but something our President seems never to have learned…

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 126: America, welcome to Broken

June 25, 2017

“What kind of a country are we if anyone can come before you and talk about cutting health care for children with disabilities in order to give tax breaks to the richest people on earth?
Bernie Sanders, June 2017

“This is the first time that we are aware, that a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street,” Tate told Fox News. “This is a real problem.”


“Welcome to Broken, America”

The other day I wrote the first three words to a woman I know; a woman who had the courage to write that because of the pain she is in, from a damaged body, that she isn’t able to live up to the expectations that she probably learned from her mother and her mother’s friends and families. Expectations about how a home should operate, how it should look, and what a hostess should be expected to be… All guesswork on my part; I don’t know her well enough to explore her background and expectations.

I never put much stock in those expectations, although I learned them from my parents. Like so many other areas of my life, I chose not to comply.

I choose not to comply.

Probably a mantra of my generation. Most clearly portrayed in this photograph, from the 1968 Democratic Convention:


It is so important to remember that this photo was published during the Democratic Convention; not during the Republican convention where Nixon became the Republican candidate for President. I wonder how many of those pictured above ended up on Wall Street?

1968 was a Hell of a year…
http://cds.library.brown.edu/projects/1968/reference/timeline.html

There was a time in America, [for most of my lifetime and before, when the President of the United States would stand [or sit] before the citizens of the country, and attempt to bring some order out of the chaos. History shows there were a lot of lies, behind the scenes. These men were far from perfect. However, they understood the importance of Leadership.

Two days ago, the New York Times published:

Trump’s Lies

Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So, we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.
By DAVID LEONHARDT and STUART A. THOMPSON
JUNE 23, 2017
“https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html

Recent polling implies that 38%, the same 38% that is unaware that Trumpcare will give $600 BILLION in tax breaks to the wealthiest in America by stripping $600 BILLION in benefits from the poorest in the country [Because, of course, Congressional Rules state that new acts have to be budget-neutral. Every cut in taxes has to be offset by a cut in services].

That 38% very likely believes that the last two paragraphs are ‘fake news’ because that is what the President has brainwashed them to believe.

TR was correct. “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of individuals and nations alike.”

I met a man with character on Friday, a guy who owns a service station. One of the few persons who ever ask to see my ID, even though it’s written boldly on my debit card. “Anyone I catch not checking for their customer’s ID, gets fired from my station. I owe that service to my customers.” I haven’t heard those kinds of words for a long time. From his accent, I expect that he is an immigrant.

It seems so long ago since I watched a President stand up before the American public, tears in his eyes, speaking about the most recent hate-crime murder victims…

“I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say. And it can change.”

Two months after that speech; and again, two months later; and three months after that and four months after that:

“It was at least the 14th time that President Obama spoke to the nation in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting — and the sixth time within just the past year.
“Obama himself has acknowledged that his remarks have become all too predictable. “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting has become routine. My response here, from this podium, has become routine,” Obama said last October, following the shooting at an Oregon community college.”
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/06/12/14-mass-shootings-14-speeches-how-obama-has-responded/85798652/

And then the shootings by the police…

“These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues.
“According to various studies, not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years, African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over.
“After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched.
“Last year African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites.
“African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites; African Americans defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost ten percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.”
http://fortune.com/2016/07/07/obama-sterling-castile-speech/

And our current President says almost nothing. He tweets a lot.

“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” President Trump said on Twitter. “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

In the following quotation:

“This is the first time that we are aware, that a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street,” Tate told Fox News. “This is a real problem.”

I’m not positive that the speaker understands that shooting is not supposed to be the treatment of ‘the ordinary black guy on the street’.

America, welcome to broken.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 125: Thank You, Mazza Museum Tour 2017!

June 16, 2017

“…for I am in the way if being an amateur chemist; that is to say, I earn my living with it on the side, my real profession being the writing of poetry, at which I have had considerable success. Only last week I sold a poem to a magazine for $12, and the month before I received checks for $7.50 and $5.00 respectively, for verse…”
Edward Ansley, in Paul Gallico’s “The Glass Door”

The business of the making of Children’s Books is not often like the stories contained in Children’s Books. I have found the business of the making of Children’s Books to be unlike any other business I’ve engaged in…earning a living from making of Children’s Books is a difficult thing to do, and is frequently unrewarding.

Then, as in a Children’s Book, the Unlikely sometimes happens:

A parting shot—one of those photos one wishes they would have taken a better version of, if they had thought about it—of some of the members of this year’s [Year 23] Mazza Museum Tour; a busload of retired teachers and librarians, all of them docents at the Mazza Museum at the University of Findlay, in Findlay, Ohio. “The Mazza Museum is the most diverse collection of original artwork by children’s book illustrators in the world.”
https://www.mazzamuseum.org/

Every Summer [it really is Summer, somewhere in this country], these folks travel across the country to visit the studios of Children’s Book illustrators; purely for the love of Children’s Books.

I’m still not sure why, but I was honored by being invited to join this group for lunch this afternoon, along with Carolyn Conahan, a fellow illustrator located here in Portland. Last year I received a phone call  from Benjamin Sapp, the Director of the Mazza Museum, asking ‘how would I like to have a busload of people come to my studio to watch me work?’ I explained that my ‘studio’ is full when my wife is in here with me, and that I’m not sure a busload of people would fit inside our house…

So, this afternoon I told a busload of Children’s Book lovers about my haphazard journey as a Children’s Book illustrator—the illustrator of Children’s Books that ‘no one has ever read’…Exaggeration for effect. One of the visitors had a copy of “Oregon At Last” with her, so I’m not entirely unread— http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016T82HDY —it merely seems that way.

For the benefit of those who did not have the opportunity to visit my tiny, cluttered ‘studio’, some links—

A very old PowerPoint presentation of my office and my work:

http://mjarts.com/samples/MJ%20Arts%20Illustration%203%20parts.ppt

The computers have changed, the mess remains…

My youtube channel, containing a number of videos, and an interview on Back Page:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GspLTb3Qbq8&index=1&list=PLNGfGb77KAQh4TVIktKvkxCYGNGPXVylU

Some of my more recent images:

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship featuring the 10th Doctor [precursor to the 11th Doctor’s visit]

A BeeGees CD album for a private collector

Thank You, Mazza Museum Tour 2017!

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 124: Donald on the Road to Damascus

June 15, 2017

I’m currently working on a new illustration, one that woke me up one night, a few weeks ago. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often; when they do, I make an effort to pay attention to them. I have no idea why I’m working on the illustration—in terms of what will be happening with the illustration when it is finished. I’m working on it in my ‘spare’ time; with the expectation that at some point in my story, I will learn why.

The image deals with Saul of Tarsus and the Road to Damascus, taken from the New Testament Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The Road to Damascus is where Saul, Pharisee of the Pharisees, Ultra-Conservative Jewish Defender of the faith; he who became a Jewish hunter of the followers of Jesus—sent to imprison them—the road where Saul was knocked off his horse, and blinded:

‘As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

From there he is taken to Damascus, and brought to the house of Ananias, a devout follower of Jesus, who has been warned in a dream that the feared Saul would come to his house; and Ananias would heal Saul of his blindness. This happens, and Saul becomes Paul. The rest is history, or not; depending upon your beliefs regarding the New Testament.

Having no idea what the Road to Damascus looks like now, much less what it looked like 2,000 years ago, I did what I always do—an image search for ‘Damascus Road’ on Google. Amongst the images of Syria, I found this one:

Donald on the Road to Damascus By Claire Palmer

Speaking for myself, a Believer who was trained in high school and college in Critical Thinking, I have a tendency to treat Biblical events as mythology, more than literal fact… yes, even in God’s Word. I believe that Scripture is entirely True in its original languages; for the purpose it was intended. The Creator of the Universe told Job that 2/3 of the Book of Job [believed to be the oldest of the Biblical texts] is entirely wrong. According to the Creator, not all of Scripture is literally accurate. There are many who seem to forget this piece of information.

I was pondering the notion of what it would have ‘looked like’ to be there in Damascus at the time Saul was knocked off of his horse; or even the more currently applicable incident found in Daniel 4, where:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar [who was king of Babylon c. 605 BE – c. 562 BCE, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire]. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird…

…and eventually King Nebuchadnezzar repents and returns.

What would the Washington Post have to say about an event like this?

If the story is true, there would have been bystanders, witnesses to the circumstances, whose personal descriptions have not survived the test of time. Not enough journalists at the time…

Suppose The Donald is about to receive some ‘horrible’ fall from his throne, becoming the least effective, the least popular, and probably most hated President of current American history [he says the same, about his predecessor]. Where will he go? Will he forsake his ‘palace’ in NYC and go to Saudi, where he has lots of friends, or to one of his many other favored places…or will all of his allies suddenly disappear as the Trump Empire begins its downfall…

One of the ironies is that at the final Correspondents Dinner that President Obama attended, he roasted The Donald; and as the cameras focused on the future President’s face, one could see that he was seething. It is said that one of his main goals in life would be to take the Presidency from the man who had so thoroughly insulted him during that dinner. He is a proud man.


I have seen the facial expression of the middle photo so many times; and I keep getting reminded of the face of Benito Mussolini, dictator over Italy during World War II. Another proud man who fell from his ‘throne’.

Do I wish ill upon P45? No; I think the man is an egotistical fool who had no business running for President—he clearly has no idea what the job entails. P45 was raised to be a real estate magnate who somehow believes that wealth gives him the necessary wisdom to run a University, and somehow, to run a country. He and his thumbs have shown him to be his own worst enemy.

What saddens me most is to see our country as it has become in the last nine or so months; the way that a President who ran a campaign based on racial bias has encouraged the country to become more racially biased; how angry people have taken the statements of an angry man, and found them to be a justification for violence. A few weeks ago, Portland, Oregon was leading the news stories, after the murder of two men who were defending two girls of color from my local high school, girls who were being verbally abused by a known White Supremacist.

Portland, Oregon, my home town, has never had a history of racial tolerance. The State of Oregon was created to be entirely white. Portland was largely white until World War II, when the city became home to the building of Liberty Ships. In order to find workers for the shipyards, people of color were imported to Portland; the community of Vanport was created as an integrated place for them to live. Vanport was flooded in 1948, and hundreds of people of color needed to be relocated; they were sent to the part of Portland with the lowest property values. My Dad worked in the shipyards; I assume that this is where he learned racial tolerance. I grew up in Portland, oblivious to the City’s efforts to keep people of color ‘in their place’. I am mindful of the words of Charlie Black, one of the thirty or so lawyers who had worked on the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation unlawful and thus began the end of the old Southern racist regime. He tells of his first encounter with Louis Armstrong, at a dance hall in Austin, Texas:

He was the first genius I had ever seen. That may be a structurable part of the process that led me to the Brown case. The moment of first being, and knowing oneself to be, in the presence of genius, is a solemn moment; it is perhaps the moment of final and indelible perception of man’s utter transcendence of all else created. It is impossible to overstate the significance of a sixteen-year-old Southern boy’s seeing genius, for the first time, in a black. We literally never saw a black man, then, in any but a servant’s capacity. There were of course black professionals in Austin, as one later learned, but they kept to themselves, out back of town, no doubt shunning humiliation…
Every person of decency in the South of those days must have had some doubts about racism, and I had mine even then—perhaps more than most others. But Louis opened my eyes wide, and put to me a choice. Blacks, the saying went, were “all right in their place.” What was the “place” of such a man, and of the people from which he sprung?

We are better people than we, as a country, are presenting ourselves to be. We can improve.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 123: Ordinary people who risk their lives defending freedom…

May 28, 2017

Portland, Oregon, my home town, the place that has been my residence for 65 years, has once again made national news; and once again, for something both shameful and heroic.

On the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, a white supremacist murdered two white men and injured another, who is recovering in a local hospital. White men who were defending two brown-skinned girls; three heroes who moments before were strangers on a MAX train. I agree with Dan Rather:

“Their names were Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. One was a recent college graduate. The other was an army veteran and father of four. I wish we would hear you say these names, or even just tweet them. They were brave Americans who died at the hands of someone who, when all the facts are collected, we may have every right to call a terrorist. A third brave man, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was wounded in the knife attack.”
https://www.facebook.com/theDanRather/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

The murderer has been arrested.

We used to have a President who cared what happened in this country, on his watch; rather than petulantly obsessing about how the press is treating him.

We used to have a President who took to the podium in the White House newsroom, and spoke about the heroism of ordinary people who risked their lives defending freedom.

We apparently don’t have that kind of President anymore.

Thousands of people gathered at the MAX station last night for a candlelight vigil to honor the fallen. At this point in time, nearly $800,000 has been raised for medical treatment and the expenses of those involved in the attack.

Christ, Have Mercy

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 122: “…the rich would live and the poor would die…”

May 21, 2017

“If religion were a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die…”
All My Trials

Religion has become a thing that money can buy; if the Republican Congress has its way with Healthcare, the rich will live, and the poor will die…

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of evangelical Liberty University and early supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump, said in an interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro that evangelicals “have found their dream president.”
Sojourners, https://sojo.net/articles/jerry-falwell-jr-evangelicals-have-found-their-dream-president

Vice President Mike Pence hailed President Donald Trump as a “champion of the freedom of religion” in a speech at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C..

https://sojo.net/articles/summit-global-christian-persecution-pence-calls-trump-champion-religious-freedom

The above statements are so ludicrous that I can’t think of what to say; so I’ll let an expert respond, instead:

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The West Wing, “Mr. Frost“—
“To be a person of faith is to have the world challenge that faith. Was the universe designed by God? That’s up to everyone in this country to decide for themselves; because the framers of our Constitution believed that if the people were to be sovereign and belong to different religions at the same time, then our official religion would have to be no religion at all. It was a bold experiment then, as it is now… It wasn’t meant to make us comfortable, it was meant to make us free.

“God has a plan for your life.”
“Their deaths are part of God’s plan.”

Probably two of the most damaging phrases a Believer can ever use, when speaking to a non-Believer. To the non-Believer, these statements evoke the image of a cruel God. It seems to me that a large percentage of people believe that God’s work in the world is much like that of the image above. That God sits in heaven deciding what should happen next. Who should die [removed from the chess board], who should get cancer… People don’t know what to say when disaster strikes a person’s life; so, they say it anyway.

I know an old person who never planned for a life without their spouse;  nor did they have their own goals yet to be accomplished. They have absolutely no idea what to do with the coming years. They think that God is punishing them by having taken their mate, but leaving them on their own. Punishment for some bad thing they did in the past.
I commented the other day, ‘God isn’t doing punishment here. Your spouse got cancer and died. You don’t have cancer, your heart keeps ticking, and you’re in reasonably good health; you are still alive. It’s good health, not punishment.’

I’m of the opinion that those who believe that ‘God has a plan for their lives,’ don’t really understand the meaning of the word, ‘plan,’ as it is used in Scripture.
“Plan”
Isaiah 14:26
“This is the plan [etsah] determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations.”
etsah: counsel, advice
Original Word: עֵצָה
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
Transliteration: etsah
Phonetic Spelling: (ay-tsaw’)
Short Definition: counsel

‘This is the counsel determined for the whole world…’
This changes the meaning.

If you do a word study in a Bible Concordance [a listing of the all the words used in the Bible and their original-language meanings], you will find that ‘plan,’ in the Bible, never means what people in the late 20th Century and beyond think about when they use the word, ‘plan’. Most people think in terms like Mapquest or a set of construction documents. ‘Start here, make a right at the third stop light you come to…’
A path set in Eternity, from which the righteous will not waver…

We aren’t chess pieces that God moves around each day. While an eternal and omniscient [all-knowing] and omnipotent [all-powerful] God could sift through individual sperm and egg cells to match them in a certain pattern, it would be incredibly inefficient. Instead, the Creator made all life start with DNA:

What percent of their genes match yours?

Another human? 100% – All humans have the same genes, but some of these genes contain sequence differences that make each person unique.
A chimpanzee? 98% – Chimpanzees are the closest living species to humans.
A mouse? 92% – All mammals are quite similar genetically.
A fruit fly? 44% – Studies of fruit flies have shown how shared genes govern the growth and structure of both insects and mammals.
Yeast? 26% – Yeasts are single-celled organisms, but they have many housekeeping genes that are the same as the genes in humans, such as those that enable energy to be derived from the breakdown of sugars.
A weed (thale cress)? 18% – Plants have many metabolic differences from humans. For example, they use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide gas to sugars. But they also have similarities in their housekeeping genes.
https://www.koshland-science-museum.org/sites/all/exhibits/exhibitdna/intro03.jsp

All life begins with replicating cells.
You are still a unique Creation, loved by the Creator from the beginning of Eternity; however, the Creator did not design you to have Bipolar Disorder, or any other ‘flaw’—this happened because of the way your genes came together. An element of non-design mixed into an incredible system for creating Life.
I don’t believe in accidents or coincidence. Unplanned-for events happen in our lives; but they are only a surprise to us. The Eternal and Omniscient Creator has known everything about you since the beginning of time.
Scripture says we humans are created in the image of God, somewhat lower than the angels. In my opinion, that ‘image’ is best described as the composition of our brains.

Della’s Brain

All we learn, all we create, all we believe results from neurons firing in our brains. Little electrical connections between neurons in our brains. When I showed this image to my wife, she responded, ‘the Universe in our brains.’ Genius is found in being able to use the same pattern throughout the entire Universe.
When we encounter Life beyond our own, in the galaxy, we will find that we have much in common; particularly in the formation of our brains. C.S. Lewis hoped we would never leave this Solar System, to prevent our spreading of evil to parts that might not know evil. Free Will means the choice to choose good, instead of evil…

We connect new thoughts to existing thoughts by exposing ourselves to new ideas, new concepts, new experiences. One of my favorite quotations, by Charlie Black, Jr; “one of the lawyers who had worked on the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation unlawful and thus began the end of the old Southern racist regime:

“In September 1931, posters appeared in Austin advertising four dances, October 12 through 15, to be played by one “Louis Armstrong, King of the Trumpet, and His Orchestra,” at the old Driskill Hotel. I was entirely ignorant of jazz, and had no idea who this King might be; hyperbole is the small coin of billboards. But a dance at the Driskill, with lots of girls there, was usually worth the seventy-five cents, so I went to the first one…

“He was the first genius I had ever seen. That may be a structurable part of the process that led me to the Brown case. The moment of first being, and knowing oneself to be, in the presence of genius, is a solemn moment; it is perhaps the moment of final and indelible perception of man’s utter transcendence of all else created. It is impossible to overstate the significance of a sixteen-year-old Southern boy’s seeing genius, for the first time, in a black. We literally never saw a black man, then, in any but a servant’s capacity…

“Every person of decency in the South of those days must have had some doubts about racism, and I had mine even then—perhaps more than most others. But Louis opened my eyes wide, and put to me a choice. Blacks, the saying went, were “all right in their place.” What was the “place” of such a man, and of the people from which he sprung? “

http://moglen.law.columbia.edu/persp/black-armstrong.pdf

 

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Chronicles in Ordinary Time 121: Still, there is hope…

April 17, 2017

Does it bother anyone else that the symbol of America has become a bomb? ‘Don’t like them; don’t like the way they behave? Bomb the crap out of them.’ I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me; after all our national anthem sings, “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…” There are other countries whose national anthems that remember death and carnage. Maybe P45 was right in his inaugural speech when he spoke of “American Carnage”. He merely got the continent wrong.

The explosion above isn’t even nuclear; it’s one of the largest conventional explosive weapons in the US arsenal: the GBU-43 MOAB/B– Massive Ordnance Air Blast aka “Mother of All Bombs”. 21,600 pounds total weight, nearly 11 tons of TNT; there’s a ‘penetrator’ version that P45 ordered dropped on Afghanistan on April 13, 2017—Maundy Thursday in America. The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested. How appropriate.

“The U.S. military’s announcement that it dropped the “mother of all bombs,” one of the largest non-nuclear devices, against an ISIS facility in Afghanistan comes despite the U.S. assessment that only about 700 ISIS fighters remain in the country. It’s the first time the bomb has been used on the battlefield.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/mother-of-all-bombs/522960/

“Each MOAB, or Massive Ordinance Air Blast – nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” – costs $16m out of a total programme cost of $314m which produced about 20 of the bombs.

Crunched down – and in the most cold-blooded terms – that means the US military has expended some 5% of its stockpile of MOABs to kill three dozen ISIS members at a cost of almost $450,000 per individual.”
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/14/moab-attack-isis-baffling-choice-cold-blooded-terms-cost-afghanistan

This, added to the $60 million worth of cruise missiles P45 ordered launched a few days ago; which apparently did very little actual damage:

“Syrian officials said at least seven people were killed and nine wounded in US missile attack.”
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/trump-syria-missiles-assad-chemical-weapons

Our President has used $76 million of munitions to kill less than 4 dozen people. And he wants most of the public services in our government to reduce their budgets and become more efficient…

 

History tends to ignore the fact that the US firebombed Tokyo before launching the two nuclear weapons in 1945.

Strategic bombing and urban area bombing began in 1944 after the long-range B-29 Superfortress bomber entered service, first deployed from China and thereafter the Mariana Islands. B-29 raids from those islands began on 17 November 1944, and lasted until 15 August 1945, the day Japan capitulated. The Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9–10 March 1945, which annihilated 16 square miles and left over 1 million homeless, was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. Japanese later called this event “Night of the Black Snow”.

With an average of 103,000 inhabitants per square mile and peak levels as high as 135,000 per square mile, the highest density of any industrial city in the world, and with firefighting measures ludicrously inadequate to the task, 15.8 square miles of Tokyo were destroyed on a night when fierce winds whipped the flames and walls of fire blocked tens of thousands fleeing for their lives. An estimated 1.5 million people lived in the burned-out areas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo#Casualty_estimates

The Ashes of Hiroshima

Thousands of people burned alive.
There are shadows burned into the walls that remain of original Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the only remains of the people standing next to the walls when the blast of light occurred. Hundreds of thousands of people disintegrated.

For every son, daughter, husband, wife killed by our bombs, another terrorist is born; a family member, a lifelong friend, or simply one who is horrified by our hypocrisy—preaching to the world of our greatness, and killing indiscriminately. The boy above [the children were real, their appearance unknown] didn’t have the opportunity to become a terrorist. In the scene above he is already dead, but his body doesn’t know it yet. He will die, as his sister has died, in a few minutes. Victims of radiation poisoning. The young woman in the picture is a teacher, who had been in the country when the Bomb was dropped. She returned home to search for her missing niece and nephew. When she arrived in Hiroshima, all she found were children wandering around, searching for their dead parents. Every child she encounters that day, dies in her arms. She wrote of her story in a “Hiroshima Diary”. There are many such diaries in Japan.

We are fighting a war of ideology.
There are no winners; all those involved are losers.

We [Westerners] are hated for our cultural display of ‘freedom’. Our freedom to behave however we like; constantly offending those who have a cultural belief system from centuries past. If electronic communication was to cease, perhaps the incidents of terrorism would diminish. Perhaps not; however, it’s only in a dystopian worldview that electronic communication will cease. The concept makes a lot of money for “Hollywood”—further fueling the problem…

How do we solve this problem? One person at a time; teaching those who don’t understand our ways that we aren’t intending to offend them, we are simply living out a freedom that is available to all. We teach each person we encounter to live as friends. A difficult task for me, I prefer the life in my ‘cave’. I struggle in engaging with other people. A struggle I realize is worth the effort; and one I am called by my Creator to engage in.

Ken Burns’ “The National Parks” is playing in the living room behind me. A story of the American rape of the environment; and the visionary people who fought to stop the American Carnage by the creation of the National Park System.

The wilderness can heal humankind, if it is allowed… Sadly, under P45, the rape will continue.

There’s a Service Dog who is a member of our congregation; a golden lab named Cupid. I make an effort to say ‘hi’ to Cupid each Sunday; one of the members that doesn’t require conversation. This morning Cupid gave me a thorough face-licking. Cupid’s friend asked me if I was diabetic—Cupid has an amazing ability to detect blood sugar levels. I said that I’m not; what I didn’t say is that perhaps Cupid was aware of my sadness, and wanted to remind me that I am loved.

I watch episodes of The West Wing most nights; reminding myself of what government could be; a remedy for the reading I do during the day, as P45 demolishes some of the greatest gifts our Constitutional system has given to the world. A remedy for my anger that so few in Washington are incensed by his hypocrisy; the hypocrisy that lives at so many levels of our government.

Last night I watched an episode called “Han”. The story of a North Korean piano prodigy who wants to defect, while performing in concert at the White House. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, secret negotiations are ongoing to reduce North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The defection will halt the negotiations. President Bartlett gives the young man the Freedom that life in America gives—the young man can choose to defect, and stop the negotiations; or he can choose to return to the oppressive environment in which he has lived for 23 years, in hopes that negotiations will be successful. The young man then explains to President Bartlett the meaning of the word, “han” a word that has no direct translation into English. President Bartlett says of “han”: “There is no literal English translation. It’s a state of mind. Of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still there’s hope.”

As a man who has grown up in the relative peace and prosperity of the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the use of the word, ‘han,’ to describe myself is probably an insult to the people of North Korea. But I think I have a sense of what that word feels like.

Still, there is hope.

“Doubting Thomas” by Caravaggio

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 120_The Night He Was Betrayed…

April 13, 2017

Garden of Gethsemane/Malchus’ Legion

“On the night He was betrayed…” From the Words of Institution of the Eucharist, or Communion, for the more informal Church. Tonight is Maundy Thursday, named for “the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor” [dictionary]; especially commemorating Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on the night before His betrayal. Sometime after Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He led them to the Garden of Gethsemane; and in the Garden, He was arrested by the Roman soldiers who would later torture Him and crucify Him. In the name of Justice. Jesus threatened the Roman government by His existence; claiming that He was the son of the Creator, and therefore, the High King.

On the Sunday before all of this occurred, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey [not riding a horse, as a Conqueror might do], to the cheering of a crowd, who covered his path with palm branches—Palm Sunday. They expected Jesus to be the promised King who would lead an uprising against the Romans—at least that’s the way they read Scripture. In less than a week, that cheering crowd would be a crowd yelling for Jesus’ Crucifixion. Not unlike modern American sports crowds. One week cheering for a player who does something spectacular, and the next week yelling at him for demonstrating his resolve in protesting the actions of his government. We are a fickle people.

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples—the act of a common slave—to prove that He wasn’t superior to the least of those in Jewish society. Nothing was beneath Jesus; the One through whom all things were made—a concept that people today have trouble believing.

Is it a betrayal, when you know that you are going to be betrayed; or is it the fulfilling of a promise?

While I am a man of Faith; I’m not particularly religious. I’ve attended Maundy Thursday services in the past, rather than staying at home writing about Maundy Thursday—a valuable, symbolic act by the Faithful. Not all churches do the feet washing; many believers feel ashamed of their feet, and won’t ‘display’ them in public. Scripture says that the Creator has known us from our mother’s womb; that there is nowhere we can go that hides us from our Maker. The Creator knows about the condition of our feet; the places our feet have taken us; the real or symbolic lives we have stepped upon. And we are loved by our Creator, without regard to our own self-worth.

Jesus told many parables—stories filled with truth; stories that one had to think about to understand—so that His listeners would have to figure out what He was talking about. He was teaching His listeners to listen—one of the most valuable traits a human can have. The ability to listen, rather than waiting for our turn to speak.

One of His parables tells of a young man who told His father that He wanted his inheritance now [a polite way of saying he wished his father was dead]. His father gave his son half of all he had [yeah, that would be complicated]; the other half remaining, for the elder brother. The younger brother took his newfound wealth and spent it in a far country, reveling in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll… Eventually the money ran out, and this Jewish kid found himself working as a servant, feeding pigs [Scripture doesn’t say if the irony was lost on him]. One day he realizes that the servants on his father’s property were far better off than he was, off in the far country. He decides to admit his stupidity, and to beg his father to allow him to work as a servant. He probably rehearsed his lines for days, as he walked home.

Meanwhile, the father searches the horizon every day, hoping for a sign that his son was returning. One day he spots a familiar shape walking along the road. The father starts running toward his returning son, robe flapping around his age-bent legs [it was incredibly crude for Jewish men to be seen running]. Before his son can finish the first rehearsed sentence, is father is grabbing him and shouting that the son he thought he had lost had returned! When they get home, the father tells all the servants to prepare for a party! The son he thought he’d lost had returned home! Bring out the best robe, and put a ring on the younger son’s finger…meanwhile the elder brother sulks in the corner; once again ticked off because his upstart little brother is the center of attention. I’m told brothers can be that way; I’m an only…

Later the father reassures his older son that he could have had parties anytime he wished; all he needed to do is ask. The elder son continues to sulk.

 

Half of the people in our country who were eligible to vote decided it wasn’t worth the effort. They didn’t see the value in any candidate running in the last election. A couple months into the rule of P45, lots of people are seeing that the election of this particular President was a huge mistake. As our fleet sails toward the Koreas, P45 is preparing to take on an overaged toddler running around North Korea with nuclear weapons. P45 has dropped “The Mother Of All Bombs” [not my title] on the mountains of Syria; having launched about $60 million worth of cruise missiles last week, that did very little damage to the Syrian government [not ISIS]. Apparently, the launching of bombs makes one Presidential. A House and Senate that refused to allow President Obama to target Syria, after chemical weapons were used against its people by the Syrian government in 2013, is now cheering P45 for his Presidential behavior.

Two thousand years and we’re still pulling the same, stupid…stuff. We never learn. Somehow, the Creator, who knew from the moment of Creation, all of the holocausts that humans would rain upon each other over the centuries, knew that we are worth the effort. He found us so worth the effort that rather than coming to Earth as a conquering King, Jesus came as a single cell in a teenage girls’ womb. Jesus came to live among us; to share in the *stuff* that humans do to each other; to be arrested, tortured and hung on a cross as punishment for being ‘the King of the Jews’. Had it ended there, it would be an awful story; and probably lost in history.

On Sunday, churches around the world will celebrate Easter; the day of Jesus’ return from the dead, alive, and still living today; living in the hearts and minds of people who simply ‘walk through a door’ into Faith. We are accepted; not by the pained lives we bring to the Creator; not by our stupid decisions; accepted simply because we are loved by our Eternal Father; who tolerates—somehow—the awfulness we sometimes bring to the world. We are accepted; not by a Conquering King [still a popular concept], but by the One who knows all of the *stuff* we have to live through. The Creator knows, because the Creator became one of us. Jesus shows us that the end isn’t really the End. In the End, we are loved.

Irreverent; I know. However, theologically profound, if one gives it some thought.
The idea isn’t original; I ‘borrowed’ it from Facebook…

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 119: Today I met a most remarkable man

March 23, 2017

Cover Illustration, The Declaration of Independence by Melinda Lilly

Very few comments about politics this week… although I could write more. Please read this article by Thomas L. Friedman: Calling On a Few Good Men

Doctor Watson’s Thyroid

The only thing the image above has in common with my thoughts is the first word in the title…

Today I met a most remarkable man; a doctor who listens.

He asked if I ever to medical illustrations…

My current medical journey began 9 years ago. Mine is mostly a journey of inconvenience; I don’t have anything that appears to be life-threatening. While I consider myself ‘partially disabled’, it’s mostly a description of circumstances…

I had a GP of 30 or so years; he retired about 11 years ago. He wasn’t a great listener, but we had a shared history. Gene helped birth my two sons; he was the first long-term doc for our daughter.

I’ve lost track of the number of docs I’ve seen since Gene retired. I could look up the number, but it isn’t worth my time. I have a neurological problem; at this point it has no name, only a description: Idiopathic Polyneuropathy, In layman’s terms: ‘your nerves are screwed-up, and we are clueless as to why.’ Life has been getting more uncomfortable lately; more pain, less control of my limbs. So, my latest Primary and I decided it was time to see another Neurologist.

I started describing the course of my Neuropathy: how 8 years ago, two numb spots on my feet traveled upwards to my lower jaw over the course of a few days.
“That’s not Neuropathy”

How almost exactly two years later, the Neuropathy took over the rest of my head, wiped out most of my taste buds, and altered the way my gut functions. It also dropped my blood pressure dramatically.
“That’s not Neuropathy”

I started explaining some of the other changes over the last 4 years, and he stopped me, saying: “Look, they’ve sent you to the wrong doctor. I do Neuropathy; what you’re describing isn’t Neuropathy.”

“Then why in the Hell have the 15 docs I’ve seen over the last 9 years called it ‘Idiopathic Polyneuropathy’?”
“Because it’s easy.”

So, we’re back to more tests, more scans. But I’ve found a guy that listens.
And, here’s another illustration, if you are reading this…

People don’t listen today. Mostly people wait for their turn to talk.

Over half of the White Evangelicals in the country voted for P45; I think it’s because they weren’t listening.

One can’t be empathetic to the plight of those who lack, while talking garbage. One can’t talk garbage about a person while having the ‘other’s’ best interests in their minds. One can’t be concerned about injustice toward women while insulting women at the same time. One can’t be concerned about injustice toward minorities while being afraid of them at the same time.

P45 expressed concerns shared by a large segment of White America; his solutions were based in fear, not in faith toward ‘our fellow Man’ [that gender-neutral term].

The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642

From Facebook. Someone commented that the students were using their smart phones to learn about Rembrandt’s painting.

When one is standing before a Rembrandt, one can’t learn about the painting by looking at a device. One learns about Rembrandt by looking at the painting.


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