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MLK Day 2019

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the holiday commemorating Dr King’s birth. Festivities are planned in Downtown Fort Worth later this morning. My grandkids have the day off from school. Government offices are closed, although not only because of the holiday. Some have been closed for a while. Thirty-one days to be exact…

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Beatitudes, Bible, Christianity, Communication, Politics, Prayer, Relationships, Writing

Red Letter Revival – Dallas

I’d love to take time to write a post this morning, but I’m on my way to Dallas this morning. It takes a pretty momentous event to motivate me to drive in Dallas traffic…

But such an event is happening today! The Red Letter Revival has come to Dallas. Some of you may be familiar with the first event held in Lynchburg, Virginia outside the halls of Liberty University. Faith leaders have gathered to reclaim our faith: faith that’s been often co-opted by those calling themselves evangelicals but seeking political clout over following Jesus. 

The words printed in red, the words and teachings attributed to the Rabbi himself, are often overlooked in favor of political power and false teaching. I’m looking forward to spending a day among people who strive to live a life according to the words in red.

I never though I’d see this in print but – I hope to see you in Dallas

St. Luke’s “Community” United Methodist Church, 5710 East R.L. Thornton Freeway, Dallas, TX 75223

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Just Vote…

Thoughts From the Porch: Yes, folks. This is another voter turnout post. I’m sure you’ve been bombarded by political ads, voter turnout robocalls, and every conceivable mailer you can imagine, from applauding your voting record to shaming you for apathy. Please bear with me, though. This is an issue close to my heart. It matters!

white and grey voting day sign
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I questioned my role in voter participation as a Jesus-follower. I know where my true citizenship is. I may be entitled to U.S. citizenship by virtue of birth, but I follow my Rabbi first and foremost. I realized just how privileged I am to live here, especially in Texas. This is my earthly home, where my friends and family are, and where I’ll more than likely stay until I leave this world. I’m not confused, though. One’s spiritual beliefs are not an excuse for not voting. However, they change my motivation for voting.

The Gospels reflect Jesus’ concern for the neglected and marginalized. He went as far to say that how we treat them is how we treat Him. Pretty powerful words. In an election year that will affect the poor, the elderly, the immigrant, and the disenfranchised, your vote does matter. How you vote is also a reflection of how you see them.

While elections are always about how we see our political leadership, this year is also a reflection of how we see ourselves. What are our values? Are our decisions based on fear, class distinctions, and exclusion or they ones of faith, the common good, and inclusive of all? Everyone will answer those questions for themselves. Elections are important. How we vote matters to us all…

I took advantage of early voting and a rainy Wednesday last week to place my ballot. I was thrilled by the diverse crowd that was there on a Wednesday afternoon. I spent time in prayer and reflection about the matter before me and performed one of the privileges of my physical citizenship. It should be done with reflection.

I’m overjoyed when I hear the reports that voter turnout is exceeding expectations. I’d love for everyone to vote for my choices, but that’s unrealistic. The bottom line is that they were there casting their ballot.

Results will be in Tuesday evening. There will be winners and losers. Some of you will be elated by the results and others frustrated and disappointed. That’s how it works.

My friend Edgar always says, “Chop wood and let the chips fall where they may”. Go out there and vote. The chips will take care of themselves, but you won’t have chips if you don’t chop the wood…

person dropping paper on box
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Activism, Christianity, Class, Community, Consequences, Culture, Emotional Health, Faith, Hope, Neighbors, Politics, Recovery, Responsibility, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, What Can I Do, Writing

Hearings and listening…

Thoughts from the Porch: It’s officially dark when I take my coffee to the porch these days. The mornings are cooler, often in the low sixties, and quieter than usual. September is sliding into October, the lawn has a few more leaves on it each day, and rain comes more often and usually overstays its visit. We might have a Fall that lasts longer than a weekend this year…

I listened to Thursday’s Senate confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the testimony of his sexual assault accuser, Ms. Ford, even though I told myself I shouldn’t. After all, the outcome is predictable: wealth, privilege, and power will carry the day regardless of what’s right. That’s what the last couple of years have proven anyway. I used to get angry, now I’m simply sad. Still, I’m drawn to same-old, same-old like a moth to a flame, hoping this time it will end differently. That my friends, is the definition of insanity…

Life has taught me to look for the good, even when the situation says otherwise. Even though I think the Judiciary Committee’s majority and Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be detestable, some good things have already come out of it, believe it or not. Ms. Ford’s testimony was measured and truthful as she stood in front of millions and detailed her experience with Mr. Kavanaugh. I can only imagine the courage it took to sit there for all to see and hear. Whether her testimony sways the vote of those with wealth, power, and privilege remains to be seen, but maybe it will make us all look at our actions and attitudes toward women. I have…

In fact, the last two years, although politically horrendous, have one bright spot: they brought out all the racial strife, misogyny, and often, hate, hidden just beneath the surface of American life. We’ve all known it was there but did little to address it. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I can’t fix a problem unless I admit I have one. Until I do, the solution remains elusive. I keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Where have I heard that before?

The up side is that once I admit my problem I’m already halfway to the solution. I can do something about it.  It works for me personally and professionally, maybe it works for others. The #Metoo and Black Lives Matter movements have made me look at my ideas about women, race, and culture in general. Honestly, I haven’t always liked what I’ve seen, but I have an opportunity to transform old ideas and attitudes. That changes my actions. The consequence is that I love others better, begin to think more about the common good, and grow closer to the man I want and God, wants me to be.

Even something as detestable as the current administration and the SCOTUS nominee can have positive results when it motivates one to look inside. Hopefully, it creates a desire for our better selves…

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Hotter than hell…

I’ve written a lot (probably too much!) about the hundred-plus degree temperatures we’ve experienced here in North Texas. It’s always hot in Texas in the summer, but this year the thermometer began to climb earlier than usual. Heat-related illnesses make for crowded emergency rooms and everyone seems a little worn down by it all.  One local municipality even passed an ordinance against leaving pets outside. The heat is hard on everything and it isn’t limited to North Texas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Global Climate Report for June 2018, states that 2018 is on track to become the fourth hottest year on record. The previous three years account for the top three. Somini Sengupta, International Climate Correspondent for the New York Times, reports in an August 9, 2018 article, that “17 of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001”. I get it…

In California, where excessive heat and dry conditions led to one of the worst wild fire seasons and the largest wild fire in state history, ‘the new normal’ has become a staple of official vocabulary.

Unfortunately, the term is incorrect. This is not the ‘new normal’. I wish it was. That’s not what the data suggests. Reaching a plateau now would be a relief, but the fact is that we’re still trending upwards in average temperature. We haven’t reached ‘normal’ yet.

I wonder what ‘normal’ will look like for my grandchildren. Like every other parent and grandparent, I want the very best for my kids but I’m not as optimistic as I used to be. When the changing climate alarm bells began to go off, we either hit the snooze button or turned the alarm off altogether. We went right on sleeping, oblivious to everything around us and, at the risk of sounding crass, sh** got serious. I hope our kids are forgiving…

It’s not like we didn’t see it coming. According to a 1912 article in the Rodney and Otamatea Times. Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, scientists foresaw the continued burning of coal leading to climate change. It wasn’t an immediate concern, so why be inconvenienced? Besides, our brilliant minds and emerging technologies would take of it! So, we ‘kicked the can down the road’ and carried on, charging ahead full of denial and greed. That’s the reality of it. We stuck our heads in the sand and left it to the business and political powers that be and left it to posterity. To our chagrin, our kids pay the price for our willful ignorance, laziness, and neglect…

In the Hebrew Bible, God says that the sins of the father will “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Children, in their innocence, bear no guilt on their own, but they suffer the consequences of their parents’ choices. We chose to delay action and failed to heed the warnings. Now our children face an uncertain, and possibly even hellish future. Again, all I can do is hope our kids are forgiving…

I’m not sure about the whole ‘heaven and hell’ thing I grew up with, but the older I get, the more I’m convinced that a loving God didn’t create hell; nor does he wish it on any of his kids. However, I firmly believe he loves us enough to allow us to make our own choices (you know, the ‘whole free will’ thing), and whether they’re good or bad, they all have consequences; sometimes reaching into future generations.

I don’t know what the future holds for this wonderful planet we live on. Though the prognosis is bleak, I’m hopeful about our ability, and particularly our kids’ abilities, to adapt and change course. I believe in redemption. I believe in grace. I believe in ‘repentance’ – that change of thinking, perspective, and direction that leads to positive change. That’s my personal experience and I’ve witnessed it in the lives of countless others. Amazing things happen when I take responsibility for my actions and begin to make better choices. I hope my kids harvest the positive seeds I sow today. Maybe then their future won’t be so hellish after all.

In recovery, there’s much talk of ‘breaking the cycle’, whether it’s of alcoholism and addiction, abuse, or a myriad of other downward spirals in one’s lineage. Yet, only I can choose to break the cycle by the choices and actions I take today. It doesn’t matter what the issue is. I may not be able to stop climate change on my own and save the planet, but I can save my tiny space in the world and urge others to do the same. I can grow a garden, love my neighbors, and do something because it’s the right thing to do, not just for my family, but for the common good of the community around me.

Despite the fires, droughts, melting ice caps, and rising seas, I have faith and a hope today that my kids won’t have as much to forgive me for. Just as poor choices and short-sightedness leave its mark on the next generation, so too, do good choices and right actions. Today, I’m looking beyond myself, toward the future my kids will inherit, and pray my actions only pass on good things to ‘the fourth and fifth’ generation’.

What will you do?

What’s the one thing you will do to make your world a little better today?

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Foxes and protest marches…

Disclaimer: My editor, (Margaret) is out to a late breakfast and a movie with a friend of ours. It’s really hard to edit myself so please excuse any errors. I love you Margaret and your help is greatly appreciated. I love baby…

 

I slept in this morning. It was after nine o’clock when I was finally awakened by Miss Maggie giving me my morning bath. All you pet parents will know what I mean. Please understand that Maggie is half Catahoula and half coyote. She has her “wild” moments and she’s quite the huntress, catching birds in mid-air, and bringing dead rats and possums in the house. Her eyes are different from most dogs I’ve known. You would have to see them to know what I mean, but there’s an alertness and an awareness that’s goes well beyond that of domesticated dogs. I guess that what makes our bond so special. Our other two, Jameson and Sadie, favor Margaret, but Maggie is all mine…

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The porch was unbelievably pleasant this morning even though the sun had been up for a while. I sat with my wife for a while and got to speak to our kid before she left. I was curious as to why she was up so early. Classes are out for the summer and I know she was binge-watching Jurassic Park movies with friends last night. The only reason I was up early on Saturdays when I was twenty-seven was because I had kids by then.

 

I was extremely pleased when she told me she was off to the Families Should Stay Together march in downtown Fort Worth, protesting the insane, inhumane, and immoral immigration policies of Mr. Trump and his cronies. I’d love to be there, but I’m still tethered to my little IV buddy (only until Monday!) and can’t be in the heat. Margaret wanted to go as well. Even though she’s far more conservative than I am, she’s a mom and she’s outraged that families are torn apart. We asked Gael to please raise her voice a little louder and represent us as well.

 

Our daughter has officially `come out’ as transgender. Since she posted it on Facebook I don’t have a problem with saying it (or writing it) aloud. I’m not sure what all that means. She has asked us to refer to her in the third person. As a writer I have some difficulty with that. It’s just not proper English. However, out of respect for her I’ll refer to her in the third person for the duration of this post. I’m not sure how I feel about that if I’m honest with you and with her. It doesn’t make a difference though as I love our kid no matter how `they’ identify.

 

It’s taken me a long journey to reach that point. I was raised in a very conservative religious background, so I carried a lot of baggage into adulthood. Like everything else in life, it requires a lot of conversations, a lot of prayer, and a lot of meditation. I still don’t have all the answers, but I refuse to preach drivel when I know that all of us are God’s kids. If I’m wrong, and I don’t believe I am, God accepts us where and for who we are regardless of labels and identification.

 

I must admit that I don’t often understand all the labels. I know it’s important for people who have lived with discrimination and, often hate, to come out and let everyone know that they’re one of God’s kids just like everyone else. Growing up as a socially awkward introvert, I know what it’s like to bully to fit in with the crowd and be bullied because someone is different. I’m thankful that as time goes on, we’ve become more tolerant and less judgmental as a people. We still have a long way to go. I’m grateful for those who take a stand for dignity, equality, and what is right. I’m proud of who `they’ are.

 

When Margaret and I married five-and-a-half years ago, we decided that we had no `step’ kids. They were all our children, even if they were grown. So, when Gael asked if `they’ could move in with us, so `they’ could go back to college, we invited `them’ home, and this is `their’ home.  I emphasize that because we are known to have our occasional conflicts and frustrations. The reason has more to do with the fact that she’s so much like me than anything else. Even though I didn’t come to know her until she was a young adult, she’s like me in so many ways. She’s as passionate about loving others, social equality, and injustice as I am. It’s not surprising that we but heads from time to time…

 

So, that being said, `they’ probably don’t have a clue how special this morning was to me. I’m proud that `they’ are marching today, and a heartfelt thank you out to `them’. More than that, it was when `they’ were leaving this morning, Gael went in a brought me out a cup of coffee. I know that sounds incredibly trivial and unimportant. It’s what `they’ brought in that was super special.

 

When Gael moved in, `they’ had a coffee mug that was singled out as one we couldn’t use. It was `their’ `fox’ mug and had special meaning for her. We’ve always respected `their’ wishes and we’ve never drank from it before. When Gael brought my coffee, guess what it was in! I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were short on coffee mugs, but the dishes are done and there’s no shortage in our house, believe me. I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but Margaret tells me it’s a big deal. Heck, I was just thankful `they’ brought me a cup of coffee. I didn’t know I was getting so much more.

 

So, Gael, I’m sure it’s hot and uncomfortable downtown this morning, but thank you for being there and for simply being you. I’m proud of you and want you to know I love and appreciate you – even when I’m a stubborn old fart…