Archive for the 'Commentary' Category


what’s age got to do with it?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written…haven’t had anything audience-worthy to say. Our civil union in August was a culmination of several years of personal struggle. What could possibly follow it? Write about what you know, is a famous creative writing 101 admonition. But everything I come up with seems trivial and of little interest to the general reader. Among the themes considered and discarded is one—apparently shaped like a boomerang because it keeps coming back, sometimes hitting me in the backside when I least expect it. I’m talking about aging…not aging in America…I leave that to journalists and documentarians. I want to write about aging as I am experiencing it in this world, here and now.

In a short time I will be 73 years of age. For the first time in my life I find I am clinging to my current age for as long as I can. What’s up with that, I wonder from time to time? Of the many possible answers that cross my mind, loneliness seems to be the most enduring. I am a survivor, but surviving for what? I have lived a reasonably long time and have an impressive list of experiences, both lovely and painful, but except for my spouse, there is no tribe…no community…no familia to hear my stories. Worse, I know precious few persons of comparable age with whom I can share my interests, experiences and outlook. I am approximately 10-12 years older in body than I am in mind and spirit.  I will not be boarding a tour bus of 20 senior citizens out for a day in the city. I will not be moving to a senior citizens’ condominium paradise any time soon. I will frequently be in conversation with people 10, 20 or even 30 years younger than I (not surprisingly, my spouse is 9 years younger). Conversation can be interesting, fun, rewarding, but when it gets to the nitty-gritty, they do not understand the thoughts and concerns of those growing closer to the end of life than the middle. They do not—cannot—resonate with what they yet do not know. Eventually the space between reappears by default. I am the late blooming elder in the crowd.

The brain ages and produces annoying senior moments of forgetfulness—even momentary confusion—but that same brain is packed with layers of experience and knowledge that cannot be obtained by reading or study. It is learned through doing and being. The result can be, and often is, a dimensional deepening into an authenticity of character.  I have never been one to sentimentalize the lines and grooves of the aged countenance. I rarely look at my own, but because of my current cataract surgery I am in a position to heartily consider how things look, including myself. I shall be doing that in the next several postings.


state by state

It took 11 years, but Illinois has finally abolished the death penalty. This is not happening in Alabama, where Glenn of the Red Velvet Cake and the Flower in the Bulb is facing his execution date of March 31, but it is an important step forward for the country as a whole. I wish this step could include Glenn…I wish all of humankind could step away from the faulty premise that an eye for an eye is a restorative measure of justice. Our justice system is far from perfect…far from the taint of revenge and the power-grab. Mistakes are made. Judges and juries are fallible. Evidence can be twisted and turned. Innocent people are put to death and that in itself is murder. (I downloaded a fact sheet from the Death Penalty Information Center. Take a look and see for yourself.)

It’s time we, as a so-called civilized society, come to terms with our investment in this practice. It is draconian, violent and irreversible. The penalty of death appears to have little effect on the incidence of violent crimes. Our prisons are overflowing. They are warehouses and hotbeds for increase in crime, not decrease. How do we reconcile ourselves with the innocent victims of this practice…those wrongfully accused? Execution is irreversible. Execution is not at all what the God, Jesus so loved, would do. We may not all be able to forgive as beautifully as the Amish did after the school shootings in 2006, but we can take a look at our own investment in our judicial system, both individually and collectively.

When a loved one is murdered or otherwise horrifically abused, one’s hurt runs deeper than words can say. If the perpetrator is put to death as a penalty, does the memory of pain and loss disappear? My own experience is that it does not. Living by the revenge principle hardens my heart and locks in the pain.

Yesterday began the Christian Lenten season: ashes to ashes and dust to dust…remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. The message of Lent is repentance. This word is a translation of the Greek word, metanoia. It means turning around, doing it differently…seeking forgiveness. How meaningful it is that the governor of the State of Illinois signed this legislation into effect on Ash Wednesday! I’d like to think that there is hope for the world. Who knows…in time, maybe we’ll even understand that war, far from solving problems, creates them. It could happen—someday.


st. valentine day

Some of my friends express disappointment along with disbelief when I tell them that I am not a romantic. I don’t exactly know what I am, i.e., what popular category I fit it into, but romantic is not one of them. Maybe it happened in high school, that most horrible of horrible times. Or maybe it happened later on in my twenties when the road under my feet started swaying…or perhaps it was a gradual shift away from what I came to feel was a box of chocolates. In any case, the world needs its romantics, so I tip my imaginary hat to all who are, and send this quirky little valentine today, with lots of gratitude for your faithfulness in repeatedly clicking back to Called by Name even when the named one has not been answering the phone! (Ah, that’s a bit of my weird humor…you gotta be here…body language and facial expressions go with it.)

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to one and all. This valentine came to me from one of my dear romantic friends. Where she got it, I don’t know, but suspect it has traveled some from screen to screen, so this funny valentine has miles on her. Of course I had to take it into Photoshop, change it and make it my own. How else would it be from me to you?

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Your replys are always welcome.


longing for home

I’ve been away too long. My last posting was nearly 7 weeks ago on December 20th. Not sure what all happened in that time to keep me from writing. Seems like a dark time in many ways, nothing to do with Christmas, but a lot to do with the intricacies and vagaries of church polity. Whether it’s broadly denominational or narrowly congregational, the church world is a complex one where I simply do not find the promise of the Gospels all that often. What is wrong with this picture? Is it me? Some would say yes. I have said yes on far too many occasions. In fact, for most of my lengthening life, I have tended to come to this conclusion. Now in my 7th decade, with some degree of history to call upon, I know that I am a very small cog in a very large wheel. I am not the elephant in the sanctuary.

What I am is a cracked jar—a crystal clear, cracked jar lying in an old river bed, muddy with the millennia of human misdeeds—some of them mine, some of them yours. I am not alone, everyone is some sort of a cracked or broken jar, and yet I feel quite alone way too often. I long for a community of caring where, when necessary, friends lay down their lives for one another (John 15:13). This does not mean standing in front of a Mack truck so your friend can saunter across the street. But if the truck is an offensive ideology, bias or untruth that causes great harm to your friend, and you can do something about it, do it! Stand up, speak out. Risk your comfort zone for your friend’s safety, dignity and well-being. That is what Christ followers are called to do. I do not see it happening very often in the church world. What I see is self-interest and a lot of maneuvering for a slice of some kind of store-bought pie.

I am a cracked jar, many times broken and many times packed back together, forming glue seams and stress points that never quite forget themselves. I am a cracked jar standing open, filling with rain until the weight of it overturns me into a bell ringing its song along the river. Some days the sound is clear and resonant. Some days not, and I am once again standing upright in the river bed. Inevitably, I fill with rain and it seeps out through my seams and cracks onto the mud in which I stand. I long for home.

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

God in me and me in God, passing through the narrow gate together. It is harder than the righteous would have you believe. It is Home.


christmas letter from me to you

This year we wrote and sent the catch-up, Christmas Letter. There was so much to say and so little blood left in our veins to say it all, that we decided to create a picture-book letter. Between email and the post office we got them all sent out. Then I thought of all of you who read this blog and decided to separate text from art so I could include all of you by posting it here.:

Greetings to one and all,

Time feels completely different at the end of the year. Different than in… say…February. At this time of the year, we think a lot about past; people we’ve met, people we’ve lost, pivotal events, past Christmases….February is more of a future think. Will it snow? When will it be warm again? Just how long will it take to loose my “winter insulation” (you know…the holiday feasts that have taken up residence on our bodies)?

Last year, our circumstances didn’t allow the “time” needed to send greetings to you, so this year, we will try to make up for that with an especially “condensed” greeting.

The benefit to us in writing this may have already eclipsed the goal of this letter. As we started the outline, it was soon clear that the “Gratefulness” list was impressively longer than the “losses” and “challenges” lists. (Granted, some of the line items could have gone either way.) So we start the “gratefulness” list acknowledging that it is God’s grace that allowed us to see the bigger picture of our lives.

We lost some very significant people in the past two years; Naomi’s sister Florence, our dear friend and Naomi’s adopted daughter Bettina, our builder/handyman, neighbor, scrabble playing friend and sage Ken, Judy’s dear special cousin Sam…and her faithful old cat Frank.

Gained: New friends, deepening relationships, reconnecting with friends from the past,*new family, Naomi in remission, Judy still has a job, our 33rd anniversary, Naomi’s art integrated into the worship experience in two churches, Judy’s re-entry into music, the books of Marcus Borg & Richard Rohr…and the list goes on.  Naomi & Judy

*The new family seen here with Big Dawg and me…Darling Daughter, the Captain, Miss Green and Miss Pink…the fabulous grandchildren…just add water and stir. See June 6, 2010 /  Family Plan.


another look

As a sequel to last posting:

Mad Men is finished for the season. How do I know this? I have inside information: Comcast Cable’s On Demand feature. Gotta love it! No more taping. This is the 21st century.

The other day, armed with my remote-control-i’m-in-charge-now, clicker, I decided to check in on Don Draper and the crew of MM. Amazing! Did Matthew Weiner and Writers decide to allow these characters to evolve a teeny tiny bit, or is it just me, in control and zooming on through?

The last two episodes weren’t particularly disturbing—probably a one or two on the 0-10 scale. The last episode was rather engaging in a fairly positive direction, leaving me looking forward to next season.  That, in itself, makes me suspicious. Having spent a few years in the advertising world, I know the bottom line is really about selling product. Cliff hangers do that very well.

Don Draper has his pick of beautiful women, but none have really captivated him. Without warning or forethought, he falls into a relationship that makes him finally feel good about himself. Well, yes…it’s with his secretary, but for the first time in the entire history of the show, he’s a happy fellow. His perpetual five o’clock shadow even looks lighter. The last few scenes have him announcing his engagement to this lovely woman whom he barely knows. Don is happy. His colleagues are shocked and stunned, and the season ends.

Since he lives a deeply deceptive, complicated existence, I wonder how long he will be feeling so good.  I think I’ve been snookered.


can i just say…..

It’s Friday and I really wanted to write this post on Monday when a poor night’s sleep the night before caused  me a full day of misery, but didn’t get to it, so I will have my say today. It’s Friday.

My friend, Queen Bee, when deeply moved one way or another,  precedes a salient point with the phrase: “Can I just say…?” What follows can fall anywhere on the continuum of easy-to-hard-to-hear messages. I don’t expect what I have to say is particularly moving to anyone, so I’m going to borrow from QB and say as she so successfully does: Can I just say…   that I find the popular television show, Mad Men annoyingly unconscionable? Of course the appropriate question is why do I watch it? It is one of the very few well written, well acted programs on that vast expanse of sandy desert called television entertainment. That is why I started watching in its first season. This season I realized that the rank immorality of the entire cast of characters was giving me nightmares, so I began recording the shows to watch during the day when I would not only have time to recover, but could fast-fast forward through whatever I wished. Believe me (if you like), there are scenes one can intuit without any sound at all. This gives me a modicum of control, while still being able to enjoy the several pluses of the show.

Last Sunday was a lovely day and I felt like watching a good show before bedtime. I thought I could handle the mad men and women of Madison Avenue and gave it a shot. It is amazing how little movement toward integrity, and human decency there is in this series. No one moves off dead-center of negativity for any length of time. Each episodes ends with another installment of the tragic, human comedy. I do not find any characters to cheer for. None are particularly likable. All are filled with shadow and longing for a light they cannot see. The majority of them are chain smokers, alcoholics and workaholics with untameable sexual proclivities…a desperate lot. It is a cautionary tale.

I remember the 60’s. I was not working on Madison Avenue, but I was alive and an adult member of society. I do not recall any of this excess. I do recall a general use of Valium, however. People drank and smoked, but if to this extent, I must have been comatose to it. So, what do we have here? Let’s get the details and the credits down before I continue on my rant.

Mad Men, created by Matthew Weiner,  is an AMC production airing Sunday nights at 9 central/10 east coast. Jon Hamm, as the star, plays Don Draper, a handsome hunk of a leading man with a shadowy past and a sordid present. He is professionally successful, but personally without moral compass. This year the writers are throwing in little fish hooks of hope here and there, but the episodes all end in moral calamity nonetheless. This is not entertainment—at least not for me. But the show is immensely popular and has a website, blog and a faithful set of followers. I do not venture onto this website or this blog. I am concerned that I may find even more to rant about. I do not need to take on the angst of the populace. I have enough of my own.

Last Sunday I watched and had a very difficult night of painful dreaming. The next day was a loss in many ways. I slept poorly and that never goes down well for me and my disposition. So this week I will return to my plan of letting the DVR record for discriminant viewing on a day, and at a time when I am ready for Mr. Weiner’s view of life in the 60’s on Madison Avenue. I do wish he would get on with it.

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May 2020

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