Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy 200th birthday to our national anthem . . .

Two hundred years ago today, a man named Francis Scott Key looked over at Fort McHenry in Maryland and saw a sight he'd waited all night to see:  The American flag flying over the fort.

It meant that a British bombardment had not been successful, and that the Americans still held the fort.

He put his reflections down into a poem, which was later set to the tune of "To Ancreon In Heaven", an English drinking song.  How and why the two of them got together, I'll never know.

One of my bucket list items is to either sing, or hear sung, all of the verses of The Star-Spangled Banner.  We all hear the first verse.  No one hears any of the others.  I also have a personal interest in the national anthem:  Francis Scott Key is a great-nephew of one of my direct ancestors, Mary Key Chitwood.  

So, on it's bicentennial, here are the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

For Aimee . . .

Dear Aimee:

I remember William.



Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's it like for her today?

Today has been a bit unpleasant for me.

For one, it's 9/11.  'Nuff said there.  This is a day that is unpleasant for most, if not all Americans.

For another, it's been 21 years since my dad died.  (I also saw on FB that someone I knew from church lost her father on THE 9/11.)

And to top it all off, I had my Pap smear done today.  Ugh.  (All women reading that sentence are probably shuddering right now.)

Today was my annual physical.  Not only did I have my Pap smear done, I had blood drawn, my breasts examined, and an EKG done.

The woman who did my blood draw wears a headdress.  This isn't the first time that she's seen me at my doctor's office.  She had to take the blood out of the backs of BOTH of my hands because when she took it out of the back of my first hand, the blood stopped flowing and she had to stick the other hand.  She then went back into the examining room with me and quizzed me about the different meds/supplements I was on.

During the actual examination, which was done by the physician's assistant, I asked, "Is the young lady who wears the headdress Muslim?"

She said, yes.

I asked, "Is today hard for her?"

She said, no one had made any comments to her yet.

I said, good.

She then said that there were several patients who weren't receptive to being seen by her, because she was Muslim . . . and that it was mostly the men who weren't that receptive to being seen by her.

I was appalled.  I said to the PA, it's not her fault that someone flew the planes into the towers.  I told her that I didn't have a problem with Muslims, but with Muslim terrorists, and that I hoped I was smart enough to know the difference.

She agreed with me.

The Muslim woman came back into the room, and they proceeded with the rest of the exam.  When the PA left, the Muslim lady also left, and then she came back in and did the EKG on me.

What must it be like for her today?

What must it be like for her to know that it was members of her religion that did this terrible thing, that flew airplanes into two towers, into the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania?

What must it be like for her to know that people look at her, because of her headdress, and immediately associate her with terrorists; with an act that she had nothing to do with?

I could never be a Muslim.  I don't believe that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.  I can't follow a religion where Jesus is only a prophet, not the Son of God.

But just as I dislike it when people lump all Christians together because of the actions such as Westboro Baptist Church, and others of their ilk, I also dislike it when people lump all Muslims together because of the actions of Mohammed Atta and the other men who hijacked four planes and crashed them deliberately.

There are Muslim terrorists.  We saw the actions of 19 of them on 9/11.  We see their actions daily, especially these days, with the rise of ISIS.

My problem, as I said to my PA, is with Muslim terrorists.  Not with Muslims.  It is not the fault of the lady in my doctor's office that the Twin Towers were hit, that the Pentagon was hit, that a plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

And any actions we take should be against those terrorists.

Not against Muslims.

At least one person has said to me that "every single Muslim" should be deported as an enemy of the state.  That is NOT the way to handle the problem of terrorism.

I don't have all of the answers.  I don't know how to stop another attack on this country.  I believe it is a matter, not if we get attacked again, but when.  And I hope, that if the day comes when we are attacked again, that I would call on God and do the best I can as a American citizen to defend myself and my family.

But it's the terrorists we should go after.

Not the Muslims.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Read this book . . .

Every November, I participate in National Novel Writing Month.  The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  It doesn't have to be good or even make sense.  It just has to be 50,000 words and be written in 30 days.

A couple of years ago, my NaNo project was the following:  What would happen to a Christian family if an Islamic terrorist group took over the United States?

The way I began my fictional takeover was to have a simultaneous hit on several schools, similar to the school takeover in Beslan in 2004.  I went on to have the US be conquered and tried to figure out what life would be like after that.

Someone told me that I was going to run into "major believability issues" with my plot.  Although my story would need a great deal of work, I didn't agree with that person about "believability issues" then, and I still don't.

Apparently, another author thought this idea was plausible.

His name is William Forstchen, and he has written a novel called Day of Wrath, which is about an attack on the United States by ISIS, the terrorist group that has been in the news so much lately.

How does the attack start?

With a simultaneous hit on six schools in the United States of America.

Forstchen's book does not go into what would happen after a takeover.  It only details the actual attack.

That, for me, was frightening enough.

Because I could see it happening that way.

Gone are the days where an army of one nation lines up to face an army of another nation, with rules of engagement in place, and waits until the sound of "Fire!" to launch an attack.

Gone are the days of a declaration of war from one country to another country.

Instead, what we have here are groups of men and/or women, who may or may not be affiliated with a particular country, and who may or may not be acting with that country's full knowledge, participation, and blessing.

We have people who are ready and willing to kill for their beliefs, as well as die for them.

And they show not the slightest hint of conscience or remorse as they do so.

My NaNo project needs a great deal of work, and while my idea is a realistic one, I'm not sure if my execution of it is done well.

Forstchen's book is executed well, making his premise both frightening and plausible.

Read. It.

Your future, and the future of the United States of America, could depend on it.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The right kind of gloves . . .

This summer at my church, we have been going through a series called "Retooling", with messages from the books of Haggai and Zechariah about the rebuilding of the Temple.

Don, our minister, is good at using visual aids, and he had very appropriate ones for this series:  two toolboxes, painted green, one with the words "Missional", the other with the word "Maintenance".  It's a reminder that "retooling" includes being "missional" (reaching out to the community) and "maintaining" our relationship with God and with others.  There are also several other tools on stage.

I'm not surprised that Don has used the metaphor of construction in this series.  His father ran a construction company.

In this last sermon, Don, while closing up his message, pulled out a pair of new work gloves, to illustrate that it was time for us to "put on the gloves and get to work".  He also talked about the work gloves of his father, how they curved to fit his fingers because he had used them for so long.

Here is the video of the sermon.

When Don talked about "putting on the gloves and getting to work", it crossed my mind that, too often, when we talk about "putting on the gloves", we really are ending up putting on a pair of boxing gloves to fight with, rather than a pair of work gloves to work with.  How many times have I "put on the gloves" intending to fight, or to prove my point--to prove that I am right, rather than to "put on the gloves" to lend a hand, or to do my share of work?

When I end up "putting on the gloves" to fight, I fear that what I end up doing is causing a lot of damage.  I may have proven my point, but at what cost?

Then, when Don talked about his father's gloves, how they were curved to fit his father's hands, I thought, it would be hard for one person to wear another person's gloves because they often don't fit.  Were I to try and fit my hands into the work gloves of Don's father, they would be very uncomfortable.  My hands are not the same size and shape.

I wonder how many times we have tried to force people to put their hands into the "work gloves" that WE think they should be wearing, not the ones that they really should be wearing.

We all have "basic duties" as Christians, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  (All the law and the prophets hang on those commands, and love is the fulfillment of the law).

But the way we carry out those "basic duties" is going to differ from Christian to Christian.  Don does it by preaching on Sundays and teaching during the week, visiting the sick, and generally modeling his life before those that he ministers to.

Don's wife takes turns singing on our praise team.  Her voice is beautiful.  Were Don to try and wear his wife's "work gloves" and sing on the praise team, well, I don't know how much of a cause for praise that would be.  He's poked fun at his own singing voice (or lack thereof).

My husband has a background in accounting.  In his job at the IRS, he enjoys analyzing data, but is not as fond of answering phones.  Handing him a pair of "work gloves" that involves him doing eight hours a day on the phones would be handing him a pair of "work gloves" that wouldn't fit.

On the other hand, telling *me* that I needed to go to work at the IRS would be handing me a pair of "work gloves" that didn't fit, either.

I sometimes think that we, as a church, want to fit everyone into the same pair of "work gloves" and don't take into consideration that one pair of gloves don't necessarily fit someone else's hands.  The introvert, when asked to wear the gloves of the extrovert, winds up being miserable.  The extrovert, when asked to wear the gloves of the introvert, would probably run away screaming after the first few minutes.

Let's not try and force people into a pair of work gloves that don't fit.  Let's instead try to find the right kind of gloves that fit each person and then let those gloves shape to fit their hands.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

For Robin's sake . . .

(Warning:  some portions of this entry may be triggering.  Read at your own risk.)

He exploded onto the scene in 1978 as the lovable alien Mork from Ork, adding the catchphrase "Nanu nanu" to the American lexicon.

He went on to make us laugh in movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Aladdin. Who could forget his performance as the Genie?  ("The Genie . . . of the LAMP!")

He also made us cry in movies such as Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, and The Fisher King.

He was one of the few actors who was equally gifted as a comedic and dramatic actor.  That is rare.  In fact, one of my favorite episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has Robin Williams as a guest star. He played a troubled engineer who tried to teach people a lesson about authority.

Yesterday, his life ended at the end of a belt.

Robin Williams, Academy-Award actor, Emmy award winner, Golden Globe winner, and Grammy Award winner, the man who made us laugh and cry, also suffered from depression.  It was an illness that perhaps he tried to mask with laughter, and perhaps his alcohol and drug use were also ways that he attempted to mask the depression.

For whatever reason, the battle became too much, and we now know that yesterday, he put a belt around his neck--after trying to cut his wrists--and hanged himself.

Yes, those facts are brutal.  So is depression.

Depression is a brutal, black beast that dogs too many people.  It's more than just "feeling blue" or "having a bad day".  It is an illness, and its sufferers find themselves in a constant battle that is often like fighting drowning, fighting to keep their head above water.

I know this illness.  Depression and I have been antagonists since I've been a teenager.  I am on medication and do receive counseling and support.

Many more do not.

Please, if you're a sufferer who has not received help . . . get help.  There are hotlines you can call and places you can go that charge a sliding scale fee.

If you're a sufferer getting help, keep getting help.

If you're on meds, stay on the meds.

If you get counseling, keep going.

Please.  Do it.

For Robin's sake.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ebola and one man's sacrifice . . .

John 15:13-14:  "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command."

This week, the eyes of the world have been focused on the West African country of Liberia, where the population is suffering from an outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Ebola is deadly.  It has a 50% to 90% mortality rate.  Two workers associated with Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian organization headed by Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son), are Americans Nancy Writebol, an aid worker, and Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician.  They went to Liberia to help the people stricken by this outbreak.  Dr. Brantly is the nephew of one of the ministers at my church.

Last week, they both tested positive for the Ebola virus.  The virus they set out to fight has now turned on them and may yet kill them both.  

The terms #prayforKent and #prayforNancy have been trending on Twitter, and I do hope our prayers have helped. 

This morning, Franklin Graham's Facebook page posted the following update:  

This morning Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are still stable but in grave condition. Dr. Brantly has taken a slight turn for the worse overnight. Even as he battles to survive, this heroic doctor is still focused on the wellbeing of others. Yesterday an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol. However, Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a young 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care. The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.

Read this again:  Kent Brantly, 33 years old, gravely ill and with a wife and two young children, had the opportunity to receive an experimental serum that might save his life, and when he learned that there was only enough for one person, he asked that it be given to the other ill person.  He did not demand it for himself. 

And then, a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly's care, whose life was saved by this doctor, gave his blood so that he could help the doctor that helped him.  

This moves me to tears.  

This, my friends, is an example of laying down your life for someone.  

#prayforkent #prayfornancy

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.