Archive for May, 2013

Goldie Gladine Chasteen McKay, RIP

Goldie Gladine Chasteen McKay, RIP

The Clothes Pin

by Jane Kenyon

How much better it is

to carry wood to the fire

than to moan about your life.

How much better

to throw the garbage

onto the compost, or to pin the clean

sheet on the line

with a gray-brown wooden clothes pin!

Just a few things I love to remember about my Mama Goldie:

How much she liked to sit in her easy chair by the window in the den with the windows open and listen to the mourning doves making that long, lonesome cooing.

How much she liked to sit in her easy chair and relish a glass of cold Sherry Wine or a sip on some gin (straight up) when the 5 o’clock bells chimed down at the First Baptist Church.

How much she loved The Methodist Church and its Wesleyan emphasis on the social gospel tenets of feeding the hungry (she grew up in severe poverty after my grandfather abandoned her, her brother and sister and my grandmother).

How much she hated the very thought of children anywhere going hungry.

How much, when she was younger and I was little, she liked to hang clothes on the line with clothes pins.

How much she loved the late-night talks shows and especially Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Doc, and David Letterman (“you’re just like that rotten scoundrel Dave,” she told me once, laughing; I was honored), and Paul Shafer and “The World’s Most Dangerous Band.” (“My old lady friends don’t understand that,” she said once. “That’s cause you’re hip, Goldie,” I told her. She laughed out loud.)

How much she loved to laugh.

How much she liked music and especially how much she liked to play Eddie Arnold, Marty Robbins, Perry Como and Andy Williams albums (among others) on the stereo when sipping her Sherry Wine or Gin.

How much she loved Paul McCartney’s voice and liked for me to play Beatles songs she liked a lot, especially “Yesterday,” “Michelle,” and “Your Mother Should Know.”

How much she hated for me to put on Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” on her stereo at 200 decibels just to get a rise out of her. (“Turn that damn thing down!)

How much she loved her mother (whom she housed and fed almost every day of my grandmother’s long life), and her sister my Aunt Rainie (who never had children and was the co-mother of my brothers & me).

How much she loved to serve her hot-pepper cheese twists (good with cold Sherry Wine), shrimp on ice, and certain delectable sweets every year at our annual family Christmas Eve Party.

How much pleasure she took on my birthday every year in cooking and serving me my favorite meal (Southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes swimming in butter and gravy, corn on the cob, homemade biscuits and lemon ice box pie).

How much she loved in her later years to dress up, drive to town and have ice cream and “girl talk” at the drugstore with all “my old lady friends.” (Such an Old South kinda woman.)

How much she and my Aunt Rainie loved to dress up and drive to Bryan-College Station, Texas (20 miles away) for Sunday buffets at the restaurants over there.

How much she loved the old Dean Martin Show on TV (“that I-talian’s got that right amount of sex appeal.”)

How much she laughed when I told her I didn’t really care to hear about Dean Martin’s alleged sex appeal from my mother.

And finally, how utterly devoted and sacrificial she was on behalf of others and especially her family–and how she was living proof that those who live their lives in love will love their lives.

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“In an email to officials at the White House and the intelligence agencies, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland took issue with including that information because it “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned …”

“The paragraph was entirely deleted.”

— From an ABC News report on what the Obama Administration in all its political damage control simply didn’t want us to know about warnings and terrorist connections regarding the embassy bombing.

(Click here for quite an interesting (damning?) report from ABC News.)

The Obama Administration (which included Hillary you-know-who at the time) initially said “only one word had been changed.”

At the very least–the bare minimum–this whole scandal smells of some rank incompetence, or, political damage control that runs all the way to corruption.

It is writ: "And the truth shall set you free." And, "What is done in government secrecy and "spinning the truth" will come to light." (Or something like that.)

It is writ: “And the truth shall set you free.” And, “What is done in government secrecy and “spinning the truth” will come to light.” (Or something like that.)

The embassy bombing story just ain’t gonna go away, as much as every news agency outside of Fox Nation–and I have to give them their props for hanging with this story–would like it to.

I said here before and now repeat:

It’s bothered me from the start that the State Department tried to blame this attack on protesters–it just never, ever passed “the smell test” for anybody–especially any reporter or news agency–who could have seen that this embassy attack had “terrorist attack” written all over it.

At the least, there should have been the sort of skepticism that would have led some enterprising reporter or news agency to really question the “protest” line and keep questioning with a minimum of bulldog persistence of the sort that, really, only FOX News has demonstrated.

* * * *

Think about it.

All the Obama Administration had to do was tell us was something like this in those now infamous Sunday morning news shows in which Susan Rice failed to utter the “T” word (terrorists):

    “Look, we have all sorts of conflicting information and reports about what happened and how this happened. It’s possible it was a planned terrorist attack and we certainly have to pursue that angle. But mind you, I am not saying at this time that it was or wasn’t because we are trying to conduct a thorough investigation. We have to pursue a lot of angles at this time.

    “It’s difficult get to the bottom of this sort of tragedy, where confusion and chaos always create a lot of fog, in trying to get to the bottom of it–and it’s only been a few days. Please allow us a little more time to sort through, to uncover the facts and the evidence, so that we can deal with this properly.

    In the meantime, we’re going to get to the truth, and we can guarantee the American people that we will be up-front no matter where the truth leads. We owe it to the American people to ensure accountability and transparency no matter what the truth reveals.

Of course, this wasn’t the approach they took–and politicians never speak of aggressively pursuing th truth when it comes to spin and political damage control. They have an aversion to the word.

And never mind that the best political damage control is for them to tell us the truth no matter how much it hurts, and then to fire or demand resignations from people who cross the line in damage control. (I know, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.)

And now it’s pretty clear that some heads should have rolled.

Maybe, Hillary Clinton’s included.

And let’s consider this: Maybe, just maybe, she would have actually gained even more of her enormous political popularity if he had taken the sort of full responsibility she kept saying she took–if she resigned. That would be real accountability of the sort that everybody nowadays speaks about–and nobody really demands (except, in this case, of all people, FOX).

It would have been the honorable thing to do. And unprecedented. And it might have silenced the Hillary haters once and for all.

Then again . . . It’s doubtful that anything could ever silence the Hillary and Obama haters even if Obama and Hillary had made American history by just telling us the unvarnished truth for once.

This was on Hillary Clinton’s watch. That’s all there is to it. And it was the State Department’s botching and spinning and horrible “damage control” that makes this a story.

(And BTW, there’s more damning evidence than just edited emails in this pointing to either horrible negligence or incredible incompetence in the State Department.)

Mrs. Clinton and the others have tried to lay this on the CIA–a most convenient scapegoat considering how uneven the CIA’s history is for doing great things but also botching things big-time. Not to mention how easy it is to lay blame on an agency that has to be shrouded in a lot of secrecy.

* * * *

It’s now clear to anybody who’s been trying to pay attention to this story, and to anybody more interested in the sort of truth that sets us all free, that the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton’s Department of State were concerned enough about political fallout to make sure that their inattention to warnings and signs of Al’Q’s Mode of Operation got thoroughly scrubbed.

This story, as they say in investigative journalism, really does “have legs.” And Jonathan Karl of ABC News is a fine and might fine reporter without the baggage of the Fox Nation, GOP Propaganda Network. (And ABC News does some really solid investigative reporting sometimes.)

That said, I have to hold my nose and give kudos to Fox for pursuing a story when nobody–and I mean nobody–has seen fit to question authority in the White House on this bombing–aggressively, that is.

And granted–it didn’t help that Congressional investigators and–FOX and all the cynical Hannitys of the world–undermined their own credibility by accusing Hillary Clinton of faking what turned out to be a critical medical condition to avoid testimony. Small wonder that, for a long time, people weren’t willing to pay much attention to Fox on the embassy bombing. By sneering and joking about the very sick woman’s health as a lie to avoid testimony, Fox and the usual haters appeared to be doing their usual throwing dung against the wall to see what might stick on Hillary well ahead of 2016. (Lord, didn’t we just finish with one election and the news media’s already obsessing over 2016 election?)

When it comes to hating and character assassination, Fox Nation will still bomb people’s character to shreds when the truth will do.

And, I must say as well, in the interest of, uh, fair and balanced blogging:

I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton suffered some real emotional pain and sleepless nights over this whole god-awful tragedy–don’t forget that the embassy ambassador who was killed (who wasn’t one to sit in the embassy and who, daily, wandered around his territory a lot and with precious little security that he felt was not necessary) was a Democrat and old friend of the Clintons.

But as for Hillary Clinton and our leaders and their underlings now and in all times–on both sides and all sides–they just never seem to get this:

    “For there is nothing that is covered up that will not be uncovered,

    and nothing secret that will not become known.”

    — from Matthew 10:26

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Henri Nouwen in one of his more playful moments. He wrote a lot about being in community and in his  book "A Spirituality of Living," he wrote: "By community I don't mean formal communities. I mean families, friends, parishes, 12-Step Programs,  prayer groups."

Henri Nouwen in one of his more playful moments. He wrote a lot about being in community and in his book “A Spirituality of Living,” he wrote: “By community I don’t mean formal communities. I mean families, friends, parishes, 12-Step Programs, prayer groups.”

Community is not easy. Parker Palmer once observed that community is “the place where the person you least want to live with always lives.”

In Jesus’ community of the twelve disciples, that last name was that of someone who was going to betray him. That person is always in our community somewhere.

In the eyes of others, we might be that person.

— Henri Nouwen in A Spirituality of Living

More on Henri Nouwen hère.

More on Parker Palmer here.

And more James Taylor (and him in with lots of hair–that’s how old these oldie goldies are).

Until next time . . . good night, you moonlight ladies.

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An inconvenient fact: Our great ally Israel, a country that American military hawks love, has what we dismiss as "socialized" medicine--and a very cost-efficient health care system that is far, far more "socialized" than "Obamacare."

An inconvenient fact: Our great ally Israel, a country that American military hawks love, has what we dismiss as “socialized” medicine–and a very cost-efficient health care system that is far, far more “socialized” than “Obamacare.”

This is the first in an ongoing series of occasional postings I’ll have throughout the rest of 2013 about the need for health care reform in our country–something akin to what our beloved ally Israel has.

I’ll say up front that I’m all for major health care reform, for reasons I’ll lay out in these postings, and please understand that my reasoning is largely based on my Christian ethics and my experience doing pastoral care ministry in two major Dallas hospital systems–not on any political agenda. My only politics is advancing the Kingdom of God and Heaven that Christ came to initiate until the fullness of the Kingdom of God and Heaven comes.

I also have to say in this initial posting that I’m not all in with “Obamacare.” It’s full of the good, the bad and the ugly as it now stands–the “reform” we got needs lots of going back and “reforming,” though, sadly, that may not happen in the current political climate.

But with no further of that old ado . . .

Please read on.

When was the last time you heard an American rap Israel as being “socialist” or “communist” because it has government-funded health care?

When’s the last time you heard an American politician or candidate for political office trash Israel because of its “socialized” health care?

Health care in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory. Health care coverage is administered by a small number of organizations, with funding from the government. All Israeli citizens are entitled to the same Uniform Benefits Package, regardless of which organization they are a member of, and treatment under this package is government-funded for all citizens regardless of their financial means.

“Additional coverage for non-essential treatments can be arranged for a fee, which is generally shared between a citizen and their employer. Generally, health care in Israel is of high-quality and is delivered in an efficient and effective manner.

— From Wiki

Granted, Israel’s government can afford to fund “free” medical care (there is no such thing as Santa Claus and “free” anything) largely because so many of our American tax dollars go to Israel for its understandably aggressive military stances.

I’m always the first to concede that Israel is surrounded by evil-ridden haters who are eaten up with that old, irrational, burning hatred of Jews, even if Israel is sometimes its own worst enemy in fanning the flames of hatred toward it.

So I’m not suggesting that our heavy subsidizing of Israell’s military is bad or wrong-that’s not an issue I’m prepared to explore in this posting, which is about health care reform.

But I will say this: I’ve always noticed that Americans–especially what I describe as “war first,” hawkish Americans as opposed to “war as a last resort” Americans–verily love Israel because of its tough, largely take-no-prisoners military. We’re seeing this American love of our great ally Israel today as so many American Christians laud and applaud Israel’s bombings in Syria.

What’s missing in this cheerleading of Israel’s toughness is very much widespread Christian lament over the how violence keeps begetting more violence in “the Holy Land” (not to mention our own country). As if more and more violence is the really the way to advance the Kingdom of God and Heaven that Christ came to earth to initiate.

But that’s another posting for another day.

* * * *

My point today is that Americans love Israel–our best and favorite ally–in spite of its socialized medicine.

But then, I wonder how many Americans even know that Israel has socialized health care–far, far more government funded health care, in fact, than the health care that Americans will have when “Obamacare” measures start kicking in, in 2014.

After all, presidential candidate and American citizen Mitt Romney didn’t even know about Israel’s socialized medicine until he unknowingly praised it to the high heavens in his visit to Israel last year.

    “Do you realize,” Romney said in a fundraising speech to his friends in Israel, “what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? 8 percent. You [Israel] spend 8 percent of GDP on health care.

    “And you’re a pretty healthy nation,” Romney went on to say. “We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care. 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, let me compare that with the size of our military. Our military budget is 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of GDP. We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to finally manage our health care costs.”

Read here for more on how he inadvertently made the case for “socialized” medicine even as he fought against it–and that in the wake of his huge “flip flop” from when he was governor.

When’s the last time you heard anyone–especially an American political leader–say, “God bless Israel for its efficient, socialized medicine?”

When or when, Lord help us, will be come together enough in this country to work out reasonable, sensible solutions to huge problems like the ever skyrocketing, budget crunching cost of health care?

And when, in a nation where so many think of our nation as “a Christian nation,” will we behave and talk to each other like Christians–or people of good religious faith whatever our faith traditions–in resolving our problems like health care costs?

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.
— G.K. Chesterton

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Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
— From The Lost Art of Listening
By Dr. Michael P. Nichols, Ph.D
(Guilford Press, New York, 1995)

* * * *

“You must understand this, my beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

— James 1: 19

He or she is called "man's best friend" cause he or she perks up his or her ears and just listens to you without interruption, judgment, insult or anything else. He or she loves you completely and therefore will listen to you even when it seems no one else will.

He or she is called “man’s best friend” cause he or she perks up his or her ears and just listens to you without interruption, judgment, insult or anything else. He or she loves you completely and therefore will listen to you even when it seems no one else will.

As I mentioned in this blog’s last posting about listening–which I went back and re-wrote a bit if you want to re-visit it for this followup–I said that we oftentimes tend not to listen to what someone is saying because we’re busy concocting a reply before the other is done speaking.

In Michael P. Nichols’ excellent book The Lost Art of Listening–*a book I commend to you–he noted this:

“We tend to think that listening is the same as hearing; but listening really is being alert to those situations in which the person you’re with needs to be understood.

“Listening problems can be serious, not only at work, but with family and friends.

    “Many times we jump in to say what’s on our minds–before we’ve even acknowledged what the other person has said–short circuiting the possibility of mutual understanding.

    “Speaking without listening, hearing without understanding is like snipping an electrical cord in two, then plugging it in anyway, hoping somehow that something will light up.

“Most of the time we don’t deliberately set out to break the connection. In fact, we’re often baffled and dismayed by a feeling of being left sitting around in the dark. . . ”

Nichols notes that careful listening is difficult and takes practice to improve.

“Try harder to understand the other person’s perspective,” he says. “That takes an expression of caring enough to listen.

“Listening isn’t a need we have; it’s a gift we give.”

A big amen to that.

Good, attentive listening is a gift that keeps on giving in any and every relationship we have, be it in our family and circle of friends, at work, at our house of worship–anywhere.

Some questions to ask yourself in self-monitoring as a listener in even the most casual of conversations is, “Am I generally interested in what this person has to say, or I am interested in being interesting? or am I most interested in countering the opinion he or she is expressing? or am I more interested in telling this person what they should do, or not do?”

Jesus and the Apostolic Christians weren’t the least bit interested in being interesting.

In addition to hearing God through prayer and meditation and worship and all the rest, they were interested mainly in hearing what others had to say. Inside and outside of their house churches (and most churches for 300 years were house churches!), they were interested in hearing people’s joys, but also if not more so hearing their needs and concerns, their problems and worries.

They listened and learned what people needed in terms of food, clothing, healing–and then provided. (Please take note if you ever go on a church mission trip in your town or across the ocean wide–you don’t tell people what they need, or what they need to do or not do; you listen to their stories, learn about the community or culture they’re living in, build a rapport, ask what they need, and then provide that material need along with providing and showing the love and Spirit of Christ to them. But you build trust only by listening, not by telling.)

The early Christians were interested in lending genuinely interested and caring ears to others–in really hearing others.

When it comes right down to it, you can’t very well love God and others without practicing the art of listening.

You have to listen in order to love, so love to listen.

*To get to Nichols’ book click here.

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