what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

Oh really?

“Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God,
nor is He the best of several ways;
He is the only way.”

A. W. Tozer


(The Stoning of St Stephen by Rembrandt who just happens to make a small cameo appearance in the scene…the awkward face peeking out from just under the raised arm
of the man with the large stone / 1625 / Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon, France

Day before yesterday I wrote a post featuring a story about the first Christian
martyr– Stephen.

I gave a bit of the back story behind what led to Stephen’s martyrdom.
We learned that Stephen would not back down from his conviction of belief even
when faced with his own imminent demise.
He wasn’t about to start back peddling when he knew what the Truth of life
and living actually was all about…despite facing a horrific death.

That truth which was the chief cornerstone to Stephen’s very existence, was a living
and breathing knowledge of God as Father and Christ as Son
and the Spirit as mediator.

Stephen did not waiver or waffle nor did he mince his words to the those in authority
as to what his life’s choice would be…and that was to stand as a man who believed
in Jesus Christ as both his Lord and Savior….there was no thought of cost or hurt feelings or loss…

And yet the cost for him was pretty tremendous as far as the world was concerned..
It cost Stephen his earthly life.

Not his friends, not his job, not his security, not his comfort, but his life.

Conviction….a fixed or firm belief..

Stephen had such conviction.

So yesterday I came across a story in the news about a college in the Oxford
University system there in England that banned a campus Christian organization
from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming freshman class.

Another rampant example of waffling and wavering.

I can remember when I was a college freshman.
I recall that near ecstatic level of excitement of all that was new.
New faces, new places, new friends, new opportunities…
With some of those opportunities being right up my alley and some of them not…

And isn’t that what something like this is all about…the choices offered to us?
We pick and choose…what looks appealing while discarding that which does not.

Life is like that sort of endless buffet of picking and choosing is it not?
Yet what happens when that buffet is gravely limited due to others deciding options
should not be made available.
It is then that the buffet becomes something very different from
a buffet—it becomes more of a pre fixed plate of flavorless offerings.

The opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth becomes near stagnant
when the powers that be decide the masses might just become too dangerous if they
are given too much choice.

When only the few decide for the many that the freedom of choice and the ability
of personal decision should be a limited offering, then there is no true human growth.

A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions.

Yet did they opt to ban the Jewish organizations, perhaps b’nai b’rith?
What of the Muslim organizations?
Perhaps any sort of pagan organization?
What of the Buddhists?
What of any political organizations?

Here is the reasoning….if one can call such reasoning rational thought….

The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an
event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls
the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,”
The Times of London reported.

Potts added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has
been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice,
and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

At last check, there is a massive difference between something perceived as a
phobia, or irrational fear, verses simply following the tenants of one’s faith.

“Many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians,” Potts said, according to The Telegraph.

Ahh, so the issue here is now of overcompensation…
the act of apologizing, once again, on behalf of a past time period…
an act that is neither productive or even necessary as we are not them and they
were not us…as in days gone by….

A time period that is far removed from modern times—

So are those mutton chop young men of all things British Academia,
say the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reign of monarchs who were setting
sail in exporation in the name of the Crown, are those such young men still haunting the halls of places such as Oxford or Cambridge….I think not.

And last I checked, if I wanted to attend school in say Beijing or Riyadh,
I think I would be hard pressed in either city on finding an openly Christian place to
worship…and I would certainly not be surprised at such as neither of these cities
have a deep Christian heritage as say England—- quiet the contrary in fact.

So is this particular school spokesperson suggesting that a predominately historical Christian country, such as England, should now do away with its own heritage in order to bend over backwards…
doing away with Christian houses of worship in order to construct more mosques as a
form of overt appeasement or as some sort of welcome mat?

“A spokesperson with the Church of England told The Times that the ban was not
in line with “freedom of religion and belief,” and “is at odds with the kind of society
we are all seeking to promote.”

Finally is there actually a bit of clarity coming from the Church of England…
really???

“Leaders of the Balliol student body reportedly condemned the ban, and passed a motion calling the ban a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom,” according to The Daily Telegraph.

Maybe there does remain a few brave souls not afraid and who will not backdown or recant
the Word of God when push comes to shove….

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/11/christian-group-at-oxford-university-banned-from-fair-out-fear-it-would-alienate-students.html

Be on your guard;
stand firm in the faith;
be courageous;
be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

ideologues verses heros

“In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.”

Czesław Miłosz


(image of Alejandro Villanueva, the lone Steeler player who opted to stand and
acknowledge the National Anthem prior to the Steeler / Bear game / courtesy Miami Herald)

This was not the post I intended to write today.
This was not the post I wanted to write today…
but this is the post that I felt necessary to write today.

Alejandro Villanueva is a professional football player who plays left tackle for
the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He is also a former US Army veteran.
Add to those facts that he was the only player…. the only player…
let that resonate in your head for a minute…the only player who emerged from
the shadows of the Steelers locker room to stand for Sunday’s pregame
National Anthem.

Coach Mike Tomlin had decided to keep his players in the locker during the National
Anthem so as not to join in the latest political ruckus.
But what message did Tomlin send by hiding in the locker room…?

And if you’re wondering why any of this is of any significance to a football game,
well then you have most likely missed out on the latest minutia brouhaha percolating
to the surface between America’s favorite pastime…
that being her sporting events, verses the President of the United States.

Now let that little notion sink in…slowly.
Professional sports verses, not an opposing team, but rather the
President of the United States of America.

Really.

For there seems to be a war of words escalating beyond average comprehension.

Yet tomorrow morning’s headlines won’t consist of Alejandro Villanueva’s image
and name…
And you most likely won’t be reading the columns of sportswriters touting the
story of a lone act of patriotism….

You won’t see the National news explaining what’s wrong with grown men being paid
millions of dollars to simply play games yet who insist on using their various playing
fields to make political commentary….
their choosing to be ideologues rather than what they’re paid to do, and that is to simply play ball.

No you won’t see or hear any of that.

What you will see are the images of player after player locked arm in arm, across the league, kneeling in disrespectful protest.
You will hear the angry defiant words spewed from the mouths of players, coaches
and even the Commissioner himself, Roger Goodell.

You will hear NBA greats like LaBron James calling the President of the
United States of America a “bum”.
You will read how Stephen Curry has said that it once was an honor to visit the
White House…that was until Trump got in……

All of this latest mess coming on the heels of a speech delivered Friday evening in Alabama, when President Trump responded to the the current trend of professional
football players who are opting not to stand for the National Anthem,
preferring rather to kneel or raise a defiant fist….
his comments were swiftly met with some rather harsh criticism.

A now never ending tit for tat stemming from the poor decision made last season by Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick opted to use his very public platform as the QB of the San Francisco 49ers
to express his thoughts that the National Anthem was not an anthem of equality.

Oh really?

Trump told the crowded arena Friday night that such behavior is a “total disrespect
of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”
He went on to say that those “Sons of a Bitch” who persist with such defiance
should be fired.

I happen to agree with the President.

However do I think the President of the United States needs to jump in this fray?

I don’t know.
But when we have blatant disrespect for our very National Anthem, who better then the
President to say, “hey wait a minute, something is wrong here….”

But at the same time I am now absolutely sick over our professional athletes using
their various sport as one more link in an increasingly brittle chain of
toxic politics.

I don’t watch football or any other sport because I want to deal with politics
or because I want to be reminded that our country is swirling down the tubes of
self absorption, ignorance and hate.

I watch sports to forget all of that.

I quit watching long ago any other sort of entertainment because it all had
become nothing but overtly violent, immoral and political while reeking of utter disrespect.

When I was still in the classroom, I can remember a growing sneering mantra offered
by one too many a defiant high school kid who butted heads with a teacher or administrator…
“I don’t give respect unless I get respect.”

Oh Really?

Here were kids claiming that if a teacher got on to them for their behavior
that they in turn could respond with vehemence and defiance.
A gross lack of respect for an adult who in the mind of the student had actually “disrespected” them and therefore deserved no respect–a twisted thought process.
And sadly many a parent and even a growing number of administrators
found themselves, albeit for some begrudgingly, in agreement.

The writing was then on the wall….the inmates were running the asylum.
And where might these inmates be getting their life examples….??

It takes little men to stay back in a locker room trying to avoid a glaring issue.
It takes little men, who make millions of dollars for simply playing games, to act like
disrespectful selfish and childish ideologues.
But it takes a real man who will go the journey alone in order to stand up for what
is right when no one else will….

—we call those kinds of men, heroes……

Honour all men.
Love the brotherhood.
Fear God.
Honour the king.

1 Peter 2:17

the direction of bricks and mortar

Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good,
and melt at other’s woe.

Homer

DSC00070
(Julie Cook / 2015)

Currently feeling most grieved over the latest madness sweeping across this
great nation of ours…
what with the divisiveness and hateful discourse bombarding our daily lives…
Of the recent marches and demonstrations…
with now high school kids adding to the mix…

My thoughts shift to relationships…
meaningful and significant relationships…
To those components of mortar and to the building blocks…
to all that builds and creates a base
a community…

to those footings…
to the foundations…
and to the resulting communions we build…

Thoughts shift to those who have crossed my own life…
to those who imprinted and imparted upon me…
a betterment,
a lastingness,
an endurance..

where would I be without such…

Today I ran across a post I’d written 2 years ago…
oddly it was just sitting out there on the internet…
under a particular search word…

It seemed rather timely so I decided to borrow a portion it for today’s post…
because it recounts the importance of a life that helped to form my own life.

For I now see that our youth currently need individuals in their lives who are strong…
those who don’t mind taking time…
those who aren’t afraid of taking a risk …
Those who want to help…
to mould,
to shape,
and to guide.

For our kids need to hear the words “don’t” and “no”…
as well as “good” and “job well done”
they need to be loved and nurtured…
not ignored or simply turned out…
they need to be disciplined and held accountable
not left unbridled or excused…
they need to be given directions…
but not carried…

Because they will seek out those individuals…
that communion and community..

the concern will be to whom and to what….

excerpt–original date Jan 12, 2015…

Being able to express myself was always important.
I most often found that freedom in the process of simply writing.
First, as a young girl, in the form of a journal / diary,
then as I grew older,
it came through the writing of letters.

It was in the writing of letters where I allowed myself to fully express my thoughts.
It was the one place my often frustrated brain could and would be allowed to soar.

In the days before computers, emails and word documents…
I loved buying and sending cards.
I would spend hours writing letters–
especially the letters I’d write that bordered more along the lines of epistles,
those lengthy and meaty tome like lettes to my godfather–a long retired Episcopal priest.
He passed away late December at the age 94.
I have often referenced him and his influence in my life in many a previous post.

The letters were often written with a myriad of misspelled words,
despite the large dictionary by my side.
There were gaping gaps in the written thought… as I would think much faster than I wrote.
The letters were laced with outrageous sentence structure,
which in turn would make any english teacher cringe,…
yet they were letters written with passion, honesty and humility.
And despite the holes, the poor sentence structure or the youthful angst,
my godfather would receive each letter expectantly, happily, and lovingly…
all without a judgement of content or the editing of grammatical structure–
this from a man who made a living writing and speaking.

Our correspondence began when I was around the age of 15.
My early letters were laced with the pangs of innocence and adolescence.
Yet as I aged and matured those letters became more complex,
even troubling, as I fought my way, often with fraught emotion,
through the often tangled jungle of life.
I wrestled with my faith and beliefs.
Life was not always easy nor kind.
There were obstacles, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, poor choices, grave mistakes,
coupled with a few triumphs, glimpses of joy and moments of contentment.

Always with love and often, no doubt, with great frustration,
he would offer words of either encouragement or warning,
lessons or simply the “if I were you”…
yet his words were always laced with love.
It was here, within the correspondence of a young girl, now grown woman,
where I learned about unconditional love.

I never filtered my words or emotions yet perhaps today, looking back,
I see that it would have behooved me to have used a bit more restraint—
yet he never faltered or expressed disappointment.
My Godpoppa, the busy world at large Anglican leader,
would never specifically tell me what to do,
despite my often desperate queries.

He would never say “yes” or “no” but rather he’d offer wisdom woven with advice all of
which he hoped would allow me to eventually find my own way.
He was a signpost of guidance,
of the miles thus traveled and of miles yet to be traveled.

And so as I currently find myself surveying a sea of rising national angst..
My thoughts now wander to those meaningful and significant relationships that we form…
those unique and timely bonds offered by the mentors and the role models amongst us…

To what direction are they now pointing…
To what sort of guidance do they long to impart…
To what sort of mortar and foundation do they wish to use…
and does anybody really still care…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,
not for human masters…

Colossians 3:23

(The Very Reverend David Browning Collins 1922-2016)

culpability

“Alas, human vices, however horrible one might imagine them to be,
contain the proof (were it only in their infinite expansion) of man’s longing for the infinite;
but it is a longing that often takes the wrong route.
It is my belief that the reason behind all culpable excesses lies in this
depravation of the sense of the infinite.”

Charles Baudelaire

16-truman.w529.h352.2x
(Truman Library)

Any one of a certain age is no doubt familiar with the images of President Harry Truman and of his famous sign, kept on his desk in his office, within the Oval Office.

The Buck Stops Here

President Truman came into office wearing a very heavy mantle weighted down by grave responsibility.

The Nation was wading through the throws of WWII, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the longest serving US president, had died suddenly in office, resulting in Harry Truman, who was the current vice president, being sworn into the highest office in the land.

It was Harry Truman who had the final word in the decision to bomb Japan…
A decision which decisively ended the war…
Yet it was to be a haunting decision laced with grave and costly repercussions for generations to come…

However it is not to nuclear weaponry or WWII that I wish to cast today’s thoughts but rather to that solitary desk plaque.

The Buck Stops Here.

We all know what it means.
We all expect our leaders, as well as anyone charged with the responsibility of overseeing others, to know what it means.

On more than one occasion President Truman referred to the desk sign in public statements. For example, in an address at the National War College on December 19, 1952 Mr. Truman said, “You know, it’s easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you — and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here’ — the decision has to be made.”
In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that,
“The President–whoever he is–has to decide.
He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him.
That’s his job.”

(Excerpt taken from the Truman Library)

Meaning that a leader, a person in charge of other people, a person who is to cast definitive decisions and choices which effect others is to be the last and final word…
and that in turn, he or she must live with that final word…as in own that final word.

People who where the buck stops can either be lauded for their decisions or held culpable when those decisions run amuck.

Wikipedia states that the word Culpability means…

A person is culpable if they cause a negative event and
(1) the act was intentional;
(2) the act and its consequences could have been controlled (i.e., the agent knew the likely consequences, the agent was not coerced, and the agent overcame hurdles to make the event happen); and
(3) the person provided no excuse or justification for the actions.[1]

Culpability descends from the Latin concept of fault (culpa). The concept of culpability is intimately tied up with notions of agency, freedom, and free will. All are commonly held to be necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for culpability.

Today’s news has been rife with the latest findings from the various “powers that be” committees, those of men and women tasked with the Congressional reports, which are being issued regarding the Benghazi Embassy attack.

In that fateful 2012 attack, in which four Americans–the US Ambassador, an informations officer and two CIA operatives, were maliciously and brutally killed, the Obama Administration has been found guilty of being “lax” in providing the necessary security for the Embassy. The Administration was also cited for being slow to send in military response to defend the deadly attack.
An attack which Americans were helpless to prevent and stave off.

Culpability….

The deaths of these four Americans were brutal to say the least.
When the Embassy was overtaken, Ambassador Stevens was seized by the militants and was sexually assaulted, his body mutilated, cattle prodded and burned before being paraded through the streets where he was left for dead.

In announcing the conclusion of the committee’s investigation, chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, said: “Nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost eight hours after the attacks began.”
US help was too slow because of “an obsession with hurting the Libyans’ feelings,” he said.

(BBC)

Americans were brutally tortured and murdered…their bodies were savagely desecrated because…
an Administration didn’t want to hurt feelings….

Culpability.

Secretary of State Clinton has been cleared in the latest report of any wrong doing although the administration of which she was a pivotal member has been found to be negligent concerning the attack and subsequent deaths of these four Americans by its overtly slow response to the intel concerning the growing animosity toward the Americans in Libya at that time, especially regarding Benghazi’s unrest…in particular, that of the Embassy, as well as being too slow to send in military reinforcements once the attack was under way.

This is a story that has left me deeply troubled since first being reported.
However my troubled mind and heart pales in comparison to that of the families of these victims….
The wives, the children, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters….

And now that time has passed, and millions of dollars have been spent “investigating,” while leaders and people who, where the buck should have stopped, have instead gone on with their lives, their campaigns, their jobs, trying to forget…seemingly trying to ignore this awful attack that was and remains so bad and so heinous…pretending that it never took place… we’re all left wondering….

Maybe President Truman’s sign needs to be returned to the Oval Office….

The sinking sands of our crazy times

I live in a crazy time.
Anne Frank

DSCN3247
(the evening beach walkers / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / 2016)

I don’t think that there is man nor beast amongst us who wouldn’t agree that we are living in a time of utter craziness.
And that’s crazy in not a good kind of crazy way.

Granted previous generations have had their fair share of crazy…
However back then, back in the day,
one could pretty much discern who and what was crazy and who and what was not.
Everyone knew who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.
Life was black and white.

Everyone knew right from wrong and wrong from right and they could all unite on common ground to fight the common fight against the common enemy.

Folks could and would rally around a cause,
actually rolling up their sleeves to fight for that cause.

Today we live in a hazy time…a crazy time.
A time of heavy smoke and fog…
A time that sees the sands on which we stand, sifting…
As all the colors have swirled together… creating a tertiary bland sea of nothingness…
with no discernible good / bad …right / wrong.
No one knows which side of the fence to get on anymore.

That’s what happens when we decide everything and anything is simply all good because we don’t like anything to be bad. We’ve actually muddied the waters with our overt good intentions.

I’ve always been pretty even keeled and level headed…or at least that is now the case in these latter years of mine as hindsight is something I have finally, thankfully, acquired…with such being a by-product of the aging process.

I’m not one to go off half cocked and jump on the elusive bandwagons of those wearing the rose colored glasses.
I like things to be black and white.
Yes or no
Good or bad…
I like being able to readily discern what is what.

A gray, blended hodge podge of gobbledegook is not my cup of tea.

I admire the John the Baptists and Winston Churchills among us.
Those who could and can see, as well as know, what is what…
No excuses, no delusions, no appeasement and sticking heads in sand.
More of stating the facts then squaring the shoulders in order to deal with the forthcoming onslaught.
They didn’t nor currently do not mince words and they called and continue calling a spade a spade….
meaning…they don’t and won’t sugar coat the truth, no matter how hard and tough it may be.

I like to see what I’m dealing with…straight away and head on…

It’s like seeing that ominous twister in the distance.
It’s fearsome, destructive and heading your way…but at least you know what you’re dealing with.
You know your options…albeit dire and possibly deadly, but at least you know what your fighting for and against.

It’s the twister coming in the night, hidden in the darkness, that hidden monster heading your way, which is most frightening. You catch a glimpse of it in the flash of lightening… only to meekly jump into bed while pulling the covers over your head as you simply hope for the best.

Not a good plan…

Nope, not at all…

I prefer knowing what it is I’m dealing with and in turn, flatly deal with it.
And I don’t like pretending that the bad is hiding in the sheep’s clothing of good.

Now I’ve never been one to jump on Ralph Nader’s bandwagon.
You know, that forever and ever Greenpeace presidential candidate…
That fellow who has been raising his battle standard since I was young!
As Nader was always the voice in the back of the room who was reminding everyone of issues no one either cared to hear about or simply tried to ignore.
He made most folks a tad uncomfortable with his rabble rousing.

He was always a bit out there for me, a bit over the top.
Not that he hasn’t had good ideas…
He has sounded the often necessary bells of alarm over the environment and all things humanitarian.
He was the consumer’s advocate before there was the magazine.

But as a more rock solid kind of soul, I wasn’t all peace, love and rock and roll.

So imagine my small bemusement recently when reading a recent interview with Mr Nadar that actually had me more in agreement than disagreement.

Never one to shy away from what he thinks is the real reason behind big government, big business, big shenanigans, Mr Nader reflects on some of the reasons for today’s craziness of the shifting sands we precariously now find ourselves slowly sinking on….

Everything from the defunct Occupy Wall Street movement, to the overtly sensitive Black Lives Matters, to our darkening college culture of self absorption, to the crisis in middle America and the rise of Donald Trump…

Mr Nader offers a good bit to chew on in his latest bells of alarm….bells I tend to agree need to be rung….

http://www.aol.com/article/2016/06/10/ralph-nader-criticizes-absurd-college-culture/21393149/

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/06/09/ralph-nader-blasts-sensitive-black-lives-matter-activists-absurd-trigger-warning-campus-culture/

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Hymn “my Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
lyrics by Edward Mote (1797-1874)