Mmm…bias?

Can we please call an end to 2020? Hurricane Zeta just hit the Louisiana coast. Fortunately for my corner of the universe, it wasn’t bad here (in spite of the dire warnings of meteorologists and the Weather Channel). “Life threatening conditions!!” while thousands of residents must make costly decisions. Sadly, this is just one more area where we have to sift through “fake news.”

These storms CAN be bad, and often are (in certain areas), especially if they spawn tornados. But like everything in life, one must weigh the odds and make the best decision possible with the information at hand. This is getting harder and harder; while information is almost always filtered by the time we get it, it is also usually biased – and incomplete. For example…

Monday night, after the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY ) commented that this was “one of the darkest days” in Senate History.

Really? Really? The confirmation of an incredibly qualified, brilliant jurist to the Supreme Court is one of the darkest days? I can’t imagine why. Oh, wait – it’s a “filtered opinion.”

Could it be because she’s an originalist? A Roman Catholic? She might not be in favor of abortion on demand? Could the fact that she was nominated by Donald Trump have anything at all to do with it? Could this be a biased opinion?

Sorry, Chucky baby, the days leading up to her confirmation were far darker. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked questions about sexual harassment – did Judge Barrett ever sexually harass anyone? Some senators used their time to pontificate. The vote itself was split almost completely among party lines. Because, heaven forbid, the fact that she is a faithful, practicing Catholic might interfere with her interpretation of the law – even though her record indicated otherwise.I’m beyond sick of division and hatred like this. During the vote, some senators were quite rude in the delivery of their votes – “hell, no” said Hirono. Others gave a nasty, flamboyant thumbs down – or worse. This, the response from many who constantly state that Donald Trump is rude, crude, and generally socially unacceptable. Ah, the irony.

Examples of “filtered information” are countless. Tuesday night I watched Tucker Carlson (Fox News) interview Tony Bobulinski, former business partner of Hunter Biden. That name may not ring a bell with some, although it should be on the lips of every American.

In case you don’t know, Bobulinski was approached by the Biden family (yes, that Biden family) to be CEO of Sinohawk Holdings, a partnership with the Chinese. Bobulinski is a legitimate businessman with experience in international partnerships. (This is simplifying things, but there ARE details available.)

Equity arrangements included Joe Biden, even though Biden has denied that he “never took a penny” from a foreign government. Biden has stated again and again that he has never discussed business with his son Hunter. Bobulinski stated that this is simply not true; he was present at two meetings where this business was discussed in depth. There were plenty of discussions.

It’s not simply a case of he-said-they-said; Bobulinski has presented all documentation, emails, texts, and even recorded conversation that clearly show the Bidens’ corrupt business practices. Bobulinski, not intending to make waves, became a whistleblower when Representative Adam Schiff (D-Ca) stated that implications of the Bidens’ deep ties to the Chinese government (the business they’re involved in is controlled by the Chinese communists) were part of a “Russian-orchestrated smear” on Joe Biden.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of hearing “the Russians! The Russians!” every time I turn around. Seriously, are we in the McCarthy era?

Bobulinski is a navy veteran, and held very high security clearances. He is clearly a patriotic American and a solid, factual witness (and by the way, a Democrat who has supported and donated to Democrat candidates), and he was, essentially, accused of treason by a United States Representative. He contacted one of the business partners and demanded a retraction from Schiff. The response was basically ain’t gonna happen.

Now, Bobulinski had already questioned the ethics of equity being “held” by Hunter for his father. About 3 years ago, he asked, basically, won’t your involvement with a business so closely connected to the upper echelon of Communist China look bad if you ever decide to run for President?

Nah, he was told by Jim Biden. “Plausible deniability.” Heh heh heh.

Yep. Plausible deniability.

Bobulinski’s frustration is palpable in the interview, and I don’t blame him. He was brought into a business deal based solely on Biden family connections. They approached him because of his expertise. When details began to come out, we heard about it only through the filter of THE RUSSIANS, and this veteran (who comes from a military family) was basically accused of treason.

Does the term thrown under the bus mean anything to you?

I’m glad Bobulinski has the courage – and the evidence – to show these shady dealings of the Biden family.

You can learn more here:

https://nypost.com/2020/10/27/hunter-biden-emails-tony-bobulinski-says-he-was-warned-about-going-public/

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/10/27/tony_bobulinski_my_meeting_with_joe_biden_at_the_beverly_hilton_hotel.html

“[Vice President Biden] is lying about the fact that he said he never spoke to his son Hunter about his overseas business connections.”

“What we’re really finding out is Hunter really cracked the code somewhere around 2013, 2014, in terms of how to really vacuum up these dollars and how to attract money from people that wanted to have influence, and utilize the Biden name.”

“Take a look at all of these glaring conflicts of interest, all these foreign entanglements. At a minimum it is grotesquely sleazy and that’s who the American people are going to polls voting for or against: somebody like Vice President Biden who’s involved in incredibly sleazy, possibly illegal dealings.”

–US Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis)

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The interview with Carlson (OK, link blocked because of copyright. It’s on YouTube.)

Most of the media is ignoring this story (there’s another biased filter for you), brushing it off as “Russian interference.” After all, it may be unethical, but is it strictly illegal? After all, no one is “bribing” Joe Biden. Sure, there are emails that show “influence peddling.” These are old tricks in Washington. Route the money through the spouses and children. Why should this matter?

It matters because this would influence Biden’s dealings with China.

And good grief, peddling influence?

We hear about “fake news,” and this isn’t “fake news,” but it is irresponsible reporting. So is the glossing over of riots in many of our larger cities, describing them as “protests.” Philadelphia has seen “protests” destroy and loot businesses, with several deaths. As I write this, the riots continue. Oops, I mean “protests.”

I know there are people who cannot stand the thought of voting for a Republican. Personally, I can’t stand the thought of voting for these people – who happen to be Democrats. I can’t support a party that supports this kind of corruption…that supports abortion-on-demand…that would smear anyone for no good reason (think Coney Barrett, Kavanaugh, Bobulinsky for a few current victims)…that supports socialism. If you don’t know what I mean, review the party platform. This is NOT the party of JFK. This is not classical liberalism.

Put party aside. The Biden family members (and particularly Joe, the “Big Guy,”) have made fortunes from corruption and peddling influence. To anyone with money.

I usually stay away from politics in this blog, but I can’t shut up if I want to sleep tonight. I woke up at 3 AM with this in my brain, and finally got up at 4 AM to start writing. I let things sit for a while, then post.

Those who disagree with me (or think I’m overreacting) are welcome – URGED – to INVESTIGATE some of the links above, and review Biden’s record. I have a fair number of dear, very beloved friends that are Democrats and tend to vote that way, and we often avoid discussing politics too much because hey, there are more critical things in life, right?

But…sigh. Do you want to keep living in a free country? I know you, like my Democrat friends, are smart, caring, and want the truth. Seek it out. You don’t have to tell anyone how you vote if you don’t want to.

But…do you want to become a country where people of faith (such as Amy Coney Barrett) are attacked because of their faith? Don’t we Americans support the free exercise of religion? As an individual, I cannot be “me” without my faith. I cannot separate that from who and what I am. I trust the moral character of such a judge – and what is more sacred in choosing a judge?

America isn’t perfect – far from it. Our elected representatives aren’t perfect (pardon me while I laugh hysterically), and some are downright rotten and corrupt to the core. Some are trying their best to do the right thing in the quagmire of Washington, DC, and I support and salute those that do.

So…as you cast your vote, remember that elections do have consequences. Please, think long into the future as to what those consequences may be.

I can contrast four years of progress (in spite of ZERO positive media coverage, unbelievable circumstances, including a “faux impeachment” – remember, there was NO (zip, zero, nada) evidence of “Russian collusion”) against 47 years of doublespeak, flip flopped issues, and yes, corruption.


I can contrast someone who, in spite of being occasionally “rude” and “unpresidential,” made his money in business and then came to politics with someone who got rich on a Senator’s salary.

Shouldn’t that tell ya something right there?

A Samaritan Woman is a graduate of Loyola University, New Orleans with a BA in Mass Communications, and a graduate of Louisiana State University with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She is licensed in the practice of Clinical Social Work.

Clanging cymbals

Right now, our world is running on hatred and fear. Just look at the news (you can’t escape it), and you’ll see riots, destruction, fear spreading and a focus on division.
I am told by talking heads and pundits that I should “speak out.” Others say that I have “no right” to say anything. Don’t forget – I am also told that I should stay home to avoid being an unwitting spreader of a deadly virus. I am told that I should/should not/should/should not wear a face mask.

I’m not alone when I say that I am tired, weary, and worn out.

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People are asking a question that is hard to answer: How do we fix the many wrongs of the world and of our society?

In this cacophony of voices crying for attention, we really need to hear this:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:1 – 13

We usually hear this passage read at weddings.  But interestingly, Paul’s letter was sent to a church that was experiencing – you guessed it – division. It is timely, and timeless.

I’m sure many will say this approach is too simplistic and downright impossible.  Please, please – go back and read it again. Let it sink into your bones. Let this be our starting place and returning place for healing.

It’s difficult, I know. As humans, we may never have enough love. But if we draw from the endless well of the love of God, we have a never-ending supply of love and compassion. That’s what we need.

Because without love, we truly have nothing. And only with the love of God can we have any hope of making sense of this mess.

Let not your hearts be troubled.

The gospel scheduled for this coming Sunday is that of John 14. How especially appropriate is this, as we are surrounded by an almost hourly dose of fearful statistics and more stories of a virus with mysterious ways! We are inundated everywhere we turn by calls for reopening the economy / staying shut down / we will have to wear masks forever / people will die!! / suicides on the rise / businesses are failing / etc.

It seems that every utterance is one of fear or one of derision towards one school of thought or another. I hear and read comments that are diametrically opposed: We Should Already Have The Economy Opened up versus We Need To Stay Shut Down Until They Find A Vaccine. The irony here is that most people agree that this virus should not be taken lightly and we need to understand what will be the best approach for the greatest number of people. There is a point of diminishing returns, and everyone has different opinions on it – and those different opinions fuel the fires of fear.

I can’t help but wonder: If we follow Christ, then why do we fear?

AA mountain laurel

Of course, we fear for our loved ones who may be more vulnerable. We fear for ourselves, our family, friends, coworkers, those in the medical field, the folks who work at the grocery store, the baristas at our favorite coffeeshop, the folks who own and who work at our favorite restaurants and businesses, our country, and the world.

But it seems that we are forgetting the most critical thing: God’s got this.

Take a breath. God’s got this. We have a responsibility to do what we think is best – and then, let it go. Not everyone is going to agree on the same approach to this.

I keep hearing comments like “I get so angry when I see people running around without masks! They are so inconsiderate!” (Maybe they have a breathing or sinus problem that wearing a mask exacerbates. Maybe they’re trying to practice social distancing, so stay out of their way.) I also hear comments like “where are all these people going? Why are there so many cars on the road? They need to stay home!” (Maybe they’re just getting out of the house for a ride. Maybe they’re running an errand for someone who’s vulnerable. At any rate, their cooties are in their cars with them.)

Take a breath. God’s got this. All we can “control” (and I use that word lightly) is what WE do. We’re in charge of our own choices, and the rest is up to God.

Isn’t that a relief? Why are we forgetting this?

But people will die!

Well…yes. I hate the idea that I may lose someone (or my own life) to this virus, and I know we all feel that way. But have we forgotten that we all die anyway? Sure, we don’t want to go before it’s our time, but again…our time is in God’s hands.

There’s a lot of fear and disagreement about “opening up,” and I get that.

But when we fuel fear, we separate ourselves from God, and we encourage others to be separate from God.

AA yellowtops

We focus on the fallacy that we can control this, and we can’t. Sure, we can be cautious, wash our hands, and do what we can to “flatten the curve.”  Let’s not forget that yes, there will be more deaths attributed to this virus. (There will also be more deaths attributed to auto accidents, cancer, influenza, heart disease, suicide, war, violence, etc.) As people begin to move around more, there will almost certainly be an increase in infections. Don’t forget the idea of the shutdown was to not overwhelm the medical system, and we’ve been successful with that.

We don’t have to live in fear. Importantly, we don’t have to wield fear as a weapon to “make people behave.” We don’t have to judge others or make them examples of our righteousness if they don’t behave as we (or some expert) thinks they should behave. We might do well to remember that the models we’ve seen have been wrong, and that logic tells us we should be cautious – but not panic.

Be not afraid. Let not your hearts be troubled. God’s got this.

Holy Week: Canceled?!

Louisiana is one of the states hardest hit by CoVid-19. Consequently, we are all under a “Stay at Home” mandate – even if the local Wal-Mart parking lot indicates otherwise. Everything has been canceled, even regular Sunday church services.  Like many others, our own Epiphany church has gone to online services, calling us to a new experience of community through technology. (As I often say, technology is wonderful…when it works. Plans for streaming a live service were abandoned when the wi-fi service inside of the church proved to be less than robust. Hence, it was recorded.)

As our choir director, Leon, is safely tucked away in a neighboring state taking care of his elderly and high risk parents, I received a call from Fr. Matt asking about help with music. So last Sunday, Fr. Matt, Deacon Andrew and I gathered for Morning Prayer in a quiet church. Andrew and I played guitars and sang, and  Matthew 18:20 became very real to me.

I was reviewing guitar translations of hymns and looking ahead. Palm Sunday. Easter. Holy Week.

Holy Week. Holy –!

I can tolerate Palm Sunday without a Procession of the Palms. I can even tolerate – barely – Easter without trumpet, choir, full-on-“smells and bells,” etc.

But Holy Week without my church family?

This…is gonna be a challenge.

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It’s not the music. While Maundy Thursday is filled with music I love, most of it is easily translatable to guitar. It’s not even daily church attendance, as I don’t make it on the Monday or Tuesday. I do love the Tenebrae service on Wednesday, though.

Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what it is, except that the prospect of missing it leaves me feeling a bit lost.

Well, maybe feeling a bit lost is what Holy Week is all about.

I should know that; I’ve written songs about it. Yet this feeling of loss and of being lost are different. I know it’s nothing like Christ’s disciples felt: After an enthusiastic welcome into Jerusalem, their whole world fell apart as they watched their beloved rabbi captured, condemned in a farce of a trial, tortured and crucified. They watched, helpless, without the knowledge of what was to come. How can my own feelings possibly have anything to do with what they were experiencing?

How can my own feelings be even remotely related to what Jesus suffered and what His followers felt?

Perhaps those are questions to ponder during this upcoming Holy Week.

Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jacob Owensby (affectionately known as “Bishop Jake”) sent out an email to members of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana this week, stressing the need to stay home and reminding us that we don’t stay put out of our own desire for self-preservation. Rather, we do so in order to slow the spread of the illness and to not overwhelm our medical system. He points out “This makes it possible for those needing a hospital bed and life-saving equipment to have access to them. We will literally be saving our neighbors’ lives. That sounds like love to me.”

That sounds like love to me.

Amen.

Epiphany welcomes all to our virtual worship. I’ll be posting them here.

There is a Well

Yesterday’s Gospel reading was about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, and their subsequent conversation. I’ve always been fascinated by the Samaritan woman (as you can tell from the title of this blog). She was pretty fearless.

She recognized first that He was a prophet, and when He began to speak of Spirit, she tested the waters (no pun intended) of the Messiah issue. She didn’t quite come out and say “are you the Messiah,” but spoke of the Messiah

Jesus confirmed that I who speak to you am He.

The woman left her water jar behind, a significant act in itself. Not only did she abandon her task (a critical one that had to be fulfilled on a regular basis), she abandoned her tool. Simply reading the words as written, we may get the impression that she set down her water jar and wandered into the city and chatted with some folks on the street corner.

I rather have the idea that she was blown away enough to drop everything and run. Wouldn’t you? How long had they been waiting for a Messiah? She had the proof she needed.  Not only had He spoken to her, He had spoken to her as an equal, an individual capable of grasping deep truth. He immediately treated her as a disciple.

She ran to the city. Can you imagine her breathless as she told people (the men, as John tells us, another important point) to come, see a Man who told me…could this be the Christ?

She must have had a reputation for being truthful, as people believed her words. Later, when they had seen for themselves, they came to believe what they had seen.

I wrote the lyrics first for There is a Well:

There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry;
a deep well that’s flowing inside of me, where my soul does lie.
Some days it’s clear fresh water
Some days it’s sweet red wine
That makes my head start spinning with a love divine.
There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry.

Well, I left the village, to fill my jar
with a thirst throughout my very soul.
And I met a man (can you understand)
He said “my water will make you whole.”
He said, You been thirsting,
I know you’ve been looking
and you’re not the only one……
so go back to the village, and sing it on the streets
the Son of Man has come!

There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry;
a deep well that’s flowing inside of me, where my soul does lie.
Some days it’s clear fresh water
Some days it’s sweet red wine
That makes my head start spinning with a love divine.
There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry.

Oh I thought I lost out on Salvation’s call
because a sinner oh, that’s what I am
But I drank of his living water and I heard him say
“Sister, you’re a part of the plan.”
He said, It’s a hard life
That you’ve been living
And sister, I know you’ve got the blues
But it was a new day dawning, when you woke up this morning
So go out and tell the good news!

There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry;
a deep well that’s flowing inside of me, where my soul does lie.
Some days it’s clear fresh water
Some days it’s sweet red wine
That makes my head start spinning with a love divine.
There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry…
There is a well inside of me, never gonna run dry.

The words came easily, but I struggled with the music for a while. Then, I realized:

She had five husbands. Obviously, this was meant to be a blues song.

CD COVER only front

And a blues song it is. You can listen to the song here.

Greening the Season

It always makes me a little crazy when I see Christmas trees and greenery parked out by the side of the road awaiting garbage pickup – on Dec. 27. Good grief! Don’t they realize it’s TWELVE days of Christmas? I’m doing well if I have greenery in the house by Christmas Eve! And yes, it stays until Epiphany. While I’ve switched to a small “faux” tree in recent years, I do enjoy using fresh greenery. Living where I do, we have an abundance of it at hand. It’s become sort of a family tradition.

Thursday, the weather was good, and my brother, sister-and-law and I headed down the road to gather a few goodies for decorating. While south Louisiana isn’t home to lovely Fraser Fir trees and the like, we do have our share of evergreens.

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Cedar trees are everywhere. One Christmas, many years ago, we decided to cut our own tree. This was long before tree farms offered such a thing. We went along “the ditchbank” (a wooded area by the house) and chose a lovely cedar, cut it down, and brought it home. (Disclaimer: It was on family property. We weren’t poaching a tree.) It was fun, a new experience, and — very tall. About 2 feet too tall, so we had a bit of a bent-over tree, but what the heck.

Palmettos aren’t what you think of with “Christmas greens” (and neither is Spanish moss), but they are pretty handy.

Then, there’s Yaupon. This North American holly is full of berries, and grows wild along the road.

Greenery has been used since ancient times, and even before Christianity, to bring color into the homes during the darker days of winter. Even in our mild southern climate, we have a starker landscape – so we love our evergreens.

Who needs the decorating section of your local craft store when you have this amazing decor in your own backyard?

Using the same materials (OK, I skipped the palmetto), Greg and I had different styles on our doors.

But it was a fun afternoon, on the hunt for greens and “weeds” that would make the season festive.

I’ll be spending Christmas with family and friends, and plan to continue my own Christmas enjoyment throughout the season by spending time with people I love. I hope you’ll do the same, even if you can’t “visit everyone” on Christmas day. (Who can? Oh, yeah, the big Jolly Ho Ho Ho Guy. But he just drops off gifts, scarfs down milk and cookies, and takes off again, hopefully NOT leaving reindeer patties on the roof.)

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, and – dare I say it – a very American holiday. We’ve seen decorations of pilgrims and pumpkins, corn and horns of plenty. We’re used to our holidays being commercialized, and today is particularly a good day to reflect on what, exactly, this holiday means and how it began.

In 1789 (over a hundred years after “the first Thanksgiving”), George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation. I think it is particularly important to consider this document, as we are inundated in the media by claims that “God had nothing to do with the founding of America.” A recent “man in the street” video piece by The College Fix asked students whether or not it was acceptable to celebrate Thanksgiving.

“ooo. I’m leaning towards no. I feel like with, you know, the historical context, the, kind of, you know, the really awful oppression of, you know, indigenous peoples, is like the holiday is really like, praised by I think, people more like the conservative side of things, to like uphold that sort of tradition…”

“Well, the entire thing is sort of based on indigenous peoples, and [shrugs] murders of indigenous peoples”

“Ummm, no. I mean, it’s probably not as bad as Christmas or Easter…”

The reporter was at a small Christian private college in Minnesota. Are you freaking out yet? I am, and not just because of the fact that these students obviously need to take Speech 101 and remedial English. Some of the students even admit that their “standard public school education” Thanksgiving story was this great meeting between the pilgrims and the Indians where “the Indians showed ‘em how to plant corn, and obviously that’s not true.”

I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. I doubt that they learned about George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, issued 3 October 1789:

GWashThanksgiving

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor —and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

The Proclamation goes on to specify the date of the holiday, and then that the day “be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…”

Washington’s proclamation came a little more than a hundred years after the arrival of the Mayflower. He was closer to that history than we are, and no doubt was aware of the dreadful first winter the Pilgrims endured. He would also have been aware of the history of the native tribes that played a role in the lives of these early settlers and the warring between them. The Wampanoag did work with the settlers, and were no doubt glad to have help in their own struggles with the Iroquois (who were warring with the Wampanoag and others).

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155

The Mayflower Compact by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

The travelers had set up an agreement based on Biblical principles that would establish how they lived and worked when they settled in the New World. Laws were established that would apply to everyone, regardless of political or religious beliefs, and all property would be community property. Basically, “from each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs.” Sound familiar?

Well, after a dreadful, difficult voyage over, they settled in and got to work. And you know what happened? Their setup didn’t work. They had created this “group venture” so as to be able to repay their sponsors back in England, but it was failing, because there really wasn’t any personal responsibility.

And…this was happening with a group of Christians who believed in sharing and caring for one another. It wasn’t a bunch of criminals or shysters; if any group could have made such a socialistic setup work, it was this bunch. Fortunately for us, John Bradford, the colony’s governor, realized it wasn’t working. Instead of beating a dead horse (possibly not a metaphoric saying in this instance), he started over. Each family received a plot of land, and was able to use it as they saw fit. If they had surplus, they could sell it. If they didn’t have enough, they could buy what they needed. They had a basic capitalistic society, and it worked.

To be sure, the Wampanoag had pitched in to help them survive their first winter, and had a good relationship with the colony. But it was more than just their assistance that helped the settlers at Plymouth survive and build a colony. Religious freedom and the right to work and make one’s own success also had a lot to do with it.

For anyone disturbed by the “Americanism” of the holiday, I will remind you that while Washington himself had the good of America as his primary concern, he didn’t close out the rest of the world as he encouraged prayer to God:

“…to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

Amen to that. I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

To read George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-04-02-0091

On the 12th day of Christmas…

When asking someone “how was your Christmas?” we often receive a reply along the lines of “it was lovely! And I’m so glad it’s over!” I heard that just this morning, and on this, the 12th day of Christmas, I was reminded of something I read recently on Twitter.

It was a retweet of something posted by @theodramatist: “What are some ways that we can start reclaiming/celebrating ALL 12 days of Christmastide?”

nativity dog

How can we keep the magic of Christmas?

Responses to this tweet included ideas old and new, and some great ones at that. While the Christmas theme continues in church until Epiphany, the secular world has mostly moved on. Retailers put Christmas stock on sale Dec. 26th, and – for the most part – wishes of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” has become “Happy New Year!”

Christian churches do, of course, stick to the liturgical calendar. And while I understand that Christmas is a busy and exhausting time for staff, how about keepin’ it “high church” for a while if that fits your congregation? (Um, incense is optional.) I had a crazy idea of a midweek carol sing – a week after Christmas. (Why not? Everyone finally has time for it!)

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A Nativity scene made from cypress knees on display at Epiphany Church, New Iberia (2018)

In recent years, my church has started doing the children’s Christmas pageant as an Epiphany pageant, which I think is a great idea. My own home decorations stay up until Epiphany. Here in the the sugar country of south Louisiana, families whose lives follow the calendar of grinding often find alternative dates to celebrate when grinding isn’t finished by Christmas (often the case).

But the feeling of relief that “Christmas is over until next year – WHEW!” is a little sad and bittersweet.

To be sure, Christmas IS a sad time for many, filled with bittersweet moments for nearly all of us. We are reminded of loved ones who are no longer with us; we are reminded of the changes in our lives and the lives of those around us. We look at the changes in the world, and (human nature being what it is), we focus on the things we lack and the things we miss while often glossing over the positive changes.

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a handmade clay Nativity displayed at Epiphany last year

Even the wonderful things about the Christmas season (time with loved ones, community worship, giving) tend to overwhelm us, and I think it’s because we try to squeeze it all into such a short period of time!

Shouldn’t that be a good reason to remind ourselves that yes, there are twelve days of Christmastide, and we all pretty much get started celebrating Christmas during Advent anyway. So why all the stress?

Maybe it’s because we want to ignore the things that hurt us, the painful memories, and the wondering-what-next-year-will-hold. The sad irony is that the very gift of Christmas, the miracle of the Incarnation, should be the healing salve that tends the wounds of the less-than-Hallmark-perfect holiday – and so often we forget about that miracle.

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One of the many Nativity scenes displayed at Epiphany church on our feast day

I’ll be packing up my Christmas decorations today and tomorrow, with the exception of the Nativity. (After all, the wise men don’t arrive until tomorrow, anyway.) As I do so, I’ll be revisiting the memories of Christmas past and be grateful for them. I’ll challenge myself to bring the beauty and miracle of the Incarnation into all of 2019. Tomorrow, I’ll watch our Epiphany Christmas Pageant, sing Christmas carols, and enjoy the first king cake of the season – and maybe find a plastic baby Jesus inside the cake.

I’m welcoming baby Jesus into my heart, and hope that you do, too.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us everyone.

Love came down at Christmas

Last night at the Christmas Eve service, Fr. Matt gave his usual children’s sermon about the young boy, Emmanuel, who wanted to know what language God spoke. The answer, of course, is that God’s language is love. The “grown-up sermon” changes each year, but we’ve heard Emmanuel’s story before and I’m always glad to hear it again as the message remains fresh.

Some years Christmas is hard. For some people, it’s always hard. It’s a time marked by memories and traditions, and traditions change out of necessity as life changes us and our circumstances. The season smacks us in the face with happy-ending-miracles on the Hallmark channel, and we are drenched with messages of the perfect family and the happily-ever-after. Real life is so much more messy, as families deal with dysfunction, illness, division, poverty, and those loved ones who are no longer there. (Then, there are those who have no family.)

Christmas whispers in God’s language to our weary souls, and it can be hard to hear those whispers over the din of the season. Christmas whispers of hope in a broken world. Christmas reminds us that in the face of all of the messy-ness, the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential event brings love and light. I think that God often hides miracles in plain sight. Maybe Christmas will bring healing to the sick, dignity and sustenance to the impoverished, and reconciliation to the divided. Or, maybe not just yet.

If we listen, though, Christmas brings hope, light and love. We are broken, and remain in this human condition. The media’s message of Christmas is perfection in an imperfect world; the real message of Christmas is love and redemption in spite of our imperfection.

Love came down

What a relief. I invite you to let go of the “if onlys” and the “what ifs” this season. Think about God’s gift of love to the world, even if it doesn’t seem very evident to you

Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign. – Christina Rossetti, from “Love came down at Christmas”

May you have a blessed Christmas, filled with love.

image from the Graphics Fairy blog

The Charming Face of Evil

I rarely watch movies in a movie theater. There aren’t that many that tempt me to sit in a semi-comfortable seat for a couple of hours. Last night, I made an exception and went to a movie that woke me up at 4 AM, unable to get back to sleep.

It was a movie about America’s most prolific serial killer, who was finally – after three decades of murder – apprehended, brought to trial and put away for life. Surprisingly, it’s not filled with gory scenes and graphic death. It’s a true story: Gosnell, The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. It’s the story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Gosnell was a doctor in Philadelphia, who ran an abortion clinic, The Women’s Medical Society, for over 30 years. His clinic had been the subject of numerous complaints and an occasional reprimand and fine from the Pennsylvania Health Department. He repeatedly ignored health regulations, utilized unlicensed and untrained personnel, and had many patients with complications. In fact, over 40 lawsuits had been filed against him over a 30-year period. Yet, his clinic continued to operate.

The movie begins as FBI agents and state police execute a raid on the clinic. They aren’t there to investigate the filthy, shoddy medical practices; instead, they are investigating the “pill mill” that Dr. Gosnell was running, selling prescriptions for painkillers to drug dealers. As the team moves throughout the clinic, we see conditions that are filthy, dangerous, and disgusting.

Detective James “Woody” Woods prepares to enter Gosnell’s clinic.

Biohazard sacks are filled with medical waste and stacked up everywhere, in freezers and even in the stairwells. Cats roam freely, and Gosnell proudly informs the team just how many rodents had been dispatched from the clinic by one particular cat. Anyone with knowledge of how ANY medical clinic is set up will be horrified to see the setup and filth and the broken, unused equipment.

Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer (2018)

Gosnell said there was a “problem” with the medical waste removal company. From www.imdb.com

In the refrigerator were specimen jars, with tiny pairs of perfectly formed feet. Each one was neatly labeled. DNA purposes, said Dr. Gosnell. He calmly attended a woman who was waiting on her abortion while the team was there, and then proceeded to munch on Chinese takeout while still wearing his bloody gloves.

The story unfolded as the case proceeded to a grand jury and on to trial. We hear from witnesses and learn the story of the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who had gone to Gosnell for an abortion. The Department of Health had decided to ignore the incident, but Detective James “Woody” Wood (played by Dean Cain) makes it a point to NOT ignore the death.

While there is plenty of evidence at the clinic and in Gosnell’s home to confirm that he is indeed selling prescriptions for Oxycontin and other painkillers, there is also much evidence that he has routinely performed abortions well past Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit on abortions, and has, in fact, murdered babies who were born alive.

ADA Lexy McGuire (played by Sarah Jane Morris) prosecutes Gosnell. While witnesses are badgered by defense attorney Mike Cohan (played by Nick Searcy), we think that the jury just might decide in favor of the defendant…until one former employee of the clinic, Betty Goodwin (played by Dominique Deon) approaches Woody and another detective with a photo of “Baby Boy A,” a child who was delivered alive by Gosnell. Baby Boy A breathed, moved, and cried until Gosnell snipped his spinal cord, ending the life of this newborn.

ADA “Lexy” McGuire, played by Sarah Jane Morris

We don’t see the child’s photo in the movie. (It is available on the movie website.) We only see the reactions of those in the courtroom as they look upon this perfectly formed infant. In that moment, we realize the true evil of this killer, described by many as “charming.” Indeed, Gosnell (played by Earl Billings) is the smiling, charming face of evil.

Earl Billings plays a charming Dr. Kermit Gosnell. He offers to cook breakfast for the detectives executing a search warrant in his home. They decline.

Gosnell’s clinic was an abomination, and we wonder how he was left to operate for so many years. We learn that the governor of Pennsylvania had told the Department of Health “hands off” Kermit Gosnell’s clinic. Perhaps this is because abortion is seen as a “hot button” topic. Regardless of where one stands on that issue, no one could possibly agree that Gosnell was acting in the best interests of his female patients.

Even the most staunch pro-choice believer would have to agree that Gosnell’s killing of infants who were alive is clearly murder. While the trial found him guilty of murder of three infants and one adult woman, there were other infant bodies that pointed to the fact that these three babies were just the tip of the iceberg.

This was a movie well worth my time. I had read the book, and so had some knowledge of the facts about Gosnell. The book, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer (Ann McElhinney, Phelim McAleer) is completely documented. The scenes depicted in the movie were not exaggerations, they were based on actual evidence from the crime scene. Interestingly, the New York Times initially refused to list the book on its bestseller’s list – even though it was number 3 on Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly lists.

The movie shows only a small part of his activities, but does a masterful job of telling the story accurately and with sensitivity and even compassion. The movie broke crowdfunding records – it raised $2.3 million from nearly 30,000 donations. As sad as the subject matter, we are left with a positive ending, and the satisfaction that, at least in this instance, justice was done.

Go see it.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/ttwkr8MM9Rk

Visit the movie website for information and theaters: http://gosnellmovie.com/

You’ll find the heartbreaking photo of Baby Boy A under the “resources” link.