Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that jazz

Someone recently forwarded me an email that was supposed to have been written by Ben Stein all about how he didn't mind when people wished him a "Merry Christmas" or if there was a Christmas nativity scene out in public as long as there was a menorah nearby too. That was all well and good until it went off about Madeline Murray O'Hair and how the country went down the tube when we "took God out of the schools." At that point, I suspected maybe this wasn't all Ben Stein's creation and sure enough, posted the actual transcript of Stein's rant and it didn't include all that latter stuff.

Sometimes I wonder what all the hoo-ha is for.

Here's my take on this whole topic.

Personally, I'm happy to wish the people I know are Christian a "Merry Christmas" at this time of year, but I'd rather say "Happy Holidays" to people I don't know, because I'd frankly rather they have a Happy Hanukkah if they happen to be Jewish, or a Happy Winter Solstice if they happen to be pagan (or Celts). And it's easier than asking each person I meet or who checks out in line near me at the store what their faith tradition is (if they have one). And I'm not at all offended by people who wish me "Happy Holidays." In fact, I appreciate the fact that they're not assuming anything about me that they don't know.

I'm also happy to see Nativity scenes out in public but if they are put there by state or government entities, then they'd need to also put something that honors the seasonal holidays of every religion represented in their community out there too. If they're willing to do that, then I say "mazel tov!" If not, then they should stick to holiday lights and snowflakes and let the churches do the creches. (and I feel the same way about the Ten Commandments)

My understanding of Scripture tells me that God is everywhere, and especially in my heart, so if God is in my heart and in my silent prayers when I am in school (or on the job, or at Ingles), then God is still in school with me and no one can change that. And that's good enough for me. I don't need some football coach or some squeaky clean valedictorian to invoke God for me, thank you very much. I can do that on my own, whenever and wherever I need to.

So whatever your celebration this time of year - I wish you a good one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Cars and Politics, New Thinking Needed

The very first car I ever owned was a light blue Pontiac Gran Le Mans. It was a lot of steel for a college junior to be driving around, but it came at a good price and I needed something safe. That car later carried me to Georgia where the radio played Kenny Loggins’ song “This Is It” as I exited I-75 in my post-college move to Marietta.

Next, I drove a Mazda and then a Ford, both with 5-speed stick shift transmissions that made the driving experience a lot more interesting. All of those cars came to me “gently used,” and I drove them well into six-digit mileage before they were “retired.” But after the Ford, I decided it was time for me to buy my first brand-new car.

Though I’d had a good experience with the Ford, it seemed that most American-made small cars of the time were rated poorly in quality and maintenance. The Japanese cars I considered lasted longer and got better gas mileage.

But there was a fairly new player on the scene, and though they were actually a division of General Motors, the Saturn car company downplayed their parentage because they were truly doing something different. Saturn built their cars using state-of-the-art practices and their employees were energized and committed n a way that seemed truly unique to that industry. That really got my attention, and so I purchased a Saturn sedan and loved it for a long time. Before Saturn came along, American auto manufacturers were stuck in a rut and it took someone who was willing to think in a completely different way to change that.

I feel that politics in our country is in the same kind of rut. No matter what party they belong to, it seems most politicians are willing to do and say whatever it takes just to keep their jobs, and the more divisive the language the better. It has all just become a game of shaking hands with the devil to raise money, pushing the agendas of the most well-heeled special interests, and telling the public whatever lies are needed to make sure they get re-elected. To heck with the painful truth of where our short-sighted decisions are taking us – whether that be into deep debt, environmental ruin or endless wars.

Most frustrating to me is the unwillingness of either party to see the deeper nature of things – both causes and effects. In my view, the Republicans want to make it all about personal responsibility and morality and turn a blind eye to the real systemic injustices that make it nearly impossible for a lot of people to get ahead. On the other hand, the Democrats want to make it all about fixing a broken system and helping people through government, while turning a blind eye to personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. This split-brain approach only serves to slap a few bandages on the bleeding while ignoring the life-threatening conditions underneath.

Just like when Saturn emerged on the automotive scene, I believe we now have a man on the political scene who really thinks differently and who recognizes that our national problems are not either-or. That man is Barack Obama. For me, he is a breath of fresh air in an environment that has become dangerously polluted. I first recognized his gifts in 2004 during his run for Senate and I hoped and prayed that he would one day become President of this country.

I can’t tell anyone else how to vote, but I can write here that I believe Senator Obama has what it takes to help us take our country back from the moneyed power brokers, the corporate lobbyists and the “same old, same olds” who have been driving us farther and farther away from who we were born to be back in 1776.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Out of the Box

This essay was written in May of 2007 and was my first published in "The Northeast Georgian" newspaper (Habersham County)

Until this past December 15, I lived in a box with limited windows that was high above the ground. No, I’m not a former resident of one of the state’s prisons, just of a condo in Marietta. Maybe some would see that as a jail of sorts. For me, what felt most confined in that space was my soul.

Don’t get me wrong, it had been a great place to live. The mortgage was low and it served me well for 25 years. But after a while, it felt like all I did after I parked my car was walk across pavement and up the stairs into a Habitrail® for humans. And though my home didn’t have an actual hamster wheel to run on day and night, Metro Atlanta has a way of making you feel like everyone around you is doing just that.

Today, I live in a 100-year old farmhouse in Demorest on eight beautiful acres. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. That’s especially true when I see red-tailed hawks circling on updrafts overhead or hear the frogs peeping from the lake. It’s then that I feel my heart leap out of my chest and I thank heaven that I live here.

This is what speaks to me now – old barns, big trees, even the small green anole lizard that graces my front porch and is sometimes perched atop the statue of the Virgin Mary as she stands there welcoming me home.

I’m not Catholic. I’ve worshipped in Lutheran churches most of my life, and you don’t see statues of the Virgin there. But I love the Holy. I love the Mystery. And my journey has been blessed by that Divine Mystery in ways I’m not nearly as appreciative of as I should be. So when I came to look at this house to rent and saw Mary here, I felt like I was being encouraged by a comforting God to let go of what held me to my old way of living and risk being turned upside down once more.

For fourteen years I visited the northeast Georgia mountains and wished I could live here. But I couldn’t make it happen. In 2003, I was downsized from yet another technology marketing job and decided I’d had enough of corporate life. I’d released my first solo CD and was ready to give this music thing a go. So for the last four years I’ve been on a financial roller coaster (more downs on this ride than ups), surviving by cobbling together musical and speaking engagements with marketing project work. It kind of put a kink in the works when I got nodes on my vocal cords and couldn’t sing for eight months last year. That, plus a host of other odd events left me feeling a little battered. So I finally decided that since I had no security in Marietta, I may as well live where I want to live and have no security. I mean, what’s the difference?

My calendar says that December 15 was the first night of Hanukkah – the Jewish festival of lights. That holiday commemorates a time of rededication of the Temple after it had been ruined by enemy soldiers. Even though there was only enough oil to keep the eternal flame lit for one day, it burned for eight days – just enough time to press the olives and consecrate new oil.

So far here, I’ve found a little bit of work to do but I can’t tell yet how long my monetary “oil” is going to last. Yes, it’s a little scary to throw oneself at the mercy of the heavens to keep the fires burning, but I love it here. I love that I see familiar faces at contra dancing and at church the next day. I love the sight of moonlight washing over the farm fields. So even though I feel a little looney for unplugging from everything I knew in Marietta, when I see that moonlight, all I can do is pray to be allowed to stay here.

Okay, Okay Already.

I seem to be the last person in my world to not have their own blog. Well, okay, that's overstating it a bit, but sometimes it seems that way. I just didn't think I wanted to add another anything to my already overgrown list of things that need care and feeding. So call me The Reluctant Blogger.
On the other hand, I'm also overflowing with opinions - on faith, politics, protecting rural environments and just about everything in between.

So welcome to my brain on blogs. I promise more to come.