Monthly Archives: December, 2010

Blizzard Bonus

December 28th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

There are a lot of unhappy people this week. Many who dreamed of and planned for vacations in Florida and Hawaii found themselves paying for the privilege of sitting in cold and wet climates. Others, thanks to record snowfalls on the east coast, faced cancelled trips and hours in airports or were unable to return home after the holiday weekend.

Our youngest daughter fits the above description. A number of months ago she volunteered to be an advisor for a Jewish youth group in Los Angeles over the last weekend in December. Since she attends a Jewish college in New York, she wasn’t on a school break, but by missing only one class she thought that she could fly to L.A., contribute her time and energy and get back in time for finals. While she is a generous soul, the lure of a weekend of California sunshine in the middle of winter was certainly an added incentive for this project.

Reading about southern California downpours and flooding last week somewhat dampened her excitement at the trip.  But the weekend itself, where she shared her enthusiasm about Judaism with a group of teens, made up for the lack of sun. Amidst a flurry of activity she stayed unaware that the east coast was bracing itself for heavy snowfall. Then she received notification that her flight was cancelled. All New York airports were closed and she was one of thousands whose flights needed to be rescheduled.

Now, this type of flight snafu is more of an annually expected event than a shocking occurrence. Since Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Presidents Day weekend all come close to or in the winter months, one would think that there would be a standard operating procedure for when bad weather plus heavy travel coincide. So while she expected a delay and inconvenience, she was not prepared for being ignored and treated as if she had done something wrong.

Finding out that the airline wasn’t answering its phones on Sunday and that the recorded message had a ‘tough luck’ quality to it, did not engender warm, fuzzy feelings in my daughter. When she finally did get through on Monday, she was further dismayed at being told that the soonest the airline could fly her out was Friday. Since that flight would not get her in to NY in time for the Sabbath, she would have to settle for a Saturday night flight.  As a final insulting touch she was told that the flight would cost her an additional $100.

After a number of frantic phone calls from our daughter, my husband and I decided to bring her home to Seattle. If she needed to be on the west coast for a week, she could at least be home. Once she got to the airport for that flight, things improved. When she explained her plight, an airline employee found a seat for her, at no extra charge, on a Wednesday Seattle-NY flight, a far more reasonable solution than the original plan. Most importantly, the woman at the desk was empathetic. When she waived the luggage fee she sent a message that the airline saw my daughter as more than a dollar bill equation.

 That really was the most important factor. The airline certainly didn’t cause the bad weather and I’m sure that many airline employees had their own holidays disrupted. The bottom line is that whatever the technical difficulties, most people will understand and behave reasonably as long as the airline relates to them as individuals. I usually shudder when the government steps in to ‘protect the consumer.’ That often means higher prices for diminished service. But the flip side of that is that the onus is on businesses to remember that the customer may not always be right or rational, but he or she is always human.

As for my husband and me, we got the blizzard bonus. An unexpected day with our daughter under our roof is always a gift.

 
 

 

Year of the Squirrel

December 28th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

What happens if you extract a little blood from a hibernating ground squirrel, preserve it till the summer and inject it into another squirrel?  That active little mammal with his bushy tail will instantly go into hibernation.

 We don’t clearly understand if cold weather sets off the chemical changes in squirrel blood that signals hibernation time. We do know that hibernation helps animals endure the winter because hibernating bodies require only a tiny percentage of the energy needed when awake.  Hibernation is a state in which animals’ body metabolism and heart rate slow down so dramatically that they can easily last the winter on their accumulated fat. However, their brain activity remains pretty much the same as when they’re awake. 

 We humans don’t hibernate but we do sleep.  When we sleep our metabolism hardly changes and our energy needs drop by only about 5%. However, our brain activity vastly changes from our waking brain wave patterns.  I think one could say that hibernation chiefly affects the body while sleep also affects the brain.

 In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for sleep is exactly the same as the word for year.

 

Do not love sleep lest you become impoverished…

(Proverbs 20:13)

 

And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years

(Genesis 5:3)

 

 

That Hebrew word also has two other meanings; ‘repeat’ and ‘change.’

 

Amasa was not vigilant about the sword in Yoav’s hand and he

struck him with it into his fifth rib and he spilled his innards onto the ground;he did not repeat (the blow) and he (Amasa) died.

(II Samuel 20:10)

 

I will not desecrate my covenant and I will not change the utterance of my lips.

(Psalms 89:35)

 

How strange is that?   Repeat means doing the same thing again, while change means doing something different. What message is God giving us through the way His language links these two opposite concepts along with year and sleep?

 

The potential trap for us is allowing each day or year to be nothing but a repetition of the one before.  Animals hibernate to cope with the wintery problems of the present and in the spring they awake to continue exactly what they were doing in the fall. They endlessly repeat past years’ activities.

 

We have a choice. We can be animal-like and do the same. We can view sleep as nothing more than a human version of hibernation with the focus on the biological component.   We can see a new year as simply a calendar fact. New Year’s Eve partying can serve as an attempt to camouflage the dreary passage of time and the gloomy likelihood that the coming year will repeat the mistakes of the one fading away. 

 

Alternatively, we can see how different we are from animals and that every single day we are blessed with the ability to start anew and bring about refreshing changes that improve our lives. We can awake each morning with a smile on our faces, a prayer on our lips, and hope and happiness in our hearts as we embrace the day. Each sleep can herald new resolutions of change, growth, and improvement just as each new yearly cycle should so the same.

 

Each evening, we can set an agenda to make the next day somewhat better than the one before. Instead of treating the night of December 31st as another meaningless party, we can contemplate ways to change in the coming year.  Quiet thought will quickly produce a list of important changes that will make our 2011 better than 2010

 

We can pick from two contrasting equations.

 

Sleep = year = repeat

or

  Sleep = year = change.

 

Since we are not animals, the choice is ours to make.

 

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thnx 4 gr8 time – originally posted May 7, 2009

December 26th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A few weeks ago while expressing my reservations about Twitter I mentioned that I encouraged my children to write handwritten notes of thanks or sympathy. One reader wrote in asking why. In her words:

What’s wrong with an email? Both take time to write isn’t one just a modern form of the other?

That got me thinking. On occasion (I wish I could say rare occasion but that wouldn’t be truthful) my children oh so delicately suggest that I often pretend that a lot of the modern world doesn’t exist. They might say this when I insist that the movie rating system has a typo and PG13 is actually PG31 or when I advocate the usage of the phrase “dearie me” when they need to articulate a particularly strong emotional response.

So, I stopped to take a second look at the issue. Do handwritten notes intrinsically have greater value than email or am I urging the equivalent of writing with a quill vs. using a ball point pen. I think I need to argue for the first view.

Email is wonderful in many ways. It is immediate, inexpensive, and easy to disseminate. Like so many things in life, its strong points are the same as its weak points. Sending an email birthday card to someone is as simple as clicking a link and I think it is fine to respond to an instant card with an instant response. But surely if someone takes the time to go to a store, purchase a card and mail it, let alone if he sends a present, he deserves a response that shows some hint of effort.

Because emails can be written and sent so spontaneously, they tend to be full of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and potential double meaning. The whole point is to write and click, not to read over, examine and analyze. We’ve all had the frustrating experience of needing to rewrite a handwritten letter when we see errors in it. This is exactly one of the reasons that we pay more attention when we receive snail mail. By definition, someone spent time and energy composing it.

My husband and I recently received a beautifully written card from a 21 year old friend of our daughter who had spent a few days with us over Passover. That card will be kept and re-read, not deleted. The care taken over it even led me to call the girl’s mother and share it, so that she could take pride in her daughter’s good manners. My son recently visited a friend’s home where the mother showed him how she had framed a thank you he had written her after she had offered him hospitality years ago. Would email notes evoke the same response? I don’t think so.

I love email. But when something meaningful needs to be said, email seems to be the equivalent of serving a microwave meal rather than a home cooked dinner. It may fill the basic requirements, but it doesn’t quite do the job.

Theopolis Americana

December 21st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I love this season.  I don’t celebrate Christmas but I respect it and enjoy its sights and sounds.  I enjoy the music in the malls. I enjoy the lavishly lit displays and colorfully decorated homes.  All this is far more noticeable in cities than in remote rural areas.

Cities are places where the highs are higher but the lows are lower.  In large cities, people can find friendship and connection no matter what their interests, but in large cities some citizens languish in excruciating loneliness.

Cities contain culture; music, art and dance.  But they are also where the degenerate sell the degrading to the depraved.

In cities fortunes can be made and affluence achieved but it is also in cities that drifters and derelicts exist.

Cities harbor strident secularists and ardent atheists.  But cities also accommodate multiple centers of worship from simple synagogues to towering cathedrals. Cities possess vast churches teeming with worshippers and countless other expressions of faith including entire neighborhoods of Christmas decorations.

History’s earliest mention of a city is the one built by Cain as part of his penance for homicide.

…and he became a city builder and named the city                                              after the name of his son, Enoch.
(Genesis 4:17)

Contributing to the lives of many was a way to atone for taking a life.

This observation of ancient Jewish wisdom is substantiated by the Torah’s most conspicuous cluster of cities—the six cities where accidental murderers sought refuge:

You shall designate cities for yourselves, cities of refuge shall they be for you, and a murder shall flee there—one who takes a life unintentionally.
(Numbers 35:11)

Rather than retreating into isolation, living in a city gives opportunity for connection with others.

Cities offer opportunity to flourish or fail.

And they (the men of Reuben and Gad) approached Moses and said, “Pens for our flocks we shall build here and cities for our children.
(Numbers 32:16)

Moses reversed the order when responding:

Build for yourselves cities for your children and pens for your flocks…
(Numbers 32:24)

Flocks represent wealth and pens represent the infrastructure for building wealth.  The tribes had the order wrong and Moses corrected them.  Go ahead and build cities but the priority is first family then wealth. Cities, in close contact with many other humans are places where you can best achieve your maximum potential.  But it is also terribly easy to mistake priorities in a city. Yes, there is risk and that is why you need God’s Guide for how the world really works.

Cities remind us that life is at its most thrilling when we strive for the highest highs despite being aware that the lowest lows are also possible.

I know someone who won’t get married because he fears perhaps facing one day the possible loss of someone he loves.  There are many who abandon dreams of building their own businesses because they fear the humiliation of failure.  Some renounce the joy of having children for fear of potential heartbreaks waiting down the road.

Yes, it is possible to live a bland life minimizing the lows by foregoing the highs, a life in which the green graph barely flutters above or below the base line of life.  But is such a life what God intended for us?  No! 

“Come hither, and I will show you an admirable spectacle!” said Rev. Cotton Mather in a speech entitled Theopolis Americana that he delivered to the General Assembly of Massachusetts in late 1709. He continued, “’Tis an heavenly city, descending out of Heaven, from God.”

This is a great time of the year to commit to a new year of living with passion and fullness and experiencing what the city represents in our lives.  Reach for the heights while following His word to avoid the depths or cope with them.

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Over 21 Only

December 21st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Film critic Roger Ebert is proposing that since today’s youth are regularly exposed to profanity, sex and violence, the Motion Picture Association of America should revamp the movie rating system. Aside from the easy availability of anything and everything on computers, he correctly says that with multiplex cinemas it is simple to buy a ticket for one PG-13 rated show and head to an R rated one instead. In his words, “It’s time to get pragmatic about this.”

Perhaps our reaction to these facts should be exactly the opposite. After all, I don’t see proposals floated to admit that we’ve lost the war on obesity and should stop trying to do anything about it. I haven’t seen the argument made that we should simply acknowledge that Americans do not have an educational system that compares with many other countries around the world and rather than try to improve, we should just change requirements for graduation. We certainly didn’t shrug our shoulders about cigarette consumption a few decades ago and let it be. 

Like obesity or illiteracy, being exposed to gratuitous sex, profanity and violence, particularly at a young age, causes damage. I dare say there are enough social scientists and studies that could supply data to support that claim. If that is the case, perhaps we should indeed change the ratings, but in the opposite direction of what Mr. Ebert suggests. Perhaps, like alcohol, more movies should be restricted to an over 21 group. Then, just as happens in stores that sell liquor, government agents could send minors to buy movie tickets and fine theaters that neglect to ask for ID. To stop multiplex hopping, we could legislate that theatres that want to cater to the under 21 crowd cannot at the same time offer any restricted movies. We could draw the lines more firmly, not less.

Actually, those are terrible ideas. I’d like to see less government intrusion in our lives, not more. However, I do think it is valid to ask why as a society, we’re supposed to “get pragmatic” about some things while micro-managing others. If government involvement is required so that you can’t buy a soda without knowing how many calories are in it, why should it be excluded from other areas? Somehow the movie industry is immune to government tinkering. When businesses outsource because costs are less, newspapers castigate them as selfish and evil. Do studios make movies in Canada to avoid paying union salaries? Silence reigns.

Factories use power in order to produce their goods and TV shows expose them as ‘evil polluter’ However, I never hear rebuke of TV and movie production which possess carbon footprints bigger than King Kong’s.

We seem eerily comfortable with government intrusion into our lives under the guise of protecting our bodies, but we are inexplicably uncomfortable when that protection touches a moral issue. If a fifteen year-old gets into a liquor store, you’d think the sky fell in. If the same child gets into an NC-17 movie theater, well; that’s just reality.

Teen pregnancies, eating disorders, cutting, bullying and assorted other ills are not unrelated to a culture that the entertainment industry promotes. These phenomena have real impact on people’s lives, just as diabetes or cancer do. They impact our economy as well. If legislation is valid to ban cigarette advertising in magazines or to get soft drinks out of high schools, then rather than saying, as Mr. Ebert does, “It’s time to admit we’ve lost our innocence,” maybe movies need to be targeted by the regulatory gun just as much as other businesses.

Open Up

December 15th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 “I had to let three of my people go last week” she told me, “and you have no idea how miserable I have been.  I wish I could get toughened up so I could do whatever is necessary without feeling such pain!”

 “No, you don’t,” I replied.  “In these frightening financial conditions, you may have to do what it takes to save the company, but you should never stop feeling the pain. Let me tell you about Moses.”

 Confronting a challenge to his leadership, Moses declares that if the rebels die natural deaths it will prove that he is not God’s agent.  However, if the (1) …earth opens its mouth and swallows them…it will prove that he is. (Numbers 16:30)

 When he had finished speaking… (2)  the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them …(Numbers 16:32)

 Later, the events are recounted:

 (3) The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them…(Numbers 26:10)

 Finally, towards the end of his life, Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s wonders which they’d witnessed:

 (4) …the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them…(Deuteronomy 11:6)

 I have numbered four of the instances where the phrase “the earth opened its mouth” appears in the Torah.

 There’s only one little problem.  In Hebrew, occurrences (1) and (4) use variations of the verb PTZA for open, while occurrences (2) and (3) use variations of the verb PTCH for open.

 This is an example of how much vital information is concealed by inadequate translations.  Two separate Hebrew words for ‘open’ exist because each conveys a different subtle nuance.  The Lord’s language reveals more than any translation possibly can.

 The root word PTCH is used whenever something opens in a positive context:

 God saw that Leah was unloved so He opened (PTCH) her womb        (Genesis 29:31)

 

God remembered Rachel, and God heard her                                                             and He opened (PTCH) her womb.                                                                    (Genesis 30:22)

 

The root word PTZA, on the other hand, is used when something opens in a negative context:

 For example, after Cain murdered Abel we find:

 

And now you are cursed from the earth which opened (PTZA) its mouth         to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.                                           (Genesis 4:11)

 

And Job opens (PTZA) his mouth with nonsense…                                              (Job 35:16)

 

All your enemies opened (PTZA) their mouths at you…                 (Lamentations 2:16)

 

 With this in mind, let’s review the four stages of our original story:

 Case (1)   Moses proclaimed that he would be vindicated if God made the earth open PTZA and swallow the rebels (negative context).

 Case (2) God made the earth open PTCH (positive context).

 Case (3) Scripture records that indeed God made the earth open PTCH (positive context).

 Case (4) Moses recalls the incident as God making the earth open PTZ (negative context).

 Thus we now know that Moses called saw the earth opening in a negative context.  From God’s perspective it opened in a positive context and Scripture later confirms this. Towards the end of his life, Moses recounts the event and recalls the earth as having opened in a negative context. What is going on? 

 Here is the clue:

 Now the man Moses was exceedingly humble,                                                    more than any person on the face of the earth.                                           (Numbers 12:3)

 For Moses, it was nothing short of a calamity to have people die in order to validate his leadership.  He saw the earth swallowing his nemeses as necessary but a disaster, and continued to see it this way for the rest of his life.  From God’s perspective, through a lens of ultimate truth and objectivity, when the necessary happens it is positive.

 We can see Moses’ greatness and aspire to be like him in feeling empathy with others, no matter the source of their suffering.

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The Never-Ending Closet Cleaning Saga

December 14th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

When I have been away from home as much as I have the last few months, I get a fierce desire to do laundry, cook and tidy. Last week, when I returned to my own house, after getting basic laundry under control and going to the supermarket, I began cleaning out THE CLOSET.

For years, when the house was filled with little children, THE CLOSET was my private domain. The door even locked! In it I kept potential birthday presents, important tax documents and other sundry items. It was the one area in the house that I alone entered.

Over many years it became a repository for all types of memorabilia. Once every year or so, I begin going through the shelves, hoping to cull things that are no longer needed. Invariably, I throw out obsolete papers and invariably I never complete the job. This past Friday, I found and discarded dental insurance papers from 1993. (If anyone reading this thinks that this was a mistake and one is supposed to keep these records longer than 17 years, please do not contact me with that information. Some things are better left unsaid.) When I throw out a stack like that I almost physically sense the house getting lighter. It is a tremendously gratifying feeling. Why then, did I not see that stack last time I reorganized THE CLOSET?

Well, each time I delve into the depths of THE CLOSET, I find treasure alongside the dross. Last time, I uncovered an envelope filled with congratulatory letters sent to my husband and me on the birth of one of our daughters. These letters were penned (or penciled) by friends of the new baby’s then five and six year old sisters. They were priceless, including one from a young boy who confided that while he was sure we liked the new baby his personal preference was for his own classmate. Another young man (the boys’ correspondence were funnier than the girls’) hoped that our baby would grow up to be useful. By the time I finished laughing and had called the three girls most closely involved and regaled them with the letters, I was out of cleaning time.

Another time, I found a two page missive painstakingly written by two of our girls in years long past. It included these lines, which are excerpted but retain the original spelling:

We are not running away we are just having a little change and adventure. We are very happy with our disicion,(we are just seeing what it is like away from home.) We will be back at around 6:00 tommorow (at night time). You do not need to worry about us, we have everything we need.

We hope you are not mad at us for doing this, and we love you very much.

P.S. Please don’t let anyone know about this. (If you would like to help us out financially please leave some money on the porch with a note. Love you very much!

Could you go back to cleaning a closet after finding that?

This time, my tidying crackdown exposed a collection of cards I received about ten years ago after my mother passed away. I sat shiva (seven days of mourning) on the east coast, and many of my west coast friends wrote to me.  I read all their notes during that emotional and exhausting period, but coming across them after all these years evoked poignant memories and also served as a reminder of the wonderful friends that have filled and continue to fill my life.

As in years past, more urgent matters will intrude and I will soon need to close THE CLOSET’s door with some of the shelves undisturbed.  Areas in daily view such as the kitchen demand priority cleaning. As always, I go back to those more necessary chores leaving behind an emptier closet and a fuller heart.

Whale Oil or Olive Oil

December 8th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Tonight we light the 8th and final light of Chanukah. Chanukah serves as an antidote to one of the most oppressive sensations that torments us all—shortage.  We agonize over shortage of money, space, love, health, and friends.  Scarcity is even promoted as a part of the sacred sacrament of secularism. It is indeed the rightful result for those who reject God.  In contrast, as we light one additional flame each night of Hanukkah we inject into our souls the idea that through God, each day can bring more and more, not less and less. 

Just over 2,000 years ago, the Hasmoneans, led by Judah Maccabee, successfully rebelled against their Greek oppressors who had ransacked the Jerusalem Temple. The high priest, who was preparing to rededicate the Temple and relight the menorah, found only one small jar of pure olive oil. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that this jar of oil, sufficient for only one day, miraculously kept the menorah burning for eight full days.

Beguiled by the story, it is all too easy to ignore a deeper meaning—God's blessing of bounty.  By the laws of nature there was insufficient oil to last until more could be gotten. But the laws of God transcend the laws of nature. One legacy of ancient Greece, which is the rejection of monotheism, contracts the bounty of the universe while God with His gift of infinite limitlessness expands it.

Secularists, today’s heirs of Greek philosophy, obsess irrationally on lack of resources. This, in spite of the fact that historical parallels ranging from Thomas Malthus' notorious 1798 "Essay on Population," all the way to my examples below, have proven to be needlessly hysterical.

America used to depend on whale oil for lighting. During the early 19th century, pundits warned that since whales were being harvested at an ever increasing rate, America would soon go dark. To conserve the remaining whale oil, they recommended extinguishing all lanterns no later than 10 p.m. They were right about running out of whale oil, but they were wrong about America going dark. In 1859, a railroad conductor called Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pa. America remained brightly lit by lanterns that burned paraffin.

Until the early 18th century, colonial homes were heated mostly by burning wood. Forests were vanishing and the rapidly growing colonies were running out of firewood. Eliminate immigration and ration firewood, was the call of the day. They were right about running out of firewood but it didn't matter because we soon found and began burning a far superior fuel called coal.

During the 1980s, fax machines became popular and people installed additional lines to accommodate these devices.  Frightened “experts” like Paul Ehrlich, issued dire warnings about the price of copper. There was insufficient copper in the world to run two phone lines to every home.
They were right about there not being enough copper. They were wrong about its price. The miracle of God-given human ingenuity made copper almost as redundant as whale oil. We began sending data through impossibly thin glass filaments. Glass is made from sand and we are in no danger of running out of sand.

Lacking sufficient copper, whale oil or wood only seemed to be a problem. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.

Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God to solve all our material shortages.

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Leaders or Servants?

December 7th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

The preamble to ‘The Moment of Truth’, the report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, makes a brief and powerful plea for paying attention to the recommendations which follow. I found it oddly moving – not a word I often use about a government document – and I am willing to put aside cynicism and accept it as a sincere representation of feelings which were formed during the months of discussion the members of the commission held. If the calls for tough choices are indeed heartfelt, then I feel sorry for the commission members who have glimpsed an impending tragedy but have only congress to call on for salvation. 

The following passage appears in the preamble:

Ever since the economic downturn, families across the country have huddled around kitchen tables, making tough choices about what they hold most dear and what they can learn to live without. They expect and deserve their leaders to do the same.

This sentence reads well, but I think it inadvertently points to one of the problems. Who exactly is the family pictured? Legislators? The word picture as presented pre-supposes healthy, functional families whose members are a distinct unit who care about one another and share a vision. What picture comes to your mind when you think of that ‘typical’ family? I think of parents who earn the money and also have the final say as to its disposition. Those parents might indeed choose to go without so that their children can benefit, but it is their own money they are dispensing.  Or perhaps that family has multiple children and some children might work in order to support one sibling’s education. The college bound sibling, in turn, accepts a debt that needs to be repaid and a responsibility to shoulder.

That family is a far cry from Congress. The picture doesn’t work when those who spend the money are completely removed from those who earn it. .  It doesn’t work when some family members are addicted to power just as it won’t work if some family members are addicted to gambling or alcohol. It doesn’t work when the family cannot have an honest conversation because members of the family are willing to lie, exaggerate and use manipulative language to gain points with a third party. If legislators are the family under discussion, they seem more like a caricature of a Victorian father with unlimited power whose behavior leads to misery from those unfortunate enough to be under his control.

There are certainly tough fiscal decisions ahead. The family analogy presupposes a healthy family whose priority is a commitment to the common good. It presupposes maturity and wisdom on the part of those making the decisions. There is a revealing word in the last sentence I quoted. Our elected officials are not our ‘leaders’. They are our public servants. If they began thinking of themselves as such the electorate might begin to think that they could actually cope with this nation’s economic crisis.

 

 

One Nation Under God – originally posted Dec. 18, 2008

December 5th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

The obituary took me by surprise. When I first learned of the Rev. George Docherty, I unthinkingly placed him in the category of historical personage. Yet, there was the notice of his death on Thanksgiving, 2008, at the age of 97. 

Along with those my age and younger, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance in its present form with the words “under God” as part of the text.  Yet that wasn’t always the case. In historical terms those words were added rather recently and Rev. Docherty is credited with spurring the addition through a forceful sermon he delivered in 1954 in the presence of President Eisenhower. 

I read Rev. Docherty’s sermon about a dozen years ago, and at the time was struck both by the oratory as well as by his arguments. To my dismay, while a Google search uncovered dozens of obituaries for the Scottish pastor, I was unable to find the complete text of the sermon. How unfortunate. As Christmas comes under its annual attack and as atheists are making headlines with assaults on religion ranging from mild to belligerent, reading his sermon in its entirety would make a wonderful launching pad for a national discussion. 

As a nation we are becoming ever more accustomed to sound bites, entertainment masquerading as news, and shallow arguments impersonating thoughtfulness. Reading Rev. Docherty’s sermon can serve as a reminder not only of why the words “under God” were added to the Pledge, but also of an American tradition of articulating ideas in a manner that is actually worthy of those ideas.

Our store is temporarily closed for the Sabbath. We will reopen Saturday Night at 8:00 pm.