Friday, October 31, 2008

Fly Science

You know, it's stuff like this that makes me wish that I had become a "scientist." I love the idea that people actually get paid to think about stuff like this.

BTW - I got pretty good at swatting flies with my bare hands during study halls in high school. You have to stalk them, and get in just the right position, but it most certainly can be done. On the other hand, I never was able to consistently catch a fly in flight with a pair of chopsticks.

Obama Skills Assessment

Another post on politics. Tis the season I guess.

James Fallows does a nice job of summarizing what we have seen from Barak Obama in terms of his skills. These relate to my choice matrix somewhat. The notes that we have yet to see how this would actually play out in office. 

I will add that I have been quite impressed by Obama's organizational skills, as demonstrated by his campaign. I think we can say that he has passed the test on the question of whether he can organize a large nationwide undertaking involving thousands of people. 

When my wife and I first met, we had the usual college student conversation about "what's your major." When I expressed that my major is communication, she gave me this stinky cheese face, rolled her eyes, and said, "What do you do with that?" I responded, "Well, we're communicating right now, aren't we?" And she said (without missing a beat), "Yes...but I didn't need to go to school for four years to learn how to do it." 

All this to say that all we don't hear too much sniggering about the job description for "community organizer" now, do we?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Choice Matrix

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to codify and quantify my decision making process regarding my vote for POTUS. Being President seems to require a complex matrix of skills, temperament, philosophy and habits. I’ve tried to lump these qualities into set of meta-qualities, and then assign each a value weight. Then I evaluate the candidate, and give each a score for each meta-quality that ranges from 1 to 10.

This takes into account such fuzzy things as speaking ability, or appearing presidential, and even weighs tougher questions like can he get legislation passed.

Here are the meta-quality groupings I devised.

Personal Style – This encompasses speaking style, appearance, communication skill, energy level, posture and so on. All those things that go into making people like you, or not like you. They are not terribly important, but they are important to a certain degree. Therefore I give them a relative weight of 3 out of 10.

Organizational Effectiveness – The simple question here is can this candidate run an administration that is both efficient and effective? This involves execution of tasks and goals, creative thinking, bold action, and all within budget and time constraints. Obama seems to have taken the lead on this one, proving his ability by running on heckuva campaign.

Political Philosophy – this is the first one most people think of. I’m assuming that policy flows out of philosophy, so if you agree with a candidate on philosophy, the policy will work for you too. In the case of this year’s election, one must be very careful as the candidate each try to define the philosophy of the other. Of course, distortion is really what they seek, not definition.

Legislative Mojo – This is closely related to Organizational Effectiveness, but with a much narrower focus. Basically, will the candidate propose legislation and will he be able to get it passed into law? One’s philosophy may be great, but without the ability to actually persuade and move the lawmakers, you got nothing.

So here is what I came up with when I did my evaluation. This is a thin slice approach to the question. My numbers are just made up from gut feelings. I think the matrix is self-explanatory. McCain comes out the winner by a slight margin. 

Other factors I considered, but did not include in the matrix are 

Decisional Philosophy - Essentially this is a measure of where the candidate falls on the Pragmatic/Ideological continuum. Are decisions based on an idealogy that may or may not be connected with real conditions in a real world? Or are decisions based on available data, analyzed to make value determinations regarding courses of action, or pursuit of goals.

Conceptual Agility - How good is the candidate at seeking and using new ideas. Does he foster an atmosphere of creativity. Does he himself seek unorthodox positions, and is he willing to champion them if they are good for the country. This is closely related to Decisional Philosophy.

Still thinking this through. May need to adjust the matrix.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tantrums at the Table

I’ve heard more than my share of friends who, disenchanted with the current state of politics and government in our United States, have made noises about not voting in the general election. For the most part, they are people who abhor Mr. Obama, but can’t bring themselves to vote for McCain either. So, like the child throwing a tantrum because he doesn’t like the options presented for lunch, they plan to sit in their seats at the dining table, arms crossed, and just let the election lunch proceed without them.

What bothers me most about this stance is that they seem to think this is a principled and scrupulous way to solve the dilemma. It isn’t. It is childish.

Life presents options. We must then choose and live with our choices. Our options may not be all that we wished, but they are the options we have. Either option presents problems, but that does not mean we can get away without choosing. NOT voting, NOT choosing is not really a responsible option. It is a coward’s way out. I say Man Up. Make your choice. Life is tough and we don't always like it so eat your peanut butter and move on. 

I can at least feel some respect for someone who votes for a third party candidate on principle. That is at least making a choice, even if it is off the main menu. A third party voter is much like the diner who must give the waiter all manner of special instructions for whatever sandwich he is ordering. “Could I get that with mayonnaise on the side, and can you trim all the extra fat from the roast beef, and while you are at it, can you substitute steamed vegetables for French fries?” As annoying as this is, at least it constitutes a taking positive action toward a perceived good, rather than a reactive shrinking away from (or worse, and resigned acceptance of) a perceived evil.

At any rate, I have said all along that we get the president we deserve, whoever that may be. For good or for bad, we as a nation have had the President we deserve for the last 8 years, and we will deserve the next one just as much. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Three Old Men Throwing Olives

You are going to have to suffer through my Capon period for a while yet. Here is another quote, this one from his book The Third Peacock: The Problem of God and Evil. Stick this one in your pipe and smoke it.

Let me tell you why God made the world.
One afternoon, before anything was made, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost sat around in the unity of their Godhead discussing one of the Father’s fixations. From all eternity, it seems he had had this thing about being. He would keep thinking up all kinds of unnecessary things—new ways of being and new kinds of beings to be. And as they talked, God the Son suddenly said, “Really, this is absolutely great stuff. Why don’t I go out and mix us up a batch?” And God the Holy Ghost said, “Terrific, I’ll help you.” So they all pitched in, and after supper that night, the Son and the Holy Ghost put on this tremendous show of being for the Father. It was full of water and light and frogs; pine cones kept dropping all over the place and crazy fish swam around in the wineglasses. There were mushrooms and grapes, horseradishes and tigers—and men and women everywhere to taste them, to juggle them, to join them and to love them. And God the Father looked at the whole wild party and he said, “Wonderful! Just what I had in mind! Tov! Tov! Tov!” And all God the Son and God the Holy Ghost could think of to say was the same thing. “Tov! Tov! Tov!” So they shouted together “Tov meod!” and they laughed for ages and ages, saying things like how great it was for things to be, and how clever of the Father to think of the idea, and how kind of the Son to go to all that trouble putting it together, and how considerate of the Spirit to spend so much time directing and choreographing. And forever and ever they told old jokes, and the Father and the Son drank their wine in unitate Spiritus Sancti, and they all threw ripe olives and pickled mushrooms at each other per omnia saecula saeulorum. Amen.
It is, I grant you, a crass analogy; but crass analogies are the safest. Everybody knows that God is not three old men throwing olives at each other. Not everyone, I’m afraid, is equally clear that God is not a cosmic force or a principle of being or any other dish of celestial blancmange we might choose to call him. Accordingly, I give you the central truth that creation is the result of a Trinitarian bash, and leave the details of the analogy to sort themselves out as best they can.

One slight elucidation, however. It is very easy, when talking about creation, to conceive of God’s part in it as simply getting the ball rolling—as if he were a kind of divine billiard cue, after whose action inexorable laws took over and excused him from further involvement with the balls. But that won’t work. This world is fundamentally unnecessary. Nothing has to be. It needs a creator, not only for its beginning, but for every moment of its being. Accordingly, the Trinitarian bash doesn’t really come before creation; what actually happens is that all of creation, from start to finish, occurs within the bash—that the raucousness of the divine party is simultaneous with the being of everything that ever was or will be. If you like paradoxes, it means that God is the eternal contemporary of all of the events and beings in time.

Charlie Mops and Ipod

I'm so close to being lucky it's a pity.

On one of my recent sojourns to the Commonwealth to the south of us, I came upon a sad little ipod, dented, scarred and obviously lost. I picked it up and stuffed it in my briefcase for examination later. I finally got to it today, and imagine my amazement to find that it worked!

To make a long story short, I probably have located the owner by finding her name recorded in the software. A quick Google reveals that she is an athlete in a local community college located about 10 miles from where I found the ipod. Her name is all over the local papers. Since the only other person with her name that Google brings up is in Australia, it's a safe bet that the athlete is the owner. I sent an indirect message to her coach, since I could not get her address and I figured it best for security purposes to work through an intermediary. I expect to hear from the owner and make arrangements to return the wayward device.

But....until then, I'm pillaging the playlist to see what new music I can find. So far, I kind of like a lot of what I'm hearing. There is a fair amount of irish influence, including irish rock and roll, some live recordings of bar bands. Surprising little rap, hip hop or so-called dance music. And then, like a jewel, I discovered this one beautiful standout among them all...

I found a delightful version on youtube.

I remember watching Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers on NH Public Television when I was but a lad. I loved that music. I was so surprised to see the Clancy Brothers on the Ipod of a young woman. Of course, the subject matter may have influenced her choice.

The battery is almost dead. We'll see what else I can find.

UPDATE: 10/23/08
I have since located the young woman who owns the ipod and made arrangements to sent it to her in the mail. More's the pity. I thought for a minute there that God was providing me with an ipod. Nope. Just using me to return someone else's. I hope this is important to some vast eternal plan.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sola Gratia

I recently finished reading Between Noon and Three: Law, Romance and the Outrage of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon. The book has set me spinning, but unfortunately, since I had to return it to the library, I no longer have it with me. So I’m going to wing it.

The central touchstone is indeed the outrage of grace. Capon attempts to lead us to a visceral confrontation with this outrage by engaging in a parable of a couple caught up in an extramarital affair. He does this knowing full well that it will offend our sense of rightness and justice unless the narrative somehow punishes the two parties for their waywardness. You know, someone dies as a result, or catches a disease, or one partner finds out and slays them both, or whatever scenario could invent that would balance the moral scales. He does this simply because that he knows the we all love to be moral accountants, tallying up the sin beans, so we can balance the books in the end.

Then he goes a step further. In the parable, the man (whose name is Paul) realizes that philandering is simply part of who he is. It is an ingrained mental and emotional habit. He is, in fact, tired of it. He would like to stop. He has come to despise himself for the deceit, and ultimately for the lack that such behaviour creates in his life. He wants to stop, and he would like to convince himself that he could, but realizes that in fact he is virtually powerless to do so. The taste of the moment is too sweet, even though he knows full well the bitterness that engulfs it. He is, to his own mind, dead. He can no more stop philandering than a dead man can stop being dead.

Outrageous indeed. But wait. There is more.

What if the woman (whose name is Laura) knows all this about him. What if, knowing that he will cheat on her also, she simply accepts this, and loves him completely and without reservation. What if this acceptance, this loving is no mere acquiescence of a woman who is really a doormat, but an active engaged choice by one who, in so doing could redeem Paul and all his cheating philandering deadness, and accept him as a real lover. What if, because of this, no matter what he did in the past, or does in the future, they remain complete in their happiness because she wills it so, and allows it to be so.

Do you see where this is headed? No? OK, look at it this way. Paul is us. Laura is Jesus. Now do you see it? It’s a parable. Compare it now to the parable we commonly call The Prodigal Son.

Now THAT’S outrageous.

The rest of Capons book, about two thirds of it, is dedicated to answering all the questions that this scenario raises. As our internal moral theologians scream for some sort of justice, Capon repeatedly returns to one word: Grace.

He is not squishy about it. He fully recognizes and embraces the outrage of it all. He makes what I feel to be a reasonably solid case from scripture. He actually answers many questions that have been rising up in my heart for a few years. And do not mistake this for some sort of pan-universalist soteriology. He grapples with the hard issues. What about hell? What about damnation? What about Romans 6? It’s all included.

We want to rage about cheap grace. The challenge is that for us, the recipients it is cheap. It was expensive for the One Who Gives Grace, but He has done ALL the work. Indeed, He has only ever been the only one who could do any of the work. Ultimately, nothing we could do, good or bad, affects God’s will to redeem us. Dead people can do nothing to change their deadness. Even if we could do something, it would not change our deadness. But as when Jesus called the quite dead Lazarus out of the tomb, like Lazarus we can do nothing except rise and come forth as commanded. We are raised from the dead, in Christ, because God has willed it so.

The outrage comes because we have allowed or inner Moral Theologian/Sin Bean Counter to dominate our conversation about what Jesus has really done. The discussion has too long been listing to the side of Grace Plus. Capon states very clearly that if he seems to be going too far to the Grace Alone side of things, then it is merely a long overdue counterbalance.

I won’t recapitulate the entire book here. I recommend reading it, and I would delight in discussing it. It may be joining my Most Influential List if it holds up after a few more readings and some lively discussion. I’m sure I raised more questions than I answered here. I am still wrestling with some of them myself. Expect more on this.




Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elekshun Blues

My head it is aching. I got them ole election blues
Oh my head it’s aching. I got them ole election blues.
Got to pick one now and don’t know what to do.

It seemed so clear just a few short weeks gone by.
It all seemed clear just a few short weeks gone by.
Now I just sit and shake my head and sigh.

There’s one I liked but he ain’t there no mo.
They’s one I liked, but he just ain’t they no mo.
Someone locked him up and boarded up the door.

There’s one I don’t but he starts looking nice.
They’s one I don’t, but he starts looking nice.
A starving man don’t mind rocks in his rice.

I can’t trust any, I’m sho full up with doubt.
I don’t trust non, and I’m shot full up with doubt
You vote ‘em in, and they flip all inside out.

In the long run then it don’t mean no hill of beans.
In the long run then it don’t mean no hill of beans.
Who we ‘lect, or whichaway I leans.

It’s an awful thing to get the ‘lection blues.
Sho’ it’s a terrbul thing to have them ‘lection blues.
You can jus' pick one cuz you can’t elect no deuce. 

What is Good Law?

What is the government's proper role? This is really the pivotal question defining this election.

Ron Jung put it well in an earlier comment on the debate. It was so well put that I want to bring it out here into the light of day.

The Feds should make good law and be the enforcer of the laws. Once the Feds are the ones in charge, who regulates them? What accountability do they have? We need a WALL OF SEPERATION between the business/education/medical world and the government. The Gov. should be the bad guy heavies enforcing good law PERIOD.

Making the laws that channel the activity of the people is not the same thing as making laws the do things for the people. Good law, well enforced, makes a strong civilization.


So how do we define what is GOOD LAW?

Pod Person or Orator in Chief?

I’ve been thinking a bit more about the debate, and the candidates.

I am haunted by this sense that I am not seeing the real John McCain. It seems instead that John has been kidnapped and replaced by some kind of pod person. There is no straight talk express. All we get is some kind of loop recording of the words “Maverick” and “Reformer” as though just saying the words makes them true. I believe that there is more to McCain than what we are seeing and hearing. I suspect that he is listening to his staff way too much, rather than simply being John McCain. He seems to afraid to just let it fly, but that’s what people want and expect from a Maverick. People could forgive him excesses of rhetoric if we felt that they were authentic. It wouldn’t matter so much if they weren’t polite or proper or politically correct, as long as they pointed to what McCain really thinks and will really do.

The trouble is, if McCain wins the presidency, I don’t know if it will be the real John McCain, or the pod person.

On the other hand, I am just a little bothered by how much I am starting to like Barak Obama. I am fully aware that I am a man easily swayed by eloquence. I admire physical poise and clarity of speech when talking to groups. I do believe that a leader, certainly the President, absolutely should be capable of delivering a solid speech. It does not have to be flowery, but a certain amount of oratory, in a style suitable to the candidates personality is a good thing.

I have heard several people complain that Obama is an empty suit. I did not see that last night. I saw more hot air coming out of McCain, while Obama keep driving things back toward the question, the thread of the discussion. I don’t want to like him, but Obama is charming me. This bothers me because I think that McCain is right that government should do less for people and people should do more for themselves. I’m not sure McCain’s policies will help people do more for themselves, but I’m afraid that Obama will move government toward doing things it ought not. The irony of course, is that under a so-called conservative administration, government is now breaking entirely new ground in terms of interference.

The trouble is that if Obama wins the presidency I don’t know if he can accomplish any of what he says he will do, and I’m not sure if it will work.

I know some of you out there would love to set me straight. I invite all three of you to comment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate Play by Play

I never liked political debates. No. Let me restate that. I have never seen a political debate. What happened a few weeks ago was not a debate. There was no argument. An argument presupposes that each party actually listens to the points put forth by the opponent and responds with counterpoints related to the argument. The last debate was mostly just two guys yelling at each other while pretending to talk to other people. Stump speech sound bits overcame reasoned speech, and the signal to noise ratio was unacceptably high.

I didn't want to watch tonite's debate, figuring it would not help me one bit. But somewhere deep in my reptile brain, I felt that I should. And then my wife wanted to. So, taking an idea from Jon over at AVI, and Ben over at 10-4 Good Buddy, I thought I would try live-blogging it. As I watched I typed some of my thoughts.

I'm not sure this post is worth the electrons I'm burning by putting it up here. I'm pretty sure my thoughts aren't that valuable, but such as they are, here they are.

9:05 Will Obama’s stated tax plan work? I don’t know how to judge this. It sounds good.

9: 06 McCain’s use of the plumbers last name is disingenuous. Notice how they call him Joe the Plumber after McCain takes that one impressive shot at the barely pronouncable name.

9:10 Obama name drops “his friend” Warren Buffet. His friend?

9:12 I don’t mind paying a little more.” Says Obama. I guess I don’t mind paying either. But for what? I just realized that I really don’t know what McCain is planning to do regarding taxes. Obama has done a much better job of getting his message out to me.

9:14 We are living beyond our means says Obama. Good turn of phrase.

9:17 McCain needs to be brought back to the question. What would I cut. Across the board spending freeze. “I know how to save billions.”

9:18 McCain hammers the overhead prjector again. A perfect example of the kind of distortion that these “debate” lean on.

9:20 I have never thought that McCain is president Bush redux, but he has not done a very good job during this campaign of coming across as someone else. Too much rhetoric and too little substance. You can cry maverick all you want, but we aren’t seeing it. Glad to see he is finally going to the record and trmping his record. He has never refuted the 90 percent bush vote thing. If it’s true, then what’s the story? How does it relate to obama’s?

9:23 Damn. Obama is so clear in his speech. Ohhhh he just admitted that Mcain has demonstrated tremendous independence on some issues. But McCain is on the defensive, trying to justify himself. From a competitive viewpoint, it’s not a good position.

9:27 McCain says that Obama has not repudiated charges of racism against McCain. I know what he’s trying to do but it sound whiny. Then says he lied about taking public money. I’m pretty sure McCain would have done the same thing if he felt he could raise the dough.

9:30 several times tonite either candidate has made statements about independent observers. That’s an easy thing to say. Who are they?

9:32 Obama: the American people have become so cynical about our politics because all they see is tit for tat. That’s very true. Most of what I’ve heard I feel that I cannot trust. Now McCain takes exception and jumps to defend the “people who come to my rallies.” He is playing heartstrings, but not really addressing Obama’s larger point.

9:35 Obama brings it back to what he is defining at core issues again. He is really good and focused at this. The issue isn’t really the campaign. It is how to govern the country. McCain is still on the attack.

9:37 Obama goes after the Ayers controversy. He says that this has become the centerpiece of the McCain campaign. I’d have to agree. It rings hollow though. Obama looks solid, strong and he doesn’t even appear to be breaking a sweat as he dismantles McCains allegations.

9:38 Let me tell you who I associate with…says Obama. Brilliant!

9:39 McCain says different. They simply disagree on the plain facts of the case. Who tells the truth? I don’t know. I guess you believe whichever you are predisposed to believe.

9:42 McCain says Palin is a Reformer. A favorite buzzword. Bresh of Freth air. His defense of her makes her sound nice, but not presidential. And why does he invoke the fact of her husband being a tough guy? That’s a red herring.

9:45 McCain strongly criticized Biden’s policies. Strong.

9:46 We get 60% of our oil from foreign sources? We need to annex Iraq.

9:47 McCain goes nuclear. I like it. It’s clear and direct. How long will it take? How much will it take? Where will the funding come from? 7-10 years McCain thinks we can get independent. Wow. Obama says in 10 years. Expand domestic production. Offshore drilling. But we can’t drill our way out of the problem. Lists other options but avoids nuclear, a tested and available technology. Why?

9:51 McCain admires Obama’s eloquence implying that he is hedging or lying, or hiding the truth. Shades of Clinton. My wife agrees with McCain that Obama does say, “We’ll look into….” A lot. I’m not sure if this is bad, but Mc is implying that this is a hedge rather than a clear statement of policy.

9:55 Mc accuses O of giving away the farm to Chavez. I can’t see that. Again he is directly opposing what O says. Who do I believe.

9:58 O is very clear about his health care plan. Can he pull this off? I don’t know. But his statements about this being an investment, rather than merely and expense is right on. McCain’s response has a rather blowsy start before he gets to the meat. He gives a long list of “We should haves…” but how do we get there? A $5000 tax credit seems too indirect to me.

10:00 Mc says O is planning a single payer system. I didn’t hear that. He just raise it as if it’s a boogy man. Again, Mc is more about attacking O’s plan than explaining his own. O, wait…Obama is explaining it for us.

10:03 Mc invoke the government as thief motif. Is this true about O’s health care plan?

10:05 Mc stops his tirade. O says…”you just heard my plan…” So reasonable. So clear. Looks in control.

10:10 did O just say that the US Constitution has a right to privacy in it? That’s a pretty crazy claim as such. O names Louie ledbetter. Another name drop, but easier to pronounce than Joe the plumber’s.

10:12 I get up to get a snack. I’m hungry.

10:18 O invokes bill cosby. Parents must be involved. Gutsy. The education version of Carter’s malaise speech – almost.

10:20 Mc draws the line again. O wants Govmnt to do it. Mc wants the people to do it for themselves. O attacks unfunded mandates. Agrees with charter schools. States that his position is the fed gov should help local schools do what they want.

10:23 O says“I don’t think Americas youth are interest groups.” That’s quotable.

10:24 McCain loves to dig O. “I’m surprise you didn’t pay more attention to that example.” He also manages to drag Sarah Palin into his answer. It feels like badly planned product placement.

10:28 Mc says you have to trust us. That’s the key. That’s true. I think regardless of the policies put forth – which are often too tangled for many of us to sort – people will vote for the one they trust.

I think Obama will be out next president. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad, but I think that’s what will happen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tim Sample Sample

I spent many hours hanging out with friends retelling "Bert and I" stories. Tim Sample is the latter day embodiment of the spirit of Downeast comedy. The most amazing thing about this is I grew up listening to real people that really talked much like this. This of course, is how Maine sounds - and Maine sounds slightly different from New Hampshire, Vermont, or Massachusetts, etc. The differences are subtle but clear for those who have the ear. Today it all runs together

To me these speech patterns are musical, the turns of phrase poetic. My girls don't understand why every once in a while (okay...more like at any given moment) I will lapse into my version of some form of New England brogue.

All I can say is that it amuses me.

Shrinking Life

Spent time visiting my Mom yesterday. According to the nurse she had been sitting up in her chair for a few hours earlier in the day. When I got there, she was in bed, and the nurse was helping her drink some water using little sponges to transfer the water from the cup to her mouth. She seemed happy to see me, and my oldest daughter, who was with me. About 10 minutes after I arrived she fell asleep and stayed asleep through most of the time I was there.

Five days ago, I sat through a care meeting with the staff at Havenwood and one of my brothers. The meeting reaffirmed what we understood to be the prognosis. I was struck by how personally the staff took her situation. The genuinely care about her as they are caring for her. Needless to say, this is heartening. The entire goal at this point is to make sure that Mom is as comfortable and content as possible to ease her passing.

My brother handed me an envelope with some papers she had written up some time ago with her instructions regarding her funeral. Some of this was actually pretty funny. A few items that stood out to me included her instruction that we use a “CHEAP coffin.” Any music played during the memorial service should be “PIANO ONLY. NO ORGAN.” And we are instructed that there should be no crying, “although if that cannot be avoided, it is understandable.” These things are funny because they are predictable, knowing my Mom.

Later, I think I may post some information about her life and accomplishments. She may not consider herself to have accomplished much as the world mostly counts accomplishments, but as I reflect on her life, I think that she has accomplished much.

So yesterday I mostly just sat with her, observing and being with her. In a previous post, I mentioned that it seems as though she is dissipating. A friend of mine described the process, as he observed his Grandfather in his last days, as one of shrinking. I think that adjective is also apt. It is remarkable how small and frail she looks. She was never very big, or to my recollection especially strong of body. But now her body is significantly diminished. In my life I have also seen her spirit and energy wax and wane, and now it is waning in a way that I have not seen before. It is indeed shrinking, diminishing, withdrawing. For much of the rest of the day I felt simply quiet and sad. Not depressed, but feeling a subdued sorrow. To watch someone dying is really a rather awesome thing. 

I am reminded that all life is grass. The only permanent thing is resurrection. 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Better Living Through Me

Watching the trajectory of this campaign, and the candidates, has me wishing for a guy Brain. If I knew his last name, maybe I could write him in.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Lord of Plumbing and the God of the Pipe

Water has lately been spied leaking from around the base of the toilet in our downstairs bathroom. The diagnosis indicated a leaking wax seal. Since I have a record of extending household projects beyond any reasonable time frame, beyond the tolerance of most mortal men, I planned accordingly. When I planned my day, I allowed 6 hours minimum to complete the project, figuring to start around 6:00 pm and finish somewhere around midnight, although to go later would not have surprised me. 

I studied the instructions available online. I purchased the necessary parts at the hardware store. I started a little before 6:00 and was finished about 8:00. And that included going to a friend's house to pick up my youngest daughter, and stopping to eat dinner. 2 hours.

Whoa! Surely the LORD has done a great thing.

And so...A Psalm for Plumbing

God has blessed me greatly. 
He hath given success into my hands. 
The pipe and the wrench do my bidding 
For the LORD has given wisdom to my fingers, 
And skill into the palms of my hands. 
The porcelain obeys me, 
The water goes only where I tell it, 
For the Lord of All Water has taught me the way.
The Lord of All Water has shown me the path.

The throne it leaketh not. 
Even the Great White Seat no longer seeps. 
And peace dwells in the land.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Winding Down

My Mom is 87 years old, deep in dementia, and has been living in a home for several years, moving from independent to assisted living, and about 2 years ago into the nursing care section. She is very well cared for considering the depth of her condition, and we are fortunate that the home’s endowment has helped her even after her money was long gone.

Her memory has been steadily deteriorating for several years. It is frustrating for my two girls to visit her. Although they love their Grammie, a conversation with her pretty much runs on a 2-3 minute loop which comes back on itself several times in the course of a visit. Even so, although she may not know what day it is, or remember who visited the day before (or a half hour before), when I go to see her she recognizes me, and is glad to see me.

I visited last Sunday and found her to be in very bad shape, barely able to communicate. Not in pain I think, but more muddled and confused. She seemed to recognize me, but I don’t think she could come up with my name. A week before, she was bright and cheery – as she has been for about the last 6 months. The recent decline is dramatic.

I received this email from one of my older brothers today. He holds power of attorney for my Mother and so does most of the interfacing with her caregivers.

I have been on the phone with havenwood every couple of days. We have a conference for anyone who can attended next Tuesday.7 October at 2 pm to discuss care of mother. They have asked me to go thru her wishes . She is losing weight  her Brest cancer has gone into her lungs. and she is not eating. She has oxygen now some of the time. she is restricted to her chair. they do not feel she is strong enough to move around on her own. I will email anyone who is not there next week to update them. She is getting the best of care. the people at havenwood are great.

Ron we should get together soon and discuss your plots. I know that she wants to be buried beside grandpa Rowell, and I think we have discussed that long ago, But it would be easier to discuss that again, now,if you can .  Bob ,and Diane, Aunt Sue, or anyone who would like to come, you are welcome to come and stay with us anytime you wish.

I will have a better time frame of things after the conference.

I am the youngest of 6 boys. Mom has lived an amazing life full of trouble and triumph. She was born a French citizen and brought to the US by her adoptive father at age 6, after her own mother died. She outlived 4 husbands in all. My father, her second husband, died when I was only 5 leaving her with 4 boys at home. I can’t imagine the strength it took her to bring us up, but she did, and I guess she did a passable job. I look at her and try to see that strength that is still in her. I can almost see her winding down.

Now it sounds like she may be nearing her end here. Mostly, I’m thinking that she will finally be Home Free. 

A Frozen Cheesehead?

Has anyone else noticed that Sarah Palin sounds like she comes from Wisconsin? 

What is that about?

Repent or Give Me Candy!!!!

Doug Wilson over at Blog and Mablog commenting on Halloween and All Saints Day:

…the bottom line for us, is that both of these two days belong to the Christian church, and not to the pagans. And the days have been ours for many centuries, despite certain pagan encroachments of late. We should keep the days, and fight off the encroachments. And so . . .

Here are a few things to do: We are encouraging parishes to hold Reformation Day/All Saints Day parties and gatherings. The mood should be festive and filled with rejoicing — an exhibition of our gratitude for the faithfulness of the martyrs of the early church and the martyrs of the Reformation. This obviously can (and should) include kids dressing up and getting boatloads of candy, but I would strongly urge that no one have their kids dress up as members of the other team — witches, ghosts, devils, imps, or congressmen. We do want to urge a high level of celebration, but we don’t want to take our cues from the surrounding culture. So if you take your kid around to grandma’s house dressed up like a red M & M, or like Theodore Beza, don’t have them say trick or treat the same way some ghost or witch would. Of course, repent or perish or sola fide probably wouldn’t work either. Let’s do this differently, and intelligently, and still have fun. So have them say trick or treat the way a cute M & M would.

What to avoid. We want parish parties, not pious parties. So when neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross). We do not want our parish parties to be a cheesy alternative, a sort of faux-Halloween. It should be a true All Hallow’s Eve, a true Reformation Day blow-out.

When growing up, my church would try this with some sort of lame “Harvest Celebration.” The problem wasn’t the theme. The problem was that Baptists have no idea how to party as Baptists. I’m guessing that more than a few people in that church knew how to party, just not as Baptists. I recall even back then as a high schooler, while attending a wedding reception, that it just did not seem nearly as much fun as it ought to have. It was held in the church gym and resembled an after church coffee hour more than anything else. It was mostly people standing around, eating cake and talking.  I remember thinking "What is wrong with these people? Is this really all there is? There should be music and dancing and stuff."  Of course, I knew that that sort  of thing was simply not permitted, but it just seemed wrong somehow. If there was any time that it would be right to dance, it would be at a wedding. I must say that some of that Baptistness must have rubbed off, as I have been accused of being someone who could stand to learn to party more. 

I’m not really convinced that the Presbyterians have this figured out either, but more power to them I say. 

Even so, the emphasis point of NOT dressing up as the “other team” is well taken.  I believe in our house the current plans lean toward an Egyptian Princess (a la Cleopatra) and Nancy Drew. I tried to interest them in Joan of Arc, but frankly the armor is hard to come by.