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The Gift of the Magi — Part II

The Gift of the Magi – Part II

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday, I posted a diary about O Henry’s magnificent little story, “The Gift of the Magi.”

This morning, on my Facebook wall, I found a story that has been around a long time.  But as I saw the header, I thought, how beautifully this story compliments my diary of yesterday.  I have no idea who first told this story, but whoever he is, all credit goes to him.  Here is the story.

“There once was a farmer who had some puppies for sale.  He made a sign advertising the pups and nailed it to a post on the edge of his yard.  As he was nailing the sign to the post, he felt a tug on his overalls.

“He looked down to see a little boy with a big grin and something in his hand.

“‘Mister,’ he said, ‘I want to buy one of your puppies.’

“‘Well,’ said the farmer, ‘these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal.’

“The boy dropped his head for a moment, then looked back up at the farmer and said, ‘I’ve got thirty-nine cents.  Is that enough to take a look?’

“‘Sure,’ said the farmer, and with that he whistled and called out, ‘Dolly.  Here, Dolly.’  Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly Followed by four little balls of fur.  The little boy’s eyes danced with delight.

“Then out from the doghouse peeked another little ball; this one noticeably smaller.  Down the ramp it slid and began hobbling in an unrewarded attempt to catch up with the others.  The little boy pressed his face to the fence and cried out, ‘I want that one,’ pointing to the runt.

“The farmer knelt down and said, ‘Son, you don’t want that puppy.  He will never be able to run and play with you the way you would like.’

“With that, the boy reached down and slowly pulled up one leg of his trousers.  In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.  Looking up at the farmer, he said, ‘You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.’

“A little choked up, the farmer gently lifted the puppy up and set it in the boy’s arms.

“‘How much?’ the little boy asked.

There is no charge for love,’ responded the farmer.”

There is no charge for love!

In O Henry’s story, Jim and Della Young each sold his and her most prized possession to buy the other a gift that enhanced that possession.  That is the ultimate expression of love.

But so is the story about the crippled little boy and the crippled little puppy.  It is heart-rending to see him skip the healthy puppies and choose the crippled little runt.  It takes a special person to choose the one with imperfections.

People make a big deal about the birthday of “Jesus.”  They call him the “prince of peace” and “Love personified.”

How wrong they are!  “Jesus” NEVER learned the lesson that Jim and Della Young have to teach, or the one that the little boy has to teach, for that matter.  In Matthew 10, he flat-out says that anyone who loves anyone else more than they love him is not worthy of him – a megalomaniacal statement if there ever was one! In Luke 14:26, he demands that we hate those who are dearest to us in order to be his disciple.  The word “hate” used here is interesting.  It does NOT mean “love less,” like Christians would have you believe.  The original Greek word is ”miseo,” which means “hate, detest, despise, abhor.”  The word exists today in our words “misogyny” – the hatred of women, and ”misanthrope” – someone who hates mankind.

It is interesting to note that NOWHERE in the four Gospels is “Jesus” ever recorded as saying the simple little phrase “I love you,”  nor is God ever recorded in the Old Testament as expressing love for his creation, including man.

Jim and Della Young teach a wonderful lesson about what true love really is.  So does the little boy in the story above.  And those lessons can best be expressed in the farmer’s statement, “There is no charge for love.”

There is another beautiful statement that expresses the farmer’s statement in a longer statement.  That statement is I Corinthians 13.

“There is no charge for love.”  That is a message that is worth remembering and living by for the entire year, not just at Christmas.

Seasons Greetings, and may each of you have a blessed holiday season.

Bill

 

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December 25, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Religion | , , | Leave a comment

The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi

Hello, everyone.

It is Christmas time yet again, and that means that in churches and homes across the land, people will be reading about and singing about the so-called “Christmas Story” in Luke 2.  However, there is a story that, in my opinion, captures the REAL story of Christmas far better than the Luke yarn, and that is the story “The Gift of the Magi,” by William Sydney Porter, better known as O Henry.  I reread the story in preparation for this diary, and here is the link I used:  https://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html

I first learned of the story 60 years ago when I was a freshman in high school.  Being a boy, I approached the story as a boy, but at the same time, there was something about that story that grabbed me and never let me go.

Everyone knows the story, so I don’t have to rehearse it here.  It is the story of a young couple, Jim and Della Young, who had no money but who loved each other almost to the point of death.  A key element in the story is that each had a possession that he or she was tremendously proud of.  Here is O Henry’s description of those prized possessions:

“Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.”

They loved their possessions, but they loved each other even more.  And Christmas being Christmas, with the overemphasis on the financial side of the holiday, they wanted to celebrate, to the point that each did the most supreme act for each other that they could do.

As I said earlier everyone knows the story, so I don’t have to retell it.  So I will move to the last 2 paragraphs of the story:

“”Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

“The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

I cried as I reread the story.  I am fighting to keep from crying as I type this.  Why?  Because this story is possibly the greatest expression of love that was ever written.

My late wife Carol and I lived in California, and we had a hard life out there.  I was never able to find a real job – jobs were nonexistent when we were there – so we had to live on Carol’s salary as a church secretary.  We were so much like Jim and Della that it was not funny.  The main difference is that instead of a watch and glorious hair, our prized possessions were each other.  Carol and I loved each other to the same degree that Jim and Della did.

Earlier, I said that that I thought that “The Gift of the Magi” was a far greater Christmas story than the story in Luke 2.  How so?  During this season, for some bizarre reason, our focus is on each other and our love for each other.  We want to care about and do for those who are the most precious people on earth to us.  Sometimes even old grudges are swept away and relationships restored.  Like the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, not because of some baby born somewhere – if that event really happened – but because the thought of “peace on earth, good will toward men” actually does hold sway to some degree.

If the truth be known, towns and cities are filled with copies of Jim and Della Young – people who truly love each other to the point of sacrificing for them.  These sacrifices need not be monetary or even of one’s most prized possessions.  The sacrifices can be of time, such as helping someone in a store reach for something or helping a person who has fallen on the ice.  They can be spiritual in understanding and accepting someone who doesn’t believe as you do.  It can be one’s pride, such as realizing that no political position is worth sacrificing a friendship or relationship that has existed for decades.  As O Henry says, of those who give gifts, those who give the gifts that I have mentioned are the wisest people.  They are the Magi.

Seasons Greetings, and may each of you have a blessed holiday season.

Bill

 

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Snoopy’s Christmas

Snoopy’s Christmas

Hello, everyone.

Back in 1966 and 67, Charles Schultz apparently drilled a dry hole or something in his “Peanuts” cartoon, because for several months – to me, it seemed like years – he was stuck on the idea of “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” I was reading “Peanuts” at the time, and I eventually quit reading because I found that schtick so cotton-pickin’ boring. I never really cared for “Peanuts;” I never saw the humor in it, so it didn’t bother me in the least to leave it behind.

As a spin-off to the “Baron” business, a group of guys – from the Ocala, Florida, area – formed a group and recorded for the Laurie Record label under the name The Royal Guardsmen. They rode the “Baron Business” to #2 in 1966 with a bit of stupidity titled “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” In 1967, they recorded a Christmas number, titled “Snoopy’s Christmas,” and saw it chart in 3 successive years – #1 in 1967, #15 in 1968, and #11 in 1969, all on Billboard’s Christmas chart.

In my opinion, the Christmas song was vastly, tremendously superior to the “Red Baron” song, and the fact that it charted so well for three years in a row supports my view, in my opinion. I remember hearing it in 1967, but not liking it, due to my distaste for the newspaper cartoon. However, in 1972, it enjoyed a resurgence – even though it did not chart that year – and I fell in love with it – to the degree that I have downloaded several videos of it from YouTube.

The reason I remember the 1972 resurgence is that I made a trip out to New Jersey during Christmas time that year to visit my brother and his wife and to meet my brand new baby niece. I went by train, and the train from Ottumwa, Iowa, was late enough in arriving in Chicago that I missed my connection to New York City on the Broadway Limited, so Amtrak put me up in the Palmer House in Chicago that night, and I made the trip to NYC the next day. A lady going to some place in Michigan missed her train as well, and she and I shared a cab to the Palmer House. We hit it off when we said hello, and had a pleasant trip to the hotel. What added to the pleasure was the fact that the cabbie had his radio on and the station he was listening to played the Guardsmen’s record. Indeed, I heard the song almost everywhere I went that Christmas.

What brought that sweet, darling little song to my mind? Amazingly enough, it was the Christmas Special done by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and broadcast on BYUTV today (12/23/12). Tom Brokaw was the special guest, and he told a true story about an American Air Force pilot who flew during the Berlin Air Lift back in 1948. According to Brokaw’s story, this pilot was shooting home movies at an air base where the Airlift took off for its trip to Berlin. Some local children were outside the fence and asked the pilot about the airplanes. He talked with them and when he had to leave, he took two pieces of chewing gum out of his pocket, broke them into 6 pieces, and gave the gum to the children. After he left them, he had an idea. Like all soldiers, he got some chocolate bars in his rations, and he started dropping them from his plane during his flights in the Airlift. Soon he had his squadron buddies offering their chocolate to the kids. People heard about it here in the States, and they started sending chocolate overseas to him for him to give to the children. The pilot is still alive – at age 92 – and he was on the program doing you know what – giving candy to kids.

When I watched the program and heard the story and heard Brokaw make the comment about giving candy to children who were once our enemies, I immediately reflected on “Snoopy’s Christmas.” In the song, the Red Baron forces Snoopy to fly across the Rhine River and land behind enemy lines. When they are both on land, Snoopy expects the worst, but instead, the Red Baron wishes him a Merry Christmas and they celebrate a holiday toast to each other.

At the end of my diary titled “May We Make Them Proud,” I wrote the following four paragraphs:

Why is this problem of gun violence so prevalent in the United States but so lacking in other, more definitely civilized countries? I truly believe in my heart that it is because of the influence of Jesus Christ in this nation. Remember that NOT ONE Evangelical Christian spokesman has spoken a word of solidarity with the parents of the dead children. We also have Jesus’ own word – spoken in Matthew 10:34 – that he – supposedly the “Prince of Peace” – did not come to this earth to bring peace, but a sword, or warfare and strife. Also in Luke 22:36, he advises his disciples to sell their clothing and use the money to buy swords, or arms. Time and space constraints hinder me from discussing this country’s bellicose history in any depth, but it is there for those who have the intellect to comprehend it.

Barak Obama said it extremely well: “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.”

May we make them proud! May we decide that enough is enough and put an end to the Republican / Evangelical stupidity that holds us powerless except to observe shooting after shooting after shooting. And, if need be, may we grind Jesus Christ and his warmongering and life-taking spawn and grind them into dust and embrace a deity – Mohammed, Allah,The Buddah, or some other deity – who knows the pathway of peace and who chooses to endeavor to lead us in that pathway.

They say that every cloud has its silver lining. Out of the carnage of Newtown, HOPEFULLY we will emerge as smarter human beings. I do have my doubts, though.”

I believe that this is why the story of the “Chocolate Pilot” struck me so this morning. He did not have to interact with the children. He did not have to offer his two sticks of gum to them. He chose to do those things; they were acts of his volition.

He could have let the recent unpleasantness rule his heart in how he responded to the innocent children. Certainly modern Republicans and Evangelicals have taken far greater umbrage at far lesser slights. But instead he chose to act like the Red Baron in the song. In his own way that day and afterward, he “toasted” those little German children.

Last Friday (12/21), the Senior Housing where I live held a Christmas pot luck. The management provided the prime rib. I sat at the same table as James, a guy who lives a few doors down the hall from me. We got to talking, and I made this statement: “This time each year, for the four weeks of the holiday season, people are so kind, friendly, and nice. Why can’t they act the same way for the other eleven months?” James said, “I hear you, Bill.”

Why MUST we limit our “niceness” to the period between Thanksgiving and January 1? Why can’t we be kind, thoughtful, accepting, and tolerant the other eleven months? Conversely, why are Evangelicals, military types, and conservatives in general the most ungracious, thoughtless, and downright cruel people in society? I believe that, just like the “Chocolate Pilot,” we choose to act out those behaviors. They are acts of our volition.

One scene from 1977 or 78 is chiseled indelibly in my mind. It occurred in the old Northwestern train station in downtown Chicago. I had gotten off the train from Highland Park and was heading downstairs to the street level to walk over to Union Station to catch the train out to our home in Grayslake. A man and woman were walking fairly close to me. I could tell that the woman was not familiar with the Northwestern terminal because she was constantly going in the wrong direction. I assumed that the man she was with was her husband, because he was thoroughly nasty and rude to her, continually cussing her out for going the wrong way. He could just as easily have said, “No, Honey, not that way. This is the way we must go.” But he didn’t. Watching that scene moved me to promise to myself that I would never treat MY wife like that, but instead, I would endeavor to treat her like a queen as much as I could. And I did my best to honor that promise to each of my two wives.

When I was a boy, television station KTVO in Ottumwa, Iowa, had a children’s program presided over by a character who called himself Windy Jim. Windy Jim ended every program with this saying: “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” There are tons of wisdom in those words. There is never a legitimate excuse for being not nice. As Popeye said in one of his cartoons, “You can catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss.” So very true.

It is getting close to the time of the year when “New Year’s Resolutions” are de rigeur. You know – that list of good intentions that we all make on January 1 and flush down the toilet on January 2. Given the nastiness of this past presidential campaign, the endless carnage sponsored by the NRA, and the Republicans’ abject refusal to work with “the Black Man in the White House,” I believe that it would be appropriate to include resolutions to work to get along better in this society in our lists – and then make deliberate efforts to live up to those resolutions. It surely can’t hurt.

Back in 1969, a singer named Glen Campbell had a hit record with a song titled “Try A Little Kindness.” Here are the lyrics:

Songwriters: BOBBY AUSTIN / CURT SAPAUGH

If you see your brother standing by the road

With the heavy load from the seeds he sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Why don’t you stop and say:
You’re on the wrong way!

But you’ve got to try a little kindness
You show a little kindness
But you shine your light for every one to see
But if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people
On the narrow minded street

And don’t you walk around the down and out
Just lend a helping hand and settle down
And the kindness that you show every day
It’s gonna help someone along life’s way

But you’ve got to try a little kindness
You show a little kindness
But you shine your light for every one to see
But if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people
On the narrow minded street

© EMI Music Publishing

Not at all a bad philosophy to live by.

So as we transition into 2013, let’s not forget the lessons that Snoopy and the Red Baron, Windy Jim, Popeye, and Glen Campbell try to teach us. Let’s all determine to try a little kindness, catch more flies with sweetness and remember that it’s far more important to be nice. It really doesn’t matter if Joe Blow doesn’t believe the same way you believe. And it shouldn’t matter if John Doe is a Democrat. As the Democrats kept reminding us during the campaign, we are all in this thing together. What say we all endeavor to make the path to the future a little bit smoother?

Seasons’ Greetings and Happy Holidays, everyone. And Happy 2013.

Bill

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Music, Politics, Religion | , | Leave a comment

One Simple Gesture

One Simple Gesture

Hello, everyone.

An all-consuming passion in my life is the program “Music and the Spoken Word,” which features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the meditations of Lloyd Newell. Our local cable company gets BYUTV, so I am able to watch it every Sunday morning. It essentially is my church, and I do not allow anything to interfere with my viewing of the program.

On last Sunday’s program, Lloyd Newell gave a meditation that is so appropriate for this time of the year. Here it is in its entirety. I will comment afterward.

“One Simple Gesture”

given by Lloyd D. Newell

November 25, 2012

For years a certain family was plagued by resentment. Various members refused to speak to each other, weddings went unattended, and children were growing up without knowing their cousins. The years had given family members plenty of time to justify their behavior and blame the others for their injuries.

And then, in a sudden impulse of generosity, a young aunt sent a package of school supplies to her brother’s children. It wasn’t expensive; it wasn’t grandiose. It was just one simple gesture.

But like a drop of rain on parched, cracked soil, it caught the attention of a family thirsty for kindness. A thank-you note was written. A phone call was made. A caring comment was spoken. Feelings began to soften. And now a holiday feast is being planned. The prospects for healing and forgiveness are bright. And it all began with a small investment in just a few notebooks and markers.

Of course, reaching out with compassion across a bitter chasm is not easy. It may even seem impossible, and it always requires patience and persistence. But often just one simple gesture of kindness is enough to set in motion a series of actions that convey love and goodwill, balms that can soothe any wound.

We see the powerful impact of small gestures every day. The people who thank returning soldiers at an airport, a group of teens who visit patients in a hospital, even a young girl picking up the keys dropped by an elderly woman. These simple gestures seem small, but they stay forever in the hearts of the people they bless.

like sunlight shining through a small crack in a dungeon wall, one small gesture can bring warmth to cold hearts. By responding to even the smallest of generous impulses, we just may witness a miracle that not only softens the hearts of others but also brings unexpected joy into our own.

– – – – – – – – – –

Lloyd Newell could have written that meditation about me and my family. My grandmother died in 1959. There were hard feelings expressed at the graveside service. My mother and my Uncle Bill, for whom I was named, had a falling out. The following June, we drove through Kansas City within 2 blocks of their house. I could even see the roof of their house from the highway. We did not stop.

The following year, I graduated from high school. Among my gifts was a check from Uncle Bill. I wrote a thank-you letter, in which I said that I missed the bonds that I had with him and my Aunt Betty and my cousins when I lived with Grandma. He wrote me back. I answered that letter, and he in turn answered THAT letter. To make a long story short, not only were those bonds of old restored, they were deepened and strengthened. I made numerous trips to their house – and I might add that Uncle Bill made some trips to Union Station to pick me up on some very bad roads, without making any complaints. I can’t begin to count the times that I have thanked God for letting me write that first letter. And I can’t count the times that I have thanked God that Uncle Bill was open to what I said to him in that letter.

Something similar happened just this year. A year ago, I wrote a memoir about our grandparents. My cousins did not know them like I did because they raised me. One night the thought crossed my mind that the cousins would never know their grandparents if I did not write some kind of memoir or family history, so I did so. When it was done, I printed out copies and sent it to my cousins.

I still don’t believe what happened next. E-mails started flying back and forth about having a reunion. We were not estranged; we simply had not been together in one group since our grandmother passed away in 1959. We all agreed on a weekend in September and started making travel arrangements. I was so anxious to see them all again that I ordered my train tickets as soon as we agreed on the date. That was in April! The September weekend came, and I made the trip back to Iowa. My favorite boy cousin met my train in Ottumwa, and instantly he and I turned the clock back 50-60 years. When we were all together, we all essentially picked up our relationships where we had left off in 1959.

I have mentioned that since Carol died 5 years ago, her family hardly has anything to do with me. So when our reunion happened in September, it was, to use Lloyd Newell’s beautiful simile, “ like a drop of rain on parched, cracked soil” to me. It was a weekend that I will not soon forget. We also got to visit with two of our remaining aunts – my mother and our Aunt Bonnie. I was part of a family again, and it was the most beautiful feeling that I have felt since I lost my Carol.

Indeed, in e-mails to two of my girl cousins, I made the comment that it was wonderful to feel like a family member instead of a liability. They both wrote back, saying essentially the same thing: “You are not a liability! You are family! You are our patriarch. And don’t you EVER forget it!”

All of this raced through my mind during and after the program last Sunday. I could not help remembering how that letter to my uncle in essence made me a member of their family, and how my writing that memoir played some kind of role in bringing us cousins back together again.

Lloyd Newell carried on this thought about friendship and fellowship in his meditation on December 2. Here is the last paragraph of his meditation:

“Unfortunately, not everyone can be home for Christmas. But even if our loved ones can be with us only in spirit, Christmas is a time to cherish the warmth and affection of family and friends. It’s a time to share with those we love our most precious gift—our time. Whether it’s the joyful laugh of a favorite uncle, the contented smiles of grandparents, the excitement of children, the embrace of one who is home at last, or the traditional reading of the story of the babe in the manger, Christmas is best celebrated with people we love. “

Newell echoes the sentiments of Folliot S. Pierpoint as expressed in his hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth:”

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Back in 1963, Edward Pola and George Wyle wrote what I personally consider to be the most moronic, most idiotic, and most asinine piece of Christmas schlock ever written: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Given the personal losses I have experienced between Thanksgiving and New Years during the course of my life, I could not disagree more. On the other hand, Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram in 1943 wrote what I consider to be one of the 2 or 3 finest Christmas songs ever written – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Both songs celebrate the idea of friends and loved ones gathering together and celebrating the season.

When the Supreme God created us, he built into us the desire – I would say need – for contact and fellowship with others. That is why some people consider someone being alone at Christmas to be absolutely unthinkable. Yet some of us are destined to be alone on that holiday. There are many reasons for this. Maybe the family members are on the outs, as the family in Lloyd Newell’s meditation were. Or maybe circumstances dictate a person’s being alone, as in the case of the soldier in the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Or maybe a person’s spouse has died and the in-laws don’t want anything to do with the person. That DOES happen; I know from experience.

Evangelical Christians get their noses out of joint if Christmas does not hold first place in a person’s life. But what is Christmas anyway? To them, it is the birthday of “Jesus.” But as I have shared in other diaries when I have referenced the “Jewels from Jesus,” he has some serious problems with our having others in our lives ahead of him. Read about it in Matthew 10 and Luke 14. And it has been my experience that it is Christians who are the ones who are likely to ignore those of us who are liabilities. And being ignored makes this “the most wonderful time of the year?” I don’t think so.

In Lloyd Newell’s meditation, a young aunt took it upon herself to make the first move by sending school supplies to her brother’s children. One thing led to another, and now, the family is planning a reunion – and hopefully a reconciliation. In my case, I wrote the memoir about our grandparents for my cousins. I don’t know where the idea came from, but it culminated in a beautiful, glorious weekend in Albia, Iowa, the last weekend of September.

There is a video that has gone viral on the Net. It shows a New York City cop buying a pair of shoes for a homeless man. The cop’s name is Larry DePrimo and the homeless man has been identified as Jeffery Hillman. According to an article in the New York Daily News, what DePrimo did is merely the norm for that family. I have no idea whether or not the DePrimos attend church, but I would not be the least bit surprised if they did not.

What an attitude! DePrimo could not have cared less whether people wished him “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It did not matter to him whether or not “Christmas” got the degree of respect that Evangelicals feel that it deserves. All that mattered was that he saw a fellow human being walking around without shoes at the start of the coldest part of the year, and he determined to do something to ease that situation.

So let’s assume that the writers of that stupid moronic song were right, and this is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year.” What makes it so? Is it the birth of God’s bouncing baby boy? HAH! You gotta be kidding! Is it because of all the fellowship and fun? If one is fortunate enough to have that dynamic in his life, then yes it is. But what about the rest of us? I believe that it is the belief that in this crazy world of madness and mayhem, there are still some courageous souls who still give a damn – who care about the conditions that their fellow men find themselves in.

I do not know for a fact whether Lloyd Newell’s meditation family exists or not. But does it really matter? The point of his meditation is someone making a small gesture to bring a family back together again. The point of Larry DePrimo’s gesture was to show someone who had in all likelihood abandoned hope that someone cared, that someone DID care.

And that is what those of us who are alone need most of all. We don’t need all the crap about some baby born somewhere or all the balderdash of some moron in a red suit who has not evidenced any kind of relationship with a razor or a barber for ages. Like Jeffery Hillman, we simple need to know that we matter to someone – that someone cares about us.

Back 60 years ago when I was a boy, the Christophers used to have a TV show. Now who are the Christophers? According to Wikipedia, they are “a Christian inspirational group that was founded in 1945 by Father James Keller. The name of the group is derived from the Greek word “christophoros”, which means “Christ-bearer”. Although the founders were Maryknoll priests, and the Roman Catholic orientation is overt, The Christophers preach a doctrine of religious tolerance and intend their publications to be generally relevant to those of all faiths.” The programs that I watched as a boy always began with a male singer singing, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.” Their slogan was “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” It apparently still is, because at their homepage there is a statement announcing “over 65 years of lighting candles.”

Wouldn’t it be wonder if that were the focus of the church as a whole today? The Christophers are a sectarian non-sectarian group. They are Catholic; yet their message is for every man. What a contrast with the Evangelical church and its belching about a “war on Christmas!”

So as we proceed through this “most wonderful time of the year,” (?) take your eyes off that fat bundle of blubber whose entire vocabulary is limited to “Ho ho ho,” or the “babe born in a manger,” and look around you. Pay attention to those around you who are alone or who are estranged from you or whom you have not communicated in months or even years. I remember a wonderful story I heard in a sermon a long time ago. A married couple was driving down a road. The wife remarked to her husband, “Remember, dear, when we used to sit so close to each other in the car?” The husband, who was driving, replied, “Well, Honey, I am not the one who moved!”

So are you the mover or the “movee?” Were you the one who started the argument or the unwilling victim? Is it too late to “snuggle up in the car again?”

According to Lloyd Newell’s meditation, it is never too late. All it takes is for one little gesture. In the meditation, a young aunt made the first simple move. That first move can be many things – an e-mail, a batch of fudge, a phone call on Christmas day. It doesn’t have to cost anything except the willingness to be the one to reach out, and the willingness to embrace the other person. When we cousins got together last September there was much talking and hugging. And let me tell you, those hugs and handclasps were sent from heaven. That first simple gesture you make can be sent from heaven as well.

To paraphrase the theme of the Christopher program: If everyone made just one simple gesture, what a bright world this could be!

Think about it, please.

Have yourselves a blessed day and a wonderful holiday season.

Bill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 1, 2012 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Religion | , | Leave a comment

The War on Christmas Is a Myth

The “War on Christmas” is a myth

Hello, everyone.

Well, this past Thursday (11/22/12) was Turkey Day, or Thanksgiving, if you must. So what’s next? As if you need a clue! Indeed, Daily Kos gives you a great clue. From today (11/24/12):

Yes! It’s that time of year—the time when all good Christians put up the lights, pick out a tree, and whine for a month and a half straight about how goddamn persecuted they’re going to be any minute now, just you wait. Pat Robertson, take it away:

‘It’s, well, Christmas all over again. The Grinch is trying to steal our holiday. It’s been so beautiful, the nation comes together, we sing Christmas carols, we give gifts to each other, we have lighted trees, and it’s just a beautiful thing. Atheists don’t like our happiness, they don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable, so they want you to be miserable. So they want to steal your holiday away from you.’”

Actually my greatest joy has come from the atheist community. The source of all of the grief I’ve known in my life has been the Evangelical community.

Yep, it’s time for the annual Evangelical whine about the so-called “War on Christmas.” Here is a sampling of comments from across the Net.

From Media Matters:

The Fake “War On Christmas” Campaign Begins

Research November 11, 2011 1:19 PM EST ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

This week, the right-wing media began its annual fake “War on Christmas” campaign, freaking out about a bogus Obama “Christmas tree tax.” Here’s what to expect from right-wing media during the next six weeks.

Here is an item from Alsip, Illinois:

Lawsuit threat means Alsip Christmas tradition gets crossed off

BY STEVE METSCH, Southtownstar.com

To avoid what could be a costly lawsuit, the village of Alsip will break with tradition and not erect a cross on its water tower near the Tri-State Tollway this holiday season.

The cross had been a fixture since the 1970s, Mayor Patrick Kitching said Monday. But after the Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., advised Kitching it would file a lawsuit demanding removal of the cross, citing separation of church and state, Kitching decided to not wage a losing and likely costly legal battle.

Other municipalities have been brought to suit regarding the very same issue and have lost. We have chosen not to waste taxpayer dollars to fight a losing battle in court.”

In Santa Monica, California, the city council passed an ordinance banning Xmas displays of any type from public land. A website called Laist posted an article about the ban. Here are some responses from the comment section of the blog, to an obvious Christian’s response to a non-believer’s comment:

Mbouffant says: “No, a victory for the First Amendment & the Constitution. If the 13 area churches want nativity scenes, they no doubt have plenty of tax-free property they can display them on to their hearts’ content.”

Pj Crepeau says: “If you don’t like the ruling, Erik, you can beg your magical, invisible friend to make everything better with his special poofy powers.

Or you can just cry to mommy.”

My Ocean says: “How is prohibiting religion on state land “intolerance and bigotry”? Again, there’s no state religion, so no religious scenes should be on state land. There’s plenty of private land where one can put their nativity scenes.”

I can say from my own experience that Erik’s magical, invisible friend may indeed have poofy powers, but those poofy powers do NOT include the ability to heal anyone with an eyesight problem.

On the “Examiner.com” website, which I believe is located in San Francisco, there is this:

The American Family Association (AFA)released its’ 2012 “Naughty or Nice List” Monday, which ranks national retail companies’ efforts to promote the true spirit of Christmas. 14 companies have been cited as being “naughty” for refusing to use the word “Christmas” or its symbols in any of its advertising or promotions. Among the companies that refuse to acknowledge Christmas are Barnes and Noble, Family Dollar, The Gap, Old Navy, and Radio Shack.

Three of the companies have been so stridently anti-Christmas – The Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic – that AFA is recommending a two month boycott to protest their position on the use of “Christmas.” All three companies are owned by the same San Francisco-based Gap, Inc.”

Now just what WAS it that Paul said in I Corinthians 13? Oh! Oh yes! I remember now. Verse 11: “…but when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

From AlterNet, there is this:

‘War on Christmas’ Nonsense is a War on Secularists

Beneath the laughable charge is a poisonous suggestion that ‘our way of life’ is threatened by foreigners.”

That is a lot of it. And yet, the vast majority of these “foreigners” are from CATHOLIC countries. And Catholics are VERY deep into this “Jesus” jazz.

And finally, also from the Examiner.com website, we have this:

The “War on Christmas” is a myth.

NOVEMBER 28, 2011

BY WILLIAM HAMBY

There is, of course, no such thing as the “War on Christmas.” There is, however, an outcry against favoritism, and retailers have recognized the value of inclusiveness. When the stock boy at Best Buy says “Happy Holidays,” he is reflecting a corporate strategy of appealing to the largest demographic possible.

Oh, sure. There are the occasional internet campaigns and billboard ads calling attention to the Pagan origins of Christmas. (That’s all true. There’s hardly anything Christians didn’t borrow from older traditions.) And sometimes, there are actions by non-believers to try to remove Christian symbols from public and government space. As far as these actions go, there is certainly a non-Christian element that advocates for keeping the religious aspects of the holiday season personal and private….”

And so on.

Now WHAT exactly IS this stupid, moronic “War on Christmas” crap about, anyway? Basically, it is about two things – the Evangelicals’ insistance on putting their nativity scenes on public land, and the opposition to using the phrases “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” in place of “Merry Christmas!” That’s all it comes down to. We will examine each of them now.

First, “Happy Holidays.” I have heard this term throughout my life. When I was a boy, I usually presumed it to mean the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Back then, Evangelicals were pretty neat people. They weren’t as mean, vicious, vindictive, angry, full of hate, and toxic like they are now. We all said “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings,” and no one wanted to consign us to Hell. We simply celebrated “Jesus’” birthday with the understanding that others didn’t believe the way that we did. And that was OK.

But just try that now! The Evangelicals will carve you on a platter if you do!

And what about the “Holidays” in “Happy Holidays?” They still include The Three. But there are others that are celebrated in the same stretch of time. There is Hanukkah, which is celebrated by the Jews. There is Kwanzaa, which is celebrated by the Blacks. And there is Yule, a winter solstice holiday celebrated by Wiccans and Pagans. So from the fourth Thursday in November until January 2, there are SIX holidays that are celebrated! And some churches celebrate Epiphany on January 6 instead of Christmas.

So which holiday is legitimate? ALL OF THEM ARE!! Thanksgiving is a holiday established by presidential declaration. Christmas is the date when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and a variety of other virgin-born, killed-and-resurrected “saviors.” New Years celebrates the start of a new calendar year. Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. It is also called the Festival of Lights. Kwanzaa celebrates the principles of Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. And Yule is celebrated as the birth – or resurrection – of the sun after the three days after the winter solstice, when the sun begins its journey north in the sky.

Gosh, that business about “resurrection after three days’ burial” sure has a familiar ring about it!!

So with all six of the holidays being legitimate, what is so special about Christmas that it should take precedence over the others? Not one single thing!! There is no special merit to be found in Christmas that is not found in the other holidays. Thanksgiving is unique to the US. Every country celebrates the start of the new year in its own way. Hanukkah belongs to the Jews. Kwanzaa in essence belongs to the Blacks. And Yule is the property of the Wiccans and neopagans. There is not one thing that makes Christmas stand out above the rest of them.

Second, there is the matter of “a nativity scene on every corner.” Two of the commenters regarding the situation in Santa Monica said it well:

Mbouffant says: “No, a victory for the First Amendment & the Constitution. If the 13 area churches want nativity scenes, they no doubt have plenty of tax-free property they can display them on to their hearts’ content.”

My Ocean says: “How is prohibiting religion on state land “intolerance and bigotry”? Again, there’s no state religion, so no religious scenes should be on state land. There’s plenty of private land where one can put their nativity scenes.”

Both gentlemen are absolutely right. I have no problem with churches setting up manger scenes on their lawns, in their parking lots, or in their sanctuaries. However, doing so on public land is a totally different matter. Do churches pay taxes? No – at least not on the portions of property that are used for worship and education. That being the case, what gives them the right to take over public land and demand that their displays be the only ones allowed? Nothing that I can find.

Back about 10 years ago, Carol and I watched the Parade of Lights in Denver on one of the local TV stations. It was a bitter cold night, and the TV commentators were bundled up like Eskimos. That day, several Evangelical churches had gone into court and sought an injunction forcing the removal of a display put up by the Freedom From Religion group on the lawn of the City and County Building – public land, in other words. One of the TV commentators made an extremely wise statement: “Given how cold it is out here tonight, those churches would be doing a far better – and more humanitarian – service if they would provide cups of hot coffee or hot chocolate to the crowd watching the parade, rather than going into court to deprive people of their constitutional right to freedom of speech.” How true, and how wise.

So those of us who no longer buy into the yarn about Erik’s magical invisible friend can pop up a bag or 2 of Act II popcorn, unscrew the cap of a 2-liter of Coke, and sit back and enjoy the fun while the Evangelicals waltz from court to court while striving to deprive people of the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution..

In closing, possibly the best comment that could be made is this one:

Pj Crepeau says: “If you don’t like the ruling, Erik, you can beg your magical, invisible friend to make everything better with his special poofy powers.

Or you can just cry to mommy.”

How true indeed!!

Everyone have a great day today. And by the way, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Bill

 

November 25, 2012 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Religion | , | Leave a comment