Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Reverie -- Praising the Human Season

"I'm so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers."

--L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

October is not a bad month to be born. I don't remember October leaves until I went away to college. I have no memory of the wonderful color of the leaves of fall until then. My school started in September. Leaving home, discovering a whole new world out there was something. I still remember the wondrous feeling of it all.  New friends, new adventures, new freedom. And when I walked down the streets in East Lake back then in Birmingham--the October leaves took my breath away. I remember taking picture after picture of those long streets many leaves still on the trees--walking
through a sea of leaves.I always think of that first year in college when the air gets a little nippy and the trees begin to turn. Maybe some of the scales fell off my eyes. I do not know. But something happened there and since that time October takes me back.

Somewhere I read where someone said that "In the kingdom of God it is always October." I think whoever penned those lines was right on target. I wonder if the Prodigal son didn't walk down that long road that led back home in October. Who knows? The Scriptures say: "when he came to himself..." I like to think that as he looked up from his misery and sorry choices he saw the turning leaves and he remembered how it was back home. And sure enough--getting close--seeing his father's house in the distance--he saw the trees--those beautiful trees framing the house called home--he remembered and even before he felt his father's arms around him--there was a gladness about it all.

But that was then. Two Octobers we were in Oxford, England. And what I remember most was the leaves that  covered almost all the ancient stone buildings of the colleges. In October the green leaves give way to bright reds. 

Oxford calls that season Michaelmas. The students come back. They don their black robes and parade through town. I don't know if they remember those red-leaved walls I hope so. I also recall the Sheep's Meadow which joins Christ Church College of Harry Potter fame.  I remember that college and the long green meadow and then the trees which in those Octobers were turning their fall colors. And next to the trees was the river where you find the houseboats and the punting boats and people walking through the leaves that have already fallen.

But those are only memories. Up and down my street the red maples are just beginning to turn. In Upstate South Carolina their turning comes a little later. But if you look across the lake and squint your eyes from certain spots you can see the far hills of the mountains and bits of reds and yellows and oranges just beginning to cover all the trees.

Maybe it's old age, I do not know. But I cherish of the bluest of the October skies and the colors that seem to be everywhere this season. A man named Don Robertson wrote a book with the wonderful title: Praise the Human Season. I guess that's what I am trying to do. October, for me, is the human season--and all around me I see...I see. And it is grand.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's Birthday Time

I don't know what to say today. I stand on the cusp or the Grand Canyon of yet another birthday. Seven-nine. God, how embarrassing. How did I get here? The Lord only knows. About every time we sing, "Through many dangers, toils and snares..." I tear up. But not just for me but for all of us--everybody included--nobody left out--that have found the journey hard and fun and scary and impossible and wondrous and downright awesome. I don't particularly like the word blessed--but I don't know another word that covers it all...and there has been a whole lot out there to take in.

One of my fav-o-rite poets which I just discovered a few years ago is a poet named Alden Nowlan from Nova Scotia. He's dead now but he left us some amazing words. And one of my favorites I'm going to share with you today.  It's entitled "Great Things Have Happened."

We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, 'Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time.' But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn't mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once
   had been the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince

(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I'm sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me, 
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.

'Is that all?' I hear somebody ask.

Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in
   Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently

than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you've never visited
before, when the bread doesn't taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love."

You can't  beat that can you?

So much has happened. The memories swirl and wash over me. The day "I got borned" in that tiny little four-room house across the tracks from the mill. They thought they could never have children and at long last: "Ta Dah"  I came along. And four years later my brother. We had so very little--and thanks to my parents--we really didn't know it. We never, ever felt deprived even though some thought if you live "over there" you were not quite somebody. I never felt that.

There were animals like Lucy the cat, who in her profligately left us a zillion kittens. There was Princess, our cocker spaniel and I don't know how many others. Pooch, Red Dog. Beethoven. Agnes. Cleo--to name a few.There was the

Church up the street that made a powerful impression in my life. And the school, across that same street, opened some doors that have never closed. Early on--there were books, books and books. And still are. I  don't remember who taught me to read--but God bless them over and over.

There were teachers and high school and college and friends and friends and friends. A mere prelude of what would happen along this Jericho road of 79 years. And there were jobs and challenges that stretched me aplenty.

There was a 21-year-old that had no idea what she was getting into when we married. And after all these years--she has come all the way. She has put up with  a lot from her husband and his circuitous moods and peculiarities. There were two kids--a boy and a girl--and I can still remember where I was the night both of them came into the world. Somebody later sent me a book called, The Birth of a Grandfather--and that has happened to met two fine times. The family thing may just be the greatest thing that ever happened.

There was Church and Church and Church. Carlyle Marney used to say "the church  has dirty underdrawers." And I guess he was right. But that's not the whole truth. When she gets dressed up her her finery my, my she is something to behold. And she sometimes takes breath away and forces me to be more honest with myself than I ever thought. And trailing behind her was that glorious company too many to number. All ages. Shapes. Sizes. A handful mean as hell. Strange and wondrous. I found her and them in every church I ever served.

I don't want to bore you anymore. I just want to say to all those out there--do you have any idea how you have amazingly graced my life. Emily Dickinson talked about "sending a love-letter to the world." Well--I don't know if I would go that far--but I do know I send this love-letter out and I hope even to those who have gone on before know that these words have their name on the envelope too.

If I ever get the time I want to write a book called, Things I Wish Jesus Had Not Said. But today, looking back--where would I be if I had not heard and believed and tried (haltingly and sometimes not at all) to follow what Jesus really did say.

And so my rantings are over today. Thank you family...that you friends...and thank you God for the memories which are far, far richer than anything I ever even knew was out there when I sat at that little desk in that little classroom when I was eight years old.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy Birthday Daughter

It was October 9th, 1963. Owensboro, Kentucky. We'd already been to the hospital days before. False alarm. But this night was no false alarm. It was the real thing. My buddy Dick Delleney came and held my hand. Fathers-to- be couldn't dare enter the delivery room. Finally--it seemed like hours--they called me in. "You have a little girl--red-headed." It took my breath away. Gayle, the Mama roused up and dreamily said, "Let me see her ears." And they did. And those ears really did look like mine. "Cursed," my wife moaned.

We didn't know where this wonderful joy-ride would take us. And if we can be prouder today--and we are--than we were then--we are so glad this red-headed girl with the big ears--covered, of course, grew up to be tall and smart and beautiful and savvy and a Mama twice and a Teacher of so many that have loved her.

How very different this journey would have been without you. Your first trip to  New York. It was the day the Sky Lab fell, of all times. And I waited and waited at La Guardia airport--scared to death that you would not make it. You did. What fun it was. We saw a play with Liv Ullman and waited at the door for her to come out. We ate Italian food. We crammed in so much in those three days.

You graduated from Daniel High School and went on to the University of Louisville. And you'll be in Clemson this week-end pulling for Louisville as they play the Tigers. Before you finished college the four Lovette's spent a summer in England. I can still hear you upstairs in the bathtub, trying to maneuver that rubber thing that was supposed to be a shower and kept coming off--and you yelling , "God, I hate England!" You didn't.

There was a marriage that gave you two wonderful girls. Natalie and Libby. And you moved from Louisville to Atlanta where you still live. Blog-readers don't need to be bored--but they--you--need to know how very proud we are of you and the journey, not always easy, that you have made. But here you are in living color...great friend, wonderful daughter, good teacher, great Mama and  not a bad driver. Where did you ever learn that.

On this special day memories swirl. And we thank God for them--the cup is full and running over--and we thank God for you.

--RogerLovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The 4 Trillion Dollar War

I’ve just finished reading Dexter Filkins’ great book, The Forever War. Mr. Filkins, the author is a foreign correspondent and he writes about the rise of the Taliban, the aftermath of the September 11 attack on New York and the days that followed. Want to learn something about the complexity in the Middle East—read this book. This is not a simple problem. He writes about the people in these battle-scarred lands, soldiers and their families, the Memorial services he has attended. Though the book came out in 2008 it is a prophetic observation of where we are as we deal with the ISIS crisis.

Osama bin Laden said that the September 11th attack was to bring America’s financial system to its knees. Was he right?  President in 2003 as the war started that it would cost $60 billion dollars. We now know the price tag was at least $817 billion and the Economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz states that the cost of those wars could be as much as $4 trillion dollars. We continue to pay interest on this credit card. This, of course does not factor in all those service people, if they did come back, many arrived home crippled or damaged some way for life. Filkins writes about their stories in Thank You for Your Service. Two million soldiers have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands came back with PTSD.

So as we beat the war drums again—I simply do not know what to think. ISIS must somehow be stopped. But the United States cannot do this alone. USA Today says that bombing ISIL costs us $10 million dollars a day. That paper gives us these estimates:

  • Stretched over a year this new war could cost us as much as $3.7 billion dollars.
  • Operation Enduring in Afghanistan (2013 figures) costs us $212 million a day.
  • One Tomahawk land attack cruise missile costs $1.1 million. (47 have been used through September.) 
In the last several days Congress slashed $8.7 billion from Federal Food Stamp Funding.
I do not know what to do about this terrible situation in Iraq and Syria. I do know we must think and hard before we engage in another full-scale war. If Filkins is right this could be a forever war. You don’t see these figures enumerated by those in Washington or many of our media folk.

Michael J. Tuttle / flickr

--RogerLovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Monday, October 6, 2014

Voting Rights for Everybody

Norman Rockwell, "Election Day" / flickr
Two Saturdays ago I did something I have never done before. I knocked on 40 doors asking people to please vote in the mid-term elections. It was an informative day. I met all kinds of people—different walks of life. Some retired, some well heeled and some on food stamps. Almost everybody I met wants the best for South Carolina. But it did not matter who they were—we all have a great privilege in this country of having our say at the ballot box. It hasn’t always been this way.

In the days of our Founding Fathers only white, male and wealthy could vote. A little later any Caucasian male who owned 50 acres of property or had taxable income could vote.  After the slaves were freed four states allowed those freed could vote. Women could not vote in this country until August 1920 when the Nineteenth amendment was added to the Constitution. African Americans were forced to jump through all sorts of hoops to try to vote for years. States erected the barriers of literacy tests and poll taxes to deny votes to people of color.  But President Lyndon Johnson in August 1965 signed the Voting Rights Act. This action prohibited states and their political subdivisions from imposing voting qualifications that deny the right of United States citizens to vote because of race, color or membership in a language minority group. Millions of Americans of color were denied the right to vote until 1965.

90 million of our citizens never vote. Today we learn that new voting restrictions can be found in 22 states. Voting lines are getting longer. States that have seen increase in minority turnouts have seen the most cumbersome restrictions added to voting rights in different parts of the country.  Looks like a lot of people making the rules in states are scared if every registered voter went to the polls.

Voting ought to be easy—not hard. Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado has led a movement where every registered voter automatically receives a mail-in ballot. Voters in that state can cast their vote at centers and not just precincts. The Governor has also expanded early voting and same-day voter registration.

What do we have to fear from letting all our registered citizens vote? Democracy says that everybody over 18 who is a citizen should have the right to vote. Voting is not a privilege—it is a right. When we erect barriers to the disabled, the poor who have no transportation and those that work difficult hours we are drawing lines that are at odds with our democracy. In Texas lifelong voter Sammie Bates complained that it took her a while to save up the $42.00 needed to order her birth certificate, which she needed to get a free ID. “You’re going to put the money where you feel the need is most urgent...We couldn’t eat the birth certificate, and we couldn’t pay the rent with our birth certificate.” There is something very wrong with the voter restrictions so many states are demanding this fall.

Mid-term elections are not as popular since we are not electing a President. But we are voting on who will be our Governor, who will represent us in the Senate and Congress and local elections. Every citizen should study this list of names and make up their minds on who they will vote for. It is hard not to be swayed by all the money that has been pumped into elections from both parties. And it is hard not to become disenchanted with our voting system today. Yet we, the people, can still make a profound difference in our state and nation if we exercise our God-given right to vote.

When Benjamin Franklin emerged from Constitution Hall, a woman asked him, “What kind of a government are you giving us?” A republic, Madam if you can keep it.” Keeping the republic strong is the task of every citizen. When you stand before the voting booth this is your chance to help keep our democracy strong. Exercise your right—it was paid for by the work and prayers and dreams and blood of a great many people. All these sacrifices by so many do not deserve to be wasted. 


                       --RogerLovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fear Not--Good Words for a Hard Time

--Carlos Barberena / flickr
Looks like the tom-tom drums of fear are out in full force.
·        If we don’t fight them over there—we will fight them over here.
·        It is only a matter of time until ISIS plans a big terror attack. Just you wait!
·        We are not watching the Texas-Mexican borders—there’s no telling what will sneak across the line.
·        We have to put boots on the ground to win this war.
·        Now that the ebola virus has spread to one person in Texas—we have no idea how fast this will spread.    
·        We thought the White House was secure.
·        Social Security is drying up.
·        No college is safe—look at the girls that have been attacked.
·        Thank God we can take our guns just about everywhere.

You can’t run a country on fear. Look at Nazi Germany.
You can’t preach the good news with fear.
You can’t do parenting on fear.
You may win an election on fear—but it’s a shaky foundation.
And the media ratings may soar with fear talk—but they/we will be the losers.

You won’t find many fear drums being beaten in the Bible if you take the long view. The Biblical word which is intoned everywhere is “Fear not!” In a primitive and superstitious time—even then God kept telling the people: “Do not be afraid.”.  

Abraham...Isaac...Jacob...Joseph...Moses are only the tip of the ice berg. Little pregnant Mary was told by the angel not to be afraid. So was her husband-to-be. And when the winds blew and the little boat was about to sink—the disciples were terrified. Remember Jesus came. What did he say? Do not be afraid. No wonder those healthy words found their way into the Book.

Where did all this fear talk come from? So much of our faith has been built on the fragile construct of fear. Yet at the heart of the Gospel is that other word: Faith.

 Not too long ago I was in Philadelphia in a beautiful restaurant downtown. Off the main room where they sold drinks and people could sit by the fire on plush leather couches--I was struck by the words over the fire place. They were words for the well-heeled because it was that kind of a restaurant.  It was a word for those who sat around the bar drinking—many to excess. I like to think when the waiters and servers shuffled from table to table once in awhile those words over the fireplace would speak to them, too. I would hope when the cleaning crews that came in at night to do the dirty work in bathrooms and  sticky floors those words might touch something in their hearts too.

When you watch the news and listen to the pundits and talk to your neighbors—remember the words over the fireplace. Do not be afraid. For when you are afraid you can’t think straight. Neither can you make healthy decisions. Nor can you see the things that are around you clearly. Maybe those words in that fireplace are pretty good advice in a very troubled time. 

                             --RogerLovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com