If These Walls Could Talks

Becoming a Part of History

It could have been just about any day during 1833. The imposing and majestic Trinity United Methodist Church graced the landscape representing a local landmark on Meeting Street in bustling low country Charleston SC. In fact, the church predates the creation of The United Methodist Church…and the Civil War…and even electricity.

Meeting Street was a bed of encrusted dirt and stone hosting the clip-clopping of horse and carriage commuters going to and fro about their business. With white Corinthian columns and richly detailed interior the Church building was only a year old and had begun what has become an incredibly rich history of witnessing the ages and progress through the generations.

Fast forward to the evening of Friday January 18, 2019. Horses & carriages a distant memory, with street lights glaring and impatient traffic making it’s entry exceptionally difficult our Boy Scout troop’s state of the art bus tightly squeezed into the back parking lot. To be there meant to realize we became part of this building’s history…what it had observed through the decades and almost two centuries.

A combination of Antebellum architecture verging on the beauty of a Gilded Age worship place the building remains stunning.

We’ve all heard it: the saying “If these walls could talk.” As Pastor Mike Wood led David, Willis, Dave, Scott, Mike, Andrew and me on the “nickel tour” all I could imagine is what this building has endured: the life celebrations, the heartache and the history of our country this place has seen.

What’s Been Going On Since 1832?

Trinity saw the first shot of Civil war fired in its midst, witnessed Lovenia Fisher become South Carolina’s first female to be executed for murder, and endured through the Women’s Movement. It was there as the sexual revolution unfolded and provided refuge for prayerful congregants through Jonestown, Woodstock, and Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon.

Trinity stood majestically serving worshippers through the

  • Mexican – American War (1846-1848)
  • American Civil War (1861–1865)
  • Spanish-American War (1898)
  • World War I (1914-1918)
  • World War II (1939-1945)
  • Korean War (1950-1953)
  • The Vietnam War (1955-1973)
  • The Gulf War (1990-1991)

That Time Boy Scouts Happened

From across the pond Trinity stood when Lord Badin Powell established a scouting program for young men. The church also knew the time an American business man, William Boyce, brought the Lone Scout program to the States (this eventually became Boy Scouts of America; c. 1924).

Trinity was there as a start up church 180 miles northwest in Charlotte chartered a Boy Scouts Troop (December, 1969). Over the past fifty years hundreds of boys & their families have learned to serve through Boy Scouting’s Duty to God, Duty to Country & Duty to others. They say…whomever “they are” only 4 – 7% of young men who are scouts to earn the Eagle rank. Troop 118’s heritage evidences a much higher rate. In the last few weeks we’ve seen Eagle numbers 200 & 201 achieve rank. We’ve collected more than 22,000 pounds of non-perishable food for Charlotte’s Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, protected the environment by Adopting-A-Stream in Mecklenburg County, and left it better than we found it by putting our outdoor code to work. This year marks Charlotte’s BSA Troop 118’s 50th anniversary.

(A few images from our celebration banquet on February 9th)

All of this reflection might beg the question: What additional history will the old walls at Trinity in Charleston observe? The first female U.S. President, colonization in space, flyer cars (Boeing has recently tested driverless air taxis); a cure for cancer, for dementia or a drug to combat alcoholism? All promise to materialize.

The possibilities remain endless. It’s something to think about the next time you are in an old building: “If these walls could talk,” what would they reveal to us?

This month Boy Scouts of America becomes Scouts BSA & I’ve Accepted the Change.

(Before I Open Pandora’s Box: these are my expressed thoughts and do not represent a collective opinion of either our Troop’s leadership or Charter Organization)

While I am 100% in opposition to discrimination and sexism I honestly admit I have personally struggled with recent Boy Scout organizational decisions. I believe God, our Creator, created males & females to be unique divine creations reflecting His will and to fulfill His desire for our lives. Sexual identities aside, the sexes as different genders share particular commonalities the opposite sex is not created to either experience or understand. Simply stated, boys will be boys & girls will be girls…at least that’s what naturally occurring testosterone or estrogen levels in our bodies dictate. Nothing we can do changes the precise moment in time when, at fertilization, our gender is determined (albeit people make decisions to change their gender, “identify” with the opposite sex, and influence everyone else’s right to his, her or its opinion. I threw the “its” in there for the people who would call me out for not being sensitive to the gender neutral. I can’t say I understand your neutrality…you either are or you aren’t).

It is ludicrous to expect that young men and young women could experience the exact same Scouting life. It is not plausible for any two people experience the same thing the same way at all…ever. This fact is a gift that characterizes life’s uniqueness.

My thoughts regarding young ladies joining the Scouting program began to change when one of my prolific, genuinely Christian and fellow Troop leaders whom I deeply respect made a statement about his daughter. In short he said “quite frankly I have no problem with a program that would accept my daughter if she wanted to become an Eagle.” Why should the fun and rigors of Boy Scouting be limited to boys?

I want to be clear: Although girls can now create and join a Scout Troop, there will not be coed scouting under the new current structure. The girls who join will experience scouting with their sex; the boys will continue to meet with young men. The National Scouting organization has done a poor job clarifying the new organization for the media amidst a highly misinformed court of public opinion.

Girl Scouting, while it provides a definitive curriculum and experience, does not offer the depth of endeavor and life long prestige of rank becoming an Eagle Scout brings. We live in a world where people segregated in any way ALWAYS find a path to penetrate barriers. This is especially true when one group has something other groups want. This time it is females having the ability to join Boy Scouting’s traditional brotherhood. This will happen whether we acknowledge it or not.

Back to Church on Meeting Street

It won’t be too many years before the Trinity congregation celebrates the building’s 200th anniversary (in 2032). In addition to all the events mentioned the beautiful church on Meeting Street will see the envelopment of young ladies into Scouting. Like every other social movement this change will become the commonly accepted norm. 50 years from now this change will not matter to the involved families. I understand this and shall, somewhat reluctantly, embrace the change. However, today as my sons’ Boy Scout Troop turns 50, I proudly and happily celebrate Boy Scouts of America – Troop 118’s heritage and the dimension it has added to an entire brotherhood for five decades. This milestone is a gift to be celebrated.

Yours in Scouting.

Scooby Dooby Dad—Confessions of a Cartoon Wuss.

I ‘m dedicating this blog to Monica Schroeder: you are a survivor (see dedication notes at the end).

The Truth Isn’t Always Pretty and Neither is a Scared Little Kid

It’s all true. Very early Saturday mornings in the early 1970’s I was the first to wake up at our house. Quietly, with sun not even up, I would make my way to our Packard-Bell TV-Stereo console TV in the den. It was an imposing all fruitwood encased TV with a huge stacked piece on the top housing the turn table, stereo and 8-track player. Looking back, it was an OBNOXIOUS combination piece of technology and furniture. It was cartoon time and Scooby Doo, the American classic, always promised excitement.

(The TV console behind us in the den at our childhood home).

I must be an emotional wreck. If you’ve read any of my prior blogs (Mean People Suck…and So Does Cancer), then you know I’m the kind of guy who cries when things get sentimental on the Waltons or when I watch incredibly corny Christmas movies on Hallmark. A note of personal growth: I’m getting over the Hallmark emotional roller coaster. Seriously, I sat through “A Crown for Christmas” and “Christmas at the Palace.” How upset can you get about an incognito prince who sweeps some American chick away breaking royal tradition and lays a big one on her in the Throne Room? I think it’s the Meagan Markle effect. To my single friends, I’m pretty sure Meagan is an outlier. Yeah, probably not going to happen again; Prince George is a wee tike.

And about those story line sequences…nobody in real life exists like Hallmark Christmas movie characters. If you could take Aunt Bea out of Mayberry combine her with Martha Stewart and give her Cindy Crawford’s looks, then you’ve got your girl. The dudes are always ruggedly handsome, they’re in gym body condition with incredibly thick hair over styled to make it look not so coiffed. They’ve all been hurt by either corporate greed or some oppressive long gone love relationship and still not able to find what they’re looking for. I think the reason people get so sucked into these things is the build up of sexual tension on the tube. In real life people would put it out there, be definitive with their intents, and….let’s be honest, they’d get a room! Even though I’m addicted to these movies like a sick crack addiction, I’m excited to have a 9-10 month break from these stupid, stupid story lines. Guess that means Candace Cameron Buree on some studio lot filming for our 2019 Christmas viewing stress….I mean pleasure.

Sorry for the two paragraph long rabbit trail. Back to Saturdays and Scooby in the 70’s. But just for the record I’m seriously thinking about hosting a Hallmark Movie Drinking Game Party this coming December. Yep, Uber & Lyft will be slammed that night!

(This is Avery my sister’s dog…I think he’s Scooby).

Scooby Happens

This scene repeated many times. Invariably, Shaggy, Fred, Thelma, Daphne and Scooby jumped the that awesome Mystery Machine to chase down “The Creeper,” “The Miner Forty-Niner (yeah Niner Nation Family—not about our UNCC heritage);” or the “Phantom Shadow.” It freaked me out. Our house was still dark, my little sister was still asleep, and I always got completely wigged out at age 4 over this goofy Hanna Barbera ghost chasing crew. I was convinced if I got up and left the room some creep…or my little sister…would be there with a bedsheet, chains, and an agenda to scare the bejesus out of me. I look back at these cartoons now and laugh heartily at myself, but the memories warm my heart.

(This is my son’s friends van…busted gas gauge and all)

They warmed my heart, that is, until the first Saturday of this month when at 11:45pm my youngest son called. The Scooby set materialized. His buddy’s “Mystery Machine” was broken down on the side of the road and they needed help. When your panicked teenager calls from the roadside while he is depending on a restored classic VW bus for a ride, his friends’ phones are dead, and he’s only got 5% left, you’d better be efficient and learn to communicate his way.

Being the awesome mechanic I am I grabbed a 3 gallon can of gas, a glove….a single glove (like I’m the Michael Jackson of roadside assistance), and my Leatherman multi-purpose tool. Yep, I was out to save the day. The irony is they called me at all. I have the mechanical skill of a roach…an idiot roach to be clear. If it’s more complex than changing a light bulb or tightening a screw I have to call in relief. Nonetheless, Thaedra and I took off into the night.

Upon arrival on Brackenberry Road in South Charlotte we approached our son and his two teenage friends. They’d played their first paid gig with their extremely evolvingly (sort of made that word up) talented and creative band, 7-Minutes in a Microwave. My son’s share of the admission ticket sales was a whopping $6. The problem was that none of the boys remembered to either charge their phones or fill the tank with gas. In their defense, the gas gauge was broken.

Now I’m Just Old & Scared

As I stood there checking out this bus I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was a 100% completely restored (except for the gas gauge) 1967 Volkswagen Van. Painted white with blue trim and gleaming chrome accents, the van is saaaaweeeeet! It occurred to me that a 1967 VW is really old…51 years old. Then it occurred to me that I am personally a 1968 model…damn I’m old too!

If you know Brackenberry Road, then you know it is a simply beautiful through street lines with estate size very large lots. Many of the original homes are being torn down and imposing mansions are under construction. Imagine it: massively huge, empty homes in the dark of night with a lite breeze rustling the last leaves clinging to branches making just enough noise to be eery. These circumstances took me back to a Scooby Doo scene…except this time I was there complete with a Mystery Machine that would not crank. Ruh Roh Raggy!

As it turns out the van was simply out of gas. The boys filled it up, almost flooded it trying to get to to turnover, and finally drove off into the night. I stood there and watched them head out realizing that this was a life turning point.

The Back and Forth of It

The experience offered me pause to think about how cool life is. (Side note: I also wondered how much weed had been smoked inside that bus throughout it’s 51 year history…but I digress). We all encounter times that take us back to remember the past. We all think forward about the future. In this case…as a parent…it was affirming to know that my 18 year old still needs his dad. It won’t be long before he’s off to college and Thaedra and I will be empty nesters. So so so many of my friends talk about it like it’s a great thing. Honestly, I’m going to be distraught when he’s gone. He’s my sidekick and little partner in crime. I guess I’ll have to pop some Wellbutrin, tune into the latest Hallmark Christmas movie or old an Scooby-Doo episode and count my blessings.

A Note of Dedication

Even though this blog has nothing to do with Breast Cancer, I’m dedicating it to my friend and my son’s former and extraordinary Cub Scout & Boy Scout Leader, Monica Schroeder. MoSchro, Viola Davis’ character from The Help said it best: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important. You is….are also a confident, defiant, no-nonsense survivor. The …(So) Does Cancer) blog about Kevin and Jennifer last year could just as easily have been about you and Skip. With chemo recently behind you and the hope of complete healing and restoration I believe 2019 will be your year!

For anyone interested on how cancer impacted people I know, go to:

https://big-blog-theory.com/2018/06/07/mean-people-suck-and-so-does-cancer/

My childhood friend, Dr. Chris Dula (mentioned in the blog) passed away a few weeks ago. Prayers to his wife and family.

Monica, Jennifer, and friends Bertha, Pam & Karen and many other ladies in my life inspire all who know them. Here’s to the ladies; here’s to finding a cure.

I Have a Dog & a Trailer Park Named Dixie – I’m Not Changing the Names of Either One: The Midterms.

It’s the perfect backdrop for a Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy joke: a small, old “trailer park” on the outskirts of town in Cleveland Co. North Carolina. Driving away from town center in Kings Mountain heading toward the old Armory on West Gold Street you see it on the left side of the road. Unlike the punch lines and stereotypes about such places it is somewhere families call home, couples begin their lives together, retired people struggle to make ends meet, babies are brought home from the hospital, and unemployed people stress over not being able to reclaim a “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle. It is, as a humorist & playwrite titled such places: “The Great American Trailer Park.” Dixie Mobile Home Park has endured and witnessed nearly 60 years of American cultural and political change. I’ve had people ask me if the residents fly Confederate flags. To be honest, I’m rather certain I’ve never seen one flying there.

Political season is upon us. We live in a time when it seems acceptable to destroy public property, to mail bombs to political opponents, to vandalize and remove Silent Sam from UNC-Chapel Hill, and to attempt to erase history. And although the existence of slavery holds it’s place in history and was a horrific, regrettable system of social oppression, it is only one of about a half dozen reasons the Civil war ever transpired. One of the most intelligent and accomplished people of our age, Condeleeza Rice, said: “You cannot erase history.”

I cannot help but revert to 3rd grade bantar: “it’s a free country.” At least it used to be. Most people I know honor other people’s right to freedom of choice. Even when I don’t either respect or understand people’s reasoning, I know we must live together in peace. I’m dedicating this blog to what used to be the American Political & Election process. There’s only one hitch in my plan; it’s tough to honor a process that has become characteristically filthy and divisive.

Immigrants coming toward Lady Liberty once flocked here because of the hope she instilled: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Today the reality they hear resonates “Give me your government subsidies, give me your free healthcare, give me a free college degree.” Nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever free. It is pure economics and although costs are not always necessarily denominated in currency, the cost to be something, to follow someone, to accomplish anything ALWAYS carry opportunity costs. Simply stated an opportunity cost is what you forego in order to gain something else. The theory applies to EVERYTHING! (For my fellow faith friends, even living the Christian life requires “Giving up your former self…” Ephesians 4. For parents, loving a child is predicated on the pieces of our hearts, souls and sacrifice we pour into and invest in our children.)

Conflicted Identity

Know as you read forward know that I am not proud of the person our president is. I am often embarrassed by what he says…or worse yet…tweets. Melania—please take that electronic device away from him. I am, however, intrigued by changes in American economic growth and resurgence of our nation since the 2016 election.

I always believed citizens on the left side of the spectrum represented a party of love, peace, and change for people’s rights. Now, however, no American generation has ever seen a more divisive, defiling, mud slinging, protesting and violence inciting social and political environment. The left’s guise of peace and progress has, like the Roman Empire, imploded.

Our political process is no longer an open forum to view candidates and for Americans to be able to fairly and justly compare and contrast individuals before casting votes. Alternatively, it has become a process through which character assassination, untruth, violent protests, and complete disregard for order have become the norm.

Our United States is presently the most populated it has ever been. Along with the explosive growth comes proliferation of special interest groups…and as we see…every group has an agenda. Each groups insists on broadcasting it’s voice.

Media is the AntiChrist

We have decayed into a cess pool of bias toward anyone who doesn’t agree with a vociferously, obnoxiously featured group of voters who have nothing to show except a resistance strategy. If you’ve ever read my blog(s), then you know I wholeheartedly blame news media for fueling this fire. Media would rather sensationalize anger than to channel its powerful resources toward doing the real work needed to undergird our country with things like: employment, national security, education policy and preserving the right to pursue “life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.”

What Media Doesn’t Want You to Know Stated in one Run On Sentence.

They are committed to (1) the all out removal of a duly elected president through the process determine by the Electoral College; (2) the complete obliteration of our our personal liberties and the American capitalist economy.

On Employment

Unemployment among African Americans is at the lowest point it has ever been….ever….since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this metric in 1972. With aggregate U.S. unemployment hovering around 3.7% we presently enjoy what economists call: Full Employment. On an elementary level this means essentially every person who wants to work can find employment. A comedian joked recently that things are so good that even Colin Kaepernick found a job (with Nike). How can anyone pretend to be about helping people while denying the importance of job growth & retention among any demographic? For emphasis: total American unemployment is the lowest is has been since 1949!

While wage gaps, poor working conditions, etc. exist, there must be a first step for any group of formerly highly unemployed people. Have you ever noticed the people who gripe the most about such issues are the ones who have been continually employed? If you’ve either been without a job or been close to people who have, then you know having a way to earn a living supersedes many other extraneous job (or lack thereof) issues.

On Manufacturing

Manufacturing activity is at a near all time high. Blue collar jobs have grown at 3.3% (that’s a positive growth rate). During prior administrations the growth number was….well…not a growth rate at all…the negative number it used to be was a DECLINE. It was a negative decline manifesting over two terms (8 years) of a prior administration.

On Denuclearization

Other than Dennis Rodman, Mr. President has been the one and only prolific American recognized to have a face-to-face summit with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un to work toward a peace deal. On a side note: I wonder what Rodman’s appeal is…I cannot help but visualize him in that stupid wedding dress photo from years ago. Maybe that’s a side effect of having dated Madonna, but I digress.

Why does nobody want to talk about the sell of enriched uranium to foreign and hostile governments under the watch of a prior administration? People, if you want something to protest: here it is and it should scare the living hell out of all of us! Former leadership either turned the other cheek on OR covertly helped ensure terrorist states could procure the raw materials to develop nuclear weapons.

On Trade

In addition to a sweeping win on trade with China, October 1st saw the announcement of a trilateral trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico & Canada. Global auto maker, Ford Motor Company, supported this agreement. At Ford’s admission, it will have to pay workers more money depending on where in North America vehicles originate. Higher wages for American workers…that’s a bad thing…right?

On Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters admitted (quite publically and on television) on September 8th at a young democrats gathering that she often threatens Trump supporters. She went so far as to encourage citizens to civil unrest to the point of confronting people in restaurants, gas stations and other places.

I live only about 90 minutes from Greensboro, NC where a highly noted lunch counter sit in took place on July 25, 1960. Ms Waters: rather than rouse the rebels and perpetuate racial tension, try preaching the message of a great American: “I have a dream that one day my four little children will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). MLK’s message is remembered and honored. I can only hope that your words, and you for that matter, will not be!

Truth: Ms Waters is calling on people to treat fellow citizens poorly. Her call is to be anti-Christ’s example. Is this not the same kind of discrimination civil rights activists fought in the 60’s & 70’s? Ms. Waters remains part of the problem; she offers ZERO solutions.

Nuclearization & Not Calling out Sexism

Our former Secretary of State, John Kerry, announced on Wednesday, 9/12/18, he’d met with Iranian leadership to try to save the nuclear deal. Kerry is actively undermining our global and U.S. security by continuing to engage with and enable Iran, the largest state sponsored Terrorist government in history, to continue nuclearization.

Mr. Kerry said Trump has the demeanor of a teenage girl. Where is Hilary, where is Elizabeth Warren, where is … you name somebody. Shouldn’t they be calling Secretary Kerry a sexist for equating our domineering male president with a female?

Kavanaugh Hearings

After all is said and done: Diane Feinstein is a failure. Rather than serve country and process honestly she waited until 5 days prior to the originally scheduled Kavanaugh confirmation to announce she had a singular report of the nominee’s unsubstantiated (and still unproved by anyone) behavior in high school….almost 36 years….repeat: almost 36 years ago.

Protocol, decency and compassion for Dr. Ford would have had Senator Feinstein, as the senior ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raise this issue to His Honor when she had a face-to-face personal meeting with him. What does it say about the motives and character of the Senator that she waited for almost 2 months to turn this information over to the FBI? The truth is the accusations remain completely unsubstantiated. Otherwise the first 6 FBI investigations and the plethora of potential witnesses would have evidenced otherwise.

Feinstein opted to politicize the alleged sexual assault and victimization of Dr. Ford for the furtherance of the Democratic Party. Feinstein did not care about the fall out of sexual violence in this particular woman’s life except she thought it would help defeat this SCOTUS nominee. Conservatives are saying the Democrats should be ashamed. It’s truly worse than this: if Feinstein truly believed Dr. Ford, then Feinstein should be seen as a traitor to her gender. The bigger truth is she, like many entrenched in swamp Washington insiders, used what she could as a political ploy. This time the strategy did not work. It reeked and smelled like something straight from the bowels of Hell.

Nobody won…not the Judge, not the Doctor, not the American voting public. It was revealed to us, however, simply how low our elected officials can slither. The eve of the eventual and final vote found Feinstein on the Senate floor stating her worries about a “hostile Kavanaugh.” I imagine he might be hostile…and rightfully so. Our elected officials should conduct their public service business with integrity; Senator Feinstein failed (admittedly, Mr. President fails to conduct himself without poise and class often as well).

These might be the most important lines in this blog:

  • Simply because someone makes an accusation DOES NOT make it true.
  • Congressional Democrats want us to live under a de facto system of guilty until proven innocent.
  • Accused and Accusers alike should be treated with dignity and respect throughout investigative processes.
  • When the presumption of innocence is lost in favor of guilty until proven innocent, prepare for the decivilization of our country.
  • People should be aware there are Slander & Liable laws. They should be enforced and false accusers should pay criminally and civilly.

On Poking that Pornstar – She’s a $130K Prostitute

Other than our lovely FLOTUS, who honestly gives a flying flip if Mr. President slept with a porn star prior to his term? How did it impact your life? Honestly, how did President Clinton’s affair with Miss Lewinsky and subsequent his impeachment affect your life? What about the fact that JFK allegedly had affairs with who knows whom? Nobody other than political pundits and news producers care. For centuries we’ve seen you cannot legislate morality on either side of the aisle. No politician is squeaky clean regarding at least one issue or another. Move on people!

On Socialism

I am deeply concerned that we’re moving toward a time when Americans will be under a more socialist form of government. Younger generations have become so entitled that they believe the money will endlessly keep flowing. It won’t. Just like the natural laws of physics determine end results , economic principles are always in play. Believe socialism works? Check with the Venezuelan population. Reuters reported this past July the South American country’s inflation rate would hit 1,000,000 %….that’s ONE MILLION PERCENT.

A move to more government imposed tax should scare employed, productive and thinking people. Prepare to give 70+% of your income to the government. It’s no joking matter. Over the course of my six visits to France I’ve engaged conversation with fine working people (tour guides, docents, hospitality workers, and even in a police captain at a station when my passport was stolen).

Just a month ago Kevin, Tim and I sat on a sidewalk late into the evening with a man who is a French economist and writer debating the merits of U.S. versus the French systems. To talk with the French about things including the socialized medicine, labor unions, state sponsored education…..and all the things the liberals want….sounds like a great plan until you realize these people pay a 70%+ effective rate of tax.

It was further and clearly explained to us by Francois, our driver for the day. When he earns $ 1000 euro, then his company must pay an additional $ 500 euro to the federal government on his behalf. Francois pays an additional 250 euro tax . Although Francois seemingly nets $ 750; it costs 75% of the original earnings for him to take home $ 750 (That’s 50% paid immediately by the employer + another 25% by the citizen). Additionally, there is a sales tax there: Value Added Tax (V.A.T.) as high as 13% on all goods. On vehicles it can run as high as 25%. Property taxes are significantly higher than U.S. rates…even a tax for the right to rent an apartment is charged.

EXAMPLE: Let’s assume, for fun, an effective 70% tax. In the USA a Wal-Mart cashier earning $10 per hour keeps $3 of the wage. TRANSLATION: try to buy lunch at McDonald’s with $3…you won’t even get a Big Mac combo….and heaven forbid you wanted to SuperSize it for $1 more.

(I played devil’s advocate with him briefly rebutting he receives government sponsored healthcare. Francois quickly pointed out it is not a quality program and most people who can afford it still attempt to purchase private insurance.)

Sick & tired of being sick and tired

I am sick and tired of people who have no regard for the truth, for justice and the American way. The only way they can divert attention from progress is by “protesting, by lying and by waiting until the 11th hour to assert pathetic, unsubstantiated points.

If our founding fathers and the leaders who fought and died to establish liberty saw the current state of the union, then I’m convinced they’d point out how far out of line we have stepped.

On November 6th….assuming you are alive, assuming you are citizen, assuming you only do it once: please exercise your right to vote. My hope for the future is that we’ll vote for:

  • National security
  • Job growth
  • American continued economic expansion
  • Personal accountability
  • Increasing respect and recouping respect on the world stage.

To the Protestors

Sit down and shut up. Practice some decorum. Get a job. Quit looking to entertainment and sport millionaires to be role models. These people would not necessarily give you any of us the time of day.

The best way to effect change is to take positive action: adopt a stream, teach adult literacy & job retraining, work with a youth program: scouting or Big Brothers-Big Sisters, invest in your family, concentrate on friendships, give blood to the Red Cross, serve at a soup kitchen, walk for Cancer or Alzheimer’s or Juvenille Diabetes, and model restrained behavior for your children. Teach them that there is a loving God who is much larger than any of us….and definitely bigger than any of this.

Back to my little mobile home park in Kings Mountain

Most of the people within the demographic comprising the little King’s Mountain Gold Street community believe they don’t have a voice when it comes to the future. These are the people who couldn’t afford and didn’t purchase ACA healthcare (opting to pay the penalty tax). These are people who worry more about the price of gas, why energy prices continue to rise, and if social security will afford them a survivable retirement. The back and forth mudslinging and banter does not interest them.

We named our dog Dixie. The name fits her perfectly! And although in light of societal trends denying history because it is “offensive” to an entire generation who were neither there nor understand the full ramifications of the past, I’m not changing my dog’s name. I’m also not abandoning the sound principles of growth, security, and prosperity we have enjoyed for the past two years. I don’t know where we’re going as a country; none of us truly do. I do know it’s painful to see the “swamp drain.”

This is a long blog and I could continue. But I have to go to prepare for work to keep people employed, to make major business capital goods purchases, to insure my organization remains corporately responsible, and to make sure we can make payroll for my 17 employees’ families who depend on American small business. Therefore, I’ll close be quoting the title of a song by great American entertainer, Lee Greenwood:

“God bless the USA.” It looks like we’re going to need it.

Final note: I won’t engage in online debates concerning my beliefs…they are what they are. Life is too short to waste engaging in online arguments. Feel free to fact check me. Sources include online (Google algorithms and all) Reuters, CNN, Fox News & http://www.thebalance.com

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Didn’t Marie Antoinette Say: “Let Them Eat Crumbs?”

About a 12 miles outside Paris lies the former French Royal family’s stunning and tremendous Palace at Versailles. I don’t know if it’s the largest Royal Palace on earth, but I do know it has more than 17 acres of floor space under roof and is pimped out more than a Kardashian on the red carpet. If you like bling, then it is your kind of place. Mr. T: there is more gold here than you could possibly hang around your neck in 1000 lifetimes. Throughout it’s history it’s 700 rooms have housed Royals including King Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette. It’s Le Gran Trianon (a big, super luxury outbuilding for lack of a better term) housed Napoleon for part of his French Revolution. Queen Victoria was entertained lavishly here. The famed Hall of Mirrors saw President Woodrow Wilson sign the Treaty of Versailles ending WW1, and most recently if you notice, the Palace makes the most elegant backdrop for innumerable cosmetic, fashion and perfume commercials.

Early 1770 saw the arrival of young Austrian princess, Maria Antonia, who became known to history by her French name, Marie Antoinette. She must be one of the most often misquoted ladies throughout history. At the tender age of 14 her family betrothed her to wed the Sun King, Louis XVI. She spent her life there, basically as a price paid to “thank” the French. She spent opulent days living the best life available at the expense of oppressing her Kingdom. It really was not her fault, its the only life she ever knew. The incredibly burdensome tax system, which hasn’t changed much by today’s American standards, that supported the Royal lifestyle created so much uproar and resistance that the Royal Louis & Marie were captured by revolutionist. The countrymen were absolutely starving. During this time Queen Marie supposedly said of inexpensive sweets when told her Kingdom population was starving to death: “let them eat cake.” After being held prisoner in Paris for some a time, she was convicted of high treason. Eventually, it was off with her head by guillotine at Place de la Concorde.

The thing most of us will recall about Marie Antoinette is her famous saying: “Let them eat cake!” The problem is, many historians and the Versailles archivists agree Queen Marie never uttered these words, rather an aristocratic class woman in the Queen’s court said them.

The problem with the French Royals was a simple one. They lived isolated from the vast population and remained out of touch, as leaders (and I use that term loosely) with their people.

I truly believe we are modern witness to what I call the Marie Antoinette phenomenon in Washington, DC. Americans vote for and continue to support politicians who are completely out of touch with their respective constituencies.

On Blowing Herself Out of The Water

Personally, I am still reeling in shock after this week’s revelation that Senator Elizabeth Warren is not a Native American Indian. Despite the fact she was raised in a United Methodist home (please don’t hold this fact against an entire faith denomination) and that she could be a poster child for WASPs – White Anglo Saxon Protestants….wait…who was she kidding? I cannot even complete this paragraph.

Native American Indians have every right to be in an uproar. Not having the DNA, no tribal affiliation, and nothing but a wagging tongue, Warren sold them out for personal gain and for sound bite purposes.

President Trump: I think you should pay up the million dollars. Why don’t you donate it to something like the Wounded Warrior Fund in honor of Ms Warren’s heritage?

Senator Warren aside there remains in Washington another woman who decent human beings, tax payers and voters alike should declare abhorrent!

Budget & Tax Cuts…the Irrelevant Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi said of the current tax cuts: “crumbs” and that the tax cuts are designed to help the wealthiest Americans…the One Percent. It will not help the average American family she said. How dare a woman among the One Percent herself who has been on the government payroll since entering Congress in 1987 pretend to be in touch with “the middle class” she says she represents.

Published records estimate the Pelosi family net worth as high as $ 200 million dollars (depending on your source). The estimated $ 1000 to $ 4000 windfall associated with the tax cuts for an “average family” represents less than the interest on those assets in a single day. Clearly, that amount of money would not make any difference for Ms Pelosi. But for people who need a used car to drive to work, or need to purchase a new refrigerator, or want to splurge on a week’s vacation, or to buy medicine that they couldn’t otherwise afford…$ 1000+ is a tremendous consideration.

On a macroeconomic level, the multiplicative effect of collective spending of this money impacts the entire U.S. in exponentially positive ways. Nancy Pelosi: crack open a book. I suggest something by the title “Macroeconomics for Dummies.”

Pelosi & her party have vocally and definitively stated they WILL REPEAL the tax cuts. Media want us to believe it is not fiscally responsible to cut taxes to help working families while we have staggering deficits. I do not completely disagree, but to enter such debate requires basic knowledge of how the federal budget works. The current administration inherited national debt totaling almost $ 20 Trillion dollars. The deficit total grew by nearly 100% in the eight years prior to our current administration. The following is from http://www.thebalance.com:

When he (President Obama) left the White House, on January 20, 2017, national debt was $19.947 trillion. Obama added more than $9 trillion in debt. By comparison, George W. Bush added $4.9 trillion and Bill Clinton added $1.5 trillion. These figures make for appealing sound bites, often used on the campaign trail, but they can be quite misleading. During the (any) president’s first year in office, he doesn’t control the debt.

*note a tremendous portion of the federal budget services debt (interest payments). It grows by leaps and bounds when it is not paid and remains subject to both currency and interest rate fluctuations.

Out of fairness and acknowledgement, the budget for Obama’s first year was already set by George W. Bush. From his inauguration through September 30, 2008, Obama was working under his predecessor’s budget. The same is true for the current president during his first year. This reveals another truth: Trump’s budgeting process has had only 1 fiscal year to be in effect. Yet markets, business, and consumers have responded so positively to the pro business environment that it is as if the one year budget lag doesn’t exist.

There remain evident truths:

  • More money in people’s pockets increases consumer confidence.
  • Discretionary funds to spend will translate into GDP (Gross Domestic Product Growth) as people purchase goods (durable goods, especially) and services.
  • Marginal decreases in taxes for all Americans, including the wealthiest Americans, eventually materialize as economic investment. Thus, jobs opportunities are created for all demographics in our economy. The more employment we have, the less crime we have (and less domestic abuse we realize).
  • No redistribution of wealth system; i.e., the essential proposition of the Democratic Party, has ever prevailed indefinitely. Russia and Cuba make two great examples. Even China relies heavily on exporting it’s good to America.

Call this Wrap

Whether fair Queen Marie actually said “let them eat cake” may never be known. Modern Americans, however, know with 100% certainty that one of our congressional leaders, Ms Pelosi, absolutely called the marginal amount of our paychecks we get to keep and use: Crumbs. I may be in the minority here, but I believe most people who work for a living prefer to retain the ability and right to determine where we spend our earnings. I don’t want your party further regulating how much is taxed. We the people want our crumbs and the robust economy they are presently ushering in to us.

I’ll keep my crumbs; I’ll eat my cake; I’ll bet most of you will as well. For people who disagree, please, grab those check books and mail that extra money to our federal government. They’ll spend it, under Senator Warren’s and Congressman Pelosi’s watchful eyes, much more wisely than either you or I.

Interesting side note: Marie Antoinette’s jewelry, which remained with her family and heirs, is up for auction. You, too, can have a piece of history worn by the misquoted and misunderstood French Queen:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/marie-antoinette-s-jewelry-available-wear-sotheby-s-auctions-it-n920331

Of Priests & Pedophiles: Confessions of a Big Nasty

Of Priests & Pedophiles: Confessions of a Big Nasty

The truth is not always pretty and Whoppi Goldberg never is. Since this subject matter is nothing short of horrific I won’t attempt to interject any further humor. Alternatively, I think it makes sense to appeal to what makes sense in the midst of revealed tragedy, to speak candidly in terms about what people are saying and about where we are going as Christian faith. Once again it has been dealt, albeit at the hands of some of it’s leaders, another massive blow.

It seems the Vatican could be on to something these days. Have you ever seen Pope Francis cruising around in his popemobile? He tends to have a more modern, in touch, approach to people and to faith. My hope, not just for Catholics, but for all Christians is that this Pope will work to remove the restrictions against cleric marriage. We Christians live in a world of out of touch people who often associate our faith with the acts and works of the Catholic Church. This is the reason I have written this blog.

I won’t pretend to understand the traditions of Catholicism and I won’t act as if its billions of followers are not some of the finest people around. I will, however, speak as a citizen, a parent, a Christian and a moderately conservative thinker who can identify when an outdated practiced eliciting untold heartbreak and pain needs to go.

If you’re at all surprised by last week’s revelation regarding the 300 Pennsylvania Catholic priests who allegedly molested and sexually abused 1000+ children since 1940, then you’re clearly living in the dark ages. Let’s consider a few facts: all the accused are men. Men are full of testosterone. Testosterone makes men seek sex that eventually leads to procreation.

The centuries old, archaic prescription of cleric celibacy creates a lifetime environment of lonely men stewing with their God created and endowed hormones with no acceptable means of expression.

A word about stereotypes: they are not fair. For all the God honoring and pure of heart Catholic priests who have lived beautiful and worshipful lives not ever harming a soul this news tears the fabric of everything you believe. It proves evils exists and that the human condition truly is depraved. The light at the end of the tunnel, whether acknowledged or not, is God’s providence will prevail.

Why did an institutional church ever create a convention forcing it’s clergy to deny their God crafted instincts? In the very simplest terms we are created to live our lives as sexual beings. It is completely natural for males and females alike to seek companionship and relations. Sexual expression is intended to be a loving and God honoring thing. It was when the church stepped in and deemed relations keeping people from being able to serve God purely (their philosophy, not mine) I believe the groundwork was set for things to go awry.

When the Pope finally spoke on Monday, August 20th he profusely apologized on behalf of his faith saying “we abandoned the little ones….this pain never goes away.” The people had been waiting for days to hear this type of acknowledgement. However, words can only do so much. People want action. Catholics, other faithful and activists alike are calling for a zero tolerance policy; i.e., one credible accusation of abuse and you’re out of the ministry. You cannot change what has passed, and I’m rather certain zero tolerance policies are not strong enough to temper the strong hormone driven natural relations human beings seek. Initially well meaning pious men devote themselves to a life of ministry. The Church, not God denies them their humanity….and the stage has been set, at least, for their sexual fall from grace occurs.

“The (Catholic) Church was a thousand years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the Second Lateran Council held in 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy.” (See link below for reference)

If we are, in fact, created in the image of God; and, if we are told in the Book of Genesis God said to man “be fruitful and multiply,” then who ever thought it a good idea to deny a person his (or her) to pursue morally and socially acceptable means of sexual expression?

For ten years I worked with and mentored sixth grade youth at my home United Methodist congregation in Charlotte, NC. As part of their early Christian heritage education each year we’d visit local Jewish houses of worship. The rabbis and cantors obliged us by answering our questions about the differences between their faith and others. Frequently the question arose about whether Jewish clergy were permitted to marry. Honestly, why would a Protestant Christian sixth grader know this? The answer from one particular rather jovial, candid, and matter of fact rabbi was always the same. “Yes, he replied. In fact it is encouraged. God created us to be partnered, sexual beings. To deny that fact is to deny God’s work. We believe marriage keeps us out of trouble with our congregants…especially the young ones. No doubt, you’ve heard about other faiths for years in the news. We encourage loving, monogamous relationships.”

Earlier this year I stood on the shores of Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea’s shore. We overlooked the ruins of King Herod the Great’s palace. It was here the Apostle Paul was tried by Herod (Agrippa) before being sent to Rome. It was also here we believers, in the tradition of Paul, and the early disciples were first called “Christians.” Paul’s Biblical confession was he wrestled with a thorn in his side. Although history doesn’t disclose what his thorn was we know he promoted celibacy believing end times were near. Priests have faced the same reality…and not to make a light of it, but generations of altar boys and other children have suffered.

We live in a fallen world. There are a thousand different reasons for suffering. Suffering is neither a sign of spiritual greatness nor is it a sign of spiritual deficiency. What happened to these kids is not a punishment. It is simply something that happened as a result of living in a broken world.

There is a choice: Christians can view the decades long, if not centuries long abuse, of children as an evil by product part of their institutional church structure OR they can turn their backs on faith.

Did you really take in the first choice? “Part of” this abuse by these priests, these atrocities does not define the totality of either life or faith. The suffering these children endured was momentary. And although the pain and repercussions will stay with them for a lifetime as God followers and believers with finite minds we don’t know everything. We certainly at this point do not know how this story will end. That’s where faith enters. From a faith perspective God will honor those scares, God will justly reward, restore and strengthen these victims in immeasurable terms.

While the media and legal experts suggest statutes of limitations be removed and while it’s easy to suggest souls have been murdered (and by no means am I defending anyone), I have to believe that God’s providence; His love; His grace; and His rest; and His final judgment will prevail.

Reference piece:

https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/696

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – An Alzheimer’s Story

A lot of people know Elton John’s 70’s hit “Goodbye Yellow. Brick Road.” And while I don’t necessarily associate this song with my mama, it definitely reminds me of her favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz.

Although this is one woman’s story, this blog is about facing life with a parent suffering Alzheimer’s disease. One of her caregivers very recently suggested that if we want to get any glimpse of our mother, then we’d better do it now. Pam, the sweet soul, who has brought so much comfort to our family, has worked with patients like mom for so long that she knows our time with mother—at least cognitively—is almost over.

She never really put her story into words. And while this may seem to have a melancholy undertone, it chronicles her story and the lesson she, unbeknownst to her, taught us. In your honor and for all the Alzheimer’s victims, mamma, hear your voice…

Mother would tell you to your face she felt like she never had a voice. My little sister, Robyn, and I could not begin to tell you how many times she referred to herself as a second class citizen. We always thought this was ridiculous, maybe she truly felt this way. Maybe it’s why the older she got, the angrier she became.

Born on New Year’s Day 1943 in the Rowan County, NC hospital, she was the 2nd and only surviving child born to my grandparents, Bryte Bess & Miles Alexander Carpenter. My grandparents were the first two in each of their respective families to leave country life and agricultural farm communities and earn advanced degrees. This singular fact, for better or for worse, set for mom’s life a different course. My grandmother was an R.N.; my granddaddy graduated State College (we now know it as NC State) in 1932. He made his career as an executive managing mills for Erwin Mills and Burlington Industries. This provided for mom, unbeknownst to her…and she never admitted it, a privileged childhood.

Sarah Bryte grew up in the tiny southern Davie County mill town of Cooleemee. Truly, it was and remains the proverbial “wide place in the road.” There were no stoplights. They had the first residential phone in town; their phone number was “9.”

Mama grew up Baptist and enjoyed abundant and full high school friendships that lasted most of her life. Presented with debutantes from the Lexington Charity League, she was stunning in her white Chantilly and crinoline gown. Upon graduation she headed to the hills to earn her degree at Appalachian State Teacher’s College. Mama’s college love was a Eddie. Things did not work out for them; I’m rather certain she never got over him. Eddie entered her life again in approximately 2010. I do not recall when she was ever as giddy and excited to rekindle a friendship. It turned out that newly widowed Eddie was looking for a housewife and caregiver for his old age. When this did not work out for them again…fifty years later is when the changes in mom began to surface.

(Mom & Eddie – May, 1964 in Boone)

(Appalachian State Teacher’s Collage Senior Class Photo)

Before graduation, she arrived in the “big city,” Charlotte, to pursue student teaching. This led to a job with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It was during this time she met my dad on a blind date. There must be something about blind dates in my family; I met my bride the same way.

On June 25, 1967 mom and dad married in a highly traditional wedding in Erwin, NC. She immediately joined him at our family property (where my office remains today) continuing to build the mobile home sales, park development and property management business my paternal granddaddy began helping dad to build.

Mom’s days were characterized by collecting rent, cleaning rental homes and squeezing every penny so that they could get to the top. They had a free place to live and paid themselves $ 50 a week….a week. The first week of October, 1968 my parents brought me home to our single wide mobile home on Route 1 John Price Road. Their hard work paid off quickly. Robyn was born in May, 1971 and came home to our first house in Huntingtown Farms. Many, many people prospered over the last 5 1/2 decades because of the foundations my parents laid.

(Bringing me home from the hospital. My office is still on this same site today; different building).

(Robyn coming home from Charlotte Memorial Hospital)

Dad worked A LOT. The recession of the early 70’s ushered in problems for mom and dad. They had very different philosophies concerning financial strategy, family life and other issues. Mother realized her life, like most of us eventually realize, would not be the charmed life she’d envisioned as a young girl. Things were about the change.

When they separated Mom went back to work teaching as a Title 1 Reading teacher, then math, and after several years went back into the classrooms of elementary schools J.H. Gunn, Tuckaseegee, McAlpine, and Huntingtown Farms. Although she was the consummate professional and an excellent teacher, she truly disliked the bureaucracy involved in the education system. Our local school system recognized her as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Teacher of the Year.

(On the steps of the James K. Polk house)

Mom dated Buzz for twelve years. He worked hard to help maintain her home in superior condition. They had a lot of fun with a group called the Charlotte Sociables. Other than one nice cruise and and one trip each to New York and Las Vegas, Buzz took her on the only major trip she ever took. In 1984 they went to Singapore and Malaysia for two weeks. I still have the jade cuff links she brought me. Although he asked, mom refused to marry Buzz. Eventually, he moved on to pursue his life. After approximately 1990 she did not see anyone seriously again.

Mickey first, then Sophie brought “puppy love” to her life. Thank goodness for canine comradery. Honestly, mother did not either particularly do much to seek friendships or nurture existing ones. She preferred to keep to herself, somewhat, and depended tremendously on my sister and my family for social connections and activities.

Alex and Pierce, her only grandchildren, were the light of her early retired life. Mama wanted grandchildren and she loved these boys! Thaedra and I were extremely blessed to have “Mimi” as a default babysitter. She would be offended when we would ask someone else to keep the boys. It was when the boys were quite young mom built her “dream house” just a mile and a half from my house off of Providence Road. The boys loved to stay there. On the vacant lot next door they took leftover construction materials and built multiple forts. They called it “the village.” Picturing those moments marked in time as we watched through mom’s kitchen window warms my heart. Their unbounded adventure and energy was contagious; she knew great joy in those years. But, little boys grow up and going to grandma’s house doesn’t alway hold it’s appeal. Seeing them turn into young teenagers seeking their interests, while making her happy, saddened her personally because it made her feel alone.

(One of thousands of pics of Mimi & her boys from over the years; “The Village” was torn down by this point, but it was just through the window behind them.)

Mom enjoyed several trips with the boys, Thaedra, Robyn and me: New York for the Macy’s parade; Hilton Head; Atlanta, the NC Outerbanks, and a zippity do da week in Florida at Disney were among her favorites.

Sometime around 2010, Eddie- the college boyfriend, contacted mom shortly after his wife passed away. The hope of attention and potential promise for rekindled love ignited an excitement in mama I rarely, if ever, witnessed. However, as I mentioned, it did not work out. She simply did not want to talk about it; I know her heart had been broken. As an adult son this is a tough, tough thing to watch when there is nothing you can do. It made me sad.

One additional issue she faced was severe back and neck pain. Over several years seeking several specialists, pain clinics and an unsuccessful trial procedure from a visiting Mayo Clinic surgeon did not fully address the problem. I mention this as a lesson to anyone with aging parents. Mom…. OPIODS…. Lots of them…the crisis is real! We believe as many as five STRONG pills a day and she was still getting behind the wheel of her car to drive…we did not know for quite some time. Addiction occurs among the most unlikely people.

Shortly thereafter, 2013 or so, our family began to notice a marked and drastic difference in mom. Her neighbor’s even reached out to me repeatedly noting bizarre and unusual behavior. It was during a visit to a neurologist mom was diagnosed with a form of early onset dementia. It later became full blown Alzheimer’s….the most cruel and life robbing disease (I saw it with my dad’s mother as well).

The details of these last few years are not pretty.

Mama made a few pivotal choices. One was to almost always see her glass as half empty when it just as easily could have been seen as half full. The second was not to seek help when the discomfort from her ailments led her to pain suppressants. We asked the neurologist why a woman who has had no history of dementia, no history of Alzheimer’s whatsoever in her family become afflicted with this so severely at age 72? He answered that it could be circumstances, attitude, medical choices along the way. I have absolutely no doubt this is the case.

The truth is that we’ll never know the answer.

I do know the most valuable lesson she taught Robyn and me is to look at our glasses as half full…to always seek the positive. Because mom rarely felt positive thoughts and we almost always saw where this outlook led her, her example taught us as an alternative to pursue joy, to love friends, to live fully and as they say: to look for the sunny side of life.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard, mom’s life took her a long way from home, yet she was never geographically very far from her Cooleemee beginnings. She always yearned for the comfort of her small town past. She always knew there is no place like home.

Mama, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for loving us the way you knew how. I don’t know where Alzheimer’s takes a person. To see her today is a difficult encounter. Like a typical Alzheimer’s patient she will sit and stare blankly. I wonder if the mind plays old memories over and over for these people? I hope so and I hope happy memories bring them peace and comfort even though they cannot express it in an outwardly lucid manner.

Mama, my prayer for you, as it has been for years, is that you have found home and peace like your favorite movie gal, somewhere over the rainbow.

Take Action

This coming October 13th is the Charlotte Walk to End Alzheimer’s. My dear friend, Eileen, works diligently to make this walk one of the nation’s top 30. If you or anyone you know suffers or has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, please click on the link below to go to Eileen’s “Everyday is a New Day” team page to help us raise research funds and to raise awareness.

http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2018/NC-WesternCarolina?px=2887070&pg=personal&fr_id=11364

Thank you for your consideration.

Mean People Suck….and So Does Cancer!

The Dedication

This blog is for all people who encounter cancer. It is written for my exceptional friend, Kevin, and especially for the radiant love of his life, Jennifer. Today she is undergoing highly invasive surgery. By the time she awakens she will have undergone a mastectomy and be well on her way to a long period of healing and treatment (according to her 4-27-18 FB post). This blog is long; as is, for some people, the prospect of fighting cancer.

The Soap Box Stand About Mean People (who really aren’t mean)

There’s this meme on social media that reads “The world is full of good people. If you can’t find one; be one.” There is another meme out there that’s funny. And if you’re a dyed in the wool southerner, as I am, rings true: “If you have friends who don’t think biscuits and gravy are a meal, get them out of your life. You don’t need that kind of negativity.” While that’s funny, there is a lesson to take to heart: get the negativity out of your life. It is short enough as it is.

We see it all the time. People putting in their two cents worth of advice and opinions where none is solicited…where, other than an outsider’s glimpse, there is no true understanding of other people’s interpersonal relationships and circumstances. At the expense of sounding like Forest Gump: “Mama used to say:” … you never know what goes on behind closed doors…especially when we see only a piece of the dynamic between and among other people.

We hear it all the time. Questions…really unwarranted opinions about other people’s lives, experiences and relationships: “Why doesn’t he stay with her? Why can’t he get over her? Wonder why we didn’t get invited? That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. God would want you to tell him.” Maybe it’s just me, but I have enough trouble managing my life let alone everyone else’s.

It’s easy to consider and see situations from our perspectives. Looking through our lenses at everyone else’s situation makes us:

  • Pass judgment…something we all do…when this right is Biblically and exclusively God’s
  • Tear people down…rather than investing in conversation and trying to build bridges…clearly and realistically this must work both ways. It takes a lot less energy to talk something out than to avoid, begrudge, and completely misunderstand.
  • Assume a singular person’s story is correct and the only side of a situation. It happens in divorce & separation situations every time they occur …whether individuals behave maturely or not (sometimes people simply are not fulfilled). This is the element that makes people take sides in a couple’s breakup….taking sides for the victimized and talking trash about the vilified.
  • Perpetuate misunderstanding and negative vibes among otherwise awesome people.

Relationships, friendships, marriages, and people: with all of them come drama…petty…hurtful stuff. People can be mean. I’m talking the kind of mean reserved for middle school girls bullying one another…or in contemporary terms…on social media. But, truthfully, it transpires as prevelantly among adults who know better. Otherwise nice, well-mannered people treat one another poorly. And then, on some random day of reckoning comes the time when you get a call or read a post that puts everything into perspective: death of a loved one, a best friend moves away, loss of a job, or possibly a dreaded diagnosis.

Cancer sucks!

It is the disease that touches all of our lives; it does not discriminate. It doesn’t follow sexual proclivities, blood transfusions; gender, wealth, educational accomplishment, certainly not always genetics; and truly not necessarily our habits. Cancer doesn’t care who you are, how good of a person you have been…or whether you’ve been a complete jerk. Cancer is simply the multiplication of cell mutations in our bodies. Each of us is a walking Petrie dish full of organic material just waiting to go arry (now that we’re feeling all positive about life, keep reading).

We all know people it has impacted.

My sister, Robyn, and I grew up friends with the children of local Charlotte TV personality, C.J. Underwood. It has been years now, but cancer viciously attacked and claimed the live of Mrs. Underwood first before C.J. Fell to it later.

My sons’ Scout Master, Stephen Pace, an amazing friend and mentor to me, was diagnosed and taken from us in less than twelve months.

I’m working with a resident at work, literally destitute, who is fighting for her very existence waiting for Social Security-Disability to bring her some much needed financial peace of mind.

Kelly Keesling, from church, the wife of friend, continues to fight. This lady never smoked, yet was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She fights with the most vigor and best attitude…living her life fully in-spite of the crappy disease. Her story is a Divinely inspiring light to those who know her and many people who do not (I have her blog link at the end of this one).

Bertha Walker, one of the three people who introduced Thaedra and me making our blind date possible fought and survived a courageous battle against a brutal, physically life changing cancer struggle coupled with depression.

Another lady whom I deeply respect and adore, Pam Smith, from our church, fought and prevailed with exceptional faith. If there is an angel on Earth, Pam is the one…bringing comfort to those to whom she ministers.

A high school friend of mine, Dr. Chris Dula, now a professor at East Tennessee State, is fighting a brain tumor presently. Check out his prolific and inspiring story on YouTube.

Thaedra’s mama, Jean, was one of loveliest, kindest, sweetest of souls God ever made. She set the bar for serving & loving family and neighbor & church high, exceptionally high! Jean suffered a horrific year plus long fight with cancer that she lost the day after Thaedra turned 40.

About Jennifer & Kevin

That random day of reckoning came for one of my best buddies’ wife back in March. It was on a Friday when I received a call from a man l love dearly. He is one of my two very best buddies. It was during that call he revealed he would accompany his bride to the first of what turned out to be several needle biopsies. He probably doesn’t realize that I heard deep undertones of questioning uncertainty and “why her” that day.

Two days later on Sunday I sat with Kevin and Jen on their back porch and we all teared a little up as I listened to them talk about the unknown territory ahead. The only diversion was the focus Kevin, Tim and I had talking about a Fall trip we and our wives are planning to Europe.

Unlike me, Kevin is not a cryer. Just ask my kids. When the Hallmark Christmas movies come on I go all stupid. Do not even talk to me about “Holly Lodge.” I cannot even watch an episode of the Waltons without getting choked up. Seriously, if times are tough: John Boy is having writer’s block, Mary Ellen is getting picked on at school, Mr. Godsey’s store is facing inventory shrinkage, the cow is sick and Grandpa has had a heart attack…I can’t take it. I’d be the first one on the road to the Baldwin sisters’ house to raid their “recipe” to escape my sorrows. You gotta love two old spinsters who make moonshine during WWII. It would be bottoms up for me on Walton’s mountain…..CHEERS! (Sorry for the rabbit trail…back to Kevin & Jen).

Kevin is not a cryer. That particular Sunday afternoon I watched my buddy, for only the second time in our friendship, tear up. Out of utter love, compassion and wanting to take this thing away from his wife he sat there not knowing what to do. Men are problem solvers and fixers. We want to make things better. What I observed made me realize how deeply He loves his wife.

What I’ve always known about Kevin and Jennifer became more apparent that day. They have genuine, passionate, respectful and abiding love for each other….and he truly would do anything for his girl. Next year marks their 25th wedding anniversary. Their two children represent the very best of each of them. Their service to our church in youth ministry, missions, recreation, and trustees has been a place they have not only grown faith, but put it into action…even on days when people around them have made it tough.

I’m still rather certain most husbands, including Kevin (sorry, Kev), don’t know what to do in times like these. But I do know that their faith and love will be their guiding light.

The whole point of this blog is to ask for your prayers AND to remember two points:

First, We don’t know what we don’t know. We shouldn’t assume, we shouldn’t offer advice when we think we know what’s best for someone…and we probably do not. We are not God; and too often come across sounding that way. It’s that passing judgment thing…ouch!

Second, I love a meme from social media. I’ll simply include one at the end about kindness (a few lines down) that speaks an absolute truth: they are words to live by (yep…ended a sentence with a preposition for you grammar Nazis).

But, before these final words please let me covet your prayers for a couple of cancer fighters and their husbands: Kelly & Tim Keesling and Kevin & … today especially, Jennifer.

Jen, you ended your April 27th post with my favorite Bible verse. It’s probably the best life advice and mantra for anyone: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” (Prov. 3:4). As they say, whomever “they” are: “You got this.” As we discussed on your porch earlier this Spring, we can’t wait to hit the friendly skies this Fall and show you and Kevin the City of Lights. We’ve got to get Kev to drink some Bordeaux. That should be good for a smile! Here’s to the future, family, friends, and finding a cure! Cheers my dear friends

“May the Lord bless you and keep you…”

Kelly Keesling’s blog link below: it is inspiring and very nicely written. Worth the read especially if you know someone someone living with cancer who needs encouragement. Kelly is a spot on testimony of positivity.

https://dontstopbelievingkk.wordpress.com

War of the Worlds … Make that War of the Words … politics and a president we cannot control

The day before Halloween 1938 revealed a much more innocent time in American culture. Somewhere between WWI and the Great Depression life in the country looked quite different than it does presently. On that particular October 30th if we’d been there huddled around the radio, then we would have heard a regularly scheduled episode of Mercury Theater on Air Tonight. The episode featured a 23 year old actor, Orsen Welles, recounting his version of the Victorian era work: War of the Worlds. It was a “Halloween” broadcast. It became what is now somewhat the topic of historic urban legend. History and old timers alike would recall the fright the broadcast instilled in people as Mr. Welles performed a hoax; it was a dramatized newscast about the Martian alien invasion.

I imagine people have the same fear presently when we turn on the tube and listen to newscasts about our American political landscape. Have the aliens invaded the White House? I’ll leave Melania out of it, but our orange haired, spray tanned looking, bawdy, needs to shut up and put down Twitter, proof that money CANNOT buy class president is unlike anything we have ever seen….or is he?

Most mornings I watch the first 15 minutes of the NBC Today Show headlines before talking with my buddy Tim about news stories and current events of the day. During my commute I listen to Fox News radio to get an alternative perspective. As of the moment I published this blog, Trump has been in office 468 days

I have never liked him. I voted for him. I find him morally reprehensible. A listen to American broadcasts would have you believe the entire world revolves around Donald Trump and his administration. Clearly, Trump receives the most media of any president ever. And, I think he has the “fake news media,” his words, not mine, exactly, precisely where he wants them to be. They are mailable, highly influenced, running at the drop of any hint of a story surrounding him and … well…him…he wants it all about him…and that’s exactly where Donald Trump has American media and the characteristically liberal entertainment industry members…captive. Yes, unadmittedly they are eating out of the palms of Trump’s hands.

What must it be like to be so consumed with hatred that one does nothing but publicly vent and spew hate venomous words against the president constantly? It truly is all she does. Turn on “The View” just about any day and you’ll observe this regrettable behavior of comedienne Joy Behar. You might recall her as the woman who condemned and berated the Vice President for being a prayerful Christian man. If Mike Pence were to make a similar remark against her faith, then he would have been labeled anti Semitic. Regardless, you’ll find Joy yelling and ranting with face contorted pouring her heart and soul into pure hatred against an individual man and his agenda. Like many tv people she has allowed the president to become a cancer to her being to the point that her very name is a misnomer. She is not a funny, entertaining comedienne; she is a consumed soul.

Likewise with Michelle Wolf from the recent White House correspondants’ dinner. For my entire life (almost 50 years) all I’ve heard is women’s rights, rising in the workplace, and women sticking together. Even Hilary Clinton said women had to stick together —“the village” women as well I guess —before she blamed them, too, for her election loss. When Wolf berated Sarah Huckabee Saunders it became clear what a pathetic existence the featured speaker truly lives. Educated, well spoken, maternal, professional, well dressed, maintaining decorum, and God-fearing, Mrs. Huckabee-Saunders quite obviously threatens lesser accomplished women and deservedly unknown people like Michelle Wolf.

Here is the perspective of people who voted for Donald Trump who did not want another Washington politician. Dyed in the wool politicians do things like:

  • Serve self by working for the highest paying lobbies and constituent groups.
  • Drive off bridges in Chappaquidick.
  • Resign from office over break ins at the Watergate Hotel.
  • Have interns perform *%$*# in the Oval Office (note his wife is still “some little Tammy Wynette standing by her man”).
  • Leave funding in bills to which their constituents would absolutely object (i.e., speaker Ryan and massive Planned Parenthood Funding left in Trump spending bill).
  • Ignore pleas for relief from ambassadors and diplomats who eventually die serving our country.
  • Sell uranium to Iran covertly.
  • ***opps…maybe I just don’t like the Clintons since I alluded to them 3 times…really I don’t like Hillary…Bill is a pretty cool guy…saxophone and all.

Men history recalls as pioneers are typically considered to be crazy by their contemporaries. People thought Thomas Jefferson was out of his mind to want to acquire as much land through the Louisiana Purchase as he did (I have the nicest Cajun buddy Dane. For those of you who know Dane, it’s hard to imagine he could be any more he could be more alien to us than he already is….kidding, Dane…love you, my friend!)

People thought Da Vinci was a lunatic (literally suffering from clinical lunacy). Consider his human anatomical drawings…his flying machine designs and the fact they were centuries ahead of their time.

And lest we forget explorers like Christopher Columbus heading out the sail around the world….the flat world?

How many people recall Jules Verne? No, not the restaurant atop the Eiffel Tour, but the creator of Capt. Nemo & 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Did you know that Verne also predicted man would walk on the moon?

Jesus Christ, the very son of God, was run from his hometown in Nazareth. He settled miles away in the Galilee region. It’s in that geographic area where he met His rag tag army of men who became the disciples.

What kind of scrutiny and public smear campaigns would these guys have faced had they faced social media, the news and tele journalists?

The truth is neither the political establishment nor media know what to do with the current administration. As is the case with each of us, frustrations flare easily when someone or something does not fit into our paradigm.

I recently read a short, but profound list of accomplishments all Americans experience presently:

  • Lower taxes (if you’re going to gripe about your lower rate, keep paying the higher one).
  • North Korean Denuclearization (closest we have ever gotten to this point—I strongly question what is happening).
  • Higher Gross Domestic Product (The current climate is pro business … it is offensive to people who do not understand business and who have never had to make a payroll).
  • Highest Stock Market ever (if anyone wants to complain about corporate greed, please divest yourself first, you won’t need that growing 401k for retirement…it’ll be just fine).
  • Lowest Unemployment since the late 60’s (under prior administrations something called the “participation rate” had to be adjusted so that earlier sitting presidents wouldn’t look as bad for failing economic policies. Metric adjustments may still need to be made).

I’m not sure it matters how you feel about the current administration, but I am sure about this: if we’d collectively channel negative media attention and the hatred toward a single man into something positive, then imagine the positive difference we could make.

A quick glance at the focuses of several First Ladies provides a great place channel effort and resources:

  • Mental Health Issues (might help with shooting problems); thank Roslyn Carter.
  • Just Say No (who knew the drug crisis would continue to spiral, especially opioids); thank Nancy Reagan.
  • Literacy (reading); Laura Bush & Barbara Bush.
  • Childhood Obesity (health issues in general); great cause, Michelle Obama.
  • Stop Bullying (cyber and in person threats); important work, Melania Trump.

And I’ll add one for the dreamers who are not yet in this country: working with people who want to become U.S. citizens to do it the correct and legal way. This may be the biggest emerging social issue we face. It’s so much bigger than a wall.

As I conclude these thoughts I hear the morning news coming on in the background: Jeff Sessions, Russian collusion, John Kelly, Robert Mueller, North Korea, oh, and now Rudy Giuliani says Trump did pay back the $130,000 for the Stormy Daniels cover up. I’m so glad to know this; I can breath easier today. This revelation completely changes to way I’ll conduct my business, rear my family, interact with friends, donate to charity, and pray to God today. The preceding sentence is all sarcasm—about as stupid as this news story. Anything related to an affair about Miss Daniels is so much more important to the future of our country and humanity than just about anything like… I don’t know… denuclearizing renegade regimes like Iran and North Korea.

If you’re my age, then you probably remember hearing CBS newsman Walter Kronkite sign off every evening’s broadcast with five words. They ring as true today as they did when I was a kid. It is simply ashamed that the war of words, some in truth and some unfounded, against any president stands in the way of American unity and progress. But as Mr. Kronkite said: “That’s the way it is.”

I think I’ll go count my blessings…let the president do his job…and turn my television off!

Just for fun:

Check out https://trumptracker.github.io/. It offers interesting, fact checking data on the Perez (that’s what spellcheck changed “prez” into…don’t you know he’d hate that?)

Uncivil Rest: MLK’s Sweet Dream or Nightmare

If it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go and you’ve already laced up your blue suede shoes, then you might just be in Memphis. Beale Street, Blues City, Barbecue & B.B. King’s….It is a southerner’s delight all on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river. These people even have ducks swimming in a fountain at the Peabody Hotel lobby. It almost sounds like perfect backdrop for a modern day millennial version of something like Tom Sawyer meets the city.

In 1991 I was listening to the radio when this song came on: Walking in Memphis. I’d never been there and honestly had no reason to ever go. Fast forward to May 2016 and a big crew of us went to the International Music Festival: Memphis in May. Among many, many bands were the Violent Femmes. I was immediately transported back to my high school years…going wild like a blister in the sun (Remember Jennifer Enten—I’m not sure who was the most excited…?).

Today we’re at 450 Mulberry Street…the famed Lorraine Motel…now the site of National Civil Rights Museum. On that fateful day, April 4, 1968—50 years ago this week James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr. on this site. Honestly, we had no idea our spring break trip coincided with this milestone anniversary, but this site is a must see for Americans seeking to understand where we’ve been…and more importantly where we’re going. Contemplating the events of that day on these hallowed grounds takes me back…way, way back…. to the first recollection of why there are differences among people and why civil rights remain a hot button issue.

(The National Civil Rights Museum is built around the Motel. Visitors walk through where the exhibits end with a view into MLK’s room, # 306. He was standing on the balcony where this wreath is placed when he was struck by bullet).

Attending Charlotte NC public elementary schools in the early 1970’s meant being exposed to a world of desegregated schools with busing in their early days. Our school days began saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Yes, back then at Huntingtown Farms Elementary we were still “One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” We grew up thinking it was normal for teachers to take a head count for the “free lunch” & “reduced price” program. We thought it was normal for our teachers to count the number of caucasians, black students, and “other” races. In retrospect it’s now clear they were collecting data for tracking purposes and for federal subsidy metric purposes.

(Part of an interactive exhibit regarding fall out from the Brown v. Board of Education fall out. My hometown saw its share of unrest.)

For the most part all of my elementary school classmates were, in spirit, the same. There were, of course, some cultural differences. However, kids will be kids. Loving to play kickball at recess, grossing out at cardboard pizza in the lunch room, getting excited about filmstrips (remember those…lol) and griping about homework. School was pretty much school.

It’s when we hit Junior High School (that’s old school speak for Middle School, grades 7-9 back in the day) when differences really began to creep in and open a chasm. Friends, however, remained friends and people with perspective saw beyond immaterial matters of race, demographics and cultural differences to solidify relationships.

Babies are born completely impartial and unbiased as to the cultures unlike theirs or to races different from theirs. Children tend to follow the example of their parents. If the parents are racist, then they are exposed to this behavior and have a propensity to mirror this (although not always: think Archie Bunker and his daughter, Gloria…extreme example, I know). If we are taught at an early age to be open minded, then we are likely to be more inclusive of people who look and act differently than we do. Who remembers wondering why Maria on Sesame Street spoke Spanish or why at some point Bob was an African American man?

If we are all created in the image of God, then what must God look like? Rosa Parks, Joe Biden, your pastor, Mother Teresa, the homeless guy we pass on the square in uptown, Mike Pence, Nelson Mandela, Angela Merkel, your kid’s preschool teacher, Trey Gowdy, the check out clerk at Walgreens…. The point: God is reflected in every human being (albeit some people actively squelch the divine and succumb to evil). We have a duty to love one another. It remains, as far as I am concerned, the highest calling of humankind.

I have come to deeply appreciate Dr. King’s vision and work. It is a brutally honest statement to say that for years people have have thought MLK’s work was an attempt to diminish more predominant races. Alternatively, all he sought was for all people…black, Hispanic, white, Jewish, Muslim, you name the race to have an equal opportunity to have access to the same educational opportunities, the same employment opportunities, the same healthcare standards, the same civic treatment, and the same adjudication by the legal system as white Americans had enjoyed for decades. While it would seem reasonable to think this should already have been the standard, we all know it was not. It scared people watching the civil rights movement unfold; it continues to scare people.

(The room above is the view into room 306. The view from behind the wreath shows the boarding house across Mulberry Street from where the fatal shot was fired. It is also part of the museum and exhibits.)

It’s not a liberal or conservative or a libertarian or a socialist thing…it is not even a political thing. If we dumb it down I think we are here: Several hundred million Americans living on U.S. soil…this “melting pot” of cultures. We have to get along, peacefully coexist and move forward as a nation. To accomplish this requires working with one another. Sometimes the behaviors and prejudices we learn in our early years stand in our way; often external forces perpetuate tears in our social fabric.

What role does the media play in all of this? If you’ve ever read one of my blogs, then you know I blame A LOT of America’s societal decay on media (yes, here I go again). I sincerely believe people generally get along. However, to watch the media sensationalize each story, to watch reporters dramatize, to observe the day in – day out exploitation of human struggle among dissimilar and misunderstood people IS simply another way they characterize themselves as the lowest level of bottom feeding “entertainment” outlets.

There remains no question racial strife exists. However, media fuels the fire with continual, relentless, probing 24 hour a day coverage. Take an otherwise peaceful protest and put a news camera on it and the probability of incidents transpiring rises. Publicize a “march” online before it happens and a city can become inundated with people from out of town causing mayhem (i.e., the Keith Scott police shooting protests in Charlotte, NC in September, 2016—many of the protestors were from out of town. CNN, MSNBC & FOX News couldn’t get enough—and this was not a racially motivated shooting by the way; Google the story if you’re interested).

It used to truly offend me that “they” honored Martin Luther King’ with an official federal holiday. I struggled for years with this. We close for for the birth of Jesus Christ; we close for a combined recognition for Honest Abe & the Father of our Country, George Washington, for President’s Day. But, to close and have a day off for a civil rights leader? What’s next? Billy Graham Day or Oprah day? In recent years my perspective has changed: here is why. MLK accomplished his work as a man of God, in peace. Had he lived he would have continued to promote bettering oneself through work ethic, education, faith, mentoring and family values.

In a generation where the divisive problems Dr. King brought to the forefront have grown, Americans need to be reminded of our responsibility as citizens to be neighbors, to be kind and to help one another. I won’t steal MLK’s line and ask if you have a dream. But I will ask what is your hope for how we can each work to leave a more positive mark on our community and the people with whom we coexist?

We cannot expect government to legislate Dr. King’s sweet dream; our lawmakers cannot agree on anything it seems. They turn every issue — highlighted by media pressure and attention (there I go again) which in turn puts the squeeze on them to act in such a way to get them re-elected and play party politics rather than do what’s right for the country — into a nightmare. Let me shorten that sentence: the government legislates Dr. King’s vision into a regulatory nightmare. All Americans eventually pay a steep price for this.

People at a basic human level simply want to be heard, simply want to be loved and simply want to be understood. It is an oversimplification to explain the complexities of the psyche with 3 things people “simply want” statement However, these three go a long way toward breaking down communication barriers when we take time, one-on-one, to communicate and reach out a hand in friendship.

Anne Frank suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi’s. Although this young and hopeful girl didn’t survive hiding out trying to get away from the ultimate hatred and racism she left us a gift. It is her attitude. In the shadows of a scared soul not knowing how her life would unfold or how little time she ultimately had left to live she recorded a POWERFUL message we should all adopt. It is a mantra we can all live by and remember when we encounter people…especially people who are different than we are. In her diaries Anne Frank wrote

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

And It Came to Paas: Peeps After Pilate

It’s hard to blame a cute little bunny rabbit, but he truly might be the lowest common denominator of dumbing down an observance: Peter Cotton tail hoping down a bunny trail. And honestly, as long as he’s bringing one of those decadent Cadbury caramel filled eggs or a bag of Brachs all black licorice jelly beans I’d be good with it. If you know me, then you know I’m all about capitalism, but I fail to see the connection with these things to Easter. At the very least the Christmas tree was Martin Luther’s attempt to memorialize the spirit of Christian belief in everlasting life. Santa Claus is somewhat loosely…and I use the term loosely very loosely based on the Turkish Saint Nicholas who folklore records as having spread Christian charity to the extremely poor during the 4th century. But that hippity hoppity rabbit is more reminiscent of a magic show or a “silly rabbit, Trix are for kids’” cereal commercial.

Today is Maundy Thursday. I dare to say even for people who care, most of us, myself included, have no clue what Maundy means. How many times in vernacular conversation do you use this word? Yeah, that’s what I thought. During this holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar it bears revisiting the sites of the last 3 days of Jesus’ earthly life. Having walked those steps and photographed the places from many angles I thought at least a few people would be interested to see, as a point of reference, where the events of Friday through Sunday during that particular Passover in Jerusalem transpired…at least as you can see them today (all the images are mine from 2016 & 2018 except the first).

I describe a day in Jerusalem akin to making the Gospel stories of these events as vivid as a child’s pop up book. The visual points of reference add an element of reality and dimension a simple reading cannot provide. Visit these places and rewalk the steps of Christ’s Via Dolorosa with me to recount the final earthly days of the peasant carpenter turned Rabbi on donkey back to the Messiah risen. It is the story of the ages; it is the story of God’s loving redemption of His people; it is – as they say – the greatest story ever told.

This is the Golden Gate, c. 15th century (Google image). The gate Jesus rode through on the donkey during Passover dates back to Nehemiah. It is underground–just under what we see now. This gate, as I understand, was used for a lot of ceremony, pomp & circumstance and dignitaries. For Christ to enter the City on a donkey was another symbolic slam to the powers of the day.

View of the Mt. Of Olive from Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane is at the bottom of the mount. This is where Jewish people have believed for millennia their messiah would return. This is why there are thousands of graves here: souls waiting for redemption in the spot messiah (Jewish one) will return.

View of the Old City from where it is written “Jesus wept over Jerusalem”. The cross in the window lines up perfectly with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the venerated and traditional site of Christ’s execution and burial (see below).

Entrance to the site referred to as The Upper Room atop Mt. Zion. This is representative site with no known evidence it was actually here.

Inside the Upper Room chamber. There is much doubt the place where Christ served His disciples their last Passover supper would have looked like this. This window below spills a spectrum of rich colored light on visitors.

One of the gates to the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mt. Of Olives. This is known to be with definite accuracy the location of this garden for millennia. The Olive trees here date back as much as 1000’s of years (possible-?) with sprouts of new trees being rooted from older trees by generations of gardeners. Somewhere on this small plot the 12 slept as He prayed. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins. From here Christ was arrested.

This is the magnificent Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s altar is built directly over a large piece of exposed white rock. Tradition records this as the place Christ prayed for God’s will to be done as the disciples slept just steps away. All the Holy sites have churches built atop them to protect them from desecration.

Back to Jerusalem the centurion guard led Him. Back and forth between Pilate, the Roman Governor, and Ciaiphas, the Jewish High Preist. The building below, St. Peter Gallinticu, is built directly over partial remains of the High Preist’s palatial home. Outside the courtyard to the ancient building Peter was recognized as being one of the men with Jesus. Peter told the girl she was wrong; she insisted; again he lied; she persisted; finally, Peter completely denied knowing Christ at all. At that moment the cock crowed.

Part of the foundation is the actual original stone and bedrock foundation of Ciaiphas’ home. The lowest level (pictures below) contains the excavated prison cell(s) where Christ spent his last night alive. It looks clean, Museum like and touristy now, but imagine: no light other than fire, no air, animal dung from upper level stables, and continuous beatings and humiliation.

On the day of execution He was led with the cross beam on His back toward Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. There are two places that may be the actual site: one is traditional and venerated; one is more recently discovered (in the 1800’s). The long, painful, humiliating road to the cross, The Via Dolorosa, is marked by 14 events along the way (9 are biblically recorded; 5 are “traditional” and not based on biblical events).

The place where Christ received His sentence is now actually occupied by a Greek School (who knew-?). Just a very few steps away is this chapel, The Chapel of Condemnation. The brick looking pavers below in the chapel are preserved from the time of Jesus. These are at station 1.

The next three images depict the Chapel of Flagellation at Station 2 where he was brutally beaten. He takes His cross at this point.

This marks the spot where Christ fell for the first time. I chose not to post it, but just behind this police barricade stand on guard daily two highly armed officers (automatic assault style rifle killing machine). Ironic, the deterrent on this corner used to be a cross; 2000 years later its guns and loads of ammo. I’m not certain that much has really changed.

This Chapel entry at Station 4 marks the spot where Jesus’ eye meet His mother’s eyes. I don’t really thing about Mary as being present

This stop, # 5, is where Simon of Cyrene, steps in to relieve Jesus and offer his help to carry the cross.

Although it is not recorded, at least prolifically, anywhere I’ve ever heard, station 6 is where Veronica wipes Jesus face. This is a traditional story. There is nothing to see here except this simple brick in a stone wall….that’s it.

Station 7 is marked by an old Franciscan church pillar just inside the chapel door here. It is significant because this is where Christ fell for the second time.

The site below, Station 8, marks another traditional, completely non-Biblical site (I think that’s fair to say) honoring the women of Jerusalem. It really has nothing to do with the Via Dolorosa … but it’s nice to think Christ may have remembered the discipleship of Mary Magdelene, Martha, Mary, his mother, and the woman at the well.

As you approach the back side of Christianity’s holiest site coming up a narrowing side alley, there is this tattered completely understated sign over a cruddy old arch noting what’s next. I love this.

This is the back of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Stations of the Cross 10 to 14 are inside this incredibly massive building. Take a look at the lower right hand corner of the photo. Note the round brown iron looking disc. It is stop number 9 marking where Christ fell for the 3rd time. He would have been outside of the Jerusalem City wall at this point and would have been in view of His execution site (now enshrined in the Church – see below).

Courtyard and main entry of the Church. It is controlled by six (I think) faith bodies. They can’t really agree on anything…so much so that the same Muslim family in Jerusalem has been the key holder to the place for six centuries.

Inside this door immediately to the right is a narrow, extremely steep and quite unassuming marble staircase. It leads you into a dark abysmal place. As you enter under the arch you can make out some Latin or Greek. The word all of us can read, however, is Golgotha. It takes your breath … because you realize you are there.

Stations 10 & 11 are inside the church and is the first place up the marble staircase. It is an area managed by the Greek Orthodox Church. Therefore, you can imagine the ornate, rich beauty: tapestry, mosaic, gold, silver, candles, arches. There is no way to describe or even to capture it in photographs. The room is on top of the property where Jesus was stripped of his clothingnailed to the cross. The image of the outside window shows the room’s exterior view from the courtyard; it is often seen in TV news stories.

Station 12 is on the Golgotha stone. The site of the cruxifiction of who knows how many people at the hands of the Roman authorities…but on this day because of the Jewish High Priests and His people who turned on Him became the place where Christ drew His last breath.

The image above shows the spot where pilgrims can kneel briefly reach down and touch the portion of the Golgotha stone known to be the site of public executions and believed to be the site of Jesus’ death. The image below shows a large portion of the stone (the whole Church is built on stone) where it is split from seismic activity….coincides with Biblical accounts. Spilts in the stone are visible at other places in the Church as well.

Just for argument’s sake here is a photo of the other “potential” execution site. It is at the Garden Tomb. Fantastic place to visit

The lanterns pictured above hang over the stone where bodies have been prepared for burial. There is little double Christ’s body could have been prepared on this stone. Interestingly, this area and the mosaic below are the first things one sees directly ahead upon entering Holy Sepulcher. This is station 13.

Prayer niche-chapel backing up to Christ’s tomb; cupola, extremely high, in the rotunda over the tomb.

The next few images are the outside of the tomb. It underwent a complete restoration for the first time in 250 years and was complete in 2017. From my first visit in February 2016 until February 2018 there is a noticeable improvement. Priests permit four people inside at a time where you can kneel and pray on the marble slab directly on top of the burial place….I’m talking a matter of inches.

So here we are at the end of the walk. Back on our side of the pond it’s the eve of Good Friday. Wal-Marts and Targets are filled with little kids eyes wide open and hopeful mom or dad will buy that deluxe Paas Egg Dye kit (some of them don’t even refer to Easter any longer—the egg dye kits and the people). Let there be sugar crusted marshmallow peeps, let there be Honey Baked Hams, but ask a teen who Pilate was and how Peter denied his Lord and….ouch! It would be like Jay Leno’s old segment “Jay Walking.” A lot of people wouldn’t have a clue.

To repeat Christ’s words from that old rugged cross on that hill far away wherever Golgotha was “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” Thought: how much better place would the world be if we all thought more like Christ and quoted Him more frequently? To recall His last words: “It is finished.” His work is done. Easter Sunday is just few days away. It is the story of the ages; it is the story of God’s loving redemption of His people; it is – as they say – the greatest story ever told.

May the promises of His resurrection be yours this Easter and every day.

QUICK & DIRTY NOTE ON HOLY SITE IDENTIFICATION: Here’s the Cliff’s Notes super simplified version about Holy Site location identification. After Rome began to recognize Christianity as it’s official religion The Council of Nicaea, organized. Under the Roman Emperor Constantine, the Council was responsible for assembling what we now substantively know as The Bible. The Emperor’s mama, Empress Helena, took tremendous interest in the Holy Land region. She traveled there researching “Christian” history. She recognized and observed where people gathered traditionally in home churches as places of worship for the proceeding few hundred years, the time between Christ’s death and her arrival. These home churches were established at the places the events where milestones in Christ’s life occurred. The worship and meetings at these sites had begun dating all the way back to Christ’s day. Among locals there was little, if any debate, concerning the authenticity of the religious sites (i.e., where Christ was born in Bethlehem, where Mary’s family lived; where the tomb existed; etc.). Therefore, the Empress declared them to be the Holy sites. These sites are said to be venerated. Alternatively, other sites, for example, where events could have occurred or where there is much higher speculation are called “traditional” sites. One such example is the precise location of the Sermon on the Mount on Mount of the Beatitudes.

She is directly responsible for the original construction of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem. I think about it this way: it is not hard for us to imagine declaring Independence Hall in Philadelphia the site of the Declaration of Independence or Monticello to be the home of Thomas Jefferson. With a few hundred years having passed and people preserving the history of these spots it is not much of a stretch for a Roman Queen to officially recognize places as Holy. During her journey legend also records her as having found the “true cross” upon which Christ was crucified. That’s a debate for another day.

Regardless of how you look at it, Old City Jerusalem is not a particularly large place to check out on foot. As our dinner mate and bus friend, Bishop Farley, from Kentucky stated so succinctly…no matter what…it was “somewhere not far from here.”