About that woke thing – per the wisdom of Reverend John Pavlovitz

From the wisdom of a progressive and practical minister named John Pavlovitz, his latest post called “My woke liberal agenda” is responding to be called woke and how dangerous that is. The entire post can be found below with the link. Picking up his response to several accusations by a critical blogger who said after earlier comments:

You liberals and your agenda are the real danger here!” 

Reverend Pavlovitz then opined for us:

“Then it hit me.
I realized that I’d been found out.
My cover had been blown.
I’d have to come clean and cop to the charges.

I knew I needed to make a full confession to my social media prosecutor and to the watching world—so here it is,

My ‘Woke Liberal Agenda’ on gun violence:

Not normalizing the fact that tens of thousands of people are murdered each year in American schools, churches, supermarkets, and playgrounds—and calling out the professed Christians not worshiping the guns used to kill them.

Asking why, in their rabid and incessant defense of the 2nd Amendment, Conservative American gun lovers willfully overlook both the ‘well-regulated’ and ‘Militia’ portions.

Wondering why these same folks seem far less passionate about the 1st Amendment, when people like me suggest that their guns and their gunlust may actually be the gun problem we have here.

Asking why America has the highest gun homicide rate of any developed country—and suggesting that it has something to do with the NRA’s influence on the gun laws of this country, the number of guns in the system, and the cowboy culture created around them.

Forcing Republicans out of the bed they’re in with the NRA, because their continual expression of ‘thoughts and prayers’ when followed by complete inaction—may as well be bullets for the next mass shooting.

Mentally ill people and criminals not having access to handguns—and asking Republican leaders why they removed the barriers that made such things difficult and why they have continually defunded mental healthcare.

Respecting mass shooting victims enough to talk about them while the world actually gives a damn about them—and before they’re soon replaced the next day or the next week by more mass shooting victims we’re told that it’s ‘too soon’ for us to talk about.

And while we’re at it, here’s the rest of my woke Liberal Agenda:

Demanding that the actual history of America be taught to American children, including the parts white Conservative Christians find uncomfortable.

Insisting the LGBTQ human beings be given every right to govern their bodies, define their families, marry the person they love, and live free of the moral views of strangers.

Pushing back against Nazis, white supremacists, and racists—whether they’re marching in the streets or marching through Congress.

Ensuring that women and have autonomy over their own bodies and that their doctors get to advise them on their healthcare decisions, not Republican politicians.

Exposing a white Evangelical Church that passionately cultivates contempt for LGBTQ people, for Muslims, for non-Christians—and wants to escape culpability for the violence this visits upon them.

Contending that people fortunate enough to be born in America aren’t more inherently valuable or more deserving of liberty than those who were not born here.

Affirming that God is neither white, nor male, nor American, nor Christian—and that God doesn’t specifically bless America.

Demanding that no one have to choose between life-saving care or paying their mortgage.

Opposing any religious tradition that attempts to contest with musty doctrine, what Science has made clear about this world.

Insisting that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we’re sitting on be protected from degradation—not subjected to it by those of us fortunate enough to be here.

A diverse and equitable nation that makes room for more than just white American, Republican Christians who were lucky enough to be born here.

Yeah, you know—now that I see it all in black and white like this, I suppose it is dangerous: fewer guns, more barriers to having them, less money for gun lobbyists, Christian politicians and leaders who actually resemble Jesus—and equality for people despite their gender identity, sexual orientation, physical condition, religious tradition, pigmentation, or nation of origin.

I could see how someone could view that as a problem, how it could feel threatening.

Yes, I stand here accused of this subversive, dangerous, supposedly America-destroying woke Liberal Agenda.”

I will let us words stand without much comment. His opinion is one we should pay attention to, whether you or in full agreement or not. His best gift is to make us think and be aware of how that is or is not aligned with the teachings of that Jesus fellow.



Sand castle virtues – a repeat of an important theme

I was listening closely to an old song called “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, when a phrase struck me more so than before. Jethro Tull is renowned for interesting and unusual lyrics mixed in with equal parts flute, guitars and piano making a unique sound. Yet, amidst the lyrics is a reference to “sand castle virtues.” Here is the stanza which includes the term, penned by Ian Anderson:

“And the sand castle virtues are all swept away
In the tidal destruction, the moral melee
The elastic retreat rings the close of play
As the last wave uncovers the newfangled way”

I found this reference profoundly insightful, as many of our so-called virtues are not as concrete as we would like them to be. In other words, they are easily washed away by the waves and replaced by a modified version meeting a new paradigm. This is one reason people can support a candidate or politician who changes posture on a topic. Or, when the candidate was against an issue earlier when the opposing party supported it, but now favors it as it suits his interests today, we followers can overlook the previous stance.

The tide has washed away the previous virtuous stance and has been replaced. What is interesting to me is this song was written in the 1970s, so it is referencing that these malleable virtues or positions have been around a lot longer than today. The only difference is today we can more easily find the previous position, which may have only been stated a few years before. Yet, we don’t ask questions of why you have changed. In essence, we are “thick as a brick” by not staying on top of things and realizing when smoke is being blown at us.

Speaking through my imperfections, I find it hard to fathom why we choose virtues like we are at a cafeteria. A friend of mine uses the reference to “cafeteria Christians,” not to pick on this religion, but use it as an example. Some will cherry pick the parts of the bible they support, but overlook overarching themes. But, this occurs in other religions as well.

If we focus on the overarching virtues and endeavor to do the right thing, we will be on more solid footing. It is when we try to massage a virtue to meet an ideologue or a position, do we risk our position being washed away with the tide. Here are few that would solidify our foundation:

– Treat others like you want to be treated

– Be more inclusive, rather than exclusive

– You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion

– Kindness is not a weakness and in fact is a quiet strength

– It is easy to love someone when things go well; only when they don’t is it hard

– Help your neighbor when he needs it, as you may be in need one day

– Pay attention to what leaders are doing and shine a light on poor behavior

– Treat our environment well for the next generation, which is even noted in the bible

I could go on, but these are a few virtues that would not be washed away. These virtues are far more than sand castles and could stand the greater test of time and barrage of waves. And, if we did these things day in and day out, they would become ingrained making us less “thick as a brick.”

And the band played on – add Oklahoma to recent Texas and Georgia shootings

The band played on as the Titanic slowly sank is a metaphor for elected officials who fail to do things to remedy obvious problems. When shootings of multiple people occur routinely that is a problem. Americans have grown numb to spineless politicians, mostly Republicans, but some Democrats, who ignore the obvious.

The latest multiple gun death shooting occurred yesterday in Oklahoma as reported in these first few paragraphs of an article called “7 people found dead in Oklahoma were shot in the head in apparent murder-suicide, authorities say” in US News.

A convicted rapist on trial for child pornography charges is believed to have fatally shot six people, five of them teenagers, before taking his own life at the rural Oklahoma property where the kids were having a sleepover last weekend, authorities said Wednesday.

All of the victims were shot in the head, said Joe Prentice, chief of the Okmulgee Police Department and spokesman of a violent crime task force overseeing the investigation into the killings outside the small town of Henryetta.

The suspected shooter, who I will not name, died of a gunshot wound to the head, Prentice said.”

This is on top of last week’s multiple shooting in Texas where a drunk neighbor reacted poorly to being asked to stop shooting in his backyard at 11 pm as they had children. He went next door and killed them all with head shots and still is at-large. Plus, in between these two shootings was another one in Georgia, where fortunately no one was killed, just injured.

Yet, multiple shooting deaths is not the most common gun death in the US – it is suicide. An impulsive act, by a depressed individual, and Susie or Johnny is dead. Suicide is the leading cause of gun deaths in every state but one the last time I checked. And, a home with a gun is much more likely to have a suicide than one without one.

America leads the civilized world in gun death rates. Compared to the top twenty-two other wealthy nations, the US gun death rate is significantly higher than each one. When children gun death rates are considered, the US leads all other 22 nations combined. We are indeed exceptional. Exceptionally stupid in my view. How can a nation whose own children are afraid to go to school look them in the eye and do so little?

Conspiracy theory fans like to look for conspiracies under rocks and in crevices. But, the gun industry funding of politicians is a conspiracy right in front of their noses. These funded politicians will stall the ball while the clock runs out issuing platitudes like thoughts and prayers, now is not the time, the 2nd amendment gives us the right, etc. Well, one thing is for certain with so many multiple shootings and daily gun deaths, there will always be gun deaths while the gun is still smoking.

Gun owners and non-owners can agree in majority and even significant majority on various actions. Do them and then do more. Get a group of parents in a room and they can share with you what is needed. It is a multi-faceted problem and requires holistic solutions. One thing is obvious – doing little or nothing “ain’t working.”

Rainy Day People – an encore tribute to Gordon Lightfoot, may he Rest in Peace

I learned from my brother that Gordon Lightfoot passed away at the age of 84 from natural causes. He was a troubadour to the day he died. Here is an encore post from a few years ago, that I repeated in 2021. May he Rest in Peace.

With it raining cats and dogs outside tonight (and this morning with tropical storm Elsa), this title has greater meaning. “Rainy Day People” is not necessarily my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song, but it describes my bride of 27 years. Why you might ask? Here is a glimpse of Lightfoot’s magical pen in this song (a link to the song is below).

Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call

Rainy day people don’t talk…they just listen til they’ve heard it all

Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you they’ve been down like you

Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re crying a tear or two.

My wife embodies rainy day people. She is a listener who people feel comfortable in being around; comfortable in confiding in. Gordon Lightfoot’s talent and the reason we both love his music is his ability to capture who we are. We saw him perform a few years ago. We enjoyed his music, but also his storytelling between songs. A man who could have many did not seem to have any airs.

His most famous song is “If You Could Read My Mind.” I think even non-Lightfoot fans could sing many of the lyrics of this song. Since it is so popular, I will skip over it to some of his lesser known, but also great songs. Another favorite is “Circle of Steel” because it tells a painful story of an alcoholic mother whose husband is incarcerated and who will lose her child in a week. The gripping, soulful lyrics include:

A child is born to a welfare case…where the rats run around like the own the place

The room is chilly, the building is old….that’s how it goes

A doctor’s found on his welfare round…and he comes and he leaves on the double.

The subject of the song is not heroic, but the words tell a story of how people struggle. Most of us don’t live in gated communities. Life is very hard for many.

For the romantic side in each of us, he write songs like “Beautiful” which has words like:

At times I just don’t know….how you could be anything but beautiful

I think that I was made for you and you were made for me

And I know that I will never change…’cause we’ve been friends through rain or shine

For such a long, long time.

He has written so many songs that were so well-loved others also recorded them. “Early Morning Rain” was sung by Elvis. “For Lovin Me” was sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. He also added a second song to the back of that one as the first part talked disdainfully to a woman scorned when the man said “that’s what you get for lovin me.” The added song he recorded had a lament “Did she mention my name” as the person who scorned his lover was feeling great remorse later on. Other great songs of his include:

“Whisper My Name”


“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

“Carefree Highway”

“Cotton Jenny”

“Old Dan’s Records”

“Summer Side of Life”

“Cold on the Shoulder”

And, countless others, that should not be construed less by my failure to list them. Yet, let me close with a self-portrait of Mr. Lightfoot, at least by my interpretation – “Minstrel of the Dawn.” In it he says:

The minstrel of the dawn is here….to make you laugh and bend your ear

Up the steps you’ll hear him climb….all full of thoughts, all full of rhymes

Listen to the pictures flow….across the room into your mind they go

Listen to the strings…they jangle and dangle…while the old guitar rings.

Words and music. To me this is what it is all about. Gordon Lightfoot would have been an excellent poet without his music. He was lesser known, but may have rivaled even Bob Dylan on his penning of songs. Maybe the fact one was from Canada and the other from Minnesota meant they had time to collect their thoughts when it was too cold to venture outside. Yet, with his music and armed with a better singing voice that Dylan could only dream of, he was the minstrel to all of us.

For our younger readers who may not know him as well, I would encourage you to take a plunge. You can start with the songs above, but that is only sticking a toe in the water. I invite other Gordon Lightfoot fans to offer their favorites whether listed above or not. “If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstore sells.”

Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People – Bing video

Call me crazy, but why pick on Disney in a tourism state?

The following is a letter I sent to the editor of my hometown newspaper. On occasion, they have been kind enough to print my letters. Let’s hope this one passes muster. Please feel free to adapt and use.

Call me crazy, but why is the governor of my home state of Florida slugging it out with arguably the most alluring tourist destination in a state which relies on tourism revenue to pay the bills? Like many corporations and people, Disney is not perfect, but they are trying to be an inviting place to all Americans and foreigners regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they worship, who they love, etc.

As for the governor (who may run for president), he apparently does not like dissent, criticism or history. We need our elected officials to represent all of us and work on our real problems, not exaggerated or contrived ones, so believes this independent and former Republican voter. The governor could start by doing things in his power to be an inviting state throwing out a welcome mat to everyone. Not only will that increase revenue for all, it is the right thing to do.

Harry Belafonte, a true hero and entertainer passes away

A true hero and entertainer has passed away – Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr, better known as Harry Belafonte. From a piece in Politico called “Harry Belafonte, activist and entertainer, dies at 96” here are a couple of paragraphs.

“Harry Belafonte, the civil rights and entertainment giant who began as a groundbreaking actor and singer and became an activist, humanitarian and conscience of the world, has died. He was 96.

Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his New York home, his wife Pamela by his side, said Ken Sunshine, of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs Morgan & Lylis.“

Belafonte is better known for his silky voice and big smile as he introduced the world to Calypso music with songs like “Day-O” and “Jump in the Line,” but he was far more than that. He was a hero to many, especially black and brown people and children as he advocated strongly for not just civil rights, but for survival rights.

His causes may have taken root in America with his friendship with Martin Luther King and involvement in the Freedom Summer education movement in Mississippi or various civil rights marches. He attracted other performers of all races to help calm the tensions of bigotry with their presence. But, he also was an ambassador abroad as he spoke out and participated in pushing back on Apartheid in South Africa and children’s rights issues in places like Zimbabwe.

With his music, time and energy, he increased awareness of the plight of black and brown people and all children around the world. He served in various ambassador roles for the ACLU and UNICEF focusing on children. He also broke racial barriers as he intermixed performers on his TV variety shows, which unsettled many sponsors back in the late 1960s. Some even pulled out, but the networks stood with him and aired the shows. In fact he co-hosted a show with Julie Andrews for one variety special, as pointed means to show we are in this together.

Belafonte was such a world-weary activist, he was well-admired by many from all races and countries. When he spoke, it benefitted folks to listen. He won many performance awards – Grammy’s, Tony’s and Emmy’s and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, the awards that matter more are the Joan Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Kennedy Center Honor. These represented a key part of his life’s work, not just the entertainment.

The world has lost a hero. If you are not that familiar with him, take a look at his work, both entertainment and activism. May he Rest in Peace.

Friday food, follies and foibles – mid April edition

Happy Friday all. With no lengthy topic in mind, let me throw a few food based follies and foibles at you on this mid-April Friday.

We celebrated my wife’s birthday at one of those Japanese restaurants where the chef puts on theatre at your table as he cooks your meal. The sheer amount of food could feed three people instead of one. With leftovers, it might just in fact provide for three meals. It is good as well as fun and is a favorite place for birthday dinners.

Speaking of cooking Asian food, we were watching one of our favorite old murder mystery series we discovered courtesy of Australia named “Murder Call.” Since the murder was at a restaurant, one of the two lead detectives asked his counterpart if she was going home to order Chinese takeout like she usually does. She responded, “You know Cooking is a city in China” referencing her preference to not do so.

Even though it is not around the Super Bowl, there are a number of good commercials airing. One is about a healthy dog food in a large pouch which you refrigerate after opening. A woman is over for a date as the man is cooking dinner. Offering her help, she reaches in the refrigerator for something and starts teasing him about refrigerating the dog food. After a few seconds of this, we flip to the end scene where she has just been shown the door as he the man hugs his little dog saying something about her not being good enough for us.

On the poignant side, the regional supermarket chain Publix has the best human-interest commercials, so good you don’t know they are about shopping at Publix until the end. One that is airing now is a series of people cooking dinner for family, friends and dates. It shows them nervously trying new things on their dining guests, only to witness their guests surprise and appreciation at the end scenes of how good it tastes. My favorite is a date declaring “This is good” to her unsure cook.

Finally, cooking for your arriving in-laws for the first time is daunting. As my parents traveled up from Florida, my wife announced about twenty minutes after putting a cake in the oven, “I can’t remember if I put in two cups of flour or one,” with the recipe needing the latter. The cake overflowed in the oven and smelled terrific, so there we were on the floor, scraping off the encrusted and delicious spill-over dough which now tasted like cookies. My mother walks into the house thirty minutes later saying “Someone has been baking!” Well, sort of.

Messing up a cooking dish can be more endearing than pulling it off. It made for a great story, one that is still fun to tell. My wife tells it best as she loves to make fun of her misadventures. What are some of your funny food stories?

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel – four more terrific human interest stories

I have written before about the monthly sports show called “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” being the best sports show on the air. It is actually a human interest investigative show where sports are just the front. It uses a cadre of great journalists to support the efforts of Gumbel.

On the March, 2023 show, once again Gumbel’s team have highlighted four great stories, a couple of which will have you reaching for the Kleenex. Let me offer a brief summary of each starting with the two tearjerkers:

Chris Snow is a key analyst and advisor to the Calgary Flames professional hockey team. He has long been a user of data to help the team recognize flaws and make improvements and take advantage of their strengths and the other team’s weaknesses. He also has a rare form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which has an accelerated impact based on a faulty gene. His father, two uncles and a cousin have all been diagnosed with this and died within a year. With some new medication, Snow is now in year four.

The story is about not only his efforts to continue to be a husband, father and employee, but how his family of four deals with his illness. His wife Kelsie is the greatest of heroes as his caretaker and mother to their two kids, now eight and eleven. While he cannot move his arms, he can still walk for now and speak with difficulty. He plays with his kids who have an adult like understanding of what is going on. What is also scary is he and his wife know that there is a 50% chance of his kids getting this. Kleenex is required.

Tom and Luke Stoltman are or have been called the strongest men in the world. These two Scots are also brothers, with the younger Tom suffering from a form of autism. Yet, the older Luke became a mentor to Tom throughout his life, especially when their mother passed away with cancer. His mother asked of Luke when she died to look after Tom to which he replied “Mom, I got this.” Seeing how wonderful Luke is with Tom is beyond admirable. The affection and respect for him are visible.

Tom and his now wife noted how the regimen of working out and eating to a schedule have been very therapeutic to his autism. Autistic folks prefer rules and regulations as they offer comfort. It calms them down. So, now an autistic man is the strongest man in the world, thanks to his and his brother’s efforts. And, man are they strong just watching what they can lift with strength and agility. Keep the Kleenex box out for this one too.

The other two stories are quite meaningful as well. The Houston Astros were piloted to the baseball World Series title with Dusty Baker at the helm. He has long been considered not only a great player, but a great manager. Yet, being a championship manager has escaped the 73 year old Baker until now. What is also telling is his story travels through Atlanta where he got the opportunity to play with and befriend Henry Aaron, who fought racism to surpass Babe Ruth as the all-time home run hitter. Aaron was a man of quiet dignity, but he looked to move racial relations forward. Baker recalls being in Aaron’s house with Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Lewis, Julian Bond, among others. Seeing how they addressed issues had a calming and informing impact on the previously argumentative Baker. The segment also showed his young son who is now a major league caliber player as he played against his father. When he was four years old, as bat boy for his father’s San Francisco Giants’ team, he almost got run over by a player trying to score who scooped him up to safety.

Finally, the voice of Canadian hockey is a Punjabi Canadian man named Harnarayan Singh, who is a Sikh. Previously, Singh did play by play in Punjabi for people who spoke that language. He was so entertaining, people who could not speak the language listened in. He also invented Punjabi terms that have made it into the English speaking hockey culture, even for opposing teams. Singh has now been promoted to call the games for the network in English for the larger audience. His excitement transitions well to his English call of the games. He has a large following, but does have a few anti-immigrant haters who find fault with him. His story makes you smile as he has an infectious enthusiasm.

Four great stories. Give them a watch. “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

Republican blasts own party for making LGBTQ+ folks second class citizens

Brad Reed of RawStory posted the following article that is quite telling called “Republican blasts his own party for push to turn some Kentuckians into ‘second-class citizens.'” In short, he is calling out his own party for treating people with lesser standing because of gender status or who they love.

Here are a few paragraphs with the link to the article below:

“Bob Heleringer, a former Republican state representative from Kentucky, is calling out members of his own party for their new legislation targeting the LBGTQ community.

In an editorial published by the Courier Journal, Heleringer ripped Kentucky Republicans for new legislation that restricts drag shows and gender-affirming care for transgender minors, which he said amounted to making LGBTQ Kentuckians ‘second-class citizens.’

‘I wish I could blame both political parties for this cataclysm but I cannot,’ he charged. ‘Every anti-gay/trans bill this session was introduced by a Republican.’

In my simple view, it is bad enough to let maltreatment of others’ rights go unchecked. Yet, when a group tries to introduce legislation or systematized maltreatment, that is a bridge too far. I fully support and respect the courage of Mr. Heleringer for speaking out against the poor decision making in his own party. Regardless of party affiliation, we need more legislators to speak out when they see wrong doing.

I recognize fully the instigation for these laws spawns out of an evangelical base of voters. As a Christian, not treating others like you want to be treated poorly answers that bracelet or bumper sticker question of WWJD? Yet, in our country, our forefathers were big on the separation of church and state, so everyone’s rights are just as important as everyone else’s, no less and no more.

Hidden Figures – a reprise of a story about heroes who overcame

With February being Black History Month and March being Women’s History Month, there are few better stories than one that honors both as noted below. Here is a reprise of a post I wrote six years ago.

My family had the opportunity to see the movie “Hidden Figures” recently. It may be one of the finest movies I have seen in the past few years. From the online movie summary, it is about the “incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit….The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

The movie stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, with a key role for Kevin Costner. These three mathematicians helped plot a course into space, so that our astronauts could return safely. And, when computers were destined to replace them, one taught other African-American women in the computing department how to program in Fortran to save their jobs and supply capable talent to the NASA space effort, since so few folks knew Fortran.

We must value diversity for its own sake, but also from economic and development standpoints. If we limit where ideas can come from, we limit ideas. It gets no simpler than that math equation. As Johnson notes, math does not care what color you are. The other key point is the math to launch, orbit and return safely was breaking new ground, so innovative thinking was key. Johnson offered that kind of innovation, which married some old school math to solve the new problems.

Throughout history, ideas have come from those who understand and are in proximity to the problem. A gay man named Alan Turing saved over a million lives in World War II and shortened the war by two years per General Dwight Eisenhower by solving the Nazi Enigma communication code. Yet, he had to hide his homosexuality and was later imprisoned for it when discovered. This WWII hero died in jail. The 2014 movie “The Imitation Game” is about Turing’s efforts.

A black man named Vivien Thomas helped solve the Blue Baby death problem by restoring the full flow of blood from the heart through groundbreaking open heart surgery on a baby. Yet, like the NASA mathematicians, he had to battle racism which would not allow him in the operating room, at first. His story is told in the 2004 movie, “Something the Lord Made.”

Jesus said we should treat each other like we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do, but it is also the wise thing to do. Please remember this quote from an economist who advised Presidents Reagan and Clinton, “Innovation is portable.” And, where it occurs is where the jobs start. So, we need to let innovative ideas flourish regardless of their source.