Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks...

It's been a while since I've posted anything - nothing new to report, I suppose. But I did want to take a moment and reflect on the Thanksgiving holidays, and to give thanks.

1) I give thanks to God every day for the philosopher in my life. He keeps me on my toes mentally, challenges me to be honest in the way I think about life, and keeps me warm. I don't know what I did to deserve him, but I am blessed every day to be his wife.

2) I give thanks for family - we spent Thanksgiving day at a family reunion (on the philosopher's side) and got to catch up with lots of folks we hadn't seen in years. A good time (and a full tummy) was had by all!

3) My dad and I watched the Alabama/Auburn game together on Friday, and the FSU/FL game on Saturday. The final scores were a mixed bag, but I give thanks that I live close enough to spend fall Saturdays watching football with my dad.

4) Sunday we went to church - I give thanks that we live in a country that allows freedom of religion! We also had lunch with my mom and grandmom Sunday afternoon - I'm thankful to be close enough to be able to see them on a regular basis, too.

5) And finally I'm deeply thankful for far-away friends - my life would be considerably more boring without y'all!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Free Speech?

I'd like to call your attention to two interesting articles posted at American Thinker today. AT is a conservative website, but I think the two articles should be of interest to anyone, especially those who value free speech in our society.

The first is about Tea Parties. It's called Tea Parties: Misunderstood and Vastly Underrated. The philosopher and I went to the Atlanta rally on November 9 - the first protest rally for both of us. We didn't go because of any social justice issues, but because we're worried about big government, higher taxes, and no longer being represented in Congress. We met a lot of really nice folks: grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads (and their kids), college students and teachers, veterans, folks who work for a living and folks who *want* to work for a living. Basically just your ordinary, everyday Americans. We sang some patriotic songs, we listened to speakers encouraging us to pay attention to what was happening and to make wise, thoughtful decisions when we go to the polls. We're just decent people who are not happy. And we're exercising our free speech right to protest in a calm, peaceful, respectful way. But the way we're represented in the media is appalling. We're called "extremists" and distasteful names. If the progressive folks can gather and protest policies, why can't we?

OK, the second article is called Academic Freedom for Thee But Not for Me. It details a problem that gets press over and over - liberal or progressive speakers on campuses are able to exercise their rights to free speech when invited, but conservative speakers are shut down or shut out.

Regardless of whether you "lean left" or "lean right" - don't you see s disparity here? The right to free speech - peaceful free speech - is a right EVERYONE has, not just those to the left of the political spectrum. Michael Douglas had a great line in the movie The American President:
"America is advanced citizenship... You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing at center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
You have to be able to hear *both sides* of any argument - to shut down one side of the debate is to go down a terrible road. It's a frightening thought, and I hope and pray that reason and rationality return to this country. We're a diverse nation, but we should always be able to have discussion and free speech about the issues we care about.

And today, I've exercised mine!

Monday, November 9, 2009

What in the Blue Blazes??

OK, sorry. It's Monday. ::grin:: Blazes are used on hiking trails to mark the path - usually paint on trees and rocks. Our favorite trail - the Pinhoti - is marked with blue blazes for most of its course, though it does use metal "turkey foot" badges sometimes too. ("Pinhoti" is an Indian word meaning "turkey home", thus it's not so completely random as it seems at first glance!)

This weekend we hiked from the Cheaha trailhead south to McDill Point, and back. It's a trip of about 5 miles, and absolutely gorgeous. The trees had almost completely lost their leaves, so it gave us some beautiful vistas of the valleys.

The first is from McDill Point, at about 2100 feet. We're looking back towards Mount Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama. The second is just below the summit of Hernandez Peak, which is 60 feet shy of Mount Cheaha. The final one is at the top of Hernandez Peak.

It was a fabulous day, with highs in the upper 60s. The trail was much busier than we'd ever seen, but I think it was for two reasons: 1) it's deer season, and you can't hunt in state parks so it's safer to be there, and 2) well, heck - it was an absolutely glorious day for a hike!

We discovered the new plaque that commemorates the Pinhoti officially being connected to the Appalachian Trail (and I actually posed for a photo - scary!)

The rock formations at the top of the mountains were astounding. There were boulders stacked on boulders, looking like toy blocks for giants or - maybe - bones of ancient beasts.

We've also decided that we're going to build up our hiking muscles this winter (you can do that in Alabama!) and next spring we're finally going to tackle the Walls of Jericho. Really. This time I mean it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Batman Lunchbox

We've been attending Sunday School at a local church recently. We've been studying the parables, but this past week we veered off a bit to talk about John 6 (Jesus feeding the 5000). The teacher - let's call him Bob - told the story in a very different way, with a different emphasis than I've ever heard before. I wanted to share his lesson with you (both of you!), and here's my plan - I'm going to tell it as close to the way he told it as possible, using his turns of phrase. (I'm convinced he was a teacher in another life!) So here it is....

OK, so we're going to talk about John 6. And as I always do, I ask my favorite question: "Yeah... so what?" So why this this story important? What does it teach us? Well, let's look at it. We've got Jesus, and he's testing the disciples, namely Phillip and Andrew. He goes to Phillip - who's from around here and knows the good places to get a quick bite to eat - and asks him how they can feed all these people. Phillip knows the local Kmart closed down, and he also knows it's a heck of a hike to the nearest big town where they can get some cheap Big Macs. And even if they can catch a donkey and a wagon, they don't have enough. Say a Big Mac costs a denari. Then they could buy 200, and maybe cut them in half, or even in quarters. But that's still only 800! So Phillip says, "No way, man. It can't be done!" So, does Phillip pass the test? I'd say no - he gets a big goose egg!

Andrew was standing nearby, and heard Jesus' question. He's been hanging out with the crowd, chatting with people and talking about Jesus. And you gotta remember - to this crowd Jesus is a Big Deal. He's like a rock star! Everybody wants to hear what he's got to say! Anyway, Andrew has been milling around, and he saw Jakob's son. Now this kid *really* wanted to hear Jesus. So he begged, and his Dad finally gave him permission. But he also encouraged the boy to pack a lunch. "Son, it's going to be a long, hot day. Make sure you take something to eat!" So the kid grabs a few biscuits and some small bits of dried fish, puts them in his Batman lunchbox, and rushes out the door. So Andrew saw that this kid had a lunchbox. It's not much, that's for sure. But it's more than anyone else has. And maybe, somewhere in the back of his mind, he's remembering the events at Cana. So he points out the kid to Jesus, and says "that boy has some food, but it's not enough to feed everyone!" Now, does Andrew pass the test? Well, maybe not with flying colors, since he's still doubtful it will make a difference, but yeah - give him a C for effort.

Now, here's the last person Jesus tests - Jakob's son! What would you do if you were a kid in a sea of adults, and you see two of the guys that hang out with Jesus start pointing at you and walking your way? What would you do if they ask you to bring your lunchbox and come with them? I know what I would do - I'd turn and run the other way. No way you're getting MY lunch. But instead, Jakob's son gives up his lunchbox to Jesus... and look what happens! Can you imagine the amazement, the wonder, as the baskets gets passed around? Instead of being greedy with his five loaves, this boy gives them to Jesus and takes part in one of the greatest miracles of all time. Imagine the tales he had to share with his dad when he got home. Yeah, I'd say he passes Jesus's test with flying colors!

Yeah... so what?

So we've got Jesus demonstrating his power. And we've got the faith and trust of a child. And maybe what we should take away from that is don't be afraid to dream big. If Jesus calls, give what you've got, even if it's not much. And sit back and watch what Jesus can do with that gift!