Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hurricane Irma is Like a Three-Ring Circus

I'm writing this late Saturday afternoon, September 9th.  The biggest, meanest Hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic is hovering around Cuba and trying to decide which way to turn.  This is only a couple of weeks after Hurricane Harvey tore into Texas and devastated a huge area.

Will Irma visit our house?  We don't know.  But you know you're in trouble when Anderson Cooper shows up on your local TV screen.

We're as ready as we can be.  But for what?  We don't know.  Our hotels are full of people who've been chased off the east coast of South Florida.  Now Irma has decided not to visit the east coast.  (Maybe.)

I'm getting ready to lead a five week noon luncheon study at my church on "The Cultivated Life" by Susan Phillips.  She compares this cultivated life to a "Circus" life.  In the circus some people are constantly performing (think all news channels today) while others are just watching and getting excited and nervous. (Think every person in Florida.)  The watchers are thinking "I'm not doing enough."  "I don't know enough."

And just when we think we might be getting it - "It" changes.

The Cultivated Life is all about relationships.  There are people trying to grab the last loaf of bread in the convenience store and there are people giving the last loaf of bread to somebody else.  This afternoon my friend invited us to go with  several people in our neighborhood to the movies to see the new Reese Witherspoon film.

It's a romantic comedy and has nothing to do with whether or not we're all gonna die tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Of course, the most helpful relationship is the one we have with a God who loves and cares for us.  Except if, in fact, you believe that God is sending these monster hurricanes to teach us a lesson.  In that case, you're on your own.


Friday, September 1, 2017

We're All in This Together

Today at lunch Dave and I talked about Hurricane Harvey.  The horror of it and the amazing heroes who keep emerging out of it.  We wondered if some day we'll be able to harness the weather by finding a way to distribute water thereby eliminating hurricanes and drought.

Dave was skeptical but I think it's possible.

A while back I read a book by American Catholic theologian, Robert Barron.  It's a tough read but I liked it.  In one section he talks about all of creation being connected.  I love the following illustration.

The movement of my fingers now typing these words is dependent upon a chain of causes stretching up through my muscular and nervous system to my brain; and my brain's activity is here and now dependent upon the influence of the oxygen that I am breathing; which is in turn dependent upon the gravitational attraction of the earth that keeps it in the atmosphere, which is dependent upon the spin of the planet, which is dependent upon the pull of the sound, etc.  If we continued in this vein, we would inevitably arrive at God.....

So, whether we like it or not, we're all interconnected.  And most of us, including God, are pretty good problem solvers.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Be Brave

Last Tuesday night our community had a forum on free speech versus hate speech.  It was sponsored by the Jewish Commuity and  Holocaust Memorial Centers which are very close to my house.

Scott Maxwell, the moderator, asked this question:  If the neo-Nazis started coming down Maitland Avenue, how should we respond?  By the way,  I live on Maitland Avenue.

The concensis was "stay home."  If you can't do that, just be observers, because violent extremists are almost always trying to provoke a response.  If it's one-on-one hate speech we might respond with a personal story of how much that hurts us or somebody we love.

Geraldine Thompson, a former congresswoman, and a person I've admired for a long time told this story.  When her husband became the first African-American judge in Orange County a reception was organized for the judges' wives at the Orlando Country Club.  At that time they had the policy "No Jews, No Blacks and No Dogs."

Geraldine Thompson responded by saying "It is my intention to attend that function so that if you're going to call the police, you need to call them now, because I'm coming."  Then she got a call from another judges' wife whom she'd never met.  "I understand that you're going to this reception for the judges' wives.  I'll come to pick you up and we'll go together.  If they want to arrest you they'll have to arrest me as well."

The point of all this, to me, is that bravery in these instances means being loving and kind in the face of hate.

Another person on the panel, a former skin head, when asked how she got turned around,  said that she was in prison for committing a hate crime and one simple question coming from a woman that she didn't feel like she deserved a kindness from said,

"Hey, do you know how to play criibbage?"   I wish I had been the woman to ask her that question.  You know how much I love to play cribbage.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dress for Success

My soul is exposed without a tie and, preferably, a suit.  - Llewellyn King, host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS.

This guy would fit right in
at my church. 
How do you know what to wear these days?  Mr. Llewellyn is right to lament the demise of the tie.  They're still right for some business occasions but sport coat and open dress shirt usually rule the day.

Dressing up, apparently, is something most people no longer like to do, especially men.  I, myself, on the day I retired declared I would never wear a dress again.  I was married in 2009 in a big fancy church wearing black slacks.

This guy would fit right in a my church.
Are there any rules? Yes, if they are clear cut and written down.  Otherwise, anything goes.  In my big church in well to do Winter Park, Florida - pretty much anything goes.  It used to bother me to see our young acolytes, in their white and red robes not quite covering their flip flops.  But no more.  Dave is one of about a third of the men who wear khakis, dress shirt and sport coat.  A few weeks ago he gave away his dress suit (the one he was married in) but not before he purchased a new one - which he's never worn.

Mr. Llewellyn wonders what God must think.

My hope is that God has way more important things on God's mind.

I also don't agree with Mr. Llewellyn that Hollywood is at fault.  But I do believe that some fashion designer somewhere is deciding right now what we will be wearing in the year 2020.

And we have no control over it.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Elvis Died 40 Years Ago

Elvis Presley died in August of 1977.  Time Magazine did a big spread on Elvis this week and I was reminded, again, of what a phenomena he was.   But his life was, in many ways, an American tragedy.

His first record was cut in 1954 when I was a sophomore in high school so we were contemporaries.  I always loved his music (and still do) but I never understood the rest of it. Here are a few facts from the article.

  • In the 1960s, none other than Leonard Bernstein called Elvis "the greatest cultural force in the 20th century. "
  • He is thought to be the most commercially successful solo musical artist of all time. 
  • In 2016 he was the fourth top-earning dead celebrity in America.  Right behind his short time son-in-law, Michael Jackson. 
  • Graceland is still among the most -visited private homes in the nation along with the White House.
  • His performances were a combination of highly sexual and highly religious - and it worked. 
  • Somewhere along the way his life began to unravel right before our eyes and we watched him slowly disappear. 

But my fascination isn't with Elvis himself, but with the cult-like following he had - and 40 years after his death - still has.  He's been likened to Jesus.

Several months ago when I read,  J. D. Vance's book, "Hillbilly Elegy," I was reminded of the Elvis phenomena and how there are millions of folks in America that I just don't understand.  But here's the thing:  I want to understand them.  Many of them I care for and respect and some I love.

Next week in Forum we will be discussing "Hillbilly Elegy."  I'm hoping to get some insight.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017


My daughter sent me and her other siblings a reminder yesterday that it was International Cat Day, so we should remember our last cat, Fuzzy Ann Crossman.

Fuzzy died a tragic death in a garage door accident  while my kids were away at college.

 I found Fuzzy and, technically, was at fault since I didn't realize she was asleep on the top of the garage door opener rod before I hit the button.  Since I quickly got her to the pet hospital and ordered the vet to put her to sleep "immediately," they have always suspected me of being overzealous.  However, the vet took one look at Fuzzy wrapped up in a baby blanket in the cardboard box and immediately agreed with my diagnosis. This all took place 24 years ago.

Yesterday my son texted to me and the others "Cess Crossman = Cat Killer."

This morning I told all this to my water aerobics group expecting some sympathy but I received none.  Just numerous stories, all sympathetic to cats.  My friend, Barb, is nervous because she's getting older and "when I die, who will take care of the cat?"  I did not respond.  And I doubt that, since she'd just heard my story, she was asking me.

Patti told about her friend whose cat disappeared so, after a few months, they got another cat.  Then the first cat returned and life was one big cat fight.  So they decided to take the original cat back to the pet store only to discover that he was an imposter - not their original cat.  They still felt guilty.

I texted my kids back yesterday saying this "My Preferred Title:  Dr. Kevorkian for Cats - Somebody Has to Do It."


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard died this week.  He was 73 years old.  He died from complications of ALS, a truly horrible disease.

It's sometimes strange how lives come together.  I barely knew who Sam Shepard was, other than a character actor, before I met Dave and started visiting him in Minnesota.  Whenever I was there we would spend a couple of days in Stillwater.  This is a tiny old, picturesque logging town on the St. Croix River.  I love it.

I soon became aware that Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange lived in Stillwater.  They were a couple for about 27 years and had two children together.  Just as we started visiting Stillwater we began to hear that the relationship was ending.  But we still liked seeing Jessica Lange's lovely home.  And I enjoyed getting to know more about both of them.
Lange's Stillwater Home

I was surprised to learn that Sam Shepard was a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright - among other things.  He generally wrote gritty, sad things about farmers, the open road, rock stars and residents of trailer parks.  Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune wrote that ...Shepard was widely regarded as the greatest playwright of his generation and was the subject of countless books and academic studies.

I would never have known Sam Shepard was a writer if not for our Stillwater connection.  Following is an example of Shepard's writing.  It's particularly sad in light of his awful illness and early death.  But ends with a note of hope.

I hate endings, Just detest them.
Beginnings are definitely the most exciting,
middles are perplexing
and endings are a disaster.
The temptation towards resolution,
towards wrapping up the package,
seems to me a terrible trap.
Why not be more honest with the moment?
The most authentic endings are the ones
which are already revolving
towards another beginning.
That's genius

Sam Shepard, in The Paris Review