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From The Huffington Post…

‘Jesus Discovery:’ Jerusalem Archeology Reveals Birth Of Christianity

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Edward Baker “Eddie” Lincoln (March 10, 1846 – February 1, 1850) was the second son of Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln. He was named after Lincoln’s friend Edward Dickinson Baker, and the youngest Lincoln son to die.  Eddie died one month short of his fourth birthday.

Eddie’s remains are buried at Lincoln tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, USA. Both parents were devastated. Some historians believe Eddie’s death began Mary Todd’s journey to instability. A week after Eddie’s death, a poem entitled “Little Eddie,” was printed in the Illinois State Journal (a newspaper).  Despite a century dispute over the authorship of the poem, the author of this blog firmly believes it was written by Mrs. Lincoln for his mother spelled his name “Eddie,” while his father spelled it “Eddy.”

Those midnight stars are sadly dimmed,

That late so brilliantly shone,

And the crimson tinge from cheek and lip,

With the heart’s warm life has flown –

The angel of Death was hovering nigh,

And the lovely boy was called to die.

The silken waves of his glossy hair

Lie still over his marble brow,

And the pallid lip and pearly cheek

The presence of Death avow.

Pure little bud in kindness given,

In mercy taken to bloom in heaven.

Happier far is the angel child

With the harp and the crown of gold,

Who warbles now at the Savior’s feet

The glories to us untold. Eddie,

meet blossom of heavenly love,

Dwells in the spirit-world above.

Angel Boy – fare thee well, farewell

Sweet Eddie, We bid thee adieu!

Affection’s wail cannot reach thee now

Deep though it be, and true.

Bright is the home to him now given

For “of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”‘


The final line is on the boy’s tombstone. The next child of Abraham and Mary, William Wallace Lincoln, was born ten months after Eddie’s death.

* The photograph included in this post has been in dispute since its discovery.  Some believe it is Eddie Lincoln, some believe it is his younger brother, Willie.  I, personally, have always believed it to be Eddie Lincoln.

The pure, the bright, the beautiful
that stirred our hearts in youth
The impulses to wordless prayer
The streams of love and truth
The longing after something lost
The spirit’s longing cry
The striving after better hopes
These things can never die

“I just have to do something,” said Rev. Bob Smitley, interrupting his own closure to his brilliant homily for Rev. Greg King’s service of celebration. “When we go to a great show what do we always do at the end to show we loved the show?”

The applause began immediately, and the enormous crowd, nearly filling the large cavernous Ascension Catholic Church of Kettering to capacity, rose to its feet.

While the celebration induced the activation of the tear ducts, the heartache was continually battled by the superior force of laughter.  I don’t believe I’ve ever laughed so much, and so hard, throughout a “celebration of life” service than the one offered in the memory of Rev. Greg King.

To know the King family is to know God’s truer message… love one another, and for crying out loud, laugh as much as you can.  I’ve been fortunate to know Greg’s beautiful wife, Patti, and two of his equally beautiful four children, Greg and Kristen.  I mostly saw Rev. Greg at band concerts, band contests, musicals, and at the church for a production of GODSPELL, directed by his wife.  I did not know him as well as Patti, but upon each meeting I was greeted with a deep warmth, and joy, that always re-ignited my own inner joy. He definitely had “a way” with people… with life.

Within twenty minutes of the service honoring Rev. King, I was thinking, “I wish I could have known him.”

The timid hand stretched forth to aid
A brother in his need;
A kindly word in grief’s dark hour
That proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high
The sorrow of a contrite heart
These things shall never die

The tributes from two of his children, son Greg’s through song, as well as his brother, sister, nephew, and nieces, were moving, inspiring, filled with hilarious anecdotes, and so much love, and magnificent affection.  It was one of those rare moments when I realized that this is the type of man I aspire to be.  Greg King is my role model.

I was overjoyed when I learned that he, too, wrote notes to his children all the time. I believe this, as a dad/parent, is vital.  Mother has written me notes, and sent cards, since I was a tiny fellow, and I believe I have nearly every one in my collection.  As a dad, I write little notes, and letters, to my sons.  I always believed I would find them tossed in the waste basket, but they are always tucked away in a special place.

Had I not attended the service, I would never have known just how much life was lived by this man, and just how much fun he had with life.  I felt so reassured that a father can joke, tease, wrestle, play practical jokes, sing silly songs, act crazy, elect to spend time with his children, be creative with parenting and discipline, talk to his children, throw food, and clown around with his children.  I always felt out of place in the parent-world because I am quite unorthodox as a single dad. I cannot wait for those moments to do things with sons – especially, laugh, and have fun. These are the same memories I want my sons to cherish – so many like the ones I know the four King children will always cherish. The stories from Rev. Greg’s family supplemented my belief that I am on the right track, and that I should proceed, full speed, ahead.

Once we become adults, we tend to let go of heroes, role models, and fellow teachers.  I love moments when my path crosses that of another who offers hope, confidence, and an opportunity for me to “look up” to someone.  Greg King has become that person for this chapter of my life.  Since childhood my number one hero has been Abraham Lincoln, and it only seems ironically appropriate that I write of Rev. King on President Lincoln’s birthday.

Let nothing pass, for every hand
Must find some work to do
Lose not a chance to waken love
Be firm and just and true
So shall a light that cannot fade
Beam on thee from on high
And angel voices say to thee
“These things shall never die.”

I heard the word, legacy, mentioned several times.  And what a legacy Rev. Greg King has with those who who loved him, and knew him best.  It is the kind of legacy we often dream of leaving… Greg King’s legacy is one we should all leave.

The King, as in Greg King, has left this earthly building; however, the spirit of the man – the husband, the father, the son, the brother, the uncle, the minister, the neighbor, the friend, the counselor, the mediator, the organizer, the worker, the leader, the follower, the instigator of pranks, the laugher, the clown, and the ultimate servant with a great servant’s heart – remains.  He shared with the world his own personal recipe for life.  Sadly, so many of us seldom realize that the same ingredients are also within our own reach until we are reminded by great men like Greg King. I am so grateful that I have been reminded that this same recipe is imprinted in my own spirit, in my own mind, and on my own heart.

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Photos I obtained/stole from Patti’s Facebook site.

** THINGS THAT NEVER DIE, by Charles Dickens, and inserted throughout the blog.

Since childhood I have always sensed energizing, protective, and unseen guiding presences in my life.  For several years a lovely lady visited me regularly during my sleep – or at least, what I thought was my sleep.  Today, at age forty-seven, I can still vividly recall this kindly woman’s moments shared with me from the age of four years until I was nearing junior high.  Often, these meetings included singing without any concern for waking my parents.  Other times, stories were told, Bible stories about the heroes were read, poems recited, or general small talk shared.  It was a year or so into junior high school that I realized the sweet lady had not paid a visit.  It seemed, however, she had been replaced by other motivators in my life, mainly music.

One day, perhaps around my sophomore or junior year of high school, my grandmother pulled out old family photos.  Many, many Sundays were spent going through the treasure trove of our family’s history told through photographs, but this particular Sunday, there was a different box, one I didn’t recognize.  Grandma Donna handed me some photos and after thumbing through several I recognized the sweet lady who visited me as a child.  It was my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes.

Sadly, seven years before my birth, Grandma Thelma was involved in a fatal automobile-train accident, expiring the following evening, January 16th, 1957, at 5:05pm.

Grandma Thelma was a wonderful musician; a pianist and vocalist.  One of my first vocal lessons came from my Grandpa Leroy as he relayed watching his mother teach a voice lesson when he was a small boy – Grandma Thelma instructed the student to keep the tongue down, and to sing towards the teeth.

In college, I became fascinated with the possibility of angels.  Several professor friends recounted personal anecdotes related to angelic activities in their own lives, prompting me to wonder if the visits from great-grandmother were – well, angelic visitations.

There are so many arenas dedicated to the study of angels.  I’ve scoured the topics, the varying beliefs, and the Biblical history of angelic beings, and I finally decided that since there will never be one consistent consensus on the topic, it would be my choice to accept the fact angels exist, knowing they had personally appeared throughout my life.  Today, I still believe I have an angel team that assists me in a variety of activities throughout my life-journey.  I have no idea who they are, or whether or not the same ones continually accompany me. Quite simply, I do not doubt their presence, and I trust them.

Over the past twenty years, or so, I have also come to recognize that fellow humans also serve a similar purpose just as the unseen-beings on my “angel team.”  I have countless experiences of brief encounters where someone, or some unexplained incident, has briefly, even momentarily, appeared alongside me on my life-journey to offer guidance, encouragement, or specific information I needed at that moment.

Coincidence?  Perhaps.

God acting anonymously?  Perhaps.

I do believe these positive beings are off-shoots, working on behalf of The Great Spirit.

Regardless who they are, what they are, from where they came, whether they are winged or wear halos, they simply exist in my life.  And how damned lucky I am for these special moments!

Last summer I was terribly ill, and it took me through mid-Autumn to fully recover my strength, and stamina.  My spirits sagged because I just did not have the mind-effort to write on the Wright Brothers musical.  I would open the file.  I would look at the words that suddenly appeared foreign and click shut the file.  It seemed as though my great-passion for this particular craft had died a sudden, unexplainable death.  I began searching for answers to the questions I proposed:

Does this musical suck? (Considering the combined talents of my wonderful, patient co-writers, Gail & Leslie, I knew the lyrics and music elevated my work)

Am I suppose to even be doing this?

Is something trying to tell me I should do something else?

It was a frustrating Autumn, and early Winter.  The most infuriating thing is that I have the ideal life as a writer, something not often afforded my friends and acquaintances who have been published, or produced.  I have my mornings and early afternoons free, and teach private lessons from approximately 3:00pm until 8:00pm.  One day a week I am at a middle school.  Since my sons have always been involved in extra-curricular music activities that often keeps them busy on Saturdays – another full, free day of writing.

My life is ideally set to fully, and passionately embrace this craft.  However, from the end of July, before I discovered my illness, to early winter, I felt absolutely dead inside.  I coasted through the holidays, and my post-Christmas vacation still found me emotionally uninvested, and dealing with the same illness, again.

This past Saturday morning I was reminded by my calendar text that there was a Writing Workshop set for Sunday at 2:30pm.  The workshop was geared for middle grade/young adult audiences, nothing actually to do with playwrighting.  I dismissed it.

Sunday morning something caught my eye while scrolling down Facebook. A terrific author, and inspiring personality, Katrina Kittle posted:

“Dayton Area Writers – TODAY (Sunday) at Books & Co from 2-3:30pm, hosting a free mini-writers’ workshop, taught by myself and the lovely Kristina McBride. The topic: Writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult Audiences.”

Meh.

I sort of dismissed it.

The sun, despite doing its thing on the opposite side of my house, was filling my bed/sitting room with a glowing radiance.  It seemed to beckon me for a hike with my teenage son and the three dogs. For several days I’d been dealing with a nasty situation involving an individual who felt compelled to self-appoint a mythical reign over a project for which I was serving as coordinator. That morning, after two nights of minimal sleep, pulsating pressure in the head, and the inability to fix the situation, I stepped back and handed over the reins.

Freedom.

A renewed energy quickly flooded my brain, my entire being.

Katrina Kittle’s reminder of the writer’s workshop reappeared on a later Facebook scroll.  For the first time in over six months I actually felt life creeping back into my soul.  I remember how invigorated I was when I heard Katrina speak about her novel, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, during one of our ACTION Adoption Service training sessions.  I had also attended several theatrical performances where Katrina played a psychologist assisting a patient through the horrors experienced both during the London Blitz of WWII, and years later on 9/11.  Katrina’s voice is captivating, and her spirit is invigorating, and infectious.

At this point I knew that my angel team was kicking in a God-wink.  Quintin and I discovered a movie he wanted to see (I did not) was at the same time, so we killed two birds with one stone. He hit the cinema, and I hit Books & Company.

As I grabbed my keys, preparing to leave the house, a song – one of my favorite songs – on Spotify began playing.  I sat down, and absorbed the message.

When a thing is wick, it has a life about it.
Now, maybe not a life like you and me.
But somewhere there’s a single streak of green inside it.
Come, and let me show you what I mean.

When a think is wick, it has a light around it.
Maybe not a light that you can see.
But hiding down below a spark’s asleep inside it,
Waiting for the right time to be seen.

You clear away the dead parts,
So the tender buds can form,
Loosen up the earth and
Let the roots get warm,
Let the roots get warm.

~ ~ ~

And all through the darkest nighttime,
It’s waiting for the right time.
When a thing is wick, it will grow!

The words to “Wick,” from THE SECRET GARDEN, was another God-wink for the day.

The workshop, led by Katrina Kittle and Kristina McBride, was my final remedy.  Within minutes of the workshop beginning, I realized the dead parts encasing my spirit were breaking through the earth.  That spark, as lyricist Marsha Norman explained in THE SECRET GARDEN, had been hiding down below, sleeping within… It was the right time.

After a meeting with a good friend I respect and admire, and another fun dinner with Quintin, I quickly returned home with the joy of the workshop’s reassurance beating within.  I opened my laptop, clicked on the file titled THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and opened the script.  Everything was familiar once again. There seemed to be a chorus of voices calling out from the pages, thrilled that I had returned. A reunion began.

It seems my angel team had led me, at the right time, to Sunday, January 8th, 2012.  Were Katrina and Kristina serving as angels?

Who can say.

For whatever reason, these two lovely ladies, as countless others throughout my life, were a piece of the puzzle that has continually courted me on this wonderful journey.  Perhaps some people, much like my family and teachers have always been, are the golden bricks that pave my own personal yellow bricked-road.

The passion is restored.  I am acknowledging, appreciating, and adoring my apprenticeship once again.

Can I say life is wonderful, and that I am so blessed?

You betcha!

Since my days at Ball State University, I have always marveled at the many individual journeys that meet at particular crossroads throughout our lives.

Crossroads are exciting!

We never know when certain fellow travelers will cross our own path, joining us on our own journey. Sometimes we travel together for the remainder of our earthly journey, while understanding that some paths are joined for a certain length of time.

Over the past few months I have neglected to recognize my own fantastic journey, and just how blessed I am with so many I know from this journey. The world of Facebook certainly allows me to connect, reconnect, and meet many wonderful fellow travelers. As the world becomes smaller through technology, our personal lives are enriched beyond measure.

As Jose and I entered the lobby of Red Mountain Family Services, where we were to meet Quintin for the first time, Cindy, the director of the agency, stepped forward with a warm, generous smile to say, “We know who you are.”

Immediately, there was a new person joining my own journey. And within minutes of walking through the door, the world of the Haasienda grew extensively as we met Valerie, Dr. Davison, and several other staff members of Red Mountain. This is just not an ordinary staff of people who come to work in a building. It is very clear that Red Mountain is an ensemble of heaven’s earthly angels sharing their affection with all who cross the threshold, and giving their heartfelt devotion to countless children who struggle not only with life, but in finding hope to continue their own journey.

I don’t know how anyone could read the great teachings of Christ, and countless other teachers, or prophets, and not recognize that Red Mountain, like ACTION Adoption Services (from Dayton), is living proof that The Great Spirit, God, Allah, Jehovah, Creator of the Universe, the Supreme Composer is not only very real, but very much a part of each of us.

I wish I could bring Red Mountain and ACTION Adoption Services (from Dayton) together. I see the magic, the beauty of families formed all the time at ACTION; however, Thursday afternoon, I walked into an incredible world that offered me a glimpse of those who believe in others, and in this case, those who prepared a 15 year old boy to become part of my own family.

To me – this is magic! This is the stuff from which dreams are made!

When we believe our journey is one of solitude we have failed to recognize that The Great Spirit – or whatever title – is not only next to us – but inside us. So often we fail to recognize we are not simply followers, or students/disciples on our journey when we have actually been trained to be leaders. I cannot see how the ancient teachings could be interpreted differently.

Right now, I am at, yet, another wonderful crossroad on this fantastic journey. Several folks from New Mexico – the staff of Red Mountain, and Quintin’s beautiful foster family, Jun & Nina – have met Jose and I at this beautiful moment of our intertwined paths. I know we shall maintain contact once our individual journeys move in various directions to continue our missions, but oh, what a moment.

And of course, my new son, Quintin, is the reason for all these paths to merge. At 15, he probably doesn’t recognize how his own life has impacted so many others at this particular crossroad.

Peace to all….

 

In recent months, President Barak Obama has been needled by underground, or less-publicized media, and individual blogs for his support of Muslims celebrating their faith.

AN INVITATION TO THE WHITE HOUSE

I was just reading a passage in First Lady Hilary Clinton’s book, AN INVITATION TO THE WHITE HOUSE, in the “Christmas At The White House” chapter. The former first lady wrote (page 198):

“As much as Bill and I love our Christmas traditions, we’ve wanted to be sure other faiths felt welcome during the holiday season. In 1993 we put a menorah in the West Wing lobby to honor the Jewish festival of Chanukah. The President also lights another very special menorah in the Oval Office. Maryim Baram, an Israeli craftsman who lost his young son in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, created it from his love and grief and sent it to the President.

Starting in 1996, we have also hosted a Ramadan event to mark the end of the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims and to increase understanding of Islam.”

Interesting….

Also, from THE WHITE HOUSE: George W. Bush we learn:

“President Jimmy Carter walked to Lafayette Park in 1979 and lit one candle or shammash (the candle used to light other candles) in the 30-foot electric silver menorah.

President Ronald Reagan visited the Rockville Jewish Community Center in 1983 and gave remarks following the lighting of the menorah.

The Synagogue Council of America gave President George H.W. Bush a menorah, which was displayed at the White House in 1989. President Bush participated in a Hanukkah celebration for staff in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in 1991 and also celebrated with children and local Jewish leaders.

President William Clinton lit a menorah in the Oval Office in 1997 and joined Israel’s President Ezer Weizman in lighting the first candle of Hanukkah in Jerusalem in 1998.”

Another site, MUSLIM REPUBLICANS, discusses the following, written in 2007:

“Ohio was the first state to declare October 10th, 2007 as “Muslim Day”. This was over 15 years ago. Now congress and the business world have began doing the same trying to capitalize on the Eid spirit.

On the national level, it all started about eight years ago when the United States Post Office began offering US postage stamps with an Eid theme. Since then, various other government and business agencies began doing the same.

For many years, it’s been well known that Republican White Houses are far more Muslim-friendly than Democratic White Houses. Muslims have held this long standing belief for many years, and one needs to look no further than how each handles Muslim holidays.

Unlike previous administrations which barely mentioned Eid and Ramadan, the Bush White House has held countless Iftars (break fast dinner parties) for the White House staff as well as Muslim community leaders. Previous Democratic presidents never held Iftars, and Clinton even cancelled the one Iftar which was planned due to some “political pressure” from other Democratic party supporters. The White House and President Bush are celebrating and recognizing Eid, in the latest White House statement:

‘I am pleased to send greetings to all of those celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the culmination of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.'”

In fact, the White House has an entire section of their website dedicated to Ramadan and Muslims:http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/ramadan/2007/ Click on the different years to see what this Muslim-friendly White House has been doing to celebrate Ramadan and Eid.

Further, Congress just passed House Resolution 635- ‘The Ramadan Bill’- “recognizing the commencement of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal, and commending Muslims in the United States and throughout the world for their faith.”

In the wake of Touchdown Jesus’ destruction, I have read so much about how so many consider this a “graven image.” While researching The Great Passion Play of Eureka Spring, Arkansas, I discovered they had a tall Jesus statue. So, I looked up other Jesus statues on Google… Wow!

This has been an amusing several days for news.

  • Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to jail and rehab…
  • Mel Gibson has been acting up, again…
  • Touch Down Jesus will be rebuilt – full body from Indiana limestone…
  • The Barefoot Bandit has alluded authorities several times this past week…
  • And the big item this week… Lebron James…

Hmmm….

First off, I had no idea who Miss Lohan was. In fact, I almost thought they were talking about J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I did a quick search and found out she was a supermodel, an actress and a singer. OK… cool.

For several days I read, or heard about this mysterious announcement to be made by Lebron James. Since I do not follow sports, and only half listen to television news I figured someone was getting ready to announce their candidacy for the 2012 Presidential Election. I mean, isn’t it about time for the campaigning to begin?

The comments on Facebook, and Twitter, are downright hilarious to me! You would have thought this young guy was discovered to be one of the ten spies returned to Russia yesterday. It reminded me of the night the Baltimore Colts were whisked away in a bus to Indianapolis – fans appeared furious that a sports team leaving their community! You would have thought Michigan and Ohio State University had switched fight songs (if you are from Ohio, you would understand the blasphemy, and severity of such an action!).

The Barefoot Bandit, whose real name is Colton Harris-Moore, now has his own Wikipedia site, and has 55,587 followers (as of this Saturday afternoon) on Facebook. Darling Facebook fan, Eddie Smith of England, who could probably stand to gain from a basic grammar class, writes, “Man your a legend, your story is everywhere in England… Everyone thinks your great!….. Keep going man never let them catch you!!!”

These items seem to be plastering the media landscape, and I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why the hell should any of this really, and truly matter?”

People are furious with Lebron James for switching to tennis, or marrying Tiger Woods future ex-wife, or trying to steal Morgan Freeman’s contract for the upcoming Broadway production, DRIVING MISS DAISY, or whatever it is he does (yes, I know he is a basketball star from Ohio).

I don’t know why THE TODAY SHOW was so concerned with talking to doctor’s, psychologists, lawyers, and fellow celebrities to dissect Ms. Lohan’s ordeal. Are ya serious, Meredith Viero? An Oregon boy is missing, we have a major oil spill, people are suffering from the heat wave hitting the East Coast, and so many other items of greater importance – and yet the focus is on a celebrity’s legal battles. So what else is new?

When it was announced in The Dayton Daily News that Touchdown Jesus would be rebuilt with Indiana limestone, the critical, even cruel, comments began pouring in! People are furious that Solid Rock Church is spending their OWN money for a blasphemous structure (like cathedrals throughout Europe and here) to glorify God.  “But we don’t even know what Jesus looks like?” wrote one complaining comment. Well, neither did Leonardo da Vinci nor Michaelangelo, or so many other great artists. Should we paint over their masterpieces, or chisel away at the sculptures? I am certain the complainers have

  1. attended, or still attend churches with Christian icons, or set dressing
  2. never attempted to do as much for charity as the parishioners of Solid Rock Church
  3. have no church affiliation, or
  4. a new GPS so they no longer need TDJ as a landmark to tell them when they are closer to Traders World or Kings Island

Why are these particular topics so valued by the masses?

Why is the nineteen year old Barefoot Bandit more an international focus and Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda groupies are not?

While waiting to put some groceries on the conveyor belt at Kroger last night, I glanced over at the Rag Mags, and learned:

  • Laura Bush is divorcing George W. Bush because he is having an affair with Joan Rivers
  • Justin Bieber really has begun puberty
  • Billy Ray Cyrus is a much better actor than many believe, and will be cast in the title role of HAMLET in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
  • Will Prince Charles have to pin back his ears to wear the royal crown when he becomes king?
  • Television’s Sister Angelica is secretly carrying Pope Benedict’s love child
  • Donna Summer has been cast to play Michael Jackson in the television rock-u-drama about his life?
  • Broadway’s newest production of LES MISERABLES welcomes Great Britain’s star, Susan Doyle, to play Young Cosette

OK, those were actually headlines I made up, but we all know that those do seem to be genuine from the Rag Mags on shopping store racks.

I wonder how many readers will read the above items and take them to be true?

I belong to a home-town on-line group. The original premise of the group was to keep alumni connected, and to share stories about life in our little Hoosier community.

Since the 2008 presidential election I have contributed little to the message board. Once upon a time the group was quite enjoyable, and tended to transport readers down the beloved memory lane.  However, during the election, the group seemed to adopt a hideous a tone, and though I attempted to placate the agitated, and the agitators, it became a pointless effort. The hatred, and vicious venom that poured from responses were sad. Anyone of a Liberal persuasion was attacked mercilessly, and often with deep hurt. Those who considered themselves Conservative, especially those repeated The Pledge of Allegiance seemed to place their Bibles over their hearts rather than their right hand.

I finally began posting my items on my blog alone, avoiding any contact with some of the particular folks. This did not, however, prevent several of those critters from harassing me on this blog site. One gal, whom several of us refer to as “SRB” (“Self Righteous Bitch”) even accused me of being a murderer because I supported then-Senator Obama’s Pro-Choice stance. This individual is, to quote a good friend, “a religions zealot that knows everything and respects no one but her own.”

Since the 2008 election, I have paid the site little heed, and only read the group email that arrives each morning. However, this week, one of the moderators, responding to some incredible photos from Afghanistan, simply questioned what we were still doing in that country.

It seemed that most dismissed the question. But SRB was right there on the attack referring to “Barry” and those hideous Liberals.

Now, throughout the 2008 election, when anyone would simply “W” for President Bush, or refer to him in any other manner, this lady would go off on them, even running some favorite submitters away from the site. However, it was, and still is perfectly fine for her to disrespect the office, and the president by referring to President Obama as “Barry.”

This past week SRB went on the Liberal attack as though the Liberals are the only ones questioning why our country is still involved in Afghanistan. I have listened to many Conservatives, and religious leaders from many parts of the country, also question the current purpose, and longevity of this war.

Reading SRB’s comments would not be horrible if she just did not come off in such a self-righteous, omnipotent manner. She is definitely one who spares no room for views that do not match up with hers, and quite often responds to challenging responses with a flippant sarcasm, or pettiness.

Several days ago, I posted the news of Senator Byrd’s passing on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I was familiar with Senator Byrd, but simply took his passing as the end of a long career of service to our country.

Within minutes I was receiving private comments questioning how I could support such an individual who one had ties to the KKK. I simply posted the announcement of his death without writing any commentary. I honestly don’t know all the details of Senator Byrd’s past, nor do I truly care. His constituents in West Virginia must have cared deeply to return him as a representative for nearly 60 years.

Thursday morning I posted an article regarding his memorial service today. Again, the private comments were pouring in. Several responded to the link on my Facebook page, but the ones in private were so petty, ill-informed, and downright sophomoric.

One poster on my page did mention that Senator Byrd had apologized. There you go! The senator apologized. I don’t know why the ones who sent me private messages, most of whom profess to be strong Christians could not accept the apology.

There seems to be a continuing theme of “shoot-to-kill.” I read it, hear it everywhere. It is “hate.” And the hate comes from so many who claim to be weighed in a religion that promotes peace, forgiveness, kindness and understanding. Their ridiculing tongues spit words like poisoned darts, and they hurl verbal stones unlike Jesus who offered forgiveness, understanding, and love.

I have many wonderful Christian friends (Christi, Sue, Val, Duneen and many others) who demonstrate Christ’s teachings, and I appreciate them all the more because they never – at least within my hearing – “shoot to kill.” It is so refreshing to have them in my family’s life because they present such a different picture of what is generally portrayed by so many who prefer to abandon the teachings of Christ by engaging in hate.

One friend, in particular, is Kristen Z. We met Kristen at church, and Ms. Z is such a breath of fresh air. Like several friends mentioned above, I am confident that Kristen lives the life that would make Jesus jump up and down, cheer, and slap some high-fives!

Earlier this week, Kristen posted a very moving article on her Facebook, written by Tim Schraeder, entitled A Very Different Kind of Christian Demonstration at Gay Pride.

Now, I am not necessarily a supporter of Gay Rights. I don’t support Civil Rights, nor Equal Rights for Women. I am all for HUMAN RIGHTS. When I study the Great Teachers – Jesus Christ, Buddha and several others, there seems to always be a steady diet of acceptance, understanding, kindness, and love. I could never see any of them turning their backs on others, or turning them away.

I often wonder, and have for many years, why so many profess their solid beliefs in the various religions, and God, would be so filled with hate for others.

Is it fear?

Is it a projection of self-hatred?

Is it ignorance?

Is it self righteousness (like SRB)?

I don’t have any answers; I am merely thinking out loud…

One day, I hope to find a church that has engraved above its altar, “Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength… and love your neighbors.”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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While returning from the Cincinnati Zoo Sunday, Jose and I decided to stop by Solid Rock Church to view the aftermath of the lightning strike, “the lashing out of Zeus” as many have dubbed it. We were not the only ones paying our respects to the charred remains, floating debris (burnt Styrofoam) and steel, skeletal structure rising out of the lake.

Saturday, I spoke with a friend who knew Rev. Bishop personally, and she explained how the Bishop family had personally funded the original $250,000 to build the sculpture, King of Kings, more commonly known as, Touchdown Jesus.

Sunday afternoon, I stood looking at the destruction with no particular emotion. I know there are Facebook fan pages now hurtling demands that the money proposed to rebuild the structure be used for other purposes – charity, mission work. However, I feel some disagreement with this sentiment. The structure was built, and funded by someone who owns the property. Would we wish for someone to come to our door and demand we paint our homes a different color, or change the landscaping of our yards? Heaven knows I would love to tell people with those concrete geese dressed up in bonnets and jackets to take a hike; however, that is their preference, their property, their right – not mine (but they should seriously consider goose therapy!).

And then there is the faction that condemns the Solid Rock Church of showing off their Christianity, paying homage to a graven image, etc.. Again, I have to step back and look at the entire picture.

For centuries, churches have been adorning their sanctuaries with Biblical artwork, even gaudy representations of Jesus, Mother Mary, Moses, and others from the long list of ancients. We have even seen Satin portrayed in artwork. I do believe there is a gigantic statue of Christ in Argentina, or at the tip of some cape in South America, and I have never heard anyone comment on it. In the Sistine Chapel, God and Adam are represented as a center-piece. Now, in its origins, the controversy was over God’s and Adam’s fingers touching – not about the fact that God was portrayed in art.

Again, I return to my thoughts: it is their business.

Last night there was yet, another article on the week old event, describing how the lightning strike has placed the church on the world’s media stage. There were a number of comments following the article, some understanding, others belligerent. Many, who claimed to be solid Christians, were casting more written stones than the elders cautioned by Christ as they prepared to execute an adulterous woman. I was not concerned, in the least, with those casting stones, but it did revive a thought of a popular wrist band: WWJD?

What would Jesus do?

One person wrote that Jesus would be appalled, even furious!

Hmmm… and this person knows this for a fact?

Would Jesus be amused?

Would Jesus just roll his eyes and utter, “Oy vey!”

Would Jesus high-five the Rev. Bishop, and then pose in front of the structure of Himself with three others to spell out, “O-H-I-O”? Or better yet, “H-E-E-B”?

For the life of me, I cannot determine why the venom flows from fellow Christians. Are Christians supposed to be critical of other Christians? And do these critical Christians have Biblical artwork displayed in their churches, or homes?

If they do, I would gently caution them from casting stones, and to gallop their hypocritical holy horse to another Christian corral. Rather than using energy to cast stones at a structure already demolished, why not use this energy to pray?

We could all pray for the Gulf oil crises, the families affected, the wildlife threatened or destroyed, the BP and government leaders making these very difficlut decisions…

We could all pray for our soldiers, and other personnel overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other military stations covering the globe.

We could pray for the economy, and those individuals, and families suffering? We could lend a helping hand to food banks, or other church or community efforts to comfort, feed and clothe the less fortunate.

And I have wondered how many of those bellowing about Solid Rock Church using $750,000 for charity or mission – are they, themselves, doing all they can for mission or charity?

We could pray for our schools, our teachers, our students.

We could pray for our families, our neighbors, our government leaders, those we know, and those we have never met.

We could pray that we, ourselves, are led to live a more Christ-like/God-like, spiritual perspective, and one less perceived by our own spiritual tunnel vision.

We could pray that, instead of casting stones, we could cast lovingly blown kisses of healing, humor, blessings, confidence, fellowship, understanding, peace, and love.

Yes, I found Touchdown Jesus to be gaudy, somewhat pretentious, but terribly amusing. However, I am well aware that to others it may have been a source of inspiration. For those of us who travel northbound from trips, the sight of TDJ indicated that those of us living in the Miami Valley were closer to home – much like the big blue arch is a source of “homeward-bound” for me as I travel to and from my native Hoosier roots. For those who have been touched, or inspired by TDJ, or will be with a newer structure… ENJOY!

For I would not want you telling me to not be moved, or inspired when I stand before historical sites of Lincoln, or the Wright Brothers…

As many already know – especially around the Midwest – the ample, gaudy, and familiar structure along the I-75 corridor, King of Kings, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground Monday night during a fierce thunderstorm.  Read Full Article

99% of the Facebook or blog posts I read throughout Tuesday stated relief, or amusement, that the structure, often the butt of jokes, was no more. To many, the structure was commonly known as, “Touch Down Jesus.” Another nickname was “Butter Jesus” – which I admit, was rather true, as it looked like a butter sculpture at a church bizarre or Methodist bishop conference.

There is now a great debate, waging on numerous Facebook sites, as to whether or not this “eye sore” should be returned (in 3 days), or whether the estimated $700,000 to rebuild Touch Down Jesus and the amphitheater, also damaged by fire. Many believe the church’s money should be used to build a homeless shelter, or to feed hungry children.

All these suggestions are great. However, the money does belong to the Solid Rock Church near Monroe, Ohio. They raised the original $250,000 to build the structure, and I am sure they will secure the funds to rebuild – but with no $50,000 contribution from HUSTLER Store owner, Larry Flint, as I jokingly posted yesterday (and many believed it!).

I, for one, could care less whether TDJ is resurrected near Trader’s World, or not. If they rebuild – great. If they use the money for charity – great. The money is the church’s to do with as the people, or teamster union running the church, decide.

To many from this congregation, the structure was actually referred to as their “Lord, and Savior” – as several indicated on news interviews. One lady sobbed that her children had been raised in this church (all before the structure was built in 2004), and that she couldn’t bear for them to return to see the structure they had grown up with destroyed! Ummm…. math skills? A young man of college age (who probably was not in college), stated that he had to come out to the scene to witness this catastrophe for himself, and then devastatingly added, “my Lord, and Savior is gone. He’s gone.”

Hmmm… perhaps the church should consider bringing in some grief counselors who are experienced in liturgical counseling, as well.

Whatever happens with TDJ, happens. I am sure the Solid Rock Church will decide the fate of this structure in a prayerful, Christian attitude that will make us scratch our heads, cheer, or moan.

Over the past year or so, I have become a fan of Joel Osteen. For me, he is very similar to Dr. Robert Schuller and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale – full of positive thinking!

Here are some of my favorite messages…

Joel Osteen – Get Out Of The Boat

If You Believe, All Things Are Possible

Become A Better You – Interview

#mce_temp_url#

This morning, while working at my desk on LOVE IS ETERNAL, a musical about Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, I watched and listened to my all time favorite television program, THE WEST WING. This morning offered two episodes: the first ending with the tragic death of President Bartlett’s secretary, Mrs. Landingham; the second, perhaps my most favorite episode, Mrs. Landingham’s funeral.

Wow!

Great writing, and Martin Sheen, a native of Kettering, Ohio, offered one of the greatest acting moments I have ever seen.

Watch \”Two Cathedrals\” Episode from THE WEST WING

If you have a moment, enjoy the artistry of some clips from this episode.

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

bewitched

Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

westwing-cast-2001-2002

Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

percussion

At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

Hmmm… interesting.

I just finished watching the movie, THE FIVE PEOPLE WE MEET IN HEAVEN. I have always believed we each have a place in one another’s lives – affecting one another in ways beyond our awareness, even beyond our grasp.

“The world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”

Incredible.

I thought I would be more moved as the credits rolled up, but I just feel satisfied. There are days when I feel as Eddie did in the movie – “a non-contributor to life, and those around me.” Some days, I feel as though the purpose to my existence has somehow been a joke. However, I know, deep down, that I have contributed much to life, and those who have been in my life, or crossed paths, even for a moment.

The concept seems to mirror, in some ways, the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I always hope that I have touched lives, just as lives have touched mine.

I agree with the author of the book, I just don’t believe life is without a purpose, and that we merely become “worm food.” I like the concept that death is not the end of all things, but the beginning of all things. There must be so much more to what we endure in this life, and I don’t technically buy into the “mansion on the hilltop with streets paved in gold.”

The main germ of this movie is that we are all somebody… no one is a nobody. The main character, Eddie, feels insignificant, but he learns he has touched many lives throughout his earthly journey.

“No man is a failure who has friends.” IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

I BELIEVE from ALTAR BOYZ

One beam of light, is enough to see where you’re going
One wrong turn, is enough to loose your way
One choice, is all you have to make
One ounce of faith could save the day
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you .stlyrics

One Mistake, doesn’t have to mean that it’s over
One bad day, only means there’s work to do
One night, is sometimes all it takes

To realize one thing is true
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you

Take a picture of me now, take a look at who I am
Yesterday I wasn’t half as strong
Take a picture of us all, what we’ve been and what we are
Look at that, and tell me I’m wrong

I BELIEVE!

That I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you
I believe in You

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, “Let me explain the problem science has with religion.” The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

  

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

 

“Yes sir,” the student says.

  

“So you believe in God?”

 

“Absolutely.”

  

“Is God good?”

 

“Sure! God’s good.”

  

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”

 

“Yes.”

  

“Are you good or evil?”

 

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

   

The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?”

  

“Yes sir, I would.”

  

“So you’re good…!”

 

“I wouldn’t say that.”  

  

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if  we could. But God doesn’t.”

  

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?”

  

The student remains silent.

 

“No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to

 give the student time to relax.

  

“Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

 “Er…yes,” the student says.

  

“Is Satan good?”

 

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

  

“Then where does Satan come from?”

 

The student falters. “From God”

  

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

  

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”

  

“Yes.”

  

“So who created evil?”

  

The professor continued, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

  

Again, the student has no answer. “Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?”

  

The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

 

 “So who created them?”

  

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. “Who created them?” There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. “Tell me,” he continues onto another student. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’

  

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

  

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

  

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

 

“No, sir, I have not.”

  

“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?”

  

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

 

“Yet you still believe in him?”

 

“Yes.”

  

“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

  

“Nothing,” the student replies. “I only have my faith.”

 

“Yes, faith,” the professor repeats. And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

  

At the back of the room another student stands quietly for a moment before asking a question of His own. “Professor, is there such thing as heat?”

  

“Yes,” the professor replies. “There’s heat.”

 

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

 

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

 

“No sir, there isn’t.”

 

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. “You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that.  There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”

  

 Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

  

“What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

  

“Yes,” the professor replies without hesitation. “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

  

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word.”

   

“In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

  

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. ‘So what point are you making, young man?”

 

“Yes, Professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

  

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

  

“You are working on the premise of duality,” the student explains. You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.”

  

“Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

  

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”

  

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

  

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

  

“Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?”

  

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

  

“To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.”

  

The student looks around the  room. “Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?” The class breaks out into laughter.

  

“Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.”

  

“So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

  

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable.

  

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

  

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues.

 

“Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

  

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course, there is. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

  

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

  

The professor sat down.

 

 

Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….

I was watching a PBS Special on George Carlin. The guy was incredible!

I had never heard his TEN COMMANDMENTS, and this was brilliant… and so true!

GEORGE CARLIN ON THE 10 COMMANDMENTS
from “Complaints and Grievances” (HBO special)

Here is my problem with the ten commandments- why exactly are there 10?

You simply do not need ten. The list of ten commandments was artificially and deliberately inflated to get it up to ten. Here’s what happened:

About 5,000 years ago a bunch of religious and political hustlers got together to try to figure out how to control people and keep them in line. They knew people were basically stupid and would believe anything they were told, so they announced that God had given them some commandments, up on a mountain, when no one was around.

Well let me ask you this- when they were making this shit up, why did they pick 10? Why not 9 or 11? I’ll tell you why- because 10 sound official. Ten sounds important! Ten is the basis for the decimal system, it’s a decade, it’s a psychologically satisfying number (the top ten, the ten most wanted, the ten best dressed). So having ten commandments was really a marketing decision! It is clearly a bullshit list. It’s a political document artificially inflated to sell better. I will now show you how you can reduce the number of commandments and come up with a list that’s a little more workable and logical. I am going to use the Roman Catholic version because those were the ones I was taught as a little boy.

Let’s start with the first three:

I AM THE LORD THY GOD THOU SHALT NOT HAVE STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN

THOU SHALT KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH

Right off the bat the first three are pure bullshit. Sabbath day? Lord’s name? strange gods? Spooky language! Designed to scare and control primitive people. In no way does superstitious nonsense like this apply to the lives of intelligent civilized humans in the 21st century. So now we’re down to 7. Next:

HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER

Obedience, respect for authority. Just another name for controlling people. The truth is that obedience and respect shouldn’t be automatic. They should be earned and based on the parent’s performance. Some parents deserve respect, but most of them don’t, period. You’re down to six.

Now in the interest of logic, something religion is very uncomfortable with, we’re going to jump around the list a little bit.

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS

Stealing and lying. Well actually, these two both prohibit the same kind of behavior- dishonesty. So you don’t really need two you combine them and call the commandment “thou shalt not be dishonest”. And suddenly you’re down to 5.

And as long as we’re combining I have two others that belong together:

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTRY

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE

Once again, these two prohibit the same type of behavior. In this case it is marital infidelity. The difference is- coveting takes place in the mind. But I don’t think you should outlaw fantasizing about someone else’s wife because what is a guy gonna think about when he’s waxing his carrot? But, marital infidelity is a good idea so we’re gonna keep this one and call it “thou shalt not be unfaithful”. And suddenly we’re down to four.

But when you think about it, honesty and infidelity are really part of the same overall value so, in truth, you could combine the two honesty commandments with the two fidelity commandments and give them simpler language, positive language instead of negative language and call the whole thing “thou shalt always be honest and faithful” and we’re down to 3.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR”S GOODS

This one is just plain fuckin’ stupid. Coveting your neighbor’s goods is what keeps the economy going! Your neighbor gets a vibrator that plays “o come o ye faithful”, and you want one too! Coveting creates jobs, so leave it alone. You throw out coveting and you’re down to 2 now- the big honesty and fidelity commandment and the one we haven’t talked about yet:

THOU SHALT NOT KILL

Murder. But when you think about it, religion has never really had a big problem with murder. More people have been killed in the name of god than for any other reason. All you have to do is look at Northern Ireland, Cashmire, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the World Trade Center to see how seriously the religious folks take thou shalt not kill. The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable. It depends on who’s doin the killin’ and who’s gettin’ killed. So, with all of this in mind, I give you my revised list of the two commandments:

Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie.

Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course they pray to a different invisible man than you.

Two is all you need; Moses could have carried them down the hill in his fuckin’ pocket. I wouldn’t mind those folks in Alabama posting them on the courthouse wall, as long as they provided one additional commandment:

Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.

I have always been a fan of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and of course, Dr. Robert Schuller. As a boy my grandfather introduced me to these two incredible individuals, and I have since read, and studied their work from about the age of twelve. What is amazing to me is how similar their teachings are to the concepts we read in THE SECRET. The major difference is packaging. In THE SECRET, I feel as though I am watching an info-mercial. THE SECRET’s book is more exciting to read, for me, than watching the movie.

This morning I opened my on-line Guidepost, and discovered an article by Norman Vincent Peale. When I was in high school my grandmother always brought me her Guideposts once she was finished reading. When I went to college, I began receiving a subscription each month, a gift from my grandmother. I still love reading Guidepost.

 

Define Your Goals

Two principles that can ensure success

By Norman Vincent Peale

What’s your goal in life?

It’s important to constantly ask, “Why was I born? For what purpose did I come into this world? What am I supposed to do here?” Answers to these questions will shape your life goal, which will bring meaning to your life.

But, you may ask, how do you reach your goal? By the application of twin principles: to will and to believe. Will power is the process by which you tap the enormous force that’s in you. Believing is the process by which you surrender yourself to the power of God. So “to will” means to bring out your personal power; “to believe” means to bring out God’s power. If you really begin to practice these principles, you’ll find that your achievements can be astonishing.

A friend of mine told me a story about a young California couple. Things were difficult, but they had a goal: They wanted to have a home that would be filled with love and beauty. They talked about the house they wanted. It was the big goal in their early life.

One night the wife sat down and drew a picture of the house—a complete floor plan, upstairs and down—and mapped out a garden. She showed it to her husband and said, “This is my dream house.”

Though the couple had little money, he said, “Let’s hold to our dream and to the belief that one day we’ll have that house.” They looked everywhere trying to find such a home. Real estate agents showed them one house after another, but they did not find it. So they sat down and prayed about it and visualized themselves being led to it.

One night they were talking with friends about their dream house. One of the friends said, “Why, the house you are describing is well known to me; it belongs to a Mr. Davies. His wife died, but he continues to live there. He has turned down offers for three times its price. He won’t sell it until he finds a couple who will love the house as he and his wife did.”

“Please take us there,” the couple said. When they saw the house, the man and his wife were overwhelmed. It was exactly as it had been pictured in their diagram. Mr. Davies, a kind man, saw the love for this house in the eyes of this young couple. “I’ve turned down everyone else, waiting for the couple to come along for whom this house was intended,” he said.

They were thrilled. But they had to face reality; it was beyond their means.

“Some things are more important than money,” said Mr. Davies. “This is your dream house, isn’t it? All right, you write your own terms, and I will help you to have this house.” The contract was drawn. This couple had practiced the great law: Belief is visualization, dreaming, conviction and will. As a result, they reached their cherished goal.

Believe, dream, will—and put it all in the hands of God. Work, struggle, visualize! These are the great principles bound up in the text, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Get it into your mind and get going, and you will reach your greatest goals.

If these techniques fail, as they sometimes will, ask yourself: “Have I failed because I have some ‘dirt’ in the mind?” By “dirt” I mean wrongdoing. Something that clogs, accumulates, creates “carbon” in the mental processes and corrodes the soul.

A young salesman once came up to me and said, “I’m worried that I don’t succeed because something is wrong with me personally. I wish you’d talk with me and see if you can get at it.” Well, the fellow’s conversation was filled with profanity. It was clear that his drinking was out of control. And he told me he was “mixed up with a couple of women.”

It so happened I had a quotation in my pocket that I had copied from an advertisement for motor oil. It may have just been a coincidence that I had it with me, but God works in coincidences, so I handed the young man the slip of paper. On it was written: “A clean engine delivers power.” I could tell from the look on his face that he got the message.

Whatever your goal, if it is a good and honorable one, you have it in you to attain it. If you’re specific about your goal, if you clarify it and blueprint it, and if it is within God’s righteousness, you can attain it. This I sincerely believe.

I have been blessed with numerous cousins on both sides of my family. Due to where I was born in the mix, most of my cousins are either older or younger, and growing up, I never felt as though I had cousins who were considered playmates. My great-grandparents, grandparents and parents were mostly elder children, and their siblings seemed to trail behind them. Therefore, my parents’ first cousins were mostly a little older than myself. Those 2nd and 3rd cousins who were my age always seemed to live far away.

Now, at 44, I have begun to know a number of my cousins, and communicate with them fairly regularly. One cousin, in particular, is Dana Barmes Kleumke. Dana’s father, Uncle Danny, is my great-uncle – the younger brother of my grandfather. Uncle Danny andmy mother are nine months apart in age; therefore, he was more like a brother to my mother. Dana is about four years behind me in age, and seems to me, one of the most remarkable individuals. Her blog wears me out as she escorts us on her journey each day as a stay-at-home mom who home-schools her two sons, Mat and Joey. I know Dana’s mother, my Aunt Bonnie, has always been resourceful, but Dana make’s Martha Stewart and all the great names of resourcefulness appear shabby and lazy. I am busy in my own way, and I can appreciate the differences of our lives – but there are some mornings when I shake my head at all she has accomplished by the time I have taken my sugar, used the bathroom, fed the dog and cat, and prepared my cup of tea. Her blog is definitely worth reading.

I have a number of cousins who are Mother’s age who were/are teachers. Judy Smith-Hallett, her husband, Jerry Hallett, and Stan Daugherty were always so appealing to me because they were teachers. I was always interested in Judy, but we only managed to see one another at weddings and funerals where lengthy conversations were difficult, at best. After my grandfather died in June 2004, I have gotten to know Judy more, and love how she always has a seeming calmness about her.

Stan Daugherty was a well-known basketball coach in Central Indiana, and was at Elwood Community High School for several years. Fortunately, he was there my last three years of high school and was my Algebra teacher. Stan was later to become an invaluable role model as he was great at providing 2-3 different options to approach problem solving so that each student would understand. Today, as a teacher, I will keep finding the right path for each student until the mission is accomplished.

My other cousins – Janice Smith-Kleyla and Susan Hughes-Cleaver, from Mother’s side, were my bubbly cousins. Though I do not see them often, I always feel as though no time has elapsed.

My grandmother, Donna Clary-Barmes, had a much younger sister, Joyce Clary-Riser. Aunt Joyce, who lives in Alexandria, Indiana, has two daughters, Kim, 42 (lives in Florida), and Debbie, who will be 39 this June. Since Kim lives in Florida there is no contact, but I do have email contact with Debbie. Although they are my mother’s first cousins, they always seemed like my first cousins, and I always enjoy any time with them, as well as Aunt Joyce.

The sad part is – all of us are busy with our families – children, and for a good number, grandchildren. Debbie has children a little younger than mine, and Dana, as well as her two siblings, Daniel and Dama, are busy with their little ones. I wish we would all make a pact that at least one day each summer we could all come together for a picnic. I did have a Barmes Family reunion several years ago, and due to the  hecticness of some trying family issues, I was forced to abandon the planning of a second reunion. Hopefully this can be done, soon.

When Mother was born, one of the first relatives to see her was Uncle Raymond andAunt Betty (Church) Daugherty. Uncle Raymond was actually my Grandpa Leroy’s uncle, despite the fact Raymond was four months older than Grandpa. Grandma Donna and Aunt Betty had grown up together near Summitville, Indiana. Two best friends married an uncle and nephew. When I was born, according to my baby book, one of my first visits was from my great-great uncle andaunt, Raymond and Betty, andtheir sixteen year old son, Steve. When I adopted my first son, who was from Texas, I called Uncle Raymond and arranged to visit them in Spring, Texas, where they were living – and still are – with Steve. So, they had the honor of welcoming a third generation of our family’s line.

When I was little, Steve was at Ball State, along with Letterman, Jane Pauley, and Joyce DeWitt. He moved on to radio and television, popularly known in Indiana as Steve Michaels. Whenever we would see him at community events I was always so excited, and proud, that the well-known radio and television personality was my cousin. At one point, Steve had his own television show that aired early every morning. I rose, a good 45 minutes before I had to get up for school, and eat my breakfast while watching Steve on television. I know the content of the interviews was beyond my understanding, but all that mattered was the fact my cousin was on television.

As I grew older, I realized that Steve’s accomplishments were well within my grasp, and it hit home when I was hired to appear in a television special, FRED WARING’S AMERICA. I had no idea who Fred Waring was, and could not understand why my grandparents were so thrilled. They had always rejoiced in my accomplishments, but the idea of their grandson appearing on a Fred Waring program was monumental. One comment stuck with me. Grandma was telling one of her friends about the impending program, and said, “Oh, he’s just like our cousin, Steve Daugherty, who was on television.”

The fact I was going to be on television in a Fred Waring special did not mean nearly as much as being compared to my cousin, Steve.

Since visiting Steve, andhis parents, I have been in weekly, almost daily contact with Steve – personal emails, family history, fond remembrances, and always, a healthy plethora of (naughty) jokes! Thank God my sense of humor matches Steve’s.

I had received several emails these past few months regarding the health of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Betty, and it is sad to learn that, Aunt Betty espepcially, are not in the best of shape. While tending to his parents, Steve was also battling health issues.

Earlier this week, Steve wrote and shared he has pancreatic cancer.

Upon receiving the news, I pushed it to the back of my mind. While working through my health issues with heart-related items, it just seemed impossible that this sentence would be given to Steve. This morning, during our weekly Sunday chat, I could tell Mother is quite upset, though, as always, she maintains her typical calmness. She knew more about Steve’s condition, and began sharing the details. I was all too familiar with the life expectancy of those who battle pancreatic cancer, but in my mind these past few days, I could not connect it with Steve. Mother said Steve reported to her that it would be six months to a year.

It was a struggle for me to continue the remainder of our conversation because my mind descended into a fog. After hanging up, I sat at my desk and sobbed. After a few minutes, I decided to write Steve, reminding him to be courageous, and strong, for at the age of 44, I still looked to him as a hero, and a role model. Steve responded with a grateful note, and some words I shall always cherish. I do fear that this will bring down the already deteriorating health of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Betty.

As children, our heroes are unconquerable in life, and it is a struggle when we realize they are human. Despite the fact I have rejoiced in Steve’s human qualities, it is still agonizing for me to be reminded of the body’s finite, and sometimes, frail nature. Even knowing the unconquerable power of the spirit, I still wish pain and discomfort could be avoided for Steve. I am certain that this new chapter, this new journey – though wholly unexpected and undesired – will be one of growth, and appreciation, serving as a purpose for more than what any of us can immediately fathom… one of the beautiful, and great mysteries of life.

 

Wednesday morning I drove to Columbus to attend the funeral mass of a friend’s father. I met Katie Pfister-Musick in the late 1980’s and absolutely fell in love with this incredible actress. Despite the various moves between the two of us, and me losing my address book, I managed to reconnect with Katie, and her husband, Mike, via Internet research. I found them living in the Kansas City, Kansas area, and have enjoyed communicating with them the past several years – and that includes a hiatus where my email addresses were wiped out.

friends-musick-katie

Last summer, I received a note that Katie’s mother had suddenly passed away. Katie had been sharing with me that her father was seriously ill with cancer and was not expected to live much longer. Her mother’s death was quite a surprise.

I attended her mother’s funeral and was overjoyed to see Katie and Mike, again. She is still just as beautiful as she was when she was a girl (and you know what, Lincoln said that about his wife when they were living in the White House! “My wife is just as lovely as she was when she was young. I fell in love with her then, and what is more, I have never fallen out.”)

Christmas night, I received message from Mike that Katie’s father had left in time to spend Christmas with his wife. 

Wednesday morning, December 31st., the last day of 2008, I drove to Columbus to share in the fond farewell with Katie and her family. I arrived at St. Christopher’s and was struck by the beauty and warmth of the church, decorated for the Christmas season. The candles, the nativity, the poinsettias and greenery was absolutely beautiful. As I was washing my hands in the rest room, I stopped… my chest began swelling with excitement.

I could hear Katie singing!

I walked back into the sanctuary, and immediately teared up… Katie was singing a responsive psalmody.  Her voice is still as beautiful as I remember it from when I heard her in the role of Anna Leonowens in THE KING & I.

I found a seat, and just absorbed the beauty, and the passion of each note she offered up – a musician offering up glorious beauty, a daughter bidding farewell to her father in song.

The service was beautiful. The violinist provided a beautiful prelude with “Amazing Grace,” and it set the mood – touching, but with great rejoicing for a life lived fully by this particular Irishman. The description of Don’s life, by both the priest and family, made me proud of my Clary & Daugherty clans! What truly touched me was that his children each offered something, and I can think of no greater tribute than to hear words and music from one’s own children at their funeral.

The closing hymn that accompanied the pall covered casket down the aisle was “Silent Night.” When I read prepped my hymnal before the service (that’s my German-Irish grandfather in me!), I first thought the final hymn to be too mild to send off this larger than life Irishman that I had never actually met. However, by the time the gentle strains of the introduction began, I knew just how fitting this tune was. It seemed to pull together not only the love for Don from his  family and friends, but it reminded me how much I missed, and still loved so many of my own family members who are no longer with us – especially my grandparents.

As the casket was wheeled past me, an elderly gentleman across the aisle saluted, the tears streaming down his face. I don’t know the relationship this gentleman had to Don, but for me, it was one of the most touching moments from the service. A tribute. A farewell. A salute. Only a soldier and a former drum-major can know the sanctity of a salute.

As the second verse of “Silent Night” began, the church bells began pealing. And throughout the song, they continued.

Bells have always held a special place for me. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has one of the most tender scenes when the bell on the tree rings at the end – an angel received its wings. Also, my grandmother collected bells, and I now possess all the bells I gave her, some from Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Germany, Austria, and of course, New York City. And the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” also one of my favorite carols, has always been a favorite.

And here, on the last day of 2008, while singing “Silent Night,” the world resonated with the ringing of bells.

I bid farewell to Katie and Mike, and walked outside into the brisk December morning. The bells were much louder outside. One elderly lady covered her ears and looked up towards the sound of the bells. I stood for a moment, watching my breath swirl away from me, and hearing the bells.

Don had probably just received his wings…

My grandmother told me that she was still with me…

And the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded me that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…”

I got into my car. I could still hear the muffled bells. I rolled down the window and listened, thinking they would not ring much longer. As I drove away, I could still hear the bells. I turned on to Grandview Avenue, moving away from the church. Finally, around 3rd Street, the bells began to fade – but only in sound.

Those bells were not pealing “farewell.”

The ringing of the bells were an announcement, and reminder of God’s love.

The ringing of the bells were a fanfare of the blessings to come for 2009.

The ringing of the bells were a reminder that it is, indeed, a most wonderful life!

I watched this documentary a few months ago, and then watched it again.

http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/tomb/tomb.html

From Wikopedia…

The Lost Tomb of Jesus is a documentary co-produced and first broadcast on the Discovery Channel and Vision TV in Canada on March 4, 2007 covering the discovery of the Talpiot Tomb. It was directed by Canadian documentary and film maker Simcha Jacobovici and produced by Felix Golubev and Ric Esther Bienstock, while James Cameron served as executive producer. The film has been released in conjunction with a book about the same subject, The Jesus Family Tomb, issued in late February 2007 and co-authored by Jacobovici and Charles R. Pellegrino. The documentary and book’s claims are currently the subject of controversy within the archaeological and theological fields, as well as among linguistic and biblical scholars.

The tomb was discovered in 1980 during a housing construction project. Ten ossuaries were found in the cave, including the six that are the subject of Jacobovici’s film. However, one of the ten ossuaries went missing years ago, presumably stolen.

“In their movie they are billing it as ‘never before reported information,’ but it is not new. I published all the details in the Antiqot journal in 1996, and I didn’t say it was the tomb of Jesus’ family,” said Amos Kloner, now professor of archaeology at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University and author of the original excavation report for the predecessor of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“I think it is very unserious work. I do scholarly work…,” Kloner said. “[This film] is all nonsense.”

Six of the nine remaining ossuaries have inscriptions. The other three ossuaries have no inscriptions. The Lost Tomb of Jesus posits that three of the ossuaries with inscriptions bear the names of figures from the New Testament.  The actual meanings of the epigraphs are disputed.  The makers of the documentary claim that four leading epigraphers have corroborated their interpretation of the inscriptions. As translated in The Lost Tomb of Jesus and The Jesus Family Tomb, they read as follows:

  • Yeshua bar Yehosef, Aramaic for “Jesus son of Joseph”
  • Maria, written in Aramaic script, but a Latin form of the Hebrew name “Miriam” (“Mary”)
  • Yose, a diminutive of “Joseph” mentioned (in its Greek form ιωσης “Joses”) as the name of one of Jesus’s brothers in the New Testament (Mark 6:3)
  • Yehuda bar Yeshua, Possibly Aramaic for “Judah son of Jesus”
  • Mariamene e Mara. According to the filmmakers this is Greek for “Mary known as the master.” The similar name “Mariamne” is found in the Acts of Philip: Francois Bovon, professor of the history of religion at Harvard University has suggested based on his study of that work that Mariamene, or Mariamne, was the actual name of Mary Magdalene
  • Matya, Hebrew for ‘Matthew’—not claimed to be Matthew the Evangelist but “possibly a husband of one of the women in an unmarked ossuary.” The filmmakers claim that there is evidence that Mary mother of Jesus had many relatives named Matthew

Four leading epigraphers have corroborated the ossuary inscriptions for The Lost Tomb of Jesus, according to the Discovery Channel.  William G. Dever, a retired professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona who has been excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years, said that some of the inscriptions on the Talpiot ossuaries are unclear, but that all of the names are common.

The film further claims that the tenth ossuary, which went missing years ago, is the James Ossuary purported to contain the body of James, the brother of Jesus.

In The Jesus Family Tomb, Simcha Jacobovici claims the James Ossuary would have been a part of this tomb, but was removed by artifact dealers, and thus discovered separately.  The James Ossuary’s authenticity has been called into question, and one of its past owners has been charged with fraud in connection to the artifact.

Ben Witherington III, who worked with Jacobovici on a Discovery Channel documentary on the James Ossuary, denies this connection on two grounds:

  • “The James ossuary, according to the report of the antiquities dealer that Oded Golan got the ossuary from, said that the ossuary came from Silwan, not Talpiot, and had dirt in it that matched up with the soil in that particular spot in Jerusalem.”
  • “Furthermore, Eusebius reports that the tomb marker for James’s burial was close to where James was martyred near the temple mount, indeed near the famous tombs in the Kidron Valley such as the so-called Tomb of Absalom. Talpiot is nowhere near this locale.”

Another consideration was that the measurements of the James Ossuary did not match the measurements listed for the tenth ossuary, which is no longer stored with the rest of the collection. The James Ossuary was listed as being approximately 50 centimeters long by 30 centimeters wide on one end, and 25.5 centimeters on the other end.  The tenth ossuary in the Talpiot collection is listed as 60 centimeters long by 26 centimeters by 30 centimeters.[15] Furthermore, Amos Kloner has stated that the tenth ossuary had no inscription. And Joe Zias, former curator of the Rockefeller Museum who received and catalogued the ossuaries, has also refuted this claim on his personal site.

New information has now shown that the discrepancy in the measurements had to do with measuring the base of the ossuary, which is indeed 50 centimeters, rather than the length. The top length of the James ossuary, not the base, which is trapezoid in shape, according to the latest remeasurement carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority, is 57.5 centimeters. However, this does not in any way prove that the James ossuary is the missing tenth Talpiot ossuary.

A central question has regarded the probability that a tomb might contain the specific group of names as the Talpiot Tomb. Experts such as Richard Bauckham, David Mavorah  and Amos Kloner have asserted the commonness of archaeological inscriptions bearing the name “Jesus.” Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, notes that there were at least 21 “Yeshuas” or Jesuses famous enough to be included in the histories of Josephus.  For their part, the filmmakers present a statistical study conducted by Andrey Feuerverger, professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto, which concluded that while the names are not uncommon, the conservative odds that such names would be found together in any one tomb around are (depending on variables) from 600 to 1 to a million to 1 in favor of it being authentic.

However, Dr. Feuerverger later said, “It is not in the purview of statistics to conclude whether or not this tombsite is that of the New Testament family. Any such conclusion much more rightfully belongs to the purview of biblical historical scholars who are in a much better position to assess the assumptions entering into the computations. The role of statistics here is primarily to attempt to assess the odds of an equally (or more) ‘compelling’ cluster of names arising purely by chance under certain random sampling assumptions and under certain historical assumptions. In this respect I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family.” Dr. Feuerverger’s assessment was based on several assumptions:

  • that the Maria on one of the ossuaries is the mother of the Jesus found on another box,
  • that Mariamne is his wife
  • that Joseph (inscribed as the nickname Jose) is his brother

Support for these assumptions comes, according to the documentary, from the following claims:

  • Mariamne is the Greek form of Mary.
  • Mary Magdelene is believed to have spoken and preached in Greek.
  • Jose was the nickname used for Jesus’ little brother.
  • The Talpiot Tomb is the only place where ossuaries have ever been found with the names Mariamne and Jose, even though the root forms of the name were very popular and thousands of ossuaries have been unearthed.

Further information regarding the methodology of this study is due to be published soon.

On February 25, 2007, Andrey Feuerverger, professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto conducted a statistical calculation on the name cluster as part of The Lost Tomb of Jesus. He concluded that the odds are at least 600 to 1 that the combination of names appeared in the tomb by chance. The methodology of this study has been submitted to a journal, but in the meantime a summary can be found on the Discovery Channel  and documentary websites. A more detailed explanation of the statistical approach can be found also on Prof. Andrey Feuerverger‘s website as well as in a recent interview given to Scientific American.  The frequency distribution for names prevalent during the period of time during which ossuary burials took place was inferred by studying two key sources:

  • Rahmani’s Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel.
  • Tal Ilan’s Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity.

According to Prof. Feuerverger, the goal of the statistical analysis is to assess the probability level of a null hypothesis, I quote:

A ‘null hypothesis’ can be thought of here as asserting that this cluster of names arose purely by chance under random sampling from the onomasticon. The alternative hypothesis is the opposite of this, in some sense. It is not in the purview of statistics to conclude whether or not this tombsite is that of the New Testament family.

Feuerverger multiplied the instances that each name appeared during the tomb’s time period with the instances of every other name. He initially found “Jesus Son of Joseph” appeared once out of 190 times, Mariamne appeared once out of 160 times and so on:

Jesus son of Joseph Mariamne Yosah Maria Product
1/190 1/160 1/20 1/4 date=1/2,432,000
0.53% 0.625% 5% 25%

He next divided 2,432,000 by 4 to account for bias in the historical record and further divided that result (608,000) by 1,000 to attempt to account for the number of explored tombs from first century Jerusalem.

Feuerverger’s conclusions have been called into question:

  • According to some multiplying the individual names’ probabilities is wrong because many permutations of the same names are possible.
  • The inclusion of Mariamne in the calculation is based on two assumptions:
    • Mary Magdelene in NT was Jesus’ wife. (There is no historical evidence for this.)
    • Mary Magdelene’s real name was Mariamne. (This assumption is disputed by some experts.)
  • The calculation adjusts only for the 1,000 tombs found in Jerusalem instead of the whole Jewish populace that lived in the area. This effectively assumes that Jesus family in NT did indeed have a family tomb and it was among the 1000 tombs found in Jerusalem area.  There is no historical evidence for this assumption. Some experts, including archaeologist Amos Kloner (the one who excavated the tombs) do not accept that the poor family from Nazareth had a family tomb in Jerusalem.
  • The inscription “Judah son of Jesus” is ignored in the calculation. Since there is no historical evidence that Jesus had any children, some people believe this inscription should be included in the calculation to reduce the probability that the tomb belongs to the Jesus family.

Randy Ingermanson and Jay Cost did their own statistical analysis in which they looked at the probabilities given various assumptions.

  • What they called a ‘typical historian’, they calculate, would odds of about 1 in 19,000 that this is the real tomb of Jesus.
  • A historian who wanted it to be the real tomb very badly would make assumptions that would change the odds to about 1 in 18.
  • A historian leaning towards it being the real tomb but “staying within the bounds of historical reasonableness” would make assumptions that would make the odds about 1 in 1,100.
  • Another historian leaning against it being the real tomb, but also working within the same bounds, would estimate odds of about 1 in five million.
  • And of course a Christian who insisted that Jesus ascended to Heaven would say it is impossible for this to be his tomb.

Stephan Pfann (president of Jerusalem’s University of the Holy Land) points out that the commonality of these names suggests that the probability is much lower. “Remarkably, a mere 16 of the 72 personal names [found on ossuaries] account for 75% of the inscribed names.” Among these “top 16” names are Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Matthew, and Judas.

Richard Bauckham (Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at St Andrews) compiled the following data to show just how common the names on these ossuaries are:

“Out of a total number of 2625 males, these are the figures for the ten most popular male names among Palestinian Jews. The first figure is the total number of occurrences (from this number, with 2625 as the total for all names, you could calculate percentages), while the second is the number of occurrences specifically on ossuaries.”
Rank Name Total References Found on Ossuaries Percent of Total References (2625)
1 Simon/Simeon 243 59 9.3%
2 Joseph 218 45 8.3%
3 Eleazar 166 29 6.3%
4 Judah 164 44 6.2%
5 John/Yohanan 122 25 4.6%
6 Jesus 99 22 3.8%
7 Hananiah 82 18 3.1%
8 Jonathan 71 14 2.7%
9 Matthew 62 17 2.4%
10 Manaen/Menahem 42 4 1.6%
“For women, we have a total of 328 occurrences (women’s names are much less often recorded than men’s), and figures for the 4 most popular names are thus:”
Rank Name Total References Found on Ossuaries Percent of Total References (328)
1 Mary/Mariamne 70 42 21.3%
2 Salome 58 41 17.7%
3 Shelamzion 24 19 7.3%
4 Martha 20 17 6.1%

Colin Aitken, a professor of forensic statistics at Edinburgh University, stated that the study is based on a number of assumptions, and that, “even if we accept the assumptions, 600 to one is certainly not the odds in favour of this tomb being Jesus.” meaning that even if it were true that to find this cluster of names is very unlikely it does not follow that therefore this is probably the tomb of the family of Jesus. According to the Discovery Channel documentary Feuerverger’s statistical model concludes that there is only a 1/600 chance that the Talpiot tomb is not the Jesus family tomb if Mariamne can be linked to Mary Magdalene. In his personal website Feuerverger has distanced himself from this claim, explaining: “I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family.” Also, the Discovery Channel website has removed all previous associations of Feuerverger’s name with the 1/600 estimate of the Talpiot tomb not belonging to Jesus family.

Following the March 4, 2007 airing of The Lost Tomb of Jesus on the Discovery Channel, American journalist Ted Koppel aired a program entitled The Lost Tomb of Jesus—A Critical Look, whose guests included the director Simcha Jacobovici, James Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who served as a consultant and advisor on the documentary, Jonathan Reed, Professor of Religion at the University of LaVerne and co-author of Excavating Jesus Beneath the Stones, Behind the Text, and William Dever, an archaeologist with over 50 years experience in Middle Eastern archaeological digs.

The Washington Post in an article of 2/28/07 cites Dever as being “widely considered the dean of biblical archaeology among U.S. scholars” and quotes him as saying, “I just think it’s a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated” and “all of the names [contained in the tomb] are common.”

Alan Cooperman, writer of The Washington Post article also states this: “Similar assessments came yesterday from two Israeli scholars, Amos Kloner, who originally excavated the tomb, and Joe Zias, former curator of archaeology at the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Kloner told the Jerusalem Post that the documentary is “nonsense.” Zias described it in an e-mail to The Washington Post as a “hyped up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.”

Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner, who was among the first to examine the tomb when it was first discovered, said the names marked on the coffins were very common at the time. “I don’t accept the news that it was used by Jesus or his family,” and “The documentary filmmakers are using it to sell their film.” he told the BBC News website.

During the documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus, various professionals had claimed:

  1. concerning the ossuaries marked Yeshua` (“Jesus”) and the one believed to be that of Mary Magdalene: because “the DNA did not match, the forensic archaeologist concluded that they must be husband and wife”;
  2. that testing showed that there was a match between the patina on the James and Yeshua` ossuaries and referred to the James ossuary as the “missing link” from the tomb of Yeshua` (Jesus);
  3. and that an ossuary that became missing from the tomb of Yeshua` had actually been the infamous James ossuary believed to contain the remains of the brother of Yeshua`.

During Ted Koppel’s critique, The Lost Tomb of Jesus—a Critical Look, Koppel revealed he had denials from these three people Simcha Jacobovici had misquoted in the documentary.

  1. Koppel had a written denial from the forensic archaeologist asserting that he had NOT concluded that the remains of Yeshua` and Miriamne showed they were husband and wife. In fact, he had logically stated, “you cannot genetically test for marriage.”
  2. Koppel had a written denial from the Suffolk Crime Lab Director (Robert Genna) asserting that he had NOT stated the James ossuary patina matched that of the Yeshua` ossuary. He denied ever saying they were a match, and said he’d have to do much more comparison testing of other tombs before he could draw any conclusions.
  3. Koppel had a verbal denial from Professor Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who had supervised the initial 1980 dig of the tomb of Yeshua`, with whom he spoke on 3/4/07, asserting that the ossuary that later turned up missing from the alleged Tomb of ‘Jesus’ could not have been what is now known as the James ossuary. In fact he indicated there was evidence that it was not the same by saying that the now missing ossuary he had seen and photographed and catalogued in 1980 had been totally unmarked, whereas the James ossuary is marked with the name of James and a rosette.

The archaeologist William Dever summed it up when he stated on Koppel’s critical analysis, The Lost Tomb of Jesus—A Critical Look, that Jacobovici’s and Cameron’s “conclusions were already drawn in the beginning” of the inquiry and that their “argument goes far beyond any reasonable interpretation.”

Although the film’s premise questions theological renderings of the Bible’s account of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (which are central tenets of Christianity, affirmed also in the Nicene Creed), the filmmakers exclusively reject this claim.  Speaking at the news conference held at the New York Public Library, film’s religious consultant James Tabor stated that the fact that Jesus’ tomb was discovered does not put in doubt biblical accounts of his resurrection, which he said could have actually been spiritual.

With regards to the ascension, however, the documentary’s website suggests that while the tomb’s discovery does not render impossible the notion of a spiritual ascension, it does do so for those who believe that Jesus physically ascended to heaven.

Later in an interview, Simcha Jacobovici said that the film can be seen as a proof for those who question Jesus’ existence, and stressed on the idea the film being about science, truth and facts. But it’s worth mentioning that only the few lines of theological considerations drawn on the film’s website, (resurrecting from a second tomb after being moved or the spiritual only ascent to Heaven) are directly contradicting the majority of Christian views, which make this confirmation of Jesus historicity at least of no use from this perspective, if not tearing apart the belief.

Asked what he believes about the resemblance with The Da Vinci Code, executive producer James Cameron said he looked “at it as paving the way for some of these ideas that some people may consider to be quite radical, but were rather well researched in that movie” and, although the documentary team was working for a year when it was released, they decided to wait for another year “to let these ideas marinate.”

The film proposes new interpretations of the events regarding Jesus depicted in the New Testament, as seen by mainstream Christianity. The film’s suggestions contradict the basis of the faith in the majority’s view, if considering only Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy by number of members (other denominations‘ teachings being contradicted at least partially), and may be considered blasphemies[64][65][66] by the Church:

The claim that Jesus was married also undermines the theological metaphor of the Church being the “Bride of Christ” (found in the writings of the New Testament). Jimmy Akin, director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers, wrote: “This image would never have arisen if there was a Mrs. Jesus living right there in Jerusalem…. We know about [the wives of religion founders] because they were honored figures as wives of The Founder, and if Jesus had a wife then (a) we would know about it and (b) the whole Church-as-the-Bride-of-Christ metaphor would never have come into existence.” As for a possible “son of Jesus,” he noted: “We tend to know about even the daughters of religious founders. Muhammad’s daughter Fatima comes to mind. It would be much harder to sneak a forgotten son by the eyes of history…. It’s not just hard to sneak sons past because patriarchal cultures focus more on sons; it’s also because of this: In traditional societies, the son is looked on as the father’s natural successor.”

Conforming or Contradicting Islamic views?

Finding someone’s remains (other than Jesus) in Jesus’ tomb conforms the Muslim belief that a substitute for him was crucified, while he was raised bodily to heaven. The Islamic view of his disappearance, as mentioned in the Qur’an, states: That they said (in boast), “We killed Al-Masih ‘Isa the son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah”; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them. The general Muslim interpretation of the verse is that God, to revenge from Judas’ betrayal to Jesus (the fatherless prophet), made his face similar to that of Jesus, while Jesus ascended into heaven and is to return near the end of time and kill the anti-Christ. Accordingly, the discovered remains in his tomb would then actually belong to Judas, a Roman guard, or a volunteering disciple.

On the other hand, the documentary itself contradicts Islamic views beacause it specifies that it was presumebly Jesus who was buried there, and its website states that “If Jesus’ mortal remains have indeed been found, this would contradict only the idea of a physical ascension”, which Muslims endorse.

Early Christianity scholar R. Joseph Hoffmann, chair of the skeptically minded Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, says the film alerts the public to the fact that there are no secure conclusions when it comes to the foundational history of a religious tradition. But he charges that the film “is all about bad assumptions,” beginning with the assumption that the boxes contain Jesus of Nazareth and his family. From his view as an historian specializing in the social history of earliest Christianity, he found it “amazing how evidence falls into place when you begin with the conclusion—and a hammer.”

When interviewed about the upcoming documentary, Amos Kloner, who oversaw the original archaeological dig of this tomb in 1980 said:

“It makes a great story for a TV film, but it’s completely impossible. It’s nonsense.”

Newsweek reports that the archaeologist who personally numbered the ossuaries dismissed any potential connection:

“Simcha has no credibility whatsoever,” says Joe Zias, who was the curator for anthropology and archeology at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem from 1972 to 1997 and personally numbered the Talpiot ossuaries. “He’s pimping off the Bible … He got this guy Cameron, who made ‘Titanic’ or something like that—what does this guy know about archeology? I am an archeologist, but if I were to write a book about brain surgery, you would say, ‘Who is this guy?’ People want signs and wonders. Projects like these make a mockery of the archeological profession.”

The aforementioned Joe Zias has published in his own site a “viewers’ guide” to the Talpiot Tomb documentary, in which he systematically rebuts the film’s argumentation and gives much background information about the people involved in it.

Stephen Pfann, president of Jerusalem’s University of the Holy Land and an expert in Semitic languages, who was interviewed in the documentary, also said the film’s hypothesis holds little weight:

“How possible is it?” Pfann said. “On a scale of one through 10—10 being completely possible—it’s probably a one, maybe a one and a half.”

Pfann also thinks the inscription read as “Jesus” has been misread and suggests that the name “Hanun” might be a more accurate rendering.

The Washington Post reports that William G. Dever (mentioned above as excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years) offered the following:

“I’ve known about these ossuaries for many years and so have many other archaeologists, and none of us thought it was much of a story, because these are rather common Jewish names from that period. It’s a publicity stunt, and it will make these guys very rich, and it will upset millions of innocent people because they don’t know enough to separate fact from fiction.”

Asbury Theological Seminary‘s Ben Witherington III points out some other circumstantial problems with linking this tomb to Christ:

  • “So far as we can tell, the earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus ‘son of Joseph’. It was outsiders who mistakenly called him that.”
  • “The ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he [Joseph] was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would he be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem?”
  • “One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married.”
  • “The Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary—and that’s about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names.”
  • “We have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don’t match up with the list of [Jesus’s] brothers’ names.”

The Archaeological Institute of America, self-described on their website as “North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archeology,” has published online their own criticism of the “Jesus tomb” claim:

“The identification of the Talpiyot tomb as the tomb of Jesus and his family is based on a string of problematic and unsubstantiated claims […] [It] contradicts the canonical Gospel accounts of the death and burial of Jesus and the earliest Christian traditions about Jesus. This claim is also inconsistent with all of the available information—historical and archaeological—about how Jews in the time of Jesus buried their dead, and specifically the evidence we have about poor, non-Judean families like that of Jesus. It is a sensationalistic claim without any scientific basis or support.”

David Mavorah, a curator of the Israel museum in Jerusalem, points out that the names on the ossuaries were extremely common. “We know that Joseph, Jesus and Mariamne were all among the most common names of the period. To start with all these names being together in a single tomb and leap from there to say this is the tomb of Jesus is a little far-fetched, to put it politely.” David Mavorah is an expert of Israeli Antiquity, and (presumably) not an expert of statistics. However, Dr. Andrey Feuerverger, the statistician cited by the makers of the documentary, has said that determination of the identity of those in the tomb was the purview of biblical historians, and not statisticians. For another interpretation of the statistics see the statistics section above.

Professor Amos Kloner, former Jerusalem district archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the first archaeologist to examine the tomb in 1980, told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the name Jesus had been found 71 times in burial caves at around that time.  Furthermore, he said that the inscription on the ossuary is not clear enough to ascertain, and although the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards it makes for profitable television. Quote: “The new evidence is not serious, and I do not accept that it is connected to the family of Jesus…. They just want to get money for it.”

Dr. Richard Bauckham, professor at the University of St Andrews, catalogued ossuary names from that region since 1980. He records that based on the catalogue, “Jesus” was the 6th most popular name of Jewish men, and “Mary/Mariamne” was the single most popular name of Jewish women at that time. Therefore, finding two ossuaries containing the names “Jesus” and “Mary/Mariamne” is not significant at all, and the chances of it being the ossuaries of Jesus and Mary Magdalene are “very small indeed.”

Concerning the inscription attributed to Jesus son of Joseph, Steve Caruso, a professional Aramaic translator using a computer to visualize different interpretations, claims that although it is possible to read it as “Yeshua” that “overall it is a very strong possibility that this inscription is not ‘Yeshua` bar Yehosef.'”

Name “Mary” and derivative of it may have been used by 25% of Jewish women at that time.

[edit] Publicity

Lawrence E. Stager, the Dorot professor of archaeology of Israel at Harvard, said the documentary was “exploiting the whole trend that caught on with The Da Vinci Code. One of the problems is there are so many biblically illiterate people around the world that they don’t know what is real judicious assessment and what is what some of us in the field call ‘fantastic archaeology.'”

William G. Dever said, “I’m not a Christian. I’m not a believer. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I just think it’s a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated.

Jodi Magness criticized the decision of the documentary makers to make their claims at a news conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific article. By going directly to the media, she said, the filmmakers “have set it up as if it’s a legitimate academic debate, when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in archeology of this period have flatly rejected this.”

Joe Zias, former curator of archeology at the Israeli Antiquities Authority, described it in an e-mail to The Washington Post as a “hyped-up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.” He also wrote an extended Viewers Guide to Understanding the Talpiot Tomb documentary, published on his web site.

François Bovon has also written to say that his comments were misused. In a letter to the Society of Biblical Literature, he wrote:

As I was interviewed for the Discovery Channel’s program The Lost Tomb of Jesus, I would like to express my opinion here.
First, I have now seen the program and am not convinced of its main thesis. When I was questioned by Simcha Jacobovici and his team the questions were directed toward the Acts of Philip and the role of Mariamne in this text. I was not informed of the whole program and the orientation of the script.
Second, having watched the film, in listening to it, I hear two voices, a kind of double discourse. On one hand there is the wish to open a scholarly discussion; on the other there is the wish to push a personal agenda. I must say that the reconstructions of Jesus’ marriage with Mary Magdalene and the birth of a child belong for me to science fiction.
Third, to be more credible, the program should deal with the very ancient tradition of the Holy Sepulcher, since the emperor Constantine in the fourth century C.E. built this monument on the spot at which the emperor Hadrian in the second century C.E. erected the forum of Aelia Capitolina and built on it a temple to Aphrodite at the place where Jesus’ tomb was venerated.
Fourth, I do not believe that Mariamne is the real name of Mary of Magdalene. Mariamne is, besides Maria or Mariam, a possible Greek equivalent, attested by Josephus, Origen, and the Acts of Philip, for the Semitic Myriam.
Fifth, the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is part of the apostolic team with Philip and Bartholomew; she teaches and baptizes. In the beginning, her faith is stronger than Philip’s faith. This portrayal of Mariamne fits very well with the portrayal of Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and Pistis Sophia. My interest is not historical, but on the level of literary traditions. I have suggested this identification in 1984 already in an article of New Testament Studies.
François Bovon, Harvard Divinity School

I am so dreadfully sick and tired of so-called Christians making claims that Obama is NOT a Christian.

How can anyone, with the exception of Senator Obama, know whether or not he is truly Christian? How can anyone be so absolutely sure?

On the Willkie’s Pride site to which I belong – a Yahoo group from my hometown of Elwood, Indiana – this is the constant chatter from all these supposed Christians who write on the site. This was one from today:

Barack Obama insists that he is a “devout Christian” of “deep faith,” and Big Media echoes his claim without question. Even some critics hesitate to challenge the validity of that claim.

The ruse that he is a Christian must be exposed for what it really is: Obama’s cloak to conceal that he is a Marxist from a Muslim background, for which he holds widespread support in the Islamic world. This series of three articles will analyze his exploitation of Christian rhetoric to serve the subterfuge.

Now, who in the hell is this woman – one who claims devout Christianity herself – to say whether or not Obama is a Christian, or not?

Is this a judgement?

If you asked this woman, I am sure it would not be a judgement. How do we draw the line between what is judgement and what is fact or what is speculation?

I have always found myself disgusted by Christians who raise themselves to superior positions, but it has only become worse with this current election. They do not realize they are doing Christianity such a hideous diservice.

As my son said the other day, “Why would I want to be called Christian? I consider my self to be a good person who does not try to pass judgement and am kind and accepting of others no matter who they are.”

Out of the mouths of babes!

 

My thoughts are included in RED

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — At least 900 Christian families have fled Mosul in the past week, terrified by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible death, officials said Saturday.

An official says Christians protests in Mosul last month ahead of elections may have led to the attacks.  The attacks may have been prompted by Christian demonstrations ahead of provincial elections, which are to be held by the end of January, the deputy governor of Nineveh province said.

Deputy Gov. Khasro Goran said 13 Christians have been slain in the past two weeks in Mosul, about 260 miles (420 kilometers) north of Baghdad. Fleeing Christians have sought refuge in monasteries and churches and with family members in other towns, an Interior Ministry official said.

The attacks began after hundreds of Christians took to the streets in Mosul and surrounding villages and towns, seeking greater representation on provincial councils, whose members will be chosen in the local elections. But isn’t this a predominately Islamic country in which they are residing?

Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula, Nineveh’s governor, told The Associated Press that the exodus was “a major displacement.”

“Of course, al Qaeda elements are behind this campaign against Christians,” Kashmoula told AP. Does he have verification of this, or is he merely speculating?

A week ago, leaflets were distributed in several predominantly Christian neighborhoods, threatening families to “either convert to Islam or pay the jizyah or leave the city or face death,” said the Interior Ministry official.

Historically, jizyah is a tax paid by non-Muslims in exchange for protection. Well, if this is one of the rules, play by the rules. But our own country has not commited itself to making illegal aliens follow our own rules.

Goran said that a few days after the leaflets were passed out, gunmen set up checkpoints in parts of Mosul, stopping vehicles to inspect identification papers, searching for Christian names or other signs of religious affiliation. Many of the Christians killed were targeted in this way, he said. They were warned.

Bashir Azoz, 45, told AP he fled his Mosul home after gunmen warned a neighbor to leave or be killed.

“Where is the government and its security forces as these crimes take place every day?” asked Azoz, a carpenter who is staying with his wife and three children in a town about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Mosul, according to AP.

The Rev. Bolis Jacob, of Mosul’s Mar Afram Church, told AP he couldn’t understand the attacks.

“We respect the Islamic religion and the Muslim clerics,” he said. “We don’t know under what religion’s pretexts these terrorists work.” So far in this article it has not been clearly defined who is targeting the Christians. How do they know they are terrorists?

Goran said police have set up security checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods.

In response to the violence, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader al-Obaidi visited Mosul on Saturday morning, conducting meetings with local authorities and military commanders.

His spokesman, Mohammed al-Askari, said that in addition to ordering more checkpoints in Christian neighborhoods, al-Obaidi ordered more troops deployed, additional security patrols and an increase in aerial surveillance of Christian areas.

Al-Obaidi also ordered more guards for Christian clerics, al-Askari said.

The other day, my son, Jose, and I were chatting and he asked, “How can we be over in Iraq killing people when the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not kill?'”

Good question.

But Christianity seems to take exception to this commandment, and has done so all throughout its history. There has always been great chatter about Christian persecution, but a strong wall of defense quickly rises when Christians are accused of persecution – which they seem to do so with regularity. The mantra seems to be strong, “If you don’t think like us, believe as we do, we shall make your life miserable.”

On one of the hometown websites to which I subscribe, the Christian Republicans think nothing of persecuting the Democrats running for office, or even those who vote Democrat on the site. I am amazed at their two-faced postings, and their superior attitude.

Today, one of the spewings revolved around abortion. One poster quoted Psalm 139: 16 with: “Your eyes saw even the embryo of me and in your book all parts of it were down in writing, as regards the days when they were formed.”

I checked in the KING JAMES BIBLE and found: (starting with verse 15) “My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in they book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

The NEW AMERICAN BIBLE offers this translation: My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.

I have looked through a number

When Jose and I stopped attending one church – not because of anything with the church, its pastor, or the people – it was because we were both struck with a strong sense of questioning, basically from condemnation of the church on any one who does not believe as they do. We did not experience such things at this church; our concerns questioned which was most important: 1) Do we develop a strong spiritual life, following the credo of love thy God, and love one another, or 2) do we subscribe to a church body that does not practice basic concepts of its own teachings?

The ironic item was that I remained in email contact with a number of folks from the church, but one member, who had adored Jose and myself, asked me to stop sending her email because we were no longer one of them.

One of them…

What does that mean?

Is Christianity a club or fraternity to which one must follow the individual church’s dictates or a truly spiritual body that follows God’s ideals?

Christ reportedly said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

In modern translations it reads, “Go forth and make disciples of all nations…”

Teach vs. Make.

To teach is to offer ideas. To make is to force.

There are several things to be noticed: (1) Go, implies an aggressive warfare. The Gospel army must move upon the nations. The Lord seeks universal empire, and sends forth his armies to conquer the world. Every church and every disciple must understand that they have marching orders. (2) Not only is every saint commanded to go, or to take steps to make the gospel go, but the object is stated. They are to make disciples, or pupils, and scholars of Christ; not great philosophers, but babes in Christ Jesus. (3) Who are to be made disciples is next indicated. Not the Jews only, but all nations. Christ came to be the Savior of the world. His is a universal religion. In the Great Commission he looks beyond Judea, and commands that the Gospel shall be offered to all nations. To teach implies Christ was instructing his own Disciples to share information.

On several of my hometown websites, the Christian Republicans spew all sorts of hatred towards Obama – not just political rhetoric, but absolutely mean things, and call him names – a terrorist, Hitler, etc.. However, when anyone dares to criticize President Bush, or bring up anything against Senator John McCain they burst with even more cruel things.

There was one lady who grew up in the hometown, and whenever she would post anything she was vehemently attacked. Eventually she left the group, but just the other day one lady named, Fran, who spouts her Christian values for all to read, went on this incredible attack against the lady who has been gone from the group for a month.

I truly struggle with these particular Christians who believe they are exempt. To me, these people are the true Hitlers of the world today. They proclaim God’s word and demand the world bow to their beliefs – and yet, there is a knife of cruelty hidden behind their cloak expressing love to all.

It is sad to see people from my hometown – people I use to respect, behaving in such a disgusting manner. The poor community has become an economic disaster through the years, and thus, the class and mentality has diminished greatly… and sadly, it shows in the posts of these individuals who were educators, politicians, and other highly respected career folk.

So, the killing…

The abortion issue is hot. Personally, I have no direct stand on the issue, but I guess I am pro-Choice as I do believe it is a woman’s right to choose – not a church’s decision, nor a politician’s decision.

Capital punishment is another hot topic button – especially when one on death row is up for execution. I never really had an opinion on this topic until I met a wonderful family at church who experienced a traumatic double murder in their family, conducted by their younger brother. In the end, they rose to the occasion as their parents had obviously raised them, forgiving and loving the younger brother who was executed.

But how is it the Christian Church can support the Fifth Commandment – thou shalt not kill – and support invading other nations?

Amazing that once the Ten Commandments were shared with the people of Israel, they continued going to war, killing. In Sunday School we celebrated young David slewing the giant, Goliath!

Why?

This violated the Fifth Commandment. That commandment specifically said, “Thou shalt not kill.” It did not offer an addendum of, “unless it is someone who you feel justified in killing.”

In Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq (1991), and the current invasion of Iraq – we were not attacked. Our imperialistic leaders decided we should go in an kill not only “enemy soldiers” but blameless citizens, as well.

In the book ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, there is the mantra offered by Deep Throat, “Follow the money.”

So, how do we teach our children that it is wrong to kill when we, a nation supposedly created upon Christian principles, continue to invade other countries, killing their people?

And the article in this post expresses concerns over Christians living in an Islamic nation we have invaded…

I cannot wrap my mind around this.

Peggy Barbour Straughen (born Margaret Ann Barbour), 70, of Washington Township passed away unexpectedly at Miami Valley Hospital on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Born in Chambersburg, PA on August 21, 1937, Peggy entered nursing school in Harrisburg where she met her husband, Bill (William Joseph) Straughen. Married in 1958, they had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary withtheir children and grandchildren. Peggy was active in many ways at Normandy United Methodist Church, where she was a member for 40 years. Over her life, she sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and was a lay leader. She had a deep and abiding faith. Peggy was very active right up until her death; quilting, genealogy and playing bridge were her favorite interests. Peggy loved her swim lunch bunch and enjoyed their company often. She enjoyed traveling to see family and friends, from a high-school friend in California to family in Pennsylvania and Florida.

 

Darin’s tribute….

This morning, many dear friends of mine, and parishioners of Normandy United Methodist Church bid farewell to an extraordinary lady, Peggy Straughen. I don’t believe I could say that Peggy was larger than life because she WAS life! She personified how I wish I could live my own life.

The service was absolutely beautiful. In the narthex were photographs of Peggy and her family, a slide show played on the large screen in the sanctuary, and the altar was adorned with quilts made by Peggy’s own hands.

The ministers, David & Elizabeth Brown, are still fairly new, and they are both remarkable, invigorating speakers. Despite the fact I have now witnessed them presiding over two funerals, I marvel at their spirit, their passion for their ministry at Normandy, and their love and devotion to this congregation. They are indeed, a true blessing for this congregation.

The music was beautiful, and the personal tributes delightful, insightful, and moving.

So… how do I say a few words about Peggy? Woa! Say a few words? Trying to say a few words about Peggy would be like trying to fill a bath tub with the ocean.

I sat in the Normandy sanctuary this morning, just like every one else sitting in the packed church…

shocked….

saddened…

and with a feeling there is now a hideous void in our world as we have known it.

While I describe this brilliant lady, it would be appropriate that my writing should take on a quality of haunting strings from something like Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO FOR STRINGS.

But come on… this is for Peggy…

She was not a symphony dripping with melancholy… Peggy’s life was more like a big marching band! Peggy emulated the liveliness, strength, excitement, bounce, thrill, passion, and drive of a John Phillip Sousa march!

For those who knew Peggy, answer the following statements with True or False…

  • Peggy had a big heart.
  • Peggy loved her family dearly and fiercely.
  • Peggy had a big, hearty laugh.
  • You always knew where you stood with Peggy.
  • When you asked Peggy, “How are you doing?” More often than not, she told you what neat things her children and grandchildren were doing.
  • Peggy had a hug that was the grip of a grisly.
  • Peggy loved all her friends.
  • Peggy loved her God, loved Normandy church and its people.

Do you notice all these statements were TRUE?

Well, so was Peggy.

It was 12 years ago I met Peggy when I first arrived at Normandy as the director of music. Following my first rehearsal, Peggy charged right up to me, passing the other choir members who were coming forward to welcome me.

Peggy wanted to let me know that she was the choir’s librarian and if I needed anything, please let her know. While I greeted other choir members, Peggy waited patiently, chatting, laughing, smiling… now, keep in mind – Peggy never did anything with half-hearted effort. Her laughter was big… her smiles were huge (but oh, so warm and inviting)… the sparkle in her eyes was tremendous…

Once the last choir member had left, Peggy walked me to the music office, and began my tutorial of how “her” music library worked. When Peggy was instructing, she was never demeaning, or bossy. As someone said this morning, Peggy had high expectations of her self, and encouraged others to be accountable for their own expectations. Although Peggy’s comments to me could have appeared critical, she was simply treating me like one of her own children – she wanted me to be the best I could, and should be.

Peggy gave me my marching orders for the music library, and I commented that once summer began I would take the time to go through the files – there was a ton of music to explore.

The following week I arrived for choir rehearsal and Peggy was waiting for me. She walked me to the music office and with words that were both business like, but with an air of girlish excitement, she pointed to two large storage tubs on my desk.

Peggy took the time to pull one copy of choir music from each file folder. Each copy was placed in the tub, in order of the file cabinets, and each drawer was labeled in the tubs so that I would know exactly where to search for the folders of music!

This was brilliant, and I hugged Peggy, thanking her for all her work.

Peggy told me, “There’s no sense in you wasting your time going through the drawers. You can take these tubs home and go through them at your leisure. Besides, we’ve run off a lot of choir directors and I can tell you’re a keeper.”

And with that, Peggy was out the door, greeting other choir members.

Later that fall, on a late stormy night, I was working in the music office. I heard the front door of the Grant House open, and slam shut. The footsteps came directly to my office. There stood Peggy, rain water dripping off her rain coat, her glasses speckled with water droplets, and her hair damp.

I saw your car in the circle and the light on.  Are you OK?”

I assured Peggy I was fine and that I was just finishing up some work.

Peggy quickly assessed the project at hand, and before I knew it, her coat was draped over the chair and without invitation, she was working along side me – chatting and laughing. But before leaving for home, she gave me a hug and said, “This was fun. Thank you for letting me join you.”

When I was preparing to travel with my brother and his students to Washington, DC, I was telling the choir at rehearsal that the year before our buses drove through this beautiful Pennsylvanian town enroute to Gettysburg just as the sun was rising over the hills.

Peggy leaned forward, grinning, and asked, “Do you remember the name of that town?”

“Yes,” I said. “Chambersburg.”

The rest of the choir must have already known what Peggy squealed out with pride, and excitement. “I’m from Chambersburg!”

After rehearsal, Peggy told me about the town, and I believe her mother was still living at that time. I know she loved visiting her beloved home town.

When I returned from the trip, I handed Peggy three or four photos I had taken of Chambersburg as we were passing through. Peggy was so touched that I would not only remember, but take photos for her.

This morning, my successor as music director told the gathered loved ones how Peggy never held back on “making corrections” in rehearsals. In one rehearsal, Peggy corrected me on something – politely, but with her, “Let’s get this correct” gaze.

When we agreed on the item, Ron Thie, one of the most hilarious, lovable men I have ever known, asked Peggy, “Is there anything you need to fix with the basses, Peggy?”

The room became silent, not knowing how Peggy would react. I think I was even standing a little taller. Peggy turned in her chair, looked directly at Ron and said, “Well, since you asked…”

Peggy led the choir in explosive laughter!

Another time I forgot to cue the altos on a cut-off. This cut-off had been one of my instructions, and we had even rehearsed it. Well, during this one rehearsal, I forgot that cut-off. When I stopped the choir for notes, Peggy’s hand shot into the air.

“Are you going to cue that cut-off or not? There’s no sense in us all looking up at that point if you aren’t going to give us that cut-off.”

Be assured, that cut-off was not forgotten!

One day, I decided to spruce up my office, and discovered an artificial floral arrangement across the hallway in a closet. I set it on the file cabinets in my office. Peggy saw it just before the choir’s next rehearsal, and asked, “Did you get permission to use that arrangement?”

I look dumbfounded.

Just be sure you check with someone before you use things. People here at Normandy are kind of funny about their areas in the church.”

I asked Peggy, “Who should I ask?”

She smiled, laughed, and said, “Me, of course.”

One parishioner this morning said she and Peggy would have contests on who knew their hymns. The lady said, “As I proudly started to sing the first verse to prove I knew a hymn, Peggy would start singing the second verse.”

One of my first Sundays at Normandy, I was seated on the angle of the first row, and I noticed Peggy kept looking at me during the hymns. After service she strolled up to me and said, “I am proud of you. You didn’t crack open your hymnal for any of the hymns.”

Truth be known, I often get the first verse of a hymn, but move my mouth throughout the remainder of the hymn.

Peggy gave hugs that could weaken a quarterback. I once joked that after my first Peggy-hug, I had to go to the ER with four cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and smashed vertebrae. Peggy never squeezed the life out of you, she squeezed her love into you.

 

 

So here I am on a Saturday night, writing about a woman that obviously touched my life in a big way… in a great, and loving way.

I hope that each of us will continue to use many of Peggy’s wonderful attributes as a guide for our own lives.

Just like Peggy…

…keep working hard and with tremendous devotion and a big passion.

….keep serving others with deep love and a big passion.

…keep loving others with sincerity and a big passion.

….and when you see someone who needs a hug, give them a Peggy Straughen hug and let them know you truly love them.

God bless you, Peggy, and thank you for touching my life… for hugging my life in a big way!

 

Joel OsteenKarl Taro Greenfeld of Portfolio.com examines the money-making machine that is Houston’s Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church 

Last year, Lakewood generated $76 million in revenue, which amounts to just over $1,600 for every member of its congregation. Its take includes $44 million donated directly by congregants, who are asked to give 10 percent of their gross income; $10 million in product sales and sermon tapes; and $13 million brought in through direct-mail solicitations, up from about $6 million two years ago. The church’s greatest expense is the TV airtime it buys: $22 million last year to broadcast the show in more than 100 markets, a 10 percent annual increase in spending that is easy to justify. “Cutting back on airtime would be like saying we won’t be sending any trucks to deliver our product,” [Osteen brother-in-law Kevin] Comes says [Comes is Lakewood’s chief operating officer]. An additional $13 million goes to administrative costs and salaries, and $9 million a year is spent on facilities and maintenance. [.  .  .]

Being backstage at a Joel Osteen worship event is remarkably similar to being at an N.B.A. game or a rock concert. Beefy security guards tell you where you can and can’t go. Crew members chow down on a buffet laid out by a local caterer and bark into walkie-talkies between bites. At some point, black Town Cars head down the long, curving driveway into the belly of the arena and drop off the pastors and performers, who retreat into private suites.

The night is a celebration of music, state-of-the-art visual effects, and, of course, Christ. Lakewood spends a great deal of money attracting top gospel and Christian talent, and music minister Cindy Cruse-Ratcliff leads a team of Grammy Award winners, including gospel singer Israel Houghton. It’s a thumping occasion, with people dancing in the aisles and even the security guards singing along to “Come Just as You Are” and “We Have Overcome.” Osteen’s entire family is in the act. His mother, wife, and children often play parts in the service.

But it’s Osteen himself we have come to see. He wins the crowd over with wholesome jokes and inspires with his sweet-voiced message. The sermon today is based on the notion of “hitting the DELETE button when you have those negative thoughts.” He urges us to banish that voice telling us, “I’ll never get that great job. I’ll never meet that special someone. I’ll never get married.” Hit the delete button, he urges, and reprogram your mind. “Just one inferior thought can keep you off balance and away from your God-given destiny.”

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) — Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose “last lecture” about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, died Friday. He was 47.

Pausch

Randy Pausch emphasized the joy of life in his “last lecture,” originally given in September 2007.

Pausch died at his home in Virginia, university spokeswoman Anne Watzman said. Pausch and his family moved there last fall to be closer to his wife’s relatives.

Pausch was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September 2006. His popular last lecture at Carnegie Mellon in September 2007 garnered international attention and was viewed by millions on the Internet.

In it, Pausch celebrated living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death.

“The lecture was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful,” Pausch wrote on his Web site. “But rest assured; I’m hardly unique.”

The book “The Last Lecture,” written with Jeffrey Zaslow, leaped to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists after its publication in April and remains there this week. Pausch said he dictated the book to Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal writer, by cell phone. The book deal was reported to be worth more than $6 million.

At Carnegie Mellon, he was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, and was recognized as a pioneer of virtual reality research. On campus, he became known for his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor.

The speech last fall was part of a series Carnegie Mellon called “The Last Lecture,” where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk. The name of the lecture series was changed to “Journeys” before Pausch spoke, something he joked about in his lecture.

“I thought, damn, I finally nailed the venue and they renamed it,” he said.

He told the packed auditorium he fulfilled almost all his childhood dreams — being in zero gravity, writing an article in the World Book Encyclopedia and working with the Walt Disney Co.

The one that eluded him? Playing in the National Football League.

“If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you,” Pausch said.

He then joked about his quirky hobby of winning stuffed animals at amusement parks — another of his childhood dreams — and how his mother introduced him to people to keep him humble: “This is my son, he’s a doctor, but not the kind that helps people.”

Pausch said he was embarrassed and flattered by the popularity of his message. Millions viewed the complete or abridged version of the lecture, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” online.

Pausch lobbied Congress for more federal funding for pancreatic cancer research and appeared on “Oprah” and other TV shows. In what he called “a truly magical experience,” he was even invited to appear as an extra in the new “Star Trek” movie.

He had one line of dialogue, got to keep his costume and donated his $217.06 paycheck to charity.

Pausch blogged regularly about his medical treatment. On Feb. 15, exactly six months after he was told he had three to six months of healthy living left, Pausch posted a photo of himself to show he was “still alive & healthy.”

“I rode my bike today; the cumulative effects of the chemotherapy are hurting my stamina some, but I bet I can still run a quarter mile faster than most Americans,” he wrote.

Pausch gave one more lecture after his Carnegie Mellon appearance — in November at the University of Virginia, where he had taught from 1988 to 1997.

Pausch often emphasized the need to have fun.

“I mean I don’t know how to not have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there’s no other way to play it,” he said in his Carnegie Mellon lecture. “You just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I’m clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us.”

Born in 1960, Pausch received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

He co-founded Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, a master’s program for bringing artists and engineers together. The university named a footbridge in his honor. He also created an animation-based teaching program for high school and college students to have fun while learning computer programming.

In February, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences in California announced the creation of the Dr. Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund for university students who pursue careers in game design, development and production.

He and his wife, Jai, had three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe.


Living A Day In Grace

Grace is always with us. It flows like a river through our lives, artfully reminding us that there is magic and power beyond what our eyes can see. At times we catch its subtle beauty, like during chance meetings, near misses, and insights that seem to come from nowhere. Other times we experience grace in all its powerful surety such as when a job or relationship comes to an end. Though we may forget that this is grace at work too, it is indeed influencing our lives, helping us to move forward and take the next step. Grace exists in all situations, in every moment, yet all too often we may overlook its presence.

Imagine how it would feel to live an entire day in grace, to fully appreciate that your day is unfolding in absolute perfection. Whereas usually you might miss the magic in ordinary events and interactions, on this day you would recognize them all as little miracles. Perhaps you could begin with your first deep breaths in the morning, becoming aware that there is an abundant supply of air for you to breathe. Your lungs know just how to carry oxygen to your blood, and your blood knows where to carry it from there. This is grace at work. You might appreciate the brilliant sunshine, the warm summertime rain, or the possibilities for learning that greet you at every turn. You might notice the ease with which you do your job or laugh with a close friend. These things are also grace. Even laying your head down at the end of this day and resting in the stillness of night is grace.

With each opportunity you give yourself to enjoy this current of benevolence, you may discover a deeper peace. Your faith may strengthen and your heart may open. You might begin to wonder if struggle is really all that necessary after all. By living this one day in grace, you might open the door to many more.

 


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — A Las Vegas man who devised a calendar that features shirtless Mormon missionaries is facing a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication because of the project.

The "Men on a Mission" calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries.

The “Men on a Mission” calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries.

A lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Chad Hardy was summoned by letter to a Sunday meeting with a council of elders to discuss his “conduct unbecoming a member of the church.”

A copy of the letter from Frank E. Davie, the senior leader over a group of Mormon congregations in the Las Vegas area, was provided to The Associated Press. It was sent early this week, days before the 2009 version of the “Men on a Mission” calendar went to press, Hardy said in a telephone interview.

A takeoff on calendars of firefighters and returned U.S. servicemen, Hardy’s project debuted with a 2008 calendar featuring 12 returned church missionaries in mostly modest poses, minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges. It has sold nearly 10,000 copies.

“You see more in a JCPenney catalog,” said Hardy, 31, who once worked for Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and now has his own entertainment company. “I just feel like my right to free speech is being violated.”

The calendar was designed to shake up Mormon stereotypes, Hardy said. The pages include photos of the men dressed in standard missionary garb. In biographical sketches each missionary talks about his beliefs.

“It’s not tearing anybody down,” Hardy said. “I wondered what would happen if we took that perfect Disneyland image that the church spends millions of dollars cultivating each year and shook it up a little bit.”

Davie on Friday confirmed sending the letter and the plans for the meeting. He said the calendar was the primary concern.

“I prefer not to say anything else about it,” he said. “There is more involved, and he and I will have our meeting.”

The outcome of a council meeting could include excommunication, probation “or exoneration,” Davie said.

A returned missionary himself, Hardy acknowledged he has not been an active member of the church since 2002. He said he’s never been contacted by anyone from the church encouraging his return to the fold and he suspects the current inquiry was driven by the church’s Salt Lake City headquarters.

“I’m still a good Mormon boy in many ways,” said Hardy, who says he bears no animosity toward Latter-day Saints, but never felt he fit in. “I still want to hold onto my heritage.”

Blog entries on the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook show a range of reactions to Hardy’s work. Some find it offensive and say it degrades the church by displaying missionaries as sex symbols, and that it contradicts church teachings about modest dress for all members.

Others praise the effort for rattling perceptions that Mormons are “stuffy.” Some who identified themselves as younger Mormons said the calendar might make it easier for their non-Mormon friends to consider exploring the faith.

“It has created an interfaith dialogue,” Hardy said. “People of all faiths have logged on and shared what they believe. They’re talking about what’s really important, not how bad it is that you took your shirt off.”

Some of the missionaries in the calendar, many of whom were recruited by Hardy’s friends at church events, have been asked by their church leaders about the project, but none has faced disciplinary action, Hardy said.

“The biggest concern was, whether this was an attack on the church, and when they determined it wasn’t, it was no big deal,” said model Jonathan Martin, a 25-year-old Utah Valley University student who was contacted by a church elder in May. “When you don something outside of the norm, it doesn’t matter what group of people you’re in, it’s going to unsettle them.”

Martin said he was told the inquiry was being made after a letter was sent to his church leader by higher-ups in Salt Lake City.

The Mormon church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person’s behavior or actions are openly incompatible with the faith’s teachings and could damage the church.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah declined to comment on Hardy’s specific situation, but said that “any church discipline is the result of actions not beliefs.” Decisions are made at the local level and are based on individual circumstances and merits, she said.

“Because the fundamental purpose of church discipline has always been to help members, rather than simply punish, disciplinary councils are considered a necessary step in repentance on the way back to full harmony and fellowship in the church,” she said.

Members have been excommunicated for reasons including criminal activity and scholarly works of history or theology that contradicted church claims.

An excommunicated person would be removed from official church rolls, although he or she would still be welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can’t perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.

The 2009 calendar — which drew 100 inquiries from interested missionaries — will be released in September.

A few weeks ago, I posted a video of one of my favorite show choir performances. It was North Central High School (Indianapolis) show choir’s “Like A Prayer.” I am not a Madonna fan, but I love the exciting rhythm and melody of that particular song. When I first saw this show choir perform this number, costumed in monk’s robes with fantastic choreography by a Ball State University Singers’ friend, Brent Holland, I was thrilled. I found it to be very creative, energetic, and fun.

So, I posted the video on here.

A day or so later I received a comment from a lady whom I do not even know. She blasted the video out of the water – it was sacrilegious. Had the message come from a family member or friend, I may have let it slide, but since this was an unknown, uninvited individual, in my typical, sharp tongued response, I responded. The following day she wrote, “I hope you burn in hell.”

Well, I guess she will only know her wish has come true once she checks me off the list when I arrive.

Last week, while walking through Chicago, we were waiting on a corner stop light to change, and a car cut in front of another car, upsetting the driver who was cut off. The woman who was cut off began screaming obscenities out her window, flipping off the offender, and as she pulled away on the back of her car was the metallic “fish symbol” and a bumper sticker that read, “God is my co-pilot.” There was also another bumper sticker with the name and address of what I am assuming was where she attended church. In the back seat, were three children, one in an infant seat.

So where does one begin to comment on such an observation?

Well, my first thought was, “If God is your co-pilot, was he crawling under the dash from embarrassment?” After all, she had strung together a line of profanity that would have made the nastiest sailor blush.

Oh, and why is it only people can “cuss like a sailor”? I have known several air force friends here in Dayton who cuss, but we never say, “he cusses like an air force captain!” Or if you ever knew my neighbor in Elwood (Nick), who, with a pipe clenched between his teeth could mutter a string to make George Carlin (RIP) proud…

Last Tuesday, my good friend, Christi, and I were chatting after her children’s lessons. I met Christi and her family when I was director of music at Normandy United Methodist Church in 1996. Christi was not in the music program itself, but I directed her husband and children in several shows.

Christi is not at all about making physical impressions, but you can believe she will make an inspiring impression.

Christi would never go on to someone’s blog and write rude, distasteful comments concerning something with which she disagreed. In fact, she would find something positive to say.

I have many friends of many religious faiths – Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Latter Day Saints, Christian Science, and Baha’i. I have several wonderful friends who belong to no religious order, yet they possess all the wonderful qualities of those who do practice organized religion.

Tuesday evening, we were discussing how some individuals claim Christianity, but yet, are some of the most cruel hearted, and vicious people out there. Christi said, rather matter of fact, but with a degree of true sadness, “Sometimes, Christians can be some of the meanest people…”

I have seen this over and over.

I once was director of music at a church where the pastoral staff was involved in inappropriate behaviors of all natures – sexual affairs, lying, manipulative, shifting of funds, and other pathetic behaviors that were far from Christ-like behaviors – or appropriate behaviors in general. Yet, church councils, and a majority of the parishioners simply turned their heads to the inappropriate behaviors.

I can remember growing up in church and observing people during church. Since our family frequently joined other church families for various gatherings, I also observed an entirely different side – one that was disturbing.

At age 12, I chose not to join the Methodist church through confirmation. One Sunday morning, we arrived at church later than usual, and the congregation was in an uproar. The evening before, Carol Burnette and Company had an episode with “Eunice & Mamma” and our congregation believed Ms. Burnette’s program was making fun of religion. We had watched it, and I remember my grandmother stating she saw nothing wrong with the episode. The gentleman in front of us said that his family would never watch the Carol Burnette Show ever again. I turned and asked if we could still watch the program, and the gentleman turned and commanded, “You better not!”

Hmmm…

I sat there, stewing. I was furious that someone else told me I could not do something. Mother, and my grandparents – who were a also a tremendous influence in my life – not only provided, but encouraged me to adopt a strong sense of studying my options, or choices. Never would they have said, “You cannot watch Carol Burnette!” Never did they say, “You should not listen to your 8-Track tape of Jesus Christ, Superstar or Godspell.” And when I played the roles of Jesus and Joseph, I don’t believe anyone was offended, and in some ways, those productions could be considered blasphemous.

When it came time to go to confirmation that night, my grandfather, who could have gotten very sour over my decision to not continue with confirmation, asked why. I explained my reasons. Rather than getting all pissy, as he could so easily do, he smiled and said, “I understand completely. I only ask this – if you never ever decide to join a church as a member, or even attend church, I do hope you will always walk with God.”

And 32 years later, I am still walking with God. I cannot buy into any particular doctrine, especially when certain religions believe their way is the only way. In college, I heard campus ministers claim, over and over, that if you did not believe in Christ you would burn in hell. I never heard any of my Buddhist, or Jewish friends say, “If you don’t believe in our God, you will be consumed by the flames of hell.”

About two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon on Lincoln since that particular Sunday fell on President Lincoln’s birthday. The whole point was, “Was Lincoln a Christian?” In all the evidence on Lincoln, it is generally believed he did not buy into any particular religion, and stated that he would join the church with the words carved over the altar, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, heart, soul and strength.” My final conclusion was that Lincoln “may not have been a technical Christian,” as indicated by his wife, but rather, “Lincoln was most certainly Christ-like.” (And I am still grateful to my friend, Jeff Carter for guiding me to that conclusion!)

Disciple means “to teach.” A derivative is “discipline.” We discuss this in the pre-adoptive training classes when I teach the discipline unit. When I think of Christ, I think of this tremendous human being who brought light into the dark lives of many. Where the Old Testament seemed to promote so many “don’t’s” – Christ was all about the “do’s” in life – do love one another, do love God, do help one another, do help those less fortunate…”  If there were any “dont’s” in his message it was “don’t discriminate.”

Christi punched this particular item around last Tuesday. Christ did not discriminate. The fellow loved everyone. He dined with those who were ostracized by political or religious establishments, he touched those others abandoned, and there did not seem to be any one not worthy of receiving his love and attention. Christ was not mean. Even when persecuted, he was still loving and forgiving.

We attended one church, and although I do not buy into the doctrine, I do love the familiar hymns, the sense of community, and the values that help support what I teach my own sons. My youngest son is at the age where some teenagers question – which is fine. In our house, if you question something, you must seek answers, or research your question. You must support your reasons for questioning. However, we both agreed that we wanted to take a sabbatical from organized religion. He belongs to a wonderful youth group that is all about spirituality, not doctrine, and he is expressly interested in this component – as am I.

Our decision happened to fall when we were incredibly busy with percussion ensemble season, show choir contests, and my own illness. For a while, people from church would send emails stating they missed us. Then the emails changed to “where are you?” There are a few who will send messages, or jokes, but for the most part, we have been written off. One person, with whom I continued to send jokes, responded a few weeks ago with “since you cannot come to church please don’t send me any future emails.”

Hmmm….

I did not entertain that email as “mean,” but it did open up some other avenues for thought. It seemed to touch upon a sense of possessiveness I had not really observed before, but now looking back, all the churches with which I have been involved have had an air of possessiveness. The goal seems to be on building membership, tithing and apportionment’s for the denominational hierarchy, and claiming lost sheep in the name of Christ. When my childhood church was irked over Carol Burnette, there was even a possessive mind set of controlling what we watched on television. When in college, I received a letter from my home church stating I should sign a petition and avoid seeing The Last Temptation of Christ. When I did not respond, I received a telephone call in my dorm room – from the same person who told me I was not to watch Carol Burnette! For those who know me well, imagine my reaction!

I saw The Last Temptation of Christ. What is more, I saw it with the pastor of the Lutheran Church where I was director of music! He and I both agreed it was art, and that should a person be shaken in their faith from seeing the movie, their faith may not have been on the right track.

Later when I saw the gentleman from church, I told him of my experience watching the movie I was to boycott… he shook his head and walked away. Nearly twenty years later, he was still avoiding me at my grandfather’s funeral.

I had one Christian friend who admonished me because I allow my son to watch Family Guy!

Hell, I watch it, too. This same friend loves The Simpsons – though milder than Family Guy, it still contains some eye openers. I assured my friend that before I watched Family Guy, I never missed a program with Jimmy Swaggart… she had nothing else to say.  Of course, this same person indicated I could not be a good Christian because I supported Hilary Clinton for the Democratic candidate for president.

I don’t consider this particular person “mean,” just misguided by her religious instruction – but not her faith.

I also had a friend shame me because I like Rosie O’Donnell. I was coached that I should not like her because she is Lesbian, and because she is so outspoken.

Lesbian? Wasn’t Danny Thomas one? [insert chuckle, here].

And outspoken?

A lot of people are… Rev. Jesse Jackson is outspoken – and wasn’t he a bit un-Christian this week with his comments about Obama??? Isn’t JJ a Christian? Rev. Al Sharpton is outspoken. But this friend could not believe I supported Rosie!

Well, Rosie adopts kids, I adopt kids. Rosie is big with adoption, I am big with adoption. Rosie does a lot of great things that do not receive press recognition. Good for her! Now, this friend who does not like Rosie is always certain her works for the hungry/homeless, her contributions at church, her contributions at her children’s school always receives recognition. In programs for Victoria, Schuster Center, or other area arts related products, her name is always listed as a contributer. Rosie receives recognition, too, but there are a number of things she does that go unnoticed.

Bravo!

Besides… who I prefer as politicians, or celebrities is still my choice, and well, my business.

What I shared with Christi the other evening was my growing concern for this “shoot to kill” attitude with some Christians. If a person is not Christian, they are often considered “evil.” In this current election, religion played way too much a part of the concerns. I truly do not care the denomination to which a politician belongs. Throughout our history, we have had a variety of denominations living in the White House, or serving in other arenas in our government. And I am sure we have had leaders claiming a denomination without even practicing.

In 1960, my great-grandfather changed his political affiliation because the Democratic party nominated a Catholic! Was my great-grandfather mean? Hell no! Virgil Barmes was one of the most loving, adorable people in the world. During the Depression, he worked for a granary that was owned by a Catholic, and the owner was firing non-Catholics to hire fellow Catholics.

For me, what is important is that the individual has some sort of spiritual base, or center. Many are hopping on the band wagon regarding Obama’s current or past religious affiliations. If it was true that he did not use a Christian Bible while being sworn in, why does it matter? When a person is being sworn in to political office, they are taking an oath to uphold our constitution – federal, state, county, community.

Besides, how many politicians have placed their hand on The Bible, and turned out to be some of the biggest liars and crooks in public office?

There was one Republican candidate I really liked – Mit Romney, I believe – who was a member of The Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I cannot begin to tell you how many friends commented on his religious affiliation. When I asked about his politics, very few could tell me any more about him. They were so focused on the fact that he was Mormon! I found this more disturbing than sad.

Christi’s comment just seemed to hang with me these past few days, and I simply jotted down some of my thoughts, experiences and observations. I am sure my comments on this page will be crucified by some as blasphemous, condemning me to hell, etc.. That’s fine. But I bet I will be able to tell to which faith they belong!

I believe, even more, in my theory of “The God Wheel.” I always think of a bicycle wheel… God is the hub and God is directly connected to use via the spokes. However, we are connected to one another by the rim which also connects us all back to the God source! Before some swing a cross, I am not saying we are God, but I do believe – my personal belief – that we are all a part of God and God is a part of us – an interconnectedness!

God isn’t my co-pilot. God drives through me.

I am sure if the lady who was so alarmed by my video posting of the show choir reads this post, she will have a priest perform an exorcism!

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