Friday, July 5, 2019


A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles






One of the finest I've ever read ... like an eight-course dinner in a five-star restaurant, every course just right, wonderfully plated and served with elegance, wine with every serving, plenty of time to savor every offering, delicious, with a stunned shake of the head ... can anything be this good? And it is.

Character development is rich ... Towles use of words masterful ... a man in charge of the words, and not, like so much self-published stuff, the words in charge of the writer.

The reader, at least this one, is swept up into the sorrows and joys of it all ... and on nearly every page, a quotable quote, and at all the right times, like a palette-cleansing sorbet, laughter, sometimes slight, and sometimes a hearty guffaw.

A book to be studied, enjoyed, loved, and when done, set aside with thanksgiving, that in this often crazy and cruel world, there are some who will not give in, but will find a way to find the gifts of life and love ... and Towles, as a master of the art, to tell the tale of hope.





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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

I Am Against ...

I am against The Wall.
I am against Liars and Cheats.
I am against Maggot Hats.
I am against private white schools.
Even Catholic ones.
I am against private schools that
Bar LGBTQ teachers and make life
Miserable for LGBTQ students.
I am against bigotry and hate
Claiming "just being Christian."
Such is nothing less than a baldfaced lie.
A heresy of incommensurable evil.
As I oppose such things, dark and wicked.
Mindless and malevolent;
I stand up for:
LGBTQ rights, across the board.
A woman's right to choose, in all matters of health.
Transgender rights.
Voter Rights.
Free birth control.
Sex education.
Fully funded public education.
All across the board.
I am for freedom of thought and religion.
For Equal Opportunity.
Equal wages for women.
Universal Heath Care.
Higher taxes on the upper crust.
Taxes are nothing more than the ancient
Art of Alms-giving.
The redistribution of wealth.
To help the poor.
And save the souls of the rich.
I am for fresh air and clean water.
Clear skies and job training.
For safe food.
And unions.
For all the things that make life good.
For all of God's creatures.
Great and Small.
I do this from the heart of my being.
My faith in God.
And the work of Christ.
Who fed the hungry.
Confronted the pious.
Tweaked the noses of the proud.
Refused Pilate's mindless chatter.
Freely expressed his doubts and fears.
And in ways never to be understood.
Came through death to life.
And with the angels, rolled away the stone.
I believe these things because they speak of love.
Of hope and faith.
And that's why I oppose the shenanigans
Of the power-hungry.
And elements of the Christian Family who are
Flat-out wrong, or so I think, and so I believe.
It's not the first time that Christians are wrong.
Nor the last.
And perhaps I'm wrong, too.
And if I am, so be it.
I can only be here and how.
With what I have, and what I hope.
And the way I see it.
By the Spirit, by reading and prayer.
In the company of good friends.
I do my best.
To honor what is best in the human story.
God's story, too.
From Cradle to Cross.
From Genesis to Revelations.
From the Tree of Life to the healing of the nations.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Death Penalty Is an Abomination

The death penalty is an abomination. It fails on every count, other than the blood-lust revenge factor.
And, please, don't quote the Bible at me ... while I love the Bible, every cruelty can be found therein and justified. Bible quoters, at this point, and others, are notorious in their disregard for the large picture, and if they're Xns, more than eager to ignore Jesus as Jesus and reduce him to some kind of hyper-spirit saving-machine to get folks into glory, while more than happily leaving a whole of other folk in hell.
The death penalty degrades those who affirm it, those who manufacture the devices, the drugs; those who pull the switches, and those who witness it.
They are all, one and the same, killers, in spite of "state sanction," a despicable piece of casuistry used to defend the worst kinds of human behavior.
Hats off to Washington State for abolishing this stupidity. Of the people on death row, their sentences were immediately commuted to life.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Keeping the Job

I don't know what it's like to be a politician, always figuring on how to keep the job.

But I was a minister for 50 years, and "keeping the job" was often a part of it.

I learned that "keeping the job" could be a gift, a simple, if not a painful, reminder, of larger responsibilities, like my family, and folks who see things differently.

There were times when "keeping the job" graced my life; other times, it compelled me to compromise my values.

Hard, at the time, to figure it all out.

But given the scars on my back, I believe that a good many times, I took chances ... and paid the price. It can get ugly; real ugly.

A good politician will always try to keep the job, for the long haul, but a great politician will know when to take a chance, and even, if needed, lose the damn job.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When all else is said and done, America's refusal to help the Republic, while Hitler, Mussolini, and Texaco (yes, that's right), poured arms and oil into Franco's Nationalist effort, because the Republic was revolutionary and "red," with tremendous pressure on FDR exerted by the Roman Catholic Church, will remain in history as one of our greatest blunders. Like it or not, we "choose" fascism because we thought the Republic was red, and then, when Hitler moved into Poland, it was too late.

Hochschild has done a remarkable job of putting a human face on the Civil War, and the thousands of young men and women, from America and around the world, a number of whom were Communists, who understood the threat of fascism and decided to cast their lot with the Republic.

Those who made it home were forever tainted and held in suspicion, targets of the anti-red hysteria that gripped this nation, and still does - a most foolish, self-inflicted blindness.

Hochschild's writing is wonderfully clear, taking us to the war through the eyes of those who were there. Some of the best and the brightest put their lives on the line for the cause of freedom and hope - that Spain might well free itself from centuries of brutal feudal rule, and the cruelty of the Roman Catholic Church. But the western democracies, already afraid of revolution, and afraid of the Roman Church, refused to help.

If you want to know more about the Spanish Civil War, no better book than this.


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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Prayers from First Presbyterian Santa Monica

Prayer of Dedication before Offering
Our offering, O LORD, is given in thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving:
For the life we have in Christ.
And the world you’ve created for us.
For the love of family and friends.
For the joy of this place, wherein the stories of faith are celebrated, and we’re challenged to be more than we are, and reminded that what we are is glorious and good in your sight.

Be pleased, O LORD, to grant your blessing to these, our tithes and offerings … to be used for the honor and glory of Christ, the wellbeing of this church, and the welfare of our world. Through Christ our LORD we pray. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer

We bow our hearts, O LORD, before the glory of your love.

Mindful of your Word of Life, given to us in the pages of our Bible, in the stories of our time, in the lives of those who’ve trod the pathways of faith and service long before our advent … the saints and sinners who’ve loved you, and often put their lives on the line for the sake of Christ … 

With them, O God, and for them, we do no less … so we pray for the fullness of your Holy Spirit, and the transforming of our hearts and minds according to the word of Christ, that in our time, we would be brave to speak words of kindness to those who are bullied and shamed, that we would challenge those impressed with their own achievements of wealth and success, that we would speak truth to power, and in all ways, dear God, embody the humble gratitude befitting those who follow the Christ. 

We give thanks for the mighty and wondrous ways in which you have been at work, to sustain your creation against the predations of those who bear your very own image … forgive us, we pray, for the wrong we have done to your earth, to your air and water, and the suffering we’ve caused for all your creatures, great and small.

On this day, Eternal God, we run not from the sorrows of our world … we do not seek shelter from the storms … but in you, O God, we find our courage, our voice, our purpose, our character, flowing from your eternal vision for our world, given to us in our baptism, sustained for us in the bread and drink of the LORD’s Table, and the daily provisions of life you so generously grant. 

We pray, O God, for our nation and its wellbeing … and for all the nations of the world … giving thanks that every day, and everywhere, there are women and men who bravely hold high the torch of truth, lighting the way for peace and justice. 

Those who would mock such things O God, as weak and worthless, those who know only the power and might of money and armaments, those who use religion to feather their own nests, to mask their cruelty toward the poor and the weak, LORD have mercy. Deliver them from the idols they’ve created, and deliver us all from such influence and infidelity.

We pray for loved ones, heavenly Father, for friends and family … some of whom are in distress, in danger, assailed in storms of doubt, and bereft of hope … we pray, O God, for your gentle hand upon them, to see them through the days of trial, and to use us, as instruments of your peace.

And so we pray for ourselves, too, O LORD, … because sin weighs heavily upon us, that which we have done heedlessly and cravenly, and the good we’ve often forgotten to do … our physical ailments, and the burdens of our soul … our fears for tomorrow and too many sleepless nights … O LORD, be merciful, and lead us with your kindly light.

In the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, ever-present and always faithful, who taught us to pray, saying:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pathways of Hope

On a happier note:
My thanks to the strange geniuses
Who create our stories.

Novelists, of course.
Poets and artists.
Script writers and directors.

As long as we can tell stories,
We can imagine.
A world through which wind the pathways

Of hope.