Barbara and Jenna Bush to Sasha and Melia Obama

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The TODAY SHOW caught wind that the Bush daughters, Barbara and Jenna wrote an open letter to the Obama girls, Sasha and Melia, offering them some advice on their move into the White House.  The Bush twins were about the same age when their White House life began.  Today convinced the girls to read the letter – then they added a slide show.  It’s a powerful piece.  Every Dad needs to see this.  Enjoy!

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Thanks for the birthday greetings!

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It’s been a remarkable serendipity to have received so many kind words and best wishes on this yet another birthday.  (FACEBOOK got the word out!)  I must say that among my favorites was to hear three of our seven grandchildren (two more coming) sing their own rendition, one at a time, of the traditional “Happy Birthday” song.

The years pass more quickly now.  Each year brings its own surprise.  Twists and turns continue.  But our faithful God continues to lavish his grace and loving-kindess… with purpose, direction and friends.

Gran Torino

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I was thinking about the movie during my workout this morning. I identified five discussion points in the story…. Around the themes of family, work, friendship, love, home.

  1. Walt Kowalski’s family models the splintered American family: a veneer of cordiality, but contentious, distant, disconnected, annoyed. The Hmong family next door is a cultural contrast where children are welcomed and the elderly respected.
  2. Walt’s work ethic is reflected in his collection of well organized tools, the condition of his Gran Torino and the essence of the message he passes down to his adopted son, Thao.
  3. Walt’s two friends are his barber and a local building contractor; and then Sue Lor, the Hmong girl from next door who reaches out to him.
  4. Walt’s loss (the death of his wife) is something he bears alone. He sees the gang-bangers as an affront to everything he cares about, but he passes along the high value of a love between a man and a woman to Thao.
  5. He keeps his home and garden in good repair – and teaches Thao to do the same. It catches on in the neighborhood.

Religion is another element – both the traditions of Catholicism (sermonizing, memorial service, confession, etc) and the religion of the Hmong people play a role (baby dedication, “reading” by an elderly holy man).

But perhaps the most compelling element is the sacrificial death… More meaning to explore.

Letter Reading on M.L.K. Day

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Thanks to a friend who forwarded me a link, I’ve just completed what I expect will become my way of remembering Martin Luther King on this annual national holiday established in his honor.

I read his “Letter from a Birminham Jail.”  (from April 1963)

It’s been a long time (sometime in the 1970s) since I explored the ten-page letter.  I think it impacted me then, but how much more so now.   From a prison cell in Alabama, King responded to a group of “moderate” clergy who released a letter of their own (A Call for Unity).

King’s command of language; his reference to biblical passages and characters, as well as theologians and philosophers, both contemporary and from the pages of history is compelling.  His passion for justice, his clarion vision of freedom and the cost of it and his determination to follow the dictates of his conscience engage the reader powerfully.  It is no wonder that King’s Southern Leadership Christian Conference sparked a movement that would bring segregation to the forefront of American life back in the sixties.  Civil Rights legislation was inevitable.

I’ll look on this document as evidence that the written word has enormous power to affect change.  His discussion of civil disobedience, his critique of a “disappointing” church, his challenge to clergy and his defense of an oppressed people stirs the heart, informs the mind and challenges the reader toward the courage of his/her convictions.

It’s inspirational reading.  Click on the link.  Find a quiet spot for a half hour or so.  See if you feel the same.

And now, on these eve of Inauguration Day, Dr. King must know.  The dream certainly is not fully realized, but my my my, what a step, a giant step, in that direction.

Dueling Santas

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While working out early this morning, I listened to an edition of This American Life that was hilarious.  These guys are master story-tellers.  Apparently, a national association of Santas came together for mutual support and encouragement – but as it grew, the Clauses got embroiled in turmoil over control, power and turf wars.  As I listened, I could not help but draw significant parallels between what happened to the gathering of Santas and what has happened in way too many churches.  If you are a veteran of church wars, as I am, you’ll recognize the cast of characters.  The only difference is, really, these guys all wear red suits, white beards and black boots… and red caps with white trim.

It gives real insight into how denominationalism in America came to be.

It’s well worth a listen.  You can listen free on line, or download the podcast for $.99 via iTunes when it becomes available.   Here’s a link to the free on-line broadcast.

Act 3 starts about 22 minutes into the show.

Here’s their summary of the piece –

Act Three. Santa Fight Club.

A tale of two Santas. There’s Tim Conaghan, a full-time professional Santa with a big belly and a real flowing white beard. And there’s Santa Nick-he too has a belly and real white beard. But the story of Santa Tim and Santa Nick is not like most uplifting Christmas parables. Instead, it’s about two men, very much alike, who came to lead rival factions in a bitter Santa civil war, and came themselves to be arch enemies. Josh Bearman reports on the political schism that’s overtaken the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas. (27 minutes)