Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keep the Faith

Boy, has it been rough around here lately!  For about one minute things were set on an even keel.  My teenage son was happy, and happy with me, life was busy as always but riding along as normal.  It's amazing to me how things can all just change from different directions all at once.

First, the boy started having some trouble with his grades...just a little...maybe he was distracted by his first love.  She's a lovely and beautiful young lady, and they were always happy together.  Then, something happened and they were no longer "together."  (That's how they say it these days--awfully mature, it seems to me.)  He was unhappy and ended up getting into a bit of trouble...I think it was because he was not himself. He's always been such a good boy.  Now we've been talking about how couples communicate effectively in relationships.  Again, so mature. They're still spending time together but not "together" as a couple...I don't know what that means exactly.   

Then, a friend looses a job...the floor in my laundry room sinks down (!!)....then politics comes between family members...then illnesses around here...but you know what?  It's going to be ok.  My faith has been tested to its limits in the past, and by those tests it has grown very strong.  I'm glad for that.  God is good.

So I'm going to rest and feel better soon, support my son and begin sifting through all of the possible college choices, get my trusted contractor to fix the laundry room floor (it's an add-on structure and he says it wasn't built with joist hangers for the floor boards so they have simply fallen apart. Geez!!!), help everyone I can where ever I can, appreciate my loved ones, and keep the faith.

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

It Takes Me Back

Did you ever hear a certain sound and have a memory come flooding back to you?  The other day it happened to me at work--taking me way back...

Several years ago, I was on a business trip somewhere...Florida, I think, or maybe Louisiana.  I had taken an evening flight, run into delays, had quite a drive from the airport, and had finally checked into my hotel well after midnight.  Luckily, my depositions began about mid-morning and I had arranged to stay very near them, allowing me to get ready without early morning rushing.  

It felt great being in the south during the cold months at home and the sun was brightly shining, so I threw the drapes open for some light (I hate dark hotel rooms) and sat in the sun with some coffee while I reviewed my notes.  The view wasn't much; I was several floors up but all around were just ranch houses and a couple of shops.

The time came to get ready and the shower was fine.  I dried off and pulled my clothes out of my suitcase--they needed the touch of an iron, so I set up the ironing board next to the only apparent outlet--by the table next to the window. (How is it that hotel rooms never have any convenient outlets?)  By this time, I had to get going, but had just enough time. While the iron warmed, I dried my hair....then, emerging from the bathroom--not a stitch on--I heard something.

It was like KA-CLUNK-SH.   KA-CLUNK-SH.  Then nothing.  It wasn't metallic, but a heavy, clumping sound. It sounded like it was right outside my window.  Of course with the curtains wide open, I could see nothing was there.  I froze.  

Then I heard it again, closer:  KA-CLUNK-SH, KA-CLUNK-SH.   I was bewildered...I'm on the 5th floor of a hotel; what could possibly be right outside my window? 

Then I saw it.  It WAS right outside my window.  I began to see the shadow of a window washer, dangling immediately to the right of my window, reaching toward it as he squeege'd the window next door. 

What to do?  I needed to quickly iron my suit, dress and leave or I'd be late...and everything I needed to wear was right in front of the window, by the ironing board.  What a ridiculous situation.  As I heard the next KA-CLUNK-SHH, I scuttled across the room and pressed my back to the bit of wall which wasn't window.  Seeing his shadow fall on my floor as he dangled immediately outside, I realized that the noise was made by some kind of suction-cup-like devices on his feet as he walked on the windows outside. 

Surely this was a scene from some sit-com, right?  I'm hiding against the wall, naked as a jaybird, while a strange man dangles on a rope right outside my 5th floor window?  

Hiding there, pressed against the wall, it took me a moment to gather my wits.  Then, realizing he couldn't see me against the wall, I reached for the curtain and tiptoed it across.  As I ironed my suit, I was cursing the management for not warning us about window washers.  But by the time I got to the depos, it made quite a story.

So yesterday at work, I'm about to sit down at my desk and I hear KA-CLUNK-SH... I giggled all day remembering.

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Beck Again

Ok, he "got" me again.  I try to just ignore the mush which eminates from his mouth, but someone pointed this video clip out to me and I "bit."  Glenn Beck is now attempting to convince his audience that the idea of separation of church and state in the United States is somehow linked to the "USSR Constitution."  By this he probably means the 1936 Constitution of the USSR, adopted in December of that year, since their 1977 Constitution re-sections their fundamental law into different Articles.  Here's what Beck said on air, on July 19 of this year:

"Freedom of worship. Do not confuse the freedom of religion with the freedom of worship. Barack Obama has said in his Cairo speech freedom of worship, and he has been taking to the use of that phrase over freedom of religion. There is a huge difference. Freedom of religion is what we have here, but let me show you Article 124 from the USSR Constitution, Soviet. In order to --remember how free the Soviet Union was, right? We know how, "Oh, Christians, do anything you want to. Jews, Jews, they love you!" Article 124: In order to ensure citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the USSR is separated from the state. Separation of church and state. And the school from the church. So the church and the state are separate and the school from the church, article 124. Now, we don't have that in any of our documents, but it's weird how the progressives insist that there is a separation of church and state, exactly the way there was in the Soviet Union, and a separation of God in all of our schools, just like there was in the Soviet Union."  Glenn Beck, July 19, 2010

First, the entire text of the Cairo speech is available here.  Not once did the President say "freedom of worship" as Beck claims. You can read the entire text (it was a very good speech) or you can use the shortcut of searching the text by using "Edit" and "Find on this page" on the menu.  Mr. Obama discusses freedom of religion in the "fifth" issue.  Among the things he said was "People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul"  and "Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together."

However, beyond Beck's completely made up claim that there was some nefarious linguistic trick at work here, (another lie to enrage his followers) his underlying argument is also outlandish.  First, we should read the relevant portions of the two Constitutions.

Here is a translation of that portion of the Constitution of the USSR of 1936:  "ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of antireligious propaganda is recognized for all citizens." specifies that antireligious propaganda is protected as well.

And here is the relevant portion of the U.S. Constitution, Amendment I, (1791):  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I agree that the language of our Consitution is not as simple and straightforward as the USSR's--perhaps because ours is considerably older.  But isn't that first phrase a statement that there can't be any laws which serve to establish a religion?  The Congress (the "state" in general terms) is not permitted to establish or endorse a religion.  A state religion or church is forbidden; athesim is just as acceptable as Christianity or Islam.  It's sometimes called the "establishment clause."

The very next clause forbids the congress from making any law which prohibits the people from freely "exercising" their chosen religion. (The "free exercise" clause.)  Exercise of religion can mean worship services, prayer, foods or fasting, clothing or attire, or refraining from certain activities.  Of course limits do apply, like we don't allow human sacrifice or illegal substance use in the practices of religions.  With those exceptions, in the first two clauses of the First Amendment, the Constitution ensures freedom of religion for U.S. citizens.  Should be familiar stuff for citizens.

But Beck, in insisting that there is no separation between church and state, completely misses (or ignores) several basic concepts. 

He makes a point about the schools.  First, we must keep in mind that compulsory attendance at school is a much more recent concept than our Constitution.  Some states had some weak compulsory attendance laws as early as 1864, but the legal authority to mandate school attendance was not recognized until 1901. Some states did not require schooling until as late as 1915. 

Then consider who runs the schools, in a country where children are required by law to exercise their right to an education.  Lots of people run schools. There are private schools, home schools, religious schools,  schools for the arts...but most kids end up going to PUBLIC schools.  The non-public schools can teach religion until they are blue in the face.

But public schools are run by the government.  Requirements of children in public schools are requirements of the state--for example, consider the age requirements, the immunization requirements, physical examinations....or certain infractions of rules which result in expulsion.  These rules have the force of law, as do most rules enforced by public schools. So, if we were to allow our public schools, which our children are required to attend, to lead our children in Christian prayer, that would be the state establishing religion.  It would also be preventing the freedom of exercise (or to not exercise) religion to those who are not Christian.  What's so hard to get about that?

Ok, I feel better now. 

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Have a comment? Advice? Random observation? I'd love to hear it. Click "COMMENTS" just below.