29 January 2010

moving on

It's our last night in our house in town. Maybe it's the utter exhaustion, but I'm feeling a bit teary-eyed. 11 years. Bringing both kids home from the hospital and watching them grow. All of the ups and downs-happy and sad times. I wouldn't trade it, but it is tough letting it go.

24 January 2010

Life is Crazy

We closed on the sale of our house, right here in river city, last Thursday at which time we discovered that we'd start paying rent to stay in our own home beginning last Friday.
Friday we closed on the new farm. Saturday we began demolition. And as I swung the hammer I became more agitated and decided we weren't staying in river city one day longer than absolutely necessary.

So, life's been a little crazy-and Hoosier Happenings has been put on hiatus as we cram 4 weeks of packing and renovating into this one week to officially move next Saturday.....with or without renovations complete....and knowingly without a kitchen for a few weeks.

Yes, life is crazy.....but.....life is good. I'll be posting pics on the demo, renovation and move soon. For now, just some random crazy pictures with friends. Wish us luck!

19 January 2010

thou shalt not hate-ee

With as little of the news I watch these days it's no wonder that I missed the whole Robertson-Limbaugh angle on Haiti, even with all of the extra hours I've clocked in at the tv watching this catastrophe unfold. So I appreciate, I guess, wingman asking if I had heard what they said.
"No" I answered. "I suppose it's something about God's judgement and fault of theirs that they are poor". Spot on.

If you're unfamiliar with Pat Robertson's Haitian deservedness angle, I'll fill you in. On Robertson's 700 Club he stated that all Haiti suffers because their ancestors made a pact with the devil during the slave revolt in 1791. In my life, I've never heard of this, but I assumed he had to have something to be basing this on. So I went looking for this piece of information. This is the "pact with the devil":

The god who created the sun which gives light; who rouses the waves and rules the storms, though hidden in the cloud he watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with crime, but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who so often has caused us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all.

Does that sound like a pact with Satan? one blogger writes. I think not. What comes through this "pact" loud and clear is the terror brought upon the Haitians by the hands of whites and their rejection of a god who would condone or act through men who would perpetrate such wrong. Who could blame them? Personally, I do believe in a "covering" that can transcend generations based on past wrongs; I believe it may be what ails river city. It's remarkable to me that African-American slaves chose to worship God, even when their "owners" worshipped the same.

My tolerance for Robertson ended some time ago; this just further endears him to me. If Pat believes that Haiti is suffering because of sin, what great calamity is about to land on the church of America? If sin is sin, and I believe it is, what great calamity will befall a "stiff-necked" and indulgent breed found in the church today? Pat-you don't have to go looking off-shore as a way to deflect God's judgement on a woefully sinful people. It's time you take a look at your own audience and with the same fervor warn them that God's punishment may come to them. We know from scripture that "whom the Lord loves, He chaseneth". So are we to say that God chooses to punish Haiti because He loves them more than people who call Him Father?

Or might it be, despite Robertson's words laced with poison, that God may be looking for His church to reach out and show compassion at this time? Could it be that, much like the lame man who could not walk, no sin was committed by the Haitians, or their fathers, but for the very purpose of God being glorified through the church being the compassionate hand of God?

As for Rush. I don't know what can be said. He believes that President Obama's quick action in Haiti was to boost his ratings. I suppose we should expect the president to move slower and let people die. I mean, heck, that worked in New Orleans. I think Rush & Pat were both looking for ratings, but their words expose something that is black in their core. A blog I frequent assured its readers that "this is not the typical christian or conservative perspective". I wish I could believe that.....I really do.

16 January 2010

20 years later & I still haven't grown up

The Simpsons. You either love 'em or hate 'em.....but this past week they turned 20 years old, outlasting just about every other program that's ever been on TV. Once featured in the local newspaper, I was called a "closet Simpsons fan". I don't think I've ever tried to hide this one. I love that yellow dysfunctional family!

Back in the day, my brother and/or my cousin and I would sit around and watch hours of the show I had video taped. We had the lines memorized and would frequently interject those lines at the most (in)opportune times in family discussions. And occasionally I'll remember a fitting line today and throw it out there to with friends or family and they just look at me like I'm nuts!


I know I have a bizarre sense of humor, probably shaped by Homer himself. But there are redeeming qualities to the Simpsons, such as the fact that it is the one show that has most mentioned God/Faith consistently more than any other program. Not that it is always correct (i.e.: Homer sometimes says "Jebus" when he means Jesus). And they are timeless....why, Bart looks so young for being 30 now. Homer....yeah, he could be 60. Funny how I identified with Bart 20 years ago, but can identify with Homer today.

Now what does the Simpsons have to do with Hoosierdom? Well, based on our stereotype, I would have to believe that at some point we would provide fodder for this show. In fact, I'm really disappointed that Indiana has never gotten a mention on the program. We need to change that. So I plan to lobby the Simpsons to include some kind of reference to us Hoosiers.

In fact, I believe that the home of the Simpson family, Springfield, is actually set in Indiana! While every state boasting a Springfield has claimed this fame, Indiana in fact claims TWO - 2 Springfields. You read that right. 2! The picture above is a shot of Springfield, Indiana in Posey County near New Harmony and the picture below is of Springfield, Indiana in LaPorte County near Michigan City. Based on my exhaustive and probably obsessive knowledge of the Simpsons, I would have to guess that the LaPorte County location is the actual home of the Simpsons.....being near Michigan City and the nuclear power plant and all, plus the fact that it seems to snow a great deal in Simpsons' Springfield. And my other observation is that the Simpsons truly do act like the typical Hoosier family, right? Well, there you have it.

I'm melting! Melting! Oh what a world!

Over Christmas Break we had that perfect snow that you could roll giant snowballs across the ground to build giant snowmen. My daughter asked me to help build a snow-girl with her, so we did and it was pretty cool.....a full three balls high, taller than my daughter I might add, complete with a carrot nose!

Then we experienced our first melt-down that reduced the girth of the snow(wo)man considerably until its head succumbed to its own weight and fell off. Then it got cold again, so dad to the rescue outfitted the smaller two-ball snowman...because, it would be a dude with two balls, right? with tangerine eyes and corncob nose. Then we got all that snow and cold weather and the snowdude looked very happy.

Well, with this latest melt-down the dude is looking more snow-alienish than manish. And when we got home today its eyes and nose were laying on the ground. Which reminded me of the sermon last Sunday from our new pastor about leprosy.....how Jesus loved on those lepers regardless of the fact that their noses were falling off. I couldn't love my faceless snowman any less....but mostly because it was great daddy-daughter time.

I'm throwing in this picture of our frosty squirrel from that last big snow. And if you look closely that's a bluebird on the suet.....beautiful blue against the snow.

12 January 2010

growing up Charismatic....

oh boy.....some of you knew this was coming. I promise to keep this all in English and not switch into the language of angels.

We were watching one of those "year in reviews" where they play snippets from all of the famous people who died in 2009 when they flashed a picture of Oral Roberts on the screen. I said to my wife...I didn't know he died....holy cow! There aren't many of the old-time televangelists left, and I believe my pastor was the first to go.

You see, there's a bit of my past that many people know nothing about. Not that I'm ashamed of it or anything, it just doesn't typically come up in conversation. And it seems that when my friends find out their jaws drop in dumbfoundedness. I grew up Charismatic. Now, there's a difference between Charismatic and snake-handling religious types. I was of the prior persuasion. When I was about 5 years old my parents started dragging us off to evening prayer meetings in Bremen at the home of the Zeltwengers, who had been attending Lester Sumrall's church in South Bend (I didn't mind, I had a crush on their teenage daughter who played twister with me ;) lol)...wait-what was I talking about? Oh yeah. Soon a good chunk of our Church of God congregation were also secretly attending the Sunday night Holy Ghost filled prayer meetin'. The pastor caught wind of it, the church split and we started attending Christian Center, Lester Sumrall's church, in South Bend. Grandma even went to the Holy Land with the church and all we got was this photo (in place of a t-shirt I suppose).

So at 5 years old I was exposed to people being "slain in the spirit" (that means passing out in a spiritual fervor), speaking in tongues, dancing the hallelujah 2-step around the altar, and the always popular-exorcisms. When my brother and sister and I get together and talk about growing up in the church we can get to laughing so hard that you'd think we had come down with that laughing spirit making its way out of Toronto several years back. I think it embarrasses my mom a little too, but she just smiles and threatens to "haul us down to the altar" which was a common threat we heard throughout the week leading up to Sundays.

Now, life wasn't always easy for us Charismatic kids. As much as we liked to hope that we could call down lightning bolts it rarely, if ever, worked. And since we three kids attended a Baptist school, life was particularly hard because we constantly had to be on the defensive. I know it doesn't take much to be a rebel at a Baptist school-but try being Charismatic! You'da thought I had cloven hooves.

Truth of the matter is I loved going to Christian Center.....except for the surprise sermons by Brother Murphy (Pastor's brother in law) who always insisted that all kids had to go down front to the altar to be prayed for. And you could easily get lost in the crowd of thousands. Seriously, Sundays were unpredictable and the music had a beat. One Sunday evening I remember a guy busting through the back doors and charging the pulpit down the center aisle with a dagger in hand threatening to kill the preacher....that was probably the height of charisma I can remember. Well, throw in the occasional miraculous healings and red hot revival services where hundreds would participate in an organized sprint around the altar (at that time we had moved into the church "in the round") and church was certain not to disappoint.

In all seriousness, despite many folks' disregard for tv preachers, Lester Sumrall wasn't like the other oily sorts who promised miracles for cash. No, Pastor was someone with incredible knowledge of God's word and a compassion for others that the church is only now starting to understand; his Feed the Hungry world-wide ministry beginning long before other global relief efforts by protestant churches. Pastor's authoritative wisdom is something I sorely miss since his passing in 1996. His grandson, who we called "little Lester" showed up on a friend's facebook page so I friended both he and his cousin, David; both are in the ministry today.

Today my brother is the pastor of a Missionary church. After 25 years in a Charismatic church, I began attending my wife's Evangelical Free church. Both certainly less charismatic than what we were used to, but we still have those "leanings". We plan to write a book entitled "growing up Charismatic" to share our experiences with the rest of the world. I don't believe there's been a book written quite like this one yet; I think it will be a best seller, particularly when I tell about my concern one evening that I would be pulled over by South Bend police and they would find Lester Sumrall in the trunk of my car.

10 January 2010

great grandpa Harley

Did you have one of those grandparents or great-grandparents that you wish you had known? You know, family talk about them and they sound so cool....or people say "you know, you remind me a lot of so-n-so".

I shouldn't complain. I was fortunate to know all of my grandparents fairly well, and four of my great-grandparents. But I wish I had known my great grandpa Harley. He sounded pretty cool-not to mention his name conjures up images of a black leather jacket renegade on a chopper.

They weren't rich by any means. And he didn't live to be all that old. But the family that knew him, who could relay stories to me, said that he was the biggest-kind-hearted guy around. His wife was grumpy-we called her granner grump-but Grandpa Harley was said to always take the grandkids for a walk up town to get an ice cream cone....mostly to get away from granner I suppose.

They were poor dirt farmers with Harley subsidizing the family farm with driving a fuel truck for the Gafill Oil Company. I think it was Harley who started the family tradition of wearing bib overalls that my grandfather proudly continued literally to his grave-a tradition I may pick up. It was also Harley who started the annual family fishing vacations to Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

I've never really aspired to be someone famous....although I would love to be able to tell stories like Garrison Keillor. What I hope is my legacy is simply someone who makes others think "geesh-he sounded like an interesting & kind old bird-wish I could've known him".

08 January 2010

Slurp & Burp?

While driving to Galena, Illinois last fall we ended up on a detour that took us up and down rolling hills on a narrow county highway not labeled anything on the map. As we descended one hill this pretty little church lay out in front of us, which happened to be at a "Y" in the road and the gateway to this little country town.

While the little church was a neat front door feature, and this ancient stone house added a certain ambiance to this town of, oh, I suppose.....20 souls, it was their local watering hole that really caught our attention.

The Slurp & Burp. Probably one of the best named bars I've ever seen, now taking the place of the Sas & Pas in New Harmony. So here's my question to you out there.....what are some crazy bar names you've run across?

07 January 2010

God Bless It!

I spent several minutes this morning trying to figure out how to block someone from sending me emails....I think I may have succeeded. I had to enter "key words" for the filter to work.

Enter key word: America
Enter key word: God

How sad is that? Recently this individual started forwarding just about every "dang proud to be an American which is why I hate your guts and think that God only sheds His light on the Republican part of the country and if you don't think like me, go live in Iraq" email that comes her way.

I was hoping that when I "responded to all" for a "Jesus would pound political correctness folks in the face" Christmas email, saying that it just didn't seem Christ-like, I would be taken off her mass-hate-email list. Unfortunately I think she may have stepped up the attack. I had been receiving one a day, until today when I got TWO! Whoopee!

I have a running list of blog post ideas I keep and a few of these tie into this. First, "God Bless America". Really? Not that I wouldn't want His blessing, but what on earth makes us think that we deserve this any more than any other country? Collectively Americans are not His chosen people, and not His instrument of justice on this earth. Collectively can we do moral good? Certainly, but we cannot jump to the conclusion that our actions are somehow divinely appointed. Amazingly it seems we pick and choose issues of "rightness" to enforce.

Second, "In God We Trust". Really now, since when have we done this? There may be a handful out there who truly are living and trusting in God with their lives. I can guarantee it isn't the typical Hoosier sporting this on their license plate.

Third is the idea that the constitution is somehow more inerrant than the Word of God. I've heard televangelists who interpret God's Word looser than Paris Hilton, but then damn people who speak of interpreting the constitution. One preacher said "you don't want to know what I'd do to people who think we need to interpret the constitution!" No wonder people consider Christians hypocrites.

There is a heightened sense of righteous indignation these days that will no doubt result in a blow-up in mid-term elections. Frankly, it stems from hate and a lack of understanding what living a Christian life is truly about. When Christians' words spout out venom over love we need to understand that we are becoming our own worse enemy in bringing people into a relationship with Christ.

Something dawned on me last week, I'll throw it out for fodder. In Jesus day the Jews were looking for a messiah that would release them from Roman rule. They quickly dismissed Christ because He did not come as a king in the earthly sense, but rather was looking for people who would surrender their hearts. Christ never took on the Romans or their sanctioned government in Israel. Instead He turned His attention to the religious leaders and blasted away at them, the same people who were looking for an earthly king, until ultimately it was they who secured his crucifixion. And who did they demand to be released? Barrabas, who had incited turmoil against the Roman Empire.

Here is the parallel: today people who call themselves Christians (I'm separating them from Christ-followers) are attempting to use Christ in the same way the religious leaders of Jesus' day wanted from a messiah. Christians/religious leaders are using Jesus to incite turmoil in this country. It seems to be done at every election-the religious right pull Jesus out of their pocket and promise to deliver the vote by creating a sense of immanent moral decay. It seems that they have forgotten that Jesus came to be the king of hearts, not of America. No, in fact, this movement seems to be anti-Christ-like. Did you get that? Anti-Christ?

To those who do not seek to follow Christ out there......forgive us. We religious folks need to get back to how Christ told us to live and quit worrying about legislating morality. There's a slogan Home Depot is running right now that seems to fit today's Christianity perfectly and I'm thinking about putting it on a t-shirt: DON'T BLAME THE CARPENTER-BLAME THE TOOL.

06 January 2010

poor Mr. Clucky

One of the most heart-wrenching stories to develop out of 2009 was the separation and abolition story coming out of Florida involving one poor Mr. Clucky. Evidently Mr. Clucky wasn't welcome in this metro-Florida city so the mayor told the rooster to get packin'. But Mr. Clucky's caregiver took his case to the press and soon across the country folks turned out in support of the abolished chicken. What harm was Clucky? Well, he crowed a little too early for most Floridians I assume, but he was in direct conflict with the city ordinance prohibiting poultry of the unprocessed disposition to inhabit the city.

This reminds me all too well of a similar story in river city. Two actually. First it was the pot-bellied porker who was more pet than pig that drew protests and ultimately a city ordinance with his name on it. Then it was the pigeon-rabbit farm in my district while I was on city council. It also drew protests, mostly due to its unsightliness, but it certainly was in violation of city ordinances.....as was pointed out by the city GOP chair in a press conference where he pulled out pictures of the accused stunning those of us who didn't intend to make it personal.

So, how far is too far when it comes to having government stick its nose into your backyard? Strangely enough it is typically republicans who say that government should mind its own business but it was GOP'ers who pushed the pig, poultry and pellet dropping pelts out of the city. Seems that when it comes down to ordinances (nose in your business); it's all good and fine to be restrictive if they are used to your benefit-but stand the heck back if the enforcement is on you.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Sanctuary. Incidently, we have a chicken coop at the new farm that may well be stocked before the year is out. And I'm a bit concerned that sporting grandad's overalls I'll look a little too much like Mr. Clucky's p.r. guy.