Sabbath

Sabbath

Mention the word Sabbath to the average person. If he or she doesn’t give you a blank stare, he or she is most likely entertaining images of puritanical orthodoxy in his or her head, perhaps of quaintly dressed, old-fashioned Quakers or Mennonites.  True Sabbath observation in accordance with Biblical principles in our society is probably limited to a small devout group of Christians of less than 10%, more like 5%.

My Sabbath began with the requisite ferry trip across the river and the customary 40-minute drive to church with the obligatory stop at a local fast food restaurant for a chicken biscuit. The only difference this day was the ferry being bound by fog on the trip across the river. Not quite pea soup, but close, I endured a cold, damp—from the omnipresent moisture—ride. The brightest part of the trip was seeing a little brown and white Sheltie pup for the second time. Since I do not have his master’s or mistress’ permission to use his name in this blog, I’ll call him Winston. (An hommage to Winston Churchill.)  A cheerful, enthusiastic boy, he displayed none of the yappy, anxious characteristics I so often associate with that breed. The deck hands always have a dog biscuit for each canine passenger, today being no exception. My lucky, little tail-wagging friend got two! Perfectly content in his master’s arms, Winston never barked, not once. Just thinking back on the trip brings a smile to my lips.

I have observed the Sabbath from time to time, but I would venture to say that I haven’t done so faithfully for at least two years. Like most people, I have busied myself with all manner of projects and unburdened myself with a nap at the end of each Sunday, but I have not contemplated the Lord and his work as much as I have in the past. A not-so-subtle reminder of my Christian duties came this past Thursday, when I went to an evening presentation on the Sabbath by my friend and mentor, Pastor Eddie. Even though he was giving the presentation to the Methodist Women’s Group, I snuck in.  After all, I reasoned, no one had said that men were excluded from attending. He seemed genuinely glad for the moral support, as he mentioned twice, once while there and once in a post-event email. I commented to him in a subsequent email, “I’ve forgotten how nice it can be to have an evening chat with you!” To Pastor Eddie I owe my understanding of the book of Nehemiah, thanks to Bible study with him a few years ago.

I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Eddie’s observation that our society would be better off if each of us took the Sabbath. Our families would be stronger, and we would be happier. We might even visit each other and have meals together, a novel thought in this day and age. Citing informal statistics, he noted that we’re killing ourselves with work.  Americans, in his estimation, are working harder and harder each year. If it’s not our boss at our back, we have the drive to make our children happy with the latest toy and to keep up with our neighbors through the acquisition of material possessions.  I’ll often buy something only to regret the acquisition later as happened once with a rather expensive camera I returned to the photography store. It took me hours to decide on this particular model. I brought it home, took it out of the box, messed with it for an hour and knew in my heart that I had made a dreadful mistake. On that gray winter’s day, I even lost time obsessing about the return. With the charge for the memory cards and the restocking fee, I suddenly found myself $400.00 poorer. Lesson learned. Ouch.

Driving home from Thursday’s lecture, I resolved to spend this Sabbath differently. First things first, I would forgo my usual Sunday evening mint julep. Although I enjoy mint juleps immensely—one, mind you—dispensing with one would help me focus on the Lord and lead to a more restful night. I would eat dinner at home and would also stay in with my cats, Raleigh and Georgia, spending more time with them, foregoing the temptation to eat out with friends who usually gather Sunday evenings at a local eatery. I would attend church in the morning, as is my custom, make my usual fast food lunch stop with favorite church friends and try not to make a grocery run on the way home. Once home, I would write this blog—if the Lord’s hand was in it.

Upon pulling into the driveway in my golf cart, I was amazed, as I often am on a Sunday afternoon, at how exhausted I suddenly felt. Maybe it was the trip, maybe it was the salt air, but after tending to the cat’s needs, litterboxes and food, I lay down on my bed and fell fast asleep. When I awoke, I still felt groggy, so I lay there on the bed concentrating on my state of mind. Was I ready to get up, or still sleepy? I don’t know how long I lay there reminding myself that if the cats were happy, I had no reason to arise, not Facebook, not Twitter, not even the blog would get me out of bed. I don’t know how long I rested motionless, drifting in and out of consciousness. I most definitely felt as if I needed to lie there, so I did, pushing disturbing thoughts and frenetic preoccupations out of my mind. I wanted to write a friend who needed some cheer, but not tonight. Dinner would be a Jersey Mike’s turkey sub with extra turkey and extra cheese, so I needn’t have worried about dinner. Georgia, my almost chocolate-point Siamese cat, slept at the foot of the bed on her favorite pedestal, while Raleigh, my tabby-Maine Coon mix, quite unusually, lay down the hall, serenity and contentment the order of the afternoon.

Christmas has long since come and gone, but yours truly still sports a tree in the dinning room, complete with gorgeous decorations collected by my sister and my friends and miniature white lights, along with a fully set Christmas dinner table of Spode® china. It looked so beautiful when we first set it up, I asked my housekeeper to leave everything in place until the beginning of February. We’re a bit late, as you might observe. The island can be so dreary this time of year—what’s wrong with a bit of Christmas cheer?

Surveying this scene by the light of a single large, green Christmas candle from my place setting at the head of the table, I focused on a simple red, green and white Christmas card that a friend had given me. With its profound message, I had placed it at my setting throughout the Christmas season: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Perfect for Sabbath contemplations. God is surely in control, as many have often opined. At the other end of the table, perched on a small empty silver chest, is a rustic cross created from the last wood to come from my dad’s farm. Daily reminded of Christ’s sacrifice by it, I caught a glimpse just before coming downstairs to write this blog.

So, there you have my first Sabbath in a long time.  Nothing spectacular: just a friendly Sheltie dog, church, two blissfully happy, rescued formerly feral cats, a thoughtfully trimmed Christmas tree, a fully set table, a Christmas card, a rugged wooden cross, and my blog. I marvel though: like Winston, having passed the Sabbath in the manner in which I did, I am “perfectly content in {my] Master’s arms.”

Sandman

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Photo credit: Joseph Thomas Photography/Shutterstock

 

Photo credit at top of page: Jerry Wait

 

Homeless: A Man Without a Country

Homeless

A few months ago, I concluded I am a man without a country.  “How can that be?”, you ask.  After all, I have a home, a rather spacious, nice home near the beach in a generally warm southern state right here in the good old USA. I pay income and property taxes on time to the federal government, the state government, the county and my municipality.  So far as I know I am not in arrears, so there will be no sheriff’s sale of my property to the highest bidder. I vote in the majority of elections. For timing reasons—mostly travel and not being in the right place—I have missed a few elections over the course of my life, but not many more. (Can’t see that elections matter all that much anymore.) With perhaps two exceptions, I have always voted for the Republican or the conservative candidate believing that, on the whole, Republicans were for “less government and lower taxes.” I have now permanently dismissed the “Vote Republican for less government and lower taxes” slogan as nothing more than a political bromide, a political platitude. I have more or less permanent indigestion from being enticed to swallow the policies that Republicans and their democratic allies have cajoled me to ingest.

In 2016, it took a change of heart for me to vote for Donald Trump for President, as I didn’t really care for him, and I liked his style of campaigning even less. Two considerations turned me toward him, enabling me to vote for him:  1. My best friend Hank proudly admitted that he was an ardent Trump supporter. I have known Hank almost 55 years. We’re cut from the same conservative cloth. Knowing that Hank liked Donald Trump encouraged me to reevaluate his candidacy. 2. I listened intently to Trump’s speech before the Union League Club in Philadelphia prior to the election, wherein he unequivocally stated that he was for strong borders and a strong military. “O.K.,” thought I, “If Trump is for strong borders and a strong military, then I will vote for him.”  After all, without borders, you haven’t a country and without a strong military, you haven’t one either. With both— even if you are on the other side of the political argument—we can argue all day long about policy differences. With neither, we will spend the majority of each day defending ourselves, our lives and our rights: what I would indelicately refer to as “struggling to prevent having your pocket picked and your ass shot off.” I know someone in the military who had that happen to him in battle. As he sadly told me, missing one cheek is extremely uncomfortable when one is sitting.  I would hate to lose both.

So, I am a man without a country, soon to be, anyway. Why? My vote doesn’t count and the institutions I support and believe in—the church, a government based on the Constitution of the United States of America and a free press— where open and honest debate are encouraged— are not being supported by those for whom I vote and those who claim to uphold the Constitution and champion the First Amendment. Neither of the latter two institutions is being supported by those who have benefited the most from them: millennials. Even my college, whose founding dates back to before the founding of our country, doesn’t encourage open and honest debate. Seems the snowflakes on campus are not limited to wintertime. Many, if not most all, of the professors are liberal, just like when I attended, and my college sports the typical array of liberal cause-embracing campus organizations and special interest groups. The college accepts federal money for the usual reasons, student loans, for instance, which gives the federal government enormous sway and control over many decisions. (In contrast, Hillsdale College does not take any federal money for any reason, and so the federal government does not affect policy and influence the curriculum in the way it does at my college.) Hello Hillsdale! Might you have space in one of your dorms? I am open to being a perpetual student. 

In my youth, I believed that my civic duty was to vote to elect candidates whom I believed would carry out my wishes. As a conservative, I always voted for less government and lower taxes at all three levels of government: local, state and federal. Voting since age 18—I am now 60—in 42 years, the closest I ever came to achieve that for which I voted was during the Reagan administration, January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989.  What a blessed time! What an inspiration Reagan was! He had charm and a knack—honed over many years in films and hosting “General Electric Theater.” 

So, here’s my record: 42 years of voting and only 8 years of achievements. How does that happen in a center-right country? It happens because of character weakness of the men and women for whom I have voted. (Mostly men, come to think of it.) Every election my candidate would make promises, and after every election cycle he would break them, often with apologies for not having had enough like-minded men and woman on our side to make a difference. Balderdash! Almost every single time. Phooey! Additionally, it’s not possible for me or the average citizen to watch every single piece of legislation wrought by these men and women. Weasels will ultimately only serve themselves. Making at least some effort to keep them in check, taking my late father’s sage advice, I would call and write or email on issues of great concern to me, often hoping to influence votes, but as far as I could tell, that never happened, not a single time.  At some point it became clear to me that my candidates were always going to vote the way they wanted—serving their own narrow political interest—no matter what I had written or said on the phone. Clearly, powerful, influential forces worked behind the scenes, pressuring these men and women with much greater will than the drive to embrace the concerns of their constituents. Otherwise, we would have almost no peacetime federal debt (currently $22 trillion), lower income taxes, a solvent social security system, no AMT, no inheritance tax, and we surely wouldn’t have the sham of all shams, Obamacare.

Along came Donald Trump, not my favorite candidate.  (I was a Ben Carson man, then a Ted Cruz man.) Although I deplore some of his methods and tactics, Trump beat 16 candidates, if memory serves, most of whom were RINOs (“Republican’s In Name Only”). I remain mystified as to what the Republican National Committee was thinking when they allowed such a crowded field, unless the unspoken goal was to assist the GOP voter in diluting his vote and his losing faith in the electoral process in order to elect Hilary Clinton. To my mind, having more than 6 challengers in any political party is a waste of time and money. I haven’t funded the RNC in years. I will give them my money when you produce a candidate that truly lowers my taxes and gets rid of the AMT. 

Donald Trump beat every candidate to the cheers of millions who attended his rallies.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them; I never caught the fever. Despite early misgivings, on Inauguration Day he even had me popping champagne and weeping for joy that the scourge of Barrack Obama’s presidency had finally ended. I loved President Trump’s inaugural address—taking to my feet and applauding several times throughout. “How could anyone who loves America not be ecstatic?”, so I thought.  As I replayed President Trump’s speech again recently, over and over I pondered, “Whatever happened to that promise?” I believed in him, but it looks like he too, is going to let me down. So sad! Beyond sad, it’s a tragedy for the nation, for America. For sure a reluctant convert, I felt he was the only political hope I had left.

Lately, I have been thinking, “When are we conservatives going to mobilize?” As I wrote earlier, I for one am choking to death on political bromides and platitudes. To hell with them and those who utter them!  We citizens write our representatives. We vote for those whom we think will fight our battles, ending up with the likes of Senators Thom Tillis and Susan Collins. We converse endlessly among ourselves—expressing vehement outrage, outright disgust and forlorn chagrin, but we do not cause change like the liberals. We don’t take peaceful protest to the streets. Despite the prevalence of Fox News and AM talk radio, we’re perpetually on the losing end of every legislative battle with such vacuous compromises that just put us further behind. We have a minority of the press outlets in our own country.  Forget about the new media. I used to have a voice on the internet, now I am shadow-banned by both Facebook and Twitter.  Where is the counterbalance for that? “Hello FCC?, I would like to report an oligopoly.”   Meanwhile, someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grows in power by preaching lies to the exponentially-increasing uninformed.  Spouting pure sophistry—I hesitate to use that word— as her specious sanctimony insults the logic of the sophists. Joseph Goebbels….here we go again. This time the goal is to politically suffocate the conservative citizenry and euthanize our once magnificent republic.

I pose the question: “Do I really have to vote anymore?” If my elected representatives from the President on down betray my trust, that’s bad enough. Worse, the opposition party, the Democrats, openly advocate socialist policies, open borders and confer de facto citizenship to anyone, regardless of health or criminal history. Democrats have fought every single attempt by President Trump to secure our southern border, aided and abetted by feckless Republicans. Democrats openly advocate letting millions of people flood our country who—strangers to our culture and the rule of law—come without money, without jobs, without certificate of vaccination, and often with violent criminal records. Staunchly opposed to the Second Amendment for their own citizens (us), Democrats see no problem with letting illegal alien gun smugglers and terrorists flow across the border at will. Illegal aliens don’t pay taxes; they draw from the federal and state funds of those of us who do.  Without controlling this rampant illegal immigration, the Democrats will nullify my vote if they haven’t already. 

If I pay taxes to a corrupt system to support those who do not pay taxes, doesn’t that make me a bound serf?  After all, I am forced to pay by threat of legal confiscation of my property. In some states, illegals can vote without ID, and they can receive benefits. Arguably, by receiving benefits and not paying taxes, illegals enjoy more rights than I do. Only a fool would vote to elect leaders who prioritize the rights of non-citizens over his own rights as a citizen.  Yet, with very few exceptions, that is exactly what most Americans, including myself, end up doing.  Wittingly and unwittingly. 

By nefarious design of politicians whom I once trusted, almost voiceless and soon to be disenfranchised, truly, I am a man without a country.

Sandman

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Image: Billion Photos/Shutterstock

 

Photo credit: top of page: Everett Historical/Shutterstock

Wall? What Wall?

Wait, something doesn’t add up: If you’re President Donald J. Trump and you have a 52% approval rating from the American people, and you are negotiating with Congress, asking for $5.7 billion to fund a border wall along our southern border, and you only get less than a quarter of what you requested, $1.375 billion, even though you shut the Federal government down to make your point, you lost. In my rarely humble opinion. We, the American people, just like Charlie Brown have been rolled again! We’re being played….

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Photo credit: diy 13/Shutterstock

Lest I remind you ladies and gentlemen in Congress:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
— U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3

Here it is, just in case time has played tricks on your memories:

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God” (5 U.S.C. §3331).

If you won’t properly fund the wall to protect our southern border, it strikes me that you are in violation of your oath of office.

What obligation do I have as a citizen to follow your laws, when you will not abide by your oath of office in pursuit of your most fundamental obligation as my representative?  After all, you are in effect saying that my citizenship has no value….

 

Photo credit: top of page – Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

America, Where is Your Moral Compass?

It’s been a bit over two and half weeks since Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law in the State of New York legalizing the abortion of a baby up to birth. I said to myself, “But wait, isn’t he a Catholic?” Where are the cardinals and the Pope on this? Shouldn’t he be excommunicated? I just cannot get that awful image out of my head: a fully-formed little baby being forcibly taken from its mother’s womb, a person to be who will never be.

Maybe it’s because with me it’s personal. Back in 1958, my life was saved the day I was born by a surgeon of great skill. I won’t bore you with the details, but I narrowly made it. I think the only reason my life was saved was that my mother was in the hospital in New York City where she had access to then state of the art heath care.

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What about the Book? Wasn’t this the basis of all laws in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

I posed these questions in Facebook, on which I am most likely shadow banned because so few people ever see what I write:

“What kind of a people are we that we are so willing to kill the defenseless unborn and celebrate this as some kind of rite? If you can kill a child in the womb right up until the day it is born without remorse, no life is sacred.”

And: 

“What does it matter that our nation strives for ground-breaking lifesaving medical technology when in some states a fetus doesn’t even have the right to be born? America, where are your priorities?”

I just posted this on Twitter and have posted similar sentiments in the past: “Maybe the Democratic Party wouldn’t be so slavishly devoted to importing illegal immigrants if it stopped aborting the next generation of babies.”

I plan to write Governor Cuomo a letter. I tried to email his office just now and am unable to do so due to an “unknown error.” I’ll bet. Here’s what I was going to say:

“I will restrict my visits to your state until this shameful law is repealed. What you have done is legalized murder. How can you stand for any person’s rights, if you will not stand for the rights of the unborn? Shame on you, sir!”

I know there is no chance he’ll ever read my letter, and even if he did, that he would have enough of a soul left to care, but in the words of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

This blog gives me chest pains….ouch. 

Sandman

 

Photo credits:

Bible: ireneuke/Shutterstock

Compass at top of page:  Dmytro Amanzholov/Shutterstock