A Song for Its Time … and a Dime

For those of you who are readers of the JuiceBar, the following essay is part of a Web 2.0 exercise in presenting a popular culture artifact for the graduate course Teaching & Learning Historical Thinking, part of the George Mason University College of Education and Human Development Secondary Education (SEED) Program. The requirement is a Web 2.0 exercise that could be used in a high school history course. In this case, I’m using this blog post to engage students on how music can provide insight into history. I hope you enjoy it. And feel free to pretend you are in my high school history class and offer your thoughts on current songs that give insight on what is going on in today’s social, economic and political culture.

Folks, the topic today is popular culture. Specifically, what you can learn about history and a historical period through popular culture. By popular culture, I thinking about things like movies, fashion, and music. 

In this case, let’s take a look at music.

Music is often both a reflection of and reaction to the political, economic, and social trends in a given period. Take the issue of war and conflict. In American history, we have songs of the American Revolution, Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War. If you’re interested, just try “Googling” any of those wars and “music.” You’ll get some interesting lists. Most of the songs of earlier wars were written to support the cause. But there were others that gave voice to the opposition to war.Others oppose it. If you’re looking for something that typifies the latter, listen to my favorite anti-Vietnam anthem, Edwin Star’s “War” which was popular protest song during Vietnam. It is a classic.

But music isn’t just reflective of or a reaction to conflict.  When you think about American history in general, you can identify music that is reflective of social movements in everything from the suffragette movement (it even has a Spotify channel!) to desegregation in the 60s to the LGBT movement and Katy Perry’s song “I kissed a girl.”

[Hold on to that thought because a bit later I’m going to ask you to identify a song in popular culture today that, in your opinion, is reflective in some way of what is going on in today’s society.]

In this case, we’re going to focus on songs that reflect the economic developments. This was particularly true of the songs of the 30s and the Great Depression. The depth and scope of the Great Depression are hard to appreciate today.  At its height nearly a quarter of Americans were unemployed. Amidst these dark times emerged a lot of upbeat music (most notably, swing music). In that case, one can interpret music as a reaction to the downbeat mood. There were a lot of those – upbeat tunes and lyrics, that is. Hard to imagine that one of the most popular titles during those years was a 1933 tune called “We’re in the Money.” Ironic since most people weren’t (in the money, that is) but sociologist speculate that tunes like this gave people who otherwise had no hope, hope.

But in terms of a song that best truly reflected the era was the tune “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” which came out in 1932 at the deepest periods of unemployment. I’ve copied and pasted the lyrics to the song below.

The tune, which first was sung as part of a review titled “Americana” became the “anthem” for workers during the Great Depression. It was a thinly veiled indictment of a capitalist economic system that many people felt had “left behind” the workers that built America.

The song chronicles the story of the workers who built the nation’s railroads, buildings, and infrastructure as well as those who fought in the gruesome first World War (“khaki suits”) and how the U.S. economic system seemingly deserted them during the depression and now they are forced to “beg” for money.

Not only can the tune give insight into the 1930s one could also be used to gain insight into today’s modern economic malaise.

Specifically, you can read through the lyrics of this song and hear the same complaints that many American workers in the Midwest have today about the loss of good-paying manufacturing blue collar jobs due to automation and international trade.

NOW HERE’S MY ASK of you.  Comment on this blog post. Feel free to react to anything I’ve written above but I want you to specifically comment on the lyrics of this song and how you think it gave voice to workers in the Great Depression. But wait, there’s more! In your comment I also want you to identify a relatively current song – say something in the last five years – that you think captures one element of what is going on in today’s culture, economy, or politics. If you can’t find one, feel free to write a song of your own! One important note. Let’s keep any current song one that is free from explicatives or vulgar language. I know that knocks out quite a few. But think about some of the songs that are on your favorite playlist over the past few years and think about what that song helps describe developments in today’s society, culture, politics or … economics!  BTW if you want to rewrite the song below for today, you’ll have to change the numbers. A dime back in the 1930s would be about a buck fifty today ($1.47).

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,

When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.

They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,

Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.

Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;

Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,

Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,

Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,

And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.

Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,

Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,

Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,

And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.

Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

What Social Media Hath Wrought

Recently, a young man responded to a post that my wife, Sanderijn, put on her Facebook page.  What followed is something you really need to read for yourself to fully appreciate but the quick summary is this.

Our daughter, Sarah, and her two children were in town for the weekend. Sanderijn, Sarah and Sarah’s two boys aged two and four, decided to enjoy the Friday autumn afternoon by walking down to Lake Anne Plaza. Once there, Sanderijn “checked-in” on Facebook at the Lake Anne Brew House with the post “Beer time with very social 2 and 4-year-olds.”

Someone was not amused. He wrote “I can’t express how wrong this sounds. Does someone need to call CPS?”

(Note. For the uninitiated, CPS stands for Child Protective Services, a Virginia government body whose mission is reflected in its title).

What followed was a marvelous (and personal) example of three ways social media is destroying civil communication. As a communications professional, it is something I will quote at length in future presentations and lectures.

First, the reaction by a person who will go by the name of “Mr. Bk,” along with his following comments, is a case study in “virtue signaling.”

Virtue signaling is when someone uses social networks, in this case, someone else’s post, to show others how morally correct they are. In this case, one Mr. Bk is signaling his moral superiority by (continually) noting his compassion and in this case concern, for children being exposed to someone drinking a beer in public.

Oh, the horror!

After his initial, ill-informed righteous outrage, he follows by constantly reminding us of his benevolence, patience, wisdom, search for truth, care for humanity, and steadfast purity of spirit. He even goes so far as to remind readers they should be grateful and that we are so lucky to have people like him around.

This is the wonderful thing about virtue signaling:  you can claim and broadcast your piety and virtue through social networks without actually having to do anything to merit it.

Second, the Facebook exchange is an example of how communicating through social networks makes you stupid. We think the Internet makes us smart. It doesn’t. It lures us into doing and saying stupid things because doing and saying stupid things are now so easy to do.

Hit a few buttons and “poof”! You’re in someone’s face. And you’ve written something stupid. No knowledge or context needed.

The irony here is that a simple 10-second search by Mr. Bk would have shown that the Lake Anne Brew House is located in Lake Anne Plaza, Reston, Virginia, a wholesome family and child-friendly lake development with fountains and play areas and kids joyously running and screaming and doing what kids do in a fresh open-air environment. He would have also found that the Brew House serves apple juice and kids snacks, that it is adjacent to a Baptist church and coffee shop, and that across the plaza is a used bookstore with a wonderful selection of kids books along with a second-hand children’s clothing store.

But no.

The ease and ubiquity of social networks – which we can carry with us and never leaves either our hand or watchful eye –  give us access to others 24/7. These mobile devices act as technological sirens, who, like those of Greek mythology, lure consumers into countless acts of ignorance, typing and posting without making any effort to determine or deal with reality.

Instead, we see the word “beer” followed the phrase “4-year-old” and immediately express a virtual “OMG!, some drunken sot is dragging innocent babes into the devil’s chamber” and wonder aloud if someone should call 911 and child protective services!

The ease and speed of social network communications mean we often speak first, think later. That’s a bad combination.

Side note. Mr. Bk’s rants are also a good example of the well-known cognitive bias called “anchoring.” That happens when you stick with an initial position even after being confronted by conflicting facts – in this case being told that the initial post was from a mother, grandmother, and social worker of 20+ years who has spent a good part of her life working with children and youth to try and help them escape from real risky and abusive situations. That the grandmother walked to the plaza (Mr. Bk at one point suggested everyone call a cab) and had a single beer.

None of this information impressed Mr. Bk.

He stuck by his figurative guns and insisted not only that he did the right thing, but that he would do it again and that, yes, we should be grateful for him doing so. Indeed, he found it “disturbing” that we didn’t care much for his ill-informed post and decided not to shower him with praise.


Finally, it was a wonderful example of social media troll behavior.

A social media troll always has to have the last word. They can’t let something go. They become so intoxicated with themselves and their posts (which they consider an extension of themselves … perhaps even more important than themselves!) that they HAVE to respond.

In the example above, Mr. Bk not only has to have the last word with others but he amazingly also has to have the last word with himself, often posting a series of replies absent anyone else commenting or saying anything.

For these people, their position is so correct, their thoughts are so right, and everything they think is so important for people to understand and accept, that they post unceasingly in a desperate attempt to force their views upon others.

So this is this is how social media and social networks have warped the world modern social interaction.

A place where people use social networks to draw attention to their moral superiority.

A place where there’s a premium on saying something before thinking something.

A place where people become so addicted to their own voice and seeing that voice in print, that they are unwilling and unable to stop themselves from perpetuating meaningless half-truths.

And yes. All this is why the United States has the president that it has today!



... ten years worth of thinking, creating, writing was gone.

It was the simple flick of a switch.

It apparently wasn’t a physical switch like the light switch jutting from a wall. Rather, it was likely a swipe or click. A simple movement of a finger over a plane of glass or the pressure of a hand placed on a button while the pointer hovered over a two-dimensional image on a screen.

But a flicked switch nonetheless. With it, ten years worth of thinking, creating, writing was gone.

For the few of you out there that follow the JuiceBar, you may have noticed that for several weeks – nearly a month – the blog lost all its content. It was a colleague at work who gave me the heads up (thanks, Jane!). So I checked. I went to the site and every post was gone. It was as if someone had come in, opened all the files, put them in a suitcase, and ran off.

Ten years of posts. Gone. Vanished.

Part of me was devastated. Gone was the eulogy I wrote for my Mom on Christmas Eve, the day I learned she had passed away. Gone were posts I had written about my Dad on Father’s Day. Gone were the posts about my daughter’s wedding. Gone the post about my grandson’s interaction with a beetle and blackbird. Personal things. Serious things. Silly things. And yes, some pretentious and plodding things.

All were gone. Both the wheat and the chaff.

I spent days trying to figure out what happened. In the end, a consultant who was working with us and the hosting company said it was a simple mis-administered switch.

An errant click.

I’m happy to report that things are back to normal. But it did make me think a lot about how much of my life is invested in things that are nothing more than digits on a server. Things that with a simple errant click can disappear.

On a practical level it makes me appreciate physical things like paper, photo albums, and books. Sure, they can suffer the same fate, as folks in Houston or Key West or San Juan know all too well. But I am going to try to write more in journals. Print more on paper. Rediscover the file folder.

But in the end, this event reminded me of the transience of all things physical. Whether you keep them in the cloud or keep them in the closet. One you can lose to a hacker, you can lose the other to a flood.

What is lasting are relationships.

What is lasting are feelings.

What is lasting are those things that inspired your life, formed your life, shaped you and your family.

What is lasting those things that … well … last.

Think and focus on those lasting things.

And know that lasting things can’t be eliminated by a click.

Signs and Symbols

Signs and symbols

I think we should pay a lot more attention to signs and less attention to symbols.

Let’s start with whittling down our obsession with symbols.

What are symbols? They are things that represent an idea, person, process or thing.  They aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they can do a lot of good. Countries and cultures have them – typically in the form of an animal or flag or both. Each of the monotheistic religions has a symbol: a star, a cross, a crescent. There is the venerable symbol for peace, the circle with the lines thing, there’s the two-fingered victory symbol, and there’s the horrific symbol of fascism, the swastika. All inspiring in their own way.

But there are the other symbols, the ones we could and should pay a lot less attention to. They are the symbols we create to satisfy what we can’t fully grasp. Symbols are, by definition, simplified labels. And because of that, they rarely fully capture the complexity of the true nature of the idea, person, process or thing they purport to represent. This is particularly true when that symbol is applied to a person or persona.

  • The symbol we create when we see the dreadlocked twentysomething African American male, dark glasses, a hooded sweatshirt and baggy pants
  • The symbol we create when we see the round-bellied truck driver with a long drawl, heavy beard, tobacco-stained camo t-shirt and gun rack
  • The symbol we create when we see the long-braided, fair-skinned yoga instructor in designer leggings and delicate ankle tattoo, sipping herbal tea

These are symbols just like the peace sign, victory sign, and swastika. When you read them – just as when you see these physical symbols – you likely had some reaction to them. You probably inferred a lot about that person’s upbringing, their politics, or whether you’d enjoy their company.

Symbols are handy because they are simple. But that is also what makes them dangerous. When assigned to people they can lead to three very bad things.

  • Symbols rob people and things of their intricacy and nuance. They can make things unidimensional. And neither things nor people are unidimensional.
  • Symbols absorb stereotypes like a dry sponge. They allow us to create meaning but in doing so they allow us to insert all the prejudice and preconceptions not just from popular culture but also our individual and community biases.
  • Symbols unite through division. They inevitably draw people inward and have them define themselves in opposition to “the other.”

Carl Jung distinguished between symbols and signs saying that symbols represent the unknown while signs point to what is known.

I think we all could use a bit more focus on those things that we know, and less on conjecture and those things that are beyond our knowing.

That is where signs come in. There are a lot of signs around us. They are most often hidden in things we already know and experience. These signs aren’t abstract. They point to things that are happening, things that are real. There are signs of what is happening to our politics, our economy, our environment, our families, our health. Signs are everywhere. We just don’t take the time to see or make sense of them.

Unlike symbols, signs don’t claim to possess the truth. Rather they point us to facts and those facts, which in turn, point us to truth. In that way, signs are much more humble and modest than symbols. (And Lord knows that this world could use more humility and modesty.)  But in another sense, that is exactly why we often choose to ignore or not look for signs. Because facts, reality, and truth can be very difficult.

So we fall back to the comfort of our biases and our symbols.

In her book “The Signals Are Talking,” author Amy Webb claims that if you can identify and correctly interpret signs or signals, you have a reasonable shot at predicting the future.  I’m not sure about that.

But she also says that only by identifying and reading “signs” or “signals” do we have a reasonable shot at shaping the future.  In that, I firmly believe.

So look around you. Set aside all the symbols that you have in your life.  Focus on opening your eyes and minds and look for signs.

What signs do you see?

If we can agree on the signs, we might be able to agree on a common direction.

And if we do that, perhaps we can do without all those symbols.

When we promote …

Promotions. We’re talking about people, not product.

I recently went through promotions at my work and at my avocation. My work is marketing communications business. My avocation is Karate.

At work, we have annual performance reviews. There is the question of whether you promote a person to a higher level of responsibility, higher pay and perhaps a new title.

At most martial arts schools, it is different. I’ve taught Karate at Williams Martial Arts and Fitness for over twenty years. Opportunities for promotions are more frequent than annual reviews at work. Here they can happen  every other month or quarter. Students complete their routines and are tested on the mat.  Then there is the ceremony itself – a formalism and public pageantry which would likely be illegal in today’s workplace setting. Parents and friends are there to watch.

And as we award the karate-ka the next ranking and perhaps even a new belt, we state the following:

you are hereby awarded the rank of [X] kyu in the art of karate-do in recognition of the great progress you have made by your diligent study of the art … it is our wish that you will endeavor to attain a higher standard in the future …”

I have said it so many times I can recite it by memory.  As I think about those words, I think about what those outside of the martial arts world – those in the business world – could learn about the true meaning of meriting  a “promotion.”

First, there is the “great progress you have made …”

This is something most would agree. We should promote after, not before.  Progress first, promotion after. Too often we convince ourselves that we “see promise” in someone and promote them in hope that our hunch is on mark.  My experience in business is that too often our hunch is wrong.  For my Marine-trained sensei, it is simple.  First show that you have the skills for the next rank. But not just that. Show that you have the ability sustain those skills over time. Then, and only then, are you granted the promotion.

Second, there is the person’s “diligent study of the art …”

We promote in recognition of work. It is commendable that someone has been around for awhile. They’ve stayed the course. Loyalty is important. But true promotion should be an outgrowth of effort, not tenure.

Finally, there is the person’s “endeavor to attain a higher standard in the future …”

With this, I’ve likely crossed the border both of what is politically correct and what is HR compliant. In the martial arts world, you promote based on evidence that the person seeks to improve his or her station. They have to exhibit some desire to advance the art – the desire to not only improve their own skills but also the skills of others.

We could learn from that. You can make progress. You can work hard. But if someone doesn’t want to get better and is completely content to stay where they are and not move to a greater level of both skill and responsibility, is a promotion really merited? I don’t think so.

Three simple standards.  You’ve made progress. You’ve worked hard. You want to do better.

That, to me, is a reasonable standard for a promotion.

Whether you are in the dojo or the workplace.

Truth Takes a Beating … But No Lie Lives Forever

In the famous exchange between Jesus of Nazareth and the Roman ruler Pontius Pilate, Jesus is recorded as claiming “everyone on the side of truth, listens to me.” Pilate dismissively responds, “What is truth?” and walks out of the room.


It has never been very popular.  It is taking a particular beating these days.  Consider this:

Two years ago Twitter said that 23 million of its 271 million users were not people, but “bots” – programs that automatically generate content based on an algorithm.

According to BuzzFeed founder, Craig Silverman, during the recent election, “fake news” was more popular than “real news.”  Total Facebook engagement with the top twenty “fake news” election stories was greater than the top twenty “real news” stories.

According to the independent, Pulitzer-prize winning watchdog organization PolitiFact, 70 percent of the U.S. president-elect’s campaign statements were rated as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire False. And he won!

But it is not just a campaign thing.  Recently we’ve seen Volkswagen claim their diesel engines to be environmentally friendly. But they weren’t. There was the Toshiba executive who said they made an extra $2 billion in earnings. But they didn’t. And then there was Wells Fargo who gave extra credit cards.  Without asking.

Truth isn’t popular. It exposes you to seeing and hearing things you don’t like.

  • That you are not perfect.
  • That you are oftentimes wrong.
  • That you make mistakes.
  • That sometimes you hurt people – maybe many.
  • That whatever it is, most of the time it’s not about you.

We don’t like Truth. So we avoid it. We cover it up. We change the subject. 

We won’t admit to lying.  That would be wrong (lying that is). So we give lying a different name.  We call it “fake news.”  Or the latest, “alternative facts.” 

What are they?  Truthfully?  They are lies.

But don’t despair.

Truth has an annoying way of hanging around. Just when you think you’ve beaten it, killed it and buried it … Truth shows up. Maybe not the next day.  Or the next. But one day.

And at some point, things either are or are not.  No amount of prevarication or mendacity can prevent Truth from having the last word.

I’m betting on truth.  It might lose a battle or two but it always wins the war.

Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of quoting Thomas Carlyle who wrote “No lie can live forever!”

That, I believe, is true.



It can change your brain.

It can make you healthy.

It can make you happy.

But if you buy into gratitude for those reasons, I think you’re missing the point. You may not even be expressing “true” gratitude at all.

Gratitude has been defined as the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I like that. Recognizing and returning kindness. We often talk about the former – recognizing. We rarely think of the latter – returning. Gratitude goes beyond acknowledgment. It is an obligation – no, a true desire – to be compassionate towards others.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. One of my favorite holidays. I know there are the banal and commercial elements surrounding Thanksgiving’s origin, propagation and celebration. But let’s set the storefront parade, football games, and Black Friday aside for a moment and think of what it means to be truly thankful.

The beauty of thankfulness is that it is something that everyone can enjoy. From the most popular, affluent and talented to the forgotten, impoverished and plain. Thankfulness is accessible to anyone regardless of origin, condition, and belief. To be sure, gratitude is much more difficult for some than others. Hard for someone in Aleppo to be thankful. Or those who suffer from illness. Or those who have lost jobs, possessions, health, loved ones … perhaps even themselves. But gratitude isn’t comparative. It is not about being thankful that you’re not like the other. It is about being thankful for who you are what others have done for you regardless of station. It is about showing appreciation for others and their acts of kindness both large and small.

I have been blessed beyond merit because I’ve merited little. So thanks. Thanks to all of you out there who have looked past my and others’ faults and have shown grace and kindness.

Thanks to those who’ve suffered through much and still persevere. Thanks for another day to try and the opportunity to do something – even a small thing – that makes things better. Let’s try to be thankful not for the sake of how it might help our brain, our health, or our happiness. But let’s be thankful because it is a proper response to the life we’ve been given.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Today I Prayed.

Church and faith

I went to church to worship today and I prayed.  I prayed for my family. Praying for my family is pretty much a given every day, not just on Sunday. I prayed for the nation. I do that a lot too but not nearly as often.  I prayed for many, many other people and things.

And yes, I prayed for the president-elect. It was an earnest prayer. It was a difficult prayer. It was an open prayer. It was as much about asking God what all this means as it was what I should do about it.

I prayed that the president-elect would not govern the same way he campaigned.

I prayed that, if God was willing, the president-elect would reconsider some of the actions he said he would pursue. Things like. Building the wall. Burning more coal. A travel ban on Muslims. Eliminating access to affordable health insurance. Increasing tax breaks for the affluent.

But most of all I prayed that everyone, particularly the young people out there, would, despite what they may have read and seen regarding Mr. Trump’s supporters, not confuse Republican policies with Jesus’ teachings.

I prayed that people would read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-8). I prayed that everyone would know that Jesus taught …

  • That we shouldn’t get all caught up on how much taxes we pay. That God wants us to deal with more important things.  That we should “render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” and then focus on rendering unto God what is God’s.
  • That the love of money and material things are the thorns that stifle God’s word and choke out the work of the Holy Spirit.  That the love of money is the root of all types of evil. That we should not try to store up treasures on earth, but rather treasures in heaven.
  • That we should love our neighbors and that God wants us to define “neighbors” as Samaritan types (modern-day Muslims?) who worship a different God, believe different things, worship a different way, and are suspect and despised by society.
  • That our focus should be on doing whatever we can to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, minister to the sick (like healthcare), and care for the widows and orphans (even if they come from Syria).
  • That we should not only love our enemies but when folks ask for a shirt, we give them our coat.
  • That the people who are right before God are not the pious religious folks who wear their faith on their sleeves and show up on talk shows and news programs … rather they are the repentant sinners who sit in the back pew, often neglected, begging for God’s mercy. That the truly blessed are people who are humble, meek and poor in spirit.
  • That we should be wary of false prophets who show up saying that they speak in Jesus’ name. That we would know these false prophets by their fruits of their work … the mercy, grace, and sacrifice that they make for others.

Overall, I prayed that people judge Christian practice by the sayings of Jesus, and not the circumstances of an election.

I prayed that people would know that this is what he was talking about when he said that if we follow his commands, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

And with that, I said “Amen.”

May God’s will be done.

Christian faith and the U.S. Presidential Election

Christian argument for trump

We’re at the height (and fortunately the end!) of a very divisive and contentious political campaign.  People who know me, likely know how I will vote. More about that later. 

Mr. Trump has sought the support of notable leaders of evangelical Christian institutions and organizations.  I’ve listened to Jerry Fallwell Jr.  I’ve read Wayne Gruden.  I have watched Ralph Reed and Kenneth Copeland. 

I am a Christian. I respect anyone’s decision as an individual to support and campaign for any candidate, including Mr. Trump. My only ask is this:

  • Campaign for Trump because you believe in his ability to execute sound economic policy.  Because you believe people need a tax brake and deregulation of Wall Street.
  • Campaign for Trump because you believe in his positions on social policy, on abortion and gay marriage, on building a wall, on education.
  • Campaign for Trump because you believe his views on environmental policy, on energy and fossil fuel, that climate change is a fraud.
  • Campaign for Trump because you believe in his ability to execute foreign policy, on dealing with ISIS and terrorism, on dealing with trade partners.
  • Campaign for Trump because you believe his character, professionalism, and leadership is best suited to unite and lead this country.

But for the sake of the Christian church and the faithful, I’d ask that you not suggest that it was Jesus, the Bible, or any tenants of Christian faith that led you or others to support Donald Trump. 

Personally, I cannot reconcile the scriptures and my Christian faith with candidate Trump or the Trump campaign.

  • I believe in a body of Christ that includes right and left, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, white and black, majority and minority. 
  • I believe in a body of Christ that loves mercy, seeks justice, but most of all walks humbly with God.  It is a body of Christ that loves its neighbor as itself. 
  • I believe in a body of Christ that is oriented not toward the healthy, wealthy and well off, but to the ill, the poor, and the disadvantaged – the harlots, the lepers, and yes, even tax collectors.
  • I believe in a body of Christ that is humble, poor in spirit, and merciful.
  • I believe in a body of Christ that has no need for candidates or political parties, just the acceptance of grace and the dedication of service.
  • I believe in a body of Christ that flourishes when it transcends politics and is corrupted when it stoops to it.

Jesus didn’t campaign for candidates. Indeed, Jesus’ sharpest commentary was not for the Roman government or its bureaucrats. His most caustic rebukes weren’t even for his civilian executor Pontius Pilate.   Jesus’ most stinging commentary was for the leaders of the church at the time, most of whom were focused more on rules, laws and regulations and … yes, politics! … than they were of the material and spiritual needs of those they were meant to serve.

I’m a Christian.  Like all Christians, I’m deeply flawed but redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace. So for those of you who are Christians and are voting for Trump, I’m not here to tell or lecture you that this is or is not in line with our faith. A political choice is just that – a political choice.

I can’t reconcile the scriptures and Christian faith with candidate Trump.

I will vote for Hillary Clinton. I dont’ know Hillary Clinton, but I’m fortunate to know many people who do. To a person they have – while recognizing her flaws – say that she is a decent, earnest, hard-working, and faithful public servant. They describe her Christian faith as longstanding and unwavering.

But with that, I’m not going to suggest that my vote is God’s will. I’m not even going to suggest that God “needs” my vote for one candidate or the other.  My God is bigger than that.

My God’s Providence and Dominion will certainly prevail regardless of whether I show up or not on voting day.

But show up I will.

My best friend framed this properly.  He said it was a matter of identifying dependent and independent variables. Is my candidate a function of my faith values? Or do I chose my candidate based on my personal desires and then contort my religious convictions to support that choice?

In the words of President Lincoln, “my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

On Turning 60.


I turned 60 today. Happy birthday me!

And my brother. His name is Steve. We were born on the same day six years apart. He was the first child. I was the last. Perfect bookends. He remains everyone’s big brother. I remain everyone’s little brother. That is one thing that 60 years hasn’t changed.

People say that chronological age doesn’t matter. Once I got north of 50 I got a lot more of those “you’re as young as you feel!” comments. God bless them. But y’know that’s true. Like when I have a sore back after home or yard work. Like when I go to comb my hair and realize that there’s not much there to comb. Not much there to “feel.” But “feeling” isn’t just physical.  I still find most things “amazing!”  I haven’t lost my wonder. My curiosity of things only grows. While I could probably lose a few physical pounds, I haven’t lost an ounce of mirth. So yes, by that measure I’m still quite young.


Big deal?

Not really. Birthdays in general were never a big deal growing up. That came courtesy of being raised by parents of midwestern farmers who grew up in the Great Depression. “Just another day” my Dad would shrug. And he was right. After today there’s the 14th. Then another number. And a day. All those Thursdays and Fridays and Mondays. Months. Seasons. Years. They begin to blend in quickly. Birthdays are a blip. A rain drop in life’s ocean.


Big deal?

Well, sorta. I’m certainly in no danger of having a mid-life crisis. That is now a chronological impossibility. Perhaps a pre-retirement crisis. With each year that passes the whisper of mortality becomes a bit louder. Something to be mindful of. No reason to freak out. Just mindful. Lot of talk about that these days. Mindfulness, that is. Everyone says it is a good thing. Health and culture gurus declare it a medicinal and therapeutic power. If so, then I figure there’s no sin in being mindful of the fact that you are 60 and not 16. Or some other age. People say you shouldn’t dwell on how old you are. Perhaps they are right. Don’t dwell. Be mindful.


Good time to step back and take stock of things.  Birthdays do that. It has been a good ride. A few hills and valleys. Luckily more of the former than the latter. Perhaps not luck at all. I have been blessed. God has been ever patient and forgiving with me. I don’t know why. I’m not better than others. I’m as flawed as the next. I have my issues. God has helped me through them.

And my family? Where do I begin? Sanderijn? My siblings? My children? Their spouses? The nephews and grandchildren? The whole community of friends past and present.  Folks who I haven’t seen for years but who still give me occasional shout outs and words of encouragement.  I write words but think in faces, relationships, shared experiences, deep affection and thankfulness. Just thinking about them and my 60-year-old eyes get watery. They do that more these days. Watery 60-year-old-eyes. There’s a change. I’m good with that.


Good time to think about tomorrow.  Birthdays do that too. I figure it is a sprint to the final. Maybe not a 20-something sprint to the final. As I remember those were fantastically chaotic. They often had the wrong finish line. Or no finish line at all! Perhaps more of a 60-year-old type sprint to the final. Methodical but determined. A sprint with some narrowing. A sprint with some leavening. A sprint interrupted occasionally with a good book, a meaningful conversation, a loving smile. And a sprint where the finish line is clear and bright.

Finish line?  My Juicebar editor tried to take me out of that one. A bit macabre? A downer? No, the finish line for me isn’t a place or a time. The prophet Micah famously wrote that all God requires is for you to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

That, to me, is not a bad finish line. Regardless of how old I am. So we keep going.