Thursday, August 31, 2006

Murrow Among Us, Thank God!

Below is a stream of Keith Olbermann's comment on the recent speech given by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, that those who would dare offer dissenting voices in the face of government decisions, particularly those of a military variety - are either "intellectually or morally confused." And, that they are not unlike those who saw no real threat from Hitler in the 1930's, with history having labelled them "appeasers."

This is one of those rare moments when a commentator does what a commentator, living in a country where freedom of the press and freedom of speech rate number one on The Bill of Rights, should do.

This is not about political party - it really isn't.

It's about what power, unchecked, unchallenged, becomes -always.

Among the absolutes of the human condition, this is one.

There is also a theology to dissent. It is not meant to injure. That's way too easy. Rather, it is meant to confront power, where power is abused to separate God's children one from another.

Dissent was the role of the prophet - the role of Jesus - the role of the first Christians - a role played well by Christians until Constantine made Christianity the religion of the state, and we haven't been the same since.

It is the role of any who lovingly hold the other accountable.

It's Methodist, for God's sake. Or, at least it was.

It's at least Wesleyan.

I don't know KO's religious leanings, and I don't care.

But this translates well into the citizenships I hold.

Too often it becomes cliche', but I believe it to be especially true now.

We live in perilous times.

In ways that have never before been a part of my vocabulary apart from Biblical criticism, I understand anew the role and warnings of apocalyptic literature.

These are the days when our voices must be heard despite the efforts to silence or diminish them.

It matters not whether you are for or against the war or this administration.

I cannot fathom any American,

or any Christian for that matter,

especially Methodist Christians, who share that name with the Commander in Chief,

who can sit idly by and think that what's happening right now, or what has happened since 2001 is right, honest, moral or faithful.

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones. That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

>But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.” Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Move Over Gabriel

The last “great” trumpet player of the big band era is gone. From his family's press release: Walter "Maynard" Ferguson, one of the most influential musicians and band leaders in the history of Jazz, passed away August 23rd at 8:00 pm Pacific Time at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California.

For any trumpet player, you have your favorites. And I have many, even more than this post will allow.

Some are more technically proficient than others. Others coax sound and emote differently. Others reveal their skill through the tonality they convey from the horn.

Doc is often overlooked for how well he played his horn mostly because of his overexposure on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Man, what I’d give for that band to be back playing every night in the age of digital sound. Of course, that's back when that show worth a damn to watch.

No, I'm not a "Jay" fan. See my post from August, 2005 - "In the World of What Should Have Been & Would Be If I Were King--"The Tonight Show, Starring David Letterman,"
if you have any thoughts on that one, or want to see mine.

Here is a clip from The Late Show with David Letterman on the first show after Johnny Carson's death. It features Doc, Tommy Newsom, and Ed Shaughnessy from the NBC Orchestra. "Here's That Rainy Day" was one of Johnny's favorites, and something you'd expect of Dave to line up as a tribute. As you watch this, keep in mind, Doc, on flugelhorn is about 80 years old. Is it his best performance ever?

Hardly, but the cat can still bring it.

Some Trumpet players bring the soul of the instrument out unlike anyone else before or since. And there have been some really fine horn players over the years. Unquestionably, though, there is one name and one name only for whom the label "Master" applies – Miles.

My high school band mate, Melvin, fancied himself Miles Davis.

He would stand like him when he played. He captured the "breathiness" of his soulful playing. At the time, I was not at a place where I could appreciate it. Miles didn’t impact me fully until my late college days, but Melvin introduced him to me in high school, and he’s been a companion, along with Coltrane, ever since. When I think "trumpet" and "jazz," I think of only one name -

You'll find no one to play with such effortless mastery.

Enjoy this clip from 1959.

See, when I was learning my instrument, I didn’t care so much about the soul of the instrument, I just wanted to play – to scream – to play as high as I could – because at that time, my idol was MF, Maynard Ferguson.

Maynard could play higher than anyone I’ve ever heard. It was unreal, even impossible, yet, there it was. Super C was nothing to him. The highest I could ever get in my prime was G above high C. And I was dying to hit that.

Stratospheric was a label attributed to MF's talent.

Maynard's penchant for lip trills is unrivaled, and may never be matched. It takes masterful control of breath support to do that.

My first Maynard album was “Conquistador.” It was that album that featured “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.

Every high school band played Maynard’s version of that song.

Modulated down, significantly, of course.

Maynard's albums were among the regularly played on my stereo. My Holton Trumpet is based on Maynard's trumpet - the economy version, of course.

I saw him in concert in Memphis when I was in college. In the words of my high school jazz band teacher, Jackie Thomas, it was a "monster."

As the years have gone by and I've tried to recover a number of recordings that mattered to me in digital form, I've had my eye on Maynard's work.

As I've grown older I've found my favorite recordings of Maynard were not from the latter part of his career - those recordings that I had as a teenager and young adult. I'm taken more by his work as a kid - when he got his start, with Stan Kenton, and later on his own.

This clip is a performance from Stan Kenton's Innovations Orchestra, as they performed on Toast of the Town, hosted by Ed Sullivan, which would later become The Ed Sullivan Show. This piece, self-titled, "Maynard
," features a 22 year old lively trumpeter just flat out bringing it. This is from somewhere in the early 50's. The video quality is poor, but you get the point of how special this guy was.

I'm still waiting for a re-release of some of that material, because I'm not going to pay collector's prices for what's out there.

The Boss.

The Lip.

The Screamer.

Maynard was the man.

In a press release upon his death, it was said that someone in the family commented that Gabriel was going to have to move to 2nd chair -

Maynard's in the house.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Yo, Rock! Save Me One More Time

They say that in Hollywood, everything is possible.

I learned well the lessons of my Theatre Appreciation professor at MSU (that's Memphis State University - and not The University of Memphis), Ken Zimmerman, who said whether on the stage or on the screen, in order for the art depicted to communicate with the audience, the audience must willingly suspend their disbelief, and enter the reality of the production before them.

So, when I heard that Sylvester Stallone, at age 60, was filming the sixth movie in the Rocky series, titled, "Rocky Balboa," rather than scoff and as a predictible effort to grab one more dollar from a tired, old character - I said - thank God! I need Rocky one more time to help me focus on personal matters that must get tended, and quickly.

Much of my journey and battle with my weight can be set alongside the release of Rocky movies.

Weird, perhaps.

But true?


"Rocky" came out in 1976. I was in the 7th grade.

The story of a no name club fighter with a shot appealed not only to me, but obviously to the whole country. Stallone became a superstar.

I lived in Jackson. Was a part of a devoted group of friends, all of whom were about 3 years older than me. Even at that age, my role in the group, strange as it may seem, was pastoral counselor. To this day, I value that time with David, Buddy, Rusty, Amy, Greg, Chris, Brett, Joey, and all the rest so deeply. Only a week or so ago I saw Amy for the first time in almost 25 years.

I was immediatley back to 1979.

What are you gonna do?

"Rocky II" came out in 1979. I was in the 10th grade. I had just moved from my beloved south Jackson to Memphis. I went from a school with 300 students to a school with over 300 in my grade alone.

Culture shock.



I know what food as comfort means. I "self-medicated" and gained weight until I was up to over 280 lbs. My body still bares the stretch marks of the most painful time in my life.

"Rocky III" came out in 1982. The year of my gradution from high school. Starting at the tail end of my junior year and just before the start of my senior year, I lost 120 lbs. How you might ask? I sorta "came to myself" in a prodigal kinda way.

Being the rational person that I am, I figured that if I burned off more calories that I took in, I'd lose weight. I measured everything I took in. It was not to exceed 500 calories a day. I played basketball in my driveway daily while listening to music.

What music you ask?

Wait for it -

the soundtrack to "Rocky II," on a LP Album copied onto a cassette tape.

I used the degree of dizziness I felt from getting up too quickly as my measuring stick that I'm losing weight. My personal best one week weight loss under my "program?" 11 lbs.

My parents were worried about me. Of course, this was before we had diagnostic labels for particular eating disorders.

So, at the start of my senior year of high school, I was "smokin' hot," or so I thought. I found a girl and she became my girlfriend - the first of my life. Ginger and I dated for 4 years. That was a very important time for me.

As "Rocky III" opened, I'm graduating from high school and entering my first semester at Memphis State.

I had my first job at Fred Montesi's grocery(another story another time, but I did get to sack Sam Phillips and Dr. Nick's groceries), and with that money I joined the French Rivera Spa at Ridgeway and Park. Along with Tim, Brian, Stick - we'd go two to three times a week to pump iron. By 1984, I had muscled my way from 160 lbs. in 1981 to 200 lbs., and I was cut, for me.

"Rocky IV" opened at Christmas, 1985.

I was in good physical shape, but change was in the air. I was in the middle of my "first" senior year at MSU, I was moving jobs as youth director at Whitehaven UMC to Emmanuel. The realization that my relationship with my girlfriend had reached its end was upon me - and I had a painful choice to make. The soundtrack for that time was "St. Elmo's Fire."

Water was not my beverage of choice.

Beer, and lots of it, was. Anybody remember the Sports Page at Park and Mt. Moriah? Or, how about the V.I. on Highland? Then you get it.

There's a story I've been told by friends that due to my "loss" in a game of quarters, one night I table danced at the VI to "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves.

Glad I don't remember that one.

That semester at MSU was hardly stellar, but it was a benchmark.

My GPA for that semester was, are you ready? 1.0

How do you earn a 1.0?

Pretty easy.

Just don't go to class.

Don't study.

I didn't.

Somewhere in the middle part of '86 I found Kristy. Or, she found me. That's another story. Anyway, in finding myself again, so, too, did I find the Rocky IV Soundtrack to accompany my workouts. Through which medium? A Compact Disc, of course.

My "second" senior year was needed in part to rectify some of the damage done in my first, but the time was spent well getting to know the woman who would be my wife.

When "Rocky V" came out in 1990, change was in the air again.

I graduated from Vandy, was moving across the Tennessee River into the promised land of the Memphis Conference, I had been married for a year - and immersed myself in my work and not my physical disciplines. The label "fat and happy" applies here.

In 1998, I lost 40 lbs. Exercise and water by the gallon. Amazing. "Rocky" music was my companion. Got down to 218 lbs. It was as close as I had been to my optimal "fighting" weight than I had been in a very long time. By that time, I was able to mix the tracks I wanted and burn them on a CD.

It's 2006 - I'm over 40. A couple of years over 40. I have high blood pressure (it's in the family), but I can't ignore the factors contributing to keeping it high that I perpetuate. I have an elevated cholesterol level that I need to get a hold of.

And I need to get 30 lbs. off, and keep it off. 215-220 lbs. And hold there. That's what I need.

The death of my brother, my parents getting older, the reality of my own mortality is present in this my moment of ontological shock. But more than that, I watch the pure joy my children give my parents and Kristy's parents, and I long for the day (not anytime soon, mind you), that I can be Granddaddy. And I want to be an active one.

So, I've walked a couple of miles four times this week. The TotalGym is calling my name.

The ringing bell that starts Rocky's workout is ringing in my head. And downloaded on my mp3 player?

Yep - you got it.

This movie could not come at a better time for me.

One more time, Sly.

It's time.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Missed Going to 'Boston'

I wrote this a few days after "Hurricane Elvis" hit Memphis. In late July 2003, a severe thunderstorm with straight-line winds approaching 100 mph, hit Memphis. Almost a half million people were without power for upwards to two weeks - in Memphis - in July.

The National Guard was dispatched to help keep order. I was reminded of the last time I was aware the National Guard was patrolling the streets of Memphis.

In the Summer of '78 I had just turned 14.

I lived in Malesus, Tennessee, a little community in south Jackson.

I held in my hands a ticket for my first ever concert.

It was to see Boston at the Mid-South Coliseum.

Back in the day, coming to the city to see a concert was quite a big deal.

And man, I was juiced.

Ask any lover of rock music, and Boston’s self titled debut album defines an era of music.

It is iconic.

To this day, I can air guitar the licks of every song. Give me a set of drumsticks and I’ll play every rhythm with precision. I don’t even need drumsticks, that’s what my hands were for beating on the dashboard of my friend’s car as we South Jackson boys cruised the northside between McDonald’s and Danver’s on a Friday night.

You know that scene from "Wayne’s World" when the guys in the car start head banging at the fast part of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” That’s not Hollywood folks, that happened, often.

I had to convince my folks that I could go with my group – the boys, (S.S.Y.P. - only a few of us know what that stands for) down to Memphis, see the concert, umm, behave, and get back home without incident. I mean if you can’t trust me with David, Rusty, Chris, Brett and Greg, who can you trust me with? They consented, I got the ticket, and I was something, let me tell you.

We had it all planned.

We’d head out of Jackson to Memphis in time to grab a quick bite before getting to the Coliseum to buy our gosh-awfully expensive black concert t-shirts with that wicked Boston logo on it, and wear the shirts during the concert, grab something to eat on the backside and be home around midnight or a little later.

No big deal.

The more we planned, the more excited I got.

It hurts being this cool!

Just days before the concert, all hell broke loose in Memphis. Striking police and firefighters — martial law, National Guard. Watching Memphis TV from Jackson, I quickly got the sinking feeling that a wrinkle was forming in my plans. Not living in the city at that time, I couldn’t appreciate what that episode in Memphis’ life meant; all I knew was that my folks were no longer willing to let me travel to Memphis to see Boston.

Rarely in my adolescence did my folks ever give absolute, “you shall nots.” Most often, I was encouraged to use my best judgment.

But when you’re a slave to the rock-n-roll, man, there is no judgment.

A brother’s gotta rock, you know?

The day of the concert, I sold my Boston ticket to Joey, another brother in our teenage fraternity, who went in my place.

The group of guys reported later that the concert was everything I could have imagined and more.

I was bummed.

Sunday’s Commercial Appeal had me remembering the events of the city back in 78.

It’s not the first time Memphis has been placed on the brink of its own demise. Disasters come. Some of them come from straight line winds, some from epidemics, and others from the tension living in community and learning the hard lessons of civility, or the consequences of the lack thereof.

Sometimes we look back on what we’ve lived through and we wonder how we made it, and we realize, ironically, we made it exactly because we are in community.

Sometimes we look back and laugh at our foolishness. Reflection gives us room to realize the life energy wasted tearing each other down when we are much stronger building each other up.

For me, well, it was only a few months later that I was able to see my first concert in the Mid- South Coliseum,

it was Peter Framptonand yes, that night, I absolutely felt like he did.

— not too shabby,-

Then, followed only weeks later by KISS.

Dr. Love made a housecall that night.

For a 14 year old — it was a wonder- year.

But I’ll never forget that I missed going to Boston.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

FROM THE ARCHIVES - "Mr. President, Are You Listening?" March 4, 2003

The following was written in early March, 2003 - days before the beginning of the war in Iraq. The whole thing makes me sick between where we were and where we are now.

I wonder, Mr. President, who you listen to.

With the world’s greatest military might about to be unleashed on Iraq, is there any voice you'll listen to and change your mind?

Is there any other course to reach the end we seek of peace and security without the “shock” and “awe” of laser guided bombs and tomahawk missiles?

I mean, really, if God’s mind can be changed at Nineveh, can’t yours against Baghdad?

In my lifetime, I’ve seen dissenting views on military action in numerous ways. As a boy, I remember the way dissent arose to disdain around the Vietnam conflict, and how those who fought were treated upon their return.

Nothing about that felt right, even as a boy I knew that a measure of respect by those whose fight was marching the streets of the homeland was due those boys who fought a world away trying to come home and start anew. Spits and curses were no way to welcome them home.

Back in Desert Storm, your dad’s war, I remember feeling as if we are at least responding to aggression — and the world’s general opinion was favorable. Even though the thing about oil kept popping up in my mind.

In Kosovo, we were about the halt of “ethnic cleansing,” which is genocide by any other name. That seemed difficult, but necessary.

But this time — the voices I’m hearing say something else. So much of it feels as though we’re reacting out of hurt for our own 9/11 losses by the enemy we can see, the one we can reach, the one we can overthrow at our pleasure. I’m not a defender of Hussein. He’s a nut, a menace, and an oppressor of his people.

I don’t doubt that.

You’ve said that you’re not going to let dissent sway your perspective on this matter. But you might need to listen a little more clearly. The voices of many of our friends in the world say to wait, to listen, and to think this through.

Over 100 cities in the U.S. have city councils that have said “wait.”

Religious leaders of all faiths have said to stop and listen to something else, to find another way.

Leaders of your own denomination, The United Methodist Church, have spoken against our aggressive approach. Yeah, I know, some of our sisters and brothers in the Christian faith, who feel the government has a God-given right to do anything without question, are telling you to go for it.

And certainly, those who have created a Brunswick stew out of their love of country and love of God are ready to fight. And even if you feel that God has put you in the White House (with a little help from Florida), there’s something else to consider. In Scripture, God never put a king in power without sending prophets to speak the truth, God’s truth. Sometimes the king would listen, other times he wouldn’t, and when he didn’t, the prophetic truth was sobering.

There are many voices saying not to do this.

And to that number, I add mine.

Don’t do this.

There are way too many reasons to think this is going to start something we’re not going to want to finish—to think that the America my children will grow up in will be vastly different and considerably more dangerous than the one I’ve known.

Don’t do this Mr. President, I know too many people called up, activated and deployed in this situation. There are too many Moms and Dads, sisters and brothers, spouses and children in fear of what could be.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m no pacifist.

Sure, I might lean that way, but I recognize realities of life against life that might necessitate force. Do I think we were right to engage Hitler in WWII? No question. But contrary to what others have said to equate the two, Hussein is no Hitler and his military machine doesn’t even approach the Third Reich.

Some of you who served during WWII know the difference and how ridiculous it is to equate the two.

St. Augustine articulated “just war” criteria, and this conflict is not meeting it (in spite of what my colleague and covenant brother who serves the very large chapel on Poplar Avenue says). In fact, it doesn’t even come close. Religious folks try to make “just war” or “jihad” fit their agendas to do what they really wanted to do all along.

I’m proud to be an American, but in a way that gives room for dissent and is not complete without it. In a way that seeks compromise rather than autocracy. I love this place I call home. I love what it can be when the American experiment is put to the test, Outside my house flies the flag of my country.

But inside my heart is branded the banner of the citizenship I claim as a child of God — and when the two citizenships are in conflict, there is for me but only one resolution.

So I wonder, Mr. President, fellow believer, whom are you listening to?

I guess in the next few days we’re going to find out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Jimmy - Archived Reflections

Last April, I wrote about the second anniversary of my brother's death. Jimmy died in his sleep in April of 2004. Being able to write and preach about his death, and the aftermath of living with the reality of his death was pretty important for me. I reflected upon that anniversary in my post titled "Two."

As I browsed through archived newsletters, I was reminded how important this time was in my writing. I've loved and hurt before - but never before had I experienced a "hole in my soul" of this magnitude.

The greatest regret I lived with (thank God for the past tense of that) was the fact that Jimmy and I, despite loving each other far more than either of us would admit to each other, never fully nurtured our relationship as brothers in ways that I had hoped. That drove both my writing and my disease of grief that led me to pretty unhealthy behaviors for the balance of the year.

Rather than breaking these writings up in several posts, I'm keeping them all within the confines of this one - it is long, but chronological.

“Oh Brother”
Sunday, April 19, 4:30 a.m. - One day after Jimmy’s death

I fooled myself into thinking I was going to get a good night’s sleep tonight.

I started off numb and exhausted, but just after 4, I awoke with a heaviness of heart that tells me don’t even try right now. It was just about the same time the night before that my sister in-law called me about Jimmy.

Thank you all for your expressions of care yesterday. Rob and Judy, I got your voice messages, but by that time of the day yesterday, I just couldn’t answer the phone anymore. I’m sorry.

Daddy went with Carin and her father to pick out a plot at Ridgecrest and to set the arrangements for the funeral. I was left to hold down the fort with the rest of family and gathered friends until Dad called and asked me to write Jimmy’s obituary.

A more surreal experience I cannot recall. But this whole day has been that way.

Living on the extremes of life is a challenge. Grief, pain and shock bounded by my two year old angel who lives today as if its any other and expecting us to live, love, play and read to him just because that s what we do.

I really think I live too controlled a life.

As short as it is, why so self-protected? My ‘crisis’ of identity a year or so back. So self-critical of who I am in my relationships and dissatisfied that I bring anything of value to them (and yes, with my brother, that is a regret that weighs heaviest) it’s hit me that I’m so afraid I’m not going to be liked and loved for me, that I hide in the control of what I know, who I know, and how I present myself.

Well, that masked has cracked and what’s left is who I am -

My nephew, Eric, will be four in June. I wonder if he’s going to remember his father? My eleven year old gets it. I look at him as it’s as if I’m looking in a time warped mirror and I wish to God he’s not as much like me as it appears he’s going to be.

I know you love me. I have no expectations of any of you except that you continue to love me through this.

Mom and Dad are a mess. Are children supposed to hold their parents as if they were their own children?

Wednesday, April 21, 4:00 p.m.
My Dear Christian Community,
I‘ve been haunted by what I wrote for Easter morning. Between the confidence and conviction of composing it and this moment - everything has been placed into a different light.

Doubt, distress, disbelief, a hole in my heart as big as a truck.

So, today as I was doing some word processing at home, I noticed that the obituary for my brother is just above the sermon I wrote the Sunday before. Providence, timing, synchronicity, who knows, but I went back and re-read this sermon with different eyes - and with faith I proclaim, here I stand, I can do no other, not because it’s easy, but because it’s never been harder.

When my dad got up at the service to speak, my sigh was audible, he heard me. It was “Oh my God, Dad, what are you doing?”

I had been as parent to him the preceding 36 hours, but in that moment, he, admittedly stepped outside himself, spoke the truth - he spoke, nor as my preacher, but as my father, and I needed that so badly.

It’s one thing for us to announce our love for each other and our rubrically guided proclamations of peace, it is something else to make that incarnate, and you have done that for me these past days. I cannot begin to articulate what that has meant and continues to mean.

I am grieving well. I can be reduced to mush in the blink of a teary eye without knowing what triggered it.

Multiple calls have been made to parents and sister and sister-in law “just to hear each others voices.”

Tuesday morning (the morning after the funeral), when Kristy was up with the boys to get them ready for school, Christopher (the 5 year old nephew Jason spoke of in his eulogy) asked her if she could hear me snoring through the night (that being the sign that his daddy was still alive). These are the questions we live with and answer as honestly as we can, even when we don’t know what to say.

I find myself talking about all this and processing it for no apparent reason, it just comes out. I think that’s healthy.

Of one thing I am certain and I pledge, Jimmy’s death will teach me how to live. So help me God.


“Amazed and Confused”
Luke 24.l-12
Easter - Year C
Rev’d Dr. Jonathan L. Jeffords, OSL, April 11, 2004
“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. Luke 24.11.12
What is this day about?

What does it mean?

Isn’t that at least some of what lives in us at Easter? Children are bombarded with influences and understandings of this day that confuse.

I have a minister friend who leads the devotionals at the pre-school at her church. She was telling me this week of what happened as she was asking the kids if they knew what Easter meant.

The response?

“We get to hunt for eggs and get candy.’

My colleague said, But isn’t there something else about Easter we remember, something about Jesus?’

And one little girl raised her hand and blurted out, “You mean Jesus gets to hunt for eggs and get candy too?”


There’s a photograph of me that captures what it means to be “amazed and confused.”

I’m coming out of the birthing room at Methodist North and into the family waiting area to announce that my first child has been born, Despite holding multiple degrees from institutions of higher learning, despite knowing the biology of human childbirth, seeing it, witnessing it, was, well, in a couple of words ,“amazing and confusing.’ See, it was the “physics” of it all that blew my mind, And so, there’s this photograph that captures my face before the first words were spoken that Andrew Scott Jeffords had entered the world, It was true, it had happened but that didn’t make it any less amazing or confusing.

As grand as my emotions of that moment, all those amazing and confusing moments that accompany any effort to raise three boys, be a good husband and father, and pastor — if pictures had been taken of me on the occasions I’ve been in the company of death, I wonder how similar or dissimilar they would be, Maybe not so different. Our entrances and exits on the stage of this earthen sod is the stuff of music and poetry, the touch of the artist’s brush and the liturgies of many a religious tradition.

But as true as that might be, our culture does not know what to do with death. In fact, we are so much more in the death “avoidance and denial” business than ever we are death as a part of life. We don’t talk about it without squirming, and if we do it’s usually only because someone’s mortality has forced us to deal with it.

Craig Barnes in his commentary in “The Christian Century” magazine, remembers his grandmother’s generation. He said that death was an integral part of their lives. Family members died in their own beds, wakes were held in their houses. He said that it was spoken as a reality of life.

Now if there was the polite whisper in her day it was about sex. After all, some things do demand some discretion. Contrasting that to today, the turnabout is obvious isn’t it? We don’t talk about death except in whispers, but our indulgences into human sexuality are plastered on every billboard, TV show, and song on the radio - everywhere for everyone to see. Death is compartmentalized in our culture and times — we deal with it only when we have no other choice,

The transition of life to death is sacred. Bill Coffin says,

“Death cannot be the enemy if it’s death that brings us to life. For just without leave-taking there can be no arrival; without growing old there can be no growing up; without tears, no laughter; so without death there can be no living....he says, Death is the great equalizer, not because it makes us equal, but because it mocks our pretensions at being anything else."
Yes, death is real. No getting around it, But it is also sacred. And for those of us who hold to the unique revelation of God through Jesus of Nazareth, we know that everything we understand as real, common, ordinary is indeed extraordinary. And on this Easter morning we find ourselves in good company with those first witnesses teased by this amazing and confusing question— ‘why do you look for the living among the dead?’

On that first Easter morning, Luke tells us of the women who went to the tomb to do what must be done to the body to prepare it for burial. The ointment and spices were prepared: the sad and noble duty was theirs to carry out.

Death, although sacred, isn’t pretty - it stinks.

In fact the stench of it casts such fear in our culture that we’ll do any and everything to avoid its reality. Their only worry was the stone that blocked their way, how could they get to Jesus without help?

How indeed!

The men, the ones we traditionally know as the disciples, fearfully locked away as the dreams of what could be lay dead in the stone cold tombs of their spirits. It was what it was. He was dead, and so too, was the revolution, the new Reign, the hopes of tomorrow long gone. The only reign now ruling their lives was grief of lost and fear of what all of this meant for them.

You’ve been there, haven’t you? Are you there now? There’s something here that transcends time — Our knowledge of Jesus — who he is, what he taught, what he charges his followers to do—it seems is not enough. Christians are people most needy of assurance, We need those confirming moments that in spite of the evidence, there’s something more still. What a minute, there’s a church word for that — FAITH!

‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ Hebrews 11.1
I love Jim Wallis’ definition of faith. Wallis founded the Sojourner’s Community in D.C. He says that -

Faith is believing in spite of the evidence, and watching the evidence change.’
But how many times did we hear Jesus admonish those even closest to him that their lack of faith prevented them from seeing the Truth. Guess what folks?— Lack of faith still does.

The evidence of faith we are called to pivots on three little letters that begin chapter 24. It’s an interesting figure of speech, a conjunction, “but.” As in ‘despite what you see, there is something else going on here that you don’t see, and because you don’t see it doesn’t make it any less real,”

“But,” a conjunction - for all of us who grew up with Schoolhouse Rock, we know all about conjunctions, right? You know “conjunction, junction what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”

What a bizarre way to start the Easter narrative from Luke. Craig Barnes comments on the “but,” that it is a sacred intrusion into death. The gospel always turns on a great ‘however.’ I like that very much. It is so consistent with Jesus, who announced the Reign of God again and again by saying ‘you have heard it said,.,, but I tell you that ultimately we find the Easter story from Luke doing pretty much the same thing you have heard it said that I’m dead, but I tell you”

So, the women make their way to the tomb only to find that the problem they anticipated, that the stone wouldn’t allow them access to Jesus’ broken, dead, body, rolled away. One commentator makes an interesting point, “why was the stone rolled away? To let Jesus out of the tomb, or to let us in it and see the magnificent work of God!”

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

The women’s’ encounter with the angel, their remembering what Jesus had told them and their reporting of all these things to the disciples was hardly overwhelming to them. Luke reports that the disciples are left with the thought that it was and ‘idle tale,’ I mean, after all, what do the women knew? Can’t you just see that? You know the role and place of women in that culture and time — status attached only to the men is their lines - couldn’t testify in court — their testimony couldn’t be trusted.

I can see Peter, going to the tomb both to pacify and patronize the women, sees for himself. Sees the stone rolled away, the linen cloths laying aside. He, amazed and confused, goes home. We’re pretty sure he didn’t fully believe the women. After seeing for himself one wonders if he believed at first either. The pivotal moment of the Christian faith, where death is both acknowledged and defeated, and he goes home. Mark’s gospel talks about them being afraid. John has Peter being stupid and John (the beloved one) both faster and smarter than everyone else to know what had happened and why.

Despite what we think, or know, or what we think we know about Jesus and the Resurrection, there is still this — something happened. Something happened that cemented otherwise cowardly disciples to martyrdom for the sake of the Crucified and Risen Lord. The kerygmatic message of Jesus of Nazareth resonated with people moving them from hopelessness to hope, oppression or no.

Something still happens. Look at as, here we are. Something brings as here. Something of meaning drives us. There are many reasons to come and be a part of a church—even this one. We choose congregations based upon ideology, theology, political bent, we choose congregations for what they can do for us, provide us, what bells and whistles their program brings — and we find ourselves at churches for what we can bring to them — what of God in as in meant to be offered and shared In the up building of Christian community. But in the end, none of these reasons matter if they are ends onto themselves.

Ultimately, we must wrestle with this fundamental question - “what do you think of Jesus?” Of what account does the one proclaimed crucified and risen hold sway in your life? In the end—what difference does it make, and how does that difference find expression?

Our chancel choir sings and recorded a setting of the Song of Solomon that is haunting in its beauty. The French horn is elegant, the piano is fabulous, the voices are magnificent, especially the tenors! Anyway, there’s a line in that song taken from the Scripture that bears witness to the love of God for humanity. Although referring to the love shared between two committed people for one another, metaphorically it holds up.
Set me as a seal upon your heart. For love is strong as death Love is strong as death.
This Easter morning tells me of something else. Something more. Want to know what Easter is all about? It’s amazing and confusing, yes, but sisters and brothers in Christ, it’s true—not only is love as strong an in stronger.

‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’ Luke 24.6

Craig Barnes, ‘We’re All Terminal’ April 6, 2004, The Christian Century
Credo- William Sloane Coffin
The Soul of Politics - Jim Wallis

"I Buried My Brother”
June 9, 2004

I went to the cemetery today to visit my brother’s grave.

I spend a decent amount of time in Jackson for Conference business, and though I’ve been in and through Jackson several times since Jimmy died, I’ve not been able to make myself go there again.

Like that nagging thing left undone that won’t let go until it’s done, this was something that I had to do.

The reality of Jimmy’s death is shrouded still in the disbelief that it actually happened. There have been several gatherings of family in the past weeks, and I’m left with the weight of loss and the sadness of “the one more thing” I could or would have said had I the chance. His absence is profoundly present to me, as it is with my whole family.

So, it was with that, a sense of sadness, no, of obligation, and yes, perhaps a little dread, that I, along with Sky, a brother in the clergy, went to the cemetery at the same time that the Annual Conference’s Memorial Service was taking place to take part in one of our own.

Like a wave, the grief hit me again.

There it was, his name and years of life upon this earth inscribed on a temporary marker.

His burial site was now covered with sod, but on the fringes of the sod there was a ring of dirt. I was reminded that the last time I saw that dirt. It was the day I helped to bury him.

That’s right, I helped bury my brother.

Under the leadership and the insistence of his best friend, Jason, who eulogized him, it was made clear very quickly that no machine, no cemetery workers were going to bury Jimmy.

We were.

And we did.

Family and friends all - we picked up our shovels and did a day’s work.

I’ve never done that before. I’m not sure I’ll ever do that again. But on that day, there was no other thing to do but to pitch in.

It truly was a means of grace.

We talked, we laughed, we told stories.

The young and the old helped.

It was a holy moment.

When we had finished, we all looked at each other as if to say ‘what do we do now? So, we gathered in circle and sang the "Doxology."

It felt right. It was right.

In the beginning, and at the end, there is God.

Today I remembered the last time I was there. And even through my tears I could smile. And I remember my brother, and I miss him, and I’m thankful for his life. And I left the cemetery today thinking that it had been a very good day.


Over My Shoulder –
October 26, 2004

Clergy people are a weird lot.

I ought to know.

We’re fairly well educated, often versatile in a number of disciplines, and usually very expressive of ourselves in communicating from the pulpit.

It’s letting folks know who we really are that is the rub.

For many reasons, some of which are pretty smart, clergy don’t always share the full measure of who we are, both to fellow clergy and especially not to the people under our charge.

There’s a lot of me in that sentiment. The stuff that makes up my being is bound in the fear that if you knew me for who I really am, will you still love me? I can remember as a boy, as ontological questions were coming into my awareness, posing scenarios to my mother that went something like this: “If I did (fill in the blank of something very, very bad), would you still love me?” Invariably, the answer was, “I may not like what you did, but I’ll always love you.”

As confident as clergy people can be, we are often in very lonely places. We can well articulate a theology of grace, but when the work of “doing” ministry supplants the personal work of discipleship (spiritual disciplines practiced), knowing the nature of grace as operative in ones life gets a little muddled.

I say all of that to say this — life’s been a bit muddled these last months. I find myself on the other side of a fairly deep chasm of grief and pain. I see it now over my shoulder, and ahead is a life that is good, and one framed in faith and hope.

I’ve always thought that matters of body and spirit were linked.

I understood it.

Now, I can bear witness to it. A couple of weeks after Jimmy died; I developed this “back” issue. It was legitimate enough. I have a bulging disc at L4 and L5, I saw a physical therapist, went through some therapy, and lived in pain for months, for which I sought relief through medication.

It never occurred to me that the pain in my back and the pain in my heart were related. And sure enough, whenever I treated my back pain with medication, somehow the soul was numbed, too. At that point in my life, that seemed preferable.
But grief that is not dealt with, even though numbed, can exact a toll.

It did for me.

And it is a lonely place.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that the medication deepened the pain of my soul. Grief for the loss in my family, shame for the brother I wasn’t for Jimmy, the loss of control in not being able to understand how a 34 year old man goes to sleep one day and doesn’t wake up the next.

Let me tell you people, I have not been well these months.

Ask my staff, they’ll tell you. Ask my wife and kids—or, better yet, don’t!

I’ve listened to playbacks of my sermons, especially since the Summer forward, and all I can say is, “I’m sorry.” I don’t think I said anything heretical, but boy, did I sound angry. Well, I was. It’s taken everything I have to “do my job” these months. I don’t think I’ve done it well.

Three weeks ago I had a breakthrough moment. I recognized that as strong as I thought I was, as self- reliant and sufficient, I needed my parents in the worst way. They visited for Andrew’s birthday, and they basically grabbed me to give me room to vent, to cry, and to affirm that, together, we were going to get through this. I was reminded that I still need my mom and dad. In fact, I need them now more than ever.

It was October 7. That was the last day I took a pain pill.

It’s amazing how much better the world seems with a clear head and heart. Sure, my back still acts up once in a while, but stretching and an occasional dose of ibuprofen is really all I need.

Over my shoulder is a place to which I have no desire to return. I prefer to look ahead.

I miss Jimmy.

I have more grieving to do. But unlike before, “I feel my pain,” and that’s not so bad a place to be.

Because I’m free to feel, I’m now able to heal.

So, that’s where I am. That’s where I’ve been. By the grace of God, it is a “whole” place where I’m going.

From the Archives

Before the world of the blog, all of my writing lived in the domain of the church newsletter. Our church has an extraordinary archive, and because I've received some interest in some things I've written in the past, I've pulled several pieces across the past five years to post.

Thank God for OCR!

My hope is that it might give a more complete picture of who I am and what I understand a life of faith to be.

All archived posts will be noted with the date it was originally written.

"Perfect Love Casts Out Fear" July, 2001

The following is among the first articles I wrote as pastor at Saint John's. It comes less than a month after arriving.

Monday Morning, July23

I’m saying goodbye to a friend today. Harold died Friday. It’s not like I would have known of his death except that someone called the house Saturday morning, and asked if the “Harold” listed in the obituaries is the Harold I know.

Or the Harold I knew.

My family had known him since my childhood. During my childhood, I sat at his dinner table, and he sat at ours. Harold served in this annual conference for 40 years. He pastored, buried, married, baptized, presided at Table, and preached to countless people across West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.

His mind was as sharp as any you’d ever know. Photographic memory made names and faces come easy to him. His recitation of poetry as a part of his sermons was both masterful and inspiring.

I used to work for Harold. I was on staff at one of the churches he served.

But something happened about ten years ago that changed the nature of that relationship. As talented, as cordial as Harold was, there dwelt within the shadows of his soul a truth of his nature he never felt safe to share.

There was no sanctuary, no safe harbor for him within the systems and structures of the Church he had given his life to. Trying to suppress this truth was like trying to push a volleyball under water - you might can hold down for awhile, but sooner or later, it’s going to ascend into the open air, like it or not.

And it did.

He got caught trying to live out in secret what was his secret.

Because the church couldn’t or wouldn’t hold him in love, it asked him to take his leave from it.

And he did.

In one fell swoop, the totality of life and ministry was negated, in some eyes, because someone’s mask slipped and we were in a position to see what he’d worked so hard to hide.

Like the secret that won’t go away, the rumor mill of who Harold was metastasized throughout the community called to be the body of Christ. Try as people might to explain what happened, or to act as if they always knew something was up, the church was far more interested in excusing itself the embarrassment of dealing with one of their own around an issue it doesn’t know what to do with rather than to consider that there was a name, a person, one of its own, for whom it could not or would not offer sanctuary.

For ten years I’ve thought about Harold. I never called. I wrote once, got no response.

I ran into him in a restaurant a few years ago. It was painfully polite on all sides...but it wasn’t community. I’m not sure I wanted it, and I’m quite sure he didn’t trust it would be authentic.

I’m going to say goodbye to Harold today.

But before I do, I’m going to ask his forgiveness and God’s forgiveness because the same institution that exalts me, exiled him. The same institution that speaks of love and grace, loves doctrine more than the people Christ came to redeem.

See, the issue that changed our relationships with Harold was not his issue, it was our inability to handle it with love and grace. Because we couldn’t or wouldn’t love perfectly, love was cast out by fear.

Harold is home, he’s free. No more secrets.

In fact, I understand Harold reached peace with himself and made great contributions again for those in his network of care. But we’re left. And if forgiveness means anything it means that we will strive to repeat none of the mistakes of our past.

I know that there are more “Harolds” in the church’s life.

In my life.

God help me be the person of grace I can be...God help the Church be the community it’s supposed to be. The only way that can happen is when we push ourselves aside to let “perfect love cast out fear.”

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Election Returns - Déjà Vu ?

So, I'm going into my local polling place to do my civic due, and I'm wondering if anyone remembers the fit I threw in the place 4 years ago. Surely not. It's the first time I've voted there since the "incident." I've been voting early every other time since, but with vacation, no such luck this time out.

As I hand my voter registration card to the nice lady at the table - I braced for what I might hear...

and I did...

"Sir, I can't find your name in our book?"

Oh, hell no - not again.

The following is my newsletter article for the first week of August, 2002.

Is this a great country, or what?

Last Thursday, I went to my local polling place to cast my vote for the candidates of my choice. The exercise in democracy is something I’ve always taken pride in. I have memories of watching the party conventions during the 60’s, and although quite young, the anger, the zeal, the conviction of citizens of the same country being diametrically opposed to, well, everything, fascinated me.

Now, my beloved wife doesn’t understand this about me. As much as she loves me, you ought to see the looks I get when I’m home on my day off and I’m watching CSPAN!

So, Thursday, taking my role as a citizen seriously, I went to vote.

Made my way through the maze of folks waving posters in my face, offering guides to help me find the right candidate when I'm in the polling booth, and even a few of the folks running for office were there to remind me how much they’d appreciate my support.

One guy's mama was there asking me to vote for his son.

Thank God for the 100 ft. line that ends such madness.

From that line on, It’s all about the citizen and his or her right to cast a ballot in peace for a candidate.

This was my first time to vote in Shelby County since moving back to the city. With voters’ registration card in hand I approached the table with the book in which my name would be listed to show that I, indeed, was registered to vote at the precinct ever so convenient to my house. The kindly poll worker to whom I gave my card greeted me.

I pronounced my name and watched his finger scan the page on which the “J’s” were found. I was puzzled as I watched his finger go up the page and down the page - up and down.

“Let me help him,” I thought. So I turned my head so I could see what he was seeing, “There’s a ‘Jeffords,’” I said. Ooops, not me, it was Kristy,

Apparently, I was not in the book.

Confused, but not troubled, I was sent to the head polling person to correct this little glitch. Only he was busy with someone else. He was tucked away in a corner, speaking on a telephone to the Election Commission Office concerning a guy who had just moved into the precinct from another precinct in the county, who wanted to vote here. The guy was leaning up against the wall - looking put out - his two kids were running all over the place and I was glad mine weren’t with me.

“Should’ve had all this fixed before he got here," I thought.

We looked at each other, gave that southern “what’s up?” head nod without speaking a word. He told his kids to be still, stay with their mother, don’t bang on the piano. Again I was glad the boys were with Kristy,

I waited 15 minutes for the head man to come back to tell this guy I was waiting behind that all was taken care of and he may enter the polling place to vote.

“About time," I thought.”

“May I help you?” He asked me.

I told him yes, and shared the problem. I handed him my voters’ registration card most certain that he’d be able to correct the problem and send me to do my civic duty. Standing beside him as he spoke the with “big office” downtown, he shared my name, spelled it, gave my address and all the other pertinent information located on my voter’s registration card.

I cannot begin to characterize the look of confusion that began to creep upon the face of this head pollster.

“Did you cancel your voter’s registration?” he asked as he listened to the voice on the other end of the Line.

“Cancel? No sir. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why would I be here if I cancelled?"
It was about this time I knew something was up.

He said as he handed me the phone,

“She’d like to talk with you.” - which, I understand, is unusual for the common man to be able to actually speak to a human in the election commission office especially on Election Day.

“Hello,” I said.

“Mr. Jeffords, our records show that you cancelled your voter’s registration upon your request.”

“No m'am, not possible, didn’t happen, I don’t know where that came from.”

“All the same, sir, you are not going to be eligible to vote today.”

“But I have my voters’ registration card, how can I not be eligible, why am I here to vote if I cancelled it (I was convinced my logic would allow her to see the error of her ways and she would say, “Mr. Jeffords, you make great sense, I’m going to authorize you to vote.”).

Instead, she said, “Oh, we give out a lot of voters’ registration cards, that doesn’t mean anything. For all we know, you’re a convicted felon.”

Now let me say at this point that I had been a pretty good boy. But that last comment from “Miss Thang” down at the Election Commission Office did It. I don’t think I was yelling, really, but everyone kind of stopped what they were doing, including the guy I had been waiting in line behind, his wife and kids - they all just took in the moment as I made the pronouncement to the lady on the phone -

“I can assure you, mam, that I am not a convicted felon,”

“Doesn’t matter, you still can’t vote today. But to correct your error, please come at your convenience to the Election Commission Office at..”

“Wait a minute,” I said, this is not MY error, It’s YOUR error, and you’re telling me that to correct an error that I didn’t make, I’ve got to come to you?”

“Yes, sir.”

Click. She hung up.

No “have a nice day,” no “sorry for the inconvenience.” No “kiss my toe.” Just click.

As I stormed out of the polling place I was so mad that I wasn’t capable of embarrassment. We passed that point a long ways back. I’m not really sure what all I said. I am sure, however, It wasn’t very nice. Poor head pollster guy caught my wrath and all he was doing was trying to help me.

Again, I was really glad my kids weren’t with me.

The next day, I was working out in the garage and I noticed that there were a couple of kids playing across the street in the house that some family had moved in to while we were on vacation. We hadn’t yet gone over to introduce ourselves.

Hey, it’s Memphis, you know privacy fences, mind your own business and all that.

We’ll get around to it - one day.

“Hmm, they look familiar," I thought.

When their dad opened the door to call them into the house for dinner - that’s when I got embarrassed. Seems like I knew them already, and the part of me they knew was not the part I like folks to see, especially someone I’ll be calling “neighbor”.

And they saw it in full bloom the night before at the local precinct as I waited in line behind them. I’m just hoping that while he cast his ballot in the booth, whatever vote he cast about me and my character I can attempt to overcome. Lord knows, I need to.

Now, back to today...

"Oh, there you are, Mr. Jeffords, sorry, I was just looking in the wrong place."