Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thoughts Upon Thanksgiving

I've come to think that Thanksgiving is most deeply appreciated not in the extravagance of plenty, nor the satiation of every possible hunger that ends up in gluttony. Thanksgiving seems hollow if you expect everything you've got...or, you feel entitled to it.

There is the beginning of a different sense of Thanksgiving this year...perhaps a more pristine one. History can be a great teacher, if we pay attention and learn its lessons...Thanksgiving takes on a deeper meaning when you recognize what you've come through...or even what you're going through.

That first Thanksgiving, with Pilgrims and Native Americans...and Squanto (I remember reading a book about Squanto when I was a boy)...has a romantic feel to it this far removed...the stuff of childhood reenactments with their tall cardboard hats and feathered head's just so doggone cute.

But such observances do not strike us at our core to prompt the very thing it seeks. Thanksgiving only trapped in historical, if not mythological, remembrances do not necessarily make being thankfful incarnate in the present.

The recent election has prompted renewed interest in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Every indicator is that President-elect Obama is taking cues from Lincoln's approach to governance...a steady course in the time extreme uncertainty.

I tell you, Doris Kearns Goodwin ought to give him a piece of her book, "Team of Rivals," because he's the best salesman for it she's got.

I was taken by the following proclamation. Placed into its historical context, it's an extraordinary thing.

The signs of the times indicate that we are in peril the likes of which we've not known in 100 years...that could well be.

I wonder if it will elicit deeper Thanksgiving for the things that, in the end, matter most.

So, my wish for you is not so much that you have a Happy Thanksgiving...but that you have a Thanksgiving in which thanksgiving is practiced.


The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Now We're Talking --From the World of Star Trek

My curiosity of how my most beloved pop culture mythology would be treated in the coming "reboot" or "re-imagining" by JJ Abrams has now officially moved into excitement.

It didn't happen until the last few seconds of this movie trailer...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oh Boy!

There's a moment frozen in my memory of a time on the porch of my grandparents' home in Paducah.

I was 14. Jimmy was 9.

It was the only time I was with my Granddaddy after he was diagnosed with lung cancer and before he died.

I had spent a good bit of time that fall staying with school and church friends in Malesus while my folks were travelling up to Paducah to attend to him.

Like most kids who idolize their grandparents...I was pretty sure there was nothing he could not do, or would not do...for me.

Time, distance and back story confirm what is true for all of us. He wasn't perfect. Far from it.

But he was a good man.

I don't think any of us knew that this would be my last visit. He died so quickly after being diagnosed.

But there we were. On the porch of my Grandparents' house on Farley Place in the working class, blue collar part of Paducah. It is on that street that my branch of the Jeffords' family tree takes root. Four generations of us have lived and died there. My dad was born there.

My Granddaddy and father were on the gliding porch swing. Jimmy was running around the front yard being who he was. I was sitting on the porch taking it all in.

Grandaddy was noticeably weaker than the last time I had seen him. He had started radiation. He had the marks on his chest, like little tattoos, marking the spots where radiated energy was focused.

His voice had a different timbre. It wasn't brusk, self-confident and self-assured (his favorite line to launch any conversation was, with index finger pointing at the subject at hand, "Well, I'll tell you one thing...." and then proceed to tell five or six things before he was done). It was hushed, a little raspy, and pitched higher...

Friends, neighbors and fellow church members came by to check on Cecil Lee (that middle name is on ongoing legacy I share with both my Grandfather and father) . The church, Trinity United Methodist Church, where my father grew up and answered the call to ministry, and where I was born and baptized, used to meet in a beautiful stone structure just a half block around the corner from my Grandparents' house.

Each visit of passersby ended with words of prayer and love, and he repeated them with a gentleness that seemed out of place from who I had understood him to be. It's not that he wasn't a caring man. It's the way he talked that day that didn't fit the image of the man I had grown up to see as invincible.

My memory of that day is framed in many singular observations, and what in retrospect they came to mean. The next time I would see my Grandfather, it was in his casket, and on the occasion of his funeral I cried more deeply than I ever had before or have since - except for one other time far more recent.

But that day...among the things I recall...and the stuff that gives spark to this memory, was the interaction between my Grandfather and my own father. The men in my life who shaped who I am carry particular character. Granddaddy and my dad are the men who influenced me most in those formative years. No question about it.

And there they were...not my Grandfather and father...rather, my Granddaddy and his boy. I've often wondered what they saw in each other that day...were they looking ahead at what was coming...or was it a reflection of where their life together had taken them?

There was a look of pride in Granddaddy's eyes as he looked at and talked to his boy...I remember that look. I've seen it the ways my own father looks at me...and tells me what he sees in me that I don't and sometimes can hardly believe.

It's the look I find is mine now when I look at my own boys....all of them.

And when I look at this photo taken of my oldest, standing in the pulpit...taking part in Youth Sunday...I remember that look.

It's one that any who watched me watch him noticed. It's one I had for my middle child who also offer leadership in the same service. It's the look of gladness and awe of my youngest who offered leadership the week before.

We all have pride in our we should. They inspire us and infuriate us. They command more energy than we think we have, and we give it anyway. They run our lives and ruin our schedules. They give love and joy and there's nothing we wouldn't do for them...even to the end.

My life is so topsy turvy right now I'm meeting myself coming and going. And yet, I have to remind myself that I asked for this. And in the end, I want it. And I want my boys to know how much they matter.

"They're going to follow in your footsteps," I hear very often.
I don't know...that's really not up to me. But if any of them do, I hope they find the value of the trail blazed before them as I came to know in my pastoral journey.

"That boy is just like you."

Oh my dear Lord, I hope not...and God help them if they are. Except that if they come to know the pride of their children that I have in mine...that'll be fine with me.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Preachers' Worst Vice? The Gossip Game

This post is for my covenant friends with whom I share life in the order of the ordained.

Six of you, that's right six, different ones of you approached me yesterday to inquire as to a rumor involving me and my future.

You know, "the word is...." something about me, my future and a church in another Conference. At first, I was there? really?

To the ones who asked me directly, thank you for honoring and caring enough about me enough to do that.

But then, my amusement at clergy gossip turned to anger. And for those of you perpetuating a rumor, that is now moving into the realm of my laity - and I find out you're the one doing it....hope you have your Discipline handy - cause I'm a'comin.' And don't think I won't.

For those of you spending your time crafting fairy tales about someone's future - I wished you spent a bit more time tending to the one you've been charged to keep. There's plenty enough work for us to do in our own fields of service without meddling in another.

On one level I get it - there's "kitchen cabinet" stuff - I know that game and play it well. But then there's letting an uncorroborated story spread so pervasively throughout the Conference, under the auspices of "being in the know," that you do harm.

And without shooting this down - that's where we are.

And by the way, not like it's any of your damn business - there's nothing to it. Nothing. Never was. So stop acting like you know something that you don't.

And next time you think you know something about me, don't go to your colleague and do the ole "don't tell anybody about this..but Jeffords is ...." schtick- you pick up the phone, call me and ask me yourself.

Of course, knowing how things work in our Conference, if anything is going on involving me, I'm sure I'll be the 7th person to find out!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Sign That the Proverbial Shark You Have Jumped

Sorry, K.O. Hate to do it, but this was too good to pass up. What's that old saying, "many a truth is spoken in jest."