Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's Thanksgiving, Not "Turkey Day"

So, I've been up to watch Macy's parade - I've listened to commentators aplenty, and despite my efforts to the contrary (like, what influence do I really have?) the occasion that prompts this holiday today is not "Turkey Day." In our efforts to be cool, relevant, hip - we reduce the "formal" to what we believe to be the necessary thing to say to be "relational."

And as it relates to Thanksgiving, Turkey Day drives me nuts.

In whatever way the history of the holiday is reflected on the current day, the truth is that the spiritual practice of thanksgiving is the thing we most need to come away from this day's festivities. We need that far more than the additional pounds we'll pack on.

In what could be called inconsistency in my thought, I have no problem with Xmas, for Christmas...and I'll be glad to share why in a few weeks' time.

I'm reposting my Thanksgiving post from last year. I offer it today with hope that as you rejoice and share family time, there is earnest reflection upon both our history and the moments that will come that will prompt heartfelt Thanksgiving.

"Thoughts Upon Thanksgiving"
Posted November 26, 2008
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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cal Who?

Any chance a message was being sent about who the program and to whom it now belongs?
Me thinks so.
Pretty sure this is our best opening ever.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

I'm here to tell you - Tommy West told the truth about the program that he's leaving.

I say that not to defend the decision to let him go--it was probably time. Over the past couple of years, it seemed the program had destabilized and was not pointed toward strength. There's no question about that. The offensive scheme was tired and predictable. The defense had holes aplenty and don't even get me started about special teams.

I've been going to Tiger games for a long, long time. I played trumpet for The Mighty Sound of the South in 82-83 during the first of Rex Dockery's years when in two years we won one game - it was against Arkansas State, in the rain, and so excited where the 4,000 people who showed up, that they torn down the goal posts. And why? For ending the nation's longest losing streak at the time. That's the Tigers I watched during my college days. Rex's last year, 6-4-1, you'd a thought we'd won the Sugar Bowl. We had turned the corner. We'll get 'em next year finally meant "wait 'til next year." And then, the plane crash.

Between Rex and Tommy we've had Rey, Charlie, Chuck and Rip.

What I know of the program is what I've observed as a student and as a fan in the stands for coming up on 30 years. And any of us who've watched what's happened to Memphis over the years, especially in light of what's happened to foes we used to crush like Louisville and Cincinnati, and we knew exactly what Tommy was saying. Any of us who want this program to be something other than it is even as we sit in a city continually pilfered by what the SEC can offer, understands. Any of us who are sick of consistently losing to SunBelt Conference teams understands.

So I embed the video in its entirety. I'm pulling from a YouTube feed from Fox 13. I don't watch this station. I typically watch WMC 5, but having seen the raw footage before the news aired Monday night, and then seeing what Channel 5 did with the footage and the spin they put on it (the lead was "Tommy West blasts fans as he's fired as head football coach"), I was shocked by that take because that's not what Tommy said, and any of us who love the program know that's not what he meant. I am appalled by the editorial decisions of the WMC newsroom. Had I not seen this myself in its entirety in advance, and was left to Channel 5 alone to tell me what happened, I would have thought Tommy went off the deep end.

My only wish is that he'd gone on and said what the issues were. It's not that hard to figure.

Facilities? Sure.

Poor league, perhaps, but the Tigers can't really complain about the league we're in until we show we can compete in it, and on that front alone, Tommy failed miserably.

Money sufficient to bring in the best staff he can? Now we're talking.

Trying to get your program recognized in the shadow of Calipari? Uh huh. And why do I say that given that he's gone? Because he's not gone. He's on our sports pages, still. The impact of presence remains long after he's gone.

Poor leadership in the Athletics Department and University Administration? Now we're talking.

I say all this and I believe it's time for Tommy to no longer be our head football coach. I'm hoping, however the Athletics Director position at Memphis would be one he'd be willing to take once Elvis leaves the building.

Cue CC Rider - See ya RC.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Anybody Have a Hyperbaric Chamber I Can Borrow?

Hmm. What does it mean when blog posts are fewer and fewer?

Have I run out of things to say? No.

Have I abandoned the blog for a Twittered - Facebooked existence? Uh, no.

Am I afraid to say what I really think? Really, since when?

More likely, it is the stuff of life when change comes.

While change in life is often a good thing, as a United Methodist pastor, good or not, it is a required part of life. I've found this year I have reclaimed that part of me after having allowed myself to live into the delusion that a happily and meaningfully sequestered existence exempts me from having to consider the ministry questions every other United Methodist elder must consider (well, not every Elder I know...that's probably all I need to say about that, lest I succumb to temptation and fail at the maxim from childhood "if you don't have something nice to say, best not to say anything at all").

What I've discovered about myself that I can now claim is that I feel change. I think I always have. It explains my action and reaction to the changes of life throughout my history. By no means do I claim to be unique in this regard, but its realization in me is a pretty enlightening thing.

I feel change on a personal, spiritual even physical level. Even the best of change exacts a trauma to the system.

There's an element of it that is as welcome as a sunny day after having endured weeks upon weeks of rain (you know, kinda like the whole month of October). Change is good medicine for the system.

And then there's that element of change that can only be described as blunt force trauma. A jolt bordering on violence, change felt in this regard can knock you off your feet.

My life is a system under stress. A little bit of that keeps me focused. In fact, I live gladly with some stress to move me from one thing to the next. If you don't think you want to live with stress, then why do you have to have that cup of high octane coffee in the morning? What is coffee but a stimulant to stress your system into activity?

But there is a saturation point--a time and place when one thing more is one thing too many. When you feel change, as I have and do, and when change comes in droves--the consequences of felt change can be a bit more debilitating than under more healthy circumstances. One more thing seems too much to take.

It's not the new gig. It's a challenge, to be sure, but we're going to be fine. Six to nine months of stabilization, and then we're going to rock the house! Amen. Praise the Lord.

Home life is tough. The stress of parenting is continually amplified by the demands and constant travel of Kristy's work. It's not that it's insurmountable, it's just so much. You folks who know me know that I can function at a pretty high level, and then I need some time to decompress. In those moments, I have to withdraw and retreat. I don't know why that is, I just know myself enough to know that it is.

Well, when you're "Mr. Mom," there is no decompression time. Parenting alone is a pain. I love my boys. They're great. But I'm better with a partner, no doubt about it.

All you single parent friends of mine--I feel ya.

When I can't decompress, I can't think. Introspection is such a part of me that to go from one thing to the next---do, do ,do, do--it's just impossible. When I can't decompress I don't sleep - which is a real shame because I really, really love to sleep. When I can't decompress I don't exercise--which is absolutely what I need to be doing (another "ought" in life - sweet).

Through this year I have known each of the elements of change. I have felt it as a welcomed new day and I have felt it as a head on collision. And through that, I'm trying to find myself. What in me has to be changed so that I can live the change I face more gracefully?

This is the spiritual question on the cutting edge of my being...

I don't know for sure what the final answer's going to look like, but I'm pretty sure that "Let Go and Let God," is going to be somewhere in the mix.