White Christmas

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“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the one’s I used to know…” . At least that is what Bing Crosby sang about in 1942 as he pined Irving Berlin’s classic song about a nostalgic Christmas in the United States. BTW, did you know this is the world’s No. 1 single of all time! And to think, over half the world (geographically) has never seen or touched snow!

Actually, Cheryl and I are living with a White Christmas of sorts every day of each year with our Westie, Carson. This is a recent photo of him. He is about twelve years old. He has an interesting story which is not all that unusual for rescue dogs, and I acknowledge that many dog lover’s know similar stories. However, I will present Carson’s story in brevity with the hope it will brighten your holiday spirits.

Cheryl and I adopted Carson from a rescue organization called Little White Rescue. He was a breeder male penned in a puppy mill for an undetermined amount of time. We were also told he was found in a farm field, either escaping the mill or simply let go. We drove a couple hours to Omaha, Nebraska in November of 2012 to pickup our new addition to the family. We met with his foster mom and her daughter along with a representative of the organization. We paid the adoption fee, had our photo taken with Carson while holding his adoption certificate, and then took him home.

 

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Cheryl and I have had several dogs as pets and owning a canine was not new to us. We also had several felines along the way. But, we never had a terrier breed. West Highland Terriers are not high strung as some of their cousins are, but they do possess a certain aloofness about them. Interestingly, Carson has to acknowledge every visitor by a sniff and waits for a tap on the head, and upon completing this routine retreats to what he was previously doing or comes to us. Timid-no way. Annoying-sometimes. Barks-only at squirrels and cats and skunks. Lap dog-not until recently. Most of the time he simply has to be near us.

 

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We believe the above photo (taken in December of 2013) to be the first time Carson experienced snow outside of a pen. He was about four years old, but acted like a puppy-full of joy! He has a thicker coat of hair for the winter cold, and cold temps don’t seem to bother him. The reason we think this was his first winter of freedom is due to the fact that after we brought him home to roam our acre yard, he would only walk a 35 foot line back and forth for several weeks (creating a mud walkway) until he gradually ventured beyond this imaginary line. Yes, it was sad, but also rewarding to see him venture out.

 

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Whether it is white on green, white on brown or white on white, we can always find Carson. When he digs in the dirt he looks like an Oreo cookie with face, belly and paws all black and the rest of him white! The above photo is a mild example of his mud coloring. Westies were bred in Scotland to hunt fox and badgers. They are ‘bullet’ shaped with wide, powerful rear legs and a stout tale. When they trap their prey in a den they would dive into the hole as far as possible to grab onto the fleeing, fighting animal. Often they could not back out so the hunter would simply grab the tale and yank the dog out along with the vermin he just captured. We purposefully had his hair cut in a sporting sort of way rather than the cute style most Westies have. Because Carson is at the top size for his breed at 23 pounds, and is an alpha male, we felt he needed to look the part.

 

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Carson is a tough canine. Besides enduring the mill, he has ruptured both knees, has had one ACL surgery, almost died as he was bitten on the throat by a neighbor’s pit bull and was later bitten in the leg by another dog. He is about ninety percent blind, is deaf, and has a collapsing trachea which causes constant hacking for air. He still has a sense of smell and a hearty appetite. Our vet says he and most pets adapt with their disabilities.  We know this to be true. I couldn’t resist the above image as Carson stood on my chest while I was siting in a lounge chair a few years ago…I snapped a cell phone photo and this is the result. I like it. He cracks me up!

 

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We didn’t know how much he would change our lives when we picked him up seven years ago. We are often inconvenienced and have less in our bank account, but that is the price of choosing to have another family member to take care of.  In return we get to experience his coolness as well as his love. Most dog owners can relate. We are grateful to have him around for another Christmas.

 

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And we hope you have a very Merry Christmas…with or without snow or Carsons !

 

Dedicated to all who rescue, medically care for, foster care and adopt helpless animals. Bless all of you as you continue to fulfill Christ’s mandate to care for others which includes people, of course.

 

 

 

 

Cacophony

My internet dictionary describes Cacophony as “a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds”. This term is often applied to an orchestra tuning their respective instruments before a concert. Each participant wants to achieve the best sound from the instrument as he or she plays it. From an audience’s point of view, it may sound a bit unorganized and odd. However, I like the warm-up and find it intriguing to listen to and watch.

For those of you who have children, grand children, nieces and nephews, you understand the definition of Cacophony! Crazy, fun, annoying, intolerable at times, but also a joyous sound during most moments. “Bless the little children”, said Jesus.

I could quite literally produce hundreds of photographs which would describe this word without using words. Life is just like that; a cacophony of experiences loud and soft, coherent and disconnected. This so-called chaos may come in the form of sound, as mentioned; visual, as represented in these two images; inner voices and / or confusing feelings, as so many of us have experienced; disturbing dreams; or experiences too baffling to explain.

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These photographs created a cacophony of sorts for me which included visual, audible and conflicting feelings. The photos were taken with my cell phone’s camera at a multi-band concert a few years ago. What seemed like chaos to me was simultaneously a joyful consensus of understanding and interpretation by many who attended this event.

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It seems to me that diversity is a key element to living a conflict free and satisfactory life…one without judgment or anger or fear. Also, a life with the freedom to chose what moves you. The cacophony of life can result in positive or negative experiences. As a favorite local artist of mine states on his business bookmark card, “Art is simple. You either like it or you don’t”. For me, Mike Savage summed up how we should live using this statement which presents itself as a philosophy for living. However, be gentle and kind when living-out this simple process. There should be no sense of judgement or condemnation.

 

Is Harmony Possible ?

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Is this photograph of an old Episcopalian church adjacent to a modern office building in Montreal, Canada odd? I hope not, although I clearly comprehend the contrast. While visiting Montreal several years ago, I saw how that city melded the new with the old, and was pleased the community did so, and accomplished it very well. Harmony.

Today my heart is heavy, as so many of yours are. After the senseless mass murder of people attending a concert in Las Vegas on Sunday night to school shootings in America and bombings of subways across the Atlantic. How will we end this madness? But, let us not simply stop there. Look at the mini-wars taking place all over the globe: Russia and Ukraine, China and India, several countries in Africa (it seems to never end on this beautiful continent) to the potential war between North Korea and the USA. Of course there is Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East in serious conflict.

Even in America we are subjected to the war which is still occurring between the north and the south (not with guns, but by abusing our civil liberties), the redefining of traditional marriage and relationships which results in clashes between opposing sides, and of, course, the color issue and the reality of police brutality (most police do not condone nor participate in these tragic acts).

One of my observations is that far too many instances of injustice revealed by social media are biased. I long to see the day when those in positions of influence will set aside their own agendas and simply report all of the truth and not just pieces which support a particular viewpoint or distort the facts. What we need is an urgent sense of honesty in reporting rather than the bias of organizations and influential individuals (on both side of the aisle).

Many will say that I simply don’t understand or cannot relate to the plight of others who are abused and mistreated. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am the son of an immigrant (my mom wasn’t from a black nation, but that doesn’t disqualify me from understanding). I grew up in a broken home, lived at poverty level for several years, struggled with severe asthma throughout my youth and never had the resources that my friends and neighbors did. However, I had several things instilled in me as a child: love for others (regardless of race or religion) respect for America, the value of hard work, and taking personal responsibility for my life. I still believe in these.

So, I ask myself, why can’t we have more harmony? I don’t need political answers because I have heard far too many of them, and have even spoken a few myself. What we need is a change of heart. For me this occurred when I invited Christ into my life. I readily admit I struggle with many things, but I believe I can be forgiven of my transgressions and grow from them. Even in the midst of personal, national or global crisis’ I find hope because I believe the future has already been determined.

I realize that everyone won’t understand or agree with my position…another benefit of living in a free nation. I respect that. Please know that I love and appreciate all people groups everywhere-starting here in our country- and extending throughout the entire world. For instance, I don’t hate the North Koreans, but I despise their leadership (sometimes I despise our own leaders!). I genuinely feel empathy for the masses of citizens who have little choice in their country’s affairs or in their daily lives. Even different religious beliefs or ethnicity don’t deter my love for others.

There is, and always has been injustice in our world. Simply accepting this doesn’t make things right, of course, but it allows us to understand and then strive to change things for the better of mankind. Please join me in being considerate of others, respecting those whom you disagree with, accepting lawful justice , assisting the down-trodden and ultimately loving one another. Can we live in harmony? Only each one of us can decide the outcome. I continue to remain hopeful and to strive for harmony.

A B E

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Last week I made a visit to city hall in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. As I waited for the guards to let me in (I arrived early), I studied this bronze statue located near the base of the stairs which lead up to south entrance of this government building. Erected in 1937, the architecture of this building-with its motifs and decorative metal-can best be described as a late form of Art Deco. It stands opposite the main courthouse which consists of the same materials and style, but has a flair all it own.

The sun was slowly working its way upward as the statue was being illuminated from the east. The man sitting is Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States of America. The boy is his youngest son, Tad, who was adored by his father. Tad was twelve years old when his father was assassinated. The Lincolns had much personal tragedy in  their family. In addition to the trials within his own household, Abe, as he was affectionately called, lead our nation through the bloody Civil War (1861-1865) which cost both sides over 600,000 lives and double that amount wounded and maimed.

It is fitting to have the statue of this great man in front of a government building…the very government he sought to preserve as one entity over the course of those long, difficult war years. The stress had to be immense, but he persevered and kept the nation united. In addition, Abe was called the Great Emancipator as he pushed forth the Emancipation Proclamation which ended slavery-first in the District of Columbia, and then across our country. Almost four million indentured people of color were eventually liberated from the curse of slavery in America. The effect of this act was not immediate, but it did set the wheels of justice in motion. Although there is still much to do to bring equality to all people, this proclamation is a bedrock for generations to come.

I believe each of us is put on this earth for a reason. I don’t claim to know what those reasons are most of the time, but in Lincoln’s case, it seems obvious to me. If you study his life-how he overcame so many political defeats and personal tragedies-he still became the the president of the United States of America at a very precarious juncture in our history. His strong faith in God which is often downplayed, was the force that kept him from wavering when he should have fallen from exhaustion and remorse. His ability to keep America united and to began the end of slavery cannot be overstated. It appears that once he achieved these two victories, his life was ended by an assassin’s bullet. He paid dearly for the welfare of our country and what he deeply believed in.

We need another Abraham Lincoln. And we need him now.

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In a world that is ever-changing, and as America has become globalized, let us not forget our past…the ideals and acts that bonded our nation together and galvanized us during the greatest threats to our sovereignty as a country. This thought is not for America alone, but for all nations who value freedom and seek peace and prosperity for her people. It is good and necessary to become more integrated with other nations, but let us not lose our identity in the process.

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People without heritage are easily persuaded.”    Karl Marx

Let Freedom Ring

“My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountain side, let freedom ring”.Old Glory

Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to this song in 1831. It later became known as America and was one of several national anthems for a short while. The melody came from Thomas Arne of England where the tune was created for the queen. In 1963, Martin Luther King gave his famously inspired speech, I Have A Dream, wherein he reminded us to let freedom ring amidst a backdrop of racial inequality and segregation. Dr. King eventually paid the ultimate price for the freedom he dreamed about. So have many others.

There is a saying that goes like this, ” Freedom is a luxury not everyone can afford “. In America we state our freedoms as rights and not privileges of the few. How blessed we are to enjoy such liberties. We are free to worship, vote, protest, write whatever we want, say whatever we want, and pretty much do whatever we want (within reason and the context of the law). We are free to think, to achieve, and simply to be.

Thomas Campbell reminds us of the cost of liberty when he wrote, ” The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree “. Since the birth of our nation to the present, Americans have shed their blood for freedom’s sake…for you and for me. Whether you hop in your car on a whim and drive across the great expanse to see the waves crash against the shoreline or sit in a lawn chair sipping a glass of iced tea after you just mowed the grass of your own lawn-these are fruits of freedom we seldom consider as such. But they are fruits of the most precious kind because they involve a personal sense of well-being that oppression can never provide. We enjoy what others have fought for.7-3-14 038

So, as we celebrate this Fourth of July, our Independence Day, let us pause and consider the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our benefit. Generations past, present and future are all recipients of other’s heroic deeds. Whether on the home front or the front lines, sacrifices have been, and are being made. We can all do little things to express our gratitude for the defenders of our liberties: hug a vet, shake the hand of a soldier, assist those left behind, encourage the distressed.

Inscribed on the Liberty Bell is a quote from the Bible, Leviticus 25:10, which states,  Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof . May we be so bold to proclaim and defend our freedoms, for future generations are depending on us to do so until they can take up the mantel. Sometimes this means going to war. It also means to fight for our constitutional rights which are periodically attacked from forces within. One thing is certain; anyone who has been deprived of personal freedoms cherishes them. They will fight to keep them, and not simply for themselves, but for the sake of their neighbors, as well. Defenders of freedom aren’t selfish.

Let freedom ring loud and clear…I like the sound of that. It reminds me of WW II movies when towns were liberated from a sinister enemy and the church bells would ring and ring in celebration of regaining lost freedom. I thank God for living in a country where freedoms abound. If you do not know such liberty, may you find freedom from above where no enemy can steal your soul even though you may not be allowed to speak your heart. Let freedom ring!