Once again this morning I caught myself playing the part of the silly, ol’ man. It's one of the few things I continue to get better at. I was perched precariously on the rear tractor fender, on tiptoe, clinging desperately to a handful of leaves on a hickory branch with one hand, while working feverishly to wrap a thirty pound choker chain around the limb with the other. This was not done simply as recreation. The limb posed a threat to tractor cabs during the haying process, and I was absolutely determined to pull it down. At the time, this seemed a remarkably good idea. It was at this point in the festivities that I recalled countless incidents of other silly, ol’ men found pinned in the wreckage of what seemed at the time a remarkably good idea. Invariably, those retaining some degree of mental clarity will ask, what in the world were they thinking! I’ll tell you. Those of us, who are blessed to spend much of our lives on the farm, rely on an indispensable and time-honored recipe: three parts exertion, two parts stamina, one part ingenuity, seventeen parts luck, and 30 parts absolute insanity! It’s how we’ve always done things. It’s the only way things get done. After sixty plus years of this, there comes a day when one or more of these ingredients just simply peters out. So here’s the thing; if you know any silly, ol’ men, count your blessings and enjoy ‘em while they last. Even if they’ve been insured, it’s hard to find parts. ;) SC
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Most of us are familiar with the term pathological, as in pathological liar. The term pathological, simply means extreme in a way that is abnormal or that indicates an illness or mental problem of some kind. It seems obvious to me, not as an expert, but simply a longtime observer of life and human behavior, that there are those among us who are pathological haters. If so, while these people should not be subject to ridicule or derision as a result of their illness, it seems fair and reasonable to question their judgment and motives. As human beings, each of us is susceptible to being drawn into the behavior of those around us. When those around us are happy, we’re inclined to be happy. When they’re sad, our inclination is to accept that there is reason for sadness. When those around us react to others with hostility, disgust and hatred, we can’t help but be influenced. My dad and mom always encouraged me to use my own head, and never give unwarranted credibility to the intolerance, bigotry and unfounded bias of others. That advice has always served me well. I believe that’s what Christ would do. I suggest you do likewise. SC
How in the world, one may well ask, has it come to this? I’ll tell you. The term “civilized” is defined as: “marked by well-organized laws and rules about how people behave with each other. The expectation of a civilized people or society is that their behavior and their interaction with others be polite, reasonable, and respectful.” Throughout the history of mankind these traits have been encouraged and expected. If people wished to be accepted, well received and successful, they understood they were required to behave as though they were civilized. Young people observed these characteristics in all successful people. They were taught from an early age that there were consequences for bad or uncivilized behavior, and everything they observed in their church, their immediate family, the media, the professional world, and even politics for the most part, proved this to be true. Today, much of our society believes the opposite to be true. Today civil, respectful behavior is placed in the same category as political correctness and actually discouraged and disparaged by much of society. Our youth today see coarse, crude, vulgar, disrespectful, foulmouthed behavior rewarded and encouraged in a way which would have been entirely unimaginable and abhorrent by all past generations. They hear this behavior applauded and encouraged from the media, much of society, political candidates, elected leaders, and even the pulpit. And then we ask how is this possible. How we’ve degenerated to this point is no mystery. Whether we care enough to reverse it by our own efforts and behavior is the question. One thing remains true: bad, irresponsible, uncivilized, disrespectful behavior has consequences. It has brought down entire civilizations in the past. It requires little imagination to envision that happening again. Correcting this sad state of affairs relies on each one of us doing better ourselves and expecting better from others. Our youth are watching, and our behavior today will largely determine their future. SC
Sunday, June 26, 2016
We hear a good deal of talk today about taking America back and making this country great again. Let’s assume this rhetoric implies a rededication to the ideals for which America is best known and respected at home and around the world. What then is the source of that greatness? What then are those ideals? One of the most emblematic symbols of America and her greatness is the Statue of Liberty and the iconic words engraven within her pedestal: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" The American ideals of equality, liberty and inclusiveness are at the very heart of America’s true identity and greatness. They are why America became and continues to be a beacon of freedom and justice around the world. We are a country of immigrants. Regardless of whether our families arrived in this country during colonial times or more recently, our ancestors were immigrants. The United States of America is the result of people from all around the world who risked everything in pursuit of a dream summed up quite well in America’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” From 1776 until today, American ideals of freedom and opportunity have been personified by our elected leaders, but America’s greatness today and throughout the ages is not the result of elected leaders, but our citizens, common men and women who cherish America’s time-honored principles and dedicate their efforts and their lives to the preservation and advancement of those ideals. Our challenge today is not a belligerent taking back of those ideals, but a rededication to the sharing, promotion and advancement of those ideals for all our citizens. Our challenge today is in many ways identical to that which confronted our country when President Lincoln closed his second inaugural address with the following words: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have born the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” America’s greatness is now and has always been the result of our citizens and the principles of Liberty, Equality and Justice as contained in America’s time-honored historical documents and the speeches of our most celebrated statesmen. In November of 1863, President Lincoln addressed those assembled for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. According to the President, those whose souls had hallowed that ground had given their lives that the nation itself might life. And he entreated the people to dedicate themselves to the great task before them, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. That’s a compelling idea: a democratic government, of, by and for a people, unified by their faith and their mutual pursuit of liberty and justice for all. That’s a proposition worth dying for. That’s why America is great. SC
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Friday, June 24, 2016
Her stripes were worn and faded,
Her fabric torn and frayed.
Tattered stars hung loosely now,
Weakened by old battles and decayed.
Still, she hung with dignity,
Despite her ragged state.
Her very fabric promised hope,
Although the hour was late.
Just then, as dawn was breaking,
A rustling in the trees,
A disturbance in the morning mist
And a cool, refreshing of breeze.
The flash of nearby lightening,
Pulse quickened by the thrill,
While meadows shook with thunder
And a deluge took the hill.
With that, Old Glory caught the wind
Unfurled as if to march.
Despite the hail that tore her hems,
She took the field and stretched out stiff as starch.
And those who saw this marveled,
And recalled old glory’s youth.
And hearts swelled near to bursting,
Quickened by old loyalties and truth.
And every soul saluted,
While new hope replaced old fears,
And each heart pledged allegiance,
And sealed their pledge with gratitude and tears.
A true Republican and one of my all-time favorite Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt said, “Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe.” I believe that’s very true. I believe it’s equally true of all religious and political movements. There are those among us, in all political and religious persuasions, which excel at the art of appealing to the baser instincts inside each of us in order to achieve their own goals. They are masters at using our natural tendencies toward greed, apathy, and suspicion to pit us one against the other in order achieve their own selfish agendas. They encourage the belief that bigotry, intolerance, racism and a general contempt for all efforts toward compromise, patriotism and unity are not only acceptable, but even admirable, and their efforts poison and polarize all efforts toward common cause and the general good.
There are others among us. There are those who believe that America’s best days are yet ahead. There are those who believe that America’s time-honored institutions are among the most admirable ever achieved by societies and civilizations who aspire to high ideals. They believe that America's greatest strength is diversity. And they honor diversity to keep America strong. They believe that America’s Constitution and historical documents call all of mankind to a higher plain, encouraging us to heed the voices of our better angels, to extend ever onward the long arc of moral justice in the universe, and to strive with determination toward the goals of our country’s founding fathers in a peaceful yet uncompromising effort on behalf of truth, justice and the American way. Choose wisely and participate America. There’s a lot at stake. SC
Sunday, June 19, 2016
We’ve all heard the slogan, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” You know what? The underlying problem is neither guns nor people. Hatred kills people. Hatred is responsible for terrorism. Hatred is responsible for mass shootings. Hatred is responsible for intolerance and bigotry. In the vast majority of cases, hatred is responsible for violence. Okay, what causes hatred? The underlying cause of hatred is ignorance, misunderstanding and fear. So how do we combat these things? Each of these evils are minimized or entirely averted when we simply denounce them and reach out to each other with compassion. The answer to hatred, gun deaths and violence is not a negative reaction to anything. It’s simply a more positive reaction to each other. It’s not embracing the politics of resentment, exclusion and hatred, but reaching out to the hopeless and helpless and embracing them. SC
Friday, June 17, 2016
When people care passionately about freedom and justice,
When people disagree about issues and the path forward,
That’s to be expected.
When people become defensive and belligerent when ridiculed,
That’s human nature.
When people stand united, despite differences and impossible odds,
That’s America. SC
Thursday, June 16, 2016
The problem in our country today is actually quite simple. We suffer from an epidemic of fear mongering and phobias, fanned deliberately into a major conflagration for the financial gain of a few unscrupulous entities. The solution is reason, education, cooperation and informed young people. SC
At the risk of creating any additional unpleasantness regarding gun control, I have a serious question maybe someone can answer. As a result of the gun control debate and its effects on their sales and membership, Mr. LaPierre and his associates with the NRA have become fabulously wealthy. Not surprisingly, they would prefer that the debate and its subsequent spike in their sales and membership continue from here to infinity and beyond. I suppose that’s entirely possible. It’s a passionate issue. Beneath all the passion and hysterics, one assumes there are actual facts. If one examines the statistics, it seems clear, we already have sufficient guns and ammunition is this country to kill every man, woman and child in the world, over and over and over again. So, just out of curiosity, how many weapons would be required to eventually meet our needs?
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe.” Sadly, the same is true of every major religion of the world today. In each and every major religion, now and throughout the ages, is a component of bigoted, intolerant, fundamentalism. Christianity has been a part of this mix for over two thousand years, and is no exception. Anyone who believes otherwise is either remarkably naïve or part of the problem.
Here’s some free advice, and worth every penny. My folks always counseled me, use your own head and your own heart. Anytime you’re forced to choose between staying true to your own beliefs with a clear conscience or, going along to get along, you’re better served by keeping a clear conscience. Those around you will come and go, and through time may change positions, but you and your conscience are together for the long haul. SC
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON, FOR WHICH I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE: Early American pioneers, while crossing the plains, would find fuel for their campfires difficult if not impossible to find. As a result, they would resort to the use of buffalo dung as fuel. The buffalo dung would provide a brief burst of heat, a disgusting stench and a repulsive smolder, before eventually burning out. I fully expect a similar result from Mr. Trump’s Presidential aspirations. At least, that’s my fervent hope. SC
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Once again I feel compelled to run the risk of offending many by publicly posting my prayer. Dear Father in heaven, once again our country is rocked by senseless violence and slaughter. Once again the voices of professed Christians will be lifted in prayer. Some will pray for comfort for the fallen and their families. Others will pray that this incident will in no way impede their efforts to acquire their precious assault rifles. I pray only that those who profess to be followers of Christ might behave accordingly, that those who would be His feet step out in faith, that those who would be His hands reach out in mercy, and that those who would be good in God’s eyes do as God requires, ministering to a lost world as sheep among wolves, being wise as serpents and harmless as doves, while doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with their God. Amen, SC
Thursday, June 9, 2016
As a little boy, back in the 1950s, I became very ill. My mom and dad loaded me into the old Chevy and took me to the doctor. A spinal tap determined that I had Poliomyelitis. Following the diagnosis, I spent several terrifying weeks confined to a hospital ward at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo, California. There I saw other children struggling with the crippling disease. Some were in braces. Some were confined to iron lungs. Some never walked again. Some never left the facility. Some died. One night, all alone in my room and scared half to death, I remembered one of my favorite books back home. The title of the little children’s book was “Jesus, A Boy’s Friend”. I began praying as only a terrified child can pray, and I prayed and cried until I fell asleep. Several days later the doctor had good news for my family. My symptoms were gone. They were free to take me home. As I left the hospital, hand in hand with Mom and Dad that day, I began a path that has led me to this day. Some days my faith is just as strong as the day I left that hospital. Other days, not so much, but from that day to this I’ve set out each day to walk the path I’m given, in the light I’m given. On my very best days, I share that light with others. Each of us walks a different path, revealed in a different light. As a result, we each have different perspectives, different convictions, and varying points of view. We need to show each other a little compassion and cut each other some slack. SC
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Dad was born in the Ozark Mountains of south central Missouri in 1924. Today would have been his birthday. Like many young men of the period, he left home at an early age and joined the Civilian Conservation Corp. When World War II broke out Dad served on the Battleship New Jersey. Following the war he was employed as a lineman for 32 years. He and Mom were married for almost 60. His retirement years were spent raising cattle and working the family farm. Dad believed in doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with his God. He extended that mercy to all God’s creatures great and small and devoted himself to the stewardship of our land. Even at eighty, Dad easily outworked me. He’d drive a pine post with seemingly effortless strokes, while I swung and swatted and splintered posts to pieces. He often whistled as he worked, and on many occasions, when hearing a favorite tune on the radio, he’d spring into a rousing dance routine I can only describe as a peculiar combination of Irish jig and Ozark snake stomp. Given time I’ll master that move myself. I’m entirely certain my relationship with Dad was a perfect example of what God intended when He first created fatherhood, and I held his hand as he drew his final breath. We scattered his ashes up on the hill, just as he’d requested, and I never walk the Ozark Hills that I don’t miss my dad.
UP ON THE HILL
Up on the hill where the pines grow dense;
Where the fields are green and the sky immense,
Scatter one day my last remains,
To be drawn in the earth by the gentle rains.
Gladly did I tread this place,
With the gentle breeze upon my face,
A faithful dog for company,
And benevolent sun beaming down on me.
Thank the Lord for the time we had,
When rest was blessed and toil was glad,
When joyous hearts rejoiced in truth,
And we shared our hopes and dreams and youth.
Look to the heavens bright and blessed.
See me satisfied, caressed.
Know at last I’m free from care.
My dust is here, but my spirit there. SC