Remembering

Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.
— Heraclitus

LAST AUTUMN, my Amazing-Missus and I attended her high school class reunion. I wrote a bit about it.

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While at the reunion I was visiting with a lady who had been married to one of my schoolmates. As we visited I was struck with a spell of melancholy. For some reason I have no connections with anyone that I went to school with. It’s not that I didn’t have friends; maybe I’m just not a good cultivator, which is a little weird to me because a role I truly cherish is that of being a creative catalyst—one who brings creative people together in collaboration.

But then a pop on Facebook, the social media thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve been politically manipulated by it. A name I recognized was there on the FB, the name of a girl that I considered to be a friend in grade school, junior high and high school. Not a “girlfriend” though. Her sights were set much higher.

One thing lead to another and a few weeks ago, we met for lunch. Karla, Arlene and me. What a gift it was. She was able to tell me about many of our classmates. I felt reconnected somehow. And at the same time I realized that Heraclitus was right. You cannot step twice into the same stream. 

Karla told us there was a group of Trojan alum having a meet-up at the Methodist church if we wanted to stop by. So we did. We walked into the church and followed the signs to the Fellowship Hall. We could see through the open doors the group gathered. “This isn’t them”, I thought. “This is the church’s senior adult group.” And then it dawned on me. All these people other than me have aged, and come to find out, many are gone.

I dug out my old yearbook, from my junior year 1968, and scanned the pictures of my classmates, pausing on some to recall a memory or two. Some of these, I realized, I had sat in class with year after year and I knew very little about them. Missed opportunities no doubt.

The tradition back then, when the yearbooks were handed out at the end of the school year was to hand your book to others for them to sign. I read the entries in my book through a much older lens. For the most part, we didn’t look to far ahead: “Hope you have a great summer!” Some entries were nostalgic: “Well another year is behind us…” Some prophetic: “Stay just the way you are and you’ll go far,” words I’ve never seen on one of those motivational posters.

We didn’t know it at the time but things were simpler and yet they weren’t. 1968 is notorius for riots, protests, and culture quaking moments. But without the WWW, 24-hour news outlets, a strange innocence prevailed; or at least that’s the way I remember it.

On the 50th anniversary of my senior year, I wonder about the Senior Class of 2019. Are they having a good summer? Are they aware of the crap-storm in Washington D.C.? Do they care? Have the active-shooter drills at their school become as common place as the atomic bomb drills did for us? Is there a thread or two of innocence left? Is there someone writing words of encouragement on the flyleaf of their yearbook? 

If I could write a prelude of sorts in their yearbook, I might say something like this:

Make a new friend this year. Not one of those social media “friends”, but a real one, maybe one that is different from you: race-wise, sex-wise, faith-wise—you know, different. When you get together with your new friend, put away the phones and talk. Talk about the future, your fears, your faith.

Be creative. Make a contribution. Express gratitude. Do something that makes your palms sweaty. Pay attention—not just in class but to what is happening around you. Remember: “Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.” — Heraclitus


Just a note: I attended school at Jenks Public Schools through my Junior year, but transferred and graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

P.S.: Thank you Karla Newman Taber for being a friend.

The Will of the People

HAVE YOU NOTICED how many TV news interviews with politicians take place in front of the statue of Will Rogers in the Capitol building?

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statue of will rogers in the national statuary hall at the capitol building

I’m glad this is the interview spot of choice. I wish that at the end of the interview each interviewee would look up at Will and ask themselves what Will must be thinking about what they just said.

For those that don’t know of Will Rogers, here are a few quotes from him on the topic of politics:

This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.
Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.
Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous.

I wish the POTUS would have been sitting under Will’s don’t-BS-me-gaze when he read that prepared statement trying to explain his crush on Vlad Putin.

Remember how Mr. Trump explained to us how easy it is to get confused when you have to choose between “would” and “wouldn’t”?

Here’s one for you to ponder Mr. POTUS, regarding your speech,
What WOULD Will say?
What WOULDN’T Will say?

Maybe this (an actual quote from Will himself): "No man is great if he thinks he is."

Or this: “America has the best politicians money can buy."


By the way, if you wondered why the shoes of Will’s statue are polished smooth, tradition says rubbing Will’s shoes brings good luck. There must be a lot of superstitious folks in the U.S. Capitol

What would Will say?


"Erected in 1939, this statue of Will Rogers represents the state of Oklahoma in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building."  —The White House Historical Association

I hope that persona of Will, hands in pockets, a knowing grin, and a no BS look still represents Oklahoma. May we be the people who can see through the piles and piles of the stuff and find people of integrity, humility and character.

Be Still and March

IT WAS MONUMENTAL. Can we all agree on that? I would even go so far as to say it was momentous.

I wish we could separate the event from the issues that prompted it for just a minute. Of course that’s not possbile; the matter is too emotionally charged.

As if providentially, my watch just pinged, reminding me it’s time to take a few deep breaths. Seriously. Join me. Deep inhale… Exhale. Six more. My watch now tells me my heartrate is at 61 BPM. That’s down from 318 when I started writing this after spending a few minutes on Facebook.

Why does a love for the First Amendment mean you want the Second stricken and vice versa? I love them both. I am happy we have both, and the others as well. I wouldn’t go as far as I heard one citizen opine: “I think the president should switch them and make the Second Amendment number 1, because without guns we wouldn’t have any other freedoms.” But, he has the freedom to say it.

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For me and for this essay, I just want to celebrate the essence of the "March for Our Lives" for a few minutes and words. The “essence”?

Sometimes the most wonderful outcomes of something like this are things that were unexpected and unintended. I worked with teenagers for more than 30 years, and I have to say that any time you can get them to raise their eyes from their smartphones, open their ears and pay attention, something good can happen. It’s an opportunity to awaken a bit, to march on from apathy, narcissism and naivete´.

When you make a poster, join the march, become a part of the conversation, you begin to form a worldview and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you take a giant step up Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs from safety and security needs, to belonging needs, to esteem needs, to self-actualization.

I know this from intimate experience of working with hundreds of teens and from my own personal experience.

Similar to the highly charged arguments of the day that fill our common air like so much smog, the causes I marched for and against in my day were equally divisive and misunderstood. I wrote about it in a post a few years back. Here’s a snippet:

The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds on unarmed college students on Monday, May 4, 1970, killing four students and wounding nine others.

As a result, student protests were organized across the country. Hundreds of universities cancelled classes and locked down buildings. I was proud to be a part of the event at OBU. But as we sat through the day and overnight on the OBU Oval, wearing black arm bands, discussing the state of our country and world, and wondering whether we could make a difference, it all seemed a little silly and isolated. Maybe we did make some difference though. At least I was different. I wanted to DO something. I still do.

Don't skip this part. Back then, no doubt I had delusions of importance and occasional altruism. The fact is I was pretty self-absorbed; oh, not in a Justin Bieber brand of narcissism kind of way, but in a way that dictates at least this: for all of those who knew me back then, please forgive me. Maybe the Washington Elite was right--maybe I was too stupid to vote at 18. The dean of students who encouraged me not to return to OBU for my sophomore year certainly would agree with that.

My intent here is not to romanticize those days, but if I have, well... After all this was my first Coming-of-Age. It should be a bit romantic, right?


There was a recurring experience in youth ministry that I dreaded and hated. I still do. It is the experience of seeing the passion and enthusiasm of youth crushed or belittled. Let me try to explain with a couple of examples:

Every summer I would return home from summer camp with a group of students recommitted and energized to make a difference. I knew that soon they would be met with an indifference that would suck the wind from their sails. There would be patronization and diminishment and “reality”.

Another example. Numerous times in my years of youth ministry there would be a young woman with a strong sense of calling to leadership in the church. I knew full-well that the predominate attitude among baptists was that the role of women was to be a submissive wife to their husband—not a leader in the church. I hated the moment when they this ugly fact would become real for them.

When you pat an energized young person on the head and dismiss them, you plant a seed of cynicism, hopefully seeds of determination and vision will grow strong and choke those out.

You may see their efforts as being misguided, even dangerous, but I am telling you there is value in the experience for them. And who knows, maybe they will survive, get in line, register to vote and fight for a more acceptable cause someday. 

Look at me: I’m still a rebellious liberal, but I’m a functional liberal. And while I love the First Amendment and the Second, and the rest, I believe there is a higher calling, a higher freedom than any a govenment can legislate. It goes something like this:

Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. --from the Bible, Micah 6:8, sort of.

I could write that on a poster and march around the capital, the courthouse, the church, and the marketplace; if only I wasn’t so tired and cynical. In the meantime...

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SOLD OUT

SOMETIMES IT'S GOOD TO HAVE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD; to be on the inside when the sign on the door says, “Sold Out.” It means you’re in, your place at the table is secure, you have a seat for the show—a show that is worthy of being sold out.

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What it is like to assume there would be room left, a ticket still available? You’ve looked forward to it, you got all dressed up, all psyched up, only to arrive, to come face to face with the “SOLD OUT” sign. You can see the others in the room. They made it. They signed up early. But you’re out: disqualified.

I am sure I’m too stupid to understand something as complex as immigration policy. Add to my stupidity the fact that I don’t  care much about economic theory. I'm intensely skeptical of the statistics regurgitated by ruminants, politicians and pundits regarding increased crime within immigrant populations. Even a hint of attitude of racial superiority makes my old, wrinkly, white flesh crawl.

I have always found anecdotes more persuaisive than analysis. I get that many people love the charts, the graphs, the conclusions drawn from some suspect concept of historical perspective, but I am persuaded when I hear a brilliant, eloquent law student from the Congo tell his story about how he gained access to the USA just days before new, heightened immigration policies, enforcements and theories, while his equally brilliant wife, whom he met in a refugee camp in Malawi, was not so lucky. Her paperwork wasn’t processed until a few days after the changing of the guard. He’s on one side of the door, she on the other.

Don’t try to explain it to me. I’m too stupid to see it all as anything but stupid.

Speaking of “selling out”, can we think about Faustian Bargains* for a moment. In my naive, stupid, liberal mind and soul, that is a threshold too costly to cross, but we do it? Why?! Why does that have to be a part of our human story?

Would you believe me if I said I’m not trying to be political, just human? But, I guess it inevitably has to be about politics. If so, here’s a viewpoint on one thorny issue of the current immigration debate which even I can grasp:

"We should have a better understanding and better relationship than we've ever had. Rather than talking about putting up a fence. Why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems?” —Ronald Reagan speaking of Mexico as "our neighbor to the south." Houston, TX, 1980.


*Faustian bargain, a pact whereby a person trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for some worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches. The term refers to the legend of Faust (or Faustus, or Doctor Faustus), a character in German folklore and literature, who agrees to surrender his soul to an evil spirit (in some treatments, Mephistopheles, or Mephisto, a representative of Satan) after a certain period of time in exchange for otherwise unattainable knowledge and magical powers that give him access to all the world’s pleasures. A Faustian bargain is made with a power that the bargainer recognizes as evil or amoral. Faustian bargains are by their nature tragic or self-defeating for the person who makes them, because what is surrendered is ultimately far more valuable than what is obtained, whether or not the bargainer appreciates that fact. —from Encyclopædia Britannica

To wrap things up on a lighter note—here’s my favorite rendering of the Faustian bargain.

 O Brother Where Art Thou

O Brother Where Art Thou