Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time out for the publically pius

Have you noticed the latest “in” thing to ask for when saying a public prayer?

People who know me know that I am fundamentally opposed to public prayer. I think most of it is contrived, and although not necessarily insincere, I think people tend to say what they feel they are expected to say in a public prayer, therefore, rendering it less like a prayer and more like a public performance. Can you say Pharisee? Like it or not, time set aside for pontifical petitioning is a part of our social structure in the Bible Belt. This has led to a phenomenon in recent years in which people offering public prayers continue to ask God for “traveling mercies” and a “hedge of protection.”

While I’m sure people are modestly sincere in their requests, I often wonder if they can truly define what they are asking for with the phrases “traveling mercies” and “hedges of protection?” When you ask for “traveling mercies,” what does that mean? Is God supposed to feel sorry for those who are traveling? Is He supposed to set up discount gas stations along the way because the price of fuel is too financially demanding? If we knowingly and willingly run over Bambi and eight pedestrians while making our cross country trek is God supposed to turn a blind eye and say it doesn’t matter because we were “making good time?” Or perhaps “traveling mercies” refer to the suspension of bladder function among toddlers and the elderly because it is too time consuming to have to stop every couple of hours in order to relieve urinary pressure.

Then there is the ever popular “hedge of protection.” I’m not sure who was the first to turn this phrase, but I bet they are mighty proud. I also bet they have no clue as to what they were asking for or praying about when they stumbled upon this literary masterpiece and coined a religious phrase that has embedded itself in the culture of the publicly pious all across the land.

My question, however, is, why a “hedge?” If this is supposed to be the immensely defiant bulwark capable of staving off the onslaught of hell’s immortals, then why don’t you ask for a structure that cannot be penetrated with something as simple as a bad attitude and pinking sheers. I want a by God “6-foot-thick-stone-wall-surrounded-by-moat-in-a-hermetically-sealed-dome” of protection. A hedge … puh-leeze!

Needless to say, I have a hard time bowing my head and closing my eyes during public prayers. Have you ever tried to roll your eyes when they are closed? It’s not that easy. I try not to make a big scene, but if you watch closely, you will probably notice a quaint look of exasperation drift across my countenance. Admittedly, it's not the best Christian witness to be openly and sarcastically anti-social during such times of quiet introspection … but then again, maybe God will see fit to raise a “hedge of concealment” around my poor behavior. Then, perhaps I will feel free to open myself to God and truly speak with and listen to Him without the need for an audible “Amen” before the coin toss.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Living Undecidedly


Does anyone have any real idea who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election? I have been watching and reading as much as I possibly can, and I'm still undecided. I've never been undecided this late in an election process. But there are certain factors that are influencing my decision.

First, I think the Republicans are both one-trick ponies. Palin took on the oil companies in Alaska and McCain is a "war hero." I'm not knocking McCain's accomplishments and I deeply appreciate those people who put their lives on the line in our armed forces, but just because you are a member of the military does not make you a "hero." I will keep the rest of my opinions on the subject to myself because I do not want the two people who actually read this blog to get upset and start sending out the Office of Homeland Security labeling me as an insurgent of some sort.

On the other hand, the democrats are smoke and mirrors. What have they done? Have they done anything? I think the real wild card in my decision-making process is Biden. It's obvious, after watching the VP debate, that he is much more polished than his counterpart. Like others, I really liked the idea of Palin when the Republicans announced their selection. But the more she speaks, the more I realize she doesn't really understand. Obama may be as inexperienced, or more so, as she, but he at least comes across as knowledgeable and intelligent when he speaks.

Then there are the issues. McCain is all about the war effort in Iraq. That's all his campaign talks about ... war, war, war, war, war ... did you know he was a "war hero?" It makes me wonder how quickly he would attack a middle eastern country if he had an itchy trigger finger. For some reason I think Obama's idea of talking to people might just work after what we've gotten ourselves into in the last eight years. Obama, on the other hand, sometimes comes across as too weak on foreign policy issues.

On education, I like Obama's stance on K-12 public education, but I like McCain's ideas on higher education. As an employee of a private institution of higher learning, I think Obama's ideas would be dangerous to private schools.

I lean toward Obama on the tax plans. Call me weird, but I don't think more tax breaks are what our country needs right now. In fact, I think we need to be paying more taxes. Everyone wants to benefit from the services that government offers, but nobody is willing to pay for it. What we really need is to reform the tax system. It's not fair that people who don't even qualify to pay taxes still receive tax returns and "economic stimulous" checks. Which just for the record, I think the economic stimulous refund that we all received recently was one of the dumbest things of which I had ever heard.

Then there is just the personal enjoyment in making Hillary Clinton squirm. I would vote for Palin just to tick Hillary off because she would not be the first woman in the White House, but I would vote for Obama just to keep Hillary out of the White House for at least 8 years, and possibly as many as 16 if Biden were to run after Obama's tenure.

Oh well, I guess I'll watch another debate and maybe then I will make up my mind.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Que Sera

So … I haven’t written anything in a while.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve been writing a lot lately, just nothing to be posted here. I am currently writing the text for a history/coffee table book to coincide with our university’s centennial celebration that begins Aug. 31. The book won’t be done by then, but if we can get it out in October I will be extremely happy.

I haven’t had a whole lot to write about lately but there has been some interesting activities. My daughter’s softball season wrapped up recently. If you recall, my bro-in-law and I ended up pretty much running the board that directed the league. Things ran fairly smoothly. We had a little dust-up toward the end that could have blown way out of proportion, but we settled it among the board without too much collateral damage. All it took was a strongly worded email to board members, one of whom was the cause of the contention, in which I forcefully stated that nit-picking the rules will not be tolerated, especially by board members. I may have accused someone of being “thick-skulled” and not understanding the point of what we were trying to accomplish … and I may have used some “colorful adjectives” in one or two places … no more than two. I think there are generally far better and more sadistic ways to state things than by drawing from the FCC’s list of improper terms. However, some people never get it and one must resort to the basest level of interpersonal communication to finally relay the message. I think I made my point because the subject was dropped and I haven’t heard from the complaining party since.

We had been expecting to have trouble from this person all season long and treated him with kid gloves and tried to bring him along nicely. He did pretty good for the most part, but just couldn't keep from reverting to his self-destructive pattern of behavior that has subsequently resulted in banishment from nearly every youth sports league in the county. I think we were the last, and there’s a good chance he won’t be associated with us next year.

After many failed attempts at explaining things in a civilized manner, I think I finally spelled it out in language he could understand. The phrase “immature bickering” might have been a little hard to grasp, but I'm pretty sure he got the point behind “seriously pissed-off redhead.”

Sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Natural Disaster Day

You can always count on the television media for a good chuckle. Whether they are grossly oversensationalizing a story or just plain screwing everything up, they tend to regularly step in one mess after another.

This being said, as I was at home for lunch today I was watching one of the news channels. They were so interested in covering events that they had a split screen. Not just two events being televised at the same time, but four.

As I sat watching I turned to my wife and asked if this was one of the signs of the apocalypse. It must have been natural disaster day for divided among the four screens were raging wildfires, tornadoes, flooding and Obama and Clinton campaigning for the presidency.

… by the way, if you haven’t noticed the size of Hillary’s head (literal not figurative) look at her next time she is standing next to Obama. Her head is twice as big as his.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When Office Politics Fail

Don’t you just love office politics? Those annoying little things that just get under your skin. Thinking one thing while expressing another in order to accomplish your goals. The only thing worse is when you have to play politics with people who micromanage and don’t let anyone under their command actually be involved in any of the decision making process. All decisions on all matters must cross a singular desk where they bottleneck and start backing up and affecting all maters material to that division as well as some that aren’t … in other words, everybody in the organization starts to get a little irritated with said division that can’t seem to accomplish anything because everything comes to a screeching halt due to egotism and micromanagement.

That being said, I generally try to refrain from writing things on here that could inevitably get me in trouble, but this time I am making an exception because I really don’t care if I get called on the carpet on this matter. I’m willing to share my opinion and take my punishment if necessary.

Each fall at our small, faith-based university we have a new student orientation weekend named with a Greek term meaning "fellowship." The last few years the person in charge of this weekend, whose office just happens to fall under a major micromanager, has been polling the students to get a better feel for what could be done to improve the event which officially opens each new school year. The main knock on the orientation is that it feels too much like church camp. Needless to say, the school’s response is to try to make it feel more “collegiate” and less “churchy.”

This August marks the beginning of our centennial year and the person who is presumably in charge of student orientation petitioned the faculty and staff for theme ideas to tie into the school’s history. Our original school mascot was the Jackrabbit. It was changed in the late 1940s to the current nickname. We really have no curent mascot to use with our nickname because no one can tell you exactly what a Pioneer is supposed to look like. Just ask Utica College in New York. To make a long story short, I submitted the theme idea, “Embrace Your Haretage!” with a big picture of a jackrabbit … and yes I misspelled “heritage” on purpose. We had ideas of t-shirts with the theme and logo printed on them going to every new student and faculty or staff member that wanted one. There are so many things we could do with the jackrabbit to benefit the school in the public eye, and seeing as how I am in the Public Relations Office, we have discussed these ideas at length. A few years ago, our office passed out jackrabbit t-shirts during homecoming and the students and alumni loved them. They were asking for more.

When this idea was passed on for an informal vote among faculty and staff, the majority loved it. Then it went to the administrator’s desk. Needless to say the idea ran head first into a brick wall that remains consistently closed to differing opinions. The only opinions that matter are the ones that generate from within the wall. None of the “senseless graffiti” that splashes up on the outside of the wall will ever seep through.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes because someone “poo-pooed” in my potty. I couldn't care less who comes up with the idea as long as it is something students will accpet and enjoy. I even pointed out that the idea would work without the Jackrabbit just in case said administrator (who actually likes the jackrabbit … or so I’ve been told) thinks we are pushing to change the school mascot. Just use the theme “Embrace Your Heritage” and tie into the school’s history in any number of ways.

But as we all know, rabbits don’t fly.

Anyway, once the idea was officially shot down we were suddenly without a theme for our student orientation, and the deadline for getting material printed on time was quickly passing. So the great wall opened up and brought forth a new “collegiate” theme for our centennial student orientation weekend………. “Celebrate a Century of Fellowship.”

“… And may God bless us, everyone. Don’t forget to save your nickels and pennies for the foreign missionaries. Now boys and girls lets huddle together and sing “Come by Here” and don’t forget to be in bed with lights out by 8 o’clock … we have a big day tomorrow.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hey batter, batter ...

Not a big fan of kids. I don’t really know why. It is probably because I am not allowed to beat other people’s children … or other children’s people for that matter. But still, being around too many kids makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I’m also rather over protective so therefore I feel like I have to be on the watch for anything and everything that could possibly harm whatever kid is in the area. This, to me, is rather tiring.

I know I’ve broached this subject before on this blog, but it comes up every year at about this time. While I don’t generally enjoy being around groups of children, especially at church functions where you are expected to treat every hellion as though it were an angel of mercy sent forth from the Almighty, I inevitably end up coaching girls’ summer-league softball. The last two years I have helped my brother-in-law coach his daughter’s team. This year, however, my child finally decided she wanted to play, so I am coaching her team.

My daughter is one of the oldest on her team. She plays in the 5-7 year-old league since she was 7 on Dec. 31. She is 8 now and is one of two 8-year-olds on the team. The other is a friend of hers who played last year and played pretty well. They both could have played up to the 8-10 year-old league and would have been successful at that level, but since this is my daughter’s first year, I thought I would keep her with the younger kids until she kind of learned the ropes. Her friend, therefore, decided to stay in the younger league as well.

Altogether, there are 10 girls on the team. They range from the quiet and shy 5-year-olds to the boisterous and out-spoken 8-year-old who is not my daughter. But they are all good kids. And like any kid they are seeking approval for their accomplishments from caring adults. Yet at this very impressionable age, you can already pick out the girls that are going to have trouble as they continue to grow.

I’m pretty lucky with this group really, we have several kids who seem to come from good, solid, two-parent homes. The parents love and encourage them and are willing to participate in their activities. Then there are others. One really cute little girl has a chance to grow up to be a good kid, but something is going to have to change or she will slip through society’s cracks and become another statistic. In an early practice I was talking to the girls about having their mother, father or older sibling just play catch with them so they can work on their hand-eye coordination and just get used to catching the ball.
“My daddy’s in jail,” this girl said. Then with a big grin on her face she added, “but he gets to come home in January.”

How do you respond to that? I said the only thing that came to mind … well, not the only thing, but the only thing that is appropriate to say to a 6-year-old … “Well, tell him he better stay out of jail because you need somebody to play catch with.”

Another girl comes from a broken home with a mother, father, step-father and who knows who else in the equation. She has a lot of talent and potential, but those involved in her life seem to be a little overbearing. Apparently she can never do anything good enough. They always expect her to do something more. She will do exactly what I ask her to do and then have to answer to her parental figures about why she didn’t do that one extra thing. We’ve played two games so far and this has had her nearly in tears at both games.

While working at a newspaper, I saw this parental behavior manifest itself in a high school basketball player. The girl’s parents sat at opposite ends of the gymnasium and continuously yelled at her throughout the game, no matter what end of the floor she was on. And I’m not talking about encouraging, well-wishes. The parents would joke about not being able to sit together because the other one yelled too loudly. You could tell that it really bothered the girl not to be able to perform to her parent’s improbable expectations. It didn’t help that she came from a very successful athletic family with an older sister who was bigger, stronger and more athletically gifted. And while this young lady was an excellent player, she would fold under the pressure of big games. You could see her physically become overwhelmed even though there was no need. There is no doubt in my mind this was due to her parents’ behavior. She was a very nice kid, but always seemed somewhat melancholy around adults who came to the practices or games … that is, until you paid her a compliment. I’ve never seen a kid’s demeanor change so much with one simple compliment than I did with her. She went form a kind of head-down approach to things, to looking up with bright eyes and big smile when I would speak to her.

My point, I guess, is that 5-7 year-old, summer-league, recreational softball can be an interesting study in child psychology ... and it’s probably not the most appropriate place for parents to expect their child to manifest herself as the next Cat Osterman or Jennie Finch. However, practices that begin at this early age can definitely carry over to detrimental behavior in later stages of life.

I just hope I don’t end up sending my child to year’s of therapy – not for softball related issues anyway.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I’ve had some interesting conversations lately. As our country tries to decide which person will be the best leader for the next four years, I find it interesting to get the take of people who aren’t from our country. Working at an institution of higher learning, I am privy to many international students.

I have spoken with three international students lately on the subject of who they would vote for if they were allowed to vote in our elections. They are a male Venezuelan, male South African and female Latvian. Granted I only got three responses, but the responses were quite interesting.

The Venezuelan simply said, “Anybody but Chavez” … in reference to his country’s political climate. Apparently the constituents don’t really like the regime in charge.

The other two, whom I asked on different days in different places with them nowhere near each other both said: “I definitely would not vote for Hillary.” Their reason was the same also. Neither one of them think she is trustworthy.

I have to admit, this is exactly the way I feel about Mrs. Ex-president, but it was really interesting to hear that from a couple of International students around 21 and 22 years old.

… and for the record, to all those weirdos who are clamoring for an Obama/Clinton ticket, do you really think that Clinton would ever accept the position as vice president? She would do everything in her power to be the main figurehead and would probably do whatever she could to alienate Obama within the party and to sabotage him at every turn in order to advance her own political agenda. She has no desire to be vice president. She has already been vice president. And she is way too narcissistic to accept second-place to a junior senator.