Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Prayer on Christmas Eve

The snow began falling around noon. By nightfall the cold, lifeless remains of fall lay silent under a shimmering fresh sheen of white. The little church sat off the town square, not far from the bandstand, draped in Christmas lights and the multicolored "Holiday Greetings" and "Happy Birthday Jesus" signs next to the life-sized nativity.

A family, or at least the small core of it able to be together this night, parked in front of the square and walked on the un-shoveled sidewalk to the little church. A husband and wife, soon to begin their 50th year together, their middle aged son. Christmas Eve, snow, family, the church, stained glass windows, heavy wooden doors, candles.

As in many other churches in many other small towns the service begins with the familiar carols. Almost all the women sing, the men stand, silent. These are Midwestern men. And Methodists, at that.

Then the children march haphazardly with miniature statues of the nativity, handing them to the preacher who arranges them on a table in front of the altar. Chaotic and cute. The four Advent candles, already burning, are joined by the final 5th candle for the birth of Christ, ignited by a long-handled Bic lighter, the kind you use to start your grill. Still effective, though, the 5th candle proclaiming, Christ, at last, is here. Darkness pierced by hope.

More singing, this time, soloists off-key to the pre-recorded music and contemporary songs about how Jesus is the reason for the season.

Next, bible verses, the prophecy of the birth of Christ. The immaculate conception. Then, strangely, we skip the story of His birth and jump to His death. Luke, chapter 20 something. No! Read the Linus chapter. You know: "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Okay, it's the blood and the death and the sacrifice which saves. But on this eve of hope and renewal, as snow replaces the ashes of November, a little "born unto you" would be welcome.

Communion now, and yet more gore: the blood and body of Christ.

The congregants line up like sheep, making real the allegory. But it's an effective and comforting ritual. The husband and wife take their place and their son, who doesn't really believe but wants to, follows along.

They each receive the Host. The mother, who is first, then kneels and prays at the altar. The son follows her back to the pew. The father heads back to the pew but then stops and kneels at the end of the altar.

And prays. For life. For the defeat of the cancer that is destroying his body. For strength to fight the effects of the chemicals the doctors are pumping into him. For hope that the dire statistics the doctor has told him won't include him. For forgiveness for sins the son can't imagine. For renewal. For a second chance. For a cure that medical science says doesn't exist. For, perhaps, a miracle.

The son sees, hesitates. Then goes to his father, kneels. Arm across his shoulders. I pray, too, Dad. I hope too, Dad. I will believe too.

The father rises, silent, followed by the son, wondering about this very improbable public display of emotion that he couldn't have imagined happening in private.

More singing. Silent Night. Candle lighting. A benediction, greetings, hugs. The father laughs, son stands awkwardly but grateful among strangers who love his parents. Pausing at the church door, the son tells a story he remembers from a Christmas Eve church service long ago when his Dad made him laugh, one of those forbidden-in-church laughs that just can't be stopped. A laugh that still echoes.

The family leaves the little church and walks back into the hopeful night. Back to the warming car, the familiar home, the uncertain dawn. And the hopeful prayer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Choi Asked. Reid Tweeted.

This Tweet image via JMG.

At first I thought it was merely touching, especially given the news earlier this week that Choi was in the hospital. And then I thought it was telling. That Reid would send a message specifically to Dan today speaks volumes to the impact the Lieutenant had on the Senate Majority Leader and the ultimate outcome of today's vote.

I don't know if Reid gave a shout out like this to anyone else prior to the vote today. I would rather doubt it. It would seem a man with the passion for justice and the willingness to demand that a wrong be righted, spare me your excuses, made a bigger difference than the polite lobbyists and party loyalists.

In the end, Reid remembered his personal promise to Choi. A promise that Choi refused to let him forget.

Proud to Serve

Today's historic vote wouldn't have happened if a few brave individuals like Sgt. Leonard Matlovich hadn't come out of the closet. It was unthinkable to publish this cover 30 years ago, just it was almost unthinkable that the Congress would finally, finally, remove the special right that only allowed straight people to serve honestly and openly in America's armed forces.

It's important to remember that today's vote is just yet in another step -- though a mighty big step -- in the process to put DADT on the ash heap of history. Mullen, Gates and Obama have final say on the if and when. But I have no doubt we'll get there, and sooner rather than later.

My hope is that today's landmark vote is also a step closer to the day when we won't need more magazine covers like this one, that gay folk will be part of the ordinary fabric of American life, no better or no worse than anyone else, with the same rights and obligations as every other citizen. In that day we won't need to proclaim that "I Am a Homosexual," rather, simply, "I am American."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Christian, Filled with the Christmas Spirit

A friend from back "home" (rural, Southern Illinois) posted this message on her Facebook page today:

"We can't say Merry Christmas anymore. Now we have to say Happy Holidays, We can't call it a Christmas Tree, it is now called a Holiday Tree!!, because it might offend someone, They call it customs and WE HAVE OUR TRADITIONS! Screw them this is our country and our traditions YOU DON'T LIKE IT GO BACK HOME!If you agree with this PLEASE post this to your status. Oh yeah and by the way. "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!"

She could have added "Fuck You," but I guess that wouldn't have been Christ-like.

I resisted my urge to ask her just who was included in the "our" of "our country" and "our traditions." And exactly who is telling her she can't say "Merry Christmas" or "Christmas tree." Sure, a retailer may decide to avoid the use of the word "Christmas" so as to broaden its appeal to a wider community of consumers which probably includes Jews, Muslims and heathens, but that's their choice. Why does Jesus need an endorsement from Target?

And why are so many Christians in this country so fragile in their beliefs that they seemingly require the backing of their government and merchants to prop them up?

May the universal love of Jesus Christ be with you all this blessed season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Can GOProud Do Something Meaningful in the DADT Debacle?

Like lobby and call on it's members to call Sen. Scott Brown's office to urge his vote for the stand alone DADT repeal? Since he didn't actually, you know, vote FOR DADT repeal like he -- and GOProud -- said he would.

Or will they continue to just take useless potshots meant to do nothing more than stick a finger in the eye of gay progressives?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Obama's Compromise

Before I pass personal judgment whether Obama's deal on taxes was a strategic compromise or a craven sell-out, I want to see what happens next.

If Obama and the Dems can get DADT repeal and START passed, and perhaps the DREAM act, I will be inclined to think the former. If not, more the latter.

Meanwhile, some see his performance at his presser yesterday a turning point for the Prez.

And Jonathan Capehart feels all-a-tingle, like he's been taken to the woodshed and spanked by the president and he wants more spanking, please. This is the type of insightful analysis that gets you a blog on the WaPo website.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Perfect Day

Every once in a great while you experience a perfect day that you know you'll remember the rest of your life.It can be the first time you realized you were in love, a special night with friends or a family event. For me, I remember a camping trip with my best friend in high school right before graduation, the first time I saw Star Wars (the original, in 1977), the last night all my buddies were together in college, my first kiss and of course that first time.

Adding to those memories was a day with my six-year-old son. I've spent many days with him, but what made this particular day special is that I lived it on his time.

Usually when he visits I can't quite shed my agenda. I still have to work (albeit can do it from home, with him present). I have a schedule. Places to be and things to do. It's no surprise that after one trip his mothers reported he'd learned a new phrase from me: "I'm busy." Ouch.

So, the week before Thanksgiving, with things quiet for once at work, I took time off. And on Monday afternoon my son and I ventured down to the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink to ice skate, at his request.

We had pizza for lunch, I attempted to teach him to ice skate (something of the blind leading the blind) and then we explored the sculpture garden, taking time to play on a park bench and to horse around the park. That one of the security guards admonished us at one point gave us the feeling of co-conspirators, two kids in adult-land. On the way back to the car we stopped at a food vendor cart and got snacks and sat together people-watching.

The thing that made all this so magical was not just spending time with my boy, but doing it without deference to the clock. There was no need to hurry, and we lingered in each spot as long as we simply felt like it and the enjoyment of it sustained us. That afternoon, my son showed me what it is like to live in the moment. It was magical. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

The picture of him above was taken that day. The joy in his face was mirrored in my own.


The boys at GOProud have endorsed the Senate Republican strategy of blocking action on anything other than the Bush tax cuts -- including repeal of DADT.

Do we really need another "gay" organization that puts political party interests ahead of our equal rights? The left has HRC, the right now has GOProud.

Of course, the real mission of GOProud isn't to advance gay rights. And perhaps not even to advance conservative causes. I think their real mission is to piss off gay liberals.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What Happens When You Procrastinate?

Important things don't get done:

"But senior Democratic aides in the Senate concede a vote this year to end [DADT] is growing highly unlikely because it is part of a massive defense policy bill that requires weeks of debate. With three weeks left before Christmas, senators are expected to consider tax cuts, a government spending plan and possibly a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, leaving little time for other legislation. The aides asked their names be withheld because they were not authorized to speak on the record."

Republican obstructionism doesn't help either. Nor does John McCain's flip flopping.

Christmas Flashmob in a Mall

I love that the initial soprano stayed "on the phone" the whole time.