Grabbing Grace and Giving It a Shake

(A brief reflection presented at this morning’s service at my Unitarian Universalist church on the month’s theme of “Grace At the End.”)
It was my great privilege to accompany two people to their deaths from Lou Gehrig’s disease in my years as a Hospice volunteer. Their temperaments and response to their disease couldn’t have been more different.

Diane approached it with a kind of equanimity and a retained sparkle in her eyes, which were about the only body parts she could move anymore as the disease robbed her of all other bodily function in the surpassingly cruel way that it does.

Mike fought it all the way, refusing to go gently into that night, sticking up for himself to God and vigorously dissenting from the fate that would spiral him down to death at not even 40 years old, father to two young children.

The two of them put me in mind of that book title: “Grit and Grace.” Mike the grittie...

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Year of Decision on the Trump Presidency

Every day, a fresh revelation, a new indictment, an ever more outrageous, rudderless expression of falsehoods, disdain, and amorality. Nothing is stable, nothing true, whatever was done or said yesterday or an hour ago is inoperative, a passing wisp descending to a graveyard where words go to be drained of all their life-giving blood.

We live in an eternal, impulsive now of rampant, chthonic chaos, of bottomless depravity, of such clear danger to our national identity, our very character as a sovereign, self-examining people, that all else seems to pale in importance.

One summons the angels that still beckon in family, friends, the arts, the comforts of a long walk, a good book or a warming drink on a winter night. But increasingly, those comforts feel if not cold, at least clammy, begetting an intermittent case of vertigo.

One yearns for the normal, for norms that may yet be remembered and reasserted as g...

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The Paul Ryan Bye-Bye Blues

i was handsome and smart
or so the nuns all told me,
eyes of blue with
a winsome smile,
a thinker, a tinkerer
a fine midwestern demeanor

but if all that were true,
what’s up with these
Paul Ryan Bye-Bye Blues?

that ryan boy will go far,
the farm folk all claimed
d.c.’s a brutal place
he’ll know how to tame

a bright light
in a dark time
is what they said,
solid and sober and
steady of hand
the world my oyster
as i bestrode this land.

so much promise and
potential to share,
a prophet of profit
with a kindly stare

but if all that were true,
why am i singing these
Paul Ryan Bye-Bye Blues?

it all turned to crap,
they’re all now saying,
from the left and the right,
nothing but braying

i’m smarmy i’m stuffy
an unprincipled hussy.
as if i’m some snake,
just can’t catch a break,
oh, i got me a bad case of
the Paul Ryan Bye-Bye Blues

how did this happen
to good-hearted paul ryan
who answered the call,
an...

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A Happy New Year Gift From Eric Clapton

Last year, I offered up in this space on New Year’s morning a gift from the gods as they manifested (and continue to resound) through Ludwig van Beethoven and his “Ode to Joy.” And if there’s one bit of wisdom I’ve been able to accrue from my thrashings and bumblings about on Mother Earth over this now long-ish life, it is never to allow a good time or idea to go slinking off by itself into the dusky past.

Instead, just slap a “Hey, what a lovely ritual!” or “But it’s a tradition!” tag on it so we have an excuse to celebrate the wonderful again…and again.

So: Another New Year’s gift, slow forwarded a few hundred years from Beethoven to one of our own epoch’s musical geniuses, Eric Clapton, picking and singing his way through a tender song with the help of a few cherished friends.

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Sometimes the trappings of fame and the tragedies of loss manage to sink the most stout tale...

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What Democrats SHOULD Be Saying About That Damn Wall

A couple of recent news items, the first from PBS: “Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said Democrats will not fund Trump’s ‘immoral, ineffective and expensive wall.’”

And from The Hill: “Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in an interview Sunday knocked President Trump’s proposed border wall, saying that Democrats will not spend money on a ‘fourth century strategy’ as a partial government shutdown stretches into its second day.”

Of those two comments, Democrats should be pounding the table with Merkley’s point, complete with its evocation of a “fourth century” scene involving barbarians clad in beaver pelts storming a walled city, inside of which frightened residents are hurling rocks and sending crude fireballs reigning down upon the alien invaders.

What Democrats should do without, however, is even the faintest suggestion that any type of border security is abou...

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