What Happens When God shows Up—the Pope versus Donald Trump

My sixteen year old daughter had surgery last week for a torn ACL. While she was recuperating, we found ourselves watching a variety of movies.  One of them was “Woodlawn” (2015) based on the true story of  Tony Nathan  a gifted, black, high school football player, who attended Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama, 1973.  Woodlawn experienced federally mandated busing to enforce integration.  The film opens with black and white news footage of buses burning, President John Kennedy speaking, personal stories from black people on the devastating impact of segregation and shots of the huge crowds at Billy Graham revivals. There is also footage of Alabama Governor George Wallace, a Democrat, (demonstrating that idiocy and meanness have no party boundaries) proclaiming,   I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

The premise of the story is that forced integration was not going well at the school until Hank Erin, a total outsider, converts nearly the entire football team, black and white, to Christ. The team’s spiritual conversion subsequently transforms the coach, the school and the community.  Mr. Erin was part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an international non-profit Christian sports ministry based in Kansas City, Missouri. The unseen star of the movie is Christ. The finger pointing up in the movie posters does not symbolize “We’re number one!” as I always thought but “Our Power comes from the one above!”

WoodlawnMoviePoster
The pointed finger symbolizes our power comes from God.

The narrator of movie, the Woodlawn team’s coach, describes Woodlawn as a miracle.

 

After watching the movie, I starting thinking about when over the past couple of weeks have I seen God show up. I pray every day, go to church on Sundays but I am somewhat of a doubting Thomas. I believe in God but am also frequently asking where is He? Upon reflection, I have seen a recent very public instance of God on earth.

Pope Francis denouncing Presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s policies on immigration as not Christian” is a triumph for social justice. Trump’s harsh campaign promises to deport more illegal immigrants and build a wall along the border, may resonate with an angry populous. Remember, George Wallace’s line in the sand on segregation got him elected 4-times. But political rhetoric and Christianity are not the same. Trump immediately fired back that the Pope is “Disgraceful”.   I believe the opposite. Pope Francis represents— grace in action. He cares for the poor, washes the feet of prisoners and speaks out on issues of social justice.

16pope-web2-master675
Pope Francis meeting with crowds in Mexico.

 

No reasonable person could think hunting down and routing out Hispanics from their homes at night, loading up truck loads of Mexicans at gun point in a military maneuvers, breaking up families since children born to illegal residents in America are U. S. citizens, could be seen as Christian acts. The logistics of financing, building, and maintaining a massive wall along the Mexican border are ludicrous.

Trump is a brilliant man. He knows the challenges of putting these proposals into action. Trumpism is an effort to capitalize on the anger many Americans feel about the course of our country.

Trump
Donald Trump is a brilliant man, capitalizing on America’s fear.

This same anger was around in the early seventies with start of desegregation. Status threat is a sociological concept with real life consequences. When people’s lives are not going as they hope economically they feel threatened, angry and find someone to blame and lash out at. The targets of their anger may be minorities, homeless, refugees, but almost always the target is someone less powerful. Current economic inequalities are further complicated by global terrorism. We have become a nation of avengers, security zealots, and foreigner-phobes. Trumpism provides a constant, shrill message to rally the masses rising to a crescendo on Election Day. I am not a political forecaster. I do not know if his tactics will be successful. They have certainly gained him international attention.

 

I do know that Trump’s America is not one of Christ-like service to our neighbors and community. I am not a Catholic. But with the selection of Pope Francis, Christians throughout the world have had the opportunity to see God’s boots on the ground on a regular basis.

I realize now that I started this blog with the wrong question. God is always there. The right question is,  “What happens when Christians show up? The answer is miracles!

 

Advertisements

Stories of Heartbreak

I go,

you stay;

two autumns. (Buson)

 There is a story in every breakup.  Heartbreak, crushing physical pain compressing one’s chest, is a universal emotional experience. A tour last week of the award-winning Museum of Broken Relationships reminded me that even after a relationship is over the pain lives on in one’s heart. Many of us cherish the mementoes of love gone wrong reminding us of bad past choices or nurturing the fading memory of the beloved.  The museum is a touring collection of artifacts of lost relationships  Half of the display has been collected by curators Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic over a 10 year period from all over the world. The other half of the display is objects submitted by individuals living in the Treasure Valley specifically for the Boise exhibition.  Amazingly, while the objects and stories vary greatly, the yearning and pain of break-up seems to be shared across time and countries. On Display February 4-March 3, 2014, Ming Studios, Boise, Idaho (mingstudios.org)Ming.jpg

Is it really surprising in a culture that celebrates love and relationships, there is an archeology for the lovelorn?   Through romance novels, pop music, movies, and holidays we have created the fantasy that the right connection leads to bliss.  The tokens of broken relationships and their stories capture the giddy, glow of first attachment where the beloved can do no wrong. This glow can last for minutes, weeks, months or years. There are stuffed bears, Godzilla replicas, wooden soldiers, hand carved pigs, bright pink flamingos.  Little gifts given in an affectionate moment or bought on shared excursion become the symbol of the “we” in our happy prime. Notable is that the items that have the most meaning are frequently of little value except in the context of the couple’s shared experience. These small symbols capture us “falling in love” and being “love sick”.

car
Small toy car, an example of shared tokens of love with little monetary value.

 

When we are sick of love, we can be quite cruel in how we end it.  One young woman received a set of unattached guitar strings with the note, “No strings attached.”  Another young woman received a placeholder ring for an engagement ring.  The ring turned her finger green after a couple of weeks so she stopped wearing it.  When she tried to talk her fiancé into the real thing, he just disappeared from her life.  She kept calling him but he didn’t even have the courtesy to break up. She held on to the tarnished fake but finally felt it was time to move on, and thus, the ring became a donation to the museum.  One woman described a broken relationship with a man who in retrospect she thought was trying to kill her on a scuba diving trip.  He had taken out a life insurance policy before they left town.

 

One of my most embarrassing moments in college was when a boy friend, I had just broken-up with, dropped everything I had given him on the front steps of the women’s dorm. Since we had hours back then, (women had to be in at a certain time), he strategically waited until hours had come and gone. Everyone in the dorm got to witness all the strange little shared souvenirs of our time together being stacked up on the front porch.  Humiliating indeed, but a good reminder of why I didn’t want that man in my life long-term.

 

We tend to think of relationships largely in terms of couples, whether they be gay or straight. But the museum also chronicles broken friendships and fractured families.  I have recently had a number of conversations with friends trying to heal from lost jobs. Obviously, painful relationship can take many forms. To be human is to have a host of complex interwoven interactions. Loss of any of these intense associations may seem like the end of the world while going through the healing process.

 

One of the most haunting mementoes from the exhibit is a set of ear phones. There is a Dad’s message on an old telephone machine saying, “I love you, please call–beep.”  A young woman, answers back numerous times, according to the beeps with profanity and promises never to speak again.

 

The exhibit also narrates efforts to heal. One woman knit a sweater of everything that reminded her of her former boyfriend.  She had bought the yarn to knit the sweater while they were together, “He started talking about the ultimate sweater…I wasn’t going to begin this project until he settled on what he wanted.  He never did.”  Like the relationship the sweater is misshapen and un-wearable but hopefully the act of creation helped reduce the pain.  Another woman did a video chronicling a joyful period leading up to violence. Since she completed the video, we know she lived but we also know many do not extricate from violent relationships. When you have had an intense loving relationship with someone and end it, there is pain. While the pain heals with time, there remains as soft spot that if jarred can bring up the memories of the one lost. 

 This universality of human pain and loss is documented by Shawn Mendes in the recent hit “Stitches”

I thought that I’ve been hurt before But no one’s ever left me quite this sore Your words cut deeper than a knife Now I need someone to breathe me back to life Got a feeling that I’m going under But I know that I’ll make it out alive If I quit calling you my lover Move on…

 

Needle and the thread, Gotta get you out of my head Needle and the thread, Gonna wind up dead Needle and the thread, Gotta get you out of my head, get you out of my head

(Danny Parker, Teddy Geiger, 2015)

Denver Super Bowl win provides a reason to party!

Denver
Denver, with the Rocky Mountains in the background is one of America’s great cities!

I grew up in Bronco Land. Cheyenne, Wyoming is only 100 miles from Denver, Colorado, home of the Denver Broncos.  Denver is a great city that I have visited often for entertainment, culture and just a good time. I have been to see a number of Denver Bronco games.  Two games are engraved in my mind.  One was so cold that we wore our ski outfits in order to sit in the stands and we were thankful to have tickets. The other was a lovely fall day. We were sitting in bleachers in the end zone with a group of friends. When I turned around, the lady behind me was wearing giant orange balls with the famous stallion and BRONCOs engraved on them as earrings  The balls were at least six inches in diameter. I remember just staring and saying nothing. The lady, who had clearly been drinking, looked at me and asked belligerently , “What are you staring at?” I thought “Gosh, I’m going to get into some kind of fight if I’m not careful.” So I responded carefully, “I am just admiring your earrings.  They are truly lovely.” One of my girl friends, sitting next to me, snorted into her hand. That Christmas, the same girl friend gave me a pair of big, gaudy, orange Bronco earrings which I have cherished for many years.  I never wore them but they remind me of long-term friendships and savoring a beautiful fall day with friends watching a football.

bronco logo
Denver Bronco Logo

 

This year with the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl facing the Carolina Panthers, my family and I hosted the Super Bowl party. We had  Super Bowl Turkey Black Bean Chili, corn bread, fruit and green salad, chips and dip, brownies, and chocolate torte with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Our guests included teenagers, neighbors from down the street, long term friends and family and a variety of dogs and cats.

As my husband says, “The game was a slog.” A Denver coach described it as “grinding” one more win out. Let’s face it, the only “Super” out on the field playing was the Denver Defense.  The face of the defense was Von Miller, MVP for the game.  But at our house we still had a great time.

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga rocking the National Anthem

Lady Gaga, shining in a sparkling red pants suit and eye make-up singing the National Anthem as the Air Force jets buzzed the stadium on a glorious day in Santa Clara, California reminded me of all the gifts I have living in America.  Apparently, all the women across our great land watching the game noted that the referee was in good shape for an older guy.  Social media tweets suggested conversation about his physique might have been the most interesting part of the game.

referee Super Bowl
Referee Clete Blakeman keeping female fans tweeting.

 

We kept track of our favorite advertisements. Several of us had viewed previews before the game.  The Doritos ad with the baby reaching for his dad’s chip was our hands down favorite.  I think we will giggle about it together  for many years to come–one of those memories you savor and keep alive to relive good times. We also liked the singing sheep in the Honda Ridgeline commercial, though I kept calling them goats. I have to admit we’ve been talking about the new Ridgeline before the game so we may be biased. The  Marmot advertisement struck a cord with us.  The marmot was cute and generally we like talking animals (though we were kind of grossed out by the puppy/monkey/baby thing) .  Several of the women in our viewing group are of an age, where we might have said on a date, “I’m not that kind of girl!” We had a dashhound in our viewing audience so, of course, the Heinz ketchup advertisement with the dogs dressed in buns was a big hit.  The Prius ad that started with a stolen car and transformed to  a Prius police vehicle was engaging.  We bought a jeep this fall to meet my dream of having a convertible so the pictorial history of jeep in action pulled at my heart strings.

The half time show did not disappoint. Cold Play was over-shadowed by Bruno Mars and Beyonc’e .  I have seen Beyonc’e live and she puts on a fabulous show, dancing and singing at a high energy level throughout.  She certainly dominated this year’s Super Bowl show.  By doing so, she brought the concept of empowered professional women of color into living rooms of millions of American, a positive image for lots of teenagers and little girls across America.

Beyonce at Superbowl
Beyonc’e stealing the half-time show while empowering young women across the nation.

 

In the end, the two big winners were Peyton Manning and the NFL. All the Denver fans wanted Peyton to end his career on a win.  Now let’s hope he has the sense to retire while he is ahead.

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning,

The NFL, facing all kinds of negative publicity about concussions and domestic violence, capitalized on a huge viewing audience by showcasing children born nine months after a team won the Super Bowl.  I imagine the parents of those children are seriously considering whether or not they will let them play football.  In fact, Super Bowl 50 did not attract a record breaking number of viewers.   We may look back and mark 2016 as the year that the number of  Super Bowl TV viewers started declining because of national concerns about the sport. Twenty years from now, the Super Bowl will probably not be the uniquely American sport that it is today.  Soccer is on the rise in this country and is certainly the “football” of the world.

 

But for one glorious Sunday afternoon in 2016, the Bronco fans in my living room shared fun, laughter, friendship and good food. We all left happy when the game wrapped up Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10.

McCall Winter Carnival–Family fun in tons of snow!

Do you have a hard time finding activities that young children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents can all enjoy together?  Carnival Posterr McCall Winter Carnival is one of those rare events providing family fun for all age groups and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors by escaping the constant demands of social media and screen time.  All of this and it’s free!

As I write, the 51st Winter Carnival is in full swing.  Kicking off Friday, January 29th with a children’s torch light parade and fireworks, the festival  runs through February 7th , 2016  with a variety of activities all week. This year’s theme is Beyond Tomorrow, boasting 40 futuristic snow sculptures scattered all over town.

snow outside kitchen window
Snow outside our kitchen window

The necessary ingredients for a great winter celebration are snow (lots of it) and cold weather. This year McCall has had plenty of both.  We own a place in McCall and we’ve had enough snow to knock down a tree in our front yard and require us to dig a path way for our dogs out to the backyard.  I like to think the path out back as our own little interactive snow tunnel for dogs.

20160130_161150
Snow outside our kitchen window

 

 

 

 

The kickoff event for the carnival is a children’s torch light parade to the shores of Payette Lake for a fireworks display.

children's torchlight parade
Glowing lights are signature feature of Torch Light Parade.

This year it was so icy everyone joined the torch light parade to walk in the streets and avoid the slick sidewalks.  There is an indescribable joy, marching in the crisp, cold dark with children waving light wands and parents wearing glowing multicolored necklaces on a cold night.  Since it gets dark early this time of year, fireworks start at 7, still early enough for young children. For those who like to party, the fireworks provide  fabulous festive start to a night on the town.

This year, the fireworks were shot from the shore of the lake. 20160129_194725The viewers lined up along the snow banks just above the launching point. The dazzling bursts of color  burst right over our heads.  Some explosions were so close, I felt like it could reach out and touch them. My feet reverberated on the ground when the big boomers went off, sprinkling a few harmless ashes among us. The area near the lake was covered with a light dusting of smoke,  like English fog.  As my 16 year old daughter said, “The smaller the burst, the larger the boom.”  Once the fireworks were over we headed home for board games around the table in front of a blazing wood stove.  We have internet but no regular TV in our cabin.  But since we tend to gather as a group, we have found cards  and games to be a good social activity at least one night of the weekend.

 

The next morning my crowd of teenagers were up early to catch the first chair up Brundage Mountain. The ski hill tends to be empty during Winter Carnival because of all the activities in town. The kids’ ski report that afternoon was the “hill was uncrowded” and there was lots of new snow.

Meanwhile back in town, the crowds were huge for the annual Mardi Gras Parade. Replicating New Orleans, McCall’s pageant  is  resplendent with purple, green and gold beads for partiers, lively music and an array of local floats.parade

Parade viewers are lined up  three or four deep in sloshing snow.  I heard one mom tell her toddler not to get wet. With all the snow and slush, this order was like trying to stop a locomotive when the brakes go out. He promptly jumped in a puddle splashing water half way up his legs and on everyone standing near him. This  total disobedience made me laugh out loud.

Snow and kids are a magical mixture, assuming the kids are dressed for the cold weather. In McCall this weekend, I saw kids of all sizes sliding down snow hills  on butts, sleds or whatever other device would move.  During Winter Carnival, McCall balloons from a sleepy mountain town of 3,000 to over 60,000 visitors so believe me there are lots of interesting people and activities all around you.  One man fighting his way through the slush on the way to the car was overheard describing the crowds on his phone with, “I’m in the guts of this thing right now!”  The downtown on the first Saturday of Winter Carnival is not for the faint heart.  The pulsating energy of so many people is also part of the appeal of the festival.

Other events throughout the week are pancake breakfasts, gourmet dinners, bike races (motorcycles), Nordic racing, snowmobile fun run, theater, and continuous live music on an outdoor stage, hockey games in the town’s fabulous indoor rink, ice shows, beer garden, and food trucks.

snow biking
Glowing lights are signature feature of Torch Light Parade.

There are also the McCall regular activities including skiing on a great hill, tubing at the Activity Barn, soaking at one of three hot springs, or just hanging out in front of a warm fire and watching it snow.

 

My favorite event because I’m an animal lover is the Monster Dog Pull. Sponsored by McPaws Animal Shelter, regular people showcase their every day dogs pulling appropriate weighted sleds on a short course.

20160201_172950
This lab shows that even an old dog can learn new tricks!

Competition and sled size is determined by the size of the dog.  While some dogs were born to run, others take the race as the opportunity to meet and greet all the by-standers along the way as if they were beauty queens in a parade, and other canines take on the role of victim and  just sit down refusing to transform  from pets to working dogs.  You can see by their expressions these dogs think their  owners  who are calling them loudly, waving treats, and otherwise making a fool of themselves are just plain nuts.  Maybe during Winter Carnival, similar to New Orleans, happiness and fun may make us all just a little nuts (in a good way).

Pull 1
This German Shepard was perplexed by his owner’s behavior–“You want me to do what?”

 

If you didn’t get to McCall this weekend, don’t despair. There is still time to spend a day in McCall and see the snow sculptures which this year should stay in pretty good shape throughout the week. In warm winters, the snow sculptures melt right before  viewers’ eyes.

If you are from out of state, consider putting the Carnival on your travel bucket list.  If you are a couple with money, try out the Hotel McCall which is right in the thick of the action so you won’t have to use your car.  The next closest  high end choice is the Shore Lodge, great for couples and families but further from the action.  The lodge does run regular shuttles throughout the event.  For families with fewer resources and a weekend to spare, America’s Best Value Inn, while a little run down, has reasonable rates, a swimming pool, and breakfast each morning.  The biggest draw is it’s within walking distance of everything.  McCall has some great new hotels including the Holiday Inn and Best Western but they are on the outskirts of town and require you either take the shuttle, walk longer distances or fight the traffic.  If you are coming to spend the week and get in some high quality skiing and relaxing, I would recommend you look into renting a cabin.  McCall has gorgeous rentals at reasonable prices.   Since McCall does sell out, don’t wait until the last minute to make your travel plans for next year.  Under any circumstances, I would plan my trip to take advantage of the community shuttles or to stay within walking distance events. Hassling with traffic jams and no parking in a small town really detracts from the overall joy and carnival spirit.