Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An Ode to Mashed Potatoes ...

An Ode to Mashed Potatoes …

Let me count the ways I love thee …
The common tator … a tuber … from the ground …
Just like you and me …
Maybe we feel something in common with this common ground thing …

They’re not picked, like apples or pears …
They’re dug …
Like good music … or hangin’ out with folks we love …

Lots of different sizes … and colors … in a lot of different places …
We do have a lot in common, don’t we?
With the humble potato …

Peel ‘em … if ya’ want …
But I like to leave the skins on …
Adds texture … as it should be … the whole potato …
As God intended.

Into a pot of water …
Turn on the heat … lots of good things need a little heat …
Cook ‘em not too hard … 
Test ‘em with a fork …
Drain ‘em and put ‘em back into the pot …

And now the good part …
A couple of butter chunks … 
A generous splash of cream … I mean: be generous …
Maybe even some cream cheese …
A little horseradish?
Salt and pepper …

And a little elbow grease …
Smash and mash these remarkable gifts from God …
Not too much, just enough …
To blend it all together …
Taste to your heart’s content …
That’s what I love about cooking …
We get to sample everything before you do.

Can it get better?
You bet … 
On the plate they go …
A fork-full will satisfy all your desires for comfort …
Just like home … 
But like all good things … these good things go well 
With a chorus of other good things ….
Gravy … 
Giblet gravy …
Corn and slabs of carefully sliced turkey, neat and precise … though I prefer the dark meat … a tad bit unruly …
Cranberry relish on the side …
And how about the country cousin, the sweet potato … with its famous hat, 
The marshmallow … all white on the inside, with golden trim …
And who knows what else … 

Start with potatoes, and who knows where it’ll end.

But start with potatoes … 
A very common thing …

And it will end well …

As all good things do …

Happy Thanksgiving …

© Tom Eggebeen, Los Angeles

Saturday, November 23, 2013

America Has No Sense of Sin

In a nation where Christianity has played such a pervasive role, with all of its yacking about sin, what's quite astounding is that the nation, itself, has no sense of sin.

For most of American Christianity, sin has mostly been about drinkin' and smokin' and dancin' and lately, gay sex and/or other personal/individualistic peccadillos.

But when it comes to the nation, no go … America gets away with murder, literally, and no one raises a question. And domestically, millions of Americans are eagerly discarded and dismissed because they're lazy, and whatever other character defect can be applied. A surprising number of Christians have no mindfulness of this, and some even encourage it, even as they tearfully sing "Amazing Grace."

While most Americans "remember" Pearl Harbor because it was a sneak attack, America has engineered any number of sneak attacks (remember Grenada?) and has often acted the bully around the world.

This much for Japan - at least they picked on someone their own size, and were simply doing what America has been doing ever since Reagan with Grenada and Bush with Iraq - preemptively striking.

Christianity pretty much affirms a personal truism - knowing one's sins is the essence of humility, the essence of spiritual maturity. To know God, it's said, one gets to know "how far short of God's glory a human being has fallen," and by the Holy Spirit, compelled to seek God all the more through the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ.

Christianity has made this clear for the person, but not for the nation. For the nation, alas, it's assumed that we're a "Christian" nation, and that's that.

Jeremiah and Isaiah stand in a tradition that made it clear for Israel and Judah that sin is not only personal, but national. John the Baptist makes it clear, and so does Jesus and Paul.

Abolitionists in England and the United States understood the "sins of a nation," but vested interests, i.e. the wealthy and those churches invested in the status quo, reacted quickly and decisively … sin is personal, never corporate … sin is what a person does, but the nation is a "Christian" nation endowed with divine purpose to Christianize and civilize the world.

Ah well …

If "knowing one's sin" is the essence of spiritual maturity, what about a nation?

It's interesting to note that an immature person is characterized by a sense of "innocence" - they always see their behavior in the best light, excusing all of their behavior and blaming others.

It would seem that America, as a nation, remains spiritually underdeveloped.

It refuses to face its sins of war and mistreatment of the poor.

It chooses, rather than responsibility, the strange and adolescent attitude of "innocence."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Our" God???? and Christian Music

"Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other" ...

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.

... and so the song goes.

It's biblical, I suppose, pulling out pieces of Scripture that "say" these things, but mostly disregarding context and history and what those words and images meant in ancient Israel/Judah.

When I listened, I felt uneasy, because I "heard" the crippling and tragic message of "christian triumphalism," a message of power, invincibility, conquest and victory.

And if "our" god is bigger and better and brighter and stronger, then so are we, and the "other" gods of this world, and that means other faith-traditions, other religions, other points of view, philosophies and ways of life, are inferior, and so are the people who hold these views.

What I didn't hear is humility, and that's biblical, too ... like seeing through a glass darkly. Nor did I hear anything of justice, welcome and mercy.

I know the biblical writers of the Old Testament - how they struggled to help Israel/Judah maintain identity in a swirling world of many nations and religions, and part of that identity is truth vs. falsehood,.

I understand that!

When it comes to the gods of racism and white-privileged culture, I will say that "my" god is better than that, and perhaps, by extension, so am I. The conjoining of one's god with one's identity is unavoidable, and can be good ... but it's always dangerous, and requires emotional and thoughtful vigilance.

Stripped of humility, "our" god, "my" god, becomes deadly.

Anyway, just some random thoughts about christian music and "our" god.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

No One Should Call Themselves "Evangelical"

The term "evangelical" should never have been co-opted by a singular group of people.

It's one of the worst syntactical moves ever made.

Those who claimed the word are the descendants of the Anabaptists, and while many in that movement, such as the Amish and the Quakers, have given to the world some remarkable insights and examples of faithful living, but for many American "evangelicals," what with Billy Graham and his "puffed" 1949 Los Angeles Revival, and the money and the "under-God" crowd that flocked to his side, the term quickly became a badge of pride - they would show the rest of the Christian World what "true" faith, "real" faith, is all about. It was a stroke of one-upsmanship, an effort to divide the Christian World, into two camps, those who are "christian" in name only, and those are "really Christian" by their dogma, their enthusiasm and their title - EVANGELICAL, and to hell with the rest of ya'.

Jesus is the Evangel, the Good News - not any of us.

And everyone who claims the name of Jesus is both faithful and not faithful to that Evangel. No one has a leg-up on anyone else.

No one is evangelical - shall I say it?

Only Jesus is Evangelical - that is, faithful to the Father in all regards, faithful to God's People and faithful to the world, including all of humanity, and all creatures, great and small. Faithful from the beginning, and faithful to the end. Only Jesus is Evangelical.

The failures of the evangelical side of things - preachers who "fall from grace," and church members who sin reveal a simple reality: We're all sinners, and if we're saved at all, it's by grace, and grace alone.

So quit puffing yourself!

We're all in the same boat, and in spite of the fact that Peter got outta the boat - (a very evangelical move), with a brief moment of wave-walking, reality sunk him, and Jesus had to save him. And rather that trying it again, Jesus took Peter back to the boat, where he belongs, with all the disciples, and it's in the boat, that Jesus joins them, not on the waves where folks can show off for a few moments, but in the boat, where all of us are in this together, with all of our gifts and insights and abilities and sensibilities, the ways we see the world, and the manner in which the Holy Spirit has gifted and compels us.

How much better to say, "I'm a sinner saved by grace."

I can imagine Peter reflecting: "I tried wave-walking once, and it didn't work, and I'm not proud of it - I'll never speak of it again. Jesus took me back to the boat, and that's where I belong."

That's the end of it ... nothing more needs to be said, no titles claimed, and with that, the best is said, I"m a sinner saved by grace."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Michelle Bachmann's Loss of "Religious Freedom"

Michelle Bachmann says that Minnesota's approval of gay marriage denies "religious freedom" to those who oppose it. 

I don't get that. Folks who oppose gay marriage can remain so; if their gay children get married, they don't have to go to the wedding. Their churches don't have to open their doors to gay weddings; their pastors don't have to officiate. No one's telling anyone to do anything, or stop anything. 

Nothing changes for them. 

It's like saying: "Giving my neighbors the right to have a dog in their apartment takes away my freedoms to not have a dog." In logic, one of the first lessons learned: "A" does not imply "B." 

Freedom to marry for LGBTQ persons does not mean a loss of freedom for those who oppose such freedom. No way, no how.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shut and Locked Doors

Some love shut and locked doors ... don't know why.

Does it make them feel powerful to be, or so they think, on the inside? Does it feel good good to them to know that others are locked out of their little party?

Whenever the United States has engaged in such discussions, in time, God be praised, the door has been unlocked to the blessing of everyone.

Those on the outside found new freedom and opportunity, and those on the inside found that the inside is a whole lot better when everyone is present and accounted for.

An inside group with only a few is more a prison than a party.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Love in Theory

I love to love in theory.
All the little children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white.
Are they precious in his sight?
For me, a troubling question.
For someone who loves to love
In theory only.

© Tom Eggebeen, March, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Orange Pencil Skirt

An Orange Pencil Skirt

Across the street a-walking, striding
A lovely young thing in an orange
Pencil skirt wrapped around two 
Comely legs sporting high-heeled
Black shoes.

Don’t see a sight like that all
That often, which is good,
Lest one be always distracted.
It was enough to trigger 
These words.

40 years from now she may well
Remember that pencil skirt and 
Those sharp black shoes, and wonder
Just when it was that time walked 
away from her and left 
Her for another pair of legs.

© Tom Eggebeen, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Return Prayer to Schools?

Someone sent a petition my way to "return prayer to schools." Here's what I wrote:

There's plenty of prayer in school - teachers pray, and so do students and their families. We don't need "organized" prayer - who's to write it, say it, and what will it be? Generic prayers to some space-deity? Patriotic prayers? A Muslim prayer? A Jewish prayer? Pentecostal prayer, in tongues? A justice-prayer by a justice-seeking Christian? We have more than enough prayer in our schools. What we don't have is adequate funding, because, for some strange reason, we lack the will to care for all the children. I pray that we will decide again that all our children are really important, and decide to fund American education as it once was funded, fully, for all the arts and sciences, building maintenance, decent salaries and benefits, and all the needed supplies, with adequate social support - jobs and living wages, health-care and bringing our soldiers home. These are things we can do, and they would mean the world to our children.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Term Limits

I'm not in favor of term limits because it circumvents the responsibility of the voter, and also prevents the formation of great leaders, like Everett Dirksen (GOP) or Teddy Kennedy (Dem) who served long and distinguished careers for the sake of our Democracy.

Term limits allow too many wet-behind-the-ears youngsters to get in, collect a salary, act brashly, or not act at all, and then go home with a pension. The power of voting remains the key, and an intelligent electorate remains the challenge.