wednesday's ashes

Today I will attend the Ash Wednesday service at the Cathedral of the Ascension. It is a beautiful, old church with abundant history, built in 1850. Since it is in Kentucky's capitol city, many of the state's governors and other dignitaries have worshipped there, and the community is richer and prettier because of its presence and outreach.

The service today will be mostly quiet. We'll recite, sing, pray and kneel - mostly in unison. My church upbringing pretty much allowed and encouraged everyone to do their own thing during services as long as it was prompted of the Spirit and not distracting. Sometimes it was definitely not the first and certainly was the second - depending on the worshippers personality. It was what we were used to, so no one but the visitors from other traditions paid much attention.

The songs we'll sing today probably won't be found in the old red-back Church Hymnal that I grew up with. "I'll Fly Away" and "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" are wonderful, old pieces of music that mean a lot to me. But I'm just as moved by the very classical and majestic songs we'll enjoy inside the beautiful cathedral of stained glass, statued saints and pipe organ today. We will reverently approach the ornate and grand altar to receive the Eucharist and ashes from robed priests moving along the rails in a steady, flowing motion. It is a beautiful and spiritual thing for me. It reminds me that God is large and aware of us.

I got in trouble once and was sorta scolded by a Pentecostal pastor who took issue with my speaking from prepared notes during a revival service. He felt I was not yielded enough to the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit. My response to him was that I was sure the Lord was only obligated to give me the message once, and since no one was around to preach it to then, I wrote it down and saved it for later. The pastor, as sincere as he is, probably would not appreciate a recited prayer such as the one we'll honestly and contemplatively speak to God today from the Book of Common Prayer. When I consider its words seriously, I find it hard not be humbled.

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives, We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us, We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us; Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation, That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord, Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen



Delaware became state number one in 1787. No other could claim the honor. You'd think such a distinction would mean something when it comes to sending a president to Washington, DC. However, with all of the other claims, the first state has yet to send it's first chief executive to the White House.

Only a handful of states have actually groomed future presidents. New York has produced eight, more than any other. Early on though it looked like Virginia was a breeding ground for the job. Four of the first five presidents came from that commonwealth, and the only one of that group not reelected to a second term was the guy from the other state. Ohio has given us six presidents, then Virginia (5). Massachusetts gave us four, Tennessee, Texas and Illinois brought three each, two have come from out west in California then one each from Louisiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey, Missouri, Michigan, Georgia and Arkansas.

Not every president was born in the state that claimed them when they U-Hauled it to Pennsylvania Avenue. Even though Illinois gets credit for sending him up, the current POTUS was born in Hawaii, a state that was barely two years old itself when he let out his first baby cry. Besides Mr. Obama, Illinois also calls itself the Land of Lincoln, even though the often polled most popular president was birthed in my home state of Kentucky.

Two other presidents were native Kentuckians. Well, sorta. The only president the Confederate States of America ever swore into office was Jefferson Davis, from Christian County, Kentucky. Because he was their senator, Mississippi mostly lays claim to him. We've never fussed much about it though since our state decided not to join up with the south. (Of course, we didn't officially "join" the North either. Not that you had to.)

Then there was David Rice Atchison. Born just outside of Lexington, Kentucky in 1807, he, like so many others, moved west for fortune and opportunity. It's while he was President pro-tempore of the U.S. Senate, serving the people of Missouri, that he found himself in an odd situation. On Sunday, March 4, 1849 outgoing President James K. Polk's term had expired. His successor, Zachary Taylor, refused to take the oath. "No swearing on the sabbath!" he said. According to the Constitution, since Taylor's VP hadn't been sworn in yet either, that made Atchison the acting president. Know what he did with his presidential day? He slept. All day long he slept, and he dared his housekeeper to wake him. The voters of Missouri should be furious. It was nearly a hundred years before another Show Me man got the job.

OK, full disclosure here. Atchison never really believed or acknowledged that he was the actual President of the United States. Like the president's term, his senate leadership post had already expired too, and neither did he take the presidential oath. Had it been the real deal though, the senator would've been the youngest to ever serve the office at 41 years, six months. He also would've held the record for the shortest term, 24 hours. Officially, Theodore Roosevelt is the youngest to ever have the job (42 years old) and William Henry Harrison only had it for 32 days.

Since today is President's Day, it is entirely fitting, and completely acceptable to offer the honor and extend the appreciation due every man who has held the office. Some of them were prepared, others were obviously not. Some that I thought were fairly good, others rank at the bottom. But while being misunderstood, maligned, mocked, criticized and misinterpreted, they sit in that oval room, hear and see constant worst case scenarios, consider the results and make monumental decisions that affirm or alter life on this planet. I for one appreciate it. Thank you Mr. President. You deserve a day of your own.


david's valentine

As best I can recall, there were twenty-five or thirty kids in my first grade class. Every single one of us got a card, if you could call it a card. They were actually little cut-outs or sometimes stickers. "Be my valentine." "Be mine!" I guess some of us guys figured it sorta weird to get a card from another guy, but that would've been reading a lot more into it than was intended. The teacher sent a note to all the parents saying every student in the class needed to leave the party with the same number of cards. So every kid gave a little Mickey & Minnie or Bugs or Superman or Incredible Hulk love to every other kid. It worked out just fine for everybody, but especially for David.

I don't remember anyone in my first year at Waco Elementary being exceptional at anything. David was though. He was especially good at annoying Mrs. Yader. He was unaccustomed to rules, and didn't know how to take anything seriously. He didn't see the need to raise his hand or get permission to talk, that is until the teacher made it clear that he'd find trouble in the form of a paddle if he went to the bathroom, spoke out loud or sharpened his pencil without her approval. David cut line a lot, especially at lunch. But you don't protest much when you know the class entertainer is hungry - and why.

The guys in the class sorta saw David as crazy. The girls thought he was scary. He'd do anything for a quarter - not that they were that easy to come by. Out on the playground David had a good business going. It wasn't unusual for someone to fork over their milk money to watch a kid eat a handful of gravel or bite the janitor's dog or dance on the hood of Coach Turner's car. All it took was a quarter, and the sideshow was on. David was the center of attention for a few minutes and usually walked away with at least a dollar in his pocket. As far as we knew, David was happy with the arrangement.

Valentine's Day was early the next week, so party preparations began the week before. We'd all been given an allotment of construction paper, crayons, glue, glitter and supervised access to the stapler. After decorating the front of one sheet, we stapled the bottom and the edges to create a pouch that would collect our classroom love notes. When we arrived at school on the big day everyone's envelope had been taped to the front of their desk. Just before the 2:00 party was to begin we all sat at our desks and sorted the colorful store-bought cards we'd addressed the night before and played like little mailmen. Except David didn't.

While everyone else was scurrying about the room dropping tiny two-by-three envelopes into pouch after pouch, David just sat at his desk and watched. It was unusual for him to be quiet and still while everyone else was noisy and active. He'd either forgotten about the party, or as most of us knew, couldn't afford to participate. Maybe he ate the note he was supposed to take home. If he made a quarter doing it, everyone knew his family could sure use the money. So, for at least a couple of minutes David just watched. Like everyone else, he received his share of cards, and though he didn't seem like the kind of kid who'd be bothered by such a thing, it appeared to sadden him that he couldn't give back.

It's pretty safe to say that David saw Mrs. Yader as his mortal enemy. He was on his second stint in her grade, and he didn't show her any love or any mercy. She made him mind, and he didn't appreciate it. That changed though on February 14, 1972. I can't imagine I'm the only one who noticed, but no one ever mentioned it if they saw what I did. David's nemesis quietly coaches him to her desk where she gives him a small box full of little envelopes, one for every student. He didn't know it was her signature on the inside, or maybe he did and didn't care. He only knew that he was now part of the action again. It looked like David outdid us all that day. His card came with candy attached. That was the day the teacher became David's Valentine.


how do you get on a penny?

"Happy Birthday" the song was born in Kentucky. So was POTUS number sixteen, and today is his birthday. If he was alive, and wouldn't that be exceptional, Abraham -no middle name- Lincoln would be 200 years old. I've visited his birthplace just outside of Hodgenville, Kentucky, and I've been to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois. Fifty-six years, two months, four days and roughly 375 miles was the distance from his modest cradle to his grand grave.

I really do wonder what thoughts the perpetual student - practical teacher A. Lincoln would have if he were here right now. Being the great debater that he was, I can't imagine he was any slouch of a thinker. Being the always-willing-to-admit-there-may-be-a-better-way kinda man he was, we might be surprised at some of his views on a few things. As much as he didn't concern himself with his popularity, he refused to sign the Emancipation Proclamation with a shaky hand for fear history would think he hesitated. Even with a steady mind, his grip was sometimes weak - something he'd probably admit.

Lincoln was not nearly as popular alive as he is long dead. Even though he always spoke of his birth state with great affection and pride, it was here that he came in dead last in a field of four in the 1860 presidential race (he received 1,364 votes - not even one percent of the total) and didn't get half the votes here that his opponent did four years later.

We've attached ourselves to him now, but about 145 or so years ago this Commonwealth wanted nothing to do with the self-made trouble maker. As a matter of fact, it was other Kentucky-borns who always seemed to be a constant haunt to him throughout his personal and political life. His in-laws, the Todds in Lexington, didn't have much use for him. None of them voted for him. During his first presidential run, one of his opponents was Kentucky Senator and former Vice President John Breckenridge who got over fifty times the Kentucky votes Lincoln did. We all know that Lincoln's nemesis during most of his presidency was Confederate President Jefferson Davis, another native Kentuckian. The two were born within a hundred or so miles and eight months of each other. Nowadays Jefferson stares at the back of Lincoln's head in the rotunda of the Kentucky state capitol. Breckenridge stands in the room about half as tall, as though worshipping at Lincoln's feet.

There has been some debate over whether or not it was Lincoln's personal conviction that blacks should live as free people that motivated his noble actions. Some believe he simply wanted to hold things together, and that's noble enough since the end result was the same. Whatever the reason, today we are a better, much better nation and people because of the risks and decisions he undertook. Some have made him a saint. He'd disagree. History says that although he read his bible, he was barely religious and not much for attending church. To many he was a hero. He might even argue with you there. He knew his plans, and how woefully short he'd fallen in fulfilling them - partly because of Kentucky. To all of us he is an inspirer. He not only emancipated our darker brothers, he gave everyone else permission to accept them and respect them. We were all freed in that regard. To the world he was a visionary, and to a little over four million of us in this state, he's our long lost neighbor and son. And that's how you get on a penny.

"We may differ with him, and have differed with him, but when the judgment of future events has come, we found we were differing blindly; that he was right and we were wrong . . . experience and time have demonstrated that his was the only line of salvation for our country."
-Kentucky Governor Thomas E. Bramlette (1817-1875) shortly after learning of the death of President Lincoln.

“In no ‘northern’ state was he so vilified and hated. But he belonged to us, the people of Kentucky, because no claim shall come before the mother.”
-Historian John Kleber, University of Louisville in 2009

"I too, am a Kentuckian."
-President Abraham Lincoln in 1861

For more information on Abraham Lincoln's Kentucky heritage, life and connections go to http://www.kylincoln.org/.


something you have to see

Joel Lindsey is one of the worlds great modern song writers. He's good partly because he's a sensitive thinker, and because he lives with his eyes and ears open. That's why I love his musical creations, and why I'm addicted to his blog. You can find the link on this page - just to right of these words. Earlier this month he wrote about a recent personal and emotional experience he had. He did it with openness, dignity and honest but cautious speculation. I was moved by it, and felt a strong urge to pass his story AND his very deep contemplations on to you. Please read.

I first noticed him when we were boarding: the strapping young man, a boy really, in his army uniform, buzz cut, carrying a wooden box wrapped in what looked like Saran-Wrap.

A distinguished older gentleman stepped up to him in the line and asked "Where are you sitting, soldier?"

"28-F, sir," the soldier responded, checking his ticket to make sure.

"I'll trade with you," the older man said, handing him his first class ticket.

"Oh, you don't have to do that."

"It's an honor." The man said, walking away before the soldier could argue.

So we boarded and the soldier was seated one row back from me, on the other side of the aisle. After the cabin doors were closed, the captain's voice came over the speakers:

READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AT http://thistlelane.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!7CEB3EDC0E898C38!1319.entry.



My ideas on how to resolve...

The federal deficit: Have everyone who feels that more taxes is the solution actually pay them. Have all of the celebrities who want the American Janes and Joes to pay up transfer their own fortunes from their foreign safe havens to a US bank so they can join the rest of us at the end of the quarter. Have all of the politicians who've scratched a back at the IRS come clean and settle up. Of course, if President Obama keeps nominating ex government guys and former DC power people to top level posts the issue may fix itself. BTW, how can you change anything when you're surrounded by recycled same-old same-olds?

The Minnesota Senate race: I don't know the normal procedure up there, but hearing about a fresh new bundle of just found, uncounted, now-disputed ballots everyday leads me to believe that either incompetent or industrious vote keepers are the real election deciders in the North Star State. Evidently they just hide votes in drawers, slide 'em under tables, mark 'em like crazy and creatively "discover" the ones they want - depending on the desired outcome. My solution, have a do-over. Have out of state, non-vested, unpartied parties verify every single voter as alive and registered. Check IDs. Some folks don't like having to prove they are entitled to vote, but the office and its responsibilities are important, and I like knowing that both the person giving them the job and the guy that wins the contest are legal and legit. Spring it on us so the manipulators don't have time to maneuver the results. No more commercials or rallies by the candidates. If the people there aren't aware of the applicants and their positions at this point they probably shouldn't weigh in on the decision. As soon as the polls close send the sealed boxes/machines to a place where the counters could care less who Coleman and Franken are. Lately, that would be most anywhere outside of MN and DC.

Global warming (aka climate change): Turn off Al Gore and Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore and Sean Hannity and Bill Maher and Ann Coulter and all the others who distort the other guy's words and exaggerate his evilness while they anoint themselves as saints and expound tons of hot air. But do it yourself. Don't let the government do it for you.

The Fairness/Censorship Doctrine: See Global Warming.

Demoralization of society: Have every Christian believer get to know their God well and have a clear understanding of who He is before taking on the role of His spokesperson. An accurate display of His affection would go a long way toward making Him more appealing than the harmful stuff.


too much doggone pessimism

I've always thought I'd hate to be one of those people that others hate to see coming. I don't want to be a downer or a conversation hog or a gossip or a cynic - especially a cynic. These days though, with more news channels than we need, access to truth-mingled-with-rumors online and the opportunity to comment, blog and twitter, it seems that many of us have gotten very comfortable with our cynicism, and expressing it.

At the risk of sounding cynical here, I'm finding myself more and more disappointed in people, average and powerful, all the time. Full disclosure here, I'm often just as aggravated with myself as I am everyone else. So I don't exclude myself when I say, "Get a grip, man and consider the other guy when you spout something supremely arrogant and judgemental. Blogworld anonymity is no license."

When today's news reports that you and I gave hundreds of billions to banks and others, then tomorrow we learn that they remodeled the place and partied with it, we get cynical. When big time executives arrive in private jets then ask for money for private jets - and cars, we get cynical. When private corporate millionaires are bonused handsomely with public bailout dollars, we get cynical. When politicians wag their fingers at the guilty indulgers on their way out the door to a swanky retreat courtesy of us, we get cynical. When we pay our taxes to keep the elected employed, then find out we voted for tax frauds, we get cynical. When a man who is paid to shape a lawmaker's vote seals the deal with dollars and drinks, we get cynical. When the words of the preacher don't match his ways, then he gets caught and says it's not his fault, we get cynical. When all we hear from the big time news is that the economy is spiraling, the earth is warming, the government is corrupt and crime is abounding, we get cynical. If that's all there is to the world we live in today there's no reason we shouldn't be cynical.

Ever hear of Whitaker Bank? Their HQ is right here in Kentucky. I don't know for sure, but even if they've taken a hard economic hit, I don't recall that they jetted to DC and asked for the feds to bail them out. There are hundreds, probably thousands of smaller, more regional banks like Whitaker all across the country. They've chosen to tighten their belts and keep their integrity. Home grown corporate responsibility; That's a good reason to be optimistic.

I had to buy a new car last year. Even though the guy at the lot was the consumate car salesman, I signed the papers 'cause he said he owned the same model. I asked him to show me and sure enough we resemble. A car guy I can trust; That's a good reason to be optimistic.

When the top execs at Goldman Sachs forsook their expected bonuses, and when UBS decided to be extra responsible and put theirs on a living wage as opposed to an indulgent one. I was impressed. Big time corporate responsibility; That's a good reason to be optimistic.

Of the 535 federal legislators who make the laws in Washington, DC, only a tiny handful are in the habit of breaking and abusing them. Those are the ones who make the news. Of the 55 governors who lead our states, the ones in trouble are not the norm. That's a good reason to be optimistic.

Abramoff is not the typical lobbyist. There may be enough seedy ones to create a slight odor, but often it is the professional who bends important ears who serves as the only voice for a crucial or critical cause. Some of my closest and very best friends are lobbyists with a conscience who do their business with integrity and class. You'd appreciate their skills, expertise and knowledge if they spoke on your behalf. Most lobbyists are honest, hard working people. That's a good reason to be optimistic.

How many preachers can you name? Chances are, if you know very many at all they are/were either meaningful to you or you are familiar with their scandal. I have no idea how many ordained ministers there are in the world, nine digits worth at least. Most of them don't fly personal planes, live in scattered mansions, draw crowds in the thousands or sell books by the millions. I congratulate those that do if they do it honestly and give generously. I applaud all the rest for simply doing, sometimes without. They're not all Haggards and Swaggarts. That's a good reason to be optimistic.

Times are tough, but times have been tougher. The globe is in flux but it has been before. Some summers are hotter, some winters are colder. Mr. Gore is a journalist, a politician and a much awarded but amateur environmentalist. His dire messages of doom are based on inconclusive and often disproved science. His accolades come from Hollywood; That's a good reason to be optimistic.

The simple solution, I think, to living more cynic-free is to be informed but not consumed. Turn off the talk and turn on the music. Spend a day without the noise, the arguing and the non-stop depression of CNN, FOX and all the others. Scan the newspaper, but give a good book plenty of time. Even if it's small, enjoy what you do have instead of pining for what you don't.

*When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings.

When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all, then I fall asleep counting my blessings

So, when you're worried and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep. Then you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

*Written by Irving Berlin - performed by Rosemary Clooney & Bing Crosby


random road thoughts

Out the drive, turn left. At the stop sign, turn right. About a mile to the next one, stop, then straight through. Left at the traffic light, then up Main Street through town. Right onto Newtown, a couple of miles to the interstate. Go west, young man 'til the sign says Frankfort. Right at the end of the ramp, left onto the connector, right just after the bridge then left onto Capitol Avenue. Park it and do the steps to the top floor. It's always a magnificent sight, the capitol dome.

Ever just tune out? It takes me not quite an hour to get from my house to the office. Somewhere around thirty or so traffic lights, a couple of security checks and 111 stair steps (I try not to use the elevator) and I'm there. If someone asked me, I doubt I could tell them much about the trip. I'm a thinker, so most of the time I just zone out and count on habit to get me from A to B. Probably not a good and safe way to do it, but I've arrived alive and mostly ticket free for several years now.

On my mind this morning: More snow! The guy on TV said to look for about three inches of it. I'm afraid of ice. I can handle the snow.

Christian Bale... I guess he feels he is superior enough to talk to one of us mortals that way. I don't encourage you to listen to his latest inhumane tirade against the poor lighting guy. It'll make you angry and you'll hear x-rated words. I'm not sure I ever watched a movie because he was in it anyway. I might avoid one thanks to him though.

I was just glued to the Super Bowl. I wanted the Steelers to win it because my son is a huge Steelers fan. I wanted the Cardinals to win it because Rush is a huge Steelers fan.

I thought candidate Obama said he didn't want lobbyists at the White House desks...

All the unnecessary bells and whistles on AOL's web site annoys me. I wish they had a simpler, less clickity version.

So many "social sites" to keep up with. If I give a lot of time to one am I ignoring the others? If I give equal time to them all I'll never, ever do anything but "socialize." Is there a way to consolidate them?

I'll have a good reason to go to bed early when Conan moves to LA. BTW, did Leno call former President Bush stupid last night? He's starting to sound like the bitter old man that is Letterman.

I like Mike Duncan. He is a friend of mine. I'm excited though about the direction the new chair of the Republican National Committee will go. It's your turn Mr. Steele.

I'm so, so, so, so, so, so grateful to have a job. The scary emails and calls from too many friends out of work won't stop. I feel very blessed.

I hope Angela is doing better today. She's a wonderful Christian friend who nearly died when her house burned down. The doctors say it'll be a long and painful recovery. I pray hard for her and think about her a lot. My uncle Glen needs the prayers too. You know about it, God.

Paying attention to Hollywood news is like eating pretzels and chewing gum at the same time. What's the point?

Paying attention to gospel music blogs is like eating pretzels and chewing gum at the same time. What's the point?

It seems the natural progression of our government that we would go from subsidising crop success to subsidising corporate failure? Can we start all over?

In the bible each town had a church. You know, the church at Philadelphia, the church at Ephesus, the church at Laodicea. Why do we have hundreds and hundreds of them in Lexington? Can't we Christians get along?

Continuing the thought; Of the hundreds of churches within 20 miles of my house (no exaggeration), most of them are usually half or less full for a few hours a day, half of a day a week. That leaves them completely empty for about 28 days every month. If we can't worship together, why don't we at least take turns using the space?

I get reality TV and the news channels mixed up.

Caffeine, I need caffeine.