Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Confidence

This morning the news reported that the latest polling numbers on Congress’ approval rating is now at 11% based upon the Gallup July 8-11, 2010 Confidence in Institutions poll. Sixteen institutions are evaluated. The top institutions are: 76% -the military; 66% - small business; 59% - the police; 48% - the church or organized religion (Ouch!); and 40% - the medical system.

So here we have the elected representatives of our government, people we select to handle the affairs of state for us. The American people have, in effect, cast a “no confidence” vote on Congress! Think about it! One in ten Americans approves of the job Congress is doing. That is a staggering statistic.

During the next three months leading up to the November mid-term elections, I encourage you to stay up on the news. The primaries we had the past few months all across the country saw the political demise of many members of Congress who have been in D.C. for way too long. We Americans have sent many of these folks packing. There is a very real concern among the current members of Congress that “We the People” have awakened and are preparing to vote out of office these folks who have failed miserably to represent us.

I was invited to attend an early morning breakfast at the Barnwood Restaurant early this week by former mayor, and all-around great guy, Don Moyer. This meeting was an opportunity for those invited to meet congressional candidate for the House of Representatives, Dave Harmer (R), who is running against incumbent, Jerry McNerney (D). It was a very relaxed atmosphere with a lot of good-natured kidding and bantering taking place. I had met Mr. Harmer at a previous gathering in Stockton. I decided to share some thoughts with him about my concerns about someone going off to D.C. “Why do these people we send ‘drink the Kool-Ade’ which is nothing more than ‘politics as usual’ in our nation’s Capitol?” I expressed what has been a frustration for me and many others I have spoken with that these good people we send off to the hallowed halls of Congress wind up “going along to get along.” They get too comfortable, climbing into bed with special interest groups, ultimately failing to represent those of us who have elected them.

Later, during our meal together, Mr. Harmer spoke to us for some thirty minutes about his experience, and why he was running for Congress. I’m not holding my breath, but I sure liked what I saw and heard in this man. His father, John L. Harmer, served as Ronald Reagan’s Lieutenant Governor in California. Like father - like son.

Some of the other trends concerning this November reveal that voters don’t much like either of the major political parties, and if their representative has been there for very long – it’s time to pack their bags!

The House of Representatives is up for re-election – all 435 members. This is likely to be one of the largest (if not the largest) freshman classes of Congressmen our country has ever seen. This also means we are going to see freshmen Congressmen having to learn their way around the Capitol.

The Gallup Report went on to say that “underscoring Congress' image problem, half of Americans now say they have ‘very little’ or ‘no’ confidence in Congress.” The 11% approval rating is the lowest for Congress since Gallup began these reports in 1973.

The new grassroots political movement, the Tea Party, grew up quickly last year because Americans are tired of being ignored by their representatives. Let me tell you! Washington D.C. is scared to death of this movement by the people. It has resonated with freedom-loving Americans and is not fading away. On the contrary, it is gaining momentum – and the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barbara Boxer are extremely nervous! Hallelujah!

Folks, here’s what I want to say to you. Many of you have bought into this idea that your vote doesn’t matter, so, in the past, you have chosen to stay home. I believe this election will give you an opportunity to have your vote actually make a difference. Now’s the time to get involved! If you haven’t registered to vote in a few years, now’s the time to do it. Our future depends on “We the People” standing up and being heard.

America is worth saving!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mouths of Babes

Okay, so last night I was over at my mother’s apartment to visit with her and to check up on her. She had a slight fall the day before and hadn’t bothered to tell me so I was making sure all the body parts were intact. Once satisfied she was still of sound mind and body, I proceeded to venture into an arena that is the bane of my existence here on terra firma.

What I’m referring to is “all things electronic.” It’s not like I’m a dinosaur refusing to adapt to the multitude of changes in our ever evolving technological society. I’ve got all the latest doodads such as large flat screen TV, iPhone, laptop computer, etc. But for some reason, I have difficulty doing some of the simplest things to get these so-called modern conveniences to work as advertised. Mom loves to play solitaire on her computer. For some odd reason the game she uses on Pogo has refused to function since she came back from vacation. I messed with this stupid game for about an hour before having to admit defeat. Time to call my computer friend who has had to rescue me innumerable times before.

During all of this, my wife, Isaura, called me from home and said, “Someone wants to talk to you.” Sure enough, it was Alyssa, our two-and-a-half year old granddaughter. She normally comes to spend the night with us on Thursdays, so this was an unexpected surprise. “Dandaddy, come play with me,” she said in that cute little voice that is impossible for me to refuse. So I finished up at mom’s and drove the mile and a half to my house. When I walked in, Alyssa and my wife (Alyssa and Brookie call her Meema) were watching a Veggie Tales movie called “Josh and the Wall.” A great kid’s movie about Joshua and the Battle of Jericho.

The rest of the evening went something like this: “Dandaddy, watch me!” as my little precious was bouncing on the couch, springing from one end to the other. I grew tired watching her! I settled into my stuffed chair and prepared to have a bowl of my home made corn chowder and a large wedge of corn bread. Yum! Alyssa immediately took an interest in my late evening dinner. She squeezed in next to me so I could share bites of chowder and corn bread with her. Then it was time to play “Can’t Catch Me!” This is a great game for small children in our home because our downstairs is laid out where the staircase ascends to the second floor from the middle of the floor plan. Thus, every room on the first floor feeds to the staircase. The path is natural for little ones to run in circles expecting to be chased by grandparents. So, in her most coquettish voice, Alyssa says, “Dandaddy! Can’t catch me!” and off she goes. I follow at a distance because I know the game. She stops in the kitchen where she scurries under the kitchen table to hide. A moment later I come in and loudly ask, “Where’s Alyssa?” My wife is puttering around the kitchen usually cleaning up or preparing food for the next day, and says in reply, “I don’t know. Where’s Alyssa?” From under the table our little hurricane declares in an authoritative tone, “I’m under the table!” She hasn’t figured out the principle of hide-and-seek yet.

Later we sit back down in the stuffed chair to watch “Curly Top,” one of the VHS movies we have of Shirley Temple. Alyssa has ringlets like Shirley Temple. We were comfortably snuggled down when Alyssa laid her head on my leg, wrapped her little arms around my thigh and said, “I love you, Dandaddy!” Now I ask you, can there be anything more meaningful, more fulfilling than to have a small child hug you and openly express their feelings for you? I sat there for a moment unable to speak because my heart had suddenly found itself in my throat. I wanted to hold onto that moment as long as possible.

Laura, our daughter and Alyssa’s mom came in shortly after to take our little one home. After her bath with Meema, we walked Laura and Alyssa out to the car. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” with Alyssa joining in. As the car began to roll away Meema and I stood on the sidewalk waving, blowing kisses and saying “I love you!” All the while Alyssa was doing the same through the open window. “Bye Meema! Bye Dandaddy! I love you!” were the words we heard last.

Isaura and I looked at each other once the car was around the corner. The look we shared said it all – Could we be more blessed than this?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Others Think of You

Recently I was officiating at a funeral. During the homily, I shared a concept that I have held to for many years: People too often allow concerns over what other people think about them to interfere with their lives.

It is true that the environment you grow up in and the conditions affecting that environment may well contribute in shaping who you ultimately become. It is not uncommon to hear the excuse, particularly for bad behavior or hard luck, attributed to a poor or disadvantaged background. For the life of me, I can’t recall once reading about someone who has succeeded in life attributing their success to having come from a crummy background.

Routinely the media will write about some professional athlete who, through his skills in sport, has heroically escaped the dreaded ghetto life. It’s today’s twist on the Horatio Alger story. A modern day “rags to riches” success. But the moment that superstar athlete misbehaves, becoming a negative news item, the excuses are quickly thrown out for our consumption that the individual came from a terrible background.

The trouble is we can all make excuses for why we are the way we are. One of the hidden dangers in allowing ourselves to make excuses for ourselves, or for others to make excuses for us, is that it does not address the real issue. The issue is: Why am I the way I am? Once this question is raised, the next question should be: Is there any real possibility of significant, lasting change? Or am I destined to be the way I am?

So back to my comments in the homily. I told the folks assembled in the church that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. There may not be anyone who likes you or that even wants to be associated with you. That’s extreme, I admit. But there are folks who feel that way even when it isn’t true. I acknowledged that we all want to be liked and accepted, but even if we aren’t, it’s okay. Why did I say that? Because it’s true! It is okay if others don’t particularly like you. You may never be recognized for accomplishing anything in life other than occupying space and consuming oxygen. There may not be any awards, or certificates of merit, or trophies, or academic diplomas prominently displayed in your study.

And not only does it not matter what others think about you, in the final analysis, it doesn’t even matter what you think of you! Did you get that? You may be your own worst critic – this is often the case with many of us. For instance, I can chastise myself harshly over the smallest things, yet not even give it a thought when seen in somebody else’s character.

Here’s the good news: The only one who matters when it comes to evaluating you is God. He made you. The Bible says he knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb. Further, it says God knew all about you before he laid the foundations of the world. Try that on for size!

Now, not only does God know you that well (“warts and all” as President Lincoln said when the artist painting his official portrait hesitated when confronted with the numerous facial flaws of our 16th president), but God loves you. He loves you because he made you. He loves you because you are formed in his image and likeness. He loves you because he has invested himself into who you are. This makes you unique, special, “one-of-a-kind,” priceless. There is no one like you. That’s how God planned it.

Here’s the best part: God doesn’t leave us in the condition we’re in. You may be all messed up inside with lots of questions about life, and how unfair it all is, and so forth. Welcome to the club! God has a remedy for that as well. From his great heart of love he provided you and me with someone who can completely change you from the inside out. His name is Jesus. The changes he makes in you are permanent!

The simple story of the Gospel is this: The way out of the conditions of our sinful, fallen world are turning to Jesus and allowing him to change you. He loves you and will never throw you to the curb. Jesus calls you his friend, his brother, his child.

Have you turned to the one whose opinion of you is the only one that matters?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Day with Brother John

        Last year at this time while on vacation it rained the entire time here in Maine. This year has been a different story. Thus far only one day has been stormy. The rest of the time has been beautiful sunshine and blue skies.
So the other morning my brother, John and I headed out for a day of activities. It began with a visit to an antique car museum he had visited several years ago. It was privately owned by Richard C. Paine, a man who simply loved the earliest cars made in America, during a time referred to as the “Brass Era,” (1895-1917). The early cars had a lot (and I mean a lot!) of brass on the cars. Brother John hadn’t been back to the museum because he had heard the gentleman had passed away and that the cars had been sold off. However, a few days ago John saw a flier advertising the museum, which is what prompted us to go.
The museum is called the Seal Cove Auto Museum , located on Mount Desert Island up the coastline of Maine (This area of Maine is referred to by the locals as “Downeast”). We discovered that the man had indeed passed away, but a board of directors along with local supporters wanted the cars preserved. A few of his later model cars were sold off which provided the necessary funds to upgrade the entire museum. We spent about two hours strolling amongst these beautiful automobiles, the likes of which we will never see again. My favorite car was a 1913 Peugeot “boat tail” design. Another beauty that easily catches the eye is the 1910 Stoddard-Dayton. You should see the incredible horn system on this! It actually has a small keyboard by the drivers seat so the driver can select to play whatever tune he desires in announcing his arrival!
We stopped for lunch at a local place called Mother’s Kitchen. It was a non-descript building that looked as though it had once been a very small house. We were told they serve everything homemade and fresh. They were right! I had a delicious Dagwood sandwich chased down by a bottle of Old Soaker root beer, a local brand produced in Bar Harbor named for a granite ledge off Sand Beach that disappears at high tide, becoming treacherous to unsuspecting sailors.
Next stop was the Northeast Harbor Golf Club, built in 1895, located on Mount Desert Island.  As is the case in many of Maine’s golf courses, they were among the first to be built in the United States. The reason for this is that many wealthy New Yorkers and Bostonians spent their summers in Maine. The demand for golf courses was the pleasure and eventual passion of the idle rich. Many of these early courses are much as they were one hundred years ago. Though short in distance for a golf course (5504 yards from the blue tees), the degree of difficulty is significant. The fairways are open with little to bother the straight hitter. But wander off line and you will find yourself in gorse, trees, bogs, and cleverly disguised pools of water. Add to this a very hilly course with postage stamp-sized greens and you have the makings for a tough but enjoyable round of golf. In typical fashion, John beat me!
Dinner that evening was homemade soup (and biscuits) that John had made – and one of my favorites – corn chowder! Yum! It was a most enjoyable day.
Much activity around the cabin here in Corea today as john, wife Lynne, and our sister Joy are preparing for tonight’s dinner guests in celebration of our mother’s 95th birthday. The menu? Lobster, flank steak, coleslaw, potato salad and green beans. Dessert will be homemade apple pie and strawberry pie.
Wish you were here!