A time for giving

I have worn second hand clothes. I have eaten the cheese, canned pork, peanut butter and barley cereal from a government food supplement program. I don’t recall every talking of that time in my life with anyone. Not even those I held as close personal friends. I do use it as an important anchor, a reminder of a central time in my life, a reminder that not everyone lives a plentiful life. Not even in these days of abundance. Most importantly it reminds me that good people gave me clothing when I needed it and the commodities program provided additional food items my family needed.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ – Matthew 25:34-36 (NIV)

That brief period of life did not mean much to me then, a child with no life experience from which to draw. Over the years, however, each living day it has become to mean more. Suzie-Q and I haven’t always had a lot to give, but we’ve volunteered our time putting together Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets and collecting toys. Items that were given to young military families who barely had two pennies to rub together at the end of the month much less the money to spend for big holiday meals and gifts. Experiencing the same period in our lives, we knew that Christmas could just as easily be a depressing time as it could be a time of joy.

These days, we are certainly blessed, so we make a concerted effort to give back. Find a charity that puts most of your donated money toward meeting needs of the less fortunate. The Salvation Army does. Sometimes people find it difficult to part with their hard-earned dollars, but it doesn’t have to be cash. You can also donate used clothing, used furniture and food. I’d wager that if you went through your closets and overstuffed drawers, you’d find useful clothing you haven’t worn in ages. There are people including children who simply do not have adequate clothing, especially during winter. Donate to the community food bank. Donate your time. You will discover that there is real joy in giving. That is a tremendous and worthwhile return on your small investment.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. – Ecclesiastes 3: 12-13 (NIV)

This is the time that we celebrate the greatest Gift ever given to humankind. Celebrate this time by ensuring it is a time for giving.

Merry Christmas.

Dear Santa:

I wrote to you once before.  I was much younger then and not too bewildered by adult behavior.  I told you I was sometimes a little bit naughty – maybe.  I asked if you could see your way clear to bringing me a Zorro suit.  I didn’t tell you what I really wanted to do was carve Z’s onto some peoples butts.  Like Zorro always did to the fat Federale trying to catch him.  I was told to mail my letter to Santa at the North Pole.  I addressed the envelope to Santa Claus, North Pole and gave it to my Mom who assured me it would be delivered.

You must’ve found me on the not too naughty list because the Zorro suit was under the tree Christmas morning.  I was excited to put on the black mask, hat and cape.  But best of all, I grabbed the trusty rapier and began slashing Z’s in every direction.  I slashed big Z’s and little z’s and I was whipping every Federale in my mind’s eye.  That was until I knocked over one of Mom’s knick-knacks.  I froze mid slash as it tumbled in slow motion toward the floor.  I didn’t even know my eyes had slow motion capability.  It only prolonged the sheer terror.  Fighting a thousand Federali would have been less frightening.  It was a saving grace when it landed on a rug and not the hard floor.  Phew.  I was thankful to my guardian angel.  I’m certain I have one, else I wouldn’t be here writing to you again.  That’s when Mom instructed Zorro (me) to take his sword fight outside before she took the sword and wore him out with it.  Zorro complied post haste.  The only Christmas morning I can recall being more exciting than that was when my brother shot my sister with his brand new Daisy B-B gun.  Now that gun disappeared.  Whatever became of it remains a great family mystery.

So, I am convinced you exist.  Although, with the Internet and email these days I imagine we can just send our letters to you out into cyberspace.  I never looked to see if you have a social media presence.  I prefer the mystical side where the little elf and his tiny reindeer land on my roof.  It’s a new roof, but fortunately for you it’s not a metal one.  I imagine Rudolf and the gang might have trouble gaining traction on one of those.  You know, “Up on the roof there arose such a clatter.”  I’m afraid it could be upon the roof, down the side, into the patio furniture and on to the cold concrete patio all while the on looking squirrels giggled.  I am sure you have some magic nose twitch or something to prevent such a calamity, but the possibility remains a little frightening.  I mean if you crashed into a heap on my patio who would finish your night’s work?  With all of the years you’ve been at it, I expect you have worked out all potentialities.

We know that NORAD tracks you and nowadays we all assume that the NSA monitors your communications.  I suggest that this year, you dim Rudolph’s schnoz and travel in stealth mode.  Every little kid has a tablet or a smart phone (that may be an oxymoron) or a computer.  Most of them will be trying to find you right after they find the rarest Pokémon.   When Ma’s in her kerchief and I’m in my cap the soft glow of smart phones and tablets will light their bedrooms.  I am sure you have a Santa jammer to counter that problem.  Just think of all the houses you’d have to pass because the children were not nestled snug in their beds.  Santa, you have a challenging task.  I expect little boys do not often ask for Zorro suits but, some would be thrilled with even the smallest gift.  To help you keep up and watch your health, I will leave you some Nutri System cookies and soy milk.  Although I don’t have a clue what a gluten is, the labels assure me both are gluten free.

I guess it’s time for me to get around to what I want.  It is a tall order.  I am a bit older now than the last time I wrote.  Still, I get a little sparkle in my eye around Christmas.  Santa, the only gift I long for is one Silent Night.  One Holy Night.  Heavenly Peace.  I want everyone to awake on Christmas morning with thoughts of the Child savior born to us on that day.

God bless your selfless and giving spirit Santa.  May it never end.  But, for as popular as you are, may you always remember that it is the Christ Child, not Santa Claus, that is the reason for the season.

© 2017 J. D Pendry

Because I pay taxes

Could be I’m just a naïve hick from wild and wonderful West By God Virginia.  I pay taxes and expect my hard earned dollars are used for the good.

My government gives some of my tax dollars to cities and states that refuse to obey and enforce or even assist in enforcing federal immigration laws. Because I pay taxes, I am helping to fund the deaths of people killed by illegal immigrants who should have never stepped foot on American soil.  Some advocate taking federal dollars from sanctuary cities and states.  Just between you and me, that ain’t going to happen.  Why don’t we instead prosecute city and state officials who refuse to obey and enforce the federal law?

In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, including section 8 U.S.C. 1373, which provided that no state or local entity can in any way restrict its law-enforcement officials from communicating with federal immigration authorities regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status. – National Review

My tax dollars are also used to fund Planned Parenthood.

Combined federal, state, and local government funding has increased from $203 million (30 percent of Planned Parenthood’s consolidated revenue) during its fiscal year 2000–2001 to $528 million (41 percent of revenue) during 2013–2014.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America claims that the 665 clinics run by its affiliates provide a “wide range” of health care as justification for taxpayers providing more than 40 percent of their funding, and that abortion is a small proportion of their services. Yet, data show that Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the country’s largest abortion provider with affiliates performing more than 300,000 abortions per year, which amounts to approximately one out of every three in the country. – The Heritage Foundation

My tax dollars, regardless of my convictions on abortion and without anyone in my supposedly representative government giving a hoot about what I and other Americans may think, are being used to fund killing of children in a manner not seen since the Old Testament days of Baal worship.  This is the greatest atrocity ever allowed by humankind and in each death I share a responsibility.  Because I pay taxes.

My tax dollars fill up a fund used to pay sexual assault claims made against members of the United States Congress.  We learned that Congress has spent as much as 17 million dollars paying these claims.  Our elected representatives choose to hide the names of the sexual predators walking the hallways of Congress.  Along with the entire body of Congress, I am an enabler of sexual deviants.  Because I pay taxes.

The nearly $1.5 billion in direct Hollywood giveaways doled out every year since 2010 by state governments is equivalent to “the salaries of 23,500 middle-school teachers, 26,600 firefighters, and 22,800 police-patrol officers.” – National Review

New York’s fully-refundable 30 percent film tax credit is the most generous in the nation, with an annual limit of $420 million. – Reason.com

Since last year’s Oscars, Alaska, Michigan, and Illinois all ended their film tax credit programs. … In contrast, California tripled its non-refundable film tax credit budget to $330 million in an effort to lure more film production back to Hollywood. – Reason.com

Two of the highest taxed states in the country give some of those taxes to Hollywood.  A majority of states have these Hollywood incentives.  I am an enabler of the Harvey Weinstein culture.  Because I pay taxes.

Every member of Congress, every person sitting in the Whitehouse, every person working for the federal government is an employee of the country’s stockholders. They are the taxpaying citizens who blindly invest their tax dollars into a swamp of corruption, incompetence and immorality.  I am responsible for all of it.  Because I pay taxes.

© 2017 J. D. Pendry

In The ACLU We Trust

A fitting blast from the past.  2003 JD’s Bunker.

I find the 10 Commandment debate quite interesting.  As far back as I can recall, they’ve been displayed in my home.  My parents had them displayed prominently.  Seeing them and reading them to some extent was unavoidable during a day’s routine when I was growing up.  Within a few feet of where I now sit pecking out this essay, a plaque containing the Commandments hangs on a wall.  I wonder about why the debate is so great concerning their public display in an Alabama courthouse.  I’m not so sure that this is a debate about the separation of church and state.  This is an area, by all measures, of murky waters in constitutional law.  I’m not a lawyer, however, just as I’m not a theologian so my views on such things come from what life’s lessons have taught me.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. “ – Amendment to Article I of the United States Constitution

I tend to interpret things literally.  This probably comes from many years of being an Army noncommissioned officer and overburdened with piles of regulations on how one should behave and trying to interpret them for daily application.  Even in those times, things were never clear and we tended to interpret the rules so they conformed to our situation and beliefs.  It’s what humans do.  So, as I read the above part of the Constitution, I’m perplexed as to why there is even a debate about the separation of church and state and why there are so many “legal” interpretations on the subject.  If you read this as I read it, then there can be no legal rulings on the Church-State issue because the Constitution prohibits Congress from making any laws regarding religion.  If there can be no laws to interpret, then how can there be judicial decisions made regarding the matter?  That’s a question for you to ponder.  I think however, that there is more to this issue than legal wrangling.

Sometime ago, we had an upheaval of sorts in the Army.  Notable people were doing things they shouldn’t do.  We determined that many of these problems happened because we were losing track of our values.  As the Army is prone to do, we hammered the core values into everyone and reminded them of the importance of the values in what we do each day.  A colleague and I were discussing this matter one day, specifically the Army’s leadership decision to give each soldier a card with the values listed on it and one to place on their identification tag chain.  Some noncommissioned officers were vocally upset that they should have to wear reminders of how one should behave attached to a chain around their necks.  While wondering aloud why this bothered them so much, my friend told me, “It’s the kicked dog that barks the loudest.”  It’s a problem to have a reminder of how one should behave hanging around your neck, especially if how one should behave stands in contradiction to how one actually does behave.  A constant reminder of how one should behave and conduct oneself is a good thing and its value proven so by our Army every day of its existence.

Plenty of organizations have worked over the years to remove any reference to God from our government.  I find that quite interesting for a country with a national motto of “In God We Trust”.  I’m curious, in my typical cynical way however.  Maybe the issue here really isn’t about religion, so much as it’s about what religion (all of them actually) teaches.  And that’s how to behave.  Is there a real Church-state debate here or is it the kicked dog syndrome.  Maybe, some people do not like a daily reminder that they shouldn’t lie, steal, kill, covet, commit adultery and that they should show respect to those who provided them entrance into this world.  That’s six of the Commandments right there.  Surely, these are not what’s causing us problems.  Maybe it’s the others.  Maybe it’s the cursing they like so the Commandment to not take God’s name in vain is the sticking point.  Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.  That means take Sunday off from work and focus yourself spiritually – recharge you batteries.  If we drag this argument out to its logical conclusion, the government will no longer be able to close on Sunday.  Doing so would be obeying a Commandment and therefore violate the separation of Church and State.  We also must remove the God reference from our national motto, our Pledge of Allegiance, the Supreme Court can no longer begin it’s day with God Save the United States and Congress shall not have an opening prayer each day.  To do any of these shows reverence to God, which is the first commandment.  While we’re at it, we’ll also have to do away with our calendar.

One of the accepted definitions of God is a person or thing of supreme value.  All of us have something we worship, maybe it’s self, maybe it’s money and power, but it’s something.  The problem as I see it is that some people do not want the reminder that just maybe there is something out there better than what it is they actually worship.

If you believe there is no God and it turns out that you are right, then you have nothing to be concerned about do you?  When you’re lying on your deathbed, have an ACLU lawyer read some constitutional law or better yet, Supreme Court Decisions over you.

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… – from the Declaration of Independence

The first settlers of our country were fleeing religious persecution.  The founding fathers were very aware of that when they wrote our constitution, which prohibited Congress from making laws establishing a religion or restricting the free practice of it.  The Constitution’s purpose was to protect the Church and the practice of religion from the government not the other way around.

In our country, you are free to be an atheist and to say what it is you like regarding religion.  But as an atheist, you have no more right to stand on your soapbox and publicly declare that there is no God than do I to publicly declare that there is one.  You have no more right to insist that reference to God be removed from our country than I do to insist that it stay.

Is Judge Moore right or wrong, I’m not sure that I or anyone I know can answer that question.  I am certain of one thing, there needs to be a national showdown on this issue, because just as the Army had to revisit its values, our country needs to check it’s declining level of morality.  The 10 Commandments is a real good starting point.  Maybe if we printed them on the back of everyone’s driver’s license…

© 2003 J. D. Pendry

Merry Christmas

It takes me an afternoon to put out the Christmas decorations.  Most of that
time is spent trying to reassemble my made in China sleigh and reindeer set.  I am certain the Chinese laborer who sprayed gold glitter on everything knows he’s getting revenge this time of the year.  I’ve put this thing together enough times that I no longer need the directions.  Or so I convinced myself.  The reindeer assembly is quite simple.  On disassembly, you stuff everything from horns to hooves inside the body cavity.  Once I pulled the reindeer’s head out of his, uh, body cavity it was on.  I attached the head and antlers, but discovered it may have been wiser to attach his legs first, which is what I did for the next one.  One year I did get the antlers on upside down for one of them.  Something I noticed while admiring my work from the living room window.  Although it is only three pieces, the sleigh did not want to cooperate.  The pegs refused to line up with the holes.  Resorting to something I remembered from my Army days, (improvise, adapt and overcome), led me to the zip ties in my tool bucket.  Mission accomplished.

I also have a nativity my brother built.  It consists of four interlocking pieces.  Supposedly.  Every year I find myself wrestling with it until eventually I am pounding it together with my claw hammer.  I do feel some guilt pounding on the truest Christmas symbol, but am able to rationalize that it is just four pieces of plywood.

Then there’s the garland on the porch rail complete with big manly red bows and a wreath in the center.  Household six demands big red bows.  And the gigantic wreath on the door that is practically big enough to be a door itself.

Did I mention lights?  I have reels of them.  Rolls of them.  Tangles of them.  In modern times, I have added some LED lights.  They come in a good sized reel.  Instructions on the reel say you can string 15 if them together.  If I did that, there would be enough lights to reach across my town.  I checked all of the lights.  Then I ran them around the porch, through the garland and over the hill to the nativity.  I don’t put lights on the roof.  The front of the house is too tall for a ladder and although I am youthful for my advanced age I ain’t getting on the roof to string lights.  Besides, these days if I get more than a few feet off the ground my knees get wobbly.  I was once a rock climber. Always maintain three points of contact.  I need six.

Since I live in the land of sometimes you need the generator, I have several miles worth of extension cords.  I have quite a rig.  I plug my timer into the garage outlet, then I plug the power strip into the timer and as many extension cords as I can into the power strip.  The toughest part is trying to hide the orange and yellow lines crisscrossing the yard.  Now I lay no claim to being a Clark Griswold, but I can put a nice Christmassy glow across the cul-de-sac.  I was feeling good until Suzie-Q told me to bring the tree in and put it up and haul out all of the indoor stuff.  So I did it.

When I finished and was looking out the window while contemplating the dosage of ibuprofen I needed, something appeared odd.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something wasn’t right.  On my way into the kitchen, it hit me.  I actually sneaked up on the window and peered around the drapes to confirm that my reindeer were positioned to push the sleigh rather than pull it.  I our modern world, my first thought was to wonder how many neighbors had already posted that on Facebook.   I dashed right out the door and fixed that issue all the while thinking of an expression my Dad liked to share with me from time to time.  “Boy, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too smart.”

From my family to yours, have a blessed Christmas season.

© 2017 J. D. Pendry

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