Category Archives: Observations

03.22.2024 – Nasty Nostalgia

Last week my presbytery travels took me to western Ohio, and somewhere between Celine and Greenville I noticed a sign indicating the stretch of two-lane highway I was on is the Annie Oakley Pike. On my return trip from Greenville, just south of North Star, I saw the sign pointing to Annie Oakley’s grave. I took the detour.

Annie Oakley is a name from my Baby Boomer past. The details of her life are compelling, but not what I remember about Annie Oakley. I suppose my earliest memories of Annie Oakley come from an old TV western series that used Annie’s name but fictionalized just about everything else about her. And then there is the slightly more accurate musical Annie Get Your Gun (“There’s No Business Like Show Business”). In fact, Annie Oakley was in show business along with Buffalo Bill Cody and Sitting Bull.

So, I have been thinking about Annie Oakley and those childhood memories connected to her. You know, it was a good thing to have at least one cowgirl among all those cowboys of 1950s TV. But mostly those memories take me back to a time long ago. It would be easy to say simpler, even better times, but I am guessing my memory would be failing me. Simpler, maybe. Better?  Probably not. Continue reading

03.15.2024 – The Sounds of Silence

Two scenarios.

  1.  Becky and I attended a Bible conference a few weeks ago.  1,500 people packed the room to hear the well-known speakers.  We arrived early enough to find some good seats down front. With 15 minutes or more before the program was scheduled to begin, the auditorium buzzed with the sound of casual conversation among the conference goers. The people behind us – four or five together, it seemed – were especially talkative, and that was fine.  But, yes, I learned more than I cared to know about their families and friends, their opinions on the state of the world, and their disappointment with their new pastor.  Finally, the host of the conference came to the podium to welcome the crowd and tell us about the many books our speakers had written. The room immediately grew silent. Except for the people behind us. They kept on talking.  Not a last word or to finish a sentence, but paragraphs to finish a chapter about their families and friends, their opinions on the state of the world, and their disappointment with their new pastor. It’s not so much that I really wanted to hear the conference announcements or needed to know the titles of the many books our speakers had written, I just did not want to hear any more of the conversation behind us.  If 1,495 people were able to silence themselves, why not these 5?
  2. I am out in the early morning light.  I hear the sound of their coming before I see them.  Squawking and the beating of a thousand or more wings flapping. I think they are starlings (though I know very little about birds).  They fly over and then, en masse, maybe 1,500 of them, they light at the top of the trees in a grove just on the other side of our neighborhood.  Within a second or two they are silent.  The squawking ceases and early morning silence descends on the neighborhood.  I don’t know why the birds quiet themselves so quickly.  Is it some sort of Darwinian instinct to ensure their survival?  Are starlings innately polite and want to be sure all the members of the flock hear whatever announcements are to be made that morning? Is their lead bird some authoritarian figure whose demand of silence on the treetops they dare not disobey? Or do they respect their good starling leader and their starling tradition of treetop silence?

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03.08.2024 – Beware the Selfie

The word “selfie” is not very old, mostly a relic of our smartphone era. But the idea of a selfie is much older than that. My guess is that humans have been doing selfies for about as long as we have been around. We’re fascinated with ourselves.

Recently in some obscure corner of my life a decision was made that took many of those in that small corner by surprise. It’s not what we expected, and it was frustrating, felt hurtful, for some. The decision maker did not make the decision we would have made.  Nothing wrong, nothing unethical or immoral, simply not the decision we expected or wanted. Continue reading