Random Thoughts



A few things are on my mind this week, but none of them warrant a full blog post, so I’ll just lay some things out there for what it’s worth (the value of which is totally up to you, the reader).

Folks in Cleveland and Chicago are pinching themselves to make sure they’re not dreaming. Some kid named Ryan Merritt pitched a helluva game (with a little help from Andrew Miller and Cody Allen), and the Indians are the 2016 American League champions. A mere six hour drive west, the Chicago Cubs are on the brink of going to their first World Series since 1945. Believe me, Clevelanders feel your pain Cubs fans, but if you manage to win one more game and get yourselves into the Big Show, our sympathy will go away faster than you can say Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman. Our singular goal will be to make sure our drought ends and yours continues.

Staying with baseball… Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy posted an apology on social media for bad mouthing the Indians and saying he didn’t want to play here. That’s nice Jonathan, but we obviously didn’t need you anyway. Have a nice winter dreaming about what could have been.

Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even though he’s performing in Las Vegas (somehow that doesn’t seem right), the Nobel committee can’t locate him. Or at least he’s not returning their calls. Maybe he’s got a case of Subterranean Homesick Blues. Or he just doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about what anyone else thinks about his music. I remember watching him at the Kennedy Center honors a few years back. He didn’t look like he cared much then, so why should he care now? Only thing is, the Nobel comes with a $900,000 award. Come on dude, you could help a lot of people with that kind of cash.

“I’m not a puppet, you’re a puppet.” “There’s some mean hombres out there.” “Such a nasty woman.”  Na na na na boo boo.  While it’s not even worth comment, I am looking forward to Saturday Night Live.

The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced this week. Here’s who should be inducted, and who shouldn’t. And before anyone starts ranting and raving I know music is subjective, but rock and roll is not, so here goes:

Out: Bad Brains, Chaka Kahn, Chic, Depeche Mode (can anyone name one of their songs beside “Personal Jesus?”, Jane’s Addiction, Janet Jackson, Joan Baez (we said rock and roll not folk), Joe Tex, Kraftwerk, MC5, Steppenwolf (take a magic carpet ride outta here boys), the Zombies, and Tupac (if they build a hip hop/rap hall of fame you should be a charter member).

On the fringe: J. Geils Band (not my favorite even though their angel is a centerfold), and Journey (gets the ladies vote every time).

In: Electric Light Orchestra (I crank up “Fire on High” every time), Pearl Jam (“Better Man” one of my favorite songs from the grunge era), and Yes (Rick Wakeman is a genius).

Finally, a little advice for the young bloods who insist on wearing slim fit suits.  Make sure the sleeves and pants are long enough.  It’s bad enough you look like you’ve been shoehorned (if you even know what those are) into your suit, but nobody needs to see your entire shirt cuff and you’re not preparing for a flood.  And another thing… Brown is NOT the new black.  So stop the ridiculous trend of wearing light brown shoes with a gray, charcoal, or navy suit.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.  At least for now.


Sins of the Fathers



I’ll start by saying this is NOT in any way shape or form a political statement. It’s not intended to lend support to any particular candidate. Rather, it’s a moral statement based on a biblical teaching that may have a broader application.

A week ago I posted on Facebook wondering what the conversation might be like between Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton since both of their parents have undoubtedly committed embarrassing indiscretions. The two have been close friends for quite some time and I was simply wondering how they might be dealing with their relationship, something no one else has seemed to mention. Here are two bright, articulate, successful women who happened to be caught in the middle of what has become a bitter family feud that would put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame. At the end of the last debate the television cameras caught them exchanging pleasantries, and it appeared awkward and strained. They barely made eye contact.

And that’s when the Bible passage entered my stream of thought. “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.” (Numbers 14:18) I couldn’t help but think that these two Trump and Clinton children are now victims of the sins of their fathers. They had absolutely nothing to do with the immoral actions of their fathers, but there they were, sitting in the same room forced to listen as their parents turned presidential candidates aired their dirty laundry in front of millions.

In my mind, the lesson is simply this. Our actions have consequences. We all know this, but could there be a starker reminder than what we are seeing now on the political landscape? If we learn anything from watching the lunacy of the current election cycle let it be that the biblical dictum is true. When we make stupid decisions, especially ones that potentially carry a lifetime of regret, often times our sins are visited upon our children and others we love. Our words and actions matter! We should think before we speak or act because what we do or say will inevitably reflect on the lives of others. Chelsea and Ivanka have now been flayed open to a rash of undue criticism. And hopefully a good dose of pity or sympathy as well. I’m confident they will weather the storm no matter the result of the election, or the fallout from other skeletons that are almost certain to come tumbling out of their respective fathers’ closets. But it all could have been avoided, and that’s the sad part.

Since this is being written on the day it was announced that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, perhaps it’s appropriate to end with this lyric from Things Have Changed:

I hurt easy, I just don’t show it
You can hurt someone and not even know it
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity
Gonna get low down, gonna fly high
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie

Just ask Ivanka and Chelsea.




You knew this was coming, right? Thoughts and reflections after attending my 40th high school reunion last weekend (John Marshall 1976). Honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. For an introvert, making conversation with people you haven’t seen in a couple or four decades isn’t the easiest thing to do. But I’m very glad I went, and here’s why…

I GOT A REFRIGERATOR MAGNET! In fact, everyone did! I know it doesn’t sound like much but it included a photo of our graduating class seated in the visitors bleachers at the football stadium. Since there were five sections of seats we got to choose a five letter word that somehow represented the spirit and character of our class. According to our esteemed class president – who kept this a secret until just recently – the majority of seniors voted for PARTY but for some reason we had to go with HONOR. Go figure. I don’t know how much the word meant to any of us then, but I’m guessing it means more to us now. God knows we need more honorable people who are true to their word and treat others with respect. If that’s something even a portion of the JMH class of 1976 can give to the world then I could feel pretty good about that. Besides, now I’ll be thinking about it every time I get a cold beer or another bowl of chocolate ice cream.

The room was filled with successful business people, doctors, lawyers, ministers, accountants, real estate managers, factory workers, mechanics, engineers, computer programmers, cops, teachers, writers, artists, musicians, and so on. Black and white and hispanic, gay and straight, men and women, religious and atheists, divorced and married and single, Democrat and Republican and Independent. We came together with 58 years of life experience behind us and guess what? At least for one night the only thing that mattered was our shared experience of three years at the best damn high school in the Cleveland Public system. So take a lesson youngsters… what matters most is not what makes you unique or sets you apart, but what you can find in common with one another, because when you focus your attention on that you just might be able to move our society forward.

I reconnected with some people I hadn’t seen in a long, long time only to discover that some of them lived fairly nearby. What the hell happened, I thought to myself? Did life proceed at such a ridiculously rapid pace that we didn’t have time to stay in touch? We got caught up in our jobs, got married and divorced, raised our kids, dealt with health issues, cared for and/or buried aging parents, and a did myriad of other things, and so the relationships we worked so hard to build while we were in high school apparently just fell by the wayside. I know I came away thinking that I can’t let that happen again. As I get a little older I continue to realize that relationships are the best gift a person can possess.

And so if the three take-aways from my reunion are reminders to be an honorable person, to seek commonality, and to work harder at building relationships then it was well worth it. If anyone from the planning team was kind enough to read this, please know how much I appreciate your efforts. GO MARSHALL!

*Special photo credit to Daryl Mapson.

Without Exception



Another week of violence in our country has made me think more deeply about the Black/Blue/All Lives Matter movements, and I have come to the realization that each contains implicit exceptions which result in limited effectiveness.  Lives are certainly qualified and given value, but nobody is playing on a level field.  For example, it’s implied (maybe even openly stated) that the lives of criminals don’t matter as much, if at all, as the lives of police officers.  And though I’ve heard supporters of Black Lives Matter say that all lives do indeed matter, what is implied is that right now black lives should receive more attention.  If you talk to those who believe All Lives Matter, and you drill down far enough, you will discover that “all lives” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and it’s really not that inclusive at all.  Of course all lives matter… with the following EXCEPTIONS that I’m sure you’ll understand.

No one I’ve heard or read so far has had the courage to throw Jesus into the equation, so what would happen if we asked whose lives mattered to Jesus?  Well, the gospels bear a very clear witness.  Lives that mattered to Jesus include, but are not limited to, the following:  sinners, whores, adulterers, cheaters, unclean people, beggars, losers, widows, orphans, soldiers, criminals, crooks, street urchins, lepers, the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, and the broken.  These lives mattered to Jesus because he saw each and every one as a child of God, created in God’s image, valuable in God’s sight, and never beyond redemption.

But we don’t talk much (if at all) about these lives mattering.  Maybe some of us do in our own little circle of friends, but certainly not in public because there’s too much to lose (like our friends, family members, and co-workers; not to mention our credibility as intelligent human beings capable of clear thought).  If they don’t already, people would think we Christians were a bunch of religious fanatics, undeserving of a place in any serious discussion.

It’s scary to think about what Jesus would say about whose lives mattered today.  Illegal immigrants?  Refugees?  Rioters, looters, and rock throwers?  Police officers who have shot other human beings in the line of duty?  Dangerous criminals?  Muslims?  Radical Islamists?  Gangsters?  Heroin users?  Kneelers or fist raisers during the National Anthem?  Flag burners?  Cop killers?  It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it?  I could envision Jesus breaking bread with any or all of the above because that’s pretty much what he did 2,000 years ago, but are any of US ready to say that any of THESE lives truly matter?  Jesus commanded us to love our enemies.  How can we even begin to TRY to do that if we don’t believe their lives matter in the first place?  So what are we to do?  Just sweep away into some dark corner all that stuff Jesus says about loving the unlovable, and then carry on hoping our self-proclaimed exceptions will go unnoticed?  We can, if we don’t want to take our faith seriously, which is just fine for some people.

I may be crazy or naive or idealistic (and I don’t care if that’s what anyone thinks), but it seems to me that until we embrace and employ the radical love of Jesus WITHOUT EXCEPTION, we will continue indefinitely to be stuck in a very disturbing cycle of violence.