The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, June 20, 2016

Threatening Fortune Cookie?

Is this another vaguely threatening fortune???

The other day I opened a fortune cookie and got the sneaking feeling I'd just been vaguely threatened. It was a weird feeling. I cracked open the cookie, took out that fateful strip of paper, and it read:

"Life is an adventure or nothing." Or nothing? If I wasn't adventurous to the writer was I targeted for removal? If I am not living a life of extreme action, am I worthless?

It is enough to make a person look over a shoulder now and then. Of course, perhaps that puts a little adventure into every life. Hmm. I'll have to give that some more thought.

Here's to the adventure.

Alternatives When US Senate Fails to Act on Gun Control


The U.S. Senate, Republican led, seems bound and determined to live down to expectations. Four bills seeking to provide better background checks for gun purchases and to keep guns out of the hands to people on the terrorist watch list utterly failed today. Our bought and paid for by the NRA Senators, almost every single Republican and a handful of Democrats, refused to do anything constructive even after the worst massacre in U.S. history in Orlando, Florida.

The American Baptist Home Mission Societies has a couple of suggestions of organizations to join to seek action by joining your voice with others. See: http://abhms.org/about-us/news/abhms-urges-american-baptists-advocate-gun-violence-prevention/ for details. The organizations are Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence (FUPGV) and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA). 

Of course, you can also vote out of office all the do nothing congresspeople and senators. I'd love to say there were politicians in office who actually listen to their constituency rather than the lobbyists. Good luck to us all.  

For a list of U.S. senators who refused to vote in favor of wanted gun control regulations, see: http://boingboing.net/2016/06/20/gun-control-defeated-in-senate.html or http://everytown.org/senate-vote-orlando/ Don't forget their names this fall during the elections, when it's OUR turn to vote. 

My Epiphany After Pulse Nightclub Murders in Orlando

Up front (full disclosure): if you haven't read my blog before, cards on the table, I'm an American Baptist minister with a complicated background, having been a editor and author, along with a professional archaeologist. I've been a Baptist all my life, starting with the Southern Baptists long ago when things there were different and now having moved on. I was trained at Palmer Theological Seminary, which taught working for others all over the world, treating all God's children (everybody just so we're clear) humanely, and serving humbly. I was raised to help others too. There you go. That's what you need to know where we are going next.

I believe in the power of God's Holy Spirit to give us good hard pushes when needed. I had never understood the phrase I'd heard over the years "the power of the Spirit burning within you." I understood when the earthquake in Haiti left so many people suffering back in 2010. Seeking what could be done, I ran across an article from the American Baptist Women's Ministry on creating shoe boxes filled with basic supplies or infant supplies that would be gathered at a central collection point and sent on the Haiti. For the first time in my life, I burned to do something in response. I felt an excitement in my chest unlike anything I'd ever felt. I didn't know exactly how every bit of the process was going to work, but I barreled forward anyway. Working with many people in my church, we all got to work and created a whole lot of those shoe boxes, which we sent on to help others. 

Well, on Sunday when the mass murder in Orlando first hit the news, I started to burn again. I was guided by the Spirit once more. I was schooled in the idea that just railing against this on social media would not get the job done. With the convergence of mass murder against one community based on hate speech, ridiculous laws, and loose canon mouths on politicians and media pundits inflaming the minds of those prone to violence, I was convicted to do more with my faith. Since then, I've written senators and congresspersons on a range of issues, joined several peace and justice organizations working against hate speech, violence, injustice, etc. and signed numerous petitions.

In a cynical world, you might ask what any of that will accomplish. Well, I firmly believe we are here to be agents for good in this world. Every act for justice, mercy, peace, and love makes a difference that is cumulative. I will always assert that in the long run, love will win out over evil. I will work for love. 

One of my pet peeves is fanatical fringe groups attempting to redefine my Christian or Baptist faith in twisted hateful terms of their own making, terms that have nothing to do with being a Christ follower. I have been infuriated that the news media have turned to such hate-twisted fringe speakers when needing a "Christian" voice for their story. So, when Faithful America (an advocacy group I joined some time ago) sent around an electronic petition calling for ABC This Week not to feature Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (which has been offering a great deal of false, vitriolic anti-LGBTQ disinformation) as representative of Christianity. 

It is a relief to see one of my many new efforts to work for love and justice pay off so quickly. It is affirming of the Holy Spirit's fire burning within me and my lifelong path working for justice from now on. 


If you wish to work against gun violence, please reference this article from my denomination and the organizations mentioned, join them, and let your voice join with many others as a powerful force working against violence, hatred and murder (sigh, and no, I don't want to take all your guns away, but I DO insist on sensible, reasoned ways to move forward in lowering the gun murder rate at home and abroad): http://www.abc-usa.org/2016/06/17/abhms-urges-american-baptists-to-advocate-for-gun-violence-prevention/

Update: Shame on MSNBC for picking up Tony Perkins after ABC dropped him. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified him as the head of a hate group. MSNBC allowed him to represent Christians on the issue of Donald J. Trump and evangelicals. Let me state for the record that I do not recognize anyone as a Christ follower who peddles hate. That's not what Jesus stood for. Please find a way to let MSNBC know this is not acceptable behavior.

American Baptist Statements Following Shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida

I am an American Baptist. I'm very pleased with the statements coming from my denomination, American Baptist Churches USA. We American Baptists are a diverse bunch, the most diverse denomination in the US as a matter of fact. We are equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, we come in all races, and each church has a startling level of autonomy. So, we have a wide range of views in regards to current hot button cultural issues. However, as it states in the following released, we do not wish our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to think we do not love them while we work through competing interpretations of Scripture. We most certainly do. We also cannot stand by silently while any of God's children around the globe (and big hint here, everybody is a child of God as we see it) are injured or murdered in acts of hatred. In part, this response was encouraged by American Baptist pastors across the nation writing in to the national headquarters requesting statements dealing with this tragedy and our stance directly. Speaking up really does make a difference.

Here's the latest release: http://www.abc-usa.org/2016/06/17/abc-interim-general-secretary-addresses-orlando-shooting/

A few highlights:

“We offer our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the horrible tragedy in Orlando. We extend love to those of our family directly affected. We grieve with our American Baptist brothers and sisters who are part of the LGBTQ community. My message to them is, never mistake our debates and disagreements with the depth of our love for you as part of our family. To the rest of the ABC family my message is, even in the midst of profound disagreement, let us love as Christ loved. 
~Interim General Secretary Dr. Susan Gillies


Following Gillies remarks, Rev. Judy Fackenthal said, “As President of ABCUSA, I concur with Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies that any act of violence against any part of the human family is fully outside the vision of God’s gracious love for all people. While American Baptists may not agree on a wide variety of issues, we claim God’s love as a just and all-encompassing love. I pray for the people of Orlando, particularly the LGBTQ community as well as the Hispanic community that has been particularly affected by this horrific violence. May we work together to seek to end hate and the outcomes associated with it.”


“The events of last week hurt me deeply, as a Christian, Baptist and as a Puerto Rican,” said Dr. Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, vice president of ABC. “At this time I would like to express my solidarity with all the people who are suffering from the effects of violence, misconceptions and separation. In the end what we discover in the depth of love is that we find our essence and human reality, our claim to the dignity of the human being and our real choice to reflect Jesus in every step.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Scholarship Funds Being Raised By Favorite Church

My favorite church, Lansdowne Baptist in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, is currently raising funds via Go Fund Me (they like to try new things) to provide scholarship money to local high school graduates. They've been offering up $500 to $1000 scholarships annually to two deserving students for many years and want to continue in this mission to their community.

If you're interested in helping and/or sharing the word, please go to the following blog post: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2016/06/raising-scholarship-funds.html

Or you can cut to the chase and go straight to the Go Fund Me site if you are so bold: gofundme.com/29udut8s

Sunday, June 12, 2016

For All Who Can't Resist Telling Others They're Doing It Wrong

A friend and colleague of mine told this beautiful little story about someone who just couldn't resist nibbing in on somebody else's business and the results. According to the "Little Book of Celtic Saints" around 640 AD the travel weary Corman, Celtic Bishop of Northumbria, came back to his home monastery in Iona. There he complained bitterly about the Angles of Northumbria, who were far too stubborn to receive the gospel's good news. Aiden, an Irish monk, just couldn't resist and critiqued the irritated Bishop's work, declaring Corman had been too harsh and suggested a better option. Corman, Aiden pontificated, should "as the Apostle taught us, offer them the milk of less solid doctrine." The historian, Bede, wrote that this went over like a lead balloon and Corman, along with all the monks at Iona, immediately resolved to make Aiden a bishop and send him packing to serve in Northumbria.

Let that be a lesson to us all. Better to keep our mouths shut than to offer unsolicited and unwanted critiques, especially to aggravated people with the power to send us off to the hinterlands to demonstrate just how brilliant our critiques are in practice.

Beware!!!

Pray and Act following Orlando Nightclub Massacre

NO to hatred, NO to propaganda, NO to evil in all its corrupt forms!!!
After the horrific massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a man apparently steeped in a culture of violence and homophobia, with terrorist sympathies, we need to stop and pray. Pray for all the victims of this monstrous and obscene occurrence. Pray has a requirement few acknowledge. Once you've prayed for something, you need to put yourself into action to achieve the goal of that prayer. Pray for peace; become a peacemaker. Pray for an end to gun violence; become a advocate for gun control. You see how this works?

There are a lot of ways to go with this. We currently live in a culture steeped in fear and hatred. Hate speech is becoming part of everyday life, poisoning our society. Those who choose to spew hatred say they do not wish to be "politically correct." I'm sorry, keeping society from swimming in hate is not politically correct, it is humane, it is responsible, it is the grown up way to be. When politicians engage in hate speech, like the Lieutenant Governor of Texas saying the LGBTQ community sowed this and are reaping the results in death in Orlando, speak out loudly and strongly against this hatred trying to hide behind a faith it is perverting with such a misuse. When another politician uses the Psalms to call people to pray for the death of the president and his family, do not let that stand. When people speak out hatefully against those in the LGBTQ community, call them out on it. Especially when cable news networks are so incredibly irresponsible as to broadcast such hatred, really cry out against them. Refuse to have anything to do with media so perverted as to become a propaganda outlet for hate. Work for the ways of love, peace, and mutual understanding instead.

Call out all politicians and NRA officials who deliver the basest lies and spread fear in order to sell more guns. Demand change. Join groups that seek the CDC's freedom to research and suggest remedies to gun violence. Contest the ridiculous notion that anyone outside the military needs a semi automatic to protect their home, their family, or to hunt. No sport in hunting with such a weapon, which is designed to kill people, not hunt wildlife. What fool would actually discharge such a device within the confines of their own walls? The property damage would be outrageous. The notion that people and not guns kill if bizarre and twisted logic beyond measure. Hate addled people with guns, especially semi automatics have been empowered to kill people in large numbers in ways they would not be able to without access to such killing machines.

We need to pray and then get out from behind our screens and actually interact face to face in a civil manner. Discuss the issues, band together, work for peace, justice, and human rights. Become an organized community actively seeking a far more peaceful world.

If you seek immediately to help the victims of the Orlando massacre, you can go to the gofundme site set up for them and donate. You can donate blood as well.

Another route to take, especially if you live a sheltered life, is to get out and meet people very different from yourself. Get to know people of different orientations, of different religions, different nationalities, and even different political parties. Become familiar with them and stop fearing them. Stop seeing them as the dangerous "other" or the vile "them."  You might even become friends. Once that happens (it's knows as breaking bread with them in biblical terms), you'll have a much harder time accepting hateful propaganda spread about your new friends and you'll have a much easier time standing up for them.

Hate must not win. Hate must not pervert society any further than it already has. It will do so if good people fail to act and to speak out. Sitting on the sidelines, refusing to speak or to act, is no longer an option. Let's meet face to face and work for peace, for justice, for the oppressed, for minorities, for every bullied group, for all the world. Let's drive hatred back into the shadows and make sure it withers away there before it consumes us all.

Update: As of 11:42 p.m. I have emailed my senators and congressman asking for them to work on gun control legislation. It is one small first step in standing against the tide of hatred and murder awash in our country. More and better steps to come.

Update 2: See post for what I've done so far since: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/06/my-epiphany-after-pulse-nightclub.html

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Doctors and Nurses: Thanks

Hey, doctors and nurses, can I have a minute or two from your busy day?

I want to stop and say thank you.

My recent emergency eye surgery got me thinking of all the times you all have made a difference in my life and in the lives of family and friends I love.

The very best among you have always been really decent with me, even when I'm not at my best ... and when do you guys get to see any of us at our best? During the prep for the first eye surgery, the nurse was so upbeat she gave me courage before receiving two needles to my left eye. The surgeon himself explained what would happen and then had the wisdom to reassure me that it had taken longer to explain the procedure than the 20 seconds it would take to get the first of those two jobs done. I was reassured and went into that procedure with a calm I had not expected.

It's been that way with all my best encounters over the years with people in your most demanding professions The dentist who told me  he got into the field in part because he was an artist who likes to work with his hands. Talk about a point of view that reoriented my thinking on dentistry! He also said the hours were better than those of a surgeon, which made me laugh.

The nurse who responded when I observed it must to tough to work with people who all want to leave the hospital and them. She responded, "Oh no, you've got it wrong. We're glad for everyone who wants to leave. It means they're getting better. It's the people who don't care that scare us. They aren't recovering the way they should."

To the surgeons who worked on me in outpatient operations who said, "you tolerated that procedure well." That simple phase felt like I'd earned a medal, coming from you.

You guys work on the edge, the front line of mortality in some cases. You use all the training, all the new knowledge and equipment, or work near miracles with old equipment. You add skill, insight, years of experience, and sometimes daring to get the job done. You are there to offer congratulations or condolences afterwards.

We are all trained by our society that we ought to fix things. Yet, we all know we are mortal. We all know there will come a day when none of your skill, experience, amazing techniques or technologies will be able to defeat death one more time. I know there is a day coming when this is likely to happen to me (unless I'm killed in some disaster or pass away in my sleep) or a loved one. When it does, I want to say, I know you did your best and I know this was bound to happen. We are mortal. We die. It is our condition. I know you face this far more often than I do as a minister, and it is a regular part of my life. But let me say, don't beat yourself up. You work long hours, and sometimes you work against very long odds. When you lose that last battle and have to tell me or my loved ones of the loss, know that my faith and that of my family will see us through. You did all you could. My belief in God, my Christian hope in life eternal, that will carry me and mine on beyond what you are able to do.

Thank you for all you do for everyone you meet. Thank you for all the kindness, care, and concern shown along with the awesome skill sets. I hope you'll all take some time to take care of yourselves, especially on those miserable weeks when death wins time and time again. You've earned a little time to decompress and deal with the losses, to grieve when needed, to blow off steam when it's not.

Thanks again. I see more clearly now, following your most recent work on my eye ... and yeah, I mean that in more ways than one.

For the experience that led to this post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/05/my-retinal-tear-what-you-should-know.html

Monday, May 16, 2016

Stories of Old Egypt, Dolch Folklore of the World

I stumbled across an old childhood nemesis of mine. The book Stories of Old Egypt from the Dolch Folklore of the World series, printed in 1964 by Garrard Publishing Company. I didn't read this book as a child because the image on the cover and to the story "The Sailor's Story" freaked me out. Remember, this was back in the 1960s when an articulated skeleton on a TV show or in a movie was scary business indeed, especially for an impressionable kid. The snake people with the human heads were nightmare fuel as far as I was concerned.

So, I've read some of the stories now, decades later. I'm sorry I didn't get past those images way back when. The stories, written for a grade 3 reading level but of interest for grades 2-8 according to the paper insert on this complimentary copy from the publisher, are pretty good. The first one, "Lady Doris," surprised me as it was a variant on the Cinderella story (well, at least the slipper, the beauty, and the prince). An eagle plays match maker, dropping off the lady's slipper, which remarkably will only fit one woman in all of Egypt--and that the most beautiful single woman of them all. "The Sailor's Story" is also a good tale in which the sailor washed up after a storm on the magical island of the Snake People is saved and sent home because of his storytelling abilities.

I highly recommend the two part story that is "The Prince" and "A Snake, a Crocodile, and a Dog." In this tale mortality is grappled with, along with how to live life well in spite of a dire circumstance in your life. It is an excellent morality tale.
Did not like the snake people as a kid!

Thanks to authors Edward W. & Marguerite P. Dolch for the compilation. Artist Gordon Laite provided all the imagery, including the scary snake people that kept me away for so long. 

Stop Empowering Stupidity, PLEASE

I never had that feeling that I had to carry the weight of somebody's ignorance around with me. And that was true for racists who wanted to use the 'n' word when talking about me or about my people, or the stupidity of people who really wanted to belittle other folks because they weren't pretty or they weren't rich or they weren't clever. ~ Maya Angelou*

The stories come fast and furious. Empowering stupid people seems to be the name of the game these. days. I mean those headstrong, stubborn folks who refuse to take in any new information that goes against some ingrained bias or prejudice they hold near and dear. The proudly hateful folks who divide the world into a very small tribe of "us" and a huge, never-to-be-trusted tribe of "them." Need examples? How about empowering the stupid person who suspected an economist of being a terrorist on an airline because this individual sitting next to him did not recognize mathematical notation for what it was and perhaps thought it was the plotting of a terror mastermind. This economist was taken off the plane and interviewed to determine he was not an inept terrorist. Couldn't someone on the plane have recognized mathematical formulas for what they were and quelled this troubled, ignorant person's fear? Couldn't someone have brought up how inept a terrorist this would be to be formulating some act of terrorism while on the airplane he wished to perform the terrorist act against? Please don't empower stupid people, giving in to their ignorance and enabling them to perform acts of stupidity yet again. This act of stupidity caused embarrassment (it could have been worse) for the economist and delayed the flight an hour and a half. For more on this story, see: http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2016/05/07/economist-removed-american-airlines-flight-math/

Media outlets: please stop giving Donald Trump tons of free airtime at virtually the top of every news half hour. No other candidate has ever had so much coverage, nor been allowed to hold telephone interviews with your outlets back to back on the various networks. No candidate has been able to lie so blatantly and not been challenged on the lie. Please stop empowering stupidity on this highly dangerous level. Please stop allowing this individual to take advantage freely of the simmering frustrations of a group of people who have been left in many ways powerless. This has long been a favorite tactic of the elite when seeking the ensure the downtrodden didn't rise up against them. It worked for a Southern general of the Civil War who needed to make sure the poor who resented the fact that they could have had the jobs on plantations and fed their families had not slavery been in place would not rise up against the plantation owners and their government. Please guys, give us a week where the Donald isn't your lead story for some "trumped" up reason or other. For more, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html?_r=0

I could go on to legislators pandering to base, stupid, bigoted ideas as an act of cultural warfare, but I've reached my limit for dealing with foolishness for one day.

Please, just stop empowering stupid people and stupid ideas. Let's empower learning, curiosity, social discourse, rational discourse, and other society building endeavors instead.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” 
― George Carlin*
See Brainy Quotes for more.