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Flagging Memory

As I come into the gathering hall before church, it looks quiet colorful.  all the low, round coffee tables are decorated with numerous tabletop flag stands, holding flags from all around the world.  The flags are part of the months focus on world-wide ministry.

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The cause me to smile, because they remind me of my youth.  I used to be quite fascinated with flags.  I knew the flags of all the nations, even the lesser known ones of Africa.  One of my fondest souvenirs was a set of paper flags from the United Nations and a trip there.  I remember gluing the flags onto little wooden sticks.  They were so treasured that I had them well into adult-hood….in fact, up until the Great Purge of the last couple of years.

Times have changed.

Names have been changed….Upper Volta, Ceylon, Burma.

Countries have gone….Yugoslavia, USSR, United Arab Republic.

And now there are a slew of ‘Stans, a Balkan’s full of little states, new island states.

And a flagging memory for recognizing them.

M&M Engineering….Metro and Monument

Coincidently, this post gets published during National Engineer’s Week in the US. That wasn’t my intention when I started writing this, but it seems to have worked out appropriately, if not well.

This past year has not been a good one for engineering in the DC area.  While a major accomplishment goes unnoticed, two serious failures have rightly captured people’s attention.  Why aren’t things going better?

The good news story is the drilling of the DC Clean Rivers Project.  Two tunnels, 48″ and 108″, drilled under the city, will keep stormwater runoff from flooding the sewage treatment plant and contaminating the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.  An incredible undertaking of engineering and construction, it has been practically invisible to the public.  And it is going well (almost complete!).

Not so the other denizen of tunnels, METRO.  Nothing seems to be going right for them, and hasn’t for years.  Inspection not performed, repairs not made, maintenance left undone; from policy to execution nothing has gone right. When in the middle of the very-public, very-massive safety push you have train operators who still almost hit the Federal inspectors on the tracks, you know you have problems.  Surprisingly (and I am very surprised, as the horror stories keep coming out) no one has been charged criminally for the years of running a system that has apparently been so woefully unable to complete even simple task. Years  of falsified records and billed-but-unperformed tasks and no one has been charged?  Really?? Unbelievable.

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Commuters wait for their train at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

And then there’s the other major monument to problems in the engineering world, the Washington Monument.  Closed for almost 3 years to repair damage from the earthquake of 2011, it opened in mid-2014. Almost immediately it had problems with the electrical systems and elevators. The elevator problem is so serious that the Monument will now be closed until 2019 for repairs.  So in an 8 year period, our National Monument will have been close for almost 6 of them.  Not a very good track record, not at all.

I understand complex issues, interconnected problems, deficits of money, time, and manpower.  But to have to such major problems at the same time is a sad state of affairs.  Maybe some of the infrastructure money being promised by the administration can help both of these out.

I hope so.

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Dennis Cook/Associated Press

 

 

Time change

Even though we’re on the upslope of daylight, even though we are gaining precious minutes each week, even though I have so far survived this….I still feel the need to rail against Standard Time and mourn the loss of Daylight Savings Time.  Because I need to save all the daylight I can, have it touch me all that I can.  I don’t know the full story of the creating of daylight savings time and standard time. But it’s time for it to stop. Let’s do Daylight Savings and keep it there, year round.

The world has changed considerably since Summer Time, as Daylight Savings Time was first known, was introduced.  Things have even changed since we codified it in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  At one point it made sense based on how we lived and the condition of the developed world.  Technology and society have moved on and the reasons for supporting the constant switching of time are no longer so valid. We now have a 24-7 existence where people do everything from telework (thanks to the web) to shop and even go to the gym at all hours.  I’ve seen the Washington Beltway as busy at 11 pm and 1 am as it is at 11 am and 1 pm. We have designed energy-efficient facilities, use LED lights, and drive higher efficiency vehicles.  The idea of saving energy….has evaporated like frost in the sunlight.  A working world that was ruled by 9-5 schedules is different from what we have now.  Now it’s ruled by 24-7, and people do everything at all hours.

The time difference doesn’t help with farming and crops.  We have lost the society where there were large number of people on the land, and farming was a manual chore.  Now we don’t have large portions of the population living on farms and rising up early to milk cows and till the earth anymore. Farms are still important, they just are just significantly more automated and mechanized, and less impacted by the clock.

The time switching doesn’t help protect kids going to school.  The most dangerous time for pedestrians and for accidents is when the clock changes and we have a sudden shift in light and dark and twilight.  And now, because of football, band, aftercare and numerous other activities, they tend to go home in the dark instead of leave from home in the morning in the dark.

Finally…..it screws with my SAD and ruins months of the year for me (what?….why yes, yes, it IS all about me!).  Seasonal Affective Disorder is more widely recognized and understood, more widely diagnosed than ever before. It is the depression that comes from lack of light and disruption of rhythms, and the shift of the day only brings the dark of night upon us faster and faster.

Yes I’m grateful for the extra minutes I’ve been gaining these past couple of weeks.  Yes, it helps with my mood and my exercise; with my energy and productivity.  So I say “Down with Falling Back!”  Change the rules.  Have Congress do something useful AND unify the country (since there are a couple of states that don’t participate in this Ponzi scheme of the clock.  Stay with Spring Forward….do it in the spring and keep it there!

“…over, a new one just begun.”

And so we reach 2017, and I start a new year of blogs.  I hope that I continue to blog at the pace I did last year.  I thought it was a doable pace, and one that worked out despite the issues of logistics that I had with the libraries that I go to in order to create.

I would like to expand my writing.  I know there will still be writing on politics; I have such a different view of them that I can’t help but try to articulate it.  And of course there will be blogs and reblogs about sustainability and things green (please don’t confuse this with Gog and Magog…brownie point for getting the reference!)  I think there will be a few on faith; I’ve been mulling some over and I think I’m ready to put them down for consideration.

When I first starting blogging  years ago, a good portion of material was what I would call “creative writing.” It was inspired through my helping my daughter find her voice in writing.  Since her departure from my life, I’ve had very few occasions to practice that skill, but perhaps if I become more cognizant of the desire, the desire will come.

And so….here starts a new year, a new round of thoughts, a new voyage to the unknown year 🙂

 

“..another year over, a new one…”

And so this is the end of the 2016 blog.  My next post will be in 2017, a year filled with…God only knows what will transpire in the new year.

I do know that at least on my personal front, I managed to meet a goal, accomplish my target.  I wanted to write more this year. And I did manage to write more.  The average was just over one a week.  Yes, a couple of months only had three, while one had seven (!) but I still was able to sit down and write more. I’m glad.  I don’t know if it did anything for anyone else (I hope it did) but it helped me by allowing me to process, express, consider, respond, etc.

I hope that next year I do as well. Maybe better.  Maaaaybeee 🙂 If I continue to average once a week I’ll be good.  Perhaps I’ll crack 2000 view…I know, not much compared to many I know and follow, but still a nice metric for me.  And 72 countries, which also pleases me.  So on to the new year, new blogs, new topics, new themes.

Happy new year folks.

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Gifted

I don’t know how many gifts I have received in my life.  I suppose that there a way of estimating the number, given a known number of birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, graduations, etc.  For many years receiving gifts was as difficult as giving gifts.  I think it comes down to generosity, and not being able to accept or extend it.

Two gifts stand out for me recently in my life.  Both have provided me with examples of what generosity is and what makes it so memorable, so important. The first example was three years ago.  I had spent the day in the hospital with my mother.  As anyone who has been in an ER knows, it isn’t an easy or comfortable process to be there waiting for hours on end, even if the news turns out alright.  I was beat that day, physically and emotionally.  My friend with the cats had a key to my place at that time, and when I came home she had left a gift on my table.  She had left favorite candies of mine (dark chocolate peanut M&Ms, dark chocolate Reese’s miniatures). That she had known my favorites and left them was touching enough, but ….. she gave me three (3!) bags of each! It was, I think, the extravagant generosity of the gift that touched me.  Thoughtful, extravagant, unexpected, loved.  I still remember the feeling, still have the empty bags as a reminder.

The second was more recent.  My friend from my recent road trip,  without any reason, gave me a gift.  It was an unexpected, unique gift for me; it was the first time someone gave me a piece of jewelry, a cross on a chain.  The gift caught me off guard, for a variety of reasons, and I her why she had given it to me.  Her response surprised me, and has lingered with me.  She told me that during the trip she had noticed, and commented, on my lack of jewelry and asked why.  She remembered my response that during and after the divorce, I stopped wearing any because I didn’t feel I was worthy, or more accurately felt too worthless to wear anything.  She gave me a cross because she felt that as a symbol of my faith I might wear it when I wouldn’t wear something else.  She hoped that in wearing it I would eventually see myself again as worthwhile and begin to forgive myself.  An amazing insight and compassion from one conversation, delivered in one gift.

Two very different gifts.  My heart touched by both.  I’m still trying to learn generosity, still trying to forgive. But gifted to be touched by two such caring people.

 

No, God didn’t….

One of the more disturbing quotes I’ve seen since the election came from Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and an evangelical leader in his own right. I have, until now, had the greatest respect for Franklin Graham and the great good that has been done by Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.  However, his politics has become increasingly far right in recent years.   The quote I found upsetting was “….I believe that God’s hand intervened Tuesday night to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country.”

No, God didn’t.  At least not the God I’ve known and worshiped.

I do not believe that God intervened in the election  on the politics of one side, because it would mean that God would be endorsing the politics and morals (or lack thereof) of the winning side. I do not believe that God intervened for the prayers of hundreds of thousands of Trump evangelicals and ignored the prayers of the hundred of thousands of anti-Trump Christians (yes, you can be Christian and be anti-Trump). I understand that the political evangelical community supported Trump over Clinton because of Trump’s anti-abortion stance (although it’ll be interesting to see how that works out).  I understand that many of that community would support a perceived pro-Christianity/anti-Muslim stance (from a man who has said he hasn’t had to ask God for forgiveness, because he hasn’t done much wrong, according to his own words in the campaign).  But did God intervene in the election to support a man who doesn’t need to involve God (Trump’s words)? A man who was unfaithful to his first two wives? A man who failed to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s in his taxes, or render unto God what is His? A man who has said he has little to ask God’s forgiveness for? Or whose whole campaign was the antithesis of the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)?  A man who used blatant lies about a birth certificate and faith to denounce, challenge, and belittle an intelligent, faithful man?

I am tired of the evangelical “christian” community invoking God’s name for all manner of things to make some political statement, usually one with some aspect of hate, division, self-righteousness.  This isn’t the first time the evangelical community has done this.  It has happened with California droughts, with AIDS, with Katrina, with Sandy.  And now this.  I see no respect for God or His word in this politicizing of events, especially in a case where the alleged benefactor is so totally an anathema to the Gospel of love and grace.

I wonder, though.  Perhaps the evangelicals should consider a case where God did answer the prayers of a people…prayers that were perhaps as equally based politics.  The Israelites wanted a king, they wanted one badly.  So God gave them one, Saul.  He was not what they hoped for, and in their answered prayer their relationship with God was forever altered, for the worse.

Whether in direct actions by the new President, or in the inevitable backlash of the rest of the country, I wonder if this “intervening” will work out the way they think.

#HoCoFaith