The Circle of Life

Our oldest had a birthday a few days ago but we’re finally getting a chance to celebrate it tonight. This was her 28 years ago this week, just a few hours old:

This was the last time I had more hair than she did.

Roughly six months ago we learned that she and our wonderful son-in-law were expecting their first baby—more importantly our first grandchild! A few weeks after that wonderful revelation, we learned that we actually have not one, but two on the way. Girls. (of course!)

I should be pointing with two fingers.

She’s going to be an awesome mom. She’s had the very best of mentors and models.

To be honest, the 28-year space between the moments these two photos were captured is a dizzy blur. That space is filled with countless good days. Really, really good days. But there are few days as monumentally life changing as the one in which you welcome your first child into this extraordinary world.

On one side of that day, everything in your life is one way—essentially the way it has always been. Twenty-four hours later everything has changed. Everything. Your routines. Your priorities. Your thoughts. Your view of the world and the dangers it holds. Your hopes.

All of this and more seismically shifts with the breaking of some water and the crossing of a simple line on a calendar.

Mrs. H has been making preparations to help with the new arrivals. She’s prepping with a zeal and logistical ferocity that would have shamed General Eisenhower with his comparitively lackadaisacal approach to the D-day invasion of Normandy.

As for me . . . I never really knew either of my grandfathers. I was too young when they passed to carry any directly imparted wisdom or influence from them. Anything I have from them came secondhand.  So I am profoundly grateful and more excited than I can express to play some role in the lives of these little girls and all the siblings and cousins that come after them.

And the earth continues to spin and wobble around the sun like a blue top, with no time outs and no “pause” button to hit. The circle closes and the tracing of another one begins.

An Informal Little Bible Study

Attention DFW readers,

I’m launching a short new Bible study series in our home next week.

Beginning next Wednesday night, February 1, and continuing for the next four Wedneday nights, I’ll be teaching a series I’m calling:

“Honeycomb Lying on the Ground: The Sweet Reality of Living in Kingdom Grace.”

Open to all. 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Silicon Valley Gazillionaires are Prepping Like Crazy

Found this fascinating:

Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich

Snippet:

How did a preoccupation with the apocalypse come to flourish in Silicon Valley, a place known, to the point of cliché, for unstinting confidence in its ability to change the world for the better?

Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures . . .

Bonus:

Many of Asia’s billionaires have been buying private hidey-holes in New Zealand for the last few years:

Lost in Time

Ah, yes. Now I remember. That’s what a night sky is supposed to look like. So many stars . . . scores of familiar constellations . . . sparkling against a black velvet backdrop. There you are Milky Way, hung across the sky like a sash. There you are, Seven Sisters. It’s been a long time, ladies.

I know I’m far away from the city when I can see the Pleiades.

I’m back at the ancestral estate—the rural Oklahoma hill country acreage where I grew up. Like a salmon, I fought my way upstream from Dallas-Fort Worth on asphalt rivers called U.S. 75 and U.S. 69 to the place of my childhood. But I’m not here to spawn and die. I’m here to sort and cry.

It’s not just the night sky that’s different here. As I stand in the field in front of the house I grew up in, I’m aware of a strange sensation in my ears. Oh, right. It’s the quiet. I’ve grown so accustomed to the thrummy, low-frequency drone of freeway traffic in the distance and jets in the sky that I don’t even notice the noise until it’s missing.

Sound travels a long way out here. I’m actively listening. (Is this what the modern hippies call mindfulness?) From more than a mile away I hear a bull bellowing mightily, sounding like a Hebrew shofar calling the Israelites to battle against the Philistines. From a quarter-mile down the road I hear a woodpecker rapping on a tree.

And there’s bird song. So much bird song. It’s the next morning and I’m on the front porch trying to count how many distinct species of bird I can hear. I get to eighteen. What else can I hear? The breeze picks up and in a barely audible way, the tops of the pine trees begin whispering secrets to one another.

We have a history, those pines and I. My brother and I “helped” our father plant them when we first built the house and moved out here. Is it possible that our afternoon of tree planting will have been fifty years ago, next year? When we put them in the ground they were about a foot tall and no bigger around than my pinkie finger. They looked like sad little Charlie Brown Christmas trees. They survived.

Here they are today . . .

My Pines

Mom and Dad built this place about twenty years ago . . . about 100 paces from the two-story house they built in ’68. I was eight when the first house was finished, my brother six, and two sisters had not yet arrived. We all grew up in the that house over yonder. But this one was their empty nest—one story only, in anticipation of the feebler legs that eventually showed up.

Both homes sit on the same five-acre slice of rural southeastern Oklahoma I roamed freely as a boy—nestled in a valley where the Sans Bois and Kiamichi mountains serve as the front gate to the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest.

All these names are French. Or to be more accurate, French transliterations of Indian names. The first white people to explore this area were French trappers and traders. I’m reminded of that every time I drive out here. Right before you get to the old family place I cross a familiar old bridge over a creek named Fourche Maline—French for “treacherous fork.”

I’ve crossed that bridge thousands of times in my life and never witnessed any treachery along the creek. But then my crossings have all come about three hundred years after Bernard De La Harpe and friends first paddled their way into this neighborhood by heading upstream from the Mississippi River, the Red River, and so forth. Who am I to say that that the old stream wasn’t a little more malevolent back then.

After Dad passed away several years ago, Mom lived here alone as long as she possibly could. But it eventually became clear to all of us, her included, that living alone out here in the sticks no longer made sense. So she moved out of the house a couple of months ago with the help of my sisters. She is now safely and happily ensconced in a little efficiency apartment in a great retirement village in Oklahoma City.

However, only a small portion of her things could make the trip to the new place. A big part of the accumulation of a lifetime was left behind for us to sort through.

The contents will fall into four categories.

First, things one of us kids or grandkids wants to keep. Many of these items are keepsakes, mementos and sentimental treasures.  Some are practical items that the numerous grandchildren now setting up housekeeping for the first time will find useful.

From what remains, things to sell. What doesn’t sell will be donated or given. What absolutely no one will take, will be disposed of in some way.

So, I’ve been digging and sorting. It’s a bit like archeology. The deeper I go, the more ancient the finds. I’m uncovering things I didn’t know existed. Like a bulging, rubberband-wrapped envelope with a Missoula, Montana postmark dated the Summer of 1963. Inside was a stack of handwritten letters from my Dad to my Mom.

I dimly recall that when I was about four years old my Dad spent a couple of months away from us one summer, working on his Masters degree at the University of Montana. What I didn’t know was that he’d written her while he was away. As I noted the date on each letter in the stack, I saw that, in fact, he had written her every three or four days for his entire absence.

This in itself was a stunning revelation. My Dad was kind and sweet, but he was no romantic. At least that I could tell. I’d never perceived him to be the guy who thoughtfully and dutifully wrote his wife every other day while away from his young family. But he was that guy. We just didn’t know it.

Then I thought about the fact that she’d kept them—tucked away with a small cache of other precious mementos. And here I was, 54 years later, learning of their existence for the very first time.

I’ll share a few more of my finds in the days ahead. For now, just know that I’ve spent a weekend lost in time.

And trying to get my arms and mind and heart around the task of curating the remnants of two lives well lived.

 

Dave’s Dozen: 12 Brief Observations on the News

In an effort to be less essay-y, here’s the first in a series of bite-sized comments and observations about events in the news.

1.

Mr. Trump seems to have no intention of moderating his practice of popping off on Twitter. At some point soon after the inauguration, one of these 2:00 a.m., 120-character spleen ventings  is going to trigger a market crash or major international incident. Mark my words. However . . .

2.

As regular readers of this blog well know, I’m no Trump fan. But I must admit that his cabinet appointments have been very good, in my view. If he makes a comparably good nomination to the Supreme Court, then his administration will be off to an encouraging start.

3.

The Obama Administration has used it’s final weeks in office to undermine and further isolate Israel. Here’s a big inconvenient truth . . .

As I’ve pointed out before, all conflict in the Middle East—including the ongoing horror show in Syria—is rooted in the 1500-year-old Sunni-Shiite rift. If the world’s Arabs, Muslims, and UN bureaucrats got their fondest wish and Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, that war would only intensify. With the distraction of Israel removed, Sunni and Shia would continue slaughtering one another in earnest. Imagine a hundred Aleppos.

But sure, Mr. Kerry . . . stubborn Israel is the “obstacle to peace” in the region.

3.

 

Yes, the Russians had a preferred outcome in the recent U.S. presidential election. So did the Chinese. And the French, British, Micronesians and North Koreans. In fact every rational nation-state on earth roots for a side in every U.S. presidential election, in accordance with their own national interests.

The Russians clearly favored Trump although their broader goal is simply weakening our nation by undermining public confidence in the system. The Chinese were pulling for Clinton (a sketchy relationship between the dictatorial Chinese regime and the Clintons goes way back.

That said, Mrs. Clinton lost because she was an unappealing candidate and ran a crappy, incompetent campaign. Full stop.

But yes, the major parties in our previous election gave us a choice between a candidate in bed with the Chinese and and one sympathetic to Putin. That’s a lose-lose proposition for the U.S..

Speaking of meddling in the elections of sovereign foriegn nations . . .

4.

Did you know that Mr. Obama’s campaign organization dispatched a team of his best advertising and social media gurus to Israel in 2015, in an effort to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu? They did. He failed. But he tried.

5.

The infamous “Russian Hack” of the recent presidential election was basically two compromised email accounts, those of long-time Clinton associate John Podesta and the DNC.

What most Americans don’t recall (or never heard about at all because the mainstream media downplayed it) was a massive and successful Chinese cyberattack on the actual U.S. government back in 2015.

That attack exposed reams of personal information, including social security numbers, of roughly 4 million current and former federal employees. There was no high profile expulsion of Chinese diplomats after this embarassing breech came to light.

Indeed, there was no publically disernable response at all.

Want to see something deliciously awkward? Here’s ABC White House correspondent John Karl asking Mr. Obama’s spokesman why the Russian hack was treated as a big deal while the much more serious Chinese attacks were a non-issue.

6.

For a brief history of cyberattacks on the U.S by foriegn governments, Reporter Sheryl Attkisson’s “Eight Facts of the ‘Russian Hacks‘” is most illuminating (and troubling).

7.

Back when I was convinced Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, I believed that meant a war with crazy Russia was a small but increasingly real possiblity; but that military conflict with crazy China would be unlikely. I’m convinced Trump’s surprise victory reverses that equation.

Odds of conflict with Russia lower. Odds of onflict with China, higher.

8.

Riots and looting broke out across Mexico last week when the government raised the price of gas. History reveals this is the inescapable result in any nation in which the government seizes the power to set prices and wages.

9.

Watched the Golden Globes and it confirmed what I already knew. Left-wing Hollywood is nearly delirious with secret, giddy delight at the opportunity to courageously “speak truth to power” again.

It’s been eight long years since the world’s most pampered, privileged, and coddled people could signal their virtue to one another by shaking an angry fist at the White House and wagging a shaming finger at the rest of us.

Many of these frequently use their formidible creative gifts to hack furiously at the civilizational branch upon which we all sit.

And Meryl Streep is their queen. . .

10.

NRO’s David French, on Streep’s speech, neatly encapsulates my thoughts:

“I have no particular affection for Trump, but I positively loathe the condescension, alarmism, ignorance, and self-regard of the wealthy Hollywood Left, and each of those elements was on full display in Streep’s speech.”

Please read the whole thing. French makes some very important points.

Also re: Ms. Streep . . . When you’re a Progressive and you’ve lost Piers Morgan, you know you’re on thin ice.

A Personal Reflection on a New Year’s Day

As I sit down to tap out a few lines here in the opening hours of 2017, I’m mindful of some sage, three-fold advice from Benjamin Franklin.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

On those first two items . . . “Check” and “Check.” But that third challenge? Am I, today, “a better man” than I was before this most recent orbit of the sun? Frankly, I’m the wrong person to render that assessment. Better to ask the woman who’s lived with me the past 29 solar orbits. Or my friends and co-workers. They know truths to which I am blind.

Of course, my hope is that this deep winter solstice finds me at least a click fairer, kinder and less self-sufficient than the last one. Those being the three key metrics of the Micah 6:8 scale:

“. . . the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

By the way, I hope to do more writing in this space in the months ahead. My pitifully infrequent offerings over the last ten years have tended to fall into one of four broad categories:

  • Theology and Spiritual Things
  • Public Policy; Current Events and Cultural Trends
  • History
  • Family (musings about milestones, life, etc.)

A savvier blogger than I would focus on just one of these areas and forget the others. This is precisely what all the experts recommend to those who desire to find fame and fortune in blogging. “Pick a topic you’re passionate about,” they say. “And write frequently and briefly on it.” In other words, specialize.

Well, I obviously don’t do that. I read with ravenous interest across a  crazy variety of subjects every day—faith, science, tech, history, archeology, psychology, economics, geopolitics, etc.—and love to share synthesized insights about the same in writing.

In other words, I’m a generalist, not a specialist, and it seems the world increasingly belongs to the specialists.

What’s more, I’ve come to grips with the reality that I’m not actually a blogger. I am an essayist at my core. I can’t write short. Well, I can, I just have little interest in doing so. This, too, limits my readership.

I’m at peace with the fact that many people will glance at the length of even this relatively short post and skim it or skip it . . . even as social media has our attention spans shriveling further like grapes in the West Texas summer sun.

Nevertheless, I hope to do more of this over the next 12 months, and even crank out a book or two. I’m working on one right now. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we are well and grateful. My bride and I have launched three offspring into the world with happy results. I really like and admire the people our children have become. We’ll become grandparents for the first time in a few short months. Twin girls are on the way.

But enough about me. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson once wrote: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”

I’ve heard Hope’s whisper. And I believe her.

 

CryBullies and Tantrums From Sea to Shining Sea

Photo: Margorie Owens, WFAA.com

Photo: Margorie Owens, WFAA.com

For the fourth night in a row, noisy throngs of the usual suspects have marched through the streets of Dallas and other urban centers chanting silly chants:

“Hands too small! Can’t build a wall!”

Of course, we all know and fear the awesome election-voiding, mind-changing power of a wicked burn that rhymes.

The marchers in each city are almost certainly the same tossed salad of marxists, anarchists and identity politics grievance mongers who can be counted on to take to the streets every time there is a left-wing cause to promote for sympathetic evening news coverage.  And as is so often the case with these “spontaneous” uprisings, billionaire George Soros is paying the bills.

Now, I may be misreading the current situation but I get the impression that many on the Left are unhappy about the presidential election result.

They punted Hillary!!!

The bad people . . . they  punted Hillary!!!

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, I was not, and am not, an enthusiastic Trump supporter. There were a half-dozen highly qualified Republican candidates I would have loved to have had the opportunity to support. But the major media, by focusing incessantly and exclusively on Trump during the primaries—both for ratings and in a cynical ploy to hand pick Hillary’s challenger—denied me that privilege.

The histrionics and pants-wetting by many Hillary advocates over the failure of their candidate has been one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever witnessed. In addition to the protests, which in Portland have turned violent and destructive, we’ve had a torrent of embarrassing crazy talk from celebrities. So be it.

For the most part, the rage, name-calling, and foul-mouthed caterwauling that has followed Trump’s decisive electoral college victory has only served to reassure those Middle-American swing voters who now determine our national elections that they made the right choice.

By the way, I chuckled to learn today that more than half of the Democracy Now! protesters arrested in Portland last week hadn’t even voted. I’d bet a week’s pay that most of the others voted for third party candidates like Jill Stein.

Of course, if the average age of an outraged chanting hippie in the streets is 25, that means that he/she was roughly 13 years old the last time the Democrats lost a presidential election and around nine for the bitterly contested Bush vs. Gore outcome of 2000.

In other words, they have no experiential framework for putting this loss into context or perspective. What’s more, most have been taught a nonsense version of history by the educational system that is constantly reinforced through pop culture and media.

Compounding this is the liberal echo chamber they’ve lived in their entire lives—swaddled in a comforting blanket of media reassurance that they are right and righteous.

A big reason for the magnitude of the shock and awe for many is that they were so sure they were going to win. In fact, in the middle of the day last Tuesday, Hillary and her team were already popping champagne open on the flight back to New York.

Why? How? What now? Some strung-together random thoughts:

  • Liberals spent the last eight years cheerleading Mr. Obama’s steady expansion of presidential and executive branch power (executive orders, weaponizing the IRS, EPA, Justice Dept., etc.) Conservatives warned them that this is a bad idea. They cautioned that the separation of powers built into the Constitution through a delicate system of checks and balances was a vital safeguard against tyranny. Now Progressives are pooping themselves at the prospect of turning that enhanced Executive power over to someone they loathe and fear. (See Proverbs 26:27)

 

  • Over the last four years, even while middle Americans struggled through a stagnant economy that hemorrhaged real jobs while creating hundreds of thousands of new baristas, waiters, and bartenders, they:
    • Had Obamacare jammed down their throats even though clear majorities opposed it.
    • Had same-sex marriage jammed down their throats even though clear majorities opposed it (even in California, which passed a referendum on it, only to see it nullified by the courts.)
    • Then immediately saw “transgender issues” pushed to the top of the dominant media culture’s national agenda, before most of the nation had a chance to process the end of marriage as civilization has known it for millennia.
    • Saw the rule of law eroded and wages for the working poor weakened through encouragement of illegal immigration.
    • Watched professional athletes use a local issue (policing) as a rationale to disrespect and show disdain for the national anthem.
    • Spent eight years being called a racist by talking heads for expressing honest, legitimate policy disagreements with the President. (Chris Matthews, Bill Maher, The View ladies, ad infinitum.)
    • Been the focus of a constant stream of mockery, derision, and condescension out of the media capitals of Los Angeles and New York–via television, movies, and music.
    • Watched North Carolina be treated like a leprous pariah by pop stars and national sports organizations for passing a commonsense law to keep men out of ladies restrooms.

 

  • Words like racist and misogynist are important. We need them. They describe real things. Which is why it is tragically wrong to abuse them to death as the dominant media culture has done for years now. When you use the word racist as a club to silence disagreement or shame-shun decent people who simply disagree with you, you drain these words of their meaning and power.

 

  • When it became clear on election night that Donald Trump was going to win the presidency, after I picked my jaw up off my fuzzy slippers, I made the following prediction to my wife: “God help us. We’re going to see a bunch of celebrities running for president in four years.” Within 72 hours I’d heard Chris Rock, George Clooney, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as potentially interested in running. Good luck with that.

 

  • Finally, in one sense, it didn’t matter who won this election. A lot of bad things were already baked into the cake during Mr. Obama’s tenure, particularly during his second term. In fact, if you’re looking for a truly tragic election outcome, you’re late. It occurred four years ago. Everything Mitt Romney warned about during his campaign has come to pass. All of it. But he lost, in part because a critical mass of evangelicals and catholics couldn’t bring themselves to turn out for a Mormon because “magic underwear” or something.

Reminder: We Still Elect a President, Not a King

President Obama seems to be the only high-profile Dem/Lib in the nation with any sense of perspective about the Trump win.

Perhaps that’s because he is more keenly aware than almost any living person of the limits of presidential power in our system. (Of course, he spent the last eight years trying to find ways around those limits.)

See, for example, this:

“Obama expresses frustration on Guantanamo Bay: ‘I have not been able to close the darn thing'”