The Taliban, the US, and the Gadsden Flag

This morning I raised the US flag to full staff. It had been lowered in honor of military and civilian victims killed in a terrorist attack as the US left Afghanistan. At work the other day, some co-workers and I were talking about our departure from the region. We all agreed that we’re no mid-east political emissaries. We’re computer fix-it people, not foreign policy experts. But all of us, regardless of political stripe, felt like we exited poorly. Leaving US citizens there, leaving US war materiel there to be plundered, it just doesn’t seem like the wise thing to do. If doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. And yet, that’s the call the US government made.

As I raised Ol’ Glory to her full height, I clipped the Gadsden flag onto the pole below her. Recently, the Gadsden flag has been flown by alt right groups more as a symbol of hate and anarchy. I don’t ascribe to those ideals. Instead, I prefer the historical view of what that flag means. Here’s what Ben Franklin said about the snake iconography:

“[The rattle-snake’s] eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarrelling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? The poison of her teeth is the necessary means of digesting her food, and at the same time is certain destruction to her enemies. This may be understood to intimate that those things which are destructive to our enemies, may be to us not only harmless, but absolutely necessary to our existence …
‘Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

“The Rattlesnake tells the Story” – Journal of the American Revolution (allthingsliberty.com)

And so the Gadsden flag flies over #downtownspruceheadamerica not as a symbol of hate. I’m not proclaiming allegiance to any former president. Instead, I’m doing my little symbolic act that the Taliban will never see (but a symbolic act that is good for my soul). I’m trying to say “I don’t agree with how the US did this. And Taliban, you think you’ve won. And by our actions, it sure does seem like you won. But here in this house, and many other places in the US, the actions of our government don’t speak for the people of the United States. Don’t think this one action is how we Americans do things. Don’t feel empowered. Don’t tread on us.”

In Memory of Wayne Delano

I woke up at 4:30 this morning. I laid in bed until 4:45, but then just couldn’t take it. I sat up, tired. For just coming off a weekend, I sure wasn’t feeling great. I grabbed my phone, and headed for the bathroom, for the scale, and for my walking gear with the dog. Oh, and for my morning Facebook check in.

And that’s when I got the news Wayne Delano had died unexpectedly.

So much of what Wayne Delano means to me can be found in this one minute clip. Allow me to elabortate.

First, listen to Wayne’s solo. Many serious Jazz players are intent on moving the art form forward. Jazz looks back, yes, but it’s never content; it is always wanting to have the boundaries pushed. Wayne Delano was that kind of player. Harmonically, he was the best midcoast Maine had to offer. His choice of notes was all about pushing, pushing, challenging, changing. Wayne wasn’t going to play a beautiful melody for the sake of nostalgia. Instead he was going to take that melody and flat the ninth and turn it inside out and shove it back in your face, flauntingly asking “How you feel about that Bub? You dig?”

Wayne was also great at pushing my boundaries. He truly made me a better player. He forced me to be. He found out I could read a bit, and so would include me when he wrote a chart. (Yes, Wayne would write his own charts, and even write his own tunes.) He would write a typical melody/chord change chart, and include the drum kicks in specific places he would want me to hit. In the clip, you’ll see I’ve got a music stand. You’d never know when Wayne would pull something out and have you play it right there on the bandstand.

I remember one Friday at work I got a call from Wayne. We would be playing this little pizza/seafood joint that evening. The Elm Street Grille had great pizza, a dedicated Friday night jazz crowd, and you played for food and almost no money. Anyway, Wayne called and said “I feel like playing “Spain” tonight.” I was all like “Oh no you aren’t.” But he did. It really didn’t go well, but he had enough faith in me to at lease give it a try. I can’t tell you how many songs I added to my repertoire through Wayne.

He’d make me play openings too. “OK, let’s play (insert some uptempo song here). Sixteen bars of drums upfront. One, two, one two three four.” And like that, it was up to me to kick the band off.

Aaron Clarke is the son of David Clarke, fellow bandmate with me in the Wayne Delano Quartet. Thanks to Aaron I have this clip I’ve shared. Aaron also said that attending a concert of Wayne’s was like “having a three hour masterclass five feet in front of you.” That’s so true. This clip shows that as well. Wayne would push me to do things I didn’t think I could do. I learned so much playing with him.

Rest in peace, God speed Wayne. I hope I’ll be seeing you again.

The Christmas Story, Another Way

Christians will sometimes say something like “You know, I’ve read this verse tons of times, and yet today it said something different to me! I’ve never thought about it that way.”

Perhaps it’s too much Linus around this time of year. Or perhaps it’s just the ol’ Baptist upbringing. The Christmas story always sounds best in the King James Version, right? I mean, who doesn’t want their Christmas story to be “Authorized”? I can tell you from memory what the angels told the shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Right? You know that verse right?

Today, in studying for teaching my high school Bible class, I read the Christmas story in Luke 2 from the New Living translation (NLT). I’ve asked the students to read the NLT as I think it’s easier for them to understand 21st century English rather than 17th century Elizabethan. The NLT renders that verse

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Luke 2:11

Just the way that translation renders the text: the Savior! the Messiah! the Lord! For some reason it carries so much more weight when written that way. It seems so more emphatic. He’s THE Christ. THE Lord. THE savior. THE messiah.

Sometimes just seeing that verse with the words moved around a little bit–still saying the same thing, just in a different order–changes the emphasis so much. I was blessed to read that verse that way this morning.

The Finish Line

The end is in sight. The final push is on. After a week’s “break” for Easter (which in realty wasn’t too much of a break, but I didn’t have any class readings), classes are back to their present realty. There are only a few weeks left in the semester, and that gravity is setting in on me. In a little over a week, my final paper for Spiritual Transformation is due. It’s supposed to be 10-15 pages. I’m going to try and crank it out this Saturday, but that’s a lot of writing for me to do in one day. I messed up this week, and should’ve started this past Saturday to give me two weeks to write. Alas, it is what it is. I’ve been a part time student now, for what, I think this is year four. I’ve not been late on anything yet, and haven’t asked for an extension from any professor, and I’m not going to start now (I don’t think).

My Bible reading this morning was in Nehemiah. As I was reading about enemies, wall building, swords and armor, I couldn’t help but think a little of the movies the family has been watching recently–The Lord of the Rings. It feels like much of the landscapes and costumes and what not could be lifted right out of the movie and placed (in my mind) in the time of Nehemiah. And then I thought “Hey, this might make a good movie! It’s got enemies, intrigue, planned battles where the secret leaks out and the battle is foiled, swords, a valiant hero, and all that stuff.” Hollywood, are you listening?

Easter Week Break

This week is supposed to be Easter week break for school. There are no assigned readings for either of my classes. That’s good. Blogging might be a touch slow, as no readings means nothing for me to reflect on.

Well, I can reflect on my Bible reading. I just finished 2nd Chronicles a few days ago, and started Ezra. One thing I’d like to come back to at some point is Hezekiah. There are two interesting things I caught in reading the account of his reign. One of them I had already picked up on in other times through the Bible, and one was new to me. In chapter 30 of 2nd Chronicles, Hezekiah celebrates the Passover. In so doing, he breaks a few of the prescribed statutes of holding the Passover. One, he does it on the “wrong” day. The Law does make an allowance for people who are unclean or traveling on the proper day of Passover to eat the meal a month later. Hezekiah celebrates the Passover on the later day. Perhaps he’s made a judgement that the entire nation is unclean, and therefore celebrating on the make-up day is permissible for everyone. 2nd Chronicles 30:18-20 describes ceremonially unclean Israelites eating the Passover, and Hezekiah intercedes for the to the Lord. So in this narrative there’s unclean people eating the Passover on the wrong (arguably) day.

Now look back a chapter. I had missed this one. In chapter 29, Hezekiah rededicates the temple from his father’s detestable worship practices. In 29:33 we see an instance where the Levites (who are dedicated to serving in the temple but who are not priests) are helping offer the sacrifices as there are too few ceremonially clean priests to get the work done. So those who are not supposed to be flaying the sacrifices to God are in fact doing just that.

I think it’s interesting that in back to back chapters of the Bible, one of the greatest kings of Israel’s history is documented as being a little fast and loose with God’s commandments. And yet the text seems to indicate God is pleased with the overall attitude of the worshipers. There’s an argument to be made that the Holy God has laid out statutes and ordinances of how He is to be worshiped. There is a reverence that needs to be in place. Yet here there seems to be some allowance, some mercy, on those who don’t get it quite right, yet their heart is in the right place. I think there’s more that can be fleshed out here. There’s some sermon work or Sunday School lesson study that I’d like to do on this passage some day.

The Wind

Yesterday morning (actually all day) was cool and drizzly and depressing here in #downtownspruceheadamerica. It was raining hard enough that I cut Deuteronomy’s walk short. Today, it wasn’t raining as hard, but the wind sure was blowing! I decided we’d take our long walk route, and walk the neighborhood and see if there was any damage or some-such exciting thing to see.

As we crested the hill in the boatyard, I could hear the wind howling through the channel from Hall’s Point out towards Slins Island. The wind was coming right through there, the trees creaking and cracking, the hardware on the lines clanging against the masts of the boats, something metallic fell over with an almost bell-like “bong.” I almost pulled out my phone in an effort to record the sound of the power of the wind. Instead, I prayed in glory to God for His awesome power, and was reminded of one of my favorite passages from Job. This section is where God–seemingly with great sarcasm–asks Job some questions. It’s a great section to read if you ever struggle with pride (as I do).

Where is the way where light dwelleth?
and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof,
and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born?
or because the number of thy days is great?
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?
or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
against the day of battle and war?
By what way is the light parted,
which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters,
or a way for the lightning of thunder;
To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is;
on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate and waste ground;
and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
Hath the rain a father?
or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Out of whose womb came the ice?
and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?

Job 38:19 and following, KJV

I Need Some Slep

For the past three days, 4:30am has come awfully early. I’ve not wanted to get out of bed. This semester I’ve been getting up extra early to get reading done. With two classes, both of which demand a lot of reading, I’ve found I really needed to “make extra time” in my day to get it all done. In the evening, I’m toast. I go to bed at 8pm. If I’m going to do any reading, it really needs to be in the morning.

Today I thought “Hey Bill, you graduate this semester! One more month and you can have some more sleep.” That sounds nice.

On the other hand, I like what school has done for my spiritual growth. The discipline of having to read and study has been good for me. I was thinking I might stay on with New England Bible College this fall, simply because it would force me to keep going, keep growing.

But I need some sleep.