Dixie Darr

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

Just Like Billy Pilgrim

In music on August 17, 2017 at 5:56 am

My mother used to complain about my dad playing a radio station with big band music. It confused her, she said. She’d forget where and when she was. She liked country music, especially Lefty Frizzell, and I still have a few of her 78 records, so she wasn’t exactly up-to-date, either.

My own musical tastes formed in the 60s and haven’t changed much since 1975. After that, I just didn’t have the interest in keeping up no matter how hip I wanted to prove I was. Predictably, I prefer the Beatles to anyone else, followed closely by Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder. When I ask Alexa the Echo Dot to play music for me, it’s usually 60s soft rock, although my current favorite song is Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.”

Where music is concerned I think we’re all a little unstuck in time, just like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim. I’m reminded of the old Rod McKuen poem that starts “I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back.” Play Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and it transports me to 1969 when I still wear bell bottom jeans and walk to the Mayan theater on Broadway to watch Easy Rider and The Wild Bunch. Not at the same time. That would be WAY too intense.

Of course, I think our music was (is!) the best music ever. My nieces, who came of age in the 80s, think Michael Jackson reigns. Don’t we all prefer the music of our youth?

I was delighted to learn that Beatles music has made a comeback (although it never went away) in the children’s TV show, Beat Bugs. I know a five-year-old who loves what he calls “Beat Bugs songs.” Kid has good taste.

When I’m in a nursing home with all the other old hippies, we’ll sing along to “Hey Jude” and “Still Crazy After All These Years” and “Isn’t She Lovely.”

The hard rockers will have to live in a different wing.

Both Sides Now

In Learning, Resistance, Prejudice on August 16, 2017 at 5:55 am

So it’s come to this, an American president defending Nazis, calling them fine people. We tried to warn you. It was obvious this man was unhinged, undisciplined, unfit, but you refused to listen. “He speaks his mind and says what he thinks,” you said. Now you know what he thinks. Now we all know.

If you still support him, we know what you think, too.

He thinks both sides are equally at fault for the violence in Charlottesville. One side came with torches in the night, shields and weapons and Nazi slogans in the day. The other side said, No. They are not equal. White supremacy is evil. Nazis are evil. The KKK is evil. You can’t side with them and pretend to be Christian, or a good person, or an American. This is over. Whose side are you on?

You thought he would shake things up, and he has certainly done that. His ignorance and recklessness will destroy us as a country if we let him continue; he has already destroyed our reputation and leadership role with the rest of the world.

What we need now is a show of true patriotism and courage from both sides of congress. We need you to admit that this can’t go on. We need you to Stand up for your country and take him down.

We need both sides to work together.

Both Sides.

Now.

The History Train

In Learning, Prejudice, Resistance on August 15, 2017 at 7:31 am

We’ve had a busy few days since Charlottesville, and the fallout continues. Some have called it a breaking point when America can no longer deny what our racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant, lying so-called president has wrought. I sure hope they’re right. It would be nice to think we have finally turned the corner on this dark period.
Meanwhile, this happened:
Forty-eight hours after the violence Trump finally said “racism is evil” and denounced neo-Nazis and the KKK in a statement considered weak and cowardly in the mainstream media and celebrated by white supremacists.
Three CEOs have resigned from the White House manufacturing council in protest of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence.
TIKI Brand, the company responsible for creating tiki torches, issued a statement separating themselves from the neo-Nazis who used their products at the rally.
The mayor of Lexington KY announced plans to remove two confederate statues from the courthouse.
Officials in several states, including Florida and Maryland have also called for the removal of confederate statues.
Protesters in Durham NC didn’t wait for official action. Chanting “No KKK no fascist USA,” they pulled down a statue of a confederate soldier.
Social media sites are working to identify participants in the Charlottesville rally. So far, one man lost his job, another was disowned by his family, and a third may be expelled from college.
Those who beat up Deandre Harris have been identified and police are searching and will arrest them.
The man who drove his car into a crowd killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others is in jail without bond.
Go Daddy canceled the domain name for a white supremacist website. When they registered the site with Google, that company also canceled it.
Texas A&M canceled a white supremacist rally scheduled for 9/11.
And so it continues.
In 1971, Paul Simon wrote Peace Like a River, containing these words, “Misinformation followed us like a plague” and “You can’t outrun the history train” that seem curiously prophetic today.
I know I’d like some peace like a river, even if only for a day or two.

A Little Light

In Church, Learning, Prejudice on August 14, 2017 at 6:19 am

A Little Light
What can I say in 300 words about the white supremacists in Charlottesville and everywhere else, including the White House? I despise you more than words can express and I hope you die an agonizing death–soon–and spend eternity writhing in hell. That just about sums it up in only 43 words. Not very Christian, I’m afraid.

I spent Saturday weepy, clicking through channels and scrolling through Facebook to find information about Charlottesville. The news stations focused on Trump’s threats of war against North Korea and Venezuela and ignored the white supremacists threatening us here in America.

Later, after the man in the White House gave his mealy-mouthed response to the violence in Virginia and refused to call out domestic terrorists, I saw a meme that said, “Not many presidents could make threatening nuclear war the second worst thing he did in a week.”

Sunday morning couldn’t come soon enough. Our movie this week was Wonder Woman and I was afraid Pastor Brad would say something about how we had to love even the terrorists. I knew I couldn’t do that.

Instead, he used Diana Prince’s words, “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat.”

He talked about light defeating darkness and was surprised to get choked up talking about Wonder Woman. I was weepy again through the whole sermon as were several other people. When it gets posted on the website, I’ll let you know. I need to listen to it again.

We closed the service by singing This Little Light of Mine, just like the stalwart clergy in Charlottesville. That will be my lasting impression of Saturday’s events. Not the Nazi slogans or the killer ramming his car into a crowd of protesters. When I think of Charlottesville, I’ll think of the line of clergy of all denominations and races and ages, male and female, locking arms to surround the forces of evil and singing This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine.
I’ll give the last word to Hillary Clinton, “If this is not who we are as Americans, let’s prove it.”

I’m with her.

I Am Not Your Friend

In Learning on August 11, 2017 at 5:50 am

To Trump HQ:
I don’t know how you got my email address, but I assure you I did not subscribe to your list as your message indicated, and I am not your friend.
However, since you said my input is critical, here are my answers to your questions.
Q1 Do you believe President Trump is working hard to fulfill the promises he made to the American people?
A1 That’s a tough one. I cannot conceive of the words Trump and working hard in the same sentence unless by working hard you mean watching Fox News, tweeting, and playing golf. I believe he’s doing everything he can to dismantle our democracy because he seems to see himself as a dictator.
Q2 Do you believe obstructionist liberals in Congress are purposely trying to sabotage the President’s agenda?
A2 I believe anybody with a working brain in Congress or out is trying to sabotage his agenda and thank God for that.
Q3 Do you trust the Fake News Media to accurately report on President Trump’s accomplishments?
A3 If by Fake News Media you mean Fox News, Breitbart, The National Enquirer, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and the new Trump-sponsored Real News, then, no, I absolute trust nothing they say about his so-called accomplishments. If you mean the mainstream media which relies on journalistic ethics and principles, such as having reliable sources, then, yes, I believe what they report.
You said, “Together, we’re DRAINING THE SWAMP and getting things done in Washington, even though liberals are trying to obstruct us at every turn.” You’re half right. I’d really like an explanation of how you’re “draining the swamp.”
If the man in the White House really wants to make America great again, he should resign immediately before he blows us all to kingdom come.
Please let me know if you need more guidance.
You’re welcome.

Not That Kind of Woman

In Church, Learning, women on August 10, 2017 at 6:33 am

Biblical womanhood is not for me.
Let’s just start there. First, women in the bible pretty much have to be married. Been there. Done that. As God is my witness, that won’t happen again.
As an unmarried woman, I would probably have to move in with my brother, who is way too smart to allow that. If necessary, he would take me in, I think, but with some justifiable reluctance. I can be a handful. I’m opinionated, outspoken, and hypercritical, and I really don’t like being around other people very much. Plus, I have a temper and a cat, and he’s allergic to both.
As I write this, I am halfway through A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Like A. J. Jacobs in The Year of Living Biblically, Evans set out to spend a year living as the Bible instructs women to live. She combed the Bible looking for every passage related to women’s behavior. Not surprisingly, she found some paradoxes and contradictions.
“So what I have found is that any time you think you have found a sort of blueprint or standard for biblical womanhood, a woman in scripture comes along and is praised for breaking it.” Hmmm. I could probably go for that “breaking it” business.
She decided to focus on a different virtue each month—gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace. She also developed a “Biblical Woman’s Ten Commandments,” but she lost me on the first one, “thou shalt submit to thy husband’s will in all things.” If you’ve ever wondered why I’m not married, that would pretty much sum it up.
Much of the book referred to the Proverbs 31 woman, a person I had never heard of, but who seems to embody the ideal Biblical woman for many evangelical Christians. Evans quickly discovered that the verses “perpetuating a three-thousand-year-old inferiority complex” among Christian women are used by Jewish husbands to honor their wives. So there are two sides to that story.
Some other things I refuse to do: grow my hair, wear skirts, cover my head, and keep my mouth shut in church (or anywhere else).
I will, however, dress modestly, bake bread, and praise women of valor, especially that last one.
Evans concluded that “the Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood.” As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” including those in the Bible.
Thank God for that.

Homeward Bound

In Church, Denver, Home on August 9, 2017 at 6:48 am

“Daddy, everyone should have a place to live,” said five-year-old Joey.

When we started talking about homelessness, we quickly realized what a huge and overwhelming topic it is. In the Denver metro area, more than 6,000 people are unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. Efforts to solve the problem run into ignorance and misconceptions.

A 2015 report from The Denver Foundation, found that 64% of homeless people are families with children, not single men. They are more likely to stay with friends or live in their cars than on the street while working or looking for work and trying to save enough to cover the ever-increasing rent and deposit requirements for housing.

The family living in my church’s studio apartment have a typical story. Both the husband and wife were working and, with their sons, living a good life in New Mexico. Within one month both lost their jobs. It seemed as if we blinked and found ourselves struggling to stay above water,” the wife said.

They came to Denver to find work and spent the last of their savings waiting for the new job to begin. They found help through Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps families with shelter and support services.

The wife’s favorite thing about living in the church apartment is being able to do normal things like clean dishes, cook meals, watch TV, and be together as a family. She also enjoys spending time alone with her husband after they put their sons to sleep.

Soon, they will move into permanent housing and their lives can really get back to normal.

They are among the lucky ones.

As T.S. Eliot said, “Home is where you start from.” Without a home, you’re untethered.

The Denver Foundation survey revealed that homelessness is much more common than many believe. One in ten respondents had once been homeless themselves, and one in five had come close. Many of us are only one crisis away. What would you do? What would you miss?

Our extraordinarily low unemployment rate (2.1%) helps, but housing costs continue to rise. We’re a long way from Joey’s vision that “everyone should have a place to live.”

Meanwhile, we’ll keep working in our own little corners to do what we can to help one or two or ten people and take some comfort in knowing we made a difference to them. We’re trying, Joey.

Make (Me) Believe

In Books, Church, Learning, spirituality on August 8, 2017 at 6:37 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was talking to a couple of the young men in our congregation about our beliefs. Greg said, “I believe Jesus died for our sins.” The other man agreed, and I said, “I don’t believe that.” Frankly, I don’t even know what it means.
Greg looked shocked and said, “You HAVE to believe that.”
I said, “The reason I like this church is that nobody gets to tell me what I have to believe.”
Fourteen or so years later, I’m still here, but Greg left not too long after our conversation. I don’t imagine that had anything to do with his leaving, but I do imagine he found a church where he could tell people what they have to believe.
It all goes back to the Bible. I’ve never been much of a Bible reader. I don’t know if it’s the small print, the tissue thin pages, or the archaic language (and, yes, I know there are versions available that correct all those “defects.”) Shortly after I started going to church I bought The Children’s Illustrated Bible thinking I might actually read that, but no. Somehow I never managed to read more than a few of the stories in that book.
Call me a secular Christian. I accept the Bible as part of my cultural heritage while not considering it factual.
A book I did read was A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Ten years ago when it first came out, I thought it was hilarious, showing how futile and frustrating a quest it was.
I just reread it and still find it very funny. I enjoyed his discovering the near impossibility of not mixing fabrics as well as his difficulty in locating an adulterer to stone. He carried pebbles in his pocket just in case he found one. (He did and the man threw the pebbles at him.) He also had to try many tactics to avoid lusting after women in his heart before finally hitting on one that worked: thinking of them as his mother.
Nevertheless, some of the rules had a positive effect on his life. For example, when he stopped cursing, he became calmer, not so angry. Wearing white made him feel light and happy.
He ended the year still an agnostic, but observing that “the Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may have had a messy and complicated birth, one filled with political agendas and outdated ideas, but that doesn’t mean the Bible can’t be beautiful and sacred.”
That I can believe.

Featured Films – Bonus

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2017 at 10:01 am


My initial reaction to Moana was that, remarkably, no one in the movie thought anything about her being a girl setting out on a hero’s quest. No one made a disparaging comment that she was “just a girl” or suggested that she might not be up to the task because of her gender. To me, that’s a kind of miracle.
Nor did our pastor mention it.
It has not escaped my notice that all four of the movies in our sermon series this year star women. That can’t be a coincidence. A new USC study shows that “women remain strikingly underrepresented in film, both on- and off-screen. And when they show up, they are still portrayed in stereotypical ways.”
I’ve written before (Venus Envy) that the men in my church treat women as equals, as if it makes no difference.
I just want to say that their attitude and support makes a difference to me and I deeply appreciate it.

Featured Films

In Church, Learning on August 7, 2017 at 6:08 am


We started our summer movie sermon series about ten years ago. A nice break from our usual service, they teach us that we can learn valuable lessons even from pop culture.
This week’s movie was Moana, and we will also feature Wonder Woman, A Monster Calls, and The Wizard of Oz. In the forty or so movies we’ve seen, I have never once guessed correctly how the pastor will interpret them. Since I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz roughly 45 times, it should be interesting to hear what perspective we get on this much-loved classic.
Moana tells the story of an 8-year-old Polynesian girl destined to become her island village’s chief. She feels a strong pull to the ocean despite her father ordering her to stay away from the sea and stay safe. Her grandmother, who calls herself the village crazy lady, has other ideas. She encourages Moana to fulfill her destiny by setting sail to break an ancient curse and save her island.
On her journey, Moana encounters obstacles and dangers, but wavers in her quest only once.
Our lesson from Pastor Brad was, “When everything falls apart is one of the best times for us to answer the question, “Who am I?” When things fall apart, all the pretense, all the expectations, all the things that aren’t really us, that’s when they fall away.”
We’ve all been tested in crucibles of our own. Philosophers from Nietzsche to Kelly Clarkson have assured us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
The hard part is understanding that our voyage is never over. We have to, in the words of Nat King Cole, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.
Unlike in the movie, one voyage doesn’t a voyager make.
And each journey reveals more and more clearly who we are.