Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gloom Can Last A Very Long Time

As I was preparing to go to Fort Worth, Texas, last week to conduct the wedding ceremony of a long time friend I decided to download a new book onto my Kindle. I've always been a little bit intrigued by the assassination of President Kennedy. I was 8 years old and in the 3rd grade when it happened. I remember it clearly. And so it wasn't unusual that I would purchase a newly published book, "The Kennedy Detail." This book chronicles the tragedy from the perspective of the Secret Service detail that was assigned to protect the President in Dallas. These agents have remained quiet for 47 years. They have finally come forward with their story. Due to their ever advancing age they realized that the world needed to hear from them before they were gone.

So I settled into the flight from St. Louis to Love Field in Dallas and began skimming the book. I found myself fast-fowarding to the part that describes the presidents last night on the planet. He and his wife, Jackie, spent the night at the "Hotel Texas" in downtown Forth Worth. That intrigued me because downtown Forth Worth was where we would be staying. Our address would be the Hilton Hotel for the next two nights.

We arrived in Dallas, got our luggage, rented a car, and drove into Fort Worth. The hotel check-in process went smoothly and in minutes we found ourselves in room 434. I stowed the luggage and took a break to check the place out. In the restroom I found a framed print of the building we were in. On the bottom of the print was a engraved brass plaque that read, "This hotel is the former "Hotel Texas." This is the location where President and Mrs. Kennedy spent the night before giving a speech and leaving in the motorcade that would forever cost our country its innocence."

Whoa. This is the place. I had just read about the Secret Service Agents walking its hallways. Riding its elevators. Trying to catch a quick nap while rotating guard duty on the 8th floor. Hearing the Presidents New England accent through the door as he chatted with his wife for what would prove to be the final time. It felt ... strange. Not ghostly. Not haunted. But certainly historic. It made me want to find someway to reverse everything and shout at whoever would listen, "Don't go! It will mean the end of Camelot!" And there was a certain overwhelming hint of sadness. I can't say that I liked it.

We left the hotel for an evening at our friends house in suburban Burleson. After enjoying time with the families and a wonderful meal we returned to downtown and left our rental car with the valet parking guy. As we entered the lobby we were greeted by the concierge. He quickly asked us how our evening was and if we needed anything. I couldn't help myself. I asked him what he knew about the history of the hotel. How much had it changed since the fateful night of November 21, 1963? He walked us through the lobby, pointing out that, while most things had stayed the same, it had pretty much been made-over to look much like it did on that night. He told us that suite 850, the Kennedy Suite, no longer existed. The management realized that it would be a place of morbid curiosity and so they expanded suites 349 and 851 to occupy the space that once house 850. (I actually walked the hallway and the number 850 did not exist.) And he asked us if we would like a tour of the current Presidential Suite. Well, duh. YES WE WOULD!

I have to tell you, it was pretty cool. And it was certainly big. The walls were covered in Kennedy photographs and paintings and all sorts of things that are dedicated to his memory. Huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The bathrooms are the size of my home bedroom. And, honestly, I could not sleep in that place if I tried. It felt more like a museum or a library than a hotel suite. 15 foot ceilings, huge thick drapes, marble floors, not exactly places where I like to kick my shoes off, lay on the floor, and watch a football game. Not to worry though. I'm not really considering spending the $2,500 per night that the room costs to rent!

All in all it was a very interesting experience. However, I felt that it was difficult to sleep there. The sense of history overwhelmed my sense of sleepiness. And it takes a lot for that to happen.

A slice of history. Another time in that same place held some amazing moments. There is really no good way to wrap up this little article. It is obvious how it ended. Not well. Not well at all. 47 years is a long time. But evidently it is not long enough to erase the sadness held in a building that never expected to be historic. Occasionally gloom can last a very long time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I Wish I Liked Christmas As Much As I Like Christ

Can I be brutally honest? I mean, this is my blog. You get to read it for free. So I guess I can say what I want to say. Perhaps I'm feeling a little "post-holiday cranky." I've had 3 different viruses in the last 4 days (though number 3 might be an allergy. Who can ever tell about these things?) So watch out.

I warned ya...

Christmas is not my favorite time of the year. I know, I sound like a pagan or a communist or something for saying that. I've spent 55 years denying it but it's time to 'fess up. Let me make a few things very clear first.

A) I love Jesus. Actually, I love the whole Trinity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. And I totally do not mean to be flippant or disrespectful in my phraseology. I am not merely a Jesus fan ... He is my Savior. I owe Him everything. He is my best friend. I would rather spend time alone with Him than anyone. I take joy in worshipping Him. So my lack of passion for Christmas is not a lack of passion for the birthday Boy. Not even close.

B) I love the church. She is the Bride of Christ. I am a part of her. I do not disrespect her, feel cynical about her, or in anyway mean to trash talk her. Never trash talk Jesus bride. That would, I suspect, be a very dangerous thing to do.

C) I love my family and my friends. Both my local family and my long-distance family. I would do anything for them. My local friends and my long-distance friends. Again, they are on my short list of things (people) I would die for. So I don't mean any of this as a slam against them. For that matter, I don't mean it as a slam against anybody.

So now that we have that out of the way, here we go.

The Christmas season sometimes leaves me cold. It is all of the usual things that people complain about when they analyze Christmas and it is more. Crass commercialism? Yes, of course. I detest the way that the media insists on a day by day dissection of whether or not we are going to spend as much money on each other as we did last year. How despicable is that? While Santa reigns in center court of every mall, Jesus sits outside somewhere beyond the parking lot. And we do not even try to hide it. "We" being the church. We fall for the same thing pagan's fall for. The only possible difference is that we spend our money in "Christian" bookstores ... of course they are owned by conglomerates that have nothing to do with anything remotely Christian. On the other hand I am well aware that I should not expect anything better out of the world. I mean, at least we are giving each other gifts. We are generally not killing each other. We are, for once, being nice and thinking of people other than ourselves. So I suppose that there is a plus side. It's just a smaller plus side than I would like.

I confess to being bugged by eight foot tall glowing Santa's. Mine is only four feet tall. I suppose my problem must lie in the additional four feet?

And then there is "The Little Drummer Boy." Have you ever really listened to that song? It's about some guy playing a drum solo for baby Jesus and getting a smile in return. Isn't that just a little bit goofy? There are twenty-one "rum pum pum pum's." This lyrical masterpiece has one hundred and sixty eight words. Ninety eight of those words are either pa, rum, or pum. That leaves seventy words for substance and story line. Do I really need to say more?

Fudge. I love fudge. Vanilla is my favorite but nobody makes it so I settle for chocolate. It is usually polluted by nuts of some sort. All nuts are evil so it doesn't really matter. I suck the fudge off of them and spit them out. Why do people only make fudge at Christmas? Have you ever seen fudge at an Independence Day celebration? Memorial Day? Have you ever seen green fudge on St. Patricks day? Face it, if it is not Christmas your only hope for getting fudge is to go to some tourist spot and pay $7.99 per pound. Not even fudge is worth $7.99 per pound. Carrot Cake is another evil thing that seems to dominate Christmas. People ... vegetables do not belong in cake. Ever. Make a note of it.

Now that I am fifty five years old the gifts that I receive at Christmas tend to be designed to encourage me to do things that will not hurt me. You know. Things that point me to my favorite easy chair rather than participation in a wild eyed sporting event or even a minor league work-out. I suppose that I should make that concession to Christmas. I can't get hurt watching a dvd in my new sweater. Well, I can. But only if I fall out of my chair.

And here is the real problem. Who has the time during December to really sit down and contemplate what Christmas means? Can you honestly say that at any time during the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas day you are able to simply reflect on the magnitude of what this holiday means? I'm not really all that bugged by the shopping and the culinary gorging and such. I'm just irritated that the entire season slips by and I feel so pressured to "do the Christmas thing" that I never connect with Christ Himself. And you know who's fault that is? Mine. You don't run my schedule. Nobody runs my schedule but me. So it's my fault. Not yours. Certainly not God's. The gavel crashes down on nobody but yours truly.

I could go on but what's the point? I am always more tired when Christmas is over than I was when it began. I just wish that we (the church) could find some way to love Jesus out loud without having to fake it. And that is what Christmas so often seems to be. Faking it. Convincing ourselves that we are really loving and caring and self-sacrificing when maybe it's just not so. I think that it would be really cool if, for instance, someone would just forget about the fudge and instead call up a friend and just say, "How are you doing? Tell me the truth. What is on the front burner of your brain these days? Let me in on it so that I can pray for you or simply encourage you. Because I care and I don't need to spend a penny to prove it." How refreshing that would be!

Ok, enough. This is probably a really bummer/detestable little article.. I apologize if I drug you down with my thoughts. That was not my goal. Honest. But every now and then I have to just say, "Hey, this is MY blog spot and so I'm just going to write what is on my mind." And that is all that this has been. It's what is on my mind. It may or may not be close to the truth. It may or may not apply to you, the reader. I haven't a clue. It's just where my brain is. I'll probably wake up at about 3AM, burp, and be over it. So sleep tight and puh-lease don't let these mini-ranting make a dent in your tomorrow.

God is good. He can take it when I'm feeling less than exhilarted. I hope you can too. Let's worship Jesus in January even more than we did in December ...