Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Kunju,

Your post made me long for Pan Am. and TWA. There was a time when America was Pan Am and Pan Am was America.

Now we have American, United, Delta. And of course, Spirit, the airline that brings your spirit down as it soars into the sky. It offers you a discount if you fly, not standby, but standing.

There’s no love lost between us and them.

Before Reaganomics, Reagan Revolution and Supply Side Economics, and David Stockman’s Trickle-Down Theory, before president Ronald Reagan de-regulated the airline industry, and before Islamic terror took grip of our psyche, and when TSA used to be just 3 syllables of the English alphabet, and not a part of our airport nightmare, air travel used to be mostly carefree, rather expensive and therefore infrequent, and you used to get a seat. A real one.

Fast forward to the future: 2017.

American, that great innovator in air travel, decided that those allergy-inducing peanuts were costing, well, more than just peanuts, and substituted them with that gourmet food called pretzels in a bag (where there was more bag than pretzels) and started charging us.

Next came the bag fees.

So folks became resourceful and instead of checking the bags, started to cram an entire week’s worth of belongings into a so-called carry-on, bulging out to the sides, on board.

It just gets better from there. To recline or not to recline. This is the question. One has to crouch, worried that one is going to elbow-bump the next seat’s already out-of-sync passenger. This is the point at which you wish you had been bumped from the flight.

So the passengers are on edge. Cabin crew is over the edge and into the deep, dealing with disgruntled passengers, irate for not being helped to stick the bulging into the overhead. ‘The Crouching Travelers become Hidden Dragons’.

And now the pilots, not to feel left out and outwitted, have joined in the action.

Airlines meanwhile are looking for additional ways to squeeze out the max for the mini (profit and comfort respectively).

So they hire Harvard MBA’s (sorry, Sushila, not you!) who do extensive and years-long research, and come up with ingenious ideas such as if you shave off a foot width from each seat, you can add 40 more passengers per row.

And as if this isn’t enough, they have us go through the upper crust cabin, where the ruling class is sitting with fluffed pillows at the back, margaritas in hand, and Ralph Lauren cotton slippers on feet, throwing pitiful glances at the Proletariat, dragging their sorry suitcases down the crammed isles.

Has anybody noticed how all this brouhaha from throwing punches never happens in first class?

A recent Washington post headline read, I kid you not, ‘Much-loved giant rabbit found dead after United flight to O’Hare’. The poor rodent (of the phylum Chordata) was most likely petrified of his Homo Sapiens fellow travelers and may have died of acute shock.

This scenario is not going to bring out the best in mankind any time soon, that’s for sure.

So I suggest we should just take to the air on ‘a wing and a prayer’. And may be JetBlue.

Happy Saturday all, from rainy New England

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“It Is Finished”: John 19:30

On my own, I chose Saying Number Six.

Here’s what I arrived at.

It is a compilation of thoughts I have absorbed over the years, but a couple of lessons from Sathi Achen and KC Achen figure prominently in this particular piece.

Once again, It was an amazing experience for me as it was last year.

Gave a little. Received back a lot.

This aside, a single blog page wouldn’t be enough to cover my gratitude to these men of God and Cloth, (many more than the ones that are mentioned here), who have given me so incalculably much along my journey and formation:

Intellectual men (sorry, for now it’s only men), with advanced educations in Biochemistry, Biology, Psychology, (boy, do they ever need that! even more than scripture perhaps), and Mathematics and Literature and Accounting, Business and Information Technology, from corners far away from the dusty hills of Judea: men who sacrificed so much relinquishing lucrative careers and more, to tell the 2000-year-old story of a Judean man’s Sacrifice.

That faith alone is the proof.

please read.

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The sixth of Jesus’ sayings on the cross was: ‘It Is Finished’. That He could talk at all at that point seems miraculous.

In order for something to be ‘finished’, it has to ‘start’ first.

So when Jesus uttered, ‘it is finished’, what was it that got started?

It is, what got started with the Creation, the Paradise, the Man, the Woman. Sin. And Punishment.

and what was finished: Redemption. Of the same man and woman. From sin and punishment.

The term ‘Original Sin’ can be assigned many interpretations.

At its base, it’s forbidden sex.

At its core however, it is man willfully turning away from God. Man had everything, he walked with God daily, heck, he even had a partner he gave up his ribs for.

And yet, he risked everything and chose an alternate path.

God, in His disappointment and sadness, (as God always is: sad and disappointed when His creation turns away from Him) ‘punished’ humankind to hard labour, painful childbearing, and with the experience of death.

Some may reject the term ‘punishment’. I understand it as, one having to face the consequences of one’s actions.

But, that is not the end. It is the beginning.

Right after issuing ‘The Curse’, in His next breath, God gave us an ‘out’. He said to the crooked creature: ‘Her Offspring shall crush your head’.

The child the woman bears in pain will save the world. Great gain is achieved only through pain.

The Great Transformation from Eve to Mary is now complete.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

One disobedient and the other, in complete submission.

One that caused The Fall. The other that gave us the Redeemer by answering God’s Call.

From illicit relations, to Immaculate Conception.

In Genesis 3:15, God curses the serpent, “man shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

One of my dad’s sermons that still rings in my ears as though it happened yesterday, he exclaimed, ‘the serpent can only tug at our heels. But the offspring of the woman, ‘sthreeyude sandathi’, would crush the serpent’s head’.

Note that a male is not mentioned here. The child of a maiden.

So it was the death of sinfulness. Jesus’ victory over evil.

We get to choose love over hate. Eternal life over certain death.

We’re offered a second chance. The option of a New Life.

It’s significant to take note in context, the hour at which Jesus was executed.

According to the Gospel of Mark, just at the precise time a lamb was being slaughtered, in the Jerusalem Temple on the ninth hour of Passover for the atonement of sins of the Jews, is when the crucifixion took place.

Not just any old lamb, but a chosen male, baby lamb, a lamb without blemish. In Malayalam, it is called, ‘oonam-illatha kunjadu’.

The young, and sinless one gave it up for us.

The Law was rewritten.

A new Adam and a new Jerusalem were born.

Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer something exclusively available to just a few. It is for mankind.

All of us now belong to the Chosen Tribe. The Chosen One from the Chosen People chose us.

Built into Jewish synagogues of old, is a section called the Holy Of Holies. Only the high priest, typically a Levite, of the priestly tribe, is allowed to enter this inner sanctum.

In the other world’s great religion, its oldest really, the Hindu temples also have a similar place in their Ampalam or Mandir, called the Sree Kovil (House of God), where God resides. Only Poojaris of Brahmin descent, again of the priestly class, have access to this space.

So that is what transpired on The Cross.

When the curtain tore in the temple, that separation between man and God was overcome. now you and I can enter the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, the Sree Kovil, through that tear.

Found only in the Gospel of John, the Greek word for the saying it is finished translates into ‘tetelestai’, an accounting term that means paid in full.

Not coincidentally, ‘Kalah’ is the Hebrew word uttered by the rabbi as he sacrifices the baby lamb in the temple. ‘Kalah’ means, ‘it is finished’.

What started in Genesis 3:15 was finished in John 19:30.

The companionship that was lost in Eden is now restored. We have full communion with God. All we have to do is choose it. it’s free for the taking.

It is what is called Grace.

That final offering of atonement by the shed blood of the Lamb is what was finished.

The Back Story – 03.04.16

Our little guy is now a week old.

And in our Seattle household, ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, has morphed into just the name of an old movie.

Meanwhile, I got to musing more:

According to the Kerala Syrian Christian inheritance practices, (again to repeat myself with that word by making it sound like we’re some kind of chosen people!), Thampi, being the youngest of 2 sons of Achayan (his dad), had inherited the family house.

So if our nuclear family had been making India our home for the last half century, Mekhala being the youngest of 3 girls with no brothers, would have inherited our Pallipad house. To make it more cumbersome, prior to their marriage, David would’ve had to agree to this set-up, because this would mean he would give up the same rights from his family.

And Will being the only son of Mekhala, youngest or not, would be poised to inherit it subsequently.

So how fitting is it that Will is named after the original owners of the house, P. (Panackal) A. (Abraham) Eapen: Achayan, Will’s great grandfather, and also Achayan’s grandfather. Achayan’s name, in conformance with the custom, was naturally from his grandfather Abraham Eapen.

So Will and his great, great, great, grandfathers. That’s three ‘greats’. They Make up the substance of this story. life has turned full circle.

God answers prayers. If not always, at some point. If not now, some day when you’re not looking.

And what I would give to see Achayan’s face right now.

Achayan was an only child of his parents.

When we ended up with 6 daughters between his only 2 sons, Achayan used to say half-jokingly, that all the desperate prayers of valli-amachy (his mother) pleading with God to grant her at least one girl, were finally answered in the form of 6 girls years later, but with no boys in the mix.

I have no clue why Amachy didn’t beg for another boy, you know, as in ‘an heir and a spare’ as they say in the British Kingdom, but she wanted a daughter.

The family lore is that Amachy, who was from Thalavadi Amprayil family, once went to the Edathua ‘perunal’, which was right next door, and did a ‘nercha’, but kept it an ‘open secret’, because ‘good’ MarThomas were not permitted to participate in ‘nercha’. I think she pledged a few chicks to the palli or something.

Achayan had 2 daughters who ended up with 4 sons between them, but they didn’t ‘count’(!), as you all well know why.

I’m not certain how many of our progeny are cognizant of the fact that we come from such a methodically configured culture.

And there would be rancor if anyone tried to break the mold. And mostly no one did.

Say what you will about the apparent male chauvinism involved in all this – I’d rather call it patriarchy – but what it did also, was to create an order, at a time when we needed to keep it all together.

The second, third, and beyond, generations would undoubtedly benefit from being conscious of our past, no matter how far removed they are from it.

Past can always inform the future. For better or for worse.

So now ‘Back To The Future’:

When we had Mekhala, after having 2 girls, and Thampi’s brother having had 2 girls (then another one later), everyone including my parents were anticipating the ‘answers to all their prayers’ in the form of a boy, as an inheritor of the family name, the house, and the so-called wealth. Achayan used to call our Pallipad house Mekhala’s.

What transpired next: so Mekhala was born 11 days past her due date. When no easy phone service from the US was available back home, the whole universe – which meant the family and a whole lot of neighbors – were anxiously awaiting the news to hear if the ‘heir apparent’ had arrived.

And on February 20th, the whole village awoke to see the telegram guy bicycling towards the Kochupurackal house, and within moments, as cousin Kunjachayan’s daughter Susy was seen running away from the house in tears, and our beloved Kuttan asking helplessly ‘thampi thampuranu pinnem oru pennano?’, word spread like wildfire that ‘poor’ hapless Kochupurackal Babychayan had another girl grandbaby. Milling around the house courtyard, they sympathized as best as they could, with Achayan and Amachy. “vidhiya, babychaya, kochame – entho cheyyana”.

Valli-amachy gave away too many chicks. 🙂

By the way, all 3 of our daughters have heard this story more times they can count, so don’t feel bad about breaking this to them gently. I was also one of the souls who shed tears that February day.

Years later, would I change a thing about that girl baby or any part of experience? The answer is: emphatically no, no way on earth.

And little did anyone imagine their prayers will be answered in the form of one Will Stephen Fentin.

Call it a willful Will or God’s will.

I felt really compelled to share this as a post-script to my posting from last week.

While doing so, I was also imagining David, Mekhala, Laila, Nora and Will, living in our Pallipad house – which no longer exists, not even one brick of it.

Regardless, it was fun picturing them living next door to Pandarathil Thankachayan (a relative), Percattu Kunjumon, Krishnan, Venu, et al.

The best was visualizing Kunjipennu drawing water from the well, and Thomachen, the vegetable vendor haggling over the price of one-day-too-old achinga.

And imagine, these things didn’t happen in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient sites of the Indus Valley Civilization, it was just some 30 plus years ago, and it happened in that watery dip called Kerala’s Upper Kuttanad.

From Travancore to Seattle. From deep Southern India to the Northwestern United States. I found it hard to wrap my head around it.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me, and allowing me to reminisce. I had fun. I’m sure some of you stopped reading long ago, like at the half-way mark. 🙂

————-

And further with the movies theme, as sweet Will was taking his sweet time last week, contemplating when to come out head first to say hello! to the world, he granted ample time for Ammi to teach his big sister (all of 6 years old) how to make yogurt at home, who was fascinated it could even be done, and also to see ‘Trumbo’ and ‘The Martian’. Go see it.

Very fondly,

mercy

Romans: Chapter 8

Today is my dad’s 101st birthday. February 13, 2017.

In Vedic thinking, odd numbers are more desirable than even ones. I wrote a tribute for his 100th birthday, but the 101st calls for it in equal measure.

Some time in approximately 1958 and 1959, my father, in his ever-activist, ever-innovative mode, embarked on a mission.

He challenged the youth members of the Chepad MarThoma Church (I don’t recall if there were any age constraints as such) to memorize Paul’s Letter To The Romans: Chapter 8. (Paul as in The Apostle and the Letter is the one he wrote to the early church in Rome.) The whole chapter. ‘Roma Lekhanam, Ettam Adhyayam’, as he called it.

In return, anybody who masters this inscrutable piece of scripture would receive from him personally, the gift of a Bible that he would purchase with his own funds, from the CLS  Book Depot in Thiruvalla.

A Bible in those days cost five rupees.

If there is anything, you have to read this narrative in the context of ‘5 rupees of 1959’. Trust me when I say, it was ‘a lot of’ money. It was roughly one twentieth of my dad’s monthly salary. And this is from someone who was reluctant to buy my sister and me any fancy clothes for fear it’d spoil us from being studious. whatever.

So the contest commenced.

To the unanticipated discovery of both my parents, a staggering number of the church youth paraded to him one by one, over the course of days, weeks, or months, and walked away with this coveted Holy Book. To the point it exhausted his funds.

We have to realize that many, if not all, of them were attempting at this unique contest for the sole purpose of owning a Bible. Such was the fervor then.

At that point, instead of casually pulling out of the initiative altogether and leaving the kids feeling let down, he added a condition, that the passage had to be recited without a single mistake. He had not been strict about it prior. even that didn’t stop the eager learners. They kept coming.

Then out of mild desperation, Papaji stipulated a deadline by which the task had to be completed.

Meanwhile, I came home from the Nicholson (Boarding) School, finishing what was then called First Form (equivalent to today’s sixth standard), for what I anticipated would be my lazy days of summer, unaware of the ongoing undertaking. Amma mentioned it first with a great deal of admiration for the venture, and Papaji subsequently extended this most unwelcome challenge to me.

I had already owned a Bible, (a gift from the said parents), a leather-bound one with my full name, Mercy Mariam Oommen, engraved on the front. The School had mandated that we arrive with our own Bibles. This Bible is still proudly displayed on our coffee table.

So ownership of a new Bible would not be an incentive for me to memorize Romans 8.

For one, Papaji just simply wanted me to learn Romans 8.

Secondarily, he wanted to make certain that I could do what any of those youngsters were putting their hearts and souls into. I was barely ten.

extremely reluctant at first, even resistant, I eventually set about the task as if it’d be a piece of cake. After all, rote memorization was my forte, right?

Wrong. And wrong. It was anything but sweet.

A reader, I was. A reader of Paul’s long letters to a bunch of newly minted Christians in faraway Middle Eastern churches, I was not. Tedious in language and cryptic in meaning, this was also without any intrigue as in fairy tales. ‘Boring’ would be another word.

In English, we have countless Bible versions: The KJV, The Revised Standard, The Good News, The New International, The Children’s (wish we had those), to name some. In Malayalam, there was and is, still the One Version. Boy, was it ever a pain?! Torturous, actually.

Summer days were coming to a rapid close. The rains were beckoning from the moisture-swollen Western Ghats. Along with it, Second Form at Nicholson. and I went to papaji to recite. And suffered through the recitation with one or two errors. And was pretty proud of the feat. and even more so, was very sure nobody had done it better.

I mean, how could they possibly?

To my utter dismay, I saw my dad for the first time in my life that I can remember, being a tad disappointed in me as I had never seen him before. I made one or two mistakes. (It may have been more than just two, but hey, who’s counting?) What is the big deal, right? I don’t recall where and which ones. All I remember is my sadness in making him be not proud. I distinctly remember that part.

It came down to this. He considered me the recipient of some privileged schooling, (and I was), in a way most church kids were not. And he simply expected more. And this exercise meant so much to him.

Let me come to the point.

I don’t remember any longer a single verse from Romans 8.

Except this: the words that have stuck all these years: ‘maranathino jeevano, doothan-marko, vazhchakalko adhikarangalko, ippol-ullathino varuvan-ullathino, uyarathino azhathino, karthavaya kristhu-yeshu…’

“for I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below-there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Verses 38-39

Thus, I may go astray, I may neglect to attend church regularly, I may forget to pray twice or even once daily, I may occasionally question the Eucharist for how it has evolved over the years, and for the current form in which it is practiced (for my take, I believe what Jesus intended for us was, to sit in a semi-circle, share a meal and treat each other as family, but what do I know?), I may go visit Matha Amrithanandamayi (I have – more than once), I may go to the Sri Lakshmi Temple (been there), I may visit the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple (done that), I have trod the red tiles inside the Jama Masjid, heck, I may even go to Kashi some day and set my foot in the Ganga – something I really want to do in fact,

But nothing, none of it, will separate me from the love of Jesus Christ.

I do not know if scholars will concur on the essential meaning of these lines, nor do I presume to know what Paul Apostle had in mind. It doesn’t matter. (I’ll happily entertain any alt-theories).

And this is my wish. I hope dearly that all those youth leaguers who took heart of these much-quoted verses all those years ago, (and there were so many of them), now in the golden or diamond years of their lives, will also be reminded of the same.

And that they’ll remember my dad with fondness.

Happy Monday the Thirteenth…

mercy

Iraq And Syria

It’s a pity, nobody has called me from Washington yet to get my valuable insight on the grim happenings in Syria, which have clawed its way into a seemingly tranquil Europe.

So you guys are it: my audience.

Nothing further needs to be said about a people, who made available to us the profound ideas of equality, fraternity, and liberty: concepts rooted in a Judeo-Christian ideology.

Never mind, the French may have given up on the Christian part of it long ago, but the tenets remain, etched into the French psyche. The beautiful Notre dame, a structure we visited in 1974 with our infant daughter nisha, is sitting there very pretty and very empty.

So after the killing spree at the offices of the French cartoonists in January of this year, the French were said to be despairing over the stubborn resistance to assimilation on the part of the millions, whom they welcomed to their land, to live and to let live.

The next thing they knew, those very rights they fought a revolution over, 4 centuries ago, had become endangered, or been put on the threshold of being eliminated altogether.

The Bikini or the Burqa.

That clash of values catapulted us to what happened last week.

As we see all sorts of added and painful security measures being elevated all over Europe, and across the Atlantic, questions have arisen over how to handle the refugee migrants from a God-forsaken place called Syria.

Ironically, and aside from the rest of the story at hand, some of us call ourselves ‘Syrian Christians’. I don’t think there are any Christians left in Syria. Perhaps we should rename ourselves ‘Suriyani christhianis’. only the ‘suriyanis’ will know what to make of that term.

Anyway, instead of vilifying the governors and the presidential candidates for suggesting we put a lid on the ‘Great Migration’, I have come up with the following. I’m sure some of you are going to tell me, ‘you’re kidding, right’? and it’s ok to do that, and I am not.

Google came to my aid, and I discovered that there are roughly 350,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.

Assuming most of them possess their own sanctuaries, I propose that each of the churches adopt one refugee family each, and house them right in their sanctuaries. Giving sanctuary in a sanctuary.

If you think I’m being facetious, I am not.

In return for this, this guest family can help the churches with moderate amounts of housekeeping, until they’re on their feet, and can move onward. Kind of like W’s ‘Faith Initiative’. and it’s 340,000 more than what the president is edicting.

and on that note: what’s up with the president going abroad, and going around questioning Ted Cruz’s patriotism? isn’t it the same as when his patriotism was called into question? the Filipinos are probably confused.

All the vetting, that word we’re hearing a lot these days, (initially I thought this meant putting some water over the head of these people ), will be the responsibility of the sponsoring church. And the church will also be liable for any adverse outcomes.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I have a story to tell. Just bear with me a bit more.

Once a time long ago, I was the food co-coordinator for my church Carmel MarThoma. poor folks, they haven’t got over it yet, and have not invited me back to repeat the performance.

thanksgiving rolled around that year, and I foolishly came up with the the novel idea of us, the church folks, preparing the whole thanksgiving meal, turkey and the sides, and openly inviting the Hudson townspeople to share it with us.

I was surprised by the resistance to the proposal, on the grounds of safety mainly, and other matters. I’m not blaming anyone. I haven’t invited townsfolk to my house, ever. I’m just suggesting, we have a different approach when something directly impacts our daily lives.

It’s getting a little tiresome to be repeatedly exhorted of our Christian duty to care for the least advantaged. No argument there. It’s right there in Matthew’s Gospel. This may be arguably the most quoted Gospel verse. No problem with that either.

but is it possible, Jesus may have meant, we the individuals, you and I, take care of this? and not putting it on Caesar’s head, and be done with it?

as a fact, Jesus never exhorted Caesar to do anything.

Next point in this business of the blame game is, that of giving preference to ‘Christian’ refugees.

We can opt out of this dilemma by offering to take people over 50, with no extended families accompanying them. No religious litmus test will then be necessary. It will still be better than the ‘all or nothing’ stand.

Some of us are suffering from this malady called, The Bias of Lowered Expectations (BLE). What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Some are expected to do only the ‘least of their best’.

why don’t we expect Saudi Arabia to take in half the number of refugees, with whom they share a religion, language, and a culture, that are being sent to Europe? Why is it OK for the Saudis to stand idly by, but not for the Europeans? Isn’t caring for widows and orphans mandated in their holy book?

I wonder if Jesus said anything about double standards? WWJS(ay)?

Apostle Paul was a supremely learned Jew, a pharisee, on his way to Damascus in Syria, to kill the newly minted Christians in AD 33 or so, but lucky for us, he had an Encounter With A Good Jew and he had a change of heart. Is it unrealistic to wish that some of the ‘bad guys’ may also have that same encounter with the same Jew, if we all prayed hard enough? Or am I nutty?

Good Wednesday evening…i hope i get at least a few (dis)likes to my post.

mercy

A Tale Of Two Josephines – Shirley And Laila

friends and family,

Shirley Josephine Fentin died one week ago. she was 94.

a good Jewish woman, our David’s Grammy, lived in southern California towards the end of her long life. A woman who raised 6 children to accomplished adulthood was the quintessential Jewish mother.

Yet, this was also a Jewish mother, who welcomed her Christian daughter-in-law from a Connecticut Yankee family as one of her own.

And we’re all the better for it.

Didn’t a famous Jew long ago teach us to love our neighbours as ourselves?

I feel privileged to be related to Shirley.

She was Grammy to our Mekhala and David. But ever more sentimentally, our precious Laila was her namesake.

Our three daughters advanced into the twenty-first century, a centuries-old tradition, unique to the Syrian Christians of Kerala, of naming grandchildren after grandparents, first patriarchal and then matriarchal, in that order. All three named each of their firstborns after a paternal grandparent. I call it grand after grand.

Thus, an Italian-Irish utterly devout Roman Catholic family of new England, a Swedish-Norwegian clan from the Midwest, and a Jewish-Episcopalian family from western Massachusetts, all got inducted into the age-old practice of a people, from a faraway place and a remote culture, by having a grandchild (their oldest in the case of two of them) named after them, thus connecting races across the span of continents and time. One human race.

And we have Laila Josephine Fentin.

Any retelling is best served with anecdotes.

So here goes one.

When Laila was born on a full moon night, (I swear with a lunar luminescence), on an April day of 5 years ago, her ecstatic ‘bampi’ Fentin called his own mother, who was in Florida at the time, to announce to her the good news:

‘ma, you have another great grand-daughter. Her name is Laila Josephine.’

Grammy glanced around with some surprise and exclaimed,

why, Gary, that’s my middle name!’

To which, Gary replied,

‘ma, they named her after you.’

I obviously couldn’t see this great-Grammy’s precious expression of the moment, but I’m certain there was pure and well-deserved glee in those 89-year-old eyes.

Susan, Mekhala’s mother-like mother-in-law, always spoke of her own mother-in-law with great fondness, so I’ll paste here what she posted on that ubiquitous social medium called FB. So you don’t have to take my word for it. now we know where Susan gets it from!

“This is my mother-in-law, Shirley Fentin, who never made me feel like I was anything but the handpicked choice for her oldest son and who called me her third daughter. I’m headed out to San Diego tomorrow morning to say goodbye and praying for a peaceful transition to her next destination. Bless you Mom. I love you.”

We might say in 2015, ‘what’s the big deal about a Jew marrying an Anglo-Saxon’?

To put it into perspective, we have to only glance back to the not-so-distant past, when we ‘all’ would have myocardial infarctions (!), if or when our children married ‘white’ people. Someone removed from this culturally might similarly ask, ‘what’s the big deal’?

Our Lord God places certain special people in our lives at various stages, to show us without the aid of any holy books, that such goodness is possible.

Shirley Fentin’s final words were, according to Gary … “no tears, just smiles.”

One of God’s Chosen Folks.

I’m glad that Shirley Josephine came into my life, and that I have a Laila Josephine in my life.

Good night…

Mercy

 

 

The Kentucky Clerk And The US Constitution

The Kentucky clerk is back in the news, which is unfortunate for her and for us.

The media come up with these catch names for the characters of their stories, such as ‘Kennedy cousin’, ‘Arizona shooter’, the NY prison worker, and so on, in lieu of their real names. If i said, Kim Davis, you’ll say, Kim who? so, she’s now refusing to claim the licenses are being issued by her office, thus making it invalid or something like it.

Now, i do appreciate this woman’s Christian fervor. I really do. But it seems that she missed a pertinent part of her high school civics class. It must have been the day she was out with the flu, or else she’d have clearly known that the US constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any religious governance is subservient to that. Her church’s cannons cannot supersede what the Supremes have decided. She doesn’t have to like it, she just has to obey.

This brings me to a number of years ago, to the day i proudly appeared for the interview process, as part of my application to become a US citizen. As many, or all of you may know, there is a guide book you can study, to ace the interview. My husband had gone through the process a few years prior, but when the time came, in my know-it-all fashion :), I declared I didn’t need this book. ‘hah! I know all about US history, geography and the political process.’ He kept urging me to at least read the book once to be aware of what kind of questions will be asked. Sad to admit, I’m not typically known for my obedience 😦 , so I went to Boston’s Government Center, without so much as ever glancing at the book. Frankly, in my own defense, I expected questions of the sort, ‘who was our first president’, ‘where is the US capital’, etc.

So, this guy who was interviewing me, assessed rather early in the game, that I was being a ‘smart alec’ and proceeded to one-up me, and started asking ‘secondary’ questions to, I’m sure, trip me up.

He asked: what is the constitution?

Me: it is the law of the land.

Interviewer: what kind of law?

I was thinking to myself, (but didn’t say it out loud): is there more than one kind?

Interviewer: what is the qualifying part of it?

Me: silence. what?

I was miffed. We’re allowed one or two (max) wrong answers, and he was determined to catch me on this one. And, to his delight, I simply didn’t know. Then he ‘smart-aleced’ me back and said: you should know, it is the ‘supreme’ law of the land. He almost gave me a mischievous look that seemed to suggest that I failed. But then he found some mercy(!) deep in his inner being and let me go. He may as well not have wanted to deal with me one more time. 🙂

So for the law: the word ‘supreme’ covers it all. I had known the gist of that even before, but this episode with the astute government clerk, who didn’t want to let me off the hook that easily, cemented it for me, and it has stuck. The courts will always try to stay out of thorny situations, but if someone decided to bring a lawsuit, the rulings will have to side with the law.

Which brings me to a more current story. Recently, a Muslim woman filed a lawsuit against a budget airline, that she couldn’t and wouldn’t serve alcohol to passengers in flight, because it was against her religion. Oh, brother. An obvious option for her in this case would have been to step aside from that job, and find something else to do. But, why choose the obvious option when you can pick the more contentious one, right?

This is America after all. Home of the brave, and land of the free money. God bless America.

So, she went to court to make the airline bend policy for her. Alas for us, airlines operate on minimum staff (for better or for worse), and if one purposely won’t perform her part of the job description, what is the option they’re left with?

I then found it astonishing, that the same folks who’re unhappy with the Kentucky clerk are the ones who thought the flight attendant had a case. No harm in a little double standard. right?! Freedom to practice one’s religion. The first amendment.

I know the government is not the same as a private employer, but the emotions, that precipitate out of these polarizing situations, are the same. I’m principally opposed to the death penalty. Only a God who created us in His image has the right to take it away. But do I think the courts should make it illegal based on the pope’s exhortations? Probably not. However, the High Court’s clerks are welcome to comb through the law books to find some loophole by which the justices can put it in place. By all means, yes, and please do.

But Exodus 20:13 (Ahimsa), should not be the basis for the law. It can only, but certainly, guide our core values and our conscience.

Similarly, abortion is like adultery. bad, bad, bad. wrong, wrong, wrong. We should never commit it. But should we legislate it and make it illegal? I think not.

Hope you’re enjoying the wall-to-wall coverage of the Bishop of Rome. A twenty-first century man who resembles a first century Carpenter from Nazareth. may God go with him.

Happy Saturday… mercy