How To Avoid Getting Picked for a Jury

Last night Ann and I watched Bull, a new TV series about an expert in picking and evaluating jurors.
Interestingly enough, my friend Barbara wrote this on Facebook today.
I had jury duty today and right off the bat was sent to a courtroom. I was there most of the day and as they chose the ultimate 12 jurors and 2 alternate jurors I definitely saw a pattern. Both attorneys asked a lot of questions and the people who were very opinionated and refused to answer yes or no were the ones who were dismissed.

For example, the case involved a guy getting a DUI while on Norcos and Xanax and one of the questions was it possible to identify if a person was under the influence, most people were able to say "yes" one said "no" and several wouldn't commit to either (possibly, maybe, it depends) those people were dismissed. People who kept asking a ton of questions got dismissed too. And then there were the obvious ones who just came out and said they didn't trust cops. Very interesting experience.
Been 40 years since I was on a jury. Have you been called for jury duty lately? What was your experience?

Just Mercy

Our small group just finished reading "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" by Bryan Stevenson. It is a story about our broken criminal justice system. Here are a few excerpts from the book.
Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.
We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. I desperately wanted mercy for Jimmy Dill and would have done anything to create justice for him, but I couldn’t pretend that his struggle was disconnected from my own. The ways in which I have been hurt—and have hurt others—are different from the ways Jimmy Dill suffered and caused suffering. But our shared brokenness connected us.
We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.
There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.
The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.
The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.
Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.
This book is heartbreaking and troubling. It is an essential read for all who love mercy and desire justice.

How to Respond to Questions about Terrorists and Terrorism

Some advice from my old blogging friend Danny Sims:

I was asked, by a Christian,
"What should I do or say about terror, refugees and
all the trouble with radical Jihadism in the world today?"
That's an important question. Here are a few guiding principles:
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
  • Doing something is often better than doing nothing, especially if it is kind and helpful.
  • Saying nothing is always better than saying something unkind and hateful.
  • If many people tell you again and again what you say is unkind and hateful, it probably is.
  • You can personally stand against evil, including radical Jihadism, without returning evil with evil. 
  • The only thing that will overcome evil, in your heart, is good. And we are talking about your heart, right?
The odds are, you are not in charge of anyone's policy but your own.

Choose goodness, prayer, kindness, and helpfulness in all you say and do.

Seek justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Please pray for my friend Mike

One of the joys of blogging is the virtual relationships I have made over the years. One such friendship is with Mike Erich - the Mad Theologian. I have had so many wonderful conversations with Mike over the years about the bible and our shared faith. Today Mike posted this on the Daily Prayer blog.
Last Thursday I went in for surgery for my pancreatic cancer. I believed and prayed right up to last minute that surgery might be possible and that this could be God's way of healing me. But I found out that the cancer had spread and it would do no good to operate. What that leaves me with is either God is going to do a miracle (I believe in miracles, but I believe God does them according to His will. I have no reason to be convinced He will do so in my case), or it is my time to go home. I appreciate all past prayers and all continued prayers, and I am trusting God for His will in this situation.
Mike posted a prayer at Daily Prayer that you can pray with him. Please pray for my friend Mike.

Why I Read the Bible

In September 1975 my newly born-again wife Ellen approached me one evening asking if she could ask me a few questions. Ever since she had become a Christian the month before I had become wary of these "conversations" but in my typical New York manner I invited her to bring it on. Her first question was
"Do you believe in the Bible?"
I answered like this:
"Of course I believe in the bible ... all Episcopalians believe in the bible".
I hadn't practiced my faith in years but I wasn't going to let her get the best of me.

Ellen followed up with another question:
"Do you believe in evolution?"
I told her that all intelligent people believe in evolution - it is science!

Ellen then said something that rocked my world ... she said this:
"Then you don't believe in the Bible!"
I quickly retorted:
"Well, I don't know about that but whatever the Episcopalians believe is what I believe."
That conversation really shook me because I had never read the bible and really didn't know what it said about evolution ... or about anything else for that matter. This haunted me for months. The idea that I had been an Episcopalian for most of my life and I really didn't know what the bible said really bothered me. In April 1976 I gave my heart to Jesus and almost immediately began reading the bible. I ate it up ... it was like food for me ... and within a year had read the whole bible. My life began to change as God used the scriptures to teach me how to live.

The scripture is powerful. In Hebrews it is described this way:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The way that the Holy Spirit uses the scripture to speak to us is simply amazing. He lifts the words off the page and penetrates the deepest recesses of our hearts. I have found the Bible to be a great source of comfort in times of trial. It has been a great encourager when I have been depressed. But reading the bible is more than a quest for knowledge ... reading it has done more than informing me about it's contents ... it has introduced me to God and helped me to know Him ... to know His ways ... His love ... His mercy and compassion. Reading the bible helps us know God like nothing else can.

Presidential Checklist

My Facebook friend Duane offered up criteria for his ideal candidate. Here is his list combined with a few of my own.

The President of the United States should:
  • be a person of demonstrated high moral character;
  • support equal rights for all citizens;
  • have plans to strengthen the middle class of Americans;
  • make the path to the middle class easier for those less fortunate;
  • change our leadership role in the world from one of police officer to one of peace officer;
  • have plans to strengthen Social Security and Medicare;
  • have specific plans to make government more efficient;
  • enforce existing immigration laws and go after people who hire illegal workers;
  • appoint people to the Supreme Court who understand the constitution and are not politically biased;
  • be a leader who can bring consensus to controversial national issues.

Thanks again to Duane for the first seven on the list. Let me know what items you might add or subtract from the list.

In Remembrance

In remembrance of those who died in the terror attacks of 9/11.
And for our dear ones that we miss so much.

Woman in Gold | ★★★★★★★★★☆

I really enjoyed this movie about Maria Altmann (played by Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman who tried to reclaim family paintings that were seized by the Nazis. Sixty years after fleeing Vienna, Maria enlists the help of a lawyer (played by Ryan Reynolds) and returns to Austria to retrieve 'The Woman in Gold', a famous and valuable portrait of Maria's beloved Aunt Adele. In her quest for justice she encounters many difficulties.

The movie spoke to me on many levels. I loved the flashbacks to Maria's youth in Vienna. The images of her close knit and loving family were very moving. I enjoyed seeing her lawyers journey of change as he reconnected with his Austrian roots. The movie had strong messages of love, healing and persistence. I thought it to be an inspiring story.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★☆.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The Day I Became a Cliché

It was about 10 days ago. A Friday morning. Headed to an appointment about 12 blocks from my place. I missed the Streetcar. I decided to walk. A few blocks from my destination I tripped, fell and landed on the edge of a raised manhole cover. I remember feeling my head bounce off the sidewalk. My first thought was good, I do not have a concussion. My second realization was that I was in a lot of pain. Shockingly, I had fallen and could not get up.

I heard the voice of a stranger. "Are you okay? Can I help?" I told my Good Samaritan that I needed help. He took hold of me, got me to my feet and led me to a place that I could sit. Before I knew it, Patrick, one of our pastors, came and brought me to the Emergency Room where my son met us. I sat in the ER for a long time before they found the cause of my intense pain. I had suffered a few pelvic fractures when I fell.

In thinking back over the past week or so I am very thankful for all of the ways that I have been helped. I have sensed God with me from that first day when the Samaritan picked me up, Patrick brought me to the ER and my son stayed with me all day. I was grateful when a good friend stayed with Ann that first night and when my sister-in-law stayed the second night. My stay at the hospital was filled his presence as nurses, aides, technicians and doctors helped me begin to heal.

I am beginning to be able to get out of the wheelchair and use the walker more. Healing seems to be happening and strength seems to be returning. I am thankful for this. Also very appreciative of the food that has been delivered and the care that has been shown to me by so many friends. In reflection, the "I've Fallen" cliché is probably more accurately stated a "I fallen but I will get up with the help of others". And perhaps it is a lesson we all need to hear. ツ

Mother Teresa | Amazing Quotes from an Amazing Saint

Today this amazing woman became Saint Teresa of Calcutta. As a person who believes that every Christian is a saint, I was so happy to see this beautiful follower of Jesus honored by Pope Francis.

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."

"We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."

"There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread."

"The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it."

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."

"Peace begins with a smile."

"Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus."

"Love is repaid by love alone!"

"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand."

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

"Intense love does not measure, it just gives."

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

-first posted March 10, 2007

The Lobster | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Thanks to my good friend Scott for writing this great movie review.

The Lobster is to 2016 what the Grand Budapest Hotel was to 2014. While not quite as good, it was just as unique and quirky, yet in totally unrelated ways. The Lobster is a dark dramedy about a society in which single people are a scourge to society. Those that find themselves single for any stretch of time are forced to reside in a resort for 45 days, whereby at the end of those 45 days, if they are still single, they are transformed into an animal of their choice. The protagonist of the story, played strongly by Colin Farrell, is a single man that arrives at the resort to find his match or become an animal, which he elects to become a lobster if he is unsuccessful. The whole scenario at the resort is played out in total deadpan. It includes skits conducted by the staff on the dangers of being single so as to motivate the guests to enter into a relationship. Other quirky elements of this universe include daily hunts where the guests shoot single people that live in the woods with tranquilizers so as to turn them into animals (not of their choice). For each single person you bag, you get a one day extension on your time. All this happens with a degree of seriousness and it is so well thought through that you almost believe such a society could exist.

After our protagonist tries an extreme measure to find a match, he is busted out of the resort to now dwell among the single forest people. The great twist here is that you would think he would find freedom with this new single society. Instead, he finds a whole different set of rigid and quirky rules. A sample of those rules include no kissing or touching longer than a certain time period. Kissing is punishable by tongue mutilation. At no time does anyone ever question why society is the way it is, for both the greater society or forest people. The plot never questions this fact and it makes the story work well. As a viewer, you aren’t cheering for a revolt or a societal change, instead, you are just following the character’s lives as they navigate what is.

The second half of the story with the forest people is a love story. It takes living in a society that punishes togetherness for Colin Farrell to find his love interest, played by Rachel Weisz. How they manage to grow a relationship within the confines of these rules and the ever watchful eye of their ruler is ingenious and engaging. You want to see how they pull it off. No matter what set back they face, and there are some extreme ones, no matter how the rules impact them, they choose love. On a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

What not to say to a Person in a Wheelchair

Thought I would repost this as I have been in a wheelchair since I fell and fractured my pelvis a week ago.

From Tiffany Carlson at the Mobility Resource ...
Spend a week or a decade in a wheelchair, chances are you’ll be asked some pretty crazy things. And I get why –people are uncomfortable around things that are different, especially wheelchairs. ... If you don’t want to make a fool of yourself the next time you’re around a wheelchair-user, read on for the top ten things to never dare say or ask to a wheelchair-user.
  1. Slow down there. You might get a speeding ticket.
  2. What happened to you?
  3. How fast does that thing go?
  4. Do you know so and so in a wheelchair too?
  5. Is your significant other also in a wheelchair?
  6. I’d rather die than be disabled.
  7. You’re good looking for being in a wheelchair.
  8. Good for you.
  9. Can I ask you a personal question?
  10. Hey speed racer. Can you pop a wheelie?
If only more people remembered we are still human with normal functioning brains (I know, hard to believe), then a list like this wouldn’t be so necessary.
Read the rationale behind Tiffany's list here.

-originally post September 30, 2013

The Equalizer | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I recently recorded this 2014 movie and watched it yesterday. Denzel Washington plays a terrific tough guy. He is great in this flick about a man with a mysterious past who comes out of retirement to take down a bunch of Russian Mob bad guys. The plot drew me in and kept me interested.

I like action flicks and this one definitely checked off that box for me. Even so, it did remind me that justice often looks more like payback and revenge for many people. That said, I liked the way that Denzel's character was painted as flawed by his past and was trying to do better.

Overall, I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★☆☆☆.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

While We're Here We Should Dance!

I love the sentiment of the saying in this image. It speaks to me of our need to enjoy life even when it is hard and difficult. Last year was a difficult one for me.. my first year of retirement and dealing with the death of a few of my dreams. Early in the year Susan Boyle made famous "I Dreamed a Dream".. her rendition of it still moves me.. I can so resonate with this last stanza:
    I had a dream my life would be
    So different from this hell I'm living
    So different now from what it seemed
    Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
I think that there is a mourning period when we realize that our dream has died and life is different than the one we imagined.. like most grief it is a healthy phase as long as it is not prolonged. Maybe it is just the onset of 2010 but, on a personal level, I feel that I am ready to dance the dance of life again. In celebration of that I give you these notable sayings:
Without music, life would be a mistake.... I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance. -Nietzsche

In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet. -Alice Abrams

Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world. -Voltaire

Work like you don't need the money, love like your heart has never been broken,
and dance like no one is watching. -Aurora Greenway
I don't know about you but I want to remember 2010 as the year I began to dance again!

... first posted January, 2010