Category: Humor

“Christian” as adjective

“Christian” is a daunting adjective, as in Christian pastor, Christian church or Christian nation. I’m hesitant to claim it for myself or my group. It’s better, though still a daunting challenge, if others apply it to me or my group.

When this adjective is a label worn too lightly, too quickly or too proudly, it demeans a great tradition. To misuse, or thoughtlessly claim, this adjective for self or group, or to wear it while attacking someone else is profanity–meaningless talk about God.

One Sunday, my district superintendent attended our worship service unexpectedly. A choir member said, “The DS is here. Does that scare you?” I said, “No. But it keeps me on my toes to believe God is listening here every Sunday.”

This 1995 quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (sent from my friend Ernie) and a 2022 blog post by Diana Butler Bass, “Christian Nationalism Everywhere?” reinforce my reluctance to use Christian as an adjective, as in “Christian nation.”

ноги глины

I try to give people of faith the benefit of the doubt, as I try to give people of doubt the benefit of faith. I don’t speak Russian. Context and nuance do not always translate, so I try to be doubly slow to criticize other-tongued faith leaders. Patience is warranted since we all have “feet of clay” (ноги глины in Russian). However …

Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyaev, aka Patriarch Kirill of Moscow is widely known as a supporter of Vladimir Putin. This allegiance itself puts the Patriarch’s judgment in a bad light and (in my opinion) degrades the witness of his office. I, and all “people of the cloth” have erred in our allegiances. We all live in glass houses. Still …

The herder Amos reminds all who speak of, or for, faith not to profane what we seek to proclaim. I fear Kirill has moved from profanity (meaningless talk about God) to prostitution, equating participation in Russian military aggression with grace, the central theme of Christianity. He’s charging a high price for a free gift.

See Russian soldiers who die in battle will be absolved of their sins, Patriarch says and Dying for your country brings you to heaven, says Russian Patriarch. Sometimes the best response to bad theology is good humor and an honest look at one’s feet:

Waiting for good news

For St. Nicholas Day: As we drove to an Advent worship service, she marveled at the brilliant colors of the trees. When she took off her sunglasses, she realized that without them the tree colors were less vibrant. Later, inside the sanctuary, she said, “I don’t like those blue candles.” I said, “Put on your sunglasses. They’ll look purple.”

The lens through which we view the world does make a difference. My first word was “lights” at Christmas when I was a year old. Lighted trees are mystical–putting me in a reflective mood. When I rub Friar by the tree, both of us are calmed. In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we saw countless dogs and cats fleeing with their humans. I wondered about those people and critters as they wait for news of peace.

Some friends and family wait for news of healing. Some are displaced by layoffs, darkened by damaged power grids, confused by changes in their faith communities, frightened by random acts of violence. Uncertainty abounds. And so we wait. From Reddit comes this light-hearted video clip of how waiting works at doggie day camp.

All the teams are above average

Thursday, the two Mississippi teams in the Southeastern Conference met for the annual “Egg Bowl,” which determines who holds the egg-shaped trophy for the ensuing year. Both teams emerged with 8-4 records, so both will go to post-season bowl games.

Yesterday, Arkansas and Missouri met for their “Battle Line Rivalry.” Arkansas joined the SEC in 1991 after 76 years in the Southwest Conference. Mizzou joined the SEC in 2011 after 104 years in what eventually became the Big Eight Conference.

Arkansas and Missouri didn’t see much of each other until Missouri joined the SEC. They played against each other in football twice in the 20th Century (1906, 1944). They met in two bowl games (2003, 2008). Their first SEC match was in 2014.

Last night, I looked up the meaning of the “Battle Line Rivalry.” Arkansas and Missouri share a long state line, which (like Tennessee and Kentucky) coincides with the old boundary between the US and the Confederacy.

Yesterday, Mizzou won 29-27, so both teams finished the year with 6-6 records. Both teams are bowl eligible this year. Like Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, in the SEC, all the football teams are above average.

Maybe one day the trophy for the Tiger-Razorback winner will be redesigned as an “Olive Branch” trophy to remind us that the Civil War is over. Hey, if Missouri can be in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference, anything is possible!

From “Battle Line Rivalry Trophy Unveiled For Annual Mizzou-Arkansas Games,”, November 23, 2015

For the Birds

This post is for the Birds of Corbin, Kentucky. Sarah Elizabeth Bird (1871-1964) was my great-grandmother. When I was about 12 or 13 she and I crossed paths at the home of her son (my grandfather). She was very petite. All I remember from the conversation was her saying, “I saw them pour water on your head.” As one of the liturgies says, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”

As a child, visiting Tennessee and Kentucky family, I heard stories about cousin Calvin Bird. I saw some graffiti (on a railroad overpass, I think) that memorialized a rare 1959 football win over Tennessee as “Bird 20, Tennessee 6.” I thought of that on Saturday when UK fell 44-6 to a resurgent UT. Four Bird brothers played at UK: Jerry (1935-2017), Calvin (1938-2013), Billy (1940-1975), Rodger (1943-2020),

Oddly, the most famous bird from Corbin is Harland Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken. (No relation.)

From a Mountain Sports Hall of Fame Facebook post about the four Bird brothers

Kellams Bridge

If you find yourself in a late-life crisis and think you’d like to criss-cross the continent towing a camper, I’m available for a pro-bono reality therapy consultation. We’re compiling a travel journal of things to do (or not do) next time. In Pennsylvania we learned to consult Siri but not depend on Siri for directions.

The Australian Siri, Karen Jacobsen

We learned this valuable lesson In northern Pennsylvania, specifically 41.8234° N, 75.1138° W, on Kellams Bridge Road, which spans the Delaware River that separates the Keystone State from New York. We programmed the map app to avoid Interstate Highways. Sometimes, Siri interpreted this as desiring to be a Daniel Boone trail-blazer. We were directed to Kellams Bridge Road. The road was narrow, winding, not entirely paved, with tree limbs dangling from power lines and nowhere to turn around. After more than a few minutes of amazement, concern and (finally) self-doubt, we came face-to-face with…


Kellams Bridge, one-lane, 384-feet long, was originally built in 1890 and updated in 1936. The 8’0″ clearance sign was troubling. Our camper is 7’8″ high. We inched along and made it past the beam on the Pennsylvania side. As we approached the Empire State side, we saw an immediate steep incline and a railroad track. In retrospect, it may not be as steep as I remember and the track may not be as close as I remember, but I envisioned the camper getting stuck with the car sitting on the railroad track.

The Delaware River is scenic. Kellams Bridge was (literally) breath-taking. Whew!

Pal’s Sudden Service

A recent trip took us through northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia, where we encountered several Pal’s Sudden Service restaurants. Like a dog so ugly that it’s cute, Pal’s architecture is … distinctive and … memorable. They have a very small window budget and my first impression was that robin egg paint (actually cyan) must have been on sale.

Pal’s is a private company founded in Kingsport, Tennessee in 1956 by Fred “Pal” Barger. Our first sighting was in Abingdon, Virginia. Had we performed timely due diligence, we would have visited one of their establishments. To paraphrase the Passover ritual, “Next year in Johnson City.” My first (and erroneous) impression was “This is a new restaurant aiming for a retro vibe.” I was skeptical.

I was wrong. Pal’s has been in business 66 years with 30 locations (as of 2020). The giant food icons were added to the buildings in 1985. The distinctive color is an unforgettable marketing asset. But, the company is about substance, not gimmicks. In 2001, Pal’s was the first restaurant to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

From the website of Pal’s Sudden Service


Sallie McFague (introduced yesterday) drew from the lives of the saints to build a basis for a life of restraint. Ancient people had plenty of built-in restraints, moderns not so much. Discipline and voluntary restraint have been out of vogue for, well, at least a century (see photo below).

In what is close to a thesis statement for her book, Blessed Are the Consumers, McFague wrote that restraint, the one thing needed now, is both a gift from the religions and a challenge to them. It could be considered a “coming home” for the religions as well as their greatest contribution to the economic/ecological crisis facing us.

Much of what claims to be conservative thought, faith or politics is too outlandish for an old respectable word. Sometimes conservatives are used by truly radical leaders. I think a better word for conservative today is restraint. Restraint is needed across the political spectrum. Restraint is a first cousin to respect.

June 30, 1922. “Washington policeman Bill Norton measuring the distance between knee and suit at the Tidal Basin bathing beach after Col. Sherrill, Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, issued an order that suits not be over six inches above the knee.” From Shorp


Sometimes it helps to talk. Naming a fear is the first step. I have Room Rater Anxiety. Room rating started during the COVID Pandemic, made famous by Claude Taylor. He’s the Room Rater. He rates rooms, the backgrounds people choose for a TV interview or for a Zoom meeting.

The pandemic made almost everything virtual, so we began seeing inside people’s homes. Room decor is a way to display one’s latest book, or fresh flowers or one’s pound cake de jour, as in Claire McCaskill’s kitchen. I live in fear that my mug shot may one day get Claude Taylor’s attention.

Taylor rates rooms from 0 to 10, which he posts on Twitter. He gives suggestions for how to improve one’s score. I fear being rated. There, I said it. I feel so Zero. I’m still traumatized by someone’s crooked picture I saw this week in her room, and by the widespread criticism of Mar-a-Lago’s carpet.

Shiver me timbers!

From Wartburg to Strunk

We plan to join some camper friends later this year at Strunk, Kentucky, named for the post office that opened in 1892 on Strunk’s Lane. (George W. Strunk owned a local coal mine.) Today the post office is on Strunk Highway (old US 27). To get there from the east or west, you’re on your own. From the north, go to Somerset, Kentucky, then south on US Highway 27.

Strunk is north of Wartburg, Tennessee, founded in the 1840s by a land speculator who formed the East Tennessee Colonization Company with the intent to establish a series of German colonies in the Cumberlands. The area was marketed to Swiss and German immigrants to the US during tough economic times in Europe. The town of Wartburg is named for Germany’s Wartburg Castle.

The Big South Fork National Recreation Area is between Strunk and Wartburg, on 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau. The Frozen Head State Park is near Wartburg and War Pigs BBQ, across from the Courthouse. I’ve begun due diligence on other destinations, including the B-4 Town Mini Mart Grill & Deli near Strunk. It helps to get out occasionally, to get a fresh perspective on the day’s news.

From Big South Fork Hiking, National Park Service