Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Advent Devotions Blog … Anyone Feeling Like Writing?

(not so much an Editorial License blog post as a guide to writing for Sudbury UMC’s first-ever Advent Devotions Blog, which is up and running and NEEDING WRITERS QUICK! You don’t even need to be a congregation member!) (<*pleading grin*>

ADVENT DEVOTIONAL WRITING 2020
“THE MEMORIES, THE HOPE, THE JOURNEY, THE GIFTS”

For many years, our collections of devotions during the Lenten season have been that much more meaningful for having been written by members of our own congregation.
This year, we’re gathering Advent Devotions in online form, posting one each day throughout Advent.
These Devotions will be inspired by writing prompts aligning with the four sections of Amy-Jill Levine’s book, Light of the World, which will be the basis for SUMC’s Advent-season discussion activity.


Frequently Asked Questions!…

WHEN IS MY DEVOTION DUE ?
As soon as possible, at this point!

WHAT SHOULD I WRITE ?
Choose one of the “writing prompts” from later on this document; see how you respond to it.
If you like, include a Bible verse which perhaps inspired you, or helps amplify your response. To avoid copyright violations, DO NOT include passages from other publications.

WHAT IF I CHOOSE THE SAME WRITING PROMPT AS SOMEONE ELSE?
No problem. We have benefited from having more than one perspective!

WHAT IF I’VE WRITTEN SOMETHING NOT BASED ON THESE PROMPTS?
(Please note: as always, publication is at the discretion of the editor. But it’s often been great!

HOW MUCH SHOULD I WRITE ?
No minimum length … and approximately one 8.5 x 11″ page is a reasonable maximum.

IN WHAT FORM SHOULD I SUBMIT MY DEVOTION?
Electronic document (e.g. MS Word document, text file) or hard copy (typed or handwritten).

HOW SHOULD I SUBMIT MY DEVOTION ?
By eMail (text within the eMail, or attached document): rhammerton@earthlink.net.

MAY I CHOOSE A SPECIFIC DATE FOR MY DEVOTION TO BE PUBLISHED?
Yes, and we’ll do our best to accommodate requests. (We’d like to publish Devotions in or near the week their chosen writing prompt is associated thematically, but we can be flexible.)

IF THIS WILL BE AN “ADVENT BLOG” … DO I NEED BLOGGING EXPERIENCE?
No! You provide the words … we’ll take care of the formatting and other tech wizardry!


Feel free to contact me (Rob) with any other questions you may have! eMail: rhammerton@earthlink.net.

Thanks for helping launch this NEW tradition! Looking forward to seeing how the Spirit moves us all!

ADVENT DEVOTIONAL WRITING PROMPTS

Week of NOVEMBER 29 – DECEMBER 5: “The Meaning of Memory”

• Think of an especially memorable Christmas gift that you’ve received. Why was it so special?

• Think of a favorite Advent/Christmas decoration in your home.
What does it look like? What’s it made from? Where did it come from? How long have you had it? Why is it a favorite? Why is it special to you?

• Recall a time when Advent or Christmas seemed more difficult than joyous.

• Think of a time when you spent Christmas away from home …
Where did you go? Who was with you? Were you with family, or not?
How did you feel? How did you celebrate? How was it different from home?

Week of DECEMBER 6 – 12: “The Promise of Potential”

• How do you feel when you sing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve?

• What is the moment when you feel as if “the Christmas season has really begun now”…?

• Do you have a favorite Advent- or Christmas-themed book? What brought that book to you?

• Think of a favorite Advent or Christmas hymn? What makes it special? The text? The music? Something else? • Do you feel like it’s better to be a child or an adult at Christmastime? Why is that?

Week of DECEMBER 13-19: “The Journey to Joy”

• Recall a time when you shared Christmas with someone who didn’t have anyone else with whom to share it.

• Recall an Advent/Christmas season when a particular person became a Christmas gift for you. How did they do that? Or did they even know they were doing that?

• Recall a time when someone was determined to make amends with you during Advent or Christmas. Or … a time when you were determined to make amends.

• Imagine that you were given the opportunity to choose a gift that would be given to every child in the world (with no limits on expenditure). What gift would you choose? Why is that?

Week of DECEMBER 20-25: “The Gifts of the Gentiles”

• If you could invent a new tradition for Advent and/or Christmas, what would you choose?
What kind of tradition would it be? (e.g.: solemn or superstitious? educational or quirky?)
What would the tradition involve? (e.g.: a ritual, an object, decorations, clothing, food, music, games.) How widespread would it be? (Your family/friends, your city, your country, an imaginary country?) Who would it involve? What roles would they play? … What would be the meaning behind it?

• A new twist on the old question, “How was your life different this Advent than it was last year at Advent?”: Are there ways in which you might make this Christmas season just as celebratory as any other? …
… even in the midst of a pandemic that is threatening to increase in intensity again?

• Finish this sentence in one or more ways: “This Christmas I hope …”

December 13, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Once More, For the People In the Back

I saw a Facebook post yesterday by someone called Tom Simons. The post said some basically sensible things about this year’s general election. But among those things were some thoughts expressed in a way that BUGGED THE HECK OUT OF ME. Including:

“It is clear that tomorrow will be a turning point in history. I must say that, whatever the outcome may be, I am truly concerned with how polarized we have become as a nation.”

“Regardless of the eventual winner, I am convinced that we will experience a grotesque display of anger, resentment, and vitriol from those who support the losing candidates.”

“We all believe that we are pursuing what is right and good for the future of our country. Quite frankly, we are all right and we are all also wrong. It is a very rare problem that does not have multiple, equally valid solutions.”

“It is our responsibility to bring our thoughts and opinions to the table in a constructive way and to value and consider everyones’ opinions, whether we share them or not.”

“I implore you all to rise above the childish, destructive, and divisive behavior that has somehow become the accepted norm and pollutes my social media feeds every day.”

As much as I wish for universal love and overwhelming mutual respect … hey, I’m a Star Trek fan from way back … these expressions are nothing but Both-Siderism.

Oh, says the Both-Siderist, both Sides are equally awful.

While it’s true that no human is comprehensively, universally good and right, and no human is comprehensively bad and evil … and while it’s true that no candidate is perfect … and while it’s true that in order to function as a political party (e.g. raise money to advertise their platforms and beliefs so as to continue to be elected and be able to influence government and society), every political party is forced to operate in ways that sometimes aren’t pure as the driven snow. At least until “Citizens United” is overturned, and even then, it’ll be a while before we’re living in Gene Roddenberry’s Trek utopia.

So at least in this way, I’m a frustrated realist.

But, my friends, in this particular general election, and over the past four years and then some, “both Sides” — these particular two Sides — are not equally bad.

One of the Sides HASN’T put kids in cages and then just abandoned any pretense of eventually getting them back to their parents.

One of the Sides HASN’T tried to loot the Treasury.

One of the Sides HASN’T torched our friendships with our traditional allies all over the world.

One of the Sides HASN’T revelled in cries of “lock her/him/them up” when thinking of its political adversaries.

One of the Sides HASN’T abandoned the American citizenry to the ravages of a highly contagious virus.

One of the Sides HASN’T played fast and loose with what we adorably think of as “institutional norms”.

One of the Sides HASN’T trafficked in sheer embarrassing incompetence.

One of the Sides HASN’T tried everything possible … from the crippling of the Post Office to the planting of fake ballot collection dropboxes to the desperate last-minute court fights about legitimate means of voting … to keep as many citizens as possible from voting – particularly people of color, people of economic disadvantage, people of The Other Side From Them.

One of the Sides is objectively, obviously, seriously worse than the other.

Worse at governing; worse at caring for the people it claims to represent.

Worse at recognizing that every human is a human; and worse at recognizing that the lives of certain specific segments of our population do in fact specifically matter (largely because American governing policies have very often made it seem like, no, they really didn’t; and we have a responsibility to at least acknowledge this).

You probably know which Side I think I’m talking about.

I already voted for the Side I think is in fact better. I dropped my ballot envelope in the dropbox outside City Hall, the very first moment I was able.

I hope you’ve voted, or that you will today. It’s noble and fair to hope you voted for whichever Side you believe is better. It is, I think, understandable that I hope you voted for the Side that I voted for.

Selfishly (and not), all I can do is hope that enough of us will have voted for the Side that I think will take better care of our country and our world, going forward, that we will actually see better days ahead.

Either way, we have work to do. It will soon come time to do that work. And I’m enthusiastic about doing that work after my chosen Side prevails – or, if it doesn’t prevail, about continuing to defend our country from the sociopathic pirates who have already spent four years (and then some) caring only about themselves and not about anybody else – especially not the people who don’t look or think or worship or love like they do.

But I find myself not quite so interested in doing that work while trying to compromise or find middle ground with people who are enthusiastically part of the Side who did a TON to put us in the tight spot we’re in.

Because while I happen to fit into a demographic which (I have only half-joked) will be among the last groups that they “come for” … nonetheless, I do know and respect and love plenty of people whose lives have been – and stand to continue to be – harmed by the policies and beliefs of the current Occupant of the Oval Office and his cronies and his enablers and his sycophants and his cult following.

So I have work to do, in support of my friends and my colleagues, and, I believe, in support of my country.

Yes. Don’t wish ill on anyone. Hope for the best. Work for the good. Peace and long life.

But be smart about it, in this way at least:

Somebody has to be held accountable for all this — the cruelty, the damage, the sometimes unquestionable evil.

There have to be consequences. And those consequences have to be more than just a slap on the wrist, a cluck of the tongue, and a concerned, Susan-Collins-esque frown.

As Paula Poundstone once quipped, “If we give them the answers, how will they learn?”

Once more, for the people in the back:

In this moment, both Sides are not equally bad.

One of the Sides doesn’t do sociopathic, insane, cruel stuff.

And one of the Sides needs to be handed a lesson it will never forget.

Enough of the craziness.

Vote.

Not just for a presidential candidate, but for candidates in all the “down-ballot” races, all the way down to dog-catcher.

Vote.

Take a deep breath.

Let it out.

And then get ready to hold their feet to the fire.

Get ready to make good trouble.

November 3, 2020 Posted by | civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Numb

[Ed. Note: This post was written hours before it was revealed that Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19. Today, I have changed exactly zero words that I myself had written yesterday.]

Last week, presidential candidate Joe Biden made a speech, as the American death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus was hitting 200,000 people. He said:

“What worries me now is we’ve been living with this pandemic for so long, I worry we’re risking becoming numb to the toll that it’s taken on us … We can’t let that happen.”

Who’s this “we”, kemo sabe?

Sorry. I certainly don’t mean to yell at Vice President Biden. Heaven knows he got enough of that, earlier this week.

But, no: far from being numb to all this … for all practical purposes, I can’t get away from thinking about it.

On the macro level, I worry for the country, the world, and the people in it, thanks to the criminal incompetence of our national government’s willful-ignorance-laden response to COVID. We’re staring down the barrel of economic conditions not seen in this part of the world for 90 years; and not too long from now a quarter-million Americans will be dead – and so many more affected by lingering COVID side effects for the rest of their lives, and how will our health-care systems cope with that?

On the micro level, I remain as vigilant now as I was in March about my health and that of the people I care about. I remain concerned about finding full-time work again but remain unenthusiastic about having a job that requires me to work in enclosed spaces … and what does that mean for, ya know, income? I got a mortgage and a car loan, y’all.

I remain as concerned as ever about my family, friends and former colleagues in the education world who are being cast into actual public-health danger by school committees and public officials who insist that schools must open because the local Chamber of Commerce says the economy is more important than public health. Or that’s what it sounds like to me. Money uber alles.

I remain worried about people whose jobs are deemed essential and so have no choice but to go out into a COVID-laden world because they’re in no economic position not to work those jobs.

And I remain worried about people whose careers are in danger or in tatters or gone, because they work in sectors considered by economic policy-setters as non-essential – indeed, unimportant to the real functioning of the country and the world. Ya know … unnecessary fields like the arts.

I’m not numb. No indeed. Hell no.

I’m sick to death of the whole thing; but I’m not numb.

My biggest issue is with the people who appear to feel like it’s okay for them to go back to normal and behave as if nothing untoward were still happening. As if they don’t give a rat’s backside about anyone but themselves and their wants.

Yes. You are reading one of the very few unabashed whines of my life.

It’s not FAAAAAIR.

Well? It’s not.

We appear to live in a society that is incapable of working together en masse to solve a problem like this. So, those of us who do feel like following the rules … ya know, us *rule-followers*, the kind who were no fun in school … are having our lives and livelihoods put on hold for yet longer than is necessary.

And this is so, thanks to people who want to: [] party with strangers and without masks, [] go to high school football games even while their associated schools are teaching remotely, [] go to political rallies with no masks and no elbow room and lots of breath-filled shouting. Scientific research be damned.

I’m sorry if I’m going to lose friends with this post, but … this is where I am. Pissed off.

Yesterday was my 200th day in COVID-driven physical isolation and out-of-work (apart from my church gig, which represents a few bucks and one morning per week in the masked physical presence of congregation members; and my twice-weekly early-AM mall-parking-lot-walks). Twenty-seven weeks -plus. Six months and then some.

I can easily anticipate at least two hundred more days.

I don’t even have any pre-existing conditions, no co-morbidities. I’m not a senior citizen. General health-wise, I’m in a pretty good place.

But my head is not.

Turns out, I didn’t have to articulate my feelings about this. Four people on Twitter recently have done it for me.

So these are my thoughts; just articulated better by others:

Chelsea M. Cameron on Twitter: “I just… keep seeing people social eating at restaurants, traveling, doing whatever and I’m sitting in my apartment like I’ve hallucinated a pandemic.”

Legoshoes on Twitter: “Aspects of our COVID exhaustion are due to the reality that any of us are carrying the weight of others’ irresponsibility. Many go about their lives, unencumbered with any feeling of social responsibility, then feel justified in their carelessness, at least partially protected by the herculean efforts of others. Not only are we carefully navigating a context foreign to us, sacrificially bearing a collective burden, we have to watch those efforts devalued by those who then pretend their carelessness is justified.”

Matt Pearce (national correspondent, Los Angeles Times) on Twitter: “The pandemic in the U.S. has had a free-rider problem, in which we have a bunch of people (me) who have given up seeing friends and family for months in an effort to help delay the pace of infection for other people who want to hug various senators and White House officials.”

Incognito Dorito on Twitter: “About once a week, I get mad and frustrated. I’m not effin PMSing, I’m not drunk, I’m not menopausal ffs. I’m annoyed. I’ve been self isolating since March 17th. I’m listening to experts. I’m going to be in this position so much longer and it’s maddening. I’m not the only one tired of this. There are a lot of us. Feeling like we’re being treated as if we don’t matter. They are out there acting childish and selfish and we’re just trying to stay the course and be responsible.”

Again, sorry if I’ve lost you. I’m just done with all this.

But I can’t be done with this … because a bunch of other fellow Americans want to be done with this, and so they ARE done with this, and they therefore act like they don’t give a damn about the health or safety of anybody else but themselves.

Sorry.

I can promise Vice President Biden:

I’m not numb.

I’m cranky.

Very cranky.

But not numb.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | current events, news, social media, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment