¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Why is 5/5 important to Mexico?

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Be sure to enjoy the day that most think is the Mexican Independence Day. Yet, today actually commemorates a decisive battle in the Franco-Mexican War. The battle took place in the city of Puebla de Los Angeles between French forces and a small number of Mexican troops in 1862.

The Mexican troops were outnumbered 6,000 to 2,000 but were able to outlast the French force and eventually cause their retreat. This sent shockwaves throughout Europe as well as in the United States even though Mexico’s northern neighbor was itself embroiled in the Civil War.

Although a victory in the battle of Puebla, the Franco-Mexican War lasted until 1867 as neither side had enough allied support. After the Civil War ended in the United States, they were able to financially support Mexico in their ousting of French proxy governors. Puebla would be later renamed to Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of the Mexican General who had led the victory.

Today the celebration has become a celebration for Mexican-Americans and in the town of Puebla but hardly any other locations in Mexico. The majority of Mexicans celebrate their day of Independence on Sept. 16 which was accomplished 50 years prior to the Battle of Puebla.

Mexican-Americans celebrate this day to honor their heritage and commemorate the Mexican defeat of French forces. Given that the day is close to American Independence Day and Memorial Day, the day lends itself to borrowing some of the same trappings of those holidays while adding Mexican flair.

So, if you want to have a Margarita, a Mexican beer, nachos, or tacos go right ahead. It’s a day to celebrate and probably we need some day to celebrate in light of all the craziness going on around us. Think of the day you’re commemorating like the Battle of Ft. McHenry in the War of 1812 that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner.

What’s your go to Mexican dish?

Poetry Wednesday 98

Take a “Day for our Nourishing Mother” on this Poetry Wednesday

“Day for Our Nourishing Mother”

Our mother who art the earth that nourishes us by producing varied & beneficial plants

Waiting for your trees to shelter and shade us from the sun’s burning glance

You can only wash yourself clean when it’s raining, and we hear your thunder

So sad, many have become bored with you, don’t care if you go under

 

Now think of all the years you tried to find someone to protect you

We know something can and should happen, we recognize it on April twenty-two

Earth Day, not your birthday but at least time to remember you look wonderful today

Sad that we might miss how your ocean is lashing and oil ruins its spray

 

It’s time for us to stay home, you’ve got an aching head, so we put away our car keys

Oh, I know we’ve done some damage, I know you gave early warning

Muddy water, torn up ozone filter, and diseases, now it’s ourselves we are harming

Feeling too hot, too cold, your temperature tantrums all so we could live lives of ease

Talking about us, we got nothing else to do, let’s be our best selves—it’s a fair trade

Everywhere around the world, they’re coming around to clean up the mess we made

© Ryan Stroud 2020

Holy Week Devotion 5-CLEAN

Are you practicing clean living?

Read: John 13:5-17

Learn: Before Jesus celebrated Communion with His disciples, He followed a ritual that was necessary before eating and the Passover. When people in the ancient Mediterranean world walked in what we might call flip flops they got a lot of dust and dirt on their feet. What we see as a practical step, especially as we’ve been reminded even more lately that we should wash our hands, it was also a reminder of a need inwardly to be cleansed. Jews had received instructions in the Torah that before celebrating the Sabbath they had to be clean in their hearts and their lives. So, they were to wash their hands and wash their feet. The disciples were prepared to have their feet washed from the dirt of the day, but it was expected to be done by a servant of the household. They certainly didn’t expect Jesus, their friend and teacher to do it. Jesus tells them He will wash them because being a leader means being willing to serve. That seems counter to our ears and our culture. It was probably more counter and jarring to Jesus’s disciples. Jesus helps the disciples be prepared for the Sabbath meal of Passover knowing what is to happen later that night and the next day. Yet, he cares enough for them to serve and demonstrate his compassion for them.

Reflect:

  • What does it mean to live a clean life? Does it mean to wash our hands and bodies Does it mean we follow the clean-eating diet plan? Does it mean we consider what is clean for our spirits and our minds?
  • How do we clean or wash the things in our minds and spirits?
  • We are to keep our minds and spirits clean from the things of the world. We know we are supposed to wash our hands to keep them from harmful germs, but the other invisible things are a little harder to wash away. Baptism is a way to remind us of the need to be washed in our lives. While Baptism is a ritual washing with water, it is the Holy Spirit that cleanses us and makes us the people we are called to be. The Holy Spirit prepares us to be the servants of Jesus in this world by changing our hearts and minds.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for Baptism that we might receive the Holy Spirit who cleanses our hearts and minds that we be your servants. May we remember that you served as a mentor and teacher, may we find ways to serve as a means of expressing your love. We pray for those who may lack access to clean water. May those who demonstrate your love in service bless them with water filtration systems. We thank you that your blood has made us cleaner than snow. It’s in your name we pray. Amen.

Holy Week Meditation 4-REMEMBER

How do you remember things?

Read: Luke 22:14-20

Learn: Do you remember your first crush? Do you remember what street you lived on when you were 7 years old? Do you remember who your 4th grade teacher was? We are encouraged to remember important information so we can recall it at appropriate times whether it’s our address, phone number, or passwords. To help us remember our passwords when we forget them, websites ask us to remember other information and answer those questions before they will send us the new password. Jesus tells the Disciples they should remember Him when he has returned to the father. The word he uses for remember is a word that means sounds like a word we use when someone has memory loss—Amnesia. Jesus gives them a way to not suffer from amnesia when He leaves. Usually television shows or films help those suffering from amnesia with suffering another shock to the system that’s of equal or greater magnitude. Of course, that’s not exactly scientifically how to resolve amnesia, but Hollywood finds creative means to but a bow on a story.

Reflect:

  • Do you struggle with memory issues? If we’re all honest, we all need help with memory and that’s why we read books to help, we take supplements, or we follow courses that help us improve our memories.
  • Communion or the Lord’s Supper is a way to help us remember that Jesus’s body was punished, and his blood was shed for our sins that God might forgive them. It’s also more than just a memory object, when we receive the elements something in our minds and our spirits is activated that we feel the presence and forgiveness of God in the midst of the ceremony whether we can explain it well.

Pray: Jesus, we thank you for the gift of Communion that we might remember You and what your sacrifice means for us. We thank you that you are present in some way in the meal that we can’t always explain, and that’s okay. As we consider things about memory, we pray for those struggling with memory loss such as Alzheimer’s. Bless them in their illness and bless the caregivers who help them. Help us to remember you and what you have done for us, what you are doing for us, and what you will do for us. For it’s in Your name we pray. Amen.

Holy Week Meditation 3-DELIVER

What can you deliver?

Read: Luke 22:1-6

Learn: As we progress in the Holy Week narrative, the religious leaders look for a way to catch Jesus so they might punish him. They enlist Judas who arranges a way to betray Jesus so he can bring him to the leaders. This word betray comes from a word meaning to give, and means to give over something, deliver, or surrender. While we may have been relying on delivery during this season of restaurants being closed, this isn’t that kind of delivery. Even the giving over or surrendering sound palatable. Yet most of the NT usage means permitting someone or something to be given to something unhelpful or unhealthy.

Reflect: 

  • If people don’t follow the guidelines of social distancing, are they delivering the disease to others? Of course, we don’t want to deliver sickness, so we practice safe habits recommended by medical experts.
  • At other times, we sure don’t like delivering bad news. We are to deliver Good News to those who are hurting. So, may we in this season deliver the love of Jesus to those who are hurting and need it most.

Pray: Jesus, we thank you for delivering us the Good News of your salvation. Help us to deliver that Good News to others, who may be hurting not just in this season but in all times. We pray for those delivering mail and food at this time as they may be exposed. Keep them safe and encouraged by all they come in contact with. We pray your name Jesus. Amen.

Holy Week Meditation 2-WHO

Who are you?

Read: Luke 20:1-8

Learn: Anybody who’s spent time learning about journalism is taught to ask the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? For the religious leaders, they might sound like they are fans of Keith Moon, Pete Townsend, or Roger Daltrey. They are focused on the Who.  They ask only one question of Jesus—Who are you? They want to know who he thinks he is who has given him authority to teach. He hasn’t spent years studying the Scriptures, He hasn’t spent time having conversation with religious teachers and yet He teaches with authority. Eventually, Jesus asks the leaders who is the authority that makes John’s baptism acceptable. They answer with a response too many of us avoid—I don’t know. So, Jesus says then he doesn’t have to tell them who He is or who gives him authority. He will later warn his audience to beware of these religious teachers for being hypocrites and dangerous people at the conclusion of this chapter. As Jesus continues to visit the temple, the tension builds correspondingly between He and the religious leaders.

Reflect:

  • Who are we? We know who we are in our families. We know who we are at our jobs.
  • Who we are in Christ is more important.
  • We are given instruction of Jesus in the Bible and we are given instruction about God from the Holy Spirit in addition to the Scripture. For those of us who paid attention in Methodist Sunday School classes, we can also learn from tradition, experience, and logic. Through all these authorities that instruct us we can hope to help others find knowledge and love from God.

Pray: Jesus, we know who you are and where your authority is from. We know who we are in You is the most important part of our identity. We pray for those who are not always seen or recognized and struggle to fit in. We know that they are known and loved by You. Thank you for loving us when we may have been outside the will of the Father and saving us. We pray in your name. Amen.

Holy Week Meditation 1-OUT

What’s in and what’s out?

Read: Luke 19:45-48

Learn: Today, I’m wearing this shirt that isn’t always in my rotation—a Chicago Cubs jersey that honors Ryne Sandberg. Whether you know it or not I’m a huge baseball fan. Baseball of course is different than most any other sports. There’s no time clock to run out when you have a lead, there’s only dimensions for the infield, and the managers/coaches wear the same outfits as the players. If you watch enough games you’ll notice that the game pace is a little longer than other sports which is why it’s more of a game for fans of a certain age. Now anyone who’s watched even little league baseball knows that the offense scores when they can come home without the defense throwing them out. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is coming to His Father’s house, the Temple and he gets upset that it has become a commercial affair rather than a worship space and he begins driving out the commercial vendors. The word driving can also mean casting out or throwing out. So, Jesus is like Willie Mays or Vlad Guerrero defending Home plate by throwing out the offensive commercial vendor. But this encounter will become a point of contention with the religious leaders that will result in a showdown later that week.

Reflect:

  • What can we cast out or throw away in our lives that is not pleasing or offensive to God in this Lenten season?
  • How can we guard the Home plate of our Temple which is our hearts to remain holy beyond just the Lenten Easter season?

Pray: Jesus, we thank you that you challenge the ways of false worship and help us to cast out anything that does not please you. Give us strength that we can guard our hearts each and every day. For it’s in Your name we pray. Amen.

© Ryan Stroud 2020

Current Event Friday #92

A day to celebrate groundhogs is apparently dangerous to groundhogs

February is upon us and with it, Spring will soon be approaching. Many will turn to rodent meteorologists this weekend, but not everybody is looking forward to that. Why one group is denouncing the practice of Groundhog Day is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 131st celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (Associated Press)
Punxsutawney Phil, being shown to the crowd by his handler from the Groundhog Club on Groundhog Day

As every February 2 comes and goes, if the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this weekend in the small Pennsylvania town, he will retreat, and winter will continue for six weeks. If Phil does not see his shadow, spring will be here soon. Maybe not the most scientific system since we’ve basically agreed that March 21/22 is the vernal equinox regardless maybe Groundhog Day is a strange practice. The folks at PETA tweeted about the practice and believe it’s not only odd but it’s dangerous for Phil.

PETA argues that Phil’s artificial habitat for 364 days out of the year doesn’t provide him with true environments to be a groundhog. Not only that, being picked up, shown to crowds, and photographed like a Hollywood celeb is scary and unnerving for Phil.

As a possible solution, PETA has suggested using a robot groundhog that could predict the weather thanks to artificial intelligence. Using this animatronic groundhog, PETA argues would still celebrate groundhogs and drive tourists to Punxsutawney, PA for the celebration. The Groundhog Club president Bill Deeley responded to PETA’s suggestions that people want to see Phil, a living, breathing, actual groundhog and not some robot.

Frankly, I’m surprised PETA hasn’t made this push before. It’s not a recently created event, so they’ve had decades to protest the celebration and suggest a different approach. Maybe, the advances in robotics would have prevented that until now but can’t imagine that PETA really cares whether there’s a robot or not. Like many others, looking at a calendar and doing some quick math is a lot more realistic than watching a groundhog see its shadow.

Although, I may not celebrate Groundhog Day like those in Punxsutawney or other locations celebrating the day, I’m not going to be a jerk about it. PETA like many other ‘woke’ or PC organizations and groups have become unbearable and lacking nuance in their arguments, appealing to emotional manipulations and insults rather than discussion. So, instead I’ll just treat Groundhog Day like any other obscure holiday and live it like any regular Sunday in the year.

Should Groundhog Day celebrations include a robot groundhog instead of a living one?

History Monday #87

History is made with the first celebration of a federal holiday

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! enjoy the paid federal holiday that you have today. As it is a significant holiday, it’s worth discussing it in today’s #HistoryMonday that was first celebrated as a federal holiday on this date.

Image result for martin luther king jr

On this day in 1986, the holiday was first celebrated as a federal holiday after being approved and signed into law on November 2, 1983. This was after the first introduction of the notion of recognizing King for his Civil Rights efforts in 1979 by Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan & Sen. Edward Brooke (R) of Massachusetts.

The passage of a bill establishing the holiday was not easily accepted despite Rev. King’s Civil Rights contributions and eventual memorials. Objections to a federal holiday included the cost of paying for employees to have a vacation and whether a private citizen merited a federal holiday. At the time of discussion of establishing a holiday honoring Rev. King, only George Washington and Christopher Columbus had been recognized with federal holidays.

Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East (both Republicans from North Carolina) led objections to passage of legislation establishing the holiday that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t necessarily important enough to deserve a holiday. Sen. Helms added further objections that were more specious and scurrilous, accusing King of Communist sympathies which were the reasons why King questioned American involvement in Vietnam. Most Senators who promoted the holiday rejected Sen. Helms accusations and pressed forward in their efforts.

As the holiday was signed into law, it established a Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission as well as establishing the day as the third Monday of January each year. Shortly after the commission was established, Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. was appointed to the commission.

fast forward

While the holiday was first celebrated on this day in 1986 as a federal holiday, state legislatures decided individually whether they would recognize the holiday as well. Eventually each state established the day following similar guidelines laid out in the federal legislation with the last two establishing the holiday in 2000, being New Hampshire and South Carolina. New Hampshire’s passage of legislation was a technicality and named the day for Martin Luther King Jr. after celebrating the day while it was named Civil Rights Day until 1999. South Carolina did allow citizens to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. or one of three Confederate holidays which creates a unique dichotomy.

Southern states of course had some challenges celebrating the day given their negative involvement with Martin Luther King Jr and other Civil Rights leaders and already established holidays dedicated to Gen. Robert E. Lee, born on January 19 and Gen. Stonewall Jackson, born on January 21. As you can imagine celebrating Generals leading the Confederate Army while celebrating the hero of the Civil Rights movement creates some issues. These original holidays generally were dedicated primarily to Robert E. Lee, except in Virginia.  Eventually, most Southern states moved a celebration of Robert E. Lee to a date in October commemorating the occasion of his death. Virginia celebrates Lee-Jackson Day as the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Many public-school systems decide whether to celebrate at a local level. Growing up in Southern Indiana, which is 97% in most communities will opt to conduct classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, except in more diverse school districts who use it as a snow makeup day if needed. Personally, there is more education about Martin Luther King when school is in session than when kids are home on vacation and pay little attention to the holiday’s namesake. This is typically true of most public schools around the nation and not just in my neck of the woods.

Does your community do anything special for Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

A Close Shave

Time to hide the razor?

We’re just a month out from the end of the year. December for many means Santa Claus known for his beard, red suit, and rotund figure. This month is also known for its connection to facial hair and that’s the topic on deck today.

For nearly a decade or more, No Shave November or Movember has grown in popularity among men as an opportunity to celebrate facial hair. A handful of women have also opted to participate in No Shave November by avoiding shaving their legs.

No Shave November is not only about shelving razors and keeping facial hair untouched but also to bring awareness to prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. Many of those growing out their facial hair set goals that if they can reach so many inches with their beard, they will donate an amount relative to the length of their facial hair.

I usually take advantage of the month to avoid shaving and growing out my facial hair. Thanks to my attempted Halloween costumes that required a clean-shaven look I’m only sporting a little more than 5 o’clock shadow. Eventually, it should reach a length that I like. Normally, I’d already have some facial hair and have a head start on facial hair for the month.

Of course, as I’m always challenged by my boyish good looks, the facial hair doesn’t help. I’ve tried shaving more often but it still doesn’t grow in thick enough to my satisfaction. Besides that, my beard usually begins to itch as it grows so I have to apply lotions or beard oil to grow out the beard. Many times, my facial hair ends up looking like former Colts’ Quarterback Andrew Luck with full neckbeard.

 

 

Year-round, I have at least a goatee, circle beard or some other facial hairstyle. Male-centered meme accounts usually remind that the difference between a man with facial hair is that a clean-shaven man bears more resemblance to a toddler than an adult man. Of course, exaggeration is a hallmark of memes, but men sans facial hair do often skew a decade younger than their actual age. So that’s the main reason I have some degree of facial hair to age myself up.

I know some women appreciate the smooth skin look and are averse to full facial hair while others appreciate the hirsute look. Obviously, I can’t speak for what is physically attractive about men with or without facial hair, but I obviously aspire to look more rugged than not.

My ideal look would be the well-maintained full beard look but as mentioned it becomes challenging. For clarification, the full beard look I’m referring to is similar to Chris Evans or John Krasinski not exactly the Santa beard. Maybe when I get older, I can grow my beard out and have the distinguished silver facial hair look. At least thanks to smartphone apps and Snapchat filters I can have the facial hair I’d like.

What’s your opinion on beards and facial hair?