Where’s the Turkey?

Thanksgiving MultiracialDo you remember the Wendy’s commercial featuring a small, cantankerous woman in her eighties who would order a hamburger at some other restaurant and, upon being served a sandwich containing a puny little patty of meat, would exclaim “Where’s the beef?”?  That commercial became part of the Wendy’s restaurant advertising campaign in 1984.  The woman was Clara Peller, an 81 year old Russian born immigrant who came to America when she was just 5 years old.  Clara passed away in 1987, but her character and question from the commercials has become a permanent American cultural icon. Clara recorded the single “Where’s the Beef” with Nashville Radio DJ Coyote McCloud.  Everyone from corporate CEO’s to U.S. Presidential candidates have used the phrase “Where’s the Beef?” when decrying the absence of substance in a program or proposal.

Beginning shortly after Labor Day, I began to see stores rearranging their shelves and opening up space for their displays for the upcoming “holiday retail season”.  By the end of September, the “Halloween palooza” was in full gear.  That, in itself, was not too shocking.   What was disturbing was the presence of Christmas decorations right alongside the Ghoul-o-rama.  I studied retail merchandising through a school-to-work program while in high school.  I get what the retailers are up to.  Add-on purchases are great for a business’s bottom line.  Why do you think all that candy, snack food and drinks are located at the registers in most stores – like Lowe’s for example where I went to buy a $6 dollar item and ended up buying an additional $14 dollars worth of “snackage” for myself, my daughter and my son who were shopping with me?  Hey!  Shopping made us hungry.

The question I keep asking myself (and I hear others asking the same question as we scan the retail shelves) is “Where’s the turkey?”  I’m not talking about the frozen birds in the meat cases in the back of the store.  Where is Thanksgiving?  Aside from a few fall colored, turkey themed decorations for sale in the party supply isles, Thanksgiving is most easily found in tire treads – run over by the trucks delivering “Holiday” (AKA Christmas)  decorations.  Some large retailers are careful to avoid using the word “Christmas”.  These same retailers are “thankful” for the huge bump in food sales that “Turkey Day” brings.  However, if they officially started marketing “Thanksgiving” immediately after Halloween, they would find themselves in a dilemma.  What are we thankful for, and to whom?  Is everyone thankful for the same things from the same source?  I used to be thankful for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but recent commercial changes to the focus of that parade are beginning to give me some “pre-pumpkin pie” indigestion.

I think a cultural change of focus has hijacked something that used to be a very central part of our national identity.  Where we used to give thanks for the things we were blessed with, now we make lists of the things we want that we don’t yet have; as if, by some stretch of the imagination, we don’t have enough.  Madison Avenue marketers have convinced us that we need more stuff, and they’re selling us a truck-load of discontent.  We need to learn from the Pilgrims and not from marketing experts.  Put up the lights before it snows and then let the rest of Christmas wait until we give thanks for the blessings we’ve already received.

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Exercising My Rights

voteIf I could get a degree in “Reverse Engineering”, I’d graduate with honors.  My maxim could be “If it ain’t broke, take it apart to figure out why not”; and that’s not limited to mechanical things.  I dissect songs, stories, art, religion and even sociological norms to examine them to see what makes them work, or not work.

Have you ever seen a structure collapse?  The failure can usually be traced to a couple of causes 1) the foundation becomes compromised and can no longer carry the structure, or 2) the structure becomes weakened or over-burdened to the point it can no longer support itself.  Sometimes, both these causes combine to bring a structure down.  Frequent inspections can identify the first signs of a loss of structural integrity.

I’ve been “inspecting” the foundational documents of our country; the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  While avoiding lengthy discourse where there just is not the space, one word in the above sentence has been gnawing at my “take it apart” tendencies.  “Rights”.  That word is really bugging me.  Exactly what are “rights”?  Are am I on the “Left” or the “Right”?  I’m left handed so is that “wrong” since it’s not “right handed”?

While looking at the word “rights” from several angles, I learned rights give you the ability to have or get something or behave is some particular way based on some legal or moral authority.  Synonyms to the word “rights” are: entitlement, prerogative, privilege, advantage, due, liberty, authority, power, license, permission, dispensation, leave, sanction and freedom.  I read through those and all sorts of “caution markers” started popping up in my head.  The troubling thing about those synonyms is, they all infer “rights” are given by men or women to other men and women on the basis of some legislated legality, some social norm or an ethical expectation or belief.  Rules made by men.

Let’s look back at the example of structural collapse.  If the rights are only as good as the pillars holding them up are strong….do you see where I’m going here?  Take away the protections; remove a particular belief or behavior from the approved list of social norms; legislate away a long-held practice; all in the name of socially acceptable democracy, aka “mob rule”.  In that case, does voting for a right make it right if the proposed right is wrong?  Is the narcissistic pursuit of personally defined rights alienating our neighbors, violating their rights and destroying the foundations of our nation?

It can be difficult to defend or even respect another person’s “rights” when those rights infringe on your “rights”.  But, then again, who gives you the right not to?  Some people speak of their “God given rights”.  I couldn’t find specified rights in my Bible, but I found plenty of references to what IS right; paradigms that are naturally right – those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any culture or government; natural laws.  For something to be “natural”, it must have an origin independent of human manipulation; a Creator.  If we believe nature is good, we must also believe natural laws are good.  To guarantee everyone their rights, we need only to follow those laws.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Hallowed Mischief

Man With HorseI laugh when I think back on the mischief I was involved in during my school years.  Nearly all of it was innocuous.  None of my mischief was of the “over-the-top” caliber portrayed in so many of those teen “high school” themed movies.   To say none of it went farther than we intended, or that none of it got our parents involved would be untrue, but most of our efforts went into creating fun public spectacles and causing a good amount of harmless amusement or consternation for adults.

In keeping with the “spectacle and consternation” theme, we went through dizzying amounts of toilet paper, lawn paint, cellophane, thread, water balloons, fire crackers, sulfur, etc; all tools of “the trade”.  Which friend to hang out with was often decided by who had the best mischief plan for the day.  During the summer, we could create day-long programs of mayhem.  If we got home before our parents did and no police cars were waiting for us, everything was good; and we made sure it always was good because we feared our parents more than we did the police.

Every year, as Halloween approaches, I recall one act of mischievous brilliance which was renowned for its spectacular high visibility.  In downtown Westchester, California, at the corner of West Manchester Avenue and South Sepulveda Boulevard, in front of the international House of Pancakes restaurant stands an imported, Italian Marble, ten-foot-tall sculpture of a man with reins in hand standing next to his horse.  The statue has been there since at least 1960.  Since the statue’s arrival, it has been a frequent target for mischief.

I attended junior high school not far from that intersection.  That statue stood in front IHOP’s predecessor, Home Savings & Loan back then.  We used to stop at the Save-On Drug Store across the street from the S&L on our way home from school to get ice cream cones.  I can see that statue clearly in my mind’s eye.  Sometimes the man holding the horse would have flowers in his hand with the reins.  Sometimes a mannequin would be perched upon the horse.  But, every Halloween, without fail, someone would find a huge pumpkin, hollow it out, carve a face on it and place it over the horseman’s head!  Being marble, the statue wasn’t damaged by the pumpkin which adorned it until the fruit rotted away.

I had to know if this was a short-lived prank and if anyone else from my junior high remembered the sight.  I posted the question on the school’s alumni Facebook page and received over 100 responses from members spanning classes from the 1960’s to the present!  Each one remembered seeing the pumpkin-headed horseman and many of the younger members assured me the tradition continues.  Some even “fessed up” to being the ones responsible for placing the pumpkin, including one whose accomplices ran as the police arrived and ended-up having a police officer help him hoist the squash!  Everyone wants to see photos of this year’s contribution to this good, harmless, fun-for-all mischief!

If you’re including some mischievous trickery with your Halloween treats, I hope it’s as harmless and its memories as cherished and long-lived as Westchester’s pumpkin-headed horseman!

© 2017 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

 

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Trails

wp_20161016_016.jpgDo you ever hike, walk or jog in our nearby parks?  The walking paths in our city and township parks are marked with highly visible signs leading the walkers or joggers along to the next sections of the paths.  The maintained hiking trails through our state parks are marked less garishly with signage that blends better with the scenery.  These trails are still fairly easy to follow if you watch for the signs.  When hiking through long stretches of open country on minimally maintained trails, one must know what trail markers to look for.  If blazes are missed, hikers can easily wander off the trail and become lost.

On our way to church one Sunday morning, I noticed a small, squiggly white line that suddenly appeared on the pavement, and ran in front of us all the way down the hill into town. The line became more pronounced the further we went.   I pondered the possible source of the squiggly line.  I wondered if paint spilled in the bed of a pick-up truck.  The paint probably dribbled out of the tailgate and formed a trail for us to follow.  I guessed correctly.  As we turned onto North Street, the line terminated at a white spot that occupied most of a parking space in front of a building that was being renovated.

Once, while on patrol with the Coast Guard, I spotted an oil trail on the water as we sailed through Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.  We took samples and determined it to be diesel fuel.  We planned a search and launched our helicopter.  The pilot flew the helicopter close to the water, following the trail until he located the oil’s source; a fishing vessel had run aground.  Their fuel was leaking out, and they were taking on water.  Dewatering pumps drained their batteries, and they were unable to radio for help.  However, their fuel trail led us to them.

As we go through life, we leave trails that others can follow, whether we intend to or not.  Scholars leave paper trails made of studies, theses and books.  The trails of investors are strewn with “buy” and “sell” slips, bank statements and financial reports.  Teachers leave trails of students.  Actors leave trails of dialogue for others to quote.  The fickle in love leave trails of broken hearts. Those with wicked tempers and bad behavior often leave trails of destruction.

I’m leaving trails of my own.  They aren’t spilled paint or leaked fuel, but they are just as visible.  Are they just as indelible or toxic?  I don’t know.  I’d like to think they are good trails – the well marked paths along the “better way”.  If I’m honest, I’ll have to admit not all my trails are well blazed, or easy, or even good.  There are probably reasons for the kinds of trails I’ve left – some excusable, some not so much.   Being aware of my trails, and knowing that others may follow after me should be suitable admonishment to remind me that the paths ahead of me become the trails behind me.  I want to leave good trails and help others to do the same.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media                                                                  curtsavagemedia.com

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Twenty-Twenty

Eye ChartOur daughter had her eyes checked recently.  We found she will need glasses to correct her vision.  Gone is the social stigma attached to wearing glasses; they’re cool now.  “I got turquoise frames that you can see through Dad” she excitedly told me when she came home from the appointment.  “So – you’re not afraid of having your eyes checked anymore” I asked.  ‘No!” She said “Because now, I’ll look really smart and be able to see things clearly.”  I agreed both of those are good things.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  That’s an interesting statement from a man who history has told us had significantly impaired eyesight.  Paul had to get nose to nose with a mirror to be able to see his reflection with limited clarity, but it wasn’t his own reflection he was writing about.  Paul longed to see and know his Heavenly Father’s image.  This was put into perspective for me when I learned how blurry my daughter’s vision was.  She told me for her to see my eyes clearly, she had to be close to me.

Some people have uncorrected twenty-twenty vision and still don’t see things clearly; the word “see” being used here as it pertains to understanding.  Sometimes, one needs to back away from something to get things to come into focus.  In other situations, one needs to “zoom in” and get close to see or understand the details.  However, in any case, Paul clearly made the point knowledge is crucial.  A friend of mine recently bought a new Lincoln MKX Crossover.  Although the car was able to learn his driving habits and adjust to him, he had to spend a couple of weeks studying the owner’s manual to be able to use the “hands free” mobile phone, climate controls and sophisticated audio system.  The car knew HIM, but HE didn’t know the car.  It became obvious he had to change the driving habits he had become accustomed to with his old car.

I’ve been listening to the song “Spirit of the Living God” by Meredith Andrews.  She sings about how the Holy Spirit changes us.  A verse in the song has seized my focused attention.  Andrews sings “Cause when you speak, when you move, when you do what only you can do, it changes us, it changes what we see and what we seek.” Have you ever glimpsed at something, and then looked again, but with a longer gaze, and seen something completely different from what you saw at first?  What changed?  Your vision changed because of closer study.  Did your new understanding cause you to change your mind or your actions?

We can travel down life’s road and not clearly see the passing scenery or the road signs before us.  Speed, distractions, bad directions and stubborn self-reliance can all combine to take us to the wrong destination, far from where we want to be.  The good news is, you can never be too far away for God to see you and guide you to Himself using the roadmap He created for your life.  The closer you get to Him, the better your vision and the surer your path will become.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

 

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Digging for the Pony

Muck Shovel

My mom shared something with me many years ago that radically changed, and possibly saved my life.  I was going through a rough spot in my career and was drowning under criticism and self-doubt.  Frankly, I was becoming very negative and bitter.  Her anecdote changed all of that.

A mother had twin sons.  Genetically, they were twins.  That’s where the similarities ended.  One child was always pleasant, and the other always difficult.  One was always happy and positive no matter the circumstances; the other always a thunder cloud full of negative ions waiting to emotionally explode.  Naturally, the two siblings were in a constant state of turmoil and tension between themselves and their poor mother found herself increasingly at her wits end.  She decided the only way to restore some sanity to her home was to seek professional counseling.  Maybe a psychiatrist could determine why the boys were emotional opposites.

While in the examining room, the boys were in full character.  The doctors held their chins and shook their heads.  “We’ve never seen anything like this” they told the boys’ mother.  They pinched the boys’ necks, stuck scopes in their ears, shined lights in the boys’ eyes, bonked their knees with rubber hammers and even turned the boys this way and that and end over end.  Nothing offered an explanation.  The one boy seemed to enjoy it all and the other hated it before it even began.  Finally, after much consideration, the doctors exclaimed “We have an idea!”.

The doctors modified and outfitted two observation rooms.  Their goal was trick the boys into experiencing emotional reactions opposite of their normal personalities.  They placed the unhappy brother in brightly painted room #1 and filled the room with video games, toys, candy, ice cream, a merry-go-round and a puppy.  The happy brother was dressed in a waterproof suit complete with hood, boots, gloves and goggles, and placed in room #2; a dimly lighted room with no sound or contents except enough horse manure to bury the boy up to his neck.  Now the doctors and the boys’ mother listened from outside the rooms and watched the boys through two-way-mirrored windows.

Within minutes it became evident the experiment wasn’t working as planned.  Crying and loud complaining emanated from room #1.  The doctors spoke into the intercom “Son.  What’s the matter?”  The miserable boy replied “This is terrible!  I don’t like these games, I hate the color of these walls, I have to use the money you left me to make the merry-go-round work and the puppy is begging for the ice cream – the flavor of which I do not like by the way!”.  The doctors were dumbfounded.  They switched the listening speaker to room #2 and heard the boy happily whistling.  The doctors asked “Son.  Is everything okay?”  “Yes. I’m fine” replied the boy.  “Do you want anything?” asked the doctors to which the boy simply replied “No.”  A few moments later the boy declared “On second thought, there IS one thing I’d like.”  The doctors thought they had succeeded in breaking him.  “What would that be?” the doctors asked with anticipation.  “A shovel please” replied the boy.  “Why a shovel?” asked the confused doctors. “We’ll, I’ve been thinking.  With all this horse manure, there must be pony underneath somewhere and I’m going to dig until I find it!”

© 2017 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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Fly Like an Eagle

On America’s Independence Day, I’m contemplating the kind of freedom the Bald Eagle exemplifies.  Agur, the son of Jakeh, wrote in the Bible’s 30th Proverb “the way of an eagle in the sky is too amazing for me to understand”.  I agree with Agur.  Bald Eagles usually fly alone, can achieve speeds approaching 75 miles per hour and can soar to altitudes of up to 15,000 feet enabling them to fly over all but the highest mountain peaks in North America!  Their beautiful but fierce appearance and strength make them a great national symbol for America.

Fly Like an Eagle

My friend James Gresham lives in Washington State and is an amazing wildlife photographer.  His marine bird and Bald Eagle photos are some of the best I’ve ever seen.  With Bald Eagles nesting in Lawrence County now, I’m hoping to get a chance to take some of my own raptor photos.  While leaving church a couple of Sundays ago, I noticed a Bald Eagle gliding overhead, flying toward the Shenango River.  Considering the bird’s astonishing eyesight, it may have had an eye on a fish miles upstream.  It certainly wasn’t concerned with anything near me.  The eagle didn’t make a sound or flap its wings as it glided higher and father away until I lost sight of it.

While writing this, I heard familiar music on our street and ran out to get an ice cream sandwich from our favorite ice cream man Kevin Henry.  He and I got to chatting about how we both see so much of society when we’re driving around on our routes; some good things and some bad.  We both agreed it’s difficult to avoid getting bogged down by all the negative and easy to miss all the positive out there.  We must choose what we’re going to focus on.  This reminded me of that Bald Eagle from Sunday.  We considered how eagles fly high above all the little stuff on the ground and don’t get entangled in all sorts of things that could prevent them from flying.  If only we could “mount up with wings as eagles”.

The Steve Miller Band released the single “Fly Like an Eagle” in 1976.  This song has been used in more “freedom themed” commercials than just about any song I know of.  However, the “freedom song” contains an important message to catch.  In the lyrics are the words “Time keeps on slippin’ into the future.  I want to fly like an eagle, ‘till I’m free, Oh Lord through the revolution.  Feed the babies who don’t have enough to eat, shoe the children with no shoes on their feet, house the people livin’ in the street, oh, oh there’s a solution.”  With freedom comes a responsibility to use that freedom for unselfish ends; a responsibility to pursue freedom for those who don’t have it.  We should never take our freedom for granted.  Time is slipping away for hundreds of millions of people struggling to be free from hunger, poverty, slavery, oppression and persecution; people who are sometimes literally dying to taste our freedom.  This Independence Day, I hope our bonfires and fireworks illumine our minds with ways we can help those less fortunate to mount up with wings and fly free like eagles.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media                                                                   curtsavagemedia.com

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