Archive for July, 2011

Tough talk on the Kentucky campaign trail

If you’re rough enough for love
Baby, I’m tougher than the rest
— Bruce Springsteen

Who's tougher: David Williams or Steve Beshear? That's the issue the candidates want voters to focus on in the race for governor. Politico.com.

Talk about tough love. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the candidates for governor were to use the Boss’s “Tougher Than the Rest” for his campaign theme song in his efforts to woo voters in the November election.

All the talk in this campaign is about which candidate is toughest.

It started early in July when Gov. Steve Beshear and his new running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, the Democratic team, quickly responded to an attack by the Republican Governors Association on behalf of Senate President David Williams and Ag Commissioner Richie Farmer, the GOP ticket. The RGA TV ad claims Kentucky’s economy has been poor compared to surrounding states during Beshear’s term. Beshear-Abramson hit back by airing an ad of their own that shows the Dems in factory settings talking about their efforts to create jobs in a difficult economy, and ends with an image of Beshear and Abramson and the slogan “tested, trusted, tough.”

Those words are also on the new Beshear-Abramson bumper stickers.

This week, the RGA came out with another TV ad, trying to convince voters that it’s Williams who’s the tough guy. The ad shows two out-of-work coal miners tinkering with a car.

“He’s too tough to be governor,” one of says of Williams.

That’s what we need, says the other, adding that he’s “tough enough to get Kentucky working again.”

The 30-second spot uses the word “tough” four times and shows campaign placards with the image of Williams and his new slogan, “tough, experienced governor.”

This may mark the end of the senator’s efforts to soften his “Bully from Burkesville” image and present a more sensitive guy profile.

If the campaign for governor is going to be about rugged masculinity rather than who has the best ideas for moving Kentucky forward, maybe they ought to just settle it with a good, old-fashioned Kentucky cockfight.

At Fancy Farm Aug. 6, they could pit Williams and Farmer against Beshear and Abramson in a bare-knuckle tag team match with a few rules, like no ear-biting or eye-gouging. Just let them go at it mano a mano.

Oh, and no cussin’ either. Fancy Farm is a church picnic, and as you may recall, it was Attorney General Jack Conway’s telling voters they were “looking at one tough son of a bitch” that caused such a ruckus there in 2009.

Anyway, the medieval approach of single combat would save time and money and spare the rest of us from having to endure three more months of these ridiculous ads.

The measure of a man

Gov. Steve Beshear, left, and Senate President David Williams, before times got so tough. Associated Press

The Kentucky Farm Bureau tried to get the goober-natorial candidates to focus on the issues rather than barnyard manure slinging by hosting a candidates forum last week in Louisville. Beshear and Williams fielded questions about agriculture, the environment, insurance and other matters of particular interest to farmers and rural communities. Each used the forum to bad-mouth the other.

Unfortunately, the KFB called its forum “Measure the Candidates.”

No further comment is needed.

Corn pone humor leaves a bad taste

For a while it looked like Bob Farmer might succeed Richie Farmer as farm commissioner, but that seems unlikely now that Bob has become best known for making fun of rural Kentuckians.
That isn’t a good strategy for winning that particular office.

The ag commish hopeful is something of a comic, but soon after he won the Jackass Party’s primary, his Dumbo Party opponent, James Comer, released a video of Farmer’s routine in which he ridiculed eastern Kentucky as a place where “the cars are on blocks and the houses are on wheels,” and the FBI won’t do investigations because “the DNA’s all alike and there are no dental records.” He has since apologized.

Carl Hurley could get by with having a dig at Appalachians because he’s one of us. But with Farmer, it’s a case of laughing at us rather than with us.

Democrats missed a golden opportunity to nominate an intellectual for the ag commish job by not choosing my old friend John Lackey of Richmond.

John’s a lawyer, farmer and former state senator, has degrees from William and Mary, Harvard and Yale, and is a progressive/conservative in the tradition of Wendell Berry. But his name isn’t Farmer, so I suppose that disqualifies him.

I would say there isn’t one Kentucky voter in a thousand who knows anything substantive about either candidate for commissioner of agriculture or where he stands on the issues.  Or, for that matter, what the issues are or what the job entails. Which begs the question: Why do we even elect a commissioner of agriculture anyway?
Who snubbed whom?

President Barack Obama at Fort Campbell, Ky., after getting bin Laden. theobamadiary.com

David Williams’ campaign has made a big to do of Steve Beshear not going to Fort Campbell when President Barack Obama was there to honor our armed forces, including the Navy SEALS who killed Osama bin Laden.

The Republican candidate accused Beshear of snubbing the commander in chief because he knew that Obama is unpopular in Kentucky and therefore made a political decision not to be seen with him.

But emails obtained by the Associated Press reveal that there was another reason Beshear didn’t go to the celebration: He wasn’t invited.

Beshear, not Obama, was the one who got the cold shoulder. But my guess is that it’ll be a cold July day in Hell-for-Certain, Ky., before tough guy Williams apologizes to the governor for jumping to conclusions.

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Tolbert Taylor among those who defeated tyranny

World War II veteran receives his medals seven decades later

By Randy Patrick/The Winchester Sun/July 25, 2011

They were just boys, most of them, when they left their homes and journeyed across ocean, desert and plain to stand up to a Goliath that had trampled other nations underfoot.

They were, said Mayor Ed Burtner, our “greatest generation,” and they fought to put “tyranny … back in its box for a time.”

Tolbert Taylor was among the 2.5 million Americans who served in World War II.

Were it not for his service and the service of others like him, Burtner said, “we would live in a very different world.”

At the Generations Center Saturday morning, friends and family members gathered to honor Taylor for his service so long ago.

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) was there to present Taylor with military medals to replace some of the ones that were stolen in the 1970s.

There was the Bronze Star for valor, the Combat Infantry Badge, medals for good conduct and honorable service, the Army of Occupation medal and several others.

Congressman Ben Chandler, right, presented Tolbert Taylor of Winchester a duplicate of the Bronze Star that he earned for valor in World War II. The original was stolen. Standing behind them are Taylor's wife, Geneva, and son, Rolan. (Winchester Sun photo by Randy Patrick)

Taylor was moved and couldn’t speak for a few minutes, but his wife, Geneva, spoke for both of them, saying “You don’t know how much this means to us.”

Chandler recalled the Kentuckian’s service in the war.

Taylor was 19 when he enlisted in Cincinnati in 1943.

He was sent first to North Africa, then to Europe as a member of the Army Air Corps.

He fought the Germans in two of the most horrific battles: the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.

Three times his planes were shot down, but he escaped without serious injury.

After the war, Taylor re-enlisted and stayed in the Army for more than 30 years, retiring as a master sergeant in the 1970s.

“Today Mr. Taylor is surrounded by his family, friends and fellow veterans who love and respect him as a person of courage and determination, who exceeded expectations and rose above the bar of ordinary military achievement,” Chandler said. And in the ensuing years, he added, the veteran has led “an exemplary life.”

He was simply honored to serve his country, Taylor said.

The party at the senior center was a surprise. He didn’t know until he got there what it was about. His family had told him it was for his son, Rolan Taylor, who was going to receive something.

The son laughed when he recalled that his father said he had to go to it and see what kind of award “anyone would want to give Rolan.”

When they arrived and saw the parking lot filled with cars, Rolan told his dad: “This is all for you.”

Others who spoke at the event included County Judge-Executive Henry Branham and the Taylors’ pastor, C.J. Murray.

A Marine Corps League guard presented the colors, and the guests joined in singing “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Gaunce’s Deli catered lunch.

Taylor thanked the congressman, Sue Neal, who had gotten Chandler’s office involved in getting the medals, and everyone else who took part in the event.

“I appreciate everything that everybody has done,” he said.

Yet not as much as everybody there appreciated what he had done.

Harry Potter and the parable of the wheat

“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
— inscription on Harry Potter’s parents’ tombstone

In his book “Epic,” Christian writer John Eldredge makes the argument that every great story is a reflection of The Story of which God is the author.

Whether it’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” or George Lucas’s “Star Wars,” the script is the same: This is not the way it’s supposed to be. There is beauty and joy, but also tragedy and sorrow. Something has gone terribly wrong, and to put it right again, we must struggle against the darkness.

Those great stories resonate with us because deep inside, we know we’re part of a similar story and desire to play a meaningful role.

In “The Lord of the Rings,” Samwise Gamgee knows he has some role to play, but he doesn’t understand it fully. “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?” he asks his friend Frodo.

For those of us who are Christians, we often don’t understand the twists and turns the story takes. “Why did God allow this to happen?” we ask, when tragedy occurs in a faraway place or we encounter difficulty in our own lives.

The problem of pain and the existence of evil has always been one that troubles us most and challenges our faith.

In a sermon Sunday, our priest, Pam, preached on Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds) from the Gospel of Matthew. The farmer sowed good grain, but while he slept, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. The workers were told not to remove the weeds because by doing so, they would also uproot the wheat.

“Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time, I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn,’” the master said.

Jesus explained that at the “end of the age,” the righteous ones will be separated from the followers of the devil, and will be saved, while the unrighteous will be destroyed.

Why doesn’t God act now to right some wrong, we ask. But Pam explained, it may be because doing so would affect something else in a harmful way. Things are often more complicated than we can imagine. It isn’t always black and white.

In our world, and in every human heart, good and bad are inextricably linked. To tear out the bad at the wrong time or in the wrong way may cause more damage than waiting. But in God’s time, all will be put right. All things will be made new, as the author of Revelation tells us.

In the end, God wins.

Harry and Voldemort are bound to each other in a way that becomes evident in the lasts book and film.We don’t understand now because, in the words of the Apostle Paul, we see as “through a glass, darkly,” but one day we will see clearly — as Sam and Frodo do at the end of their story. Who would have thought that the corrupted character Gollum would have a role to play — albeit unwittingly — in the salvation of Middle Earth?

After church on Sunday, I took my 11-year-old niece, Kamille, to see “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (watch the trailer),”  the last movie based on J.K. Rowling’s epic series of children’s books.

Kamille is a huge Harry Potter fan, and has read all the books and seen the movies, some of them many times. I have enjoyed the movies too, not only because they’re well-written and entertaining, but because of the insights they provide into The Story.

In the final episode, we begin to see more clearly that the hero, Harry, and the villain, Lord Voldemort, are mysteriously bound to each other, and that some of the dark lord’s minions have roles to play for the triumph of good over evil.

I don’t want to provide more detail because I don’t want to give away the plot of the best fantasy film since Peter Jackson’s “The Return of the King.” But I was struck by the similarities between the message Pam preached that morning and the theme of the movie we saw that afternoon.

In an earlier Faith page column and Sun blog post (see “The Gospel According to Harry Potter” at http://kyvoice.com/winchestersun/newerworld/?p=1736), I pointed out that although the author, J.K. Rowling, describes herself as a seeker with doubts rather than a committed follower of Christ, she attends church and is familiar with Scripture.

In "The Lord of the Rings," Frodo and Sam are on a mission to destroy the evil Sauron, but their guide, the duplicitous Gollum, has a role to play that even he is unaware of.In an interview she gave several years ago, Rowling revealed that “the theme for the entire series” is based on a Bible verse: 1 Corinthians 15:26. She told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2007 that “the religious parallels have always been obvious.”

In that passage, St. Paul tells of Christ’s promise of redemption and resurrection in the struggle against sin and suffering.

“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” he wrote.

Those words are inscribed on Harry’s parents’ tombstone. They are what the story is about.

In the end, good triumphs.

In the end, God wins.

Debt: It's a spending and revenue problem

Billionaire businessman Warren Buffet summed up the fuss about raising the debt ceiling in a way that was clear, concise and candid.

“We don’t need to tell the world that anytime people in Congress start throwing a tantrum, we’re not going to pay our bills on time,” he told CNBC.

Speaker of the House John Boehner wants to make a deal on raising the debt limit in exchange for large spending cuts over the next decade. But he can't control the radicals in his party like Majority Leader Eric Cantor who refuse to consider any tax measures at all, including closing some loopholes, even though it was largely tax cuts that got us into this mess.

When it comes to economics, I’d put more faith in the “Oracle of Omaha” than the partisan rantings of politicians.

At a Kiwanis lunch on Wednesday, a club member asked why I hadn’t “weighed in” on the debt limit debate. Mostly, I said, because everybody else has. What I left unsaid was that I don’t think I’m especially qualified. But I do read, and I’ve been going to several sources, trying to understand.

The Buffett quote was included in an editorial in Sunday’s Lexington Herald-Leader, from which I also learned that Congress has raised the debt ceiling 74 times since 1962, including seven times under President George W. Bush.

I’m not among those who blame Bush for everything, but I wonder why, when the GOP was in charge, deficits didn’t matter, and  now they matter more than anything else.

Also on Sunday, I read another editorial, in The Economist, a conservative British newspaper. Titled “Shame on them,” it blistered Republicans for playing a dangerous game by threatening to allow the government to default unless the Democrats take tax increases off the table.

“This is economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical,” The Economist said. “This newspaper has a strong dislike of big government; we have long argued that the right way to right America’s finances is through spending cuts. But you cannot get there without tax rises.”

A $14.3 trillion national debt is high, but it’s an “affordable” 65 percent of GDP, the paper said.

In Britain, the Conservative-led government is dealing with the financial issue with a three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. But our Republicans refuse to consider raising revenue by closing tax loopholes for corporations or allowing tax cuts to expire for the richest Americans. They would rather let the government default on Aug. 2, ruin the Treasury’s credit rating and give IOUs to soldiers’ families and widows on Social Security.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said Washington has a debt problem not because it taxes too little, but because it spends too much. But it’s both.

Taxes as a percentage of GDP are the lowest they’ve been in 60 years, and the Bush-era tax cuts were a bigger factor in growing the debt than the Obama stimulus (40 percent of which was tax cuts).

Other factors were two wars, creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Medicare drug program and the economy itself. When people are out of work, they contribute little to the tax base, yet government has to spend more — on unemployment benefits and food stamps for jobless people, business loans to revive the economy and grants to states and cities to save the jobs of firefighters, teachers and road construction workers. That’s what the stimulus was about — not new federal programs. But Obama and the Democrats didn’t accumulate most of the debt; they inherited over $10.7 trillion of it from other presidents and Congresses over several decades. (It was $5.7 trillion when Bush took office, and it increased by at least $5 trillion in eight years.)

Washington has to get serious about lowering the debt. The president has proposed reducing it by $4 trillion — most of that amount in spending cuts. But insufficient tax revenue is part of the problem, and must be part of the solution.

What is unacceptable is allowing the greatest nation to renege on its obligations to its creditors. That isn’t who we are.

What I'm reading now

Groucho Marx said, “I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.”

While I’ve never been a “Marxist,” I can relate to Groucho’s dialectic. I don’t have cable television or satellite. When the television industry switched to digital, I got a converter box for the little TV in my bedroom, where I sometimes watch the network news at 6:30 or the political shows between 9 and 10 on Sunday morning.

I don’t miss TV, but if I were to lose the several hundred books and stacks of magazines and newspaper clippings I have in my apartment, I’d miss them. I’m a print person. I suppose that makes me a dinosaur. But I know what I like and how I learn. Print is permanent. You don’t have to worry that your book will crash and you’ll lose everything (although one did have to be replaced this week when I laid it on an outdoor carpet that I didn’t realize was damp and it got waterlogged).

Right now, I’m reading three books that I’m enjoying. One is Edward Rutherfurd’s latest epic novel, “New York,” which relates the fictitious lives of several families from the time of the Dutch settlement until 9/11. The part I’m into now is about the Master family, who are torn apart by the Revolutionary War. The father is a Loyalist, and so is his daughter, who is falling in love with a British officer. His son, who went to Oxford and is estranged from his wife, a wealthy English heiress, is a Patriot and the best friend of his sister’s redcoat suitor. This week, I also started reading Robert V. Remini’s “A Short History of the United States,” the first concise history of this country by a noted historian in 60 or 70 years. And a conversation I had with a friend about “the end times” in Christian prophecy led me to start reading a book I bought several years ago  but put aside: Craig C. Hill’s “In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future,” which is an argument against the rapture theories so prevalent in evangelical churches today. Hill is a Wesleyan New Testament scholar who used to believe that whole “Left Behind” argument until he started studying what the Bible really had to say about it. Theologians from many denominations have endorsed the book, including, notably, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

After I finish those three, a couple of friends have some books they want me to read. One is pulp fiction, the other political polemics (neither is among my favorite genres, but I promised them I’d take a look).

It’s going to be a long hot summer, but there aren’t many things I’d rather do when it’s horribly humid than stay inside under the air conditioning and read.

Below is a list of books I read the first half of this year, including a couple I was still reading at the end of June.

Reading list for the first half of 2011

The Forest – Edward Rutherfurd

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great – Benjamin Merkle

Henry Clay: The Essential American – David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler

Living Mission: The Vision and Voices of New Friars – edited by Scott A. Bessenecker

Ronald Reagan – Michael Schaller

Abraham Lincoln – James M. McPherson

John F. Kennedy – Robert Dallek

The Tea Party Goes to Washington – Rand Paul

Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-wing Nature Lovers, and their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or at Least the Republican Party) – Rod Dreher

Ronald Reagan 100 Years – Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan — Peggy Noonan

Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know — John C. Maxwell

St George — Giles Morgan

The Challenge of Easter — N.T. Wright

The Green Bible Devotional: A Book of Daily Readings — Carla Barnhill

The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book — Matthew Sleeth

Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street: A Moral Compass for the New Economy — Jim Wallis

Welcome to the Episcopal Church: An Introduction to Its History, Faith and Worship — Christopher L. Webber

In Search of England — H.V. Morton

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters — N.T. Wright

The Grouchy Grammarian — Thomas Parrish

Our Fathers — Andrew O’Hagan

Faintheart: An Englishman Ventures North of the Border — Charles Jennings

A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life Ð Gov. Deval Patrick

The Fort — Bernard Cornwell (F)

Make the hard choices on spending and taxes

The battle over how to reduce the nation’s $14 trillion debt is at a stalemate, and with the 2012 election looming, I don’t hold out hope for compromise.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said time and again “there is a debt crisis not because Washington taxes too little, but because it spends too much.” But is that true?

Congress spends billions on state projects. For more than 20 years, McConnell has touted his clout in getting a large share of the largesse. Kentucky gets back about a buck and a half for every dollar its taxpayers send to Washington — not only because ours is a poor state, but also because we have powerful delegates, including McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, and Republican Hal Rogers, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Before 2009, we didn’t hear them warning about runaway spending because most of that $14 trillion was accumulated before President Obama took office. The debt doubled under George W. Bush because the GOP Congress slashed taxes for the wealthiest Americans, waged wars without requiring civilians to sacrifice, created a Medicare drug program without cost controls and grew the size of the federal government in part by creating the Department of Homeland Security with money borrowed from the Chinese.

I remember former Vice President Dick Cheney said that “deficits don’t matter.”  Most of us think they do.

Obama and the Democratic Congress increased the debt another trillion dollars to deal with the crisis that began in 2008. Forty percent of the stimulus was in the form of tax cuts, and the spending wasn’t for new programs, but to save the jobs of teachers, firefighters and road workers. Unemployment also increased the debt because people were getting checks from the government rather than working and paying taxes.

In his latest column, McConnell said that if we could “spend our way into economic recovery, we would surely be in boom times by now.”

Conversely, if we could grow our way out of the slump and cut the debt by reducing marginal rates, shouldn’t that have happened under Bush, who cut taxes twice? Instead, Republicans exploded the debt, and job growth remained stagnant. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now.

We’re in this mess because Congress spends too much borrowed money and doesn’t tax enough. Taxes are the lowest they’ve been in 60 years, and that’s a fact.

Our representatives in Washington must make hard choices on reducing spending, reforming entitlements, investing in things that grow the economy, closing tax shelters and raising taxes.

It’s time to face reality.

Why character matters — spring reading 2011

You may remember the “miracle on the Hudson.”

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, 2009, Flight 1549 left La Guardia for Charlotte, N.C.

Everything seemed normal, but two minutes after takeoff, something went wrong. The aircraft flew into a flock of Canada geese, damaging both engines.
Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and his copilot had to think fast. They doubted they could make it to a small airport in the distance, and putting the plane down on the New Jersey Turnpike was out of the question. Their only choice w,as the Hudson River.

A river landing of an airliner is extremely difficult. Everything had to be precise. But Sully, an experienced pilot, and his copilot made all the right decisions in the two or three minutes they had. They shut down the engines so the plane would glide. Using the emergency generator, they overrode the flight management system, sealed the valves and vents, made a hard turn so the plane would be going downstream, then straightened the aircraft so that it would land was gently and as possible on the surface of the water.

They saved the lives of every passenger and crew member on board that day, and as the people were getting into the lifeboats, Sully took off his shirt and gave it to someone who was cold.

The media called it a miracle, and in a way it was, but that wasn’t all it was. It was in large measure a result of the character of the pilots — what the ancients called “virtue.”

N.T. Wright, an Anglican bishop and New Testament scholar, used Sullenberger’s story to illustrate the meaning of these words in his recent book: “After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.”

Being a mature disciple of Christ, Wright explains, isn’t something that happens the hour you first believe. It comes after. Like being a pilot, you have to work at it.

Virtue, he wrote, “is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right, but which doesn’t ‘come naturally’ — and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required ‘automatically,’ as they say.”

But it isn’t automatic or natural. It’s training. Spiritual discipline is like that.

When I began my spring reading in April, I didn’t set out to read a bunch of books on character. But when I looked at my list after the end of June, I noticed a common thread.

I read Wright’s book because I had bought and read the two previous ones in his series on the basics of Christian theology: “Simply Christian” and “Surprised by Hope.”

I had also read some books on Ronald Reagan at the end of winter, and another one in particular caught my attention: “When Character Was King” by the president’s speechwriter, Peggy Noonan. That book gave me some insights into why Reagan is revered by Americans across the political spectrum: He was a man of his word and a man of virtue.

One of the last books I read this spring was also a study in character. It was by Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, the second democratically elected black governor in the nation’s history. His “Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life,” is the story about how a poor child from a broken home on the south side of Chicago made his way from an elite New England boarding school to the corporate board rooms of Fortune 500 companies, yet never forgot where he came from or why he wanted to be a lawyer: to live out his faith — or, in the words of the Prophet Micah: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

His book is an argument against the cynicism and rancor that dominate so much of our political discourse today.

“Idealism built America,” he wrote. “Ours may be the only nation in human history” organized  around “a common set of civic ideals”  including equality, opportunity and fair play, he said. And all our great achievements have all come through public leaders who held out a “beacon of hope” against the darkness of despair: leaders like Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy.

I would add Reagan. How different Reagan’s sunny optimism and generous spirit were from the toxicity of so many of those who now claim his mantle.
Most of the problems we face in our nation and world today result from failure of character.

Wright starts off his book by showing that the financial crisis of 2008 and the resulting recession were caused by bad behavior, including lax government oversight. For more than 20 years, “rules that had been put in place to stop banks and other institutions from behaving irresponsibly were quietly set aside,” he wrote.

Sojourners founder Jim Wallis wrote on the same theme in “Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street: A Moral Compass for the New Economy,” which I read again this spring.

The question Wallis asks is: How will this crisis change us?

We can’t go back to the ways that got us into this economic mess, but must learn again that character matters in business and government.

In recent years, I’ve made a habit of reading books about the environment around Earth Day in April. This year, the two I chose were “The Gospel According to the Earth” by Dr. Matthew Sleeth of Wilmore, Ky., and “The Green Bible Devotional: A Book of Daily Readings” by Carla Barnhill.
One of the points both authors make is that having “dominion” doesn’t just mean dominating and exploiting it; it means caring for creation. They cite plenty of Scripture to show that when we fail to be good stewards of the earth, “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins,” as Jeremiah warned.
Again, it’s about character, not self-interest.

One other book I read this spring was the first John C. Maxwell’s “Leadership 101” series of primers on Christian character-based business leadership. I intend to finish the others this summer.

There were several books I read this spring just for fun.

I had planned to take a driving tour this summer along the border of Scotland and England, and I read some books to prepare for it, including H.V. Morton’s classic, “In Search of England.” It was written in the 1920s, when touring by motor car was a new phenomenon.

The funniest one was “Faintheart: An Englishman Ventures North of the Border” by Charles Jennings. His descriptions of disgusting food, relentless rain, “Braveheart” mania and hatred of the English are droll.

And an excellent novel I read was “Our Fathers” by a young Scottish novelist, Andrew O’Hagan, who is one of the best new writers I’ve read in a long time.
It turned out that my friend and I aren’t able to make the trip to Britain this summer, but we’re hoping to go next spring.

Another witty book I read was by Thomas Parrish of Berea, Ky., who was an acquaintance when I worked for The Richmond Register. Called “The Grouchy Grammarian,” it targets the common mistakes of newspaper writers. I hope I didn’t give him too much fodder for it!

Finally, as spring was turning to summer at the end of June, my thoughts were turning to the Fourth of July and our nation’s history. So I read “The Fort,” Bernard Cornwell’s novel about the Revolutionary War.

Because I’ve already written about that book in my pre-Independence Day Paul Revere column last week, I won’t go into details here, but will recommend it to those who like historical fiction.

 

Here is a list of books I read this spring, including a couple I was still reading at the end of June. The F in parentheses stands for  fiction, the NF for nonfiction.

Reading list for April-June 2011

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan — Peggy Noonan (NF)

Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know — John C. Maxwell (NF)

St George — Giles Morgan (NF)

The Challenge of Easter — N.T. Wright (NF)

The Green Bible Devotional: A Book of Daily Readings — Carla Barnhill (NF)

The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book — Matthew Sleeth (NF)

Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street: A Moral Compass for the New Economy — Jim Wallis (NF)

Welcome to the Episcopal Church: An Introduction to Its History, Faith and Worship — Christopher L. Webber (NF)

In Search of England — H.V. Morton (NF)

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters — N.T. Wright (NF)

The Grouchy Grammarian — Thomas Parrish (NF)

Our Fathers — Andrew O’Hagan (F)

Faintheart: An Englishman Ventures North of the Border — Charles Jennings (NF)

A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life Ð Gov. Deval Patrick (NF)

The Fort — Bernard Cornwell (F)

 

The Isaacs sing for the Salvation Army

Clark County’s supporters of the Salvation Army have hit on a sure-fire way to raise awareness and money for the local service unit.

Last year, they got Kentucky country and bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs to perform at the Leeds Center for the Arts to benefit the charity. That worked out so well, that this year, they brought in another Christian musical group: The Isaacs.

The Isaacs: Becky, Sonya, Ben and Lily

Although I’m not really a fan of southern gospel, I was surprised when the family group kicked off their show last Saturday at Central Baptist Church with a hand-clapping, foot-stomping bluegrass medley that included such classics as “I’ll Fly Away” and “There is Power in the Blood.”

I do like live bluegrass, and I thought: This could be good.

It was.

It also was sometimes funny and at other times moving. One song, introduced as being “for all the caregivers” really touched me because it reminded me of how my mother,  Jeannette Patrick, cared for and visited my grandfather every day for many years at a nursing home, then later became a Red Cross volunteer at the hospital. She still sings with others to residents at the nursing home off Rockwell Road.

My mom, by the way, is a fan of The Isaacs and couldn’t see them that night because she and Dad had friends over. But she convinced me to use the ticket Shannon Cox gave me, and I’m glad I did.

Without knowing it until later, I found myself sitting next to Jimmy Yeary, the husband of one of the singers, Sonya Isaacs. Yeary’s something of a Nashville celebrity in his own right. He’s the lead singer for Shenandoah, and you may have heard a current hit he penned for Rascal Flatts: “Why Wait.”
Sonya was also a backup singer in Miley Cyrus’ movie, and brother Ben Isaacs has worked with such legendary musicians as Bill Gaither and Ralph Stanley.

Sister Becky Isaacs Bowman; their mother, Lily Isaacs; banjo player Thomas Wyrot; and drummer Nathan Fauscett make up the rest of the group.

Lily’s story is inspiring. The daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland who immigrated first to France and then to America, she got her start in New York City’s folk music scene in the 1960s, married a fellow musician and later converted to Christianity.

I bought my mother a CD of “Lily’s Story” that I’ll want to borrow soon.

But back to the benefit.

“It was a very big success,” said Linda Winburn, who asked the group to perform in Winchester after hearing them in concert somewhere else.

The Isaacs, who were  playing another concert last week for the Salvation Army in Louisville, were pleased with their Winchester visit.

“They’re super people, and they were really thrilled to be here with us,” Linda said.

Judging by the turnout of about 600 people and the enthusiasm of the crowd, the audience was also thrilled.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the crowd,” Linda said.

Most of the tickets were not pre-sold, but were handed out at the door, so the organizers didn’t really know how many folks to expect.

The concert raised about $9,000. Of that amount, the Salvation Army cleared about $1,500 — but that’s all money that stays here in Clark County to provide emergency relief for people who lose their homes to fire or flooding, provide food from God’s Pantry to Clark County Community Services, help families with utilities assistance and send kids to camp at Lake Dale Hollow.

The money makes a difference, and the concert gives the Salvation Army the kind of attention it might not get otherwise.

As I learned from a fundraising consultant, ticket sales and admission fees are ways to get people’s attention. The large donations often come later, after donors have had a chance to hear about the cause and decide whether it’s one they want to support.

And the Salvation Army is a good cause.

Freedom Fest to feature Building 429, fireworks

For those who like Christian pop and pyrotechnics, this year’s Freedom Fest could be a blast.

The First Church of God on Colby Road has booked Building 429, one of the biggest contemporary Christian music bands, for its Fourth of July weekend festival, which will be on Saturday.

Nashville band Building 429 will perform at this year's Freedom Fest at the First Church of God, 2500 Colby Road, Winchester. Members are Jason Roy, lead vocals, guitar and keys; Michael Anderson, drums; Jesse Garcia, guitar and keys; and Aaron Branch, bass.

The Nashville-based band, whose music is familiar to listeners of K-LOVE and Air 1, will be performing in between the church’s tribute to military veterans and emergency workers, and a big fireworks show that will be the culmination of the night’s entertainment. (Listen.)

The gates will open at 6, and the program will begin at 8 with the tribute. There is no charge for admission or parking. The only money the church will make on the festival will be from vendors.

“We wanted to do something for the community, to reach out and make it an event where people could come and bring their families for a night of bonding and relaxation,” said Daniel Konstantopoulous, a member of the church and one of the volunteers helping with the program. “Also, it gives us a chance to get the gospel of Jesus Christ out.”

The idea, he said, is to offer folks something to do around the holiday that involves a “good, clean family atmosphere.”

For the past three years, the church, located just outside of town on Colby, had the event on July 3, the day before Independence Day. But because Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation’s patriotic festival at Lykins Park is also on July 3, organizers decided this year to have it a day earlier, on Saturday.

For that reason, and because of the momentum that has been building each year, the church is expecting its largest crowd ever.

“The first year, we had only 500 people, and we just did a fireworks show,” Konstantopoulous said. “Then the first year we had a concert, it went to 1,500, and then last year when we had a band, we had 2,500 people. It keeps growing every year. We’re expecting to hit 3,500 this year.”

Having a CCM band has been popular. Like the previous bands, Rush of Fools and Big Daddy Weave, Building 429 is mostly light rock with a touch of other genres.

“It’s for everybody — not just one age group,” he said.

Building 429 won the 2005 Dove Award for best new artist of the year, Konstantopoulous mentioned.

In addition to performing, he said, band members will give “their testimony” and will give autographs after the show. They’ll also have a merchandise table where fans can buy CDs and T-shirts. Radio station WJMM will be broadcasting on site.

Konstantopoulous said the program will begin with a tribute to veterans, first responders, police officers, firefighters and others who serve the public.Pastor Gary Brown will have a short message that compares the sacrifices they make for the sacrifice Christ made for humankind, he said.

“The first 30 minutes or so will be to honor them with a little gift,” Konstantopoulous said.

The fireworks show, he said, will be “a pretty good” one that should last about 20 to 25 minutes.

People may arrive two hours before the program and bring their own lawn chairs and blankets to make themselves comfortable.

There will be giant inflatables for children to bounce on, and the food for sale will include pulled pork barbecue, smoked brisket, popcorn and Ale-8.
The event, Konstantopoulous said, is one that people of any age can enjoy — from infants to octogenarians.

Contact Randy Patrick at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

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