Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning at the O'Donnells

Here is a picture of the O'Donnell family Christmas tree taken early in the morning of 25 Dec 2008. The tree is lit and decorated beautifully, and in the foreground on the left you see the TV tray that was left for Santa, with some milk, cookies, and gifts. Proceeding from the fireplace to the right side of the tree are Santa's magic footprints and a few gifts he left for us.

Out of view, hung from a branch in the middle of tree, is a large iron nail, a gift from my vicarage supervisor eight years ago. Here, in the words of a lovely hymn, is the explanation for that nail:

What child is this, who laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the king,
Whom sheperds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant king, to own Him.
The king of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby;
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Remembering James Earl O'Donnell--19 April 1942-9 December 1992

It is December 9, 2008. The sixteenth anniversary of father's death. I have spent a bunch of time at hospitals the last few days and will do so again tomorrow. 

I had hoped to post a bit of a tribute to dad, but I think he would be pleased at a few things I learned from him that are very regularly put into practice. For one, he had a great respect for his elders and was a beacon of light for my late maternal grandmother, invalid in the nursing home. Dad would enter the place and smiles would come out because he treated the people at the home with respect and as real, valuable human beings. He would go to visit my grandmother at the nursing home on his lunch hour on occasion, and when he did he would almost always call ahead and have the staff get her in her chair and up and ready to go. 

Dad would enter the place, take grandma outside and have a smoke. I can't tell you what a treat that was for that woman, who smoked most of her life but then after a series of strokes was unable to move her limbs voluntarily, or even speak. He would get her outside on the porch of that nursing home, light up a cigarette, and place it on her lips. Some may be offended by that, but the woman couldn't move, couldn't speak, and was fed by a feeding tube for a decade. She was gorgeous, without a trace of gray hair, and in her youth a classical violinist. That cigarette, which she could barely inhale, was the tinniest of pleasures.

My favorite sight of him at the nursing home, though, was when he would go over with my sister, Brooke, who sang. Brooke would get out her portable system, sing along to whatever she was working on, and dad would twirl grandma in her wheelchair, dancing and rejoicing in the music. The other folks in the home loved it, and he'd dance with them, too. 

My father was a "complicated" man. On this anniversary it would be wrong to portray him without flaws, but he was a really remarkable father, and full of life in ways, now that I'm older, that I rarely see.

I really miss him.

Thank you, Lord, for a father who showed my unconditional love and encouraged me to discover and use my God-given gifts.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Austin Hatch Dunks

Last week my crew had the opportunity to spend an evening with my cousin Steve and his family. The evening including catching the second half of my young cousin Austin James Hatch's basketball game. 

Austin is an eighth grader and, like his dad, a fine student-athlete. I remember, as a kid just a few years behind Steve, traveling with my father from Frankenmuth (MI) to watch cousin Steve play ball over in Saginaw. Steve was a great student and a fine athlete, playing Div.III football (and basketball, I believe) at Alma College. If I remember righltly, he even considered walking on at Wake Forest for basketball when he was in medical school there....

In any case, my kids thought watching eighth-grade cousin, Austin, was a big time event, and an inspiring one. We also got to spend a bit of time with Austin after the game. He's around 5' 10" and though tired after the game worked hard to put down a dunk for the poor mortals gathered who enjoy living vicariously through him.

I had my video camera at the event and promised Austin that if he put one down that I would post it on my blog. Here, with his father's permission, is an early Austin Hatch dunk. God-willing, there will be many more to come! 

It is a joy to live near family and have the opportunity to share some time with them. Thanks to Steve, his delightful wife, Kim, and congratulations to their daughter, Maria, who in June 2009 will be married to the fine young man, Zach, whom we met for the first time at the festivities.

Her's a pic of cousin Steve with our little man, Brenainn, after the game:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Re-reading George McKenna's "On Abortion: A Lincolnian Position"

Here is a link to an article in the September 1995 issue of The Atlantic Monthly  ( It is entitled, "On Abortion--A Lincolnian Position."

It is hard to believe that it has been 13 years since this essay was published. I read it right away, having seen the cover with the impressive picture of the Lincoln Memorial, and the huge title reference for the article. I wish that that The Atlantic would put it up online in PDF so that all the original graphics could be seen. It was impressive in a variety of ways.

During my college days and up until my rescue by Christ and return to the church in 1993 I held what might be called a "libertarian" position on abortion. This article by George McKenna played a key role in the reformation of my position, and I encourage those on both sides of the political debate to give this article a very serious read. Certainly, I would like to hear what my readers think about the argument Mr. McKenna presents.