Monday, December 31, 2007

She Walks!

You know, you can never get the camera fast enough, and once you've got it, they'll never do for you again what they just finished doing before you got the camera.
Honor had just walked back and forth between me and Macon at least a few times, a feat that required her to take 3 or 4 steps at a time each way. As soon as I got the camera, it was all over. So I am very sorry not to have recorded for all of you fine folks one of her longer jaunts. Even so, it is so fun to have a video of at least this one step. I hope that all you grandparents and aunts and uncles (and friends) enjoy!

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'....

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce a very fine young rider, Miss Honor.

All that bouncing at the beginning is totally her. Macon is not helping her bounce at all. She really likes riding Fire!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

London: The World's Financial Capital

I read this boast somewhere the other day. I can believe it. All the oil money the West sends to the Middle East is recyled back to the West through Islam-friendly Britain where, at Oxford, public loudspeakers call the submissive to prayer. But are we far behind?

Shoot! Missed asking for this at Christmas . . .

. . . maybe Valentine's Day?

Trouble in Kenya

Mary sent us an email advising that RVA is delaying the opening of the new term because of the election difficulties. She's OK, she said. But a matter for some prayer.

Lojack for Laptops

WSJ reported on Thursday about a service offered by Absolute Software Corp. under which you download tracking software to your laptop, which then sends a signal to the service's monitoring center every time it logs onto the internet. If you report your machine missing, the service will be able to trace the computer by its Internet protocol address. "The company then works with law-enforcement agencies to recover the laptop by locating the network it has logged on to - say, a local coffee shop." The article mentions two other such services, Cyberangel Security Solutions and Brigadoon Security Group.

I haven't read these sites with any care, but it seems to me that the thing to do is for the service to send a virus to the computer, having preset a sort of portal so that it gets by the firewall or general virus security. (I am assuming that everything would be backed up, so you really can survive without the machine.) Or maybe the signal would simply lock the Laptop down, if there was any chance of actually retrieving the machine.

And I would have it connected to a little mp3 program that would scream, "Help, Thief! Help, Thief, Call the Police!!!"

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

I heard someone say this about Christianity in Kenya when I was there. I thought, "But what about the American church?"

Bill Hybels seems to think something like that exists here and that his approach to ministry had something to do with it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Juanita's Bible

I was looking at Juanita's old Bible last night. The frontispiece reads "Presented to Mother by Paul, Little Walter, Daddy. Birthday - November 17, 1950." She was 30 that year. Notes in the Bible, remind me that my brother Walter died the following March. (He was two years younger than I; born September 8, 1948.) My sister came along December 11, 1952.

There's a page between the Old and New Testament entitled "Deaths". Here are notes from that page:

Audrey Atrue Jordan Warren born March 13, 1902, died February 1, 1949. Buried Panthersville Presbyterian Church, Panthersville, GA, Dekalb, County. (My mother's mother. Jordan was her maiden name; Warren, the family name of the husband, Ike, to whom she was married when she died. I never heard or read of the name "Atrue" before last night.)

Walter Levi Stokes born June 6, 1877, died December 20, 1949. 5:15 PM. Buried December 22, 1949 2:00 Westview Cemetery (Atlanta) (My dad's father. I have only one memory of him, a visit, probably Thanksgiving the year he died. He was sick and in bed. I was three years old that year. I don't know where that middle name came from.)

Hettie Louise [Johnson] Stokes. Born October 24, 1884. Died July 12, 1959 7:30 AM. Buried July 14, 1959 2PM Westview Cemetery (Atlanta). (My dad's mother. She moved to Miami Springs sometime in the early 50s and lived with my Aunt Frances' family. My Aunt Frances and her family moved to Miami Springs from Greensboro about that time.)

Walter Johnson Stokes. Died October 10, 1996. Westview - ATL. (My dad. He was born August 9, 1912.)

Walter Johnson Stokes II Born September 8 1948, died March 21, 1951, buried March 23, 1951. Westview Cemetery. (Again, my little brother. I have lots of pretty clear memories of him. He was born with damage to his brain because of a lack of oxygen during the birthing process. He had "infantile paralysis" as a result, had to wear braces on his legs and had "convulsions", which is what they called seizures back then. I don't recall anything wrong with his mind. We played together a lot. He died of one of those "convulsions" at Variety Children's Hospital. By the time our kids came along, that hospital was known as Miami Children's Hospital, and again became a familiar place to me. He really wasn't a "II". He was a "Jr.", because he had my dad's name. But my grandmother called my dad "Junior" because his dad was a Walter too, even though Grandfather Walter's middle name was not Johnson but Levi. But my grandmother called my dad "Junior" anyway, so my parents gave my brother the "II". But why wouldn't they call him III then, I would ask my mother? She said it was because he did not have the same name as Walter Levi, he had the same name as my father. But why not III, then, I would ask, if they weren't going to pay attention to middle names. She would just look at me. Pretty appalling mix-up, I would say. I guess that would make my son Walter number IV. But that wouldn't make sense, because Macon always said Walter was II, but I think Macon was referring to something else and he wasn't thinking Roman numerals. My brother is buried in Westview too. I remember riding the train up to Atlanta from Miami with my Mom and Dad. I think we rode the train because the casket with my brother in it was on the same train. We had a Pullman compartment where the porter came in when we were ready to go to bed and put down the beds. I remember the funeral at the Hemperley Funeral Home, and my brother beforehand in the open casket in one of the parlors. He looked like he was asleep. I was sure all that I had to do was reach over and open his eyes and he would wake up. My mother was with me and she told me that it wouldn't work. I was 4 years old. I remember her being dressed up like we were going to church, and I remember her being very young. The memories of all that are very, very clear.)

Carlos Mason Hemperley died June 11, 1971. (This was my mother's father, and my "grandaddy" growing up. What a hero he was to me. He was just 70 when he died, and had been getting ready to come to my graduation from law school when he went to the hospital. Carol and I skipped the graduation ceremony and drove down to Atlanta, hoping to see him before he died, but got there in time for the funeral. He's buried in Westview Cemetery. I don't know where the "Carlos" came from, other than the fact that we are direct descendants of El Cid. Just kidding. The "Mason" is the family name of my grandfather's father's business partner. They were in the retail furniture business, and carried a line of caskets. They spun off the casket business into a funeral home and my great-grandfather founded Hemperley Funeral Home in East Point. My cousin, Carlos M. Hemperley III (?), son of my uncle Carlos M. Hemperley Jr., carries on that business to this day. My grandfather offered a place in that business to my dad early on. Nope. There are lots of good stories about my granddaddy.)

Nancy R. Della Lanford Jordan Born February 14, 1883 [Valentine's Day] Died September 9, 1971. Buried Corinth Baptist Church Stone Mountain, GA. (This was my mother's grandmother, Audrey's mother. When my mother's parents were divorced, I think my mother was abut 7, I'm not sure. But "Grandma Jordan" pretty much raised my mom. She was a "Lanford.". That was a strong family, and I heard a lot about them from my mother, especially "Great Grandpa Lanford". Macon's middle name is Lanford. Grandma Jordan (pronounced "JURdn" not "JORDON") and her husband were in the retail business in downtown Atlanta. I never noticed the "R." in her name until last night and don't know what it stands for. Ruth? I have lots of fond and even funny memories of her. She never stopped and was always working at something - sewing, cooking, cleaning. Not only did she raise my mother and her brother, Carlos Mason Hemperley Jr., she also virtually raised my uncle's three kids, my cousins Becky, Bobbie, and Butch (CMHIII), while Uncle Carlos and his wife, Ellen, ran the funeral business.)

Carol and Paul Baby Girl. Born and Died August 12, 1973. (We were going to name her some combination of Elizabeth and Rebeka. She is buried in a cemetery in Greensboro, now next to Carol's mom and dad.)

Frances Stokes Harris. Died September 2, 1991. (My dad's sister. She was widowed when I was in junior high and lived in Miami Springs into the 1980s. She then moved to Atlanta where her sons, my cousins Ken and Tim, had moved. She was about as sweet a person as one could ever meet, and she became a good friend to Carol and me during our young marriage and was there for our us when our first baby died. We always went by to see her in Atlanta on the way to or from NC on our vacations. She was buried in Westview Cemetery too, next to her husband Uncle Harold.)

Mary [Whiteside] Crocker. Died February 2, 1994. (Carol's mom, and the perfect mother-in-law. She made me feel welcome from the very first moment. Her house and her life had a peace to it that Carol brought to our family. She reminded me so much of Grandmother Jordan, especially how she was always working and serving others. For example, she was driving "Meals on Wheels" in Greensboro into her 80s and to people who were much younger than she. Much more to write about her.)

Willilu (Sox) Burch Hemperley. Died August 20, 1994. (This was my granddaddy's second wife, my step-grandmother. But she was the only maternal grandmother that I ever knew, and she was a great, great friend. She was a surgical nurse at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, and another lady that never stopped. She was tough too. Even though Juanita was her step-daughter, she treated her as one of her own and treated me as if I were her flesh and blood. Once there was a gathering of her family. She had several brothers and sisters and they all had children, some of them about my age, and all of them were there. Her father was there too, and he told all the grandchildren to line up in a line, because he was going to give each of them a $20 bill - big money back then. Grandmother walked me up and put me at the end of the line, and I got my $20. Her father didn't notice that I didn't exactly belong, and was totally confused when he realized that he had given one $20 bill more than he had figured. She never told him what happened.)

Mom liked to put notes in her Bible. One is handwritten by her, a quote from the poet/athlete Satchel Paige. "Age is a thing of mind and matter - if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve in Miami Springs

Tonight our church had its traditional Christmas Eve service. Lots of memories of Christmas Eve services there, and lots of friends came tonight. Among them, Marti and Hank, Jim and Donna. Marti and Jim's mother, Mary Nelle, a dear friend of Juanita, died this year too. Marti gave me a poem that Ginny Combs, another Miami Springs girl, included in her Christmas newsletter. Ginny's mother also passed away this year, and she knew Mary Nelle well and Juanita. Suzie's Mom, Charlotte, also died to this world in 2007. The first Christmas Eve Service I attended at our church was on a date with Suzie when we were 16. Four Miami Springs moms, all friends with each other, all gone to heaven this year. Here's the poem:

I see the countless Christmas Trees around the world below
with tiny lights, like heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear,
for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,but
the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
for it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me. [You got that right, Mom].
I see the pain inside your heart,
but I am not so far away. We really aren't apart.

So be happy for me dear ones. You know I hold you dear,
and be glad I'm spending Christmas, with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.
I send you each a memory, of my undying love.

After all "Love" is the gift, more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do,
for I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.
So, have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I'm spending Christmas, with Jesus Christ this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Don't tell the guys, but . . .

I'm reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. When the admiring blurbs on the back cover are from Romantic Times Magazine and Affaire de Coeur, you know that, if you are a guy, you need to carry this around in a plain wrapper.

The book is the first of a three volume series called "Mark of the Lion". Francine Rivers is a gifted writer - her prose is smooth and very readable. Now and then I read someone and think, "I would love to be able to write sentences and paragraphs like that", and she is one of them. This book follows the story of a young Jewish woman, a Christian, whose family was caught in Jerusalem when the Romans leveled it in 70AD. She loses her family in the carnage but survives herself. She is taken into slavery, ending up with a wealthy family in Rome.

There are other interesting characters and a plot that carries you right along. It is a very undemanding read, which is refreshing after all the tough reading I do during the day, and the plot is just complex enough. The characters are not exactly complicated people, but they have do have flesh and blood. The themes are right out there for you to see, but that's fine. The author has done her homework on the historical period in question. It is so good to read a Christian writer who obviously knows her craft, is truly gifted, and takes great care with her writing.

Mary tells me that Francine Rivers' books are very popular among the missionary families.

Sue and Doug gave us these books last Christmas, and I finally got to open this one a couple of weeks ago. I'm on page 358 of a 500 page volume! (Francine must write all the time).

Thanks, Sue!

PS If you like this book and the series, be sure to go back and read The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas. It was huge best-seller in the 50s, and there was a mega-movie based on the book with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons, also worth a look. And while you're at it, pick up Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace, a book that gave the genre a kick start in 1880. That one produced two terrific movies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Upcoming Elections in Kenya

Hank sent me this link. Mary has posted about these elections here. (Be sure to read the comments to Mary's post. Very interesting.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The McCaffrey Report on Iraq Status

This is a fascinating and informative report by a retired General and adjunct professor at West Point. Here's one gem among many:

Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma—who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.

Read every word of it.

Something Fun

Well, it's been a while since I made the time to post anything, so I thought I'd put up a few pics.

For Halloween, Aidan was Dr. Aidan, and Honor was a Tulip Fairy (doesn't Macon look fabulous wearing Honor's little Tulip Fairy headband?)

Also, I just wanted to include a recent photo of Aidan and his pony, "Fire." Fire lives at my parents' house and has been quite the hit. And, for any of you out there who doubt that children imitate what they see on television, let me share a story. There is an episode of the Backyardigans where Uniqua is a western horse rider and Pablo is a jockey. They compete against one another and at one point as they are boasting and competing, they decide to ride on their horses, standing on one leg while the horse turns in circles. What do you think was the first thing Aidan did after getting onto Fire's back? That's right! He got up on one leg and "rode" Fire while standing on said one leg. Note: all the while he was saying, "Look, Mommy, I can ride just like Pablo and Uniqua!"

This does not bode well, and I can't wait to start explaining to the emergency room doctors about the fantastical feats that my children will no doubt soon be doing.

How Aquatic!

The Tuna to rescue the Dolphins.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Big personal life changes

I'm changing my voter's registration to Republican so that I can vote for McCain. Having gotten a new workstation at the office that has Word 2007 already installed, I'm changing to Word and saying good by to WordPerfect. Both choices are flawed and I'm turning my back on a lot of history, but the choices are the best available at this point.

UPDATE: Good company.

UPDATE UPDATE: See the video.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Baptists are Coming! The Baptists are Coming!

Huckabee corrals the endorsement of Pastor Howard's kids. He can't lose!

(Pastor Howard is my partner Jane's pastor, at the First Baptist Church of Homestead. See his blog here. Funny post here.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

O, Christmas Tree!

We had a Christmas party at our house Saturday night for the people in our Bible study classes and their spouses. The purpose was, in part, to force us to get our house ready for the Holiday. With none of our children coming home this year, we thought we needed a little prodding like this. The rest was social.

Counting Carol and me, we had 29 people. Carol crock-potted a turkey breast (a recipe from Micki) and fixed a chicken curry dish that we enjoyed last year in Kenya at the home of one of Mary's colleagues. The curry is served on a bed of rice (or wrapped in a chapati; one of our Indian friends brought chapati, which is sort of like a tortilla, but made of wheat, I think). The curry called for toppings, chopped pineapple, raisins, chopped onions, and chopped peppers, all of them together if you like (and I liked - mmmm!). For the rest of the feast, it was "covered dish", a formula for a plentiful and varied banquet.

This is what our Christmas tree looks like. (Click on the picture to enlarge. At the bottom of the tree, on the right hand side, is a little felt christmas-tree ornament that Walter made, and it has his photo in it.) Once I got the tree in place, Carol did the decorating. (I have to confess, I don't have much patience for tree trimming. But I help with untrimming it.) The tree is in our living room, next to the bookcase.

On the bookcase are some items from Christmas past, including two Nativity creations of Mary, one on a shoe-box lid (three shelves from the bottom, on the left) and the other made from Popsicle sticks (five shelves from the bottom, on the right). The two stockings hung on the bottom are for Carol and me (Carol made them years ago, and one each for the kids). The stocking toward the top of the right bookcase belonged to Juanita, and she bought it years ago from the 10,000 Villages store in Montreat. It is embroidered and was made in India, I believe. It's there in memory of her. She celebrates her first year in heaven this year.

On the top of the bookcases, on the right, there is a reindeer head, made from the base of a palm frond, the part where the rest of the palm frond is attached to the trunk. Mary and Walter each made one of these in pre-school. The other one is hanging elsewhere in the house.

The tree, of course, is also full of memories, as family Christmas trees become over the years, and the rest of the living room, den, dining room, and kitchen are full of such objects as well.

As people are finding out that we have no kids home this Christmas, we are getting some invitations for meals and the like on Christmas day. But we are going to drive over to see my sister Julia and her family in New Port Richey, FL, after we get up and open our presents. My niece Audrey is having a party at 4PM that day, and so we will go to that party and spend the night with Julia, her husband Greg, and their son, Gregory Paul. We will drive home Wednesday morning.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Way to go, Steve!

Steve Peifer won one of CNN's Heroes awards on December 6. There's a lot at the CCN site about the show, the process of selection, video, and photos of Steve and the other winners and nominees. I would start here.

The Love of a Christian Father

At yesterday's men's breakfast, the issue of abortion came up, and Austin told us a family story of a Christian father's leadership and love.

Years ago, Austin's uncle and aunt brought into their home to live a teenage boy, 15 or 16 years of age, whose own family was so broken that the young man did not have a place even to sleep. (Austin's uncle and family are members of the Reformed Church, where Austin's immediate family were Pentecostal. He described how important and intensely held were the particular Christian beliefs of their two families, and it seemed to us that presently a great deal of that intensity has seeped out of American Christianity.)

The boy was about the same age as a daughter of Austin's uncle, and after awhile she became pregnant by the boy. I can only imagine the intensity of that crisis. Abortion would have been a quick solution and, of course, throwing that ungrateful boy out of the house.

Instead, Austin's uncle told the young people they needed to get married and, as their respective guardians, he signed the marriage license on behalf of each of them.

Now this young couple have grown up; they have 8 children and a couple of grandchildren. (Austin said the couple's own children married young.) They live in their own house, near where Austin's uncle and aunt live, with a big yard that has a big tree and a tire swing and a bunch of kids running around having fun. The young man is a cabinet maker and so good at it that wealthy people from Boston fly him to their city to do work for them. Their first baby was a boy, Josiah, and all of their children have Biblical names. Josiah attended Pensacola Bible College.

I have heard Austin tell that story before, and I love to hear it. What a wonderful story of love, of a sort of muscular forgiveness on the father's part, and of how God redeems a difficult situation, especially when those "in charge", a father this time, are obedient to him.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Other Robert E. Lee

Maybe Robert E. Lee is not a big deal in that part of your mind's eye that looks back over American history. He wasn't at the center of my study of Southern history at Duke, but I understood something like he was the greatest man the South ever produced, etc. I did enjoy Grant's biography, which I read a couple of years ago, but I guess, from the South's perspective, Grant's best use was as a slightly disreputable, cigar smoking foil for General Lee, and that the best thing one could say about Grant was that he treated General Lee well and let the rebels keep their guns at Appomattox.

In the September 2007 issue of The New Criterion, Daniel Mark Epstein has it out for Lee, as he reviews Elizabeth Brown's Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. His review, entitled "Who Cares About Robert E. Lee?" presents the revisionist view of the great man.

For example: Lee married well, or it looked like that initially. But when he was 49, his father-in-law died, "naming him as executor in charge of a debt-ridden estate and 196 slaves on several plantations". The father in law stipulated in his will that the slaves should be liberated, and they all expected to be. But Lee didn't liberate them and, instead, leased out the able-bodied ones to raise money for the estate. He broke up families to do so and "most of these families had been together since General Washington's time". Two of the slaves ran away when they learned they would not be freed, a young man and a young woman, brother and sister, but they were apprehended and brought back. Lee supervised 50 lashes for the young man and 20 for the young woman.

This is only one part of the indictment. The indictment also alleges that he was not such a great general, that he was silent when the Virginia legislature might have stayed in the union had he spoken up, and that he resigned his commission, thereby renouncing an oath, and took up arms against the US, all out of pride and not out of a true sense of duty to Virginia. The worst charge of all (to my mind) was that he was an engineer and thought like one. Now, as a liberal arts major, I can concede that that criticism may have some merit to it.

But first Beowulf, and now General Lee. I just don't know what to say,