Thanksgiving Posture

Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday.

Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and sweet potatoes with an argument about whether they are actually yams. Then there’s the green beans topped with fried onions, cheese and baked in cream of mushroom sauce.  I’m pretty sure this recipe disqualifies the green beans as a vegetable.   Sweet rolls, dinner rolls, and rolling off the couch a few hours later for leftovers. Wait, who won the football game?  I must have dozed off in a turkey coma.   Pass the cranberry sauce please.

But it’s doing all of this with family that is the best.  Some of our most meaningful and most ridiculous discussions have occurred during this annual gathering.   Many times we’ll share something specific that we are thankful for, which is also nice, but Thanksgiving is about much more than that.  It’s actually a reminder about our posture.

When George Washington gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789, he was instructed to do so by congress in order “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”   This proclamation was not some sort of perfunctory duty of a head of state, it was great leadership.  Washington and the Congress understood that the new nation’s posture must be one of thanksgiving or else the nation would fail.

Thanksgiving is a posture.  It is not merely a list of things we are grateful for, but it is an attitude, a guardrail on the road to success for a nation and also for an individual.  Washington understood this as he continued in his address:

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.” – George Washington

A posture of thanksgiving is the foundation of these values he envisions for our national character:  humility, empowerment, performance of duty, blessing, consistency, wisdom, justice, discretion, faithfulness, protection, guidance, efficiency, peace and harmony, education, true worship, ingenuity and invention, discovery and prosperity.   Where these are missing, you will find a posture of thanksgiving is missing. Instead, you’ll find a posture of victimhood, cynicism and arrogance.

Lincoln-Thanksgiving-ProcalamtionThe holiday we now celebrate was inaugurated by President Lincoln exactly three score and fourteen years later to the day, October 3, 1863.   He gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation during the height of the Civil War, a few months after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  After some discussion of the nation’s blessing, Lincoln would write:

“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” – Abraham Lincoln

Our sins” primarily refers to american slavery, of which we had been unrepentant to God and also unrepentant to our own founding documents and ideals.  But even in the course of civil war and what Lincoln believed was divine punishment and consequence for these national transgressions, he knew how important it was that we maintain a posture of thankfulness, even through the darkest of times.  There could be no union without a thanksgiving posture.

The need for a posture of thanksgiving has not changed.  Today, our nation is slouching more than it has in a long time, and we need to adjust our posture.  Increasingly, we have a posture of victimhood and selfishness.  We are ungrateful and jealous, unrepentant and prideful. This posture is contrary to who we are called to be and it is having an effect.  Just turn on the news and witness the absurdity on all sides.

This year, let us renew our posture of thanksgiving.  When we are thankful, we remember that we are a people called to lead with our freedoms, in humility and truth, with sacrifice and generosity and strength.   When we see or experience injustice, we must not wallow in it or leverage it to our own petty interests or useless ideologies. This is short sighted and the opposite of a thankful posture. Instead, a thankful people work through their differences to solve problems rather than affix blame for a political or financial advantage. A grateful people know they are beneficiaries of life, liberty and renewed opportunities, and that the benefactor of these rights is self-evident.  Only in thankfulness for these things can we be just and faithful and proper in our administration of justice and mercy.

Let us be thankful, for we are not a nation of victims and of the fearful, but we are a nation of helpers and of the brave.  Our desire is to use our liberty to repent of our own injustices, and to shine a light on injustice elsewhere, wherever it may be.  With a foundation of thankfulness, we will have the moral authority to do so, bringing the hope of resolution and reconciliation, of reconstruction and redemption.

Finally, let us be grateful to God that, in spite of our current national sins of which there are many, we are still blessed more than any in history.  Perhaps our apparent decline is a new divine punishment, perhaps it is mere consequence. Regardless, let us fix our posture, being penitent and thankful to the Living God that we still have time to do so.  We have so much to offer a world that still longs to be free, including the Good News that frees us all from tyranny and hate and the sting of death.

I hope you have a happy holiday, and not just one with food and family and friends, but with a renewed sense of purpose that comes from a Thanksgiving posture.


The Furrow Plan for the Future of San Diego Football

LA ChargersLet the San Diego Chargers go to Los Angeles.  Let’s face it, every year, the Chargers are almost a good team, but they always disappoint, and that makes them a perfect counterpart for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But even without a team, the City of San Diego should build a state-of-the-art football stadium anyway.  Here’s my proposal, subject to approval by the National Football League.

I propose we destroy Qualcomm in some dramatic fashion, in order to build excitement for what would be not just another football stadium, but the biggest one ever built.  It shall be known as the most magnificent sporting venue in the world, the new Eighth Wonder of the World.  We would build it, not for a replacement or expansion team in the NFL, but for something greater, greater for San Diego, greater for sports fans everywhere.

Our new stadium’s name will not be associated with any bank or other local company.  The name will be simple, straight-forward, and will clearly identify it’s purpose.  The stadium will be built to host only one football game a year, the game and the stadium shall have the same name:  The Super Bowl.

The idea is that all future Super Bowls would be played in San Diego, at The Super Bowl, in exchange for San Diego not having it’s own team.  We would trade eight mediocre games for one spectacular event.  I think that’s a good deal for San Diegans, who aren’t buying Charger tickets anyway.  With the Furrow Plan, we don’t need to buy tickets, instead, the world will be buying tickets from us!

It is clear that San Diego is the best city in the world to host the Super Bowl.  We have the best weather in the country, with very good odds of a spectacular environment for fans, teams, blimps, and more.   There would be no concerns of profit reducing snow or rain or general dreariness.  Fans will also be able to enjoy the sunshine at the beaches, the resorts, and the world famous San Diego Zoo.  Tourists are only a short drive from Legoland and even Disneyland.

Imagine the possibilities.  While many might prefer a downtown stadium for a local team, the Mission Valley location would be ideal for The Super Bowl.   Plenty of room for parking of course, but also, imagine the use of that space for the fan and media experience!  Plus, the complex could contain community sports fields, sports themed restaurants and activities and think of it – The Super Bowl resort and Spa!

A sample of what could be built in Mission Valley

A Sample of what could be built in Mission Valley

How would this all be funded?  You mean how would all those additional tourist tax dollars, media deals, and various fees for this and that pay for it?  I think we just paid for it.  Some naysayers have suggested that the Super Bowl drives away as many tourists and city revenue, as it brings in.  That may be true in other cities, but unlike cities with those ugly domed stadiums, people actually want to visit San Diego, and will even extend their stay for an amazing vacation.  There is more than enough to do and places to stay.  The revenue from all of that makes the Furrow Plan financing scenarios obvious.

An artist concept drawing from a few years ago.

An artist concept drawing from a few years ago.

The Superbowl belongs in San Diego.  Let’s face it, there’s really no point in traveling to arctic places like New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Chicago or the Northeast and Midwest in general during the winter and no one wants to go to Miami or Phoenix until retirement.  New Orleans can’t keep the lights on, and besides, like Detroit, St. Louis, and Minneapolis, they have that dome problem.   Domes are dumb.   Los Angeles has too much traffic, San Francisco is too liberal, Boston cheats, Seattle and Denver have certain other recreational problems, Baltimore is Baltimore and the other cities are just other cities.  But San Diego is America’s Finest City.

Obviously, this is a win-win for San Diego and the NFL.

I call on Mayor Faulconer and the City of San Diego to create a new commission immediately, one to propose The Furrow Plan to the NFL.  If this deal shows promise, we should simply let the Chargers go to L.A. and shack up with the Raiders.  That sounds like a great relationship.  They can be the Kardashians of football.

Think about it, mayor.  If it works, one day they’ll put a statue of you somewhere near Horton Plaza.


The Music of the Star Wars The Force Awakens Trailer

Like millions of others, I sat down with my boys to watch the end of the first half of Monday Night Football this week so the we could enjoy the new trailer for the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.  It was the highest rated last moments of a 2nd quarter and MNF halftime show in quite a while.  Why so much excitement?  It’s because the bulk of people my age are looking longingly to J.J. Abrams for the latest attempt to have a continuation of our childhood.

It’s true.  I saw the original Star Wars in the theater when I was not quite 6 years old. I managed to see it 10 times in theaters, which was quite an accomplishment, not just for a 6 year old, but at a time when there weren’t many theaters around anyway. Our town, Palmdale, California, had one lousy theater – The Palace Theater.  The Palace was known for having a huge Coke stain in the middle of the right side of the screen, and also for having a lumpy floor as management simply painted over dropped Milk Duds rather than scoop them up.  It was a jem, I miss it.

This kid-like feeling we Generation X people now have about the Episode VII release was briefly ignited in 1999 when the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, hit the theaters.  I waited in line outside for hours for the first midnight show, along with my new girlfriend at the time.  She stood there with me in the cold and rain surrounded by the nerd elite.  Naturally, I married her.   That night, we bonded emotionally as we experienced together the absolute horror of what was Episode I.  The audience’s bad feeling about this began with the scrolling of the words “Trade Federation” and culminated in the opening scenes with the emergence of the dastardly Jar Jar Binks.  At that moment, just 10 minutes into the movie, we felt a great disturbance in the theater, as if millions of childhood voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

But today, we are expecting to finally be able to put that behind us, to find closure and a new hope, in a new Star Wars film that reminds us why we went to experience it so many times in the 1970’s and 80’s.  So we watch the trailers repeatedly, record our reactions, and post them for others to see.  I can’t imagine it can get more nerdy.  Well, I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.

There is something else I was looking for, rather, listening for in the trailer.  The music.  Would we get a feel for the new score by John Williams?  The music itself was arranged by composers who do music for trailers, but supposedly, it was inspired by Williams and then adapted from the previous movies.  For me, the music of this new Star Wars flick will be just as important as the story.

What is the last film score that we have heard that has left a lasting impression and universally recognizable tune in elevators or at symphony concerts?  I remember walking out of the most recent Indiana Jones movie, disappointed, but nostalgic, humming the familiar theme song in the parking lot.  It occurred to me that it had been quite a while since there was any comparable and memorable theme music to a movie.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some great scores today, however, we don’t hum them or remember them for very long after the film.  But nearly 40 years later, we still hear and immediately recognize themes from Superman, Indiana Jones, Chariots of Fire, Jaws, Rocky, and of course the music of the Star Wars saga.  If you are older or younger, I bet you know all of those too.

Well, I was not disappointed.  The trailer’s music was wonderful.  Some brilliant person thought this too and created a version of the trailer without the voices and narration and just the score.  That’s really the reason I wrote all this, so that you can listen with me.

Below is the most recent trailer with the voices and narration removed and the music remastered.  Close your eyes if you are trying to avoid spoilers (there really aren’t any here), but turn your speakers up or put on you best headphones and listen…

The music is it’s own dialogue. The trailer might even be better this way,

For comparison, you can watch the original here:


PS:  Han shot first.

Reasons Why is Down Today…

JoeBiden dot com is down

On a whim, I looked up to see if there was anything interesting.  The site is down, has been for a while.  That is interesting.  Came up with some reasons:

1. Original site stored on Hillary’s servers.
2. Confused Joe trying to buy Star Wars tickets from his own website.
3. Biden 2016 website about to be uploaded.

I’m pretty sure one of those is the reason.

Just thought I’d join in the everything political Joe Biden watch.  Some of you know I dabble a tiny bit in political prognosticating.  A year ago, I would have told you that there is no chance Biden would run for President.  But now I think if he runs he might very well win the Democrat nomination.  I bet he would have said the same thing a year ago, and yet, here we are.

I know – you can’t handle the suspense…

A Family Memorial Day Fix

My son James asked me if we have any soldiers in our family to remember today.  So, for Memorial Day, my family is remembering William M. P.  Furrow, Civil War veteran, 51st Illinois Infantry Regiment, Company E.  He joined the Union Army on February 26, 1864 and was discharged for disability on June 19, 1865.  We aren’t sure what the disability was, but I’ve heard from my father that he heard from his grandmother that William Furrow had an arm shot off by a cannonball somewhere near the end of the war.

For whatever reason, the Furrow family history does not include a lot of military service, especially in combat.  That is, as far as I can tell.  Our family tree hasn’t been cared for very well.  It has some hidden branches and also some branches that need to be pruned.  For example, I got a note today from someone at asking me if I could provide more information for a relative in my tree that apparently was still having kids a couple of years after his death.  I’ll need to fix that.

butter churchOur family doesn’t actually know much about William M. P. Furrow, other than he was a farmer and sold butter by the pound, proving beyond any doubt he and I are related.  Also, you can probably churn butter with just one arm…

We’re not exactly sure what the “M. P.” stand for.  I am fairly certain “M” stands for “Mathias” as it is his dad’s name and probably his grandfather’s name.  But I’m not sure if that’s really a part of his name as he is more typically listed as “William P.”   The “P” is even more tricky.  Most people who share his family tree think it’s “Perry,” but that name doesn’t appear anywhere else in the family.   One person is convinced it’s “Plimell,” which is his mother’s maiden name.  That is possible, maybe even probable.  But we’ll go with Perry for now since it’s the most common.

A couple of years ago, while researching family names and searching for potential names for our kids, I found a picture of his gravestone.  I knew the cemetery and plot number, but at the time photos were not attached.  But I found a website where someone had gone through and posted pictures of every grave.  The problem was that the photos were not in order and not labeled.  I spent about an hour looking for great great great grandpa’s headstone and then I found what must be it:

William Mathias Perry Furrow Headstone

N. P. Forrow?  Who is that?  I looked in the list of members of the 51st Illinois Infantry, Company E, and there no such name.  The only name close is William P. Furrow.   Someone messed up the headstone!  How could the VA make this mistake?  Well, don’t answer that.   Since this isn’t the original headstone, my theory is that some friendly group replaced it at some point but couldn’t read the original stone which had likely deteriorated.  Perhaps they didn’t have a list of Company E.  They also didn’t have Google.  So, I’m sure they did the best they could.

Well, it bugs me.

Ever since I found this, I’ve wanted to replace it, but I can’t really justify the expense.  However, it occurred to me just this morning that perhaps the Veterans Administration created this marker at some point and maybe they would correct the error and replace it?  So, I’ve looked it up and discovered that they may actually replace it at their expense (read: our expense as taxpayers).  Since he’s buried in a private cemetery, they won’t cover the expense to lay the new stone.  So, I downloaded the complicated government form which requires me to have certain probably unattainable information, but, I’m going to see what happens if I begin this process.

For some reason, it means a lot to me to fix this.  Unlike a certain posthumously progenerating prunable branch on my tree, I am certain about William P. Furrow’s place in our family.  So certain, our second son’s middle name is “William” in honor of him.

I seems to me that our veterans, even the ones we don’t really know, deserve to be remembered correctly, even if just by a marker in a rural cemetery.   One day, I hope to visit Wallace Chapel Cemetery with my family and see the brand new stone marking the grave of a Civil War hero.

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln

– SF