Our December 2008 Trip to Florida

Leive & I returned on Monday from our trip to Florida.  Since Hanukkah ended Monday as well, I missed posting menorahs (“menorot”?) for the last four days, so here they are now, completing the set.

Although the weather and the timing would lead one to believe that this was just a Florida vacation, we went for three reasons:

  1. To visit my father.
  2. To sell my history textbook.
  3. To pick up the 1992 Nissan that my mother used to drive.  My father can’t use it anymore, so he’s giving it to Leive.

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Poor Brin-Brin.  He knew something was different on the day we left, because we had company over and we covered up the cage for the night before leaving, though it was only 5 PM.  Here he is, giving us a bewildered look instead of going up to his perch.  Don’t worry, we left the heat on for the main floor of the house, and had friends come over twice a day to check on him, until we returned.

We flew from Lexington on a new airline, Allegiant Air, that recently started offering non-stop flights to four Florida destinations:  Sanford, St Petersburg, Punta Gorda and Ft. Lauderdale.  They seem to prefer smaller airports near tourist destinations, so we came into Sanford instead of Orlando International Airport.  However, for us Sanford is no farther than OIA from our destination, so that works out just fine, and avoids some airport traffic as well.  Furthermore, the tickets are dirt cheap during slower times than this (next month they will be as low as $29!), so I get the impression the air route was designed just for my family.  It was a strictly no-frills flight, though; no movies or headphones, and the prices they charge for all refreshments, even a bottle of water, make you think you’ve stepped into a movie theater.

I thought the Sanford airport served mainly private planes, but it turned out to be larger than Lexington’s Bluegrass Airport, though Sanford is much smaller than Lexington.  We had to get used to the climate change in a hurry; the windows steamed up as soon as we landed, and Leive said she was happy to sweat again.  My father and his caregiver showed up quickly enough to get us, just a minute after we claimed our bags.

For the church I used to attend, I ordered thirty-three copies of my book, and sold a total of twenty after the Friday night and Sunday morning services.  Previously I got a list of eighteen people who wanted the book, and six didn’t show up that weekend, so I left the remaining thirteen copies behind in the church office, after they promised to send me payment later.  Altogether I consider that part of the trip a success.

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Leive did some more cleaning in my parents’ house.  The most unusual item she found was a box with a post-it note saying “For Scott for Christmas.”  Meaning it was a Christmas present for me.  Inside was a pen and a calculator; the calculator’s batteries had to be replaced before it worked.  Because my mother died last June, she must have put the box away in a previous year, and forgot about it.  Who knows how long it was in her closet?  Still, I lost my pen earlier that day, due to a hole in my pocket, so the present arrived at just the right time.  How about that!

We started driving back in the Nissan at 2 PM on Sunday.  Everything went fine while driving through Florida, but in Georgia we found that most of Interstate 95 is under construction, and when we got on Interstate 16, almost immediately we came upon an accident so bad that the highway ahead was closed off; we lost fifteen minutes getting around that.  Thus, we reached Lindy’s neighborhood late, but still had a good evening staying with her, Adam and their two dogs.  The next morning the weather cooperated perfectly, except for some rain at the beginning, and we had no more traffic problems, so we started out at 8:15 AM, reached Tennessee at 2:30, Kentucky at 5:30, and finally pulled into our driveway at 7:25 PM — an hour earlier than I had expected, after our previous road trips.  Here’s the Nissan, and to the right you can see my trusty Buick.

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We both rested up yesterday, so I didn’t have anything to write until now.  The house is in good shape, and I’m glad to be back.  Happy New Year in advance, everyone!

All I Want for Christmas/Hanukkah are Some Small Home Repairs

Our back door, leading out to the patio, has a leak.  We’ve known about it almost since we moved in, but we were able to ignore it for most of the past two years, because of the droughts that hit Kentucky in 2007 and 2008.  Moreover, since that door faces southeast, we only get water coming in when we have both rain and a south wind.  Finally, a towel by the door can usually catch what we do have to deal with.  Yesterday, however, the warm front in the weather brought a strong combination of rain and south winds that overpowered the towels; we ended up wih a puddle covering most of the kitchen floor!

No doubt about it, we have to get this leak fixed at the next convenient opportunity.  Unfortunately, I’m not a handyman, so I’m going to need my in-law Gene or somebody else to do it.  I wouldn’t feel so bad about it if this were a computer problem; then I’d have a good idea of what to do, and how much it would cost.  And since Leive thinks some of the surrounding wood will have to be replaced, we’ll probably have to wait until spring, or the repairs will drive our heating bill sky-high.

Also, the end of a gutter came loose last September, thanks to Hurricane Ike roaring through the Midwest.  We hear it rattling on the roof every time the wind blows, reminding us that we need to get it fixed, too.  It doesn’t look like a tough job, if you have a ladder long enough to reach it.  Gene has a friend who’s willing to do it for free; hopefully he’ll show up soon.

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I’ll be away for the next few days, so enjoy Christmas in the meantime.  Here’s a card my brother sent me last year, showing the first American Santa.  I’ll have a full report when I get back.  See you later!

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Chuck Norris on Jesus

Lots of rain and wind last night.  I-64, the main highway between here and West Virginia, was closed due to ice.  However it is supposed to warm up to 58 today, so I expect the ice to melt.  Pray that I don’t have any trouble driving around.

This year I haven’t heard much of the usual Christmas-bashing from the ACLU and other Scrooges that goes on every December.  The ridiculous stuff which prompted me to write “In Defense of Christmas” last year.  It may be because so many people have their minds on the economy.  The ACLU, for example, was recently hit by news that their contributors were hit hard by the Ponzi schemes of Bernard Madoff.  I’ll just say that it couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of people.  Or maybe the merchants are hurting so bad that they don’t want to do anything that might keep the shoppers away, like saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Anyway, it’s always nice to hear of the occasional famous person that isn’t too tainted by our culture to “get it right,” especially in Hollywood.  This time it’s actor Chuck Norris.  Yesterday he posted a column on Townhall.com about the current trend to steal Baby Jesus from Nativity displays, and switched the subject to what Jesus really means for the world, using facts about His life that even non-Christians have to admit are true:

Source:  Jacking Jesus

Tis the season to be Jesus stealing? Away in a manger, no Christ for the bed? It has become a new Christmas fetish — neutering Nativity scenes by jacking Jesus.

Just over the past week, dozens of mini-messiahs have been nabbed from Nativities across the country. Residences, churches and even civic displays in New York, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Texas have been exploited by these Christmas scrooges.

And such criminal acts are not restricted to America, as a baby Jesus was smashed and then stolen at the 12th-century St. John’s Church in Cardiff, Wales, and a beer was blasphemously left in its place.

To prevent further sacred thefts, thousands of churches and private residences are turning to technology to help them “save” Jesus. But when GPS devices have to be planted in the skulls of the Savior and security cameras have to guard the path of the three wise men, can’t we see that society is a bit off-center?

Skeptics might mock these defacements as negligible crimes, but stealing the soul of Nativities is one more dismal sign of a culture gone awry. What type of world do we live in when hoodlums (young and old) commit sacrilege for entertainment?

So here’s the hope. These distressing religious crimes probably won’t decrease over the years, but no matter how often Christmas thugs try to pilfer Nativities, they can’t take away the real Jesus of history.

Sure, cases have been made. Some hope he never existed. In a recent survey, 70 percent of Britons doubted the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. But rebutting such uncertainty as naive, Simon Gathercole, a scholar at Cambridge University, explained that people today are cynical because they don’t realize the origins of Christianity are entrenched in real history. Gathercole admonished: “Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome, just before Herod died. … We’re talking about events that are anchored in real history, not in ancient Greek myths.”

Another British scholar, N.T. Wright, wrote that most opposing views of Jesus are simply pseudo-historical evaluations: “My argument from this point onward … will be that they have offered us a Jesus of their own imagination, which the church, and anyone else who may be interested ought to resist in the name of serious history.”

Dr. Edwin Yamauchi — a professor of history at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio — said: “The fact is that we have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient religion.”

That is why F.F. Bruce, late professor at the University of Manchester, concluded: “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,’ but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic (universally a statement of fact) for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.”

The question is not whether Jesus lived but who he was and is. It’s a question we all will answer, consciously or not, especially this Christmas week. It’s a question even Jesus asked the people of his day. “Who do people say that I am?”

As for me and my house, he is the Son of God and Savior of the world. That’s what we celebrate most on Christmas Day. At the very least, any unbiased reviewer of history cannot deny that time and civilizations have pivoted on his unique and “One Solitary Life”:

“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

“He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of these things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

“He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

“When he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

“Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress.

“All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.”

The fact is wise men still seek him. And if you genuinely follow his star, you’ll find a stable, not a fable.

For those who seek him, I recommend that you check out these scholarly works: N.T. Wright’s “Who Was Jesus?”; F.F. Bruce’s “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?”; Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” (or check out his resource-full Web site, http://www.LeeStrobel.com); or Ravi Zacharias’ “Jesus Among Other Gods.” And, of course, the Bible, which makes the best of Christmas gifts.

The Copper Clapper Caper

Boy, am I glad I don’t have to go anywhere this evening!  It’s a bit warmer than yesterday (hovering around freezing), but rain is turning into ice, making the roads slick.  I found that out on the way home from work.  There’s one spot on the country road I usually take for my commute, where the road dips, and then curves while crossing a small bridge.  I regard that as the most dangerous spot on the way.  Today, as I approached it, I noticed two cars coming the other way, driving quite slow.  I slowed down in response, and I’m glad I did.  The car slipped just a little bit on the bridge, and on the other side, I saw a jeep gone off the road, into a ditch; the trees on the other side of the ditch propped the jeed up, almost on its rear end.  Then a couple miles after that, I saw a flatbed truck turned on its side, in front of the Methodist church.  And then after I crossed over I-75, I came up on a slow-moving salt truck.  Finally I took a tumble on my icy driveway, when I got home and went to check the mailbox.

On the radio this morning, the DJ noted that today marks 26 years since the death of Jack Webb, star of the TV cops-and-robbers show “Dragnet.”  Then he played what he claimed were the last words of the actor who played Sgt. Joe Friday:

“My body temperature is dropping.  My breathing is labored.  My heart is stopping.  But that’s my job.  I’m a corpse.”

Regular readers know that I normally only talk about dates connected with important historical events, stuff I write papers about for The Xenophile Historian.  Dates associated with celebrities are best left to gossip columns.  I’m mentioning Jack Webb here because last week I learned he could be funny, too, when not looking for “just the facts.”  I discovered a video showing his appearance on The Tonight Show in 1968, where he and Johnny Carson discussed a crime in a bell factory.  Let me just say this comedy bit is a “classic.”  They don’t make funnymen like that anymore.

We Made Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

Just the other day, Robert Ripley’s famous cartoon, celebrating amazing and grotesque things throughout the world, celebrated its 90th birthday.  They also published a strip on December 12 that mentioned a guy from Lexington, KY, who spends 125 days a year in jail on minor charges.  He reminds me a bit of Otis, the town drunk on “The Andy Griffith Show” who sleeps it off in the Mayberry police station whenever he has too much to drink; Otis was in and out of there so much that Andy Griffith and Don Knotts didn’t even lock the door of the jail cell!  I’ve said in the past that it’s not always a good thing when your home town makes headlines, especially if you’re not from a big city.  Once again, truth can be stranger than humor:

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The Coldest Hanukkah I Ever Experienced

Brrr, it has gotten too cold even for me!  Officially Hanukkah began last night.  When I was outside, it was only 12 degrees, and a brisk wind gave us a wind chill factor of -2.  Now on this Monday morning, it’s 3 degrees, but no wind, thank goodness.  No ice or snow either, so I don’t have to worry about driving to work, but I’m breaking out the parka I normally only wear in January and February.

Meanwhile over in Israel, the Jerusalem Post comic strip Dry Bones reminds us that American Christians like myself love Israel more than American Jews do.  The words below are not mine, but come from the author, Yaakov Kirschen.  I’m glad he gets it:

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We live in an age of a great religious war.

The Islamist enemy seeks to overwhelm and subjugate the planet. Their goal is to erase all other religions and belief systems. This attack on cultural diversity and freedom of thought has come at a time when the West is most vulnerable. Most people in the West seem to have lost their religious belief and cannot really accept that they are facing an enemy that truly believes that they are carrying out the orders of an omnipotent, supernatural being.

These Westerners, blind to the truth, are convinced that there must be some “other” motivation behind the suicide bombings, the rioting, the terrorist attacks, and the hatred! Some motive that could be satisfied by improving economies, fighting poverty, relinquishing land, or some other “rational” concession. Strangely, even the government of Israel refuses to play the religion card and to announce that we are the Chosen People living in our Promised Land, having returned from exile as prophesied in both the Bible and the Koran.

An exception is, of course, the millions of Evangelical Christian Zionists in America.