Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Fridays postThanksgiving saluting tradition
find him
stringing sixties-style colored Christmas lights
gutters glowing
shrubs singing holiday

Early Easter Sunday embracing the ages
find him
hiding pastel-colored eggs
grass conspiring
leaves whispering hide one here

Muggy summer evenings accepting Southern hospitality
find him
planting cuttings neighbors offer
stems wobbling
green frames promising color next July

Long awaited Autumn afternoons celebrating equinox
find him
burying bulbs
daffodils gestating
berm exploding yellow come April

This fall he left
Said he didn't love her anymore
So who will string clunky colored lights?
Will the eggs still roll in April?
And what does perennial mean now?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Turning Beer into Furniture

Clear November skies chilled by Michigan’s fall winds made early November 1970 seem normal. But it was anything but normal. Thirty-four years ago today, we buried my forty-five year-old Daddy. Everyone kept saying, “He was so young.”

I thought—he wasn’t really all that young. But I was only seventeen.

Tonight my eyes strain to see his copper colored skin, his blue-black hair, and big, broad smile. I think hard and can almost hear his voice, including that persistent clearing of his throat. Thanks to Lucky Strikes, he always cleared his throat, especially when he gave the concluding remark to any discussion at our family dinner table.

When I sit at the dinner table with my boys, I can imagine him sitting with us listening to them, proud of their thoughtful funny repartee. Proud of their passion for Jesus and justice. Ready to clear his throat and make the culminating comment.

Herbert Taylor Choate possessed a zest for learning, for excellence in the performance of any task, and for placing life’s priorities in good order. First, God. Next, family. Third, education and career.

He was only seventeen he left the Cherokee community of Bunch, Oklahoma, joined the navy, and saw other boys throw flames into caves on Iwo Jima. He buried one brother. His other brother came home a boxing barber from the Burma Road. He died a premature death a few years later. Herb came home smoking and drinking hard. For years alcohol dulled the memories. Often sleep came with grinding teeth and nightmares. Deeply inhaling a freshly lit cigarette calmed his nerves. I can still see smoke curling from his lips.

Married, with one little girl, and me on the way, he put his LORD on in baptism, and left the booze behind. Taking to heart the grace of God, accepting the love of my mom’s family and the fellowship of the Van Dyke Church of Christ; he embraced a new lifestyle. Of course, even as a deacon, he still joined all other men for smoke between Sunday school and church.

Someone once asked him, “Herb, do you believe God still does miracles today?”

He said, “Well, I tell you what, I saw Jesus turn beer into furniture.”

I don’t know exactly why he had a heart attack on that November night, but I can make an educated guess. I often think—if he had known that hard drinking for those eight years and smoking for so many more would have kept him from spending an autumn evening around the dinner table trading stories and solving world problems with his grandsons, he would have stopped long before he did.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

My Open Blog to Sean Hannity

My Christian friends like you so much; I thought I should listen to your show. So, I tuned in one day recently and heard you interview Anne Coulter. You discussed her new book, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). As you and Coulter bantered back and forth, I heard what earned her the review from the Washington Post Book World, as “a fluent polemicist with a gift for Menckenesque invective”. You laughed heartily at her comments and expressed admiration for her writing because it does, after all, have substance. You both poked fun that USA Today gutlessly decided not to print portions of her substantive spew. As I went to to find the book, a chapter title from her book clinched my understanding of Anne Coulter. In reference to Muslim extremist terrorists: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”.

I now understand my Christian friends’ enthusiasm for your work. You are pro-life.

Not long after the segment in which you displayed such deep admiration for Anne Coulter, you interviewed someone from Haiti. Afterwards a good friend of mine told me that you asserted that poverty is a choice, you HATE HAITI, and you wouldn't have your dog's ashes tossed over that country. Perhaps she did not hear you correctly.

You see, I am looking to understand my Christian friends’ enthusiasm for your work. If what she said was true, then I see. It's because you are pro-life.

My Christian friends like you so much, I thought, I should check out your book. That's where I learned that Jimmy Carter=Neville Chamberlain. What a senseless, spineless, mindless, unprincipled man! He believes in pursuing peace. Can't we see the parallel to appeasing Hitler with the razing of settlements on the Sinai Peninsula and a treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel that has lasted for over 20 years? Silly of that Anwar Sadat to fall for the peace idea. What a cheap solution.

And back to Carter, what kind of man would refuse to negotiate with terrorists, would threaten the Iranian revolutionary government with the full force of the US military if one US hostage was killed, and then wait a year for a peaceful solution? What a disgraceful moment for our country when all of those hostages came home alive and we did not even have a good war to show for it. At least Carter's successor had the guts to negotiate arms for hostages.

I now understand my Christian friends’ enthusiasm for your work. You are pro-life.

Now before my Christian-friend fans of yours write to help me understand more reasons why you inspire them as a Christian, let me pre-empt a possible problem they may see in my understanding. They may need to explain to me that the left-wing liberal media, the left wing comedians, and the left-wing politicians can be mean-spirited and contemptuous too. And besides, don't I understand that there are people out there who want to kill us? But you see, I do understand. Don’t mistake my preference for peace to mean that we cannot engage in just war. It’s just that I do not presume that only the stupid, weak, and senseless see just war much differently than a Crusades redux.

From listening to your rhetoric I now understand: loving your political enemies, expressing kindness towards the poor, and making peace are such insipid secular stands, and you are pro-life.