Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How the Jack O'Lantern Saved Christianity


My friends, I don't mind telling you that we find ourselves in a culture war.  The forces of radical atheism again threaten to rob this great country of the symbols of it's freedom and it's proud Christian heritage.   If these people have their way all traces of Halloween's Christian roots would be erased and all references to Jesus would be stricken from Halloween parades, store displays, and the hopeful mouths of trick or treating Christian children.    We must all stand together against this atheistic tyranny.

One of the stories, atheists don't want you to know is the story of the Jack O'Lantern.   In Ireland, Christians were persecuted for many centuries.  One of the reasons that St. Patrick was celebrated for driving the snakes from Ireland is because they used to feed Christian children to the snakes.   Christians were kept poor and not allowed to hold jobs.  Their possessions were simple, but their faith was mighty.

As the Irish traveled along the countryside at autumn harvest time looking for work picking crops, they were frequently met with signs that said Christians need not apply.   Even a non-Christian who hired a Christian to pick his crops faced persecution from the Irish King.   

The Irish  needed a subtle symbol to let others know that they welcomed Christians and that the light of Jesus shined within them.   They came up with the idea of taking a pumpkin and carving a smiling face on it.   They then placed a candle inside the pumpkin and placed it in the window.

The Irish named this pumpkin Jack of the Light or the Americanized version, "Jack O' Lantern".   Nowadays, pumpkins are carved into the most grotesque and hideous shapes imaginable and the original meaning of the Jack O'Lantern has been lost.   This Halloween if you carve a pumpkin with your children I hope you'll tell them the story of how the Jack O'Lantern saved Christianity in Ireland--one of the most Christian nations in the world today.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Speaker and The Ford House Five

[The following is an excerpt from my ebook Profiles in Courageousness: The Jack Kimble Story, which will be out for most electronic formats in the next few weeks.]

The Speaker and The Ford House Five - An Excerpt from Profiles in Courageousness: The Jack Kimble Story

Together the four of us made Ford House something special and even though Danny and Carlton have moved on and Tex, Bill, and I have grown older and a bit more mature, the days of the Ford House Five will always remain special to me.

The Ford House parties are legendary and nowhere is the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation more inherent than when you look into my office at 3 in the morning. You’ll find a Republican sprawled out on my couch, while a Democrat has put two chairs together, and another one has passed out on the floor. Meanwhile, I’m sleeping comfortably in my bed.. By the end of my first year in the House, my office had become party central, but unfortunately we had also gained a reputation.

I remember the first time Nancy Pelosi visited us in the office. We were setting up for a party celebrating the Preakness Stakes horse race from New York. The Preakness is the often overlooked third jewel of the Triple Crown and we thought that it definitely deserved its own party and we were going to give it one.

I was filling balloons with helium while Tex was making a Texas Tornado Everclear punch in the kitchen. Next to him was Bill who was making Jello shots, while Carlton had gotten on one of the wooden pole horses and was pretending to ride out the door of my office. When he opened the door he ran right smack into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Gentlemen,” said Speaker Pelosi, “Though I am using that word most loosely.”

“Hello Speaker Pelosi. It is great to see you today. Is this visit for business or perhaps for pleasure? You know how tense Congress has been lately. We thought we’d have a party for the Preakness.,” I said.

Unfortunately, the helium fumes I had been inhaling all afternoon made my mock sincerity completely transparent to the Speaker who studied me with a look of pure disdain.

“And will there be alcohol at this party?” she asked obviously noticing that our elder colleague was still riding his imaginary horse, but had at least slowed it down to a cantor.

“Oh I thought my guests might like some spirits to unwind after such a historic week. You know the legislature never really rests Madame Speaker,” I said. “It sure was great seeing you. You should come by again sometime when you have more time.”

“She brushed aside the older Congressman and his horse and slowly made her way across the room. Let’s be blunt gentlemen. I don’t like you,” she said calmly.

“We’ve always held you in the highest regard Speaker Pelosi,” said Bill coming to my defense.

“Don’t BS me Congressman. It doesn’t become you,” said Pelosi.

“It’s true Madame Speaker. Why just the other day, I was telling my dear sainted mother…” I started and just like that, she cut me off.

“Let’s get down to brass tacks gentlemen. Mister Kimble, you’ve been here for over a year. Now nobody would ever confuse you with Daniel Webster or even Sam Rayburn, but in that time your sole legislative output has been to honor six Boy Scout troops, four little league teams, and Jack Webb three times,” she said.

“I have some big plans that will just take a little while to get pulled together,” I stuttered.

“I’m no fan of your right wing agenda Congressman, but bloated, intoxicated, and uninformed is no way to spend a term in Congress,” she said.

“Hey Jack, do you think I could get in on that Jack Webb Highway thing,” interrupted Bill.

“Consider this a warning gentlemen. Clean up your act or I will censure and I’ll let you explain your family values to the voters back home,” she said as she stormed out of the room.

The Preakness party was a huge blow out. Between lobbyists and our staffers there were plenty of women and the Texas Tornado punch was a thing of genius. I’d like to think that Speaker Pelosi would have enjoyed herself if she would have just let her hair down for a moment. There were plenty of Democrats there too. It’s like that old song says, “Got my hands up, they’re playing my song. I know I’m gonna be OK. Yeah! It’s a party in the USA!”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Profiles in Courageousness: Juan Rangel

With the publication of my memoirs Profiles in Courageousness: The Jack Kimble Story in electronic format this month, it seemed prudent to  look at those courageous individuals who are making a real difference in the world today.  While my memoirs actually began as a Twilight fan fiction called 50 Shades of White, I believe that they provide a real inside view of politics and of my efforts through my own courageousness to change Washington.

Our first honoree is Chicago charter school magnate Juan Rangel who manages 13 Chicago charter schools as head of the United Neighborhood Organization or UNO.   Yesterday, Juan was out a big rally for more funding for charter schools, which a lot of people immediately attacked because that money would be taken from the city's neighborhood schools.  However, Rangel wasn't afraid to stand his ground even though with the $260,000 yearly salary he pays himself, he surely could have found more enjoyable ways to spend his time.  He declared war on public education and called for parents to join him in Springfield as he lobbies to bring parent trigger laws to Illinois.

UNO schools are most known for their spectacular fireworks displays, but you can't deny they have some amazing education opportunities available to students.  In fact their elementary schools rank between 407 and a whopping 99 out of 541 Chicago elementary schools on the state ISAT test.  UNO is a big undertaking that needs a lot of funding.  Their firework shows have seemed a little flat without the Blue Angels flying overhead and there are considerable administrative costs to removing low performing students in time for testing.  If we wait for all 160 Chicago Public Schools to get libraries before we dive UNO their money, they may have to reach into the $150 million dollars or so that they've gotten from the state in grants over the last two years.

The secret to UNO's success seems to be Juan Rangel himself.  He's a major adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but his real role is guiding the 13 UNO campuses.  Their secret is to discourage moral crushing dissent by whining teachers.  Without a union, Rangel is able to make the tough decisions like firing a gym teacher who whined about mock rape in the boys' locker room.  

They may not have the most successful students and they may be demanding that Chicago allow more charter schools at a time it is closing schools for underenrollment, but for standing strong and demanding more money despite his large salary, Juan Rangel is a profile in courageousness.