Goodbye, Cruel Year (Adios to a rough year for the world)

Hard to believe how quickly the time continues to turn. I write today on the last day of the year. Those of you who’ve been following our personal lives know that Dennise won here election. I need to give a big thanks to all of you who voted, volunteered, and helped out.

Judge Dennise Garcia was sworn in on this past Monday, and has been working this week to organize her office and staff. I am here at home with Maria today and am spending a few minutes journaling and blogging about the year that has past.

And on this the last day of the year, I pause to reflect that I have never been quite so glad to see a year end. Don’t get me wrong: things are going pretty well in my life, actually. The election of Dennise, for one, was awesome.

Things at church are going well. We’re in the midst of a large construction project, and that’s been very, very exciting.

It’s the world that’s a mess. And if each old year is an old man that leaves us, the newborn can’t get here quick enough, far as I’m concerned. Let’s put this year to bed and never think of it again…

Just about everyone I hang around, day in and day out, feels the same way. From the horrors of an unjust war, and the shameful behavior of Abu Ghraib (warning! graphic link…) ; to the ongoing insurgency in Iraq and a divisive presidential campaign that leaves half of the country feeling hopeless. And, to top it all off, a giant tsunami in South East Asia….as if some horrible exclamation point on a horrible, horrible year.

It can’t end too soon.

The war just seemed to get worse and worse the more the year rolled on. More American troops died in the 11th month of this year than in any other month of the entire war. One thousand, three hundred and thirty-one Americans have died altogether, and the wounded may be ten times that many. The Iraqi dead have been estimated at perhaps one hundred times that many. The war has cost, as of this minute, something like 171 billion dollars. (What could THAT money do for South East Asia?)

The incredibly predictable insurgency is growing all the time, and engaging in barbaric, senseless, and horrific acts that shock the world. It’s war, of course, and the thing that always “gets ya”in a war are the unintended consequences. Who expected this kind of insurgency?

Well, actually, I did….because violence begets violence every single time.And while I certainly didn’t expect the specifics of the insurgency, the insurgency itself is absolutely no surprise to me. And it’s one of the reasons I end this year so depressed…because it’s all so damn predictable. And the frustrating thing is? I’ve got a good sense I’ll be writing much the same thing at the end of next year too.

Closer to home, the Presidential campaign tore friendships apart, and costs hundreds of millions of dollars. (Will we individually contribute as much to South East Asia as we collectively spent on campaigns this year? It’ll be interesting to see…) Half the nation sees little reason for hope, and little desire on the part of the victors to even acknowledge that their half still exists. The other half is frustrated by a lack of a real mandate and the continuing protesting of the “loyal opposition.”

Gays and lesbians were used as political footballs by people on all sides of the political debate. And in the midst of it all, we wasted more time thinking about such weighty matters as Martha Stewart’s prison cell, the Olsen Twin’s drug addiction, and Janet Jackson’s boob.

It can’t end too soon.

And while we’re preoccupied with such asinine things, hundreds of thousands are dead and dying in South East Asia. How about a War on Tsunamis?

Anyone? Bueller?

In the midst of all this reflection on the negative energy I hope and pray is released away from our world, I found myself listening to a Peter Mayer CD in the car the other day. He was the headliner at the 5th Street Festival back in November, where I was a songwriter contest finalist. We traded CDs, and I’ve been listening to his on and off during the holiday season. On the way home from the lakehouse, the day after Christmas, one song realy struck me.

I found myself drawn to a song called “The Play.” It’s sort of a cross between “Holy Now”and David Wilcox’s “Show the Way” in a Unitarian sort of way….

What it reminded me of is that, even in the midst of great human tragedy and pain, there is a bigger picture. And the bigger picture is that we are all small, tiny parts of a huge drama of the universe’s unfolding. Our sufferings, while great and all-encompassing to us, are but a small part of everything that’s going on around us.

So, I’ll share with you that, as the year ends, I’m listening to “The Play” today. And I’m thinking about the REALLY big picture.

Hope you all have a good and blessed New Year.

“The Play,” by Peter Mayer
words and music, copyright Peter Mayer

When I go outside at night,
and look up and the stars are bright
Sometimes I lay on the ground
and imagine that the sky is down
And if the earth should then let go,
I’d fall into the stars below
Fall into the stars below

And when I see the red sunset
in its quiet splendor, I reflect that
The sun’s not going down at all,
but the earth is turning somersaults
And through a sunlit sea it trails,
and we are on that great big whale
We’re riding on that great big whale

When I try to grasp the simple fact of this existence
And think of all the fantasies, fairy tales and wishes
None strike me as more unlikely or magnificent than this is

Hands and faces seen up close,
galaxies through telescopes
Crimson hillsides in the fall,
and more astounding than them all
Are pondering minds with eyes that see
these are deep mysteries
Deep mysteries, mm

When I try to grasp the simple fact of this existence
And think of all the fantasies, fairy tales and wishes
None strike me as more unlikely or magnificent than this is

Like a strange, enchanting play of impossible dimensions
The setting and the stage run light years in all directions
And the breathless scenes and the story line defy comprehension

And when I think of all the roles
in this production, all I know
Is I’m in the cast, but could it be,
I’m also in a front row seat
To sit in my amazement, gazing,
to ooh and ahh and sigh and say
My, what a wonderful play
My, my, my – my”

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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