Archive for Other Spots

Christmas 2009

We Christmas’d in Memphis this year.  The kids had a great time together.  (I have no pics b/c I forgot our camera!)  And getting to spend time with Kate and Jon, my mom and dad, was marvelous.  I always feel so connected, so in tune with Jon and my dad.  Our conversations feel meaningful, deep.

However, in retrospect now, picking out Tamara’s Christmas (and to some degree the anticipation of a new job – see next paragraph) was horribly stressful.  Of course, like a normal guy, I hate shopping.  But I did most of it online, so then that should help.  And it did.  But the problem became: I couldn’t buy it before Dec 25th and in fact had to wait until Monday, 2 days beyond our anticipated departure.  So what required such anxiety, and still be “worth it”?  Well… a car.  As the mileage on our ’97 Ford E150 breached the 200K mark, we felt compelled to replace it.  I researched replacements in Austin, but not until talking with our Volvo experts (while in Memphis) that the search narrowed to specifics.  And we found an 05 Volvo XC90 in Memphis.  So, we’re cruisin in style once again… until we’re not again.

Other stuff:
We also sold the van.  First, Tamara saved me by finding the Title!  Also, it sold for double what Car Max said they pay for it.  And then, it went to a nice young couple that really needed it.  3 young children to get back and forth to school.  It felt familiar.

With terms complete and papers all signed, the cusp of a new job on Monday morning illuminates the coming years, if God wills it.  There are 2 major differences this time.  1) I’ll be working with my brother.  In fact, we’ll likely be office-d down the hall for each other.  But for those that don’t know us well, this will bless us both and even could make us happier people.  Todd and I worked throughout our childhood together without noticeable conflict.  And we worked together during an entire summer for our uncle’s foundation repair company: 10 hour days digging holes and hauling stuff around.  We got along better than we ever had that summer.  2) Here at the outset, the work appears to be very interesting. I’m really looking forward to starting.


Ramping up to Christmas

Working backward a bit.

Tamara has established our Christmas card as one of her creative outlets. It’s become tradition, and each year takes a different turn. I think this year’s twist may catch some of you off guard.
Christmas Card 2009 - HI. HOW ARE YOU
Here’s the full set if you’re interested in the whole shoot.  This artwork is on the strip at UT.
Moses also decided a quick shot with this steer was a good idea…at least he did initially.
Mad boy disease
I find a lot of irony in this photo.

That same afternoon, we hiked a portion the Shoal Creek Greenbelt.  It divides UT West Campus from the Brykerwoods area.
Hiking Shoal Creek
We’d driven by so often.  Such a gem of a park. We’ll be back for sure.

Moses turned 7.  Wow!  Can he really be approaching a full decade?
Moses blowing out the candles
Mario cart racing was his theme, and everyone enjoyed themselves.  We decorated bikes, anchored streamers around the edge of our cul-de-sac, and raced until I got tired and they got disinterested.

Someone’s badly in need of exercise and a bike!

Tabitha’s winter choir concert was last week.  Here’s a sample:

Go to the set on Flickr to see all 7 songs.  (Some are truncated on Flickr and I’ll have to upload to YouTube instead.)

Senator Jim Webb

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been concerned for and following news of Myanmar for several months. This is an interesting post given all the recent news about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr. Yettaw. This really makes me wonder about his interview with San Suu Kyi.
We Can’t Afford to Ignore Myanmar



EIGHT years ago I visited Myanmar as a private citizen, traveling freely in the capital city of Yangon and around the countryside. This lush, breathtakingly beautiful nation was even then showing the strain of its severance from the outside world. I was a guest of an American businessman, and I understood the frustration and disappointment that he and others felt, knowing even then that tighter sanctions would soon drive them out of the country.

This month I became the first American political leader to visit Myanmar in 10 years, and the first-ever to meet with its reclusive leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, in the haunting, empty new capital of Naypyidaw. From there I flew to an even more patched-and-peeled Yangon, where I met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel laureate who remains confined to her home. Among other requests, I asked Than Shwe to free her and allow her to participate in politics.

Leaving the country on a military plane with John Yettaw — an American who had been sentenced to seven years of hard labor for immigration offenses, and whose release I had also requested of Than Shwe — I was struck again by how badly the Burmese people need outside help. They are so hardened after decades of civil war and political stalemate that only an even-handed interlocutor can lift them out of the calcified intransigence that has damaged their lives and threatened the stability of Southeast Asia.

For more than 10 years, the United States and the European Union have employed a policy of ever-tightening economic sanctions against Myanmar, in part fueled by the military government’s failure to recognize the results of a 1990 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. While the political motivations behind this approach are laudable, the result has been overwhelmingly counterproductive. The ruling regime has become more entrenched and at the same time more isolated. The Burmese people have lost access to the outside world.

Sanctions by Western governments have not been matched by other countries, particularly Russia and China. Indeed, they have allowed China to dramatically increase its economic and political influence in Myanmar, furthering a dangerous strategic imbalance in the region.

According to the nonprofit group EarthRights International, at least 26 Chinese multinational corporations are now involved in more than 62 hydropower, oil, gas and mining projects in Myanmar. This is only the tip of the iceberg. In March, China and Myanmar signed a $2.9-billion agreement for the construction of fuel pipelines that will transport Middle Eastern and African crude oil from Myanmar to China. When completed, Chinese oil tankers will no longer be required to pass through the Straits of Malacca, a time-consuming, strategically vital route where 80 percent of China’s imported oil now passes.

If Chinese commercial influence in Myanmar continues to grow, a military presence could easily follow. Russia is assisting the Myanmar government on a nuclear research project. None of these projects have improved the daily life of the average citizen of Myanmar, who has almost no contact with the outside world and whose per capita income is among the lowest in Asia.

It would be wrong for the United States to lift sanctions on Myanmar purely on the basis of economic self-interest, or if such a decision were seen as a capitulation of our long-held position that Myanmar should abandon its repressive military system in favor of democratic rule. But it would be just as bad for us to fold our arms, turn our heads, and pretend that by failing to do anything about the situation in Myanmar we are somehow helping to solve it.

So what can and should be done?

First, we must focus on what is possible. The military government in Myanmar has committed itself to elections in 2010, as part of its announced “seven steps toward democracy.” Many point out that the Constitution approved last year in a plebiscite is flawed, since it would allow the military to largely continue its domination of the government, and that the approval process itself was questionable. The legislation to put the Constitution into force has yet to be drafted. The National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, has not agreed to participate in next year’s elections.

But there is room for engagement. Many Asian countries — China among them — do not even allow opposition parties. The National League for Democracy might consider the advantages of participation as part of a longer-term political strategy. And the United States could invigorate the debate with an offer to help assist the electoral process. The Myanmar government’s answer to such an offer would be revealing.

Second, the United States needs to develop clearly articulated standards for its relations with the nondemocratic world. Our distinct policies toward different countries amount to a form of situational ethics that does not translate well into clear-headed diplomacy. We must talk to Myanmar’s leaders. This does not mean that we should abandon our aspirations for a free and open Burmese society, but that our goal will be achieved only through a different course of action.

The United States refused to talk to the Chinese until 1971, more than 20 years after the Communist takeover, and did not resume full diplomatic relations until 1979. And yet China, with whom we seem inextricably tied both as a business partner and a strategic competitor, has no democracy and has never held a national election.

The Hanoi government agreed to internationally supervised elections for Vietnam in 1973, as a result of the Paris peace talks; Washington did not raise this as a precondition to furthering relations. As someone who has worked hard to build a bridge between Hanoi and America’s strongly anticommunist Vietnamese community, I believe the greatest factor in creating a more open society inside Vietnam was the removal of America’s trade embargo in 1994.

Third, our government leaders should call on China to end its silence about the situation in Myanmar, and to act responsibly, in keeping with its role as an ascending world power. Americans should not hold their collective breaths that China will give up the huge strategic advantage it has gained as a result of our current policies. But such a gesture from our government would hold far more sway in world opinion than has the repeated but predictable condemnation of Myanmar’s military government.

Finally, with respect to reducing sanctions, we should proceed carefully but immediately. If there is reciprocation from the government of Myanmar in terms of removing the obstacles that now confront us, there would be several ways for our two governments to move forward. We could begin with humanitarian projects. We might also seek cooperation on our long-held desire to recover the remains of World War II airmen at crash sites in the country’s north.

Our ultimate goal, as it always has been, should be to encourage Myanmar to become a responsible member of the world community, and to end the isolation of its people so that they can live in economic prosperity, under an open political system.

Jim Webb is a Democratic senator from Virginia.

Goodbye Little Garden

The rain in Spain stays mainly in Spain.  They aren’t sharing with Texas.  Jerks.

For C&M
(for C & M)

The Wonderful Life – My Response

Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life

Wow. How short sighted and lacking in imagination. Capra primarily serves us the indignities of George’s life and solidifies his short comings time and time again. He eliminates our propensity to raise George to a pedestal. His heroics aren’t stupendous (e.g., turning down certain fortune to try and serve his friends), but most of our sacrifices aren’t. And George’s faults, such as allowing the galling bitterness of failed plans to repeatedly ignite his anger, glare and lurk from the black corners of the screen. Most of us know those shadows all too well.

And the fascination with Pottersville is easy to understand but sadly lacks any imagination. Perhaps spend some time exploring the back rooms of those places. The reality is far less glamorous.  The music becomes a cacophony of sadness.

No. Capra doesn’t show us the days and evenings spent at the children’s practices and ballgames, getting to really know their neighbors, rooting on the home town teams. We miss George’s seemingly mediocre football career as he quietly leads the team to their first winning season Bedford Falls had ever known, setting up Harry for the fame that would be his. We only fleetingly catch the meaningful conversations with his dad, that he invariably draws strength from in future years. We miss the second outpouring of George’s community who surround him in those court appearances. And we miss seeing how plastics not only put the town back to work, but allow for the community to redevelop Mt. Bedford as a ski resort in the winter and a camp for needy youth in the summer.

No. Instead, we’re driven to the pitiful outskirts of our lives, and desperately hope for the salvation that we cannot bring to ourselves. You see, even our most heroic efforts fall desperately short. It’s something epitomized by our multitudes of veterans. They know the reality far better than we do. Such a message wasn’t needed in the years just after the WWII; but for those of us pampered and stuffed, a little bit of Wonderful Life may just be the ticket we need to slap us out of that miserable selfishness we’ve placed ourselves in.  It just might keep some of us out of those rundown shacks in Potter’s Field, and might even encourage us to pull some of our neighbors with us…including Ernie.


I sometimes write on another blog.  Here’s something I finished last night: Glory, Holiness, and Suffering.

Annie May

I love Annie May Lewis.  She was one of those ladies that exude strength yet display a level of kindness and gentleness only the Spirit of God could provide.  Today is Sept 11, 2008.  While remembering those that were lost in the Twin Towers without choice, those that raced in and back out becoming heroes, and those that voluntarily lost their lives becoming martyrs, I remember one like them.  My mind was drawn to her.  An extraordinary and long life.  These are the words of Don Meredith on another memorable day in March of 2006.

Annie May Lewis
Read at her memorial service
March 14, 2006

I knew Annie May Lewis for a little over 46 years, during which time she filled several roles in my life: supervisor of a student worker, fellow student, boss, professional colleague, fellow teacher, mentor, Christian friend, and surrogate mother.  I hope to share with you some aspects of her life that illustrate what a truly outstanding person she was.  Many of you have your own Annie May stories and some of you, particularly women, have shared those with me and I will pass a few of these along to you.

Professionally Annie May was a librarian and teacher.  She graduated from Harding College in 1939 with a degree in English and taught in public schools for a few years during which time she completed a BS degree in library science from Peabody.

Dr. George Benson asked her to come to Harding in 1944 to teach English.  She preferred a position in the library, but there was not an opening so she accepted the invitation to teach English since she had concluded from her college days that Searcy, Arkansas, was heaven on earth.

In 1947 she became head librarian and worked tirelessly (many times 10 hours a day) to improve the quality of the library.  A few years later when Harding received its accreditation, the library received the highest praise from the visitation team.  During these years in the summers she worked on and completed an M.A. degree at the University of Chicago in 1952.

After her father died, Annie May took a leave of absence from Harding to be with her mother.  When the librarian who had been hired to replace her left, Dr. Benson again invited her back to Harding as the librarian and she served in that capacity from 1956 to 1962.  She was always a fierce advocate for the library and its funding and was usually successful in getting what she asked for.  One Harding administrator said, “Just let her have what she wants; she’ll get it sooner or later anyway.”

She feared no one when it came to her library advocacy.  One of her favorite stories relates her encounter with a Harding faculty member, probably in his early 40’s, who taught in the graduate Bible program.  W. B. West, the head of the program, had sent him to the library to choose those books that would be moved from the Searcy library to the new program to begin in Memphis.  When Annie May saw him at the card catalog and learned what he was doing, she told him that he should go back to his office.  So this young Harvard Ph.D. by the name of Jack Lewis did just that.

Annie May worked hard and expected those who worked with her to do the same.  She was certainly never hesitant to let you know when you needed to modify your behavior or attitude, and there was never any doubt who was in charge.  But she was also kind and concerned about her employees and served as a mentor to several that ultimately became librarians.

In 1962 after several invitations from W. B. West, Annie May agreed to come to Memphis to become the librarian at HUGSR.  She answered God’s call to leave heaven on earth to come to Memphis.  She took a course in theological bibliography at the University of Chicago in the summer 1961 to better prepare herself for this new role.

Annie May had accepted a unique position.  She became the first theological librarian in the churches of Christ and was entrusted with the responsibility to build from scratch a quality theological collection to support a theological graduate program.  She attacked this project with the same hard work and determination that had characterized her tenure at Searcy.  She put in long hours to systematically build the library.

She was the first member of the churches of Christ to become a member of the American Theological Library Association, the national organization for theological librarians.  She attended its annual meetings and developed relationships with theological librarians from those little schools like Duke, Princeton, and Yale.  These contacts were immensely helpful to her in learning what to add to the collection and how to get these materials.  She also was not hesitant to ask for materials from them and many of her library contacts were very helpful in securing resources.  She developed a friendship with a librarian who had a personal 3,000 volume library of Restoration materials and convinced him that he should sell it to the HUGSR library when he retired.  He did.
Of course she also had to convince Dr. Benson to allocate the money for the purchase.  She did.

To become familiar with the subject area, Annie May enrolled in the Masters program at HUGSR and took courses while working full time as librarian.  She completed the program in 1967 and graduated with only 3 B’s, two of those under a professor named Jack P. Lewis.

When Annie May came to Memphis, the HUGSR library contained only about 5,000 volumes and subscribed to only 82 periodicals.  When she retired in 1983, it had almost 69,000 volumes and received 582 periodicals.

I never had Annie May as a teacher, but all the testimony I have suggests that she was a great one.  When Dr. Benson announced that she was leaving the classroom at Harding to become librarian, Betty Bates had the moxie (I know that’s hard to believe) to express her displeasure to him over his taking the best teacher at Harding out of the class room. Of course Dr. Benson’s decision prevailed.

Annie May developed a course in the late 1960’s for all students at HUGSR to improve their writing and research skills.  As her assistant I saw how hard she worked on this class and how concerned she was to help the students.  When she retired, she passed this course on to me and I still use some of the notes she left behind.  Because of her work, HUGSR is still one of the few seminaries that offer such a required course.

Annie May taught ladies’ classes at this church for many years.  Those who attended these classes can testify to her teaching skills, to the amount of preparation she put into these classes, and to how she blessed their lives through her teaching.  Betty Copeland inherited her Sunday morning class, and Annie May passed on to her some of the notes she used in her classes. These all were packed with information and reflect the amount of study she put into each lesson.

Annie May loved the Bible and felt that it should be the center of any Sunday school class.  One day recently while sitting with her, Betty Copeland overheard Annie May say, “Books, books everywhere, but there’s really only one book.”  She studied and read the Bible and instilled in others a love for it and a desire to study it. As many of the ladies who sat with her recently know, she frequently asked them to read from the Bible, particularly the Psalms.  When asked if her class last Sunday would spend its time reflecting on and reminiscing about Annie May, Betty said no. They would spend the time studying Hebrews.  She did not want to be haunted for “wasting” that Bible study time.  Through her teaching and mentoring, Annie May developed a multitude of daughters of faith.

You were greatly blessed if you were one of Annie May’s boys, and she had several.  She was a great encourager and your best advocate.  My Dad once asked me if I had an agent or publicist at the Graduate School since I seemed to be mentioned (sometimes with pictures) frequently in the HUGSR bulletin. Of course I told him it was Annie May’s doings.  She arranged for me to have a job in the Duke Divinity School library while I was getting my library degree at the University of North Carolina and then got me hired as the second professional librarian at HUGSR.  She frequently reminded me that I had never had to look for a job, and thanks to her I didn’t.  Others can relate similar stories.  A few of you probably have received speaking engagements, awards, or jobs because of her politicking behind the scenes.  Annie May recommended Betty Bates for a teaching positing at Harding Academy, and the way Betty tells it Dr. Bowie was afraid not to hire her.

Annie May encouraged anyone she felt needed it. For many years she sent out a regular newsletter to missionaries and also sent them cards.  Many of you have received such cards or notes.  Hardly a day passed that I did not see a card (usually more than one) mailed through the HUGSR bookstore with the address typed in the distinctive font of her manual typewriter.  Her “encouragement” took on a little bit different tone if you were working on a writing project that you were not getting done.  A few of you have experienced that “encouragement.”

Annie May never asked for anything for herself, but was never hesitant to ask for money for HUGSR or its library.  I found the notes she used in a presentation to a library group on the acquisition of periodicals.  In it she said that the librarian had to become a beggar to build a good collection, and she did.
She did not spend money on what most of us would call the finer things of life.  Her idea of a fancy meal out was a Wendy’s hamburger and maybe some pistachio almond ice cream.  She was content to live frugally and send her money to people and institutions she felt needed it.  When John and Jerry gave her a new fur coat, she was almost embarrassed to wear it because it looked too much like a mink, and she was quick to tell people that she did not buy it nor was it mink.

Many of you have been recipients of her hospitality that included good food and fellowship offered to every conceivable category of people.  As Alice Methvin observed, “Annie May had a great capacity to love” and that love knew no social, ethnic, racial, or educational bounds.  She loved her family and supported them in any way she could.  She very lovingly cared for her mother, who lived with her the last eight years of her life.  She loved Jack, whom she married just 3 days short of her 61st birthday, about 16 years after she had run him out of the Harding library.  If there ever was a match made in heaven, this was surely one.  It would be hard to find a better example of God’s command to love others as he loved us.

Annie May was a great believer in prayer and prayed regularly for a host of people.  I’m probably in such good health today because of her consistent prayers for me.

On April 6 Annie May will become the first person to receive the alumnus of the year award from HUGSR for the second time.  For the last few years this award has been presented to the alumnus who best characterizes HUGSR’s theme of the year.  This year’s theme was holiness and the alumni and administration could think of no one who exemplified holiness more than Annie May.  When she was librarian at HUGSR, the janitor said the safest place in case of a storm would be in the library because Annie May was just a little closer to God than anyone else around there.  This was the same janitor who gave her his money belt to keep when he was carried away in an ambulance with a heart attack.  He trusted her more than his own family.

Truly Annie May embodied the statement she made in an interview: “Where there’s need, try to fill it because you belong to the Lord.”

In an article entitled “Heaven” in the White Station bulletin in February 2004 Annie May related a story of her choice to pay a surprise visit home her first year in college rather than take a trip to Washington, D.C.  I want to read the next to last paragraph of this article with the assurance that she has realized what she hoped for:

“On occasion I return to my hometown for visits with cousins and close neighbors, but the people for whom I made those very frequent trips are no longer there. The house still stands and the memories are still there, but those who made the memories have already gone home.  I look forward to an association with them that won’t include any goodbyes.”

Don L. Meredith