It’s the Kremlin Calling, Mr. President

Lyndon B. Johnson

Last week’s tumultuous events in Helsinki reminded me that American Presidents have always had complicated relationships with their Russian counterparts. After Nikita Khrushchev was so suddenly deposed by the Kremlin, humorist Art Buchwald imagined this bit of clever trans-Atlantic dialogue with LBJ. Collusion, anyone?

HELP WANTED, TOVARICH

With all their efficiency, the one thing the Soviets forgot to do was take out Khrushchev’s hot line to the White House. It probably will be denied, but the other night the hot line rang and Khrushchev was on it.

“Hello, Tovarich, it’s Nik,” a voice whispered when the President answered the phone.

“Howdy, Mr. Khrushchev! How’s everything?”

“Sh, sh, sh, not so loud. They may be listening outside the door. Congratulations on your election.”

“Well, thanks very much.”

“I imagine you have a lot of jobs open, Tovarich?”

“Well, yes. There are a few appointments I have to make.”

“You couldn’t use a good Russian expert, could you?”

“I hadn’t thought of it. Did you have anybody in mind?”

“Me.”

“Gosh, Mr. Khrushchev, that’s nice of you to offer, but I don’t think I could get you a security clearance. Don’t forget you once said you’d bury us, and it’s probably in your FBI file.”

“I was misquoted, by state controlled Communist press,” Mr. K whispered. (NOTE: now we call this ‘fake news.’) “I could make a good Russian expert. I know everything I did wrong in the last twelve years.”

“It isn’t just the bury-us line that would cause trouble. But remember when you took your shoe off at the United Nations? Well, the security people would probably think you were unstable. They take that kind of thing into consideration.”

“Tovarich, I swear on ‘Das Kapital’ the only reason I took my shoe off was because it was too tight. I can say this now. Russian shoes are not very good.”

“I’d like to help you, Mr. Khrushchev, but we got too many Russian experts as it is, and I’ve got an economy drive on. I don’t know how I could justify it.”

“What about the Department of Agriculture? I’m tops in farming. I could be in charge of collective farms.”

“We don’t have any collective farms, Mr. Khrushchev.”

“I could start some for you,” he begged.

“I don’t think that would work.”

“Is there anything open at Disneyland?”

“I could check for you, but you know that’s not a government-owned project. Mr. Disney hires his own people.”

“Tovarich, I don’t like to beg, but I need a job bad. Could I be a Senator from New York State?”

“We already have one from Massachusetts,” (Bobby Kennedy), the President replied. “Even if there was an opening, I’m afraid if you ran they would bring up the carpetbagger issue again.”

“There must be something for me to do. Perhaps advertising testimonials. I could be the one who uses greasy kid stuff on his hair.”

“I couldn’t help you there.”

“Maybe baseball Czar?” Nikita asked.

“Baseball is America’s national pastime. I’m not sure they’d want a Russian to head it up.”

“There must be something, Mr. President. After all I did for America these past few years.”

“Well, I did hear they were looking for someone to take over the Republican National Committee.”

“Wonderful. But wouldn’t they object because of my background?””

“It wouldn’t bother me.”

 

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And Let the Rest of the World Go By

LET THE WORLD   dad and mom

 

This old love song just STABS me whenever it rolls through my ear buds. The soundtrack to “Out of Africa” is great for grading trig tests, but when the quiet orchestra strains of this sentimental hit from 1919 comes on, I always set down my red pen and begin dabbing at my eyes.

With someone like you, a pal good and true
I’d like to leave it all behind and go and find
A place that’s known to God alone
Just a spot we could call our own

We’ll find perfect peace where joys never cease
Somewhere beneath the starry skies
We’ll build a sweet little nest somewhere in the west
And let the rest of the world go by

Dad always liked that song. Way back when, I remember him picking up a guitar to serenade his bride with it. He had a somewhat reedy voice, and comic pauses as he fumbled for chord changes. But I think back now on the 51 years he shared with Mom and there never was much of the sweet-little-nest-in-the-west in what L-O-V-E spelled out for them. Instead they rode together on a grimy freighter, six unglorious weeks, out to Asia. Where life was dirt roads, village Bible studies, annual baptism reports in single digits, setbacks and sorrows and separations. Not to mention the nonstop friction of raising so many less-than-sanctified boys: the four D’s.

Along with many other heroic missionaries at Bangkok’s Mission Hospital, Mom and Dad traded in the lyrical hideaway for a life of service. Clear up until retirement and beyond, Dad just kept on knocking on doors, visiting people, and inviting them to join God’s family. Sure, he and Mom generally marked their wedding anniversary, but church duties and mission commitments did sometimes push the June 3 party back to the following day or two.

So there never was a little cottage out beyond the horizon, a carved-out hideaway. It never happened. In fact, my parents were really just beginning to taste the awaited honeymoon of retirement when a drugged-out guy in a pickup truck ran up on the sidewalk and Dad’s love serenade got cut off even before the second verse.

Two points. Donald and I had the grim privilege of spending the rest of that night with our mom in a house suddenly barren and filled with permanent shadows. I still cannot believe how she bit back tears, gave us each a hug, comforted US, and then climbed into her bed alone. She lay there in prayer for a long while, asking for God’s presence, thanking Him for 51 years with her mate, and asking her Father to “help her be a good and cheerful widow and witness.” True story. I’m here to testify that my mother is a heroine beyond what I could have ever dreamed.

But I can’t help but think of that wistful song and the moment Dad and Mom meet again on the far shore. I think Jesus will greet them both and go through the “well done, good and faithful servants” bit. Then He might take them to the side, point through a grove of trees to where there’s a little cottage with trees in the front yard and swans on the lake. And murmur to them: “I know, I know . . . Matthew 22:30. Just go and enjoy it for a bit. We’ve got a party out here that’s gonna last ten thousand years. Join us when you’re ready.”

And right before He sends them off on that heavenly honeymoon, He’ll also hand Dad a guitar and show him how to hit that E major chord.

 

 

 

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: “A Higher Loyalty”

 

COMEY

I hope partisans on both sides will set aside their “Comey rage” – I’m still fuming too – and take the time to read his well-thought-out bio, “A Higher Loyalty.” It’s clear, honest, reflective, and written with a citizen’s heart. He’s a good writer, and the man obviously kept detailed notes. If you’re still on the fence regarding “Okay, who’s lying here,” I got to the finish of his testimony and feel assured that: a) he’s telling the truth, and b) he labored earnestly to make the best decisions possible during impossible moments.

Comey writes with passion about the FBI and its reputation, an agency “with no party.” As director, he cared about keeping its reservoir of goodwill brimming full. When it came to the Clinton email investigation, he made two wrenching decisions which very likely caused the election of Mr. Trump – as he realized it might. Along with millions of voters who supported the Democratic ticket, I was sorely frustrated both times. But it is helpful to read his explanation, and to come to understand that the FBI had two awful choices: Speak? Conceal? If the agency had held back, and then after the election it had leaked that the FBI had quietly resurrected its investigation just two weeks before voters went to the polls, Comey’s diagnosis is likely correct: “The reservoir would be empty.”

I’m still exasperated by what happened. But I concede now that when a patriotic American citizen who leads such an agency sit around a table with solid advisors, lots of them, and they wrestle for hours and days about the best course to take, pros and cons, playing out the various scenarios, and then finally make a gutsy call, then commoners like me need to stand down. Things went south; it was a mess. They were picking from two lousy, near-fatal options. But Jim Comey does tell the truth and he does love his country.

Just from a “color” point of view, I’ll observe that the book is professionally written with a mostly cheerful flow. There are nice bits of humor. Be advised that he’s a street-smart FBI guy; some of the language is salty, although not prurient or gratuitous.

I’ll let the author provide the close in his own words.

“Policies come and go. Supreme Court justices come and go. But the core of our nation is our commitment to a set of shared values that began with George Washington – to restraint and integrity and balance and transparency and truth. If that slides away from us, only a fool would be consoled by a tax cut or a different immigration policy.

“But I choose to be optimistic. Yes, the current president will do significant damage in the short term. Important norms and traditions will be damaged by the flames. But forest fires, as painful as they can be, bring growth. They spur growth that was impossible before the fire, when old trees crowded out new plants on the forest floor. In the midst of this fire, I already see new life – young people engaged as never before, and the media, the courts, academics, nonprofits, and all other parts of civil society finding reason to bloom.

“The next president, no matter the party, will surely emphasize values – truth, integrity, respect, and tolerance – in ways an American leader hasn’t needed to for more than forty years. The fire will make something good grow.”

 

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16 David Smiths

vietnam_war_memorial_at_night_washington_dcThis weekend is the sober celebration where we honor the heroes and heroines of our land who fought and died for “the rest of us.” I’m keenly aware of being in that second group. Etched on the marble wall of the Viet Nam War Memorial are SIXTEEN fallen warriors named David Smith. Obviously, I am not one of them; I missed the military draft by less than a year . . . just the luck of the draw.

But I wish I could drive over to those sixteen Smith homes where the cloud of grief is never lifted. That’s 16 households where Dad is missing and Christmas parties always come with misty-eyed memories of what was lost. Where a pretty bride’s husband never came home and the marriage bed was empty forever after. Sixteen Smith addresses where a military convoy pulled up at the curb and a chaplain rang the doorbell with the wrenching telegram.

All I can do these many decades later is to try and be a good citizen. Salute the flag with my hand over my heart and stand in respectful silence during the playing of our National Anthem. Pay my taxes without complaint – and when I think about our vets, yeah, I’m absolutely willing to do that. Treasure and protect our unique Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, separation of church and state, the right to bear arms, our peaceful elections. I liked a line in David Frum’s recent book where he exhorts all of us: This is especially a needful time for all of us to BE GOOD CITIZENS.

 

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Book Review: “Trumpocracy”

trumpocracy.jpg.size-custom-crop.0x650

This important new book by David Frum is thoughtfulness personified. It’s quiet; it’s reflective; it’s wise. There are no hysterics, no exaggerations, no fake news. He’s got endless pages of notes at the close, so the references and sources are carefully verified.

David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and despite our political differences, I absolutely respect him as a patriot who loves democracy and upholds our country’s lasting ideals. We’ll get through the Trump years, he says calmly, and America will be better and stronger as we forcefully return to our core values.

I’d share some quotes or soundbites, but trust me . . . there are great lines and insights all through these pages. Get the book for yourself; you will not regret the time spent reading what he has to say.

 

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May 2018 Rachel Marie Newsletter

Hi, everyone! Click here to enjoy our May Newsletter with details about the Rachel Marie book series.

RACHELMARIECOVER

NEWSLETTER May 2018

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When God Picks Up a Paintbrush

ALASKA AIRLINES

Alaska-Mt.-McKinley-Sunset

Last summer Lisa and I were waiting for a shuttle bus at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport when the Alaska Airlines logo caught my eye. It was the perfect shade of evergreen, which this photo doesn’t capture at all. And the type font, the rugged aura – everything – seemed to capture the cold, crisp drama of the north. Adventure, snow, unspoiled beauty, warm blankets, hot chocolate, and a nice fireplace. In “Surprised By Joy” C. S. Lewis writes about that indescribable pleasure from being immersed in that cold white purity: the sunset spilling over the hills.

Okay. Then we got on the Carnival cruise ship and spent a wondrous seven days seeing, not corporate logos, but God’s mighty handiwork. It brought back to mind these few paragraphs from my yet-unpublished novel, “The Time Portal.”

# # #

Even in the month of June, 2014, it felt amazing to sit on Deck Nine of a cruise ship and have to wear a jacket. We were between meals, but I had a plateful of Carnival’s potato salad resting on my lap. Every few minutes my hand would automatically lift a forkful to my mouth, but I was almost unaware of my own motions. John watched me, bemused, and then returned to the novel tucked into his Kindle Paperwhite.

After five days at sea, my soul felt absolutely bathed by the native beauty of this place. The mountains were still adorned with pure snow banks; the sunsets spilled pink frosting onto the silver oceans cocooning our vessel of dreams. There were occasional splashes in the distance as whales peered out at us and then resumed their own adventures.

My mind kept returning to the concluding theme of my time-travel journeys. What John had said. How could our creative Lord Jesus create such a splendid, elegant place as this Alaskan paradise, and offer it free of charge to mortals such as Mr. and Mrs. Haller, and yet be unable to simply assert his authority and veto the horrors of D-Day or the Holocaust? Every atom of this spectacular and snow-spangled Eden had been fashioned by Jesus’ own intimately focused power; the ripples trailing our boat and the ghostly beauty of the full moon as it rose up from behind ice-blue glaciers were all actively painted masterpieces. God didn’t simply will a generic beauty; he dreamed it and fashioned it and sprayed it into existence one atom at a time with his own words and intent. And yet, even as John and I dined on plates of pineapple and filet mignon and Carnival’s signature melting-chocolate cake, the Middle East was a boiling cauldron of unfixable heartache and rage. Every few weeks, another angry shooter was unloading Glock magazines in school hallways, sick but craving fifteen minutes of fame on Fox News. Even as we were embarking in Seattle, I had gotten one last text message from Roy McDaniel. Mom passed away early this morning, Pastor Lisa. Will wait for you and Mr. H. to return home; she would want you to do the funeral. Please pray for us. My sweet friend Dinah had been struck down by Alzheimer’s, and there wasn’t a thing any doctor or pill or genius from the Mayo Clinic could have done to arrest her slow descent into the shadows of death.

I comforted myself with the assurance that this virginal beauty around us was Jesus’ unstated testimony to the world. “When the saga is completed and I step forward to make all things new, it will always and forever be like THIS.”

John must have noticed that my fork had stopped in mid-air, suspended along with my memories. “You okay, babe?”

“Yeah. Just letting the Lord baptize my thoughts a bit.”

“This is the perfect place for it.”

“Absolutely. It’s very nice.”

 

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