Loss and hope at Advent

President George H.W. Bush and his daughter Dorothy at Camp David in 1991. Photo courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library.

“Growing up, Christmas was about tamales, guacamole, caroling, and cousin skits,” writes Jenna Bush Hager in Southern Living, a magazine where she serves as editor at large in addition to her work on The Today Show. “But mostly, it was all about family, and it centered around our grandparents, our North Stars.”

Hager’s fond memories of a Tex-Mex-infused holiday is not surprising since she was raised in The Lone Star State. She is one of the daughters of President George W. (43) and Laura Bush and the granddaughter of the recently deceased President George H.W. (41) and Barbara Bush – the North Stars.

For most of us, this is the time of year we focus on family, food, and our faith. As stressful as the Christmas season can be (and it usually is), in its finest moments it is supposed to be a joyous time of gift-giving, carol-singing, and spending time with rarely-seen relatives.

Uniquely, George H.W. and Barbara Bush celebrated every Christmas for 38 years with the Secret Service. Some of the memorable stories during President Bush’s recent funeral at the beginning of Advent was from retired agents who testified to the President’s compassion, humility, and kindness. Even as the leader of the free world, those around him said that he was always thinking about others and their families. Continue reading

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Darlene Love: My 5 Favorite Christmas Songs

Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

By Andy Greene, Rolling Stone

The powerful voice behind the 1963 “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the holiday classics she loves to sing most. Over the years the song became a holiday classic, helped in no small part by David Letterman bringing Love onto his show to sing it every Christmas for three decades.

The song has been a centerpiece of Darlene Love’s annual Christmas show for years. But all throughout this month she’ll be on the road singing her favorite Christmas songs along with her classic hits like “He’s a Rebel,” “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry” and “Wait ‘til My Bobby Gets Home.” As she geared up to hit the road, Love called up Rolling Stone to talk about her five favorite Christmas songs.

  1. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
    This is a big choir song we used to do in my father’s church. It’s all about spreading the news about Christ being born.
  2. “Joy to the World”
    “Joy to the World” is one of those kind of songs you can really make it gospel rather than a standard sing-along song.
  3. “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
    This is one of my favorite songs, since it’s all about our Christian beliefs and where Christ was born. I would say it was probably a cold winter night, although they say in the song it’s bright and it’s clear and the stars are shining bright. And then there is one particular star in the sky that’s shining brighter than any other light and it’s over where Jesus Christ was being born in Bethlehem.
  4. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
    I will always have to include this song in my show. It’s one of my favorite songs and it really has become a traditional Christmas song now.
  5. “Silent Night”
    I’ve been singing this my whole life, but many years ago, I saw Barbra Streisand sing it in Central Park in the summer. I went “Wow, I’ve never thought about this song like this. You can sing the song any time of the year ’cause you’re just talking about a silent, white, holy night and that can be any night.”
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George H.W. Bush’s Texas Education


By Jon Meacham

In the summer of 1948, George H. W. Bush loaded his car in distant Connecticut and headed to the Lone Star State, a move that would shape the man and launch the future president’s political career:

“Within a week of arriving in Odessa, Bush rented half of a duplex on unpaved East Seventh Street and sent for Barbara and the baby. The apartments were connected by a common bathroom. On Chapel and Edwards Streets in New Haven, the Bushes had shared a bath before, but the similarities between Yale and Odessa ended there, as Barbara discovered when she and Georgie got off the plane from New York after a twelve-hour trip. They were stepping into what she called “a whole new and very hot world.”

Back home in Rye, New York, Barbara’s mother, Pauline Pierce, was puzzled by the whole business. “Who had ever heard of Odessa, Texas?” Barbara wrote of Mrs. Pierce’s reaction to the move. “She sent me cold cream, soap, and other items she assumed were available only in civilized parts of the country. She did not put Odessa in that category.” The Bushes’ fellow renters next door, a thirty-eight-year-old mother and her twenty-year-old daughter, were prostitutes whose callers often locked the Bushes out of the bathroom.

To read the entire article in Garden and Gun, click HERE.

Selection adapted from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jon Meacham’s book, Destiny and Power. The biography chronicles the life of the forty-first president and the forces that shaped his character.

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Finding Gratitude When Paradise is Lost

Bus driver Kevin McKay and fourth-grader Charlotte Merz. Photo by CNN Newsource.

By Steve Beard

As families and friends gather on Thanksgiving to watch football, meticulously avoid politics, and feast on holiday favorites, the day will be starkly different for the first responders and fire victims in California. Accounting for dozens of deaths, nearly 250,000 acres in Northern and Southern California have been scorched.

More than 11,700 family homes have been turned to ashes.

Thanksgiving meals for the exhausted fire fighters and devastated victims (many are the same) will be shared using plastic utensils and paper plates on makeshift tables and folding chairs. Many are living in tents in the Walmart parking lot in Chino– 15 miles from ground-zero of the devastation, the town of Paradise.

Continue reading

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Hopes and Dreams (This Train)

By Bruce Springsteen

Big wheels roll through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

This train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train dreams will not be thwarted
This train faith will be rewarded
This train hear the steel wheels singin’
This train bells of freedom ringin’

This train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings
This train, all aboard


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St. Augustine on the love of God

St. Augustine statue at St. Augustine Catholic Church (est. 1854) near Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

When he poses the question, “What do I love when I love my God?” St. Augustine responded:

“Not the beauty of any bodily thing, nor the order of seasons, not the brightness of light that rejoices the eye, nor the sweet melodies of all songs, nor the sweet fragrance of flowers and ointments and spices: not manna nor honey, not the limbs that carnal love embraces. None of these things do I love in loving my God.

“Yet in a sense I do love light and melody and fragrance and food and embrace when I love my God–the light and the voice and the fragrance and the food and embrace in the soul, when that light shines upon my soul which no place can contain, that voice sounds which no time can take from me, I breathe that fragrance which no wind scatters, I eat the food which is not lessened by eating, and I lie in the embrace which satiety never comes to sunder. This it is that I love, when I love my God.”

— Translated by F.J. Sheed, Confessions (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2006), 193.

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Elvis Presley awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom: Along side Babe Ruth, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Roger Staubach, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) was awarded the nation’s highest civilian commendation. He sold more than a billion records and starred in 31 films.

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth,” once said Presley. “I just sorta do ‘em all together, I guess.”

Still Takin’ Care of Business.

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Ordinary Superhero: Stan Lee (1922-2018)

Photo by Gage Skidmore

By Leo Partible

Stan Lee is a rock star. He is the Elvis of comic books. He didn’t create the medium, nor did he invent the superhero, but he was responsible for popularizing both for the masses. Like Elvis, he understood the possibilities, molding and reinventing the story and structure of the comic book, as well as deconstructing and reconstructing the mythology and the archetypes of the superhero story. Blessed with both a literary sophistication and the soul of a childlike dreamer, the witty and gregarious Stan Lee was the first comic creator to have a personal connection with his audience. And in doing so, he became the name and the face synonymous with the art form.

Elvis was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and today, still in the prime of his life and still creating new concepts, Stan Lee is the King of Comic Books. But even more, because of the phenomenal success of the films based on his Marvel Comics characters, Stan Lee is a brand name. He is Walt Disney.

As we sat down in his Beverly Hills office, Stan Lee settled into his chair. For a moment, his eyes focused on the familiar symbol hanging from the chain around my neck. He asked with a tinge of concern, “Is there a reason you have Superman symbol on your chain?” I understood the implication, wearing merchandise associated with Stan’s competition. I answered with a slight crack in my voice, “Is that heresy?” He broke out in a warm and reassuring smile and pointed to a picture on his bookshelf. There was Stan in an iconic pose, ripping open his shirt to reveal the famous Superman logo. I laughed and added, “I also noticed you have a big picture of you in your lobby outside – the one where you’re sitting next to a life-size statue of Clark Kent. That was taken inside the DC offices, wasn’t it?” Stan snickered like a kid caught in the act, brushing off the obvious irony. “You realize you probably saved the character as well as the rest of DC Comics,” I said with great affection. He beamed. “I suppose I did.” Continue reading

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In Finland, Metal Rocks Churches

By Pauline Curtet, This is Finland

Finnish heavy metal pioneers such as Nightwish, Apocalyptica and HIM, known worldwide, proved to be inspiring. Since 2006, a priest has regularly organised metal mass – mass for metal music fans – in churches around Finland.

It’s eight o’clock on a cold Saturday night in the southwestern Finnish city of Turku. Several hundred people enter Archangel Michael’s Church to attend a special kind of mass. In this service, a heavy metal band – complete with singer, bassist, drummer, keyboardist and two guitarists – performs the religious hymns.

“We didn’t change the lyrics of the hymns,” says Haka Kekäläinen, the 50-year-old priest presiding over the mass. “We only changed the musical arrangements to fit the rhythms of metal music.” He looks exactly like a metalhead: dark hair down to his shoulders, a long beard and – when he isn’t wearing his priestly robes – a leather coat. Continue reading

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Remembering the beautiful lives murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue

Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Rose Mallinger, 97; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Cecil Rosenthal, 59; David Rosenthal, 54; Bernice Simon, 84; Sylvan Simon, 86; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; Irving Younger, 69. Beautiful lives. Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Please read Lou Weiss’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Amalek Comes to Pittsburgh.” “There are not so many of us Jews in the world—something like 0.2% of the population—so we pride ourselves on punching above our weight. We introduced some of the foundational ideas of Western civilization: the sanctity of human life, uniform morality, freedom, concern for the downtrodden, the weekend. 

“Sadly we are also above average in attracting evil people who hate what we stand for….The archetype for all anti-Semites is Amalek. His cowardly specialty was picking off the old, weak and infirm stragglers at the back of the Exodus pack. Saturday’s murderer was Amalek brought to life, as he mainly killed old and mentally challenged members of all three of the resident congregations.”

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