Vestal Goodman Vs. Modern-Day ‘Christians’ In Alabama

Let us be mindful about what happened in Alabama on Tuesday.

It was first, and foremost, a stunning upset and rebuke of the way the Republican Party presented itself and operated in the Alabama senate race.  Had there been a credible GOP candidate that dark red state would not be the reason Democrats are rejoicing today.  But due to the truly unbelievable way today’s Republicans conduct politics Democratic candidate Doug Jones secured a senate win.  He allows every person who knows the road we are on under the Trump Administration to be dangerous to have a bit of faith that the nation can be reclaimed.

But at the same time let us not forget that over 600,000 people in Alabama did vote for Roy Moore in spite of the credible accounts of his actions in malls as he preyed on teenage girls.  The exit polls show 80% of the evangelical voters who showed up at the polls went for Moore.  That so many of these voters claimed to be ‘Christians’ can not be forgotten.

Let us not forget that those who attend all-day singins’ with chicken dinner on the grounds, shook off their pious go-to-service clothes and wore their partisan jeans and baseball caps to the polls where they showcased who they really are deep down.  With their ballot cast for Roy Moore, the twice-ousted state Supreme Court chief justice, these so-called followers of Christ gave public approval to a man accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teenage girls while in his 30s.

But that was just fine with these folks who shout out the name of the Lord in services and wave about in rhythmic timing to their songs.   After all, Moore is just like they are.  He, too, opposes the rights of gay Americans, Muslims and women.  So what if he likes girls who still need pimple cream?  Moore had their back when it came to the ones who they think need to be hated.

I have known many sincere and Christ-centered people over the years.  In the past election I was struck by some of them who spoke candidly with me about their beliefs, and how even though they were conservative, they could not in good conscience vote for Trump.   I think of the famed ones who grew up in Alabama, such as Southern-Gospel singer Vestal Goodman from Sand Mountain, and can only imagine what the look on her face would be if she knew how hundreds of thousands acted in her state on Election Day.

Goodman was aware of her icon status among many gay people and never made any demeaning statements as her first calling was to serve her Lord and not the political class. Too many in Alabama this election cycle failed to grasp that teaching from their front row in the church where come this Sunday they again will be perched with pious heads held high.  They embraced the rancid culture of their political party while undermining the very teachings that many would claim to hold dear.  In so doing they marched in exactly the opposite direction of Vestal.

The 600,000 plus who put their partisan tribe above reason and logic at the polls Tuesday thought they were making way for tax cuts, and smaller government.  The fact is the tax cuts that get passed by the GOP are always serving the rich to the detriment of the ones with the baseball hats at the ballot box.  The cuts in government always undermine their best interests, such as when it comes to health care.  This February it was noted out of the top ten states with the highest number STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) Alabama ranked number nine.    When it comes to buying hook, line, and sinker the Republican talking points the voters in Alabama bite like crazy.  But they are also the ones hurt the most by conservative governing, and the majority of Republicans there are not informed enough or able to discern that fact.

The Republican Party dodged a bullet with the defeat of Moore.  The last thing they needed was a pedophile as an anchor around their neck for the mid-terms and beyond.

But the national citizenry also received something of a gift from the 600,000 who cast a ballot for the losing candidate.  From coast to coast Americans can look at the hearts of ‘Christian’ voters who claim to live one way but proved they really reside in a very dark place.  Never again do we need to pretend they have a moral message we need to heed.  They are just as power-hungry and craven as others.

Vestal would have prayed long and hard about all that is now happening in this land.  I applaud those who use their faith for such positive purposes.  Too few, however, fall in her camp.  The proof is in the pudding with the 49% who cast a ballot for Moore.

Meanwhile the rest of us need to double and then triple down on reminding every voter, every day that President Trump and the national GOP endorsed and worked to place a pedophile in the United States Senate.

Can I hear an Amen?

Letter From Home: “The First Fifty Years” 7/14/12

This seems an appropriate time, as I pass one of those markers in life with my 50th birthday, to look backwards. I can claim far more smiles and laughter than tears and heartache so on that basis alone I can say that my life has been good. Needless to say I have learned a lot over the years, and while thinking about the past I have been focusing on two events that made a huge difference for me, and impacted almost everything that followed.

I never have once, other than some attempts at humor, felt any angst about turning this page of life. My only regret is the same I suspect many people have, and that is wondering why it took so long to learn some really obvious truths.

Vestal Goodman, a most beloved lady of Southern Gospel music, stated the most important of those truths in a matter-of-fact fashion often when on stage. She knew how to live happily, and summed it up this way.

“If people like you—great; if not, tough”

Often in my earlier years I was too concerned about what others thought, and at times adjusted my life to meet the expectations and needs of others. I have a rather easy-going disposition, and I suspect at times some considered that an easy mark from which to operate. Too often I plain just allowed that to happen to me. But as I grow older, am more experienced with life, wiser, and more confident I walk my own path and hold my head high.

However, it was not always that way for me.

As anyone who struggled with teenage woes, and then looked for ways to establish a beachhead in adulthood will understand, it takes time and experience to attain self-possessed confidence. What I wanted was the confidence to live life authentically, and without fear of what others think.

Because of high school I was less certain about my standing in the world than anyone can possibly know. Those were the worst four years of my life. I have no way of even pretending to know how some can claim their high school years were the best that life offered.

In addition, growing up in a rural area meant in many ways I was left to navigate my future without clear guidance from which I could have benefited. Too often when growing up I saw people give up the paths they wanted to travel and instead settle for the expedient one that the local area provided.   In addition, I watched how my siblings entered adulthood, and knew I wanted more from life.

Being more awkward than shy was something I needed to overcome. But at age eighteen I could not have known that my political interests which were continually growing would be a key to my personal growth. Even though I had great interests in candidates and issues throughout high school I was not able to see myself ‘in the mix’ of it all.

Once I landed a job in radio things started to change. While it was easy to be a broadcaster on WDOR, and project myself from behind a microphone, it was not until I started working on campaigns and knocking on doors that I found a stronger sense of myself.

At first it took some courage to go up the steps and ring the doors of homes in Door County, meeting strangers and interrupting whatever they were doing.  I learned lots of things during those lit drops, but Lesson One remains etched in my memory. Never Ever interrupt a Packer football game!

It took time to find my footing as I knocked on doors, or met workers as they left the shipyards. But in time I was able to open the dialogue with self-assuredness and found people were being receptive to my intent. I soon realized that I was in my element, and as a result my comfort zone was expanding. It was not long before I was no longer interested in just doing a mere lit-drop, I wanted to engage people and talk about why the election mattered, andwhy  my candidate needed to win.

Those lit-drops were a turning point in my life. The strangers who answered the doors became a very important part of my life by allowing me to gain the confidence that I had been kept from attaining while in high school. It is a very powerful feeling–coming to terms with one’s wholeness and feeling the potential that lies within.

Clearing that hurdle was a big lesson of my life.   Another major lesson was getting my priorities lined up correctly.

That lesson started in 1994 while sitting on a bench at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

I had pulled into a parking space on the Square. (As I look back it could not have been a session day given the ease of finding a spot.) On the front seat of the car was The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy. Though I always read a lot, it was the first fiction book I had picked up since graduating high school. (That book was The Fifth Horseman by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.) I walked to a bench with the first of the Jack Ryan series, and sat down to read for a few minutes.

As I looked about I saw guys in suits, professionally dressed women, lobbyists, members of the press all proceeding along with the duties of the day. There is no place like the statehouse for excitement. I knew that first-hand as I had loved my job under the dome.

But there was something missing in my life. Some deeper contentment that I could not put my finger on but somehow knew ‘was out there’ and available to me if I could only tap into it.

It wasn’t as if my life was unhappy during those years.  In fact, it was much the opposite.  I had money, went out at night, had friends who shared good times. But as I sat there that afternoon looking at the statehouse I knew I wanted something different, more meaningful. When I smiled I wanted it to be more authentic. I wanted to be more content.

There is a saying that ‘the universe provides’ us the lessons we are to learn. The question is do we learn from them as they are presented to us. Even when the lessons are in the form of sadness and grief, if we take the time to ponder what is happening, something useful can be attained.

Events occurred that moved me from thinking about that day on the bench into taking actions to make my life different.

My nephew, Trevor Dean, was killed in a highway traffic accident. Trevor was, needless to say, very special to me. When I was about to start my radio job he told me he sure would like to hear his name over the air. That is when I decided to use ‘Trevor’ for part of my on-air moniker. His being gone in an instant at such an early age made me reflect at length about life in ways I had not done before.

A needless fire set by a careless griller ravaged my apartment complex, and as a result I lost many items. While the fire devastated me, in the months to come I would look back and realize that the belongings, which brought me the greatest pleasure and delight, were also the cheapest. There is no way to minimize the traumatic aspect to a fire, but that event made me aware of what really mattered when it came to personal items. I started to put a different price structure on the important things in my life.

But it was not until I woke up at St. Mary’s hospital following a medical procedure to see if a growth in my chest was malignant that I really started on a new path. The tissue was benign, part of a larger medical hurdle that I mounted and cleared during that time.

But I knew then there was no way to go back to the suit and tie world, though I love to dress up and go out. I was no longer interested in climbing any business ladder that only led to the next rung where the stress level was higher, and the workload heavier. I ventured into the non-profit world for jobs, discovered grant writing, and shortly thereafter met James, the most important part of my life.

I was pleased to find in James the same motivating force about living a complete but simpler life that I had been searching for, and working to create for myself. We are so simpatico due to the perspective we have about life, and the way to live it.  For the past twelve years we have been charting our own path through life.  It is indeed a shared road.

There are no easy ways to attain the lessons needed for living a content life.  It would be so much easier if we came with a user’s manual, along with instinctive qualities that the young have in the animal kingdom.    Instead we go through life picking up knowledge along the way.

I certainly have not amassed all the answers, but I have cut through lots of the clutter and feel much inner peace about where I am as I turn fifty-years-old.

Saturday Song: “Looking For A City” By Vestal Goodman And Johnny Cook

Last Sunday James and I sat with relatives at my Aunt and Uncle’s home talking and laughing for hours.  At one point around the table, as the conversation turned to music, James let out his impersonation of Vestal Goodman and her classic, “Looking For A City”.  Laughs followed and the good times kept rolling.

Which leads me to this week’s Saturday Song….


How about some more Wally Varner!

Saturday Song: Christmas With Johnny Cash, Statler Brothers, Anne Murray, Justin Bieber, Howard And Vestal Goodman

If you are of a certain age you are very familiar with a Christmas tradition from the CBS television network each December.  Johnny and June Cash would have a Christmas special, and there was never a shortage of holiday flavor or big-name talent to share the stage.

In this first video we have “Mother” Maybelle Carter, Carter Sisters, June Carter, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers.  Not a bad way to get Saturday Song started this snowy morning in Madison.  This is a stem-winder!  From the famed  Ryman Auditorium here is “Children, Go Where I Send Thee”.

One of those pleasant-sounding voices that one never tires of hearing from is that of Anne Murray.

Between the Christmas feel and the fact this 15-year-old is singing for the President of the United States makes this next song a must play this week.

If your speakers are not up then this would be the time to notch them towards the limits.  When Howard and Vestal take the stage the music is meant to be heard and felt.  Be it in the back of the church or the house next door, everyone should know that Vestal is about to sing.

Saturday Song: Christmas In The Country With Homecoming Friends, Front Porch Country Band, Bandaged Together, Oak Ridge Boys

One of the music videos today is set in a big old house with dark wood and large windows.  I  first saw the video back in the heat of summer and knew it would wind up on Saturday Song.  

Our home is 118 years old, and so at this time of year I am again thinking of the kids that would have lived here and awakened on Christmas morning in high spirits.  Perhaps if I listen just hard enough their laughter can still be heard.  I wonder how large the Christmas trees were in this house, and if one ever actually touched the high ceilings.

While I grew up in the country and know the joy of snow on the barn roof  (as sung in another video today)  I also know the pleasure of Christmas in the city.  While there are wonderful old traditions that remain from my childhood in Hancock, there is also pleasure in creating new ones in Madison.  James and I work so our home has a more Victorian feel each passing Christmas.  I am reminded that old-time memories are not only the ones I knew personally as a youngster, but the ones we are now re-creating from the past in this house.  It is in that way the country and city Christmases become one.

The best of both worlds.

In the next four weeks that feel of Christmas will be presented on Saturday Song.  Lots of songs.

My mom’s favorite song at Christmas was “Silver Bells”.  She too knew the joy of the snow on the trees and all over the country side, but loved the sights of the city in December.

One of the old standards at this time of year is “Winter Wonderland”.   Here are the Oak Ridge Boys

Saturday Song: Vestal And Howard Goodman “Wouldn’t Take Nothin For My Journey Now”

From the stage of the world famous Grand Ole Opry comes two videos this Saturday featuring The Happy Goodman Family.  First up is Howard and Vestal on a Saturday night performance during the WSM radio show.  The second video of the same song features the entire family as Rusty and Sam join on the Opry stage for an awards show performance.   Two must see videos.

And since there is no reason to stop…lets see Howard play the piano.