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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Romeo, Wingcom Watchdog, dies at 14

Romeo going on vacation to Florida
As I am writing this, Romeo, our beloved Italian Greyhound, is being put to sleep. It's over.
May God accept his soul.

Romeo was adopted from PetSmart.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

U.S. students poor in math, average in science and reading

According to a Census Bureau tip sheet, U.S. 15-year-old students scored below average in math and about average in science and reading when compared with their international peers. Over the last decade, U.S. scores have been mostly flat. Find out more on Dec. 20 at approximately 9:20 a.m. EST as Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, discusses statistics from the Program for International Student Assessment.

Each Friday, C-SPAN’s “America by the Numbers” segment features information from the federal statistical system. The program highlights the trends and allows the public to call in or email their questions and views.

For more info., contact the Census Bureau's Public Information Office at 301-763-3030.

Christians bid to face fear with hope in ecumenical gathering

Orthodox/Catholic Ecumenical Gathering

“O Come, O come, Emmanuel...
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

While Pope Francis was setting an example of inclusion on his 77th birthday by inviting a homeless man and his dog into his residence, another gathering was occurring on Earth - a service where Roman Catholics prayed, sang, and celebrated the joys of Christmas inside a Greek orthodox church. Will wonders never cease!

For eight years, members of these two religious groups have gathered in Atlanta to promote Christian unity. December 17, 2013 was no exception, and the theme of the ecumenical service held at the Cathedral of the Annunciation during Advent gave guidance on overcoming fears of "others" with love and hope.

The processional looked like a scene from the Knights Templar, with holy men and women in black/white vestments and gold, red and silver crosses. The church was filled with mosaics of a dying yet triumphant Jesus, his followers, and Mary, the Theotokos, center stage. An adorned Christmas tree was to the left of the altar, while Catholic leaders sat separately from Orthodox Greek clergy in crowded pews.

Archbishop Gregory
Atlanta’s Most Reverend Catholic Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said the birth of Jesus was heralded by angels who spoke to shepherds guarding flocks. The same message must go forth now to people of faith, he said.

“Don’t be afraid....God is about to do something spectacular and wonderful,” Gregory said. “Salvation is coming to an often cynical world.”

Gregory said he is praying for a single church, “a bond severed long ago by sins of disagreement, pride, and arrogance lodged in the outdated argument.”  He said this message should be heard throughout Rome and Constantinople. “Christmas is a time for transformation. Believe in what the angels sang about…in angelic truth.”

Metropolitan Alexios
Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Alexios Panagiotopoulos said in order for Christians to be unified, they must befriend and "see one another in the eyes." He bid attendees to not watch and examine others, but to watch and examine themselves first, by concentrating on how they are sharing gifts God has bestowed on them.

In an interview after the service, Alexios said changing the world starts with the individual and radiates outward to the masses.

“It seems there were more people here last year,” said a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem from Decatur, Ga. Maybe her observation is a sign of the times.

Catholics gathered and listened to messages in ecumenical service.
Hymns were sung by the Holy Spirit Church Choir, the Annunciation Cathedral Chantors, St. John the Wonderworker Church Choir and Chantors; the Romanian Carolers from St. Mary Romanian, St. Mary of Egypt OCA, and Saint Constantine & Helen Romanian Church Choirs and Chantors.

It was a night to remember, a holy night filled with good intentions and prospects of peace. May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela tribute: a life well lived, rest with God

White House photo of Michelle Obama and Mandela
I must come out of the shadows to pay tribute to a man I never met: Madiba Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Upon his death, I talked to whites from South Africa who had met him.  They said he was a towering figure who they revered because of his Christian qualities and his decision to not ostracize or retaliate against those who harmed him.  They said Mandela helped South Africa lessen the economic slavery of its indigenous population. Mandela was multi-faceted in his humanity, intelligence, and commitment to freedom. Synonymous with struggle, hard work, forgiveness, planning, and moral leadership, Mandela leaves a legacy of a tenacious, spirited elder.

Although praised in death, he was considered dangerous by the U.S. government which placed him on a terrorist watch list until he was 90 years old. Mandela, perhaps, was a 20/21st century Denmark Vesey who became a freedom fighter icon after his release from prison. His "hero" brand was fueled by the entertainment industry. His knowledge of the law, perhaps, and his savvy political posturing turned him into a modern-day saint. After spending 27 years as a prisoner, he spent five years as South Africa's president and another 14 years being remembered.

One wonders whether Osama bin Laden would have been deemed Mandela-like if he had lived another 40 years. One also wonders what will happened to Mandela's beloved motherland, rich in resources and poor people, invaded by China and other countries in the guise of future development. Ravaged by AIDS and poverty, his people are dancing in colorful garbs of remembrance now, but they are in need of a new protector.

The world has been preparing for Mandela's exit from his earthly body for months,  and his fatherly messianic status remains unabated, continuing through his many foundations. Some say that Mandela's manner of reconciliation was predicated on survival techniques while others say he forgave whites who profited with the adoption of a new constitution under his rule which gave them land rights and blacks few baubles other than political office. Too often blacks appear as figureheads while whites maintain all the power the land and natural resources bear. Mandela, however, raised the level of human consciousness in a world still divided by color, race, and class.

May Madiba now rest in peace while we continue the example he set.