Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

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Guest Post: Finding Silence

by Rev. Deacon Lisa McGehee

washing_3262c-2“Be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Animals have an uncanny knack for reading the moods and habits of their human companions. My cat Pippin knows the precise moment when I wake up in the morning. As my eyes open he is jumps on the bed for his morning head rub. His brother Twitter is my quiet-time and reading partner. The more I settle into the quiet, the closer he snuggles beside me. That’s what happens when we enter into silence, we snuggle closer to God and we realize how close God is to us.

The BBC TV series The Big Silence tells the story of 5 people invited to learn how to incorporate silence into their lives. During the nine day retreat the only time they were able to speak out loud was during daily meetings with a spiritual guide and when they created their video log that shared the ups and downs the participants experienced during this extreme introduction to silence.

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It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)

peanuts_easterbeagle6The 12th animated television special, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, first aired on April 9, 1974 on CBS.  In this special, Charlie Brown and the gang are preparing for Easter. Peppermint Patty is teaching Marcie how to dye Easter Eggs. Poor Marcie can’t figure how to prepare the eggs to be dyed though. Sally wants new shoes for Easter Sunday. Lucy is preoccupied with getting gifts and hiding eggs.

And, then there is Linus. Linus tells them they are worried too much. None of that stuff matters, because the Easter Beagle is going to bring them Easter eggs. The Easter Beagle is right up there with the Great Pumpkin. The other children try their best to ignore or tolerant Linus’ belief in the Easter Beagle.

Like the Christmas special before it, the Easter special has a message against commercialism. As the children walk into the department store to get their Easter supplies, the store is decorated with Christmas trees and other Christmas items. Banners hang declaring how many days are left before Christmas. Sally cries out, “It’s Easter! And they have Christmas decorations out!?!”

The point is clear. Like Christmas, Easter is not about buying, buying, buying. Easter is about so much more than that. It is about the One who gave life so that we may have new life.

There has been some criticism that this special did have the religious message like its Christmas counter part. If by religious message they are referring to Linus reading from the Bible, than no, there is none of that in this one.

But there are allusions to the Gospel.

In the opening scene as Lucy listens to Schroeder play his toy piano, she talks about Easter being a time of getting gifts. Schroeder corrects her, “It’s a time of renewal,” and later, “All you think about is gimme, gimme, gimme, get, get, get.”

When the kids get to Easter Sunday, they are all sitting around waiting for something special to happen. Peppermint Patty says to Marcie, “You look forward to feeling real happy and something happens to spoil it.” Can you think of better words to describe what those who witnessed the crucifixion must have felt?

Sally is wondering where the Easter Beagle (Christ?) is. Charlie Brown expresses feelings of being alone. Sally tells Linus that he has made a fool out of her. Everyone seems to be sad or confused. Not unlike those who experienced the first Easter morning. But then in the distance a figure emerges. It is the Easter Beagle (of course, it is just Snoopy.) Snoopy dances around giving out Easter eggs that he picked up after Lucy hid them (Lucy: “He gave me my own egg!”).

Ten weeks later, the Easter experience is still hanging around. Lucy is still upset at Snoopy for pretending to be the Easter Beagle and for handing out the eggs that she hid. She goes to Snoopy with the intent of fighting him. Snoopy leans in and kisses her. She responses, “Awww, the Easter Beagle.” Even Lucy came around.

Easter BeagleThere may not have been any quoting of scripture, but there are things held in common between the first Easter and this Charlie Brown Easter. The feelings of loneliness, of being scared, confused, and uncertain all must have been feelings that the disciples and others experienced. The surprise and awe that followed when Jesus appeared. There were those like Lucy who did not believe until they experienced the grace-filled love of Christ themselves.

Lent reminds us of the tension between looking forward to being happy and the reality of loneliness and despair. The promise of Easter is the gift of resurrection; new life; renewal. In the midst of the darkness of loneliness and despair, joy comes in the morning.

Scandal 2.22: White Hat’s Back On

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsWith the knowledge that Billy Chambers, the Vice President’s former chief of staff, is the mole, Huck admits that he “hired out” the killing of Chambers to Charlie.

Huck: If you want someone killed right, you have to do it yourself

In flashbacks, we learn that Chambers made a deal with Charlie, and Charlie has been Chambers’ guy too.

Olivia, Mellie, Cyrus, and Hollis get together in the kitchen of the White House to discuss Defiance and Billy Chambers. Chambers is the new problem. Olivia puts the focus on Defiance as the problem, not Chambers. If they get the Cytron card back, they neuter Billy, case closed. The twist in this scene is that Fitz shows up, taking Verna’s place at the table. Mellie can’t handle being in the same room as Fitz and Olivia. She storms off with Cyrus who attempts to convince her that Fitz will come back. At the same time Fitz is working on convincing Olivia to use her skills as a “fixer” to fix the American public into hating Mellie and loving her. Fixing, after all, is her superpower.

Mystery Man, whom we now know is in charge of B613, meets with Ballard and wants a meeting with Olivia. Ballard asks questions, which apparently is frowned upon, and Mystery Man basically tells him that if Ballard doesn’t produce, he knows where they stand – which I’m guessing isn’t a good place. As Mystery Man leaves, a woman leaves behind him, she was part of the “Take Down Charlie” operation that failed. She is also the person who tries to break into Olivia’s apartment before breaking it down, gun drawn. But, Ballard happens to be in the apartment and kills the woman. After getting Olivia to her office, telling her she should stay there for a while, he tells her about B613. It takes a few moments for Olivia to process that. She knows about B613, mostly from Huck. The next time we see Ballard is at the end of the episode, when he is being shoved into the same dark hole in the ground that Huck was in. And we know what well that turned out for Huck.

James is mad at Cyrus for keeping him in the dark about Mellie and Fitz. Cyrus finally leaks to him that the President is seeing a pastor for counseling and prayer. James goes on television and reports that. Mellie is watching, and hears James report that the President’s approval ratings are up, but the First Lady’s are not.

The Gladiators in Suits figure out that Chambers is going to need someone credible to unleash Defiance on the American public. They soon realize that it is going to be Governor Reston, who lost the election because of Defiance. They have a lot in common, as they both are murderers. Reston goes to the President to demand to be put on his re-election ticket as the “Unity Ticket” or he will reveal Defiance. The President acts like he doesn’t know what Reston is talking about. Olivia, later, in Cyrus’ hospital room (oh yeah, Cyrus has a heart attack) tells Fitz to play along with Reston to see if Reston really has the Cytron card. She meets with Reston and plants the bug. Huck traces Reston’s phone in order to track down Chambers.

White Hat's Back OnSo, when Olivia calls to tell Cyrus about Reston being involved, Cyrus finally has the heart attack we all saw coming. After Mellie watches the news report about her approval ratings, she makes a visit to Cyrus’ hospital room. She hopes to leave hand-in-hand with Fitz, making the 6pm news cycle. Fitz, however, rattles off in Olivia style Olivia’s plan for getting America to love her and hate Mellie. Mellie still cannot believe that Fitz is going through with this. Cyrus, on the other hand, is impressed, but with his visions of Mystery Man he knows he has to do something.

Cyrus and Mystery Man keep meeting (Cyrus has a dream of Mystery Man in his room while at the hospital, or was Mystery Man really there?). Mystery Man wants Cyrus to release the Olivia/Ballard sex tape, but Cyrus doesn’t want to hurt his friend – Olivia.

David Rosen is the one with the Cytron card. During a meeting Chambers tries to convince David to hand it over. David tells him it stays with him until it is needed – maybe he picked up a few things while he was hanging out with Olivia Pope and Associates. Chambers, trying to convince David, tells David that Olivia is not his friend and that he murdered the CIA director Osbourne, Wendy (framing David) and Molly. David goes ahead and slides the card across the table.

Huck and Quinn go to Chambers’ residence. They don’t find the card anywhere. When Chambers comes home, he sees them and runs. Huck catches him, ties him up in duct tape and is preparing to torture to get answers. But he can’t do it. He freezes up. Quinn lives into her nickname of Baby Huck when she takes his drill and uses it on Chambers. She gets the location, calls Abby, Abby gets it and they go to use it only to find out it’s not the card. It’s blank.

It is then that they realize that David is in control of this game. David played them. He used his time in their office to try out every possible combination to Olivia’s safe, until he found the right one. Abby goes through David’s stuff in the office looking for the real deal and finds a box marked, “For Olivia.” When Huck and Quinn return, she is super excited about what happened. Huck, on the other hand, goes to his space, into the corner, and sits as he has done before.

Cyrus gets himself out of the hospital to take care of the Olivia-Fitz problem. He got worried when Olivia didn’t answer her phone, and sent Secret Service to check on her, who found the door broken in and blood on the ground. He is not happy that someone tried to kill Olivia, but knows that B613 won’t stop until they get what they want. He gets more angry when she won’t see that. She still thinks that she and Fitz getting back together is the best thing. In a fit of anger (calm down, Cy, you JUST had a heart attack) he tells her that Fitz killed Verna Thornton. Olivia is in shock.

Cyrus goes to the White House and does the same thing. He does what Mystery Man wanted, kind of, he shows the President the sex tape of Olivia and Jake Ballard. Fitz is in shock.

Now that they know that David Rosen has been pulling all the strings, Hollis, Olivia, Mellie, Cyrus, and now the President meet again in the White House kitchen. David Rosen is now the problem (sound familiar?) Cyrus gets a text that David is in his office. David hands over the real Cytron card in exchange for something else. The something else is fulfilled when the President makes a public announcement thanking David for his work of justice and names him the US Attorney for District of Columbia. Cyrus destroys the card with his little Abe Lincoln bust.

Olivia goes to the White House, tells the President she knows about Verna, and he tells her he knows about Jake. She tells him that he is the one who can start fresh. The rest of them are too damaged. They’ve gone to a dark place, and she’s not sure if they can go back. But Fitz can. And he should start his new beginning with Mellie at his side. She can’t leave her team. “They need me. I’m their Gladiator.” Fitz goes back to Mellie, like a dog with his tail between his legs.

And just when you think you can take a sigh of relief in this season finale, there’s more! Olivia wakes up the next morning, gets ready to go for a jog listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Everything about this is slow – slow for Scandal – which means they really, really want us to catch what is about to happen. Olivia gets into the elevator. She walks through her lobby, smiling at people. She opens the door to go outside, and there is a mob of reporters and cameras asking if it is true that she is having an affair with the president! Shocked, she tries to get back inside the building, but some guys guide her to a limo where Mystery Man is sitting. And Olivia says, “Dad!?!?”

Mystery Man who runs B613 is Daddy Pope?? So many questions, not enough words.

Scandal 2.21: Any Questions?

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsUsing the backdrop of Cyrus giving a press conference on Mellie’s unveiling of Fitz’ private life, this episode takes us on another wild ride with Fitz and Olivia and learning who the mole is.

The President stayed the night at Olivia’s. Cyrus has to bark his way into Olivia’s apartment, walks in on the two of them, and yells, “Get up!” Cyrus is in fix-it mode. As Olivia and Fitz get dressed, Olivia offers to help fix it. Fitz tells her no, “stand down.” If the relationship is going to work, they have to take out the business part of it.

Olivia comes into the office learning that the good news is that Cyrus is not the mole, but whoever the mole is knows about Defiance. Olivia quickly goes to the safe to make sure the Cytron memory card is still in there. David is present, he claims to be a Gladiator.

Mellie is interviewing a new fixer. He’s not quite Olivia Pope, but he knows how to find things in the trash. He manages to get a copy of the President’s speech for Mellie to look at. Mellie refuses to give up Olivia’s name, even to the fixer. She knows Fitz, and she knows he’ll do the right thing.

Fitz’ solution, which is what his speech will be about, is to not run for reelection. Cyrus sees him throwing away his legacy. “I’m in love with a woman,” Fitz says, “who is not my wife.”

Jake Ballard meets Mystery Man in the park again. Mystery Man is not happy with Ballard. They met the night before and Ballard did not share with Mystery Man that the President was with Olivia Pope. The job is simple, keep an eye on Olivia. Ballard shows Mystery Man a picture of Charlie. We know from the Huck flash backs that Mystery Man knows Charlie. But here, he doesn’t let Ballard know that he knows. Mystery Man tells Ballard to bring him the tape of he and Olivia having sex and to find Charlie and bring him in.

When Ballard asks Mystery Man about Cyrus, Mystery Man replies, “I’ll take care of Cyrus.”

Sally Langston makes an appearance, mostly to make us consider that she might be the mole. She and Cyrus are walking down the hall of the White House together:

Sally: You know what the Bible says, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Cyrus: That’s not in the Bible. Not everything is from the Bible.

teach_5986cCyrus is right. The line actually comes from a play written by a guy named William Congreve. Go figure. But the quick dialogue does show how quickly tradition regarding what the Bible says overpowers what the Bible actually says. There is no better way to know what the Bible says than to read it. . . . .for yourself. I know a preacher to teaches preachers not to say, “The Bible says,” without citing where it says it in the Bible. I think that is a good practice.

Harrison thinks Olivia should be his client, because he knows that it won’t be long before her name is associated with the President’s affair. Olivia reminds him that she can take care of herself and that he needs to focus on the task at hand. Cyrus and James have a fight over James’ interview with the First Lady. Finally, Cyrus realizes what happened. James was naive and was used by Mellie. Mellie made it happen for James to get that job at BNC, and requested him to do the interview to get back at Cyrus as much as getting back at the President.

Cyrus and Olivia meet in a park outside the White House. Cyrus tries to convince her to talk sense into Fitz, to make this thing go away. But Olivia is standing down, as she said she would. As Olivia walks away, Mystery Man shows up – more and more all of a sudden. He tells Cyrus that he should have shut down the Fitz-Olivia thing a long time ago. It is clear that these two not only know each other, but have an understanding about not messing with each other’s turf. Mystery Man tells him that his boy Charlie was one of his, and that Cyrus will have nothing to do with anymore.

Ballard, following orders from Mystery Man, tries to take down Charlie. But Charlie is too quick and dodges him. He ends up at Olivia’s office. Everyone has taken an hour to clear their ends, but David Rosen who stayed behind. When everyone returns, Charlie has a gun to David’s head. Charlie wants to be a client. He knows that once he is caught they will kill him. He wants what Huck has. Huck asks Olivia to take care of it, “My world. My rules.”

Ballard failed to get Charlie, but he did give Mystery Man a copy of the tape of him and Olivia. When asked how it was going to be used, Mystery Man basically told Ballard it was non of his business. Cyrus reluctantly accepts that the President is not going to seek a second term. When he goes to ask a staff person to retrieve the candidacy papers, the staff person says she cannot because they were never filed. Turns out they are still on Fitz’ desk.

Cyrus goes to Olivia. Olivia goes to the White House. She talks to him, telling him that he doesn’t want to run because of their relationship, then she will support him. But if decided months ago not to quick because of Defiance, that he shouldn’t give up.

The actions of others affected Fitz and how he understands himself. This pep talk from Olivia is giving him the empowerment and encouragement he needs. At the press conference, he announces he will be seeking a second term.

Huck has Charlie duck taped to a chair, gets a name from him as to who the mole is, and prepares to kill him. Then Quinn comes in, and convinces him that he shouldn’t kill. They let Charlie go. When they get back to the office, Harrison discovers that the Cytron card is gone. Everyone knows at that moment that the Charlie thing was a set-up. He has the card. And who is the mole? Billy Chambers!

But the one giving him the Cytron card is not Charlie, it is David Rosen!

Scandal 2.20: A Woman Scorned

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsThis week’s episode was crafted perfectly for Olivia and Mellie to show off. Or, rather Kerry Washington as Olivia and Bellamy Young as Mellie show off some acting chops. The two are adversaries in this episode like never before. Together they got Fitz in the White House, but against one another, they are bringing Washington to her knees.

Fitz, who cannot seem to make up his mind, wants Olivia back now. After seeing in her the hospital bed, it seemed to wake him up to his true feelings for Olivia. Mellie has moved to Blair House giving Fitz a limited amount of time to figure out what he is going to do, choose Olivia or choose his family.

Jake Ballard, in plain clothes, is babysitting Olivia for the President. Olivia calls the President and tells him to call off his puppy, but Fitz won’t budge. And Jake won’t either.

Cyrus and James are still fighting, but when James gets a job at BNC (“I could be the next Anderson Cooper”), all is forgiven.

The Gladiators are trying to figure out who Baseball Cap guy is. Huck offers to help, and right away he identifies Baseball Cap as Charlie. When asked how he can tell, he answers, “That’s Charlie’s ear.” Huck is the one who tells Olivia it is “Cyrus’ Charlie.” Which makes Cyrus appear to be Albatros, which is what all of us were already thinking, right? Charlie in the meantime is at Jake Ballard’s place digging up dirt on him and Olivia. Charlie finds video of the two having sex, which is saved in case Cyrus needs to use it.

Olivia does not want to bounce on Cyrus as Albatros until they are certain.

This is one of my best friends. . . . We have to be sure.

The Gladiators are given the task to investigate Charlie and see what other clients he has. They find out that he goes to the same bakery shop every Thursday, and he attends a book club on Thursdays where he started dating a girl named Tammy. Olivia also gives the green light to have them look into Cyrus’ phone records.

In the middle of all of this, the President wants to see Olivia, which throws her into an intense moment of yelling at the President: “You do not summon me!” and “Stop getting my hopes up.” and the best line, “You want me? Earn me!”

Cyrus is going back and forth between Mellie and Fitz. Neither are giving in. Mellie has made arrangements with BNC to do a prime-time interview, where she will spill the beans about his affair with Olivia if he does not choose family. He takes a deal to Mellie that offers her a bright, political future. Mellie rejects it. Finally, Cyrus gets an idea. “What if,” he says to Mellie, “I could get rid of Olivia Pope.”

In the meantime, Huck has come clean with Olivia about Charlie. Charlie was one who killed Amanda Tanner. “I didn’t say anything because there is a code.” Charlie has been Cyrus’ guy for at least two years. Cyrus isn’t looking good right now.

Now, with the whole Albatros thing, this makes us wander what Cyrus has up his sleeve. He has the President’s secretary call Jake Ballard to the White House. Cyrus goes to Olivia’s, but Jake is still there, guarding the door. He is a good puppy, only leaves with the President tells him to. Afterwards, Jake tells Olivia he thinks Cyrus is the mole (red flag, people.) Olivia still cannot wrap her head around it. Cyrus would never be disloyal to Fitz.

The Gladiators interview Tammy and find out, eventually, that she was the court reporter for David’s grand jury on Defiance. Her laptop, where she transcribed everything, was stolen. Guess by who? Charlie! All the pieces fall into place, which means that Cyrus is not the mole. Someone else is using the gifts and talents of Charlie, but who?

Perhaps it is Mystery Man that Jake keeps meeting in DC parks. Jake tells Mystery Man that Cyrus is getting too close. Mystery Man does not give him permission to look into it, just to take care of it. Which leaves us wandering, who is going to die next?

Mellie hand picks James, Cyrus’ husband, to do the interview, surely to piss off Cyrus. Mellie tells James and the rest of America that the President had an affair. And where is the President?

Scandal gold.

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