The Spring Equinox 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere will be at 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, March, 20, Central Time.
I have heard newscasters and others on television, pronounce both Saturday and Sunday and today as the first day of spring.
We have snow in the weather forecast for the hours of 7:00 a.m. too 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.
It has been a cold winter. The coldest our area of the country has experienced in 20 years.
Spring, always, makes me think of the future. No matter the level of ice and snow and frigid cold that has occurred in our lives…spring brings the promise of new life and new beginnings.
It is easy for we humans to get ourselves into a ditch, or a rut, and subsequently believe that we have attained our epitome and our zenith and the future is simply a maintenance project.
However, life teaches us that promises and the surprises and the challenges of life are meant to continue until the hooded figure with the scythe comes to say hello.
Winston Churchill was 66 years old when he first became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
‘Harlan Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, was 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1952. He sold the franchise business for $2 million 12 years later.’ Business Insider
‘Diana Nyad had dreamed of swimming across the Straits of Florida ever since she was 8 years old, reports CNN. After 5 tries spanning 35 years, on Monday, September 2, 2013, she finally accomplished her dream, becoming the first person to swim from Florida to Cuba without a protective shark cage. Her messages about late-life success: ‘One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams.’ Diana Nyad was 64 when she performed her record breaking swim. Senior Living Blog
Cycles can be broken. Success can be captured from what, at first appeared, to be the jaws of failure.
I was fired from a job when I was 20 and I felt devastated. I had given the job everything that I humanly could…and yet it was not enough. Shortly after this reversal in my life, I was hired at SIU and enjoyed an over 32 year successful career.
Southern Illinois University has a rich and illustrious history. It houses academic disciplines that are world renown and it’s alumni list is full of notable professionals in every field of endeavor.
Of late, the University has lost confidence in its’ self. We have accepted that we will never be what we were at our paramount success. We have been told that we are rural…we are suffering from less high school students to recruit…and we have decided to contemplate our mirrored visage…rather than to look forward and be confident and secure in the knowledge of the quality institution that our rich history portrays.
Perhaps it is time to wake up and decide that our second chapter or even our third chapter will be the best of our life’s story.
Perhaps is is time to release worry and fear and strife and hate…and embrace love and promise and success and life.
Since the days of Grade School, I have wanted to be a writer.
From the days of writing book reports to the days of English Composition in Mrs. Barton’s class too writing for a church newsletter…or writing in, my favorite professor, Carol’s course, at SIU.
Writing was one of my favorite, necessary jobs, during my management career at the University. I have, often felt, that I communicate more efficiently in writing than verbally. Also, I enjoy endeavoring to write in different styles or in another voice.
Have you ever heard the axiom, ‘ a writer…writes?’ I have found this to be, indeed, true for me since my retirement, over seven years ago.
‘Ernest Hemingway had said that ‘there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ MC’s Whispers
I am pleased with my writing when I leave a little portion of myself on the paper.
Writing is a satisfying experience when it comes for a place of honesty…that includes both joy and sorrow…happiness and pain.
The laptop and the exercise of writing has become, almost a daily obsession, for me…a magnificent obsession.
The more that I write…the more that I want to write.
I have two, primary places, for writing. The first would be a portion of our deck, that we had screened in a few years ago, that overlooks our pond. I find it both extremely peaceful and always inspirational.
The second writing place is our Loft, which again overlooks the pond, and where we placed my desk, looking out of a large triangle shaped window, not long before my retirement in 2010.
Nature inspires me. It’s unparalleled beauty can reset my compass…at anytime.
No all writers are Stephen King.
Enjoyable writing is a bit of an organic process and is intuitive.
Writing is somewhat similar to the christian life. Some would have you believe that to be a christian that you must follow the rules and precepts that a group of, historically, men, have set down as the, strict, form, of christianity that must be followed…religiously….if you want to succeed in obtaining Heaven.
When in reality we are all God’s creation… and he loves us all…
in all of our diversity and subtle nuances…
So, it is with writing. It should reflect who the writer is. It should reflect the writer’s truth. It should be celebrated for it’s uniqueness and brilliance and a reflection of the kaleidoscope of our human experience.
‘A Brooks Tale’
The boy felt like he had been there before.
He noticed the lovely tree lined street, that his house was on, and it seemed so familiar. His house was comfortable with a lot of music and laughter.
The boy’s friends were numerous and fun. He thought Susie was pretty and Steve was a master puppeteer.
His Dad was there, in the evening, and he seemed ten foot tall. He was mysterious and dressed in black and he hoisted the boy on to his broad shoulders and the boy thought that he was the king of the world.
There was sadness in the home…at first hidden and then revealed suddenly. Something was amiss…but the boy could not discern the problem and he busied himself playing and watching the marionette shows and enjoying hearing Susie tell him how sweet that he was.
The teenager enjoyed church and church work. Most of his friends were associated with his involvement in church. He enjoyed reading the Bible and the positive reinforcement that he received from his minister and his peers and the many elderly parishioners that he visited with on a weekly basis.
When the teenager had nothing…his minister told him that he would be a leader of many people. The teenager laughed.
One afternoon a quiet girl told the teenager that she believed that he would be a success and a leader of people.
The minister told the teenager that he had an old soul.
The teenager, often, understood the problems and issues of adults and related to them…much easier than those of his peers.
The man was asked if he would lead a university department of over 300 people.
The man was humbled and honored…and shocked.
The man’s wife had told him, when he began in the department, as a janitor, that one day he would lead the organization.
The man had watched the university’s president’s assistant interact with many in the university community.
The thought, came to him, that one day he would have the opportunity to have a job assisting the universities’ leader.
Years later, the universities’ chancellor offered the man a job assisting her…and she was terminated, in an untimely manner, before the job could be obtained.
The man had a pastor, for many years, and the first thought that the man had when he met the pastor…was that he liked her very much and that he wanted to help her.
The man lost the pastor…but his original feelings for her and her ministry…were realized at the very end of her pastorate.
The man became older and thought about his health and the health of his wife and his sons…and wondered how long his story would go?
Wake up dear…you are going to be late…the woman told the man.
‘My goodness,’ the man said.
‘I had the same strange dream again…where I was young…and then suddenly old…and then worried about dieing,’ he said.
‘I wonder if it is something that your are eating,’ the woman said.
When I was a child I learned the poem of solace, that was supposed to salve the hurts of hateful words…spoken by bullies.
‘Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’
Of course, we all learn early on that words do hurt and that those who proudly claim that they are not affected by mean and sarcastic and juvenile name calling…are some of those that are hurt the most.
In school we, painfully accepted, that there were, among us, the emotionally stilted and people that were so insecure that they must belittle and make fun of and name call others…in order to fill some vast vacancy in their soul. People who felt so small and insignificant that their recourse was to create and compound those feelings in another human being and thus to feel like that they were at least better than the poor individual that they chose to persecute.
As a rule, when a teacher or a principal or an adult and an authority figure saw what was transpiring…they came to the aid of the person who was being bullied and instructed the bully to cease and desist.
What if, when a person was being bullied, the teacher and the adult and authority figure and the Principal and the Superintendent joined in and became the Bully in Chief?
I was the Assistant Superintendent of Building Services for twelve years. On more than one occasion I had to dissuade and even order members of my staff to not do something or say something that my boss, the Superintendent, had encouraged them to do.
Racial slurs….fighting…and swimming in the Pulliam Pool after hours…were neither right nor defendable and they were, indeed, infractions that could lead to suspension and termination. Yet, the members of my, and the Superintendent’s staff, assured me that since their boss, and mine, had assured them that they would be alright that they felt secure in indulging in the the prohibited activities.
History teaches us what power words have…in the mouth of the powerful.
‘Adolf Hitler had provided clues to his ambition to commit mass genocide as early as 1922, telling journalist Josef Hell, ‘Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews.’ Smithsonian.com
‘As soon as I have power to do so I will have gallows built in rows-at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example-as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.’ Statement to Josef Heil, 1922 quoted in Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution pg. 17
‘Since we are socialists, we must necessarily also be antisemites because we want to fight against the very opposite; materialism and mammonism…How can you not be an antisemite, being a socialist!’ Adolf Hitler Why We Are Anti-Semites, ‘August 15, 1920 speech in Munich at the Hofbrauhaus. Translated from Vierteljahrshefte fur Zeigeschichte, 16. Jahrg., 4.H.(Oct 1968), pp. 390-420. Edited by Carolyn Yeager. 
‘President Donald Trump mocked California Rep. Maxine Waters during a freewheeling speech Saturday night, saying she had a ‘very low IQ.’ CNN
‘President Donald J. Trump hosted a Make America Great Again rally this evening in Pennsylvania. Per usual, the Donald’s flamboyant and charismatic personality charmed the standing room only crown. However, the loudest reaction and most amused came when the president referred to NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd as a ‘sleepy eyed’ ‘sleeping son of a bitch.’ Townhall
Members of the media have received death threats as a direct result of president Trump’s continued pronouncements of fake news and calling out individuals, on a regular basis, for ridicule and catcalls and taunts.
I took Journalism classes at SIU…it is a noble profession and unworthy of the disdain and danger that the professionals in this Constitutionally recognized field are members of.
Most human relations seem academic…until they are on our doorstep…then…suddenly…they are crisis.
Note: Photos are from the Free Photo Library
Jonathon and I went to our local watering hole…’where everybody knows your name,’ and I had my usual…Dragon’s Milk.
We missed the third musketeer, Aaron, and the fourth, Mary Jane, but we carried on…the best that we could.
The bartender knows us so well that she begins pouring up my beverage of choice before I sit down.
I do not drink too much…two usually.
After that, a trip to Plaza Records is in order. They have the most wonderful used records that, often, are so clean that they do not appear to have ever been on a turntable.
Our friend, Chris, works there. His friendly demeanor causes us to want too purchase Vinyl.
Today, I obtained a Nina Simone album and a boxed set of jazz artists from the Smithsonian.
I often think of the father, in one of my favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Tale, and his love for jazz music on vinyl. The movie is French and I identify with the old jazz aficionado.
And…Chris even gave us a discount.
As the old commercial stated, as a Russian actor exclaimed…’What a Country!’
I, often, reflect on the miracle of life that is before our eyes and ears and senses each day of our existence.
We walked campus earlier and took note of the Red Bud trees that are blooming. I am sitting at my desk and looking out my loft window and watching a Great Blue Heron search for fish in our pond.
Our planet is so magnificent that if your were summarily dropped, or deposited, on to our Earth from another world…you would be breathless with awe and delight and wonder at the unique beauty that you were surrounded by.
‘Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.’ Zig Ziglar
I believe that a key to happiness is to help others in need.
The more that we can get out of ourselves and focus on our fellow human travelers…the increase in our contentment.
My friend, Jeff L., is a great example of helping others who are less fortunate than he.
Jeff grew up homeless on the streets of Chicago. Not long after he became a christian he began putting the golden rule into practice. When we visited he and Margo, in the United Kingdom, I noticed how he was constantly reaching out to whoever that he met and offering them, potential, opportunity in the company that he is the CEO of. The looks of wonder and delight and the, palpable, intrigue emanating from the people that Jeff was speaking with was something to behold.
My friend, Elizabeth, is, daily, trying to find new ways to assist and help her colleagues at Southern Illinois University.
‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and so the evil.’
‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.’
‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.’
‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.’ Luke 6: 35-38 KJV
‘Famed actor Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a photo of himself sleeping on the street under his famous bronze statue, and sadly wrote ‘How times have changed’…
‘Trying to teach everyone that when you’re ‘important’ in the people’s eyes, everyone is your ‘Friend’ but once you don’t benefit their interests, you won’t matter.’
‘You are not always who you think you will always be, nothing lasts forever.’ Ovilia Mendonca Facebook Photo: E News
Indeed, fame and power, and money and popularity are fleeting.
I observe, with great interest, the preening and prancing of the powerful.
I had the pleasure of becoming friends with several university leaders during my over thirty-two year career at SIU. I watched the, obvious, sycophantic shuffling of those who sought to be ensconced in the good graces of both chancellors and presidents. I also witnessed the, not so obvious, apparent, good will of others…who seemingly wanted to assist the leader and in the methodology of their apparent, ‘good will’, receive a hefty pay raise for their altruistic efforts.
Then, when the leader is no longer in power and unable to facilitate additional money or prestige or power for the supplicants…they melt away like the snow of a spring day.
So, the question is…is our identity our job or our profession or position…or do we identify ourselves uniquely as a one of a kind creation in a world of wannabes and facsimiles and poor imitations?
I was on campus, the other day, and spring is coming again and a time of renewal and rededication to living our unique and unparalleled lives as God intended for us to live them.
‘I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to the dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me’
This Is Me Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Ensemble
This morning, Pastor Janice, in her last sermon to us, spoke regarding what it must feel like to be exiled.
‘Exile – expel or bar (someone) from their native country, typically for political reasons.’ Dictionary
‘So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was carried away into exile to Babylon for their unfaithfulness.’ I Chronicles 9:1
‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.’
‘We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.’
‘For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ Psalm 137: 1-3
How does it feel to be a stranger…an exile…in your own land?
A couple of years ago I read a blog, written by one of my friends from the United Kingdom, where she had been admonished to ‘go back where she came from’…but she came from the UK? Her perceived ethnicity had caused a prejudiced person to assume that she did not belong in their country of origin.
The United States is comprised of people from every country on the face of the Earth. The geological facts are that in a few years, Anglo Saxons will be a minority in this country.
When, some, exclaim the clarion call to make America great again…they mean that they desire white people to be in the ascendancy and people of color to be subservient to them.
Upon ancestral examination these people would discover that their forefathers and foremothers were immigrants…and exiles…from their lands of origin.
President Trump’s ancestors are of Germanic origin.
Countless multitudes flee hunger and deprivation and genocide…in the hope that the beacon of freedom and safe haven still shines in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lighting, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
The New Colossus Emma Lazarus Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty
‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.’ Proverbs 31:8 NIV
Pastor Janice…spoke for those who have no voice…we shall miss her…
We have a black Labrador Retriever who’s name is, Parker. She is eight years old and loving life.
Parker is a rescue dog. When we got her, as a very small pup, she had been rescued from Gulley Park and had just undergone surgery to reset her broken jaw…caused by someone who had tossed her out of a moving vehicle.
We named her Parker Gulley Brooks.
During the first two years of her life she almost died more than once.
She has significant allergies and must eat special food and take monthly injections.
Parker has two, Boston Terrier Brothers, they are older than she is…but she is the boss!
Three years ago, she had surgery to remove a tumor that, happily, was just of the ‘fatty variety’ and today she has surgery again for more of those pesky fatty tumors.
When Parker decides that she wants to remain outside, in our fenced in portion of the backyard, nothing can dissuade her…but the voice of her father. The other members of the family can call and cajole and promise and threaten…to no avail…but when the ‘old man’ says, ‘alright…ok…that’s alright…,’ she hurries inside the house.
I told Jonathon, last evening, that I would walk out onto our screened in porch and give my proclamations to Parker…who was below in her area of fun that is adjacent to the porch/deck.
Jonathan said that he could not believe that even without seeing me and just hearing my voice, Parker obeys immediately.
All of the chew bones, enough for a three dog family, are Parker’s. If she desires one of them that her Boston brothers is enjoying…she simply barks, the most ear splitting and continuous bark that they or I have ever heard.
They quickly release their ‘toy.’ It is not worth the aural pain.
Wallace and Brody enjoy sitting on their mother’s lap…they weigh slightly over 20 pounds.
Parker, believing that she is a Boston Terrier also, lumbers on to Mom’s lap…at 70 plus pounds.
Parker, has a specific vice, but we will not talk about that today…as we are so happy to have her beat the odds…again.
I have heard the cats have nine lives…I think I just heard Parker…meow.
I walked Campus this afternoon. It is a habit or perhaps an addiction of mine.
I could not help but contrast the lovely weather, today, with the frigid conditions that we have endured this winter and the flooding rains that have recently befallen us.
We seek renewal and re-awakening and re-birth.
At times, dark clouds, can cover our lives and the hope of the sun shinning again can seem remote.
It can be so cold…that we feel that, perhaps, we will never be warm again.
Our life experiences can be so traumatic that we have great difficulty, remembering, when things were good and peaceful and bright.
‘For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
‘The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;’ Song of Solomon 2: 11-12 KJV
I have always believed that every person that I meet, on this road of life, I met for a reason and a purpose and it is incumbent on me to not hurt that person.
I learned, many years ago, that as a supervisor and a manager, and even before that, as a church leader, that often, what I said was taken very seriously by the person that I was speaking with.
From my perspective or looking out of my eyes…or living in my head…I witnessed that, an off hand remark, could be troubling and worrying and disconcerting to others.
I, am one of those people, who believes that God is watching and waiting and observing how we treat each other…or if you are looking for God…or if you want to find Jesus…look at the person that is next to you…and start there.
I have never been sorry for a kind word that I have said…and I have never been happy with a harsh one.
I, often said, when I was a manager of a large group of people…that if I erred…I wanted to err on the side of mercy.
That is what our Creator is doing with us.
‘Because, let’s face it: Life is one hell of a rollercoaster ride. At times we feel totally in charge of the journey and love the ride. At other times we feel completely overwhelmed and want to get off. Throughout our lives, we’re by turns strong, then weak. We’re quite sure we know what we’re doing, and then we’re utterly and totally lost. We feel elated, and then depressed. We act powerfully, then feel like the victims. We’re buoyed by courage, then scared out of our wits. We feel part of a community, and then we feel totally alone. We take pride in our accomplishments, then we want to crumble with shame over our mistakes.’ Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper
I have been a christian since I was 10 years old…and now I am 60. The past 50 years have been a rollercoaster of a journey.
During my early, christian years, I wanted to be a minister and before the age of 20… I was assisting my pastor in preaching funerals. After that time, I became the primary person in the church that preached funerals.
Over a period of years I have acted as an advisor to more than one minister and been involved in all manner of church government.
Along the wild rollercoaster ride…I had a crisis of faith…well really I have had a couple…but the last one caused me to distance myself from pastors and church work.
I was sitting in church this morning and reflecting on why do we go to church and become members of a church.
Do we believe that God has led us to the church that we are in…as well as leading our pastor to the same sanctuary? Or are we. …a Kiwanis Club…or a Lion’s Club…or the Eagles…or the Elks…or the Odd Fellows…or the Moose?
Do we want to understand God better and his plan for our lives…or is our collegial relationships…simply business…and nothing more?
Does God have a plan for our lives or do we attend church on Sunday morning to see our friends and those who think like us?
I talked with my Pastor…the other day…well before any covenants of dissolution were signed.
My Pastor spoke…only…of her love for the people of our church…and her concern for our continued health and wellbeing and the exciting christian journey though this, rollercoaster, of life.
Not a word about her…or her wellbeing…
No words of criticism…
No words of anger….
No words of strife….
No words of division….
Now that is a Pastor….and I lost her…just after I found her.