Monthly Archives: May, 2020

Smiling Eyes — The Jazz Man

I was reading a cartoon today of a ventriloquist and his miniature associate… on his knee. The ventriloquist remarked that, ‘I think I may really have a shot at this now,’ as he spoke to his wife…through his mask… Also, I read a New Yorker cartoon that depicted a young man sitting under […]

via Smiling Eyes — The Jazz Man

Safety First — The Jazz Man

My first full time employment was at Essex International in DuQuoin, Illinois. Essex manufactured wire harnesses for Chrysler trucks. Throughout the factory there were a multitude of signs that admonished everyone, ‘Safety First.’ In fact the signs were posted in the rest room and the break area. As a 17 year old, I marveled at […]

via Safety First — The Jazz Man

We Are All Connected

‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

A beautiful day for a neighbor

Could you be mine?

Would you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood

A neighborly day for a beauty

Could you be mine?

Would you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

Let’s make the most of this beautiful day

Since we’re together, might as well say

Would you be my, could you be my

Won’t you be my neighbor?’    Mr.  Rogers’ Neighborhood


Mr. Rogers iconic song describes us before we allowed imaginations and fear to captivate our thoughts…and before we  learned hate.  It is not us against them when it comes to battling our 2020 pandemic…it is us against COVID-19.

I watched a political operative suggest that 100 thousand deaths in the United States…was not so bad.  He went on to postulate that the coronavirus was like the flu in the fatalities that have occurred…  As I considered the bizarre comparison…I wanted to say…you ain’t seen nothing yet!  We are in the midst of this plague…we are not at the conclusion.  I love literature and novels and science fiction…but I do not live my life according to the creative narratives that the stories contain.

It is a bit of a Faustian Contract to believe that the idea of either opening the economy or staying safe from the virus is the terrible decision that each of us have to make.  We can do both…if we do not allow our emotions or our political affiliations…to blind us from the common sense needed to navigate the troubled waters that all of us are sailing in!

During our stay at home time together we have learned that there is nothing that we humans need more….than each other.

During my 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I was convinced that the university required every member of the its community to be a success.  The Building Service Worker was as important as the chancellor to the smooth operation of our beloved school.  The fallible concepts of the lesser and the greater…causes great institutions, and organizations, and nations…to falter and fail.  Churches that succeed in fulfilling the mission of Christ…coalesce together…and every member has an essential role to play and perform!

When Pastor Kerry came to us, a little over a year ago, he mentioned that he was a playwright and that he was going to write a play for the members of our congregation to perform.  As the great comedic actor, Artie Johnson, said in his portrayal on the popular show, Laugh In, ‘Very Interesting,’…I thought.  As I sat in the audience, on the night of the performance, I was gob-smacked with the clear bringing together of our church in the performance.  I had not witnessed anything like the unity that was before me…in my over 20 years as a First Presbyterian congregant.  The smiles and laughter emanating from both the actors and the audience was an object lesson for me…and for life!

My friend, Lisa, remarked to me that she felt that our church was, ‘hitting its groove,’ and I could not agree more.  There is a profound peace and contentment in being a member of a church that accepts everyone, and that loves everyone, and that is actively seeking the voice of a loving God!

Understanding comes from listening.  Listening promotes understanding.  Kindness brings love.  All of us desire others to love us and to experience others concerned about our welfare.  Love is magnetic.  It draws people to its compelling beauty and light!  If I am sad…a cheerful word can make me glad.  When you make another person happy…it makes you happy and your burdens seem lighter and easier to bear…

Antagonism is a trick…and harsh words cause indigestion…  Each of us are members of this human experience…but a short time.  Let’s be remembered for how happy we made others feel…not for what we pretended to know…


Thank You…All Veterans! — The Jazz Man

I grew up during the Vietnam War. As I watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and his nightly reporting of how many Americans were killed that day…. I expected to be drafted…when I became of age. My cousin, Billy, who is a bit older than I, was drafted upon his graduation from high […]

via Thank You…All Veterans! — The Jazz Man

Who Is Watching…You?

I throughly enjoyed our Zoom church this morning!  I enjoyed every part of it…and was especially moved by a member of our choir’s rendition of, ‘It is Well With My Soul.’  I considered that really is the question…is it well with our souls.  We are in the midst of a pandemic.  How we respond to it is a mirror of our soul.  Some of us are angry and full of judgement toward  members of our human family.  It is so easy to point fingers of accusation and recrimination and inner hurt, at those who, desperately, desire to keep not only themselves safe from the Coronavirus…but also all that they encounter.  I have been witness to the eroding of societies adherence to logic and science…or facts.  There is a group of people that believe that the earth is flat.  There are people that are certain that there was never a moon landing…but rather the live televised record of Neil Armstrong placing the first step on the Moon was filmed on a soundstage.  We are accustomed to doing exactly what we want to do….Even if it kills us!  I wonder if as information has become accessible, and at our fingertips…we have grown fond of fantasy rather than fact?

two white sheep on grass field

Photo by Matthis Volquardsen on

Now, the doubt of many of us, often including myself, has been born out by being mislead by our leaders, on numerous occasions.  We have become a nation of skeptics with reason…  Skepticism and critical thinking is a good thing…in healthy moderation.  However, to cavalierly and with abandon…ignore the medical advice of our most prominent scientist and virologist and epidemiologist…is playing with fire!

abstract art blaze bonfire

Photo by Pixabay on

We are a people of the immediate solution!  A 2020 pandemic, that will at least last throughout the year, is egregious to consider or conceive.  We are in the process of opening up businesses and restaurants and bars, as well as beaches and recreation areas.  It is common sense, on its face, that these openings must occur as quickly as they can be done safely.  Safely has a new definition when it comes to COVID-19.  The virus has not packed up its bags and left town.  Our 2020 pandemic has not been frightened or cowed by the strong statements of our political leaders and the happy talk that they utter…in preparation for the November election.   One-hundred  thousand people dying is not a badge of honor…it is a tragedy!  Political affiliations will not save us when we are hooked up to a ventilator.


I have heard it said that common sense…is not common.  The Old Testament tells us that the children of Israel followed Moses for 40 years in the desert.  When Moses ascended Mount Sinai…to receive the Ten Commandments from God…the Israelites demanded that Aaron fashion them a golden calf to worship.  Heaven help us when the symbol is more important to us than the substance…

Our global trial will end…as we work together and have a servant’s heart…and consider our neighbor as we consider ourselves…

I enjoyed a New Yorker cartoon, this morning, that depicted an apartment building that had a television set attached to each window frame, much as a widow air conditioner would be.  One person had pushed the TV out of they’re, obstructed window, and was sitting in the window with their arm outstretched and  a dove landing on their hand.  Now more than ever before…we need the dove…

portrait of white pigeon

Photo by Garfield Besa on


Could I Be On My Way To Maine…In a Parallel Universe? — The Jazz Man

This is the long awaited day of our departure…to Maine. A family vacation that we planned, beginning, last summer. During that time a pandemic was a historical event. I vividly recall being in a constituency heads meeting with SIU President, Glenn Poshard, and his passionate description of the potential for SARS to spread throughout the […]

via Could I Be On My Way To Maine…In a Parallel Universe? — The Jazz Man

Reluctant Leadership Is a Good Thing — The Jazz Man

I have been a student of leadership for the majority of my life. From our presidents, both past and present, to leaders across the world such as, Gold Meier, and Winston Churchill, as well as religious leaders…and of course University managers and administrators. The concept of how a person has either the natural skills or […]

via Reluctant Leadership Is a Good Thing — The Jazz Man

The Music Corner

A musical blog, from Jonathon Brooks!


Music greatly enriches my life. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my basement recently listening to CD’s and vinyl records on my Crosley Rochester music machine. It’s been a wonderful time.

What I most connect with in music is the lyrics the singer-songwriters pen. I love experiencing their stories. Often I will read the lyrics as I listen to the songs. This helps me enjoy the music more and I also believe it helps me to be a better listener. Our world is in need of more good listeners. Many of us know how to tell our story. But how many of us truly know how to always listen to the stories of others?

Lately I’ve been listening to the music of Sam Cooke, The Beach Boys, Vampire Weekend, Dixie Chicks, Run Kid Run, The Insyderz, Cat Stevens, Louis Armstrong, The Ataris, MXPX, The Chieftains, Hawk Nelson, The…

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The Gift of Good Pastoral Leadership

It is Tuesday, May 19 in the saga of our 2020 pandemic.  It is another cool and cloudy day.  Life marches on for each of us….So separated…yet…inexorably connected.  I have been reading the increasing criticisms of our Illinois Governor regarding his stay-at-home orders and the reopening of businesses, guided by the science of the spread of COVID-19. Sadly, the preponderance of the criticisms revolve around political affiliations.  The Coronavirus does not have political loyalties.  We are in the midst of attempting to save lives.  Nothing else should be in the picture when it comes to the precious lives of your family!  I have voted for republicans and I have voted for democrats…neither of them will be siting by my bedside when I draw my last breath.

However, today, I have been thinking about what a gift that good pastoral leadership is.  Having been a christian for 51 years, I have experienced several pastors.  All of them had strengths and weaknesses.  But, what is fundamental to a good pastor.  I think that the job requires, in the words of the old holiness people, someone who has a calling on their life.  I am always seeking someone that the job of pastor is more than a paycheck.  In my early history with the church…I aspired to be a pastor.  I have served as an elder or a trustee or a deacon…in every church that I have been affliliated with.  I have known some of my pastors, very well.  I have had a front row seat into what motivated them.  They have disclosed to me what their inner thoughts and fears and hopes were for the congregation that we were a part of.  During the past over half century…a few attributes of a good pastor…have stood out.

A good pastor has the ability to connect with each member of the congregation.  They posses empathy.  They have the rare quality of humility.  A called pastor does not take their self to seriously!

A quality christian leader has the ability to bring the diverse members of a congregation…together.  I was gob-smacked when I witnessed the coming together of our congregation during a play that our pastor, Kerry, wrote.  His expertise as a play write translated into a heaing and unity that I had not witnessed…in some time!

A good pastor should have the ability to telegraph to each member of the church that they are vital to the mission of the institution.  Inherent in this message is that the pastor values you as a person that God has called to be an important member of the group.

A pastor will sit by your bedside when you or your family are ill.  This person will call you and pray for you…and get involved in the down-and-dirty business of your life…and they will assist you in bearing your burden!

A good pastor will sit by your bed-side when you are about to make your last bow on the stage of life.  They will care enough to become invested in your suffering and your grief…and your loss.

I remember every pastor that cared about me.  I see every pastor that was willing to help me or members of my family…when it seemed that no one cared.  In the darkest of life days…a good pastor…will share in your sufferings and weep when you weep…and laugh with you…when your are joyous!

Ministry is not for the fainthearted.  The requirements cannot all be written in a job description!  Ministry comes from the heart…and the Holy Spirit…and a commitment to the emotional baggage of a group of people…

‘Enjoy Each Day-It Is Not Coming Back Again’ — The Jazz Man

I saw more deer today. They watched me…and I watched them. They were peaceful and so was I. I considered that our mutual interest and acceptance of each other, was a good lesson for life in the human family. My mom told me, on numerous occasions, that everything that happens…has a reason. When she told […]

via ‘Enjoy Each Day-It Is Not Coming Back Again’ — The Jazz Man