This morning we enjoyed a virtual tour of our sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church. It was great to see the place that I and my family have worshipped for well over 20 years. Indeed I enjoyed the experience so much that I stopped by and snapped several photos of the classically beautiful exterior of the building. Faith and church are an integral part of my life and have been so for 52 years. My how time flies! Our 2020/2021 Pandemic has separated many of us from our weekly gathering together in a physical setting for worship…but it has not taken the experience from our hearts. Nothing can remove that beautiful experience. Zoom Church is edifying and fulfilling. It is a wonderful vehicle to bring church to you…when you can not go to it.
I recall helping to build a church so many years ago. We had a little white chapel that we attended beginning in 1969. During the latter 1970’s our congregation took a loan to expand our building in a significant manner. The road to the construction of our new building, that would inculcate the existing building in its surrounds, included the volunteer assistance of most of the congregation. I knew nothing regarding building…but I learned. We did have a fine carpenter in our midst, David, and were fortunate to receive the assistance of a man who had built several churches. Be that as it may…we were for the majority…unskilled labor. One night we were working by the light of work lamps and, all standing on the subfloor that was above the basement that had recently been excavated. Suddenly the floor began to weave and buckle and shake… The first sign that I knew that something extraordinary was about to transpire was when I saw the primary work lamp that was strategically placed in the middle of the wooden floor…quickly rise toward the open sky…as the floor beneath our feet collapsed in what seemed like minutes…but was really a matter of seconds. I was 17 years old… Upon our dust covered inspection as to the loss of life and limb…no one was hurt…
Faith communities have given my life structure and enriched my ideas of what can be accomplished by seeking to follow Christ’s example. It seems to me that the people that have influenced me as to the truth of christianity have been those who never told me that they were a christian…but they lived a compelling life that made me want to know how they achieved such centeredness and peace… I am a lover of old church and cathedral buildings. Notre Dame in Paris intrigues me. In fact Europe is abundant with stone churches and cathedrals. If these edifices could speak…the story that they would tell. Actually they do speak…if we are willing to listen.
Although we are the church…the building that we gather in is of infinite importance to us. Just as we identify with our homes…we identify with the home of our faith. We enjoyed a private tour of the Vatican in 2011 and it was outstanding. To stand in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica…was mesmerizing and moving! Craftsmen spent years plying their trade of stonemason and other skills to the construction of a physical edifice that would glorify God. Their work is not something to be taken lightly or dismissed or diminished in importance.
‘And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all it’s furnishings, just so you shall make it.’ Exodus 25: 8-9 KJV
Last night I watched a new release on Hulu called ‘Derek Delgaudio’s In & Of Itself. The show was of a Theatre performance of Mr. Delgaudio’s magic act. It was like no other magic act that I have ever seen. To tell you more would be to reveal the emotional power of viewing this extraordinary program for yourself. Needless to say that once you are immersed in the performance…you will not come out the same…and you will think about who you are.
Have you taken the time to reflect on your identity. Who are you from the inside out? Not who does your mom and dad tell you that you are or your evaluation description at your workplace that was written by your boss. Are you who your friends think you are and do they interact with the real you…or your theatrical stand in? Does your faith community understand who you are or do you present to them the doppelgänger that they are expecting…who fits in with the group think of your fellow congregants?
Becoming You…is refersing and inspiring and surprising… You may not realize who you are at your core and in your subconscious and from your emotional truth…unless you are willing to be honest with your best friend…yourself.
I have been involved with literally hundreds of committees in my life. This is peculiar for someone who does not particularly like committees. I do believe that some of the most meaningful work emanates from committee work…but I am a square peg attempting to fit in a round hole. My experience, over 50 years is that committees begin with the best of manners and considerations for fellow members until familiarity breeds some minor contempt. I have lived my life by the maxim of, ‘Praise someone publicly and engage in constructive criticism, always privately.’ Also, never compare what I perceive my work level to be…with what your work output is… Committees can produce lifetime friendships if all members take their places in humility and esteem others better than themselves.
The magnificent program that I mentioned at the beginning of this writing focuses on being truly seen by a fellow human being. Many of neighbors and family feel angry that being required to wear masks to protect others and themselves from contracting Covid-19. This is a somewhat unusual emotion to project itself at this critical time…as we all wear unseen masks on a daily basis. We agree with things that we really do not feel are right or prudent or fair…but we fear the verbal and perhaps physical abuse of telling the truth. We discover what our office requires and we become a dutiful automaton that does not stray from the hive mentality of our working space. I often told chancellors and presidents that their greatest untaped resource at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale was their Civil Service Staff. I went on to explain that when they saw a Grounds Worker or a Building Service Worker I… that they pigeonholed them…when in fact that the diversity of abilities that were held by these people, which they had marginalized, would benefit the University immensely…if they were just asked!
My assistant at Building Services, Cyndy, held a vital clerical position for our department…but she was and is so much more than her job description! She caused our students and staff to feel welcome and at home in our department. She is a wonderful singer! She is an artist! Leaders of our University tend to ask other leaders, by job description, what the answer is for recruitment and retention of our precious students. Why not ask the people that really know what the the students want and need from their School? I do to mean the typical parochial survey that checks the box of inclusivity for constituency groups…but really talk with individuals that will respond from their heart…if they are seen…
Billy Bump and JB were intent on their study of their new National Parks puzzle. Before them was a picture of what the puzzle was supposed to look like once completed. Arcadia National Park was in the lower right hand corner. MJ had asked if they wanted an Old Fashioned…and they both answered with an enthusiastic, and in unison, yes! Now MJ manufactured a mean Old Fashioned…with high class bitters! As they began to imbibe… the puzzle became clearer. Billy B. reflected on he and his families time at Arcadia when they visited Maine for the first time in 2009. It was magnificent with its rocky shores and majestic ocean vistas.
Suddenly JB and Billy B. were in a Bed and Breakfast in Mount Dessert Isle which is near Bar Harbor and Arcadia. There they were eating a marvelous breakfast with AB and MJ. The breakfast was to die for. Not withstanding the wine and cheese that they had enjoyed the day before, Sunday, at the three-story lodging. They were discussing their trip to Bar Harbor, after breakfast, and then on to Arcadia. It was January 27, 2021 and there was four feet of new fallen snow on the ground with a promise of another foot or more that evening. It seems that there was a moose that had lost his way and needed to be reunited with his family. Of necessity they had to stop by Bar Harbor to purchase some snow shoes for the difficult trek to the last sighting of the wayward moose…who the Park Rangers had named Bullwinkle.
Now there was only one store open in the off season in Bar Harbor and they had promised to wait on the Bumps to arrive if they could get there before noon…as they were planning on closing for the winter season that afternoon. When they did arrive in Bar Harbor the roads were freshly plowed and the proprietors of Moose and Bear Emporium were waiting on the front porch. Soon they were on their way to Arcadia with snow shoes for all and warm LL Bean Parkas and hats for the inclement weather.
A lone Park Ranger was waiting for the Bumps at the gate of Arcadia. He asked them how they happened to be visiting Maine in the middle of winter…and they replied that they really did not know… The Lone Ranger went on to explain that the walking trek to reach Bullwinkle would be a mile in five foot drifts of snow. The Bumps all indicated that they were fully ready for the adventure!
As the intrepid group began to think that they would never reach the location of Bullwinkle…there he was looking out from a warm den that he had had either found or lived in for some time. AB and JB both asked if he was lost from his herd and he responded that he preferred to not travel in herds…rather he was a bit of a philosophical loner…accept for his little pal…Rocky… Bullwinkle invited the Bumps in to his warm and inviting home. There was a fire in the fireplace and hot cocoa for all. The moose admitted that he did not mind doing the ‘tourist thing’ in the summer and early fall…but that he prided his privacy in the winter months. He asked who had won the presidential election and mentioned that Rocky would be pleased. He asked what residents of Southern Illinois were doing in the cold and winter climate of Maine…in January…
Billy B. was startled when MJ intoned that he should wake up… There was snow falling in Carbondale…which is a somewhat unusual experience in Little Egypt. MJ asked if he would like another Old Fashioned…and he replied…absolutely!
A Desire For Fantasy
Snow clouds are gathering. There is a forecast for snow tomorrow. I noticed on my campus walk today that the clouds look promising for some snowflakes. I was thinking that we live in a time like I have not experienced in my 63 years. We are surrounded by grim reality while many of us seek fantastical fantasy. I have been watching and listening and reading of the logistical challenges surrounding administering 1 million Covid 19 vaccinations a day in the United States. The goal of President Biden is to administer 1. 5 million per day. Life is full of the intricate hard work of making things function and operate. It is not like the actress Elizabeth Montgomery did in the 1960’s sitcom Bewitched…where when there was something difficult to be done she wiggled her nose and it was accomplished by witchcraft.
Over my 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks as a member of the Building Services department at SIUC I encountered on innumerable occasions the opinion that our customers believed that housekeeping was easy and that they could obviously do a better job than the professional staff. Living in a physical world requires an appreciation of physical reality.
Simply put fantasy has never put food on our families table nor paid our bills or placed a roof over our head. Three weeks ago, tomorrow, a riotous mob stormed our Capitol and desecrated the People’s House…and caused death and destruction. This insurrectionist political action was not fantasy…it was reality.
When our pandemic began in 2020 I saw postings on social media asking if anyone knew a person that had Covid 19. Others said that the fake virus would be over after the election. Workman like conduct is not as exciting as conspiracy theories…’truth is still putting its trousers on while a lie runs around the block.’ Gossip spreads like a fire in standing corn.
Truth is kind. Truth is freeing and liberating and creates a real road to travel on. To be prepared for reality it is important to accept reality. We witness political courage so seldom that it seems strange and unusual to our sensibilities. When leaders do what is best for the people that they have been elected to lead…rather than doing what is politically expedient for them the unusual altruistic action is deemed by many as…not smart. Our culture of capitalism and accruing as much money and power as we can…as a barometer of our wisdom and success had blinded us to the lone voices in the wilderness…that respect us enough to tell us the truth.
Have you ever been lied to and both you and the person telling you the lie understood that they were lying? One of the insidious elements of public speech is the obfuscation and lies that are not even creatively told to the listening public. Somehow we have changed the parameters of honest communication. I first saw the usage of the artful masking of truth in sales. Much as the magician creates his illusion by causing his audience to focus on one area while he is performing his magic in the place that you are not looking. When our leaders are singularly focused on what is best for their political career and thus democracy is negotiable…we must be able to critically think about the outcome.
When I first watched Lady and The Tramp at a theatre in Chicago when I was 3 or 4…I identified with the happy band of canines. I thought of the Disney film often and still do today. It portrayed a fantasy that was comforting and uplifting to my childhood…especially with some of the reversals that I was soon to experience when my mother and father divorced… and mom and I experienced some significant hard times. Fiction and fantasy and prose and poetry is a tremendous assistant in navigating the rocky shores of our challenging human existence. I love Santa Claus and now have a Laughing Santa that is just like the one that I had as a child…courtesy of Jonathon. However when our leaders, either in our jobs or government or faith communities, tell us lies and falsehoods and insult our intelligence…we sheep are dealing with wolves in sheep’s clothing…
Political/Religious extremism is frightening and a hydra headed creature that it is extremely difficult to stay in the good graces of. Have you ever attempted to stay in the good graces and have the benevolent favor of a narcissistic dictatorial leader? The Blues Brothers were on a comical mission from God and were wonderful entertainment for Chicago Blues fans. True believers in the dark fantasy of conspiracy of Religious/Political leaders are difficult to deal with…as they are on a mission from god…
A Travel Boom is Coming — The Jazz Man
So we have all been sitting at home for a year. For many of us travel is a high point of our life and especially so for we retirees. MJ and I are discussing travel plans for later in 2021…and hoping for the best. A few years ago we enjoyed visiting Europe and the United […]A Travel Boom is Coming — The Jazz Man
Words matter. Speech is powerful. Oratory moves nations to both war and peace. The 271 words of the Gettysburg Address spoken by President Lincoln. ‘While it is Lincoln’s short speech that has gone down in history as one of the finest examples of English public oratory, it was Everett’s two hour oration that was slated to be the ‘Gettysburg Address’ that day.’ Wikipedia
President John F. Kennedy asked the question, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ These words inspired a generation to the Peace Corps and other public service.
Jesus Christ is referred to as the word, ‘And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John 1:14
Words have a magical and mystical power. They have the power to uplift and encourage and give the energy and vision to carry on… Words can also deceive and discourage and demoralize. Words created Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Words created our United States democracy.
Throughout my life I have noticed that what people say to me affects me. I am moved by kind and inspirational words and I am hurt by hateful and unkind comments. I have labored under a leader’s comments that were chaotic and divisive and I have been the recipient of healing words that are applied like a balm on the wounds of life. Neither is guaranteed…it is up to us which we choose…
Forty-one years ago when I became a crew supervisor at Southern Illinois University in Building Services…I set my heart and purpose to be a healer rather than a destroyer. I had been wounded by the slings and arrows of callous comments that the speaker neither considered or cared what the affect of their words would be on the person that they were directing them at. I understood what it was like to work 16 or more hours per day and be labeled as ‘lazy.’ I understood how a person’s best efforts could be marginalized and discounted in favor of another preferred person. I wondered if my plight was my poor appearance or my lack of formal education or simply the luck of the draw? When I become a supervisor and later a manager/administrator…I decided to treat people like I wanted to be treated. I had noticed how the American term of ‘Horseplay’ had hurt many people that I had witnessed receiving this supposedly innocent American practice. Rather than being funny or good natured humor…I felt the pain that the practice caused. I had been the recipient of and had mentally recorded on numerous occasions the arrogance of, just a little power, and the deleterious demoralization it had on the poor employees that had to absorb it or be without a means of feeding their family.
Bullying is not a normal right of passage. It is a perversion practiced by insecure individuals who want to bolster their lack of confidence by tearing down those around them.
There is a saying that power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately. It does not have to be that way. I shared a stanza from Amanda Gorman’s tremendous Inaugural Poem that spoke of, ‘We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes, not to what stands between us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first.
We must put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.’
‘He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ Isaiah 2:4
The Poet’s admonition is not about the right to bear arms…it about the learning of war no more. As long as we see each other as two dimensional characterizations and not as fully formed creatures of the God that we attribute our creation to…we will hide in our houses and peek out of our windows and wonder when the others…are going to go away…
It is a cold and beautiful day in Little Egypt. Winter is a month old. I am watching our Blue Heron forage for fish on our pond. He is a patient hunter. The students are back at our University and it is good to see them. They are preparing themselves for their entrance into the world of young adult hood with all of its pleasures and perks and trials and tribulations. I was young once…as were we all…and it did not seem to me to be a bowl of cherries. Or as the well known author,
Erma Bombeck, wrote, ‘If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits.’ I remember the struggles of working to make a decent living and life in the midwest. I also wonder how I did not consider the gift of life and health and how fleeting each can be. We all sit with the sword of Damocles above our heads…and act as if we are permanent fixtures on his planet.
Each of us have a limited amount of time to make a difference. We think that we will, tear down our barns and build bigger…’ when we have no promise that we will be here tomorrow. Finally it dawns on some of old folks that each day is a gift…that is better than Christmas. A young poet captured my heart at the Inauguration Wednesday. Amanda Gorman wrote and read one of the most timely and moving poems that I have heard. One passage was: There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.’
Share your gift! Our lonely and tired and sad world needs it badly. Our church choir director and magnificent singer, Carlyn, sings and I feel better. Each time that I am a recipient of her wonderful gift of singing, I think…how blessed that I am to hear such beautiful words.
I received a text message from a member of my family and my good friend, Ira Kaye, expressing her happiness that I received a good medical report. Her care and concern made my day! As the Bible tells us, ‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’
We must guard ourselves against wishing our lives away. When older people told me that life was short, when I was young, I thought that they must be exaggerating the point. I discovered that they were not. Whatever we are immersed in at the moment tends to identify our thoughts. When we are young and in school it seems that we will always be a student. When we are middle aged and in the midst of our career it seems that we will always work and climb the corporate ladder. If a little money falls into our hands we plan for a richer future…and the gathering of material pleasures. Then…when we become old we learn that position and houses and lands are a mirage… Only those whom we have loved and have loved us have meaning and value in a our world that returns to entropy…dust…
Forward — The Jazz Man
Memory is a wonderful component of our human experience. However there is a time that we cannot live in the past but in the present and the future. Memories have the ability to become somewhat distorted by time. We may remember the good old days when in reality when we were living them, we did […]Forward — The Jazz Man
Stress can make you hold your breath. At times you may not be aware of this visceral physical reaction. It has been said that we Americans are not deep breathers on a good day. Many of us have not taken a deep breath…for sometime. It seems that life has thrown the kitchen sink at us. You can become so nervous and oppressed and sad and lonely…that you fail to realize how depressed and disconnected that you are… The Stockholm Syndrome is where abuse victims bond with their captors.
As long as there is breath there is hope…I have read. It is possible to be so engulfed by sadness and oppression and grimness…that we begin to feel that this is the new normal. We can see so many breaks in what we are expecting from our leaders that we become hardened to our new temporary reality. It seems that perhaps all of our fellow travelers in this life have changed directions and we are the minority when it comes to the new way of thinking and being and a good citizen of our country and a christian in the model of Christ’s example and teaching. When suddenly that paradigm changes…our emotions are shaken! Tears come to our sad eyes and we weep for joy at the possibility that the principles that we were reared upon and the Jesus of the Gospels is still relevant and still in charge…
Amanda Gorman read the most moving poem that I have ever heard at today’s Inaugural. She is 23 years old and African American and she has the wisdom of Solomon. It feels good to breathe deep…and to weep…and to consider the future…
We are exhausted with fighting and division and name calling and strife stirred up in our family. We are weary of our families being separated and our friends disowning us. We mourn for the 400 thousand Americans who have succumbed to the pandemic. We fear how many more… We embrace the diversity of our nation. We wept at the lighting of the 400 lights aligning the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C. The singing of my favorite song, Amazing Grace, by a nurse at the event moved us in a substantial and revealing manner. There are more deaths each day than occurred on 9/11. We all know someone or have loved ones who have been taken by covid-19. I was in the hospital recently and I realized first hand how precious and to be honored are the magnificent nurses are that care for us in this unprecedented of times. Last evening…we all began to breathe as President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris led a recognition and remembrance for the the most devastating crisis that our nation has seen… By their official recognition and the listening to the songs of Amazing Grace and Hallelujah and watching the mystical and magical beauty of the four hundred lights and the Reflecting Pool…we began to breathe…
We weep for the hidden possibilities…that have revealed themselves. We breathe deeply…and the realization of our renewed oxygen…is humbling and renewing. We seek to mend the wounds of our familial unity and purpose and to understand each other. Democracy is difficult and it is divine…
There was a heavy fog this morning. Fog is disconcerting in that it takes a clear view and makes it obscure. What we saw in crystal clarity the day before is now hidden in a cloud of obscure and diminished visual acuity. It is difficult to make plans for a journey in the fog and even to see the road ahead.
Fog has been engulfing our world for a year now. The pandemic has altered our way of life and taken over 2 millions lives worldwide. I was listening to a news program this morning and heard a commentator give one of the clearest explanations of why people leave what we agree is the truth and embrace alternative renditions of ‘truth.’ He traced how our pandemic has devastated small businesses and uprooted the lives and upended the reality of so many people. Millions of our fellow human beings are wondering where they are going to get their next meal from and how they are going to pay their mortgage or their rent…or they have been displaced already… What about the families who have lost 1 or more family members while at the same time they have been laid off due to the closing of their restaurant or bar or service industry? So many had a clear and fog free path before them prior to Covid-19 and now have no idea where to go or what lies ahead or if the reality that they counted on is even a viable path forward! For desperate people looking for an answer…conspiracy theories are…at times comforting…and an answer to a world shrouded in the fog of desperation and doubt.
I have been in many meetings where it was clear that there is a great chasm of understanding between those who have enjoyed a middle class life and those who have had to ‘scrape with the chickens.’ There really is a different reality for the marginalized and the forgotten as compared with those who have connections and friends in high places and safety nets. Many of us have been blessed to be able to work at home…but many have not. I understand hardscrabble people…that is where I come from. I have many friends that the church was the refuge and the succor for them and that no one who had means and resources seemed to know that they existed. People that were searching for someone that gave a damn about them. Alternative reality has some appeal to those who have never felt acceptance in the popular society and have never been the recipient of its blessings and perks.
Imagine with me, if you will, that you have lost your home and are standing in a food line for you and your families dinner…and someone promises you a better society and a more equal distribution of wealth and power and privilege…and a front row seat for you in the new government? This is how democracies fall… How would you feel if you had lost your life’s work and dream and the blood sweat and tears that you had placed in your restaurant for over 20 years? How would you feel if you had used all of your savings to pay your staff during the forced closing of your restaurant…and yet the pandemic continues and your government has not seen fit to help you through the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression?
Crisis are real and we are in the midst of the most terrible one that I have seen in my 63 years. We will finally be able to lift the coronavirus blanket that has smothered our livelihoods and our health and our psyche…but the Fog of War will leave millions around our world with lasting damage and who’s ancillary effects will be felt for generations.