Monthly Archives: March, 2021

Uniqueness In The Midst Of Mediocrity

I have noticed that I tend to give a weather report at the beginning of many of my blogs. Well, today it is 52 degrees with a chill factor of 46. An 18 degree drop from yesterday. In the world of winter it is warm and in the world of spring it is chilly. Such is life.

One of my favorite things about my church, First Presbyterian Church @ Carbondale, Illinois, is their out reach to and acceptance of…all people. Acceptance is not so easy to find. It is easy to seek to talk like our colleagues or faith community. It is easy to ‘ape’ or pattern our conduct and clothing and political affiliations to fit into the wooden constructed form, similar to a concrete form, that our peer group expects.

Humbled and proud would best describe my feelings at being afforded the opportunity to reach out to the disabled community. The precious staff that we were able to hire into our department were some of the finest employees that we had during my 32 + year career. Their dedication to the success of Building Services and the advancement of Southern Illinois University…was herculean.

When I speak to someone who has a different opinion than what is accepted as the norm…I learn to see things in a new way and from a different point of view. The accepted geographical knowledge of Christopher Columbus time was that the world was flat…there are still people that believe that this is true…but Columbus proved that the earth was round…as well as satellite photos.

When I was a child it was widely assumed that the earth was the only planet in our galaxy that had intelligent life on it. Flying saucers and UFO’s were relegated to the comic books and science fiction novels. Now a high percentage of humanity believe that UFO’s are real.

Black people…are people. Not better not worse than white people…but equal. African Americans have been instrumental in much of my career and I am once again…humbled and honored by their friendship.

Gay people are people. Not better not worse than straight people…but equal. MJ and I have some wonderful Gay friends that are some of the sweetest people that we have ever known.

Christ came to those who had no voice in his day…and he spoke for them. He came to those who had no place in society…and he said stand by me…we are in this together.

‘And The Common People Heard Him Gladly’ — The Jazz Man

Windy is the watchword for this Tuesday. Walking in 24 mile per hour wind will take your hat right off of your head unless you have a Tilley Hat that has the famous wind strap…that you can place under your chin. As I watch and listen to the George Floyd murder trial I am struck, […]

‘And The Common People Heard Him Gladly’ — The Jazz Man

Holy Week

It is a lovely 64 degrees with 15 mile per hour wind in my neck of the woods. We had a great Zoom church service yesterday, celebrating Palm Sunday. Pastor Kerry mentoned that many churches have little observance of Easter other than Palm Sunday and then a week later Easter. Actually, each day of this week is a member of Holy Week and has a title:

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)

Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday

Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday)

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Holy Saturday (Black Saturday)

Easter Vigil

Easter Day

What did Jesus do during Holy Week?

Day 1: Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday…

Day 2: On Monday Jesus clears the temple.

Day 3: Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives.

Day 4: Holy Wednesday.

Day 5: Passover and the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.

So, this week is full of significance for the christian community. As I reflect on the Easters of my youth I recall that all that I was aware of was Easter Day. Until the age of 12 I did not attend church on a regular basis and knew little more than Christ resurrected on Easter and the Bunny hid Easter eggs. It also seemed to me that the Bunny got more television coverage than Jesus. There was no special Easter dinner or new clothes…but I did notice the beautiful photos in magazines of families all decked out in their Easter Bonnets. Pastor Kerry noted that Easter did not hold the significance or time dedicated to it as in years gone by…in the church. Not long ago the church was at the center of our society and much of life was planned around its calendar. On more than one commemorative plaque at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale it would is proudly noted regarding past presidents of the University that they were christian. At one time our church had over 700 members. Yet…those days seemed to have slipped though our grasp for the expediency of sports and beach time. Barbecue and basketball and picnics on the green…and just some down time…have become our sanctuary on Sunday morning. We tell ourselves that we worship God in our hearts and in our spirits and we contribute to charity. Yet the homeless surround our favorite restaurants and sleep rough along Pennsylvania Avenue in sight of the White House. There are now so many mass shootings that they often do not make the nightly news. We know that our society is ill…but we search blindly for the cure to our malady. Five-hundred and fifty million of our citizens have died during our Pandemic…and yet we have relegated this life taking virus to the political/religious hydra headed monster that suffices for religious understanding and education.

No water for the thirsty if they are in a voting line in Georgia…it is illegal… Do you ever remember water…being illegal?

‘For I was hungry , and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:’ Matthew 25:35. KJV

New Life

Jonathon and I walked the Campus this afternoon. It is 79 degrees. I think that it must be the warmest day this year. The spring blossoms are fading on some of the trees and just taking off on others. They do not last long. People are scurrying about as if they have been locked up. The air is fresh with the smell of newness of life and purpose and a blank slate for us to write upon…

When I was young I did not dwell on the inevitability of the end of life. And this is not because I did not have reason to do so with some health challenges. Instead I was always looking toward the next day that was coming. But, as I have gotten older, or I am older than I have ever been…as my pastor, Kerry, said in an. article he wrote for our church newsletter, I ponder why I am here and what have I contributed. Spring inspires me…and this has not always been the case…as I used to be fond of fall and winter…but spring has supplanted winter. New life intrigues my imagination. Is this short and manic life the only one that we are afforded or should we look to the promise of a future that is brimming with possibilities? Are we doomed to a simple one time chance at happiness…and if we missed the brass ring….too bad…

The biologist will tell us the we are the product of evolution and that contained in our brief earthly experience is the total of our self. We feel that we have attained nirvana if we have been what our society told us was a good man or a good woman. When in our real experience our spirit soars and our soul cries out for more. Have you ever experienced the understanding of what another human being was thinking or preparing to do? Have you ever wondered about or questioned the doctrine or dogma of you denomination or the purpose of your faith community?

Palm Sunday is 1 day away. Our reflections on the gift of christianity is a gift for us. The beauty of the humble doctrine of servant leadership is unparalleled in our human experience. Let us seek to discover the answers of life’s greatest questions in the eyes of the hopeless and downtrodden and the marginalized and forgotten members of our human family.

CAVU…Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited — The Jazz Man

President George H. W. Bush had a small plague affixed to the stone wall of his Kennebunkport home in Maine that simply had the four letters, CAVU. The letters stood for the areonautic term of, Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. President Bush was World War II Navy pilot. He said in a letter to his children […]

CAVU…Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited — The Jazz Man

Everything Old Is New Again

Spring has a magic magnetism of renewing what we have witnessed before…and yet projecting it with a, seemingly, new prism of colors. As I walked Campus today I saw the most beautiful blossoms on several of the trees, and I had the thrill of seeing them for the fist time! Indeed it was the first time since our cold and snowy winter. These were some of the same trees that I admired in 1978 when I began working at SIUC. I remember thinking that I worked at the most beautiful location that I had ever seen. I still feel that way. Our new President has changed his first 100 day goal of 100 million jabs of vaccine to 200 million. We are well on our way to his new goal.

In the midst of our 2020/2021 Pandemic we can see the light at the the end of the tunnel. The tunnel has been exceedingly long and it has been so dark at times that it has been difficult to visualize where we were or what our destination was. We have not reached the end of the tunnel…but we have reached the beginning of the end. Sadness is debilitating. It is comforting to see the vaccines being administered so quickly and abundantly. Once you receive the life saving shot…your spirits will be uplifted.

Our community has been offering walk-in vaccines with no appointment. I have heard people say, for many years, that they cease to see God in their daily lives. Our former pastor, Janice, began a weekly addition to our Sunday church service asking the question, Where did you see God this week?’ Pastor Kerry has renewed this lovely question…and the responses are endless. For instance two of the places that I have seen God this week are the beautiful blossoms and blooms on the trees at the Southern Illinois University Campus…and the Walk-In Covid Vaccine Clinics in our area! In our lives we search for the 4th of July fireworks…when subtle presence of God surrounds us.

‘And he said, Go forth, stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantel, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said What doest thou here, Elijah?’ 1 Kings 9: 11 – 13. KJV

So, when our friends, Lisa and Ro, brought us some delectable brownies for our 43rd anniversary…I saw God.

When so many of MJ and my friends, some from many years ago, wished us a happy anniversary yesterday…I saw God.

As we take the time to care and help our brothers and sisters of our human family…we see God.

Palm Sunday And Then Easter

Did you ever feel that life was passing you by? Today is MJ’s and my 43rd anniversary. It is spring. New Year’s Day is over as well as Valentines Day and MJ’s birthday, also on the 24th of February, and Palm Sunday is this Sunday. You are aware of what comes affair Palm Sunday…Easter Sunday. Then it is Jonathon’s 37th birthday on April 12th…and he is our youngest… We travel to Destin, Florida in May…and soon thereafter it will be the 4th of July…which is slightly over the half way mark for 2021. Do you recall when you used to wish your life away? This is usually not a malady of the old.

‘Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.’ John 12:13. KJV

‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8

‘They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24: 2-3

‘As he ws drawing near already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. Luke 19:37

Easter is special. I recall attending an Easter Sunrise Service many years ago. During that Service the power and presence of Easter was impressed on me. Since that time until now…I anticipate Easter and the relevance that it has to our christian experience. It was not the government of Christ’s day that sent him to the cross..but those whom he came to minister too. ‘Then said Pilate to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no grounds for charges in the case of this man.’ Luke 23:4 NASB

Newness of life and a renewed purpose for our walk down the path back to Jerusalem is upon us. I hope to embrace the gift of fellowship and collegiality and unity of purpose with my brothers and sisters of my human family…

43 Years — The Jazz Man

Forty-three years ago I was one nervous Newton. MJ and I had been engaged for two months and this was the day of our wedding. Looking back it appears that we did not believe in long engagements. After the minister pronounced us man and wife and she put her little hand in my large one…I […]

43 Years — The Jazz Man

A New/Old World

Today MJ and I were in search of a lighter quilt. So we made haste to Bed Bath and Beyond. The Bed and Bath are self explanatory…but what about the Beyond? It was also time for me to purchase an anniversary card..tomorrow is our 43rd…which is a neat trick for we young people to pull off… I had not visited our mall, which is about 3 miles from our home, for over a year. What a difference a year makes. Our favorite burger restaurant, S & B’s, closed right at the beginning of the 2020 Pandemic and will not reopen. Aaron and Jonathon and I spent many an enjoyable Saturday sitting at the huge bar and sipping a Dragon’s Milk. I likened the bar to the television show Cheers…’Where everybody knows your name.’ I peered through the windows of the shuttered happy place…and was sad to see that it had been totally cleaned out accept for the marble bar. Just down from our closed restaurant is our closed Macy’s Department Store. My favorite occupant of the now vacant Macy’s space was the St. Louis based, Famous Barr, which had been a journey destination for our family when we traveled to St. Louis, Missouri. I recall attending the grand opening of Famous and Barr in our town. I pondered that the benefits of St. Louis had found the little city of Carbondale. Now I look through the glass front of the empty Macy’s and remember the many enjoyable times that I spent in the store. I was such a frequent visitor to the store in it’s early days that everyone truly did know my name…

Jonathon bought a Stratego Game and we played it yesterday. It is a game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing as a youngster. It is a game of military strategy. it is somewhat reminiscent of chess. Jonathon won the first battle…

Some of our businesses have closed temporarily…while other have moved away. I remember when our mall had a large Montgomery Ward Department Store and a Sears Department Store and as well as a multitude of clothing stores and restaurants and during Christmas Season you could not find parking and the police directed traffic. It was a main street under one roof. People went to the mall to see…and be seen. It was not so many years ago that Toy stores were in every town. We had a Ben Franklin Dime store in Eldorado and it was resplendent with toys and action figures and model kits of cars, planes, and monsters, and all manner of things for young crafts women and men to not only glue together but to also paint with little bottles of model paint of every color in existence.

Retail has changed dramatically with the advent of the internet and thus Amazon. Our 2020/2021 Pandemic has devastated small businesses. The reduction of students attending our University has diminished the support necessary to retain financial viability for many businesses in our town. Seeing problems is so much simpler than devising solutions. Souther Illinois University @ Carbondale is working and succeeding in a heightened recruitment and retention of our precious students. Small business successes is commensurate on offering something that your customer needs and thus far has not been able to obtain. Engaged and proactive customer service is more valuable than the Biblical Gold of Ophir! I have purchased items big and small… many times during my life simply because the person that waited on me was so nice to me…

Home is a wonderful feeling. When we feel at home…we feel secure and safe and wanted and loved and appreciated. Those businesses…and churches…that make us feel at home…we return to…again and again…

The Last Day Of Winter

I walked the beautiful Campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale today. This was not a terribly significant event as I have been walking Campus for 43 years. What makes the walk noteworthy is that this is the last day of winter…and it feels like it. There was a cold wind and lovely blossoms on the budding spring trees. Nature is transitioning just like we are. We have several good vaccinations and our new President has already fulfilled his campaign promise to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days. He has been in office 57 days. You have heard the saying, ‘It was the best of times…it was the worst of times.’ That is where we find ourselves, we are taking two steps forward and one step back.

I received so many heartfelt condolences for our lost friend, Parker. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Her end of life was peaceful and resplendent with duck hearts to eat and hugs and kisses…and tear filled eyes… The Brooks home is without canine companionship for the first time in over 30 years. Much of our lives were centered around our members of our dog family. Aaron and Jonathon have difficulty remembering life without the Boston Terrier’s or our precious Black Lab.

Photo by Domen Mirtiu010d Dolenec on

The road ahead has so much to offer each of us. It has been said that, ‘While there is life…there is hope!’ We have hope. We have hope for a future where we each think of our neighbor’s welfare and their health and happiness. I often wonder how all of us christians meditate and ruminate and ponder how glorious Heaven will be…and we never consider that there will be many people that we discounted and marginalized and shunned…while we trod our earthly path…

Sadly we see each other through a myopic ocular device. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. The dream of travel and good health and freedom from our 2020/2021 Pandemic is in front of our noses…and yet we incessantly debate the minutiae of our bias and our prejudice and our faux political/religious doctrine. We are so proud of our new shoes…while our neighbor has none…

As I write from my loft office I see a Great White Heron fishing for dinner. The backyard pond is in it’s full glory. My neighbor his walking her dog…I remember walking Parker yesterday… Tomorrow we will visit with Uncle Ron and Aunt Ira Kaye and Cousin Paige. A visit to the Wine Trail…and fun…and a return to the new normal…