Monthly Archives: January, 2022

Winter Beauty & Christian Living

My Geese are back. At first, I thought that most of them had left with the ice…but I found them down the bank hidden by the trees. Many…when they are resting…seem to stand on one leg. When the word spread that I was taking photos of them again…they began to honk in unison… The ice shelves are receding as the temperatures rise well above freezing…although there is a winter storm forecast for this Wednesday and Thursday.

On occasion, I receive comments from others that seem to not understand my meager views on the church in the United States. Indeed I heartily agree with the concept that each individual who seeks to follow the teaching of Christ…is the church. When I write about the ‘church’ I am writing about a group of assembled believers in the teachings of Christ and his bedrock doctrine of reaching out to all humanity. The recognized religious sects of Jesus day were exclusionary…he was not. When Jesus encountered the group of religious people of his day who were prepared to stone the woman who was caught in adultery…he wrote in the sand…and the accusers with stones in their hands…departed and Christ asked the accused. ‘Where are your accusers…’ and she answered that she had none…he responded that neither did he accuse her and to go and sin no more. Christ was accused of being a ‘Friend of Publicans and sinners.’ He sought the disenfranchised and those cast off by society…for his followers. Jesus did not have a ‘Laundry List’ of requirements to follow his ministry…he said, ‘Love one another, as I have loved you, that ye love one another.’

Lists of requirements to become a Christian have kept hurting humanity out of our gathering of believers that we call a Church. The acceptance that a few ecclesiastical men have the answer as to who is admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven is Heresy. Many Fundamentalists choose to follow the ‘John Wayne’ definition of Christianity. Basically tough and ready to fight any and all that do not fit their macho definition of Jesus. But…the woman accused of adultery…met the Christ of Love for his fellow human family.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16. KJV. Jesus offers his exclusionary vision of following him and his message of love and forgiveness… to all of humanity…

What did Christ write in the sand…

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

Laboring From The Periphery

The Geese have moved to an even farther away bank at Campus Lake. When I pulled up this morning for my daily check on my favorite gaggle…I noticed three people that were attempting to fish off of the walkway just where the geese had been staying. As I suspected…the misguided fishers…frightened them away. I have been photographing them for well over a week, each day wondering if this will be the day that they have moved on.

The church is always inspirational to me… but especially this morning. Today we had our annual Congregational Meeting to elect elders and deacons for the upcoming terms of office. We Presbyterians have an elected representational form of government that is very similar to the United States elected political representation. First Presbyterian’s shared leadership of the local church is one of the most fascinating parts of our denomination. The idea of shared leadership elected from the congregation rather than having church government by one person’s decree…is safety and a blessing. It has been my humble honor and a distinct privilege to be a member of our Session on two occasions. More dedicated people…I have never found…

Pastor Kerry noted in his great sermon this morning that the church has become increasingly marginalized and pushed to the periphery of society. I have watched this phenomenon over the past 53 years that I have been a Christian. If you are a student of Jesus’ earthly ministry you will no doubt note that he worked from the periphery of his society…as well. The religious leaders of his day…the Pharisees and the Sadducees…did not accept him…’David himself calleth him Lord, and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.’ Mark 12:37

Presbyterians are the hardest-working Christians that I have known. They stand for freedom of thought and helping the helpless. Acceptance of the disposed and the marginalized and the forgotten of society…is a proactive change in our world of Tribalism and Elitism and Exclusion of those who are different than the accepted norm.

Many churches require uniformity of purpose and action and political belief. They teach that their leaders have cornered the market on God’s will for the congregation. It is heartening and inspirational to be included in a vision of Christianity that relies on each believer hearing from God and following him according to what their heart and intellect reveal to them.

Let’s Show Up for Our Artistic Endeavors

A timely blog from Jonathon Brooks.


I believe a lot of writers attempt to figure out their perfect writing time of the day. This has happened to me many times. If it is early morning then I feel like the right writing time is later in the day; if it’s later in the day then it seems as if the perfect time to write is in the morning. This is my mind or perhaps my fears trying to keep me from creating anything at all. The mythical best time to write is often some other time than the present moment.

It is so easy to live in the future. By this I am referring to our temptation to put off until tomorrow what we could’ve done today. Procrastination is a foe of both work and creativity. Today is my chance to be an author and create! Tomorrow for me might not show up.

Let’s show up…

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A New World

January is almost over and we have been to Miramar Beach to spend time with our family…and we have had the unwelcome visit of Omicron. Christmas was a little over a month ago. During the first month of 2022…I have learned how to play the card game…Golf. I have even, won, one two or three games. Cards are a new thing…and I welcome new things and experiences. I read a posting of a local Doctor in our area who estimated that Omicron has infected 20 – 25% of the people in our County. He went on to tell us that 45 of our fellow Jackson County residents have died of Covid since the first of the year. Whether we like it or not and whether we accept it or not…we are in a new world and we have entered our third year in this new world.

My geese are still on Campus Lake. I think that I am a bit like the character Tony Soprano in the stellar HBO television show…The Sopranos…in comparison to the ducks that were swimming in his swimming pool in the first episode of the series. My geese seem perfectly content and at peace with the blowing snow and the frigid temperatures. They honk with gusto at their neighbors…the ducks…and the ducks answer back with a hearty…quack… It has been said on numerous occasions that Omicron is less virulent than the other Covid Variants…45 persons have died of it in Jackson County.

A New World means a new way of interacting in our social milieu. When you contract Omicron…bells do not ring…drums do not peel their tympanic beat…warning signs do not flash Warning…Warning…Warning… You simply get sick with what appears to be a cold…and then perhaps the flu…and then a visit to the Emergency Room…and then a hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit…and the then Intubation…and then death…and the world never misses a beat accept for your loved ones who experience such tragic loss…

We can not fit the construct of our Old World…with the realities of our New World. Cautious reflection is the watchwords of the 2020s… No one is coming to wave a magic wand and make it all disappear. We must understand that our lives on Earth are a constant challenge and a constant blessing…and we can not have one without the other. I encountered an old gentleman this morning…probably my age…who extolled that, ‘They have been lying to us about Global Warming,’ as he smiled and walked to his car. I considered that his comments exemplify how difficult it is to first acknowledge and then accept change… If it is bitterly cold…one day…Global Warming must be a lie… If I do not become ill with Omicron when I spend a night out eating and drinking one day…I surely will not contract the illness the next day… If not wearing a face mask has served me well for the first two years of our Pandemic…it will certainly see me through the remaining Covid Time…

We are all going to experience the Grim Reaper…whether we are Republicans or Democrats or Independents. If we believe the primary Christian Doctrine of life after death…do we think that this will not be a major change in our existence and perception of reality?

Photo by Wendelin Jacober on

Going Home

Snow this morning. We do not see a lot of snow over the past several years in Little Egypt…and it is an exciting sight. I was happy to see that my gaggle of geese have returned to my side of the Campus Lake. I find their fluid and structured movements to be Art in Motion. I often ponder as I watch nature that our human endeavors and grand plans are lost on the natural world…of which we are members…but often we do not realize our lifelong place in the magnificent structure of nature. Our animal friends function on a very clear time clock and consider their human neighbors with a bit of perplexion as to our purpose.

We are big fish in a little pond. Often we seek to baffle others with our bullshit and establish our dominance by our brilliant intellect… We of the human family are looking for our home. We are seeking the warmth of our mother’s embrace and the confident assurance of our father’s love and wisdom. We seek the unique odors of Christmas morning and the hope of the birth of Christ. We long to express that longing of love for our family and friends…and fear their response. Life brings us so many challenges that we have forgotten to just…live… Many counselors have their ideas about what we should do…but it is our life… We look for the church and the pastor to see us…and to care about us…but often their eyes are set upon those who have influence and resources and who are the movers and the shakers…

Rhythm is the heartbeat of our world. There is a beat to life and a place for us in the harmony of the song. I have an old friend who is undergoing cancer surgery today…I pray for him and his lovely family. On my first job…John’s wife and her sister drove me to Essex International in DuQuoin, Illinois. The three of us worked there in the 70s…and it seems like yesterday. I recall John and me talking about our walk as Christians and the joy on his face as he contemplated his new journey. The secret of life is understanding that the ordinary is extraordinary…

Home is our destination throughout our lives. Home calls out to us every day and every night. First, we are young and unable to care for ourselves. Then we march upon our Terra Firma with confidence and abandon for rules and regulations and the vision of achieving a place in history that will be remembered when we pass this mortal coil… We are all somewhat like Orson Wells’s character in the movie Citizen Kane….we are looking for ‘Rosebud.’

Home…where the idyllic front porch is where we sit and watch the squirrels playing on the magnolia trees…and the sweet ice tea is plentiful. Home where you are with your mom and dad under the humongous Christmas Tree in Chicago, Illinois. Home where you tell your mom and dad…just how special that they are to you…and where your hug your children close to your breast… hoping they know how much that they mean to you…

I discovered about myself that I was seeking my father’s approval well into my 30s. My dad was dead by that time…but I sought it in the eyes of my supervisors and pastors. We have an indelible image of home and what it means to us. We are returning there…on our journey back to Jerusalem…

Peace In Turmoil

Most people are doing the best that they can. I grew up in a former coal-mining town, Eldorado, Illinois, and the hardscrabble friends and neighbors that I had were ‘Salt of the Earth’ people. Southern Illinois has never been known for a booming economy. However, you would not know it by the richness of spirit kindness, and benevolence of the residents of Little Egypt. When the coal mines were prominent in Southern Illinois…they were not high-paying jobs. My step-father’s dad, Mike, was a coal miner and he was never a well-to-do man. He never learned to drive and subsequently walked everywhere that he went. The little thriving business district of the Eldorado of my youth had become in later years a group of Antique Emporiums. In the 1960s there was one Theatre left out of the three that had been prominent on the town square in the 1940s and 50s.

Walmart looked like a Ghost Town today when I was shopping for vitamins and snow scrapers. People are either ill from Omicron or afraid to get out…or both. The geese have set up camp on the far bank of Campus Lake…but some ducks remain. I learned from my good friend, Jeff D., that he had a friend who had contracted Omicron and almost died…and has residual physical effects that are ongoing. I am so happy that MJ Jonathon and I had been fully vaccinated and boosted prior to our getting Omicron… I have been reflecting on the eternally sunny disposition of our pastor, Kerry, and his encouragement in our troubled times. Have you ever met anyone that just by hearing them speak…you feel uplifted and encouraged and strengthened? Kerry has a pastor’s heart.

Southern Illinois is one of the most lovely parts of the state and rivals anywhere in the nation. It is much like the popular Butter…it is a ‘Land of Lakes.’ The natural beauty of our region has never been successfully marketed for tourists. The land’s unparalleled beauty is a hidden treasure.

Although our Pandemic is still with us…I have felt extremely calm and centered. Each day is a profound gift and we are a bit like the Blues Brothers…’On a mission from God.’ I wonder if once we pass from this life and reflect on our time on Earth if we will not wonder what we were so worried about… So often we are surrounded by heaven and would rather ponder hell… We want to help others…but we are afraid and so we dig a hole in the earth and hide our talent.

We are somewhat akin to the Old Testament Prophet Elijah, ‘Then he said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold the Lord passed by, and a great strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ I Kings 19: 11-13

What are we doing here…is the question of 2022…

Inspiration the Size of A Hot Air Balloon

A great Jonathon Brooks Blog!


Sometimes I sit down to write and I feel like I don’t have any great ideas right from the start. There’s no great inspiration or giant sized lightbulb the size of a hot air balloon hovering about my head. Honestly, if there was inspiration the size of a hot air balloon floating through my mind then I’d probably just freak out and then have to take a thirteen hour nap to recover. Is writing or being a writer really about inspiration?

I believe that being a writer is a choice as simple as the decision to work a job or choosing to have a joyful attitude. Writing can be a lot of work and it can also be a great deal of fun. Life can be a lot of fun and can also be a tremendous amount of work. Writers need not wait for inspiration lest they never pen anything…

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Living In A Vacuum

Frigid air is returning to Southern Illinois. Winter has decided not to disappoint. After making friends with Omicron…the uninvited guest…I find my tolerance for bitter temperatures is less than before and certainly less than in my younger years when I relished the cold… I have been checking daily on my geese friends at Campus Lake. Most of them have left with the frozen Lake…but a few remain. I bonded a bit with the gaggle and was able to snap some close-up photos that have alluded me for years. I marvel at how the geese seem so at home in the icy water…while I am freezing watching them.

I have noted that I am on a bit of a blog series regarding church and the many vagaries of church life. Although I have never been a minister…I have worked in ministry and assisting pastors and most church offices during my 53 years of Christianity. So, most elements of church life interest me and I have thought of them for many years and have experienced a variety of experiences in church. As I watch churches shrink and become diminished in people and resources and outreach…I am troubled. I believe that with all of the challenges that face us humans and occupants of planet earth…becoming secular is not helpful in our present distress.

There are a plethora of cults that have arisen in our society. Not just religious…but political and social. I can show you more than one plaque regarding former Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale leaders that mention early on in the narrative the fact that the person was a dedicated Christian and churchgoer. At least two societal issues have changed the fabric of American society. Since Watergate in the early 70s there is an increasing lack of confidence in our elected political leaders and what was once an established Sunday activity…church attendance…has decreased tremendously. In the place of these one time almost universal experiences has arisen Cults based on conspiracy theories. During January 6, 2021, Capitol Insurrection we saw the ‘Proud Boys’ and ‘The Oath Keepers’ and many other formerly unheard of groups…storm the Capitol of the United States believing that it was their right as they fought to protect their president who lost the election and their way of life…which is a strange amalgamation of political/religious hybrid faith…

Money has become the god of our secular society. Somewhat similar to the Israelites crying out for Aaron to fashion them a Golden Calf…in the absence of Moses. I was amazed when I began to see the turn in many churches to the Prosperity Doctrine. Basically, this doctrine teaches that if you give money until ‘It Hurts’ you will be recompensed many times over by God. I watched ministers get richer and members of the congregation get poorer. The same can be said for Higher Education and business and leadership in general in our society. We seek the rich…we seek the top of the economic ladder…to function as our Wise Men and our Wise Women. The ability to earn a lot of money has become the measure of success in life…while the children suffer from depression and desperation and devastation of soul and death of spirit…

What Drives Us To Seek Christ…And A Church

Carol and Lee invited MJ and I and Aaron and Jonathon to First Presbyterian Church 24 years ago. MJ worked with Carol and Lee at the University. They described their love for their church. They told us of how friendly the members of the congregation were and how that they, Did not get into your personal business…but we’re there for you when you needed help.’ We visited for our first time because these two wonderful women wanted us to come…we felt welcome. When we arrived many people warmly greeted us. We felt that they were glad that we were there. After the 9:15 A:M: Sunday service we returned home to our little house in Elkville. That afternoon a car pulled up in front of our house and an elderly couple from the church brought us homemade cookies. Again, they told us how happy they were that we had visited and that they hoped that we would return next Sunday. We were honored and humbled by their generosity. At that time I had been attending church for almost 30 years…but I had never encountered a church that was so glad that I had dropped by.

We are emotional creatures. We are led by our heart and our head. Indeed…a solid theological foundation is vital to the ongoing following of Jesus…but without the heart…it is nothing. Have you ever heard a song that simply carries you to the land of Christs’ Love? Did you marry your spouse or partner…because it worked out on a ledger sheet? Or does the old hymn Amazing Grace resonate in your soul as regarding the miracle of your life with Christ?

God lives in our midst…in each of us. When our neighbor or friend…or the stranger among us needs to see God…they look to those who love them and who help them and who will listen without judgment to their needs. There was a common and well-established belief among Christians of former years in most churches that the Holy Spirit will assist you as you minister to those in need. This is not a strange doctrine as we Presbyterians believe in the Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit. Have you ever experienced the aid of the Spirit in assisting you in the message of Christ?

To accept that the Christian Story is the faith of untold humans over the past two thousand years…is to accept that mystical magical majesty of the narrative… that is still gripping the hearts of men and women and boys and girls…today…

Looking Back

My Brother Brock posted on Facebook a photo of me and mom and dad preparing to take a journey on dad’s Harley Davidson motorcycle. The picture brought back so many memories of my very early years. Dad was a dapper dude. He loved his Harley and loved the motorcycle culture. This is evident in the photo. Mom was a fashion plate…she was a lovely woman and always looked perfect before she left the house. She was infatuated with my dad and doted on little Jay… Dad was a bit of a mobster. He was a person who enjoyed operating outside the norms of society. He was a tough guy…for real. He smoked Marlborough Cigarettes and worked on Semi Tractor Engines and returned home to love his lovely wife, Neva June, and to carry his son, Bradley Jay, on his shoulders…around their Chicago Home.

Dad was a rebel and Mom was a rebel…and they had a rebel son. I have never taken what those in power told me as the ‘God’s Truth’ until I examined it thoroughly. I noticed early on in my life that adults were not especially wiser than children…the only difference was size. I learned by the ‘Devil May Care’ attitude of my dad to examine the supposed truths that people would tell me…

Jonathon and I visited Campus Lake today to see the Geese and Ducks on the semi-frozen water. It was a picturesque sight and worth of a photograph or two.

I considered briefly this morning the sadness of committees having members who have something valuable to contribute for the enrichment of all… and the edification of the organization…and they’re being marginalized and their comments are taken with a ‘grain of salt’…while other committee members suggest the same things that that they have for many years….which have resulted in limited or no productive results or improvement in the status of the organization. It is little or no reward for thinking outside the box…while the organization whither and dies… I have been a member of many Blue Ribbon Committees at SIUC where the subject was the desperate issue of the recruitment and retention of students at our institution. The end reports of these committees were written by the recognized Academic Wise Men…and aided little in the solving of the endemic problem. I have been a member of churches that were finally forced to shut their doors due to declining membership and stale ideas for the recruitment and retention of members of the congregation. Again…the committee dynamic is to defer to the grey hairs and the senior members of the congregation for fresh answers to changes needed in the mission and vision of the church…

When a University shuts its doors…all you have is memories…and the same can be said for a church… One measure applies to both institutions…are we a social club…or are we a mission to our fellow human beings?