‘I can not believe that it is Friday again…already,’ Neva J. exclaimed! ‘The end of the first quarter is almost here,’ Chet said. ‘Yes, and not too much longer until we take our first Pounds Hollow Swim Adventure,’ Billy B. noted. ‘There are storm warning this afternoon and tonight with the possibilities of tornadoes increasing,’ Chet added. ‘Oh no…another ride to outrun the twister,’ Neva J. laughed. ‘I hate tornadoes,’ Jane said. ‘The weatherman says to jump into the ditch…but usually, our ditches are full of water before the jumping time commences,’ Chet said with a shrug. ‘It is a bit troubling that our lives are in imminent danger for the entire spring,’ Billy B. moaned.
‘Let’s go to the Orpheum Theatre to see the Wizard Of Oz that is playing,’ Jane said with a broad smile. So…they went joyfully to the Orpheum and purchased some popcorn and cokes and even a candy bar and still had money left from the designated expense of one dollar. In the early 1960s, The Wizard Of Oz was a major theatrical event. There were life-size cardboard cutouts of Dorothy and the Tin Man and the Scarecrow and even the Cowardly Lion. The movie was as usual delightful. Billy B. fell asleep toward the conclusion of the flick and had to be shaken to awaken. The image of the twister in the movie haunted him and he was still thinking about it when the group exited the Show.
‘Where are we,’ Jane asked? ‘Well…everything is in technicolor just like the movie,’ Chet answered. ‘But what happened to Eldorado…this is not Eldorado,’ Neva J. commented. Along came three little people who greeted them and began to sing, ‘We’re off to see the Wizard…the Wonderful Wizard Of Oz!’ ‘May I help you, kids…My Prettys,’ asked a woman in a long black garment with a black pointed hat as she firmly grasped a broom in her right hand.
‘Wake up Billy B…the storm alarm is sounding,’ said Jane. As the adventurers ran out of the front doors of the Orpheum…there was a funnel cloud coming down the street…and a lovely lady named Glenda told them not to fear…
Picture perfect would describe the weather in our neck of the woods today. Spring is in the air. I walked the old streets of Herrin this morning and of course, snapped some photos. I was struck by how safe I felt and contrasted that feeling with much of our world including the United States. Things have changed. I wonder if we do not all have a virus of violence and did not realize when we contracted it. Another school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. I have been to Nashville. Little nine-year-olds were shot and killed. Their minds were probably on summer break, friends, and some kid hijinx. They may have been studying for a book report or a math test or giggling at the funny faces each other made. They were probably thinking about a family vacation or perhaps learning how to play the piano…or art…
We are a bit insular. ‘Thank God my kids are alright…God has protected them,’ we say. Do you suppose that God did not know the names of those little nine-year-olds? ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’ What about the blood-soaked hair of the nine-year-old kids?
Surveys have illustrated that the majority of Americans want common-sense gun laws. To offer no more than thoughts and prayers is a sacrilege…
When my boys were young I worried about the evil that they would encounter. Reason and patience and perseverance can diffuse and ameliorate many difficult situations…none of these skills can negotiate with a semi-automatic weapon.
Safe is a fleeting and trodden-down concept. School is not safe…nor church…nor the grocery store…nor the theatre… Our Pandemic of Violence And Fear has many causes. Common Sense Gun Laws will not solve the problem…but they will help. We paint the kitchen while the living room is on fire…
Faith helps. Trusting in a higher power provides a road map for life. ‘They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’
So many decry the evils of abortion and point to the fact that the child in the womb of its mother is a precious life…and must be born no matter if it is the result of rape or if it endangers the life of the mom. What about the nine-year-olds…is not their life precious…don’t they deserve action to demonstrate our thought and prayers?
Grim Reaper walks among us and he is hungry for life. Those of us who feel the safest are perhaps next on his list. The joy of Easter is coming. The benevolent and loving message of Jesus of Nazareth is in our hearts. We are preparing to color our Easter Eggs and bite the ears off of our chocolate Easter Bunnies and attend Easter Church Service and proclaim, ‘He Is Risen…He Is Risen Indeed…but not the nine-year-olds of Nashville…
Hide and Seek was a popular game when I was a child and it still is. Someone would count to ten and I would run and hide in a spot where I was certain that my seeker would not find me. Usually, I was discovered and the game continued with the seeker becoming sought. It is enjoyable to hide and believe that no one can see you. We older folks hide on a daily basis. Often we keep our true feelings and thoughts and ideas to ourselves as a form of hiding them for fear of being not accepted or perhaps even ridiculed. Have you ever wondered where are all of the brilliant thinkers when it comes to politics? Most have chosen to hide from what should be the honorable civic duty of serving in view of the glaring lights of public scrutiny and the herculean amount of money that it takes to conduct a campaign.
We are good hiders in church. Offices of service and leadership are begging for someone to hear the call and say…’Here am I Lord…send me!’ A bit of whispering and criticism we engage in when we disagree with those who did not hide…but we call it constructive.
‘Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples,’
‘Now Peter sat outside the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.’
Let George or Jane do it…we say with some smug satisfaction. We bemoan the shape that our society is in as we sit in the Peanut Gallery munching some roasted peanuts. We hide as we are positive that there are others who are more suited for the job…as the problems keep expanding.
‘As long as I am unseen and unheard I and my loved ones will be safe from the fascism and despots and narcissistic dictators…they will not know my true feelings and thus the storm will pass over me,’ we say as the dark clouds gather and we read the handwriting on the wall…
Freedom Of Thoughts And The Time To Think Them
Thinking is fundamental. As a man thinketh so is he the Bible tells us. It has been my experience that Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy…a Saturday Night Live favorite of mine…is illustrative of one of society’s neglected vocations…thinking… If University taught me anything it taught me to think and critically analyze what surrounds me. We are in such a hurry that we fail to ponder why. The famous author of yesteryear, Ray Bradbury, said, ‘There’s no one way to be creative. Any old way will work.’
Leaders tell us that if we will only listen to them and follow their thoughts for our lives that they will lead us to the Promised Land. I wondered as a child when I saw President Johnson continue to send more and more young men to Vietnam to fight and many to die. The older folks said that when your country needs you you must answer its call. I knew that this was right in a national emergency…but was it alright for these brave soldiers to lay their lives down on the promise of trust me? I have personally witnessed pastors of churches inform their parishioners that they had a direct hotline to God and that if the flock will explicitly listen to their detailed directives…they will be saved. Of course, over many years we have studied cults and the brainwashing that occurs in them. Our politicians assure us that they have the answer and that they will fix all of our problems if we will just elect them to office. Of late some of these folks promise devastation and destruction if they are not held apart from the rest of us and respected for their Messianic Call.
It is alright to be the odd woman or man out… It is fine if you are the goat at the table of obedient sheep. It is great if you say I do not agree! Thought produces rebels. Thinking creates those who swim upstream. It is needed to ask…Why…and it is a sacred obligation to fulfilling your role as unique and your mission to understand the real reason of those in power that is behind their rhetoric.
Why are some states deciding that books must be banned? Why are politicians making the decisions regarding what art we can view?
Why are we attempting to prohibit a cultural norm that we obviously know little about and understand even less?
You know if someone tells you that you must follow their view of holiness and what is right and then laughs at your gullibility and how dumb you are…as they proceed to violate the same prohibited actions that they legislate… you are being had for a sucker and a patsy.
Time to think and reason and research and contemplate the truth of life and its prismatic facets that are ever brilliant and new to the viewer…is a profound privilege.
Today you are to receive The Gift. That is exciting in and of itself. It is not every day that you receive gifts. Your birthday is a fun day that is resplendent with gifts…and cake. On your birthday you can have your cake and take some photos of it…and then eat it too. Often I plan throughout the year what I would like to receive for my birthday. After all, it only comes once a year. During my career, I often took my birthday off. It was a primary holiday for me. There is a fine dinner in the plan and perhaps a movie in St. Louis and whatever we old folks have the energy to do. Reflection over a Dirty Martini or two is part of the festivities. What happened during the past year and what would I like to accomplish during the next…God willing.
Christmas is my major celebration and it is Christmas in my head all year through! Since the days of Laughing Santa in Chicago Christmas has been firmly implanted in my soul and the entire concept enhances my life. I am already planning a gift for my Christmas. MJ has an Apple Watch as well as Aaron…and now dad must have one. MJ has a feature on her Apple Watch that if she would fall the watch would notify someone to come and help her. I like that idea as I spend my time in the woods on a daily basis and would appreciate having more than my wildlife family be advised if the old man was down. Santa Claus fascinates me. He came to my house in Eldorado when I was just a lad. I have a collection of Santas and have been working on it for some years. I love receiving gifts and I love giving them. The looks of surprise and enthusiasm and wonder are priceless! The mystery of opening a Christmas gift and having the possibilities of the world beneath the shiny festive yuletide paper and the bright ribbon is exciting and energizing and rewarding. I am sad when Christmas is over…for about a week…until I start thinking about it once again.
You woke up this morning…and so did I. We had a birthday party and Christmas rolled into one. Another day of life! Our gift has endless possibilities and rewards and avenues to travel and mystery to solve! Life is the gift that keeps on giving. I spoke to my friend at church yesterday and he said that he has good days and bad. Another asked me how I had been and I said fine other than I keep getting older. He replied that is what I wanted as to stop getting older was not the alternative that I was looking for. Wendy told me that I was such a positive person. A wonderful compliment! I mentioned that as a child I had experienced some bad things in my life and I decided that I was going to choose to focus on the bright and good and positive happenings of my days. I knew that my dear mom was counting on me for morale support and that life was too short to wallow in negativity and misery.
Remember…each day you will receive The Gift…it is up to you what you do with it…
It is simply a lovely day in Little Egypt. This morning I read Ezekiel’s account of the Dry Bones. The prophecy was addressed to Israel but is also applicable to us today. I customarily read a scripture passage that I have been asked to read publically a few times to ensure that I can get through it without messing it up too terribly and to feel the writer’s expression. Indeed, the concept of the Spirit of God breathing life into Dry Bones has applied to my Christian Walk on many occasions. On the few occasions that I am asked to read a passage I am cognizant of my human voice and poor skills of reading will be little more than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals unless God’s Spirit breaths life into the words. Twenty-five years ago when MJ and Aaron and Jonathon and I began attending First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale I loved hearing Pastor Judy Beyler read scripture. Each time that she read a passage the words became life to me and I could visualize what the writer was speaking of.
Life can be a bit tedious if God’s spirit does not quicken us from time to time. As we go about our daily routine and that is including our Christian Walk…we can feel the sameness of what we have been doing for many years. However, with a Breath from our Creator, we suddenly are able to see through the veil and discover the wonder of what life is and our magical part in it! Dry Bones can apply to individuals and peoples…such as the Israelites…and churches that have looked so long for the secret and the revealing…that they have forgotten what it is like to see the Burning Bush and feel the majesty of following Christ and his benevolent teachings.
What a difference ‘They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.’ Jesus spit on the ground and made the mud poultice for the blind man’s eyes and he was not troubled that it was the Sabbath… In an instant, the blind man was in a new world and the religious restrictions of the day did not impede a miracle for him.
May God grant us the courage to step out of our comfort zone and receive a Breath on our Dry Bones…
Happy Eyes are revelatory. Have you ever noticed a person who mimicked or aped happiness but had tired or dead eyes? Or perhaps their eyes were angry. We, actors, have not perfected the art of dramatic eyes. Happy eyes come from a heart with purpose. The tribulations and trials and hurdles of life can divert us from our primary vocation…to be homeward bound.
‘I do not remember when it was so windy and rainy and such powerful storms,’ Neva J. remarked as she searched for her raincoat and Duck Boots. ‘Visibility will be limited on the road,’ Chet noted. ‘If it was not for missing home so much I would suggest that we stay until the storm passes over,’ Billy B. added. ‘Storm…it looks more like paintings that I have seen that depict Hell,’ Daryl exclaimed! ‘I am usually an upbeat person but this darkness is enveloping my soul,’ Jane bemoaned.
Neva J. took her flashlight and shined it at the 57′ Chevy’s driver’s side door and began to haltingly walk between the mammoth water puddles and the inky black of the night. The 57′ sputtered and then started with a cough and a wheeze. No more than they had gotten on the road home there was an old man standing in the middle of the path and waving his arms for them to stop. ‘The bridge is out and you will need to turn around and drive the other way…there is a connecting road about ten miles back that will take you in the same direction,’ he said. ‘You also have a headlight out… which is bad in this pervasive darkness,’ the old man continued.
As the travelers drove the ten miles back to the connecting road they saw the dim marquee for a motel and the sign said Vacancy. ‘I think that it would be the better part of wisdom for us to stop for the night with our one-eyed Chevy and start again at first light,’ Neva J. said. ‘So there are five of you I see,’ the young girl said as she asked each of them to sign the guest register. ‘Breakfast begins at 6:00 A:M: ‘We have salami and chocolate croissants and exotic cheese,’ she said with a smile and dead eyes. ‘What town are we near,’ asked Chet? ‘Why Rome of course,’ the young girl smiled a wicked grin. ‘Tomorrow many of us are going by caravan to Golgotha outside Jerusalem…a man named Jesus is to be crucified as he claims that he is the Son of God…
One day I take my daily walk with ease and gusto while the next day it may take a more concerted effort. At times the road of life seems stretched out before me with no clouds in view and at other times it seems obscured by clouds and rain and lightning and the loud claps of thunder on the horizon. Each time I receive a good medical test result I am renewed to make the most of my golden years. But good medical reports and test results are not a given. Little things make me happy. A new pocket watch or a steel ring. Did you know that they make steel rings that are quite unique? I was looking at MJ this afternoon while we were ordering some new blinds for our bedroom and I thought…what a pretty girl! Friday will be our 45th anniversary.
Health becomes an ever-increasing issue as we get older. It was always an issue but we think about it more as we get closer to discovering the Secret… Carolyn reads scriptures in our church on Sunday. She is inspirational and has the ability to make the scriptures come alive which I have not seen in my 55 years of attending church. Life tends to make us a bit stoic. Also, it opens vistas to us that we did not imagine in our youth. What appeared insurmountable yesterday is a dim memory tomorrow…
At times we feel that our lives are whisking by us like the turns of the Weavers Shuttle. That is because they are. When we were children we thought that being old like grandma or grandpa was a long way off…until we woke up one morning and discovered that we had become what we thought would not happen for a millennium. Many folks believe that the end of times is near and that the battle of Armageddon is soon to be upon us. Do not worry too much as it will have to hurry to catch our fleeting existence.
Living can be likened more to a marathon than a sprint. If we judge the value of our days by how bad we feel for a day or two or even a year or two…perhaps we have missed the finish line of our joys and tribulations. The poet Rumi said that suffering carves out more room for joy…and I think he may have been on to something. When we experience the deepest and darkest valleys…we are much more grateful for the brilliance of the mountaintop!
I remember being so poor that I had no money for food. I have a vivid picture in my mind of walking while my friends were riding. I understand the herculean struggle for financial security. I have been there.
During my career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I wanted to extend opportunities to those who were unseen and unheard and to those who had no voice. I understood these people…they were my people…I had been them…
Marginalized is a category that I am a bit familiar with. However, I refused to become bitter…I wanted to be better than my anger and hurt feelings. Long ago I decided to forget the bad…as much as is within me…and remember the good…
‘I can not wait for our campout this evening at Giant City State Park,’ Jane exclaimed! ‘It still seems a bit chilly for camping and the wind is neverending, Chet observed. ‘Well one thing is for sure we will be able to see where we are going with no leaves on the trees,’ Neva J. laughed. ‘I believe my new Winnebago Sleeping Bag will keep me warm,’ Billy B. announced. ‘As for the Wiz and me we are erecting our tent for the frosty night,’ Daryl said. ‘It has been a custom in my family to camp on the second night of spring each year…no matter what the weather brings,’ Billy B. noted with a satisfied smile. ‘We are just like the postman in that neither rain nor snow shall keep us from our heritage of Second Night Camping,’ Neva J. said.
‘It seems every few days we hear of another suspicious fire in our area,’ Jane said with a furrowed brow. ‘They are suspected of arson but thus far no one has been apprehended,’ Neva J. responded. ‘It has been speculated that they may be politically motivated, Chet observed. ‘No chance of suspicious fires at the GC…it has been raining all day,’ laughed Billy B.
Our group arrived at the GC late afternoon and it was cloudy with light rain falling. They quickly began setting up their tents as no one wanted to sleep in the rain. The odor of something that was either burning or had recently been burnt hung in the air. ‘It must be a fellow camper’s fire,’ said Daryl. ‘I was camping in a woods in England many years ago when a fire started from a campfire and I barely made my way out alive,’ The Wiz said with some unusual pleasure. ‘It was rumored that Jack The Ripper’s ghost lived in the woods and he loved to blow on campfires and create havoc…for his entertainment,’ The Wiz continued. ‘Perhaps he is here at GC tonight as it certainly is windy,’ Chet replied as he snuggled into his sleeping bag. ‘Let us not sleep until we all enjoy a glass of Merlot,’ Neva J. said as she uncorked a bottle and the pop resounded through the quiet forest. ‘I must visit the restroom before I zip myself into the bag,’ Billy B. advised as he quaffed his last drop of red wine.
Goodness, the acrid smell of burning is getting stronger Billy B. mused as he made his way to one of the nice outdoor privies that were located throughout GC. ‘Hello Mate…fancy a wee do you,’ said the Victorian-dressed man exiting the restroom. ‘What is going on said Billy B…I smell smoke and it is getting stronger,’ Billy B. asked the strange and dignified-looking man who appeared from another time. ‘Controlled Burn…Mate…good for the foliage…
Tell Us Your Stories
Our last day of winter has been unusually cold in our neck of the woods. I was listening to an article from the Washington Post as I walked the woods and was caught by the writer saying that her primary goal was to get people to tell her their stories. Our stories connect us. I think it is a bit the same in church life in which I have been involved for 55 years. We can believe that the sermon on Sunday will compel people to enter the church’s doors…but what gets them to the threshold to open the doors and come in? Stories that connect them to a fellow human being that finds fulfillment in the church. If you share with me some of your walk of faith and hope for the future and your church is a part of the narrative…you have my attention. There are so many glossy and grandiose places to focus our time on…but we search for the real and the authentic.
Exclusive clubs are a part of life. Many of us have been shut out of the Clubs that require a certain portfolio and a preferred status. When you talk to me about how faith is common sense and a bedrock part of your life and I can see through your story that it is relatable to my struggles and challenges…I am interested. I read recently that denominational churches have become frozen in time as to their outreach and outlook. Baby Boomers and the generation prior to the Boomers had focused on the problems of their generations while Millenials and Generation Z have many different issues and need from the church.
Pastor Kerry spoke eloquently this morning regarding the issue of depression. Depression and other mental illness issues are throughout our world and yet we hear little about these very real health problems. Kerry mentioned that one in ten of us suffer from depression.
Testimony was a part of the holiness Church’s Sunday service. Testifying was people telling their stories. Indeed none of us want everyone to know our business…but there is real efficacy in explaining the meaning of Faith in your life. Nothing captivates our attention and our hearts like the truth out of the mouths of our friends!