Aaron came over and cut some of my most difficult weeds that are next to our backyard pond…just now. I always called the type of weeds that they are…Horse Weeds. Jonathon assisted me in some carpet cleaning this morning…they are good sons! Pastor Kerry preached an intriguing sermon this morning and one of the main take away points for me was…the complexity of God. A complex Creator created a complex creation. For instance, as Kerry illustrated in his sermon, King David, of the Old Testament, committed adultery with one of his leading warriors, Uriah the Hittite’s wife, and when Bathsheba became pregnant with their child…he sought to cover up his sin by ordering Uriah to go to his home. When Uriah refused the command due to his soldiers not being able to enjoy the comforts of their homes and wives…David commanded that Uriah be placed at the heat of the battle and that his comrades withdraw from him to ensure his death. God sent his prophet Nathan to tell David that God was aware of his sin…and David repented that he, ‘Had sinned before God,’…with no mention regarding the death of Uriah or the sexual abuse and perhaps rape of Bathsheba. Their first child died…but the second child was…Solomon.
Good things come from bad people. I have not met the person…and I will soon be 64 years old, who is entirely good…or entirely bad. The human creation is as varied and complex as the multitude of changing prisms of a kaleidoscope. I have done what is called ‘good things’ with several motivations fueling the enterprise. We desperately want life to be black and white…when it is almost always…gray. Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson was a champion of civil right and yet can be heard on tape using the N Word. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is a hero of the Civil Rights Movement and yet had to be cajoled and dragged to the cause by events transpiring in the south. Dr. Martin Luther King is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement…and yet his morality was somewhat akin to King Davids.
And, so, today we look for the morally pure and the ethically upright and person who has unfailing love for their fellow man…and we come up short. That is what this life is about…coming up short… The search for perfection in any human being…is an exercise in futility. The dogma or belief that if you are holy enough or righteous enough or if you fast enough or pray enough that you are going to become an elite member of God’s Holiness Club…with all subsequent Gold Club Members Rights…is not only folly but a perverse motivation for the exercise of a christian walk back to Jerusalem.
Some of the meanest looking people in the world have been my friends. Some of the seemingly kindest and placid and peaceful people in my world have been passive aggressive personalities. You can not judge a book by its cover. No one sees what is in the heart of a human…but God. We are all members of a large Theatrical Production called Life… Our roles are written with the nuances of the master writer. God knows how to write a hell of a story…
Parker Gulley was a rescue dog. She had been thrown out of a moving automobile and had her jaw broken. The vet had to reset the jaw and remove three teeth. When we first saw her she was a tiny bundle of soft black fur and sharp little teeth. She captured our hearts completely. In a matter of a few weeks she developed allergies to such an extent that it appeared she was dying prior to her first birthday. One early morning, around 2:00 A:M:, she defecated and urinated while at the same time vomiting. I awakened MJ and told her that Parker appeared to be dying and that she would want to get up if she wanted to see her while she was still alive. As MJ feverishly began telephoning to find an emergency veterinary hospital to take her to…she suddenly became calm and went to sleep. Parker received allergy shots on a monthly basis for the rest of her life. She also had a preponderance of fatty tumors that we she underwent surgery for…twice…and yet found that they were not cancerous. We loved Parker and cared for her like a child.
Look around you and you will see…friends and colleagues that need someone to rescue them. Many are homeless…yet they live in a house. Many are ill, not only physically, but mentally. Mental illness is an illness that most people will experience in some form during sometime of their life…and yet it is unspoken and often unseen. The ignorant saying, ‘Suck it up buttercup, when referring to mental distress…destroyed countless people. Simone Biles is a hero for protecting her mental health and listening to her body.
We all need rescue from our biases and prejudices. We need to be rescued from the, ‘John Wayne form of christianity,’ which leads us to believe that the tougher we are…the more christian and god fearing that we are. Insurrectionist stormed our United States Capitol on January the sixth. They crushed and beat the police officers. They announced that they were going to kill a police officer with his own gun. They called African American police officers the N Word. The same insurrectionist…prayed in the Capitol Rotunda… for god to give them the victory over the democratically elected representatives of our government…both Republicans and Democrats.
Fantasy and conspiracy theories have captured the imagination of many of us. There is currently a virulent Pandemic of the unvaccinated in our nation. One hundred million of us have refused to get one of the readily available Covid vaccines. It has gotten so bad that the Center For Disease Control has advised that all people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, should return to wearing face masks in academic settings as well as businesses and faith communities. Now how did this happen. How did we reject the common sense of when I was a lad…where I stood in line with the rest of my classmates and received the Polio Vaccination. How have we laid aside the common sense of our grandparents and our parents and become a Twilight Zone Land of the Lost? How do we ascribe that we ‘Back The Blue’. which I have always believed in…and yet turn our head when our…white…brothers and sisters…beat them within an inch of their lives? That is not Conservative versus Liberal…this is people who live in an empirical reality…and people who live in an alternate universe…or on Earth 2…
Rescue us from not caring about the people that Jesus cared about the most during his ministry. Jesus loved what we often call…marginalized. He cared for the poor and the needy and the sick and suffering…and the lonely. The Bible says that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. When Christ was looking for the type of heart for others…those that love their neighbor as themselves…he found it in the disenfranchised and the marginalized and those who had been thrown out of a moving vehicle and had their jaw broken…
I have been a member of one church or another for over 52 years. Each had its benefits and each had its drawbacks. Each was supremely uplifting…at times…and each was deflating…at others. “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build this church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16: 13-18. KJV
We christians take a great store in church. We spend much of life there. We believe that we were commissioned by Christ to gather in churches. We donate our money and our time and our talents to ensuring that the church succeeds. We gather with people like us. Fundamentalist and Progressives are very much alike in this regard. Where is the outsider going to fulfill the commandments of Jesus to gather together and await his return?
It has been another closet cleaning day for Fibber McGee and Molly’s closet. After some significant labor and returning memories…we have finally completed the Closet Project. It is currently 90 degrees and feels like 99. For tomorrow a heat advisory has been issued. It was a good day to stay inside and clean the closet. I wonder what possessed us to save so much stuff? There was a VCR that does not work and 2 camcorders from the 1980’s. One camcorder recoded on full size VCR tapes while the other took much reduced in size tapes with an adaptor that the tapes were placed in to facilitate their playback in a VCR. The full size VCR camcorder was my deceased step-father’s while the second was my pride and joy as I recorded 100’s of hours of tape when Aaron and Jonathon were very young. All holidays and special occasions are recorded as well as the old man and MJ…when they were much younger. There are also many loved ones who are no longer with us…that are smiling and in the holiday spirit…on the tapes. I began a TV Guide collection in the 1980’s that I pared down in latter years. The guides were in the box with the VCR tapes. We re-discovered an old handbag that was full of coins. When we stored it…20 years ago…we vowed that we would go through it…and so we did…today. There were two framed photos of me and my last director, Phil, with then Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich. Former Governor Blagojevich after that photo went on to achieve some measure of infamy by being sent to prison for attempting to sell or barter the vacant Senate Seat of Presidential candidate Barack Obama. There were neckties strewn on the floor. Over my 25 years as a manager/administrator at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…I purchased a lot of ties. I enjoyed a good silk tie…and often they were not cheap. Knowing that I have a drawer that is packed with ties that I will never wear again…I discarded the escapees.
So today WordPress informs me that I have passed 100,000 views on The Happy Traveler. I was pleased to hear it since I average around 20 likes per blog. However likes and views are different. I began blogging in 2012…infrequently. I did not begin blogging on a regular basis until our month long visit to Europe in 2014. Our friend Margo is an accomplished author and we stayed with her and Jeff for a week in Nice, France. When I saw her office and heard her speak of her love of writing…I was hooked…and have never become unhooked since that summer visit to the south of France. We were guests of Margo at an authors event held by Patricia Sands. Patricia was so welcoming to MJ and me and the French authors were inspiring with their passion to write…I became a Constant Blogger…
My blogging is a bit like most of my endeavors…plodding and slow…but steady and resolute. I write about what I like and what I am thinking about when I sit down to produce a few readable thoughts. If I am anything…I am a thinker. I seldom accept something at face value. If the preacher or the politician or the pundit tells me the truth as they see it…I often disagree after thinking about what they have said and using my ruler or measuring the utterances against the empirical facts. I love free spirits. I love people who fly their Freak Flag…unashamedly. People who question…are in my club. I think that blogging is a marvelous expression of freedom of thought. In my mind…there is no higher calling…
Hot July is upon us. It is the kind of heat that makes you appreciate air conditioning. It seems hotter to me than when I was a child…but I was hot then…with no relief. In those days I took baths, as we had no showers, and began to perspire prior to getting dressed. Riding in the car was hot as was sleeping in a sweat soaked bed and sitting in front of a box fan that felt like a furnace blowing on you. Climatize is a good word for the young. I dislike the hot weather as badly as the extreme cold that comes with winter. But, I said all of that to say that we Americans as well as most of the industrialized world…are somewhat spoiled. Conditioning does matter. I read of my friend and fellow blogger in Scotland who rides his bike often as transportation. When I read of the loving manner that he speaks of his bike and his new bike…it makes me want a bike. I am sure that he is more healthier than I with my motorized lifestyle. Although I am proud of my continued 10,000 steps per day.
My friend, Jeff, is an inspiration to me. He lives an honest life and is dedicated to the principles that he believes in. I have been friends with Jeff for 50 years…and he has always had a fierce intellect. He questions many things from a standard of truth…rather than what the majority believe and call…truth. Jeff lives his life by his own lights…and I have attempted to do the same. He does not have the clutter and confusion of mechanization surrounding him…and yet he is happy and thinks deeply regarding the challenges that our modern life presents us with. I saw my friend today and it always a joy to talk to a true soul…
If there is anything that can be said about our 2020/2021 Pandemic it would be that we do not know what is coming next. To say that we do understand what is around the corner… would be to ignore what is unfolding before us. It seems to me that neither the health professionals nor the politicians nor the pundits…fully understand where we will be in the upcoming fall and winter. I think that we should be ready for closures again and that may include churches and businesses. It is highly possible that masks will once again be required for most face to face transactions. The ancient term for Pandemic would be Plague…and Plagues are unpredictable. The Bible speaks of the 7 last Plagues. I do not ascribe to the fundamentalist views of these scriptures…but our planet is in a precipitous decline due to our human neglect.
A simple life is a good life. It seems that we seek the answers to life’s persistent problems among the partisan politicians that are more concerned with protecting their next paycheck than protecting their constituents. We look to the minister who has commissioned him or herself and anointed by God…because they told us that they were… We religiously watch the television media to reveal to us the truth….as they define it. And we become sick…and we die…and we wonder why…
Thought is a beautiful thing. Albert Einstein developed the Theory Of Relativity by thought. Think about what you are being told by your leaders and then think about your empirical reality…and see if they square. Air conditioners and televisions and modern industrial life will not produce truth for us. Media will not bring us closer to God or to our fellow man. Someone telling us what to think…will not produce truth or peace or contentment in our daily struggles. Research and wood burning in our brains…will reveal a path that our mothers and fathers and our grandmothers and grandfathers understood as a result of their education and their upbringing.
For those of us who like to roam and ramble there is an old saying…’Itchy Feet.’ The prospect of travel has always excited me. I can remember that just going to another town or especially a state or more away from my home state of Illinois…was like a Lewis and Clark Expedition to me when I was a lad. A night in a motel or hotel was so different than what I was accustomed to that I could hardly sleep in view of the strange surroundings that I found myself in. I felt a bit like Aaron who told his mom when we were spending a night in a hotel and he discovered a King James Bible in one of the drawers, ‘Mommy I am going to read this Bible…all night!’ I know that in the late 1990’s when we were in the midst of our Great Eastern Adventure and spending two nights in Manhattan…that there was so much loud and interesting night excitement that was just below our hotel window…that each of us had to look out of our windows on numerous occasions to receive our update on the city that never sleeps.
Travel is the rare spice of life…that you can not find just anywhere that you look. During our early years of marriage and even before Aaron and Jonathon were born we would drive two or three nights journey to the south. We loved Tennessee and still do. MJ and I had breakfast in a Cracker Barrel restaurant this morning in Marion, Illinois. When we were traveling to Tennessee in the 70’s there were no Cracker Barrel eateries much beyond the Tennessee border. Each time that we dined in one…I noticed the life like statues called Tom Clark Gnomes or Cairn and wanted badly to purchase one…but there was no money for such artistic endeavors in those days. Indeed we took short overnight trips because, ‘The gas money could give out in Gurnsey,’ as Cousin Eddie told Clark Griswold in the holiday classic…’Christmas Vacation. Gatlinburg, Tennessee was our favorite destination. We loved to stay a few nights in the picturesque town.that is nestled at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains. There is a hotel in the town that is built over the Little Pigeon river and the sound of the rushing water from the river is a delight. Many times we have driven into the Smoky’s and visited the old settlement of Cades Cove. ‘The valley has a rich history. For hundreds of years Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove but archeologists have found no evidence of major settlements. The first Europeans settled in the Cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. By 1830 the population of the area had already swelled to 271. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the national park. Scattered along the loop road are three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored 18th and 19th century structures. ‘ Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We were so enamored with the Cove that we purchased hand made replicas of each of the buildings and proudly display them to this day.
Several Christmases we had the tradition of meeting our friends, Faye and Steve, for a three our four night stay in Gatlinburg. Usually we would arrive just before the end of Christmas…after enjoying a wonderful holiday feast with Ron and Mary Jane and Tara and Mrs. Moore. I vividly recall Steve and I standing out on the balcony of our condo that we had rented that was located in full view off the Smokies and the brightly lit town below. As the smoke lay on the mountains and the Christmas lights sparkled in holiday reverence below…I considered that I had not felt a more peaceful feeling.
Travel affords an education that you can not receive in the finest universities. It is a bias and prejudice deflator…if you allow it to perform it’s good work on you. You learn that God has many children…and that he loves them all…
Today I returned to church…that is the church building…for the first time in over 16 months. Now I did attend a memorial service a little over a week ago, but this was my first worship service. The pews were partitioned with bright green ribbon to facilitate social distancing. Most of the congregation were wearing face masks. It was a singular joy to see so many of our church family out to attend their church in the bright summertime. Our ongoing Pandemic has kept us apart…and may do so again. Millions of Americans have refused, thus far, to be inoculated against Covid. That coupled with the Delta Variant of the virus has caused a Pandemic among the unvaccinated.
The church bulletin seemed unusually large to me…today. I wondered if it was because I had not seen one in nearly a year and one half. I had supremely enjoyed the Zoom Church that we have had and still do have. But, there is nothing like gathering together to share a mutual faith with fellow believers and members of our human family. I just read, ‘I guess we should retire the expression ‘avoid it like the plague’ given how little effort people put into avoiding an actual plague.’ The CDC is reexamining its’ mask policy due to the intransigence of the plethora of Pandemic deniers.
Attending church has been an integral part of my life for the past 52 years. When I do not go to church…I do not feel like myself. Something is missing. There was a wonderful special music this morning from Pat and Kathy’s son, Anthony, that transported me to another world for a few moments. His resonate voice caused me to recall the outstanding singing of one of the Wisemen in a Christmas play that we saw at Shryock Auditorium almost 30 years ago. I have been listening to our Music Director, Carlyn’s, lovely voice over Zoom for sometime and it is always wonderful…but it was a special blessing to hear it in person…this morning!
Kerry was behind the pulpit with his effervescent smile and his shock of snow white hair…and his welcoming spirit. When I see Kerry I see a disciple of Christ…who desires to be an encouragement to all that he encounters. I saw many who were not able to avail themselves of Zoom Church…and I was especially glad for the reopening of our building.
So Jonathon and I dropped by Electric Larrys and I found a couple of vintage Star Wars Action Figures from the 1970’s. It takes a vintage old man to appreciate a vintage toy.
Our 2020/2021 Pandemic is more than what we thought that it was and more than we expected.
Upon my first day of retirement I knew that I must remain active. I had worked an average of 10 hours a day for 25 years which included weekends and holidays. I received telephone calls from work when I was on cruises and on every major event including anniversaries and birthdays. I was involved in so many committees at SIUC that I lost count of the number throughout the years. Instead of wanting to do less…I wanted to accomplish more. I was surrounded by the elite of professionalism and courage and dedication of my wonderful colleagues. So I learned over my career that if I wanted something to happen…I had to make it happen. Waiting for someone to take an interest in me or open doors for me was not a practical application of my hours on earth. Waiting for the life to come your way that you believe that you are entitled to is an exercise in futility.
Jerry Seinfeld said in an interview that I saw that when he awakens each morning and is still laying in bed…he feels awful and depressed and totally lacking in the necessary skills to perform his daily task. However he went on to note that once he gets out of bed and begins to move…he feels better and the dark cloud that covered his thoughts at his awakening…lifted. I think that we are all a bit like Jerry in that the process of thinking about all that we have to do or worrying about what needs to be accomplished…without putting legs onto the tasks…is debilitating. We humans are designed for movement. A sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health.
Stir up the juices. If you want to travel…it is time to do so. If you have hobbies that are a passion…indulge your’ passion. We often say to ourselves, you know that inner voice that says you are not good enough or smart enough, that we could never accomplish what many of our peers have…or media celebrities that appear to be somewhat god like in comparison to we mere mortals. Everything that you admire that someone has accomplished was by a human being that is made from the same materials that you are. To refer to someone as gifted is a somewhat overused phrase. The famous inventor, Thomas Edison, said that success was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Life is taken by the horns by those who are willing to get up and go grab the horns… Leadership is taken by those who want to help others and to inspire others by their example. The wrong people ascend to leadership positions when there is a vacuum…
Ten years has gone by like the Biblical reference of a ‘Weaver’s Shuttle,’ or as the singer James Taylor extols us, ‘The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.’ Life is most enjoyed when we are immersed in it…not setting back and contemplating it. I love the saying to stop and smell the flowers…and there are a lot of flowers…
Yesterday I had the most lovely experience of being able to get several photos and short videos of a Great White Heron flying. Although we have a Great White that visits our pond, at home, I have never been able to snap a good photo of the majestic prehistoric looking bird. However at Campus Lake yesterday I had my golden opportunity. Watching the fantastic fowl take flight made me smile.
I have been taking photos for many years in Campus Woods and Campus Lake…but I have not had the good fortune to snap as many pictures of one of my favorite birds before yesterday.
Few things make me happier in a day than something that causes me to smile. When I smile my entire day is uplifted and brightened. I saw my friend, Sarah, this morning on Campus walking her beautiful dog. The dog licked my hand and I petted her and remembered what it was like to have 1 dog and 2 dogs…and 3 dogs…and I smiled.
Smiling people make those whom they are smiling at…smile. It is hard to remain discouraged when when a fellow human traveler smiles at you. Their smile says volumes about them…and about you. They are saying that they are glad to see you and that they value you. When you smile back you are responding that you recognize their goodwill and that you feel good to be seen by them…and appreciated for your shared journey on the pathway of life.
Laughing is just a herculean smile…that takes over your entire body… The scripture says that, ‘Laughter does good like a medicine.’ Laughing is good. medicine. It is difficult to recall what you were so worried about…when you laugh.
Do you want to know what universally makes people smile…babies…