Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let’s Put on Some Fancy Hats

A great birthday blog from Jonathon Brooks.

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To feel appreciated is a truly wonderful feeling! I enjoy walking into a room and knowing that I have friends or friendly acquaintances present. Being a good friend is something I attempt to be great at. I did not have many friends during my shy childhood when my world was much smaller. As an adult I appreciate my friends and I always hope that our friendship lasts a lifetime.

On Monday I turned the age of 37 and my friends showed up for me in a major way. The Happy Birthday wishes were many and beautiful. The words Happy and Birthday go together like cake and ice cream. Some folks say that their birthday is no big deal or just another day. I say to hell with that nonsense and slice me another piece of cake! I hear one only turns 37 once.

May all of our days have wonder…

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Uncomfortable

It is unseasonably cool in our neck of he woods. Our furnace has been reengaged. I was at Dr. Jenny’s Dentist office yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed petting one of her Boxer dogs. It caused me to reminisce about our recently lost, Parker. I was talking with a group of friends, the other day, and we were ruminating regarding change and our comfort levels with it.

When Jesus brought his ministry to the people of his day he was rejected by the established religions that surrounded him. ‘Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want a sign from You.’ But he answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was Three Days and Three Nights In The Belly Of The Sea Monster, so will the Son of Man be be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12: 38-42.

Little Jesus was the title of a blog that I wrote recently. My Little Jesus is a small stuffed Jesus figure that I purchased from Hallmark. It is designed for children and it suits me perfectly. Little Jesus brings me significant comfort. Sometimes it is the little things that make the difference in our lives. Many times we in the church seek a master plan for change and renewal and outreach for those who need a faith community. We scratch our heads and study and strive to discover a comprehensive plan that will tell people that we love them…and that Christ can help… Often a kind word that is said by the person in the pew in front of you…or a uplifting song…or a greeting from a smiling and caring minister that says come back and be with us…works miracles.

Jesus made people uncomfortable. The Christian message to the rich man of, ‘Sell all that you have and give it to the poor…and come and follow me,’ is uncomfortable for many. Over two years ago I felt a call to join the governing board of our church at First Presbyterian, in Carbondale. That is uncomfortable for me…I am an introvert and I like to sit in the back of the sanctuary and be unnoticed and for the most part…unheard.

Christ had such an impact on the earth that we are talking about him today. His message of loving the poor and caring for the needy and accepting the unwanted…is uncomfortable. The Christian walk through life is about seeking the will of God. To truly be open to the will of God is to be like the cowboy of old with a burr in his bedroll. No matter which way that he turns…there is some prickly pain to endure. When Jesus was taken by the Romans to be tried and then crucified, Peter was asked a question. Now the Messiah had prepared Peter for the upcoming question prior to his being asked it; ‘Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Matthew 26:34. KJV.

‘Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ All the disciples said the same thing as well.’ Matthew 26:35. KJV

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl come up to him. ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean,’ she said. But he denied it before them all: ‘I do not know what you are talking about. And when he was gone out onto the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. But again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man! And after awhile came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.’ Matthew 26: 69-74. KJV

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Living In The Grey Zone

Grey is a color that I have become more accustomed to as I have aged. I look at photos of myself, several years ago, and starring back at me is a young man with black hair and a black mustache. I possessed several grey hairs…here and there…but they did not dominate the real estate. These days when I go to my barber I watch as the grey hair is shorn from my head and as it takes it’s leisurely journey to the floor of the Barber Shop. I look around to see if there is any other great piles of grey hair…or if I have won the prize.

I recall more than one conversation that I had with my friend, JoAnn, regarding living in the Grey Zone. Much of my career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale contained my navigating various shades of grey. Simply understanding what the supervisor wants as compared to the manager as compared with the administrator…is a herculean effort. Once I became the president of the civil service council and met monthly with the Chancellor of the University…I understood what a politically precarious position that university politics afforded campus administrators. There is no politics that is more cutthroat than university politics.

LIfe brings daily conundrums. For instance…we Christians believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that he died on the cross for our sins and than on the third day he arose from the grave and ascended back to his Father in Heaven. Were you there to witness the events that the Bible tells us of? The Bible is a wonderful book of stories that are inspired by God…but written by men who were influenced by the culture and the bias and norms of their generation. The Second Amendment calls for the right to bear arms in order to have a well trained militia. Did our founding fathers intend for everyone to be a member of the militia?

Democracy is our proudest accomplishment in the United States of America. We are the Melting Pot of the world. Emma Lazarus wrote the New Colossus:

‘Not like the brazen Giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles, From her beacon hand

Glows world wide-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep ancient lands your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breath free, The Wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

Yet we rejected the more than 900 passengers on the M.S. St. Louis. These were Jewish refugees at the on-set of the Holocaust. We locked up tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II in camps. We brought untold Africans to our country to be our slaves…and they still are yet to be to free from intimidation and the same rights that are afforded to the majority white citizenry.

QAnon’s followers believed that they were rescuing our country when they stormed our Capitol and broke the windows and battered down the doors of the ‘Peoples House.’ QAnon began as a Live Action Role Play on the internet. It began as a computer game and was subsequently taken to a deadly serious state by thousands of Americans. It is clear that when some refer to our Capitol as their house…they are not speaking about all of us…

A Positive Attitude In A Negative World — The Jazz Man

It is another, ‘beautiful day in the neighborhood,’ if you choose to see it. The temperature is in the 60’s with a soft spring breeze and the sun is shinning. I have experienced that life’s road affords us all… high mountain experiences…and the low valley disappointments. A blogging friend noted that he admired my positive […]

A Positive Attitude In A Negative World — The Jazz Man

Happy Birthday #37!

Thirty-seven years ago today…Jonathon came into the world. His mom and Aaron and I were eagerly awaiting his arrival! Aaron was very excited regarding the concept of having a little brother. He was born on Thursday, April 12, 1984…after 11:00 P:M:. I wondered if he was going to have the distinction of being born on Friday the 13th? Not long after we brought him home…I noticed that he was going to be an explorer. In just a matter of several months he was climbing out of his crib and jumping to the floor with a loud and enthusiastic thud and a lusty laugh! We have always had a lot of tchotchkes and artistic figurines around the Brooks home…and Jonathon systematically sought to crack open each one in order to facilitate his study of their construction…

Jonathon is a proud and dedicated member of the Southern Illinois University Community. He is a writer extraordinaire and a friend to everyone. I am never with him that he does not encounter another friend. He is an elder in our church and refuses to say a bad word about anyone. Jonathon is available to his friends for an encouraging talk and a shoulder to lean upon. He and his brother, Aaron, are a constant comfort and help to MJ and I.

Jonathon loves to have a good meal and a good time. He is like his Grandma Hickam…he loves to travel. Both he and Aaron are always ready to help MJ and I and they both are the Apples Of Our Eyes! He is an Epicurean and a connoisseur of craft beers. He takes his responsibilities at SIUC Key Control very seriously and checks and double checked, for accuracy, all work that is done by the departments office.

When one of Jonathon’s thousands of friends need help…he is always there! He is a reader, voraciously, and he is a accomplished writer…and he is 37 years old today. He and Aaron are the light of MJ and my life and the joy of our souls…and they both laugh at their dad’s jokes…

A Fun Journey To Paducah, Kentucky

We have not been out much…like for over a year. I purchased a Swiss Army Knife with the date of 2020 emblazoned on it as a reminder of our Pandemic year. I should have bought one that had 2020 and 2021 on it. Nevertheless before we were to leave I asked Aaron to help me in my endeavor to re-charge my air conditioner in the Camry. Now I had worked on it on Friday with some concerted concentration and yet had been unable to perform what the gentlemen on Youtube had assured me was a 10 minute job. As I was just about to give up when Aaron said that we should try it one more time and he discovered the unique manner that the hose attached to the A/C. Port. Suddenly success! Aaron was a life saver and I marvel at his ingenuity and focus on the problem that had been a Rubik’s Cube to me.

Our means off conveyance was the new Subaru Forester. I have driven it so little that each time is like the first time. MJ and I discovered a few days ago that we had been driving our new vehicle with the vents closed…and then we understood why it took so long to cool down when we lowered the cabin temperature. The SUV has a safety feature that when engaged it keeps the vehicle well within the center and side lines of the lane that you are driving in and it brakes if you inadvertently get to close to the car that is in front of you. If you leave your hands off of the steering wheel for too long a warning appears that you must put your hands on the wheel.

Tomorrow is Jonathon’s 37th birthday. I remember when he was 3 and 7 and newborn in his mothers arms. Jonathon is a wonderful writer and thinker. He analyzes what is said to him and what he reads…and he reads voraciously…and he is a Christian that does not talk about it…but lives it! I do not have the ability to count his friends because he is a celebrity in our town. Everywhere I go with him…someone knows him. One of his friends bought his breakfast at Harbaugh’s Cafe yesterday…in honor of his birthday. Jonathon loves life and he loves people and he never says a mean our unkind word about anyone…

We shopped at the unique and exciting stores of lower town Paducah . We have made countless trips to Paducah…but it had been well over a year since we had. been there…and it all seemed strangely new….and yet familiar. We pursued the wonderful store where Aaron bought his great Steam Punk lamp a few years ago. We strolled through the Art Gallery that has several artists that we have purchased works from in years gone by. We had a first time experience for our dinner at the Freight House. It was wonderful! MJ and Aaron had a Crawfish Pie that was to die for! It was humongous! Jonathon had shrimp and grits and I had a braised pork shoulder. We arrived at the 5:00 P:M: opening of the restaurant and it filled to capacity in 15 minutes. I enjoyed a Dirty Sara Vodka Martini and and Boulevard A combination of 3 liquors…and the Boulevard A transported me to Boulevard A…

MJ reminded us of our very enjoyable dinner with our friends, JoAnn and Peter, many years ago. We had dinner at Lick Creek and brought our own booze and had Crawfish…that JoAnn expertly peeled for not only Peter but MJ and I as well. We miss JoAnn and Peter…

I reminisce about Nancy Calcutt who is one of our premier Paducah Artists that we have collected. She and her wonderful husband and terrific musician, Charlie, along with Paulette Mentor, came to our house in Carbondale for dinner and they achieved a permanent place in my heart…

Little Jesus

Walking on Campus this afternoon was delightful. A bit summer like with a temperature of 82 degrees and a nice breeze. I ordered a little stuffed Jesus figure…that is obviously for children…and it suits me to a tee. In fact I ended up ordering two from different companies and the other one has a lamb with the stuffed Jesus figure. I find just looking at the smiling and inviting figure…calming and uplifting. Perhaps we all need more calming and uplifting influences. I am still engaged in the worthy project of re-vitalizing my 14 year old Toyota Camry. Today I purchased the nicest black rubber floor mats for $27. I had literally worn a hole though the factory mat that was on the drivers side and began a hole in the cars’ carpet. The same friendly young woman waited on me today as yesterday. She told me that her former school principal had been named Mr. Brooks and that when she heard that name she had fond memories. I was pleased to posses a fond memory name. Since I want to drive it a little while longer it is time for some basic improvements.

I watched a 4 hour documentary on HBO entitled, Exterminate All The Brutes, which is a phrase from Joseph Conrad’s famous novel, Heart of Darkness. I not only highly recommend this 4 star production but I feel confident in assuring you that you will never understand history…as you once did…after you see this film. Our bias and racism and white elitism goes back much further than you have imagined.

Jonathon’s 37th birthday is Monday. Tomorrow we travel to Paducah, Kentucky for dinner at the Freight House…while last year we were forced to pick up his birthday dinner and bring it home to enjoy. When I consider that Jonathon is soon to be 37 and Aaron is 39…I know that I must be older than 40… Life is arising from it’s pandemic slumber. The airlines are experiencing more air travelers than since the coronavirus covered our planet. Hard knocks are abounding in our human experience. As the old saying goes, ‘The best laid plans of mice and men suddenly go awry.’ But we still have Little Jesus to comfort us…and my sons are men and doing well…and the solution to our shared 2020/2021 Pandemic is happening as we speak. Our heads may be ‘bloodied…but unbowed.’ We may have sought and cried and agonized about the deep and dark tunnel that we are in…but now there is light and peace and a shoulder to lean upon…as we slowly travel down life’s winding and hilly and rocky road…

Read and Write On

Please enjoy a wonderful blog from Jonathon Brooks.

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Reading is my favorite hobby. Books have enriched my life in so many ways. A book can be similar to a map that leads one where she or he might like to travel. I read all sorts of stuff from graphic novels to novels to non-fiction memoirs and biographies to theology to young adult novels to the Holy Bible. I’ve been a lot of places from the comfort of my living room easy chair.

Words are powerful weapons. They can be used to divide or bring together. They can make you laugh or make you cry. They can be insults or words of praise. I weigh my words and attempt to use them wisely.

If it were not for the knowledge I’ve discovered through reading then I might not be typing these words tonight. Mental illness and melancholy were a couple of giants I fought against at a young age…

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Why People Look For God Anywhere But Church

Yesterday I had the interior of my 2007 Toyota Camry detailed at our Toyota dealership. They did a superb job considering that we had transported our three dogs to the Veterinarian and to the dog groomers for ten years in it. Many cigars and pipes have been enjoyed by me in the confines of the Camry. Since I have given up cigars and pipes…accept on the rare occasion…I thought that it was hight time to let the professionals have a go at my old faithful automobile. They also changed the oil and were to repair the air conditioner…but that was not to be as the labor alone was twelve hours…or a bill of $1,745.23. The kind attendant told me that I could go to Auto Zone and that they could sell me, the replacement for freon, and an adapter to facilitate charging my air conditioner myself. This I did today and the nicest young woman showed me how the product was to be used and where to attach the adapter.

Many people have said to me that they are turned off by the Bible because so much hate has been perpetrated in the name of the Book. Groups who claim to be representing Christ… preach a gospel of exclusion and hate for those who do not believe their narrow doctrine and dogma. It has been said that some churches believe in a god that hates all of the same people that they do. One of the saddest commentaries that I have heard in history is that when two countries are at war…the one that won is the one that God favored. I would ask that since we lost in Vietnam…did God favor the North Vietnamese? When we landed in the New World of North America and there was a rush for ‘Free Land’ how was it free when Native Americans had been living on it for generations? How is the Anglo Saxon white race superior and therefore heirs to the Earth that god has given them…when Jesus was Jewish? How would we be the sovereign protectors of what it means to be American when none of us came from here…unless you are Native American?

When we define our faith according to who we do not let in to the fold to participate…who would want it? Suffering abounds in our land and is magnified by many of us standing at the door of the church to perform a total bodily inspection to ensure that a prospective member fits the concrete and rod-iron form that we have constructed for them to wear.

Jesus message was of inclusion and love and forgiveness. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.’ Luke 4:18. KJV

Humans have warped the good news of he scripture. the Bible is a group of stories that are written by men and inspired by God. At times what they wrote was inspired by the culture and geographic area in which they lived. When someone is kind to me…I see God. The wonderful fellow who came to pick up my Aerator sewer pump that went out Easter Sunday and returned and installed it the next day and stuck the bill on my front door. It gives me a warm feeling to be trusted. When I was a child trust was a common commodity. Now it is as rare as the biblical ‘gold of Ophir.’ For my 32 year and 2 months and 3 week career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…my word was my bond. I believed everything that my colleagues told me, unless I had substantial evidence not to, and I never lied to them. During my youth in Eldorado, Illinois we had seven little family owned grocery markets. You could walk to the market and easily walk back home. Not everyone had a car. Many Eldorado residents worked in the coal mines before the mines paid good money. Many had retail positions or worked at the lumber yard. The markets conducted their business on the honor system. People would purchase the groceries that they needed and pay some on their ‘Due Bill’ each week or month. We watched President Kennedy on TV…tell us that we were going to land on the Moon before the end of the 1960’s…and we believed him…and we did. Our love of story and of movies, which is nothing but story on the silver screen, and in those days our supreme love of books and reading kept us entertained and our minds enlightened. We did not believe, wholesale, in Live Action Role Playing and conspiracy theories that threatened to destroy our democracy. When I was a boy we read our Bibles and most of us were members of one church or another. We believed that, ‘Jesus loves the little children…all the little of the world…Red Yellow Black and White…All are precious in his sight…Jesus loves the little children of the world.’ In some ways we had little…in other ways we were rich beyond measure…

‘Happy Trails To You’

Once again we have received another lovely day in Little Egypt. The temperature is 79 degrees with a wind of 20 miles per hour. I think that it must be the warmest day this year. Campus was resplendent with purple flowering trees. MJ and I agree that we both hear Parker, our recently deceased Black Lab, and I attest that I hear her more than once a night…padding around the house. When our Boston Terriers passed away, Wallace two years ago next month and Brody in January, we were devastated…but there is something about loosing the last of the trio that hit us especially hard.

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Roy Rogers and Dale Evans had a popular television show when I was a child. Roy and Dale were a singing cowboy and cow girl. The program ran during much of the 1950’s and had a total of 100 episodes. There were also Roy Rogers clothes and lunchboxes and books. Last Saturday I purchased a Roy Rogers book. When I was a youngster I was mesmerized by these hardcover books that were written for children. Roy’s horse was named Trigger, the Golden Palomino and his dog was Bullet, the Wonder Dog. The show’s theme song was, ‘Happy Trails To You.’

Spring is a busier time than winter for many of us. Indeed we have been hibernating for over a year now. One thing that I have learned after being a homeowner for over 40 years is that every time I look up…there is another repair or improvement needed. When you are done with one there will be two coming down the road to replace it. The mysterious riddle is exemplified when you consider that every physical thing that you see will one day be overcome by time and return to dust and the dust to molecules…and it is said that molecules never die… Or as the television show Saturday Night Live had a segment for a few years…’Deep Thoughts By Jack Handy.’

April is upon upon us with the promise off new life and hope and vitality of purpose and a vision for our happy future. Life really is what we make of it. We can let our circumstances beat us and crosses that we bear…become to heavy to lift… Or, we can awake to the panoply of possibilities that are before us and rejoice in the hope that is in the eyes of our family and friends and those who we assist on the…’Happy Trails to you…

Until We Meet Again…’