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.

Movement Brings Hope And Happiness

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…

Make Someone Smile

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…

I hope that you smiled when you read my humble blog…

Lifetime Subscription

SIRUS Radio is provided for 4 months for free in our new Subaru. When I purchased the 2007 Toyota Camry in August of 2010 I had a Lifetime Subscription for XM Radio which was, at that time, the rival Satellite Radio to SIRUS Satellite Radio. This wonderful subscription came with the installation of hardware to facilitate the transmission of satellite radio. When I asked the installers if lifetime meant my lifetime or the lifetime of the Camry…they remarked that it must be for the lifetime of the car. I drove the 2007 Toyota for just short of 11 years. So, MJ is reading an email that she received from Marion Toyota regarding their signing us up for our 4 months free SIURS/XM Satellite Radio and somewhat costly plans…but reduced from their regular price for the first year of the subscription. I noted that we must subscribe to the Platinum Plan as it offered a Sports Package and it included MLB…which she loves. She read on. Suddenly I heard her hooping and hollering that my Lifetime Subscription was really for my lifetime…according the the fine print from SIRIUS/XM and that there was a telephone number to call to facilitate having my lifetime subscription transferred to the Subaru Touring. This can not be done until November 20th…we have the date marked on our calendar.

Have you ever wondered how many lifetime subscriptions you have in our game of life? Christianity and my quiet faith in Christ has given me lifetime peace and happiness. I do not mean trouble free…’Troubles…boy I got them,’ but rather a settled sense of place and purpose and a comfort that is constant.

I have a lifetime subscription to the joy that MJ and Aaron and Jonathon bring me. They are the center point of my life and and I revolve around their awesome presence. I have never experienced the time that when I think of my family…I am not centered with contentment and a sense of purpose and a reason to be in the world.

People who are kind to me…purchase a lifetime subscription to my affection and admiration. Each kind word that I have received in my life…I have never forgotten. Anyone who has ever taken a genuine interest in me…has a lifetime subscription in my heart and mind and soul…

I have a passion to write and reach out to someone who is hurting or depressed or beaten back by the 100 foot waves of life. I remember what it felt like to be all alone and lonely and afraid of the requirements of what was necessary to produce what I needed to to succeed in this world. I recall how it feels to be underestimated and under appreciated in our world that is the accumulation of money and power and academic success.

I have a lifetime subscription to help somebody along the way. I want to lift the heavy burden and make the load lighter. I desire to hear the, ‘weak say that I am strong and the poor say that I am fed.’ I wonder how a poor boy like me…has been so blessed by others who cared about me…and the tender mercies of the Great Spirit…

Nice People…Make Life Pleasant

My last two days have. been marked and made better by nice people. You may not believe it…but there are a lot of nice people in our world. Our Subaru Salesperson, Alex Carter, is a gentleman and a scholar. We purchased a Subaru Forester Limited from him in December of 2020 and enjoyed it so much that we returned yesterday to purchase a second Subaru Forester, Touring, from Alex. Of course needing 2 new vehicles is the result of trading in a 2006 Honda in December and a 2008 Toyota Camry yesterday. We drive our vehicles a long time. We now have our 5th new automobile in over 43 years of marriage. The conservative manner in which we drive and put miles on our cars over the past 10 years…may mean that the Subaru Fleet will last us forever… What sold me on Subaru is their excellent safety features and the comfort and easy access of the cabin. When we were speaking with the Credit Manager, Grant, who is another nice person…he remarked that our Camry would be a good ride for a friend of his as he noted that he was certain that we took good care of it. I thought of the little old lady who only drove her car to church on Sunday…

On our December Forrester we had been struggling to sync our garage door opener to the button for that purpose that was in the Limited. When we picked up the Touring, yesterday, Alex asked if he needed to show us how to sync the SUV to our garage door opener…and we replied…with forlorn faces…that we had attempted to sync the Limited to our garage door opener for 50 times or more without success. Alex proclaimed that he would be happy to come to our home and sync both Subarus to their respective openers. He did so today at 10:00 A:M: and now we are in garage door opening nirvana… Alex Carter is the nicest and most helpful car salesperson that I have ever dealt with.

After over 10 years I needed to return the scrapings of my Gold Southern Illinois University Parking Decal as I finally traded automobiles. Johnell Agee waited on this old retiree with such kindness and good will that I must mention her lovely customer service… here. I had received new license plate on my Forester yesterday when I traded my Camry Hybrid. I had neither memorized the new number nor written it down prior to the long walk to the Parking Division. Johnell was kind enough to give me a note with her email on it to facilitate my emailing her the new number. I felt welcome from her first friendly greeting and I was impressed with her genuine customer service skills.

People can make people feel welcome and at home and glad to be in the business or church or Academic Institution that you represent. MJ and I visited Marion Subaru in December with no preconceived expectations. Our opinion of the dealership was an open book. I was struck with how the manager spoke to us at some length and recounted some of his history. I felt relaxed and I felt that I was dealing with honest people. That is worth it’s weight in gold…

Parking Division is not a place where every customer is a happy camper. Often they have received tickets that they want to complain about or contest. I spent my career in Building Services which is the housekeeping department of the Physical Plant. We had many happy customers and our share of disgruntled ones. My management philosophy was that the, ‘The customer was aways right.’ When I was given the charge of the entire department in 1997 I determined that we were going to make our enemies our friends and our friends…love us. My colleagues performed herculean tasks to make this departmental policy a demonstrated reality. I loved to shop at Famous Barr Department Stores. Virtually all of the sales professionals in the Carbondale store called me by name and welcomed me each time I was in their establishment. I felt like that I was a part of and a member in good standing of… Famous Barr.

The Holidays Are Coming

Now I am certain that you think that the title of this blog is a bit unusual. It is July 20th and when someone refers to the approach of the holidays it usually begins with Thanksgiving. However, you must remember this…my favorite months of the year begin with September. The former Muscular Dystrophy Telethon with Jerry Lewis was a touchstone for me and the beginning of my season. This September a holiday is planned to one of our favorite destinations, Maine. After Maine comes my birthday on October 24th. This is a major holiday in the Brook’s home…with me fully enjoying every minute…and the family going along for the rollercoaster ride… I used to have 3 birthday dinners…and sometimes 4…this year it may just be 1…but it will be a good one! Then comes Halloween. I have become a Halloween aficionado in recent years.

Aaron’s birthday is in November and will we celebrate…as it is a special birthday with a special number. As my mom often said…’We will open a keg of nails…and count out 40…

When I was a lad Thanksgiving was but a precursor to Christmas. We had neither turkey dinner…nor turkey leg…but we did have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…and, ‘dreams of sugarplums dancing in our heads.’ MJ will hear nothing of not observing her favorite holiday…Thanksgiving. She has hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for 30 years. When Turkey Day arrives…she is in her element!

It is Christmas in my head…year round. I love everything about it. I especially enjoy the transformation in people. There seems to be more compassion and caring for each other during this magical time of the year. There is a bit of a Christmas Spirit that rest lightly on our shoulders for this short period where it seems possible that we really all are members of the same family. Hope and faith and love for each other dances around our daily hustle and bustle…and we suddenly see the poor that are among us. For a time it is not only gratitude and thanksgiving for what we have…but it is about what can we give others. The transformation and the redemption of Scrooge and the joy in Tiny Tim’s eyes…can be seen through the darkness…

‘A Word Fitly Spoken Is Like Apples Of Gold In Pictures of Silver’

It is a magnificent Monday. I was watching my new favorite limited series on HBO, White Lotus, and took note of one of the characters joy in hearing that he did not have cancer…because he was confident that he did and was dying of the disease. This wealthy family as well as a few more are on holiday in Hawaii. The father is ecstatic with his good medical news and is filled with joy as he proclaims the life affirming news to his family. They are underwhelmed and his son and daughter seem unaware of his life threatening concern just the day before. He tells his son that he wants to spend more bonding time with him and that he has enrolled them in an 8 hour scuba class to qualify them to scuba dive in the ocean. At first the son is very much against spending 8 hours of his holiday learning to scuba dive..but he feels his dad’s sincerity and thus acquiesce to the paterfamilias request. The father recounts that he has a renewed lease on life and feels that it is possible for us to be born each day into the wonders of life. I have felt just like the dad in White Lotus. We tend to forget or shut our eyes like the member of three monkey brigade…’to see no evil.’ When in reality the gift of life is our supreme gift from the Great Spirit…and should be renewed each day.

I recently resigned from our church board. I had planned on doing a year term and ended up staying two years and four months. I am convinced that I bring very little to leadership positions and thus I hold them with a loose grasp. Barb Stewart, our churches Administrative Assistant telephoned me and asked if I could stop by the office and sign the staff evaluations that I had participated in prior to my resignation. Now…Barb has always been a beacon of light in our church. In days that I felt like no one seemed to see me or know me….Barb saw me and valued me. Her kind words today regarding my service on Session and her sadness that I had resigned…made my day and I left her feeling that perhaps I had made a little difference during my short stay.

So, tomorrow we go for the new Subaru Forester. I vividly recall when I drove a 1963 Ford Fairlane with a hole in the floor. Before… I walked everywhere that I needed to travel due to not being able to afford an automobile. Some of my friends considered me a bit of an underachiever. I am a somewhat likened to the tortoise and the hare…with me having the role of tortoise. A friend of mine at the University told me, not long before my retirement, that she had learned my modus operandi…and that being that I succeeded by being underestimated. She noted that Chancellors of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale tended to underestimate me…and that I subsequently achieved my goals for the Civil Service Staff that I represented as the president of the Civil Service Council. I remarked that I often thought of myself as the vintage Television Detective Colombo…staring the veteran actor Peter Falk. In the Colombo television series Colombo always seemed to be a bit bumbling and disheveled and attempting to catch up to the vagaries of the case that he was investigating. I think that I feel a bit like Detective Colombo…and I hope for the positive outcomes that he was able to achieve…

Cool Summer Rain

The Blog had to come first this morning. As I sit on the writing porch and watch the wonderful rain fall I knew that my writing inspiration would not be greater than right now. MJ just noticed that some of our leaves are changing…already. Could that be a harbinger of an early fall? We attended a memorial service at our church yesterday. It did not occur to me until I had left that my visit was my first in nearly 17 months…and it seemed to me like yesterday. A year of normal travel and interaction and ingress and egress to our favorite social groups and houses of worship and restaurants and businesses has disappeared like magic. The effects of our on-going Pandemic are yet to be fully realized. History will record the true transitions that the 2020/2021 Pandemic has wrought. From economics to social interactions to the needed change in faith communities…we have yet to understand the tremendous change that we are in the midst of.

I was thinking of the change that is needed in churches. We who have been churched and settled in our dogma and doctrine and forms of worship…are watching our congregations become the Incredible Shrinking Church. In our determination to not respond to the needs of a lonely and hungry people who are seeking a faith that addresses the real issues that they confront on a daily basis…we loose the spiritual nomads to the many social and sport and fun enterprises that exist for the family on the christian sabbath…Sunday. The human needs are not less…they are greater. The desire to seek and find a God and a faith that understands and wants our input and our vitality and our skills to be a part of it…is inherent in the human spirit. We are members of an increasingly uncertain world…and we long for something to put our faith and trust in…to be an anchor for our soul…

Cults have stepped into the void of the christian church. Denominational churches that at one time had hundreds of members…now have under 100…and continue to shrink by the passing of their lifelong members. When asked…church leadership will say…’Don’t change a thing as this is how the parishioners that I represent want the church to function.’ ‘And the beat goes on,’…but it is the downbeat. The scripture admonishes us to not seek the living among the dead. Some of our ways for reaching out to the lonely throngs around us who have lost loved ones to our Pandemic and who wonder what is the purpose of their lives…and who can not see anyone who seems to care about them…have failed due to our failure to update the program. We have failed because of our fear of change. We have failed because we fail to let go of some of the aspects of a 1950’s church manual…and our refusal to renew our outreach to the people of a new century…we protect a dead program…as we die…

Almost every town and hamlet and village has a cult thriving in its midst. These are faux christian communities that have taken the following of Christ and replaced it with the following of a pastor or minister. These groups ‘Love Bomb’ the prospective member until, as the master fisherman would say, they have the hook firmly implanted in the new prospects jaw. Then comes the Rules of the Road for the new member. A mandatory dedication of a herculean component of their finance to the cult and an obeisance to the groups leader or leaders. These groups can be marked by the increasing financial abundance of the leaders and the penury of the followers. These fake faith communities are noted by their requirements of servitude and work for the common cause and little personal decision making or thought…which is left to the leaders of the group. Cults are thriving while christian churches are dying. Where there is a vacuum of leadership…the wolves will ascend.

Saturday Is Fun

This is the day…is it not? For as long as I can remember Saturday was the day that I waited for all week. The glories of Saturday were incomparable. The benefits of Saturday were too numerous to mention. There were cartoons on Saturday…all morning. There was no school…of which I did not care for much anyway. The kids, of which I felt internally that I was older than, were all available for play and adventure. Often there would be an afternoon trip to Jackie’s house for some play with action figures and the much sought after…Daniel Boone. Jackie’s mom had Kool Aide to drink and cold hot dogs to eat…accompanied by white bread.

Orpheum Theatre screened the same movie on Friday nights and again for their Saturday matinee. Many times it would be a science fiction flick or a Castle Horror movie…in the vein of Dracula or Frankenstein. I think that christianity first enthused me when the great vampire fighter, Peter Cushing, used his cross to fight the evil Dracula. The cross seemed to be very powerful to me…at that point. Sitting in the darkened theatre and watching places that I had never been and people that I had never met intrigued my imagination. John Waynes swagger and no nonsense approach to the demarcation between good and evil was impressive. He seemed to always be on the side of the right and yet was a bit of a rapscallion as he went about his business. It was later that I discovered that life’s problems and needs could not be solved in the ‘John Wayne’ mold of operation.

During our years in Elkville, Illinois and when Aaron and Jonathon were much younger…we enjoyed traveling to St. Louis, Missouri which is a 100 mile drive and the city for we residents of Little Egypt. On many occasions we would drive up on Saturday and stay overnight in order to see a Cubs Cardinals baseball game on each day. These were some fun and adventuresome weekend get-aways. MJ is a consummate Cubs fan. St. Louis Saturdays were filled with visiting the Zoo or the Art Museum or Christmas shopping or simply driving up to the city for dinner.

Freedom is the operating word for Saturday. No work or school obligations. For sometime when we resided in the Village…we drove to our little city of Carbondale to visit their outstanding mall. We would eat in one of the malls many restaurants and enjoy the laid back hustle and bustle of our college town. There was a 4 screen movie theatre in the University Mall…and in the 1970’s I was amazed at the ingenuity of placing such a marvelous entertainment venue in what seemed to me to be an enclosed town square. During my youth I had been accustomed to either individual stores along the streets of Eldorado or the shopping mall that was in Evansville, Indiana. The University Mall had a humongous Sears Department store with an escalator. Sears was the epitome of fine shopping in my world. We did not have a Sears store in Eldorado. Again, we had to drive to Evansville for the elite experience of Sears shopping. I purchased my first home computer at the Sears store in the University Mall. This was in the 1980’s. It was an IBM computer. We played the game, Oregon Trail, on it and did some word processing. It had no internet capability. It’s price tag was two thousand dollars.

For sometime we attended a church that met on Saturday night. I would have enjoyed it more if we had not also met on Sunday afternoon and again on Sunday evening. Actually the traditional habit of churches meeting on Sunday evenings was common 30 years ago. Now we parishioners are thrilled when the pews are semi full for our single service of the week on Sunday morning. I always thought that the rationale for a church meeting on Saturday night was to keep us away from the devil and the glittering baubles of sin that he juggled before us. Mom enjoyed visiting the Honky Tonk on Saturday night. She loved to dance and drink a Slo-Gin Fizz. Not long after she passed in 2013 we visited our favorite restaurant on The Hill in St. Louis…Cunetto House of Pasta…for my birthday. As we sat at the bar Jonathon asked the bartender if he knew how to make a Slo-Gin Fizz. He responded that he did and that they still had some mix that was specific to the making of the drink. He noted that they used to have one patron that ordered the obscure drink…but that they had not seen him in quite awhile. Upon him inspections he pronounced that the contents of the bottle were still good…and we toasted to Grandma Neva June…with her favorite drink…