- God is with us in the Heat of Summer
John's Apocalyptic Christmas message is instructive for parents raising kids in an R-Rated world of violence and disease. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, in the dead of winter and the heat of summer.
- A Little Christmas in June
We have a special treat for dads on Father's Day, June 21st. We are going to have a Little Christmas in June. Join us for Zoom Worship at 10AM on Sunday. People will be offered an opportunity to share a brief tribute in honor of a father or a father figure. We'll also sing happy birthday to people born in June. And here's a treat of some videos that congregation members have filmed on past Christmases in December. I think you will enjoy seeing the sanctuary decorated, hear the music, and remember the message of Christmas is for us all year long. Jesus is Emmanuel; God with us!
- Masks, Family and Music
Today Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide order requiring people to wear masks or other coverings in public spaces, including while taking public transportation, seeking medical care, shopping and in most public settings. "Our numbers are going up, not going down. Hospitalization numbers are just starting to creep back up, and I'm very concerned by what we're seeing," Newsom said.
This announcement reminded me of Craig Walker's reflections on masks when the virus quarantine began. I invite you to read Craig's reflections he calls, Hoping for Peace Amidst Gloom:
Weeks ago, when the news was broadcast that we should not wear face masks, I realized how wrong that advice was. But I also knew that it was necessary in order to avoid putting an even a greater drain on the national supply of masks. After of a lifetime as a volunteer firefighter, the importance of wearing a face mask was pressed into me. When I started as a full-time firefighter with the Los Angeles County Fire Department in 1958, the breathing apparatus had not yet been invented so we would enter into a burning building with wet red bandanas tied across our faces. The Mayor of Los Angeles may soon issue an edict requiring anyone who leaves home to wear a face covering of some kind, hopefully not an N95 mask. These need to be saved for medical responders. The Mayor’s theory is that anything is better than nothing. Looking back on my days with L.A. County Fire, I realize that that was also the same philosophy. It wasn’t ideal but it was all that we had and we made it work.
Last night on local television they showed people modeling some homemade masks. Honestly, bank robbers must be simply delighted. Imagine if the police responded to a robbery call at a bank and arrived to find everyone wearing a mask!
We are adapting to this gloom. I live with my bride of 55 years in isolation. Luckily, it has been in isolation for only the last two weeks. Our groceries are delivered to us and I go through the drive-in bank. I do isometric resistance exercises and sit-ups every day and ride my trike for the aerobic part. In between, I work at the computer, writing things, and I take as many naps as possible. We live in relative peace, although our relatives are located far from us.
I grew up in a family where relative strife reigned between distant relatives. As an adult, I just let the separation, caused by hurts long ago, continue. Only fairly recently have I reached out to distant cousins in an attempt to breach the walls of time. I am pleased with the success it has brought. I am coming to know some of the children of one cousin and it has been a great experience for me. Life is just a little richer when relatives can come together and celebrate each other’s lives.
Our current isolation is an excellent time to reach out to family. Isolation is a looking glass that has a way of helping us focus on those things that are really important in life. Talking with each other and being together in spirit are two of those important things. Isolation helps us to slow our lives down temporarily and take inventory of where we are. Do you like what you see in the mirror?
Listening to Opera Radio this morning, I heard a piece by Henry Purcell. He was born in London in 1659. In 1695, he wrote the song called “Lead Me to Some Peaceful Gloom.” In German, this would be called a Widerspruch, literally, “something which speaks against itself.” In English we call it a dichotomy. Peace and gloom appear to be a contradiction. We are living in a time of contradiction. Isolation, while separating, has brought many people together. I immediately realized that this 325-year-old music with its lilting melody and profound musicality, applies perfectly to soothing the soul in today’s world. Find it. Listen to it. Let it touch your heart and truly help you find peace amidst the gloom.
- Juneteenth in our Area
On June 19, 1865, enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. Now, 155 years later, people in cities and towns across the U.S. continue to mark the occasion with celebrations. Here's information about Juneteenth in our area.
If you'd like to read more, The New York Times has an informative article on Juneteenth.
- Hoping for the Anvil Chorus
Many of us have certain music that speaks to us. I'm a Bob Dylan guy. Don't know why. He just speaks to me. I like all kinds of music, but Dylan always has something to say. Maybe I just feel good singing along, knowing I can sing better than him.
My friend Craig Walker likes opera. Here's a story of how a special song came to him at just the right time.
I showed up at the hospital yesterday only to find that the surgery center was closed and the door that I was supposed to enter was locked. I found a nurse taking a break on a nearby bench and explained that I had a surgery scheduled in a short time and I couldn’t get in. She responded that surgery was closed, with all appointments cancelled, and that I should go home.
Somehow, that just didn’t seem right. I had talked with the surgeon just the day before, and I couldn’t believe that she would not have called me, if it was cancelled. Instead of leaving, I walked to the hospital main entrance. About a dozen personnel were outside in a tent like structure. I had to pass through, be interviewed about recent travel and how I presently felt, and my temperature taken. They told me to go into the main reception area, and someone would look me up in the computer and find out what was going on.
The main reception area was huge but had only one other patient. The young lady behind the counter, six feet away from me, used her computer to confirm that surgery was to start in half an hour and told me where to go. I was met by an attendant who said that I would be taken in right away because patient #1 had failed to appear. Later, at the end of my surgery, the surgeon was informed that patient #3 had failed to show up as well. I then related to the doctor my own experience, and she said that she was going to have look into that.
Since the surgery was minor, and on my nose, a minimal amount of preparation was done and I was soon in the operating room under the bright lights. The music piped into the OR was loud and obnoxious. A nurse asked if I liked it, and I responded in the negative, telling her it wasn’t opera music. Verdi’s opera Il Travatore was soon playing, much to my delight. The staff was so kind. There is nothing quite like listening to opera while undergoing surgery and I recommend it highly to you.
About a half hour later, the wonderful lady surgeon was well into removing part of my nose when came the unmistakable opening notes of the Anvil Chorus. When I was a graduate student in Zurich Switzerland at age 22, I attended the first opera of my life. It cost 1 Swiss Franc (27 cents) as a student and I sat in the 7th balcony. It happened that the opera that day was also Il Travatore. I still remember when the Anvil Chorus began. It was during that piece that I fell in love with opera and have remained an opera fan all of my life.
Now 58 years later, I was listening to the same magic music in a different country and under very different circumstances. There is a certain and unforgettable cadence to the Anvil Chorus. When the chorus plays, the music soars and brings the soul right along with it. It is truly remarkable music. I pointed this out to the surgeon and how the music just lends itself to hammering, or slicing and dicing. She agreed that it was very nice music to slice to. Forgive my dangling modifier but I then worried that perhaps the surgeon might get carried away, or more specifically, that more of my nose might be carried away than is needed. Fortunately, the surgery ended before my nose and the opera did.
In just another week, if the pathology is good, I will have my nose repaired. We can be thankful that one of the principles of modern medicine is to not send the patient out into the world with only half of a nose. In what I was told would be a long and complicated procedure, two surgeons will labor to construct a new nose so that I will be complete once again. I can only hope that the Anvil Chorus will mysteriously appear to weave its magic over the whole operating room. I am convinced that hope will carry me through.