Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Henry Muhlenberg (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787)
Patriarch of American Lutherans
October 7

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg is the principal organizer of American Lutheranism. He was born in Einbeck, Germany, in 1711, and studied at Goettingen and at Halle. Lutherans in America at that time were found in a few scattered communities, of various national backgrounds, with no central organization, and with a grave danger of factionalism. Several congregations wrote to Halle University, asking for a pastor to take charge. Hermann Francke, a Lutheran leader of the Pietist movement at Halle, chose Muhlenberg and sent him to America. He arrived in Charleston on 23 September 1742. He was soon accorded widespread recognition by Lutheran churches, German, Swedish, and others, as the senior Lutheran pastor in America.


Monday, October 05, 2015


Is it too extreme to call commercials irresponsible, even when they have the disclaimers at the bottom? Is it being too picky to show real-life-type dangers being overcome simply by having the right vehicle?

That came to mind recently while watching two car commercials. In one a family is driving across a desert or rocky wilderness with a big storm brewing in the distance. Lighting is flashing, wind is blowing, the kids in the care are showing fear. All will be okay, though. This car can face anything.

Then there's the other one with a car driving through a rain storm on an average street (no wilderness here, it's right next door). They drive right into- and supposedly through- water covering the road.

Yes, it should be common sense, but when the car companies and their ad agencies give us realistically dangerous scenarios where the driver takes the car into situations that we are told to avoid (Turn Around- Don't Drown!), maybe someone needs to express some responsibility.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

A 45-Year Memory: In Memory of Janis

January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970

On October 1 Janis Joplin did a quick a capella recording of a little ditty she had written a couple months earlier.

It would be the last song she recorded. She died three days later.

This Kris Kristofferson song from the last album that was just being completed when she died. It would be a posthumous #1:

The full measure of her powerful voice and style is probably best captured in this cover as she performed it on the Dick Cavett show:

Saturday, October 03, 2015

When Will We Ever Learn?

With the latest school shooting in Oregon, this one line from Pete Seeger's antiwar song kept coming to mind:

When will they ever learn?
But often Pete and others would change that last line the last time through to
When will WE ever learn?
In memory of the latest names added to the tragic list, here is Joan Baez's version. When will we work to end this war that is happening in our own nation with the victims being innocent people like any of us?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Vincent de Paul (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Vincent de Paul (1580-1660)
Helper of the Poor
Religious and Prophetic Witness
September 27

Out of his Confraternity of Charity there arose an order of nuns called the Daughters (or Sisters) of Charity, devoted to nursing those who were sick and poor. He said of them, "Their convent is the sick-room, their chapel the parish church, their cloister the streets of the city." Many babies were abandoned in Paris every year, and when Vincent saw some of them, he established an orphanage for them, and thereafter often wandered through the slums, looking in corners for abandoned babies, which he carried back to the orphanage.

He complained to the King that ecclesiastical posts were distributed simply as political favors, and that the spiritual qualifications of the appointees were simply ignored. The King responded by creating a Council of Conscience to remedy the matter, with Vincent at the head. On one occasion, a noblewoman of the court, furious with Vincent because he refused to nominate her son for a position as bishop, threw a stool at him. He left the room with a stream of blood pouring from his forehead, and said to a companion who was waiting for him, "Is it not wonderful how strong a mother's love for her son can be?"


A 50-year Memory - A Video for October

An early music video for the song that was #1 at the beginning of October 1965, my senior year in high school.

I don't know when or where this video was shown- I don't remember it. But the song itself has one of those great hooks and riffs that live long in the memory. Two brothers of the original combo were from Ohio which may explain why this is the official rock song of the state of Ohio. It also is the unofficial fight song of The Ohio State University Buckeyes. (Wikipedia)

The way music changes from week to week is shown by the difference between "Sloopy" and the song it replaced at the top of the charts. Here's a video from the TV show Hullabaloo with Barry McGuire performing his hit. This performance I remember. It isn't easy to forget.

By the way, McGuire was one of the New Christy Minstrels before this one shot at stardom. In the early 1970s he became a pioneer in the contemporary Christian music scene.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Tuning Slide - Watching With Wow! and Insight

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Last week I talked about the  "Wow!" factor and how it is  important not to fall prey to it in the sense of being overwhelmed and not getting intimidated by the music (or other things.)  Well, this past week I came across a trumpet quintet video that blew me away. My first reaction was "Wow!" But as I kept watching I allowed the music to move me and my understanding to flow from it.

Here's the video. Take 7 1/2 minutes if you like to watch and then read on.

Oklahoma State (Division Winner) perform Toccata and Fugue in ...
Oklahoma State University win the Getzen Trumpet Small Trumpet Ensemble Division with “Toccata and Fugue in D minor (Bach)” at the 2015 National Trumpet Competition.Video - Michael Cano
Posted by Auckland City Brass Band on Thursday, September 24, 2015

My first thoughts- any brass group doing a decent job on a Bach transcription deserves the "Wow!" The music of J S Bach is always spectacular and moving. Bach touches so many sides of the human experience that one must allow the music to live on its own. Math and magic and amazingly well-constructed phrases make Bach untouchable. His "Toccata and Fugue" ranks among his greatest works. The toccata shows the "improvisational" touch and the fugue the polyphonic structures. Originally written for organ, a brass transcription has to take certain liberties. Any group wanting to perform it has to know the music and their place in it.

So what was it about this group that caught my attention and my "Wow!"

First, they just start out with such confidence. The opening phrase sings and in so doing lifted me up into the music from the word go. "Now that we have your attention...."

That took poise and confidence. So second I was aware that this group was comfortable with itself and its musicianship. They are performing at a competition, so they have worked hard to get to this point, but they don't appear in the least bit nervous. They are there and want you to listen to them. They like what they are about to do- and they want you to enjoy it, too. They also trust each other that the other people will do what they are supposed to do.

As they play, I noticed, third, that they are aware of each other no matter what is going on. Even when the one moves around to the opposite end the whole group is involved. Their body language throughout let me know that they were playing as a unit. More than a team, the unit moves together with all parts moving smoothly.

Fourth, and I know this may be part of watching on a computer monitor, at times it is difficult to separate which player is playing at any given time. That is part of the movement I mentioned above. But it goes beyond that into the smooth transitions from each musical phrase to the next. The handing-off of the melody is seamless.

 Next, fifth, when they are having to move around, change instruments, adjust the tuning, they do so with class. Part of that is the awareness of each other, but it is also, I think, that they are aware that even when they are not playing, what they do is part of the music. That is an often overlooked aspect of a public performance. Yes, people are there to listen to the music, but the performers can do things onstage that detract from that. These musicians are very aware of that and work very clearly to keep it to a minimum.

Everything else falls into place for me as I notice these aspects. It allows me to revel in the wonderful sound they present, the fine technique that is always evident, the deep knowledge of the music itself since they are not using music.  The entertainment value of the music is enhanced. The success of the group is in their relationship with each other and the music.

Instead of just going "Wow!" I found some things for myself, none of which is profound in and of itself. We all know about working together with others as "teams" and "units." We are all aware that we need to be sensitive to those around us and their part in what we are doing together. We agree that if we do not feel comfortable or competent with what we are doing, we will not succeed.

I may never play the Toccata and Fugue in a trumpet or brass quintet, but the inspiration of this performance will have an impact on what I do play- and beyond that- to how I interact with people every day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Vincent de Paul (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Vincent de Paul (1580-1660)
Helper of the Poor
Religious and Prophetic Witness
September 27

Vincent de Paul was born in Gascony in about 1580, of peasant stock. He was an intelligent lad, and his father sent him off to be educated. He was ordained at twenty, and at first was interested chiefly in a successful career. But when he was thirty, he accepted a post as chaplain and tutor in the household of Philip de Gondi, Count of Joigny. This brought him into contact with the peasants on the Gondi estate, and he became concerned for their needs, physical and spiritual. A peasant who believed himself to be dying confessed to him that his previous confessions for many years had been dishonest. Vincent began to preach in the local church on confession, repentance, forgiveness, and the love of God. His sermons drew such crowds of penitents that he had to call in a group of other priests to assist him. He took on the pastorship of a neighboring church attended by a more fashionable and aristocratic crowd, and there he likewise drew many of his listeners to repentance and amendment of life. Returning to Paris, he worked among the prisoners destined for the galleys who were being held at the Conciergerie.

In 1625 he established the Congregation of the Mission (now known as the Vincentians, or the Lazarists), a community of priests who undertook to renounce all ecclesiastical advancement and devote themselves to work in the small towns and villages of France. In an age not noted for "interdenominational courtesy," he instructed his missioners that Protestants were to be treated as brothers, with respect and love, without patronage or condescension or contentiousness. Wealthy men and women came to him, expressing a wish to amend their lives, and he organized them into a Confraternity of Charity, and set them to work caring for the poor and sick in hospitals and in home visits.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Moon Fun

Did the eclipse last night since it is the last lunar eclipse for a few years. In addition to all the standard shots of the shadow creeping across the man in the moon's otherwise clear visage, I tried several with the zoom. Here are the three that worked best - just for fun.

I set the exposure for 30-seconds on all of them. Then after an initial period changed the zoom. When doing so the larger image showed up further to the left in the picture.

On this one I just did one shift, about half-way through the exposure and lo and behold, two eclipsing moons.

On this one the exposure time changed more through the cycle- hence some are brighter than others. This time the larger picture is to the right. I think I might have started with the large and got to the smaller ones sooner than I expected to, hence the brighter images.

This one looks like "The moon is falling! The moon is falling!" Either that or a rocket taking off. This was a small to large exposure as the larger images moved off the left side of the field of view.

My camera ran out of power just as totality was ending so I didn't get any shots of the moon getting brighter.  But it was interesting and awesome to watch. I'll see what else I can come up with of the eclipse, possibly including some video. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 25, 2015


The visit of Pope Francis to the US has raised a number of interesting reactions. Perhaps the most important to many of us is the way his presence and witness has raised such anger among the right-wing conservatives. They do not like what he has to say and haven't for a very long time. Since he made his first social statements through his address to Congress he has taken a clear stand that spirituality has something to do with how we all live.

Now, on the surface it would seem that these conservatives would like what he has been doing. They have been the ones saying that the Bible must be believed and that religious beliefs should be considered when electing a president. They have taken what they deem to be the "moral" position that the country should follow. Remember, they even started out calling themselves the "moral majority."

Unfortunately their religious position sounds a great deal like right-wing political talking points. My cynicism even leads me to think from time to time that these positions are political, not religious, positions. They are taken in order to win votes. By appearing to be the religiously good people, these politicians are hoping to to get the votes needed to tale power.

Then along comes a person of spirituality and faith expressed in, and an expression of, their religion. Suddenly the political "spirituality" is shown as wanting. The narrowness of opinion, the anger, the judgmentalism is exposed. The Pope becomes an anti-Christ or a false prophet. Why? Because he disagrees with the status quo. Why? Because he challenges the narrow, uncaring attitude in the politically "spiritual."

It is one thing to develop one's political understanding out of one's spiritual and religious outlook. It is entirely different to develop the spiritual understanding from the political. The latter is pandering to the world's views; the former is trying to be faithful. The latter tends to be based on fear; the former has discovered the hope of faith.

Do I agree with everything the Pope says? Of course not. I think he has a way to go yet on women's activities in the church, including ordination. I disagree with his unbending anti-abortion stance. I think he needs to be even more aware of and responsive to those who have been hurt by the church- the abused, the indigenous peoples. But that doesn't mean he is a false prophet. Nor does it mean that I am a better Christian than he is because of my stance. The ideologues of either side would have us be in 100% agreement on everything. That is not the way human relationships work.

The Pope spoke. He comes from a different point of view than most of us white US citizens. He does not have the narrow view that some of his US opponents want him to have.

Thank God he is a prophet. Prophets are never popular with the powers that be- or those seeking to get that power.

This week the voice of a prophet named Francis was heard in our land. Praise God.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Sergius of Radonezh (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Sergius (1314-1392)
Abbot of Holy Trinity
September 25

The Metropolitan, Alexis, being eighty-four years old, perceived that his end was approaching, and he wished to give Sergius his blessing and appoint him as his successor. But the humble monk, in great alarm, declared that he could not accept and wear the sacred picture of the Blessed Virgin suspended by gold chains, which the primate had sent him from his own breast on which it had hung. "From my youth up," said he, "I have never possessed or worn gold, and how now can I adorn myself in my old age?"

St. Sergius died at an extremely advanced age in 1392, amidst the lamentations of his contemporaries.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tuning Slide - Wow! or Not: A Musician's Mind

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Music is the shorthand of emotion.
― Leo Tolstoy

Like most of us I have been “Wowed!” by a performance, event, situation. I will sit there with mouth agape wondering how in the world they did that?

In doing some surfing on the Internet I discovered that there is a whole understanding of “Wow!” as something to aim for. Two headers on a Google search said:
  • Good Customer Service is Over -- WOW Your Customers
  • Ways To Stop Satisfying Customers And Start Wowing Them
I even found a book for choral musicians
  • The Wow Factor: How to Create It, Inspire It & Achieve It: A Comprehensive Guide for Performers by Steve Zegree

The Urban Dictionary defines the “wow factor”:
  • A set of properties belonging to an object that pleasantly surprise a watcher.
And the Cambridge dictionary says:
  • a quality or feature of something that makes people feel great excitement or admiration:
Pleasant surprise, excitement and admiration. Yep.

As a musician such a moment can be inspirational to me- or send me to give up on even trying. My favorite joke when listening to such a trumpet performance is simply, They didn’t put those notes into my trumpet.

Which of course isn’t true.

But being "Wowed!" by a performance may actually work against us as musicians. It can get in the way of experiencing the music on a deeper level. When we feel "Wow!" we move away from the music itself and fall into our emotional response. Not a bad thing, of course, as I will talk about in a little bit, but at that moment we end up becoming lost in our response and ignoring what is happening in the music itself that is making us feel this way.

I don't mean that we should sit in detached disinterest and listen to the music as if it were some class assignment. Nor do I mean that we should sit and analyze every moment of music that we hear to see what it is doing.

Rather I see the need to catch the "Wow!" and let it be real, not an overwhelming of our emotions by the music, but having the music flow through us in a way that we can feel and touch its meanings and movements.

The emotional response I mentioned is not something to be avoided or to fall 150% into. Rather it is a cue- a trigger- that says to me, when it happens, that there is something exciting and important happening here in this music. It is moving me; it is making my inner self sit up and pay attention; it is grabbing hold of me.
  • What is happening? 
  • What's going on here? 
  • Why is it touching me in this way?
Another word to describe this is one I feel is an essential to daily life: Mindfulness.

When the "Wow!" happens it is calling me to mindfulness. It is calling me to pay attention to what is happening in my life at this very moment through this music.

I remember a Wynton Marsalis concert I attended 25 years or so ago. I no longer remember the piece he played, but I remember a moment when he finished off a solo in the most incredibly moving way. As it ended and I exhaled with a quiet "Huh!" I heard someone else in the audience do the same thing just before the applause started. I figured it was another trumpet player who understood the feeling of that solo.

I didn't analyze it, I let it happen and gave thanks for the moment. It was not a "Wow!" as much as it was a moment of awareness. I felt myself as real IN the moment as Wynton's notes touched me. When we get stuck in the "Wow!" we can lose that mindful awareness.

To grow as a musician I need to listen to the kind of performances that might contain the "Wow!" but I cannot be overcome by them. I have to learn to live in them and them to live in me. I can then learn to find that same mindfulness as I play my music. It's just being present. And experiencing it.

Which is what mindfulness is daily life is all about. When we are willing to be open to what is going on around us and acknowledge its power, we are not being "Wowed!" We are rather, living in the possibilities of the moment.


It is 3:21 AM Central Daylight Time.

Summer has passed; fall has arrived.

Our clocks will have different times, but it is the same moment world-wide. No waiting for the sun to get to different time zones. It has crossed the equator on its southward journey.

Well, the moment has passed. You probably slept right though it. So did I. I set this to automatically post.

So, in other words, this is all just history now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Sergius of Radonezh (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Sergius (1314-1392)
Abbot of Holy Trinity
September 25

To the people of Russia, Sergius is a national hero and an example of Russian spiritual life at its best.

Sergius was born around 1314, the son of a farmer. When he was twenty, he and his brother began to live as hermits in a forest near Moscow. Others joined them in what became the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, a center for the renewal of Russian Christianity.

Pilgrims came from all Russia to worship and to receive spiritual instruction, advice, and encouragement. The Russians were at the time largely subservient to the neighboring (non-Christian) Tatar (or Tartar) people. Sergius rallied the people behind Prince Dimitri Donskoi, who defeated the Tatars in 1380 and established an independent Russia.

Sergius was a gentle man, of winning personality. Stories told of him resemble those of Francis of Assisi, including some that show that animals tended to trust him. He had the ability to inspire in men an intense awareness of the love of God, and a readiness to respond in love and obedience. He remained close to his peasant roots. One contemporary said of him, "He has about him the smell of fir forests." To this day, the effect of his personality on Russian devotion remains considerable.


Monday, September 21, 2015


We have been on the road for three weeks. We got home today. While we weren't traveling every day, we did cover over 3,500 miles since August 31.

We had a lot of great times visiting family and friends.

But I am wiped. Tired. Traveling like this is a lot like work.

So I will go back to work tomorrow.

That's why I'm only semi-retired.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chimes of Freedom

Bob Dylan's remarkable song, Chimes of Freedom came on my iPod shuffle mix this afternoon. It has always been one of my favorite of Dylan's protest era songs. It speaks of the ever-present need for the chimes of freedom to be tolling for so many of us. As I was listening, the first verse listing jumped out at me as befitting all the news of refugees in Europe. This part of the song reminds us of the responsibility that I believe we have toward our fellow human beings:

Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Here's the whole song. 

But the rest of the list is just as powerful as that first verse...

I can find myself at least a couple of times in the list...

or people I have known and met...
the rebel, the rake
the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake

the gentle, the kind
the guardians and protectors of the mind
the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time

the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
the deaf an’ blind, the mute
the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit

the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail

the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe

We gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing!

It's hard to beat the poetry and depth of Dylan. Even when the words seem to be coming from somewhere the rest of us are unable to find, the way the words meld and move make us stop and pay attention. Dylan has often used words as others use musical notes.

The chimes flash full and loud in this unequaled song. Listen again, or hear Bruce Springsteen's superb version (Link).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Hildegard of Bingen (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
September 17

Hildegard travelled throughout southern Germany and into Switzerland and as far as Paris, preaching. Her sermons deeply moved the hearers, and she was asked to provide written copies. In the last year of her life, she was briefly in trouble because she provided Christian burial for a young man who had been excommunicated. Her defense was that he had repented on his deathbed, and received the sacraments. Her convent was subjected to an interdict, but she protested eloquently, and the interdict was revoked. She died on 17 September 1179.

Her surviving works include more than a hundred letters to emperors and popes, bishops, nuns, and nobility.... She wrote 72 songs including a play set to music.

She left us about seventy poems and nine books. Two of them are books of medical and pharmaceutical advice, dealing with the workings of the human body and the properties of various herbs. (These books are based on her observations and those of others, not on her visions.) ...She also wrote a commentary on the Gospels and another on the Athanasian Creed.

But her major works are three books on theology: Scivias ("Know the paths!"), Liber Vitae Meritorum (on ethics), and De Operatione Dei. They deal (or at least the first and third do) with the material of her visions. The visions, as she describes them, are often enigmatic but deeply moving, and many who have studied them believe that they have learned something from the visions that is not easily put into words.

Hildegard wrote and spoke extensively about social justice, about freeing the downtrodden, about the duty of seeing to it that every human being, made in the image of God, has the opportunity to develop and use the talents that God has given him, and to realize his God-given potential. This strikes a chord today.

Hildegard wrote explicitly about the natural world as God's creation, charged through and through with His beauty and His energy; entrusted to our care, to be used by us for our benefit, but not to be mangled or destroyed.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Tuning Slide- A Bit About Trumpets

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

"Ah, the trumpet.
Now there's an instrument on which one
can truly embarrass himself!"
(G. Keillor to G. Bordner)

A trumpet is a musical instrument. It has the highest register in the brass family. As a signaling device, trumpets have a very long history, dating back to at least 1500 BC; they have been used as musical instruments since the 15th century. They are played by blowing air through almost-closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound that starts a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the instrument. Since the late 15th century they have primarily been constructed of brass tubing, usually bent twice into a rounded oblong shape.

What is so special about the trumpet?
First- it is often the lead, giving the melody a good ride, soaring over the other instruments. Yet, it is not the only lead. Others can and do take the lead parts that give new insight and direction to the music.

Second- it is easily learned, but is deceptive in its difficulties. To maintain one’s skill at trumpet, one must be willing to work, regularly. Too much time off and you notice the problem. Again, other instruments are in the same boat, but because the trumpet stands out so easily and carries so far it can be downright embarrassing when you are not at your best.

I was sold on the trumpet with three individuals who I will no doubt talk about more over the months. I am not even sure any more who I heard first. The three settled my mind on the trumpet and no one could keep me from it. Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, and Herb Alpert set me on this road. When the Saints Go Marching In, Java, and The Lonely Bull/Tijuana Taxi were the songs that allowed the trumpet to shine.

Many others have come along and had a great influence, but these three set the tone for me. But I also learned that the trumpet has a great part in classical music as much as it does in jazz. Sousa marches added another dimension.

Some might say that the trumpet is only interesting to those who like to stand out, be obvious, overpower others. While there may be a (very, very) small kernel of truth in that, the place of the trumpet allowed me to express myself in ways that my uncertain shyness never allowed me to. What a joy.

Of course the trumpet isn’t the only instrument in the world that can do this, in spite of what most trumpet players might have you believe. For me, with the trumpet, depending on the part you are playing, the trumpet can have all kinds of different ways to express itself- the lead in first trumpet, a nice counter-melody in third, wonderful harmony in second, sometimes doubling the passage with other instruments, sometimes being there on your own.

Sadly, in many bands, even community bands, it is often the practice to use the stronger trumpets on first and the weakest on third. This can happen because, naturally, the weaker ones cannot play the first parts. But I have found that a section of trumpets where all can play any of the parts, makes for a strong sound from the trumpets. Plus, having accomplished players playing with the weaker ones on 2nd or 3rd, helps the weaker ones grow and develop.

There are no secondary or inferior parts. We only make them that way by our attitude. As the great trumpeter and composer W. C. Handy said in the quote at the top of this post- that’s a lot like life itself. The trumpet does not play itself. One does not become proficient at anything, including trumpet, without putting work into it.

Nor does it mean that because one does not have all the incredible talents of the “stars” that one is inferior as a human being. I will never be Louis Armstrong or Maynard Ferguson, but I can be the best I can be. In my life, as an old Jewish story goes, God will not ask me why I wasn’t Moses or Abraham or any other great and talented individual. God will just ask me why I didn’t do the best I could with what I have and who I am.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Hildegard of Bingen (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
September 17

Hildegard of Bingen has been called by her admirers "one of the most important figures in the history of the Middle Ages," and "the greatest woman of her time." Her time was the 1100's (she was born in 1098), the century of Eleanor of Aquitaine, of Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux, of the rise of the great universities and the building of Chartres cathedral.

She was the daughter of a knight, and when she was eight years old she went to the Benedictine monastery at Mount St Disibode to be educated. The monastery was in the Celtic tradition, and housed both men and women (in separate quarters). When Hildegard was eighteen, she became a nun. Twenty years later, she was made the head of the female community at the monastery.

Within the next four years, she had a series of visions, and devoted the ten years from 1140 to 1150 to writing them down, describing them (this included drawing pictures of what she had seen), and commenting on their interpretation and significance. During this period, Pope Eugenius III sent a commission to inquire into her work. The commission found her teaching orthodox and her insights authentic, and reported so to the Pope, who sent her a letter of approval.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Because They Don't Know the Words?

Just for fun- some pictures of Hummingbirds. Fun to try to get different pictures and as good a shot as possible. Sometimes you get close to succeeding. (Obviously close-cropped.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Curing Boxes and Baggage

At first read, this is a heavy and complex piece of writing from artist Anne Truitt. Take a moment and ponder it.

Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.
--Brain Pickings
Here's the title of the piece on Brain Pickings that includes this phrase:
Compassion, Humility, and How to Cure Our Chronic Self-Righteousness
That leads me to see something very important in the passage that could easily be missed. It is about how each one of us can overcome the tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, a tendency caused by an unwillingness to let go of the past and all the imperfect insights, self-centered interpretations, and putting other people into boxes that limit them while allowing us to be "different from" them.

Okay, that too is more complex than it has to be.

Each of us can tend to maintain our feelings about ourselves by not allowing others to grow and change. We hold on to the old ideas and keep our view of them based on the past.

Last weekend I visited a close high school friend that I haven't been with in person for nearly 45 years. While we have been friends on Facebook for several years, I am sure the images we had of each other were more than colored by our high school relationship. Most likely they were almost totally defined by that 50-year old experience.

We spent the weekend "catching up." It was a combination of reminiscing and letting each other know how we each became the people we are today over these last 50 years. By the end of the weekend the past was more truly the past. I can no longer see him through the eyes of an 18-year old looking at another 18-year old. Neither of us is the person we were then (Thanks be to God, at least as far as my life is concerned!)

Those old images that Truitt mentions above truly do doom us. They doom us to miss the great wonders of growing and changing as well as having the new experiences that keep us stuck in what we like to call "the good, old days," which they were not. They simply were.

This seems to be a time for me to make some of these old connections into new experiences. Tomorrow I will be preaching at the church I served from 1977 - 1984. I have not been there in 30 years. Many people are gone who were part of the church then. The "young people" are no longer young and their children are no longer the age of children. I will be an interesting experience to see the church and my experiences there from a new perspective.

Truitt called this other way of handling the past love. It is the opposite of the inattention that keeps stereotypes, old memories, and our own baggage from stunting our growth and relationships. We are far deeper, wider, and richer than the boxes we put ourselves and others in. I am looking forward to seeing what that means at the church and for me.

Last weekend helped set the tone for me to be able to do that.