Sunday, June 26, 2016

Still Dreaming

Funny, but almost exactly two years ago I wrote a blog post about dreaming. And here I am again, sitting down to write about dreaming again.  

Now, I'm not talking about dreaming that one does when we're asleep. I'm talking about the kind of dreams that really are fantasies, or desires, or wishes - the kind of dreams we have about a different or better life. Dreams about being more financially secure, or even well-off. Dreams about being other places, or even other lives. For example, I often dream of a life being more involved in choral music as a choir director. Sometimes my dreams are not totally unreachable. Those dreams might take more time or harder work. 

It seems for me that right now my dreams are about taking time away from what my current life is. I love my kids, but sometimes I yearn for a place to myself. I like my job, but I often wonder what it'd be like to be retired. I yearn to travel, both on the road and over the sea. And typical of my dreams, there's a great bit of detail. 

Dreams are a way to escape reality. Some take their dreams and do nothing with them. Some take their dreams and work hard to make them reality. For me, the dreams are simply escape. Perhaps, too, my dreams are an offshoot of something my mother had: never being satisfied with what one has. My mom was interesting in that way. I know that while we lived in Glendale, there were two occasions where my mom influenced my dad to look at and in one case, make an offer on property. In that occasion, we backed out during escrow and we were sued. I can't remember the outcome, but it didn't stop her from wanting to move again. Finally, they did move when my dad retired. But even though they liked their San Clemente home, my mom always wanted a place with an ocean view. Dad didn't go for it this time, though. 

And so I feel I have that same thing. Yes, there are things about this 1958-built house that I don't like, and I will admit I wish I was MUCH closer to work. But part of what makes me dream is that I can't do anything about following that dream. I'm stuck - and that makes me dream more. 

So, here's to dreaming, and the hope that someday it may come true....

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The man with the hat

It came and went quietly, and I took just a few seconds to acknowledge it, but last Thursday the 23rd was the 12th anniversary of my dad's passing. Of course, I have a lot on my mind these days, so that might be easy to excuse. And with my mom's passing in February (coincidentally on the 23rd) I may have still felt some loss from that to dwell on my dad's passing. 

But today, in the stillness of the house, highlighted by the sound of the waterfall out back and the doves cooing, I thought of my dad - the man with the hat. 

I've shared before of my dad's love of traveling, particularly on the open road. I believe when he was younger he did a lot of camping, and enjoyed that very much. As a kid, we tried that one time, and my mom didn't like it. So, my dad compromised, and future family trips were done in either rented cab-over campers, or motorhomes. And with each and every trip, there was my dad - the man with the hat.

Dad loved his cowboy hat. I'm not sure if he went the full route and got a Stetson. But his hat or hats on our trips were always the same: light grey colored, and always turned up on the sides. This was the hat that went with us on our first family trip touring the "Grand Loop" of Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon in 1969. It went on our subsequent trips to Yellowstone and smaller trips to Joshua Tree or Death Valley. Yes. This was dad's "travel hat". And I believe, for my brothers and I, it was just as much a part of the trip as mom's almost daily dinner of hot dogs and baked beans, or my oldest brother, Donald, and my mom playing Canasta, or my other brother Jim and I fighting for the "shotgun" seat. 

By the time dad and I were taking our own trips in the 80's and 90's, the cowboy hat was gone, replaced by baseball caps. The man in the hat was still there, though, sharing with me that love of the open road, of seeing, of absorbing, and becoming part of what you see.

I miss that man with the hat. Love you, dad.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Missing the message

I have come to the conclusion that no one who considers themselves to be a Christian can support or even vote for Donald Trump. Conversely, I believe that anyone who supports Trump and calls themselves or considers themselves a Christian is NOT a follower of the Christ revealed in the Gospels.

There. I said it.


Because now these so-called "Christians" support a man who has had multiple marriages. They support a guy who's admitted to affairs. They want a man for President who has belittled disabled persons, who's called Mexicans "rapists", who has obviously shown from his few references to the bible to have little biblical knowledge, and has encouraged tacitly and even directly violence against those who disagree with him. He's called opponents names, like he was a schoolyard bully. He has boasted about the size of his penis. He's spoken about building walls and has criticized the pope (which they probably liked rather than disliked). He has carried himself and used language that would make a Sunday school teacher blush. 

And yet, they are behind him. Through their support of Trump, they ignore the very things Christ spoke of in the Gospels: feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit those in prison - basically, show compassion. And Trump has no compassion in his words or deeds. He advocates in both his rhetoric and his lack of tact a message of hate, misogyny, abuse, and stupidity. And the people that I have run across that are Trump supporters like what he says and stands for - they use the excuse "he speaks his mind", which they like in this era of political correctness. And the religious right, which probably does not really like him, have stood in support of him because they just don't want Clinton, whom they perceive as another Obama.

They are so focused on making sure that gays cannot marry, that women cannot have safe abortions, that they miss the message of compassion, love, and sacrifice that Jesus teaches us. They have forsaken Christ and God for some ideological world where women are at home, are compliant and obedient, that children grow up straight, that marriage is ALWAYS between and man and a woman, and that the college age girl who got knocked-up during a drunken night of partying in the dorm has to carry a baby full term.

Yet, they don't worry about that baby after it's born. They want to cut funding to aid people who need it most. Yup, that's Christ-like. They speak of traditional marriage being threatened by gays, but take it from my experience as well as many others, there are LOTS of ways marriages can be threatened, least of all by some same-sex couple in San Francisco wishing to marry. They speak of equality yet do not pay women equally for what they do. And they wrap it all up in the American flag, accusing those of us who see it as a symbol of freedom and diversity, and not something to be venerated. 

And they hate. And that is not love, and certainly not the love that Jesus calls us to share. Now, many of you might wag your finger at me and say it's not my place to judge. But I am not being judgemental. I am calling out those who espouse the name of Jesus, yet commit acts that are opposed to his very teachings. That is admonishment, and we are encouraged to do that. Nathan the prophet did that when King David had Uriah the Hittite killed so he could have Uriah's wife. And Paul encourages Christians in Colossians 1:26-28 to admonish one another. When we see wrong, we are not to judge, but to call out the sin, or in this case, the hypocrisy, to help our fellow believers see the true meaning of the Gospel. 

They are completely off-topic and missing the message. And in doing so, they are serving a man who is hateful, belittling, misogynistic, racist, a bully and tactless. And the only reason they do it is because they have been assured he will carry out their agenda. And to them, THAT'S more important than living the life that we were told to live by the man whose name they worship.

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Matthew 6:24

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The neglect of an old friend....

I deplore it when things of beauty (in my perspective) are disused or unused. When I drive by a house that has a classic '67 Ford in the driveway, rusty and decrepit, I mourn. Or when I park in front of that 1920's-era building that is going to be torn down to make way for something else, I feel sad. Or even something that I treasured as a child or youth is allowed to be hidden or fall apart - I feel a keen sense of personal loss. I identify with inanimate objects, because I see the beauty and value in them.

Such is the loss I have felt these last few months for a musical instrument that gave me joy and inspiration.

A pipe organ. Specifically, the pipe organ at my family's old church in Glendale.

Very few of you know that at one time I was an aspiring church organist. In fact, it was through my organ studies that I became involved in choral music, and actually left my pursuit of being a church organist behind. In my youth and college years I had grand visions of leading congregations in worship through meditative preludes, uplifting hymn accompaniment, and finally, stirring postludes. I had plans to attend Biola College (back then it was just a "college") to minor in music and study with a well-known organist. All these plans were inspired by one thing.

A pipe organ. Specifically, the pipe organ at my family's old church in Glendale.

And now, sadly, I believe that instrument is no longer being used.

I was younger than Audrey when our church, heavily damaged by the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, had to rebuild. The new sanctuary was a lofty, A-frame design, with large exposed wood beams, a back wall of palos verdes stone with a small waterfall, and concrete floors. It was typical of how churches were being designed back then. It was to remind those in worship of being in nature. And it was blessed with a very fine large pipe organ. Unfortunately, the building committee nixed the idea of having exposed pipes, so you don't "see" the organ. You see these lofty large boxes with screen mesh in the front, and if the light is just right, you can see the pipes lit from behind. The console (the actual place the organist sits to play) was beautifully designed, with several white drawknob stops, and shiny silver toe pistons (buttons to allow the organist to change his or her selection of tonal color by the push of a toe). The console itself, to me, was lovely. And as a youth, I was occasionally given permission to practice on the instrument, which was always a highlight. The church we were attending at the time had just a small electric organ. To play on a real pipe organ was a treat. 

It has been 41 years since my family lived in Glendale, but I always have felt a connection to that church, and to that organ. I still remember its sounds, the warmth, the brilliance, the quiet stillness that it could create. And in the last few years, I have followed the church through social media, and even attended it's 125th anniversary. The organ was alive.  And as I sat in the worship service to celebrate 125 years of being a church, I rejoiced hearing those sounds again.  After the service I went once more to the console and spoke to the organist, feeling like that young kid idolizing the person at the console and wishing I could play. 

But lately, I've noticed things have changed. There is no staff organist. There is no choir or choir director. The organ sits. 

And I mourn. 

Here, once, was a beautiful instrument that could raise voices in praise at Easter, could herald joy at a wedding, could comfort the bereaved at a funeral, or could simply provide an hour's worth of beautiful and reflective practice - and it is silent. 

Now, this is not a commentary on how contemporary worship has pushed back traditional worship. Yes, I see that happening in a lot of churches, but I also see a strong hold onto the traditional worship environment, and I am pleased. But I still feel that keen sense of loss at this instrument - this one instrument that was so pivotal in my music life - silent now, and neglected.