A piece . . . of heaven?

A little more than two decades ago, I experienced a joyous return to Camp Manatawny.  The roads leading to that special place gave me such anticipation, and nothing disappointed during that week—the first in which I’d served and worked there for quite some time.  I had the privilege of leading faith-strong, congenial groups of teenagers and devoted staff members in hymn sings each afternoon, and I had counselor responsibilities as well.

“A Little Piece of Heaven.”  Like the phrase “God’s country,” which only Texans are arrogant enough to think applies just to them, the phrase “little piece of heaven” is neither new nor unique.  I picked up on its use there at Manatawny and was inspired to write a song using that as a title.  I still have a soft spot in my heart for that camp and the song, despite some mixed feelings and mixed experiences at the hands of some of the powers-that-be.  I feel some pride in having become a Life Member of the Camp Manatawny Association, but at some point I stopped receiving invitations and communications.

Another Time, Another Place, Another “Piece.”  Fast forward about 4 years. I experienced a remarkable healing/rebirth, having moved to northeastern Kansas.  I was again inspired to write songs—this time, in direct honor of God for His creation and the healing that I was newly experiencing.  In a real sense, during that time, I was experiencing Kansas then as “a little piece of heaven.”

No more.  Now, my experience of Kansas is quite the opposite, with few exceptions.  Whatever pieces of heaven we experience during this life, they seem to be mostly absent in Kansas, this go-round.  

Ah-maah-zing, overzealous, and dead wrong

On the hit Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience,” Shannon seems to be a curious mix of hip and nerdy, beautiful, overdone, and weird. She puts her own twist on words with a personal flair. For instance, she calls things “ah-maah-zing!”


A couple decades ago, there was a guy who was hyper-energetic in most things he did. We’ll call him David. David would hug and kiss people a lot, and he used his hoarse, outside voice almost everywhere. Often, he’d head out, carrying a 64-oz. caffeinated drink, aiming to help people, to travel, to preach, to visit, to confer, to un-indoctrinate the spiritually wounded. People might have called him “amazing.” I thought of him as overzealous and cocky, though sincere.

Then this same guy spiritually wounded someone else. We’ll call him Donald, because he ducked (get it?) and winced and smarted … but the water never ran off the duck’s back. David once told Donald he was a “Spirit-controlled melancholy.” This compliment was back-handed: it indicated that a melancholy temperament would have to be moved specially by God to be of much earthly use. Some time later, David wrote Donald a scathing letter, seriously disagreed with something, and proclaimed to Donald that he had no capacity for loving anyone.

David is dead. And Donald is proving David wrong. Donald’s capacity is way short of awesome or amazing. It is, rather, a credit to the One who is awesome.


My graduate advisor’s wife once said to me, in what I took as a kind spirit of affirmation, that I was “amazing.” She was referring to the speed of my progress through my doctoral program. (I’ve always been fast at those kinds of things, but that hasn’t always been the best choice. I wasn’t nearly as deeply good at things as I was fast, in other words.) I have generally considered myself competent and capable with things in front of me, but certainly not amazing. And my capabilities seem to be diminishing with age and stressors. I have some competencies and a fair number of insights, but I am most decidedly not amazing.


These days, people say “amazing” and “awesome” too much. Way too much. God is amazing. He is the One who inspires awe–for instance, in the design seen in creation. But He is also sometimes deafeningly silent in human experience.

Debunking

One day, these book blurbs flitted across my browser:

This is the 1st ever children's book that is dedicated to helping parents and professional educators teach children the Biblically based Flat Earth Doctrine.  When God made the earth He could have made it any which way He chose.  However, according to the Biblical account of Creation, from Genesis to Revelation, His earth is only ever stationary and flat with a dome overhead.  Every child deserves the opportunity to learn a Biblical account of God's Creation.  If you are ready to teach your children this truth, then this book is the perfect fit for your home, school curriculum, and your church.

I can accept that this author thinks this teaching is “Biblically based.”  That’s the extent of my acceptance, though.  Perhaps his idea of “Biblical” rests, unsuspecting and innocent, in a monochromatic notion of “Bible”—as though every document expresses things in the same way, for the same purpose, with the same audience and occasion in mind.  Did the Almighty arm-wrestle the authors into sequel after sequel, creating one, giant Star Wars epic?  The story of God and his people is indeed epic, but that is not the nature of the scriptures we hold dear.

He continues,

Do you trust God's Word to be Faithful and True? Have you ever considered what the authors of the Bible, who were inspired by God, wrote about regarding the shape of the Earth? Does God's Word even mention the topic?  Are NASA's claims and the mainstream Scientific Community in complete alignment with God's Word, or are there some contradictions?  If there are contradictions, does it really matter?  Did God intend for us to interpret his description of his Earth as mere poetry and metaphors?  Is it possible that NASA has debunked God's Word at our subconscious?  Does God's Word state that he created a Globe Earth, Flat Earth, or some other kind of shaped Earth? Does God care what you believe the shape of the Earth to be?  The answers to these questions and many many more are within, and you may just be surprised.

I’m not surprised at much anymore.   But I’m disappointed by more each day.   I’m not so sad over this apparently sincere author’s apparently sincere belief.  (Had it been kept between God and himself, I imagine God would appreciate the sincerity, too.)  Rather, I’m sad that this material is “out there”—and that it might lead more intellectually astute, perhaps agnostic minds to think that all God-believers might actually think his way!

It was only a couple months ago that I learned of a connection between six-day-creationist and flat-earth ideas.  (To be sure, not all flat-earthers are believers, but some are.)  Now, I’m generally distrustful of large institutions, certainly including governing bodies and big business.  As a result, I tend to be amenable (some would say gullible!) to conspiracy theories, but it seems pretty far-reaching that science could foist a round earth on the public for very long if the earth were not, in fact, round.  I had suspected the idea of a flat earth was held by a few quacks who hole up with fellow quacks, amass weaponry, and maybe to obsess over Area 51.  Their beliefs about the shape and motion of the earth seems like quackery.

But, then again, I hold beliefs that are just as iconoclastic—and are just as likely to cause other people to think I’m crazy.

God, have mercy on us all.  We all need a lot of debunking.  For instance, in certain conceptions of church and the Bible.

B. Casey, 3/26/20 – 5/30/20

(By sheer coincidence, the day of posting is the day of the SpaceX launch, which I hadn’t even heard about until yesterday, but which my son is following with interest.  I suppose that if the earth turns out to be flat, maybe we’ll find out in a few hours.  Nah.  The government and big business are still all over this.)

Judging charity opportunities

I like AccuRadio and have publicly mentioned their diverse music offerings more than once.  I’m also impressed that they have (at least two years now) had their listeners vote on charities for the company to support financially.  I’m not impressed, however, with the balance of their charity listings on one day in particular:

That was representative of most days I noticed this.  15 charities, and less than half for basic human needs?  4 of them for animals?  What are they, in cohoots with Antenna TV with their sad cat commercials?  I mean, I like animals as much as the next guy.  I particularly like good dogs, I’m generally sympathetic and fond, and I would oppose any cruelty.  But when human trafficking and cancer and diabetes lose out to blind cats, something is amiss.

I’m equally unimpressed with the choices made by their listeners:

Getting your wish is nice, and purple-hearted people deserve some national attention, but I see many higher priorities in the list than those enterprises and two other top vote-getters (including two non-human causes).

On the positive side of judging:  my own votes last month went to causes such as juvenile diabetes and cancer research, human trafficking, and homelessness.  Charities that have received other recent attention from our home attention are Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, a nearby family whose 8-year-old girl has a debilitating brain disease, and World Vision.¹  We judge (evaluate) these charity opportunities to be in line with Christian living, and we trust Jesus has been pleased with our meager efforts.


¹ We love World Vision’s opportunity to give animals such as ducks, goats, and pigs to a family or community that needs ongoing food supplies like eggs and goat milk!

Reveling in (and ranting a little about) music

These recent musical experiences (all but one of them!) have been excellent.

Harriman-Jewell:  Randall Goosby
The Harriman-Jewell Series, now in its 55th season and founded by William Jewell College, is a treasure of the Kansas City Arts scene.  Each year brings various solo artists (and I do mean artists, not just any performers) and ensembles to two venues in the KC area.  Typically included are multiple “Discovery Concerts,” which are sponsored and free to attend.

In one of those, three of us heard a fine young violinist, Randall Goosby, in recital with pianist Jun Cho.  Goosby was not only an accomplished performing artist but also was well-spoken.  He knew what to say, and how much to say, to the audience in order to enhance the experience.  I was introduced to the Debussy Sonata in G Minor—an effervescent, many-colored piece that I will aim to listen to again soon.  William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano was a delight, too.

KC Symphony Chamber:  Holocaust string music
4 musicians performing in a quartet on stage in Helzberg HallThe KC Symphony provides a limited number of free performances each season.  The ones I’ve attended have been sponsored by Lead Bank and have all involved select performers in chamber music (small groups of orchestra members, one on a part; not the entire orchestra).

This program, understated but well-conceived as a tribute to Jewish Holocaust victims, utilized an unaccompanied clarinet in one selection and strings in three others.  The performance, complete in about an hour, featured works by relatively unknown composers Schulhoff, Krása and Haas, plus the often-heard Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Old Vinyl:  Conlon Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano
If I told you I’d rather listen to hip-hop than be subjected to this one more time, would you believe me?  I’d grabbed this record from a freebie pile a few months ago, thinking it would be a nice novelty.  Not so.  I mean, I suppose it’s novel, but it’s certainly not nice.  It’s hard to imagine the intent behind creating this music.  Was it a psychotic or demented mind?  Was it a composer desperate for a place in the world, looking for something that no one else would do (or want to hear)?

I was surprised to find that it was actually a player piano used in the recording, and that the composer had a piano-roll-punching machine specially built for his endeavors.  In listening to this  “music,” one feels as if he is being pecked or poked to death by a non-rhythmic demon.  A description of one of the studies is illustrative:  ” . . . one tempo being related to another by the proportion of two to the square root of two.  Two separate voices moving at this proportion approach coincidence but never exactly meet.”  One succinct definition of “music” is “organized sound”; if one reads the description on the back of the album, this material fits that bill, but it would seem to require a savant mind to perceive much organization in most of it.

Not all music elevates the soul or inspires or “gets you going,”; I do believe there is a place for the avant-garde.  I’m all for variety, generally speaking, but this is horrible music, with so few redeeming qualities that I thought I would smash the vinyl with some satisfaction.  Rather, I’ll probably keep it as a demonstration of what music should not be.

KC Youth Symphony/side-by-side with KC Symphony:  Beethoven 7
Music Director Michael Stern wearing a tweed sport coat and bow tie smiles for his portrait.Conductor Michael Stern led this wonderful evening of musical demonstration, which I attended with my son.  Members of the Youth Symphony were on stage with a large number of KC Symphony professionals, and we heard the first two movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  The evening was marked by exhilarating music, expressive conducting, and enjoyable communication between Stern, the musicians, and the audience.

My CD Changer
In my player at this moment are five CDs, as usual.  One is my son’s school group repertoire, for his practice.  These songs struck me, on first hearing, as a better collection than last year’s.  He is very attached to their version of the Irish Blessing, which has become the theme song.

The other discs:

  • College friend David Slater’s As Time Goes By
  • The University of Houston Wind Ensemble’s Vittorio Giannini collection (Symphony No. 3 is a marvelous work)
  • Spyro Gyra (jazz/pop fusion) Got the Magic
  • Delirious’sDeeper

In the hopper or recently heard are Swendsen’s symphonies, works by Milhaud, and Adventures in a Perambulator by John Alden Carpenter.  Two days ago, I also gave a listen to some of Hall & Oates’s “oldies.”  A couple of those songs were fun, but it’ll probably be a couple years before I pull that one out again.  As I put near-final touches on this post, I’m listening to Mahler’s Adagietto again, because I was pretty sleepy when I heard it a couple weeks ago with a friend (see item 2 above).  It’s glorious.

Wind Band Concerts

Via live video stream, I recently audited portions of the concerts by the Frost School, University of Miami (Rob Carnochan, Conducting) and the Butler School, University of Texas at Austin (Jerry Junkin, Conducting)  These wind bands always offer patently excellent performances of high-quality literature.  The literature does not always run to my taste, but a little stretching here and there is good for me, and I usually wish I could be there live.

University of Nebraska Wind, Carolyn Barber, Facilitating and Conducting
Speaking of being there live:  five hours of driving earlier this month to UNL was worth the effort for this unique experience.  I felt musically and intellectually stimulated.  You can find Carolyn’s articulate notes here.  Her researched thought in the area of flocking behavior as it connects with ensemble ethos is compelling, although I will have to live with it a good deal more before it fully resonates.

Ball State University, Tom Caneva, Conducting
Good video/audio streaming made this livestream concert a particular pleasure.  I heard the late composer Michael Colgrass’s voice introducing his iconic work Winds of Nagual, and the quality was so good that it was hard to believe it wasn’t a live voice on a mic in the audio booth.  The subject matter of that work is more than a trifle unsettling, but the music is evocative and imaginative.

An Angell in the mind field

During some lazy afternoon reading-while-grilling, my mind connected a movie and a wind band piece:  Angels in the Outfield and Angels in the Architecture (Frank Ticheli).  Frankly (pun intended), that Ticheli piece doesn’t appear on my list of favorites of his.  Parts of it remind me of the older Vesuvius, but Angels uses a soprano voice along with the winds and percussion, and a soprano, in my book, is often a detriment.  Plus, I prefer many better baseball movies over “Angels in the Outfield.”

Nonetheless, there is that “angels” thing that connects the two with the noted baseball writer Roger Angell.  I just read an Angellic passage that I wanted to share.  Put this in the categories of random delights, skilled writing, and musicianship—actually being a musician, not just someone who plays “my music” through earbuds as she hibernates from humanity while walking around or hanging out with friends.  Of course, add the category of baseball.  Allow yourself to imagine, to get lost in the little thing called the baseball “box score.”

Angell in March 2015
Roger Angell, baseball essayist

A box score is more than a capsule archive.  It is a precisely etched miniature of the sport itself, for baseball, in spite of its grassy spaciousness and apparent unpredictability, is the most intensely and satisfyingly mathematical of all our outdoor sports.  Every player in the game in every game is subjected to a cold and ceaseless accounting; no ball is thrown and no bases gained without an instant responding judgment—ball or strike, hit or error, yay or nay—and an ensuing statistic.  This encompassing neatness permits the baseball fan, aided by experience and memory, to extract from a box score the same joy, the same hallucinatory reality, that prickles the scalp of a musician when he glances at a page of his score of Don Giovanni and actually hears bassos and sopranos, woodwinds and violins.

Just as one’s baseball imagination can be enlivened by reading a box score, particularly if one knows the players’ names, a similar “hallucinatory reality” permits the conductor to audiate as he studies (and conducts from) a music score.  Those notes are not just gobs of ink.  No, they mean something!  They stimulate the memory and imagination.  They can become uniquely enriching for the human soul.

→ For more on the many-faceted word “score,” try this.  It’s fun!

This week marks the last of my son’s fourth baseball season.  Three games this week!  He has in some ways had his best season ever, and his comprehension and love of the game have grown, but those stats could use some improvement.  (Good thing they don’t publish box scores for this league.)  He’s gotten to pitch a little, and he loves every practice and every game.  We’ll both miss the season when it’s over.

Baseball is a great game, and the relatively slow pace of the game is good for the soul—not lazy at all if you like strategy and imagination!  Thanks to Roger Angell for writing so marvelously about baseball.  Your work, as it deals with the most appealing kind of sports field there is, is also good for the field of the mind.

Xposted: Freedom, Pleasant Valley, Exile, Presence, and Dentist’s Office

On this day, should you wish to ponder as well as celebrate and recreate, I might point you to this posting from about this time last year:

Freedom reflections

All the links in this cross-posting should open in a new tab in your browser (not sure what happens on a smartphone; I tend not to read much there since I like to see more than 20 words at the same time!).  Here is a link to a recent post on my (less active) Christian Assembly blog:

A pleasant dip in a valley, in which I mention a few good thoughts on a good assembly experience

Recent posts on my Subjects of the Kingdom blog include these:

Exile, in which the pervasive notion of exile is spotlighted

Practicing the presence, in which the presence of God is compared to the presence of His Kingdom

The dentist’s office, in which sterile, calm atmospheres are contrasted with the Kingdom

Redefining “people person”

A “people person,” supposedly, is one who enjoys and likes crowds of people, parties, and such.  What if we could redefine “people person” as one who places a high value on other people and interactions with them?  One definition doesn’t necessarily exclude the other, but the focus is very different with the more customary understanding.

Image result for extrovert

Consider the person who is relatively extroverted (a quality that one source equates with being a people person), loving groups and large-scale social intercourse.  It’s fine to be extroverted, but merely being Image result for people personin groups without genuine interaction or concern for other people isn’t of much interest to me.  Moreover, if an individual were to show disregard or discourtesy, I would generally have to challenge that person’s connection with, and interest in, other people—at least in those moments of self-centered indifference.  It can be more detrimental to disregard someone than to treat him/her with hostility.  Can a person who is so disconnected that he does not truly regard others be a “people person”?

A persistent lack of interest in communicating with another person would tend to indicate a lack of genuine regard and empathy, all other things being equal.  My antennae are up for manifest empathy these days.  About 20 years ago, on a personality profile test, I had a high empathy score, but I don’t know that I would score that high today.  There could be multiple explanations for a lack of empathy here and there, but could someone who rarely cares for others’ pain really be considered a “people person”?

For that matter, was Jesus a “people person” in the stereotypical sense?  Could we say that?  I’d suggest that it depends on the definition.  Some well-meaning extroverts seem to be of the skewed opinion that introversion is actually a weakness to be overcome!  (Here I would refer you to this 3-minute video I recorded a few years ago about a “Bible study”—which really wasn’t one, I hasten to point out.)

Unless I’m conducting or teaching, it’s not natural for me to be extroverted or gregarious, and I doubt anyone would think of me as particularly congenial these days.  I did get place 2nd in the “Mr. Congeniality” voting as a 17-year-old at a Christian camp, but that was a long time ago.  In 2019, I may or may not look forward to a small party or a dozen people at a dinner table, but I did enjoy two such events within the last month or so.  Typically, after that type of gathering, I can use some time alone, or with one or two people.  I do relish connections with people.  I want to spend time with them.  And I sincerely hope I’m still viewed as caring and interested.  We introverts do actually enjoy people and conversation and laughter!

Congeniality and empathy could be said to be traits of a people person.  Extroversion is more typically connected with being one, and that’s what I resist in my attempt at redefinition.  I suppose it isn’t very Image result for people personrealistic to take a term that usually means one thing and unilaterally superimpose another meaning on it.  In the final analysis, a “people person” is probably whatever this or that person thinks it is.  My hope would be that those who know me on any level would not think me a nonpeople person simply because I don’t care to spend too much time at large parties or in shallow, loosely connected groups.

As I think about people and connections. . . .

Some people regularly challenge me to be a better version of myself by their presence or their words.

Others present opportunity to show grace or patience.

Still others demonstrate starkly how not to live.

And all of those are valuable human beings, deserving considerate regard, kindness, and grace.  I’m not suggesting that I myself always do right by people.  Rather, treating others well is a goal.  Genuinely regarding all people, paying attention to them, and interacting with them as valuable humans—sometimes one by one instead of in large groups—is a valid way of being a people person.

In sum:

  1. If “people person” is as shallow and as large-group-centric as it often seems, I want little or no connection with the label.
  2. On the other hand, I’d like to change people’s conception of what a real people person is:  one who interdependently lives in and among people, being with them in various ways and enjoying various levels and types of productive and/or spiritually helpful relationships.
  3. I’m somewhat a people person (not in the common sense) now, and I want to grow more in terms of healthy interdependence and interactivity.

B. Casey, 4/3/19 – 7/2/19

Celebrities (and authors and Dad)

Celebrities attract the attention of many.  For my part, I don’t recall ever having watched a single episode of a series with the word “celebrity” in its title or its background concept.  (Not even “Shark Tank.”)  I do have to admit that I have a few celebrity autographs, including former major league baseball players Pete Rose and Jay Johnstone, and Colonel Harlan Sanders.  Yes, that Col. Sanders.  I wasn’t chicken to approach him and get his autograph in the airport.  He didn’t seem too fried from his bad flight, and I did respect the pecking order, and I didn’t run a-fowl of airport security.  No, meeting him wasn’t on my bucket (of chicken) list.  Now the jokes are done.  Like a good, rotisserie chicken.

Anyway.  It’s not as though I’m completely unaware of celebrity status.  I’ve been excited by the fame of some.  In music worlds in particular, I’ve had some pretty cool meet-ups.  Here are a few names (several of whose autographs I also have):

Musicians

  • Mason Jones (who was principal hornist for the Philly Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, compiler/editor of a stock-in-trade collection of horn solos … and who, I discovered, was the solo hornist for Disney’s Fantasia
  • Rebecca St. James (autographed a songbook at a Christian concert I attended with teenage friends)
  • Col. Arnald Gabriel (while a grad student, I shuttled him to and from his CO All-State Band rehearsals)
  • Col. John Bourgeois (I played under him in the HAWE in Hornell, NY)
  • Canadian Brass (autographs at a concert)
  • Bonnie Keen, Marty McCall of First Call (autographs at a concert)
  • Michael Card¹
  • Fernando Ortega²
  • Phil Ehart, Rich Williams, David Ragsdale, Billy Greer, Steve Walsh (the 2011 iteration of the rock band Kansas), and Kerry Livgren³

¹ If I had a Christian music idol, it would probably be Michael Card.  Prodigiously prolific for 40-or-so years, he is humble and free of hype and glitz.  One of his principal gifts is locating and distilling core scripture messages into wonderfully acoustic (read:  not over-electronicized) songs.  A group of us attended a Card concert once.  One friend teased me about being such a fan that she was worried I’d throw my underwear onto the stage.  Mine wasn’t that kind of fandom, but I did and do respect Card’s contributions wholeheartedly.  I have referred to him before on this blog, notably here.

² Fernando Ortega has been around in my life for almost as long.  In his inimitable way, he has compelled, driven, and drawn my heart so many times I’ve lost count.  Sometimes, to the point of tears.  I met him face to face once, and I introduced a church elder to his music.  He and his wife became Fernando’s acquaintances, traveling to him and getting pictures taken with him.  I’ll admit to a little jealousy here!

³ And if I had any rock music idol, it would be Kansas.  In my unstudied rock hierarchy, Kansas’ musical and lyrical content  are tops.  Their music consistently manifests qualities that draw me, energize me, and stimulate creativity.  I don’t have the autograph of their principal songwriter, Kerry Livgren, because he could no longer play with the band after a stroke.  Livgren is now a serious believer, and we recently met him at his church.  See here for an account of a special event with Kansas about eight years ago.

Dad and Christian speakers/authors

Today my dad would have been exactly 79½.  He was no celebrity himself, but he did garner some well-deserved awards; he was the first scholar-athlete at Harding College and was later Harding University’s School of Education’s Alumnus of the year.  As a congregational deacon and shepherd/elder, Dad modeled the way to regard those who enjoy celebrity and fame.  He simply treated them like other people.  (No need to stand in awe.)  On the other hand, he must have had an underlying drive to take advantage of the capabilities of some who had, by their virtues, become somewhat famous.  Dad was for years the force that brought well-traveled, well-reputed, “big name” speakers to us.  Our church was in the Mid-Atlantic region, a/k/a the “Northeast,” and we would otherwise have been largely ignored because we were neither huge nor in the Bible belt.  Primarily because of Dad, we had these guest speakers at our church:

  • Cliff Ganus, Jr.
  • Lynn Anderson
  • Jerry Jones
  • Jimmy Allen
  • Harold Hazelip
  • LaGard Smith
  • Rubel Shelly *
  • Jim Woodroof
  • Max Lucado

I might have autographs for a couple of the above (on the title page of a book), but the main thing was having heard them speak in person.  I also shook well-known author Max Lucado’s hand once, because he spoke at a men’s retreat at our beloved Camp Manatawny in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

∗ Shelly’s “shift” is noteworthy—from (1) prize of the far-right, defensive CofC adherents to (2) de facto mouthpiece of the genuinely nondenominational, thoughtfully progressive “wing.”  I heard him speak in a couple other settings, too, and one of his books (I Just Want To Be a Christian) had a deep impact on me.  See here for a touting of that book.

I also have autographs for these other Christian authors in one or more books:

Christian Authors

  • Leroy Garrett
  • Cecil Hook
  • Richard Hughes
  • Gary Collier

I myself invited the late Leroy Garrett to my Delaware church to speak on unity and the Restoration Movement—and to impersonate “Raccoon” John Smith in one of his iconic presentations.  Leroy stayed in my home, and visited in his.  I was in the late Cecil Hook’s home, as well.  Cecil was the less credentialed but also sharp-minded author of Free in Christ (also touted here) and other freedom-themed books, several of which I had the distinct honor of collaborating on.  I’ve eaten lunch with the insightful Richard and Jan Hughes, along with mutual friends the Crowes.  My association with Collier has lasted longer and run deeper than with the others.  I have spent meaningful time with him as friends, collaborated with him (including recently embarking on a significant project), and have been in his home.

On the one hand, celebrity status means little to me, because it so often has little to do with quality, lasting values, or eternity.  On the other hand, some have become celebrated for good reason, and I am glad that my life has involved crossing paths with such men as Anderson, Collier, Garrett, Hook, Hughes, Card, Ortega, and others who have meant much to me.

Rich Mullins’s swan-song album The Jesus Record includes “Man of No Reputation,” a song recorded on a cheap tape deck by Mullins and then later refined by his band.  This song takes a translation of a phrase in Philippians 2 and expands ironically on the awe-inspiring reputation of our Messiah-Servant, Christ Jesus.  Jesus’ lack of celebrity status, combined with His singular attention to His mission and role, impel us to honor Him.

On summer’s end

Summer is over.  Or is it?

This will be a meandering piece about summer, with connections to reading, baseball, the calendar, kids, and the rhythms of life.

Books and baseball
People still have summer reading lists, right?  Maybe not so much anymore.  I spied the quip below on a ne’er-do-well’s Facebook page recently, in the spot where one’s favorite book title is supposed to be:

who reads

I thought, Well, I’m guessing you don’t read much, because you didn’t capitalize that or put a question mark after the question.  (This same person had proudly posted a video of herself drunk while playing video games, so I guess I wasn’t all that surprised.)

My summer reading list, if it really existed at all, was phantom-like.  Recent book grabs include one that presents three views on God’s will and decision making, a Duck Dynasty biography (couldn’t stand much!), and a Stephen Colbert book (I wish he weren’t so caustically one-sided, because he’s genuinely funny).  On my active shelf are a book on the history of words in religion, a history of the Silk Road, and two volumes on the kingship of God.  This summer, I have read some poetry, a little on baseball, and a few pages each from Richard Hughes and Frederick Buechner, plus a few other things.  Oh, and I’ve spent some time reading and studying an ancient, mid-length letter from Paul, including reading two paragraphs in Greek.  Sounds like a lot of reading time, you say?  Nah.  I’m talking about a total of less than 10 hours there.  Pitiful, I know.  And the progress in writing my own next book has been precisely nil this summer.

Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer, a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, is legendary.  My dad’s copy of that one remains where he would have seen it, high on a shelf in his/Mom’s study.  On a lower bookshelf in our home sits Dad’s coffee-table-sized book that chronicles baseball’s summers of ’47-’57 in the lives of the three New York teams—the Dodgers, the Giants, and those dratted Yankees.  The Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast in 1957, rendering summer fun permanently shut down for many.

Our family enjoyed seeing the KC Royals with a friend in Kauffman Stadium last Saturday.  It was a sticky, muggy, summer night, but it was not overly hot, especially after the sun was hidden behind the stadium on the third-base side.  This summer is not a good one for the Royals, to say the least.  It was a great game, though:  the last-place Royals, the 2nd-worst team in baseball, beat the even worse Orioles in the 9th.

Usually two or three times a summer, when I was a boy, my dad and I would go to the Vet to see Phillies games.  There was one memorable, July 4th double header, at which a friend sat with Dad and me in the lowest seats, in straightaway center field, just above the outfield wall with the “408” painted on it in yellow.  I’m not sure I’m creating memories like that for our son, but he has been to three Royals games, a Pirates game with cousins, and a Reds game before he could remember.  He has also played baseball three summers in a row.  According to his 2018 baseball season, summer lasted only about 6 weeks (May-June).

For me, despite one serendipitous baseball game I saw on a nice Minnesota afternoon while traveling, this summer has been the worst on record.  It is not over yet?

Summer, school, and children
For children, summer is almost always something to which to look forward.  They often have summer camp experiences.  Manatawny, a Christian camp in Southeastern PA, was the thing that we kids looked forward to most.  My sisters’ kids all go to similar camps now, too, and they seem to feel the same heart-tugs, while experiencing similar growth of all kinds.  Then there is marching band camp, and several of my sisters’ kids are now doing that annually, too.  Summer is certainly not all bad for kids.

For many, summer is over in the middle of August when school starts way too early.  Two private colleges at which I’ve taught hold classes on Labor Day, having started a week or two previously.  School always started the day after Labor Day when I grew up.  According to just about every U.S. school calendar, summer is by now over for everyone.

Jedd has had some great times this summer (for example, a children’s play, baseball, some travel, a lake, cousins, and swimming).  Speaking of swimming … they drained the town pool weeks ago here, which seems pretty ridiculous since summer persists.  The heat and humidity (or just heat, or just humidity, but rarely any relief) have been oppressive and unrelenting for so long, it seems.  We had a cold winter with little snow for playing, an almost nonexistent spring, and then this beastly summer.  We’ve had, what, six or seven nice days since June?

Summer’s entertainment
Remember the TV show “In the Heat of the Night?”  I never watched it, but I think it was based somewhat on the premise that crime heats up when the weather does the same.  (When is it not hot in a Mississippi town?)  I also recall an episode of M*A*S*H in which everyone’s nerves were frayed because of heat.

Last Sunday night, in the summertime cool of a Lutheran church building, I heard the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, and their opening selection was a rare performance of a work by Arthur Honegger titled Pastoral d’Ete (Summer Pastorale).  This piece shimmered and sang, and it led me to think of other summer-oriented art music. . . .

  • I have a CD of summer wind quintet music that includes Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, a provocative piece written well for the medium.  I return to this disc often, including a couple times this summer.
  • Barber’s Knoxville:  Summer of 1915 is not a favorite of mine.  (Few and far between are the sopranos I would listen to on purpose.)  Berlioz’s Nuits d’Ete (Summer Nights) is more pleasing, but still, it’s a soprano.  So, no thanks.
  • As Summer Was Just Beginning, a simple, tuneful, elegiac tribute to the late James Dean, enjoyed at least a decade’s worth of appreciation in the wind band world, but the piece’s fame is now approaching its winter.
  • Vivaldi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons is well-known, but “Summer,” the second in the set, strikes me as more interesting.  Actually, this Vivaldi string concerto hints more at fall for me, but maybe that’s because I like the still, sometimes melancholy beauty of fall.  Then there is the tempest of the presto 3rd movement.  (May there be no tempests in life this fall.)
  • Frank Bridge’s tone poem Summer is simply wonderful.  What glorious sounds!  If I could rig some great speakers in a park, and if I could order a 70-degree, mosquito-less, summer night, I would sit out under a tree and listen to it again.

I remember a few summer evenings on the grounds of the Mann Music Center, north of Philadelphia, hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra free or at greatly reduced cost, with good friends.  And all these thoughts of music evoke pleasant, breezy, relaxed feelings.  Was this what Jim Seals & Dash Crofts were singing about?  “Summer Breeze makes me feel fine….”?  My summer of ’18 has not been blessed by many of those feelings.

So goodbye, summer of ’18.  I’m done wid’ ya.  I wish I could be assured that I’ll forget you, but I won’t be surprised if you haunt me.  I wish I had seen and hiked in the Rockies this summer, but, failing that, come on, cooler weather and breezier, more chilled thoughts.  Come on, fall concerts and crisp mornings with coffee on the deck.  Maybe I’ll soon be able to walk 20 yards sans sweat or anxiety.  Come on, Major League Baseball’s “Fall Classic.”  Just come on, fall.

The benefits you get with H/R

The paragraph below, I assume, was written by an H/R “professional.”  I am pasting this in, so the original remains intact.

Our new colleague will teach in our comprehensive music education program, which includes BME, MME, and Ph.D. students. They will provide leardership in curriculum and program development. They will provide leadership and oversight of the recruitment of undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. music education students. The successful candidate will be a creative, flexible musician, scholar and pedagogue who is an experienced master teacher with substantial K-12 experience as well as college-level teaching experience. They will be responsible for teaching in our comprehensive music education program which includes BME, MME, and Ph.D. students. Our new colleague will provide leadership in curriculum and program development, and will be expected to have a well-developed, active research agenda. They will teach other courses in the music education curriculum as necessary.

Now my observations and reactions.  (You knew there would be some, didn’t you?)

  1. My ambition is to be a learder.  However, I don’t have other learders around to mentor me and showr me what a learder can be.  I even lookerd online for a graduate leardership program.  I can’t finrd a single one.  Maybe if I use fuzzy logic, the search would be more successful?  Can someone out there leard me to the info I neerd?  I will follow if you leard.
  2. In seriousness now … I would like a role in which I could train the world to match plurals with plurals and singulars with singulars.  (Creating a plural of the word “singular” makes me smile . . . and note that it does not have an apostrophe before the “s”! . . . it’s a plural, not a possessive or a contraction.”)  The next-to-last sentence is just fine.  Why not include the last sentence and remove the plural mismatch, like so:  “Our new colleague will provide leadership in curriculum and program development; will be expected to have a well-developed, active research agenda; and will teach other courses in the music education curriculum as necessary.”
  3. I’ll leave the lack of the Oxford comma alone in this phrase:  “will be a creative, flexible musician, scholar and pedagogue.”  Wait.  I didn’t.
  4. On a deeper level:  I find this ad to be a bit ambitious at its core.  Rare would be the person who (1) could legitimately be classed as a “master teacher,” (2) has “substantial” K-12 experience, and (3) also has college-level teaching experience.
  5. I would also think that some “H/R professional” would have read through the posting well enough to know that s/he had repeated almost one-quarter of the material.  If the music department had simply written its own job description, it would have been better.

Layering H/R process on top of process may satisfy regulations and policy without serving the real need.  On the other hand, if there is no process at all, someone or some department will likely need to oversee employment matters, given the litigiousness of our society.  If there is a separate benefits department, there are benefits to be reaped there, although the health insurance benefit is more than it’s cracked up to be.  As I wrote in this post,

Currently, [my wife and I] pay approximately 1/3 of the total cost of our own insurance, and my employer covers the rest of the group-rate premium.  The rates for adding an additional family member [our son] increase dramatically, though—to the point that the deduction from my paycheck to insure three people would be equivalent to half of my take-home (net) pay. 

A very perceptive man once remarked that the “Graduate School” in his institution didn’t add value to the process of getting a graduate degree.  This post from 2016 mentions that right after complaining about the lack of benefit in three food additives, moving to question the value of additions in Christian churches.

And here is a post that briefly mentions three items that I find pretty much without benefit in churches.