Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Benny

This weekend would have been the 100th birthday of Benny Goodman, the "King of Swing".

Enough said.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Of Firsts and Lasts, Discovery and Loss

Two events happened recently. One was 350 miles above Earth.

The other was very much on the ground, in the middle of America. One was grand and amazing. The other, almost unbearably sad.

And, for some reason, I keep thinking about the strange juxtaposition of these events, and I cannot loose them from my mind.

Looking Up

The world watched as the Shuttle astronauts spent the better part of a week servicing the Hubble Space Telescope; an event covered by the worldwide press. Repair of Hubble offers opportunities for new discoveries unparalleled, and a sense of almost unbridled expectation, hope, and excitement for the future. Repairs to the Hubble will allow man to see to the edge of Creation, nearly 14 billion years ago.

Sixteen years ago, I was at the Kennedy Space Center with JPL friends to watch the first Hubble Servicing Mission. I will never forget
the thrill of watching the Hubble float over us, 70 miles above Florida, in the middle of the night, or the grandeur of witnessing a night launch; the moment, with liftoff that the night became the day.

And now, all these years later, two men, floating in the silent void of space, loosening bolts and replacing parts. Counting the turns of specially designed wrenches; every move coordinated for months in advance. Connecting wires, waiting for "aliveness tests", all while suspended in a vacuum where sound cannot be heard. There is no air up there. This is a "thin place", this space.

Down Here on Earth
The other event was known by only a few, and was strangely and deeply sad, quiet, solemn, and at the moment it occurred, almost silent.

A baby stopped breathing and passed away, a victim of Trisomy 18, after only a few weeks of life. A close friend of ours was the Pastor at his memorial service. His family loved him well, in those brief days of his life. He was surrounded by constant care, and his brief life here, among us, was not lived in a vacuum. His brief encounter on Earth was filled with meaning, although that meaning may still may be shrouded, and, for the present, hard to fathom.

Astronauts floating hundreds of miles overhead in a void of silence, gloved hands reaching out in the dark of space. And below, a small breath, growing weaker, fading.

The void of Space, and the void of Sadness. I cannot begin to understand this.

Maybe this is how it works, this life. Mystery, profound sorrow, hope, discovery.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering Everyday Heroes

This Memorial Day, I am remembering my Dad, Roland Norris, who proudly served his country during World War II, as a B-17 training pilot, and later, air/sea rescue pilot in the South Pacific.

After the war, he came home rebuilt his life, and was my Dad. He went to work faithfully for 40 years, providing a home for me and my Mom, and paying for my education.

I have never had to lift a finger in service of my country. I am very thankful for those who continue to serve.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009


I have always struggled to convey my faith to other people. After all these years, I am no better at it than when I started. I am not sure why.

The lyrics below, written and put to song by a very talented young woman from the Midwest, express in large part what I have wanted to tell my friends.

I will let these words speak for me. Often, when I shut up, things work out for the best.

Dress down your pretty faith. Give me something real.
Leave out the thees and thous and speak to me now.
Speak to my fear and confusion.
Speak through my pain and my pride.
Speak to the part of me that knows I'm something deep down inside.

I know that I am not perfect, but compare me to most,

In a world of hurt and a world of anger I think I'm holding my own.
And I know that you said there is more to life.
And I know I am not satisfied.
But there are mornings I wake up just thankful to be alive.

I've known now, for quite a while, that I am not whole.

I've remembered the body and the mind,
But I dissected my soul.
Now something inside is awakening,
Like a dream I once had and forgot.
And it's something I'm scared of
And something I don't want to stop.

So I woke up this morning and realized that Jesus is not a portrait.
Or stained glass windows or hymns or the tradition that surrounds us.
And I thought it would be hard to believe in
But it's not hard at all.
To believe I've sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
Oh the glory of God....

And He's not asking me to change in my joy for martyrdom

He's asking to take my place.
To stand in the gap that I have formed
With His real amazing grace.
And it's not just a sign or a sacrament.
It's not just a metaphor for love.
His blood is real and it's not just a symbol of all of our faith.

So leave out the thees and thous... and speak now.
From the song "Awakening", by Sara Groves

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers Day

Today is Mother's Day. As I reflect on this, I find that the clearest sign of God's presence and overwhelming love in our family is my wife, and the mother of our girls, Nancy.

Yesterday I happened by my daughters' room, and she had the video below playing on her Mac. It says it all. For more than 18 years, I have witnessed, daily, the great love of this Mom of our two amazing girls.

Happy Mothers Day, Nance! You are our best gift here on this planet. Thank you.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Hysteria Break - Hawai'i Aloha

I came across the video below the other day, and felt this blog would be the right place to share it. Maybe I need a mental break from The Great Recession and the H1N1 Swine Flu media hysteria.

The Hawaiian islands have always been a special place for me, ever since I was a kid. My grandparents had a winter home on the North Shore of Oahu.

Hawai'i Aloha is a revered anthem of the native Hawaiian people and Hawai‘i residents alike. Written by Lorenzo Lyons, a Christian minister who died in 1886. It is not the official state song, but just as well is, in the hearts of most native Hawaiians.

Hawai‘i Aloha is typically sung in both small and large, formal and informal gatherings in Hawai‘i while standing in a circle with joined hands. Traditionally, the last verse and chorus is sung with all hands raised above heads.

The artist here is
Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole, who only lived to the age of 38, but seemed to have a wonderful spirit, which lives on in his music.

E Hawai‘i e ku‘u one hānau e
Ku‘u home kulaīwi nei
‘Oli nō au i nā pono lani ou
E Hawai‘i, aloha ē

O Hawai‘i, O sands of my birth
My native home
I rejoice in the blessings of heaven
O Hawai‘i, aloha.

E hau‘oli e nā ‘ōpio o Hawai‘i nei
‘Oli ē! ‘Oli ē!

Mai nā aheahe makani e pā mai nei
Mau ke aloha, no Hawai‘i

Happy youth of Hawai‘i
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Gentle breezes blow
Love always for Hawai‘i.

E ha‘i mai kou mau kini lani e
Kou mau kupa aloha, e Hawai‘i
Nā mea ‘ōlino kamaha‘o no luna mai
E Hawai‘i aloha ē

May your divine throngs speak
Your loving people, O Hawai‘i
The holy light from above
O Hawai‘i, aloha.

Isn't that just beautiful? Really now. That we all could have lives that express the spirit of this anthem. An anthem, a hymn of praise, sung holding hands on the beach, at twilight, under the palms.

Think these folks felt any closer to heaven? I do.

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