Friday, October 30, 2009

History Repeats Inself

This is my Dad, circa 1942.

This is his grand daughter, circa Halloween 2009. She is wearing his flight suit in which he piloted B-17s in World War II. Really.

A Gaelic Blessing

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Holding Up the Word, Depaul Community Mass

Recently, while visiting Older Daughter at DePaul University, I had the opportunity to attend Mass at St. Vincent Depaul Parish, on the campus of DePaul University. This experience might also be known as "Protestant Neophyte Visits The Other Side of the Reformation".

I arrived about 15 minutes early, and already found the sanctuary of St. Vincent to be nearly full. It turned out to be a standing room only Mass. The church holds, by my rough estimate, about 2,000 souls. In attendance were students, parents, and alumni. This was a wonderful experience, full of the sacred rights of the church, and for me, full of much thanksgiving for a daughter well off at college in Chicago at DePaul.

The primary feeling I still have of my morning hour spent in the Parish of St. Vincent is that of the profound mystery of the church. The mystery of trying to understand this life I lead. The mystery of how God is involved in the life of my daughter - this girl I love more than I can speak of. For some reason, my attendance at this Mass was very emotional. For me, not unlike laying on the deck of the dock in Northern Canada this summer, gazing up at the Milky Way above. All, a mystery.

Holding Up
At the beginning of the mass, various elements important in the service are processed into the church. A large golden cross, carried high, by a DePaul coed student, the elements of communion, carried by priests. Candles and incense. A long train of laypersons, altar boys, and priests. Like the procession of Followers, down through the ages.

They line up, and process inside the sanctuary. During this procession, a gathering song is sung; soft drums, and the University choir, something faintly African sounding, it stirs the heart deep within. In the very front of this procession is a book. A large red leather book, held at arm's length, high overhead. Its a heavy book, the kind you find only in a really old and seldom visited library. It looks like something that does not get opened much. Thick and cumbersome, weighted with the burden of time.

But there it is, high in the air, at the front of this line of faith. It takes me half a minute to get it. What book is tha....wait. Oh! The Scripture. They have it at the front of the line! They are holding it up.

That Bible, held high. I have not been able to wrest that image from my mind ever since. And when I think on it more than a minute, it sort of catches my breath. That book, those people, this world.

All of us, in a way, standing in a line. Its been that way for centuries. And at the front of that line, even though we don't pay it much mind in the mess of everyday, there is a book. And if you look carefully, over the heads of those in front of you, its still being held high.

High over our pain, high over our joy, high over history. That book.

The community gathered together. The Book held high.
Once again, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DePaul Family Weekend 2009

Younger sister and I have just returned from Chicago for DePaul Family Weekend 2009, otherwise known as Visiting The Gigantic Educational Expenditure.

This is the one weekend each fall that family members (read: those actually paying the massive bills to operate this university) can come, visit their kids, dress badly, quietly revel in the middle-aged admission that they are definitely no longer of college age, wait awkwardly in dorm lobbies, and get free t shirts.

I must admit, DePaul does a pretty good job of client care for parents; I think the administration knows very well where the money comes from. And you get tshirts!

Here are my random observations on DePaul, my daughter's new life, and culture in Chicago:
  • Fall is a real season! Its cold here. And its only October. The weather was 40-45 degrees with rain showers the whole time we were there. Ahhh! And it will only be getting colder. Much. And folks wonder why there are 37 million humans living in California.
  • The Fall colors here are wonderful. What a beautiful introduction to Winter. I am beginning to understand why my wife, who is from Toronto, misses Fall so very much. Its just gorgeous, this daily reminder of the Seasons of life. I like that our girl wanted to go to a college that feels, well, classically collegiate.
  • There do not seem to be many classes at school on Friday. I don't really remember this from my college days this being the case. Yet another reason to become an academic, its seems; four day work weeks, and summers off. As for the students, three day weekends work fine, just ask them.
  • Chicago is an amazing city. Over the past two days we have spent a lot of time walking the downtown loop area, Michigan Avenue, and riding "The El". All freshmen at DePaul are required to take a "Discover Chicago" class, that plunges them into the city, to begin the process of becoming life-long learners and helping them to understand better the city they are going to school in. I think this is a capital idea!
  • Did I mention the free t-shirts. Let me tell you, these are the most expensive free t shirts I have ever owned. I picked up lots of them, but still they cost me multiple thousands of dollars per shirt. Need a t-shirt?
  • Why does DePaul have a mascot that is a guy in a Devil suit? Catholic school, Satan as the Mascot. Very strange.

At the end of these busy days, the only thing that really matters is how our oldest girl really feels about her time thus far at college. Did she make the right choice? Does she feel confident, enjoy her classes, feel good about her decision? Is she making good friends, and are they kids with character?

So Saturday, at lunch, I asked the key question. "So tell me, so far, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your college experience?"
The answer. "A nine". Interestingly, I received the same answer when I separately asked several of her best friends. Outstanding. Lets hope those numbers hold up.

When I return home, I will stop on my way down the hall - for a moment in Kelly's now too-quiet bedroom. I will stand in the darkness of a Southern California Fall, thinking of my daughter, some 1,700 miles away at school.

As I stand there, I will give thanks for a happy and confident young woman, now off at college. The Journey continues.....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Sully" Sullenberger Has Something to Teach Us

"It wasn't his life goal to be known as a hero, but it has been his life goal to have a close, loving relationship with his daughters, and of course with me. I think that is what he would like his legacy to be".

Sully is a hero because of this legacy. Plain and simple. I choose, each day, to believe Sully's kind of legacy is something noble

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Loving Father Must Surely Dwell

We received a last minute invite Saturday night to the Hollywood Bowl. Boy, are we glad we said yes, and never have I been more surprised and touched by a performance than I was by the LA Philharmonic's powerful delivery of Beethoven's 9th symphony.

My primary exposure to classical music is rather shallow, as I a am near complete musical moron. However, classical music is still a near constant background during my work day - I stream it on my PC at the office, and it plays as the hold music on our office phone system. To me, its part (not all) of the music of heaven; and we can glimpse it while still here on Earth.

I must admit, while parts of the 9th are familiar to me, I have never heard the entire symphony all the way through. I did last night, and I will never forget it. Ever.

The reason
for the concert, was the welcoming of the new Music Director of the LA Phil, Gustavo Dudamel. Suffice it to say, Gustavo is amazing; I have written about him before here. But I was equally struck by the music itself, and the deep content of the lyrics; a concert piece written by a musical genius when he was completely deaf.

While enjoying greatly the early part of this piece, I was stunned and gladdened by the final choral refrain - performed by the LA Master Choral. This refrain is of the 9th Symphony is taken from a poem by
German poet, playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller:
Let me embrace you, O millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry firmament
A loving Father must surely dwell.
Do you fall down, O millions?
Are you aware of your Creator, world?
Seek Him above the starry firmament!
For above the stars He must dwell.
Across almost 200 years, from its premiere in 1824 in Berlin, the music of Beethoven and the poetry of Schiller filled a moonlit Hollywood Bowl last night.

How is it that we live in these times? A planet filled with so much joy, and so much pain. So much beauty, and yet overwhelming sadness?

And yet, a loving Father must surely dwell.....are we aware?

First, a link to excerpts from the 9th, just for the joy of the music:

And then a link, complete with shaky camera to the actual finale of the event at the Bowl. What a night!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Closer Than We Think?

"Spend your life inside a box
looking through stained glass

Dream about a better day and hope it finds you fast"

Lately, I have been reflecting on what much of the evangelical world has taught me over the past 30 years.

And I am having my doubts.

Not about Jesus, or the fathers of our faith, or the sacraments or the primary elements of reformed theology. Its about the other stuff.

And this is the stuff that often serves to define who evangelicals are. One of the pieces that really bothers me is the whole subtle idea of evacuation theology. Why this obsession with leaving the planet? Perhaps its because living down here, on this dusty, too hot, too cold, suffering, starving, messed up place, well, just hurts too much. Its better not to think about it; easier to dwell on Someplace Else. Its easier to argue about the concept of election, or who is really saved, or predestination, or the End Times (woooooo!), or, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Its easier to make rules, clarify rules, argue about rules, and then constantly fail trying to follow them. No wonder most of the world is bored by us church people.

But what if The Kingdom has come? What if Jesus was right, when he said that the Kingdom is at hand? What if we are to do Kingdom work right now, instead of Someday By and By?

Recently, and almost by accident, I downloaded some music on my IPod from Fiction Family, a couple of very talented musicians who have made just one album. The song "Closer Than You Think" does a wonderful job of capturing what I have been thinking about. I share it here for you to think about as well.

You've got a vision of some far of day beautiful and bright
A carrot hanging out of reach, but always in your sight
There's an icon in your mind that stands for happiness one day
A picture on some wall of a kingdom far away

Oh, It's closer than you think
Oh, It's breathing in between
Oh, It's closer than you think
Oh, It's right under your feet

The sky is much more blue and the clouds are always white
The streets of course are gold and lit with ray of light
There's nothing on this earth that's as good as whats up there
Life is so much better when you're floating in the air

Oh, It's closer than you think
Oh, It's breathing in between
Oh, It's closer than you think
Oh, It's right under your feet

Forget about your brother if he doesn't seem to understand
The heaven you've concocted in your head
Never mind your sister when she asks you silly questions
About all the broken people left unfed
Cause burning questions are better left for dead

Spend your life inside a box looking through stained glass
Dream about a better day and hope it finds you fast

Oh, It's closer than you think
Oh, It's breathing in between
Oh, it's closer than you think
Oh, It's right under your feet

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