Monday, December 24, 2012

Certain Things You Cannot Measure

I just stumbled upon this thoughtful article from an economist that reminds us why there are some things that are best left unmeasured.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Being Santa

Santa with his most excellent helpers
This past weekend, I was gifted with the chance to become someone magical.  For two hours on a drizzly evening, I became Santa Claus.

With the aid of a big fluffy pillow around my middle, a bright and cheery costume from our Academy Award winning neighbor (Art Direction in 2010!), and three lovely female assistants (who happen to be related to me), I was magically transformed into a new man;  Pere Noel, Father Christmas, Sinter Klaas, Old Saint Nicholas.  Kris Kringle.

Santa awaits.

Apparently well liked.
The reason, you ask?  This was not a holiday meeting of sedate geriatrics, nor a collection of pre-schoolers, or a fund raiser for the Red Cross or the local Kiwanas club. 

I had been asked to become one of Santa's helpers for 50 or so rowdy, running-around, laughing, wild, awkward, noisy, wonderful and amazing middle school students.  This was the Christmas event for Young Life Wyldlife in our neighborhood.

To add more fun to the mix, a large quantity of artificial snow had been prepared.  I was seated in the midst of this classically Southern California winter scene, where I cheerfully greeted all the kids as they were lead to the tennis court to be surprised by Santa.

There is nothing quite like being center of attention in the midst of a tennis court full of middle schoolers.  These kids found the ultimate joy in dumping artificial semi-wet plastic snow on the head, into the mouth of, and down the flowing beard of Saint Nick.  Did I mention that artificial snow has all the taste appeal of microscopically shredded plastic trash bags?  Add to this the wonderful attic musty smell of artificial Santa beard sticking in your teeth.  One other item - it turns out the application of artificial plastic snow to a concrete tennis court surface yields the most slimy and slippery surface in the known world.  Santa is very lucky that he did not end up in traction.  It was all pure joy!
The highlight of the evening was when all the kids surrounded Santa's chair, depriving him of precious oxygen, in order to receive gifts and candy.  To say that this scene resembled pandemonium would be an understatement. 

However, in the midst of this raucous bunch was a lone 6th grade boy who managed to work his way to the front of the large crowd, in spite of his smaller stature.  Let's call him Jeff.  He had a gift for me I never expected.  Jeff was determined to be in the front row to greet Santa, as evidenced by his skill at elbowing his peers out of the way in order to get front and center with the Big Man (me).  Upon arrival about 18 inches in front of my face - he leaned in and announced, shouting with great passion, "I BELIEVE IN YOU!  NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS, I BELIEVE IN YOU, SANTA!!"

That is what Christmastide is all about.  It's what Young Life is all about.  Believing.  Believing in kids, no matter how loud and confused and awkward they may seem.  Young Life leaders try to listen to these kids, love them, and believe in them.  And in doing so, it our hope that these kids, the messy, noisy ones on that tennis court, will come to believe in a God who created them, and believes in their futures.  Each and every one.

Merry Christmas to all.  And to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Norris Family Christmas Update for 2012

Celebrating Heather's graduation with family and friends - June 2012

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness. ”

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Cheers and Merry Christmas from the Norris Family!  It’s time again to mark another year, and remember the sad and the joyful, the gains and the losses along the way.  But with God’s hope on our side, the landscape looks completely different, as it did that Christmas day long ago to an awakened and reborn Ebenezer Scrooge. 

A Senior and a Freshman 

Kelly is now a Senior at DePaul University in Chicago.  Kelly is looking forward to her last 6 months of college, having just returned from yet another adventure, this time to Honduras.  While there, she spent a week volunteering at the Nuevo Paraiso orphanage and school.  For Christmas, we are considering the purchase of a t-shirt for her that will read “I Don’t Know Yet”, which should serve to defuse the questions she constantly receives about her post-college future from all the grown-ups she knows.  Her sense of adventure, her love for friends, kids of all sizes and ages, and her ability to bring people together is a wonder to behold.  Before her departure for Honduras, she hosted 20 people in her Lincoln Park apartment for an early “Friendsgiving”, featuring her Dad’s super-secret and famous caramelized onion gravy.  She will be teaching somewhere on Planet Earth after graduation.  Stay tuned for what will certainly be exciting developments! 

Heather wants you all to know that she is a proud Husky Freshman at the University of Washington.  Bow Down!    She is involved everywhere; will be starting Young Life leader training soon, and will be living next quarter in the Vision 16 women’s Christian community house, very close to campus.  She has already made what will likely be life-long close friendships, found a home at University Presbyterian church, finds her classes interesting and challenging, got to rush the field twice during game-end upsets during Husky football season (vicarious joy for Dad!), and is actually enjoying the near-daily rain of the Emerald City.  Her direction is a psychology major, with a possible minor emphasis in education or speech and hearing sciences.  A special shout-out goes to our dear Seattle friends, who have opened their homes and loved our girl like she is one of their own.

On Giving and Loving Others

Nancy’s year has again been one focused on giving her time and her heart to others.  This year brought trips Chicago, Austin, Spokane, Colorado Springs, and a special Toronto visit for Grammie Ruth’s 80th birthday.  This fall we took a wonderful road trip to Seattle in late September to drop Heather off at UW, and we planned an extra week coming home slowly, with stops in Victoria BC, drives along the gorgeous Oregon coast, and amazing dinners in Napa and Carmel.  Nancy has seen increased responsibilities (and joy, she adds!) as the President of the Board of Club21 – a learning and resource center in Pasadena for families with children who have Down syndrome.  This has been a great blessing for us all, as our involvement has taught us deep lessons about the upside down nature of God’s care for those with special needs.  We are so much richer for our involvement!

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch 

As for me, the slightly dazed looking fellow deep in the middle years of middle age, there are times when I can hardly take it all in without a moment of blurry vision caused by tears.  I am so thankful and amazed at it all.  I can sit in my house on a cool November night and text one daughter in Honduras and the other in Seattle at the same time (from a phone that fits in my pocket!).  Two beautiful and amazing girls at great colleges.  The blessing of 24 years of marriage to a lovely wife who tolerates my oddities.  We are adjusting to this empty nest; the nest may be empty, but our hearts are very full indeed!  I am still employed, and the boss is a wonderful, yet modest guy.  Oh, he is also mildly handsome, given his age and hair challenges. 

In Closing – A Reflection

Each day, a gift.  Every one.  We were reminded of this quite recently, as we joined hundreds for a memorial service for a good friend, husband, and father of three, taken from us all by cancer far too early in life at just 51 years.  A profoundly good man; an example of what love, friendship, and faithfulness to family really looks like.  Men like Don are a rarity these days.  Those of us who remain down here for a while longer have a deep responsibility to continue a meaningful legacy of love, laughter, and encouragement to those around us.  Beyond our little accomplishments or the successes of our kids, these are the things that really matter.  As Christmas approaches, the days and years seem to blur together, just like in the times of Mr. Scrooge; with all the “people hurrying to and fro”.  But there is an important Christmas question for us in the midst of the hurrying.  Will we take the time to slow down, stop, and really listen to and love those in need around us?  Will we become like the transformed Mr. Scrooge?  Can we create lives that embrace others, like the mighty Founder of Christmas himself?   We have another year in front of us.  “God Bless us, every one!”

Christmas Love to all from Steve, Nancy, Kelly and Heather!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Star Carol - John Rutter

Its Advent.  This is one of my favorite John Rutter carols.  Recorded at Royal Albert Hall, by the BBC.  Nothing like a room full of Brits, singing with their whole hearts!

See his star shining bright
In the sky this Christmas Night!
Follow me joyfully;
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

He Put Me Here for a Reason

Do you ever wonder if your job, or your friendships, or maybe your whole life make a difference?  Do you feel small, unimportant, and insignificant?

And then do you sometimes think its all for naught?  Maybe you are like me, and you have been fooled into thinking that the only lives or careers that really matter are the ones that lead vast corporations, or produce medical miracles, or inspire thousands.  Being big and important and well recognized.  That is what really matters. 

It might be you have bought into the same pack of lies I have.  This short film proves to me, in a simple and elegant way, that so much of that sort of thinking is just not right. 

Might be that Rudy has it all exactly right.

As for me, when I grow up, I want to have the kind of quiet pride and dignity of work that Rudy Gonzalez has. 

Do you know what I mean?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 - Its Not Just Another Day

It's Thanksgiving. This is an amazing day. Let's not take this day, or any day for granted.

The narrator is Br. David Steindl Rast, a Benedictine monk.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Losing, Winning, and Why This Feels So Good

This past Saturday, rain was threatening the skies over the Rose Bowl, in a land where the sun constantly shines.  This day the sky was deep grey and ominous, as if some massive dark and foreboding thing were coming.

And then, as the crowd of 90,000 stood and paused for the National Anthem - it felt as if the darkened heavens were nearly torn apart by two Navy FA 18 Super Hornets, as they streaked low overhead.  A deep roar, a rush of streaking jet engines, and a massive wave of cheers from the stands, the sound of power both machine and human.  Everyone was ready.  Bring it.

As I stood there, in the crowd, beside my bride of 24 years, I should have known this splitting of the sky was a sign.  A sign that good things do happen to undeserving souls.  A sign that the little guy does not always finish last; that those little guys in 1776 got their freedom.    And from that little band of people with principles, great and amazing things would happen.  This is America, after all.  Another college football Saturday, and a game of great rivals, unparalleled in the nation.

Two great universities, so much tradition, so much pride on the line.  Perhaps for the Bruins, more pride than arrogant expectation.  That arrogance sort of thing is typical in Troy, a place derived largely from mythology.

Sometimes, after loosing for 12 of the last 13 years, things can improve.  And maybe, just maybe, the monopoly in LA college football is over.

It was a Battle Royal.  In the end, the Guys Who Don't Usually Win .... won big time.  It was decisive.  One team left looking at the ground, having lost their alleged hero in a crushing sack, a metaphor for his teams' season.  The winners who were expected to always win, lost.  And they have been doing that a lot this year.  The other team jumped, and hooted, and hollered and celebrated like little kids let loose early from school.  This was an innocent joy, born out of 13 years of mostly loosing.  Every single player on this team had never beat SC.

We won!  We did it! 

Why do I feel so emotional about this rivalry?  It's personal.  I am a Bruin, Class of 1980.  Much of the good I have experienced in life I can trace in one way to my University years in Westwood.  In this spirit, below is my twist on a classic column by the great sportswriter Jim Murray. The article was written in 1978 when I was in school.  I clipped it out of the paper, and hung it on the door of my dorm room. For months it was there, like an identity badge.  I have updated it for the modern day:
"You all know the kind of school SC is. The girls are built like chorus girls. The boys look like Abercrombe ads. Their fathers are all rich. The all live in San Marino or Newport Beach, and Daddy is a third generation real estate developer.  Their biggest worry is the hedge fund market or where to park the Mercedes at the California Club. Their families have always run things in this town and they all belong to fraternities where you have to prove you never drove a used car and you think Hoover was our greatest President. Even though their "Old SC" now has more people of color, different income brackets, and academic scholarship than ever before, they try to ignore this is happening.  They pine for the Old Days.  They have their little Cardinal and Gold tail gates at the Coliseum with Biff (Class of 78) and Muffy (class of 80).  Muffy was a Kappa Dinga Sigma Hey, Biff a Smega Chi.  They miss John McKay."

"And they'll never have to lay pipe or pour cement or sweep floors or serve drinks or wear a hard hat and they'll go through life getting guys to open doors for them and take their hats.  It's the world of Thurston Howell III.  Although a stereotype, that's the public image of SC.  The First World. A very private university, a very private club. That's the image SC projects. Tuxedos and patrons of art, a Chagall in the guest bathroom.  And all those "new" SC people, well, they always use the guest bathroom.  Please."

"UCLA on the other hand, suggests a whole bunch of people who are going to become, not judges, or CEOs, but storefront lawyers, or child psychologists or oboists in the Philharmonic, or delegates to the Democratic convention. If they go abroad, its with the Peace Corps, not the plutocrats and its Biafra, not Biarritz.  If they ever get into the Cabinet, it would be in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Assistant Director to the Undersecretary.  When they are in school, they are working at the children's clinic or the parking garage of the California Club.  Their student loans last for decades."

These Bruins tolerate the football team because it brings in money for the Occupy Westwood rallies.  They prefer Quiditch on the Quad.  They like badminton with the folks from the ACLU, and wish cancer researchers and cardiologists got million-dollar contracts instead of guys who barely passed remedial English on their own football team."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Merriweather Lewis' Moment of Reflection

They were only thirty three souls and a dog, facing thousands of miles of unknown territory.  Their adventure captures my imagination like no other. 

Two years, four months and ten days travel from St. Louis to the Oregon Coast, and then back again to St. Louis; 3,700 miles one way and 7,000 miles round trip.  We moderns can make this trip in a period of hours.

They started out going upstream in a dugout boat, endured tortuously hot days, swarms of insects beyond imagination, saw plants and animals they had never imagined, and spent the freezing winter with Indians in North Dakota.  No group has ever done anything like this before, or since.  This was the incredible moon shot of 1804; in many ways, there was more mystery, adventure and courage in this journey than in the all of the Apollo program.

One of the two leaders of this group was a 30 year old from Virginia named Meriweather Lewis. Biographers note this was a man of who was introverted, melancholic, and moody.  William Clark, Lewis' co-leader of the expedition, was in contrast extroverted, even-tempered and gregarious. The better educated and more refined Lewis, who possessed a philosophical, romantic and speculative mind, was at home with abstract ideas; Clark, of a pragmatic mold, was more of a practical man of action. Each supplied vital qualities which balanced their partnership.
About six weeks ago, on our travels home, we stopped at Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River.  This was the last stop of Lewis & Clark's historic adventure to the West.  We spent a soft, cool Oregon morning at the Fort, walking through the reproduction of the original encampment and learning more about this remarkable journey.

While viewing the exhibits, I happened upon a quotation from the journal of Meriweather Lewis that I had read before, but now which  somehow resonated deep within me.  More than 206 years ago, on his birthday on a rainy night in coastal Oregon, surrounded by only frontier and darkness, in a completely new land, Meriweather Lewis sat in this (at left)  darkened room, lit only by fire and candlelight, recording in his journal his reflections on becoming just 31 years old:

This day I completed my thirty first year, and conceived that I had in all human probability now existed about half the period which I am to remain in this Sublunary world. I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the hapiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now soarly feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended. but since they are past and cannot be recalled, I dash from me the gloomy thought and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least indeavour to promote those two primary objects of human existence, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestoed on me; or in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.
Lewis, Meriwether; Clark, William (2012-05-12). The Journals of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1806 (Kindle Locations 9685-9691) Kindle Edition.
The thoughts of this brave young adventurer leave me wondering about existential questions at beyond the midpoint of my own life.  I am standing, in a way, at a marker of my own; a time to reflect as a very recent empty nester, wondering what things of significance my future life will hold.    First, I wonder much these days about the worth of my own contributions to the world thus far.  What can I do that will offer a life lived for mankind, and not for myself?

Second, I wonder about the sense of distorted perspective that we might all have of our own lives.  What seemingly small things have we done that we cannot recognize as possibly of great importance?  Perhaps in the Divine economy, there is a different way of looking at what matters in life, and at the little things that can become big.

Here was a young man who had just accomplished things very few in recorded history could ever claim.  He and a small band had explored half of a continent.  And yet, as he looked back on his life, he found himself far lacking in things achieved or internal character.  Why was this, and why do I often feel very much the same way?

After the Expedition, Meriweather Lewis was appointed Governor of the Louisiana Territory.  William Clark was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed to the Superintendency of Indian Affairs. However, Lewis at age 35, died tragically on October 11, 1809, just three years after the Expedition.

His grave lies within Natchez Trace National Parkway, near Hohenwald, Tennessee. Thomas Jefferson, who held life-long affection for his protege, is credited with the Latin inscription on Lewis' tombstone: Immaturus obi: sed tu felicior annos Vive meos, Bona Republica! Viva tuos. (I died young: but thou, O Good Republic, live out my years for me with better fortune.)

For the most outstanding book on Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery, see Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Paul Simon: Father & Daughter

This song just came on Pandora here at my work.  It reminded me of two lovely young ladies who I love more than I can express.  This is for you, girls.  (Check out my notes in the lyrics below)

If you leap awake in the mirror of a bad dream
And for a fraction of a second you can't remember where you are
Just open your window and follow your memory upstream
To the meadow in the mountain where we counted every falling star

I believe a light that shines on you will shine on you forever
And though I can't guarantee there's nothing scary hiding under your bed
I'm gonna stand guard like a postcard of a Golden (in our case a Chocolate) Retriever
And never leave 'til I leave you with a sweet dream in your head

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow    ---- (this part is perfect for where you both are in life right now)
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you

Trust your intuition
It's just like goin' fishin'
You cast your line and hope you get a bite
But you don't need to waste your time
Worryin' about the market place
Try to help the human race
Struggling to survive its harshest night

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012

It Started with an Embrace

Note the wrapped right hand for IVs
It started with an embrace in the delivery room.  And then, another embrace, 9 months later, as we were unexpectedly back in the pediatrics ward of Huntington Hospital with a very feverish lump of 9 month old baby girl resting on my shoulder.  She would be in that hospital for nearly a week, overcoming a serious infection. It was a frightening time.

In that pediatrics ward her mother and I were quite worried.  Our little girl had a very high fever and was listless and lethargic.  Among the marks of real Providence in our lives was the alert response of our pediatrician, who admitted our baby girl immediately.  As it turned out, she was exactly correct.  Several days of serious intravenous medication ensued, followed by a surgical procedure, and finally, gratefully, discharge from the hospital.

I will never forget those moments in pediatrics admitting, holding that baby girl, wondering where this suddenly very scary journey might take us.  I had no idea, and I was petrified.  She was so little.

But in those moments of fear, I also experienced a feeling that was entirely unique, solitary, and mysterious.  It's something I have only spoken of a couple of times since; it is too difficult to articulate.  There, in the bustle of a hospital, holding that child, I felt an almost tangible sense of God's presence.  Strangely, as if something far more infinite was there with us all, in that room.  Something Sacred. 

And at the same moment, a single vivid and entirely unexpected thought seemed to overwhelm me and become more clear than just about anything I have thought or felt in all my years.

"I will be with you, wherever this leads."  

More than anything else that scary day, I knew we were not alone.  I can't explain where this came from, or even what it meant at its deepest level.  This baby's sickness was not a random event.  This was Peace, washing over me.  And I needed it.

I have been reflecting on those days, and the arc of that girl's life these past days, as her mother and I have returned from Seattle, going the slow way home through Washington, Oregon, and the coast of California.  On the road you have a lot of time to reflect on the mystery and wonders of the past seasons of your life.  And you have time to ponder where God showed up in your life as a family.  The road gives you the gift to forget your schedule for a while, and helps you put all those years of raising a family in perspective.  The long road home helps you enjoy the slowness of the journey, and reminds you of where you have been.  I think we spend too much time flying over life; the road connects us with what really happens down here on earth.

It started in a hospital admitting room, and, in part, it ended on an open quad at college, in a slightly tearful goodbye for the start of freshman year.  This is the point when we all, parents and child, admit that its time to begin to part - to all find our own way in the world.

On that day last week, strangely I had a reminder of that same sense of Peace from almost 19 years before.  It came in that sacred moment when I watched daughter and Mom embrace for a moment of parting.  A hug.  Tears.  Peace.  Right there, in front of me.  How could that be?  She was leaving us - how would she do?  What would her future be like?  Millions of questions.  And yet, Peace.

I know this because 10 days ago, that same little girl, now grown and entirely ready to go, rested her head, for just a moment in a hug, on that same shoulder of mine.  Then, she turned, smiling and making fun of her emotional parents, and walked confidently forward toward her new life in college.

So many years have passed, each one filled with a unique mixture of tears and laughter, frustration and joy, challenge and opportunity.  I have this other name besides Steve.  This girl calls me Dad.  It will be the most sacred and joy-filled name I will ever be called.

Friends ask us how we are doing.  Thankful.  The word hardly begins to describe how we feel.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Heavens declare the glory of God

This certainly illustrates the point of Psalm 19.  Make sure to watch it full screen.

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Are We Paying Attention to All This?

Its late summer now and the daylight here is growing shorter.  Past is the 54th anniversary of my arrival on this planet.  Lately, over the course of this summer, I have been reflecting on how much of this life I am really understanding.  Or appreciating. Or celebrating.  And I don't blog here as much as I did during my late 40s - I should change that.  Maybe that could become an exercise in more frequent reflection and celebration.

How much do I grasp of this journey and the remarkable relationships I have been given?  And as we all move from day to day, how often am I missing the presence Divine in the midst of the everyday?  I might be missing a lot, and I would like to change that.

Now deep in middle age, and passing more milestones in life, do I even have something close to a sense of wonder and mystery about it all?    Is there, deep within me, a glimpse of a vague understanding of my part in this relentless, remarkable, enchanting, mysterious gift I have been given in the form of friends and family?

Older Daughter is back beginning her final year in college at DePaul in Chicago, after a great summer at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, helping to lead the Sting Rays Swim Team.  Younger Daughter is weeks away from starting her own remarkable journey at the University of Washington.  As the seasons of adulthood change, am I really taking in all of this amazing ride?  Do I get it; do I really understand?

It seems we hold these moments of life with our children like some kind of impossible net made of gossamer threads.  We can never get a complete or permanent grip.  And, it seems, this is the way it is meant to be.

Kevin Kling is a storyteller, and I recently heard him interviewed.  He said this, that completely struck me; it was an epiphany of sorts:
"As children, we are closer in time to the Creator.  I realized who I connected with.  As a kid, I connected with my grandparents.  We were in the same light. I was in the dawn, and they were in the twilight, but we were in the same light.  They were heading to the Creator, and I was coming from the Creator.  And, because of that, we spoke a very similar language.  I wondered as I was getting older and as I looked back, where that goes.  Because it does go.  We become entrenched in this world.  As time goes on, and we come to the end of our lives, we return to that point."
"Because it does go".  My goodness!  Where has it gone for me?  In the busy-ness of running my own business?  In the blur of the everyday? Sometimes, we just get lost in the immediate, don't we?  We become entrenched in this world.  I love that phrasing.  Heading off to work each day, dealing with the immediacy of life. We are like the people in the Rockwell painting"Lift Up Thine Eyes".  Although its too small to see, the print on the sign reads, of course, "Lift up Thine Eyes".  Beneath it, the hoards of the city trudge onward to work, heads downcast.

As this new chapter of life in the form of "empty nest" comes into focus, I want to pay attention, to make a difference in the lives of others, and to remember and celebrate it. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Your Work Has Purpose

To me, this is a wonderful example of ordinary people working together to do extraordinary things.  That we all might be so inspired by the work we do.....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mars Curiosity - Amazing!

On August 5th, Mars Curiosity will land.  Cross your fingers.  This is stunning!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

This Marriage - Eric Whitacre

Heard this today for the first time.  So sweet and sublime.....

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name, an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe how spirit mingles in this marriage.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lindbergh's Grave and Memorial Day

Earlier this week, I experienced a small epiphany of sorts at 37,000 feet over the Midwest. 

I was returning home from a 4 day business trip to Washington DC.  Before I departed, I downloaded several pages of one of my favorite blogs, Flight Level 390, to read on the plane.  It seemed fitting to read about the adventures and musings of an airline pilot while flying home myself.  I simply love the periodic reflections of Captain Dave, and heartily recommend them.

One of Captain Dave's posts was a reflection and a poem on Charles Lindbergh.  This recent May 20th was the 85th anniversary of Lindbergh's courageous and record breaking transatlantic flight, a flight that forever changed the world.  And here I was, with 120 or so other souls, 7-plus miles in the air over an unmarked Midwestern state, traveling at 0.83 times the speed of sound, in a metal tube with wings.  How far we have come since that single man dared the odds and transformed history.

And tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day we set aside for the first trip of the spring to the beach, or barbeque's, or pool parties.  But the meaning of Memorial Day is so much more. 
Lindbergh's grave near Hana, Maui.

I remember about 35 years ago my parents and I made the drive to Hana, Maui; a picturesque and winding road that ends at the small clifftop Hawaiian village of Hana, a place directly out of Heaven on Earth.  My Dad kept talking about Lindbergh owning a small home there, and having recently been buried someplace nearby.  My Dad thought Charles Lindbergh was an amazing American icon.  He was right.  At the end of his life, Lindbergh chose to be flown from a hospital in New York, where he was being treated for lymphoma, back to Hana and the place he loved so much.   His grave is simple, and not marked on maps.  Those who wish to honor him find the grave site on their own.  

And there I was reading this poem, speeding through the sky with ease, tears in my eyes, reflecting upon many things; the amazing advance of technology, the courage of a man to go it alone, the character of this generation that preceded ours that took risks like Lindbergh, and the service of my own Dad to his country as a B17 pilot in World War II.  Many things in this poem struck me as deeply meaningful, I share it with you, in the hopes it might have meaning for you as well.

Lindbergh's Grave

That long green swell that sears my eyes
As I lie in this bed of black stone,
Is it the Irish coast rising in the dawn
Beyond the brushed silver of my blind cowling
Where, throughout the night,
I trusted Not in some desert God's directions,
But in the calibrated compasses of man?

That rushing sound,
is it the hordes at Orly,
Swarming past the barriers and lights
To scavenge my Spirit,
and lift me up
Into the air that only heroes breath?
Or is it the age-old sigh of sea on stones,
Known to those who pace the shingle
And the swirled black sands that seep
Up from the sea's loom to wrap
Impossible islands in a shawl of waves?

That painting daubed on the chapel's window-
Not the roselined mandala at Chartres
Where flame in glass misprisoned sings-
But a cruder Savior, bearded, browned and popular,
An icon obtainable to plain sight,
a trim God Flat upon the glass in dull gesso limned,
And, when light moves behind it, looking down....
Is this the sign in which, at last, we conquer?

Conquer? I'd laugh the laugh of stones
Had I but eyes to see and lips to breathe.
No, I am content here where man and apes
Together waltzing lie, having done at last
With all horizons, having done at last with sky.

If you would see me now pass by
The small green church where ancient
Banyans looming shade and guard
The tower and the bell which you
May toll for me, or you, or all those
Not yet delivered to the stars and sea.

And then, retreating, mark the trees
Whose tendrilled branches hold but air,
And shadow both the church and stones
Beneath which wait both apes and men,
Who, foolish with their hunger for the air,
Swung branch to branch up all the years
Until, letting go at last, they learned
Through my night's leap, at last, to rise.

Sea, stone, tree, ape and Savior.
These now my long companions are.
Better here, I think, in this dank green
Cartoon of Paradise, this slight-of-hand Eden;
Better here beneath the pumice stones
Where strangers drop a wreathe from time to time;

Better in here deep than out there wide --
Hovering over the pillaring waves alone,
Suspended between the old world and the new,
Trusting in man's compass to guide me home;
Descending down the sharp cold blade of dawn.
Better, much better, in here at last to wait
In here where the shawl of the waves below
Enfolds that fire they could never snare.

Gerard Vanderleun
American Digest

Palapalo Ho'omau Church Cemetery, Kipahulu, Southeast Maui

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons

This is the reason this song was written.  This is the reason we were born.  This is the reason I love Young Life.

[sigh no more | a reflection of beauty] from JJ Starr on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lay My Burden Down - Aoife O'Donovan

Just discovered today that this touching song was penned by a relatively new artist, who I have been seeing quite a lot of these days.  Aoife O'Donovan of Boston.  When you get discovered by Alison Kraus, you are doing quite fine, thank you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Father's Father / The Civil Wars

This is completely haunting and beautiful to me, and speaks of the mystery of our past.  As I continue to research the history of my own family, 11 generations now in America, with members on opposite sides of the Civil War, these words have new meaning.

My Father's Father

I hear something hanging on the wind
I see black smoke up around the bend
I got my ticket and
I'm going to go home

The leaves have changed a time or two
Since the last time the train came through
I got my ticket and I'm going to go home

My father's father's blood is on the track
A sweet refrain drifts in from the past
I got my ticket and I'm going to go home

The winding roads they led me here
burn like coal and dry like tears
So here's my hope
My tired soul
So here's my ticket
I want to go home

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

My Friend Molly

Someday, I hope I get to meet Angela, who has written this beautiful piece about our family friend, Molly.....

She is the first reason
in 23 years
that I've ever had to wake up with the sun.
And her magic number is 21.

Born with an extra chromosome,
Molly is a miracle.

She loves musicals, math problems,
and literally refers to EVERY book she sees as her 'favorite'

Molly colors the world.

On ordinary days,
She reminds me to sing songs that aren't playing
And see things that aren't there.

At least, that is... to jaded eyes and ears like ours.

See, Molly has a gift:
She lives as if no one is watching.

A true freedom.

She lacks an ego,
Operates solely on love,
and doesn't respond well to anger.

She is hello hugs,
goodbye smiles,
and occasional slaps on the butt.

She is random questions
no; I mean REALLY random
(She once asked me what time Jesus was born)

She is beautiful compliments and peculiar observations.

Molly is bright purple boots, knee high socks, and umbrellas when its not raining.

She is cafeteria salads topped with,
of all things,
sweet relish.

She is chocolate milk.

Together, we are anything but 'disabled'
We are silly.
and it is not uncommon for both of us to laugh uncontrollably
when someone makes fart noises in the classroom.

I try to be an adult;
But it is hard when she makes the musings of childhood
seem so much more appealing.

We chase 'bad guys' around the track during gym,
and break into show tunes in the hallway,
and whenever she decides to
I let that girl dance.

because she is preserving my silly...
AND developing my patience.

Not every day is a bowl of cherries,
See, Molly likes to sass me from time to time.

She has an attitude that rivals my own,
and is not afraid to tell me,
straight up,
to "Get out of her face"

She is charming,
but some days she gets frustrated.

Not because she cannot communicate her thoughts,
but because we don't always speak her language.

I guess the only "down" to the syndrome
is that everyone else can't seem to catch up.

There is nothing 'disabled' about her.

The problem is with us;
see, the world likes to taint the beautiful with its "normal"

But Molly is a musical when the world is silent.

One of the goals of her education plan,
Is to become more "well-adjusted"

And I can't help but ask " what?"

To boring?
To egotistical?
To vain?

Molly is so many things that 'normal' is not
and because of that
I've yet to watch her interact with someone
who doesn't immediately fall in love.

She makes every day happenings anything but.

Once, at fifth period,
Molly was working on her times tables,
and I was taking notes...when in her loudest voice, with a smile on her face,
completely out of nowhere,
she yelled:
"Teach me how to fly!!"

..and after we laughed it off,

I picked her pencil up off the floor and said:

"ME teach YOU..?! Girl please,
you're the one with the wings...

now get back to work."

Angela Aguirre
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