Monday, December 29, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dear brothers and sisters, today, “the grace of God our Saviour has appeared” (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son of the Virgin Mary: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven”. Let us adore him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not be afraid, “I am God, and there is no other” (Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace.What he said. Merry Christmas to all.
Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
There is one middle-aged fellow I have liked for about oh, 30-some years. His name is Bob Bennett. I am amazed at the creative process of song writing, and as it turns out, this song is just a new-born baby, being written and recorded during the last month.
For a listen to this new song, a gift for us at Advent, go here. Wait for it to load.
In a Christmas sky
See the Architect of Everything
From deep Heaven to Earth
By a virgin Birth
Sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars
Which light in the sky
Will stargazers see,
Bright as sun on the Sea
... of Tranquility?
Across black volcanic sand
Shells scattered by His hand
Sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars
The scientist and poet open-jawed
See the chaos and precision
... Of the Living God
All creation is upheld,
And through time propelled,
Sings a Carol of the Moon and Stars
Each miracle nativity,
Such a common sight
Like the sky drowned out
By man made light
Would that every child born
Be as welcome as a Christmas morn
To sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars
Oh God, it is my blessing
And my constant curse
To live as though I am
My own universe
But if You should be so kind
To illuminate my heart and mind
I'd sing a Carol of the Moon and Stars
A Carol of the Moon and Stars
Monday, December 22, 2008
Merry Christmas 2008 to all from the Norris Clan!
With two teenage girls, this has been a year full of life in our home, and as is our custom, we wanted to take this a few moments to keep you up to date on our lives this past year. Also, in keeping with the gift of the Christ child, we would like to offer, in your honor, a blessing for others less fortunate, in the form of a gift.
Kelly is now pushing hard on 18 years old, and is in the midst of college applications. The last year has been amazing. It’s exhausting just replaying it in our minds. Try this out for size: JV water polo, SAT preparation, “hanging with friends”, finishing a great junior year at South Pasadena high, work at the Rose Bowl Aquatic center teaching swimming to pre-schoolers, a trip to London and Paris with the family, then a week later, BACK through London on the way to (yes, it’s true) Albania for a two week summer mission trip. Kelly’s college preferences are mostly east of the Mississippi River, and we look forward to seeing how it all works out!
Heather is now almost 15, and is in her first year at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. She is loving her new school setting, and as is typical with Heather, jumping into her new surroundings with both feet. Thus far, she is on the JV soccer team, and busy nearly all her free time with the homework of a rigorous academy schedule. She did take time out in October for the Father Daughter Dinner Dance, a tradition each year at her school. For most high school girls, this event might have the potential to be massively embarrassing; something on the scale of Cinderella goes to the Ball with Quasimodo. But not at this school, and not these girls. This was an evening of unbridled fun; dinner, conversation, and of course, dancing; a study in unbridled joy. However, we can still report that Dad is a pathetic dancer. Some things never change.
Nancy continues a life that is a study in care for others. Besides being a great Mom and wife, she will be spending a significant portion of 2009 involved in a committee that will search for a new senior pastor for our church. We are hopeful and expectant to see what God will do. Pray for Nancy and her seven friends on this committee, will you? We thankfully celebrated 20 years of marriage in October of this year by hiking the Mist Trail in Yosemite Valley, and look forward to another 20 years on our journey together.
August found the four of us on a long dreamed-of vacation to both London and Paris. We can report that there is nothing like visiting these two historic and romantic cities in the company of teenage girls. In London it was the Tower of London, Churchill’s underground War Rooms, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle (our favorite!), and even a visit to the British War Museum for Dad (by himself, for some “guy time”!). We even caught an evening play of “The Sound of Music”. Then on to Paris where we picnicked on the Champs De Mars at dusk “Twinkle Time” for the Eiffel Tower, visited Versailles (and the massive crowds therein), the Latin Quarter and Notre Dame (ask us how to get in without waiting in line!). A once in a lifetime journey for us all. We came home thankful, and hopefully a bit more cultured.
In the midst of our busy and happy year, we remain mindful that this has not necessarily a year of pure happiness for many. Many of you who are dear to us have faced illness, sadness, loss of jobs, and maybe even fear of the future. Life is like that, just plain scary sometimes. Maybe it feels like your Christmas stocking is empty. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, lights, TV Specials, and with gifts.
All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for that amazing, mysterious child born in a manger. It’s His birthday we're celebrating. But we tend to forget that.
And so, in this year of recession, our family is giving a gift in your names; the names of all those our family loves. This year, Samaritan’s Purse will be building a water well, in a place somewhere in need, to provide clean water, in honor and thanksgiving for your love and friendship. We are so richly blessed to call you friends and family! And so, for years to come, living water will pour forth in a place far from our homes, for those less fortunate than us all. A Christmas Gift that will last. May your hearts be warmed by the great love of Christ this Christmas!
The darling of the world is come
and fit it is we find a room to
welcome Him. To welcome Him.
The noble part of all the house
here is the heart. Which we receive him and bequeath this holly and this ivy wreath. To do Him honor who's our King and Lord
of all this reveling.
John Rutter – “What Sweeter Music”
Sunday, December 21, 2008
His name was Jdimytai Damour. He worked security at a Wal Mart on Long Island. He was 34, and now, he is dead, because, well, we need to have our stuff.
I have been haunted by Mr. Damour's death ever since the day it occurred, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when a mass of "Blitz Line" shoppers crushed him under the weight of their greed, lust for consumption, and lack of concern for others. Crushed by our sick culture, one that values material things over souls.
And then, several weeks ago, the LA Times ran a Column One Piece about this event, that got my attention again. I cannot get this out of my mind. Crowds are a strange thing. They have a psychology all of their own, and it can be a scary thing. But this event at WalMart was, to me, just about the scariest thing I have heard about in our country in a long time. If people are worried about taking God out of our schools, or gay marriage, this event, to me, deserves equal, if not greater attention. I think our souls are sick, not just those WalMart people, but all of us, me included. Let me tell you why.
The WalMart waiting people had started lining up at 9PM on Thanksgiving night, in order to take advantage of holiday savings. Why did they do this? So they could get a $25 microwave, or a $5 blender, or a flat screen TV for half price. So they lined up ALL NIGHT, in order to save a few dollars.
Here is a novel idea, all those shoppers could have stayed home in bed. Then, they might have arisen late, to enjoy that extra Friday with family, or friends. But they chose to get up early and line up outside WalMart. So they could get more stuff.
Our nation is littered with self storage facilities - places we store our extra stuff. We have so much stuff, we need extra space to store it. A number of years ago, I was attending an investment conference where an executive of one of the largest self storage firms spoke. All of us commercial real estate analysts were interested in what shrewd things he would tell us about this interesting investment opportunity. He got up to speak, and this is essentially the entirety of what he had to say:
"Let's face it, the American people have a lot of extra crap. They come to us, and tell us they need a place to store it. But they also tell us they will be back in a couple of months to pick it up, and move it someplace else. Truth is, they never come back. And we just keep collecting their rent money. Every month. Thank you."
That was probably 20 years ago. We are not any different now, except that we have maybe two or three times as much self storage space.
What We Really Need
It has been said that the Temple of America is....the mall. I think it might be true. And then, perhaps is the self storage facility the graveyard? These are sad and bizarre edifices to our way of life. What have we created here?
The death of Mr. Damour has left me feeling as if we are a people without meaningful relationships, with broken souls, if you will. We are lost in the midst of our consumption, and we cannot find our way home. We trample those who get in our way.
Mr. Damour is a casualty of our American way of life. He is gone. I will pray for the family that he leaves behind, and hope that in a significant way his death will not have been in vain.
We need to stop all this shopping, all this consuming. We need to revisit our priorities.
Monday, December 15, 2008
O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent
jacentem in præsepio.
Beata virgo, cujus viscera
Dominum Christum, Alleluia!
O great mystery
and wondrous sacrament,
that animals should see
the newborn Lord
lying in their manger.
Blessed is the Virgin
whose womb was worthy
to bear the Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia, indeed. Thank you, Mr. Lauridsen, for this lovely composition. I think this will be what part of Heaven will sound like. For me, a measure of Advent Grace.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
To me, this is the perfect piece for the Advent time of waiting.
calida gravisque (warm and heavy)
pura velut aurum (pure as gold)
et canunt angeli (and the angels sing softly)
molliter modo natum (to the newborn babe)
Friday, December 12, 2008
KC and I got together earlier this week. He pastors a small church in the high desert. He mentioned that we all seem to want to rush Christmas in early, with music and carols. We are in a hurry. And then he added, "but maybe it is better to wait.....that is what Advent is all about - waiting."
That comment has had me thinking.....
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
One day after an F/A-18D Hornet fighter jet fell from the sky and crashed into his two-story house in San Diego's University City neighborhood, Dong Yun Yoon returned to a home and life in ruins.
Rescue workers sifting through the debris on Cather Avenue had found the bodies of his wife, two baby daughters and mother-in-law.
"I believe my wife and two babies and mother-in-law are in heaven with God," Yoon said at a news conference afterward. "Nobody expected such a horrible thing to happen, especially right here, our house."
Yoon said he bore no ill will toward the Marine Corps pilot who ejected safely before the jet plunged into the neighborhood two miles west of the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. "I pray for him not to suffer for this action," Yoon said. "I know he's one of our treasures for our country."
Mr. Yoon is a man with great character.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
What else would get the cops called to our house (including police copter fly over!) at 8:30 PM on an otherwise quiet South Pasadena night?
It must be the Young Life 2008 Christmas Party!
Last night our house was stuffed with about 40 volunteers, staff, and committee of Young Life in our area for general holiday revelry.
We on committee are so very thankful for our staff and volunteers, who are sharing their lives with kids in our area, all so that they might earn the right to be heard, and have the opportunity to love kids into the Kingdom!
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
To me, this means so many things. I still remember the period of waiting, of wondering, as both of our girls came into the world. And then they came, all wet, and noisy, and wiggly, and, well, wonderful! Something stunning, mysterious, and blessed, altogether. Life!
Today, as a little Advent gift to myself, and to you, I give you the remarkable choral work of St. Olaf's college, singing John Rutter's sublime masterpiece "What Sweeter Music". I cannot make it through this piece intact; my eyes always fill with tears. I think I have played this at least six times today. I need it, for Advent.
Take a few minutes, and wait, and watch. It is Advent, the time of waiting.
What sweeter music can we bring,
than a carol for to sing the birth
of this our Heavenly King.
Awake the voice, awake the string.
Dark and dull nights
fly hence away and give the honor
to this day that sees December
turned to May. That sees December
turned to May.
Why does the chilling winters
morn smile like a field beset with
corn or smell like a meadow
newly shorn. Thus on the sudden
come and see. The cause why things
such fragrant be.
Tis' He is born who's quickening
birth gives life and luster public
mirth to heaven and the under
We see Him come and know Him ours
who with His sunshine and His
showers turns all the patient
ground to flowers. Turns all the
patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come
and fit it is we find a room to
welcome Him. To welcome Him.
The noble part of all the house
here is the heart. Which we receive him and bequeath,
this holly and this ivy wreath. To
do Him honor who's our King and Lord
of all this reveling
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I moved in across the street from the Erdman family when I was just five years old. Ours was a family of three; I was an only child of a second marriage. This was Arcadia, California in 1963.
The first family to welcome us to our new neighborhood lived across the street. The Erdman family of five seemed to me large and busy, full of personality, and, for me, a somewhat shy only child, at times intimidating. The Erdman kids surrounded me in age, they were 6, 4 and 3; a boy and two girls. As I grew, they also surrounded me by example - of character, fun, adventurousness, humor, and grace.
The husband and father of this family was an unassuming aerospace engineer named H. Richard Erdman; Dick to his friends. He was born in 1930, 10 years after my Dad. In many ways Dick was an ordinary man, and yet, to me, and to many who knew him, completely extraordinary. Dick loved his wife well for many years, was a dedicated father, and a loving grandfather. Dick was part of the Greatest Generation, having served in the Navy during the Korean War.
For the next 13 years, I grew up across the street from the home where Dick raised his family. And last Saturday, at a memorial service in Arcadia, a church packed full of friends and colleagues remembered this good man. What a fitting tribute, a congregation full of people who were blessed by his friendship and touched by his example.
Over the past two years, following the death of both of my own parents, I have thought often of what things mark a life well lived. During the past week, I have been reflecting on the life of Dick Erdman, and the difference he made in so many lives. This was a life very well lived. I hope to be something like Dick, when I grow up.
Dick was an engineer by trade, and spend many years involved in the technology behind high altitude reconnaissance photography. We found out at his service (for me, for the first time!) that Dick had been involved design and manufacturing for the cameras used on the U2 Spy plane. Very cool! But he was so much more than just an engineer. The legacy he leaves behind is remarkable, as expressed primarily in the lives of his children, who have all formed families (three marriages, all still intact - something of an anomaly today) of their own, with seven grandchildren.
At the memorial service, we learned of Dick's love for his church, his involvement with the church's lay psychological counseling center, and also of his humble love for Christ. Dick saw no need to separate science and theology. The pastor recounted how Dick loved to read and learn about physics, astronomy, and their connection with faith. Here was a man whose involvement in technology and science had a part in the ending of the Cold War, and yet who embraced his faith without embarrassment. How refreshing.
The last time I spent with Dick was brief, but memorable, about two years ago. I was checking on repairs to my parents home, and Dick hailed me from across the street. Always the engineer, he noticed that I had the same make Acura sedan that he did - except he owned the fancier model - the one with all the high-tech bells and whistles. He invited me across the street, where we sat inside of his car, while he carefully explained each and every feature to me, including the GPS system that was connected to the Internet to warn of traffic events. Classic Dick Erdman. I was late to my next destination, but it didn't matter, I loved spending time with a man who was in love with learning new things, even at age 74 or so.
When my time comes, I hope to leave a loving legacy like that of Dick Erdman. I am so much richer for having known him. An the world is richer for the example of devotion to family, love of people, and live long enthusiasm for learning.
May the God who Dick loved comfort his family and friends in this season of loss. In the constellation of roll models of my youth, Richard Erdman shines brightly as a faithful man. I look forward to the time, in Another Place someday, when I will meet Dick again, and he will explain to me the wonder of the universe from a place where we can see it in a completely different perspective.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
We had a wonderful time, walking, talking, resting, eating, hiking the Mist Trail. Yosemite Valley is from 1,500 to 2,000 feet below the cliffs that surround it, and as a result, the primary feeling one comes away with after a very short time is that of smallness. Littleness; insignificance.
The grandness and beauty of that place is staggering, large, and overwhelming, all at once. For me, standing in a meadow or among the trees on the valley floor, and looking up, put my life in sudden perspective. I spend my days often thinking that I am large, and in charge. I think I can handle things. But when I am placed in a location that forces me to look up in order to appreciate the immense beauty around me, a renewed sense of perspective sets in.
It is I who am small, dwarfed by the sheer beauty of Creation around me, and humbled to the point of a loss of speech when considering the mystery of the Creator of it all. When first passing through the Wawona Tunnel, the primary emotion I feel is that of just wanting to sit and weep, in awe of what lays before me. To get out of the car and just look, seems, well, so small an offering.
A recent article I recently read struck a chord in my spirit in relation to the beauty I experienced this past weekend:
What more, you may ask, do we want? … We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. —C. S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
These thoughts have been there now for some time, wandering in and out of my days and nights, and I have been pondering how to get them out in writing. Thoughts about Our Purpose, the meaning of life, if you will. Why I am here on this planet, and what it all means.
These are thoughts about the deep waters that run through our lives, about moments that capture us breathless and speechless, and wondering what just happened in our souls. These are the thoughts that epiphanies are made of, ideas that make lasting memories.
And yet, it seems that we often spend so much of our time in places where the water is very shallow and warm. We like it there, its easier to stand and not really think. The little waves feel good against our ankles. No deep water for us.
This is my first attempt to sort through it.
Perhaps this sort of this thing happens when one hits mid-life. As I am now well into my 50th year, I often find myself at mid-point; reflecting on my own childhood and growing up, and at the same time wondering what the future will hold. Where am I going, and how will it feel? Over the past several years I have stood bedside as both of my parents have passed; fading from life slowly. At the same time, I have been learning to adjust to the changes occurring in the two beautiful daughters. Soon they will be leaving our home, and spreading their wings in a world that, to me, often feels hostile and emotionally barren.
How will they fair, how will I? Where have we come from, and to where are we headed?
At the center of this wondering, in the middle of this in-between, there is Hope. There is Grace, and there is deep Peace. I have found my relationship with Christ to be the only thing that connects the dots, that renders meaning to my wonderings, and that sustains me on the journey.
Next, what role does Beauty play in my faith.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
A young teenage friend of mine posted this on his Facebook today. It made me laugh, there is is a bit of truth in this. If you can't laugh at yourself......
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Please note, there is a comment about why "no one ever asked what these properties were worth". That is what I do; tell people what their properties are worth. Mind you, no one ever asked me, or those who share my profession, during the past several years, what these properties were worth.
I present you with the British humor of Bird & Fortune:
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Wait. Done? We moved to our town 20 years ago because of the great public schools! What about those property taxes I grudgingly pay each year? THAT was what was supposed to secure a good education for my girls. Older Daughter was seemingly happy in a good public school system, and likely college bound. What was going on here? Private school? What tha...? This was not in The Plan.
You know The Plan. That's the script we all write for ourselves in our heads, whether we admit it or not. We are all fiction writers, planning out our lives in minute detail; the friends we will keep, the places we will live, the comforts we will have, the lack of pain, complete health, laughter, no troubles. Even the wonderful, trouble free public schools our kids will attend.
That was my Plan, this is my reality. Private school.
And so, we are now in a private parochial school, and an all girls school to boot. All girls, no boys. And after just a short time, all I can say, is, for our daughter, thank you Jesus, for a choice.
Now mind you, I am very aware that my daughter is going to a school for Very Privileged Young Ladies. She is spending time in an elite class of girls for whom there is very little need, or what. This will be something we will need to keep constantly in focus, given that we live in a world crying with need.
However, this past week I got to be a part of two events that were very helpful in my understanding of where our daughter might be going on this journey of high school and beyond.
Wednesday night was the annual Father Daughter Dance. For most high school girls, this event might have the potential to be massively embarrassing. You know, something on the scale of Cinderella goes to the Ball with Quasimodo. Or Dwight Shrute. But not this school, and not these girls. This was an evening of unbridled fun; dinner, conversation, and of course, dancing. Watching girls dance with their Dad's was a study in unbridled joy. This was not your Father's Father Daughter dance, either. This was a wonderful celebration of being a girl. And us Dad's were privileged to participate. Submitted below is grainy video evidence of a fun time:
My favorite - the Father Daughter Dance Contest. Needless to say, we did not make the finals.
And then, on Saturday night, I showed up at school for a ComedySportz event at school. Without too much explanation, this is all about comedy improv, and its all girls, no boys.
As I sat in the dark, in the midst of my middle age and raising teenage girls, I thought to myself how good it is there are still such things as private, religious girls schools. These girls making jokes and doing skits up on the stage are being liberated from a society that would like them to fit in little girl-shaped boxes.
This, my friends, is a good thing.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I don't know about you, but I am just about fed up with this election.
Recently, I wrote a note to a friend via Facebook and this is what I said:
"Right now, I am fed up with both sides in this election. Really. And its politics as usual in DC, in the midst of the greatest financial crisis in 50 years, those turds on the Hill passed a bail out bill ( needed, at its core) laden with something like $50 - $100 Billion in more pork. I could scream. Enough blame on BOTH sides of the isle. See my recent blog post quoting Peggy Noonan, she nailed it.
Anyway, here is my choice come Nov. 4th:
One one side - Old guy, veteran, patriot, who made a risky and really quite dense VP pick (she can see Alaska from her house!) He has an angry streak in his personality that is scary. Sometimes I wonder if he gets what is going on. I respect him greatly, but do not feel comfortable with his ability to lead from the center. I am completely disappointed, but I may have to vote this way out of fear of........
The Other Guy. Young handsome guy that talks....a LOT in vague generalities, and has very little experience, save "community organizing". He is a good speaker, but not our Savior, which, I fear many think he actually is. I fear his near complete incompetency in things financial and foreign. Feels like Jimmy Carter all over again. Lets hold hands and talk to Iran. Please. This worries me greatly.
I really do not know what to do. I voted for Bush twice too. I think Bush is looking more like nearly clueless daily, his lack of leadership during the Wall Street Meltdown was stunning. BUT I know differently from good friends, who spent an extended period of time with him just recently, that he is a good and decent man. He is not evil.
Neither are either of these candidates. I cannot tolerate the talking heads on TV, and the wave of negative ads. It makes me sick.
God help us, every one."
We have recently rented the HBO series "John Adams" on DVD. In a time in which cynicism about politics is everywhere, I can think of nothing more moving than taking the time to remember the intelligence, tenacity, courage and patriotism of our Founding Fathers.
Watch this series, and you will very likely agree with me - the founding of our nation was a miracle. What a long way down and away from that beginning we have decended.