Moving On

4 09 2018

I, like many , have watched the tributes for Senator John Mc Cain. The last venue I saw was at The National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

I listened to  the comments make by former Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama. and others who spoke. A few observations.

They did not speak , sing, play from the pulpit.  Liturgically speaking they spoke from the ‘ layperson ‘s place’, behind the lectern.  Note: One stands behind the lectern and in the pulpit. . Resurrection hope is proclaimed  from the pulpit by the priest, pastor.

But most noteworthy,  was how his casket was carried from the place of repose during the service by people wearing national and military uniforms. We watched as his flag draped coffin turned 180 degrees clockwise, to symbolize the passing of time.  If the casket would have placed “on its feet’ during worship he would be facing the front with the cross and the light of the world as represented in  the candles.  So, upon leaving, again if ‘on his feet’, he would have followed the cross and the light going before him into the future. He was,  in the choreography of the church,  involved  in a sacred dance of  adoration and hope.

This same ‘dance’ of an about-face was a part of the early Christian rite of baptism and profession of faith; a turning away to turn toward, moving from to move on.

I was also struck with the music played for the recession. I racked my brain and google for the source. Finally, seeking wisdom from friend John Wimmer, a trumpet player from day’s gone by, I learned it was Gustav Holst’s music, a brass ensemble arrangement  of the Jupiter Hymn from The Planets. But for this ‘hymn guy’ …the hymn source… was I imagining it , what was it?  Using my new-found information I did another search. Isn’t the internet marvelous!!

The hymn using Holst’s music is , “I  Bow to Thee my Country. Click to hear and see the text:

The text is a poem written by Cecil Spring Rice. Click the link to learn more. 

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace

For those who know me, you might find my post a bit odd for several reasons. Primarily because I believe worship has only one Sovereign, Country/Kingdom  and Allegiance.  However, in this instance it was moving as the love and service to country was punctuated with this beautiful hymn of text and music  as Senator Mc Cain’s body did a 180 and turned toward the hope of resurrection.

A place where spears become tools for fruitfulness , swords plow fields and the study of war is not on the curriculum…a place of peace. It was as if the first stanza was about his life here and the second about a life and place to which  he was in hope and faith moving;  a  house not made with hands but eternal in the heavens, where soul by soul  gather and “all her paths are peace”.

President Bush quoted John Mc Cain when he said in his book ,  “I have moved on.” Somehow that  echoed in my head as the solemn march into the daylight of a September day progressed , as the text bid us to move on to where ” her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.”

May we pray “on earth as it is in heaven” and strive for the same.




It’s New Years Day

1 01 2018

As promised, the Song to usher in 2018. It is from Bon Jovi and is entitled, New Year’s Day.

It bids us to sing Hallelujah and Sha, la, la. For those out who are still celebrating Christmas,  the birth of a Christ child and angels’ singing,  it is a reminder of the wonder and hope of Christmas as we stand in the doorway of 2018.

Someone asked me what were my plans for 2018. What were my resolutions? What did I want to do?  What were the goals? My answer was a response that on the surface might sound a bit bland.  No set number of books to read. No itinerary for travel. Nothing worth putting in granite.

Rather, my response was to have a clean white board. I am looking forward to a New Year that has nothing written on it on January 1. 2018.  Let me explain. The obvious is that I may seem like a ship with out a sense of direction. Quite the contrary.

I am acknowledging that like a ship, someone else must set the sails so the wind might fill them and other hand will steer. It is to acknowledge that the ocean on which I sail will have calm and rough seas but the One who is at the helm can negotiate and navigate the journey and my small ship will arrive safely in the harbor.. Another hand is on the wheel, to quote Carrie Underwood.

It is also to say that the ship has been unloaded of the baggage of past voyages. I know there may be some duffel bags hidden in the crevices of the hull.  A rat or two might be stowing under a loose plank in the belly of the vessel. And yes, a crate or two that were too heavy to move alone will no doubt shift on perilous seas but the old cargo will need to stay on the shore for an effective and  healthy bon voyage.

So, what not join me in this New Year as we set sail. Unload that old dirty and musty baggage. Sing,  “Hallelujah”. Say, ” Amen”. Sing, ” Sha, la, la.” Sing and live Carpe’ Diem!! It’s New Year’s Day.

The tide is right, the winds are picking up and the Captain is on board. Time to cast off and set sail!!





Why and Who

14 08 2017

The two of us were in his shop surrounded by woodworking tools, piles of wood and several projects in various stages of completion. The man of her dreams and partner for life was in a hospital bed some 50 miles away after suffering his second stroke. The prognosis for a return to his shop and projects was not promising.

In retirement he had found a source of income to supplement a modest retirement check and they had been able to spend their days together in their mom and pop business, actually, more accurately stated, my mom’s and pop’s business.

The unfinished projects paled in comparison with the unanswered questions. We would finish the projects and deliver the cabinets and other items promised. The upcoming craft fair we could manage and the balance of the wood and tools would wait anticipating their master’s return to use or shape  into something of service.

However, the question was as present as a ticking clock marks the agonizing movement of seconds in a night of bad dreams. The deafening tick, tick, tick of the clock whose hands never seem to move and a dawn seems to never come.

Then she asked it. I must confess to being surprised by the question.

I had heard the stories of her father’s untimely death in her early teens, the struggles of the Great Depression, a husband away at war half a world away with a daughter to raise alone. I had seen first hand her hard work in a cotton mill, the garden and around the house; I knew she knew the harsh reality that life is hard. I also knew she was a person of faith; a faith that had sustained her in bleak times.

“What did your father and I do that was so bad that God would do this to us”, asked my mother.

I was taken aback at the thought that God would single her or my father out to visit some wrath on them and that she took it so personally.

My first response was one from the head. “Mama, there might be lots of reasons for daddy’s stroke; genes, diet, lifestyle and who knows what else but I don’t think God just singled him out to punish you or him. Sometimes bad things happen.” The words seemed to fall at her feet.

Grief was searching for meaning. That is the way life works.  Sometimes trying to make sense of the senseless makes one a bit crazy.

That conversation came to mind recently when  someone wanted to tell me how much she missed her good friend.

I gave all the right “head” answers. But the pain in her eyes wasn’t coming from the grey matter behind them. The hurt originated from about a foot below, from a broken heart. My words littered the floor like shredded paper.

Maybe a reason the head keeps asking, “Why” is to keep us from going spiritually and emotionally mad. If we could only make sense of it all. But eventually we come to the realization that is maddening to try to figure it all out. The most honest answer we can offer is, ”I don’t know. But I trust.”

I think the mind finds some freedom in that and I am sure it is of comfort to a shattered heart. I do not remember where I read this but it is written on my soul with indelible ink, “When you can not understand the mind of God, trust His heart.”

This is the heart of Jesus who wept at Lazarus grave, forgave and ate will sinners, lifted up the downtrodden, restored sight to the blind and gave spiritual insight to open hearts,  loved all, defeated death, and gave new life.

Life will surely leave us with a growing list of questions beginning with, “ Why”. So, in those moments, turn to the “ Who”, and trust His heart.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote of God,

“I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.

I know not where his islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond his love and care.”

From where I sit, That is Good News! Praying for all to have closer walk with The Who of life as we wrestle with the Whys.