Archive for December, 2018

Johni DuniaGreg, one of the first people I met online when I started blogging in 2005, wrote a provocative post on Facebook. He noted that his eighth-grader told him and his wife that a student brought a gun to school.

“Apparently it wasn’t a gun, just a facsimile, but still. He brought the replica… because he sold weed to somebody who refused to pay and he wanted to intimidate the kid. This is a regular public school in a perfectly fine neighborhood, mind you.”

Greg’s takeaway is that you should “talk to your kids about “adult” stuff even if you don’t think they’re old enough.” It reminded me that I had this notion that my daughter was in the other room doing something else when I watched the news. But she was listening, paying attention. She is, not to brag, one of the most politically savvy kid in her class, and has been for the past four or five years.

Of course, it made me painfully aware of how scary the world can be. I recalled the daughter learning whatever terrible things that were going on in 2012 (e.g., Newtown). Yes, you can’t protect them, but I’m terrified we’re leaving them a sucky world – the pollution issues alone bring me to despair.

This semester, a young man named Johni Dunia, 17, a student at my daughter’s high school, “entered into eternal life on Friday, November 16, 2018.” He was shot numerous times, allegedly by a 22-year-old, on a bike trail in mid-November.

Ironically, his family left their war-torn homeland of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his mother said, for the United States because it “offered security and safety.” Johni “is lovingly recalled as a person with a large and kind heart who never showed anger. He loved his family and was very dedicated to his mother and his brother and sisters.”

At this point, there is an arrest but no motive provided yet. “The suspect and victim knew each other, according to police.”

Keep Christ in ChristmasIn the sermon for the first Sunday in Advent, one of my pastors hit on something that I could relate to. My takeaway is that there is a paradox of Christmas.

A child is born, yet the Scripture that day was of the adult Jesus anticipating the cross. So Christmas is about the infant AND the Savior.

That message is encapsulated in the Hebrew text from Isaiah, in what is usually called the Old Testament:

Chapter 9, verse 6 reads: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

A lot of potentiality in that kid.

Merry Christmas.

Unsurprisingly, For Unto Us A Child Is Born from Handel’s Messiah

Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and the Tenebrae choir

A more sprightly take

I’ve listened to the entire Messiah this autumn and was newly enthralled by the piece that reportedly took only three weeks to compose. If you are so inclined, the whole magilla:

Collegium 1704, director Vaclav Lucs

London Philharmonic

Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange

I really can’t wait for 2019. I anticipate that the first quarter will be a pain, the second chaotic, the third mildly uncomfortable, but the fourth quarter inspiring. If that isn’t cryptic, I don’t know what is.

I’ve actually started figuring out what I’m going to write about. Not surprisingly, as I begin my (slow) approach towards 70, there is an increasing number of famous people who will be hitting three score and ten. I’m going to write about nearly two dozen of them.

But here are some other folks ALSO turning 70 in 2019 – or would, if they were still alive – that I decided NOT to write about. Well, unless you force me to by invoking Ask Roger Anything. Then I WILL write about that person, BUT I maintain the right to postpone it to a date near their actual natal day.

January:
17 – Mick Taylor, first substitute in the Rolling Stones after Brian Jones’ death
22 – Steve Perry, former lead singer of the band Journey. Don’t expect a reunion
28 – Gregg Popovich, NBA basketball coach

February:
9- Judith Light, actress- best known on the TV show Who’s The Boss. I last saw her on a short-lived TV lawyer show Doubt (2017)
20 – Ivana Trump, ex-wife of Donald

March:
16 – Erik Estrada, actor – best known for playing the California Highway officer Ponch on the TV show CHiPs (1977–1983)
17 – Patrick Duffy, actor – from the TV show Dallas, in which his character apparently died, then didn’t

April:
13 – Christopher Hitchens, author – since he died in 2011, I passed, but I AM writing about folks who died earlier
20- Jessica Lange, actress – in a LOT of worthy material, but I believe I’ve only seen her in Tootsie, Cape Fear and All That Jazz

May:
26 – Pam Grier, actress- the film Jackie Brown, among many credits
28 – Steve King, United States Representative (R-IA) – blowhard

July:
8 – Wolfgang Puck, chef, restaurateur

August:
23 – Rick Springfield, TV soap opera actor, singer (Jessie’s Girl)
25 – Gene Simmons, musician – from the rock group KISS

September:
10 -Bill O’Reilly, talk show “personality” – formerly with FOX

October:
3 -Lindsey Buckingham, singer, musician- until fairly recently, in Fleetwood Mac
4 – Armand Assante, actor
21 – Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

November:
3- Anna Wintour, magazine editor, fashion journalist
30 -Shelley Duvall, film Actress, television actress – best known from the movie The Shining (1980)
30 – Shelley Long, actress -best known as overeducated barmaid Diane Chambers in the TV comedy Cheers (1982-1987, 1993)
30 – Michael Richards,, television actor, comedian – best known as Kramer on the TV comedy Seinfeld

December:
1 -Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord) – died in 1993
15 – Don Johnson, actor – I did watch him as Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice (1984–1990), but eschewed his music career

What will YOU write about, or not, in 2019?

For ABC Wednesday

Hebrews 13.16I took on this assignment to write something for the FOCUS Churches of Albany’s Advent devotional. This was my submitted copy, which may or may not be what shows up.

Text: Hebrews 13:7-17. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As Christ was killed outside the city gate, let us also go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized and risk “the abuse he endured.”
In gratitude, “let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…”

Quite a few of my friends are apathetic or even antagonistic towards the church. I totally get that. I’d been there myself some years ago.

My friends often see some elements of the church favoring those who have, the insiders. “Send money” so the pastor can have a bigger house, a better plane. I actually heard one of these guys say that if Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century, rather than the first, he’d be riding around in the newest and fanciest airbus.

That’s not the Jesus I’m seeing in this passage. He is instead a sacrificial Lord. While He is learned enough to swap scripture with the scribes and elders, he’s spending most of His time tending to the marginalized.

I’ve been a member of a FOCUS church since 1984. What inspires me about service to others is that doesn’t end at the sanctuary door. It goes “outside the camp” (v. 13), meeting the needs of the broader community.

Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, and FOCUS does that with food pantries, a breakfast club, and other services. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others.” (v. 16)

But FOCUS volunteers also sacrifice their time to do advocacy, trying to address the root causes that require a food pantry that was designed as a temporary activity to be in place for nearly five decades.

Just as Jesus brought people together to express God’s will, occasionally turning over a table or two, FOCUS mobilizes “individuals and other community organizations to work for systemic and structural change to address issues including poverty, social and racial injustice.”

Prayer: When people come to Advent services, they see the lighted candles and hear the familiar hymns. May they also see the love in our hearts that comes from caring for others, even those ragged people outside the door, per the example of Jesus.
***
Yes, There is a War on Christianity

Nowell we Sing Clear

When I first came to Albany in the late 1970s, I saw a quartet called Nowell Sing We Clear perform two or three times. Here’s a description of the group:

“In the summer of 1975, dance musicians Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff moved to southern Vermont and teamed up with the singing duo of John Roberts and Tony Barrand. Nowell Sing We Clear was first performed in December of that same year…

“The program explores and reveals the active and still vital themes of the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the return of the light at the winter solstice. The combined interests and skills of the performers in contra and morris dancing and in ballads and bawdry afforded an unusual approach to Christmas music.”

I bought a couple of their LPs and I played them regularly until the albums went into storage. I didn’t think about Nowell we Sing Clear until this month. A local group called the Helderberg Madrigal Singers performed at my church on December 7. One of the songs in their repertoire was The Cutty Wren. I knew instantly where I knew that song from.

And I’m told they’re still performing, with Andy Davis replacing Woodruff. From a 2013 Slate article: “Nowell Sing We Clear celebrates an older, and perhaps more pagan, Christmas as it was known for centuries in Britain and North America.”

Listen to Nowell We Sing Clear

The Cutty Wren
The Holly And The Ivy
Green Grow the Rushes-O
Rise Up Jock

And since this the last Saturday before the big day:

Jaquandor’s Daily Dose of Christmas

Coverville 1243: The Coverville 2018 Christmas Episode

Little Drummer Boy (African Tribal Version) – Alex Boye’ ft. Genesis Choir

12 Days of Christmas Cookies – Cookie Monster and friends

Jingle Bells – The Fab Four, in the style of Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles

Every Valley – Handel’s Messiah, A Soulful Celebration

The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

White Christmas – the Drifters

Linus and Lucy – Vince Guaraldi

The Coventry Carol – Alison Moyet

Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty

What Christmas Means To Me – Stevie Wonder

The Bells of Christmas -Julie Andrews at 17:05

R.O. Blechman – CBS Christmas Message (1966)

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