Friday, June 26, 2009

Fascinating Opportunities!

A whole new Revolution is upon us, almost cosmic in nature, full of enormous opportunities for good and ill. We cannot shut ourselves off from it because it fills the air we breathe. It's a tecnological revolution, cascading daily and one could say exponentially into every area of contemporary life. We often bemoan its misuses, and rightly so. But we should not hunker down and shut ourselves off from the wondrous possibilities for good it also lays before us.

My fascination with technology goes way back to my days as a student in Seminary, when my brother Zenos awakened my curiosity by introducing me to Heath and Dyna kits--high fidelity instruments that came in kits you could build, all the way from tuners to amplifiers to massive speakers.

Later, as computers began to emerge, I was fascinated by the opportunities they offered me as a leader in Covenant Communications. Beginning modestly we went from several round-trips a day to deliver and pick up typesetting in downtown Chicago to producing copy right in our offices at Covenant Headquarters. We also started a denoimination-wide program in video, as well as an in-house photocopy and print shop.

Approaching retirement, I knew I wanted to develop a website and blog where I could give expression, daily if desired, to the whole of life--from continuing reflections on the roots from which we I have come to the wings those roots are meant to supply. With the expert help of my grandson Christopher in California, who lives and works daily in the tech world, we finally launched this website and blog in April a year ago. It was no April Fool either, as things have developed and still are emerging.

Last month Scott Jenson, a young videographer from our church with whom I have been studying Bible weekly for sometime, suggested to his manager at a local access TV channel in White Bear Lake that he would like to do a brief video for Channel 19 on "a 79 year old who is into the tech world."

The brief video here reproduced is the result, well done even if he did have me crawling under my desk to reset some cords! My fascination with it all is clear. I am, of course, but a novice in this ever-emerging world of tech, but I am not intimidated by it. In fact I find it fascinating and engaging. Moving forward I am learning a lot. And linked to Facebook and Plaxo I am now even in touch with friends old and new all over the world. Who but a few years ago would have believed it?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Larson Legacy: One More Life Well Lived

Life's ebb and flow last spoken of a few days ago is well attested in the picture here posted of Alyce's brother, Warren Leroy Larson. It is really not a picture at all but a portrait painted by his daughter Karen, now become a master artist working out of Charleston, South Carolina.

It almost took my breath away when I saw it this evening, thanks to a photo sent by Warren's brother Eugene, the last of four brothers there were originally in the Larson clan. It just couln't be more realistic.

Artists know how to catch the essence of a person, and a child of the person being painted has a head start given a life-long acquaintance with the manerisms that have marked their loved one's personality over time. What I see in this portrait is more than a representation of Warren. I see Warren himself, not only physically but spiritually, oblivious to lesser things surrounding, keenly focused on a piece of music before him, soon to become--given his love affair with such--the music within him.

Warren was a scientist of some repute--a PhD from MIT, one of two metallurgists who received the patents on the superconducting wire used in MRI technology. Born in China of missionary parents, he like his father and mother never paraded his gifts. He used them rather, in science as in music and life, in service to others--often at cost to himself. A gentle man and mild mannered, even somewhat shy and self-effacing, he gave glory where glory is due, to family and music and God.

He and his deceased brothers Quentin ("Dusty") and Nathaniel, each in their own way with their own gifts, have left us a legacy true to the faith and spirit of their wonderful parents and the immigrant forebears who first bore and nurtured them over a century ago. And his brother Eugene, as his sisters Muriel, Phyllis, and Alyce, are living reminders of the same Larson legacy.

Now his daughter Karen has captured at the ebbing of Warren's earthly life the essence of who he was in all that, which will flow forward for years to come and bless generations yet unborn. One can only be reminded of the choric psalm (150) that concludes that holiest of books: Praise the Lord ... with trumpet sound, with lute and harp! Praise him with tambouine and dance ... with strings and pipe! Praise him with clangimg cymbals ... with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!

Rest well, brother Warren. You have won our love and earned our respect. And you have left life the richer with a remarkable legacy of your own.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ebb and Flow

Like the ebb and flow of the tides, so is life--full both of endings and beginnings. Alyce's brother Warren just died, full of years and in his last months and days through considerable suffering. Yet as if timed by providence, his latest fresh-born grandchild was brought by his daughter and son-in-law to his side just a few hours before his passing. His Memorial Service will be Friday in Belin, CT, near Covenant Vullage in Cromwell, where he was living in retirement with his wife Pat. The grandchild's whole life lies ahead.

"This is a time to remember." Life's tide does go out but it also comes in. "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom," the ancient psalmist prayed. Your life and mine are ebbing. Yet as Natallie Sleeth reminds us, "in our end is our beginning, in our time eternity ... in our death a resurrection, at the last a victory; unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see."

"Fear not, little flock. It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." In life it is often Good Friday, as Tony Campolo has reminded us. But Easter is coming. There is no reason either to fear life's ebb or to be anxious about its flow. For in all the oceans of time, God orders them both for his glory and our good.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Facing Reality

Two of our dear friends and colleagues in ministry are journeying together these days through the last throes of death--she of ovarian cancer, he of yielding as her caregiver to the reality of it. Though wrenching in many ways, theirs is not a dark scenario, principally I believe because God and his people are surrounding them in love and because with their children they are facing it openly and bravely.

On a visit last Sunday, my colleague shared with me a devotional by Teilhard De Chardin that has spoken to him. As couples, we listened to it read out loud before praying. Based on the psalmist' joy in deliverance--Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped (Psalm 124:6,7)--it reads as follows:

When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from within or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.

Strangely, in ways that I cannot fully explain, the pulpit, lecturn, and table of the Lord have moved these days from the sanctuary we all know and love at Salem to the bed by the window where our sister is ministering to us while dying and our brother and their children are shepherding by keeping watch. They are now proclaiming to us the same good news that we have proclaimed to them, of the love of God and the hope to which Christians have witnessed in every age. A phrase from an old Latin hymn comes to mind: The love of Jesus, what it is, none but his loved ones know.

Chardin's moving devotional, set in context by the psalmist's call to praise is fitly framed at its ending with a similar directive from the Apostle Paul, calling on each of us not to lose heart but rather devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).

Thank you, God, for such good friends and colleagues. And thank you, colleagues and friends, for so lifting up God by your witness to all of us surrounding.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Who Is Shepherding You?

A sermon preached on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, in preparation for receiving the Lord's Supper. It followed the singing of "If You Will Only Let God Guide You" (The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook, No. 401). The sermon title, "Who Is Shepherding You?"--based on the "Good Shepherd" theme in John 10:11-19--was intended to help preacher and listener alike to be thoughtful about what we were soon to receive, as well as the importance of understanding its implications. (05/03/09 - 14:55 min).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Listen for the Music!

We just returned today from Fort Worth, Texas, where we attended the semi-final round in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held every four years—our sixth such experience over the last twenty-four years. Twelve pianists from all over the world had been chosen from a field of nearly 150 over a year and a half, hoping to make the finals grouping of six. We heard each of the twelve in two settings over four days—in an hour-long solo recital and a 45-minute chamber music setting with the distinguished Takacs String Quartet.

What can one say? It was spectacular! Every participant seemed worthy of winning—in one way or another. Ranging in age from 19-30, their technical ability and musical sensitivity were incredible. We wondered how even distinguished judges could possibly narrow the field.

During one intermission I heard one of the judges, a Bavarian Radio producer, respond to that query by saying, “I listen for the music.” Not to the music primarily, I took that to mean, but for the music—i.e. for a pianist’s living into the notes being played, to communicate its depth and soul, to let it invade and even possess his or her personality so as to pass it on to others.

“When artists like this are young, it is tempting to think a contest like this is about them and their future. We have as judges to look deeper, to wonder what this or that performer will add to the international music scene over time, given all the rigors that the winner will immediately be subject to. Does he or she have it in them to serve the music, to so perform it as to draw their audiences into its essence and send them home inspired by more than their ability or technique as a performer?”

“Music is about listening and heartfelt feeling,” a local newspaper critic said in his review the next morning. When you really think about it, ought that not be the aim of any of us plying our trade? Bring out the music in the music. “Fill the Earth with Music” as R. G. Huff has it in a contemporary hymn. Get beyond the mechanics of doing whatever you do in life to the essence of what it can convey through you to others.

We return to our home and work not only inspired by the gifts thus displayed in our presence but by the challenge they represent for us to “go and do thou likewise.” One need not be a Cliburn finalist to be a tool in the hands of God. One needs only to listen for and absorb into oneself the music in all of life to help others discover it for themselves.