Last summer, moved by the events surrounding George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, several NSUMC members came together via Zoom to talk about racism and what our church can do to combat it. We who eventually became the Racial Justice Team began by talking with each other about how we were feeling. We shared information and heard some painful life truths from the people of color represented on our team. And we united around our common belief that a caring church like ours could not stand silent in the face of unacceptable racist actions and beliefs that are increasingly evident and have existed for far too long.
Out of that dialogue has come the beginnings of greater understanding and a commitment to action. To guide our congregation’s efforts, we developed this anti-racism statement in consultation with Church Council, who approved it earlier this year:
We the people of North Shore United Methodist Church are committed to speaking out against racial injustice, advocating for and working toward equality. We are people of good will, yet we recognize we have much more to do and to learn together in the face of growing racism, systemic inequities, violence, and oppression.
As United Methodists, we make a commitment to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We now recommit ourselves to using that freedom and power to work to dismantle racism and make racial justice a reality in our church, our communities, our country, and our world.
It is our moral obligation that we listen, learn, and act to help bend the arc of justice toward God’s vision of love, wholeness, peace, and justice for all of God’s children.
We’re proud of this statement recognizing the good will that exists within our congregation and challenging us to recommit to moving beyond good will to action. But a statement is just a statement: easy to mouth, and more difficult to live up to. In the weeks and months ahead, you’ll continue to hear about opportunities for us to learn and grow and act together with a spirit of openness and humility.
Please reach out to any of us on the team with your thoughts, questions, and ideas. Join us at an upcoming meeting. We can make a difference, and we are stronger together.
– From the Racial Justice Team: Kathy Cole, Lisa Goodale, Anita Bryant Mauro, Jim and Judi Simmons, and Sue West, and our clergy liaison Deacon Barbara Javore
Restrictions abounded in our world this past year. "Don't go to work;" "wear a face mask in public at all times;" "don't shake hands with people," "don't go to a party, even for Thanksgiving;" etc... All of these prohibitions we heard reiterated time-and-again on the news for over a year. Yet, these restrictions existed for a purpose: to protect us, and to preserve the health of our society.
As our world truly begins to return to some degree of "normalcy," I find myself wondering about the role of restrictions relative to our everyday lives. Putting aside the issue of pandemic restrictions, are there any other restrictions that we *need* to re-implement and/or maintain in our lives for the benefit of both ourselves as individuals, and greater society as a whole?
The Scriptures would say that one very important restriction (hint hint: it's the fourth of the 10 Commandments!) is to honor the sabbath. The central idea of sabbath is for us to dedicate a particular day of the week (for Jews, Friday evening to Saturday evening; for Christians, the entire day of Sunday) as a set-apart day in which we *stop all work* so as to honor God through worship and study while enjoying life with our loved ones. The sabbath is for us as human beings a perennial reminder that we were created by God chiefly for love of God and neighbor rather than for endless productivity and the achievement of material success within the eyes of the world. Just as God rested on the seventh day from the labors of creation, so are we to prioritize (not *fit in if possible*) a day of rest each week.
In the height of the pandemic, one redeeming quality people lifted up from both secular and religious communities was the benefit many enjoyed of spending more time with their loved ones. Many discovered that it was actually quite nice to spend a day at home with the family instead of always running around all over the place, even if those "places" weren't related to work. The *slowing down* of our lives was (re)discovered to be an unintended benefit of an awful situation. Will we as a culture forget this lesson as masks come off and our agendas fill up with seemingly endless meetings and tasks?
In a recent issue of the *Wall Street Journal*, an essay was published entitled, *"What We've Lost in Rejecting the Sabbath"* by Sohrab Ahmari. The essay is an adaptation from his recently published book, *"The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of in an Age of Chaos"* ([Amazon.com link](https://www.amazon.com/Unbroken-Thread-Discovering-Wisdom-Tradition/dp/0593137175/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1621892575&sr=8-1)). In the WSJ essay, Ahmari makes the compelling case that the founders of our nation went to great lengths to write into law at several levels of government what were termed the, "Sunday Blue Laws." The purpose of these laws were to restrict commerce on the Christian sabbath so as to ensure that general society would continue to honor the sabbath as a central ritual woven into its communal fabric. In the wake of the French Revolution, American lawmakers adamantly believed that the sabbath was a firm bulwark against the deterioration of general society, and a central pillar of the family unit's stability. As evidence of the sabbath's importance to colonial American culture, Ahmari recounts the story of how George Washington was chastised by a local magistrate for riding on his horse on the sabbath between Connecticut and New York in 1789!
Two years ago in North Dakota, the very last Blue Laws were rescinded. Historically, business owners in North Dakota faced fines and even jail time for opening their businesses on the sabbath. The GOP sponsor of the bill stated as the rationale for the change that a majority of citizens, "wants to make decisions for themselves." In a post-Christian society, with many professing Christians not even honoring the sabbath, who can argue with this logic?
But, we must ask ourselves, do we *always* know what is best for ourselves?
The Blue Laws aren't coming back, and in my view, they are in some ways a red herring to the true issue. The laws, in a democratic republic such as ours, should always reflect the will of the people. If the people as a whole do not see the need for the Blue Laws, then so be it. Yet, it was never about the Blue Laws, it was about society in general actually understanding the need for sabbath! If this lesson was comprehended at scale, such Blue Laws would never have been needed in the first place. The loss of the Blue Laws is not the principle issue here, the loss of the sabbath is.
The question now isn't whether American society in general will reclaim the necessary restrictions of the sabbath, but whether we as professing Christians will choose do so? In an age where families often don't eat together, our phones notify us seemingly without end, and work bleeds over from the office now into the home in a post-pandemic society, our ability to honor the sabbath will require a very conscious choice on our parts--a choice always assisted by the grace of God.
Sabbath, at its heart, isn't about sitting in front of the TV all day, doing nothing. Quite to the contrary, Sabbath is a rather *active* day, only in a way which differs from a typical workday. Traditional sabbath activities involve *finding ways to spend time with your family members,* such as going on a bike ride, playing music for one another, cooking, going out to eat (yes, that is an act of commerce) going to church, going to a party with friends, etc... Additionally, when there are moments of downtime, reading is another central practice of the sabbath. Try spending at least 30 minutes reading an explicitly spiritual text and not just anohter mystery novel, or opening the Scriptures and spending time reflecting on a Psalm or one of Jesus' parables. Naps, times spent in nature, and the pursuit of the arts are all also considered traditional sabbath practices. Try to find ways to minimize your time with "devices" and prioritize instead times building memories which will last with those around you. Perhaps, in the midst of it all, you may find yourself growing in your awareness of the likeness of God in which you were created--a God who both worked efficiently, and willingly accepted the sabbath restriction from work so as to rest.
Grace & peace,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor
I would like to begin today's article with a story from Rev. Michael Piazza, Pastor of Broadway United Church of Christ in New York. He is best known for his prior years pastoring the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX, which during his tenure, grew from 350 to 3,500 members. A group from our church attended a virtual stewardship workshop with Rev. Piazza last fall, during which time the following story was shared.
When Piazza lived in Dallas, he enjoyed listening to the local NPR station. Each fall, they would run a campaign to recruit more of their listeners to become what they called "sustaining members" of the station. This term meant that the listeners would setup "automatic giving," such that the NPR station could withdraw funds on a recurring basis every month, quarter, or year from their listeners' bank accounts, or charge their credit cards accordingly. The Dallas-based NPR station never had trouble with funding, and never repeatedly asked their listeners for money--except for their single "automatic giver recruitment drive" per year. Early on while living in Dallas, Piazza decided to become a "sustaining member / automatic giver" of the station.
Then, Piazza moved to New York and began listening to the city's local NPR station; he soon realized that they had a very different approach to fundraising compared to their sister Dallas station. Instead of promoting automatic giving once-a-year, the New York-based station ran several fundraising drives every year (usually 5 per-year). They always sounded very desperate during their fundraising campaigns, asking members to give specific amounts of money as they were in perpetual financial distress. Piazza supported some of their fundraising campaigns as he was a listener; however, even though he believed in NPR and its mission, he felt somewhat irritated that every two months the station would begin a whole slew of ads for an entire week asking him for more monetary support.
Piazza, soon after, made a surprising discovery: for the whole first year while he was living in New York, he had forgotten that he was still supporting the Dallas-based NPR station with automatic giving via his credit card! He wasn't upset, but rather appreciated the overall deftness of the Dallas station's fundraising strategy. By inspiring him to become an automatic giver (or "sustaining member"), the Dallas station received a whole extra year of his contributions even though he had moved to a different state!
Piazza began over the years applying the automatic giving strategy to the churches he pastored. He discovered that when 90% of the membership becomes "automatic givers" church annual income increases on average between 10-20%, which means more funding for the church's mission, and further increasing of the church's overall financial health. He also discovered that his church membership appreciated moving to automatic giving since by doing so they didn't have to remember to mail a check to the church every month.
In January of this year, our church created a new "Stewardship Task Force," whose mission it is to help our church continue to grow in the biblical virtue of generosity. Part of living into that mission means helping our church streamline the overall giving experience. At the task force's suggestion, our church is asking for all givers to consider becoming "automatic givers" of the church. Here are the simple steps to follow in order to do so:
1. On a voided check...
a. ...write in the 'amount' field how much you wish to give *each time funds are withdrawn from your bank account* (i.e. not the total amount you intend to give for the year).
b. Then, on the memo line, write the frequency by which the church should withdraw the funds from your account (i.e. monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually). If you want the withdrawals to start on a certain date, then write that date on the memo line as well.
2. Mail the check to the church (213 Hazel Ave, Glencoe, IL 60022).
3. You will receive an email from me (Pastor Scott) after this has been set up, usually 1-2 weeks after you mail the letter.
Our church uses our bank, BMO Harris, to withdraw the funds and store your confidential information securely within BMO Harris' website. Additionally, there is no fee either to you or the church by using this automatic withdrawal feature of the church. Our church is not able to setup automatic giving on credit cards as there is a noteworthy per-transaction fee; thus, we are asking all church members only to setup automatic giving via their bank accounts. Note that it is still possible to give to the church with a credit card via our online giving platform, Aplos, for one-time gifts.
Should you have any questions about automatic giving, please don't hesitate to reach out to me (email@example.com, or via my cell at (630) 212-9210).
Thank you all for your continued generous support of our church's mission and the many people we serve.
Grace & peace,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor
During our Lenten sermon series / book discussion called "The Walk," we explored the spiritual practice of daily worship and prayer. We named as a part of this discussion that worship and prayer can occur both communally and individually.
A modern-day challenge the Church faces is how to ensure that individual worship / prayer are both accessible and exciting for people. Speaking out of my own experience, sometimes I feel like I just don't know where to turn in the Scriptures, or what exact type of prayer to use for my morning time of meditation/prayer. This can cause what some call "decision paralysis," which is a real thing I can experience when it's 6:00 AM and I have a lot of other things on my mind for the coming day.
Here's another scenario I encounter: it's 6:00 AM, I've been using the Book of Common Prayer for my morning prayers for a week, but I feel like I'd like to try something different for the sake of variety. An analogy is that no one wants to eat the same breakfast every morning (well, some people do, so more power to you if that's you!).
Pray As You Go (free) is a relatively new website and iOS/Android app produced by an order of Jesuit Priests in Britain. What's wonderful about the app is that it's as easy as opening it and hitting the play button. Then, a professionally produced, ~12-minute meditation/prayer time is facilitated via a variety of both classical and modern Christian music, Scripture readings, thoughtful questions, and excellent readers.
The app addresses both of my concerns above: it's easy to use, thus avoiding the "decision paralysis" issue; it also changes up the daily reading based on the lectionary, music to accompany the reading, and the questions pertaining to the reading. So, it's different every morning! There is even a beautiful image of nature to greet you for each meditation.
I spoke with another pastor colleague about the Pray As You Go app. She shared that what she values about it is that someone else offers her spiritual nourishment in a high-quality, theologically sound fashion on a daily basis, thus filling her to offer spiritual nourishment to others throughout her day. Regardless of whether one is lay or clergy, we are all called to pour into the lives of others, but we all have to have something to "pour" in order to do this. Pray As You Go can be a simple way of allowing God's grace to pour into your heart with more regularity and intentionality, thus empowering you for ministry throughout the rest of your day.
I certainly don't mean to imply in this post that Pray As You Go is the one-and-only option for individual meditation/prayer. I view this as one of many resources/practices I pull on for my morning time with God. Here are a few other examples you might consider exploring in conjunction with this app:
There are other spiritual practices we all can explore, but these are my go-tos. I would love to hear from you in terms of what helps you connect with God on a daily basis? There is no right-or-wrong with spiritual practices; it's all about exploring what helps you relate to God in a natural and restorative manner
Blessings to you all on your spiritual walks.
Holy Week blessings,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor
I'd like to dedicate this blog post to informing our congregation about the vital work of the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) of the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC). This topic is particularly relevant at this present time as the BOOM is currently preparing for its annual interviews of candidates seeking ordination, which is scheduled for March 8th-9th via ZOOM.
Both Deacon Barbara and I serve on the BOOM as board members. It is a great joy for us to serve our Annual Conference in this way! One truly has the sense of participating with the nearly other 50 members of the BOOM in lifting up the next generation of clergy.
The BOOM manages a wide range of responsibilities such as clergy continuing education, the approval of clergy retirements, funding for the education of local pastors, clergy mentoring, and much more... Chief among the BOOM's responsibilities is its yearly recommendation to the Bishop of our Annual Conference of candidates ready for either commissioning or ordination. Candidates who are "commissioned" have completed an approximately 5-7 year process of coming before their local pastor, local church Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), local Church Conference, respective District Committee on Ordination (DCom), and finally the Board of Ordained Ministry, all of whom must pass the candidate before the candidate is deemed ready to be "commissioned" by the Bishop before the Annual Conference's yearly ordination worship service. Additionally, the candidate must either complete or be actively pursuing varying seminary requirements depending on whether she/he is seeking commissioning as an elder or deacon. Finally, there are written requirements accompanied by a wide range of other requested materials the candidate must provide all throughout the discernment/interview process.
Candidates who are "ordained" have passed their commissioning interview; served in ministry for at least two years in an approved ministry site by the BOOM; participated fully in the BOOM's "Residency Program," which provides commissioned elders and deacons with a wide range of educational opportunities and small group work; graduated from seminary (or soon will); and passed a second interview with the BOOM in which the BOOM interview team examines if the candidate is learning how to integrate-and-apply her/his theology into her/his ministry context. The expectations of the second ordination interview are more stringent than the first commissioning interview as the second interview is truly the "final check" before the candidate is fully ordained and released from the yearly examination of the DCom and BOOM. In total, from the candidate's first conversation with her/his pastor to the final ordination interview, it generally takes a candidate about 7-9 years to be ordained.
The structure of interviews for candidates seeking either commissioning or ordination is quite fascinating. Each candidate is interviewed by a 9-person interview team comprised of mostly clergy with some laity. The interview team is divided into three sub-teams: the "Home Team" manages the overall interview process and is responsible at the end of the interview for addressing with the candidate any topics/questions which weren't covered adequately by the other two sub-teams; the "Theology Team" focuses on the candidate's theological statements as found in the candidate's paper and oral interview; and the "Practice of Ministry Team" examines carefully how the candidate is applying her/his theology within her/his ministry context. Each team has a dedicated amount of time with the candidate. This division of responsibilities among the sub-teams allows each team to prepare more thoroughly for their respective area of focus.
A key point I wish to convey is how proud I am of the robust credentialing process our denomination upholds. Moreover, this process is utilized all throughout the US in its many annual conferences, each of which maintain their own Board of Ordained Ministry; this means that there is a standardized process for commissioning and ordination across annual conferences.
When our church gives toward its apportionment, part of our funds go toward the budget of the Northern Illinois Conference's BOOM. These apportionment funds are key to making possible the work of the BOOM and its ability to credential candidates. Additionally, the BOOM is a chief example of the power of our United Methodist connectionalism: without the clergy from several churches, funding from apportionments, oversight of the Bishop, and rich tradition of our Methodist faith, the BOOM wouldn't be possible. Through our giving, we are all participating in the Spirit-led, multigenerational process of lifting up the next generation of clergy!
I close by also foregrounding up our church's long tradition of serving as a field education site for seminary students of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. In conjunction with our church's support of our annual conference and its BOOM, our church has made it a focus to invest in both the education and credentialing of the next generation of clergy. Praise be to our Lord for this fruit of ministry produced by our congregation!
Grace & peace,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor
"God walks in our midst, searches for us, and beckons for us to walk with him [sic]."
~ Rev. Adam Hamilton, The Walk
In his book The Walk, Rev. Adam Hamilton tells the story in the introduction about a time he and his wife, LaVon, went hiking with their adult daughter, Rebecca, in the Catskill mountains of New York. Not 10 minutes into the walk, Hamilton had to sit down because he was so out of shape!
Soon after this experience, Hamilton went to see his doctor, who informed him that his weight was up and his blood work revealed some troubling signs. Through incorporating more exercise into his life—at first, just 7 minutes a day, which progressively increased—combined with healthy eating, he steadily improved his health over the course of the following year. The next time he and LaVon went hiking with their daughter, she asked her dad to slow down because he was walking too fast!
Hamilton compares developing our spirituality to that of developing our physical bodies. A few simple habits incorporated over time with a regular degree of frequency can dramatically change the richness of our relationship with God and overall depth of our faith.
This Lent, we're going to be thinking about how incorporating the following five spiritual habits will better equip us both individually and corporately as a church to walk with God and each other on a daily basis. I share below the five spiritual habits we'll be reflecting upon, as well as in parentheses the date on which the particular habit will be featured in worship:
In 2020, after Hamilton launched The Walk sermon series and book,, he and the leadership of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR) announced to the congregation that the pursuit of these five habits would be an ongoing priority for the congregation. Hamilton plans repeatedly each year to find ways to preach/teach about these five habits, and to incorporate them in several creative ways into the life of the church, such as small groups, outreach opportunities, and educational programs. COR's vision is that, as the congregation as a whole grows in its practice of these five habits, the vibrancy and impact of the congregation will increase as a whole.
Inspired by COR's example, North Shore UMC's Church Council elected to incorporate the development and practice of these five habits as a priority in its new 5-year vision statement, which the Council is presently close to finalizing as a part of its strategic planning process. I'm excited this coming Lent to share these five habits with the whole congregation, as well as to interweave a continual focus on them throughout the full breadth of our congregation's ministries and programming. As an aside, once the Council's vision statement is complete, we will be certain to share it with the whole congregation. Perhaps the timing will work out that it will be ready to share this Lent!
Should you wish to read along with me as I preach through these five habits this Lent, feel free to pick up a copy of The Walk from either Cokesbury (better deal) or Amazon. Deacon Barb and I are also planning on using some or all of the Wednesday evening Lenten Dinners (now, "ZOOM Dinners!"), to reflect in a small group context on particular chapters of the book. Please keep an eye out via the eNews and bulletin for the Lenten Dinner schedule and what we will be doing each evening.
I invite you and your family to join me in preparing your minds, bodies, and souls for this coming Lenten season and our rich reflections on these five transformational spiritual habits.
Grace & peace,
Scott S. Himel, Senior Pastor
Dear NSUMC Members and Friends:
As United Methodists, we affirmed and/or reaffirmed a commitment to “accept the freedom and power God gives [us] to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” when we joined the church.
The killing of George Floyd and others in 2020 etched the reality of racial injustice vividly in our minds. The unequal fallout of the pandemic on Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color also showcased the injustice, as did the news about the dramatic rise in the number of white nationalist groups in America in recent years.
Following Pastor Scott’s invitation to reflect on what this called us to do as a faith community, a seed group was formed to chart a set of strategies for the way forward. The honest conversations we have had as a team have not always been easy but have been a testament to the love we have for one another, which we believe is truly a hallmark of our congregation.
This letter is to highlight our strategies with you, invite your comments and contributions, and solicit your participation in making these strategies a reality at NSUMC.
We have learned and believe that it is not enough to be non-racist (believing one does not hold racist views). Being anti-racist (being action focused), with the understanding white racial culture/white privilege exists, is foundational to moving forward. Our path forward therefore includes:
Thank you for prayerfully considering the ways our caring congregation can act to help end the sin of racism in our country.
Sincerely, NSUMC Racial Justice Team members
Kathy Cole (847-687-7464 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lisa Goodale (847-207-4838 or email@example.com)
Anita Bryant Mauro (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jim and Judi Simmons (773-262-5984 or email@example.com)
Sue West (847-835-1001 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Complied by Lisa Bell
Photography by Lee Ross Photography & Design
This month we feature the three pups of Scott and Barb Javore. Scott said they are truly the lucky ones in the relationship. “Our dogs have given us far more than we have given them. They enrich our lives daily, continually showing us examples of their unconditional love. No matter how challenging a day may have been, there is nothing like coming home and being greeted by three little smiling faces and wagging tails!” Check out our interview with the Javore dogs below!
Q: Hi, Pets of the Month? Why don’t you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Hello, my name is Addison. I am a 13 1/2-year-old yellow Labrador. I was born in Conover, WI, and adopted by my family when I was 6 weeks old. My new older brother was named Wrigley, who was a black Lab. Since my family loves the Cubs, they named me Addison. I always wished I would have a little brother named Clark, but that never happened.
Hello, my name is Mason. I am a 12-year-old Beagle mix. I was rescued by Katie Sweeney, who is a Glencoe Public Safety officer. She took me to the Glencoe Hill Animal Hospital where I was adopted when I was 2 1/2 years old. My dad was paying a bill for my future brother, Wrigley, and saw a photo of a Beagle named Beasley on the counter. He asked, just out of interest, what Beasley was like? The lady said that he would not want Beasley because she was food aggressive, but he should meet Marley (that was me!). My dad said that he was not looking for a dog. The lady brought me out anyway and told me that this was my chance, and to make the best of it, which I did! When I first looked at my dad, I did those sad eyes that the cat Puss in Boots did in Shrek. I also lifted my lip up to look especially cute! It worked, and I joined my new family!
Hello, my name is Batman. I am 8 years old. My life did not start out very well. I lived in a house in Glencoe with about 35 other dogs. The house was not kept up very well. When I was about 2 years old, we were all rescued. Katie Sweeney, and the other Glencoe Public Safety officers, who helped save us, as well as the doctors and staff of the Glencoe Animal Hospital, are my heroes! They saved our lives. I love my new family! Addison’s a wonderful big sister, and Mason is a pretty good brother, even when he tries to steal my food or treats. I especially like to follow my dad everywhere he goes. He calls me his little shadow!
Q: Do any of you have a special talent?
Addison: My mom was a black Labrador and was quite an athlete. I guess I got my athletic abilities from her. I used to be able to play tennis ball all day long. I love jumping off the boat and catching the tennis ball in mid-air. I used to do the same thing off the diving board in our pool. My dad said that I could leap off the diving board and catch a ball 6 feet above the water. That was sure fun! When I was a puppy, I loved to jump on people when they were swimming. That was so much fun too! (Although they didn’t seem to like it as much as I did ...) Now that I’m a little older and have arthritis, my dad puts the tennis ball in my mouth, then I roll it back to him. We still have lots of fun together!
Q: I hear that one of you have gotten in trouble with Glencoe Public Safety a few times. Care to elaborate?
Mason: That was me. I got arrested in Glencoe. I saw a very cute Labradoodle walking by my house, so I escaped from our fenced-in backyard to introduce myself. Her dad took me to the police station. The nice Public Safety officer called my dad who came over to pick me up. The officer gave my dad a yellow piece of paper, and then told him that he had to pay 25 bucks to get me out of the clink. I know that I was worth it! My dad looked at the yellow piece of paper, which read: "Issue: Beagle at-large." I thought the officer was wrong since I’m actually pretty small. I’m not even close to being large.
I did have another incident with the police, but it was not my fault either. A man painting our church, which is next door to our house, placed a gigantic, unwrapped sandwich on a table in our yard then went back to work. What else could a Beagle possibly do in this circumstance? I ate it! He was very upset. I cannot repeat some of the words that he said to me. He called the police and told them that he wanted me to be arrested and charged with the theft of his sandwich. Can you believe that? I said that I was innocent, but my dad still had to talk with a nice police officer, who said that I had a prior! The painter was asked to go home, which was good. He just was not very nice. Also, when he left, that gave me a chance to go get the Grand Foods bag that had the rest of his lunch in it. I had hidden it behind a bush. It was a happy ending for all!
Q: Your dad said one of you went on a big adventure?
Batman: I lived in California for two years with my older brother, Scott. I got to fly on an airplane there, which was scary and fun at the same time. It is really nice out there – sunny and warm all the time! Scott is an actor and writer. I thought that maybe I could be in a movie, or they could even make a movie about me! Maybe they could have named it after me? I moved back to Glencoe about three years ago. I got the fly on an airplane again but this time I got to sit with all the people which was even more fun!
Thank you to the Javore family for sharing their sweet dogs with us. Check back next month for another featured Pet.
As our nation continues through a time of pandemic, the cold of January prepares to set in, and social isolation continues to take its toll on all of us, it can feel like our world is not a very "wonderful" place.
At least, that's how I felt most of the time while I was learning how to play "What a Wonderful World" on piano during the past few weeks. But then it struck me: this song isn't about declaring how reality is in a factual sense, it's about a change of one's perspective on life itself.
One of John Coltrane's protégés once asked him why as a professional musician he practiced his scales all the time? He replied, "To become a saint."
What I believe Coltrane meant was that he was fascinated with the beauty of the scale. It was to him a spiritual exercise to exist within the scale and behold its beauty. That which others took for granted and felt beneath them to practice, Coltrane understood to be profound. Music, after all, is the mathematical reorganization of scales into unique patterns which seem pleasing to the human ear.
"What a Wonderful World" calls us to behold the beauty of the present moment and exist within it. It is a perennial reminder to pay attention to even the smallest of details of our reality and revel in its grandeur. As people of faith, we can easily take but one more step and offer words of thanks to God for the blessings which surround us each day.
"I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world"
Did those roses really bloom "for me and you"? Of course not! But to Bob Thiele and George Weiss, songwriters, they perceived the roses to be given to them as a gift.
As I play "What a Wonderful World," I find that certain chords draw me into the piece in a unique way. In particular, near the end of the song, a Dmaj7 chord is used. There's something inherently magical about seventh chords: it's like the music just flows out of them without anything else being played alongside them. When I play this simple yet poignant chord, I think to myself (pun intended), "How incredible that these notes would come together in this way; what a blessing it is to me today!"
Our minds, if left unattended, can easily veer into tiring rehashes of the past, and seemingly endless worries about the future. Part of the goal of Christian meditation is to teach the individual how to exist more in the present and less in the past or future. This doesn't mean that we should ignore our problems; rather, it's a teaching that worrying about them all the time won't make them go away. I believe this is what Christ teaches us when he reflects on the beauty of nature in Matthew 6:26-30 -
"26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?"
Christ invites us as people of faith to find rest for our souls in the richness of the present moment. In so doing, we entrust the past and future aspects of our lives—which we do not ultimately control, even though we like to think that we do—into the hands of our Divine Creator who is always working toward the good of all things.
Music, I believe, is an effective way to condition the mind to remain within the present moment more regularly. Part of the process of becoming a jazz musician is to learn how to "lay back" into the beat. It means going just a fraction slower than the tempo, which allows one to better "feel" and "experience" the music. I invite you this day—even in the midst of many reasons to feel stressed—to take a walk, play through some headphones while you walk one of your favorite pieces, and exist in the beauty of the moment. Lay back into it. Within the vibrancy of that moment, perhaps you can then declare to God with conviction, "What a wonderful world!"