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Stewardship-A Care Full View of the World

Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

The Amazon is burning. Why should I care? People are starving. Why should we care? The Earth is warming. What is the big concern?

We live but a small time in the ongoing existence of our planet. Humans lived only a small time on this planet according to scientists. Why then do we face such a broad array of problems from the environment to politics to social woes and why are those problems so critical right now?

It is promoted by society, particularly commercial society that we should be striving for financial independence and security. Those who have this to sell believe that those that don’t have only themselves to blame. It’s a pitch made to a world that believes that it can own something. Well, this planet is not mine, it’s not yours, and it’s not anybody’s. It is here to sustain us and as such we are its caretakers.

In church, one of the hardest topics for preachers to preach on is finances. It’s in the Bible that God owns everything. He also requires the first fruits. It’s a hard pill for Christians to swallow so it’s delivered with so much “tact” that it has lost its meaning. The truth is that it is a universal truth. We can’t own anything here…ever. Oh yeah, we can possess it for awhile, but we can’t own it. The only thing that we can own is our mindset. It is this that will cause us to destroy the very world that we live in.

I am not an owner, but a caretaker. While I am here, I have to take care of that which gives me life…my planet. I cannot be careless because if I am careless then I am just a taker. If I am a taker without giving as so many of us are…we will keep on taking until we tip the scales. I cannot be carefree because without the care I cannot be free.

As the political season continues to drag on in the US, we need to care more and not care less. When the tipping point is reached in the environment, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in the economy, there will be nothing we can do to recover. When the tipping point is reached in international politics (aka Presidential trash talk), there will be nothing we can do to recover from the devastation.

Feeling Guilty in Retirement

I was challenged to continue to do my work as long as God keeps me in this body. This seems to be helping me to clarify my life

Everything that I always wanted…

So here I am going into year 3 of my retirement. I always got up to be a teacher very early. I can’t sleep now. I still have to get up. I get confused because there is no one telling me what to do. I can’t seem to get started on anything.

I think that the guilt comes from the fact that when I was a teacher, I knew in my heart that I was helping people. I don’t know. Service to students isn’t always appreciated but I just believed that everyone wanted just what I wanted…crazy right? Still, I managed to fool myself for over 25 years.

Today in church, during a study of Phillipians, I was challenged to continue to do my work as long as God keeps me in this body. This seems to be helping me to clarify my life. Yes, I still want to be at the pool everyday. Yes, I still want to ride my bicycle everyday. Yes, I want to make music…(this is my biggest challenge even though I was a music teacher.) The fact is that I want to enjoy it…guilt free.

I have to be productive. I have to be guilt free. I have to help people. I have to feel relevant. Maybe then, the guilty feeling will go away. I’ll keep you posted.

Dad

The first memory I have of dad was coming through the door from work. We were living in Philadelphia on Walnut Lane in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. The carpet was an area rug, green in color. We had been out shopping that day. We had seen other men. Mr. Fishman who fitted us for shoes. Mr. Fergalle who cut my hair. Random people who walked past us during the day. They were always weird looking or funny looking to me. Yes this was my first memory of my dad…but not the first time I’d seen him. He came through the door with his briefcase and a smile and there was absolutely no one that was as good looking and wonderful as my dad.

My dad is one half of the most important people in my life. Mom and Dad. Mom is part of my dad’s story. Together they raised me and my brothers and sister. Their job as parents was to sacrifice themselves so that their children could benefit. I watched this every day…first through my selfish eyes where I couldn’t really see anything but my own needs or desires…and then later in life…when they made time for me for things like my little league baseball games, even though I wasn’t very good and then eventually through all of those school plays and concerts. They helped me through my adolescent years and they helped me become the person I am today.

There’s no course you can teach on parenting. There’s no book. There’s no map. Just nothing but commitment and love. There was a lot of love. There’s was a lot of pride. There was a lot of devotion. Love is when you always have a parent there to watch you, to cheer for you, to correct you and to love you in spite of your faults. Mom and dad did that for me and my siblings for years. Later when I had children, my dad would just absolutely dote on his grandchildren. He would buy old drum sticks and flip over old paint buckets to give my son his love for drumming. He was the first step in what is now his career and livelihood. He would provide a place for my daughter to stay when she had to work in the far off remote locations of Princeton and beyond.

Later, after my dad retired, he had to transition in life. Mom worked for a few more years, but, eventually she retired and they became, husband and wife again. They were there…for each other. Getting older is both beautiful and challenging. They went through this stage together. They cared for each other…each one having a bout with age a little earlier in life…spending time getting to hate hospitals. I also know this too. Now, it seems like the pains of everyday living are making it difficult to see who the caregiver is and who needs the care.

My mom and dad have watched couples disappear from their lives one by one and yet they are still together as a couple. This is all that they know. This should be the model for living. If there ever is a book on how to do “family”, it should be modeled after them. Now we are getting closer to the end of them. Soon it will only be one. There will be a hole…a big hole. I don’t know if I am ready for it as a son…let alone a spouse. I know that it will be hard. I know that everyone goes through this. It is seemingly unbearable…and I know it will take family to get through it…the whole family.

My sister has done so much to be there for my mother and father. She is a blessing beyond words. Th future is going to be rough…but as I reflect on my time with mom and dad…I catch myself smiling. I was the lucky one. I got the best two parents in the world. They got to be grandparents to my kids. They helped form another generation and that kind of spirit doesn’t die. It just gets bigger and more present…and those little annoyances, they just fade away.

Today, I will hug my mom and dad and I will cherish the closeness. Everyday, I will carry mom and dad with me. I can’t shake it. They are a part of me…all the good…and some of the bad. It is a perfect recipe. I have to remember that they don’t have to be here physically to be the parents that they have been all my life…and God will welcome two of the greatest souls to ever be placed in imperfect bodies to His Kingdom.

Thanks Dad!

Home away from home

My posting has been limited over the past several months by my work on my NJ house. This was my home for the past 29 years. Now, it is just a house that I need to sell. It is now represented by price, offer and perceived value. Now that there is no Internet, it is far from a home…for me at least.

In late March, I spent time working on the inside of the house. The crazy thing is that if I were still living there, it would not have been a priority. I thought that new carpet, paint, water conditioner and a complete cleanup was going to make my house desirable. I knew that the outside couldn’t be dealt with until I had more money and time.

In June, I went back for another 3 weeks and worked on the outside of the house and installed air conditioners so that the “showings” would go off in comfort. I also cleaned up and washed the outside and scoured the roof and deck that had been subject to the weather. During the time that I was there, realtors had been through the house with potential buyers. Their comments seem to indicate that the house “needs a lot of work”. Whew!!! I have been working tirelessly for months on this house…and it needs a lot of work?

I guess that I shouldn’t take their comments personally. I have heard comments about many things that don’t make sense in my life. I need to divorce myself from the comments on my house as a commentary on my home and my life. It’s high time that I begin work on my new home in California. Meanwhile, in spite of the comments, there is a house in NJ that is just waiting to become a home for a new family. I hope they find each other soon.

My Shit Doesn’t Stink

I have lost over 14 pounds in 30 days. This is faster than what I thought was an aggressive weight loss program with counting calories.

I know that this is usually a comment made in the second person or the third person, but for years I’ve been acutely aware of the opposite. Well, since I have begun a new eating program, I can actually say with confidence that my shit doesn’t stink. It really doesn’t and it doesn’t stick either. I have found the exercise in use of toilet paper is just that…an exercise.

On May 13, I started a program that is based on a book that I bought called The Plant Paradox. This book was written by a Cardiologist named Dr. Steven Gundry. He described his life as a heart surgeon as somewhat frustrating. He was 70 pounds overweight and telling his patients that they were unhealthy and they had to do something about their health. This prompted his own journey of discovery and now leads me to mine.

I used be able to manage my weight by simple calorie counting and exercise. This no longer worked for me and in spite of anything I tried, I couldn’t get the weight off. This program finally explained my situation by identifying my current situation and documenting symptoms that I was experiencing. I made the decision to go on the program and I committed to giving it the time necessary to make a difference. That is 6 weeks. Well, it has been a month and not 6 weeks and I can say without a doubt that there is evidence that what he says is true.

I have lost over 14 pounds in 30 days. This is faster than what I thought was an aggressive weight loss program with counting calories. I was thinking that 2 pounds a week was a little aggressive. My results are about 3 pounds a week and it is not slowing down. I haven’t really changed my exercise routine. Other changes that the doctor said would take place in my digestive tract included less bloating, easier time in the bathroom and the fact that the toilet paper would be clean. He never mentioned about the smell going away. That is part of my evidence of cleaning up my act.

I will definitely finish up the 6 weeks and then go beyond. At the 6 week time, I will make an appointment with my primary care doctor and see if I can get off my blood thinning medication. Also, I will make an appointment with Dr. Steven Gundry who is local to my new home in Palm Springs. This will confirm the good news about my new choices.

An Abortion Story

When the life starts growing, the ethical questions get tougher. In a culture of extremism, the answer to a question like this is difficult to find.

In the summer of 1987, my wife became hospitalized with extreme swelling and high blood pressure. She was in her fifth month of pregnancy. She had an undiagnosed auto immune disease. There are a limited number of medications that don’t cross the barrier to the fetus that may control the blood pressure.

I can still remember being called to the hospital by my wife’s nurse. I came to the hospital and my wife was crying. She had been told that there was no way to control her blood pressure and that they had to administer drugs that would be harmful to the baby and that the very presence of the pregnancy was causing her blood pressure spike. They also induced labor. Later that night, while my wife and I were alone, she spontaneously delivered a still-born child.

What I just described was an abortion. This is a medical procedure for terminating a pregnancy. This decision wasn’t made by myself or my wife. It was made by medical professionals. The doctors weren’t weighing any other political or moral questions. They weren’t worried about the legalities of the steps that they took. My wife’s life was saved, her Lupus was diagnosed and she is a mother today. This didn’t happen easily as another pregnancy ended at 7 months with the death of the fetus in utero.

Today, I have 28 year old twins who wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for an abortion performed over 30 years ago. For the record, I am pro-life. Today, I honestly believe that there are 3 lives that wouldn’t be here if the doctors had to face this decision in this environment. Abortion was a heroic intervention that needed to take place when the circumstances demanded it.

I do believe that abortion should not be treated as a casual solution for an unwanted pregnancy. I do believe that there are choices that can be made before and after sex. When the life starts growing, the ethical questions get tougher. In a culture of extremism, the answer to a question like this is difficult to find.

I recently began a new diet, well, healthy living program. It is based on the premise that all living things want to survive long enough to procreate or reproduce. Their defenses are genetic, instinctive, and rational. They protect their young from the time that they are alive. Certain plants are poisonous until they are ripe and then they become food so that the plant can reproduce. This astonished me, and gave me pause.

Nature wants us to reproduce. That’s why we have a sex drive. God proclaimed for us to be fruitful and multiply. It was Mr. Spock who said, “live long and prosper”. The living long part makes us want to fight the nature of reproducing when our sex drive is the highest. It also makes for a huge market for solutions to the fact that we want sex to be for our own pleasure long after reproduction has taken place and our ability to “perform” is lacking. We are so afraid to separate the science from the science fiction.

Extremists on both sides want there to be black letter law to justify their positions. It is wrong for all pregnancies to be treated the same. My own situation is a perfect example. It is wrong for us to treat life with such disregard as to wanting the government to guarantee that a mother can make the choice for or against a life right up until birth. These are “extremist” views and neither one can be defended in a civilized society. So what if we start there and back off to the center.

If we decide that there are no absolutes and that there is in fact a point where we have to defend the living child inside of the mother as well as the mother, then we can talk about it. We have to define birth control before conception and conception interruption after coitus as acceptable means to control an unwanted birth that may have come from a non-consensual sexual encounter. If we are unwilling to do this, then we have no business being in government.

The bottom line, for me…abortion needs to be regulated as a choice. No medical professional should ever be second guessed by a black letter law when it comes to rendering care to a patient that needs it. Finally, no person, man or woman should have so little regard for human life that they proclaim the ultimate right to life and death of a living viable human being in the name of a cause.

Search your own hearts and know…that black letter law on this subject…is extremism…and if I may be so bold…now it is state sponsored terrorism against medical professionals.

U.S. Stepping Up Enforcement on Delinquent Student Loans

From Discover on Google https://www.philly.com/business/us-stepping-up-enforcement-delinquent-student-loans-20190512.html?outputType=amp

More good news on the student loan front.

The Role of the Choral Musician

Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

I have been a choral music teacher and director for many years. Now, when I get the chance, I am a singer in a choir. I may have a unique perspective when it comes to the rest of the choir membership. The issue of cell phone use in rehearsal has come up in my choir where I am a participant. Of course, the issue comes up in social media…and then there is the back and forth…and then there is the defensiveness…and, well some philosophies come out that are somewhat confusing. Still, it seems that the choral ensemble member doesn’t know what their role is in the group.

A choral music participant must be on time with their music and a pencil and be actively engaged in the choral music rehearsal process all the time. Active engagement requires all of the senses. It means watching and learning while other parts are being played or performed. Clearly, this has been a problem before cell phones particularly in high school where the typically overachieving student will try to sneak in a little homework. It is now magnified by the presence of electronic distractions.

From the director’s perspective, it is not always easy to see who is disengaged from the rehearsal because the phone is obscured behind the folder. It is easy to see from the choir chair, from the rows and seats nearby, and yes, it is very distracting.

A common level of commitment to the group means that everyone is desiring a good rehearsal situation. Those who are offended by the request that they refrain from cell phone use by a fellow singer should seriously consider their membership because they don’t understand their role in the art.

The following issues are completely irrelevant.

  • It’s not a professional/paid choir. This is a complete cop out for those who don’t want to be held to the musicianship standards that we should all be striving to maintain. Whether you are in a grade school, high school, college or church and community group, you are still singing choral music and the standard for rehearsal should be the same. The compliance might not be as growth should bring maturity and older, experienced, and more seasoned groups should be much better prepared.
  • It’s not your job to police the choir, it is the director’s job. This one was mentioned in the “we’re all adults here” commentary. I guess that the concern is that you shouldn’t bring this to the director’s attention. It is likened to the grade school tattletale. Well, there are only two choices here. Go to the director and say that you are distracted or go directly to the source of the problem. Either way, ignoring the problem is the wrong choice. That’s the “mind your own business” implication.

The choir can be likened to a team. We all need to know our role. We all need to do our job.

Creating Your Own Reality

Whether it’s composing, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, or any other art, the act of creativity is disciplined and on purpose.

It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to create a vision for your future. My son, Ryan had a vision for his life to be a professional drummer. He wanted to perform on Broadway. He made his Broadway debut on 9/9/2018 in Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theater. Today he is a drummer for the First National Tour of the same production. This didn’t just happen. This didn’t just drop in his lap. He created his reality through vision and hard work and yes, he worked on his creativity muscle.

That’s right. Creativity is something that gets better through exercise. The musical performance above is on someone else’s channel, but it contains an original piece of music performed by the composer. Whether it’s composing, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, or any other art, the act of creativity is disciplined and on purpose. This goes for life as well as art.

Conformity and standardization have become buzz words and they are killing the very creativity that all people will need in the very near future as jobs disappear. Today in schools, entire months are dedicated to testing to see how students measure up to standards. Then they return to their regularly scheduled learning complete with even more tests and grades.

Ken Robinson has suggested that schools do kill creativity. Maybe there should be a course in how to survive school so you can still be successful in spite of it.

Ken Robinson has suggested that schools do kill creativity. Maybe there should be a course in how to survive school so you can still be successful in spite of it.

Who’s idea was this…college thing?

Maybe there would be far less scandals about entering college if the child understood or believed in the education that they were receiving or were likely to get in college enough to make the move themselves.

In a recent article in USA Today, I was introduced to a term that I never heard before. It was Snowplow Parents. This article spoke about the parents of today clearing away obstacles from their children’s world, whether created by others or themselves even when they entered college. Which begs the question, “was it really the child’s choice to to in the first place?”

Maybe there would be far less scandals about entering college if the child understood or believed in the education that they were receiving or were likely to get in college enough to make the move themselves. They also would have to make the decision to keep up with all of the deadlines…themselves. This should happen without counselors and parents doing everything for them.

Then maybe, ust maybe, the kids who belonged in college would be the only ones there. What do you think?