READING CHAIR – Kenya: Olorgesailie

READING CHAIR

Olorgesailie, Kenya

What a strange name for a place.  Actually, once one has lived in Masai Country for a while, these place names are not too strange to the ear, but become just part of another peoples heritage.  However, Olorgesailie is a heritage place for mankind because of its ancient past.

Getting to Olorgesailie is all part of the visit to this prehistoric site and certainly a part of my stay in Kenya for the past nine years of my life.  Our group were regular visitors to this site because of its history and rugged beauty.  The main camp site is located near a dried lake bed strewn with volcanic rocks.  It is very hot during the day, so our visits are timed to arrive in the area in late afternoon and spend the whole day there and then leave late morning the next day before it heats up again.

Olorgesailie was first discovered by geologist, John W Gregory, but in 1943 Mary and John Leakey excavated the area with paroled Italian POW‘s.  On the way down the escarpment, before the city of Mai Mahiu, these same Italian POW’s built a chapel that is still standing.  But that road leads from Nairobi to Mount Longonot, an extinct volcano in the Great Rift Valley.

My story of Olorgesailie involves the journey there and our weekend stay at the site.  Because the camp site is not very large and growing in popularity by tourists, we are limited to how many of our guys can make the trip.  So we decide the lucky ones by the top winners of a Bingo Game held several weeks previously.

Olorgesailie is located about forty miles south of Nairobi but takes about two hours to get there because of narrow bad roads that twist and turn around the hilly countryside, slowly descending to the Great Rift Valley.  It is worth the trip, not only because of the historic site but also because the changing landscape along the way.  Heading out of Nairobi to the Ngong Hills already has a changing landscape of greenery, especially after the rainy season.  The best and coolest time to visit the area would be in late July or August, the cool months of this part of Kenya.

The Ngong Hills were made famous in the movie “Out Of Africa”, a story about Karen Blixen who settled in the area and now the city, Karen, Kenya, is named after her.  Once one leaves the Ngong area the landscape slowly begins to get more bleak and dry.  At one point an hour out of the Ngong Hills, the landscape seems strewn with volcanic rocks, large sized rocks, like they were spewed out of a volcano and scattered everywhere, probably from the volcano Mount Longonot.

Eventually the road turns off onto another rugged powdery dirt road that leads to the Olorgesailie camp.  Even though the area is now quite dry and desolate, surprisingly there is enough greenery around.  It is at this site that we look for our huts, or kibandas, where we will stay for the two nights.  Brother Jack and I will stay in one kibanda, Fr. Richard and Brother Steve will stay in another, and two other huts will house the other four men, Peter, Erick, Ben and Raphael, our novices.

It isn’t long before the Masai find us with their women presenting us with all sorts of beautifully made belts and sandals decorated with colorful beads in typical Masai patterns.  The men are also willing to pose with us for photos, their long and slender bodies, dept that way by their meager diet here in the dry and forsaken land.  They wear thin, long, red and black pladded blankets woven from wool and fastened around their waist with their decorated leather belts that hold their leather sheaths that hold their long knives.  With warrior like dignity, they stand with their long steel tipped spears in one arm and slightly lift their opposite leg held in place behind the other leg.

The Masai women are also noticeably dressed in solid bright blue fabrics with their leather belts and multiple beaded necklaces around their heads.  Supposedly, a necklace for each child they have given birth to.  Some of these necklaces are about one inch wide and beaded in traditional patterns.  This is where I bought my first Masai belt that has lasted me several years!  Once they realized that we have bought all that we are interested in, they leave.

Interestingly enough, Olorgesailie was never a settlement, which one can figure out after staying here long enough, especially if the site has never changed over the thousands of years.  It is quite inhospitable except for the animals and Masai that have adapted to the place in recent times.  Ancient peoples came here for the stones!  This site has been determined to be a factory for making all sorts of stone implements that were then carried away.  There are hardly any human bones found here, other than animals bones.

Our first meal is simple, easily heated with a camp fire, which we settle down to tell our stories and keep warm for a while.  While the days scorching hot, the evenings can be quite cold as most desert areas.  Some of us go for walk until we hear some hyenas in the distance.  The park guard reassures us that the hyenas will not come into the camp.  If they do, they are only interested in our bones that we leave behind.  Fortunately, we do not have any.

However, it is the brought our binoculars and a telescope.  The view of the sky is spectacular with no moon and no nearby city light to water down or pollute the stars.  The telescope is useless since there are no planets nor moon in sight…yet.  We explain to the guys that even with a very powerful telescope one will still see only a point of light, a star.  However, a point of light may be a binary, or a double star, like the second star in the handle of the big dipper, which is just on the horizon to the north.  In fact, with an even stronger telescope, which we wouldn’t be able to carry out here in the middle of Olorgesailie, we could easily break that point of light into a three star system.  The binoculars are great for viewing  multiple star systems like globular clusters and the Andromeda Galaxy.

We are all hoping these kibandas will keep out the very desperate hyenas.  In the morning, I realize that hyenas are not my biggest problem.  I decided to take a shower it is still cool.  They have a small kibanda for that with too many openings in the walls, at least I think so.  Into my shower, however, I spot a troop of baboons coming my way.  Unfortunately, I have read of people and baboons fighting over the water tankers that are brought into town during the droughts.

The baboons know how to operate the taps.  I am wondering, standing here naked, if they know how to work these shower taps as they quickly approach up the path.  I am not willing to find out, and race out of the shower stark naked grabbing my towel.  Bro. Jack is awake by now, especially after I come running in and shut the door behind.  He is a little surprised at my lack of modesty, but quickly understands as I explain, looking out the window of our kibanda following the baboons as they head for the shower!  Fortunately I hadn’t lathered up yet, and in that short time I was already dry.

As can be expected, there wasn’t much fine dinning in the desert, but we did bring lots of  food that didn’t need to be refrigerated, and by now the ice had already melted in our cooler.  So, it is not surprising that I do not remember much about what we had to eat.  Fortunately, the baboons were only looking for water and soon went on their way.  We did not stray far from the camp, but we did explore the display sites around the area, that were constructed by the funds received by the Leakeys.  We all tried to imagine what it was like to travel by foot in this heat, to this desolate and out-of-the-way spot, knowing that one was one the food chain of many predators in the area, even baboons.

 

ART GALLERY – October 2016

Bed and Breakfast
Bed and Breakfast

If you missed my show at Mount St. John’s Gallery, here are some selections from that showing.  The closing day is 9th October, and the Gallery is located off Indian Ripple Road at the Bergamo Center, Research Blvd., Dayton, Ohio.

The above piece is an oil painting of a famous “Bed and Breakfast” in Modesto, California, which my art instructor provided.  I love this piece because it pretty well represents the original picture.  The pink roses were possible only if one paints them directly on the white canvas first, and then paints in the rest of the picture from there.  These pictures were taken at the Gallery.

Cafe
Cafe

The next piece is called the “Cafe”, again, another picture provided by my instructor of a cafe in California.  This piece was done in watercolor.  Notice the negative space in the table cloth, which was mention in one of my previous postings.  This is a favorite of mine because of the color and composition.

Red Rose
Red Rose

The “Red Rose” is a favorite of several people and has not been posted before.  This painting was done in acrylics, paying careful attention to shading.  The black canvas makes the colors in the rose stand out.  This is another favorite of mine.

Yellow Rose
Yellow Rose

The next piece above is called, naturally, “The Yellow Rose”.  This piece was painted in oil.  It is a favorite of mine because the compliment of yellow is purple which makes this painting stand out.  When I hung this picture in the Gallery, it was by itself on the orange background.  My sister brought in a light gold frame which I put around the picture, but is out of sight in this photo, and magically frames the picture.  Look for it at the Gallery.  The painting is about 8.5 x 11 in. and the frame is about 14 x 16 in.

The piece below is called the “Lighthouse” from another picture that my instructor took in Michigan.  This painting is done in oil.

lighthouse

Orange Water Lily
Orange Water Lily

The above painting is done in acrylics with a black, but colored canvas, called “Orange Water Lily”.  I decided not to keep the original painting and painted over it in black, but added color.  Water lilies are one of my many favorite flowers.

Beach House
Beach House

“Beach House” is located in California, a favorite area for my instructor to paint plein air, or outside.  This painting has appeared before in another posting.  The painting was done in oil.  In the original picture, I thought I saw two women looking our from the second floor windows, second or third from the left.  It seemed a little eerie to me!  I didn’t paint them in.

Green Painted Lady
Green Painted Lady

The final selection is called the “Green” Painted Lady, a house from the famous San Francisco neighborhoods.  This piece was done in watercolor after a quick ink drawing first.

I hoped you enjoyed the selection.  Thank you!

 

READING CHAIR – Zambia, “Our Doggy, Jack”

Jack was the name of our dog; a white curly haired cairn terrier.  He showed up in our house one day, out of the blue, a little baby pup that could fit into a cereal bowl.  I was surprised that anyone would take a pup this small from their mother!  I had to hand-raise him from the day he appeared, so, naturally, we grew pretty attached.

This was in the city of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.  Actually, we lived outside of the city about a mile, off the national highway that ran  north and south through the country, from Cairo, Egypt to South Africa.  So our location is quite ideal; not in the city center but not far from all the shopping malls and merchant stores that serve the country.

We bought our property from a Lebanese Muslim above the market price, as we found out later.  Land is cheap in Zambia, and we could have gotten ten times the acres, if we were willing to locate farther outside the city center.

Our property, as I mentioned, is off a dirt road from the national highway, with neighbors on all four sides separated by an eight foot wall of cinder blocks; a Greek Orthodox neighbor on one side who has a lucrative business in cinder blocks, a Lebanese on the opposite side with a lucrative business in everything, especially in luggage, and then there is an open land about three times the size of our property, (we have about four and half acres), with a care taker living there and space for semi-truck repair.  The rest of the property is open bush and infested with cobra snakes, more on that story later!  A Muslim family lives there as the care taker.  On the opposite side of our property from him is a private road with land that is being subdivided into very nice family homes, a lucrative project of a Hindi man.

We get a lot of fireworks throughout the years as each religion celebrates their holy days.  The Lebanese like to shoot off their guns not only to celebrate, but to remind the thieves that they are armed, so don’t mess with us!  We Catholics don’t celebrate with fireworks.  We could celebrate our 4th of July, but that may not be a good idea to advertise that there are Americans living here.  We get a lot of beggars!

You are wondering by now, what has all this to do with our dog, Jack?  Be patient, I’ll tie it all in…some how.

We are a Catholic institution that trains young African men to join our Society of Mary, a teaching order, mainly, but we also work with the poor, the youth, and the disadvantage.  Here in Zambia we run the nationally famous high school for boys, Matero Boys in the district of Matero in Lusaka city.  We have another secondary school in Malawi called Chaminade after our founder, and a very large primary school in the Njenga slums of Nairobi called Our Lady of Nazareth.  That means we have young men from all three countries starting their religious life as Marianist Teachers here in Lusaka, Zambia which is in the district of Makeni.  We may have at one time about ten or more young men in our ten month program.  That means every year we get a new group of about the same size or less.  So, if we get a dog, each year he has to get to know all these new faces, and see them leave again.

Some of our young brothers who are further along in their program, join us for special programs that usually last about two or three months.  Their program is with the local hospice center for AIDS patients, who are in their last stages of the disease.  Even with the medicine available, the patients are that they die within a few months and even weeks.  Imagine our young men accompanying then on their last journey in life.  It is always a powerful experience for them, and at the end of their stay, they are ready to  leave!

On one of my trips to the hospice center, I noticed that there were several dogs on the property that were friendly but stayed with the patients.  Normally, dogs in Africa are strictly used for alarms or guarding the compound.  Rarely did they use them for pets, and never in the house.  I asked the Sister in Charge what kind of dogs were they, and she said that they were cairn terriers that were given them by a white woman who bred them.  The woman gave away the ones that had undesirable traits.  All I said in response was that I was looking for that size dog, only bigger.  I certainly wanted a dog that was friendly, like the ones I saw there, but bigger, since they were pretty small.

About two weeks later after I returned from teaching at the major seminary, I found this cute puppy waiting for me in the house!  This little cairn terrier pup had traits that were considered undesirable?  How could anyone consider this little pup undesirable?  The owner that bred them would normally get rid of them, even euthanizing them, since their traits would make them ineligible for shows, and would put a strain on the mother raising too may pups.  Jack was a curly and white haired pup, two straits that made him undesirable, but at this young an age, he was still pink with no hair.

As Jack got older and starting to walk more, I noticed that his back legs wouldn’t move right.  It seemed he was dragging his legs, as though they couldn’t keep up with the front part of his body.  We had a very good vet in the area that I took Jack for his regular shots.  The vet told me not to worry, they would get better, and they did.  Thank goodness, since I couldn’t afford any operations.

If you ever raised a pup by hand, that means hand feeding him every day and taking care of what comes out the other end; it is like raising a child, always wondering if I was doing the right things.  He was very playful and the guys were great with him.  But he was so small!  They loved to play with him and chase him around the house.   They took their turns feeding him until he got bigger.  Fortunately, he house-trained early.  Most of the fun in playing with Jack was to see him slide on the tile floor.  It took him a while to learn to get up the traction to move fast, but he was unable to stop quickly.  Sometimes I think he bumped into the furniture and walls on purpose just to hear us laugh.

And he was a lap dog.  Whenever we had meetings, he wanted to sit on my lap the whole time, but after awhile I made him find some other young man to sit with.  Surprisingly, he knew not to come into the chapel whenever we had our prayer time, and was content to sit on a comfortable rug that we put there.  It became his rug.  We all had to step over him as we left the chapel for the dining room.  And until the last person stepped over him, would he got up and joined us.

Jack was a great early warning system since his ears were very sensitive.  No one believed me until after several times he could even hear a car approach from the end of our gravel lane.  Since our property was literally in the middle of four neighbors, our entrance lane was about 200 feet or more surrounded by eight feet of cinder block wall with a large electric-opening metal gate at the end.  The gate was so big that we had to make sure Jack was not standing in the path of the rollers or they could easily squash him.  When the gate was left open during the day, she could hear the cars entering the property beginning at the end of our lane where it connected with the dirt road, which connected to the National Highway.  The highways in Zambia are wonderful, but the side roads can mostly be packed dirt.

One of the problems with this long walled driveway was that snakes would get trapped in-between them.  Several times our guys would report that they had to kill a snake trapped within, and half the time they were cobras.  The other times I couldn’t tell since they would pulverize the snakes beyond recognition.  An interesting thing happens whenever a snake is spotted in Africa, sticks and clubs appear out of nowhere and a crowd quickly forms to kill it.  All activity stops, even the Sacred Liturgy of the Eucharist, until the snake is caught and pulverized beyond all recognition.  Then life resumes as though nothing had happened.

Our neighbor with the big undeveloped property burns the grass when it gets too high, thus chasing any snakes on his property onto ours!

Here is my worry with Jack.  How would she react when she saw here first snake?  If it was a cobra, that could well be her last encounter.  We thought of trying to train him to fear snakes, but without a real specimen, that was almost impossible, and forget our water hose.  It wasn’t long before Jack encountered her first snake.  He had cornered the snake outside, on our wall.  I heard her bark, and believe me, I knew right away that it was not her normal bark.  Something was wrong!  I went outside to see what was up, since we did get visitors who came unannounced into our house.  About a foot up from the ground was a ledge on the walls that ran all around the house.  Out the back door was an outside sink where we washed the vegetables and there, on a ledge of the wall that met the sink, was a cornered baby cobra facing Jack.

Baby cobras can be just as dangerous as an adult, but more so, since an adult may bite as a warning and not inject venom.  A baby cobra hasn’t learned yet to bite as a warning and will usually inject all of its venom, of course making it vulnerable to any other predator that might come along and attack it before it could renew its venom.

Somehow, Jack new that this snake was dangerous, since he wasn’t barking wildly, and kept his distance.  I couldn’t reach down to grab him since the cobra might bite me in the face.  Surprisingly, Jack moved back to join me as the other young men quickly dispatched the snake with rocks.  The young man who threw the rock that killed the cobra surprised us all, since he didn’t seem like a likely candidate.  Both his rocks were right on!

Jack seemed to be growing much faster now, but he would never get very big.  We raised rabbits, so I would bring him out to our rabbit house and get him used to them.  In Africa, the young boys raised rabbits and sold them to help pay for their education.  We raised them for meat!

There were several ways to set up a rabbit house, and since we didn’t have money for cages yet, we opted for the open house, which is a large room with several breeding boxed for the females, and were spread around the perimeter.  We had at this time about forty rabbits with four breeding females.  We quickly learned that the cement floor of our rabbit house wasn’t constructed very well and several of the females had begun digging holes in it.  But several of our neighbors said, that was OK, since it would be more natural to a rabbit out in the wild.

The female digs a tunnel to her globe-like lair.  Rarely would a rabbit try to dig a tunnel out of the house.  The males would, though.  In regular rabbit cages the babies would crawl out of the nest, but the mother would rarely move the baby back in and eventually it would die in a couple of days unless one spotted it and moved it back in.  There wouldn’t be that problem if the mother dug her lair in the ground.  Our number of rabbits went up to eighty!  They were everywhere!

Jack would behave for about the first few minutes, but once a male stomped his foot all the other rabbits would start to run for shelter.  The hunt instinct for Jack was too strong for him to resist and he would set off after the rabbits running in all directions at once.  Some of the bigger males and females were not afraid of him when he was younger.  I think they thought he was a rabbit himself.  They would confront him by stomping their foot and then run up to him and hit him with their front feet, sort of like a dance.  But rabbits can give a nasty bite if they wanted to.

Jack eventually learned to leave the larger rabbits alone.  The problem was that all the females dug into the floor to make their lairs and Jack would send them all down their holes.  When the time came for us to catch them for supper, it was nearly impossible.

The undesirable traits of Jack were starting take an effect on him.  His beautiful white hair was getting more and more difficult to keep clean.  He had a bad habit of rolling in the wet chicken manure or rabbit droppings to disguise his odor.  Wow, he could really roll in some nasty stuff, where we had to give him a bath immediately.  He would never learn; a bath or nasty stuff?  And he hated a bath.  I had the guys give him a bath, since I didn’t want to get bit.

His curly hair was also a big problem, because he liked to run through the grass.   At certain seasons of the year a particular type of grass would develop seeds that would stick to hair, clothes, anything that was fuzzy, and would be difficult to remove.  Jack would have these grass seeds in his fur every where, and the only way to remove them was to cut them out with scissors.  Sometimes the guys would cut his skin and he would bite then!  After a while it was almost impossible to remove them, since his bites could be very nasty.  Several times he could not see out his eyes because of the grass which had sealed them shut!

The end of the year came and the guys would soon be leaving for their homes; Zambia, Kenya, Malawi.  Jack liked to accompany them down to the end of the drive way as they went off to teach at the school down the road from us; just a short ten minute walk.  Fortunately, he never left the compound.  It was a wonder he was never kidnapped (dog-napped?)!  His breed commanded a very good price.

The day after the guys left home for good, Jack went looking for them.  He couldn’t understand that they were gone for good.  Then next morning was a celebration for one of our teachers at school who was leaving Zambia and heading back to Kenya for further education.  His farewell Mass and Celebration was the next day, Sunday.  In the morning I was looking for Jack to put him in the house while we were gone, but he was nowhere to be found.  Suddenly, our neighbor appeared around the corner carrying Jack in his arms.  This was our friendly Muslim neighbor who came for water every once in a while, since they had problems with their water pump.  He had seen Jack cross to the other side of the dirt road, probably looking for our guys.  As Jack crossed the dirt road and car sped past hitting him and killing him on the spot.  The car never stopped.  Our neighbor knew it was our dog and brought Jack to us.  I was speechless, but managed to thank the man for his kind act.

That Sunday I could barely get through the Mass and Celebration.  As I sat quietly during the Communion Thanksgiving song, I couldn’t keep from crying, but I did manage to finish the Mass without incident.

At the Celebration meal Lynda, a wonderful woman who helps with the youth group,  reminded me that there will be other brothers to replace him.  I was embarrassed to tell her that I was crying for my dog that was killed that morning, not for Julius who we were celebrating.  For once, she didn’t know what to say, since dogs are dogs in Africa.

Two weeks later she had gotten me another dog,  just like Jack!  I was surprised, this pup was smaller than Jack.  I threatened to name the dog Jack-Lynda.  Eventually we called her Jackie.  I didn’t have time to think of Jack.

 

 

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Lazarus and the Rich Man”

26TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME

Lazarus and the Rich Man

Luke 16:19-31

The first reading is from the prophet Amos.  He lived in the Southern Kingdom, in the hills of Tekoa, a fortified village in the north part, southeast of Jerusalem, close to the border with the northern kingdom.  He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.  The sheep he raised produced a kind of wool that was well sought after for its fine quality, like cashmere.  Amos was not a poor man.

He was the first of the prophets to have his prophesies written down in book form.  The thing that makes Amos stand out is that he lived in the southern kingdom but prophesied in the northern kingdom.  That is like someone coming from Europe and preaching to us Americans.  After having toured the city of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, Amos saw for himself the immense difference between the rich and the poor.  Amos’ prophesy didn’t make sense, since he prophesied destruction of the northern kingdom, but the northern kingdom was at its peak in prosperity and its relationship with its neighbors were good.  Anyhow, Amos prophesied military invasion and total doom.  He felt certain this was now the calm before the storm.

What was the response from the people?  They were confused.  These were good times, but for the rich.  The leaders essentially told Amos to go home, go back to your own country and prophesy there, leave us alone.  Amos justifies himself by telling them that the Lord God commanded him to preach to the north and warn them that the corruption of the rich will be punished in time, especially their social injustice, and they themselves would be led off in chains to doom!  Amos fulfilled his duty as prophet; he delivered his message, and returned home.

What was that all about?  The rich in the northern kingdom were few and the poor were many, in fact, most of the population were poor.  Social injustice was rampant.  The irony of it all is that archaeology has shown that in the large cities of the land of Canaan, before the Israelites arrived, had gone through full blown rebellions that essentially overturned and destroyed the rich class.  Israel came upon the aftermath of a population that had spread out over the land with a different society.

Israel entered the land with united tribes, worshiping one God and with strong leaders and comprehensive laws.  By the time of Amos, though, it seemed that Israel was just like the people they had replaced, the Canaanites.  The Chosen People at the time of Amos had made no difference in the long run, and were probably worse than the people they replaced.

Today’s story of the Rich Man and Lazarus hints at the same situation in Jesus’ time.  The rich were so comfortable that they don’t even see the destitute in the land, people like Lazarus sitting on their door steps, laying at their feet.

How can we apply today’s Gospel and the situation in Amos’ time to us?  Well we can’t, simply because there is such a social difference between us and the people of Old Testament time and even New Testament time.  But that doesn’t let us off the hook.

In ancient times, there were the rich land owners.  They owned the land for generations and leased their land out to others to work, for a fee of the produce they raised.  Many had slaves.  That was a given, the norm in their society.  Slaves came from war, some were bought, others sold themselves into indentured slavery, others were children of slaves.  In other words, a large portion of the population was slaves.

In the time of the Romans, the wealthy and noble families of Rome commanded the army and ruled the land.  Under them came the rich and nobles of native populations.  Some were allowed to continue ruling, but under Rome.  Households were large estates, where families and relatives living together, from grandparents to grandchildren.  Only one was the head of the household.  There were no middle class.  The closest to a middle class were the merchants who had neither power nor prestige and were heavily taxed.

These stories from Luke were geared to the rich class, as today’s story obviously was pointing to.  This is important, otherwise we are taking the story out of context and trying to apply it to us.  That said, how do we apply the readings to us?  Simply this:

Jesus commands us to be aware of the nameless in our lives, since God knows them by name.  Notice the rich man was never named, but we know the name of Lazarus.  Look in the book of Exodus, you will never find the name of the Pharaoh mentioned anywhere!  None of the Egyptians were names except for the two midwives who served the Hebrew women!  Trust me.  The Godless go nameless.  The children of God are named, because God knows them by their name, since they call out to him.

After leaving here today, get to know the names of the nameless in your life.

 

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Sons”

24TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME

Luke 15

The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Sons”

 Today’s Gospel from Luke, we read the whole of Chapter 15, The Lost Ones: “The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Sons.”  The “Prodigal Son” is the most popular.  Prodigal means recklessly extravagant or lavish, and that is how the first son spent his money–at least it was on others.

But the story, and all three stories for that matter, is about the lost.  The wonderful addition to the story line in the “Prodigal Son” is that it tells a lot about the Father, and that is hidden message behind all three stories, Jesus is referring to “God the Father.”

The lost sheep was so important that the Shepherd, left the other 99 in the desert to go search for it.  And there was great rejoicing when the lost sheep was found.

The woman, who found the lost coin, called her neighbors to rejoice with her at finding her loss.  I am sure her party for the neighbors cost more than the coin!

The father rejoiced at his lost son returning home and threw a celebration.  Of course, the son was never lost!  He knew the way home all the time.  But he was lost from his father’s love.  That is why even the older son was lost too.  He considered himself a servant to his father; that was how he saw his relationship.  “All these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders!”

The older son saw himself as one of his father’s servants.  Did he ever once serve his father out of love?  The younger son knew that is father loved him, but felt that he deserved to be treated as his father’s servants, and that is how he introduces himself upon his return.  “I no longer deserve to be called your son!”

I am sure that Jesus wants to portray the Heavenly Father as the same father in the this story; an easy pushover, who against all decorum and dignity, runs down the road to meet his son.  Picture this old man running to his son.  It should have been the other way around.  And he quickly covers his son’s shame with the robe of dignity, ring of authority, and the shoes of the wealthy.  The poor went barefooted or wore sandals.

“And you never gave me a young goat to feast on with my friends.”  I can’t help but come back to the older son, because he could represent many who come to church every Sunday, and keep the commandments, and follow the rules, but have never experienced God’s love, especially God’s forgiving love.

I believe many have occasionally experienced God’s love, but haven’t dug deep enough to realize that his love has been there all along.  The Father had always loved his older son, both sons, but it took the younger son a disaster to realize it.  How about the older son?  What does he need to do to really experience his father’s love?  He needs to look beyond himself to see his father’s love everywhere, even right under his nose.  “Son, everything I have is yours!”

As we continue to celebrate the Eucharist this day, may we leave here touched in a deeper way by signs of God’s love for us in all we do this week.  Lord, help us to be open to you in our lives and to know that everything you have, is ours, especially your love.

 

 

 

MUSIC ROOM – September 2016

!WELCOME!

If you are new to my Music Room, I feature my latest compositions from the time period mentioned above in the title to the last posting.  Even though I write for other instruments, I also enjoy writing my own lyrics set to a melody of my own! Unfortunately, I am still looking for a good singer for my lyrics, until then you can still enjoy the “Doo-Doo Lady” substitute!

piano(Remember, these songs are copyrighted (c) 2016 Michael F. Nartker, SM.)

My first selection is called “Tap Your Foot“.  This composition is set for some of my favorite instruments: Oboe, Trombone, Tube, and Piano.  I thought I would add some percussion to this piece.  In the first section the Oboe carries the melody line with the Trombones in harmony, the percussion carrying beat and pace, and the piano adding a wonderful mood through beat and harmony.  In the middle section the Trombones drop out and the piano picks up their part.  The third section repeats the first section and ends.

 

The second selection is called “Shadow Dance.”  The instruments in this orchestration are the following: Oboe, Tuba, Strings, and Piano.  The Oboe also has the melody line with bass support from the Tuba and harmony from the violins.  The piano doubles on the melody and harmony, but also gives a great beat support to the composition.  In the first section, the Oboe carries the melody with all the other instruments for support, except the piano.  In the second section the Oboe and Strings drop out and the Tuba plays the melody line accompanied by the piano with a simple harmony.  In the third section the Oboe comes back in with the melody accompanied by just the Tuba and the Strings.  In the final section the Oboe and the Tuba come together for a closing duet accompanied by the Strings and the Piano.  In this piece, the Tuba plays a more commanding role than it usually has, simply because I like the Tuba and gave it that role.

 

For the third selection I have a piece called “Walk Upon The Water“.  This piece is written for voice and piano.  The words are taken from the Gospel scene where Peter asks the Lord to call him to walk upon the water.  I have the clarinet playing the voice part.  The piece is written for four verses with repeated refrain.

 

The final selection is called “Praise God” from psalm 150.  This was also written for voice and piano.  The piece is written in such a way that it slowly builds up in intensity of rhythm and harmonic accompaniment until it reached the ending “Hallelujah!”  I have the Oboe playing the voice part in this selection.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the selections and look forward for the next posting of my compositions.

My most recent compositions can also be found on SoundCloud under the name: Michael F. Nartker, SM.  Please visit my site.

Thank You!

READING CHAIR – Gospel Comm: “Are You Still Following Me?”

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 14:25-33

“Are you still following me?”

The gospel starts out telling us that Great crowds were traveling with Jesus.  And he turned and addressed them.

I suspected that Jesus wanted to thin that crowd out a little.  “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters…;” the original gospel probably had Jesus stopping there for a moment.  And when he looked around and noticed that the crowd had not thinned noticeably yet, he added the last part, “…and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

At one point in our lives we surely come to the point of hating most of the above, maybe not seriously hating, but at least getting fed up!  But hating our own life?  Now, that is another matter.  Either way, hating them in order to follow the gospel?  That seems pretty extreme.  After all, in another place Jesus commands us to love them all, especially our parents, and strangers, and even our enemies.

What is happening here in this gospel?  Is this another example of Hebrew Literary Hyperbole?  Could be…I don’t want to put words into Jesus’ mouth.

Let’s put this gospel in context of the parables that come before it and after it.  Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was about the Wedding Feast that no one, who was invited, could come.  They all had excuses.  The readings that come after this Gospel are all about the Lost ones; like the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

To be honest, the Gospels were written to be read to a crowd who were lost in their spiritual lives, as Jesus said; “I have come for the Lost Sheep.”  However, it is a reminder to us the cost of following the Lord.  What are we willing to do or change to be disciple of Christ?  But hate?

The first reading, Paul’s letter to Philemon, gives us a very good clue.  Paul, who is in prison, is writing to Philemon, concerning Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave.  Paul sees now as his spiritual son in Christ, a relationship that probably grew with Onesimus’ visits to him while in prison.  Paul is not simply asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus, Paul challenges Philemon to welcome his illegal runaway back “no longer as a slave, but…brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man”—an equal, honorable human being—“and in the Lord’.  That is quite a challenge and change Paul is asking Philemon to take and undergo!

Does following Christ change our old view of life and way of seeing things, to a new way of seeing them?  Are we willing to see our old relationships with one another take on a new way, in the love of Christ?  Paul is asking Philemon to hate the old way of his relationship to the slave Onesimus, and to see him in a new way, as his brother in Christ.

I would hope, as disciples of Christ, we could apply that not only to our relationships but to anyone we meet.  It is not easy.  That is why Jesus reminds us to sit down and calculate what it would truly cost to follow him by living in his love and loving others with that love.

Paul wrote Philemon to hate the old way, where Onesimus was your slave, your property.  Love Onesimus in the new way with the love of Christ that makes him your brother.

The Eucharist, which we celebrate today, gives us the strength to live in the love of Christ, turning aside from relationships that are harmful or not life giving and turning to Christ, the source of all our life and love and relationships.

May we live always in the love of Christ and may it continue to sustain us this day and always to love others.

Personal Stories, Music and Art