Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

2/25/08

Death of a Hero: Larry Norman Meets the Lord in Person

durer Melencolia I If you have a favorite Larry Norman story, please post it.

I do not know how to process this. A hero in my life has died. Others have gone along the way, like Evel Knievel, Walter Payton, but so far, none have impacted me as much as this one man.

Posted on his site larrynorman.com:

Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.


Larry Norman, a man said to be the grandfather of Christian rock music, has died. The Christian world (which extends far beyond the evangelical world) will be talking about this the next few weeks. His influence has been, and will continue to be tremendous.

I awoke this morning to read a post response that Larry is now with God. I am sad he has left this planet, but, after all, he was only visiting.

His words hit me hard. His hair was a little longer than mine, and his perspective was gutsier. I was new to my faith when introduced to this guy "who sounds just like John Lennon and Bob Dylan," as one friend described him.

He was no Dylan, and thankfully, no John Lennon. Great musicians and lyricists, sure, and Larry was part of their generation and musical sensibilities, yet very much his own voice.

He sang about, and mostly, God. Within this, he sang we need to be aware of living a life that's true, and to tell others about Jesus. He covered everything from poverty, politics, racism, war, hunger, and love.


Musicians he's affiliated with include Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill (tribute), Keith Green, Rez Band, Steve Camp, Daniel Amos Band, and, of course, the band he started with, People! (2007 rendition of I Love You)

In college, at a retreat, I remember singing "Watch What You're Doing" (turn it up, sound is weak) around a campfire with my roommates acapella.

Larry Norman Concert TicketA dear friend I have long lost contact with, and I, saw him sing in a little church in Champaign, IL. I still have the ticket and treasure the memory. He lost his guitar traveling, but used a borrowed one. He stayed several hours talking with a few of us afterward.

I ran into him at Cornerstone (huge Christian music festival here in Illinois), and we grabbed lunch, sitting at a quiet table, somehow unnoticed by the throngs of people. I bought several tapes from him (remember cassettes?), and a copy of his recently released "Home at Last." The album cover, as in vinyl LP, was unprinted, but he drew the entire cover for me.

Just last week, at dinner discussing French missionary work, Pierre, the pastor of a small French congregation, told me how he first heard Larry there, and, despite the decade between us (he's in his young 30s) and the Atlantic Ocean, we shared favorite songs.

I am a better writer for having heard his work, and a better Christian for having considered what he meant.

Larry David Norman
April 8, 1947 – February 24, 2008
larrynorman.com
He was ready.
Wikipedia

DC Talk covers "I Wish We'd All Been Ready"



picture: Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I

2/22/08

Imaging God: Ars est celare artem. (poem)

As a poet who is a Christian often writing with faith-related themes, I have found it a greater challenge to present an image of God than to describe human love. Both require elusive metaphors that themselves are metaphors, but God is something vaster than any metaphor. God has not concealed Himself in the way a peanut is hidden under a shell, but, at the same time, what does He look like? Who has seen His face and lived? Still, Psalm 105:4 tells us to seek His face.
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
--New American Standard Bible
Below is a poem trying to sort out that question of imaging God. How to say something eternal with finite words, without heresy or mistake? And, secondly, how to retain the art of poetry, or any art, by avoiding cliché and trivializing God? Inevitably, I will endure the ever-present artistic-faith struggle, one I expect to fail continually until I am in Heaven, then catching a glimpse of the Living Father.

Imaging God
Ars est celare artem.

Imaging God
requires my best clichés:

the old soup kitchen woman,
the disheveled Russian Jew
all babushkaed and bundled
with wrinkled thoughts peeking
from her tattered shawl;

an act of grace from a pastoral looking priest,
scorning with the beginning
of a smile at a grimaced boy whose baseball
and Norman Rockwell predicament
broke the stain glass window;

an older couple clearly matrimonied,
still in love sitting, wrapped together in a rumpled blanket
on a worn Grant Park bench,
unnoticed by Sunday afternoon crowds,
feeding pigeons pleading for attention;

a silent child watching at dusk for
coming stars and sunsets, and other heavenly things,
filled with chiaroscuroed thoughts of the maker and the made,
clarified and distinct with horizon-cum-boundary,
all silhouetted in new moonlight, half as bright as the Bethlehem star—

no images of God are true without a manger, sheep and baby,
all babushkaed like the Jewish woman,
and I should strain to mention
a bloody Cross or empty grave, a stigmataed man,
fish, loaves, chariots and horsemen.

I’d repeat ‘love,’ ‘passion,’
‘sacrifice,’ ‘agape,’ ‘Messiah,’
‘Christ,’ ‘Father,’ and ‘resurrection,’
rambling with ordinary and overused verbiage,
the vocabulary of a Christmas card impresario.

The liars would then grind my words, my pictures,
the syllables still fresh and the symbols still warm
and say, “God is different,”
“Heaven has no image,”
“Man can’t pretend he sees God.”

What God has seen is the Lord’s own pretension;
we are from His love concocted,
becoming all that He imagined, in His image.
My failing could only be not
to bring a newer color of God to their fallen eye.

2/21/08

Bob Dylan, Iconoclastically Faithful

In the 1980s, the iconoclastic Bob Dylan dared convert to Christianity. His fans panicked because he was no longer preaching to their choirs songs they already knew.

What do you do when your prophet changes his mind? John Lennon denounced him. His fans booed him. But Bob sang on. He was unashamed of the gospel, and never waited for someone to agree with him or support him in his cause.



In the Garden
Bob Dylan
http://bobdylan.com/moderntimes/songs/garden.html

When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
Did they know He was the Son of God, did they know that He was Lord?
Did they hear when He told Peter, "Peter, put up your sword"?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?

When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn't be seen by men
Saying, "Master, tell me why a man must be born again."
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?

When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He said, "Pick up your bed and walk, why must you criticize?
Same thing My Father do, I can do likewise."
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?

Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
The multitude wanted to make Him king, put a crown upon His head
Why did He slip away to a quiet place instead?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth."
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, "All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth."
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?


Copyright © 1980 Special Rider Music

Hear an excellent cover of "I Believe in You."

2/16/08

Who Found the Stone?

corvair It was mid-1966. I was alive, but unborn. A month or two before my birthday - my mom lost the diamond of her engagement ring.

She was a Catholic who believed in the power of saints - and prayed to St. Anthony of Padua. Catholics consider him the patron saint of lost things.

A few days later, she found the diamond attached to the end of my three year-old brother's lollipop stick, stuck in the driver's seat of her 1966 Blue Corvair. Since she had made a deal with St. Anthony, I was named after him.

You read this story now and maybe wonder what a saint has to do with God. Everything.


Do I believe that a dead man who knew and lived Christ helped her find a small shiny piece of compressed coal in a car that would later burn up in front of my house? No. However - I heard this story hundred times - and always wondered - who found the stone? Such began my search for God.

August, 30, 1966, I was born Anthony Leo Trendl, the number two son of a two-child family, owning the name of a Catholic saint.

What's in a name? For me, more than alliteration and rhythm, more than a reminder of my father's name, but a signal to seek eternity.

photo: me, as seen at five weeks old (I won $10 for my good looks); from the column KEEP YOUR CHILD WELL: Skin of Newborns by T R VAN DELLEN; Chicago Tribune July 23, 1967; pg. F2.

Baby Laughing When Tearing Newspaper

A father helps his baby have a falling down laughing good time as they tear newspaper together. Quite possibly the cure for the common cold, cancer, and the resolution for world peace. It should, if nothing else, help you have a better day.

2/13/08

"Amazing Grace" Sung by Kristy Lee Cook on American Idol

Kristy Lee Cook, trying out for American Idol sings "Amazing Grace." Great introduction here. This is her January 15, 2008 audition in Philadelphia, PA. Simon, Paula and Randy all send her to Hollywood.

2/12/08

Whatcha Gonna Do? Inordinate Time in a Busy World

Blessed recently with an inordinate amount of free time, I wondered how to spend it. It is much like finding a few hundred bucks on the street: it isn't much, but it is at the same time significant.

Time is always a blessed thing, even to the condemned man. I am not condemned.

From Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells"

Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Writing

  • Publishing. Over the years, I have written hundreds of poems, and quite a number of short pieces. It is time to collect them as a book and submit them. I have a few themes which might work: the mystery and humor of death (much less morbid than it sounds), biblical stories retold, nursery rhymes and children's verse, minor humor, rural life. A dozen or so poems have been published, and I know I have more than a few readers who might be interested.
  • Book reviews. I have hundreds of short reviews posted on Amazon.com, but have a massive pile of books I committed to review. Now's the time.
  • Art. I am active in Lively Arts, a Christian artists group. My art is writing, though many of the others are involved in more visual arts. A few writers are there, so I'm hardly the lone pen. I'm not sure what my extra time can amount to, but I'm on the lookout. (Contact me if you are interested in such a group, and I'll connect you).
  • Professional website: I manage over a dozen blogs, and one website. What I need is a professional quality site, though. I am unsure what it will do, but I have time to think about it.
Faith

  • How long has it been since I have actively and successfully to memorize Scripture? Never. When I taught regularly a Bible study in a county jail, and when roommates in colleges and I studied apologetics, I absorbed the Word. I learned a lot. I memorized it, but not on purpose. It just stuck.
  • Prayer: I'm more active here than I have been in years, but the bar is set high: to pray without ceasing. No exact goal in mind here, but I do want my first action to be a word with God.
Running

  • Speed. I have been slowly working toward running under 20:00 for a 5K for around nine months. That goal is still there. Surrounding that goal is the constancy of fitness. I ran well last summer, and into the fall, but then fell off the wagon. Fitness will follow the discipline of working out regularly.
  • A long race. This might just mean a 10-miler, but it might mean a marathon. I might run a June 200-mile relay (only 19 miles at the most for me, broken into three portions, and much likely fewer miles due to the skill of my teammates).
Church/Ministry

  • CareFest 2008: I have been talking with Chris McElwee from Wheaton Bible Church. He's a pastor there heading up, among other things, CareFest 2008. The gist of CareFest is for local churches to reach out into our community to help them in a one day blitz of volunteerism. Paint, fix, clean, and a lot more. It equals thousands of man hours and donated goods. Anyway, I might be doing the PR for it. Time is needed, and time I have.
  • Small group: I'm in a solid small group in which I am getting to know other couples living for the Lord. These are candid folks trying to live a life that's true.
    * One big project we're doing is developing our "life stories," which is part autobiography and part spiritual journey. I have 50 minutes, and there's a lot to tell. How to tell the important and glorifying, while not giving fodder for the Enemy is the challenge.
    * Time I have also to connect with a few of the guys, so that is the plan.

The Long Run, by the Eagles (watch/listen to the very cool version of Hotel California) .
The song has little do with running, but why not? I was in the mood.

2/9/08

Chess in the Face of Friendship

I beat Level 2 on Chess Titans this morning. Coffee in hand in these wee hours, I sat, as I am sitting now, on my couch.

Classic two rook end game, while my opponent. Mr. Computer, was short staffed, unable to respond due to a brilliant fork I enabled at his expense. Rooking a pawn later after some strategic sacrifices caused my worthy adversary to shudder, or, it would have had it been human, when it realized I forced a reduction in its defense.

Level 2. Don't be impressed. There are 10. Like my running, I last played chess seriously over 20 years ago. And, like my running, the skill I had then has waned from lack of use.

I played on my high school chess team. Made it as high as fifth board, but my usual spot was six (of eight) boards. This meant I was the sixth best on our team. Getting that far was a victory. Our team was good, eventually taking a tie for seventh place in Illinois. And, as I was a neophyte to chess just a few years earlier, it was an accomplishment I'm proud of.

When I changed from Marist High School to Shepard, I knew only a few people. One friend was the top player on the chess team, soon to take second place in the state. Give it go, I thought. I knew how to move the pieces, but had no concept of strategy, openings, end games or middle games. Pawn structure? Nada. Center control? What's that? Tim, and others tutored me into a level of average play, and a chess player I became.

Ultimately, I became a pretty good beginner. I never played beyond that level, but, in knowing the basics, I was able to hold my own in college. Two frequent opponents were Dylan Bauer and Dan Leavitt. Dylan lived nearby, and Dan was my roommate. Eric Hanson, a friend and landlord, and I sat on his (and mine, via rent) porch for a few games along the way.

Through the years, I have played my tutoring students, including Ryan (whose last name escapes me), and, more recently, Daren Ziegner. Daren, in fact, and I would play at Borders after studying, and it was then we transitioned from student/teacher to peer/peer. I even let him beat me a few times.

Friends during my grad school days would lay down a few pawns with me: Jefferson Smith of Sulphur Springs, Texas and Glenn Jablon of Maine were among the valiant and often successful foes I faced. David Weichelt, a more recent friend, and I pushed a pawn or two.

I have played inmates through thick glass, using telephones to communicate moves. There have been random games in coffeeshops, and teaching games with children of friends. The playing field is level, no matter what the rest of our daily responsibilities and freedoms are.

What chess offers that relates to running is its social nature. Face-to-face, a friendly game of chess provides for a great conversation. An eight mile run lasts about as long as a game between two seasoned players. For two men playing, or running, this is an achievable, safe intimacy.

Unlike running, however, chess can be enjoyed by a decent player and strong player at the same time. While the stronger player is more likely to win, each player has a shot. Same board, same pieces. Running has some of this equality, but the faster runner must jog to maintain with the slower runner. Similarly, I can see things one day on a chess board I might never see again. I will never run 'extra-fast' outside of my general fitness and ability. Over a chess board, no one runs out of breath.

Not everyone sees it as social as evidenced by the insane insecurities relished by chess' most famous infant genius, Bobby Fischer, but for the average fan, the idiocies of Fischer do not exist.

Now, to come full circle, I am playing some chess on the computer, as it came up that a guy in my small group from church would not mind a game or two. I am rusty, at best, so I figured a few practice rounds would not hurt. And, so far, they do not hurt. A few more at Level 3, and I'll keep moving forward until I find my resting spot for sparring against not-so-Deep Blue.

Then, onward to try my skills at chess and friendship. (Look out, Jud Aulie!)

(I am pleased to announce that this afternoon, I beat Level 3, though it made a dumb move or two.)

2/4/08

Tommy Emmanuel Plays Amazing Grace

If a man was named to play "Amazing Grace," Tommy Emmanuel would be him. As a fingerpicking guitarist, he is among the best this Earth offers, and the song he plays (some humming, but no singing) reminds us of the place we're offered to go, if only by that amazing grace. Tommy Emmanuel plays a sweet, sweet sound, so listen up pilgrims.

2/3/08

Gerard Manley Hopkins a Study of His Ignatian Spirit (reviewed)


(ad reflects Hopkins in general, as the book reviewed is out of print, though can be found used on Amazon)

Hopkins' Life as a Priest and Poet Revealed

"Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Study of His Ignatian Spirit" by David A. Downes tends to be hidden in the literary sections of Catholic libraries. Too bad. It is a treasure for understanding one of the English language's premier modern spiritual poets.

Mine was a gift from my professor at a secular university who noticed my appreciation of Hopkins. As a new convert to Christianity, and a young college student, I read "God's Grandeur" and "Pied Beauty" and fell in love with Hopkins' style and syntax, and found his view of God much like my own.

There is no separating Hopkins' poetry from his faith. He was not writing about faith, but about his faith. There is nothing academic or third-person about his beliefs, even though, as a thinker, and as a scholar of poetry and theology, he was superb.

"A Study of His Ignatian Spirit" brings us the spiritual path of a Jesuit priest, one who converted as an adult. Nothing impacted his life compared to his belief in Jesus Christ. Like a modern evangelical Christian, his faith was entirely personal, but, concurrently as a Roman Catholic, he walked with God in the communion of other Catholics, sharing a common theology and commitment to Rome.

To understand Hopkins, it is necessary to understand the force behind the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Not merely a casual believer, one who believes without his faith engaging the rest of his, Hopkins was fully engaged. Redemptive grace, humility, love for God, were all keynotes of Hopkins' life, and evidence comes through his work.

As a poet, Hopkins' body of work is small, although extraordinarily influential in his concept of sprung meter. As an Oxford grad, and as a priest under Cardinal Newman, he did not see faith in God as an afterthought, or as a polite salute to a cultural religion to which was conscripted. He converted after much deliberation as an adult. There was no force other than the persuasion of God causing the conversion, and so his submission was likewise absolute.

Downes shows us excerpts from letters, essays and personal notes of Hopkins' himself, as well as with those he corresponded. We see his level of thought, of faith, views of what poetry means to him and what it can do. We see process and insight.

Hopkins' is looked at next to T. S. Eliot, John Donne, and other major faith-driven poets.

Chapters
* Elected Silence: Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-1889
* Ignatius and Hopkins
* Ignatius and the Wreck
* The Ignatian Spirit of the Priest-Poet
* The Desolate Self of the Terrible Sonnets
* Hopkins and the Meditative Tradition
* Postscript
* Notes
* Selected Bibliography
* Index

Well-researched and documented as of 1959, "Gerard Manley Hopkins; A Study of His Ignatian Spirit" is valid today, 50 years later, because of his thorough yet concise focus on this aspect of spiritual process. It shows the authenticity Hopkins' faith in God wore on his soul and life, with poetry being just one part. It shows Hopkins in a full spectrum, as more than the poet, useful for scholars hoping to grasp the complete man.

I fully recommend "Gerard Manley Hopkins; A Study of His Ignatian Spirit" by David A. Downes. Finding it may be difficult, but it is worth the effort. Only 194 pp., but rich with a man's life.

Anthony Trendl
editor, HungarianBookstore.com

(see my post on his influence on my poetry described briefly)

Gerard Manley Hopkins: His Influence on Me in Succinct Terms

Droning on about the poetic qualities of Gerard Manley Hopkins is better left this time to others with more expertise than I. Hopkins' influence on me as both a poet and as a Christian hangs in his own balance trying to sort out how to live as a Christian without compromising artistic quality. From my studies of him, his conviction of faith was immense and admirable.

What I gain from reading and rereading Hopkins is his 'no compromise' stand. He burnt his poetry once, wishing it never to be shown. His humility and devotion almost had us never to read poems like the one posted below.

Who is God was a topic he embraced, and delivered what he knew. He announced what any spiritually inclined person knew: God is grand, and what He makes is grand, no matter what we mere humans do to His land. Though what He has made is sometimes not colored perfectly, yet is perfect in its coloring.

The language is entrancing, delectable in every way, but always pointing very carefully toward God. Hopkins never falls into art for arts sake, and still, goes beyond the art of his day. His skill was not in overwhelming the reader with allusions only the most well-read would know, but in drawing us into God through intelligently presented ordinary language.

Pied Beauty
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
.....For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
..........For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
.....Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
..........And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
.....Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
..........With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
...............Praise him.


See my review of Gerard Manley Hopkins a Study of His Ignatian Spirit.

Judy Collins Sings Amazing Grace

Judy Collins, accompanied by the Harlem Boy's Choir, performs "Amazing Grace" at the National Memorial Day Concert, Washington, DC, May 1993.

2/2/08

Bleaching My Shower Begets My Life as A Five Year-old

Bleaching my shower floor this afternoon offered a smell reminding me of swimming lessons when I was five at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL.

Those were dreaded days. I never liked the lessons much, and preferred to splash around in Mrs. Kirk's whale shaped pool next to us on Meade Avenue. Mrs. Kirk's generosity was never well-thanked by me, and she's gone, but so sweet was she.

In her pool, I learned to do a double somersault, backwards somersault, and, hold my breath underwater for an unbelievable 5:00.

Brian, Julie, and later, Chipper Kort, who all lived as siblings on the other side of the Kirk's home, would run and jump and swim with me. When not swimming, we would explore the "Trails," a woody undeveloped part of our neighborhood. Or we played Whiffle Ball, Elimination, or build things that would fall quickly (snow forts, treehouses, and things made of scrap wood liberated from homes being built near by). Other days we would bicycle, or walk, the few miles to downtown Palos Heights, a two-block area along Harlem Avenue. Mr. Kort owned a hardware store there, and the White Hen had RC Colas in 16 oz bottles, topped with cork insulated caps. Scrape off the cork to reveal as much as a $10.00 prize.

Brian and I became the best of neighborhood friends during those summers in the pool until slowly going our separate ways in high school. The last I knew, Brian was working in construction in the area, but seems to be in Lousiana, according to some quick research. Julie's in my area, and who knows if our paths have quietly crossed. Chipper may be in Indiana, but that's only a guess.

Julie has married and had at least three children. From Trinity Christian College:

Julie Kort Boer `90 and Rob Boer '90 We announce the birth of our third child, Jamie Ryan, on January 19, 1999. He joins his sister Kallie (6) and brother Riley (3). This is our first year home schooling our children and we are enjoying it tremendously. (1/2000)
Wherever the Korts are, I lift my hat to you. You were the best friends a neighborhood could have.

(The trick, by the way, to holding one's breath so long starts with hyperventalation, followed by an immediate inhalation and complete relaxation.)

Epilogue
The shower, set in a half bath attached to my bedroom, has a drip that incessantly calibrates this blogging moment like a metronome pacing a too-slow song.

In the earliest part of the evening, now, the bleach has faded some, and has the scent of a hotel with the swimming pool not far away.