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9/12/2012

REV IT UP…ANOTHER WONDERFUL ESSAY FROM REV. KATHRYN TIMPANY

Filed under: prairie musings, Rev. Kathryn Timpany — Peg Britton @ 9:24 am

Rev It Up
reflections on faith and life
Rev. Kathryn Timpany,
First Congregational UCC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
September 12, 2012

When I was about 6 years old, Santa brought me a baton for Christmas. It was silver and shiny with white rubber ends, and sat solidly and well-balanced on my outstretched hands. I loved learning to float it in figure-eights and toss it in the air and catch it one-handed, but unlike my best friend Marilyn I never did learn to catch it behind my back. (That kind of talent deficit probably had something to do with the fact that she ended up becoming homecoming queen in high school while I found my place playing the clarinet in the marching band.)

Which leads me to tell you that my favorite story of the week is about Betty Lambert of Harmony, Pennsylvania. She is 79 years old and still marches in her home-town parades, during which she often stops and does the splits. “She gave up cartwheels recently, but still twirls knives, and fire-batons when it isn’t windy.” Clare Ansberry reports in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

The story continues: “Ms. Lambert, who threw a baton when she was in high school, then married and had children, took the sport up again in her 40s after seeing a small classified ad in the newspaper looking for people who wanted to start a marching band. The group called itself the Resurrection Band because members resurrected their instruments from attics. Ms.Lambert didn’t play an instrument but offered majorette services. Cartwheels and baton twirling are like riding a bike, she found. ‘You don’t forget’.”

She also has 41 costumes she likes to wear when she rides on floats. One of her daughters, who watched her mother march as she grew up remarks, “I thought this would be a phase she would go through.”

Besides all the smiles this story elicits, there is this little tidbit as well: Betty is a beautician and she continues to cut hair and give permanents in the little salon attached to her house. And “she makes house calls to her customers who no longer drive.”

She makes house calls. Of course she does.

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Jesus of Nazareth said that a long time ago. Some of us, all these years later, are still trying to learn the way of life that he modeled. I have noticed that some of us who call ourselves Christians seem to have missed out on the joy part. I ponder that often. I wonder why it seems to be so hard for some to receive that gift of joy that Jesus offered.

I have no idea whether Betty Lambert is a Christian, or whether she professes any faith at all. But she has figured out what joy is all about, and if Jesus were to show up in the crowd cheering her on from the sidelines, I suspect he would be smiling and thinking, “Ah, someone gets it!”

Betty has figured out that joy has something to do with refusing to relinquish your childhood delights, and even more to do with being willing to make house calls on those who are in danger of losing the pleasure from their own as the process of aging encroaches.

It also helps to be extraordinarily limber, which is something we can all learn at a soul level even if our bodies won’t cooperate any more.

…may your joy spill over into the sorrowing world…

2/9/2012

REV IT UP…REFLECTIONS ON FAITH AND LIFE…REV. KATHRYN TIMPANY

Filed under: print news, Rev. Kathryn Timpany — Peg Britton @ 12:45 pm

Rev. Kathryn Timpany,

First Congregational UCC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
February 8, 2012

Some days are so full of gifts they can’t be counted.

The mild winter continues. Cabin fever is a memory from past years. Money spent on fuel and snow-removal is now available for something else.

Massive social change is possible, and it can be accomplished without cataclysmic uprisings, as we are witnessing in the Arab Spring movement. As Tim Robbins’ character in The Shawshank Redemption comments after he escapes from prison by chipping a tunnel one teaspoonful at a time over 30 years, “It just takes a little bit of pressure and little bit of time.” Here in American we have gone from a country where we were taught how to smoke properly at sorority rush parties and handed free cigarettes when we joined the Army to one where we are talking about banning smoking in public parks. Here in America it has only taken a couple of generations to move from government sanctioned heterosexism to a majority of our citizens celebrating the court decision that recognizes the ban on gay marriage in California as a flagrant denial of dignity for a class of American citizens.

The Internet. What else is there to say, even for a dinosaur like myself. At the click of the mouse, I am immersed in a research library that broadens my scope of knowledge and reduces my prep time for preaching by half. I read my email from around the world. I watch the weather, the stock market, the world news. I read the daily Still Speaking devotional from the United Church of Christ that comes right to my mailbox. I order clothes, books, airline tickets, all while I drink one cup of coffee. I pay my bills, “talk” to folk on Facebook, and write this column, all before breakfast without having to leave home.

Smart phones.

The community of care we call The Church. Here is something that can be absolutely counted on: when trouble raises its head and snarls at you, you will not be alone. When death darkens your door, you will not be alone. When you fall in love, or welcome a new baby into your home, or accomplish your dreams, you will not be alone. You can count on experiencing compassion, generosity, the joy of someone willing to go the extra mile with you. If you are not experiencing those things in a community that calls itself The Church, you may want to look around for a different gathering. Or you may discover you have been invited to help heal and revitalize a gathering that has lost its way, if not its heart and mind.

When the sun rises and there is frost on the window, it is time to stop and marvel.

Introverts are finally getting their day. There has been a recent flurry of articles and books celebrating the gifts of inwardness that help a society remain well-balanced. Without persons who have the ability to reflect and imagine, the world can go off at an awful tilt.

Did you know there is a Women’s Midlife Care group of physicians in town? Yes, there is a place where the science of hormones intersects the boldness of common sense. Yes, there is a place where aging in an over-sexualized culture is not seen as something to dread, but to celebrate.

Gas may be more expensive again, but phone calls get cheaper all the time. There is no excuse for not being in touch with those you love any more.

Everybody gripes about the cost of health care, but there is this amazing trend that deserves kudos –people are living longer and with a better quality of life than ever before. Joints can be replaced. Stents can be installed. Organs can be transplanted. Great-grandparents can hold their greatgrandchildren on their laps. Many diseases that were death certificates have been eradicated. It’s hard to think of a better use for our money than that.

Music.

Memory.

Hospice care.

Fresh food every day. Clean water every day.

The courage to notice that millions of people world-wide do not enjoy days full of gifts like all these.

The courage to notice, and then the will to be a part of the solution, in any way you can.

may you see how many gifts you can count today, and then may you quit counting after a while and start sharing them

1/18/2012

REV IT UP…REFLEXIONS ON FAITH AND LIFE…

Filed under: prairie musings, Authors, Rev. Kathryn Timpany — Peg Britton @ 7:10 pm

Rev. Kathryn Timpany,
First Congregational UCC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
January 18, 2012

In November 1941, shortly after invading Czechoslovakia, the Nazis transformed the ancient walled town of Terezin  (Theresienstadt) into a holding pen for Jews until they could be shipped east to the death camps which were by then running at full steam. They billed it as a “model camp”, presenting it as a facade to hide the truth of their campaign to exterminate all those who didn’t fit into their utopian scheme to start the human race all over again.

As they claimed their exclusive prerogative to define who was perfect and who was subhuman, they infected all spheres of human activity, including music. Many musicians were yanked from their creative lives and sent to Terezin as the Nazis attempted to rid the German world of any influence from any other culture than their Aryan one. One of the things they did at Terezin was encourage the playing of music they sanctioned. They would allow the musicians to gather and rehearse, and then they would film the concerts and show them to the world as if to say, “See, we’re not treating them so badly here. We have given them a city. They are having a good, safe life with us.”

The truth was a bit different than they presented. More than 140,000 men, women and children were sent to Terezin between 1941 and 1945. Only 11,000 survived. Karl Berman was one of the survivors. He was sent to Terezin at age 22. His job was a “garbage collector”, which meant he carried corpses he found in the streets to the crematorium. Since he had been a professional musician before he arrived, he was eventually transferred to the “sanctioned cultural activities” work force. He was commanded to conduct, compose, sing, and organize public concerts.

In September 1943, Berman was the bass soloist in one of the most incredible concerts presented at the camp, a production of Verdi’s Requiem. The inmates defiantly sang of death before their executioners. They sang of the hellish punishment in store for evildoers, and of the power of faith to liberate humanity from its mortal fate. They rehearsed in cramped corners for hours. They never knew from week to week whether their fellow performers would show up for rehearsal, or if they had been sent to the death camps in the East.

“We rehearsed in a very small basement,” Karl Berman said in an interview after the war was over. “The entire chorus was squeezed in there, Gideon Klein accompanied the rehearsals on a harmonium….For the concert we moved to a hall with a very nice new piano…The story of these rehearsals and performance is unique in the history of music. The production had three performances, and always after a performance half of the chorus was transported to Auschwitz and was gassed… After the third performance, Gideon Klein, Raphael Schaechter, and I were transported to Auschwitz. Now I am the only eyewitness alive who can tell about what happened there.”

One other survivor, Joseph Bor, also wrote about the experience. He described the extraordinary moment when the performance began:

Schaechter looked at his choir and soloists….; he knew every one of them, he knew what they could do, he could rely on them…. “You must not think of parents and brother and lover,…remember the others, too, all those beaten and tormented and massacred, they will unite for you into one great mass, you will not even recognize individuals among them, and so much the more clearly you will be aware of the true face of the murderers. You must not show fear or weakness before them. Today you will be singing to the murderers, don’t forget that.” He took up his baton. The auditorium fell silent. A strange, a special silence, unusual in the camp. Not the silence of bare walls and secret dread. The silence of quivering anticipation…Almost imperceptibly the baton moved. Almost inaudibly the first notes of Verdi’s Requiem stole through the hall.

from “Music in the Holocaust” by Joshua Jacobson, Choral Journal, December 1995
Terezin Clarinetist

This is why music and all the other creative arts matter so dearly. They are our best defense against evil. They allow us to live fully into our imago Dei, bearing the image of God the Creator as our defining characteristic. When we fund education and provide bonuses for teachers, let us include the music teachers and the art teachers and the writing teachers and drama teachers in our plan.

Science and technology will help us compete on the world stage. But only the arts can unite us and make us fully human.

may you find a way to sing today, even if it is only in the shower


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