Moving toward the Spirit, Part 4

This is the fourth in a multi-part series on how I grew in my Christian faith. See part 1, part 2, and part 3 to catch up.

Ah, the recycling. That and the fact I was pulled in so many directions, like most American teens, had a lot to do with my falling away from the faith for quite some time. I may have attended church during the college years, but it was a faith grown “lukewarm.” Yuck.

After graduation I moved to Savannah in early 1990 for my first job. Sad to say, part of my motivation for finding a church was 1) because the president of the place I interviewed at told me about important church was to him and 2) I was looking for one of those beautiful old churches in the historic district. Not too much on the actual faith part – more of a “looking good” type churchgoer. In a happy accident I wandered across one of the most spirit-filled churches of all, which just happened to be historic, beautiful, and blessed with a magnificent 60-rank Noack organ: Wesley Monumental Church. I was determined to go to a church with glorious music just once in my life!

Wesley Monumental at Christmas – I was lucky enough to sing in that choir
Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, Part 4”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 2

this is the second part of a series. The image above: Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks

Believing was so simple, so pure when I was a child. God said through the Psalmist he who had clean hands and a pure heart would ascend the hill of the Lord. And I wanted that.

“…Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

I think the first scattering doubts crept in when I read a child’s version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It had to be around fifth grade, maybe fourth. This volume was published by Disney! It had to be okay. Disney was practically patriotic in our house. Some of the only television we kids were allowed was Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

There was a character in the epic named Ut-napishtim. In these stories from Mesopotamian mythology, he survived a great flood by building a ship to transport his family and some animals. Hmm….

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 2”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 1

This is the first of several parts.

I was a conscientious kid who loved going to church at Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church. My favorite parts were singing in the children’s choir and looking at the beautiful stained-glass windows when the sermons got boring. The windows depicted the life of Christ. As I remember there were seven or eight on each side. His birth in a stable was shown in the first one on the right, leading to his baptism by John in the next window, and so on down the right side and around to the left, culminating in his first resurrection appearance (or was it his ascension? I think that was it. I’m having trouble remembering) on the left closest to the front. Those stained-glass windows were an education in themselves, helping little kids who couldn’t pay attention to the sermon the basics of the faith in beautiful colored pictures that shone gloriously when the sun hit them just right.

I just looked all over the web for pictures of those beautiful windows and the best I can do is an image of someone’s wedding, when they aren’t even the focus. Besides, in 1990 the church redid the interior, changing the pew alignment, the choir arrangement and the color of the walls. Those windows will have to live on in my imagination. Because I can’t find a picture of that beautiful stained glass of my childhood, the header image is something just as glorious: the stained glass at Sainte-Chappelle in Paris. Be sure to click over to the site for the tour.

Learning to sing

Back in the early 70s kids’ choirs everywhere were singing “Do You Hear What I Hear” at Christmas. We did it for a big extravaganza presentation with the combined children’s and adult choirs. Our adult choir director and director of music, for many years, was Dr. Richard Conant, RIP, a wonderful singer, professor of voice at the University of South Carolina, and founding director of Carolina Alive.

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 1”

Happy Birthday to a lovely lady

Today, March 5, is my Mom’s birthday.

When I think of Mom, I think of the time the two of us went to Savannah together for the weekend. I was worried about what we’d say to each other for 72 hours of togetherness. It was the first time in some years we’d spent that much time just by ourselves. What would I say to her all weekend? Would it be awkward?

I needn’t have worried. The minute I picked her up she started chatting about anything and everything. She chatted happily all weekend, the extrovert. All I had to do was listen.

Another memory I have of Mom is of her making cocoa for me and my brother after school on cold, rainy days. And of her being the Girl Scout cookie captain for five years running – as well as the Cub Scout den mother for my brother’s pack. (Never forgot one of the Cubs eating so many cupcakes he made himself sick.)

Mom was the modern day Centaur, as Erma Bombeck said – half woman, half station wagon. Or in her case, a light blue 1970 Ford LTD. She chauffeured me and my friends to kindergarten, ballet class, piano rehearsals and later high school band practice.

She was a dedicated worker. She was never late to her job as a nurse – in fact, she’d get uptight about her schedule and be ready 30 minutes before she had to leave for her afternoon shift, just to give herself time to relax. In my memory she didn’t get sick and hardly took time off. At her retirement party the organizers limited the 10 speakers on the program to two minutes each. That was after the presentation of the plaques from the mayor and the governor.

For all her talents, Mom was not Julia Child – and she didn’t pretend or try to be. She was firmly out of the WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) mode of cooking – boil it to death because water is a spice. I couldn’t eat green beans after I left home until I discovered steaming.

But Dad liked his green beans that way – and he was the one she was cooking for, not us kids. She always catered to him, making him a priority. Cookies Dad liked – he got them. Dishes he liked – he got them. Even today she cooks a hot lunch for him most days. Funny tale about that: right after they moved into their current patio home community, Dad got a part-time job at the model home across the street. Mom would cook his lunch and carry it over to him each day at noon. One day the neighbors reported that a few minutes after they saw Mom return home, she was back out the door to go to Dad – with a ketchup bottle in her hand.

Mom understands loyalty, fidelity, service and love. A 54-year marriage (and counting), as well as a 25-year career, is proof.

Happy 75th Birthday, Mom. May you have many, many more.

Mom laughing
Mom (far right) with my Aunts: Anne, Marlys, Audrey and Elaine; at the Rust Family Reunion in Downtown Sioux Falls, Sept. 2012

Dinner at the “wurst” restaurant in town

Ever since I read about this place in the New York issue of Gourmet Magazine (in 2004!) I’ve wanted to go to Hallo Berlin. The restaurant is located on 10th Avenue, between 44th and 45th, so it’s just far enough from the Times Square area to feel like you’re in a residential part of the city.

NYC brownstones
45th street between 9th and 10th Avenues. I kept expecting the Cosby family to spill out of one of the brownstones.

The restaurant’s exterior awning proudly proclaims “Germany.”

Hallo Berlin front awning
It’s always time for sausage and beer at Hallo Berlin.

I had the two wurst plate, which came with sauerkraut, red cabbage and spaetzle. Plus cabbage and potato soup to start. I choose bratwurst and knockwurst.

Wurst at Hallo Berlin
You can only see one of the two mustards which accompany the gorgeous sausages and sides at Hallo Berlin.

It was delicious!

Matilda writes back

Look at how well the Algonquin Hotel handles publicity… they have an email address for their cat! This is excellent PR. These are my email exchanges with Matilda… Start at the bottom and work your way up.

From: MAlgonquin Cat <MAlgonquinCat@algonquinhotel.com>
Date: March 21, 2013, 10:16:42 AM EDT
To: J

Subject: RE: My blog post about YOU

FURbulous! Thank you.

From: J
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:22 AM
To: MAlgonquin Cat
Subject: Re: My blog post about YOU

Thank you for the info… I’ve just updated my blog.
On Mar 20, 2013, at 10:12 AM, MAlgonquin Cat <MAlgonquinCat@algonquinhotel.com> wrote:

Very CATabulous – thank you but please note I am the 10th cat and the third Matilda – the first seven cats were all males named Hamlet.

Please come by anytime. I like making new FURiends

Have a PURRfect day

^..^

><

Matilda

From: j
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:57 AM
To: MAlgonquin Cat
Subject: My blog post about YOU

Hi Matilda,

I’m visiting NYC for a few days and dropped by to catch a glimpse of you. The concierge was so kind; he let me come in and get a picture. Thought you might like a link to my blog post:

https://auntjim.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/the-algonquins-most-famous-guest/

I had to stay somewhere else due to my conference in the city; hope to stay at your place next time I come to town.

J