Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Banner Waving

My son came up to visit and brought me a Trump flag/banner to display from my house up here in Buffalo, Texas.  He didn’t want to attach it to the house in Houston, fearing it might bring out the worst in some folks who lack civility at most any level.  Can’t say I blame him, having seen some of the nonsense that’s been going on in our country.

So here’s the Trump banner, proudly waving in the breeze as it’s wedged in between the top railing of my porch and the roof overhang.  

I’m not sure I like Trump as much as so many of his supporters; but at least he loves America and is doing what he can to expose the ugliness of the folks in Congress who keep trying to destroy this nation. 

Several years ago when Obama was running for the presidency, a good friend of mine, Terrell Hunt, (may he rest in peace), was backing Obama's candidacy and put up a huge ‘Obama for President’ banner to hang from the entryway to his house.  I was on my way home in the evening and noticed it; how could you not notice it? 

Terrell and I didn’t see eye to eye on most anything political; but we were brothers in the gospel of Jesus Christ and treated each other with the highest respect and love.  Lucy and I would go over and visit with the Hunt family regularly and joke about our differences, chiding each other here a bit and there a bit; but always knowing our friendship was more important than any political issue.

I decided to call Terrell in the morning to chide him about the ‘Obama for President’ sign.  When he answered the phone I explained, “Someone vandalized your house last night.” 

Terrell was a bit angry as he replied, “They sure did…they wrote nasty stuff all over my brand new ‘Obama for President’ banner.”  Turns out someone had actually ‘vandalized’ his home by spray painting across his political hero’s banner.

His response caught me completely off guard, and from the way he paused, let me know that perhaps he considered me the culprit since I knew about it as the sun was coming up.  I assured him I had no idea that someone had spray painted over his Obama banner; that I was joking with him for having put the banner up in the first place. 

Timing is a funny thing and it’s a shame Terrell passed away a couple of years ago; he was a true friend, and I can’t say that about too many folks who claim to be Democrats…

Terrell’s probably looking down from the Heavens at my house here in Buffalo, Texas, wishing he could call me on the phone, “Hey, Brother Stern, someone came by your house and vandalized it.”  Yes, I can see him laughing into the phone and wondering if I too have a sense of humor big enough to let him get away with such a line.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

An American in Paris - Gershwin CD

Being restricted somewhat from movement away from the house to a certain degree has permitted an extensive use of music playing in the background while accomplishing other chores.  We are blessed to have Pandora Radio going most of the time, with my favorite location, the Gershwin Station, a collection of similar music.

As I was going over recent Facebook entries I found my mind wandering as they had the American in Paris on, as found on the CD, Gershwin Plays Gershwin – The Piano Rolls .  The piano rolls were played on a “Yamaha Diskclavier, a computer-driven descendant of the player piano”.  The quality of these  performances is breathtaking.  (If you like Gershwin music I recommend this CD for your collection)

Now for a little piece of history on this particular cut; …how it was produced. I’ll copy the information as presented in the booklet provided when I purchased this wonderful recording. 

“The Last selection on this CD is Frank Milne’s 2 roll arrangement of An American in Paris, Cut in 1933, it is one of the most impressive and powerful roll performances of the era.  After the crash of the piano roll industry, the severely curtailed Aeolian Company kept Milne on as its lone roll editor and ceased using performing artists. 

According to Milne’s children, by that time and probably much earlier he was so skilled at arranging that he did not need a recording apparatus to generate the performance.  Much as a composer notates a score, he prepared roll masters by drawing lines on a roll of special graph paper which served as a template for perforating the holes. The roll of An American in Paris is identified, however, as being played by Milne and “Leith”.  We now know that “Leith” was one of Milne’s pseudonyms; to put an arrangement of this complexity forward to the public, it had to be represented as a 4-hand performance.

We have no evidence that Gershwin supervised Milne’s arrangement of An American in Paris but the arranger had previously worked with Gershwin on his late Duo-Art song rolls.  Milne’s version of An American in Paris ingeniously evokes not only the full sonority of an orchestra but also the vitality of a live performance.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Finding Treasure

A couple of weeks ago while doing some yard work I was scattering grass seed around the base of a large tree. While in the process of scooping handfuls of seed and dropping it on the bare spots I caught a glint, a reflection from something in the dirt.
It was a tea spoon from our silverware service that apparently one of my grandchildren had been digging with. My first inclination was to take a deep breath and remember that little children don’t see a piece of silverware as being valuable; only that it can be used to dig in the dirt. No telling how long this tea spoon had been lying there and, it’s something of a miracle that it hadn’t been destroyed by my mowing.
It pricked a memory from when I was a young boy digging in the dirt behind my friend’s house. At the time we lived on Long Island, New York where they were blessed with rich dark soil that was used for truck farms. As the area grew more populated, many of these old farms became what we now call Suburbia.
My folks bought a nice three bedroom house after my father returned from serving in the Navy during WWII. I think he paid $12,000 for that house under the G.I. Bill. That house was valued at $450,00.00 when my wife and I visited back in 2005.
As I mentioned, they had beautiful dark top soil and most of my neighbors had planted shrubs, trees and flowers along the back fences; a perfect place for kids to dig. We could hide in the shadows and day dream about most anything; hiding from Indians, the Red Coats or looking for hidden pirate’s treasure.
I found a piece of pirate’s treasure; at least that’s what my mind decided it must be. It was a knife, more precisely, a dinner knife that had been buried there for a hundred years. That it matched the same silverware service belonging to my friend’s mother was something of a coincidence. That didn’t discourage us from looking for more pirate treasure.
My mother understood the importance of little boys digging in the dirt and how imagination opens the door to a much larger world. She suggested we continue digging for more pirate treasure in our backyard while letting my friend’s mother keep the booty we’d stumbled upon. She was careful to hand us stainless steel spoons rather than her good silverware. Interesting how spreading grass seed sparked a simple memory.
Spinning the years forward to last October’s General Conference and a talk given by President Russell M. Nelson, Spiritual Treasures, he pointed out some important items relating to our search for spiritual treasures, those associated with the power of the priesthood.
“Every woman and every man who makes covenants with God and keeps those covenants, and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances, has direct access to the power of God. Those who are endowed in the house of the Lord receive a gift of God’s priesthood power by virtue of their covenant, along with a gift of knowledge to know how to draw upon that power.” (emphasis added)
That priesthood power isn’t reserved only for the Brethren; but extends to our Sisters when they are doing the Lord’s work.
“Now, you might be saying to yourself, “This sounds wonderful, but how do I do it? How do I draw the Savior’s power into my life?”
President Nelson was quick to point out, “You won’t find this process spelled out in any manual.”
In case you’re wondering about this glorious priesthood power, President M. Russell Ballard, in the April 2013 General Conference taught:
“Not only is the priesthood the power by which the heavens and the earth were created, but it is also the power the Savior used in His mortal ministry to perform miracles, to bless and heal the sick, to bring the dead to life, and, as our Father’s Only Begotten Son, to endure the unbearable pain of Gethsemane and Calvary—thus fulfilling the laws of justice with mercy and providing an infinite Atonement and overcoming physical death through the Resurrection”.
President Ballard further explained:
“In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife”. (emphasis added)
Returning to President Nelson’s invitation for Sisters to tap into the priesthood powers available to both men and women he added,
“Part of this endeavor will require you to put aside many things of this world. Sometimes we speak almost casually about walking away from the world with its contention, pervasive temptations, and false philosophies. But truly doing so requires you to examine your life meticulously and regularly. As you do so, the Holy Ghost will prompt you about what is no longer needful, what is no longer worthy of your time and energy.”
While it wasn’t specifically mentioned, how many times have we been taught to do the simplest tasks in order to have the Spirit in our lives? Daily habits that when followed, invite the Holy Ghost to participate in our lives like; daily scripture study, individual and family prayer, Family Home Evening, making use of the Come Follow Me home study manual, family history and genealogy work to find our kindred dead, temple attendance and ministering to those around us. Are we doing what is required to invite the Spirit?
When we are doing things the way the Lord would have us do them we are inviting the Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions. And, while in this attitude of following the admonitions of the Spirit is when we’ll find the Spiritual Treasures that have been set aside for us, tender mercies and blessings that enrich our eternal bank accounts if you will.
“As you shift your focus away from worldly distractions, some things that seem important to you now will recede in priority. You will need to say no to some things, even though they may seem harmless. As you embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating your life to the Lord, the changes in your perspective, feelings, and spiritual strength will amaze you!”
President Nelson added some words of caution.
“Most certainly, the adversary does not want you to understand the covenant you made at baptism or the profound endowment of knowledge and power you have received or will receive in the temple—the house of the Lord. And Satan certainly does not want you to understand that every time you worthily serve and worship in the temple, you leave armed with God’s power and with His angels having “charge over” you.” (emphasis added)
Later in President Nelson’s talk he spent considerable time talking about the blessings found by attending the temple. Sisters working as Ordinance Workers perform these ordinances by using priesthood power, the same priesthood power that created this earth, the same priesthood power the Brethren use. Each time you present yourself as a patron or worker at the temple you become “armed with God’s power and His angels having “charge over” you.” These are the Spiritual Treasures we should be seeking as we find the joy in becoming more like the Savior.
Isn’t that always going to be the case? Satan wants you to be miserable like unto himself. The more you seek to follow the Lord, the more tricks and ploys Satan will use to act as stumbling blocks, hedging up the way before you.
“Satan and his minions will constantly contrive roadblocks to prevent you from understanding the spiritual gifts with which you have been and can be blessed. Unfortunately, some roadblocks may be the result of another’s misbehavior. It grieves me to think that any of you have felt marginalized or have not been believed by a priesthood leader or have been abused or betrayed by a husband, father, or a supposed friend. I feel deep sorrow that any of you have felt sidelined, disrespected, or misjudged. Such offenses have no place in the kingdom of God.”
President Nelson expects us to do our part while seeking these Spiritual Treasures as found while exercising the power of the priesthood.
“I entreat you to study prayerfully all the truths you can find about priesthood power. You might begin with Doctrine and Covenants sections 84 and 107. Those sections will lead you to other passages. The scriptures and teachings by modern prophets, seers, and revelators are filled with these truths. As your understanding increases and as you exercise faith in the Lord and His priesthood power, your ability to draw upon this spiritual treasure that the Lord has made available will increase. As you do so, you will find yourselves better able to help create eternal families that are united, sealed in the temple of the Lord, and full of love for our Heavenly Father and for Jesus Christ.”
While President Nelson’s remarks were mostly directed to the Sisters, he was quick to include:
“I hasten to add that I do not absolve men in any way from God’s requirement for them also to distinguish between right and wrong. But my dear sisters, your ability to discern truth from error, to be society’s guardians of morality, is crucial in these latter days. And we depend upon you to teach others to do likewise. Let me be very clear about this: if the world loses the moral rectitude of its women, the world will never recover.” (emphasis added)
It would seem our work is cut out for us. Satan and his minions will always be trying to ensnare us as we strive, diligently at times or barely striving when feeling lazy. The fact remains that Spiritual Treasures have been prepared for each of us as we follow the promptings of the Spirit during our probation here in mortality.
The gems you find, while they may not be as tangible as the silver knife found when I was just a boy, will be recognized as priceless gifts from the Lord. It is my prayer that we take President Nelson’s words into our hearts as we labor in His vineyard.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Springtime is here March 7, 2020

One of the joys in life is watching nature, simple and glorious at the same time.  Take for example the promise of springtime that follows winter as trees, bushes and grasses remind us to be grateful for the beauty supplied by our Creator.

We have a tree that just began flowering; becoming more spectacular each passing day.  It last for about a week as the white petals are then replaced with lush green leaves.  This happens before our pecan trees give any sign that winter is over.  Today that tree is nearly covered with white blooms and the evening sun gave it the impression of being on fire.

I thought of the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 6, where the Lord teaches his disciples to seek after the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  More specifically, He’s teaching all of us to appreciate and be grateful for life itself; not worry about things too much since He’s in charge.

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”