Tuesday, December 18, 2018

17 Years Today

It was 17 years ago today that Sebastian joined Pastor Zip's household. So I drove him to the Peoria Riverfront to see, behind the Museum, Seward Johnson II's 31-foot-tall painted bronze Abraham Lincoln.

The sculpture, placed here about a year ago as part of the Illinois bicentennial, is called "Return Visit," because not far from this location in 1854 Mr. Lincoln gave an important anti-slavery speech. With Lincoln is a "contemporary man" holding a copy of the Gettysburg Address.

Sebastian, my 2002 VW Golf GLS TDI, is nearing 196,000 miles. I still enjoy driving him, and I think he's looking quite good after 17 years in Central Illinois.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thank You for Shopping at Sears

Last month Sears declared bankruptcy. Today's news is that the company hopes to sell most of its profitable stores, perhaps to its biggest shareholder, to keep the business alive. We'll see how well that works.

I started working for Sears after graduating high school in 1977. (That's me behind the thick glass of the Cashier's Cage in this Spring 1978 Polaroid taken by a sweet CSUN coed working in the stationery/photo department across the aisle at the Sears in Northridge Fashion Center.) We were an "A" store, ranking among the biggest in the company. When something new happened at Sears, Northridge was among the first stores to do it. As an accounting student at CSUN I read the Wall Street Journal, which helped give me some insights into the company. Such as, Sears was already in trouble.

Granted, Sears was still the biggest department store by any measure. But K-Mart was moving up and Sears was not responding very well. I remember a front page WSJ story describing Sears' plans to overcome the competion. And then a year or so later, there was another front page story describing Sears' new plan, replacing the earlier, unsuccessful plan. I recall thinking as I read that new story, "Wait a minute; that earlier plan hasn't even been implemented in our store yet."

Throughout the '80s Sears tried several different strategies. The one that affected me most was the creation of the in-store "Sears Financial Network," where I spent the last 2½ years of my Sears employment at Sears Savings Bank, the company's California savings-and-loan, at the in-store Northridge SFC (Sears Financial Center) branch. SSB's branch operations that weren't sold to Citicorp or California Federal Savings were shut down at the end of 1987, shortly before I started seminary. Yes, I helped close a bank.

Kmart never caught Sears. Walmart would pass them both, becoming the top retailer in 1990. Kmart went bankrupt in 2002, emerging from bankruptcy the next year. In 2004, Kmart bought the now obviously struggling Sears, so today's Sears Holdings Corpoation is, in a sense, really Kmart.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Among My Civic Duties...

Pastor Zip sneaking into a polling place?
Yes, I voted.

I have yet to miss an election since I was eligible to vote. The includes one primary election years ago when I lived in Van Nuys where the only matter on the ballot was a seat on the LA Community College Board of Trustees, a non-partisan office where the candidates were actor Jack Albertson's wife (the incumbent and a leader in the very liberal California Democratic Council) and an otherwise forgotten person who was a member of California's left-wing Peace and Freedom Party. Since then I've quipped that I once voted for a communist -- because she was more conservative than the Democratic candidate. Mrs. Albertson handily won her third term without my help. But I digress...

I arrived at the Neighborhood House, where the voters of my precinct (and two others) cast their ballots, about a quarter after four in the afternoon. Walking into the voting room, I was quite pleased to see people in nearly all the voting booths and a short line ahead of me. I was voter #247. That's a pretty good turnout for these precincts, which are reliably Democratic while having a low voter turnout. That suggests it could be a good election night for Illinois Democrats -- even better than the pundits have been expecting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

It's Leif Erickson Day

Yesterday, a Monday, was the Columbus Day holiday. The Post Office was closed. Columbus Day used to fall on October 12, recalling the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus "discovered" the New World, but now the major holidays in the US usually fall on Mondays.

Today, October 9, is Leif Erikson Day, which commemorates the Viking pioneer who landed in North America some 500 years earlier. This photo is of the Norseman, a replica of the kind of ship he would have sailed. Here is President Trump's proclamation:
Presidential Proclamation on Leif Erikson Day, 2018

More than a millennium ago, Leif Erikson sailed across the frigid Atlantic and set foot on North America, likely becoming the first European to reach our continent. On Leif Erikson Day, we celebrate the extraordinary journey made by this son of Iceland and grandson of Norway with his crew and recognize the immeasurable contributions that generations of Nordic Americans have made to our Nation.

After converting to Christianity in Norway, "Leif the Lucky" set out to bring the Gospel to settlers in his native Greenland. During his extensive travels, he landed on the northern Atlantic coast, expanding mankind's knowledge of then uncharted territory. Centuries later, many Nordic families followed his example and set sail for America with the same determination and grit. After much struggle and sacrifice, these intrepid men and women arrived on our shores with hope for a better life.

Today, we recognize the descendants of immigrants from Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland for the tremendous role they have played in developing the indomitable spirit that defines the American people. Nordic Americans have traveled in space, crisscrossed the globe by single-engine monoplane, and advanced knowledge in science and engineering. Nordic Americans have won Oscars, Grammy Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and Nobel Prizes. They have fought — and died — in each of our Nation’s wars.

We also reflect on the deep and enduring ties we have with the Nordic countries. They are among our greatest allies in the fight against terrorism, and they are important trading partners. We renew our commitment to continue strengthening these transatlantic relationships.

To honor Leif Erikson and celebrate our Nordic-American heritage, the Congress, by joint resolution (Public Law 88-566) approved on September 2, 1964, has authorized the President of the United States to proclaim October 9 of each year as "Leif Erikson Day."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 9, 2018, as Leif Erikson Day. I call upon all Americans to celebrate the contributions of Nordic Americans to our Nation with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP
For Leif the Lucky's discovery of North America, you can read this portion of The Saga of Eric the Red from 1387 (translated, of course). Or there is this more modern telling the life of Leif Erikson. While Leif himself only visited in the year AD 1000, Vikings from Iceland and Greenland soon settled in North America, as proven by the archaeological discoveries at L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, beginning only in the 1960s. But it seems that it was then a period of what we would currently call "global warming" (think farms in Greenland), and the outpost was abandoned as the pioneers went back to Iceland.

Oh, why October 9? According to the Leif Ericson Viking Ship organization [much of its site is currently broken, but this was their answer 11 years ago], October 9, 1825 was the arrival date of the first Norwegian immigrant ship, the Restauration, in New York.

So Columbus only re-discovered America. Which didn't stop me from visiting the replicas of the Niña and Pinta when they visited Peoria last year.

Note: This is an update of an earlier post from 2007.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Smiling at Vespers

My favorite evening hymn is "The Day You Gave Us, Lord, Has Ended" (LBW #274) partly because the fourth stanza always makes me smile:
The sun, here having set, is waking
Your children under western skies,...
You see, I grew up in Southern California, 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. From childhood, when the Sun was setting for us, I've imagined it rising over Japan. But Japan ("The Land of the Rising Sun") is in the east, so (at least in my mind) the setting sun is waking children under eastern skies.

One evening I finally realized that the hymnwriter John Ellerton was from England, not California. And as a little boy he likely never thought he should be able to see the Sun setting behind Japan.
And hour by hour, as day is breaking,
Fresh hymns of thankful praise arise.

From a post of mine of a couple of years ago at ALPB Forum Online.

Friday, June 08, 2018

ELCA 2017 in Review

Here is the video just shown during the Central/Southern Illinois Synod Assembly, which reviews the year 2017 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I must say, of all the videos the ELCA has presented over the years, I found this one very interesting -- on many levels.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Night Prayer Continues

And so Sunday night at Zion showed up the Community Service Officer and his wife, and three pastors who had been at the clergy-police meeting. I know others prayed, too, in their places, including some who responded to my Saturday night post's appearance on my Facebook page.

We followed the order for Compline (Prayer at the Close of the Day) as found in the Lutheran Book of Worship, during which I pondered (once again) just how appropriate the daily prayers of the Church are in our real lives. The service isn't designed to take an hour, but drawing upon my experiences with the 40 Days of Prayer, between the night collect and the Our Father I left space and time for free prayers -- spoken or silent -- by those there. Most Lutherans would, of course, be terrified by this. But the others were from black Protestant churches and, though there were moments of silence here and there, they had no problem filling the hour out with heartfelt prayer for the many concerns of those who live, work, and play on the South Side of Peoria. And for the sung parts of Compline, I did hear other voices join me for the hymns and canticles.

I also had some interesting conversations, both before and afterwards, as they wanted to learn more about what and who Lutherans are, how we are different and similar to Catholics and other Christians, and about my experience as a Lutheran pastor in a neighborhood very different from when the congregation was established 120+ years ago, or even 50 years ago.

So, what's next? I told them I'd be back again at 10 o'clock next Sunday night, they were welcome to join me, and I'll keep this up unless someone comes up with a better idea. The people of Zion had only learned of this during worship that morning; no one from the congregation showed up, but one person told me he's planning to join us this Sunday night if he's feeling well. (That's one of those issues with an aging congregation.) I also submitted an announcement to appear in the Faith Bulletin of Sunday's Journal Star.

So join (with) us in Night Prayer for the City, Sunday night from 10 to 11!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Night Prayer for the City

And so the Interim Chief of the Peoria Police Department invited the pastors of all the churches on the South Side of Peoria to meet Friday noon, in the hopes that we could work together in some way to "take a stand against violence in our community. During this meeting," he wrote, "we will provide information about how the police department believes you and your congregation can assist us." So I went, one of about two dozen church leaders, directly representing about 20 congregations (and indirectly several others), who attended. The invitation went out to 50 congregations, so that's actually not that bad a response.

This isn't the time for details of what we learned, but one little detail mentioned early in the meeting by the Community Service Officer was that the busiest hour of the week for our police is Sunday evening from 10 to 11. There was a lot more, of course, and in the ensuing discussion there several who recalled the 40 Days of Prayer 10 years ago. It did make a measurable difference in the crime statistics the two years we did it, but then some of the leaders wanted to take the effort in another direction and the broad participation of the 40 Days narrowed considerably. Some of the pastors noted the many times over the years this sort of thing as been attempted. And others lifted up efforts, usually by small groups of pastors or churches, that have been going on in the area -- sometimes for years.

Chief Marion's other hope, "to form an alliance," did not happen. And as our appointed time was running out, there was wondering how to continue the conversation started here. And that's when I finally spoke up, beginning by recalling Sunday night from 10 to 11 as the police's busiest time. And while I didn't know what else would come from this gathering, one thing I was going to do was go into Zion at 10 pm on Sunday and pray for an hour. And I invited others to join me, either at Zion or wherever they were. And if anyone wanted to discuss other matters, I'd open the place up at 9:30 for conversation and getting to know each other -- for some of us, again.

And so beginning at 10 o'clock Sunday night, I'll be praying Night Prayer (the Office of Compline as found in the Lutheran Book of Worship), with additional prayers for our city; our South Side neighborhood; those who live, work, and/or play here particularly during that hour; our police and other first responders; and anything else those who join me want to pray about. The doors will be open at 9:30, and you're welcome to join me -- in body if you're in Peoria, or in spirit wherever you are. I don't know what else will come of this, but starting in prayer seems the right thing to me.

And until a better idea happens, I think I'll keep this on the church sign and keep the hour, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Is This a Great Country or What?

Tuesday while standing in line at the Post Office, the clerk noticed me looking at the display card of the current commemorative stamps. "Would you like to see all the ones we have?" she asked. "Sure," I replied, and she handed me a binder with a larger selection. I was still thumbing through it when my turn came up and as I was telling the clerk I'd take sheets of Lena Horne and the Solar Eclipse, I turned to see an older commemorative I'd first bought and used over a year ago.

"Oh, and the one for the Stamp Act, too," I added. Seems to me it's the perfect stamp for a patriotic American to afix to his tax return and estimated income tax payment — two of the letters I was there to mail. So I did.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Fifty-Nine, Take Two.

Well look at what I am sitting in; the driver's seat of a Mustang! No, it's not at a Ford dealer, but at the Central Illinois Auto Show, which the local new car dealers put on every April at the Peoria Civic Center every April by the local new car dealers. I could probably get used to it, but the black interior is really too dark.

At least the Mustang is available in some real colors. So many of the cars seem to be available only in a few dull shades of black, white, grey, beige, red, or maybe blue. In addition to the 'Stang (and that $43,000 Focus RS behind it), the only really colorful cars at this show were an orange Dodge Charger and a yellow Kia Stinger. It's almost like we've returned to the days of Henry Ford's "any color you want as long as it's black."

It was a nice Friday afternoon at the car show, not a bad afternoon's entertainment for only $5. Of course, if I were 60, it'd have been only $2.50. But I'm still 59.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Christ Is Risen! Alleluia!

I've posted this Easter sermon from St. John Chrysostom before. It's worth posting (scheduled for local sunrise today) again. Happy Easter!

If any person is devout and loves God,
let him come to this radiant triumphant feast.
If any person is a wise follower,
let him enter into the joy of his Lord, rejoicing.
If any have fasted long
let him now receive refreshment.
If any have labored from the first hour,
let him today receive his just reward.
If any came at the third hour,
let him keep the feast with thankfulness.
If any arrived at the sixth hour,
let him have no misgivings for he shall not be deprived.
If any delayed to the ninth hour,
let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have waited even until the eleventh hour,
let him not be alarmed at this tardiness.
For the Lord will accept the last
even as the first.
Therefore, all of you,
enter into the joy of your Lord.
Rich and poor together,
hold high festival.
Diligent and heedless,
honor this day.
Both you who have fasted, and you who did not fast,
rejoice together today.
The table is full;
all of you, feast sumptuously.
The calf is fatted;
let no one go away hungry.
Enjoy the feast of faith;
receive the riches of God's mercy.
Let no one bewail his poverty,
for the fullness of the kingdom is revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
for forgiveness shines forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the savior's death has set us free.
He who was held prisoner by death
has annihilated it.
By descending into death,
he made death captive.
He angered it
when it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah saw this, and he cried:
Death was angered when it encountered you
in the lower regions.
It was angered,
for it was defeated.
It was angered,
for it was mocked.
It was angered,
for it was abolished.
It was angered,
for it was overthrown.
It was angered,
for it was bound in chains.
It received a body
and it met God face to face.
It took earth
and encountered heaven.
It took that which is seen
and fell upon the unseen.
O Death,
where is your sting?
O Grave,
where is your victory?

Christ is risen
and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen
and the devils have fallen.
Christ is risen
and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen
and life reigns.
Christ is risen
and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, and to him be glory and honor, even to eternity.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Fifty-Nine

I have now lived 59 years. I was born in 1959. Apparently that makes it my "Beddian birthday":
A Beddian Birthday occurs when the age a person is turning, is the same number as the last two digits of their birth year. The Beddian birthday is named for NYC firefighter Bobby Beddia who noted this coincidence.
So yesterday I did something suited to a man my age. Friday is my "day off," and after going out to lunch and then taking advantage of the "going out of business" sale at the Bergner's in Sheridan Village (everything is 50% off; last week it was 40%, so we're getting closer) to get some towels, I headed over to the local Ford dealer to sit in a new Mustang.

No, I'm not looking to buy one (at least right now; I'm still quite happy with my 2002 VW Golf TDI), but earlier this week I saw the announcement of the return of the Mustang GT California Special for 2019, and that set a bit of a fire in my soul.

Mustangs do that to many people of my generation. When I was 5 my cousin Claudia bought new one of the first 1964½ Mustangs. And parked outside my 11th grade math class at Canoga Park High was this totally bitchin' original 1968 California Special, in white with blue stripes that a senior drove to school. That California Special had been truly unique to California, but I took notice when at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show Ford had a couple of new GT/California Specials on display. These newer ones aren't quite as different in appearance from a regular Mustang GT as the '68s were and, when it makes them available (2018 is one year the newer GT/CS hasn't been produced), Ford sells them across the nation.

So as I was pulling into the parking area of the Ford dealer's lot to sit in a new Mustang, a young salesman came out to greet me. But I was to be disappointed, for on the lot (he quickly told me) the only Mustang they have was that 2004 Mustang Cobra sitting a few feet away. That's right -- the Peoria Ford dealer has no new Mustangs. None! Nor any used Mustangs new enough to represent the "retro-future" Mustangs designed by J Mays that first came out in 2005.

Oh, well; I'm not looking to buy a new car.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Freedom's Just Another Word

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose," Janis sang in Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee. That's what immediately came to my mind when Twitter (yes, Pastor Zip has a Twitter account, but only because NetworkedBlogs, which for free automatically forwards my blog posts to my Facebook page, does -- or at least did -- the same with Twitter; so every couple of days there's an e-mail from Twitter) wanted me see CNN's tweet, "Florida student Emma Gonzalez to lawmakers and gun advocates: 'We call BS'."

The thing is, what may fit the context of a song from the end of the '60s is not a civic reality. Freedom actually means you have everything to gain. And freedom means, conversely, you also have everything to lose. Miss Gonzalez tells of what she has been learning in her AP Government class. Well, thousands of years ago (as my 8th grade social studies teacher Ms. Greenman used to say) in my (11th grade) AP American History class I learned that our Founding Fathers, after winning their rebellion against the British Crown and the King's Parliament, intentionally devised a national government that would have limited ability to infringe upon rights that they regarded as "unalienable." Which helped us to understand the Bill of Rights, which we first learned about in plain old 4th grade Civics.

Other news reports today, which happens to be the national holiday usually called "Presidents' Day" -- though legally it's the observance of George Washington's Birthday -- have noted protests by young students across the nation, demanding that the President and the Congress "do something" in the light of the latest school shooting. And if I'm reading Miss Gonzalez' address rightly, she's saying something that many advocates of "gun control" have been saying for years -- that the Second Amendment, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," is outdated and ought to be set aside. And set aside now. If necessary, without the bother of actually amending the Constitution. In other words, to grant those two branches of the federal government powers that our governing authority says they do not have.

"Freedom's just another word for something more to lose..."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Another Awards Show

Last night while flipping TV channels for a few moments I discovered that the Grammys were being aired. As I watched the song being performed at that moment I realized that, given the current popular music scene, there probably wouldn't be too much that I like listening to. It's not so much the music, though reading the list of nominees and winneers artists this morning I recognized almost none of the artists from the station I listen to most -- the Triple A (Adult album alternative) WWCT -- but the, uh, social commentary that is de rigueur with such televised spectacles. So I turned the TV off...

As into my mind popped another awards show from the distant past, in this case the Emmys. From its beginnings television programming has (often deservedly) suffered much from the tongues and pens of critics. Radio's Fred Allen observed in 1950 that "television is called a medium because it is rare that it is well done." (Google tells me Ernie Kovacs, the early TV genius who was taken from us much too soon, said much the same thing.) And while the Emmys can often take television more seriously than it deserves, there's this wickedly funny presention from the 1959 Emmy Awards by the comedians Mike Nichols and Elaine May.
There will be a lot said here tonight about excellence. And the creative, the artistic, and the skillful will all be recognized and rewarded.

But what of the others in this industry? Seriously, there are men in the industry who go on, year in and year out, quietly and unassumingly producing garbage.

I'm very, very proud to have been chosen by the Academy to present tonight's Special Award to the man who has been voted the Most Total Mediocity in the industry...
Oh, go ahead and watch it all. It may fit last night's Grammys more than I imagined.