Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: March 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


The picture over there shows me, standing with my brother, who was on what amounted to his deathbed.

Art was 2 years and 9 months older than I, so I did all the usual younger brother things that you might expect. Whenever Art got to do something worthy of brotherly envy, I knew it'd be about 3 years for me. I had my share of new 3-year-old clothes along the way ... all still nice, of course ... and my performance at school in various venues was subject to the invariable statements like "Now, when your brother ______ (fill in the blank), he always ______ (that blank, too)."

He was also pretty smart. And athletic.  He'd also been Valedictorian of his 8th grade class ... I once heard a teacher exclaim "Art Cleveland's tops in my class", complete with a "whoosh" sound and a gesture which might also accompany a volcanic eruption.  Fortunately for me (I think "Fortunately" is a name God sometimes signs to things when He doesn't want to use His own, for whatever reason..), I was Valedictorian as well, plus I'd been voted A) Boy most likely to succeed; B) Student most likely to succeed; C) Class brain, and; D) Class Baby.

Hey .. gotta take the bitter with the sweet.

At the other end of the spectrum, he was good athletically ... he could outrun mom, for instance ... and he was also popular with the girls. Which realization on his part led to his decision to stop being called "Jimmy" and start answering to "Art". That was actually a bigger deal than it sounds, as he'd been given the name "Arthur James Cleveland, Jr." for 2 specific reasons. One is the obvious, but the other is that the intention was to call him "Jimmy". My dad simply liked the sound of Jimmy & Bobby, and it took a long time for dad to call him the other nickname.

I got saved specifically because I'd heard bombers flying overhead at night, thinking they might be Russian planes coming to bomb Chicago, where we lived. As the USAF Strategic Air Command wasn't open about their operations back in 1947-8, I didn't know. But it did serve the purpose of making me worry about dying, which led to my odd behavior, which led dad to ask me what was wrong, my subsequent explanation, ending with his reminding me what I'd heard in VBS .. that if you believe in Jesus, then you go to Heaven when you died. Instantly, my fear disappeared, and I ran outside to play with my friends.

That apparently didn't happen to Art; he was married in a Unitarian Church, showed no religious interest thereafter, rejected the gospel more than once in various places when I presented it, and was given a Jewish funeral, buried under a tombstone bearing his name in English and Yiddish.

Now for the picture: he died a few days later ... esophageal cancer ... and I had the privilege of sharing at his funeral service, I also did the honors of throwing the first 3 shovels of dirt on his coffin in the grave ("we bury our own") at the cemetery.

I put the picture up, here, for two reasons. One is, as far as showing 2 brothers who love each other, in a place and at a time when that's really important, is always a good thing. Trust me .. if you can read a message there, it really is there.

The other is that it poses the question: what wasn't said? What had we never gotten around to discussing? What subject(s) wouldn't we open? What might I have been afraid to say to him, for which it was too late ... then & there ... to say?

I'm blessed that sitting here, now, thinking back and recalling the time vividly, I can't think of anything I never said to him, that I should have.

I realize I am blessed in that. Not everyone can state that as a truth in their own life. And that is sad. So .. the words to the wise:

You will, in all likelihood, be in this picture one day. Perhaps in the bed, perhaps standing over it. And if you've built up a sizable thesaurus of words you've never said, from either side, chances are pretty good you'll have waited just that much too long.

Don't let that happen. You may be trading the joy of doing what you should have done, for those you love, with the regret that comes with not having done it.

Like I said ... a word to the wise. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Reason To Lift Every Voice

A few months ago, I read Allan Cross' book "When Heaven And Earth Collide". The book is a story of the Civil Rights Movement, the Church ... and its inactivity ...  and how Jesus himself had a much better way to handle things that were being done then, had the church only submitted to it.

It was a most eye opening book, very informative, and quite moving. Now, I was a typical clueless Northern white guy when the civil rights movement began, and didn't pay a lot of attention to it. We lived in the Indianapolis area, and I always found it strange that Crispus Attucks High School, an all-black high school. in Indianapolis, wasn't viewed as part of the Indianapolis educational community, informally.

Example: in the big High School Athletic Association basketball tournament that came every year, whatever team won the Indianapolis Regional was always viewed as the "Indianapolis team", through the subsequent Quarterfinals, Semi-State, and State championships. Except when Attucks won the regionals. Then, at least among the white community, that didn't seem to be the case. We'd root for one of the big schools somewhere else before we'd pull for Attucks.

That always seemed strange.

Also, my family's attitude was always "Black people are as good as we are, but I have the right to choose who I live next door to". That also seemed odd to me. And, the specter of decreased property values when a black family moved into the neighborhood kept white folks edgy in our community, and that's really nonsensical, since the values only decrease when people think they decrease. And if white folks thought that was the case, they by golly losing money on their house seemed just desserts, to me.

Thank goodness things have changed. No, we're not in Camelot yet, but black families live in my subdivision and their neighbors see them as neighbors. As do the children.

It began to change for me when I saw a 60 Minutes report about a nursing home in Alabama, occupied by black ladies, in which they slept in chicken-wire cages. That broke my heart and brought tears. That, and a particular joke I heard one day that got me, down deep inside.

Skip to the present, I don't know what to make of what's going on now. I heard absolute OUTRAGE by famous people, after those college kids posted that video of their idiotic "n-word" rant ... my opinion: those kids have a real special kind of stupid.... but when 2 police get shot in Ferguson a couple days ago, nothing is said. That I heard. And no, I don't know the race of the shooter or shooters, but it doesn't really matter. Shooting police ought to bring as much outrage as singing on a bus.....

All of which is by background to introduce a song (from a poem) I happened across some weeks ago. I decided, in light of all that's gone on, to write about it. Perhaps as an indication of the respect I hold for the black community in light of all that led up to and through the civil rights movement. I mean, just look at Negro Spirituals. Not a word of bitterness or revenge that I've ever seen, which is a seldom-noticed and immensely admirable quality..But in this post, I'm not speaking of Spirituals, but rather the "Black National Anthem". Its title is "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and it is the most magnificent song I know ... excepting of course those which tell of the wonders of God and of our Savior. You'll find it linked to, below, and I encourage you to listen to it. Be especially on the lookout for lines which thank God for how far they've come, and most especially the line in which the song implores God to protect them, lest "drunk with the wine of the world we forget Thee".

Wow. Perhaps the most moving line in a song I've ever heard (with the same previously-excepted songs).

Keep in mind this poem, and song, was written during, and with the "Jim Crow" conditions that exited, in 1900!

Here's the video:

Incidentally, you may notice I use the term "Black" and not "African American". The latter term indicates there's more than one kind of American, and there's not. At least not racially. My black friends are every bit as much American as I am. Besides, they've told me that "Black" is the term that the people chose for themselves. I recall that news item, at the time; hence it's the term I use.