Monday, December 14, 2015

It’s been one fine year and I could easily take up the bulk of this Christmas greeting with that sort of info but I’m going to keep it short – if not sweet (Though it was very “sweet” for me.) There was a lot of music made and lot of trips taken. There were new songs written, new friends and old friends and yours truly experienced a lot of love from both. There was good health, good food and good times all around. I hope your past year was one of wonderful memories and lots of hugs – in short I hope you were blessed. As I’ve been fond of saying the whole year – my cup has been beyond overflowing. It’s been so full as to have spilled out into the street and I hope, maybe some of those blessings I’ve been able to pass to the world at large. I have quoted this phrase more than once from “It’s a Wonderful Life” but I never tire of feeling the truth of it year after year, Christmas after Christmas – “Here’s to George, the Richest Man in Town”. I feel just like that too.  So here’s a  great big thanks to all of you who make feeling a genuine reality. And now to this year’s contribution, it is my latest foray into a comment on the commercialism of Christmas.

When Mr. Greed Almost Stole Christmas
Mr. Greed was the sort of man
Who could never get enough
Of Food, Clothing, Money
Of Anything at All
Not content with what he had
He constantly craved more stuff
Until one day he got in his greedy head
(For at heart he was a thief)
To make a play, to steal away
A sure money-making holiday
Which was already well on its way
To being in his pocket (as they say)
Some sleight of hand
Some bait and switch
Create tempting illusions
And just like that
Christmas would be his
He’d extol the rewards of big bucks
Over beliefs
And once beliefs were dead and gone
It wouldn’t take too much effort to get
The sheep-like masses, with no regret,
To join together and forget
The simple story, truly quite passe’
Far out of place in these SMART PHONE days
When heads bow not for grace or prayer
But robotic heads are bowed to be
Servants to technology
So Mr. Greed surmised
The child-like fairy tale wouldn’t stand a chance
In a world where God is no more than a word
And for quite a few a word that’s often heard
As a word absurd and not The Word
Now with a world like that how could he ever fail
“I’ll simply steal Christmas, it will be a snap
I’ve got plenty of disciples who will help me spring the trap
One day when they’re least expecting it
I’ll snatch that holiday
It will be a great, cash cow and nothing more
Except a feather in my cap”
So Mr. Greed, indeed was so very sure he would succeed
And he might have done just that
If none had dared to intercede
Or dared to heed the warning signs
But you see Mr. Greed made a fatal error
And flaw he failed to see
It was his failure to perceive a certain truth
Of course with dollar signs for eyes
He couldn’t realize that those who are truly wise
Knew deep in their hearts what mattered
They were not fooled, they dared to believe
They said --- “God is not just a word
Jesus, the one born on Christmas day
Was The Word
And if you think you can take such a life changing event
And stuff it in your wallet or turn it into some outlandish “whatchamacallit”
Well, that’s what we’d call absurd
So you can “take this to the bank”
(So to speak) Mr. Greed,
You’ll never steal Christmas
You’ll never succeed
Though God knows (I mean that literally too!)
That won’t stop you from trying
With your selling, seducing
Scheming and denying
Exalting, like some merchandising monarch,
The supreme sacrament of accumulating more and more
Well, we say, give it up, man
Because as it says in this quote
These three short lines from Mr. Longfellow”

“God is not dead nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men”

So Mr. Greed, you see you’re bound to fail
Because of a basic fact you’ll never understand
For people of Faith --
Some things are not for sale

Merry Christmas
George Gagliardi, December, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

   First off, the title is certainly an apt one for the wordage that follows. I could have entitled it – “Conflicted, Confounded and Confused” but Lorenz Hart (of Rodgers and Hart) did a much better job with his alliteration plus his title is much more sing-able.
   Those of you who have been kind enough to read my semi-annual meanderings are well aware that I write an Easter “letter” every year and have done so for several years. And I had planned to do it again this year but I’ve been experiencing the very challenges indicated by the title. No focus, no ideas, no inspiration, no time – in other words I’ve really and truly been someone in the “no”, these recent days. This, of course, is not the best state of mind to create something positive and uplifting.
   Then I started toying around with a notion. It was a notion that began to evolve piece by piece in my feeble, underused brain. And piece is the correct word. What I’ve come up with is very much like a patchwork quilt with oddly shaped, peculiar designed, multi-colored pieces that may or may not be that lovely to look at – so make of it what you will.(Pun very much intended.)
   I have four distinct “patches” to offer and here they are – Bed bugs, Hosanna, Bad men and a Mother’s love.
   Bed bugs – I’ve had them recently and they are a scourge, an abomination, a nuisance, a plague, an annoyance and that’s being kind. (Great Gagliardi, sorry to hear about your woes but let’s get back to Easter, shall we, hm?) Yes, oh voice that scolds, you’re right in bringing that up. So here’s my take on it.
   My apartment is like a world, in a way, because it’s my world. It’s where I live a good deal of the time. And bed bugs were truly an invasion, a kind of evil that was not invited or welcomed or encouraged and yet there they were. (Happily it appears I can, for now, use the past tense.)  So here we have a real, active curse of evil in my “world”. And suddenly I need some help, big help – the kind of assistance and rescue I cannot do for my self because I’m not equipped to handle it. (By the way, does this begin to sound familiar regarding God’s involvement in individual lives?) Is it that far a stretch to say that just maybe this was a kind of living parable in action? (Albeit an unpleasant one.) I don’t think I’m that far off the beam on this. You decide for yourself if it is. I will say this -- when I hear that old children’s couplet, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”, I now have a very different take on what that means.
     Speaking of children, my heart was nicely warmed hearing our Wilshire children on Palm Sunday sing Hosanna at the beginning of the service. And what struck me was how simple it was, how basic, how cheerful. There’s something about a child singing “save us”(which is the definition of hosanna) that is moving. They don’t wonder, necessarily, if God will or can or might they just assume he will because He’s God. And maybe they don’t understand the full impact of those words but then again, do we?
    Bad Men – Okay, does it bother anybody else out there or has it ever bothered anybody else that Jesus went through all he went through – suffering, agony, shame, abuse, death --- for the “bad guys” too? I mean the guys that you just wish would evaporate or get “taken out”, ala the Mob. I mean, there some horrible things being done to people by people I can see no good in whatsoever. (Can you say ISIS?) And I’m supposed to believe that Jesus died for them too – and rose again for them too, not just folks who are nice and good and kind?       
   Well, I have to say that really is not an easy pill to swallow. But much like medicine that tastes like a mixture of turpentine and liquid chalk, when we take it, it eventually helps us get better. Now I sure don’t like to take medicine even when I have to. If it was up to me, the “bad guys” would certainly not be eligible for God’s love. Does that sound harsh? It should because it is. Then again sometimes it’s very hard for some of us to say we’re sick and need to be healed. Thank God, He’s the Great Physician.
   A Mother’s Love – I was in our local IHOP, eating a late breakfast, not thinking about much of anything when I glanced up and saw a mother and her little boy leaving the restaurant. The child was holding tightly to his Mom’s hand and I noticed, with some sadness, the child’s left hand was deformed, it hadn’t grown to the right size. Then I saw the young boy smiling as he and his Mom left. And I felt the Spirit speak to me.
     The young boy was smiling because his mother was holding his hand -- he was safe, he was okay, he was loved. If that wasn’t a picture of our Father’s love to us then I don’t know what is. How many times have you and I felt ugly, ashamed, fearful, disheartened until we realized who was holding our hand. And in that moment we somehow knew we’d be okay. He wasn’t going to abandon us and maybe even when we thought we’d let go of His hand, it was only an illusion because He never had let go of ours.
    What does the preceding have to do with Easter? Maybe nothing then again, maybe everything. For if Easter doesn’t belong in the seemingly ordinary stuff of every day life then maybe it doesn’t belong anywhere. Easter has got to be more than a one day purple and gold, happy hallelujah, wear my “Sunday best”, trumpet blaring, organ triumphant, chorale of joy and celebration that happens once a year. Yes, it needs to be all that and more but we need to work at allowing it to flavor our lives every day so that Jesus gets raised up all over again every day that we live.
   I guess if any of this introspection has any value this Easter for me it’s this -- may be it’s this simple. Go on and let Jesus jump out of the grave, surprise me, fill me with wonder and get me all excited about it today, tomorrow, and the day after. Maybe every day is supposed to be Easter… You think?
George Gagliardi  Happy Easter, Ever After