Category Archives: Friends

8 November 2019

Walking. Chelsea with Henrik
Walking. Morningside Gardens with Boxster.
Walking. Times Square, 9/11 Memorial, Bowling Green Park, Battery Park with Bethany and Julia.
Walking. Staten Island with Melodee.
Walking. Over 20,000 steps.
Following the North Star – Rhiannon Giddens
Heartland – Eric Bogle
String Quartet No. 1: I Allegro – George Walker, Son Sonora String Quartet
Song of Bangladesh – Joan Baez
Buskers – Vedran Smailovic & Tommy Sands
Lemme Get That – Rihanna
Hope – David LaMotte
I’m on My Way to Freedom Land – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Thing Called Love – Bonnie Raitt
Something to Talk About – Bonnie Raitt
Not the Only One – Bonnie Raitt
Dimming of the Day – Bonnie Raitt
Silver Lining – Bonnie Raitt
I Me Mine – The Beatles
May There Be Peace – Joanne Shenandoah
Dance to the Music – Sly & The Family Stone
I Shall Be Released – Bobby McFerrin

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Filed under Exercise, Family, Friends, Music, New York, playlist

2 November 2019

5K walk. Morningside Heights.

Walked in solidarity with Kirk in the Hills to support Accent Pontiac. Accent Pontiac’s mission is “strengthening Pontiac’s youth and community through equitable access to intensive and consistent music making.” My father’s first jobs were as a high school instrumental teacher and band director. The last half of the play list honors him.

It was great to get some exercise, support a friend, support a great cause, and remember my father.

In Every Corner of the Forest Part 1 – Bill Miller
Stick Me for My Riches – Wu-Tang Clan
Come Alive – Eternal Summers
Old Glad – Jack Gladstone
I Could Write a Book – Miles Davis
The Wooden Shoe – John McCutcheon
Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen
The Four Legged Ones – Joanne Shenandoah
El Chivo – The Chieftains with Los Cenzontles
Scotland the Brave – The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Tank Regiment
The Thunderer – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
Washington Post – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
Hands Across the Sea – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
Light Cavalry Overture – London Festival Orchestra
Under the Double Eagle – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
The National Emblem – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
March of the Toreadors from Carmen – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
Pomp and Circumstance, Op. 39 – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic
Colonel Bogey – Leonard Bernstein and the  New York Philharmonic

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Filed under Exercise, Family, Friends, Music, New York, playlist

A New Scene Begins

72214504_10157395131336063_6548324250078412800_nA New Scene Begins
Micah 6:1-8
Matthew 5:1-16
13 October 2019
Installation of the Rev. Eric Koenig
Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig

I will never forget the day that Eric returned from a youth conference and gushed: “Mark Lomax is a great preacher!” After he said that several times, my poker face must have failed me, because he quickly added, “But Dad, you are OK, too.”

The Rev. Dr. Mark Lomax is pastor of the First Afrikan Presbyterian Church in Lithonia, Georgia. Professor of homiletics and worship at the Interdenominational Theological Center. He is a friend. A faithful follower of Jesus. A superb preacher. But he is somewhere else today. And I am here. And that’s OK.

We gather today for the installation of an associate pastor. Remember our context as we do. Presbyterians believe that all who follow Jesus are called to serve Jesus. We witness to Christ in all we do and say wherever we may be. God requires that corporately, and individually, we do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Jesus summons each of us and all of us. Jesus invites us to live as he lived as well as we are able and to trust in God’s grace when we fall short. Jesus calls us to love as he loved and to establish the justice which, as Dr. Cornell West reminds us, is love in public. “Will you – singular you and plural you – will you come and follow me?”

Presbyterians further believe that from the midst of God’s people, some are called to ordered ministries. These are roles within the Church that allow the ministry of the whole people of God to flourish. We ordain the people who fill those roles. We do so not because they are superior followers of Jesus but to recognize the specific role they play in the life of God’s people.

Of ordered ministries in the Presbyterian Church there are three. Three are the number of ordered ministries. Deacon. Elder. And … to be honest, we have had some question about the language to use for the third ordered ministy. We have used “ministers of the Word and Sacrament.” We have used “teaching elders.” The Book of Order has a passage that covers all the bases: “teaching elders (also called ministers of the Word and Sacrament).”

By whatever name, the church ordains people to the role. Ordained individuals are then installed to specific positions and tasks.

In response to the Holy Spirit and discernment by Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, the Presbytery of New Castle, and Eric, with significant input from Essie, we gather today to install Eric as associate pastor.

As we do, I offer some insights I have gleaned through the years about ministry.  In the words of those classic theogians the Beatles, I so with a little help from my friends. Ginger, Babs, Mac, Bunty, Fowler, Nick and Fetcher.

Well they could be friends. If we had met. If they were real.

They are castmembers of a movie called Chicken Run – a claymation movie involving chickens, rats, dogs, and some humans.

Chicken Run is set in 1950s Great Britain on the Tweedy’s chicken farm. The chickens live ringed by barbed wire fences and guarded by large, nasty dogs.

The chickens are there to make money for the Tweedys  by laying eggs. Hens that fail to lay eggs soon make their final appearance. On the Tweedy’s dinner table.

The chickens, led by a hen named Ginger, become fed up with this life.  Ginger knows that the chickens deserve better – a life free from the demand to produce eggs, free from the threat of death, and free from the farm.  She shares her vision with the other chickens and convinces them to begin living out the vision in the only way possible – escape.

They devise a plan for escape and put it into operation. And they fail. Again. And again. And again. Every attempt fails and the chickens are caught. And every time they are caught the chickens attempt another escape.

Two events break this cycle. A rooster from the United States named Rocky arrives. He brashly promises to teach the chickens to fly across the fence that traps them. At the same time, Mrs. Tweedy decides that eggs are not profitable enough. The farm will produce chicken pies. This makes escape essential. As one chicken profoundly says, “I don’t want to end up as a pie. I don’t even like gravy.”

I will tell no more of the story so as not to spoil the ending for those who have not seen it. But what does it say about ministry?

The Tweedys said the chickens’ role was to live on their farm in the conditions they established and produce wealth for the Tweedys.  Led by the prophet Ginger, the chickens had an alternative vision. They envisioned a world with no barbed wire, no dogs, no huts, and no quotas. Instead there would be freedom and abundance and sunshine and sharing.

Jesus proclaimed and lived an alternative vision. In the face of the domination of empire and the division of the human family along lines of class and gender and sexual identity and age and nationality, Jesus taught a vision of radical inclusion, expansive love, and unfailing justice. He envisioned a world turned upside down. And he calls us as his followers to live in that world.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Whether we use the traditional translation of “blessed” or whether we ride with the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer’s translation of “greatly honored,” the Beatitudes proclaim a radical disruption of the status quo. They contain an alternative vision for reality. Jesus lived and died and was raised for that vision. He summons us to live in it. We are invited to work together to bring that vision into reality. And we are freed to know that we will fall short and when we do, we can seek and accept forgiveness, and pick ourselves back up and trying anew. Vision is where we start.

Part of that vision involves recognizing who we are and whose we are. The chickens refused to accept the way in which they were assigned worth by the dominant culture. To the Tweedys, the chickens had worth only as means of production. Once they ceased to be productive they had no value and they were disposed of. The chickens knew that they were more than that. They knew they had value simply because they existed. We are talking some profoundly self aware chickens here.

Ministry involves accepting our own value and reminding others of their value. We are repeatedly told that our value comes from externals – skin color, wealth, status, gender or sexual identity, age, ability. The list goes on. Elaborate systems and structures are built upon human differences by the powerful for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing their power.

Ministry is knowing and claiming and living the awareness that I am God’s beloved child. And so are you. And so is everyone we meet. We should be treated as such. We should treat each other as such. We should challenge anyone who says otherwise. In the words of the Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, we move from treating people as others to embracing one another in God’s love. And then we work to dismantle systems that perpetuate privilege and inflict oppression.

The chickens created community. They understood that they were in it together. When one hen had problems laying eggs, others would share theirs.  Rocky points out that one or two chickens could easily escape. Ginger replies, “But that’s not the point. Either we all escape or none of us escape.”

Building, expanding, and nurturing community is an essential part of ministry today. Ministry is a corporate practice – a communal art. It is not for the professionals alone. It is for all of us.

The community created in Chicken Run crossed the usual lines.  Nick and Fetcher are rats. That’s not a comment on their character. That’s an identification of their species. They aren’t the brightest rats. They spend a good amount of time waiting for the eggs that Rocky, the rooster, has promised to lay for them. Still the rats become part of the community working together toward the goal of freedom and a better life for all.

Ministry involves reaching out to and serving with people from whom we differ. God creates and enjoys an amazing diversity. Our challenge and opportunity is to build a welcoming, including community. God calls us to create a place at the table for everyone born, to paraphrase Shirley Murray’s hymn. God calls us to break down and reshape, remake, and replace as needed. And to make sure that since everyone has a voice, every voice is heard.

Each chicken and rat has unique gifts to use in the effort. They live out the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero. “None of us can do everything. Each of us can do something.” Each chicken and rat contributes to the effort.

Ministry involves discerning the gifts we each have and then putting those gifts to use for the good of the community and the world.

Chicken Run includes a rooster named Fowler who served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. “644th Squadron, Poultry Division – we were the mascots.” He fondly tells stories about, “Back in my day…” The time comes when his gifts are needed.  When he is asked to help, Fowler begs off. Ginger says, “Fowler you are always talking about back in your day. Well you are here now. And it is now that we need you. This is your day.”

Time has a way of jumbling together. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. We plan and dream into the future. But in the end, today is the only day we have. Today we follow. Today we serve.

Today we begin a new scene in God’s Master Story – a story that began in the act of creation and that will extend until the end of days and the fulfillment of all things. A story of Divine creativity and grace and love in which we are privileged to play a part for a time. It is the story that has brought us to this time and place. It is the story that draws us into the future. We do not know for sure where the story will take us. Members of the Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church who were here at the end of June may remember a long-haired, bearded preacher who referenced advice shared by the hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings:  “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

We do not know for sure where our part in God’s Master Story will lead us. But of this we may be certain. It will be a story of God’s grace and our response in ministry. And God will be with us. This day. Every day.

Thanks be to God.

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Filed under Books, Family, Friends, Movie

World Communion Sunday 2019

One of my favorite days of the year.  The First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone celebrated communion today. The Rev. Immanuel Bae officiated with me. Thanks to Anne Marie Russo for the photo.

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Filed under Current Events, First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, Friends, Worship

26 September 2019

This one is for the young people who challenge us to care for the planet. Special thanks to abby  and to Nicole whose examples and work and action suggestions encourage   me to be more involved.

Slow jog / walk. Morningside Gardens. For the first time in this new effort, more jogging than walking occurred. Hence the switch in order.
Strength work. Stretching. Gym at the Shire.
Opening Song for the Maker – Joy Harjo
There Is a Garden –  Archie Roach
Ring around the Moon – Elephant Revival
Ain’t Gonna Drown – Elle King
Dragonfly – Ziggy Marley
Ideoteque – Radiohead
Agolo – Angelique Kidjo
Hermana Tierra – Laura Pausini
When Elephants Cry – Mayuka Thais
Tangaroa Whatamautai – Maisey Rika
Young People Marching – Raffi
all the good girls go to hell – Billie Eilish
Earth – Lil Dicky
Who’s Gonna Stand Up? – Neil Young
The Seed – Aurora
Globe All Warming – Niyorah
Earth Spirit – R. Carlos Nakai

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Filed under Current Events, Exercise, Friends, Human Rights, Music, playlist

Changes August 2019

August has been a breakthrough month in terms of self-care. Eating and exercising have gone really well, particularly since August 10. A corner may have been turned.

I spent the time from August 9 through August 28 providing support to my wife as she recovered (really well!) from hip surgery in Louisville, KY. I ate well and worked out there. The workouts were guided by my friend and trainer Nicole Kung of NK Body Philosophy.

Today was the first day I had a training session with Nicole. I asked her to take a photo to use as a starting point as I live into this new way of living. She said, I think I have one from before. She took today’s photo and provided a comparison with a photo from February. There’s a long way to go, but it’s a good beginning.

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Filed under Exercise, Family, Food, Friends, Louisville, New York

29 August 2019

Treadmill. Strength work. Core work. Stretching. Gym at the Shire.
Where Were You? – Jackson Browne
Walking to New Orleans – Fats Domino
Hell No, We Aint Alright – Public Enemy
Shelter in the Rain – Irma Thomas
The River in Reverse – Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
City That Care Forgot – Dr. John
Cry For New Orleans – Multiple artists
Wading Through – Terence Blanchard
Any Other Day – Wyclef Jean, feat. Norah Jones
Shelter in the Rain – Stevie Wonder
All These People – Harry Connick, Jr.
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans – Louis Armstrong

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Filed under Exercise, Friends, Music, New York, playlist, Uncategorized