This is the 74th post this month. I was really creative or something. That equals the record set for # of posts in July 2008. For what it's worth. (Yeah, about that much.)
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
This is the 74th post this month. I was really creative or something. That equals the record set for # of posts in July 2008. For what it's worth. (Yeah, about that much.)
26 Dec- The siege of Bastogne, for purposes of historic record, may be considered ended at 1645 on 26 December when the 326th Airborne engineers reported contact with "three light tanks believed friendly." True, the breach in the German-held ring opened by the 4th Armored Division was narrow and precarious, but it would not be closed despite the most strenuous enemy efforts in coming days. The staunch defense of Bastogne had impeded the Fifth Panzer Army drive to the west,… The human cost of the Bastogne battle, therefore, probably was not out of proportion to the military gains achieved. The 101st Airborne Division suffered battle casualties numbering 105 officers and 1,536 men. CCB of the 10th Armored Division had approximately 25 officers and 478 men as battle casualties. There is no means of numbering the killed, wounded, and missing in the miscellany of unrecorded tankers, gunners, infantry, and others who shared in the defense of Bastogne.
--From THE ARDENNES: BATTLE OF THE BULGE by Hugh M. Cole
As Nichols reports in Impact:
26 Dec- The Tigers’ Christmas present, though a day later, was delivered. The iron ring of German panzers was pierced and the rescue was begun… [H]ard fighting was still required of all units. This was necessary in order to widen the corridor during the ensuing days.
|Bastogne, 26 Dec 1944|
|Painting 'Medics Moving in Near Bastogne / Relief Station at Bastogne' (Belgium) by Olin Dows, 1945|
Meanwhile, the rest of the 10th Armored, minus CCB, was kept busy on the southern end of the bulge. They had been “jabbing and sparring” just north of the Saar-Moselle Triangle to keep the Germans off balance. At the center of this was Combat Command A (CCA). Their part of General Patton’s great offensive against the Bulge was a success.
28 Dec- 10th Armored’s defensive positions secured.
31 Dec- 10th Armored (minus CCB) moved south to Metz for rehabilitation and training, ending the most hotly contested battle in the Division’s brief but rugged operational history since its November baptism of fire at the swollen Moselle.
While my dad was in Europe, his mother at home kept her own silent vigil. The pages of her diary said very little. She was clearly just trying to maintain whatever semblance of normal she could have. Once in a while a comment would be made about getting gas ration stamps, but overall she cooked, cleaned, visited friends, sat alone as her husband worked on the railroad, her daughter lived 140 miles away and her oldest son passed through weekly.
One amazing bit of information is how often she got letters from my dad, who she usually referred to as "Buddy." I wish I had all those letters. They would certainly add something to what I've been reading and writing about the 10th Armored 70 years ago. I am sure he didn't say anything that would give anything away. All letters were censored, of course. But they might give the same bits and pieces I get from grandma. Like this one note in her diary on December 29, 1944:
Had a letter from Buddy and he sent me a dime for good luckBeyond Dad thinking of her like that, there's not much else until later at the end of the war when he sent postcards which I still have. But that's a few months off.
|Dad, Grandma 6/1944|
12/31 – This is the last day in 1944. Gee, I hope 1945 will be better
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
With the Christmas postings last week, I didn't get to post the memoriam for Joe Cocker. No one sang like Joe, his rasping voice, body movements, facial expressions all combined to make him one of a kind. He gave us some great rock and roll and blues. While the Beatles' With a Little Help From My Friends is his best known- and maybe best- individual song, his whole body of works is worth listening to. Here are two from 1970, The Letter and Delta Lady:
And, just to remember that he didn't lose it, here is With a Little Help from a live performance in 2002 when he was almost 60!
Monday, December 29, 2014
One of the top rated Americana music albums of the year (Swimmin' Time) is from a husband and wife duo, Shovels and Rope. Listening to Folk Alley the other evening I got caught by the opening chorus lyrics:
when the devil is all aroundThe whole song is outstanding, but the set-up with this chorus is a real grabber! The image of
got you crawling on the ground
on your hands and your knees
with an apple in your mouth
you will know how far you'll go
to make your peace with God
- The devil all around
- Crawling on hands and knees
- With an apple in your mouth
BTW, just want to give a big end of the year shout-out to Folk Alley. I have the link to them on my sidebar there. They provide a truly interesting and eclectic mix of the very broad category of acoustic music. If you haven't listened- or joined as a member- give it a thought!
Great music programming!
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Playing handbells is a different way of making music for this old trumpet player. In a way that is different from the trumpet, I need to put my body into the music when playing handbells.
My arm and hand movements make a difference in how the bell sounds. You have to make sure your wrist and arm action is just right or the bell will peal out at a great volume or won't sound at all. The sound changes as you move the bell and there are certain movements that aid in making all kinds of different sounds and effects.
I realized this one evening when we were rehearsing for Christmas last year and have been trying to pay attention to it since. With trumpet, of course, the body is there and active- the way I push the air through the horn, the fingering that builds muscle memory as I work on it. With the bells the whole body seems to be part of the resonance. As I bring the bell up and out for it to sound I am aware of the positioning of my whole body.
There are times when you are playing one bell in one hand and immediately the one in the other. Then the whole body begins to move. The rhythm flows through the muscles and seems to come out through the connection of the bell and the fingers.
I know this sounds like an exaggeration. Maybe for some it is, but it feels that way in me when I play bells. It is quite a feeling to have my body as part of the music. I am even beginning to notice the same thing happens on a different scale with my trumpet. Maybe that interaction between body and sound, soul and music is part of who we are as humans.
It works for me!
Here's a video of our handbells on Christmas Eve.
Friday, December 26, 2014
I have just finished one of the more interesting, intriguing, disturbing, and enchanting books I've read this year. It is the biography of the rock and roll pioneer and early superstar, Jerry Lee Lewis. Written by Rick Bragg as Jerry Lee's story and his assistance it gets the deep into the grit and dirt of Louisiana, the raw power of the blues, the infectious sound of rockabilly and the amazing intertwining of early rock with country, Gospel, and religion. He may be, as one of his albums called him, the Last Man Standing of the class of the mid-50s that produced what arguably may still be some of the most energetic and power-infused music in American history.
I didn't know a great deal of Jerry Lee's story, although I knew some of the significant details. He grew up with two other famous cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmie Lee Swaggart. The interactions of music in Jerry Lee's life with the Pentecostal church faith that infused the land and the air of his family and community produced something far beyond even Elvis' revolution. And like Elvis his own demons sent him on a roller coaster of success and tragedy, hope and loss.
Bragg does a magnificent job of telling the story with honesty and respect for the humanity of Jerry Lee. He always allows Jerry Lee to have the say and express his thoughts. But he does not sugar coat the excesses and out of the mainstream events. He gives Jerry Lee the right to minimize his addictions, to blame it on others and to say he really didn't drink all that much. But Bragg makes sure we know that Jerry Lee has a way of telling his own story in his favor. (Don't we all!) He doesn't excuse the incredibly active sexuality or his numerous marriages or his marrying his 13-year old third cousin. It is almost as if Bragg is saying "That's the way Jerry Lee is. That's what made him the star and huge fireball he became. If it weren't for these we wouldn't be talking about Jerry Lee at all."
Bragg captures it all so very well that all I could hear in the words was that deep southern accent rolling off the pages along with the dust and dirt. He can describe the culture in such clear imagery that you know what it might have felt like in that church or roadhouse. The intensity of Jerry Lee's music came from every pore of his being and every preacher he ever heard calling him to renounce the demons he knew so intimately.
This is a remarkable book that gives an insight into the early days of rock and roll with the rockabilly sound, the country connections, Sun Records and Sam Phillips in Memphis, Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. It is an amazing read.
Having said all that, it has also made me go digging around You Tube for songs and sides of Jerry Lee that I never knew as I moved on in rock and roll in the 60s and 70s and kind of ignored everything but Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Great Balls of Fire. No matter what Jerry did- and he did everything from roots music and blues and country to show tunes- was infused with the same raw sexuality, deep passion, and intense spirit- although one could easily argue which spirit was in control.
It was Steve Allen who actually gave Jerry Lee his biggest break when no one wanted anything to do with his amazingly sexualized music and performances. Steve was willing to give it a try because he had nothing to lose- he was on opposite Ed Sullivan! So Jerry Lee got booked on the show. He was always a difficult person to control so, as he got bored, he left the studo and returned but a few moments before he was to perform.
While Steve was trying to cover and get ready, the musicians were setting up drums and getting ready. Here, is a video of that show as the intensity overflows as only a 21-year old like Jerry Lee could do. This is an extended version that includes the sounds offstage and the commercial break preceding the performance. They actually had very little time left when Jerry came on.
One part of Jerry's act was to stand up and kick the chair away. Allen had been told by Milton Berle offstage that it would happen and that Steve should just throw it back on camera. He did just that. Watch for the piano chair to come back (about 4:14) after he kicks it away. Steve Allen got into the act and pushed it back.
Here's two of his next hits on two of his early appearances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. No one did their performances live on Bandstand. Jerry Lee insisted on it. They hung a lavalier around his neck and off he went. To say he was serious about his music is an understatement as these videos show.
Raw. Power. Sexuality.
Confession: Rockabilly still moves me. I can't keep still.
It added an edge to gospel, touching depths that are dangerous and dark even amidst the light of Gospel itself. Here are two of Jerry Lee's gospel performances from the 1980s. Lewis is now in his late 40s!
I am amazed that he can make "In the Garden" into a song of intense passion and even sexuality. The piano break around 1:40 sends chills through me. It is as real as it can get.
He was never fake. He was always Jerry Lee Lewis, which is why he got into so much trouble.
He was always fighting the demons within and without. Watch his face on this next video. It is clear that Jerry Lee never surrenders! He never doubted that he was the King- the real King of Rock and Roll. Watching these videos may very well prove it. Elvis became a self-parody of himself as he crawled into his own persona and died. Jerry Lee's persona was always real- even when it nearly killed him.
One more video, this one from October on the Letterman show. He's almost 80 now but he still won't give up the spotlight to Dave, Paul, or anyone else.
None of this excuses any behaviors, excesses, illegal actions, etc. He was as trapped in his own story as anyone could be. He was never able to break out. But he gave the world amazing music.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
God’s preferred philological form.
Billy Kangas on Patheos
God's preference for "God's Word" is "in flesh"
We call it "Incarnation" and it is quite a truth!
In Context on Patheos (presentation edited for emphasis):
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus’ birth is a significant part of Christmas, but it’s not the primary point. This can be seen in the Gospel reading for Christmas day, which is John 1:1–18. This passage nowhere mentions Jesus birth account but instead is an account of the eternal generation of Christ and the advent of his light in the world.
- Christmas is not simply Jesus’ birthday, but a feast of the incarnation.
- Christmas is a sacrament; it is a time in which we remember the highest outward sign of the inward grace God offers to the world.
- God gives expression of his love in the universal language of flesh and blood, and offers the world a grace that communicates the totality of human existence –
Read more: LINK
We have just finished the 26 days of Advent. The Twelve Days of Christmas, in spite of what some commercial and other people say begins with today. So, to add 13 days (including Epiphany) to the series, I will be posting a picture a day on the Twelve Days of Christmas. I have chosen each picture to illustrate (or contrast with) the theme. Pray and meditate on the themes as a way of deepening your spirituality.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Exactly thirty years before the Battle of the Bulge the “miracle” of the impromptu Christmas Eve truce made history in the trenches of World War I. No such “miracle” occurred for the men in Bastogne and the surrounding area in 1944. It had been a week of continuing hell! Between December 19 and 24 Combat Command B (CCB) of the 10th Armored had fought its way around and into Bastogne. Words like “chaos, panic, and utter disorganization" were used to describe the hard-hit units.
- Team O'Hara behind the German line south of Wardin;
- Team Cherry behind German attack line on the far right side;
- Team Desorby behind German attack line at the top of the map;
- HQ of Team Cherry in Neffe just outside the Bastogne perimeter; and
- CCB HQ in Bastogne.
The tide of battle may be about to shift though. The German thrusts have repeatedly been stalled by fuel shortages and pockets of American resistance. Better still the days of sleet and low cloud, which have protected the Germans from Allied air power, are about to end, according to the forecasters.
Meanwhile, Patton's Third Army is on the move. (The 10th Armored, part of the Third Army, was already there and engaged). Eisenhower did not believe Patton when he promised that he would be at Bastogne by today; he had to disengage his men from battle on the Saar front, execute a 90 degree change of course and move over 130,000 vehicles 75 miles to the north. And he has done just that.
In the U.S. Third Army area, improving weather conditions permit extensive air support, particularly in the Bastogne area, where 260 USAAF IX Troop Carrier Command C-47 Skytrains drop 334 tons (303 metric tonnes) of supplies in parapacks on several drop zones inside the besieged American positions at Bastogne.
The German forces that have bypassed Bastogne do not have the strength or supplies because of the growing effectiveness of Allied air support. The US 101st (and CCB of the 10th) in Bastogne holds out.
The circumference of the ring around Bastogne would be approximately 25 kilometres.
Much of the above information is from a World War Two Chronology.
The following is from Art of Manliness
On Christmas Eve, 1944, General Anthony McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, issued a flier to his men. It was headlined “Merry Christmas,” and the general wrote, “What’s merry about all this, you ask? We’re fighting. It’s cold. We aren’t home.” He went on to praise Allied troops for stopping flat everything the enemy was throwing at them. Then he described a story that happened two days earlier.
On December 22, the commander of the German army had sent word to McAuliffe. The enemy commander had painted a bleak picture of the Allied position, and insisted there was only one option to save the Allied troops from total annihilation.
When McAuliffe read the demands, he fumed, then sent back to the German commander a reply of only one word.
When the messenger asked for further explanation, he was told, “It’s the equivalent of saying, ‘Go to hell.’”
--from Art of Manliness
The tide is turning, but a lot of battle will continue.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Note that this is is a week after the beginning of the battle. A news embargo had been placed several days earlier and the word was carefully controlled. Perhaps out of fear and not wanting to think the worst, my grandmother's diary has absolutely nothing about this battle, not even a side comment.
Come down to the manger, see the little stranger
Wrapped in swaddling. Lo! the Prince of Peace
Wheels start turning, torches start burning
Behold wise men journey from the East
How a little baby boy bring the people so much joy
Son of a carpenter, Mary carried the light
This must be Christmas, must be tonight
A shepherd on a hillside, while over my flock I bide
Oh a cold winter night a band of angels sing
In a dream I heard a voice say "fear not, come rejoice"
It's the end of the beginning, praise the newborn King
I saw it with my own eyes, written up in the sky
But why a simple herdsmen such as I?
And then it came to pass, he was born at last
Right below the star that shines on high
Monday, December 22, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Thus begins the last line of the first verse of the Advent hymn- Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers. It is a song of waiting and preparation based on the parable of the virgins waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. Some were "foolish" and weren't prepared when the groom finally arrived and they ended up on the outside.
Those words struck me last week during our Advent Lessons and Carols. They are blunt, quick, and basic words. There's no deep theology hidden in them. Sure they aren't words from scripture, but they are words that call our attention to Jesus.
- Up- Don't just sit around. Do something. Move. Get your work done.
- Pray- Keep in contact with God. Don't allow the waiting to pull you away from God's presence.
- Watch- Be alert. Be mindful. There may be (and probably are) many signs of the coming of the Savior. Don't miss them.
- Wrestle- Uh, wait a minute. What is wrestling doing here in this list of Advent tasks?
And what we often discover is the same humility, awe, and power that Mary proclaimed in her magnificent song.
To which we can only add:
Saturday, December 20, 2014
19 – 20 Dec
Two days of 24-hour combat was faced by most of Combat Command B (CCB). Nichols, in Impact, describes Team Cherry’s experiences:
With tanks in the lead and dismounted doughs around them, the shot-up force pushed north… The enemy did not emerge lightly from the Team’s determined stand as it lost 15 tanks, 1 armored car, 2 halftracks, 3 anti-tank guns, 184 Germans killed and an undetermined number wounded. Our Teams lost 11 Mediums, 7 light tanks, 17 halftracks, 1 tank dozer and 2 recovery vehicles. In addition 1 Tiger officer was killed, 1 officer and twenty enlisted men wounded and 2 officers and 44 men were missing. Cherry’s Tigers were a tower of strength and fortitude as they held off numerically superior enemy forces to help prevent Bastogne from being captured on December 19.
It was not fully known until studies were made after the was, just how enormous was the German strength…It is difficult to imagine the utter hopelessness of Team Cherry’s situation in view of the tremendous forces arrayed against it, plus the fact that the team was confined to just one road, and to maneuver was out of the question… [While it may have been a minor victory for the Germans,] Cherry’s [Tigers] softened the enemy and… gained precious time for General McAuliffe’s airborne battalions to deploy east of Bastogne
Team O’Hara, meanwhile was attempting to prevent the enemy from gaining the town of Marvie. Even with a position on higher ground, O’Hara was powerless to stop the enemy halftracks from smashing into the town. There other troops from 327th Infantry routed the Germans in a house-to-house combat that lasted into the early afternoon. Later in the day snow flurries began to fall. Nichols reports:
…as the ridges became white and the drifts deeper, the most pressing problem became that of getting the defenders indoors in order to escape the icy blasts of the Ardennes winter.As this important 48-hour period came to an end, the 101st Airborne was able to place several battalions on the front. It was the critical defense by the Tiger armor that had bought the needed time. Nichols writes:
It is likely that without the determined stand taken by the CCB Tigers east of Bastogne, the defense of the city would have been impossible. Subsequent newspaper accounts, movies, and magazine articles about the Battle of Bastogne have given little attention to the significance of the Tigers’ role, but the men who fell and those who survived are themselves the most eloquent testimony that the first twenty-four hours were the most punishing and the most crucial of the German winter blitz…. [The defense by the Tigers] resulted in a major upset of enemy plans, giving General McAuliffe time enough to bring in his troops and drape them around the Bastogne perimeter.
I will be preaching tomorrow at the church where we are now members. I came across this on Facebook from Fredrick Buechner, preacher, writer, storyteller extraordinaire. I will let it speak for itself about preaching. (I have edited the presentation of it, but not the content, to show my emphasis.)
I HAD NEVER understood so clearly before what preaching is to me. Basically, it is
-Originally published in Telling Secrets
- to proclaim a Mystery before which, before whom, even our most exalted ideas turn to straw. It is also
- to proclaim this Mystery with a passion that ideas alone have little to do with.
- It is to try to put the Gospel into words not the way you would compose an essay but the way you would write a poem or a love letter—putting your heart into it, your own excitement, most of all your own life.
- It is to speak words that you hope may, by grace, be bearers not simply of new understanding but of new life both for the ones you are speaking to and also for you.
- Out of that life, who knows what new ideas about peace and honesty and social responsibility may come, but they are the fruits of the preaching, not the roots of it.
Friday, December 19, 2014
With all the work I've been doing on following the 10th Armored Division through their European campaign on 1944-45 the situation at home hasn't been far from my thoughts. My Dad had just been married in May of 1944 and then shipped out in September. The American homefront was clearly invested in the war- rationing, recycling, extreme and extraordinary commitments and sacrifice were all over the country.
As 1944 was coming to a close there was at first a sense of hope. D-Day had been successful. But by Christmas, as the news began to be reported, a number of days late, of the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes, tensions, fears and uncertainty became very real. I did a quick search on Christmas 1944 and found a few postcards and posters that were from that era.
To me one of the most exciting and innovative musical genres today is Roots Music. It can be "Americana", blues, bluegrass, rockabilly or country, some exciting things are happening there.
The wonderful people at Bluegrass Situation have come out with their list of the Best of 2014. If you think you know what "roots music" is, give their list a try. Some good, old boot-stompin' music, some amazing storytellers, some old-timers and some newcomers. It is nothing short of amazing.
Here's one of them from an amazing young musician named Parker Millsap who, as Bluegrass Situation says deserves to be on the list for using the name Tucumcari in the lyrics.
Then there's 22-year old Jonah Tolchin bring Delta Blues into the 21st Century with power!
And one more, this one a plaintively beautiful and haunting song by Water Liars.
Amazing music- and this is only a small sample.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
16 Dec - 18 Dec
The Battle of the Bulge Begins
- The 10th Armored was down in the lower right, south of Luxembourg when the attack began. (See map below)
- Combat Command A (CCA) and most of the 10th stayed in that south eastern sector as part of the defense near what became the extent of the offensive.
- Combat Command B (CCB) continued on to Bastogne where it was instrumental in holding the city until enough reinforcements arrived with the 101st Airborne. Bastogne survived in spite of the siege that made it a surrounded enclave.
My wife asked if the legend of Patton speeding north into the Bulge was true. It appears that his 10th Armored definitely accomplished that feat.
Where was my Dad? That is probably an unanswerable question after all these years. Company B collecting company of the 80th Armored Medical Battalion is listed in orders of battle as supporting CCB around Bastogne. CCB is also mentioned as having taken some medics along. So far I have been unable to determine or discover anything more than that.
But taking a look at pictures, movie clips and reading, it is very clear in my mind that no matter where he was along the battle front, it was, at best- hell. A white, fog-bound hell. Snow, cold, the ever present sound of battle- tanks, artillery, small arms. You name it- it was there. If he was in Bastogne proper, the tension and the level of combat would have been unbearable. Nichols, in Impact, the battle story of the 10th, describes that at one point Team Desorby had to retreat 100 yards.
100 yards is the length of a football field. The difference between danger and a place of defense was that small. At Team Cherry's HQ, enemy troops managed to get as close as 5 yards to the building before being "cut down." My mind was filled with the images in the recent WW II movie, Fury. I am getting the feeling that even that image was cleaned-up from what the pure hell must have been like.
I will never be able to understand what Dad went through, how he felt, and how it impacted the rest of his life. I am grateful that I can get this sense of his life all these years after his death. He was one of those citizen soldiers, his own band of brothers, facing the destruction of everything they knew. They fought back- or in my Dad's case- helped bring relief to those who did.
War is hell. Perhaps for those like Red, that may be the hope of grace in a heaven of peace.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Being a pastor was never just a job. Far from it. I did what I did because I was called. That word is not about hearing voices or some vision of heaven. It is living at the center of what God has given us the gifts to do.
For thirty years it was almost entirely within the context of a local church and a larger denominational setting. It was exciting, challenging, always new, and never what I expected it to be. I was honored, blessed, and humbled day in and day out with the opportunity to walk with people in their struggles and pilgrimages. I was able to sit in sick rooms, at death's door, in times of deep tragedy. I was also able to sit at weddings and baptisms, confirmations and graduations. I was there in some way or another as myself and as a servant of the church that called me.
At the heart of the call is to trust God. As believers we listen to Jesus' call to live in a faithful way. None of us does that well, which is where grace enters the picture. We all have different ways of doing that. The call- and ALL Christians are called- will change, grow, evolve. My ministry has been outside the institution for 10 years now, working with people who, in many cases have been hurt by the church or were afraid of setting foot inside one. It is no less important than when I was in the parish.
When I was leaving the parish ministry I would speak of "leaving the ministry" since that is often how the church sees it. I never left the ministry. I finally heard God calling me to a "secular-based" ministry. (That takes another couple of pages of description.) There is no difference between the ministry within the church and outside. Ministry is ministry is ministry. We all as followers of Christ are called to do it.