Sunday, December 12, 2021


"Passing bells and sculpted angels, cold and monumental, seem for you the wrong companions. You were warm and gentle."

I'm "working through the unimaginable," to quote Hamilton.

When I was a kid living in the Philippines, my brother Tim introduced me to Broadway musicals. I particularly remember us listening to The Phantom of the Opera on repeat. Sometimes we had to take the cassettes out of the tape recorder and wind the film back into the cassette because it got tangled in the tape recorder. They played "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain every morning on the radio, and we taped it, along with other songs like "Put on a Happy Face" from Bye Bye Birdie. We listened to Broadway and Christian music all the time. (My mom got tired of the screams in Phantom of the Opera.)

Through it all, my dad, an avid sports fan, who once dreamed of raising a softball team, encouraged his two sons in our love of music. Neither of us were particularly into sports as he had hoped, but he didn't press us to do something we wouldn't like. (Though we have enjoyed attending baseball games together, and Tim and I have attended a lot of rugby games since the Seattle Seawolves started a couple years ago.) My dad paid attention to our interests and encouraged them. He enjoyed Phantom and other musicals with us. We watched the classic movie musicals as a family. I lost count of how many times we watched The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, and others. Someone gave us the animated musical of Gulliver's Travels ("Aaaalll's well! It's a hap-hap-happy day!") and we watched that video many times. So many happy memories. 

Every play, musical and concert in school, my dad was there rooting us on. Tim played Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore in high school. I would later be in a Disney revue and Oklahoma! when I was in high school. In college, Tim was in a community theatre production of Carousel, and I would later be in South Pacific in a different community theatre group. We both were in Oliver! Tim was in a lot more community theatre shows than I was. I was also in several plays, such as Arsenic & Old Lace, The Curious Savage, You Can't Take it with You, and others. My dad cheered us on and constantly encouraged us. My parents enthusiastically joined our church choir when my brother joined, and when Tim later started directing it. I also participated.

My dad and I also enjoyed watching adventure movies together, such as Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Master and Commander, Star Wars, and others. We enjoyed discussing them.

For Tim's 30th birthday, my parents treated us to a nearly-lifelong dream of watching The Phantom of the Opera in its national tour when it came through Seattle. Years later, on my 40th birthday, they told me I could name the musical and we would go. It took nearly a year for the right musical to come through Seattle, but we went to Come from Away as a family. We couldn't know it would be the last show we would see together as a family of four.

Last month, my dad was watching football when he had a stroke. We called 911, and he was rushed to the hospital, then transferred to another one a little further away. A week and a half ago, he was put on comfort care, and we rushed to the hospital, where Tim and I both got to talk to him individually and thank him for being a truly amazing father. The next morning, he was gone. We got the call in the middle of the night and rushed back to the hospital. He had been gone nearly an hour when we arrived.

It seems unreal. Just a month ago, he was relatively healthy. Now, he's gone. It's hard to take in. The past week and a half we have been involved in arrangements and so much other stuff involved in losing him. While I'm currently doing better than I would have expected, the grief has been up and down. I'm sure it will intensify as the burial makes it more real.

My mom commented he will have a better Christmas than we will. I rest in the assurance that he is in a better place, with no more pain, completely healed. That is a big help. But I find myself "wishing [he] were somehow here again." I regularly think of a question to ask him or want to share something with him that he would enjoy, only to realize that can't happen. As of a couple weeks ago, he was the only person I had bought Christmas presents for so far.

I remember the amazing man he was, and I think of how much I took for granted when he was with us. So many times I have heard people who have lost a loved one beg their friends to treasure their loved ones while they are here. That never really sank in for me until the past few weeks. I've always appreciated him, but I do now more than ever, and I wish I could tell him.

Several songs have resonated with me in ways they haven't in the past. Josh Groban's rendition of "To Where You Are" has helped. "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. Several hymns, such as "It Is Well" (which was written by a father who had just lost his daughters in a shipwreck). The worship song "We Will Dance". My friend Clay Crosse's rendition of "Time to Believe". "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from The Phantom of the Opera. "Bring Him Home" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" from Les Mis (another cast recording my brother and I played over and over in the 80s and 90s). Multiple songs from Come from Away. "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin. "Endless Night" and "He Lives in You" from The Lion King. "All the Wasted Time" from Parade. "It's Quiet Uptown" from Hamilton. "The Honor of Your Name" from The Civil War. Multiple others.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive, even not knowing what was going on. You have been a major encouragement to us.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Biblical Precautions: Saul

Dark of night. The basket lowered slowly down the wall as its occupant silently crouched, not making a sound. He was a marked man.

Saul was in a tough situation. He had been on his way to Damascus on a mission to arrest the followers of the recently-crucified Jesus, and following the subsequent public execution of Stephen. As a devoted Pharisee, he was notorious for his ongoing efforts to persecute and martyr the followers of Christ. He was determined to arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem for prosecution and execution. But all that changed on the road in a blinding flash of light when Jesus spoke to him and turned his life around. Instead of arresting followers of The Way (as it was called at the time), he was led into Damascus, blind, having been told to await further instructions at the house of Judas on Straight Street.

The basket creaked as it lowered further. He recalled more about this strange adventure.

Three days had passed since his arrival in Damascus. He had been blind and had not eaten anything, opting instead to fast and pray. He heard a man approaching and felt hands on his shoulders. "Brother Saul," said a voice, "the Lord - Jesus, who you saw on the road to Damascus - has sent me to you so that you can see and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Something like scales fell off his eyes and he looked into the face of Ananias, a follower of Christ who had been sent to him for this purpose. He got up and was baptized, and then he got some food.

As the days passed, the Jews and the followers of The Way were thunderstruck to find a man they knew had come to arrest them, instead boldly proclaiming in the city streets and proving that Jesus was the promised Messiah. This was the polar opposite of the mission he had so recently been pursuing and enforcing. As news got out, the Jews in Damascus smelled a turncoat and started watching the city gate day and night to make sure he couldn't leave before they could arrest and kill him. But Saul got wind of the plot, and he and his new friends came up with a plan. There was a hole in the city wall. They took a large basket and he got in it. They let it out through the hole and slowly lowered him in it with ropes.

The basket reached the ground. Stealthily, he moved away from the wall, avoiding the city gates, and returned to Jerusalem. 

Saul's life was saved due to precautions that he had to take. He would encounter similar shock from the followers of The Way in Jerusalem, but Barnabas would stick up for him. He would debate with the Hellenistic Jews, who also tried to kill him. The followers of The Way in Jerusalem took him to Antioch, and from there sent him on to his hometown of Tarsus. Barnabas would later go to Tarsus to find Saul. They would then spend a year ministering in Antioch, and Saul, also known as Paul, would go on to travel around the Mediterranean area spreading the Gospel.

Paul's life was saved because he took precautions. God protected him, but he also had to take action. Without those precautions, we would not have a large portion of the New Testament, and the beginnings of the Christian Church would have been very different.

We need to have faith. Faith allows us to boldly proclaim the Good News. Faith in God's love and protection has been a major factor down through the years in propelling the growth of the Church. But precautions are also necessary.

How many lives would be saved today for lifesaving work in the future if we would just take precautions during this pandemic? Compared to the precautions Paul had to take, we are being asked so little. Just a mask and a poke. If Paul had boldly left Damascus through the gate, he would have become a martyr before the bulk of his ministry even began. Similarly, we must eschew the idea that wearing masks and getting the vaccine shows a lack of faith. We have a mission to save lives, and we must not just assume God will miraculously protect us from our own folly. He can easily do so, but that is not how He operates every time.

Saint Paul, painting by Rembrandt, c. 1657

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Bespectacled Captain America

This Independence Day, I have been pondering a bespectacled Captain America.

He is known for several things, but wearing glasses is not generally one of them (aside from one scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier). However, I think the idea of him wearing glasses is a great analogy that we need to consider. In some ways, Cap has become a symbol of our nation. He is my favorite superhero. I love how he stands for what is right, sometimes even when it flies in the face of what the authorities and respected officials say. (This goes both for Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson.)

I think many Americans throughout our history have looked at our nation through red-white-and-blue-colored glasses, seeing the ideal and missing the multiple serious issues. America needs to scrap the idealized fake glasses and adjust their prescription so we can see the very real needs we have ignored (or actively perpetuated) for far too long. Every one of us needs to get glasses. In this case I don't mean that literally (though my feelings on that are a subject for another time).

Our Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Lincoln pointed out in the Gettysburg Address that our nation was "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Yet, throughout our history, we have done a horrible job of treating others with the equality we claim to value. 

Too many Americans, rather than emulating Steve Rogers, have instead emulated John Walker. In the name of freedom, we have abused, enslaved and murdered our black brothers and sisters, at times in horrifyingly graphic and inhuman ways. We have committed genocide against countless Native men, women and children. We put our own citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps. We look at Hitler as an example of the evil of genocidal tendencies, and forget that in some cases we are just as guilty. Attacks against Asians have been on the rise. Our LGBTQ community has suffered terrible abuse, discrimination and murder. Antisemitism has been a huge problem here. The same nation that proclaims on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" has arrested, detained, put in cages, and done worse to those immigrants we claim to welcome. Families have been torn apart at the border. We have done a horrible job in the way we treat the homeless. So many thousands in our nation have died because too many Americans didn't take the COVID crisis seriously, and in many cases still refuse to get vaccinated. Shootings continue and we don't do nearly enough to stop them because our guns are too precious to us. We skip the "well-regulated" part of the 2nd Amendment and go straight to the "shall not be infringed" part. Lethal conspiracy theories such as QAnon and Plandemic continue to spread. Even some people who are awake to these horrifying facts and are fighting them lump all police into one harmful "all cops are b******s" stereotype. (I understand that a profession is a choice while being a specific race isn't.) The police urgently need reform because many of them are responsible for some of the above atrocities, but lumping every last one of them all into one group of "b*******s" is not helpful and has led to grievous harm against the police. There are so many more examples with countless groups of people. This hasn't even scratched the surface.

Too long we have neglected to adjust our prescription and have succumbed to harmful stereotypes and feelings of superiority. We all need to examine ourselves daily and consider whether we are part of the problem. Once we do that, we can start becoming part of the solution. I know I am guilty of racist and other discriminatory thoughts and actions at times, and I am working on changing that. I have learned so much from respected friends and research and am striving to become a more loving, accepting and welcoming person.

ALL HUMANS ARE CREATED EQUAL. Not just the white humans. Not just the straight humans. Not just the male humans. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN IS EQUAL AND DESERVES RESPECT AND LOVE.

The implications don't stop there. Equality is just one of many areas where we need improved vision to see clearly. However, if I go into all of them, this would be a very long blog post.

Without help, we all have fuzzy vision. Get glasses. Make sure your prescription is accurate. Wear them and never take them off. Biases and many other problems can't be cured by laser surgery. They need to be tackled head on daily in the heart of every human, and we can't afford to let our guard down. Listen to each other. Love.