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O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud-
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to the wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, ‘I burn.’
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use Language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end
And steadfast as Keats’ here unto,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

~ Robert Frost

Finally, the long hail of the holidays is over.

Yesterday morning was a swirl of activity:

  • packing last minute things for the nephews
  • drying clothes for the nephews that were still damp
  • dealing with an upset son lost his portable DVD privileges to and from Indiana because he chose not to clean up share of the bedroom for three days
  • getting breakfast ready for 4
  • dealing with an upset Andrew because he chose to stay upstairs and play rather than eat his breakfast – which Jon heartily ate
  • herding four people through showers (Jon took his the previous evening)
  • loading the car
  • sending notes to students reminding them about lessons resuming Monday
  • leaving a note for Brody who would be retrieving his dog, Marcus, and taking Flyer out to potty
  • discovering my clothes were wrinkled just before I stepped into the shower

…and all this before we left at 9:45am for church!

The attendance was slim at church… to be expected the morning after New Year’s Eve. The service began with the organist playing a prelude, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Though I can usually keep my emotions in check, this morning I could not. I had known that “Holy, Holy, Holy” was my grandfather’s favorite song and had played it at his funeral. Some of the familiar old hymns will strike an emotional chord with me, reminding me of those in our family who are no longer with us. This morning my mind began playing a slide show of those beloved faces: Grandma Donna, Grandpa Leroy, Uncle Ron, Rick, great-grandparents, other uncles and aunts, cousins, teachers, dear family friends… although it was only a brief moment, it seemed as though the angels were greeting me, reminding me that they still hover near, watching over us.

I was very apprehensive about Jonathan sitting through an entire service – but he mastered it well. The only time he was restless was during communion. I let Matthew and Jose go first while I sat with Andrew and Jonathan. Andrew was pissed because he could not go up with Jose and Adam, and then Jon saw Pastor Monte handing something to Matt and Jose to eat! Thursday following the movie, Monte, Adam, Jose, Jonathan, Andrew and I went to Burger King. While I was waiting on our order, Jonathan began plowing through Monte’s French fries. At communion, Jonathan became anxious and kept saying, “Monte – French fries! Monte – French fries!” Despite this hilarious moment, the service with the nephews went smoothly.

We left immediately after church and arrived in Elwood in two hours. Dena had prepared a wonderful dinner of pork, fried cabbage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls. Before dinner at 3:00pm, I took a brief 45 minute nap – much needed. After dinner we all sat and talked, and laughed, as always. We left for Mother’s to pick up the Christmas gifts we could not bring back with us since we had Jon and Andrew’s suitcases – and by 6:30pm we were on the road for Ohio, the last journey of the 2005 holiday season. It was, in many ways, a longer season for me as it seemed as though I had more “fun” things for myself this year, especially where friends were concerned.

The sermon yesterday was adjusted to incorporate the Epiphany – the visit of the wise men or kings. I have always enjoyed some of the undiscussed history or theory behind this particular story, and the sermon touched upon some of this, especially with the discussion of astrology. Some denominations discourage astrology, and I always found this peculiar for the men of old relied upon the heavens for information – and we still do, today.

My grandmother, every time she saw a bright red morning sky would repeat, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” My great-grandfathers and uncles, who were farmers, always relied on the sky to guide them, as well as Old Farmer’s Almanac. As a child I can remember watching Disney’s Pinocchio and hoping that each star I too could wish upon a star. The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Little Drummer Boy were movies that featured the Bethlehem star that always appealed to my imagination.

As I grew older, the thoughts of wishing on stars or paying attention to the moon were replaced with teenage logic until about 1986. A former professor left Ball State University for a position as music coordinator for the school district of Frederick, Maryland, and was recruiting band and choir directors from BSU. I was offered a choral position and was wrestling with the decision whether or not to leave Indiana. The director of the Ball State Singers, Fritz Mountford, sat me down and said, “When there is a full moon, go out to some dark area where there are no street lights and look up at the full moon. Then look down around you. If the moon’s light is shining all around you, you are where you are supposed to be. If there is no moon light, it is probably shining some where else – and you need to find it because that is where you are supposed to be. It may be shining on palm trees on a beach – if so, that’s where you need to be.”

I had stepped before the moon a number of times throughout the years.

In the late 1980’s I had the pleasure of meeting the famed Broadway and motion picture actress, Julie Harris, a four-time Tony Award winner. I was in the beginning stages of writing Love Is Eternal, a musical on Mary Todd Lincoln and had contacted a BSU grad, James Priddeaux who wrote the Tony Award winning play, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln. He wanted me to meet Julie Harris who had portrayed Mrs. Lincoln in his play on Broadway and set up a meeting with her in Indianapolis when she was traveling through in Driving Miss Daisy. Mr. Priddeaux had it set up for me to meet with Ms. Harris in her dressing room.

I stepped into her dressing room and she immediately rose, curtsied and offered her hand. Her voice was velvety, with a very gentle, refined Southern drawl – unlike her portrayal of Daisy Worthen a few minutes before. The entire interview was 20 minutes and quite enchanting. At one point she said, “The only thing I regret about portraying the widowed Mrs. Lincoln is that I could not play her opposite Hal Holbrook’s President Lincoln. That would have been the joy of my career!” In the early 1970’s there was a string of mini-series on Lincoln with Hal Holbrook doing a marvelous job as Lincoln, and the incredible Sada Thompson as Mary Lincoln. Ms. Thompson, a tremendous actress of stage and screen, was popularly known as “Kate,” the mother in the television series, Family.

The next fall, Hal Holbrook arrived at Ball State to perform An Evening With Mark Twain. I was requested to escort Mr. Holbrook around campus and to attend to anything he needed. After a performance, we went to Greek’s pizzeria in the Village. As we were eating, I told Mr. Holbrook what Ms. Harris had said about him. He laid down his slice of pizza and a tear trickled down his cheek, “But Julie Harris is a star!”

I could not even digest what he was saying! I was sitting across from a stage and screen star who was not even admitting he was one!

It was at this point in my life that I learned a valuable lesson. A true star never allows the spotlight to remain on them. Like a star in the heavens, a real star allows their own light to shine outward, illuminating the world around them. I realized that my own life’s mission would not be to follow stars, looking for life’s rewards; instead, I would be a star to let my own light shine as a teacher, a leader and a father.

As we were leaving, Pastor Monte hurried over to bid us a safe trip and said, “Don’t get distracted looking for stars.”

Sometimes, it is hard for each of us to not get distracted following stars – but I do try my best.

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January 2006
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