Victimae Paschali Laudes

(This is a little note I posted on social media Easter 2011. Without going into the details, 2011 was one of the most difficult years of my life. Only the passing of my dad in 2016 surpasses it for shear grief and struggle. But even in the tough times, God is faithful – He gives hope – and is to be praised.)

I picked up the lamb for Easter yesterday, and I’m going to pull fresh herbs today and start working on the rub for it. I also got some Easter bread from Nabeel’s Market. It came with plastic eggs to put in it, but we’ll be boiling real ones for it. (By the way, yellow onion skins make an amazing and dark red dye for the eggs.) There will be more Easter goodies for Sunday. The family is coming to the house to celebrate. All this is heritage and tradition and celebration, but it’s meaningless without first of all acknowledging the true and resurrected Passover Lamb. Without Him, all else is meaningless.

The hymn Victimae Paschali Laudes, which is almost a thousand years old, presents the simple yet profound faith of believers from the first century to the twenty-first, a faith based on one person, fully man and yet fully God, who was crucified, raised from the dead, and who will one day return to judge both living and dead. Without Him, there is no hope, but through Him, and through Him alone, we have hope – we have access to the Father. To Him be praise forever.

Latin Text:

Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria,
quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Angelicos testes,
sudarium, et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
tu nobis, victor Rex,
miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.

English Translation:

May you praise the Paschal Victim,
immolated for Christians.
The Lamb redeemed the sheep:
Christ, the innocent one,
has reconciled sinners to the Father.
A wonderful duel to behold,
as death and life struggle:
The Prince of life dead,
now reigns alive.
Tell us, Mary Magdalen,
what did you see in the way?
I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ,
and I saw the glory of the Resurrected one:
The Angelic witnesses,
the winding cloth, and His garments.
The risen Christ is my hope:
He will go before His own into Galilee.
We know Christ to have risen
truly from the dead:
And thou, victorious King,
have mercy on us.
Amen. Alleluia.

Peter Frampton is Bald!

(from June 28, 2011)

I’m sitting on my front porch and gently rocking in my porch swing. I should be grading papers, and I’ll get back to that shortly. But it is just so nice outside right now. It rained today and cooled things off. So it’s nice out here with the tree frogs and crickets serenading me. (Sorry, I waxed a bit sappy and poetic there.) Yeah, my front yard needs cutting, but it’s not that bad. I’ll get to it by the weekend. From here I can see the herb and flower garden in the front of the house. It’s looking good. It’s nice and green with a splash of colors from the flowers and has plenty of mulch, so it won’t require too much weeding as the summer progresses. I can see the new American flag I got over the Father’s Day weekend. It looks good hanging there, and if you’ll allow me a moment, I want to thank all the men and women past and present who served under it and who kept and continue to keep me safe to sit on my front porch.

Now, to some of my younger friends and students, it might seem odd to celebrate sitting on a front porch swing. But in reality, there’s a lot of peace that comes along with owning a front porch and a swing to go on it. My kids are nearby playing and are safe and healthy. In fact, I just got back from the doctor today for a checkup for Nick. You know, they say that when you have your health, you have everything. Well, I think when you know your kids are safe and healthy, that’s actually closer to having everything.

Sure, I have problems; we all do. Some of you know mine more intimately than others. But I have many, many blessings more blessings than problems, and I should count them more often. One, two, three, there’s another one and another one… Seriously, there’s a lot of good and love in my life. I have lots of family and friends who love me, and thanks to social media I get to trade messages with family and friends down the block or across the country or even on the other side of the globe. I really do have lots of things to be thankful for.

You know, I just thought of one more before I close. I have hair and Peter Frampton is bald! Have you guys seen him in those Geico commercials? For those too young to recall, the man had lots of hair “back in the day.” And now, well, not so much. Yes, I really do have lots to be thankful for.

Eternity Began Tonight (from August 16, 2009)

It was so special tonight seeing my babies baptized. Nick was funny. He’d listened to Pastor Rick and my dad about locking one arm with the other hand and holding his nose. He walked up to the baptistery in this position. In fact, we could hardly get him in the water because of the pose. I wanted to roll. Olivia was nervous. She told her mom something about being so nervous that she wasn’t sure she could walk to the baptistery. But they both made it into the water, down, and up again. It was precious and humorous, but it was more than that.

Baring Christ return, at some point we will be separated from each other, but it will be temporary because of Christ death, burial, and resurrection that we were portraying in the baptismal experience. We will never be separated from Christ. He will never leave or forsake us but will go with us all the way.
During praise and worship, somehow it was different tonight. I sensed Christ in such a unique way. He was Savior – from the foundation – for me. I knew I would see Him someday, that I would, indeed, be in His presence. My children had accepted Him as Savior. We would be together in His presence forever. My dad had baptized them. As a family we would enjoy His presence forever. These are things that I knew, and had known, but had never put them in the same context. It wasn’t abstract. It was real. In reality, eternity had begun already.

We sang a Hillsong chorus “Worthy is the Lamb.” There’s a line in it that always moves me, but more so tonight. The Son, very God of very God, eternally existing with and eternally loved by the Father, was the “Darling of Heaven.” He was loved above all by the Father, but He came and the Father allowed Him to be abused and hurt and maligned and so debased that I don’t have the words. He, in the form of sinful man, could have with a whisper ended it all; instead He suffered the pain and indignity for my babies, for my dad, for me, for whosoever will.

How could I not bow and love Him, worshipping at His feet? How could I avoid those eyes of love? Why would I?

God “ain’t” through until He says so.

God “ain’t” through until He says so. Society can tell you that you’re finished. Your family can tell you that you don’t matter. Your body might even tell you, no. But don’t listen to anyone except the One who called you according to His purpose.

Gideon was from the small tribe of Manasseh. His family was poor, and he was the least among them. Yet he became an innovative military leader and delivered Israel.

David’s father didn’t even think enough of him to call him in from the field, yet the prophet could not crown a king of Israel until the least in the family was presented to him.

Joseph’s brothers threw him out, expecting never to see him again. But God exalted him to power and through him saved the family that had discounted and discarded him.

Abraham and Sarah became the parents to the child of promise when they were well beyond the age when their bodies should have allowed them to become parents. But God’s Spirit made alive that which was dead in the flesh and gave them a son and made them the ancestors of Messiah.

Don’t count yourself out when God hasn’t.

I have somewhat against thee.

2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Rev 2:1-5, KJV)

I almost began with we, but I should speak only for myself and say I. So…

I can be guilty of doing all the right things, of being orthodox in my beliefs and correct in my values, of even being passionate about doing the right things and “contending for the faith,” but at the same time forget to be passionate, not just about my faith, but about the one who is the “Author and Finisher of my faith.”

Now, since I am passionate about truth, I acknowledge that this passage is addressed to a church, not just an individual believer, so I won’t address the warning of removing the candlestick, whether this can be applied to an individual’s salvation in the same way it can to a corporate body of believers. What I will say is that I am guilty and need to repent, to turn around, and draw closer to the one that has promised to in return draw close to me. Father, forgive me. Holy Spirit, teach me. Savior, help me walk with you daily, whether into battle or beside the still waters. I crave your fellowship. I love you, Lord, my first love.

I know that sometimes public declarations of private passion are saccharin or self-serving. Well, I’m running the risk because confession is good for the soul – my soul.

I’m proud of you.

As I wrapped up my evening ritual with my kids – prayer and a little conversation, I began to think about my own dad and my relationship with him. I always knew he was proud of me because he told me, even after I was an adult. I always knew he loved me because he told me and showed me. Other than God and my mother, I knew that my sister, my brother, and I were the most important thing in his life, that is until his grandkids bumped us to fourth place. How do I know? He said so.

It was not until I was an adult that I realized what a rare thing this was. Too many kids never heard their dad say “I love you. I’m proud of you.” Too many preachers’ kids felt like church was priority over them in their dads’ heart. And as adults they still struggle with this. I was blessed beyond measure to have Bucky Rizzo as my dad. I pray I walk faithfully in his shoes.

So, to my kids, I love you and am so proud of you and want you to know this. And someday grandkids will bump you down a notch……. but that just better not be anytime soon.

Good night.

I grew up smelling printer’s ink.

The kids and I went to Birmingham tonight and stopped at some bookstores, which is one of our favorite things to do. Yes, I know. We’re geeks. Anyway, after we got home Nick was on the couch reading his new book. He sniffed it and said, “I love the smell of books.”

I relied, “Yes, that’s printer’s ink. I grew up smelling it.”

And I did. I don’t mean I grew up sniffing books. I mean I grew up smelling printer’s ink. I still know the smell. Most print shops have gone to copiers. But I can walk into a shop and tell when they’re still using the real thing. I inevitably strike up a conversation. Are they running an offset press? Is it an A.B. Dick maybe?  I grew up hearing these presses seeing them and smelling them and for a short time running them, which isn’t as essay as it might sound. In fact, running an offset press is as much art as it is science. In the good old days you’d have to set type, shoot a negative, burn a plate, put it on the press, ink the rollers and keep the ink and water balanced and plate clean. Today, not so much. Things go straight from the computer screen to a copier most of the time. It’s more efficient, but not nearly as romantic.

So just why do I know so much about printing? Well, because my daddy was a preacher.

No, he didn’t print Bibles.

Prior to becoming a minister or even a Christian for that matter, my father had a profession as a printer. And he was pretty good at it. Even years after he was no longer a printer, he could pick up a paper that had been printed using three-color separation and immediately see if it was even the slightest bit out of register, even without using his printer’s loupe, a special magnifying glass used by printers. (There’s a story for another day about how he made me learn the language of the industry.)  

So, back to my dad being a preacher. My dad began pastoring when I was about five years old. He pastored several small congregations, which meant they didn’t pay a salary. The Bible tells us that a person who will not provide for his own family is worse than an infidel, so of course he continued working as a printer to provide for us. But in addition to the paycheck dad used to feed and house and clothe us, there were perks. We had notepads made from scrap paper and coloring sheets of overruns on jobs, and all kinds of paper strips of different sizes and colors and textures. While this might not sound like much, to a six-year old and his four-year old sister, it was a treasure trove!  

Even after he began pastoring churches that provided a more stable income, Dad earned side income for the extra his kids needed. Paul the Apostle made tents to provide for his companions and himself. Dad printed for the same reason. Printing was the primary side job he worked, though he held others through the years, such gas station attendant, house painter, and anything else he could to earn additional income.   

But it was mostly printing that was his go-to.

In addition to believing he should provide for his family, Dad also believed in being with his family. And if he couldn’t be with his family because he had to work, then he had his family with him at work when he could. More often than not, his part-time printing work was after normal business hours, so he could take us along with him. My mom, my sister, and even my grandmother, and I often accompanied him to his overnight shift. We got to experience many different office complexes and print shops through the years. This might sound odd to some. But Dad wanted us around, always, and we knew it – we felt it. It was nice then. The memoires of nights sleeping on the floor on pallets made from oversized shipping boxes, surrounded by art work and proofs hanging on the walls, listening to the clicking pulse of the press in the background lulling us to sleep, and smelling printer’s ink permeating the air – these memoirs are priceless.

Later in life when I was struggling to make ends meet as a musician, Dad taught me how to print. For several years, I paid my bills with my dad’s skills. But I never was the master of the press my dad was. Still, I learned a lot from him, a little about printing but much more about how to be a man and how to be a dad. You do what you have to do. You work extra and late.  But you also go to games and marching contests.  You show up for band booster and PTO meetings. You make sure your kids know you love them and want them with you and you want to be with them!

So now when I smell printer’s ink, for just a moment I’m a kid again and my dad is there, working late into the night to take care of me.  And most of all I know he wants me with him.

My dad passed March 2016. Christmas 2015, he gathered all of us around him – my mom, my sister, my brother, his five grandkids, and me, and told us one more time – in fact, one last time – that he wanted us with him. But he didn’t mean he wanted us there at Christmas with him. Dad knew his time on this earth was short. Where he really wanted us with him was in eternity. He emphasized that the only way to do that was by repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus as our Savior.

Three months later dad left us for a place prepared for him by his Savior.

Just like my dad always prepared a place for us to be with him, Jesus has done the same, not just for Dad, but anyone who will accept Him. I don’t know if Heaven will smell like printer’s ink, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Why don’t you make plans to go with me and let’s find out?

Cole Veggies

When I get in bed late, I always wake up early for some unknown, perverted reason. When this happens I begin to ponder – or maybe it is a sleep-deprived delirium. Anyway, this morning I happened to be contemplating the recent events in the Catholic Church, and my mind slipped toward my music students. In discussions of Western music history of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, much of which involves music of the Catholic Church, I rattle off the Ordinary of the Mass or translate a Latin sequence (the same ones every semester). Because I know these things, my students immediately assume I’m Catholic. I’m not. But that has me thinking. If I were teaching botany or agri-science and listed the Cole veggies, would my students think I am cabbage?

Self Improvement

(Be sure to read all the way to the end.) 

Self-improvement through personal introspection with personalized support is very important, especially if we want to be successful in this high-pace world we live in. Personal improvement is an investment in yourself. But it’s not selfish because if you improve yourself you can improve the world around you for the people around you. The better you are, the better you can serve. 

But to improve, you have to diagnose and identify areas, not even necessarily of weakness, but areas where you can grow and stretch. No one knows you better than you know yourself. Take the time to reflect on who you are as well as who you want to be. Then make an action plan to move from the person you are to the person you want to be. 

An action plan is just that, a plan of action. But it has to be specific and concrete. You can’t just say I’m going to get more exercise daily or spend more time reading. I’m going to walk 2 miles every other day. I’m going to read a chapter of the Bible in the morning – every morning. Make it realistic, but make it concrete because if it is realistic you can achieve it and if it is concrete you can measure the achievement.

Lastly, remember you cannot do it alone. What is the quote, no one is an island? You need folks around you who will hold you accountable when you let down but who will also hold you up. Confide in someone. Let a select few know what you are trying to accomplish. Let them help you get there.

I truly believe in this. In fact, I believe in it so much I’m willing to put myself out there and be one of those people to help you. I don’t want to just talk the talk.  I’m going to walk the walk. So let me help you. Send me a private message about what you want to accomplish. In return, I will send you my mailing address. Drop $100 cash in an envelope and mail it to me. Then for the next year, one time per month, I will send you a private message of encouragement, and when you have accomplished your goal I will stick $10 back in an envelope and send it to you as a reward for a job well done! (For those who are not sure, this part is humor.)

Now get moving. We can do this together!