Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

At the Cross

             Last week was the final concert for the 2013-14 season provided by the Ripon Arts League (RAL). It has been my good fortune to be a board member of this organization for the past 14 years.

         Each year we provide five monthly concerts beginning in September and ending in March. We intentionally skip December and January due to the hectic pace of that time period for many people each year. For the first 20 years of the RAL’s existence the Program Director was Joe O’Leary, a well-known and respected educator in our community. After Joe retired the position of Program Director was passed to Leo Zuber, an equally well-known and respected educator. The Program Committee selects an eclectic array of performers each year, attempting to appeal to a variety of musical tastes. To attend the five concerts, you only pay an annual membership fee of $30.00. You can’t beat that deal!

So last Tuesday night we played host to pianist Richard Glazier. Mr. Glazier sat at the piano sharing a variety of songs from the past, his expertise being the music of George and Ira Gershwin. He’s only in his early fifties, but he has managed to meet some of the greats in the world of Broadway and Hollywood. Some of the writers and composers he highlighted with his playing were “Where or When” by Richard Rogers, “So in Love” by Cole Porter, “My Fair Lady” by the musical duo of (Alan J.) Lerner & (Fredrick) Lowe, and of course numerous tunes from the Gershwin’s, such as “Swanee,” “Bess You is My Woman,” and “Embraceable You.” In between songs he would share stories, anecdotes, and personal encounters he had with many of the legends of song and dance.

One particularly fascinating person he had the opportunity to meet and befriend was Camilla Williams. Ms. Williams was perhaps the finest opera singer of her era if not of all time. Her musical career began in the 1940s when she became instrumental in breaking the color barrier for opera. “After studying with renowned teachers in New York City, she was the first African American to receive a regular contract with a major American opera company, the New York City Opera.”

Ms. Williams was born and raised in Virginia where her father was a chauffeur. Faith played a significant part in her life as she reveals in this comment. "My grandparents and parents were self-taught musicians; all of them sang, and there was always music in our home." Camilla's grandfather, Alexander Carey, was a choir leader and singer. "All my people sing. We were poor, but God blessed us with music." By the age of eight, Camilla was dancing, playing the piano, and singing at school and Danville's (Virginia) Calvary Baptist Church.”

Richard Glazier shared a cute exchange he had with Ms. Williams when they were discussing racial issues and those who hate another person based solely on their skin color. Ms. Williams said, in her soft southern voice, “Honey, bless your enemies, and leave ‘em at the foot of the Cross!”

No doubt this comment brought a smile to your face. But think about it! Those people in life that are your enemies may get under your skin, and cause you constant irritation. But as I once heard, when you allow someone to bug you like that, you have allowed them to take residence in your heart and mind rent free!

The Bible once again shows the wisdom of God’s Word. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had these poignant remarks concerning how to best treat those who are enemies.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Camilla Williams left this life for the glories of heaven in 2012, but she obviously had this matter of dealing with your enemies figured out well before hand. And, in her own unique way, she graciously shared it with others.

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