Another Triumphal Procession

woody zimmermann 120As a change of pace for the Lenten Season, here’s a reprint of an earlier column-entry.

Palm Sunday – occurring on March 29 this year – always reminds me of a story I heard in a radio interview, during the 1990s, when we lived in New Jersey. The narrator had witnessed the events. He didn’t name the college or the year, so I can’t verify his account. But I have related it approximately as he told it.

Some have called this an “urban legend” – a myth whose frequent retelling gives it a patina of truth – but I disagree. There is too much about this account that rings true. The reader will judge for himself.

+++++++

My college chemistry prof was Dr. Harris (as I’ll call him). He was a good chem teacher, but an extremely cynical man who was hostile to all religion – particularly Christianity. He liked to ridicule any students who seemed religious. Girls wearing the cross as jewelry were often targets of his sarcasm. Ditto for any wearing the Star of David. They learned not to wear such symbols to his class. No one would have dreamed of answering back to the prof on “the religion thing.”

Part of Dr. Harris’s shtick was an annual classroom demonstration he called “God is Dead,” or “God is Powerless.” He would fill an Ehrlenmeyer flask – the kind with a narrow neck and wide bottom – with water and hold it aloft before the class. Then he would invite any “believers” to come forward and pray for the flask’s deliverance when he dropped it. No one in living memory had ever taken the challenge. Of course, the flask would smash to shivers when he let it go.

Prof Harris obviously thought this was intellectual high comedy. The class would laugh at his wisecracks about the stupidity of belief, and religion being a “social opiate” (something Lenin and Marx said, I believe). We would then move on to the day’s lessons.

One guy in our class was different. He seemed like a country boy – unhip and plain-spoken, not cynical and profane as we were. Joe was always genial and pleasant, but my crowd didn’t hang out with him. He was not really our kind of guy. We knew he read the Bible every day.

The whole campus knew the “God is Dead” show was coming up in Prof Harris’s class. I saw no indications of anything unusual, being too busy watching the girls in our class, but a couple of my buddies later said Joe looked “intense” as we filed into class on Der Tag.

When Dr. Harris held up the flask and asked if anyone wanted to pray for its survival, Joe stood up. Obviously surprised, the prof simply gestured for Joe to come forward. We were all shocked. A hush fell over the class. The comedy had gone completely out of the shtick.

Joe closed his eyes and said a simple, one-sentence prayer in a firm voice – not dramatic or contrived, as I had heard some ministers pray. He seemed to be talking directly to an important person he knew. To me – not really a believer in much of anything at the time – his words seemed like the sudden flare of a match in a dark place. Goose-bumps arose on my arms and neck. A palpable presence was there. In retrospect, I believe it was God’s Spirit.

“Lord of the universe, Maker of heaven and earth and everything in it,” Joe prayed, “I ask you to show this wicked and ignorant man the power of the Living God.”

When Joe finished, the class was very, very still – as if holding its breath – and Dr. Harris had a most peculiar look on his face. Without a word he let go of the flask.

But the whole process of Joe standing up, coming forward and praying had taken just enough time so that the neck of the flask must have stuck slightly to the prof’s thumb, as can happen with a glass container. So instead of falling straight down, the flask flipped toward him, hit his knee, and fell onto his shoe. It rolled, intact, onto the floor and the water began to spill out.

What happened next was even more incredible. There was what I would call an “electric moment.” Then, a great cheer went up from the class. Laughing and yelling, we surged forward and surrounded Joe. Guys who had barely spoken to him in the past clapped him on the back and tousled his hair. Some girls were crying. Others embraced Joe and kissed him. It was like nothing I had ever seen – not like celebrating a football win, but joyous and very personal. Later, when I knew a little of the Bible, I thought the raising of Lazarus must have been a similar scene.

An irresistible procession then lifted Joe aloft and carried him out into the quadrangle amid more cheering and lusty singing. Heads popped out of windows around the quad, and soon scores of people joined the celebration, which lasted for hours. It was probably the closest thing to a revival that college has ever seen.

In the wake of the Miracle of the Flask, Dr. Harris was much subdued about the campus. He never repeated the “God is Dead” demonstration, and he seemed to have lost all interest in taunting Christians. Eventually, he moved on to another school.

Joe seemed puzzled by all the hoopla. Once, I heard him insist that he hadn’t really done anything. But one of his buddies said, “You did do something, Joe. You believed. And you stood up when God needed someone to stand up.”

Gradually, the event faded away. We went on with our lives and careers. Wags joked that Prof Harris probably smashed the offending flask to prevent its becoming a religious “relic,” and cynics later said the “celebration” was just college kids skipping class and horsing around.

Maybe so. But we who witnessed the actual events had a distinct sense that we were celebrating our liberation from whatever dark spirit had been haunting Dr. Harris and, by extension, ourselves. Later, convicted by Scripture, I became a Believer, too. I came to understand what the God of the Flask, as I sometimes called Him, was capable of.

For that brief time, Joe was God’s Man on an obscure college campus that needed to be freed by God’s power. And we saw something of what the Triumphal Procession of Jesus might have been like. I doubt if any witnesses, including Dr. Harris, ever forgot it.

Every Palm Sunday it all comes back to me. In my mind’s eye I see Joe standing there. A match flares up suddenly in the darkness. Water spills from a flask. And students dance and laugh and sing and weep because they felt the Breath of the Lord as He passed by…

Another Triumphal Procession

woody zimmermann 120As a change of pace for the Lenten Season, here’s a reprint of an earlier column-entry.

Palm Sunday – occurring on March 29 this year – always reminds me of a story I heard in a radio interview, during the 1990s, when we lived in New Jersey. The narrator had witnessed the events. He didn’t name the college or the year, so I can’t verify his account. But I have related it approximately as he told it.

Some have called this an “urban legend” – a myth whose frequent retelling gives it a patina of truth – but I disagree. There is too much about this account that rings true. The reader will judge for himself.

+++++++

My college chemistry prof was Dr. Harris (as I’ll call him). He was a good chem teacher, but an extremely cynical man who was hostile to all religion – particularly Christianity. He liked to ridicule any students who seemed religious. Girls wearing the cross as jewelry were often targets of his sarcasm. Ditto for any wearing the Star of David. They learned not to wear such symbols to his class. No one would have dreamed of answering back to the prof on “the religion thing.”

Part of Dr. Harris’s shtick was an annual classroom demonstration he called “God is Dead,” or “God is Powerless.” He would fill an Ehrlenmeyer flask – the kind with a narrow neck and wide bottom – with water and hold it aloft before the class. Then he would invite any “believers” to come forward and pray for the flask’s deliverance when he dropped it. No one in living memory had ever taken the challenge. Of course, the flask would smash to shivers when he let it go.

Prof Harris obviously thought this was intellectual high comedy. The class would laugh at his wisecracks about the stupidity of belief, and religion being a “social opiate” (something Lenin and Marx said, I believe). We would then move on to the day’s lessons.

One guy in our class was different. He seemed like a country boy – unhip and plain-spoken, not cynical and profane as we were. Joe was always genial and pleasant, but my crowd didn’t hang out with him. He was not really our kind of guy. We knew he read the Bible every day.

The whole campus knew the “God is Dead” show was coming up in Prof Harris’s class. I saw no indications of anything unusual, being too busy watching the girls in our class, but a couple of my buddies later said Joe looked “intense” as we filed into class on Der Tag.

When Dr. Harris held up the flask and asked if anyone wanted to pray for its survival, Joe stood up. Obviously surprised, the prof simply gestured for Joe to come forward. We were all shocked. A hush fell over the class. The comedy had gone completely out of the shtick.

Joe closed his eyes and said a simple, one-sentence prayer in a firm voice – not dramatic or contrived, as I had heard some ministers pray. He seemed to be talking directly to an important person he knew. To me – not really a believer in much of anything at the time – his words seemed like the sudden flare of a match in a dark place. Goose-bumps arose on my arms and neck. A palpable presence was there. In retrospect, I believe it was God’s Spirit.

“Lord of the universe, Maker of heaven and earth and everything in it,” Joe prayed, “I ask you to show this wicked and ignorant man the power of the Living God.”

When Joe finished, the class was very, very still – as if holding its breath – and Dr. Harris had a most peculiar look on his face. Without a word he let go of the flask.

But the whole process of Joe standing up, coming forward and praying had taken just enough time so that the neck of the flask must have stuck slightly to the prof’s thumb, as can happen with a glass container. So instead of falling straight down, the flask flipped toward him, hit his knee, and fell onto his shoe. It rolled, intact, onto the floor and the water began to spill out.

What happened next was even more incredible. There was what I would call an “electric moment.” Then, a great cheer went up from the class. Laughing and yelling, we surged forward and surrounded Joe. Guys who had barely spoken to him in the past clapped him on the back and tousled his hair. Some girls were crying. Others embraced Joe and kissed him. It was like nothing I had ever seen – not like celebrating a football win, but joyous and very personal. Later, when I knew a little of the Bible, I thought the raising of Lazarus must have been a similar scene.

An irresistible procession then lifted Joe aloft and carried him out into the quadrangle amid more cheering and lusty singing. Heads popped out of windows around the quad, and soon scores of people joined the celebration, which lasted for hours. It was probably the closest thing to a revival that college has ever seen.

In the wake of the Miracle of the Flask, Dr. Harris was much subdued about the campus. He never repeated the “God is Dead” demonstration, and he seemed to have lost all interest in taunting Christians. Eventually, he moved on to another school.

Joe seemed puzzled by all the hoopla. Once, I heard him insist that he hadn’t really done anything. But one of his buddies said, “You did do something, Joe. You believed. And you stood up when God needed someone to stand up.”

Gradually, the event faded away. We went on with our lives and careers. Wags joked that Prof Harris probably smashed the offending flask to prevent its becoming a religious “relic,” and cynics later said the “celebration” was just college kids skipping class and horsing around.

Maybe so. But we who witnessed the actual events had a distinct sense that we were celebrating our liberation from whatever dark spirit had been haunting Dr. Harris and, by extension, ourselves. Later, convicted by Scripture, I became a Believer, too. I came to understand what the God of the Flask, as I sometimes called Him, was capable of.

For that brief time, Joe was God’s Man on an obscure college campus that needed to be freed by God’s power. And we saw something of what the Triumphal Procession of Jesus might have been like. I doubt if any witnesses, including Dr. Harris, ever forgot it.

Every Palm Sunday it all comes back to me. In my mind’s eye I see Joe standing there. A match flares up suddenly in the darkness. Water spills from a flask. And students dance and laugh and sing and weep because they felt the Breath of the Lord as He passed by…

Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center Announces Annual Community Garden Opening

LONG BRANCH, NJ – The Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center is pleased to announce its annual Community Garden Opening  to be held on April 25th, 2015.  This event will offer families an opportunity to cultivate their own garden plot and grow healthy fruits and vegetables at no cost to them.  This free event will offer activities for families as well as a shared breakfast.   Service providers from around Monmouth County will be on hand to distribute updated information and let families know about resources available to them.  This event will take place at the  7th Avenue Community garden, located on 7th Avenue between Broadway and Joline, Long Branch, NJ, from 9:30 am—1:30 pm and is part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children,” stated Lisa Wilson, Executive Director of the Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center.  “Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development.”

All are welcome!  If you are a service provider interested in participating in this event or a community member or group who would like to volunteer, please contact Elizabeth Walter, Volunteer and Community Resource Coordinator at 732.571.167 ext. 311 or email [email protected]

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year, Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Monmouth County a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote children’s social and emotional well-being and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities. 

Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center Announces Annual Community Garden Opening

LONG BRANCH, NJ – The Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center is pleased to announce its annual Community Garden Opening  to be held on April 25th, 2015.  This event will offer families an opportunity to cultivate their own garden plot and grow healthy fruits and vegetables at no cost to them.  This free event will offer activities for families as well as a shared breakfast.   Service providers from around Monmouth County will be on hand to distribute updated information and let families know about resources available to them.  This event will take place at the  7th Avenue Community garden, located on 7th Avenue between Broadway and Joline, Long Branch, NJ, from 9:30 am—1:30 pm and is part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children,” stated Lisa Wilson, Executive Director of the Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center.  “Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development.”

All are welcome!  If you are a service provider interested in participating in this event or a community member or group who would like to volunteer, please contact Elizabeth Walter, Volunteer and Community Resource Coordinator at 732.571.167 ext. 311 or email [email protected]

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month and throughout the year, Long Branch Concordance Family Success Center encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Monmouth County a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote children’s social and emotional well-being and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities. 

Making Homes for Fish Hawks

joe reynold 120Like an old fashioned barn raising, about 15 volunteers  with the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council came together on a clear but chilly Sunday morning in late March to raise a wooden nesting platform for Ospreys, a state threatened species in New Jersey and a species of special concern in New York State. The bird is commonly called a fish hawk, because 99 percent of their diet is fresh fish and it’s the only raptor in the world that can plunge in the water up to three feet to capture a fish.

For these bundled up volunteers, the goal was not to go bird-watching, but to fix one nesting platform damaged by former storms and install a new nesting platform in the wetlands of Union Beach, NJ, a small bayside community located downstream from New York City.

fish hawks stand 2

Volunteers at times were ankle deep in mud and muck as they moved a 25-foot oak tree topped by a by a 3-by-3-foot platform to the middle of a marsh. The platform was fixed firmly, but about 300 pounds, and made from recycled wood damaged by Super-storm Sandy.

Volunteers were racing an incoming tide as they moved the heavy platform over creeks and shrubbery to the open site. Then they quickly used a post hole digger and shovels to dig a deep hole, about four feet deep.

The group installed an identical pole and platform about 200 feet away in the same marsh. It proved to be successful last year. Adult Ospreys raised a pair of juvenile Ospreys.  If you build it, they will come.

Today volunteers with the watershed council were putting up their sixth nesting platform. The goal has remained the same.  Ospreys are returning and in need of nesting platforms. Nesting platforms are critical for attracting Ospreys into new areas to spread out the distribution so they’re not all concentrated in one region.
 

fish hawks stand 3

These majestic raptors with their distinctive stick-built nests on nesting platforms depend on a healthy and abundant food supply. Since their diet consists primarily of fish, Osprey activities in the Bayshore region provide a good indication of water quality and the general health of Raritan Bay & Sandy Hook Bay.
 
Ospreys were declared endangered by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in 1974 when the number of nests plummeted to 50 from a high of 500 in 1950. The birds were elevated to threatened status in 1984 when the number of nests had more than doubled to 108. Today, there are more than 475 nesting pairs of Ospreys in New Jersey. In the Bayshore region of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, there were over 20 active Osprey nests in 2014 and they gave birth to around 23 young.  

fish hawks stand

Ospreys usually start to return to New York Harbor soon after St. Patrick’s Day from their winter home in the tropics. The need to breed is strong. The hawks often travel 100 to 200 miles a day to return to ar nest site in about 2 weeks. Typically, Osprey couples will stay together for life, returning to the same location to breed and raise a family.

It takes a lot or work and a lot of hands to raise a nesting platform in hopes of attracting another mating pair this spring. Along with volunteers from the Bayshore Watershed Council, help was given by Union Beach Department of Public Works. Everyone is now anxious to welcome a new feathered family near Raritan Bay.

For more information about the Bayshore Watershed Council and to become a member, check out their webpage at www.restoreourbay.org. Membership is free.

For more information, pictures and year-round sightings  of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay and Lower New York Bay, please check out  my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://www.natureontheedgenyc.com

Making Homes for Fish Hawks

joe reynold 120Like an old fashioned barn raising, about 15 volunteers  with the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council came together on a clear but chilly Sunday morning in late March to raise a wooden nesting platform for Ospreys, a state threatened species in New Jersey and a species of special concern in New York State. The bird is commonly called a fish hawk, because 99 percent of their diet is fresh fish and it’s the only raptor in the world that can plunge in the water up to three feet to capture a fish.

For these bundled up volunteers, the goal was not to go bird-watching, but to fix one nesting platform damaged by former storms and install a new nesting platform in the wetlands of Union Beach, NJ, a small bayside community located downstream from New York City.

fish hawks stand 2

Volunteers at times were ankle deep in mud and muck as they moved a 25-foot oak tree topped by a by a 3-by-3-foot platform to the middle of a marsh. The platform was fixed firmly, but about 300 pounds, and made from recycled wood damaged by Super-storm Sandy.

Volunteers were racing an incoming tide as they moved the heavy platform over creeks and shrubbery to the open site. Then they quickly used a post hole digger and shovels to dig a deep hole, about four feet deep.

The group installed an identical pole and platform about 200 feet away in the same marsh. It proved to be successful last year. Adult Ospreys raised a pair of juvenile Ospreys.  If you build it, they will come.

Today volunteers with the watershed council were putting up their sixth nesting platform. The goal has remained the same.  Ospreys are returning and in need of nesting platforms. Nesting platforms are critical for attracting Ospreys into new areas to spread out the distribution so they’re not all concentrated in one region.
 

fish hawks stand 3

These majestic raptors with their distinctive stick-built nests on nesting platforms depend on a healthy and abundant food supply. Since their diet consists primarily of fish, Osprey activities in the Bayshore region provide a good indication of water quality and the general health of Raritan Bay & Sandy Hook Bay.
 
Ospreys were declared endangered by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife in 1974 when the number of nests plummeted to 50 from a high of 500 in 1950. The birds were elevated to threatened status in 1984 when the number of nests had more than doubled to 108. Today, there are more than 475 nesting pairs of Ospreys in New Jersey. In the Bayshore region of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, there were over 20 active Osprey nests in 2014 and they gave birth to around 23 young.  

fish hawks stand

Ospreys usually start to return to New York Harbor soon after St. Patrick’s Day from their winter home in the tropics. The need to breed is strong. The hawks often travel 100 to 200 miles a day to return to ar nest site in about 2 weeks. Typically, Osprey couples will stay together for life, returning to the same location to breed and raise a family.

It takes a lot or work and a lot of hands to raise a nesting platform in hopes of attracting another mating pair this spring. Along with volunteers from the Bayshore Watershed Council, help was given by Union Beach Department of Public Works. Everyone is now anxious to welcome a new feathered family near Raritan Bay.

For more information about the Bayshore Watershed Council and to become a member, check out their webpage at www.restoreourbay.org. Membership is free.

For more information, pictures and year-round sightings  of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay and Lower New York Bay, please check out  my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://www.natureontheedgenyc.com