More Thoughts on Journey to the Christ

Journey to the Christ: The Road to Enlightenment

 

It would be helpful if we agreed on what the Christ is. Some think it is Jesus’ last name, “Jesus Christ,” like Joseph Shore. Some think of it in the narrow terms of literal minded Judaism, the “Moshiach,” or in Greek, “Christos,” but none of these meanings serve any real purpose. Just what is the Christ? You had better want to know. The Christ is the only real part of you. It is the Love that God created as you, and nothing you can do can change it one bit. It is real and eternal and it is the Mind God shares with you. A Course in Miracles gives us a clear picture in its section called “Clarification of Terms.”

 JESUS – CHRIST

“There is no need for help to enter Heaven for you have never left. But there is need for help beyond yourself as you are circumscribed by false beliefs of your Identity, which God alone established in reality. Helpers are given you in many forms, although upon the altar they are one. Beyond each one there is a Thought of God, and this will never change. But they have names which differ for a time, for time needs symbols, being itself unreal. Their names are legion, but we will not go beyond the names the course itself employs. God does not help because He knows no need. But He creates all Helpers of His Son while he believes his fantasies are true. Thank God for them for they will lead you home.

“The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. Yet who can save unless he sees illusions and then identifies them as what they are? Jesus remains a Saviour because he saw the false without accepting it as true. And Christ needed his form that He might appear to men and save them from their own illusions.

“In his complete identification with the Christ, the perfect Son of God, His one creation and His happiness, forever like Himself and one with Him,” Jesus became what all of you must be. He led the way for you to follow him. He leads you back to God because he saw the road before him, and he followed it. He made a clear distinction, still obscure to you, between the false and true. He offered you a final demonstration that it is impossible to kill God’s Son; nor can his life in any way be changed by sin and evil, malice, fear or death.

“And therefore all your sins have been forgiven because they carried no effects at all. And so they were but dreams. Arise with him who showed you this because you owe him this who shared your dreams that they might be dispelled. And shares them still, to be at one with you.

“Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you. His little life on earth was not enough to teach the mighty lesson that he learned for all of you. He will remain with you to lead you from the hell you made to God. And when you join your will with his, your sight will be his vision, for the eyes of Christ are shared. Walking with him is just as natural as walking with a brother whom you knew since you were born, for such indeed he is. Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you. For he will set your mind at rest at last and carry it with you unto your God.

“Is he God’s only Helper? No, indeed. For Christ takes many forms with different names until their oneness can be recognised. But Jesus is for you the bearer of Christ’s single message of the Love of God. You need no other. It is possible to read his words and benefit from them without accepting him into your life. Yet he would help you yet a little more if you will share your pains and joys with him, and leave them both to find the peace of God. Yet still it is his lesson most of all that he would have you learn, and it is this:

“There is no death because the Son of God is like his Father. Nothing you can do can change Eternal Love. Forget your dreams of sin and guilt, and come with me instead to share the resurrection of God’s Son. And bring with you all those whom He has sent to you to care for as I care for you.”(ACIM, Clarification of Terms, 5.)

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Every time you have a loving thought it is shared with God through the Christ Mind. You DO know the Christ every time you love, but you have not identified with the Christ as your only Mind. You still think you are an individual mind (and body) with all sorts of “personal” wants and goals. Thus your self is split off from your Self. The little self is an illusion but how we cling to it. We have to learn many lessons in order to give up the little illusory self.

I know the Christ. The Christ is the love of God. If you read my messages/essays in my group The Pleroma, or on FaceBook, you will hear the Christ speaking to you. My messages are “channeled” through the Christ Mind. These messages come through me like water through a pipe. After I have written them, my little self reads them, and tears flood my eyes. I am ready to give up little “Joe Shore” but what more must I do to identify with the Christ Mind completely? I am on the trail of the Christ. I am willing to do my lessons and if they take a hundred more illusory lifetimes, I will go to class and do the work. But I have seen Heaven’s gate. I have felt the Christ in me. I have done and am doing His work to save God’s son. I see the goal post in sight. I want to be the Christ, so that Joe Shore no longer lives but Christ lives in me. I have accepted Jesus’  mission to flood this illusory world with the Love of God.

I wrote a little letter to my ego this year. Here it is:

“Letter to my ego from a Higher Me: ‘Joe….Joe, listen.’ Think of being on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Yup, that’s you. There are some things I need to say to you. You know I think you are an illusion and you think I want to get rid of you. I know that sounds pretty frightening to you. But let me tell you something, Joe. ‘I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.’ You were perfectly made for me to learn the lessons I needed in this lifetime. Yes, you could be harsh and authoritarian, but you could also be informative, inspirational, and daring. You were the image of the Aries for all his strengths and faults. I guess you probably miss all the intellectual debates you used to have, and the authority you held as a theologian and then a university professor. Those positions perfectly fit you. But they could not last because you had more lessons to learn. I forgive you your faults and I thank you for your daring, inspirational, actions. You are going away but fear not. You are going away with my love and thanks! Thank you, Joe. You were the best, brightest, most talented of your generation. Accept this truth and this love, and don’t worry about tomorrow. It will all be OK.”

Still, my willingness does not obviate all the lessons I must learn to be the Christ. I’ll bet some of you think that Jesus’ disciples went to heaven and stayed there! Well, they didn’t. They had MANY lessons to learn. They understood Jesus so poorly. They have been reincarnating and learning their own lessons. The real “Saint” Paul now lives a life today as Nick Bunick.( http://www.nickbunick.com/) Obviously, he needed more work. When he wrote, “Now no longer I live but Christ lives within me,” he was apparently quite mistaken.

I have had lengthy periods in which I identified with the Christ Mind in me. The longest was six weeks last year. I shared it with you:

“A stillness has come to me

“A stillness has come to me which is unlike anything I have experienced before. The Love of God has come into my mind to take up abode. I am not alone, nor lonely, nor do I ever feel bored. I am actively experiencing the Love of God in my mind. I need no TV. The thought of it is humorous. I need nothing. I eat my meals while looking happily out my window at the beautiful clouds and mountains. I walk to the grocery store, talk to the street beggars with a smile and love in my heart while I pull out the change in my pocket and give it to them. I come back home and look at the clouds and the mountains and am more than content. Songs play in my mind of peace and the love of God. I write on Facebook, email friends, and pet the cat. What more need there be? I am still inside and need no entertainment. I know that I am a part of God and share his holiness and glory. I am at the gates of heaven. This is a stillness which I have not had before. This is not the stillness from nature, as beautiful as that is. This is the Love of God which has taken up abode in my heart and I want for nothing more; not fame, nor riches, not wife, nor position. I have found peace and happiness within the Love of God. And I am not alone here in my mind. You are here too. We are all one Mind and we are almost home. We are the Glory of God.

“The Glory cloud of God will fall on us. Be grateful that it will fall. Nothing in all your life has prepared you for anything like being under the Glory cloud of God. You will not be able to stand. The body cannot stand in the Glory of God. In the Glory cloud there is the weight of holiness and as much as our spirits belong there, the body does not! The body will groan, shout, and travail under the Glory cloud. But your spirit will never want to be any other place than in the Glory of God. We belong in the Glory cloud of God. We are the rays of His Glory. When the Glory cloud falls the spirit remembers its true home. We know then that we are not a body, but a spirit and a part of the Great Spirit of God. The holiness we feel under the Glory cloud is our holiness as well. But the body can only groan or bark like dogs. In the Glory cloud we speak the language of the Spirit. No human language can work in the Glory cloud.
Pray for the Glory of God to fall, as we awaken to Self, One with God. In the Glory cloud will all our lessons be reviewed. In the Glory cloud will we climb up the ladder. In the Glory cloud will we see Jesus. In the Glory cloud we will know our Home. Soon we will be done with the troubles of the world. Soon we will just be what we are. We are the Glory cloud of God.

“The Glory of God is all I need.
The Glory of God is my Home.
The Glory of God is my peace.
The Glory of God removes all illusions,
None can stand in The Glory of God.
The Glory of God is all I want.
The Glory of God is all I seek.
The Glory of God is the will of my spirit.
The Glory of God is the answer to my deepest question:
“Who am I?”
I am the Glory of God,
As rays from the sun,
I am His Glory.
I am The Glory of God.

“I eat my food and pass my water. I pet the cat and watch the clouds, gather in the twilight and welcome the night.

“I teach my students and just stay in this Love which I never, ever, want to leave. It is my Home. It is my Highest Self. I am where I belong, and I am far from alone. You are here with me, and you, and you, and you, and you. “We are all here, Father. The Mind which you created as One has come Home to you. And you know we never really left. We travelled only in dreams while safely in your embrace. Our Love, Our Light will shine forever with You. And the Love you have for your Son is returned back to you as pure as it was when you created Him. Our song, in praise to You, is all that will be heard.”

“I thought that, for me, the most difficult part of staying in right-mindedness, and continuing my experience of the Love of God in my daily life would be to control reactions. Reactions can send you right back to wrong mindedness. But I have found that the Love of God actually gently protects me from reactions. I mean, there is just so much space and timelessness! I stood in a long line at the IGA today, without any temptation to lose patience. I just listened to the people’s thoughts and feelings as I waited. That’s another thing about the real Love of God…It is not evangelistic! I had no urge to try to persuade people! The Love of God honors our sleeping brothers! It is like Tara Singh said, “Some of our brothers are deeply asleep. That’s alright. Let them sleep. They will awaken.” The Love of God knows no pressure.

“Today I awakened from sleep rather early for me. I thought, ‘Jesus why am I up so early.’ I soon found out there was work he wanted me to do. This is life in the Spirit. We listen to an inner Voice that always speaks for truth, and we happily do as the Voice tells us. We have learned over the years, that those who obey the inner Voice will know the Love of God! May you know it today!! Peace.

That was my sharing with you. For six weeks the Christ Mind was almost totally me. It was the culmination of my life. Eventually, though, I faded back into Joe Shore, more loving, of course, and with higher gifting, but Joe Shore nonetheless.

The stream of ages flows and in it is all that is of love. You and I are one bubble in that stream. Could we but see the world truly, the flow is all we would see. All love is the same. In every place and in every one you have experienced it, it is part of that stream of ages. I sit here now with my companion, Blanche, and we are one love in two silly bodies. The flow comes into and through the heart. Here we live and move and have our very being. We are Love’s Presence:) We are the magnificent radiance of God!♥♥♥ Could we but know that and stay in the flow, the world we think we see would disappear and all separations removed. Love is and we are its manifestations. We are the bubbles in the stream and the rocks over which it flows. We are source and the end. We Love therefore we are, not as separate bodies, but as One. We are the breath of the wind through the trees; we are the cat’s purr; we are the happiness of two becoming one; we are the birds that fly through the air and the fish that swim through the creeks; we are the Love that holds all things together as One; and we are here NOW, not in time, but in this moment of Love realized and fear vanquished. We are the tears that stream down our faces; we are the arms that embrace us; we are Love’s Presence, and there is nothing to do. No ambitions can stand in Love’s Presence. Consciousness itself cannot stand in Love’s Presence. From deep within the unconscious flow of the stream of ages, I know that I Love you.♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Let us leave the world of unforgiveness behind and live in our Love and our Song. The Song is not formal music. It is the eternal call to Home that the spirit hears in every rock and leaf, every grain of sand, every child’s face, every dog and cat’s response to our love for them. The Song is in you. I hear you singing it so sweetly. Oh precious Jesus how the world sings the song you know so well, the song of Oneness in praise of the Love that we are. The world that was created by fear and anger we can now view through the eyes of newness. No longer must we see the world as separate factions fighting one another. We have forgiven the world of strife we created. Forgiveness now rests on our brows and on the world’s. Now can we see Heaven’s reflection made so perfect in the world. Now that Love has come into aching hearts, the need for time is almost gone. The One Song sings beautifully throughout a world which knew it not and all creation gives thanks to you and to the Creator. Now do we see the steps to Heaven’s gate on which you stand. Now we have no need for the world which served us so well with lessons to be learned. The time for learning is over. The time of the great rejoining has come and every tiny part of all universes has come to join the One Song we sing. And tears of joy come in recognition of the vast ages of time we have entered bodies to remember our eternal Self, One with the Creator, AND WE ARE ALL THE BELOVED. Gently do Heaven’s doors open to receive back its One Son. Gently does the Creator’s arm reach out and gather His Son back to Himself. Less than a tiny moment was taken to heal the tiny mad idea that seemed to set the Son on His long journey. The time for time is over. Now in eternity does all-encompassing Love flow unimpeded through a universe of spirit created by the Song. Forever shall we flow. And shall our little days as individuals be lost forever in Oneness? Oh no, dear ones. Every loving thought you ever had, every loving deed, is perfectly remembered within the Christ Mind that flows through Heaven. And now we say Amen for the time of learning is over and the time of rejoining has entered eternity, with you my loved ones, with you, and you, and you, and you, with your animals and children and every thought of love that lighted your little mind as an individual. Home safe we are, and we shall never leave again. No more dreams will enchant us. We are Home. Love has found itself at last…at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let us live in our Love and our Song

Let us leave the world of unforgiveness behind and live in our Love and our Song. The Song is not formal music. It is the eternal call to Home that the spirit hears in every rock and leaf, every grain of sand, every child’s face, every dog and cat’s response to our love for them. The Song is in you. I hear you singing it so sweetly. Oh precious Jesus how the world sings the song you know so well, the song of Oneness in praise of the Love that we are.

The world that was created by fear and anger we can now view through the eyes of newness. No longer must we see the world as separate factions fighting one another. We have forgiven the world of strife we created. Forgiveness now rests on our brows and on the world’s. Now can we see Heaven’s reflection made so perfect in the world. Now that Love has come into aching hearts, the need for time is almost gone. The One Song sings beautifully throughout a world which knew it not and all creation gives thanks to you and to the Creator. Now do we see the steps to Heaven’s gate on which you stand. Now we have no need for the world which served us so well with lessons to be learned. The time for learning is over. The time of the great rejoining has come and every tiny part of all universes has come to join the One Song we sing. And tears of joy come in recognition of the vast ages of time we have entered bodies to remember our eternal Self, One with the Creator, AND WE ARE ALL THE BELOVED. Gently do Heaven’s doors open to receive back its One Son. Gently does the Creator’s arm reach out and gather His Son back to Himself. Less than a tiny moment was taken to heal the tiny mad idea that seemed to set the Son on His long journey. The time for time is over. Now in eternity does all-encompassing Love flow unimpeded through a universe of spirit created by the Song. Forever shall we flow. And shall our little days as individuals be lost forever in Oneness? Oh no, dear ones. Every loving thought you ever had, every loving deed, is perfectly remembered within the Christ Mind that flows through Heaven. And now we say Amen for the time of learning is over and the time of rejoining has entered eternity, with you my loved ones, with you, and you, and you, and you, with your animals and children and every thought of love that lighted your little mind as an individual. Home safe we are, and we shall never leave again. No more dreams will enchant us. We are Home. Love has found itself at last…at last.

JOSEPH & BLANCHE-jpeg

What to Do

What to do? I think this is a good time in world history to repeat a classic story from A Course in Miracles. A Course in Miracles student is walking home after enjoying a group meeting on ACIM when he comes to a bridge over a river and he sees a young person standing on the railing screaming, “I am going to jump! I am going to jump! Don’t anybody try to stop me!” What does the ACIM student “do?” I’ll give you a little time to think:) …………You have an answer? It is a very good story to look at because right now, especially in the Western world, that despairing person on the bridge threatening to jump represents the way a lot of people feel right now, and it is only going to get far worse as the election season comes in full swing, or as England finally has to deal with Brexit!! The ACIM student represents all of us who can see what is happening in the world. OK here is the answer:  The ACIM student should not rush to do anything physically, like give the jumper a little lecture on “you’re so young. You have so much to live for;” nor a little ACIM lecture about how the physical world is unreal, nor offer to give the jumper a free copy of ACIM!  What he must do is be at Peace in that moment so that he can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit which will TELL him what to do, whatever that is will be in everyone’s best interest. Without His voice telling us, our ego mind has absolutely no way in the world to figure out what is best to do. Now that is true in the world right now which is caught up in an ego frenzy like we have not seen since the Nazi’s took over Germany!! Much of the Western World feels like they are just ready to jump! They thought they were trying one last thing to help change the system by electing Trump or voting for Brexit!!! But it didn’t work, of course. OF COURSE it didn’t work. It didn’t work for Germany when they tried with Hitler. It didn’t work with Italy when they tried with Mussolini. It didn’t work for the USSR when they tried with Stalin!! Voting in the Strong Man figure corresponds in our story to actually jumping off that bridge. But you get down in that river and the water is moving faster than you thought it was. You have no control and you are being swept away! You reach out and snag a hold of any branch of a tree sticking out from the bank and you scream for help. The young ACIM student is at Peace while witnessing this and the Holy Spirit says, “Go help her out of the river; dry her off; speak words of kindness to her, and when she is ready, take her to an inn where you can give her some hot soup and dry clothes. And then when she is ready, ask her if there is anybody she would like to call.” In an instant that whole instruction will be conveyed. The Holy Spirit will take charge of the situation.  You see the ego has us all hypnotized to believe that loving kindness is intrinsically stupid! There is wisdom that comes from Love when one makes a loving choice and the direction that the Holy Spirit will give you will be loving…for every one.  But first your mind must be at Peace. You can’t choose again for the Holy Spirit to be your teacher instead of the ego (which we all chose) while your head is full of chatter and you think you have only some thought out of that chatter to guide you!! Take a look around! See how good that has worked!!!! Back to our little story. Rewind now to the place where the ACIM student gets to the bridge and first sees the jumper. He stays in Peace because he has had practice at stilling the mind. His mind is ready to hear the Holy Spirit’s advice. The Holy Spirit says, “Go…..and…..” And he does. (hint: the wisdom within Love’s Presence will tell you what happened.) 

Joe at Johns-1a

Surviving a spiritual disappointment

Surviving a spiritual disappointment…It does sometimes happen in life that a spiritual leader we have trusted falls and when s/he does, it hurts a lot of people. It can happen in any religion. I think of a family I know who were devout Catholics. Everyone of their children were baptized by a beloved priest. Many years later it was discovered that that priest had been involved in child molestation. The entire congregation was hurt by this. But they did get help from others to understand that the fall of that priest did not negate God’s work in their lives. The offending priest was removed and the congregation has recovered with help. We have to realize that people can fail, but God cannot. Perhaps it would be better if we realized that the spiritual growth and healing we receive does not come from any special person but from God. All of us are children of God and all of us share the Father’s ability to extend His Love and help others. When healing comes, it comes from a family or congregation of people who extend love.

I once new a Baptist sponsored university in which one of the most beloved professors had a spiritual fall. Because all of his life had been directed to such good things and had helped so many people, that when he had his spiritual fall, people did not rush to judgment but looked to understand what psychological trouble he was having. Instead of firing him from the faculty, they made sure he got the counseling he needed to heal. In time he was able to back into teaching but at another college. Those who had been hurt by his fall were counseled and the impact on them healed.

Those of you who went to see John of God and had a blessed, loving, and even healing time, are now confused and hurt such the terrible fall from grace John has had. It may help to think of it the way I have discussed these other cases. God’s work was done by God, not by John. John the medium has been terribly damaged but in this case the medium is not the message. Many people DID in truth experience a wonderful healing time with John of God. Ram Dass even went to Abadiania to see John and he spoke about what a beautiful spiritual environment it was, so that he could compare to his own teacher in India. Ram Dass is not a man to be easily fooled. Dr. Wayne Dyer experienced a great healing through John of God and spoke to everyone about it. There was a time when good was there.

John the man has fallen and his falling has confused and hurt many people. People can fall. The Apostle Paul said,

“But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. The Amplified Bible
1 Corinthians 9:27

People can fall. Let us not. Supposedly the wisest man in the Old Testament was Solomon. His writings even became included in Scripture. But the last thing we hear about Solomon is that he fell from the faith of Israel having gone off to worship other gods and taking foreign wives. (I Kings 11:4)

If you have been tempted to reject altogether the good experience you received under a minister who later fell, examine your heart and see if that is what God would have you do? Keep in the Light. Remember all the loving things and the love will eventually heal the pain. 

A Letter to the Father

Many of you know the story of how I went to seminary and intended to be a professor; how I felt deeply I was in the wrong place but didn’t know where the right place was. One of my dorm mates was an opera buff who had every opera record under the sun and listened to them morning, noon, and night. I listened with him for the year and a half I was there. Something about those great voices grabbed me down deep somewhere in my psyche and I bought some and began listening to opera while I was studying. Then one evening, a strange thing (for me then) happened. I clearly heard an inner voice say to me “your characters could be your sermons; the stage could be your pulpit; the theatre could be your church; the audience could be your congregation.” Now go put feet to your faith.” This shocked me! Baptists do not hear voices! Maybe Pentecostals do but not us Baptists. You have to understand that I had never had any serious voice lessons. I sang in choirs and sounded no better than anyone else. But just before I heard the voice, I remember praying almost through tears, “Father please tell me what to do. I don’t feel like I belong here.” Maybe that is why I believed it. I took a little step by faith. This was a new kind of ministry. I left seminary and got a job. When I wasn’t working I was listening to opera. This went on about six months until finally one day I opened my mouth to see if I could make a sound like those guys on the records, and out came the operatic voice I have had since! A friend came by and said “Hey, you’ve got quite a voice. You ought to enter the Met Auditions.” I didn’t know what they were but I said sure. I filled out the application, got some music for some hard bass arias and set to learning them by listening to records. I went down to sing the first level of the Met Auditions in Tulsa and had no expectations. I just sang and was named one of the winners. I was even given an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and the Tulsa Opera sponsored me and gave me grants. I thought to myself, “Gee, this opera business is a snap.” I had absolutely no social preparation to help me deal with this new profession. And I found out that not everybody would like me. I would have real enemies to fight. But I did my best, sang big roles in big houses. I made some mistakes and after singing in this world 11 years I made a personal mistake that took me off the stage. I kept thinking I would find a way to get back on, but I never did. I became a university teacher instead. But all through this era my heart was aching that I had failed in this new ministry that I had been divinely given. Friends were well meaning when they said, “It’s all in the past. Just move on!” But they didn’t understand the miracle I had been given and how deeply it had hurt me to feel I had not fulfilled what I had been given. I was still a minister at heart even when I was an opera singer.

Today, I wrote a letter to God and made a little boat with my recordings in it and my reviews, and I set it on the ocean when the tide was going out. I am going to share with you that letter.

Dearest Father,
I know that you know my thoughts and that you are here now as I type these words, but it is good for me to write to you this way. I love you with all my heart Father even though I scarcely know how to love, even scarcely know what it is. But you know me and knew me since before all time when I was and still am a part of you. I am a thought in your mind. It feels like I have been away from you a long time, but I know that is not true. I have just been dreaming a dream which to me seems long, but it really was over a long time ago. I am not making very much sense am I? I feel your heart in mine, dear Father. I have almost come for the time to leave this body and set sail again within the world of spirit. It is all a part of the dream which you can’t know because you know that I am safely inside your Mind. Thoughts leave not their thinker. But the Holy Spirit came with me into my dream. He witnessed my birth into this imaginary world. He saw how I so often thought of you. He saw as I viewed my part in my dream as a hero who would help people to remember you. He saw our Song awaken in my heart and formalize itself into a singer in this dream world. My career as an opera singer was the most important thing in my life because you gave me the gift to sing. Your Holy Spirit told me in Seminary that “my characters could be my sermons; the stage could be my pulpit; the theatre could be my church; the audience could be my congregation.” Then your Holy Spirit said to me, “Now go put feet to your faith.” I believed it Father. I knew it was True and that it came from you. I went into this strange, cruel, but wonderful world of opera and I sang with all my heart. I was surprised when some people didn’t like me, because my voice was from you. Along the way I sang as best as I could and I thought of you every time before I went on stage. I made some personal mistakes which I know you have forgiven me for. But I had a hard time forgiving myself for them. They took me out of the world of opera and took away my stage where I had my church. I felt like such a failure. I so wanted to use my voice to help others awaken. I thought my tears would never end for the loss of my career as a singer. You could not know my dream, of course, though you knew I was dreaming. But the Holy Spirit saw and felt everything that happened to me. He saw my tears and my broken heart. He saw the way I had to work in a cruel, cruel world of opera where the men who ran it were asleep in their own dreams of indifference, hatred and usury.
But Father, after the dream of opera changed, I learned more and remembered more. A new dream of awakening into love’s Presence came to me. On the shores of Burnaby Lake with beautiful ducks and geese, birds and fish, water and flowers, I remembered us more. That dream of awakening is still playing out in me. Father, I loved singing, but I give it back to you now as my gift to you. Here in this little boat that I have set adrift to the ocean, there is a computer stick, with all my songs, and all my reviews. They are my gift of thanks back to you for the song we share. Now I will finish the work I began at Burnaby Lake. I will fully remember you and see the face of Christ in all my brothers, even the dark ones who dream nightmares, and who will laugh at the silly old man who writes to God. But that is OK. I do not care. We can speak now all the time if you want Father. I have nothing on my mind but you…and my brothers because I keep seeing the face of Christ in them!

Your Loving Son,
Joseph

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Be Not Dismayed

There are times when the horror of this world almost outplays the wonder of it. Cheaters win; Crooks get away with crime; all that is good seems to be threatened. It comes to us in every generation, this great dilemma of the world. We look for goodness. We look so hard to find meaning, and we look even harder to find love. But we can’t find it in the world and its systems. Through tears we look from catastrophe to catastrophe and find no consolation, until another soul sees us bound up in our agony and says, “Yes, I feel it too! Where is there justice? How can we find our way?” And in that moment of common empathy love makes its existence known. The world knows it not, but the human spirit knows the love it seeks. We are the love the world needs! We are the truth we are looking for. Yes, the world is a crooked place all too often where abusers get away with their crimes, where the needy are sold for the price of shoes, where a man or woman of God seems so hard to find!! The evil one seems to win and laugh at truth and right and all that is good. We have these days where the Brett Kavanaughs of the world are exalted and truth and decency are mocked. But they will not endure. They will not endure for the moral arch of the universe bends long but it bends exactly towards justice. Nothing but Love is Real and Nothing Real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists! It may appear to exist as a nightmare does but it will end!!! IT WILL END my dear brothers. We will awaken from this nightmare into Love’s Presence. I love therefore I am. Descartes was wrong. He didn’t see the way. But I have seen the way and when I love I am real. I rise about the dream of the world and share my thoughts with God!! So now is our time dear brothers and sisters to rise above this contemptible world and find the Love that is in us as our natural inheritance and share it with every needy one who has lost hope, who fears that evil may triumph, that ignorance is all that we can expect and that God is dead!! S/He is NOT dead! S/He lives within the love that is deep in your heart. S/he shares every moment of Love’s experience. S/he know that His/Her Son is asleep, dreaming a terrible dream of good and evil where the evil too often seems to win. But S/He has given us the ability to awaken from the dream, a little at a time or a lot at a time–it is all our choice. But the end is not in doubt. The world was over a long time ago and the Oneness of Heaven is Reality that has not been disturbed by this silly little dream of good and evil that we are playing out right now. Love is all there is. Love is all there is. Be not dismayed. Love is all there is. Be not afraid of Republicans or Brett Kavanaugh. Love is all there is!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Jerome Hines and My Story

This is part of my story of being a young opera singer in New York.

In the fall of 1975 I made the big move to New York. Tulsa had cradled me and brought me along, but now was the time to head on up to the big time. As in everything else, I was helped by my unseen “Friend.” Things just seemed to fall into place. Lynn Fann, the same friend who introduced me to opera in seminary, had introduced me to his friends in New York who shared an apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan near Columbia University. By the time I was ready to move to New York, one of them was ready to vacate, leaving a vacancy for me. The terrible job of searching for an apartment in New York was spared me. It was an acceptable area, on the border of safety. I loved being right next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I spent many days meandering through the beautiful chapels much the way I had meandered through the garden during childhood. It seemed that everything was being arranged for me, including the proximity of this wonderful cathedral.

One of the first things I did in New York was to arrange for an audition with Jerome Hines of the Metropolitan Opera, that operatic basso par excellence who had provided me with the model voice during my seminary years. In theological seminary, a fellow student, Lynn Fann, had introduced me to opera. I had never really heard it before. In Carthage we knew about the “Grand Ole Opery” but that was about it. I listened to all of the great singers of the second golden age of singing with Lynn. Something in their sound made me sit up and pay attention, especially the singing of the great bass, Jerome Hines, partly because he was also a Christian who would sing at the Salvation Army on skid-row in New York when he wasn’t singing at the Met. His voice and his life became a model for me. Now in 1975 I was going to get to sing for him. My old teacher from college, Ted Harris, had been instrumental. Ted told me that Hines’ opera company was going to be auditioning for a baritone to take the place of Met baritone, Calvin Marsh, for a production of Hines’ opera on the life of Jesus, I Am The Way, to be staged in April 1976 in Columbus Ohio. Ted arranged for me to talk to the stage director, Derek de Cambra, a spunky, enthusiastic fellow with a British accent who had a love for beautiful singing. I was to go over to New Jersey to audition directly for Hines himself. I was finally going to meet the wonderful singer whose voice excited me so much in seminary. In those days I was not really nervous. I was excited and ready to go. My voice could do anything and I could pound on it for hours, if necessary, and it would still be fine for the next outing. I prepared my benchmark arias that had won the Met auditions for me and took a train, then a bus, to the New Jersey audition site. It was a small room to sing in. Hines was seated only a few feet from me. Still, I went eagerly to the task and sang Macbeth’s last act aria, “Pieta, rispetto, amore,” which had won for me the Midwestern Finals of the Met Auditions, interpolating a long, sustained, high A flat at the end. Hines was visibly impressed and began talking about his recording of Macbeth with Leonard Warren. He was warm and cordial but every bit the opera star that I expected him to be. He talked several minutes about great baritones he had known and how favorably my voice compared. I could not have asked for a more favorable review from one I idolized so. I got the part and began preparing the role. The baritone I was replacing, Calvin Marsh, was a Met baritone with a huge voice, beautiful color, commanding range, and a veteran. He was a tough act to follow. My voice was much different than his, darker, almost a bass-baritone compared to his, yet more lyrical because of youth. My old college teacher, Ted Harris, was to sing the bass part of the villain, Eliakim, one of the chief priests (a fictitious character), who conspires with Judas to capture Jesus. I was going to get to see two dreams come true, to sing with my teacher and my idol. In the spring of 1976, after performances of “Tonio” in I Pagliacci in Tucson with the Arizona Opera, and a cross-country concert tour for Columbia Artist’s Community Concerts, I headed for Columbus Ohio, my ego beginning to inflate from the heady rushes of early successes. I still heard the inner Voice, but I did not remember “who” or “what” it was, and I certainly was not cultivating a habit of reliance on it for guidance. At times I would do what it said, and at times I wouldn’t. Each time I obeyed, I was amazed at the eerie way in which things fell together for my benefit.

For example, In 1975 I had made the finals of the highly prestigious WGN-Illinois Opera Guild Auditions of the Air in Chicago but had not won. The Voice told me in strong “words” that if I entered again in 1976 I could win them. I entered and easily passed the first two rounds. The auditions director, Dick Jones of WGN Radio, Chicago, really liked my voice and thought my singing had improved over the previous year. Some time later I was notified that I was to sing in the finals at the Chicago Lyric Opera House. There was only a small problem. I was in the middle of a cross-country concert tour with a trio, performing from town to town. I discussed my feelings about the audition with my colleagues, Roger and Debbie Lucas, and they were supportive in anything I chose to do. The Voice was very strong that I had to find a way to go to the finals, and that I would win. The trio’s schedule just worked out that we had a day’s travel, no concert, on the day of the finals. After our performance in Pueblo Colorado I caught a flight to Chicago, got into the hotel about 4:00AM for five hours sleep and showed up at the stage door of the Chicago Lyric Opera House at 11:00AM, ready to sing. I sang my first aria, “Cortigiani vil razza dannata” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and was pleased with the way it went. But for the next round, the judges got to pick an aria from my prepared repertoire. I “knew” that if they picked the prologue to I Pagliacci, I should be one of the two winners chosen. The Voice told me that I would be the second winner. The judges chose the prologue. I sang it with full gusto, including a resounding high A flat, and left the stage feeling good. I could not stay for the end of the auditions. I had to run to the airport immediately to catch a plane to Traverse City Michigan to rejoin my concert trio for a performance that night. When I arrived in Traverse City, I called back to Chicago and found that I had been named the second winner.

Wouldn’t you think that experiences such as these should have been enough to teach me to listen to that inner Voice and always obey it? Apparently they weren’t, because I didn’t. I still thought my rational intellect was the most important part of me to listen to, and I liked the heady rush of the ego as I saw my name up in lights, doing things my way, with my voice. I soon began believing all my publicity and was convinced that I belonged in the Tsar’s court in old St. Petersburg and that by divine right, of course.

By the time I arrived in Columbus Ohio in April 1976 to begin rehearsals for I Am The Way, I was full of it, and I don’t mean the way, the truth, and the life, but a substance with a lot more unpleasant odor to it! I had just gone up to my hotel room and unpacked when the telephone rang. It was one of the other cast members who wanted to come up and say hello. I felt mildly irritated at being disturbed but magnanimously allowed him to come up to the room. He was a very down to earth fellow; full of something I had once known, not too long ago, sincerity and thanksgiving. He was singing the tiny part of “Thomas”, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. He literally had only a couple of lines to sing in the whole show! His face beamed with joy as he described his pilgrimage from the Deep South, at his own expense, just to sing his two lines. By the time he finished visiting with me I had begun to feel very ashamed of myself for the egotism I had allowed to grow inside me, replacing my gratitude to God for the voice I was given. I was making my own ego world-view of specialness, rather that viewing my voice as a gift to give to others. I prayed. I apologized and asked for renewed innocence. The Voice was right there. It had gone nowhere. Only I had changed. The Voice said, “Just keep on going the way you are going now and I will have you sing for Presidents and Kings.” It was a startling message! By this time, I was supposed to go down to the lobby to meet the Director. I grabbed my score and headed for the elevator. No sooner had I reached the elevator than did the doors open. Inside it stood Jimmy Carter. He extended his hand saying, “I just wanted to shake hands.” We rode down to the lobby together in silence. You have to understand that in April of 1976, Jimmy Carter, running for the Democratic nomination for President, was still a long-shot. Nobody thought he would get the nomination and nobody dreamed he would be elected President of the United States. As we exited the elevator, I watched him go, and said another quiet “thank you” to God for his faithfulness, and for the internal Voice which always spoke for truth, on my behalf. I knew Jimmy Carter was going to be President of the United States. And maybe if, just if, I did what the Voice said, kept on going the way I was going, then I might even get to sing for him!

During rehearsals of I Am The Way, I met many wonderful people who were going to stay with me throughout the years as close personal friends. The rehearsal period itself was rewarding because, in addition to the good staging by Derek De Cambra, Hines himself did some of the dramatic coaching, working with the singers on subtle acting points, “camera angles”, Chris Lachonas, a veteran, called them. This stayed with me my whole career as I tried to use a style of acting that was as suitable for television as it was for the stage. The music of I Am The Way, all composed by Hines himself–an extraordinary feat for a singer, not trained in composition–shows a little of every role he ever sang. The scene called “The Woman at the Well” shows a lot of the playfulness of the Bohemian characters in Puccini’s opera La Boheme, which Jerry sang many, many times. In fact during the bleak years at the Met when Rudolf Bing was trying to force him out, Jerry was cut down to one performance a season of “Colline” in La Boheme. Still, he stuck it out and had a renaissance long after Bing had retired. The scene called “The Last Supper” showed a lot of Wagner influence, especially Parsifal, in which Jerry sang the role of “Gurnemanz.” I did not view this negatively. It seemed inescapable to me that if an opera singer were to compose an opera himself, it would inevitably show the influence of everything he had sung. And the music he composed was beautiful, full of sweeping melodies and beautifully constructed scenes. What gave it an impact was Jerome Hines himself! There was that enormous, richer than rich, bass voice with incomparable grandeur, being used in the role of Jesus. What more could anyone ask for? In 1976, Hines was 55 years old and his voice was still at the peak of his powers. He sailed through the performance with ease and assurance. I used every second as an opportunity to listen, observe, and learn, how he made an entrance, how he related to the other characters on stage, most of all, how he sounded! In one scene called, “At Bethany,” my character, “Simon Peter”, sits right beside Jesus as he sings the Lord’s Prayer. Looking up at Jerome Hines, hearing that enormous voice so close to my ear, I gave thanks to God for His incredible ways. And then the performance was over and the company packed up to go back to New York, the singers back to their other careers. I went to the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York to sing with the Symphony and prepare for my first Rigoletto in the fall of 1976 for the Houston Grand Opera. As a young singer, I had no rational reason to believe I could sing this, the greatest of Italian baritone roles, but the Voice said that I could do it and I had agreed when I got a letter from the General Manager asking me to do the part. The letter came “out of the blue,” and I knew, even then, that this was something I was destined to do.

The Hines Company performed I Am The Way only once a year. The following year, 1977, Calvin Marsh returned to the role of Simon Peter, leaving me without a role. Not to be outdone, I suggested to Jerry that I play the role of the heavy, “Eliakim,” the chief priest who conspires with Judas. Jerry had always had difficulty casting it because of the way it was composed. As I was told the story, originally, the role had no aria. But when Jerry approached the great basso, Ezio Flagello, to sing the role, Flagello refused unless an aria were written for the character. Ever the one-upsman, Hines said, “All right. I’ll compose you an aria, but it’s going to be so hard you won’t be able to sing it.” The result was Eliakim’s long aria which is loud and very high for any bass, ending on a long, sustained high F sharp, not territory that basses like to hang around in, even a great bass like Flagello. He never sang the part again, and Jerry went through bass after bass trying to find someone who could sing it. I suggested that I could sing it. Even though I was a baritone rather than a bass, I had enough richness in the voice that I could carry its heavy insinuations. Learning my own one-upsmanship I said, “but you have to transpose the aria up one half step for me.” Hines laughed and agreed, so off I went to Birmingham to sing Eliakim, following in other years to different cities. In Cleveland in 1978, I was rehearsing the big aria with Hines himself at the piano, accompanying. After I finished, Hines was silent for quite a long while. Finally he said, “I wish we could have recorded that. I’ve never heard anyone sing my music the way you do.” It was the most wonderful tribute I could have been given by this man whose singing meant so much to me, and whom I had come to love so dearly. Some years were difficult though. Two years later, November 1980 in Edmonton, Alberta I had a dangerously close dovetail of engagements. I ended a string of performances of “Germont” in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Arizona Opera, the evening before dress rehearsal for I Am The Way. The Director was confident of my ability to do the role without rehearsal by this point, so I flew from the desert of Phoenix right after the last performance of La Traviata to the Nov. cold of Edmonton! I was exhausted and slept until 4:30 in the afternoon with the dress rehearsal at 8:00PM. Still, I felt ready to go, and during one scene I interpolated a high B flat! For the non-singers reading this, a high B flat is the pinnacle note for a tenor, and is virtually never attempted by a baritone. Once, the Met’s star baritone, Sherrill Milnes, had recorded a high B flat, but I don’t recall him ever singing one on stage. Why did I do it? Because I could! It was that much ego, nothing deeper. Hines was in the audience for the rehearsal and he let me know what a good note it was. I was happy, justified in my specialness. But the next night was performance. There would be no day off for rest as was usually the case, and I desperately needed a day off for rest. Edmonton in the winter is colder than anything I had ever experienced! It is so cold that the water particles in the air freeze into ice crystals which can cut your lungs when you breathe! I had known cold in Missouri but nothing like this, and I was coming straight from balmy Phoenix. My body was in shock and tired. That night after rehearsal I slept very poorly. I was too tired to sleep and wished that I had brought along the singer’s friend, “restoril”, to induce a good night’s sleep. But I hadn’t. I lay tossing and turning all night, finally drifting off to light sleep early towards dawn, only to be awakened early by the maid who did not want to believe the “do not disturb sign” posted on the door. Furious at her for disturbing my specialness, I screamed at her from the bed to get out and tried to go back to sleep, all to no avail. I was up. After two pots of coffee I began to vocalize a little and did not like what I felt. That afternoon was no better. Still, the show must go on, and my voice had never really failed me before…except on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera when I had muffed a high A flat. Still, I was seasoned now, and I had not cracked on a note in public in the six years since. Staying with my typical performance schedule, I found the nearest steak and potatoes around 4:30 PM and began to tank up for the evening performance. That evening I sang the difficult aria OK but the voice still seemed off, stiff and thick. More importantly, my tenacious clinging to ego specialness had cut off my ability to hear the internal Voice that guided me in everything. The time in the scene came where I had interpolated the high B flat the night before. Should I do it again, in performance? As soon as the question flashed through my mind, I heard the internal Voice say “No.” Oh well, I would do it anyway! I went up for the special high note, hit it…and it cracked! Not to be outdone, I tried to regain it and it cracked again!! The curtain mercifully descended and I made my way, like a scalded dog, as quickly as possible through the labyrinths of back stage corridors, eyes to the floor, to my dressing room. I was mortified, disgraced. I, Joseph Shore, one of the greatest baritones in the world, had cracked on stage! Standing in the hall, barring my refuge into my dressing room was Hines, in costume as Jesus, making his way to the stage, enormous grin on his face, laughter ready to commence at any moment. He began to chuckle, “That just makes you human,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. But remember from now on, when you crack a note, get off of it and let it go. I remember when Set Svanholm, at the Met, cracked on the high B flat at the end of ‘Celeste Aida.’ He cracked and tried to get it back and cracked again, just like you did.” Somehow it did not make me feel better. I brooded. How I brooded. I spent the night in the dressing room trying to avoid all conversation. My specialness had been wounded and I was not eager to address any re-shaping of my image. Years later, Hines said to me, “You know, I was glad to hear you crack on that high B flat because it proved to me you were human. You always sang like someone who wasn’t human.” I took it as a compliment. But for fourteen years he never let me forget that I had cracked on a high B flat. I never let myself forget it either!

I did Eliakim again the next year in Allentown Pennsylvania, and it went extremely well, but then I stopped singing I Am the Way. I told myself that I was tired of singing the villain. But wasn’t it really because I had cracked on a high note and injured my feelings of specialness? In the intervening years, I missed my friends terribly. I missed Jerry. I missed I Am The Way. During the years of 1982-1990, a lot of water went under the bridge professionally, new roles at new opera houses, but there was some lesson I was not learning. Things were not going the way they were supposed to go. The performances got better and better artistically, but the engagements were getting fewer and fewer. I thought I knew what the world was supposed to be like, but I didn’t! Then in 1994 I found myself near death. The internal Voice returned with great strength. I had a four-month-long life review as I waited, near death, for the Canadian medical system to put my name at the top of the list for surgery. Back in my hometown of Carthage my father went into the hospital at the end of June for what was supposed to be a minor surgery repair of a hernia. Something told me however that this was the end of the line for Dad. The doctors gave us a progressive litany of worsening prognoses. Finally, they told the family that he was not leaving the hospital. I knew that part of him had faith in a life after death, but I also sensed that part of him was very frightened because he felt that he had failed in some important aspects of his life, one of those being in his relationship with his son. Those failures tore at him very deeply. Involved in my own near-death struggle I could not go to Missouri to be with him. We braced ourselves for the fact that he could die at any time. But I had much unfinished emotional business with Dad which I did not want to leave without closure. I also wanted to help him in his final hours.

I prepared a special time when I would be alone in the house, and began to pray for Dad. I asked God to let him know that I forgave him for all the things between us that he held against himself. I asked God to tell Dad I that it was all right for him to let go and go on if that is what he needed to do, but if he was supposed to fight and stay with us, that was all right too. I wanted him to know that I supported him in his decision, one way or the other. For some reason it was important to me to sing my prayers for him. I do not know how long this final song lasted, quite some time I think, maybe an hour or two. I had little sense of time as I was doing it.

My son, Tom, was to have his birthday in just two days, and I really did not want Dad to die on Tom’s birthday. So he didn’t. Tom had a wonderful birthday. Dad died the following day, July 10, 1994. The night he died, I had an archetypal dream about seeing someone off on a ship. It was Dad. The next morning I thought that he had passed over. Sure enough, he had. I was somewhat disappointed that I had not had a full parting vision but I knew he understood now that everything was OK between us. I just missed the good-bye. Finally, two days later, in the early hours of the morning of his funeral in Missouri, I awoke in the spirit while my body was fast asleep.
I was in a very special kind of railroad station looking for Dad. I was pushing through enormous crowds of people who were waiting to board this train. I was in a great hurry as I knew this train was about to leave. Then I saw him from behind. I knew it was him. I called to him, “Daddy, Daddy.” He turned around with a big smile all over his face. I ran to him and jumped into his arms. I remember the feeling. I looked into his eyes. I remember those eyes. He was young and looked somewhat differently than in life, but there was no mistaking him. All of the cares and worries, doubts and fears, insecurities and self judgments, were gone from his face. Instead, there was this pure love, all throughout him which gave him his new substance. I hugged him and said, “I love you Daddy.” He squeezed me. I remember that squeeze, and he said, “I love you too.” And then he made a little joke just to make sure I knew I wasn’t just dreaming this. He knew I would remember it. He said, “You see, I’m a little thinner now than I used to be.” He was now spirit, not flesh. Then he boarded that train. A few hours later his funeral was conducted in Carthage. Even though I could not be there, we had had our farewell.

Around this same time, I got an unexpected phone call one day from my old friend, Derek de Cambra, Jerry Hines’s stage director for I Am The Way. He said that the company was doing I Am The Way in Benton Harbor, Michigan next year, 1995, and would I do the role of Eliakim again. The Voice shouted “yes,” and I immediately agreed. I was so happy to be back in I Am The Way. Jerry had done a wonderful job in keeping his voice all these years. He would be 74 years old in 1995! What a miracle to keep his voice! Few singers had accomplished that. No basses, to my knowledge. I was happy, truly happy to be back in I Am The Way. The Holy Spirit was that Voice which always spoke for truth and He must have something there for me to do, something for me to learn, some service for me to render to others, I thought. I could not know more at that point. I began to restudy the role of Eliakim and sing it back into my voice. The last time I had sung it had been the fateful performance in Edmonton! That was out of my mind now like a bad joke. I saw the silliness of the ego’s distorted view of things. I just wanted to go back to old friends! This time I took with me a young voice student who had heard all of my stories of the great singers of the previous era, called the Second Golden Age of Singing. I was passing on my love of singing and my love for Jerome Hines to another generation.

When I arrived in Benton Harbor it was indeed like a reunion with long lost friends. How I loved them. How they helped me to remember the Light. Jerome looked like a sight for sore eyes. Even his slight infirmities of age could not make him look old to me. But he was not singing in rehearsals and I could tell he was worried about his voice. He and I got together for an afternoon of vocalizing the way we had done in earlier years. They were wonderful times for me, learning experiences, as I observed this supremely great singer go through the vocal calisthenics necessary to sing grand opera. But this time Hines’ voice was not working. The whole cast knew it and we were all worried. Jerry had been in trouble before vocally and always made it through the performance. One time in Cleveland we finished a final dress rehearsal about 2:00AM. Jerry wanted to go out to an all night restaurant near the lake. It was mid winter and freezing cold in Cleveland. But what Jerry wants, Jerry gets, so off the whole crew went. I noticed that Jerry was not even wearing a coat, and I said, “Jerry, what’s the matter with you? Put a coat on!” “Ah, let your body breeeeeathe,” He vocalized in Hinse-ian tones. “I don’t need a coat!” We went to the restaurant and had a feast, whooped it up in grand fashion. The next morning Jerry called the conductor to his hotel room in a panic that his voice didn’t feel good for the show the next night. He even looked at his own vocal cords with a homemade device and saw that they were pink and swollen. Ever inventive, Jerry had taken two dental mirrors and welded them together with just the right curvature so that he could look at his own vocal cords! Panic ensued within the Directoral staff, but we all, Jerry included, managed to pull the show out of the fire.

This time in Benton Harbor was different. There was something seriously wrong with Jerry Hines’ voice. We made it to the final dress rehearsal. I had already counseled myself to end the “infamous” scene on a lower pitch than the interpolated high B flat! I would sing a high F instead, which is plenty high and would give me no trouble. I would not entertain any notions of interpolating ego notes. I had learned my lesson! Hines watched the rehearsal from out in front. At the end of my scene He came up to me and said, “Good job, Joe, but I was really a little disappointed that you didn’t take the high B flat!” I couldn’t believe my ears. He wasn’t joking. He was serious! I made a joke of it and said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask HIM,” pointing upwards. “It’s HIS voice. I’m just the caretaker of it. I’d have to get the OK from HIM.” Jerry smiled and went back to observe the coming scene. We made it to opening night. Hines limped through the performance, sounding ill. The rest of the cast did a fine job. I ended my scene on the high F. All went well. We had one day of rest and then a Sunday matinee at 2:00PM. Matinees are difficult for all singers. We are accustomed to preparing our voices for an 8:00PM curtain, not 2:00PM! I hated matinees. In my earlier days of incessant bravado I had plunged into them full voice, thinking nothing of it. In the fall of 1979 I had performed the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth with the Arizona Opera Company. We finished the dress rehearsal about 2:00AM, and like Hines, I wanted to go out and get something to eat. I ate a huge plate of rare prime rib. By the time I arrived back at the house where I was staying, my gluttony was telling the tale. I threw up everything and continued to throw up for an hour. I got to sleep about 5:00AM., got up at 7:30AM, went to the theatre at 8:30AM and performed a “matinee” at 9:30AM of Macbeth for school children. It was one of the best performances I ever gave! But I still hated “matinees.”

This time was different. Hines was in real trouble. On his day off he had gone to a doctor to have ultra sound therapy performed on his larynx, but it was to no avail. He seemed totally laryngitic. There was no understudy. Jerry would have to go on or we would have to cancel the performance, which meant financial disaster. Jerry went on. He barely made it through his first big scene of “The Woman at the Well.” My scene as Eliakim was next. I sailed through the aria better than ever, holding a long sustained high G towards the end, finally ending on an optional low F sharp. The infamous scene was next, but I was not nervous, I had already decided not to interpolate the high B flat. I had sung the high F the previous performance and it had been more than sufficient. As Mary Magdalene sang her long monologue, I sat back in my throne-chair and played with the character, Eliakim. Finally the end of her aria arrived. I had two beats before I was to sing the infamous words which ended the scene, “Is the whole world gone mad!” Usually those two beats fly at you like the wind and you have just enough time to take your breath and sing the notes. But this time, time itself seemed to slow down. Those two beats became an eternity. What was I to do with all this luxury of time? The Voice said, “Take the high B flat.” I could not believe it. There was plenty of time for an argument. “What? I’m not doing that again, no way.” The Voice was very clear, “Take the high B flat.” Something I had learned made it easy for me to agree. I went up for the high B flat. It was not only there, it was there in spades! I held it forever. This time there would be no scalded dog, hiding his head as he crept through the halls to his dressing room. Slowly and happily I walked off stage as my colleagues said things singers say to one another after a good job: “Wow, what a note!” “Holy cow, what did you eat? I want some of it.” On my triumphant way down the hall I passed Jerry’s dressing room. The door was open. He sat disconsolate at his make-up table. I could see that he was worried and afraid of the next scene coming up. It was the “At Bethany” scene and he had to sing the Lord’s Prayer which had always given him trouble, even in good voice. I walked into his room. He smiled faintly and said, “So the B flat worked tonight?” Without thinking I said, “I sang that high B flat for you so that you would know that if I can sing a high B flat, without cracking, you can make it through this next scene!” His face dropped and showed his true feelings of insecurity. “But how am I going to make it through it?” He said. “Dear God,” I thought, “what am I supposed to say to this man, my hero and mentor?” The words came tumbling out my mouth without any thought, “Just go out there, breathe deeply and don’t push!” Those words seemed to rally him. “All right,” he said, and headed for the stage. During the scene, the Voice told me to position myself in the wings, unnoticed by the audience, but in such a way that I had clear view of the stage. The Voice said that I was to pray for Jerry to be given strength. I did, and I saw that it was helping him get through the scene. Finally he made it to the big aria, Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer. Hines did what I said. He breathed deeply, taking many more breaths than he needed, and he didn’t push! He made it through. As the curtain descended, a happy Hines almost collapsed into the arms of his colleagues as they congratulated him. “I just did what Joe Shore told me,” he said, “And it got me through.”

For the rest of the opera, since my character does not appear with Jesus, I stood in the wings and prayed for Jerome. He gained in strength. During the difficult “Last Supper” scene, the Director came into the wings with a look of worry on his face, “He’s struggling,” He said. “Don’t worry,” I said with a smile. “He’s going to make it through just fine,” And he did. I knew why I was supposed to go to Benton Harbor. It was my love for Jerome Hines that was the lesson. That love is the love Jesus would have us learn. It is the same love I received from my grandparents and parents. It is the love that God gives us as His own. Receive it. It is there, waiting for us to grasp it in every learning experience, and every experience is a learning experience. Had I learned my lesson earlier, had I not gotten off course, I am sure I would have gotten to sing for Jimmy Carter! Nevertheless, I sang for Congressmen, Senators, Governors, the Russian Diplomatic Mission to the UN, and Consuls to several countries.

Months later, the Voice told me to call Jerome and let him know that I not only wanted to perform the role of “Simon Peter” again, but that I was supposed to. I knew Jerry would understand. I made the call. It just so happened that the Hines Company was going to be doing I Am The Way in June 1996 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, but the role of “Peter” was already taken by one of Jerry’s students from OMTI (Opera Music Theatre International). “Put me on standby,” I said, “You never know. This guy may not be able to do it.” He agreed. A short time later, the Director called me with the news that Mark Delavan could not do the part and it was mine. Twenty years had passed since I sang the role of “Peter,” but I knew it. Jerry was in fine voice. This time, my character sat at the Last Supper table with Jesus. As I looked at Jerry I knew that the love I have for him is the message of Jesus, that we should love one-another even as He loved us; and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The circle was complete.

hines and i, 1995 i am the way