The Irony of America The Beautiful

Posted: September 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

Originally posted on Sisters in Song:

Due to the vicissitudes of life and constraints of time, I have been ignoring this blog. But the idea of further exposition of women already in my book came upon me yesterday. The wonderful pastor of my church asked me to speak on “America the Beautiful” and it appeared to go well. Why not expound further? So here goes:

In 1893 when Katherine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful”, our country was undergoing turmoil. In January, the US. Marines intervened in Hawaii to overthrow their queen. In May, there was a crash and panic on the New York Stock Exchange thus beginning a depression. This followed the failures of the Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company. New forms of racial segregation came into being. Mississippi enacted a literacy test for voting with a grandfather clause allowing illiterate whites to vote if their fathers or grandfathers could vote before 1866…

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Turn about is fair game …

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

Last Sunday Second Baptist came to us, and what a visit it was. This past Sunday it was Broadway’s turn to visit Second Baptist. Our choir sang their hearts out. The congregation was warm and welcoming. And the spirit of brothers and sisters together was strong, palpable.

When events like that coincide with great moments of import such as have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri, they are rarely planned that way. But when they do happen, as on Sunday, few miss the significance. “It was,” one person said wistfully, “the antidote to everything that is ailing us.”

So it was.

He who makes Dave McGee laugh

Posted: August 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

It was a beautiful morning, still cool before the temperatures ascended toward the skies. As I had been shut up inside working too long I longed for feet on earth, wind in face and sun on head. As I walked the trail I stepped past the jumping frogs near the river bank. When the perfect shaded bench invited me to join it for a while I did not hesitate; I plunked down right there with my book. Breathe in, breathe out, notice where you are, watch the water and its creatures, let the thoughts of the author sit on the bench beside you.

As I approached my resting place I had noticed the mouth of a cave. Its dark mouth yawned at me and I thought of all those who had seen the same cave hundreds, thousands of years before me: railroad workers and before them the steamboat passengers and before them the trappers and before them the Osage Indians. It was about twenty feet above ground level.

For some reason it wouldn’t let me go. When I came to a chapter break I stood, examined the various possible paths through the brush to get to the base, chose one and walked. Recent rains made the approach a bit muddy but no matter. I slowly picked my way up the bluff side, book still in hand. Holding a book, by the way, was not helpful. I put it down to retrieve on the return trip.

The return trip, as it turned out, came much sooner than expected. When I was perhaps half-way up the grade became much steeper and the rocks even slicker. I looked down at my sandals. Inside them my feet moved and shifted. The soles had been worn smooth by my walking in them. These were terrible shoes for climbing. When I put them on this morning I didn’t expect they would need to.

What’s worse, the body that used to take direction fairly well from the brain connected to it has, as of these later years, become fairly disobedient. Also consider that like most other bigger guys I sport a higher center of gravity and you get the picture. With the right gear this might have been a pretty good idea – twenty years ago with an entirely different body.

At that moment I glanced down at my escape path. If I dared to climb on, which was clearly not wise, how would I get back down? Poorly, that’s how. If going up is precarious, coming down is worse. It was then I heard the laughter.

Dave McGee and his friends are climbers. I mean, they climb cliffs that cause mere mortals to quake. The harder and more challenging the better. They are like lizards, scampering up these walls day and night for hours at a time. It was his chuckle I heard first. Really, Tim, this is some big challenge? But then my mind jumped to the Biblical allusion of God’s laughter, that we make these big plans and the heavens roar.

Fortunately I picked my way back down and suffered not much more than an industrial strength coating of Missouri clay on my hands, bottom of my shorts and the book jacket. All things considered that’s not bad.

As I walked back in the same sandals that failed me and the same body that would no longer obey its brain, I thought about the cave. I still want to go, explore, peek inside and see if Kilroy was there. I don’t know that I will. Truth be told there are thousands of other places I will never explore either. The world is too big and life is too short. But maybe my descendents will. If so, I hope they bring better shoes.

 

 

Our partners at 2nd Baptist will grace us in worship at the 9am hour this Sunday, Aug 17. Come join us for the best of preaching and music in the tradition of the Black Church.

We welcome Dr. Clyde Ruffin to the Broadway pulpit and the 2nd Baptist Gospel Choir to our loft. 

The following Sunday, Aug 26, Pastor Carson and the Broadway Chancel Choir will be the guests of 2nd Baptist in their 11:00 am service.

Come and bring a friend!

When the Clown is Mad

Posted: August 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I was not surprised to hear that Robin Williams took his own life. I was also not surprised when I first heard that he struggled with addiction and depression. That kind of suffering is not unusual among hyper talented and often frenetic performers. The same hard wiring that allows them to do what they do with such creative outburst is the root of their own undoing. Much the same is at work among many of the most creative and sensitive artists we know.

Not only do their energy patterns swing wildly toward the stratosphere, but they are outwardly oriented – to an audience who will give them their ongoing fixes, their injections of perceived self-worth. Even as many seek this outward confirmation they are introverted by nature. On the outside they perform for the pennies of applause and laughter while despising the fact that they cannot simply be alone.

There is an old story about a depressed man in Italy who sought out the help of a seasoned therapist. After the man had poured out his suffering and the therapist had offered his best they were standing at the door, preparing to leave. As a parting thought the therapist told the depressed man that he might consider going down the street to the theater tonight because the comedian the Great Carnazi was performing. He was hilarious and attending the show might do him some good.

“But doctor,” the sad man replied, “I am the Great Carnazi.”

Civil War and Civil Wars

Posted: August 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’m now reading American Civil War history in Missouri, in particular the bushwhackers and guerrillas on both sides. At the beginning of the war militias grew up primarily as a form of protection against hostiles that were non-military. For instance, the abolitionist union sympathizers on the Kansas side, the Jayhawkers, gave rise to the “Redlegs” – a notorious band that conducted raids across the border into Missouri. As a counterpoint to that Confederate pro-slavery people like “Bloody Bill” Anderson formed resistance to the aggressions of the Union as well as protection against the abolitionist cells.

As the war progressed protection turned to retaliation and vengeance. Civilians were pillaged for horses, food, supplies and shelter. Perceived collaborators were executed. Depending on the side a town favored it might be sacked and burned. By the end both sides competed to be the most savage and destructive, creating terror wherever they went. Scalping was common. It devolved to pure savagery.

It strikes me as interesting that we cannot fathom such parallel dynamics in a place like Iraq. Different sides clash for long-standing reasons. Defense is created against authorized and unauthorized forces. Terror reigns and the village and holy sites of the other are destroyed. Civilians are targeted in mass bombings.

It’s all the same, of course. We simply have amnesia and are unwilling to admit that our own history has equally horrific dimensions. If anything we are united by the dark inhumanity of it. Yes, we did and do that, too. And then we discover that vast goodness, mercy and hope are also demonstrated by persons in all places and times.

No, the good, bad and ugly are just not that different wherever and whenever you find them. And neither are the good, pure and true.

Just average?

Posted: July 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

I was at a community meeting this morning and one of the people opened with a reading. The words were those of some fluffy motivational writer and the selected section was some diatribe on how being “average” was chiefest sin among all sins. If you’re average, said he, you are not only a disappointment to yourself but commit an offense against God and all humanity. What a waste, average.

All the time that the words are tumbling toward the garbage disposal of my mind I am thinking, “Who is he talking about?” The answer, based on any practical measure, including that of a representative slice of the general public, is “most people.” Most people are average, give or take. But according to this writer If you’re not exceptional your life is a waste. Well, think about that.

First of all, average in what ways? No one can excel in everything.

But more importantly, the definition of “average” is based almost exclusively on external measures. What if you are an “average” gardener but exceedingly loving? What if you are a “C” student but intuitively know when people need a friend?

And most important, in my mind, what if this notion of “being average” is a concoction of a driven personality that believes he has to earn his worth as a human being as opposed to receiving it by virtue of being created in the image of God?

Garrison Keillor famously describes Lake Wobegon as a place where “all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” He says that satirically, tongue in cheek, and we know it. Because we know he doesn’t really believe what he is saying we also know he is critiquing a false and unrealistic attitude toward being human, what is possible and important. The truth is that not all the children are above average. But they are loved of God. To miss that would be the real disappointment and a terrible misunderstanding of the creator who made them.