Monday, March 31, 2014

HAPPY OPENING DAY, Y'ALL!

I shamelessly stole this from a comment thread on an old high school pal's page (he's a Cubs fan).  

We'll let's recount what has happened since the Cubs won the World Series:

1) Radio was invented; Cub fans got to hear their team lose.

2) TV was invented; Cub fans got to see their team lose.

3) Baseball added 14 teams; Cub fans got to see AND hear their team lose to more teams.

4) George Burns celebrated his 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays.

5) Haley’s Comet passed Earth… twice.

6) Harry Caray was born… and died. Incredible, but true.

7) The NBA, NHL and NFL were formed, and Chicago teams won championships in each league.

8) Man landed on the moon, as have several home runs given up by Cubs pitchers.

9) Sixteen US presidents were elected.

10) There were 11 amendments added to the Constitution.

11) Prohibition was created, and repealed.

12) The Titanic was built, set sail, sank, was discovered, and became the subject of major motion pictures… the latter giving Cub fans hope that something that finishes on the bottom can come out on top.

13) Wrigley Field was built and becomes the oldest park in the National League.

14) Flag poles were erected on Wrigley Field roof to hold all of the team’s future World Series pennants. Those flag poles have since rusted and been taken down.

15) A combination of 40 summer & winter Olympics have been held.

16) Thirteen baseball players have won the Triple Crown; several thanked Cubs pitchers.

17) Bell bottoms came in style, went out of style, and came back in style.

18) The Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Florida Marlins have ALL won the World Series. 

19) The Cubs played 14,153 regular-season games; they lost the majority of them.

20) Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and New Mexico were added to the Union.

Music Monday: J.P. and the Tough Choices

This guy writes and performs some serious throwback, hardcore country twang.  Thanks to Richard H. for the introduction.

A male version of Iris DeMent?  Kind of an odd comparison, but it kept coming to mind during this first video.  


This one's a bit more upbeat…OK…a LOT more upbeat in a Western swing sort of way.  



Music Monday: Jason Isbell

I don't know much yet about this artist.  All I DO know is that I was spellbound by this song and put it on "repeat" for days.





Monday, March 24, 2014

Music Monday: The Thin Dimes

Last Saturday, I came home to find a CD had been slipped through the mail slot.  A lovely gift that exposed me more fully to a St. Louis roots music group, The Thin Dimes.  I'll tell you right now that most of their YouTube videos aren't that great, but their self-titled first album is fantastic!  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

1988

As the sun's light fades,
I slide slowly into terror.
One man's love of darkness
Removed forever my tolerance of it.

Nearby a Good Samaritan

Pierces the darkness 
With songs of hope,
Stilling troubled heart and trembling limb.

Psalm 139 - Even the darkness is light to Him; and night is as bright as the day. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Still Dreaming After All These Years

There are 3 empty buildings in my neck of the woods that all need re-purposing and, as usual…I have ideas.  I don't have resources, but I am full of IDEAS!  

The first building is a stone's throw from my living quarters.  The longtime neighborhood grocery store, Johnny's Market, went out of business this past year after 68 years on the corner of Sappington and Gravois.  I often walk by and peer in the windows, imagining how I would transform the space...were I independently wealthy, that is.   I would start by laying some old dark wood floors, then I would hang miles of chocolate brown velvet, adorn it with relics of days gone by in St. Louis - architectural elements, art work, photographs -  all from our history, then I would build a stage shrouded in miles of milk chocolate velvet.  I'd surround the perimeter with dining tables and a couple of bars. And then?  Then I'd throw parties.  

Some nights it would be a big band-swing-rockabilly dance hall…unpretentious, not too snazzy but a step up from the Concord Farmer's Club…and designed to draw a more diverse (AKA: younger) crowd.

Some nights it would be a concert venue featuring roots music - from locals whenever possible, such as The Thin Dimes, Michael & Ryan, Pokey LaFarge, The Blevins, etc. - but also from ANY amazing, small-time (or big-time) artists who were willing to come, local or not. 

Other times it would serve as a banquet hall, hosting  both corporate and private events.  Fabulous, classy events.

The second building is the old Growlers in Sunset Hills.  What an unbelievable story that is.  In a matter of months, they went from being perpetually crazy-crowded, to a complete shut-down.  I have my own theories about why. I know they cite an expired lease and the economy, but after 18 years of success you close up because a lease expires?  Much less popular restaurants nearby have survived the economic downturn.  It's not exactly rocket science.  It was a branding issue.  They changed who they were.  They reduced their beer offerings by 2/3,  and, in a bizarre move, "closed" the front entrance, they banned smoking on their outdoor patio, but their biggest error was the menu change.  Now…I never loved their food, but I had grown accustomed to it.  I at least knew what to expect.  When I saw the new menu, I was excited because they actually added some much more up-to-date, great sounding options.  Problem was…the food not only wasn't great…it was subpar, and much worse than before.

Anyway,  I like the idea of resurrecting the place as less of a pub and more of a fine-dining experience.  Not snooty with exorbitant prices, but slightly upscale food in a rustic setting.   Not a Flemmings', or Kreiss', or Niche kind of upscale…just a place that offers exquisitely-prepared-foods accompanied by fine libations, served by down-to-earth staff, in a warm surrounding. 


The third building offers the greatest potential for becoming a reality.  Remember that old Imo's at the top of Watson and Old Sappington?  They had occupied that place as long as I can remember until a couple years ago.  It opened soon afterwards as Puricelli's Deli.  I never went, but heard it was less-than-stellar in both the food and service sectors.  

This place is small, so it feels "doable" to me.  I know exactly how I would fix up the exterior, remodel the interior, and what the menu would be.  I even know who my first employee would be…and probably my second and third too!  I've gone as far as naming this one.  It would be called Teasdale's…after the St. Louis poet, Sara Teasdale.  

So…if you know any crazies out there who are looking to risk some of their hard-earned cash on a novice restaurant owner,   lemme know, eh?  In the meantime…I'll dream on.  Dreams are usually better than the reality anyway.  Right?  Usually...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Music Monday: Carolina Chocolate Drops

This group's talent is amazingly diverse, as is their repertoire.  Here are two stellar performances, but if you're inclined to check them out further, give a listen to YouTube's 42 minute recording from the Hoover Library.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Mind of the Maker

How cool is it that skilled photographers can capture astonishing moments that we either can't see or don't notice?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Answering Injustice Part 3: Imitating Christ

Why all this talk about "letting go" of personal injustice and fostering humility?  The Lord loves justice, doesn't he?  Why do I insist on the need for us to look in the mirror and to let others "off the hook?"   Every single one of the actions I have suggested we take in order to combat bitterness and cultivate humility, demand that I continually reorient myself to Who I Am...a sinner, fallen, broken, saved by grace.  And I must reorient myself to Who God Is...the longsuffering and merciful One who is perpetually reconciling enemies to himself. 

If I belong to God in Christ - if I am a true disciple - then I am to follow him, which means to live as he lived.  I don't have to think long or hard to recognize how very many injustices he endured that he never earned.  And yet, he went like a sheep to the slaughter.  WHY?  

He left the glory that was fitting for him...he became what we are...he poured himself out...and for that he was unjustly condemned TO THE POINT OF DEATH.  The truly amazing thing is, I often refrain from fighting personal injustice only because I know I am powerless to affect a just outcome.  But HE...he had the power to subdue, to snuff out the injustice!  He could have "set everything to rights" in a moment...laid his enemies at his feet with a word.  But he didn't.  He endured.  WHY?  

For the life of the world. He did it so that I might be rescued.  So that you might be rescued.  So that all his and my enemies might be rescued.  

How was he able to do this?  Because he is the full embodiment of Love and Humility.  He desired our good and was therefore willing to endure injustice, to subject himself to the pains of death and hell, and to trust that the Father would raise him up as he had promised...all so he could redeem and bless us, his people.  

Is the servant greater than his master?  Should I, a guilty party, expect that I will never be falsely accused, unjustly condemned, or thoughtlessly disregarded when the one who carried NO GUILT and who obeyed the Father perfectly, endured injustice and suffering beyond what I ever will?   

I must remember whose I am and imitate him.  He endured for the redemption of others.  I am called to do the same.  Will I choose pride instead?  Will I decide that I deserve better than he?  

May he grant you and me the desire and the strength to let go of personal injustice and serve in Love and Humility those who despitefully use us so that we may "fill up the sufferings of Christ" FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD.

And that's about all I have to say about that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Answering Injustice Part 2: Cultivating Humility

Letting go of a personal injustice is not easy.  But often it is necessary. 

By letting it go, I do NOT mean pretending it never happened or that it's OK that it happened.  Let me be clear.  IT'S NOT OK.  We can and SHOULD allow ourselves time to cycle through the grieving process.  That means we come face-to-face with the hurt, the grief, and the anger.   Tears and Psalms provide godly outlets for our intense, difficult emotions.   But even when we allow ourselves to face the pain, it doesn't remove the reality of the unresolved injustice and it doesn't remove the upside-downness of the world.  It often doesn't remove the dispenser of injustice from our sphere of life and we still have to deal with them.  So what do we do with the remaining emotions and sense of wrong?  

I suggested in the previous post that when we choose to let go of an injustice, we put ourselves in danger of becoming cynical or bitter and that the antidote to letting these take root in our hearts, is humility.  Since our natures are not inclined toward humility, it has to be planted, watered, and cultivated.  I believe the following attitudes and actions work as a corrective to bitterness and prepare the soil for the fruit of humility to grow.  (In the ensuing "sermon" I speak in the first person because I need to hear this as much as anyone, and because I want to avoid sounding "preachy" to "you people out there."  I certainly don't want my very delicate friends, whose situations prompted this series, to feel like I'm kicking them while they're down!)

(1)  Ditch the Pride.   Chances are, if I am honest with myself, underneath my indignance at the injustice perpetrated against me, lies a distinct sense that "I didn't deserve this" or "I deserved better."    Really?  Do I seriously want what I deserve in life?   It doesn't take deep mining to uncover times when I didn't get what I really deserved...or I got much better than I deserved.   I probably didn't complain to God, myself, or others about those times.  And even in the current circumstance, what exactly do I think I do or don't deserve?  Am I thinking more highly of myself than I ought?  Is there some part here that I need to own?  Did I contribute to the circumstance?  Whether I answer in the negative or affirmative, chances are I can easily uncover some pride and indignation behind the pain.  I should also be perpetually cognizant of this: I MIGHT BE WRONG.  Perhaps my own vision is distorted and things are not really as they seem.  Perhaps the injustice is insignificant or non-existent but MY perspective is skewed by my closeness to the situation.  Humility recognizes that I don't really want justice for myself all the time, I don't always dispense justice to others, and I've been wrong before...perhaps I'm wrong again.

(2)  Resign myself.  I need to stop kicking so hard against the reality of living in a fallen, cursed world.  I need to correct my expectations and accept the truth of brokenness.  Remembering times when I was actually (and maybe unintentionally) the perpetrator of an injustice might allow me to assign motives of ignorance or misunderstanding to my persecutors as well, rather than assuming evil intent.   This might lead me to pray, "Father, forgive them, for they don't understand what they're doing," instead of praying they get what they have coming.  I may simply need to resign myself to the inequities.  Humility accepts the frailty of this life and of all its creatures.

(3)  Submit myself.   Submit to this...even this...as the will of the Lord for my sanctification.  He is training me.  Remember, the Creator uses knife and fire to remove the junk and bring forth a glorious vessel fit for his service.  Injustice is painful.  But it creates an opportunity to learn to believe...really BELIEVE...that everything is needful that he sends and nothing can be needful that he withholds.  He is refining me.  Why jump out of the furnace and be satisfied with who I am?  Do I trust his hand to purify me?  Do I really believe I know what's best for me better than he does?    Humility acknowledges and acquiesces to HIS good work, both in me as well as in the one who has dispensed the injustice.

(4) Remember.  When I remember grave injustices that have been, and are even now being suffered by others...injustices that dwarf mine...it changes my perspective.  A very painful and unjust firing from a job might pale in comparison to losing my child's life to a drunk driver, or losing use of my limbs after a negligent medical misdiagnosis, or being born deaf and blind, or watching my fellow Christians beheaded for their profession of faith.   Exposing myself to the lives of saints like Olaudah Equiano, Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic, or Helen Keller,  can radically shift my perspective on how to  graciously endure suffering that stems from injustice.  It doesn't remove the pain or diminish the wrongness of my own situation, but it can definitely provide context in which to see my situation differently.  Humility laments my own lack of faith and extracts strength from the example of others.

(5)  Hope.  Hold onto the crucial truth that one day all things...ALL THINGS...will be set right.  Every wrong and injustice that I have perpetrated or absorbed, will be set to rights.  Wait with expectancy for that day while, here and now, entrusting myself to the One who judges righteously.  His judgements are true and trustworthy.  Humility waits with hope for him to act.  

(6)  Pray. Pray for the good of those who despitefully use me.  Pray that their eyes would be opened to their errors, and their motives would be purified.  For the blatantly evil, pray those imprecatory Psalms, but for a brother who is blind to his own injustice, pray for his good...that is to say, for understanding, repentance, and wisdom.  Humility desires not only my own good, but the good of my enemy.

(7)  Bless.  Rather than fume and rant against those who have done me wrong, I ought to bless them.  Rather than withdraw my countenance completely, I ought to bestow mercy.  They may not recognize my actions as merciful  because they probably believe they haven't wronged me.  They may misinterpret my motives.  Bless them anyway.  Don't be false, but say a true, kind word.  Send a word of encouragement.  Do an act of service.  Maybe it's as simple as looking them in the eye and speaking to them.  Humility refuses to ignore or dispense contempt, and chooses instead to bless.

Is this some Pie-in-the-Sky, Rose-Colored-Glasses nonsense I'm purporting?  I mean, seriously.  Is all of this really necessary?  Can't I just "Fix-o-dent and forget it"?  Can't I demand  that things be set right NOW...that the injustice be undone?   What's this talk of waiting, hoping, praying, trusting, blah, blah, blah.  Don't I have a right to truth and equity?   

Next time I'll touch briefly on the reason I think this is the proper path to follow when dealing with injustice, and what we can expect to find along the way and at the end of the journey.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Answering Injustice Part 1: To Act or Not to Act?

Most of us have, at one time or another, been on the receiving end of an injustice.  What exactly is it  that makes it such an incredibly hard pill to swallow? 

Injustice's primary characteristic is INEQUITY...which typically takes the form of either the meting out of undue punishment or reward, or the withholding of a due punishment or reward.  Perhaps it's the imposition of consequences for unincurred or exaggerated guilt, or the attribution of unearned honor or promotion.  Perhaps it's the minimizing or overlooking of a grave offense, or the failure to deliver a promised or earned reward.  The scales are no longer level and we sense...we feel...we KNOW "this is not OK."

The inequity is often accompanied by some measure of human indifference, distortion, or deception and is usually fostered by lies, partial truths, or silence about known truths.  
 
Add to the not-rightness and the deception, the fact that injustice nearly always comes from the hand of someone who holds a position of authority in our lives, which leaves us powerless to act or bring it to light.  We are left without recourse and we find ourselves in the middle of a thoroughly overwhelming circumstance.  Deceptively punished or passed over by someone in a position of power...now what?

Our responses inevitably include some pretty strong emotions that cannot and should not be ignored.  Hurt, Grief, and Anger are commonplace and, I should add, entirely valid reactions to injustice.  But what are we supposed to DO with all of those feelings and what do we do about the actual situation?   
 
We really have only two options: Set it Right or Let it Go.   

When an injustice is perpetrated against someone other than myself, a compelling case can be made for speaking up...taking action...doing everything in my power to relieve the injured party by seeking justice on their behalf.   I may not be successful, but unless my confrontation increases the risk of damage to the already-hurting person, it's a risk I ought to seriously consider taking. 

On the other hand, if *I* am offended party, it is unlikely I will find relief or benefit myself or anyone else by making a case on my own behalf.  I will likely end up experiencing additional hurt and humiliation.  Unfortunately, the best course is often silent endurance.  But...there is danger in choosing silence.  Unresolved conflicts rooted in injustice can quickly and easily turn to numbness, cynicism, or bitterness in the soul unless we relentlessly fight against letting those things take root.  Because we usually can't make sense  of the situation, and because we believe that real wrongs are being perpetrated, we can't "just" Let it Go like water off a duck's back.  It's not that simple.   

However, I do believe there is a way to walk this road and find peace, healing, and contentment, even apart from a just resolution of the situation.  That way is the way of Humility.  In the next post, I'll lay out some steps that get us moving in the right direction.   

Monday, March 3, 2014

Music Monday: This is Love

"Celebrate and rejoice, because our sister was dead and has come to life; she was lost and has been found!"  Luke 15