Thursday, December 5, 2013
I was in Jo burg, South Africa a few years ago with Vann, Meredith and Anna at a Methodist Youth International Congress. During the trip we learned much about Mandela and the history of South Africa. We visited museums dedicated to the history of apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela. We visited Soweto and caught a glimpse of the sad human condition that has not yet been resolved, but to which his life was dedicated.
And we visited a house where Mandela once lived. I am not a fan of these kinds of museums. It seems so intrusive. So personal. It could have been anyone's house. I remember only one vivid image from that house.
In Mandela's bedroom his shoes were on display, obviously cleaned up and in a neat row.
I remember thinking he had really small feet. And it seemed odd. Why do you save someone's shoes?
They were just shoes. The floor of my closet looks similar to the display, except not as organized. I doubt anyone would save them.
The only thing special about the smallish shoes were where they had been, the places Mandela had chosen to walk, where Mandela had stood, marched, suffered, and ultimately led others as they moved on a slow, arduous, historic journey.
I am moved by Mandela's life and death like millions of others, grieving for the loss of a extraordinary human, inspired by the difference one human can make.
And wondering where I should walk, and with whom, that would cause someone to think my shoes worth saving.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Or I suppose another way to put it, how did Jesus and his friends celebrate his birthday?
What do you get for the guy who has nothing, but lives like he has everything? And forget about a surprise party.
I suppose cloaks and shirts were a popular gift for Jesus, even though everyone knew he would just re-gift them. Somehow he made that tacky practice holy.
Socks were out. I'm sorry, but, if you ask what would Jesus do, I don't think the answer would be wear socks with sandals. Pretty sure that's where the phrase "bare your sole" comes from. Jesus probably said it at a birthday gathering.
Birthdays are tough on us mortals. Rather than celebrate the life and graces we have been given, we often focus on the failures, of dreams not realized, goals not reached, opportunities missed. After awhile we dwell not on the number of years we have lived, but on the dwindling number of years we have left.
While I do not know, I do believe that most days with Jesus were not quite as serious as we have been led to believe. It would be like a three year camping trip with the Men's Group from any church. (United Methodist Men in my case). Not exactly a monastic experience.
Wouldn't it be great to be Jesus, the Son of God? Everything perfect. Every year a celebration. Joy to the World? A Wonderful Life? Happy, Happy, Happy . . . Birthday.
The Jesus whose birth we celebrate was born in a cave, the home of animals. Before he could walk without wobbling the most powerful man in his world tried everything he could to kill him. His family was on the run. As he grew older He probably heard the whispers of the people of the town as they counted back from the day of his birth to his parents' marriage date. He and most of his community lived in poverty and fear of cruel Roman oppression. Jesus had little material security. He had come to this world, divesting himself of the amenities of Godly omnipotence and those other omni's, to lead creation back from destruction. As he did so he was hunted and threatened, criticized, ostracized, and misunderstood. The world was not being saved. Even his disciples were arguing about power. Humanity was still inhumane, the hungry were starving, the sick were dying, the outcast were alone, and the imprisoned were shackled.
It was that way when Jesus was born. And when he died. And every birthday in between.
And yet, I am sure, if birthdays were celebrated back in Jesus' day, that the disciples gathered, grilling fish, Martha made a wonderful cake, and Mary doted on Jesus,offering a gift of expensive oil that he loved but would never buy for himself.. . Jesus probably blushed at all the attention and the singing, and graciously accepted the gifts offered, not for the sake of the gift, but for the sake of the givers. Close friends lingered at the party and drank a little more wine. And in the midst of his friends, Jesus' mind was probably turned more on the blessings of the present, if not the presents, as opposed to the hard scrabble past and the unfolding horrific future that only he was beginning to sense. (My theology. Feel free to disagree).
Our celebration of Jesus' birthday is not so different. In the midst of the happiness and joy there is always the other side. It seems the woes of the world are highlighted against the backdrop of our celebrations. The contrast is troubling.
And so Jesus life was not simple. Joy and pain. Celebration and grief. Progress and frustration. Love and hate. .
Kind of like us. Life is not simple. But there is time for joy in the midst of the turmoil. There is hope alongside despair.
And thankfully, there is a light in the darkness.
As we begin this Advent season, what birthday gift can we bring?
It's seems complicated.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.
It is good to get away for just a couple of days, and D.C. is at its peak for fall colors. Our capital is a beautiful place anytime, but today it is
perfect. To make it even more perfect, to borrow a surprisingly little analyzed phrase ( If it is perfect, then can it be any better?) I am visiting Vann.
I was deplaning at National Airport after a short, but hurried day of travel. I have an irrational fear when it comes to air travel. My fear is not that the plane will fall apart, nor the closeness I share with my fellow travelers. My fear comes later, when it is time to leave the terminal and go to the baggage claim or ground transportation area. At some point, in leaving, it is necessary to pass the point of no return. That portal in the terminal which, if you pass through, you may not come back. It just seems so final. I always hesitate for a moment and ponder, "Am I ready to let go? Am I truly finished here? Have I left a bag or anything else unattended in there?" I think it developed from international travel, but now arises at all such exits, no matter how familiar.
So I was striding through National after not eating all day, when directly in front of me, at the end of a tunnel, was an airport terminal version of Dunkin' Donuts, shining like a bright white, brown and orange beacon, guiding me home. I knew that the first thing I should eat at 3 in the afternoon was not donuts and coffee, but still, it seemed like a sign or something. My eyes were fixed on the display cabinets. I could see chocolate icing and colored sprinkles. But then I heard an inner voice telling me not to do it. Sure, I had walked quickly through the airport terminal, but that was not the kind of workout that justified a Dunkin' splurge. So I sadly, stoicly, pulled up for a second, stopping to get a last look at my tempter.
And then I saw it, exploding into view on my right side.
"Once you pass this point, you may not turn back, you must move forward."
Who am I to quibble about the security of our homeland?
So I moved on through, moving forward, as the sign demanded, which put me right at the Donut display case.
No need to argue with fate. Or with a clear sign.
More from the nation's capital later.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
First, and this is very important. If you are a proud Alabamian, or an Alabamian who desperately wants to be proud, or a history buff, there is something you must do. If your fingers play air guitar ballet when you hear the signature riffs of the Allmans or Skynard, or if you belt it out with Aretha or Etta or Pickett or Sledge as if you are their backup singers, or if tears still come to your eyes when you join Clarence Carter in wailing the gut-wrenching lyrics "Patches, I'm depending on you son, to pull the family through, this time, my son, it's all left up to you . . .", . .if any of these things apply to you, or even if they don't, you must, you simply must see, hear and feel,
"Muscle Shoals" is a documentary film about the mysterious, magical music industry of the small town in northwest Alabama, and the amazing handful of people that created the music we love. I promise you, you will learn things that you don't know about Alabama.. And you will hear some great music that you may have forgotten. And you will hear and see a great, great true story, told by the delightful, gritty, real characters who wrote it. Folks that seem like us. They are us. They didn't leave Alabama to find the music elsewhere. They brought the music world to Alabama. To Muscle Shoals. And they made timeless magic.
It is now playing at the Edge 12 theaters on Crestwood in Birmingham.. It should be playing everywhere in Alabama. Maybe it will if you all go see it at the Edge. Just a note about the Edge. They greeted me more like I was coming in to a church fellowship dinner than a movie multiplex. That set the stage for a wonderful evening at the movies.
I rarely make recommendations. Too risky. But do this. If you have a miserable time, blame me. Cuss me all the way home. It won't be on the big screen long, so don't wait.
Donna Roberts wrote "The Good Food Cookbook for Dogs". I never met a dog that was into cooking, but that's a different story. The same Donna Roberts is credited with one of my favorite quotes that I wish I had said: