Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesdays with Todd . . .

Delfeayo, Conquistadors, Pharisees, and Wisdom

It is so easy to overlook the wondrous things around us. Though they are always there, or perhaps because they are always there, we take them for granted. This spring I have been on a conscious quest to make some time to appreciate at least a few of these things.

In the past few months I have discovered Franklin, St. Francisville and the Clark Creek Natural Area and rediscovered Grand Isle, Mandeville, Abita Springs, Ponchatoula, and several other relatively nearby locales that I have long taken for granted.

In keeping with my motif of getting out and doing things I have not done before and discovering and rediscovering my own back yard, I did something this weekend that I had never done before.

Just up the road, about an hour away, lies New Orleans. The wealth and diversity of cultural and epicurean delights to be found there are virtually endless. Now, I have lived between one hour and one half hour from N'awlins all of my life, and yet had never been to a jazz club. Can you imagine living that close to the home town of Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Irma Thomas, and multitudes of other notable musicians, a place where you can find world-class jazz pretty much any night of the week, any week of the year, and never having taken advantage of that?

Now, in my defense, I just wasn't raised that way. Having grown up in a pentecostal church, in my mind jazz clubs were smoke-filled, tawdry, dens of iniquity wreaking of cheap cologne and stale booze, ... or cheap booze and stale cologne. And you could definitely make the case that there was little reason for a good Christian man to be in that environment. And there are many places in the French Quarter like that, places there would be little reason for me to patronize.

But, there are also some real gems to be found. I, and a couple of dear friends, found just such a little nook and enjoyed a wonderful evening of music provided by a member of one of New Orleans' premier musical families, Delfeayo Marsalis, and his band.

The scene I beheld was exactly NOT what I expected or had long envisioned. Instead of drunks trying to hit on my friends, I saw nice, polite people of many ethnicities enjoying very sophisticated music. I saw an older couple tenderly holding hands during a particularly romantic tune with a long lulling trombone solo. The mood was happy and the music was great. Musically I heard intricate melodies, subtle phrasing, complex chord constructs, mathematical rhythms, and a joyous energy that ranged from frenetic to genuinely romantic in the best sense of the word.

Preconceptions are very rarely accurate. Whether they be about people, places, or things, they usually mislead us ... and you know what they say about when we ass-u-me ...

Sometimes we have a gut reaction upon meeting someone that turns out to be exactly right. Other times, we make assumptions or sweeping generalizations, sight unseen, based upon no information, or second hand information, that lead us to faulty conclusions and preclude us from experiencing all of the good things that God provides for our enjoyment. I was recently speaking with a friend about these things. We ended up exchanging cliches like "don't throw out the baby with the bath-water" and "eat the fish, but spit out the bones". Sometimes cliches stick around for a reason - they encapsulate a fundamental truth about life.

Unfortunately we, as Christians, are sometimes the very worst regarding this. In our vain attempts to portray ourselves as what we believe appears spiritual and holy, we end up like the Pharisees, believing that holiness is derived by not going certain places, not eating certain things, and not interacting with publicans and sinners. This leads to an arrogance that is very unappealing to the very people we say we hope to win to God's Kingdom.

I am reminded of some of the first missionaries to the new world.. On the whole, they simply trashed the local religions. This stands in sharp contrast to the way Paul used the Athenians belief in an "Unknown God" as a starting point to bring them knowledge of The One True God. I believe that we make the same mistake when we simply trash other's way of life. It would be more profitable to start where they are and show the way from there.

For instance, it seems to me that starting with the beauty, emotion, and mathematical structure of music and working toward God from there, is much more in keeping with Paul's methods and much more effective than simply saying repent, you evil man with your devil music!

Of course, as with all things, there is balance in this. I am not saying that we should all get out and start going to clubs and that if you don't you're a Pharisee! I guess I'm just saying that we should not simply dismiss things out of hand. Maybe we should give a little thought and some prayer as to what things we do or do not do, and why we do or do not them.

This requires wisdom. Happily, this is something that, when asked for, God gives liberally.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where's Dayledo?

What I've been doing instead of posting: (I know ya'll are wondering.)

1.) working on my re-write.
2.) trying to buy a house.
3.) eating blueberries.
4.) working on a proposal to officially change the spelling of bologna to baloney.
5.) trying to figure out where that strange smell is coming from.

So once again, I apologize to those of you who depend on my once semi-daily musings to get through the drudgery that is your daily life.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Theater curse . . .

I went to see Indiana Jones Monday. During the coming attractions, someone hit me in the head twice with what I assume were small pieces of candy. Without thinking I turned around and said to the dark forms behind me, loud enough for everyone to hear: "Whoever's throwing things better quit." Of course a hush fell over the crowd. . . . The throwing stopped.

Side note: Really good movie. And, something happened that I've never witnessed before. At the end of the movie, the audience applauded. Strange.

A couple of years ago, I went to see Spiderman 2, (terrible movie). I went during the day several weeks after the movie released to avoid the crowds. Four punks sat behind me and in the span of about one minute, although conveniently seeming accidental and followed by an apology, kicked the back of my chair four times. After the fifth time, I'd had enough and informed them that it better not happen again. They didn't kick my chair again, but they talked the whole time. Three people answered their phone and had a brief conversation.

I went to see Dekker's Three (pretty good movie). I traveled two hours to Baton Rouge to find a theater showing it. To my luck and Dekker's dismay, there were only five people in the theater. Of course, the curse struck again. Sitting in the same aisle as I, in a mostly empty theater, a mentally disturbed looking woman proceeded to answer her cell phone and engage in a twenty minute conversation at a volume required given the fact that the rest of us rudely refused to ask the manager to pause the movie. ( sidenote: I didn't say anything to her given her mentally disturbed look.)

I could go on and on, but it is clear that the dark forces of the universe are aligned against me and my quest to occasionally attend a movie.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

As far as I'm concerned . .

Blue Lagoon should be declared child pornography and ripped from the shelves, the director and producers should go to prison for peddling child pornography, and Brooke's parents should be arrested for child abuse.

She was fifteen years old.

Before you disagree on the child abuse part, watch the movie Pretty Baby starring 13 year old Brooke Shields, then decide. (All of the above goes for that movie, too.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Double Sin of Pyramid Preaching . . .

Besides getting rich off the TV tithing of poor people, the real crime of these scammers is the diversion of funds away from the duty of Christians: To give to the poor.

The Bible teaches us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked . . . basically give to those less fortunate than us regardless of our own situation.

But I don't see this burden in the Christian community. What I see is a burden for Christians to prosper their churches or their pastors. How much money does it cost to build the 80 ft. crosses that are becoming popular in front of the mega-churches. How much did it cost to build the Crystal Cathedral? How much food could that have purchased? Clothing? Rent? Transportation? Health care?

How much does the sets on TBN cost? The globe behind Joel Osteen's pulpit?

Far be it for me to speak for God, but He must be displeased to watch us spend millions of dollars supposedly given to Him, on monuments to our own egos.

I believe God would rather my church spend less money on decor and more on food and care for the poorest among us.

Don't get me wrong, we're all guilty of this. I played golf yesterday to the tune of $50. I could have and maybe should have given that money to my local food bank.

This is my main problem with jewelry. Instead of someone buying a $5,000 watch, did it ever occur to them to help someone pay for an operation? Help roof a poor person's leaking house? Help an elderly person or a child pay for their medication?

I am often reminded of the closing scene of Schindler's List. Oscar Schindler is grieving over the fact that although he saved many Jews from the ovens, he could have saved more. He starts listing the items he should have exchanged for lives. In one example, he throws his watch to the ground and yells out the number of lives he could have saved if he could have parted with it. The true reality of the value of things compared to lives became a vivid reality to him.

Is there anything in your life that you have valued over obeying God's command to give to those without? (obviously, you don't have to answer here.)

What does your church do with your money?