Archive for June, 2006

An Evening With Garrison Keillor

18.jpgIt was a feeling akin to the one that comes when you meet someone — a long, lost relative, let’s say — whom you’ve never met but always heard about. It was the flesh-and-bone version of the silky, baritone voice that previously existed only in myths we joined as they unfolded between six and eight on Saturday evenings.

This was my make-a-wish moment.

With just a few rows of chairs separating me from radio icon Garrison Keillor on Wednesday evening, it was as if my story was finally intersecting with those of radio “private eye” Guy Noir, the emotionless Lutherans of Lake Wobegon and the rest of the Prairie Home Companion variety ensemble. But as Dorothy might have said were she in my seat on Wednesday, “We’re not in radio anymore, Toto.”

Wednesday’s live show at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset was one of many stops on Keillor’s current cross-country gallivant lovingly named “The Rhubarb Tour” after the garden vegetable he has so shamelessly promoted on his show through the years. The tour also includes the traditional live recordings of A Prairie Home Companion in different U.S. cities each Saturday night, including Saturday’s season finale and Independence Day Special at the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood in Western Massachusetts.

For me, seeing the live show on Wednesday meant much more than just seeing how Fred Newman creates a world with sound effects during radio theater segments, though this was fascinating. Let me offer a couple metaphors for what this night meant. It was the first time I walked through Gate B on Yawkee Way after years of listening to Sox games on the radio. It was a week in the home of my grandparents, about whom I had been told countless stories. It was me as a twentysomething colliding with me as a five-, ten-, and 13-year-old boy.

I have never grown tired of Keillor’s affinity for the four-part harmony, skillful instrumentation and hauntingly beautiful gospel that have remained the backbone of the show for 32 years. The variety show is really an extension of its host, of course, seen in Keillor’s gliding across the stage during a tune he fancies or his lulling but passionate tales about life in small town Minnesota.

This fact is crystal clear, though: Keillor clearly enjoys each performance as much as the capacity crowds at each venue he plays. It is as if he himself travels to the “better-than-reality” worlds he helps create each Saturday night, and at times one sees his eyes close and head start to sway to a particularly gripping song, and one wonders if he will snap out of it in time to finish the show.

For so many Saturdays over the last 23 years and for two hours on Wednesday in Cohasset, I was transported into this world of Keillor’s — a good world — where hope replaces faithlessness, where laughter replaces tears, and, of course, “where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

It’s A Prairie Home Companion — the last substantive American radio program and a snapshot (and sound bite) of heaven, on Earth.

vote for pedro

Click here and see if you recognize any familiar faces (particularly in photo #4)

“Sweet Caroline”…sweet Kai Leigh.

Watch this video (just click play at the bottom of the screen…make sure your volume is turned up), then read.

Ahh yes…”Sweet Caroline,” as only rabid Red Sox fans can sing it. What a performance. My dad and I saw several inspiring performances today (6.26) at Fenway Park in a game that pitted the BoSox against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Wakefield gave us seven decent innings. David “Big Papí” Ortiz — aka Mr. Clutch — comes through again in the 12th inning with a two-out double to the gap to win the game for the Sox, 8-7. Third walk-off hit for Papí in the last eight games. You know, little performances.

But perhaps the biggest performance of the day (for me) was that of little Kai Leigh Harriott, a 5-year-old Boston girl, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at today’s game. You see, Kai Leigh’s spine was shattered by a stray bullet when she was three, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound. The amazing part of the story was what happened two years later when little Kai Leigh faced the man who shot her. Sitting just a few feet from the man who changed her life forever, the five-year-old said the following words as she broke down in tears: “I know you didn’t mean to do this to me. You are forgiven.”

When the public address announcer told the story at today’s game, Kai Leigh received a standing ovation from almost 35,000 fans in attendance. The announcer correctly stated that Kai Leigh had taught all of us a lesson on compassion and forgiveness.

It was truly a holy moment. I saw Christ in the face of a five-year-old, wheelchair-bound little girl from a broken home in a violent part of town. This little girl forgave — with great emotion — the man who had no care for her life two years ago when he pulled a trigger. Can you imagine how hearing Kai Leigh’s forgiveness impacted the shooter?

There are so many lessons one could draw out of this story, but here’s one thought to ponder today. Time and time again, Jesus points to the “weak” or “least” things as being most valuable in the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus tells us that Christians must look to people like Kai Leigh:

Then he said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

In a world that holds grudges, fights for “personal rights,” steps on anyone and everyone to get ahead, and generally looks out for number one, Jesus is telling us that his followers will look a whole lot more like a compassionate little girl in a wheelchair. How odd…

[Click here for a Globe story on Kai Leigh’s confrontation with her shooter.]

political (un)involvement

Politic3.jpgI had a talk the other day with our friends Aaron and Amy about politics and faith. “Steve probably took the radical leftist viewpoint,” you’re thinking. (I know, I know — I have in the past been guilty of being over-passionate about my viewpoint in political discussions).

But on Sunday, I took a different route. You see, we were discussing Christianity and political involvement, specifically as it pertains to advocating for the oppressed and downtrodden in our world. Even a few months ago, I might have followed Jim Wallis and the Sojo crew to the steps of the Capitol Building to lobby for a “moral budget.” Wallis was at the center of our discussion, as I told our friends that I’m not sure the answer to a “radical right” Christianity is a “radical left” Christianity. In other words, I said, I’m not sure Jim Wallis is good for the current political dialogue.

Aaron agreed with me to a point, but still holds that Christians have a responsibility to participate in the political process and even to take grievances to the appropriate representatives. (Note: Aaron is at Harvard’s Kennedy School earning his degree in public policy) Like I said, a few months ago, this would have been my stance. But I am becoming more and more non-participatory in my political leanings. Idealogically, I probably identify more with traditionally Democratic viewpoints, but as I gain a clearer understanding of life in the kingdom of God, the kingdoms of this Earth seem to fade just a bit. I’m beginning to identify more and more with the views of my Church of Christ forefather David Lipscomb, who purposefully abstained from any political involvement (beyond paying taxes) and was a staunch pacifist. I don’t think Lipscomb held these views because he was sowing his wild oats or was mad at America or was differentiating himself from the Methodists. I’m convinced that Lipscomb, like many others throughout Christian history, recognized that when one chooses the way of Christ, they have a different king and belong to a different kingdom.

I’m not saying Christians should never petition their governments on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Clearly, there are times when this is unavoidable and a moral obligation. But to rely on political action for social change — as I fear Wallis and others have — seems to minimize the Christian’s identity in this “new world order” of the kingdom of God.

we were here last saturday!

(from Sunday’s Boston Globe)

Calling young evangelicals to social justice
Relationships with poor urged

By Roya Wolverson, Globe Correspondent | June 18, 2006

The band was as young and hip as the audience. It was all you’d expect from an urban summer gala — with a twist of holy wonder.

Last Saturday night, the sixth floor of Boston’s Tremont Temple Church was all hands and hips swaying to joyous melodies — and to justice.

Aaron Graham, the 26-year-old pastor of Dorchester’s Quincy Street Missional Church and a leader of the Boston Faith and Justice Network, guided the burgeoning crowd of some 150 people from worship into action at the network’s kickoff event. Graham embodies a local movement of evangelicals looking to mobilize young Christians for social justice outside the limits of partisan politics.

“If I’m going to err on one side, I’d better err on the side of the poor, based on the Bible,” says Graham. “The liberal-conservative division doesn’t really work for our generation.”

“You will not change the world in your spare time with your spare change,” said Bart Campolo, founder and chaplain of Mission Year, a national Christian service program, in his keynote address. “The word we almost never use when we talk about mission [work] is sacrifice.’ ”

Campolo, a charismatic storyteller and speaker, balanced humor with seriousness as he urged the group to go beyond a service mentality.

“As a preacher, I am tired of marketing compassion,” he said, suggesting that service was more than an exercise in personal growth. Graham and Campolo emphasized the need for Christians to have personal relationships with people in need.

“Speak out on behalf of people you love instead of causes you think are important,” said Campolo.

Graham cofounded the new group with Amy Graham, his wife, and Rachel Anderson, a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Divinity. They have striven to develop a cross-denominational group of Christians in the Boston area to respond to injustice through service, education, and advocacy.

Anderson, the network’s director, hopes that bringing together different area churches will help evangelicals overcome divisive politics. The network’s dual focus — youth education and global poverty — grew out of a series of house meetings across Boston. This summer, the group’s service teams will volunteer with local churches and community groups on neighborhood and youth safety.

“There seems to be a yearning among the younger generation to connect their faith with making a difference in the world beyond giving a handout,” Graham says. “We’re helping churches to build the capacity to couple social justice with the things they’re already doing well.”

The key, he says, is to convince churchgoers to act on the church’s local strength in poor neighborhoods in communities such as Dorchester.

“We’re hoping that out of the service experience, people will make that link to move beyond charity to justice.”

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

link

a walk along the shore by our house.

1 mile from our house…

…there are 11,208 people in 4,131 households.
…the median income is $33,142.
…the median age is 33.60.

5 miles from our house…

…there are 531,287 people in 224,726 households.
…the median income is $40,690.
…the median age is 32.7.

DMV, temping, evening walk

Our Neighborhood from the Today began kinda crappy. Chrissy and I were at the Mass. Dept. of Motor Vehicles as they were opening (8:30 a.m.) to get our new driver’s licenses. Chrissy had checked out what all we needed to bring, of course, and we were definitely on the ball. After getting a number, filling out our paperwork, and waiting for about 20 minutes, they called 218 and 219. Chrissy had brought our townhouse lease as our proof of address, which, apparently, was her only (and most crucial) mistake. They couldn’t accept the lease. They need a utility bill or updated check (as if someone couldn’t fabricate that…) or basically anything besides our housing lease to confirm our address. Geez. One more example to prove my theory that the seventh circle of Hell is, in fact, the DMV.

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It got better, however. We went to order checks from Bank of America and ended up getting them from a delightful Colombian man named Andres. He helped our day get better, for sure. Plus our checks were free.

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It got even better… I got a call from my contact at the staffing group I joined yesterday saying that there was a company needing a copywriter to work a.s.a.p. today only. I wasn’t doing anything, so I decided to take it (plus, the fact that the hourly pay was more than four times what I made at HR Frontline at ACU didn’t hurt…). The company was young, intimate, and so, so cool. I seriously did my dream job today. Basically, this company works for HUGE companies providing hook-ups, favors, and perks to company VIPs. You name it, they can do it. They even got an autographed Babe Ruth game ball for one of their members. I spent the day boiling down their biggest “finds” (Brad Pitt’s sunglasses, rare jewelry, discontinued Salvador Dalí perfume — things like that) into a paragraph each for an upcoming Merrill Lynch benefits brochure. It was loads of fun.

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But the highlight of the day, believe it or not, was yet to come. We walked Damon around the park down the street (the one that looks out over the harbor and skyline — click on the above photo), and EVERYBODY was out in the park playing some kind of sport or another or just enjoying the evening. There were latinos playing basketball, two groups playing soccer, an Arab woman eating a boxed dinner by the water, a group of old Asian women sitting under a tree… You get the picture. We live in a cornucopia of people. We met a little boy named Enmer, attracted to us at first by Damon (of course). He walked with us twice around the park, telling us that he plays soccer, will be in kindergarten next year, and lives in our neighborhood. He kept hugging Damon and talking to him, which was hilarious. When we told him that we needed to get Damon back to the house and he couldn’t come, he asked if we would be back. “I want to see you guys back here, OK?” he said. It was adorable. We are seeing that connecting to the community in real ways might be as simple as walking the dog in the park.

Ironic.