Saturday, January 02, 2010

in our end is our beginning

The season of Advent moved surely and steadily into Christmas; for us that included the Service of Lessons and Carols (and a highlight for me there was "Salvation is Created") and then the Christmas Eve services. This was my seventh Christmas Eve at Providence; we have come to a good place where Tara shapes one of the services (children and family), Bill another (communion in the chapel) and I shape the other two (carols and candlelight; communion, carols and candlelight). The sermon is posted on this blog ("This Will Be A Sign For You"). My friend George, our district superintendent, helped in serving communion at the 11:00 service and that added to the fullness of the day's meaning.

The next day our family slept in and later had lunch at the Shun Lee Palace. We were not quite imitating "A Christmas Story"; instead, we took pictures and sent them to our older daughter, who actually lives in Beijing (we spoke with her on Skype). It was a nice and quiet day. The next day we saw the movie "The Blind Side". It is a terrific film, and succeeds on a number of levels: it is about compassion, and sports, and perseverance, and sports. It weaves together so many of the issues that have been a part of my own journey: race, religion, sports, economic inequality, the south, family estrangement. My wife had given me the book upon which it is based as a gift, and so I then began to read it. The book and film are very closely aligned, although the subjects of race and football strategy are more deeply explored in the book by Michael Lewis.

The following morning I drove down to Georgia to spend time with my mother. I had listened to Christmas music exclusively from Advent through December 25, and so I got back into alot of the music I really love, which is mostly roots music: the Band, Lyle Lovett, Buddy and Julie Miller, Darrell Scott and others. The six hour drive passed rather quickly. In Columbus it was good to see family; we talked, I slept, we ate barbecue (Country's...I recommend it), I watched football, I began reading Douglas Brinkley's "The Wilderness Warrior", which is a biography and environmental history of Theodore Roosevelt's life and legacy. It is extraordinary, even if it is 800+ pages. I thought Brinkley's reporting of Katrina ("The Great Deluge") was absolutely stunning, the implications for me being that the Mayor of New Orleans should have been fired and the President of the United States should have been impeached. This is all the more remarkable in that Brinkley is a non-partisan historian (he has also worked with Reagan's presidency). The most moving parts of "The Wilderness Warrior" for me were his discussion of Roosevelt's preservation of the Grand Canyon and his reporting of TR's three day visit/hike with John Muir at Yosemite. I mentioned reading this on Facebook, and a friend and Providence UMC member (who is actually a grad student at Harvard) suggested that I read Muir's essay " A Wind-Storm in the Forest". I did. I can only say that reading Muir is a religious experience.

I returned to Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon. For the return trip I had purchased two new cds (and I know, I must be the only human being on the planet who is still buying cds): Steve Earle's Townes, his renditions of Townes Van Zandt's catalog, and Roseanne Cash's The List, which is again a collection of songs that her father insisted she know and learn. I was most taken by The List; it is a model of how an artist inherits a tradition, breathes life into it and makes it her own. The preachers and church leaders among us can learn a great deal from her.

I must also mention a number of football games (and the SEC is doing quite well, thus far), a couple of meals with good friends, a few naps, a more leisurely pace, a memorial service for a good friend's sister, and the end of the calendar year, which my wife and I celebrated by going (early) to our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Now, I sense a return to the schedule; tomorrow is Epiphany Sunday, and then Baptism of the Lord, and we are on our way to Ash Wednesday. The holidays have passed, it seems. Now on to a new year, ready or not.


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