Archive for December, 2013

Isaiah Handel

December 24, 2013

In 1741, George Frederick Handel composed a magnificent musical oratorio, which is known as “Handel’s Messiah.”

After a very baroque musical overture, in  which you can hear and feel the sacred gravity of  the message about to be presented, a strong tenor voice opens the scriptural words by singing these words from the 40th chapter of the Jewish prophet Isaiah:


“Comfort ye. Comfort ye, my people,” says your God.

“Speak kindly to Jerusalem;

And call out to her, that her  hard service has been completed,

that her iniquity has been removed,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

A voice is calling,

“Prepare ye the way for the Lord in the wilderness;

make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.

Let every valley be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill made low;

and let the rough ground be made plain,

and the rugged terrain a broad valley. Then,

the glory of the Lord will be revealed. . .”

Was Isaiah prophesying about geography, highway construction, infrastructure development, wealth distribution, income inequality, justice, or . . . or what?

You may want to listen to the links above, or to the entire two and a half hours of Handel’s “Messiah” to contemplate what our God is up to, or at least Isaiah’s, and Handel’s presentation of what our Lord has in mind for his people.

The Money Bowl

December 8, 2013

I entered into the Money Bowl last night, and there I saw the great Florida State football lean, mean, passin’ machine shred Duke’s ACC hopes into scrap.

I say Money Bowl because it was the first time in many a year that I have entered into the great, gleaming gridiron realm of state-of-the-art stadium excellency that Bank of America/Panthers Stadium certainly is and will always be in the minds of Charlotteans, although they tell me that now Dallas is building one for the Cowboys that puts Charlotte’s colossal Collosseum to shame.

Yes, it hath been many a year since I saw such a bright sight as the inside of big stadium all lit up  like that, because you see, I grew up down on de Mississip at Baton Rouge, where Huey Long had, back in the 30s, mustered all the mud of south Louisiana politics and all the dust of north Louisiana hot air into a brand new Tiger Stadium at LSU, where Billy Cannon ran the 97-yard kickoff return to beat Ole Miss back in ’57, and where all my people and me studied and earned degrees and all along the way went on Sat’dy nights to what was, back in the day, the shrine of Tiger football, Tiger Stadium, where I sold concessions when I was in junior high  back in the 60s and then went on to actually live in that great edifice because they had made the north end of it into a dormitory that overlooked Mike the Tiger’s cage over which I would sit on the wide sill of that dorm room during freshman year, looking down at Mike’s little caged domain and listen to Abbey Road and dream about maybe leaving’ Louisiana in the broad daylight.

Which of course I did, later on, leave Louisiana after matriculation in ’73, and went to Florida where I got humiliated  for driving on revoked license and then doin five days jail time, sentenced by a Judge Rasmussen, and then leaving that state, home of those crazy Seminoles and their Gator cousins and I wouldn’t give you a nickel for the whole dam state now anyway.

‘Specially after last night, and what the Seminoles did to Duke, where my son did university, and there we sat last night in the cold in the Money Bowl, with Duke Energy Tower flashing big diagonal neon stripes throught the mist in the background and Bank of America Center over there with its spiky litttle shafts of light on top and Wells Fargo-used-to-be-Wachovia-back in the day somewhere in that sparkly skyline  still doin their thing out in the Golden West.

You see Charlotte is new money, not old money like New Orleans was with its Superdome, or Houston, which was old-new money and its state-of-the-art AstroDome back in the day, down where I come from,  and because Charlotte is such new money,  not old money like New Yawk or Boston, and so Charlotte had to erect the Panthers pantheon-home state-of-the-art or so they say in order to show the world what new money is really all about because you see the queen city has always been a wannabe and always will be, ever since the gold diggers out in California eclipsed the Carolina gold find back in 1848, when the California discovery made Carolina’s little gleaming vein look like a flash in the pan, which it actually was comparatively speaking, as it all turned out. So Charlotte had finally made it, and there we were last night sitting in the cold and watching all those Seminole fans in their maroon and gold doing their obnoxious chop chop thing and rubbin’ it in after they had absconded that chant from the native Americans and still got away with it, and it really is a case of the new money down there in Tallahassee shredding the old-new money of Duke, chopping it into smithereens, and there we were having to watch all this as the third quarter ended and Florida State waltzed into the end zone again for the umpteenth time, but then we went to Denny’s somewhere out there in the vast suburban money land and it wasn’t so bad after all, although there was no joy of course over in Durham because might the Blue Devils had struck out.

I mean Panthers Stadium is a lot like Tiger Stadium  used to be back in the day, except you know, better, and also excluding  what happened there last night.

Glass half-Full


December 6, 2013

Every now and then in history, a man comes along who finds a way where there was, until he found it, no way. Such a man was Nelson Mandela.

Like David of old, who declined to put on Saul’s heavy armor, Mandela refused to take on the stultifying bondage of conventional 20th-century political role-playing. His joyfully legitimate leadership defied ideological stereotypes; in the end, he was as close to being beyond reproach as any great man can be. There will never be another like Nelson Mandela.

He traveled, successfully, on a difficult, rutted road of unprecedented grassroots authority. That self-imposed path was a trail of great suffering, but he also wrangled it into a way of boundless joy, which was often reflected in his smiling face.  Blazing a precarious trail  between the exploitive institutions of established human power, and the revolutionary demands of people rendered powerless by racism and colonialism, he managed to emerge in history as a man of peace, not a man of war.  This is no small accomplishment for any man whose role will be perpetually recorded in history as “liberator.”

Today, the day after his death, the worldwide web is filled with praise and accolades for this unusual man, so I will mention but a few of his accomplishments that have favorably impressed this Christian (me.)

These four milestones of Mandela’s life  inspire me with hope. Hope that it’s possible, in the dismally tragic trail of human history, for a man born into casted injustice and ruthless apartheid, to divert history itself into paths of, not violence and bloody revolution, but Reconciliation and Forgiveness:

~ He patiently endured 27 years of political imprisonment, emerging with forgiveness instead of vengeance, wisdom instead of bitterness.

~ He guided  strife-torn South Africa to elections, with voting, in 1994, instead of violent revolution.

~ After his 27-year prison ordeal, Mandela worked constructively with his Presidential predecessor, Frederick W. De Klerk, in a peaceful transition toward a fully representative democratic government, rather than permitting violent groups to wreak vengeance against the purveyors of apartheid.

~ Like our American founder George Washington, Nelson Mandela refused a king-like role among his grateful people. Instead of aggrandizing his own unique position of merited strength, he stepped down from Presidency after one term, thus facilitating a transferral  of South African governmental authority  to a leadership base broader than himself. Also like George Washington, he forged a decently pragmatic path between military and political revolutionary impulses among his own people.

In a century of polarizing ideologies, this was a man neither a communist nor a capitalist, although one of those simplistic terms was  erroneously attached to his name for awhile. Rather, he was a President, elected by his people. In light of what he endured to achieve that role, he is worthy of the the world’s respect. There will never be another like Nelson Mandela.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress