Sunday, February 28, 2010

Barista Memories

One of the fun aspects of my job is meeting interesting people. While I was a barista for Starbucks in Marietta, Georgia, I was cleaning tables in the cafe enjoying the music by Buena Vista Social Club. Nearby were some elderly Hispanic gentlemen sitting by the sunny window sipping some espressos. They were speaking Spanish and dressed very well for a quiet Saturday afternoon. I greeted them and they started a friendly chat with me about how glad they were that we had opened our store there recently. It reminded them of old times in Cuba. They especially liked the music that was playing, and told me it was Cuban. I had no idea. Later, when I had a break, I went to sit with them for 10 minutes and asked them to interpret the songs for me. The best break I ever had.

Friday, February 26, 2010

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Back when I was a student, I had the pleasure of meeting Helene Ashker for coffee when she visited our campus ministry. She was really excited, she had recently closed on a condominium in the Seattle area--she always had been living in apartments and for the first time she owned a home in her late middle aged season of life. As she was talking about this with a younger friend, her friend commented that after all that she had done in serving God, she deserved this. Helene responded with a blunt "I deserve hell."

The rest of our chat consisted of Helene quietly praising God for His care and grace towards her. Her love for God was genuine and from the heart--there was no forced phoniness or exuberant gushing of her emotions. Her emotions arose from her faith in God, her trust in His word and her appreciation of the Gospel. When Helene spoke of God, she glowed. My hour with her was disappointingly short, but her chat with me stuck with me for a lifetime. I wanted to love God like she did, and she loved God because she knew He first loved her.

Helene also knew that there was nothing that she did to earn God's love and salvation. Her relationship with Him was a precious gift of undeserved love, and she looked forward to eternity in Heaven because of Jesus' dying on a cross, suffering for the sins that she was guilty of. This gift was indescribably more precious to her than her lovely new condominium. Her true home was with God.

Helene modeled more for me than I know. In a short hour, she showed me how one's focus and perspective is truely affected by good theology. She didn't quote any verses, but everything she shared referred to the Scriptures--God's word clearly was treasured in her heart and life. She influenced me by not focusing on me at all--she didn't ask me all about my problems and hang ups but pointed me in a direction up and away from all my burdens and cares. And the fact that she was an effective evangelist just by being who she was and loving God didn't surprise me at all. She would have shared the same things with a nonChristian that she shared with me.

Helene was not a perfect woman, but she served and loved a perfect Savior. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not Just Another Pretty Pop Song

A video from "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" Tuesday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bob Dylan sings "The Times They are A' Changin'". Dylan wrote the protest song during an era when a group of American people were denied the ordinary voting rights of ordinary citizens based on merely the color of their skin. It's unfathomable to me that was ever an issue, but it was during my lifetime.

I remember as a kid in the '60's standing in line for a cheap Saturday children's matinee at the local movie theater. The kids were not treated equally, there was a black father with two daughters who had to wait until everyone else (all white) purchased their tickets and popcorn. I remember them patiently standing there until they were the last to be served. If you were last, you probably got the seats in the back of the theater, and it was usually crowded and hard to find a seat by that time. That the workers behind the counters could nonchalantly get away with this was shocking to me. As far as I could see, I was the only one observing what was going on, besides the parent and his daughters. No one else seemed to care. And I was only a second grader.

So, the song means something to me, in more ways than that one. But this is all for now from my personal experience. There is a reason why Dylan was asked to perform this particular song for this particular concert.

Dylan's song has a lot of metaphors, but he's also referring to real events. For instance, "don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall" points to Alabama governor Wallace's symbolic stand in the University of Alabama's auditorium doorway against the entry of two African American students.

When Dylan sang "you'll be drenched to the bone" he referred to the fire hoses used during the Children's Crusade in Birmingham, May 3, 1963:

When Connor realized that the Birmingham jail was full, on May 3 he changed police tactics to keep protesters out of the downtown business area. Another thousand students gathered at the church and left to walk across Kelly Ingram Park while chanting, "We're going to walk, walk, walk. Freedom ... freedom ... freedom."[67] As the demonstrators left the church, police warned them to stop and turn back, "or you'll get wet".[53] When they continued, Connor ordered the city's fire hoses, set at a level that would peel bark off a tree or separate bricks from mortar, to be turned on the children. Boys' shirts were ripped off, and young women were pushed over the tops of cars by the force of the water. When the students crouched or fell, the blasts of water rolled them down the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks.---Wikipedia

Dylan was warning that the ones who were using the hoses on the protesters would find themselves completely submerged and drowning, but the flood wasn't water, it was thousands of black protestors taking over downtown Birmingham on May 7th. The mayor and the commissioner who ordered the water hoses and police dogs on the young demonstrators ended up handing in their resignations after a truce was made a few days afterward.

It's not just a pretty song. It commemorates ugly events that defeated ugly Jim Crow laws of segregation in public places in Birmingham.