If I may quote myself: I'm not ashamed of the Gospel, but I've met some people who are. Claiming their anger is God's will their self-righteousness goes too far.
So, October was a scary and bloody month. The reputation of Christians in America was dealt some serious blows. First, a young gay man was beaten to death in Wyoming. The Christians who got the press coverage were the ones carrying protest signs at his funeral (a funeral!). So much for the hope of the resurrection, eh? Later in the month, a doctor was gunned down in his kitchen (in his kitchen!). The Christians who got the press coverage called the murderer a "hero" for ending the doctor's "bloodthirsty practice." So much for loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you, eh? It's a telling commentary that Salman Rushdie would be safer in an Iranian market than a doctor in his Buffalo home, or a homosexual where the buffalo roam. More to the point is this . . .
I was standing on line at some grocery store in some town in some state. Like any good shopper, I was paging through People Magazine as I stood there. I looked on page 53 at the photos from the funeral of Matt Shepard, and I saw her--the ultimate test case. A large suburban looking mom in a faux-vinyl poncho holding two huge signs that read "FAGS DOOM NATIONS" and "MATT IN HELL." (These folks have not yet mastered lower-case letters. Next year they hope to construct signs with up to four words that make sentences containing verbs and stuff.) The photo is disturbing, but it raises two important questions about the nature of God.
1) Is God so merciful that he can forgive this woman's blatant act of cruel inhumanity?
2) If God can forgive this woman, and she will be heaven, is it a place we really want to go?
It seems to me that it just got a little harder to convince people of God's love. It seems a tad more challenging to convince the unchurched that heaven is worth more than a passing nod. It might even be hard for some people to continue to go to church these days. But I have some advice for you, oh reader. I can't remember offhand where I read this before, but here's what I think you should do: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Note to large suburban woman in faux-vinyl poncho: this might involve putting down your signs, removing logs from your eye, and getting a life.)
Then we headed for our Last Kansas Tour of The Millennium. We knew we wouldn't be back for a while, so we did it up big. We began the trip as far west in Kansas as one can go: Garden City. Though we saw no gardens in town, we certainly did smell some cows. That very night, the local team (Garden City High School) was playing football against their local rivals (Liberal High School). Unfortunately, we were among the few who couldn't attend the game, since we had a concert to play.
Then we traveled clear across the state to Topeka (which is the capital of the state, and home to gay-rights activist Fred Phelps, organizer of the funeral protest mentioned above). We played twice that night: once for worship, and once for concert. Then we began consulting the map and the locals on where, exactly, they keep Ellinwood in Kansas. We found out and zipped over there for our Final Kansas Concert of The Millennium. We were supposed to play the concert outdoors, but the locals knew to have the concert inside because the tornadoes aren't as bad in the church sanctuary.
After Kansas, we went home for a few minutes, and then we flew to Denver to take part in our first-ever Youth Specialties National Youthworkers Convention (an honor above all honors). We knew we were completely out of our league this time, and assumed that they invited us to play there by mistake.
Our favorite production crew
They let me call some shots
Michael poses with our favorite Real Band singer
Do you boys have a sales license?
After setting up the neighborhood food drive, I drove out to Valpa-rain-snow windy-anna. Michael flew in to Chicago and got a ride from our friend Joel. We met at Valparaiso University and settled in for a couple of concerts. The highlight was being inducted into the Jon Rivera Fan Club. (Don't forget our membership cards you guys!) Not sure what it all means, but Jon is a popular guy around campus these days. Here's a fine photo of us with the man himself.
On Sunday I raced home to my wife who was having a birthday while the Bills were busy beating another undefeated team. When I got home, and we were planning where to go for dinner, Eleanor kept pushing for Arby's because they have that playground thing. I explained that maybe the mom should pick the place; the daughter conceded.
The next day we headed for Cabot, PA, which we circled on all three sides before finally taking the right exit. After the concert I dropped the piano stand on my foot and, as the southern folks say, "I liked to die!" It hurt like . . . now what's that word? . . . oh yes, A LOT! So, Eleaine, spouse to local sherrif drove me over the hospital. Turns out my foot was not broken; it just had the pain button turned all the way up. They sent me on our way.
Next night was Fairview Park, OH (Cleveland to you and me). We took the scenic route through a large park that was not supposed to be on our way. Some would say "lost," but that's just the way those negative people think. We had a great turnout. Some folks down front claimed to have freeze-dried Michael. They had me going and I even took a couple of photos to remember him by.
|Then we played at Concordia College, Ann Arbor, MI. Always a great crowd, and a bouncy room. Afterwards we went to my house to sleep and then headed off to Columbus, OH, to play our first recital.|
Michael prepares for his Publick Concert of Music.
|It was a truly formal affair, and the crowd was quiet and respectful. Or maybe they were wild and out of control; I can't quite remember which.|
Cindy & Rachel were in charge of crowd (out of) control.
After that, Michael flew and I drove to our respective homes, where we're gearing up for a big Halloween night. Though we cannot attend the wedding of George and Jen, we're going spend the day in the presence of a bunch of Real Bands and cheeseheads. Should be a grand affair.
If you'd like to see photos of the crowds at this month's concerts, click the November Photo Phrenzy to see everyone we saw.
More next month,