Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Les Paul and friends at the Iridium Jazz Club, January 31, 2005 (story below) Posted by Hello

Another Bite of the Big Apple

My first post about New York City (March 18th) pointed to Washington Square Park and a few other places in that part of Manhattan. But even from the little bit that I know about the city, there's so much more. Here's a good one that you can do at the end of a day in New York.

The last time I went was two months ago. I got to travel there with my daughter and some of the other music students from Rocky Hill (CT) High School. The trip was planned and orchestrated by the school's vocal music teacher, Claire Burnett, who managed to make the whole thing look easy.

We went down by charter bus on a Monday, January 31st. The timing was intentional. It's every Monday night that the Iridium Jazz Club hosts the legendary Les Paul who performs with a few other fantastic musicians.

The performance was the planned highlight of our trip and it exceeded what all of us were hoping for. The club is at 1650 Broadway (at the intersection of 51st Street). The place isn't easy to find because it's actually down a flight of stairs from the street level. You could walk right past it, miss the skimpy signage, and never know that a club was there.

Anyway, once our group was underground, we checked our coats and settled into the cramped seating. After a few minutes of our ordering Cokes and coffee--anything to meet the two-drink minimum--the piano player, stand-up bassist, Les Paul, and two other guitarists took the stage.

For the next ninety minutes, everyone in that place, from high schoolers to old schoolers, tapped the tables, kept time with the toes, and took in an absolute delight.

Since the time he was 13, Les Paul's been performing, which explains why he's as comfortable on the stage as most people are on the couch. His banter between songs and interaction with the audience keeps up with the quality of the music, and that's saying something.

A friend to new talent, Les brought on a couple of young performers during the show. A smooth jazz saxophonist played a couple of tunes with the band. And then there was this Fred Astaire-like tap dancer who clearly enjoyed wowing us as much as we liked watching him.

With "Red-Hot Red " nearing his nineties, this show is a go-soon as well as a must-see. You won't regret it.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." --1 Timothy 2:1-4

Before coming to the South Road congregation, I was the preacher for the Ward Street Church of Christ in Wallingford, CT. During our Wednesday-evening prayer time there, the wife of one of our elders would consistently point us to this passage and ask that we pray "for our leaders." It was a healthy reminder, and it moves me to pray:

Dear God, Holy Father.

Thank you for the nation where I live and for its government.

Today I hold up before you the men and women who are in positions of authority all over the world. I pray for presidents and prime ministers and kings, for senators and judges, governors, police officers, representatives and mayors. I ask you to bless and to help them, Lord.

Help them to be at their best and to do what it right. Cause them to know that just as they have authority over others, there is an authority over them. Lead them to those decisions and words that will make our world a more peaceful place.

In all of this, I pray for the progress of the gospel, the growth of the Word; that the good news about your Son would travel unimpeded to every place.

Most of all, Mighty God, I look forward to that time when you cause all of the authority in this world to become your kingdom, and that of your Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.

I pray in his name, Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

"This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him" --1 John 5:14-15

Dear God, Holy Father.

For this day, for life itself, and for the good you've seen fit to pour into my life, I thank you.

Lord, help me today and all through this new week to be the person you've called me in Christ to be.

For those times when I've not been what I should have, I ask you to forgive me, again. Thank you that because of Christ I can make this request. Help me to be as patient with other people as you are with me.

God, please continue your work of transforming me into the likeness of Christ, so that I will reflect your glory, give you honor, and be a blessing to others.

I ask this in the great name of Jesus, your son and my savior, Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Washington Square Park on a glorious day (see previous post). Posted by Hello

The Greatest City in the World

I've never been to Milan or Paris, Tokyo or London. I'd love to see them all, and I'm sure they're terrific. But I bet they can't beat New York. It's got to be the greatest city in the world.

Since I moved to New England in 1993, I guess I've taken 20 trips into the city. And every time, several things happen: I get excited going in. I feel a rush on the streets. I hear a handful of different languages. I see something I've never seen before. I eat something unusual and delicious (and, yes, expensive). Finally, I go back home wishing I could have stayed there longer.

I know exactly why I'm writing this now. At long last, it's finally starting to warm up. And that means I'll soon be going back.

So what's so great about New York? What are the best activities and places? Where to begin. . . . Well, it's not my first stop off the train, but on a nice afternoon, I like to go down to Washington Square. Years ago, a friend who lived in the city introduced me to this place and I've loved it ever since.

Washington Square is in Greenwich Village and, in Manhattan, it's the largest public space south of 14th Street. Here you can see the George Washington Memorial Arch and a big fountain in the center of the park. But you always see a lot more. Street performers--jugglers and musicians--turn up here and there. But some of the best performers have no intention of putting on a show. They're just being themselves (or acting like they're someone else).

If the place looks familiar, it's because you've seen it in a movie or two. The park is where Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas) makes the money drop in A Perfect Murder. And I remember reading somewhere that the arch shows up in When Harry Met Sally.

If you go there on a warm afternoon, you can hang out for a while and take it all in. From there, walk six blocks north on 5th Avenue, take a right onto 12th St. and walk to Broadway. At that corner is one of the coolest spots in the world, the Strand Bookstore. But if you're a book lover, I warn you. You'll find yourself wanting never to come out. "18 miles of books."

Or, if you get thirsty in the park, walk south on MacDougal Street. There you'll find a handful of cafes and restaurants where they have tables and chairs out on the sidewalk.

Most of all, you'll want to see Caffe Reggio at 119 MacDougal. This place, built in 1785, turns up in several films including Serpico and The Godfather: Part II.

From MacDougal, go one block east to Sullivan Street, as in "He works at Mister Cacciatore's down on Sullivan Street, across from the medical center." (As long as you're going to keep singing about it, why not see it? But I don't think there's a Cacciatore's on Sullivan anymore. If you know better, please clue me in).

Okay, that's it. I've got to go now. More later. When I get back . . .

In the meantime, write up and send your favorite New York experience. And if you haven't been to the city, by all means go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Day of Song

(Left to Right) Amy and Wes Wilson, Michelle Coletta, and Rich and Cindy Davies helped and encouraged us to make music in our hearts to the Lord.

Last weekend, Michele and I drove to Clifton Park, New York (just north of Albany) to attend the "Singing Workshop" hosted by the Clifton Park and Malta Churches of Christ.

The Saturday sessions included a review of "Oldies but Goodies" and featured introductions to some of the newer worship and praise songs. In the afternoon, participants got to choose among several different classes on things like "Worship Planning" and "Song Conducting."

We were blessed to make new acquaintances, and to learn some songs we didn't know before. It was good to be with brothers and sisters for whom worship to God in song is a priority and a joy.

Special thanks to the workshop leaders and to those who helped in the planning and organization.
Posted by Hello

Monday, March 14, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

Steve Duer suggested that the prayer posted last Monday should be set to music. I had to agree, and thought the same thing about this one. Today I'm praying with Augustine:

You, Lord,
are the light of minds that know you,
the joy of hearts that love you,
and the strength of wills that serve you.

Grant to us that, in knowing you, we may truly love you,
that, in loving you, we may fully serve you.

For to serve you is perfect freedom.

Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Thanking God for What is Good

I don’t watch much television, and it’s not often that I stay with a program from beginning to end. But last Thursday night’s "Primetime Live" caught and held my attention.

The show was about journalist Jeanette Walls, tenor Ronan Tynan, and professor Temple Grandin. Though their stories are very different, they share a common element. Each person overcame the kinds of disadvantages that might have prevented not only success, but even survival.

Walls, a successful reporter and author of a recently-published memoir, grew up in a poverty-stricken and abusive family.

Tynan, a medical doctor, terrific athlete, and one of the three "Irish Tenors" is a double amputee; he lost both legs at age four.

Grandin, who earned a Ph.D., increased our understanding of animals, and single-handedly revolutionized the cattle industry, is autistic.

Naturally, their determination and achievements inspired me. Even more, I was moved to give thanks to the God who seems to specialize in showing mercy to the hopeless.

As expected, the program didn’t mention that everything good and perfect in our lives is a gift from God; that there’s nothing worth having that we didn’t receive. That part of human success stories is what we so rarely hear. And yet, that part is what makes the stories complete and true.

I believe that in this generation a pressing challenge--no, make that a great opportunity--for the church is to provide the divine perspective on what is good and wonderful.

The experience of joy always prompts the desire to send a Thank You. Being a Christian means wanting everyone to know the right address.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Winter that Wouldn't Go Away

Without looking outside, you can always tell when Spring has sprung in Connecticut. The radio stations play "Here Comes the Sun" about once every hour. I smile, sing along, and hardly ever get tired of it.

But I haven't heard that song this year. Not once. "Little darlin', it's been a long, cold, lonely winter." Indeed. And it's not over yet. From today's "Hartford Courant":

Rain morphed into a windy snowstorm Tuesday that nearly paralyzed the evening commute on the state's highways.

Cars spun off roads, tractor-trailers jackknifed and school buses were stranded. Plows could only crawl.

"Basically, Hartford County is not moving. I kid you not," Mike Alan, a traffic reporter for WTIC-AM radio, 1080, said on the air at about 5:10 p.m.

But Hartford County was hardly alone.

"Crazy, crazy, crazy" is how a state police spokesman, Sgt. J. Paul Vance, described the state's highways. Police received about 200 calls reporting accidents between noon and 4:45 p.m., he said. Near whiteout conditions contributed to 130 accidents in just the first three hours of the storm.

A few reactions to my present affect:

From now on, I'll listen more closely to the groundhog report. No, not every guy named "Phil" has something profound to say. But the furry one in Pennsylvania? He's onto something.

"If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute or two." When he coined the expression that goes like that, Twain was living in Hartford. Although it applies to most other places I've been, the phrase belongs to New England first.

There's a lot that I love about Connecticut. You're halfway between New York and Boston; but in addition to the cities, you've got farms and suburbs, beaches and mountains, a wide variety, all very nearby. But sometimes a long winter will get me down. Today, I'd prefer to be somewhere well south of here.

I can't wait to sing with George. "Here comes the sun, (do-do do-do) Here comes the sun. And I say, It's all right . . . " Here it comes.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Darn Good Documentaries

During the divorced years, I took advantage of my living-alone status and frequently allowed the movie buff in me to go on an absolute rampage. "Mad Mike's Super Video"in Wallingford, CT was about a mile from my apartment, and I was a regular.

What kept me coming back to Mad Mike's was this guy's apparent vow to have at least one copy of every movie ever made. There were times when I had just read about some little-known, 30-year old film that flopped in the theaters, but was by all accounts a must-see. I'd race to Mike's, and he'd have it. Only twice in two years did I walk away without the video I came for. Anyway, there was one time when, for about a month, I spent my late nights watching documentaries. About 3 or 4 a week.

[Okay, let's clear this up right now. To those of you who're thinking, "Documentaries? I hate documentaries. They're boring," I say, "You probably don't like raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens, or anything else like that. Every sane and sensible person knows that a good documentary should be among a person's favorite things].

Since those documentary days, I've seen only a few more. What I'm discovering as I go along is that there must be a lot of nicely-done, quirky-in-all-the-right-ways documentaries out there. And I'd like to eventually see them all, but know I never will.

In the near future, I'll share with you the titles of some of my favorite documentaries, along with a little bit about why I like them so much.

Until then, any nominations for a list of "Great Documentaries"?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Prayer to Start the Week

Today I'm praying with Augustine:

Our hearts are cold; warm them with your selfless love.
Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood.
Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit.
Our hearts are empty; fill them with your holy presence.
Our hearts belong to you, Lord Jesus; possess them always and only for yourself.


Friday, March 04, 2005

From the Pen of Dietrich Bonhoeffer . . .

You can read some background on Dietrich in two recent posts: "Messages from a Martyr" (Feb. 17) and "Bonhoeffer Biography" (Feb. 23). I started to say more about him here. But he speaks so well for himself. A few quotes:

Worldly, religionless Christianity: "The Christian must plunge himself into the life of a godless world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with a veneer of religion. He must live a 'worldly' life and so participate in the suffering of God. To be a Christian does not mean to be 'religious' in a particular way. . . . It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world."

A Christian's purpose: "I remember talking with a young French pastor. We were discussing what our real purpose was in life. He said he would like to become a saint. I disagreed with him and said I should prefer to have faith. . . . One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman (the priestly type, so-called!) a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. This is what I mean by worldliness--taking life in one's stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness. It is in such a life that we throw ourselves utterly into the arms of God . . . That is faith, and that is what makes a person a Christian."

Fellowship: "Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called. The call was not for you alone. In the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day, you will be a member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ."

Solitude: "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to struggle and pray."