Three New Twitter Followers

You know it’s a big week when you get three new followers on Twitter. Fine, sure, I know that some people get follows in mass quantities regularly. I’m not that cool.

But this week I must have been brought to the attention of some fine folks and they managed to find me in the Twittersphere and therefore I now have my ego stroked enough to last me for a couple of weeks, I’m sure.

Why did I come to people’s attention?

Well, it may have been this recent blog post at the Church at Charlotte blog, “When Everything is Broken, Remember”:

There is something wrong with this world.

We know it, deep in our souls. When we see a 24-year-old young woman on hospice care, we know it. When we hear of refugee children drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as they try to find a safe home, we know it. When a marriage falls apart, when a child dies, when a man is beaten on the street—something inside us says, “This isn’t how it is supposed to be.”

Everything is broken.

Or it might have been this story up at Story Warren this week, “A Man Named John Smith”:

A snippet of Jamin Still’s amazing illustration for my story.

Once upon a time there was a man named John Smith. When Mr. Smith was little, he was very concerned that with such a plain name, he would be lost to history, forever forgotten in a sea of John Smiths down through the ages. If you make it to the end of this harrowing tale, you shall discover that young John’s worst fears were realized. Do not worry, though, I haven’t given the whole thing away—there’s still a surprise or two waiting for you just down the page.

When Mr. Smith was a little boy—(How little, you say? Well, littler than me. And probably littler that the eldest among you, but certainly older than the littlest ones.)—Anyway, when John was a boy, he lived on a farm—(Where was the farm? Indiana. But that really doesn’t have any bearing on this story at all. Now hold your questions to the end or we shall never get through this.)

Or maybe it was the exciting news that I get to present this year at The Rabbit Room’s Hutchmoot 2015. I’ve written about Hutchmoot before, and The Rabbit Room has certainly been formative in my life for the past few years, so I’m utterly honored and grateful to be speaking this time around. And getting to do so with Russ Ramsey on the topic of baseball? Yeah…so cool. I’ll let you know how it goes later!

(See what I did in this post? I turned a “catching up” post into a real one. Tricksy. I may just attain the level of coolness my Twitter followers expect of me someday.)

Catching Up

I have, again, been remiss in posting here, but I do have some recent posts elsewhere. Here’s a bit of a recap:

Saturday: Sabbath

Wondering what the day between the crucifixion and resurrection sounded like.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, my small town had a Chabad- Hasidic Jewish synagogue at the top end of State Street. Newtown was full of historic buildings where George Washington had slept, and most along State Street—the main street of the town—had been converted into boutique shops and restaurants. I lived at the bottom end of State Street, and on a Saturday afternoon, the street and sidewalks between my apartment and the synagogue were crowded with chatting shoppers, hands full of bags and Starbucks beverages.

Every Saturday afternoon, quiet in the midst of the bustle, families, dressed in their finest, their heads covered, their prayer shawls showing from beneath their coats, walked slowly up State Street to worship.

Community and Compulsion

A baseball game and John 14.

And here’s the thing, the risk doesn’t always pay off. Sometimes the person you were vulnerable with proves untrustworthy, sometimes entering into another person’s mess leads to getting taken advantage of.

Earlier this season, in a Detroit Tigers baseball game, Victor Martinez (a.k.a. V-Mart) scored a run from second on a single from Yoenis Cespedes. V-Mart was never the fastest runner, is now in his mid-thirties, had an off-season knee surgery, and had just tweaked the same knee a few days earlier: speed is not his thing. He only made it home because J.D. Martinez, another player on the team, got caught in a run-down between second and third and the opposing players didn’t have time to throw V-Mart out.

I’m Not the Queen

Discovering what it means to be a part of the Body.

A few weeks ago, I sat reading over breakfast at Panera. I watched a woman come in and strike up conversation with the employee behind the register, looking up at the menu to determine her breakfast choice. She paused every few sentences and sipped from the beverage already in her hand: a coffee from Starbucks.

I posted the observation on my Facebook page. I considered commenting on it, but decided to simply post it as a statement: “There’s a woman standing in line at Panera drinking from her Starbucks beverage while she orders.” I had my own opinions on the matter, but I was more intrigued to see what people would say in response.

Writing with Light

photocampLearning about photography and the Author of Light with a crew of teenagers.

On Monday, David Johnson, the Director of Silent Images, presented some initial thoughts on photography to the students. Two of the things he noted stuck with me particularly. He began by asking us to think about the meaning of the word “photography.” I’d never thought about it before, but the root words are “photo”—light and “graph”—writing. Photography is, David said, “writing with light.” One of his rules for the week was “look for the light.”

The second thing David noted which stood out to me was the idea that a photograph tends to be seen as an objective witness to events. He asked us to think about how cameras on our phones have in recent days impacted the course of history. From showing the abuses of corrupt governments to recording a sequence of events in a conflict, a camera in the hands of an individual standing on a street can have tremendous power.

Baseball

It’s Game 7 of the World Series. Though I stopped tracking the postseason baseball closely when the Tigers collapsed, I discovered in myself this evening a great urge to watch it all come together to whatever end.

BaseballBaseball’s always been around. I went to at least one game a year regularly as a child, and Dad typically made sure to catch the World Series, no matter who was playing.

But perhaps one of my favorite World Series memories was in 2004, when the Red Sox were sweeping the Cardinals. I’m as close to a neutral as you can be about both teams—unless they’re playing the Tigers, I don’t have any particular desires for them to win or lose. But the Sox making their run was a wild ride, and I think it may be time for everyone to learn the secret I know: how the Red Sox reversed the curse.

My cousin Stacy, her husband Jeremy, and their kids were visiting the US that autumn. They were missionaries in South America. Stacy grew up in Pennsylvania and Bolivia then returned to the latter as a missionary where she met Jeremy, an Englishman.

Jeremy and the kids hadn’t spent much time in the US, and they managed to arrive at a prime American cultural moment. They’d been in New England during the ALCS, and found themselves staying with Red Sox fans the night of Game 4. The Sox were down three games to the Yankees, and Jeremy watched his first baseball game.

It’s likely you know the outcome of that game. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, that postseason run is the stuff of legend. The Red Sox pulled out a win against the Yankees that night, and for three more games after that. Then they went on to sweep the Cardinals, breaking their 86-year-long World Series championship drought.

At the end of ALCS Game 4, as they celebrated that the Red Sox were still alive against the Yankees, my cousins’ friends turned to Jeremy.
“That was your first game?” they asked.
“Yes, I’ve never seen one before,” he answered.
“You have to keep watching,” they said.

So Jeremy kept watching, as much as he was able. He tuned in to portions of the final three games of the ALCS, and the Red Sox knocked the Yankees out of the running. He kept it up as they went up against the Cardinals. Evidently, though, a few of the intricacies had passed him by, as I discovered when he watched a game at my parents’ house.

We sat in my parents’ family room, my dad, Jeremy, and I half watching the game, half watching the kids play. Stacy and my mom were in the kitchen working on something. Jeremy told us of his curse-reversing power, and we talked of the series currently going. Then came my highlight of the series.

“Now,” Jeremy asked my dad, “If they win this match, how many will they continue to play?”
Before Dad could answer, from the kitchen came Stacy’s voice, correcting her British husband’s terminology. “Not a match, honey. It’s a game.”

When The World Cup Rolls Around

I’ve heard many complaints throughout my life that Baseball’s World Series is improperly named. It’s not a battle I feel like fighting, but I’d have to agree with the complainers. Frankly, the United States and one city in southern Canada do not the “World” make.

So, perhaps the complainers are right to argue their point at every turn, but I’d rather put my energy in another direction: focusing on a real world-wide sport: football (or fùtbol, if you speak Spanish; or soccer, if you speak American).

Tomorrow starts the 2014 World Cup. I’m aching with anticipation, but not perhaps like others. Someone asked me today who I picked as a favorite to win and I realized I hadn’t even given that a thought. I responded by saying, “I really want to see some unexpected team rise to the occasion. I love the underdogs.” It’s true. I do.

I had an essay published today at The Curator that I wrote about my love of Croatia, not a favored team. I’ve mentioned my fondness for the Croatian team here before.

And then there’s England. My number 2. Failing to win a Cup since 1966. Yes, the Three Lions have a space in my heart as well.

Both as a quasi-patriotic American and as a rooter for the underdog, I should probably have more fondness for my own national team, but, I admit, they so rarely manage to get any energy going that I struggle even with that. But when they do get some energy, suddenly my national pride finds its way to the fore.

Perhaps the only front-runner I’ve given attention to in recent years is España. They swayed me to their side after my favorites fell in Euro’08 and have kept up the magic since. Or perhaps I just like saying “Iker Casillas.” Go on, say it. It’s fun. Remember, in Spanish the double-l has a “y” sound.

But when it comes down to it, part of the joy of football for me is seeing giants fall. I love to watch those greats play; I love to see the magic of Brazil’s game or the beauty of Germany’s. But, in actuality, unless they’re playing Portugal, if I’m watching those teams, I’ll probably be rooting for the other guys.

 

New Guest Post at Story Warren

Have you been introduced to Story Warren yet? It’s a delightful place, full of wonderful people who tell wonderful tales and recommend wonderful things. Y’all should head on over and check out one of those links in the previous sentence. Or all of them.

S.D. Smith, who runs the place with his many allies, is a highly enjoyable human being (saving his fault of hating peas). Sam was once described by my friend Laura as “the sort of person who…[will] grow up and be like Dumbledore or Obi Wan or Gandalf – speaking the words that alert you to the power/magic/force that perhaps you were too afraid to hope was real.” I can’t think of a better description. So when Sam wrote me a note and asked if I’d be interested in guest posting for Story Warren, I was grateful for the opportunity and told him I’d ponder what was in my head and see if anything came to the fore. He responded with “Ponder your brain contents.”

So I did. And then something came to me, and I wrote it down, and I sent it along, and Sam liked it, and today it posted over at Story Warren. Go ahead on over and check it out. Then poke around and read things like this, and this, and this. And then like them on Facebook and keep up with them. ‘Cause this is something and you want to be a part of it.

Bent Branches, Straight Baselines

It’s been just over a month now since spring began – slowly this year in Philly – coming at us in fits and starts. I think it has actually arrived now, though there are still one or two trees that are only just leafing out. But the azaleas and the dogwoods have bloomed, so I think it’s really spring.
This slow spring has drawn my attention more than once – trees that often bear the bright of yellow-green in March still showed their naked limbs well into April. It was as if they wanted to say, “See, here’s my structure. These are my bones. You may not have noticed them this winter when your eyes were cast to the ground watching for ice patches. Look up now; see my angled boughs.”
At the beginning of April, my friend David posted a short piece on his blog titled simply, “On Baseball.” In it he quickly and poetically examined the architecture of a golf and baseball, finishing with these words:
Baseball unites heaven and earth: it inscribes a pattern of clean lines, orbs, and diamonds upon the dust from which we were formed and in which we toil, and the lush green in which we find rest. Upon that heaven-and-earth field, prodigal sons set out on barren base paths; and we watch and wait to see if they will make it back home.
The words arrested me. I love clean lines. I love the straight, the symmetrical. There is beauty in a ballpark. But as the trees bared themselves, I had the realization that straight lines are a rare thing in nature. The Creator’s beauty meanders more than man’s.
And when we humans create without the assistance of our man-made tools, our creations are meandering things too, the image of God creating in the pattern of God. As I began to think it through, I realized that the straight lines and measured curves of architecture echo the straight lines and measured curves of the heavenly throne room – and our ideals of beauty find their fulfillment in the descriptions of that place.
Somehow, we find ourselves caught in the middle, loving both the bent branches and the straight baselines. Caught between heaven and earth. Redeemed yet human. Prodigal sons looking for home.
My first inspirations on this topic formed themselves into an essay for The Curator, the web publication of the International ArtsMovement for which I am now serving as an Assistant Editor. 

David’s continued thoughts on the topic have been manifested in a second blog post where he says kind things about my Curator essay and much better things of his own. 

Whoever Plays the Yankees

I have an uncle who loves baseball. When I say that, I’m not sure you can quite understand me – unless you have one of those types in your own family. He LOVES baseball.

Now, often team loyalties in sports come through familial ties. A son loves the team his father loves, unless of course, he grows to hate that team. But probably, more often than not, the favorite team passes from father to son. One reason for this may be location – if a boy grows up in Baltimore, just like his father, he’s likely to love the Orioles, just like his father.
But for my uncle and his sons, that love of team has gotten a little confused. They’ve moved all over the country, and while the love of baseball has passed from father to son, the team loyalties are representative of each son’s experiences. The youngest, born in Chicago, is a Cubs fan to the end. The middle son, who went to school in Boston, loves the Red Sox. The eldest, living in Minneapolis, has become a Twins fan. They all love baseball, but have their own voices as to which team deserves their fandom.
My uncle, though, has passed one thing along to his sons. You see, he has a favorite team – if you push him, he’d root for the Phillies or the Orioles (one NL, one AL) – but on a day-to-day basis, my uncle’s favorite team is whoever plays the Yankees. And this loathing is what he’s passed on – they all hate the Yankees. Any chance they have to see the Yankees lose, my uncle and my cousins are there, cheering for the opposition.
I feel the same way about Germany in football. Too many times I’ve seen the powerhouse nation crush the hopes of the underdog. I was in Czech Republic during the 1996 final EuroCup game, and listened to the silent streets when Germany defeated them in extra time. I’ve watched them defeat my favorite England in various matches. Any chance I have to see Germany lose, then, and I’m cheering for the opposition.
Here’s the problem, though. Germany’s good. Really good. I actually really enjoy watching them play. I went into Sunday’s game slightly hopeful, but my hope in Australia was crushed, then crushed again, then crushed for a third time, and a fourth. Yeah. It was painful. I have a fondness for Spain simply because they beat Germany two years ago in the EuroCup final…and they got upset yesterday by the Swiss – I wonder if the majority of the Swiss team is German- or French-speaking?
But hey, upsets happen. The other day New Zealand pulled out an equalizer in the final minute of extra time. Today Mexico beat France by two. And maybe I can take comfort in that. Because tomorrow morning a little country I wouldn’t typically root for is playing Germany, and it’s pretty likely that they will fail miserably.
But I’ll be rooting for an upset – by Serbia of all teams – because, when it comes down to it, I cheer for whoever plays the Germans.