Monday, October 20, 2008

First Vote...and more

Early voting opened today and I got the privilege of accompanying my youngest daughter Calla as she cast her first vote in a presidential election. We discussed the local races and who we might vote for, and then traveled down to the Shriner's Hall down the street to stand in line with a bevy of folks most of whom were 20+ years my senior. The dear lady monitoring the election told me that she had worked the polls faithfully for the last 40 years and she had never seen this kind of turnout on the first day of early voting. She said that they had over 600 early voters at that location in the morning hours alone. Reports tonight were that over 32,000 folks voted early today in Austin alone. I remembered the day I cast my first vote in the 1972 election...and I voted for...gosh I hate admitting this...Richard Nixon. Oh well...

These days are full of firsts... If Obama wins we'll have our first African-American President. If McCain wins we'll have our first female Vice-President. If the Tampa Bay Rays defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series we'll have the first team in major league baseball history go from being the worst team in baseball to the best in one year. If the Baylor Bears football team defeats the #1 ranked Texas Longhorns in three weeks it will be the end of the world as we know it.

But these are also exciting days for many more reasons than those obvious ones. Our economic woes, while they have been the cause of many financial and employment pains, may have forced us as a western society to think twice about the value of unchecked materialism. The unprecedented acceleration in the melting of the polar icecaps and the seeming constant barrage of hurricanes and tsunamis are forcing us to rethink man's abuse and neglect of the land and water that God has entrusted us to caretake. The institutional church has become ineffective and irrelevant as agents of transformation and change, and in the wake of its failure there has arisen an oft-criticized, but organically refreshing model of faith communities focusing on being loving expressions of the life and teaching of Jesus in the world. (This is not to say that there are not still many loving Catholic, Evangelical, and Mainline churches that are ministering faithfully) The Obama campaign has re-energized the involvement and passion of a young generation to the political issues of our world that is reminiscent of my generation's engagement in the 60's and 70's. I believe it is an exciting time to be alive!

Certainly there are problems... very serious problems in these days, but I believe that God is at work in ways that many of us have talked about for decades but probably honestly never thought we'd live to see. I'm glad Calla and I got to participate in a part of that together today. I believe in the Audacity of Hope...and that hope is bigger than Obama or any party. I believe.



Friday, October 10, 2008

Austin 3.5 Men's Singles Tennis Champion...sorta...

I've put off writing this post, because I know you guys will make fun of well you should. There's no real way to dress it up it, so I better just tell you the story and you can believe it or don't.

You may remember that a couple of months ago I posted a report from my participation in a new tennis league here in Austin called It is headquartered in Atlanta, and has been up and running here locally for a couple of years. The deal is that tennis players register with the league by skill level, 2.0 to 5.0 with the higher the number the higher the skill level. I self-ranked at 3.5, not because I knew what the heck I was doing, but because I went onto the USTA (United States Tennis Association) site, studied their descriptions of the different levels...and then guessed. Also, the league insists that you do not under-rank yourself (we called that sandbagging where I grew up) and therefore dominate lesser competition. I had never played in an official league before, so I had no clue how to rank my ability. As it turned out, I was fairly competitive in 3.5, but not nearly the class of the league. As the season wound down I found myself somewhere near the middle of the standings and even got a forfeit or two from better players who had injuries or had conflicts...I had fun...enjoyed the competition with guys half my age, but after my last match put the racket bag away until next spring.

About 3 weeks ago I got a call from the league office saying that the first place qualifier was not available to compete in the city championships, and that the league runner-up had missed a lot of matches, so they were removing him from consideration. Then she said that they had studied the league results and determined that Eddie (the guy I wrote about earlier that I had both beaten and lost to during the season) and I seemed to be the most committed participants in the league, and would we be willing to play for the city championships? I almost swallowed the phone! I asked if she knew that we were probably the worst players in the league, and she laughed and asked if we wanted to play anyway. Of course I said yes. As they say Louisiana..."My momma didn't raise no fool...but she sure missed a good chance!"

Two weeks ago tonight, on the final night of the ACL Festival weekend, Eddie and I agreed to face off for the championship. When the lady from the league office called, I asked sarcastically if we would get live ESPN coverage of this match with John McEnroe making the calls...She laughed and said, "no, but I see if I can get the winner a date with Maria Sharapova." Eddie thought that was a great idea, I said I was thinking more along the lines of Chris Evert. He had no idea who she was. I showed up at the courts a little early to get in a few practice takes a little longer than it used to to get the old joints limbered up. Eddie showed up a few minutes late, but it wasn't like there was a crowd waiting expectantly for the coin toss...actually there was no crowd...just Eddie and I, and we hit for a few minutes to get loose. I asked Eddie how he was doing and he said, "Man I'm tired!" I asked if he had to work all weekend and he said that he hadn't, he'd just been partying pretty hard all weekend with friends for ACL. I asked how he enjoyed the festival, and he said he hadn't attended the festival, he was just celebrating with friends during the weekend. I confess that the thought briefly crossed my mind to generously ask if he wanted to postpone the match until he was 100%, but I thought, "Hey, I'm old...he's hung over...sounds fair to me!" We both held serve the first four games and it was 2-2 to start the match. I proceeded to win the next four straight to win the first set 6-2. I then won the first four of the next set to go up 4-0. Eddie remarked that it was going to be really embarrassing if I bageled (shut him out) him and won the next game. I then closed out the next two games to win the second set 6-1 and the championship. So there you have it sports fan...who says that the old underdog can't sneak a win away from the younger stronger hungover opponent every now and then? It's beautiful isn't it ...kinda like "Rudy" with short pants.

So....I know that I'm not actually the best 3.5 men's tennis player in Austin...but I do have a t-shirt and a luggage tag that says I if you are looking for me in the next few days, I'm probably icing my old knees, humming Queen's "We Are The Champions..." and waiting on that call from Chris Evert,



Saturday, October 4, 2008

Robert Randolph And The Family Band-I Need More Love-Live On

More Love...More Robert Randolph...

Got invited to trek with fiends Mike White and Jack Morton to San Antonio to a music event benefiting Habitat for Humanity that was organized by John Foreman of Switchfoot. I knew that the lineup included, Jars of Clay, whom I've been a fan of ever since I got a pre-release copy of their first CD in early 1994 from a booking agent who was trying to push this interesting new band. I was hooked. Also appearing was a band called Red that Mike really liked but I had only heard on a recording, as well as the long-time Christian rockers, Third Day and of course, and the Switchfoot boys themselves that I heard at Stubbs here in Austin before they became a national crossover sensation. What I was not aware of was that also performing on the bill was Robert Randolph and the Family Band. I hope you know this band because if not, you are being deprived of a real treat. I stumbled on to them about 5 years ago when I saw a music video of the song you see them playing on Letterman in the video above, and the rest is musical love history. The RRB was placed tonight in the middle of the bill and frankly, I think don't more than a handful of the packed house at the Verizon amphitheater had a clue who he was, but by the end of his set, a mere 30 minutes, the place was up on it's feet and rockin...So if you know about RR&TFB, take this time to revisit unbridled musical joy...and if you have never had the privilege...hold on to your jingle bells...nuff said.



Thursday, October 2, 2008

...Be It Ever So Humble...

I have this friend who also is a part of the motley crew here at Journey. Her name is Julia and she is a real estate agent, but she is also a Section 8 housing specialist. I don't mean she just knows a lot about it, I mean she knows a lot about it and is a passionate advocate for those whom Section 8 housing is their only hope of having anything resembling affordable housing. Julia has been attempting to help this incredibly sweet, wheelchair-bound Austinite, William, with getting into a Section 8 apartment complex in Austin near the Journey warehouse. She has been his advocate, cheerleader and negotiator in this move and had lined up several folks to help William move a couple of Saturdays ago. The S8 folks said the apartment had not been inspected and delayed. Julia moved it to the next weekend. The following Saturday...more of the same as the S8 folks again said the inspection on the new apartment has not been completed and William couldn't move. Plan C was now in effect, but the only problem (OK, there were several) was that William had already given notice on his existing apartment and he had to be out by October 1st...yesterday. The other small detail was that the folks committed to help William move work during the week and since this move was going to have to happen during the week, they were not available. I was one of the original volunteers, but since I'm a minister and we only work on Sunday mornings, I and my trusty '93 F-150 pickup were available. The truth is I really do enjoy doing things like this because that pickup was my dad's and while he was alive he literally gave his life and resources away to whomever needed I kinda figure I'm just carrying on the legacy...and I think the old truck knows it.

So, yesterday morning I arrive at William's old apartment complex and Julia is already there loading up her van along with a friend of William's named Billy. Billy fills up his car with stuff and William's wheel chair and they head over to the new place as Julia and I finish loading our respective vehicles. You should know that since I was only a boy scout for about a month and a half, I opt for bungees to secure the loads on my truck instead of trusting my knot-tying with about 35 bungee cords criss-crossing the load we headed north to Rutland. When we arrived, the door to William's apartment was open but no William. Julia went to the office where she found him, understandably miffed and making motions like he was choking himself in frustration because the manager insisted that the S8 inspection still had not been completed and William could not move in. I wouldn't have said that to Julia if I were the manager, who calmly responded to her, "That's fine, I've got three cars loaded with William's belongings and if we can't put them in William's apartment, which incidentally I know the S8 inspection passed, then I'll unload them right here in the lobby of this office." Minutes later we were carrying things to their proper space in Williams new digs.

The next challenge was that Billy had gone on to work and we still needed to go back and get William's couch and another truck and van load of belongings. So, ever the industrious one, Julia asked about hiring some temp help form the neighborhood and we met Alejandro who agreed to go back with me in the truck and help load the sofa and the rest of the stuff still at the old apartment. Alejandro was a quiet, but proud man with two elementary-aged boys who was a painter by trade, but with the downturn in the economy was doing anything he could to bring in enough money to stay in his apartment and feed his family. I liked him instantly. He was a hard worker and we loaded the truck to the gills once again and headed back north. An hour or so later I took off to make an appointment, but Julia, William, Alejandro, and a Spanish-only speaking neighbor from upstairs were getting William all moved in.

I begin to think about what William's plight might have been without the tenacious concern for him by Julia, who not only made all of the arrangements, but physically worked all day to get him moved, and paid out of her own pocket to be sure we got everything out of his old apartment and wasn't charged for another month, and into his new spite of the lack of cooperation from the management. I know that many of the Williams of the world don't have a Julia...don't have someone willing to go the extra mile to do for them what they truly cannot do for themselves. I have been one of those folks who got a helping hand when I couldn't help myself. So who is your William today?