Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Raised Eyebrows

It’s July with the temperature pushing 110f in our little corner of the world – time to pack up our shiny white, Mazda Miata and mosey on north. With top down, sun glasses donned and lotion on, we cruised up the rugged, picturesque coast of California. It was a glorious day, picture perfect with nary a cloud in the sky and “the world on a string” as the lyrics of that old song portend – and a bit comedic, I suspect, to anyone who might have fortuitously witnessed this little, old, retiring couple cruising up the highway, Boze speakers blaring, singing Sinatra hits (“My Way”) and 50’s tunes at the top of our lungs. Hey, but what do we care, this is “slightly irreverent” California and we love it, having spent 55 of the past 70 years here on the left coast (me that is).

Chugging into the beautiful seaside village of Carmel, it was time for a refreshment break. While sitting there, enjoying a healthy fat-free, sugar-free, Toffee Coffee, almond topped frozen yogurt, an elderly couple passed by. My eyes were immediately drawn to them because their look was so arresting, something like crusty, shoe leather skinned characters out of “Dogpatch” of “Lil Abner” fame. Their worn, rugged features were magnified 100 times over as if just walking off a large cinema screen into real life. There was no hint of affection, whatsoever, in either of their hardened straightforward stares. The look was so entrancing that I couldn’t take my eyes off them until they passed on by.

Several minutes later, as I was licking at the last remnants of my healthy Toffee Coffee yogurt, they happened by again going in the opposite direction, but this time completely out of character – they were holding hands. And then he did something that took me completely by surprise, lifting the back of her hand to his lips and kissing it. It was a surreal moment, almost magical. Ah, but this is California after all, the liberal, la la land of enchantment, isn’t it?

On the following day, we zoom-zoomed into San Francisco, the city by the golden bay where we had spent nine of our thirty-nine Salvation Army officership years, two of them as cadets-in-training during the nostalgic sixties as part of the beatnik/hippy era. In fact, we formed a folk-singing group (The Salvation Singers) performing inside and outside various bohemian North Beach haunts, including a gig every Monday evening at a coffee house called, “Coffee and Confusion.” We were smack dab in the middle of that radical Beatnik – Hippie transitional period which also included the beginnings of the topless era.

Our group performed outside and inside the first topless nightclub, the infamous Condor Club featuring the one-and-only Carol Doda, breast enhancements and all. We were able to sit down at the bar with the topless dancers and witness to them — No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure It (1 Cor. 10:13) — Oh, how I hung on firmly to this promise that evening. You can bet that there were a lot of raised Army eyebrows after these evangelistic shenanigans were reported, which they were, far and wide, front page headlines of the Bay Area newspapers, Associated Press and national television.

Interestingly, one evening while performing on the corner outside the Condor Club one of the dancers ventured out and asked us to sing, “O Boundless Salvation.” We finished our gig and were half way down the street before it suddenly dawned on us that this was a Salvation Army song, written by its Founder, General William Booth. Long story short, we hurried back, talked with her and found that she had been a Sunbeam and Junior Soldier (Church member) as a young girl in one of the local corps. Long story even shorter, she eventually recommitted her life to the Lord. And even more interesting, one of the folk songs in our repertoire that evening was, “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well,” made famous by the folk-singing trio, “Peter, Paul and Mary.” This night, “Jesus Met the Woman at the Topless Club.” How contemporary is that? Raised eyebrows? You bet!

The Condor Club is still there as is Tommy’s Joynt, the very first place that allowed us the use of their platform. More on this later, but needless to say it was a magical, memorable and tempting time.

Anyway, yesterday we were walking down Broadway in North Beach retracing our steps (Incidentally, this is where our courtship began) when I casually reached down and took hold of Doris’ hand. Overwhelmed with the nostalgia of it all, I unconsciously brought the back of her hand up to my lips. This spontaneous show of affection resulted in one of those “raised eyebrow” looks. Gazing past that look, I observed a crusty old codger sitting in front of a coffee house intently watching this unseemly display as he sipped at the last remnants of his iced cappuccino.

That was yesterday and I suspect today, somewhere on the streets of San Francisco, perhaps even as I write, another old, wrinkled, liver spotted hand is feeling the warmth of an unexpected “eyebrow raising” moment. And the thought occurred to me, “Perhaps this is the beginning of a spontaneous ‘Lifting Hands and Eyebrows across America’ movement – young and old alike – a spiritual, left-leaning, counter-culture ‘Love In’ 21st Century style.”

It’s Scriptural, in a way, isn’t it? Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Peter 5:14). Now go out and start a revolution, won’t you? And let it begin with the “lifting hands and eyebrows” of those “significant others” in our lives, the one’s whom we too often take for granted.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Start A Revolution!

Words I recently saw on a T-shirt: “Quit bitching and start a revolution.” Crude and slightly irreverent, but it clearly gets one’s attention and makes the point. Before reacting too negatively to the slang, please read on.

Blogging has taken “bitching” (slang term for bellyaching) to a whole new level. Before, it was limited in space and time. Now, all of it, gobs and hoards of it ricochet through cyberspace with split-second timing. It doesn’t matter the subject, politics, religion, whatever. It’s a “bellyachers” paradise out there. With this in mind and for the fun of it, I Googled the word, “bitching,” and following is but a tiny sampling of the 3,750,000 results.

I learned that, “From this usage of bitch(ing) as ‘complain’, the colloquial noun 'bitch-fest' evolved, to describe people complaining about something together.” Allow me to expand upon this colloquialism and bring it up to date by coining the term, "cyber-bitch-fest."

I further found that “The use of the term "bitching" has been extended to the common sewing or crafting get together known as a 'stitch-n-bitch'. At these gathering women (and occasionally men) gather to work on projects and talk or complain.” There is a temptation to digress here, church-wise, but I will resist the tempter and move on.

In fact, I’m going to go one better than that because I know the term “bitching” is offensive to some (even though it no longer carries the same connotation it once did) and, from this point on, substitute the term “bellyaching” (“to complain in a whining manner”). Thus it is now "cyber-bellyache-fest" and "stitch-n-bellyache," even though it loses its charming rhyme sequence.

STOP BELLYACHING AND START A REVOLUTION! – Not quite as dramatic, but probably a little more palatable for the fainthearted among us. And I don’t want to lose this segment of the blogging congregation.

Speaking of congregations, having pastored a few, I found no dearth of bellyaching there. In fact, it seems to thrive in that environment, perhaps because the tempter finds his greatest challenge in such hallowed settings. I still have some of the notes slipped to me by parishioners as they shook my hand following the Sunday services. “The music was too loud. Can you do something about it in the future, please?” “The flags were not draped properly and this was very distracting. Surely there is someone who can see that they are straightened before the meeting.” “The message was good, but a little brevity would have gone a long way.” “Might I suggest you read, ‘Helps to Holiness’ by Samuel Logan Brengle before preaching another holiness sermon?” "Why is there never any tissue in the bathroom?" And so it went. (Can you add to my list here?) Seldom did I receive a note complimenting the service or care of the facility. Incidentally, as an aside for those Army trivia buffs among us, did you know that Brengle was the first American born officer to reach the rank of Commissioner? And a sanctified one at that.

I’m guessing that even the Disciples did their share of bellyaching, with most of it not recorded, I’m sure. Take the following for example.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…’ (Matt 28:16-20 NIV)

…but some doubted. Imagine! Doubting, complaining and bellyaching usually go together, don’t they? Who knows what they were saying to one another before Jesus appeared. I suspect there might have been a little bellyaching going on. How did He respond? Not everything Jesus said or did is recorded, you understand. Who knows, perhaps my “irreverent interpretation” of this passage has some merit…”Stop doubting, second-guessing, complaining… GO… Start a revolution!


I suspect there were a few bellyachers in those early Christian Mission days as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bramwell even did a little grumbling himself. Do you think he agreed with his father on everything? It’s not all recorded in the history books, you know (I’m sure William Booth had his share of doubters in those early days). Who knows all that Booth actually said as he stood with his son in the East End of London looking over a sea of lost humanity? Loosely interpreted, he might have said something like, “Stop bellyaching,… Bramwell, for God's sake do something!


It is now the year of our Lord, 2007 and the blogging phenomenon has taken bellyaching into a whole new stratosphere. Need I say more?