Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Burgers of Thankfulness

My wife and I rode with my parents and my brother for Thanksgiving vacation, because one of our cars was cooked and we didn’t have the money to pay for gas to Atlanta. This meant four hours crammed in a minivan with a fortnight’s supply of cheesy snack crackers, fuzzy heirloom blankets, and songs with too many electronic piano overdubs. My daughter, who is one year old, slept most of the way and looked out the window for the rest. This is a blessing I am determined not to overlook. After a barbeque extravaganza in a house with twenty-three of my amazing and wonderful relatives, in which I imagined my aorta raging like a French lobbyist, we began the pilgrimage home. I was certain that I could implement my strict regimen of penitential celery consumption as soon as we got in the car, but no. It was not to be.

We pulled into the local suburban Mecca beneath the smiling glow of neon signs which cast lard-colored halos around our heads. They offered all the best cures to our dwindling waistlines: Vietnamese bistros, Irish pubs, Mexican haute cuisine, coffee shops, ice cream shops, coffee-flavored ice cream shops. Most places had appetizers which consisted of butter deep-fried in canola oil. To cure our ills, we pulled into a famous high-end burger chain and tumbled in the front door to a Crisco-pasted American dream in simulcast.

Behind the hostesses, whose Aphroditic figures revealed that they had never consumed a smidgen of the restaurant’s hearty offerings, stood an eight-foot-tall plastic Statue of Liberty holding a neon-haloed burger where the torch should have been.

Give me your wired, engorged, befuddled masses yearning to eat the slaughtered cattle of your teeming shore, she proclaimed.

To add to the American trance which salted every onion ring, there were televisions amok. Mostly on the same flashy sound-bite news channel, they encircled the unsuspecting patrons like white collar drug pushers. There was even a television recessed into the floor so as not to take up space while we waited for our table. I recall seeing some children squatting around it like little Neanderthals, soaking up the warm commercials. As we ate, the televisions, in antiphonal unison, heralded the obligatory Thanksgiving tale of people being mangled in the annual midnight shopping rush and camping out for weeks in front of an electronics store, living off dried noodles and a solar-powered cell phone connection.

However, this evening, my church gathered in celebration of being the Beloved of Christ. Folks brought dishes baked with love and we spent time taking communion and sharing in the beauty of what the Lord has been doing in our city and our lives. This body of believers has been around for half a decade or so, and by the grace of the Lamb, she has already endured trials that have – at least in the well-publicized world – brought schism and bitterness to churches long established. I must stress, especially to myself, that it’s not our doing, that it’s certainly not mine. If there is any part for us to play in this, it is honesty. That’s the embarrassing element that has helped the most on our part: that awkward admittance of brokenness. It’s only in the wake of honesty that Thanksgiving can take place. All my blessings are mine, my own, my precious – until I admit that I earned nothing but scorn and shame. But the scorn and shame have been taken away.

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t watch too much TV.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Happy Birthday

In lieu of having an entire new record, I've joined SoundCloud, allowing me to put new tracks on here for your listening pleasure. Hopefully, I'll find my Radioshack folder with all those crazy demos and live recordings, and I'll have a treasure trove to offer here. This was a present I made for my wife's birthday. Merci beaucoup to my father for putting it together. Enjoy!

Nighttime by Adam Whipple

Monday, November 01, 2010

Spirits of the Red City

A man sat on the couch between the stage and me on Thursday. He was an unnerving character, black suspenders superseded only by a black vest, wild curly hair that crept about his face in lupine fashion, and the silvery pommel of a dirk protruding from a sheath upon his belt line. Yet I recall that I saw him in tears at one point. Despite his former saunter about the room, his mildly roguish appearance, he had wept quietly as the band had played. The rest of the time, he was given to a trance-like regimen of dancing in his seat, eyes closed, lost in the music of the Spirits of the Red City.

I've known a few places and times in my life where I felt that I glimpsed the wild side of the Holy Ghost. We now say 'Spirit,' I suppose because 'Ghost' is a little too flesh-and-blood, so to speak. It is a word closer to the sticks and stones that break our bones than to the words that never hurt us. But, like all ghosts, the Holy Ghost is one for whom we are totally unprepared when he (she?) comes. Chains rattle, and often come off. Doors open and shut. People speak outside their mother tongues.

I often get the feeling that, everywhere there is beauty - and I've not found a place that is exempt from that - the Lord is there. The Holy Spirit moves in the dried-up Windsor tie ritual of a Sunday morning meeting and in the weeping of the execution chambers. She is always whispering, like the sound of wings. Is it the ritual of Sunday that calls her? Certainly not. It is the need of those who are garbed in the robes of death, be they expensive woolen affairs or numbered orange jumpsuits. For that is the Will of the Father: to, as the hymn says, "Rescue the perishing, care for the dying. Jesus is merciful; Jesus will save."

Unaccountably, the Lord speaks in untold ways to those who will listen to no others. The people who believe in traditional niceties will probably have to meet a John the Baptist who eats bugs and looks like Jeremiah Johnson. The congregation that is comfortable in the rote litany of drunkenness will be more apt to attend a tent revival that they don't see coming.

The sound in Morelock Music crescendoed into a unified living wall of cello, guitar, pump organ, flugelhorn, and voices. Oh, those voices! A gypsy lament skirting past the moon will raise the hair on your neck, and catch your ear with a shadow of beauty as it bends round a star. Underneath the lights on the stage, the band unearthed their hearts and poured them into the microphones. Everybody listened, lost in the music, and hopefully someone was a little more Found than when they came in that evening.

I'm glad to see the occasional glimpse of unity strewn about the culture. It's a blessing to see the toughest crowd weep over beauty. I don't know where the Spirit comes from or where she's going, but it's good - unnerving, but good - to see icons of the Lord of Creation in places where I least expect them.