Saturday, March 31, 2007

Harley Sadler Show

I don't know what prompted the thought, but I had a backflash of memory this week. Back to when I was about seven years old and got to go to the Harley Sadler Tent Show.

Sadler toured the show throughout West Texas in the 30's and 40's until the air-conditioned movie theaters put him out of business. The show came to Hamlin frequently, and wonder of wonders, they set up the tent across the street from my grandmother's house. I got to watch the tent go up and all the beginning activity, not thinking that I would get a chance to go.

I don't know how my folk afforded it, but we went and saw the show--much like vaudeville. Sadler played Toby the Clown. I don't remember any of the show, except the band and the music, but I remember what a treat it was to go. I think we even got cotton candy and popcorn. Maybe that is where I got my taste for Broadwayl

Sadler eventually retired his shows, moved to Abilene and ran for the Texas Legislature where he served three terms. Even then the Legislature was filled with eccentrics like Toby the Clown!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Texas Monthly

Reading Texas Monthly is like a visit home. The magazine is so thick and full of stuff to read, I usually put it at the back of my pile waiting for a longer span of time. Today, I just sat down and finally read the August '06 issue. Yes, I am behind on my other magazines too.

From the editorials to the advertisements, the Monthly shouts Texas and all it uniqueness. A review of the last governor's race and interview with an illegal immigrant who has been in Texas for 16 years lead the articles. My favorite feature now is a series of columns "Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch" detailing what it is like to live on a Texas ranch in the 21st century. The advertisements beckon one to Mexican restuarants in San Antonio and Austin, and try mightly to see buyers expensive condos in Horseshoe Bay. Texas furniture is displayed and lighted as if it were works of art. Paul Burka, another favorite writer, writes challenging columns on Texas politics which pretty well help me sort out my belief that no state in the Union has such strange bedfellows serving in state government. At least I thought that until I moved to Nashville!

Recipes for Southwestern dishes abound and make me yearn for Perini Ranch in Abilene.

Oh, well I am in the land of trees and gorgeous springs now, and I do enjoy that.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vespers at Otter

Sitting in the darkened sanctuary last night, I marveled at how much Vespers means to me. John Catchings and Jonathan Vest, two master musicians, were playing "How Deep the Father's Love" on cello and keyboard. Dawn Whitelaw had just testified about her spiritual experiences while painting the Stations of the Cross canvases we have been using during the season of Lent. Our huge cross lay on the steps to the stage outlined by the canvases and candles. Talk about ambiance! And the various stations revolved around Mary, the mother of Jesus.

These quiet times each week have grown my faith and my appreciation for the many ways in which God can visit us.

Thanks Scott Owings, Matt and Mary Hearn for your work in guiding these Wednesday nights.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Children are the same

I have seen too many pictures lately of dead and wounded children in Bagdad. Why, oh, why can we not do something about this dead-end (no pun intended) war? It seems as if our administration were frozen in some Alice in Wonderland scenario--both weird and hard to escape.

Mem Fox is one of my favorite children's authors and critic of current education. She coined the term "to ache with caring" in regard to teachers in her book Radical Reflections. If we all ached with caring maybe we could stop the war.

I recently discovered one of Fox's latest books Whoever You Are in which the proposition (certainly no new discovery) that children all over the world are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. While they may not look the same or speak the same language or live the same life--they are the same inside.. Kirkus Reviews said the book acknowledges in the simplest of terms our common humanity. I wish all adults could acknowledge that and quit trying to kill their young.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Amazing Grace

Hollywood these days seems to be in a downward spiral as it tiptoes in and out of the boundaries of PG and R toward the rating X. I really don't have words to describe the state of movies now. Tawdry, obscene and depressing seem apt--but they really don't get at the depth to which movies have sunk.

That is why all who raced to see Mel Gibson's Passion should race to see Amazing Grace now playing. It is what those of us who are Christians have hoped for on the silver screen: beautifully filmed, not preachy nor boring, unique in its subject, and certainly moving to anyone who has any decent emotions left after viewing the movies nominated for the Academy Award this year.

The story of Wilbur Wilburforce who almost singlehandedly (for a while) led the opposition to the slave trade in Britain is the story of an unsung hero that everyone needs to meet. John Newton, the former slave trader, who wrote Amazing Grace was Wilbur's mentor from an early age.
Newton is the one who advised Wilburforce to use his gifts and his zeal for God in politics rather than to enter solitude. The result was years of fighting, submitting bills, and failure until Wilburforce and his Quaker friends finally wore Parliament down. While the history may sound dull to those who do not favor history, the movie is never dull. One can wait for the DVD, but the scenery and setting of the movie need to seen on the big screen. You will not know any of the actors except Albert Finney who plays Newton, but they are all good.

Go see it and support it! The viewing I attended Saturday was full, but more person to person recommendations need to be given.

On the subject of the hymn, which is played by a bagpipe band at the end of the movie (chillbump time) Steve Turner's Amazing Grace, The Story of America's Most Beloved Song, is one of my favorite books and also deserves putting out a few bucks.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I don't usually like forwards; however, I got one this morning that struck a chord:

May you have
enough happiness to make you sweet,
enough trials to make you strong,
enough sorrow to keep you human,
enough hope to make you happy.

And that is what I wish for you today--a glorious 80 degree day in Nashville.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In praise of Concord Road

Concord Road is a long, winding, twisty road that begins at Franklin Road and ends at Nolensville Road. I travel it about 7 times a week. At first it was scary with all the hairpin curves and twists, but I have grown used to it and now enjoy it.

The long road these days is lined with trees in full spring bloom--redbuds against Brandford pear trees surrounded by yellow forsythia and intersperced with green pines and dogwoods. The glory of God's artistic creation is present--what a sight!! I wish David were here to write a Psalm about it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday with Jackie

This has been a very special day. I met an old friend from Abilene at the Frist today for lunch and the Picasso and Matisse showing. Jackie Williams and I have been friends for many years dating back to our days at Minter Lane. We also shared the Minter book club together. Her boys grew up with Brandon in the church. Dustin is now a luthier (look it up) in Nashville and her other son Kenyon now teaches percussion at the U. of Min.

We ate a nice lunch and caught up. Jackie and her husband Art (who taught art at ACU when they were in Abilene) were victims of Katrina in Gulfport, MI. They now live close to Nashville. Katrina retired Art a little early because the university he was teaching in lost the classroom building for the art department and William Carey has decided to do away with the art dept. --to the student's detriment. Art has written several definitive books on sculpture which are being used around the country. Jackie and he nicely gave me his latest--a sculpture reference book--it is beautiful. Jackie is a retired premier music teacher.Such an accomplished family.

After viewing the exhibit ( it was fabulous, by the way--although not my favorite style of art), we went to Dustin's business on Music Row. He is evidently doing a booming business for all the string players in Music City--I am so glad. He is an extremely talented young man. Dustin
didn't have many kind things to say about music education in the Metro schools--a fact I have heard from many other people. Seems Nashville's Metro system needs a lot of help in the music and arts division. AND HERE IN MUSIC CITY!!!! The country music people have begun a non-profit org. to begin raising funds for music in the schools. Maybe they can help.

It makes me sad when fine arts are neglected in a school system despite multitudinous (is that a word?) research about all the benefits for students who take art and music.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The best of Broadway

I have been blissfully listening to a cd called "The Best of Broadway" as sung by the origanal stage casts. There is no music like those songs today. Where are the haunting gorgeous melodies like "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" "Memory" and "Bring Him Home"? Where are the crisp witty lyrics of Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein?

In the last few years we have seen musicals set in low-rent districts and beauty shop and many revivals. It seems that creativity has left. We have heard music from Abba and Bob Dylan. There is no comparison of these with the older musicals. Today's music develops shouters and screamers not singers like John Riatt, Patti LuPone, and Michael Crawford. What a dark period in the history of Broadway!

I long for Lerner and Lowe, Rogers and Hammerstein, and for his muse to return to Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Disneyification of Broadway has helped some. I am waiting for Mary Poppins.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sanctuary meet Thomas Campbell

After studying Thomas Campbell's declaration and address on Sunday morning and listening to the Sanctuary Band pound out praise songs on Sunday night, I found myself caught between two eras. I wondered what Thomas and Alexander Campbell would think of the Band and if the Band could ever understand the importance and courage of the Campbell discourse.

How do I blend these two entirely different ingredients into the batch which has become the 21st century fellowship of which I am a member? I don't know that I can; but I do know that what comes out of the oven is a very interesting

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ah, spring!

I think spring has made a tentative appearance here--the forsithia is blooming, the red buds are bulging (now that's a poetic word!) and the daffodils are merrily waving in the wind. All stores are showing outdoor furniture and accessories and swimsuits, brrr. I say tentative because the weather people are forecasting more 40-50 degree weather before the week is over. Guess I will put away those short-sleeved shirts.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

James Culp

Dr. Culp died this week. He was the chair of the English department at ACU when I did my English major.

He was tall and well-built, with curly black hair and glasses. He always wore a suit and tie to class. Though slightly effeminate, his manner was always masculine. He injected droll and sometimes irreverent humor into his lectures and kept us laughing as we parsed Old English and learned the rhyme schemes in Byron and Browning. He addressed his students with great respect as Mr. and Miss. And he always appeared slightly sad when we were not prepared for the day's lesson on Chaucer. He seemed to know everything we studied by heart. I shall never forget his quoting T. S. Eliot's Wasteland, "I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled...."

My most anxious moment with him was when I missed a test on Milton and had to take it orally in front of him in his office. Whew!

Although he did not hesitate to make fun of the CofC oddities, he was very devout and never missed a worship service.

He was in World War II, although he would quickly say that he spent all of the war behind a desk in the states to his relief.

I believe he never learned to drive, and his long-suffering wife Clara drove him everywhe

ACU lost him to Texas Tech over a matter of whether a teacher in his department could teach and assign Catcher in the Rye. He was awarded the best teacher in his college at Tech. But he forgave and came back to ACU later and retired there.

When I was hired at ACU, I was given his old office. Every day as I marched off to teach
Lewis Carroll and Beatrix Potter, I heard his voice, "Miss Brandon, do well."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A very strange day

I was so glad when yesterday ended. It began as I went to a meeting of the Beth Moore leaders at Otter. The meeting is next week.

While cooking a pie for a guest, I unwittingly (very unwitthingly because I did not know what I was doing) baked coconut in the oven until it was very black, smelling up the whole house. Ever smelled charcoal coconut? You would not want it in the next new hand lotion.

Time to get the mail. By the way, the wind was blowing West Texas style all day--another minus for the day. Took the three pieces of mail out of the mail box. A long white envelope gets caught by the wind and before I could catch it, slides into the drainage hole on the road. Standing there horrified, I imagined the envelope contained my income-tax refund or an important bill. What do you do at 6:00 p.m. when an unknown envelope lies in the drainage ditch which is covered by a grate too heavy to lift and which is too deep to reach with the longest stick you could find? I went and got my flashlight for better light and then promptly dropped the skinny light into the drainage hole too. By this time, the envelope could not be seen--probably washed to the next block.

I was beginning to feel like the man with the raincloud above his head in the Lil' Abner.

But the day ended happily. Doris Colvett and I shared carrot soup and watched a movie together.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cat in the Hat

This is the birthday of Cat in the Hat--a book which changed the lives of thousands of beginning readers. Dr. Seuss provided entertainment for boys and girls using the very same words used in the dreadful Dick and Sally, Spot and Puff early readers.

His legacy is seen now in all the beginning readers which feature real stories and good illustrations for those children raring to read. Dick and Jane are still available in bookstores for those who want to see how big the contrast is. I don't know why they are still for sale really, except for sentiment's sake. I still have an original printed in the 40's.

Hats off to Theodore Geisel and his legacy. I really think One Fish, Two Fish is better.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Women

I spent last weekend at a women's retreat planned by the women of the Southern Hills church in Abilene. I was mightly impressed with the women I saw. I don't think the books written about the Stone-Campbell movement and the restoration church give enough credit to the women who often were the backbones of the church. Lindy Adams said that her journey in the CofC was like that of Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astair--she mastered all the steps "backwards and in high heels."

Women were often in those early days the real "leaders" of the church while the men labored to provide food for the family--they organized services, found places to meet (often in their own homes), evangelized the community using quilting, cooking, or whatever was at their disposal, and arrived early to light the fire in the pot belly stove! Some were even known to "lead singing" from the front row when a man who could sing was nowhere to be found.

As the church grew and became more uptown, the men "took over" and the women settled back into their "appropriate" roles. Even still, most of the bible school was taught by godly women, except of course for the adult classes. Bible class material was written mostly by women, and indeed even the songs that were sung were written mostly by women. Yet substantive leadership roles were denied.

Katie Hayes says that while those doors to shared leadership for women are opening wider these days, they are still very heavy and reluctant to open at all. The women I saw in Abilene are ready and willing for the tasks that lie before them. They are equipped with the fruit of the Holy Spirit in abundance, full of knowledge, and replete with love and joy. May their tribe increase, and may the doors fall off their hinges welcoming them.

P. S. A book about women in our fellowship I enjoy is Trusting Women, the Way of Women in the Churches of Christ edited by Billie Silvey and published by New Leaf Books.