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24 minutes | Jul 23, 2021
Episode 323 - I Put a Spell on You
I know it may seem pretty far off in geography, but the "zero-case" policy of Australia, with its accompanying long and also 'snap' lockdowns, is arrestingly relevant to Mockingbird (and over-all Christian) concerns for human welfare. What is going on officially in Australia is so striking in its steel mindset of fear over faith that it calls out for observation, let alone evaluation. In this podcast, I look at "zero-case" policy in its high(est) bar of risk aversion; in its seemingly complete disbarring of models for human fulfillment outside of physical survival of the body; and its implacable and surprising use of the "civil arm" to enforce the details of the average person's locked-down life. I then ask, Where is the Church's voice being heard? One has spent almost one's whole ministry admiring a certain unusual brand of Australian Anglicanism associated with the Diocese of Sydney. Yet one seems to be hearing nothing from them in terms of faith over fear. I wonder if that Church can recover, after the lockdowns are over, from its silence. Of course there must be many Australian Christians who desire to place other goods beyond just the physical before the public eye. But one sees no evidence of that. Even Beyond the Beach (1959), the nuclear disaster film about the end of Australia (and the world), postulated a mass turning-to-God near the end. And remembeer the evangelical closing shot of that alarming movie: "Brother, there is still time." Where is that spirit "Down Under" now? Where is the Christian Church, and our Christian Hope? Je ne sais pas. Oh, and the opening and closing music today consists of excerpts from cover versions of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' song, "I Put a Spell on You". One grew up on that song, albeit its Tyneside incarnations. LUV U.
22 minutes | Jun 24, 2021
Episode 322 - Fifteen Percent
As I reported last time, I believe God gave me two words, or inspirations, as I struggled through an echo cardiogram during a recent illness. But wait, there's more! On the day after the echo cardiogram came a heart catheterization. In the midst of that -- Mary not being with me now, but in her place were six technicians and a surgeon, with the patient un-anesthetized -- three more words came. Seriously. Three more specific words... from Beyond. The first had to do with the false narrative(s) I've attached to my life. The second visualized an 'Outer Limits' episode from 1964, which featured an alien being called 'The Chromo-ite', from the Planet Chromo. I was compared with The Chromo-ite. The third was an imperative consisting of three syllables. This episode of PZ's Podcast says what the specific words actually were that I believe came from God, and states what they meant to me. I hope they will each mean something to you. The cast is dedicated to the memory of Ali Hanna.
23 minutes | Jun 11, 2021
Episode 321 - Subtract Then Add
I'm finally well enough to reflect, somewhat formally through this new podcast, on the recent illness I went through, and on what I heard at the nadir of it. What happens when you are that sick -- and it happens in some form to everyone who has ever lived except those who die suddenly -- is that your body in its requirement to defend itself wipes out every thought, consideration and proper noun of your life other than what serves the body's need to survive. I mean, the preoccupation of your body with survival wipes out everything else. The word I use for this in the cast is negation. Thus when things were at their worst in the hospital, it was as if everything and everyone in whom I have ever set store disappeared. So total was the focus at that point on physical survival. Except -- except -- except -- two things: 1) I wanted Mary to hold my hand, and 2) I wanted to know where, if anywhere, I was going. ("Going", that is, if my heart stopped and my body died.) Wonderfully, Mary was there, present physically in the room, and she held my hand. Throughout the very threatening test, she held my hand. It was an incomparably precious support -- the difference, I want to say, between getting through it and not getting through it. Moreover, I got an answer to my question about "destination". What came to me, quite loudly and unmistakably, was the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. And not only that, but the version of the "Hallelujah Chorus" that comes at the end of The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). In other words, the music of Hope came to me in my way, in a form with which I could immediately identify. (I always loved the ending of that movie, with Pat Boone as the Angel at the Tomb.) God's Word of Hope came to me from a movie! En bref an experience of severe illness gave me the everlasting connection of Divine Love in the form of Mary's hand gripping mine, and in the words of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. Maybe I should be glad I got sick.
18 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
Episode 320 - Moot Point
What did Dr. Johnson say concerning one's imminent death?: It wonderfully concentrates the mind. While I was sick recently, a familiar feeling came "shining through". Nothing is really important except love and God. That is not a cliche. Or better, it is a true cliche. I call this cast "Moot Point" because I've been following a tempest in the Church of England; and every time I read a new major story about the pros and cons -- almost all cons -- of a once highly regarded priest who has had a mighty fall, I say to myself, But wait a minute. Church isn't even meeting now over there (at least until two weeks in England, but not yet in Northern Ireland and Scotland). I mean this headline story, with all its letters and accusations and interviews -- what meaning does it have when the Church is essentially shut down? Remember the episode in the last season of X-Files, when Fox Mulder comes face to face really with a full-scale, in-the-now invasion of the Earth by aliens. No more bits and pieces, nor hints. No, Mulder turns to Scully and says, "Scully, now all bets are off." What Mulder means is, if this is really taking place, then just about everything is about to change. The episode is entitled "The Red and the Black". I feel the pandemic has consigned a large percentage of our everyday interests to the Buddhist category of "dependent arisings". A lot of things are just "Too Much of Nothing" (Peter, Paul and Mary). What matters? Well, personal love between two people matters. And the Love of Christ matters. And your children matter. And there are one or two other things that matter. But that's more or less it. COVID19 has rendered just about every enthusiasm and circumstantial anger of our lives a moot point! Except, maybe, a few movies (i.e., Bride of Frankenstein, 1935), together with Spanky and Our Gang (1969).
19 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
Episode 319 - "My friend the..."
The excerpt at the start is from a song that was Number One in 1958 and to which I once got almost the entire support staff -- all of whom it turned out already knew the refrain -- of an institution of which I was the dean, to perform an inspired, spontaneous line dance. It was a high point of Mary's and my entire ministry. Anyway, this podcast focuses on that extreme moment in life when you come to the end of your resources and finally have no choice but to reach out for succor. You don't first go for the prescription. You can't -- you have no idea what it is! You go to someone who can give you the prescription. The necessary step of faith when things are really bad is to reach out. It's surprising sometimes how long it can take you to get to that point. A friend of mine once told me that it took him 40 years to get to the point of need from which he finally said 'Uncle'. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. And your readiness is your point of need! Whether it's David Seville (and the Chipmunks, as it turned out) telling us, or peerless Bishop Morris Maddocks in the C. of E., or Dr. Frank Lake, or John Stott, or Pastor Paula, the saying is sure: "oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang". It's not a 'road map' nor a 'how to'. It's God's specific and particular Word to you. As it was to the boy Samuel, the boy Timothy, the Syrophoenician woman, Saint Helena, and to ... LUV U tons!
20 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Episode 218 - C'MON DAD
I've talked about "phosphorus" before -- the ever-glowing points of connection that constitute a kind of trail within the story of our life. Today the subject is another kind of phosphorus, its other side of the coin, by which I mean rejection. In late career I experienced a rejection so mighty in effect that it seemed to pull down the curtain on decades of ministry. This rejection came as an utter surprise. So one day, during the lowest point, I'm in a Jewish deli in SE Florida. And the song "When Smokey Sings" by ABC comes on. The lilting 'Motown' sound carries me right back to former times, of happiness and joy. At the same time, the song becomes instant phosphorus to whatever trail of rejection I have trodden in life. Rejection is decisive! Whether it comes in affairs of the heart, or at work, or in any relationship you want to name -- whether it comes in the form of cancer, self-sabotage, or an intrigue mounted against you -- rejection is impossible to swallow and assimilate, at least not in the initial instance. Some rejections -- like Charles Foster Kane's childhood rejection in Citizen Kane (1941) -- are never overcome. They can stay with you forever. Yet there is a way. There is in fact the promise of new love, which life, which God, almost always brings once you say goodbye to the rejecting love. As my friend Paula White says, When you say 'goodbye', God will bring you a new 'hello'. The Dave Clark Five told the truth back in 1964. You can hear their "take" on this at the end of the cast. But The Beatles did, too, on "Magical Mystery Tour": "I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello." LUV U.
24 minutes | Mar 5, 2021
Episode 317 - Odessey and Oracle
The title of the Zombies' marvelous album from 1968/69 entitled "Odessey and Oracle" (sic) puts one's life in two-word perspective that means a lot to me. We are all on an odyssey of sorts, as Odysseus/Ulysses was in Homer. There are headwinds, zephyrs, tailwinds; and more to the point, storms, whirlpools and icebergs. No one could really disagree with the picture of our human experience as an odyssey, the forms and circumstances of which are quite hidden to us -- as Thomas Cole's epic visual parable "The Journey of Life" conveys with jaw-dropping perspicacity and prescience -- at the start. And hidden almost all along the way, in fact! So yes, sans doute, life is an odyssey. And we need -- I mean need urgently -- an oracle. Which is to say, we require a Word/words from outside ourselves to orient us and re-orient us. If we think that we ourselves can provide the required wisdom to understand and interpret our misfires, let alone our successes, that conception proves untenable over time. We need an oracle. Very recently I ran into an oracle -- a person, I mean, who stated an astonishing conviction concerning a current event, and whom I trust. In other words, I trust this person as a kind of oracle to interpret the present in the light of God's overriding Purpose. I was struck quite speechless by this preacher's certainty concerning something, shall we say, Very Big. Am still not sure whether I believe her, in fact -- she ministers at a small store-front church in west Orlando. But I take her seriously. The point is, I felt I was being addressed by an oracle. We need not only an interpreting confidence in the Divine Purpose behind our odyssey, but we also need an oracle to navigate us towards "Our Year" (The Zombies, 1968/69), that New Day of God's unfolding -- let alone shattering. LUV U!
19 minutes | Feb 23, 2021
Episode 316 - The Ballad of John and Walter
What a load of uncharted material is out there for people who are looking for Grace! Here I have spent almost 60 years "trolling" for redemptive material, words and music, especially the Seventh Art, that would speak, and hopefully heal. And now I find, near the advent of my 70th birthday, literally **TONS **of main-line examples of transformative Christian art that I never even knew existed. Take movies like Journey into Light (1951), with Sterling Hayden and Viveca Lindfors. Or Miracle of the Bells (1948), with Frank Sinatra and Fred MacMurray. Or, just this week, Of Human Hearts (1938), with Jimmy Stewart and Walter Huston. Where have I been? All I ever got, back in the day, was Sergei Eisenstein and Michelangelo Antonioni and Godard and ... The Graduate (1968). We worshipped The Graduate. I remember seeing it the week it opened. But had anyone ever referenced Miracle in the Rain (1956) or Gabriel over the White House (1936). Are you kidding? Niemand ! It's funny, it's as if the Hollywood movies that depict Christian faith as it actually is ... got almost instantly forgotten, and even if they made a ton of money. At any rate, I wasn't supposed to know about them -- except maybe the Universal monster movies of the '30s and '40s, for the reverence due Dracula and Frankenstein overrode the explicit religious message behind those movies. "Put away the Cross, Miliza!" (House of Dracula, 1945). Well, maybe this cast can give you some reassuring TV time before you get vaccinated. Oh, and these vintage movies with their explicit good religion end up talking about real people and real impasses and real losses. Turns out I'll take The Mortal Storm (1940) over 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) any time.
21 minutes | Feb 13, 2021
Episode 315 - Top of the World
Today I want to "double down" just a bit on the anchoring necessity of romantic connection within our everyday lives. Flourishing won't occur without it, and that's an empirical fact whether one likes it or not. So the question becomes, at least for about half the world's yearning souls, how can a person find it. How can I obtain what I so manifestly need and want? Case in point: Jane Wyman's grief-driven prayer in Miracle in the Rain (1956). Then there's Fred MacMurray's prayer in The Miracle of the Bells (1947) -- read the book, by the way, which you can get on Kindle. Then there's my own prayer last month, which was answered by getting banged on the head. This cast is an indicative reflection on prayer, specifically on the prayer that comes from abject and unconditional personal need. George Harrison promised its answer (let alone Isaiah, let alone Christ) in "Love Comes to Everyone" (1979). Hear me. Oh, and inwardly digest The Seekers' hymn and psalm, "I'll Never Find Another You" (1964). LUV U.
23 minutes | Jan 14, 2021
Episode 314 - Heinz Agonistes
How should we think about God when faced with a massive, injuring disappointment? Or rather, how can a person of faith assimilate an experience in which you see, not God, but God's opposite, appearing to win? The question can apply to anyone, on any "side of the aisle". I have friends who were so upset by the election of 2016 that they basically retreated into a long-term depression for roughly four years. There will be people you know today -- tho' they may not be saying -- who feel the same way about 2020. Disappointments and disillusionments can touch all parties! Also, there's the COVID. Just after Mrs. Zahl and I received our vaccinations in Florida, articles started appearing stating that, vaccinated or not, we could still transmit the virus. (What?) In other words, there may not be an end to the ordeal, even if the "miracle Moderna/Pfizer" is given to everyone. (Would that mean,we still can't see our grandchildren?) This podcast is about the agonizing struggle to deal with acute personal disappointment in terms of faith. Do we just go along? Do we rationalize? Do we "look for Another"? Is God asleep? Is God dead? Or were we simply wrong about Him -- misled, seduced, hypnotized, something like that? This is my subject. And with some help from 'Heinz' the immortal (and Joe Meek), and also from John Milton the Immortal, I hope we can get somewhere. LUV U.
15 minutes | Jan 5, 2021
Episode 313 - Reverse Chronology
Harold Pinter wrote a play once entitled "Betrayal" and he used a sort of trick to tell his story. He began the play at the end -- at the tragic finale of the events dramatized -- and ended the play at the beginning, at the touching and tentative start of those events. He reversed time, to tremendous effect. Today's brief cast is intended as a salutary instance of what often happens in life: Things start well and end badly. In addition to the startling music that begins and ends my story, I tell how I met a very old friend after almost 55 years of not having seen him. This friend, now dead, by the way, was once a charming, funny, open, dear young person, truly at the threshold of his life. After 55 years, however, he had grown humorless, disappointed, withdrawn, and turned in upon himself. Just once, at one brief moment within our conversation, my friend came to himself -- and right then, he was all at once 15 again. I was hurtled back in time by the mere expression on his face, only to be hurtled back again into the present when his eyes went grey again. Reverse chronology! It doesn't have to happen. God is there, even as I write this and you read it, and... I have proof. Listen to the last track, by the way, of "Reverse Chronology". It's a gem. And remember what Gerald Heard said so memorably in 1941, quoting from Meister Eckhart, "If you want to find God, go back to where you lost Him." LUV U.
21 minutes | Jan 5, 2021
Episode 312 - Hope From Heinz
'Heinz' was short for Heinz Burt (d. 2000), a grocery clerk in Southampton, England, whom Joe Meek, an independent record producer, made into a star for a brief period in the early 1960s. The brilliance of the five or six singles that Meek produced for Heinz is an almost perfect instance of how straw can be converted into gold, a la Rumpelstiltskin. That is to say, Heinz Burt himself had little talent and almost nothing going for him, yet Meek created magic out of his voice and persona. Utter magic! I mean, these are not the greatest records in the history of music, but given the givens, they are striking examples of what effect/s an outside influence can have on you. Now take this irregular but prodigious instance of what can be done to transform an everyday mediocrity -- he was a nice guy, to be sure -- and it can be seen what God can do for anyone -- like you and me, for example. I'm being completely serious. Hug that "low anthropology"! We really cannot help ourselves very much, at least where it counts, i.e., where we are really in thrall; under the influence, bound and paralyzed, of drives, losses and resentments that prevent us from living -- living freely, I mean -- let alone, joyfully. We need someone to look out for us -- Joe Meek, for example. But actually I mean God. Heinz's singles -- "Just Like Eddie" went to Number 5 in England -- are a picture of God's creative work with losers. (Never thought of myself as a loser, by the way, until life put me there.) Heinz (Burt) spell Hope (Cert.).
27 minutes | Nov 19, 2020
Episode 311 - Crescendo
I was listening to a sermon concerning spiritual warfare and my mind went straight back to 1970, to the English film, a psychological thriller, entitled Crescendo. The film stars Stephanie Powers and James Olson and was directed by Alan Gibson. The preacher's passionate evocation of Ephesians 6:12 in connection with current events had brought considerable criticism from many quarters. I wanted to ask the critics, Didn't you ever see Psycho (1960) -- let alone read Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers, or Conan Doyle, for that matter? I mean, almost all mystery novels, short stories and movies presuppose that the solution to a crime is unseen, that the events taking place on the surface are almost always driven by factors that are not seen or envisaged. In other words, the explanation for criminal, let alone curious behavior turns out to be an unexpected person or circumstance. If a plot line such as that of Crescendo (1970) should intrigue and actually satisfy us, why would we close the door on a religious form of that uncommon explanation, that explanation for a mystery that calls into question our perceptions of the visible in favor of explanations from the invisible? This cast looks at the current drama/s unfolding in the aftermath of November 3rd in unseen rather than in seen terms. Not that I know personally what is happening -- but rather, what one sees is seldom what one gets. To put it another way, if I hadn't seen Hammer Studios' seemingly innumerable psychological thrillers -- most of them written by the indefatigable Jimmy Sangster -- I would probably be strongly attached to one outcome or another, unfolding on the surface of circumstance. Or, for that matter, if I hadn't been reading the New Testament... LUV U!
23 minutes | Oct 28, 2020
Episode 310 - New Prince, New Pomp (c. 1605)
I'm trying to understand, in Romans 7 and Mockingbird terms, a phenomenon I currently observe -- and feel -- all around me. It is as if the more control, medically and in terms of hospitalizations, that we are getting over COVID19, the more insistent and pressing are the visible measures a good citizen is supposed to be taking against it. To put it another way, as the actual threat is decreasing, the things I am supposed to be doing in order to be regarded as a good citizen in relation to it, are increasing. So Mrs. Zahl and I take a walk on the shoreline near where we live, and the beach is not crowded at all -- just several knots of two persons walking near the edge of Long Island Sound on a windy day -- and yet half the people, especially the younger half, are wearing masks the whole time. The wind is billowing and there is at least 50 feet between almost every "bubble" of two, yet still masks are tightly on. And I feel badly, like I'm doing something wrong, so I put on my mask; or, if I don't, walk by the masked duos with my head bowed and my eyes downcast. There's some kind of first-class versus second-class citizen thing going on, and I'm back in East Berlin, say around 1958. A former STASI informant once told me that about 45 % of the East German population was spying on the other 55 %, and that she had to submit formal reports on all her neighbors every two weeks -- their habits, their idiosyncrasies, and especially their comings and goings. Is it maybe an analogy to St. Paul, where he talks about sin increasing as a result of the law? Like maybe, the burden of visible good citizenship increases to the extent that the actual need to do so is decreasing. I don't know quite how to put it, but something is going on. At the end of the cast, I talk a little about minorities of one and the peril of a situation when everyone you know and every institution you know is against one voice -- even if that voice is wrong and the forces against it are right. Something about the way the universe or Reality compensates in favor of the "You and Me Against the World" (Helen Reddy, 1974) could be happening. Sometimes mass judgments boomerang. If I felt as strongly as some of my friends feel this week, I would probably adopt an august silence, trusting the truth to come out. It's just a thought, though, and probably applies to both sides of every competition. LUV U.
24 minutes | Oct 22, 2020
Episode 309 - Little Bit O'Soul
There's a truth of life that more and more people are telling me about from their own experience. To be sure, these people are mostly my own age, so we are considering that last third of life with which my Boomer Handbook is concerned. The observed truth of life I am talking about is simply that when you reach a certain age, say from 55 or so on, if you don't move forward, you move backward. Sometimes I just want to stay where I am -- treading water in the memories and also the accomplishments of my life's second third. But treading water is not what actually happens. Drowning is what happens! You regress, whether you want to or not, and it's easy to end up like Miss Bates's mother in Jane Austen's Emma, staring all day into space. You are somewhere but you're definitely not ... where you are. This cast is about the anchorage and possibility of hope, hope for a real and concrete future. I get given some good counsel from a novel by Joyce Cary (d. 1957) -- who was, incidentally, a conscious Low Church Anglican -- and report on Pastor Paula's enduring gift to me. There's also some nice parsing, courtesy of Sheila Schwartz, of "Little Bit O'Soul" (The Music Explosion, 1967). Not to mention the last track, one of the most concise and delightful rock 'n roll hits of all time. Oh, and the Gospel of complete forgiveness comes into it, too. LUV U!
23 minutes | Sep 5, 2020
Episode 308 - Phosphorus
There's a terrific Sherlock Holmes movie from 1944 entitled The Scarlet Claw. Well, it's actually not that terrific, but the premise is great. In the movie a criminal disguises himself as a kind of glow-in-the-dark swamp creature out on the moors, who murders unfortunate travelers and terrorizes the village. Come to find out, the murderer is putting phosphorus on his hands, his feet and his face in order to frighten everyone, and Sherlock Holmes figures it out. Our detective ends up finding his man by following the phosphorus. The analogy is to our personal histories. If you want to find out the truth about yourself, follow the phosphorus! And the phosphorus can be found wherever and whenever your true inward heart-self came out -- whether in a relationship or a moment of stress or an incident of rejection, you name it. To understand yourself, follow the phosphorus to the places in your past where it stuck. And as I tried to say in Podcast 307, the phosphorus may well have stuck on a song. I listen to "Please Come to Boston" (1974), for example, by Dave Loggins, and I'm right there in our first year of marriage, in a foreign country, no car, no frig, no stove, no money. Just a little hope, faith, and charity. And I cry. For being moved and touched by that period, I cry. You may have something like that. All it takes to capture your entire emotional attention is to hear a song from a vulnerable time in your life, and you're right there again! It's phosphorus. It is also true that by means of the phosphorus you can become the main, lamed character in your own case of arrested development. That's no good. It is why uncompleted mourning of a loss can paralyze you for... well, almost... forever. Somehow, to live, you have to get off of square one. At the end of the cast, I offer a kind of blinder to the deceptive glow of your phosphorus. It's worked for me, and it can work with you. Think R. A. I. N. ... "Summer Rain", Johnny Rivers, 1968. LUV U!
22 minutes | Sep 4, 2020
Episode 307 - Sacred Space
It's a kind of personal discovery I made last week, when inventorying some more of the songs featured in Peace in the Last Third of Life: A Handbook of Hope for Boomers (Mockingbird, 2020). The discovery was that each song not only connects me with a person and/or connection with that person -- or disconnection from the person; but that each song connotes a place, an actual place. In other words, take "Reelin' in the Years", by Steely Dan. It's not just Mrs. Zahl, in a long ago springtime in Boston, with whom the song emotionally connects me. But it's a place there, i.e., Memorial Drive in Cambridge, down which she would drive her car fast, with me in it, and the radio would play ... "Reelin' in the Years". My and your emotional, heart experiences are connected not just to a person, but to a place where we were with that person. An analogy is in the experience of Christian pilgrimage. Why did certain places, such as St. Juan de Compostela or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or Iona or Lourdes, become the objects of pilgrimage? Because someone very special was there once, and did something special while he or she was there. The power of that experience, which took place there within a moment in time, draws other people to the place. It is not the place as such which draws you. Rather, it is the connection of a healing, hopeful personality with the place which draws you. Like "Reelin' in the Years"! I hope you like Petula Clark. She knew a place once, too, in 1965. And she sang a touching love song two years later, in 1967, entitled "Don't Sleep in the Subway". Gosh, and I remember exactly where I was when I first received her kind and tender message. LUV U!
28 minutes | Aug 27, 2020
Episode 306 - For Our Dear Margary
One of the best effects of a positive view of aging, which I have tried to offer in the Boomer Handbook (Mockingbird, 2020), is the unexpected appearance of new material. You find that faith in a "good outcome" to your life seems to bring with it fresh resources, and fresh product. It just happens! Well, thanks to Josh Retterer, to whom this podcast is dedicated, I've run straight into Margery Lawrence. Margery Lawrence (1889-1969) was an English writer of supernatural short stories, as well as popular novels. She was also a committed spiritualist, who wrote within an explicitly Christian (tho' anti-clerical) world-view. What Lawrence brought to her fiction was the insight that many relationships between men and women, and between children and their parents, are the workings-out of unseen forces, mainly of positive forces seeking to bring afflicted everyday people to better resolutions, and even victories, in relation to inherited paralyses. What Pastor Paula denominates "divine set-ups", Margery Lawrence regards as the sometimes centuries-long -- and anguished -- pilgrimage of the human soul to sacrificial love and understanding. Lawrence's inventive ghost stories are fantastic analogies of the way God works, which is mainly through defeats and come-uppances in everyday life. From Amazon, you can download inexpensively The Floating Cafe and TheTerraces of Night. Maybe start with "The Shrine at the Crossroads" or "Tinpot Landing". Or maybe, "The Beauty Spot" or "The Crystal Snuff Box". Look for a kind of heroism from the past, which changes the present in actuality. Listen, too, to "Frosty the Snowman" by Los Straitjackets, which concludes this cast. It shows you exactly what a "good outcome" can mean!
23 minutes | Aug 24, 2020
Episode 305 - 'Wear a Mask' (Los Straitjackets)
I heard something very helpful recently in a sermon by John Zahl. He said that sometimes in life what seems like the end is really the middle. I think JAZ meant that when your situation feels like -- maybe is -- the end of the world, it may really be the hinge point to "A Whole New World" (Aladdin, 1992). This insight is true in Christian experience. What looks like the end turns out to be the middle. Which made one immediately think of Los Straitjackets, that ever welling spring of inspiration that consists of five (sometimes four) surfer/rockabilly musicians in Mexican wrestling masks. These chaps are a gift that keeps on giving. And what you come to find out is that their songs are pretty strictly controlled until the last third, sometimes even the last fourth. Los Straitjackets typically take the listener by surprise by "going crazy", in the best way, right at the end. It's almost a trick, but I call it inspiration. Their songs are the best at the end! This podcast takes its cue from our masked Mexican-wrestler guitarists. Your life, and maybe now more than ever, is bound to be pretty down in some ways. The pandemic, and also the divided climate in the country, is wrecking a lot of things, and some of them are very good. (Personally, I think the damage to the mainline Christian churches, with exceptions, will prove to be huge. Mary and I watch institutions and causes into which we have poured our whole lives just collapsing, like sand from a shattered hourglass. This is true especially in the Church of England, where things were bad enough before the virus. There was a massive failure of nerve there.) So hear the musical message of Los Straitjackets. When they sound like they are winding things down, Get Ready! The exuberant explosion is probably just around the corner.
24 minutes | Jul 6, 2020
Episode 304 - Speed Bump
I like Greg Townson very much! He's a guitarist who's been around for a while, but is now a leading member of Los Straitjackets. He combines that great Rockabilly sound of theirs with some really lyrical passages. Townson's track "Speed Bump", an excerpt of which begins this cast, got me started on the theme. It's a familiar theme, especially with Mockingbird; but should never be foregone. A speed bump is when an obstacle or blockage on the road on which you are traveling causes you -- if you are going too fast or not looking where you're going -- to crash, or at least shock you out of yourself. In regular life, a speed bump is the unexpected loss or blow or intrusion that makes you stop. "Hey, what's that sound/Everybody look what's goin' down" (Buffalo Springfield, 1966). It can be the illness of your child, a sudden catastrophic interruption/lurch in your marriage, a notice that you've been fired, a pandemic (to say the least), or one's nervous collapse into absorbing anxiety. Ideally -- and this is the Christian point of the cast -- your biggest speed bump should cause you to stop and re-evaluate, "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" [The Stylistics, 1971]. The old word for this is Repent. And always with a view to a fresh direction and a new beginning. At a key moment in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, something happens -- a proposal of marriage goes terribly wrong -- which causes both the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, and the hero, 'Mr. D'Arcy' individually to re-evaluate their whole lives. The "speed bump" of that catastrophic conversation causes each of them and both of them to see themselves in a new light -- really, to humble each of them in their own eyes. The result of their speed bump is lasting good and great blessing. What has been your biggest speed bump? Where are you with it now? Tell me.
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