Category Archives: Culture

Leaving For A Better Country

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Born in the USA

I’ve already left my birth country, the one which identifies my nationality, though this only recently. But, tomorrow, I will board a plane to a new country of residence, and this so happens to be my country’s most patriotic national holiday. It’s a telling reminder to me how attached we can become to pride of place and to our own sense of identity.

 

A Heavenly Country

Tomorrow, go ahead and celebrate humanity’s freedoms we enjoy, but let the small world patriotism point you to a much more glorious world of freedom from the tyranny of Satan, Sin, and Death. Let it stir and shake you up a bit for all who are chained by the power of this world. This new country is literally heavenly; it’s beyond this world, new and full of life. It’s renewed by the gospel and empowered by the Spirit of God.

 

Party Like It’s E-ter-ni-ty

You may think tomorrow’s fanfare gets out of hand at times, but you’ve barely cracked the surface on this party in the New Heaven and the New Earth. It will be uncontainable, and yet, Jesus has made a way for you to show up and enjoy it as he does. You’re allowed on the dance floor. You get to light as many black cats as you want, spit watermelon seeds 100 feet into the air, and eat homemade ice cream without getting a brain freeze. But, even these earthy delights pale to the white hot love and joy we will experience before the throne of God for all eternity.

 

Happy 4th of July!

Check out Matthew 6:19-33 & Philippians 3:20-21

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Noah’s Ark Gets a Reboot

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In light of last year’s earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, creative innovation has given way to the production of a useful emergency floatation pod (named NOAH) that can hold up to four people. It can withstand the beating and pounding of tsunami-like conditions, though it doesn’t quite match up to the capacity of the ark. It’s always really neat to see this kind of technological advancement in response to natural disasters. The human race is seemingly resilient to such cataclysmic events.

Then, you have movies like 2012 that borrow from the Genesis flood story and name their apocalyptic cruise ship/escape pods after Noah’s ark, too. Whether you believe the story to be true or not, of all the modern day spin-offs, the story itself is the most original, and its scope in purpose and success tops the charts. More than that, the redemptive value of the flood story lends itself toward a (spoiler alert!) future New Earth, whole and not so volatile… a much less crumbly and rumbly earth. Some day, we won’t need any sort of mass population saving device. All will be secure, but for now, keep calm and carry on.


Summer Time

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I know the summer solstice is not for 3 more weeks, but we’re past Memorial Day and it feels like summer. The temp is rising, ACs are whirring, the sun is radiating, color is everywhere, it smells piƱa colada outside, home-made ice cream is an option, watermelon is a must, pools are open and bees a-buzzing. Vitamin D is in the air. Vacation, beach, and water play is on the horizon. So let’s agree to get wet, more whistling, reading a good novel, gardening & fresh cut grass, grilling out and swinging on the porch.

Welcome to Summer 2011!

“Summertime, when the livin’ is easy…”


Asheville II: Downtown

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Super Hippy City… Hipster-ville… Granola-ton… Little Indy… could all be used to describe Asheville DT, although I don’t think locals would use those names. I like little “Little Indy” though, as in the independent ethos that runs rampant in the city. Downtown Asheville is full of neat little shops, pubs, restaurants, galleries and music venues. Many refer to it as Beer City, USA, but I’ll get to that in a later post.

Asheville has plenty of places to stay downtown and it’s possible to live quite close, as well. Surrounded by residential neighborhoods on several sides, it’s highly likely to see ambulatory locals perusing their city’s very own fare. It’s obvious that Ashevillians not only take pride in their city but actually love their city and all that it creates and contains for their own enjoyment. I get the impression that the downtown resident or visitor really has no need to travel to suburban Asheville for anything – they’ve got it all right where they live. The streets are clean and the air smells better than your average big city, but you still get most of the benefits of the big city. I know, I know, Asheville is more of a small “big city”. Parking can be a little cumbersome if you’re dependent on a vehicle. Rather than being a one-dimensional hub for business, finance or mediocre downtown, it’s more of a thriving organism of arts, entertainment, good food and drink, independent and big business, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I would venture to guess that Asheville’s economy is very much alive and kicking. While maintaining a fairly laid-back demeanor, the downtown seems to pulsate with creativity and a love for culture.

I’ll cover food, drink, and my favorite experience in later posts, but besides all that fun stuff, the downtown offers several museums and attractions, such as Pack Place Education, Arts, and Science Center, Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site, Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center, Grove Arcade, and the Basilica of St. Lawrence. The River Arts District is right next to downtown so you have plenty of gallery viewing to keep you busy and intrigued. If for some reason, you just can’t sit tight in downtown, no worries. Why? Because Asheville is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southern Appalachians and all they have to offer, including white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, water parks, camping, water skiing on Lake Powhattan, and the list goes on. So, now that you’re starting to pack your bags, whether to relocate or play the tourist, I’ll spend the next two posts getting your palate amped up for an urban smorgasbord of delight.


Asheville I: a Brief History

A couple of weeks ago, I drove the Half Doz deep into the heart of Appalachia to play for a couple of days in Asheville, NC. For as much fun as we had, I think it completely appropriate to credit the city of Asheville as the subject of my first series on this blog. I’ll begin with a brief history, then, subsequently, I’ll write on Asheville’s downtown, food, drink, and my favorite experience during our time.

The Story of Asheville

It all began when a colonel moved into the area (Cherokee Nation) with his family in the late 1700s. Originally, it was called “Morristown,” but later the common westward crossroad was renamed Asheville in honor of the North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe. The Civil War had very little effect on the city, but the railroad made Asheville in the late 1800s. The way in which the city handled the Great Depression is largely the reason for its innate ability to captivate visitors and residents alike. Instead of defaulting, Asheville bore the weight of debt (more than any other city in the nation) and resolved to pay over a period of 50 years, giving the city moral and physical character. Asheville is a proud city of artistic and cultural taste steeped in back-breaking stick-to-itiveness and long-lasting, magnificent architecture.

The Build of Asheville

Most notably, the largest private residence in America is the Biltmore Estate; it is, in effect, America’s largest castle. One of the Vanderbilts planned and built the Biltmore in about 6 years. Renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscaper Frederick Law Olmstead designed it to model a European-style chateaux. Here’s the stats: 175 K sq. ft., 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, and quite the basement (swimming pool, gym, and bowling alley). The Biltmore, however, is not all Asheville has to offer in the way of architecture. As mentioned above, the city’s resolve during the Depression led to a fine preservation of a vast collection of Art Deco architecture, including city hall.

Walking around the city, it doesn’t take long to realize what a gem Asheville is. Now, with an idea of its history and architecture, I’ll explain what I mean in my next post concerning the feel of downtown Asheville and why you should consider putting it at the top of your list of weekend getaways or summer vacation home base.


Concerning the Hokey-Pokey, Couples, and the Limbo

Whirling teenyboppers and homeboys with 80s music and fluorescent lighting.

Last week, we pulled into the parking lot of a usual-looking skating rink in Anderson, SC, and we thought we’d warped into another dimension. Now, understandably, it was Friday night, but when we cued into the line of 50 people waiting to get in, we began internally shaking our heads with eyes widened and jaws dropped. Half of the people in line toted their very own, personal roller skates. I even saw that tall and skinny, middle-aged guy who thrives at every rink because he can skate loopty-loops backwards around everyone else. So smooth. A security guard stood amidst the line to deter, I think, gang-related or juvenile-style shenanigans. While we were waiting, I noticed a sign listing about fifteen very particular rules of the rink. The security guard (a county sheriff) asked a young man to remove his hood. I was not allowed to wear my ball cap. Everyone wanted in.

Once we finally made it in, into the 1980s, I mean this skating rink, we grabbed our rental skates, put them on, and turned towards the rink. People were flying by us in the snack area. We were outnumbered by pre-teens 6 to 1, easy. This was the place to be. The rink cop was gliding around the rink whistling at the skaters to maintain order. Kids were skating and holding hands, standing and holding hands, cuddling and holding hands, eating a slice of pizza and holding hands, and texting the person they with whom they were holding hands. My three year old, cute as he was in skates, got hit on by countless 11 year old teenyboppers. I skated around the rink several times, but by the end of our time, I realized that what I really paid for that night was an all expense paid trip to a completely different country or planet. This place was crawling with adolescent-vitality. I sat there, pulling off my skates to return to “Baby” (preferred nomenclature of her 15 y/0 coworker for her), and thought, “Where am I? What is this all about? What makes these people tick?” I haven’t the slightest, but I do know it was almost other-worldly.