What Others Are Saying:

Steve Case, through his emersion into the story, reminds us that the presence of the divine surrounds us continually and he teaches us how to tap into that presence.

 - Mary Beth Howe, Author:A Baptist Among Jews

Monday
Aug052013

Hey Hey Hey

Tooling around the internet I paid a visit to the Arizona Tea website. Arizona Tea has been good to us.  I once taught a lesson using Arizona Tea as part of the lesson.  I wrote a letter to the company and they were so pleased the sent us free stuff.  Nice people.

 Arizona Tea has entered the coffee market. In line with their other drinks named after athletes (Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer) the new beverage has a sports theme.  Joltin’ Joe.  Named after the famous baseball player Joe Demaggio.  For those of you with a knowledge of 70’s pop music may know the name from “Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away...hey hey hey.”  

 Joe Demaggio was also married to Marilyn Monroe.  He was spokes person for Mr Coffee when Mr Coffee first introduced their automatic coffee maker.  

 Arizona’s coffee beverage is labeled as a Sparkling Expresso.  So it’s a coffee soda. (Both Coke and Pepsi tried a coffee soda with limited results.)  The site also says its flavored with brown sugar.  So its a really sweet coffee soda.  Still I am intrigued.

 There was a book, a western, I read years ago called Lonesome Dove. It was about a team of cowboys who take a heard of cattle across the state. The cook in the story liked to put brown sugar in his coffee.  I had ever herd of such a thing.  In the book the moment rates a whole paragraph about putting enough sugar in the coffee to make it almost a syrup.  When the movie premiered the cook made is coffee in the background behind the two cowboys who were arguing. I watched the cook put the brown sugar in his coffee and stir.  If you had not read the book that moment would have slipped right by you. I caught it.  Yay me. Hey hey hey.

 On the can of Joltin Joe is a picture of a sullen Joe Demaggio taken from a nineteen forty-something baseball card.  Joe played for the Yankees but on the can the NY has been photo-shopped out.  A sharp eye-ed reviewer for bev-net.com caught the detail. I’ve been wondering why they felt the need?  

 Life is in the details.  The small moments. The blips and bleeps that exist only for a second and you miss them if you aren’t paying attention.  Hitchcock put himself in all of his films in the background somewhere.  In the movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World,  every boyfriend has a number accept for Scott himself.  Yet he has a T-shirt that reads ZERO and he drinks coke-zero and he get’s called a zero.  In Back to the Future the name of the mall changes because of something Marty did in his own past. It’s never mentioned it’s only there for people who appreciate the details. 

 When Paul writes the new testament he likes to throw in words and phrases from the Old Testament without making a point of them.  In the Jewish study tradition when you ran across a word that seemed familiar you were told to go back in the text and find that word and study that passage to.  

 The old phrase “God is in the details” refers to the notion that whatever you are doing...do it throughly.  Yes, you have to wash both sides of the dish. Yes, you have to follow the recipe exactly.  The smallest ingredient in a batch of chocolate chip cookies is  baking soda.  Ever bake cookies and leave that one out?  Life works this way.

 Yes, we get tired. Yes, things slip by us. But when you learn to pay attention to life around you, you start to notice things.  Things others miss.  Pay attention to movies and books and you will those little treats the director put in just for people who pay attention. God makes all things work together like the workings of a clock.  Pay attention and you will find gifts that God put into the universe just for people who will appreciate it. Hey. Hey. Hey.

 

Pay attention.

 

Monday
Aug052013

Timeless

Listen....can you hear that?  Probably not.  There’s a song on my radio right now and since you are probably in school in another city I’d have to turn it up louder.  Neil Young is singing Heart of Gold. 

 Back in the 80’s there was a lousy little movie called Iceman.  It starred Timothy Hutton, (the guy on the con artist series).  Hutton is a scientist who leads a team of other scientists in research facility in the Antarctic.  They find the frozen body of a Cro-Magnon man.  They decide to thaw him out and study the body.  Turns out he wakes up. (If he had been dead it would have been a short movie.)  They keep “Charlie” the cromagdon man in the dome where they are growing a green sustainable life center.  Charlie is hard to control and doesn’t understand much.  Timothy Hutton’s character tries to communicate with Charlie.  Charlie sings the scientist a song.  The scientist responds by singing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.  Charlie picks up the tune and in a series of grunts and cromagdon babble they both sing the song from the 70’s.  

 Some things are just timeless.  Yes, it was a bad movie but the idea of a song written in the 70s  being sung by a man who was scavenging for berries at the beginning of time was kind of cool.

 In the movie Book of Eli in world that has been obliterated to the point where people are pretty much living like cave people the song How Can You Mend A Broken Heart is on the lips of the hero.  

 Some things are timeless.  Some things don’t belong to the time in which they were created. They instead belong to the ages.

 I want to think that communion is like this.  I don’t think Jesus set out to “do communion.”  He picked up the bread and the wine because that’s what was left on the table after the party.  (I have heard stories of churches that divide themselves over the argument of wine or juice?).  

 This simple act....breaking the bread and drinking the juice...this is timeless. You can go anywhere in the world and see this done as a symbol of people making the choice to live life as better people.  Someday this simple act will be done on another planet or in a space station.

 THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A SECOND....what we do on the first Sunday of the month, when you take that bit of pita bread and dip in the grape juice, that will be done on a space station or another planet someday.  

 I try not to be complacent when we “do communion” on Sundays.  It can be a complacent thing.  It has to remain important.  It has to be seen as timeless. Some day there will be a human being (perhaps a clone of a human being) who has never set foot on the planet earth who will eat the bread and drink the juice as a symbol of their promise to try to be a better person.

 Jesus said, “Love God.  Love each other.”  All the grand teaching of everything we were asked to do in five words.  Love God. Love each other.

 

Its more than bread.  Its more than juice.

 

Monday
Aug052013

Rain

There are few things in this world as wonderful to me as the sound of rain.  It is pouring rain as I write this.  I have moved my spot from the dining room table to a chair in the living room by the window so I can hear the rain.  I don’t know why it appeals to me so much but it does.

 There was a great comedian back in the day named WC Fields.  He was incredibly funny. I will share one of his quotes a the end of this letter.  Fields was also a raging alcoholic.  He said the only things that could put him to sleep at night was gin and rain. When he was drinking more than a quart of gin a day he finally checked into a treatment center.  His girlfriend would stand outside every night and spray a hose on the roof and window of the cottage where he was living to dry out.  It was the sound of the rain that allowed to sleep.

 i like driving in the rain.  When I lived up north I also liked to drive in blizzards. Strange, I know.  Watch the television and you can see how we must respect the weather.  The National Hurricane Center is calling for as many as 20 named storms this season.  With all that power and all that history I still have this incredible urge to stand outside when the storm rolls in.  I want to be a part of it.

 Frankenstein’s monster was “born” in the rain.  There’s that amazing scene at the end of the Shawshank movie where Andy crawls 500 yard through a river of filth and comes out the other side and stands in the rain.  I’m still hearing the rain now. I wish I had coffee.  I fell in love with my wife while we were dancing in the rain.  There is something about 

 Rain is a great equalizer.  There is so much division in this world.  People work SO HARD at making the division possible.  If they put that much effort into working together as they do into pointing fingers and blaming each other...we’d be better off.  Rain falls on the rich and the poor, the progressives and the conservatives, the old and the young,   if you stand in the rain you get wet just like everyone else.  The book of Psalms (number 72 I think) calls for leaders to be like rain on dry grass. What it that was our attitude.  What if instead of spending our time trying to be mean or bring other people down we chose our words so they would be like rain on dry grass.  Every word you choose can make a situation worse or can be like rain on dry grass.

 You can make it better or you can make it worse. It’s entirely up to you.  

 Haven’t you had a “dry grass” day?  One of those days when nothing goes right? Rain-words can make all the difference.  Which words do you choose?

 Rain is redemption. Rain is renewal. Rain is revival. Rain heals.

 Use rain words.

Wednesday
Apr102013

Harmony

 

Just a side note at the beginning to go along with the post from a few weeks ago: Coffee mug choice today: Ron Jon’s Surf Shop.

 Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and write.  I’ll get and idea that seems to come out of nowhere and I have learned that I must get it down on paper or it will be gone.  Every time I would think, “Oh I must remember to write that down in the morning”  morning would then come and I would be kicking myself because whatever the brilliant idea was is gone forever.  Many a wonderful idea has been lost to pillows and blankets of my bed thereby depriving the world of some amazing technological breakthrough or at least a good fart joke.

 So I get up and I write.  It’s usually not for very long and I’ll go back to bed right afterward but I have to get it down on paper or its as good as forgotten.

 Apparently I got such an idea last night however I have no memory of getting out of bed. None.  On my kitchen counter was a blue index card with what was clearly my own handwriting.  I wrote down these words:

                    Lost souls hum. Vibration.

 I’m guessing I meant that lost souls hum, not like they have forgotten the words buy like when the motor is running on your fridge or maybe your electric toothbrush.  The vibration makes a hum.  Cell phones do not hum.  Cell phones buzz.  Apparently I decided that souls hum.

 I have been working on some ideas for the sequel to Father Dark.  (Steve’s first novel out this Summer!!).   I wanted to have Fr Dark open a shelter for homeless souls.  Now apparently they will need to hum.  I wonder if souls hum in harmony.  Maybe they hum in discord when things are not well and in harmony when all is right with the world.

 I wonder if our souls hum while they are still part of us.  You know that feeling you get when you are driving with the windows down or standing at the beach?  Maybe for you it’s being up late at night with a bunch of your friends and you are just talking about life, the universe and everything.  When we connect with each other or with the world around us or with the Creator of all things....our souls hum.  

 Inversely, when you are fighting with your best friend, worried about your job, your future, your health, your family...our souls are in discord. 

 I heard there was a secret cord that David played and it pleased the Lord...

 In addition to being a giant slaying, crazy-acting, revenge taking, naked dancing, philandering King...David was at his center a street musician.  He was constantly searching for that perfect cord that put him in harmony with his God.

 So do we all, I think.  (I mean the searching for harmony part not the naked-dancing, revenge-taking, philandering thing.)  There’s a wonderful song on youtube (link pasted below) that features a choir of teenagers in Ireland.  When a bomb went off killing several people a local youth pastor decided the best response to the act of terror was a song.  Teenagers (both Catholic and Protestant) came together to sing.  The chords and harmonies are so perfect I think there is truly a connection going on in that moment.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1ohx398P7I

 

We must work toward harmony.  If you have to bring the pitch down a little and I have to bring it up a notch...we do this. There are too many people in this world who are working hard to create discord.

  Just think about that....some people WORK AT CREATING discord. 

That’s appalling to me. 

That’s a direct violation of what we were put here to do.  In my mind...and I don’t speak of this very often...that is sin.  

 Create harmony in your life. Adjust how you need to.  For some reason I feel the need to close this off with a quote from one of my favorite movies...Harvey.  “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart of or so pleasant.  For years I tried smart.  I prefer pleasant.”

 

 

Wednesday
Mar272013

The Real Philly

I think I offended a guy tonight.  Not sure.  I am one of those people who will specifically complement the chef in a restaurant if I think a meal is particularly good.  Whether it’s a diner or fancy place I will give credit where it’s due.  (I say “fancy place” like I go to those.  I think the fanciest place we go is Carabas Grill and that’s only once a year on Christmas eve.)  Anyway...

 My wife and I went to the food truck event in Oviedo tonight.  There was a truck that sold Philly Cheesesteaks.  Oh yeah.  I love a good Philly Cheesesteak.  There are cheesesteaks and there are PHILLY cheesesteaks.  These are not the same thing.  Usually when a place advertises they have phllly cheesesteaks the mean cheesesteak.  Not a PHILLY cheesesteak.  So I ordered one from this particular food truck.

 It was awesome.  Completely tasted like a genuine PHILLY cheesesteak.  So I went back to tell the chef it was the closest thing I had to a Philly cheesesteak since I was in Philly.  Apparently he was from Philly and had worked at a cheesesteak place in Philly and questioned me when I said, “closest” because to him it was the genuine article.  I enjoyed it very much and thought I was paying him a compliment but I’m not sure he took it that way.

 We all want to be genuine.  We all want to be authentic. We want to be the real-deal.

 What does authentic look like when you are a Christian?  Brother Lawrence (17th century monk and author of a book called Practice of the Presence of God) said he felt closest to God when he was in the chaos of his kitchen.  Not when he was in the sanctuary praying but in the loud banging of pots and pans.  What does it mean to be real when it comes to being in God’s presence?

 I think it is when we do what God called us to do....I don’t mean in a let’s-feed-the-homeless kind of “do”.  I mean in when you do what God called you personally to do then you are closest to him.  What God calls you to do is not what God called me to do.  What God called your brother (sister, mother, father, teacher) to do is not what God wants you to do.  

 I think we are authentic...we are genuine...we are real...when we find out what it is that makes us feel truly alive and then DO THAT for God.  You heard people sing and thought “Whoa..they have a real gift.”  That’s true.  It IS a gift and they are using it.  They are authentic.

 When you try to be something you are not.  When you try to be something to please your parents. When you try and be someone else in order to sit at the cool kids table...you are not being genuine.  Genuine is when you are what God created you to be.

 Trouble is...when there are people who are so insecure about their own authenticity they usually try and make others feel the need to change.  “I want you to be inauthentic in order for me to like you.  Change and be like me or you can’t sit by me or be accepted by me.”  

 Don’t listen to these people.

 Whenever you are doing that which makes you feel the most alive that is when you are in the presence of God.  That is when you are being authentic.  That is when you are genuine.  It’s also a great place to start when you think of “What do I want to do for a living when I grow up?”    Start with the same question...what are you doing when you feel the most alive?  When you can answer that...  (without the interference of well-meaning and sometimes not-so-well-meaning individuals who want you to be something else)...when you can answer that you are on your way.

 Be authentic.

Be genuine.

 Be yourself.

 

 

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