Returning to Oklahoma

“In Kentucky [or Tennessee, my addition] you could never see too far, since there were always mountains blocking the other side of your view, and it left you the chance to think something good might be just over the next hill. But out there on the plain it was all laid out right in front of you, and no mater how far you looked it didn’t get any better. Oklahoma made me feel there was nothing left to hope for.”–Missy (Taylor Greer) in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees

We are in Oklahoma, though I don’t view it as dimly as Kingsolver’s Missy. I left here when I was 17 and twenty years later I’m returning a changed person for all the people I’ve met and ways God has changed me through them, for all the events in my life that have humbled me time and again, for all the ways I have come to appreciate the sacred not only in sacred places but in and around the secular, for as Madeline L’Engle says in Walking on Water“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred.”

I’m married to the person who has changed me more than anyone else, and three children who have melted my heart and sometimes test the limits of what mercy I have. It’s been twenty years since I’ve lived in Oklahoma, but these four have never lived in Oklahoma. Till yesterday, Jacob had never seen a pond full of angus cows trying to keep cool in 96 degree heat. Since packing up and leaving from Nashville Friday and arriving Sunday, we’ve been hanging out with family and acting like those cows, keeping cool in the water.

Early mornings this week we’ve been picking blackberries and blueberries on farms nearby, cleaning out Grandma D’s gutters, spying what is in the garden now and tasting the fruits of already harvested gardens. We sat on Grandma’s porch yesterday teaching the children to spit watermelon seeds while talking about the turtles that had been eating the strawberries.

I start at Garnett July 5. Till then, I’m trying to recover the gusto that moving tends to yank out of a soul. There is, contrary to popular believe in Kingsolver’s novel, a horizon and hope in Oklahoma, and we’re walking toward it now, ever believing that joy and God’s life is right in front of us and beyond.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Moving today

We’re moving today. We’re also closing on our house today. Driving to Tulsa tomorrow after sleeping the night with neighbors. So this is it for today–much to tape up and stuff in . . . and if Jill caught me posting a blog right now, she’d stop and calmly open her mouth toward me and blow bees.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

In Flight Tomato Juice

What is it about airplanes that seems to compel people to drink tomato juice?

Do these tomato connoisseurs drink the stuff at home? There’s always one or two people in earshot ordering tomato juice on flights. Am I missing something?

Why don’t people ask this question at McDonalds? Ever look around at a restaurant and see a glasses with the red stuff on ice?

Does this calm flight nerves? Give you an antitoxin boost? Just glad American started serving Diet Dr. Pepper.

If you are a tomato juice orderer, please explain.

Best Soft Drinks [Not all available on flights — please ask your flight attendant]
1. Diet Dr. Pepper
2. Cold Coca-Cola on ice after a day on dusty roads, but this wouldn’t apply to flights, would it?
3. Bitter Lemon (similar to Fresca)
4. Diet Cherry Diet Coke at Sonic (you have to say diet twice)
5. Fresca

Can they grow corn on the moon?

Friend and fellow Jinja mission team missionary, Ben Langford, did something that every missionary ought to do in order to endear themselves to their host culture, the families they will serve, and to learn language and life.

He went to a village and stayed a week, built a hut, spewed language like a baby–as I did–until he got one word then a phrase then connected phrases, then sentences and paragraphs of speech right.

I wanted to include something Ben said because I am working on similar thoughts for a Wineskins theme on the Gospel of Mark. One article I’m writing is about how Ugandans see Scripture so differently than Americans do. We shouldn’t have been shocked but we learned so much seeing the words of the Bible heard and understood through those living as subsistence farmers. In other words, they lived on their daily bread provided from the ground.

He wrote several thoughts when he returned, and here is one observation he made.

These agricultural and nature themes run threadlike through Jesus’ parables and teaching. I knew very well how argricultural themes in the Bible connected here but now it is like the door has been opened to a whole new world. One night I was telling Moses Mboizi about the moon and men traveling there. And out of all the questions he could have asked, his first one was, “Can they grow corn there?”

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Everything is music

Jacob said “everything is music . . . listen.” Then he kicked a ball. He held his hand on his ear and pointed to the air conditioner, the birds singing. “There’s patterns.”

This is a kid with a mathmatical and musical mind. It’s fascinating to watch. I told him, “God’s given you a good mind. Use it for his glory, to serve him.”

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

All good books . . .

I picked this quote up from the introduction to the documentary, “The Stone Reader.”

All good books have one thing in common–they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you’ve read one of them you will feel that all that happened, happened to you and that it belongs to you forever: the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, the wine, beds, people and the weather. If you can give that to readers, then you are a writer.–Ernest Hemmingway

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Springsteen Rating System by John Ogren

My good friend, John Ogren, introduced me–really introduced me–to Springsteen. Sure, I’d heard of him and heard him, but John helped me really hear this master who we call the Boss. I love his rating system, which he applies to the new CD, “Devils and Dust,” an album done without the E Street Band. Here is a portion of John’s email that he sent as he listened to the new CD. It’s a joy just reading him experiencing the CD for the first time.

My on the spot rankings are retrospective in terms of the rest of the Springsteen canon.

A guide to my ranking system:
1 – Worst of the Worst: Zero and Blind Terry, Thundercrack
2 – Rather listen to the Commodores: Seaside Bar Song, Part Man Part Monkey,Two Faces
3 – Could have lived without: When You’re Alone, The Angel, Night, Streets
of Fire, Cover Me
4 – Better than Anything Phil Collins ever wrote in his whole life: Blinded by the Light, Candy’s Room, Crush on You
5 – standard Springsteen fare: I’m a Rocker, All or Nothin’ at All, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
6 – sub-classic Springsteen song: Jungleland, Mary’s Place, Ramrod
7 – Springsteen classic: Born to Run, Badlands, The Rising
8 – A Cut above a Springsteen classic: Thunder Road, Prove It All Night(Live), Independence Day
9 – Only Springsteen and Dylan write this good: Highway Patrolman, Living Proof, You’re Missing
10 – What makes Springsteen Springsteen (though not his three best songs): The River, Atlantic City, American Skin (41 Shots)

Of course I could have listed a lot more songs at each level, these selections are merely representative.

The title track is great. Set in Iraq, the refrain gives you a feel:

I got God on my side
I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive kills the things you love
Fear’s a dangerous thing–
Turn your heart black, you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust.

Wailing harmonica solos. Really good.(8)

‘All the Way Home’ – a rocker. Electric guitar and heavy beat. Old relationships have failed. Bar is closing and Bruce is offering to walk her all the way home. (4)

Haven’t listened to ‘Reno.’ The warning label on the packaging advised of it’s ‘adult imagery’. I understand the ‘point,’ but I felt defiled just reading the lyrics. Think I’ll burn a disc without this one on it. Unrated.

‘Long Time Comin’ — Basic Springsteen anthem. But now he’s a dad, camping with the kids. A feel-good melody, great O’Brien production and some great lines:

Now down below and pullin’ on my shirt
I got some kids of my own
Well if I had one wish in this godforsaken world, kids
It’d be that your mistakes would be your own
Yeah, your sins would be your own.

‘Black Cowboys’ – sounds like something off Ghost of Tom Joad. Too many words to process meaningfully on one listen. Rainey Williams kisses his sleeping mother goodbye and leaves home. (at least a 4)

‘Maria’s Bed’ – sounds really good. nice mandolin, steel guitar, organ. (5)

‘Silver Palamino’ – This is a beauty. Nobody writes about death as skillfully as Bruce. And who else can work ‘prickly pear’ into a song? Texans will love it. (9)

‘Jesus Was an Only Son’ – I think there is hope buried in this song. (6)

Jesus was an only son
As he walked up Calvary Hill
His mother Mary walking beside him
In the path where his blood spilled
Jesus was an only son
In the hills of Nazareth
As he lay reading the Psalms of David
At his mother’s feet

A mother prays, “Sleep tight, my child, sleep well
For I’ll be at your side
That no shadow, no darkness, no tolling bell,
Shall pierce your dreams this night.”

In the garden at Gethsemane
He prayed for the life he’d never live,
He beseeched his Heavenly Father to remove
The cup of death from his lips

Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you’ll never find in another’s face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached
Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands
Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared.”

‘Leah’ – a nothin’ of a love song. Should have put this on ‘Tunnel of Love.’ What a waste. (3)

‘The Hitter’ – a novel about a boxer. Can’t process yet. unrated.

‘All I’m Thinkin’ About’ – Done in the falsetto he uses on a song on disc 3 of ‘Essential’ (can’t remember the title). I like it. It’s a feel good blues number.

‘Matamoros Banks’ – haunting, beautiful love song about the death of an illegal immigrant along the border. This is what makes Springsteen Springsteen. (10)

All in all, enough to sustain for a good while. The real pay-off will be hearing this new stuff with the band, whenever that might be. Still, I will be on the sixth row, center section at Nokia Live when he comes through solo this Thursday. Apologies to those for whom that was rubbing it in. Maybe I’ll file a separate report on the dvd side of the disc.


By Greg Taylor Posted in General