Friday, April 29, 2011

BLEAK

This is just one of a series of posts. I haven't lost my faith, I haven't disavowed anything. No need for alarm. Just part of working stuff out. There's more to come...

Well, I can see now that life isn’t gonna play fair, regardless of how many chances I give it.

Just like Alan Ginsberg said, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”.

We’re told to dream. To try. That we can accomplish anything we want.

Then one ol’ person can smash those things. When they’re not even right.

I take inspiration from Rocky Balboa: “The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth.”

On second thought, damn a Rocky. Rocky’s a movie.

Any single thing in your life ever work out the way it does in a movie?

I’m sick of it. Sick of the line. Sick of being fed bull. Sick of being told to expect something better.

Is that what faith’s all about?

I used to have faith.

Now I wonder if that’s just something we use to make ourselves feel better somehow.

Most people don’t even seem to mean that.

I believe there’s a God up there. I just don’t know what that means for me down here anymore.

I don’t mean this to be all depressing. I don’t mean to sit in a pity puddle.

I’m blessed. I have bright spots. But what’s it ALL about? What’s the point?

But that old song was right; “it’s a short life of trouble”, ain’t it?

The examples of faith that moves me are the Depression-era songs about struggle and strife. THOSE people were waiting for something better.

Is that the whole point? Surviving?

What gets you through?

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 28th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

Johnny Cash - Five Feet High & Rising
Duane Eddy - Rebel Rouser
Roy Orbison - Uptown
Mike Ness - Wildwood Flower
Tom Waits - Rains On Me
Rolling Stones - Shake Your Hips
Ray Charles - I Got A Woman (live)
Buddy Guy - Baby Please Don't Leave Me
Jack Nitzsche - The Last Race
Johnny Cash - The Mercy Seat
Robert Johnson - I Believe I'll Dust My Broom
The Nighwatchman - Union Town
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Minstrel Boy
R.L. Burnside - See What My Buddy Done
Peter Case - Kokomo Prayer Vigil

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"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Revolution is Alive & Well

A while back, I posted a blog entry called "Frustration". By the time I'd completed it and posted it, a "counter" experience happened and I promised to share that "soon". I didn't. It's been several months. But, here's that counter-point to "Frustration". Better late than never.
*Dedicated with appreciation to Cat

Do you remember that scene in Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan climbs the mast of their shrimping boat and curses God during the storm? Assuming he’ll die in the deadly storm, he climbs up and let’s God know just exactly how He screwed up and just exactly what should have happened. He didn’t die. And somehow, after that rant, a little bit of healing begins for Lieutenant Dan.

A few months ago, I allowed myself “one blog post to rant, vent, and otherwise wallow in and try to express my displeasure at the current circumstances” surrounding the dissolution of a non-profit charity I had been directing, other frustrations, and my general lot in life. For background to this story, you can read that blog post here.

Immediately following that “Lieutenant Dan experience” – as in the next day – a bit of my own healing began. I dropped by the coffee shop on my way to work and an acquaintance surprised me by buying my venti cafĂ© mocha. I’d volunteered doing some game announcing for his volleyball team and he was expressing his thanks. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small gesture, but I walked out of the coffee shop a little lighter on my feet that morning. Gestures like that were what the non-profit I ran had been about; taking easy steps to brighten someone’s day.

A few hours later, I ran by church, to pick up any mail that might have come for me (I volunteered in leading their college ministry). The only piece of mail was one delivered for the charity I ran that had been dissolved. My initial reaction was anger. Not at the sender…just at the fact that people still didn’t know the charity had folded. At that fact that I was going to have to call yet another person and explain the whole long, painful story to them.

I reluctantly opened the mail and found this photo inside of it.


These children in Africa thanking the Dirty Roots Revolution (the charity I keep blathering about) for sending them a collection of school books.

The swan song for the DRR was a weeklong missions trip we hosted for some high school students from Indiana. One of the days on that missions trip involved us packing boxes of shoes and books for an organization called Project Restore. Project Restore sent those boxes of shoes and books to school children in Africa who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

The purpose of the Dirty Roots Revolution was to encourage folks to get involved in changing the world through small efforts. Like buying someone a coffee. Or taking a few hours to pack textbooks for African children who needed them.

The icing on the cake of this blessing of a day was a request to join a college student for coffee. I was happy to do so. Our conversation centered on why the DRR had to go away and how her and some friends could resume one of the organization’s projects; a weekly homeless outreach. I’m thrilled to say they’ve picked up that activity and are continuing it through a new organization of their own.

The Dirty Roots Revolution called itself a revolution because we felt that making small sacrifices to make someone else’s day was, in and of itself, a revolutionary act; an uprising against apathy and the incorrect perception that we, as individuals, can’t do anything to make a difference in the world. Just like the butterfly effect, I believe if folks focus on what they CAN do to make a difference, the combined effect of that goodness will spread and everything would be better.

It’s not like I thought the DRR had the corner on doing these kinds of things. None of this is new. The homeless outreach was started by my friend, Bill. All I did was get on board with what he was doing. Lots of other people follow the “pay it forward’ philosophy. The DRR just put our efforts into focusing as many people as possible to get behind this already-existing revolution.

A charitable organization needn’t exist for that revolution to continue. Anytime someone gives a little of their resources or themselves to brighten someone else’s day, that revolution is alive and well.


I was a beneficiary of said revolution on that day. I’d always had a hunch that if people put forward these kinds of efforts as much as possible, they’d eventually hit just the right person on just the right day who really needed just that kind of blessing. My theory proved true for me on that day.

Viva la revolucion.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WILDERNESS

I mentioned yesterday that I feel like I'm at a crossroads. I've been having a beautiful and tough conversation with a good friend...and she mentioned maybe I'm in a kind of "wilderness". I'd agree. I've been in them before - one especially. It began when I lost my dream job in St. Louis radio, working with my hero and mentor, and moved back to Greenville where I found a glamorous job bagging groceries. That wilderness was super-tough and lasted two years. But it ended with me meeting my wife.

As I told my friend, I'm demented and masochistic enough that I enjoy these wilderness experiences. Enjoy might be a stretch...But even when I'm not "enjoying" them, I know they lead somewhere. And that's what I'm looking for.

As part of this one, I seem to be revisiting things here and there. I felt the need to re-post a blog entry I wrote about a year ago as the Dirty Roots Revolution was coming to an end. From a personal standpoint, it benefited me to read this again. From a writing standpoint, as Johnny Cash said in the liner notes to the reissued version of his classic "Live at Folsom Prison" album, "there's some stuff here I'm proud of"...


IN CONCLUSION
Originally posted August 24, 2010

My fellow revolutionaries,

Our Lord has taken us on quite an adventure through the Dirty Roots Revolution over the past year. It has been a year of challenges, growth, blessings, hard work, inspiration, and – most importantly – positive world-changing in the name of Jesus Christ.

I have told you before that the main focus of the DRR leadership has been to make very certain that the reins of this project remain in God’s hands – not ours. This effort has consistently been rewarding and humbling. At times it has been scary, requiring us to step out on faith with little knowledge of what the future would hold. We have now reached another of these times.

The Dirty Roots Revolution is too large to be small. At the same time, it is still too small to be large. It has grown very quickly. And the administrative and organizational duties associated with it have become a full-time job. This work has required more and more attention and time. I have begun using personal vacation time from my work, not to spend time with my family, but to tend to DRR business. The administrative duties and creative requirements of the DRR consume more and more of my attention, my time, and my efforts.

All three of which should be primarily devoted to my young family. A wise man once told me to be careful never to sacrifice my family on the alter of my personal ministry.

Following too many days, weeks, and months of burning the candle at both ends, in mid-July I found the middle of my wick. I called a meeting of our board of directors and following a lengthy and emotional discussion, our official stance was that the DRR was entering “a time of prayer and fasting”. During this period of several weeks, we put aside all tasks related to the DRR. I canceled and declined speaking engagements, we let our Facebook page go quiet, and – in light of our difficulty recruiting volunteers this summer – we suspended our weekly homeless outreach indefinitely.

This was a challenging time for us as we sought “be still” and seek the voice of God. After several weeks of listening for God I became fully aware that I was going to have to walk away from the Dirty Roots Revolution. I was heartbroken. In my frustrated prayers, I cried out to God for some kind of understanding, clarity, wisdom, and peace. And, as always, He was moving in ways I hadn’t foreseen.

To make a long story short, my wife, Amber, and I felt an undeniable nudging from God to remain in our leadership position of the college ministry at our home church – the First Christian Church here in Greenville.

The Dirty Roots Revolution was basically born from our involvement in that ministry. And as we attempted to work through whatever was happening with what the DRR had become, we felt the call to take things back to where they started. “Back to the basics,” as my Dad would say.

While the mission of the DRR has always been about encouraging people to make a difference in the world in whatever way they see fit, it has clearly been the weekly Homeless Outreach that has captured the hearts of our community. In working through the past few weeks, I could not get past the negative feelings I had, associated with the discontinuation of this project.

So, we’ve opted to move it under the umbrella of Wired, the college ministry we lead. The DRR largely started with the homeless outreach and the homeless outreach has primarily been made possible through the volunteer efforts of college students. In fact, one of my original ideas for the DRR was to have a board of directors made up largely of college students.

I want to stress that other than a change in the “parent organization”, there will be NO changes to the Homeless Outreach. IT WILL REMAIN OPEN TO ANY AND EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE, REGARDLESS OF THEIR CHURCH AFFILIATION. We will announce more specific information pertaining to the Homeless Outreach in the next couple of days. Please keep your eyes peeled for this information and have a look at it when it’s released. It is our hope and prayer that you’ll remain involved in this initiative if it has meant something to you.

In addition to the continuation of the homeless outreach, the Dirty Roots Radio Show will continue unchanged. You can catch it every Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m. (Central Time) on WGRN 89. FM in Greenville, IL or online at www.wgrn.net. Dirty Roots Radio will still be your source for all kinds of unique music, thought-provoking guests, and revolutionary information.

When it comes to the rest of the Dirty Roots Revolution, whether or not it will officially dissolve its incorporation remains to be seen. That is another conversation for a different day. I have yet to meet anyone who has figured out God…and I won’t pretend to know what He has in store.

If the opportunity to direct the DRR as a full-time job should happen to present itself, I would gladly jump at the opportunity to continue this adventure and explore many of the ideas we had worked on, but hadn’t had the time and/or funding to accomplish. We certainly had big plans…But, again, His will be done – not ours.

However, we recognize that without funding to allow this to become an actual job, things simply cannot continue as they have been.

And God is definitely teaching us something through all of this.

Our message has always been that one person can make a difference. And, more importantly, that people can make that difference by doing small things, taking small actions, making small changes, giving small amounts, etc. I tell people that you don’t have to quit your job and become a missionary to Africa to make a difference. You can make a difference wherever you are. You can be a banker and make a difference. You can be a nurse and change the world. You can be a plumber and have an impact.

We can make a difference without leading an officially incorporated revolution.

I want to stress to you that we are NOT giving up.

The revolution is alive within us. And we know it’s alive within you.

You do not need a little non-profit ministry like us to tell us that you can make a difference. You don’t need us to motivate you to get involved. You don’t need us to help you change the world.

You can do this. More accurately, GOD can do this…THROUGH you!

Always remember the words of Joe Strummer: “The world is worth fighting for.” Not physically fighting of course. But, fighting for the good in the world. Our God made this world. It is His creation. And He said it was good. Biblically, this world will continue to “get worse” until Jesus comes back. But, in the meantime, we believe we must strive to increase the amount of light that is present in the midst of the darkness at any given time.

God made all people in His own image. And every life matters.

While the formal organization of how we do this is changing, please continue to join us in our efforts to change this world. Find a cause and jump in. If you don’t know where to start, watch the evening news. Whatever makes you the angriest or tugs at your heart the most….there’s your cause.

Remember, even though they may go unnoticed, small actions matter. Small actions CAN and WILL change this world! Please don’t give up on these small actions. Your choices, your attitudes, your actions – every one of them matter.

Please allow me to acknowledge the leadership of the DRR. Our board of directors consists of Amber Mifflin, Chris Harnetiaux, and Miranda Caulkins.

My wife, Amber, was witness to whatever was brewing in my heart that eventually led to the DRR for a long time before anyone else. She encouraged me to pursue it to see where God was leading. And when things took off, Amber bravely stood by my side, knowing full well the commitment that this adventure may involve. I cannot thank her enough for her patience and support.

Chris Harnetiaux is my best friend and my brother. It’s been a pleasure to have him as my right-hand-man in this adventure. Chris and I shared many late-night cups of coffee, discussing the possibility of a better world, leading up to the formation of the DRR. Chris continually provided a Biblical perspective to the board that was always needed.

Miranda Caulkins was the first person I thought of when forming a board of directors. Miranda truly “gets” the philosophy of the DRR. She is an incredibly gifted photographer and graphic designer, which was a tremendous blessing for our organization. More importantly, Miranda (a sophomore in college when all of this started) is one of the wisest and bravest people I know – of any age. Miranda always encouraged us to take risks and do what we knew God was asking of us, even when we were uncertain or it was uncomfortable.

I have been blessed to serve alongside these three world-changers. And I have been forever blessed to serve alongside each of you.

To everyone who contributed funds, materials, prayers, encouragement, guidance, interest, and support, I say THANK YOU. You have made a difference. You have made this world a better place! Please keep it up!

A few final thoughts:

- One person CAN make a difference

- YOU are the leader we’ve been waiting for

- Silence is the enemy

- If you’re thinking, you’re winning

- People can change anything they want to

Most importantly, let me remind you what our homeless friend O’Lester (a wise old prophet to be sure) told us on one of our first homeless outreach trips: “God is good….ALL the time!!!”

Thank you for the blessing of this past year. All glory to God for what has been achieved!

Ryan Mifflin: A Man Agitated (by Jon Bair)

Last fall, Greenville College student Jon Bair wrote the following feature about me for his school newspaper. I re-read this tonight for the first time in a few months and was struck by how, at the time this article was written, I was at a unique and difficult chapter in my life. I'm still at a unique and difficult chapter...but I'm not sure it's the same one.

As I read this tonight, it seemed like a nice contrast to my previous post. I feel like my blog posts recently have been schizophrenic...angry and frustrated at times, joyful and full of praise at others...always searching. But that's life, ain't it? I don't know what's going on in life right now...but I'll keep seeking. As much as I hate to quote a contemporary country music song, I love the phrase "It's an awful, beautiful life". Indeed.


Ryan Mifflin: A Man Agitated

Sipping an unflavored latte even at 10:30 at night Ryan Mifflin’s bulky frame envelopes the 70’s era upholstered loveseat and contrasts the accompanying “vintage” carpeting in the back part of his hometown’s recently opened mom-and-pop coffee shop. He has a near infatuation with black clothing—not in overwhelming quantities, just always sporting something black. Today it’s a black hoodie (sans the strings), at work it may be a black button-down dress shirt and matching tie, while at all times he has a black gunmetal watch fastened to his wrist. One would never expect him to have a heart as big as his frame, nor would any casual acquaintance expect this small-town man to have interviewed President Obama, nor would anyone realize he’s also a founder of a non-profit.

He wears many hats, but—

“Daddy, I love you,” interjects his three-year-old daughter.

“I love you too,” Mifflin sincerely returns.

—none of them are more important than his dad hat.

One peak inside his office shows where his heart is; the walls are blank and sterilely white—looking no homier under the cold, eye-wearying overhead florescent lights. His desk is filled with papers going in every which way while in a corner a wooden filing cabinet holds newspapers folded in sundry ways, a picture frame that still shows the original stock image provided by its manufacturer, and a Valentine’s Day stuffed bear dressed in an… adorable…bee costume, toting a heart bearing the text “Bee Mine.” Clever.

No, his heart’s not at the office—don’t misunderstand; he likes his job, but loves his daughter, Kate. Above and behind his computer’s monitor, tacked to a pincushion board is a museum-worthy collection of her art. They go on daddy dates all the time; their favorite starts with a late breakfast at St. Louis Bread Co., continues to the St. Louis’ Loop and it’s famous music store, Vintage Vinyl, where Kate is a kind of celebrity, and finishes at Starbuck’s. And like Ryan, Kate, even at three years old, is beginning down a road of question asking.

On their way to Vintage Vinyl one Saturday, she asked if they could go to a homeless outreach in the city that was coincidentally started by her father.

“How [could] I not take her?” he asks.

He recounts a story of when she was only two years old and asked if she could give away a toy to a “homeless friend.” Not knowing whether she really understood what she was saying, he asked her, “You know if you give it to him you can’t get it back, right?”

“Yeah, I know.” She answered. She understood, not unlike Ryan who remembers struggling with the issue of racism when he wasn’t much older than her. He didn’t understand it and just wanted to know why.

“Tell me why. Tell me why.”

Even today his unrest of sorts hasn’t died. He explains that he hates apathy, “Don’t just say how bad the world is—go do what you can. That’s my thing: motivating people to go out and do something.” This “go out and do something” principle is one he holds dear and lives by.

While leading the college group at his church, they began asking some of the tough questions that have stirred in his heart since that first encounter with racism so many years before. What about poverty? As a man a follower of Christ he knew something had to be done. He had had enough of just sitting around.

Thus, the Dirty Roots Revolution was born. This young father, hospital PR guy, husband, radio host, began leading a group weekly to give food, toiletries or clothing to the homeless of St. Louis. One thing led to another and the next thing he knew he was being invited to speak in different states. The ministry was exciting, fast-paced and getting big—fast. It all climaxed when he got a call from a church youth group in Indiana. They wanted to go on a missions, service trip and wanted him to put it together.

A week of his life, then, was spent giving a youth group an intense, apathy-killing look into the problem of poverty and responding to it as Christ would have them to. Then it was time to give it all up.

His heart was in it. He was looking for ways to do it full time… when he had to stop. He describes it as “burning at both ends.” Somewhere the two ends had to meet and for him it was following the youth group’s visit. Something had to give. He knew it. His wife knew it.

He tells in a somber voice that he had “to leave [it] on the table. It was tough, ’cause, I mean, it was my baby.”

However, he knows God was involved the whole way, describing it as being “like God said, ‘I asked you to do this crazy thing and you did it. And it’s a good thing. And it’s kinda big. And now I’m asking you to leave it.’ ”

“ ‘Will you do that?’ ”

Throughout the whole process, his wife has been by his side. Married in 2002 their marriage is the perfect description of completing each other with his wife calling herself “the women of [his] dreams,” but it started with a hate-overcoming miracle. Ryan hates talking on the phone giving a description that demands his own words:

“You cannot write an explanation to detail how much I hate talking on the phone. I hate talking on the phone with a white-hot passion that burns like the face of the sun.”

Yet, it was through the telephone that he met his wife. His story involves two phone calls, the first being from his aunt. You can just imagine her calling and saying something like, “Ryan, so a real lovely girl I know is moving down to Greenville and is looking for a church—she’s really pretty—and I told her about you. She’ll be giving you a call to ask about your church and all—oh, Ryan, she’s really nice.”

This wasn’t the first girl his aunt had tried to hook him up with and he admits to feeling a little more than skeptical, but he was going to do what she asked, help a friend of hers find a church and tell her about his. Then Amber called. Ryan claims it’s a near miracle if you can get him to talk on the phone for any more than 5 minutes, which would be just the right amount of time to tell her what she needed to know, but after two and a half hours of conversing, Ryan knew something else: there was something special about this girl.

The very next night he was paying for her dinner at St. Louis’s classy Spaghetti Factory and they were married within the year. While Ryan provokes people out of apathy and into action, Amber looks at the individual, always seeing hope. This belief in and love for the individual human being grows out of her hero: her father. He lived for years in a life of substance addiction, but went in for recovery at the age of 48—he succeeded. He poured into her and helped stop the cycle of addiction, and not only in her life, but many others as well. Though now she is a traveling day spa of sorts, selling in-home spa treatments, she spent years working with recovering addicts.

Though not her profession now, one can’t help shake the almost tangible sense of empathy she exudes. Ryan is bothered by problems and moved to right them, while his wife complements him by being moved by love into investing in people’s lives.

And now this couple is in a place of transition: Ryan’s not giving up his day job to serve the poor and homeless fulltime and Amber’s working in a pre-school, but they are faithful—waiting, loving, serving, agitating.

Sitting in their comfortable living room with its beiges, greens, and browns, dark wood, wicker furniture, and large comfortable sofas Ryan still more envelopes the sofa. Except this time he doesn’t stand out; rather, he fits in. He complements the script painted on the wall: “Have faith” and “Hope.” Yet, tonight he can’t stay for long, it’s nearly time to go to the radio station, and maybe raise some issue that has for too long needed addressing.

Photo by Miranda Caulkins

Monday, April 25, 2011

MY BROTHA MAN

*swear word alert - if that kinda thing bothers you

This is about a guy I know…

Brotha’s a big dude. Nothing excessive. Big boneded and all. Carries his weight pretty well. Overall, Brotha’s healthy.

Brotha gets a job sitting at a desk and puts on a few more pounds.

Brotha’s an emotional eater.

The reality and stress of grown-up adult life couples with a family history and Brotha gets a little sad.

Brotha talks to people.

People give Brotha some medicine to help him feel better.

Brotha doesn’t want to do that, but he wants to get better. For everyone.
So Brotha takes it.

Number one side effect of Brotha’s medicine is weight gain.

Brotha is given a different medicine to help with the weight.

Brotha gains more weight.

Brotha hits a pretty righteous phase of life and gets off the medicine.

Works hard.

Feels better.

Loses weight.

Life jumps up and bites Brotha in the ass.

Brotha doesn’t wanna…but Brotha gets back on medicine.

Emotional eater Brotha.

Brotha gains more weight.

Brotha is given ANOTHER new medicine.

Brotha gains more weight

Brotha knows the emotional eating thing is all on him. Brotha doesn’t like that. But it’s a slippery slope and all.

When Brotha’s not on the medicine, Brotha loses weight easy.

But, Brotha’s trying to keep himself healthy in the head and not be so sad.

Brotha doesn’t like the weight thing, though.

Brotha’s questioning a lot.

Brotha’s got problems with faith. Brotha’s questioning identity. Brotha’s worried ‘bout worth.

Brotha’s kinda havin’ a hard time with some stuff.

Someone says some really ignorant shit to Brotha.

Makes Brotha feel really bad. Which doesn’t help Brotha.

Brotha already knows he’s fat.

Brotha knows he’s gotta do something. Brotha wants to. Brotha will.

But in the meantime…

Before you say some dumb shit to someone that you don’t know nothin’ about…

Think about my Brotha Man.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 21st Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

Sir Douglas Quintet – Are Inlaws Really Outlaws
Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years
Sir Douglas Quintet – Mendocino
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (Happy 64th birthday to Iggy Pop!)
Woody Guthrie – Pretty Boy Floyd
X – Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not
Waylon Jennings – Lonesome, On’ry & Mean
Steve Earle – Home to Houston
Steve Earle – Waitin’ On the Sky
Iggy & the Stooges – Search & Destroy
X – The world’s a Mess; it’s In My Kiss
Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson – Superman
Neil Young – Revolution Blues
Pearl Jam – Rearviewmirror
The Clash – Clash City Rockers
R.L. Burnside – Hard Time Killing Floor
Sir Douglas Quintet – I Wanna Be Your Mama Again
The Bottle Rockets – She’s About a Mover
Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone

A BIG THANKS TO OUR SPECIAL GUEST TONIGHT:
Kinky Friedman
www.kinkyfriedman.com
Kinky will be appearing at Off Broadway in St. Louis on Friday, April 19th. For tickets or more info: www.OffBroadwaySTL.com

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"I always say, 'If you don't love Jesus, you can go to hell'". - Kinky Friedman on Dirty Roots Radio

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dirty Roots Radio Welcomes KINKY FRIEDMAN

Kinky Friedman calls himself the Texas Jewboy. Others have called him the Frank Zappa of country music. He toured with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in 1976. His personal brand of country/folk music includes wild humor and always the most biting social commentary.

His most loved songs include "They Ain’t Makin’ Jews like Jesus Anymore", "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns in the Bed", "Asshole from El Paso", "Ride 'Em Jewboy", and "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You".

Kinky has written many books, including "What Would Kinky Do: How to Unscrew a Screwed Up World" and "You Can Lead a Politician to Water, but You Can’t Make Him Think".

He's friends with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and visited both of them in the White House.

Kinky recently ran for Governor of Texas and received 12% of the vote, 4th out of 6 candidates. Some of his political philosophies:

I just want Texas to be number one in something other than executions, toll roads and property taxes.

I support gay marriage. I believe they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us.

Musicians can run this state better than politicians. We won't get a lot done in the mornings, but we'll work late and be honest.

The Democrats and Republicans are the same guy admiring themselves in the mirror.

We've got to clear some of the room out of the prisons so we can put the bad guys in there, like the pedophiles and the politicians.

When I'm governor...I'll be the first governor with a listed telephone number.


Here’re some of the Texas Jewboy’s thoughts on religion:

Well, I just said that Jesus and I were both Jewish and that neither of us ever had a job, we never had a home, we never married and we traveled around the countryside irritating people.

William Bennett is my patron saint, one of them. Redd Foxx is another.

Yes, I'm a Judeo-Christian. Jesus and Moses are in my heart, and both of them were independents, by the way.


Kinky on general life philosophy:

A happy childhood is the worst possible preparation for life.

Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail.


And the obligatory commentary on his good friend and fellow Texan Willie Nelson:

If Willie Nelson had been Rosa Parks, there never would have been a civil rights movement in this country, because he refuses to leave the back of the bus.

Kinky Friedman also operates a large animal rescue operation at his ranch in Texas and has his own line of fine cigars.

He'll be giving a rare performance at THE BEST venue for live music in St. Louis, Off Broadway, next Friday, April 29th.

AND HE'LL BE ON DIRTY ROOTS RADIO, LIVE, THIS THURSDAY NIGHT (4/21).


Additionally, I’ll air the interview I recorded with John Doe, of the legendary band X, at Record Store Day last Saturday.

Plus, all of the wild Dirty Roots music you expect!!

I’m anticipating one FREAKY-DEAKY good time on Dirty Roots this week!!

Invite your friends to listen - Invite your grandparents to listen - Invite the shady guy who lives across the street from you to listen (we welcome miscreants like him)!!!!

Tune in this and every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central). Listen from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net. Be sure to tag Dirty Roots Radio in your Facebook status if you're listening - and post on our wall where you're listening from!!!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Get Your Band On Dirty Roots Radio!

In an effort to enhance the community aspect of Dirty Roots Radio, I’m proud to launch what I hope will become a weekly feature on the program: Buckaroo Bob’s Troubadour Lounge.


As activity on the Dirty Roots Radio Facebook page has increased, I’ve made connections with more and more bands of all varieties from all over the world. It occurred to me that it would be cool to not only explore the music of these bands and learn more about their music myself, but also to share these bands with the Dirty Roots Radio audience, located, literally, all over the world.

OK the name…there’s no special meaning. Phrases sometimes occur to me and stick in my brain until I have the chance to use them. “Buckaroo Bob’s Troubadour Lounge” is one such phrase.

Any and all bands are welcome to submit themselves for consideration to be featured on Buckaroo Bob’s Troubadour Lounge. Dirty Roots specializes in renegade country, raw blues, vintage gospel, greasy soul, punk, and funk, which covers an awful lotta ground…so if your band falls under that umbrella, gimme a shout.

If you’re in a local band in the area (the Greenville, IL area) and we already have connections, I’ll be very happy to feature you on the show in another capacity. Buckaroo Bob’s Troubadour Lounge is exclusively to showcase bands from further away, that I wouldn’t have a connection to were it not for Facebook.

To get a spot on Buckaroo Bob’s Troubadour Lounge, send an email to: dirtyroots@rocketmail.com. Include whatever information you can, including a website, contact info, etc. I’ll contact you with a few easy questions and when I hear back from you, I’ll write up a bio on you/your band and post it on my blog, share it on Facebook, and feature one of your songs on the Dirty Roots Radio Show.

Hopefully all of the above will bring your music to a whole new audience in all-new areas. And it’ll definitely add a new flavor to Dirty Roots.

So, let a brotha know! Hit me up at dirtyroots@rocketmail.com and we’ll spread the love!

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

HOW JOHN DOE PROTECTED MY DAUGHTER’S INNOCENCE FROM JILL SOBULE

Me, Kate (with Lanie), and the great John Doe

Saturday was Record Store Day – an international celebration of local, independent music retailers – and as part of the occasion John Doe and Jill Sobule delivered an in-store concert at Euclid Records in St. Louis (they’d performed the night before at Off Broadway – the best concert venue in all of STL).

Jill Sobule had an MTV hit in 1996 with the song “I Kissed a Girl” (yes, BEFORE Katy Perry). John Doe, of course, is the founder of the legendary band X; truly a founding father of the Los Angeles punk rock scene. He’s continued to record “rootsier” records through recent years and has acted in a number of movies and a few television series.

My daughter – a huge music fan in her own right – and I made Record Store Day one of our fairly regular Daddy/Daughter Dates and we spent the day in St. Louis, visiting our favorite record shops and enjoying the day.

I was scheduled to interview John Doe following his in-store performance, so I hoisted Kate up on my shoulders and lingered around the side of the stage.

One of Jill Sobule’s songs included the lyric, “…You fat f#ck$” which she didn’t shy away from singing in mixed company at an 11 a.m. public performance. I didn’t mind. Bad language never offends me and the line was recited in a fairly rapid-fire delivery amidst the song, so I knew Kate didn't catch it. John Doe, however, grimaced and shook his head.

He asked for requests from his back catalog and the audience threw out an obscure number that he said he’d be lucky to get through. He did get through it, but when he got to a line that included the F-bomb you could tell it snuck up on him and he quickly scrambled to self-censor it. He did and later when complaining about the use of banjos in indie rock, he said he aimed to “take the banjo back from all these indie rock mo-fos”. He was looking in my general direction when he said "mo-fos" and I couldn’t help but think he was protecting Kate’s little ears.

But I didn’t want to be presumptuous. Life doesn't revolve around me, after all. So I didn’t dwell :-)


Later in the show, John introduced a song he said he’d “done a lot of preaching” before at the previous night’s concert. He said he didn’t want to preach this morning, but wanted us to listen to the song and think about getting rid of our storage units. Again, I sensed he was holding back.

Jill Sobule apparently sensed that he was holding back, too, and with a big grin she explained to the audience, “John’s trying to get you to not buy so much $h!t!!”

Immediately John, with what appeared to be a genuinely revolted look, turned to Jill and said, “THERE ARE LITTLE EARS HERE!!!” The entire audience busted up and Jill locked eyes with me in genuine horror; “Oh, I am SO sorry!”

Again, I wasn’t too worried about it. Kate clearly didn’t catch onto anything. Everyone had a laugh. I was the focal point of a John Doe/Jill Sobule concert for a second.

And we can always say that the almighty John Doe chivalrously came to the defense of my daughter’s sweet innocence. A true gentleman indeed.

So, we listened to X’s classic album “Los Angeles” on our way to the next Record Store Day stop. And Kate became a fan.

Friday, April 15, 2011

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 14th Playlist (Record Store Day Special)

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.


Little Richard – Get Rhythm
Roy Orbison – Lana
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – School Days
Loretta Lynn – Fist City (Happy 79th birthday today)
Rolling Stones – Shattered
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives – Big Foot
The Brothers Johnson – Strawberry Letter 23
Albert King – She Took the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride
Social Distortion – Sometimes I Do
Jimmy Dean – Big Bad John
T-Model Ford – Hi-Heel Sneakers
Bottle Rockets – Kit Kat Clock
The Mighty Walker Brothers – God Been Good to Me
Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost – Skip James’ Grave
Ray Charles – What’d I Say (live)
The Cramps – Can’t Hardly Stand It
The Blues Brothers – Messin’ with the Kid
Pat Thomas – Woke Up This Morning
Tom Waits – Jitterbug Boy
Leonard Cohen – Dance Me to the End of Love (live)
Blind Boys of Alabama – Spirit in the Sky

VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR GUESTS TONIGHT:
Eric Levin with Record Store Day: www.RecordStoreDay.com
Papa Ray from Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis: www.VintageVinyl.com
Joe Schwab from Euclid Records in St. Louis: www.EuclidRecords.com
Jeff Konkel from Broke & Hungry Records: www.BrokeAndHungryRecords.com

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“I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, Guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people That look up to them To a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to Leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties. And to the record stores, artists, labels, dj’s, and journalists; we’re all in this together. Show respect for the tangible music that you’ve dedicated your careers and lives to, and help It from becoming nothing more than disposable digital data.” - Jack White

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

RECORD STORE DAY: Best.Holday.E-v-e-r.

The best holiday of the year is rapidly approaching! This Saturday is RECORD STORE DAY!!! According to their official website, Record Store Day was started in 2007 “as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.”


I first attended Record Store Day in 2009 and the best way I can describe the vibe generated would be some sort of combination of the feeling that’s in the air when your city’s team wins the World Series combined with Mardi Gras, the last day of school before summer vacation, and the excitement you felt as a kid no Christmas Day.

Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis had street performances all day, special guest DJs spinning tunes inside the store, the aisles were packed, folks were dancing on the sidewalk, all the surrounding stores were busy…it was a great time with an awesome community vibe happening.

Each year, the event has grown and gotten better and better. More and more artists have released special CD and vinyl albums/singles to be sold in conjunction with the event.

As independent retailers, record stores play a part in local economies. Of even more importance to me personally, they play a vital role in the creative culture of a community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve simply walked up to Vintage Vinyl co-owner Tom “Papa” Ray or another of the store’s clerks and asked which record I should start with for a certain band I’m curious about…or asked them to share with me what they know about a particular group…or even to make a recommendation based on the music I tell them I’m into. Eventually, I’ve built friendships with the clerks at Vintage Vinyl and they make recommendations for me based on what they know I like.

Sure you can find more music online, sure it’s easier, it may be cheaper, blah-blah-blah. But you really miss out on something when Amazon’s “If you like this…try these…” button becomes your record store clerk.

Punk rock prophet Joe Strummer once spoke of the importance of digging through record stores when he correctly pointed out that there would be no Rolling Stones if it weren’t for physical records. Blues records were hard to come by in England back in the day…so when Mick Jagger got on the subway and saw Keith Richards holding a stack of them, he was compelled to strike up a conversation. A friendship developed and we now have the Rolling Stones. iTunes wouldn’t have made that connection.

There’s something beautiful about holding an actual, physical piece of someone’s musical art in your hands. To be able to look at the sleeve, to read the liner notes, to learn about the record. There’s a lot of education to be had by digging through old vinyl albums. There’s an awful lot of fun to be had diving into used records, looking for something that strikes your interest. There’s a thrill to be had when you consider checking out a record based on nothing more than how the cover makes you feel.

You can’t do any of that with an mp3. It’s just air.

Every independent record store has its own personality. Its own culture. Its own humor. They’re each super-cool looking, based on nothing other than the funny junk people have stuck on the wall through the years.

They each look like those really cool, funky bars that have been uniquely decorated over time…and NOT like those chain restaurants that are designed to LOOK like they’ve been uniquely decorated.

That’s what a chain music store is like…a restaurant that carefully calculates how they THINK it would look like if they’d established their own unique culture.

Record.Stores.Are.Important.

For an awesome list of quotes by musicians, actors, and many others about independent record stores, visit Record Store Day’s official website.

Below you’ll find information on the Record Store Day celebrations at Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records, both in St. Louis. For those outside of the St. Louis area, check with your local independent record store or visit www.RecordStoreDay.com for a list of participating stores.

This Thursday night (April 14th) on my Dirty Roots Radio Show, I’m proud to host several folks connected with Record Store Day. First, I’ll welcome Eric Levin, one of the founders of the event, followed by Tom “Papa” Ray, of Vintage Vinyl, and Joe from Euclid Records.

In addition to the Record Store Day festivities, I’ll also welcome my friend Jeff Konkel, of Broke & Hungry Records, a St. Louis-based record label specializing in raw Mississippi Delta blues. Broke & Hungry have just put out a 2-disk compilation of mostly unreleased recordings to celebrate the 5th anniversary of their label. The collection is called “Mistakes Were Made: Five Years of Raw Blues, Damaged Livers & Questionable Business Decisions”. I’ll post some thoughts on the album here soon.



In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me for Dirty Roots Radio this Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central). You can listen from anywhere in the world online at www.wgrn.net.


For my St. Louis area readers, here’s the info for Record Story Day activities at Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records:

Vintage Vinyl
6610 Delmar
University City, MO

DJ SPINS:
10AM - Travis
11AM - Annie Zaleski
12PM - Jaime Lees
1PM - Eric King
2PM - Annie, Dave, Jess and Julie from
3PM - Katie and Jason
4PM - Dean Minderman
5PM - DJ Will Power
6PM - Steve Smith
7PM - Justin, Berrek, Fernando & Lauren

MUSICAL PERFORMANCES:
10:30AM - Kelley Hunt
11:15AM - Richie Callison
12:00PM - I Hate Punk Rock Records showcase
1:00PM - Safety Words
1:45PM - Mathias
2:30PM - Pretty Little Empire
3:15PM - Via Dove
-Black Spade & Family
-Beat Street

OTHER RAD STUFF:
TONS of Record Store Day exclusive releases!
FREE BEER courtesy of SCHLAFLY!
Treats!
Contests and prizes!
Records!
Free goodies!
Hugs!
Photo ops!
Rrrrrrreeeeecords!
Love!
Good Vibes!

Euclid Records
601 East Lockwood
St. Louis, MO

Record Store Day WEEKEND! That’s right; this year we’ll be doing two days of live music, sales, DJ’s, RSD exclusives, BBQ and loads of BEER!!!

Live Music Schedule:
Saturday, April 16
11:00 AM John Doe & Jill Sobule
12:00 noon The Deciders
1:00 PM tba
2:00 PM Sleepy Kitty
3:00 PM Troubadour Dali
4:00 PM The Jans Project
5:00 PM The Sights
6:00 PM The Skeletons
7:00 PM The Bottle Rockets
Sunday, April 17
12:00 noon The Pelvic Girdles
1:00 PM Warm Jets USA
2:00 PM Black Fast
3:00 PM Ultraman
4:00 PM The R6 Implant
5:00 PM Snake Ranch
6:00 PM LucaBrasi
7:00 PM The Blind Eyes

DJ Schedule:
Saturday, April 16
12:30 PM - - Thomas Crone
1:30 PM - - Al Swacker
2:30 PM - - Nick O
3:30 PM - - Elemental Child
4:30 PM - - Dead As Disco
5:30 PM - - super conductor
6:30 PM - - DJ Parisian
7:30 PM - - Chilly C
8:30 PM - - 18 & Counting
Sunday, April 17
11:00 AM - - Cat Pick
12:30 PM - - Billy Brown
1:30 PM - - Rob Levy
2:30 PM - - Coreyography
3:30 PM - - DJ Luxxter
4:30 PM - - Josh Levi
5:30 PM - - DJ Black Guy
6:30 PM - - DJ Trash Talk
7:30 PM - - DJ Needles

Thursday, April 7, 2011

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 7th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

Steve Earle - Transcendental Blues
James Brown - Get Up Offa That Thing
Solomon Burke - Cry To Me
Wanda Jackson - Nervous Breakdown
Eddie Cochran - Twenty Flight Rock
Muddy Waters - Crosseyed Cat
N.W.A. - Express Yourself
Nancy Sinatra - How Does That Grab You Darlin'
Merle Haggard - Branded Man (Happy 74th birthday to Merle Haggard, April 6th)
Merle Haggard - Cherokee Maiden
Merle Haggard - Honky Tonk Night Time Man
Tom Waits - Starving In The Belly Of A Whale
Tom Waits - Children's Story
The Rolling Stones - Heart Of Stone
Johnny Cash - Rock And Roll Ruby (Demo)
Johnny Cash - Five Minutes To Live
Steve Earle - Waitin' On The Sky
Texas Torndados - (Hey Baby) Que Paso
James Brown - King Heroin
Pearl Jam - Glorified G
Bottle Rockets - Hard Times
Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughn - Pride & Joy
Mike Ness - Six More Miles
Hank Williams - Lovesick Blues
The The - Honky Tonkin'
Me First & The Gimme Gimmes - I'm So Lonesome (I Could Cry)
Hank Williams - I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
Social Distortion - Alone and Forsaken
Keith Richards - You Win Again
Cracker - Rainy Days And Mondays
The Clash - The Magnificent Seven w/Armagideon Time (Live)
R.L. Burnside - Old Black Mattie
Elvis Costello - 13 Steps Lead Down
Pearl Jam - nothingman

*Background Music: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

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"I think we're going to have to forget about the radio and just go back to word of mouth." - Joe Strummer

Celebrating Record Store Day on Dirty Roots Radio!

Join me for tonight’s Dirty Roots Radio Show!

I’ll be joined by special guest Eric Levin, one of the grand doodahs behind my FAVORITE holiday: Record Store Day, which is next Saturday, April 16!

Record Store Day is a celebration of independent record stores all over the country,
highlighting the important cultural and economic role they play in their communities.


I’ll talk to Eric about what’s on tap for this year’s celebration and all of the special deals record buyers can find this year.

Next week on the show, I’ll host Papa Ray of Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis,
who will share the specific info on their Record Store Day festivities.

For information on Record Store Day, visit www.RecordStoreDay.com.

Music-wise tonight, I'll have new stuff to share from Ben Harper, Steve Earle, and The Tedeschi-Trucks Band.

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

James Brown and The Healing Power Of Music

I’m not sure I can do this justice…but something as magnificent as this deserves a mention of some kind.

One of my greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis 43 years ago yesterday, April 4th. (That's the back story...NOT the magnificent part)

“Early morning, April 4…Shots ring out in the Memphis sky…Free at last, they took your life…They could not take your pride.” - U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

As word of Dr. King’s assassination spread, people were understandably upset. The African-American community was understandably – and deservedly – upset. Tensions ran high everywhere.

Race relations in the United States were already a powder keg in April 1968…and the slaying of this great leader was the spark that set it off.

Many cities erupted in violence and rioting. People everywhere were scared. And angry.

The Godfather of Soul, the great James Brown, was scheduled to perform a concert at the Boston Gardens the following day, April 5th. As cities across the nation burned – in flames and anger – and tensions escalated, many urged JB to cancel the show. For most of the day, people questioned whether the show would go on. If it did go on, many worried that the mostly African-American audience would be set off by Soul Brother #1 and the concert would be a flashpoint for violence in Boston.

It was decided that the show should proceed. Brown's people worked with the mayor’s office and a local television station and a plan was hatched: the show would go on and would be televised, live. Leading up to the show, residents were urged to stay in their homes, safely off the streets, and enjoy the concert from their living rooms.

As the concert opened, James Brown interrupted the mayor’s official introduction, calling him “a swingin’ cat.” Boston Mayor Kevin White in turn introduced James Brown with the following: “All of us are here tonight to listen to a great talent; James Brown. But we’re also here to pay tribute to one of the greatest Americans; Dr. Martin Luther King. All I ask you tonight is this…to let us look at each other, here in the Gardens and back at home, and pledge that no matter what any other community might do, we in Boston will honor Dr. King in peace.”

And the show began.

I’ve never read anything that details what James Brown talked about leading up to that concert. But he CLEARLY knew the responsibility that lay before him. It was up to one man…Soul Brother #1, The Hardest Workin’ Man in Show Business, The Godfather of Soul…JAMES BROWN to hold an entire city together and, in a way, heal an entire nation.

I can’t imagine the feeling in the air the day after Martin Luther King was killed. Tense wouldn’t begin to describe it. This one great man who fought – peacefully – so hard to unite America…taken violently in a disgusting act of hate.

Only music can soothe a hurt like that. JB knew that. He knew what people needed.

And he delivered.

It worked. Boston remained peaceful and somehow – some little way – comforted.

Shout! Factory has released a DVD of the full concert. In 2008 VH1 aired a documentary called “The Night James Brown Saved Boston”. You can view it in segments on YouTube. I urge you to. It gives an amazing sense of the power of James Brown. More importantly it gives an incredible sense of the power of music. To heal. To comfort. To unify.


“I Got the Feelin’”? …Indeed. “I Feel Good”.


“Get up offa that thang...And dance 'til you feel better"

Monday, April 4, 2011

ThirtySomething

I came to the completely obvious conclusion the other day that being a grown-up pretty much sucks.

I read a popular blog last week where the author told the story of his co-worker who said that as we grow up, we form an identity. And then, as we become adults and have to “do stuff”, we experience some success in some of that “stuff”. When we do, people compliment us on it. That feels go, so we build that into part of our identity. When we experience failure, then, it hurts extra bad because we haven’t just failed at “doing stuff”; part of our identity – who we truly are (or who we truly perceive ourselves to be) – has failed. Then, going forward, we begin to fear failure, lest our identities fail again. Failing hurts after all – especially when it’s the “true you” that has failed. So we limit ourselves, let fear rule, blah-blah-blah.

Talking through some of this with a “grown-up” trusted advisor, they told me, “I think you will find as you go through your thirties that life is not at all what you thought it would be. It is a really big let down when you figure out that this is all there is. I remember thinking that this is not what I was led to believe my life would be like. It takes a good while to get past that. Then by your forties you realize that life if ok just the way it is. You just don't have so many expectations and learn to appreciate the small things. I guess it is just part of growing up.”

Now, ain’t that just about a beeyatch?

One of our greatest philosophers, Rocky Balboa once said, “The older I get, the more things I gotta leave behind. That’s life.”

About four years ago, my wife and I started leading the college ministry at our church. We felt an obvious calling to do it, but had no clue how to do it. To our surprise, it took off like gangbusters. The group grew. We had great discussions. People talked of their lives being changed. The ministry became an important part of the church.

I will credit myself with facilitating good discussions and debates on what I’d consider constructively controversial topics. We broke bread with the students regularly, which led to building relationships.

However…outside of that we did very little. As I mentioned, we had no clue of what to do or how to do it. I give all credit to God. And to an awesome group of very involved students. All the right ingredients came together at just the right moment and magic happened.

The lion’s share of those students have graduated college and moved on. The program hasn’t grown; in fact it has shrunk dramatically. It lacks that intangible magic now.

Because the first few years were so magical, everyone looks to me and asks, “Why?” Anyone on the outside of the program naturally assumed that whatever leadership my wife and I provided to the program was the reason for its success. As I mentioned before, I insist that it was not.

But, as the story at the beginning of this post referenced, people had been complimenting me on the program and holding me in a lofty light for almost three years. I began to internalize that and make it a part of my identity. When year four rolled around, the program faltered, and people couldn’t understand what I’d done differently or wrongly. The questioning, whispering, and critiquing hurt. Hurt me. Hurt my very identity.

One of the most unexpected things that happened as a result of this college ministry was the launching of a non-profit organization called the Dirty Roots Revolution.

It started when I delivered a message as part of a Sunday church service that the college students led. Interest grew and the organization was formed. It was geared to encourage folks to make a difference in the world, through whatever small actions they could take. We operated a weekly homeless outreach, a nursing home visiting program, and more.

Again, I will give myself a very small amount of credit. As a writer, my goal is always to reach within myself and pull the message from the depths of my heart and soul. I say with no arrogance that in one singular instance – the writing of the message that led to the formation of the DRR – I succeeded in doing so.

But, after that, it was out of my hands. Again, a combination of just the right ingredients – God, interested people, passionate world-changing college students, etc. – all came together and lightning struck.

After a year of running that program, I was forced to abandon the DRR and dissolve the organization.

For the year that it existed, though, something very special was obviously taking place. Since the thing started with my message and was facilitated under my direction, outsiders naturally assumed it was my doing. Again, I knew otherwise. But, the praise came. And, while I worked continually to make the effort about the Lord and not me, I still internalized the success.

When the organization had to go away and people didn’t understand – some got downright angry – it felt like failure. Another savage blow to my identity.

I had internalized each of these activities and made them a part of me. Actually, they never were a part of me. But I had begun to see my value as a person through them. My value was based on what was happening with them.

I was going spend my life working alongside college youth and help develop them into world changing activists. But I didn’t.

I was going to guide the Dirty Roots Revolution to the level of a hugely prominent, world-changing organization that played by none of the rules of the usual boring charities. But I didn’t.

And really those things don’t matter. What matters is how crushed I was by them not happening. But that’s my fault.

When those things succeeded, through nothing I myself did, it felt good. People complimented me and the activities, and that felt good. So I put my stock there. Then they went away.

And I don’t know who I am without them.

But I do know that I can’t keep basing my identity on what I do. I don’t have any problem not allowing my work to define me. I have a problem keeping my passions from defining me. But I can’t give up those passions.

“The older I get, the more I gotta leave behind,” said Rocky. And I know that’s just life. But I refuse to “grow up” completely. I refuse to completely buy into the system. So, I have to keep pursuing my passions with everything I can. But, how do I do that without letting them define me?

I realize I’ve reached the age where as my friend said, I’ll “realize life is not all that I thought it would be”. I get that. And I can deal with the fact that I’ll never be a well-known leader; I’ll never revolutionize…well, anything, probably; and I’ll never publish books that are read by tons of people.

But I never want to settle. I WANT to pursue my passions with the intensity that I believe those things MIGHT happen. I want to believe in what I do. I want to believe in the importance of it. I want to believe, not caring if anyone else does.

I never want to become a “grown up, mature, responsible” adult, who leaves their passions behind because it’s what you do when you grow up. I never want to be satisfied working for “the man” or “the system”.

So, how can I be a 33 year old subversive revolutionary who exists WITHIN the system without buying INTO the system? It will take effort. I suppose the challenge is to put forth that extra effort without allowing it to define me.