Talkin' Gibberish Blues

everything you ever wanted to know about nothing at all...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

God's Economy

I suppose you could say it's my job to make money.  We put all kinds of other titles to it, but if I don't make money doing what I'm doing, no one will allow me to do it anymore.  Being the son of church workers, this hasn't always come easy to me, but I've become moderately good at it.  I just came back from our yearly convention, where people are praised for the amount of money they brought to the company.  Don't get me wrong, I love the company I work for, but the whole thing always makes me uneasy for a variety of reasons but especially for the praise of money making.

The parable of the talents always puzzled me, mostly because I sympathized with the guy who was given one and buried it in the ground.  In the grand scheme of things, I look at my little corner of the marketplace as equivalent to the guy with the one talent.  I know the parable isn't talking solely about money, though I think it could be applied to money as well.  I've never particularly enjoyed taking people's money, but again, it's the purpose of the enterprise.  I don't say this to brag, because it's nothing really to brag about, especially in the company I work for.  I think what particularly bothers me about the parable is not the money part of it, it's that I always want to come out even.  I want to play it safe.  I don't want to disappoint anyone.  Even after hearing the parable, I want to take umbrage with God and argue with him about the point of His story.  I want to stick up for the guy who hides the money.  I want to praise the guy for not taking any chances.

This time last year, I had an idea to have a bible study group open to anyone who wanted to attend while out of town at our company meeting.  I've never seen or heard of anyone doing such a thing and I thought it would be a great way to be a witness to a group of people who need to hear the word about Jesus Christ.  I had a friend at the time who was willing to do it with me.  The friend has since quit the company, and instead of acting alone, I did nothing.  To be honest, the reason I did nothing was most likely a combination of laziness and fear of having people roll their eyes at the mere mention of it.  I was ashamed to speak the words of Jesus in public.    

 I thought about Luke 12:48, to whom much is given, much will be expected.  No other parts of scripture disturb me in the way this verse and the parable of the talents does. Luke 12:48 always gets me thinking about my parents.  Not all have grown up hearing about Jesus every day like I have, how am I holding up my end of the bargain?  What have I done with the gifts God has given me?  Who has heard me spread the good news of Jesus Christ?  Not enough people, I can assure you.

Our economy is based on the exchange of goods and wealth.   As anyone who has bought or sold something will tell you if they are being honest with themselves,  they want to come out on top of the transaction and make out better than the other guy.  Capitalism is based on this principle.  The degree to which coming out on top is acceptable is an ever changing target.  I'm sure everyone knows the story of the guy who bought the patent for the aids drug and then increased the price 4000%.  What if the guy only raised it 50%?  Would he still be hated?  Probably not.  Markets dictate what is an acceptable amount to charge, but in the end, our economy is based on everyone looking out for themselves.  This is how our economy works, good or bad.  Greed is good.  This is the best system mankind has come up with to date.   

God's economy works in a completely different way.  It's not capitalism, socialism or communism.  God's love is given MOSTLY with nothing in return.  God's blessings are given ALWAYS with nothing in return.  God wants our love back, but not for himself, but rather because He knows that our love for Him is His greatest way of delivering his blessings to us and that a life in love with God is the best that anyone has to offer.  There is no viable business model for giving away goods or services with nothing in return.

Instead of abiding by God's economy, we try to bring God into our economy.  We try to do things to settle the score, to make things even.  I am a person who doesn't like to owe people anything, so if they do something nice for me, I try to do something nice for them in return.  If you ask anyone on the street if this makes sense, just about everyone would agree.  If we're honest with ourselves, we try to do this with God.  We do some good things to make it seem like we have earned God's love.  But since God is a horrible businessman, we cannot pay him back, despite all our feeble attempts.

Even a tithe isn't God asking for some of His money back, it's a way of giving God our trust, which only benefits us.  I'm sure there are no coincidences in the bible, so it's intentional that in the parable the one man is given 1/10 of the amount that the other man receives, and I believe this points to the fact that we will only be truly blessed when we give everything to God, meaning our lives, our time, our money and most importantly our hearts.  God doesn't want us to try to settle the score, or to try to come out even, God wants to use me to multiply His love.  This is incredibly scary, since, as I said before, I would rather be the guy who hides his talent in the sand.  God wants something better, for me and you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If You Never Got Sick

I got an early Christmas present today, courtesy of my children.  Lillian came down with the fever last night, dampening some of our plans for the day.  Other than the fever and feeling rather lethargic, she seems to be fine.  Later this evening, Emmett came down with the same thing.  We had a rare moment for a couple of hours with the two of them on me, without the usual squirming and getting up and down while we watched Polar Express.  The two of them laid on my chest, head to head, every now and then Lillian would stroke Emmett's hair and tell him he'd be okay.  Of course, I'd do anything to make them feel well again, especially being three days before Christmas, but this was an awesome reminder of how precious my children are and that nights like these don't happen too often.  We always seem to be working towards something, or looking forward to something, especially this time of year.  But for one night, I was content in enjoying the moment.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

If You Never Got Sick-The Wallflowers

I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In-Sufjan Stevens

Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming-Ella Fitzgerald

I'll Be Home For Christmas-Bing Crosby

Who Took the Mary Out of Christmas?-The Staples Singers

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Christmas Blues

Christmas is my favorite time of year, especially now that I have small children.  Lillian shares my excitement of getting a Christmas tree and decorating it, as well as putting up the lights outside.  When she was a baby, I toyed with the idea of giving her the real scoop on Santa Clause.  It never worked, my influence is too small, I guess.  That aside, we really get into Christmas in the Schroeder household.  We pull out the Christmas records and cd's (we even got Lilly a Taylor Swift Christmas cd for her birthday) and listen to them whenever possible.  Christmas music is a lot like Christmas memories, every year I remember the good old ones, add new ones, try to forget the bad ones (even though you can't, insert the most annoying Christmas song you can think of) and let the unmemorable ones fade into oblivion.

My favorite Christmas music tends to lean towards the melancholy.  I remember all those minor chord Advent songs sitting in church on Wednesday nights.  They always sounded so sad and with every new candlelit on the Advent wreath seemed like another invitation to joy, but not so soon.  There would be a few more weeks of reminders of how dark the world is before that big white candle is lit.  I used to love looking through the hymnal, counting down the songs until the Christmas ones began.  Than we would get to Joy to the World or Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

Many of the the great secular Christmas songs have a hint of this melancholy.  Everybody always looks at "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as this nice sweet little song about having a nice Christmas, but at the heart of it is an intense sadness.  "Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we'll have to muddle through YEAR all our troubles will be miles away."  

Thirty six years on, I think I finally understand this sadness that comes with Christmas.  We're all in search of a perfection that we never achieve.  We buy new cars that lose their value as soon as we drive it off the lot.  We strive to keep the house clean and it's getting dirty the second we're done.  We work to buy our children toys they are bored with the same day they get it.  As the old John Prine song goes, "all the snow has turned to water, Christmas days have come & gone, broken toys and faded colors are all that's left to linger on".

We know all the right answers when it comes to Christmas, and we teach them to our children, only to forget them ourselves minutes after we teach them.  We search for perfection with Christmas;  we try to make memories to last a lifetime, only to be left with that same empty feeling that our idea of perfection can't be reached.

Which brings us to why we need Christmas in the first place.  Jesus came to save us from our frailties, our guilt, our greed, our anger, our shame, our selfishness, you can feel free to pick yours.  Christmas came as a light in a dark place, our perfection in an imperfect world.  It brings with it a tension between our sadness our sin has created and the joy of knowing the one who came to save us from our sin.  My hope for you this Christmas is that you remember all that needs to be remembered, forget all that needs to be forgotten, and most of all, that joy wins.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Lo!  How a Rose E'er Blooming-Sufjan Stevens

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-Bob Dylan

Of the Father's Love Begotten-Concordia College Fort Wayne

Good Christian, Men Rejoice-Kings Choir Cambridge

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates-Sufjan Stevens

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A couple of months ago on a Friday evening, I took Lillian on a "hike" to one of our favorite spots, "Rosy Mound".  It goes through the woods up and over hills until you finally get to the shore of Lake Michigan.  The payoff for Lillian is, at the end, she gets to swim.  The payoff for me is walking hand in hand with my four year old daughter through one of the most beautiful places in our little town.  After nine years of living in Grand Haven, I still haven't lost the childlike excitement of seeing the water.  It even outweighs my adult like hatred of sand in my shoes.  When we got to the water, we had the beach completely to ourselves, it was an evening I'll never forget, and it'll remind me of many nights like it we've had since then in 10 years or so.

The next night, after work, the whole family went for a walk in our neighborhood.  It was another wonderful evening.  We were almost home and Christie was making Lillian laugh really loud.  We heard someone yelling from their driveway.  I thought maybe the gentleman was working on his car and was upset that we were being too loud.  It turns out, he had fallen and was asking for help.  We helped him into his house and as we were helping him, he kept looking back at the stroller that Emmett was in and Lillian standing right next to it.  We assured him that they were okay.  His wife came out and talked about calling an ambulance and then called her son.  She informed us that their granddaughter had died recently and he said maybe that is why he fell.  We got him in the house and told him we'd pray for him.  Christie wondered if maybe their granddaughter was the four year old who tragically died recently.  It turns out it was.  My heart sank.  She was younger than Lillian. 

I visited the gentleman the next day, he was feeling better, but started talking about his granddaughter.  I told him I don't want to imagine what that might feel like.

When my son was a few months old during church, the thought popped into my head that someday I'd have to give him up.  I'm not sure if that meant one day he'd leave our home to live a life of his own or something worse, but it was a good reminder that these children of mine are a gift from God entrusted to us for a short time.  Those two suck the life out of me sometimes, especially the boy at the moment, he is overly fussy (unless he's going for a walk or sitting in the grass), he doesn't want to eat anything that isn't a cracker or a piece of fruit, and he is in to anything and everything that he's not supposed to.  This post is three months in the making & as I speak, he's up earlier from his nap than expected.  They suck the life out of me but without them life would seem like it weren't worth living.  There a lot like the leaves on the trees in the yard at this time of the year, so beautiful, yet so much work.  The boys awake & the leaves need raking.  Happy Autumn, friends...

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Autumn Leaves-Nat King Cole

Everytime we Say Goodbye-John Coltrane

Autumn Serenade-Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane

Autumn-Joanna Newsom

Daddy's Little Pumpkin-John Prine

Take a drive in the country and listen to these songs and see if they don't put a smile on your face. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

My old man got me hooked on the Marty Stuart Show on Saturday nights on RFD TV.  There's something about Saturday nights that make me want to be at home, doing what I always do on Saturday nights.  Usually that involves listening to records, hanging out with the kids, then having a couple glasses of wine after we put the kids to bed.  My dad is usually doing the same thing, so my mother tells me.

Watching the end credits last week, I noticed the song playing over the credits as sounding familiar, it sounded alot like Bob Dylan's "Things Have Chaged" from the movie Wonder Boys.  It won an academy award, & is generally viewed as one of his greatest songs of the past 20 years.  I googled Things Have Changed and Marty Stuart, and a song popped up called "Observations of a Crow", off his 1999 album The Pilgrim.

 After doing some more research, it came to my surprise (only because I thought I knew just about everyone who's ever played with Dylan) that Stuart sat in on a Bob Dylan show in September, 1999 in Nashville.  The late, great writer Paul Williams writes this about the performance:

From Paul Williams: "I notice there's an extra person on stage playing mandolin. I take a good look through my binoculars: Marty Stuart. I've always wanted to see Bob with a real bluegrass band and throwing Marty into the mix transformed Bob's band into just that. Bob was talking to Marty in between songs all night long, as much as I've ever seen him verbally communicate with anyone on stage.
" ‘Tangled Up In Blue' finished off the acoustic set and as many times as I've heard this song, I don't know if I've ever heard it quite so beautifully rendered. Bob was genuinely inspired by Marty's presence and he pulled out his harp and played it better than I've heard him play it in a long, long time. He and Marty were standing right next to each other, trading off and it was quite a moment. Marty's mandolin added so much to the sound of the band, making them sound even tighter and more rhythmic than usual.
"This was the first time I'd seen anyone sit in the while night and, as great as those other folks were, this was definitely the finest overall contribution I've ever seen anyone make in a walk-on role. It was night and day seeing Bob with Paul Simon and then with Marty Stuart. It was obvious whose company Bob preferred, which is not to put down Simon, who the large crowd seemed to enjoy, as it is to say how much he seemed to immensely enjoy Marty's presence on stage. I know I did. I would love to see him join the band or at least make the trip down to Memphis on Saturday. All in all, I'd have to say that this was quite possibly the best Dylan concert I've ever seen and I've seen some great ones. Last night was pure magic."

Bob Dylan is certainly no stranger to country music, he's been playing Hank Williams and other more obscure country songs since he's been putting music to tape.  His friendship with Johnny Cash has lasted since the early '60s, and he's played with Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatts, and Charlie Daniels.  His 1969 album "Nashville Skyline" started what was known as "Country Rock".  In 1999, though, Dylan's concerts began to feature a nightly bluegrass cover to open the show, as well as many covers of Johnny Cash songs, & he began sporting country western suits every night.  Some of his moves while playing guitar were reminiscent of ones you might see on The Marty Stuart every Saturday night.  Who knew RFD TV was so influential?

 Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Blue Moon of Kentucky-The Stanley Brothers

Not Fade Away-Buddy Holly

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates-Sufjan Stevens

A Good Year for the Roses-George Jones

If We Make it Through December-Merle Haggard

Happy Monday, friends...

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Any day now I'll be a father again.  Before we had Lillian, I always pictured myself having a son.  Now I have a hard time imagining myself being a father of a son.  I wonder what it will be like if he's really into football or hunting or stuff I know little about.  I'm not sure how well a growing young man will do around here being interested in folk music, jazz, poetry or politics.  I really appreciate my ol' man's approach to our interests as kids.  He was never overbearing, he didn't tell me I was doing something wrong, he let me figure things out on my own, but he put the time in to play with me & help me.  He didn't yell from the stands, & he never questioned my coaches. 

I'll never forget one time after a basketball game, he told me I was the most talented player on the team.  I always thought that strange, when I was in 8th grade & especially now, because I clearly wasn't the most talented player on the team.  I wasn't sure if he was trying to boost my self esteem, or what he was doing, but it was clearly uncharacteristic of him to do any kind of ranking of abilities.  I appreciated the gesture, though.  

Maybe he'll be athletic and get good grades like his mother.  I hope I can teach him to stand up for what is right.  I hope he has a thirst for learning.  My ol' man never gave me any speeches about how a real man acts, I'm not sure if that was intentional or not.  I think I got the message from his actions, though, that a true measure of a man isn't how much money he makes or how far he can hit a golf ball, but rather how much he shows others the love of Jesus. 

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Moody's Mood for Love-King Pleasure

Series of Dreams-Bob Dylan

Vito's Ordination Song-Sufjan Stevens

Someday Sparrow-Laura Cantrell

Different Days-Jason Isbell

Happy Sunday, friends.


About Me

Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...