Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Day in The Life - Food For Thought: Mars Hill Audio Journal

Some days it is easy to see God’s fingerprints on things! Last Friday was one of those days. Let me tell you about it.

I finally got to meet Jack Richardson, and what a treat it was. Jack is a retired Digital Computer executive who also happens to be a bona fide Renaissance Man! He has traveled the world, appreciates fine food, literature, and the arts, loves insightful spiritual discussion and is conversant on any topic you may care to name. How often does one meet an MIT-trained engineer with those kinds of broad sensibilities? Several months ago, mutual friends told Jack and me that we should meet one another. We actually attend the same church, but it is a large congregation with multiple worship services, so we have not yet managed to bump into each another on a Sunday. The nature of our schedules is such that it took awhile for us to find a date to meet. Friday was the long awaited rendez-vous.

Jack invited me to join him at one of his favorite restaurants, Le Lyonnais in Acton – a charming bit of Provence in Boston’s northwest suburbs. Amidst some of the tastiest crepes fruit de mer I have ever tasted, Jack offered a full menu of interesting commentary and story telling about his life and career. In his retirement, he has taken on the responsibility of directing the Strategic Leadership Network for Vision New England, a non-profit dedicated to uniting Christians in New England for Evangelism, Discipleship and Celebration.

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Editorial note: I am fully aware that the religious and spiritual spectrum of the readership of this Blog covers the waterfront – from Hard Shell Baptists to Soft Shell Crabby Presbyterians, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Jews (Orthodox to Reformed and beyond!), Muslims (Sunni and Shiite), Buddhists, Atheists, None-of-the-Abovers and All-of-the-Abovers (otherwise known as Unitarians!). On occasion in this space, I will unapologetically share resources and insights that reflect my own tradition and beliefs – most easily summarized as “evangelical Christian.” If these offerings are not helpful or of interest to you, I suggest you simply skip reading them until something more in keeping with your worldview and sensibilities is posted. As always, I welcome comments and dialogue.

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The meal and the delightful conversation with Jack were even more filling and delicious than I had anticipated, and threatened to consume the rest of the afternoon. Having chewed on more than our share of French delicacies, we eschewed dessert and asked for l’addition. As we walked to the parking lot, Jack asked me if I had a cassette player in my car – not a CD player, but a cassette. How often have I cursed the antiquated sound system in my Mercury! “Yes, I do have a cassette player in my car.”

“Great, I would like to make you aware of a tremendous resource that I have come to treasure. I am pleased to lend you Volume 73 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. It is a refreshing return to civilized and rational discourse among well-informed individuals from a variety of fields. Please return the tape when you have finished, since I want to keep my collection complete of all of the volumes.”

Not knowing what to expect, I thanked Jack and we each headed for our cars, prepared to decamp. I popped the cassette into the Mercury’s tape player and realized that what had already been a satisfying meal was being topped off with a dessert of delightful discourse and discussion. In listening to the first few segments of Mars Hill Audio Journal, my first thought was: “NPR meets C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge.” My instincts were correct, for in visiting the Mars Hill website (http://www.marshillaudio.org/), I learned that the moderator, Ken Myers, is a former NPR producer and editor, and that both Lewis and Muggeridge have been the subjects of previous Mars Hill discussions.
I share with you below the Mars Hill Statement of Purpose, and the “menu” of the Volume 73 topics of conversation. The tapes are produced and distributed on a subscription basis on a bi-monthly schedule.

MARS HILL AUDIO exists to assist Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of modern culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.

We believe that fulfilling the commands to love God and neighbor requires that we pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on.

Volume 73 Mar./Apr. 2005

Richard John Neuhaus et al., on the meaning and value of human life, the vocation of medicine, the logic of autonomous individualism, and the temptation of suicide and euthanasia

Patrick Carey, on the perceptive (and peregrinating) thought of Orestes Brownson

John W. O'Malley, on the prophetic, academic, humanistic, and artistic vectors of Western culture

Patricia Owen, on what makes good children's books and on how the Newbery Medal winners have changed over time

Susan Srigley, on the sacramental and incarnational fiction of Flannery O'Connor

Ralph C. Wood, on Flannery O'Connor as "hill-billy Thomist" and sympathizer with backwoods religion

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I found the quality of the discussion so stimulating and refreshing that I plan to subscribe to the Mars Hill Journal. It may be a resource that you would also find helpful and encouraging. As a by-product, I now plan to begin to read Flannery O'Connor, an author whose work I have long intended to explore.

Happy listening!


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