Fourth Baptist a charred ruin

March 24, 2010

Fourth Baptist Church

An old friend recently sent us a link to an article and pictures about the sad state of the Fourth Baptist Church building in North St. Louis.

This is the church Deanna grew up in, and where we met in the mid-fifties. I attended there only for about a year and a half, before I went into service right after high school. We last saw the building, no longer in use, during a visit to the city in 2003. It had suffered some vandalism but was still mostly intact.

Today it is a fire-ravaged hulk, no longer fit for anything but used brick (which is now St. Louis’s chief export). It fits right in. After all, most of North St. Louis looks like a war zone. The landscape is mostly vacant lots and rubble. Housing we lived in no longer exists. Old schools are boarded up. Why should this building escape that fate?

So I was a little surprised at the sadness I felt looking at the pictures of the building in its current state: the caved-in roof; the charred sanctuary; the balcony my buddies and I preferred; the pipe organ reduced to ashes; the baptistery where I was properly dunked (the Presbyterians had already sprinkled me but that didn’t count).

As I say, I didn’t attend there very long, and I have long since refined my thinking about the beliefs I embraced there as a teen. But I remember with gratitude warm and sincere people who made me feel welcome when I needed it. We had a large and active group of young people, always on the go. And, of course, there was Deanna. We’ll be married 50 years in May.

Without “Fourth,” as we knew it, we probably wouldn’t have met, and our kids and grandkids wouldn’t exist. Messes with your head, it does.

Talent or toil?

October 13, 2009

Talent or toil?  Nature or nurture? What makes people good at what they do?

The common use of the word talent to mean innate ability—something one is born with, like blue eyes or big feet—does a disservice to all who are good at what they do mostly because they worked hard to get that way.

Truly, some things come easier to some folks. But without fail, people who are most skillful at anything were not born that way; they are accomplished because they were willing to work with focus and commitment. To pay the price.

It is also self-serving to dismiss another person’s abilities as (mere) talent, in this sense, because it lets us off the hook. “I can’t do that because I just don’t have the talent.” Never mind I waste my time watching television instead of practicing chord substitutions.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice.