Monday, May 5th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers. Buckle up, because we’ve got a pretty crazy May planned out for you. Unplugged on the Front Porch’s final iteration of the season is Thursday the 15th, starring Terri Hendrix with Lloyd Maines. Then, Parable returns on Sunday the 25th with Tom Spencer, who is both the director of I Live Here, I Give Here and a gardener extraordinaire.

But our biggest news is that we’re bringing back our Elephant in the Room series, which is dedicated to inspiring ongoing conversation about underreported or taboo topics. To address the horrific problem of human trafficking and sex slavery, we’ve enlisted the help of Becca Stevens, an internationally recognized expert in the field and founder of Thistle Farms. Help us bring her to Austin by donating here, and join our team by using the social media hashtag #eitr.

We’d also like to wish two hundred and second happy birthday to Søren Kierkegaard. The Dane is an obvious influence on the Front Porch’s ethos. As one of the nineteenth century’s preeminent humanist philosophers, he helped inform our beliefs about the importance of the individual and how that individual related to God on a personal level. His writing style, in which he often created various personas and had them engage each other in conversation, is also near and dear to our dialogical hearts. So, in the spirit of old philosopher’s daily exercise, we’d suggest that everyone take a walk around town today, interacting with whomever appears in an echo of Søren’s efforts to “lead a completely human life.”

Monday, April 14th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthday to David G. Burnet, the first (albeit interim) president of the Republic of Texas. Speaking of Burnet(t)s, we’d like to thank John for once again MCing Parable with Austin jazz heavyweights Rabbi Neil Blumofe and Michael Mordecai. We’d like to thank all of you who came out, too. Also a big shout-out to Angie Cross for wrapping up our Lenten series Autobiographies of Redemption on Friday; if you didn’t hear her, you should check out her book The Butterfly Knight, which is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting. Looking ahead, Unplugged on the Front Porch is next Thursday, starring Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore. It’s not like they need an introduction, but holy cow are they talented.

On a more sober note, our Executive Director/fearless leader Rev. Dr. Steve Kinney’s father is in ill health, so Steve will be in Houston for the next couple of days. If you could keep the Kinneys in your thoughts and/or prayers, we’d sure appreciate it.

Monday, March 3rd

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Amplify Austin_UFCU_LogoHappy Monday, Front Porchers, and Happy Texas Independence Day. We’ve got quite a month lined up for you. On Thursday the 13th, we’re hosting a special SXSW edition of Actually Unplugged. On Friday the 14th, we’ll begin our weekly Lenten series Stories of Redemption, in which a prominent community member will tell a true story about losing and finding important things. Our first storyteller will be Jared Dunten. Then, Parable picks back up on Sunday the 16th; we’ve got a surprise guest lined up, and maybe, if you keep an eye on this space, we’ll even let you know who. On Thursday the 20th, Actually Unplugged will resume its normal course, this time with the almost unfairly talented Darden Smith. Stories of Redemption picks back up on Friday the 21st with Paul Reed, then again on Friday the 28th with Jesse Sublett, and on into April with Bill Wigmore on Friday the 4th before concluding on Friday the 11th with Angie Cross. We’ve also got a major fundraising drive at the end of the month through Amplify Austin, so stay posted for more information on that as well.

It seems fitting, on this one hundred and seventy-eighth anniversary of Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico, to remember that a conflict of independence doesn’t lead to freedom for everyone. After all, Texas (and the United States) maintained sizable slave populations. Rebellions and petty wars continued well into nationhood, and it was people at the bottom and on the edges who bore the brunt of the suffering. Even now, Syria is undergoing the largest displacement of people since the Holocaust. Ukraine has exploded in violence, and Venezuela simmers, ripe to follow suit. While the focus will be on the leaders of the various factions in those states, take a moment to think not just of the fighters, the commanders and the ideologues, but also the people trapped in their homes by the fighting. Think of the confused, the unsure, the unbrave, who live under death’s wings,  meaningful life and work out of reach until forces beyond their control allow. Regardless of political persuasion, these are the casualties of independence.

Monday, February 3rd

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We’ve got some big stuff coming up. Next week, the inimitable Sam Baker and his band play Actually Unplugged. As we’ve mentioned before, Sam’s unique minimalist folk stylings, paired with themes of faith, loss, and hard choices, make this a perfect date night for the evening before Valentine’s Day. Then, next Sunday, we’ll host Parable at Opal Divine’s. This time, Ray Benson will preach, with an assist from John Burnett. Don’t miss this alternative worship service, led by over thirteen feet of human being.

Today is also the one hundred and forty-third anniversary of the passing of the the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race. As one of the most important amendments to the Constitution (here on the Porch, we’re also big fans of the Twenty-first), it’s pretty clearly a big deal for ensuring that democracy can reign. However,  it took nearly a century for this nation, founded on ideas of freedom, to create such a law demonstrates how often the ethically crucial is overlooked, intentionally or otherwise, until it becomes a pressing need. In honor of this, we invite you this week to think about yourself, your country, or any organization to which you pertain through this lens: What necessary things are we ignoring simply because we haven’t thought about them? What can we change that we didn’t even realize needed changing?

Monday, January 27th

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Happy Monday, everyone. It looks like a nice, quiet week here on the Front Porch, so pull up a chair and pour yourself some lemonade. Next week, though, we’ve got Sam Baker coming to play Actually Unplugged. Such an intimate performance, with songs about such light topics as pain, faith, and redemption, make for a perfect Valentine’s date night. The week after next, Ray Benson will join us at Parable.

 

It’s also the the anniversary of the death of Isaak Babel, the great Russian and Jewish writer  killed in Stalin’s Great Purge for criticizing of the Communist Party. Babel’s particular genius is the dignity he grants various characters: Cossacks, Jews, high-ranking political officials, peasants. It was this unflinching gaze into the Other that drew the ire of the Party elite. As a prose stylist, as a storyteller, and as a proponent of the fractured nature of life, Isaak Babel is an inspiration to the Front Porch’s mission of treating all perspectives with dignity.

Monday, January 20th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy MLK Day. Thanks to everyone who came out for Actually Unplugged and Parable last week. We sure enjoyed them, and hope you did too. Now we’re gearing up for the next month’s Actually Unplugged and Parable. The former is set for Thursday, February 13, and will feature Sam Baker, whose hard-hitting songs about life, death, and faith should set the mood perfectly for the evening before Valentine’s Day. Parable will keep on rolling as well.

The impact and power of Dr. King will be explained and discussed elsewhere, by those far more qualified than I. However, today is also the eighty-ninth birthday Ernesto Cardenal, who deserves recognition as well. Throughout a varied life, Father Cardenal has fought in a violent revolution, studied under Thomas Merton, joined the Sandinistas, founded an aesthetic community, held a cabinet position, been publicly rebuked by a Pope, and nominated for a Nobel Prize in poetry. For more than half a century, he has called for a reassessment of the violence and corruption so entrenched in Nicaraguan politics. It seems fitting that his birthday fall on MLK Day, as it allows us to honor all of those who have fought against the evils of discrimination in all its ugly forms.

Monday, January 13th

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Happy Monday, everybody, and happy 46th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison performance. To honor such a landmark musical event, we’re hosting a slightly less intense concert on Thursday with Austin’s own Nelo. Come by All Saints’ at 7:30 to see a dynamic acoustic performance from these ACL and SXSW veterans before their brand new album comes out next month. The revamped Parable also takes flight again at 5:30 on Sunday at Opal Divine’s. See yall there.

Monday, January 6th

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Good morning, campers. Hope everyone is staying warm on this frigid first Monday of 2014. Fortunately, the Front Porch has some upcoming events to warm you right up. To start off, Austin’s own Nelo performs at Actually Unplugged on Thursday, January 16th. This will be one of their last shows before they release their new, self-titled album. Then, we’ll be rebooting Parable on Sunday, January 19th. Swing by Opal Divine’s on South Congress for some bluegrass, an hour-long worship service, and maybe a couple of beers. If you’re looking for someone to talk to on any other Sunday evening, though, swing by anyways. Steve will be holding court and talking Front Porch stuff every Sunday at Opal Divine’s at 5:30, and he’d love to see you.

It’s also the birthday of Khalil Gibran, who would be one hundred and thirty one years old today. The man from Bsharri, Lebanon, would go on to become the third-bestselling poet of all time, after Shakespeare and Laozi. A true citizen of the world, he said, “The whole earth is my homeland and all men are my fellow countrymen.”

Monday, December 9th

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Hello, everybody. We hope that you, like us, have finally finished digesting Thanksgiving dinner. If you have, we’ve got some events coming up for you to celebrate your newfound liveliness. This Thursday, it’s a special holiday edition of Actually Unplugged, featuring Will Taylor and Karen Mal. And just three days later (that’s Sunday), acoustic hip hop artist, activist, and speaker SaulPaul will lead us at Parable.

In what seems a fittingly seasonable anniversary, it was on this day in 1531 that the Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared to Juan Diego at Tepeyac. I’ve always loved this story: the nervous everyman hero, the dismissive power structure, the synthesis of pagan and Christian mythology. Despite her enshrinement as the New World’s most beloved icon, it’s fitting to remember that the Lady of Guadalupe arose from the ruined temple of the Mesoamerican goddess Tonantzin. Even in the horrific conditions of conquest and colonialism of seventeenth-century Mexico, the confluence of two cultures, two faiths, resulted in the creation of this most holy figure. It’s this confluence of drastically different viewpoints that we try to facilitate here on the Porch, because it’s in this confluence that a multitude of beliefs can be woven together into a single, radiant beauty.

Monday, December 2

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Welcome back from Thanksgiving, everybody. Hope that everyone had a good beginning to the holiday season. We’re kicking December off with a Wednesday night gathering at All Saints’ to keep on talking about the Rt. Rev. John Spong’s recent lectures. Come by at 6:30; we have pizza and beer. We’re also moving Actually Unplugged (featuring Will Taylor and some of his talented friends doing some holiday standards) and Parable (featuring the prodigiously gifted and versatile SeanPaul) up a week, to Thursday, December 12, and Sunday, December 15, respectively.