Last night we picked up the guest speaker for our banquet, Dan Juster, with a group of special friends and went to a restaurant near Dan’s hotel. We celebrated my birthday a day late. Wayne read that Coal Vine’s had received great reviews, so we tried it.
I really liked the place. It is an upscale, yet relaxed, gourmet pizza bar. They have much more than pizza–salmon, crab cakes, talapia, and a variety of pastas. The ambiance drew us in immediately, brick walls lined with wooden shelves to the ceiling, small intimate tables, bar, and a great outdoor patio. Decorating is about lighting like all great artistic expression. The lighting made the room glow with warmth. On one wall hung a larger-than-life painting of Frank Sinatra as a handsome young man. The light that shone on his face made him look almost angelic.
I asked Dan to notice the painting. He was involved in a deep discussion about theology or something, but he paused and took a quick glance. Then he quipped, “Was that before or after Sinatra’s involvement with the mafia?” Everyone laughed. But I concentrated on the painting.
I pondered what it would be like to be so famous that some small city restaurant could hang my picture on the wall and everyone entering would recognize me, not only recognize but apparently be happy that my portrait was part of the decor.
It made me think of the reasons Frank Sintra is beloved in our culture. As an entertainer, he sang songs that made us feel good about life, about ourselves. He made us escape for a few minutes from the cold reality of where we live. For that we paid him boat loads of money, and he will be immortalized in our minds and hearts forever.
As Americans we worship the people that allow us to escape: athletes and entertainers. We pay them more than doctors that heal our bodies, or psychiatrists that heal our minds, or teachers that educate us, or preachers that soothe our spirits, or politicians who (are supposed to) guide our country.
We want to be like those who entertain us. We vicariously enjoy their lifestyles–ease, fame, money, amenities.
Then the thought occurred to me what the reaction would be in the Coal Vine restaurant if some of my heroes’ portraits hung on the wall instead of Frank Sinatra. People like Billy Graham and the whole Graham family or Elisabeth Elliot or Helen Rosevere or even Mother Theresa. These people contributed and are still contributing to the well being of humankind in temporal and eternal ways. These are a fraction of the real heroes of America and the world.
I wondered what would happen if in the middle of the night I slipped into Coal Vine’s and replaced the Frank Sinatra portrait with a painting of Billy Graham. How would the patrons react the next day or the day after that? Would they mock the restaurant owner for being so hokey as to have a picture of Billy Graham on the wall? Would they laugh and call him a “goodie two shoes?”
Would they ask that it be taken down?
Well, it seems to me that if it is “escape” that we seek, Billy Graham fits the criteria well. He has dedicated his life to teaching the world the art of escape: “for the wages of sin is death, but the (escape) gift of God is eternal life.”
“Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be save.”