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  • Ageless Don Rickles dishes on seven-decade showbiz career

    Don’t let the act fool you; Don Rickles is actually a very nice man.The world’s most famous insult comedian is engaging, studied and surprisingly low-key. His humor, however, is still bombastic as ever.Rickles took his first step toward national fame in 1957 when he spotted crooner Frank Sinatra in the audience at a Miami Beach nightclub. Sinatra enjoyed Rickles’ act so much that he encouraged all of his celebrity friends to see him. Sinatra’s continued support helped Rickles become a popular performer in Las Vegas in 1959; he has been a headliner ever since.The 88-year-old Rickles spoke to GetOut from his Beverly Hills home to promote his Nov. 21 show at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino. Rickles was forthcoming about his seven-decade career, his friendship with Sinatra, and why he’s still on the stage.Q: Was there a lot of laughter and joking around in your household growing up?DR: Oh, yes. My mother was fun and my father, who was from Russia, was what we called a ‘kibitzer.’ He told a lot of great stories and was easy to talk to. Ours was a happy home.

  • Lawsuit filed over Mesa neighborhood flooding

    A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of nearly 100 plaintiffs after a Mesa neighborhood was submerged by floodwaters two months ago.The Phoenix law firm that filed the suit Wednesday says neighbors now are seeking a class-action certification for the more than 300 homeowners and residents whose property was damaged.Mesa recorded nearly 4 1/2 inches of rain on Sept. 8 -- a single-day record -- as the remnants of Hurricane Norbert rolled through Arizona and caused flash flooding across the state.Up to 400 Mesa homes lost electricity after crews disconnected power to submerged transformers and retention basins and channels along the U.S. 60 were at or over capacity.The suit claims contaminated water was released into Emerald Park and the surrounding neighborhoods by city and state workers.

  • Jessica Lang Dance shares innovation while in AZ

    ‘Dance is my first and best language,” Jessica Lang tells me, with a smile I can hear through the phone. Lang is a tour de force in the dance world; after being a freelance choreographer for 15 years she founded her own dance company in 2011 and has been devoting herself to the development of Jessica Lang Dance. “I was producing a lot as a freelance choreographer, but I didn’t feel like I was living up to my potential. Now I feel like I am building something that is very important and valued.”From Oct. 26 until Nov. 10, Jessica Lang is an artist in residence at the Del E. Webb Performing Arts Center in Wickenburg. While in Arizona, Lang is preparing and developing a new piece called “The Wanderer,” which will have its world premiere in December. She explained to me how the residency is allowing her freedom to create. “In order to make new work and make work that has potential to be good, you need space, and you need time. That’s what this residency is really providing. We have the ability to work with our sets and work with our costume designer. The space is really perfect for what we need to make this work.”Over the years, Lang has produced over 80 works with companies around the world. Her choreography often involves the innovative use of architectural elements and props that dancers seamlessly interact with. I asked Lang where these ideas come from.“It never comes all at once but the seed for each ballet might be different. So it might be inspired by a piece of art, poetry, an image or music. I give myself boundaries before I enter the studio, I like to have an idea of what I am going to make and then really hold myself to those boundaries, and be creative within them. The movement is always the last piece of the puzzle.”Lang has made educational outreach a priority for her dance company. While in Mesa, her company will be providing classes to four college dance programs in the Valley: Scottsdale Community College, Glendale Community College, Grand Canyon University and Arizona State University. She explained to me the importance of educational outreach and giving back. “It’s just part of our mission. I have been part of the education world of dance for a really long time; teaching is just part of the career. I think it is part of my responsibility to educate people, whether they’re dancers or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s just teaching in some variation.”Each one of Lang’s dancers will teach while they are here and will give students a unique experience. “A lot of the time, we will do a warmup class followed by ‘rep,’ which teaches the dancers steps from the program that they’ll see so they will get a real hands-on experience. Then, when they come see the show, they will have a real understanding and are able to recognize the movements, and that excites them.”

  • Craft beer bar thriving in Mesa Riverview since March debut

    Fans of craft and local beer in Mesa are flocking to a new bar built specially for imbibers of the millennia-old beverage. The Brass Tap, tucked inside Mesa Riverview, opened its doors in March and, according to its owners, is thriving.The father-and-sons team of Jessie III, Jessie IV and Jason Rowe came across The Brass Tap franchise while researching investment opportunities. They looked into a restaurant they had enjoyed previously, but settled on The Brass Tap after visiting a location and deciding that a bar would more their style, at least at first.“Back in 2007-2008, I was living in Jacksonville and I was looking to invest in something,” said Jessie III. “When we moved (to Arizona), we started talking about doing an investment in a business that the whole family could invest in.”While Jessie III retired from the Air Force as a major, and Jessie IV also served in the Air Force, Jason served in the Navy. However, before that, Jason worked for BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, opening locations and becoming familiar with the alcohol side of that business. The experience has helped him to guide the trio along their venture.Jason said that World of Beer is the closest thing to The Brass Tap in the East Valley, but their bar focuses on U.S. products, even if that means offering a smaller selection.“Overall, The Brass Tap … it’s a good business model,” Jason said, discussing the success of the venture as well as its similarities to, and differences from, other local businesses of the same type. “I predominately focus on American craft beer.”

  • Greenfield Village Resort in Mesa expanding for recreation

    A 55-plus community in Mesa is expanding its property to include room for new recreational areas.Greenfield Village Resort recently purchased land at 4711 E. Main St., which used to be a used car lot, and broke ground on Nov. 10 for new facilities set to total an estimated $850,000.Greenfield bills itself as a “Homeowner Association Resort,” meaning tenants own the units they live in as well as others on-site, in some cases. As owners, the residents vote on how to use available funds to improve or expand the property. After a steering committee and resident survey made it apparent that amenity updates were in order, the resort began looking for expansion opportunities.“We’re going through sort of a … generational change,” said Ron Thorstad, president of the board of directors. “We decided ‘We’ve got to buy some land.’ ”Thorstad added that the survey showed in order to attract new renters and buyers to the community, a facilities update was needed. The new wave of baby boomers, he observed, is more willing to rent where there are desirable amenities than to buy where there are not.“The key here is staying … with the desires of the new baby boomers,” said board vice president Brent Peacock.

  • Williams Field senior to perform at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

    A senior from Williams Field High School is one of just two musicians from Arizona — and the first in school history — who will march in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade later this month.Clarinetist Caitlyn Booher, who is also the section leader for the clarinet section of the Black Hawks’ marching band, earned a spot to participate in the event on Nov. 27. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started almost 90 years ago and is watched by approximately 3.5 million people in New York and 50 million people on TV each year, according to the parade’s website.Booher is participating in Macy’s Great American Marching Band, which pulls students from across the country — 185 students in all — to march down the streets of New York together with just one week of training beforehand. Booher said she first learned about the opportunity via a Facebook link and decided to apply for one of the marching band’s open spots. Doing so required Booher and the rest of the prospective participants to post an audition video on YouTube and essentially hope for the best afterward.“I didn’t think I’d make it because anyone in the country could have,” she said.The East Valley has had school marching bands participate in the annual Thanksgiving celebration before — Mountain View High School in Mesa marched as a unit last year — but Williams Field band director Bob Edgar said this is the first time the school has had one of its band members participate.Technically, the school’s history only extends back to 2007, but Booher and Edgar both emphasized having Booher earn the spot on the marching band is a mark of importance for the school and the marching band.

  • Score affordable art at ASU Student Art Market

    It’s hard to be an art collector on a budget, but this weekend, you can purchase original works of art, crafted by local student artists, for as little as $30, at a student art market in downtown Tempe.The market (nicknamed SAM) is the creation of five Arizona State University School of Film, Dance and Theatre graduate students in an Arts Entrepreneurship seminar. The market will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at Casey Moore’s, a restaurant and bar at the corner of Ninth Street and Ash Avenue in Tempe.The five ASU grad student entrepreneurs — Kara Chesser, Mollie Flanagan, Shelby Maticic, Ashley Laverty and Emily May — are working together to help student artists support themselves through their art.“It wasn’t until we did our research that I realized how enthusiastic people would be about a student art market”, said May. “It really helped us to understand what appeals to the people we hope to draw to the market.”Linda Essig, professor of the Arts Entrepreneurship seminar at ASU, wrote the following in her blog, CreativeInfrastructure.org: “How can young artists learn not just about ‘marketing,’ the skill, but about ‘market’ as a social system? Without realizing they were doing so, the students in my graduate seminar have created an opportunity to do just that.”SAM (Student Art Market) was created to connect the local community to student artists. Offering student art to the community allows the local public to interact with artists while enjoying their work.

  • Shuttered Monti’s in Tempe to auction off decor, other items

    Monti’s La Casa Vieja on Mill Avenue in Tempe closed on Nov. 17 after nearly 60 years in business — and now dozens of items and memorabilia from within the historic home-turned-restaurant will be sold in a live auction on Thursday, Dec. 4. The auction will be held at Monti’s starting at 7 p.m. A preview of the memorabilia begins at 5 p.m.“This is bittersweet. Monti’s has been Tempe’s most historic home for decades, and all of these items are personal and very special to my family,” said Michael Monti, the restaurant’s owner, in a press release. “We never imagined we would have so many people reaching out and wanting the same special keepsake from the restaurant. So we decided it is only fitting we open this up to a community auction and allow all of our friends and customers, who have supported us over the years, to take part in the auction and take a piece of Monti’s home with them.”Surplus Asset Management will conduct the auction. Auctioneer Daren Shumway will give bidders the chance to score dozens of historic framed pictures, like a large carved frame by renowned artist Dee Flagg, as well as maps, vintage menus and sports memorabilia.Additionally, a second auction of furniture, fixtures and equipment will held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 8, at Monti’s. The preview for that event begins at 8 a.m.A full catalog of the auction items is available online at SAMAuctions.com. Bids may be made in person or online. To register to bid, call (602) 442-4554.

  • Reel deals: Stretch your dollars at the theater

    AMC offers unlimited ‘Interstellar’ ticket to loyalty membersIf you’re an AMC Stubs member and a fan of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” you can purchase an unlimited ticket to the space thriller starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. The ticket, which ranges in price from $19.99 to $34.99 depending on location, allows AMC Stubs members to see the film as many times as they’d like, as often as they’d like. Stubs members who have purchased a ticket to the film can upgrade to an unlimited ticket for $14.99. There are a limited number of tickets available. Contact your local AMC Theatre for details.Harkins 2015 Loyalty Cups now on saleLooking for a gift for that difficult-to-buy-for friend or family member? Why not pick up a Harkins Theatre loyalty cup and T-shirt, which reward the owner with $1.50 soft drink refills (loyalty cup) and a free medium popcorn (T-shirt). The cups and shirts are $5.25 and $25, respectively, and can be purchased at any Harkins Theatre or online at HarkinsTheatres.com/store. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the 2015 Harkins Loyalty T-shirt will be donated to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

  • Copperstar Repertory Co. closing its doors

    After over six years of producing and teaching theater skills to local youth, Copperstar Repertory Co. in Chandler has one show left before it permanently drops the curtain.The nonprofit theater company has staged numerous shows over the years that were showcased at the Mesa Arts Center, but Copperstar closed suddenly at the end of October due to limited funding.“They just couldn’t keep going, as their expenses far outweighed their income,” said Katy Henthorne, a parent volunteer at Copperstar Repertory Co.The theater is selling its props and costumes as well as looking for another company to take over the Chandler location’s two-year lease.The sudden closing of Copperstar Repertory Co. was a shock to those involved with the theater.“They had such a great season of shows lined up too that my daughter Leah was looking forward to being a part of. In fact, she had already rehearsed and performed in two numbers from two of the shows during a season opener at the Mesa Arts Center back in September,” said Henthorne.

  • Ageless Don Rickles dishes on seven-decade showbiz career

    Don’t let the act fool you; Don Rickles is actually a very nice man.The world’s most famous insult comedian is engaging, studied and surprisingly low-key. His humor, however, is still bombastic as ever.Rickles took his first step toward national fame in 1957 when he spotted crooner Frank Sinatra in the audience at a Miami Beach nightclub. Sinatra enjoyed Rickles’ act so much that he encouraged all of his celebrity friends to see him. Sinatra’s continued support helped Rickles become a popular performer in Las Vegas in 1959; he has been a headliner ever since.The 88-year-old Rickles spoke to GetOut from his Beverly Hills home to promote his Nov. 21 show at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino. Rickles was forthcoming about his seven-decade career, his friendship with Sinatra, and why he’s still on the stage.Q: Was there a lot of laughter and joking around in your household growing up?DR: Oh, yes. My mother was fun and my father, who was from Russia, was what we called a ‘kibitzer.’ He told a lot of great stories and was easy to talk to. Ours was a happy home.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    >> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.The HomesmanWhen three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy. Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs, to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women head east, where a waiting minister and his wife have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territory marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, John Lithgow, James Spader. RThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1Katniss Everdeen is in District 13, after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone. PG-13Low Down

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  • Montessori School opens in Gilbert

    Creo Montessori School opened its doors in Gilbert with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 17.Creo is a private Montessori school for students in Gilbert and the surrounding area from age 15 months to elementary school. Information about it is available by visiting (480) 208-0256 or visiting creoschool.org.

  • Horne files suit against GM

    Claiming consumers here were misled, Attorney General Tom Horne has filed a $3 billion lawsuit against General Motors alleging it sold vehicles to Arizonans the company knew were unsafe.“Manufacturers of any product, from toys to automobiles, must make and sell products that are, above all else, safe to use,” Horne said in the complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, the first one filed by a state against the auto giant. And he said manufacturers are required to tell the truth about the safety of their products.“When a safety defect does occur, manufacturers must promptly initiate some form of recall to address the problem,” he said.There have been some recalls — Horne says belatedly — of GM vehicles because of ignition problems. But Horne said federal regulators found an “astounding” number of other “concealed defects,” ranging from airbags and seat belts to brakes and electronic stability control.Those defects, Horne said, affected more than 27 million GM vehicles, including “hundreds of thousands in Arizona.”He said that includes not just those made after the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 but older vehicles with serious defects, and Horne said the reborn company was aware of the problems, making it liable for the problems.

  • Fuel prices keep dropping

    Gas prices across the country and in Arizona continue to dip, with the state average declining by more than a nickel this week.AAA Arizona reports the state average has dipped by just shy of 6 cents to an average of $2.783 a gallon. Flagstaff’s average is the state’s highest at $3.084, while Peoria drivers have the least expensive prices at $2.655. The national average is down by nearly 7 cents to $2.85.

  • Organization expected lower candy sales for Halloween

    An annual survey from National Retail Federation showed an anticipated slight decrease in consumer spending on Halloween candy this year, compared with 2013.According to the 2014 Halloween Consumer Spending Survey from National Retail Federation, consumers planned to spend $2.2 billion solely on Halloween candy this year, which is about $1 million less than last year’s $2.1 billion figure.The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, was based on a poll of 6332 consumers from Sept. 2 to Sept. 8. Out of all the surveyed consumers, 94.9 percent plans to spend on candy this year.Tempe resident Lisa Bayne said she spent $10 on Halloween candy and expected to spend another $20, which sums up to about the same amount she spent last year when interviewed before Halloween.“I’m planning to spend a little bit more, because I have kids,” she said.Like Bayne, Tempe resident, Jesse Howell, who had already spent $15 on candy when he was interviewed, does his Halloween shopping at stores that are convenient for him.

  • State unemployment rate dips, wage gap between Arizona and nation widens

    Arizona gained 24,700 private sector jobs last month, enough to push the state's seasonally adjusted jobless rate down a tenth of a point, to 6.8 percent. But all indications are that many of these aren't necessarily the best jobs in the world.A new report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, also released Thursday, finds that per capita personal income in Arizona grew between 2012 and 2013 at a rate just 1.0 percent. That takes the average up to $36,983. The prior year's growth was 3.1 percent.By contrast, the BEA lists national average per capita income for 2013 figure at $44,765, an increase of 1.3 percent in 2013 and 4.4 percent the year before that.And if there's any doubt that the trend is continuing, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its own figures of wage growth in the major metropolitan areas between this past September and a year earlier. It found just a 1.2 percent increase in wages and salaries for the Phoenix metro area, versus 2.3 percent nationally.What all that means is the wage gap between Arizonans and the rest of the country continues to widen, with workers here falling behind.Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis for the state Department of Administration, said the sluggish wage growth in Arizona does not surprise her.

  • Emotions, memories abound at final night for iconic Monti’s restaurant

    Two teary-eyed servers embraced. A sign was taped to the inside of the door, directing the remaining stragglers to exit out the side entrance. This door would never open to the same place again.Monti’s La Casa Veija, translated in Spanish to “The Old House,” ended its 58-year reign in the restaurant business Monday night. Michael Monti, owner of the Tempe restaurant that served over 500,000 customers annually, said it is hard to let something go that has been in his family for so long.“I grew up around it and it’s very hard to see something I love finally be put down, taken off life support in a way,” Monti said. “But it’s been good because this crew has stuck with us to the very bitter end. It’s a sense of accomplishment but also very sad.”Inside its front door, Monti’s La Casa Vieja welcomed guests to the story of its rich history. Plaques, awards and clippings of yellowing newspapers adorn the walls, while customers walk over a slightly uneven red-stone surface that is paved over the house’s 40-year-old cobblestone. The Hayden Room lies ahead, preserving the birthplace of Carl Hayden, the state’s first U.S. representative.The building, originally Hayden’s childhood house, has been nestled on a corner of Mill Avenue for 140 years, the oldest one on the iconic street.Monti’s La Casa Vieja prided itself in serving great, affordable food amidst a family atmosphere for nearly 60 years, Monti said. It was when Monti realized that he could no longer hold his beloved gem to the same high standard his family had for all these years that he decided to let it go.

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  • Engineering for Kids Summer Camp

    Engineering for Kids offering STEM Based Summer Camps at Primavera in Chandler. Announces Summer Camp Open House on May 17thWhat is East Valley Engineering for Kids?Engineering for Kids is an enrichment program that teaches concepts on a variety of engineering fields in classes and camps for kids’ ages 4-14. We want to spark an interest in the kids for science, technology and engineering. The camps are all themes based and require the kids to work in teams to address engineering challenges and problems. All programs meet national education standards for STEM and align with Common Core for math and science. Engineering for Kids has operated since 2009, is in 26 states and 4 countries. When and what is the open house for?The open house on May 17th is an opportunity for parents to come and see the facility, meet the staff from Engineering for Kids, and get their questions answered. The summer camps will be offered at Primavera Blended Learning Center at 2451 N. Arizona Avenue in Chandler. The open house is from 11 am to 3 pm.  From 1-2 pm we’re having our popular robotics workshop where the kids will build, program, test and improve the robots. At the end of the workshop, the kids will compete against each other in a Sumo Bot tournament. An RSVP is highly recommended as seating is limited. Please email your RSVP to eastvalley@engineeringforkids.net. What is Primavera Blended Learning Center?

  • Dreams of drone-assisted farming are taking flight

    NAPA, Calif. — Hot air balloons drifting in multicolored splashes against a blue heaven are a common sight in the Napa Valley. But lately, more than balloons have been taking to the wine country skies.A few pioneers are experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, exploring their potential for such agricultural chores as monitoring, irrigation and crop spraying.Drones make sense for wine country, especially on the steep slopes associated with high-end wines, says Steve Markofski, spokesman for Yamaha Motor Corp. USA, which has been testing its RMAX remote-controlled helicopter for spray applications with the University of California, Davis.Tractors may be defeated by the narrow rows and hilly terrain, but a drone can skim over the rows no problem. They also don't tamp down on the earth like tractor tires, a problem that can starve roots of oxygen among other things.Once strictly a military machine, drones have been slowly moving into civilian life. Civil rights groups have raised concerns over possible invasions of privacy, especially in the context of law enforcement use, but the Napa Valley test flights, limited to private property, didn't encounter opposition.Yamaha, which has used its RMAX drones for agriculture spraying in Japan for over 15 years, isn't the only company interested in viticulture. A Canadian company, PrecisionHawk, has modified a drone to resemble a hawk, initially using it to scare away grape-eating birds from vineyards in the Niagara wine region. They later realized they also could collect useful data on things like insect populations and diseased vines during the flights.

  • Turkey production down, wholesale prices up

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Turkey production is at its lowest level in nearly three decades and wholesale prices are at an all-time high, but Thanksgiving cooks probably won't see much difference in the price they pay at the stores for their frozen birds.This year's anticipated stock is 235 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service — the lowest since 1986, when U.S. farmers produced roughly 207 million birds.While the estimated 2014 number doesn't indicate a shortage of turkeys, which can remain in cold storage for a year or longer, it does reflect a pullback in recent years by poultry producers who were forced to reduce their flocks to remain afloat."Last year was a bloodbath. It was bad," said John Zimmerman, a farmer in Northfield, Minnesota, who produces about 300,000 turkeys a year. He said scaled back his numbers in recent years because higher feed and transportation prices, among other things, cut into his bottom line. Even the price of soybean meal — which accounts for about 30 percent of turkey feed — is at a historical high, he said.All areas of livestock production — poultry included — were drastically cut after the widespread 2012 drought in an attempt to stifle losses, says Corinne Alexander, a Purdue University agricultural economist. Plus, many farmers are using feed that they bought in the wake of the drought, which cost more than the current market price."What's happening in the turkey sector is a mini-story of what is happening in other sectors, where the impact has been really dramatic," Alexander said. "If you look at beef cattle, we have the smallest beef cattle herd since 1951, and prices for beef are up 17 percent this year."

  • Town organizing interfaith Thanksgiving event

    The town of Gilbert will have its annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25.The event will include music from local artists and church choirs as a means of promoting understanding and unity among the town’s diverse population, along with the implementation of the Golden Rule.Admission is free, although people can provide a voluntary cash donations to support the House of Refuge and Family Promise. The event is at First United Methodist Church, located at 331 S. Cooper Road.

  • Keeping the Faith: I know ... less than ever

    A few years ago I returned to speak at the church that was my first pastorate. The church was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and it had been more than a decade since I had stood in their pulpit. They welcomed me back with incredible grace and affection, and I was truly glad for the reunion.When I first went there as pastor, I was a green, naïve, ignorant child, still in my early twenties, full of piss and vinegar, ready to extinguish hell with a water gun. Equipped with a fresh diploma, a certificate of ordination with the ink still wet, and a new red Bible, I worked hard to justify my position and demonstrate to all that I knew everything there was to know about leading a congregation. Heck, I wanted people to see that I knew everything about everything.When it was whispered in the gossip parlors of the church Sunday school rooms and in the beauty salons of the greater community that in fact I did not know everything about everything, and that I was far too young for the responsibility now thrust upon me, I worked all the harder to prove my critics wrong and my youthful abilities underestimated.This hard work paid off, because in the process of proving myself, the membership rolls did indeed grow. The coffers of the church swelled like never before, acres of land were purchased, buildings were built, mission trips were taken, baptisteries were filled, other congregations were planted, the church became a rising sensation, and the critics quieted their murmuring assaults. Yes, by the end of my tenure there, I had gained a great deal of success. But I also lost a few things along the way. I lost my youthful idealism; my religion; my marriage; my way, and almost my mind. Most of all, I lost touch with the very reason I had entered the vocation in the first place: The love of Christ.See, I became more concerned with growing a bigger church than with the well-being of individual people who needed to know grace. I worked tirelessly to keep the “right” people happy and tithing, and neglected those on the “wrong” side of the tracks, those that Christ sought more than any other. I wanted a prosperous religious career by building the next religious edifice, by impressing the suits at the denomination’s headquarters, and by meticulously managing my public image. Only years later did I realize that Jesus was not very much involved in any of this.It was a hard lesson to learn, but I take some comfort in the fact that I am not alone in learning it. Another hard-striving, pompous, know-it-all once wrote, “Christ has shown me that what I thought I knew is worthless…Nothing else matters but this: To know Christ and to know that I belong to him” (Philippians 3).

  • Go For the Food: Hole in the Wall in Des Moines

    DES MOINES, Iowa — There's a hole in the wall in Des Moines that's just that: a food joint called Hole in the Wall.A small room inside a bar a few blocks from downtown, Hole in the Wall is the kind of place you could easily miss if you walked by. It's less than a mile from my apartment, yet for months I didn't know it existed. But it's there, with food for both indoor patrons at the Gas Lamp bar and customers ordering outside a window. A few plastic chairs lined up against an exterior wall are about all you'll get if you ask for a reservation.But if you're expecting lukewarm hot dogs or overcooked burgers, you've come to the wrong place. As chef Zach Gutweiler explains it, Hole in the Wall offers high-end street food. And it's served on paper plates and in plastic baskets that you can munch on while sipping a beer and listening to live music at the bar.Gutweiler launched Hole in the Wall nearly two years ago following several restaurant stints in Denver. He wants to change how customers view the quality of bar food and meals on-the-go. And he's doing it in Des Moines, which has recently gotten some buzz for an emerging hipster scene complete with a resurgence of younger residents and several new restaurants with eclectic menus.Gutweiler's dishes bridge the gap between fine dining and what people think of as bar food. On the menu recently were bay scallops with speck that had fennel puree, smoked pecan nage (broth), daikon and apples. A few weeks ago, a plate included beef cheeks, hen of the woods mushroom powder, smashed potatoes, soy pickled mushrooms, grilled frisee, aronia berry gastrique (caramelized sugar) and blue basil. A few months ago, there was squid and shrimp ceviche with corn milk foam, mojo verde, chili oil and fresh herbs.But what's there one day may not be there the next, and that's the beauty of Hole in the Wall. The dishes change all the time. Gutweiler often tinkers with them based on fresh ingredients available at local farms near Des Moines, and he uses organic options whenever he can.

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