Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Necessary Nomads

We are quite enjoying the New Years Eve party from the Ryman hosted by Garrison Keillor and the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. The old civil war music mansion makes for a classy evening without so many worries about whether the person next to you is going to remove another piece of clothing. True, we're enjoying it compliments of PBS, but this is the sort of stuff that the television was made for - those programs that make you think of vacuum tubes and oak tv cabinets with tweed speaker covers and yellowing enamel knobs.

The uncanny warmth this winter makes me long for the sight of my breath in the cold biting air. Perhaps I will soon be rewarded for my wishes. Upon taking the trash out, I got a wonderful glimpse of the low ceiling of threadbare stratus clouds racing past the moon in a steading wind like a clipper ship - and I recalled how to feel the earth moving beneath me. January is not two hours old, and she is racing in to take her place as December waves a farewell and her lighthearted trappings trail after her. Let us hope the changing of the moon will bring a deep-seated chill to give us further thankfulness for every steaming cup of tea on morning porch.

I fear that I must write about a deficit that goes sometime unseen in the Church. It is not that this is my albatross to bear. I'm glad to tell you, but I don't particularly feel 'worthy' to do so. I tell you because I've been a person on the bad end of the bargain. I can't describe you how frustrating it is to see churches treat college students as 'Them'. I suppose it is the burden of a college town. To be inundated with a torrent of young, keen, foolhardy, eager minds as regular as clockwork, and again to be bereft of them so suddenly every six months creates its own queer set of dilemmas, especially since the roster changes constantly. But to the credit of local parts of the Body, churches often set up programs and 'College & Career' classes and hold special meetings for college students (and the often aloof 'Career' folks). This is a great effort, but the feeling between the lines still is in danger of 'Us and Them'.

The problem with reaching out to a group as 'Them' is that is fails to see the imminent worth in people. The effort of 'Us' to reach out to 'Them' fails to acknowledge that 'They' might have as much or more to contribute to 'Us' as we do to them - and this in a very immediate and intimate sense. I'm not talking about musical styles or ceremony. I'm talking more about the relational connection between people that we sense when we don't see ourselves above others in any way. Indeed, seeing ourselves as inferior often has better results than pure egalitarianism - since this can still emphasize the 'take' in a give-and-take relationship. This can, theologically, go much further. Piper talks about the love of the other being joy for the self. But I don't really have the desire to go there now, and Piper does a better job than I would.

I would suggest, first and foremost, an attitude (not a program) of mentorship. While not all these transient teens are going to seek out a deep, challenging relationship with a mature Christian, the older students are nearing the waterfall at the edge of their microcosmic world in the school they've attended (and the 'Career' people or 'Singles' are already over it). They (did I say we?) need a mooring point in that area beyond their parents. The attitude of the local church body should not assume that the students are going to leave and never return after four years or so. While this is true on the whole, that approach doesn't see the student as Part of the Church. It sees the student as someThing that needs addressing, like a four-year cut that needs a band-aid.

We don't know what God has planned for us. Any assumptions about ourselves or others as to the future and "moving to this or that town and [doing] business there" assume a knowledge that is not permitted us.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

There Are Many Blogs in the World

I'm trying to increase the amount of worthwhile material that I take in online through the blogosphere. If you know of a good blog (or you have a good blog), leave a comment at the beep.

I suppose I'm asking to be spammed...

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Truth and the Lie

"The major civilizing force in the world is not religion; it is sex."

                              -Hugh Hefner

Some fellow employees of mine were greatly excited because a Hooters opened down the street. I can't imagine a more fitting place to begin than with a reminder of a restaurant chain that possesses an official undercurrent of lust. I may well be close to being slapped in the face for such a comment, but I must ask those who would do so: What are you trying to accomplish by feasting your eyes on that which is not yours to taste?

One of the easiest traps to fall into in this world (for men, at least) is lust. The frightening thing about it is the rampance of the acceptance of lust within the context of a society that predominantly supposes Judeo-Christian values. Let's start there. Turn on your cable television, or, if you're like me, turn on the seven channels you get. If you watch long enough (unfortunately, no matter the number of channels), you will likely see an add for Victoria's Secret, which is one of the largest purveyours (if not the largest) of lingerie in the United States. I don't quite know what these adds are saying to women. My wife likes shopping there because - and I'm paraphrasing - many of the products are comfortable and well-made (although good underwear is apparently expensive). All the same, she realizes with often irritated clarity that she will never be the woman in the commercial, and she furthermore has no desire to be such. I hope that all women are this way, and I imagine that most of them are - since I am not taken in either by any subliminal promises of Armani cologne ads. But really, what Victoria's Secret says to men is our great concern. If a lovely slender young lady entered my living room and began dancing in her underwear, my wife would likely throw some clothes at her and call the police (after a scathing verbal bout). Even if my hands didn't reach for her, the mere visual confrontation would pose great difficulty in reigning in one's mind. Thus is the case on the television, the internet, various billboards, and so on and so forth. Madison Avenue has realized what we often conveniently forget: sex sells. And it sells everything.

"Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." -Matthew 5:28

With these scouring words, Jesus shifted the paradigm by making the heart - which, according to Proverbs, is both difficult to understand and grasped by the Lord(Proverbs 20:5, 21:1, 21:2, 17:3) - the seat of all things righteous and evil in man. This is meant to convict us and cause us to see our need for repentance and grace, but we escape by changing the meaning of words. Lust becomes reduced to that which is superficial and thus unmistakable. It is no longer that which is in the heart. That tiniest twinge that you feel when you take a second glance is no longer lust. And we wonder why teen sexuality is so prolific in the church! Youth pastors should be able to spend time preaching about the grace and the mysteries of Christ, but they are seemingly forced to harp on this 'don't' day after day. But what kind of children are we raising?

Those who will be like their parents and role models, of course. That said, take the man in Hooters. He enjoys looking at the waitress in the tight shirt and skimpy shorts. Whether she means to make him lust or not is irrelevant, since it is his thoughts and actions we are concerned with. While, if you mention to him that he could cheat on his wife and run away from his children with this woman (whom he doesn't actually know), he might say that such a thing is immoral, he still enjoys looking. He might even dream a little. What is the purpose of this? What does it do to his marriage? His wife is not beautiful according to Vogue Magazine like this waitress. What does it do to his sex life? Can he truly fulfill his wife's desires when he can't focus on her during sex? What does this do to his parenthood? If children indeed amplify the character of their parents, what will his son do more than look and dream? Will his son learn respect for women as people? Will he learn respect for a woman to be his wife? Will he learn sacrifice, or simply gratification? These aren't really things that we can prove, but when juxtaposed, they are oddly fitting.

I was horrified the other day to hear a friend say that she buys her boyfriend (whom she and her son live with) pornography. I can barely comprehend the twisted lies that Satan has told in order to make people think that this is productive. But whatever attitude it is that permits this behavior also seeps into the Church. The problem isn't simply that young men who are, in one way, dedicated to Christ are looking at porn. The problem is complicated by the fact that our God and this 'god' are supposed to coexist in the hearts of men! 'Pornography' comes from a Greek word meaning 'pictures of prostitutes'. In mathematical fashion, let's equate that with 'pictures of those who sell sex'. This is not a far cry from 'pictures which sell sex'. You can see where I'm going with this.

I was listening to a call-in radio show in the car yesterday, and a woman called in whose husband had a pornography addiction. I liked the way that both she and the host stated their conviction: Pornography emasculates men. While this is harsh, let's look at how. First, show me a man who looks at porn and doesn't masturbate, and I'll show you a pig that doesn't roll in mud after it's washed. Masturbation is often disputed as sin, since it is not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures, but, like all wiles of the Devil, it is deceptive. It is meant to mimick sex, yet it is nothing like sex. Sex involves trust, masturbation does not. Sex involves pleasing your spouse to the Glory of God. Masturbation involves pleasing yourself to the glory of whatever image is in your mind when you do so. Furthermore, pornography itself becomes a splinter in your mind. Like a chick imprinting on its mother, a husband is meant to 'imprint' on his bride on their wedding night. Those images never leave his mind. Neither does the image of any other naked woman he has seen leave his mind. They become scars that do not leave. They can and do resurface in him due to certain triggers like a soldier with PTSD.

And this is supposed to be healthy?!

"Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer - may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?" -Proverbs 5:15-20

Even more, marriage was created as a picture of the Lamb and his Bride.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his Body." -Ephesians 5:25-30

For pornography addictions, you can find helpful resources at

Later note: I apologize for the disjunct nature of the post. I was in a bit of a hurry.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bethlehem, Prepare to Rock

I....I'm speechless.

Excuse me, my brain is broken. I need to go change it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Sheep in the Wolf-pen!

As I often do, I turned to NPR today and caught the news. One particular report today revealed the frustrations of lawyer Michael Weinstein about the existence of a group called Christian Embassy within the walls (specifically, the E-ring) of the Pentagon.

Citing them as a "radical fundamentalist organization" on the program, Weinstein seemed quite upset about, among other things, the 'fact' that CE received taxpayer dollars as funding. The problem with this lies in the 501(c)(3) nonprofit status of CE. I also found it quite humorous that he would apply the word 'radical' - albeit indirectly - to Dr. D. James Kennedy, who was recorded speaking at a prayer breakfast in the Pentagon for the group. The gospel, of course, is what Mr. Weinstein was unknowingly referring to as "radical," and he is correct. But I can't escape the humor of the whole situation.

A few high-level military officials were taped on a promotional video for uniform. This is the beef of the outrage by Michael Weinstein and also the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who are preparing to sue the government for endorsing a particular religion. While I can't, as an American under the Constitution, condone the officials appearing in uniform on the video, after a little thought, I recalled that I submit to a higher Authority and Allegiance, and the whole bit became quite funny. It feels like our spies have been found behind enemy lines, and they're getting slapped on the hand for it. But, make no mistake, I said to myself. We are in the midst of quiet and bitter warfare, ever behind the curtain of this world. We were born to be warriors, and we cannot serve two masters. Practice your swordsmanship well...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not a Silent Night

This picture is not for the faint-of-heart. But it is great art. Honestly, looks like it was done with ink and a calligraphy brush. But I can't tear myself away from the humanity of the thing.

Please open the link with discretion.

Christmas 2003 by Douglas TenNapel

And, to really complete the experience, go to Andrew Peterson's website in a different window and listen to Labor of Love on the album player while you're pondering.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Warm Glow

It's cold. If you open the door you can smell it inviting you outside to see the moon as only winter can show you. It's that college-town cold smell - always tinging of possible snow and cars that run on prayer and extra oil in these months. We're glad to be alive these days. Many things are going on, but relationships are built best this time of year, erected like the capstones of mighty towers giving shape to the imaginiation - especially while mysterious dreamy essences drift from the kitchens of our friends and families.

Playing on Karen Reynold's show was a blast. A very gracious thank you to those who listened in over the airwaves (or the world wide web). Karen's show is one of a dying breed that deserve to be played over those old radios that were furniture. The WDVX station is like that too. They still put the cds in by hand and switch them out every song, and they have a turntable hooked up and ready to spin the occasional vinyl. I must say, it was a new and interesting experience singing for an audience that I could neither hear nor see, and it took a degree of faith to wonder whether anyone was listening at all. But, we know that there are folks who never miss the show - folks like Carl and his wife. This sweet old man who always listens to Writer's Block called us in tears after finding out his wife now has brain cancer. Pray for them. Karen was wonderful enough to record the show, so (if the infernal machine worked) we might have a recording of the whole bit. Keep your ears out, and I'll let you know.

I'm running lights this weekend for Turning Pointe Studios' Christmas recital at Gentry Auditorium in Jefferson City. They're performing scenes from Tchiakovsky's Nutcracker Suite. I always loved the music to the Arabian dance, and Uncle Drosselmeier, somewhat resembling the Magician in the Magician's Nephew. Drosselmeier has that wonderful idiom of having something up his sleeve. His eye gleams to see boys with swords and girls with dolls and to lavish gifts upon those near him. Increasingly, as Kat and I tilt away from the business of decorating and lean toward giving - and remembering - the very air during this month seems to posess a secret that is never told, but only known. Running lights for the recital has become a yearly tradition for me, and I have to say that I've always enjoyed it. Besides the fact that I, as a non-recovering control freak, get to sit in a booth and subject the lighting to my every whim, I love being given this electric palette and told, "Paint." So, my humility probably doesn't grow so much in the endeavor, as I'm quite content to be unheard of throughout the evening. It reminds me of sitting behind the sound booth in church as a kid, trying your best not to explode with laughter at what your friend is doing next to you - it being all the harder because you can't laugh in church. But I can't help but believe that God laughs the loudest of us all, booming like the Ghost of Christmas Present, "Come in, and know me better, man!"

Gather 'round the warm glow of the radio tubes.
Good tidings, of great joy......

Monday, December 04, 2006

White Elephant List

From a conversation where Andy plugged my creativity, these are the things I came up with. Use them, they aren't under copyright.

1.) A hill of beans (in a box)- think literally

2.) A roll in the hay (also in a box) - again, literally

3.) An autographed picture of John Kerry - preferably saying "Thanks for your continued support" or something to that effect

4.) Not pants, but A pant, or a trouser if you're from the UK

5.) A nice pair of trousers cut into CHAPS - complete with a water pistol six-shooter

The 96th Thesis, and Ensuing Divorce

Here's a farm-out for today.

Read Laurie Goodstein's article on the secession of a San Joaquin diocese from the Episcopal Church. To me, their move is somewhat reminiscent of 'nailing one's issues to the door', and I wonder if it's right. It certainly does not present a good front for the Body of Christ as a whole, but let's leave that out for a moment (especially in lieu of the lack of necessity for all righteous action to be peaceable).

What could one do, in their position, except secede at this time? Given the structure of the Episcopal Church, it seems difficult to initiate a vote of No Confidence (of sorts) considering Bishop Schori's 'Get Over It' approach to her recent promotion.

Another question: What sort of opportunity does this present believers?