30 August 2006

Going Political

I don’t like politics. I’m one of those who really doesn’t like to vote (although I did in the last presidential election) because I’m not always on top of all the issues, and, hey, what does one vote mean, anyway? But, I’ve been thinking about this whole middle east war thing a lot lately. Agonizing over it is more like it.
I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, I long to be a pacifist. It just feels right considering the pray for your enemies, blessed are the peacemakers, and turn the other cheek passages. How is building bigger weapons and shooting terrorists supposed to propagate peace? It just deepens anger and escalates. Aren’t we playing right into their hands? Aren’t we giving them exactly what they want? And who exactly are we fighting for and fighting against? Are we fighting the Iraqis? Are we trying to help the Iraqis? Are we fighting for oil?
On the other hand (I realize I sound like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, a great musical, by the way), I see and hear things about the terrorists and the extremist Muslims about them burning tourists alive in cars, about them drafting and brainwashing children to wield automatic weapons and commit suicide (while the leaders remain safely hidden in dark undergrounds). If I was alive during WWII, wouldn’t I want to stop Hitler? If someone had a gun pointed at my sister’s head, wouldn’t I want to stop them? Is this the same thing?
But how many Christians have died for peace knowing that it would be wrong to fight rather than to love? What about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Peter and Paul and Jesus?
And here’s another weird factor: the Muslims view this as a holy war, a continuation of the crusades. The United States is a poor representation of Christianity. And the Crusades were wrong the first time around. Even if politically we don’t view this religiously, they do. Shouldn’t we want to represent Christianity as something different from fighting?
What would it look like if the United States as a political force pulled the troops out and let the Iraqis settle their political issues? What if, instead, the church sent more and more Christians to the middle east (and I realize that if I say this, I would have to be willing to go) to incarnate Christ’s love? What if we focused on being disciples of Christ rather than defenders of our country? What if I loved my neighbor, the Muslims in my literal neighborhood?
But I don't know. I don't know what to think of the situation. Can't we all just get along? The answer, truthfully, is no, because I am selfish and my neighbor is selfish. And why doesn't the Bible just tell us how to handle war? The Church's position before Constantine was pacifistic. War was wrong, and Christians shouldn't participate. After Constantine came "just war theory." What does that mean for me? For the Church today? Oy vey.
And yes, here’s my hypocrisy: I’m not volunteering to move to Iraq. And how does my view of the situation change the way I act in my daily life? Just call me Janus.

28 August 2006

Review - Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth

Wow. If you have not read Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth, get thee to a bookstore! This book portrays the emotional pain and spiritual journey of an unwanted nine year old orphan. Unwanted, that is, except for a teenage boy. Mara watches the tree limbs as this teenage boy rapes her numerous times, threatening her life and the lives of those she loves. Spurred by the death of Aunt Elma, Mara’s caretaker, Mara searches for her family and for a place to belong. The language and colloquialisms employed by the author drew me in to the East Texas childhood of Mara, to her painful experiences, her friendship with Camilla, and her only child compensations and attic adventures. The characters are a mix of hope, victims of darkness, and old fashioned selfishness, creating an ensemble of empathetic, flawed, yet lovable East Texas folks. Through the evil of the book, Mary DeMuth weaves healing and redemption. I look forward to getting my hands on her next book in the series, Wishing on Dandelions, coming out in September.

25 August 2006

Booze 'N' Blues Show

My husband and I attended the “Booze’N’Blues” art show at a gallery in the downtown of a subarb north of us. We went for the free wine tasting as much as the art. Influenced by Warhol and Lichtenstein, the artist pasted newspaper clippings together to act as a canvas for his caricatures of famous jazz musicians. As far as I could tell, the clippings themselves were insignificant. (One of the headings showed promise announcing “the end of an era” across the musician’s forehead, but it was joined by what looked to be random selections.) The pieces chosen for this show demonstrated skill but not much imagination with a few exceptions in the back room (i.e. “Street Spirit,” a window piece combining ancient themes of Christ with city-scapes and street artists). Still, it was enjoyable art. It may not be life-changing art-altering work, but it was good for a date night. Home the following day, I googled the artist, Justin Hunt. His webpage exhibited talent and eye appeal, pop art swayed by pop music of the twentieth century, fun stuff for the trendy home looking for something more than Pier One. His flair, if he pursues challenges rather than quick-sells, has possibilities of developing art.
Back at the show, I was generally unimpressed until the woman standing next to me pointed out the artist, a young twenty-something (and by twenty-something, I mean pushing twenty) with designer jeans and trendy (i.e. expensive) shoes. In my opinion, no artist should be shown and selling until they have learned the craft of starving. This young man obviously had it too easy. I moved from generally unimpressed to bitter and gulped down more wine.
The gallery is small, so we made our way through the two rooms in a short amount of time, pushing our way through folks who seemed to attend the event for chit-chat as well as art. This show was the social event of the town. A blues band wept outside in keeping with the theme of the show. Other art galleries, antique shops, and wineries on the square participated in this small town affair, reminiscent of a Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow event. All shops, by the way, offered wine and cheese at the least with some adding a spread of coffee, vegetables and dip, and desserts. The local Art Institute, a few steps down the block from the gallery, served a chocolate cake on par with any groom’s cake. I highly recommend the cake.
The gallery hosts an up and coming local artist every month, complete with wine, appetizers, and quaint town life. My husband and I plan on making the drive up again in September’s.

23 August 2006

Helping the Helpless

It has come to my notice within the past 6 months how many of our clothes are created in sweatshop factories overseas. These factories are characterized by unpaid forced overtime (some of this overtime resulting in faintings and other problems), wages less than the cost of living, sexual harrassment, child labor, and other monstrosities. All of my favorite shops are on the list (you can find out how yours rate at Responsible Shopper). The mistreatment of others for my convenience and pleasure has driven me to my knees for forgiveness and to action of some sort. Many months ago, I sent out an email to friends and family focusing on two places (Target and Gap stores, although it is important that I have not yet thought of a shop that doesn't have this problem). I wrote Gap a letter (I tried to write Target a letter, but they sent me in circles). Here is the response:

Dear Ms. Goodman,
Thank you for your inquiry about the treatment of workers and the factories that make our clothes. We share your concern, as this is alsoa very important matter to us. We want our products to be made in a safe and humane environment, and we've devoted significant amounts of time, money and energy toward improving factory conditions and the livesof garment workers. We're committed in our efforts. Nearly a decade ago, we created a Code of Vendor Conduct establishing our principles and the expectations we have for factories that produce our clothes. Today we have one of the most comprehensive factory monitoring programs in the apparel industry with more than 90 employees around the world who are devoted to improving the factories in which our products are made. We make both announced and surprise visits that include interviewing workers, reviewing documents, inspecting health, safety and labor conditions, andmore. In addition, we work closely with nonprofit and governmental organizations, independent monitors and community leaders, striving to promote change through greater collaboration among all concerned stakeholders.
We'd like to share more about our program with you, and we invite you tovisit our web site at: http://www.gapinc.com/public/SocialResponsibility/socialres.shtml
We've also recently published our first Social Responsibility Report which is available online as well. We want our customers, employees andinvestors to know what we're doing to improve factories, and your feedback about our efforts is greatly appreciated.
Customer Service Consultant

Because I am a cynic, I wonder how much is marketing and how much is real concern. (I could go into Starbucks regarding this, but I'll save that soapbox for another day.) But you have the information I do to do with it what you will.

Another Meme

I was tagged by Jennifer over at Snapshot, so here goes.
Five things in my freezer:
Vanilla bean ice cream
Mint chocolate chip ice cream (it’s important to keep a variety)
Frozen strawberries
Spinach pops (my uncle’s standard answer to, “What’s for dessert?” Okay, so maybe I don’t have spinach pops, but I do have frozen spinach)
Ice trays

Five things in my closet:
My last husband’s body in a bag (man, did he get on my nerves…just kidding)
clothes that should have been given to Good Will four years ago
thread and needle kit (gathering dust)
My fancy wrap from Spain

Five things in my car:
used tissues
unused tissues
dirt (who actually has time to clean their car?)
steering wheel

Five things in my purse:
my Nancy Drew notepad (you never know when you might stumble on a mystery)
flask (useful when waiting in lines or at the railroad crossing while the longest train in history passes by at the high speed of .03 mph…kidding, kidding, don’t pull me over, officer)

21 August 2006

My Evil

I would love to blame it on my technological frustrations, but it is my evil that caused the problems all the same. A project needed to be finished by today. It required installing a media software package on my computer, editing video clips, and burning the finished product on DVD. Every one of the steps went wrong, Murphy’s Law wrong. I won’t go into the messy details. It would only serve to raise my blood pressure and bore you. Let’s just say it was a late night.
My husband, being the amazing man he is, stayed up with me. When something else would go wrong and my tears flowed and my voice raised and my body tensed, he would cradle me in his arms, kiss my temple, listen to me vent, and pray for me. He lifted the lid of the pot and turned the temperature down a notch when the spaghetti sauce began to leak over the sides. The pressure and heat and steam released, and the sauce settled. But still, my evilness simmered. It simmered, working its flavor through every limb and sinew of me like the Pharisees’ yeast.
The first two burnings of the DVDs gone kaput, we left the third one going while we crawled into bed. Chris held me and cuddled until I had settled down. This morning, he told me I am beautiful. All I see is the marring and burn marks from my evil. I went out to check the DVD. Something had burned! I held my breath and put the disc in the DVD player. Something had burned, but it wasn’t a correct burning. I was at my wits-end. No, I had lost them somewhere around 2:30 this morning. Chris and I returned to my computer to examine this new problem. I cried again. My evil, which had simmered and taken hold of the entire sauce, now boiled full over, now reached its zenith. I grabbed the nearest remote and hurled it across the room. I smote it, as would read in my translation of The Illiad, and it lay in three pieces. The spaghetti sauce covered the stove and the walls and the floor. It messied all the clean dishes and bowl of fruit.
Where is my Christian trust? Where is my patience and endurance and goodness? Lost over a computer? While others suffer hunger and imprisonment and beatings, it only takes a computer gone awry for me.

Side note: my husband calmly restored the remote, working his technological healing powers. He still loves me for reasons I cannot understand. Maybe its not for reasons as in qualities, but for reason as in commitment.

18 August 2006

Walk On Review by Steve Stockman

With a strident bias and borderline idolization of Bono, the Steve Stockman often uses the biography to forward his agenda. Convoluted sentences, hackneyed phrases, and even bad grammar sometimes make for a poor read. That being said, the author's analysis of postmodern culture (although his prolific usage of the word itself is nauseating) was revealing both in its failings and potentials. Especially poignant is his examination of ZooTV. Because he believes that “the Christian community seems to have confined its definitions of faith to various precise behavioral patterns and clichéd statements of faith” (p. 3), Stockman seeks to evaluate the Christianity of U2 on the terms of their own words and their faith-based actions, much of which are around social justice. He collects interviews, TV, radio, magazine and combines that with his own U2 concert and CD experiences and his theological/philosophical background.
I enjoyed this book and agreed with many of his points. I copied several Bono quotes for future “quote of the week” use. Of course, I love U2. If you are a U2 fan or agree with Bono’s work, this is a great book. If not, it will only frustrate you.
I’d like to end with a word from Stockman:

“There is an attitude birthed in the Enlightenment that says truth is a form of words in a particular order, and there is no wisdom or creativity to poetically take the same truth and describe it in ways more digestible to the world outside Church gates. Paul took his time and walked around the city, imbibing its art and listening to its philosophers and poets.” (p. 124)

16 August 2006

On Aesthetics

I’m not sure how I would define aesthetics, so I’ll talk about it, or around it. I much prefer descriptions and philosophical meanderings to definitions. What if I get the definition wrong? What if I leave something out? It’s just too stressful.
So aesthetics. Basically excellent art containing content and craft of some sort of medium.
Content: aesthetics should make some statement that relates to life, whether it be beauty, suffering, hope, laughter, evil in this world, evil in our lives, Creator, creation, philosophies and worldviews. The list is endless. But I think art should reflect something or say something. I don’t mean this in the utilitarian aspect of it needs to be practical and “how to” and leading toward success. I just mean that it should touch something familiar somewhere, whether recognizing evil or celebrating beauty (or redefining beauty). This could come from life experiences, from a harsh childhood or a happy childhood, from marriage or singleness, from traveling the world or a walk in your local park. This could come from studies and books and lessons and those late-night coffee and brandy conversations.
Craft: it should be excellent. Maybe it bends or breaks rules (although in my opinion, that requires having some knowledge of the rules first). It should be able to communicate the content with brilliance. It’s hard to state universal principles for this since different cultures have different purposes and rules for their art and music and writing and dancing. In the Western culture, we tend to frown on the copy-cat. We tend to look toward those who can take everything they have learned and read and heard and seen and present it in a new and fresh way. And still a good way. I think (warning: biased opinion that will offend many) that this is why in the past 50-100 years Christian art has been considered bad. Where once the church patroned the greats such as Bach and Mozart and Michelangelo, the church now wants to protect from the world, use art only to teach in a defined spiral paper ways. The church wants it to be safe (which is not an accurate reflection of, and perhaps leads to a denial of, the evil in the world and in us).
Since the Romantic era, there has been a gap between “high” art and “low” art (art of the masses). It does not necessarily mean that everything in the high art camp is good or everything in the low art camp is bad. And being popular doesn’t necessarily mean you are either good or bad while being rejected doesn’t necessarily mean you are good (unappreciated and unrecognized in your own time sort of thing) or bad. It just means what is popular.
Sometimes I may think a craft is bad because I don’t understand it. For example (and I am about to embarrass myself here), I didn’t like a DuChamp exhibit the first time I saw it. These are just random objects collected for no reason! Where’s the beauty. Then an artist friend of mine explained the Dadaist philosophy. I connected it with the musique concrete and John Cage that I knew from the music world. I understood the craft to be good, and I understood the message to be good.
One more thought: the idea of truth. I believe that lies can reflect truth. When I am writing fiction, I am writing lies, although I never think of it that way because the characters and their lives are real to me. But I am hopefully reflecting truth. When I read fantasy, I am lost in a world that may not exist, although I don’t recognize it as not existing because in my imagination every nymph and fairy and mermaid converse, but I may be reading truth all the same.
So those are my ramblings, the ramblings of a musician and writer seeking truth.

15 August 2006

Out of Breath

Tagged again (by Michelle Pendergrass). Apparently I have no idea where base is. But this one is simple.
The novel you want to write: A twenty-something dealing with the dearth of dreams, stuck in a mind-numbing job that has nothing to do with her college degree. Speaking of college, there are all those bills. Her best friend, who recently discovered she has AIDS. They set out on a road trip across the U.S., falling in love with the country, rediscovering dreams and their true meaning, and learning how to live in an evil but beautiful world.
Oh, wait. That is the novel I'm writing.
(Side note: this is not my official "pitch." In fact, I'm scrounging. I would love your suggestions. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.)
I'm tempted to not tag, since I tagged yesterday, but what the heck. I'll tag two who were not tagged yesterday: Josh and Tran.
By the way, I have been asked to post my philosophy of aesthetics. Being a musician and a writer, I'm looking forward to this. It's just taking me a while to get my thoughts together in one succinct blurb. I'm going to try to have it up tomorrow.

14 August 2006

I'm Melting!

I've been tagged by Dineen Miller. Here goes:
1. A friend who has blessed me: I’m listing three: Armida, a best friend that sort of snuck up on me. She has moved far, far away, and I’m not quite sure what to do without her. Christina and Tran, friends that share my love of the arts, spoil me with paintings and chocolate chip banana bread and massages and laughter.
2. An unexpected gift: My husband, Chris. I was headed for the mission field when God put him in my life. We each almost ended it every time we saw each other (unbeknownst to the other) because of the missions thing but never could. So we got married instead, and God is using my passion and training and our shared heart for missions in a different way than I imagined. My husband pushes me and stretches me and spoils me. (I’m seeing a trend here. Apparently I like to be spoiled.)
3. A kind word shared with me recently: An editor of a local paper said she wanted to see more of my work. That’s all it took to make my day.
4. Something that makes me stop and praise God: I know this is veering on the TMI track, but I’m going to be completely honest here (the weak of heart should skip this and move on): sex. I love it.
5. Something I'm looking forward to: California trip in a couple of weeks. It’s for a wedding (boo) but we are going to stay a couple of extra days to spend time with Chris’ family and sightsee.
6. A particular part of me I'm pleased with: The color of my eyes and my curly hair. Crazily enough, I’m keeping the exact answer of my predecessor. I would like to add that I’m pleased with the loud-mouth part of me that scares others off. I should be ashamed of it, I know, but it makes me laugh.
7. Something in my life that I wanted but never expected: Writing a book. Again, this is the answer of the Obi Wan before me, but I leave it as is. This is exactly what I would answer. That and the baby grand my parents gave us for a wedding gift last year.
8. A place that moved/moves me: The ocean. Anywhere on the ocean. It impresses me with the magnitude of God’s love and sovereignty, his danger, yet his fun. It is overwhelming and constantly moving.
9. One thing/person that always makes me smile: My husband. That man is just down-right funny. Also this morning’s reading in Judges: love that it mentions how fat Eglon was. And the fact that he was on the pot. Ha!
10. Most recent "love note" from God: It’s a good thing to use our talents for God, even if these talents are only a slow drip in the ocean compared to the torrents of Dostoevsky and Twain and Austen. It’s a good thing to enjoy the good gifts He’s given us.
I'm tagging: Robin (the faithful queen of comments), Willowtree (who might be a bit bitter at having to be left out of carnivals because of the whole testosterone thing), and Erin (whose creativity on the road - literally - amazes me)

12 August 2006

Think of the funnel cake!

Michelle Pendergrass is thinking about starting a carnival. I, especially, am excited about the possibility of the Writer's Prompt category. If you are interested, check out her idea here. If nothing else, think of all the yummy funnel cake!

11 August 2006

The Burbs

I have fought living in the burbs. I’m a downtown girl. I want the symphony and Shakespeare in the Park and art museums and jazz clubs at my doorstep. But I live in the burbs. It’s not so bad, really. Most daily activities are the same either way. Starbucks is still on every corner. I can drive to two Half Price bookstores within 5 min. Chinese, Korean, Vietnam, Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican foods all only blocks away (still missing a good Spanish Tapas place, if anyone would like to volunteer opening one near me). Oh, and Cuban. We need a good Cuban restaurant. (Ever wandered why we call all food derived from countries outside the U.S. ethnic as if our own food isn’t ethnic? Aren’t we a culture, an ethnicity? Is this a case of our ethnocentricity? If we went to India, would hamburgers be the ethnic food? But back to downtown…) I miss Keith, the homeless and legless man on my corner that always had, well, interesting insights, to say the least. I miss walking down to Davino’s where I would get a slice of pizza the size of Manhattan and a soda for $1.50. I can’t walk anywhere in my current location. I miss running up the apartment stairs in socks to grab a book or sugar or a hug from friends. There is something different about life living downtown. Everytime we trek down the interstate, I find myself antsy to be back. Except, that is, for the growing jeunesse dorée parading through glitzy shops and overpriced cafés. That’s when I feel separated from my previous home. The wealth of downtown explodes next to the ghettos, sometimes replacing the ghettos. Is it a co-op wealth meets poor on equal footing opening whole new worlds? Or is it displacement and turning a blind eye? (I’m going for the Guinness of most clichés in one blog.) And yet, in the burbs, I often feel assembly-lined. Not much diversity in ethnic or economic or philosophical statuses (is the plural stati?). We do have our Asian corner: Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants all next to the Asian market. Across the street is the Iranian restaurant. And my hairdresser is Indian. But it feels simulated. My neighborhood is white bread through and through.

10 August 2006

What is the truth?

I have been reading (for those of you who remember from my Joy of Reading post) a book about the spiritual journey of U2 by Steve Stockman called Walk On (review to come later). There are several points and Bono quotes that have me thinking (again, or still) about the nature of truth and the nature of epistemology.
Stockman says, “Huxley got it right when he feared that we would not have truth concealed as Orwell thought, but that truth would become irrelevant in thoughtless, trivial culture” (p. 104). The internet and hourly news barrage us with facts and information. Lobbyists and politicians whisper in our ears. But what is truth? And does it matter?
God has given us all the resources, the Holy Spirit, the universal church, and God’s revelation in the bible. That has not changed. But have we forgotten the questions? Have we stopped listening?
Content in our systems, we have whittled down the mysterious until the oak tree, once full of life and beauty, once sharing comfort with its shade, its home to the birds, and its food to the squirrels, is now a totem pole. A useless talisman except to prove our control.
The truth has not and will never change, but we need to re-examine our interpretations because truth has become irrelevant.
What is the truth?
I AM the Way, the Life, and the Truth.

09 August 2006

Don't Even Bother

Slow Burn by Julie Garwood – I should have known from the title (although it was only after I checked out the book from the library that I learned that “slow burn” is a purple prose phrase). I thought it was going to be a mystery type of some sort. Turns out to be a romantic suspense, which I’m generally not into. The dialogue is prosaic. The list of characters are unreal: three gorgeous sisters (the descriptions fitting of supermodels), one of which began a lucrative business in college (or before college even?), another is finishing up her residency after med school, and the third is a musical prodigy. The best friend designed her own computer chip and is now a direct-from-college millionaire (or rather rich, at least). Within the first 50 pages: the mother of the three had died. A long lost grandfather is about to bestow upon them family inheritance of old money variety. One of the characters survives a bomb at an art gallery. Her best friend discovers a lump in her breast (which, in light of the fact that no testing had been done yet and most breast lumps are not cancerous and completely benign, seemed trumped up in drama) and is being sued. Don’t bother. At that point, I put the book down. With so much tragedy, I wasn’t sure of the point of the book.
Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin – This book has the opposite problem. Highly descriptive language. Tedious, even. I know every inch of the random fat woman the main character encounters at a gas station. I know her life story. I know what kind of dog she has and how she treats the dog. I know what she was wearing and how it fit her. I know what kind of candy she favors. I know what kind of perfume she sports and how she applies it. I know that she prostitutes on the side with the truckers. I know that she makes bad coffee. She was a prop at a five-minute pit stop, for goodness sake. Give me a break! After 70 pages of this book, I still had no idea what the book is supposed to be about.
I have recently given my self permission to not finish books that suck. I put my new rule into practice with both of these books. Some may argue that I would have grown attached had I stuck with it. Not the point. Such deficient beginnings promise little for the whole. As a musician, I was taught that no matter what, you don’t mess up the beginning of the piece or the end. Flutter in the middle, if you must. Maybe I’ll try picking up Wrapped again sometime. I was hopeful about that one.
These books made me appreciate other “newer” reads, such as Beneath a Marble Sky and Handling Sin. Ah, well, back to my classics. Tried and true.

08 August 2006


Some time ago (a week? a month? who knows), I was directed to an Anne Lamott writing via relevantgirl’s blog. I adore Anne. Her blunt struggles and love of Christ make me want to go hug my neighbor. Her word crafting makes me blubber my lips with my finger, “uh, I dunno, I dunno,” and run screaming from all writing attempts. I love Anne. So this is not meant to be a diatribe against Anne. Anne’s article (along with many other discussions) has had me thinking through Christian responses and Christian love of humanity and humans. Anne’s article, specifically, was a rant against the pro-life Christian arguments. I understand and fully support the need to constantly re-evaluate our “Christian” values. What is tied to our national values? What is a passing cultural value? What is affirmed by the Holy Spirit through the historical and global church? Anne, I think, would put pro-life in a passing cultural value and hold up pro-choice. Her arguments are not bad: why bring a child into a bad system? Why not, instead, focus on making things here more gracious and loving? I understand this, and I am not arguing that every Christian needs to actively protest abortion, just as I would never argue that we all need to protest environmental abuses or slave labor in clothing factories in the same way. But I do believe that abortion is lethal. I believe it is wrong. I believe it is assuming that we know what is best rather than trusting God. Euthanasia, the death penalty, abortion, murder, suicide, all deny Christ’s victory over evil and death. All, in some way, seek the easy way out. Is God not so big that He can’t handle even this problem of evil, even if it is uncomfortable and painful? Can He not use it Job-like to bring glory to Himself and show us a greater picture of His love and grace? My niece did not come at a convenient time. Life was hard for my sister. But neither my sister nor my parents nor I can imagine life without this gift from God, without my niece’s laughter and love.

07 August 2006

If I Only Had an English Accent

Come in, come in! Here you see I’ve decorated my living room with the fashionable Art Deprecation of Self. Yes, yes, Art Noveau, Art Decco, Concept Art, all out. Art Deprecation of Self is all the rage now. Pardon me while I indulge myself a bit. It’s been a bad writing weekend.
Do you ever look at your writing, your novel or play or article, and wonder if you have received any education whatsoever (of course, that is before passing the roadside sign announcing, “Hireing New Waittstaff Now”)? I’ve begun sending rejection letters with my submissions with a “Sign Here” Post-it sticky. Just trying to help.
If I had an English accent, my writing would improve immeasurably. It’s true. I am certain that I would be much cooler if I had an English accent. And being cooler would guarantee better writing. It doesn’t matter which variety, Jason Statham, Colin Firth, Julie Andrews. Any dialect will do. I drink tea every afternoon, but to no avail. Maybe I confuse my tongue with the assortment of teas: English Breakfast, Green, Chai, Earl Grey, Orange Mandarin. Too bad I can’t fake an accent. I can hear it in my head. In fact, when I read an N.T. Wright paper, I can’t get through without literally hearing him speak the paper in its entirety in his lilting Oxford inflection. Sigh. If I only had and English accent.

03 August 2006

My Scarlet Letter

Here I go again pasting my red A on my chest. I have recently discovered the joy of carnival blogs. Through one in particular, I found some beautiful bloggers, some new daily reads. I feel like I entered a new clique. I linked one of my posts to this carnival blog, unknowing at the time that I was breaking the rules. Since then, I learned that there are requirements for this particular carnival (from the comments of a wonderful blogsite, which I found through said carnival). This one is a Christian carnival. And I believe it is only for women. Okay. I happen to be a Christian and a woman. The hostess requires that all adhere to the Nicene Creed. The hostess asks that all believe in Christ as the only way of salvation. So far, so good. The hostess asks that in all submitted blogs, theological controversies and debates are omitted. Fair enough. Then the hostess requires that no where in the blog, not just the submitted post, but in any of the entire blog, does it “promote the emergent conversation/movement/whatever.” This leaves me out.
I do not attend the emergent church, and while I do think some of the things that some of the churches are either just shallow changes or maybe borderline (depending on the church, but hey, isn’t that the case for all churches/movements/denominations?), I think they are doing a grand job reevaluating epistemology and ecclesiology in order to be missional in this post-modern culture. Honestly, I've been frustrated that there has been so much labeling and division on both sides, especially when all adhere to the ancient creeds. “It seems that more than ever the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label. To identify is to control, to limit. To love is to call by name, and so open the wide gates of creativity. But we forget names, and turn to labels” (Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, pp. 112-13). Christ said that our unity and love for each other would tell the world of the Father's sending of his Son for redemption and restoration. We are not telling the world that message very loudly right now. Instead we fight over the spiritual celebrities as to whose side they are on much like the Catholics and Luther fought over Augustine. I actually saw on one website that good Christians should no longer listen to John Piper because Piper quoted Dallas Willard who may or may not support the emergent church. I happen to love Dallas Willard. I also happen to agree with a lot of the philosophies in the emergent church. Just for clarification, the emergent church means a lot of things. It has become a wide encompassing label for anything that may look in the least post-modern. It includes more seeker-sensitive services (which is not how I feel we best incarnate Christ’s love and peace and truth, personally). It includes liturgical. It includes small house churches. It includes mega-super-size-me churches. It includes Calvinists and Covenants and Dispensationalists. Like our fragmented culture, the emergent church label has been placed on a variety of churches.
So what does it mean “does not promote the emergent conversation?” I’ve talked about hermeneutics in my blog. I’ve talked about rethinking the platonic model in our Christianese. I’ve talked about the nature of the Bible. I’ve talked about frustrations with the marketed church. Maybe I’ve promoted the emergent church, maybe I haven’t. Either way, to respect the wishes of the hostess, I will have to refrain from entering any more blogs on her carnival, which is unfortunate because upcoming topics include chocolate and music, two loves of my life. But to heck with it. It’s her prerogative to put the requirements she wishes. From what I’ve seen on her blog, she is a lovely woman seeking God and beauty. This is me. And my scarlet letter.

02 August 2006

Out of Touch with Reality

Quick question before I begin: It’s time for a toxic cleanse. I’ve done these before, but used a rather expensive cleanse. I’d rather try something on the more frugal side. Any suggestions?
You may or may not have noticed, but I have added a photo to my profile. Let me tell you a little about this photo. I spend a good portion of my life in “huh?” world. I get lost in my philosophical meanderings or in my fantasy world of unicorns or Anne of Green Gables or Elizabeth Bennett or the day my husband proposed or being a famous artist (even though I can’t even draw stick-figures with any recognizability) that I have no idea where I am. I have gotten home and don’t remember how I got there. I have made wrong turns when running. Leaving the house, I will without fail forget something because I don’t need keys when swimming in a waterfall or dancing on rainbows with fairies and leprechauns.
When my husband and I were going through pre-marital counseling, well post-pre-marital counseling (a friend was going through a marriage counseling class and my husband and I were the most newly-weds he knew so we became his guinea pigs), we had to take a dog day long and painful personality test (especially hard from my ADHD husband). I have a love-hate relationship with personality tests. It’s fun to giggle over statements that seem to describe you perfectly, strengths and weaknesses and all (Although some of the things they label as weaknesses, I don’t see as such. Who says I’m not organized? Just because I’m not organized in the way they want me to be organized doesn’t mean I’m not organized.), but I find myself making decisions based on the test results. I can’t do this, because a P (as in ENFP of Meyers-Briggs determination) wouldn’t do that. (I’m digressing like a German parenthesis-within-parenthesis sentence.) So our friend/counselor told me I’m very emotional (let me tell you, I feel off the couch with surprise), radical (rather than conservative), and unethical (according to the test, just because I question everything. What’s wrong with that? Didn’t Jesus question?). He said the test showed me to be a hippy. Then he hemmed and hawed.
“Now, the tests aren’t always right. You can disagree, and that’s fine.” What the heck is he getting at? “The test says you are out of touch with reality.” Ha! What does that mean, anyway? It just means that I’m out of touch with the reality that the makers of the test have determined to be reality. What is reality, anyway? I’m not out of touch with my reality? Okay, before you send the people with the straightjackets, you must know that I live a normal life. My house is more or less clean. We eat dinner every night. Our cars are registered and insured. So I’m out of touch with some test-maker’s reality. I like my reality.
Another favorite comment from the Meyer-Briggs test: “Sees life as a drama.” Love it! Every time a bell rings, a drama queen gets her crown. You have to earn that crown, you know.
So this picture is my “huh?” picture.

01 August 2006

Dallas Willard

On Sunday morning this week, my husband and I had church at home (where two or more are gathered…). We listened to a Dallas Willard talk then spent an hour or so praying and meditating, thinking on the nature of God, reading the ancient creeds together. But this post isn't about our Sunday worship, it is about Willard's lecture.
In his talk, Willard examines the four “great questions of existence,” including the nature of reality, what the good life is, who a good person is, and the how of becoming this good person. Willard recalled the Rodney King question that has become our cultural catch-phrase. “Why can’t we all just get along?” We can’t, he argues, because we all want our own way, our own kingdom to advance. When you fix your reference of the nature of reality on humans, you end up with competing wills. The question of ultimate reality begins with and centers on God. The only way to harmonize the good we desire, justice (social, moral, or otherwise), grace, love, is to become part of God’s kingdom, who is justice, mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, righteousness, good. The only way to harmonize each other, to get along, is within His kingdom.
As Hegel argues, God remains transcendent but is also fully involved in human history. It is God who overcomes human divisiveness and human suffering.
This view of salvation, this gospel presentation, I may term it, is compelling, outside of ourselves and yet inclusive of ourselves. It is victorious of the evil in our lives and the evil in the world. It reminded me of Donald Miller’s view in Blue Like Jazz.
Of course, these are only my reflections of one hearing of this lecture. I highly recommend listening to it yourself here. (There are also PowerPoint slides available.)