Thursday, March 29, 2007

Songs as Poetry

I admit that I generally like music for the lyrics as much as the instrumentation. Don't get me wrong...I love plenty of songs which have lyrics I can't decode. There are plenty of rock tunes I like because they are good and loud and have great guitar rifts. But, still, overall, I love the words. That might be why I listen to most kinds of music..rock, pop, jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, celtic, etc. I have to admit I haven't developed a taste for rap, but that's one of the few exceptions. I 'm sure there are powerful lyrics in all types of music.

I was singing along with a song last night after dropping my son off at community college, and I was thinking about the great expressive they were, how poetic. I know I'm not the first person in the world to compare song lyrics to written poetry, so I'm not going to try to claim some astounding new revelation. But a new (for me) thought did enter my head as I sang along. People today love poetry as much now as any time in history. We just sing our poetry more now than ever before.

Singing ballads, songs of war, romance, epics and such has been popular since before there were pencils and paper to write them down. It's not new. But I think what might be new is the shear volume of poetry being written, and the fact that it is now written by people from so many socio-economic backgrounds. Perhaps people have always made up songs and poetry, but without a way to preserve them they were lost to us.

Last night I spent a fun evening looking at lyrics on the web. Looking at the modern day poets such as Sting, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Bono, and many, many more. Funny, I thought I didn't really enjoy poetry that much! ;-)

Monday, March 26, 2007

New Dust

I've never really "done Lent" and I can't say I'm doing such a great job this year. I started out okay. I went to Ash Wednesday services and had the priest pronounce, "From dust you were made and to dust you shall return." Ash Wednesday starts the "dry season" of the church calendar. We enter the desert with the Israelites, and with Jesus, to contemplate our mortality, or sinful character and our ultimate deliverance by God's grace, through Jesus' death and resurrection. In the desert we try to strip away the trappings of "life" and see ourselves as we are, made of dust.

Like I said, I started off okay. I don't eat meat on Fridays and I've tried to study the Real Presence during this time. But in the past week my prayer life has faltered again and my studying hit a snag. (I misplaced my book.) But while I waited for the book to resurface, I happened to see that one of my favorite mystery writers, Martha Grimes, had a new book out. Can you guess the title? Dust. It was appropriate, especially since the use of the word was not arbitrary by the author. We were made to feel that vulnerable feeling of being "dust." Can we choose our lives? Are we really in control? Sin sucks us in and dries us out until we are dust.

It seems ironic, too, that in the past two or three weeks I've heard the Kansas song, Dust in the Wind several times, after not hearing it for years. Here is a link that has the lyrics and the audio of Kansas performing the song: (By the way, the Native American motif is appropo, since the inspiration for the song was a Native American poem.)

These three references to "dust" in my life during Lent have helped me to focus. Even though I've not accomplished what I started out to (I did find the book, and studies are back on track) I did find that God was teaching me something important. For the past 5 or 6 years I've been contemplating my own mortality. Perhaps I'm a bit young for that, being a few months shy of 52 now, but there are reasons. My dad was diagnosed with cancer at 52 and died at 55. That seemed young then, and it seems impossibly young now. But as I've gotten closer and closer to the age my dad died, I feel more and more like dust. For years that has depressed me and, frankly, scared me. I've been fearful, and it has changed the way I relate to God. Doubts are more vivid, reassurances more necessary. For some reason the thought of never waking up is terrifying.

This year God seems to be bringing it to a head..."You are dust." But He is also telling me something more important. "That's not the end of the story." For the first time in my life, the Incarnation is taking on a new and more profound meaning. God became that very dust he created. He was dust. He made the dust holy. He loved the dust he made so much he came down to wallow in it and feel it, to breathe it and taste it and live in it. But that's not the end of the story, either. He has made the dust imperishable.

Someday, I'm gonna get new dust. And that dust will live forever.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Counting Costs

I was suppose to go away this coming weekend. A trip by myself to spend time with some friends I rarely get to see. When the idea was first conceived the timing seemed perfect. Will could work from home, plus it was spring break for the classes I teach and the ones the kids attend. This greatly simplified issues. The kids could stay at home and turn their brains to mush playing computer games all day when Will couldn't be there. A great time would be had by all. The only drawback was a relatively long drive by myself (I fall asleep at the wheel easily). Will wasn't excited about that part.

Slowing, the "best of times" began to unravel. First, older ds has play practice in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Okay, he can find rides... check! Then I realize my dd's both need to be at musical practice on Monday afternoon. Trickier situation, but I have it covered....check! Oops! I found out one of the girls needs to go to an extra practice for the leads...Now I'm trying to coordinate three drive times with three different families, all with differing numbers of kids. "Do you have enough seats to take both my girls?" "No, sorry." "Okay, Maybe L can take this one and you could pick the other up, and I could possibly get my future SIL to drive one of them...What time did you say they had to be here?"

It was getting clear that to coordinate the Monday drive times I would need a complicated flow chart that incorporated all three families, the numbers of children in each, the numbers of seats in their vehicles, when each child needed to be picked up, and who could make which trip. I started to get a headache.

I called Will. "Honey, can you work from home on Monday and drive the girls to play practice?" The answer wasn't what I expected. No, he couldn't, because his company has decided to discourage telecommuting. Staying home would mean a days vacation. Grrrrr. What happened to this supposedly enlightened company? I took two ibuprofen.

I get on the computer to forget my problems and get an email reminding me that youngest dd has a "birthday date" with a little friend on Friday. Maybe the mom could come pick up my dd?? I'll have to ask. Sigh. I open a Dr. Pepper. It isn't even diet. I grab a handful of M&M's. I keep thinking I wouldn't be worried about asking for all these driving favors except I just had to do it last week in order to go to my Lenten retreat. Why do I have an 18 yr old with no driver's license?? Oh, I remember. No car to drive and no money for insurance. Sigh, again. And another handful of M&Ms.

Saturday morning I got a call from my brother. I love my brother. His opening statement: "Ummm. I think I forgot to tell you that Cathy and I are coming to town for a wedding and need a place to stay."
"Great! When?"
"Next weekend."
I get two more ibuprofen and another handful of M&M's.

The thing is, I really do love my brother and his wonderful wife. We rarely get time together when she isn't cooking for 20+ people. Now I have this rare opportunity. I can spend the entire day with them on Friday, just kicking back and laughing (you always laugh with my brother), maybe going to the Gardens and having a nice lunch out. Of course I tell him we'd love to have them, although I warn him that it's air matresses on the living room floor and fending off the kitten all night.

Usually, the possibility of a free day with Bob and Cathy would send me into happy dancing. Right now I'm trying convince myself it's worth the trade-off. Counting the costs, wishing two great options didn't end up on the same weekend when so many weekends are empty slates. My regrets have been emailed and I am focusing on cleaning house, getting in food, rearranging the driving (letting people know I can do my part), and looking forward to my family.

I'll try not to think of what I'm missing. Ain't that just like life?
Pass the M&Ms.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Useless questions

What Should We Do about that Moon ?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night hundred beetles and all their cousins

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the 'night candle' rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument
Said to his friend - for no apparent

"What should we do about that moon?"

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless

From: 'The Gift - Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master'
translations by Daniel Ladinsky

I'm enjoying this guy's poetry.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Incarnation

Last Time,
When you walked through the city
So beautiful and naked,

You left a thousand women crazy
And impossible to live with.

You left a thousand married men
Confused about their gender.

Children ran from their classrooms,
And teachers were glad you came.

And the sun tried to break out
Of its royal cage in the sky
And at last, and at last,
Lay its Ancient Love at your feet,

And I wish you would have let it,
So the whole world could have died like Hafiz,
dancing so happily,
Filled with ecstasy,
An unbearable divine light.”

Sham-ud-din Mohammed Hafiz
c. 1320-1389, Moslem mystic

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Confessions of a well-loved woman

In Ephesians, Paul tells wives and husbands to be "subject, one to another" before he goes on to define each one's role in marriage. This is an important (oft ignored) clause because it puts everything that follows into perspective. I also like that, after this admonition, Paul starts with the men and tells them to "love your wives as your own body, and be willing to die for her as Christ died for his church." To paraphrase, self-sacrifice is the name of the husband game. Jesus said, "No greater love has a man than this, to lay down his life for a friend." Paul is re-emphasizing this, and I think, broadening it. In my opinion, this isn't talking about actual physical death. This is emptying yourself, giving yourself to building up the life of another...the physical life, the emotional life, and the spiritual life.

Paul then goes on to tell women to respect their husbands and be subject to them. The husband is the "federal head" of the family as Christ is the Church. Marriage is a type of the "mystical union" of Christ and body, the church. But that "S-word" gives us all the heebie-jeebies and there's a tendency to throw the whole book of Ephesians (and perhaps Paul) out the window and slam it shut!

I have to confess that is doesn't give me the heebie-jeebies...and that's not because I'm a brainwashed fundamentalist woman content to live a subservient life while the man of the family calls the shots. Oh no. I'm the strong-willed type married to a fairly mild-mannered man. I've always known the danger of my stronger personality (read extroverted, pushy type) overrunning his. It could have happened, and our story could be very different, except for three things (besides the grace of God, but that's a given for me).

  1. I had already been in a failed marriage and had learned some important things. Things like you don't change people and you don't count on someone else to make you happy.
  2. We received some good pre-marital counseling from a pastor whose personality was similar to Will's and who was happily married for 30+ years to a woman with a strong personality.
  3. I married a man who daily lays down his life for me.
That third point is the key. It is why the talk of submission and headship have always seemed to make sense. Will is my biggest fan, my cheerleader, and my passionate admirer. He thinks I'm smart, sexy, and capable. He wants the best for me every day. He came into our marriage with an important attitude: he chooses to always think the best of me and my actions. That's his starting point. What has happened to me over the years is a wonderful thing... that love has made me more loving; the trust, more trusting; the faith, more faithful; the joy, more joyful; and the passion, more passionate. I'm growing into his vision of me.

I'm Will's partner and friend. There is no thought of who makes what decisions. We haven't marked off any territories in our lives together. I make the decisions I need to make as my days go by. I consult him when I want or need an opinion and he does the same. I guess we naturally seek out each other's opinions because we respect each other. I don't worry about what curriculum I buy to teach our children, what food choices I make, or if I should spend the money to go to lunch with friends. It all comes down to mutual trust. I know Will has my best interests and those of the kids, at heart all the time. It's his nature, he doesn't have to make himself think about it any more than I have to.

Mutual respect makes mutual submission easier. Being well-loved makes seeing Will as the head of the family painless. When the leader is first and foremost a servant, you aren't afraid of his leading. I can't imagine Will making a decision I disagreed with, but I know he's had to make decisions when I couldn't make them, when I've left it up to him because I trust him.

I asked him recently, teasingly, why he married me. His response was immediate, "Big boobs and a good mind. With those assets I knew I wouldn't get bored." Twenty-three years and six pregnancies have flattened the chest, expanded the waist, and added twenty pounds to my frame. But he still thinks I'm sexy. Hopefully, my mind has improved!

I think I'm living an Ephesians' marriage. I'm a well-loved woman. (But I don't think I'm going to let him get new glasses, just in case!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Article on the effects of gay marriage on society

I've recently been asked: In what way do you think legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians will undermine society and traditional marriage? Aside from the slippery-slope problem (If gays, why not pediphiles or other sexual inclinations that people are "born with"?), there is the problem outlined in thie long, but informative article:

As rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed to marry? It follows that once marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, that change cannot help but lock in and reinforce the very cultural separation between marriage and parenthood that makes gay marriage conceivable to begin with.

We see this process at work in the radical separation of marriage and parenthood that swept across Scandinavia in the nineties. If Scandinavian out-of-wedlock birthrates had not already been high in the late eighties, gay marriage would have been far more difficult to imagine. More than a decade into post-gay marriage Scandinavia, out-of-wedlock birthrates have passed 50 percent, and the effective end of marriage as a protective shield for children has become thinkable. Gay marriage hasn't blocked the separation of marriage and parenthood; it has advanced it.

WE SEE THIS most clearly in Norway. In 1989, a couple of years after Sweden broke ground by offering gay couples the first domestic partnership package in Europe, Denmark legalized de facto gay marriage. This kicked off a debate in Norway (traditionally more conservative than either Sweden or Denmark), which legalized de facto gay marriage in 1993. (Sweden expanded its benefits packages into de facto gay marriage in 1994.) In liberal Denmark, where out-of-wedlock birthrates were already very high, the public favored same-sex marriage. But in Norway, where the out-of-wedlock birthrate was lower--and religion traditionally stronger--gay marriage was imposed, against the public will, by the political elite.

Norway's gay marriage debate, which ran most intensely from 1991 through 1993, was a culture-shifting event. And once enacted, gay marriage had a decidedly unconservative impact on Norway's cultural contests, weakening marriage's defenders, and placing a weapon in the hands of those who sought to replace marriage with cohabitation. Since its adoption, gay marriage has brought division and decline to Norway's Lutheran Church. Meanwhile, Norway's fast-rising out-of-wedlock birthrate has shot past Denmark's. Particularly in Norway--once relatively conservative--gay marriage has undermined marriage's institutional standing for everyone.

Whole article found at:

While you may still disagree with the conclusions, I hope this article helps to explain the underlying reasoning some of us think gay marriage is big step in the wrong direction.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Illegal immigration...or breaking into your house..

In a letter to an editor....a woman writes:

Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the US might protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely.

Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests.

Let's say I break into your house.

Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave.

But I say, "I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors.

I've done all the things you don't like to do.

I'm hard-working and honest except for when I broke into your house."

According to the protesters:

You are required to let me stay in your house.

You are required to add me to your family's insurance plan.

You are required to educate my kids.

You are required to provide other benefits to me and to my family.

My husband will do all of your yard work because he is also hard-working and honest, except for that breaking in part.

If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my RIGHT to be there.

It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself.

I'm a hard-working and honest person, except for well, you know, I did break into your house.

And what a deal it is for me!!!

I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of cold, uncaring, selfish, prejudiced, and bigoted behavior.

Oh yeah, I DEMAND that you learn MY LANGUAGE!!! so you can communicate with me.

Can't people see how ridiculous this is?! Only in America ...

Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Natural and Supernatural..

Naturalism is the denial of anything supernatural. Modern science is naturalism at its most...well...natural. ;-) Modern science vigorously denies the supernatural. Science, if I may be allowed to personify it for ease of discussion, is very good at what it does. Science investigates and explains the natural world. By definition it is not supernatural, nor can it be so. Science is limited to looking at only the physical, or the effects of the physical (as in the case of theoretical math and physics, and evolution which can't always be observed directly).

But science isn't all-knowing. Scientist say they have refuted miracles, but that's impossible. Science can't deal in miracles at all. Since science can only measure the physical, they can only decern "miracles" once the miracles, or other supernatural event, has entered the natural realm where it is observable. Someone may be suddenly and inexplicably cured from cancer. Science can decern the effects..see that the person is now cancer-free...and perhaps form a hypothesis for why, but the act of healing isn't itself measurable. And since it isn't measurable, the cause may remain unknowable to science.

Science is invaluable for explaining the natural world. It isn't always "right," as history has proven, but it's moving forward, gaining more information and improving our understanding of our world and ourselves. Where "science" falls short is when it tries to go beyond its own limitations and promise more than it can deliver. Science could use a little humility. Scientists too often try to take the information gleaned and attempt to answer questions the information was never meant to answer. Proof of relationships between organisms says nothing about whether or not God created the universe. It only explains the relationship between the organisms. Evolution is an explanation for what we see. It can say nothing about what we can't see. We can't see God, and so science has nothing to say about God. Science shouldn't try.

On the other hand, I think religion shouldn't try to answer the questions of science. Perhaps "faith" needs a little more humility as well. As a believer, I firmly believe God created the universe. As a scientist I'm willing to look at the evidence left in the natural world about how the universe came into being. Somehow, somewhere, those two things (imo) don't contradict.

In a similar manner as the Theological Twister post, this is an area of continuing fence-straddling and mental conundrums for me. Only in this case I'm not assured of ever living without the conundrum. As long as we are bound to the natural, even as we house souls bound to the supernatural, we will feel the pull and strain. But I'd rather feel the strain than to try to live without either in my own life. I chose to believe two competing ideas at the same time, and will to live with the consequences.