Friday, June 29, 2007
I do realize that my desire to pack the students in bubble wrap and handcuff them to chairs where they can do neither themselves nor any one else damage is a bit irrational.
So, seeking a little comfort and a cosmic "This too shall pass" and "It will all be fine..." I came across the following: Psalm 16:8-11.
Here it is in the NIV:
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
And in The Message (just for fun, and because it's groovy):
7-8 The wise counsel God gives when I'm awake
is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I'll stick with God;
I've got a good thing going and I'm not letting go.
9-10 I'm happy from the inside out,
and from the outside in, I'm firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell—
that's not my destination!
11 Now you've got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I'm on the right way.
(Yes, I'm a fan of BibleGateway.com.)
So my prayer is for grace and peace, for myself and all of these students, and, if possible, freedom from injury and no further need for interactions with the police, police stations, paramedics or emergency rooms. Please.
And finally, a blessing from early Irish literature:
A Brigit bennach ar sét
nachar·tair bét ar ar cúairt;
a chaillech a l-Lifi lán
co·rísem slán ar tech úait.
O Brigit, bless our road, that calamity may not overtake us as we travel; O veiled one from the laden Liffey, may we reach home safely by your intercession.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
25 SIGNS YOU HAVE GROWN UP
1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them..
2. Having sex in a single bed is out of the question.
3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.
4. 7:00 am is when you get up, not when you go to bed.
5. You hear your favourite song in an elevator.
6. You watch the Weather Channel.
7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of "hook up" and "break up."
8. You go from 130 days of holidays to 20. [Does not apply to us slackers in academia.]
9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up."
10. You're the one calling the police because those f**king kids next door won't turn down the stereo.
11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.
13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.
14. You feed your dog Pal Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.
15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.
16. You take naps from noon to 6 pm.
17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.
18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 am would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.
19. If you're a girl, you go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.
20. A £2.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good stuff."
21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.
22. "I just can't drink the way I used to" replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again."
23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work. [And maybe a little blogging.]
24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.
25. You read this entire list looking desperately for one sign that doesn't apply to you and can't find one to save your sorry old butt.
BONUS: When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking "Oh s**t - what happened?"
Looking at these old pictures, I've come to two main conclusions:
1) My friends and family are lovely, cool fun people ... and I miss you all!!!
2) goodNESS -- writing a dissertation packs on the pounds. This is not even a little ok.
Reason number 875 to get on with it and move on to the rest of my life....
Thanks, always, for all of your prayers and support and kind words, and even for the boxes of chocolate and donuts that were NECESSARY at the time...
(mini Addendum: "writing a dissertation" = worrying about, obsessing about, freaking out about, frantically writing, ignoring, mental paralysis, long nights, days when I couldn't get out of bed, days when everything was ok, sharing with friends, completely closing myself off from all contact with friends, and everything else in between.)
Today's post will be by Stephanie ... in a little while, I'm sure. It's not even 4 a.m. there!! As always, you can read the 40-day Fast posts by clicking the link on the top right-hand corner of my blog.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
On the other hand, this also allows people to publish blatant untruths and the web is full of both trustworthy and less-than-trustworthy sources. Huge amounts of damage to reputation can be done based on hear-say and rumour; but hear-say and rumour that have added clout, because they are appearing in print.
When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We’re all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer — and each of us so much more transparent.
The implications of all this are the subject of a new book by Dov Seidman, founder and C.E.O. of LRN, a business ethics company. His book is simply called “How.” Because Seidman’s simple thesis is that in this transparent world “how” you live your life and “how” you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor. To win now, he argues, you have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.
If you would like to read more, you can contact me or become a member of TimesSelect. If you have an ".edu" email address, this is free (according to Texas In Africa ... I haven't had the chance to check it out for myself). Otherwise, it's really not all that expensive. Personally, I enjoy having access to all of the op-ed pieces and the blogs, as well as some of the Magazine articles, etc.
Addendum: I tried to register for NY Times Select with my ".edu" email address, but it seems to be the same price as usual. Sorry to mislead you or give you false hope!! There is a 14-day free trial, should you like to check it out.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
And Bambergers are proud to refer to this as "Freak-City", because they are a city of Basketball freaks, the proud fans of the hometown team, the "Brose Baskets". Sorry, I have no idea what "Brose" means ... maybe they are their sponsor.
Well, the Brose Baskets are in the Bundesliga of German Basketball, which means they are in the highest league. And tonight they won the National Championship against the "Artland Dragons". Again, I think "Artland" must be a sponsor. No clue where they are from and I don't even care ... because Bamberg won, which means they are the German Champions:
Deutsche Meister 2007
For those of you unfamiliar with sports in Europe, this means cars are still driving through the streets honking, and people are hanging out of windows yelling. The game was away, so we all gathered at "Max Platz" and watched the game on a big screen. There was a huge party after, but I just stayed for a little while. It poured down rain while we were standing there, and it's in the 50s today, but nobody cared. They just put up their hoods or opened umbrellas and continued to stand and watch the game. THAT'S dedication.
This, for me, is the single greatest reason why the Protestant Fundamentalist notion of a 'rapture' is rather silly: It asserts that God will beam up to heaven all the 'good Christians' so they can be spared the suffering of the trials and tribulations right before they happen. Such a belief reveals a perception of 'suffering' and 'punishment' (Take THAT, evil non-Christians! God's gonna get you GOOD while everone else watches your sorry asses from our luxury sky boxes in the comfort of heaven!) that couldn't get much more simplistic or one-dimensional. It misses the point of what punishment even is, and shows that fundamentalists are better suited and more inclined to the 'law written in stone' of the Old Testament, as opposed to the 'law written in our hearts' that marked the catyclismic transformation of the New Testament. To put it another way, the people of God once obeyed Him because they did what God told them. But God wanted more for us: he wanted us to to ultmately obey him not because we can grasp that he calls the shots, but rather because he wanted us to recognize for ourselves that it was the right thing to do. (This is an oversimplification of the Catholic Church's perception of Salvation History, but that's a big part of it: God leading his people to him in gradual stages. And Fundamentalists seem either too stubborn or too afraid to develop their relationship with God beyond lazy blind adherence.)
Monday, June 25, 2007
June 24, 2007, 7:17 pm
Is Religion Man-Made?
Sure it is. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens think that this fact about religion is enough to invalidate its claims.
“[R]eligion and the churches,” declares Hitchens “are manufactured, and this salient fact is too obvious to ignore.” True to his faith, Dawkins finds that the manufacturing and growth of religion is best described in evolutionary terms: “[R]eligions, like languages, evolve with sufficient randomness, from beginnings that are sufficiently arbitrary, to generate the bewildering – and sometimes dangerous – richness of diversity.” Harris finds a historical origin for religion and religious traditions, and it is not flattering: “The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology.”
And, they continue, it wasn’t even the work of sand-strewn men who labored in the same place at the same time. Rather, it was pieced together from fragments and contradictory sources and then had claimed for it a spurious unity: “Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world” (Dawkins).
Hitchens adds that “the sciences of textual criticism, archaeology, physics, and molecular biology have shown religious myths to be false and man-made.” And yet, wonders Harris, “nearly 230 million Americans believe that a book showing neither unity of style nor internal consistency was authored by an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent deity.”
So there’s the triple-pronged case. Religions are humanly constructed traditions and at their center are corrupted texts that were cobbled together by provincial, ignorant men who knew less about the world than any high-school teenager alive today. Sounds devastating, but when you get right down to it, all it amounts to is the assertion that God didn’t write the books or establish the terms of worship, men did, and that the results are (to put it charitably) less than perfect.
But that is exactly what you would expect. It is God (if there is one) who is perfect and infinite; men are finite and confined within historical perspectives. And any effort to apprehend him – including the efforts of the compilers of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran – will necessarily fall short of a transparency that will be achieved (if it is achieved) only at a future moment of beatific vision. Now – any now, whether it be 2007 or 6,000 years ago – we see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians, 13:12); one day, it is hoped, we shall see face to face.
In short, it is the unfathomable and unbridgeable distance between deity and creature that assures the failure of the latter to comprehend or prove (in the sense of validating) the former.
O.L. (in a comment on June 11), identifies the “religion is man-made claim” as the “strongest foundation of atheism” because “it undermines the divinity of god.” No, it undermines the divinity of man, which is, after all, the entire point of religion: man is not divine, but mortal (capable of death), and he is dependent upon a creator who by definition cannot be contained within human categories of perception and description. “How unsearchable are his Judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor” (Romans, 11:33-34). It is no wonder, then, that the attempts to contain him – in scriptures, in ceremonies, in prayer – are flawed, incomplete and forever inadequate. Rather than telling against divinity, the radical imperfection, even corruption, of religious texts and traditions can be read as a proof of divinity, or at least of the extent to which divinity exceeds human measure.
If divinity, by definition, exceeds human measure, the demand that the existence of God be proven makes no sense because the machinery of proof, whatever it was, could not extend itself far enough to apprehend him.
Proving the existence of God would be possible only if God were an item in his own field; that is, if he were the kind of object that could be brought into view by a very large telescope or an incredibly powerful microscope. God, however – again if there is a God – is not in the world; the world is in him; and therefore there is no perspective, however technologically sophisticated, from which he could be spied. As that which encompasses everything, he cannot be discerned by anything or anyone because there is no possibility of achieving the requisite distance from his presence that discerning him would require.
The criticism made by atheists that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated is no criticism at all; for a God whose existence could be demonstrated wouldn’t be a God; he would just be another object in the field of human vision.
This does not mean that my arguments constitute a proof of the truth of religion; for if I were to claim that I would be making the atheists’ mistake from the other direction. Nor are they arguments in which I have a personal investment. Their purpose and function is simply to show how the atheists’ arguments miss their mark and, indeed, could not possibly hit it.
At various points Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens all testify to their admiration for Shakespeare, who, they seem to think, is more godly than God. They would do well to remember one of the bard’s most famous lines, uttered by Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
because I used the words "sex", "dead" and "gay". Not in the same post, I'm pretty sure :).
If you'd like to know what YOUR blog is rated, go here. Brian Kaylor helpfully pointed out that Albert Mohler (of SBC fame...) received an "NC-17" rating.
Addendum: I'm a little embarrassed to note that after checking the blogs of my family and friends, mine has the worst rating. Everyone else is rated "G"! Good grief... Well, maybe this means more of you will read mine now, looking out for the occasional saucy bits :).
Addendum 2: Wes has very nicely pointed out that I have been demoted to "R". Please watch over your children accordingly...
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other, doesn't make any sense.
by the Sufi poet, Rumi.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
What does one do in situations like this? Build a church, of course. A giant church on a hill, which is the highest thing for miles around: Vierzehnheiligen, dedicated to the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
On June 23, 2007 (today, for those of you keeping track), as my train pulled out of Lichtenfels (the basket-weaving capitol of Germany, but more on that in a second...), I saw a vision:
I looked to the right out of the train window, towards the west, and I saw Vierzehnheiligen for the first time, rising out of the mist above the Main valley, with the sun setting behind it. The most amazing sight I've seen in a long time ... but you will have to be satisfied with my paltry description, because just as I lifted my camera up to take the picture, it announced (snidely, I'm sure) "Please change the Battery Pack" and turned itself off. My picture would have been way better than any of the ones at Wikipedia, but alas...
My camera did, however, survive long enough to take a picture of "the largest hand-woven basket in the world". Here it is:
I'm not sure that I buy it, but it's what the people of Lichtenfels want to believe. And trust me, they are ALL about basket-weaving, and have apparently been that way for centuries. So, there you go. Everybody has to have their thing, I suppose.
I was on my way back from meeting my dissertation advisor in Saalfeld (and then Rudolstadt). Here are a few pictures as proof:
This is the castle from the outside. Yes, it was raining. No, I did not have an umbrella. No, I did not care.
This is the castle from the inside. It is a "Rococo Masterpiece".
One of the Duchesses or Princesses or some such who once dwelled in the castle.
The Saale river in Saalfeld. My trip was accompanied by rivers ... I rode along the Saale and then along the Main ... it's lovely the way the tracks follow the rivers through the Thuringian forest and in northern Franconia.
Friday, June 22, 2007
When I read down the list of participants, I was surprised to see Andrew Osenga's name, a musician whose music I've only recently begun to listen to. He and Alli Rogers performed with Derek Webb in Birmingham a few weeks (can it be?) ago. I highly recommend all three of them ...
The German "business climate" has dropped a little from the 16-year-high in December. But analysts see no reason to be concerned. The happy news? This means the Euro-Dollar exchange is moving ever-so-slightly in my favor. Still higher than last summer, but better than it was two weeks ago, and better than I expected.
Christine Lagarde is the first ever female Minister of Business and Finance in France.
Yoga is taking center stage ... and the middle of Times Square. It has also entered the U.S. Army, where the moves are given manly names like "dive-bombers" rather than "downward dog" and "upward-facing dog".
And finally, from Judith Warner's delightful "Domestic Disturbances" blog, and her comment on transparency in politics, specifically in light of Segolene Royal publically dumping her boyfriend (he apparently found out that they were over from the news):
I think that transparency – as an excuse for publicly airing dirty laundry – is far overrated. Recent history has shown us, after all, that there’s no genuine connection between being a “good” person and doing good as a politician. Straight-laced, God-fearing, wife-abiding Good Men have long brought us policies that do a great deal of harm to major portions of our population, while philanderers have managed to do a lot of good.
Namaste, and blessings for your journey today...
When Preaching Flops
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: June 22, 2007
A little while ago, a national study authorized by Congress found that abstinence education programs don’t work. That gave liberals a chance to feel superior because it turns out that preaching traditional morality to students doesn’t change behavior.
But in this realm, nobody has the right to feel smug. American schools are awash in moral instruction — on sex, multiculturalism, environmental awareness and so on — and basically none of it works. Sex ed doesn’t change behavior. Birth control education doesn’t produce measurable results. The fact is, schools are ineffectual when it comes to values education. You can put an adult in front of a classroom or an assembly, and that adult can emit words, but don’t expect much impact.
That’s because all this is based on a false model of human nature. It’s based on the idea that human beings are primarily deciders. If you pour them full of moral maxims, they will be more likely to decide properly when temptation arises. If you pour them full of information about the consequences of risky behavior, they will decide to exercise prudence and forswear unwise decisions.
That’s the way we’d like to think we are, but that’s not the way we really are, and it’s certainly not the way teenagers are. There is no central executive zone in the brain where all information is gathered and decisions are made. There is no little homunculus up there watching reality on a screen and then deciding how to proceed. In fact, the mind is a series of parallel processes and loops, bidding for urgency.
We’re not primarily deciders. We’re primarily perceivers. The body receives huge amounts of information from the world, and what we primarily do is turn that data into a series of generalizations, stereotypes and theories that we can use to navigate our way through life. Once we’ve perceived a situation and construed it so that it fits one of the patterns we carry in our memory, we’ve pretty much rigged how we’re going to react, even though we haven’t consciously sat down to make a decision.
Construing is deciding.
A boy who grew up in a home where he was emotionally rejected is going to perceive his girlfriend differently than one who grew up in a happier home, even though he might not be able to tell you why or how. Women who grow up in fatherless homes menstruate at an earlier age than those who don’t, and surely perceive their love affairs differently as well.
Women who live in neighborhoods with a shortage of men wear more revealing clothing and are in general more promiscuous than women in other neighborhoods. They probably are not conscious of how their behavior has changed, but they’ve accurately construed their situation (tougher competition for mates) and altered their behavior accordingly.
When a teenage couple is in the backseat of a car about to have sex or not, or unprotected sex or not, they are not autonomous creatures making decisions based on classroom maxims or health risk reports. Their behavior is shaped by the subconscious landscapes of reality that have been implanted since birth.
Did they grow up in homes where they felt emotionally secure? Do they often feel socially excluded? Did they grow up in a neighborhood where promiscuity is considered repulsive? Did they grow up in a sex-drenched environment or an environment in which children are buffered from it? (According to a New Zealand study, firstborns are twice as likely to be virgins at 21 than later-born children.)
In other words, the teenagers in that car won’t really be alone. They’ll be in there with a whole web of attitudes from friends, family and the world at large. Some teenagers will derive from those shared patterns a sense of subconscious no-go zones. They’ll regard activities in that no-go zone the way vegetarians regard meat — as a taboo, beyond immediate possibility.
Deciding is conscious and individual, but perceiving is subconscious and communal. The teen sex programs that actually work don’t focus on the sex. They focus on the environment teens live in. They work on the substratum of perceptions students use to orient themselves in the world. They don’t try to lay down universal rules, but apply the particular codes that have power in distinct communities. They understand that changing behavior changes attitudes, not the other way around.
They understand that whether it’s in middle school or the Middle East, getting human nature right is really important. We’re perceivers first, not deciders.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
It is a needed reminder for me, at least, because I sometimes get very angry when I see what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention. I get angry because it used to be MY convention and I feel it was usurped and changed into something I cannot even recognize anymore.
But I am not sure exactly what that reconciliation should look like. While I have very strong feelings about the wrongness and un-Christlike-ness of some of the beliefs promulgated by the SBC on the one hand, I on the other do not believe that it is necessary for fellow Christians to think just as I think. Personally, I find it enriching to talk with people from other faith traditions and learn from them, even if we do not agree on every point. But I do not feel the same charity toward the SBC leadership.
A Catholic philosopher recently posted a list of "corporal and spiritual works of mercy". I don't think it is definitive or complete, but I like his emphasis on what we should do for those around us. And I like the conception of it as a sacrificial gift both to God and to the person for whom we do the "works of mercy". Here is the list:
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
*Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
*Admonish the sinner
Comfort the afflicted
*Forgive all injuries
*Bear wrongs patiently
*Pray for the living and the dead
I put stars by the ones I deem most relevant to this discussion. We should "bear wrongs patiently" and "forgive all injuries", but also "instruct the ignorant" and "admonish the sinner". And of course, always, "pray for the living and the dead".
But what do we do if we think that others are significantly leading fellow believers astray?
And I get a little bored seeing the same old thing in the mirror after a while, so that involves a new hairstyle. No worries, it's not pink or green or blue or purple ... this time ... just a little shorter. Ok, a lot shorter. Here are the pictures:
And no, I won't be using as much styling product as the girl in the salon, nor will I wear my hair in my eyes, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing it.
I thought it was short before, but you wouldn't believe how much hair ended up on the floor ... crazy.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
A fun article about biblical and historical models of marriage. Are we sure we want to follow the biblical model?? This is the author's tongue-in-cheek response to Paige Patterson and the start of a course in "biblical homemaking" at Southwestern Seminary. But I think it emphasizes that we read and understand the Bible through the filter of our own understanding of how the world works, which is in turn informed by the culture in which we grow up and our own experiences. None of us thinks that, because the Bible discusses the appropriate way to treat slaves, it is an endorsement of slavery per se. In the same way I think it is important to realize that the descriptions of the relations between men and women grew out of a deeply patriarchal culture, in which women were possessed merely for the purpose of creating and raising offspring, and were never educated nor trained for any other purpose.
Our experience tells us that none of the "physical" restraints previously believed to make women less rational and educable (and thus worth less) than men hold true (i.e. we know that the uterus is not an animal that roams around in a woman's body and makes her crazy; we know that women are not generally colder and more damp than men; and we know that women's sexual organs are not simply an inverted version of male sexual organs that the woman's body wasn't "hot" enough to expel).
We also know that Jesus Christ (our model for behaviour) treated men and women equally, perhaps to the great chagrin of his followers. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well as an equal, and he allowed Mary to sit at his feet and be taught. If he'd believed a woman's place was in the kitchen, he would have sent her in to help Martha. But he felt that Mary had just as much a right to hear his teaching as the men, and that she was just as capable of understanding it. Never mind the fact that the women were the first to the tomb, the first to whom He appeared, and the first to realize and proclaim that He had risen from the dead.
So, in spite of biblical injunctions to the contrary, which I believe are remnants of an earlier and perhaps less-than-ideal understanding (from God's point-of-view; again, in my personal opinion), it is time to rejoice that we can finally accept the fact that God calls each person individually to ministry. He gifts us and endows us each with talents, He remains with us as we walk along our own personal path, teaching us along the way. And he gives us the knowledge and the desire to pass that knowledge and wisdom on to others, and thus continue making this world a better place. All this to say, it is my blessing to worship in the church pastored by Sarah Shelton, and I am saddened that Calvary Baptist in Waco will be losing the leadership of Julie Pennington-Russell, but pleased that First Baptist Decatur has chosen to call her.
Pastor Julie said it best: "I am a pastor, not in spite of what the Bible says, but because of what the Bible says."
I believe that a marriage should be based on mutual love, mutual respect, and the desire to come together to create a life and create a home, and create something bigger and better than either of the two people individually could have created. We do each have different gifts and talents that will mean we take on different roles within the marriage. But I think those gifts and talents and choices come about based on all of the myriad things that make us who we are; our gender and personal hormone levels are just one factor.
In a Christian marriage, the two partners should encourage one another in spiritual growth, and in their desire to obey God and follow Christ and His teachings. Each person should bring all of their strenghts and weaknesses to the table, and should support, encourage and ENJOY one another.
Blessings and peace to each of you and on your journey...
Baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ, let us offer prayers with deep compassion.
For this holy gathering and for the people of God in every place.
Lord, have mercy.
For all nations, peoples, tribes, clans, and families.
Lord, have mercy.
For mercy, justice, and peace throughout the world.
Lord, have mercy.
For this city and every place.
Lord, have mercy.
For all those in every danger and calamity: those afflicted and suffering hardship, those beaten and imprisoned, those sleepless and hungry.
Lord, have mercy.
For the dying and the dead, and all who mourn.
Lord, have mercy.
For ourselves, our families and companions, and those we love.
Lord, have mercy.
Lifting our voices with all creation, with the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ. To you, O Lord.
God of everlasting mercy, hear the prayers we offer this day for all who suffer and are rejected, and open our hearts to see your face in all your human creatures; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From the Prayers of the People written by Deacon Ormonde Plater for the Diocese of Louisiana - Anglican)
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
That is the case with one particular teacher, Kuni, who also teaches Spanish. And because Kuni was kind enough to make copies of several German music CDs for me, I thought the least I could do would be to help him find songs by singers who switch -- in the song -- between Spanish and English.
Thanks to my wonderful and knowledgeable friends, this quest has not taken long. I've put together a fun mix for Kuni. But I wanted to share the "coup de grace" with all of you:
En el cielo no hay cerveza by Flaco Jimenez.
Why does it win the prize? Because it is in Spanish, English, and German (or maybe Dutch? Listen and you'll see why I'm wondering...).
A fun way to spend the evening. Here is the list of songs, for those of you who are interested:
En el Cielo No Hay Cerveza (In Heaven There Is No Beer) -Flaco Jimenez
Corona Con Lima -Gary P. Nunn
Carito -Carlos Vives
El Tejano -Cowboy Troy
Senorita Mas Fina -Kevin Fowler
(Hey Baby) Qué Paso -Texas Tornados
Cumbia Raza -Los Lobos
Corazon Espinado -Santana & Mana
He Is a Tejano -Texas Tornados
Panama Tones / Nuevo Boogaloo -The Iguanas
Lupita -The Iguanas
Órale -Los Lonely Boys
Siempre Abuelita (Always Grandma) -Tish Hinojosa
You Are My Sunshine -Santiago Jimenez, Jr.
Belle -Jack Johnson
Ballad of the Sun and the Moon -Alejandro Escovedo
Dos Hermanos / Two Brothers -Alejandro Escovedo
Manos Huesos y Sangre/Hands Bones and Blood (Song for Frida Kahlo) [Live]
- Tish Hinojosa
So, in my quest for code-switching Tex-Mex musicians, I came across the Big Bayou Bandits. No code-switching, pure Spanish. But listen closely ... these are three guys from Bruges, Belgium, and you can hear it in their pronunciation. Too funny. They play all kinds of root music, including cajun and zydeco ...
Monday, June 18, 2007
Texas in Africa reflects on what we should really be about:
Church is not supposed to be about doctrinal fights or the color of the carpet in the new ministry center. I don't even believe that it is ultimately to be about what gets said in the sermon, or the music, or what the pastor prays. Church is more than a building, more than a service. Church is God's people in the world, doing the work of justice and mercy in humility and gratefulness. Church is sharing our lives, our possessions, our money, our access to medication and expensive machines and people for whom $60 means skipping a night or two of eating out and seeing a movie.
Church is giving a mother and her three little girls a chance at redemption.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
1) How far are we willing to go to control nature and force it to submit to our desires?
2) How long will it take until nature reminds us of her presence?
3) I've never been to Phoenix; I've heard many good things about it and can understand why people are moving there. But how long can this go on?
(By the way, I do recommend Times Select ... it gives you access to the most interesting articles and information, in my opinion)
The First Domed City
by Timothy Egan; June 16, 2007
Every week, more than 2,000 people move to the Valley of Sun, to a metro area nearly as big in size as the state of New Jersey. They come from Pittsburgh, from Buffalo, from Cleveland, from Fargo — from yesterday to tomorrow.
A city equal to Rochester plants itself here every two years. And what they find is a compelling urban experiment: nearly four million people trying to live in the Sonoran Desert, and live with what they had at home — golf courses, lakes, perennial green. But they also learn that summer is winter, in the sense that Phoenicians stay indoors this time of year, hunkered inside a climate-controlled world, and plan their extended midday excursions like an astronaut going for a space walk. In the stillness of late-afternoon, you wonder: where is everybody?
Phoenix, even more than the other desert metropolis of Las Vegas, is the new American city. People come here because nobody has a past, and because houses are still cheap and because when the snow reached the roofline they finally said: That’s it! I’ve had it.
But what if this place — so new the Bubble Wrap is barely off the red-tiled roofs of neighborhoods named for whatever they displaced — became uninhabitable? What if the climate models that predict the American West heating up faster than any other part of the country proved all too accurate?
If you live here, you know what it means when the sun becomes an enemy. On Thursday, it was 110 degrees. Yesterday, same thing. Too hot to leave a dog or a child in a car without risking their lives. Your skin stings. You feel your brain swelling while waiting for the air-conditioning when you get in the oven of a parked car.
About 800 people will be hospitalized, on average, for heat-related maladies in the coming months, and some will die, mostly the very young and the very old.
As heat waves go, this week’s mercury-topper is nothing special. It’s been 121 degrees — the all-time high. But if you look at the trends and the long-term predictions by the United Nations climate panel, you wonder how our signature New City will adapt. The average temperature of Phoenix has risen five degrees since the 1960s, according to the National Weather Service. Five of the warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000.
A few years ago, The Arizona Republic predicted that average temperatures in Phoenix might rise by 15 to 20 degrees over a generation, due to something called the urban heat island effect. The more parking lots and Dilbert-filled buildings are slapped over the desert floor, the more heat stays trapped in the valley. On top of that is climate change.
“All of the models say in the next 50 years this place is really going to heat up,” said Robert Balling, a climatologist at Arizona State University.
Outside the city, the forests of Arizona are dying, stressed by drought and rising temperatures. A fire that burned an area the size of metro Phoenix five years ago is seen as a terrifying precursor. What scientists have found is that there’s a threshold at which the forest ecosystem collapses. They’ve looked at droughts going back to the time of the Hohokam, who built canals here, and cannot find anything like the present crash.
Is there a similar point at which the city becomes imperiled? The skeptics say: No, we can engineer our way around it. Look at the ballpark where the Diamondbacks play baseball: It has a retractable roof, which is closed while the stadium is cooled by industrial-strength air-conditioning and then opened in the evening.
Or behold the great veins of the Central Arizona Project, bringing water from the Colorado River to fountains in Scottsdale. The fast-evaporating water courses through the city as it bakes, making it livable.
To their credit, residents are using less water, deploying the sun to power air-conditioning, putting in desert landscaping — cacti and stones, not bluegrass and ponds. I do not doubt that innovation will continue to make it easier to defy the heat. But it’s one thing to bring runoff from the Rocky Mountains to the desert floor. It’s another to bring alpine air to streets and parks and backyards, unless you put a dome over the whole city.
Wallace Stegner always said it was his hope that the West could build cities to match the setting. He never predicted that the setting would be the problem.
Timothy Egan, a former Seattle correspondent for The Times and the author of “The Worst Hard Time,” is a guest columnist.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I don't need to be a global citizen
Because I'm blessed by nationality
I'm member of a growing populace
We enforce our popularity
There are things that
Seem to pull us under
And there are things
That drag us down
But there's a power
And a vital presence
That's lurking all around
We've got the American Jesus
See him on the interstate
We've got the American Jesus
He helped build the
I feel sorry
For the earth's population
cuz so few
Live in the u.s.a.
At least the foreigners
Can copy our morality
They can visit but they cannot stay
Only precious few
Can garner the prosperity
It makes us walk
With renewed confidence
We've got a place to go when we die
And the architect resides right here
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions every day
(exercising his authority)
He's the farmer's barren fields
The force the army wields
The expession in the faces
Of the starving children
The power of the man
He's the fuel that drives the clan
He's the motive and conscience
Of the murderer
He's the preacher on t.v.
The false sincerity
The form letter that's written
By the big computers
He's the nuclear bombs
And the kids with no moms
And I'm fearful that
He's inside me
This song is from Bad Religion's 1993 album "Recipe for Hate". I think it's remarkable how much it still rings true.
the smell of virgin pages wafted through the swinging doors
and the croaking speech he'd heard from country's counselors before
"we all care for you, we know how you suffer
but I know you can succeed, I used to have it so much rougher"
there's hope in the words and emotion in the eyes
it's so easy to be misled by the savvy gentle guise
and like fools we trust the delivery
but it's all just drunk sincerity
in maternal family assembly poised regarding the blue tube
the numbers crept up higher and the hawks stayed out of view
then the generals said "we don't want our boys dead
your sons and your husbands will be coming back heroes soon"
with steam, heat, and rhythm in the back seat of the car
and adolescent perspective projecting life's forecast to the stars
you heard love from the lips and you were rapt by the hips
and the promise was eternal but you couldn't see that far
This was performed at the Lorelei festival here in Germany.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. Anais Nin
This is the ceiling of the library in the Carmelite monastery. The picture was taken from my seat, exactly as I saw it. I was there for a cabaret-esque musical comedy/dramatic reading ... two comedians performing the remarkable work of an author who was a woman at the time of the publication of the novel; but is now a man.
In his own words, it is his search "for the face of the Lord." The Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung published an excellent review by Christian Geyer. Here is an excerpt:
„Jesus von Nazareth“ ist ein Buch, dem man zweierlei wird nachsagen können: Es belebt die Auseinandersetzung um die Substanz einer Weltreligion, reisst diese Weltreligion aus den Verflachungen eines sich bloß humanitär und ethisch begreifenden Projekts heraus. Der metaphysische Ernst von Religion erhält wieder einen Bezugspunkt.
A rough paraphrase: Geyer writes that "Jesus of Nazareth" 1) revives the debate about the substance of a world religion and 2) pulls this world religion back from turning into nothing more than a "humanitarian and ethical project." He claims it revives the "metaphysical seriousness" of religion [i.e. takes the metaphysical aspects of religion seriously.]
I'm intrigued, but haven't had a chance to read the book yet. It's on my post-dissertation reading list; but I'll probably pick up a copy of the German edition here.
It is important to note, I think, that the U.S. editions (judging by how the book is described in Amazon, at least) trumpet the fact that this is Ratzinger's first book written as Pope, while the German editions note that he carefully tries to maintain that this was written by Joseph Ratzinger, the Theologian and Academic, not by Pope Benedikt XVI. It is an important distinction, because a theological and academic work is open to debate in a way a Papal Decree (or other official text) would not be, necessarily.
Germans, generally, believe strongly in the benefit of healthy debate, and in consensus reached by debate, in a way that I sometimes feel we as Americans shy away from. This is at least true for many of us from the south, where it is often felt that conflict should be avoided. I'm not saying we don't discuss and debate, but our "debates" often move away from rational discourse into the realm of ideological posturing, and shouting matches that will not and cannot lead to any meaningful consensus.
It's amazing and beautiful and moved me to tears this morning. Without further ado, here is Paul, a cell-phone salesman from Cardiff:
He is singing "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's Turandot.
"I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer,"
- Rainer Maria Rilke,
Letters To A Young Poet.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A friend sent this to me in an email. It is so beautiful, I wanted to share it with you.
I'm writing with deep sadness upon learning of the death of our sister from First Baptist, Norma Jean Anderson, this morning. If ever you wondered what patience and "waiting on God" might mean in the face of personal suffering, or wanted to feel God's hand (or see the radiant smile of the Spirit) among us, you had only to find a place close to Norma, especially during these last few years. It was palpable, contagious. Norma loved and prayed for us as a church, with a heart touched by God. For me, being church, the grace of it all, makes a whole lot more sense somehow because of who she was. Somehow, heaven is a little clearer to me today, too.Blessings and peace on all of you, and thank you for your friendship and fellowship.
And in our sorrow, we are also comforted by our friendship and fellowship.
Addendum: Texas in Africa also published a very moving portrait and remembrance of Norma Jean.
The assumption is that Estrada couldn't face trying to live and feed herself and her children on only $1300 a month.
There has got to be a way to ensure that 25-year-old mothers with 4 daughters 5 and younger are not forced to try to live on that much money.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
So, I found out today that this is St. John of Nepomuk (Johann von Nepomuk). The Bambergers refer to him as the saint of the bridges. They say he is holding Christ, because he was a holy man who spent his time contemplating the suffering of Our Lord.
The Catholic Encyclopedia said that he was tortured and then drowned by Emperor Wenceslas IV either a) because he wouldn't agree politically to what the emperor wanted him to do or b) because he wouldn't reveal the Queen's confessional secrets. Either way, this was in 1393 in Prague.
He is the patron saint of confession, according to the guy from Bamberg I talked to. And I guess he is on the bridges because he was drowned.
What I find very cool, though, is that he spent his time contemplating Christ's suffering and what that meant. It is particularly interesting to me because I've been reading "A Severe Mercy" by Sheldon Vanauken, a friend of C.S. Lewis. It poses the question of why God allows pain, suffering and death ... its meaning in the context of God's Will and the furthering of the Kingdom. And of course in the context of God's great love for us.
As Vanauken and his wife Davy would say, "All shall be most well."
Go under the mercy.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Here are the places I've been:
I may have visited 15% of the countries in the world, but Texas in Africa has definitely visited bigger countries ... I see more green on her map.
Addendum: mine should be 14%. I just realized that Turkey was on the other map, but I've never been. It's just a place I wished to go! Sorry. So, 14% ... until I go to China in August :).
You can click on "Bild für Bild" to see more pictures. My favorite one is of the ichthus balloon hats...
Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke to a crowd of young people, and was greeted like a rockstar. He told them "Ich bin Afrikaner - und ich bin euer Bruder" (I am an African, and I am your brother.)
Among other things, the relationship between Muslims and Protestants in Germany was discussed. Ayyub Axel Köhler, representative for Muslims in Germany, charged Wolfgang Huber, leader of Protestant Churches in Germany (EKD) with creating an atmosphere of "Islamophobia".
I think it's great that we are supporting Africa, but where are we going to get the money? It is ethically problematic to promise money that we will not or cannot give.
60 Billion is probably also just a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to help stem the tide of AIDS, hunger, poverty, war, and tuberculosis plaguing much of the continent.
And is this what leaders in African countries, or what the people in those countries, really feel will provide help and relief from the burdens they carry?
Thursday, June 07, 2007
And the feeling of tradition and time never leaves you. Bamberg is celebrating 1000 years as a bishopric this year. 1000 years exactly on November 1st. Saints Henry and Kunigund founded the city, and it is possible to walk into the little chapel where they worshipped. In that space, you feel both the passage of time and a curious sense of timelessness.
In addition to the churches, there are altars and saints everywhere, to mark places where someone was healed, or felt called to raise an altar. As protection on the various houses. It only takes raising your eyes a little from the road before you, and they are there, reminding you to look up further still.
They remind us also of the sign under which we are called to walk. Today it was particularly evocative, because it is the feast of Corpus Christi - Fronleichnam, in German. The High Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To celebrate, the entire city is decorated with birch trees and flowers. They place speakers all along the route which the procession takes, so it is possible to hear the mass, which begins at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 11:00.
Each parish brings the figure of its patron saint and carries it in the procession, which leads from the Cathedral down to Maximillian Square, and back up to the Cathedral.
The figures are carried very carefully on the backs and shoulders of men, grateful for the high honor. In most cases, they are carrying on a family tradition that goes back generations.
Benches are placed all around the Cathedral square for the mass, which includes a celebration of the Eucharist at 8:00 a.m. The mass itself, which is sung in both Latin and German and includes Bible readings, hymns, and various Prayers of the People, continues throughout the procession. The singing is led by cantors and by the Cathedral Choir, which only recently returned from a visit to Rome, where they sang for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
Here they are, returning to the Cathedral Square.
Here is the crowd of those gathered for the mass. Many also walked in the procession and returned to the top of the hill with it.
I enjoyed seeing the men and women dressed in traditional dresses -- Dirndl. I did see a man in Lederhosen, but he was right next to me, with his adorable, blond-haired, 2-year-old daughter right next to me in a pink dirndl. I thought it would be too obvious to take their picture.
Another high honor is to carry the candles ... they have reproductions of the hands and feet of Jesus, as a reminder of his suffering for our sins.
Traditional guilds and fraternities also take part in the procession.
This is part of the Alemannia fraternity, one of the oldest in Germany. Their motto: Gott, Freiheit, Vaterland (God, freedom, fatherland) is on the flag.
The bishop addressing the crowd at the end of the service. Right after he spoke, we sang the Te Deum. It was glorious.
This video is very short, just 22 seconds. It is just to give a little sense of the crowds, and of the church bells tolling. Of course, the sound of the wind was much stronger than that of the bells and the trumpets. Watch the two men in the foreground ... two friends coming together at the end of the mass. They greet one another with "Grüß Gott", the traditional southern German greeting. It means "greet God", and perhaps originally meant to greet God should we see him first. I don't know. But for me, it is also an acknowledgement of the piece of God that is in each one of us, the eternal soul that yearns to return to God and be united with Him. A bit like the Namaste in yoga class, which acknowledges the light in each of us. But that is just my own personal take, certainly not how others understand it!
The service today was a celebration and a reminder of Christ's suffering for us. It was also a call to see the suffering around us each day. It is rather easy to be a Christian in the U.S. or here in Germany. Especially here, to glory in the beauty of the churches, and the quaint little streets and old houses. But still we must not forget the high cost paid for us, and the sacrifice we in turn owe.
And there are those who are in a more real sense surrounded by suffering, and able to be ministers to a suffering world, or at least bring report of it back to us, so we do not forget. Texas in Africa is in the Congo now, where she'll be for ten weeks.
But we don't need to go to Africa to see suffering. It is in front of us always, if we will only be open enough to seeing and hearing. Suffering and joy, beauty and pain, the wonderful mix of humanity.
Namaste ... the Peace of the Lord be with you today.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
It's not that I wish we could go back (though it would be so nice, if all of this would just turn out to have been a long, collective nightmare). But I think it's important that we face how monumentally our poor choice of president affected the U.S. and the world, so that we will be more careful in the future. This should not be a popularity contest, but the presidency should go to the person with 1) the best ideas for the future of the country; and 2) the clearest policies. If a candidate is not able to clearly lay out what they think needs to be done, then maybe they don't need the most powerful job in the country.
Every time I come to Europe, I come face-to-face with the extent to which our economy is no longer competitive in the world market. Add to that the lack of respect many have for our Administration, and it is ugly. We need credibility to return to the White House and to our country.
Here is a portion of what Hebert wrote about Gore:
He’s pushing his book “The Assault on Reason.” I find myself speculating on what might have been if the man who got the most votes in 2000 had actually become president. It’s like imagining an alternate universe. The war in Iraq would never have occurred. Support and respect for the U.S. around the globe would not have plummeted to levels that are both embarrassing and dangerous. The surpluses of the Clinton years would not have been squandered like casino chips in the hands of a compulsive gambler on a monumental losing streak.
Mr. Gore takes a blowtorch to the Bush administration in his book. He argues that the free and open democratic processes that have made the United States such a special place have been undermined by the administration’s cynicism and excessive secrecy, and by its shameless and relentless exploitation of the public’s fear of terror.
The Bush crowd, he said, has jettisoned logic, reason and reflective thought in favor of wishful thinking in the service of an extreme political ideology. It has turned its back on reality, with tragic results.