Donald Trump and the Chamber of Secrets, All Things Considered, National Poetry Month, and Other Miscellany

1) There’s zero content about Donald Trump in this post. But, every time I put his name in the title of a blog post people read it. This post is full of poetry because it’s National Poetry Month and I want everybody to read lots of poems. Poetry trumps Trump. You’ve been baited and switched. I’m bad but you’re reading my diary so who’s worse? The person who just wants to share some poems? Or, the person who saw their friend’s diary lying there open on the coffee table of social media and decided to read it. Tread lightly, that’s how Ginny opened the Chamber of Secrets.

Also, Donald Trump is a low-rent Voldermort but ask me how I really feel about him.

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2)
 Did you do your taxes yet? Today is the half way point for National Poetry Month, though you’re more than welcome to keep reading and writing poems the rest of the year.

Poetry Magazine (the oldest English monthly poetry magazine and my favorite) is offering this month’s AMAZING issue for free!

GET IT HERE: April 2016 Poetry Magazine, digital issue

3) From that issue is this heartwrenching poem:

When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving

BY REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS

in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamir’s age, already having heard
me warn them against playing with toy pistols,
though my rhetoric is always about what I don’t
like, not what I fear, because sometimes
I think of Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping

Source: Poetry, April 2016

You can read the rest of the poem here, and please do: When I think of Tamir Rice While Driving

4)  For National Poetry Month NPR’s All Things Considered is featuring Twitter poems from the #NPRpoetry thread. I had a short poem I liked but wasn’t going to do anything with (too short for the blog, too short to submit to a magazine, and, ironically enough, sharing full poems on Twitter without warrant feels pretentious) but here was this poem I’d written about the Alyssa and Atticus. I thought I’d be pretentious for a moment and share it with the hashtag. I had hoped for maybe a Like or a Retweet, what I expect was nothing to happen. Instead a PA reached out to me a few days later and asked me to record it and I read a poem on NPR’s All Things Considered last Saturday. You can listen to my “interview” and reading here: Love is a Rube Goldberg Machine.

Here’s the poem for your reading pleasure:

Love is a Rube Goldberg Machine

bits & pieces knock together
push down a chute
pins pop & strike
matches & ignite small flames

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5) From McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: SIXTEEN CLASSIC POEMS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

“This Man Stops By Woods On a Snowy Eve… You Won’t BELIEVE What Happens Next!”
by Robert Frost

“We Should All Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Right? Here’s 10 Reasons Why You’re Dead Wrong”
by Dylan Thomas

“What Happens to a Dream Deferred? The Answer Will SHOCK YOU!”
by Langston Hughes

6) How E.E. Cummings Writes a Poem

7) If you too, like myself, are wondering how to be a poet:

How To Be a Poet
BY WENDELL BERRY
(to remind myself)

i

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Source: Poetry, January 2011

Read the rest of this here: How To Be a Poet

8) Christianity Today just launched another branch of their platform called The Local Church. I follow the editor of the project on Twitter and like him plenty, he’s got a son about the same age as mine named Atticus, but I’m not really sure what The Local Church is about yet. Maybe satire? A poet I love, Aaron Belz, wrote a poem for the inaugural issue:

The Temple Market
BY AARON BELZ

III.
SALE. This week only,
buy one male lamb,
get one FREE sheaf
of harvest grain!

Best way to prepare
for the Feast of Firstfruits

SUPPLIES LIMITED

Visit Abe’s Small Ruminants

Read the rest of the poem at The Local Church: The Temple Market

9) Like bacon, Bono is perfectly fine, if not a little overrated. But! Eugene Peterson is a personal hero, a poet and a pastor. His memoir The Pastor and his book The Contemplative Pastor greatly inform the kind of pastor I hope to be one day. Also, The Contemplative Pastor ends with a large section of his poetry. The two of them are prolific artists, both in their own right, and I could not be more excited to watch them discuss the Psalms together.

10) Final lie. This version of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By A Wood on a Snowy Eve” from Rottingpost vis a vis Donald Trump is pretty dang great:

I have a pretty good idea whose woods these are, believe me.
And let me tell you something, my people say he’s a complete nobody.
This guy lives in the village.   So what if he sees me stopping here?
I dare him to sue me!   I dare him!

And by the way, this snow is pathetic.
These are by far, the least downy flakes ever!
I hear they had to import them from Canada.
I don’t know.  Maybe they did.  Maybe they didn’t.  We’re looking into it.

Read the rest of it here: “Stopping By a Wood on a Snowy Eve by Donald Trump

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Donald Trump and the Chamber of Secrets, All Things Considered, National Poetry Month, and Other Miscellany

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton vs. Ted Cruz vs. Bernie Sanders vs. John Kasich (Who Would Jesus Vote For?)

If you’re reading this hoping that I’ll tell you who to vote for, I apologize.

Vote for whoever you want.

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Everybody keeps forgetting Kasich. Makes you feel kind of sad for him. Poor guy. Ohio still loves you.

Vote for who you think will be the best president of America. Vote for whichever candidate best represents your values. Vote intelligently – do your due diligence when researching each candidate, read a variety of resources both conservative and progressive. It won’t do you any good to just read things that agree with you because the internet is a big place. I’m certain you won’t have to look too hard to find somebody as looney as you to tell you that, “Of course you’re right. You’re always right.”

Above all, pray and search the scriptures. Let the Holy Spirit and the Word of God inform your every political opinion.

If you’re reading this to find out who Jesus would vote for I have to again apologize, I tricked you. Jesus thinks they’re all jokers and loves them anyways.

But of course we all want to know which candidate Jesus would endorse. And people always have.

There’s two stories in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is asked what he thinks of the government. The first:

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Matthew 17.24-27

Did you catch that? When it came time to pay his taxes Jesus pulled what he owed from the mouth of a fish.

Which is weird.

Fish don’t spit coin.

It was like Jesus was saying, “Here, you can have this, I don’t need it ’cause I own all of creation.

A few pages over there’s another story about Jesus and taxes, maybe a more familiar story:

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Matthew 22:15-22

The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus and basically asked him, “Hey Jesus! Who would you vote for?”

If you think America is in trouble right now you weren’t around in the first century, obviously. The Jews were an oppressed people in their own country, oppressed by Caesar and the Romans. The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus because if he had suggested revolt they’d have been able to arrest him and Rome would’ve executed Jesus for them.

The Pharisees were basically saying, “If Jesus isn’t for us, he’s against us.”

Which is exactly how I feel.

I like trying to trick Jesus too. When I was preparing for this I was absolutely prepared to decide for myself who Jesus would vote for – because I got God on my side. And for some of you I’m wondering if you reading this expecting to hear that Jesus would vote for whoever you would vote for. And how many of us are prepared to get real angry if it’s suggested that Jesus would vote for that one candidate? You know the one.

When asked which government he endorses Jesus says, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Remember Jesus can find coin in a fish’s mouth. America can take care of America, God will take care of the whole universe (which, coincidentally, includes America).

For the Christian our hope is not in the GOP, or the Democratic Socialists, or in the Clintons, Bushes, Kennedy’s, Roosevelt’s, or whatever Dynasty (duck or otherwise). Our hope is not in the Establishment, or in the Constitution. Our hope is in the Crucified and Resurrected Christ. Our hope is in the long view.

If America were to falter and fall, and who knows when but it ultimately will because every nation and kingdom does, we as Christians could still have hope because Jesus is king. One day He will establish his Kingdom here on Earth once and for all and no weapon formed against it will prosper.

But what are we to do in the meantime? Who should we vote for? How does a Christian interact with the government?

The Apostle Paul says this in Romans 13:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Romans 13.1-7

We’re to trust that God knows what He’s doing with whoever He chooses to put into office. We’re to pay our taxes, we’re to pay revenue if it’s owed, we’re to give respect and honor where it’s due.

And remember Paul is writing from a Roman prison to Roman Christians and telling them to give respect and honor to a government that crucified Jesus and would throw them to the lions. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that calling the sitting president Obummer or the Dictator-In-Chief or something worse because you don’t like his policies is in violation of what the scriptures command. Stop it.

And in case you’re think I’m harping on the conservatives, I believe that if Donald Trump wins the presidency “#MakeDonaldDrumphAgain” will also be in violation of the scriptures.

While we wait for Christ to establish His kingdom here on Earth we’re to be good citizens, we’re to do what is right and just, to submit to authorities as a matter of good conscience.

Paul continues in chapter 13:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13.8-10

We’re to do no harm to our neighbor and when harm is being done to our neighbor we’re to defend them and seek justice. We’re to be kind to one another, we’re to seek to bless our community regardless of their socioeconomic situation or political, racial, sexual, or religious affiliation.

We are to love without exception and that is the fulfillment of the law.

So who would Jesus vote for? Probably not the person we tell him to.

This election cycle, like all the election cycles before it, will work itself out. As Americans we get the privilege to vote for our leaders – so vote for whoever you think is most fit for the office. Pray about it, study the scriptures, study the issues. And realize that over the next four to eight years some good things are going to happen, some bad things are going to happen, maybe lots of bad things will happen, maybe lots of good things will happen. No matter what happens God is still King and works all thing for good for those who love him.

Love God, love people, vote accordingly.

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton vs. Ted Cruz vs. Bernie Sanders vs. John Kasich (Who Would Jesus Vote For?)

Where I’ve Been Hiding, Is God Dead? (No, 2! And Seven Stanzas!), Punching Hitler, and Other Miscellany

With gearing up for the move, Holy Week, and more preaching dates than usual for a worship pastor I’ve not had as much time to write here as I would’ve liked. Maybe April will be more fruitful. Here’s a picture of a scary Easter Bunny.

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1) Today is the first day of National Poetry Month. If you’re like, “Naw thanks. Poetry ain’t my bag, broooooo” you’re wrong. Or, maybe not. Who can say? Poetry isn’t for everybody but I say if there’s ever a time to give it a shot why not National Poetry Month?

If you need help getting started with reading poetry The Atlantic is here to help: Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies

And here’s 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month.

2) On Palm Sunday, Mach 20th, I preached on how God owns everything and made mention of what I call “Put A Bird On It Theology!” Though I wasn’t exactly kind in my take down of Christian Sub-Culture I did try and pull my punches. I get it, we Evangelicals like kitsch (even if we don’t realize it as such). Since that sermon, which you can listen to here, two articles have been published about Christian Movies (maybe the worst offender currently of “Put A Bird On It Theology!”) from two different sources.

Over at the A.V. Club, critic Randall Colburn, posed the question: Can the new wave of faith-based filmmaking transcend propaganda? He asks from a “secular” point of view and I think it is prudent to listen as an Evangelical because so often we just assume we already know everything there is to know about those we want to share the gospel with. Which is the stated point of these movies, yeah? But our assumptions are more often than not straw men we’re waiting to burn in effigy. I’ve had atheist professors at my liberal arts college who wouldn’t be persuaded with the cheap deus ex machina prostelyzation tracts from God’s Not Dead and who are among the smartest and kindest people I know. But, golly gee, Kevin Sorbo (Hercules?!) sure did suck – good thing he died.

Film-wise, it feels like it’s the evangelical community that’s distancing itself from secular audiences. God’s Not Dead had a taunting quality to it—one of its secular characters dies, the other is diagnosed with cancer—and the forthcoming God’s Not Dead 2 exudes the same kind of know-it-all hysteria that Cameron’s Saving Christmas did a couple years ago. Attitudes like that will only draw derision from the other side, and it most certainly has.

…more than a good story, evangelical audiences want to see their values reflected and reinforced on screen. They want their films to tell them they’re right. They want what is, for all intents and purposes, propaganda.

Colburn more fully addresses what he assumes (and I tend to agree with him) the motivations of the Christian filmmakers are and the merits these movies have as art. It is well worth a read, especially if you’re a Christian who enjoys these types of film but have not considered what may be going on below the surface.

From a Christian perspective, the lead film critic at Christianity Today and King’s College professor Alissa Wilkinson, wrote at Thrillist this week: I’m a Christian and I hate Christian movies. I more than enjoy her film criticism in general, especially as an Evangelical who wants something different from a movie than a “secular” audience. Her treatment here is just as critical but maybe more sympathetic. Several choice quotes:

A lot of these are basically well-intentioned kitsch, innocuous in the manner of a lousy conventional rom-com or inept indie drama. But they can be worse than that. I can excuse (or ignore) a poorly made movie. But some of the most popular faith-based movies today aren’t just sub-par entertainment — they’re anti-Christian.

As onlookers laugh these movies off, I stand in the Internet’s corner, wincing and trying not to rail. I can’t just brush it off like others. Christian theology is rich and creative and full of imagination, that’s broad enough to take up residence among all kinds of human cultures. It contains within itself the idea that art exists as a good unto itself, not just a utilitarian vehicle for messages. (In the Greek, the Bible calls humans “poems” — I love that.) There is no reason Christian movies can’t take the time to become good art. Each one that fails leaves me furious.

I once was commended for making music in the church because what point does art have other than being propaganda for the Church? No joke. A respected friend once told me that art has no point other than to be a preaching tool. Ouch. Wilkinson writes,

The part that leaves me angry, and why I’m more frustrated with any bad Christian movie than the commercial manipulation of sour blockbusters like Batman v Superman or Jurassic World, is that Christians live within a system of belief and practice that is meant primarily to be a blessing to people outside the church walls. It is a basic article of Christian belief that all people bear God’s image. We are to exercise the same boundless imagination and creativity that he does. Christians, of all people, ought to push hard against people who try to sell a fear-mongering, illogical, politically driven version of Christianity, where the goal is for your team to win, to prove you’re right.

And Christians ought to especially value exploration and truth-seeking, wherever it’s found. We ought to be making fabulous movies that raise religious questions: who are we? Why are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What should we do while we’re here? And since Christians believe in God’s very aliveness — since our theology suggests that people don’t save others’ souls, God does — and since we don’t have anything to lose, we shouldn’t think we have to swoop in and answer the question before the credits roll.

3) Speaking of film criticism, I tried that hat on to middling results this week with some thoughts regarding Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice over at my good friend Sam Jeet’s blog and it got me thinking about the nature of superhero stories. These are not new thoughts, or particularly deep, these are just scattered thoughts I’d like to explore in more detail later but for the past week I’ve been struck by how the American Superhero is an icon of a generation’s social mores.

In his miracle of a novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon chronicles a fictionalized version of the Golden Age of Comic Books through the lens of two cousins and their superhero, The Escapist. There’s an affecting scene where the cousin who draws and paints the comic, Joe Kavalier, explains his motivation:

The shaping of a golem, to [Joe] was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something– one poor, dumb, powerful thing– exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevitable failures of the greater Creation. It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape. To slip, like the Escapist, free of the entangling chain of reality and the straitjacket of physical laws.

cap-punching-hitler-630x387.jpgSo when comic books and superhero stories took off during World War Two you’d not have to look far for some colorful strongman punching Hitler in the face or at least a pastiche of Hitler.

580d6ac441fd37d2b0bcd7f2b7f406dd.jpgAfter the war and as comics progressed the culture was perceived to be better and at peace with itself and thus comics became child’s fare. Consider Batman and Robin’s adventures from the 50’s and 60’s.

As the dream of the Baby Boomers gave way to Generation X in the late 70’s and 80’s comic books took a turn to the dark and gritty. All of a sudden the very silly Green Arrow sidekick character Speedy was a drug addict and Alan Moore was writing epic takedowns of the superhero trope with graphic novels like Watchmen.Green_lantern_85.jpg

Skipping over the x-treme 90’s with its pouches and mullets and the 00’s “Hollywoodization” of comics and we’ve come to the ubiquitous Comic Book Movie/TV Show.

You can watch classic DC and Marvel characters on primetime every weeknight on the CW, CBS, Fox, and Netflix. And it seems that every weekend there’s another movie coming out with a flying guy in spandex. 2016 is unique in the amount of infighting the heroes seem to be doing. I’ve seen The Flash and Green Arrow punch Hawkman over on the CW, Daredevil avoid being shot and killed by The Punisher on Netflix. In the cinema, Superman and Batman throw each other through walls and still to come is Captain America attacking Iron Man as Tony Stark says pitifully, “I thought we were friends.”watchmen-2.jpg

I’ve been wondering what our superheroes are trying to tell us with all these grimdark stories of heroes fighting heroes. In a contentious political season, economic collapse seemingly always on the horizon, the threat of ISIS, FaceBook meme wars, YouTube comments one has to wonder if our comic books are illustrating (pun intended) the collapse of our civility. Maybe our superheroes are asking, “Why can’t we all get along? Isn’t that better?” Or, maybe I’m reading too much into it and it’s mostly just cool watching Batman punch Superman.

Batman-vs-Superman-Delayed-to-2016.jpgEverybody knows that Superman would win in that fight even if the movie doesn’t get around to it.

4) Happy National Poetry Month and  belated Easter! I read the following poem by John Updike (“Seven Stanzas at Easter”) to the worship team before service on Easter.

Seven Stanzas at Easter
John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

The hope of resurrection is not simply that (metaphorically) sad stories will have (metaophorically) happy endings but that (physically) dead and rotting people will be (physically) alive again.

And another scary Easter Bunny.

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Where I’ve Been Hiding, Is God Dead? (No, 2! And Seven Stanzas!), Punching Hitler, and Other Miscellany

Ten Ways To Never Ever Be Lost Again

1) If you’re interested in growing in prayer I would make a few suggestions.

I’m lying. First sentence of this post and I’m a liar. I would suggest only one thing.

Still lying, I would suggest 2.5 things.

I would first suggest that you begin by reading scripture, then I would ammend that (.5) by saying you should start with reading the Psalms, they were good enough for Jesus to pray through. Then I would tell you to practice by praying. If you were encouraged by the sermon you could use the scriptures I preached from to help you get started:

  • Luke 11.1-12 and Matthew 6.5-18; these are the two instances where Jesus teaches what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. The links are in further context.
  • Psalm 24
  • 1 Chronicles 29.10-20; this is the full prayer of David that I believe the common Doxology attached to The Lord’s Prayer is taken from. It’s a lovely prayer, we’d all be blessed to pray it.

2) The playlist I made for this sermon is a little more casual with the theme than I normally curate but it still is a great playlist. The tune “Every Star is a Burning Flame” by Andrew Peterson really influenced where I was going with some of the ideas. I may have even stolen a phrase from it. Other standout songs include:

  • Who Is This by John Mark McMillian; it’s pretty faithful paraphrase of Psalm 24 and has a kicking guitar solo.
  • Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters by Elton John; captures the “more than meets the eye” sentiment I was aiming for.
  • The Ocean by Matt Papa; this song was inspired by the Jonathan Edwards quote. I quoted Edwards so I would sound smarter than I am. I’m familiar with the quote because I’m familiar with the song.

3) The poem I read was “Every Riven Thing” by Christian Wiman from the book of the same name. You can buy the book here if you enjoy poetry I could not recommend it more – it’s a miracle of a book. Listen to the poet from his On Being interview read the poem and discuss writing it.

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

4) Here are some good books on prayer:

5) Would it be a sermon review if I didn’t quote CS Lewis? This is the scene after all the Kings and Queens of Narnia walk through the stable doors in The Last Battle into the New Narnia and New Earth and there eat fruit from a tree they find. His description captures exactly what I was hoping to communicate when I was comparing the riches of God’s kingdom to the world as we perceive it:

What was the fruit like? Unfortunately no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that, compared with those fruits, the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps. If you have once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it. You can’t find out what it is like unless you can get to that Country and taste it for yourself.

6) Speaking of Narnia. When I was a kid I totally studied the maps in the front covers of each book and made up my own adventures in Narnia. Don’t judge me but I’m still disappointed I never actually walked through the wardobe. But, maybe it has something to do with my impulse to write. Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon in his excellent collection of essays Maps & Legends: Reading and Writing on the Borderlands writes about how maps influenced his becoming a writer in the titular essay:

…just because you have stopped believing in something you once were promised does not mean that the promise itself was a lie. Childhood, at its best, is a perpetual adventure, in the truest sense of that overtaxed word: a setting-forth into trackless lands that might have come into existence the instant before you first laid eyes on them. How fortunate I was to be handed, at such an early age, a map to steer by, however provisional, a map furthermore ornamented with a complex nomenclature of allusions drawn from the poems, novels, and stopies of mysterious men named Faulkner, Hemingway, Frost, Hawthorne, and Fitzgerald! Those names, that adventure, are still with me every time I sit down at the keyboard to sail off, clutching some dubious map or other, into terra incognita.

The whole book is worth reading if you’re a serious fan of genre-fiction. He’s makes great arguments for why comic books, detective novels, sci-fi, fantasy should be treated with respect. The titular essay, “Maps and Legends”, was a launching pad for this sermon.

7) I alluded to a second poem that is really quite great. You should read the whole thing aloud or listen to the recording at the following link. It’s a great poem, “God’s Grandeurby Gerard Manley Hopkins

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

8) From my favorite! The Jesus Storybook Bible, a paraphrase of The Lord’s Prayer:

9) If you were still undecided on whether or not I’m a narcissisct, I quoted my own blog in the sermon:

Have you ever heard of Testa-mints? They’re Christian breath mints for when you’re suffering from a real bad case of halitosis or unbridled rage, and, anyways, Altoids will fork your tongue real quick. Also they come in assorted flavors! Next time you’re at the local Christian bookstore purchasing a Christian book with a Christian bookmark and, for good measure, a Christian CD these Christian mints should be available at the Christian register.

And now I’m linking back to that post hoping you’ll read it: Testa-Mint Theology at Duke University.

10) One more poem for the road because I’m a pretentious narcissist and this past Sunday was Palm Sunday and we didn’t give the day its due, “The Donkey” by GK Chesterton:

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.
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Donkeys. November 2, 2010. Swathi Sridharan. Some Rights Reserved.
Ten Ways To Never Ever Be Lost Again

Three Poems Walking Around Town

At The Park

The ice cream truck circles the block singing
The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
and round as Atticus slides down and down and
a ball crashes against the fence, Hey Vato!
a boy shouts while a mom whistles
The Impossible Dream, two six-year-olds play Starbucks:
iced grande white mocha with a perfection few master
a childless busker in a White Sox hat
sings Carlos Santana’s Smooth and Atticus
moves blue from red tiles on a playground abacus
two by two by three by three

PlaygroundAbacus.jpg
may07 006. April 28, 2007. Mike Wright. Some Rights Reserved.

Tortilla Breeze

I am the King of the crack that broke
your mother’s back and this the third time
I’ve walked this track:
…..Once, carrying the boy
who didn’t sleep last night
though my thumb
on his lower left rib
shhh-ed him deep
his dark eyes spied me
tip-toe, tip-toeing to
bed, or, at least I tried
until he threw his juice
to the floor, wailed, and woke
the neighbors downstairs.
…..Once, to work to work to work
it’s off to work I go
digging diamonds of a sort –
calls, reports, filing
paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.
Like Bloody Mary or Beetlejuice,
“Work. Work. Work.”
and in the mirror
a ghost steals you.
…..Once, back home
the tortilla breeze all
I could breathe wandering
lost in the thought
of this poem.

Mission San Jose 1720.jpg
Mission San Jose 1720. March 30, 2009. Texasbubba. Some Rights Reserved.

A Poem

walking the hill
to a nursery where
ancient mission doors set
back behind violet bushes burning
and never burning, existing
but not consumed
by means of being overheard
words of peace: Rest,
and catch your breath

Three Poems Walking Around Town

Lord Just Lord Don’t Destroy Us Ummm Thanks (How To Pray, Part 1)

I remember the first time I prayed aloud in a group. Pious it was not. There was a girl in the youth group, I was in high school. Nothing is sexier to 16-year-olds than piety? Lucky for this poor girl I grew up in church so I knew exactly how to pray:

Dear God, Lord, I just, Lord, ummm… You are so awesome, Lord, I just ummm… not my will but, Lord, I just ummm… want to, Lord, bless us. Lord, we need your blessing, Lord. I just ummm… want to thank you, Lord. … Lord, I pray for all those who are hurting. Ummm… Help my mom pass law school. Thanks? In Jesus name we pray, (aggressively squeezed the hand of the student next to me because Thank-God-that’s-over-I-hope-she-noticed-and-it’s-your-turn).

Lord, the only honest prayer was for my mom. She graduated top of her class. Correlation does not imply causation but… The girl and I were never more than just umm friends.

There’s an awkwardness to prayer. To an outside observer I can imagine the whole thing is kind of crazy looking. Just some goofy goofs talking to their imaginary sky friend. Even to the initiated prayer is – to put it lightly – audacious. What do any of us have to say to the King of the Universe? Creator of Every Thing, Counter of Every Atom, Igniter of Every Star, Spinner of Every Galaxy – I have some thoughts. Here, I’ll just list them off for you. It’ll be easier that way. Oh, and bless me. Thanks in advance, bro. 

What is man that God is mindful of us? Is it no wonder his followers ask Jesus how to pray? It’s not really the kind of thing you want to get wrong LEST YOU BE DESTROYED! 

The ancient person, and any modern person who has ever asked a friend to pray for them, recognizes that we’re not really qualified to talk to divinity. We feel a certain priestly need. We sense that we need someone more qualified than ourselves to talk to God. Lest we be destroyed and all that.

So the agnostic asks her faithful friend to talk to the Big Guy Upstairs in their time of need and the temple priest sacrifices a virgin to the Volcano monster so it doesn’t spit its lava saliva on the village below.

Forgive me but I’ve watched the Pixar short film Lava with Atticus more than once, I know how this works. We need somebody more confident than we dare be. We need a priest.

BN-JC460_LAVA_0_M_20150625154559.jpg
FEEEEEEEEEEEEED ME!!!!!

A priest has two jobs. They talk to the gods for the people and in turn talks to the people for the gods. Lest theyyou know – be destroyed! A holy buffer of sorts. Or, like the friend in middle school who passes back and forth notes with the person you’re to scared to ask to the Spring Formal. Future generations are going to have awful metaphors.

But the problem with most priests is that they’re only human. Regardless of their qualifications most priests are just as jacked up as the rest of us. And most of them eventually die.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4.14-16 NIV 

Those who profess faith in Jesus have a better priest than the ones we resort to. Jesus is the great high priest we long for. Jesus isn’t only human. Jesus isn’t as jacked up as us but he totally gets it. He knows just how frail and dumb we are and loves us anyway. He is both like us in that he has been tempted in every way. And Jesus is nothing like us in that he’s not succumbed to the temptation. And like no other priest death couldn’t keep Jesus down.

Jesus sits right next to God and prays for us. We can approach the throne of God without being destroyed so let us approach with confidence that we may receive mercy in our times of need.

When we don’t know what to say let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we ask for the wrong things let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we’re not worthy let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we stumble and fall let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy. When we don’t know how to pray let us approach the throne with confidence that we may receive mercy.

Every embarrassing and mumbled Lord just umm…, every selfish request, every loss of words is turned to grace in the prayers of Jesus. In Jesus name we pray means we pray with and through Jesus. Jesus says for us what we could never say, our best and worst words are heard by God in the voice of Jesus.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Grace1918photographEnstrom.jpg
Grace (Colorized). Eric Enstrom

This weekend we sang the following songs:

  • Manifesto by The City Harmonic
  • Good, Good Father by House Fires (arr. Zealand Worship)
  • Your Love is Strong by Jon Foreman
  • How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend
  • Father, You Are All We Need by Citizens & Saints
  • Grace Alone by The Modern Post (arr. Kings Kaleidoscope)

Now go buy these songs.

Lord Just Lord Don’t Destroy Us Ummm Thanks (How To Pray, Part 1)

Donald Trump and the Prince of Peace (With Apologies to Jesus Christ, a poem)

Disclaimer: The following poem does not represent the political views of New Song Community Church.


 Donald Trump and the Prince of Peace (With Apologies to Jesus Christ, a poem)

Because of your little faith. I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,
And he referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small –
say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ Nothing will be impossible for you.
I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.

And he referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small.
Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.
I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.

Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.
I built a company that’s worth more than $10 billion.
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.
And I say it not in a bragging way, but that’s the kind of thinking we need.

I built a company that’s worth more than $10 billion.
Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.
And I say it not in a bragging way, but that’s the kind of thinking we need.
But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.
I was a million votes higher than Marco, one million votes.
But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
That’s a lot of votes. And was by far in first place.

I was a million votes higher than Marco, one million votes.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
That’s a lot of votes. And was by far in first place.
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
So I keep hearing that he is the only one that can beat me
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
but he is getting beaten very, very badly.

So I keep hearing that he is the only one that can beat me
Nation will rise against nation,
but he is getting beaten very, very badly.
and kingdom against kingdom.

Nation will rise against nation,
And by the way, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
and kingdom against kingdom.
I can tell you that. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

And by the way, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
I can tell you that. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
They’re chopping off the heads of Christians.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.

They’re chopping off the heads of Christians.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,
We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.
but whoever loses his life will keep it.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,
And, frankly, when I say they’ll do as I tell them, they’ll do as I tell them.
but whoever loses his life will keep it.
And that’s very — it’s very simple. It’s very simple.

And, frankly, when I say they’ll do as I tell them, they’ll do as I tell them.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
And that’s very — it’s very simple. It’s very simple.
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?

Donald_Trump_shows0403_620_415_100.JPG
Donald Trump shows off the size of his hands at the US Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. – Reuters pic
All Donald Trump quotes from the March 3rd Fox New US Republican presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan. From the Washington Post transcript of said debate.

Matthew 17:20 John 2:16, Matthew 21:13Matthew 20:8, Matthew 19:30, Luke 14:11, Luke 21:10, Matthew 5:43, Luke 17:33, Luke 6:27-28, Luke 6:31-32. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Donald Trump and the Prince of Peace (With Apologies to Jesus Christ, a poem)