Saturday, June 28, 2008


I have a prophet friend. He does not wear sandals or a tunic. Nor does he carry a staff, or herd goats on a craggy mountainside. He does not live as a hermit, or wail in the streets of your town. Well, maybe he does wail in the streets of your town...the question is, are you listening? A week ago we were sharing an afternoon at the museum. He was grappling with his craft, with what he wants to do next, artistically.

I hear you saying, I thought you said your friend was a prophet..?

Yes, that is what I said. I'll get to that.

My friend paints, and sculpts. He draws and dreams. On this particular day we marvelled at the provocation of hope-what is unleashed when one views a made thing of beauty. We saw a juried art show, an eclectic gathering of paintings, 3-D found art objects, photographs, sculpture, and in the span of an hour were changed for the better, for eternity, I suspect.

I've heard it said before that hope is dangerous-that it, hope, evokes a well-spring of what might be, what could be. Over our post- museum refreshment, my wondering friend said:

Everything is still possible.

Everything. Is. Still. Possible.

My eyes must have twinkled with mischief. Did you hear what you said? I asked, giddy.

Caught, my friend knew he had uttered truth, a truth with astounding reverberation.

We laughed a laugh of surety, of what is to be, and repeated the maxim.

It echoed in the small cafe, I'm sure, long after we departed. It has stayed and stayed with me.

Let's take what my friend said and run with it.

Everything is Still Possible.

Let us believe. Let us submit.

Let us give thanks that possible is true and true is possible, and that artists do become prophets

when hope arrests them.

Soli Deo gloria.

The Weight of Truth

C.S. Lewis' book of essays, The Weight of Glory is perhaps my favorite title of any written work, ever. It certainly eclipses the beauty of a phrase like The Weight of Truth. In fact, when I consider the sound of this latter grouping of words, I'm embarrassed to keep writing. There is not much that will join the two titles save for the prescient word, Truth.

When one stops to think on it, truth is a rather hard thing. It evokes a great bit of ugliness before it is realized to be a beautiful, saving thing.

Truth has hurt many a feeling; my own wounded pride and the borne scars of others on the receiving end of my Gatling gun tongue are evidence of its impact. What has been said, may not be true, and may be a lie straight from the pit of hell, but truth is bedrock. The effect of words, the washing of them over and in our auditory canals is a kind of truth. And, when we are imprisoned by deafness in a physical sense or deaf in the figurative, we still rely on truth as our frame of reference. Any argument presupposes there is truth. Why else would one ever open their mouth to state a position?

Relativism has spawned statements like:

there is no such thing as truth, or absolute truth is confining and judgmental.

Embedded in those very assertions is the truth itself, always hovering, and bleeding into the foreground. It cannot be shaken off and there is no place far enough to run from its reach.

Could that have something to do with the fact that truth has a giver? As I consider its import, it should be little surprise that God himself in Christ made exclusive claims of authority, buttressed by truth. When he said, for instance, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. What do you make of that audaciousness?

What do you mean there is no other way? Why can't I do it MY way, like Frank, or Elvis? Or what about the other world religions? Can't they be good enough? Aren't they nice harmless people, and to some, far less violent or hateful than the smug, churched American?

When it finally, comes down to it, one must accept or reject the truth. And the truth is, no one is good enough. No country, no politics, no religion, no man, no woman. No one could do it right, no one has the truth to impart save for the one who came to be truth, to do truth and to live truth forever. This the weight of truth: there is only one way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Got idols?

Never seen American Idol, except for the British version where the Paul Potts fellow wows the judges and the audience with his rendition of Puccini's Nessun dorma. I've seen that about 20 times on youtube like the rest of you and if you have not, and you are reading this, chagrined that you've not yet seen it, you have my permission, no, an injunction to go, now, do not stop to put the clothes in the dryer or to pay the bills, go now to watch it, . Ok. Now you've been bowled over by that beauty, by the portly man with the bad teeth, whose voice slays you where you sit, I want to wonder something about jealousy and beauty.

  • Is he who made us righteous in his jealousy when we worship another? (This query, assumes that God did indeed make us; does it not follow that if he did indeed make us, his authorship gives him per se jealous authority? )

  • Are you like me when you experience beauty in any form, do you desire more of it, with increased exposure to the degree that it, the beautiful, whatever the form of it is ALL you want?

  • Is this craving for beauty our inheritance from Mother Eve whose eyes were saucers and whose ears were beguiled by the subtle serpent?

  • Do you want beauty itself to be enough of a god?

  • When you are transfixed, and it, the beautiful (thing, idea, man, woman, animal, created thing, otherwise or combination of any of the above) is the object of one's affection to the extent that God takes a back seat, would you consider that idolatry?

  • Can beauty be a true virtue if there's no acknowledgement of the allotter of the beauty?

I heard a sermon last week that touched on beauty and its submission to the truth, the verity of the Gospel. The speaker's point almost threw me. He was asserting that an object, a person, or a thing evoking desire, (fill in the blank, food, art, a lover) by itself in all its splendor is simply straw, grass, and in fact destructive if it is not subject to the Gospel.

I found myself posturing and defending. I know posts like this aren't popular and that to some readers, a concept like idolatry is outdated and irrelevant.
When I first heard his words, I bristled, knowing there are things, ideas, objects, persons, (you name it), that are, for lack of a better word, above God.

I repent. God have mercy.

Derek Webb, a new favorite writer has a song entitled "I repent" it's not so much about beauty, but it is a song soaked in beauty and rich in the gospel message. Derek seems to be repenting of the American gospel message. Check out his site:

I hope my questions will unnerve you a little like they do me, and I hope you'll investigate the beauty giver, the one who spoke creation in to being- Jesus

we are all goners and without a prayer save for Christ's finished work.

here's Derek's song:
I Repent words and music by derek webb

i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america's dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife in
our suburb where we're safe and white

i am wrong and of these things i repent
i repent, i repent of parading my liberty
i repent. i repent of paying for what i get for free
and for the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent


i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes
i repent, i repent of trading truth for false unity
i repent, i repent of confusing peace and idolatry
by caring more of what they think
than what i know of what we need
by domesticating you until you look just like me
i am wrong and of these things i repent

Sunday, June 22, 2008

There's Power in the Blood

I saw I am Legend tonight.I do not do movie reviews well. Most contemporary films are not worth the trouble. This one is compelling in a haunting way. (***Spoilers ahead***)

A viral holocaust has left the city of New York and perhaps the world a virtual wasteland. The apparent cause is a successful cure for cancer; in that wake, mankind is vulnerable to deadly viral attacks. Just three years after the cure for cancer, no life, save for one human being, Dr Neville, a military scientist whose mission is to stand and fight the hosts of the virus - zombie like creatures whose mission is to seek, kill and destroy his life. The plausibility of the scenarios in this film are mostly lost on me, my scientific knowledge will fit on the head of a pin. Dr. Neville is committed to staying on the island of Manhattan, at his ground zero post to fix the problem, find a cure and make right what has gone wrong. Dr. Neville, played by Will Smith, stands for good, and the zombie, virus laden creatures represent evil. These creatures can only endure in the cover of darkness; once exposed to light their attacks are futile, their power gone. Neville is consumed by his zeal to make things right, his companion is a three year old female German Shepard, named Samantha, Sam, for short. The city itself is a huge character in the film, vast, hollowed out-the place on earth where man has had some success and control is now a desolate battleground. Neville's persistence to find an answer puts him at great risk, and were it not for timely intervention, he would most surely have perished. The virus hosts grow bolder and bolder-their evil exponentially more vehement and set on annihilation. Neville's awareness that the day will come when he must choose between life and death begins to intensify. An intersection he has with his own savior, prompts his catastrophic rage to ignite and declare there is no God. In so doing, he comes face to face with abject evil and acknowledges God by laying down his life. Curiously, the plot is engineered to factor in the presence of blood on several occasions, blood shed, blood drawn, and blood offered. The Christology may be doctrinally vague, but the viewer is left with no doubt that blood is the ultimate cure to appease both the wrath of the virus, and the keeper of the refugee city. In the end, it was not a chemical compound, or a scientific theorem that preserved mankind, but the blood of a volunteer.

Sola Deo Gloria

Friday, June 20, 2008

Betty and Exodus 4:11

I've written about Betty Williams, the bible teacher whose teaching and life so influenced mine. I used to inquire in my skeptical mind, just who is God to be healing some people and leaving others bereft, lame, deaf, dumb and blind..?

She replied with questions. Karen if you were God, would you ask permission of your subjects before you acted in their lives?

This was an effective way of getting my attention, and, the longer I knew her, she spoke with authority as it concerned suffering. Her physical sufferings were, at least visibly, few. But she aged rapidly as my adolescence unfolded at the same pace. One hindrance I noticed was a violent cough to which she was subject. When she gathered herself after coughing, she would use a linen handkerchief of her husband's to wipe her leaking eyes and collect spittle. Her countenance was beet-red, she was internally agitated and, it seemed to me, outdone with God for bestowing upon her this trifling cough.
I think my incessant questions, or demands for answers were deeply troubling to her-she saw my limitations physically- she intuited the scope of my rage at God, long before I did, and subversively steered me toward the truth in the scripture about suffering. She offered no pat answers, or formula prayers to assist me in getting what I wanted. She doggedly persisted that God alone was faithful- she boldly reminded me of how desperate I was, how urgent was all our need for a God to come and rescue us, not so much physically, though physical deliverance was part of the biblical narrative. That was squarely where I fought her tooth and nail, and, it must have been, on my behalf, squarely the specific thing for which she prayed.

For my sake and edification, the two scriptures to which she referred again and again were the man born blind in John 9 which I mentioned in that prior post and the story of Moses' hard-headedness his unbelief, his feet-dragging, aw-shucks, why me dear Lord in Exodus 4:11. Even though I recall the hard sayings of Betty Williams, she never called me down in class and told me outright I was stubborn or overly doubtful. She did not have to- she used her own life, much akin to mine to illustrate her points over and over. She told us regularly to be circumspect about prayer for patience. In fact, she counselled against it.

If you ask for patience, rest assured, God will be kind to provide a way for you to exercise it.

She had earnest intention that we appreciate struggle with suffering. As the days waned in sitting under her teaching, it became apparent that she was going blind. She loathed, (in fact she used the word, loathe) the notion of losing her sight, of becoming more and more dependent; yet, and I mean yet, she introduced the vitality of paradox to a group of western thinking teenagers. We were spot on taught that while we lived, we were simultaneously dying. That in our wasting away, we were approaching eternity, and being at home with the Lord. Her longing for heaven increased exponentially, and mine with hers.

Moses was exasperated that God had the audacity to even consider appointing him for the task of leading the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Moses whined what if they do not listen to me, what if what if what if. Then what do I do? God instructed Moses in a litany of things Moses could do to garner the attention of the unbelieving Israelites. At first God is not even asking Moses to speak, but to do. Even as I clenched my teeth with Moses and interrupted, eager to tell God that could not possibly work because I am slow [of speech] and have no [speaking] ability. Basically Moses was saying, I'm a low-down [verbal] cripple, you can't use me. And, like my friend Betty Williams, and many inquisitors who followed her, God asked more questions:

The Lord said to him, Who gave man his mouth, Who makes him deaf or mute, who gives him sight or makes him blind, is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say.

God had sweet mercy on stubborn brother Moses, because after all that assurance, Moses STILL asked for someone else to speak on his behalf. Moses did not believe, or could not believe, but God did not depart from him. It looked as though Moses was manipulating God, but, in fact, God orchestrated everything, from the calling of him at the bush, to Moses telling Aaron what to say, to Aaron saying it, to the people hearing Aaron and you know the rest...

It will be as if he were your mouth, and as if you were God to him.

God centered himself in the story, but creatively employed the work of his chosen to reveal his own glory through them. A small foreshadowing of the the greatest glory to come.

How grateful I am to recall the woman Betty Williams who invited me to ponder suffering at such a critical time. She, like Moses, would deliver the Word to a wandering crew. I've not been the same since; grappling with loss here but assured God enters into ALL things.

Sola Fide

Monday, June 16, 2008


I regularly read an outstanding blog about Bob Dylan called Right Wing Bob which you can find here. Today, I was catching up on reading Sean Curyn, the writer's posts and and saw this remarkable comment by a priest extrapolating some of Dylan's lyrics. Please watch it- here's the link

I think you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Isn't this photo screaming for a caption??

I never skated down a boat-dock hill but do remember the exhilaration of sledding down a similar icy hill in the dead of winter- I could not find that photo.

Would it be a good time for you to think about what is next on your list that has frightening potential, but that you know you must do?

Whether it is perfunctory as paying an overdue bill, or as huge as speaking your heart

May we have the faith of a child and the wisdom of sages as we encounter the 'boat-dock hills" in our future.

God keep you & protect you.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


You do not have to love Bob Dylan or even appreciate him to read this. What is helpful is that you love music, its history, the notion of a troubadour, and truth. I submit Dylan stands for the former and the latter. Today, I started reading the first installment of his personal history-his autobiography, for lack of a better term.; the title to which is Chronicles, Volume One. I am reticent to use the word memoir- it sounds too stuffy for him. On the other hand, his writing bests most of the memoirs I've bothered to read. Dylan's love of language is not limited to verse. I'm only on page 35 and his use of metaphor has lured me. I am looking forward to the next volume, and there's almost 270 pages left of this one. He's painted a picture of the folk scene in New York as it was when he arrived in the early sixties. He pulls no punches; his words are the hammer of John Henry, the urgency of Woody Guthrie, the passion of MLK, and the anger of Jesus. Truth mattered to Dylan before he knew it did. He burned with a white-hot zeal for it. He was a chameleon too, an enigma. Misunderstood, partially, by his own making, he lied regularly to those who inquired about his upbringing- he made an image of himself, behind which he could hide, but strangely, through which many would come to see themselves. By his penchant for falsehood, he covertly exposed his charade-my perception is he wanted to stay hidden so his words could do the talking. Let me be clear, I can't advocate for living behind a mask, save for when one is unsure of whose they are, of where they're headed. So far, it looks like he was trying to find his way in a rapidly changing world. Music saved him, protected him, and grew him up to the man he is today.

Like I said, I'm just getting started with this book. I'm expectant; I know his journey led him eventually to the cross. Stay tuned, I'll post more as I wander through his tale of hope & woe.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Styron's truth

William Styron, the man whose novel, Sophie's Choice broke my heart, would celebrate his 83rd birthday today. He died in 2006 due to a battle with pneumonia. This post is not a cliff notes summary of Sophie's Choice. Rest Easy. It is my off the top of the head comment on a quote attributed to Styron today in Writer's Almanac:

Most books, like their authors, are born to die; of only a few books can it be said that death has no dominion over them; they live, and their influence lives forever.

This observation of Styron's is compelling to me. Generally, he is consumed with the inevitability of death and yet recognizes that life does endure, for those few. Perhaps his argument would be those few books and their authors have cheated death, or that they've earned the pass into eternal literary heaven by their merit. What if the Word is the model? And, what if he had to die, what if he succumbed to death. My guess is this- despite the earnestness in Styron's words, I think there is error in his thinking.
Even God, our faithful God in Christ Jesus, the Word, become flesh did die. He gave up the ghost completely, body, soul, and spirit. He shed his blood and suffered. Death did have complete dominion over him, for a time. But God the father, faithful to his promise did what he said he would do. On the third day, after it looked as if death would have the last word, the Word was raised to life, bodily. The victory inherent in the resurrection challenges the false promise of a well-meaning William Styron. God did die in the flesh so our deaths would be bearable. So that as we decay in the body, we are made alive to the full in Christ by the the sovereign hand of a merciful Father through the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

John Hiatt's hymn to grief

I know there is some permission you ask of the publisher of copyrighted material before you use without permission, but I am ignoring the rule. This probably won't be the last time. But I do give credit where credit is due. God gifted John Hiatt with a sorrowful heart. I do not know the sorrow that prompted him to pen these words. I know what made me think of them, though.

Thirty three years ago and then some, Marcia Trimble was murdered in my little neighborhood. Friday, June 7, her killer was indicted. Now new tears can flow.

Thirty Years of Tears

Is this a place I can rest my poor head
To gather my thoughts in sweet silence
Is this a place where the feelings aren't dead
From an overexposure to violence And is
this a place I can slowly face
The only one I truly can know
These are tears from a long time ago
I got these tears from a long time ago
I need to cry 30 years or so
These are tears from a long time ago
Oh Darling, oh darling, say unto me
Where have you been all my lifetime
Well I have been swimmin' the seven sad seas
Fair women have thrown me their lifelines
And I just pulled them on to the water's dark grin
I'd have warned 'em but I didn't know
These are tears from a long time ago
I've got these tears from a long time ago
I need to cry 30 years or so
These are tears from a long time ago

Well, I've cried me a river, I've cried me a lake
I've cried till the past nearly drowned me
Tears for sad consequences Tears for mistakes
But never these tears that surround me
Alone in this place with a lifetime to trace
And a heartbeat that tells me it's so
I've got these tears from a long time ago
These are tears from a long time ago
And I need to cry 30 years or so
These are tears from a long time ago
These are tears from a long time ago
I've got these tears from a long time ago

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Faith and Teeth

If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing, not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference, that which reason, authority or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth.

-C.S. Lewis from Christian Reflections, Religion, Reality or Substitute 1941, para 12, pg 43

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Can I Get A Witness?

As per the rules of evidence, when a child witness testifies in court, it is mandatory to measure, due to their youth, and tenderness of mind, whether the child witness is competent. It is contrary to law to allow a child who does not appreciate the difference between the truth and a lie to be sworn as a witness; it might work an injustice, and imperils the search for truth. So prior to witnesses being sworn, when either party expects to call a child as a witness, the Court, or the attorneys conduct a preliminary hearing to determine the potential child witness's competency. The particular age when a child is per se deemed competent, can vary, but typically the age of seven is the standard. A host of factors are considered, but stories abound in court lore that are too rich not to share. I have one and what follows is the case of a chastened defense attorney and sobered onlookers when a little child, probably no more than five years of age, put us all in our place. It also aptly illustrates the point that one ought not to ask a question in court, at least, of any witness if one cannot reasonably anticipate the answer to such question. This particular child witness also happened to be the alleged victim of the crime and was to testify on the State's behalf against the accused. I asked her things like what color is the Judge's robe, black, or orange? Where do you go to school, Nashville or Mars? Intuiting that she had, I ended by asking her if she'd ever told her mother a story that was not true.

Yes, she said, and I got punished. Finished and satisfied she had passed the requisite test of competency, I sat down.

Now it was defense counsel's mission to delve further, hoping to expose her weakness, deceit and youth by wily cross examination. The defense attorney, a capable litigator, sweetened her voice, as is common when addressing a young child. A tall woman, she leaned over the lectern, feigning gentleness and inquired of the girl:, you know my client, and you know you this lady, she pointed to me, has listened to your story and brought him here and accused him of hurting you, correct? The little girl looked at the accused and back at the defense attorney,

yes, I know that.

And you know that it is bad to make up stories and that when you do, people can get hurt?

Yes, I know that too.

And you told us a moment ago, you have lied before?

The little girl looked at her feet and steadied her gaze up to meet the eyes of the defense attorney,

yes, I have lied to my mother before.

The defense attorney looked at her client, the accused, and continued-

Ok, now tell us, who would be harmed in this room if you told a lie in here, today?

The little girl glanced around the courtroom, meeting all our eyes. She looked directly at her inquisitor and replied:

All of us.

Think of the times you've been present when the air gets sucked from a room-the times when someones wisdom precedes them. I assure you, this was one of those times. I did not hesitate to smile at the little sage, and blinked back tears. The girl sat, non-plussed by the lengthy silence.

The defense attorney pressed her hands together as she righted herself. Well, your Honor, I have no further questions. The Court smiled and pronounced her competent.

The trial commenced, and justice was served, the boy was held accountable for his misdeeds, for his harming the little girl. At the conclusion, after he was sentenced and as I gathered my things to exit with the girl and her family, the Judge interrupted. She addressed the girl by her first name and asked her to step forward.

I wish there was a way I knew to thank you properly. You have done us a great service here today by reminding us of truth, and how vital it is. Thank you.

The little girl looked at her beaming mother and me. She shrugged and said,

You are welcome, Judge, took her mother by the hand and vanished, leaving us wiser and better for her visit.