Monday, September 29, 2008

Every Page

The gospel is on every page in the scriptures, Mrs. Betty Williams was fond of saying. Dan Allender is, like Betty Williams, a purveyor of the truth. Dan has said that if the gospel of Christ is not true now, in the tempest of your souls, in the darkest night, then it never could be true. Think of the time most bleak in your history; it may be the present day. It is that time in particular which Christ came to redeem. The terrible reality of an incurable disease, the sudden violent death of a parent or loved one, a wayward child, a cheating spouse, a friend's betrayal...and the converse: the incidences when you were the one to do violence-when, instead of being the wounded, you made the wound.
All this said, could there be a moment in time for which Christ's finished work is not sufficient? Any of the most heinous? Surely there was that time when X or Y happened? Would you want a gospel to be halfway or three-quarters true? I submit to you the gospel is true, and God is who he claims to be; the work of Christ has accomplished what we could not ever do-he has reconciled us to the Father. Let us rest assured in that truth, *disturbing though it may be.

*I say it is disturbing because there's always the temptation to say, yes, but...or, I appreciate that Jesus died for my sins and for the sins of the world, but isn't there something I must do to right the wrongs? Christ's perfect finished work is distinguished from the good works which are to flow from faith...more later

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sound of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel, the folk troubadours of the last century sang a song I listened to over and over again as a youngster some forty years ago.

Hello darkness, my old friend,
Ive come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains-
Within the sound of silence.

The song continues and you can read the rest of the lyrics here. I can't say the song offered anything definitive to me, save for the assurance that melancholy was not unique to me. In Paul Simon, I had a friend who dared pen some of the substance of his interior life; at least I attributed Simon's words to his own experience...and surely they were-whose experience has he but his own, and me mine? I felt calmed by the song in a way I can scarcely describe with a few years of life gone by.

It has been an interesting week at the beach. Usually a good place to reflect and sit in silence; there's been more silence during the day than normal, as I am not tapping on keys to draft indictments, or chatting away on the phone to marshall evidence. Strangely, when I am away from the places where silence is a treasure, like work, I can still conjure the noise of contempt and worry in my head. I can hear voices of dread and terror. I long for the peace of silence and rest but they are fleeting. If I were to hope for this empty hope's sake and lean on my own doing this yearning for peace would always be elusive.

What if, like Elijah before me, I could sit still and wait? Trust in God when I'd rather not? Believe when I cannot see? Submit to the deafening roar of silence, and fall sorrowing? Then, even then, when there are no words of comfort, he is true to his word. He calls o'er the tumult of no sound and whispers his astonishing love.

I think it part of my gifting from him who brings all good things to write to you. No matter how long or how well I may do so, I will not be able to convey the utterness of God-that is for eternity to reveal, after we've shaken off the mortal coils that bind us here. This side of heaven cannot contain him. Giving up to silence is a discipline like speaking and writing. We know on some level there is a grandness to extol, a story of his majestic nature to tell. Charles Simic said it well:

"Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them. We are always at the beginning, eternal apprentices."

May the joy of this apprenticeship be profound, may he be glorified in my silence and my speech.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


We were on the sand, sunning, relaxing, me and dad. He was reading the Money page of the newspaper. Like he almost always does, he shares what he reads. (Perhaps where I get the inclination to prattle on about current events myself...?) The topic of the current financial crisis prompted him to express his concern and worry. One of the things I appreciate about my dad- he does not confine his worry to things financial. He fidgets about it all. He has in him a trigger set in motion from birth; all things not right are an anathema to him; he has the curious male tendency to fix; repair; make right the wrong. Yet he is typically very conservative. Convicted conservative, I like to call him. We do not always agree. Sometimes we do.

I disagree with President Bush on this- I thought you'd like to know, he said Really? Inquisitive I was. He was speaking of the parachute clause Bush seeks to include in the bail-outs. My dad sees it as too far-reaching of the government to take care of business. We agree on this, but I had to laugh when remembering the King of Rock and Roll's mantra. T C B baby! I can see him, hear him and the spawn of him, Bachman Turner Over-Drive screaming their #1 hit Taking Care of Business. Think me not too naive. Elvis and the like were not referring to actual Wall-Street, but another business entirely-that of self gratification.

Perhaps our financial leadership's TCB is their lust for money. The grave truth is their insatiable want of money is motivated by the people who hire them, who invest for self-gratification. We have met the enemy and he is us.
The sad scheme of financiers has perpetuated itself to near implosion. The reality that our financial world is but an illusion calls me to ponder the investment made in me as I have been bought and kept by one worthy.

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand All Other Ground is Sinking Sand, All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

May we take care to be wise in all matters, seeking the kingdom of God first so that all else will follow.

Longing for home

It might sound like an American heresy. It would certainly surprise many of my friends and family. I'm at the beach and I miss home. I want to be back in Tennessee. I'm in a beautiful condo that faces both the river and the ocean; the views are spectacular. The food's been good, the visit with my parents, complex and lovely. I'm thirsty for Tennessee.

Home again, home again, jiggity jog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Looking for words

Earlier this week, I was looking for a particular Frederick Buechner quote that would have fit nicely in the previous post, The Whistling Physician. I searched high and low. I googled, I looked in BrainyQuote, and other sources on the web. I poured over Buechner's books, knowing it was there, but to no avail. I was left wanting. So, I published my remarks about Dr. Carpenter without the wise words of Frederick Buechner. You can probably tell where I'm going with this. You know by now, I found Buechner's words buried in an old journal this morning. In fact, it was years ago I'd cut the words out of a flyer sent to me by Daystar Counseling Ministries, and there they were in print:

I think of faith as a kind of whistling in the dark, because in much the same way it helps to give us courage and to hold the shadows at bay. To whistle in the dark isn't to pretend that the dark doesn't sometimes scare the living daylights out of us. Instead, I think, it is to demonstrate, if only to ourselves, that not even the dark can quite overcome our trust in the ultimate triumph of the Living Light.
- F. Buechner

Whether or not George Carpenter whistled "if only for himself" is hardly the point. His whistling did provoke in me a wonder. I did not know it as a child or even as an adolescent, but whistling is a signal of courage; a consideration of life and breath in the midst of melancholy and woe. My guess is, when we whistle, or do anything else for that matter, it is not for ourselves alone, no matter how much we'd like to think it so. Perhaps St. John inspired Buechner and Carpenter:

...And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness overcame it not.
- John 1:5

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Whistling Physician

George K. Carpenter, my orthopaedist, died this last Saturday. He and my near eighty year old dad were contemporaries in college, in the same fraternity. When I was still an infant and it was clear I would need regular tending because of the effects of cerebral palsy, my parents chose Dr. Carpenter to manage my orthopaedic care.

Going to the doctor are four words common to me and to my family. I learned at an early age to grin and bear waiting rooms peopled with those who stared the stare of pity at a child wearing a corrective brace. In response, I steeled my child's heart from the get-go, and vowed not to let curiosity pierce the veneer of protection I thought well and good.

Music has long been employed to mercifully undo the lives of the willful. And so it goes.

Dr. Carpenter was not a man of many words, yet he whistled constantly. The linoleum floors and marble walls of his office on Hayes Street echoed melodies as if over a valley. Try as I might, I had little defense for his musical cheer. He would nearly always evoke a hesitant smile or grin from me; his tunes were odd originals married to old standards. I could not retreat into disassociation and be within hearing distance; his whistling was simply Provident design.

Now, as I observe his departure I wonder- did he reckon whistling eased the fear of patients? Reading his death notice today, I learned he experienced fear up close. Dr. Carpenter served in the Army as a surgeon during the Korean War. Surely he witnessed much carnage...and perhaps he honed that exquisite art form of a whistle in the barren hills of Korea where fire rained down, shrapnel decimated hope and blood flowed up to his elbows.

Though I recall little else about him, his kind pied piperness lured me from sullen indignation at my life's plight. I treasure the memory of him whistling away my fear, calling me forward, kicking, screaming, and limping- to hope.

Soli Deo gloria

Friday, September 12, 2008

Prayer of the Weary

Oh God my Father, my hope, hear the cry of my soul,
the wait of the lonely is intolerable, there is no one at home!
Though the knees of your servant may buckle,
and circumstance looks grim, Your mercy is sure.
I confess as one weary to carving idols for my comfort;
forgive my sin against You and my neighbors.
Lead me in the way of your choosing, help me to submit,
Change my heart of rock to heart broken
Grant me grace in sorrow, fix my courage in fear.

In weeping and dancing, to God be the glory,

In the name of Christ, always, Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blow Up Your TV

In light of Tony Woodlief's post today about the longing for us all to lose or turn off the TV you can read here, take a look at the song, not ever a top hit for Dylan, but nevertheless another anthem to truth; surely more evidence of Dylan's prophetic nature.

The best line of which is: "Sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out" on and enjoy.......... I put some other priceless lines in bold....

T.V. Talkin' Song

One time in London I'd gone out for a walk,
Past a place called Hyde park where people talk
'Bout all kinds of different gods, they have their
point of view To anyone passing by, that's
who they're talking to.
There was someone on a platform talking to the folks
about the T.V. god and all the pain that it invokes.
"It's too bright a light", he said, "For anybody's eyes,
If you've never seen one it's a blessing in disguise."

I moved in closer, got up on my toes,
Two men in front of me were coming to blows
The man was saying something 'bout children when they're young
Being sacrificed to it while lullabies are being sung.
"The news of the day is on all the time,
All the latest gossip, all the latest rhyme,
Your mind is your temple, keep it beautiful and free,
Don't let an egg get laid in it by something you can't see."
"Pray for peace!". he said, you could feel it in the crowd.
My thoughts began to wander. His voice was ringing loud,"
It will destroy your family, your happy home is gone
No one can protect you from it once you turn it on."
"It will led you into some strange pursuits,
Lead you to the land of forbidden fruits.
It will scramble up your head and drag your brain about,
Sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out."
"It's all been designed", he said, "To make you lose your mind,
And when you go back to find it, there's nothing there to find."
"Everytime you look at it, your situation's worse,
If you feel it grabbing out for you, send for the nurse."
The crowd began to riot and they grabbed hold of the man,
There was pushing, there was shoving and everybody ran.
The T.V. crew was there to film it, they jumped right over me,
Later on that evening, I watched it on T.V..

Copyright ©1990 Special Rider Music

Monday, September 8, 2008

Stealing from the Times and Challies

I was reading a blogger I respect and admire, though I do not always agree with him, Tim Challies, a generally conservative fellow; you can find his blog here. Today he posted a piece from the New York Times on the words the speakers at both the Democratic and Republican conventions used.

The piece is a visualizing of the numbers of words used, could be reduced to "buzz words" of the political sphere; I think it interesting.

God help us as we endeavor to choose our candidate for president; by November, I am usually so tired of the rhetoric and the media's slaughter of conservative thought that I get "fed-up" as my dear mother would say. I ain't using this blog to tell you who I am voting for or that you should vote like me. What you should do is think critically, ask questions of the candidates, and compare and contrast what they are saying versus their records on the issues they prattle on about. Whatever you do, don't succumb to the "they said" (meaning Fox or CNN or NPR or CBS said it ) mantra of justification for your position on something. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. But please vote, no matter what.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Agnostic, the Monk, and Sovereignty of God

Maybe you know about my general distaste for Christian popular music, a.k.a. "contemporary Christian music". In college, I made quite a name for myself, vehemently objecting to the numerous Christian concerts at the Christian liberal arts school I attended. I was outnumbered, and let's face it, in the wrong environment to be decrying the play or performance of Christian rock, as it were; after all, it was the eighties. Notwithstanding my disdain, I did discover artists like Pat Terry, Mark Heard, and Bob Bennett, all wonderful tunesmiths who were musically gifted, and, had I ignored the landscape completely, I ne'er would have learned of these men. As you will see, there is a pattern.
I had posters of Dylan, Hendrix, and a half naked James Taylor photo from the cover of the Rolling Stone on my dorm room wall. My roommates had the ever-popular Argus posters on which were printed pithy Christian sayings, 11x 17 photographs of handsome David Meece, or a worshipping Keith Green. I was a fish out of water. If it were not for the tender mercy of God who ordained hall-mates with similar musical tastes to mine, and a suite-mate who introduced me to opera, I might well have punted God altogether. I was, and remain a stubborn soul. God has dealt mercifully with me, and with us all.

Years, decades later, I still maintain that much of contemporary Christian music is lacking in artistry, passion and excellence. About four years ago, I had privilege of meeting some insiders in the business of Christian music. They too bemoaned the 'image' their music sells as one of purity and uprightness, yet the marketing of their 'merch' is strictly secular in its execution; thematic colors are the paint of seductive photography and provocative presentation. No wonder that the 'world' of the lost does not know what to make of the mixed message inherent in the media of Christian product sales. In that same stretch of time, four years ago, I confronted critical mass- a crossroads if you will. My soul was divided- I was in a battle already won by Jesus the Christ, but I was sorely tempted to give up that which he had purchased with his own blood.
Now to the crux of this post: an old friend in the legal profession called me in the midst of the terrible flesh and spirit battle. She was completely ignorant of what was transpiring in the center of my heart. What's more, she's the endearing agnostic in this story. She knows and knew then of my faith in Christ. She called to ask me if I'd like to go to the local Nazarene University and hear a friend of hers- a former desert monk turned Christian singer perform. The phrase you could have knocked me over with a feather is about as accurate as it has ever been. I hedged. I stalled. I thought to myself, what are the odds? Here I am, about to turn my back on the only truth that ever mattered, and give it up for paltry lust, and who calls me out of the blue? A card-carrying member of the ACLU, who flatly refuses to accept that God is who he says he is, but who acknowledges and respects persons of faith, is ordained unwittingly to curtail my fast ride to the pit of despair.
We went to the Nazarene school, not once, but twice in one year to listen to this gifted tunesmith who just happens to be a Christian, and just happens to be a friend of my agnostic friend, whose time as an agnostic is short, because many of you are praying she relent and submit to the staggering truth of the Gospel.
What makes this narrative so compelling to me is my agnostic friend's faith. Yes, her faith in the faith that is a gift received by the monk turned singer and me- she is acutely aware that our relationship with God is meaningful, else she would not have invited me to hear him sing, or been drawn to him in the first place. I believe the same God who wooed me back to life through the strange vehicle of contemporary Christian music can and will pursue the heart of my agnostic friend til she surrenders. I wait, assured, and amused down to the well of my bones at the lengths to which our good God will go to get my (and your) attention.

Soli Deo gloria

Prayer from Valley of Vision*

O God, Thou art very great,
My lot is to approach thee with godly fear and humble confidence,
for thy condescension equals thy grandeur,
and thy goodness is thy glory.

I am unworthy, but thou dost welcome;
guilty, but thou art merciful;
poor, but thy riches are unsearchable.

Thou hast shown boundless compassion towards me
by not sparing thy son,
and by giving me freely all things in him;
This is the foundation of my hope,
the refuge of my safety,
the new and living way to thee,
the means of that conviction of sin,
brokenness of heart, and self-despair,
which will endear me to the gospel.

Happy are they who are Christ’s
in him at peace with thee,
justified from all things,
delivered from coming wrath,
made heirs of future glory;

Give me such deadness to the world,
such love to the Saviour,
such attachment to his house,
such devotedness to his service,
as proves me a subject of his salvation.

May every part of my character and conduct
make a serious and amiable impression on others,
and impel them to ask the way to the Master.

Let no incident of life, pleasing or painful,
injure the prosperity of my soul,
but rather increase it.

Send me thy help,
for thine appointments are not meant
to make me independent of thee,
and the best means will be vain
without super-added blessings.

Puritan prayer* find the collection here

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A thought about correspondence

Ever get a letter or a card from a loved one with the date written on it, like "6 September 2008"? Unless you get electronic mail that automatically dates correspondences for you, and/or unless you are blessed to have a friend or loved one for whom the date something is penned is important, you are not likely to know when their letter or card is written. And years later when you pull out the old letter, when the date is there, it will assist you in remembering what was going on around you at the time. Chances are, older friends & relatives will always date a letter.
I've been richly blessed by three paternal aunts who dated every card or letter I ever received from them. I suspect since they grew up in a era when personal correspondence and diaries were commonplace, they dated things with the same regularity you and I sign our credit card receipts, or our checks, if we still write those. I appreciate the strange comfort of reviewing these old letters and notes, wherein some actually gave the day of the week. That thoughtfulness was modeled well for me; therefore, I strive to do the same and pass it on to the next generation.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Peter Kreeft

Be egalitarian regarding persons. Be elitist regarding ideas. - Peter Kreeft