Saturday, January 31, 2009

When words lie

This past Friday morning I overheard one half of a cell phone conversation as I entered the office on 222 Second Avenue . The speaker was dressed as a quintessential divorce attorney; shod in Prada, clothed in Karan, wrapped in Burberry cashmere, she lugged a cart full of files. Chirping into her blackberry she offered this to the person on the other end:

I know it's awful, I know it's hard, people get divorced everyday, it's all going to be fine.

She had the truth until the latter phrase. Ask a dear one you know that has travelled the road of divorce. Ask em if it is all fine. See what they say.

God have mercy; heal our hearts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Death and Fury

Weeks back, a friend was laboring over whether to attend a funeral; the reasons were complex, and my friend's heart was vexed. As he related his conflict, grief and dismay, I remembered a conversation I had with another friend on another day, several years ago.

This other friend and I had attended a funeral of a mutual friends' father. We'd come out of the chapel, reflecting on feelings and thoughts evoked for us by the pleasantries and superficiality during the visitation portion of the ritual. The phrases like well, he's in a better place now and don't he look good in that fine, navy blazer mock the fierce quality of death. On that hot summer day with my friend, the natural light was a true welcome, having been pent up under fluorescent lighting as celebrants of death, I longed for fresh air. We stood on the hot pavement and mused what it might be like if someone were to erupt in fury over the lunacy of this custom-the polite dance around the horror of death. I proposed the best time to do so would be right there, in the midst of gathered friends and loved ones; there it would have impact. I have such a tale in my life's history.

In 2002, a dear friend, my Protestant god-mother, I liked to call her, succumbed to the clutch of death. In life she had been vibrant, a mother of four boys, and friend to countless, and was my mother's closest friend for over forty years; she and her family were knit with ours, so much so that the offspring of each clan call the others' parents 'aunt' and 'uncle'; though we share no known bloodline, save for that family into which we are grafted by grace*. Simply put, her death devastated me. There is more of that story to be told, I digress.

On the eve of her burial, we all, family, friends, old business partners, acquaintances and neighbors assembled at Roesch-Patton funeral home to literally rub elbows and chatter ever so hopefully while a very dead friend lay in the adjoining room. (The words funeral home themselves are worth the energy of another post-what contrast!)

The crowd was overwhelming. Eventually, we adult children, my sister, and the three remaining boys of this woman now gone, collected ourselves to view the body-a strange pagan custom that smacks the vitality of the resurrection in the mouth, but, that's what this little narrative is

There we stood, shoulder to shoulder, dressed to the nines, in fine woolens and cottons. Peering into the fancy box of walnut or cherry that held her frame, I scanned what I could see of her neatly arranged corpse. How strange, how breathtaking, were thoughts I kept to myself. The longer we stood silent, we held onto one another for support, and for hope's sake. Tears welled up. We shook with sorrow.

I was praying this dreadful vigil would end when one of the boys spoke up, sniffling: She looks good, doesn't she? There was palpable silence. Rankled to near violence, the youngest brother fumed through clenched teeth: Good..??? She looks good?!?? Goddamn it, she's dead, she doesn't look good."

And so the prophet had spoken. Stabbed awake by the awfulness of death, we stared aghast at the speaker, and then back at her decaying body. There was nothing more to say on that strange night, so we departed in silence.

Be it an awkward attempt to comfort, or protective flight from sorrow, we all, at one time or another, speak when a sobbing silence might be good wisdom- painful, but good. On the other hand, this story exists because of precipitant words. And so there is, thank God, grace.

The family of grace* I mentioned earlier....the Church triumphant, can afford to scream in the face of death, as the younger brother in this story. Not by any merit we ourselves have won, or by irreverent fury for pain inflicted, no, only by the finished work of our Redeemer in both his blessed sacrifice and glorious defeat of death on the third day.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


There are plentiful examples of irony out there, but I stumbled on a good one today. While watching some coverage of the Hudson River plane ditching and rescue, I was awed by the coordinated efforts, the stunning videos. I had exhausted pretty much all there was to see when I noticed an advertisement out of the corner of my eye on CNN. Apparently you can buy T-shirts with CNN headlines on them; you can 'sport' the news on your chest. One such T-shirt available for purchase says " Obama elected the 44th president ". For all the grousing the mainstream media does about big business greed, I think their creative genuis is rich irony.
On many levels, the election of a president is news. It's not just news anymore. You can buy it. It is for sale. Not just once, but many times over. Check this out, I kid you not.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Walls Have Ears

Maybe it is because I had little sleep last night- or maybe it is because I am genuinely paranoid; I took some comfort in this-

Knowing that, even if it is true, I can laugh.
borrowed from:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dire Need

“As a race we are not even stray sheep or wandering prodigals, we are rebels with weapons in our hands. Our supreme need from God, therefore, is not the education of our conscience but our redemption.”

- Peter Taylor (P.T.) Forsyth

with acknowledgement to a site with daily reminders of the Gospel.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We were made for Him

Lest someone think me too fond of Joe Pa, (see previous post, The Lame Lion) I sure as heck do not want to elevate him to being worshipped. But at the risk of you thinking I do, watch this sweet montage with vocals by Brandi Carlile as she wails part of her hit song, The Story.

The Story

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
.....It's true...I was made for you


God knows what kind of pain or joy, or both that made Brandi Carlile the outright perfect soul to sing this song that aptly suits this montage. I have no clue. Her voice, in itself, (like Paterno's face,) tells a story that makes one want to sit up and listen.

I did no research and just stumbled upon this video/song. One thing I know. The line: It's true, I was made for you would, for years, have meant to me that I was made for the soul of another. What I hear tonight is a hymn to God. I was made for him. And so were you.

And so was Joe Paterno.

The Lame Lion

This afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions will meet the University of Southern California Trojans in the Rose Bowl. A glorious football event to be sure. There are two great teams in the contest, but I am here to talk about one fellow.

What of Joe Paterno? He's at least a living legend. The eighty something year old coach has been leading the Nittany Lions his entire career. He has been at the helm since the mid-sixties.

from USA Today: Penn State has had one football coach since 1966. The rest of major college football has made 837 coaching moves — and counting.

With all due respect to that good-looking fellow who coaches for USC. Wow.

Who'll win? Probably USC. I hope Penn State wins, I can't explain my affinity for Paterno, but he's the entire reason I cheer for the Nittany Lions. Just look at Joe Paterno. Watch him stand still, watch him holler,watch him grimace. He ain't pretty, and he's all banged up, but he is a god among earthly leaders. Check out this ESPN video from today.

I wouldn't be posting this if Paterno weren't a winning coach, but that is still beside my point. What draws me to this joyful curmudgeon of a man only intensifies as he ages. In October of 2007, he got tackled inadvertently on the sideline of the Wisconsin game, and suffered an injury that would've ushered retirement for a lesser man. He's still at it today.

"Joe Pa" as fans have come to call him is attractive for reasons that confound reason. He's old. He's wrinkled. He's lame.

Something I daresay Joe Paterno knows is that we were not made for this world. Our bodies do wear and tear. As fit as we can be, we are still lame and in great need. Let us look forward to aging, let us be in the midst of it with grace and vigor like Joe Paterno.

Go Lions.

The Old Story

How many times have you Christians heard it? The gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. The subject of many of the posts here. The old story is the one I long to hear, again and again. If you are reading this and have yet to confess Christ as Lord, ask now to receive him. Do not wait.

Whatever keeps you from it is the same thing that kept anyone who ever hesitated-a belief that being good enough will sustain you. A belief that other little gods are plenty. A belief there is no such thing as sin. A belief there is no such thing as truth. There's much more, yet all these beliefs point to at least two things: that one must believe to be, (whether or not one believes in God) and that there is truth. And from this, a standard of truth, an inference must be drawn that truth has a Teller.

A great American statesman, Daniel P. Moynihan said something on the order of:

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts"

Thus begins the battle:

Who are you to say that this way is the truth? Good question. Who am I?

A sinner, saved by the grace and mercy of my Lord Jesus. There's more. The gospel's offense is that no one is spared. You, my friend, are a sinner in need of saving too. ( Romans 3:23).

You simply cannot wiggle around it. You cannot do it. Nor can the articulate teachers and politicians. No feel-good sermon is going to be adequate; it is not about felt boards in Sunday School. It is not about being an ethical person. It is not about being religious. The crux of it is that God so loved the world. So loved. that he gave his only son, that he gave. that he gave. he. gave so that whoever would believe on him, Jesus, the son, would inherit eternal life. (John 3:16)

We, mankind, fell in Eden. (Genesis 3:1-24) We mankind, are sin-soaked. In that state, we are condemned to hell. Strong language. Strong truth. God's holiness demands righteousness. Though we, mankind, have tried since near the beginning to get righteousness right on our own, God himself had to make a way.

John Piper says that God is the gospel. Not you. Not me. Not your gods, or mine. Not your righteousness, or mine. God. He did for us in Christ what we could not do. To think that our Triune God, the Creator of the universe has so loved us first by providing a way to him, is astonishing. (Genesis 3:21 & Paul's letter to the Romans 3:21-25)

A friend sent me this quote the other day, give it due consideration:

If we needed an education, God would have sent us a teacher. If we needed prosperity, God would have sent us an economist. If we needed therapy, God would have sent us a psychiatrist. If we needed healing, God would have sent us a physician. If we needed technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If we had needed knowledge, God would have sent us philosopher. But what we needed most was redemption, so God sent us a Savior!

My response to this quote is a good illustration of just how dire my need. I thought when I read it- how terribly simple! And my next thought, almost too terribly simple I also thought, God himself knows I've needed a mental health professional. And, in his great mercy has seen fit to orchestrate that good on my behalf. And he knows I've needed (and still do need) healing. And in his same great mercy that never wavers, he ordained some healing into his plan. The crux of this quote, just like the very simple gospel of Jesus, is that first we needed to be saved. Saved not from the edge of the precipice of doom. Doctors and psychiatrists can assist with that. Nor need we to be saved from economic despair. We, here, now, in this time, see the comedy and the tragedy in that. No educational plan or politician's motive can rescue. Not your favorite teacher, philosopher or entertainer. Socrates and Plato-they are fine purveyors of great truths and thought, but impotent to save you from your dark heart, and me, mine Not Martha Stewart. Not Oprah. Not Milton Friedman. Not William F. Buckley. Not Freud, Rogers, Maslow, et. al God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may appoint who he deems fit to work out his sovereign plan, and will do so. Though all these folk have offered some good, none, not one, is equipped to redeem us from sin.

Jesus, the God-man speaking:

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through me.

- John 14:6

That old story. The gospel. I love to tell the story.

I Love to Tell the Story

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love;
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true,
It satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.

I love to tell the story,
’Twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story, more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams;
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me,
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.
I love to tell the story, ’tis pleasant to repeat,
What seems each time I tell it more wonderfully sweet;
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest;
And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.