Pink tells it like it is

I am not a huge Pink fan, but I think she can write some pretty catchy tunes, some with a fair amount of self reflection and substance. I don’t think this is one of her best songs musically nor is it a subtle piece of cultural criticism, but it is nonetheless a prescient piece of cultural criticism.
Pink is aware of the potential hypocrisy in being a pop, albeit a punk sort of of pop, diva and criticising other pop divas for immodest dress, pursuing unhealthy fashion extremes, and seductress behavior, but says she really is more interested that we “get the conversation started,” to paraphrase one of her songs.
This video is interests me because it touches on some of the themes that Richard Winter covered in his lecture on perfectionism at last week’s L’Abri Conference, and in his book on the same topic.
The video focuses specifically on the challenges young women face. As I said earlier, it is not subtle. I do not think it presents the only choices available. And, in the process of critiquing some of these issues, the video, itself, features a fair amount of skin. So, viewer beware. That may be the nature of satire, though, to get somewhat sullied in order to point out fallacy and error.

NPR on Speed Dial

Well, to be more specific it is actually the local affliate, KWMU, which is on the speed dial. This morning on a local show called St. Louis on the Air they had some scientists discussing stem cell research. It was not a show about the ethics of it, but rather the science of it. Of course, and perhaps by necessity, all of the scientists were for stem cell therapies, including using embryonic stem cells or perhaps especially using embryonic stem cells.
I decided to call but had to wait for about 10 minutes until they gave the number again. With about 20 minutes left in the show the guy who answered my call indicated that there would likely be time to get me on. I told him, though my question touched on ethics, I wanted to ask about just how embryonic stem cell lines are derived. As I nervously waited to get on I formulated my question to respect what I felt were the implied limits of the discussion:
This question is ethically motivated, but what I am interested in is the science of how embryonic stem cells are derived. If President Bush’s restriction on stem cell lines were reversed, where would scientists get the embryoes? At what stage in their life cycle are they harvested? And how are cell lines established?
I felt the question was fair in that I would acknowledge my bias and their responses would serve as a sort of disclosure. It is very likely I would not have gotten my question out as fluidly as written above, and I may have struggled against interjecting opinion, only I never got my question out at all because the show ended.
I struggled a bit. The guy said there were 5 people before me, did I count them off correctly? Did they deliberately ignore my question when they saw it on the board? Perhaps. Probably not. It is very likely that it was simply for the lack of time. My reactions were interesting to me, though, because, well, they were reactionary and suspicious. It was helpful to realize and acknowledge this, and let it be a lesson in my process to approach disourse less polemically, and hopefully, consequently, more effectively.
So that is the story of how NPR is on my speed dial. I know some of you are scratching your head saying “NPR, you listen to NPR?” Yes, I know its reputation in some circles. Yes, in response to an angle on a story or a tone, I still sometimes, though rarely, label it “National Poophead Radio” (I haven’t been able to come up with anything less juvenile and more witty yet). For the vast majority of time, though, I listen to my benefit.
But the story of that largely good, somewhat dysfunctional relationship will have to wait until another post.

Makeout Worship-Floating a Metaphor

Perhaps this is a function of getting old, but if worship consists almost exclusively of songs that have simple, soaring, emotionally-get-you-going choruses which are repeated rather a lot, with these even being added to the hymns, does the metaphor in the title of this post work.
I really love many songs that fit this description that come from my era.
Worship in the City, I almost invariably love the stuff at the City, and really appreciate your adaptation of Jesus Our Great High Priest (I think?). I just got back from an InterVarsity conference 😉
Caveat II:
I am having fun here, but I am interested in the question.

For St. Valentine’s Day

Accompanying video Title and Registration. Cool.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works. [b]
They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.
They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.
The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
Psalm 145

Seeing Dawn Through Tears, Soaring Joyfully the Sun, Spirit Light and Clean

The haiku title of this post was written in an attempt to describe some of the feelings I feel upon listening to Sufjan Stevens “Chicago,” though a haiku is rather too quiet a form to express the sheer jubilance of this song. Click here to give it a listen.
This song, which has a very slight narrative thread, is about a road trip from Chicago to New York with a friend. There are quixotic details such as “we sold out clothes to the state” and a line about sleeping in parking lots, which help create the picture of road trip on little means. The rest is left to the imagination.
I do not know if it is New York or simply the transition between places or the reflection that often accompanies travel, at least for me, that leads to a catharsis of sorts, a coming to terms with and leaving behind of the past, and a glorious embrace of the future. Stevens is subtle but clear about what, or rather who, it is that allows him to experience such ecstatic release.
if I was crying
in the van, with my friend
it was for freedom
from myself and from the land
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
you came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go
I can certainly resonate with the repeated, “I made a lot of mistakes.” Talking with a friend last night, though, we both reflected how we loved the song and how it so captured the feelings accompanying repentance and renewal.


At this moment I am at an InterVaristy conference participating as a small group leader in a track called World Changers dealing principally with justice issues. I am going to be blogging a more about my conflicted and changing ideas in this area and about my thoughts and feelings about being reconnected with IV.
Today, though, we were looking at the power relations in the story of David and Bathsheba, among other stories. So, in the meantime here is a reprint of a poem I wrote about Uriah a couple of years ago. It is a creative imagining. His real story can be found here.
His heart was pierced
Long before the arrow found its mark
Bleeding to see the king
Who drew him from the sway
Of heathen kings
Meet him with glazed and hollow eyes
His spirit’s burning fire
Drowned in decadence
He went to the feast
Given in his honor
Fighting his body’s yearning
To sink into its softness
As he had fought the night before
To not yield to the sweet solace
Of a softer softness still
He choked down the wine
No, more commanded
Again and again and again
And struggled against its heaviness
That pulled him towards oblivion
He rose to go
Cheered on by his debauched lord
To lose his cares for the night
He cast one glance back
Then went with holy, sotted stumbling
Back to the palace door

A Post on Writing-Though, Perhaps on How Not To

My recent article on conflict was principally born through failure at it. And that, I am discovering, is generally also how I write. I do not know if it is nature or nurture (i.e. me failing to nurture my butt with a large kick to get disciplined), but I struggle with procrastination, with invariably getting every piece of writing done just at, and often after, the final moment. It happens every time. Sometimes I wonder if I could even write something decent if I did not put myself under the gun. More often, duplicitously, I mutter in my mind, and sometimes out of it, about how I could have done so much better if I had started sooner….mumble, grumble.
This post is not really about that issue, though. I did start this piece relatively early. No, it is about another pattern. When I begin to write I have this feeling that I need to cover all the aspects of a topic, from the cosmic down to every tiny contingency. I think this is the function of having perfectionistic tendencies, but that will have to wait until another post, in which I can explain how I believe I can have perfectionistic tendencies and be comfortable with rather messy and cluttered spaces, if I am left to my own devices.
Trying to situate what I write somewhere into the Theory of Everything does have its virtues as it can help in establishing a theoretical framework and in making valuable connections which I might use later. More often than not, though, it leads to paralysis, to me not even beginning. For this piece, I was going to cover the nature of conflict from the Garden of Eden on down, the nature of the spiritual battle between God and the Devil and our participation in it, how this all does or does not relate to the issue of war and pacificism, and then finally bring it down to interpersonal conflict, which was my main subject for the piece.
If you don’t believe me. Here is the fragment of the first draft. Abandoned, oh, say sometime Monday morning for a Tuesday deadline.
The Good Fight-Learning the Art of War
For many, the only “good” fight is the one that never happens. For others, a fight of any type is something in which Christians never, ever should participate.
On a very fundamental level, the first statement is true. I cannot imagine an unfallen world in which any true fight between humans could be a legitimate possibility. In C. S. Lewis’ unfallen world Perelandra, after the demonic tempter sent from Earth to the “Eve” of Venus has launched numerous, subtly escalating lines of seduction to disobedience, the creatures of that world, human and beast, are put into a deep sleep. Why? They cannot “know” the mortal violence (the bloodletting, the cracking of bones, the total “giving over” to death) that is about to take place between the demonic Unman and Ransom, the representative of God in the conflict that will rid the new world of evil.
Lewis’ fantasy of “what if,” though, puts the lie to the second belief in the opening paragraph. Because our first parents did not resist the wiles of the very same tempter, death is a reality for us humans, and conflict has become the warp to the woof of the Goodness of creation. Bloodletting, cracking bones, a total giving over to death is at the center of the Christian faith in both crucifixion and consummation. Christ submits to the punishment we deserve ushering in peace; Christ will completely crush the Devil making that peace permanent and universal. In this fight we must participate, actively struggling against the classic of the triumvirate of World, the flesh, and the Devil.
It is not the province of this essay to explore….ARRRGH!

The good fight: Learning the art of war, learning the art of love

confict trans.jpg
I have had another article published in Catapult. The editior has graciously made it the feature. I am excited.
The good fight: Learning the art of war, learning the art of love
Are you here from there? Welcome. Stay awhile. And as would any good Pakistani host, I’ll make the tea and get the biscuits, the British, not Southern, kind.

Are Barry Henning and Bono Actually the Same Person?

At the risk of simply becoming a mirror site for Looking Closer Journal, here is yet another piece that I was made aware of through its auspices.
“Barry who?” you ask. Barry Henning is the senior pastor of my church, New City Fellowship, and Bono’s talk with a few, albeit significant, modifications might be something Barry would preach. So Barry’s kind of like Bono. You know, except for the bit about being a global rock star and all, and the long flowing hair and Fly glasses. Well, at the risk of inciting some bears to come out of the woods and gobble me up, elishabears.jpg let me simply say that Pastor Barry could wear the glasses.
All kidding aside, Pastor Barry’s sermons are better, but Bono did have some good and surprising things to say. The bits about poverty and AIDS are most important, but his story of his relationship with the church is very interesting to me. I strongly recommend the video to you as his delivery is at once self-deprecating, self-aware, amusing, and moving. However, for the time-strapped some excerpts are provided below and the transcript of the talk in its entirety appears in the extended version of this post.
On the poor…
I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”

To President Bush and Congres…
Here’s some good news for the President. After 9-11 we were told America would have no time for the World’s poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it’s true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.
In fact, you have double aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund—you and Congress—have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.
Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.
But here’s the bad news…

On wisdom from a saint…
A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…
And this wise man said: stop.
He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.
Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed.
Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.
And that is what He’s calling us to do.

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