An Illiterate Librarian Plays Tag

Well, I have been tagged by Heather over at Street Acrobatics, in a game which will illustrate just how much of an illterate librarian/almost-english-major I actually am.
Here we go. If you are tagged at the end, please join the chain and play along, if you like that is:
1. One book that changed your life:
*The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass It made it OK to breathe, amidst spastic fits of laughter. A great book to read out loud.
*Perelandra which made me pay attention to Lewis. It makes the holiness and innocence of Pre-Fall life seem not boring, but Life itself.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
*Lewis’ books.
*Tolkien’s books.
3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
The Lord of the Rings
4. One book that made you laugh:
The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass
5. One book that made you cry:
Only one?
*The Lord of the Rings
*Anne of Green Gables
*A Severe Mercy,
*The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass
These all made me cry from being overwhelmed by Goodness, in some cases by Mercy too.
6. One book that you wish had been written:
The Perfect Love that Casts Out Fear or just Perfect Love
7. One book that you wish had never been written:
*The Da Vinci Code
*The Left Behind series
8. One book you’re currently reading:
The Children of Men by mystery writer P.D. James, though it is not a mystery per se. I am re-reading this to remember why I liked it in the first place, though I know it is life affirming in a very Christian sense. Movie, which may or may not be good, in the Autumn.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Silence of Adam I need to re-read it and this time actually read the kick-your-butt final chapters.
10. Now tag five people:
*Jesse-this is a sneaky way to get another blog entry from Bacon’s Great
*Lloyd– Ditto

A Difficult Article to Publish

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Dear readers,
The current issue of Catapult is entitled “Addicts Anonymous.” You may wonder then why my article appears along with my name. It does so because I feel called to be a writer who reflects on life in ways that will foster deep, personal engagement with the Christian faith. And I do not feel I can do this effectively or truly without being vulnerable about my own joys and struggles. So, here is the link to my latest and most vulnerable piece to date.
Confessions of a fundamentalist librarian: On lust
You will notice that the comments on this entry are disabled, as I don’t really want to discourse about this article in this environment. However, if you would like to discourse with me about it, in any manner, please do not hesitate to email me, talk to me in person, or to call me.
On a lighter note, my friend Rachel Hawley has written the feature article of this issue. Her piece, My addiction, is a well written, witty reflection about her addiction to NPR, with some serious reflections, though, on how we process (or choose to ignore) information and disagreement, with specific reflection on her experience in the church.
I think the entire issue is well worth reading and reflecting upon, but make sure to check out the thoughtful and care-filled editorial.
Finally, blessings on and Grace to you all.

More Poems from Lewis

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It is 3 in the morning and I cannot sleep. Having been kept home yesterday with a cough, it is doing its best to make my night miserable as well. Still, I have a big mug of herbal tea with honey and lime, and that is not all bad. I just got done watching the end of the movie Shadowlands. I remember going to see it in the theater with our family and our father being incredibly moved by it, having lost his wife, my mother, only a few years earlier. Sadly, he did not then, nor has he since, really accepted the message of the movie that we must let our loved ones go, that “The pain now is part of the joy then. That’s the deal.”
In the special features on the DVD, Douglas Gresham, Joy’s son and Lewis’ stepson, says that choosing to love someone will always involve pain in one way or another. I suppose that is true, and why heaven is such an appealing prospect. In a song in the late 80’s or early 90’s, CCM artist Billy Sprague sang that “heaven is a long hello.” I like that. And I imagine that heaven will also involve really good, dare I say perfect, communication. With all sorts of time and without our sinful natures to contend with, perhaps we will be able to perfectly communicate how an experience made us feel, some thing that is impossible now even with our closest loved ones.
Here are three of five sonnets Lewis wrote, I believe, after his wife died. They are in the vein of his excellent book A Grief Observed.
Of this we’re certain; no one who dared knock
At heaven’s door for earthly comfort found
Even a door–only smooth, endless rock,
And save the echo of his cry no sound.
It’s dangerous to listen; you’ll begin
To fancy that those echoes (hope can play
Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;
Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.
Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give
The thing we want. We ask what isn’t there
And by our asking water and make live
That very part of love which must despair
And die and go down cold into the earth
Before there’s talk of springtime and re-birth.
Pitch your demands heaven-high and they’ll be met.
Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set
One’s foot on the first rung, how to begin?
The silence of one voice upon our ears
Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seems
A lying brag; the face we loved appears
Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.
‘That long way round which Dante trod was meant
For mighty saints and mystics not for me,’
So Nature cries. Yet if we once assent
To Nature’s voice, we shall be like the bee
That booms against the window-pane for hours
Thinking that way to reach the laden flowers.
‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said
‘And told her, “Not that way! All, all in vain
You weary our your wings and bruise your head,”
Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,
“Let queens and mystics and religious bees
Talk of such inconceivables as glass;
The blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,
Look there–ahead, ahead–the flowers, the grass!”
We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows
What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)
And shake her out–and gaily out she goes
Where quivering flowers stand thick in summer air,
To drink their hearts. But left to her own will
She would have died upon the window-sill.

Cornerstone Art

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Great Divorce Series
(You gotta read the book–it’s fantastic–then come back and view these again.)
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Kid’s Art
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Close-up and Sub-creation
This is a detail of the Chagall-like painting of Lewis’ woman in heaven who is accompanied by all the animals to which she was kind to on earth. Note how even in heaven the cat is in a snarky mood, whilst the dog also cannot tell the difference, only now his delightful, doggy disposition is never dispelled by harsh words or blows.
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Here is a piece I made from the piece about the man, the angel, and the dragon of lust. You gotta read the book!
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The Strong Hand of Love-The Music of Mark Heard.

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In the mid-1990’s my brother Virgil and I got into an artist named Mark Heard. His story is somewhat sad in that he was an incredibly gifted, complex, and subtle artist working in the CCM industry, which at the time had little room for either complexity or subtlety. He passed away after a series of heart attacks, the first occurring during a show at the Cornerstone Festival. He left behind a wife and daughter.
He provides an interesting place in my music listening journey, because he was one of the first artists I listened to who honestly reflected on the difficulty of life, even from a Christian perspective. I can remember talking to Virgil about whether listening to his music was quite healthy for the emotions and one’s spiritual life. It was a completely valid question for me at the time, but seems somewhat quaint now.
Sadly, Mark Heard really lived at the wrong time. In today’s environment when Christian music has become more open and less restrictive and after the alt-country boom of the 1990’s, Mark Heard would have had no problem thriving.
Mark Heard is not always the easiest person to listen to, as his vocals are not his strongest suit. My friend Tim Garrett was saying last night that Mark Heard is like Bob Dylan for him, in that he likes his songwriting and lyricism but much perfers it when he hears someone else singing his work. There are some tribute albums where you can do just that and hear other people interpret his work, though the covers are by no means always better.
The best album to get into the music of Mark Heard itself is High Noon (which you will likely have to buy used),
as it collects the past songs off of his last three albums or so. Here are the lyrics to two of my favorites songs, with a link to listen to the latter provided a the end of this post.
I Just Wanna Get Warm
The mouths of the best poets
Speak but a few words
And then lay down
Stone cold in forgotten fields
Life goes on in this ant farm town
Cold to the lifeblood underfoot
All talk and no touch
And I just wanna be real
I just wanna be real
The colors here are monochrome
Studies in one shade of grey
The good times and the hard times
Cut from the same grey cloth
And all the fires that crackle here
Consume but do not burn
All light and no heat
And I just wanna get warm
I just wanna get warm
The days they rattle past me
Like a tunnel round a train
Landscapes and heartaches
I don’t know what I feel
All I know is my condition
Is worse than I can tell
The small talk and the slow burn
And I just wanna be healed
I just wanna get well
There are things I should remember
But I have forgotten how
I’m all tied up with no time
Trying do too much
And the thoughts that I’ve avoided
Are the ones I need right now
Like a warm wind and love’s hand
And I just wanna be touched
And I just wanna be real
And I just wanna be well
And I just wanna be healed
And I just wanna be warm
Strong Hand Of Love
Down peppers the rain from a clear blue sky
Down trickles a tear on a youthful face
Feeling in haste and wondering why
Up struggles the sun from a wounded night
Out venture our hearts from their silent shrouds
Trying to ignite but wondering how
We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
Young dreamers explode like popped balloons
Some kind of emotional rodeo
Learning too slow and acting too soon
Time marches away like a lost platoon
We gracefully age as we feel the weight
Of loving too late and leaving too soon
We can laugh and we can cry
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
We can dance and we can sigh
And never see the strong hand of love hidden in the shadows
Click here to listen to “Strong Hand of Love” sung by Bruce Cockburn.

500,000 Embryos and the Potential Tyrant of the Family

While looking for a picture to supplement my previous post, I found this amazing article. It is incredibly even handed in describing the crisis of the high number of frozen embryos and is clear about its implications. And Mother Jones is the opposite of conservative. One of its most amazing features, though, is its hightlighting of how parents feel about frozen embryos:

A new demographic is wrestling with questions initially posed by contraception and abortion. A world away from the exigencies, mitigating circumstances, and carefully honed ideologies that have grown up in and around U.S. abortion clinics, it is people like Janis Elspas who are being called upon to think, hard, about when life begins, and when it is—or is not—right to terminate it. They are in this position, ironically enough, not because they don’t want a family, but precisely because they do. Among the nation’s growing ranks of ivf patients, deciding the fate of frozen embryos is known as the “disposition decision,” and it is one of the hardest decisions patients face, so unexpectedly problematic that many decide, in the end, to punt, a choice that is only going to make the glut bigger, the moral problem more looming and unresolved.
Strikingly, Nachtigall found that even in one of the bluest regions of the country, which is to say, among people living in and around San Francisco, few were able to view a three-day-old laboratory embryo with anything like detachment. “Parents variously conceptualized frozen embryos as biological tissue, living entities, ‘virtual’ children having interests that must be considered and protected, siblings of their living children, genetic or psychological ‘insurance policies,’ and symbolic reminders of their past infertility,” his report noted. Many seemed afflicted by a kind of Chinatown syndrome, thinking of them simultaneously as: Children! Tissue! Children! Tissue!
Nachtigall also found that patients sometimes disposed of embryos in novel ways that fell short of actual plug-pulling. In a version of the rhythm method of contraception, he learned, some patients (though none of the ones in his study) solved their dilemma through the laborious—and expensive—process of having leftover embryos transferred into the woman’s uterus at a time in her monthly cycle when implantation would be unlikely. Others buried embryos. Still others could not bring themselves to dispose of them at all. “We’ll have a couple more pregnancies and we’ll just grow the whole lot,” one father told Nachtigall and his team.

The author clearly understands the implications for the abortion debate:

Arguing that pro-life advocates can taste “total victory” after “an ongoing nibble-at-the-edges battle” involving statehouse measures like informed consent and mandatory waiting periods, Charo predicted that somewhere, soon, “some obscure legislature” will propose to seize control of frozen embryos, the measure will be challenged, and the ensuing lawsuit will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Traditionally, she pointed out, abortion rights involves weighing the interests of the woman against those of the fetus, and up to now the woman’s interests have been considered paramount. But now the interests of the embryo, or fetus, or potential child, can be separated out. This, she said, is a watershed development.
For those who want to test the core of Roe v. Wade, Charo told the fertility specialists, “you guys are the perfect opportunity to separate the question of embryos and best interests, and the woman’s right to direct her body. You take a law like Louisiana’s, saying that personhood begins at conception, and that you cannot discard embryos. Now the Supreme Court has the ability to look at the status of the embryo, not as compared with the woman’s right to control what she wants to do with her body. There is no bodily interest. It’s entirely possible that the first real challenge to Roe will be looking at the embryo in isolation. The question about discard is very, very important. This will be where they start their litigation strategy, to chip away at Roe.”

Even though overturning Roe v. Wade is so controversial and would be a mammoth undertaking, for which our country lacks the emotional energy, we need to ask God to give us the energy to do it and the love to do it well. In the meantime the church should fight on in love with adoption and crisis pregnancy centers and counseling and looking to change laws and not be inconsistent like this dude:

It should be pointed out, however, that even anti-abortion conservatives are not united in their ideas about the embryo and whether it has rights, or best interests, or even the potential for life. Once a person contemplates an embryo—really looks at it, under a microscope or in a photograph—his or her opinion is often changed, and not in any consistent or predictable direction. This is true for pro-choice and pro-life alike. While researching a book on assisted reproduction and its impact, I interviewed California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a reliably anti-abortion Republican member of the House. Rohrabacher was one of some 50 Republicans who defied the president by voting in favor of federal funding for stem cell research using surplus ivf embryos. For Rohrabacher it was not abstract: He and his wife, Rhonda, went through ivf treatment and have triplets as a result.
Going through that process, Rohrabacher told me, fundamentally changed his thinking about life and its origins. “For a long time I’ve been pro-life, and I still consider myself to be pro-life,” he reflected, sitting on the front porch of his Huntington Beach bungalow, which, inside, had been taken over by the demands of triplet care. “I have done a lot of soul-searching but also a lot of rethinking about reality, and what’s going on here, and I have come to the conclusion that I’m…first, I’m still pro-life. But I always said that life begins at conception. But…I was always predicating that on the idea that life begins at conception when conception begins in a woman’s body.”

And, regarding IVF treatments Senator Brownback and, of all countries, Italy and Germany, have got it right:

As Slate’s Will Saletan has pointed out, pro-life lawmakers periodically threaten all-out war on the reproductive liberty enjoyed by ivf patients; Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey hinted at this when he said, “The public policy we craft should ensure that the best interests of newly created human life is protected.” Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has suggested that the government should limit the number of embryos created to one or two per ivf cycle.
Other countries, such as Germany and Italy, forbid the freezing of embryos. In those countries, every embryo made must be implanted. Both of these ideas are of course anathema to American fertility advocacy groups and to the medical field, because it would open the door to that dreaded phenomenon, governmental control over human life and its disposition.

Finally, Catholics have a position called the “Seamless Garment” approach to being pro-life, which opposes the destruction of human life in abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, war. While I wrestle with the Biblical foundation for the death penalty (and I think there is one) I would give it up if it this were linked with doing away with abortion. War is tricky for me to completely rule out, but it sure should happen a lot less often and a lot less quickly. Also, I would like myself and the church to consider humane farming and animal welfare as a part of a consistent pro-life ethic to continue to fight against the Culture of Death.

400,000 Frozen Embryos

This morning on the way into work listening to NPR, they were predicting that the Senate would pass a bill expanding stem cell research, as indeed it has. I have begun to part company with President Bush on several of his policies, however, I am very pleased that he has promised to veto this bill. There are other feasible options for stem cell research that do not involve the destruction of a human embryo. And even if there were not, or even if the other options do not prove as optimal, there are some costs that are too great to pay. I say this not having a relative struck down by a disease that might be mitigated by stem cell therapies, but I hope my position would remain the same even if I did.
What struck me the hardest this morning, though, was the fact that the story mentioned that there were 400,000 embryos that were in storage as a result of being extras in fertility treatments. I have not really been paying attention, but where was the church when such procedures were being considered, procedures which involve the procurement of a large number of eggs, which are fertilized, sorted for hardiness and gender, I believe, and then which are planted in batches so that some or one of them will be successfully implant. These are all statistical measures to raise the chances of success. This is why fertility treatments sometimes result in multiple births, like the septulets (?) in Iowa several years back. The family was very thankful to God for their miracle children, and yet they had already had a child before the treatment.
Well, what happens to the extra embryos? Well, they are frozen and then destroyed when not wanted anymore. Unless, the supporters of stem cell research say, they are used to generate stem cell lines, then they can be put to a life affirming use.
I do not buy that argument, but what troubles me most is that somehow fertility treatments do not receive greater scrutiny and censure in the church, or at least this sort. The pain of infertility and misscarriage is somewhat closer to my heart, and still such treatments are not warranted and cheapen life, even while attempting to meet a noble goal. There are some costs that are just too great, and there are other options, two of them are named Matthew and Emilie, my lovely nephew and niece from Guatemala, now residing in San Antonio with sweet Maddie.
I apologize for the shrill nature of this post, but the situation is very sad.
Here is an excerpt from and a link to an editorial that rather makes the case more eloquently.

“[T]he president and his supporters have, perhaps unwittingly, called into question the practice of IVF.”
And just why should it be the task of Christians to baptize the current practice of in vitro fertilization in this country? It is very strange that Christians should be exceedingly alert to the dangers of technological control and mastery in some realms of life, yet so uncritically approving here.
Why should we not raise questions about the routine production of more embryos than will be implanted, or about the selection of certain embryos (and selection against others) when deciding which to implant? Should Christians simply acquiesce in the view that reproduction is a private project aimed at producing a child “of one’s own,” and, increasingly, a child of a certain (desired) sort? One wonders what we will think, then, when we bring these children of “our own” for baptism and are asked to relinquish them.