Thursday, March 24, 2011

If It Were Planned, It Wouldn't Be Random, Duh

This will be my last post for a while. Early Saturday morning, like 5 a.m. our time, we shall be hopping in my car and headed for a marvelous, long-anticipated family vacation in Disney World resorts. Five nights at Disney Hollywood Resort Hotel, a day each at Disney Hollywood Studios Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot Center, and, of course, the Magic Kingdom. Leaving winter's last attempt to assert itself over spring for the balmy central Florida swamp. Speeding through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia. The whole thing will be a marvelous adventure, a week with the family, a week away from pretty much everything.

Ah . . .

I thought, what the heck. I'm feeling musical right now. Something fun. Something to occupy your minds while I'm away. So, my challenge is simple enough - provide in comments ten songs from your own play lists. They don't have to be random. Just ten songs because such lists tell much about who you are, more than you can imagine.

"Together We're Stranger", indeed . . .

The Wagoner's Lad - Buell Kazee (Anthology of American Folk Music)
I've Seen All Good People - Yes
Neo-Caliban Grides - Soft Machine
It Hurts Me Too - Grateful Dead (Fillmore East)
5:15 - The Who
Sleeping Beauty - A Perfect Circle
Peach - Prince
Out On A Limb - Lunatic Soul
Friday I'm In Love - The Cure
Love On The Air - David Gilmour

What else? Ha! See y'all on the flipside . . .

Lest Anyone Think Silence Equals Consent . . .

With the inauguration of Operation Odyssey Dawn (and John Stewart is so right, that sounds like the title of a Yes album), Pres. Obama has managed to bring along the best of all possible worlds. Those who chided him for doing nothing are now attacking him for doing something. Those who insisted that we not get involved are crowing about getting involved in such a half-assed way. While it may be true that the President was in a position where he would have been criticized regardless of what actions he took, he now has the dubious distinction of ticking off all sorts of folks and killing people for no good reason.

While I find Sen Richard Lugar's (R-IN) comments ridiculous - he claimed on Sunday to now know what was going on, etc., as if he had not heard all sorts of clamor and complaint in the couple weeks leading up to the beginning of the mission - and Newt Gingrich's hilarious flip-flop no end of entertainment, that does not mean that I agree with the President. While I find it ridiculous of Speaker Boehner to claim, as he did over the weekend in a letter to the President, that there have been no clearly articulated goals, no clear definition of the mission, no discussion of the scope and size of the mission, that does not mean I find solace in the mission as the President has described it.

Indeed, as I wrote last week
[Qaddafi's] ground forces can consolidate. The opposition, such as remains of it, sits huddled in and around Benghazi. The talking about talking breaks down, and now the Libyan Army is ready to go. And, surprise, surprise! It doesn't need planes. Its tanks, its artillery - all in place. The troops, arranged properly and briefed thoroughly, move in.
By and large, this is what is happening. The ground offensive continues, the opposition, such as it may be, untrained, unprepared, inadequately armed, is hardly protected as the tanks, artillery, and troops continue to move against them. The stated final goal - the end of the Qaddafi regime - is no closer to being realized by the no-fly zone than it was before, with added costs not least of which is the loss of an American F-15.

We have no dog in this fight beyond a general desire for freedom for the Libyan people, and a wish they not suffer the hardships of being shelled, bombed, or otherwise injured and killed by their own military. Noble sentiments which I certainly share. All the same, such sentiments are not a reason to commit our blood and treasure to a campaign that involves killing people with whom we have no immediate quarrel, and which carries far too many unknown costs down the road. While it pains me to side with the opponents of the President, I cannot stand with him in the middle of this muddled, murderous nonsense.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Come In She Said I'll Give You Shelter From The Storm

Have you ever wondered if there were ways others could tell things about you that didn't involve cutting open a chicken and dumping out its innards or tracing lines on your hand? Well, there is now.
The Beatles: You can do exactly 1.5 pull-ups.

Badfinger: You are a Beatle.

Deep Purple: Some part of a law named after a young girl applies to you.

Led Zeppelin: The first three things you smoked were banana peels, catnip, and poppies, in that order.

Jimi Hendrix: You are under 20 or over 65.

The Kinks: You have bad teeth and are good in bed.

The Guess Who: You have good teeth and are bad in bed.

Black Sabbath: Your greatest joy is painting unventilated rooms.

David Bowie: There is still, somewhere, a Dig Dug or Zaxxon machine with your high score on it.

Mott the Hoople: You are David Bowie.

The Moody Blues: You are a former volunteer at the Liberace museum, a serial killer, or both.

The Grateful Dead: Your stories about the seventies make your daughter's roommates at Tufts very uncomfortable.
For myself, I would enjoy tantric sex, if for no other reason than I tend to enjoy sex anyway, but tantric sex makes it a bit like work before you get there, and I try to keep discipline out of the bedroom. Fat guys? Um, no . . . These are clues to my favorite classic rock band, by the way.



Let's get some randomness started before I get bored.

Day Fourteen: Pride - Ayreon
I'm Not Waving - Dead Soul Tribe
Linus and Lucy - Vince Guaraldi Trio
High Time - Grateful Dead (Live, Nassau Colosseum, 1980)
Amethyst - Bill Bruford, Ralph Towner, Eddie Gomez
You Got The Look - Prince
Winds of Change - Peter Frampton
Be Still My Beating Heart - Sting
Take Me In Your Arms - Kim Weston
Behind Me Now - Amos Lee

The Cult keeps popping up on my player, and just missed this list. It's like a musical Wayback Machine for me, taking me to more carefree college days. . .

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


As we continue our little musings on prayer, I thought it important to take a moment and clarify a point I made yesterday regarding the opening petition of the Lord's Prayer. Specifically, the highlighted section in what follows:
Quite apart from contemporary ideological discussions on the word choice, which are important as a matter of communal reflection on our own brokenness, and should always be a part of our prayer life, the opening petition of the Lord's Prayer already contains within it both the honest humility of the sinner and the boldness of faith through grace; approaching the throne of God and daring to speak in that way, to address the unknown and unknowable Creator as "Father" is to declare the mystery of salvation in two short words, to live out the possibility presented to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is important to remember that Jesus invites us in to a radically new relationship with God through this daring word-choice. Of all the ways to address God, calling God, "Father", introduces a level of intimacy in our relationship with God that should draw us up short, make us pause each time we utter it. This is, after all, the God who is in heaven, whose Name is to be hallowed. Yet, we boldly, humbly dare to address God as "Our Father".

Yet, in our day and age, the word "father" has become a problem. It isn't too hard to think of people whose relationships with their fathers is, well, less than satisfactory. In fact, I can think of people who have no relationship at all with their fathers, either because their fathers were absent, or were abusive in some way. Very often, this can translate for some in to problems addressing God as "Father". After all, if one's experience of "Father" is either of absence or abuse, who wants God to be like that?

This leads to a situation in which the term of address in the initial petition becomes a matter of concern, even controversy. When I was in seminary, two decades ago (which makes me feel old . . .), our academic Dean, a systematic theologian who should have known better, would, for example, use "Father/Mother" in the Trinitarian formula. That usually made my fillings ache. I also knew a pastor who, during the congregational recitation of the Lord's Prayer, would begin her petition with, "Our Mother."

The invitation to address God as "Father" is problematic for many today for reasons that differ from ways it was problematic in the time of Jesus. Then, it was the intimacy implied by the form of address. As St. Paul says, we are to call upon God using the Aramaic idiom "Abba", connoting familiarity. In our day and age, all too often this intimacy is betrayed in people's experiences with their fathers, leaving a bad taste in the mouth when we turn to God and call upon our Heavenly Father.

All the same, I think it imperative that we not shrink, in this instance, from using that particular title. We must, even in the midst of our fear, our anger at the ways our fathers hurt and betray our trust and love, have the faith and courage, by addressing God as "Our Father" to make the claim that in this Father we have one who will never betray us, never leave us alone, who loves us beyond all imagining, all comprehension.

We should also do this address in the full knowledge that it is a problem. We should use it with a penitential heart, asking forgiveness for the many ways we have made it difficult for so many to say to God, "You are our Father." Even this most intimate, essential relationship is broken by sin. By calling upon God as Father we are not only claiming a relationship of utmost particularity; we are also confessing the ways that earthly relationship is broken. For that reason, I think it necessary to always pray, in the Lord's Prayer, to Our Father, who is in heaven.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some Thoughts On Prayer

As I move toward a week's break due to an impending family vacation, I thought I would take the next few days to consider something vital to the life of every Christian, yet something about which it is difficult to speak. I am helped along on this arduous task with some theses offered at the latest addition to the old roll of links.

I have always considered my own position on prayer as rooted in St. Paul's statement, "Pray without ceasing." Yet, even here, we encounter more questions than answers, stumbling blocks, and hazards. My own sense is that St. Paul's contradictory claim, made in the letter to the Romans, that we do not know how to pray, is as true as his insistence that we are to pray always, in all circumstances.

At the heart of the matter, prayer is both simple, and most mysterious, unfathomable, impossible, irrational thing imaginable. As Meyers writes at one point, prayer is the heart of the gospel, the freedom we have been granted by God to speak to God. It is a freedom that requires discipline, however. At the heart of prayer, at the heart of the gracious gift in which we approach the throne of the Creator, stuttering and stammering, unable to articulate our most heart-felt need, lies the reality that only as we grasp our utter inability to pray have we understood what prayer is about. We cannot do it on our own. We would be unable, through the most powerful will, the most humble words of penitence and plea for access, to gain a hearing no matter our righteousness, no matter our virtue.

Prayer is a gift of God's grace. At the heart of the mystery of redemption lies this new reality, this part of the new creation - God has given us the tools to be heard by God. God wants to hear our prayers. God wants that relationship, wants us all, at all times and in all circumstances, to speak our most secret fears, to admit our deepest hurts, to live in the wounds of this life in the full faith that they do not have power over us.

Prayer is surrender. It is surrender to the idea that it is we, either as individuals or as the gathered Church, who pray. It is surrender to the idea that what too often prompts our prayers - our fears for ourselves or those we love; the needs of those who are sick, who suffer, who are alone, in prison, who are left and forgotten - is the reason we approach God. Prayer is surrender of any sense that "I" or "We" are the center of our lives. We cannot pray until we have learned to die.

This contradiction - we are to pray without ceasing, yet we do not know how to pray - is rooted in the very teachings of Jesus. His disciples asked him to instruct them in prayer. He then uttered two words that are impossible, meaningless, blasphemous - "Our Father". Quite apart from contemporary ideological discussions on the word choice, which are important as a matter of communal reflection on our own brokenness, and should always be a part of our prayer life, the opening petition of the Lord's Prayer already contains within it both the honest humility of the sinner and the boldness of faith through grace; approaching the throne of God and daring to speak in that way, to address the unknown and unknowable Creator as "Father" is to declare the mystery of salvation in two short words, to live out the possibility presented to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We do not know how to pray. We must pray at all times. We are to pray in this way, reflecting freedom and newness of life. We are to pray in the faith and hope of the grace of God, calling upon God with the boldness that comes from faith, the humility that comes from faith, the love that flows from God.

It is this mystery, this necessary part of each moment of our lives, living with the boldness that brings the New Creation yet to come present as we dare to embrace the promise offered in the resurrection, our promise made in baptism. Prayer is part of making the Kingdom of God real, here and now, the most baffling thing imaginable.

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