My TV Fast

I’m about to begin a 10-day tv fast.

It’s freaking me out a little, actually.

I’m traveling out of the country, to a place I’ve never been before. I’m not taking my computer, my Blackberry, or my cell phone (be still, my Luddite heart!).

And I’m not planning on watching any television.

I imagine I’m not actually going to notice, because hopefully I’ll be busy experiencing and seeing new things. But today, as I’m looking ahead to that 10-day stretch, before I’m actually experiencing and seeing those new things, I’m realizing that’s quite a few days for me to go without.

I’ll be fine...I’m sure...really...just fine.

As I’m trying to quell my panic, several random thoughts keep going through my mind in the face of all this.

Poetry Friday: B.H. Fairchild

B.H. Fairchild is a son of small-town midwestern America, multiple award winner and recipient of many fellowships, including the Guggenheim and NEA grants. He often writes of his growing-up years in his father's machine shop, of beauty, and of mystery.

He's also my husband's favorite poet. 

Hitchcock

Before the lights went out, looking back
in a full house, you must have seen
old faces child-like with expectancy.
The strangest things can happen. Here.
And then you knew we wanted dreams
where all the terrors that we learned
weren’t real, were real, here, in the dark:
dreams that flickered like venetian blinds
in white-frame houses where we stood
in halls with roses on the walls, stared
at doors the wind slammed shut, yelled
up stairs before we took one step,
and then another, up. And ran back down.
You took us only where we’d been
before, and then made every fear
come true. The hall that darkens
at the end, leads to darker rooms.
The door that keeps the unknown out,
lets it come in. The winding stairs
that draws us from our mothers’ laps,
won’t let us come back. We stand there,
looking up, and all the shrieks and
flapping wings we were woke up from,
we wake up to. And when we leave,
glad for light outside dim movie houses,
we grow back into day and wide, white streets.
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5 Reasons Obama-Clinton Shouldn't Happen

If the Republicans had nominated Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson, they would have been perceived as drifting to the right. Fair or not the “middle” would have seen the party as catering to the extremes.

In a Democrat year, the Democrat Party seems intent on nominating two of the few people who could lose this fall. McCain is running very strongly against both Clinton and Obama which is astounding.

Meanwhile, as if moving to the left during the primaries (”I will socialize health care more completely!” “I will leave Iraq faster!”) were not bad enough, the Democrats seem intent on slitting each other’s throats.

Ignore the blather that “competition is good for the party.” Fighting is not good for a party.

Ford nearly beat Carter after a tough primary season against Reagan in a much greater Democrat year (post-Watergate), but that is only a sign of what happens when a party nominates an untested,  but charismatic candidate (Carter).  It is worth noting that Ford did lose.

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Tags | Politics

It's in Our Nature.... sort of

Have you listened to Jose Gonzales' great little song, "It's in our nature"? You can listen to little of it here. The whole of the lyrics are really simple: A bent towards peace and justice is in us, inside our hearts, in our nature.

Therefore, Gonzalez seems to posit, put down your sword, open up your heart, and let down your guard. This marvelous music is packed with anthropological and theological questions. Here are a few of them, along with my own understanding of answers offered us in the Scriptures.

Is it in our nature? Yes. God has placed eternity in the hearts of all people, so that there's something in us that longs for peace, longs for justice, longs of safety and intimacy. This is why we're outraged at so much that we see in the world, or should be. 30,000 people a day are dying of diseases that are easily treatable. It's in our nature to be outraged because we believe the world ought to be different than this, ought to be a place where sick people are able to get care, and hungry people are able to get food, and all of us can sleep soundly at night without worrying about getting whacked by a gun, or a terrorist. It is in our nature to care for these things.

Tags | Music

Pagan Christianity?

Bashing the church has become very fashionable, and I'm not talking about "outsiders" doing the bashing. That's a given, and it shouldn't worry us. One of the last things Jesus told his disciples was that the world would hate them.  Human nature being what it is, people tend to bash what they hate.

The kind of church bashing I'm referring to is coming from those who go to church--or at least used to. The most vivid example has come in the form of a book with the rather startling title, Pagan Christianity? The question mark at the end of the title would appear to hedge the adjective somewhat, but you don't have to read too far into the book to figure out that the authors, Frank Viola and George Barna, believe the current church is based more on pagan practices and traditions than on the practices of the first-century church, which they believe is the true model for the way church ought to be.

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Creative People Make Good Neighborhoods?

At the IAM Conference last weekend, Joyce Robinson, the vice president and executive director of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, and three artists who have benefited from the Foundation’s studio space program spoke at a panel about providing for the needs of artists. The Sharpe Foundation provides free studio space in DUMBO (acronym for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”- a Brooklyn neighborhood) for up to a year to artists who need it. The pool of applicants is big and highly competitive – one of the artists who had a Foundation studio and spoke at the conference, Tara Donovan, currently has a fantastic installment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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Why America Should Fund the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

The National Council on the Arts advises the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who also chairs the Council, on agency policies and programs. It reviews and makes recommendations to the Chairman on applications for grants, funding guidelines, and leadership initiatives.

Artist Makoto Fujimura was appointed to the National Council for the Arts in 2002. Recently, Christy Tennant sat down with Mako and asked him about his work with the NEA.
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It's Really Not About the Smoke Monster

Lost rocks.

Last Thursday’s episode (my favorite of the season so far) reminded me why I love (and have stuck with) this show. And it’s not because of smoke monsters or hatches or mysteries or Dharma projects or innovative storytelling (although I do really like all those things—well, not the smoke monster).

At its heart, Lost moves forward so powerfully because of its characters—those castaways, those Others, who have given us a look at their lives and helped us see our own. Thursday’s episode gave us a beautiful and poignant moment about people, about relationships, through Desmond.

I’ve liked Desmond since the moment he showed up in Season 2 as the button-pushing hatch-dweller (he’d been on the island for three years when we met him). We’ve gotten to know a lot about him along the way, and he’s become as dear to me as any of the original survivors of Oceanic 815 (and that’s saying a lot, because there have been many newbies brought into the show that have not endeared themselves to me—or to anyone else, for that matter. Remember Nikki and Paulo? Yikes!).

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THE DEMOCRATS SELF DESTRUCT

During an election year in which a Democratic victory seemed all but assured, the Dumbocrats have figured out another way to self sabotage. While John McCain rallies the Republicans, the Democratic party looks determined to march towards a floor fight at their convention in Denver. In one sense, it is great to see voters engaged, with record numbers turning out for the primaries. Yet at this point, the protracted battle between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama only benefits the G.O.P.

Last week’s Democratic debate in Ohio was a huge victory for John McCain. By opening with sixteen minutes of debate about the minor differences in their health care plans, Clinton and Obama reminded us why Americans are so often turned off by politics. We’ll happily elect officials to hash out such details. We don’t necessarily want to be dragged into the aracana of public policy. We can expect more of the same through Pennsylania’s primary.

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"Oh My God"

I’d been meaning to download this song for about six months and finally got around to tracking it down on iTunes two days ago.


I really do not know if I’ve heard a song that speaks to humanity’s desperation for God in a universal and intimate way like this one does. It’s devastating.


For the past month I’ve been feeling really convicted about a presentation I gave at Biola’s Journalism conference last year. I couldn’t figure out why it was gnawing at me but I just knew I was wrong in some of what I’d said. Two events this week help me see very clearly where I’d gone wrong. The first was the passing of Larry Norman and the second was finding this song.


My dad gave me one of Larry Norman’s albums a year ago and declared, as he handed it to me, that it was one of his favorite Christian records of all time. I won’t go into Larry’s history or significance, I’ll just encourage you to read his wikipedia page and point out, to you younger readers, that Norman was in the unique and paradoxical position in Chrisitian music to be massive and influential, which meant that he got stones thrown at him from both the Christian and secular worlds, and that because of his influence he inspired people in the secular world you’d never expect; like Frank Black from the Pixies. Crazy.


Then, like I said, two days ago I finally got around to getting this song off of iTunes. I was led to it because I knew that the song playing in the background of a John Piper YouTube video I liked was a Jars of Clay song that sounded interesting. I know nothing about Jars of Clay other than they had one big hit in the 90’s and so I had to do a little investigating. After I figured it out I looked up the lyrics and saved them until I got home from the internet café.


I have never really liked Christian music. I’ve seen it as more often than not, reactive instead of progressive, defensive instead of ambitiously creative – it seems that more often than not Christian art is a parody of secular culture and well behind the curve. I said all this as I spoke at that conference, and then I traced the roots of Christianity’s withdrawal from the arts (and sciences) to Galileo and the Renaissance. I talked about the cultural walls we’d put up to keep ourselves “safe” and to keep the people we didn’t agree with out. In doing so though, we’d stopped influencing culture on an artistic level. I argued that there should only be Christian music that was specifically worship music and not the marketed sub-culture that has grown.


But what I see now, with the passing of Larry Norman, and this song is that if we eliminated Christian music as the umbrella industry it is, we’d be taking away a platform that allows for there to be poetic prophets. Prophets can speak with a guitar as easily as they can with a pen.


The familiar definition of a prophet is one who speaks God’s Word or His will, but there is another social dimension to it. Throughout the Bible, and history, prophets speak from a minority group against a majority group: Moses and Egypt, Isaiah and Assyria and Israel, Jeremiah and Babylon and Israel, and so on. They speak a message that is critical of the dominant power or ways of thought, they show how it will ultimately fail, and they offer an alternative view of the world. They point out social injustices and how far the world and our lives are from what God intended them to be.


Isaiah, Amos, and Moses all did that.

Spurgeon, Tozer, and Lewis all did that.


Those are names we would probably naturally think of if we thought of “prophet”. But would we think of “Larry Norman”? Would we think of the words in this Jars of Clay song? Would we think of Dustin Kensrue (though he’s not within the Christian industry, his words are as sweeping and pointed as any of those mentioned above)?


I want to write more but I have to get to the internet and I want to share this song with you this week.


Read the lyrics as you listen.


A fan of inspired guitars and pens,

Nick

---


Jars of Clay - "Oh My God"


Oh my God, look around this place,

Your fingers reach around the bone,

you set the break and set the tone

For flights of grace, and future falls

In present pain all fools say, "Oh my God."


Oh my God, why are we so afraid?

we make it worse when we don't bleed,

there is no cure for our disease.

Turn a phrase and rise again,

or fake your death and only tell your closest friends,

Oh My God.


Oh my God, can I complain?

You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief.

Weddings, boats, and alibis,

All drift away, and a mother cries...


Liars and fools, sons and failures, thieves will always say..

Lost and found, ailing wanderers, healers always say..

Whores and angels, men with problems, leavers always say..

Broken hearted, separated, orphans always say..

War creators, racial haters, preachers always say..

Distant fathers, fallen warriors, givers always say..

Pilgrim saints, lonely widows, users always say..

Fearful mothers, watchful doubters, Saviors always say..


Sometimes I can not forgive

and these days mercy cuts so deep,

If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep.

While I lay, I'd dream we're better, scales were gone and faces lighter,

When we wake we hate our brother, we still move to hurt each other,

Sometimes I can close my eyes and all the fear the keeps me silent,

Falls below my heavy breathing, what makes me so badly bent?

We all have a chance to murder, we all feel the need for wonder.

We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the plunder.


Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven,

All the times I thought to reach up, all the times I had to give up.

Babies underneath their beds, in hospitals that cannot treat them.

All the wounds that money causes, all the comforts of cathedrals,

All the cries of thirsty children, this is our inheritance,

All the rage of watching mothers, this is our greatest offense

Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God.


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