Monday, July 26, 2004

jonah, chapter 3

1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,  [He is not too great to repeat Himself. praise God!]

2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. [when i teach, i'd like this kind of yieldedness. go preach the preaching I bid thee. that is a very daring place of dependence. the kind of dependence i read about in God’s Smuggler, where brother andrew went to an anti-christian land and met with underground christians led only by the spirit of God. i knew someone who used to smuggle bibles, what a powerful calling. are we all called to that kind of service and obedience or just a few brave souls?]
 
3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.  [jonah did as the Lord wanted. i don’t see jonah as a new believer, or a young convert. i imagine him to be more stable and set in his faith. he knew enough of God to know He would have mercy on nineveh. a friend of mine pointed out that nineveh is somewhere in modern day middle east, she asked, would i go there and proclaim the word of the Lord, and how many words would i get out before i had my head chopped off? I have another friend who is moving her family to europe to be missionaries. what a calling. what faith. i am challenged to get out of my comfort, to forego my ease and move out in faith to reach the lost.]

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.  [talk about looking the fool. i would like to teach someday, but to teach this way, in utter dependence on God.  in utter abandonment of my own agenda. that is truly a calling from on High.]

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  [wow. for being heathens, they sure responded quickly.]
 

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  [another impressive response from a heathen king. it sometimes feels like even christians don’t respond with such immediacy, such trust. we rightly weigh prophetic words, but in a land in pursuit of almighty diversion it is easy to simply forget the callings and cause of Christ. it is easy to rest in our seeming abundance of possessions and material, that modern day christians, many americans, myself among them may be surprised to find ourselves the ones who thought ourselves rich but when we get to heaven will find we are naked, blind, and poor in the things of God. i don’t want this to be my heavenly surprise. i want to be surprised by all the colors, shapes, and sizes of people the Lord let in. i want to be surprised by His kindness and mercy, not by my ignorance and stubbornness. those plague me enough here. i want to be like this heathen king and lay down my robes when the Lord speaks correction and cover myself with the garment of mourning that the Lord may have mercy on me.]
 

7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:  [their animals fasted with them. that is a fast! i believe this is called an absolute fast, no drink nor water. heavy duty fasting. this heathen king really knew how to repent. he really knew how to humble himself before the Lord of mercy. if i knew nothing else of the Lord, this is what i’d like to know. how to get right.]

8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.  [even the animals were clothed in sackcloth. this moves me. this king was not only repenting for the evil he had perpetrated, but for the entire land. he exhorted his people to cry out to the forgiving God. it doesn’t say anywhere that he heard the word of correction from jonah. he heard it via messenger. there is some prophet saying, in forty days we’ll die. it says jonah entered the city a day’s journey, but the city was three day’s journey wide, so would he have even made it to the king? i don’t think so. if he hadn’t then the people proclaiming a fast was an act of sheer and utter repentence. they couldn’t wait for the king to weigh this word so heavy were their hearts. then, when the king did hear of it, in his agreement, he went a step further and included the animals in their fast. what a nation. i don’t know that america is capable of this kind of repentence, even though we think ourselves a christian nation (maybe that is why, we may be more of a pharasaical nation). would we humble ourselves at the word of one unknown servant of God? i seriously doubt it and that is sad. i have known in my spirit that we must, as a nation, repent of our treatment of minorities. all minorities. african slaves, native americans who were slaughtered for manifest destiny, chinese and all asians who were interned in camps, hispanics who are still leaned heavily upon as a legal form of slavery. i am sure there are many more i am forgetting or unaware of, but as i read Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee i wept for the atrocities committed against natives. when i began to learn of the plight of slavery, i saw the same face of evil. it is not merely men who are acting here. it is a great design of the enemy. as a minority i never felt it my place or right to repent on behalf of the perpetrators of these injustices. but i would gladly join in a group repenting, because it needs to be done. (someone asked me, how many people does it take to repent for the nation? i said, i don’t know, i’m not sure there is any number God requires. i would like to see at least a small group of people do this. that is just my inclination, not a prerequisite.) these evils are in need of repentence, will we repent? i hope so. this heathen king shows us how]

9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?  [the thing that strikes me most about this king is, he has no certainty he will be heard, but he repents anyway. we have the certainty. maybe that is why we don’t? we are to busy living our christian ideals to repent of the wrongs of a nation. (btw, if you would like to join me in an act of repentance for our country, let me know and i will do what i can to organize it)] 

10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. [this is as sweet as when hezekiah turned his face to the wall and said, Lord, consider how I have lived before you. and Isaiah turned on his heel to say, the Lord heard you. (i have often wondered how humbling it is for a prophet to say, thus sayeth the Lord, then have God change His mind. does it look like, and feel like failure to our human senses? i don’t think God much cares about how we look in the eyes of men, as long as we do what He says.) God repents, why don’t we? are we too proud? am i too proud? usually that is the case if i can’t muster repentence. sure we have in God We Trust on our currency, but this is not a christian nation. in california, the liberal fringe has just acted to have all the crosses removed from county seals. they did nothing about the pagan goddess who adorns the seal as well. it was just the christian God they abhor. will we rally behind this President in november or watch as things in this nation turn away from embracing christianity and moral absolutes. after 911, the President was riding waves of prayer. he seemed bullet proof, humble, submitted to God. my prayers for him have slackened as the days draw forgetfulness like a curtain over my prayers for the President. but i must repent of this too. and change.]

Saturday, July 24, 2004

jonah, chapter 2

1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,  [what He will do to get us to talk with Him. what He will allow us to go through. i have only been wheeled into an operating room once. lying prostrate, looking at the large rectangular flourescent lights passing above me, seeing faces of strangers looking down, trusting them, their knowledge, their skill with my life. these moments, when we are carried on the gurney of our lives toward the moment of utter dependence, God is moved with compassion. He is most intently aware of our pain, our fear, our hopes, our longings. He is most intimately involved in our healing. He is most acutely aware of our need. He listens with a heart bursting with love, the heart of a Good Father, a Loving God, and He watches tears stream from our eyes, as we drift into the oblivion of trust.]

2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.  [the belly of hell, what is your belly of hell? is it a job, or lack thereof? is it an injury or the troubles of triumph? whatever it is, He will hear and answer. though often not in a way we understand. He always answers. it is not that He speaks amiss, it is solely our faulty hearing that causes the confusion.]

3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.  [we blame God for everything. "thou hadst cast me" uh, no jonah, thou hadst cast thyself, remember? God didn't do the leaving in the fireswamp. even when the church flings us upon the mercy of God, into the depths of the sea, God can use it. romans 8:28 promises all things are used for good, not just the easy, not just the understandable. but the perplexing mysteries of God are used as well. my billows and waves are a great fog. i am beginning to understand it is not the way of the christian to walk always on the clearly demarked path. it is the way of the christian to step out in faith. to feel the stone path beneath the foot outstretched in faith. when our eyes are blinded by the fog of events, and our senses diminished by the circumstances of life, when we can hear only “our shrieks of pain,” even then, especially then, we must not flee the presence of God.]

4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.  [the way of salvation is to look up, to the serpent raised in the desert. to the Saviour raised on the cross. look again, when your eyes fail and your heart grows faint. when you feel abandoned by God, abandoned by the church, abandoned by human comfort. look to the One who is lifted high above all else, and you will find Him.]

5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.  [i have heard the word suicide too many times recently. i am convinced it is a great weed that wraps itself around our heads. when we flounder the enemy comes to us and whispers, there is a ship departing for Joppa, here is the way. but i believe God has greater designs for us than flight. greater purposes for us than alleviating our pain. He requires trust, when the way has fallen from under our feet, like a bridge of frail hopes and dreams. when the weeds entangle us and tether us to doom, He awaits the word of hope, the prayer of faith, the look of trust in His child’s eyes.]

6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.  [from death He fashions life. from delaying He allowed fashioned His glory. Lazarus died. the Lord Himself mourned him. but Jesus Christ, the Risen Saviour, spoke the words of Life and quickened him again.]

7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.  [when my soul fainted, fainted from my ignorance. fainted from my rebellion. when my soul fainted within me 'i remembered the Lord.' how nice. how human. we do all the forgetting and rebelling, God does all the faithful abiding and forgiving. but He knows how we are fashioned. He made a way through the perils of humanity.]

8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.  [we forsake our own mercies every day when we do not fall on our faces before the Lord. lying vanities. those words strike me to the core, what does it mean to observe lying vanities?]

9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. [we are never told what he vowed, but God knows. He knows what you vowed, what i vowed, in those frightened moments when our child's face was frozen in the grip of belle's palsy, God knows the vows you vowed. fulfill them.]

Salvation is of the LORD.  [Amen!]

10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. [the Lord delivered jonah unto safety. he didn't deserve it. he didn't even request it. but God gave jonah another chance. each day, we get another chance. each moment. until the breath is gone from our lungs, it is never too late]

Thursday, July 22, 2004

jonah, chapter 1

1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,  [how many times have i heard the voice of the Lord and run away? too many to count.]
 
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 

3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, [this shows jonah's humanity. he simply did not want to go. so he turned on his heel and went the other way. i understand this. there are times the Lord wants to show me something, and i am just not ready, just not willing. just too stubborn to yield. my husband understands this about me. and this is when i miss what God is wanting me to be and do and learn. not to mention all those He would have mercy on.]
 
and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.  [he paid the fare, thinking he could run away from God. Carl Tuttle once said, if i change seats at the Father's table, he simply picks up my plate and moves it to whereever i happen to be sitting. we can run, but we can't hide. the brussel sprouts are on our plate for a reason. eat them warm, they taste better than cold]
 
4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.  [He will not let you have your way, as any good parent will not let a child have their evil way, even if only to make the point that you are the child, i am the parent. even Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered (Heb 5:13). if you will not let Him crush you, He will break the vessel carrying you away from His presence.]
 
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god [pointless, but go ahead and try],
 
and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.  [interesting how the one whom God is speaking directly to, is slumbering through His communique, as if he could block out the stress of the moment. i deal with stress this way, i sleep much when i am downcast. it is a way to shorten the waiting period. but maybe, just maybe, God wants us to be uncomfortably awake]
 
6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.  [interesting to note the G in God, whereas the g in the god of the mariners is lowercase. also, where is the shipmaster who will question me, and ask me what the heck i am doing (or my husband for that matter?). this says to me, someone must take the lead. someone must recognize their position of authority and address the sin in the lives of others, especially when it is affecting the community and this someone does not necessarily have to be a christian. i would gladly welcome a heathen calling me on the carpet, especially if the body of Christ is neglecting her duty to do so]
 
7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.  [casting lots to see why this evil befell us. this intrigues me. we don't do it this way in the church? i lived in a home once full of goldy women. once we started getting attacked and we met together to pray and ask, what is going on in your life? it was a powerful demonstration of this principle. however, more often than not, in the church, we languish in the rocky boat and fear for our lives, rather than find out who is sinning amongst us and confront them. i look forward to the day when i will be confronted with my sin rather than just endured while i languish in it. sometimes we need others to show us the consequences of our sin, because clearly it affected the mariners more than it did jonah. i have been asking all my friends this question, where are the shipmasters and mariners in the church today? one dear friend replied, who can say anything? who has less sin than the one being confronted? i stagger at this comment now, how can we as a church ever confront anyone if sinlessness is a prerequisite? it cannot be. we must confront based solely on the sinlessness of Christ, not on our own merit. this thinking is why the church is mired in the quicksand of powerlessness, it is a great deceit of the enemy.]
 
8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?  [in other words, what have you done to bring this evil upon us? they tried everything first, they parted with their wares, they called upon their gods, now they know the answer lies not in their hands, but in the hands of this unknown God. powerful, how God can use our sinfulness, our rebellion, to show Himself Mighty. not to diminsh the power of God on behalf of the nation of israel. also, we have no idea any of jonah’s particulars. sometimes i think God was marvellously imprecise in some texts just so we can apply it to our lives. our simple brains sometimes equate, well i’m no prophet, i’m no tax-collector, i’m no apostle (hear, therefore it doesn’t apply) but God leaves jonah remarkably faceless in this text. telling us no more than the story of a simple man running from God, it could be you, it could be me. in fact, it is.]
 
9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. [i fear the Lord. i fear the breaking of the Lord. i fear the mercy of the Lord. how many ways we fear the Lord. jonah, for all his sinful rebellion, still feared the God of heaven. this speaks volumes of the mercy of God to me. this gives me hope. that in spite of my sinful rebellion, God will make a way for me to return to Him. even though i drag out my exile, even though i fashion my own exile, even though i run from Him, He will pursue me like a Lover, and woo me unto Himself, because more than i fear His mercy, i fear Him. and He knows this is the great cry of my heart]
 
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.  [he knew. he knew all along that he was fleeing the presence of the Lord. the mariners feared exceedingly because the God of heaven is the only God. what a testimony even our sinfulness can be to the unsaved. God can use all things to speak to man. what a mighty object lesson the God of heaven gave those mariners this day. i hear the Lord saying to me, do not fear My presence. i fled the presence of the Lord once, but it was the warm, fuzzy presence of the Lord. this is the painful, death-to-self presence of the Lord i find myself in. and it aches. but the Lord says, without offering me any comfort, stay. though you lack comfort, though you lack hope even, stay in My presence. do not flee. for in My presence, even my crushing presence, even my doubtfilled fearful presence (the doubt and fear are all my contribution mind you), abide. do not flee the presence, even the painful presence of the Lord]
 
oswald writes: There are times, says Jesus, when God cannot lift the darkness from you, but trust Him. God will apear like an unkind friend, but He is not; He will appear like an unnatural Father, but He is not; He will appear like an unjust judge, but He is not.
 
11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.  [why do not we ask each other the hard questions? what shall we do UNTO THEE? is their question. they are not saying, it will be okay. it won’t. they’ll sink if something doesn’t happen. they have no guarantee of a fish to save them alive, neither does jonah at this point, but they know the crossroads they stand at require them to ask the hardest question of all. What shall we do unto thee? the church has ceased asking the hard questions. the church wants the easy road. the formulaic answer. the five simple steps to God. the church throws no one overboard, and that is why she languishes in powerlessness today]
 
12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.  [take me up and cast me forth, it would be better for jonah to die than go to ninevah. at least that is what he hoped for. i understand this depression. this frustration, this loss of options. i understand God can rend the heavens and stir a mighty gale for our redemption if that is what it takes. what jonah would do to get away from God, anything, even die. but death is no escape from God. today, i heard the Lord ask me, would you allow yourself to be Lazarus for Me to receive glory? Lazarus Lord? i replied. Lazarus. would you go down to death for Me to be lifted up? while everyone else prays for your healing, for your restoration, for your liberation, would you willingly go down to death for Me? Yes, Lord. the answer is always, Yes Lord, i would be Lazarus for You to be lifted up.]
 
a brief aside. today oswald writes me this: “The Death Side. In sanctification God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side. …The Spirit of God in the process of sanctification will strip me until I am nothing but “myself,” that is the place of death. Am I willing to be “myself,” and nothing more—no friends, no father, no brother, no self-interest—simply ready for death? That is the condition of sanctification. No wonder Jesus said: “I came not to send peace but a sword.” This is where the battle comes, and where so many of us faint. We refuse to be identified with the death of Jesus on this point. “But it is so stern,” we say; “He cannot wish me to do that.” Our Lord is stern; and He does wish us to do that. Am I willing to reduce myself simply to “me,” determinedly to strp myself of all my friends think of me, of all I think of myself, and to hand that simple naked self over to God? Immediately I am, He will sanctify me wholly, and my life will be free from earnestness in connection with everything but God. When I pray—“Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,” He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus puts into me: it is Himself in me. (i Cor. i 30.)
 
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.  [nevertheless, the church rows against the inevitable. instead of casting the cause upon the mercy of God, the church attempst to save herself. the church rows for all she is worth, yet the tempest rages. i do these things myself, i do not speak of the church as if i am not guilty by association. i am a fool among fools. but God has fashioned our deliverance. we must do the hard things. ask the hard questions. cast the cause upon the mercy of God.]
 
14 Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee. [they tried all their options, but when they could find no other way, they heeded jonah's words. they began to call upon the name of the Lord aright, and before throwing one of his disobedient, yet chosen ones into the tempestous sea, they sought mercy for their actions. we fear the will of God. many times it is beyond us. beyond our ability to comprehend. many times it seems cruel. we feel selfish. but God’s ways are higher. His ways are right and true even though they look frightful to us. i keep hearing in my spirit that we must learn to hear God for ourselves. He reveals Himself uniquely to us all. He is the intimate Lover of our souls. He does not give a pastor a word, or an example of how God worked in the pastor’s life, for us to adopt it as “the way” God works. God works in myriad ways. i believe we are coming to a time and place in the history of the church where God will demonstrate His uniqueness. He will speak through prophets confirming words, words we have germinating in our spirits. the time of seeking our direction in books, and sermons, and lectures, is over. seek direction from God alone. learn to hear His voice aright now, before the days grow dark and hearing aright is essential.]
 
15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.  [He heard and delivered the mariners.]
 
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.  [converts all, they encountered God like Lieutenant Dan out in the midst of the great sea and made their peace with God]
 
17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. [He has prepared your deliverance in advance. this encourages me greatly. even when my stupidity and rebellion are the cause of my impending drowning, He prepared a fish to save me alive. hallelujah!]

rescue me

aired last night on F/X. a series starring dennis leary, a post-911 recovering alcoholic firefighter who is separated from his wife.

while irl, dennis leary is not my favorite comedian, i am more inlined toward a brian regan, or a kathy madigan, leary has his moments. to see him set in this ultra serious series, is a juxtaposition of humor and tragedy. kind of like life.
 
without revealing much of the story, let me just say, leary’s character, tommy is trying to reconcile the past. but he is pissed off at God. with good reason. he is a FDNY firefighter. he was there. he lost buddies and relatives.
 
i think the timing of this series is good, it will remind forgetful america that the knee-jerk patriotism after 911 isn’t something to forget. if you are a patriot, be one even when tragedy isn't occuring. the thanking and loving of our first responders (although not necessarily in the way they discuss in the series) is essential.
 
At one point tommy asks, “if there is a God, He has a hell of a lot of explaining to do.”
 
my heart ached. people so easily let anger at God become their focus. while it is tragic, i think any discussion of God, even God sucks, is valid and opens a door for God to show Himself. i am much encouraged by the faith issues of this series. and while it is not a series for the prude or easily offended, it is a powerful reckoning of life, death, and all that is mucked up in between.

here is a quote from a book i will blog on later in the week:
 
"Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic. When the shadow of Jesus' cross falls across our lives in the form of failrure, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, unemployment, loneliness, depression, the loss of a loved one, when we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain, when the world around us suddenly seems a hostile menacing place—at those times we may cry out in anguish 'How could a loving God permit this to happne?' At such moments the seeds of distrust are sown. It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us." Brennan Manning from Ruthless Trust.
 
 that is all for now. back to real life.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

proverbs 14:13 (dream catcher)

Wafting by
            my dreams
Fly haphazard
            in the breeze
Just beyond
            reach.
Stealthily, I
            stalk and pounce
Yet just between
            my fingers
They fly
            a circuitous course
Eluding me.
            those I have
Caught and pinned
            stare frozen
Trophies on my wall
            the mystery
Elegance, beauty           
            gone. 
 
here is, a melancholy tune. it seems blogger has much improved and can handle more types of poetry. so i will share some of my different formats and styles with you. hope you like it. 


Saturday, July 17, 2004

before it gets better

when i hear these words, my heart sinks in recognition of how true they are.
 
yes, things will get worse before they get better, i know this.
 
worse than three and a quarter years of unemployment, what could be worse?
 
losing renters in our rental property due to their job loss for starters.
 
myriad repairs to said property, two.
 
this must mean it is going to get better, and that gives me hope.
 
as i sat, in stunned silence, digesting the news of our latest blessing in diguise, i could feel myself at yet another crossroads.
 
i could choose to stress out, and essentially worry and fret about two mortgages to pay on no income.
 
or i could trust.
 
trust in a God who has bigger designs than my comfort. trust in a God who is forging a way, where there is no way. trust in a God who has a plan of goodness for my life. trust in a God who is love. 
 
my attitude has been horrendous.
 
i battle depression whose claw closes tighter and tighter around my throat, until i retreat to my stimulant of choice, the tele.
 
when i get so overwhelmed by my circumstances, flipping one little switch can often give me a bird’s eye view into the life of some wretched soul worse off than i. (the tv can have some redeeming qualities.)
 
that wretched soul happened to live in ethiopia.
 
i caught a special called “surviving hunger.” it irritated me that a large (american-sized) reporter lived and ATE with these starving ethiopians, and didn’t contribute anything to alleviate their plight, rather, he rested on their largesse. he ate of their scant resources, all the while filming, complaining, and languishing in front of the camera. oh, please!
 
that kind of reporting sickens me. i tried to block out the reporter, who went to a gathering of the community. this man was true ebony, dark as night. some members of the community wailed at the sight of him. not because of his colour, no, because of his size. they had never seen someone so large, they were frightened.
 
their men, their community members, were gaunt, tall, and sat upon their bent bony legs. they worked all day in the hot sun, fueled by very little. wild cabbage mostly (akin to dandelion or mustard greens—not at all the fat, plump, cabbage we know and take for granted in the States). yet they smiled, worked, and never complained.
 
finally, the reporter asked the father if he liked eating the wild cabbage.
 
he said, no. it makes my stomache hurt, but why complain, it is all we have?
 
the father told the story of his sister who could not find food so she went to town, and eventually laid down and died of hunger.
 
the ethiopians live each day by the food they raise, scant though it may be, wild cabbages, and woefully short government rations. according to the film, each ethiopian is alloted some 25 kilos of grain per day. the reporter showed a family who had just received their rations and they had only received enough for one person for approximately two days.
 
the government food isn’t reaching the people. the reporter asked a distribution center why it was not being doled out according to the standards, and the worker said, the government says this is all we can hand out. (i bet the members of the government aren’t starving and feeding their children wild cabbages)
 
the reporter at one point said he was so hungry, he would take food from the baby, and he tried to coax the smiling child to give him some of the last precious grain. but she did not. good for her. he had plenty of fat to burn, it would be a long time before he starved to death.
 
this all helps to remind me that no matter how bad it gets, there are souls worse off. i think God must feel a great swell of pity for americans who think they have it so rough. as i sit, eating food in my air conditioned single-family home on one acre of peaceful and free soil, my heart and mind goes to the ethiopians. my heart aches for those parents who labor long hours under the hot sun for something to feed their children. i long for the day when i can make a difference.
 
in ethiopia, they die of hunger.
 
in america, we die of excess.
 
think about it. heart diseases and diabetes come from our overindulgence. scorrosis from excess alcohol. lung cancer, emphysema, from smoking, itself an excess. many of our ailments, i am sure, could be traced to pure and simple excess.
 
with my attitude adjusted sufficiently, i will walk this road of trust, knowing there is a God who sees my plight, but also has His eye upon the ethiopian child and parent. His eye is upon the muslim son who is considering blowing himself to smithereens to secure a better place in life for his family. His eye is upon the Somali woman, mutilated by her culture and left frightened. His eye is upon all.
 
i can trust this God. and He can redeem us all.

underworld

i started this blog at dave long's faith*in*fiction discussion board, in the off topic discussions forum. allow me to elaborate further.
 
i caught a movie called underworld last night. it was a vampire vs. werewolf movie, and it was good. i didn't fall asleep in it (as i am inclined to do when movies are predictable or just plain boring).

when are christian writings going to deal with life, myth, legend (and its role in christian life) and not just some "standard" or marketing scheme?

c.s. lewis used dragons, wizards, magicians, and tash, an evil figure, to counterpoint his characters.

i stumbled upon a book called "to dance with God." i almost didn't get it because i thought it was going to be about little g gods, but it is about big G God. (i am tired of bypassing books because they have buzzwords in them which can be interpreted in many ways) and in it gertrud nelson says,
While science pulls us out of our orignial religion, the churches have done their share to push us out [AMEN]. We became particularly vulnerable to the lure of scientism because the churches, resisting the same intellectualizations, entangled themselves in self-preserving apologetics, dogmatics, and morality [did she say cba or church?]. They created a heavy overlay, crusting over the religious mystery, losing touch with their own meaning. In the Catholic Church, the profound mystery of dogmas was distorted by rules and the mandate to believe them on a literal level, because the understanding of the truth of myth was lost. In some churches, religious rituals were abandoned because they reeked of popery, and they were left with an anemic expression. In many Catholic churches, the rich heritage of symbol, of ritual and ceremony, degenerated into dry, mechanical rubrics which were followed by the book and returned little or no meaning to the people.
while an out of context quote does little to convey the magnitude of this work, i find myself strangely understanding and agreeing. perhaps our loss of the mythic realities of life and religion are why it is so easy for this need to be fulfilled and perverted by tales of werewolves and vampires with no redeeming value.  we've abandoned these things to the dark side for the sake of propriety, and "speaking whatever is true and lovely." but the truth and loveliness of God are magnified in counterpoint to these twisted evils.
 
i would like to see the whole of christian writing undergo a massive overhaul. if there were some way to encourage a new breed of writers, artisans, and mystics in the church to do what God would have them do with their art, i believe it would breathe life upon the dry bones of our religion.
 
i am tired of religion. of its propriety, of its prudishness. religion is a rabid dog that needs to be taken out into the yard and shot.
 
i would like to see authentic, integrated christianity lived, breathed, and demonstrated in art. dark and light, struggles and triumphs. myth and truth. 
 
there is more than enough tempered christianity out there. isn't it time for a revolution? 


Friday, July 16, 2004

yahoo! sucks!

as if life weren't frustrating enough. i've got yahoo! to deal with. they recently upgraded their service, and i've had problems ever since.
 
granted, i'm impatient. i could see it as an opportunity to expand my patience, or learn to abide in Christ. but no! i want my stinkin' email to work when i want it to work. i want to send attachments when i want to send them.
 
i don't want nice messages popping up telling me to "try this" and "try that."
 
how about trying to make the program work? how about that?
 
if i weren't such a technological imbecile, i might be able to abide these seeming eternal delays, like my husband. he is a telecom guy, so he rationally explains the possible problems the system could be having when we can't log on.
 
i don't care about the possible problems, i just want my email to work. i want to say hello to my friends and loved ones when i want.
 
this technological world we live and deal in sometimes feels like an illusion. if suddenly the internet were to go away, how many friends and contacts would simply cease to exist? how many lifelines would be cut by interrupted service?
 
just a few years ago, email was unknown and unnecessary to my daily life. now, i get a kick out of connecting with my cyber friends.
 
do you ever ponder the almost alternate reality of cyberspace? i invest so much time and energy in my cyber friends that i scarcely have time for 3D friends, isn't that strange? 
 
maybe it is because i live in the middle of nowhere and have very few people who can relate to my urbanite ways. who knows. it doesn't help living in the bible belt and being as irreverent as i am. no, it doesn't help at all.
 
all this from yahoo! and their lame service. (well, it isn't always lame, just now, when i want an oompa loompa now daddy!)



Thursday, July 15, 2004

the dead

as if in reply to the question hanging at the end of my calvin and hobbes post, i turned on 60 minutes last night, a show i watch only by chance and there were the members of the grateful dead.
 
i've never considered myself a deadhead, but i was pleasantly surprized to see the old guys (and i use that term endearingly) were still kicking and making sweet music.
 
the grateful dead admittedly never set out to make millions. they set out to make music. they are "the most successful touring band" ever, i believe is what i heard last night.
 
the grateful dead are so far ahead of the music industry, they allowed--even provided a special area for--recording their shows. it didn't kill sales as industry big whigs (and lars of metallica) would have us believe, it inspired fans.
 
the band didn't care if the music was taped, because once it was performed, "they were done with it."
 
the band has only had one hit, "a touch of grey." and only became "famous" when they made a video for said hit. but they didn't cash in on that hit. they played it every third show, in "rotation."
 
the band admits any success they've was "backed into" it wasn't planned. the things they failed at, were the things they planned.
 
anyway, i've linked the story to this post, 60 minutes tells their story better than i. but i thought it was God saying, check them out.

they seem a band of artists who are in it for the art, not the fame, not the money.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

calvin and hobbes

allow me to share with you some excerpts of essays which have helped form my ideas of selling out and the industry, while they have to do with comics, they can be taken as cautionary tales for all writers, artists, and creatives in any medium.

An excerpt of "The Comics in Transition" essay by Bill Watterson, in The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book.

"Cartoonists had few pretensions about the artistic or cultural significance of their work. From the beginning, the comics were regarded as a commercial product that existed for the purpose of increasing newspaper readership. Cartoonists considered themselves newspapermen, not artists. Their job, pure and simple, was to help sell newspapers.

"I've heard it argued that today's readers do not have the patience for involved storylines and rich artwork in comics anymore. Popularity polls are cited to show that comics are doing just fine the way they are. I disagree and I think it's a mistake to underestimate readers' appetite for quality. The comics can do much better than they presently are. Better strips could attract larger audiences, and this would help newspapers. The comics' potential--as a seller of newspapers, and as an art form--is great if cartoonists will challenge themselves to create extraordinary work and if the business will work to create a sustaining environment for it."

An excerpt of the "Licensing" essay by Bill Watterson, in The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book.

"I have several problems with licensing [for derivative products: dolls, T-shirts, TV specials]. First of all, I believe licensing usually cheapens the original creation. When a cartoon characters appear on countless products, the public inevitably grows bored and irritated with them, and the appeal and value of the original work are diminished. Nothing dulls the edge of a new and clever cartoon like saturating the market with it.

"Second, commercial products rarely respect how a comic strip works. A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversations and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration width great violation of the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one dimensional needs of the product....Calvin and Hobbes was designed to be a comic strip, and that is all I want it to be. It's the one place where everything works the way I intended it to."

"Third, as a practical matter, licensing requires a staff of assistants to do the work. The cartoonist must become a factory foreman, delegating responsibilities and overseeing the production of things he does not create. Some cartoonists don't mind this, but I went into cartooning to draw cartoons, not to run a corporate empire. I take great pride in the fact that I write every word, draw every line, color every Sunday strip, and paint every book illustration myself. My stirp is a low-tech, one-man operation, and I like it that way. I believe it's the only way to preserve the craft and to keep the strip personal. Despite what some cartoonists say, approving someone else's work is not the same as doing it yourself.

"Beyond all this, however, lies the deeper issue: the corruption of the strip's integrity. All strips are supposed to be entertaining, but some strips have a point of view and a serious purpose behind the jokes. When the cartoonist is trying to talk honestly and seriously about life, then I believe he has a responsibility to think beyond satisfying the market's every whim and desire. Cartoonists who think they can be taken seriously as artists while using the strips protagonists to sell boxer shorts are deluding themselves.

"The world of a comic strip is much more fragile than most people realize or will admit....

"My strip is about private realities, the magic of imagination, and the specialness of certain friendships. Who would believe in the innocence of a little kid and his tiger if they cashed in on their popularity to sell overpriced knicknacks that nobody needs? Who would trust the honesty of the strip's observations when the characters are hired out as advertising hucksters? If I were to undermine my own characters like this, I would have taken the rare privilege of being paid to express my own ideas and given it up to be an ordinary salesman and a hired illustrator. I would have sold out my own creation. I have no use for that kind of cartooning.

"Unfortunately, the more popular Calvin and Hobbes became, the less control I had over its fate. I was presented with licensing possibilities before the strip was even a year old, and the pressure to capitalize on its success mounted from then on. Succeeding beyond anyone's wildest expectations had only inspired wilder expectations.

"To put the problem simply, truckloads of money were at stake--millions and millions of dollarscould be made with a few signatures. Syndicates are businesses, and no business passes up that kind of opportunity without an argument.

"Undermining my position, I had signed a contract giving my syndicate all exploitation rights to Calvin and Hobbes into the next century. Because it is virtually impossible to get into daily newspapers without a syndicate, it is standard practice for syndicates to use their superior bargaining position to demand rights they neither need nor deserve when contracting with unknown cartoonists. The cartoonist has few alternatives to the syndicate's terms: he can take his work elsewhere on the unlikely chance that a different syndicate would be more inclined to offer concessions, he can self-syndicate and attempt to attract the interest of newspapers without the benefit of reputation or contacts, or he can go back home and find some other job. Universal would not sell my strip to newspapers unless I gave the syndicate the right to merchandise the strip in other media. At the time, I had not thought much about licensing and the issue was not among my top concerns....I worried more about the contractual consequences if the strip failed than the contractual consequences if the strip succeeded. Eager for the opportunity to publish my work, I signed the contract, it was not until later, when the pressure to commercialize focused my opinions on the matter, that I understood the trouble I'd gotten myself into.

"...I am probably the only cartoonist who resented the popularity of his own strip. Most cartoonists are more than eager for the exposure, wealth, and prestige that licensing offers. When cartoonists fight their syndicates, it's usually to make more money, not less. And to make the whole issue even more absurd, when I didn't license, bootleg Calvin and Hobbes merchandise sprung up to feed the demand. Mall stores openly sold T-shirts with drawings illegally lifted from my books, and obscene or drug-related shirts were rife on college campuses. Only thieves and vandals have made money on Calvin and Hobbes merchandise.

"By the strips fifth year...I prepared to quit. If I could not control what Calvin and Hobbes stood for, the strip was worthless to me. My contract was so one-sided that quitting would have allowed Universal to replace me with hired writers and artists and license my creation anyway, but at this point, the syndicate agreed to renegotiate my contract. The exploitation rights to the strip were returned to me, and I will not license Calvin and Hobbes."

do you know of any artists who stand up for the integrity of their work at the price of their "fame?"

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

wanting

i finally had a moment to steal away with my dear friend, Oswald Chambers.

a moment of silence, and peace to settle my spirit i'd hoped.

my friend writes me this:

"To fulfill God's design means entire abandonment to Him. Whenever I want things for myself, the relationship is distorted. It will be a big humiliation to realize that I have not been concerned about realizing Jesus Christ, but only about realizing what He has done for me.
'My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, / Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.'"


not joy nor peace? WHAT!?!

we have been unemployed for three years, i WANT a job for my husband.

do i want that more than God? hmm.

do i want that from God? hmm.

these questions strike me to the core. they hurt. they frustrate me beyond reason.

i want to want God above all else, but i don't. i want a job for my husband.

perhaps that is where my eyes have fallen from my Saviour and to my self.

who needs friends like Oswald, speaking from the grave? who needs to be challenged by the words of an old dead guy?

i do. i know i do.

they inspire me with what writing can be. it can be alive. it can be a mighty weapon in the Hand of God. it can be an altar where God and a living, fragile, frightened soul can commune.

yes, that is what i want my writing to be. that is what i want my words to be. that is what i want my life to be. a sacrificial place of communion with God, for others and for myself.

but most of all, i want God.

Monday, July 12, 2004

sitcommercial

i am a fan of the boob tube. i spent hours in front of it when i was a kid. no one thought anything of it then. i took up reading late in life, so i am making up for lost time now trying to read the classics i skipped over in my early years.

my kid likes the boob tube too. she is a reader though, and this much assuages my resultant guilt for passing on my ignorant passion. but tv is what you make of it, and we watch a lot of science shows. she loves sponge bob though, and that is one show no matter how you slice it, it is pure silliness. pure ignorance. pure funny. i guess that is why she likes it.

my beau and i watch a lot of reality tv. we get a kick out of it. but lately, i've been noticing the blurred out bottles of shampoo on jonathan astin's counters. the blurred out product in jesse james' monster garage and it irks me.

i know about specialized marketing, placing car ads during car shows, and cereal ads during kids shows. but i hate it.

on big brother, they have reward contests, and they win subway meals or burger king meals, or whatever, and the whole show the contest, becomes a reality commercial.

i wonder when novels will take on this marketing aspect. perhaps the industry hasn't caught on yet.

i heard the is existing technology to put advertisements in the stars! can you believe it? soon, we won't even be able to walk out in nature and gaze up into the starry skies without seeing ads for achilles condoms or something.

so i am not liking tv so much because of the incessant advertising. tivo is not something we have, but it would be nice to be able to skip over commercials. we've taken to tape recording our shows, and watching the next day so we don't have to watch the commercials. but these product placement ads are really starting to bother me.

the movies don't seem to be caving so much to that pressure, yet.

too bad everything in life is about making money. about advertising. about telling people what they need to make their life better, or to keep up with others.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

peace

if i could find some way to manufacture peace, i'd be rich.

it would be outlawed though. our fear-driven society and those who make money off that fear, would lobby against such a drug. not good for the public interest, they would say, all the while meaning, not good for my pocket book or bottom line. yeah, we gotcha.

outlawed or not, it would sell faster than any diet drug. it would quickly earn a following of loyal peace popping junkies.

i like pink, so i would make it a delicate pink pill. i know my sister's church (i love them btw, i only mention them because deep down inside that is the church i want to belong to!) would go for it. they get collectively strung out on vitamins and books and whatnot. i imagine it would be no different for many churches the world over.

christians are among the most skittish, discontented lot of people i've ever known. almost up there with writers.

but just imagine, a delicate pink pill to soothe your fears, ease your mind, settle your doubts.

it doesn't have to be a pill though. it could be a powder for snorting (sssnnsst) or hiding in your poison ring and deftly lacing your uptight spouse's coffee with.

could you imagine mainlining peace? heating up the little spoon with your lighter.

i wonder what the withdrawals would be like.

little baggies of peace being doled out on street corners and great piles of peace being snorted at fancy office parties. sssnnsst. peace. sssnnsst. peace. sssnnsst. peace.

little tabs of peace that dissolve on your tongue, so cute with their little pictures of hello kitty, poccacho or badtz maru on them.

or it could be in leaf form. we could load our bongs (does anyone use bongs anymore?) full and revel in the sweet smoky scent of peace. tthhsstt. peace man. tthhsstt. peace. little hand-rolled, zig-zag wrapped doobies of peace.

trouble is, peace can't be manufactured.

try as i might to settle myself down and relax, peace eludes me if i am not where God would have me be. i may be doing exactly what i want, going exactly where i want to go, if it ain't right (for whatever reason) peace eludes me.

recently, i made the decision to lay down my writing "career" (actually, my pursuit of publication and all that entails--i've got them lining up to publish these gems of wisdom folks.) those closest to me, privy to the particulars of my situation gave a hearty yea, and amen. a few others gasped at the hearing. concerned that i was losing the lab with the dog wash. hog wash. they thought. but there ain't any arguing with peace.

the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. he doesn't come bearing peace.

so as i sit, confident only of the peace of God, i know He alone can manufacture peace. He alone can settle my nagging doubts and fears. He alone.

i am grateful, once again, for His soverignty and ability to make a way where there is no way. even when i am told to walk forth, as abraham in a way untrodden, uncharted. His peace is ever with me. and i am grateful.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

rule breaker

i am a lowsy cook. i make a few good things, but i am very self-conscious when i slap a meal on the table, especially for guests.

i could eat rice and beans forever. i am very utilitarian. my palate is not that great either, neither is my sense of smell. all these conspire against me.

i married a great cook. but i burned him out in the early years relying too heavily upon his skills as a cook. so now we eat whatever i manage to muster, and it is typically messed up in some form or fashion.

my husband's apache palate is acutely sensitive. once his aunt came over and i prepared a cup of coffee for her, she asked for no sugar, but creamer. i stirred in the creamer with the community spoon. she took a sip and asked if i used a spoon which had sugar previously stirred sugar. yes, i had. she could taste it. that is how sensitive my husband, daughter, and their apache family's senses are.

so when seasonings are off, or i've burnt something, they know it well before i do.

most of my problems arise because i don't follow directions. and when i get familiar with a recipe, i really abandon the cook book--then it gets interesting.

i read books and things that interest me very intently, focused. i remember much of what i read. i wish that were true of my cooking.

my first cheese cake was more cake than cheese. i misread the recipe and put in a cup of flour as opposed to the requisite three tablespoons. yeuck.

i do a lot of praying in the kitchen, especially when i have guests.

i was talking to a friend on the phone when i was cooking once and was just telling her that cooking was akin to a great exam i never studied for. this exam repeats itself every day of my life, three times a day. i hate cooking.

my girl has taken a liking to the easy things i cook well, but my husband was raised with a mom who made him a fresh, unique meal every day of the week (and she served it all piping hot).

i am the leftover queen. i'm lucky if my food is served warm, forget piping hot.

the Lord has not called me to walk the easy road. maybe He is going to fix some of my rule-breaker tendencies with all this cooking. maybe He is going to give me confidence where it lacks.

i can write, i can read well, i can edit. i can't cook, i hate to cook. but i must get over that. so this season, of laying down pen and focusing on my family--they must be my first ministry--will be a challenge of denali proportions.

but challenges aren't ever easy, or they wouldn't be called challenges. would they?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

enemies

if my enemies came to me as the nazgul, cloaked in black, spewing insects and riding black horses, how clear cut life would be.

if my enemies came to me bedecked as the uruk-hai, foul smelling, hideous to behold, i'd gladly lop their heads off.

but no.

my enemies come cloaked in religion. bibles at fifty paces. friendly fire. the wounds of a friend, these enemies call it, and i am convinced, for a while.

my enemies come to me with laughter and poke fun at the tender places in my heart. when i recoil, they say, it's all in good fun. and i am convinced, for a while.

what is this battle we are in, where enemies are our friends and allies? what is this life we live where we must discern the enemies from amongst us?

we battle not against flesh and blood, but against rulers and powers of the heavenly places. so this brother slamming me, is not my enemy? i am not convinced at all, he is the one standing here wounding me. and it hurts. it simply hurts.

whether i am convinced or no, i must learn to gauge my enemy by the Gospel of Truth. rightly dividing the Word. weilding my sword with ease and grace.

if my enemies would come to me as sauron, firey-eyed, fierce and evil, there would be no difficulty, no inconsistency, no grey where i am not convinced of who they are.

if my enemies would come to me as sauruman, traitor to the cause, leaver of the way, lover of power, i might recognize them when they stood beside me. but alas, i do not.

what a mighty battle we fight. what an awesome challenge to discern the followers of the Way of Truth.

i myself have even betrayed my brother, and it did not feel good. would i never willingly fell my ally again. would i never allow my members to be weilded by unrighteousness.

i long for the day when enemies will stand revealed and battle lines will be clearly drawn. i long for that day as a starving man longs for a morsel of bread. but until that day, i wait. i hope. i pray...for discernment.

age of upheaval

one of my "crock-potted" history papers. i hadn't planned on sharing this but a newfound friend who read my minority opinion blog has begun discussing minority issues with me and i just sent this along to further our conversation and share a minority view of history. i read the same history books as everyone else, i come away with very different opinions and perspectives though, the kind that make professors squirm (especially white male ones. but this one, while not agreeing with my "harsh tone" and ultimate outcome, saw beyond the racial issues and said i presented my case well.) i don't have to be right. if you don't agree, tell me.

The Age of Upheaval

The fearsome power of wicked men fills the pages of history with tales of injustice. America during the 1950s and 1960s was full of treacherous acts by wicked men. Many of these men, themselves "leaders" and "upstanding citizens." After years of cruel and unfair treatment, minorities had enough. It was time for a great upheaval. It was time for change.

Long before the assassinations of great leaders, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medger Evers, John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, there were small yet pivotal acts of bravery and selflessness. Rosa Parks was a housekeeper, whose sore feet drove her to resist giving up her seat on a bus in December 1955. This woman set off an effective boycott of the busing system which ultimately led to the Supreme Court declaring segregated public transportation illegal. This is one of the many instances where the common hard-working people daily toiling under oppression led the "leaders" of this nation. In Little Rock, Arkansas, it was teenaged kids who led the way through the jeering crowds into southern school desegregation. An endeavor with political ramifications too great for the Supreme Court or Federal Government to get involved, instead they sent children. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister whose Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), operated under theories of nonviolent resistance, were themselves met with savage cruelty (902). African Americans knew the rules. They could not be aggressors, they had to take the hits and suffer the traumas perpetrated on them or they and theirs would suffer consequences dire. White leaders, like Police Chairman Eugene "Bull" Connor, used "attack dogs, tear gas and electric cattle prods—even on some children in full view of the television cameras" (922). These arrogantly evil leaders seemed to parade their vicious acts of injustice, whereas African Americans had to be above reproach. Even then, they would most likely be assassinated.

Students united to "sit-in" at a segregated lunch-counter in Greensborough, North Carolina and the demonstrations spread throughout the South. These students formed a branch of the SCLC, called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Their aim was to "keep the spirit of resistance alive." What brave souls constituted these committees. "Freedom rides" conducted by an interracial group of students were met with "savage violence on the part of the whites" and forced JFK to "dispatch federal marshals to keep the peace and [order] desegregation of all bus and train stations" (922). What a battle had been won. The unspeakable bravery of those souls goes largely uncelebrated in popular culture, yet they are the ones who opened the door for our children and grandchildren. The Supreme Court, yea even the President were merely responding to the actions of these brave souls, as the leaders could not take the steps necessary to secure even the smallest gains for African Americans.

Brave souls constituted the whole of American servicemen who fought in Vietnam. While Bill Clinton and other sons of privilege took leave in some foreign land, hundreds of thousands of America's sons were fighting and dying in the quagmire of Vietnam. Johnson's questionable report of the attack in the "Gulf of Tonkin" secured a resolution for him to "take all necessary measures" to quell aggression. Johnson committed more than 100,000 American troops by March 1965, by "spring 1966 more than 4,000" soldiers had been killed and by the end of 1967 over 500,000 were fighting (934). The number of soldiers peaked at "more than 540,000" (960).

Sadly, "Larry Berman, writing in 1982" states, "neither Johnson nor his advisors were unaware of the obstacles to success in Vietnam." He "committed troops…because he feared that allowing Vietnam to fall would ruin him politically and destroy his hopes for building his 'Great Society'" (937). In 1971, the American military was decaying and the morale and discipline of troops deteriorating (961). Problems of “desertion, drug addiction, racial bias, refusal to obey orders, and killing unpopular officers by enlisted men" were tragically common. Like the proverbial ostrich with its head underground, Nixon was convinced "a defeat in Vietnam would cause unacceptable damage to the nation's (and his own) credibility" (962). What a sad end to a terrible war, in spring, 1975 Americans evacuated Saigon as "desperate South Vietnamese and officials fought with American soldiers and diplomats for space on the few airplanes and helicopters available" (964). The Pentagon Papers, leaked to the press in 1971 by former Defense Department official Daniel Ellsberg, "confirmed what many had long believed: the government had been dishonest, both in reporting military progress of the war and in explaining it's own motives for American involvement” (961). The savagery of American "leaders" extends then not only to minorities, but to the very men and women who constitute the armed services. America would ultimately lose over 57,000 sons, with an additional 300,000 injured (964). Was the carnage solely to further Johnson and Nixon’s political aspirations? Can men be so heartless? I shudder to imagine the depths of evil in the hearts of our "leaders."

Johnson's Great Society programs could scarcely be considered products from the heart of an evil man. However, much legislation credited to Johnson, was birthed in the Kennedy years. "The ambitious measure that Kennedy had proposed [namely, a comprehensive civil rights bill] in June 1963" passed in early 1964, "impetus" gained from the Kennedy assassination (923). "The war on poverty was one that Kennedy had been planning…in the last months of his life" and "Johnson launched only weeks after taking office." From the war on poverty arose Medicare, open to all elderly in the nation and Medicaid open to the impoverished and indigent. Many minority leaders got their start in Community Action programs devised by the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). It was unable to sustain financially, but proved a useful vehicle for empowering minorities (919). "Kennedy had long fought for federal aid to public education" but could not overcome a few obstacles. Johnson devised a plan where aid was based on student need versus school need. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 passed. The successes of Johnson's Great Society were reduction of hunger, passage of much needed aid, and "contributed to the greatest reduction of poverty in American history." However the Great Society failed because it proved too expensive to support, there was no reliable means of funding, and failing programs led to disillusionment with government's "ability to solve social problems." While number crunchers offer a titillating shift in those living below the poverty level, upon examination the shocking truth of the disparity of human life in America is revealed. In 1959 the national average of those below the poverty line was 21%, by 1969 that number had dropped to 12%. Sure it looks good at first, but when broken down by race, the numbers are appalling. In 1959 a whopping 56% of African Americans were below the poverty line, and in 1969, 32%. In stark contrast, 18% of whites were below the poverty line in 1959, and in 1969 only 10% (921). These numbers clearly demonstrate the great failure of this nation to empower the hard-pressed. The Great Society was a failure. If more than half-white Americans were impoverished, immediate action would be taken. Yet almost one third of African Americans remained impoverished and these numbers are celebrated as some great success. It is just another example of the many great injustices of this nation where all men are "created equal."

Men can struggle under injustice for only so long. Minorities, youths, artists, and students reacted strongly against the blatant injustices in America. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) declared themselves in the Port Huron Statement (946). They were disillusioned with the society they had inherited and were determined to revolutionize politics. Free Speech was a premiere issue where students were seeking to be heard. The antiwar movement was quite volatile, and with good reason. Men were dying in Vietnam and there seemed no end to the bloodshed and perhaps worse, no understanding of the reasons for the war. The radical "Weathermen" were responsible for arson and bombings, which claimed several lives. The draft was a sore spot for many students. The SDS succeeded in pushing antiwar protest to center stage. "Abolition of many traditional deferments-for graduate students, teachers, husbands, and fathers" must have made the student's feel as if their lives were expendable (947). And indeed, to the administration they were. Just as Saigon fell, so too did Nixon.

In 1973, newly re-elected President Nixon's fa├žade began to crack. Nixon's conservative silent majority was a winning election ploy, but proved to be as empty and meaningless as his administration. In June 1972 men were arrested for breaking into the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C. Washington Post reporters discovered among them past employees of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President. When put on trial, John Dean, former counsel to the President, accused Nixon of involvement in the scandal. When word of tapes arose, Nixon fought to suppress them under executive privilege, and was denied by the Supreme Court in United States v Richard M. Nixon (1974). The House later recommended "three articles of impeachment" (975). Stanley I. Kutler writes "Nixon's life long resort to vicious political tactics" and "longstanding belief that he was the special target of unscrupulous enemies" led to paranoia. Nixon was convinced he had to "get them before they got him" (977). On August 8, 1974, Nixon resigned. "Many Americans expressed relief and exhilaration that, as the new President [Ford] put it, 'our long national nightmare is over'" (978).

Whether it be called a nightmare or acid trip, the Counterculture movement was feeling free. These longhaired, rock and roll loving, concert attending, free loving, junkies were the new America. LSD was the ticket to ride, and hedonism reigned supreme (949). The Beatles, tame—even happy by modern day standards—were outlandish to the mainstream. Eastern religions were part of the rejection of all things American. Musicians, such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez set the radical tone of the age (950). Poets, like Alan Ginsberg proclaimed a "new consciousness" and declared Woodstock as "a new kind of bliss." (It was only a concert Alan, come on.) Movies and television began slanting away from the conservative fare of older days, to portrayals of new sexual mores, political issues, violence and social conflict (951). Perhaps no where is the counterculture struggle more accurately portrayed than in the events transpiring with Native Americans. "In 1961 more than 400 members of 67 tribes gathered in Chicago to discuss ways of bringing all Indians together…to redress common wrongs." The issued a manifesto called "The Declaration of Indian Purpose" which "stressed 'the right to choose our own way of life' and 'the responsibility of preserving our precious heritage.'" It was about time. In 1968, American Indians banded together in militant form creating the American Indian Movement (AIM). These activists saw the passage of the Indian Civil Rights Act, "which guaranteed reservation Indians many of the protections in the Bill of Rights." In 1969, AIM occupied Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, "by right of discovery" (953). In 1973, AIM staged a long overdue revolt at the site of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. The effort to force "the government to honor its long-forgotten treaty obligations" ended with "one Indian dead and another wounded" (954). Others in the fight for liberation were Latinos, Women, Gays and Lesbians. It was a time of great social outcry and steps in the direction of reform.

Reform comes slowly and at great cost, in lives and sacrifice. It is with great appreciation to those who have gone before, that I enjoy the company and friendship of my African American friends. It is with great gratitude my family enjoys the freedom to celebrate our heritage. Great breaches of trust transpired in the early years of America. Yet we stand poised to address our errors and push forward into a new day. This president, George W. Bush, seems equal to the task of leading our country into a time of humanity and graciousness. There are still inequalities and injustices, but those will be overcome by the continuing sacrifices of the brave. I hope and pray evil will not rule America. We have seen only glimpses of the havoc it can wreak in society. I pray we someday have a better sense of purpose and unity as a nation. Unity does not come by denying past wrongs, but acknowledging them and demonstrating a sincerity and commitment to further equality. Something I have not yet seen in America.

Works Cited

Brinkeley, Alan. “The Unfinished Nation: Volume II, From 1865, Third Edition.” McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Boston, 2000.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

bliss

i am fond of joseph campbell. think what you will of him, the man has some good things to say from time to time. i prayerfully consider the words of all men i hear, not just those who are in the christian camp. if God can speak through a donkey, He can speak through joseph campbell. (i serve a very, BIG God).

this past week, i put the power of myth on. campbell talked about pursuing your bliss. he deemed it, one of the greatest gifts we can give to God, essentially.

as i was watching, i realized, i had mistaken my bliss to be writing.

my bliss is not writing. my bliss is God. loving and pursuing God.

campbell went on to define a poet.

"a poet is someone who makes a living at pursuing their bliss."

yes, this is what my poetry is about. chronicling my faith journey. chronicling my prayers. chronicling my bliss.

i had turned aside and lost my way, but i am finding it again.

now i wonder, what bliss does writing hold for me? what power to sway me, does the craft hold. not much. i could take it or leave it. i am waiting for further word on that one, before i make any decisions.

but i don't want a writing and speaking ministry like i once thought i did. i want a ministry of blessing people with the power of God. i want to lay hands on people and bless them with the healing God has blessed me. i believe in anointing with oil and holy spirit ministry. it powerfully transformed my life. i was trapped in lies and bondage, until believers laid their hands on me and ministered freedom. that is all i want to do, proclaim the day of liberty to the captive. i was captive too long.

there are five things i give away when i pray. five things i know that God has given me. they are, writing, dancing, mercy, freedom, and words of knowledge. they are free gifts of God. as john wimber used to say, you only get to keep what you give away, so i give them away liberally. to whomever asks or has need of them. if you want these, just ask. God can do through email prayers whatever He likes. He is a Big God, remember?

i know God. i know little else. i hear Him, clearly. His love songs ring out and soothe me. His gentle rebuke chastens me. He is my bliss.

what is yours?

Friday, July 02, 2004

if hope is a car

if hope is a car
then mine is a jalopy
out of gas
overheated
i am pushing it
up hill
the only way i'll stop
is if it
rolls back
over me

i'm not giving up.

though my legs wobble and shake under the pressure, i am refusing to abandon hope. perhaps some day, i'll realize this jalopy was really a chariot and i was riding in ease the whole way. perhaps someday. but now i see with failing vision, under burning sun, and hope and pray for tomorrow to be a day of rest, peace, and fulfillment.

for those who have only recently joined me in this journey, i thank you for your words of kindness and encouragement. i look forward to the day when all this makes sense. and i look forward to the day when i witness you receiving your just reward for faithful prayers and exhortation.

peace!