happy etl, boys and girls

if you don’t know what Embrace the Lame (from here on abbreviated EtL) is, an explanation: my friend and colleague Teacher Dave of blogdom fame decided we ought to have a fake Internet holiday where we all post our respective points of geekery so others can support us in them. so without further ado, my 2008 list:

1. i just figured out the other day that, through my baylor account, i still have access to lexus/nexus and JSTOR. i am so excited about this and I DON’T KNOW WHY!
2. last july, i was one of those crazy people who read the last harry potter book in less than a day, and have since spent my time considering its theological and philosophical implications. homegirl quoted 1 Corinthians 15 in it. that doesn’t happen in your everyday fantasy book, boys and girls.
3. i have a moleskine. nothing lame about that, really; they’re good little notebooks, and they have that spiffy pocket in back. what scares me a little is that i numbered all my pages, and i have an index…i fear i’m turning into a lifehacker.
4. for a while, steph and i have been dropping the occasional “word” (as in, i agree, homeskillet) in conversation, and we recently figured out that “forsooth” is the elizabethan equivalent. so that’s been showing up, too. and we find this really amusing.
5. finally…dudes. i’m becoming a librarian. i find this remarkably awesome, but apparently the stereotype runs deep. *shrug* and, look, i knit, and i read a lot of books, and i drink a lot of tea. all i need is a cat or two (or six) and i’ll be set for life. (good thing i’m not really a cat person, eh? or a small dog person, either.)

mix tape monday

This week: Numbers!

1. The Decemberists – 16 Military Wives
2. The Beatles – Eight Days a Week
3. Jars of Clay – The Eleventh Hour
4. U2 – Hawkmoon 269
5. Derek Webb – Zeros and Ones
6. Steven Delopoulos – 12 West Front Street
7. Johnny Cash – 25 Minutes to Go
8. Patty Loveless – Two Coats
9. Nick Drake – One of These Things First
10. Denison Witmer – 24 Turned 25
11. Rosie Thomas – 2 Dollar Shoes
12. Stop Thief! Quartet – Spring or the 4th of July
13. Finger Eleven – One Thing
14. David Shook (*no, not that David Shook) – 27 Years
15. Sandra McCracken – Ten Thousand Angels
16. Caedmon’s Call – 40 Acres
17. Andrew Peterson – The Ninety and Nine

run time – 1 hour, 7 minutes, 6 seconds

random things i’ve been pondering

1. What is up with the phrase “in this place”? You know what I mean, if you’ve been in church: “Lord, we just ask You to be here in this place…” or some other permutation. It’s been bugging me because a) isn’t that just an overly verbose and/or redundant way of saying “here”? b) where else do you want Him to be? I don’t know.

Also–“Stand to your feet.” Where the heck else are you going to stand? Your hands? I don’t get it. 🙂

2. Been thinking a lot about the resurrection lately, thanks to sermons at church and having just read N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope. I think it’s interesting that God is in the business of redeeming and renewing matter; one day He’s going to make the physical world whole again, including our bodies. God likes matter, and to say He doesn’t is to fall into the same error as the gnostics (and I know you guys don’t want to do that). I mean, He made it, after all, so God likes trees and airplanes and mangoes and sound waves and skin colors and dolphins. And in the meantime, we get to be part of the renewal, whether by enjoying God’s good creation or making it more beautiful or taking care of it. Imagine the implications this has for aesthetics and environmentalism.

3. Confession: I bought a coloring book the other day. A Hello Kitty coloring book. Broke out my crayons for the first time in years. I stay in the lines, thank you very much. Sometimes you just need to regress a little. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go have some juice and cookies…

4. Speaking of regression, I got a Psalty song stuck in my head stuck in my head the other day, and I wanted all the rest of you to join in the fun:

t13

this week: 13 things you really don’t feel the need to do.

1. watch dr. phil or oprah. i think this might be good.
2. follow celebrity news.
3. get anything pierced that’s not on my head.
4. try drugs.
5. buy anything that costs more than i make in a year.
6. go bungee-jumping.
7. read the da vinci code.
8. write sci-fi (though does postapocalyptic lit technically count as sci-fi if it doesn’t involve robots or, y’know, science?).
9. listen to talk radio that’s not npr.
10. make a record.
11. get a motorcycle.
12. learn a brass instrument.
13. dress in drag (and yes, virginia, there are drag kings, too).

the trees: rise and shine

(Part one is here.)
Once out of Eden’s gates, the father and
The mother of our race dug deep into
The thorny ground and somehow put down roots,
Bore their own fruit—two sons, Abel and Cain,
But Abel’s branch would not live long, his blood
Spilled out onto the thirsty ground and turned
It red with sin and guilt. But still his faith
Lived on, and speaks, you know. And so came Seth,
And Cain’s offspring and his split off, one branch
Seeking the light of God, one growing toward the dark.

And so it came that just one man remained
Upon whom favor from the Lord did rest,
And so the two by two and the eight sons
And wives went up into the ark, the trees
Providing shelter for all living things
While the unrighteous drowned; the earth was born
Again through baptism and blood, and wood.
The trees grew once again; an olive branch
Brought by a dove came signifying peace
And new beginning for the human race.
They rose and shone and gave God glory–but
They still did fall, and curse, and die again.

(untitled)

and forty days would cease the drowning gates of heaven
pouring out the weight of glory on the grass and dust,
to cover the earth like the seas of forgetfulness,
to remember us sinners no more
(have mercy on us, he said, have mercy)

for thorns and thistles we have borne
and choked the garden You had planted,
thorns grown from the serpent’s seed,
weeds to spring up from the stony ground
the water of Your word won’t penetrate,
and we’re left wandering the desert of our own decrees,
blind to the blinding light of truth that leads us through the night
(miserere nobis, Domine, miserere nobis)

and we have stumbled like the blind following the blind
and listened for Your whisper in a hurricane but
You were not there
(what are we doing here, You ask,
and we confess an ignorant zeal),
so You blow against our tidings of things you already knew,
burn like wrath and a lover’s passion
to light up the deep down things in us
(have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy)

the advent series (2007)

week 1

The earth was baptized with water once,
In the ancient days when it was still young,
To wash away the crimson stains of humanity’s bloodied hands,
But those eight and the two by twos
Were saved in the ark of a rainbow covenant–
When they passed through the waters, the Lord Himself was with them.

And one day the world will be baptized with fire
To burn away the straw houses we took our refuge in,
But like the Hebrew children we’ll not be singed,
But will rise up to meet Him in the air
Like incense smoke before our God,
Like moths drawn to the beautiful flame–
When we pass through the fire, the Lord will be with us.

And in the in-between, the already-but-not-yet,
He is now with us in the flood and flame,
As He was and will be.
For He passed through the water of a virgin’s womb
When He took on our flesh and blood,
And He passed through the fire of a holy wrath
When that flesh was broken and that blood spilled.
Yes, by His Word and Spirit, by which He makes us clean,
Emmanuel is with us even now.

week 2

here’s the thing about God:
when He says, “the kingdom is near,”
we don’t expect (or want) it
to be prefaced by a “repent, for”
because we hear “kingdom”
and hear not poverty of spirit,
but flares and trumpets and glory,
the construction of an abiding city,
and, well, that’s what we get…

but.

He builds up a city of outcasts and oddballs–
a camel-wearing, locust-eating hermit shouts aloud
the coming of a carpenter king,
the teachers of the people go mute,
old ladies have babies,
virgins tell their fiances, “honey, i’m pregnant.”

not quite what we were expecting.

and He uproots the trees of our self-righteousness,
fills in the low valleys of our self-pity,
and cuts down the mountains of self-exaltation,
to make straight His own highway,
to prepare a way into our hearts–
He builds a kingdom by tearing down.

not quite what we were thinking of.

but His ways aren’t like ours,
His thoughts are not our thoughts–
the old give birth to voice,
the young bring forth a Word,
the kingdom comes out to the wilderness.

and when it comes,
heaven opens,
the Father shines His face on us,
the Son is lit with glory,
the Spirit comes in peace like a dove.

not anything we could imagine,
but everything we need.

week 3

So we all know the song:
The one that proclaims joy to the world,
For the Lord is come,
But no one–or hardly anyone–
Sings the third verse,*
Which is a shame, because it tells us
The great and glorious truth
That the Lord also comes to make His blessings known
Far as, far as the curse is found–
Everywhere sin and satan have made their marks,
In hearts, in minds, in bodies, in matter.

So when He comes,
The blind see His face, the deaf hear His voice,
Lepers feel His touch, the lame dance to His song,
Minds are mended, lives are brought back from the grave,
Faith is given, sins are forgiven.

But what about those who live
In the dark places, in the four walls
Of their doubt and despair?
Does the kingdom come to the persecuted,
To the suffering, the dying, the mourning?
When it looks like God goes to everyone else,
It’s all too easy to take offense at Him.

But He says that the kingdom is yours,
You poor in spirit,
You persecuted for His sake;
Even if it does not seem to chase
Away the darkness of your dark night,
Know this: That the light of the world still shines on you,
If only as a flame now, then the bright sun of a day to come.
So wait for it like watchmen for the morning,
And joy will be yours indeed.


week 4

Priests and prophets, kings and paupers,

Saints and sinners, whores and adulterers,
Have sons and daughters, marry and give in marriage,
Through long and longer days of waiting in
Slavery and judgment
Until a lost son of royalty, a Nazarene carpenter,
Has visions like his namesake of old,
A young man dreams dreams of the kingdom coming,
And he, like the patriarch, suddenly sees
That what looks like evil may be God working for good.

So this righteous son of David marries a
Daughter of Zion who carries now
Not David’s son but David’s Lord–
A new Adam to bring paradise,
A new Abraham to make sacrifice,
A new Moses to give and keep the law,
A new Joshua to conquer for us all–
The generations of Jacob’s children finding their
Fulfillment in one who now rests inside Mary’s womb.

a brief meditation on ash wednesday

I will not walk into work in the morning
With a forehead stained with burnt and stale hosannas;
No priest I know will bless me before sunrise
With the reminder of my frailty.

No, I will wear my ashes on knees that hate bending,
On hands that hate wounding–
In other words, the places you won’t see
Because they rub off where I’ve been

And you will only know my repentance by
The quiet trail I leave behind
While covered in red and sand as I go
Follow Him into the desert for a while.

one-word song title sestina #2

It’s Tuesday night and I’m fifteen minutes late for rehearsal
Again, same as the last five weeks. Maybe I can be forgiven–
Stuck in the daily pushing of paper and red tape at work,
I left an hour ago, got stuck in traffic–so my bandmates rejoice,
At least, at my being able to make it at all, their desire
To have me with them playing bass trumping something

Like impatience. I’m here; that has to count for something,
Right? Right. We have a gig Saturday, so rehearsal
Feels less like something born of our old youthful desires
(For which we had to be perpetually forgiven
By homework and obligation, in which we didn’t rejoice)
And more like the reality of sweaty, calloused work–

“Ben, I told you once, you’ve really got to work
On keeping the beat–” “You want to know something?
“What?” “I freaking hate this song.” (And inwardly we rejoice
At the tics, the friction, because it leads to the desire
To be better, to love more, and because it’s easily forgiven
By our comrades in war and fiction). We rehearse

Andrew’s new number–”Did you guys go over this last rehearsal
Without me?” “Yeah, we tried to work
On the chorus a little–Ginny comes in on the ‘Forgive
The old and new things’, we decided it needed something
There.” “Oh, and then Eddie holds out that long ‘Desiiiiiiiiire’
In the bridge, right?” “Right, yeah.” “Rejoice,

Brothers, the club in San Diego called–” And rejoice
We do, another justification for all this rehearsal
In Ginny and Eddie’s garage, for the desire
To make some freaking noise, for having to work
Two jobs to support our music habit, the something
Inside us that makes us want to forgive

The whole world for what they couldn’t forgive
Us of, the passion and need to rejoice
In the sheer sound of it, the need to do something
Beautiful in the world–but my mind snaps back to rehearsal,
My fingers thump the bass’s neck, and we get to the work
Of tuning and listening and fulfilling desire…

It’s just rehearsal; it feels like something
More important than work, than even desire–
With each note, I forgive, and then I rejoice.