Friday, May 31, 2013

The Swallow

Sit quietly, and wait.
Watch for the movement.
Sit quietly enough
to feel the movement,
a flutter, downward,
a sensation of motion
accompanied (or not)
by a forced push,
lubricated to enhance
the possibility of success,
movement from one place
to another, what physicians
call the swallow.

Over at Tweetspeak Poetry, Seth Haines has a poetry prompt – a poem about a swallow. Or a swan, or a phoenix. Oh, wait. He meant the bird.   

Can a poem rise
from the ashes
of a misunderstood
poetry prompt?
Detective Swan
investigates, only
to determine willful
and sends the perp
back to Phoenix.

This is getting worse. Never mind.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I sort through a box
of old photographs my mother
asked me to sort through
and I find one of my father
as a young man, younger
than my youngest son,
standing with his three sisters
and I can see he looks like me
at that age except I don’t have

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Genocide? Or Obedience?

In 2010, I attended a writer’s retreat at Laity Lodge in the Hill Country of Texas. I was part of the poetry seminar, led by poet (and University of Missouri professor) Scott Cairns. Our overnight assignment was to write a poem about a Bible passage we found troublesome.

I chose Joshua 5-12.

One of the main themes in that section is herem, a Hebrew word meaning destruction of essentially everything. In that section, before a number of battles, God tells Joshua and the Israelites to commit herem when they defeat the foe. That means killing every living thing – men, women, children, domestic animals and livestock.

The command was given several times, and the Israelites obeyed (one tried to hold on to some treasure and got death for him and his family as a result). At Jericho, only the prostitute Rahab and her family were spared, because she had protected the spies. Every other living thing in the city was put to the sword.

The passage is clear. God told the Israelites to do it.

Today we use words like genocide or “ethnic cleansing.”

No matter what it’s called, the idea of herem is unsettling. In most of the conflicts, God told his people to undertake mass killings of those they conquered.

Theoretically, I can understand what was happening. God was cleansing the land. What I didn’t know, until Andy Stanley pointed it out in The Grace of God, was that God was also judging the Canaanites (referred to as the Amorites in Genesis), the people living in the land promised to the Israelites.

Stanley says that the sins of the Amorites were grievous and offensive to God (things like child sacrifice); that they had been given ample time to repent and change (several hundred years, in fact); that they had heard what was coming with the Israelites (Rahab clearly knew the whole story of the Exodus). So it wasn’t only about the Hebrews taking the promised land; it was also about the Canaanites being judged for their sins.

My modern sensibilities still recoil. It doesn’t seem harsh; it was harsh. But I’m reminded of our own examples of non-God genocide – the Nazi death camps, the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, Rwanda, and Dafur. The difference is that God had a godly purpose.

God is both terrifying and loving, Stanley writes. The terrifying part is, well, terrifying.

This is the poem I wrote.

As for me and my house
A meditation on Joshua 5-12

Would I have been cleansed
in the wilderness, or buried
in the sand as a submission
to the cleansing?

That man wielding the
great sword, that man
commanding the Lord’s host,
that man who makes ground
would I have obeyed, even
unto death?

Could I have stood in that
Jericho doorway, and plunged
the sword into the mother
and then the child? Or the child
first and then the mother?
And plunged that sword again
at Ai and Makeddeh,
Libnah and Lachish,
Eglon and Hebron,
Hazor and Anab, Jarmuth and
Gexer and Bethel and Aphek
and Tirzah and Megiddo and…

When the man who makes
ground holy turned over
the tables of shekels and
talents and doves, shouting
at thieves and robbers,
would I have conspired
to kill him, becoming yet
another submission to the
Or would he have
cleansed me?

Led by Jason Stayszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing The Grace of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Rescued by Grace,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Poetry Review: The Submerged Depths of Lapse Americana

Sometime in our late 30s, perhaps our 40s, we become aware of time passing. Our 20s and early 30s are spent trying to hurry time; after that we try to slow it down, until in our 60s when we realize the train is hurtling ever faster. Time to stop and enjoy the ride.

With the slowing comes understanding, and occasionally wisdom. We understand a life, our life, to be an aggregation of people, events, places, decisions, choice made. And we grasp the vital importance of childhood.

It’s that sense of realization and understanding that permeates Lapse Americana, Benjamin Myers second volume of poetry.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Discerning the message and the medium

This week I finished reading The Life of the Body by Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold, the book we’ve been discussing this month at The High Calling. This final section covered the seasons of life, children, caring for the planet, and the conclusion.

As it is sometimes wont to do, kept moving away from these final chapters and toward another thought altogether (but there is a connection).

I kept thinking about where we get our information from. Are we as Christians discerning as we listen to news, watch entertainment, or read books (not to mention everything online), or do we let the culture saturate us as it saturates social, political and spiritual life around us?

Twenty years ago, for reasons related to work and my first surprising experience with electronic communications, I began to read about communication theory. I read writers like Walter Ong (Orality and Literacy), Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Eloquence in an Electronic Age), and a host of academics who were beginning to grapple with the electronic word and what it meant. I also reread Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Message), Neil Postman (Technopoly and Amusing Ourselves to Death), and Jacque Ellul (Propaganda).

What came of all of this reading and reflection was a sensitivity to both words as content and media as means to communicate those words/content. (Today we say “content” to collectively include text, photos, art, audio and video.)

Most of us, me included, usually focus on the words or content – the “message.” What we understand less is how different media, or channels, favor some kinds of content over others, and how these channels actually shape the message that’s sent and/or received.

Video, for example, like television programs, movies, network news reports, and uploads to YouTube, appeals to the emotions, the feelings. This is even true for documentaries. To fit the channel of video, a communication has to be shaped in a particular way if it’s to be effective.

This isn’t a complaint or regret, more a statement of what is. Watching a TED talk is not the same thing as listening to a speech, because the screen itself frames the talk, favoring certain kinds of content over others.

The world I currently inhabit for work is that of social media. And it’s a world that’s changing our ideas of authority – who has it, who we listen to, and who is believable or credible. Twitter and Facebook, for example, expand our understanding of authority to include our friends and networks. They increasingly give us filters on news. This can be good (accuracy checks on news media) and bad (205,000 people follow Roseanne Barr on Twitter and consider her a credible source of information on news and public policy).

On Twitter, everything you need to know has to be crammed into 140 characters. Talk about minimalist communication. Nuclear disarmament, or understanding international terrorism, in 140 characters. Or less.

This is how many of us get our information on issues, controversies, and news – and “many of us” includes Christians. Someone says something on a blog or Facebook, someone else tweets it or pins it on Pinterest, and it’s considered of equal importance and weight to what a Ph.D expert who’s spent decades researching and studying has to say.

I’ve taken issue with a few things in The Life of the Body, but to be fair, I’ve seen similar sentiments in Christianity Today, blogs belonging to respected Christians, and Christians posting and commenting on Facebook. We readily accept anything if someone we like or trust says it. Or we google a topic and learn everything we need to know by simply scanning the first page of search results.

Greater discernment is crucial. We live in a time when virtually nothing can be taken at face value. Just because it’s a trending topic on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s true. Even something seemingly authoritative as a scientific journal has to be examined. Did you know that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of “peer-reviewed” scientific journals whose definition of “peer review” is a Visa card?

Retweets on Twitter and shares and likes on Facebook are not measures of truth. Volume does not equate to truth. Truth isn’t a popularity contest – the prime example of that being the life of Jesus.

We’ve been discussing The Life of the Body at The High Calling, even if I went off the track today and discussed it by not discussing it. Check The High Calling for the main post and comments.

Photograph by Fran Hogan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


It is a quick deep dive into the past.
Clean. Holding a dusty scrapbook
full of yellowed newspaper clippings,
I find myself at fires, large and
small, dancing at a prom in 1940,
attending a trade show in New York.
A second dive goes deeper, finding
my own self, a fast slide along
stainless steel, past ranch houses
bearing forgotten names: Aucoin,
O’Donnell, Topham, Vanlandingham,
Tielli, McClendon, McKinney,
Martinez, Vienne, Jackson, Cupit,
Brown, McMinn, Nelson, Rebaldo,
Beelman, Magruder, all the names
crowding thick, obituary leaves
caught in the wind. A third dive
pushes deeper, into classrooms
and teachers smiling, more names
thrusting themselves in my face,
streets named for friends, flowers,
heroes and states. This dive touches
bottom, touching the darkest depth as
I break the surface into the sunlight.

Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Royal Fiction – Or Is It?

“Fiction and reality sometimes come together in a riveting way. Sometimes the imagined work of a novelist, almost in a prescient way, tells the story of life and death. And this is certainly the case with the Dancing Priest novels as the author, Glynn Young, draws us into the future of the British Royal Family in ways that are almost uncanny.”

To continue reading, please see this article by Mark Sutherland at Royal Central.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Patricio Pron’s “My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain”

A young man living and working in Germany returns to his native Argentina. His estranged father is in the hospital, unconscious and presumably dying. His mother, brother and sister are there, but the young man knows he is returning not because of an impending death but because he has come to understand he doesn’t know his father, and that means, in many ways, he doesn’t know himself.

There’s little to be done at the hospital, so the young man sits in his childhood home, and finds a stack of folders of reports and newspaper stories on his father’s desk. It was as if his father left them there for the son to find. He begins to read, and finds himself confronting not one by several mysteries. The articles are in chronological order. An older man disappears; a search is mounted; eventually his body his found and suspects arrested. What connection is there to his father?

And then he finds it, and continues reading, finding more connections, and then discovering the connection was not to the dead man but someone else, and the lines of connections start in the 1970s, during the military dictatorship, the time when thousands of people of the wrong political belief disappeared.

My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron defies easy classification as a genre. It is a mystery, but more than that. It is a political novel but deeper than that. It is also history and biography, autobiography and memoir. It defies classification likely because it is a story told the only way a story addressing what it does can be told – swirling all these genres together because The Argentina of the 1970s and its aftermath can only truly be recognized as a swirling of genres. Recognized, but not understood.

The father is a journalist; the son is a writer. The son examines the material in the folders, and considers writing a book.

“…I wonder what he would think, as a journalist and therefore someone who paid much more attention to the truth than I ever did. I’ve never felt comfortable with the truth. I had tried to stonewall it and give it the slip…I wondered, still and again, what my father would think of my writing a story I barely knew; I knew how it ended – it was obvious it ended in a hospital, as almost all stories do – but I didn’t know how it began or what happened in the middle.”

But he knows how it ends, and that is at least something.

Pron, a native of Argentina, lives and works in Madrid as a translator and critic. He’s written four previous novels and three short story collections, and received several writing prizes.

In My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain, he has written a riveting story. Its factual, straightforward style, relying on short chapters and truncated news reports, moves the story quickly. And when it is done, we ask ourselves if we truly can know how the lives of our fathers shaped our own lives, especially when our fathers, and mothers, are caught up in circumstances that seek to obliterate and disguise memory.

Photograph by Mikaela Dunn via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Quick Word Association

If I said the word “law,” what comes to mind?

I think courtroom. Litigation. Lawsuit. Rules. Speed traps (we have a notorious one close to our home.) Lawyers. Judge. Trouble. Trial. The Old Bailey (I watched all the Rumpole shows on PBS) (and read the books). Perry Mason. Matlock.

The fact is, we associate the word “law” with rather negative things.

We think of the Ten Commandments, for example, as a kind of summary of “the law.” All the do’s and don’ts. All the thou-shalt-nots. And all that quintessential micromanagement in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The Old Testament seems like it was one mean place.

Perhaps we’re overlaying our modern attitudes about “law” onto something that was a very different place, a very different time. Perhaps the problem isn’t the law as delineated in the Old Testament, but our own contemporary attitudes applied to an old understanding.

When I hear the word “law,” about the last word I think of is grace.

I don’t think of lawyers and grace in the same sentence, unless the lawyer is named Grace. (I knew a lawyer named Grace once, and it was definitely an oxymoron.)

And yet the concepts of law and grace are not an oxymoron.

“When we trust and obey,” writes Andy Stanley in The Grace of God, it becomes clear that the law of God is actually an expression of the grace of God…When we see God’s law the way he intended it, we understand that the grace of God and the law of God are not opposing concepts. There is no tension between the two. One is simply the expression of the other.”

Think of the implications of that statement. There is no contradiction between the Old and New Testaments. It’s not the mean God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament. It is not the law versus the gospel of love. The major divisions of the Bible do not oppose each other – they explain each other.

All those arguments, all those superior attitudes about how the Bible is divided into two different gospels – meaningless.

Our minds are so attuned to modern-day understandings of “law” that they rebel against the idea of anything else.

It’s almost like trying to imagine that a lawyer could be aptly named Grace.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing Stanley’s The Grace of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Ruled by Grace,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph: The Royal Courts of Justice, London, by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twitter Poetry: Spinning for Tickets for a Prayer Wheel 3

The next groups of poems from our recent poetry jam on Twitter is posted today at Tweetspeak Poetry. The poems take a turn toward swans and petals, green skies and blue music, gourds and story-weaving. The prompts for the jam were taken from Annie Dillard’s volume of poetry Tickets for a Prayer Wheel: Poems.

To continue reading (and see the poems), please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photograph by Petr Kratockvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Deconstructing the Culture

I watch very little television – virtually nothing on network TV, except for one or two shows on PBS (Call the Midwife! and Masterpiece Mystery). And I watch virtually nothing on cable, so I’ve missed out on all the hoopla over Duck Dynasty and Iron Chef.

My reasons are various – time, little that I find interesting, too much network programming given over to political correctness and agendas. I haven’t disengaged from TV culture, but I do keep it minimal.

But even with what I do watch, and beyond television, what I read and view online, I do something that suggests a larger confinement and disengagement from popular culture. I deconstruct what I watch, what I read and what I see.

Deconstructionism is a term and literary process originally popularized by post-modern academics like Jacque Derrida. The text is everything, and everything is a text – you have to closely examine each text, take it apart, and see what it says about such things as power relationships.

I use the term much more loosely – I “deconstruct” texts, movies, programs and other aspects of the culture by asking certain questions. (If it sounds complicated, it’s not; once you start it becomes like second nature).

Instead of “deconstructing,” what I do is closer akin to “filtering the bull.”

I’ll consider a TV show, a magazine article, a movie, a book (especially non-fiction), a review, a political ad, a statement by a politician, a company or an organization – and ask myself a few questions.

What’s the point? What are they trying to communicate?

Are “agenda statements’ slipping in disguised as something else?

What isn’t be said? What’s being left out?

Could it be better said another way?

Is this only entertainment, or is it something else?

What aspects of my own prejudices or worldview does this appeal to or offend?

We have a movie reviewer for a local newspaper who prefers R-rated, and often violence-filled, movies. He panned the movies “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables.” He’d prefer a movie like “Pulp Fiction.” So we’ve learned to see his reviews as some kind of personal agenda-setting, and not simply his view of what movies should be.

Political ads are easier to deconstruct. Generally, I avoid them. I’m appalled by “advertising by assassination. My philosophy of voting is that a candidate is only as good as the worst attack ad he or she authorizes.

Even the church isn’t free from cultural influences, say Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold in The Life of the Body. Music, teaching and preaching are all subject to influence by the culture. The issue of “worship wars” has been with us for some time.

This doesn’t mean that culture permeates the church, and there’s no recourse other than everyone sitting there accepting it or going to war over it. Not all cultural influences are bad. Not all influences can be escaped.

But we are surrounded by the culture; we intellectually bathe in it every day. But once we’re aware, can learn how to discern and understand what is happening in the culture, especially in the entertainment media.

Led by Laura Boggess, we discussing The Life of the Body over at The High Calling. Today, Duane Scott takes up the third section of the book – with a focus on what the culture tells us our bodies should look like.

Photograph by X posid via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I sought the secret things

I sought the secret things
in the mind of God,
the things to explain,
to light the dark or clear
the path, untangle
the thicket, thistle
and overgrown.
I sought the secret things
in the mind of God;
the secret things remained
unfound, unknowable,
as a dove flew overhead.

Photograph by House of Flowers. Used with permission.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Window light

Window light envelopes
the metal coffin, white,
in front of the altar, leaving
minds in darkness, and hearts.
Brain synapses fail to connect,
the flow of blood constricts.
We remain, left with only
the window light enveloping
the metal coffin, white,
in front of the altar.

Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

“Mom in the Mirror”

I read a book that’s aimed at women, mothers, and young women. And it’s a book that should be read by men, fathers, and young men.

It’s a book about women and their attitudes about their bodies, before, during and after – even long after – their pregnancies. It’s about the culture we live in, and what it tells women they should think about their bodies. It’s about what women will do to meet those cultural expectations. And it’s about a different path women (and men, indirectly) can take, and likely should take.

Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty, and Life After Pregnancy, by Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga, is the book. It’s important to read. I learned things I didn’t know, about my own mother, my wife, and my daughter-in-law.

“We live in a society that demonizes fat,” they write; “meanwhile, we are more overweight than ever before. Every day at least ten million women deny themselves acceptance and love by abusing food in some way, shape, or form. Clearly, something is wrong.”

Something is wrong, and it’s not a simple fix. Cabrera and Wierenga walk the reader through the complexities, which can include eating disorders, the influence of a woman’s own mother, anxiety, the changes a woman’s body experiences, the demands of pregnancy and childrearing, the stages a woman’s body goes through from childhood to adulthood, competitiveness with other women, balancing marriage with motherhood, and many other aspects. And they offer encouragement, guidance, and resources on how to get help.

And their underlying message is itself about encouragement and hope: learn to love, starting with yourself.

Cabrera is a licensed clinical psychologist and eating disorder specialist, working at the Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders in Wickenburg, Arizona. Wierenga is a married mother of two living in Canada, who battled anorexia and told her story in Chasing Silhouettes. (I reviewed Chasing Silhouettes here and did a two-part interview with Emily for The High Calling and here.)

Mom in the Mirror is a book whose time is now. Women and mothers need it. So do men and fathers.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Directed Kindergartners

When our oldest had completed his first year of middle school, we decided the time had come to change schools. We had become increasingly concerned with the direction he school district was going. And then came the 6th grade English teacher, whose notes from school included spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. For seventh and eighth grades, he attended the local Catholic school (and we’re not Catholic).

Then came our youngest, eight years behind his brother. He had attended a local pre-school, and it was time for kindergarten. We had him on a waiting list at the Catholic school, but the odds of getting him in were long. We weren’t members of the church, and the early grades were the most crowded. So we expected to send him to the local elementary school.

A friend who was a teacher aide at the school had warned us about one particular kindergarten teacher, the one who believed in and practiced self-directed education for kindergartners. He class was chaos, the friend said, and children learned nothing. The previous year they had “self-educated” themselves into learning to play with toys better.

The letter assigning our youngest to a class arrived. It was that teacher. I called the Catholic school principal in desperation. Was there anything at all available? Anything?

It just so happened a spot had opened up that very day in the kindergarten class. A family had suddenly been transferred to another city.

Sold! I said.

The chaos of a self-directed kindergarten class was almost too painful to contemplate. To throw a child into a class where he or she had no previous relationship with the teacher, might know a few of the other students, and be told to develop their own education plan was a bit over the top, even for some of the experimental things being tried in the school district at the time. (This craziness was generally abandoned once the first grade teachers discovered the problems of self-directed kindergartners becoming first graders.)

There was no relationship, and no rules. There was chaos.

We don’t normally associate relationships with rules, but as Andy Stanley points out in The Grace of God, rules followed relationship in the Old Testament. We thing of the books of Moses as crammed with all the rules, regulations, shalt nots and do nots. And they are. But they came after God provided relationship. And the rules, also known as the Ten Commandments and the Levitical law, were designed for a people who had not been a nation for 400 years, who had previously been slaves, and did not have the first notion of how to govern themselves as a people.

The rules followed relationship. Grace was there first, before the law. In profound ways, the law was a demonstration of God’s grace. The law was not a tool for God to micro-manage their lives, but to help people live and work together.

God saw what happened with the people while Moses was with him on Mount Sinai. The self-directed Israelites decided to build themselves an idol, like the surrounding nations and tribes had. They whined and complained and pitched temper tantrums. They wanted their toys, and they wanted them now.

Imagine what their first-grade teachers would have thought.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing The Grace of God. Too see more posts on this chapter, “Redeemed by Grace,” please visit Sarah at LivingBetween the Lines.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Peter Pollock’s “Web Hosting for Dummies”

My day-to-day job involves just about everything online – social media, web sites, blogs, online news sites, news portals, discussion boards, and basecamps of one sort or another. Outside of work, I’m involved in two online sites and this blog.

That said, I’m not a geek. My understanding and knowledge do not extend to all the terms, phrases, systems, and processes associated with the online world. Ask me how Twitter or Facebook work as relationship and communication channels, and I’m all over it. Ask me about the databases that sit behind Twitter or even my own blog, and I will likely give you a blank look.

I don’t program TV remotes, either.

And then I discovered that Peter Pollock had written a book for me, Web Hosting for Dummies.

No, I’m not looking to host my own blog site. But I deal with people who do host blogs, and web sites, and news portals, and I deal with them every day. Now I know what questions to ask to make sure I’m getting what I pay for.

What Pollock has done here is to take all of the technical underpinnings for web hosting and provided a comprehensive summary of everything you might want to know and everything you need to know.

And it’s written in plain English.

If I had read this a month ago, I would have understood a conversation two tech people were having about SQL inquiries, and why it was important.

Web Hosting for Dummies provides all the essentials – what it is and how it works; what’s essential to make it work (like databases, logs, and possibly scripts) (and what all those are); how to manage security (absolutely critical in this age of hackers and online thieves); troubleshooting; and what kind of server you should choose. And then the book gives a list of free apps, what your host won’t do for the money you pay, and some really good resources.

Pollock, who lives in California, is a blogger, web host, speaker, and all-around subject matter resource. I know enough to know he knows what he’s talking about.

Did reading the book make me an expert in all these technical things? No. But it did provide an base of understanding for the next conversation with the IT guy about issues with my blog site. So the next time I hear something about UNIX, I’ll know why it’s an option.

Peter Pollock, you have done the communications community – the non-technical side of the communications community – a real service. PR people, marketers, advertisers, authors, and writers owe you a debt.

(And for the record, the SQL noted above, short for Structured Query Language, is “a way of storing large amounts of data abd quickly retrieving, searching and storing that data.” It’s in the book’s glossary, not to mention a hefty explanation in the text itself.)

Twitter Poetry: Spinning for Tickets for a Prayer Wheel 2

It takes time to sift through the contributions to our Tweetspeak Poetry jams on Twitter, time to make sure all of the lines are, first, grouped together, and then, second, arranged for editing. People think and respond to the prompts (and each other) very differently, and that diversity is one of the strengths of these poetry jams. It also requires some careful editing.

For our most recent jam, all of the prompts were taken from Tickets for a Prayer Wheel: Poems by Annie Dillard. To see the next six poems in the series, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry

Photograph by Petr Kratockvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Can’t Do That! I’m Presbyterian!

Some time ago, our church started something at the 11:15 service (the worship isn’t “contemporary” but something more akin to “new litgurical). What was new was the encouragement of the use of hands in the service, in addition to what we might to do pray.

While some (many?) might laugh at this being a radical departure or innovation, it was something like that for us. After all, we’re evangelical Presbyterians. Aren’t the use of hands in worship meant for (gasp!) charismatics?

Well, no.

I have to admit that when it was first discussed and undertaken, I sat on my hands (figuratively, not literally) (I couldn’t resist the pun). Most of the people in the service did as well. I didn’t rush to the Westminster Confession of Faith to see if it was either okay or some new heresy; I suspected the confession wouldn’t have much to say on the subject. I took a wait-and-see approach.

Months passed. People, even young people, didn’t rush into acceptance and implementation. We are Presbyterians, after all. But a few “early adopters” began to use their hands at critical points, like during songs and hymns.

One Sunday, at the end of the service when the pastor gives the blessing to the congregation, I lifted my hands. Not way up in the air, mind you, but enough to receive the blessing.

The world didn’t come to an end; the church building was left standing. It actually seemed like something natural. It was okay, and it was part of worship.

“We use our hands to reach up and cry for help, to tell of our soul’s thirst. To bless the Lord and to praise his holy name,” write Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold in The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation.

It’s what I do now. And I’m still a Presbyterian.

Over at The High Calling, we’re reading and discussing the Life of the Body during the month of May. The section included three chapters, including one entitled “The Theology of Food.” Marcus Goodyear is tackling that one in the main post today. I almost tackled that one here today, but decided to hold back.

Suffice it to say that I have a problem with the whole idea of “A Theology of Food” and suggestions that a proper theology includes natural, organic and local food, and excludes everything else (everything else is 99 percent of the food supply). The chapter also said organic food is pesticide-free, which is an understandable perception but understandably wrong. I might have had less of a problem if the chapter had been called “The Politics of Food” instead of “A Theology of Food.”

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.