Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Poetry as a Means of Grace

"On Turning Ten"
by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

I share this poem with you because of some previous conversations and Ben Felders recent posts. This is an important poem because it speaks so clearly to the loss of imagination. It speaks to the reduction of theology by all of us who wish to "figure it out," map it, GPS it, nail it down, deduce it. This is what we've been taught to do with information we're given. And in it's defence, I am now doing what I argue against with this poem. We do it naturally. It rarely takes second thought. But as we learn to reduce theology to its common denominator, we forget what it was like when we fell in love with the God of Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification. Remember what it was like to become invisible. Remember what it was like when you were an Arabian Wizard and not stuck in the everydayness of your own theology. It was like looking through a window into heaven, Imago Dei tatooed on your face. It was the childlike faith Christ talked about, not some naivete.

Do you remember the first time you read Kierkegaard, Barth, Moltmann, or whomever? Of course you do. But what do you remember more, the theologians who shaped you, or the music you fell in love to. Elvis Costello never fails to move me. Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straights fame) never fails to remind me why I love my wife when I'm away. I love the Beatles song, "I've Just Seen A Face." And considering Emmanuel Levinas' essay "The Trace of the Other" I am moved even more (oops, there I go again). The point is, poetry and art have a clear advantage in speaking with God. It is a prayerful speach that will dance with words far longer than words will dance by themselves.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tarzan Boy

I digress. . . The other day I was talking to John and a song popped into my head. I was instantly taken back to the middle 1990s Lysterine commercials that showed a bottle of "Cool Mint" Lysterine (or some other kind) swinging on a vine through a jungle. Now, that's not all that amazing, rather it is amazing to me that I cannot, though I try, get the song out of my head. I had to know what it was and where it came from. According to my research the song is "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora. Baltimora was the pseudonym for Jimmy McShane, from Londonberry, Northern Ireland, who topped the Brit charts in 1985. The song actually reached number 13 here in the states in 1986. This was McShane's only hit making him just one in a long list of one hit wonders. The song appeared remixed on the soundtrack to one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It also appeared on the soundtrack for the Chris Farley movie, Beverly Hills Ninja. Apparently the song works with crappy martial arts pseudo kids comedy/action movies. And, at the risk of sounding like some overrun VH-1 show, where is he now? McShane apparently died at the age of 37 in 1995 of AIDS.

Now, hopefully, I can put this song out of my head and to rest . . . unless someone knows where I can get an MP3 of the song.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Is Theology Best Expressed by the Poet?

"God needs prophets in order to make himself known, and all prophets are necessarily artistic. What a prophet has to say can never be said in prose."
-Hans Urs von Balthasar

Monday, January 16, 2006

Been Down So Long, Looks Like Up to Me

Yeah! That's how I feel! Julia and I are recovering from another bout of sickness in two months. It is my second and her third in the same amount of time. As I recall the year 2005, I like to think of all that happened in terms of when I was sick. Do you remember the Harriet Miers attempted nomination to the Supreme Court? Mmm, I do. It was a glorious upper respiratory bronchial infection. And the death of dear Rosa Parks? I remember that cold. What about Hurricane Katrina? There was a mighty wind in my bronchial tubes again. Yes, bronchitis. The beloved Pope John Paul II went to the big Vatican in the sky while I was puking my guts out, a food poisoning of some kind. What about our glorious return to that final frontier we call space with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery? That's right, some sort of bacterial infection that causes coughing, congestion, and fever. I was sick a total of 7 times last year. Despite the fact that I am not one to get sick (at all), I'll live I guess. But this year has begun like last. Should I ever forget the Judge Alito hearings, all I'll have to do is remember the aching pain in my chest with sides of cough and headaches top with fever and sweats and there you have it.

I will say this, when you are sick, cable telivision would be a good thing. Maybe one of these days we'll have more than four half-received stations. Until then . . . may all your viruses be short lived and all your bacterial infections become a thing of the past.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I Was in Prison and You Visited Me

I have been feeling a bit dry as of late. I always enjoy ministering to children and families, but it seems too often in the life of a pastor that we do not get out of the church nearly enough. Lord knows I don't. I live church. It takes a lot of work to move out of my comfort zone of friends (who are Christian), family (who are Christian), co-workers (who are Christian). I get tired of them (no offense if you are a member of the afore mentioned groups), but it's true. I have been praying for an opportunity to minister to folks who have nothing to do with my church. Being the faithful God that he is, he answered my prayer in fine fashion and with cornucopia of opportunities.

Tuesday I started as an assistant coach for a 5th and 6th grade girls basketball team here in Guymon. We meet at our church gymnasium and work on basic basketball skills and conditioning. It is really a great opportunity, and the catch is . . . none of the girls or the other coach attends my church. What an answer to prayer, but it doesn't stop there.

Today, I had a fantastic pastoral opportunity to minister to a fellow who, over a year ago, was nicked by the local police during a fight with several other college aged guys. He is serving a six month sentence in jail. His mother and sister asked for ministerial contact.

It is in times like this, as we are able to move out into the community, in an act of Holy subjection, that we are truly Christian. I say none of this to highlight what I'm doing, but that when we ask the God of creation, redemption, and sanctification for grace, we can surely anticipate grace!