27 March 2007

The New Poets

Poets, historically, have been the force that guides a society's thoughts, habits, tastes, asthetics, politics and direction. The cultural rivers are held in their hands.

Ancient societies relied on the poets in much the same way that our post-modern culture looks to ours. Sadly though, many of our current (and most popular) poets rarely delve deeper into the human psyche than what kind of cola drink will make us thinner or cooler, or which sunglass manufacturer has our chic lifestyle in mind. In short, today's poets are often market driven in their subject matter. And the cultural rivers are held in their hands.

It's been said that Christianity has the best poets. (This, by someone who obviously does not watch Access Hollywood or read The National Inquirer while she waits in line at the grocery store.)
When you think about it though, it's true. Who really has something to wax poetic about, EXCEPT the Christian? The mystery of the Creator's love for His creation is inspiration for a sonnet, a cinquain, a haiku. The unfathomable sacrifice of that Creator for his beloved creation is worth nothing less than an epic poem. The beauty and grace we enjoy under His redemption is... well... O, for a thousand tongues to sing. And even then we wouldn't be scratching the surface.

Our society spends a lot more time listening to market-driven poets than it spends listening to poets saying something of eternal significance. Christians included. Me included. So, I'm interested in broadening my experience of poetry with some new poets. Poets saying something important. Not advertising something, saying something.

One of my new favorite people saying something is, Abby. She's early on in her career, but has such a lyrical way of weaving imagery while remaining rooted in solid theology. This girl's words could weave a tapestry out of rocks! A particularly good piece- Already Shining. Read more of her writing on her blog: Credo ut Intelligam.

Share with me a favorite poet that speaks to your soul and spirit (all media types are fair game). Please leave their name, work titles, and maybe a line or two of theirs that you really appreciate. I'm interested in newbies or centuries-old pillars of the faith, because it's likely that I've not read, heard or seen their work except in passing.

22 March 2007

The Red Pill: An Excursion in Fasting

These are my follow-up thoughts to this post: The Matrix of Merrymaking.

In the movie, The Matrix, Neo chooses to swallow Morpheus's red pill and learn the truth about the Matrix and it's purposes. (It's quite dark and sinister purposes, I might add.) Through understanding the Matrix and unplugging himself from it, Neo gains power over it. By the end of the movie, he is able to move effortlessly in and out of the Matrix, bending its rules and using it to perform his purposes, rather than being its slave.

The Bible Study I'm involved in, Mocha on the Mount, recently discussed Jesus' words in Matt. 6:1-18.

I have always seen an upward scale of difficulty with this passage of Scripture.

I start out relatively easily. On the bunny slope, if you will.
"When you give..." It's easy to give out of my abundance. When I've got $100 in my pocket, tossing a fiver in the plate barely raises a blip on my screen. I can share a lick of my ice cream cone with you. I will willingly donate old clothing, and at times might even go out and buy brand new items, for someone in need.

Then things get a bit harder.
"When you pray..." Focusing my attention and time on something other than myself and my own will ups the ante. I have to be a little more engaged. I have to consciously think about someone besides Yours Truly. I have to put myself aside and take someone else to the throne of grace. All this, with the likelihood that no one else is watching my "performance."

Now comes the double black diamond slope. Not for the faint of heart.
"When you fast..." Fasting calls for marshalling my will, my attention, AND my physical comfort all in the direction of something and someone BEYOND me. For an extended period of time. Without an adoring audience.

There's also a pattern to what Christ says in Matt. 6. When.
"When you give..." God does not NEED my gifts. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
"When you pray..." God does not NEED my prayers to inform Him of the situation. He already knows the intricacies of every cell of every being on every planet. He knows the strife and conflict of every relationship. He knows the groaning that even my own spirit can't recognize or define.
"When you fast..." God does not NEED my fasting. He's got it all. He knows it all. He's been through it all.

Then why did Jesus say, "When you do these things..." if He doesn't really need me to do them? (Rhetorical question.)
(Rhetorical answer.) Because of what these actions do for me and within me. Something is supposed to happen to my perspective when I give, pray and fast.

Our study guide suggested that we plan to fast for one meal through the course of the week.
I did not want to fast!! Which is exactly why I felt like I needed to do it.

I've tried to find a loophole for this for a long time- pregnant, nursing, not feeling called to it, etc. Some of those are quite valid reasons, and some of those (because I know my own heart on this matter) were nothing more than smokescreens. I'd never felt a huge onus to fast just because someone else said I should fast. But this time was different. This time I was under the thumb of the Holy Spirit. A great big supernatural thumb squishing my smokescreens to nothingness. In the most loving and faithful way possible, of course.

So a few weeks ago I fasted for one meal. I asked my husband to be the dinner guy while I headed into our bedroom for a prayer closet/fasting "combo." (Prayer closets are hard for me to find these days too. It never fails that the munchkins barge in, slide love notes under the door, and generally wonder loudly and incessantly when I'm going to be done.)

All throughout the week, I contemplated what to pray for and how to focus my time so it would be the most useful to God. I didn't know what to bring to my prayer closet with me- should I take every book, Bible, pencil and CD in the house, or take nothing at all? I didn't know what I was going to do while I prayed and fasted. I didn't know how I was supposed to be. I wanted the time to be special and different. But I wasn't clear on how that was going to look.

Well, there were no celestial fireworks or heavenly visions. My three year old banged on the door a few times. I got slightly distracted on occasion. I noticed my tummy growling and thought, "Gee, I'm hungry. As soon as I finish this I'm going to go fix a snack." The I'd remember what I was supposed to be doing in the first place ("Fasting, ya big dummy!") and God and I had a good chuckle over my fickleness and forgetfulness.
Then my stomach would rumble 4 minutes later, and I'd think THE SAME THING AGAIN! (And again we'd chuckle together over it.)

I prayed for several issues and people that had been on my heart.
I read through the fasting section of Celebration of Discipline.
I re-read Matthew 6 and the entire Sermon on the Mount.
Then just reflected on what fruit fasting might produce in me.
Why I should fast.
What silly trifles I've allowed to distract me from the Lord.
Asking Jesus to let me see what he sees in me.
In short, I expected Him to show up and do some work.
I was not disappointed.

A quote in my Mocha book says,
"We pray for those who are hungry every day, for those who never know the privilege of a fast because they are forced to starve."
For this plump American rich girl, fasting need not be painful, monotonous, inconvenient or a drudgery... fasting is a privilege. An opportunity to see God's abundant provision that I take for granted. An opportunity for me to choose to unplug myself from the Matrix of Merrymaking in order to consider the spiritual and physical poverty in the rest of the world. And, to be brutally honest with myself, the poverty that still resides within my own flesh.

And that, actually, was my big revelation from my fasting and prayer excursion. I AM ENTIRELY TOO FOCUSED ON THE PHYSICAL WORLD AND HOW IT AFFECTS ME. I am entirely too focused on me. Period.

That red pill. Neo swallowed it and saw the truth of the Matrix. Spiritually speaking, giving, praying and fasting are like that same red pill. Once I commit to swallow it and choose something beyond my comfortable day-to-day, my perspective changes and I can see the Matrix of Merrymaking for what it truly is. No longer a slave to that Matrix, God gives me the power to rise above its pull and use it for my purposes (enjoying the gifts of my Creator and gaining physical sustenance), and ultimately for His purposes.
It took me a long time to swallow that red pill. I'm glad I finally did though.

19 March 2007

Live, In Concert, It's...

That's him on the right.

(The other dude there is the multi-talented, multi-tasking Liam Davis, who slips a tamborine around one ankle, hums a kazoo, taps a shaker on a djembe drum with one hand, and tinkers the keyboard with the other... and TOTALLY jams while doing it!)

We have been big fans of Justin Roberts for about 7 years now. Imagine music for kids that is also music for parents. Huh?
It's for those who raid the cookie jar, wait for the school bus, spot monsters under the bed, refuse to nap, have an imaginary friend, use a nightlite, build sandcastles, move away from beloved homes and swingsets, and try to get out of doing homework any-which-way-they-can. If you've done it, are doing it, or just got a brilliant idea to try it (Thanks, Justin!), get yourself one of these CDs.

"I just try to write songs for kids that I would want to listen to as an
adult. Something with a good hook and some meaningful, if sometimes
slightly absurd, lyrics," says Roberts. "A good song is a good song."

And when we heard that in 2005 he'd released 2 CDs based on the Bible ("Why Not Sea Monsters?"), we said, "WHAT?!" We had no idea. This was getting better and better.

So naturally, when we found out he was playing in our area, we rounded up our cousins and caught the show. My my, did we have fun! My kids were a little star struck once they actually had a chance to meet Justin and talk with him. But I coaxed them into asking for an autograph, and Justin even kindly signed Anna's cast. (*Family Update* She fell down the stairs last weekend and broke her left arm. Her thumb-sucking hand. But it's getting much better now that Uncle Jason and Justin Roberts have both signed it.)

The mosh pit for pint-sized rockers.
"One little cookie wouldn't spoil my dinner, now would it?"
With Liam Davis

Justin Roberts with kids and cousins

NY, FL, CA, IL, PA... He's making the rounds. Those of you that I've left behind in the Dallas area... he's playing at the Dallas Arboretum (which is awesome in its own right) on July 15th. Plenty of time to tell the grandparents.

05 March 2007

Join the Caravan

I posted an entry over at SoulPerBlog today.

We're having a long drink of Living Water and pitching our tent at Sermon Mount. Get on your camel and follow the caravan over to The Matrix of Merrymaking.

03 March 2007

Salaam, Sahara!

Salaam! Welcome to North Africa.
Please, come, take refreshment in our Bedouin tent.

We travel from oasis to oasis, seeking fresh water and grass for our nomadic herds. The wells in this oasis have been a source of life for our people for generations.

Many North African countries are known for their craftsmanship. Our people make mosaics (shown above), while other skilled craftsmen make woven rugs, intricate wood carvings, and metal pieces.

Mint tea is served to anyone and everyone. Hospitality flows freely from our intricately incised teapots. Please, drink!


No matter. Please, delay your journey a bit longer and allow us to offer you a meal of pita bread and couscous. (It would be a great honor if you would belch after your meal.)

While the storm continues to rage, allow us to offer you a cushion and entertain you with legends of the great Tuareg warriors of the past...

... and the wise sayings of our tribal elders.

Ah, the sand seems to have settled. May Allah bless your journey and may you find abundant springs in your travels across the Sahara. Salaam!