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Archive for September, 2011

Prairie Dawgs snapped by Bob Zeller, photographer/blawger in San Angelo, Tx

What the world needs now is love sweet love.

The Prairie Dawgs of West Texas get it.

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Martin Scorcese is about to do what he’s done with the life and times of Bob Dylan with the documentary “No Direction Home,” with The Band’s farewell rock concert “The Last Waltz” and others–give us the gift of an in-depth look at the life and times of George Harrison, thanks to the cooperation of Mrs. George.

Click here for more on that interview with George’s faithful wife of a hunnerd years, she who is a class act.

Here’s a few vids for your regular Tuesday Afternoon Music Therapy here at the blawg that is saving the world in many ways, starting with the one that the Tea Party should use for their anthem–George’s edgy protest of taxes that got so high in England in the 70s that most of the ultra-rich rock stars left the country.

Love this quirky and funny video and the catchy and funny song too:

And of course no George posting would be complete without one of the most uplifting and exhilirating songs of hope ever:

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CHILL, PEOPLE, GOD IS WITH YOU

So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, to the sound of the horn, the trumpets, and the cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres. As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of her window, and saw king David leaping and dancing; and she despised him in her heart.”

— Michal was King Saul’s younger daughter given to David in marriage for the price of 100 dead Philistines; she criticized David for dancing around the ark might near naked and was never allowed to bear children.
(See 2: Sam. 6:16-23; cp. 2 Sam. 21:8)

Who was it said the Bible’s boring?

King David was in no way, form, shape or fashion anything like a Puritan.

Which makes him my favorite character in the Bible, of course.

Just as his descendent Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions and experienced them intensely–the Gospels refer 12 times to Jesus as “the son of David”–David was all about a life of holy intensity.

The big difference being Jesus’s lack of sin and David being a world class sinner.

The great thing about David, though, is that he was God’s guy till the bitter end–and God was David’s Master regardless of how much and how often David failed to honor the Master.

David was very much like you and me, even though David, unlike most us, committed adultery and murder in one fell swoop. (See 2 Samuel 11-12 for all the sordid details on that less than glorious episode in His Greatness King David’s life.)

Having grown up the sensitive poet who sliced off the head of Goliath (that’s the part they leave out in the children’s sermon, that David finished off the big bad Goliath by beheading him), David was nothing if not a walking contradiction.

But still, always God’s main man.

Which isn’t to say that David didn’t pay big time for his sins, with his family life ending in a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

If you read the great stories of David’s life in the books of Samuel and the Chonicles, which gives a much more santitized account* of David, and you don’t feel the pain and anguish in this scripture, you might want to check your pulse for a sign of life:

Would that I had died instead of you, O Abasalom, my son, my son!

— 2 Samuel 13-19

As Frederick Buechner writes in Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who:

“[David] meant it, of course. If he could have done the boy’s dying for him, he would have done it. If he could have paid the price for the boy’s betrayal of him, he would have paid it. If he could have given his own life to make the boy alive again, he would have given it. But even a king can’t do things like that. As later history was to prove, it takes a God.”

**The Chronicler in Chronicles 1 omits the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah, David’s son Amnon’s rape of his half siser Tamar and more in its idealized portrait of David. The accounts in Samuel are David warts, flaws, sins and all.

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BONHOEFFER'S TIMELESS CLASSIC ON "CHEAP GRACE" VS. COSTLY GRACE IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Below are the rambling, random thoughts –and I do mean random, stream of consciousness thoughts–that yours truly wrote in his [usually private] journal in his time with God this morn–this after spending the week revisiting the great Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book on discipleship (probably have read 10 times now) and reflecting (probably for the 100th time now) on his theology of “cheap grace”.

I went back and looked at these ramblings after lunch and did edit them a bit to share here, but not a lot–this pretty much just poured out of me, and it’s my most basic take on sin I suppose. Decided after looking back at it after lunch that it might actually preach some day, sometime when I’m called on to preach, and I do get called on to preach sometimes by churches and pastors who need someone to fill in for them in their absence.

Have Bible, Will Preach.

Would this stuff preach?

Sin is such a loaded word nowadays–what do you think of what I wrote here?

You tell me, you of the Jitterbug Cult.

I totally get why people live in seemingly mortal fear of so much as uttering the very word “sin” — much less invoking it in a sermon. Christians used sin as a weapon to condemn the sins of those that they saw as less than righteous — to hurt women for the “sins” of wearing makeup or couples for going to movies on Sundays–such petty and ludicrous reasons, that it’s totally understandable why we’ve gone to the other extreme and avoid even the word “sin.” Because we abused it and used it as a weapon to hammer others and condemn THEM to the pits of hell for so, so long, we now avoid so much as speaking the word for fear of offending or hurting somebody.

People are quick to say that sin is so subjective that it’s not even much of a useful theological concept anymore. And a specific sin, like everything else, is certainly in the eyes of the beholder sometimes. No one would argue that the sins in the 10 commandments aren’t sins, on the face of them. But what were sins in the last century, or 20 centuries ago, are no longer sins at all. Slavery and the abuse of slaves in this very country was seen as a biblically justified right and privilege for lo so many decades, but who doesn’t condemn it–using the same Bible–as a horrendous sin now?

But that’s no reason to avoid the theology of sin, no reason not to talk about it openly, preach it and struggle with it rather than leaving it to self-righteous religious fanatics to continue to use for weaponry to condemn others. Sin, like everything else in Christianity, has to be properly framed in order to explore it and discuss it and preach against it

We really can’t discuss and preach grace to the full extent unless we’re willing to be open about our sins–our individual sins as well as social and institutional sins. It’s so easy to condemn social or institutional sins, which are usually condemned in vague terms anyway. It’s easy enough to condemn a giant corporation as a hotbed of the sin that’s driven by greed, and some giant corporations commit some gigantic social sins for sure. And many cases of social or institutional greed should and must be denounced and condemned as a sin as much as so many cases of racism or other social or corporate or institutional sins and injustices.

But it’s not easy at all to face up to the greed or any other sin in one’s own heart–in, say, someone like Paul McKay’s heart. Maybe the only way to avoid the sin of greed in our own hearts, in Paul McKay’s very heart, is to give everything to the poor and take a vow of poverty and live in Christ-like solidarity with the poor. That’s not an idea that most people would cotton to. Not even Paul McKay, who’s dying to buy a new putter he tried out at the golf shop last week. Why would Paul McKay want to give up his creature comforts and ability to buy toys he wants and likes in order to get closer to God? He likes to think he’s close enough to God, not so far adrift as to be lost in any sin whatsoever.

Paul McKay is as delusional as everybody when it comes to sin.

*****

Grace is God’s love for us in spite of the way we hurt ourselves and others, in spite of the way we drift away from God even if we know we’re drifting and just don’t really want to get right with God.

But the most basic definition of sin is “separation from God,” and it’s still the most useful defintion to me because it helps me to visualize the very theology of sin.

The farther we drift from God–consciously or not–the farther we get lost and can go haywire in the outer space that is sin, like a satellite that’s on the blink and drifting away from the planet that it’s supposed to smoothly orbit.

Sin is the way or ways in which we treat ourselves in less than healthy, if not destructive ways, dissing God in the process, and the ways that we strive to wield power and control over others out of our pride and fear. We try to bang people around with power and control in a million ways. But it’s the unconscious or repressed ways that we hurt others, out of our deepest, most repressed fears, that can send us hurling away from Planet God. (How hoaky is that? “Planet God.” But I like it.)

Saint Paul understood so well, and tried so hard to tell us, that we’re delusional if we get so “puffed up” as to think we’re as pure as the driven snow, that we’re sin-free and that everybody else is the real sinner. That’s the great Saint Paul, of all people, my namesake, who apparently never slept, so driven was he to please his Lord and Master. If he couldn’t shake off his concern about self delusion and his sinful nature in spite of the grace that equally obsessed and drove him to spread the Good News of God’s grace, there’s hope for this Paul.

And so I try and try, being the fool for Christ that I am.

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Well, you have to understand that I’m not a melodist… My songs are either based on old Protestant hymns or Carter Family songs or variations of the blues form. What happens is, I’ll take a song I know and simply start playing it in my head. That’s the way I meditate. A lot of people will look at a crack on the wall and meditate, or count sheep or angels or money or something, and it’s a proven fact that it’ll help them relax. I don’t meditate on any of that stuff. I meditate on a song. I’ll be playing Bob Nolan’s “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” for instance, in my head constantly – while I’m driving a car or talking to a person or sitting around or whatever. People will think they are talking to me and I’m talking back, but I’m not. I’m listening to a song in my head. At a certain point, some words will change and I’ll start writing a song.”

— Bob Dylan, April 4, 2004

Here’s an aching beauty of a song by Mr. Dylan, “When the Deal Goes Down.” It’s from his CD “Modern Times,” which caused a bit of a flap, but Dylan can generally stir up fans and music lovers before breakfast, and sometimes without even trying.

Which is why his epitaph will read something like “A Great Artist.”

And a bonus from “Modern Times”:

(Guess what yer Jitterbugger is listening to today.)

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YOUNG DAKOTA MATCHING WITS WITH LETTERMAN

In case you missed it–Letterman’s sit-down with Medal of Honor hero Dakota Meyer

(click here)

was great TV, by turns funny and entertaining and moving to the point of “pass the Kleenex.”

This young Marine’s poise and strength, charm and wit continue to dazzle . . .

Meanwhile, a gay soldier in Iraq got trashed by Rick Santorum and another ugly GOP debate crowd while the rest of the gutless GOP candidates refused to so much as follow up by thanking the soldier for his service. And Santorum floated the lie that gays in the military are to get special treatment and never mind that gays or straights are subject to punishment for any sexual behavior/misbehavior.

To Dakota Meyer and to gay military members everywhere–thank you for your service.

http://www.cbs.com/e/YhAAzL_RXiLHHQb3XWuLLBCFC9Mnbg0L/cbs/1/

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also . . .

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good. . . ”

— Jesus Christ, who died by death penalty

JESUS, AFTER RECEIVING THE DEATH PENALTY

The death penalty, like hot button issues such as abortion or gay rights, brings out the rabid dog in people.

I hate that it brings out the mad dog in so many Christians.

Because Jesus was no kind of mad dog.

Nor, for that matter, were Paul and the early Christians who, for 300 years, were willing to go to their own deaths rather than inflict violence on anyone.

We American Christians have strayed light years away from living out our own Christian roots, and yet we Christians all over America now seem to know as much about the very complex and (yes) peaceful faith of Islam as we do our own Christianity. After all, the theologians and Koranic scholars at Fox News–who increasingly make theological claims about the Bible that any first-semester seminary student would shred–are forever keeping us educated on the Islamic faith and its long tradition.

We American Christians tend to cherry-pick scriptures at every turn to mold Jesus and the apostles into the image of a god that lines up with all the Great American Myths of great American power and control. We prefer capitalist Christianity over the genuine article because the genuine article is really, really demanding and challenging, requiring that we maintain the spiritual discipline to keep our most violent impulses in check. (But oh well, the capitalist Christianity is close enough.)

In capitalist Christianity, lives of vicious criminals–and there’s been vicious criminals around since Adam and Eve’s own son offed his own brother–are as disposable as the kazillion needless products that we buy and hoard and throw away. You murder somebody, we’re fine with letting the Righteous and Always Inerrent (according to the always spiritually disciplined Rick Perry who is not real big on irony) State Government dispose of you. Because, what the hell–you probably did SOMETHING derserving of anymore life on this earth even if you didn’t do the killing you were convicted for. (I hear people say this all the time: “He probably did SOMETHING deserving the death penalty! Ha Ha Ha, Ho Ho Ho!) You’re as disposable as last Christmas’s crap.

If Jesus were at the side of you, a killer, as you were receiving the needle in that holy death chamber, he’d tell you to your face “Man, you’re some kind of sinner.”

(Oh wait, our Christian faith teaches us that Jesus IS in those execution chambers. Weeping, no doubt, for the one being executed as well as for those doing the executing and for those loved ones of the victim watching it. Weeping for everybody, but there.)

Jesus would love him some Texas justice. The son of a man who was dragged to his death by a quite evil White Supremecist did not want the evil White Supremecist executed because the son has moved on and knows that whether the Supremecist lived out his days in a cell or in the realm of his afterlife, he, the son, can do no better than to move on with his lasting grief and his life. (They killed his father’s killer in Texas last night anyway and never mind the son’s wishes that his father’s vicious killer not be killed. That’s how Righteous Texas Government Justice is.)

Seriously, people, I don’t want to come off any too righteous on this issue or any other. While I do adamantly oppose the death penalty, I’m willing–as the saintly Pope John Paul II was willing–to make exceptions for mass killers. I’ll never lose any sleep over the execution of Osama Bin Laden, whose guilt for mass murder is beyond doubt and who continued to plot and oversee the deaths of innocent people around God’s entire world, not just in America. My only issue with his execution is that the Obama Administration didn’t come right out and tell the truth, that the mission was to kill Osama, resistance or no resistance. But Presidents, like Congress persons and governments everywhere, lie when the truth will do.

Still, to walk men and women into death chambers and stick their arms with lethal drugs regardless of innocence or guilt–it’s just bad Christian form, my fellow Christians.

“An eye for an eye makes us all blind.” — Martin Luther King,
he who was executed by a White Supremecist

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