[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball



Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry. (HT: In Context)


Stockholm Syndrome

Well, this is what I was doing much of the morning.


How do we soar?

Ueli Gegenschatz is out of his bleedin' mind. But what he's able to do in a wingsuit is beautiful. As I listened to his talk, I was taken by the following quote:
Extreme sports, top level, like this is only possible if you practice step-by-step if you really work hard on your skill and your knowledge. Of course, you need to be in physical, very good condition, so I'm training a lot. You need to have the best possible equipment. And, probably the most important, is you have to work mental skills, mental preparation. And all this to come as close as possible to the human dream of being able to fly.
Is it just me, or don't the same principles seem to hold true for discipleship and the virtuous life? Train, use the best possible equipment, prepare mentally, all toward the end of one day being able to soar. Sounds suspiciously like a self-salvation project, but we do have to pull some of the load in this divine/human synergistic endeavor that is "being conformed to Jesus" and growing into the divine life.


Vid of the Vig

Happy Easter!

A friend and chorister posted some video from Saturday night's Great Vigil @ ASA. It's about 20 minutes long and runs from the Litany of the Saints in the still-darkened church through the Gloria and the Gospel. Thanks, Chris. Pretty cool stuff.



Renee' gave up TV for Lent, which pretty much means I gave up TV, too. But I sneak enough minutes during the day, and I listen to enough podcasts, read enough papers to know that the #1 story on the news is, as it has been for some time now, the "Crisis in the American economy." A mortgage crisis; failing banks; businesses bleeding money; round after round of layoffs; modern-day shanty towns springing up from California to Georgia.

It's crisis time, and people are ticked off.

Fr. Davenport's sermon on Sunday (not up here yet, but it will be soon) talked about the justified anger against the "Masters of the Universe" financial guys who bear a large part of the responsibility for this crisis. He confessed to secretly (turns out it won't stay a secret long after you preach about it) wanting to see them paraded in shame wearing manacles and riding bulls from Wall Street to Central Park, a perp walk complete with jesters, floats and balloons. Or, he'd settle for some of them going to jail. I can't even begin to understand the complexities of the economics involved, but I'll admit I'd like to see some get-back too. I'd like to have some justice; let's have some righteousness raining down over here, thank you very much.

But what are our options, justice-wise, in this crisis?

Off the top of my head, it seems the first option is that nothing happens. No justice @ all, not even a head fake to it. Simply let people walk scot free. Some would say that's the Christian thing to do, right? WWJD and all that? But that's viscerally unsatisfying because it's not fair. No matter how much we believe God = Love, that kind of emphasis on mercy and glossing over wrongdoing offends our sense of justice, so let's ditch that option. The second option is @ least some kind of justice now. Mete something out to somebody -- jail terms, restitution, stoning, the dunking stool, whatever. Get medieval. But the problem is that lots of people (especially rich people) don't get their just desserts in this life, so that's unsatisfying, too. So a third option: Justice not in this life, but in the next one. This is how it goes: The Madoffs of the world die some day, the first sound they hear after it goes dark is the "doink doink" that signals that Law and Order is coming on, and they find themselves 'cuffed up and in a courtroom. God gavels the proceedings to order, hears evidence about greed and Ponzi schemes and fraudulent derivatives (of course, an expert economist would give testimony here b/c probably not even God understands how derivatives work), renders a guilty verdict and sentences the defendants to a gazillion years in Purgatory. But there's a problem w/ that option, too -- If those guys get justice, I should expect to get it, too. And I'm just as culpable, only to a different degree. I haven't bilked investors of billions of dollars, but I've been a user. I've gotten over. I've lied, cheated, stolen, hated. So, if they're screwed, I'm screwed.

But my hope is that there's another option. It's an option w/ justice (God's holiness cannot allow sin, whether it's mine or Bernie Madoff's, to go unpunished), but it's merciful, too. It's an option rooted in "crisis," or, more accurately, it's rooted in "krisis," the Greek term John uses to record Jesus' words just hours before his arrest, trial and lynching. Jesus tells his friends: "Now is the judgment (krisis) of this world; now the ruler of this world be cast out." (John 12.31) There was a time when justice and mercy met. In the "now" of Jesus' death, the sins of the world were judged, and the punishment was meted out on God himself.

It's really the only option that satisfies. And, ultimately, it's the only one that can free my soul from bitterness and hatred toward Fr. Davenport's Masters of the Universe because, when I see the justice of the cross and understand my own implication in it, in short, when I see grace, it drives me to mercy. Instead of being driven by lust for vengeance and comeuppance, we can start to feel something of the mercy that Tim Keller describes as "the spontaneous, superabounding love which comes from an experience of the grace of God, [and t]he deeper the experience of the free grace of God, the more generous we must become." (Ministries of Mercy, p. 63.)


Slack-jawed again

On the plane to California (Virgin America rocks, btw) I watched 3 TED Talks, all of which were just great. If I could talk the way those guys talk, I'd be a better preacher, I can tell you that. In one talk, ocean explorer Robert Ballard shared his obvious enthusiasm for exploration and his goal to infect kids w/ that same enthusiasm. What caught my attention was the look on the face of this girl @ 17:10 of the talk. Ballard says of her: "When you get a jaw drop you can inform."

Indeed. And the same thing should work for enthusiasm about Jesus, should it not? If people (and by "people," I mean pretty much "me") heard the gospel and got that slack-jawed look, seems like they'd be hungry to know who Jesus is, what God is doing in history, how the redemption of creation in general can sweep me and my neighborhood up in particular.

Anyway, I had been thinking about that look off and on for a few days, and when I couldn't sleep last night after the 4.5 hour flight back to DC, I flipped through Donald Miller's Jazz Notes, which a friend had loaned me. Miller writes about his friend, Alan, who went around the U.S. asking questions of religious leaders. This time, it was the following anecdote that caught my attention:
It all sounded boring except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said Bill was a big man, full of life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions, closing with "What does Jesus mean to you?"

Bill Bright could not answer this question. He just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair at his big desk and wept.

When Alan told this story, I wondered what it was like to love Jesus that way. And I wondered, quite honestly, if Dr. Bright was nuts, or if he really knew Jesus in a personal way, so well that he could cry at the mere mention of his name. I realized that I wanted to know Jesus like that. With my heart, not just my head. I felt like that would be the key to something. (p. 118-19.)
Then I had two images in my head: A middle-school girl awed @ seeing something for the first time, and a grown man reduced to tears @ the mention of a name he'd heard a million times. Somehow they're linked in my brain now. I suspect if I could just get an inkling of the depth of the love of God, if Jesus would "happen to" me like that, I'd get slack-jawed again. And I'd hope the inevitable result would be a swelling of the heart something like Bill must've had. And heart-swelling love like that drives a body to do strange things, feats out of the ordinary, cross-taking-up and loving-thy-neighbor and whatnot.

I don't know that, mind you. But I suspect it.


Paul Soupiset's Lentblog 2007

Been so busy the past few days that I've had no time to think of posting anything, just to work, be a family man, pray when I can. I remember two Lents ago I was just as busy, but every day I looked forward to opening my laptop and clicking over to the next entry in the "Lentblog" of Paul Soupiset. In fact, Paul's the reason I carry an extra Moleskine and a small set of Faber-Castell water-colours in my bookbag, although I never get to use them (I do have some things I painted when I was on my pre-ordination retreat -- likely the last time I'll ever have blocks of hours when I have nothing to do but pray, think and paint -- that I'll never, ever show you).

Right-brained, left-brained, whatever you are, whatever moves you -- If you're busy this Lent, too busy to pray much or to make it to mass even, you should click through those old sketches. Time well spent.
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