Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Initial Thoughts on James 2

In James 2, the author makes the famous proclamation that faith without works is dead. By saying this he made Martin Luther very angry as his understanding of being saved solely through our faith was really disrupted by this idea. So Luther thought we should take the book out of the Bible. 

He didn't mince words 
have problems with confidence.

It would seem that James is arguing for faith and works operate together by means of informing one another. There is the assent and the action. The assent is that which we claim to believe. This would be our doctrinal values and all of our beliefs about what it means to follow Jesus. This is where we would state the expectations of a Christian life. 

Our actions serve as a type of mirror by which we see whether or not we actually believe those things that we claim in our assent. For example a Christian may claim that Jesus teaches that all human life contains inherent value and as such we should love freely all people as our neighbors regardless of their 


She may verbally assent to this claim. However, when she is organizing a meal or a church service at which there will be both powerful and impoverished in attendance, she may arrange it so that the powerful are given the best seats and the impoverished are sent to the outskirts. There is a contradiction between her assent and her action. 

Her works demonstrate 
that her faith is dead. 

Works act to demonstrate the incongruity between our verbal assent and our lived assent. This person does not actually see both the powerful and the impoverished as equally valuable and this is demonstrated by the way she arranges her social and religious space. In this way, our works speak to our faith to actually demonstrate whether or not we have allowed ourselves to be transformed by the faith of Messiah or if we are in need of repentance. 

Or take as another example, the Christian who looks at pornography. His assent would be to say that he lives with his wife in sexual union and that in that oneness, his sexuality can only be expressed through her participation. 

But he  still really
enjoys looking at porn.

While he is cognitively aware that pornography is destructive, the belief has yet to take on flesh in his behavior. His faith here is dead. His faith, his belief that pornography is destructive for society, his wife, and himself mean absolutely nothing until he acts on it.

Yet there is hope.

By looking at our behavior, we find out what we actually believe. We are able to see our failings and flailings. This introspection is essential. 

If we try to shrug off the importance of acknowledging and confessing our sins, we are like a man who wakes up the morning after a new haircut. He eats his cereal and does his crunches (or yoga or whatever the kids are doing these days) but walks out of the house without looking in a mirror and patting down all the places where his hair sticks out 

all the while telling everyone how great his Barber is.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stupidity and Creativity

You have to risk one to get the other.

I was reading about CS Lewis tonight. (<--- Things that should surprise no one.)

Old Jack had a friend named Ruth Pitter and like all of his friends she was ridiculously smart and talented and made beautiful poetry and thought beautiful and true things about the world. She was the first woman to ever get the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and out of character, the Queen actually showed up for the ceremony. At one point, Lewis said that if was the marrying type, he would have like to marry Ruth Pitter (the fact that he was less than 2 years from a civil marriage to Joy Davidman not withstanding).

Ruth fetched him a good one
on the jaw
 one night.

As he sat with her and his brother Warnie, Lewis asked for her comments on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and while she was generally entertained by it, she pointed out some lapses in the logic of the story. Being the consummate logician and apologist, he found this inconceivable (and he probably wasn't psyched about hearing it from someone with ovaries either, oh Jack) and demanded an example. She asked how it was possible in a land of perpetual winter and without foreign trade partners that the Beavers were able to provide the children with milk, potatoes, oranges, suger, and suet. 


And like any good brother,
Warnie burst into laughter
at his brother's inability
to respond.

But is making that mistake 
and suffering that embarrassment 
worth never picking up the pen? 

So many times, I find myself stuck. 

As I read the story tonight, I thought about reading these books to children and what reading does for children. When you get to this moment in the story, you could look at it and say, 'this mistake makes the whole world fall apart, I can't go on.' letting your demand for internal consistency predicate your enjoyment as if the origin of the Beavers' oranges were the atomic mass of the Higgs Boson and its inaccuracy ripped the universe asunder. 


Or, if you are an attentive reader, 
you ask, 
'where did the oranges come from?'
And now, YOU get to create something totally new.

What's the point of literature and art if it doesn't leave us with questions? Why would we ever want to read, listen to, look at something that was good only because it was correct? I am without doubt that my life is not beautiful because it has been done correctly.

Ask any person that I have played music with. I make a lot of mistakes. Most often than not, if I'm on stage I am playing bass, an instrument that my mom asked me to learn because the church 'had enough acoustic players.' Yea, I know what that means: 

Dear Sloppy McSlopSlop, 

Cut it out and pick up an instrument where you can only misplay four strings instead of six. 

Your Mom

My main instrument, which I'm not all that bad at these days, was put in my hands as a result of some stupidity. Not knowing what I was doing. Even now, the band leader who has most enjoyed having me as a co-musician pointed out that he doesn't keep me around because I play everything correctly, it's that I take risks and when I make the mistakes, I find a way to make them sound less like mistakes. 

It's a remarkable talent
through years of error and error.

You (I) can't stop what we are doing because we are afraid of someone finding the errors later on and making us look like fools. We (I) are (am) fools. We just need to slide out of those sour notes and figure out where the oranges came from. That's where all the beautiful stuff happens anyway.

PS, What is Suet?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Beginnings Are Always So Hopeful... followed by a series of questions that demand discussionnotanswers

In Judaism, the places for higher theological learning 
are called yeshivas. From yoshev, the Hebrew word 
meaning to sit. 

Because it's important that  you sit still.

I have now been to one sitting for each of my classes and I am so incredibly excited about what I'm doing. The material is intriguing and new and one of my classes offers me the opportunity to simply sit and think about the ways in which I think about God. It also offers/demands that I read 1300 pages of material but I'm ok with that tonight. 

It took until right now to realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have this time. Three years separated from school, working and occasionally making money has taught me one very important thing. 

I really like school.

I couldn't help but smile while the laptops
clacked and the guy up front
told us 
all about the time the Lutherans and the Methodists got together
and the Methodists felt outgunned 
or about
the guy who used to debate Einstein but will always be remembered for his Theology.

Do you think that people are more willing to accept mystery 
within God now as opposed to 
50 years ago
50 years ago
they still thought that we could
 use science to explain this whole world around us and 
God along with it?

If science explained it all,
down past the quarks and neutrinos,
hung a left past those vibrating strings,
and found whole other multiverses
would you still need God?

Is He just there to explain what you don't understand?

Or does He inform something more?

Would you trade enlightenment
a little bit of mystery?

So many questions and I haven't even written a paper yet.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mints Aren't Meals

It's a land where space and time aren't concrete truths but rather matters for debate as if they were art or music. "You see at this time of day, Santa Monica is the shortest way to get to Hollywood. If it were tomorrow, the 10 to La Brea would be much shorter."

LA's roads are like a Dali paintings. Ever shifting.
Lines growing and shrinking with no connection to reality.
Clocks, like my soul, melting.

My friend and I moved to LA simultaneously and independent
of knowing each other's plans. His name is Seth.

We talk sometimes and that makes things feel more ok. Like the whole world hasn't stopped making sense. Mostly this consists of gripes regarding what passes for normal here. This could be anything from talking about the fact that yes, people really do own those stupid tiny dogs. whygodwhy To the need to immediately compliment something about a person's appearance as soon as you see them. New hair? Love it. Great T-shirt! Your skin looks amazing. Some of these things are good things, but it's great to have someone around who is running headlong into the same bewildering experience. One of the more confounding stories that Seth told me recently was about a mutual friend whom he had invited to out to lunch. She looked at him, pondered a bit and said, "No thanks, I'm eating dinner tonight and I have some mints. I don't really want to eat lunch as well."

I've started working a lot in the past couple weeks as a result of my little sister ( basically knowing every last person with hiring/firing capabilities in Los Angeles. I'm venturing for the first time into the realms of the service industry as a Busboy as Hemingway's Lounge in Hollywood ( come grab a drink!) and advertising as a Copywriter for DBA Worldwide ( come get advertising done!). All told, I'm pulling down a lot of non-concurrent hours. 

Down at 3AM up at 730. Check.

I love the places that I'm working, the challenges are new and both will be incredibly flexible as I move into the school year.

They are changing me though. 
Pulling me into the ether of Los Angeles.

There are some days when I work at both institutions. This involves getting to Santa Monica at roughly 930 (read: leaving Pasadena at 730, driving 25 miles on the freeway at an average speed of 12.5 miles per hour while imaging how great personal flight would be as well as how great personal violence to those around me would be. I laugh maniacally the whole time.) I work there until about 630 and then run over to Hemingway's for my shift which begins at 8 (This 1.5 hour drive is shorter in distance so, for reasons of personal sanity, I don't calculate an average speed), complete my shift at around 230 and hit the hay back in Pasadena at 3. The roads are empty at that time of night and the freedom makes me weep for the roads of Detroit where my little Ford Focus can and does travel as fast as it wants to go with its mismatched wheels.

So sexy

One such day I found myself glued to my desk working feverishly on a project when I looked down to see that it was 2 in the afternoon.

I was very hungry.
But I had bigger problems.

If I ate then, I would lose my rhythm on whatever it was that I was doing and I would ruin my dinner. (this 'dinner' being a mcdouble that i would pick up on on the way to the bar. dont judge me. im so sensitive.) I don't normally go for Altoids, the experience is too violent for my liking, I prefer breath fresheners that taste like candy and fortunately, I had just that in my backpack. I began fumbling blindly through my backpack with my left hand while continuing to type with my right and found the container. I started popping the candies in my mouth like a toofarnorth penguin eating sand because he thinks it's snow.

This is when I had me Teen Wolf moment.

I was changing. Adopting the habits of the people around me and not one that I was particularly fond of. I was looking in the mirror and seeing my canines grow. I shouted "Mints aren't Meals!", Confused my coworkers severely and ran out to get something to eat. I would write better with a full stomach.


Cities always change us. 
We are going to become like the people we spend time with.

Jerusalem made me slow down and rest.
Port-au-Prince showed me how to hold my own.
I'm just trying to be mindful of what I want to keep from LA
 and what's not worth hanging on to.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unintentional reading and books that make me feel dim

That English degree sitting in a box somewhere in my closet may not have given me an office wall to hang it on, but it most assuredly represents the fact that I'm at least semi-literate and have tried to consume a decent number of books. Sometimes I read these books and they make me feel eloquent and dynamic.

I'm able to have aggressive discussions
about them complete with allusions,
incisive commentary
and a subtle clink as I sip my Jack on the rocks.

And then there is 100 Years of Solitude. My friend Daniel recently suggested that I read it. And by recently, I mean that he let me borrow his copy of the book last year and after the first chapter, I moved on to reading something that was probably slightly less demanding.

(see The Last Ringbearer.
Tolkien fan fiction?
Yea, I get down with that.)

A few weeks ago, I decided that the gig was up and I was going to slog through Solitude whether I liked it or not.

I do not.

I'm about halfway in and every time I turn the page, I'm hoping for a distraction.

Phantom ring on the phone?
Good point, Self,
This is a great opportunity to check out CNN.
I bet a lot has changed in this world since you last did.

This book is genius. It's been confirmed. It's right there on the back binding. White letters on orange paper, "Winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature." Why is this book so impossibly inaccessible to me then? I've got a few ideas.

1. I have no frame of reference to grasp the intricacies of injustice that accompany living in South America.
This idea has a ton of merit to me and the facts of its case completely true.
No one ever put up a banana farm in my neighborhood. I don't know what
it's like to live with constant war and upheaval. However, I have spent
working on behalf of people who have been marginalized. I've eaten with
them, listened to their stories, and told them there was hope, and
watched them die from a treatable and preventable disease. If I can't get
this book because I lack the capacity for empathy, it raises some way
darker questions about me than whether my tastes are appropriate.

2. The chops are gone.
Back in my prime, I could snap through a book faster than the blink
of a fly's eye, gurgle up some literary silliness for an essay, and be back
in time for dinner. Three years out from turning in my last college paper and the
game has changed, I'm all out of the practice of intentional reading. This
leads to listless perusal and most assuredly to a lack of enjoyment
of the text.

3. You couldn't give someone a new name?
Ok, I recognize that I am not Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I have
not won a Nobel Prize, but I don't know how I'm supposed to keep
these characters straight when they all have variations of the exact
same names. So far, there's over 20 Aurelianos. The family tree at
the beginning of the book didn't even help.

4. Maybe I will like it as I get closer to the end.
This has happened to me before. And by that, I mean it has happened
with every Jane Austen novel I have ever read. Every Jane
Austen novel I have ever read has taken me at least 35 pages of slogging
before I start to have any fun. Let's just hope my
Garcia Marquez number is 200.

5. I'm currently ill served to spend time meditating on solitude.
I'm presently coming off one of the more relationally intense periods
of my life. Sharing a home with the 60 people you work with does not
provide you with a lot of 'me' time. I've returned to the States and to
a job where I'm the lone person on duty for roughly 5 hours every
night. Our visitors probably think that I'm about to ask for their phone
numbers given how much I dote on and chase them. I just want them
all to be my friends and to pay attention to me!!

So I carry on. Reading and reading. Using books as a type of self measuring psycho analysis. I've heard literature readers are better in social situations. I will hide comfortably in that.

I think Daniel wants his book back soon. It should be fine though, he's got my copy of The Satanic Verses and I think that one also took me about a year of unintentional reading.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Haiti Day One: Airports and Bad Investments

So I'm on my way to Port-Au-Prince!!

Just touched down in Miami and have a few hours to kill
waiting for my flight out of this country.

Enter the bad investment

I actually just paid $5 for a half hour of internet access.
The shame is overwhelming.

If I paid that much for a straight month, it would cost almost $7500.
Side Note: I'm slow at this and totally failed to get this finished in a half hour.
I am now writing from the camp.

I'm so excited about this new journey in my life, I have spent a little bit of time reading up and getting myself prepared for what I will face when I get down there. The problem is that I have no grid to really prepare for the type of destruction that I'm going to see.

I will be helping facilitate a camp that houses 55K people on what used to be a 9 hole golf course. I don't really know how that is even possible.

I think that one of the most exciting elements of this is the unknown. People have asked what I will be doing and the answer that I give is that I've been told I will be an Information Officer but that I have no idea what that means in the way of day to day responsibilities. I don't know who I will be sharing a tent with. I don't know what I will eat. I don't know creole. I don't know what the hours will be like.

And I'm really excited about all of that.
Some kind of extreme blank slate experience.

I hope to keep this updated while I'm down there and provide clarification, but we will see as I am presently unsure about the hour situation....

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Absurd Project

Ok, so my last project ended up being a gigantic mistake.
Why I thought that I would take
time to write a whole book
whilst in the midst of application
review season and Christmas,
I am unsure.

So now I'm past it and I'm on to
some new silliness.

The goal is to translate a book that is written in a language that

I have never learnt.

I recently bought a copy of Les Miserables in Frnech and will soon start the process of translating it. I am expecting a solid amount of frustration and some really funny mistakes along the way but hopefully I come away with some ability in French and having read one of the great novels of the 19th century.

After finishing War
I feel Invincible.

John Adams and John Quincy worked on their French while they were crossing
the Atlantic by reading Moliere, and John still sucked at it when he got there.

It will be interesting to see
if I can be any more successful than
this man who clearly towers over me intellectually
simply because I have access to the internet and the ability to
instantly ascertain the information I need both in written and sonic form.