Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poetry Wednesday

By A. Church

Now that I see you
(In a round about way)
Tell me your secrets
And who you will be


Wallow in this muddy way
For He will do it
Pigs and pigeons
Find surprising cleanliness
By rolling in the dirt.


Frederick Douglass

by Robert Hayden

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,   
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,   
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,   
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more   
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:   
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro   
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world   
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,   
this man, superb in love and logic, this man   
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,   
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives   
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Poetry Wednesday

One of the wonderful things about being a teacher is that you are paid, in part, to learn. Much of this learning comes via discovery and exploration during lesson planning. I bring you then poetry Wednesday, the result of a rabbit trail adventure for the benefit of my 6th and 7th grade English students:
The first poem, by Galway Kinnell, is really one of the more incredible poems I have read in a while. "William Goode," by Edgar Lee Masters, expresses what I have felt in various ways for some time now. Yet Grace paints strangely linear lines among the zig-zags of our striving. Finally, "After making love we hear footsteps" surely will resonate with any new (or old) parents. 

First Song

 by Galway Kinnell

Then it was dusk in Illinois, the small boy
After an afternoon of carting dung
Hung on the rail fence, a sapped thing
Weary to crying. Dark was growing tall
And he began to hear the pond frogs all
Calling on his ear with what seemed their joy.

Soon their sound was pleasant for a boy
Listening in the smoky dusk and the nightfall
Of Illinois, and from the fields two small
Boys came bearing cornstalk violins
And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins
And the three sat there scraping of their joy.

It was now fine music the frogs and the boys
Did in the towering Illinois twilight make
And into dark in spite of a shoulder's ache
A boy's hunched body loved out of a stalk
The first song of his happiness, and the song woke
His heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.

Hear the poet read his poem http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2003/08/15

A masterful song by Andrew Bird using Kinnell's words:

William Goode

by Edgar Lee Masters
To all in the village I seemed, no doubt,
To go this way and that way, aimlessly.
But here by the river you can see at twilight
The soft-winged bats fly zig-zag here and there --
They must fly so to catch their food.
And if you have ever lost your way at night,
In the deep wood near Miller's Ford,
And dodged this way and now that,
Wherever the light of the Milky Way shone through,
Trying to find the path,
You should understand I sought the way
With earnest zeal, and all my wanderings
Were wanderings in the quest.

After making love we hear footsteps
by Galway Kinnell

For I can snore like a bullhorn

or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

Friday, February 4, 2011

On Denominations

"If denominationalism simply denotes a "brand" vying for market share, then let denominationalism fall. But many of us believe denominations can represent fidelity to living traditions of local congregations that care about what Jesus cared about—personal conversion, discipleship, mission and community. Perhaps the denominational era has just begun."
Russell Moore, Wall Street Journal

In response to "Denominations" Ned Bananachex tried to post the following:

Presumably denominations have at least this one great and needful ability- to police their members. Reformed folk in particular are groaning under the pernicious influence of Mr. Howard Camping and independent radio "minister" who appears to answer to absolutely no one as he spews his heretical teachings over the radio airwaves.(The church age is over, leave your church, Jesus will return on May 21st...and tis time I mean it!) I may chaff under the authority of my conservative denomination from time to time, but if I tried a stunt like Mr. Camping's I'd be brought up on charges, out of my pulpit and stripped of my ministerial credentials faster than you could say "Servitus". That's a good thing.

Greetings and blessings to all.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's in a name?

As I have been fielding the inevitable "Why Jericho?" question frequently in the past week, I have had plenty of occasion to ask myself that very question.

Laura and I wanted our daughter's name to serve as a reminder and testimony to her heritage in the kingdom of God. Jacob was given a new name, after wrestling with God, and many of the disciples were re-named by Christ. The power and importance of names is muted in American culture but is a long tradition that should be reclaimed by the Christian church. My name, Asahel, roughly means "God works" or "God is able." My Christian testimony certainly is a story of the faithful fulfillment of that name. Interestingly, Jericho is not originally a Hebrew name and has an ambiguous meaning in Hebrew. In Arabic, it means "fragrant". The richness of Jericho's place in history, however, is strong. 

The Battle of Jericho found in the book of Joshua is a story of God's grace to his people. We are reminded that "it's not by the sword, that we'll win the land," but that "in God we trust."

In the New Testament, Jericho is mentioned in the parable of the good Samaritan. Keith Green powerfully presents the parable in song (see embedded video). Laura and I (Laura especially) have a strong interest and heart for the Middle East. If only the truth of this parable would be realized in the political realities of the present. Strangers and neighbors seems to be the crux of our world's turmoil. From immigration, to political rhetoric, race, and terrorism many are left on the road to Jericho while we squabble in fear and idolatry.

We have an earthly heritage as well, and we ought to recognize and honor that heritage. Laura and I chose the middle name "Faye" in honor of Laura's mother, Loretta Faye Helmuth. Faye is in turn also a tribute to Jericho's great-grandmother who had the middle name May and gave all of her children rhyming middle names. Jericho's 9 month year old cousin is named Rachel Mae Loker.

Jericho Faye Church

Our family's vision verse is Isaiah 58. "If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness...Those from among you shall build the old waste places, You shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In."

May Jericho rise and fall in the will of God. May she be strong but meek before her maker. As Rahab served God, may Christ serve Jericho and be the savior of her city. Though ruinous in sin, may the walls of this family be rebuilt and all of us made new. Indeed, let the trumpets sound!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bush and the Middle East

Former President Bush's legacy in Middle East foreign policy has suddenly been resurrected in past few weeks.

UC Ervine Professor Mark LeVine tears into President Obama's cautious response to the Egyptian protests and then holds up President Bush in contrast:

"It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy....

...the fact that in the midst of intensifying protests senior officials feel they can spin the events away from openly calling for a real democratic transition now reveals either incredible ignorance, arrogance, or both.
Yet this is precisely an either/or moment. Much as former US president Bush declared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we can either be "with or against" the Egyptian people. Refusing to take sides is in fact taking sides -the wrong side."

 Elliot Abrams sees the Bush Middle East agenda as suddenly prescient, chiding President Obama for his disbelief and quoting President Bush at length:

"All these developments [in Lebanon, Tunisia, and Egypt] seem to come as a surprise to the Obama administration, which dismissed Bush's "freedom agenda" as overly ideological and meant essentially to defend the invasion of Iraq. But as Bush's support for the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and for a democratic Palestinian state showed, he was defending self-government, not the use of force. Consider what Bush said in that 2003 speech, which marked the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, an institution established by President Ronald Reagan precisely to support the expansion of freedom."
"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe - because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty," Bush said. "As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export."


When did President Bush become an Arabist and President Obama beholden to the cronyism of corrupt but pro-western despots ? Some sort of shift is afoot.