Tuesday, August 30, 2005

First Entry: Abridged Traveblogue

The longer versions can be read at my xanga site and this one, specifically here. But before I begin to bastardize my own travelogue, you know the site meter at the bottom of the page (if you can ever get that far)? It tells me some interesting and sometimes not so interesting facts about visitors to this blog. Now, you know, I love you all and I really want more people to come around, feel at home, feel comfortable, feel as part of a community. Everyone, everyone, is welcomed here. You know, Come as you are. I don't want to put on pretenses or leave people out. But I am who I am and I write about what interests me. And what interests me may not interest others... blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, I guess this kid figured that I might have something that would interest him. I thought it was interesting, I don't get too many international visitors, esp. from the other side of the world. But, apparently, I guess I don't have enough "girls, cheeks."

Well, it interested me. So there.

Gary wins the title of Stinkiest Region in the Union. Hands down.

[N]ortheast section of Indiana (not much to brag about here, folks.)

He invited me to a screening of the original Star Wars... Being the nerd that I am, I would've gone in a heart beat. Being as far away as I am...

I am, however, profanely angry.

Michigan... truly is a beautiful state to visit. And spend money in. So many beautiful, old trees. So vibrant in green-ness.

"Abide in me. I will leave. I will send my Spirit. You will remain in me by obeying me..." This is a good part of the Gospel of John's focus for this period. It all seems to work so beautifully, so elegantly, so earthly yet eternally.

[Like Flanders:] "I'm sorry Jesus, I'm sorry Jesus!"

Monday, August 29, 2005

Traveblogue intro

Like the Poltergeist, I'm back.

What a trip. Put some miles into the rental. Got in one minor, minor ummm... skirmish. Saw one of my brothers get married, etc., etc. I'm not going to bore you with all the details, now. I shall later though.

I kept a bit of a travelogue. Over the next few days, I'll transcribe it on to this site, and take some of the highlights (in or out of context) and post them here. But since I didn't bring my notes with me and since I'm tired and have to prepare myself for (and somewhat celebrate) my new job, I'll have to start tomorrow.

I'm the newest addition to the Roberto Clemente Achievement Academy, a school within a school that works with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who are too old for elementary school but need to be mainstreamed into the high school. It's gonna be tough, don'tchaknow?

More on that later.


P.S., if you haven't read Don Miller yet, here's a good place to start, it's an excerpt from Blue Like Jazz.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ignoramis of the world, untie!

Intelligent Design is being argued against by the ignorants.

Guess who gets the most public air?

The op-ed pages are filled with people who have no footings on science, philosophy or certainly religion yet feel a necessity to opine widely on the first and the last in one fell swoop, namely, thus: science has nothing to do with religion nor religion with science. I'm sorry, but that just breathes and breeds ignorami to the extreme. It insists that they are mutually exclusive and that the realm of one cannot overlap with that of the other. That's Docetic and imbecilic. It also very much belongs in the so-called Age of Reason. Yet, there was another half-witted excuse for a letter-to-the editor in the Chicago Tribune today, arguing that very same airless premise. I will post the article (you can find it here) and try to knock some sense into it while speaking in italics.

Religion should not be used to explain science

A.J. Warland
Published August 22, 2005

Clarendon Hills -- I was baptized a Catholic. One day at 10 years old, I asked my mother, "Why are there no dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible?"

She did not have an answer.

Ummm... yeah. "And the Lord smoten the T. Rex with a terrible infliction as he had the Canaanites." Or, maybe the Leviathan, mentioned in Job. How do you expect the Bible, an ancient manuscript, to describe dinosaurs, something only recently discovered and named in Latin, a language much older than modern English yet far younger than ancient Hebrew?

I knew something was terribly wrong.

Because his mother couldn't answer his curious but childish question? That's how empires fall!

I decided then and there that the Bible was probably written by some old guys sitting around a campfire trying to come up with good stories like one finds in Aesop's fables or other fairytales as a means to relate the rights and wrongs of behavior to the masses.

(Such are the thoughts of a 10-year-old.)

Quite hilarious, man. The remarkable thing is, the author still holds on to this theory. Un-flippin'-believable!

Unlike the ancient people of the deserts and forests, we do not need to invent gods to explain nature's phenomena anymore.

How quaintly 18th Century of you! Religion-as-a-natural-phenomenon-explanation.

We have scientific evidence derived via the scientific method of analyzing the world around us. Just because we have not yet found the "missing link" in the evolution of man doesn't justify the ridiculous suppositions of the creationists.

Creationists? Oh, I see. You've made that common mistake. That's where it all starts.
Creationism and Intelligent Design are quite different creatures altogether. Creationism is an account (a supplementary one at that, that never supposes to supplant science) of the order of the physical cosmos and world starting from the presuppositions of the record of creation - and the few thousand years after the initial creation - rendered in the Bible (specifically, the first nine chapters of the first book, Genesis) and interpreted literally. Although it uses scientific elements, it cannot claim to be a science. Intelligent Design, however, is a more philosophical understanding of the natural world. It's stated implication is that the cosmos is too orderly to have been put together through chaos. It argues, often through mathematics and logistics (the law professor Philip E. Johnston being a sort of Godfather of the movement) that the scientific method on its own with its inherent omission of anything outside the natural to explain any of the natural (ergo, God nor his actions can neither be a possibilities or a probability within the natural world).

ID, however, is not theologically coherent or unified. In other words, most Creationists would be classified as conservative Protestants. ID, however, although popular in these camps (hence the confusion of people who don't know the first thing about religion) is much more broad in its base is supported by those who believe that the cosmos may have been , in some ways, crafted, created or helped-along by a Higher Being. A title, by the way, that would never be supported in my church.

Evolutionary evidence is bountiful. Look through a microscope. Witness how bacteria and viruses evolve to adjust to their environment as it changes due to chemicals we throw at them.

Look at the similarity of embryos of different animals. It shows how form and function have changed over millions of years.

And...? No one is arguing against micro-evolution. Intelligent design does not argue that there is no such thing as evolution, but it is guarded against an origin of nature that is solely guided by chaotic evolution.

Intelligent design? This should presuppose that it would be perfect. Unfortunately we have the visual evidence of disease and deformity. Why would "God" allow such imperfections? It makes
no sense.

Why would you put "God" in quotation marks? Are you seeking to offend or trying not to offend? What kind(s) of arguments are you making here? Theology can answer those questions. But you argue for a utopia that would sustain itself as utopia (notice, 'utopia' means 'no place'. Although Christians believe in the perfection of the creation, we believe imperfection entered the scene when mankind messed it up. However, outside of theology, your argument doesn't hold up well. Why should everything be perfect in existence just because somebody designed it? Why should everything be understood? Cancer and viruses are not beautiful or perfect. But they are abnormalities. Most everything runs fine in and of themselves.

Evolution, however, does explain the miseries of life. Creatures all, struggling to adapt, is a testimony to "survival of the fittest" . . . it is the mechanism of evolution.

Now the proponents of intelligent design expect us to consider Noah's Ark had dinos onboard. Creationists have gone from ridiculous to insane. There is no science behind intelligent design. It's not worthy of even being a theory.

Oh, there's that confusion again. It gives me hope that I may, too, one day be published in the Chicago Tribune.

They have no geologic or archeological evidence.

They lack any form of "logic."

Really? Such as checking on the facts before opining? Ad hominem attacks? Straw-Man arguments? Please, stop me when you become familiar with your tactics, A. J. Warland.

Creationists should focus their discussions on people showing goodwill toward men and the golden rule of decency because many of their leaders (in all religions) have certainly fallen far from grace.

Some more moralizing. Thankyouverymuch.

That anyone in this day and age would even consider that an old man (though some now imagine it a woman) is sitting above the Earth in the clouds and that only 10,000 years ago decided to snap his fingers and create the enormous complexity of every living creature and plant in just six days is ludicrous.

"Old man"?? Speaking of presumptuous presumptions.

Let the creationists use religion to guide daily behavior with how-to-be-good guidelines. (Personally I and numerous people I know don't need religion to be some of the nicest and kindest people one could ever have the pleasure of meeting.)

Awwww, how nice and pleasant. If only Jesus was about being nice and pleasant. But I digress, namely because A. J. does.

Religion should not be used to explain science.

Amen. I'll back you on that. The truth is, that may be the function or purpose of ID in some supporting pundits' minds.

Besides science, I do believe in historical evidence. For that I do believe that someone named Jesus walked the Earth and impacted enough lives to prompt the fireside storytellers to create the Bible.

Apparently, you don't believe in historical evidence. All right, you need to read a book. Dan Brown's crap doesn't count. Countless men and women died for these "fireside storytellers" even during that period that you would think they were making it up. Sorry, history doesn't support you. The Old Testament was in wide circulation long before Jesus walked. The New Testament was completed (whole) within seventy years of his death. There are no fireside stories in any of the canons of the Bible. You must have the Bible confused with the supposed extra-gospels of "Thomas" or "Q", works which have no historical basis with first century A.D. Judaism, in which Jesus operated or "impacted."

I do have an important question for creationists: If God supposedly created everything, then who created God?

They have no answer because it lacks logic.

You are correct. Your question does lack logic.

Case closed.

(Unless, of course, they change their minds and decide that God is really an E.T. . . . but that's a whole other debate.)

Why not? You're on a roll, A. J.
Why, o why, doesn't the Bible mention me? Is it because I look fat? Am I too ferocious?

Freight Train to Nowhere


Starts tomorrow. I'm taking along my copy of The Idiot. Man, I am loving this book. A lot funnier than I thought it'd be. Imagine Jane Austin on steroids. Okay, now that I've repulsed you (weight lifting in those bikinis and hair growing under her lips): The Idiot is the story, at least in this first quarter, of an inter- and intra- familial tension arising out of an arranged marriage. At the center of it is a simple Prince musician, a man who has no place to call home, no money, is a foreigner in his own land, yet is of royal lineage. A man so stricken that people generally don't regard him, yet one who holds all (servants and generals alike) in the same genuine manner and is able to see them for who they truly are, and loves them - and protects them - all the same. Does any of this sound familiar?

I probably won't update much, if at all, during the next week. I had thought of plugging this site with more stuff to read, but, why the heck? Maybe by the time I come back, there'll be another posting at Further Up & Further In (maybe even done by one of the ladies!). Another week after that, school will start again here in Chicago, so I don't know when I'll be able to post or if on any sort of regular schedule. Until I get a laptop, at least.

I fully expect to be a full-time substitute teacher when the semester begins. Which'll be all right. I can make some headway into my debts again (about time!) while still spending time with my youth group. Although we're still expecting a new youth pastor to come in soon, there is no definite time schedule for that. We're looking for someone who'll come in for the long haul (five years) - no small feat for a youth worker in a fairly small urban church. But since our teens feel a sense of abandonment every time someone leaves a) the church, b) formal youth ministry, it's a necessary thing. Heck, I've been on month-by-month for over a year. They feel I'm abandoning them.

Oh, check out ol' boy Andy Whitman. He writes for Paste Magazine and has been with them since the beginning. I always enjoy reading his stuff, yet it wasn't until recently that I found out he's on blogger. Insightful, music lover (The world doesn't have enough honest-to-goodness music lovers who are short of music-geeks [the difference? I can understand one.]), heart-felt, Christian. Of course, his musical tastes run similar to mine.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I told you I'd post about N.T. Wright. nah nah na boo boo

The Right Reverend Father in God Nicholas Thomas Wright, by Divine Providence Lord Bishop of Durham. Boy, those Anglicans sure have a way with stuffy titles. (Of course, I'm used to the Baptist and non-denominational version. We call our pastors by nicknames. And, ain't nobody above a pastor - except, as the bad joke goes, his wife.) Bishop Wright (or, more commonly, N. T. Wright) is a student of the New Testament and studies both Jesus and Paul within the frame of their Second Temple-era Jewishness and a very frequent lecturer. The following excerpts are stolen from his speech entitled "Jesus and the Identity of God" expressly about Jesus' divine identity and self-understanding.

The death of God's son can only reveal God's love (as in, e.g., Rom 5:6-10) if the son is the personal expression of God himself. It will hardly do to say, "I love you so much that I'm going to send someone else."

The positive reason for studying Jesus within his historical context and using all the tools at our disposal to do so has to do with that still-neglected factor, the meaning of Israel within the purpose of God. If we are to be biblical theologians, it simply will not do to tell the story of salvation as simply creation, fall, Jesus, salvation. We desperately need to say: creation, fall, Israel, Jesus, salvation. If we ask the question of how this particular human being is the instrument of salvation and do not say as our first answer, “because in him God’s Israel-shaped plan to save the world came to fulfillment,” then we leave a huge vacuum in our thinking (and in our reading of scripture). I believe it is because of this vacuum that people have elevated minor themes, such as the sinlessness of Jesus, to a prominence which, though not insignificant, they do not possess in the NT itself. Thus it is not enough merely to say “earthly” or to allude to Jesus’ sandals, and then to proceed to construct a Christ-figure as a back-projection of a fully-formed theology. This approach is unacceptable for the same reason the approach of Crossan and others [The Jesus Seminar, a media circus run by non-Biblical scholars - many of whom would self-identify as 'Christians' - that purport to prove that the historical Jesus is vastly different than the Biblical Jesus, making claims such as Jesus was a simple revolutionary who died a rebel's death, Jesus never really died on the cross, but only passed out, he made no miracles nor claims to divinity, etc., etc,] is unacceptable: they call their Jesus “Jewish” while actually constructing a Jesus out of symbolic features of the wider Mediterranean world, ignoring many crucial elements of Jewish self-understanding. After all, it is precisely the cavil of the heterodox today that the Gospels themselves are the self-serving back-projections of a later, and perhaps corrupted, theology. I fail to see why we should provide such people with more ammunition than they already have.

At the human level, Jesus is like us precisely in this: he did not exist or think or feel or pray in a vacuum, but rather within a continuum, a web of socio-cultural symbolic resonances, a universe of discourse within which deeds, thoughts, and words carried layers of meaning. Orthodox Christians are frightened of letting Jesus belong to a world like this, precisely because we know that if he is like us in belonging to such a world, he will he very unlike us in that his world is not our world. We are therefore, eager to flatten his world out or to declare, it of little relevance, because we want to be able to carry him, his message, and his timeless achievement of salvation across to our world without losing anything in the process. In this eagerness we forget what the NT writers and above all Jesus himself never forgot: that salvation is of the Jews, not in some trivial sense, but in the rich sense that in order to save the world the creator God chose Abraham and said “in your seed all the families of the earth will he blessed.” It is precisely because Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of this promise that he is relevant in all times and places. It is precisely because he is The Jew par excellence that he is relevant to all Gentiles as well as Jews. This is the ultimately humiliating move for Gentile and Jew alike, precipitating an epistemology of humiliation whereby all may know this Jesus as the living, saving word of God, as different from us in the way that makes him the same as us, as over against us and therefore relevant to us.

[A] central feature of Jewish expectation, and kingdom expectation at that, in Jesus’ time was the hope that YHWH would return in person to Zion. Having abandoned Jerusalem at the time of the exile, his return was delayed, but he would come back at last. Within this context, someone who told cryptic stories about a king or a master who went away, left his servants with tasks to perform, and then returned to see how they were getting on must—not “might,” must point to this controlling, over-arching metanarrative [of the returning YHWH]. Of course, the later Church, forgetting the first century Jewish context, read such stories as though they were originally about Jesus himself going away and then returning in a “second coming.”

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Girl friends, are you paying attention?

These are not my words. Oh, how I love relevant magazine's complete cluelessness.

There is a shortage of something that is ever-so-important in this world. A lot of people have it, and others do not. I am a have-not, and I do not wish to be this way much longer. As I near my 23rd year on planet Earth, I hope to find it very soon. But perhaps it's rude to call a girlfriend an "it." My single brothers are familiar with my predicament. It seems as though there are no intelligent, fun-loving and moral girls available. Anywhere. Now there are plenty of perfect girls in relationships, but none are unattached. How is this possible? Did all the lovely young ladies come out of the womb already clutching hands with boys?
They're probably hiding from you, joe.

The point of the article is... Oh, I don't know. But he speaks of using girl friends to sharpen insights into the female mind.

Further signs of immaturity:

Always very clever and quick to laugh, women also possess an amazing sensitivity to others people's feelings. Now this may seem like obvious information to a lot of you, but it is news to me. You're dealing with an individual whose childish loathing of girls just recently died off. Believe it or not, I regularly said, "Girls sure are weird!" in all sincerity until only a couple of months ago.
Twenty-three, huh? Is he pulling ponytails, still? Of course, this is coming from a guy who wrote a poem called "cooties" about, well, you'll get the point if you read it a couple of posts below.

Adam, you need to write for them. Give 'em somethin'. A dose of reality, per se. (No offense, Destiny, but this site sometimes confounds me.)

In related news, Michelle, ma belle...

These are words that go together well,
My Michelle.

Michelle, ma belle.
Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,
Tres bien ensemble.

I love you, I love you, I love you.
That's all I want to say.
Until I find a way
I will say the only words I know that
You'll understand.

Michelle, ma belle.
Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,
Tres bien ensemble.

I need to, I need to, I need to.
I need to make you see,
Oh, what you mean to me.
Until I do I'm hoping you will
Know what I mean.

I love you.

I want you, I want you, I want you.
I think you know by now
I'll get to you somehow.
Until I do I'm telling you so
You'll understand.

Michelle, ma belle.
Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,
Tres bien ensemble.

I will say the only words I know that
You'll understand, my Michelle.

And it's for simple reasons like this that I love my girl friends, right? They're so understanding.

Yes, I created a new blog

I've moved to the dark side. This is the blog for when i don't feel like i need to worry bout punctuatation or spellign or none of that. well, maybe some of it. even in these sentances, i keep going back to rewrite what it is i'm wirting. well, nota alsways.

i write that sloppy. it's all in the editing, i swear.

chekc me out if you ain't scared of xanga and you just wanna hear what i'm sayin'. no what i mean, jean?


things i can't understand
freeness, newness, ampersand
the way of a woman with a man

the way she touches the hands,
the sweat glands pool and
puruse fingertips to tend the land

finds merely solely the chasm
warm undue, damp too fast
rome's raided, sword in hand

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Heard about Heard? (hyuck-hyuck)

Finally getting around to listening to Sufjan Stevens' Illinois (Also known as Come on Feel the Illinoise - yep, a pun, and being a native Illinoisian, a bad one. Please, people, don't pronounce the 's.') Lovin' it. My man Adam has a... I don't know what you'd call it. Maybe you could call it a post. Anyway's he wrote a post on Monday where he reveals that he's been listening to too much folk-rock.

Gross...I fell headlong into folk rock...been listening to a lot of keaton simmons and denison witmer and Over The Rhine and Nick Drake and Sufjan Stevens <---his voice grates my nerves in large doses...

I kid you not. The night previous to this, I put in the order for some old Over the Rhine and new Stevens and Witmer. I also got Mark Heard and Bill Mallonee (not the Godfather of Bluegrass, but the man behind the Vigilantes of Love). I'm somewhat responsible for getting him on this trip. It's a good break from his sola rapa christiana dogma. I plan on getting some Bowie next (why I don't have anything from him yet boggles my mind). But then maybe Nick Drake won't be such a bad idea. Simmons, though? Too many weird Simmonses out there for my taste.

I'm spinning Sufjan's stuff for the first time. I'm liking it a lot. Even the voice. Maybe I'll give some short reviews later, after they've soaked in. (I don't have quite the demand others do for Cross Movement reviews, so I have to create the demand first, right?)

But I do want to speak of Heard's poetic lines, since I am familiar with those. They certainly put me to shame. Mark Heard died thirteen years ago. He was an engineer, producer, musician, thinker, artist, writer-extraordinaire and pretty darn funny. On Satellite Sky he had the privilege of working alongside David Raven (of the Swirling Eddies), Michael Been (the leader of The Call), Buddy Miller (Emmylou Harris' guitarist, and with wife Julie, right hand), and Sam Phillips (Singer-songwriter, T-Bone Burnett's ex-wife). Bruce Cockburn speaks indelibly high of him. But this is what I know. These dang, haunted lyrics.

There's an oasis in the heat of the day
There's a fire in the chill of night
A turnabout in circumstance makes each a hell in its own right
I been boxed in the lowlands, in the canyons that think
I been pushed to the precipice and dared not to blink...
Knock the scales from my eyes
Knock the words from my lungs
I want to cry out
It's on the tip of my tongue
(Tip of My Tongue)

I will rise from my bed with a question again
As I work to inherit the restless wind
The view from my window is cold and obscene
I want to touch what my eyes haven't seen
But they have packaged our virtue in cellulose dreams
And sold us the remnants 'til our pockets are clean
'Til our hopes fall 'round our feet like the dust of dead leaves and we end up looking like what we believe
We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins and make flutes of our bones and blow a hymn to the orphans of God
(Orphans of God)

And, in case you think it's all sad-sack, Heard does recognize beauty-lost ("Long Way Down," which argues that the naked beauty of the world is "lies hidden on the teeming shores beneath the burned-out Chevrolets") and beauty-lived :

Scarlet is the color of her heart against the night
Prism of her innocence fracturing the light
She will take her stairwell down to dark and heartless streets
And spend her season singing songs to infidels and thieves
("Love Is So Blind")
Buy yourself a copy. Let's not bury this treasure. Send it sky-high.

Sorry this post wasn't funny either.
What's wrong with me??

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Waiting Club

I love it when I meet Christians with that simple faith. They can move mountains with that faith. People can be restored and healed and lost pennies and neighbors will be found.

Maybe I just know too much. Maybe I'm scared of feeling too much. Maybe I'm afraid of failure and what that would say about me and my God.

It's been a year and a half since I finally received my BA in Teaching of English. When I entered the program, it seemed a cinch. There was a definite need for teachers, especially in the inner-city. What, you mean I get to work with urban youth, teach them a thing or two about life and get paid decently?

Well, they still need teachers here in Chicago. If you can teach math or science, welcome to the Chi. If you're an English teacher without endorsements in Special Ed or Reading and are uneasy about your previous classroom management, welcome to the club. Registration's up front. Waiting area's around the corner.

The Waiting Club. Let me get your coats, make yourselves comfortable. Can I get you something? A drink? A magazine? Virgil, Socrates, Melville, Tolstoy?

I'm not completely let-down by being rejected for another teaching season. I almost expected it. But I am sad. I know that God's preparing something special for me. But I wouldn't have minded learning on the job.

Bono compared the Holy Spirit to women. Women, God bless you and your mysterious ways, but you're no match against the Eternal. I can't read your minds, ladies, but God is invisible (I can't see when I've upset him), eternal (He's certainly experienced more than all of the better half of the human species have), and omniscient (The crux of the matter. He knows what he's doing. We, not-so-scient, don't). But don't think that I'm completely settled and unbothered. I'm no Elie Wiesel (The holocaust survivor accused Job of letting God off too easily), but neither am I a Job.

Last night I found out when and where my brother is getting married. My parents and youngest brother live in Oklahoma. My oldest brother and I remain in Chicago. This particular brother (the fourth of five) is serving in the Navy, as is his fiance (whom he had a part in recruiting, of course). So, the time and place were - in this post-9/11 and highly secretive governmental times - up-in-the-air to the last minute.

Tonight, my mom called to see if I could somehow secure tickets for some in the family who wanted to go. She mentioned a few names, but I must have misheard her (Computer illiterate as they are, I was looking for a name of someone who knew how to work around a modem and keyboard), so I asked again who is going.

"Well, daddy. That's about it for now."

What the...? Dad didn't want to go to Brian's wedding originally. We had to convince him to come to that one with the rest of the family. Caleb (the youngest) was already in hot water. He may just not be able to cut it at this time (I swear, my parents don't know how to raise bad kids. They think we're all supposed to be respectful and stay away from trouble. Worked with the first two...) Chucky (the middle one) is on his way back to Chicago and will travel with us. Grandma and grandpa are gaining in age and fast losing money. They probably won't be able to make this journey this time.

So, the one important missing piece is mama. She's not coming?

"Um... no."

Why? Are you...? The truth is my mama has bipolar disorder. She has suffered this on and off for almost twenty years. Although the effects are no longer as extreme as they were in my teenage years, she suffers from it continuously now. She is constantly worried and guilt-stricken about a completely ridiculous situation that happened two decades ago.

"I'd rather not talk about it now."

My eyes were welling up and before long, the well ran down my cheeks.

"Well, I guess I better get going."

It was obvious that I stopped paying attention and my focus drifted.



I love you. And know that I'm praying for you.

And I am. But I don't know what to expect.

I also don't know what to expect for my new friend Timi. We only started talking and emailing the last couple months. But it makes me wonder how C. S. Lewis felt being with Joy, the brash young American he eventually married and lost shortly thereafter, recounted in A Grief Observed. Timi's got what she describes as a sort of domino effect on her health. Everything from her back to her internals (I feel bad that I always forget if someone has difficulties in their liver or their kidneys.) is acting up and one thing affects another and so on. It's chronic, newly developed and getting worse. And she loves football. She loves being active. And she loves God.

Or, there's Bruce Nelson. Bruce contacted a rare tropical fever while on a missions trip to India. His church eventually laid him off, with some difficulty and hard feelings. He could only be hired back as a janitor, which work was physically impossible for him. Apparently, his head pastor didn't want the children's pastor to ask the hard questions. Bruce, from the standpoint of the article at least, hasn't lost his faith. But he hurts, nonetheless.

There is a song that we don't sing enough in the church anymore. It is by a man who lost much of his family on a ship. While passing that spot over the choppy waters some time later, he wrote these lyrics:

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

And Lord haste the day
When my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scoll
The trump shall resound and
The Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul

I don't think he had it easy, either. "Sorrows, like sea billows, roll."

Friday, August 12, 2005

False Sense

the second floor facade
pushed out forward,
like a box some kid, anxious,
kicked from his
Hoovertown fortress

while silhouettes always in back
and tableaux move back in progression
Where does movement become inert?
and the subject become a lesson?

what grabs us
pulls us to push?
what forces us
to forward thrust?
what relieves us
to lend us to trust?

-a special realm
an ingrained belief relief-

"It was self-defense...," he says, not quite sure if he cares that i don't or do believe.

"Not what they say...," voice trailing in and out like morphine.

"...It was self defense..."


"...I was a soldier in 'Nam."

Thursday, August 11, 2005


What our knowledge does for us
forcing us to rent space in the back of the bus
burying new skins in old soil of a naked nation
rent in two by reluctantly rising emancipation

Mileage in the shotgun
Revolving a cause to Become.
As old as a whore
as American as Ford's
Given all we could piece,
Nature, she wants more

Releasing the hounds
Civility in bonds,
on the run
raging, making less with itself
than we could live without
For we have been in need
of all sons living freed
- prized in sheols we dug too deep

Knowing nothing but the hope
it won't be this time
Immersion in mercy
bathed in rouge liquid life

And this is why I don't play Madden or Soul Calibur

"We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion."


From playing video games for fifty flipping straight hours. After having "recently quit his job to spend more time playing [video] games."


Poemic updates

Just looking through some of my unfinished (and still to be finished) works from the last couple months. I'll post updates within the day. Actually, I'm a bit more pleased with a few of them than I thought originally. "cooties" in particular; I like the playfulness more than I realized. I also added titles and made some fairly small changes to a couple of other works. The first draft of "False Sense" could be read here and the second draft of "Civil" could be caught here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I missed it...

Sorry, Johan. I tried to spread the word. But when I wasn't working, I was sleeping, being interviewed (alas, not by Tyra Banks) or riding the train from one to the other.

Anybody catch my boy on the Tyra Banks show today (Tues.) can tell me how that went?


I didn't miss it. I only thought I did. The show was taped and will air probably in September. Johan also divulged (in the juicy comments section), that he is also being bandied about for a NY Times article. Hey, that's diversity for ya!

In other news, mutual friend Darnell Weathersby (Older brother to three of my youth now. Yes, three [3]. Mentor to several others.) was on the front page of the Central Illinois Journal Star. Essentially, they were reporting on the fact that the school district covering Peoria (or, Caterpillaria, Illinois) is trying to hire more black teachers. The student population is about 60% African American while the teaching staff is about 7% black. And, with the addition of Darnell, the entire district has fifteen male black teachers. The article reports that, "[o]nly 1.5 percent of the state's classroom teachers are black males."

On that, Darnell says, "I'm an African-American male, and that's very rare in teaching, period. I'm learning that my role is a lot more than academic... [In regards to teaching in Peoria,] I have a heart for the inner city. I'm an inner-city product. I want to play an influential role for those like me."

In similarly unrelated news, I attended Darnell's wedding (reception only, unfortunately) in shoes that were impossible to dance in. I proceeded to make a fool of myself dancing to New Jack sounds. As white as can be.

Additional note:

Almost lost my religion looking for this image. I finally settled on searching for "Tyra Banks face."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

First off, props to mi hermano Johan Khalilian. While preparing to come back from a summer trip to So. Cal., he was asked to speak on the Tyra Banks show about living and teaching purity as a young adult in a thoroughly modern setting. Hey, I'll never reach that audience. The show airs Tuesday. Check your local listings.

Second, my pics are fast fading. I don't know if it's my comps or not (Don't know enough about 'em, but this one's been acting scwewy like Elmer Fudd falling for Bugs Bunny in drag.) but my images are disappearing like Speedy Gonzalez from the public image (Can't say I blame Warner Bros. for trying to Politically Correct that cultural faux pas.). Does anybody know a free, easy-to-use image uploader that is compatible with blogger and will save images on to the site? Right now, I'm thinking of just saving images onto the computer and posting it using the Blogger image uploader feature thingy.

Isn't she lovely?

One more thing: I'm going to try to update a few of my old "poems" throughout the week. Not that you care. But I do. And this is my blog. So, there, sucka!

Dan Brown, Jesus loves you!

I've got way too much to read as it is (I'd name check, but I don't want to embarrass people, especially myself.) and I'm a slow reader. So, ya'll've got a month to get me some N. T. Wright, peeps. For those who don't know who this Anglican bishop is, I was hipped to him by Philip Yancey and by doing a cursory reading of Anne Rice's reading list. (Yes, Anne Rice. She is a devout Catholic now. And she's writing a book about the life of Jesus. I flippin' kid you not. The Godmother of Goth!) Anyway, if you are one who thinks that Biblical scholars are now convinced that the Bible is inaccurate and that the historical Jesus is a different being altogether from the one presented in the New Testament, this cat's for you.

He made a stop at Seattle Pacific University, gave four lectures and an interview. The following excerpts are from his speech entitled, "Decoding The DaVinci Code," in which he tackles the best-selling, and horribly researched, thriller - which alleges, among other things, that the true accounts of Jesus were the Gnostic Nag Hammadi so-called Gospels, including the "Gospel of Thomas" and the "Gospel of Philip," that Jesus was not divine, that the canon Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were added and endorsed much later, specifically by rule of Emperor Constantine hundreds of years after Jesus died, that Jesus was basically a good and intelligent man who wanted to help people live good lives, and that Mary Magdelene had Jesus' love child and the Catholic Church is working hard to cover that fact.

What then about the place of Mary Magdalene, who, according to Dan Brown and some other writers, features strongly in the Gnostic writings, representing a goddess-figure, the embodiment of the "sacred feminine," the Holy Grail, the Rose, the Divine Mother? It is all pure imagination. (Well, it is at least imagination, certainly.) Mary Magdalene is mentioned in precisely three of the Nag Hammadi scrolls (as against "the countless references to Jesus' and Mary Magdalene's union" (333)). The "Gospel of Mary" is the report of a vision which sets the material world against the nonmaterial, seeing Mind as the intermediary of Soul and Spirit. This is fairly standard Platonic idealism; it is hard to see what it's got to do with the sacred feminine, but it's easy to see that it has nothing to do with a first-century Jewish prophetic movement such as that of Jesus. "The Gospel of Philip" is the one where Jesus kisses Mary - but the idea that a kiss was a key gesture of romantic attachment won't survive two minutes when we move away from Hollywood and into the real world of late antiquity. There is not the slightest sign, in Nag Hammadi any more than in the Dead Sea Scrolls, of Jesus being married to Mary and having a child by her. The "Gospel of Thomas" has one saying about Mary (51:19), in which "Jesus" states that "Mary will be saved if she makes herself male, because every female who makes herself male will become fit for the kingdom of God." That is hardly a ringing endorsement for the sacred feminine. If it's sacred femininity you want, you must look elsewhere, to various forms of paganism ancient and modern. These have become enormously popular in some strands of New Age and postmodern thinking. They have found their way into some revisionist versions of western Christianity. But they have nothing to do with Nag Hammadi and nothing whatever to do with early Christianity.

Dan Brown, apparently, can't be bothered to check his facts.

In particular, the resurrection of Jesus was central to early Christianity, though you'd never know that, either, from Dan Brown or from the many other writers who perpetrate the modern myth in its various forms... The early Christian gospel, which was then written up in the four canonical Gospels, was the good news, not that a new teaching about hidden wisdom had appeared, enabling those who tapped into it to improve the quality of their lives here or even hereafter, but that something had happened through which the evil which had infected the world had been overthrown and a new creation launched, and that all human beings were invited to become part of that project by becoming renewed themselves. In particular, this included from the start a strong political critique. Not the tired old left-wing harangue in Christian dress, of course, but a more subtle, more Jewish, more devastating critique: Jesus is Lord, therefore Caesar isn't. That is there in Paul. It is there in Matthew, in John, in Revelation. If the canon was written, or read, to curry political favor, it was dramatically unsuccessful. Those who were thrown to the lions were not reading "Thomas" or Q or the "Gospel of Mary." They were reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the rest, and being sustained thereby in a subversive mode of faith and life which, growing out of apocalyptic Judaism, posed a far greater threat to Roman empire and pagan worldviews than Cynic philosophy or Gnostic spirituality ever could. Why would Caesar worry about people rearranging their private spiritualities?

Indeed. Flippin' morons.

Oh, and can someone get me some Eugene Peterson? I already have most of The Message. I'd like Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, if you may.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oratory Cheek debuts!

Was gonna mention this on the last post, but it got kind of stuffed with stuff I thought is more interesting. I started yet another blog. Now, this isn't the same as the collective blog, Further Up, that is fine quality work and that nobody is going to even though they should and start bowing before their screens in abject adoration. This is, more or less, a site for archiving my speeches and preachings and maybe some lessons, etc., most of which are just to long to accomodate here.

If you so desire, you may peruse my work. If you so desire, you may pilfer. (Genius steals.) I only ask that you ask and give credit where credit is due (I could set up a PayPal account quite easily.) No, it's free. (But seriously, I could use some donations!)

So, again, while I will continue to hype up Further Up And Further In, I will not continue to blow the horn for Oratory Cheek (Yes, talking and praying cheeks).

Once again, Further Up And Further In is here.

While Oratory Cheek is here.

That is all.

She's a bad mamma jamma

For those of us in youth ministry, the end of summer means the return of our daily lives. The semblance of sanity being restored. The voices of relentless and reckless kids slowly receding from our subconsciouses on otherwise comfortable nights. We can begin to evaluate, reevaluate, polish up our resumes, consider the costs of assuming new identities. All the post-partum depressive tendencies we tend to have at this season. (Just as those poor whiny teachers begin their lesson plans for next year - or mark off the days 'til pension rolls in and dream about their summer homes, yachts, and a world without children.)

One thing I've noticed, we are not naturally a reflective lot. We tend to be doers and not thinkers. Which is partially why I've loved this change of pace as a youth director. But, after trying it out for a year, I've realized this, it just ain't my style, baby!

I love being able to reflect. And I'm lazy.

Speaking of reflective youth workers, my man Stinger's come back from Venezuela and he's just starting to delve into his experience there. In the infamous and glorious words of Napoleon, sounds like he had "a killer time." Manos! Manos! Manos!

The Other Side of the Story of trips such as what Stinger (and a group from my church that just came back from Haiti) took can be viewed in the latest edition of the journalistic juggernaut, LarkNews.

Barbara Nicolosi was interviewed by the New York Times again, this time about the whole, "Christians don't like The Da Vinci Code? What's not to like?" flap. Read her entry here and the article here (NYTimes requires free registration). If you wanna see me in one of my angrier moods, click here.

One disconcerting exchange that she notes with the interviewer, however, is:

Barb: I heard that the studio execs behind The Da Vinci Code are worried that some Christians are going to put them on a hit list. Someone claimed to have gotten death threats during the making of The Last Temptation of Christ. It's so ridiculous. We aren't the ones who throw bombs.

NYTimes Reporter: (paraphrase) Well, there are as many Christians out there throwing bombs as Muslims. Look at all the bombings Christians do of abortion clinics.

Sometimes, I just feel sorry for people.

And, lastly but not leastly (because I actually got his permission), Victor Morton has a post on a radio commentary done over the CBC. You gotta love any post that begins, "From the soft tyranny to the north aka, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Canuckistan..." (Love ya, Christine.) Apparently, Bob Ferguson has a lot of opinions on what should be official Catholic beliefs, certainly those validated by the state.

If Catholicism were illegal,
Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood.
On State-controlled church doctrine:
Of course the Vatican wouldn't like the changes, but they would come to accept them in time as a fact of life in Canada. Indeed I suspect many clergy would welcome the external pressure.

[In all truth, would it be much different than the Canadian Episcopalian Church?]

We could also help the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions. They will never achieve unity so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?

As part of this code of compatiblility, ministers would take standardized coursework, sign a pact on agreed-upon terms, etc. Are you catching this? He literally wants the state to "regulate the practice of religion."

It's a good thing that this engineering professor is humble and doesn't overstep his boundaries on things he knows nothing about:

I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity.

And this pearl of swinery,
Religion is important in our lives, but it can become a danger to society when people claim that the unalterable will of God is the basis for their opinions and actions.
Yeah, we wouldn't want to base our ideologies on something we don't completely understand, do we?

And my favorite line goes to:

Now what is the point of proposing this? I do it because I am worried that the separation between church and state is under threat.

Thank you, Bob Ferguson. You've amused me to no end!

Good night!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Attention Deficit of a village...

Bought The Idiot today. Read chapter 1. Kept holding off buying Russian literature because, I reasoned, how would I ever teach it to inner-city high schoolers? Heck, forget them.

Throwing another barbecue at my brother's place. In the email invitation, I felt it was necessary to warn people to drive straight ahead and look like they know exactly where they're going - to the house of the only whites in the neighborhood, not to participate in the illicit activities the other whites are visiting for.

The post about the hot virgin is bringing some traffic to this site. Within the last three days, about five people Googled for Johan Khalilian expecting to learn something else about him or some pix or something. Ok, he was a communications major. He's a pretty effective communicator. His mother's Puerto Rican and his father's Persian. He likes Cross Movement and hip hop. That's it for today's gossip information.

The Paste Magazine CD sampler was hard as blood to get out. But worth it. Along with some John Hiatt, the Redwalls, Sun Volt, Death Cab for Cutie, and Frank Black, it's got some Denison Witmer. "East From West." And just like his crony, Sufjan, who along with the Innocence Mission's Don Peris (conspirators on this album) can talk avidly and simply about his Christian faith without the critical backlash. Or at least so much. Adam really seems to like it. So, I'll give it a buy after I drop Illinois in my CD bin.

Sam Ashworth, if memory serves, is Charlie Peacock's son. Paste doesn't rave about his music (3 our of 5), but Matt Slocum (of Sixpence None the Richer), John Davis (Superdrag - I think. I may have to research that), and Fleming McWilliams (wifey part - and supervocalist - of Fleming & John duo) really seem to like him. The song has the air of Peacock's Aim a Little Higher.

By the way, Timi is "Foine."


Want proof?

Isn't she hot stuff?

Even when she's concerned and worried about the trappings of life there's a sort of benign dignity about her.

Notice the way her lips curl. They scream, "You must know me, respect me, love me and my God. You must woo me and marry me before you get any smoochie-smoochie."

An honorable woman. A man who finds a Timi Allen (not the warmed-over comedian, but the warm, inviting and comely woman of God) finds a good thing.


A couple quotes from Dostoevsky (why is it that everytime I see his name, it's spelled differently? They didn't have standard spelling in turn-of-the-century Russia?) and another from Tolstoy that I'm pilfering from Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew. Man, I miss writing quotes that I like. It's been awhile.

If anyone could prove to me that Christ was outside the truth, I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth. (p. 141)

The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Faith does not... spring from the miracle, but the miracle from faith. (p. 163)

[Concentrating on the Sermon on the Mount, Leo Tolstoy says,] The test of observance of Christ's teaching is our consciousness of our failure to attain an ideal perfection. The degree to which we draw near this perfection cannot be seen; all we can see is the extent of our deviation. (p. 126)

And this is from an introduction to an interview with Cambridge professor (actually, "associate principle at Ridley Hall at Cambridge") and musician and conductor Jeremy Begbie.

Cultural forms [as in, art forms imbued within the culture] are not simply utilitarian or ornamental, but are expressions of an understanding of the nature of creation, specifically of human nature and human well-being. Cultural conventions usually take form at specific times and places because they’re compatible with a set of dominant assumptions about things. They are concrete crystallizations of abstract hopes, desires, and theories.