Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy, Happy, Happy New Year

3 Sarahs 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Here's praying and hoping for a grace-full, blessed new year for each of us. May we each find joy and peace and comfort in the simplest pleasures, in our friends and families and stringed hootenannies; in birdsongs and cool breezes and winter hikes and summer swims.

May we find contentment in Enough. In having good food to eat and clean water to drink and a warm place to sleep.

May we seek to help others find that same contentment. May we, by our actions and words and practices, work to be peacemakers, bread-sharers, friend-makers.

May Israel and Palestine find a way to end their warring ways. May we all work to support such. May Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Colombia, the Sudan, the US and all the dangerous places of the world find more peace this year and may we work towards that end.

May our hard-pressed environment and its subset, the economy, find some relief from over-taxation. May we change our practices to better provide that relief.

Here's wishing our incoming president luck - he's going to need it. What a mess we seem to be in these days.

So, here's to a blessed new year for us all. May we find the wisdom for living a-right in these troubled days, and the strength to follow the paths of wisdom and contentment.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Across the Meadow

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
While not written for Christmas specifically, this fits the mood of the day for me - this gray, drizzly yet pleasant Christmas Eve - speaking of the possibility of gifts unknown...

The meadow in the morn
spiced with sage and the remains of the year,
covered in gentle frost
like a grandmother’s shawl
and ready to retire for the long
blessed sleep,
has sighed
and, in sighing,
breathed her sweet breath into the
scattering the starlings to the wind.

The starlings, in turn,
dash away, some to the oak
and some to the sycamore,
still others to points beyond
the meadow,
until soon, all are gone.

Save one.

The final starling has chased after
a crow
whose lonely call over the field
spoke to the emptiness that had begun
to overtake this pasture
on this early winter’s morn.

So now, this starling and this crow
have jumped and soared,
waltzed on the wind and
swung across the sky,
two dancers, two dances
gently embrace above this lonely meadow
on this no longer lonely morn.

A merry Christmas, happy holiday and pleasant weekend to one and all.


Thursday, December 18, 2008


No Hunting
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I've been in yet other conversations again about the "clear" OT teaching: "A man shall not lie with a man..." I thought I'd take a few minutes to ponder on this a bit today.

1. I don't know that it is clear at all. Sure, a cursory glance at the passage sounds like it's talking about gay behavior in general, but what use is a cursory glance?

I could go on quite a bit about why I don't think this is clear AT ALL, but let me set that aside for the moment. I'd like to set aside the arguments about what "man lies with man" even means for a minute and presume the traditionalists are correct on this point.

What of it?

2. Let's assume that this passage IS talking homosexuality in general (and that is a huge assumption). What do we do with it then?

a. We need to understand that the entire OT argument against homosexuality is based on two Leviticus verses: "Men should not lay with men" and "Men should not lay with men - if they do, you should kill them." Beyond these two passages, the only other times homosexual behavior even seems to come up are in passages related to rape and prostitution - actions that most of us agree are wrong.

b. So, let's look at that second passage: Men should not lie with men - if they do, they should be killed. From God's pen to our eyes, right? So tell me, WHY is it okay to ignore the second half of that passage? Why do we not think today that it is okay to kill men who lie with men (whatever that means)?

Has God changed? Did God say at some later point in the Bible say, "You know, where I said you ought to kill gay men, perhaps I was being too harsh. I feel bad, now. You know what? Let's NOT kill gay guys, let's just spank them or something..."?

Do you get what I'm saying? WHY is the first half of that passage accepted by some as a universal truth (that they apply to homosexuality in general) BUT the second half of the passage is NOT a universal truth? Says who?

c. The answer is: Says us. All of us. We all agree that it is a horrible WRONG to kill gay people. Not even the most conservative folk (setting aside the nuts out there) think that the second half of that passage ought to be taken literally.

d. So, WHY do we think that passage is not a universal truth? Did God at some point later in the Bible change God's mind? No. Never in the Bible does God say that the rules have changed.

We think that the second half of that passage is not universal simply because it is self-evident. We KNOW that killing gay folk is a crime and horribly wrong. A sin of the worst sort. I don't know of anyone who would disagree with me on this point.

e. And so, it seems to me that the main difference between more conservative "biblical literalists" and more progressive fans of the Bible is that the progressive ones are more than willing to admit that we use our God-given reason and inate morality (God's Law written on our hearts, the bible says) to decide issues and discern good and evil. The more literalistic types, however, are loathe to admit such.

The more conservative answer on this question would probably be more along the lines of simply: "Those punishments were SPECIFIC to the Israel gov't at that time, but the crime indicates a UNIVERSAL problem with homosexuality."

And if you ask them, "Why do you think this? What biblical reasons do you have to back up this assertion?," they have no answer other than (usually), "Well, it's obvious to even morons that this is how it is to be interpreted!!" Or, in other words, because it seems logical, it makes sense to them.

f. And I agree. It IS obvious that we aren't to kill gay folk. Either that was somehow addressing a specific offense at a specific time or people were expressing their own cultural disgust at an unfamiliar behavior (one that they've heard that the "pagans" did in other lands) or whatever reason we want to guess at as to why that law was there, but clearly it is not a universal law that we ought to kill gay folk.

g. And a further difference between the more literalist and the more progressive Christians is that the more progressive are willing to say, "Well, if the SECOND half of that passage was somehow a specific rule for a specific time and place, who are we to say that the FIRST half of the passage is not ALSO talking about a specific offense at a specific time and place? Our God-given reasoning endorses such an interpretation, JUST AS our God-given reason endorses that reasoning for the second half of the passage.

We do this all the time, when we read the Bible. Not every verse that smacks of being NOT of God has some explanation as to its meaning and application. When we read that "God says" to kill disrespectful children or that when we invade a country, we are to kill everyone - including the children and babes, BUT to save the virgin girls so we can make them our wives - when we read passages like that, we don't need a Bible verse to straighten that out for us. CLEARLY, our God-given sense of logic and morality shouts out that such behavior is atrocious and wrong.

The difference between the more conservative and the more progressive Christians is that the more progressive Christians are okay with acknowledging this. Seems to me.

Regardless, just because there are two verses in the Bible that says "men should not lay with men," does not mean that the flat wooden literal interpretation of those lines ought necessarily be taken literally, any more than the line that follows ("if they do, kill 'em"I).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Here's One for Bush

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
So, what's the best Bush/Shoe joke you've heard yet?

If you have not heard, somehow: President Bush was shown over-and-over ducking the shoes thrown by an Iraqi reporter during a Baghdad news conference.

Jay Leno wants to know where was the Secret Service. He asks shouldn't they have "at least jumped in front of the second shoe?"

David Letterman was impressed by the president's quick reactions. Letterman says Bush "hasn't dodged anything like that since, well, the Vietnam War."

Conan O'Brien says the shoe-thrower is being hailed as a hero by some in Iraq. O'Brien adds when the man dies, "he'll be greeted in heaven by 72 podiatrists."

How about it? Got anything better?

I reckon this guy was just giving Bush the boot a bit early...


Here's more:

Sure Bush ducked when the shoes were thrown at him, but it was a pretty lame duck...

Apparently, this shoe-thrower dude is quite the hero in Iraq - a spokesperson for the frustration felt by the Iraqis by American policy. I'm thinking we could start a movement here, the Good Ol' Shoe movement. Everywhere we go, we could throw old shoes over telephone pole wires and sing a chorus or two of Good Ol' Shoe.

(In the timely and incredibly funny movie, Wag the Dog, Willie Nelson's character pens a song for a fake war hero - played by an insane Woody Harrelson. You can catch snippets of the song - Good Ol' Shoe - here.)

Good Ol' Shoe
by Edgar Winter

1. Daddy had a hound dog we used to call him, Blue
He used to follow me around and stick to me like glue
And his favorite thing to play with used to be my good ol' shoe

I wish I had a woman who was half as good and true
To keep me out of trouble the way he used to do
Someone I can depend on, just like that good ol' shoe

Good ol' shoe Good ol' shoe
Whatever road you're walkng he will get you thru
Good ol' shoe Good ol' shoe
Straight and proud the way he taught you to
And you might even get to heaven with a soul like that good ol' shoe

2. Well, my daddy always told me hang on to what you've got
Smile and be thankful even if it's not a lot
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence

but before you leap boy, use your common sense
You might get kicked around and stepped on but that ain't nothin new
If you got a leg to stand on don't give up on that good ol' shoe


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Each year, Jeff Street promotes the Reclaiming Christmas Project, which you can read about here and here.

This year, the Reclaiming Christmas Project will pay for three very important projects, two to assist those in need and one, a gift to the God's Creation itself.

This year, we’re working again with our sister, Karen Thomas Smith, in Morocco. In the past, we have assisted with education efforts for those who are amongst the poorest in the region and we will continue to do so, funding a Literacy and Job Training Program for the women and girls in Tarmilat, Morocco. Insomuch as Morocco is a Muslim country, we believe our efforts there go a long way towards promoting a more peaceful world and better understanding between Christians and Muslims.

Our second project this year is for Medical Assistance in Nicaragua. As the second poorest country in Central America, Nicaragua simply does not have the governmental resources to promptly respond to all the need. As we did last year, we will be working with missionary doctors David and Laura Parajon.

Our third project is a New Thing we’re doing this year. In addition to our projects to help the poorest with a specific need, we’re tackling a project that will go to benefit God’s Creation. The Mother Ann Hydro Power plant produces clean, green energy right here in Kentucky. Thanks to that clean energy, Jeff Street can take part in the Green Energy Program and purchase carbon offsets that work to encourage a cleaner, healthier planet.

By partnering with our Muslim family in Morocco and the needy in Nicaragua AND by giving a gift to the Earth, we will be doing our part to work for God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And what better way is there to honor the birth of the Prince of Peace, the Creator of this old world?

The Cravin'

A reprint from a post previously on my church's blog.

With apologies to Mr Poe.

Once upon a Christmas season, while I shopped without reason
Over many quaint and curious trinkets and toys from the store,
While I coasted down the aisles, that went on for miles and miles,
Til my socks of argyle, were slipping towards the floor.
’Tis the season,' I muttered, `fa la la la las galore -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I recall it was very nearly fall
And each of the shopping malls put up their finest Halloween decor
But not that holiday alone, for by September twenty-one
The freaking Christmas decorations did appear all over the stores!
The snowmen, reindeer, elves and Santas made their way into the stores
It seems they stay there evermore.

Presently my soul grew weaker; and my spirits they grew bleaker,
`Ma’am,' said I, `or Sir, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was shopping, and I saw you over there mopping,
And I wonder why you’re dropping, all these hints for us to buy more?
It’s not even November! Do all the distinguished members of the board
Want us to buy forevermore?

Deep into that dark soul staring, long I stood there wondering, glaring,
At the Blue Vested Customer Service Representative from the store
But the silence was unbroken, and that teen, he gave no token,
And the only word there spoken were the grunted words, ` I was just mopping the floor'
This he grunted, like a football punted back the words, `the…the floor!'
Merely this and nothing more.

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if shill or devil! -
Whither the tempter sent you to lure me to this wretched store?
Tell me that I speak treason, not to want the Christmas season
By the greedy corporations – To turn tricks for this whore!
Is there - is there deeper meaning? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the employee, `Dude, I was just mopping the floor.'

Now the manager, slowly running towards the noise so stunning
and upsetting to the blessed shoppers busily treading through his store
For he could not help but hearing that a customer was sneering
At the Christmas decorations so glaringly beautiful upon their doors
Jesus is the reason for the seasonal increase in profits they adore
They kicked me out, forevermore.

See the post above about Jeff Street's Reclaiming Christmas Project

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Humanity, at our Best and our Worst...

Foggy Castle
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The good and the bad in the news...

First, my thoughts and prayers are extended to the families of those who lost loved ones when the military airplane crashed this week in San Diego. In the midst of his obvious suffering (he lost his beloved wife and two babies), Mr. Dong Yun expressed concern for the pilot of the plane:

"Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident," a distraught Dong Yun Yoon told reporters gathered near the site of Monday's crash of an F/A-18D jet in San Diego's University City community.

"He is one of our treasures for the country," Yoon said in accented English punctuated by long pauses while he tried to maintain his composure.

"I don't blame him. I don't have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could," said Yoon, flanked by members of San Diego's Korean community, relatives and members from the family's church.

wow. What grace, what compassion. My heart breaks for his loss. Let's keep this man and his family in our prayers, along with all involved.

Now, as to the more ugly side of the news, we have the story of Illinois Governor Blagojevich (Dem).

I don't too often devote much space here to specific instances of bad behavior by politicians. It's sort of expected, unfortunately, and not really news, in that it happens with such frequency. But the Governor Blagojevich arrest this week provides details that are just astonishing in raw ugly greed.

If you have not heard, the Democrat Governor of Illinois was arrested this week, charged with trying to "sell" the apointment of the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama. AP reports:

Prosecutors stepped in and had the governor arrested because he was on "what can only be called a political corruption crime spree," Fitzgerald said....

According to court papers, the governor tried to make it known through emissaries, including union officials and fundraisers, that the seat could be had for the right price. Blagojevich allegedly had a salary in mind — $250,000 to $300,000 a year — and spoke of collecting half-million and million-dollar political contributions.

"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden," prosecutors quoted Blagojevich as saying about the Senate appointment on federal bugs in his campaign office and wiretaps on his home telephone, "and I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it."

Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said even seasoned investigators were stunned by what they heard, particularly since the governor had known for at least three years that he was under investigation for alleged hiring fraud and clearly realized agents might be listening in.

Besides scheming to swap or sell the Senate seat, Blagojevich — a former congressman, state lawmaker and prosecutor — was accused of trying to strong-arm the Chicago Tribune into firing editorial writers who had called for his impeachment. He also was accused of using the governor's power over state business to raise campaign funds...

Nothing in the court papers suggested Obama had any part in the discussions about selling the Senate seat or even knew of them. In fact, Blagojevich was overheard complaining at one point that Obama's people are "not going to give me anything except appreciation." He added: "(Expletive) them."

What a jerk!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Dudes Abide...

Jordan Dylan 1997-ish
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Zondervan Publishing is telling us that there's a new book pending called, The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers. That should be a holy hoot.

The Coen Brothers, of course, are the film genii (geniuses?) who have given us, Fargo, Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading and, my personal fave, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Among other film classics.

The mind reels at what "The Gospel of the Coen Brothers" might include. I know one of my favorite takes on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is the paraphrase offered by Ulysses Everett McGill, in O Brother, when he says...

Consider the lilies of the god-damned field or... hell! Take at look at Delmar here as your paradigm of hope. Sacrilegious? I reckon. But apt? Absolutely.

Or how about these excerpts from Lebowski...

Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.


Bunny Lebowski: Uli doesn't care about anything. He's a Nihilist.
The Dude: Ah, that must be exhausting.


I love the poor nihilists!

How about it? If you were writing this "gospel," what excerpts and readings would you include?

[WARNING: Any discussion of the Coen Brothers movies will quite likely involve obscenities and questionably tasteless material. Enter these comments at your own risk...]

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Headlines...

Jordan Gareth Dylan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
AT&T to cut 12,000 jobs, 4 percent of staff (AP)

Nightmare on Wall Street continues (CNN/Money)

Wal-Mart Shoppers Trample Man to Death (Time)

Colleges see grim future under budget cuts (Courier Journal)

Unemployment jumps to a 16-year high (AP)

November: Most jobs lost in 34 years (CNN)

$1 trillion rescue? (CNN/Money)

Amid Foreclosures, A Rise In Homeless Students (NPR)

America’s Looming Health Care Disaster (ABC)

The Recession Is Made Official — and Stocks Take a Dive (Time)

General Motors cuts another 2,000 jobs (CNN/Money)


How you holding up? Things going okay? Is your heart and mind at rest?

Economic and societal worries and woes notwithstanding, have yourself a pleasant weekend and a relaxed and enjoyable holiday system.

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free...