Monday, January 30, 2012

Musical Monday: Francesca Battistelli

A light-hearted ditty reminding us to keep life's little inconveniences in perspective.  (via Son Eric)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Musical Monday: The Staves

Another music post?  Yes.  Those seem to be the only ones I have time to crank out these days.  They require little effort and no deep thoughts on my part.  Just an experience of joy that I prefer to share rather than keep all to myself!  You're welcome.  

This trio of sisters, The Staves, opened for The Civil Wars last week at The Pageant.  Not only were they very good, but were also charming with their British accents and humor. Plus their style is one I'm naturally drawn to anyway.  They remind me of The Wailin' Jennys and Red Molly...2 of my favorite female vocal groups.  

I give you...The Staves:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Objections to Yours

Jefferson Bethke...friend or foe?

I realize I am entering this conversation a little late, but I promised a friend I would write about the viral video, so here I go.  Answering a controversy effectively, requires much time and careful thought and I acknowledge that I have only invested a fraction of what I probably should have before going public.  Nevertheless, this is the best I've got for now, so here's my slightly-reactionary, slightly-analytical take on Bethke's video and the ensuing public debate.

I would be remiss in not posting the actual video, so give it a look and a careful listen...AGAIN, even if you've already seen it.  While listening through this several times, I wrote down the text which I've posted below....I hope I didn't make any errors in quoting Bethke's words.  ( I chose to break it into 4-line verses, which may not have been his original intent...)

It is also important to highlight the commentary which accompanied the original YouTube video, but has been frequently overlooked:  "A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion. In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it's core Jesus' gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can't do your own list of rules and feel "not good enough" for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don't represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God!"

What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you voting Republican,  really wasn’t his mission?
What if I told you Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian,
And just because you call some people "blind," doesn’t automatically give you vision.

I mean, if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars?
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce,
But in the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people "whores."

Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice.
Tend to ridicule God's people, they did it to John the Baptist.
They can't fix their problems, and so they just mask it,
Not realizing religion's like spraying perfume on a casket.

You see, the problem with religion is that it never gets to the core,
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores.
Like "Let’s dress up the outside, make it look nice and neat."
But it's funny...that’s what they used to do to mummies, while the corpse rots underneath.

Now I ain’t judgin' I’m just saying', "Quit puttin' on a fake look."
'Cause there’s a problem if people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook.
I mean, in every other aspect of life, you know that logic's unworthy -
It's like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey.

See, this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me.
Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography.
See on Sunday I'd go to church, but Saturday gettin' faded,
Acting as if I was simply created to have sex and get wasted.

See, I spent my whole life building this façade of neatness,
But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness.
Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean,
It's not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.

Which means I don't have to hide my failure. I don’t have to hide my sin,
'Cause it doesn’t depend on me, it depends on him.
 See, when I was God's enemy and certainly not a fan,
He looked down and said, “I want that man!”

Which is why Jesus hated religion and for it he called 'em fools.
Don’t you see? So much better than just following some rules.
Now let me clarify:  I love the church.  I love the Bible.  And yes, I believe in sin.
But if Jesus came to your church, would they actually let him in?

Remember He was called a glutton and a drunkard by  “religious men.”
But the Son of God never supports self-righteousness - Not now.  Not then.
Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention:
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums.

See, one's the work of God,  but one's a man made invention,
One is the cure, but the other's the infection.
Because religion says "Do." Jesus says "Done."
Religion says "Slave." Jesus says "Son."

Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see.
And that's why religion and Jesus are two different clans.
Religion is man searching for God; Christianity is God searching for man.

Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgiveness is my own;
Not based on my merits, but Jesus's obedience alone.
Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face;
He took what we all deserved, I guess that’s why you call it "Grace."

And while being murdered, he yelled “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!"
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you.
And he absorbed all your sin, and he buried it in the tomb,
Which is why I'm kneeling at the cross saying, "Come on...there’s room."

So for religion?  No. I hate it.  In fact...I literally resent it.
Because when Jesus said, "It is finished!" I believe He meant it.

So there it is...this controversial video which has generated 16,000,000 views and hundreds of comments, blog posts, and video responses.  Wow.  There is no way I can speak to every statement of his that has been critiqued, nor to every debate that has been raised in its shadow (like how great the Pharisees were b/c their theology was precise and most close to Jesus's own...etc.).  I'll keep it simple and only address a couple of the most predominant accusations.

One of the primary criticisms leveled by Christians has been Bethke's use of the word "religion."  Those of you who know me well, know that words matter to me.  Every word has an etymological origin from which its most basic definition is drawn and from which it should never be entirely severed.   But words rarely remain static...they also carry cultural and contextual meaning.  This viability of language is unavoidable, and accounts for common linguistic decisions such as not declaring, "I'm feeling unusually gay today."   Though the word "gay" in its history and origin implies nothing of homosexuality, modern context dictates the ways we choose to use  and not use the word.  Does that mean we are conceding its improper use rather than reclaiming it in its redemptive context?  Perhaps. But we have the gift of MANY words at our disposal which can communicate the same idea, emotion or truth while avoiding controversy or potential misunderstanding, so we generally avoid its more archaic use.   

The word "religion" is no different.  It too has an the Latin, of course!  Religio means sanction or constraint and it is historically associated with the words obligare and religare, which both mean to  restrain, to tie back, to impede, to bind fast.  Throughout history, the word has been used to refer to a variety of systems that include beliefs, rites, rituals and sanctions for living.  Its use has never referred exclusively to The Church or fact, its broad  application to "false religions" has led many Christians to abandon its positive use for decades, even denouncing its use to reference Christianity.  I think Bethke's use of the word is not inconsistent with its origin nor with its historical use.  (Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary is the only source I could find linking the word primarily to Christianity.  This too is a reflection of the time and culture in which he lived, as well as his personal beliefs.)  To accuse Bethke of highjacking the word from its origin,  definition, and common use is a bit disingenuous.

Because he was supposedly using the word "religion" outside of its ordinary use, Bethke has been repeatedly advised to "define his terms."  Yet, if you listen to him, he makes it infinitely clear what he does and doesn't mean by "religion."  He carefully defines religion as an outward display of self-righteousness that is inconsistent with the state of the heart.  His language echoes that of Christ, who called such people "white-washed tombs," while Bethke uses parallel imagery of a mummy...beautified on the outside but full of death on the inside.  The young man is right.  Religion, as he defines it in his poem, IS on the opposite spectrum of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Think about it.  Most of us would concede that the same is true of the word "spirituality," which many of us avoid because of its common, rather distorted use.  Even though its thoroughly Christian use means "of the Holy Spirit," this is not the modern cultural sense of the word at all.  Bethke could just as easily have said, "Why I Hate Spirituality, But Love Jesus" and we should have understood that too, because "Of the Holy Spirit" is a GOOD THING, but "spirituality" as popularly understood is AN ENEMY of The Gospel!  

He goes out of his way to clarify that he is NOT speaking of The Church or The Bible, or even Christianity.  And by the way, where were all the critics when Peter Leithart published his book titled, Against Christianity?!  How is this any different?  Both men use a term provocatively in order to get our attention and make valid points.  I don't recall anyone calling Leithart to account for his misleading use of the word.  And his defense of the negative use of "Christianity" is much less accessible to the population than Bethke's.  But of course, Leithart is not an easy target.  He's an intellectual giant with a reputation for nuance within the bounds of orthodoxy.  If you challenge him, you sure as hell better know your stuff.  Bethke, however, is just "some young punk using the web irresponsibly to communicate theological error."  Hmmm.

Conclusion #1: Bethke clearly defines the way in which he is using the word religion, and his use reflects a common cultural understanding.

The next major criticism is that Bethke was not scrupulous enough in his theology.  He has repeatedly been accused of belittling obedience and promoting lawlessness.   The truth is, he never sets up this dichotomy between obedience and grace or relationship and rules.  In fact, he very clearly points out that in his personal movement from religion to Christ, he was transformed from a law breaker into a  law keeper!!  Not a self-righteous slave to the law, but an obedient son to his Father.  

Perhaps we've reacted strongly to Bethke's words because we don't take kindly to having some of our most glaring failures highlighted.  As professing Christians, we often have placed our trust in politicians; we often do pursue size, prestige and success while neglecting the poor and rejecting real sinners who are seeking grace.  We older Christians should take heed to the rebukes of the younger generation and humble ourselves enough to hear and consider their accusations.

It disturbs me greatly that Bethke is being called out for his lack of theological precision.  Do we really think so highly of ourselves as to suggest that any public words about Jesus and the Gospel demand the theological precision of a seminary professor, or of a council composing an official credal statement?    How shamefully arrogant!  

Here is a 23-year-old kid who never imagined he'd receive such widespread influence.  He is taking Jesus and His life-giving, grace-filled Gospel seriously and applying its truths to his own life.  And I find it impressive that his criticisms were leveled without a tone of disrespect or bitterness.  This is evidence of an active faith and the work of the Holy Spirit, which should prompt us to rejoice, not publicly mock or disparage the kid!  Bethke is responding in faith, with truth, and without hatefulness to the realities of his own life experience with religion.  Isn't that the point after all??

Conclusion #2:  While he may not have been as theologically precise as some would like, Bethke denounces hypocritical Pharisaism (as did Christ Himself), and he promotes the work, merit and grace of Jesus Christ!  Whatever way The Gospel is preached, I rejoice!

Finally, (and somewhat lamely...), I'll address the issue of brotherly confrontation.  I find it interesting that many chose to publicly chatise Bethke's video without contacting him personally.  While many of the critiques I read were fairly gracious and careful in their criticisms, they were all presented publicly FIRST (which in response to a public proclamation is not entirely unwarranted, but I am particularly sensitive to this issue because of what my pastor has been through...).  

In contrast, Bethke responded privately and with grand displays of humility and grace to his public contenders. For example, in his correspondence with Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition (with whom Bethke initiated the conversation after reading DeYoung's online response to the video), he writes:

I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man.  It hit me hard.  I'll even be honest and say I agree 100%.   God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church.  For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in '08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn't build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride).  If I can be brutally honest I didn't think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn't as air-tight as I would've liked.  If I redid the video tomorrow, I'd keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly...My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum...thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder.  Humbled.  Blessed.  Thankful for painful growth.  Blessings.  

Grace and Peace,


Even though I was already in this kid's corner, this response made me even more so.  What a mature and gracious response, devoid of bitterness, arrogance and even defensiveness.  

Sometimes, I fear, we heady Christians are too eager to demonstrate our intellectual acuity by being more "discerning" than the low masses who approved of  Bethke's video.  This is made most clear by our analytical denouncement of any statement we deem as theologically inferior.  And YES...I realize the irony of that statement as I so discerningly naysay the naysayers - I am definitely not immune from the same temptation.

Conclusion #3: Perhaps we should consider private rebuke before public rebuke, and take the time to learn the person's heart and theology BEFORE we react.   And certainly, we can all learn from and seek to emulate the humility exercised by Jefferson Bethke in his willingness to be rebuked and in his desire to promote the gracious Gospel of our Lord Jesus.

May we learn to encourage, rather than censor, young folks whose commitment to Christ prompts them to speak openly of their trust in Him.  May we seek to cultivate maturity in them and not unnecessarily disparage their attempts to take ownership of their faith in Jesus and His grace.

And that's about all I have to say about that.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Civil Wars

Two music posts in a row?  Yep.  Couldn't resist.  

Sunday night I had the great privilege of seeing The Civil Wars live at The Pageant with my son and my music pals, Annie and Annie.  I went in with pretty high expectations, which they lived up to entirely.  These two are as good in real life as they appear to be in both audio and video recordings.   Dynamic voices.  Dynamic performers.  Dynamic music.  

Here are a couple (OK, 4) of my favorites that I have not previously linked to on the blog:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Musical Monday: Chris Thile Encore

It's been about 6 months since I posted about Chris Thile (tee-lee), but the longer this guy is around, the more I am impressed with him.  Is it possible to become a legend before you die?  If it is, then this guy is well on his way.

For your listening enjoyment and amazement, here  are some samples of his virtuosity and versatility:

Nickel Creek - Sweet Afton (Thile's melody set to Robert Burns' poem) with his original hit-it-big trio: 

Punch Brothers - Thile and a conglomerate of other talented young fellows use their traditional bluegrass instruments to play multiple genres of music.  Here they are covering a Strokes tune:

And here they "cover" Bach's Brandenburg concerto #3: (forward to 1:30 to hear the music)

In an entirely mind-blowing performance, Thile performs Bach's E Major Prelude solo on the mandolin.  Crazy good.

W/ Michael Daves - in 2011 Thile and Michael Daves recorded a classic, old-timey-sounding bluegrass album titled, Sleep With One Eye Open

Goat Rodeo Sessions - A recent, unlikely collaboration of between Thile, YoYo Ma (cello), Stuart Duncan (banjo and violin), and Edgar Meyer (bass), with special guest, Aoife O'Donovan (vocalist), recording a song whose lyrics she and Thile co-wrote across texts.

This sampling only showcases a very small portion of Thile's work.  If you liked it, check him out further.  Have a great day, y'all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Reason Our Kids Can't Spell

Many thanks to Justin Donathan for hooking me up with this fun little ditty:

English Pronunciation 
by G. Nolst Trenité
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Faces on a Sunday Morning

Behind shyly-averted glances
From her pale, cherubic face,
Lurks a stifled exuberance
Which soon demands release.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

33 Wine Bar

33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar is an intentionally obscure hole in the wall just a couple doors down from the more ostentatious Chocolate Bar in the historic Lafayette neighborhood.   It lacks any street side identifying marks because the owner intends to build his business solely by word-of-mouth reputation.  

Upon entry, you will be met by a minimalist setting and the smell of old, wet wood, reminiscent of an ancient wine cellar.  For a place designed to cater to wine lovers, that's a good place to start.

The wine list is very extensive - 20 pages - so unless you know infinitely more about wine than I do, you'll probably want a recommendation from the helpful sommelier.

Don't show up expecting to have a meal because 33 is all about the wine.  They do offer a meat and cheese tray that is exceptionally good, but that's all you'll find in the way of food.

Go with a group of 8-10 and explore some new wines!  You won't be sorry.

Friday, January 6, 2012

We Three Kings

"Nations will come to Your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising."  Isaiah 60

Today is Epiphany - a fancy word meaning revelation or manifestation.  WE celebrate this festival because the Light of the World has shined on us and made known to us The Savior, not only of Israel, but of all the Gentile lands.  That's you and me, people!  WE are the Gentiles to whom He revealed Himself. 

The story of the magi has been the subject of carols and even nifty little pop songs, but it carries a great (though often neglected) significance in the whole story arc of redemption.  Yes, these men of renown bring tribute and pay personal obeisance to this new King, but in doing so, they submit themselves and all their kingdoms to the rule of the New and Eternal King.  Then they return to their homelands, shining the light of the Good News: The Savior of the nations has come!

T.S. Eliot, in his poem, The Journey of the Magi, captures one powerful aspect of this story.  These men leave the Christ Child knowing that nothing will ever be the same again.  The meaning of earthly kingship has changed...forever.  It is suddenly clear that all the national, tribal, household, and personal gods that have been clung to are irrelevant...powerless.  These realizations are simultaneously comforting and unsettling.  THE Divine-Human King has been born and nothing can ever be the same again.  

It's good for us on this day, to reflect on the ways our own lives have been directly impacted by the light these magi carried back to their native lands.  We should rejoice and give thanks on this day for the manifestation of Our Savior to the US.

The Journey of the Magi
by T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow. 
There are times when we regretted 
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This, set down 
This: were we led all that way for 
Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.  I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Convert


I am sold.  100% taken.  Past the point of no return. 

Few things in my lifetime have transformed me into an enthralled, giddy little school girl, but that is exactly what has just happened to me. 

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  That's the phrase that keeps playing over and over in my head.

For years  I've listened with skepticism as Mac devotees praised its virtues.  I always figured the use of terms like "user-friendly" and "intuitive" were probably nothing more than the parroting of a sales pitch these folks had swallowed.  I mean...seriously.  A computer is a computer is a computer, right?  One might be faster or a tad snazzier, but...c'mon...they're basically all the same.

I.  WAS.  WRONG.  (do you have any idea how hard it is for me to say that??!)

I  acquired my first iMac 2 days ago, and if I can help it, I will never touch another PC. I am a new believer in all things Apple.

Now...some of the upgraded technology I am loving is not unique to the wireless keyboard and mouse...WiFi.  Yes, we have been hopelessly behind on taking advantage of the latest and greatest advances.  But NO TOWER?!  I love how streamlined and beautiful this whole thing is.  One power cord and that's it.  Clean lines.  Unobtrusive.   I DO realize there's more to it than aesthetics, but that represents one part of my newfound joy.  And the graphics?  Phenomenal.  The color and clarity are astonishing to me.

Then there's this OSX Lion thing.  Holy toledo.  Flawless.  Seamless.  Incredibly easy to use, move, organize, share, transfer, etc.  User-friendly?  I concede.  This system is less cumbersome and more streamlined.   It all flows and makes sense.  I know what to do without even knowing.  I guess I would describe it as...intuitive...yeah...that's the word.  Yes, I too have drunk the Kool-Aid.  

And all I can say is "Please, Sir, may I have some more?"