Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poetry Series: Part 1 of 11 - The Collector

Greetings faithful reader.  I apologize for my long absence, time has not been my friend (see the poem below)!  Also, I started this post almost two weeks ago, and only finished it now.  I have three posts 3/4 composed, waiting to be finished and published.  So, finally, here's one.  Hopefully the other ones will be posted soon.  

I hope that you are well.  I'd like to move back in this blog to some thoughts on writing.  In fact, I'd like to present a miniature series of poems.

I'm taking a class right now entitled Writing as Faith Practice.  One of our requirements is to write three pieces, two of which can be academic papers, and one of which must be creative.  Or, we could simply write three creative pieces (which is the option I chose).  I started out this bold endeavor in my favorite realm: the short story.  Unfortunately, after a few weeks of writing nothing solid was coming on a story.  So I decided to try my hand at poetry.  What came out was a series of eleven acrostic poems, using favorites quotes from the Bible as the spine of each poem.  The poems are named after either the writer of the quote, the person speaking the quote, or the person about whom the quote was written.  I'll present each of them here, in the order that I wrote them, and then discuss the writing process below.  I hope you enjoy.

The Collector

Even eternity used to seem small,
Tucked in my heart like a toddler in my arms,
Eyelids drooping, breath running slow,
Resting its rosy cheek in the crook of my chest.
Now I wonder if my fear of the unknown is lack of love,
If infinity is rendered harmless when you hug it like a child.
Time marches like a two-year-old trying to run,
Yielding to the gravity of my mind.

I used to gasp when it fell down hard;
Now I know it's more resilient than I am to its changing.

The truth of the matter is I don't understand
How it works; I stand in wonder of it, winded by its
Embrace as it rushes to hug me 'round my hips.

Helpless, I watch it grow, coming slowly to understand that
Eventually I'll have to let it go.  I'm
An unwilling parent of an unruly child,
Remembering the good old days when it used to
Take my hand as we walked together and
Squeeze it tight.

Or maybe I'm the child, the prodigal son of
Father Time, running from home with my inheritance.

Maybe eternity waits with a fatted calf, arms outstretched to
Embrace me.  And maybe, instead of holding it tight, I
Need to rest in its arms and let it rock me to sleep.

Now, this acrostic comes from one of my favorite lines in the book of Ecclesiastes: "I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  he has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." - Eccl. 3:10-11  This passage, by the way, comes right after the long litany made famous by the Byrds: "A time to be born; a time to die..." etc.  If you've never heard the song before:

The reason I love this passage is that it says, yes, there is a time for all of these things, for even death and war, but that these things, too, will pass away and that everything will be made beautiful in its time.  God has, therefore, set eternity in our hearts, has given us a hope beyond ourselves, beyond our understanding.  Derek Webb put this whole passage into song much better than I think I ever could in poem:

This Too Shall Be Made Right
Derek Webb

Appears on: The Ringing Bell


people love you the most for the things you hate
and hate you for loving the things that you cannot keep straight
people judge you on a curve
and tell you you’re getting what you deserve
this too shall be made right

children cannot learn when children cannot eat
stack them like lumber when children cannot sleep
children dream of wishing wells
whose waters quench all the fires of Hell
this too shall be made right

the earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
wars and abuses have nature groaning with death
we say we’re just trying to stay alive
but it looks so much more like a way to die
this too shall be made right

there’s a time for peace and there is a time for war
a time to forgive and a time to settle the score
a time for babies to lose their lives
a time for hunger and genocide
this too shall be made right

I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
I join the oppressors of those who i choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide
this too shall be made right

Also whistling around in my head while I wrote this poem was a quote from one of my favorite old-timey theologians: St. Augustine: "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." from Augustine's Confessions.

The idea of comparing time to a child came to me through the idea of having something tucked into our hearts, even something like eternity.  How can something that large fit into something so small?  A mystery.  And a welcome one.

Blessings to you, dear faithful reader.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hi everyone.  I just wanted to get out on the front page a conversation started by my latest blog post.  I think it's a good one to have.  My friend Laurie posted a wonderful, balancing response to my post yesterday and I again responded to her.  Be safe, everyone, and watch the debate tonight!  May we live in love and not fear.

Marc, I respect your well-thought out, researched post, just as I respect your political position. I agree that fear and hate are terrible, divisive forces, but I don't agree that either candidate is trying to drive wedges of fear and hate into America. I consider the questions regarding Senator Obama's past associations valid, just as I consider questions regarding McCain's pas associations valid. We are so influenced by those around us; we should be able to ask about those influences.

What I can't fathom is how the supporters of both candidates can let their fervor turn so ugly. The recent McCain rally was well-covered, and we're both familiar with that, but I found this article that identifies some ugly, sad and scary behaviors of Senator Obama's supporters:

Townhall Article, Obama Supporter's Rage

No politician, no president, can change this. Other than just being good and decent people ourselves, how do we and our friends change this?

My Response:


Thank you for adding some levity and balance to the post. Those actions by Obama's supporters were NOT well covered and I hadn't found anything about them. So again, thank you.

I think I see a different fault in this situation in both men. I would like to make a slight nuance of a difference between what you perceived me saying about John McCain and what i would really like to say, and then to make a comment about the difference between this and the fault that I see Obama having. I think that I didn't clearly state what I see McCain doing wrong. I honestly don't think that he's trying to put a wedge in, or trying to divide people and spread hate. I think he's a much better man than that. I do think, however, that in trying to win this political election, he has done some things, I believe, without as much foresight as they needed, that have stoked the fires of hate that were already there. People already questioned Obama's patriotism, people already wondered whether Obama was Muslim, people wondered about whether or not Obama was born in the United States, people wondered whether or not they should fear him. By using this specific line of attack, which might have an arguably viable point about Obama's judgment, McCain, I hope unwittingly, added fire to these flames. If you watch the add on McCain's website about Ayers and Obama, it calls Obama dangerous, and constantly has pictures of him next to someone that they call a terrorist. That word-picture association sends a strong, subliminal message that, perhaps, Obama could be a terrorist, especially when coupled with Sarah Palin's remarks that Obama was "palling around with terrorists," and McCain's remarks that Obama had started his campaign in the living room of a terrorist. It also makes the subtle assumption that Barack Obama approves of these terrorist actions, and, in fact, this is what McCain's question of "judgment" is asking. This would make Obama seem like a person who would want to bomb the Pentagon, making him seem like a terrorist. Again, I don't think that this was McCain's intent, and I hope that it wasn't, but what I worry about is the foresight that was lacking in approving and condoning the use of those images and specific rhetoric to attack Obama. It also makes me worry about McCain, who, as an honorable man, once said that he would rather lose the election than lose the Iraq war. But now, he's pulling out all the stops to win the election (as anyone extremely desirous to win would). This, however, I think has led to some missteps that are potentially harmful and stoke the fire of hatred.
Obama, on the other hand, obviously hasn't reined in these supporters of his who are doing these horrible things. Now, people are hard to control, and people on all sides of the political spectrum get crazy over their politics. So I do not fully fault either candidate for the action of their constituents. Obama should definitely react and try to calm down his supporters. However, as far as I can tell (and I tried to read as many speeches of both men and watch as many ads as possible), Obama's rhetoric has not added kindling to the misguided actions of his supporters. He has not implied anything about Sarah Palin's stance on abortion. He has not linked Palin or McCain to anyone that should be stoned for any action. While, again, I think Obama should be more proactive about making sure that things like this don't happen and that he should apologize for what his supporters have done, Obama's rhetoric has not supported their actions. McCain's rhetoric was not thought through enough for it not to support hateful actions.
Regardless, both men have said very partisan things. Both men have bashed the other's political party. Both men have told untruths about each other. And I think this is where we come in. Not only can we lead decent lives, but we can also spread the word about the truths of the campaign. I highlighted McCain's arguments against Barack Obama because I saw them as potentially dangerous and they were the thing, obviously, that was being covered in the news and that i had the most access to. But we can tell the truth about both Candidates. We can talk about how both are good men. We can look at the way they deal with issues and with other people as a way of discerning between them. We can spread love as opposed to hate. I regret that possibly my previous post was construed as saying something overly negative about McCain. I didn't not mean it to be that way. I do believe that he is a good, noble man at heart, and that's what is so sad to me, that his campaign has come to the point where his rhetoric could be misconstrued rather easily as supporting hateful things. So. All that to say, thank you for your post, again, and for adding to the conversation.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To Disobey One's Conscience Is Neither Just Nor Safe.

I'd like to talk about the following videos and articles.  If you want the post that follows to make full and complete sense, please watch them and read them before you read the rest of the post.

I'm sorry.  I'm sure that's a lot to digest.  I know it was a lot for me.  I've been haunted by these things for the past two days.  It's been hard for me to continue with homework, hard for me to work with all of this weighing on my mind.

I've resisted stating my opinions on this political race for a long time.  Here and there, I've scattered seeds of how it might relate to fear and love and how we ought to act.  But my conscience calls me to do more.  And, as Martin Luther (the monk-turned reformer) once said:  "To disobey one's conscience is neither just nor safe.  God help me.  Amen."

I am afraid.  I will tell you that truth right now.  I am afraid of our fear.  Fear can do horrible things, can cause horrible things.  And fear leading to hatred is even worse.  As Martin Luther King Jr. once said:
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.  Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity.  It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.  Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.
-Strength to Love, 1963

What I read in these articles, what I see in these videos, is fear turned to hate.  I readily admit that many of the writers and videographers of these pieces are probably biased.  I readily admit that I might be biased.  But I cannot ignore the plain fact that the people in these articles and videos, yelling "terrorist," and "kill him," and "commie @3$*$#@" and a whole host of other things have been scared into hate.

It is the unfortunate nature of elections to divide us.  But when that division turns to hate, people get hurt.  I'm worried.

As a biracial child, the uncle of two beautiful quadri-racial boys (I think I just coined that term; their father is African American and Central American, their mother Chinese and Dutch) I am struggling against an overwhelming fear.

I cannot, in good conscience, support John McCain because of his lack of good judgment, and the rhetoric of his campaign.  Let me clarify that I am not starry-eyed over Barack Obama either.  He has made many mistakes, and told many half-lies and untruths and has said many partisan things.  But the tenor of his arguments and the driving force that I see in his campaign is one of hope and not anger, calm and not strife, unifying and not dividing.  Over the last few weeks, however, I have become more and more convinced that John McCain, a good man, a strong man, an honorable man, has been corrupted by his own campaign.  As much as he has a right to say that he has been a maverick (and he has truly reached across the aisles and bucked the system), I think that he is no longer.  The nasty politics of Washington have tainted him.  More than this, I think that he lacks foresight.

I question his judgment because of what has happened recently in his campaign.  Could he not have foreseen that relating Obama to a Terrorist, questioning if we know who Obama is, playing down his patriotism and calling him "that one," during the debate could lead to hate?  Could he not have foreseen that using a William Ayers line of attack on a presidential candidate who is mistakenly called a muslim and whose name is often linked to a known terrorist, simply by the changing of one letter, would lead to people wondering if Obama is a terrorist, fearing him, hating him, calling for his death?  Could he not have foreseen, or at least controlled the rhetoric of the people who surround him, who pray that God would protect God's honor by defeating Obama, who tangentially relate Obama to "bad guys," who "pal around with terrorists," who send smear after smear against Obama, who incite crowds by linking Obama to Osama with bombing the Pentagon?  McCain, in his ads, has called on the American people to question the judgment of his opponent.  It has only caused me to question McCain's.

And even though I applaud McCain for trying to tone down the rhetoric, it obviously hasn't worked, and he still, a day later, uses the same tactics.  His running mate uses the same tactics.  Other people in his party use the same tactics.  And McCain has the audacity to mention that he doesn't want to tone down his constituents' ferocity, just ask them for more respect?  It's the ferocity that scares me.

I worry for Obama and his family, and my family.  In a world where racism still lives, where some jump at any chance to condemn and fear and hate and kill, I fear.  I do not think that everyone is acting in fear.  I do not believe that most people would kill out of hate.  But it only takes a few people with a desire to kill to cause incomprehensible damage in this world.

For those of you reading this blog who are questioning who Barack Obama is, whether he is related to terrorists, whether he was actually born in the United States, whether he is secretly trying to ruin the U.S., I've collected some facts for you.  If you've received a chain e-mail linking Obama to any number of questionable people and questionable things, I've covered that for you too.  Here are a few links:

All of these links are to, a wonderful website that has a whole host of articles that (as impartially as possible) seek to debunk lies about both candidates.  Believe me, there are a lot of things that Barack Obama has said that are misleading or downright false, and calls him out on them.  As far as I can tell, this website (recommended by many magazines and websites, both liberal and conservative and everything in between) is trying to get to the real truth behind the half-truths and political meanderings.  

I'm not asking you to vote for Barack Obama.  This post is not a political endorsement of any kind.  Please, follow the issues, find out what qualities you respect in a leader, make sure you really know what's going on and then vote for the candidate in whom you believe.  But I am calling you to search out your own heart, to look at the rhetoric that you have been listening to, to re-read the e-mails you've probably been sent.  I'm asking you to consider what those e-mails do to you, whether they make you angry and afraid.  I'm asking you to try to conquer your fear, as I am trying, with love.  I'm asking you to make an effort, every day, to learn the truth, and more importantly, to spread the truth.  I'm asking you to stop others when they spew forth hate, about either candidate.  I'm asking you to start standing up for those who have been oppressed.  I'm asking you to put a stop to the downward moral and ethical spiral that seems to be taking over our nation and our world.  It stops with us.  It stops now.  Here I stand; I can do no other; I cannot and will not recant.  God Help me, Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Change in Tactics (or Is That Strategies?)

During my Writing as Faith Practice course this morning I had a revelation, of sorts.  Really, it was an ongoing realization that began last week with a meeting with my Field Education Mentor (a pastor who is guiding me through the experience of working a 9 month internship at a church).  I realized that I really, truly am afraid of being misinterpreted.  I utterly despise being unclear, or being seen as unclear, or having my words twisted.  This is something, I think, that many people fear.  It is tied, I believe, to my fear of failure, and, even further back, to a desire for acceptance.  I want to be accepted, and feel that I will be shunned if I fail (even though I know this is not true, it is still a fugue roiling round in the back of my mind).  A part of failing is failing to communicate.  Another is being perceived to be something else, something that I don't want to be, and being perceived as a failure through that.

Let's be concrete.  Say that I write on this blog an analysis of a particular work of literature, perhaps THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV.  In doing so, I write something that misrepresents my view of Dostoyevsky and his writings.  People then comment on the blog about my misrepresentation.  I realize that what I wrote was not true to what I desired to evoke.  I feel failure.

Now, this is a small failure, certainly, but one of the things that I fear.  I, perhaps too readily, depend upon public opinion for validation of the things I do.  I know this about myself, and have known it for some time.  Oddly enough, one of the things I have been battling is this feeling that I am less passionate about things because I have not let myself take risks, and have tried to block out other's opinions of myself.  By not being as emotionally available as I could be, I feel that I have, to some extent, blocked off my passions.  This has worried me.  I am caught between acknowledging what people say about me, hearing their true concerns and then viewing my life from an objective, healthy point of view, and putting up defense walls and trying to be everything to everybody.

Let me put it this way: I want to try to hear what others say and to look at my life through their eyes, yet I want what they say about me to be good (or at least neutral).  So, while I am more open to others (in some respects, as in listening to them), I am actually also less open to them ( as in not revealing my true, full self to them).  And I feel that this has also affected the way I view and interact with God.  I am open to God, to new words, to new directives, to a new hope, but I am not open with God.  Perhaps that difference in preposition is truly what I am talking about, being open to, but not open with.  This leaves me with a numbed sense of passion, and, in some respects, has led to the difficult discernment problem in which I find myself.

Now, in my class this morning we discussed the necessity of good writers to be vulnerable, to dive in, both to reading other great writers, and to dialoguing with those writers, and to being misinterpreted by their readers.  A good writer must both be open to and open with.  I am a self-conscious over-editor.  Every sentence I write I immediately analyze for accuracy (I just did it then, I added a word to make the sentence make more sense).  This means that when I finish writing (if I get into writing at all) I often end with something less personal, less emotional, more filtered.  I am constantly worried about what others will think of my writing, whether or not it is good enough for others to read.

This blog is an attempt to force me to simply put writing out there and to allow it to be responded to (AH!  dangling preposition.  I tried to think of a way to fix this sentence, but couldn't since I'm headed to class in 10 minutes.  Wait...."to simply put writing out there and to allow others to respond to it."   Still not the most concise or most-well-written sentence.  Sigh.  I included this as a snippet of what goes on in my mind as I write).  Meanwhile, I initiated early on in this blogging a policy (or tactic, or strategy...first presidential debate anyone?) of comment moderation.  This ties to my fear of being misunderstood or misrepresented.  So, I have taken the small, but for me, bold step of removing comment moderation.  I can still delete comments (I believe) but now your comments should appear right away, without any screening from me.

One small step for Marc...

Thanks for reading, O Faithful Reader!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In Which I Confess My Utter Lack of Sense

My wife and I have spent the last hour and a half trying to figure out how to change text from the internet into a printable book format.  Here's the story:

So, I have to read Anselm of Canterbury's Cur Deus Homo - Why God Became Human - for my Systematic Theology Class.  Although I am very adept at reading blogs and news articles online, I hate reading works of theology online.  Go figure.  Our professor decided to save us money by having us read the text on the internet.  I was grateful for the saving of money, but dreading reading nearly 100 pages of a dense, theological text off of a bright computer screen.  This afternoon, while steeling myself to spend hours staring at a screen, I hit upon the idea of turning the text into a book.  After all, the text was in an online, printable format, and the copyright information said that it could be printed and used for educational purposes, just not for sale.  Perfect!  So, I went to our campus's nearby computer lab and downloaded the text into Microsoft Word.  Now, I could have just printed it as it was, but I'm also a stickler for durability, portability, readability and paper-saving.  So, I spent an hour and a half formatting the text into "book format," which, conveniently, Microsoft Office for Windows XP on the school computers/printers has readily available.  Anyway, I ended up printing the text on 55 pieces of paper, front and back, two "pages" per side, meaning that it looked like the pages of a regular paperback book.  Then I took it to Staples, where my wife was working this afternoon, had her cut the pages in half and then put them together with a card stock cover and spiral-binding.  All for only $2.50.  Not bad.

Now, there are a few other things that I would like to read/turn into books, such as old public domain hymn texts online, christian classics online, etc.  All in the public domain, no copyright.  I decided I wanted to work at home and try to format it all on my Mac.  No dice.  The Mac did not have the pleasant "book format" option.  So, I tried to emulate it with formatting.  No Dice.  And that was how I spent the last hour and a half.  Sigh.  All of that time when I should have been reading the book that I so nicely formatted and had bound this afternoon.  Welcome to my nonsensical life.

Other than that, life is good.  I'm busy and a little sleepy now, but I'm good.  Sigh.  Cur Deus Homo here I come!