God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Promises to God - Lent

Lent seems like a long way away, but as a pastor you write your February ponderings in January.  

I have never been very good with making New Year’s Resolutions, even before I became a pastor.  There was something about making a promise to myself to change what was wrong with me … lose weight, eat well, exercise more … that just wouldn’t stick.  I would be lucky if I made it through the first week.  I could make the resolution and before the day is done I could break it.  This places me in good company, for one of the pieces of chatter during the Rose parade was how long will you keep your New Year’s resolution and the answer was that most people had already broken it.  It is a Holiday after all and how can you eat better when you have snacks for the game and a meal with family occurring.  So lately I don’t even bother making a resolution.  I know myself and know that when it is cold I am not going to go for a long walk, especially if there is snow or ice on the ground. 
But something changes for me when Lent arrives.  This time seems the right time for making promises, for making changes.  During Lent I have found I can keep my promise, even when it involves no chocolate or fancy coffees for forty days.  Part of the reason is because the promise I am making are to God and not me.  When I know that this is about deepening my connection with God I am more accountable and more able to start again when I fail.  During Lent I remind myself, that when I have the urge for chocolate or coffee I am to stop and pray.  To stop and be still and remember that during this time, this Holy Time my hunger or thirst is a reminder that Jesus will never again eat or drink “until that day when I (Jesus) drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”(Mark 14:25)  My thirst and hunger stops me and says be open, that one day in your kingdom we will feast again together.  And then when I take the money from that craving and put it aside in my prayer box to present back to God, I am making tangible my offering.  I am setting aside this money to do the necessary work to build the kingdom, one piece at a time. 
So what promise will you make to God this Lent?  What resolution will you make?  Will you give up meat on Fridays and set the money aside to help the hungry?  Will you give up your greatest vice (coffee, chocolate, texting, TV) and use those moments when you have the urge to pray or to serve the kingdom with your labor?  May this Lent allow you a chance to draw closer to God who is already reaching for you…

Friday, January 13, 2012

Text of Terror - the Movie: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Last weekend, I made a mistake, I went to see a movie based on the TV rather than  I seeing what the subject matter was.  After all it was being described as the best thriller of the year.  Since then I have had images in my head that I don’t want of sexual violence and rape.  These were scenes that were beyond graphic and made me feel like a voyeur who was unable to step in and make it stop.  Even the mystery at the heart of the movie is about the brutal murder and dismemberment and rape of women based upon biblical passages.  “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would have been better titled as it Swedish title, “Men who hate Women.”  Then at least I would have thought twice about seeing this movie that was proclaimed to have a feminist  protagonist, story line, maybe in a frat boys understanding of girl superheroes. 

I wish I had read this review in the New York Times before seeing the movie, so I could have made a different choice.  “Sexual violence is a lurid thread running through “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and Mr. Fincher approaches it with queasy, teasing sensationalism. Lisbeth’s dealings with Bjurman include a vicious rape and a correspondingly brutal act of revenge, and there is something prurient and salacious about the way the initial assault is filmed. The vengeance, while graphic, is visually more circumspect.” (Tattooed Heroine Metes Out Slick, Punitive Violence, A. O. SCOTT, December 19, 2011). 

But as I experienced the film there is this movie about female revenge and outrage against violence against women that graphically depicts and exploits those acts.  I felt like I was in the middle of what Phyllis Tribble calls a text of terror, after all as part of the mystery scripture is used to describe the how and in the killers mind the why of the killing.  Text of terror are those passages and stories that we don’t want to look at because they make us uncomfortable in wondering how Scripture, the faith stories of the people of God can be so violent and horrible to women.  Trible takes us to look at the stories where chaos reigns and if women have a voice it isn’t heard.  These are the stories of Hagar, Tamar, An Unnamed Woman, and The Daughter of Jephthah.  Watching the evening news or going to the movies, we hear stories of the rejection suffered by daughters of Hagar; we encounter the bodies of raped and abused women crying out for justice; and see women sacrificed in the name of religion. 

One of the stories Trible sheds light on is in Judges 19:1-30, An Unnamed Woman. 
As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!” But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.  Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, “Get up and let us be going.” But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place.  When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.  

As Trible says "First of all, we can recognize the contemporaneity of the story.  Misogyny belongs to every age, including our own.  Violence and vengeance are not just characteristics of a distant, pre-Christian past; they infect the community of the elect to this day.  Woman as object is still captured, betrayed, raped, tortured, murdered, dismembered and scattered.  To take to heart this ancient story, then, is to confess its present reality.  The story is alive, and all is not well.  Beyond confession we must take counsel and say, “Never again.”  Yet this counsel is itself ineffectual unless we direct our hearts to that most uncompromising of all biblical commands, speaking the words not to others but to ourselves: Repent.  Repent." (Trible, Texts of Terror

Repent. Repent.  That is what I want from the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  I don’t want Lisbeth to be a feminist hero, I want us to repent the violence that was displayed.  I want us to say never again.  Repent.  Turn Around.  Turn Back to God.