Friday, July 6, 2012

Check It Out

Hey,
I'm taking a class for my Master's of Journalism in which we focus a lot on blogging. I decided to start fresh for the class, so I've been blogging over here recently. Check it out. Not sure what I'm going to do with this blog yet. I may come back to it. For now, Tumblr's the place to be.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Letter to My Fellow Citizens Regarding Marriage

To my fellow citizens of the United States of America (the place where freedom reigns!),

I want to thank you for not voting for who I get to marry or not marry. It means a lot to me that my freedom to choose my spouse based on love, not law means enough to you to give us our space and enjoy each other. As long, as, you know, he has a penis and everything.
I'm also super thankful that we live in land where "separation of church and state," is a phrase that we take seriously. I mean, a government ruling by religious ideology sounds a lot like Sharia law to me.While I respect my Muslim brothers and sisters, I'm not really sure I want their laws dictating what I can and cannot do. So it's super awesome that we're able to keep things separate, making sure the beliefs of others aren't dictating our lives. I truly love the old school Republican idea of small government, you know, the kind that lets people decide what's best for themselves. I love living in a free country where we have the freedom to pick and choose how we live our lives.
One of the things I love most about my faith, Christianity, is that Christ (you know, that guy it's named after) never set up boundaries between himself and others. He invited all to come to him. He never forced his opinions on others and in fact told those guys he sent out (you know, the disciples) to "shake the dust from their sandals" and head out of town if the people didn't care to listen to what they had to say. People disagree with you? Great! Brush the dirt off and get on with your life. Leave them to live theirs.
Then, he instituted the Church, his body, to take care of folks. I'm pretty sure he said "Go then and make disciples," not "Go then and make voters."
Don't get me wrong, voting is important. It's pretty cool that we get to live in a country where we have a say about what goes on. But when we start voting on religious issues, the lines get blurred in a hurry. The government cannot and never will be a religious institution.
Have an issue with the way someone is living? First of all, ask yourself, how much does it really affect you? Second, if it's religious issue, and you really feel the need to, take it up in the proper place: a religious institution. The Church is not the Capital. The Capital is not the Church.
So thank you, fellow citizens for treating others as you'd like to be treated. Thanks for letting me marry whichever boy I choose, because it in no way affects you. Thanks for not singling me out as responsible for the demise of America because of who I'm attracted to. And thank you, Christians, for being the body of Christ and following the greatest commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself. (No stipulations.)

Sincerely,

Melisa

About a half and hour after posting that, I read this:

"Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"
-- Henry David Thoreau --

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Conversation with My Muse

Oh, sorry. It's Damon. Or Genius. My history fails me. I must have watched this TED talk a few too many times, because I just decided if all creative folk are like me, they must either be schizophrenic or Muses/Damons/Geniuses totally exist, cuz this just happened:

Muse?
Yes?
What’s your name?
Frigg.
Frigg? Really? Like the Scandinvinian goddess?
Yes. What do you expect? Ares the God of war?
No. I don’t really know what I expected.
Well, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is this…why have you been ignoring me?
Um…
Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’ve been putzing away our precious time with already made up stories that frankly aren’t even that well written. Po and Mitzy have clearly been slacking off. They have it easy, with those Hollywood writers. The less to think about, the more the public eats it up. They’re sitting there fat and lazy, throwing out whatever trash comes out of whatever end of them, raking in the credidations, while I sit here full of brilliance and you do nothing but occasionally take note.
Sorry.
Yeah, well, you should be. You just did it again!
What?
Ignored me! Here I am, gushing out brilliance and you go off and check facebook! Really, do you think people have something that terribly important to say to you that you have to tune me out?
You sure think you’re brilliant.
Yeah, well, that’s what makes me exist. Creative brilliance. It would give you a bit more existence too, if only you’d stop being obsessed with internet reality.
Sometimes internet reality is all I’ve got.
Well, maybe that’s because that’s where the bulk of your attention lies.
Um….maybe you’re right.
Of course I’m right. I’m your muse. Your damon. Your inner genius who gets slapped away in favor of little red boxes.
You’ve used those last two lines before. “Little red boxes.”
Yeah, we’ll I’m a little rusty. I haven’t had this much attention paid to me since, well, possibly never. You usually give a general nod in my direction when I send you something great by making a little note to yourself which naturally gets lost in the shuffle of the chaos of your life. Then you go off and try to shuffle little lettered tiles or watch some of Po’s crappy work garnishing millions of dollars on Netflix.
What about Rowling?
What about her?
Um, she’s good.
Yeah, she paid attention when Pollux, her damon spoke to her. She sat her ass down day after day and listened to what he had to say. Then she listened to him when he reworked it again and again. She didn’t write off that re-working bit. She knew that’s where the true value of the work came out.  She knew her part. She didn’t ignore Pollux, she didn’t rely soley on him. She found a balance, unlike you.
Oh.
Yeah. Oh. Might be something to be learned there.
Yeah.
Yeah. So what are you gonna do about it?
Drink more wine?
Ha! Sure, that might help for a minute. Helped Van Gogh right until he hacked off his ear.
I won’t hack off my ear.
You think.
I think.
It’s a big world out there, the world of creativity. Lots of folks lose their way. Chop off their ears. Sew rocks into the skirts and go swimming. Make friends with the barrel of a shot gun. Or piss it away because they don’t know how to deal with it. Ignore it. Hope it will come back later so they can check that BigBrotherBook one more time.
You’re very forward, aren’t you?
Are you?
Yeah.
Then, yeah, naturally I am. I am what you are. You are what I am. We’re a team so start working with me here.
Okay, but can you be a little louder from time to time . It’s hard to hear you sometimes.
Alright. That’s’ fair. I’ll knock louder. You answer. And give me your full attention, the first time around as well as editing time, got it?
Got it. So, we’re friends now?
Let’s start with colleagues and go from there.
Okay.
Also, pay attention to my co-workers! You’re always paying attention to their work. I can work through that. Let their work become our work!
Great. Can you call Jonsi and tell him I want a word?
No. But I can call his muse. I’ll need a translator but it’ll work.
Thanks. Hey…What happens when I can’t hear you?
Listen harder. I’m around. We’re always around. You humans are just too distracted to notice. You know where to find me. Start deciding to do so.


Friday, April 13, 2012

The 30 Songs Of My 30 Years--An Autobiographical Playlist

Well, here I am. 2 hours and 15 minutes into my 30s. To commemorate the occasion, I've made a 30 song autobiographical playlist. Not necessarily my 30 favorite songs. In fact, some of them are terrible, though I'm sure at the time I didn't think so. But these songs that have stood out to me at one point in time or another. Many songs made the long list. It was tough cutting it down. Painful, really. But I did it. Here it is-my life, according to music.


1. "I Love Rock and Roll"-Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
April 13, 1982-The number 1 song in U.S. that day. It pretty much set the stage for the rest of my life. No song could make better sense. :)


2. "This Cowboy's Hat"-Chris Ledoux
I debated putting this song first, as I'm pretty sure I was listening to Chris Ledoux in the womb. I remember being a small child listening to him with my parents. Chris was no manufactured pop country star. He toured the rodeo circuit, winning the bareback riding championship at the National Finals Rodeo. Hence, his music is representative of the rodeo life my parents led and hoped for me. (oops).


3. "The Look"-Roxette
I remember this being my first favorite song, along with Warrant's "Cherry Pie." I picked this over "Cherry Pie" because I distinctly remember being in my bedroom around the age of 4 or 5 and hearing this on the radio and loving it. Then, when I was a few years older, I wondered if my dad left because I listened to rock n' roll (it's evil, you know. ;) ) This could play into part of my cynicism toward modern Christianity. :)


4. "Amarillo by Morning"-George Strait
Much like Chris Ledoux, George is a classic, and also a rodeo champion, though a team roper rather than bronc rider. (Yes, I said "bronc." Only wanna-be cowboys say "bronco.") George may also have been played while I was in the womb. It was to this song and others like it that my mom taught me to two-step in our kitchen. George and Chris are the two country acts I will go back to again and again. They're the only one's who matter. :)


5. "Jesus Freak"-DC Talk
Well, we've reached middle school. That pretty much explains that.
Oh, also, when I was in Finland in 2010, long after these guys should have retired, Kevin Max, one of the trio, played at a music fest put on by an organization my friends work/volunteer with. Wondering if he would play it, we all grinned at each other and yelled every word right along with him when he did.


6. "Where the 0 meets the 15"-Five Iron Frenzy
How to choose which Five Iron song?! It finally came down to this one and "Dandelions," which I based a children's book on my junior year of high school. (We had to make it for class.) I chose this one in the end because it was my first favorite Five Iron song and also about an intersection in Denver, where I lived for bit of time later in my 20s. I still geek out when I'm in Denver on the corner of  "Colfax and Broadway." I still have a flyer from the first Five Iron show I saw in Brookings, SD at Joe House where we thought we were cool stuff by hanging out with the gang. Kids were  in the alley outside Joe House skanking (dancing to ska, not being whores) in the snow. Several years later, I discovered that some of my friends I wouldn't meet until my early to mid 20s were at that show.


7. "Blindspot"-Brandtson
The first time I ever heard this song, I was in love with it. It rocked my world. It's one of the few songs where I've been immediately taken by it. Introduced to it by my friend Skye, it still remains one of my favorite songs ever. I heard it on a compilation disc, and if I'm not mistaken, I got the whole CD for my 16th birthday. I still have a Brandston sticker and flyer that I got a Cornerstone one year in a New Kids on the Block folder full of flyers and stickers accumulated throughout high school and early college.


8. "Strawberry Wine"-Deana Carter
There may have been a scandal at a small baptist church the summer I was 17.


9. "A Question Alone"-Spoken
Spoken was my favorite band for close to a decade. I have photos of me on my 18th birthday and 28th birthdays (and many in between) wearing my Spoken hoodie that I got when I saw them when I was 17. That show when I was 17 was one of the first times I saw them...maybe the second. They played "A Question Alone" that night, which at that time was about to come out on their new record "Echoes of the Spirit Still Dwell." This, like Blindspot, was one of those moments when I heard a song for the first time and was struck in awe. I can still see Matt (the vocalist) performing a certain part of it from that night. I'll probably be buried in that Spoken hoodie. (Ideally, not soon.)


10. "Yellow"-Coldplay
New Years Day, 2001. What better way to ring in the new year than going roller skating with your best friend? That day, as we circled the rink, "Yellow" came on. I'd never heard it, but somehow it stuck with me. I'd randomly hear it on the radio, but always missed the name of the artist. Thankfully, my roommate at the time clued me in. It was a band called Coldplay. The rest is pretty much history. It has become one of my top 3 favorite songs of all time. I cried when I finally saw them play it live in the fall of 2008.


11. "Criticism as Inspiration"-Pedro the Lion
If I'm not mistaken, this was the first Pedro song I ever heard. I think my friend Skye put them on a mix for me in the late 90s or early 2000s. Anyway, they of course grew to be one of my favorite bands. David Bazan, at the time, had things to say about modern day Christianity that I felt were important to for people to hear.  His progression (regression?) of faith has been interesting to listen to over the last decade. Many of my thoughts have often aligned with his, until recently, when our understandings have diverged. He's no longer a theist, let alone a Christian, and honestly, I can't blame him. We've wrestled with many of the same ideas, which is why I've loved his music for so long. I picked this song of his, again, because it was the first song of his I heard and has a relatively poignant message regarding the absurdity of Christians flouting their holiness. Also, on the hard copy of this playlist, I put the live version of the song that was recorded in Omaha, NE at the show I was at with a couple of good friends who have since started dating, got married, and are now expecting their first child. :)


12. "Nice and Blue"-mewithoutYou
In the summer of 2001, I went with several friends to a music festival called Cornerstone. It was the first day of the festival. My friends and I had just watched a band we loved called Dead Poetic, but we thought we'd stick around that stage and see what the next band had to offer. That little decision may have changed me life. Okay, maybe not that drastically, but we were rewarded for our decision. mewithoutYou took the stage, and though it was only the afternoon of the first day of the fest, I knew it would be the best show I would see all week. It was. (Pedro the Lion would have been in the running if they would not have played main stage and been forced to edit a song for content. Ugh.) Since then, mewithoutYou has been in regular rotation on my listening devices (The announcement of a thing called an iPod wouldn't even occur for three and a half months.) "Nice and Blue" has always been my favorite song of theirs, and it was on their first album and was played that first fateful day in July of 2001. My email address for quite sometime and an occasional screen name is derived from that song: blindedsight--from the line "Though no longer blind, I can't yet see."
May 30, 2012 mewithoutYou in Omaha! 11 years later, and I'll be front and center.


13. "If These Scars Could Speak"-Zao
Oh, my hardcore years and none better than Zao. This song pretty much represents that few years in my life when every two weeks or show my tattooed friends and I would shell out $5-$10 to slam into one another, do the lawnmower (the hardcore version, not disco), be covered in hundreds of other peoples sweat, and growl along with whatever vocalist would thrust the mic in our faces. My badass days. I'm kind of a pansy now.


14. "Soundtrack for Salvation"-Nodes of Ranvier
A lot on the same lines as the song above, except that these guys were from my home town.  My friends and I would faithfully arrive each time they played and scream along. Yelling the intro to this song was always a good time. One of the guitar players eventually became my roommate and a really good friend. There were 4 of us in that house and we were never the only ones home. In fact, if we were, we'd look around and go "Where is everyone?" Those years were filled with much beer, billiards, music, games, star gazing, and the occasional bloke laying under the Christmas tree making comments that would make a few of us have to go into the kitchen where we collapsed onto the floor laughing. Okay...that only happened once.


15. "Brightest"-Copeland
Somehow, despite being at a Nodes show, this band Copeland ended up playing with them. Since we were all prepared to scream along words we didn't know with a band we hadn't heard, we were quite surprised when they took the stage and played happy and sappy little acoustic songs. However, we were all quite smitten with their loveliness. Afterwards, we were chatting with them and ended up becoming friends. They even offered me a room to live in in Atlanta, where I really wanted to move to work with this organization called Revolution, run by Jay Bakker. Bakker as in Jim and Tammy Faye. He is their son, but has somehow managed to come out of some pretty awful situations with a reasonable faith. Much like David Bazan and I, Bakker and I have wrestled with (and continue to wrestle with) many of the same ideas conservative evangelicalism had once indoctrinated us with. In a sea of rules and legalism, somehow we found the simple(?) idea of grace.


16. "Ball and Chain"-Social Distortion

Admittedly, the first time I heard "Ball and Chain," it was a cover by a Christian band that I can't remember the name of. But, I recognized a good song when I heard one. A few years later, I started thinking for myself and discovered the awesomeness of Social D. I was Mike Ness (lead singer) for a friend's rock n' roll costume birthday party one year. For a good portion of my early 20s, I couldn't get enough Social D. Punk meets country. What could be more perfect for me?



17. "Everything"-Lifehouse
We've reached the Finland portion of the playlist.Though really, this and the next two songs stand out more to me regarding Finns in America than this American in Finland. One snowy weekend in March of 2005, my life changed forever. Some of you may remember a time when I never cared about Finland. Others of you (mostly, those of you who met me after this weekend) may not believe there ever was such a time. That weekend and this song mark the turning point. I went from Sioux Falls, SD to De Smet, SD to stay with my cousins for the weekend. They were hosting an exchange student from Finland named Maria that year. I had met her a few times over Christmas and whatnot, but didn't know her very well. That was to change. I had been away from the Church for several years, due to anger, pain, cynicism, apathy, and other things of the sort. That weekend, Maria's brothers came to visit and I played host. I arrived in DeSmet on Friday evening and her brother's were a few hours behind me. The next day, the four of us, along with my cousin Garrett, went into Brookings to do some shopping and grab some dinner. Maria purchased 2 CDs-Lifehouse's "No Name Face," and Jimmy Eat World's "Bleed American." It was about a 45 minute drive back to DeSmet from Brookings, so we decided to listen to the Lifehouse album. If you're not aware of the spirituality music (and other creative endeavors) possesses, I urge you to seek that out. From the moment that record came on until we pulled into the driveway, not one of the five of us said a word. The music played, filling the car with what I'm going to call the presence of God. Really, it's hard to explain. We sat and listened and some entitity of beauty encompassed us. There was stillness. There was beauty. There was love. When we got home, Maria and I talked about our faiths, how I had somewhat lost mine, but what had just happened in the car brought me back to pure Love. The next morning, when I was about to leave for Sioux Falls, Maria gave me a note reminding me of the absolute love and faithfulness of God, and rollled it up, keeping it rolled with a silver ring which I still wear on special occasions to this day.



18. Ilta On Tullut Luojani-(A Finnish Lullaby)
While Maria's brother's were here, along with Garrett, the five of us fell asleep in my living room. It was late and we were all wrapped in blankets when the three Finns sang a lullaby from when they were kids. I believe it's the equivalent of "Now I lay me down to sleep."  Finnish musicians are masters at crafting haunting melodies, and this song was no different. After that night, I made them sing it to me repeatedly both while they were in American and when I was in Finland in 2006. One year, for my birthday, I recieved a mix CD from Finland. On the CD was Maria and her brother, Juhana, singing the lullaby. Clearly, that's my favorite version, though not the one I could find online. :)


19. "Hear You Me"-Jimmy Eat World
I had already loved this song for years, but when Maria bought it and we started listening to it, it reminded me of how much I liked it. After that weekend in March, Maria stayed with me in Sioux Falls quite often. We would drive around and listen to music, talk about God, hopes, dreams, crushes, and all sorts of girl talk. We became fast friends. The dreaded day came when she had to go back to Finland. I arrived at the airport to see her off with a portable CD player and headphones, "Hear You Me," cued up. We sat together on the airport seats, I with one headphone, Maria with the other, and we listened to that song and cried together. I think somewhere there is a photo of us sitting there, heads together, faces red and puffy from tears. When I talk about Finland, I'm not just talking about some silly obsession or even just friends. Somehow, those people, that nation, grabbed a part of my soul, reminded me that God truly is beautiful and good, and blessed me beyond what they can imagine. 


 20. "Bittersweet Symphony"-The Verve
In the spring of 2007 I moved to Seattle. In the summer of 2007, I moved back. When I left Seattle that morning, as I drove east across the bride over Lake Washington, with Seattle in my rear view mirror, I blared this song. It looked a lot like the final scene from Cruel Intentions. Mine was not an original idea. :) I blared that song because it became clear to me that "It's a bittersweet symphony, this life." It also spawned a battle with the idea of "home." I still haven't come to a conclusion on that idea, though I wrestle with it and write about it often. It's a strong theme that runs through my life: the balance (or lack there-of) of home with this insatiable wanderlust that so strongly has a hold of me.


21. "Society" Eddie Vedder
Clearly, I don't live the typical life. I am 30 and single. I have no place of my own and relatively little belongings. Settling down seems like a far off and unlikely end. In the early 1990s, there was a man named Christopher McCandless who had a similar life. He was quite a bit more transient than me, and met a much more gruesome end (I hope), but his ideas challenged that of the "American Dream," and what society expected of him. He wandered the country, searching for himself. On two different occasions, he ended up living and working in a small town in Eastern South Dakota called Carthage. Much of my paternal side of the family is from Carthage and McCandless lived next door to my great-grandparents for a bit. There is a change I ran into him a time or two. After his untimely death, Jon Krakauer wrote a book about him. Several years later, Sean Penn made that book into a movie. Both were called Into the Wild. Eddie Vedder did the soundtrack and this song, "Society," could be my anthem. 


22. "Glosoli"-Sigur Ros
Seeing Sigur Ros live for the first time was when I began to discover that God could be seen and heard. I cried both times I saw them and fully expect to again when I see them in August of 2012. In her TEDtalk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love speaks of time when peoples in the North African desert would gather for dances. I'll quote Gilbert here, because she words it much better than I can:
I know you’ve all seen at some point in your life a performance like this."It’s as if time stopped, and the dancer stepped through a portal. He wasn’t doing anything different than he’d done a thousand times before, but for some reason everything was aligned and he no longer appeared to just move. Instead, he seemed to be lifted from within and below."And when this happened, people knew it for what it was," she said. "They called it by its name. They’d put their hands together and would start to chant Allah, Allah. ‘God, God.’"
I get very excited about music. You don't have to know me long to see that. It's because, music can be so much more than just music. This is exactly what I was getting at when I was speaking about the moment the Finns and I were in the car listening to "Everything." It's something beyond us. 


23. "Soft Skeletons"-Anberlin
All I'd ever wanted to do was travel abroad. I wanted to experience life in another culture. I wanted it so badly, I couldn't imagine the difficulties it might bring about. I learned these well during my last few months of living and teaching English in South Korea. Speaking to a "little girl with so much hurt for such a young age," this song became my battle cry for not only my time there, but for facing many struggles. For "how can you expect to win this war if you're too afraid to fight?"


24. "Wonderwall"-Oasis
Have you ever had a dream come true? Not a dream like,  "I've always wanted to travel to Europe and now I have," but a dream you have when you're sleeping. I had a dream one late winter night about this song and a certain person. A few months later, in real life, I was standing next to that person at a concert, when the artist covered this song. That sort of thing sticks with you, you know?


25. "The Waiting"-Tom Petty
Pretty much the theme of the last two years of my life. Notice the URL address? Pretty much, 'nuff said.


26. "With or Without You"-U2
Again, how to choose which U2 song? It was between this one and "Sunday Bloody Sunday," which has become my favorite since breaking in to see them in the summer of 2011. 60,000 people chanting in unison "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is pretty moving. But I went with "With or Without You," because it's been a longtime favorite, and I ended up singing it with my friend at Karaoke the same night some very close friends were seeing them across the pond. And the song resonates with my thoughts about...nevermind. 


27. "How He Loves"-John Mark McMillan
I went to a little Bible study with a few friends in Korea. We startaed by singing a few songs. That was the first time I'd ever heard this song. It struck me immediately, I had to find out who did it. The thing that stuck out to me the most was the line "If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking." The only thing I love as much as music is the ocean. I once wrote an essay for a class in undergrad about how it seems to me like the ocean is a lover. Singing about the ocean, comparing it to grace...what can I say? The immensity of grace, the immensity of music, the immensity of the ocean....it's far too much to take in. 


28. "The Cave"-Mumford and Sons
Here again is a song that hit me hard the first time I heard it. Within minutes, I was online purchasing the whole album. Not only is it a neo-hillbilly style that blends my past and future, but Marcus Mumford (vocalist, primary song writer) is right there with David Bazan, Jay Bakker, and I, wrestling with this strange faith and spirituality throughout the whole album. In "The Cave," we hear "I'll find strength in pain and I will change my ways. I'll know my name as it's called again." Like several other artists on this list, I could have picked a number of songs. "Roll Away Your Stone," was a close second. But this song, along with being my original fav, has me belting out several lines with whole-hearted emotion. "Cuz I need freedom now, and I need to know how, to live my life as it's meant to be!" Mumford and Sons are also quite reminiscent of the sort of music I've been listening to these days. And also, what kind of philosophy student would I be if I didn't give Plato a shout out?


29. "Daylight"-Brave Saint Saturn
BSS is a side project of a few members of Five Iron Frenzy, and this song "Daylight" usually is referenced as my favorite song of all time. After nearly a decade, I still blare this song in my car when I need to have a good cry. I feel like the only way to explain this song is to do just that. Blare it loudly in your car and be overtaken by it. This was the first song I listened today, the first song of my 30s.


30. "Shake It Out"-Florence and the Machine
Well, we made it to the end. there were several changes and edits to this list, but this the final cut. "Screaming Infedelities" by Dashboard Confessional got cut to make room for this. I thought I'd end my 30 year autobiographical playlist with my favorite song on this, my 30th birthday. I can't stop listening to this song, and when I see Florence this August at Lolla, I'll give her a run for her money when we both cry out "and it's hard to dance with the devil on you back, so shake him off! whoa-ooo-ooo!" And what a place to end my twenties and enter my thirties but by shaking off insecurities, negativities, and woes and exchange it for dancing? The idea of the dancer is one that comes to me repeatedly in writing. One story in particular....a girl, a runner, who runs her whole life, finds herself in a great hall with the One whose lead her home to dance.




The entire playlist here.





Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday-Via Peter



They bound him and lead him away.
Rage filled my heart.
I lunged at them. I drew my sword.
I managed to cut off one of their ears before he stopped me
And in all his goodness, held me at bay.
He laid his hand on my shoulder and looked me deep in the eye. “Peace,” said he and then healed the wound of his captor.

They lead him away.
They took him to Pilot.
Who washed his hands clean
Who could blame him?
Who could have such an atrocity
Hanging over their head?

Three times.
Three times, just like he said,
I denied him.
“You were with him!” someone would say.
“No.” I replied, and quickly made my departure.
What if they wanted me, too?

So like a coward, I hid, while the scene unfolded before me.
My best friend, there, in front of the merciless crowd
Who just last week sang his praises.
Blood poured from his head, his back.
He could barely stand, his state so weakened, his body so frail.

I watched from afar as a murderer was released in his stead.
I blended in with the crowd as they chanted,

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

I hid in denial as they took him up the hill,
As a stranger helped ease his burden,
Until they reached the top

Where the sound of the hammer
Echoed in my ears
Where his screams
Rang out across the land,

I cowered in the back
As they stabbed him in the side
And offered him bitterness
To satisfy thirst.

And in that final moment,
I saw 
The ultimate look of despair,
Gushing through tears,
Running through sweat,
Pouring out through blood and puss
And I heard him give a whimper
As he offered up his spirit

And his body went limp.

And I wailed like the child that I am,
For the horror before me,
And the horror within me.
I
 curled up in a ball,
Drew my cloak o’er  my face,

And sobbed

And shook

And lost all control

As the thunder crashed on
At the passing of Hope.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday-Via Peter


This day has been a blessing.
This evening a nightmare.

On Sunday, we saw throngs
throwing themselves at his feet.
Calling out to him.
Blessing him. Loving him. Adoring him in awe.

This night, a much quieter occasion.
A small gathering with intimate friends. Just a few of us.
Wine, hors d'oeuvres, relaxing around the table.
The way it's always meant to be.

But then, my friend hands around some bread. Some wine. He seems eager to share it with us. He has this look in his eye that dares me not to take it. 
He speaks as though he's giving us himself through this ordinary snack.

I have no choice but to take it.  

Then he claims one of us will, betray him.
He claims I will deny having ever known him.
Frantically, I grab his hand.
Never.
Never, I say.
We all assure him. This will never happen.
After all, we’ve just spent that last 3 years following him around, listening to him, teaching others about what he has to say.
We’ve put a lot of stock into this guy.

He's every bit of hope we have.

And though he says some crazy things, 
I’m usually inclined to believe him.
But this?
No. 
He's mistaken. 
To deny him? My best friend? My teacher? It can't happen. It won't. We won't let it. I won’t let it.

And to hear of him being betrayed by another one of us? One who has shared in our victories and woes?
Surely this cannot be. 
He’s all we have. 
We would follow him to the grave.

But
After dinner, he invites just a few for a walk. Me. The Thundering Brothers. A small intimate circle.
A heaviness seems to be upon him. His shoulders are slumped with despair. 
I’ve seen him carry burden before.
But this, this is something more. It’s something different. Something bigger and much more terrifying.

He begs us to stay with him. It's getting late. The moon is high and full now.
You can see how much he wants us to be there.
“Please,” he says. “Just stay with me, here, tonight, when I need my friends most.”

He wanders off.

He has a tendency to do that.

I hear him, just over there, on the other side of the bushes,
mumbling something, through weeping. Through tears.
something about passing the cup.

But the wine

It's effect is strong.

And the hour is late.

I’ll close my eyes

for

just

one

minute.




His hands grab my shoulder. I’m jostled awake.
The brothers are rubbing their eyes, coming to as well.

He seems pissed. 

And hurt. 

I feel awful. I am a jerk.
All he wanted was for us to be with him in this secret moment of sorting out the heaviness.
And I feel asleep.

"You couldn't even make it an hour!" His eyes near tears.

What a shitty friend I am.

Falling asleep when he needed us most.
I start to stammer out some words of apology.

But, it's too late.

He cuts me off. Stops me short.
“Sleep later,” he says. His shoulders sink lower. His eyes to the ground. 

“They’re here.”

It’s then that I hear the rattle of armor. The murmur of men.

Here are the guards with shackles and chains.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The (Stale) Body of Christ

I feel a little guilty reveling in the sun on this late winter, though early summer like day. The winter we had here in South Dakota can scarcely be counted as such. Not that I'm complaining. But it is because of the harshness of winter that the spring is so dear. Still, I sit in sun, warmed by it's strength, and cherish the beauty of being out of doors.
On days like today, 60 (15ish C), sunny, a gentle breeze, I cannot bear to be inside. So here I sit, on the front porch, absorbing the sun, enjoying a glass of wine, and completely procrastinating on the work I really should be doing. But who can write about global atrocities when sunshine beckons?And besides, the simple act of writing, whatever it is, is a good warm up for writing that actually needs to get done. Gets the creative juices flowing. And it's clearly been a long time since the written word has flowed out of me as the thawing rivers now burst forth from their icy prisons. I guess we'll consider this bloggified reflection a warm up round before I delve into the weight of global slavery.
I was just reading through an old journal. It was from Lent last year. Reading through it was a bit of the inspiration to go inside and pour myself a glass of wine to enjoy back here, out in the sun. Here is what stood out to me:
I took communion there (First Lutheran) for the first time on Sunday. The pastor pressed the communion wafer into my hand, extra firmly it seemed, as if she knew I really needed it. Perhpas more likely she just wanted to make sure I didn't drop it. I took it and then felt silly for thinking to Jesus, "You're kind of stale."
This was followed a few days later by:
If we think you really are in the bread, or the bread is really going to be you, it seems like better bread is in order.
Really, those little flimsy, tasteless, wafers are the life giving body of Christ? When I lived in Seattle, I was a part of a community called Church of the Apostles. During my time there, I got to make the communion bread every week. (Baking secret: spoon the flour into the measuring cup and the scape the excess off the top with the flat side of a knife. Less dense. More fluffy.) Perhaps this is the reason I get kind of picky about communion bread.

But really, if there is one thing Jesus is not, it's stale. If there is one thing the body of Christ (The Church) has a tendency to be...it's stale.We're not moldy and ruined, but we're not exactly brimming with freshness all the time either. We're contented with our stale little wafer of a life, when, with a little yeast, a little kneading, and a little love baked in, the scent radiating from us should draw in passers-by like Peeta's family bakery, doling out bread to a starving District 12.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is News?

I have like 17 weeks of Journalism school under my belt, so clearly I'm the expert here when I ask "This is news?"
But it doesn't take a J-school student, a rocket scientist, or even an individual of sound mind to see that what is being dolled out as news falls far short of the word. 
After reading "news" magazines and watching "news" channels, I'm ready to plug my ears and rock back and forth in attempts to drown out the propaganda and pure editorial-ism that is oozing from these so called "news sources."
Let me give you a couple of examples. Each comes from a well known, reputable source. The first is from Time magazine. Moments ago, I was reading the article about Mitt Romney titled "Revenge of the Aloof," in the most recent issue. It was a portion of this article that was the instigator of this blog post. Since you can't access the entire article unless you're a subscriber, let me quote what was said in the article that caused me grief:
Then he turned the microphone over to the evening's main speaker, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. This was something I'd never seen before: a candidate working as the warm-up act for one of his endorsers. Christie, who is as comfortable in his bulk as the actor John Goodman used to be (when he was bulky) immediately took control of the stage and the room... 'I believe the American pie is limitless,' said Christie, with the obvious conviction of a man who knows his pies.
Whoa. Wait a minute. What? This is okay to say even in an editorial piece? We, as journalists and human beings are now allowed to totally degrade people based on nothing but outer appearances? I mean, I know folks do that all the time, but I guess I was thinking that was a bad thing and certainly something to be avoided in quality journalism, editorial or not. What place does the above statement have in a news story other than to make the author look like a total jackass? 


The other example is one that I've made several friends watch recently due to the sheer absurdity of it. I hate to bring up Fox News, but, well, it must be done. Before you go calling me a socialist or communist or what-have-you due to my distaste for Fox News, let me just say, I am aware that Fox isn't always the ignorant country-bumpkin of news sources, just as much as CNN's Anderson Cooper isn't the Anti-Christ of news anchors. I know people are loyal to one or the other, but that is beside the point I am attempting to make. (Save to say it goes right along with the polarization of our country that drives me mad.)
The reason I hate watching Fox News isn't because they favor one side over another. The reason I hate watching Fox News is that rather than calmly discussing the world's events, the tones their anchors take are among the most grating, condescending inflections I've ever heard. The do not deliver the news so much as slam those who don't agree with the way they present it, and they certainly don't let those folks get a word in edgewise. While they are certainly not the only unbiased news source out there, they are the most degrading to those who oppose them. Watch one or both clips. I couldn't decide which was worse.
Example 1

Example 2



Again, I want to point out that these sources are not purely horrible or to be avoided at all cost. Nor do I think other news sources are superior and flawless. All I'm saying, really, all I'm asking for is a return to balance, especially in the one place it should stand out: the news.


PS-Stay tuned for a blog post about Eric Bolling's show title "Follow the Money," his words about Christianity, and Christ's words about money. Don't worry. I 'm allowed to write that. This is a personal blog, not high quality journalism.