Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's up with the word "Beautiful"?

So, I was cruising around Nashville and Brentwood today, and I flipped to our local Way FM radio station. You know, the one with uplifting music that's safe for the whole family? As if safety is our call as Christians. But, that's another issue for another post. The song that started as soon as I flipped to The Way was Beautiful One by Jeremy Camp. Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
Beautiful one I love
Beautiful one I adore
Beautiful one my soul must sing
Beautiful one I love you
Beautiful one I adore
Beautiful one my soul must sing
As I listened, and actually caught myself singing along, because, let's face it, Jeremy Camp is catchy, I stopped to wonder why "beautiful" seems to be such an important praise song word these days. David Crowder Band's There is no one like you begins like this:
You are more beautiful
Than anyone ever
Everyday You're the same
You never change, no never
Again, an emphasis on God being beautiful. Now, I'm pretty sure that both Jeremy Camp and David Crowder are singing about God as Trinity, and not singing specifically to their boyfriend Jesus, because that would be utterly ridiculous, seeing as Jesus was despised and the prophets talk about him not being beautiful. But even singing about God's beauty sounds strange to me. Why would beauty even matter? Is this one of those "allowing who God is to redefine a word" kind of things? Well, I decided to come back and do some work with a concordance. Just how often is God called beautiful in scripture?

Um, how about never. That's right, not once is God referred to as beautiful. God's word is called beautiful. God's holy mountain and zion are called beautiful. Kings and messengers are called beautiful. There are a lot of beautiful women in Scripture. Wisdom is called beautiful. There are some beautiful garlands being placed on heads. There are even some proverbs and prophetic words that deride beauty as something not to be pursued. But God, in God's self is never called beautiful. I suppose if you want to take the 5 or 6 times the lovers in Song of Solomon call each other beautiful as justification for all this talk of God being beautiful and whatnot, well, I guess that's OK, but not really.

So, what does it say about the contemporary Christian music movement that beauty has become a definitive description of who God is in God's very self? What about one's faith would lead them to perceive God as beautiful? Even if we grant that God might be beautiful, how does that redefine our cultural norms about beauty? Might beautiful be kind of a charged word to use?

OK, enough cynicism for today. As always, comments that help to clarify and enlighten are always welcome and encouraged. Peace to you all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A prayer for world unity

This prayer from Zaire is found in the Prayers for the World section of the Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer edition. I found it to be especially poignant in light of current world events.

O God,
you love justice and you establish peace on earth.
We bring before you the disunity of today's world:
the absurd violence, and the many wars,
which are breaking the courage of the peoples of the world;
militarism and the armaments race, which are threatening life on the planet;
human greed and injustice,
which breed hatred and strife.
Send your Spirit and renew the face of the earth;
teach us to be compassionate toward the whole human family;strengthen the will of all those who fight for justice and for peace;
lead all nations into the path of peace,
and give us that peace which the world cannot give.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Amendments Five and Six

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

So, these are Amendments five and six of the Constitution of the United States of America (bold emphasis has been added by the editors here at Renderings). As I hear more about this Padilla case, I wonder if the Bush administration has read these two amendments. I mean, three years of sitting in solitary confinement while the government searched for enough evidence to try him? This guy is a citizen of the United States! Is that what the military is overseas protecting? The right of our own government to deny a U.S. citizen due process and the right to a speedy and public trial? Regardless of whether this guy is guilty, I think it's a shame that he was treated as guilty before being proven innocent. Strike, oh, a million against Bush and Darth Cheney.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Missouri State Fair 2007

That's right, folks! It's State Fair time in the Show-Me state, and for one glorious day, I was there. My Mom and Dad and I loaded into the white Buick LeSabre and made the one hour trek to Sedalia, MO, the home of the Missouri State Fair. We spent the day walking from place to place, including stops at the commercial buildings, which are now air conditioned (I mean, what's up with that?), the highway patrol building, the conservation department (see pic of Smokey the bear below), the swine barn (where we saw goats being judged), various agriculture buildings, and a mule barn with no mules (sad day).

Now, as some of you may know, my favorite part of any fair is the food. Here's the rundown of the food I ate while at the Missouri State Fair:
  • Chocolate Milk at the Farm Bureau building
  • Hard boiled egg soaked in something sweet at the Poultry tent
  • Pork burger at the Pork: The Other White Meat tent
  • Funnel cake from a stand
  • Beef jerky from an agricultural building
  • Budweiser Select from the All American beer tent (lots of bad country being pumped through the speakers there)
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from the American Dairy Association building

Things noticably missing from my list:

  • Fried twinkie. Apparently these aren't as readily available as they were two years ago.
  • Huge Mountain Dew logo tub filled with Mountain Dew. I saw them being carried around but never bought one.
  • Corn dog. Had the opportunity but was full.
  • Frozen lemonade.

All in all, an excellent day at the fair. Here are some pics from the day (including one of the amazing hat that I bought).

Mom communes with the llamas

Me with Smokey the bear. Only you and all that good stuff.

My new Missouri State Fair 2007 hat. Come on, you know you want one.

Me with a red tractor. Enough said.

Mom with Otto (the Missouri Highway Patrol talking car). He remembered her.

Me and Dad having a beer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Landscapes matter

The space teaches and landscapes matter. As a midwestern child at heart, I find the landscape of midwestern farmland to be extremely comforting. While driving from Nashville to Columbia, MO this past weekend, I drove through some of that comforting farmland. There were no mountains to break one's view...not even small hills. Nothing but corn and soybeans and wheat for as far as the eye could see. Various shades of green, brown, tan, and yellow marking crops in various stages of growth and development and harvest. Cingular/ATT wireless commercials abounding as trees, adjacent crops, telephone poles, and even houses lined up to signify more bars in more places. In midwestern farmland, the tall stuff is so conspicuous. The things that used to dominate the higher echalons of the midwestern pastoral landscape were church steeples, water towers, and silos...mostly silos...fewer water towers...scattered steeples. All three representing sustenance of one sort or another. The things that protruded from the ground and dwarfed the ever growing stalks of corn and wheat represented nourishment of both the body and the soul. There's something to be said about the waters of baptism and the wheat that is used to make bread for holy communion and the church where these holy sacraments live and dwell and challenge and sustain...yeah there's something to be said, but I'm not sure what it is. Silos, water towers, and steeples, oh my. Those used to dominate the landscape and draw the eye, and they still do, but now they share the skies with cell towers. Actually, the cell towers dwarf the silos and towers and steeples just as they used to dwarf the corn and the wheat. Cell towers always in view. I suppose they represent an element of sustenance...the sustenance of communication with loved ones. But somehow they jar the eyes as they stand there in the midst of all the other landmarks of the midwestern landscape. Question: What do the protruding, tall things say about a culture?

I really love the midwestern landscape. I love seeing the patchwork quilt of crops. I love seeing the barns and silos of varying size, shape, and color. I love seeing that old church off in the distance that probably stood long before cars were whizzing by on an interstate highway. I love the occasional cattle that stand there chewing their cud and whipping their tails to chase away flies and gnats. I love being able to see to visual infinity...being able to see rain coming from miles away...being able to see the shadows of large masses of clouds as they meander by overhead...being able to see so far. I really do love the midwestern landscape.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Perseverance of the Saints

On Monday afternoon I made a pastoral visit to Ms. Mary Smith. She's an 87 year old lady who is a total pillar of the body of Christ as it's found at 3077 Hillsboro Road. She's the woman at Harpeth who lovingly prepares the communion elements the first Sunday of every month. Unfortunately, on Saturday night, she took a spill and dislocated her shoulder, so she was unable to make it to church to prepare the elements this month. Then, on Sunday afternoon, she found out that her sister, who had recently moved to hospice card, had died. Thus the pastoral visit on Monday afternoon. When I asked her how she was doing, she recounted her fall and told me that The Lord must have been with her on Saturday night, because it could have been so much worse. As the conversation shifted to the loss of her sister, she expressed sorrow in losing her sister, but also expressed great joy in knowing that she was in the loving arms of God. So much that isn't about theological assertions or formulas or that simply trusts in God to be good, because, "Alan, God has always been so good to me." In the previous two days, she has fallen, dislocated her shoulder, hit her face on the way down, and lost her sister, and she sits there and genuinely professes "God has always been so good to me." Amazing...absolutely amazing. I pray that I might have that kind of that simply trusts in the goodness of God and proclaims it, even in the midst of hardship and adversity. Thanks be to God for Ms. Mary Smith.