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It seems that Katrina will be the biggest natural disaster in our history. New Orleans is under water. Officials say it is a non-functioning city, and it will take, at minimum several months to become a city again. All people are being told leave town, because for right now, there is no town.

There are reports of bodies floating down the flooded streets. Hundreds of people are being rescued off the top of their homes by the coast guard, with the water lapping the rooftops.

An official for another county reported in this way, “The southern half of our county has been reclaimed by the Mississippi. Our county is no more.”

With the city nonfunctioning, there are no roads, there is no electricity, there are no schools, there are no jobs, there is no food, nothing for sale and no way for the locals to earn money. Lives and livelihoods are destroyed.

Donations can be sent to Samaritan’s Purse or the Red Cross.

no words

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The storm seemed to have passed. The rain had stopped. Then the levees broke. New Orleans is 80% under water. I am watching Coast Guard helicopters rescuing people off their roofs, the rest of the house submerged.

We are a powerful people, but when nature unleashes we realize our true frailty. Such a thing as what I am watching… what can be said? There is only prayer and likely this is a fine time to donate to the various rescue and aid agencies if you are able.

Suddenly the news of this entire summer thus far seems entirely petty.

Good stuff

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Bored with the usual online haunts? Know exactly what your favorite bloggers will say on any given topic? Need some spice to help you through your workday? Time magazine has posted the 50 best sites of the year. Worth a read through. Find something new for yourself today.

Verse for the Day

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Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice . Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.


music, faith, and the transformation of the LA Times

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I’ve always liked the LA Times. I can’t say why, and many of those who share my political persuasion have plenty of things to say about it, very little affirming.

They’ve been struggling, with readership down, and their quality did seem to drop. But, there’s been quite an effort underway to get back on track. Anyone who follows the paper could see the changes made, and remade, and often unmade — within the same week.

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is quite a few articles dealing with Christianity, or other types of spirituality. These articles are not always flattering, however, I’ve noted the writers have trotted out more than just the usual suspects of church detractors and naysayers. There’s been balance, and I appreciate that. I don’t mind being criticized, but do it fairly and note the self-criticism and disagreement. Or, if about something nice and interesting, there’s no reason to bring in someone who lives to negate the spiritual life of others.

All this to say, I’ve found yet another article at the Times which touches on Christianity and Spirituality, though in a much more subtle and surprising setting.

It’s a new generation of music in which “today’s folk songs are being sung–very quietly–by a generation that’s had it with sex and drugs and doing it in the road”. This is being represented by people like Sufjan Stevens:

Sufjan Stevens is one of underground music’s oddest recent success stories—a self-avowed Christian in a scene that is irreligious to its core; a singer-songwriter who graduated from the New School’s MFA fiction workshop; a performer with more affinity for Paul Simon’s dulcet tones and contemporary classical music’s sonic wallpaper than Bob Dylan’s incisive wit and punk’s snarling attitude. In an interview a few weeks after his performance at the Plug awards, near his home in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood, he is an even more striking figure. Close up you can see his clear hazel eyes and the Madonna-esque gap between his two front teeth; you can feel the energy he emits, at once confident and reserved, solicitous and bristling.

Stevens resists discussing his life in a way that might compromise what he believes in. “My faith informs what I’m doing. It’s really the core of what I’m doing in a lot of ways,” he says. “But the language of faith is a problem for me, and I try to avoid it at all costs. You could say that I have a mind for eternal things, for supernatural things, and things of mystery. I’m more comfortable with using those terms because they can be used without controlling or stigmatizing anyone.”

Have a look at the Soft Revolution.

Back to school fun

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I’m a big fan of brilliance. This post on back to school by Mr. Sun is brilliantly funny.

Odd thing about today. It was hot. My neighbor bought a house in the mountains for no other purpose than to come up from Orange County (not the cool part shown on tv) and hammer and saw and make silly additions to it. He doesn’t stare at the trees, or watch the sunsets, or enjoy the air. There’s a sourness to his soul, which is frustrating in this neighborhood of otherwise wonderful peace. It’s like a loud gong in the middle of a moment of silence. He’s up this weekend hammering again and making noise on a day which is really too hot to do anything other than quiet things, preferably with a glass of lemonade in hand. This inner frenzy expressed in noise making silly additions to what used to be an interesting house is somewhat odious.

But, in the course of the day I’ve come across forms of brilliance. Two of these I actually talked on the phone with, and the other is this post I noted above. This post was brilliantly funny. The first conversation was with a friend in whose life, if it works out right, the Spirit is doing a brilliant work. The second conversation was with someone who really is brilliant in all senses of the word herself.

How was my day? Brilliant!!

Soul’s satisfaction

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A wise woman I was in a meeting with yesterday said an interesting thing in the midst of conversation about computers and articles and church politics.

She commented on how she was amazed how long it took for a person to really grow up. This isn’t about getting “that” job, or the family, or the second house, or the vacation in St. Kitts. Real maturity is about knowing one’s own soul. It is being utterly and truly true to yourself. Some people take decades to get there, some people grow quite old and die without ever starting.

“One can tell a lot by how long it takes a person to answer what satisfies their soul,” she said, or words approximate.

I don’t have quite down the list above but I can answer the question about my soul’s satisfaction in less than a heartbeat.

What satisfies my soul? Writing, nature, helping people see God in their own lives. I can answer this quicker than I can write or speak.

And so what have I done? I’ve left off the focus of the first noted list to focus on this list of the soul’s satisfaction, trusting in my life that the palpable realities will be formed only through the quest of these elusive soul satisfactions. I know, and so I pursue.

What will come of it all has yet to be written. It’s a gamble, all in.

on writing

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I never felt a victim,’ he says, calmly. ‘To be a victim is a failure of intelligence. One becomes responsible for one’s own life, however difficult that life may be.’ He closes his eyes, as if trying to catch a thought that is hovering on the edge of his consciousness, then says something that sheds fresh light on all his writing. ‘No matter what happens to you, no matter how depressing the material, if it becomes depressing to write, or indeed, to read, it’s no good. I firmly believe that unless the thing is understood it’s useless, and that the understanding of it is a kind of joy. It’s liberating.’

Some good thoughts on life and writing from John McGahern.

Who would Jesus Assassinate?

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Marvin Olansky, from World magazine, has some thoughts on Pat Robertson. Obviously, Robertson’s words were so over the top wrong it’s not hard to condemn them. However, sometimes it takes exaggerations of problems to get us to talk about how such problems are more pervasive than we realize.

Back in the 90s I heard much rhetoric from Christian circles about how evil Bill Clinton was. There was none of the respect Paul encourages in his letters for leaders of governments.

We may not be calling for the assassination of leaders we don’t like. Pat Robertson is rightfully being condemned and judged for his statement. But a wise fellow once said, ” I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Thoughts to consider even in our more restrained political rhetoric.

Verse for the Day

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Nehemiah 3:28

Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house.

And thus with everyone doing just that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.