Archive for the ‘muse’ Category

Dear God, I Hate You. Love RJW

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I can’t bear to watch the news these days.

GOP win in Massachusetts. (There goes health care reform).

Massive aftershock in Haiti.

Eight people in Virginia killed in a domestic dispute.

I know some of you will be appalled at my saying this: But I loathe much of what passes itself off as praise music these days. I’m not much in the mood for one of those little happy, sunshine ditties. God is good, yes. God is great, yes. Dance to the Lord. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


Did you know that the largest single category of psalms is Psalms of Lament  (e.g., Psalm 142)?  Psalms of Disorientation. Psalms of Hurt and Hisappointment. Psalms of Grief and Outpouring of one’s pain. Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggeman, in an article entitled “The Costly Loss of Lament,” argues that by bypassing lament for praise we have become like “yes people” surrounding the one in charge, always speaking as we think we should so that we can stay close to power.  This loss, leads to a faith that is unable to deal with the real, messy, paradoxical reality of life.

Of course, behind every lament is hidden praise. I rail at you God because I believed in your goodness.  I scream in pain because in hope that you’re listening.  I threaten to walk away trusting that you will come after me.

Admit it: The real point of a psalm like Psalm 42 doesn’t sing well in a praise chorus. So, Psalm 42 isn’t a psalm that gets much song time in our churches.  Listen to some of it: “My tears have been my food day and night” “why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning?”

I’m as guilty as the rest of leading the congregation in chants of “God IS good.” But looking around, sometimes God is so good to a few of us that God seems uncaring and cruel to the rest of us …

Don’t let me scare off some of my faithful readers with my unorthodox ramblings. (Experience has taught me that God can take criticism and honest inquiry; it’s humans who has no stomach for truth telling.)

I’ll just reach for one of those old long meter hymns folks usedta sing in the old church.  Talk about wrangling with the Lord. You gotta appreciate the honest public debate and dialogue with God we see evidenced in some of the music produced back in the day. “Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee.” “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.”  “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

There’s A Place in the Sun

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

My mother was a big Stevie Wonder fan back in the day. She’d work in the bakery of Rich’s Department store in Atlanta all week long to buy us children shoes and to buy herself a new 45rpm record. Whatever records were stacked on the record player waiting to be played when she got home from baking and decorating cakes all day long had to be rearranged to accommodate whatever Stevie Wonder hit she held in her purse.  Wonder’s ‘66 hits “A Place in the Sun” and “Blowing in the Wind” ( both composed by Bob Dylan) were my mother’s favorites. (Stevie himself was only 16 years old when he recorded the two songs.) Waking to the sound of these Wonders’ hits blasting from the record player was a sure sign to us children that we’d be spending that Saturday cleaning the house at Mama’s orders from top to bottom.

Here’s to you Mama here on Throwback Friday. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get it.

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin’ towards a dream
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin’ to be free
Movin’ on, movin’ on.

‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run.
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun.

Like an old dusty road
I get weary from the load.
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like this tired troubled earth
I’ve been rollin’ since my birth
Movin’ on, movin’ on

‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run.
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun.

Girl, Put Your Records On (Part 2)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I need a new playlist for the mood I’m in.

It’s a quiet, moody, contemplative kinda mood that I’m in these days.  Would love to crawl in a safe, dark hole and stay there with my thumb in my mouth. But light is the only thing that’s keeping me alive. Feeling kinda weepy, but don’t have cause to outright cry. Sad and joyful in the same breath. Got some decisions to make. But they will require moody record playerme to revisit some old places in my mind to find the answers I’m after. Don’t want to go there, but I gotta go to get where I need to be. Don’t wanna have to do anything, but don’t want not to be needed.  Don’t wanna talk, but don’t wanna be alone.

Watchin’ God watchin’ me.

One of those times when I wish I were a poet.

Never fails. Something about the change of season, especially the dawn of autumn, that drives me to the cave.

In the meantime, I’m on the search for some mature, mellow, contemplative ballads. Got any suggestions?

Here’s what I’m listening to these days…

Barbara Streisand, “Everything Must Change”
Stevie Wonder, “A Place in the Sun”
Christopher Cross, “Sailing”
Bette Midler, “The Rose”
James Ingram and Patti Austin, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”
India Arie, “Healing”
Curtis Mayfied, “It’s Alright”
Lala Hathaway and Joe Sample, “When The Word Turns Blue”
Otis Redding, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”
Nina Simone, “For All We Know”
Patti Austin, “Miss Otis Regrets”

And finally,….

Lizz Wright’s 2008 “The Orchard” is breaking my heart with its smooth, serene vibe. Wright defies easy categorization. She’s jazz, soul, blues, and everything else wrapped up with a ribbon on top. On The Orchard she’s folk singer extraordinaire with that rich, expressive tone of hers. I can piddle around the house all day drinking herbal tea in my pajamas listening to anything that comes from Lizz Wright’s vocal chords.

Like I said, I’m on the search for some contemplative ballads. What’s on your playlist these days?

Rest is A Radical Notion

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


If making sure there’s spotty Internet service in my room here in Hawaii is God’s way of seeing to it that I rest from my labors, I am not impressed.

But how do I explain the fact that for the five days I’ve been here on the Big Island in a room overlooking mountains and beach, five time zones away from my normal routine, I haven’t been able to compose one intelligent paragraph? Evidently I write better when I’m pissed. Or feel passionate. Neither of which I feel here in Hawaii. Everything’s surreal to me here. I feel awful about what’s going on in Iran. I was sad to hear about the train derailing in DC.  And I had meant to write here on the blog about fatherhood and masculinity for Father’s Day.


But still I can’t say that I’ve entered that place of sabbath rest our biblical ancestors had in mind in (Gen. 2:4): “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it and abstained from all the work which God created to make.”

It’s taken me me three days to stop checking my email. Four days to stop checking my cell for texts. This morning a co-worker wrote asking for some information I promised to send while on vacation. The information he needs is sitting there on my desktop computer. Another one of God’s jokes, I suppose.

I’m lying around not doing much here in Hawaii, but it’s not like I’m resting. More like just not doing anything productive. Which, believe me, is not the same as resting. I go to the fitness center and work out every day which is no fun. Definitely not resting. More like “working” out.

The beach where we’re staying is beautiful — and baby I do mean beautiful– but, unlike the the many pale faces here with us at the resort,  laying out in the sun has never been my cup of tea. There’s a luau tonight which the young ones will enjoy, and snorkeling later in the week which my baby’s daddy looks forward to. But me? Nothing. It would help if I liked the book I’m reading (recommended by a reader). But I don’t. Heading back to Borders when I finish this post.

Resting is work, that’s for sure. It’s taken me five days to unwound from my normal routine. In this age of 24 hour Internet and 24 hour cable news and constantly charged cell phones, where the lines between work and home have become blurred, where it’s possible to always be on, available and accessible, it takes some time to shut off. Unplug. Chill.

I like 12th century Nachmanides interpretation of the Genesis 2:4 verse better which says:  “God ceased to perform all His creative work.”

But God I’m a blogger. Readers forget you if they click on and see that you haven’t written anything fresh in three days!

The notion of resting from one’s labor was a radical idea when it originated centuries ago. (So was the idea of tithing, mind you, but that’s another post.)  Demanding sabbath rest was the slaves’ way of saying to the Empire, to slavemasters, to landowners, to supervisors, “enough is enough.”  Slaves are not machines.  Even the poor deserve time to themselves, with their families, to breathe in God.

Rest is a radical notion because it says, “the world has already been created. There’s really nothing more that can be added. Everything else is tinkering.” Sit down, be still, and observe God’s creation.

Rest is a radical notion because it says to all,  employers and family alike, “you are not the boss of me.” While I have obligations to you I don’t belong to you. I belong to myself and to my Creator.

Here’s something to consider. The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can sometimes mean rest, ensouled, breath, to catch one’s breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being. A living being is the more popular translation. Each of us has a nefesh — a soul. Meaning, we are not machines.  Rest is taking the time out to gather the bits and pieces of our self that we’ve given away to others– whether for money or out of  love– and to put our self/our soul back together.

I leave you for now with a story found in a book about renewal.

In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Laborers were engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day of the trip the tribesmen marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.