Monday, November 23, 2015

Dirty Bomb

We all know the expression, "Actions have consequences." Heck, chances are our mothers used to scold us with that phrase while doling out punishment for what we'd just done.

What if I told you your actions' consequences don't just affect you?

I mean, we all know the obvious ones, like the effect of giving a gift to your spouse, or hanging a kid from a fence by his underwear. No, I'm talking the small things.

That lie you told, the half-truth, the skeletons in your closet. We keep these hidden for a reason - we don't want to offend anyone or make them think differently of us.

I was challenged by a friend, today, when he said that sin has collateral damage. And I thought about that for a bit. It's true. If I were to come and confess a heavy sin that's been weighing on me to my wife, it'd be off my chest, allowing me to be free and to seek restoration and forgiveness, but it'd be weighing her down now. Now she's trying to manage the weight of that sin, dealing with the consequences.

Now, I'm not advocating hiding or sins - rust allows everything to fester and rot from the inside, but I am advocating something I'm beginning to learn: sensitivity.

At this, of course, anyone who knows me well will start laughing. After all, I have the sensitivity of a rock. That being said, though, I'm learning how important it is and how it can help mitigate the secondary, collateral damage of sin.

It's something I'm learning is important. It takes awareness and wisdom, two things I lack, but it's possible.

So, here's to wisdom and understanding. May God grant me both, that I may be a soothing balm to those I wound.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Open Doors

Okay, so this is my token contribution to the continuance of Syrian refugees in the US.

First: When I heard about the attacks in Paris, one of my first thoughts was the worry that this would encourage world leaders to shut their doors on refugees and asylum-seekers. Thankfully, this has not happened.

Second: I heard backlash against President Obama along the lines of "We need to have better screening. We can't just open our borders to thousands of refugees, some of whom may be terrorists!" (Yes, this was the first I'd heard of Obama's announcement. Don't judge me; I'm in medical school.)

Third: I saw many Christians welcoming the refugees and castigating the other Christians and conservatives for wanting to slam the door.

Now, as we all know, Facebook is the world's most accurate source of information and news. Even so, I decided to do a little digging of my own. Why? Well, because I recognise what the Bible says about loving foreigners and asylum-seekers, both in the Old Testament and the New.

Some good examples may be found here:

To further set an example, we were once considered strangers to the kingdom of God (Eph 2:11-19, Col 1:21-22)

As Christians, this should be our first point of reference: "What does the Bible say on this?"

In addition to the Bible, a clear understanding of what has actually been said and elaborated upon should probably be obtained from credible sources, not the rumour mill. 

What's most easily accessible is the number of Republican party members, all presidential hopefuls, pushing to stop the influx of refugees, citing national security. Note, these are presidential hopefuls and this is immediately following the Paris bombing, in which one suspect was, allegedly, a Syrian refugee. Is there an element of caution? Yes. Is there an element of bi-partisan power playing going on? Very likely. Are these individuals hoping to garner the increasingly xenophobic conservative ballot? Most definitely.

Something of interest, though, is that Obama made the plans to permit up to ~10k refugees way back in September and nobody batted an eyelid. All of two months ago, he made that statement and assured the public and the press that they would follow due process in granting asylum papers, a process which, for the US, is far longer than most countries. In this case, it's actually close to 1 1/2 years worth of paperwork. That means it'd be 2017 before any of these current refugees actually have their papers.

Yes, we get the comments coming from the Right that the US is most likely the main target for extremists - what else is new? Yes, we get that we don't know who these people are - that's why the long vetting process.

The more I read, the more I am convinced that this issue has become a red herring and echo chamber for conservatives who keep to Fox News and/or conservative tabloids such as Conservative Tribune. Now, I'm not knocking Fox, but when you know your news media has a bias, shouldn't you also read from another source - and not the conservative editorials of other sources - to find out the other side of the issue?

As for not having Syria's co-operation in completing the vetting process, yes that throws a wrench in the works, but it's one that, with a year and a half-long application process, should be worked over in time for the first wave to arrive. Hopefully

So, what does this mean? It means, we can take down the xenophobic posters we've just plastered all over our Facebook pages. You know, these ones:

Instead, we can respect our government (you know, that passage in Romans 13), trust that God will honour the good they seek to do, and trust that the plans set in place for our protection will work. After all, if we die, we see Christ. If we live, we have a greater opportunity for sharing the Gospel. 

I don't know about you, but I'm with Paul on this one. "To live is Christ. To die is gain"

Monday, November 9, 2015

Faith and Poverty

So, today I had a rushed time studying my Bible. I just picked James 2 to skim through and call it done, to check my little box that said I had spent time in God's word today.

Little did I know God would stop me with a verse that I'm still sitting, struggling over, uncertain in myself. And it's such a simple verse.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" - James 2:14-16
This passage lies right between two already challenging passages in James. Right before it is his statement on not showing preference in treatment of those in the church or even outside of it. Immediately following it is a passage discussing how deeds are the measure by which one's faith is proven, or, more classically, "Faith without works is dead."

Where impartiality meets faith-induced work, we see the above passage.

Earlier today, I tucked a small jab at the American church over its uproar about the design change of Starbucks' cups when there are such greater needs and far better ways in which to make Christ known in the world.

That being said, I cannot let this passage go so easily, or, rather, God won't let it let go of me.

You see, I'm beginning to think God is doing something in me. He works in interesting ways, prodding us towards aspects of faith that challenge our comfortability. When we get to a point at which we say, "God, I think I get this faith and works thing. I'm doing a pretty good job of it," He is quick to point out areas in which we could use a little more stepping out in faith.

During these last couple months, in my time studying the Bible and listening to my various pastors, God has confronted me with two large areas in which my faith is not being lived out.

  1. How am I working for the benefit of the poor and needy?
  2. How am I evangelising to my peers and passers-by?
You see, I do a lot of talk, trying to mobilise others to share the Gospel or to consider those in greater need than they, maybe even encouraging them to change the manner by which they see the world, but there's a stark lack of practicing what I'm preaching.
"You say you believe in God; that is good. Even the demons believe - and they shudder" - James 2:19, paraphrase
This is God's challenge to me right now. I say I have faith and God is showing me how the faith of believers led them to actions of generosity, of benevolence, selflessness, and charity. God has set the pieces in motion and He has me in check.

It's my choice. I can walk away and God will wait, patiently. My faith will stay where it is, stunted, maybe even stagnant, as I join the rest of the world in worshipping themselves and giving lip service to God. That's the easy thing, the comfortable thing. It asks nothing of me.

God, well, he's asking. To act would involve me giving of my time - something I don't have a lot of, but I'm usually willing to chip in a couple of hours for a good cause. To act would involve trusting God for His plan - something I prefer to devise myself, of my own knowledge and understanding. To act would involve something of my money - something I also don't have a lot of, but it pays for all of my first world comforts, my food, my internet, my school.

God is telling me to shut up and put my money where my mouth is and I'm just praying and asking for the courage.

It's scary stepping out in faith. I can't think of a time in which I've ever been so torn or conflicted. I can see the way that is right, but I don't want to be uncomfortable.
"So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin" - James 4:17
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." - Matthew 7:13-14
 Sometimes, it's easy to forget we're not promised a comfortable life. Sure, we remember it when explaining why Christians in other countries are being killed, but we seem to forget it when God asks something tough of us.

As for me, tonight, I'll be talking to my wife, coming to one accord over what we can and should do.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

We Remember

A red sun sets upon the hill
The blood spilled on the ground
As hands which once held stones before
Stood angrily around

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As mothers torn, bereft

A song sung from a hundred lips
Echoes across the plain
As men and women raised on high
Sing praises through the pain

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As fathers torn, bereft

A silence filled the crowded square
Condemned upon the dais
A chop and thud cuts off the sound
Of the prisoner's last prayer

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As sisters torn, bereft

The women scream, the comfort breaks
Unsettled houses turn
Unwelcome violence cannot still
The praises from their lips

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
As brothers torn, bereft

At last the final trumpet sounds
The grave gives up its dead
Tears will no more stain our eyes
In joy we'll live instead

We remember you who go before
We remember you who've left
The name of God upon your lips
A family born through death

Friday, October 9, 2015

Frankenstein's Monster

So, a conversation with my wife got me thinking about diets, diet fads, and "lifestyle changes", which are basically new diets co-billed with a self-help psychology course.

So, I figured I'd let loose the hounds of snark and give my 10c on this issue.

Up front, I will state that, while I am a medical student, I by no means know everything - I am only a 1st year and a nutritional skeptic to boot. I have my biases, information, and lack of information. I am a staunch believer of the idea that "A little learning is a dangerous thing" and I encourage you, the reader to do your own research - including on journal databases like PubMed - as my own deficits colour my understandings and interpretations.

For ease of reading, I have broken this post into my four Ps of diets today: Psychology and Promises, Pronunciation and Science, Perception, and Personal thoughts.

Psychology and Promises
Well, for starters, if a diet never promised anything, no one would follow it. One of the big issues today, though, is that most, if not all, new diet prescriptions promise everything from weight loss to balanced hormones. Heck, I'm pretty sure that there might even be one promising to balance your chequebook.

The main thing is many of these diets promise changes beyond simple weight loss and, in our society of wholeness and jaded sarcasm, we've grown tired of recurrent fads, the ways diets make us feel, and high levels of prescription. Instead, we want something that will make us feel good and successful, that's easy to follow and understand, and that will impact our lives beyond our immediate weight/dietary health, because, frankly, we overwork ourselves to the point where we cannot afford ourselves the balance we need. (Case in point: I'm a medical student who has little time and no means to exercise)

What I find interesting is that many of these new lifestyle changes incorporate a psychological and social aspect to them, trying to go beyond the science of nutrition, which has improved over the years, and investigate the psychology of eating, habits, and addictions, often times adding in a social component through social media or support groups. The face of dieting has changed and it's a good thing, but I'm afraid that the science of nutrition is becoming more and more obscured by confounding factors.

Pronunciation and Science
A key grief I have with society today is its fear of science. I've written about it before and my views still stand. One of the big selling points of diets today is focusing on whole, raw, unprocessed foods and avoiding "Frankenfoods" at all costs. What is a frankenfood? anything pre-made that includes difficult-to-pronounce ingredients. I've seen many times the mantra, "If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it.

Frankenfood? Really?

How many of you are familiar with eicosapentaenoic acid? (Now, there's a party trick - try spelling that one)

Now, how many of you are familiar with omega-3 fatty acids?

What if I told you that eicosapentaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid and that it's actually one of the omega-3 fatty acids we're recommended to eat? (Omega-3 is just a generic term for any fatty acid that has a C=C double bond on the third-last carbon)

You see, not every big word is bad - though they usually abbreviate the ones they want you to take. Take the subway bread/yoga mat debacle from the food babe. Yes, the component in question is an agent used in stabilising foams and is used in baking and manufacture of yoga mats. Well, firstly, bread is a foam by definition and, secondly, how many thought to check the FDA's safety standards? After all, the FDA is required to keep track of toxicity of ingredients and what is allowed to be an ingredient. If you really want to get up in arms about something, take acetaminophen - more than 4 mg in 24 hours will send you into acute liver failure and death. Heck, even water is toxic under the right circumstances; it just takes a whole crapton in a short amount of time.

Now, that being said, some modern additives are less beneficial for you like high fructose corn syrup. Virtually every other carbohydrate we eat is processed by the liver into glycogen storage during a fed state, but fructose actually cannot participate in glycogenesis in the liver. Instead, it is converted directly into fat.

You know what's even cooler, though? Carbohydrate stores actually help burn fat during sustained aerobic exercise. So, we can't just up and vilify carbohydrates - they form the majority of our energy intake, which we need for our body to actually function.

So, what makes a diet or "lifestyle change" stick?

Something I've noticed is that many of the more popular diets are the ones that grant you, as the dieter, more control. The modern trend of no processed foods and only whole, "real" foods has a huge element of control in it - you control what is in your food, not the food companies.

And, while we're mentioning food companies, let me also mention that there is an increased amount of skepticism towards big businesses. You see it in the rhetoric of any "anti-" crowd. You have your big business leeriness of the small business fundis. You have the big government conspiricists. You have your anti-Monsanto, anti-GMOers. In nutrition today, there seems to be an almost unhealthy distrust and disdain towards food business, with individuals talking about how food scientists are engineering our food to be more addictive and craveable so we buy more of it.

There's that science word again. No one ever blames X-businessmen. It's always the scientists that get the bad rep. (If only we scientists were more PR-savvy).

Why does there have to be some nefarious plot to enslave our tastebuds and wallets? Can we not take ownership of our own cravings?

It's also why many popular diets come from individual nutritionists who claim they have little interest in how many people buy their book - they'd all just rather you experience it and share it by word of mouth as they compete with hundreds of other nutritionists who have also published similar books with catchy covers and titles who also aren't in it for the money...

Oh wait.

See, we can play the business/money/conspiracy game all day. It's pointless and gets us nowhere. Let's just be honest. We like the foods we like and we want the foods we want. I have a pretty bad sugar/chocolate addiction. You don't see me blaming Lindt for making their chocolate so good.

So, let's exercise control, but don't blame it on the businesses just trying to make a quick buck.

Personal Thoughts
The thing with diets is that many of them have very good qualities and aspects, but they're filled with so much rhetoric and extraneous fluff that they you need to wade through a survey of books/publications/articles to get the real meat from it.

That being said, there are definitely good pointers to take in mind.
  1. A successful diet goes beyond simply what you eat. Mental state, stress, work load, emotional well-being, and activity are just a few factors that go into health, which is why there is such a push for lifestyle change instead of just a diet change.
  2. Research pays off. If you're unfamiliar with an ingredient, instead of simply avoiding it, take the time to research it. I can guarantee that you will find safety and toxicity information if you look hard enough and bypass the clickbait
  3. Take control of what you eat. You are responsible for what goes in your mouth. So, choose wisely, which leads to my next point.
  4. Quality of food matters. I'm not here to tell you what you can and can't eat. There are tons of articles telling you what to avoid and what to choose, but there are some general trends. Also, make a wise choice. You can buy a restaurant-made burrito or you can make one yourself. Depending on what ingredients you use, your home-made burrito is very likely to be healthier than the restaurant's.
  5. So does quantity. You've probably heard the mantra "Everything in moderation." I cannot stress how important that is. Balance is key. Balance your intake with your activity level. Balance your amount of carbohydrates with your necessary proteins and fats. If you elevate or eliminate one, the whole system will slowly fall out of whack.
I found a good article a little earlier. It's the Atlantic's article on a survey paper that was done sometime last year, which attempted to collate the various dietary papers that had been published and draw out the kernels of commonalities.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Prayer Request

Hey, this is just a prayer request. So, not a major blog post.

A couple years ago, I felt the father calling me to serve in certain nations less open to what I believe. In the last year, however, I've allowed myself to become okay with the idea of serving here in the US, in undeserved parts of the country.

Today, those same three countries came to the forefront of my mind in the context of service.

My request is twofold:

1. That the father's will would be revealed to me, whether at home or abroad.
2. That the father's will would be confirmed to my wife separately.

Friday, September 25, 2015

James' Adventures in Medicalland

"I'm late. I'm late. No time. Must study. I'm late!"

The rabbit shoved the pocket watch into its lab coat as it sped off down the hallway, disappearing around the corner.

I took off after the rabbit, trying to case it down as my limbs grew leaden with fatigue. Exhausted, I sat on a bench to catch breather. All around me, the various benches and chairs began to twist themselves into various shapes - rings, prongs, and sticks - and began running around in circles, first slowly, but gaining in speed. With a whump, I fell on my behind as my bench contorted itself to join them.
"Everybody take your place
Before we start Kreb's cycle's race
With your rings and Cs and Ns
Soon the cycle begins..."
I found myself dragged up and carried into the circle, running about and around, over and over again until my limbs were filled with energy again. 

Energy? From running in circles? This place was getting more and more peculiar by the minute. I shook my head in disbelief, before continuing down the hallway. I didn't get far before the air began to fill with the smell of hand sanitizer. 

I looked up.

In front of me was a large, white caterpillar, wringing its hands in a washing motion.

"And what brings you in today?" it began, with an imperious tone. "What is your name? When did all this start? What are you allergic to?"

"That's not the proper order," I interjected.

"Oh? Well, please, recite it for me."

"Well, first, you have the onset, then provocation and palliation..."

With a great Harrumph the caterpillar interrupted me and proceeded is a rhythmic baritone:
"Symptoms, Onset, Characteristics
Radiation, can't you see
Associations, course of Time
Exaggeration, Severity"
It made sense, but yet, everything was just all wrong. Where am I, in this topsy-turvy place? 

Just then, from the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of fur and white coat. The Rabbit! I sped off after him, trying to catch him and ask him what was the rush before, once again, I found myself all turned about in the hallways. Left took me right and going forward took me behind. I sat down in a pile of frustration.

Off in the distance, I heard various noises and clatterings. I drew closer. In another room were a man in a white coat and top hat with a card saying 121/76 mmHg sticking out from the brim of the hat. In his hands was cradled the head of  rabbit. No, not a rabbit, but a hare. With a swift movement, the hatter twisted his hands, eliciting an audible crack from the hare's neck as he melted to the floor before hopping back up. Curious, I came closer. They were hopping from bed to bed, testing and articulating joints. Without realising it, they swept me up and dropped me on a table, walked up my spine, and, with an audible pop, I felt half my tensions melt away.

Astonished, I turned to the man in the hat, who looked at me and asked, "Why is a rotation like a sidebending?"

I sat there, puzzled, before giving up: "I have no idea. Why is a rotation like a sidebending?"

The hatter looked at me quizzically before answering: "I haven't the foggiest."

As the hatter and hare ran off, hopping from bed to bed, rotating and cracking joints. I stood for a second, pondering my sanity and whatever this place was or seemed to be. Simultaneously, the lights began to dim and the ground underneath my feet began to change, as I found myself standing on a white little pathway, surrounded by pink, fleshy walls. At the edge of the pathway was a signpost.

"Cephalad, caudad," I read. Before my eyes, the words began to change: "Medial, lateral," "Proximal, distal." The words continued to cycle about. Confused, I sat down on the pathway and crossed my arms.

A ways off, I heard a hum-singing noise drawing closer as a long lab coat began to materialise, out from the bottom of which poke a striped tail. A cat's head appeared above the coat. He flicked out a claw like a scalpel and began to move first one way, then another, along the path, the pink walls parting before him as he passed, rummaging along the pink wall,before finding a blue and red pathway over to the side. "Oh, vertebral artery. Excellent."

I sat, staring in disbelief, holding my head in my hands, thinking aloud.

"Have I gone mad?"

The cat's ears perked up as it turned to me and smiled: "I'm afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are."

With a laugh and a smile, it began to fade from view, hum-bumbling as it went.

Without much ado, I stood up and began to walk in some direction, following the path as best as I could, as it faded into the darkness.

~     ~     ~

Bleary-eyed I looked around. In front of me was my notebook and computer - still paused on the last slide I had been studying. My pen was fallen from my hand and the cup of tea grown cold on the floor. I looked at my watch, rolled my eyes and groaned.

"I'm late. I'm late. No time. Must study. I'm late!"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oh Jerusalem

"Disaster comes upon disaster; rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders." - Ezekiel 7:26

This verse, talking about Jerusalem during its fall due to sin, just really rang true to me.

We see disasters all around us - earthquakes, wars, genocides, tsunamis, and pandemics, to name a few.
We hear rumours abounding, about celebrities, politicians and pastors.
We seek spiritual solace from prominent bloggers, speakers, YouTubers, or writers.
Churches and pastors compromise on the uncomfortable parts of the gospel.
The older generations, though they may still desire to do so, no longer give counsel to the newer generation - they are neither valued nor heard.

Jerusalem was a city who felt the hand of God in many ways for many years. She was a city who flourished under the presence of God during the reigns of godly rulers, like David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, and yet, at this point in her history, she had completely forgotten about God and was instead pandering to the idols of the nations and peoples around her.

Foreign gods
Political power
Social status

I want you to re-read that list. Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed for the last few months. 

The church is fast becoming the last place people look for spiritual help.
Our society has become increasingly focused on either the earning, receiving, or spreading of money.
How many individuals are currently running for the Republican presidential bid?
How often do we try for the greatest Instagram post, the house with the most curb appeal, the fastest car?
How often does society scream for valuation, whether it's of ideology, lifestyle, or person?

Oh Jerusalem, 
Who saw you in your infancy and had pity on you? 
Who raised you into the full flower of womanhood?
Who entered into covenant with you in full flush of love and affection?
Who provided your every need and adorned you with beautiful stones?
Who fed you with the finest of foods and clothed you with the smoothest of silks?

Oh Jerusalem,
When will you see.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Children of the World pt II (Or, how to love others even when you disagree with a third party)

The Children of the World choir was at my church today.

Those of you who've read my blog for over a year know that I'm not the world's biggest fan because of the image of the third world that's portrayed, but, at the same time, I cannot deny that these children are coming from areas in deep poverty and need and World Help is one organisation in particular that is reaching into these communities to share the Gospel and bring clean water and education.

So, it caught me off-guard when I found myself wishing I had either cash or my chequebook on me to be able to give, but, in light of what I was reading yesterday, in Luke 6 and what many of you saw on my blog posts on Love and the church's response to the mentality of today, I see that, whether or not I agree with an organisation's methods of presentation, I can agree with their goals of reaching out to those in need and I can stand in solidarity with them on that.

I may not have my chequebook or cash with me to give, but I've left with a valuable lesson.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tomorrowland, Society, and Christians

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a date to a movie theatre that was closing (it was where we had our first date, so we absolutely had to have one more before it closed. We chose to watch Tomorrowland, which is an excellent film, though a little intense for younger viewers, but I digress.

The main theme of the movie was that it was discovered, in the 40s, when the earth was going to die, well, the probability was discovered. When Earth was warned, the probability began to escalate as society latched onto this idea. (Disney did their history - this correlates with dystopianism and a rise in a fear of science and its capabilities, and general Malthusianism). Spoiler alert, highlight to read: The plot twist and solution to the issue was optimism, refusal to accept the end, and a willingness to act and change it.

My wife and I sat and chatted over this for a while afterwards, talking about the general distrust of science and progressing towards the prevailing "Doom & Gloom" mentality that society has about the future, how the wealthy, with their ability to choose, limit the poor (see the GMO debate), and how there's plenty present today that would help contribute to a more optimistic outlook, from science, to sociology, to religion, should society actually take the time to educate itself.

You see, as far as the dystopian future goes, advances in agriculture and a realistic concept of the amount of space present on the earth actually detract from malthusian arguments. Of course, this means stepping outside of our immediate bubbles and allowing GMOs to continue. Added to that, we have the whole fear of science, which often isn't really a fear of science, but of what science could do in the hands of someone else, but the answer to both is a better persective of the various redundant safety checks and conventions present in may ground-breaking science technologies, think, for exmple, nuclear power - it's safer than ever before, yet we still only ever think of Chernobyl.

The answer for society, though, comes from deeper issues. You see, as I've said before, Western society is becoming increasingly more insular, with the very divisive belief prevailing that

  1. Only you, as the individual, can determine what is right for you
  2. You cannot know what others have determined in themselves to be right
These posits are detrimental to society, breeding fear and retaliation based upon fear into every aspect of  modern society.

So, we see all these ills in society, which feed into the continual dystopic outlook, but where does the church fit in?

The church fits in, truly, in three key areas:
  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Love
We have the belief that truth is universal. We hold to the idea (in theory) of corporate worship, where the body of believers comes together in community, as one, in support of one another. The church is a powerful vector for a revolutionary social philosophy that works for the building of community - one body of believers, united under the headship of Christ.

The church has long held to a twofold hope. The first aspect is that, despite what wrongs may assail us, that God will work all things ultimately for our betterment as a whole. That doesn't mean we will all be rich and well-fed eventually, but that we will have what we need and will be stronger in our faith compared to where we began. The second is the hope of the resurrection, that Christ himself overcame death when he took our punishment and was raised from death three days later. From Christ, we have the hope, based upon faith, that we, too, will take part in the resurrection, being united in fellowship with Christ in heaven.

So far, Faith and Hope have been largely individualised, which is great, for the individual believer, but that doesn't impact society. From just these two alone, we see no effect on the greater perspective of dystopia and ruin that is so prevalent in society today. Ironically, this is where many Christians stop, possibly because it's comfortable, it's easy. Faith and Hope by themselves demand very little of us to step outside of ourselves. Thankfully, we're not quite finished.

Love is difficult. Love is radical. To truly love another is uncomfortable, irrational, and unwise, but that is exactly what society needs. You see, to love the Lord with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength is already uncomfortable - it demands superseding God above oneself. It necessitates the surrender of one's life is every aspect - physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The second half of Christ's summary of the law, though, is what has the capacity to drastically change the way society lives. 

To love one's neighbour as oneself sounds all nice and catchphrase-y, but, truly, it asks more of us than we imagine. How do we love ourselves? We make sure we have not just enough food to nourish us, but enough to satisfy and fortify us. We make sure we have enough not just for our needs, but our wants. We make sure we have shelter, and luxury shelter at that. We have excellent healthcare, well-paying jobs, top-quality education, and the list goes on. These are things we want for ourselves, things we give ourselves, because, frankly, we want them and we love ourselves in these manners. 

Would we want to live in a dirt-floored, scrap-walled shack, with unseasoned rice and beans whenever what little money we get comes in, no healthcare, no profitable job, and little, if any education? 

Of course not, but that is exactly how the majority of this world's population lives. If we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, then shouldn't we do something about this? A man even asked Jesus what he meant by our neighbours, because, you know, we tend to choose pretty well-off individuals to live near, if we can help it. Christ answered the man with the parable of the good samaritan. Our neighbour is our fellow man. What are we doing, then, sitting in our luxury, not looking after those in need? We should be, as verse 37 implies, doing likewise and helping those in need. Even earlier in Luke, in chapter 6, verses 20-38, we see Christ laying down even further how a Christian should be living. Do you see a common thread? Love is selfless. I was reading this passage this morning and verse 30 stood out to me:
"Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back."
I remember seeing beggars outside every shopping center and on almost every street corner. I nearly cried as I read that, recalling how many times I, with money in my pocket, lied and said I had nothing.

True Love is radical. It is self-sacrificial. We see in some of Christ's last words to his disciples what Love truly entails:

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:12-13
Christ considered as friends all who followed him, but the emphasis here is not on friends, but on the laying down of one's life. We see in Romans how Paul  talks about Christ having laid down his life for not just his friends, but his enemies, those who did not believe in him. If Christ loved us enough to lay down his life for us, friend or enemy, we, who are commanded to love as he did, should be doing the same, should we not?

Love is the answer to our issue today. Church, while we have Faith and Hope, if we do not have Love, how could we ever communicate the difference that Christ makes in us? How else could we even begin to combat the dystopianism and fear so prevalent in society today? We have the answer, but why do we not broadcast that? What do we try and assimilate ourselves into the very same culture from which we should stand apart? Has anyone ever changed the path of a river by flowing along with the current? No, we must stand up and live out what Christ commanded. We must come together and Love those around us - the early church had the right idea, pooling their resources and giving to those who were in need. If we want to make a change in the world today, we need to begin to love radically and lavishly. 

Who cares if the world mocks and derides us? We were already told that would be the case from the beginning. We have an opportunity to speak hope into this society, to avert the cycles of fear and fearmongering in society today, we just need to act now, to lean on God, and to Love.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Moving Blues

So, my wife and I are moving this weekend. Nowhere drastic, just to another place in town that's a bit more to our liking. The preparation process, however, has been a comedy of errors. In light of that, I thought I'd share some of the wisdom of hindsight.

  1. Always assume the power is off. Don't wait until two nights before to find this out - especially when you're moving at the end of summer.
  2. Always give time for the power company to turn the electricity on. Calling the day before might work if you're moving on a weekday, but be prepared to wait if you call on a Friday, especially before a long weekend.
  3. Always give yourself time to pack and move. This time, we're excused; it was simply the best time to move - it's not an exam weekend and we have Monday off to unpack/arrange everything. She does, however have two jobs and I have med school. Try and imagine how much we still have to pack
  4. Enlist help. Well, I can't complain here. We've got some excellent friends who've volunteered to help us tomorrow - S/O to all of you.
  5. Be prepared for lack of sleep, crankiness, and general lack of energy. I mean, I'm totally the nice guy who can run on a little bit of sleep five nights in a row. (You should see how many spelling mistakes I made on the first draft)
Not much more I can think of. Still, I'm excited for more floorspace, more storage, and hardwood floors. Who cares if the power isn't on, the food will have to stay at our old place, and we may have to shower there, too...

...I'm thankful we still have a good bit of time left on the old lease

Monday, August 31, 2015

That one about Love

Hey, long time no post, I know. Life's been crazy, what with weddings and medical school and all, but I've got something to say tonight.

I was spending some time in prayer. I'll be honest, I'm not exactly the greatest romancer. Don't get me wrong, I'm a romantic, but I can't romance to save my life, but that could in part be due to how I was treating Love.

You see, I treated Love as a set of obligations, a business contract to do loving things, if you will.

That isn't love.

Love isn't obliged or contractually given. Love isn't checklisted and boxed up in a neat little bow of red tape.


Love is felt, experienced and lived out. Love affects the way we speak and do. Love affects the way I look at my wife and the way I view others. Love keeps no stock of my current "Love exchange", but gives itself freely, with no strings attached.

After all, that's what Christ did.

He didn't say "Well, It looks like I haven't filled my Love quota for the human race, so I'll just go nail myself to a cross and die."

He didn't tally his love exchange with us and compare his balance, like we check our credit cards.

In fact, he didn't love me as I love everyone who isn't me, which is to say he actually loved me and considered me as someone worth dying for...

... and I hadn't yet done anything love-worthy for him.

You see, God is the source of Love. He is Love. Love can only truly be given from what he has given to us. Love can only truly be shared from the example he set for us.

Love is something I am learning and something I've come to realise I don't understand, because if I realised it, I wouldn't be confusing Love with contractual obligation. I wouldn't be conflating love and charitable consideration.

No, if I really understood love, everyone I came into contact with would know it, for c=such is the effect of love.

It is indelible.

It is like that piece of broccoli stuck in your teeth that everyone can see, but yet, unlike that broccoli, you want for it to be seen.

That is Love.

I have love, but, thanks to God, I am learning to Love.

Friday, June 19, 2015

No Man is an Island (Or, Humble Pie, with Love)

Earlier today, on Facebook, I wrote two frustration-tinged critiques of the NAACP and gun rights. Well, those didn't go over too well, but they prompted me to think and to think specifically on what's been irritating me in America that has led me to post such emotive, frustrated status updates rather frequently in the last few weeks and it's something that's seems rather innocent, but stands completely contrary to how I believe society should work.

I come from a culture that tends more to work for the benefit of the society as a whole. America is a lot more individualised in that respect. From my perspective, I don't tend to see people with the mindset that leads one to consider and contribute to another at one's own expense unless they're foreigners or have lived for a good while overseas. Rather, I tend to see individuals who stock up and bunker down in fear and mistrust over gun rights. I see individuals who would rather not help contribute to alleviate another's need, but instead call them a burden. I don't see people taking much time to invest in the poor and marginalised, to mentor and even sponsor those in need to help them leave poverty. To me, each of these is unthinkable. How people can live that way, I don't understand, but that's a difference of culture here as opposed to home.

Of course, I have my response to these issues. In my mind, what we need to do is to strengthen the bonds of community, to reach out and show ourselves trustworthy and allow ourselves to trust others. We need to push back fear and address our problem, seeking aid from those we have come to trust. Maybe then, I think, will the stigmas attached to being black end. Maybe then will the cycle of poverty lose its hold. Maybe then will rampant gun violence cease. We need to come from the bottom up instead of the top down. We need to engage, rather than shake fingers. That's what I think and, yes, it is affected by where I grew up.

In the end, though, I'm guilty. I'll admit it. I shake my fingers and sit back on my couch, feeling vindicated, but that helps nothing. I can try and "promote awareness" all day, but I'm just another voice in the mix with a prescription of how to fix America.

Ironically, this is spoken about in a Bible passage I've been reading over the last couple days:
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
That's a hard passage, but it's one I need to take to heart. I can say all the right things. I can prescribe very accurately what is needed in society today, but if I do so in a manner that is unloving, then I've done nothing. When has ranting ever brought about change? When has ranting ever brought salvation?

No, my first response should be love. Love should temper how I act and speak, not confusion or frustration, no matter how silly or pointless something may seem to me.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Christian Role-Player

Christians and role-playing games have a complicated history. From the early beginnings of table top gaming, Christians have been leery of and quick to denounce such games as evil.

While images such as the above are comical, they do exist and such is a very common thought. Ironically, what I find humorous is the fact that similar video games aren't spoken out against near to the same degree, but I digress.

Honestly, I can see where such fears arose. I have played and do pay my fair share of rpgs. AD&D, AD&D 2.0, D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, D&D 5.0. Yeah, I've played a few. There's magic, fictional gods, fictional demons, non-human races, and a whole lot more, and yet, I would argue that it's not inherently evil.

Now, don't get me wrong, you have the freedom to make an evil character, but that, as in video games like the Fable, or Elder Scrolls series, is all up to the player.

Okay, so, what about the magic? The bible speaks out against magic.

True, but I would say you must consider two factors. 1) Are you trying to cast said magic in real life? 2) In-game, what is the source of the magic? (why I personally will never play a warlock)

Well, what about the other gods? What if you want to play a cleric?

Well, yes, clerics tend to have a god they worship. Now, again, you have a few choices. You can choose not to play a cleric, find a way to incorporate God as an in-game deity, pick a deity with characteristics that follow along with God, or you can remember that this is pure fiction.

So, what then are your tips for Christian gamers?

I'm glad you asked.

  1. Consider the setting. Is your character good or evil? If playing with others, ate they good or evil? What about your source of magic or deity? Personally, I stick to good or neutral characters and parties.
  2. What type of content is present? If you're playing a table-top, ask the DM. If it's a video game, check the rating and find some good review sites that talk about the content.
  3. Is it edifying? If you find yourself being drained, addicted, or are otherwise experiencing some negative effect, then stop. If it's getting in the way of you and God, then stop.
So, that's it from me. In a nutshell, I would say that most games are not evil. While certain ones may be (GTA, for example), majority leave it up to the player. 

As a Christian, though, if you're playing a game in an evil manner, we should definitely do some talking, as often times individuals allow themselves to be freer and expose the state of their hearts.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Standing Tall

We're all human. We have our faults and failures. We have those little things that have big consequences that we struggle with and, if we're completely honest, we hate that we do. We wrap ourselves up in our guilt, self-bashing over the fact that we've struggling with something.

I want to tell you something:

There's no shame in fighting.

Seriously, though. If someone blindsided you in an alley, you'd fight (or run). If sometime grabbed you and started to pin you, you'd make a grapple check and fight to escape. If you were thrown into the middle of a war zone, you'd grab a gun and fight for your very survival.

So why do we heap on the shame when we fight with sin?

I think we, as the church, have a slightly misguided idea on sin. Actually, frankly, we don't talk about it at all, not personally anyway. We see in the bible that we are to become like Christ, we see those Christians who are mature in their faith and we compare ourselves in our deficiencies. We see pastors being attacked and laid low in ridicule and run because of sin, when it's truly a lack of grace and understanding on the part of the secular media.

Sin is real, people, and until we reach heaven we'll be dealing with it. Heck, that's part of a Christian's ministry, fighting with sin and showing God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness. After all, we have a reminder in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness, that in our failures, he has an opportunity to show his power.

Does this mean that we should sin more to honor God? Absolutely not! The personal goal of Christianity is to constantly become more like Christ. There is no way in which purposefully, constantly sinning brings us anywhere near that.

No, we fight. Sometimes we fight things we can deal with on our own. Sometimes we need to enlist the help of a brother or sister. But for all of those times and ask the rest, we still need to be relying upon and honoring God.

So, next time you feel in the dumps about wrestling with sin, remember, you're not alone. I can guarantee there are others in the church who have been exactly where you are right now.

Fighting is not failing. It's when you give up or give in that you've lost.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Other Servicemen

When it comes to supporting their military, America comes head and shoulders above every country I know. Biannually, we recognize military men and women, current and past, present and missing, living and passed. There are multiple charities and nonprofits whose sole purpose is helping veterans back on their feet. They even get discounts at many places.

I'm going to say something controversial: it's excessive. Recognition, I understand. Reintegration support and counseling, I understand. Rehabilitation, I understand. Discounts? No, not really.

I mean, I get it, it's a way for a business to express gratitude and appreciation and, were such a discount present solely on veteran's or memorial day, then I'd have no issue, but it's not. Ten percent, twenty percent discounts are available year-round and, as a result, from someone in the service industry, many military individuals and families develop a sense of entitlement to this treatment, expressing disgust when a business has no such discount.

Military, you are not entitled to such a discount. While I appreciate the service you give and gave, risking your lives abroad to protect those within the country, I strongly disagree with such special treatment. After all, there are many service individuals within our borders who perform the same base role.

Where is the annual day of appreciation for firefighters? Where are the police and sheriff discounts? Where are the support organisations for EMTs?

Each of these groups faces danger on a daily basis to help keep us safe; each has experienced the loss of fellows, yet we only thank and remember them on days of great tragedy, like 9/11 and many times, we leave them in the lurch, backing those acting against them.

If this attitude were displayed against the military, many world rail against such individuals, bringing them to task abd exerting much effort to shame them.

So, let's lose the discount, at least on non-remembrance days, and, instead, let us take the time to remember, celebrate, and offer discounts to the other servicemen and -women risking their lives for our safety and well-being at home. Let's remember the other servicemen.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

#RhodesMustFall, #Xenophobia, and #Baltimore

We're four months into 2015 and racial tensions are high.  Now, you American readers are probably very familiar with the Baltimore situation, but likely less familiar with the xenophobic attacks and outbreaks in South Africa and even less so the Rhodes situation.

Those of you who are familiar with all three are likely asking why I'm lumping them all together in one post. After all, they're in two separate countries; how much similarity can there be?

A lot.

South Africa and the USA share a common history. Both had colonial governments who endorsed slavery; both had racial freedom marred by state-instituted and -enforced segregation; and both are still experiencing backlash abd racial tensions regarding dissatisfaction with the lack of change since the establishment of equal rights and "true freedom".

Earlier this year, students at the University of Cape Town protested the presence of the statute of Cecil John Rhodes, South African governor under British colonialism, smearing the statue with filth and working towards its eventual removal. Rhodes was an effective governor, bringing much progress to the region, but he was also a product of the colonial mindset, which led to the protests that he was a racist abd led indirectly to the establishment of apartheid.

First cropping up in 2008, many black South Africans began raiding and looting small refugee-owned shops and businesses, as it was perceived that these foreigners were taking all their jobs. Earlier this year, those sentiments rose with added vengeance.

Last week another young black man was shot and killed by a white policeman. In a case similar to #Ferguson, and #Trayvon, many African-Americans rose up to protest a fairly well established sentiment of unequal treatment and perception and, as in Ferguson, rioting broke out in the wake of otherwise peaceful protests.

All of these events are linked by common action and perception. We have violent protests and vandalism. We have members of the aggrieved party seeking peaceful protest and reconciliation, even going so far as to help repair damage abd protect the attacked, urging others to abandon the violence and seek true restitution through peace.

My thought as a white resident of both countries is this: these events keep occurring. They won't stop until we treat the root cause.

So, what's the root? Disempowerment of the black community. Unfortunately, it's less simple to treat than state. You see, part of the problem is caused by the state and non-blacks, but part of the problem is also caused by the black communities in both countries. In both countries there is a trend of self-victimisation and entitlement, the mentality that, as the previously disadvantaged, recompense is deserved. This is partial exacerbated by policies such as affirmative action and BEE. Such a mentality, in any population, also leads to a welfare state as individuals wait for what they deserve to be given to them instead of seizing the opportunity now granted to pursue actively what was previously unavailable.

Freedom, you see, is not about equal results, but opportunities and I realise that, as a straight, white male, the opportunities are a little easier for me to obtain and that is the true fault off the system, the true issue being protested, that when all animals are equal, some are still more equal than others. We can only combat this, however, through coming together across communities, meeting one another where we are, and talking about it.

That is my challenge to you, reader. Step outside of your community, your associations, and start a relationship with someone different from yourself, be they black, white, Hispanic, Arabic, or some other racial or social group. If you already do this, excellent, now encourage others to do the same.

Church, now is the time to act. We follow a teaching of equality under the same God, that regardless of background, we are all still sinners equally in need of grace. So, let us come together across boundaries and worship as one body, setting the example for others in reconciliation.

I have been informed Mr Gray posed away from injuries sustained while resisting arrest, not from a gunshot.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Race, Riots, and Response

It is with heavy heart that I hear the news of what has happened in Baltimore. My heart breaks for the family of the deceased, but my heart breaks even more for the travesty that has emerged following his funeral.

I speak as a white man and a foreigner. I do not claim the right to diagnose and prescribe the correct path of action which needs to be taken to bring about change. I will leave that to men such as Dr Carson, or Marcus Roberts, both of whom have spoken out against the rioting.

Instead, I'm going to offer my perspective and thoughts.

If you're going to react to the killing of your race by another, particularly by someone of another race employed in law enforcement, then rioting is not the answer. Were I in that situation, I would want to change the perception of my race. Peaceful protest, respectfully seeking talks and reconciliation. Encouragement of forgiveness.

Not rioting.

Rioting tells the law enforcement that I am violent. It tells them that I will not consider others in my demands. It tells them that greater force is needed to contain such as myself.

Were I in this position, this image is one I would be loathe to present, especially if I wanted fair and equal treatment. It sounds counter-intuitive, but that's exactly the means encouraged and employed by men such as Dr King. Violence may salve our immediate hurt and thirst for vengeance, but peace and forgiveness will set the bones.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Put Another Spin on It

After God, my family, and science, music is one of my greatest passions, particularly music played by real instruments. I absolutely love classical music, rock, and jazz, usually in that order. I've noticed, however, that jazz and many of its offshoots tend to be overcast by rock and its unfortunate byblow, pop.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I find a band that decided to take popular songs and put them in another style. Introducing Postmodern Jukebox.

In my glee, allow me to share a couple good ones:

(A favourite song of mine done absolutely brilliantly. Were slash born in the French Quarter, this is what the song would sound like)

(A song that, frankly, is often overplayed, but is still nice. With this arrangement, it really is allowed to shine)

So, yeah, let's get jazz (and soul, and funk, and classic R&B) back into the limelight.

When Crap Happens

Many people often wonder why bad things happen to good people. As a Christian, that's a bit of a funny question, as really, none of us are good, but I digress.

Crap happens. I know. Right now, my car engine has konked out. I'm walking to work. (no complaints there - I've actually found I enjoy it and have turned down ride offers) Most frustrating, though, is the running of it all. At least I'm not in med school yet, but this really is chipping into wedding savings.

So, then, as a Christian, how should I react when crap happens?

The bible often talks about overcoming obstacles and drawing closer to God. Two such passages that come to mind are in Hebrews and James.

Now, yes, those passages are talking more about faith challenges, but I cannot help but tie them in to everyday struggles, too. After all, every struggle is an opportunity for us to lean on God and for God to display himself.

So, I don't know what will come of walking to work, but I look forward to the outcome and I pray for its resolution.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sanctify This

If you were to ask a theologian whether or not he or she were saved they would probably answer, "Yes." If you happened across a cheeky one however, said theologian might answer, "Yes, partially, and no." Why the difference? Well, as it turns out, what we would simply think of as "salvation" is not actually that simple. You see, salvation comprises three parts:

  1. Justification
  2. Sanctification
  3. Glorification
The first is the atonement of sin and imputation of righteousness through faith in Jesus and acceptance of his sacrifice on our behalf.
The second is the process by which a Christian grows in Christlikeness.
The third is the final removal of sin in its entirety and the presentation of our new bodies at the end of time.

Now, I was talking recently to a friend who's a bit of a legalist. Now, before you start getting up in arms about legalism and pharisees, this person wasn't a legalist in the historical sense, that is, one who seeks salvation through works and the law instead of through Christ's sacrifice, but rather, this friend was a legalist in sanctification. Mind blown, I began to ask, following a statement about comparing the present self to one's self in the past (in light of recession), about what it looks like, as a legalist, to look forward and compare oneself to Christ, as we are recommended to do by the author of Hebrews.

What I found to be interesting was that this friend didn't see sanctification, as I'd expected, to be a to-do list of ever-increasing magnitude and holy-seeming-ness, but a rather humble position. See, my friend saw sanctification as doing more as Jesus did, taught, and endorsed, through the power of the Holy Spirit. [my paraphrase]. 

This made me think about my own position, as I'm not a legalist, so I did a bit of thinking and came up with this: I view sanctification as, through the work and intervention of the Holy Spirit, being more as Jesus is, or to put it in another manner of phrase, increasingly taking on the essence of Christ, a view I decided to call Essentialism before later discovering that that was already a concept, with Theological Essentialism being very similar indeed. (I'm not claiming to be a TE-ist, just that I happen to thin like one in this instance. I don't know enough about the view to claim to be part of it)

Both of these views, I would say, have their benefits and deficits. One is more able to distinguish growth while the other is less prone to condemnation and doubt, but I wouldn't say either is completely unbiblical, either. That being said, I'm no theologian, nor am I completely unbiased.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Version Culture

A couple weeks ago, I heard something that gave me pause. I have a deep appreciation for good music and so, when I hear a piece that is good, I remember it and remember it well. I remember the lyrics, the intonation, the cadence and timbre of the singer's voice, the arrangement; all of it, really. Every single detail. So, on this instance, I paused, because I heard one such song. It was a song of notably poetic verse whose accompaniment accentuates the flow and shape of the song itself. 

Well, that's what I was expecting, anyway.

Instead, what I heard was an attempt to "Christianify" the song. The words had been changed to illustrate a particularly wonderful event in the Christian faith, but I couldn't help but feel that something had been lost, that we were all the cheaper for the mimicry.

Why do I say this? Well, answer me this question: instead of taking an existing song and rewriting it, losing the tone and essence of the original, can we not simply create something new and original with a life of its own?

Answer: we can.

See, in the book of Genesis, There's an interesting little verse that might shed some light on the issue.
"So, God created mankind in His image. In the image of God He created them. Male and female He created them" - Genesis 1:27
Wait. Hold that thought.

  1. We were created in the image of God. 
  2. God creates; He is the creator
Ergo, we were created with the ability to create. Don't believe me? Read these excerpts from various hymns.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
 - Frederick Lehman
Jesus, Keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain.
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary's mountain
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find,
Rest beyond the river.
 - Fanny Crosby 
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea billows, roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
 - Horatio Spafford 
Church, do you not see the beauty in this language? Do you not see the creativity that was poured into poetry and song?

We keep sitting back, recycling songs, Christianifying songs, modernizing songs. Isn't it about time we made something new?

Now, I'll take the current four-chord shuffle that's popular in music today. Blase as it may be, it's at least a start, but the current trend in modern worship music of rewriting the music of an older hymn to make it modern and relevant or, and I cringe at this, adding a tag into the hymn to make it one's own is not.

"But we're creating," you might exclaim.

Perhaps, but, you see, God did not just create; He created well. Genesis goes on to say that He surveyed all of his creation and, at the end, found it very good.

Church, we're falling behind. Our movies are stifling. Our art consists of poppy, feel-good slogans and mimicries. Our music is homogenously bland. (Let's face it, I don't really listen to the Christian station anymore. Once you've heard one CCM song, you've heard them all, musically and lyrically.) Our fiction is staid and stereotyped.

So, Church, I offer to you a challenge. Ironically, it's not one of my own, but rather an excerpt from Neil Gaiman's keynote address to the 2012 graduating class of The University of the Arts, which I find particularly noteworthy and applicable:
"Make good art."