Taking a Break

Thinking Out Loud

Seeing in the Silence

Ingmar_Bergman-The_Seventh_Seal-01

I recently re-watched Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” (that movie with the guy playing chess with death). It’s a great film about a knight (Antonius Block) who returns from the crusades to a Europe being ravaged by the black plague.   The title “The Seventh Seal,” is an allusion to Revelation 8:1- “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” The major theme of the film is the silence of God in tragedy. Very cheerful stuff. The film revolves around the characters’ coming to grips with faith and uncertainty. It’s a search for meaning in the midst of doubt. The main character is tortured with uncertainty and wants to hear, see, smell, and touch God but God does not show Himself to Block. I found aspects of the film very relatable.

As a person, I want to see and experience things. I want empirical knowledge of the world around me. I think that most people do. That’s what makes this film relatable. For Block, faith doesn’t come easily. Block earnestly tries to come to an empirical knowledge of God. But trying to filter God through empiricism didn’t work. He was left empty and saying things like, “To believe is to suffer. It is like loving someone in the dark who never answers.” At the end of the film death shows up and takes the characters with him. Although a skeptic, Block quickly cries out to a God that he has tortured himself with. Block represents what I believe the majority of people understand faith to be; something that helps us sleep at night.  I think that Biblical faith is much more than that.

Faith is not a shot in the dark; it is the light by which we see everything. It’s not blindly jumping but admitting that “I was blind but now I see.” It is as radical as being reborn. Faith presumes that man is the one in the dark and that God is light. It’s only through God’s light that anything is revealed. Whatever our reality is, it is a shadow of the truth that is revealed through faith. However “real” my knowledge is of the world, faith tells me that there is something exponentially more real. Faith isn’t opposed to empirical knowledge, I believe that empirical knowledge points to the experiential knowledge that we have through faith, and ultimately the perfect knowledge that will be given to believers through Christ in the afterlife.

One of the problems that I think most people have with this model is that it asks us to admit we are incapable of knowledge. This model causes us to pray that God would give us “eyes to see and ears to hear.” It admits that apart from God we are unable to understand anything. The Bible claims, “For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light.” Psalm 36:9. The Bible asks us to admit our own inadequacy (which agnostics do) and then to move beyond that to rest through faith in God’s sufficiency. This model does not tie every loose end but it tells us to believe that there is an infinite God who not only created the world but holds it in His hand. A sparrow will not fall without God’s sovereign hand and loose ends are held firmly by those same hands. Faith forces us to surrender ourselves. At times faith seems like foolishness but it is nothing compared to the seeming irrationality of the God of the universe surrendering Himself to die for people who hated Him. What part of that is reasonable?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.- I Corinthians 1:18-25

PS-

To those of us who have been blessed with faith I think that it’s worth remembering that faith should only increase our charity for those without it. “You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD”- Leviticus 19:14. Christians need to stop cursing “this dark world” and start helping others through it.

Graduation Goodbyes

Saying goodbye to people is hard, especially when you like them.  You don’t do anything to make somebody who they are but you do have to work on building a friendship with them. You can build them around all sorts of things. They can be about staying up all night playing Super Smash Bros, studying for a test, or pulling pranks. I think that we all hope our friendships become about who we want to be at the end of the day. I’m thankful that a lot of my friends at college were able to cross into that third group. Now that I’m done with college I probably won’t see many of you again. That stinks, but I think that is a good reminder of where we are. We live in a fallen world. Ever since the fall there has been discord sown into even the most intimate relationships. But the Bible teaches that God is rebuilding the Garden in our lives. As we reflect on how God is at work in our hearts and minds I think it’s worth recognizing how He used each friendship as a tool. As He brought us together for a time He has also brought us apart, and I trust that God had a good reason for creating a world that included distance. Right now He has given us different jobs to do but we can rest assured that His Word is true, and that He will bring all things together in Him.

Ephesians 1:10-

“that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”

 

Appomattox Court House

The McLean House

The McLean House

The Civil War cost more American lives than any other conflict in our nation’s history. Both the Union and the Confederacy fought with passion. However, only the Union would walk the long hard road to victory. Grant’s Army of the Potomac would finally defeat Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at a little village called Appomattox Court House. On April 12th 1865, Lee’s army laid their weapons down before Union forces. This would prove to be the beginning of the end of the Civil War.

Lee's Seat

Lee’s Seat

Appomattox Court House was not the site of a major battle and so for some time it went by unappreciated. Soldiers were not eager to erect monuments to the fallen because there had only been skirmishes there. After the war, Southerners would not look at Appomattox Court House with pride, but rather as an unhappy ending and the beginning of an unhappy story known as Reconstruction. Needless to say, the locals were not overly enthusiastic about the site. It was not until the 1930’s that Congress would pass legislation to put a monument on the site. The legislation snowballed and created a National Historical Park. The Park’s vision would grow and eventually legislation was passed to create a park in which the original village was restored to its 1865 condition. Thankfully, this vision has been successfully realized with few exceptions.

Grant's Seat

Grant’s Seat

The first thing a visitor to this park realizes is the scope of the park. Driving in, one passes signs designating Grant’s headquarters, Lee’s headquarters, a Confederate cemetery, as well as other historical markers. In order to get to the visitor center, which is located in the Courthouse of Appomattox Court House one has to walk down the old stage roads past several restored period houses. The entire village has been restored (with a few minor exceptions) to its original condition. Visitors are encouraged to explore the park at their own pace. Each building hosts its own exhibits. Some include archaeological finds and others merely help to show what life was like in that time period. The major attraction that every visitor should see is the McLean House. It was there on April 9th 1865, that Lee would officially meet with Grant and agree to surrender his army.

The Courthouse and Stage road.

The Courthouse and Stage road.

Appomattox Court House is largely a self-guided tour. However, there are many knowledgeable Park Rangers on staff to help answer visitor’s questions. At this park it would be advantageous to begin your visit with a Ranger talk. Starting at the visitor center, a Park Ranger will lead a tour group around the grounds and give an oral narrative showing the context and significance of Appomattox Court House.   This talk helps to show visitors how a dying backwater village’s geography tied Lee’s hands and brought an end to the Army of Northern Virginia. Being on site, and seeing the geography helps to explain the military decisions that were made.

A child's room.

A room from the McLean House.

Appomattox Court House is an important part of our nation’s history. It is located just a half hour east of Lynchburg. Before visiting the park it would be wise to first visit their website, located at: http://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm. Make sure to leave at least two hours for your visit. Cost is $5.00 a carload.

A typical exhibit.

A typical exhibit.

Art Appreciation: A Philosophy of History

Jackson-Pollock

If life is an art than history is a masterpiece.  It is the splattering of paint in a million different directions from trillions of different hands.  Perhaps this painting resembles a Pollock piece, a chaotic and arbitrary exhibition in each stroke.  Maybe each life is a decision to run its own direction with no regard for any overarching narrative except the arbitrariness of decisions.  No meaning beyond each mark on the canvas.

1024px-A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884

I believe that history looks more like A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (Georges Seurat).  Each life ordered, each life a dot on the canvas of history.  The painting is certainly comprehensible but not from the position of a dot on the page. In fact, the dots themselves have no meaning except what Seurat ascribes to them.  The historian is someone who tries to distance himself from his finite position on the canvas and examine the art of life from the position of the Infinite.

It could be said that the historian is in the business of making picture frames.  The historian has the task of framing sections of this infinitely complex painting into comprehensible bits that each person might marvel at.  The historian has the job of studying an incredibly intricate field and making sense of its pieces.  A good historian’s frame is clear and accurate, not disturbing the brush strokes of the Painter.  A bad historian will use a cloudy piece of glass, he will crop the painting in inappropriate places, and he will distort the brushstrokes to serve his own bias.  A historian must avoid Whiggish history, hagiography, iconoclasm (for iconoclasm’s sake), presentism, over-dramatization, over-simplification and a host of other pitfalls.  Historians have a tremendous responsibility to the public.  As we admire the masterpiece of history we should be awestruck by the complexity and beauty of the narrative and it should create a longing for the One who orders all things according to His will.

This entry was reworked from an earlier version which can be found at: http://dmyhren.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/art-appreciation-a-philosophy-of-history/  

A Christian Defense of the American Revolution

Something strange that I’ve noticed about Christians is that we tend to idolize the Founding Fathers more than most people do. I think that this is ironic when you realize what these men stood for. They were in open revolt to the God-ordained government. Many of the first Americans were devout Christians but they seem to have completely ignored Romans 13… Or did they?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+13%3A1-7&version=NKJV

Romans 13 seems to be pretty clear cut in what it requires of Christians and their obedience to government. Christians should obey the authority placed over them and pay the taxes that are due of them because God put those authorities into power. I totally and completely affirm Romans 13 but I think that perhaps we should take the time to understand what that authority is that God put over us. We need to have a more nuanced view of what the context of the American Revolution actually was before we pass judgment on it.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta

To understand the Revolution we need to understand a few things about the history of British government. Everybody knows that Great Britain has a monarch. When we think of Kings we tend to think that whatever the King wants he gets. His word is law. England is very different. Thanks to the Magna Carta the King’s power is limited. He is not absolute. The King is subservient to the law. This limitation of the government’s power would grow with the English Bill of Rights. This document required the King to seek the consent of the governed who were given representation in Parliament. In the British system, law was king and the government received their jurisdiction (lawful use of lawful authority) from these laws (along with common law).

Caligula: an especially bad Emperor

Caligula: an especially bad Emperor

The Roman system of government that Paul was under when he wrote the book of Romans was not the British system. Rome was established as a Republic that represented its citizens. Unfortunately, Rome evolved into an empire. The Senate lost its power and law became arbitrary. The Emperor could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Several of them passed laws declaring that they were gods. Law was no longer the rule of the land but a man was. The Emperor would turn Romans 13 on its head with some of the laws he spoke into existence. The Emperor would outlaw Christianity. So what should a good Christian do? Should he obey Romans 13 and deny Christ because the ruling official required it? The “law” and Christianity were in conflict. Of course Christians disobeyed the ruling authorities because government had absolutely no authority whatsoever to outlaw their conscience. Despite Rome’s best efforts to prove that law was arbitrary and manmade they failed to convince the early Church that all authority in Heaven and Earth had been given them. No, Rome was still subject to a higher law, just as we are today.

The prophet Elijah pronouncing judgment on Ahab.

The prophet Elijah pronouncing judgment on Ahab.                                                          The story of Naboth’s vineyard: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+21&version=NKJV                                                                                           The story of Jezebel’s death: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+9%3A30-37&version=NKJV

It is Biblical to recognize that the government is subservient to this higher law. God is a god of order and not of chaos. He opposes tyranny and arbitrariness in governments because tyranny is an attempt for man to play God. A tyrant rejects the authority that God allotted for him and instead seeks justification for his authority from power. All authority flows from his being, not from God and the natural law that God put in place to govern us. In Deuteronomy 17:18 God reveals this to us, “Now it shall come about when he [the King of Israel] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.” God shows us that even in Israel the King was subject to the law. The King couldn’t change the law to suit his desires. We read about a King who tried doing this in I Kings 21. It’s the story of Naboth and his vineyard. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel wanted Naboth’s vineyard but Naboth wouldn’t sell it. Naturally, Ahab killed him and took it as his own. God wasn’t pleased at Ahab so he sent the prophet Elijah with a message of doom; basically God was going to end his line and when Ahab died dogs would lick his blood and the dogs would eat Jezebel’s body. God could hardly have spoken more clearly on the subject of tyranny.

Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851

This brings us back to the American Revolution. When the Colonists rebelled were they out of line with Scripture? No, they were obedient to the authority that God placed over them. The American Colonists were not Americans, they were Englishmen who had travelled to an English territory and as such they still held their rights as Englishmen. For many years the crown had allowed self-rule in the colonies. New England had town meetings and Virginia had the House of Burgesses. Law required giving the American colonists representation but having them send representatives across the Atlantic was very inefficient considering how long it took news to travel and how far removed the representatives would have been from their constituents. Given the situation, loose self-rule made the most sense. As long as the British allowed the colonists self-rule they were keeping the law.

"Thus Always to Tyrants"

“Thus Always to Tyrants”

The problem came when the British began to usurp American authority. Suddenly, Parliament began passing laws on the colonies that the Americans could do nothing about. They were not represented. Their rights as Englishmen were violated. Town-Hall meetings were being outlawed and the House of Burgesses was being shut down. It was an abomination. That’s why “No Taxation Without Representation” became such a rallying cry for the movement. It carried a religious undertone. It stirred up memories of Naboth and Ahab. The British were out of order. They had no right to the American’s wallets just like Ahab had no right to Naboth’s vineyard. They weren’t given lawful authority to do so. The British were acting as tyrants. They went against God’s law of order, natural law. They went against their own laws by denying the consent of the governed. The Americans warned the British of this error many times but their council fell on deaf ears.

 

Benjamin Franklin's purposed Seal of the U.S. It depicts Moses leading Israel through the Red Sea.

Benjamin Franklin’s purposed Seal of the U.S. It depicts Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and the Egyptians drowning in God’s judgment.

 

The British refused to repent of their tyranny. Pride had clouded their vision. They forgot that their authority came from the law and not from themselves. In light of all this, I think it’s time to look back at Romans 13. The British were the ones who were resisting the authority that God had placed over them, not the Americans. The Americans understood that they were not ruled by men but by a system of laws that these men were responsible for carrying out. To obey the British officials would have been like the Early Church denying Christ because Rome said that it was the “law” (although not NEARLY as serious as that the concept still applies here). Law isn’t arbitrary, the mouth of man does not dictate it; on the contrary, it flows naturally from who God is. The Americans were obedient to God and natural law. The British were the ones in revolt.

New York, Universal Pre-K, and Politics as Usual

img_0279.jpg

If you listen to the news in or around New York City then you probably have heard a lot about the new mayor, Bill De Blasio.  A day hardly passes without hearing about what De Blasio did or said about something.  One of the stranger policies that he is pushing is universal Pre-K for the city.  De Blasio sees a problem with the city’s educational system and wants to fix it.  Here is a quote from his website: “Currently, only 23 percent of New York City high school students are prepared for college or a career. The percentage of black and Latino students prepared for college or a career is abysmal, at only 13 percent.”   To me those numbers are appalling.  After a student puts in 13 years worth of training they ought to be qualified to do something.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that another year in that system will fix anything.  In fact, I think that if the school system is left the way that it is you’ll see those numbers get worse.

Public education exists for the purpose of preparing the next generation of Americans to think efficiently and drive our nation onwards.  In many ways I think the system was a success.  In 1854 a British industrialist named Thernstrom visited Boston and had this to say, “ There is not a working boy of average ability in the New England States, at least, who has not an idea of some mechanical invention or improvement in manufactures, by which, in good time he hopes to better his position, or rise to fortune and social distinction.”[1]  What he is saying is that our educational system helped to promote critical thinking which promoted the industrial boom that the north was experiencing at the time.  What kept America moving forward was independent thought.

"Excelsior"- ever upwards.  It's our State's motto.  We are all for progress.

“Excelsior”- ever upwards. It’s our State’s motto. We are all for progress.  I think it’s achieved by independent thought.

That being said, I think that individualism ought to be one of, if not the, preeminent doctrine that our public schools teach.  I’m concerned that what De Blasio is advocating will not do that at all.  I think the best way to promote individualism is to give the students individual attention.  I am boldly suggesting that the state encourage private tutors; called parents.  When you are three or four years old you really don’t need to be institutionalized, that can wait until you’re like five.  I’m saying this as someone who never attended pre-school.  Even with the cards stacked against me, I somehow pulled myself up by my own bootstraps and made it through the rigors of kindergarten.  Lord knows it was difficult… but somehow I overcame.

Quite frankly, I think that this idea of universal Pre-K is a political ploy.  I don’t like politicians very much.  What they want and desperately need to do in order to keep their jobs is look like they are accomplishing more than we ever could have hoped for.  Every politician will want to say; “I did more to expand education in this city than anyone for 150 years!”  That’s why you’ll hear them saying, “We need more computers, more technology, more smart boards, in fact let’s just get the kids iPads!”  Politicians all want to seem progressive when it comes to education.  That’s why I think De Blasio is pushing universal day care… I mean pre-K.  He doesn’t want to do the dirty work of fixing the system but he wants to sound like he is.

Take a minute and appreciate how politically ingenious this move by De Blasio is.  He will be able to say, “I have added an entire grade level to NYC schools.”  And we won’t even know if it did anything to those awful stats he showed us until over a decade from now.  Meanwhile, he’ll be providing free day-care to his constituents.  The program is basically a bribe for voters.  Next election he will definitely make this a talking point.

I believe that there is another way to fix those stats De Blasio has on his website.  As emphasized earlier, I believe individual attention is the best way to educate someone.  But New York can’t afford this while it’s buying smartboards and paying for pre-k.  So, don’t buy smartboards and don’t pay for pre-k.  Instead, hire more teachers.  It might cost more than a smart board but it will do a better job of preparing students for the future. Large class sizes make learning and teaching much harder.  If you’ve ever been to a large lecture class then you are probably familiar with this.  While some teachers and professors are able to engage a class with the material in that setting it’s not always the case.  Also, if you’ve ever had the same instructor in a smaller setting, more often than not you’ll probably notice that you learned better.  I could go off on communication theory here but I won’t.

Instead, let me bring up homeschooling.  On average, homeschoolers score between the 65th and 89th percentile on standardized assessment exams.[2]  That’s compared to public schools, which average around the 50th percentile.  The best part of that stat is it doesn’t change based on ethnicity or socio-economic status.  The message is loud and clear, home schooling works.  New York should encourage homeschooling.  There could be many reasons for homeschoolers’ academic success but I suspect that the individual attention they receive is a big part of it.

I think we can agree this was positive propaganda.  Why not try to use it to fight the current epidemic of failing families?

I think we can agree that this was positive propaganda. Why not try to use it to fight the current epidemic of failing families?

If you want to affect those stats you need to do something radical to not only the educational system but also to the culture.  Aside from lowering class sizes, I think the State should try some propaganda.  Propaganda has a bad reputation for being a little manipulative.  But I think that almost all, if not all, media is manipulative (especially this blog post).  If the State wants to positively affect the culture than it should launch a series of ads focusing on the positive effects parents can have on their kids.  The ads should promote bland “family values.”  It doesn’t need to be religious or polarizing but it should try to foster a culture with a strong home life.  It should show loving families and paint an ideal.  Putting a positive role model in the public eye would not be a bad idea.

I hope that this entry challenges the way you look at education and the way you perceive politics.  Public education can work, but we shouldn’t be naïve enough to think that the politicians who control the schools are without ulterior motives.  Fixing this problem of underachievement in New York will not be easy and may cost some elections but I still believe that there are public servants out there.

At this point, if you are a New Yorker who has been interested enough to read this blog through than I encourage you to take the time to write to Governor Cuomo.  Governor Cuomo is considering implementing universal pre-k for the entire state but is letting De Blasio take the initiative in the city first.  I suspect that he is waiting to see how popular this program is with voters before he pushes it too hard.  If you agree with me than please tell him that you do not support the idea of universal pre-k and instead would like to see smaller class sizes in our schools.  If you disagree with me than please abstain from communicating with any elected officials or voters.  Politicians have to answer to the public, make yourself heard.

http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php – Here is a link to the Governor’s office, it will only take 5 minutes of your time.

-David Myhren


[1] James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 29.

[2] Julia Lawrence, “Number of Homeschoolers Growing Nationwide.”  Educationnews.org, May 21, 2012. (Accessed February 9, 2014). http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/number-of-homeschoolers-growing-nationwide/.

Confessions of Robbers and Cowards- A Review

I’ve always admired when people make confessions.  Spitting out who they are and what they’ve done.  It takes a lot of guts.  Confessions usually leave me feeling convicted and reminded of how similar we all are.

Which leads me to the point of this post.  I’d like to recommend one of my favorite albums to you.  It is Cold War Kids’ 2006 release, Robbers and Cowards.  It’s one of those Indie rock albums that you either are going to love or hate the sound of.  The whole record sounds like it’s holding on by a thread.  It sounds like a drunk trying to walk the line; at any moment it could all fall apart. It’s got groovin’ bass lines, drums that sound like they might be drums but are probably old pipes, post-punk guitar, some bar-room piano boogie, and a blue eyed soul singer that sounds like he might be a long lost son of Jeff Buckley and Jack White (not sure how that’d happen…).  It sounds broken and I think that’s the point.

Cowards_and_Robbers_Cover

The album centers on a bunch of different people giving their confessions to you.  They all sound like they are either broken or in a broken situation.  The title should give you a hint of the types of guys that you find singing to you.  Some stand out songs to me were sung by an alcoholic father who wanted to quit but couldn’t, a robber who realizes that he is his own victim, dirty laundry singing about judgment day, an inmate on death row who killed a guy for abusing his sister, and a young man struggling with religious convictions, a girl, and a sex drive.  Some others on the album include an angry 12 year old girl caught in her parent’s divorce and debating which one she’ll live with, a man who stole money from the Church’s offering plate to go on a vacation to Europe, a man on his death bed in a hospital without a doctor, a doubter who is afraid to confront their problem, an addict, and a good old-fashioned break up song.

I can’t tell you how refreshing I find this record.  Each person is treated with human dignity.  The songs do a great job of making you relate and sympathize with all of these people.  I actually found myself relating to the alcoholic father the most (I don’t drink or have kids ).   The point of the album is two-fold.  You should either listen to it now or confuse yourself with my interpretation of the record.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahB97nfRX84&list=PLeouDm4fzOSb7t3EcM4z21mtIdceRIQ0b

– Here is a link to the album.  I recommend buying it or using spotify but youtube works too.

The first point comes in the second track, “Hang Me Up to Dry.”  It’s the song sung by dirty laundry.  I assume that each character’s laundry is included in this song.  All of the characters live their life having fun in summer clothes splashing around in muck and mire (in other words they were sinning) and then they die (fell asleep with stains caked deep in the knees).  Their sins had permeated the core of who they were, “deep in the knees”.   Now they have to face judgment day.  “Hang me up to dry/ You rung me out too many times.”  The dirty laundry is being exposed; their sins were being displayed.  Obviously the sinner will try to ring out the dirt but it’s impossible. All of these characters were helpless.  Nothing that they did could fix their situation, whether it was alcoholism or their parent’s divorce they couldn’t do jack squat.  But lo and behold!  After the laundry was hung up to dry it was found “pearly like the whites of your eyes.”  How did this happen? “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”- Isaiah 1:18.  Jesus Christ cleaned their dirty laundry.  He forgave them of their sins and fixed their situation.  The final two lines of the song are about all of the people being redeemed.  (All mixed up in the wash/ hot water bleeding our colors).  The characters are all united in their salvation.  They are unified in Christ.  This song won’t make any sense until you listen to the entire album, but I have little doubt that this song is about Jesus Christ redeeming each character by grace alone.

The reason that I think this is the final track on the album, “Sermons vs. The Gospel.”  It was a secret track on the CD!  If you own the CD you have to wait like five minutes after the last song to here it.  I think that they did this so that after you get done listening to all these cryptic and crazy stories of broken people you will scratch your head and say, “What the heck did all of this have to do with anything?” and then as you think disturbed thoughts in your head you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a “secret song” that explains why the album was actually cohesive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m1s_xre_bA – “Sermons”

The song “Sermons” is about each character’s moment of repentance.   The singer realizes that everything they did was all for naught.  Everything was vanity.  Nothing could fix their situation.  “All the money in the mint couldn’t water a drought.”  And in a moment of desperation they cry out, “LORD HAVE MERCY ON ME!”  Finally when they had come to the end of themselves they found salvation in God’s grace.   The problem with man is his heart.  We are all as wicked as any one of these people that was sung about on the record.  The only hope of fixing anyone on this record (or in reality) is God extending mercy.  “Lord have mercy on me, say it even if you’re robbing from the poor, Lord have mercy on me, I believe the words will change the heart.”  The way that God extends grace is first through recognizing our own depravity.  Realizing that we are helpless.  We cannot fix ourselves.  Once we realize this, the only reasonable thing to do is quit trying and cry out to God for mercy.  Salvation is depending on God to save you from yourself and your dirty laundry.  This record was about each character’s repentance and their confession.

There were plenty of terrible people on this record, but grace was extended to each of them.  On judgment day they were all declared innocent of their sins because of the faith they had in Christ and His sacrificial work on the cross.  This record ends with a warning; judgment day is “getting closer everyday.”  We are all robbers and cowards save by the blood of Christ.  The only way to fix yourself or your situation is to find mercy from the Lord.  If you don’t then when you hang up your clothes to dry they will still be caked with mud.  It is a call to repentance.  Without a doubt, this is my favorite piece of art.

Taking a Break

Welcome to my blog.

Welcome to my blog.

 

My family never had cable growing up but we did have the antenna.  The antenna was not really that great.  We didn’t get all of the cool channels.  I mainly watched PBS.  Since PBS was primarily educational programming, I was forced to do other things for fun.  In retrospect, I am glad we had the stupid antenna instead of cable.  I probably would have turned into a real bum with cable…

…Netflix.  Now we all have Netflix.  It’s really great and I love it.  I can watch as much TV as I want on my computer whenever I want.  That is the problem; I’m addicted.  I remember one winter where all I did was work, come home, shower, eat dinner with my family, and watch an episode or 12 of Lost.  Lost is an awesome show but every episode is a cliffhanger and when you have Netflix you pop them like candy. (btw- I have nothing but the upmost respect for John Locke.)  However, this experience showed me that I have a serious problem with wasting my time on entertainment.  It’s not that entertainment is wrong, I just have a tendency to only look for ways to entertain myself.

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I’m taking a semester off from college before student teaching.  I’ll be working construction and hanging out at home.  I know that if I’m not careful I’ll end up coming home and watching TV all night.  That is something that I don’t want to do.  I want to use this time as an independent study.  I want to keep reading and writing.  Unfortunately, I don’t trust myself enough to just journal on my own; hence this blog.  I figured that it would keep me accountable to the entire universe.  I’ll probably try to post something every week or two but we will see how busy I am before I make any promises.

I’ll try to give a unique perspective in these posts.  I’ve been told that I’m “eclectic” and I’d agree with that.  I wouldn’t consider myself a contrarian but I would say that I’m my own person.  I went to a Southern Baptist College and attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church while I was there.  I’m a conservative Evangelical but I prefer npr over Fox News (just preference, they’re both biased).  I’m not afraid of disagreeing with everyone else in the room (to a fault).

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I’m not sure what I want to write about but I’ll try to keep it thought provoking.  I studied social science, education, and government for my degree so they will probably be common topics.  I’m also a Christian so I’ll probably post about my faith from time to time.  I love me some theology…  I’m also really into trail running.  I did several ultra-marathons at college and will probably try to keep running some while I’m home.  I might post about trails and routes and stuff if I find anything interesting.  I also love the blues.  I taught myself to play harmonica and music in general is great, so that might be a topic.  My brother is studying film so I might throw a few shameless plugs his way if he makes a video.  Anyway, the point of this is to keep my mind from turning to mush in front of the TV, so whether or not you chose to read it is fine.  In the end this will probably just become a way for me to write about my 2¢ on anything I feel is worth talking about.

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