Feb 29, 2012

Death notice

"Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence."

-- Oswald Chambers

Feb 28, 2012

The Tomb of the Unknown God

I went to hear Sequentia, one of the world's premiere Early Music ensembles (well, duo for this performance), perform in Houston last Sunday. The program was of musical fragments of German, Old English, and Nordic 9th-11th Century End of Time texts. The setting was the Rothko Chapel in the Menil compound area.

The Executive Director of the Rothko Chapel came out before the performance and briefly discussed the meaning and purpose of the Rothko Chapel (with its giant black and dark grey canvasses). She described it as "sacred space designed for spiritual contemplation," and as part of Mark Rothko's vision and intent. It has holy books from all the World's major (and not so major) religions, suitable for the quiet contemplation/worship of the god(s) of one's own choice (or of Mark Rothko). 

Rothko himself saw the chapel to be a Roman Catholic institution, based upon an Eastern Orthodox chapel. His monochrome paintings were meant to be references to the crucifixion of Christ. Dominique de Menil had other, more ecumenical, thoughts.

Mark Rothko committed suicide before the chapel was completed.

Feb 22, 2012

The Universe as a game of chance.

Imagine the universe's creation as a game of chance, like craps. Or like Russian Roulette perhaps. 


Click. Click. Click. 

(Really, imagine 480,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 clicks.)
Click. BANG!

A whale of a story, but that's not the point.

Jakob Steinhardt

There are times I really just want to leave people to their own devices. Wash my hands of them. Shake the dust off my feet and turn.

But it's not an option open to me. Therefore I must continue to say to them (and to myself), "Repent! The Kingdom of God is near!"

Jonah 3:1-10

Common English Bible (CEB)
Nineveh hears God’s word
 The LORD’s word came to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.” And Jonah got up and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’s word. (Now Nineveh was indeed an enormous city, a three days’ walk across.) 
 Jonah started into the city, walking one day, and he cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant.
 When word of it reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, stripped himself of his robe, covered himself with mourning clothes, and sat in ashes. Then he announced, “In Nineveh, by decree of the king and his officials: Neither human nor animal, cattle nor flock, will taste anything! No grazing and no drinking water! Let humans and animals alike put on mourning clothes, and let them call upon God forcefully! And let all persons stop their evil behavior and the violence that’s under their control!” He thought, Who knows? God may see this and turn from his wrath, so that we might not perish.
 God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.

Feb 16, 2012

Coincidental messaging service

Edward John Poynter, Israel in Egypt, 1867

My local classical radio station has been promoting the Texas Choral Consort's upcoming performance of George Frideric Handel's "Israel in Egypt" by breathlessly repeating lines from the oratorio regarding the Biblical plagues visited upon Egypt in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Excerpts from a recorded performance were played last night on the Classically Austin program as a way of promoting the concert. I have to admit to not ever having heard this oratorio before, and I was struck by the passages.

The Morning Prayer readings I use featured the first half Psalm 105 today (1-22). But I have been using the Evening Prayer readings since Advent, because the Psalmody is different, consisting either of different psalms than the morning readings, or of the second half of longer ones. Today's example was Psalm 105:1-22 for Morning Prayer, and Psalm 105:23-45 for Evening Prayer.

Now, in your mind's ear, hear the pleasant sounds you equate with Handel's more popular oratorio "Messiah", but insert these words from the latter half of Psalm 105 instead.

Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies.
He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants.
He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen.
They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham.
He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they rebelled not against his word.
He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish.
Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings.
He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies, and lice in all their coasts.
He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land.
He smote their vines also and their fig trees; and brake the trees of their coasts.
He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillers, and that without number,
And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.
He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength.
He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.
Egypt was glad when they departed: for the fear of them fell upon them.
He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night.
The people asked, and he brought quails, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.
For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant.
And he brought forth his people with joy, and his chosen with gladness:
And gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labour of the people;
That they might observe his statutes, and keep his laws. Praise ye the LORD.
Praise ye the Lord indeed, and wonder at the synchronicity of it all.

Feb 6, 2012


"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Feb 5, 2012

Getting a Sense of Perspective

If Monsanto used a food additive that caused 200,000 miscarriages a year in the USA, would people be upset enough to boycott their products?

If the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused 210,000 women along the gulf coast to miscarry last year, would that be a shocking scandal worthy of a boycott?

If Planned Parenthood provided abortion services that destroyed 220,000 fetuses in 2011... would that be a good reason to not send them any money?


As a culture, we now regard the beginnings of human life in such a way that might cause Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot to blush.  With dark, cruel certainty, we destroy life.

As much as anyone can be, I am a survivor of abortion, in that my mother's obstetrician told her I was a tumor in her uterus and should be removed immediately. He told her she was mistaken about being pregnant, and that putting off the surgery would endanger her life. She was convinced she was pregnant.  

She was right, he was wrong.

Feb 1, 2012

Saint Helena on the Prairie

Woke up here one year ago today. Saint Helena on the Prairie.
"There were...plots to rescue Napoleon from captivity including one from Texas, where exiled soldiers from the Grande Armée wanted a resurrection of the Napoleonic Empire in America."