My Love-Hate-Love Relationship

Yeah, it's complicated. Sometimes, I feel the strongest love and devotion, and other times nothing but pure hatred -- oh, the arguments! The stereotypes and cliches! The ignorance, the stupidity! But just when I think I'm over it, just when I think I couldn't possibly love again, I go running back.

Today, I think I'd be willing to propose. To Boundless, that is.

A few days ago on the Boundless Line I got into a rather heated debate with one of the writers about environmental issues -- see, he's one of those vitriolic global warming skeptics. And he somehow thinks that by insulting his opponents, he'll solidify his own position -- really, it just makes him look like a jerk.

But then, this morning, all was made right again in the sick, twisted little universe of my relationship with Boundless. Because I read this:

Dear Boundless Answers:

I had an interesting conversation with two older women of my church. I asked them if they thought that I was ready for marriage yet and they both said "no." They challenged me, asking me if I thought that I was being the "best that I could be" in every area of my life.


Should a woman totally overcome her insecurities before she gets married (to avoid bringing in that "excess baggage")?

And now, the response, from Candice Watters -- hang in there and read the whole thing. It's so great that it deserves being reproduced in its entirety here:

I don't know you beyond your e-mail, so I'm reluctant to challenge feedback from women in your church who presumably do. But I also know that if what they'd said was based on Scripture, I'd be more likely to agree with them.

What they said sounds cliché. Their assertion that you should be the "best that you can be" in every area of life before you get married scans like a positive thinking infomercial. It's based on the belief that we are not only perfectible, but also that we can perfect ourselves. It's certainly not rooted in what the Bible says about sin (that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God") and our need for a Savior.

Do you need to learn to love yourself before you can ever give your love to another person? Not according to Scripture. Jesus said "love your neighbor as yourself." This is something you can do immediately. No learning curve required. We're selfish by nature; that's why Jesus made self-love the measure for how we treat others. He knew we would get the shorthand of what He was saying.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man?" and answers, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The purpose of our lives is not to self-actualize, but to bring glory to God. How we feel about our looks, or weight, or job, or social life, or any other measure of success on any given day is, in the scope of eternity, irrelevant. Does God want us to be full of joy? Yes. Is that joy dependent on your self-image? Thankfully, no. His joy and peace are among the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They come by giving thanks in all circumstances, praying without ceasing, and cultivating the Holy Spirit's activity in your life. None of this hangs on what kind of "self-image day" we're having. Though I know in my life that the more I practice these spiritual disciplines, the more irrelevant my externals become.

What about their appeal to Adam and Eve as "worked on by God and therefore complete before they met?" It implies that somehow the first couple came "baggage-free" (a pop-psychology favorite). But you need to read only a few verses down to see what failure these "complete" humans were capable of after God was done making them. Beyond the reality that God put Adam to sleep until the surgery was over, and kept Eve that way until she was fully formed in flesh, I don't see any evidence that the two were perfectly ready for marriage, or any other serious undertaking, the way your friends implied. Adam and Eve were, as we are, fully human, with the freedom to obey or not.

I suspect when the two women you spoke with married, they still had growing and maturing to do. I did. And I do believe they meant well.

But what would be more helpful than telling you to stop thinking about marriage till you're perfect is to give specific areas of growth to be working on while you're praying for marriage and being intentional about helping it happen. Offering passages of Scripture for study (Titus 2, and Proverbs 31 for starters), examples of where you fall short on what the Bible requires, and relational support for helping you grow is the kind of mentoring you need. But it shouldn't stop there.

Titus 2:3-5 says:

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

This passage suggests that the younger women in need of spiritual nurture and practical training are already married. The passing on of wisdom from the one generation to the next is to take place in the context of marriages already formed. If, as is the case in our culture, the younger women are having trouble finding and marrying godly husbands, then helping them do that should be the first order of business on the older women's to-do lists.

When are you ready for marriage? When you're no longer a child; when you're ready to take on the adult responsibilities that marriage brings. That doesn't mean you can use that as justification for avoiding responsibility ("I'm just not ready"). Unless they're specially gifted for celibate service, Christian men and women should be gearing up for marriage in their early 20s. It's not only their best time for meeting mates, but also their most fertile time for forming families. If you don't feel ready or willing to take on adult responsibility, the solution isn't more passage of time, but likely, accountability from the older believers in your church.

Which brings us back to your dilemma. To get the most help from the women in your Bible study, I think you might need to re-tool your question. Instead of asking, "Do you think I'm ready for marriage?" you might say, "I believe, based on what I read in Scripture, that believers are called either to celibate service or marriage (Matthew 19:11-12). I know from my desires and drives that I'm not specially gifted for celibate service, so what I'm wondering is, based on your understanding of Scripture, what are the things I need to be working on to prepare for the responsibilities that come with marriage and motherhood?"

Then, based on what they answer, you might follow up with, "Would you be willing to pray with me about those areas and pray for me that God would make me more like Him and bring me a godly husband?"

It's not enough to seek out older believers. The goal is mentors who rightly divide the Word. It will be to your benefit and His glory.

OH, gosh, you guys. The advice this girl's older friends gave her used to drive me BONKERS. I knew far, far too many jacked-up people -- Christians who were FAR from baggage-free -- who'd made it down the aisle to believe that God only wills marriage for people who've learned to love themselves or become complete in themselves or whatever (puke).

If you have single friends, I beg you, don't give them this advice. Don't tell them they have to take time out of their search for a spouse in order to become more Godly. And don't let it slide if they say, "Well, I'm just going to take this time to work on myself, because I need to be content in myself before I try to look for a wife/husband." Challenge them. Remind them that God's in the business of using imperfect people in his grand story of saving a people for himself -- he even blesses imperfect people! He gives them the incomparable gift of salvation, together with every other spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.

Furthermore, he uses our daily lives, our circumstances, and our relationships to sanctify us. Every part of our lives falls under God's sovereignty, and as Christians, every moment of our life is spiritual -- not just the times when we're reading our Bibles or sitting in church or talking about Jesus or whatever, but the times when we're stuck in traffic or reading blogs or talking about sweet vs. unsweet tea. In other words, we don't have to take a silent retreat or avoid complicated relationships to discover God's will for us as individuals or in community -- our Father guides us in our REAL LIVES to make godly, appropriate choices, and he transforms us into the image of His Son through our REAL LIVES.


Two Things

1. BAH! I hate possums!! I was going to post a picture to give you an idea of how disgusting they are, but I didn't have the heart. They are SO foul. Last night while Katie and I were enjoying a lovely evening on the porch, a nasty possum tried to climb up the steps. Hang on, aren't they supposed to be afraid of people? Evidently not, because after Katie (my hero!) shooed it away while I tried to suppress the urge to shriek uncontrollably, the dang thing skittered through the bushes and tried to jump up on the other end of the porch, mere feet from us, with the porch light glaring away! SICK ME OUT! SICK ME OUT!! Dude, a possum is basically a R.O.U.S. It's a two-foot-long rodent with a ratty tail. RAT! SICK! That's right, everyone, a RAT (possum), a giant RAT (possum) tried to JUMP up onto my porch while I was sitting RIGHT THERE. AUGH! Am I making the trauma of this moment clear to you, folks? A RAT!! (possum)

2. I'm driving home a week from tomorrow. Oh, you'd like to see the route? I thought you'd never ask.


You Won't Regret Following This Link

Actually, I kinda hope that none of the link-rabbit-holes I've sent you down have caused actual regret...

Anyway, it's a great article from Boundless on "thinking Christianly" about culture.

Two thumbs up.


This Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Poetry.

I was noodling around slate.com today reading "Dear Prudence" and an interesting article about Passover when I noticed a link to Slate's video website, the very cleverly named SlateV.com. The video is part of a series in which Emily Bazelon, one of Slate's senior editors, interviews her friend Dr. Sidney Spiesel, a pediatrician and immunologist, about various issues relating to children's health. The videos are usually about 5 or 6 minutes long and have been pretty interesting so far. Today's installment related to the ever-controversial topic of vaccines.

In the 1970s and 1980s, rumors swirled about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, particularly the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus; now replaced with DTaP, a so called "acellular" vaccine, purportedly safer) vaccine, which caused a spate of highly publicized adverse reactions in 1974. My aunt, with many others in her generation, opted out of having her kids vaccinated. Over the years, some folks have continued to opt out, their opinions bolstered by the incredible amount of information available on the subject that has seemed to link vaccines and autism, for instance. Since the late 1990s, the number of parents opting out of vaccinations has nearly tripled, from around 1% of the population to around 2.5% of the population.

Obviously this is good timing, and I appreciate the effort on Dr. Spiesel and Ms. Bazelon's part to put this together. But good heavens, if this video isn't an example of poor communication, I don't know what is! A friend and I were recently discussing vaccinations, since she opted out of the Hepatitis B vaccination for her son (reasoning: her hours-old infant does not need "protection" against a sexually transmitted disease), and we both agreed that there is just not enough objective information available for parents to make a fully informed decision. Either parents have to rely on slightly hysterical pronouncements from the anti-vaccination lobby, or they have to trust the government. That's a baaaaad choice to have to make.

Argh, this is getting too long. All I'm trying to say is this: throwing around phrases like "very bad research," "weird beliefs," and "very, very naive" doesn't advance your cause. Basically Dr. Spiesel didn't actually explain anything, he just said, in essence, if you refuse to vaccinate your kids, you're a naive sucker with weird beliefs, and I won't have you in my pediatrics practice. That's not an argument!

I'm not saying you shouldn't get your kids vaccinated; certainly not. Herd immunity is a powerful thing. Just look at the "Anti-vaccinationist" page on Wikipedia and you'll see a dozen examples of what happens when the vaccination rate drops -- you get outbreaks of diseases like measles and smallpox, which our generation has virtually no experience with. So, in theory, I'm very pro-vaccination.

But I am saying that, if vaccines (and their preservatives) are perfectly safe, if they cannot cause autism or neurological disorders, than the government needs to appoint a third-party research group to perform exhaustive, long-term tests, and release the study results in a form that parents can understand. Patting parents on the head and saying, "Look, trust me, I'm a doctor, and that's all you need to know," is not going to cut it. Not when we have Thalidomide and massive drug recalls in our not-so-distant past.


Song for the Mofa Seven
Jamie Barnes

Lover of mine
It's time for us to leave
The age of subtlety is finally over
Lover of mine
You've got to give it up to God
Unfold out of the dark and make things happen

If we make it through security
We'll ask the Germans, the Japanese,
Rush the gates of every embassy

It won't always be
It won't always be this bad
It won't always be.

You've got to push the kids in first
Get a foot on forgiving land
And I'll push away the bayonets
And push away Satan's hand
And go past the walls and past the filth
Past the dogs of Kim Jong-Il
Cross the waters up on rotted stilts

It won't always be
It won't always be this bad
It won't always be

Lover of mine
You've got to show me where you are
Hang out your bloody star from the hooks of heaven

And I will take you out with a grieving spoon,
Smuggle you out behind black balloons,
And we'll take the victory lap around the dying moon.

It won't always be
It won't always be this bad
It won't always be
I Sing the Mighty Power of God
Isaac Watts

I sing the mighty power of God,
that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God's command,
and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord,
who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word,
and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed,
wherever I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread,
or gaze upon the sky.

There's not a plant or flower below,
but makes Thy glories known,
and clouds arise, and tempests blow,
by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee
is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be,
Thou, God art present there.


A Story

Li-Young Lee

Sad is the man who is asked for a story
and can't come up with one.

His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
Not the same story, Baba. A new one.
The man rubs his chin, scratches his ear.

In a room full of books in a world
of stories, he can recall
not one, and soon, he thinks, the boy
will give up on his father.

Already the man lives far ahead, he sees
the day this boy will go. Don't go!
Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!
You love the spider story. You laugh at the spider.
Let me tell it!

But the boy is packing his shirts,
he is looking for his keys. Are you a god,
the man screams, that I sit mute before you?
Am I a god that I should never disappoint?

But the boy is here. Please, Baba, a story?
It is an emotional rather than logical equation,
an earthly rather than heavenly one,
which posits that a boy's supplications
and a father's love add up to silence.


a sparrow and a chickadee quarrel in hops and spins
in purple fragrant clover and climbing weeds

a bumblebee ambles from stem to stem


you can hear the twisting dogwood's flowers
press on their cocoons
Rejoice, now, all heavenly choirs of angels,
and celebrate the divine mysteries with exultation;
and, for the victory of so great a King,
sound the trumpet of salvation.

Exult, also, O earth,
enlightened with such radiance;
and, made brilliant by the splendor of the eternal King,
know that the ancient darkness has been banished from all the world.

Be glad also, O mother Church,
clothed with the brightness of such a light,
and let this house resound with the triumphant voices of the peoples.
Wherefore, dearly beloved,
who stand in the clarity of this bright and holy light,
join with me, I ask you,
in praising the loving kindness of almighty God;

through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and rules with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.



Spring is Nature's sun-dappled apology
for the hateful ice and dark of winter.



So... unrelated to poetry, unless you count word economy, cleverness, and snark as poetry, is this: six-word reviews of all 763 South by Southwest bands. A few examples:

Citay: Open wide for this, NPR listener!

El Jesus De Magico: I have just become an agnostic.

Freshkills: They took on songwriting... and lost.

Iota: Grrrg glb alg grrnk fffbf jfffddd.

Lindsay Jane: Let's go cry in my dorm.



by John Donne

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done ;
I fear no more.


God’s Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.