“…and suddenly a sound…”

June 10, 2008

Editor’s Note: Below is the first place winner in the aesthetics category for the Stepping into a Violent Wind Writing Competition:

Step into the wind
feel it blow away the dust
gathered while sitting in church.
Step into Pentecost
watch it turn the world inside out
and outside in
bringing in the hurting and dirty
from the margins of ceremonial cleanliness
centering lives in love
and sending the centered
out beyond boundaries
with new hearts and bold words of love
and the wind blows
and all the edges blur.

Step beyond the edge of reason
here is freedom from logic
the ability to act in ways that God leads
even though they don’t make rational sense
to speak a new language
to speak the word of God
to believe resurrection
to love with drunken disregard for societal standards
The Holy Spirit has freed us
chiseled us like fossils from rock bed
of the oppression of understanding
and the wind blows
and fresh words begin to sprout

Step out of time
learn new antiquities
discovered for the first time
read the ancient story
still being written
we are the ink
a cursive font
a smudged love letter
and the wind blows
and all the pages turn

Author Bio: Ted currently lives, works, and writes in Kansas City, Missouri with his wife, Sarah.   He’s loved writing since before he could even write, and lately he has enjoyed writing mostly poetry.  Ted and Sarah are preparing for a 6 month trip to Asuncion, Paraguay which you can read about here.


May 29, 2008

The following is a poem I’m working on in the spirit of the Beatitudes. It was birthed out of this week’s focus in the Missio Dei Breviary. Let me know what you think. I’m actually going to perform it “Beat” style at our Sunday Missio Dei gathering (by the way, the name “beat” actually comes from the Beatitudes):


Good pauper, happy pauper
Others pay top dollar to look the way you look
When you roll out of bed
Simple, shabby, and unadorned.
Thrift-store necessity not thrift-store chic
Working with your hands to build today
No hope to purchase the future
Caught on the wrong side of the white picket fence

Good pauper, happy pauper
The Landlord of Heaven has been temporarily evicted
Making his home in your part of town
Walking your cracked sidewalks
And eating at your White Castle
He’s come to clean up the neighborhood
And has a place for you in his mansion
Which is yours for the taking

Good mourner, happy mourner
Seeing the world as-is
Your belly aches for all the misery
Your throat catches for all the beauty
The King Mourner comes
Calling the tax-man to account
Wooing the whore to be his lover
Receiving the treasure of the poor

Good mourner, happy mourner
Your feet are sore from wandering
Your eyes swell shut to close out the lies
Your fists clench against injustice
The Chief Cynic twists the plot
Naming your enemies as his beloved
His feet glistening with smutty tears
The stranger becomes host

Good gentle-soul, happy gentle-soul
You don’t want to stick it to the man
You don’t want to step on the woman
You want them to be happy
Seeing no difference between plumber and prince
You humbly bumble through this vicious world
Confused by oppression and pride
Your tender heart is bruised by inequity

Good gentle-soul, happy gentle-soul
Your mouth curls up to giggle
Your ears embrace the word made flesh
Your fingers tap a song of ascent
Dancing in the retinue of the King of Fools
He knocks over the cash registers of the Christian bookseller
He puts the town slut on the deacon board
He gives the poor his crown

Good famished, happy famished
Your stomach growls for justice
Your throat scratches for righteousness
But the amber waves of grain are a desert
And the Mississippi has dried up
As your children die for oil and sand
As the breadbasket becomes a dust-bowl
And the Church makes dirt-pies

Good famished, happy famished
The Spirit is God’s sous-chef
Marinating the days
Sautéing the bitter herbs
To create a culinary masterpiece
Soon you will eat yourself sleepy
And take a nap at Abraham’s bosom
As darkness scratches at the window

Good merciful, happy merciful
You’ve broken the gavel
Tossed aside the stone
Dropped your lawsuit
And torn up your shit-list
Your own shame is still wet
How can you paint guilt on another?
So you stencil the courthouse with doves instead

Good merciful, happy merciful
Your anger has dropped to a whisper
And your wrath has ebbed
Like the tides of God’s justice
That carved you into a smooth stone
That skips across the deep
And sinks to the bottom
Where you rest in the cool calm

Good pureheart, happy pureheart,
You don’t leave an aftertaste
Like tap water from the white house
Which tastes like steel and rot
And only good for flushing
God uses you to water his orchard
And to make lemonade
Which he serves at fancy dinner parties

Good pureheart, happy pureheart
You see God for who he is
You can see him without your face-melting
Like the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark
You aren’t enslaved to power or greed or sex
You don’t hoard stuff of whore self
Or treat God like a vendor or pimp
So you’re invited to the next dinner party!

Good peacemaker, happy peacemaker
You weld machine-guns into bicycles
And sabers into garden hoes
You grow vegetables in rich soil
And load them into your bike trailer
Where you make vegetarian chili
Share it with your neighbor
And season it with love

Good peacemaker, happy peacemaker
You don’t hide away from violence
But lay down in front of it
Calling soldiers to become farmers
And turning tanks into turnip trucks
You dance with your enemy, cheek to cheek
The divine tango of the transformed
A sacred salsa of salvation

Good persecuted, happy persecuted
You’ve upset the wrong people
For all the right reasons
Some write bad theology against you
While others plot murder
But the roads of the Kingdom of God
Are paved with the bones of the prophets
And are edged with the skulls of the saints

Good persecuted, happy persecuted
You will be roasted, crushed, and French pressed
An earthy-sweet beverage in the mouth of God
But bitter in the mouths of your enemies
They offer you a death sentence
As you offer them your prayers
They are building an Empire
But you dwell in the Kingdom of God

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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Radical Dissent: Poetry By Wendell Berry and the Mad Farmer

May 23, 2008

Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors and, perhaps, one of my favorite humans (at the very least, an exemplary man). I wrote him a letter last year to express my gratitude for his books and to ask his advice about my upcoming graduation/anxiety over an impending “Career.” He responded back pretty quickly. When his letter arrived, my wife knew about it before I did but kept it a secret all day. She was waiting until I could see for myself his personal envelope. Let me just say, her patience wasn’t for nothing. One of the biggest smiles I’ve had in a long time snuck right up—like an upturned watermelon poking out of my mouth. To tell you the truth, I almost yelped!

Mr. Berry seems to embody an aged aesthetic—like an expensive bottle of wine. In our culture of immediate consumption, trash heaps, and throw-away containers he narrates a relevant (not pre-packaged) vision of community wholeness: a delicate balance between the tannins, fruits, and acidities of deeply imagined membership and radical dissent. Yet many modern readers and critics feel satisfied labeling Mr. Berry as merely a “regional” author, unwittingly relegating his poetry, prose, and fiction into the dark cellars of marginal notoriety. And it seems Mr. Berry is perfectly fine with that arrangement—much like his satisfaction in traditional farming. In fact, though this tends to infuriate the naysayer, he actually prefers working within certain small-scale and low-tech limits—i.e., using independent publishing houses and refusing a computer. As a result, his work, rest, and play—as both an author and farmer—tends to produce a taste that is borne along the so-called periphery.

Despite flying under the mainstream radar, many prominent reviewers across dividing lines count him as one of America’s most vital prophetic voices alive today. He has inspired many of us to work with our hands so to speak and to do so creatively in light of the Industrialists’ and Militarists’ technocracy we currently find ourselves in. He represents a subversive and creative outpost for economic and ecological health (i.e., true sustainability), and yet somewhat surprisingly he has not been given a prominent voice in the American social and political conversation. However, through his writing and way of life, he has been able to at once reassure many of us about what is true and to invite our cooperation in his ongoing “resistance.”

Copied below are two poems written by his infamous agrarian anarchist, the Mad Farmer. This character, like Mr. Berry, embodies a biting (yet magnetic) religious, economic, and political conviction—and demonstrates a truly paradoxical and inspiring path. As you read these poems keep in mind the language he uses and the relative ease by which his message and critique can be applied to the political/economic life of modern evangelical communities. And let me know what you think.

The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
so often laughing at funerals, that was because
I knew the dead were already slipping away,
preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
be resurrected by a piece of cake. “Dance,” they told me,
and I stood still, and while they stood
quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
“Pray,” they said, and I laughed, covering myself
in the earth’s brightnesses, and then stole off gray
into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
When they said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,”
I told them “He’s dead.” And when they told me
“God is dead,” I answered “He goes fishing every day
in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.”
When they asked me would I like to contribute
I said no, and when they had collected
more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
When they asked me to join them I wouldn’t
and then went off by myself and did more
than they would have asked. “Well, then,” they said
“go and organize the International Brotherhood
of Contraries,” and I said, “Did you finish killing
everybody who was against peace?” So be it.
Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.

Wendell Berry
from Farming: A Hand Book

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry
from The Country of Marriage

Author Bio:: The most important details anyone might need to know about me are the following: (1) I am married to a beautiful Peruvian woman (who, incidentally, knows how to make the best ‘comida peruana’ in the whole-wide-world!) and (2) my current life consists of graduate school, social work, writing, and procrastination–the real way to get stuff done! You can read my further ramblings at

Once Upon a Time…

May 20, 2008

story Read more

Songs for Ordinary Time

May 12, 2008

Come late November, the seasons of the Christian calendar will begin to recycle themselves. Advent will bring hopeful waiting and preparation, followed by the celebration of Christmas, identification with Christ’s suffering during Lent, redemption of Easter and the fulfillment of Pentecost. Yesterday we celebrated the promised gift of the Spirit of the Trinity. Today, we start counting Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time…

The time of growth…

The time of day to day clinging to the vine and working out our faith with fear and trembling…

The time of going beyond the hopefulness, the waiting, the celebrating, the preparing…

The time of fleshing out what it means to be the Church and bring the Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Ordinary time is when the Body of Christ stops staring up into the sky and starts living as the type of community that becomes the hands and feet of God toward a watching, waiting world.

Ordinary time deserves a soundtrack of its own.

Christmas gets entire sections of music stores devoted to it, and its such a tiny sliver of a season in comparison.

For the purpose of continuity, I’m using Pentecost as a jumping point, since the tracks came together in the midst of that focus.

Please feel free to suggest additions to the list… there’s no rule that says they all have to fit on one disc.

  1. Joel – Daniel Amos

    I’ll pour my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions… they will return to me.

  2. Holy Spirit Come – Kate Miner

    Holy Spirit come. Holy Spirit dwell. Fill your Church with joy overflowing and peace overflowing and love overflowing in all of your Glory. Come.

  3. Bhajo Naam – Aaradhna

    (This is an interpretation… the song is in Hindi… another tongue…)
    Sing His name, chant His name, the beautiful name, Jesus’ name…

  4. Peace – Robbie Seay Band

    We can feel you move, and cannot stay the same. The winds are blowing strong. God of heaven come. Breathe peace. breathe your peace on us so we might breathe you deep.

  5. Take to the World – Derek Webb

    Go in peace to love and to serve, and let your ears ring along with what you have heard, and may the bread on your tongue leave a trail of crumbs to lead the hungry back to the place you are from. And take to the world this love, this hope and faith. And take to the world this rare, relentless grace. And like the Three-in-One, know you must become what you want to save, ‘cause that’s still the way He takes to the world.

  6. Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah – Randall Goodgame (original hymn: William Williams)

    Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand.

  7. Section 13 – The Polyphonic Spree

    Don’t fall in love with diamond rings or tragedy will somehow find its way in all that you hold true. Keep ‘em amazed with your mild devotion to majesty… keep the light on in your soul.

  8. Said & Done – Speed the Plough

    On the way to work, I rush past people just like me. We’re really not alone, we’re just living life so separately… I could reach out for your hand and I am really not alone.

  9. You Don’t Love God (If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor) – Rhonda Vincent

    Oh, you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor, if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy, if he gets into trouble and you don’t try to help him, then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God.

  10. Ben Franklin Must be Proud – Eric Hurst

    Hallelujah for the great American way, Ben Franklin must be proud - make all your money, then you throw it all away on a life that keeps you down. And I would never trade my life, and I would never give back time, and I would never trade my life… oh, I love the simple life.

  11. On Time – Victoria Williams

    There once was a man with a clock on his hand, sour note in his heart, a tight grip on his plan. One day he awoke, back to hard times and spoke, “How long have I been blind to the fact that you’re always on time?”… They say no one will know the day or the hour. They say to just watch and pray and walk in His power. Because if you’re ahead, or lost way behind, then how will you know that you’re always on time?

  12. Hush – Waterdeep

    When you feel like the days just drone on and on and on, and you feel like the nights seem quickly gone, and on the inside, you feel like your heart’s just gaping wide, and on the inside you feel like no one’s on your side… well, I AM.

  13. Pass in Time – Beth Orton

    So much stays unknown till the time you are strong. Did you imagine you could ever feel so strong, and all your pain just turns into relief? All your doubt becomes your own belief? So come on now, come on now, child. You’re here just a while. You might as well smile, ’cause tomorrow, you just don’t know. It will pass. It’s gonna pass.

  14. Tarantella – Madison Greene

    Come oppressed and broken child, serve around the firelight, sleep not a moment now, be not tempted by the night. Come abandon hopelessness… arouse your limbs with hope. The Drum, it calls you “dance!” There is life within you yet!

  15. Past the Wishing – Sara Groves

    I’m gazing in these deep well waters, where the pennies of my life have all been cast, and I’ve decided I am going to save my money and do something that lasts. And you’ve shown me my “man of Macedonia”, you’re calling me further on. And I’m tired of saying “It’s a nice idea… I wish it could be done.”

Photo by clickykbd

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at

If you appreciate articles like this, consider making a donation to help Jesus Manifesto pay the bills.

Destination Written Upon My Feet

May 7, 2008

murry hammondWhen May bleeds into June, rousing summer in its wake, a subtle yet significant loss will be felt in the music world.  The May-June issue (#75) of No Depression magazine, will be the final print issue published.  There are whispers of things to come, such as expanded web content and a semi-annual book version compiling feature-length articles, but the loss of the magazine is a blow to Americana fans, nonetheless.  Many of my favorite artists were selected from obscure ads in the margins of No Depression’s pages, or circled from lists of influences in ten-page reviews of artists I had already come to know and love.  The magazine was to alt-country fans what Al Mohler’s blog is to reformed theologians.

I have to be honest for a moment, and admit to our readers that I am partially responsible for the demise of a magazine you may care absolutely nothing about.  You see, I allowed my subscription to lapse several years ago, picking up only the occasional issue here and there, and cheating on it often with younger, hipper issues of Paste promising free CDs.  Luckily for our readers, this article isn’t really about the magazine at all. 

Featured prominently in this farewell issue is one of my desert-island, all-time, top five bands, the Old 97’s.  Next week the band will release its latest offering, Blame it on Gravity, and the article was a testimony to the band’s perseverance and the band mates’ commitment to one another.  The primary songwriters and leads of the band, Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond, have a friendship that dates back some-odd twenty years to their days in Dallas, Texas.  These days the two make their homes on opposite coasts, but the music still finds a way to creep out of their souls and meld together into something consonant.

Murry Hammond’s story has long intrigued me.  The man who co-lead an unforgettable experience at Deep Ellum’s Gypsy Tea Room four years ago leads a roots-style weekly worship in California.  In a phrase, he’s my kind of guy.  His faith often seems to crop up in interviews and reviews, and Hammond does not shy away from discussing it.  John Marks, the author of this Old 97’s tribute and retrospective, notes: 

Listening to [Hammond’s solo] record in contrast to Miller’s The Believer, it’s hard to imagine that Hammond, who opens his solo debut with “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today”, has remained lifelong friends and musical partners with Miller, who penned that gorgeous ode to one-night stands, “Fireflies”.  To put the difference in the starkest possible terms, it’s hard to hear much Jesus on Miller’s last record, or much sex on Hammond’s new one.

Hammond, naturally, comes to the defense both of the presence of God and of the presence of sex in his music.  Neither the presence of the creator of the universe or of procreation in the band’s lyrics was surprising to me.  As an avid fan and admitted music junkie, my mind immediately raced back to a humble interview with Murry Hammond published in 2004 on the seminal Christian-media webzine, the Phantom Tollbooth.  In that interview, Hammond was asked how he reconciled the themes of the Old 97’s music with his Christian faith.  As a writer and as a follower of Christ, his explanation has stuck with me over the years. 

While I am most definitely still a work-in-progress, I think I’m kinder to people because of my pursuit of God, I know my marriage is better for it, and I think I’m a more honest songwriter because of it. How some writers can discuss their craft without getting into their most important influence is beyond me. Creativity is one of the fundamental elements of God’s character, so how can you separate the faith of the writer from his or her writing?
Personally, I tend to write the same song, every time. I write about redemption. I got a pile of them! My life has been a cycle of moving toward God, then moving away, then toward Him again, so redemption plays itself out over and over again in my life. In every song I write, I illuminate some part of that ongoing dialogue between the Almighty and myself, of being restless, or injuring myself then being healed by God, of feeling alienated or disenfranchised in some way, then finding connection and hope in the upward reach.
But what happens most in my writing, is I’ll put a microscope on a specific part of the redemption story, such as with the character in “Up the Devils Pay,” who is struggling with his dark and light sides. Imagine that the act of crying out to God can be shown as a strip of film, say, a scene where a man realizes his need for God, reaches upwards, God meets him and the man is transformed. I tend to not write so much about the entire sequence, such as Hank Williams did with “I Saw the Light,” but rather, I will zero in on a portion or even a single frame and describe where that character lives and what he is feeling. As much as I ponder writing about the portion of the sequence where God lives to give grace to the hurting world, I tend to write my songs back toward the beginning of the film, where the man first realizes and struggles over his need to be redeemed. How can you tell the whole story of redemption without telling about the poor creature that needed it in the first place? That human end of redemption is not often written about in a way which attempts to really move the listener, at least not in modern Christian music, but this is what I most often attempt to do. I feel that I hit occasional bulls-eyes there, and people respond instinctually, at a soul level, and they get it. And grace is illuminated in some way. I just feel most strongly in my heart for the regular person who is hurting, and is searching for a home.
All people take music very, very personally, and Christians are no different. Some might ask why would a musician of faith write and sing about anything else but God? Why would anything other than a song of praise escape the lips of a follower of Christ? To me, it’s much like a calling to ministry: Why aren’t these children of God plunging themselves into ministry? Because some are given talents that call them to step up on the pulpit, while most of us are called according to our other talents. We are called to put our light up where we live in our homes, among our neighbors, in the office buildings, in the schools, in the coal mines, as writers, as truck drivers, as artists, railroaders, country-rock bands.

What say you?

Can we talk about grace, without understanding the need for it?

Can we talk about sight without at least a cursory knowledge of blindness?

Will people who are searching for what Christ has to offer pay us any mind if they don’t feel, at least a bit, like we know where they are coming from? 

In that same Phantom Tollbooth interview, Murry also touched on the vitality of his friendship with the men in his band. 

…I have figured out one good thing I can do for my band mates, and that is to simply to give them a safe place to bring that most private part of themselves to, without judgment or ridicule. They know they can open up to me about God, and occasionally we’ll visit that place together, in different ways for each guy. It has been a positive experience between my band mates and my self. They are pretty good guys. You know what they say, Some plant seeds, some tend seeds, some harvest. We’re just tending seeds around here.

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at

If you appreciate articles like this, consider making a donation to help Jesus Manifesto pay the bills.

Skeleton Kingdom

April 29, 2008

skeletonInspired by rumors of mansions in heaven
Building begins for his kingdom on earth.
Supplies pile up; workers are gathered,
Trained, and put to different tasks,
Each with a niche, an itch, a handful of tools.

But as the castles receive their finishing touches,
No one comes to live in them, instead,
The workers all go home to their own beds for rest.

Subdivisions, cities and zip codes,
Cranked out by the labor of dreamers
Who are building the kingdom here on earth
Just as it is in heaven, or perhaps a little altered
Only because dreams are often skewed, or
Hard to understand because they are views of
What hasn’t yet been done or even seen,
A revelation of the invisible.

And one mans edifice, results in another mans’.
As reactions zig-zag across the landscape,
Competition interrupts the dream world.

The walls keep being raised, the ribbons
Keep being cut, but the neighborhoods lie
Desolate with no one to take up residence.
All the workers return to their beds for rest,
Only to rise again, build again, rival again.

All the mud, bricks and mortar, all the blood
Of friends and enemies, all for a kingdom
That no one wants to live in, a skeleton kingdom.


photo by Anim8ir

Author Bio:: Emily Miller lives in Durango, CO with her husband Brian. She enjoys Argentine malbec, good books, watching River Plate futbol, cooking, and both dreaming about and living presently the incarnation of Christ through his Body and the Kingdom which has come.

WHAT did you just call me?

April 25, 2008

yeah it’s a compliment.
to be compared to Gandhi
or John Wesley
or Martin Luther King
(though to some it sounds more
like Guy Fawkes
or Che Guevara
or someone like that)
to me it just means
you’re not ready to sign up
for the standard plan.
the basic introductory package.

I’m trading comfort for awareness
suburbia for community
middle class for creative class
American for Earthian
Evangelical for Christ follower.
Conservative for
Liberal for
Progressive for
fearlessly independent

It’s not about who you read
or where you shop
or what you drive
or even what you believe
it’s about all doing all of those things
and everything
with meaning and passion
and a conscience.

walking when you could drive
not because it saves you money
not because of global warming
not because of traffic
but because you like the flowers
and walking helps you think.

it’s learning from children

it’s peace like a tree
unmovable, growing in all directions

it’s the slow, painful process
of resensitizing.

It’s a strange life
it makes some people cringe
but to whom shall we go?

Author Bio:: Ted is currently working as a Youth Pastor in Kansas City and putting his wife Sarah through Nazarene Theological Seminary. They both like barbecue and Indian food. Ted blogs a lot, and sometimes Sarah doesn’t get his poems.

Soundtrack for Subversion: Suburban Pipedream

April 22, 2008

suburban pipedreamInspiration for subverting the empire can be found in the darndest places. Take, for instance, my road trip to Dallas a few weeks ago, which included an opportunity to join dozens of people in a basement coffee house for a live show including Ronnie Fauss. Ronnie is straight out of the Republic of Texas, and his music reflects that. But his fan classic, Suburban Pipedream, is an incomparable reflection on the strange bedfellows the American church and culture have become:



let’s move out to the suburbs
we could buy ourselves a home
where the floors are made of granite
and the sinks are made of chrome
and our children will play soccer
and we’ll join the PTA
and we’ll never have to deal with democrats
and we’ll never have to deal with gays

we can join up with one of them churches
that looks like a shopping mall
where the wallets are the biggest
and the hearts are so damn small
and we’ll go to lunch on Sundays
in our Lexus SUVs
and the men will compare portfolios
while the women watch the babies

I don’t mean to put you down
or the life you choose to live
God knows that I curse way too much
and take more than I give
but when I’m on my deathbed
and I start to reminisce
tell me there’ll be something more than this

my boy, he’ll play football
whether he wants to or not
and we’ll bug him about his homework
until we drive him to smoking pot
and our daughter will be so pretty
and on Friday she’ll lead cheers
until 11th grade when she gets pregnant
after drinking too many beers

my practice will be the envy
of all my business school friends
we’ll have more debt than you can imagine
but at least you’ll drive a Benz
you will keep my stomach happy
twice a year we will make love
we’ll have everything our parents
have been dreaming of

I don’t mean to put you down
or the life you choose to live
God knows that I drink way too much
and take more than I give
But when I’m on my deathbed
and I start to reminisce
tell me there’ll be something more than this

pretty soon we’ll stop talking
when the trying gets too forced
and when the kids go off to college
we can finally get divorced
and our children will do cocaine
and I’ll screw my neighbor’s wife
everything will be perfect
in our Republican… fundamentalist… Christian…
college educated… I know I’m so jaded…
pipedream suburban life

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at

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The Beauty of Subjectivity

April 8, 2008

not artyou got to look outside your eyes
you got to think outside your brain
you got to walk outside you life
to where the neighborhood changes

~ Ani DiFranco

A year ago, the Washington Post ran an article about an experiment in art appreciation. I held on to that article, knowing it would come in handy someday. Given the lively discussion on poetry we’ve had lately, I decided the time had come for it to be unearthed.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… or listener, as the case may be. Art emerges from an individual’s perceptions and experiences, and it is received through the lenses of others’ unique backgrounds. Some art is created in response to more universally acknowledged truths, and therefore speaks easily to many people. Other art is created out of a highly unique experience, and may communicate only with a choice few.

What is art?

Once upon a time, art = beauty.

But who decides what is beautiful?

For many, art = communication.

Swirling colors, soaring rhythms and succinct combinations of words serve to express what our soul cannot otherwise utter.

What is art?

We could say that art is the expression of emotions and ideas through various mediums.

But is that enough?

Communication is a two-sided process. The speaker expresses herself, the listener processes what is being communicated, and responds to the message she has received. So it is with art. The artist creates something outside of himself to express and understanding of something he has experienced within himself. Once the art has been created, it is out there, vulnerable to the receptivity of other people.

Back to the article, what makes an artist great?

So much in art is related to the context in which it is presented. When a virtuoso assumes the identity of a street performer, does their art decrease in value? According to this grand little experiment, it does indeed.

What is it that convinces us art is valuable?

I submit for your approval, mass appeal.

Despite our best intentions, we humans are a cognitively simple society. We like our choices well defined and served up in clever packaging. We like commercials that tell us which choice will make our life better. We like options that remind us we are sane because, after all, we share the opinions of others. We like things to fit neatly into an orderly coded filing system. When we’re not quite sure where something belongs, we don’t know what to do with it, and we either sit down and think about it or we toss it aside. We haven’t left ourselves much time for the “sit and think” option.

Or, perhaps, I’m just speaking of myself.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I challenged myself to write more poems in April. I am not a poet by nature. I fear that someone may not like what I have written, or it may seem elementary, or a word may not mean quite what I thought it meant. Yet, I write. In the moment, the words are coming from an experience, and I have to believe that can speak into someone else’s life.

I also must acknowledge that it will not speak to everyone.

So how do we respond to another’s offering of art?

Objectivity is not a choice, unless we want to turn art into something lifeless and mechanical.

How about trying to see it through different lenses, walk around it in different shoes, respond to it from different perspectives? Perhaps it speaks to you right where you are, and you can interact with ease. Perhaps you encounter it in a cordial fashion, but walk away without much to say. Perhaps you sit together in a coffee shop, late into the night, struggling to communicate through an exhaustive conversation, only to leave more confused than you entered. That’s ok.

Communicate your attempt.

We don’t all connect with every person we meet, and we will not connect with all of the art we encounter, but let us strive to understand the detachment. In the process, we may not only gain another perspective, but we will learn much more about our own.

photo by chrisjohnbeckett

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