Archive for August, 2012

Tonight, a few blocks from my house, early 90’s rap legend “Warren G” is singing at a small local bar. I suspect times aren’t as high for him as they used to be. In junior high, my friend Jeff used to listen to his “Regulate the G Funk” track constantly. Back then, I think I figured it was pretty tame since it didn’t have any swear words or anatomically descriptive sex references. Recently though, I discovered a hilarious dissection of the tune explaining each line of the song in straight-faced fashion. Wow. Did we really know what we were imbibing back then? (No. See below.)

On a cool, clear night (typical to Southern California) Warren G travels through his neighborhood, searching for women with whom he might initiate sexual intercourse. He has chosen to engage in this pursuit alone.

Nate Dogg, having just arrived in Long Beach, seeks Warren. On his way to find Warren, Nate passes a car full of women who are excited to see him. Regardless, he insists to the women that there is no cause for excitement.

Warren makes a left turn at 21st Street and Lewis Ave, in the East Hill/Salt Lake neighborhood, where he sees a group of young men enjoying a game of dice together. He parks his car and greets them. He is excited to find people to play with, but to his chagrin, he discovers they intend to relieve him of his material possessions. Once the hopeful robbers reveal their firearms, Warren realizes he is in a less than favorable predicament.

Meanwhile, Nate passes the women, as they are low on his list of priorities. His primary concern is locating Warren. After curtly casting away the strumpets (whose interest in Nate was such that they crashed their automobile), he serendipitously stumbles upon his friend, Warren G, being held up by the young miscreants.

Warren, unaware that Nate is surreptitiously observing the scene unfold, is in disbelief that he’s being robbed. The perpetrators have taken jewelry and a name brand designer watch from Warren, who is so incredulous that he asks what else the robbers intend to steal. This is most likely a rhetorical question.

Observing these unfortunate proceedings, Nate realizes that he may have to use his firearm to deliver his friend from harm.

The tension crescendos as the robbers point their guns to Warren’s head. Warren senses the gravity of his situation. He cannot believe the events unfolding could happen in his own neighborhood. As he imagines himself in a fantastical escape, he catches a glimpse of his friend, Nate.

Nate has seventeen cartridges to expend (sixteen residing in the pistol’s magazine, with a solitary round placed in the chamber and ready to be fired) on the group of robbers, and he uses many of them. Afterward, he generously shares the credit for neutralizing the situation with Warren, though it is clear that Nate did all of the difficult work. Putting congratulations aside, Nate quickly reminds himself that he has committed multiple homicides to save Warren before letting his friend know that there are females nearby if he wishes to fornicate with them.

Warren recalls that it was the promise of copulation that coaxed him away from his previous activities, and is thankful that Nate knows a way to satisfy these urges.

Nate quickly finds the women who earlier crashed their car on Nate’s account. He remarks to one that he is fond of her physical appeal. The woman, impressed by Nate’s singing ability, asks that he and Warren allow her and her friends to share transportation. Soon, both friends are driving with automobiles full of women to the East Side Motel, presumably to consummate their flirtation in an orgy.

The third verse is more expository, with Warren and Nate explaining their G Funk musical style. Nate displays his bravado by claiming that individuals with equivalent knowledge could not even attempt to approach his level of lyrical mastery. There follows a brief discussion of the genre’s musicological features, with special care taken to point out that in said milieu the rhythm is not in fact the rhythm, as one might assume, but actually the bass. Similarly the bass serves a purpose closer to that which the treble would in more traditional musical forms. Nate goes on to note that if any third party smokes as he does, they would find themselves in a state of intoxication daily (from Nate’s other works, it can be inferred that the substance referenced is marijuana). Nate concludes his delineation of the night by issuing a vague threat to “busters,” suggesting that he and Warren will further “regulate” any potential incidents in the future (presumably by engaging their enemies with small arms fire).

Though I have significant disagreements with some of Doug Wilson’s theology and even more so his rhetoric, nevertheless I would be kidding myself to say I don’t owe him quite a bit. A handful of blog posts about six years ago introduced me to Rene Girard (though Wilson has largely moved on to other things.) His sermons on worldview (talk about a word that has been unfortunately cheapened in the last decade!) have also been helpful as well as works like Fidelity.

When asked in an interview a while back though which one of his 30+ books was the most important or valuable, I was surprised to hear him answer that it was his commentary on Ecclesiastes. It was put together from a series of talks, one of which I actually heard myself as a student back in 1999. Joy at the End of the Tether is the book. I had it on my shelf amidst a stack of recently acquired used editions so I decided to read through it this week.

It’s very good and sides with Solomon in that it tries to make Ecclesiastes “fit” in with the gospel and the rest of scripture. I’ve seen more than a few teachers over the years really not know what to do with Ecclesiastes and its “life sucks and then you die” message. I’ve even heard people all but throw it out of the canon as some sort of uninspired depressing late-life moan piece.

I think in the end though, Solomon had his head on straight, even if his heart wasn’t always in the right place throughout mid-life. (Less so than his father David.) The point is that God is completely in control of everything, even all the bad stuff. It’s not some cosmic battle or violent turf war in your heart. He is the Alpha and Omega. From THAT, you can simply work hard and enjoy what you can here on earth. And when stuff doesn’t turn out how you wished, don’t sweat it. Oh well. God is still God. Nothing changed.

I copied down a few sections I especially liked:

Of course, wisdom is a pain in the neck. Within these boundaries, wisdom can only show that God has determined to trap us in a meaningless existence. So any intelligent investigation of the world and its pleasures will only multiply sorrows (1:18). The fool thinks he is chained to a dungeon wall; the intelligent knows that it is actually a labyrinth. Pleasures, delights, sensations, and all their cousins, will only send a man, first on this fool’s errand, and then on that one.

-p.23

I think life seems meaningless to us because of the curse of the fall. Our minds our darkened, our desires are confused. We can’t think our way back into communion with our creator. Good thing He intends to come take us there himself some day.

The commotion of the stock market reveals the hubris of man better than few other things. We believe we can pump up the Dow forever and make money at a fine clip forester…but we cannot. The cycles ordained by God for everything in this fallen and silly world will come around again, and many a millionaire will go white in disbelief. “How could this happen?” Friend, look at the world. How could it NOT?

-p.47

How could this NOT happen? That is what I think every time I hear some economist on NPR or CNN talk about how GDP always needs to be growing. Growth growth growth! Really? Do you guys ever read any history, ever? Bunch of morons.

Those who say that a holy God cannot wield a wicked tool have come to believe the authority of their own sophistries. The Bible tells us that God is HOLY, and the Bible tells us that God wields the wicked in His hand like an ax. God used the wicked Assyrians to judge the Jews; God used Herod, Pontious Pilate, and all the Jews to condemn His Son; God used Judas to betray the Lord; God used Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines. The list is much longer and much less pleasant than many Christians want.

-p.50

At the end of the day, it’s better to stick with a high view of the sovereignty of God and not try to dilute it with a list of complicated exceptions.

Man is built for community, and loneliness is a great evil. Working together is satisfying; it is fruitful, prevents harm, keeps you warm, defends, and keeps unity (4:9-12).

A man works hard to make a pile and doesn’t stop to ask a very basic question – why am I doing this He makes a stack of money but has no one to share it with. He can’t afford to marry or have children, because they would take hi away from his work. He cannot afford to have friends because all their motives would be suspect. He could buy dinner for everyone in the restaurant, but no one wants to sit with him. That’s all right, because he doesn’t want to sit with them either.

But companionship is dear. God created us for friendship, and a curse resides on all things which prevent men from forming friendships. One of the great culprits in this affair is the task of making big-time money. So the answer is that the gift of God BESTOWS COMPANIONSHIP.

-p.61

Really great stuff. Shockingly sounds likes Wendell Berry. (!)

The one who gives to the poor is in fact giving to the Lord. Thinking backwards can be fun sometimes. Some say that life is uncertain, so we should eat dessert first. Solomon says here that because life is uncertain we ought to give the dessert away.

Fantastic.

I am paralyzed. Can I write this with pop music blaring in my head? But I would rather listen to it than think. 1994 comes back to me in a blaze of color.

I was 13, on my first big Youth Group trip to the big city to watch a hockey game and then eat pizza and be talked into praying to God for salvation for the first time. Except I had already done that and the hockey game was only mildly interesting. What was far more captivating? Intensely so? The cute girl across the aisle on the bus. She had such big brown eyes. I think she must have been about 15 – a couple years older than I. She was from the next town over so I didn’t know her name. I finally caught it by the end of the trip, but never considered asking her for it myself. I didn’t know how. I was a star-struck observer, first of sight, but then to my surprise, of sound.

Even though it was supposed to be a sanitized Evangelical outing, the bus driver succumbed to requests to turn on the local top 40 radio. Three and a half minute excursions into love and love lost and love cranked up flooded my ears for the next 90 minutes. I was an innocent back-woods farmer’s son who had barely seen an hour of television beyond Saturday morning cartoons. The only radio I had ever heard was my mother’s adult contemporary Christian station that was half electric-piano ballads from Sandi Patti and Steve Green and half topical Bible Q&A shows. Over the airwaves now came dancable tunes like I had quite literally never imagined before. First and foremost that trip, played three times in it’s entirety on the bus ride there was “The Sign” by Swedish pop quartet Ace of Base. Holy smokes! The drum machine was so snappy, the bass line so slick and the vocals so full of life – I was struck dumb. What’s hilarious is that at the time I assumed the artist must be Whitney Houston since she was the only female pop artist I had *ever* heard of at the time. It took me several evenings of listening to the scratchy radio on my Walkman to catch the tune again on a station that announced the playlist. Pretty girl with the brown eyes was long gone and quickly forgotten, but my head-over-heals plunge into the world of sound and chords and timbre was just beginning.

Looking back now nearly twenty years later, I’m sure it’s hard to take early nineties synth pop very seriously. Contemporary acts are so much more hip and polished (and jaded), aren’t they? I’ve moved on of course, right? I’ve played Beethoven symphonies in orchestra. I’ve heard maybe the greatest guitarist alive today play twenty fantastic works just twenty feet away from me. The amount to explore is endless. Still, you never quite forget what first latched onto you, however awkward it may seem in hindsight.

I’m not embarrassed anymore though. Love it or ridicule it, this is the kind of stuff I’m made of. And so is all that other stuff and I’m not embarrassed by it either. All those hours of Bible Q&A shows with folks like Chuck Colson and Warren Wiersbe – an amazing amount of that stuck in my head. I didn’t rebel and toss it all out for the hell of it later. Those old Christian artists? Some of them were actually really great – Michael Card in particular is a consummate musician. I still want to be Michael Card when I grow up. Sort of. Another interesting fact is that it turns out Jenny Berggren, lead singer of Ace of Base was a rather serious Christian. Though the band sold 30 million records, she eventually became disenchanted with the fame and quit to live in her quiet home town and sing in church. I eventually married another pretty brown-eyed girl – one I met in a pit orchestra.

All that stuff my mother taught me back then was pretty sound too. I’m glad for all the hugs and love and spankings and everything else, even though she couldn’t stand the music I had discovered.

The ESV calls it “being anxious”. Other translations say “worry”. The old KJV says something more generic, and maybe more truthful – “taking thought”.

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

-Matthew 6:27-30

Who, by just THINKING about something can make anything happen? Can you make your hair grow longer if you concentrate really hard? No, it just grows. Can you attract success with the right attitude, ala Oprah and “The Secret”? Nonsense. We cannot make reality ex nihilo like our creator, or make our thoughts take shape before our eyes like a magician channeling manna. We only affect via a medium. We must work with our own hands and lips and that’s about all. We have so little – so much of what we have must just be a gift. Let us show gratitude for that.

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Glory is an interesting idea, especially in scripture. Man, mankind, is the glory of God, and the woman is the glory, crown, of man. (1 Corinthians 11:7). Not just our clothes, like the glory of the lilies.

This passage about not worrying is nearly always phrased with regards to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Trust God to take care of your food and shelter. He doesn’t promise much more than that and even that can be a bit dicey if a trial is at hand. Remember though this is Jesus himself talking here, not an interpreter. I think he must mean more than just basic economics and survival.

Extend the words just a bit. If the glory of a husband is his wife, then in a sense Solomon was arrayed in glory with all his wives, not just his gold and nice kingly clothes. In the same way, who, by “taking thought” can change anything about his wife or comfort her, or change anything about his kids or really protect them? But God knows we lonely, creative, social humans need these things too – just like bread and water. And he promises to take care of these too. And then, when he does, whaddayaknow, it’s another gift, just like what the splendor the lilies of the field were arrayed in.

I saw this picture the other day on a photo stream. It has so many of the classic Addis Ababa sights all in one angle – the red city buses with the lion on the side, the blue Toyota taxis, the car that won’t start (it’s actually illegal in Africa to have a car that starts), the rickety wooden scaffolding for a new cement building (top left), the shanties across the street made of corrugated aluminum, rocks, and dirt, the high altitude tropical trees, and a guy on the street with an Orthodox prayer staff. I hope I get to go back some day.