Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Scandal of Christmas

Sheep poop. What part of this
makes for a glamorous religion?
"If you thought up a god, would you have him take on the form of his own creation, go to them to save them, and have them reject him and kill him? And then would you raise him from the dead and have his resurrected being witnessed by over a hundred people, yet unconfirmed by science, so it would be disputed for the rest of human history. And then would you have his church begun by a rag tag team of followers with little credibility and no social clout? See what I mean? It's preposterous. It's unthinkable." -- John Fischer

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Free Christmas Tunes!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Taylorverse!

Here's the gift of free music from my days with the band Nothing Regal. Sure,
they're available for free streaming anytime, but for the next few days, I'm making them available as free downloads -- just for you.


Christmas Must Be Tonight

So Long Awaited

O Come All You Faithful

We Three Kings

Silent Night

What Child Is This?

Go Tell It On the Mountain

Monday, December 3, 2012

Creative Corner #8 -- Unfit for a King

Unfit for a King
words and music by Sean Taylor

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because here was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 (KJV)

Manger straw must have been rough on your newborn skin
Mother’s pain to welcome you
Father’s tears as he holds her hand and hears you cry
The smell of waste was everywhere

Dirty men from nearby fields to greet you
Dirty sheep stumble behind
Mother’s care as she holds you close to feed you
Shepherds leave, the filth remains

You deserved the finest palace in the land
And swaddling clothes of finest string
But when you came you cut through all our twisted values
And revealed this crazy, mixed-up world…
A world unfit for a king

Vagrant child in a city filled with travelers
So unnoticed by them all
Foreign kings bring you your only presents
Your mother treasures all these things

You deserved the finest palace in the land
And swaddling clothes of finest string
But when you came you cut through all our twisted values
And revealed this crazy, mixed-up world…
A world unfit for a king

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Life Sucks. So What? (Part 4)

Let's get back into Ecclesiastes, shall we...
Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. So I admired the dead, who have already died, more than the living, who are still alive. But better than either of them is the one who has not yet existed, who has not seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.

I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to a man’s jealousy of his friend. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

The fool folds his arms
and consumes his own flesh.
Better one handful with rest
than two handfuls with effort and a pursuit of the wind.

Again, I saw futility under the sun: There is a person without a companion, without even a son or brother, and though there is no end to all his struggles, his eyes are still not content with riches. “So who am I struggling for,” he asks, “and depriving myself from good?” This too is futile and a miserable task.

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings. For he came from prison to be king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. I saw all the living, who move about under the sun, follow a second youth who succeeds him. There is no limit to all the people who were before them, yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4, Holman Standard Bible)

In this chapter, the preacher widens the list of stuff that is vanity (or futile, depending on the translation you're reading). He adds to it: oppression, power, living, hard work, excess, loneliness, self-sufficiency, and building a legacy to accompany your name.

Wow. That's quite a list, and I'm willing to bet that you'd find several of those on the how-to books with lists teaching you how to succeed in business, life, and other endeavors. In fact, I'm sure it's not uncommon to think of about half of them as virtues -- not vices. 

And out of all the world who does he find to admire? Dead people. No, not zombies, you nut jobs. Honest to God corpses. And even better than them, folks who were never born. Because they never had to feel all this emptiness and vanity and futility, never had to feel the existential tug of war between wanting to matter and ultimately not mattering in and of themselves, never had to experience that search for significance in the eyes of themselves, their neighbors, their bosses, their families, etc. only to find the brick wall we all eventually run up against. 

The outcome? Take it easy. Don't stress so much about it. It's better to rest with one handful than be exhausted and have two handfuls. It's almost like THE MOVIE POTHEAD'S GUIDE TO LIFE. It certainly fits the stereotype of the '80s flick stoner, doesn't it?

Don't rock the boat. Enjoy yourself as best you can in spite of the pain and emptiness. 

Doesn't sound like the "God has a wonderful plan for you" tract that we often hear about. Not at all.

Luckily he switches topic before we all slit our wrists. 

Since we're stuck here, he continues, you know what's really bad? Not having anyone to help you out. Being lonely. Sure, we all need solitude from time to time, but all-out loneliness is something far different. Nobody to hang out with, get to know and be known by, to struggle with through all the questions and hard work -- no one to do things for (kind of flies in the face of our me-focused lifestyles, huh).

A person with a companion, a friend is like a rope made from two interwoven cords, is like a body that can keep warm in spite of the cold, is like someone who can help defend and be defended by another. And adding a third strand to that pair... well, that makes it even that much better.

But hold on. What's he talking about here and where did that other person suddenly come from? I could be way off here because people during the Old Testament years didn't get all up close and personal with a holy God and kept their faith personal but still at an arm's distance. (God was, after all, a dangerous entity who might smite you dead for something like accidentally touching the Ark of the Covenant. It wasn't until the New Testament that Jesus blew religious and irreligious minds with his crazy talk about actually being friends with God through the Holy Spirit.) Regardless, I think the writer (preacher) has subtly introduced the ultimate end-game of his essay into this part. I think he's hinting at something to come without making it too obvious yet. But what is it?

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were inside Babylon's fiery furnace, one plus one plus one didn't add up to three. It added up to four. There was a fourth man in the flames. 

I think that's what the preacher is hinting at here to. Not only do we need each other, but we need something, nay, Someone even stronger. We need God. And with Him woven into that three-stranded rope, things begin to take on a different, less empty, less vain, less futile glow. 

It's good to be wise, and perhaps feeling the existential twitch IS the beginning of wisdom. After all, we have to know we're missing something before we ever begin to search for it, or even to look as listen as it searches for us. 

Perhaps this existential ouch is our Gandalf that sets us off on the quest to destroy the ring. Maybe. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In due time

by John Fischer

NOTE: Reposted in entirety from 

I remain with Daniel’s influential place in court of Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the Babylonian empire, during a time when the children of Israel were in captivity there. I find this similar to the place a follower of Christ has in the marketplace today. As believers, Christians are in exile in a foreign country since their true home is in heaven, yet, while on this earth, they are required to take part in the “secular” culture in which they find themselves – to “build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:5-7 NLT).

And when, in the course of living in an environment sometimes hostile to their faith, Daniel’s example would be to remain true to his God whatever the cost. In Daniel’s case, that’s what got him famously thrown into the lion’s den, where his survival impressed the king, making him respect not only Daniel, but Daniel’s god, and causing the king to put him in a place of high influence in his empire. At all times Daniel conducted himself with humility and respect for those around him – looking after their welfare as he would his own. These were pagan people following pagan gods, and though they were hostile towards him at times, he was never hostile towards them.

Indeed, Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with Daniel and Daniel’s god (I use the lower case “g” to indicate the king’s perspective) that he named him Belteshazzer, a name after his own god, and claimed “the spirit of the holy gods is in him” (Daniel 4:9). This is Nebuchadnezzar putting Daniel and Daniel’s faith into terms he understands. And Daniel does not appear to resist this. Why should he? If anything, it’s a compliment, and Nebuchadnezzar will find out for himself whose god is God in due time.

Christians of recent years have tried to gain ground in society through confrontation, in some cases creating animosity and then claiming “persecution” over the reaction that animosity engendered. I do not find this to be in keeping with the way God works. Daniel’s approach is much more suited for representatives of the kingdom of God who are living in and taking part in the secular culture in which they find themselves.

Daniel never tried to turn Babylon into Israel. At all times, he operated without compromise, remaining true to his God while respecting the people and the religion of the nation to which he was exiled.

And in the end, after recovering from a period of insanity during which he lost everything (something also predicted in a dream Daniel interpreted) Nebuchadnezzar claimed, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble those who are proud” (Daniel 4:37).

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Animal Self and the Diabolical Self

Reading this quote this morning makes me think it's time to re-read MERE CHRISTIANITY again...

"The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."

 I don't think Lewis is espousing "small" sin at all here, but instead he is talking about two different inclinations toward "sinning," similar to what Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount when he stated that what goes into a man doesn't make him unclean, but that which comes out of him does, and the idea that to call your brother "fool" is on equal footing with the act of murder itself. One is a natural inclination of the natural body we must resist, and the other is a deliberate choice after weighing the differences and still choosing to do evil. One is an act of the spiritual will, one than can hide behind a self-righteous act by avoiding the animal sins of drinking, sleeping around, etc. but living nonetheless in the spiritual ones that are easily dressed up and hidden (the pursuit of power, greed, etc.). A prostitute (to use Lewis' word) may be honestly in a bad situation and want out or may be in the only situation he or she has ever known (even acknowledging the wrongness of the lifestyle), but a deacon who hides behind church power to feed his greed and abuse of others (for example by "disallowing" mixed race couples to feel comfortable in church or to make sure that what he wants to happen for the direction of the church body because he gives the most money in tithes and offerings) has willfully embraced the diabolical self and is spiritually choosing the sins of the spirit. Does that make sense?

In another way of saying it, the sins of the animal self are sins of impulse while the sins of the diabolical self are sins of methodical, willful evil choices.

Sins of impulse are equally "bad" but can be more easily overcome in time while sins of willfully embracing evil traits and character require more work and faith to overcome. And sadly, the church today tends to focus on the sins of the natural self, best known in the adage of "no make-up, no dancing, no sex" rather than the admonition to live like Christ and have the mind of Christ in all you do, especially that which goes on beneath the surface, that which people may never see.

And sometimes because it doesn't reflect poorly on our churches or because we're blind to it, our churches today often empower and back those who regularly indulge in the sins of the diabolical self. It's far easier to spot a drug user with a filthy mouth than a well-dressed and "proper" church goer who runs his company and/or family like a selfish, greedy, power-hungry tyrant.

Monday, November 19, 2012

[Link] Who's my faith for?

by John Fischer 

My computer is missional. Most likely yours is too.

Ever notice how the logo on your laptop is upside down to you? In fact, how many times have you placed your laptop in front of you with the logo towards you and tried to open the thing? I still start to do it all the time. Of course there's a marketing reason for this. Once you have your laptop open, it's more important that everyone knows what brand of computer you are working on. You already know.

Faith is a lot like this. Our faith is for others as much - if not more - than it is for us.

Continue reading:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

[Link] Is God a Cosmic Jerk?: God, Satan, and the Problem of Evil

by Adam Ericksen

That’s how I ask the question, but professional theologians use the term theodicy. It comes from two Greek words: theo, which means “God,” and dike, which means “justice.” Theodicy asks, “If God is good and just, then why is there so much evil in the world?” There are many answers to this question. Some claim that God causes evil. In which case, my question becomes relevant – Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

Let’s first examine the word “evil.” Theologian Joe Jones succinctly defines evil in his book A Grammar of Christian Faith “as the harm to some creature’s good” (280). Jones distinguishes between two categories of evil that harms a creatures good. First, there is moral evil – the harm humans inflict upon one another through violence, injustice, and oppression. The second category is natural evil – the harm caused by cancer, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events.

The Bible mainly explores moral evil, but one book, called Job, explores both categories. Job was a good and righteous man, who always turned away from inflicting moral evil upon others. He was rich, prosperous, and had everything that anyone in his society desired. Yet everything fell apart for Job. He suffered the moral evil of people stealing his property and killing some of his servants. He suffered the natural evil of a windstorm that killed his children, the “fire of God” that burned up his sheep and killed his other servants, and a skin disease that tormented his body and his soul.

Continue reading:

Radio Silence

Sorry for the lag in posting. Been dealing with the post-con deadlines and post-con crud. Regular posting will resume next week.

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why I like redemptive stories in comics...

Why do you love redemptive stories so much?

The simple answer? Because of my faith. As a Christian believer (albeit one on the outskirts and fringes of the Christian subculture), I'm a sucker for a story about someone being changed for the better.

The Squadron Supreme
The writer answer? Because at their core, stories are about the growth and changing of people, and what's a better or bigger change than a redemptive one? The same could also be said of a "fall" story, in which a character does the opposite and goes bad due to situations and choices. Two of the greatest are Darth Vader and Faust in Michael Oeming's new Dark Horse series The Victories. But who gets left with a good feeling after that kind of tale?

Some of my favorite redemptive stories in comics include:

  • The Thunderbolts initial run
  • The Sandman in the various Spider-Man books (before he was turned bad again)
  • Heatwave in Superboy (yes, the Flash villain)
  • Moloch in Watchmen
  • Thief of Thieves
  • Saga
  • Squadron Supreme (the folly of forced "redemption," kind of like Fundamentalist politicos trying to enforce Christian moral stances in gray areas)
  • House of Secrets (the Steve Seagle Vertigo run)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Story Time #1 -- Father and Son

Father and Son

The ground around me is wet, still coated with a light dripping of morning’s dew. The bare spots of soil, however, are dry as empty bone, and form an alarming juxtaposition with the living, green patches.

A prayer. How can I form a prayer? You must experience a prayer, not just say one.


Nothing still. Only memories come dancing into my psyche, in cascading spirals before my inner eye. No prayer arrives, only glimpses of past images, but I let them transport me where they will.

* * *


He always stopped his hammering and cutting for a short while every time I entered his shop. No matter how soon the deadline or how crucial the moment, my timid knock at the door frame was all that he needed to take a brief pause from his work.

“Come here, son,” he called out to me without looking up, “Come here and give me a hug.”

Of course I ran to him. Small and uncoordinated eight year old legs stumbled across the damp earth between us, but the reward for my effort was waiting in my father’s embrace. He had a tender, terrible hug, squeezing with all his might, but always as carefully as if I were as fragile as old pottery.

“What is it now, my favorite interruption? Has your mother sent you to fetch me in? No, wait... It’s not your mother at all, is it? You’ve come for another story, maybe?”

“No, father.”

“Well, what is it then? I’m fresh out of guesses.”

He relaxed his embrace, allowing me to pull away from his shoulders. My tears left a tiny reservoir in the fold of his robe, a pool which threatened to dribble onto a exposed patch of skin where his robe folded over, heavy with sweat.

“Crying!? You’re hurt!? What happened?”

My face was caked in blood and grime, beginning near my nose and extending across my cheek to my ear. Tears had mingled with the filthy mixture and caused it to stain not only my face, but my clothes as well.

“Tell me who did this to you.”

I wiped at my tears with a dirty sleeve. “Please... it’s not that bad. It’ll be all gone in a few days anyway.”

I watched as he pulled a stool from the work table, righted it, and motioned for me to sit. Then he cleared a place on the damp ground, and sat, waiting for me to begin.

“We were making doves out of clay, me and some other kids from town. I made one for you and mother. You should have seen it! It was so beautiful! Sarah wanted one, too.”

“Sarah, huh?” He smirked just a little when he said it.

“Yes, Sarah,” I responded, confused by the reaction, “I made another just like yours, but David, the priest’s son, tore it apart while it was still drying. He told me that the only reason I was good with clay was because you and mother couldn’t afford anything other than dirt for me to play with.”

“And you ignored him, I hope.”

“Uh huh. But it didn’t stop David. He punched me hard in the stomach, then in the nose. And the kids just watched him the ones that didn’t run off I thought they were my friends, but they left me all alone with him.”

“Don’t be too hard on them. I don’t suspect that any of them enjoyed leaving you behind when you were hurt.”

My father had a kind of rough wisdom, not polished and pretty like a gem, but rugged and real, honest, like a rock. He never hid it behind fancy thoughts or big words, but it was wisdom, nonetheless, full of proverbs to rank with those of Solomon.

“I was scared, too, but I didn’t run away.”

“But did you want to?”

Silence was my only answer.

“Well?” He pushed the question.

“I don’t know. Maybe the only reason I stayed was because I couldn’t get up from the ground.”

This man who had raised me, taught me, and guided me now lifted me onto his work table, and began to clear away the grit from my face with the skirt of his robe.

“It’s ok to be afraid... sometimes even to run away. The trick is knowing which one’s right when the time comes.”

My face was clean now, and I nodded that I understood.

“Good. Now when are you going to let me see this wonderful dove you’ve made for your mother and me?”
“I gave it to Sarah.”

“That’s my boy.” He laughed. “Here, let’s get you down from the table. Why don’t we close up the shop for today, and go see if the two of us can’t find some more clay, and maybe replace that missing bird.”

* * *

Pictures from the past are funny things. They always seem to appear when you need something to push or goad you. Why I should remember my first bloody nose, here, on this mountain, is one of those small twists of providence some call fate.

I don’t want to do what I know I must. I’m scared, frightened more than perhaps I’ve ever been. Right now I want only to run back into that faraway town, my long departed father’s shop, his arms, and let him wipe these tears away with the hem of his robe. But I can’t.


The words don’t come easily to form a prayer, but they do flow. Perhaps a bit forced, a bit unwilling, and certainly not from a tranquil conscience, but regardless, they are indeed there. I can hear them slide off my tongue, as if I am not saying them, only hearing.

“Not my will...”

No, not my will indeed.

“Not my will, but thine.”

There. It is done.

(c) Sean Taylor

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Creative Corner #7 -- Ki Wone

Ki Wone

Brazen Truth
Stepping through Clio's book
Seized the hearts of some,
Their minds and hands
And, forcing the pen along the page,
Began to write.
They named it so
Though the service was immutable,
Fixed before the first struggling cries
When Truth drew breath into
Time's infant lungs.
While others
Danced their secret initiates
Under night's unclosed gaze,
Dreading against all hope
To touch the emptiness, failed,
And named the emptiness gods,
Truth laughed
At the creatures of dust,
Fashioned himself in their image,
And let them touch
The very thought
Of who he was. 


My poetry and early short stories are available in Gomer and Other Early Works.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Maybe As Cool As Some of the Thunderbolts Though... Maybe

Continuing my three-day personal apologetic, I have moved from Batman to Aquaman and now am ready to become more like Marvel's Thunderbolts. Well, some of them anyway.

Two days ago I mentioned what a louse I am if I am painfully honest about it.

Yesterday I mentioned that I was lucky that it's not own goodness that has to count in my favor and how because of that, I still don't have the right to walk around as if I really had it together after all.

But what's next? How does knowing I'm a worm made into a prince by the work of another affect my person, my character, my actions? Or does it?

That's where the Thunderbolts come in. You see, for the non-comics fans, the Thunderbolts were a team that pretended to be heroes in order to do evil. But over time, some of them became changed by the actuality of being heroes. They were still villains, but they found themselves wanting to be real heroes and not just pretend heroes, and they lived that way. Eventually, the ones who truly changed got just that opportunity (one of whom was actually invited to join the Avengers).

But enough geek talk. What does that mean for this discussion?

Even if the old me is still a worm, the new me is being made into something, well, new and better. In my heart I may still be a villain, but in my soul, I'm being made into a hero.

Or to defer to the Apostle Paul: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6, NASB).

So I do my best to try to live a life worthy of being a hero, the kind of life that may one day get me invited to be an Avenger. But I don't do it to impress people. I don't do it to demonstrate how pure and holy I am (because I'm not, remember Day 1). Nor do I do it to build a barrier between myself and the unwashed masses (because I know that I'm not just one of them, I'm the president of the unwashed masses and have the biggest stick in my eye alone).

I do it because (and just because) I'm being made into a new person, because my character is being changed, because I want to honor the One whose goodness (i.e., righteousness, holiness) is working on my behalf.

I do it because of who I am becoming, not who I am. I do it because I know the person I am and am becoming, and not because I'm trying to prove anything to anyone. The only One who needs proof already knows.

And what am I becoming? Well, if you run in many church circles, you'll hear a long list of dos and don'ts about various cultural moral things like not smoking, not drinking, not cursing, etc.

I prefer to think that Christ is doing something different within me than just making me a good boy for my grandmother. I prefer to think that he's doing something to me that I can't do on my own. And I believe scripture backs this up.

Again, going to Paul: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5: 22-23, NASB).

I think that even more than doing the right "things" (daily devotional reading, praying every day, tithing, etc.) being the right person is the core of what it means to be "being perfected." I can do all the good things and still fake it, having no joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control toward other people. But I will find it very difficult to fake a live of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. People see that that quickly. And if I get these things right, you can't hold a "law" of drinking, smoking, or cursing against me.

I'm becoming like Christ in His time in His way. You're becoming like Christ in His time in His way for you. And we may be on different timetables.

Do I still have to fight the temptation to live like a pretender? Yes. Do I still have to fight the urges to ignore being patient, joyful, etc.?  

But the more I live like an Avenger, the more I become less like a Thunderbolt and more like an Avenger.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Like St. Francis, But Not That Cool Either

Continuing from yesterday's reflection about what a worm I am ("for such a worm as I," thank you original words of "At the Cross"), today I want to look at the flip side of it. Well, maybe not the exact opposite side, but at least coming at it from a different angle. Clear your minds of anything important, because this is going to blow them wide open and I don't want you to lose anything important.


Here we go then...

I believe it's only in realizing how utterly unworthy (i.e., worthless) we are as Christians or even people that we can even begin to start becoming "actual" Christians or even genuine people.

I think it all ties in with that whole "the truth will set you free" business. And not just the Truth with a capital T, but the truth about ourselves too. I think that as long as we all walk around operating in masks and costumes, pretending to be good, solid, moral citizens of the world that we only make ourselves avoid the truth that could be so very freeing.

That's where the title of this site comes from, our righteousness being like filthy rags (even after become believers in the faith, OUR righteousness still doesn't get any cleaner, luckily we don't rely on ours) and the most "holy" religious folks of Jesus day being called dirty cups, clean and sparkly on the outside where people can see and praise and look up to but filthy and stained on the inside where it really counts.

For me, this is the clencher...

The more we realize how far from sainthood we actually are, the more like the real saints we have become.

(Like Francis, but probably not that cool, since we don't have legends about us communicating with animals, which, now that I think about it, makes him kind of like the Aquaman of the Saint set. Not bad.)

Once we realize that though, we start on that slippery slope again of becoming the kind of worm who starts to think himself or herself as more than just a worm -- which we are in Christ, we are beautiful brothers and sisters, but NEVER, NO NOT EVER IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM on our own merits.

Maybe one day I should write a short story called "The Worm That Learned He Didn't Have to Remain Just a Worm, But Became Less Than Even a Worm the More He Went Around Trying to Look Like He Wasn't Just A Worm." Yeah, you're probably right, it'll never sell. The titles too on the nose. *grins*

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Like Batman, But Not That Cool

Hi. My name is Sean, and I'm a fake, a phony, a hypocrite.

Before you try to disagree with, let me just say that all you can see is the outside stuff I want you to see. I'm a nice guy, polite like my mom and Meme raised me, and I try to live up to that good ol' Golden Rule (when it's convenient, of course, but you don't see that). I try to be a good father and husband and employee and friend. But that's all the mask.

Far less cool that this.
Yes, like Batman.

Only, not that cool.

You see, beneath my mask, I'm not all that likeable, not really it seems like the guy I try to be.

And I won't go into the specifics here, because to be honest I still want you to like me. But let me tell you, if you could see the sick, selfish, icky stuff in my head, you'd keep your distance. Just being honest. I tell myself they're not things I'd ever act on, but they're there regardless, keeping vigil in my brain, tempting me just the same. There for the grace of God, as the saying goes.

I feel a little like Paul in that respect (then think, who am I to compare myself to that saint, even though Paul himself counts himself out of that list) when he writes in Romans 7:

I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (14-20, The Message)

It also makes me feel a bit like the Eagles sang when I stab it with my steely knives but I just can't kill the beast.

Inside I know I deserve to be strung up, hung out to dry, and left to rot, but outside I keep putting on that mask. (After all, they will know we are Christians by our gloves, right? So our hands don't actually get dirty.)

Luckily for a scab of a man like me, it's not my good and bad that is going against or for me. It's someone else's.

It's that grace thing again. That seems to pop up a lot here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christians and Halloween -- Opinions Galore

And here are more than a few of them.

Technically this is the Day of the Dead, but it's a cool pic. Okay?
 "Finding the answer to this question has been an interesting journey in itself. I interviewed several people and then researched what many leading Christian writers, authors and spokesmen have written about the subject. I also searched various websites such as,, and to read what others might be saying. What I found was an agreement on the origins of Halloween, but a mixture of recommendations about allowing our children to participate in this super-charged media driven holiday. "

"An old proverb says, "When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon." Presumably, NO genuine Christian would want to sup with the devil at all and yet many may be doing so in ignorance."

"For some people this holiday is a time for dress-up and candy; it is an opportunity for fun. Others express concern for their child's safety or for the emphasis that is often made on violence or horror at this time of year."

"The celebration of Halloween has no such Christian spiritual features. True, this holiday falls on October 31st, which is the eve of All Saints Day, which is a festival day celebrated by some Christian churches. However, the modern celebration of Halloween is not generally thought of as a Christian time of worship."

"Have you noticed how costumes and masks are getting generally more bloody, gory, and depraved each year? Unfortunately, the gruesome and grotesque and the occult are increasingly glorified in American society, not only on Halloween, but throughout the year in frequent horror movies and television programs."

"Halloween—October 31—is considered a holiday in the United States. In fact, it rivals Christmas with regard to how widely celebrated it is. Stores that sell only Halloween-related paraphernalia open up a few months before the day and close shortly after it ends. But is Halloween a holiday that Christians should be observing?"

"Good Christians are right to want to avoid evil, but Halloween is not evil, at least the way it is celebrated today. Some sincere people may worry about the origins of Halloween, but that is a mistake."

"Halloween, no matter how commercialized, has almost completely pagan origins. As innocent as it may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly. Christians tend to have various ways to celebrate or not to celebrate Halloween. For some, it means having an “alternative” Harvest Party. For others, it is staying away from the ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., and wearing innocuous costumes, e.g., little princesses, clowns, cowboys, super-heroes, etc. Some choose not to do anything, electing to lock themselves in the house with the lights off. With our freedom as Christians, we are at liberty to decide how to act."

And my own op-ed about this topic...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

[Link] Getting it

by John Fischer

Peter now claims to “get it,” this essential equality, which prohibits him from falsely judging and practicing separation by the avoidance of certain “unclean” things and by withholding the gospel from those Gentiles who would hear it and receive it.

Peter struggled through his cultural practice of holiness and separation and we are guilty of the same kind of legalism and externalism today.  Peter did not change overnight nor will our entrenched ideas and beliefs. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, God never meant for anyone to judge another. Therefore, by the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s stop the proliferation of our spoken and unspoken judgment.

Here are some concluding thoughts:
Let’s each step into the shoes of those we deem unclean and see what they see when looking at us.

This new insight will cause our knees to buckle toward the floor and our heads to bow in supplication. ...

Continue reading:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creative Corner #6 -- Thank You, Mr. Prometheus

 Here's another that has never appeared in print before. Just for you, faithful readers.

Thank You, Mr. Prometheus

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
-- Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

Jupiter laughed
When man first sparked flames for himself;
(Sure, his public face was aghast)
With his eyes upon us
He rested
And waited.

Just yesterday
Jupiter took Juno's hand,
Lead her to Olympus' edge,
Spread his hand across the canopy;
Then he kissed her
And waited.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Creative Corner #5 -- Yoke

Here's one that has never appeared in print before, a blog-exclusive just for you.


(It is said that children who have been
abused have a greater likelihood of
becoming abusers themselves.)

She is a drooping rose
Weighted by the rain
Leaning above a younger bloom
Careful to pour out her burden
Beyond the newer pedals.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Creative Corner #4 -- Death of the Prodigal

Photo Credit: Chris Wozniak, 1998
by Sean Taylor

There he kneels, the old man,
Still, staring at the headstone,
Boring holes into the fresh patch of earth
Between the plastic hearts, wicker wreaths,
Flowers doomed never to die,
Perched on three thin metal legs.
I wonder, is his heart perched there
Among them, waiting for a strong wind
To push it away
To keep vigil at some other stone?

... Run, kill the fatted calf,
The one we've fed for such an occasion,
For the returning prodigal;
Cook it and bury it deep
Beside the resting child,
A feast for the damned ...

He rises, crosses the freshly-cut green
Growing between the graves;
I smile as he passes, and he tells me,
"He was my son, but he was a Philistine.
He was a Philistine, but he was my son."
As if it were my heart, I offer
My hand, a token, but he continues
Past, weaves between the stones,
Making a cross at each one, and like a prayer
Says again, "He was my son..."

©1994 Sean Taylor

My poetry and early short stories are available in Gomer and Other Early Works.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Life Sucks, So What? (Part 3)

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
 A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?
I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.
I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.
That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.
Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.
I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.
I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.”
For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.
All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.
Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?
I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him? (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22, NASB)

Once again I return to the "depressing" book of Ecclesiastes, one of my favorites. Being prone to existentialism, I love to see the way the preacher (speaker delivering the message of this book) seems to waffle back and forth about whether or not it's ultimately worth it to look for happiness in the world.

Some see the opening of this chapter as a sort of sing-song (thank you, Byrds), happy-go-lucky admonition about all the wonderful opportunities in life, but I think the truth is a bit more dismal than that. I think it reads a lot more like this: Okay, some good stuff happens, then guess what? Some bad stuff happens. Then more good stuff, then more bad, then so on and so on. Life's filled with good things and bad things, and they all keep circling around.

Then, as if to punctuate that thought, the preacher goes on to say that we work our tails off, but it doesn't really get us anywhere. Sure, it may pay the day-to-day bills, but God has put a longing for eternity in our hearts, and somehow, just dealing with the day-to-day won't cut it in the long run. Don't think you have eternity set in your hearts? Ask yourself this: Do I want to be remembered after I'm dead? Do I want to matter in the world? Do I want the world to notice that I was here and that I'm gone? Damn right you do, because God set eternity in your heart.

As people, we contemplate the big ideas like eternity and actualization and morality and existence. It's what separates us from the lesser beasts. It's why our minds work the way they do.
Only, get this...  the preacher continues and takes even that away from us. We are no better than mere beasts, he says, nothing but beasts actually. They procreate and die. We procreate and die. Big whoop for us. At the end of it all, we're both dust (in the wind, thank you Kansas).

But rather than slitting his wrists after this thought or joining an emo band, the preacher suddenly has another massive mood swing. In spite of all this, nay, BECAUSE of it, it is good for people to be happy with their lot in life.

He baits the hook here, because, if this is all we've read, it doesn't make sense to us. Why would we be happy after you just let us know that life sucks and we're no better off than mere animals even with all our ability to ponder and reflect and our "souls"? Care to fill us in, Preacher? And he will. Ultimately, he's getting around to that. He's just building up his case at this point, laying his foundation. The best is yet to come, but it's going to require flexibility in our world view and our sense of karmic fair play and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. He's already working hard at his premise that's going to cut all that right out from beneath us.

What's fair? Nothing's fair. Good stuff, bad stuff, it happens willy-nilly, whether we've earned it or not. What about all our hard work to make something of ourselves? Tough crap. We're all just beasts, rights, made of and returning to the same dust.

So obviously, this idea of being able to enjoy life and have a happy and meaningful existence isn't going to be something we actually contribute to the equation. It's going to have to come from outside us, something we aren't able to manufacture ourselves.

Hint. It's called "grace," and we'll be getting to that later.