|Your Taste in Music:|
Last month I posted a poem I wrote in a poetic form known as a ghazal. We asked me who I'd recommend who wrote in this form. There are many great poets who have used the form over the past millenia. Rumi who has been widely translated, but didn't write solely ghazals and Ghalib who is much lesser known and sadly not as widely translated. There are a few books I go to time and again when I am feeling in the mood for a ghazal fix:
Agha Shaid Ali – Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A posthumous collection of ghazals written by one of the best poets of his generation. He died way too soon. His love for poetic form isn't just academic. All of the poems in this collection are meditative and deeply spiritual. I use his works as a guide for my own for he attempts to use poetry to explain what can't always be put into words. There is a modern myth that writing in fixed form is confining and restrictive. Ali liberates the poems through form.
Agha Shaid Ali, ed. -- Ravishing Disunities: One of my favorite anthologies. Ali selected a who's who of poets who best utilized the ghazal like: W.S. Merwin, Dianne Ackermann, Paul Muldoon, & Marilyn Hacker. Though all of the work is pretty strong it can get tired at times. It also lacks the faith based core which makes Ali's work so transcendent.
Jacob wrestled with God through out the night by the river side saying he will not let go until he gets the Lord's blessing. That about describes how I wrestled with knowing God. I have been up and down the theologic spectrum. To seek after God is an incredible joy. There should be a warning that along the way we may get knocked around and hurt.
Most recently I finished reading Brennan Manning's “The Ragamuffin Gospel”. There is a little bit of controversy surrounding Brennan. Theologians have attacked him saying he's a universalist (which he denies in the last section of book), or whatever. There is no wonder since he focuses entirely on grace and how God loves us even at our worst. He never discusses judgment or whether you have to accept Christ as your Lord and be Born again. At least not in this book. Sadly, his one sided view can invalidate his message in my people's minds just as Jerry Fallwel's message is lost.
I do not want to become a legalistic person or one so blinded by grace that I lose God's true nature. These are gross over-simplifications with a limited measure of truth. To quote Tony Campolo it is like we are are like mixing manure with ice cream. Once we pick out the turds (thank you Colbert) we at the very least can begin to sort out who our True God is. Where is the God of wonder, the God who brings us to our knees and makes us want to do nothing but praise and worship Him?
I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things as to to obscure things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that.
For instance, the Bible teaches that God is love; some have interpreted this in such a way as to virtually deny that he is just, which the Bible also teaches. Others press the Biblical doctrine of God's goodness so far that it is made to contradict His holiness. Or they make His compassion cancel out His truth. Still others understand the Sovereignty of God in a way that destroys or at least greatly diminishes His goodness and love.
I do not see a book like this being written today. Do not read it if you want to feel good about yourself or think God'll give you goodies for praying a certain prayer. You will get a reclaimed understanding of the omnipotence, omniscience, and self-sufficiency of God. Our heavenly father who does love us in spite of our sins, though there are times he will punish us out of love.