Friday, February 27, 2009
I've been working my way again through Process Theology. I've begun to remember a lot of the main points as I've read again, but it's been slow-going. Between the density of the material and finding the time and space to not only read but concentrate, I'll probably be spending a lot longer on this one. For those wondering what process theology is, this is a concept of God different from the traditional all-powerful, all-determining God...here, God is persuasive rather than coercive, moving creation toward greater perfection and enjoyment rather than pre-determining everything, and displays perfect love through responding to creatures' choices rather than deciding for them ahead of time. I've been sympathetic toward this view since seminary...I figured it was time to not only revisit it, but also deepen my understanding of it.
This past Sunday evening, after seeing Steve Martin on the Oscars, I decided to re-read Pure Drivel. For those amazed that I'm reading two books at once, don't get too excited. Pure Drivel is a short book, very light reading, and hilarious. Last night I re-started it, and just read the first two chapters (maybe 10 pages total) before going to bed. If you're a fan of Martin's humor, this is it in print form.
The past week, I've been listening to a few albums:
Sound-Dust by Stereolab - I think this might take a few listens for me to "get it." This is an album largely filled with slow, ethereal sorts of grooves that I might like in the evening with a glass of wine, but I was listening to this while driving and was hoping for something more...uh...driving. Besides that, this didn't seem like the best album to start with for an introduction to Stereolab. I'm hoping that there's more to them than this.
The Horseshoe Curve by Trey Anastasio - This is an album of instrumental music, the sound reminiscent of his other Phish and solo work, though he makes large use of horns and a slight ska/reggae sound as well. The jams are decent enough, but all in all the songs seemed to blend into each other and the album as a whole impressed me as something playing in the background in Starbucks and not much more. Meh.
Also, I was surprised to hear this week that Steven Page is leaving Barenaked Ladies! How is a Page-less BNL even possible? Try to picture the Rolling Stones without either Mick or Keith...not both, just one. Yeah, it's like that. I haven't done so yet, but I'm going to make it a point to listen to some BNL this weekend. Stunt has always been my favorite, although Gordon is, of course, their classic.
From around the web, here's Louis C.K. on Conan O'Brien talking about how everything is amazing, but nobody's happy. I'm using bits of this to talk about Jesus in the wilderness on Sunday:
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Well, we are coming to yet another milestone: my 1000th post. In celebration, I wish to do a similar thing.
This time, of course, I'll answer 10 questions. Funny, serious, theological, favorite ballpark, whatever. I only ask that I don't get any repeat questions from the last time. And I will be selective about any questions about my church.
So there you go. The comments section is yours. First come, first served.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This quote comes from Reinhold Neibuhr's Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, which I've never actually read. This was included on a Facebook discussion group, and I wanted to track it down because I've been thinking about it lately.
(The language in the quote is awkward because someone attempted to make it inclusive.)
I recently had the term "disillusionment" clarified and interpreted in a new way for me. It was actually in Richard Hamm's book Recreating the Church that I read it. When I used to think of the term, I thought of someone who has become so worn down by disappointment; by the constant defeat of failed expectation. In a sense, that is true and one who becomes disillusioned can certainly end up in that place within themselves.
However, the way both Neibuhr and Hamm define disillusionment is simply the removal of illusion, of fantasy, of expectations that are not failed but false. True enough, failure may be one of the fastest and easiest ways to having one's illusions ripped to shreds; it can tell us so much about where we truly are with relationships, with our knowledge, with ourselves. Expectations give way to reality...we become disillusioned.
The positive way to view disillusionment, according to both Hamm and Neibuhr, is in the sense that we have a better idea of how some aspect of the world truly works. By becoming disillusioned, we gain a more accurate perspective. We realize that government, or the church, or a friend, or a spouse, or technology isn't the perfect answer to all our problems after all; that they each have their flaws. And when we lose such illusions, we can begin to work within the true boundaries of the capabilities and existence of each.
I lost illusions about the church way earlier than anyone really should, though I suspect that many people have become disillusioned about the church around the same age. Perhaps it happens in a much different manner than it did for me, but if the kids I've guided through confirmation are any indication, there's plenty of disillusionment to go around.
There was a period early on in my beginning full-time ministry where a lot of disillusionment happened. As it turns out, some in the church may be excited about guitars in worship, but not everyone is. And some may be passionate about mission projects, but not all. And some may be excited about revisiting long-held assumptions about the Bible, but not everyone is. And not everyone gets hung up on minutiae, but some do. This is the mixed bag of ministry, and my disillusionment has lately come in the form of realizing how much of a mixed bag it really is.
Probably one of the biggest moments of disillusionment that I'm still dealing with and reacting to happened a few years ago right before a wedding (yeah...who knew a wedding would provide a moment of disillusionment for me?). It was a pretty small affair, perhaps 20 guests or so, with two children from previous marriages serving as best man and maid of honor.
The two kids, actually in their early to mid-20s, arrived while everything was still being set up. The two of them, along with her boyfriend, stood in the narthex for a while, and I overheard one remark about how long it'd been since he'd been in a church. Another seemed to agree, and they had a chuckle together. It was during this exchange that I could feel three pairs of eyes on me, the representative of some part of their past they hadn't found meaningful and hadn't been given good reason to revisit. Part of what I felt at that moment was probably simple paranoia, but I also had a realization about how irrelevant and goofy many my age believe the church to be.
At that moment, I lost an illusion about what others do and don't find meaningful and worthwhile regarding the church. I think it also contributed to my wedding disillusionment, because for me it provided a glimpse into how seriously people, especially "unchurched," take the ceremony.
Over the years, of course, there's been plenty of self-disillusionment as well. Neibuhr mentions above that "One who has lost their illusions about humanity and retains their illusions about themself is insufferable." I hope that I haven't been insufferable, and I wonder whether I've lost enough illusions about myself. In fact, at times I wonder if I've lost too many illusions about myself to be of any use. If I'd retained some illusions, I'd be deluded rather than disillusioned, so in some ways I'm still trying to discover what living with myself means in my new reality.
That wedding provided some disillusionment about my self-image vs. how others see me, and these types of things bring assorted questions:
How capable am I of leading a congregational to a more missional way of thinking?
What skills do I need to use or learn to get people excited about [pick something]?
I'm much more family-oriented now. What's that mean for ministry in general?
Am I really that great of a preacher, or caregiver, or teacher, or change agent, or husband, or father? What needs improvement in any of these areas?
How much does my chosen vocation become a perceived roadblock for others?
Questions like these come as a result of my learning something about my true limitations, or at least the limitations of my immediate context.
As I become more disillusioned, I find at times that I need to work harder to energize myself for the new world that I've just discovered. The facade falls away, and I am left to wonder what happens next. I exclaim, "O brave new world," and ask whether I say it with excitement or frustration or dread.
And yet I embark into that new world, more disillusioned, because I must.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Anna May Flynn, 90, went home with the Lord to join her husband, Ralph, and kick his butt for leaving her alone for 15 years after his passing to deal with their trouble-making, heathen children. After a long fight with old-age that wore her out in the end, she passed away Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
With over four years' worth of posts now, I thought that revisiting a few now and then might be fun. And since it's Valentine's Day, here's my favorite post with related content: Don't Read This If You Really Like Valentine's Day:
My brother sent me this list of sayings for Valentine's Cards that Hallmark won't use for some reason. Enjoy.
~If love were a flavor of ice cream, it would be Mint Chocolate Chip because I love that flavor.
~I used to think that love was something I could feel only once in a lifetime. And then I met your sister.
~Love is like applesauce--it's mushy and makes me want to poop.
~Two lovers in love are better than three lovers in a love triangle, because two is less than three, and too much love can give you gas.
~Roses are red, violets are blue, yada yada yada here's a card.
~If Chuck Norris were your boyfriend, he probably would have gotten you more than this crappy card.
~The Beatles once philosophized that all you need is love. I would argue that you need food, water, and shelter, too.
~If my love for you were a television show, I would definitely TiVo it every week.
~I would really like to vocalize my feelings for you, but I'm a wuss, so this card does it for me.
~Did you ever think when we met that we would be as happy as we are now? I know I didn't.
~Love is like a fine wine--it gets better with age and can stain the rug.
~Someone once asked me to compare love to a flower. I thought that was stupid.
~If I could think of a song that would describe my love for you, I think I would choose something by Dido...maybe that duet she did with Eminem...that had a good beat.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I watched Rock Star this past week, starring Mark Wahlberg as a guy from Seattle who sings in a tribute band for his favorite hair-metal band, Steel Dragon. He's obsessed with getting every detail of their imitation exactly right to the point that it eventually alienates him from his bandmates. Fortunately, about the same time the real Steel Dragon somehow discovers him and asks him to be their new lead singer. There's the usual "seduced by the lifestyle" thing, and then the eventual "realize the business is marginally about the music" thing, and so then he becomes a coffeehouse grunge rocker because it's "more him." I enjoyed it more than this synopsis lets on: the theme is being true to yourself, which is no less obvious than when Wahlberg's character stops wanting to emulate his favorite band. The genre is a bit formulaic, though: you know we'll get around to the lifestyle seduction bit followed by the revelation of what he's become bit. But I did think it was a fun ride...the tribute band angle was a nice change.
Flight of the Conchords was really low-key this week. Jim Gaffigan had a guest role as Murray's friend, as Murray wanted to upgrade Bret and Jemaine to friend status. He had a graph to illustrate where they were and everything. Murray's over-organization is a fun part of the show, but I wasn't feeling the story arc in general. I think it was because Gaffigan is usually more goofy than this, and this character didn't allow him to be that. There was a funny bit where Bret was forced into apologizing to Mel for something he did to her in a dream that she had.
This week I've been listening to a band from the Akron/Canton area called the Jeffrey Allens. Yeah. The Jeffrey Allens. They're a punk/ska band that actually just broke up. But they're the Jeffrey Allens. So they're pretty awesome.
From around the web, here's Radiohead performing at the Grammys with the USC marching band:
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
My daughter, taking a break from her pursuit of a graduate degree, is a server at the Chili's a few miles down from our house. Like many others her age she is already pretty critical of the church and its obvious hypocrisies. Her cynicism, that to say, is neither atypcial nor incomprehensible. Nor does this kind of thing help--her or others.
A group of six church-goers came in last night after their evening services and sat down, not in her area but in another server's. When the girl came to greet them and take their drink order, one of them said, "We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because..."
Are you ready?
"...we do not believe in people working on Sunday."
The girl was taken full-aback, stammered out something that sounded like "I wouldn't have to work on Sunday if so many church people didn't come in," or some such. She was furious. So was the manager of the restaurant whom she summoned to deal with them. I think he should have tossed the people out on their...uh...Bibles. To his credit, and demonstrating something like agape all around, he did say to them, "Well, we don't believe in making our people work for nothing, so I will be serving you tonight." And he did. God bless him.
Before she was a nurse, Coffeewife's career was in foodservice, first as a server and eventually as a manager. I was amazed at some of the stories that she told when she came home. They were stories like this: people suffering from an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I can't recall many stories where the rude people in question self-identified as Christian; whether they used their faith as justification for rude behavior. I think she did share a story or two about people leaving one of those wonderful, worthless little tracts in lieu of a tip, and if it had been left with someone with already plenty to despise about religion in general and Christianity in particular she'd be privy to a rant in the kitchen after the fact.
As best as I can tell, Christians really have a horrible reputation among restaurant workers. I asked Coffeewife about this once and she confirmed it based on her own experiences. And as best as I can tell, they use their faith to justify it. Exhibit A: the explanation, contradictory as it is, given by the charming bunch above.
Which came first, the propensity for being a jerk, or the religion-based justification for it? There's no easy, clear-cut way to go about this. One could argue either way, I think. There are plenty who'd argue that religion causes or encourages idiocy, bigotry, and any number of other inhumane attitudes or behaviors. Others would argue that the people above were already jerks, and religion provided a convenient reason for it.
And a look at Jesus' teachings, for my own part, would stick these non-tippers in their place. See Jesus and his disciples picking grain on the sabbath in order to have their daily sustenance. This server most likely needed this daily wage in order to provide for herself. It's only the legalists who get upset at the disciples, the ones who follow the law so closely that they forego basic human need in favor of keeping rules and chastising others for not keeping them.
This is to say nothing of firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, sewage and power plant workers, and many other professions that can't afford to take a sabbath, at least not all at the same time. And why? Because plenty of people need them to work. Basic human need (something that Jesus cared a lot about) declares that they need to work.
I'd love for one of these non-tippers to approach someone in one of those professions and tell them that they shouldn't be working. I'd love to hear the response.
Monday, February 09, 2009
The Michigan football team finalized its 2009 schedule with the addition of Delaware State, a historically black college.
Delaware State will fill the Oct. 17 slot in Michigan's 12-game regular season, a source within the athletic department confirmed.
Delaware State is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and is a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly Division I-AA, team.
Delaware State's coach, Al Lavan, was an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan and also spent 18 seasons in the NFL as an assistant.
Lavan became coach at Delaware State in 2004. In 2007, the Hornets won 10 games and the MEAC championship, the school's first since 1991.
Last season, Delware State was 5-6.
Delaware State will be the second FCS school Michigan has played in three years. Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines, 34-32, in the 2007 season opener.
Michigan's 12-game schedule now features nonconference games at Western Michigan in the Sept. 5 opener, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan and Delaware State, all at Michigan Stadium.
I myself am figuring that tickets might be easy to come by for that one.
Then again, I attended one such supposed cupcake game last season, and that didn't go so well.
But there's nowhere to go but up. Right?
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Saturday, February 07, 2009
1. Chasing Coffeeson around the living room. He'll crawl away, stop and sit up, realize you're coming after him, squeal, and either crawl some more or just sit there and laugh. He loves it, and I think it's hilarious.
2. Chipotle. It's our Sunday afternoon tradition, in part so that we don't eat it like three times a week. It's become a part of my wind-down routine after worship.
3. My drums. I haven't played them a whole lot lately, partially because the only time I'd really get to is while Coffeeson is asleep, and that just wouldn't work very well. And even though I play my guitar more regularly, I've been getting the itch more and more to go back to my first musical love and shake off the rust.
4. Coffee. Black, strong, multiple cups. And stay out of my way until I get a couple sips.
5. Empty church sanctuaries. I'll sit in one for hours if you let me - praying, reflecting, listening, journaling, ranting. I believe that God is everywhere and surely not relegated just to Big God Church Rooms, but I truly make these places sacred space, particularly when no one else is around. Backwards for a pastor? Maybe.
Friday, February 06, 2009
The first is another on my short list of "repeat reads," High Fidelity. I wasn't sure why I was drawn back to this book at this particular time, but after I finished the timing made a lot of sense. If you aren't familiar with the book or the movie (which is one of my favorites as well), Rob is a guy in his mid-30s who owns a struggling record shop, is trying to figure out his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, and is trying to make sense of his life in general. The book, more than the movie, has Rob feeling pushed to strive after something bigger; to not "keep his options open" and finally commit to something that he can't back out of. Part of this push stems from his coping with his lack of accomplishment at his age. The movie focuses more on Rob's problems in relationships; the book is more about his overall sense of purpose. As I near my 30th birthday, reading this again was perfect.
I also breezed through Rob Bell's latest, Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Bell first takes us through a few broad interpretations of the Biblical story arc: namely that God wants to save people from exile and combat the attitude of empire. Empire, Bell observes, brings an attitude of entitlement, an inability to see or understand the situation of the poor, the fear of losing one's position of power and influence, and the use of violence to keep that position. Bell notes how the church itself can have an attitude of empire and neglect its true purpose. I experienced this book to be a little more stream-of-consciousness than usual, and that's saying a lot considering Bell's past efforts. And both his Biblical interpretation and his theology can be a little convoluted at times. But the last couple chapters, if you can stick with him all the way to the end, contain some powerful words to the church about its function and relevance. This includes a question near the end that he asks about who would protest the elimination of one's church from its neighborhood: would only the members protest, or would the surrounding community that it is called to serve protest as well?
And if that wasn't enough, I finished yet another book this week. It's called Dealing by local sports writer Terry Pluto, and is all about the rebuilding of the Cleveland Indians in the early 2000s after their success in the 1990s. He briefly chronicles the success of those earlier teams, the realizations by management that players were getting older and more expensive, and the eventual need to hit the reboot button. They even set a goal in 2002 to be where they want to be by 2005, and sure enough, they won 93 games in 2005 (although they missed the playoffs in the final week of the season). It's an interesting glimpse into the decisions made during those years, the simplest explanation being, "invest in prospects." And because of that, we eventually got Crisp, Sizemore, Sabathia, Lee, Hafner, Victor Martinez, and others who eventually became impact players on the Tribe roster. Publicly, of course, all people saw was the team losing guys like Ramirez, Roberto Alomar, Bartolo Colon, Thome, and Vizquel...it would take years for fans to appreciate the payoff.
Flight of the Conchords opened this week with the band playing a gig at a library, and Bret rapping, "50 Cent is not that good...Mos Def is not that good...Ice-T is not that good..." He went on like this for a while. Afterwards, Murray warns him that now these rappers will be after him because he dissed them, leading him to form a gang consisting of a guy in his 70s, an older Chinese couple, and their weird pawn shop friend. Hilarity ensues. The music was stronger this week. Probably my favorite episode of the season so far.
From around the web, this was my favorite Super Bowl commercial this year:
Thursday, February 05, 2009
But yesterday, I learned a piece of information that seriously scored some points for Vic. Apparently on this past week's episode of 24, the good guys discovered that the terrorists or whomever they're fighting are planning to attack the city of Kidron, Ohio. Sure enough:
Kidron, Ohio, is facing a deadly leak from its chemical plant, one that might kill as many as 18,000 people out of the community's 30,000.
At least, that's how the Fox TV series 24 described the potential result of a terrorist plot launched at the end of Monday's episode.
It's odd that a network show would decide to make a target of Kidron, a small, unincorporated community that is part of Sugar Creek Township in Wayne County.
The mention is courtesy of Brannon Braga, a former Canton resident who is now a co-executive producer and writer on 24. Back in September 2007, before the writers strike stalled production of television series, he co-wrote Monday's episode with Manny Coto, another writer-producer on the show and a regular collaborator with Braga. (The two also teamed on the Enterprise TV series.)
In a telephone interview, Braga said, ‘‘I thought a nod to Ohio would be fun.’’
But, of course, the Kidron on 24 is different: it's bigger and it has a chemical plant. To someone familiar with the real Kidron, this is pretty laughable. But for most of 24's viewers, it probably doesn't matter. I guess this is all to say that 1) those making Jack Bauer pilgrimages should brace themselves for disappointment, and 2) I might start watching this season, if only for amusement. But I doubt that's why they'd want me to watch.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
It's just to say that, in school, it didn't energize me. You know how some kids slog through Sunday School or confirmation because they think it's boring? That was me and science. I didn't do horribly at it, or even really find it difficult (except for chemistry...stupid periodic table with all your atomic weights and figuring out what P signifies and whatever). I was just interested in other things.
And now as I've gotten older, I've become more interested. I realize that it's something that I haven't devoted a lot of energy to understanding, and that particularly in this day and age where religion-science debates seem especially to be raging, I'm not satisfied with my passing knowledge. In college especially, I took this biology class on sex and death and finally began to appreciate how cool and fun and interesting science really is.
And see, it's not even really because of those debates. I mean sure, it'd be nice to understand various subjects more for that reason, but I just think there's a lot of fascinating stuff in those areas that I just haven't exposed myself to.
So I turn it over to my readers to help me out. I don't know how many of you are die-hard science buffs or even take a more leisurely interest. Where do I start, particularly evolution and physics? I mean, do I just pick up Origin of Species, or should I start somewhere else?
What would you recommend to someone looking to deepen their understanding of current scientific theories, knowing that they haven't really touched a science book in 7-8 years?
I'm intrigued by quantum physics as well, but it seems advanced...like I have to read some prerequisites first or something. But maybe that's not really the case. See, I need someone to tell me that. I cruised over to the science section in Borders a month or so ago, and had no idea where to begin. I'm pretty sure I ended up picking up yet another theology book instead.
I just want to be more informed in these areas than I am. Thanks for any help that you can give, CoffeeNation.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
The recent boom in cosmetic procedures has raised the bar for many of us when it comes to appearance. And, it turns out, the dead are no exception.For me, this conjures images of all those TV shows on TLC featuring brides fretting over their wedding dresses and "wanting to have the perfect day," only...you know...for their funeral. "Omigod, I want my funeral to be the big event of the year. I hope to lose 15 pounds before then. We'll have an open bar. I want to go with an ancient Egyptian theme."
As the population has become increasingly sophisticated about procedures to enhance their appearance, so have their requests, morticians say, for smoothing lines, plumping lips and even boosting sagging parts for that last big special occasion — their funeral.
“People used to say, just throw me in a pine box and bury me in the back yard,” says Mark Duffey, president and CEO of Everest Funeral, a national funeral planning and concierge service. “But that’s all changing. Now people want to be remembered. A funeral is their last major event and they want to look good for it. I’ve even had people say, ‘I want you to get rid of my wrinkles and make me look younger’.”
Morticians have always performed a bit of cosmetic magic when it comes to recapturing the lifelike appearance of a person who’s passed on. What's happening now, however, is some people are making advance arrangements for these final touches and in ways they never used to even think about.
“I’ve had people mention that they want their breasts to look perky when they’re dead,” says David Temrowski, funeral director of Temrowski & Sons Funeral Home in Warren, Mich. “Or they’ll say, ‘Can you get these wrinkles out?’ It’s all in humor, but I think people do think [more] about what they’re going to look like when they’re dead and lying in a casket.”
I've officiated at funerals where the family asks for personal touches such as a Texas flag next to the casket or an entire display in the narthex featuring pictures, stuffed animals, and a pink motorcycle helmet. That stuff makes sense. It helps tell the story of who the person was.
I've also been to funerals where the person did not look like themselves. Makeup can only do so much. The circumstances surrounding their deaths didn't really make for a wonderful final picture. But I doubt that plastic surgery ever came into the discussion...the superficiality of the notion, the near-desperate-sounding final attempt to look like oneself (or better) at an event that you're present for only physically doesn't sound like it's worth it to me.
Monday, February 02, 2009
Having said all that: what's up, Heidelberg?
I mean, you changed from "college" to "university" this past month. It was something that was in the works for a long time, and now it's official. You were a university years and years ago, so it's really just switching back. That's fine. I don't mind that. I was only planning on buying apparel that just says "Heidelberg" without "University." After all, I didn't go to Heidelberg University.
And are you going to send out new degrees to Coffeewife and me denoting the change? It feels funny to have a degree from Heidelberg College when technically that institution no longer exists.
But my biggest beef at the moment, Heidelberg, is your new logo. You used to have this script letter H that adorned everything. It was a classic, timeless, sort of piece. It suggested tradition and legacy while also inviting today's students to be a part of it. You see it up there? It looks nice, right?
Wow...look that that unique, distinctive, one-of-a-kind...uh...tower. I bet no other institution of higher education uses their tower as part of promoting themselves. This is surely a concept that you, Heidelberg, have dreamed up on your own. You are groundbreakers in your field. While everyone else was using script Hs whether their name started with H or not, you broke the mold and went with your tower.
You could've at least used Beeghly Library instead. It's round and when it's decorated for Christmas it looks like a spaceship. To have a spaceship library as our new logo at least would have been more distinct.
So no more script H. Now we have a tower, like everyone else.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
"If there's a god, he is laughing at us and our football team."-Ben Folds, "Effington"