Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The expert says (warning- the following quote uses a lot of confusing but smart-sounding words): “It’s based on routine activity theory and situational crime prevention. You mix different types of activities in locations that are crime-ridden to change the composition of the environment.”
Says a localite: "There are plenty of people who dislike classical music besides gangbangers, and any one of them might want to take a bat to one of the speakers. So many people who hang around here don’t listen to that kind of music. They won’t like it – any of them.”
Says another young local person: “They’ll say, 'This is whack,’ and go over and hang out at the mall or by Babies ‘R’ Us. The music isn’t going to change the attitude of the kids.”
I'm not sure what to think. Part of me wants to be offended. Classical music is a wondrous thing that can call out the best in all people. Now it's being used like an insect repellent. I've spent years studying and playing the best music ever written. To hear "Well, this stuff is so repulsive it will drive people away" is a little painful.
On the other hand, the fact that 21st Century Society is arguing about classical music can only be good. It shows it still has some relevance.
But here's the question: what if I'm waiting for my bus, and it arrives right in the middle of the final movement of the Beethoven 5? You can't just get up and leave before the final chord comes crashing down. I would be stuck there, waiting for the next bus, hoping it didn't show up in the middle of the Mozart 40.
Friday, July 27, 2007
The discussion started regarding whether or not there is an Age of Accountability, and if so, what is it? That led to a discussion on original sin, which led to the old question, "what about those who never hear about Jesus? What about the pygmies in Africa?"
I stated that just perhaps, God's grace is big enough that some of them MIGHT be saved, if they respond appropriately to the light God has given them. That Romans 2 seems to say that people who don't have the Law are judged separate from the Law. So therefore, I would leave the door open to the possibility that God might judge some of them righteous. Of course, their salvation is still won by Christ's work on the cross - he paid the price of sin. They just may not be aware of that piece until they meet Him, finally.
So now, in the eyes of the doctrine police, I'm saying that everybody who follows their own religion is saved, that the cross didn't mean anything, that all the wiccans will be saved, that John 3:16 is a lie. I'm now a universalist, a christian humanist, I'm saying that the Bible is a lie and that God is just an happy old fuddy duddy who will let anybody who happens to be nice in the door.
So there you go. You can tell me if you think I'm a heretic. Hope I don't lose my Covenant Credentialing, just because I happen to believe in a Big God who offers Big Grace, which is sometimes beyond my understanding.
Friday Random 10
I'd almost forgotten that Switchfoot was on my playlist. They never seem to come up. Unlike Alison Krauss, who seems to show up here every week. I was in a James Taylor mood earlier this week, so nice to have him show up again. And somehow Delirous stuck their head in the door twice this morning. Interesting to have #s 6 and 7 together, as they are both old spirituals redone by modern musical masters.
- On Fire – Switchfoot
- Ebo Walker- - The Dillards
- Up On the Roof – James Taylor
- Rompe Spreza – Kathleen Battle
- O Lead Me – Delirious
- We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder – Bruce Springsteen
- Soon I Will be Done with the Troubles of this World – David Crowder
- The Scarlet Tide – Alison Krauss
- Still Here Waiting – Todd Agnew
- Hands of Kindness – Delirious
Thursday, July 26, 2007
It's all so irritating. Mostly because they refuse to listen to what I'm saying. But also because I grow so tired of self-proclaimed "Guardians of Orthodoxy" who feel the need to point out every perceived heresy and run it into the ground. These same folks have announced that Brian McLaren is the biggest danger to Christianity today, and that the Emergent Movement is actually a New Age Gnosticism that needs to be fought to the end.
And what is always so frustrating is that they are relying on 16th century theology rather than the biblical texts themselves. But, they've grown so close to their theology that they think it IS the biblical text. So to say "that's not really what the text says," is, in their minds, to actually deny the text. Does that make sense?
I think I'm staying closer to the biblical message then they are, but since I'm denying Calvin (the final arbiter of all things theological, I guess) they assume I'm denying the Bible.
Makes me glad, again, to be in the Covenant Church, where people can actually have discussions without automatically being labeled heretics. Makes me glad I left the fundies behind a long time ago. But it makes me sad that, at least on this message board, I can't have a voice without the thought police coming after me.
"There's really no other movie like this out there."
"We think people are going to be blown away by the action in this movie."
"He's the greatest director in the world - I'm so fortunate to be able to work with him."
"It's like nothing anybody's done before."
And my observation is, the worse the movie, the higher the people involved speak of it.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Texts for August 5, 2007
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
Any Lit professor would be glad to receive these passages for a creative writing assignment. Both are beautiful poetry, dripping with words of love, nature, kissing, parental affection. And yet both carry darker images of rebellion, anger, and wrath. What we essentially have is an Old Testament picture of grace - in spite of Israel's rebellion, God still loves them and will restore them.
What image jumps out at you? There are a lot here - lover, friend, parent, judge. Which speaks to you?
Hosea shows us God's thought process at work ("I'm going to punish you. . .no wait! I can't! I love you too much!") What do we learn about God as he carries on this conversation with himself?
Vs. 9 of the Hosea passage almost seems backward. "Because I am God, not man, I won't carry out my anger against you." Wouldn't we usually expect it the other way? That humans are prone to let each other off the hook, but God has to judge our sin? What is God saying here about himself, as opposed to humans?
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Of course, it is utterly ludicrous to make the comparison. There is no way you can equate Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, his Requiem Mass, his operas, his piano concertos, with such ditties as Good Vibrations and Surfin' USA. It ought to be impossible to equate The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute with lines such as "Gotta keep those lovin' good vibrations a-happenin- with her" and "If everybody had a notion across the USA, then everybody'd be surfin down in Californ-i-a. . ."
But this is the way popular music works. Watch any MTV retrospective about pop artists young and old, and you'll get the same language. "Britney's parents first noticed her genius when she was 5 years old." "Christina works the crowd in masterful fashion, the painter with her musical medium." "His drumming has been described as 'god-like,' pure artistic genius on display to adoring fans fortunate enough to be in his presence." The recent "diva" fling is an example, especially in naming of 19-year-old pop princesses as divas. I could understand using Diva to describe Kathleen Battle. Maybe Jane Monnheit. Even Sara Brigthman. But Mariah Carey? Celine Dion? Ladies who made it into the upper echelons of the music world by selling cheap trinkets to the uncritical masses don't deserve lofty titles.
Perhaps the language itself is the giveaway. Perhaps within pop culture there is a latent awareness that it is all so shallow, so pointless, to untalented, so. . .stupid. Thus, they gather around themselves writers and promoters who can use words like "genius" and "talent," and convince themselves that perhaps they actually are worthy of the accolades.
All of this is on my mind because we watched "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" Saturday night. It's a documentary about Daniel Johnston, a reclusive singer/songwriter/artist, who also happens to be mentally ill (read: completely insane) and maybe even possessed. The movie rightly focuses mostly on Mr. Johnston, but what I found fascinating was the following this man created. Because, to put it bluntly, the man is an idiot. He has no talent. At all. He can't sing, he can barely play an instrument, and his lyrics? They are about the equivalent of the prose of a high school freshman in English Class. Do you get my point? There is no talent at work here.
And yet, throughout the movie he is referred to as a genius. Multiple times. Hordes of people acclaim Mr. Johnston as the greatest musician of the 20th century. They talk about his "art." They exuberantly share their passion for his Amazing Work. Record producers. Singers in other bands. Masses of fans. Promoters. They all wax eloquently about this man and his genius.
And the whole time I wanted to shout "But the emperor has no clothes!" "The man has no talent!"
So the question becomes,
a) Have people's expectations dropped so low that this is truly considered genius?
b) Are people simply afraid to state the obvious, for fear of everybody else accusing them of 'being too commercial'?
c) is everybody else around him insane?
d) or is it just pop culture doing what it naturally does - picking the lowest-common-denominator and naming it as Great?
Interestingly enough, near the end of the movie, his parents speak of reading the biography of Brian Wilson, and taking comfort in his journey. As Wilson battled mental disease that crippled his "art," so too does their son battle infirmity of the mind. Of course, at this point they cue the critics and promoters who say "but Johnston's music is at a level above Brian Wilson's. Nothing Brian wrote can compare with Daniel Johnston." I wanted to throw something at the TV monitor.
And then last night I was reading Wendell Berry, and came across this line:
If a man finds it necessary to eat garbage, he should resist the temptation to call it a delicacy.
I think popular culture, and its consumers, would do well to heed Wendell's instruction. If you want to like Mariah Carey, who am I to judge you? If you want to listen to Hillary Duff's latest tripe, you are welcome to it. Just don't attempt to call it anything other than what it is. Cheap, quickly fading, disposable entertainment. If you think Daniel Johnston is attractive, then enjoy his stuff. Just don't try to convince anybody that it is genius or high art. You demean those words, and our world, when you do.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Apparently it's shown up here in the Puget Sound area.
"the dreary weather likely is a remnant of Typhoon Man-yi, which went through Japan last week, [the weather expert] said."
Seattle could break a record today for most rain ever recorded on July 22. Flooding in the lowlands, campers fleeing rampaging rivers. . .
and we had a huge family picnic planned for this afternoon.
Friday, July 20, 2007
And no, it's not because it's about witchcraft and such. It's more because I'd rather read Tolstoy or Annie Dillard or Luci Shaw than a pop children's book. Call me weird.
Friday Random 10
I don't know about this one. #2 is off an album I really loved, but it's not aging well. And the randomness of the genres kind of set me on edge - jumping from jazz to bluegrass to baroque. Still, we got our Vineyard song in there for Vince (Surrender), and both the Derek Webb and Mindy Smith albums are aging quite well, so there are some diamonds in here. I just may need to clean out my music files a bit.
Party Goin’ On Upstairs – The Electrics
Lay it Down – Todd Agnew
A Kiss to Build a Dream On – Louis Armstrong
Never Far Away – Jack White
Flobt, mein Heiland – Kathleen Battle
Surrender – Kim McMechen
Take to the World – Derek Webb
Walk Right Back – Nanci Griffith
Desire – U2
Hurricane – Mindy SmithSlice of Life
Right now, down at my house (and for the last 3 days, too), are:
- my two precious children
- my sister-in-law
- my niece (3) and nephew (1)
- my mother-in-law, from Southern California
- my aunt-in-law, from Mexico
And Karina is at the airport in Oakland, trying to get home, but the airport is a mess. And they had an earthquake this morning.
Chaotic might be the right word for it. Yes, it's all fun, and someday we'll all laugh about these days. For now, I just think I'll stay up here in my office.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I'm not sure about that high of an accolade, but I would agree it may be in the top 10. When people come to me and ask about prayer, I usually refer them to Richard Foster's classic Prayer. It set the standard for books about prayer when it came out. Many people say they really learned to pray by reading that book. So it has pride of place on my shelf.
I think Eat This Book might end up right next to it, becoming the standard reference when people ask me "how do I read the Bible?" It has already inspired me in my own scripture reading.
Essentially, Peterson's premise is this: if the Bible doesn't form you, if it doesn't get inside you and change your life, if it isn't forming our Christian communities, then we aren't reading it correctly. The Bible is not out to give us correct doctrine, it isn't intended to help us formulate our theological positions. It isn't meant for inspiration or devotion. It's sole purpose is formation of Christ-followers. We must then take it as it is, ending all our attempts to fit it into our world, to "make it relevant," or to use it like some sort of antacid that we pull of the shelf when our guts are in a turmoil.
The Bible is only read correctly when we eat it - when we take it in and live it. "If we have not entered this text as participants we aren't going to understand what is going on. This text cannot be understood by watching from the bleachers - or even from expensive box seats. We are in on it."
Later he says "Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God. The most important question we can ask of this text is not, 'What does this mean?' but 'What can I obey?' A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances."
So, if you're looking for something to read over the rest of the summer, or looking to get more from your Bible reading, go pick this one up.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
The Colossians passage is a wonderful statement of christology - going into great detail in explaining the work of Christ. However, as Paul often does, the theology is heavily invested with "this then is what you should do."
The Luke passage gives us Jesus, teaching his disciples about prayer. You'll note Jesus gives pretty explicit instructions to his disciples that they need to be asking God to meet their needs. God is not shy in giving his children what they need.
So, to my faithful responders:
- So what? What do you take from these texts that will affect your life?
- How are believers called to respond to the teaching in these two texts? What are we being asked to do?
- When have you had a specific need met, after taking it to the Lord?
- Paul's explanation of Christ's work is pretty dense. Essentially, he's saying "don't let human rules get in the way, because that's exactly what Christ freed you from." Why is that so important?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
So, last Sunday, in keeping with family tradition, I took the family over to the Grand Opening Celebration of the New-New Tacoma Narrows Bridge. We walked from one end to the other - the first time I'd ever walked from Gig Harbor to Tacoma. Then, because of the nature of such things, we had to walk all the way back.
Then, just to keep the fun going, I took the family over to Northwest Trek yesterday. I went once, when I was pretty young (maybe junior high?). But this was the first time for the kids.
Plus we saw some bighorn sheep, and some herons, and a turtle, and a couple bears, and some foxes, and some wolves, and an owl or two, and a lot of other animals. It was a good day.
This was my response:
It may be cliche, but I wonder what God's list of the 50 Most Influential Churches in America would look like? I know of a faithful servant or two out there, serving in extremely difficult situations, that would never make this list, but I think God might still be using them for his purposes.
A couple observations:
- Of the 52 smiling faces on this list, 48 are white. 4 are African-American. Hispanic? Asian? Native? They don't even show up.
- Of the 52 smiling faces on this list, 52 are men.
Really, what is the point of even making a list like this? If all we do is to the glory of God, why are we bringing glory to man? If God's ways are not our ways, and if in the Kingdom Less truly is More, then why are we handing out accolades to the "More"? This reeks too much of David counting his Mighty Men. This reeks too much like Fortune-500 lists of "the most influential companies in America." In the end, it sends the message to the world that we really do care about numbers, and size, and technique, and celebrity. In other words, world, we're just like you, and we've decided to play by your rules.
End of Rant
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I was supposed to be in Chicago today, but it didn't work out. So I'm here instead.
Don't get me wrong. If I had to be anywhere, this is where I'd choose to be.
I just need to sit back down at that calendar and figure out when I finally get my vacation. Then I'll be just fine.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
- children's sermons galatians 5:13-25 and luke 9:51-62
- galatians 2:15-21 sermons
- luke 9:51-62 sermons
and a few more like that. One could interpret this to mean there are a lot of people out there looking for sermons by other people. Trying to 'borrow' them, perhaps? Or just looking for inspiration? You decide.
Oh, and at the bottom of the list (#13), this little doozy:
- turlock prostitutes
I don't even want to know about that one.
Apparently, protestant churches are not true Churches because they lack apostolic succession, and the Orthodox church is defective because it doesn't recognize the Pope's authority.
Can I issue a statement saying that Pope Benedict XVI is wrong?
Or maybe I'll just use Fred Clark's statement:
"You're Not the Pope of Me!"
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
An interesting juxtaposition of passages. The Amos passage is noted for its devastating critique of Israel, the Luke passage is notable for its gentleness, it's almost intimate portrayal of the life of Jesus, Mary and Martha.
The Amos passage focuses on issues of justice - fair treatment of the poor, equitable relationships among all people, concern for the hungry. Israel is damned for mistreating those who are poor and hungry, allowing their greed to overcome a needed sense of compassion and solidarity. "Who cares about the unfortunate, as long as we're getting rich."
The Luke passage focuses in on Martha's grumpy attitude. There's probably much that isn't told us here; I doubt Jesus is chastising Martha for taking care of the work that needs to be done. This is not an excuse to throw everything aside, just to "sit at the feet of Jesus." I think it's more about attitude than action.
So, my dear readers,
1) Is our culture guilty of the same sins of Israel? If so, what would be some modern-day examples?
2) Do you think God would judge our country in the same way he judged Israel? Will God turn American's weeping into mourning if we mistreat the poor?
3) How have you personally seen injustice play out? Where have you seen the poor cheated, the widow scorned, the orphan cast out, the hungry left with nothing?
4) Do you ever identify with Martha? Where do you find yourself resentful, agitated, wishing God would change everybody else?
5) How might Martha have approached the situation differently?
6) What would you label the heart of Martha's wrong attitude here?
What about all those vacations, trips, excursions that were planned? Gone with snuffy noses, upset stomachs, and random fevers. And the photo albums you use to remind yourself of when you actually could go on vacations? Somehow half the pictures have gone missing.
The couch cover, which was bought to cover the kool-aid stains and pen markings, now has a big hole in it. The computer is overrun with "Herbie Saves the Day" games. That bead necklace you bought in Mexico is scattered all over the living room floor. Your keys have disappeared.
Your plant is dead.
Truly, with kids, nothing is sacred.
Or, maybe the truth is this - with kids, nothing is sacred, except for them.
Friday, July 06, 2007
+ Ben Witherington has written a book about baptism. He summarizes the work over on his blog. He's bound to upset and challenge believers on both sides (infant vs. believers) which is why probably just about everybody ought to read it. It will be soon added to my Amazon list.
+ I finished "To Continue the dialogue," the Mennonite book regarding homosexuality and the Church. It was perhaps serendipitous that just as I was finishing it, I began following the discussion over at Eugene Cho's Blog (see a couple days ago). The middle of the book gave me more of what I was looking for - both in firmer theological work, and in the scientific work as well. My mind is spinning off in a number of directions, and I need time to process. Don't read more into that than is there. I haven't changed my position on the issue; in fact, that's part of the struggle. I've reached the point where I don't believe I will change my mind. The scriptural texts are too clear on this one. But. . .how to maintain a spirit of grace in the world we live in. Must we demand that "they" must change their ways before being allowed into fellowship within the Christian church? How to live in that place of mercy and grace, believing and teaching that a certain activity is sinful, while allowing time and space for the Holy Spirit to do God's work in individual lives? That is the tough part.
For the time being, I'm moving in a different direction. Next on my book list is "Eat This Book," by Eugene Peterson. His opening image is powerful - the Bible is not primarily a book we read for instruction, a book we read for devotional thoughts, a book we read for theology; it is primarily a meal we eat. And like food is digested into nutrients and minerals that make their way to the furthest reaches of our bodies and eventually become us, shaping and forming us, so too are the scriptures to dig deeply into us and form us as we ingest them.
+ Friday Random 10. #2 I saw live - it's the reason I bought their album. #3 is off a wedding album some friends gave us. #7 is from the Cold Mountain soundtrack. #8 is off one of my all-time favorite christian albums. Unfortunately, after this album Nashville got ahold of Bebo, and he's been merely a shadow of his potential ever since.
- Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart) – coro e Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
- North to
– Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum Alaska
- You’ll Be In My Heart - Phil Collins
- Hurricane – Mindy Smith
- Beautiful Dream Visions – Sara Masen
- Meant to Be – Jim Brickman
- Sitting on Top of the World – Jack White
- Selwood Farm – Bebo Norman
- Get Me Through December – Alison Krauss
- I’ve Found Jesus – Delirious?
Thursday, July 05, 2007
We passed the final bluff, giving us full vision of the northern beach, and there, about 20 yards away, sitting atop a large boulder, sat a Bald Eagle, gazing north across the Bay. We stealthily approached, but he saw and flew to a further perch. So we stood and watched him, as he kept one eye on the water and another on us. To his right, a heron waded slowly along the shoreline.
Eventually, we made to walk closer to the Eagle, and got within 30 feet or so, but he decided that was enough and flew into the forest to our south. I told Olivia how special this was - seeing America's National Bird on America's birthday.
She was more interested in the clam shell she'd just found. But it was wondrous, just the same.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The family is back together again. Sunday I picked up the girls from my parents.
Saturday I decided to take a bike ride. And, not really paying attention, I found myself much further up the trail than I'd intended. By the time the trip was over, I'd ridden 32 miles. I've found that I rather enjoy bike riding - it's kind of like flying, with not so far to fall if things go wrong. And your legs are sore, instead of your arms.
After more than 15 years in ministry, I can say this: the toughest thing I ever have to deal with is watching people make bad decisions, and knowing there is nothing to be done about it. Now, truthfully, in the interest of Good Boundaries I understand this is the easy one - people make their own decisions, and are responsible for them. I can let them go, knowing it is between them and God. It's not my problem, not my place to interfere.
But the emotional piece is still the hardest. Over the years I've counseled young girls who were dating the "wrong guy," and given all the reasons why it will end in disaster. . .and still they go on, and eventually it always ends in disaster. I've worked with people on fire for the Lord, who decide to get a job that will interfere with their worship attendance, and begged them to reconsider, but still they take the job, and eventually they drift from the church, and drift from the Lord.
Sometimes you sit back, look at the issues on the table, consider the way life works out, and you see disaster looming. Sometimes you can easily predict what will be the ultimate outcome of decisions made, and you do your best to help people make wise choices. . .but their mind is made up and there's nothing you can do but pray. It's as if you knew the Titanic was going to sink, but the crew refused to listen, because, after all, "God himself couldn't sink this ship!"
And so you weep silently for bad choices, and you carry on with the rest.
Last week I had a phone conversation with an individual who wanted a magic bullet for a spiritual issue in their life, but they had no interest in actually conforming their life to the Creator who would give them everything they ever needed. "I don't want to take up my cross and follow Jesus, I want the magic potion that will allow me to get back to my old life without this problem."
And I just couldn't help them see the truth. I guess they didn't want to accept the truth before them. And that, above all, makes me sad.