Friday, January 28, 2005

symposium: all of life

so a number of the speakers this weekend have mentioned the idea that our worship and communion with God is happening all the time, but a worship service is an especially focused, concentrated, communal part of that greater relationship. It occurred to me that it's sort of like a marriage: you are always married, and you stay in touch pretty consistantly (or at least most of the couples I know do) but at specific times you spend intentional, focused time together. Anyway, the point of all this is that worship should overflow into the rest of life. As Harold Best said "either we live to our creator, or we don't."

One thing that I've been thinking about in particular that is related to this is the blessing that being a worship leader has been in this regard. When I'm involved in a service, it's on my mind all week long. I'm singing those songs, and humming the harmonies as I go about everything else in my life. And when things relate to the theme of the service they jump out at me (sparkle, even) from their context. Of course there is a similar effect when I'm not involved in leading a service. I'll still sing a song from chapel or sunday morning worship all day long, or see the connections that pop up in the rest of my life. But being in leadership really keeps scriptures, praises, and prayers in the front of my mind all week long. What a gift!

symposium: sabbath-keeping

So, I wound up hearing Dorothy Bass talk 3 times in the last 24 hours, but that was okay, because she's a wise and clear speaker, and her ideas about sabbath and time are deliciously counter-cultural and probably neccesary. I don't know if I have much to add to what she says, but here's what I got from her:

We are so interested in investing our own importance with how much we do, that we keep working and working and never take a rest. But, indeed, sabbath-keeping is one of the ten commandments, and we are not nearly as nonchalant about our disregard of the other nine.

So, her suggestions for sabbath-keeping are reasonable and flexible. Take a whole day, whenever that day is, and do things that refresh you. Don't do your normal work.

I've done sort of a truncated version of this for the past semester plus a bit. I don't do homework on sunday, which makes me availible to participate in whatever liturgical or church community activities I would like to. This has been a huge blessing, and it has kept me from my constant "I should really be doing something productive right now" mindset. But, I'll admit, I let it slide as I put off non-homework tasks (laundry, grocery shopping, grad school apps) to sunday when I wouldn't do homework. I think I'm gonna try and be better about that this semester.

Also, its a good reminder that I am not so crucial that the world won't continue without my contributions. Which I think those of us inclined toward arrogance need to be reminded of rather frequently.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

symposium: creeds and prayers

I'm trying to get some of the ideas I'm thinking about in connection with symposium out of my crowded head and into more concrete forms, but in blog-able bits as possible. So here's one:

Ron Byars talked today about Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) and Prayers and Creeds.

He noted that creeds are weird to us because we tend to be very individualistic - we sometimes treat church like going to the gym. We all do the same thing, but the presense of others doesn't help or hinder it. Church, though, should be also about our identity as a community, and I liked the way he emphasized the way speaking creeds helps us subvert our individual identities to our collective identity as the church.

I will admit that creed statements are probably the least meaningful part of a church service for me, when they're included at all. But this idea of using them as an act of unity - rehearsing the story of God's work in the world and what we know about God. After all, the repitition of stories is how a group gains their identity in the first place. Part of what makes any group (my family, the WAs, either of my churches...) group-y is the common stories we share. I think a lot of these come out in inside jokes. Maybe, in a sense, creeds and repeating the stories of salvation in the proclaimation is the church's way of repeating those favorite stories and those inside jokes. Instead of "remember the time pastor mark mispronounced facade" or "remember when we went to the beach and everybody else was really late" it's "remember when God saved the Israelites from slavery? Remember how Jesus died, ascended, and left us the Holy Spirit?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Questions about Open Theism

Okay, so some of us (thorubos people) are reading The Openness of God together, and I am doing okay with it, but it is challenging since I don't generally read real theology. But I do have some questions/thoughts:

Throughout the Bible, divine election typically represents a corporate call to service. It applies to groups rather than to individuals, and it involves a role in God's saving work in the present world rather than in the future life... (William Klein says) it pertains primarily to groups, not to the individuals who make up the group. (Pinnock 56)

okay, so if I'm understanding this correctly (which is a big "if" by the way) this means that God does, in fact, have a plan, but this plan is for groups of people, not neccesarily for individuals. So, for example, God could have a plan for thorubos, but not neccesarily for Bethany. This seems to resonate with especially the old testament. Prophesies and miracles seem to be about the NATION of ISRAEL and not individuals. Of course, some individuals are called to specific representative or leadership role, like Abraham, Moses, Gideon, etc. This idea makes theodicy easier, since individual lives aren't supposed to make sense. But I don't know if I'm ready to just give up the idea of God having a plan for each individual. I mean, what about watching after sparrows and counting hairs on people's heads?

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the book.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

on blogs

the possibility of a future news interview (!) about blogging has got me thinking about blogs as a form, and how they function. I gave a speech for class on this very topic this fall (which is why the news people got my name in the first place). I determined that most student bloggers fall into 3 categories:

1) diary bloggers: these people use their weblogs like a personal journal and air all their dirty laundry. They post to vent, celebrate, whine and swoon. These are frequently marked by disregard to conventions of spelling and grammar, use of internet abbreviations and emoticons, dramatic, personal, sometimes gossipy content.
This is of course dangerous, because blogs are, in fact, a public forum. Bloggers risk hurting those they talk about and embarrassing themselves. This also leads to readers who do not know the blogger in real life, but feel that they do because of longevity of reading, which can lead to stalkerdom.

2) christmas card bloggers: my xanga is usually an example of this category. We use blogs primarily as a way to keep up with friends we might not corresond with personally very often. These are like the annual christmas letter my family sends to people, just a generic response to the question "what's going on with you?"
These are less embarrassing than the diary style, but offer the same risks of unwanted readers, some of whom may be creepy internet people who feel they have a relationship with you by reading about your life. There is also the somewhat annoying side effect of having little new to say when you DO see your friends/readers face to face.

3) literary bloggers: my blogspot blog, which you are reading presently, aspires to be this category. Literary bloggers tend to post less frequently than the other styles, but their post content is less about their daily lives and more an opportunity to discuss ideas or to display creative writing.
These blogs are useful for practicing writing skills for other, bigger venues, for fostering discussion among readers (as is the case with some of the readers of this webpage) and for allowing the writer to figure out his/her position by expressing it.
blogger seems a better venue for this type of writing. At least, it's working out well for me. And for my friends, who are linked on the side of this page.
On the other hand, my friends who follow xanga like that as a way to stay in touch, so I'm not ready to abandon it altogether.

Of course, there are subject-specific blogs, such as political blogs, which get thousands of hits a day, but I'm more interested in the personal blogs with a smaller audience. Like the one I have.

Any other thoughts/observations? (I may steal them and say them to Fox17) Why do YOU blog? Why are you reading this?

Monday, January 17, 2005


I really didn't intend for this blog to be a platform for my poetry, but I appreciate having a place with the possibility for, but not the requirement of feedback.
Over Christmas break my sister's boyfriend said "if you've got it, flaunt it... information about deer I mean." And so, in that tradition, I guess I am now saying "if you've got it, flaunt it.... new poems that still require tweaking I mean."
on an unrelated note, We figured out how to add links to templates today. I feel very savvy.

On Spaceships

Somehow those structures –
bits of metal, plastic, titanium and velcro –
Make it all the way into the sky.
Past the sky,
And bring us along.
They let some soar higher than
we thought anyone could.

And down below the rest of us
Dream and wonder
And eat, or try to find things to eat
And squabble and cry and sometimes pray.

And hope for a day when we
Catch up to ourselves.
When all of us
will fly higher
than we knew was possible.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

trendiness and church

so, I've been reading and talking about the emergent church lately. I was having an IM conversation with my friend Erin today, and I sent her this article that Kent sent me. She noted this quote:

Tangible, multisensory worship has a currency among younger generations, and this is all to the good. But if this recovery is linked only to generation and style, what will happen when styles change?

so how should the church and trends interact? It seems that if the culture is crying out for something that the church can fill, it's our responsibility to tell people where they can find that thing they're looking for. The transcendence and mystery and depth and wonder you are looking for your life is right here - in the word and the worship of our God!

On the other hand, the church needs to be counter-cultural, and not blown about by the trends of the culture. We're supposed to not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. But when the pattern of this world is looking to be transformed, where does that leave the church?

I think another danger is becoming so trendy, you're only about facade. A church can have an appealing aesthetic and a pastor with cool hair, but in the end, worshipping God is not about having the right pair of shoes and a cool bass line. In responding to the trends and thought patterns of the culture, the church needs to be careful to be rooted in something firmer than the prevailing philosophy. We need to choose elements for our worship that appeal to our sensibilities (postmodern, interactive, or otherwise) but also things that best help us reconnect with God, and with God's people. After all, that is the whole point of having church in the first place.

Friday, January 14, 2005

another poem

Bethany: I might post that poem I alluded to, but I'm a little worried that it's not that great.
Matt: if it is, I'll tell you.

this poem isn't about me (well, it is about me, because I wrote it, but it didn't happen to me. You can tell because there's jogging involved.)

On a Far-away Flood

As I jog on this machine,
January cold working loose from my legs,
television screens play footage
of a flood in Nevada –
and a man is flailing in a current
until a boat casts out rope –
he catches it.
And my entire being,
moving limbs and beating heart,
are caught up in the watching,
waiting for this man,
drenched face screaming relief,
to arrive in safety.
But before my eyes, the current
swept him away again.
He disappeared from the eye
of the news camera, and I couldn’t
see him anymore, and on my dry
Michigan treadmill, I was swimming
in Nevada too.
I just hope that guy’s okay.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

confessional art and self-centeredness

So, I've fancied myself a writer since around before I could remember, and a poet since around High School, so I've always been interested in what it means to be a person and an artist, particularly a writer. And, what it means to be a Christian person and also a writer.

Most recently, this is the issue I've been struggling with: the vast majority of my writing, particularly when I was at an age that ended in "teen" was very confessional. (Although, indeed, often the work before a writer is 25 or so is considered Juvenelia, the warm-ups for that writer's mature work.) It makes sense for me to write about myself, after all, one struggles with identity in adolescence, and everyone writes about what they're obsessed with. And you're supposed to write what you know, and if I know one thing it's myself.

Good art, though, has something universal in it - even if it's confessional, it gets at the universal. And I think the best of my past work has done that; has used my experience to say something anyone might relate to.

At some point, though, one has to get past naval-gazing, and write about something outside of themselves, even if they return to confessional self-revelation sometimes. But my struggle with writing outside of myself, even about the experience of people I know, is with authority. Who am I, anyway, to write about what Cindy feels when she digs up dahlias in Advent? Or, more recently, about Scott's experience watching the news at the gym? How does one balence the demands of authenticity with the call to move outside of one's own small world?

This whole entry is rather self-indulgent, actually, but it is a blog after all. And that's the question in my head today.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

tolerence, openness, and seeker churches

Today I was invited to lunch with a family who attends my church and plays in praise team with me (well, the parents do). The food was lovely, and it was really nice to have some multi-generational fellowship, and the conversation after dinner lasted several hours, and was really nice.

One thing that really got me thinking was this: Shane pointed out that "seeker-friendly" churches, such as ours, tend to talk a good game about being really tolerant of people and wanting to make everybody comfortable and welcome, while at the same time being entirely intolerant of many things connected with the traditional church (jargon, musical style, architecture, traditional liturgy, etc).

This is something that has troubled me a bit all along, but I'm not sure where the solution lies. I think what's actually going on is that those of us comfortable with the traditional church choose to dispense with those traditions in order to make something more accessible to people who have been hurt by the church in the past. This seems to be a noble goal, I mean, sort of related to what Paul said about not leading weaker Christians into sin. I think it goes awry, though, when zeal for inclusivity begins to seem like zeal against the historic church, and changing for change's sake. Not that I am accusing centrepointe, or any other seeker-friendly church of this problem, but I think it is a danger, if only in appearance and not reality.

This article from Larknews (another Christian Satire) makes my same point, only a bit more extreme. When does inclusivity become exclusive?

Monday, January 03, 2005

I love a good satire

this article is a part of a Christian Satire site I read occasionally, and I giggled repeatedly at this one, so I thought it was worth sharing. It's about linguistic sloppiness in public prayer.