Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Year In Review

I’m not real big on Christmas cards, but I am big on reflecting on the year and updating friends on what’s new in my life. Consider this my Christmas (ok, epiphany) letter. And my year-end blog post. 2007 has been a pretty exciting year in my life. Here are some of the things I did:

I suppose the biggest accomplishment of 2007 was my master’s degree. I finished my 90-some page thesis and defended it in May. I participated in the graduation ceremony in August wearing not-quite-right borrowed regalia, but I was pleased to watch some friends receive their doctoral hoods, which was pretty cool. I also started my PhD studies at UGA this year, and completed ¼ of my coursework.

Also in August, I moved from my one-bedroom apartment across town into a townhouse that I now share with my colleague Jamie. She’s a great roommate, and we get along well. It’s nice to have someone around even when we’re just reading. In fact, some of our classmates make fun of us because we often begin comments in class with “when Jamie and I were talking about this article earlier…” It makes us seem like pretty big dorks, but we are, so that’s ok. I think graduate school was the right choice for me, even though it can be stressful, lonely and high-pressure sometimes. I love the new place too, it’s a great location where we can walk to the campus bus, so we don’t have to drive as much or pay for campus parking.

August was a big month for me; it’s also when I adopted Zeus, who was then only 5 months old. He’s very playful and makes a lot of noise for a cat – he purrs constantly and meows quite a bit. He also has some strange dog-like behaviors, such as playing fetch, drinking out of the toilet and following people around the house. I love him. Another thing that happened then was that I officially joined Athens First United Methodist Church, where I had been attending and leading worship for about 2 years.

I got to visit a lot of places this year. I visited family in West Michigan in the spring and for Christmas. It was nice both times, but somewhat less exciting this winter, as I spent several days laid up after my wisdom teeth surgery. My family also visited me in Georgia, which was pretty cool. We even got to play some music at my new church! I went to LA twice, when I came for my birthday, Jim and I hiked to some natural hotsprings one day and saw some of Joshua Tree National Park on the next. It was a great trip. I also visited Jim this fall in Washington DC, which was a lot of fun. In July, I went with my friends Kristy and Katie to the Hostel in the Forest in Brunswick, GA. While we were there we visited St Simons, Jekyll Island and Savannah. Some of our touring included the Wesley sites, preparing me for my impending Methodism. The hostel was an experience in itself, ask me about it sometime.

My quotation marks blog took off like gangbusters, and I figured out how to make money off of it. I’m hoping the money thing will work out for me some more in 2008.

This is getting long, I feel like I have more stuff to say. I got my first Revise and Resubmit from a Journal this year, I discovered my love of karaoke, I went kayaking for the first time. Jim and I dated all year. I am still rather in love with him. Thinking about this year has really reminded me how fun and supportive and wonderful my family is, and my friends are. Thanks, y’all, for a great 2007! If 2008 is close to as exciting, I'll be a happy lady.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Google Reader

I recently started using Google Reader for my RSS feeds. If you want to see what I'm sharing, it's here. I wish google would enable me to share these things with a few comments about why I think they're interesting, but for now you'll have to refer to the Bethany in your head. Or ask the real me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

more on Huckabee

Jim sent me this Huckabee campaign ad last night and we talked about why it's such a good piece of candidate marketing:

It's a gorgeous pander to the family-values, war-on-christmas, stop-being-so-negative crowd, while being perfectly innocuous. It's often challenging to wink to some voters without offending at least a few savvy others. Where was the staffer that came up with this one when Huckabee said all those terrifying things about women being submissive and quarantining AIDS patients?

Regardless, this ad functions quite well for him. It makes him seem serious and sincere, when his jokester ways could cause problems. It makes him seem wholesome and positive in the midst of attack politics - many aiming for him given his recent rise.

I still don't think he has a chance in the general because of aforementioned terrifying statements, but this ad is a good bit of politics.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Religion in the Presidential Primary

The internet and media are suddenly abuzz about the role of religion in the presidential primary. The discussion centers primarily on Romney and Huckabee. Romney’s Religion Speech a few weeks ago brought the topic to the fore (fascinating commentary by Comm Scholar Josh Gunn here. Fair warning for my non-academic readers: cites Levinas.), and Huckabee’s rise also solicits a lot of discussion about the role of religion, given his background as a Baptist Minister. Frank Rich wrote a really interesting piece in the Times this week about the kind of religious perspectives both of these people espouse (and how they are hostile to non-religious or secularists, which is pretty terrifying for democracy even if you think religion is important).

There also has been some discussion about whether or not questioning political candidates if they believe the bible qualifies as a religious test. Christopher Hitchens reminds us that the constitution is not talking about how individuals should decide who to vote for, but about official rules for who can take office.

I tend to side with Frank Rich – I’m quite nervous when anyone makes statements that are hostile to any people, regardless of their faith OR the lack thereof. While the US has a long history of being vaguely Christian (In the 1950s, for example, a lot of vague God-talk was used to unite American Christians and Jews and to differentiate theistic Americans from atheistic communists) as globalization continues, democracy must learn to include those who do not believe. Deliberative Democracy advocates suggest that religious people must translate their values into arguments that appeal to those outside of their belief system. Barack Obama’s 2006 Faith and Politics speech forwards this view. While my faith is important to me, I think in a democracy it’s important that we speak from a position that includes everyone, and does not start out excluding some people’s assumptions before their positions on the issue at hand are even voiced. Rhetoric from candidates that is hostile to some members of our nation should be unacceptable to all of us. But it seems that to some, it’s appealing. What does this mean for our democracy?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Advent and Material Rhetoric

I was explaining to my roommate Jamie the other day why I love advent so much. There are lots of reasons, really, that I love advent. I’ve always loved advent. I love the color purple, I love twinkling lights and candles, I love hymns in minor keys. In Michigan, anyway, Advent is often the season of the first snow, and it’s crisp and sparkling and still exciting. The dominant mood in advent is waiting and longing. This is probably the theological mood that I could comprehend best as a child. Everyone understands what it is to wait.

Advent is also a time when we reflect on one of my favorite doctrines: the incarnation. In the Christmas story, God becomes a person. Not any person, a first century Jewish baby in a stable. He gets born. The word becomes flesh. God announces to us in a dramatic, private, angel-heralded event that bodies matter. Bodies matter so much that God needed to become embodied to show us how to live, and to save us. Jesus’ body mattered, Mary’s body mattered. If bodies mattered enough for God to decide they were a crucial part of his salvation story, then they must matter for us in our lives too.

The piece I realized when I was talking to Jamie is how much my love of this doctrine affects the way I think. It’s this commitment to the idea that bodies matter – that our physical needs and location and actions are important – that has a big influence on my scholarly commitments. These material concerns have been largely overlooked, especially by those who study the making of meaning and argument. But through the incarnation I realize that the most profound meanings are made with bodies and buildings and objects, including the person of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bono on Wave of Sorrow

This video is a really interesting text that offers a unique glimpse into songwriting. It's rare that you see a songwriter listening to his own song and interrupting to explain the allusions. But I also wonder if you would get this kind of self-reflexive insight into a writer's thoughts about a song's meaning without the kind of long-term process that this song took. That is, it was written 20 years ago and finished recently. Bono presents a kind of self-importance that few other people can get away with, but I'm willing to take it from him.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Desert Island Discs: Neon Bible

I’m avoiding work by writing another desert island post. Another album that I haven’t been able to get enough of since it came out is Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. I love it so much, I get excited when I hear it on the radio in the video store. It’s like I have a personal investment in other people liking Neon Bible because that’s how much I like it. As though I might benefit from others liking it, like I know the band or something (I don’t.)

But I think I figured out at least some of the reasons why I love Neon Bible. Mostly, it’s very complex. It’s complex sonically – it doesn’t sound like anything else I know of. It even sounds kind of different from the first Arcade Fire album. Maybe just a bit more epic (hard to imagine). It’s not only that it’s distinctive, though, it’s also that all the layers and compositional eccentricities leave me new things to hear even after several times through. Really, that’s also why I like the album lyrically. The lyrics are dense and interesting. Their meaning isn’t abundantly clear or static, but they aren’t so abstract that one can assume they lack meaning (like, say, the lyrics of Coldplay). If I listen carefully, I might hear something new there too. Also, as the title indicates, there’s an overarching theme of religion in culture. That’s kind of something I’m interested in. You know, a little.

As though I haven’t raved enough, there are also just some moments that I really love. I love the opening of “Keep the Car Running,” and the string part throughout because it’s innovative and it reminds me of my orchestra days. I like trying to figure out what “Intervention” is about, I like the anger of “(Antichrist Television Blues)” and the wistfulness of “No Cars Go.”

To summarize, this album isn’t like anything else. You should listen to it. Seriously. At least 3 times before you decide you don’t like it.

Here are some other desert island reviews:


Why Should the Fire Die
Achtung Baby

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In Praise of Podcasts

I spend a fair amount of time on buses. Since I moved to my new place, I live mere blocks from a campus bus stop. I get a short walk, and then a free ride to school – something more and more valuable with the price of gas these days. The ride takes a while, maybe 20 minutes, since I often ride the entire route, south campus to north. This doesn’t seem long enough to try to read – plus the movement and crowds make this challenging. Instead I listen to my ipod, and have quite a satisfying podcast routine. I love podcasts. They help me keep up with and understand important news, they keep me entertained engaged, sometimes moved. They keep me company. Here are the ones I look forward to every week:

Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me: the NPR News Quiz

This show is hilarious, while still being high brow. Everything you could ask for from NPR. They often have fascinating guests, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. The Stephen Colbert episode was particularly good.

Slate Political Gabfest

When I listen to this podcast, I feel like it’s the same thing as sitting in a room with some smart journalist/commentators and catching up on the week’s news. They include just the right amount of goofing off with each other that I really feel like I’m in the in group. Except I never get to participate. But it’s still another way to make sure I caught everything important in the week’s news, and understand what’s important about it.

This American Life

This one is a bit dangerous for bus riding, because if I’m caught in the right mood, I can be moved to laughter or near tears. And the other bus riders probably think I’m some kind of crazy, but I don’t even care, because that’s how good it is. This show introduced me to Sarah Vowell, for which I am eternally grateful. I desperately want like to write like she does – funny, smart, self-deprecating. Anyway, the whole show is good and beautiful and fascinating. I love it.

I encourage my readers to spice up their travels with a little bit of these Podcasts. They are a nice way to structure my week – in bus rides, walks and listens.

Monday, October 22, 2007

GodTube: what's the deal?

Jamie sent me this recent LA times article about GodTube. It's interesting for a lot of reasons, but it brings to light some issues that have come up in my religion and media class recently, besides the questions I wrote about on this blog back in March.

The article says, "As far as what the site considers appropriate, Wyatt has said 'if we wouldn't want an 8-year-old girl to see it, then we won't allow it.'" This is a question that has come up in my class recently: why does something have to be appropriate for children to be labelled "Christian". Do all Christians need to avoid the ugliness, complexity and seriousness we would keep from our little girls (note, it's a little GIRL that is our ideal audience as well). Are Christians and Children the same thing, from a media standpoint? I should hope not. I know that Jesus asks us to have faith like a child, but Paul also said when I became an adult I put childish ways behind me.

Another interesting segment from the article:
What can you get on your laptop that you can't get from the pew? The answer, according to [Professor Heidi] Campbell, is more sustained and satisfying personal interaction. That includes matters like in-depth theological discussion, prayer support, opportunities for confession and the like.
Is this really the case? Do people get more sustained, personal, human interaction online than in their local churches? If this is the case, church members need to seriously rethink the ways their church functions. As I argued in another class when we were reading Robert Putnam, I'm all in favor of human relationships through technology and across distances, but when you get sick, or have a family member die, nobody from the internet is going to show up on your doorstep with casserole.

It seems, in this case, that christian branding on the internet is working the same as in other media. I wonder if the editorial rules and ideological community will lead to more bickering than more open communities on the internet, or lead to an online site that is perceived as "safe" and even a good locale for evangelism...

Saturday, October 20, 2007


ok, I'm totally in love with the idea of a skirt that turns into a vending-machine disguise. I want one, so I can pretend to be a cartoon character, ninja, or international spy. Japanese designers are so great.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reformed Worship article online

I've written before about the short article I published in Reformed Worship recently. Now it is available in full text on their website. It's based on a post from this blog that is several months old, so it might sound familiar.

Sorry for the lack of posts here, been distracted by the quotes blog craziness and grad school.

Monday, September 24, 2007

thoughts on media and circulation

Some of you have probably heard me talk ad nauseum about my recent publicity surrounding my quotation marks blog. The whole business of that blog’s growing popularity and it’s coverage in other media has led me to think some things about circulation, new media, and how content does and doesn’t cross to a new medium. I decided to use my (less popular) blog to think through some of these issues. Sorry so rambly.

So the first thing that is interesting about my blog experience is the nature of circulation – the way website visits spike when popular blogs or websites link to it, for example. Interestingly, when Yahoo picks linked to my blog as the pick of the day my spike in visits was only average – about the same as any blog with a large readership. However, promotion in a more mainstream internet source (that is, yahoo picks gets more mainstream attention than I Blame the Patriarchy, to give one example of a website that led to a similar spike) gets the attention of a different audience. I do not believe that it is coincidental that my promotion by Yahoo was followed a few days later by contact from an Associated Press reporter.

At this point, it is interesting to discuss the way media translate. While I don’t view my website as peevology, others certainly have included it as such. The AP article, and other subsequent coverage, tended to emphasize the tone as “annoyed” even “blasting”. Many of my interviews focused on what was annoying about certain uses of language. What seemed to be lost in translation between my approach and the reception of these members of the media was my sense of playfulness. It’s my suspicion that a playful snark is the primary mode for many writers in the internet medium. Traditional journalism employs that tone less often, perhaps because of the broader audience who might misunderstand. It’s also true that by seeing this perception mediated over and over and over, it became more salient to me, and my rejection of it became more important to me.

Another distinction between old and new media came through in the types of emails I received on friday when the story was mostly on web sources and saturday when it hit print. My saturday emails seemed far less aware of the conventions of the internet. On Saturday I got far more emails that didn't seem to require a response, and were not incredibly interesting (I got some interesting ones too) several of which were paranoid that I would repost their message with their email address (for the record, I never post other people's email addresses on the internet). I was left to wonder what made them go to the trouble to email me at all. Internet people, on the other hand, were more likely to be hostile. For example, on Friday someone emailed me whose entire text was "much ado about nothing" and someone else started an entire blog to talk about how I annoyed him called "people with to much time on there hands" (I'm not even kidding, with that spelling). I assign all this to jealousy.

Being the subject of this kind of coverage also leads me to think seriously about the ways individuals are mediated in one-dimensional ways. For obvious reasons, nobody cares about the parts of my life that are unrelated to quotation marks; that is to say, most of it. This is obviously also the case with other people in the news media. I find my name invoked in comparison (positive comparison, fortunately for me) to other people named only for single events in their lives.

Not that any of this is really news, but it strikes one differently when it happens on an individual level, when you know what is being selected and what isn’t.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nothing like a video game crusade...

I followed links to this article in the Nation which reports that a pentagon-approved group is giving soldiers care packages which include the Left Behind video game. Daily Kos and Gameology explain some of the reasons that this is objectionable.

I think as responsible peace-loving Christians, it is important to speak out about how troubling this is. Even fictional stories that portray a violent Christian Crusade against those of other faiths are offensive and dangerous. Giving those materials to American soldiers in a nation populated by muslims invites comparison to other religiously motivated slaughters across history, and it is not flattering for the US or for Christians. I believe all elements of the Left Behind universe are damaging to the civil-religious psyche because of the disturbing masculinist, rambo'd up version of Christianity that they portray. What ever happened to "blessed are the meek?"

(for a more carefully thought out viewpoint about the potential cultural impact of Left Behind, see my friend Kristy Maddux's dissertation.)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tribute to Madeleine L'Engle

When I was a kid I read a lot. I moved from The Babysitter's Club to other children's paperbacks, including the kind published by Christian publishing houses. Even at a young age, those christian young adult books bothered me, they felt contrived and generally badly written. I had always had an ambition to be a writer - in fact, I can't remember a time when I wasn't working on a writing project. I used to use my parent's Apple II computer to write stories on my own personal floppy disc. I had an unarticulated fear that writers who were Christian were not very good, and since I was Christian, I also would be obligated to write this kind of fiction. When I began to read L'Engle's novels and found out she was a Christian, I was relieved. I also had a new ambition: to become a writer of her caliber.
As I grew older, I moved away from wanting to write fiction, but the beauty and conviction of writers like L'Engle still inspire me. I was encouraged when I was reading her obituary today that her most beloved books were written in her 40s and 50s. While my primary ambition is no longer to write in her genre, if I can someday inspire a little girl the way L'Engle inspired me, I will be very pleased with my life indeed.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Desert Island Discs: Details

I’m discovering as I write these Desert Island picks that all my favorite albums are really inextricably connected to parts of my life. They become sentimental to me because I love them so much that I listen to them a lot, and eventually my love for them comes not only from their objective awesomeness, but because they remind me of other parts of my life. A great example of this phenomenon is Frou Frou’s Details.

My last year in college, this album easily got the most play in the WAffice – it held the top “most played spots” on our itunes except for a few other songs that got obsessively replayed. I think other WA groups also discovered the tendency of that shared office culture toward obsessive song repeating. Hearing those opening sounds of “Let Go” brings me back to those days of hanging out and working and “working” and making heretical jokes with some people who mean a lot to me, even though we are no longer so close. That was a great year.

The reason we went so crazy for Details, though, is because it’s just a great album. These past few years I’ve moved from my love for confessional mid-tempo folk toward music that doesn’t sound like anything else I know. Frou Frou is definitely that – Imogen Heap’s unique voice combined with electronic accompaniment is distinctive, and really the Postal Service is the only other artist I know of that combines interesting lyrics and melodies with this kind of electronic sounds. Additionally, Heap tends to use unexpected intervals in her melodies – have you ever tried to sing along with her? I have. It’s hard. The lyrics are somehow both strange and mundane (example: if love is surrender/then whose war is it anyway?/do just what I tell you/and no one will get hurt), and this ads to the sense of newness. Even though I basically have the entire album memorized it still sounds new and different to me. I love that.

previous picks:
Why Should the Fire Die
Achtung Baby

Other Players:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

leaving the CRC

About a month ago, I officially joined Athens First United Methodist Church - the church I've been attending and leading worship in for about 2 years now. While being a sign of my commitment to my local church community, it was also the bureaucratic and official point at which I left the Christian Reformed Church - the denomination of my membership since my baptism 24 years ago. My perspective on Christianity is rather ecumenical, so this is not really a change in theology so much as a change in location. There's a lot of methodists here, and the church where I made a home is methodist. Also, I like the methodist's social justice focus.
I was recently directed to this article in The Banner (for those outside CRC heritage, the denominational magazine of the Christian Reformed church). It asks some interesting questions, but in my opinion, answers them weakly. I want to take a few small issues with the article:

1. The article talks about how often when young adults get married and have kids they come back to the "family-oriented" church. Let me make something clear. Family-oriented alienates single twenty-somethings. I'm fairly happy with my life. I have a fulfilling career and social life. I don't think I will get married for at least four more years. And I don't need "family-oriented" making me feel like my current life moment is unacceptable. If a church focuses a lot on parenting, marriage, and kids, is it really a surprise that single people in their twenties don't think it's for them?

2. The article mentions divisions and infighting. Sure, that's part of it, but from my perspective it's foot-dragging. I believe the church should be ahead of society on justice issues like women in leadership and gay rights. Instead I find that even this year, when great strides were taken, synod allows classes to still hold women back from participating in denominational governance. On gay rights issues, the CRC is frustratingly ambiguous.

3. I find the very idea that young people joining churches in other denominations is a "problem" a bit offensive. The CRC has been a part of an insular dutch community for generations, and young people find that ethnic identity less important, and a spirit of eccumenicism appealing. So what?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Desert Island Discs: Why Should the Fire Die

Ok, it’s been a while since I posted a desert island disc. I moved, school started. I’ve been busy. But I’ve picked another album to write about: Why Should the Fire Die by Nickelcreek. It’s no big surprise that I’m a nickelcreek fan. I really love anything with a good fiddle player and come to think of it I don’t recall anybody ever disliking this band. They’re often praised for their musicianship, songwriting and showmanship. I’ve seen them live and they are engaging, high-energy performers, each a bluegrass virtuoso in their own instrument. All their music also features elegant vocal harmonies and arrangements.

Many fans of the band were disappointed with their third album, Why Should the Fire Die, because it is less straight-ahead bluegrass. It has a bit of a sharper edge to it, and blends into other genres. I, on the other hand, love genre-blending, and found this album innovative and engaging. I have had it on my ipod nano since I purchased the gadget in December, and I’m still not sick of it. Pretty much everything else in my collection has gotten cycled in and out of my “ipod favs” playlist, but I just can’t get enough of this album.

Really each song on this album has had a moment of being my favorite, I think they are all strong for different reasons. I particularly love the haunting melody of the title track, and I often find myself singing “Doubting Thomas” to myself. I love the sarcastic edge that some of these songs have, like “When in Rome,” “Someone More Like You” and “Anthony.” But like I said, in my opinion, this album has no losers.

previous picks:
Achtung Baby

Other Players:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

unpacking thoughts

Today I have occupied my morning with opening boxes (or boxen if you’re Jim) and finding homes for the things inside them. I have had several questions running through my head as I unpack books:

- is this really a reasonable number of books for a person to have?

- Are there some I can get rid of?

- What is the cat doing on the bookshelf?

- I wonder what these authors would say to each other if they had to have a conversation with the author they are shelved next to.

It’s that last question that made me think I should make a blog post about. I’ve mostly been shelving by book height instead of topic, so there are some curious juxtapositions. For example: what would Clark Pinnock and Guy Debord find to say to each other? I would actually love to sit in on a conversation that would take place among Neil Postman, N. T. Wright, and Danielle Allen. I would REALLY like to hear what Simone Weil has to say to Debbie Maken. I like to think it would be a thing or two (note: I only own the Debbie Maken book because I found it used and cheap and I might need it for critical reasons).

Anyway, these are my thoughts. I should be actually doing the unpacking instead of writing about it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book Reccomendation

This book is all kinds of great. I mean, I'm biased, because my dad wrote it....

Friday, July 20, 2007

you can be another tool...

Those close to me know that my very favorite episode of Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin's first tv dramedy, is The Cut Man Cometh (the full script of which can be found online, but really you should watch it). In that episode (about a third in if the written script is to be believed) there's a discussion of nicknames, and why you can't give yourself one. Hammerin' Hank Aaron comes up a lot recently, which means that I keep thinking about why Isaac would like to be called the hammer but can't because you can't give yourself a nickname, and that one's taken.

Anyway, beyond THAT whole discussion of nicknames, I discovered this recent one in Newsweek. The author suggests that, as americans, we've gotten pedestrian at handing out nicknames. And we can't blame the whole thing on Dubya and Brownie, either. They can't take the blame for Brangelina or Bennifer (although I do love when Stephen Colbert includes Filliam H Muffman), J-lo or A-Rod. And don't even get me started on evolving names of rappers. In fact, you may be able to blame them for some of this mess. Anyway, you can't give yourself a nickname, but I agree with this writer, that we as a community should start handing out more interesting ones to our public figures.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Desert Island Discs: Achtung Baby

Well, I figure it’s about time I post another Desert Island pick. I was thinking that when I was on the island I wouldn’t just want the mid-tempo potentially depressing stuff that I generally chose as my alltime favorites. Sometimes you want something else. Maybe a classic. Well, Achtung Baby is the best of both worlds for me. It has the tunefulness and artistry that I consistently like and the rocker sense that U2 always maintains.

My dad, who is crazy, has a fondness for Atomic Bomb, but I prefer Achtung. I pretty much love every song on the album, and I especially can’t get enough of the haunting tone of “Love is Blindness.” I like the wry, complex tone of all U2’s writing (and performance) in the ‘90s. I even like Pop, which is everybody’s least favorite U2 album.

I was sort of late coming to the U2 fanbase. While Achtung Baby was released when I was eight years old, I really got into it in college, over 10 years later. In fact, everybody at my college was into U2. It was more popular than a Calvin sweatshirt or floor dating. “Beautiful Day” was the song of choice to blast out of your dormroom window. And while I am sometimes loathe to follow the crowd, there are some things that everybody likes because they are undeniably good.

Previous Picks:

Other Players:

Saturday, June 30, 2007

scandal accessibility

Yesterday Slate posted an article by Us Weekly editor Janice Min about her decision to not run any Paris Hilton coverage this week. The interesting insight in this article, however, has little to do with Paris and a lot to do with the lack of outrage and impeachment hearings over the various Bush administration scandals. I wish I could remember the source - I think it was NPR - but I heard recently that Americans in a recent survey did not support Bush impeachment, but did wish they could magically wake up in January 2009. There is a sense that Americans are weary of these stories, and unlike the Monica scandal, the misdeeds of the Bush oval office involves avoiding oversight, bureaucratic bylaws, and the constitution. Missing emails are not quite as fascinating or accessible as a semen-stained gap dress, and so they don't get as much attention. It's always more difficult to comprehend things that don't appear in our own daily existence, but perhaps in the end those crimes are more damaging.

** added later: related video on youtube of a frustrated MSNBC newscaster about to loose it on the air, being goaded by her colleagues. She agrees with me and others that the Paris Hilton story shouldn't lead.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Desert Island Discs - Ohio

My dad challenged his readers to join him in a series of “desert island” reviews – the most essential, can’t-live-without-‘em, albums in your collection. This is a personal list, not a best-of list. If I’m stuck on this island with other people who I would share music with, I might change my answers a bit. So, I don’t know how many of these posts I’ll do, but I’ll start today.

Over the Rhine has been my favorite band since I was about 18. I’ve seen then live probably 6 or 7 times. All their music has gotten so much play in my life the last 6 years that I really couldn’t live without at least one. But which to choose? Good Dog Bad Dog was my very first OTR album, and has a special place in my heart, but I decided instead to go with Ohio. Ohio has some of the delicate, intimate style of GDBD, but also has a few full-band rockers in there too. And, bonus, it’s a double album; I get two for the price of one (of course, we’re not limited to a top 5 or whatever here, but still). Anyway, what’s so great about Ohio?

I remember waiting anxiously for my pre-ordered copy of this cd to arrive in the mail. When it finally came I was immediately in love – every song was stunning in its own way. It covers a range of content – from love songs (Lifelong Fling) to political statements (Remind Us) to songs that defy categorization (most of the rest of them). I have always loved Karin and Linford’s lyrics, and their music for that matter. And this album really showcases everything that I love about them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards calls up Ann Coulter

In a nice bit of television today Elizabeth Edwards called in to hardball to politely ask Ann Coulter to stop making personal attacks against candidates. It reminded me of John Stewart's Crossfire appearance where he too asked that commentators raise the level of political dialogue.

Now, I'm not sure if these requests really do anything to improve the level of political discussion or not, but it definitely draws attention to the theatrical quality of some of this political entertainment (in case there is anyone left who doesn't think Ann Coulter is theatrical, I suppose). Perhaps pointing out how unproductive personal attacks are is fruitful in itself. If nothing else, it helps politicians separate themselves from entertainers by emphasizing their own seriousness.

Barack Obama is still my candidate, but I'm growing more and more fond of Ms Edwards.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

boring speeches

This slate article discusses the overuse of cliche and meaningless language in political speech. A sample:
The truth, of course, is that political campaigns get interesting only when the candidates stop speaking in ringing generalities and infuriating phrases, which doesn't mean that they therefore become successful or even good for the country. Sen. John McCain's 2000 campaign appealed precisely because he eschewed pre-prepared gobbledygook—though that wasn't enough even to win the Republican nomination.
While I am quick to point out the art of political speech, I think the writer has a point here. Indeed, my memorable introduction to the difference between the art of rhetoric and the art of poetry came when I attempted to analyze a political speech for the beauty of the language. While some speeches certainly have a beauty of rhythm and image, the training I had from English Department New Critics (the irony of calling this method new criticism is that to me it is the oldest) did not suffice. While truly great political speeches create new paradigms, inspire, and persuade, the vast majority, perhaps, aim simply to not alienate anyone. Especially in a media environment that searches for a good clip, repeating phrases that are generally agreeable seem to be in a candidates interest.

Is this sad or just the way of things? Is there a way to train the public to wade through the tired cliches and discover policy differences? Can politicians find a way to grab attention without ruining their ethos?

Monday, June 11, 2007

God of Hope for Captives

I’m working on a Revise and Resubmit on a paper about Martin Luther King, Jr. this week. And as part of my research for this revision I’ve done a lot of reading about African-American Christianity. My reading in Black Theology and history has left me stunned that African-Americans adopted Christianity at all. After all, their only contact with Christianity was that it was being fed to them by their oppressors – often as a strategy for creating a moral obligation of slaves to masters and thereby ensure better work. In spite of this clearly oppressive spin on the gospel of freedom, though, illiterate slaves were able to learn and understand the story of the Exodus and of the God who sets captives free and looks after the oppressed. And in spite of their oppression they held on to a radical hope found in the Gospel story. And while the social, individual, and economic problems that resulted from decades of slavery continue to create injustices in our society, that hope remains alive.

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. explains the importance of rehearsing these stories toward hope and political activism: “Put simply, liturgies always entail an ethics: they presuppose a certain way of being in the world and seek to impart that to participants and their activity… Liturgies and other rituals – just as explicit forms of racial activism – articulated early conceptions of the moral community among northern blacks as well as southern” (Exodus! P 31).

I wonder if those of us who have more social power can also see these stories – and the enactment of them in liturgy – as an impetus for action and activism. How can the Biblical God of freedom speak into our time and bring about hope for justice, just as the same God did to American slaves?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

real wicked stepmother gets 44 months

In Kansas the stepmother who fed her own children while starving her husband's daughters is sentenced to only 44 months in prison.

Somehow this story seems less... cool when it's real. But I sure do hope those daughters get some kind of outrageous comeuppance. Not neccessarily marrying a prince, since, um, we don't live in a monarchy. What's some kind of modern feminist equivalent? Elected Governor?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

google street stalker?

The new google street view feature has sparked some concern about privacy. I’m still thinking it through. On the one hand, it’s really cool to take a virtual walk around the neighborhood in some cool cities. On the other hand, I think a little bit of suspicion about the availability of this kind of technology is appropriate. After all, I am often reminded of the book 1984 lately and in that book the government has tvs in every home that are also cameras, so they can tell if you’re doing your required exercise and if you’re thinking and writing the right things. I mean, this is a long way from that, but the technology now exists to make it happen. And I have to say, it makes me a little bit nervous.

The biggest irony of this whole thing, however, is that the woman who raised this question managed to get her photo and the cat that google captured in a much clearer image in the New York Times. Of course, her point is not that photos of her cat are available on the internet (heaven knows enough people post pictures of their cats on the internet). Her point is that that kind of detail might lead into realms we don’t really want. Is this the fun part of people watching or the creepy part?

All I know is that I have had plenty of moments in my life when I lose my balance in an ungraceful way or need to take care of a wedgie when I look around and say "oh, good, I don't think anyone saw that." Ubiquitous cameras might make this moment a little bit more paranoid.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

language and new media

As an Obama supporter, I have seen this button availible to add to your own website or whatever:

Here's what bugs me about it: you don't join a profile. You can join myspace, you can join the Obama campaign, you can join When you add someone else's myspace profile to your friends list, the appropriate verb is "add as friend." It would barely make sense if I decided I needed more myspace friends and begged everyone who reads this blog to "join my myspace profile!" You could even say "join my friends list." I think the button should say "friend the official myspace profile" but some quarters criticize my use of "friend" as a verb. However, I really do think that's how people talk about myspace actions. Perhaps as a happy medium, they could say, "join the barack obama campaign on myspace."

So, basically, I think this wording makes the Obama campaign seem un-savvy. Perhaps it's not the savvy audience they're reaching out to, but seeing as it has to do with myspace, I don't find that a satisfactory conclusion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


If you’ve spoken to me in person recently I’ve probably bragged to you about my recent publication in Reformed Worship magazine (alas, the online version is subscription only). I’m really pleased with my first paid publication, and that it’s alongside so many people I respect from my Calvin days, including Kent and Cindy.

As many of you know, one of my hobbies is running the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks. As some of my readers who teach English know, those who throw stones should be careful not to accidentally make a glass house, as it were. So, as a result of being a quotation mark pedant, I am very careful to only use quotation marks when they are absolutely necessary, so as to not need to discuss the appropriateness or inappropriateness of my choice.

Well, apparently the editors of RW didn’t know this, and added some (grammatically appropriate but not required) clarifying quotation marks to my writing. I read the printed article and noticed right away that they were added, because I’m so careful about quotation marks now. If only they knew! Of course, I’m glad they messed with my punctuation and left more important decisions the way I had them!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Top Ten Reasons Men Should not be Ordained

there's been more buzz in my corner of the internet lately about gender in church than usual. Mostly because the CRC Synod is approaching and some members are organizing a protest about the seven year morotorium on even discussing gender equity, and the continued exclusion of women as synod delegates. I've made my position on this issue clear in the past.

People have been reposting this list, which, as far as I can tell, comes from transforming seminarian.

Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained (think David Letterman)

10. A man's place is in the army.
9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.
8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.
7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.
6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.
5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.
4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.
2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.
1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

proud of my alma mater

Some of you may have already read about the equality riders - a group of glbtq persons and supporters who are traveling around to christian colleges. Apparently they have had some interesting experiences, including being arrested at Cornerstone University, just down the road from Calvin (note, this is the school that just decided to stop offering tenured faculty positions. They are not my favorite). Anyway, they visited Calvin this week, and appear to have been overwhelmed by the loving attitude they encountered there.

I think this indicates an openness that I didn't observe when I was a Calvin student, only a few years ago. Although it seems they are still having serious debates about a religious understanding of gender and sexuality, they also seem to be focusing more on the primary calling of christians - to love others.

As I've mentioned before, I think that the way the church in the US has shown hate instead of love toward so many people is horrifying, and I seriously hope that a few decades of hindsight will leave us as ashamed of this time in our history as we are of slavery and Jim Crow. I'm glad to see that Calvin College is taking steps in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Something about Virginia Tech

I can't imagine what it must be like to be a student or faculty at Virginia Tech this week. I saw a professor talking on CNN about one of the professors who died. He said what a great person and colleague he was, and that they both had daughters the same age. Sometimes I think that's all we know to do when confronted with tragedy - realize how similar the victims are to us. That person is so much like me, except they were touched by this unspeakable tragedy and I was not. It makes life seem random and unfair. It reminds us how much we all share. Maybe it brings us closer to real community, where we feel each other's pain and joy.

I wonder, too, how close we are to the perpetrator? What, before yesterday, made Cho Seung Hui different from any of us? What could possibly drive someone to do something so horrible? Is it possible that you or I could be driven to that point as well?

ADDENDUM: since I wrote this post, I've been thinking about the Sufjan Stevens song "John Wayne Gacy Jr." which makes a similar point, but more subtly. "And in my best behavior I am really just like him/look underneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

weird covers

I'm sure many of you are aware of my deep love for weird covers. Let me direct you today to Lore Sjoberg's blog (he's a columnist for Wired) which features several that are new to me and even more in the comments. How exciting!

see also the dinosaur comic that expresses my love.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

US torture issue blog

One of my colleagues is teaching a course on the rhetoric of torture this semester, and her class has a blog that publicizes some of the information they're learning and the discussions they are having in that class.
I reccomend it to most of my readers because it offers straightforward, brief posts about an important contemporary issue. A few of you may also be interested in it because it demonstrates a cool pedagogical strategy as well.

(weird note: I had trouble coming up with an eye-catching title for this post - "torture blog" just gives the wrong impression!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


A friend of mine directed me to GodTube a few weeks ago and it got some coverage in this week’s Newsweek, so I feel compelled to comment. Although I find the content and the concept of this site less disturbing than Conservapedia (I’m sure if you are familiar with this blog you can imagine my snarks if you start looking around that site…), I still think GodTube is kind of… dumb.

Like Christian Rock music before it (and Christian Tea and Mints and… well… you know....) GodTube makes me wonder why. Why start a site for “Christian” videos with specifically religious content separate from the video site that everyone else watches? Indeed, I have seen that banana video on YouTube months ago. Do Christians need to be protected from the dangerous world of YouTube? Are they persecuted or excluded there? Why is it necessary to make a sectioned off website for christians, inviting those who are talented to put their art with religious content there instead of in a place where it might actually reach more people. Where it might even make someone think differently about religion, or justice, or humanity.

Does this strike anyone else as completely unnecessary?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

march madness

those who enjoy laughing at my sports ignorance (and I know there are several who read this blog) can visit Morgan's website to see my bracket. Even though I used ESPN to construct the bracket, I didn't taint my ignorance by reading the information provided and trying to make educated guesses. No, no, I went with the same strategy I used last year: random guessing. Sometimes I selected schools I am not mad at to beat schools I am mad at, but not in any systematic way. So basically there is little/no pride on the line for me. That's the way I like it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

today's rock star

I found this blog strangely compelling. It chronicles who is referred to in the news as a "rock star" each day. The blogger says Barack Obama and Al Gore are tied for "biggest rock stars" currently. Notably absent: actual rock stars.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentines Day, friends and blog readers. I potato you.

you know, and I appreciate your reading.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Obama Campaign and Web 2.0

Barack Obama's website launched social networking software today, as a way to organize and mobilize supporters. Really. I already have a profile, in case you want to be my friend (I'm not even kidding. you can make friends and I really do have a profile. there is no place to put your relationship status, though, so I don't suggest using to find a politically active date).

I think it's a great idea to harness the power of web 2.0 toward politics. I think that Obama supporters are the most likely to go for it. At least, if I'm any indication. He also is using U2's "city of blinding lights" for a campaign song, so pretty much he's got me pegged. Too bad I don't have any money.

These developments raise some interesting questions, though, about the power of internet culture in politics. Many will argue that political blogs have had a huge impact in the '06 election, and others before, but '06 did not see the kind of assault on web media forms we are seeing already now. It will be interesting to see how other candidates use this technology and what effect it has on the election, especially given the narrow demographic of those who spend a lot of time on the internet.

Friday, January 26, 2007

We Are the Medium

I am reading The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture by Shane Hipps. Hipps is a pastor (and graduate of Fuller Sem - evidently Jim knows him) who before seminary worked in advertising. His advertising background gave him a handle on media theory, which he uses in this book. On the whole I was pleased to find a book from a Christian publishing house engaging with the meaning of media theory for the Christian church. As a Communication scholar I found Hipps’ explanations of McLuhan’s media theory a bit simplistic, but the choice makes sense given his audience. I found his explanation of the impact that modern/print culture has had on the church one of the more cogent I have read, and his explanation of changes brought by image culture also helpful. He ultimately suggests that we need to consider the ways this technology changes us through the eyes of our theology, and work within the maelstrom (in McLuhan’s terms) to celebrate the new possibilities but also not ignore what is made obsolete that might be valuable. He examines in particular the way these changes impact our understanding and experience of community, leadership, and worship. For example, he points to the good ways electronic media combat the individualistic impulse of print, but often lead to superficial community, and suggests ways to cultivate deeper relationships within contemporary culture. In general, I think he does good work.

I have a few minor quibbles with the way Hipps presents his case. His bias is clearly protestant evangelical, as is his audience, but he doesn’t seem to acknowledge this at all. As a result, he considers a renewed focus on eucharist instead of sermons a change in the church, without acknowledging that many Christians have worshipped this way since before the reformation. I also think the term “Hidden” in the title and elsewhere is deceptive. It is not as though the effect that media has on us is creeping in the corners of our lives, it is more like slight of hand – we are distracted by other things and don’t notice it. The implication that we are “uncovering” something that was “hidden” indicates Hipps own modern bias and suggests that the impact of electronic culture is necessarily negative and sneaky. And perhaps it is, but Hipps’ actual view is more measured than his title might lead us to believe. But I suppose it does make a provocative title.

Perhaps the most useful conceptual move that Hipps makes is by positioning the church as God’s chosen media for his message of redemption. He writes “the way we live and practice our faith together is evangelistic, missional activity that communicates our distinct identity. Our identity is the message” (85). The church as media, like the church as reading (an idea I got from Milbank) suggests that Christian practice is itself a powerful rhetoric for communicating the grace of God. An idea that is important for my thesis. He points out earlier the way media impact our preferred form of thinking – analytic or wholistic, for example – and applies this to Eastern Orthodox thinking compared to western protestant. He says we “become what we behold” and I wish he would, at this point, stretch this idea to sacrament. If we become what we behold, and we are constantly exposed to the sacrament – enacting God’s grace and our gratitude – perhaps then the logic of God’s grace can become our working mode of thought.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

slippery slopes etc.

A friend sent me this book review from Books and Culture, complimented my intelligence, and suggested I blog about it. For future reference, that’s always a good strategy to get people to do things. But I really decided to write about it because I found her argument so perplexing. Bauer, the writer, finds herself in the position Christianity Today is often in: too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for, well, me anyway. Bauer points to the extreme reactions she got for recommending a book called Finally Feminist on her blog, and raises the question: why do people hold so strongly to their views of gender?

She continues in a review of Stackhouse’s argument in the book which she calls (and I agree, from her summary) “extremely convincing to all those who are already egalitarians.” She defends the egalitarian view of gender, I’m quietly nodding along. She returns to the suggestion that the tight hold evangelicals have on their view of gender is curious:

“As a defense of the Bible, this is very peculiar. If allowing women to be ordained will destroy the authority of Scripture, why doesn't the slippery slope argument go, "Ordain women, and Christ's bodily resurrection will be the next thing to go," or, "Ordain women, and we may have to relinquish our belief in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of the sins, and the life everlasting"?”

Right on! Why is the negative result from respecting women as equals also respecting homosexuals as equals? How did evangelicals become so dogmatic about their views about sexuality that even questioning them – questioning an issue related to them – is heresy? Bauer goes the other direction with this argument, however, suggesting that perhaps this is a slope that is not so slippery. Just because gay rights are closely linked with women’s rights in secular politics doesn’t mean it has to be in Christianity.

“To those who argue that, in some denominations, the ordination of women has led to the open acceptance of homosexuality, I would agree that this is indeed a real phenomenon. It has occurred because, in those denominations, the church has completely lost sight of the fact that it is supposed to be the gathered people of God, a counterculture which lives apart from the power-structures of the world.”

This baffles me. I don’t understand how her questioning of the protection of gender norms does not lead also to questioning of evangelical terror over “deviant” sexualities. Why doesn't the reading of the bible that leads to an egalitarian view of gender necessarily lead us to re-read the bible with an eye toward accepting those of other sexual orientations? The passages that reference that are even more difficult than those about women. Bauer also points out that “The theologians who insist that the commands restricting women are obvious and universal—and if you don't think so, that's your problem—have to do some fancy footwork if they're going to assert that the equally "clear" passages on slavery suddenly became no longer applicable sometime in the 19th century.” I find it curious that she is willing to take a step toward gender equality, based on this reasoning, and not continue this reasoning to include our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Her earlier suggestion that questions why accepting gay and lesbian persons is such a horrible outcome, I believe, is a saner way.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

On Centrepointe

Centrepointe Church had their last service this month. I’m a little sad and reminiscy, even though I don’t go there anymore, as I live in Georgia now. Jim and I went there during Christmas break and I was greeted with a litany of hugs. And that was representative of that community – lots of hugging and love and appreciating each other. That was why I knew it was a good place for me when I first went there. Not that anyone hugged me then, that would be weird, but I sensed the way the people there cared about each other. After hanging at the edges for a while, I soon experienced that care myself.

I got involved with a college etc. bible study, I started playing in the praise band, I started going out for lunch with people after church most Sundays. By the time I graduated college, Centrepointe was a huge part of my life. I loved it because it was a place where I met some wonderful people, and was able to grow as a Christian and member of a community, and also use some of my gifts in leading worship.

The potlucks before communion services made the meaning of that sacrament so much richer and more embodied for me. It was the body of Christ hovering over fruit salad AND later saying to me “the blood of Christ, shed for you.” The whole event was communion.

Another thing about the people at Centrepointe is that they are so fun, interesting, and smart. Our bible study often featured complex discussions of theological and practical issues. It also included close readings of obscure texts (some of which were too bizarre for us to make much sense out of – see some of the minor prophets). The meeting I remember the most vividly is when we cancelled our plans and instead watched a thunderstorm come in through the storefront windows. It was beautiful and exciting and exactly the right thing to do.

I wish I could recount all the wonderful moments, great memories and inside jokes (those are never as funny when you weren’t there anyway, and some of these need to be sung). But Centrepointe was the first church I chose for myself, although I’m beginning to believe that churches choose us. It was where I learned to be a member of a community as something like an adult – to bring things to potlucks and join committees. I know this change was what needed to happen now, but I didn’t want to see it pass without remembering what that church body meant to me. It meant quite a bit – more than I can express in a blog post. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

obama announces

Pretty much I'm just going to make this post so we can all acknowledge how excited I am. Even though I have to change my paper.


Monday, January 15, 2007

performing worship

The church I lead worship in here is relatively performance-based worship. It’s in an old theatre, and the band has several professional musicians in it (and they let me play too, oddly…). This means that the band rocks, and enables us to have high-quality worship and do some cool things with a public-ish space, but it also means it’s hard for worship to not feel like a concert or performance. It’s one of the things I accepted when I started being involved here because no church will ever be perfect.

Having some experience as a worship leader, I know it is important to act as an example – to lead through the way you use your facial expression and body to show the congregation that it’s ok for them to participate too. I often make an effort to model the emotions present in the song we are singing, to reinforce the meaning for the congregation, and because it is more meaningful to me if I put that kind of thought into it. People have told me before that they appreciate this, which makes me feel good, of course. One person phrased it this way to me this Sunday “she is so spiritual. More spiritual than me.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. Because the truth is, I’m probably NOT more spiritual. I’m sincere, and I’m reliable, and I’m gentle, but I don’t think of myself as spiritual. I forget to pray, I don’t listen very well, and sometimes when I’m leading worship I’m thinking about hitting the right note or when does the harmony come in. And I’m ok with that, but I don’t want other people to think that I am somehow superior to them. I’m a worship leader because I am talented and passionate, but not because I’m spiritually superior.

Perhaps this particularly bothered me this Sunday because I was performing more than I usually do. We sang “My Glorious” which any former WA knows* has some lyrical/theological problems. For one thing, it’s hard to pin down any kind of meaning to it. But I’m particularly bothered by “the world we’ll leave” because this kind of language makes it seem like the New Jerusalem is someplace else – this earth is temporary and evil. It leads to a flippant attitude toward the material trials of others and toward caring for the earth, and I find this deeply problematic. Anyway, I don’t like this song, one part I disagree with. So I faked it. Which was, I think, the right decision in the context. But now I wonder if my inauthenticity is problematic, because others see me as an example, and because they believe better than the truth about me.

I know that in many ways all of life we perform the person that we want to be – identity is constructed, so if you behave a certain way regularly you become that way. I believe in a sacramental view of worship that says participation in the prayers of the people matters no matter how you feel about it in that moment. But I also don’t want to deceive the people of God. I know there are other worship leaders and pastors who read this blog. Is this tension a problem for you? What do you do about it?

* as many of you know, I spent a year as a student worship apprentice at Calvin College. Problematic worship songs - and this one in particular - was one of the things we discussed in our training.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

because who doesn't like ramen?

The inventor of Ramen Noodles died yesterday. The news story reminded me of those college days hovering over an electric hotpot poking at a brick of ramen noodles as they boil, and sitting in the hallway at high school with a cup of noodles and a spork. Ramen Noodles (chicken flavor) tastes like nostalgia. And, given the years of grad school ahead of me, I doubt I've tasted my last oversalted cup.

Good job, Momofuku Ando. Good job inventing a food that has a very long shelf life and costs hardly any money. A service to college students everywhere.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Year in Review

Jim said I should make a year in review post, so here it is. Some things that happened in 2006:

I did about half of my MA.

I visited the following places: Holland, Grand Rapids, Brighton, Ann Arbor and Lansing MI; Atlanta GA and areas in and around Athens, Columbia and Charleston SC, Sioux Falls SD, San Antonio TX, Los Angeles CA

I started dating Jim. Generally considered a good decision.

I started to be involved in worship planning at my church. A fulfilling and exciting activity.

I had mono, and spent about a month teaching for an hour a day and watching videos.

I learned how to cook a lot of new things (thanks Jim)

Those are a few of the major events, anyway. I also met some great new people, deepened friendships with old ones. 2006 was the first entire year I spent in my own apartment and not living with my parents (I did visit them though). It also featured the most air travel of my entire life thus far. I turned 23, that was cool. I fell in love with Barak Obama, just like everyone else. I got excited that democrats regained the house. I read a lot of NYtimes, and sometimes I commented on this blog.

Some of my friends got engaged and some got married. One of my cousins got married.

All in all, 2006 was a good year. I only hope 2007 is equally good, as I look ahead to new challenges and joys. I’m writing this post from Jim’s apartment in LA, who knows where I will be a year from now. Hopefully working on my PhD somewhere.

I hope all of you, dear readers, also had a good and fulfilling 2006 and I wish you an even better 2007.