Thursday, January 27, 2011

Church Cleaning Day and Liturgical Mishaps

Today, I spent about an hour sorting through and putting away all the music that I had been throwing into a pile in the worship closet. Anytime this pile begins needing structural reinforcement to stand or poses a major fire hazard (a falling candle would turn that pile into a pyre!), I figure it is about time to organize it. This usually involves organizing the music over the first two rows of chairs in the sanctuary while listening to some good music.

Also, between yesterday and today I probably spent three or four hours putting together and writing liturgy for Sunday around the theme of "Carrying God's Light" because we are having a missionary speak on Sunday and are venturing off the lectionary. So, I had put together a call to worship, a prayer of thanksgiving, a bulletin cover, the song order, etc., when I realized that two weeks from Sunday, the text we are focusing on is the later parts of Matthew 5: "Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." So, back to the drawing board for Sunday! At least I have the bulletin almost done for February 13th.

I'm going to the CSO tonight for some Mozart piano concertos and to Old Town School of Folk for a John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, and Eliza Gilkyson concert! It's going to be a good weekend!

My take on the State of the Union Responses by Republicans/Tea Partiers:
1. Michelle Bachman, look at the camera when you speak...and then resign. You give Minnesota a bad name.
2. Paul Ryan, take off all the lapel flair; you're not working at TGI Fridays.

Sometimes when I'm at the gym up at school, I want to walk around to all the treadmills and turn them up about one-two mile per hour. Some people just amble on those things like they're out for a stroll in the park. Get moving! These are probably the same people drinking zero calorie sports drinks. Okay, now I need to get moving on planning another service for this week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Things I'm Sad and Not Sad About

Things I'm not sad about:
1. Rahm Emmanuel not being able to run for mayor. Maybe if you weren't creating enemies everywhere you go people would give you the benefit of the doubt.
2. Keith Olbermann leaving MSNBC. Some argue that you were the foil to FoxNews, but you just came across as pompous. Besides, I don't want a foil to FoxNews; I just don't want any rhetoric like FoxNews from the left or right. Plus, I don't think his "Worst Person in the World" segment did much to engender civil political discourse. Plus, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
3. The Bears losing. They played terribly and didn't deserve to be a Super Bowl team. Not to mention Jay Cutler's knee.
4. Not owning a 3D TV. I'm sorry, those things look stupid.
5. Missing the Golden Globes. Yawn.
6. That January is almost over. I enjoy winter, but around this time I'm ready for spring to begin.
7. My decision to buy tickets for three different concerts at Old Town School of Folk throughout this spring semester. While it was a hit in the pocketbook right away, it is now reaching the point where the sting of the financial loss is past, and now it's like I'm getting to go to a bunch of free concerts! It's definitely something to look forward to.
8. Having Mondays and Wednesdays off from school.
9. Having my earliest classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1.

Things I am sad about:
1. My fan falling off its chair throughout the night! It's like it faints and can't hold itself up anymore; I don't get it. It's also a rather recent phenomenon, only occurring the last two nights. There's nothing worse than drifting slowly to sleep when suddenly a large, metal fan crashes to the ground.
2. Thinking about all this wonderful seminary class of 2011 going their separate ways. It's going to be like the Fellowship of the Rings separating! If so, I call Aragorn as my representative in this analogy.
3. Not putting the tabs on my car before I got a ticket. Typical Dave.
4. Bad theology.

Things I don't understand:
1. Zero calorie sports drinks. Isn't a calorie defined in relation to energy? Don't you want energy to play sports? Isn't zero calorie sports drinks just another name for water? I think you're not working hard enough if you don't need any calories. If so, you do not need a sports drink.
2. Fiscal hawks who want to cut budgetary spending without touching military spending.
3. How one can forget their jacket in January.

That's all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Random Thoughts

I don't pretend to understand the migration patterns of the undergrads and graduates on the North Park campus, but I have made two observations about population peaks in the community:
1. The first two weeks of a semester (especially after the New Year (New Year's resolutions seem to be the culprit)) the population of students spend much more time in the gym.
2. The last two weeks of the semester it is as if students realize for the first time that North Park has a library.

Products that I go through much too fast for my age:
1. Alka-seltzer. I get heartburn like I'm a 75 year-old.
2. Cinnamon Toast Crunch/Captain Crunch Berries/Lucky Charms/Cocoa Puffs. Seriously, like a six year-old.
3. pens. How old do I need to be before I can keep track of writing utensils? At least I have gone from losing others pens to losing my own pens.
4. socks. Repeat comments from #3 inserting "socks" where "pens" currently is...kind of. I didn't really lose anyone else's socks because that's not my scene (wearing others socks). Oh, except for my dad. I have raided that dresser many a time.

Right now I'm doing one of the least favorite parts of my job: listening to new worship music on iTunes. There is a lot of bad music out there that must be culled through to find a few decent songs. I wish writers of worship music would spend more time thinking about the words they sing and what they are conveying theologically. As professor John Weborg is wont to say, "Words create worlds." Maybe we need more theologically-trained worship leaders. No, let me rephrase, we need more theologically-trained worship leaders and songwriters. To worship in "spirit and truth" means we need to say true things about who God is and who we are in relationship to God. We need to tell the story of God rather than our own.

There's this idea that Sam Wells writes about in his book Improvisation (he takes it from Hans Urs Von Balthasar); he says that we have made two mistakes with God and God's story. When we tell it as epic, we try and tell it totally objectively and pretend we can tell it objectively without imposing our own beliefs and thoughts. When we tell it as lyric, we only are concerned with how it affects us, how we feel about it. The synthesis of these two, Wells says, is dramatic, concerned with both the objective and affective. I think the same is true for worship. Epic worship tells the story but loses the spirit; this is the caricature of high liturgical worship that has seems to have no life or no aspects that carry over to other parts of life. On the other hand, lyric worship is the "me and Jesus" syndrome where nothing matters but how I feel. This is the other caricature where you wouldn't be able to tell a song was about God or about that person's significant other (I'm thinking "Draw Me Close to You," which never mentions God), and worship is judged only by how you feel. We need a dramatic worship that synthesizes these two, that tells a story and affects our lives, that calls us to deeper discipleship and action. Anyway, that's what's been on my mind as I work on my thesis.

Okay, I'm going to go before I start ranting. Later.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It Is Finished.

This week has finally come to an end, and boy, was it a doozy. The first and most basic part of the week was my J-term class, "Teaching and Learning Christian Formation" (I had to look up what it was actually called; some of these classes are hard to remember (i.e. "Leadership and Empowering the Laity (or Ladies, as some like to joke) for Church Growth", "Models of Christian Formation," "Living Responsibly in the Realm of God," and it's alternate, "Living Irresponsibly in the Realm of God.")) It was from 8-12:30 and 2:30-5:30 every day. If you know me, you most likely know that this isn't my type of class. Education classes were always my least favorite as they usually weren't taught very well (note the irony. On one of my worst days it led me to come up with the quip, "Those who can't do, teach; those who can't teach, teach teaching." Notable exceptions at North Park included (but are not limited to) Jill Wettersten, Whipp Johnson, and Nancy Berggren). I would much rather take a meaty theology course or a distinct biblical course like on the book of Revelation. I decided to take this because it was required, and I would rather rip the band-aid off quickly in a week rather than peel it off slowly through the semester.

However, I have to give Laurie Bailey (my teacher) some credit. While the subject matter still wasn't my favorite to grapple with, she made it experiential and, dare I say, fun. The class went by quickly, and we had some great discussions and wrestled with what Christian Formation looks like in our own lives. It didn't hurt that we used a lot of Parker Palmer!

So, running concurrent to this class was interviews with the superintendents and various leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The superintendents are each in charge of various regional conferences of the Covenant throughout the U.S. (Pacific Northwest, Central, Midwest, etc.). In these interviews, they basically try to get a feel for where your gifts lie and how they may be used in their various conferences. It's a bit nerve-racking, but it helps that I have signed on at ResCov through December and have a place to live. The only downside to the interviews is that they were held in between and after classes making for very long days. The questions usually revolved around your spiritual history and discussions of what your dream job would be. I think the hardest part was figuring out what to wear each morning.

Thursday I had an interview at World Relief, a Christian organization that helps refugees resettle in the U.S. I was offered the job as Donation Coordinator, which is a fancy way of saying that I will help the full-time guy (the one and only Matt Johnson) pick up furniture from donors' houses and set up refugee apartments with this and other supplementary furniture. It will be good to do some manual labor during the semester when I'll be on my butt too often reading and writing my thesis. The best part about it is that it will be very part-time until the summer when it will pick up, which is just when I will have nothing but time after graduation.

So, it's been a busy week, but now it is over. The only consequence: I think I'm getting sick. However, I just finished all my church work and look forward to napping and reading The Passage, which Carol Wilde lent me (I almost said "borrowed me," which is such a Minnesotan expression; in Minnesota you "borrow" a book from someone, and that person "borrows" it to you). It's about a colony of people that try to survive in a compound after the world's population has been decimated by vampire-like creatures called "virals." I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies and books (e.g. The Road, Children of Men, 28 Days Later). I don't know what it says about me that I am attracted to movies and books that deal with the subject of human beings being almost entirely wiped out but for a remnant who must fight to stay alive. Maybe it's my attraction to the biblical idea of the faithful remnant? Maybe it's a metaphor for faithfulness in the midst of trial? You tell me.

Okay, I'm going to eat lunch. Later.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

Tomorrow begins the big push that will be this week. Besides the usual church events of tomorrow, in the evening all of those entering the call process at the seminary will have dinner with the Evangelical Covenant Church's superintendents from the different regions of the US and Canada. On Monday my J-term class begins (something on Christian Formation), and I also begin interviews with the aforementioned superintendents during my lunch break from the J-term class. Monday evening I'm also in charge of a worship service for those taking J-term classes. So, it's going to be a busy week.

So, the 112th Congress was sworn in just the other day, and it got me thinking what I was looking forward to with this new make-up of the House and Senate. Here are a few things:
1. Crazy quotes from new tea party Republicans. You know there are going to be some real doozies, especially now that they have to talk to people who disagree with them.
2. Then, I'm looking forward to mainline Republicans trying to explain these quotes without seeming crazy or angering the tea partiers.
3. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's take on crazy quotes from tea party Republicans.
4. Democrats trying to use quotes to gain support but just looking desperate and frazzled.
5. Useless votes to repeal bills (e.g. health care bill) that they do not have the votes to repeal, thereby wasting much time and energy on useless endeavors.
6. Lots of talk about cutting programs.
7. Any talk about cutting the bloated military budget labeled as "unpatriotic" and "dangerous" by these fiscal hawks.
8. Talk about cutting programs that service the poor labeled as a "necessary steps" to ensure "self-sufficiency" and "fiscal responsibility."
9. More positioning for 2012 elections than actual governing.
10. Very few bills actually being passed.

Captain Crunch Berries may be the ambrosia of the gods. Just sayin'.

I do think it is interesting that one of the first things Republicans did was have the Constitution read aloud in session (except they took out the parts that make the Founding Fathers look crazy like those on slavery or any of the other parts that were later changed. Obviously, we don't want to make the writers of the Constitution look fallible). It is interesting that they would chose this ritual reading, almost like a worship service reading of the Bible or Torah (words of Rep. Jerry Nadler), to begin the 112th Congress. I like Nadler's concluding thoughts on this: "Your not supposed to worship your Constitution. You are supposed to govern your government by it" (albeit a little awkward wording in the "govern your government" part). Well said. It's a little like this painting of Jesus and the Constitution:

Sorry for all the politics today!

Well, I need to go print off bulletins and chord charts for tomorrow. Later.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Garrison Keillor and Growing Up

Today I drove back from the Twin Cities where I spent New Years' Eve with some of my old CBC-Ecuador friends/spouses including: Leah and Wade Gunderson (the gracious hosts), Jared Sandstrom, Eric and Katie Borndal, and Britta Kimball. It was a wonderful time had by all (at least me). Today, I ended up leaving at noon for what I knew was going to be a long and tiring ride to Chicago.

Now, being a pastor's kid meant Saturday drives home from vacation were a regular occurrence. Deano needed to get home for church or heads would roll (not true, but it probably helped him maintain steady employment). There was one thing all of us kids dreaded on these rides home: Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. At 5 p.m. on the dot, Adventures in Odyssey would be ejected ("Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80995 or in Canada write to us at Box 9800 Vancouver, B.C., B6B4G3, and don't forget to ask how you can get a copy of today's episode, "Waylaid in the Windy City"), and we would tune in the local public radio station for the familiar opening, "I hear that old piano...".

This tradition continued as I progressed from the blue vinyl backwards-facing bench seats of the Buick station wagon, through the beige foldout bench seat/futon of the conversion van (even had a TV in that one!), and into the removable bench seats of the Pontiac TransSport minivan that I ended up taking to college my senior year. This show was harder to get rid of than the in-laws. The worst part was that when the signal began to fade, my dad had to only press seek, usually only once, and it would return crystal clear and in full force. Public radio is everywhere!

However, a strange thing began to happen in my late high school years. Though I would pretend to hate that tell-tale voice and his stupid stories, I would occasionally fight back a smile at the corny jokes he made. Soon, I even stopped complaining when we would turn it on, but I wouldn't give any positive affirmation to my parents; I didn't want it to go to their heads. Finally, when I left for college and separated from my parents, I felt like I could finally proudly proclaim my affection for the show. I became an avid listener and surprised my parents with my insistence on our next car ride that we listen.

Now, whenever 5 p.m. hits on a Saturday night, the calm and drawn-out voice of Garrison Keillor combined with the musical acts, poetry readings, and storytelling is a welcome respite from my busy schedule as I let the nostalgia of childhood and Minnesota wash over me.

For instance, today I was barely making it on my drive; I thought I might need to stop for a nap or hit the caffeine harder (despite already drinking an energy drink two hours earlier). However, once 5 p.m. hit and PHC was on the air, I barely noticed my fatigue and glided home without the slightest problem. So, that's the story of how Prairie Home Companion became one of my favorite traveling companions.