The Errant Evangelical 2

Bloged in church, culture by rod Friday November 27, 2009

Chapter 2, wherein the pitcher winds down


When the little boy left the team and headed home tossing bottle caps into trashcans, the team was absolutely thriving. The changes in the game had moved it to open fields where there was plenty of room for the game, and for spectators. And spectators certainly took advantage of this opportunity. They turned out in droves. Each game brought more spectators each time the team took the field.
Unfortunately, other changes in the game had slowed down the play. The larger space had spread the action out and the rules changes had slowed down play. The spectators and team manager began complaining about the lull in action.
As it happened, the action had been centralized to the pitcher, and therefore, he was thought to be responsible for the lull. The manager began speaking with him regularly about the complaints of the spectators. They discussed his performance. It was determined that his fast ball was fast enough, that his curve ball was curvy enough, that his knuckle ball was knuckly enough. He threw more strikes than balls, and his ERA was enviable. In fact, the only weakness that they could find was that his windup was not wind-y enough. The manager was sure that if they could just wind up the pitchers windup a bit, all would be better and the spectators would be entertained once again.
Always the good soldier, the pitcher agreed to try to lift his leg a bit higher, and to step left, then right then left again just before taking the ball from his glove and finally, to make a huge sweeping motion with his throwing arm, finishing in a rightward lean just as he released the ball. He practiced these visual theatrics until his arm (and legs, and shoulders and neck and ankles) ached, but no matter how well he did them, he couldn’t throw his fast fast ball, his curvy curve ball, or his knuckley knuckle ball any longer.
The manager insisted that he do this in the game, though, so he pitched loss after loss, embarrassing himself with walked and beaned batters.
He spoke with the manager time and again, but the manager expressed that the spectators weren’t concerned with the outcome of the game, only that they were entertained by the pitcher’s motions.
The pitcher didn’t last long knowing that he was no longer needed for his ability, and so left the team to find somewhere new to throw his fast fast ball and such.
Meanwhile, the team found a new windup man. The new guy couldn’t throw the ball across the plate any better than the last guy, but he was so enjoyable to watch that all the fans were delighted and soon forgot completely that the pitcher was supposed to throw stikes.

on consumerism

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, culture by rod Tuesday April 3, 2007

Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

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kingdom 2.0

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, community, culture, metaphor by rod Friday March 16, 2007

A year and a half or so ago, I made a mirror site for my blog because Wordpress was so much more tweakable and I really wanted “categories” to help me organize my thoughts. I realized that I’d need to post simultaneously to both locations, so I bought the blog editing software, Ecto to do so. It was $18, and I’d never have to login to either blogsite to post. Woot.
A few months ago, Blogger began moving folks to their new version. Mine, being quite large was one of the last to go, but even before I went, the tweaks in the blogger system had rendered ecto suddenly inoperable, intermittently at first, then totally. Since then, I’ve had to post to blogger manually. Gee whiz.
That is until today. I got tired of copying and pasting and writing extra code, so I began to dig around blogger looking for a more accurate API access point. Eventually, I found a tweak of Ecto itself that fixed the blogger-caused blogger problem.
The guy who wrote Ecto also has a day job. He wrote Ecto for fun. He’s busy now writing a new version, Ecto 3.0, but he still took the time to write a fix to a problem that was caused by someone else’s software and that had rendered his already-paid-for product useless to all us who had spent the $18. Wasn’t that sweet?
But all of that is just back-story.
The front story is that it seems like this kind of business - community, and development for the sake of advancement rather than commerce only happens on the interwebs. Furthermore, it usually has to do with product that you can’t see, hold in your hand, or show to the manufacturer so that they can see what’s broken. In real life, it seems that once a product is out the door, it’s your problem. Inadequacies, flaws, and blemishes are cleverly hidden or downplayed until they are taken home. Can you imagine buying a car just before a road is repaved, and then having the dealership give you new tires that will work better on the new surface? That’s what happens everyday on the internets. It’s more of a web than ever before with every aspect so closely connected and dependent on others. In interweb land, what has long been forgotten in the real world is blatantly obvious daily, we are all dependent on one another. If there’s a problem with one element, we all suffer. Development forces development so that one doesn’t become the weak link.
When my blog is visited, nearly every piece of content on the page is gathered from different servers. The text is stored at google, the photos in the text body are stored in my server space at gracemonkey.com, the hit counter is loaded from sitemeter, the flickr badge comes from Yahoo, the moon phase calculator is drawn from elsewhere, and on and on. Right now, sitemeter is working to correct a data problem that has messed up my stat updates. They are reading code and deleting corrupted lines so that my FREE stat counter will be accurate. Each time something becomes incompatible with another element, work is done to upgrade the other element to insure that they keep working in tandem.

I live in a physical society that has seen parts of it upgraded over and over, while other parts have been ignored, and rendered incompatible and inoperable. As time goes by, upgrades to the upgraded parts become more and more advanced and frequent, while the neglected parts become further outdated and forgotten. Furthermore, certain features of the upgraded parts at various times have been designated less important than others and so they too have ceased to be upgraded and thus, become incompatible with the more newly upgraded parts. All effort is put into a smaller and smaller segment while the quickly receding obsolete parts grow bigger and bigger.
Ironically though, many of the writers for the increasingly narrowed upgrades, eventually begin to notice that much of the content needed to load the index page is found on the servers they’ve neglected and abandoned as obsolete. When needed, the content is unavailable – outdated, obsolete. Of what importance is a Commodore 64 in Web 2.0?
Apparently, a lot, and if some of the upgraded power is not used to update the neglected, the entire physical interweb suffers.

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encouraging words

Bloged in church, community, culture by rod Monday February 19, 2007

A year and a half ago when I flew to New Mexico to attend the emergent gathering, I think I mentioned here that I was actually worried about how I’d be accepted there. At the time, so much of the conversation included frustration, criticism, and intolerance of church as it is, and many people were pulling away, leaving, and gathering among believers in totally new community paradigms. I, on the other hand, was leading worship in a contemporary church and teaching at a traditional, conservative Bible College. They were tired of talking and were doing, I was still talking and trying to open minds. Would they see what I was doing from within in any way connected to their pulling away and doing it differently?
When I arrived at the gathering, it took no time at all for my new acquaintances to become friends, and with me as newbies to the gathering were many others who were still trying to affect growth and change within their contexts. The reputation of my school is widespread, and many were outrageously shocked, but equally encouraged that I was there. Word traveled fast that there was a Bible College faculty member among them. I was sought out for conversation. But within my own contexts, I’m still somewhat of an anomaly. There are, however, signs that more are willing to hear, by necessity as we seem more disconnected and less effective with the students to whom we minister, and with the world into which we wish to send them. But I’m still a small, marginal voice in a big pond. Research still trumps experience.
Recently a much bigger voice began a series of chapel sermons here dealing with post-modernism that discussed the topic with a much more open, (dare I say intelligent?), teachable approach. Our President Emeritus, Robertson McQuilkin, delivered a message called “Post Modernism: Capturing it.” There is nothing new here, no new topics to bring into the conversation; but the encouragement is that it was delivered here. His words will be heard when mine sound squeaky and unintelligible, uninformed, naïve, and rebellious, and perhaps open ears to my own.
I’ve asked Dr. McQuilkin for permission to link you to his message and he was excited to give it. He did, however, voice the concern that he didn’t challenge the students enough to be self-critical and challenge some of the stuff they’re buying into. I believe though that he created an atmosphere that will allow him to do that more specifically and be heard and trusted. He will be able to point out specific areas of concern to him without throwing the baby out with the bath, and creating a false antithesis between, “biblical world-view” and “post-modernism”, as has always been done.

I’ve provided a link to this message, if you’re interested. Give a listen. More will follow. In any case, be encouraged with me.

Link: Post Modernism: Capturing It

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concerning gender distraction

Bloged in culture, life, random by rod Wednesday January 24, 2007

Last night I stole 22 minutes and 48 seconds to sit down and watch an episode of The Office wired from my iPod to my TV. I chose the episode, “Boys and Girls” from season two. A very funny episode, I must say. While Michael never knows how to be a guy around girls (women), he knows even less about being a guy around guys. The show was an accurate dramatization of what happens when boys and girls are separated.
Driving home from work tonight, I heard a spot for tomorrow’s edition of South Carolina Public Radio’s production, “speaking of schools”. They’ll be talking about single gender education. Now I realize that my experience, though it be extensive, does not make me an expert in speaking to the value or stupidity of a methodological trend, but I have made some observations from having been involved in single gender education. Education is a very “new idea, trend-trying, there’s-always-a-newer-way-to-do-it” venture. (I was once involved in an educators think-tank for advocates of hyper-hyphenation-compound-adjective-creation.) But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how anyone couldn’t see the ridiculousness of single gender education for middle and high school students.
I have racked my brain to figure out where this notion was started. No doubt somewhere in the beginning of the process, someone, realizing that when hormones begin to kick in, humans are distracted by the opposite sex from anything not involving the opposite sex. Education (excepting 8th grade health class) tends not to be about the opposite sex, and thus does not receive proper attention from pubescent would-be scholars. But this realization shouldn’t be enough to lead one to the idea of single-gender ed. Through my extensive experience, I’ve observed that this distraction is precisely what ensures that said scholars behave with some modicum of civility, and thus maintain some minute possibility of inadvertent, indirect learning. (It should also be noted that the removal of the opposite sex from the physical environment in no way removes them from the cerebral environment and therefore does not diminish the distraction in the least. Students of this age have been known frequently to enter an apparent catatonic state to approximate the REM stage and therefore intensify the enjoyment of the distraction. Students will go to great effort to be distracted by the opposite sex, and this effort is, in itself, a distraction.)
Though the behavior of a co-ed middle school classroom may lead an educator to believe that the removal of one or the other gender would improve the behavior of the remaining, a few days of the observation of such an environment proves this notion desperately errant.
Several years ago, I taught separated classes of 7th grade boys and girls as my class met on alternating days with their health class. I have to say that there is one thing worse than students distracted by the opposite sex – students not distracted by the opposite sex.
My co-ed classes contained boys who behaved at least two years older than those of the same age in the segregated classrooms. I also found that the girls in the co-ed classrooms neither belched inordinately loud, nor did they pass gas in any attempt to outdo the girl on the other side of the room. When boys are in the room, in order to make the boys feel immature and inferior, girls tend to talk more about the subject of the class, and less about their changing bodies. With girls in the room, boys tend to talk more quietly in feigned lower pitched voices.
During this experience, I began to realize that without boys, girls become boys, and without girls, boys become animals.
With boys in the room, girls are less apt to hamper their chances with them by disclosing their obsessive crush on the “old guy” teaching the class. How lame would that be? With girls in the room, boys are less apt to disclose their obvious inexperience by discussing something that the girls obviously know is bogus.
I also coached a Girls’ High Varsity basketball team when I was but 23 years old. From this experience, I can assure you that with boys present, girls are less apt to attempt to embarrass their coach by “pantsing” one another in the middle of the gym floor, feigning a fight in order to remove the practice jersey of another, or “accidently” realizing her shirt is on inside-out and deciding to change it before taking the ball out-of-bounds.
Most assuredly, I, as a teacher, am most in favor of co-ed secondary education. I certainly hope that in any in-service of school teachers to discuss this issue, just as they require the girls to watch “my changing body”, they are required to watch The Office, episode fifteen of season two. Let Michael teach them a lesson or two.

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the dress looks nice on you 1.0

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, culture by rod Sunday October 1, 2006

listen link

Some time ago, I wrote a bit about a view of cultural relevance in the Christian community that creates extra false layers of personality. I don’t know if I posted my thoughts, but I think I did, I’m just not willing to search for them to provide you with a link. So the idea was this. Christians try really hard to look and act like those they’d like to reach so as to have a more welcome voice in that community. This no doubt, is a well-meant, good idea realizing that not being “of the world” is a matter of the heart, and that the superficial things we usually refer to are only observable appearance differences that do not reflect a person at all.
When we concern ourselves with appearances and such, we actually marginalize and push aside folks to whom we are meant to minister. Nevertheless, in order to “be set apart”, and to be “in the world, but not of it,” and to “avoid the appearance of evil,” and to know who’s in and who’s out, we acquire a façade that covers who and how we really are, and gives us a counter-cultural look that we eventually realize creates a barrier between the harvesters and the harvest.
Paul certainly realized this and became all things to all men so that be any way possible he could win some. He set aside the superficial “set-us-apart” stuff so as not to set himself apart from those whom he wanted to identify with Christ. Some of this stuff would have been very confusing to the people outside of the groups to whom he was ministering. He mentions that he subjected himself to the law for those under the law.
We know that he circumcised Timothy to give him more credibility with the many Jewish people who were in the area, although he had preached of the spiritual insignificance (and spiritual dangers) of circumcision under the new covenant. He mentions that for those not under the law, he acted as if not under the law (though not free from God’s law, but under Christ’s law), this must have meant behavior that some would have frowned upon.
Ok, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that some will now realize the need to become all things to all men so that by all means possible, they might win some. The problem is that in desiring to become all things to all men, we put on a fake-looking, superficial, inauthentic cultural façade that covers our churchy façade that covers who we really are, and end up with two layers above our real selves. Somehow we don’t notice that the top acquired layer looks strikingly similar to the bottom layer that we’re hiding. So we come off as very “fake” and “put-on”. The bottom culturally relevant layer is real, why cover it and try to recreate it inauthentically? How did Paul avoid this?
I think this is also a matter of heart and humility. Paul realized that in himself, he was no different than those to whom he was sent. He avoided putting on differences that set him apart from them. We, however, somehow feel that we have to lower ourselves to “be like them.” Our “putting-on” is condescending to those to whom we “become all things.” If we didn’t feel that way, wouldn’t we just shed the layer that hides our real selves rather than put on an extra layer that resembles our real selves? I wonder if we are somehow dependent on the fact that it doesn’t come off as real, because in that way we are seen as sacrificing, and feel that inauthentic look somehow hides the fact that in ourselves we are no different than anyone around us.

poetics 1

Bloged in church, culture by rod Sunday September 17, 2006

I’ve decided to stop being apologetic about posting the same things over and over. Chances are no one remembers what I say from one day to the next anyway. If I don’t make a big deal out of it, or even mention that I’ve rambled on before about the same things, maybe no one will care. A blog is only supposed to be a record of current thoughts anyway, right? So here we go again, without apologies.

Recently, a friend told me she’d begun to write down things I say from time to time because she’d noticed how often I make poetic statements. I deflected the fact that I was “puffed” by that statement by joking around and quoting lines of Whitman, Shakespeare, Donne, Poe, and any other random piece of poetry that popped into my head. The randomness of it got some laughs which was therapeutic, and I was assured that those lines wouldn’t be included in the scrapbook I might some day be given filled with random pieces of poetic prose that had inadvertently fallen from my lips.
I was sharing this with another friend who had once been my student, who replied, “remember when at the end of the semester, I gave you a file filled with quotes we’d collected through the semester?” Of course I remember that, but those were just manneristic quips and rodisms. That got a smile.
Secretly, I took that as an outrageously wonderful compliment, no matter how exaggerated. In our human need for affirmation, we’ll grab onto any feeling that our quirks, or unique mannerisms are useful or endearing in any way.
We live in a world where beauty and art have been reduced to trite, cheesy, nostalgic, self-indulgent sentimentality. But evidently my personality, though overly emotional, is colored so much by my purple melancholy and thinly veiled, unsuccessfully hidden cynicism that my poetic, artistic bent rarely comes off as sentimental. But at the same time, it is fueled by hope and imagination and dreams, so that it doesn’t come off as doomsday pronouncement.
You may think that I’m so arrogant that you can’t figure out why on earth I’d need affirmation at all. You may think that my whole problem is that I grab affirmation for that which ought not be affirmed, and that, all too often. But the truth is, I’m a round peg in a square whole. The fact that I feel confined and boxed in doesn’t mean that I think I’m too big for the box, it just means that I’m an entirely different shape than the box in which I’m asked to live and operate. I spent a good deal of my adult life trying to shape-shift into something that my peers would recognize. This was probably needed, and no doubt, helped shape me into the strange shape whose non-comformist form became increasingly obvious over time. But thank God, he eventually put strangely shaped people, and normally shaped people who valued strangely shaped people around me to encourage and affirm precisely at those moments when I’d decided that the best thing to do would be to squeeze inside and lop off the parts that didn’t fit.

So I began to think about why I desire the creative, emotional, poetic expression over the analyzed, overly certain voice of scientific reason and logic. I began to think of Jesus’ poetic way with words and how his poetry always emphasized the hope and promises of his message rather than the dire warnings to which we’ve reduced him.
“I am the Way, the Truth, and The Life, no man comes to the Father except through me,” has been translated into “I’ll choose who gets to heaven.”

“I’ve come that they might have life, and have it to the fullest,” has sadly been interpreted as, “hang on, because when you die, you’ll finally be happy.”

“Receive my Spirit,” has been grown into, “5 steps to being ‘Spirit-filled.’”

At what point has the gospel been reduced to a warning? Why has the good news been reduced to accusation and judgment? And why has the Mystery of mysteries been reduced to a mathematical proof?

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island time

Bloged in culture, love and marriage by rod Saturday July 8, 2006

So you know from my last blog post that my watch battery died. So I left the watch home when we drove to the airport. Of course I didn’t expect Allison to forget her watch. These days almost every gadget that goes everywhere with us contains the date and time. Watch, cell phone, PDA, iPod, computer, etc. Of course the cell phone is useless here in the middle of the Caribbean, so my computer and iPod are the only items we brought along which can give us the time. It’s a bit much to carry around, boot up, etc. just to check the time. So we’ve pretty much ceased to know what time it is. Who cares? Actually, if we’ve remembered to put our requests in the bamboo tube outside, we don’t even have to remember to go eat. The food comes when it is supposed to, so we know it’s supposed to come when it does.
Of course there’s the sun and the moon to help with keeping track of time. You’d think that would be enough for me. But we’re not at home, and I’m watching the moon from a completely different perspective. It rises at a different place on the horizon, and travels a different path across the sky. Tonight it rose about an hour before the sunset, which is almost 3 hours earlier than at home. So tomorrow, it should appear just as the sun disappears and will be nearly full.
So right now, its 7:30, I know because my computer is open, the moon is high in the sky, and the sun set about an hour ago, and back home the moon is barely visible rising stealthily while the sun hangs barely casting colors against the clouds.
So, even though the day seems to wane 3 hours early, it has in fact been a long, leisurely, slow moving day. And supper doesn’t even start until 7:30. Allison is primping to walk in the moon light down to the west end of the island where there is a barbeque happening right now.
It’s X o’clock and all is well.

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i propose

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, culture by rod Friday April 21, 2006

If one is going to live and die by the concept of propositional truth as a methodology, he should be absolutely sure that what he is proposing is Truth.

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cat tale

Bloged in culture, family, life by rod Friday April 7, 2006

We have cats all over our neighborhood. According to the kids, some of them actually belong to people, but most of the ones near our house are strays born to a gray cat that is so wild, I’ve seen her jump off my back deck to escape me when I open the back door (that is a fall of more than 10 feet). At any rate, claimed or unclaimed, they all roam. They all behave as if they have no home, or that there home is simply a territory. No one owns a cat. They come and go as they please and they go wherever they please. I have a love/hate relationship with that whole concept because while I like the freedom they exemplify, I despise the fact that they use people. I despise the fact that they seem to have no regard for any other living creature. They are all that matters to themselves. I can watch a cat walk up on someone’s back porch and eat her fill of fancy feast, and walk back down in the yard and mutilate wren. They kill for sport and often just wound their toy and leave it to bleed to death. I doubt that I’ll have my wren family in the garage this June, because the cats have taken over my woodpile where my wrens go to college.
Watching them stalk my loved ones on a full stomach makes me find it difficult to see harm in sitting at my table and filling my belly, and then walking out onto the back deck with a .22, and have some angry sport at a sporting feline. Turnabout’s fair play, I’d say. It is for the sake of my neighbors who think they own these cats that I don’t exterminate them during target practice.
We had a cat for a while when I was kid. She’d scratch to go outside, and return a while later with a gift of a small bloody animal laid in the doorway. Sometimes, when I’m refraining from ugly, angry sport, I fantasize about gifting my neighbors in much this same way.
Will loves cats though. I don’t know why. He is crazy about them like he is no other animal. This morning when I walked him to the bus stop in the predawn alborada, we sat down on the curb and watched a cat come walking across the road to meet us. Will knew her name of course, or at least had assigned her a name. When she came to us and brushed against our legs, Will said, “dad, you don’t pet this cat, it’s a leg rubbing cat.” I’ll trust you on that one Will. The cat was brushing back and forth and purring VERY loudly in a lower-than-normal hum, I thought. We snickered at the loud motor sound, and then Will told me a great cat tale. He said that “there is another kid on the street who likes to play that cat like bagpipe.” A bagpipe? “Yeah, you don’t blow through her or anything, you just pick her up and rub her and she purrs. When you rub up toward her shoulders, the purr pitch gets higher; when you rub her further down the pitch gets lower. This kid is trying to learn to play Mary had a little lamb on the cat.”
Is that so?
Will tells a story like an old-timer, story telling pro would tell a story to a little kid. When he’s finished, the kid searches the old guy’s face for evidence to the validity of the story. He really is a pro. I looked hard, but he gave nothing away. We laughed out loud together and his bus pulled up.
“Love ya dad, see ya this evening.”
Bagpipes, huh? But you don’t blow through the cat?
I don’t know.

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