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everybody loves the Lord these days

Bloged in culture by rod Saturday January 31, 2004

My favorite Nintendo game is BanjoKazooie. Ok, its really Donkeycart racing (MarioKart) but Banjo is a close second. A few years ago when that came out, Jack and I practically morphed cells with the game controller. In the sequel game, there is a 2 player, split screen game in which you seek to destroy your opponent. The game takes place in a castle and you and opponent of course can see one another’s players, but not in your own half of the screen. So you can see where he’s going, but you don’t know where he is. The excitement builds as you get closer together and finally both players appear on both screens as you enter the same room.
These past couple weeks I’ve had a similar feeling while following the race to presidential candidacy – on the radio. I rarely turn on the t.v., but I really enjoy NPR’s “All Things Considered”. So here I am, camped out in the South – evidently a pretty special place. I guess the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary are important because they’re first, but it seems the Candidates just go up there and get exposure. “Hey, I’m a nice guy, vote for me.” But according to the news, people down here actually care about specific things. So the candidates come down and take a more biblical approach. They try to be all things to all people. Want a definition of ignorant cultural bias? “I want to be the candidate for the guy in the pickup truck with the confederate flag.” You think that will win the South?
So here I am watching on the split screen. I can see what they’re doing, but can’t really tell where they are out there in that “other” world. They don’t know I can see them, or at least they don’t think it matters, since I have no context in which to put them. But I’m listening in. I hear what they say to “them” to gain their favor. I hear them try to explain what they meant when they said something that meant absolutely nothing to them and turned out to be something that mattered to a large group of people about whom they know nothing. As the campaign goes on, I sense they are getting closer. Then it happens. Super Tuesday approaches and just in time. The same national radio broadcasts are now taking place from just a mile away from where I’m sitting in traffic on the ride home from work. They are on my screen now and they know it. Now they’re aware that I matter. So they’ve got to be who I want them to be.
“Everybody loves the Lord these days.” That is the sound bite that starts the segment. The first segment of the program is from Charleston. Every candidate has visited a single AME church whose pastor muses at the spiritual fervor of this election’s candidates. (They’re also all headed to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School class) The second segment is from just down the road here in Columbia. It’s a wing joint where Kerry and crew just spent a fortune on Buffalo wings and over $400 dollars on liquor in a much deserved break from the fast paced campaign. The restaurant owner was ecstatic. Pump the hands of the finger licker wings consumer, spread the buzz among the small business owner. Drink your weight in spirits on the way home from addressing the spiritual at the AME church.
Please just tell me who you are. Don’t feed me conflicting stories and let me guess at whether there is chance that either one has anything to do with you. I have an idea. I’ll vote for who seems to be the best candidate for PRESIDENT. I’ll hang with my real FRIENDS. I’ll try to be the HUSBAND and FATHER to my family and we’ll continue to let GOD be GOD. I sure don’t need a candidate to tell me how he can be all those things.
Besides that, Mr. Candidate, there is something else you don’t know about the South. The Super Bowl is tomorrow and the Panthers are playing. Hope you’re a Carolina fan.

you know who you are

Bloged in friends, random by rod Friday January 30, 2004

I’m sitting here practicing Sketches for Friends again, so I thought I’d take a break and make a list of my ten favorite friends. This is really difficult to do because so many people are so kind to me and have done so much for me. Truth is, probably even if I didn’t make a list, you’d still know who you are and how much you mean to me. But just to give you a stroke, and to let you know I don’t take you for granted, and to encourage your continued friendship, I thought I’d list you here.
If you’re not included, please don’t take it personally. Honestly, the list might be a bit different if I did it tomorrow, or even yesterday. If you think you’ve been omitted unfairly, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Maybe you can just try harder next time. So here goes the list.

Rod’s top ten most favorite friends (names have been changed to protect the innocent) in no particular order:

10. Marvin
9. Jerry
8. Betty
7. Ahmet
6. Sheniqua
5. Karl
4. Oranjello
3. Sergei
2. Ulig
1. Marty

brought to you by the letter “C”

functional harmony

Bloged in metaphor, music by rod Thursday January 29, 2004

He who has ears to hear, let him hear. In tonal music, that western European style with which (in various levels of complexity) we are all most familiar, every chord has a function. Sometimes I like to refer to the style as functional harmony. The music uses a collection of pitches to produce melody and harmony that refer strongly to a single pitch within the collection. This pitch (and the chord built upon it, the tonic, is essentially “home base” and any melodic or harmonic departure from it creates a tension, or longing in the listener to hear it again.
The basis of the entire western music tradition is created with only seven chords. Of them, of course the tonic (I) is most important. But, of equal importance, is the Dominant (V) chord, built on the fifth scale degree; the path that leads to the goal. This chord functions to “point” to the tonic. The listener, even if he doesn’t realize it, upon hearing the dominant, desires the tonic. All of western music tradition with its constant tension and repose, hinges upon this relationship. Dominant points to tonic. All other chords in the collection serve a “pre-dominant” function. The freedom of using these chords in various ways gives provision for creativity and innovation in a style with such a small palette of sonorities. But in whatever ways they are assembled, they, together, also serve a single function – to point to the dominant. We begin the music with an aural relationship to tonic. We move away from tonic and explore harmonic paths with the pre-dominant chords, but eventually they lead us to the dominant which creates an intense need for repose, or finality that can only be achieved with the tonic.
The interesting paradox is that if tonic is approached by a pre-dominant chord, no finality is accomplished because the ear has not been made to desire it. Its not been called to need the repose. All successful music in the style goes through the process of moving toward dominant so that it can point directly to the tonic.

brought to you by MUS3310

how did I get here?

Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Tuesday January 27, 2004

Well then. Back online. We’ve been without power since yesterday evening. Just came back. Its a weird feeling to sit inside your house in the dark wearing long-johns and jeans, thermal undershirt, turtle neck, flannel hoodie and fleece. When Will started crying, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “there are people all over the world right now who would feel warm and dry in our house with us right now.” I bit my tongue. Will’s sensitvity to the reality of that would break his heart with guilt for complaining. But it sure started me thinking. I don’t know why I’ve been blessed with what I’ve been given while others are cold and hungry and alone. Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about it. Sometimes I think its a trade off for the blessing of simple trust and dependence and the ability to see deeper things without the clutter of convenience. The sky was ten miles deeper tonight with nary a light for miles. Pleiades practically jumped off the canopy at me.
But how could I know? There must an arrogance in even the slightest notion that someone with less than I could consider it a blessing. No, there’s an arrogance in not realizing this. Is it both? Is it neither? Why am I growing more comfortable as the thermometer beside my desk reflects the fact that the furnace is back in commission, while someone else is bundling tighter against the falling temps of night?
In a moment, I’ll walk downstairs in my beautiful house and climb into my warm bed with my beautiful wife; and I’ll ask myself…


Bloged in life, seasons by rod Monday January 26, 2004

ice.jpgSo we’re iced in (or so they think in South Carolina). Actually, you can’t get down the steps off the front porch. Nor can you walk safely up the driveway. Schools are all closed. Church is closed. It tried to snow for 2 minutes earlier, but it started raining again. Just hits the trees and freezes. When the wind blows, the whole back yard sounds like a plastic wind chime. I’m sitting here practicing a piece called “Sketches for Friends” and (obviously) trying to figure out how to be a better friend. This is the scene out the window.

why do I love thee? nuance, part 4.1

Bloged in apprenticeship, nuance by rod Monday January 26, 2004

I think I’ve got a clearer grasp on what I’m trying to say here. Though its not easy, comparatively, it is easier to let Jesus love someone through me than to learn to love them myself.
Imagine me attempting to love someone to belief. (Already, I’ve used the kind of language that I’m questioning, argh.) It seems to me that there are three possible ways to see the scenario. All have to do with what appears to my friend to be important to me. Does the recipient of my love see its motivation in my caring for him, or in my dutiful obedience to God, despite whether I actually care for him myself, or my fear of the consequences of not doing as I’m told by a God in whom he does not yet believe? To the believer, these subtleties don’t seem to make a difference, but to the unbeliever, they mean whether or not his ears stay open and whether his heart ever opens.
These are manifest in real life by statements such as, “they just want to make everyone like themselves,” or, “they won’t get to heaven unless they bring people with them.” “God will punish me for not believing in him and God will punish them for not convincing me to believe.” If you take a look at “Christianitysucks.com” it is hard to decide whether to be more shocked at the jabs from non-believers, or the responses from Christians.
I think, in terms of evangelism, here is where Dave’s authenticity and vulnerability come in in a legitimate way. We are the one that is there with them at the moment. If they don’t feel authenticity in us, there is no way that they’ll find Jesus authentic.
Is there a difference between a burden that grows from our love for someone, and a love that grows from a burden? Seems if we love someone, our burden for his need of Jesus will be greater. If our relationship is born solely through our attempt at evangelism, we try to take on a burden that Jesus has for them, but we don’t understand.
Ok, so I don’t have a clearer grasp, but I’m going to keep trying until I do. So I don’t know, I’m just trying to get sift through verbiage and theology and call and figure out how to more purely be what I’m called to be. Sure could use your continued help.

how do I love thee? nuance, part 4

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, nuance by rod Monday January 26, 2004

Yesterday, while I was eating lunch, I could hear two guys next to me conversing over their bratwurst and sauerkraut. The conversation mostly consisted of church talk – what they’re doing, who’s coming – with some talk about what others’ churches are doing and who’s going. Thoughts went through my head as I eavesdropped. At first I was thinking about the fact that church is so often the topic. God, discipleship, spirituality, theology, faith, are so often mislaid because church is the task at hand. Why are we always talking about church? I’m not ripping on these guys. I’m sitting there having a similar conversation. Its just that there is where the thoughts started.
Take spirituality out of it for a minute. Can’t two Christians talk about a ballgame, concert, CD, movie, book? Can’t two people become friends and discover that they are both Christians and that they both like church? Now this is going to sound like heresy, but I’m pretty sure what I mean is not heresy. Can’t we be friends who care about each other apart from our commonality in Christ? Or am I not allowed to be friends with someone except for the sake of Christ? For whose sake does God love? Is it for His sake, or just He just love?
I’m just wondering because it seems that this prereq. is what gets in the way of a lot of long-term salvation inducing, unconditional friendships. I’m pretty sure that to be the Jesus-follower that Jesus wants me to be, I’ve got to love unbelievers regardless of whether they become believers. Jesus does. So might the hurdle blocking the way of deeper friendships among Christians be that we don’t feel that our friendship could exist outside of Christ. If one of us weren’t a believer, would we still love each other? Or are you just obeying Jesus by loving me? Can we not be friends and then rejoice that we both know Christ? What if I suddenly decide I’m going to take an amillenial position? If you have a problem with this, it’s no wonder we have a problem being true friends with unbelievers. Please tell me if I’m stepping over the line here, but is the only legitimate reason to love someone that Jesus loves them?
It is impossible for me to love someone that Jesus doesn’t love, they don’t exist. But is it possible to love someone not because Jesus does, but just because I do? If I want to show the love of Jesus, then I have to love like Jesus loves. Not just because someone else loves you, because I love you. Seems that then I’m behaving like Christ because I have learned from Him, been influenced by Him, not just because I’m following orders. Is there a place in the path of discipleship where obedience is no longer an issue? Where we behave like Christ because we’ve learned to behave from Him. When my children are grown, and they behave according to what I have taught them, is that an act of obedience or simply being as they have learned to be?
I could be way off here, but I’m not trying to make Jesus less important. I’m trying to make Him more important. The slate is yours. Help me out.

nothing in common?

Bloged in church, community, culture by rod Sunday January 25, 2004

Remember when you had friends with whom all you had in common was that you were friends? I guess back then we went to school where football and basketball players, geeks, band people, chess club members, Christians, and golfers all attended. When I life guarded during the summers, several of us would hang around after the pool closed and swim awhile and then think about going out to do something. We’d climb out of the pool, onto the deck by the diving boards and lay there looking up and toss out ideas of things to do. Naw, that doesn’t sound fun to me, how about…. Naw, I’m not in the mood for that. The conversation would then veer for awhile and come back to, “well whatta ya wanna do?” This cycle could go on ad infinitum. We’d end up just hanging out and talking. Here were guys who never would have hooked up had we not been working together. We couldn’t find anything to do because we had “nothing in common”. Except each other. By the end of the summer we were tight. When we got together, it was to be together. It was never that we wanted to do something and needed someone with whom to do it.
These days all divisions, groups, committees, task forces, Sunday school classes, and think tanks, are manipulated to contain like peoples. Reformed students, humanities professors, businessmen, young marrieds, with/without children, singles, single again, meat eaters, wife beaters, long hairs, no hairs.
Now I know that ministry is more effective among people with similar current experiences. People will be more comfortable among people with whom they can relate. But when we zero in on our circumstantial, temporary needs, does this make it harder to see the common need among all? Do we imply that our special group needs God to be relevant to our situation in a different way than He is relevant to another group’s situation?
We all need God for the same reasons regardless of who we are, our age, whether we’re married, man, or woman.
So I’m not trying to be radical here and say that we should do away with specifically targeted ministries like seniors, singles, college, young marrieds. But I wonder if we wouldn’t have a huge community benefit by seeking more interaction with people who’ve been categorized differently than ourselves? Maybe my current situation doesn’t make me so special after all. Maybe I can be ministered to and minister to someone who’s been married 57 years and has had no children. While we’re seeking to grow to outrageous proportions, it will become increasingly necessary to plug into smaller portions with whom we can feel community. Why not cross-pollinate? Why not allow my small circle be representative of the diversity of the larger God-seeking community?

short stop

Bloged in life by rod Saturday January 24, 2004

Ok, I guess I was just kidding yesterday. Today I found a Brooks Robinson autograph baseball. Maybe if I put a bug in the right ear, that would be worth having a birthday for. It would go on my file cabinet with my autographed photograph (”to Mr. Lewis”) and my assortment of ’70s vintage BR cards.
Of course this just shows my age and widens the gap, huh? The students walk in and say, “who in the world is THAT?”
I’ll just say, “none of your business, greenhorn.”

nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill

Bloged in life by rod Friday January 23, 2004

I cap off four decades in less than three weeks. Mom turned 60 this week. Think back to high school. When that period passes again I’ll be the age she is now. Ouch. She’s not old. But I won’t weather like she has. I’ll be ancient.
I’ve always been fascinated with our perception of time – the way we stamp it with imaginary bookmarks like the pulse in a piece of music. The thing about time is that time isn’t really real (James Taylor). Music just flows. But we feel it pulsing with life so we put our foot down with the pulse. We stride along and pretty soon we perceive that it’s passing. Each beat brings us closer to the end of the measure, each measure toward the end of the song. On the day after my birthday, I’ll be but one day older than the day before. But the number has changed. We perceive a year in a single day. We flowed through the seasons without notice, and then, boom, the counter clicks and we’re older.
I’ve noticed the unbearable slowness of time in my children, each year an unfathomable portion of their fresh existence. I’ve vowed to experience their frustrating temporal crawl to anticipated events. I’ve learned a little to share their prolonged excitement at approaching birthdays, to empathize with the wait and experience the lengthening of the measure. But even when it passes more slowly, it still passes. Like sands in the hour glass…
I live in a paradox of sorts in my work environment. Change is constant. Each semester my schedule changes. Each year, students leave and new students arrive. There is an ebb and flow that feels good. But time is marked in 16 week increments. Got to persevere to the next break. What kind of person looks forward to the passage of time? Teachers. The hectic semester flies by and another year has passed. I think my greatest fear is not getting old. I feel fine. My wife gets more beautiful every year. The fear is in seeming old to these students who become a part of my life for four years. The change that I am most afraid of is losing the ability to step into their lives as the chronological distance between us is lengthened. Many of my friends can’t see why the big deal about getting older. We’re all getting older. Our spouses are getting older. Our colleagues are getting older. Our children are getting older. But my students never get older. When I’m 60, they will still be 20. Every year I’ll have less of a clue who they are, what they need, what they’re going through.
I didn’t realize this was going to happen, so it didn’t occur to me to save up for a red sports car. I can’t afford to trade my Honda up to a Harley. What’s a fella to do?

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