poetics 3

Bloged in apprenticeship, art, music, worship by rod Wednesday September 27, 2006

In the Old Testament, the message that is preached today was being given to us by poets. We have reduced the poet to the recitation of what we already know while often preachers break down, analyze, codify, lengthen and explain the magic right out of the poetry that was originally given us.
We have developed a cultural paradigm that has a single person standing before a congregation in a one-way dissemination of information, while we allow the poet only to sing songs that everyone already knows. The preacher delivers his message to a quiet congregation who are expected not to interact or participate with him, and the poet is not allowed to sing unless everyone in the congregation is participating.
Four and a half years ago, when I first began leading worship week after week with the same congregation, there was a Deliriou5? lyric that encouraged me greatly, “I’ve got a message to bring – I can’t preach, but I can sing – and me and my brothers here – we’re gonna sing redemption hymns.” I owned that lyric and mourned that as a poet/prophet, I was not expected to teach or preach but to facilitate community in corporate singing. I decided that both were possible at the same time and set about subversively causing the congregation to sing the message to themselves every week. Each week, I brought a message to the congregation, but I brought it to them through their own mouths.
Some never heard the message. They were too distracted by how old and tired, or new and unfamiliar the song was, or how fast or loud or slow or boring, or how high my tenor voice delivered the melody. Others, fewer, caught on. Their attention spans went beyond the authentic cadence and tempo change and introduction to the next song and saw the big picture and how it all worked together to tell a single, specific story. And they sang the story to themselves, and after the preaching was finished, and the blanks were filled in from the sermon outline, and we sang the closing song, they kept singing the message, they kept rehearsing the story and each week the story grew more real and immediate and necessary and deep and personal and it took root and changed us and shaped us and grew us and humbled us. The songs became a part of the story so that even a whistle of a portion of a melody became like the tassels on the robe of a rabbi and called up memory and assurance and promise and hope and truth.

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promise

Bloged in luna see, metaphor by rod Monday September 25, 2006


Harvwax

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mighty rushing gentle breeze

Bloged in apprenticeship, poems, worship by rod Sunday September 24, 2006

From focused attention
Dimmed lights and spots
Practiced moments
Climate controlled

Into the bright light of morning,
and the appearance-wrecking wilds of the outdoors.
My shirt-tail flaps, my skin breathes, and my hair gets knotted.
Blow where you will,
I’ll follow.

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the stealth of time

Bloged in seasons, time by rod Saturday September 23, 2006

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask
It just walks in where it left you last
You never know when it starts
Until there’s fog inside the glass around your
Summer heart.

-John Mayer

I was at the kitchen table with Allison when it walked in at 12:03 this morning. I didn’t notice until she had gone to bed and left me there to contemplate the beginning of the changing season.
It is a promising first day of fall. I’m sure the first day of fall feels lots of pressure to provide the feeling that though a good thing is passing, what is coming will be no less, in its own way.
That is today. Summer is officially gone.
The night skies are deep and dark, growing longer, lit with myriad stars; and the afternoons are a deep blue that summer has never seen. Today’s deep blue is accented with cottony white of every shape unimaginable.
I dreamed about Orion last night. I really did. I was sitting on my deck and one by one, those bright belt-stars appeared above the trees behind the house. He was lying on his back holding his shield upward as he does in the fall, and then climbs to his feet as he moves over the cul de sac. But he’s not there yet. He’s still hunting during the day and rises just before the sun, who rose directly due East this morning.
The leaves are still green and the afternoons warm, but that will stealthily change. Quietly, the dew will fall early, the palette will glow, and chill of evening will need a fire.

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new moon shine

Bloged in love and marriage by rod Wednesday September 20, 2006

“’twas on this day we were married.” That was my announcement to which Molly replied, “Yeah, way back in the 1900s!”

This year seems to mark a milestone to me. Ages and anniversaries ending in zero seem to be a big deal.
This year we’ve treated like a Jubilee year. We’ve stretched our anniversary into months. So today means little more than the year has meant. We spent a week on a tiny island under the Full Thunder Moon. We visited family and rode our bikes through the cornfields under the Full Grain Moon. We’ve basked and struggled, fought and loved, rested and worried, shared hopes and disappointments.
We’ve danced our 20th year of marriage.
Today begins our second 20 years, and it’s symbolized by the birth of the Harvest Moon. Tonight the old moon goes dark and closes a chapter, while the new moon begins to grow.
Last year, the harvest moon shown bright, rising at nearly the same time each evening and moving across the sky throwing shadows in its wake. On the 20th, it was barely beginning to wane. I waxed on about moons and their relationships with Allison’s and my relationship, culminating on that, our 19th anniversary.
But this year’s Harvest Moon isn’t full until October 6, which means this anniversary gets observed under a dark new moon. For the next two weeks, the moon will grow a bit each night, a fresh new Harvest Moon to represent the commencement of the next 20 years of marriage.

May we also grow brighter each day, and find beauty in the waxing and waning. May we be forever tidally locked, showing one another the same constant face midst the ebb and flow. May our love be as faithful as the sunrise and as sure and growing as the waxing moon. May our marriage be as bright and colorful as the autumn, may our love be as deep and obvious as the monochromatic night sky.

It’s multi-hued and saturated.
It’s black and white delineated.
It’s purple and orange backlit.

Dance with me tonight beneath the Milkyway. Stand with me and shine in the darkness of the new moon. Gaze up into the expanse and then deep into my eyes and find no less depth of love.

…as the years go by…

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poetics 2

Bloged in apprenticeship, church by rod Tuesday September 19, 2006

Though the New Testament is filled with references to the embracing of Mystery, somehow modern man is set on a path by which all mystery has been understood, explained, codified, and finalized so that if one speaks at all concerning things he doesn’t understand, and he admits it, he is accused of rejecting truth and the revelation of God “given fully to us.” If one dares admit what Paul admitted, and say, “not that I have attained…,” he is accused of rejecting the magic potion of certitude given the elect. I can’t help it if my doctrine allows that God is so much other than me, beyond my comprehension, that I am lost in the wonder of him and have to rely on the Holy Spirit to interpret my groans and direct my supplication. Am I the last person for whom peace passes understanding? If I truly understand Lewis’ words, “The one whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow/ when I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou”, have I rejected knowledge that God has revealed to me? Or could it be that we’ve become unsatisfied with the revelation God has given us and demand to see more of him than “where he’s just passed by?” Perhaps given only this, we can only ask, “who will I say that you are?” And given an unsatisfactory answer, we set about creating our own definition that is logical, rational, reasonable, observable and repeatable and thus defendable to our logical, rational, reasonable, observable and repeatable unbelieving friends.
But the truth is, when we question the ineffable Name with our logic and reason, he answers, “who do you think you are?” and proceeds with so much poetic mystery, that I’m given to give up and accept that I can’t understand. The only reason this has ceased to be answer enough for everyone else, is that for so long it has not been the answer given.
I remember a quote from Peterson (I think he was quoting someone else), “we mustn’t pretend to know more than we do.” It is amazing how we explain away our arrogant need to pretend we know more than we do. We read the psalms pieced out, and fail to visit with the psalmist on a hillside contemplating that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”. And when we’re confronted with this concept, we explain that the psalmist didn’t have the revelation that we’ve since received that allows us to understand God’s lofty ways.

Last year, I shared with you that I’d delivered a talk called, “Poet, Prophet, Pastor, Preacher,” which led to another talk delivered to a good many people, a good many of whom disagreed with much of what I had to say. Since I gave that talk, I’ve continued to think about shifting roles and emphasis of those who are called, gifted, and operate as such. My thinking began as a response to the oft-heard question in our changing Christian culture, “is the poet taking over the role of the preacher?” I’m not going to repeat everything I’ve said, (at least not yet) but I’ll simply say that we’ve so narrowly defined the roles of each of these by methodologies that we don’t realize that the message is common among them. Folks are once again listening to the poets because we’ve had plenty of definitions of indefinable things. We are hungry for pictures, story, descriptions and testimony. The role of the poet in the OT was preaching, but the role of preaching today is often deconstructing poetry.
The important things in life require art to mean. In all honesty, which of these would you least desire to share with someone else? This? Or this? How about this?
Likewise, after having pondered this, I am far more apt to find hope in this.
And this tiny snippet of poetry speaks not only of the mystery, but embracing it, humbly resolves that it can’t be explained.

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

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a day (+45 minutes) in the life

Bloged in family, life by rod Monday September 18, 2006

It’s been quite a while since I simply retrospectively blogged the day’s scheduled duties. I finished yesterday so whipped, I thought it appropriate to beg for pity from anyone who might chance upon my blog today.
So I woke yesterday morning to face an extremely emotional day. This I already knew. But I had no idea how the whole day would play out because everyone in my sphere and family (including me) don’t find it necessary to inform others of what you’re going to be needing them for until it is past time to have begun doing whatever it is.

So here’s how it played:

7:00 am – Rouse my own 3 hooligans and one extra that I’d acquired last night when I collected Jack from Marble Slab.

7:50 am – realizing that there’s no way I’ll get all 4 kids out of the house 5 minutes ago when I should have left, I drive off without them.

8:45 am – after providing groovy wah-heavy guitar for the gospel number in first service, I return home to collect the hoodlums. I rush back to prepare the troops for set-up and sound check at 9:15 for the 2nd and 3rd services.

10:45 am – I duck inside the kitchen to avoid blessers, enquirers, well-wishers, huggers, tearful eyes, and good-riddancers.

12:00 pm – finished closing song 26 seconds before Jack and Will stormed my area to tell me they had to hurry to Bellacino’s for a lunch meeting. “hurry, we’re going to be late.”
Meanwhile, blessers, enquirers, well-wishers, huggers, tearful eyes, are backed up at the edge of the stage waiting to speak to me.

12:26 pm – finally make it to car with gear and find very angry boys who are sure that life will end if they’re late to Bellacino’s. In the car, 4 hyenas chatter incessantly as I back out of my parking space directly into the bumper of the last person to hug me before I left the building.

12:45 pm – I carefully leave the parking lot and drive to Bellacino’s where I realize that I’ve left my wallet at the church and have no money to give the yahoos for lunch. Will, the wealthy family member, covers me and I drive off to take the extra kid home. I realize that I should have run out of gas yesterday and am panicked until I get to the gas station where I realize that no money to give the boys also means no money for gas. So I pray hard all the way back to the church and down the street to the gas station.
Miraculously, I make it.

1:15 pm – drop off extra teenage acquisition and head towards home with Molly, open the truck door, let her out, and drive back to Bellacino’s for the boys.

1:45 pm – arrive home. Take a deep breath. Realize that there is no way I’ll survive this day without ridding stress and adrenaline. So I change clothes head to the gym for a quick adrenaline draining.

3:30 pm – Molly and I head back to church for a rehearsal for me and a rehearsal for her. At 5:45, I leave rehearsal unfinished to go home for the boys and drop them at their respective small group locations.

6:30 pm – return home and talk to Allison as she dresses for work. I kiss her goodbye at 7:00 and warm a slice of pizza from Bellacino’s.

7:15 pm – go to gas station to fill can so that I can rescue Allison who has run out of gas and is stranded with her bike on the side of the road.

7:40 pm – pick up Molly late from church, collect the gear I’d left at the abandoned rehearsal, listen attentively to 75,000 words, stop by grocery store on way to collect the boys at their respective small group locations, 10 minutes late for each.

8:15 pm – arrive home. Slop some burrito goo on the stove and tell the rugrats I love them, but they’ll have to fend for themselves as I collapse for a temporary gathering of energy.

5:00 am – wake to early birds chirping outside the window, walk out onto the deck and consider jumping, change mind and sit down and have an hour silence before the kids wake up and begin the bustle.

7:15 am – drop Molly and her ‘cello off at school and return home to an abandoned, quiet, messy house.

7:45 amCOFFEE

all’s well that ends well.

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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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september

Bloged in life, seasons by rod Saturday September 16, 2006

Stars

Coffee

Fire

No spring nor summer beauty
hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.
~John Donne

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means vs. expression

Bloged in worship by rod Wednesday September 13, 2006

Occasionally, I hear a single comment, a single sentence that seems to explain mindsets, or philosophy, or disconnects, or misunderstandings that have previously had me completely stumped. Often, these aha statements come in the form of a criticism or complaint that gives just enough information to shed light on the fact that the whole of the purpose in what is being complained about is lost on the complainer. It happens often enough that I try to name the mindset. I like the term “functional form fallacy” because it sounds so modern and confusing with the alliteration and allusion to opposites. “Hey that new yard stick we bought isn’t long enough, it won’t even hold a gallon.” Ok, I made that up, but that is the form fallacy I encounter frequently. Something is being evaluated based on a function that it is not intended for or designed to do.
This is a mindset that I am ultra familiar with. In terms of art, we normally cast our bias in our evaluation of a work based on our purpose for art regardless of the purpose of the artist. I might be angry because a painting caused me to feel a different way than I like art to make me feel, and therefore deem it unsuccessful or even worthless. The artist, however, may have intended for me to feel exactly how it made me feel. He then, feels very successful.
Beyond cultural biases and personal preferences, I am amazed at how ubiquitous this blind spot is and into what areas we insert our personal desires and misunderstandings. Art is intended and suited for a much bigger purpose than being observed or heard and deemed beautiful. It teaches us. It teaches us a variety of things. It gives us a look at our selves. It inspires us. It demonstrates how to express what is inside us. But all too often we only allow it to show us a fuzzy, artificial painting of a flower, it inspires us to allow ourselves to look at more paintings of flowers, it teaches us how to paint a fuzzy picture of a flower. We fail to realize that it is art not because it was a flower, or it was painted in a certain way; but that it represents an expression of a feeling of the artist, it represents the artist’s perception and emotion upon viewing a flower. Were we to realize this, our inspiration would be to allow ourselves to feel about something the way the artist felt about the flower, to respond to the feeling in some way as the artist did by painting, and accept the freedom to share that emotion with other people. Art should teach and inspire us to feel and express, not to imitate and copy someone else’s expression. The painting of the flower is not the art at all, it is the act of painting the flower, and the experiencing of it, that is art. I think it is demeaning to art, and the artist, to copy the object rather than the expression - the means rather than the motivation. But it is our way to settle for less than we’ve been given. It is important to realize that though someone else may do something better than me, it doesn’t mean that I am doing it in the best way by copying them.

Recently I heard from a minister of music, “we have this huge psalter, a hymn book, sandwiched inside our bible. Beautiful worship - how dare we think that we can write better words, poetry and worship than can already be found there?” This represents to me a very different initial response than I have to what purposes the Psalms serve. But I think my initial response is caused by a very different approach to observing, evaluating and learning. Though it is not uncommon to actually rehearse the Lord’s Prayer corporately, few of us would hold to the conviction that Jesus’ words, “this, then, is how you should pray,” mean that what follows as example is the only legitimate words that we can use to interact with God. Oddly enough, nowhere in the Psalms is it stated, “this, then, is how you should worship.” If I were truly to hold to the idea that the Psalms contained the expression and words that were more worthy than my own heart feelings and response to God, then somehow I’d have to understand how I’m worshipping by singing about bashing babies’ heads against rocks.
Also, if I can have a bigger understanding of the purposes of the psalmist’s words being included in the bible, then I might realize that not only can I learn to express, as he did, my own love, awe, wonder, gripes, pains, laments, but I can also learn what responses, he had that weren’t appropriate by noting how God responded to him. The narrative about David’s life, and activities and personality when read with the psalms, give a complete story of a lifestyle of interaction, worship and correction with God. It teaches us much more than content for a procedure that takes place at an intentional gathering during a short specific time.

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