Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"I can't afford to live in America," Jan. 1992

I've been browsing through some of my old journals and came across this entry from the middle of my sophomore year of college seventeen years ago (egads!). The date was January 2, 1992, when I was home for Christmas break:
I can't afford to live in America.

I have seriously been spending way too much money while at home this break. Let me just tally up my food and entertainment costs these last two weeks. First, eating out. Perkins was about seven bucks. Arnold's, another six. Baker's Square, at least eight. And today, lunch with Dan and Mooner at Fuddrucker's I kept down to four. Plus the odd snack or pop along the way, that's at least $25 all together.

Now entertainment. I didn't have to pay for Hook, but the entire price of the Children's Theatre tickets is on my charge card, and that's $37.50. Laura covered the Guthrie tickets, and then throw in a few more bucks for City Slickers, Fisher King, JFK, and then $6 full price for Star Trek VI tonight with Dan and Moon. So about $12 for movies. And don't forget the $6 for rollerskating on New Year's Eve. So that's already at least $55 there.

I forgot $2 at Burger King and throw in a $5 haircut today. And maybe six, seven bucks at Northwestern Book? We're talking ninety, maybe almost a hundred dollars on expenses this Christmas break! And it's not over yet! Can I keep up this level of frivolous, extravagant living? Can I afford to be spending six stinking bucks on a movie?

Heck no. I certainly don't have the resources for this kind of lifestyle.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Approaching the Eucharist as a family meal

This weekend our church had a gathering for parents to talk about how to cultivate our kids' experience and practice of the Eucharist/Lord's Table/Communion. And something that struck me is that there's a qualitative difference between fast food and a family dinner. There's a difference between merely eating and truly partaking and communing together. We are so used to just munching, snacking and eating only for caloric intake that to have extended mealtimes of relational building is rare and countercultural.

We discussed the practice of the daily examen (asking questions like "What was good about today? and "What was hard about today?") and how this relates to our corporate practice of the Eucharist. As we cultivate the habit of simple daily examen with our children and in our own lives, we deepen our experience of meeting God at the table.

It struck me later that something I really appreciate about the Anglican liturgy is that the confession takes place at a different part of the service so the Eucharist is truly a time of celebration. Too often in many evangelical churches, the Eucharist is more of a mournful time of remembrance - remember Jesus' death, remember our sins, say you're sorry. Not that those things are unimportant, but Eucharist is a time of thanksgiving and celebration as well.

If family meals were just times that we got together and only talked about how we were sorry for all the bad things we had done to each other, something would be wrong with that. That might be appropriate on occasion, but it would get flat and one-dimensional pretty quickly. Family mealtimes should be places of sharing all the things of our days, the joys as well as sorrows, checking in about the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. Meals should be sharing of all of life, not just the penitential, but also the celebratory and relational. Eucharist can be the same.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The value of music

Excerpts from an address at the Mankato Symphony Orchestra (HT: Andy Crouch). Has big implications/applications for worship and anyone in music ministry.
"I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

"You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

"Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why young moms should rule the world

"I read somewhere an interesting suggestion. The nations of the world that most vigorously foul the planetary nest and those in possession of the most destructive arsenals ought to be governed only by young women with small kids. More than anyone else, such mothers live in the future, and they also face each day the realities of raw human nature. This gives them a special insight."

- in Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (pp. 207-08)

Friday, March 06, 2009


I just found out this morning that a publishing industry friend's wife died yesterday. Ann Baker was in a critical car accident in mid-January, and though she survived the accident, she was in a coma, and eventually it became clear that her injuries were not recoverable. She leaves behind her husband, Dan, and their two children, Adam and Ingrid.

I'm still in shock. Dan and I have been industry friends for about a decade. We're about the same age. Our kids are about the same ages.

I am at a loss. I have all these thoughts and feelings jumbled up in my head, but there is nothing to say.

Here are some excerpts from Dan's message. I am amazed by his eloquence and hope even in the midst of what must be horrible pain and grief. Please pray for him and his family.


"The permanent repercussions of the Jan. 16 accident in so many lives and families represent an unfathomable tragedy and many unanswerable questions. It is what it is, and we grieve deeply. For Ann's part, our grief comes with the assurance that through her death, Ann has been welcomed into the fullness of Christ's presence, and that she will be spared further suffering in this life. Because she belongs to him, her joy and her peace are now complete, far beyond anything she has experienced in her 35 years with us. In confidence we await the day when death and crying and pain will be no more, and our children will run once again into her outstretched arms.

"As Ann's condition deteriorated, we held the Ministration at the Time of Death service from the Book of Common Prayer at her bedside. Near the moment of her death, I prayed for Ann using the words of the Commendatory Prayer from this liturgy, which is copied below. I invite this community to join me in this or a similar prayer for Ann, knowing that by the grace of God in Christ it is already being fulfilled:

"Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Ann. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen."