Thursday, December 29, 2005

Defiance & Submission on Christmas Eve

I hope you had a great Christmas. For me, Christmas was spent with a houseful of relations in north Texas, which meant for lots and lots of joyful noise.

One aspect of Christmas in particular stood out to me this year, and it involved my once- or twice-per-year trip to Catholic mass. I grew up Roman Catholic, only to walk away in college and then walk halfway back to evangelicalism, but I still enjoy my occasional reconnections with the church of my youth.

This year was no exception. My parents are members at a large church in Dallas, and we went to the children's Christmas pageant for our Christmas Eve observance, which meant lots and lots of joyful noise.

For a staid, sober-minded Presbyterian such as myself, a mass offers lots of confusion--standing, sitting and kneeling, gesturing and genuflecting. Add a sanctuary full of kids to the mix and the cacophony grows louder. But the loudest moments of the mass were actually the most unified--the Nicene Creed and the Lord's Prayer.

I was overwhelmed by the Nicene Creed, which involves among other things the statement "We believe in one God." The Creed doesn't care who's listening, it simply speaks the truth loud and in one voice. Here was a room full of people speaking truth defiantly--even if they didn't believe what they were saying.

Behold the power of a creed. It transcends the whims of the culture that inherits it. I am many things, but I'm no island, and the creed reminds me that no matter how defiantly I declare that the church is what I make of it, I'm still a passenger on a boat that is bigger than myself.

The Lord's Prayer completes the portrait. After such a bold statement of defiance, the gathered mass joins hands and prays together the prayer that Jesus taught us: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." We are defiant of the world but submissive to our Father in heaven. And we're all in it together.

The word mass itself suggests a lot of noise. Whenever you get a mass of people together, even the whispers of pairs join together into a rumble. And when all those pairs and all that rumbling begin to form a coherent, articulate statement, whether one of defiance or one of submission, almost anything can happen.

I won't go to mass again for months--perhaps even for more than a year. But in the meantime I can pray for a church that speaks to its world and its God in one big voice soon. One God, forever and ever, amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rock for Reading

Much respect to Alice Peacock, who has put together Rock for Reading as a means of raising funds and awareness toward literacy. I love rock, I love reading. I love well-used celebrity. Check out their site:

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Prayer About Time, Part One

The following is the first several stanzas of "A Prayer About Time," brought to you by permission of Robert Banks, from his book The Tyranny of Time. This first part acknowledges God as Creator of time, which has implications for how we look at our own experience of time.

God our Father
you are the Maker of everything that exists,
the Author of the world of nature
and of all living things,
the Creator of both space
and time.
Without you there would be no past,
present or
no summer or winter,
spring or autumn,
seedtime or harvest;
no morning or evening,
months or years.
Because you give us the gift of time we have the opportunity
to think and to act,
to plan and to pray,
to give and to receive,
to create and to relate,
to work and to rest,
to strive and to play,
to love and to worship.

The apostle Paul sums up this prayer nicely for us: "In him we live and move and have our being." Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Craft of Community

I've got people in every corner of my life pushing Wendell Berry on me, so I started reading his Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community. Here's his take on the subversion of community by a world full of people who prefer a private life but whose public life persists. The setup for this comment was the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas--as public a process as something gets. It's hard to think of community as something other than public life or a confederation of private lives, but I suppose that only shows how far we've drifted from the craft of community. Let me know what you think.

Community life is by definition a life of cooperation and responsibility.
Private life and public life, without the disciplines of community interest,
necessarily gravitate toward competition and exploitation. As private life casts
off all community restraints in the interest of economic exploitation or
ambition or self-realization or whatever, the communal supports of public life
also and by the same stroke are undercut, and public life becomes simply the
arena of unrestrained private ambition and greed.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's Not Easy Being Red-Nosed

Check out this open letter to Rudolph:

I'm reminded of a talk I recently heard that explored several facets of postmodernity, one of them being the "hermeneutic of suspicion"--fancy talk for "ironic cynicism." It takes a letter like this to see the cultural subtext of Santa Claus, but it's the sort of letter that trips up people with no sense of irony. Of course, people with no sense of irony reading an ironic letter like this is as entertaining to an ironic cynic as anything else.

If you have no sense of irony, my apologies.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Long Overdue

It's about time I blogged privately. I've been designated blogger for InterVarsity Press, where I work as an editor, for three years now: I post to Strangely Dim weekly. But I've been wanting to do my own thing, unconstrained by the needs of the press. So here I go.

I've liked the idea of Loud Time for a Long Time. I come from a subculture that puts a lot of emphasis on the Quiet Time as the critical ingredient for spiritual growth. That's all well and good, except that you can only effectively be quiet in isolation, and while occasional isolation is a good thing, most of life is lived in real time with real people.

Enter Loud Time! In this blog I'll blather away about virtually anything, but my chief aim is to borrow wisdom from others and extend both the range and the depth of my relationships. If Loud Time is anything, it is a conviction that God abides with us even when we are not alone--which is perhaps a novel concept--and even when we are not quiet--which is perhaps a controversial subject. We grow together, which to my mind is how God intended it.

Both Inspiration and Cautionary Tale: Excerpts from Middling

What follows is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 edition of Middling, my quarterly newsletter on music, books, work, and getting older. I'...