Tuesday, June 23, 2009

6 Months After Seminary

So I have been graduated since January, still had to work on my Presbyterian ordination process, working in the mean time and still figuring out life in general. The whole church thing is really slow and filled with more hurdles than a marathon with hurdles. I’m still only beginning to come out of the cloud from the explosion that blew my brain to bits as I went through seminary. I’m still picking up some of the pieces. Here is what I know so far…

Seminary can take it apart but doesn’t know how to put it back together: Seriously. I’m still trying to reconstruct a complete understanding of my theology. I have a statement of faith that is getting nitpicked on the ‘conjunctions’ level (What is the difference between ‘with’ and ‘within’ in the context of a sentence.) You would think they would want to put that stuff back together before they sent us out to be pastors and actually engage with people, novel concept. Now that I’m sitting on the outside I’m realizing that I am NOT ready to be a pastor. My friend Sarah basically said that the degree of Master of Divinity is an oxymoron. Some of me is worried and wants to be an associate of some larger church, but in all honesty I’m not sure I’m supposed to be that guy. The more I understand my call, it is a call to youth ministry. I just wish I had someone help me out with that.

There is no time to think: Between finals, midterms, papers, reading, lectures, money, food, laundry, bills, parents, going crazy, coming back from crazy, going back to crazy because you forgot something there, getting lost in crazy, … you get the point … there is no space or time to actually think for yourself. Some of this goes up to point 1, but still what free time I had I spent in the space of napping and recovering sleep that was lost due to school work. The last thing anyone wants to really do is talk about class outside of class either. Some people do, but I think they are a bit wrong in the head. I can understand some discussion but I don’t want to be in a place of just living in the realm of theological thinking. I would like to think I have some humanity in me still.

The Academy needs more Teachers: NOT scholars. Looking at most of our scholarship we have done such a good job of writing down everything we do and we no longer have to think for ourselves. I might be guilty of this but I don’t care about the Greek and Hebrew because I have commentaries, computer software, and other tools that allow me to just slack off on that stuff. On some level I think that there are some very brilliant minds who have no idea how to communicate that information. I relate much better with professors who have been pastors, or who have a pastoral like nature.

Somehow we have gotten it backwards: A friend of mine once told me about the praise band he was in “We don’t have our own sound we just copy everyone else’s note for note.” I understood him and about 4 months later I realized that it ran deeper. There was a point in time when there was no internet and while we had a hymnal the only way new music would come into being was if someone from the church wrote it. Go a little bit bigger picture and we have churches who write libraries on how to build, nurture, and manage a church. I’m kinda in the nay say-er category with the idea that you can’t just plug and play someone else’s game plan. So we learn about things and then are told to go do them and when they don’t work (and most of the time they won’t) we throw up our hands and wonder what went wrong. We have lost our ability to listen to God for his guidance and direction in navigating the church. Some churches do and they HEAR from God that their ministry will be small, and yet they embrace it.

I had a good friend who is a very gifted believer, could have been a pastor if God had called him to it, who was offered a job as a part time pastor in a small church of under 50. The pastor only made 30k living in a town where that was probably below poverty line. The church couldn’t pay my friend, and the pastor offered him 10k OUT OF HIS OWN SALARY to have my friend on staff. My friend prayed and couldn’t take the job but found in that moment a sense of what God’s purpose was for people. I still love that story because I’m not sure I could do it. Drop 1/3 of my salary to someone who is gifted in pastoral ministry to allow them to be on staff of the church

I wish we could change our culture to that of the Acts church. Where everyone gave so that no one would suffer. I’m in a time in my life where I’m accepting and looking for handouts till I get back on my feet. It sucks and I don’t always like to be in that spot, I do like to give away what I have. Is it a bad thing if that I want to own two houses for the sole purpose of letting seminary students have housing on a seminary budget? Is it odd that I wonder why the church in Africa will pay for their pastors in full, and America will just let us graduate with piles of debt?

I find that the fringes of my theology shift depending on what my life situation is. This is probably obvious to most people who know me, but it is new to me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happiness is …

001: playing guitar
002: watching a sunset
003: a nap
004: a text message from her
005: laughter
006: making others smile
007: good food
008: good company
009: a good sci-fi novel
010: a good sci-fi movie
011: holding her hand
012: a day where nothing is the only plan
013: teppanyaki dinner
014: seeing someone understand … light bulb included
015: J-Mo getting the best of me in verbal sparring
016: silence
017: serving
018: the comfort that I don’t have to know everything
019: seeing high school kids grow to be adults
020: listening to Victor Wooten
021: choices
022: being a nerd and/or geek
023: the fact that she likes my nerd and/or geek moments
024: playing Presidents with the cousins
025: Laura’s lessons on tea
026: a devotional series entitled: ‘I am like the Pharisees’
027: watching people get lost in worship
028: reflecting on the journey behind
029: being on the verge of being able to support myself
030: getting older
031: getting wiser
032: getting ‘wise crack’ier
033: traveling the journey ahead
034: Katie’s friendship and honesty
035: a spuderito
036: being comfortable enough to have and carry around a teddy bear
037: leaving Santa Barbara knowing I will see her soon
038: Barry's openness to discuss
039: a jam session with all the time in the world
040: having no great achievements
041: Settlers of Catan
042: the question of ‘Life, the Universe, everything!’
043: ‘The Princess Bride’
044: the smell of BBQ
045: sushi
046: playing bass guitar
047: Mercer’s theological discussions
048: midnight movie showings
049: knowing that she runs to the door when I knock
050: my brother with a beer in hand
051: soccer
052: Sophie’s facial responses to all things
053: inside jokes
054: good wine shared among friends
055: failing when I know I have tried my best
056: teaching Scripture
057: Peet’s Scottish Breakfast Tea
058: Yard House happy hour
059: holding her in my arms
060: Sarah’s imparting of wisdom and kindness
061: being broken knowing that healing is coming
062: a foot of freshly dropped powder
063: the men of AGO
064: my Mom resting
065: relaxing in a hot tub
066: falling for someone
067: having them fall for you
068: reminders from God regarding his creation
069: a thought-provoking book
070: Carrie’s music
071: being able to not sweat the small stuff
072: being able to realize that all stuff is small
073: a couch for the couch nomad
074: understanding how much God loves me through my relationship with her
075: waiting on God
076: ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’
077: Becca’s parties and pranks
078: homemade cookies
079: all you can eat pizza
080: a wooden cross that reminds me who I am
081: a bracelet that reminds me what I am called to do
082: a Barry Taylor class
083: The Chronicles of Narnia
084: The Lord of the Rings
085: my Dad on a surfboard
086: Noah’s Bagels
087: Lake Tahoe
088: praying with her
089: my birthday cake
090: chasing a frisbee
091: bidding and making slam
092: Farmers market
093: living so simply that it all fits in my car
094: being comfortable with the fact that the divine is not weird
095: Arroyo Grande strawberries
096: Libby’s opinion
097: Star Wars Original Trilogy (IV,V,VI)
098: being in Pasadena
099: having it but knowing how not to use it
100: 100 posts on way to 200

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gaining Ground, or Maybe Just Securing It

So aside from the new Jars of Clay album that sounds like something that I just can’t put my finger on (feels like a little Mae with something else …), life has been good. I’ve been kinda traveling more than I care to admit and looking for work that seems really elusive. I’ve had many random ideas that have been buried in the need to find work. What is worse is that I have 2 unfinished blogs on my desktop that I remember what I was talking about but don’t feel like exploring them anymore. One was basically ‘fighting the man’ … cause that is what most Presbyterian graduates deal with. The other was on music and how it isn’t about skill but the soul of the musician. I might come back to the second another day (ya know … cause this is kinda a musically based blog)

I find that job hunting is a very weird place to be. It is like being on the verge of being able to claw my way out of a hole that I got dropped into after I graduated. I wish I could say that I have used this time to have some time to read some fun stuff, but … I haven’t to be honest I’m rereading a music book that is so beautifully written it takes a while to process each chapter.

On top of that I picked up a very challenging devotional book that is challenging me in ways that are on the order of the question: “If everything the Bible said was true, how would you change your actions?” One of those deep brow beating books. It is set up for a passage a day, but I’m working on 2 a day.

After that there is just this thing that I have been enjoying for 5 months and could not be a happier person. I think most of my blog energy has been reapportioned to this situation. So you all get the short stick … sorry … but I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

So this seems like a weak blog … but that’s all I got.

... Hun ... next blog is #100 ... might have to do something awesome with it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The iTunes Hymnal

This is something that I picked up from a friend of mine. I have a playlist in iTunes that is called Hymnal. This is a collection of songs that mark less than 0.5% of the songs in iTunes. (62/2987) They are not specific albums but are rather songs that have the ability to modify my mood in such a way that I cannot resist the change. They are songs that can bring me to tears without effort or fail. They are songs that can calm my angry spirit into a place of worship. Songs that I will sing in my car at the top of … whatever lung capacity I have. They are not songs that you would expect. They are not the stereotypical hymns and praise songs that one finds in Sunday service.

They are songs that are to be cried out from the pit of one’s soul.
They are songs that have understanding that transcends religion and culture.
They are songs that ask questions that have no answers.
They are songs that would not preach from the pulpit
They are songs that question so hard that it hurts
They are songs that express theological ideals that you cannot find in a textbook
They are songs that dance with both light and darkness as a golden fiddle is played.
They are songs to weep to
… to dance in joy
… to fall to your knees
… to sing with all that is within

These are the songs that drive me to embrace music. Understand very clearly … to embrace music.

Not to lead worship with my guitar, not to play bass and appear happy, not to sing my heart out. If I’m leading music for the sake of the congregation I may as well have not shown up. It is about the target and the purpose. It is about the music that comes from the soul and is translated through an instrument (voice = instrument too).

Someone once mentioned to me that there are two types of musicians: The first needs good equipment to sound good, the other makes whatever they play sound good. I have always strived to be the second; not looking for Taylor or Martin guitars, but making the guitar I have sing and proclaim the cries of my soul to a savior that have no words that can be typed here. If this doesn’t make sense the most concise statement to describe what I am talking about is this: I speak in tongues using a guitar rather than words.

Yea that is kinda a bold statement, but it make sense to me, and might help you understand what I’m trying to say here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Lost in the Mix

So … I have come out of the catacombs with Ords, and working on some things for this coming weekend with my birthday. For some reason I do lots of thinking when under stress … most of the time not directed the thing I need to be working on. While I was working on my Exegesis paper I had a bunch of random thoughts that went through my head and I put into another word doc to think about later. I thought I would share some of them with you.

--- What is the theology of the end for a NCD, as that may provide the end target/result.
This came out of one of my systematics class. Where theology is not built from creation and then move linear through time, but rather you start with the end and work backwards. I think what interests me here is that there is acceptance of a final goal, and what that looks like. Some of this I think extends to any ministry that I would get into. I think what I take away from this is that if I know what I want a ministry I am given to look like is that I won’t build programming or sub-structures that isn’t part of that view.

--- The First Jars album spawned the growth of guitar playing Christians who wanted to be that cool … discuss
Ok … music helps me work through stuff and got some stuff, but I keep going back to that first almost ‘unplugged’ album. There is something about that album that just … dwells … in someone. Maybe it is some of the songs, or maybe some specific songs, but they sit with people and are not always ‘difficult’ songs to play, and can be done with very basic skills. (shush don’t tell anyone else they are easy to play)

--- Why is it that the questions asked are not of the pastoral nature, but more academic?
This was in reference to the exegesis questions that I was answering. Paired with this question was a statement of ‘The sermon I feel God calling me to preach from this text have nothing to do with the issues raised in the questions.’ Along with a statement of ‘Can you give me a bibliography of the works used for seeking the questions asked?’

A little frustrated? … Only about as sarcastic as my response of … ‘Are you Sherlock Holmes?’

I think more the issue is that the work is done with such a hypothetical situation that it is almost a waste of time. Part of me wanted to fill out another review sheet after taking the Exegesis exam and basically go: ‘WTH!’ That probably would have been without clarity of thought, but I have been known for that and been right up until the point I realized I was wrong. Still … I have no framework for a congregation, sure ‘make up your own’ would be an interesting and if it wasn’t for the fact that I am graded on this I would probably put down: ‘My church is a congregation of mindless drones who do what I say and have no idea how to transmit academic understanding to action in the world.’ So I had fun taking a shot at Tony Campollo (who I’m still not a fan of to this day, but he doesn’t care), and raising the question of the phrase ‘do not let the sun go down on your anger’ in the context of the Artic and Antarctic.

--- QFT: “Of the three characteristics that Ephesians says should mark Christians, unity, maturity, and morality, the third is the most overt and easy to distinguish. A major breach of unity is, of course, visible when it eventuates in a church split, but underlying attitudes between Christians are less easy to observe. Maturity by its nature is gradual; neither maturity nor immaturity is always apparent. Immorality, on the other hand is often glaring, especially when expressed in gross acts and sadly, when committed by those in leadership.” (Liefeld 111. Italics mine)

(QFT = Quoted for Truth, geek thing … deal)
Two things here. One: Church unity or disunity is easier to see than Liefeld gives churches credit for. I’m sure there is a correlation between unity and the different between the apparent age minus the actual age of the Sr. pastor. Two: Everyone loves a good scandal. The reason it is so glaring is that people want to know more, like flies in a compost pile. I wish it wasn’t so, but people don’t let go of stuff easily either. I think more than anything we have forgotten what forgiveness really means (and yes I realize that I might be a hypocrite just by writing this blog with that statement in it, let me blow off some steam in ignorance).

Ok … I’m done … I feel better now. I know I sometimes throw a barrage of ideas out here, and I think sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one thinking some of this stuff. As a final word for this addition of Minstrel rants: What is the rhetorical shape of this post?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I’m sure this is a bad idea…

So we were watching Wanted last night and my grandparents were wondering if Wanted was based off a book or something. I said that I thought it was based upon a comic book (wikipeda says yes, although losely). Earlier in the week we watched Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is about 40% invented storyline, with the other 60% being a spot on for the main characters. Which got me to thinking …

Are there any movie adaptations that don’t mess up the storyline completely? The closest I have come to is the extended version of Fellowship of the ring, and Two Towers (with some minor issues). I don’t include Return of the King cause they should have done the ending as it was, not playing tribute to Styx and “Come Sail Away.” Aside from that they did a good job with what they had to work with and they probably needed 6 movies to do a proper adaptation. The Harry Potter movies are in trouble cause they are going to have to do flashbacks in the last two movies to get everything they need, and still they are going to come up short. All this to say … I had a bad idea for a comparison …

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice vs TBS 5 hr Pride and Prejudice

Now … Before you call me crazy … I have seen the TV series before in 12th grade and actually managed to not gnaw my arm off to get out of my handcuffs. And on some level I did enjoy it, then again I did have a buddy and we spent time making jokes. So here I am with time to kill, the DVD version in my parents collection (a mother’s day gift that is still wrapped from a few years ago), someone to watch it with, and all I need is to give up a piece of my manhood and go pay for a copy of the book … in public …with my own money.

And then read it.

Now most of my female friends managed to read it, they didn’t comment after that. Some swoon at the very mention of “Mr. Darcy” (SWOON! … err wait a minute). Others have expressed a deep seeded sense of existential dread only 20 pages in and had to put it down as if it were filled with cooties and then wash off the effect with some other reading to get the filth off.

If I don’t come back … tell my parents I love them, and not to come looking for me, because my mental state will have reduced me to a person who does not recognize them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ok I have a breathing moment.

So I don’t have any more jokes from my Thanksgiving trip nor do I have much to update about in terms of where I have been, that is still classified from the blogging world. (Although I think 4 out of the 5 people that read this blog know exactly what I’m talking about.) Anywho … I got back from MO with a fun sense of goofball energy about me and put it to good use, spent a week in Pasadena working on my directed reading and seeing what friends I could in their mental state of panic. I even got to see J-Mo on a sudden phone call (made by day … w/out the added syllable). But I am feeling that graduated feel even though I need to write one more paper and turn it in, more about that on another post.

So while I was back in Pasadena I swung to a few of my regular visit spots and hung out with my usual friends. I got to see my pastor buddies and again share breakfast with them. That trip was very affirming in processing through some things. There was a place of peace and feeling like … although I was venting … that I was doing from an objective standpoint, and that I’m not crazy, well maybe not crazy enough to throw into a crazy house.

Spent some time at my old church internship as they were having their annual Bethlehem
Village where there are all sorts of cool random fun things to do, and Baby Jesus gets born every 30 min. It was cool to see the whole church come together for an event that is as involved as it is. There are probably over 100 volunteers over the two days, and almost everyone from the church attends in some fashion. Was much fun.

After that I have been in Santa Barbara for the most part basically helping my mom do home repair on our ‘new’ house. Everything from mopping, fixing, installing film on my bathroom window (which goes right into the shower), and waiting for any number of other people to show up and fix something. Most of that has passed, but there are still things to fix.

Either way I’m getting as settled as I can before I spend 10 days on the couch, yielding my bed to my grandparents. More stuff to come soon enough.