Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
This morning, I finished reading, for the umpteenth time, the Lord of the Rings. It just keepes getting better with age. Each time I read it, I learn something new, or remind myself of something I had forgotten, or figure something else out. This time, I was paying particular attention to the detailed descriptions of things and matching it up with how Peter Jackson pulled it off in the films. He did a darn good job on most things. One of his omissions, the Scouring of the Shire, is what I want to say a few things about now.
Most people who were pretty hard core fans of the novel were upset about the exclusion of Tom Bombadil, but were less upset about the exclusion of the Scouring sequence. I've never really felt strongly about the Scouring one way or another until this last reading. But now, I think it is a sequence that the film really missed out on, and that fans who don't like it also miss out on. It brings the novel full circle (an even fuller circle if you take The Hobbit into account). On of the hobbits, or the Travellers, as they were known by the end of the books, poignantly notes at the murder of Saruman, that it is appropriate for this final stroke in the War of the Ring to have taken place on the doorstep of Bag End, from whence it all began so many years ago with 13 dwarves, an errant wizard, and a hobbit. Moreover, I think some folks will forget that despite having been broken of his power by Gandalf, Saruman was still a powerful foe. He was a Maiar spirit, just as Gandalf was, and almost more importantly, just as Sauron was. The three of them were on the same level of power, if you will. So, the "Scouring" sequence shows the full development of the characters of the four hobbits and hints at how they are forever changed; they will never be the same again and really, never will the Shire. It allows them, the real heroes of the book, to be noticed as such, long after they have left king and kingdom behind, long after the Ring was destroyed, and long after Isengard was broken. As awesome a character as Aragorn is, the hobbits are the real heroes, and in their final defeat of Saruman, that important fact is brought home.
For these reasons, I think the movie missed out on showing just how important these characters are when compared with all the other "lordly types" of the Fellowship. Diminutive they may be, but far from unimportant. And to those who would despise yet another ending sequence to a long movie, I say too bad. Life doesn't come complete with neatly tied up endings all the time. And even after the end, the story goes on and on, down from the road where it began.
For only you, LORD, make me dwell in safety.
This brings me comfort. When I made all those prayers as a child and when I make my prayers now, though somewhat more formal and “adult-like” they may be, I often don’t get through them all before I fall asleep. You have set my mind at ease and helped me to be at peace when I lie down. I am praying, but my eyes close and my breathing slows and I fall asleep with unfinished prayers on my lips. I used to feel guilty about this. Then someone once said this was ok, because it is ok to fall asleep in the arms of God, telling God the things on our heart. What we don’t hear, cause we’re asleep, is the comforting reply of our divine parent, “I know, child. Now, sleep.” I can sleep well knowing I am in the arms of my Savior. And all will be well when I wake up. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.
Monday, September 26, 2005
More than when grain and wine and oil increase.
Is this now, or is this in the future? Is this the result of my prayer? I don’t know much about grain and wine and oil increasing or what that might mean or why it should make me happy. But I do feel, in the best of times, that you have put gladness in my heart. When I serve at your Altar, when I sing, when I talk about you with friends, and when I see your work being done. Then I feel the gladness in my heart, more than when I get free dinners, or Wake Forest wins a football game, or when a pretty girl smiles back at me. Those things I understand.
St. Luke's was excellent this morning as well. I made an announcement about the satirical novel discussion group I'll be running there on Thursdays in October because the books had come in. Having never done anything like this before I was really wondering how many people are going to turn up at the first meeting, but I was pleased to see several folks walking around toting their new copies of the two books after the service. Our forum (adult education) this morning was also interesting. It was on Franciscan Spirituality and was led by a Franciscan named Paul laChance. I learned some things about Francis I had not known before, so that was good.
Tomorrow, I am officiating Morning Prayer. I always like to do something of service liturgically on the first day, but as I've been doing the Breviary Hours most of the summer, I'll need to be careful I don't slip into some of the more traditional language!
Ok, now I'm going to post tonight's Psalm 4 meditation and then it's to bed for me.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
“Oh, that we might see better times!”
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.
Many are saying that? I know I am. I am most guilty of it. I want to see better times in my country, in my government, in my school. I am the first to cry “Disaster” when something goes wrong at seminary. I then am reassured that all will be well. I hope that is the case. I wish we could see better times in the nation too. War is abroad and three, maybe four of my friends are off fighting. I wish they did not have to learn about war that way. In a perfect world, in a world where we saw the better times according to Ryan, they would survive the war and come back with a better understanding of its horrors and why it must be averted. But for now, in this world, I will settle for them just coming back in one piece. Lift up your light, O LORD, upon us, indeed! We are in darkness. Prepare us for the light and then show us your glory.
Friday, September 23, 2005
I am noticing the order here. These are all instructions and I cannot help but think they are listed in order of importance. See how hierarchical my mind is? First I am supposed to know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful. Not just imagine it, but really know it deep down. Then, when I know that, I will have no choice but to tremble, and in my trembling I will abstain from sinning. There is no doubt in my mind that this will lead to earnest and fervent prayer. Prayers of the Day. Prayers of the Week. Prayers of the Month. Prayers of the Year. And then maybe I’ll realize that God hears all my prayers equally, and each are equally as important to Him. I’m the only one who orders them. Then it comes time for the liturgical actions, not before. And in the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass, my trust will be put in the Lord utterly. For if it is not, I am eating and drinking my own damnation.
A while back, Jeff said to me a strange thing. "You know, I've never really considered myself an actor, or even given thought to the possibility that I might be any good at it. I've always thought of you and Julia and Kate as actors, but I realized, like anything, you've practiced at it and I never have." I said, "Sure, like anything, with practice you get better. Kate and Julia have more practice than I, so they're better than I am. I have more practice than you, so I'm better than you are. Now, if we were talking hockey, the roles would be quite reversed."
"Well," he said, "I guess I've always just been intimidated by what you guys do up there. I mean, I was in that musical, but I had a small part and I was singing, so I was familiar with that. But, I've never really considered myself a dramatic person. So, I thought it would be fun to just sit down with some of you dramatic types and do some dramatic readings from plays and stuff, just to see how it goes. "
I replied, "That sounds like a lot of fun actually. I've missed acting and plays and all that. A lot."
He said, "Well, let's do it then. And who knows, nothing says we can't perform them for friends one day. But that's way off."
So, tonight, a very small few of us "dramatic types" are getting together to do some readings. I've picked out a few selections from Sam Shepard, Tom Stoppard, and the Bard to get us going. It should be lots of fun. Must prepare myself...
O, what a terrible to do to die today at a minute or two till two. For the dragon will come at the sound of a drum, a rat-a-tat-ta-tat-a-ta-tum, at a minute or two till two today, at a minute or two till two...
Thursday, September 22, 2005
That is what I lack, more than anything. I don’t tremble enough. And I sin way too often. Usually boldly. No trembling then. But at night, when the demons come, oh I tremble then! But, I should have no fear of them. They have no power over the name of Jesus Christ. It is the one who created the demons who should cause me to tremble, that, and the grace He has showed unto me. That is worthy of my tremors. I need to learn how to tremble throughout my life and my days. When I’m working, when I’m at school, when I’m with friends. I should tremble at the majesty that has made it all possible. And I should pray. I should speak to my heart, for God is in my heart, my soul, my mind, my body. Speak to my heart in silence upon my bed. I have done that since as long as I can remember. From the day I challenged God, if He really existed, he would send someone into my room that very moment. My Mom came in to check on me. Since then I have spoken to my heart, my God, at night in my bed. As a child I devised a plan, a sort of outline of my prayer life if you will. I ranked my prayers in order of importance. I allowed myself one special prayer of the day, that if God answered no other prayers that day, that he would answer that one. Likewise, I allowed myself one special prayer of the week, two of the month, and three of the year. Those were the most important ones, the prayers of the year. I look back on that and I think it was childish, but maybe I need to get back to that simple faith, with fear and trembling. I remember I did tremble when I made bold enough to pray a prayer of the year. The only prayer of the year I can remember is when I was stabbed in middle school by some bully with a hypodermic needle while I was in the library. He thought I was trying to move in on his girlfriend, but really I was only helping her with her math. I remember that prayer of the year: that I did not have a disease as a result of that needle.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Oh, I bet he does do wonders for the faithful. God once said all it took was faith the size of a mustard seed and we could move mountains. I remember hearing that in Sunday school and thinking that’s all I had to aspire too. The size of a mustard seed wasn’t very big. I know - we had visual aids. But I haven’t moved any mountains lately. So, what does that say about my faith? I feel like I’m trying to convince myself here. When I call upon the LORD he will hear me. That’s what it says, right there in plain Hebrew. If that is so, then why do I have to start my prayer by pleading, “Hear my prayer?” Do you not know when I am praying to you? Or is it like dialing a telephone number? What wonders has the LORD done in my life? Plenty wondrous things. Give me the humility to see them for the wonders they are. My family. My friends. My calling. To name a few wonders.
Monday, September 19, 2005
What kind of an answer is that, God? I asked you to listen to me and you meet me with an accusation. I have cried out to you in earnest and you have called me a heretic. But I do dishonor your glory. I forget that you are within me and when I remember, I bury you so deep down and I don’t let you out. I do worship dumb idols. I worship the gods of beer, lust, self-absorption, greed; I run more quickly to these false gods, and coutless others, than I do to you sometimes. Sometimes, ha! Most of the time. I rely on myself and not you. And they are dumb. They do not speak back to me, though I swear I hear them whispering sweet words in my ears. And I listen to those sweet, deceiving words. And I become dumb.
Today also was the first day of orientation for the new students at Seabury. I got up early and went to Morning Prayer to kick things off right and was quite glad I did. It really felt good to be in the chapel again, hearing a multitude of voices praying together. I stuck around the library and did some Hebrew work, then worked on next week's St. Michael and All Angels liturgy, for which I am the MC. I was then on duty to be server at the Eucharist, which I enjoy doing greatly. I got a few compliments on my serving style from the new students which felt nice to receive, and also opened up the conversations wherein I pleasantly discovered we have quite a few "higher" church-people among us in this year's entering class! I gave them a teaser of what next week's St. Michael's liturgy would include. It's gonna be good.
I am anxious to get to know them all and hear a little bit of their stories. As the Very Rev. Ref pointed out to me once, being a senior is strange, and comes with it's own distinct perspective. For these first few days, you can sit back and watch the Middlers realize with a hint of panic and a full dose of eventual confidence that they're in charge of everything, and see the newbies look like deer caught in headlights, all the while smiling and saying to oneself, "I made it through that." It's going to be a roller coaster of a year, but a great one, I've a feeling.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Right now, I am feeling very thankful and very lucky to have landed St. Luke's as my field-ed location. It's gonna be a great year!
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Today is the feast day of the Holy Cross, a day, as my priest said in her sermon this morning, when we commemorate a thing, an event, and a transcendant object. Unusual, to say the least, as far as feast days go. She began her sermon by talking about the tide of fashion trends, and how recently, the practice of wearing large, gold, ostentatiously diamond encrusted crosses has become popular among the rapper community. The congregation of mostly retirees stared at her with blank expressions. She asked, "If I used the phrase 'bling-bling', would it mean anything to you?" I laughed out loud. Others continued staring, some slightly slack-jawed with furrowed brows. She went on to say that she believes this trend is less a devotional practice and more a signal of extreme narcissism.
I wear a cross around my neck, but I've never categorized it as bling. It is a fairly small, unornate, silver cross hanging on an unassuming silver chain. My grandmother got it for me when I was in the 8th grade and I had it blessed by the parish priest. To the best of my ability, I have worn it everyday thereafter. But, I have been tempted somedays to not wear it. I have been tempted, and given in to that temptation, on certain occasions to not wear it because I don't want to automatically be identified as some sort of "ultra-Christian". That's fear talking. That's the Devil talking. I'll get dressed to go out to the bars or something and think, 'I'll not wear the cross tonight.' When I give into that temptation, I am giving into my narcissism, and not submitting to Christ. Not that Jesus cares if I wear a cross or not, but if I'm going to wear one, I imagine He wants me to wear it for Him and not for me. It is a symbol that should not point to me, but to Him.
And, let's be realistic, it's the symbol of a torture device. Were Jesus to be crucified today, in a hundred years we'd all be wearing electric chairs around our necks. As this morning's preacher noted, "Let's see them cast that in gold with diamonds encrusting it!"
The way I want to look at it is like the pirate black spot. If you received the black spot, you were marked for assassination. If you wear the cross, you are marked to be crucified with Christ. That is no light task. That is not something we should shrug off or whimsically put on because we feel like it, or it goes with our outfit, or the persona we're adpoting for that event. In our baptism we are "marked as Christ's own, forever." 'Forever' is not a word that can be qualified, and so too cannot the cross of Christ.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Man: Is that cinnamon roll soft or hard?
Cafe Guy: Umm....soft.
Man: Ok, then, I'll take a piece of carrot cake and the cinnamon roll.
Cafe Guy: Ok.
Man: Oh, and is that a macadamia nut cookie I see hiding back there?
Cafe Guy: No, that's a [didn't hear what kind] cookie.
Man: What an unusual combination for a cookie! Ok, I'll try that too.
Cafe Guy: So you want all three? The cake, the cinnamon roll, and the cookie?
I don't even want to know what kind of a day this guy had.
Monday, September 12, 2005
We did a special opening litany at St. Luke's to commemorate the day. It was quite tastefully done, remembering those who lost their lives, those who worked to rescue the survivors, all those whose lives were forever changed, as well as the fact that our own pain turned murderous as we sought justice and revenge, sometimes even against the innocent. I think it really moved people.
It was my first Sunday to serve as Subdeacon, and I think, on the whole, it went pretty smoothly. I'll need to work on refining some things, though -
- How to tie an amice
- where we are suppossed to stand for the Gospel
- exactly what and how I am to do when semi-setting the table
- chancel party movement
All that will come in good time, I have no fear.
To close, I would like to offer you some of the words I recently read in the most recent issue of my fraternity's alumni newsletter, the Theta Tauker. They were written by a brother, Sam Newlands, who was a senior when I was a freshman, and serve as the opening for his short treatise on brotherhood, but are especially poignant for today. Sam is currently working on his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Yale University.
"These days, nearly everyone is a hero. Every member of our armed services is a hero. Every single firefighter, police officer, paramedic, emergency room doctor and nurse, life-guard – all are routinely called "heroes." I suppose that Tim Fisher, who tells me he is applying for a part-time job as a veterinary assistant, is thereby applying to be a part-time hero. Parents simply struggling to raise their own children are now referred to in heroic terms. One post-9/11 commentator declared that everyone still living in New York City was a hero – all 10 million of ‘em. As a philosopher, I’m tempted to worry here about the effects of elevating nearly everyone to the status of hero, thereby making the label nearly vacuous and slowly draining it of the inspiring esteem it once conjured up in our minds. (It is similar to the leveling problem that Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon community suffers from: if all their children are "above average," they thereby all become average – which is precisely Keillor’s sly point.)"
(Read the full article: Some Thoughts on Brotherhood, page 6 & 7.)
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Watched a lot of football today. Saw Mighigan lose to Notre Dame. Saw Wake Forest have an incredible passing game...to the other team! Seriously, if you took away all the points the 'Huskers scored on defense, the final game score would have been 10-3, Nebraska. Ok, so we still would've lost, but it would have been a much more respectable loss. Our offense was in the game all the way. Our running game was moving the ball downfield. It was just mental errors and lack of composure that turned the ball over so many times. That, and fumbling the ball on a kick off return...twice. I flipped over to TX and Ohio State when I wanted to see some decent plays.
Then, I watched Constantine. It was a little silly, with some wacked theological ideas, but that aside it was kinda fun. And a fascinating cinematic vision of Hell. In this director's view, Hell is a place constantly in the midst of the shock and heat waves of a gargantuan nuclear explosion. And the demons were cool looking.
I suspect it is a much easier movie, and far less scary of a movie, to watch than The Exorcism of Emily Rose will be. Movies that take seriously the demonic frighten me beyond words, mostly because I take the demonic seriously. Scenes from The Exorcist and The Omen still can give me nightmares. But, I will see the Emily Rose movie, if for no other reason than sick curiosity. I'm not exactly certain what the Episcopalian party line on exorcism and all that is. In our Book of Occasional Services, there is a page entitled "On Exorcism" and a subsequent paragraph that, summed up, says, if you seriously think you are confronted with a situation meriting an exorcism, call your Bishop. I guess when you get consecrated to the Episcopate, you get a packet of secret stuff. Or, more likely, we really don't know what we're doing when it comes to this. Ok, I'm going to scare myself now, so I'm signing off before I start making too much of the fact that I had to knock locusts off my window screen several times tonight to stop their infernal screeching.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
But, on to the matter on my mind. A friend and I had an interesting phone conversation today. Periodically she calls me with some question or other about the Bible, religion, Episcopal traditions, and whatnot, and I do my best to formulate an answer for her, usually learning a great deal in the process. Last time she called we straightened out just why we rub our foreheads in ashes on Ash Wednesday. Today, she had a question concerning prophecy, and what the qualifications for the job are.
The questiona rose when she and her roommate were discussing the subject and they reached a stalemate. I was to answer the question of what the Bible said a prophet was. More specifically, is a prophet a person sent by God to tell the future and actually do something about it, or can a prophet also be a person who suddenly feels the need to pray for someone they haven't talked to in years, then finds out later that person was going through something awful at that time? Her roommate apparently was talking about some guy who said he had predicted the Hurricane. I repsonded with: so did the weatherman.
I then went on to say that to be a prophet first and foremost means to be a truth-teller, more than a future fore-teller. In the Bible, God sends people we revere as prophets to peoples in order to get them to, usually, straighten up and fly right. The job is not one anyone wants or enjoys having. Indeed, Jeremiah speaks against it in the strongest possible terms, practically accusing God of raping him by means of the burden of prophecy (Jer. 20). One of the OT's greatest prophets, Samuel, didn't even know he was being called to be one until God practically shouted at him (1 Sam 3). So, it seems to me, that I would want to be wary of persons running around saying, "I'm a prophet," with a grin on their face and a superority complex. Furthermore, the Bible also acknowledges times when prophecy was not heard much and no visions were abroad in the land (1 Sam 3).
The Hebrew root of the word, (shoresh: nun-bet-aleph), seems to have connotations of "announce", "sound", and "information". It spawns the word nabi, which means "spokesperson" first and foremost and only later has the sense of "prophet". Likewise, another word of this root, a verb, naba', has as its oldest meaning "a form of religious ecstasy with or without song or music; later, essentially religious instruction, with occasional predictions."
St. Paul talks about it as a gift of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12, 14), but not to all are all or even some gifts given. And when they are they should be used according to God's will and not for gain or profit. So, I guess you could call the person on whose heart God laid a need to pray for someone, a prophet if you wanted too. But it seems to me a great difference of degree.
What do you think? Part II of this thread can go off on a tangent about the place of dreams in all this. But that is for later; I have to go to bed to get up in 6 hours to go riding.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Friday, September 02, 2005
Other than that, the game was lots of fun, even if the Tigers got routed. (As I was there on Jeff's tickets from his company, and he's a big Tigers fan, I was a Tigers fan tonight, too.) We had excellent seats in the 100 level on the first base side. I figure I've done pretty good this season. I set out at the beginning of May witha promise to myself to see more ballgames this summer as it is my last summer in this fair city of two ballparks, and I've done it. I've seen 8 Major League Teams play, and, of course, the Cubs and the Sox multiple times - Cubs, Sox, Braves, Tigers, Orioles, Reds, Dodgers, and Twins. And the vast majority of the games, I didn't have to pay for!! Even better!
[Later: In my general disgust over being puked on, I forgot to mention one of the neater things I've seen at a ball game. Three Roman nuns, in full habit, sat several rows in front of us. They bore a large sign that said, "Nuns love the White Sox!", and featured a picture of a nun hitting a homerun. In the 7th inning stretch these ladies, all of them in their sixties to my guessing, were dancing in the aisles and then were invited up on top of the dugout to continue their dance. That was awesome! Good for the nuns, for getting out and enjoying a ballgame!]
Thursday, September 01, 2005
However, when we are referring to the deity that we worship as Three in One, and are referring specifically to the first person of that Blessed Trinity, it is a necessity to say "God the Father". Though I'm not likely inclined to agree with all of the man's theological beliefs, this is one point where I think the Very Rev. Robert Munday, Dean of Nashotah House Seminary, has some helpful things to say. You can read his remarks on his blog site, here. It appears that this is just part one and the other parts seem to be forthcoming. In any event, I submit this all to you for your consideration.
Secondly, to BrotherBeal, who helped me pick out the font for the Title. If you are seeing it display as block lettering, you probably don't have the font, Bradley Hand ITC, installed on your machine.
And last but certainly not least, to all of you faithful readers, particularly those of you who have commented and pointed out little things that needed tweaking. Without your readership, Everyday Faith is not a shared journey, but just my ramblings. Your readership means you are, in some ways, sharing my journey towards an everyday faith with me, and that is important. So, thanks to you.
In the upcoming posts I want to note here, mostly so I don't forget, a few things I want to blog about:
--Looting in the wake of Katrina
--When is it justified to go to war
--Masculine language for God
[Later: A belated thank you to my brother, Brennan, for helping me select a font type for the body of my postings.]