Monday, February 27, 2006

an itch you can't scratch

I know this about myself - but I'm realizing it again lately: I have to travel. Seeing someplace new, or someplace "different" energizes me. I love to explore (and I'm really good with maps!), and I love experiencing someplace with all the senses (the taste of local food, the way the ocean smells, hearing the sounds of the city, the way the wind feels in Boston). I love finding out stories about the places I'm visiting (which means I should read more). Maybe it's my creative/artsy side - but I feel very ALIVE when I travel. Central Illinois is great for what it is - but it's not always the most stimulating place...

I definitely took advantage of traveling opportunities in college (though I regret the lack of a long trip to Europe). And now that I'm a "grown-up" it seems so much harder to get away. Part of that is having a full-time job and needing to be here for most of the Sundays. Another part of it is finding someone who I can travel with (but I don't want that to hold me back). I just don't like the idea of going somewhere by myself - I experience life best in community!! (I'll admit - I'm picky about this aspect to a certain point.) And part of it is $$$ - but soon I will graduate from school. So I think 2006 needs to have at least 1 good trip.

Weekend trips to big cities in the Midwest or Allerton Park help...but I'd really like to be any of these places right about now (or soon - I'm not picky):

Man - I love this bridge, and I can't explain why...
I need a good CITY trip.

Europe beckons frequently (though I have never answered)
I want to see a real cathedral someday

Santa Barbara Mission - so beautiful...

Last year the only cool place I went was Brooklyn (for a mission trip) - and I let some of my vacation days expire. NOT cool.

I have GOT to get on top of my vacation plan this year. Where should I go??

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The pendulum swings...

I told Kara on the phone last night that I'm a recovering legalist. I've known this for quite some time. I gave her some background, but basically here's what you need to know: I came to the realization early in college that despite my understanding that faith does NOT come through works, I was constantly evaluating my standing with God on very works-based things. This is not an uncommon practice (you've heard of people imagining God with a big tally sheet making checks in a "good" column and a "bad" column) - and I thought I knew better.

Then very early in my freshman year of college I had a random encounter with a Campus Crusade staff member. I didn't know her very well, but she met with me and asked me - out of the blue - to give her a percentage of how certain I was that if I died that night that I would go to heaven. And I thought about it. A variety of things went running through my head - thoughts about how infrequent my quiet time was - amazement at her boldness in asking me this - and then she stopped me. She said, "You know, you can know for sure." At the time I didn't realize that this was a common CRU tactic - I was just stunned at my own thought process. Where did I get confused about God's grace?

I could point to the fact that I grew up very "churched" - between church itself and going to a Christian school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I know lots of Bible stuff. I could point to the heavy emphasis that there was on having a daily "quiet time" in high school. Even though I wasn't sure how exactly how to do it, I knew that I wasn't really doing well if I was inconsistent with it.

And there's that word - consistency. I used to pray for it. I asked other people to pray that I would have it. Thing is, that never really helped me be more consistent. Then I heard a teacher (can't remember where) say that consistency is a false virtue. It's not valuable in and of itself - it's a way to do something, but not the thing itself. Now - I don't think consistency is a bad thing per se - but I don't think it was healthy for me to focus on it as much as I did. It definitely wasn't healthy to continue to beat myself up over my repeated inconsistency with spiritual practices. It for sure didn't bring me any closer to God.

I read Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel for the first time in college. I've probably read it 3 times since then. It's been a huge part of my recovery process (from legalism, that is). I've heard people say on more than one occasion that he's repetitive - and that all his writings are the same: "Grace, grace, we're loved, we're loved, blah, blah." And this tends to be my articulate response: "BUT DO YOU UNDERSTAND IT? I don't. I need to keep hearing it." The yelling helps.

In a Christian Ed class last year, a prof said that sometimes books are beneficial in the way that they notice how far the pendulum has swung in one direction - so it tries to be corrective in another direction. Brennan is that way for me. I was looking for something work-related yesterday and got out The Ragamuffin Gospel and looked through my markings (I'm a book-marker).

I just wanted to share these musings, because talking it through with Kara last night was one of the times I've been able to articulate it best. And then I wanted to share just a bit from Ragamuffin Gospel. (It's from the chapter called, "The Victorious Limp.")
And I just realized the quote I'm going to use is from someone else - Lloyd Ogilvie.

"Peter had built his whole relationship with Jesus Christ on his assumed capacity to be adequate. That's why he took his denial of the Lord so hard. His strength, loyalty, and faithfulness were his self-generated assests of discipleship. The fallacy in Peter's mind was this: he believed his relationship was dependent on his consistency in producing the qualities he thought had earned him the Lord's approval. [in my book I underlined this & wrote "wow"]

"Many of us face the same problem. We project into the Lord our own measured standard of acceptance. Our whole understanding of him is based in a quid pro quo of bartered love. He will love us if we are good, moral, and diligent. But we have turned the tables; we try to live so that he will love us, rather than living because he has already loved us."

(I don't think that this gives us license to do whatever we want. I think that this kind of love should compell us. And I think our (my) disobedience might be more out of the fact that we (I) don't understand His love.)

So pray for my recovery...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I can be objective - HONEST!

So I'm going to attempt to review a soon-to-be-released album by one of my favorite bands - Caedmon's Call. I got a pre-release of their newest album, "In the Company of Angels II - The World Will Sing," because they had a deal where worship pastors could preview it. I got it about a week ago and listened to it here and there - but today I sat down with pen and paper to listen INTENTLY to it!

The main things to know about this: it's a worship album. They had one out a few years back that I thought was pretty good. They definitely have some common influence with the Indelible Grace group that re-does old (and often unfamiliar) hymn texts. They also have 3 main vocalists: Cliff Young, Danielle Young, and Andrew Osenga. Cliff sings most of the songs - Danielle and Andy sing 2 apiece. They have a wide variety of songwriters - and my pre-release doesn't give song credits unfortunately. I had expected (because of the subtitle "the world will sing" and because of their previous world-music influenced album) that this album would have lots of ethnic influences - musically and lyrically. That's not the case...for better or worse.

So my overall review: I would put this on a similar level as their previous worship album - it's a good worship album (though I doubt it will be one of my all-time favorites) but it's not on as high of a level as many other Caedmon's albums. However, there are a handfull of really good songs - so I'm glad for those. As a part of the pre-release I was asked to consider how usable the songs are for corporate worship (which is already a primary criteria in my head) - but know that a lot of the review will tilt that way.

Thumbs up:

  • The lyrical content is really good. There is lots of substance and depth - without being overly wordy. The themes addressed are ones that are often overlooked in worship songs: Christ's redemptive acts - and what they mean for us, the corporate dimension of Christian worship (more than just me & Jesus), being honest about pain and suffering and putting it in perspective, etc. Lyrically speaking, there is not a bad track on this album.
  • I'm almost always a fan of re-done hymns - though it can be tricky to mess with the ones that are really well-known. Draw Me Nearer does the best job with this.
  • Andrew Osenga and Danielle Young - the songs that they sing on this album are my favorites. While I've always been drawn to songs Danielle sings (I'm self-centered, I admit, the girl songs are easier to sing) - this album makes me excited that Andy is a part of this band. More for his songwriting than anything else. I loved his songs on Share the Well - and then I decided to buy some old albums from his former band, The Normals. His song, "The Story" from this album is AMAZING. More on it later.


  • Cliff's voice - I have a harder time with it on this album for some reason. But I don't want to feel that way.

Thumbs down:

  • There is very little that jumps out and GRABS me musically on this album. We could debate how important that is - but for me - I love it when an album draws me in. A few tracks here and then are really great, but overall it's going to be one that grows on me. I think it could... This is Caedmon's Call - and I expect fun driving guitars, really fun percussion, and really fun harmonies (I NEED FUN, dangit)...or I expect experimentation. And there are just a good number of tracks that sound like they would fit right in on Christian radio (and that's all I'll say about that).

Stand-out tracks (with selections of lyrics):

Draw Me Nearer - A re-working of a familiar hymn. The music is really nice - but the best part is an added bridge where Danielle sings (almost ad-libbing): "You draw me with Your mercy, You draw me with your love, You draw me with forgiveness by your blood, etc."

Rest Upon Us - I think that this song does a good job of expressing need - but calling out to God in specific ways, expressing faith(vs. I need you, I need you, I need you, etc.). A sample of the chorus: "Holy Spirit rest upon us, breath of God touch my soul, Come unfailing love of Jesus, rest upon us, rest upon us"

Fellowship - I love the content of the lyrics - the theme is really cool - singing together about Christ's redemption but then what that means for us as a community. I love the 2nd verse especially: "We can feel His love among us; We can sing redemption's songs; We can hear the Spirit call us to a place where we belong; For His joy is in our laughter and His comfort in our grief; His love here and ever after will be the language that we speak." This song is a great lyric/music combo - and could be singable...

Be Merciful to Me - love love love the SOUND of this song. The simple piano and the percussion - plus Danielle's soft vocals - it's great. The chorus is really simple and repetitive: "Be merciful to me, be merciful to me, through shadow dark and valley deep, be merciful to me" - though the repetition of "Be merciful to me" reminds me of repeating the traditional Kyrie/Christe Eleison phrases "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy." I'm curious to see later how much of the lyrics here are original or if it's an old text.

The Story - THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG EVER. (Sorry for the yelling) Well, I don't know about ever - but I really really like it. I'm probably tainted by my worship seminary brain - and while this isn't a corporate worship song - it's a REALLY good song. But there is something about needing to be reminded of the bigger picture - that Christ is victorious. Andy's songwriting is just really great. I'm going to share lots of lyrics - because I like them, and it's my blog and I can do what I want!

  • Chorus: "Oh can tell me the story of all of Your glory,
    of Your rising again.
    Cause I'm in love with the mystery of how our sad history
    can turn out for good."
  • 2nd verse: "And the bitter man is angry
    and the angry man just thinks he's right.
    Too right to see mercy -
    but he's standing in its light.
    We can shed tears over dying -
    we can rage & fight -
    but we cannot forget that we were loved before we opened up our eyes -
    such foolish pride"
  • And the bridge - holy cow -
    "It's a shame to build our homes with bricks of fear and cynical stones.
    There is nothing left to run from, there is nothing left but..."

This is from my notes when I was listening through the album: "Andy O is the MAN"

And there you go - the album is released March 7th - and you should either buy it - or buy the top songs from iTunes. Thank you for reading...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Old thoughts re-pondered...

Today I was looking through some old notes in journals I've kept. Not personal journals (though I keep those too). These have sermon notes, notes from conferences, quotes I want to remember - that sort of thing.

I have realized something about myself: I take long amounts of time to really "get" certain concepts. You could say that ideas need to "marinate" - or that I'm a "slow learner." Doesn't really matter - but there were a couple things that I wanted to process here.

There's a certain worship scholar (Dr. Wwwwwhat's-his-name) that I have heard a lot from over the past 3 years. Some of that has been through books, some has been in person, and some has been through his influence on other people around me. He says some really good things (which I'm about to mention) - but he also has said a certain amount of things that confused/frustrated me (which will remain unnamed for now).
I have heard him teach twice in person over the past 2 years - and I was reviewing my notes from both of those. A couple things jumped out at me - but I'll share just one thing for the time being.

He was talking about how in early Christianity - people didn't only confess belief in Christ when they were baptized - they also verbally renounced Satan. I think the phrase was, "I renounce Satan and all his works" or something like that. (They also spit to emphasize the point. I love it.) It sounds rather funny at first.

But then he compared it to the traditional marriage vows. You know - the part that says - "and forsaking all others..." And that somehow doesn't seem as ridiculous. I mean - we're all for fidelity and faithfulness in marriage. (He BETTER forsake all others. Shoot.)

And I think there's a point to be made there.

We don't just accept Christ - we also reject Satan. And we reject his control on our life. And we reject sin. How often do we rest so much in grace that we betray the vow we made to accept Christ as Lord or act in a way that is unfaithful to that relationship?

This is all part of a larger thought I've had lately about sin - and how we rarely identify it in ourselves or call it what it is - SIN.

What do you think? How do you react to that idea?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day makes me sick

Okay - so today I'm sick. Blech. Whatever.

But it made me think. Last year this same time I was sick too (as in, the days immediately following Valentine's Day). The only reason I remember is I was supposed to play the horn for Spear's concert but had to back out at the last minute. I was going through some stuff the other day and found the note from the flowers he sent me (I'm a packrat. I confess it.). And the date on it was Feb 18th.

So - I wonder - does Valentine's Day make me sick?

And if so - what should I do next year??

I welcome your advice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Without love whatever we do is worth nothing

From today's mid-day office readings:

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, the privilege is ours to share in the loving, healing, reconciling mission of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, in this age and wherever we are. Since without you we can do no good thing:
May your Spirit make us wise;
May your Spirit guide us;
May your Spirit renew us;
May your Spirit strengthen us;
So that we will be:
Strong in faith,
Discerning in proclamation,
Courageous in witness,
Persistent in good deeds.
This we ask through the name of the Father.
Church of the Province of the West Indies

Monday, February 13, 2006

A total class act

A quick tribute to my all-time favorite Olympian, Michelle Kwan.

She dropped out of the Olympics yesterday [edit: Sunday], and I had two STRONG emotions: sadness and respect.

I have been a fan of Kwan's for a long time.
I'm not 100% sure why I always liked her. She's pretty close to my age, she has always carried herself with grace and humility, and I just enjoy watching her skate.

I remember being in 8th grade and watching her at the U.S. Nationals. It was the year of the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding mess - and Michelle skated really well. She ended up being the alternate for the Olympics that year. Her innocence in the middle of all the drama was striking.

Then I remember when she got the silver in Nagano my senior year of high school. I heard about it during a music rehearsal and I was SO bummed (and I repent of the nasty things I said about Tara Lipwhatshername).

My senior year of college I watched her fall in the long program in the '02 games. I do not repent of beating Fuzz with a slipper for making fun of her. That I stand by.

Am I sad Michelle never won Olympic gold? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. However, I have to applaud her decision not to compete. She is still one of the best American figure skaters of all time (

And I wrote this blog entry last night - but couldn't post it (Blogger was being dumb). Then today I saw that Kari blogged about it too (though more articulately). And there you have it.

Nerd Alert

A snapshot of my mind today:

  • Should we pray Trinitarianly? I was pondering this yesterday as I addressed God as "Father" and wrapped up the prayer "in Jesus' Name." The Holy Spirit is missing in a lot of my spirituality. It's a similar question as "should we worship the Holy Spirit"? The answer probably involves some study.... Melissa said she knows someone who would open a prayer with, "Oh Holy Trinity..." Heh. And she also pointed out that we can pray in an awareness of the Spirit's presence and activity. Which I do sometimes - but overall the Spirit's power isn't something we talk about much - or see much. And then this whole thought brings me back to the Divine Hours & the Gloria prayer...
  • Walking up the church stairs after lunch, I was glad that I'm not Catholic. I saw a communion wafer on the floor, and I was happy that I didn't have to eat it.

More Resurrection Talk

A few quotes that are wandering through my head after a Saturday in good ol' Lincoln:

“The gospels do not narrate the actual resurrection of Christ, but rather its discovery by Jesus’ disciples and his subsequent appearances to them. Thus the Resurrection retains that aura of mystery, the sense of the numinous, as an extraordinary manifestation of the power of God which cannot be encompassed by the grasp of the rational mind. To narrate the event itself would be to divest it of its gripping quality, just as artistic representations of it are unsuccessful.” - Richard C. Leonard
(don't you think numinous is a great word?!?)

“The third day he rose from the dead: this tells me nothing about me, but everything about God. The resurrection of Jesus is a mass of trumpets announcing that God is God, that Jesus really was the Messiah, that the Lord of the universe has just left a large signature on this planet, that inexplicable power resides in God’s arm, that God’s love triumphs over every dark for, even death itself. God is glorified. God be praised.” - James C. Howell
(When will we get that it's not about us?)

“I belong to the God whose first and finest achievement was an empty place.” - James C. Howell
(I am still processing his point's a tough one)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Up from the grave He arose (He arose)

Okay - it's time for some audience participation. Or maybe audience pondering. Whatever.

(Though seeing how most people who read this blog are people I see in person - or who I've never met and are from a far-away country - this could be interesting.)

When I say "the resurrection" - what comes to mind?
Any thoughts, images, emotions?

How about this - how does the resurrection affect your relationship with God? How does it affect your worship of Him?

This may be a recurring topic in my life for the next few months, as I am likely writing a paper about how we should talk about the resurrection in our worship services.

And now I need to close all internet browsers and really type (the paper - it's just a blank Word document for now). But I am curious to hear any thoughts related....

And as He stands in victory - sin's curse has lost its grip on me...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Happy Thoughts

So my blog has become completely random. And that might be an accurate representation of my personality. While I do hope to add some thought with depth and insight in the near future - you are left with random thoughts that make me happy.

  • Clean apartment - many thanks to the roommate
  • Pickle - you complete me!
  • It's a frickin CELINE DION MOUSEPAD. How cool is that?!?
  • How can you not see people looking in your window? Yep - we're THAT stealth
  • Acting 13...16...whatever
  • Imo's on Mondays
  • 2 phone calls from Phil in one day
  • Text messages involving Robert Tilton and Music Man quotes (::swoon::)