Advent Calendar Finale
So next up: Christmas Day
After that: Boxing Day and front row seats for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker. Maybe I'll even get pcitures of me all dressed up in my tux.
Over and out.
Merry Christmas Everybody
As the clock is about to tick over to Christmas Day, I offer a prayer of consolation to the family of Johnny Oates, one time Texas Rangers manager who passed away at 2 am Christmas Eve. Johnny was 58, and died three years after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
As the clock is ticking over, on a lighter note I'd like to offer you this cast list for a worldwide favorite Christmas movie:
Emma Dreaming, Arthur White, Chris Muss,
Jess Like-Dee, Juan Swee, Hugh Sterno,
Wendy Treetops-Glissen, Anne Chilled-Wren, Liz Anne,
"Two Ears" Laybelle, Cindy Snow,
Emma Dreaming, Arthur White, Chris Musswit,
Avery Chris, Miss Carr, Dai Wright,
Mayor Dazeby, Mary-Anne Bright,
Ann May Hall-York-Rhys, Mrs. B. White.
(courtesy of a Goodies annual from way back when...)
Now, wouldn't it be impressive if we could do church ads that good and that much fun?
A Woman's Position is...
Lots going on right now in the emerging church "conversation".
The NJ emergent cohort meeting kicked off a whole conversation on Adam's blog about the (relative) lack of female involvement, then Bill Arnold (who attended that meeting, along with his wife) asks the question "What do you want emergent to be?", particularly who's in and who's out and who gets to decide? Just for reference, you can always see the OFFICIAL VERSION of the emergent vision on the emergent village website...
But it seems like nobody can be bothered to pay that any attention. As for me, I think it's a great working definition. Why not let the conversation take place around that? I would ask:
What's missing, if anything?
What's no longer true or relevant, if anything?
What should be emphasized?
How far have we come in living into this ideal?
What "entities" do we need to further the cause?
Then up pops Jenell's review of A Generous Orthodoxy, looking at it from the point of view of female involvement. To be fair, a substantial part of the book is a compendium of influences on Brian, so history is what it is. It's perhaps not remarkable that the female influences on his spiritual journey are much fewer and farther between than those of men. It's been a while since I read it, but I know I would be somewhat blind to what's missing too.
Prompted by the review to look back at my own spiritual formation, I see that in my own experience women have been incredibly influential in my spiritual development. Without my wife I would never have even got started. Women have been far more influential than men actually, but then I've never been one of the backslapping, poker playing, beer and cigars kind of guy. Well, maybe the beer part ;)
You can only be formed by that which you're exposed to, and you can only cite or write about who you read and hear. Which books are in our libraries, who is on our blogroll (so many men's blogs link almost exclusively to other men!), who preaches, innovates, and makes decisions in our churches? Who feels entitled to express their opinions publically, or to speak in public?That's an interesting note about blogrolls. I just did a quick scan of mine and it's remarkably even. Of the ones I read religiously though, a large preponderance are female (Maggi, Jen, Karen H, Karen W, Dylan). No, I'm not looking for a medal. If anything it's simply a testament to the fact that there are very articulate women out there with something to say, and they should be listened to.
Actually, that reminds me, I need to get Rachelle's blog on there too. Her article on why it's tough to be a Woman in Ministryshould be required reading and study for, well, everybody with pretensions to emergent leadership.
Gmail and emergentYS
As for the other, I registered for the emergentYS conference in San Diego in February, so I hope to see a few of the people I only know electronically so far. And I must say that the YS website and registration process is, um, absolute crap. Given the tech-savviness in the emergent world it's particularly distressing that the process should look and feel like it might have on the web in 1995 using Mosaic.
And then there's the fact that you can't register as an individual - you have to be on some larger church account (and the system throws a real wobbly if you try to create a duplicate one...)
Oh well, I guess it will probably work OK. Also talked to Karen Ward last week and CotA will be bringing a group of six down, so there'll be at least a few of us from the great Pacific Northwest.
Flight's booked, hotel's booked, registration's paid. Now all I need is a rental car. Anyone interested in a minor road trip diversion while we're down there? (The Taylor guitar factory is just down the road in El Cajon...)
Added Haloscan comments
Maybe Typepad wouldn't be a bad idea after all...
Musical Influences Top 10: #10 - Wishbone Ash
So, that said, let's get to the first (or technically the tenth) one. I was hitting my mid-teens about 1970. As the oldest kid in my family, I didn't really connect with the whole sixties thing - I was too young. My wife, who is a smidge older than me, was into all that sixties stuff. Why? Because she had an older brother and sister. So she's a serious Beatles fan. Me? Not so much. My first serious musical interest was what is now known as classic rock. Back then it was known as just "rock". My first band of choice was Deep Purple, and in fact the first LP (that's Long Play record) I bought was Fireball. Oh, sure, I liked Zeppelin and some of the more popular bands, but I never really cared for the Rolling Stones.
But all this was just laying the foundation.
The first album that really stunned me was Wishbone Ash's Argus. Up to that point Ash were mostly a blues band with twin lead guitars, one feature song (Phoenix from the first album), a weak vocalist and a whole bunch of mediocre blues songs. Somehow, somewhere, out of absolutely nowhere, God blessed the band with an album of pure inspiration. And then right after that, the band dissolved slowly and never came within a million miles of the pinnacle again. It was as if they knew they'd never top this, so why even try?
As the band members said at the time Argus wasn't exactly a concept album, but it did have an overarching theme of weariness with war, especially side 2 (yeah, you used to have to flip those things over in the middle!). Well, what was so great about it?
First, the guitars. Ted Turner and Andy Powell were guitar players with two very different styles and tastes, but here they meshed and complemented each other beautifully. Second, while Martin Turner's (bass player, no relation to Ted) voice was a bit weak for blues, it fit much better with the ethereal lyrics of Argus. Then there was his "lead bass" style. It really sits up front in the mix and he played a lot of lead-like riffs that intertwined beautifully with Andy and Ted's work.
The result was an album with a hint of a theme, decent lyrics and vocals and flat out wall to wall guitar excellence. Of the seven original tracks (let's not sully the album's memory with the "bonus track" added to the first CD release...) six have guitar solos/duets that are so jaw droppingly good that all of them would make my top twenty of all time. The other track is a pretty acoustic ballad that serves as a nice change of pace in the middle of the epic side 2 tracks.
I've been listening to the album a few times this week as I've thought about this list, and it still stands the test of time. It's only reinforced the fact that since forever and a day my favorite guitar track of all time closes the album. Throw Down the Sword is the band's finest hour on its finest album. At six minutes it's hardly a radio friendly track, but it just means the build up to the two minute guitar duet finale is nicely paced. And while Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers featured some stunning dual lead guitar work at times, I don't think anything they ever did matches the power and emotion of Throw Down The Sword.
Top Five of the Year
I just read through almost my entire output since I started blogging in May (and kudos and thanks once again to Adam Cleaveland for being the inspiration to start...)
First, my first really serious post...
Then I'm a huge Ellen Degeneres fan, so this made sense to add in...
On The Other Hand...
It was alt-worship that got me into blogging, so I had to keep this:
Waiting In The Starlight
And the whole PoMo Mojo deal here was a natural:
Mo' Pomo Mojo
And finally, who could leave out the Bishop's visit?
It's been an amazing experience, so thanks everybody out there :)
Momentary Political Diversion (and pun alert)
"In his house-meeting conference call, Pariser quoted the famous dispatch from French general Ferdinand Foch at the second battle of the Marne in World War I: “My center is giving way, my right is pulled back… Situation excellent. I shall attack.” At those words, fire burned in the eyes of the meetings’ faithful. The troops are rallied, their leaders just have to decide which front to attack next."And of course, despite that one bright moment in the Second Battle of the Marne, we all know just how successful the French have been in World Wars, or any wars, come to think of it...
Yes, I almost hate to say it (and my friend Paul would be yelling "pun alert, pun alert" at this point), but MoveOn may be well and truly Foched.
Bear with me here - one more time...
Toying with Christmas
This year I finally remembered early enough to suggest it to a few people and the idea clicked. So that's what we did this fall. Interesting stuff. For the most part people were good about giving us toys in decent shape, but there was a little bit of weeding out the really beat up stuff.
We didn't do the sale at our own church because we're a bit off the beaten track. Instead we did it at a Lutheran church in downtown Kent because it's closer to the Thrift Store that our church runs. The Thrift Store has absolutely no extra space to carry toys, so we needed somewhere close. As usual, the day of the sale crept up on us faster than we would have liked, and we could have used more publicity, but we had a modest flow of traffic. By our official closing time we had sold about half of what we brought (it covered 18 tables set out in the parish hall) and made a modest amount of money. We still had about half of what we started with as we were packing up, though, until a woman came in with a 4 year old boy.
At that point everything was back in boxes ready to give to the local food bank or Goodwill, but we let her look through stuff. As she did, we got talking and she told us about all these families at her church that were single moms with three kids, or other families who had taken in a couple of orphaned nieces. So she ended up taking a van full of stuff with lots of extras for free. The food bank will still get a ton of toys to hand out in the next couple of weeks. My friend Paul has a couple of boys (13 and 10 years old) who had never cleared out any toys ever, and this really encouraged them to dig deep and let go of a lot of stuff. So not only do they feel all warm about it, Paul gets his basement back. How cool is that? Everybody wins...
So it was a lot of work and stress, but it turned out incredibly well in the end. And that's just another lesson God keeps teaching me. But I'm glad big projects are over for the time being.
Musical Influences Top 10: #11 - Glenn Miller
Born in 1955, my conscious growing up was done entirely in the sixties. We had a behemoth of a stereo system known as a "radiogram", sort of a cross between a record player and a credenza. Looked like furniture, but, hey, it played records too!
My mother was the record fiend, and I think she had three. There was Australian crooner Frank Ifield (Oh, Frank, how "I Remember You"). The second was the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, a Glenn Miller soundalike band, and for the life of me I can't remember what the third one was. Probably the Sound of Music soundtrack.
These three records got heavy airplay at the weekends and so I heard In the Mood, String of Pearls, Moonlight Serenade and Chattanooga Choo Choo a million times over the course of the decade. Then there was the movie, The Glenn Miller Story. Miller was played by the charming Jimmy Stewart who managed to put a shiny smooth gloss on Miller's character. When I first saw it I was too young and naive to realize that the hints of irritable perfectionist that Stewart conveyed were writ much larger in real life.
But oh my God, what wondrous music it was, and remains to this day. The sax and clarinet emphasis that gave Miller that smooth, buttery sound is still recognizable 50 years later in about three notes. The fact that I cut my teeth listening to a British hack Miller cover band doesn't even detract from the memory. It did, however, make finding the original Miller recordings later in life much more rewarding. Who knew there were so many other songs? Who knew the raw material was so much, well, rawer? The other difference was that the Syd Lawrence band was, as far as I remember, 100% instrumental. Finding the vocals of Tex Beneke and the Andrews Sisters later was incredible.
I'm sure my love of instrumental music stems from this early influence. Even now I don't really care too much about lyrics, and certainly my first impression of a new song is invariably how it strikes me musically. Lyrics are for digesting later. Maybe that's why I'm not a big fan of hymns - the melodies are plodding and repetitive and we use the same tune over and over for different hymns. After all, sing one 126.96.36.199.7.7. hymn and you've sung them all. And Miller, if nothing else, was an innovator. Finding a distinctive sound has been a must for commercial success in the music biz through the ages, but he succeeded beyond even his own wildest dreams.
Well, Captain Glenn Miller, lost in an inauspicious airplane accident over the English Channel in December 1944 (conspiracy theories notwithstanding), you made an indelible impression on me decades after your death and I thank you for your contribution to musical ingenuity. Now, if only somebody, anybody, had even thought to encourage me to learn an instrument back then...
All time musical influences top 10
Hold the presses - US Postal Service mangles mail!!!
Anyway, a fine and spiffy little deal it is. Just make sure you avert Granny's eyes from pages 10 and 11. But people - not only do Jen and Patience send you the 'zine, you also get CHOCOLATE! Not any old run of the mill stuff either - Ghirardelli's. Or maybe I'm just special. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that. Oh well. Now they'll have to send it to everybody.
A few more blogs
There's some awesome conversation going on out there right now.
Note Jen and her sister's 'zine blog Soulsistersunite. Still time to buy the 'zine to help with Christmas. And even if you miss this year you'll be so far ahead of the game for next year it won't be funny...
Oh well, back to installing the new 40GB drive in my ancient Dell laptop (up from 3GB, woohoo!)
The Empty Manger
But you'd be wrong. Yesterday was our once in a blue moon (well, too long at least) visit from our Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent W. Warner. He's been the Diocesan Bishop just slightly longer than we've lived here, so he's the only one we've known in this neck of the woods. Vincent has been through a lot of ups and downs the last few years. Let's not dwell on the details, but there's lots of injuries and illnesses (including one pretty close to fatal), a divorce and a remarriage just to name three fairly tumultuous things. After a couple of years of not being at the top of his game, I'm really pleased to see him back on form (personally, I think retirement is in sight, and it's given him a renewed sense of purpose to finish strong.)
Anyway, it being the feast day of St Nicholas the next day (today as I post), we usually have a parishioner dress as St Nicholas for effect (definitely not Santa Claus.) But with the Bishop coming we didn't do it this year. No, instead, the Bishop dressed as St Nicholas and delivered the sermon in character. Now, how cool was that? Really, he had an awesome beard and talked (among other things) about how the church was divided in his day and reconciliation. It might have been a bit on the "can't we all just get along?" side, but it was still a worthwhile message well delivered.
We had confirmation, too, of course, (why else do Bishops visit?) and one of the confirmands was an incredible 15 year old young lady, daughter of friends, for whom my wife was confirmation mentor. That whole apostolic succession thing gets you right *here* (or is it #here#?).
When the confirmation liturgy was concluded the Bishop asked if anyone wanted to come up for reaffirmation. Can you say "Anglican altar call"? About 30 or more people (astonishingly enough including myself) went up, thereby extending the service by an extra 45 minutes. It ran over two hours in total (normally shooting rampage territory for us), yet nobody complained (well, none that I heard...)
One of these days I'll write up my favorite rant against the altar call and describe why this was very different (and why I love parenthetical comments so much)...
Meet Sarah and Emma.
The story so far...
One of the places we had heard about was Mars Hill, so I set out to find out what I could. That involved a web search, of course, and I stumbled upon a post on Adam Cleaveland's PoMoMusings blog. Well, I'd heard of blogs, but never really bothered to find out much about them. Apart from the really interesting content (a nice surprise) I was really struck by the network. Also by the emergent church conversation, including a lot of discussion on the fallout from the Emergent conventions which I had just missed. So I ended up reading Dan Kimball's books and a few other, including a few Brian McLaren books (which I promptly set aside until September).
The other big thread emanating from this discovery was alternative worship. From Adam's blog I checked out his blogroll and found Maggi Dawn and Jonny Baker to be great resources and inspiration. Maybe it's just the British angle working for me, but I am always grateful when I don't have to filter out the overly Evangelical tone of much US material (see, I should have read Brian McLaren sooner...) I bought Jonny's book (but here's a hint Jonny - make the text on the CD copyable!)
Somewhere in there I researched the free blog tools and as Google had just taken over Blogger, it seemed easy and reputable, so hey, here I am.
I have a really hard time writing daily, simply because of my work schedule, but I've run about three posts a week, which seems reasonable and sustainable. The other thing that mitigates against more frequent posting is that I have a hard time sticking to a simple paragraph and link format that many do. I think as I write, so I never quite know where I'll end up.
Oh well :)
Advent Service - poster
Poster for the service. The art was projected from an overhead projector onto paper and then painted by our Jr High youth group.