Monday, March 31, 2008

Susie B and Friends

March was Women's History Month, and I think I'll take this as an opportunity to share a few quotes from our American Foremothers. Many of these early feminists fought not only for women's rights, but also for the abolition of slavery, the plight of the poor, and the rights of children (both born and unborn). Feminists for Life, a group of which I am a member, highlights the fact that linking the legalization of abortion with the fight for women's rights was not in the spirit of what these pioneers intended. They knew that abortion degrades rather than empowers. That's my soapbox for today--now here are some quotes from those improper troublemakers.

Susan Brownwell Anthony: February 15, 1820-March 13, 1906

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences."

"Men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less. "

"Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: November 12, 1815-October 26, 1902

"Nature never repeats itself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another."

"The best protection any woman can courage."

“Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility."

On abortion: "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."

Jane Addams: September 6, 1860-May 21, 1935

“The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself."

“America's future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.”

Alice Paul: January 11, 1885-July 9, 1977

"I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.”

"Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women."

Sojourner Truth: Unknown, 1797-November 26, 1883

At the Ohio Women's Rights Convention of 1851, on being a woman in slavery: "That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?"

“If women want any rights more than they's got, why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it."

Opening Day

Hooray for opening day! Though miserable late March weather here in Chicago has got me down, the arrival of real baseball will pick me up. When spring training started I expressed cautious optimism for the Mariners this season. Big pitching upgrades despite a mediocre offense would have put us in contention with the Angels for the AL West pennant. Now that the regular season is almost here, my optimism is up slightly--but not for anything that the Mariners have done. Half the Angels' starting rotation has struggled to stay healthy this spring. Both Lackey and Escobar could be on the DL till June, which might be enough time for the M's to build up a lead that the Angels' will struggle to overcome.

Still, I'm giving the Mariners tenuous hopes. The offense still scares me. The little power we have in the lineup is woefully inconsistent (Ibanez and even more so Richie Sexson). And while we have arguably the best closer in baseball, we shipped off our best middle reliever to Baltimore in the infamous Adam Jones trade. Without an offense able to run up the score, watch the M's drop a lot of games in the 8th inning.

In order to win this thing there are key places where the cards will have to fall right. Adrian Beltre needs to live into his potential. We've seen glimpses of his power before. Secondly, we need Richie Sexson to avoid another meltdown. Last year the Mariners had an above average team batting average, but did not score enough runs because there was no power in the middle of the line-up. Too many runners left on base. If the offense can produce, this will be a fun season to watch.

If the Mariners do disappoint, at least I'll be able to enjoy the Cubs this season. They're set up pretty well in both pitching and hitting; and their outfield defense will improve with the arrival of Fukudome. I think it'll be another race to the finish in the NL Central this year. The Chicago papers seem to think the Cubs will run away with it, but I think the Brewers could stay in it through August.

The AL central will be another fun division to watch. Cleaveland is an all around excellent team, but the Detroit Tigers have one of the most imposing offenses in all of Baseball. Sorry Minnesota--your division is too good this year, but at least Kansas City guarantees you won't last.

I don't like to acknowledge the AL East and I'm not very good with the rest of the National League, but I'll make some guesses anyway:

1. Boston
2. New York
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

1. Detroit
2. Cleveland
3. Minnesota
4. Chicago
5. Kansas City

1. Seattle
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3. Oakland
4. Texas

AL WILDCARD: I really wanna say Cleveland, but it'll likely go to whoever doesn't win AL East.

1. New York
2. Philadelphia
3. Atlanta
4. Washington
5. Florida

1. Chicago
2. Milwaukee
3. Cincinnati
4. Pittsburgh
5. Houston
6. St. Louis

1. Los Angeles
2. Arizona
3. Colorado
4. San Diego
5. San Fransisco

NL WILDCARD: Milwaukee

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lake Michigan and my guy

For some reason I really struggled today with a lot of grief and stress. Getting through work was tough enough, and when I came home I was tempted to just feel sorry for myself--but Matt was smart enough to drag me out into the world. A drive around town and a walk at Lake Michigan did me some good.

When I was doing my "Prepared Childbirth" class in October, Matt would of course join me in learning about the process of labor and delivery. The people who accompanied the pregnant women were called their "support person," so I came to use that term for Matt both jokingly and endearingly while I was pregnant. If he would help me with something I'd say, "you're the best support person!" or if I was trying to convince him to do something for me I'd say,"Aw c'mon, you're my support person!" On nights like tonight it's clear that he is still my support person.

EDIT: Oh, one more thing I forgot. This is my favorite exchange from tonight as Matt and I drove and talked (the context is that I realized we were in a familiar neighborhood and I hadn't paid attention to how we got there)
Me: "The nice thing about never knowing what's going on around me is that I get surprised a lot."
Matt: "It must be very exciting being you."

My Stapler

The stapler in the Seminary computer lab is constantly broken. Turns out that grad students aren't very good with small common office tools. The other day I decided that a new stapler to keep for myself was a worthwhile investment. Normally, I would go to an office supply store like Office Depot. That was the plan. I had to make some photocopies anyway. I went and made my photo copies and then walked out and went on with my other errands. I forgot to get a stapler. It was only after I arrived at the grocery store that I remembered I needed a stapler. Fortunately, the grocery store had a small section devoted to office/school supplies. They had three kinds of staplers: one for $16, one for $4, and one for $2. I bought the $4 stapler because I didn't want to be a cheapskate, but who's gonna pay $16 for a stapler?!?

It may have been the best purchase of my life. The "Staples" brand "Stand-up stapler" is a masterpiece of office supply engineering. Its ergonomic to fit in a single hand, with a comfortable rubber grip. Strong enough to staple together a 15 page report with ease. It comes in a stylish royal blue and includes a box of 1000 standard staples. An impressive office tool for home, work, or school.

Good story, huh?

If you like staplers as much as I do and can't get enough of stapling, check out the Virtual Stapler. There you can play and experiment with three different types of staplers (the sound effects are the best part).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another St. Patrick's Day Tribute

A slightly less reverent tribute than my previous post...

More than Good Luck

Today is the feast day of Saint Patrick. Its also Holy Week, the week preceding Christ's crucifixion. Holy Week trumps Saints Feast days, that's why most of your local parades and municipal celebrations were moved back this year, because of the early date of Easter. The typical revelry one indulges in on St. Patrick's day is not very consistent with the penitent meditation we should make on Christ's journey to the cross.

Still, I always like to say a little something about St. Patrick on this day. Before it was an excuse for Fratboys to get hammered on green beer, this day celebrated the "Apostle to Ireland". Behind the legendary tales about shamrocks and chasing the snakes out of Ireland there is a fascinating historical figure. Patrick was not actually Irish, he was a Roman-Brit who lived in Britain until he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and became a slave in Ireland. After six years he escaped and returned to Britain, but Patrick then returned to his captors as a missionary. Before Patrick's ministry there, Ireland was an entirely pagan nation. Patrick baptized thousands of new believers, and within a generation the island was nearly completely converted and the practice of slavery was outlawed.

A rich tradition of deep Christian spirituality has come from the Irish, a spirituality steeped in the Triune nature of God and the immanence of God in creation. Here is one of the more popular prayers attributed to Saint Patrick:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"There's Something in the Spring Air," or, "These are My Neighbors?"

It's the first warm weekend of the year! Let's venture out on a nice long walk for a falafel sandwich and see who we meet along the way. First we have Junior High Girl and Junior High Boy making out on a park bench. No doubt they've been cooped up all winter playing video games in their parents' basements, and now that they're finally out in nature they hardly know what to do with themselves. Next there's Skateboarder--I think he's a little rusty because he just tripped and ate cement (but his friends are laughing so he must be OK, right?). Last but not least there is Soaking Wet College Student in His Underwear. I am tempted to ask how whatever happened to him happened, but you know, I don't want to be seen talking to a soaking wet college student in his underwear.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Snot Factory

I have a terrible immune system. I get colds about 3-4 times a year. They pretty much sap the life out of me for at least 3 days and then another 7-10 days of sniffles, coughs, and scratchy throat. My asthma and allergies compound the problem and are likely the cause of my susceptible immune system.

Of course there is no cure for the common cold. The best relief I can find is to drink abundant amounts of hot liquids to keep my throat soothed and my sinuses clear. But in some ways the treatment feels counter productive. I drink so much liquid that I end up in the bathroom every 15 minutes. On top of that, all the water makes my stomach hurt. I'm a pretty miserable character when I'm sick. My normally anti-social demeanor becomes even more unfriendly as I beg you not to touch me and accept my grunts and sighs as the best conversation you'll get out of me.

So there isn't much purpose to writing all this except that I like to complain. Since my head hurts, I don't feel like talking, but with the power of the information super-highway my fingers can complain to all the unfortunate souls who happen upon our blog. So thats me right now. Hoping its not the flu, mounting and shedding layers as fevers come and go. Very slowly working on overdue assignments.

Does anyone have any good home remedies for head colds?

Monday, March 10, 2008

What a difference a year makes

Today marks 3 months since Evie died. That really isn't very long, but yet it feels like ages since I was still holding out hope for her. All the while I realized that she may not make it, but I knew that if she did I would throw her the biggest party after she came home so everyone who cared and prayed for her could finally meet her. Sometimes I just can't believe that I'm not planning that party.

This past weekend also marked one year since Matt and I found out I was pregnant. Realizing the significance of this made me reflect on the past 12 months and all that I've experienced. The standout moments (no surprise) are Evie's birth and death. Though her death is the most devastating event in my life, her birth is still the most important--her death does not overshadow it in my memory and I am so thankful for that. Sometimes I feel like I've lost everything, but the truth is nothing can take that amazing day away from me and it will always be mine. I guess I find it kind of strange that the worst year of my life also contains the greatest day.

Her very first birthday photo (it's not an easy feat to be cute from the very beginning, but I think she accomplished it like a natural) :

Weekend in MN

We had a lot of fun in Minnesota on the weekend with hockey, family, and friends! We got to see Roseau win at the game we attended on Thursday night, but then they lost in their second game.
Here's some pictures from our trip...

Does anyone know how to make captions for photos?

As you can see in the first photo, Brett was super excited to pose for a group picture with the Gustafson/Kennedy family. The second is of me, Mom, and my aunt Iris who was our fabulous host. The last 2 are part of an extensive photoshoot involving Adrienne and I in our unplanned matching outfits. In one I'm trying not to pee my pants and in the other she's throwing her back out.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hymn vs. Praise Chorus: A Defense of Blended Worship

Covenant Pastors and theological students receive a quarterly theological journal published by the Covenant Church titled (appropriately) The Covenant Quarterly. The most recent issue is on church hymnody, and my esteemed professor of Church history Dr. Phil Anderson writes an incisive piece on the advantage traditional hymns have in communicating the content of Christian faith. In it he critiques the flaws of contemporary praise and worship music; namely that it lacks connection with the whole story of our faith, its language is abstract, it is subjective, individualistic, and egocentric. I think that in much "praise and worship" music this is sadly true and Dr. Anderson is quite fair in his critique. Still, I would argue that there is a place and a validity for music from the "praise and worship" tradition. As one who has worshiped in both traditional, contemporary, and blended traditions-- and as one who currently devotes a majority of his current ministry energies to worship leadership-- I'd like to offer a defense for the use of "praise and worship" music in Church life that compliments and partners with the "thicker" music of classic church hymns.

First it should be noted that the specific songs which Dr. Anderson critiques are the 47 most popular church choruses from 1972-2000. I think in a movement as young as contemporary praise music, that even in the eight years since 2000 you'll find further maturing songwriting in the praise and worship tradition. The movement is broad, extensive, and rapidly transforming--a limited selection of music from a limited time period may not fully capture the entire ethos of the praise chorus tradition. Some of the newer music of artists like Chris Tomlin and David Crowder have grown better at grounding their content in the full Christian story and capturing deeper theological content than the more shallow, abstract, and one dimensional "love songs to Jesus" that critics are right to judge. There is decent contemporary music that is well grounded theologically to be sifted out from the shallow, just as there are hymns with great theological error that need to be sifted out from the catalog of excellent hymns. No tradition of music is totally immune from this.

I would certainly agree that most "praise and worship" music is "thinner" in communicating the Biblical story compared to the "thicker" content of traditional hymns. But in corporate worship of the Church there needs to be some sensitivity to context. When a congregation is made up of "churched" people who have long sung hymns in their homes and with their families, the content of hymns is familiar and the traditional language and extensive biblical storytelling within them can be very effective at transmitting the message of Christian faith to those participants. But what of worshipers in a "post-christian" context? In my home state of Washington, we have the situation of being the least "churched" region of the United States. Many people who enter the life of a local church do not have a tradition in it. Church and Christian theology are altogether new to these people. There was no hymn singing in their homes. For these worshipers, the "thick" content of the hymns is not fully digestable--they are learning the faith as they go, as they worship. Now this is certainly good reason for us to carefully consider the faithfulness of the content of our songs because they are important communicators of what we believe, but the "praise and worship" tradition has the stylistic advantage of being able to present the Christian story in smaller and more manageable pieces to those who don't have the same cultural repertoire as those who grow up in Christian settings.

Phil Anderson argues that hymn singing transmits the content of Christian faith better because it requires reading the text of the song while praise choruses are typically learned through imitation. I would counter that given what we know about learning styles, significant numbers of people learn best through aural, visiual, and kinesthetic learning over reading. The point is further made when you consider congregants who suffer learning disabilities like dyslexia or perhaps worshipers for whom English is not their first language. Nevertheless, the point remains that the music we use in church transmits the content of faith, and thus it must be evaluated with biblical discernment.

Finally, I'd like to argue that while the music which is thoroughly grounded in the wholeness of scripture's redemptive narrative needs to be a central element to our worship, it is not entirely unbiblical to engage in worship in a more personal and abstract way. Consider the book of Psalms, whose content includes both a corporate celebration of redemption history but also includes songs that are deeply personal and portray an emotive relationship between the worshiper and the living God. One could also point to the pictures of worship in Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4 and the simple song the angels and elders sing. By some standards, these could be called shallow. The biblical vision of worship includes a proclamation of God's historical redemptive work but there is also room for a simple expression of awe inspired by God's presence. Elevating one while denigrating another could leave our worship life a purely emotive affair or a purely intellectual one. Worship needs to be a response of the whole human being to the whole of God's revelation.

Truth be told, I do actually prefer the classic hymns over most praise choruses. Nevertheless, I think that worship leaders who critically and biblically reflect on the material we sing together can find that songs from both traditions can have their place in Christian Worship. The contemporary praise music movement has much to learn from its predecessors in worship, and the well argued points of Dr. Anderson and others should be heeded. But in a world of polarities that divide more than unite, it is good for us to remember that few of our treasured traditions are completely unredeemable or completely untarnished.