Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quiet...not really

It's just the blog. I've been really busy, but good busy these days. I have about 2 weeks before my first paper (AAR regionals) and May is simply going to be insane. I'll try and blog when I can, I really want to work on the Marriage series, but time is my problem.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Songs of Worship

We had Sean and Aimee Dayton come share a night of worship singing with us. It was really nice. We had the two of them for dinner and got to hear their hearts. I think their church is really blessed to have them leading the worship in song. I've been thinking a bit about songs recently. Frost, in his terrific book "Exiles", goes on a bit of a rant against the content of modern worship songs. In some ways I completely agree that our songs need to help us imagine a better world - a world of justice. But I'm also torn because for me part of that vision of justice includes a restoration of that relationship with God and a heartfelt response of love towards the one who first loved us. I find that this is a fine line though. When worship songs idolize the personal, as if Jesus were some sort of boyfriend - well that misses it. That makes it too easy for us to stick our heads up our arses, thinking that this all revolves around us. It does not. I don't buy the platitude that if we were the only person Jesus would has died for me - I don't need that kinda self-importance to recognize the utter privilege of Christ's redemptive act on the cross. If it is about anyone it has to be about Jesus. Yet, there is still an intimacy I don't think we should give up. Here is the hard balance I'm looking for.

For me worship, intimate worship in song, has been profoundly liberating. It opens me up to trusting, surrendering myself to God and God's plans for my life. It is a gateway to something bigger. Here is where I think Frost's critique really makes sense - at this point it should help us imagine something bigger. Worship songs should lead us somewhere. If all they do is let us get lost in warm fuzzy feelings I think we are missing a whole dimension of what worship can be. I think we can have both.

I've been longing for worship songs that capture my heart and lead me to justice. I really like Sean's song, You Are Good, because it starts to move towards that vision. Why is God good? If God is good for no good reasons, then is God worth worshiping? But this song reminds us of where God is active - in the mess of life. In recognizing that we get a new vision of where we can find and participate with God. I think that makes good worship sense. What was interesting is that Sean and Aimee started the night with a song that can be interpreted as dangerously individualistic (not one of theirs) and brought us full round to the vision of You Are Good. I really appreciated that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kenny: The Rise of the Disciplinary Society

In Chapter 2, "The Rise of the Disciplinary Society", Charles Taylor attempts to weave a contrasting set of intellectual and social moves in late medieval and early modern society into a narrative of secularization that does not simply tell what he has called a "subtraction story".

His aim in sections 3 and 4 is to outline how the instrumental view of human reason became dominant in Europe, whereby "a stance of poiesis" enters into "the domain of praxis" (p. 113). This is a set of moves is accompanied by what he calls a science of instrumental efficacy articulated by men like Cusanus, Ficino, and da Vinci.

The instrumental view of nature characterizes God primarily by his unlimited sovereignty, in contrast to the ancient characterizations of the cosmos as the realization of the Form (as in Plato). Nominalist writers like Descartes and Mersenne understand nature as a great mechanism because their God possess an all powerful will that can subject the universe to total manipulation. Efficient causality replaces teleology.

But Taylor wisely wishes to avoid placing all the causal force on a shift in ideas. He also spends a considerable amount of time on Justus Lipsius and the rise of Christian neo-Stoicism. This combines his earlier discussion of the "drive for order" and reform through a new understanding of man and his nature. Lipsius’ man of constancy, who stands above the disorder of the passions, when combined with the new religious drives for reform - including both voluntary and state institutions - represents an important social and cultural shift in Europe at this time: the goals of being totally rid of violence and social disorder, and to bring civility to everyone.

But where did the energy for reform come from? Taylor argues that for the Calvinists it came from a belief in providence attached to their programmes, and for the neo-Stoics a newfound belief in natural order. These two complementary beliefs receive an important column of support from the emergence of early modern natural law: "what emerges out of this reflection on Natural Law is the norm of a stable order of industrious men in the settled courses of their callings, dedicating themselves to growth and prosperity, rather than war and plunder, and accepting a morality of mutual respect and an ethic of self-improvement." (p. 129)

It was no accident that the move towards an ethic of poiesis, whereby virtue was understood as the dominance of the will over passion, was charted by Descartes, schooled by neo-Stoics at La Fleche. For Descartes the passions were to be brought under the instrumental control of reason, a reason fully detached from the proposed outcome of deliberation. Taylor argues that Descartes' key term was generosity: where once it had meant to live with a sense of one's rank and the honour attached to it, Descartes internalized its meaning so that generosity meant living up to a non-socially defined rational agent. What moves us now is not a place in tune with nature but an intrinsic sense of self worth.

And so at the end of section 4 the buffered self has been added to the disengaged rational agent: the one removes fears of spirits, the other now operates on the fears of desire. So equipped early modern man should now be able to stand back from desire and rationally determine how he should order himself.

Comments here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Review: Out of the Cage

Eric Peters is my neighbour. I met him at a BBQ, but really didn't get to know him until I started to develop my own yoga practice. Like some of the people Eric has helped in the past, I have been suffering with back and neck problems for many years. Haunching over computers, anxious about impending deadlines and generally not taking care of my body has been the source of my problems. In Eric's little book he tells a much more serious tale. His book is very readable, I devoured it in a matter of hours. It is quite candid and if you know Eric his voice is clear on every page. Eric's pain led him into a serious narcotics addiction, and I find he is a bit overly concerned about the use of narcotics today (maybe rightly so though). But the real strength of this story is how he describes the yoga practice as a means to truly get to know one's self. I have found this true too. There is something about bringing awareness to the present moment that is liberating - he proposes a strategy for facing the truth of our situation, not hiding from it (such as through narcotics) or pretending it doesn't exist (fantasizing), but really being present to the way we are in that moment. I think this is good advice. And Eric does a much better job explaining it in an accessible and compelling way. This is not a book on how to do yoga, but a testimonial and encouragement to make some of the more important principles of yoga a part of your daily life practice. If you are at all interested in being free from chronic pain, or even in what the possible benefits of yoga might be, then this book is for you.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter 2010

Easter is the highlight of our liturgical year at Freedom Vineyard. We start our celebration with a solemn Good Friday Sensory service. Often we will follow that with a Candle Mass Easter vigil, but this year we had an Easter service on Monday.

We tend to change up the stations a bit from year to year. This year the theme was about our participation in God's redemptive work. I wanted to focus on the three ways we contribute to this work - through our time, energy and money. A cool note, we had a financial need coming up and all the money in our account was accounted for already - but at the provision station (that is a place where you can give or take money) we had almost exactly enough money come in for the need. I think that is pretty cool. We were over by a matter of cents. The provision station isn't new, but the challenge was creating stations that dealt with time and energy.

For time we asked participants to take at least 2 minutes (the timer) and meditate on how they use their time. We included a journal that had over 50 verses and quotes about time, arranged one to a page as reflection starters. The idea was to keep a journal that we could share as a community. I titled this journal "Thoughts on Traveling with God Through Time" and it was quite an interesting experiment. Being fairly activist in orientation (impatient is another way to put it) I often do not reflect enough on the power of waiting. Often Jesus would ask his disciples to wait. I think my reaction is against those who wait for an otherworldly hope, thinking that this means waiting out this life. Actually it is more a waiting for what God is doing in this world, so that we can learn to participate with that life and action. My favourite quote was from Leonard Bernstein - "To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time."

For energy I borrowed something from the Matrix. We presented a dare to the participants - a series of articles, editorial pieces, that gave accounts of injustice. Everything from a recent attempted child abduction from our city to this brilliant piece on the exclusion of homosexuals by evangelicals. If they dared to open their eyes then there was a two-fold response: a cry for God to come and a question "how will they respond?" We added red and blue pills (mini M&Ms) to drive home their choice.

We had a really good attendance to this service including both of my kids. We had a smaller group come out Easter Monday though. But what was cool is that David Kitz, who used to pastor the first church I went to in Ottawa, came and did his one person play - A Centurion's Report. David and I reconnected, through facebook, about a year ago. I hadn't seen him for over 20 years, but we have mutual friends so I'd hear the stories. He does a great job, I think that next time I'd have invited more people - but we had a lot of last minute cancels which if they all came would have filled our home almost too full. We started off with a potluck, I made a big gluten free lasagna (yummy) and had plenty of food. My friend Christine brought really good samosas. And we hung out for quite a while. I led worship for a bit and then interspersed the acts with worship songs. We did Kris MacQueen's "We Cannot Contain All You Pour Out" which is such a great song. I ended up closing with that song too. David did his play. It was really good to have someone come with a passionate presentation of the crucifixion and resurrection. Something very hopeful.

We have one more big event planned for this spring - Sean and Aimee Dayton are coming for a night of worship. We'll be hosting this one at our place. We are suggesting folks donate $10/person. I think it will be an evening well worth it. April 14th, Wed. 7PM- Call my cell eight-seven-eight - eight-four-six-three (613 area code) or find us on facebook (Freedom Vineyard).