Monday, February 21, 2011

Bud Grant, Sandals and Car Keys

I will almost never post about what my daily life is like, but this story bears repeating.

To out-of-state readers, a snowstorm made a sweep over the northern majority of Wisconsin. It dropped about ten inches of snow in about ten hours and canceled my church’s evening service. Nothing shocking. As soon as I found out we were snowed in, warm and cozy, I changed into comfortable (but certainly non-seasonal) khaki shorts and my Donkey Kong t-shirt.

That evening, despite the plows not being able to quite keep up with the blustery thick snow, Christina still wanted to visit our good friend, Kim, across the unlit backroads on the outskirts of town. She felt safer if I would drive her, since I had learned to drive in the frozen tundra of Iowa. Christina’s mother was staying with us, so she could watch our girls while I dropped off Christina at Kim’s.

This is where the story starts to get more interesting.

Most fans would agree that the best head coach to ever grace Minnesota Vikings football was Bud Grant. He was known for the “Purple People-Eaters” who dominated offensive lines, but he was also known to wear a short-sleeved polo during games at the  Vikings’ roofless Metropolitan Stadium. Year-round.

(By the way, my older daughter started singing the Vikings fight song a few days ago. I’m so proud!)

So . . . yeah. I wanted to be a tough temperature-resistant northerner like Bud Grant. I wanted to be adventurous. I drove Christina to Kim’s house in the blizzard only wearing shorts, a t-shirt and sandals.

We pulled up to Kim’s house. I locked the car and left the emergency flashers on. Her driveway was yet to be shoveled, so that made for a painful time for my feet as I walked (scrambled, actually) Christina up to the front door. One of my sandals actually came off my bare foot and I had to fetch it.

After I spent a few minutes in Kim’s house with her and Christina (letting my feet warm up), I felt in my pocket that my car keys were missing. Not good. They must have fallen out of my pocket during the scramble to the door and were somewhere in the foot of snow in the front yard.

What could I do? Christina had left her car keys at home. We couldn’t ask Christina’s mom to come and pick me up, because she’d have to pack the sleepy girls and drive through an unfamiliar area during a blizzard. With shorts, a t-shirt and sandals on, I was in no shape to look for the keys in the snow. It looked like I was going to borrow Kim’s car and copy all my keys. I wasn’t going to be able to see my keys again until the snow melted a few months later.

No, fortunately, Kim lent me one of Marc’s coats and a pair of his boots, and I did find my keys close to one of the footprints I left. Otherwise, this blizzard would have been a lot more adventurous than I had wanted. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two Books on Worship Arts that Came to Mind

I never thought I was the type of person to do this.

Nonetheless, it’s a frequent question, both in a prospective pastor’s interview and even on a church website’s “get-to-know-the-pastor” profile. Books. Favorites? Recently read? Most inspirational or recommended?

I mostly have dodged such questions because I want to avoid a simple label, when my views on certain things (theological non-essentials, philosophy, worship and the arts) are a bit more complex in their development. However, the alternative to being “labeled” is being a mysterious question mark.

So, as best as I can, I’ll try to answer the question.

As I envision and program, transferring my learnings of Scripture into church service production, influential words from the following books still come to mind every week.

How to Read the Bible as Literature by Leland Ryken.

This book was required reading for an Old Testament survey class in my undergrad, and it’s actually one of the books that helped piqued my music-major-brain’s interest in biblical studies. I’d recommend it to any Christian (and even curious non-Christians), not because it helps you “get the most out of reading the Bible,” but that it helps you to realize what the Bible truly is: a bottomless well of poetic Truth, love and wisdom, beautifully and masterfully handcrafted by the most creative Creator God.

Through exegesis and explanation of literary devices such as genre and poetry forms, Ryken did well to inspire me toward a deeper appreciation, understanding and even love for the Scriptures, also clearing up the confusion of some misconceptions about certain verses and themes that Christians and non-Christians today hold even today.

Music Through the Eyes of Faith by Harold Best

This book, believe it or not, was something I read on my own time (for those who know me well, that’s a rare thing). But I was inspired to read it after having met Harold Best, a seeming creative genius whose tenure as Dean at Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music was more than fruitful for the institution.

Out of all the works on worship I’ve experienced (e.g. Robert Webber, Tim Keller and even arts philosophers like Gadamer and Kant), Best’s writing best links worship to creativity and creation, answering questions that linger in my heart and in those of other artistically-driven people I want to reach. I’ll never forget his phrase, as he wants to dance and worship to “a Pentecost of musics.” Best’s work celebrates Truth and creativity, and brings one’s appreciation of the Creative God to another level.

These are just books that come to mind as described above. When it comes to other areas of theology, philosophy and church practice, other books come to mind. But that's another post . . . maybe.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

St. Valentine and the Institution of Marriage

“If you love her so much, why don’t you marry her?”

Such was the teasing phrase I frequently heard as a child, with that joking, sarcastic, nasal tone. What’s funny is that the frequency of this phrase’s use dropped dramatically once my peers and I approached puberty and actually started to better enjoy the company members of the opposite gender. Before that time this phrase mostly referred to toys, sports teams, video games, and other things that a kid like me might “love” but can’t ever marry. The thought of a child one day walking down the aisle with, for example, a Power Wheels car was a humorous image to share with many.

I have to give this phrase some credit, though, at least. Marriage is seen as the logical follow-up to falling in love. Not anything else.

It’s sad how separate the two ideas seem sometimes today.

Valentine’s Day can add itself to a list of holidays whose original event has been watered down by tradition and commerce.  The history of the holiday is a mess to figure out how we went from Christian martyrdoms in Rome to Brach’s and roses, where Cupid flew in, etc. We didn’t really start passing out cards until the past century or so. I just find it fascinating that Valentine’s Day (Valentine is a common name for Christian martyrs in ancient Rome) is named for a martyr whose crime against Rome was marrying Christians (as aiding Christians was illegal).

In an ancient Vegas, Christians were hunted and sent to dangerous animals. Despite the corrupt and vicious government, they insisted on declaring their love for each other, before the eyes of God, with a covenant. A commitment. An investment. A risk. A sacrifice. A giving. Christians certainly believed in the sanctity and institution of marriage, and lived it, even if only quietly and illegally. If loving marriage was wrong, baby, they didn’t want to be right. 

Times certainly have changed.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s think about how we can honor the sanctity of marriage, husband to wife and wife to husband, living it from the inside out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Three Reasons I (as a Vikings Fan) am Happy That the Packers Won the Super Bowl

I’ve sometimes been told that I’m too cynical, that I need to loosen up and count the blessings in my life and make the most of everything. I thought I’d start with the fact that the Vikings’ worst enemy team, the Green Bay Packers, with effort and circumstance, won the Super Bowl this year. And I have the fortune to live an hour from Green Bay.

1) Emotional closure: Let’s face it. It was still about Favre. Once the face of the franchise, who helped develop the team into a regular playoff contender after a quarter century of mediocrity, he has possibly tarnished his legacy in the eyes of this generation by his three years spent playing for other teams. However, Packer fans have wanted to see him suffer further justice (vendetta?) for his crimes of loving to play football and being hopelessly indecisive.

Their relationship to Favre has been unnecessarily complicated. For example, they’d love to revel in the glory of their Super Bowl XXXI championship, but it was led by . . . Favre. They’ve wanted to move on, and the best way (along with seeing him fail) was to be able to revel in a glory without him.

The outcomes of the 2010 season and Super Bowl XLV achieved that. Aaron Rodgers has always been an exceptional quarterback, and Packer fandom largely ran to him in his first days as a starter like a recently-dumped girl runs to a new crush. Even though his stats, Hall-of-Fame eligibility, and overall legacy aren’t at Favre’s level yet (but they will get there someday), Pack fans have already elevated him above Favre, and even compared his beard with Jesus’s. Commentators seem to be developing a bias for him, too. Maybe he will be the next Brett Favre. (Who will be the next John Madden?).

All this to say, since the new Packers beat Favre (even though he was 41 years old with a breaking down body, throwing to a transient receiver corps and playing for a team going through a rough transition) and won the Super Bowl (even though it was a weakened AFC in an overall injury-ridden season of general mediocrity), they can feel better about themselves, and that’s good!

Favre is completely gone. The Packers have established themselves without him. The historic Bears-Packers rivalry has been restored and renewed. All these years of drama-queen-style embitterment and insecurity are over! Better that it happen sooner than later. Packer fans are much easier to live and work around now.

2) Wisconsin’s economy: I might have to get a little selfish here, but the truth is that, though I am a Vikings fan, I am a resident of Wisconsin and their economic well-being affects my everyday life.
Wisconsin has the largest debt per capita in the nation, when you calculate the ratio between the total debt and the population. They collect more than $1 billion in excise tax (mostly from smokers) and actually still owe the state of Minnesota $59 million. Thus to say, there’s a lot of work to be done.

However, the Packers‘ success has created more spending all across the country on gear (it’s spending to which I personally wouldn’t contribute), and it has helped the economic health of my state of residence. I can’t object to that.

3) Reconciliation with friend Bear fans: I’ll have to be honest when I say that the 2008-9 seasons were a bit of a rough patch in my relationship with Bears fans (and growing up in Chicago area, I have plenty). I do remember meeting the soon-to-be fiancee of a very close friend at a coffeeshop, and I had to let her know of my fandom right away, for the sake of their relationship.

The Vikings‘ dominance over the Bears and Packers the last two seasons did make friendships and relationships difficult as I lived as a Vikings fan in Chicago, but after this year, we can reconcile under the belief of a common enemy. What of reconciliation with friend Packer fans, you ask? It’s not an issue. They never seek it.   

So . . . how’d I do?