Wednesday, January 30, 2008

productivity and efficiency vs. mission; essay #1 "working"

Scheduled outage at 4:30PM PST; my blog was down for ten minutes today...what a fiasco...haha, we even expect blogs to be efficient, reliable and cost-effective (in this case, free).

I constantly struggle with the uneasy feeling that I am not accomplishing enough. At the end of the day, I would like to be able to summarize my achievements and accomplishments with a smile and leave my office or coffee appointment or small group gathering or class with my head held high and my mind at ease. Unfortunately, it is a very rare day when that occurs. Most days, projects are halfway done, volunteer goals partially met, phone conversations interrupted and blog entries are unfinished. But, there's another voice, a quieter, more reasonable one, that tells me that productivity and efficiency are not exactly the end-all of following Jesus.

Sure, the principles of good stewardship of resources apply to both my job as a pastor and my calling as a follower of Jesus. Absolutely, it's important to not sit around playing video games all day or spend my waking hours sleeping instead. However, for those of us in "ministry" or "regular (read REAL) jobs", most of our understandings of "a good day's work" come from the western ideals of capitalism and individualism, not from any sort of Biblical principle. Consider this: the Bible talks about working hard and not being lazy (especially throughout Proverbs) but when we consider a successful day of work we talk in the language of results and getting the most out of our time and money. Jesus told the parable of the talents to illustrate a point about not burying your gifts in the sand but rather taking chances and contributing your whole self to bringing about the kingdom of God. In contrast, we often consider things like, "is reading this book a wise investment of my time?" or "how do I communicate what I believe God is saying to our community without making anybody mad?" Many of us have embraced philosophies of risk-management and "bang-for-the-buck" in regards to our relationships as well. I might, from time to time, find myself asking "who should I spend time with that will do the best job of building more lives through relationships after I'm done with him/her?" Wrong question.

Jesus, though he was God and had an important job (redeeming the whole world), spent time eating and drinking and developing relationships with people who were less-then-productive. We know that not everyone he invested in became an Apostle or a disciple, at least I infer that because many who were following him eventually turned away. What does that make Jesus then, a bad investor? A waster of time and talents? Jesus didn't just sit around doing nothing either, he challenged the religious establishment, he healed the sick and raised the dead, he spoke to massive crowds without a sound system. He was balanced. He was moderate. And when he chastised his disciples, it wasn't because they weren't doing a good job bringing in offerings from people or getting their reports in on time.

I don't want to point the finger at anyone before I point it at myself. I am often out-of-balance. I have always been more of a "doer" than a contemplative. I have always criticized people who don't seem to try hard to accomplish tasks. I have laughed derisively at people who say "God is calling me to just abide in him." But the more I try to measure my efforts in terms of efficiency and productivity, the more I realize that those standards, though they can be helpful sometimes, are not the standards that God has for me, that he has for us. The truth is, I believe, that God is calling us to abide in him and to take his teachings and turn them into ACTION. But if I somehow think that putting in some extra hours on a video or spending more time sending/receiving emails is going to make God extra proud and speed the Kingdom of God on earth than I am mistaken. As a pastor, I often work hard because I know that people are ultimately more important than my numerical goals and programming ideas but even that kind of thinking has its limits. Because, I can't do EVERYTHING. I can only do what I should and I can only give it all I've got...but it's Christ in me that accomplishes anything worthwhile.

For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

- Isaiah 57:15-15

Thursday, January 24, 2008

how indie are you?

ok, last post of the day before I go home to my lovely, smiling wife and possibly smiling or screaming daughter. I just got this from a friend and almost died...

who's championing intelligent discourse...other than comedy central?

Reading Rainbow Lists

Currently, I am halfway through, just started and nearly finished with quite a few books. Too many, actually, which is either a sign of the information age or an inability to make choices on my part. Some of you might be able to sympathize or offer some advice on how to get through a book before I start another one...or maybe it's a good thing? I also have in my possession many other books that I'd like to START.

Recently Completed:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Practitioners, edited by Greg Russinger and Alex Field
Stories of Emergence: Moving from absolute to authentic, edited by Mike Yaconelli
Body Piercing Saved My Life by Andrew Beaujon
Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton

Currently Reading:
An African Awakening: My Journey into AIDS Activism by Valerie Bell
Meet The Bible by Yancey/Quinn
Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus
Divine Intervention: encountering God through the Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina by Tony Jones
The City of God by St. Augustine
Sex God by Rob Bell
read, think, pray,live by Tony Jones
Here and Now by Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac

Reading Soon:
Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren
Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? by Phillip Yancey
Christianity's Dangerous Idea by Alister McGrath
The Tao of Enron by Chris Seay
Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
powered by

Friday, January 18, 2008

fight or flight

I think this place is full of spies
I think they're onto me

Didn't anybody, didn't anybody tell you

Didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room

I know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, I know
And so and now
I'm sorry I missed you
I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain
It went the dull and wicked ordinary way

from The National's "Secret Meeting"

the world is upside down.

like the character in Radiohead's "climbing up the walls," for many of us there seems to be no escaping a maelstrom of uncertainty and despair.

what is real? at our worst, it seems, the only thing we can be sure of is that people will act selfishly and that they will continue to acquire material possessions and then share them with no one. paranoia haunts many of us. faced with a grim economic forecast and the growing, uneasy feeling that all is not right, many of us find ourselves at a crossroads: fight or flight. do we retreat into television and fast food and escape into substances that numb us? or do we hold on to hope and set our faces to stoic resistance to all of the things that are supposed to make this life tolerable instead of meaningful?

I, for one, think that hope is worth holding on to and that fighting the good fight (in this case, not against other people but against a way of life) is not something to be left to old Charlton Heston movies. I am against despair and hopelessness and I will not back down.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Top 60 songs: 20-1

20. The Cribs "Major's Titling Victory" Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever.
19. Arcade Fire "Keep The Car Running" Neon Bible
18. Bruce Springsteen "Long Walk Home" Magic
17. The New Amsterdams "Wait" At The Foot of My Rival
16. Interpol "The Heinrich Maneuver" Our Love to Admire
15. Maritime "The Guns of Navarone" Heresy and the Hotel Choir
14. John Davis "Tell Me I'm Not Free" Arigato!
13. The White Stripes "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told)" Icky Thump
12. Athlete "Tokyo" Beyond The Neighborhood
11. Maps "To The Sky" We Can Create
10. Modest Mouse "Dashboard" We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
9. Feist "I Feel It All" The Reminder
8. Wilco "On and On and On" Sky Blue Sky
7. The Weakerthans "Civil Twilight" Reunion Tour
6. Jimmy Eat World "Let It Happen" Chase This Light
5. The National "Fake Empire" Boxer
4. Tokyo Police Club "Your English is Good" Your English is Good 7"
3. Andrew Bird "Heretics" Armchair Apocrypha
2. Radiohead "Videotape" In Rainbows
1. Shout Out Louds "Hard Rain" Our Ill Wills

And so ends List Season 2007...please feel free to share your own favorite songs and albums if you'd like.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Top 60 songs: 40-21

40. Jesse Malin "Don't Let Them Take You Down (Beautiful Day)" Glitter in the Gutter
39. The Cribs "Moving Pictures" Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever.
38. Common "The People" The People
37. Ryan Adams "Two" Easy Tiger
36. The National "Green Gloves" Boxer
35. Shout Out Louds "Tonight I Have to Leave It" Our Ill Wills
34. Dinosaur Jr. "This is All I Came to Do" Beyond
33. Feist "1234" The Reminder
32. Over The Rhine "Last Night on Earth Again" Discount Fireworks
31. Bloc Party "Uniform" A Weekend in the City
30. Rogue Wave "Chicago X 12" Asleep at Heaven's Gate
29. Modest Mouse "We've Got Everything" We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
28. Albert Hammond Jr. "Back to the 101" Yours To Keep
27. The Shins "Sleeping Lessons" Wincing The Night Away
26. Radiohead "All I Need" In Rainbows
25. Matt Hopper "Head to Feet" Reverse Odyssey
24. Stars "The Night Starts Here" In Our Bedroom After The War
23. Pela "Lost to the Lonsesome" Anytown Graffiti
22. Wyclef feat. Paul Simon "Fast Car" Carnival Vol. II
21. Athlete "Hurricane" Beyond the Neighborhood

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Best 60 songs of 2007, according to me. Part 1 of 3

I've been trying to put this year in music in perspective, my favorite album of the year (Radiohead's In Rainbows) is probably my favorite album to come out at least since Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but then, some what like last year, I didn't fall in love with too many bands not named the National. Again this year, I ENJOYED a lot of songs and a lot of bands...maybe this is just how things are in the new paradigm, we get access to so much music that we somehow appreciate it less. This year, my top 50 consequently grew to a top 60. Justin rolled into town the other day and lent me his entire record collection which caused me to remember what it's like to listen to a whole record and not have the ability to access 10,000 songs at a time. It's quite refreshing, those vinyl discs. Anyhow, here's part of the list, if anyone is interested in hearing all these songs in one place let me know...

60. Kings of Leon "Knocked Up" Because of the Times
59. Rooney "When did Your Heart go Missing?" Calling The World
58. Placebo "Meds (single mix)" Extended Play 07
57. Dustin Kensrue "Pistol" Please Come Home
56. Rivers Cuomo "I Was Made for You" The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo
Pela "This Desert's Not a Desert At All" Anytown Graffiti
54. Foo Fighters "The Pretender" Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace
53. The Frames "Minds Made Up" The Cost
52. Leeroy Stagger "Satellite" Depression River
51. Rihanna "Umbrella" Good Girl Gone Bad
50. Jimmy Eat World "Firefight" Chase This Light
49. Minus The Bear "Ice Monster" Planet of Ice
48. Band of Horses "Is There a Ghost" Cease to Begin
47. Elliott Smith "All Cleaned Out" New Moon
46. Ozma "Heartache vs. Heartbreak" Pasadena
45. Spoon "The Underdog" Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
44. Okkervil River "Savannah Smiles" The Stage Names
43. Rilo Kiley "Silver Lining" Under the Blacklight
42. Jose Gonzalez "Cycling Trivialities" In Our Nature
41. Wilco "The Thanks I Get" single

Monday, January 7, 2008

2007: Top 20 albums, part two

I want to write some text for these but I'm currently having a hard time concentrating...

10. Wilco--Sky Blue Sky
9. Jimmy Eat World--Chase This Light
8. The Cribs--Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever.
7. Elliott Smith--New Moon
6. The New Amsterdams--At the Foot of My Rival
5. Shout Out Louds--Our Ill Wills
4. Feist--The Reminder
3. Modest Mouse--We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
2. The National--Boxer
1. Radiohead--In Rainbows

Sunday, January 6, 2008

2007: Top 20 albums, part one

It was a pretty good year for music, probably better than 2006, not as good as 1997 though. Stay tuned for tomorrow's reveal of the top ten.

20. Interpol--Our Love to Admire
Solidly good with a couple of excellent tracks.

19. The White Stripes--Icky Thump
An almost unprecedented run of excellence continues, best rock lyric that could double as a question for the candidates, "why don't you kick yourself out, you're an immigrant too?"

18. Andrew Bird--Armchair Apocrypha
A stunning record that reveals that jazz and pop can actually mix. Would likely be higher on my list if I hadn't only got a hold of it three weeks ago.

17. Okkervil River--The Stage Names
Literate and moving. Lyrically impressive.

16. John Davis--Arigato!
No, THANK YOU...John Davis for out rocking foo fighters at their own game. One last request, new Superdrag album next year?

15. Bruce Springsteen--Magic
Springsteen is the boss of me. "Long Way Home" is a song that will still be around 400 years from now.

14. Ryan Adams--Easy Tiger
Very solid, very consistent. Still, as much as I enjoyed this record, I still kind of have a soft spot for crazy Adams, here's hoping we get another Love is Hell/Rock N' Roll in 08.

13. Wyclef Jean--Carnival Vol. 2: Memoirs of an Immigrant
Clef is back with his best record since the first one. Almost makes someone want to forgive him for Woodstock 99.

12. Maritime--Heresy and the Hotel Choir
Third time's the charm for Maritime, this is a fine indie rock record with several outstanding singles. "Guns of Navarone" is pure fuzz joy.

11. Athlete--Beyond the Neighborhood
Like the first two Athlete records, the front side is a lot better than the second half. Also, like those two records, the first four songs alone almost landed it in the top ten. "Tokyo" is blissful post-grunge funk invasion rock.