Friday, January 30, 2009

thanks - i needed that

Came across these words the other day, and let's just say they pretty much "hit the nail on the head" for me right now... words I need to hear...

"The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community."

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Saturday, January 24, 2009

"no time to read"

I've never understood it when people tell me they have no time to read. The busier I get, and the more swamped with various projects and deadlines, the MORE I find myself reading. Those are the times when I'm most likely to come back from the library with a stack of books... some biographies, some histories, travel writing, new bestsellers, old novels... The times when I feel most overwhelmed by deadlines and anxious about the obvious impossibility of getting everything done - those are the times when I'm most likely to have trouble sleeping and then, of course - what choice do I have? - I spend even more time reading.

My favourite low-tech library technique (which I think began when we lived in Colombia, as I made my trek once a month to the English language library in the north end of Bogota for my "fix" of English reading material) - once I've found the book or books I came looking for - is to just walk down the aisles and read titles and grab whatever looks interesting. I used to be amazed at how much fascinating stuff I found this away. I'm no longer amazed - now I count on it.

Anyway, this well-worn pattern is definitely re-asserting itself. No sooner had I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma and the Long Emergency, with a Townes Van Zandt biography and another Robert Charles Wilson novel thrown in, than I find myself racing through that Obama biography in order to get to the new stack I brought home from the library today... all the while continually revising my list of train reading for the upcoming tour...

What's not so clear is how this fits with blogging, for which I am far more likely to use the "no time for..." line. Since blogging is a newer discipline and indoor sport for me, I'm still liable to be tormented by the "blockage" phenomenon that used to affect my reading too - I'd get bogged down with something but feel badly about not finishing it, so I'd end up not reading much while I tried heroically to get through whatever it was that had lost my interest. It was a breakthrough when I finally told myself that life's too short and there are too many good books out there to get bogged down by one (even a "great" one) that's not grabbing me - so I gave myself permission to put it down and start another one. While flipping through 3 others. And adding to my longer-term list of "next ones"...

I suspect I need to do the same with blogging. I'm finding it hard to let go of the backlog of bloggable ideas and musings that feel time-bound to specific reading or events (Obama inauguration, anyone? I know... shame on me, and my blogging license is again under review...).

Anyway, just wanted to reassure you that I'm still here... and to give myself permission to move on... consigning with some regret (and also some relief) all those undoubtedly brilliant and eminently bloggable thoughts to the shadowy realm of the un-posted...

Besides, I've got some work - and a whole lot of reading - to do.

Friday, January 16, 2009

what shall we then sing?

My list (file folders/binder) of "songs to write" keeps getting longer (thicker, deeper-and-wider...), far outstripping the pace of actual writing.

And this, I think, is as it should be.

One of the questions I often ask myself and those around me is "what do we NEED to sing?" That is, given what is going on around and among and within us, and given who we are and who we are called to be, and given what God is up to and God's intentions for the world... what shall we then sing? What are those texts that would be especially good, useful, important, necessary, URGENT for us to sing, right now?

The way this flows from my last post is, I trust, obvious, as it demonstrates the way I understand myself, and my vocation, to be functioning within the broader "body" of the church. "Texts that linger, words that explode," indeed.

The song I'm working on now is a result of that process - from a comment via e-mail that "in our church we really need a new song to sing at baptisms, when we welcome a new member into the body of Christ."

The two songs Charlene and I were harmonizing yesterday both come out of that process in a different way - one was written as a prayer for us to sing at last summer's Mennonite Church Canada Assembly (based on the theme text for that event), and the other for next year's Advent worship resources in Leader magazine (based on next year's Advent lectionary texts).

Each of the three CDs that I've recorded so far have emerged in different ways from this same kind of process... as does the new collection of songs (mostly based on prophetic texts - are you surprised?) that I'm getting set to record next... and the community supported music "membership" system is a particular way to structure that kind of process...

People often ask me where I find "inspiration" for so many songs, and the answer may be so mundane as to seem unsatisfying. (At least for those who find the mundane to be unsatisfying.)

Where does the pastor find "inspiration" for writing regular sermons? Where does the scholar find "inspiration" for writing more articles and books? Where does the teacher find "inspiration" for another day's classes, or the farmer for another year's crop, or the cook for another day's meals?

I don't know that the process is so different for any of us exercising our vocation as members of the body of Christ. We pay attention to the realities around us... we are immersed in Scripture and in prayer and in the life and mission of our local community of faith... and we do the work that has been entrusted to us - to prepare something "for the building up of the body" and to offer it to the community in hope and trust that it may contribute in some way to the formation of a people that is capable of living its vocation in the world.

(Also in hope and trust, by the way - at least on our better and more honest days - that the community may also point out when we've gotten it quite wrong.)

This is not solitary work, although parts of it are often done alone. This is "community work" in the best sense of that word.

And it is in faithfulness to that vocation that our work may indeed be "inspired."

So what do we need to sing?

I hope you'll keep telling me. I'm still listening. And getting it wrong, and sometimes getting it right.

Let's keep singing.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

a candidate for daring?

As I embark on the adventure of 2009, seeking again (still, anew) to be faithful to this vocation of "building up the body of Christ by creating and sharing songs of faith for small and tall," I am drawn to these words (yes, Brueggemann again) that, I think, express it very well. They help me to better understand my own role, along with those of other colleagues, companions and co-conspirators in the context of, and for the sake of, the work of the church in the world.

"It is the work of canonical practice in ecclesial communities and the work of criticism in the scholarly community to keep the (biblical) text available. It is by the ongoing enterprise of religious and scholarly communities that the text lingers over time in available ways. Out of that lingering, from time to time, words of the text characteristically erupt into new usage. They are seized upon by someone in the community with daring. Or perhaps better, the words of the text seize someone in the community who is a candidate for daring. In that moment of reutterance, the present is freshly illuminated, reality is irreversibly transformed. The community comes to know or see or receive or decide afresh. What has been tradition, hovering in dormancy, becomes available experience. In the moment of speaking and hearing, treasured tradition becomes present experience, inimitable, without parallel, irreversible. In that utterance, the word does lead reality."

Will I be "a candidate for daring" this year? Will you?

Will our community(ies) "come to know or see or receive or decide afresh?"

That is my prayer. Looking forward to working (walking, singing, musing) together with you again.

(The full text of Brueggemann's article "Texts That Linger, Words That Explode" can be found here. I read it in his book by the same name, with the subtitle "Listening to Prophetic Voices.")

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