A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Monday, May 30, 2005

Brief Updates

I'm posting a bit less frequently right now as I try to finish up this thesis. A rough draft should be complete tonight. I'll include an excerpt at the bottom of this post.

I promise I'm done, at least for a while, posting pictures of Gordon Lightfoot and gushing about his music all over the blog. Go buy Sundown, and you'll know why I go on and on. You can usually get it for pretty cheap on ebay.

Go read this post by Michael Spencer, which made me happy to be a "reformation Christian" again. It's been fascinating, and sometimes very sad, discussion at the BHT and around the reformed blogosphere lately.

Finally, a quick excerpt from my rough draft. I'll keep it very short for now, because I plan posting almost the entirety of the paper in larger chunks over a long period of time. Here's one small paragraph introducing the proclamation of "fatherhood of God" to postmodern folks:

In a postmodern context, proclaiming the fatherhood of God seems at the outset a fruitless endeavor. To elucidate God in such blatantly male terminology is to evoke notions of the male-dominated metanarratives so eschewed by postmoderns. While Jesus’ unmistakable yet almost scandalous concern for women will provide a more than acceptable answer to this charge, we must indeed be sensitive, though not embarrassed, when we proclaim God as father.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Gordon Lightfoot @ Massey Hall, 5/21/05

It was a very interesting Saturday evening at Massey Hall in Toronto. It was the last of Lightfoot's four concerts there, his favorite place to play. We didn't have great seats, but we could see Gord and all the band members just fine. The show started right on time, with the band members taking their places at 8, and Gord strolling out onto the stage to a standing ovation. Picking up his guitar, he started right into Never Too Close, a song that's been stuck in my head since Saturday night.

I had no idea what to expect as we took our seats in the familiar concert hall. After the first and second songs (the second being Don Quixote), I was wondering about his voice. He seemed quite strained, and the higher register was hurting. He abbreviated several of the songs. Minstrel of the Dawn, for example, dropped a couple verses, but added a brilliantly beautiful instrumental section; I wish I had a recording. The following song, Harmony, was the highlight of the first half of the show. Following Harmony were In My Fashion (he had a blast on the "rap" part), Christian Island (abbreviated; my dad was hoping for this one), and Ghosts of Cape Horn. He picked up the pace a bit with Cotton Jenny, I Used To Be A Country Singer, and the classic, Sundown. We were dancing around as best you can while sitting.

With the last four songs of the first set, he did something I've never heard him do before. He played Ribbon of Darkness, and concluded the last chorus by singing, "ribbon of darkness..." and then allowing a long pause. As we all expected the words "over me" to finish the song, he broke into the opening riff of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The crowd went ape crazy; it was very cool. Then he strung together two ballads, Spanish Moss and Shadows, the second of which he had a lyric stumble on and had to start over (another thing I've never seen him do).

Like the last Lightfoot show I saw, it took him the first half to get warmed up. Apparently this wasn't the case Wednesday night; reviews say he was "on" right from the get-go. But hey, it was the fourth night in a row for a guy who almost died two years ago and has been through several major sugeries in that time. Can't blame him too much.

At intermission, I was a bit concerned about his career, given the vocal struggles of the first set. But as soon as he opened his mouth to sing the first line of Waiting for You at the start of the second set, I was thrown back in my seat; what a difference from the first half! Beautifully done, and I love the melody changes since the original recording. Restless followed, one I had personally hoped he'd do. Clouds of Loneliness, a sad ballad from the new album, contains some interesting autobiographical lyrics - "I'm all dressed up to be somebody; all I need is a friendly face."

An excellent version of Let it Ride had us dancing in our seats again. Couchiching, a song about his hometown or Orillia by a lake, was surprising - the vocals Saturday night were even better than on the album.

Then came the night's highlight - thunderous applause erupted at the first few bars of If You Could Read My Mind. It was magnificently sung, and the crowd sat in that sort of hushed silence that tells you something special is happening, even if you don't quite know what.

Baby Step Back has never been a favorite of mine, but I enjoyed it Saturday night. Then came Early Morning Rain, a song that Gord noted was recorded by "many important people" (Just for the record, those people include Elvis, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Kingston Trio, and Ian & Sylvia, among others). Then came the soft and simple ballad Song For A Winter's Night (gotta love the sleigh bells).

Bitter Green and a lovely version of On the High Seas (after some tuning issues) set up the show's last pre-encore song, a riveting rendition of Old Dan's Records. The band had a blast with this one, and a long standing ovation brought Gord out for an encore of Canadian Railroad Trilogy (Canada's "other national anthem"). He doesn't quite have the voice for this one anymore, as it is very demanding vocally, but the crowd was in it nonetheless, and it was a good performance. We stood to our feet once again, bringing him out one more time for a final encore ("Thanks, but we were coming back anyway," quipped Gord). I was hoping for "Carefree Highway," but alas, Cold on the Shoulder would be the night's last song. He left the stage to shouting and clapping and cries of, "Thank you, Gord!"

This trip and concert were the most fun I've had in a long time. I'm excited about Lightfoot's music again, maybe more so than ever before. It'll be quite interesting to see what he does with however many years he has left. More than that, the time with family was a blessing. I couldn't have asked for more out of a two day vacation.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Revenge of the Sith: Initial Thoughts

Despite some rough acting and more poor dialogue, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was far better than the first two prequels. Here are a few initial thoughts from the morning after my first viewing of the movie.

Let's start with the bad:

1) Hayden Christensen. Better in this movie than the last one, but still a shoddy performance. The scene where he transforms to the dark side could have been far more intense than it was, but his wooden performance, showing almost no struggle whatsoever with his decision, left me unbelieving. I found Padme's faith that there was still some good in him laughable, since we didn't even get a glimpse of it in his conversion to the dark side.

2) Natalie Portman. She got worse each movie. The hardest parts of the movie to watch were the scenes between Padme and Anakin. The dialogue was horrible, and the acting didn't redeem it any. I just didn't really care about the characters.

That, by the way, is one of the key differences between the prequels and the original three. In the first three, we were drawn to the characters and cared about them. We were excited when Han Solo came onto the scene, and we were wondering just what the bond between Luke and Leah was. We were sad when Obi Wan died, and we smiled when the spirits of Yoda, Obi Wan, and Anakin stood there in the final scene of the trilogy.

3) Vader's "NOOOOOOOO!!!!" in one of the final scenes. It sounded and looked dumb.

On to the good:

1) The climax of the movie, flashing back and forth between Yoda vs. the Emperor and Obi Wan vs. Anakin.

2) Yoda rocked this movie again.

3) Ewan McGregor. I believed he cared about Anakin, and I could see his struggle to be a Jedi (not holding onto a strong connection to anyone, in order to remain strong) and to love Anakin.

4) Plenty of excellent story set-up for the original three. I'm looking forward to watching Episodes IV, V, and VI again.

5) No Jar-Jar.

Points of interest:

1) As Emperor Palpatine is trying to tempt Anakin to the dark side, he calls the Jedi way "narrow and dogmatic." He explains to Anakin that he needs to develop "a broader view of the Force." How many times has the church faced the same criticism and been enticed by the same temptation?

2) As Obi Wan faces off with Anakin, Anakin makes a statement that if Obi Wan would not be with him, he must be his enemy. Obi Wan responds, "A Sith always thinks in absolutes," and the battle ensues.


This movie redeemed the Star Wars series from the weaknesses of the first two prequels. While it would have been better served by more convincing acting, the story was better and more faithful to the traditional feel of Star Wars. I'm looking forward to heading back to the theater sometime soon and giving it a second watch.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Headin' North

I would travel all my life if loneliness was not the price
But headin' north across that line is the only time I'm flyin'

~ "Hi'way Songs"

Being so close to the Canadian border has messed me up a bit. Growing up I tuned in as often as possible to a very fuzzy picture of Hockey Night in Canada. Gretzky was my hero. I could take or leave Florida, but trips to Toronto were my favorite family vacations. And my appreciation for the music of Gordon Lightfoot is darn near the point of obsession.

So I'm absolutely thrilled to be headin' north this weekend up to Toronto with my wife, my parents, my two brothers, and their wives. It's just a quick overnight stay, but we'll walk Yonge Street, shop at Eaton Centre, spend time in the hotel's pool, hot tub, and sauna, but best of all, get to see Gordon Lightfoot on stage at Massey Hall, the venue he has called "the centre of my universe as a performer and as a Canadian." We're seeing the last of four shows, so hopefully he won't be too tired to give a full set list. The word is last night's was 27 songs! His comeback to the stage is being celebrated by folk musicians, and I am looking forward to hearing his now rustic voice singing the classic songs again. I'll post a review when I get back.

a new look?

After I'm finished with this thesis (soon!), I plan to invest quite a bit more time into writing, including blogging. I've been toying with the idea of a new template or even a new blog client. I'm not sure I want to pay much (or at all) for one, but I'm bored with blogger already. And for some reason, the blogger bar at the top annoys me to no end.

Any suggestions? Another blog client? A place where you've found some better templates for blogger?

Monday, May 16, 2005

why music is not different

When one becomes a nurse, does the evangelical church make that one find a hospital run only by Christians, that specializes in treating Christian patients, and gives out tracts and altar calls for any non-Christians who happen to receive treatment there?

Then why do we do it to our musicians?

There was a time when I bought all the rhetoric that a Christian who plays music should play only songs about God, sign on a Christian label, and should never tour with non-Christian bands. Any band that signed on a "secular" label or wrote lyrics that were not in your face about Jesus had "sold out."

We could make the same case for our nurses, couldn't we? Let's apply evangelical rhetoric to that example. Most doctors in a secular institution learned their biology from (gasp!) evolutionists. Many don't even give a thought to praying for their patients. The physical needs are given priority over spiritual. I mean, shouldn't a person who might be dying be more concerned about their spiritual well-being than their physical? A "secular" doctor might not think so. Therefore, it's probably best if all Christian nurses find only Christian hospitals in which to work, so they won't be taken captive by the vain humanistic evolution-believing liberal lies of secular hospitals. If you're sick, you should also find a Christian hospital. If you're having a heart attack and the closest one is 12 hours away, you should just trust that God will sustain you until then, since God doesn't like secular hospitals. Too much "compromise."

You see how silly this all is. I surprised my wife with tickets to Alison Krauss and Union Station. What a tremendous night of bluegrass music. Alison Krauss' voice is unbelievable. Dan Tyminski (it's the Soggy Bottom Boys!) is an incredible musician. Jerry Douglas - there are just no words for what he can do on the dobro. This could be the most talented band touring now. And by the way, Alison Krauss and Ron Block are Christians. Ron Block writes excellent Christian lyrics to bluegrass music, and he rocks on that banjo. The concert's encore was nothing short of a sacred moment. The gospel was communicated through the music, in the midst of lyrics about heartbreak, loss, war, and other difficult aspects of life. Alison and Ron aren't caught in all the trappings of the Christian subculture. They are using their talents to honor the Lord with their vocation - music. Thank God for them, and would that there were more like them. This is what engaging the culture with the gospel and honoring the Lord with the arts should look like.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia, December 9

gradumatation from my edumacation

I graduate tomorrow with an M.A. in theology. Which is weird because I don't have my thesis done yet. Because of the way the seminary schedule goes, and because they want the seminary students to walk in the same commencement as the Roberts Wesleyan students, there's a provision that if your course work is scheduled to be completed in June, you can walk in May of the same year.

There's something really weird about having no formal education lined up. I've been involved in some form of formal learning for 22 years straight. I think I'll plan for myself a bit of a learning schedule, and it will include a lot of the issues I've collected books on but been unable to dig into deeply. Open Theism. New Covenant Theology. Federal Vision. N.T. Wright. After all these years, I think I'm finally feeling like I'll be disciplined enough to start on an issue and see it through for a while.

Of course there's the question of further education, but I think I'll sit on that one for a while. I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Truth or Fiction (in forwards)

Calling all forward senders: Stop sending forwards!! Alright, alright...but if you must send forwards, especially you Christians out there who love to send them along and guilt people into sending them by telling them they don't really love God if they don't email a cheesy story to 10 friends in the next 10.7 seconds, go visit Truth or Fiction first. It's a website that sorts out the true stories from the false ones. For example, NASA never found the missing day in Joshua, and Democratic candidates have not "misquoted" John 3:16 and said John 16:3 instead.

If you get a forward and don't know if it's true, send it along to them like I did with the story of Christians being saved from the tsunami, and let them do the research first. If it's in doubt, better to not be a liar than the send it along. I hear these stories pop up in sermon illustrations, and it's just kind of embarrassing (not to mention insulting to people's intelligence).

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weekends On Call

I always enjoy my weekends on call, because I have to stay home; I have no other option. This usually means I get a good amount of reading done, and since I'm plugging through book after book for my thesis, I was able to finish two that relate to the topic.

Thomas C. Oden

Rebirth of Orthodoxy, Thomas C. Oden
As I said in another post, Oden is my new hero. I am extremely close to being sold on paleo-orthodoxy as the way to go. I feel like a theological wandering star these days, and a good remedy for that is the tested and true doctrine of the early church fathers. Sure, they had some stuff wrong, but when it comes to defining the essentials of the faith, no one's better. I'm going to start digging into all the emerging confessing movements that are calling us back to the historic Christian faith.

Escape from Reason, Francis Shaeffer
Shaeffer has officially made it into my "I need to read everything he's ever written" list. He makes an interesting and relevant distinction between rationalism and rationality. Postmodern rhetoric tends to group the two together and throw them both out. Schaeffer argues that rationalism is the silly belief that the intellect is not fallen and can come to the right conclusions (Enlightenment thinking). Rationality, on the other hand, is allowing for antithesis (if A is true, not-A is false). Lots more in the book, but that's enough for now.