February 25, 2007

methodism and adolescence

By the time I reached 8th grade my parents were getting the vibe that it was time to move on from the episcopal church. They say that one of the biggest reasons was because of me. They wanted to see me in a youth group of teenagers which was non existant where we were. During this time of decision for my parents we visited a new church. There were two methodist congregations in Salem at that time and both were pastored by the same person. We visited one of those congregations and the only thing I remember was the pastor. He reminded me of George Bush, Sr. Not the actual George Bush but the one played by Dana Carvey on saturday night live. This guy was so animated! Of course in my 13 year old attitude I thought to myself how much of dork he was. It was this same man who's leadership and friendship was one of the most influential in my life. This fool in my eyes was God's instrument used to change the bratty teenager that I was.

Between our first and second visit the two congregations merged and began having all their services at the church we did not visit. We visited this newly merged church again and I remember it quite well. Before the service as my family and I were getting ready I did something to get my parents upset with me. They did the parent thing and grounded me or something and so I was in a horrible mood. I pouted all the way there and all the way through the service. I remember I would catch myself not pouting and then intentionally make myself pout. Service ended and youth group was right after it. My parents asked me if I would like to go. They made me go to church but I think the option was open whether I wanted to go to youth group or not. I noticed some friends from school and even my neighborhood were a part of this group so naturally I said yes and went. This again was a life changing event. That youth group leader was incredibly influential and dear to my heart. I had a genuine good time and was even invited to a weekend get away to someone's cabin. My parents took all this involvement of mine as a sign that this was where they were supposed to be.

This congregation was not your average new england methodist church. There was organ music and guitar music. Hymnals and praise and worship stuff. Liturgy and spontaneity. I was also noticing a lot more animated people doing a lot more animated stuff, like raising hands and randomly praying in the middle of service or saying "amen!". This was my first exposure to pentecostalism. I remember some friends of mine who visited the church were talking about this peculiar form of worship. This guy complained "Why do they have to act like they're having an orgasm when they pray?!". This got my attention not only because he said the "O" word in church but because I noticed I was at odds with him. I noticed that even though I wasn't an animated or emotional person I found myself being open to this phenomenon or in christianese "open to the holy spirit".

This group of methodists was a very diverse one. Diverse in personality and age.
This diversity showed me that God the holy spirit moved in and through people of different temperments so I didn't necassarily have to act like someone who wasn't me in order to relate to God in this passionate way, just be myself. Many of these people are my family and will always be family despite my departure.
I believe it was continued exposure to the working and moving of the holy spirit through the preaching, worship and relationships which was key to my spiritual growth. Even though my parents made me go to church and I wasn't there emotionally, mentally and even spiritually my sitting there in the pew, observing all that was going on, I eventually found myself taking part in it here and there.

that is just a tiny tiny taste of my methodist days.

February 22, 2007

ramblings of a church kid's semi non-eventful churchlife

I grew up in a christian family. We went to church for as long as I can remember. The first church I ever remember being a part of was an episcopal one. We were there for close to ten years. My mother tells me that she could tell that I wasn't all into the "liturgical worship thing", my brother was though. Despite my childhood preference I miss it today. My brother became an altar boy, was confirmed and had his first communion. I didn't want anything to do with any of that.
No way. Well, unless they would let me doodle on the bulletin (as was my custom) up there on the altar but I knew that wasn't an option for an altar boy. There was church stuff that I did enjoy. These are now fond memories for me. Memories of sounds, smells, people and other random stuff.

There was one huge event that happened every week at church that I looked forward to everytime. It occured after mass while coffee hour was happening. I remember asking my parents "can I say hi to Phil now?" while they were doing the adult socializing thing. Phil was the janitor who's office was way in the back of the stage within the function hall. He was kind of a loner, quiet, like me. He was an old guy. I can still remember the smell of ben gay as I would hang out with my cool friend. I would talk with Phil about what I loved best, baseball. He was a total baseball fan too. He would always have a newspaper on his desk, probably opened to the sports section and he was always there alone in the office while everyone else was socializing. I would continue on about my baseball cards and my little league games. He would listen to me and than ramble on about baseball history and about the red sox or something like that I don't really remember but I do remember that he was pretty cool.

Towards the beginning of each mass there was the opening hymn. During the hymn all the important people would start marching out of the important room each with hymnbook in hand and singing very loudly. Strangely enough I miss the music, especialy the dirge like stuff of hymns like "let all mortal flesh keep silent". During this processional or whatever you want to call it they would march a good portion of the sanctuary and end in their respective seats on the altar. I don't remember how many there were of them. I know there was the priest. He didn't impress me that much. He was nice but bland. The only part of any sermon(or homily or whatever)that I remember was him talking about how he prefers VH1 to MTV. Strange for a priest I thought.

There was one guy however in this group of important people with robes that was such a mystery to me. He was the guy marching in front. He would swing back and forth this thing that would spit out smelly smoke. I can still remember that smell and I am very fond of it. This man had wide lensed glasses which were the kind that were a little shaded giving the likeness of blublockers. So just imagine a man who looks like a slick italian taxi cab driver with blublockers on along with a shiny liturgical fancy robe swinging a peculiar object that spits out smoke and how that would look like to a six year old.

This same man came up to me once (I think it was him) and asked if I wanted to learn how to make the bells in the steeple make a song. He was in charge of that important stuff. I was flattered in a small kid kind of way and said yes. He brought me up to the balcony towards the back, opened up a box the size of a small TV with a key and showed me step by step along with the song book how I press the number coded keys to play each note. I thought to myself "this is huge! all of downtown will be able to hear me play!". He told me to go ahead and try for myself after demonstrating himself. I told him that "I didn't know how to play music and that I was nervous".
Half way into my first song he said I was doing great and to play as much as I like. He then took off. I paused for a moment and then played on. I ended up enjoying it a whole lot.

During coffee hour there was this little old lady that always gave me candy. Every week. This is very cool to a little boy. One week she wasn't there and so naturally I didn't get any candy. I inquired my parents about this and they said they didn't know where she was. Later that week they sat me down and told me that this lady had "passed away". We had what I think was my first talk on death and all that stuff. After the talk I walked away thinking to myself about this mystery called death and all the fear that can come with it and about how I'll never see that lady again except maybe in heaven or something like that. I think I was more distraught with the vanishment of my weekly sugar fix.

There are many memories like these. Memories I now treasure. This church wasn't the most spiritually passionate but there was stuff I took from it. I attended sunday school every week and learned all the typical bible stories. Through that I listened to the word of God and came to a belief/faith in Jesus/God and His character. I learned about the friendship of God through my baseball discussions with my friend Phil and I learned about the mystery of God through the liturgical worship and the blublocker wearing, incense flinging, robe wearing guy. If it wasn't for that guy I probably wouldn't be the musician I am today.

That is a taste of my episcopal days.

February 21, 2007

who'd a thunk it?

what do you get when you combine my old church
(a united methodist congregation)
and my new church
(a congregation that is missional/emergent/interdenominational etc...)
????

answer

February 20, 2007

physical warfare



Just some more thoughts (and strong emotions) from my personal bubble.

One of the hardest dilemnas in my head is on the issue of war. I don't have a clear opinion either way on whether or not war can be justified. Since I take a neutral stance in the debate I come across as pacifist but that's not necessarily the case.

When I mulled over this issue before I have asked myself "What if a man would come running after my wife and child, weapon in hand and with full intent to kill them? What would I do?". This probably will never happen but if it did I would have to admit/confess that I would run after the man with full intent to use any physical force necessary to stop him even if it meant I had to kill. Verses from ephesians 6 than will run through my head "for we wrestle not against flesh and blood..."

In my teenage years in high school mostly everyone knew I was a christian, along with that knowledge I would proclaim to a bunch of people that I was a pacifist.
Am I really a pacifist now? Maybe I am. Does the Iraqi war really have to go as long as it has or perhaps rather did it really have to start, I don't know. Last veterans day I listened to a Vietnam war veteran vent for two to three hours straight and he seemed to only scratch the surface of what he really felt. Could I really be for war? I am very interested in history but very uneducated. If you asked me how every war in America's history started I would only be able to give a superficial answer for the revolutionary, civil and iraqi war. My knowledge is very small.

The scene in my head seems easy to judge but when you complicate things by adding more people, even nations, to the scene than it's very hard to judge.

There is a great hypocrisy within me. I am against the death penalty but I am for killing someone before they even commit the crime. At least I am according to the scene that was played in my head.

I am torn and confused, but glad that God knows all.

February 19, 2007

thoughts on spiritual warfare II

I have many thoughts on the subject of spiritual warfare. Thoughts that are broken up and on going, hence this second part.

There seems to be both disdain and an over-zealousness towards the thought that there can be demonic influence towards the world, especialy towards the christian as an individual. I have no problem admitting that demons have windows of opportunity in which they can try to sway me off course in my pursuit of God. I do believe that Satan has the power to effect earth as a whole as well as our current and local situation (as seen in the book of Job). I also believe that most of the time when we suffer in some way it's usually just because that's the way it is. We live in a broken world. Most who study heavily into spiritual warfare would probably disagree with me there. We must also never obtain an attitude that says "the devil made me do it" when in fact it is our own fault.

If a situation is "demonically initiated" I find that it is usually a situation that snowballs quickly and into a big ordeal and then later leaves us wondering "what the heck was that all about?!". Though that's not always the case. There is really no clear cut answer or methodology in discerning whether something is demonic or not. One of the spiritual gifts is discernment. If someone with the gift of discernment(usually intuitive people), picks up on something that concerns them their responsibility is first to pray for the situation/person. Than if it is God's will, act accordingly.

Wisdom & discernment has been one of the most needed gifts in the body of christ. Without it stupid and freaky things happen which show the wrong picture of Jesus thus doing only harm, despite good intentions.

As with any spiritual gift, it is developed within the presence of God. We come to the presence of God during our times of devotion/worship. Times in which we give our Father undivided attention. It is then exercised when we apply what we developed in our daily lives. Somewhere in the bible it says that God inhabits the praises of His people. So in my mind, where God is no demon can stand to be. This is the key or at least the beginning to true spiritual warfare.

February 15, 2007

this is better than feng shui

I found this and I liked it

How To: Humanize A Worship Space
By Matt Frise
Multi-Instrumentalist And Temporary Worship Space Architect
St. Stephen’s University, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada

Have you ever intentionally transformed a physical space for worship? Evidenced in the building of Europe’s great cathedrals, each taking a community several generations to build, the Church has historically placed a high value on creating sacred spaces for worship. This desire for sacred space in which to meet with God transcends every historic period and culture, and many beautiful examples of architecture exist worldwide as a result of this deep, human drive. In the modern Western context, many of us have turned away from building the community cathedrals of old, and have turned inward toward ourselves and our own families, sacrificing costly amounts of time, resources, and care to create places of sanctuary within our own homes and offices.

Whether by choice or by necessity, for reasons practical (maximizing the use of a costly space) or ideological (choosing to invest in people over a building), many church communities now meet in spaces that are transitional, temporary, and multi-purpose. The challenge is to create worship spaces that humanize; that reinforce the worship team’s declarations of God’s faithfulness, His permanence, and His steadfast love in the face of worship environments that are often industrial, alienating, impersonal, and impermanent. Some of the following ideas and suggestions may help your worship community in addressing environmental obstacles to worship, making it easier for many to encounter God in your community’s worship space.

1. Reminders Of Earth.
Interestingly, it seems that many experience a profound awareness of heaven in a place or a moment where they connect with the wonder and beauty of earth. Often our places of worship are a far cry from any sort of natural environment, and some can be very industrial and alienating. Having tangible, even living, authentic reminders of God’s creation incorporated into a worship environment can ground individuals in the awareness that creation and everything in it is made and owned by God. The tendency is to put such things “up at the front” wherever your “front” happens to be. If our desire is to draw a community into a worship space, rather than to draw more attention to the front, perhaps we should consider extending these elements out into their midst as well.

2. Drawn To Light.
I read in a national newspaper recently that humans are physically drawn to light as an ingrained biological response. People are sensitive to light, as I imagine that anyone who has participated in a time of worship under the flickering, sodium glare of gymnasium lights can identify. Sunlight is always welcome (at least to those of us who spend almost half the year immersed in the darkness of winter), but not always predictable or convenient. Candles are also friendly on the human eye, are easily incorporated into an environment, and seem to encourage hope as their physical presence is steadily converted into light. Personally, barring fire codes, I have never heard anyone criticize a space for having too many candles. Try experimenting with different types of eye-friendly light as a tool to focus worshipers’ attention on key elements in your worship space.

3. Tactile Textiles.
I work in a building where the main room and central staircase are coated, floor to ceiling, in plush, red, velvety, fuzzy wallpaper. No one can tell me that the thick band of missing fuzz where years of hands have run while passing up the staircase is just a coincidence. Environments with surfaces that are hard, cold or that have many sharp edges trigger physically defensive responses from tactile people – and impact their worship experience. Textiles on walls, floors and seating that seem inviting to touch encourage a sense of comfort and vulnerability among the same lot.

4. Power In A Face.
Few images have the power to capture our attention and humanize a space as images of the human face. Portraits of the beautiful and the broken, in all shapes and sizes and colors, engage us and remind us of a humanity in God’s Kingdom that is so much more broad and diverse than ourselves – we are all His image bearers. Consider incorporating the faces of image bearers in places where less personal landscapes and images are usually applied, such as overhead projection, handouts, and wall art.

5. Power In A Space.
According to Oberlin College’s Environmental Studies Chair William Orr (Summer 2006 edition of Geez magazine), William Churchill observed in 1943 that “we shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” This does not only apply to exteriors, but also to interiors and concepts as simple as arrangements of seating and human traffic. In the same magazine article, Frank Lloyd Wright also speaks to this, claiming “…that he could design a house that would cause a newly married couple, madly in love, to divorce in a matter of months.” All of this is to say that how people enter into a worship space (how the seats are arranged, whether in rows, in a circle, or otherwise; whether close together, far apart, or in clusters) and how people are directed to move through the space by the placement of objects, can have significant impact on the experience.

6. Embrace Intelligent Asymmetry.
Ever visited a relative whose home was immaculate, every item perfectly positioned, straightened and symmetrical? Did you feel comfortable, relaxed and put your feet up, or did you sit up straight and try not to break anything? Careful symmetry is an ingrained tendency for those of us with Western heritage, and creates a space where the more formal versions of ourselves are encouraged to shine. If, however, the goal is to create a more relaxed space where people are inclined to be vulnerable, the formality of, say, the Parthenon, may be contradictory.

Conversely, have you ever been in a space where there was so much clutter and visual chaos that you found it hard to think? (If not, I could show you pictures of my apartment). Spaces that are visually chaotic reflect our own inner turmoil back on us, and discourage a sense of peace. I will even confess to once spending an entire sermon trying not to notice a very crooked object hung on the wall behind the speaker. Consider arranging chairs, objects, and people in ways that are neither rigidly symmetrical nor chaotic, but that, like nature, flow as asymmetrical patterns. Consult with someone who you believe may have an “eye” for this concept if you find it difficult to implement.

7. Laterally Rethink The Worship Experience.
“If my worship set was a tree….” Similar to the musicians on your worship team, all environmental elements are not there to distract worshipers, but to serve by drawing worshipers in further, each element in its own way affirming the message being communicated about who God is. This humble resonance of agreements can be very powerful, especially for those who have difficulty encountering God through shared musical experiences alone.

Perhaps you can start by asking yourself some wacky “lateral thought” questions like, “What would the essence of this worship set communicate if it were a smell? As a physical arrangement of people? Is there an object or image that is closely connected with this idea for me or for my community?” And so on.

Another way of asking these questions is this: “What part of God’s Story is it that we are telling here, and what is the ideal setting or backdrop for telling that part of the story – and for helping it to come alive here in our community?” If you can’t answer any of these questions, ask a “lateral thinker’” you trust.

8. Delegate The Space Crafting.
The worship leaders that I am familiar with are generally under a fairly hefty load of responsibilities and demands. Seek out the “artsy-touchy-feely” people in your community who are gifted in these areas of sensitivity, who are good at organizing and creating human-friendly spaces, and who have the humility and character to serve. Tell them what you are trying to communicate through the worship set, share any vision you have for the space with them, and then wind them up and watch them go!

Bio: Matt Frise is a freelance photographer, graphic designer (www.mattfrise.com) and musician based out of St. Stephen’s University in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. He is a violinist and whistle player with the St. Croix Vineyard worship community, as well as a collector of percussion instruments from around the world. With an eye to create spaces for true worship to flourish within, he seeks to live and create in a way that brings attention to the beauty of God in the world.

February 13, 2007

percussion



So here it is, my new picture. I guess I have to keep it on my blog even though I deleted the other one. (confused) oh well. This was taken at animal kingdom this past spring. I was watching some percussionists put on a show, they were the best I heard during my whole trip.

There is something in me that loves percussion. Hand drums resonate deep inside me somewhere. I think it's because it's such a primal musical expression. When playing a song with "regular instruments" that play notes and chords there seems to be something missing a good portion of the time. So when a percussionist joins in it's like a buzz of caffeine for the song.

February 09, 2007

virtual insanity


During lunch today with my wife I was eves dropping into the conversation at the table behind me. The guy was talking about how online shopping could soon go to a new level where the customer can, sims style, virtually go into a store, look at stuff, hold it, decide and buy. This got my imagination going a mile a minute and Melissa could tell, she was asking what I was thinking about. I told her I would tell her later and that I was totally eves dropping. I was thinking how cool it would be if this did exist, how great a marketing tool this would be and that I should make a proposition with SIMS and Simon malls corporation about my great idea. Until I realized that this kind of thing is supposedly already in process of becoming a reality. Oh yeah, and I'm not a business man.

20 minutes later when I went back to work I got a very bad vibe from this concept.

This is just what America doesn't need. Something to feed our addiction to the internet and to our consumeristic life style. My imagination started to take off even further and I found myself imagining what it would look like if we had a Sims church. I was starting to make myself laugh. I would joke to myself that the easier levels would be the liturgical churches where everything was so ritual that soon enough I would get it perfected. Than the final level would be a full fledged pentecostal church where my character would have to put his all into it. I would press F10 to raise my hands, Control+Shift+HL for holy laughter, Control+Backspace for a shout of hallelujah and of course if we ever catch ourselves sinning in church, God forbid, we could just press control Z to repent and God himself would blot out our sin (that was a joke). Yeah, I was going a little insane but hey, it was friday. My mind conjured up so many ideas so fast that I had to stop myself and try to focus on what I had to do next at my workplace.

Lord God forgive us for our addiction to the internet and to material things. Thank you for giving us community, namely your church. May it never become ritual and cold and emotionally empty like a video game. Send your spirit to communicate who you are to us and who we are as your children to each other. In Jesus name, amen.

February 08, 2007

doe!

I now just forgot how to play 23 songs. Serves me right for bragging. Thank God for paper.

February 06, 2007

Woah!

I just learned 23 songs today. I think that might be a record-breaker.

February 02, 2007

feed my sheep

Right after the last post I scrolled down and linked to sacredspace and this is what came up.

The Holy Spirit gives us the confidence to be where we find ourselves, possibly depressed, old, sickly. Ancient trees may have rotten branches but they have a beauty that comes from all the years they have lived. If we live in the Holy Spirit, nothing is lost to us, not even our failures, immaturities or sins. When you are fifteen, you do not want to know about when you were ten. You are looking ahead, hoping to be something else. But true growth comes from knowing: I am fifteen, which means that each of those 15 years has added something to me. My successes come from what I did with my failures. I have survived some sufferings, and have learned from them. The Holy Spirit would have helped Saint Peter to think about the denial of Christ and crowing of the cock. He would rather have forgotten about it, undone it. Instead he learned to make it part of the Lord's dealing with him, as much a part as Jesus' tender words to him after the Resurrection: Feed my sheep.

i must die

Following Jesus does not mean that I become so self absorbed in how Christ like I should become. I can be too self condemning. Christ likeness is only a benefit. Following Jesus means that I have to deny myself of what my "rights" are. I must die to self and carry the cross, so to say, that Jesus has placed before me. I must serve others in love. In a love that does not expect anything in return. A love with no conditions. Out of this practiced love, discipline finds it's energy.

Now if only I can put this thinking into reality. Oh Lord, help this wretched dude that I am. Turn my laziness into surrender. Amen