A Follower’s Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have the desire in all I am doing.
I hope from that desire,
and I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

HT: Trevin Wax

Classical Music (or lack of) in Church Culture

I just finished reading Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. Cron is an Episcopal pastor with a interesting postmodern/emergent/liturgical slant. In this pseudo-novel, the main character is a successful American mega-church pastor who goes through a crisis of faith. He spends much of the book trekking across Italy tracing the life and thoughts of St. Francis. I appreciate that he admits up front that the book isn’t much of a novel or much of a thought-out piece on ecclesiolgy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book even if a lot of it was pretty contrived.

One fakey part I have to point out though. During one chapter our evangelical mega-church pastor has a conversation with a young woman who happens to be a professional cello player. This is the vehicle the book uses to discuss aesthetics. Anyway, during the conversation, our hero mentions that he enjoys the music of Arvo Pärt. Wait a minute! Stop the tape! I’ve known a lot of American evangelical pastors. And with almost no exceptions, not a single one of these guys could tell you the difference between Mozart and Beethoven, let alone claim to be a fan of the minimalist Estonian composer. I remember writing a paper on Arvo in university. He’s written some fascinating music, making extensive use of harmonics in his orchestration. I couldn’t find a real nice example to post here. Sadly, I don’t own any recordings of his works. Here is a something though from YouTube. Pardon the cheesy photo montage.

Anyway, I’ve spent the last two years being drawn toward our local reformed congregation. They have a thriving church here. Some of the following I can only see in hindsight now. Anyway, I’m not directly involved with them now. The thing is, it wasn’t that I was enamored with Calvinism, it was simply the higher culture of many of the people in the congregation, especially some of the leadership. I was so sick of hearing every January sermon laced with Super-Bowl references. I was tired of loving classical music and having the only thing on my pastor’s musical radar be the latest Casting Crowns album. Now I know Christ is neither high-brow nor low-brow. He is neither Vouvray nor Bud Light (nor Pepsi for that matter). The pastor who knows Bach inside out is not higher spiritually than the one who loves NASCAR. Frankly though, I don’t really want to hang out with the racing fan all day. I think he feels the same way about me.

I believe groups of people form communities most of the time based upon their interests, things held in common, and how well they get along with various individuals. Doctrinal distinctives just aren’t often as driving of a force as we make them out to be. I am willing to bet that most churches are divided along lines of culture and demographics, not doctrine. Just some of the leaders think it is doctrine and the people follow, as is appropriate. Anyway, I’m still looking for someone that digs the same music I do. But the Lord will build me into his church based on a lot more than that I think!

Einstein on Intuition

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
And the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honours the servant
And has forgotten the gift — Albert Einstein

The few things I can do with excellence are all intuitive. I’ve forced myself (or been forced) to learn how to handle many things in life, but even with a lot of time and energy, I’ll never be more than mediocre at them. I have a good ear. In four years of music history at university, I used to blow through listening exams with perfect scores while many of my classmates would struggle. These are the same classmates that were often much more accomplished musicians than I was. Even during the years I practiced the most, I never felt like much more than a hack at my instrument.

Many of the reformers held rationalism in high honor, and yet many of the saints did not see quite so much value in it.