Archive for June, 2011

Sometimes you just need to vent

Let me begin by saying how much I have enjoyed and grown through my seminary journey. I have learned much, both in terms of academics as well as important life lessons. I have been stretched and molded in many ways over the past 3 years.

One way that this stretching occurs has been through classes that have REALLY challanged me. I actually rewrote that sentence…originally it said “through classes that I haven’t enjoyed.” But that’s not exactly the right sentiment.

There have been classes that have just been…plain and simple…challanging to wade through. To use a metaphor, some of them feel like wading waist deep upstream against a very strong current. I’ve always made the destination, but its been a lot of work.

I’ve got one this summer that qualifies.

Now I’m not trying to complain about this class. I’ve actually really appriciated it but with the way that timing fell for me personally over the past few weeks, I’m really struggling to wrap up the work for this class.

I’ve been having a hard time getting my brain back into the mindset of this particular class, having stepped away from the work for a couple weeks while doing classroom time for my other two classes.

Added into the mix is the new reality of having both kids home with me. I’ve been in the mode of slamming through homework during the day when I’m home over the course of the spring semester and I just can’t do that with a 7 and 4 year old. Doesn’t work so I’m back into the “evening homework” mode again.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been making progress over the course of the past few days and that’s a good thing but as I’m looking towards the final project I’m really struggling.

That being said, I just emailed the prof to go over a potential idea. So that might offer some much needed direction for me.

That or maybe I just need to take a breather for a night to clear my head. Deadliest Catch is on tonight…maybe that’s just the distraction that I need.

What Do I Call Myself Now?

Okay, summer break has been going on for awhile now…kinda anyway.

Spring semester was over what, a little over a month ago. I wrapped up summer classroom work (but still not follow up work…BLAST) last week.

The kids have been out of school for a couple weeks now.

Okay, so all that stuff makes it summer right? Yes. I agree.

However, with everything that’s been going on, today was the first day when I officially “stayed home” with both kids. I have to say, it went pretty well (if I do say so myself). We did have a little snaffu first thing this morning, but after a brief lecture about learning how to coexist coupled with a 5 minute sentence of sitting on chairs right next to each other holding hands, we didn’t have any more bickering.

Serious kudo’s to whoever it was that gave me that idea. I don’t remember who you are but you exude sheer awesomeness. You have my gratitude.

But anyways…long story short. The summer of fun has begun (hey, I’m a poet…nice).

I’m wondering what to call my current situation…help me out here.

Mr. Mom

Daddy Day Care

Stay at Home Dad

Trophy Husband (okay admittedly that one’s questionable, I’ll admit it)

Personally I kinda like this one:

Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynomite Wolf Squadron (but I have to give credit to Donkey in Shrek 3 for that one).

Grrr

I’m done posting assignments for Media class. In many ways I’m glad of that…but assignments aren’t finished yet.

Now I’m in the process of commenting on classmates blogs.

Now ordinarily I’ve got no trouble posting comments. Those that know me well know that I’ve got the gift of gab and I can bring that into postings pretty easily. But this is tough.

I’m working on comments tonight and everything I post feels forced. Maybe in a way it is. I’ve got a theory for what’s going on though.

On one hand I do have to do it and perhaps the “assignment” aspect of the comments is part of the problem. A second aspect is the time that has gone by. We sat in class 2 weeks ago. I was reading the books anywhere from 3-5 weeks ago. Since then I’ve sat through 2 weeks of intensive classwork. Anyone that’s done that knows that it knocks any previous thoughts right out of your head…or at least I’d like to think so in my case.

AHHHH!!!!!

Okay…aggravation out there…gone from my brain onto the page…at least let’s hope so.

Back to it.

If Christianity Were As Engaging as Harry Potter

A recent development within the literary as well as online world has been the development and announcement by JK Rowling about the pending website Pottermore (see the latest news here).

So this new site is going to be a combination of literary material, online gaming, and of course a source for electronic copies of the books themselves.

Now, if Potter mania is any indication…and yes I fall into the category as well owning all 7 books and the first 7 movies, not to mention waiting very anxiously to see the final installment in theaters on July 15th…its likely that Pottermore is going to be popular. Honestly, pretty much anything Rowling touches from here on out is golden.

But I wonder what would happen if we could generate that much excitement around matters of faith.

I recall the final book coming out a few years back (2007 if memory serves me correctly). I pre-ordered it from amazon, and it arrived in a package at work. Once I got home I started reading and pretty much didn’t stop until I finished the 759 page monster (and yes I just checked the book to see how many pages it really is) at approximately 1 am the next night….Quick calculation…it took me approximately 30 hours to read it at an average speed of 25.3 pages per hour…anyone that has seen me reading Harry Potter knows that I read it a lot faster than that but I did sleep and work some during those 30 hours.

Does anyone get that excited about reading the Bible?

Do people flock around websites created for/by ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson (just pulling an example out of my head there)?

Maybe they do and if so I think its great. And granted Christianity is still the largest recognized religion on Earth. 2.2 billion people according to the article on Wikipedia.

But do we get excited? Do we turn it into an event…a phenomenon? Or has Christianity had its hey-day?

I remember when Twilight was billed as “The Next Harry Potter.”

So tell me oh faithful readers…what’s your take? Is Christianity still relavent. Are we hip and with it? Or has our time faded? Can we find a way to be “The Next Harry Potter?” Or are we just another cog on the ladder of “free classics on the amazon kindle?”

(Which by the way I’m really fond of, but I’m referencing it as something that advertisers don’t see as a money maker so they offer it as a benefit to attract potential customers who will then go on to actually purchase something else and make the advertisers some serious bank)…side note…yes I know it’s sad that I have to explain my references…but that’s the way my brain works. I laugh at my own irony…you can too.

Oh and for the record…just in case you were wondering…I never read Twilight…just wanted to put that out there.

Learning Evaluation—Assignment Time!!!

This posting is 100% assignment. Honestly I feel a little odd about even posting it here…but what the heck. We’ll give it a whirl. 5 Questions, part of the learning portfolio required of every M.Div student that goes through Luther Seminary. Go ahead…pursue a Theological degree at Luther…you’ll do it too…and if you don’t (oh random person proving me wrong in the future) don’t tell me that you didn’t. I’ll be jealous.

  1. I thought all three reading assignments were relevant in that they all discussed the presence of social media/online interaction within the world as we know it today. I found Drescher’s book to be the most applicable for us as future pastors in the internet context. Shirky’s book applied to the drastic impact that social media has as it creates the opportunity for crowds to gather (figuratively) around an issue. Hess’ book seemed a little off. As I mentioned in that particular blog post, it seemed as if the audience was faculty about 10 years ago. This would be the one book I’d consider replacing within the curriculum.
  2. I appreciated the design of the course. The short-term class room aspect was appealing, though admittedly difficult in terms of the social/family life occurring on a Friday evening/Saturday. But I felt that the time we met provided ample opportunity for discussion and engagement with the topics at hand. In many ways it felt like a seminar, but honestly, I think that’s okay considering the focus. Honestly it’s a seminar that I think all clergy (and future clergy) should engage in. I appreciated the group dynamic that we utilized as this type of discussion and engagement with different viewpoints works towards my own learning style. I do wonder if breaking the time up into (perhaps) 3 or 4 segments would be applicable, however, I do not think that breaking the classroom time up in a traditional weekly class time format would be advisable.
  3. Surviving the class is not difficult. Simply realize that you will be giving up a significant amount of a weekend. Prior involvement with social media is a plus, but certainly isn’t a requirement. In fact having the perspective of people with all ranges of personal experience was helpful in terms of class discussion. In terms of flourishing, I think you only need an open mind and a respectful attitude.
  4. One of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from this class would be a healthy awareness of the permanent nature of online postings. Once something is online, there is no deleting it. It’s still there even if we don’t think so. Now, I’ve been around social media long enough to know this. I’ve seen some firestorms and even been mildly involved with some of them. But that being said, I’ve also gained appreciation for the broad opportunity that media presents for parish education. I don’t think it is something to be feared, but rather something to be engaged within our parishes. Allow information to flow freely and we just might learn something from each other.
  5.  I have greatly appreciated this class. I think it is a wonderful way to fulfill the Education 2 requirement while engaging with a very pertinent and important reality that we live with. This isn’t going away anytime soon. The world is connected for better or worse. We are called to be Christ’s servants in the world as it is today. We need to remember to engage with that world.

Technology in Theological Ed…It opened a Big Can of Worms

Mary Hess is a professor at Luther Seminary in St Paul, MN. What’s more…she’s my professor. What’s even more than that…she’s the professor of the class that I’m writing this blog for.

Does this sound like a disclaimer?

Yah, I thought so too.

The third book that I’m writing about here (and you can see my comments on the other two in my last two postings) was written by Hess and published a handful of years ago (2005). It’s called Engaging Technology in Theological Education. Now, Hess’ book is thought provoking, though admittedly as I read it I had two main reactions. I don’t know if negative reaction is the right way to describe either feeling.

The first reaction that I experienced was “Mary, you’re preaching to the choir.” I really got the sense that this book was aimed more at faculty/administration of seminaries or colleges that deal with theological education. It really felt like a push for acceptance of online educational opportunities within theological education. Now, this book was published at the time that Luther Seminary was in the process of creating the Distributed Learning program for earning a Master’s of Divinity degree.

As one a member of one of the first groups to begin this program, I’m fully an advocate of the approach. Now that being said, I did feel that this book, though applicable to the class because of the Media focus, is better suited for the academic audience…namely, not the students but the teachers that are in the process of engaging in this type of teaching.

Now, as I transition to my second point, I must finish my disclaimer that I began at the beginning of this post. Mary, I’m going to disagree with you. I will attempt to do so respectfully and simply present my opinion based on my own experience, limited though it may be. And so I respectfully request that when it comes to grading this particular portion of the class for me, that you would be gentle (and for those of you that know me well, you likely realize that I’m both making a joke as well as being serious here, because that’s the type of guy that I am).

One particular chapter of Hess’ book is aimed at the inherent issue of embodied racism in our American society today. Admittedly, this is still a hot-button topic, though likely in some areas of the country more than others. Hess’ point, if I understood it correctly, is that our society is so profoundly engaged in the privilege of white culture, particularly white males that we have grown immune to recognizing it.

Namely, it’s so common that we don’t know we’re doing it.

Now when I read this chapter, I disagreed. In fact I was offended. I felt like I was being accused of being a racist and a sexist simply because of the demographic that I am a part of.

But is true? Do I fall into this trap without even knowing it?

My experience is in the context of a small Midwestern town that does not have a great deal of racial diversity. Likewise, I was born into a generation that has not seen the battles of gender equality that were so clear to my parent’s generation. In short, I just didn’t see the tension on either front. Did I have a blind eye, or was it simply not present? I really don’t know.

I like to think that my context is a sign of tolerance and acceptance in our culture. Is it perfect yet? Probably not, but are moving in the right direction? I hope so, but I don’t know.

As I ponder more on Hess’ book I wonder if I am in any way able to make that call. I don’t experience the same hurdles or obstacles. This is not to say that I don’t have obstacles of my own, but do they fall in the same category? Or by trying to categorize them, are we simply continuing the same problem?

Shifting gears, I wonder how our global community, made so much smaller yet so much more diverse thanks to the connection of social media can help to move society beyond these hurdles. Last semester, I took Worship at Luther Seminary. One of our readings was the Lutheran World Federation Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture found on the ELCA website. It is aimed at learning how to adapt features of different cultures from all over the world into our own worship practices. In my opinion, it is a way to strengthen the body of Christ by learning about and learning from our brothers and sisters from all over the world.

It is my hope that this trend will continue so that human equality is not just something that we talk about (or worse yet don’t talk about) but that it becomes something that we live without having to think about it.

So am I on the right track here? Honestly, I really want to know…Sound off.

Elizabeth Drescher…Tweet, Post, I don’t Care…Just Spread The Word

Elizabeth Drescher’s very new book Tweet If You Love (Heart) Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (published within the past few months) takes a long hard look at what she seems to describe as a new reformation within the church.

When we as Protestants living in the 21st century recall our church history…which admittedly is something that not everyone is familiar with, so perhaps I should say when those of us who have studied church history…the word Reformation certainly strikes a chord. At least it should.

Quick, I say Reformation…what comes to mind? Martin Luther (I hope so). 95 theses (now you’re talking). Division of the Western church as we know it (yah baby). A complete revolution in the way we engage with issues of faith (ummm…what?) Whose occurrence can only be attributed to the invention/implementation of the printing press (okay…you lost me Scott).

If you are wondering just what the heck I’m talking about, I don’t blame you. Admittedly my brain makes some pretty weird connections sometimes. But bear with me for a second. Yes…the Protestant Reformation was the result of one man’s sheer audacity…yah I’ll say it…Luther had stones to stand up the Papacy the way he did although he also had the backing/protection of Frederick the Great. But one man’s ideas (or perhaps ideals) can only go so far in an age where reproduction of books and letters goes as fast…as…one…person…can…write…with…crappy…pens…dipped…in…ink…and…scratched…on…half…rotten…parchment.

Sorry, trying to prove a point with my typing there.

Without the printing press, Luther’s influence would have gone about a stone’s throw and Rome probably wouldn’t have even heard about it.

Now, what does all this have to do with Drescher’s book? Well, as the title suggests, we are in another reformation. This one has come about in much the same way, or in the very least is aimed in the same direction. New technology (and yes the printing press was the iPad of the 16th century) created for the sole purpose of sharing information. Look at it as broadly as you want. Email, the internet, social media, Wikipedia, text messages, smart phones, tablets, etc, etc, etc, etc (did I etc enough to cover all the bases?). The list goes on and on.

Drescher suggests that the use of social media/technology in the realm of spiritual matters may be viewed as a passing fad, though I don’t get the feeling that she actually believes it. Rather, I think she offers this potential train of thought as a complete 180 from her actual belief. This is the future…Star Trek, 2001, all those old movies and shows set in the future where information was stored centrally and was easily accessible…yah we’re there.

So what’s this mean? Well, I get a little fired up (clearly as I’ve gone on tangent after nerdy tangent here) is because the ability to share information and engage in community is something that drips with the Priesthood of all Believers.

That’s right…I just busted out some Luther on you. When Christ finds us and our lives are changed we are called to be priests for one another. We are called to offer a word of forgiveness to those afflicted by their sinfulness. Additionally, we are all called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28…check it out).

In other words…spread the word y’all. And what better way to do it than through technology that can instantly spread your words in countless directions…that can go viral and be viewed by countless people around the world…that can create dialogue with someone on the other side of the planet and help to spread the good news of Christ.

Now, sorry I didn’t really review Dreacher’s book very well here…but as I read it, and admittedly it’s a pretty quick accessible read, this is what sparked off for me. How about you? Have you read it? What’d you think?