Wednesday, 30 January 2008

An Online Rant about Missionary Work

When asked "Why don't we get the 'results' that the early church did?" I wrote the following: 

We're following bad methods. We're acting like we're corporations, city planning councils or armies. We have a church that actually calls itself "The Salvation Army." Saving people by marching on them, no doubt. Uniforms, ranks, drums and brass bands. I'm surprised there aren't churches called "The Salvation Corporation" or "Salvationville." Bad ideas. Really bad. 
    But I'll bet a few of you had a little thrill at how cool you thought those churches might be, didn't you? Can anyone say "Western-centric thinking"? We have forgotten to be people first and foremost, in favour of being non-human "positions" or "figures" instead (missionaries, church figures, roles, officers, posts, members, representatives, delegates, chairs, pastors, committees and so on). 
    There is no replacement for being a person. If a pastor is playing a role to keep his job, he's not able to deal with you man-to-man, something Jesus found an absolute requirement to get anything done right. It's the difference between sincere, heart-felt communication, and sound-bytes, platitudes and "positions" on things. 
    We often talk like politicians when asked personal questions. Someone wants to know how we FEEL about God, and we go and say "well, I'm a big believer in The Eternal Sonship of Christ, and I feel that giving up this doctrine explains most of what is wrong with the evangelical church today" which amounts to an intellectual argument, and it is rife with jargon and theological short-hand which leave little room for us to be known as individuals with lives and feelings and doubts. 
    We share a crusade that is dear to us, because crusades are dear to us. Why? Crusades are about us being right and others not getting to talk. Where does this idea that sharing doubts will hurt our theologically stated position or ability to connect to others when talking about our beliefs? It just might humanize us. A person who not only "mould[s] to the everyday culture" but actually forms a truly interactive part of some culture or other (even his own) by being in it is indispensible. 
   We're so focussed on not being "of" parts of the world (and on how special and blessedly different Christians are) that we've largely lost sight of our job, which is to be in it, to be part of things, rather than being perpetual "no"sayers, ghettoizing ourselves. If it wasn't our job to be in the world, we wouldn't have to be here. Home-schooling, a "church life" that takes over every waking moment and comprises most if not all of our social interactions; bible colleges and missions work pretty much guarantee that many of us don't really consistently "touch down" in any community with any permanence, impact or depth. Too many planters and no one watering, I say. 
   It's very exciting (no doubt) to quote large numbers of "churches planted" or pamphlets deployed, sermons given, books sold, or "souls reached" but who is willing to do the day-to-day, gloryless nuturing work, as messy and difficult as that is? Who is both willing to touch the leper, and also to help him have hope, someone to talk to and a place to sleep? Who can deal with the physical and the emotional or spiritual at one and the same time? 
    Someone gave me a "missions" book for Christmas. The world-view in it is fascinating. It sounds like the operations manual for the Nazis about to try to take over the world. It's all tactics, obstacles, inroads and "opportunities" for us to invade various parts of the world, including our own culture. "Our own" culture seems the biggest challenge for us to invade, also. Easier to go somewhere they've never heard of us, if such a place can be found. Less bridges burned, all is new, nothing needs to be forgiven. The Great Commission was carried out, largely, and went awry, got corrupted, and did horrible things like oppressing (and even killing) millions of people, in the name of "Christianizing" or ensuring the orthodoxy of various cultures. And we pretend "That wasn't us. That was other people calling themselves Christians. We're good ones." 
     If we pretend we can just "start over" like that never happened, just by doing something we call "returning to root principles" or the like, we're in denial. We can no more do that than we can "just forget about" Eden. It happened. Deal with it. Approach people with the humility and honesty that people who called themselves exactly what we call ourselves did horrible things, up to and including genocide. Be willing to hear the very convincing problems people have with what they understand to be "Christianity," the bible or even "religion" in general, and be able to see what science means to these people and what a deep and comforting place it has in their hearts, how they use it to tell them who they are, where they came from, what will happen to them, what is possible and what they're doing here. Deal with them in light of this reality before we ask them to celebrate and take part in (or even listen to) what they will take for "magic and make-believe." 
    I'm sure there are scores of books I've never heard of out there that argue this sort of thing in a great deal more depth, with more clarity. Shawn told me once about people asking "How do you make yourself approachable to unbelievers?" or "How do you send off the message that you are open-minded and willing to chat?" and so on, and how boggled they were at his zen-like ("zen" in the sense of "bloody obvious") answers: "BE approachable" and "BE open-minded and willing to chat." "Needing" to save people isn't the same thing as them needing Christ. The difference is that the first one demands a favour of the "unbeliever," and the second addresses their needs instead of our own. We seem to think we're here to put on a show of some kind. Life. That's what we're here to do. No more and no less than that.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Weekend of Wonder

Last weekend Troy had one of his LAN parties. I met cool new people, played a whole lot of Rock Band for the 360 (I was "the singer" on many songs I'd not normally tackle, like Nirvana and Black Sabbath stuff, which was awesome), ate ungodly amounts of a staggering assortment of junk food, drank some of the Strongbow's Cider in the keg, had energy drinks, played pinball, discussed ancient console games and saw some played, talked, and generally hung out. D was in town, and played the "Phantom Menace" pinball machine Troy has (one of four pinball machines in the basement) and this is why, mixed in with the annoying and continual Jar Jar voical samples the machine has, D's quite credible Jar Jar impression was heard, said things like "MEEsah suck ASS!" as he played. It was all very fun, but I'm feeling very Ecclesiastes lately: "I spent time in the company of my friends, yet our hearts communed not, neither did our thoughts touch each other; I toiled until my soul was weary with working, yet no man looked upon my labours, neither did they bear fruit; yeah, and I spent time in celebration and feasting, yet everything was vanity and pursuit of the wind. All is waste, and vexation of spirit. There is nothing new under the sun, and all things move on apace, whether a man set his heart to do good or no." (that's me writing my feelings in the style of the Book of Ecclesiastes by Solomon)

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Roger The Kitten

After school Friday I took the kitten in for his first checkup since I got him. I knew he had diarrhea and a sneeze. He's getting over a bad cold, who knows as to the diarrhea at this point, and he has conjunctivitis (pinkeye), it turns out. Now I need to put ointment in his eyes. The cute vet who hugged me when Syd got put down last month (one of four women there, and not the one dealing with little Roger) wanted to tell me how sorry she was about Syd dying last month (she remembered me and him, and so on) and told me that only two weeks later her own cat had dropped dead of exactly the same thing. She is really striking, but is married. Really wanted to connect with me over the subject of the animal losses. So today I'm home with a huge sheaf of students' short stories, featuring characters from stories I liked when I was a teenager myself. I'm watching episodes of Big Train and Jonathan Creek that I've downloaded, instead of marking them quite yet. The kitten is a bit too agressive when I'm trying to eat, and not staying out of my food. At lunch, I was eating perogies with cottage cheese on them (no sour cream) and he kept trying to walk onto the plate. I kept putting him on the floor beside the futon, and he kept climbing back up. Eventually he got the idea and perched on the armrest above my head (I was semi-reclined, watching Big Train) and he just watched. This went well until, as I inserted one of the last perogies into my mouth, a fuzzy black paw with extended claws moved faster than I could see and slapped me in the mouth, pulling the perogy right back out of my mouth again on a set of claws that got snagged on my lip on the way out. I was displeased.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

A Fuzzy Parrot

I got seriously hooked on Stephen Fry's "QI" show, a (British, obviously) show in which the questions are designed to be ones that the celebrity guests not only will generally not know, there will also be a common misconception or urban legend or myth on the topic that the guests are likely to say, and lose points. Guests get points for knowing anything really about these obscure things, or for saying anything remotely interesting. They are mostly comics and actors, so their reparté is hilarious.

Alan Davies is the perpetual "guest" who is on every show, and his role is more or less to not know most things, and get answers wrong and complain amusingly about the questions. When I found out he had had a starring role in Jonathan Creek, one of those British "Oh look! There goes the MURderer!" shows, I decided to check it out. It's on YouTube. It's pretty good for a mystery show. It's like a modern Sherlock Holmes, Poirot or Miss Marple. Maybe Peter Serafinowicz will do a spoof of it too. He had Holmes buggering Watson whenever he solved a case, and Poirot and Marple sneaking off for quickies when they were supposed to be investigating. Jonathan Creek is a "set and illusion designer" for a famous stage magician, and as such, he specializes in improbable murders in which the whole thing takes place in a locked bunker with no windows or the like. Unlike an American show, he has a somewhat fat, extremely shrill, obnoxious ear ring-wearing female sidekick for comedic effect who is not particularly hot, and there is occasionally sexual tension, but it isn't "going anywhere" and both date other, more attractive people.

My computer sends a video signal to the TV in the living room. The only bad part (well, good in terms of minor exercise) is that for shows on YouTube, you have to keep jumping up and going into the next room to click on each new part, as YouTube has a 10 minute limit on videos. It's better than watching commericals, I emphatically maintain. Life's too short to watch even a single commercial, in my opinion. My goal is to spend LESS money, and allowing people to take up my time trying to tempt my wallet open isn't on the agenda for me.

Syd (previous cat) was trained to leap off my chest whenever he felt my stomach muscles tighten to sit upright to go click "part two" on the computer. Roger (current kitten) hasn't got this down, and on one occasion clung to my shoulder happily like a fuzzy parrot while I walked into the other room and changed the YouTube page. Arrr. Piracy.

Roger Gets Used To Living Here

Roger the kitten has fallen into an odd pattern where he hides whenever I get up and walk around, but if I'm in bed or on the futon watching TV, he jumps up and wants to climb all over me, try to insert his head up my nostril, rub his little body against my face (smearing up my glasses) and generally scratch and bite my hands as if there were chew toys. Trying to eat breakfast (or supper) while sitting or lying on the futon in front of the TV (as is my wont) is next to impossible with him jumping onto my shoulder, worming his way under an armpit and generally wanting into everything. This morning he was hooking his claws over the rim of my (plastic) cereal bowl and trying to pull it away from me out of my hand. He's very endearing, but in the manner of kittens, is also completely crazy. This evening, he kept trying to get at my plate of pasta, and I kept setting him back down on the floor, once with a spiral of pasta hooked on a claw.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Roger "Howe" Waters

Saturday morning I got up and paid the exhorbitant bill they sent to put my cat Syd down in December, and then drove to a fairly distant animal shelter to pick up a kitten. I'd seen a teeny one online (I wanted a black one) and they showed me all of the cats there. They had the adult cats loose in the main area, and there was one adorable black female (cat) who'd walk up to you and repeatedly stand up her hind legs and butt her head into your hand if you petted her.

I went into the "kitten room" and saw all of the kittens. There was a cage with two tiny black kittens, one of which was the one I'd had my eye on online, and another cage with two larger, healthier ones, as seen here. The lady reached the open the cage seen here and the one looking at the camera (his brother's ears visible below his eyeline) rubbed himself on the cage and leaped out onto me and commenced rubbing his little body all over my face and shoulder.

Eventually I thought "I should give the little one a chance, though" and he was so wobbly and weak and scrawny that once I got him purring a bit, I put him back and picked up the first one again, and he started up again wtih the aggressive rubbing his face and shoulders on me again. He chose me, so I took him. The little one had been left with his siblings in a box, malnourished. A couple of them died. This larger one had been found with his siblings, probably abandoned and recently orphaned on an island in the Rideau lakes region, but in good shape. It was Howe island, so they called this one Howe and his brother Skye (after a neighboring island) and the others after other island names.

When I took Howe (hereafter known as "Roger" after the Pink Floyd songwriter, just as Troy's cat is called Floyd and my previous cat was Syd) and put him in a cat carrier, he got very upset and mewed the whole drive home. I opened the carrier and petted him, and he wouldn't come out, as he was too scared.

Once I got Roger home, he hid and wouldn't come out for about 24 hours. He'd mew questioningly, and if I was in the same room as he was, he'd stay put, and if I called to him from another room, he'd skitter out to the litter box or to look at things before diving back under cover.

Eventually I enticed him out and he erupted in a flurry of rubbing on me and playfully scratching and biting rather hard. Once Joel came over, he was terrified again, then started sneaking out all over the apartment, especially once the sun set and it got dim. A little streak of black or a little head with upright ears would occasionally peer around things and then vanish again. He's getting used to the place. He will even come out and sit near us while we're talking, but if either of us makes a move to stand up, he'll go hide again. There's a mixture of panic and play to it, and his mewing is a confused thing, as he's kinda scared and upset to be taken from the shelter by a large stranger, yet he is appealing to me (said stranger) for comfort.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Another Snow Day

Again. Tired of them. Tired of driving into school in horrible weather, just so I can stay there and not teach anyone anything. I did get some marking done. Then came home, napped, and have started wathing "Jonathan Creek" on YouTube to see if I'd like it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

My "Write Bad Teen Poems" Formula Idea

As an English teacher, I allow kids to put poems in their writing portfolios for extra credit. The thing is, the vast majority of teenaged poems are kinda all the same. "My secret angst," "silent scream" and "no one knows my shattered pain" and so on. After a few years of teaching, you've seen hundreds of these and they kinda annoy you.
First, pass around two pieces of chalk and have them fill the board up with likely angst-poem words to use. Then encourage them to write rhyming poems that complain that no one understands their pain, and that they will never trust anyone again.  For extra credit, suggest writing an angt-ridden poem in the style of Dr. Seuss:
"I will not cut me, Sam I am, I will not cut me with a knife, I will not cut into my wife, go anguished blade go. Go deep, go deep, go deep now, into the screaming abyss of my heart, cut blue, cut red, release my fading sorrow 'till it's dead. Dead, dead, dead; cut cut cut, oh Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown will you sink your blade, deep into my forsaken gut?" and so on.
Actually depressed, "emo" kids tend to like this exercise a lot, as they feel their personal poetry isn't quite as bad as this, so they felt better about it, and take pride in purposely writing worse than they do.  Clean cut kids LOVE trying on the emo hat for this exercise and writing like that. I guess all teens are emo under the skin. (The fading, archangel skin, forsaken in the anguished moonlight, black tombs swallowing their torn, forgotten dreams, shattered, flaming tears and writhing, groaning doom.)

Back At It

I couldn't sleep, so just lay in bed with my eye's (dammit. too much marking kids' work really makes bad punctuation look ok) closed for about four hours, thinking dazedly betimes. That happens quite often when I feel like I really need to sleep, because I'm back to work or whatever after some time off. Went to school, taught some things, ate people's excess Christmas chocolate and played some guitar. Came home and fell asleep, and woke up around 9pm, with a strong feeling like I'd been "sleeping as hard as I could" with my whole metabolism completely divided between "it's evening. you don't sleep now. wake up" and complete, mindless exhaustion that would not be denied. Now I'm up, and hope I can sleep tonight. There are exams to plan, stuff to cram in and so on. Watching Alien: The Director's Cut, which should help me sleep. Not because torso-rending violence makes me sleepy per se, but more because the slow pacing of 70s TV and movies makes me very relaxed.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Wasting the Last Bit of Time Before School

I did a lot of lying around, reading, surfing the Internet and so on. I didn't do enough other things. I put the word out that I am looking for a free kitten, and have gotten no information yet on that. On Friday evening, Joel1 came over and we watched funny stuff. I showed him The Peter Serafinowicz Show and he showed me Brainiac: Science Abuse (a British show that is like Jackass, only with a thin pretense of being "scientific" where Jackass is redneck, skater/stoner). We tried some hacks of Atari 2600 games that, in an emulator, have the graphics of, for instance, Space Invaders or Galaxion, replaced with Star Wars ones or the like.

On Saturday, Joel2 and I went to Joel2's friend Matt's house. On the way I stopped to buy whatever cheap set of TV show DVDs were on sale used at CD Warehouse (or "Seedy Warehouse" as it sounds in my head). I got X-Files Season 4 to have something to pass the time, to veg to. Joel2 and Matt like to make noisy soundscape "music" stuff and don't have cars and live in different towns. I was the enabler, the facilliator of the noise this Saturday. I got to sit in on all of the setting up of equipment that was mostly fallen apart, and witness the howling caucophony of guitars with all of the strings broken and hanging, feeding back wildly while said strings are wound around the neck and yanked upon to make vrooming sounds, or played with a metal vibrator to make moaning chainsaw roars and so on. I had a bit of a headache once they were done a few hours of this. My only contribution was to take Joel2's toy megaphone with a "robot voice" setting and read H.P. Lovecraft into a mic while they made some of their noise.

Eventually the guitars with 6 strings on them came out and an informal jammy thing started:

On Sunday, I seemed to want to sleep all the time, bought some milk, missed having a cat, watched Six Million Dollar Man and X-Files episodes, read the first half of the Terry Pratchett book I borrowed from Matt (Night Watch) and marked A-H in my Creative Writing class's work. I've been teaching about not using "it's" possessively. My whole "we don't write 'hi's' or 'her's' with an apostrophe, so don't write 'its' with one either" doesn't always stick.

So, tomorrow it's back to school.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Years Eve

New Years was at T's this year. As usual there were pinball machines, various game consoles hooked to a projection screen TV, way too many kinds of desserts, guitar playing and lots of cool people. I played the "Phantom Menace" pinball machine in a three player game, and also enjoyed using the MAME cabinet to play Arkanoid (my favourite) and Puzzle Bobble and Super Sprint.
I also played Guitar Hero 3 into the Wii hours of the morning. There was Jolt! gum (each stick with half as much caffeine as a full cup of coffee) and some caffeine strips (like Listerine breath strips, but for caffeine) and Red Bull, as well as alcohol, but I made do with two Strong Bow ciders and no caffeine at all. Those things keep me up all night, and I plan to be asleep before 6am.  Naoise, on the other hand, (seen here with a Sugar-Free Red Bull) had liberal amounts of all alcoholic and caffeinated things.