The Humanity of Christ

I ran tech for two showings of The Passion of the Christ tonight, and I think it may be impossible for anyone to come away from that movie without lots of theological thoughts and questions racing through their mind. Yes, Mel Gibson took some fair liberties in his movie, adding scenes which have no Biblical basis and adding many lines in the movie which have no scriptural reference. But you just can’t make a great movie using only the gospel accounts of the Crucifixion, not because it isn’t a story worth telling but because there just isn’t enough “script” to cover two hours worth of movie. And let’s give Mel a little bit of credit here for doing a great job at keeping the movie mostly scriptural, with a distinct lack of politics and personal beliefs that no one else in Hollywood could have done, or at least would have done. So with the understanding that movie is just that, a movie, and not a historically accurate film, let’s delve into some good, old-fashioned theological discourse.

It sounds funny to say, but it’s my opinion that in the ‘boyfriend Jesus’ era we currently live in, we have somehow managed to forget both the humanity and the divinity of Christ, and particularly have forgotten he was both at the same time. I’m not sure how to describe exactly what we view Jesus as, because human or divine seem to be the only two choices, but I honestly am going to go with somewhere in the middle. In recent years, Christians have decided to relate to Jesus more on the human level, thus the awful phrase “I’m dating Jesus” that was common for a few years, and is now more commonly made fun of. We talk about Jesus being our buddy, a friend who hangs out with us, and emphasize the personal relationship with him that a Christian enjoys. We also have our moments where we see him as the Son of God, particularly around the Easter season. These are the times when we talk about the miracles Jesus performed, how he raised himself to life on the third day, and how he sits at the right hand of the Father. We do the best we can, but in the end we fall far short of a true understanding of Christ.

Our human intellect lacks the ability to conceive a being as both fully man and fully God, and in our inability to understand how 100% and 100% don’t add up to 200%, we end up with a skewed view of our savior. We neglect his humanity when we consider his life on Earth nearly 2,000 years ago, and we also neglect his deity when we consider him as our personal savior today. Today, my aim is to focus on the humanity of Christ during his time on earth, to be followed later by a focus on his deity both then and now.

My favorite scene in The Passion is the one with absolutely no Biblical basis whatsoever. In it, a mid-20’s Jesus is busy working as a carpenter, building a “tall table” for a rich man in the city. Mary comes out to tell him lunch is ready, and the two have an exchange about why the table is so tall. Then Mary, like any good mother, makes Jesus take off his dirty apron and wash his hands before coming into the house to eat. The humanity of Jesus has never been more evident to me than it is whenever I watch this scene. We focus so much on his ministry years that we completely forget about his life from the ages of 12 to 30. But the truth is that these exchanges happened for most of his life, despite the fact we are not privy to any of them through scripture or specific historical documents. It’s imperative to remember that Christ was indeed fully human. He did the things that normal people did in their day. To draw the modern picture, Jesus came to church on Sundays with everyone else, he worked a 9-5 to support his family, he would have enjoyed going to Starbucks with friends or playing on the church softball team or going to the art museum. By most standards, he would be just like the rest of us. And it’s important to remember that, because the work that Christ accomplished is reliant on the fact that he was not only fully divine, but also fully human.

The more I dwell on his humanity, the more real he becomes to me in the present. Simple things that make perfect sense when you think about them, you’ve just never thought about them before. There was probably that one meal Mary made the Jesus didn’t like. He studied scriptures as a boy not because he was special, but because all good Jewish boys did–Jesus went to school. When he was a teenager, he probably went exploring in the hills with his brothers. You get my point. When we remember the full humanity of Christ, what he did for us on the cross is just that much more astounding. A man, a human just like you or me, willingly gave up his innocent life and paid the ultimate price for the sins of the entire world.

My challenge is to focus on the humanity of Christ over this Easter weekend and throughout the next few weeks. When you do your devotions and Bible studies, focus on the man Jesus when you do them. Think beyond just the words written and imagine the context of each verse. What was Jesus feeling? How did it make him feel that he was constantly called a liar and a blasphemer? When we read the gospels looking through the lens of Jesus’ humanity, it puts a whole new perspective on the scripture. A more accurate perspective. A perspective that makes Jesus more real to me than saying he’s my buddy ever will. 2,000 years ago, the man Jesus was put to death on a cross. 2 days later, the man Jesus was alive again. Fully divine. Fully human.

It’s Thursday night!

Yes, it’s Thursday night and that means it’s time for me to write something. I haven’t forgotten how to do it, I just get busy working or tired after working, or possibly distracted by the last episode of Deadliest Catch (currently). So I will write and watch crab fishing at its best, and hopefully intelligible things will end up on the ol’ website.

For starters, it’s worth noting that I’m temporarily filling a new job at work. Still very much a lighting guy, I’ve recently been given the role of “graphics projection technician” or something along those lines. Shirley was our old lyrics/graphics person, and she officially had her last day last week. So while we search for someone to fill that role, I’m now the new graphics guy for the Edge and other services that happen in the Smith Center. Thankfully I don’t actually have to do it alone, I’m kind of splitting time with Robby, who does a lot of the same things I do (lighting, weekly maintenance, etc). We’re hoping that our new job is a temporary one, and that we don’t do it so well they decide we can do it permanently :)

Our house got some very welcome loving in the past couple weeks, with all new carpet and paint throughout the common areas of the house. Of course it’s really nice to have new paint and carpet, but it also gave us the inspiration needed to do some deep cleaning, and we’re all pretty happy with the nicer, cleaner living room and kitchen. The problem is now that we’ve taken so much junk down from the walls and thrown so much away, we’re not sure what to put back up, and sitting here looking at the walls, the answer appears to be nothing. I guess I can get over the missing fire helmets and the mountain goat head.

I’ve been golfing a couple of time in the last week, and remembered how much I still like doing it. It does help that I played fairly well both times, and although my scores didn’t reflect it, I feel like if I put some work into my game and get a lot of rounds in that I may be playing very well by the end of the season. Of course the hard thing is that golf is expensive, especially in a city with such a high cost of living, and I may have to choose between my goal of playing ice hockey and my newfound desire to play lots of golf. I think golf will probably win the battle, but I haven’t yet decided for sure.

Well, it’s past my bedtime now and I’m tired. Short and sweet, just the way I like it. Peace.

My latest pursuits

I was in New York Thursday and Friday morning, and I even managed to go a whole 30-some hours without my laptop. Thus, no post on Friday morning.

And now it’s Saturday night, and not just any Saturday night, but ‘Spring Forward Saturday Night’–and I feel the urge to write something even though I have to get up in just a few short hours. But I don’t have anything really pressing that I want to share with you tonight. No theological implications, or life lessons, or anything of the sort. So instead, I’ll share with you some of my goals for the year of 2007. This is by no means a thorough list, or even a well designed, heavily pensive list. It’s just some of the things on my mind that I want to do this year. Not passing things, but things that really count as goals even if they’re not on a list somewhere. Problem is, most of these things are proving to be not cheap things, which doesn’t fit well with my financial consultant. So how many of them actually happen is dependent on the federal government approving the special financial request I submitted to the house budget committee (which is to stop charging me income tax, thus increasing my take-home salary by some 35%).

At the top of the list:

I say it’s at the top of the list not because it’s the #1 priority, but simply because I started the process today. I’ve been inline skating for years and years, but have only a handful of experience on the ice. So I can’t just start playing hockey right away, I have to transition to the ice first. So I’m taking skating lessons. They’re public classes of 8 or 10 people, and so far I can’t say the instruction has even been all that fantastic, but it’s a path to taking adult learn to play hockey classes, which is my ticket into adult hockey leagues which happen year-round in Arlington, on top of the Ballston Mall parking garage. They just finished a 40-million dollar ice complex, complete with two rinks and tons of public skating. It also hosts the Washington Capitals’ practice sessions (D.C.’s pro hockey team). I miss playing team sports a lot, especially now that I’ve grown up and know the value of teamwork and practicing till you drop. I hate how terrible I was playing baseball in high school (and I’m not talking so much talent as all the other things, which are really the ones that make the big difference), and maybe it’s me wanting to vindicate myself and participate in a team sport as a hard-working guy who never complains, who plays through the pain, and who works hard to see the payoff instead of just waiting to get lucky one game every season. Or maybe it’s just me wanting to smash some people into the boards. That sounds like fun.

I want to actually learn how to play the guitar. I started this process about 6 years ago when I went out and whimsically bought a guitar which I couldn’t even afford. (I had to go borrow money from my dad so my check didn’t bounce). But I’m finally starting to embrace the fact that I’m talented musically, but not without lots of practice. Same thing as before… in high school I never practiced, I just sat back and hoped I got lucky once in a while. But four years in Chorale taught me a lot about practice–especially that just when you think you’re ready, you’ve only done about 10% of the practice that you actually need.

One of the things I’ve become highly interested in is photography. Now, I’ve always been interested in that, but I’m thinking about it and learning about it more and more. All of the sudden my digital camera has become inconvenient; it doesn’t do the things that I want it to anymore. And while any great photographer will tell you that what matters is the photographer, not the camera, you also don’t see any of them walking around with a $300 kodak digital. There’s a reason for that. Couple with that, you all know that Photoshop has become a big hobby of mine, and I would love to really delve into the professional photography world. At least partially.

Finally, I want to punch every global-warming-touting writer, politician, and public figure in the mouth. Right square in the teeth. This global warming thing is so utterly ridiculous, and yet somehow it seems the entire world has bought into this piece of pseudo-science which has not a single empirical shred of evidence to support it. They’ve somehow convinced the general public that the earth is in a warming trend, even though thermometers have only been around since the 19th century (technically, Galileo invented a thermoscope in 1593, but there was no standard of measure, they could only make subjective measurements. Daniel Fahrenheit wasn’t even born for another 100 years, and it was really in the 1800s that standards of measure, and thus temperature records, even became available). That’s like measuring a pot of boiling water for 10 seconds, and then declaring that you have a complete record of the water’s temperature, from the time it left the faucet until the present. Scientists have no idea how hot it was in the 14th century, the 2nd century, or in 2000 B.C. In our ten seconds of temperature readings, it is possible that the earth’s climate has warmed slightly. But there’s absolutely no way of proving empirically that this is different than the entire rest of the Earth’s history. Everything else in nature is cyclical, and it only makes sense that the Earth’s temperature would be as well.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work harder to protect the environment. I think it’s great that we’re considering being conscious about protecting the environment. That’s really all we’re doing is considering, because if we actually were being conscious things would have changed by now. But you have to start somewhere. I just fear the day, which I think is probably inevitable (unless Americans manage to piss off the final 10% of the world and they all team up to kill us, which given the current state of our foreign politics seems increasingly likely), when Democrats and their big government dictate to us what we can and can’t drive, can and can’t own, can and can’t do. It could even be Republicans, seeing as how they don’t seem to really stand for small government anymore, either. But it will probably happen some day. And in the words of Padme (that’s Princess Leia’s mom) in Star Wars: Episode III,

“So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.”

Just visiting

I got a call from Eric Jones tonight. One of my all-time favorite people. It’s always good to talk to him and know that there’s at least one person out there who’s more of a loser than I am.

That was a joke.

Anyways, we got on the subject of taking time off work and vacationing and visiting people. This has been on my mind a lot the past couple of weeks, as I try to plan an actual vacation where I actually intend to take an entire weekend off, not to mention several days surrounding it. Originally I was going to go home in March, but then work popped up and decided I shouldn’t go home any time soon, so now I’m looking into the April or May time frame. But my original plan was to spend a week at home, split between a few days in Marion and a few days gallavanting around the midwest, trying to see as many people as possible. This would have required a large amount of sacrifice on my part, my family’s part, and many friend’s parts. If I flew home, then my gallavanting would require the use of a vehicle, which means either renting one or borrowing one at the expense of my family. Then there’s impossible amount of planning that goes into the trip, where people have to juggle schedules and rearrange plans and do all sorts of crazy schedule juggling that was so easy in college and is now impossibly difficult in the real world. Then there’s trying to get back to Marion, back to the airport, and finally back home to Arlington in time to be back at work so I can break my back and make enough of a living to fix my broken back that I broke so I would have the money and insurance to fix it.

Then in the course of my phone call with Eric, and our scheming on how I could possibly join him and his brother in-law for a week of Appalachian Trail hiking, that it hit me. Really I had already figured this out, but my moment of full-realization epiphany happened during the phone call.

I have no desire to take part in the rat race of seeing as many people as possible in the limited amount of time I have to see them all. I tried this approach in August when I went home, and all I learned was that there isn’t enough time to see everyone. So by trying to see everyone, you end up spending quality time with no one, and at the end of the whirlwind week I had at home, I came back east feeling like I hadn’t really “seen” anyone. Including my family, which was the whole reason I went to begin with.

Now what I’m learning, as my friends and I begin to settle into our adult lives, is that you just have to make priorities and go with them. I’ll be honest, if you’re in the middle of a trip, and in order for us to see each other we have to completely inconvenience each other to spend 30 minutes at a McDonald’s eating lunch, I’d rather not do it. Hey, if you came out to Virginia to see your family, then see your family. As much as I enjoy seeing old friends, that half hour at McDonald’s really isn’t worth the trouble and pain it will cause. Conversely, if I decided I’m going to take three or four days off and go see my family, I want to see my family. Okay, let’s say they’re working during the day–fine, I’d love to come hang out while the ‘rents are working. But come evening, I want to go back home. I mean, it’s my family.

What I’m not saying is I want to completely do away with the random visiting. For instance, say your flight is connecting in DC (not likely to happen, but go with the illustration). You call me and find out Tuesdays are great for me, it’s like my Saturday, and I would love to drive out and see you at the Dulles McDonald’s while you’re waiting. That’s cool. I love those random meetings. But I’ve decided I’m done with the “work you into my schedule” mentality. That’s for business executives who are trying to avoid interviews from Forbes magazine. Coming to DC for a weekend? Awesome. Let’s try and plan ahead so we can hang out for a few hours. Driving through DC on a tight time table? Sorry it couldn’t work out. That would’ve been awesome to see you, but keep on headed where you’re going. Oh hey, we should get together some time when we get the chance.

I’m looking forward to building some tenure up at my job now, because it means more vacation time. I have two weeks to use between now and September. In my second year on the job, I get three weeks vacation. In my third year, I get four. Four weeks of vacation sounds awesome to me. That’s enough time to see the family just because, spend time with them at holidays, take a week to see a few friends, take a week to go backpacking, and take a weeklong vacation somewhere (second week of backpacking, anyone?). Money to do that all is another issue. But having the possibility to do it is a good start.

So if I’m planning on seeing you, I’m making a conscious choice and concerted effort. Whether that means reworking my schedule so I can catch you on your day off in New York, or postponing my trip home to a later time that works better for everyone, or planning 8 months ahead to make sure it works. So there it is, my “visiting family and friends treatise.” I’d love to hear your thoughts.


I’d love to hear your thoughts.

No one ever comments on my posts anymore.

A Taste of Fear

In order to tell this story, I have to admit something to you. Constantly in the back of my mind, I have this fear that can almost be better described as a haunting knowledge, almost as if it’s not so much a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ a terrible thing will happen. Now don’t laugh, because I can’t help those instinctive fears, and it’s certainly not like I can do anything about it, so I just laugh at the possibility, but somewhere in the back of my mind is always this idea that Washington is only one terrorist away from a nuclear attack. Now I’m not betting on this happening any time soon, but at the same time you can never completely disregard the possibility either, given the state of the world today. Background information to help you experience my night as much as is possible.

So rewind to about 10:30 tonight, when six of us went out to the Silver Diner to eat after work tonight. We were sitting alone down at the end of the diner, with one half of us in booth seats along one wall, and one half in regular chairs across the table. JayJay and Kevin were sitting about 5 feet from the corner and the other wall, and I was on the other end probably 9 or 10 feet away. We were sitting with our drinks, waiting to order our food just chatting about whatever, when suddenly the windows at the end of the wall explode and we’re rocked with an unbelievably loud noise coupled with a shower of glass shards flying at us. In the shock of the moment, we all react as best we could. I sat for a split second before realizing everyone next to me was trying to get away, so I stood up and started to run away to make room for the others. As I stand up I start to look back, but I hear Dave, my boss, yelling “Go, go, go.” Immediately I look over to my right and see Steph, our Associate Producer, crawling across the floor trying to get away, and I see one or two others on the floor behind her. Then I turn my focus back to where I’m going, and I start shoving tables out of the way, trying to clear out and get as far away as possible. By this point, I’m starting to feel this force pushing me away from the windows. It wasn’t enough to knock me over, just enough to push me, and I remember thinking to myself, “so this is what the shockwave of an explosion feels like.” In those exact words.

Now, let me rewind a little to about 5:00 tonight, while we were setting up the Auditorium for weekend rehearsal. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason I got this premonition that something really, really terrible was going to happen. I’m not talking like someone’s dog dying or anything like that, I mean really terrible. Referencing the first paragraph, you can safely assume that deep down inside I’m thinking bomb. From time to time, I will admit that I do have these slight ‘premonitions’ which are never typically serious and are usually very fleeting. But for some reason I couldn’t shake this one tonight, and it probably consumed a solid hour of my time, of which I spent a lot of praying for protection while I was busy setting up. I will say this feeling was so genuine I actually considered stopping and asking for prayer with the entire setup crew.

Fast forward back to the exploding glass and the chaos that followed, and now you have a picture of exactly what I’m thinking at this moment. The wall to our right is exploding with an enormous bang. I’m feeling what my instincts deem to be the shockwave of a bomb. Everything within me is telling me to get away. And a few hours earlier, I had a terrible feeling that something really bad was going to happen. So now I’m running away from an exploding wall, towards a sea of diners, many of whom had stood up and were looking our way. My boss is yelling at us to run, and with every reason to believe him, I’m running away, thinking this is the moment I’ve always conceived in the back of my mind. Of course several of the waiters were also in the area, but not close enough to actually be part of the chaos, and after examining the situation objectively, began to yell at us, “Stop, stop, it’s okay.”

My guess is that this whole experience happened in no more than ten seconds, and probably more like 5 or 6. But that’s honestly exactly how I remember the whole event happening. So finally we’ve been stopped, and we began to collect ourselves and try to figure out exactly what happened. JayJay and Kevin, both sitting closest to the windows, were covered in glass, and several of us were bleeding from little nicks and cuts. We looked back, and the entire end of the restaurant looked like a bar fight. Tables were all strewn about, glass was everywhere, all of our drinks were scattered across the floor (except for mine, which I managed to keep in my hand through the entire ordeal, although I spilled the majority of it on myself in the process of running away), and we were left standing in the middle of the diner, trying to calm ourselves. JayJay immediately went to the restroom and began cleaning glass from himself and taking care of a few cuts on his hands. Kevin did the same, and the rest of us tried to figure out (pardon my language, but this is exactly what we’re all thinking) what the hell had just happened.
The diner staff did a really great job of checking on us and making sure we were okay, and we tried to piece together exactly what made the windows explode on us. Interestingly enough, all of us felt that force pushing on us, and the wind had been gusting up over 40mph tonight, and the best thing we could figure is that somehow the diner had depressurized and that caused the windows to literally implode on us. It made sense, as a higher pressure outside would account for the force pushing on us, and for the window to spew glass all over us. So we as a group more or less accepted that as the explanation, and began to move to the other side of the restaurant so we could accomplish our goal, which was to get something to eat. (!! Sidenote: I just now at this very moment pulled a shard of glass out of my ear. It literally was everywhere.)

A few minutes pass, filled mostly with us trying to collectively clean the glass off our clothing, stabilize the shaking hands and legs, and come back down from the adrenaline rush, when Joey, another coworker, strolls in from outside. We begin to tell him how he missed this whole ordeal, only to find out he was sitting outside in his car, talking on the phone, and witnessed the whole thing from the outside. Turns out, the high winds had knocked down the diner’s storage shed earlier in the evening, and while we were sitting inside, the wind picked up a “big u-shaped piece of metal, probably 10 feet by 10 feet, and slammed it into the windows.” It nixed our explanation of the building depressurizing, but made a lot more sense to us on the flipside of the whole experience. Not to mention a 40 mph wind gust explained the force pushing on us.
After the fact, I think we all enjoyed hearing exactly what was going through our minds as the glass beside us inexplicably imploded. Kevin immediately thought gunshots. I thought at first and at last some sort of explosion, with the middle being filled by the possible car coming through the wall. My boss thought someone has thrown a bomb or some type of explosive device through the window, which explained why he was yelling for everyone to leave. The common thread we all pinpointed was some sort of violent act.

Later on, JayJay mentioned how for many people living in the Middle East, that experience was something they live in constant, real fear of, except their fear is justifiably about bombs, gunshots, and explosions. I honestly cannot imagine what’s it’s like to live in the Gaza strip, or Baghdad or the Al Anbar province, where that is a reality of life. You can’t help but be thankful that we live in such a secure place, where the threat may be real but the acts seldom are. I have a whole list of things to be thankful for.

One of the things I’m very thankful for is amazingly cool and calm instincts. Now, I’m not saying that I’m always cool under pressure. There have been several instances, say when all my intelligent lighting turns off in the middle of a concert, where I can run around and get hyped up a lot and probably take longer to figure things out than I should. But in the few instances where my life has truly been in danger, or at least I thought it was, I have steely nerves and amazing instinctive reactions. The time I was sixteen and spun my (mom’s) car out going 70 mph down a slick road is one of those times. My youth pastor later said he looked in his rearview mirror and saw my car up on two wheels sliding sideways down the road. In that moment, perhaps the one where I’ve been in more peril than any other time in my life, I firmly regained control of the car, managed to stop it, keep it on the road, and then safely move it out of the way of oncoming traffic. A similar thing a few years ago when a gust of wind blew my truck sideways on the interstate going over an icy bridge. Traveling at a similar speed, I stayed calm and did the right things to correct out of the spin. Tonight, my life was not realistically in danger, but for those six or seven seconds I thought it was, I felt instincts just take over and do what I deemed necessary and took appropriate action. Most people, especially myself, do better in sports when we’re just instinctively reacting and not thinking about what we’re doing. That’s why it’s so imperative to learn fundamentals when we’re young, so that we grow up reacting the proper way to a ground ball or a hard backhand shot. I’m very thankful that I know I can rely on my instincts in the heat of the moment when things are really on the line.

So that’s my story from tonight. Completely 100% true. I even have a pic on my cellphone of the broken window (they cleaned up the mess before we thought to take pictures). Very enlightening for me to get the first six seconds of how I would react should the real thing ever happen. And a really, really great story to tell for a long time to come.

Oh, and a free dinner.

Oh by the way, I’m leaving now to drive 900 miles in a diaper

First of all, let’s just get it out of the way–I failed to finish my remix version of the Vatican II document. I started the second part on the next Thursday night, as was the plan, but quickly got distracted by the fact that it was becoming a five-part post, and quite frankly I just wasn’t feeling that academic. So it got put off, and then put off another week or two, and now here we are three weeks later and still no resolution or even continuation. I will make no excuses, it is what it is. I’m glad we’ve gotten that out of the way. Moving on to more important things, let’s all take a second to laugh about an astronaut driving 900 miles wearing a diaper to kidnap a fellow astronaut whom she was jealous of.

I love NASA and space exploration, and I think it’s part of our human nature to explore beyond our boundaries and see what’s beyond our backyard, what’s over the mountains, or what’s across the ocean. Space is the next frontier, pardon the cliche, and I don’t think we can help but explore it. Actually, I think it’s taking way too long for us to do it. But this is admittedly very bad PR for NASA, and I’m sure there will be some consequences for this, whether or not they’re formal ones. I just hope one psycho astronaut doesn’t do too much damage to a very worthy program. (On a side note, why is it no one is pointing out the fact that Nowak is married with children? I mean, two single astronauts fighting over a guy is one thing– a married astronaut getting this jealous over another man is another. Those poor children… I think I would put myself up for adoption.)

And come on, if you’re going to drive 900 miles while wearing diapers to try and win back your secret astronaut boyfriend, at least give yourself the best chance possible, and don’t look like this:

Even an astronaut monkey wouldn’t touch that.

Sam the rhesus monkey

Given the choice, I think I’d take the monkey.

Moving On…
Yesterday I decided to begin a new quest. This is something that’s really been a couple of months overdue, but until yesterday I just never got the inspiration to actually get up and do it. My evening event at work got canceled, meaning I actually got my whole day off yesterday as it’s supposed to be. Since I had planned on going to work in the evening and then was suddenly freed from that task, I decided it was time to go on a photoshoot. I had just recently started to look at Ken Rockwell’s photography, and decided I would give his style a try. He’s a genius with color. In fact, he even claims he doesn’t shoot subjects in his photography, because his subject is the color. His pictures are all taken with good old-fashioned skill, meaning none of his colors are faked on photoshop. If you’re good enough, patient enough, and devoted enough, you can make pictures turn out like that without cheating.

And because I live reasonably close to salt water (Chesapeake Bay), I thought I’d use the opportunity to get away from the city, outside of the chaos and the power trips, and check out a random town on the bay. There were only a few close enough for me to get to and still have daylight, so I chose Chesapeake Beach, a town of about 2,000 people just 30 miles southeast of DC. I got there hoping to find a nice pier out over the water, something scenic and ready for my sunset photography. I mean come on, the town is called Chesapeake Beach. But alas, there is actually no beach in the very illegitimately-named Chesapeake Beach, and thus no scenic pier out over the water. But I didn’t let that stop me. I managed to find a spot that I thought was photoworthy, and began to snap pictures like a pro. Unfortunately, my camera is frustratingly limited in its capabilities, and I think I basically got 100 photos worth of trash (and all of the same thing). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great camera for your everyday photos and even artistic shots, so long as they’re in the daylight. But low-light times such as sunsets demand a lot of adjustments like long shutter times and aperture changes. And my camera, for the first second time in our relationship as camera and owner, failed me. I haven’t really spent the time to photoshop any of my pics yet, but here is what I’ve deemed the early winner:

Okay, I admit I photoshopped it a little. See that funky part on the far left? That’s where I screwed up and was too tired to fix it. Hey, I had to at least make the thing presentable.

Anyways, after the sun went down, I went to the only highly-recommended restaurant in town, Smokey Joe’s. And when you’re at a food joint on the bay, what are you most assuredly getting? Crab, of course. I opted for the crab cakes, and they were incredible. Expensive, but incredible. These things were packed with huge chunks of meat and a lot of it… I’m guessing six or seven crabs made the ultimate sacrifice for my meal last night. And let me just say that for that one fleeting hour I was completely satisfied with living on the east coast.

In my future, I see more Maryland town-hopping and much more crab eating, all in the name of good photography. Maybe someday I’ll actually take a good picture or two, and make a coffee table book. That’s the ultimate for all photographers, right? Coffee table stardom.

Mmmm, skinny boy decaf no-foam lattes.

Beyond Words

There have honestly been very few times in my life where I’ve been this happy. We can talk about my priorities later–for now I’m just enjoying this.

Photoshop Creativity

I’ve been watching Photoshop TV, a weekly video podcast by the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). It’s great for anyone wanting to get started with Photoshop or improve their Photoshopping. So since I’ve been learning a lot of wicked-sweet things to do, I’ve been starting to apply them artistically to some of my photos. I’ll post some from time to time, and you can tell me if you like them or not (I haven’t decided yet if I like this one). Click on the image to see a before and after side-by-side.

All in all it took about 35 unique ‘layers’ to create this picture. Next time, I’ll save the project at each step along the way and give you an inside look at how much detail there is in creating a picture like this.

Sheer Joy.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Part I)

I’ve been wanting to take this website to a more academic level, something that still meets my goal of inspiring thought in those of you who read this, but also meets my newer desire to write things worthy of being read. I have nothing against writing just for the heck of it–the blog revolution is a great thing if for no other reason than it became an unconscious revival in writing. But I find myself continually more and more conscious of the number of times the word “I” appears in my writing, and personally I’d like that number to dwindle. So to begin my journey towards more meaningful writing, I’m going to spend some time writing about historic worship documents. It could be nothing more than a vain attempt to disprove the perceived futility of my degree, but I like to think of it more as a way to introduce some important history to those of you who didn’t get a chance to spend hours reading old, boring documents in school.

Obviously, the fact that I studied them in school says they’re not quite as boring to me as many people might find them. Actually, they’re filled with great insight that is usually quite pertinent to the things we’re wrestling with in the present church, and when it comes to the direction of the church, we can usually get a pretty accurate heading by looking in the past and following a similar path. History in general is a really great thing, because it is a key that unlocks the understanding both of ourselves and to some degree our future. In the church, we rely heavily on history in the formation of our doctrinal beliefs. Not that history is itself a source of truth, but more that it is a ‘lens’ in which we can interpret the Bible more accurately. John Wesley is regarded as the author of The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, in which he lists Scripture as the basis of all we believe, and then lists tradition (history), experience, and reason as the different methods we use to help refine our Biblical interpretations and the corresponding doctrinal beliefs derived from those interpretations (more on interpreting the Bible in a future post… remind me). All that to say I believe it is important that not only clergy, but all Christians should have at least some basic knowledge of historical worship documents and their role in our methods of worship and doctrinal beliefs.

To begin this series, I’d like to start with what is unquestionably the most influential worship document of the 20th Century, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, more commonly referred to as Vatican II. Vatican II was a Vatican council convened under Pope John XXIII in 1963 and eventually promulgated under Pope Paul VI in 1964. This document signified huge steps forward in the thinking of the Roman Catholic church, and in many ways has had vast effects on protestant worship as well, reaching across both denominational and doctrinal lines to help push modern worship into a more effective role which celebrates Christ as the head of the church, promotes active participation in the liturgy, and helped to reinforce the priesthood of all believers. Without question the single biggest change this document brought about was the conversion of mass from Latin to the common vernacular. No longer were priests forced to perform liturgy in Latin, but in fact they were directed to perform these functions in the vernacular so that all could understand the meaning and purpose behind the mass.

You can read the Vatican II document here. It’s lengthy, and for everyone’s sanity I’ve broken the document up into multiple articles. For today, Let’s look at the Introduction and Chapters I and II. Basically I’ll be going through the document point by point in a Eugene Peterson style, extrapolating the central truths in each point and rewriting them in shorter, to-the-point explanations. I’ve added personal comments in parenthesis.

  1. We need to reform our worship to add “vigor to the Christian life of the faithful” and adapt our worship practices to make them relevant to today’s culture.
  2. The liturgy (Keep in mind all churches have a liturgy. In your church you might call it the order of service, but we all have one. Some are just much more formulated than others.) is a means for believers to express the mystery of Christ in their lives. It reminds us of the mystery of Christ, daily builds the believer in their relationship with Christ, and yet also manages to strengthen their power to preach Christ.
  3. What we say in this document you should do in your church. Some of it will even apply to protestant churches, but we don’t write rules for them, they just may happen to apply.
  4. We’re not trying to obliterate 2,000 years of history with this document. We just think in some cases we need to do things a little differently.

Chapter I – General Principles for the Reform

  1. Jesus Christ was sent by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the contrite of heart, and become the mediator between God and mankind. He was both fully human and fully divine, lived a perfect, sinless life, died to destroy our death and rose again to restore our life.
  2. Christ sent the apostles to do his work after him, namely proclaiming that Christ’s death and resurrection has freed us from Satan’s grip. The faithful are adopted into the family of God, and become “true adorers whom the Father seeks”. The faithful meet together to proclaim the paschal mystery (Christ’s death and resurrection) through eucharist, read the Scriptures, and “give thanks to God for his inexpressible gift in Christ Jesus, in praise of his glory, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  3. Christ is always present in the church, particularly in its liturgical celebrations. (Here comes the Roman Catholic part–remember they believe in transubstantiation.) Christ is present in, and in fact becomes the elements of the sacraments. Specifically, the cup and bread actually become Christ’s body and blood; also when a priest baptizes someone it is actually Christ who baptizes them. He is also present whenever the church prays and sings. The recipients of these sacraments are made holy because Christ has become the sacraments which are partaken. Because we believe this, the liturgy is therefore an exercise of the priestly office of Christ, and is a sacred action surpassing all others.
  4. The earthly liturgy is a taste of the liturgy that is to come in the next life.
  5. The liturgy is not the only action of the church. Evangelism is also a vital part of what the church does.
  6. That being said, the liturgy is still the “summit” of activity in the church and the fount from which the church’s power flows. It’s purpose is to build the believers up in their faith, and “to be one in holiness”. Therefore, from the liturgy, and especially the eucharist, grace is poured out as from a fountain, and is the source of the most effective way to human sanctification.
  7. In order for that to happen, however, the faithful must come in correct attitudes, and the pastors must realize and ensure that people participate actively and are fully aware of the reasons they do things within the liturgy.
  8. The liturgy is not the only component of the spiritual life, however. The faithful must also pray, both corporately and individually, and must daily take up their cross and follow Christ.
  9. We think it’s also important to emphasize personal devotions of the believer, so long as these devotions are in harmony with the teachings and doctrine of the church. It’s especially great if the devotions correlate to what we’re doing and learning in church.

Chapter II – Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

  1. The liturgy only truly reaches its power when those involved are actively participating in what they’re doing. Above all else, this is the desire of this reform. It should be the goal of all pastors to facilitate this active participation in the liturgy. In order for that to happen, however, the pastors themselves must first be “thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy and make themselves its teachers.”
  2. Professors must also be thoroughly trained for their work in instructing on the liturgy.
  3. Liturgy will be one of the primary courses of study in seminaries and religious academic institutions. It should be taught from the theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and canonical aspects (Wesleyan quadrilateral, anyone?). Also, those teaching other subjects should strive to relate their subject to this learning as much and often as possible.
  4. Those working and studying in seminaries will be given a liturgical formation in their spiritual life. They will understand and practice these liturgies, as well as devotions pertaining to them, so that seminaries will be “thoroughly permeated by the spirit of the liturgy.”
  5. Priests should seek as much understanding of the liturgy as possible, so they may share that understanding with the faithful.
  6. Pastors must zealously and patiently instruct the faithful on the meaning of the liturgy and the active participation within it. However, not everyone is the same–they should take into account age, condition, way of life, and stage of religious development when instructing on the liturgy.
  7. Radio and tv broadcasts must be marked by discretion and dignity, especially when the Mass is broadcast. The Vatican will appoint a specific overseer to help ensure this.

It’s not perfect, but not too bad for Catholics, huh? I’ll let you in on a secret: their doctrine is a lot better than protestants give them credit for! Part II to follow…