written as an assignment for my master’s class

When I start essays or reflections, I often try to look up the word or words I attempt to center my writing around. With Stephen Garber's book The Fabric Of Faithfulness, one of the obvious words is praxis. Using Google as my dictionary, I found some unique definitions of the word (including that praxis is one of the moons around the Klingon home planet of Qu'noS). In a general sense, praxis is defined as taking an idea and translating it into action – in other words, putting your money where your mouth is. However, when taken from a more educational framework (which is most often the framework we must work in as campus ministers), praxis can be defined as such:

Praxis is a complex activity by which individuals create culture and society, and become critically conscious human beings. Praxis comprises a cycle of action-reflection-action… Characteristics of praxis include self-determination (as opposed to coercion), intentionality (as opposed to reaction), creativity (as opposed to homogeneity), and rationality (as opposed to chance).

In this definition, there is a greater sense of looking at one's actions critically, and interpreting them through the lens of one's worldview to determine appropriate actions. However, it is often difficult to find a consistent worldview in light of the many shifting movements in contemporary culture. Even with things as simple as drinking alcohol underage, depending on the place, the situation, or the people one's with can critically influence their praxis. It is in this space where we, as campus ministers, can find our highest calling.

In the cycle of action-reflection-action, we often find ourselves in the reflection stage of our student's lives. This is just not simply happenstance, but rather stemming from, as Garber puts it “a moral imperative – with all the pleasures and pains implicit in that decision.” This means that we often are at the crossroads of major decisions – perhaps we speak into a student's life about how they approach their classwork when after a test they studied for and failed, they have no desire to study any more. Maybe we help someone who's struggling with a relationship by listening, asking questions, and guiding them through rough waters. Maybe we let students disappoint us, and love them anyway.
What matters the most is our willingness to be along side and be community members to our students, allowing them to find answers on their own, with help from us along the way. By giving them the opportunity to see life through our worldview and encourage them to make it their own, we enable them to walk down a path where they can grow alone, but be guided with help – in many ways creating a self-determinate process.

This reminds me a lot of my work as a resident director. While I cannot always be in each of my student's lives at all times, what I can do is model a worldview and encourage students to enter into it as they seek their own ways of doing things – whether that's conversations, or programming I create. My goal is to have students develop praxis for living each time I enter my building. And while at times it works better than others, being there is most the battle. By allowing students space, but providing a model for life, we are able to help students reflect and gain a praxis which can change the world.

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Jesus + Music ≠ CCM

Tonight at the ARK, one of the CCO staff working at W&J (Andrew Heffner) came to visit to talk about Christianity and Music, and, although I’m giving him no credit by this less-than-skeleton synopsis of what he spoke on, said that contemporary Christian music (CCM), is placing Christians in a space that ignores relevant culture, and that by considering music a tool, we are making it just that (like a hammer – no one ever holds precious their hammer), and not art.

I found such relief that we had a conversation like this.  Music is my #1 passion outside of Jesus.  And there’s too much beautiful and intelligent music that Christians are either running away from, or are allowing themselves to be satiated with inane, 3-chorded loosely-defined music that fills airspace.

I try to hard not to come off as a music snob, because my point isn’t that people – Christian or not – can’t find their top music choice to be Top 40 pop.  But, all of our call should be music that means something.  And as much as I hate to admit it (because I like these songs) Ne-Yo and Sean Paul aren’t really challenging anything – except maybe how low individuals can dip it and get thurr eagle’s on.

CCM is in an espeically delicate place.  Paul, in Acts 17, goes to the Stoics and Epicureans and talks to them about things not from an arrogant “I’m right, you suck” standpoint, but rather with things that they would understand, talking about their poets in order to connect on intellectual levels.

In much the same way, I question why we have a plethora of bands which are saying “we’ll use the same formulas of all of our ‘secular’ buddies, and say ‘Jesus’ 15 times instead of ‘baby'”.  And, obviously, CCM artists run the spectrum of artistic as opposed to mechanistic formulation, but, there will still be something lost if it is labeled Contemporary Christian Music.

In an effort to not turn this into a “it’s 2am and I should be in bed” rant, I leave you with a song by Sufjan Stevens – a Contemporary Christian in Music, who has made something both thoughtful, and beautiful (Paste and Rolling Stone both rated it within the top 5 albums of the year).

Goldenrod and the 4H stone,
the things I brought you,
when I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone,
and he drove his car into the navy yard,
just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade,
when the light pressed up against your shoulderblade,
I could see what you were reading.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications you could do without,
when I kissed you on the mouth.

Tuesday night at the Bible study,
we lift our hands and pray over your body,
but nothing ever happens.

I remember at Michael’s house,
in the living room when you kissed my neck,
and I almost touched your blouse.

In the morning at the top of the stairs,
when your father found out what we did that night,
and you told me you were scared.

All the glory when you ran outside,
with your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied,
and you told me not to follow you.

Sunday night when I cleaned the house,
I find the card where you wrote it out,
with the pictures of you mother.

On the floor at the great divide,
with my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied,
I am crying in the bathroom.

In the morning when you finally go,
and the nurse runs in with her head hung low,
and the cardinal hits the window.

In the morning in the winter shade,
on the 1st of March on the holiday,
I thought I saw you breathing.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications when I see His face,
in the morning in the window.

All the glory when he took our place,
but he took my shoulders and he shook my face,
and he takes and he takes and he takes.

obscure and vauge relationship post ahead

So if you’re looking for “dirt”, move on there cousin, you ain’t gonna get it from me. That picture you’re viewing right now is from the seventh grade Valentine’s Day dance.  I’m in the second row, third from the right, looking at James Smith upside down, not, as you would expect, at Arin Haus. (fun fact: I had a relationship with four of the girls in the photo – one in 5th grade, two in 8th grade, one my senior year of high school)

The relationship issue is one that I’ve thought more about recently with various things that have come up in my life from all over – people here, from back home, college, everything.

Here’s the long story short.  When I was a freshman in college, I thought for certain by the time I was 22 I’d be married.  I thought I would have found the woman of my dreams, settled down and started living my life.  Now, obviously at 23.5, I realize had I made those choice, I don’t know if I’d be as happy as I am now – or more accurately put – God knew what He was doing significantly better than I did.  But here I am, and while I’m cool with the whole single thing, every once in awhile, I miss that connection, and desire it.  For goodness sakes, I’m a 23 year old guy, I’d say the majority of us are thinking “hmmm… marriage?”

Or not.  But it’s nice to think I’m not the minority.

But, if there’s something I’ve learned from the experience I’ve had is that the active relenting my will to God in dating relationships is 1) The only way for a relationship to work and 2) The thing I struggle with the most.  This is to contrast the “Oh, I’m giving it up to God” but then pushing something to develop out of nothing way too soon attitude I harbored for the entire time I’ve been interested in girls.  I suck at being patient, and only recently have I learned how chronic it is with me.  So, all of this is not to say I’ve found some particular person, or that I’m on the path to marriage now, but more to say (and even more to remind myself) that really, it doesn’t matter where I am, but that I’m patient to God and what He’s placed in front of me and what He’s laid on my heart.

And seriously, could you all imagine me married at 22?  I was struggling to get out of bed five minutes before class.

On a completely unrelated note, I bowled a 150 tonight.  However, I slipped and fell twice on the lanes.  So, whatever coolness I may have had was promptly cancelled twice.

saint patrick’s day

While I realize most of the folks that will be reading my blog won’t be those who are currently unaware of their surroundings due to the copious amounts of alcohol they’re drinking, I wanted to put St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate here.  It’s a shame that the holiday has lost its holiness.  I’m not saying that partying shouldn’t be part of life, but to what end?  There’s are so many students (and, as I was looking around tonight, plenty middle-age folks and families, too) that are going out to drink, and have no idea how amazing St. Patrick was.

Anyway:

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

in such a good space

There are times when I find myself more overwhelmed by beauty and goodness and life than others. It’s times like these that transcend even the worst of days, because I look at things like phi and the golden section and see amazing life.

And this website maybe be one of the more precious things I’ve seen: http://faculty.washington.edu/cobden/photos/

Get some time to know me over the next couple days. I think you’ll like who you meet.

picture 4 – nyc2006 or the most white folks at bedford park blvd

l-r: Christina, Semaj, Mandee, Amanda, Mike, RC, Grace, Celia, Alisha, myself.

This was the subway station we used to get on the D-Train into Manhattan. The northbound is to your right. As I said last night, our area of the Bronx is largely Hispanic, which means each one of us is a minority. Think of it this way: our area was largely the size of Erie. This means that 1 of every 10 people in Erie would be white, and 2 of every 10 would be black. This also means, Alisha, who is Native American, might see someone similar to her out of every 30 people, if she was lucky. These statistics were evident boarding the D. After 59th Street/Columbus Circle, the amount of white riders is drastically reduced. And when I say drastic, I mean the difference between the majority and the minority, even with fifty to sixty people still on the train. It was an experience that told me a lot about the state of poverty, and how tied it is to race. Manhattan likes to pride itself as being the center of the media world, and much of what America chooses to be culturally proud of has a home in Manhattan – especially midtown. This created a vacuum of diveristy. I could walk 42nd street and no minorites except Semaj and Alisha. Then, as we rode the subway not taken by tourists, the real city came to visit. And before long, we were the only white folks on the D.

And what were people’s reactions? One of honest curiousity. It was humorous to see heads turn when they would see this group of students walk by. There were times of almost concern, as though we should have gotten off a few stops before. There was one night as we were walking back to our house that a NYPD van actually stopped dead in its track to see what the hell we were doing. It was funny in its own sad way. It shouldn’t be odd to see white folks in the Bronx. It shouldn’t turn heads to see Hispanics walking Rockefeller center.

On an unlreated note, tonight marks the night I shave my beard off. Goodbye, dear facial hair of 2006. You made me believe that I, indeed, can have any hair arrangement. Except maybe a fumanchu.