My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

19 January 2007

Thoughts on other people's thoughts

Books & Culture magazine usually provides quite stimulating reading; it's not something I can read for enjoyment, as I have to keep my orthodox and reformed shields up while reading, but it does really draw me into other conversations and issues I wouldn't otherwise consider. Here are some notes on articles in the most recent issue.
  • Virginia Stem Owens reflects warmly on the name we choose to use for God when we pray. "Getting that initial address right seems important to me...the name I call to God with determines the guise in which I come to this task, duty, privilege of prayer." Our #1 is starting to pray more for our mealtimes. It's a true delight to hear him thank God for the snow and the opportunity to shovel and throw snowballs and sled down hills; sometimes he waxes poetic so long that our food gets cold. But what strikes me the best is the way he begins his prayer, with an earnest "Our gracious heavenly Father!" It's a big phrase for a little guy. Thing is, I don't think he got this from me. Rather, I'm pretty sure he picked it up from my dad. Regardless of the word we use to name God at the beginning of our prayers, wouldn't we do well to consider that name and consider what we're really saying about Him and us with that name?
  • Saray Hinlicky Wilson has an engaging review of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes entitled "A New Kind of Calvinism." But we already have neo-calvinists, so would this be neo-neo-calvinism? Anyway, it's light-hearted and clearly in love with Bill Watterson's boy-and-tiger strip. A quote: "Still, every Christmas without fail, Calvin is acquitted of his crimes and showered with gifts, even when he learns the wrong lesson from it. A parable of God's love for the sinner and justification by faith, not works, the theologian infers - good Calvinism, indeed."
  • Edward Short reviews the book Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses by Ryan K. Smith about the rise of Gothic architecture in American Protestant churches. Realizing that American Protestants were originally quite simple in their architecture and in the trappings of worship, the question becomes, "What changed? And when? And how?" Smith documents how in the 1840s American Protestants wandered from their iconoclastic roots and began feeling more comfortable with crosses and candles and stained glass and Gothic architecture. Therein lies a parable about the relationship between Protestants and Catholics: as the population of Catholics and Episcopalians rose dramatically toward the 1850s with the Protestant churches not keeping step, Protestants began to argue how and why they could borrow more traditional forms from the Roman church. "In the Gothic style Protestants saw an ideal not only of piety but of refinement, and they were determined to make it their own." Surely lessons could abound for us and how our heart leads us to make decisions, individual and corporate. Are we trying to keep up with the Jones'? Is that always bad?
  • Bill McKibben reviews David Orr's Design on the Edge, the story of how Orr and others worked to produce a "high-performance building" for Oberlin College (OH) for their environmental studies program. The building only uses 1/3 of the energy that comparable buildings use; the coolest innovation was titled the "Living Machine", an outdoor series of manufactured ponds and wetlands that treat the building's waste as it leaves, thus making the water going out as clean as the water going in. Apparently, Orr's book is as much about the politics of such a building as the building itself; one can imagine...what if we encouraged churches to think and build this way? Is it foolish for me to be scared of being associated with Al Gore just because I believe Christians ought to be concerned about the environment? Indeed, that Christians ought to be leading in such projects like Orr's and not putting up roadblocks? Anyway, it's a mighty nifty building that is just a nice little piece of dominion.

1 comment:

Tamara said...

In our prayer meetings it is customary that we end our prayers with a name of God. Currently I am suctioned on I AM. I guess I like the power it unveils and the fact that such a declaration is actually a name of God! But how often do we say His name in vain. His name is holy.