Sunday, January 21, 2007

The iPod has changed my life....

It was two weeks before Christmas and I still hadn’t purchased my wife’s big gift. I say big gift because I had already found some smaller gifts. You guessed it; by this I mean inexpensive gifts. Although she may have been satisfied with the Encyclopedia of North American Birds or the DVD version of the movie Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, I wanted her to experience what I had, even if it was in a small way.

For a number of weeks before this, when we would go to the gym my wife would borrow my iPod while we exercised on the treadmills. It was at the gym I decided to get my wife an iPod of her own. Two years before, one of my employees had strongly urged that they should give me a 30GB Color iPod for my college graduation present. I knew that she probably wouldn’t be as excited about receiving an iPod as I had been, but thought it would be a fine gift anyway. At least she wouldn’t have to borrow mine.

We were trying to be more modest in our purchases that year and I had been cautioned not to spend a lot of money. I went to Costco in hopes of finding an iPod that would be affordable. Although I had every intention in buying an iPod, it was difficult to decide which one I should get. My quandary was that I had a 30GB iPod and that wasn’t enough media storage space for me. This expectation made purchasing the iPod shuffle out of the question, and the 30GB or 80GB iPods were just too expensive. This left me with the choice of the iPod nano with the capacity of 1000 or more songs, six different colors, and storage space of 2GB, 4GB or 8GB. I narrowed it down to a choice between the 2GB and 4GB models because the price of $249.00 for the 8GB iPod was the same list price of the 30GB iPod with 2.5-inch color video display. After some determined deliberation I left the store without my wife’s big gift. I was plagued with the feeling that 2GB was priced reasonable but would not be enough memory, and that the cost difference between the 4GB iPod and the 30GB video iPod were so close that I felt it made the 4GB iPod a bad choice.

A week later I was a bit disgusted with myself, not having purchased the gift yet. My indecisiveness had got the best of me and made me feel kind of silly for not making my mind up there and then to go back to the store and make the purchase. After all, what was the big deal! I expressed my disgust to a friend who in turn suggested that we look on craigslist to find an iPod that someone may be selling for a better price. In minutes we had found a 4GB iPod nano that was unopened in its original package for a little less than what it would cost to purchase a 2GB iPod at Costco. I made my mind up and after contacting the selling party I jumped in my car and drove to Mill Valley on one of the stormiest days of the year.

During the forty-five minute drive through torrential rainfall I began to question whether I had made the right decision. Eventually I did find the sellers home but not without getting lost on the winding roads up to their residence. I knocked on the door seeing the man I had spoken with on the phone, through a front widow working at a desk. I was welcomed in out of the rain and we made our transaction in his entree way. I tried to make small talk by asking him what he did for a living. He told me that he was a corporate business consultant. Looking at his home and artwork on the walls I imagined that he was very good at what he did. He asked me if I was buying the iPod for myself or for a Christmas gift. I told him that it was for my wife but I had a 30GB iPod myself. The man told me that he had got the iPod nano as a promotion gift when he bought a laptop for his daughter. After telling me that he had the 30GB iPod too, he paused for a moment and said, “The iPod has changed my life!”

On my drive home and since then I have been thinking about what this guy said. I realized that the reason I had gone to such lengths to purchase my wife an iPod was because my iPod had altered my life too. I know this may sound to some (those who don’t own an iPod) that I am a bit shallow or at the very least I have been swayed by consumerist exploitation, but the fact is that I do life differently since I was given the gift of an iPod. Proof of this is simple. Why else would I be taking it everywhere I go? Where else would I find so much of my growing music collection at my fingertips? How else would my treasured collection of hundreds of cds end up in my garage? How would I have listened to so many audio books, lectures and sermons? How could I be reading Soren Kierkegaard’s, Fear and Trembling while listening to insights and commentary given in lectures at UC Berkeley by renown philosopher Hubert Dreyfus? I could provide more examples and come up with the same conclusion. Why else would I have written this protracted post? “The iPod has changed my life!”

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Read by the Author....

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading
Lecture by Eugene H. Peterson at Calvin College
(Reads the introduction to his book, see my April 2006 post)

Eugene H. Peterson, now retired, was for many years James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. In addition to his widely acclaimed paraphrase of the New Testament, "The Message," he has written many other books. His most recent book is entitled, "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places", a conversation in spiritual theology.

Listen to this lecture (Requires RealPlayer)

Friday, January 12, 2007

An ongoing conversation....

I was talking with a colleague at work the other day. I was excited about a book I had just finished reading and was trying to articulate some of its main points. In the book, The Powers that Be, Walter Wink explains his theology of nonviolence; more specifically what he calls “the myth of redemptive violence.” In an effort to keep the conversation short and get back to work I hurried through some of the details of the book. I’m not sure I was very clear, so I will take this time to be more specific.

Walter Wink’s book reflects an “open view” of God’s ongoing role with humankind and creation. Believing that the “classical view” of God’s providence over the affairs of humankind does not explain the problem of evil in individuals, nations, institutions and other areas of social reality. Wink believes that the Powers are inherently fixed into God’s system, whose human face is Jesus, but that God has self-limited himself (herself) by giving us freewill. The author affirms the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words about Jesus, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17).

Wink believes power relationships between people, systems, institutions and structures are necessary and created for good; however he acknowledges that their authority or purposes can be perverted through the wrong choices of people. Ultimately, he says that we should resist the inducement to demonize those who do evil, believing that all Powers are salvageable or redeemable. He is particularly concerned about the invisible aspects of our institutions. “The Powers That Be are not then simply people and their institutions, as I had first thought; they also include the spirituality at the core of those institutions and structures” (4). Wink maintains that the Gospel must extend beyond individual liberation to the transformation of the Powers in our societies, enabling them to do good rather than evil, helping them recover and live out their unique calling from God.

The conversation shifted from thoughts about self-replicating systemic evil, national, and corporate violence to a discussion about individual evil. How do we learn to practice nonviolence in a culture that believes the myth of redemptive violence? My colleague said that his Buddhist teacher stressed the importance of guarding our words and thoughts, because our words always precede our actions. This reminded me of the now “bumper sticker” wisdom of postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida, “There is nothing outside the text.” This also relates to my understanding of the Buddhist teaching, “Life is illusion.” Without the text we would not know how to experience our world.

Philosopher James K.A. Smith says, “When Derrida claims that there is nothing outside the text, he means there is no reality that is not always already interpreted through the lens of language…Texts that require interpretation are not things that are inserted between me and the world; rather, the world is a kind of text requiring interpretation” (39).

All this makes the description of Christ as the “Logos” in the prologue to the Gospel of John more exciting, remembering that the Word is always previous. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:1-5).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wonder can’t be packaged....

I was sitting with a friend in a booth at Marie Callender's restaurant. We hadn’t seen each other for a while because he lives in Europe, so I had driven to San Jose in order to spend some time with him while he was in the States. My friend works with an agency that seeks to develop relationships with local church leaders, providing encouragement and training in the area of church growth. He has a heart to serve, but was expressing the emotional feelings of burnout.

Last year I read a book by Ted Dekker. In the book the author says that often it is new believers that are the most passionate about their faith but from the day of their confession they begin slipping into “the slumber of Christianity.” Many find that they have lost their passion and are only going through the motions. Somehow we lose our sense of gratitude, joy, and wonder.

This was one of those times for my friend, but I could not wait to tell him how my life had changed since I had reconnected to faith in Jesus. Leo Tolstoy marveled at how faith and conversion turns a person around when he said, “Everything that was on my right side is now on my left.” This is where I found myself. I was filled with joy and experiencing wonder in the anticipation of what God was doing. I had been awakened from sleep. I was like a new convert trying to express the inexpressible.

Eugene Peterson says, “It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to another. It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.”