24 May 2009

Evil Empty Pews?

On the seventh Sunday of Easter, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church had about 30 attendees. Mid-sermon, our interim pastor touched on the message we’ve so often heard: be in the world but not of it. She looked out into the “handful” of members who chose to come this morning, and recited other Sunday morning, particularly holiday weekend Sunday morning, choices available: the beach, our cozy beds, bargain shopping, visiting with family and friends.

She followed this list with an unsettling remark: “The powers of evil have figured out how to keep people from assembling together and worshipping.”

She then added some bit on our sinful consumerist lifestyles, the “incursion of evil” in our daily routines. She went on to delineate things we can do to really show the loving face of Christ to others, to really make a “real difference.”

I started writing these thoughts down on my bulletin because they sounded strict and disconcerting, not enlightening in the way she probably intended. The culprits for poor church attendance were swirling evil forces, cited often throughout the sermon. These “forces” were never prodded, unpacked, or questioned.

I had a problem with reducing today’s poor church attendance to good and evil.

To define the church as the only good, pure space to spend one’s Sunday morning reduces every other circumstance, opportunity to fellowship, and individual choice to a lesser, less virtuous plane. It also makes it a lot easier to assure attendees that they had made the worthy choice (versus those absentees who didn’t). A pat on the back for those who made it out today just as easily relayed a slap on the wrists to those who didn’t. Maybe some people need a slap on the wrists, but the church doesn’t need to set up more binary gauges that rank people’s worth, dedication, or “real” piety.

Our pastor encouraged the congregation to do more work that better shows the loving face of Christ in the midst of evil forces. Examples included mission trips down to New Orleans or participating in Habitat for Humanity projects locally. About 95% of the 30 attendees were over 70 years old.

I do celebrate these efforts and the fruitful work that comes of them, yes. But to say these are the efforts that make a “real difference” establishes another dichotomy for church members, one I’ve struggled with for years. Some work is more valuable, more Christ-like than other work, even if I don’t feel competent or energized in it. Although I don’t think everything I pursue has to be backed with some burning life passion, I do think there are ways to communicate and act more inclusively, more creatively, to people who already do great work, like the person staying home to cook for and fellowship with his/her family.

In sum, I think there are other ways to encourage church/community/Christ-like engagement. Rather than shrinking people’s choices, actions, and attendance records to forces of good and evil, I'll just enjoy the extra pew room this week and keep working and discerning the best I know how.

18 May 2009

Moms should blog

I wish my mom had a blog, so in it she could write:

How she spent last night cooking up 3 basins of meatloaf and two containers of hamburgers because she didn’t separate the 10 lbs of meat she bought.

How she attempted to pound a new Ethernet cable through the floor with a pair of scissors and stapler, but realized the home-drilled hole was too small to fit more than one cable through.

How she loves working outdoors in her vegetable garden, flower garden, and the back woodpile/pit she chainsaws and sets to fire every so often.

How she takes really good care of my grandma since grandpa passed.

How she talks casually to the five cats, just like her daughter does.

How she is overworked in more ways than one but still finds time to watch Ghost Whisperer, play poker with the girls, and cook up 10 lbs of meat for all two of us.

http://New Blog Address Coming Soon

So, I’ve recently grown out of my abbrevi8ing phase. “r kivistique” doesn’t carry the same trendiness it once did. I have decided to move on to real words.

Not to say I believe “real words” = established words. No no. I believe in descriptivist linguistics, in the creation, study, and appreciation of new speech ways by us folks on the ground, in cyberspace, wherever. But, “r kivistique”…well, we can do better.

So, I’ve changed my blog title to Archivistique, what my prior title was trying to emulate just in a hipper, more seemingly artsy fashion. But the French word archivistique is already alone pretty stylish; I don’t need to impress (confuse) anyone with my edgy interpretations.

So, I’m also changing my blog address to (I’ll give you three guesses):


arkivistiki it is, then?

I’ll be making the change within the next couple days, so whoever reads this has a heads up now and can adjust their "My Favorites" (which is so where people store this page).

15 May 2009

Someone found me on wikipedia:


The author of that blurb had to have been my coach. Actually, it's likely he created the whole "McDowell High School" entry just to mention this speech and debate highlight.

I appreciate his dedication to the team (and, of course, the reference).

09 May 2009

stop and smell the nostalgia

At an RA meeting a month or so ago, our boss started off, as he usually does, with an icebreaker. Sometimes it’s making party hats, which we’re then required to wear because he’s convinced this will bring our energy up. Other times, it’s a simple word game: give me 1 word that describes how you’re feeling.

One time, we pow-wowed in the back room— tent, smores, head band lights, nature sounds CD and all. I was totally for it, until my legs fell asleep, tucked awkwardly, trying to keep my feet out of everyone’ s odor radar. At this meeting though, he started off by asking: When do you feel most alive? It was one of the easiest hard questions I’ve ever had to answer.

“When I feel nostalgic.”

I recognize there’s something intrinsically charming about summer air, but what I can’t get over is how it takes me back to the summer before, and the summer before that, all the way back to summers spent playing whiffle ball in Grandpa’s backyard. I feel most alive when I’m transported back to the past without trying. It never gets old either.

Today was one of those days—the light winds, the freshness, the sounds of cars driving through thick summer air. Every time I breathed in, I was energized, remembering the feel of Erie summers, but also recognizing that next year, I’d be remembering the feel of Philadelphia summers…and the Erie summer before that, and so on.

03 May 2009

Mesemple Student

My last Broad Street Journal article, ever:

We call the backyard “Little Grantham.” It’s a grassy escape, furnished well with a 2-person hammock, a gazebo, unnecessary stepping stones in mulch patches, a table, a bike rack, and as the weather warms, good people unwinding, reading, socializing, and sunbathing. It serves as our pseudo-Messiah College getaway, and people seem to take to the hominess it provides.

I have been in Philadelphia for two semesters now and can appreciate the nostalgia for more trees, less concrete, and more quiet—the kind of atmosphere Grantham yields. But I can equally appreciate the hominess Temple University extends, an institution that once felt daunting, impersonal, aloof. Perhaps it had something to do with the magnitude of the student body, the crude (but comical) graffiti on classroom desks, or the nondescript social science buildings that look more like hospitals towers.

But these buildings have become my “home” this semester—my “Little Boyer,” as we humanities majors might tag them (even though these buildings are actually a good deal larger). As for the students and graffiti, both have become comforting reminders of the diversity, creativity, and verve of the student atmosphere here. Where at Messiah can you find that girl with poofy pink dreads, the African American Studies floor, or “Tits in my face” etched before you? Where at Messiah can you grab coffee with your doctoral friend who studies body image in Zimbabwe, expect wine and cheese at department seminars, and observe beyond-intense four-square tournaments outside the cafeteria?

Yes, Temple University has become a humble abode over the past two semesters, a home away from Mama Lottie that keeps my spirits lifted even in the face of finals week. My respite is the Mac lab on Gladfelter 2nd, the Mr. Softee truck I see and hear at least twice a day, and the sounds of jambay jams at the center of campus. My getaway is the “Sexy Green Food Truck” that serves spinach and feta omelets on pita, the “My president is black and I love it!” engravings on the tables, and the environmental activists in matching jackets I seem to always evade.

I expect when I return to Grantham in the fall, I will seek out some “Little Temple” moments across campus. You may hear me referring to Lottie as J&H or “JAYCH.” You may question my motives when I ask you to accompany me to the SAC (in Grantham speak, The Union). You may wonder why I’m using the elevator in Boyer to get to the second floor. Just give me time to settle back in. Allow me my dear Temple relapses, and I promise to work on not flashing my student ID in Messiah’s nonexistent security gaurds’ faces every time we walk into a building together.

01 May 2009

Floam Academe

The title of a work-in-progress:

The Obama Phenomenon: Saturation, Commodification, and Personification of the (Trans)Nation

I had to present on this work in class today, using powerpoint, video clips, and website pages. I spent probably 10 hours on a 15-minute presentation, in which I ended up skipping a nice chunk because Adobe Flashplayer needed an update, the hourglass icon decided to party it up and waste time, and people, all four of them, zoned out.

The powerpoint was a beautiful piece of art, a complimentary image for each page, long URLs disguised by pithy word links, and a final “Emo for Obama” clipart piece, just because. Some headings included: “Obama’s Media Blitz,” “Obamafication,” “Obamamania,” terms I wish I could say were of my creation. I showed a montage of Obama commodities (obamaties?): O’jamas (Obama sleepwear), “Obama is my Home Boy” tshirts, Obama bottled water. But it was still too wordy, and still too unidirectional.

Presenting is like floam. It can be molded in just about any way, but it sometimes doesn’t stick: “Some surfaces have a slightly oily or soapy coating that can prevent Floam from sticking. In many cases you can find a substitute shape that will work better.”

Some surfaces (Classrooms. All of them.) prevent presentations from sticking. Why? We have oily, soapy minds, used to sundry stimuli, selective hearing, and nonstop interactivity. So, I should be working to find a presentation-style substitute that will work better, entertain more, theorize and formulate less (less formally).

Knowing my generation as an audience complicates things. We have to work harder and harder to add bells, whistles, youtube videos, games, and other simulations just to keep us semi-attentive. If it’s not the professor presenting, we feel we can finally take a concentration break. So we zone, and the floam-shapes we student presenters are trying to craft just don’t stick.

What happened to the good old days when I didn’t need to ‘google image’ everything, wear O’jamas* to class for that kick-off laugh, and show Crush on Obama videos to resuscitate the audience???

*I don't actually own a set of O'jamas, but feel free to visit http://www.ojamas.us/servlet/StoreFront to order yours.