A struggling introvert

introvert

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I don’t struggle with introversion, I quite enjoy it. Rather, I’m struggling to find a place to serve as a Christian as an introvert.

For quite a while I’ve used the excuse that my season of life as a mother of children, especially a homeschool mom, is my mission field. But frankly, that excuse is wearing thin. Yes, tiny people take a lot of time and energy, but they’re getting older and less dependent. Not only does this allow me the ability to serve elsewhere, I need to be giving them opportunities to serve and be involved in the church community as well.

The problem is that the church–especially the American Protestant Church–is optimized for extroverts. It’s all about activities and various groups and loud, loud music. There is no place for quiet contemplation in our churches, and the vast majority of the activities have to do with getting chatty with passing acquaintances. Some of that is just our share everything culture, but I don’t share a lot of intimate details of my life with people I know well, why would I tell a stranger? Our church had a thing a while back called “Dinners for 8″ where they assigned you to share a meal with 7 (or 6 if you’re married) other people you may or may not know. Let’s save gas and just jab a hot poker in my eye, okay? The American evangelical church culture is geared toward extroverts, but it’s important to realize those particular cultural practices aren’t gospel.

Stephen Altrogge wrote a very encouraging article about extroverts and introverts in church.

I would humbly suggest that many activities that take place in church tend to be biased toward extroverts. Talking to lots of people on a Sunday, cold contact evangelism with complete strangers, loud worship, and small groups are all activities that are much better suited for someone with an extroverted personality. And these things aren’t necessarily wrong, but I think we need to make sure we don’t assume someone is more spiritual based on their participation in these things.

And that is an encouragement, as far as it goes. But there has to be a second part of this. If not in these areas, how does an introvert be an active part of her local church?

Sunday worship can frankly be tiring. Parts of it, anyway. Actually, any event or gathering where there’s small talk and lots of personal interaction is a bit much. I can do it, I just find it challenging and I need a nice long break from people afterwards. I’m pretty sure Sunday naps were invented for introverted Christians who just needed everyone–family included–to shut up for a while. (A reminder: introvert doesn’t mean shy; it just means you people are exhausting.)

Actually, I can listen to (non-fluffy) sermons or have lively discussions about weighty matters all day. I love to debate, talk about current events, or explore topics history or science or philosophy. I actually find that invigorating. What drains me is small talk or a great deal of talk about emotions. So small group, for example, can be great or it can be a struggle, depending on whether we’re delving into scripture or talking about our feelings.

Perhaps you can see why I’ve never felt at home in any women’s bible study. There’s usually a whole lot of emoting going on and chit-chatting to a lot of people. Small talk is not a skill I’ve ever mastered. It’s also why I tend to gravitate toward situations and people where we discuss politics and intellectual topics. There may be a lot of trolling, but little emoting. I love it.

Okay, I got off track there. The point is that while it can be difficult being an introvert in an extrovert’s church, my introverty-ness doesn’t preclude my call to be an ambassador of Christ. The typical diplomatic missions, however, give me hives. The gospel call in most churches seems to be to gush all over people, which frankly I can’t do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. I’m actually pretty good at doing stuff, and I’m not too shabby at giving practical advice. I’m a fairly efficient, competent person. I’m just not a people person.

It’s a good start to say that those activities most comfortable to extroverts aren’t the only way to serve the in the Kingdom of God. But that’s only the first step. The struggle–or the challenge–is this: how does an introvert serve the body of Christ and her community? Because introvert or extrovert, the call to love one another, serve one another, and take the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people is for us all.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you serve in your church or community?

It’s just a number

This is my 500th post since the Great Blog Project began last year. On one hand, 500 days in a row is pretty impressive for a casual blogger. (i.e. someone with a small audience and who doesn’t make money from the effort.) On the other hand, that’s just a few months past a year; not a huge time in the scheme of things and certainly not long compared to some bloggers who’ve blogged every day for years. (Althouse and Challies come to mind.)

I hate to think when it’s hot. That’s one reason we don’t return to full school mode till September. So during the random scheduled and overly warm summer, I have no new big goals or plans.  (Does a minimum two days a week at the pool constitute a plan? What about finding all the library books?) I am looking at a couple of things to improve my blogging like the HEDUA free blogging course, among other things. (Suggestions welcomed!)

Of course, the biggest challenge to my blogging is my life. I’ll have a *gulp* high school kid next year with two “off-campus” classes (read: classes at a local private school). The other kiddos will be participating in a co-op where I’ll be teaching. And of course, the extracurricular activities like sports. And this is why we have the rule one activity per child at a time.

So until the next big milestone, I give you a song appropriate for this occasion. Sort of appropriate. It has 500 in it. I take what I can get.

That brings back memories. Awkward, junior high school memories. Good times! See you in another 500 days! Or hopefully, tomorrow.

Hamster wheel!

Or “No rest for the weary.”

This past week the kids and I spent at our church’s vacation bible school, which was  a lot of fun but exhausting. Today MTG got up early to mow the lawn and I did some clean up on our poor neglected garden beds because our neighbors just put their house on the market. We don’t want to be those neighbors.

I also have a big project for my mom and I really need to get to our homeschool planning so I can order the rest of our books in time for September. Did I mention we still have to finish history and geography? And we have a couple more trips planned this summer? Let’s not even talk about the state of the house or the neglected chores that fell to the wayside over the past few weeks of travel and VBS.

We’re busy. And I’m tired. I kinda feel like these guys:

 

Can you relate?

Fine Arts Friday: the art of the soundtrack

Today you’re in for a special treat. My friend Erika Franz is the author of today’s guest post on soundtracks, specifically the soundtracks of science fiction. The idea for the post was born of a conversation that came out of this post and the idea that movie soundtracks are the natural extension of operas and musical theater. (Incidentally at some point, I plan to write a post at some point at how science fiction stories are the epic stories of our times.) Erika has a great story blog with an interesting concept you should definitely check out. Enjoy this exploration of sci-fi soundtracks!

dumbledore music

I have broad taste in music—and I really mean that. I don’t just like top 40 plus a niche genre or two; I mean I listen to everything from ancient music archaeologists have attempted to recreate to modern rock, and most things in between. I draw the line at most post-modern clangers that are meant to deconstruct our notions of music—and I can’t get into Japanese opera—but give me medieval chants, Classical, Baroque, folk tunes, blues and bluegrass, country, rock, rap, more rock, and world rhythms and I can be pretty happy. I’m no expert, just an inexperienced dabbler.

Back in the 90s, when I was fast approaching voting age, I got into movie soundtracks—both the ones with songs that had lyrics and the ones that were largely symphonic. I probably owe a great deal of this to my young exposure to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and, er, James Bond movies (the latter TV edited and taped on a VHS, of course). I also believed in repeated exposure. By this I mean I watched Star Wars pretty much daily one summer. (My sister’s ex-boyfriend from high school confessed to me while we sat in the midnight premier of the Special Edition for A New Hope, aka Episode IV, that because I was babysat by the movie, they were able to be in the kitchen enjoying some alone time). My family also owned the record for Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark  but otherwise my parents listened to nothing but classical music on tape, record, or public radio. I was in junior high before I started to listen to those radio stations other kids my age were listening to.

One of the first movie soundtracks I tried to track down was Medicine Man with all those great pan flutes and such. However, I think some of the best soundtracks are those for science fiction, both films and television shows. I might as well come clean and say that I think John Williams is phenomenal, one of the best, and maybe the best composer of sci-fi soundtracks. Of course, that doesn’t mean I think that everything should emulate him—that would be unoriginal.

But sci-fi soundtracks have a achieved a certain grandeur reminiscent of Sergei Prokofiev, the Russian composer (Romeo and Juliet is my favorite of his), Carl Orff (Carmina Burana), and Aaron Copeland (especially Fanfare for the Common Man), to name a few. This makes sense that these modern composers who often wrote for ballets (or soundtracks on a different stage) would influence later film music.

So here is a little collection, by no means exhaustive, of some epic sci fi soundtracks.

First, a non-exhaustive selection from Star Wars, the original trilogy (again, not exhaustive at all). The main theme (the one that brought so many of us into the fold):

“The Imperial March”

The climactic end (sorry, not the ewoks, rather the final duel):

From Star Trek, we look first at the TV themes/opening credits of all the various Star Trek shows. Maybe The Original Series theme is a bit questionable, but it’s also undoubtedly a product of its time. Ironically,  the last show themes don’t fit as well either. But hey, that’s pop culture evolution for you):

And the theme from Star Trek, The Motion Picture:

Blade Runner is from the gloomier side of sci fi, to be sure. Ah, dark 80s sci fi—but it’s got some great moments with tinges of 80s fantasy music and 80s saxophones and 80s synth. “Rachel’s Song” (all the above being stated, this is still the standout for me):

My man Hans Zimmer has made many a soundtrack that I have purchased, but this is a sci-fi post, so I’ll give you the Inception entry:


The Matrix Trilogy: I could do a lot with this, but for consistency I’m going to go with the opening theme.


BONUS:

Firefly because space cowboys, the main theme (again, because I can; although I actually enjoy the non-lyrical portions, this was my favorite):

What would you include?

Nothing really matters to me


Sorry, the above video has nothing to do with the post. The post title just gave me the earworm.

The New York Times has an interesting article on a study looking at how political opinions formed in youth inform lifelong political beliefs.

When they talk about events that shape a generation, they aren’t exaggerating. The high point of political opinion formation is between 14 and 24–an age in which a person’s ability to judge and process information are still be developed.

political formation

Right now I’m in the second low point–roughly the 40s.  Either we know what we know or we’re too busy to give stuff much thought. Probably a little bit of both. The impact rises again in a person’s 50s before dropping in the 60s and 70s. The data isn’t yet available to determine if there’s another spike in a person’s 90s. (Who knows? Stranger things have happened.)

My most formative years would be between 1988 and 1998: the end of the Reagan presidency, Bush 41′s presidency including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War, Clinton’s presidency (and impeachment). Actually, one political scientist called this era “The End of History” or the high point of sociocultural evolution, which is almost hilarious in retrospect.

I do wonder if certain events might have greater impact regardless of age. For example, it seems that the 9/11 attacks might have a heavier impact at every age than other, less dramatic, events. And does how those events are portrayed in media and culture affect the impact? I also wonder how pop culture–today overwhelmingly Democratic leaning–will affect those outcomes. What kind of impact did it have on earlier generations? Can that even be measured? Basically, I want more data from this data study. But it’s very interesting.

What events occurred during your political formation?

 

 

Battle weary

Kindergarteners and Balrogs have a lot in common. Me: “You shall not pass!” Them: “Rar rar rar!” Us: Fall to the depths of Moria.

Like Gandalf, I expect to recover. Hopefully by tomorrow morning for another round with the kiddies.

Meanwhile, I go to the internet for a little pick me up.

dontherdme

Doesn’t that bring back memories?

How do you recharge from run-ins with mythical monsters and five year olds?

Terrible Tuesday: VBS edition

Day two of our church’s first ever Vacation Bible School. The girls and I are volunteers and the boys are participants. We’re working with the kindergarteners. The thing about the younger kids is they need a lot more help. And they want you to play the running games with them, preferably holding their hands. So I’m tired.

Four more days, I can do this links!

10 Ways to love an introverted mom. Amen.

The Wind in the Willows judges you.

Big doggies are big. And silly.

big dogs

Information bonanza! The National Archives wants to put all of its information on Wikimedia Commons.

Via my friend Erika, scientists use computer games to figure out the mysteries of the human body. Great, giving Skynet more information on how we work. This will end well.

Classic Disney movies honestly retitled.

In addition to our own nation’s birthday, last week was Canada Day, previously known as Dominion Day. Their birthday was less exciting and more, well, Canadian, than ours. Rather than a rebellion and a defiant Declaration, Canada Day marks the day that the North America Act went into effect in 1867. And poof: Canada’s a country. In honor of their day, a very Canadian song. (Sorry I’m late, Canadians.)

 

Brazen and crass

Some of the most fascinating videos on the web come from Russian dash cams. Almost everyone in Russia has dash cams, and the reason is because of massive insurance fraud (from both consumer and insurance company) and lax and corrupt law enforcement.

The idea of recording every moment of my life, or even just of my time in the car, is disconcerting. I don’t really want to live in a society where every human is backed up with a visual record to verify the facts. However, a couple of recent incidents have made me wonder whether we aren’t headed that direction–beyond store or public surveillance into filming every daily, interpersonal interaction.

The first was a local case where two women decided to take a few five-fingered discounts from people’s front porches. They took, among other things, decorative crosses.

The other instance was two Florida women taking a family’s belongings in broad daylight on July 4. There is some foul language in this clip as well as foul behavior.

Once upon a not too long ago, not only brazen theft, but any theft would have been not only disgraceful but also shocking to the vast majority of Americans. Now we routinely guard against it and meekly subject ourselves to surveillance and searches by both government and private entities. My neighbor has a 1000 watt security light burning the darkness away to prevent theft. (I may exaggerating. I may also be bitter about its impact on my stargazing.) Sure, most people are probably disgusted by these women, but is anyone surprised?

This verse comes to mind:

This is the way of an adulteress:
she eats and wipes her mouth
and says, “I have done no wrong.”  (Proverbs 30:20 ESV)

And I wonder if it describes not just these women, but our whole culture.

 

Citizen of heaven

Author, scholar, and lawyer, Thomas More died this day in 1535 in an end common to many who displeased Henry VIII: he lost his head. The former Lord Chancellor had disapproved Henry’s annulment to Catherine of Aragon, was absent from Ann Boleyn’s coronation, and finally refused to sign the Acts of Succession.

As a Protestant, I’m conflicted about More, considering his role in persecuting members of the English Reformation. Yet many people throughout history have done things both great and wicked. I admire his willingness to stand for the faith and his example to Christians everywhere that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

Despite his prominent role in a bloody and often disgraceful time in Church history, I think he still qualifies as a Christian hero because he stood for what he believed to be right despite knowing it would cost him greatly. He is certainly an example to us today, and part of that “great cloud of witnesses” that spur us on in our race.

thomas more

More on More, and information his extensive literary and religious career.

Raise a child in the way he should go

*This post has affiliated links

I inspired a podcast, y’all! I did! My friend Jimmie Bise, former host of The Delivery and current co-host of Strange Worlds Travelogue, took my suggestion and did a show on sci-fi for kids. I hope I use my powers of persuasion for good.

Not having kids of their own and thus being knee-deep in current kid culture, the show focuses more on overarching themes and classic (or older anyway) kids “speculative fiction.” Because of this, this is a great show for every sci-fi fan whether they have kids or not. If you discovered science fiction in your youth, you’ll be yelling “Oh, yeah! I remember that! I loved that show/book/movie!”

sttos

Star Trek and Twilight Zone were my introduction to sci-fi. I really wanted a tribble.

My favorite concept out of the entire (wonderful) podcast was Jimmie’s observation that, “Sci-fi teaches kids that their not the only ones with crazy ideas.” For kids of a certain, creative, not necessarily common bent, discovery of sci-fi is also discovery of their tribe.

I’m not going to rehash the whole show, because  you really should listen to it, but they talk about the benefits  of sci-fi and give lots of great suggestions for books, movies, television shows, and graphic novels.

I do have a quibble with Tania’s suggestion about the order of Star Wars. They suggest watching Episodes 1-3 first, as they are aimed more for kids. First, episode three is really dark and violent and we haven’t let our little guys watch it yet. I mean, Anakin slaughters a bunch of young children and then gets horrific, maiming burns.

Second, they stink.They are just awful. Bad. Horrendous. Dear Lord, somebody stop Lucas before he ruins everything. Like most kids, my children don’t have the most sophisticated taste, but they won’t love just any crap you serve up. Even if they would, it’s my job as a parent to help them develop the ability to discern good art from bad. This is why they don’t watch all those vapid tween shows. (And why they do watch Mythbusters and Doctor Who.) The original episodes are well told stories, and being filmed before the “show every piece of viscera close-up,” frankly far more appropriate for younger kids.

As to their not being aimed at kids, well my whole generation fell in love with them as kids. In fact, I’ll bet Jimmie and Tania fell in love with them as kids. So, no, introduce Star Wars to your kids in the order filmed. Then you can enjoy “Why did Lucas destroy my childhood” rants together!

Like I said, Jimmie and Tania talk mostly (but not entirely) about classic sci-fi, but this is actually a great time for “speculative fiction” for children. (I’m a little surprised Jimmie didn’t mention Phineas and Ferb, one of the best sci-fi shows on tv today! Is too a sci-fi show!) Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the How to Train Your Dragon Series are just some of the stories my kids like. We discovered a fantastic new fantasy story on our trip back from Kentucky, Savvy by Ingrid Law. My girls are excited to read the other books in that series. Of course Hunger Games and Divergent are popular books for young adults, although we haven’t yet read them.  (Interesting note: all but one of these series are written by women. Rock on, ladies! Way to represent the guys, Rick Riordan!)

Be sure to listen to the podcast and check out Strangeworld Travelogue webpage for lots of great suggestions for sci-fi for kids from 5 to 95.

Here’s another great list of sci-fi for kids, broken up by ages.

What was your first introduction to sci-fi? Where do you stand on the Star Wars viewing order controversy?

UPDATE: An important video on introducing your kids to Star Wars from my friend Jessica.

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