Svithe: (psalm98)


O sing unto the Lord
a new song; for he hath
done marvellous things:
his right hand, and his
holy arm, hath gotten
him the victory.

    The Lord hath made known
    his salvation:
    his righteousness hath he
    openly shewed in the
    sight of the heathen.

      He hath remembered his mercy
      and his truth toward the
      house of Israel: all the ends
      of the earth have seen
      the salvation of our God.

        Make a joyful noise unto
        the Lord, all the earth:
        make a loud noise, and rejoice,
        and sing praise.

          Sing unto the Lord with the harp;
          with the harp, and the voice
          of a psalm.

            With trumpets and sound of cornet
            make a joyful noise before
            the Lord, the King.

              Let the sea roar, and the fulness
              thereof; the world, and they
              that dwell therein.

                Let the floods clap their hands:
                let the hills be joyful together

                  Before the Lord; for he cometh
                  to judge the earth: with
                  righteousness shall he judge
                  the world, and the people
                  with equity.
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Svithing borrowed words (Pallas Athena)


My brother, Pallas Athena, wrote an interesting post this week. He doesn't post often, but when he does he's always provocative and worth reading.

This post wended its way from a fire-based metaphor he doesn't like to a completely unrelated fire-based metaphor he does like. It has a number of points I want to reply to and they're all religiousy and it'll end up being rather long for his comments section and I don't want to be accused of trying to take things over on his properties.

That said, I am going to quote large tracts of his post, so if your reply is more to him than me, you might go to the original to comment.

    A couple weeks ago, my family attended church with a co-worker of mine. I am familiar with the church, and admire the pastor. I have heard him preach on the radio and listened to some of his sermons online. I see him as a man of God and have a lot of respect for him. When we went, it was a refreshing experience. Everyone seemed excited to be there, I mean really excited. It was an hour and a half long service of which the first twenty minutes and last twenty minutes were spent standing and singing along with the rock band on stage. In between the music was an interesting sermon though it seemed somewhat shallow (unfortunately not from the normal Pastor - he had swine flu :( ). There were people sitting beside me, in back of me and in front of me with their Bibles out and note pads, taking notes. Not counting my wife, I can not remember the last time I saw anyone take notes in a Sacrament Meeting.

    My kids enjoyed the standing and singing to the electric guitar, drums and keyboard. I did too, I must confess. The feeling of inclusion was very apparent. The place was packed. The converted school bus was out front after it had made its rounds picking up people from all over town. No one I saw was dressed up, everyone looked and felt comfortable. After the service everyone was hanging around talking enjoying each others company. We had to rush out to make it to our own service.

    Upon arriving at our church there was a noticeable difference. Looking around, no one seemed excited to be there. Everyone was dressed up and there was a bit of stuffiness in the air. Sacrament Meeting was a bit of a different experience. The closing hymn was “The Spirit of God” – one of my favorites, but I wasn’t singing, it is hard for me to sing that slow.

    I spent a lot of time that day, and since, thinking of the two churches. Comparing them. I have attended many different churches but this presented an interesting contrast rushing out of one to make it to the other. I decide to try and come up with three words to explain each of the two churches and here is what I came up with.

    Other Church: Excitement, Enthusiasm, Sugar Rush

    My Church: Dull, Duty, Depth

    First my explanation of why I chose those words for the other church. There was no one there that I could find that did not seem excited to be there. From the youngest kids to the ushers to the old ladies, there was an air of excitement that permeated the entire space. Not just excitement but also enthusiasm. The people attending seemed genuinely enthused about the Lord Jesus and what he had done for them. But it also seemed a bit like a sugar rush, an inrush of current if you will, but not a lot of substance to hold onto that rush.

    Now, the words for the mormon church. I can not remember the last time I have been to a church meeting that was not dull. Not to say the messages were not good, but they were dull. There is a sense of duty in the church, duty to show up, duty to sit quietly, duty to do what you’re told, and you just do it, all of it. But there is depth, the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by Joseph Smith has no end. One can take it as far as they wish, which I might add, is a large part of the problem.

    The Church of Jesus Christ has all the restored keys and proper authority to accomplish the purpose of life on this earth. Because of this they do not need enthusiasm or excitement. The other churches do not have all the answers. They have Jesus and they have the Bible. Arguably, that is enough, but there will always be questions and gaps. They fill these with their excitement and enthusiasm. The mormon church does not need excitement or enthusiasm, they have “the truth”.

Lotta things to say here. The first is the issue of visiting other faiths (which the Sistas also recently posted on) which I for one am certainly in favor of even if I never actually do it. I think it's good to introduce our kids to other's worship. And for several reasons: they'll be more open to others, others will be more open to them, all the good things that may proceed from both those.

As a missionary, incidentally, nothing seemed to build good will like nonflamboyantly visiting other churches. Good stuff.

Another point: I enjoy Catholic radio. Even if I may not align perfectly with their doctrine, I find worth there.

But now to the real point: the dullness of Mormon meetings. Which leads us to our second quote.

    So to go back to the lame analogy and expand it to this example; the other church is like a dry tumbleweed. When lit it creates a large fierce flame which has no substance. The mormon church is like a nice hardwood log. Once it is lit, it is not going out, it will put out lots of heat, and will burn a long, long time, but will never give you the excited, enthusiastic flame of a dry tumbleweed.

This analogy has its charm. Probably offensive to tumbleweeds, but there you go. And it's apt in many ways.

But let's get to the main thrust of this analogy.

    I have had many discussions with my wife since this experience and I have not been able to figure out, how could excitement be brought back into the church? The church is not growing near as well as claimed. Even though we frequently sing "All is Well, All is Well", I think there is a strong argument to the contrary. I cringe everytime I read 2 Nephi 28, is that not what I hear from the pulpit of the church? The church does not need to compromise any of its core beliefs or underpinnings to do this, but it needs excited members, enthusiastic members. I can not get it out of my head...if the members of my church had the excitement and enthusiasm the members of the other church had, oh, imagine...

This is a really great thought experiment for us to engage in. Not just what would happen, but how can we get there?

This discussion of mine's been a little anemic because I'm holding the baby and I can't think and type at the same time without two hands. So let's just look at my post here as an advertisement for my brothers. You should read his anyway because I skipped the paragraph about Emma. And she sound hot.

Go forth.

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Svithe: In dialogue with Richard G. Scott


Richard G. Scott is an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His words are taken from his recent talk To Acquire Spiritual Guidance.

Theric: So sometimes I'm not sure what my goal is with all this svithery stuff. It's a little presumptuous to put myself up as some sort of spiritual guide. But if I'm doing it only for myself, why do it at all? Besides, some of these things are born more of desperation than anything else.

Elder Scott:I share an experience that taught me a way to gain spiritual guidance.

Theric: Great.

Richard G ScottElder Scott: One Sunday I attended the priesthood meeting of a Spanish branch in Mexico City. I vividly recall how a humble Mexican priesthood leader struggled to communicate the truths of the gospel in his lesson material. I noted the intense desire he had to share those principles he strongly valued with his quorum members. He recognized that they were of great worth to the brethren present. In his manner, there was an evidence of a pure love of the Savior and love of those he taught.

Theric: I assume it turned out well?

Elder Scott: His sincerity, purity of intent, and love permitted a spiritual strength to envelop the room. I was deeply touched. Then I began to receive personal impressions as an extension of the principles taught by that humble instructor. They were personal and related to my assignments in the area. They came in answer to my prolonged, prayerful efforts to learn.

Theric: Right. Ultimately, we all find out own way to commune with God.

Elder Scott: As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down. In the process, I was given precious truths that I greatly needed in order to be a more effective servant of the Lord. The details of the communication are sacred and, like a patriarchal blessing, were for my individual benefit. I was given specific directions, instructions, and conditioned promises that have beneficially altered the course of my life.

Theric: I can believe it. Really, the schmuck talking matters a lot less. Listening to, say, me, should be no more than a catalyst. That's a chemistry term. I'm not sure if you know it, being a nuclear physicist? But anyway, what I was originally talking about is that I worry that my motivations might not be purely, ah, pure. But you probably have a story for that as well?

Elder Scott: Subsequently, I visited the Sunday School class in our ward, where a very well-educated teacher presented his lesson. That experience was in striking contrast to the one enjoyed in the priesthood meeting. It seemed to me that the instructor had purposely chosen obscure references and unusual examples to illustrate the principles of the lesson. I had the distinct impression that this instructor was using the teaching opportunity to impress the class with his vast store of knowledge. At any rate, he certainly did not seem as intent on communicating principles as had the humble priesthood leader.

Theric: Oo. Yeah.

Elder Scott: In that environment, strong impressions began to flow to me again.

Theric: Really!

Elder Scott: I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life.

Theric: Wow.

Elder Scott: Subsequently I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, “Was there yet more to be given?” I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated. Again I was prompted to ask, “Is there more I should know?” And there was. When that last, most sacred experience was concluded, I had received some of the most precious, specific, personal direction one could hope to obtain in this life. Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.

Theric: I don't even know how to reply to that.

Elder Scott: What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.

Theric: I---could certainly do better at that. May I pull out the I-have-small-children excuse here? Or is this just a matter of me not asking sincerely enough?

Elder Scott: Impressions of the Spirit can come in response to urgent prayer or unsolicited when needed. Sometimes the Lord reveals truth to you when you are not actively seeking it.... However, the Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you. As you make this a practice in your life, you will be more perceptive to the feelings that come with spiritual guidance. Then, when that guidance comes, sometimes when you least expect it, you will recognize it more easily.

Theric: Well, thank you, Elder Scott for stopping by. You're welcome in Thutopia anytime. Just stop staring at me. Please. Any closing thought?

Elder Scott: I testify that you can personally learn to master the principles of being guided by the Spirit.

ThericL Elder Richard G. Scott, ladies and gentlemen!

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S is for Svithe


S is for Sunday, the day that I write
V is for Vacuous, a curse that I fight
I is for Intellect, a party to please
T is for Telling, of faith in degrees
H is for Humble, to welcome the Dove
E is for Everything, proof of God's love.

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The Metaphors of Dr. Caligari (a halloweeny svithe)


This is part of my irregular series of posts wherein I take a post I want to write and jam it into a svithe-shaped box.


Part of our regular Halloween decor is placing on old tv in our big front window and playing a Halloweeny movie. The first year we did It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, then Nosferatu, the White Zombie and then, this year, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari:

At one point in the evening I was left home alone. As we don't get that many trickortreaters and as the weather was pleasant, I started the movie over then went outside and watched it though the window.

I bought Dr. Caligari some years ago for a buck somewhere, but never did get around to watching it (a common theme in my movie-related posts, I know). So this was my first time, interrupted now and then by trickortreaters and by my responsibility to the pizza I was cooking and then, just as the climax was hitting, by the return of my family.

One of the elements I was most looking forward to in the film was the German-Impressionist set design, the buildings offplumb and the walls lurching in ausettling ways. And all the triangular doors and trapezoidal staircases were cool, but they didn't affect me in the right way. Decades of Dr Seuss have trained me to view the skippywhompic as whimsical rather than threatening. And I think that's a shame. (Not whimsy, but exclusive whimsy is the shame.)

Dr Caligari

I think the arrival of sound may have limited film's potential in some key ways. The dreamscapes of films like Caligari or Nosferatu or Vampyre don't transfer well to a world where a line of dialogue may be expected to explain away the absurd shape of a jail cell or the stripes of black in the villain's white hair.

In a world of sound, things may not be merely unsettling.

In a world of sound, we expect an explanation. And that which is explained is weakened, because the rational mind is allowed to pretend the celluloid world too is safe and rational. Lame.

Anyway. Time to svithify. Here are some potential metaphors we can apply to the above. Please help me choose the most fit.

Yeah. And a righteous Halloween to you to....

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