Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

New Blog!

Well, you've served us well,, but I'm afraid your era has come to an end. Introducing: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We Have a Name!!!

No, not for the baby, but for the new blog! Thanks for the suggestions, they got the creative juices flowing, but I ended up coming up with something on my own. It's not ready to be unveiled so you don't get to know what it is yet, but I'll give you a hint: it returns zero hits when googled in quotes. Care to take a guess?

Also, for an update on the baby situation, head over to The Scot Vet.

A Quick Post!

Here's a quick post, since I haven't gotten around to posting in a while.

No baby yet, but that's not for a lack of...erm...waiting. We have an appointment at the New Royal Infirmiry tomorrow morning. They're seeing Jeni once a week now until she has the kiddo. The due date, by the way, is September 8.

Instead of having a baby, we've been playing our new game Battlelore, which is pretty awesome. It's pretty different than any of our other games (Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Scrabble, Mille Bornes, Fluxx, Rummikub) in that it's a pretty in depth two player game. It's basically medieval armies with dwarves and goblins (200 or so little plastic guys!) and magicians and the like. The board is a battlefield divided into three segments, center, right, and left. You hold a hand of cards which give you the ability to play certain numbers of units on the different parts of the battlefield, or to do things like command all units of a certain type, or such. You only hold a few of these cards at any given time, so your options are usually limited. You may really want to do something over on the right side of the board, but your cards might not let you. I know from reading reviews of the game online that this kind of limiting system really irks some people, but I like it. It keeps the game interesting and provides you with the challenge of how to do the best with what you have. Anyway, it's a cool game. We're about halfway through the ten tutorial battle senarios included with the game, and we're loving it so far.

Speaking of games, I think I may need to get this one for AJ. Click on the link, it's worth it.

I started using Opera recently as my web browser because it does a lot of things better than Safari. I discovered halfway through this post that it does not, however, do well with Blogger. I switched over to Safari to finish up.

I'm still thinking about the new blog name/layout/web address. So far I love the idea of the jaguar pouncing on links, and honestly that idea was so awesome that I pretty much forgot all the other things you guys suggested. Perhaps you could come up with new, even awesomer ideas to blow the jaguars out of the water? I'm waiting...

Also the other awesome thing happening is that for about the last two months or so Jeni and I have been hosting a weekly worship night at our flat. I'l probably write more about it some time later, I just wanted to mention it now because it's one of the coolest things currently going on in our lives.

That's it! I'm asleep!

A New Blogdentity

So, I'm thinking of replacing this blog. While it has served me well on and off since 2004, I feel like it might be time to move on to something a little more with the times, with all that cool stuff like 'tags' and 'recent comments,' you know, the stuff all the cool kids are into. I also wouldn't mind ditching the once clever but now all to cumbersome 'darkbeerisathrillride' from my blog's address. So I'm trying to think of stuff for a new blog...names, themes? What would you, faithful reader (and I use the singular quite intentionally) like to see in the future of this blog? I think that while the new version of this blog will retain its individual identity, it may become more integrated with, if that's cool with Jeni. So what do you think?!

(As a side note, I don't have a counter on this page so I have no idea aside from comments how many people may or may not be reading. I'm not interested in a roll call, but I am specifically interested in knowing if there are any lurkers out there who've found my blog via myspace or facebook. I'm just curious is all.)

Off the Ball

Dang, I'm feeling off the ball. Like, life-wise. I'm starting to have some vague idea of where I'm going, but I feel like I'm a loooong way off from it.

Dang. No more late night Facebooking.


Anyone out there use Skype? Jeni and I love it, when it's working, which hasn't been the last few days. Any one else having this problem? It won't sign in. It'll just spend about 5 minutes trying and then quit unexpectedly. The Skype website says something's wrong, but I'm wondering if it's affecting everyone or just us mac people, or UK people, or basement dwelling people... Also, if you have skype but don't ever talk to us on it, give me your name and we'll chat when it's back up and running!

Long Load

One feature of a healthy church is that the individual congregation members know each other and care about each other. In Christian life this is marked by prayer. Prayer is one of the glues that hold Christian community together.

The first and foremost community glue in the church is of course Jesus, who through himself binds us to the Father and to each other as members of the body of Christ and as one with the Father as he is. This is either the spiritual abstraction of Christian community, truly expressed in the actions of believers, or the true reality of Christian community, of which the actions of believers are an analogous abstraction. (Or, I guess, it's all real, why privilege either a spiritual or physical manifestation of community over the other.) In any event, somehow Christian community must exist simultaneously spiritually and physically, or else it is not healthy.

So if Christ himself is the foremost glue of community (and it should be noted that he acts in both physical and spiritual roles inseparable from each other), any other lesser glues of Christian community must find their source in him. Prayer, worship, work, sharing and eating: all of these are actions through which Christ built and continues to build community. To be the community of Christ we must do these things as well, but not for their own sake. A group of Christians eating together are not acting out Christian community simply by the virtue of their belief in Christ. Not even of they're doing it in the meeting place of the church immediately following a service of worship.

If I'm simply looking for concern, if I'm simply looking for sympathy, if I'm simply looking for support, I can find all these things outside of the church delivered just as honestly. I guess what I'm saying is that when it comes to community, Christians are usually no better or worse than society at large at providing it. This is not a theological point, it is a practical observation. In general it seems that the indicator of how deeply a person cares for another person has less to do with faith than to do with the amount of time spent in proximity to each other. Case in point, the people Jeni knows from school have taken a deeper interest in our coming child than the people we see once a week at church.

I don't wish to lay a lot of blame on anyone here. I hope to make this as an observation, one which could then be formed into a hypothesis and tested to see if indeed we more often act out the actions of community with those of Christian faith of whom we see very little, or with those of no faith imperative to the relationship of whom we see very much. Through most of my life these two groups have overlapped, so I cannot give a reasonable reply to this question. Use the comments to provide your input to the poorly formed experiment.

Oh, but I started off with prayer, didn't I? I think prayer is the most difficult aspect of Christian community to fake. Engaging in prayer is different from listening to a sermon or entering a conversation on a Christian topic. In most Christian actions, God can reasonably be viewed as a third party observing us doing what we do in his name. (Note please that I don't think that's the role God really takes in these things, but I think it is all to easy to view him as a passive spectator.) In prayer, there's no disputing the fact that God is at the center. He is not, and can no longer be seen as a third party. When we hear a sermon we can fool ourselves into thinking that the pastor is talking and we are listening and God is watching. It is not so easy to do that with prayer, especially as the size of the group praying becomes smaller. Prayer is our most direct acknowledgment of God.

It saddens me to write about Christians 'acknowledging' God. But that's the feeling that I've gotten, that Christians so often don't like to acknowledge God outside of the time and place set aside for doing so. Unfortunately it seems that we don't like to acknowledge each other in those times set aside for God.

And so Christian community is fractured. God time and fellowship time are separate, and each loses its meaning for that.

I guess you've probably already realized that I'm not speaking in abstract here, I'm speaking about the church Jeni and I are currently attending. A visiting preacher this week spoke about the wonderful community of that congregation that will pull people in and overwhelm them with the Spirit of God. He said that people are drawn there because they see the hearts of the congregation members beating with the love of Christ. These are not the things which have drawn us to this church. We are at this church because a) we were tired of church shopping, b) there are some genuinely nice people there going through the same part of life we are, and c) because there's nothing particularly jarringly offensive about the place. Jeni and I left after the service without staying to chat with people as we normally do, I didn't think I could have held my tongue after that sermon and didn't really think it was the right time to be offending people. Perhaps we should have stayed and seen what happened.

Oh right, prayer! Don't worry, I'm getting there. At the church I grew up in, I felt like I was part of a community. One aspect of the Sunday service was, and still is, a time for sharing prayer concerns with the rest of the congregation. This has been a point of contention among members of the church involved in planning and leading the service. Many people disliked the idea of opening the floor for anyone and the inherent unpredictability that came along with that. You could never be sure who might get up or what they might say or how long it might take or if someone might be crazy or drunk or who knows what. Letting anyone be a part of the service somehow made it less dignified, but I think that practice may be the main reason why I feel like that church is a real community.

The services in the church we're in now are led almost exclusively by the pastor. On most Sunday mornings the only words spoken from the chancel not from the pastor are a reading from scripture or a prayer said by an elder. However, these too are often done by the pastor. In other words, the typical Sunday morning consists of the pastor alone doing stuff in front of an assembled group of people who watch. That's at least what it feels like to me, coming from where I come from.

Hey! Loooooong post! No real point! Welcome to Matt's blog.


As I mentioned in this post a few days back, I'm currently reading Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community by Wendell Berry, which was lent to me by my neighbor, Rob. The book is a collection of essays written in the early nineties, most revolving around the theme of respecting the land which provides our livelieness, something which Berry asserts that our current political, economic, and religious systems fail to do. He advocates secession from the currrent economic model of multi-national corporations and global trade, to small, local, self sufficient economies, which he feels would better treat both the earth and humanity. One essay in the book is about the first Gulf War and how that conflict, and others of its kind, are part an parcel of our current worldwide political and economic system. I certainly don't agree with everything he says, and I think there are some serious gaps in his picture of what a better society would look like, but the book is full of interesting and thought provoking ideas.

Oddly enough, given that introduction, this post isn't about any of those things, but was inspired by a thought taken from that essay on the Gulf War:

"War always encourages a patriotism that means not love of country but unquestioning obedience to power."

Over the past year, I seem to have found myself becoming more patriotic, or at least I’ve come to think of myself more as an American than I used to. Let me quickly point out that this change in attitude has nothing to do with support for the current war. Actually, in light of the war and its repercussions, I’m in a position where as I become prouder to be an American, I am also become less proud of America.

So what do I mean that I’m proud to be an American? It has nothing to do with at least knowing I’m free. I’m relatively free over here in the U.K., too, about as free as I am in the States. Instead, my pride is in the cultural identity of being American. That fact, as you have probably already thought, brings along another whole host of problems.

Hmm, this sentiment is becoming harder to express than I thought it would be. I think I need to restate my question. Why am I suddenly identifying as an American more than I used to? That’s easy to answer. I’m not Scottish. I’m not British. When I look at myself in the light of the people I am now surrounded by, I see that my primary defining characteristic is that I am American.

This is something I’d never really thought of back in the States. If I ever thought of “Americans” as a group, it was usually to point out how I was different from the status quo. “Americans are addicted to television. I don’t even have one.” “American Christianity is so shallow. I want to be different.” Stuff like that. Turns out though, there are other, more basic characteristics that define being American. I think that most Americans think in the same kind of way, even if different individuals come to different conclusions. I also think that most Americans share the same core values, even if they become manifest in different types of moral and ethical systems.

Now, the word “same” is relative in those two statements, and only makes sense, say, if you were suddenly plucked out of American culture and set down on the midst of a different one. I think that’s what has happened to me, an what has drawn out my awareness that I am, indeed, an American.

Why I should be proud, or ashamed, of that fact is another story for another day.

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