Tag Archives: faith

why we write: sean conner

22 Nov
The following is the first installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

:: :: ::

Sean Conner

I attended the baptism on a Sunday. I stood on the sand of a fake beach and watched a pastor tilt the heads of people into the stillness of Clinton Lake and bring them to Jesus. I always assumed God’s water, the holy stuff, the H-2-O of rituals and ceremonies, had to be blessed and ordained by some spiritual guru like the Pope, or an archbishop, or their hierarchal equivalents in other Christian denominations. It was hard to imagine that the molecules of holy water and the molecules of the water in this man-made lake were the same. Well, the molecules would be the same, but there’s my assumption that holy water has a little more magic powder thrown in. Some vestige of authority. Holy water, by my understanding, hadn’t been idly weaving towards shore day after day. Holy water doesn’t have gasoline in it, or fish shit. At the edge of the water I think about this and have a tough time disassociating this baptism from summer afternoons at the pool and the friendly dunking that oft ensued.  Continue reading


17 Nov

Americans have to be told not to throw their pennies into small bodies of water. Anything smaller than a swimming pool and it’s inevitably lined with copper. There’s probably hundreds of dollars in the larger fountains. Do we even wish for anything when we do it? Or do we just toss out of habit?

I’m standing at end of a bridge, over the Metra tracks that mark the barrier between the Art Institute’s original building and its Modern Wing. A jutting piece of aluminum has collected the past month’s rain and the museum’s patrons can’t help themselves. There are pennies and nickels and dimes. Two keys. A perfect maple leaf. Etchings at the water’s edge look like fossilized shells. The water is drying up  slowly, leaving dirt on the aluminum in wide bands of varying colors. When it disappears completely, the sight will confuse people. Hundreds of coins in a bare aluminum trough, as if someone accidentally spilled a very large purse.  Continue reading

avant-garde ecclesia

14 Apr

An excerpt from my latest piece for Alarm:

Though Falzone is a man of faith, he doesn’t have a background in liturgical music. “I’d only had a moderate background even going to church,” he says. “I’d never played music in church, and I kind of stayed away from it, to be honest.” But after being approached in 2002 by his friend Bob Reid, the pastor of Grace Chicago, Falzone decided to try it. He set to crafting arrangements that defy much of what church music has become. In any given arrangement, he is toying with both traditional hymns, contemporary styles of world music, and improvisation, and what he’s doing is resurrecting ancient practices.

A hymn’s words and music used to be separate — any text could be matched with any tune. Hymnals were arranged with indexes in the back, so that songs and words of the same meter could be easily combined. He’s broken these two elements apart again, pairing 15th Century religious texts with a Hindu folk song, for example, or adding an original coda to a centuries-old hymn.

options weighed.

29 Jan

what happens when…

the organization you work for “releases” the one person who understood its mission?

throw a brick through a window? too teenage.

go yell at a random higher-up? too finger-pointer.

break down sobbing at your desk? too mid-life-crisis.

stay up all night writing a blazing manifesto? too jerry-maguire.

blog about it?


that sounds about right.

sigh… Darryl. You saved us in this place. Al went somewhere else. Now you. What the hell am I supposed to do?

Theory #4,221

19 Jan

It is a basic paradoxical conundrum
And annoyance
The silliness of our wants

When I am in
I want out
And when I am out
I want in

And I think the universe works this way
In basic paradoxical conundrums
And annoyances

The silliness of its wants

A Very Rosie Christmas

19 Dec


Our housemates Chad and Krystal Eason recently turned Allison and I on to Rosie Thomas, easily the cutest indie artist to emerge from the muddy music scene in the past few years. Friends with Sufjan Stevens, she recorded an album with him and Denison Witmer just for fun called These Friends of Mine, on which is a new favorite song, Why Waste More Time.

With a new Christmas album out and a tour stop in Chicago we didn’t get to make (argh!), she’s suddenly popping up everywhere.

Including Relevant’s website.

I was amazed as I read their interview with her at how real she was, so sincere and genuine, and not in any way focused on herself as a performer as much as herself as a person.

It reminded me of something my old youth pastor, Rod Jost (one of the most amazing men I know — really need to see him again soon), said.

While Rod was chilling with Victor Wooten a few years ago (yes that Victor Wooten; ridiculous) he got to play with Victor’s friend, studio drummer Gregg Bissonette. Rod said that the coolest thing about Gregg was that he never put being a great drummer over being a great guy. He said if someone asked about Gregg, people would talk about how amazing of a person Gregg was, long before they talked about his skills as a drummer.

So, that’s my desire as well. There is easily too much self-centered image-building in the world today, especially in industries like music and film, which rely on people becoming intoxicated with themselves and what image they can present to a world that gobbles it up.

I don’t want to be an image.

I want my skin to show, with all my blemishes and scraggly beard, my enormous eyebrows and long nose, my constantly dry lips, 4 nipples (ooh!), and unremarkable eyes.

I want people to see me as simply a good guy, who will accept you for you are, and asks nothing in return.

Who is nothing but kind and generous.

Who would be friends with a girl like Rosie Thomas just because she’s sweet and plays the guitar, not because she’s famous.

So you can drink to that (clink!), as you read more about a real rosy-cheeked lady.

Grace & Peace and Happy Holidays,


Jean Vanier, of L’Arche, on Community, Darkness, and Our Personal Poverty

18 Dec

I am becoming more and more aware that the great difficulty of many of us who live in community is that we lack trust in ourselves.

We can so quickly feel that we are not really lovable that if others saw us as we really are, they would reject us. We are afraid of all that is darkness in ourselves; we are afraid to face our emotional or sexual problems; we are afraid that we are incapable of real love.

We swing so quickly from exhilaration to depression, and neither expresses what we really are. How can we become convinced that we are loved in our poverty and weakness and that we too are capable of loving?

Certainly the Kingdoms Collide

4 Nov

What Happens When They Do? | assembled thoughts on the day

It’s November 4th, 2008, and there are billions of people in the world who know exactly what that means.

Presidential election, U.S.A.

Woo hoo.

That woo hoo is both real and sarcastic, because while I agree with a majority of Obama’s takes on current issues in the U.S., I also recognize a required disconnect from a worldly political system. My faith is not in a man who calls himself president of any nation.

Some stop there and use faith as an excuse to abstain from real, political issues — those things that are strangling some Americans, and unjustly feeding others.

So how do we engage a political system in which we place no sustaining hope? A position of authority to which we don’t really bow? A country to which we don’t necessarily pledge our allegiance?

What’s a servant to do when his two kingdoms collide?

These questions appear all over the global village, in the form of blogs (like this one), message boards, books, discussion groups, political forums, classrooms, and church services. Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation has some great ideas, as does Shane Claiborne’s Jesus For President.

But in reality, when we take our eyes off the page and look at our broken world, what we read and what we see don’t match up.

This says this, but what I see is that.
A sentence doesn’t always help us make sense out of a situation.
A chapter can’t always take away confusion, the overwhelming sense of “What now?”

We need practical advice. What does serving God and serving the people of America look like?

Recently, I heard it described this way:

“No matter who wins, the church has work to do.”

This implies a resolute faith, one that understand political systems and gives them credit for their ability to further peace, justice, and hope, but reserves its true hope for what we, the church, can do. We need to pick up the pieces of the broken system, glue the puzzle back together, and see a picture bigger than a 2-dimensional photo of a prosperous nation.

We need to see a world embodying Shalom.

In practical terms: if McCain wins, we’ll need to fight hard against war-mongering, racism, consumerism, and a free-trade ideology that perpetuates under-developing nations, as well as loudly call for better environmental practices and regulations. If Obama we need to fight against universalist ideology that says “anything goes,” humanism and atheism, and we need to keep him accountable to the promises he’s made to the poor, to the uncared-for, to those without health care.

Most of the things we’ll need to fight for and against are the same things Christians have fought for and against for centuries. Because in the course of a day the world will change.

But it won’t change much.
Greed won’t be replaced with love.
War won’t be replaced by peace.

We can’t be foolish enough to think either candidate is the Messiah or the anti-Christ.

Too easily we “do our duty” on November 4th, and the next day campaign promises are forgotten and news about the president and his policies begins to retreat from the public sphere.

Tonight, we can celebrate, or we can mourn.

But we better not become resigned.

It’s we who can change things. Make a difference in the lives of the poor. Give care to the uncared-for. Make a commitment to peace. Live sustainable lifestyles.

It’s that truth that I’m banking on.

Four years of committed Christian living — peacemaking, loving, and neighboring — I’d vote for that.

(note: i borrowed unashamedly from numerous authors I’ve read in recent years, as well as conversations with my brother, some of my former professors, my wife, and my Mission Year team to write this piece. thanks to all that continue to challenge and inspire me)