Monday, December 29, 2008
since today was our last in amarillo i decided to take syd, my five year old niece, to see bolt the most recent film by disney's increasingly irrelevant* pixar unit. although bolt was vaguely entertaining the primary lessons i learned by the end of the film were:
a) acquaint yourself with the voice actors before going to see a glorified cartoon lest you spend an hour and a half guessing whose annoyingly scratchy voice is behind the wonder dog
b) thou shalt feed pre-schoolers before the film lest you spend most of the film refusing to buy additional concessions, and
c) if one tears up during the "climactic" finale when the child actor voiced by miley cyrus is unexpectedly reunited and subsequently saved by the sans super power, but still darling and devoted wonder dog voiced by john travolta one probably misses his dog more than he would like to admit.
all in all, i enjoyed hanging with syd. maybe next year she'll be old enough to catch an anniversary edition of raging bull with me or something.
one of the things i love best about celebrating with two families is expanding my christmas palate. at the morris house Christmas is not the time for turkey or god-forsaken spiral ham sandwiches, but the time to enjoy authentic hand-rolled tamales, tasty green chili and texas brisket with a nice, cold miller high life. we ate well in amarillo.
kellie's dad, commonly referred to as "grumpy" also surprised preston and i with an uncle henry pocket knife for christmas. i'm crap with knives but little p has been having a blast with it!
on our long trip back to tulsa kellie and i listened to john le carre's absolute friends, which is a lengthy examination of back story in search of a plot, stopped at bucks in okc for much needed pit stop and made it within three miles of my parent's house before the left rear tire on our rental car shredded to bits. fortunately, thanks to my masterful mechanical skills, the donut was affixed in short order and we dragged our tired arses home.
* from what i've heard wall-e was fantastic and i enjoyed the incredibles as well. but "pixar does doc hollywood" and "pixar does milo and otis" is somewhat less than original.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
on friday morning i finally had the opportunity to make my way down to lubbock, texas in order to both meet with agent b and piss on the red raiders for surrendering so easily to the sooners.
on the way down i promised myself that i would not listen to npr on xm or to an audio recording of fight club that i borrowed from the (incredibly impressive) hardesty branch of the tulsa public library, so that i could soak up the silence and stark expanses of west texas and try to commune with my God. i'd love to say that i immediately embraced the silence and rhythmically prayed the Jesus prayer the entire way. unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.
although i could feel myself unfolding as i passed through the great expanse, the minutes felt like hours and my 125 mile trip turned into a sojourn. such discomfort is troubling since i spend so much time preaching and sharing my inner life with others. i realize that the most effective words come out of silence and i need to be more intentional about cultivating silence in the coming year year.
meeting with agent b was like reconnecting with an old friend. although we have only known each other for four years and we've only met on three occasions, his family and mine share the mission of incarnation and the ground that separates us is indeed holy. b and i shared our evolving visions over shitty beer and sub par burgers, we stumbled across a $50 subsidy for our gathering, we drank slightly better beer at chili's and we started to cut to the heart of things at starbucks.
at the latter location i asked agent b how he would, in light of his a-congregational ministry and mission, define the gospel that we both serve. after hemming and hawing a little bit he simply defined the gospel as "doing." when i asked him how the person of Jesus informed his practical definition of the gospel he said that Jesus was "the example" of doing. he then offered a number of illustrations of what this gospel looked like in action. if you'd like to hear those stories for yourself, you'll find a few of them, along with the best characterization of my pastoral calling that i've ever read, over on the agent b files blog.
when we'd sobered up* enough to brave the trek home i embraced my friend and fellow slave and we went our separate ways. on the trip back, as i listened to fight club i was both titillated by the narrator and thankful that God has treated my disassociation disorder with His unrelenting grace and the unexpected graciousness of friends.
cheers agent b! here's to a continuing long obedience in the same direction.
* i'm not simply talking about alcohol here.
Friday, December 26, 2008
i celebrated the birth of the Lord Christ by:
breaking in my new running fleece and logging a mile or so with my sister-in-law
interrupting the family's television time by laughing at matt taibbi's undercover antics as profiled in the great derangement
finally admitting to my father-in-law, whom i love and deeply respect, that i am rubbish with power tools and don't have an interest in improving myself in this area
watching the celtics dump a game to the lakers
half-watching the bucket list, a movie that is scarred by schlocky sentimentality and rob reiner's inept direction, but is carried by actors who are hard to ignore
dancing a turn or two with the girl in the moon
re-watching portions of cars with the little p. while the film is endurable it was much more aesthetically enjoyable when it was called doc hollywood. you can definitely tell that brad bird didn't write this one
and constantly reminding preston that his cousin's new dollhouse is not a: a) stepladder b) window seat or c)gender appropriate toy for him to enjoy
how did your day go?
Thursday, December 25, 2008
a couple of quick observations on our sojourn through the mostly barren wilderness that separates tulsa from amarillo:
1) there are several starbucks in the okc area that are available for mid-trip refueling. this is a good thing.
2) as opposed to years past, there are far, far fewer american flags stuck to people's bumpers, festooning pot bellies or flying festively over ford dealerships. i'm starting to suspect that oklahomans and texans hate our freedom.
3) though i would like to report otherwise, i am really freaked out and afraid when i have to stop in places like mclean texas to get gas at 11 p.m. at night. the locals screaming at their kids, the senior citizens' coffee clubs, the jalapeno corn dogs and jacked up pick-up trucks are quaint and entertaining during the daytime, but at night, when the locals could carve you up into bits and scatter your entrails in the red dirt with barely a notice, those little towns are downright spooky.*
4) the pix and i listened to michael lewis' blind side on the trip down. the book was a wonderful exploration of southern football, the effects of african-american poverty and well-intentioned eh-vangelical philanthropy. it's definitely worth a listen or read.
last night we attended a beautiful, but somewhat vacuous christmas eve service at a local church. the program was put together well and the sincerity of the participants was never in doubt, but they flattened the nativity narrative - Jesus' birth was a gift for attentive shepherds and you! - and the logocentric, low-participatory liturgy left me wanting more. in a town characterized by a significant poverty culture and a large migrant community christmas seems to be the perfect time to discuss the displacement of the holy family and the exile of the infant Christ. it seems to me that in the often xenophobic south we also need to talk a little more about the role that the magi play in the nativity story.
i would love to get out to the movies this afternoon, but few interesting movies are playing here. palatable choices include the mysterious case of benjamin button and, the mysterious case of benjamin button. can someone get me some milk and a gran torino please? please!
* this reflection makes me feel out-of-touch, elitist and arrogant. but , well...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
the pix, pres and i are currently on a nine day road trip to oklahoma in texas. when i can catch a spare moment, i'm going to provide some reports from the road.
yesterday morning, after six short hours of sleep that followed ten hours of horrific christmas travel, i finally started to shake off sleep and get going. in the few short seconds between my first glimpse of the ceiling and my feet hitting the floor, i realized that i was going to see my pa pa, better known around my house as "big preston," and i could barely contain my excitement.
since i've almost always got an analytical thermometer up my ass i then tried to parse why i was so excited to see my pa pa. was it because we would have long, meaningful conversations? probably not. we've had a number of those over my 31 years, but now we're usually content to sit together. was it because i needed hug him tight and feel him reflexively scrunch his shoulders as if he was absorbing my love? closer, but that wasn't the sole reason. was it because i longed for my son to bask in the gentleness, generosity and common nobility of his namesake? that was part of it.
in the end i realized that i could no more explain my heightened expectation of his arrival than i could rationalize the incredible depths of my love for the man. at almost the same moment, i also realized that the negative correlation between my increasing love for the man and my growing inability to express or explain my love is very similar to my growing passion and investment in the Kingdom of God and my decreasing ability to speak conclusively about my faith.
apparently, for me, the deeper the love and the more abiding the passion, the less i can actually say about it. i'm starting to realize that this tension does not give way to doubt, but leads me towards wonder, story and tears.
Monday, December 15, 2008
today's herb of grace advent reading included the following provocative reflection:
"A good question to ask in this Christmas season would be, “why did those in authority want to kill Jesus, not only as a grown rebel but even as a small child? What was he doing to disturb their kind of peace?” Once we find out exactly what kind of threat Jesus was to the established order, then all we need to do is be that same kind of threat. Then we will be praying “come Lord Jesus” as something different than a sweet Sunday morning melody."
Monday, December 08, 2008
when i was a s.h.i.t. student i defined my homiletical theory as provocation.
recently, with little apparent provocation, a friend at church said that i could easily be renamed "table flipper."
last night, during peter rollins'* excellent talk at the gathering, he agreed that his writing is intentionally provocative. he then expanded upon this idea by stating that one of the goals of his teaching and preaching is to detach individuals from (i'm assuming) our conceptual idols, reductionistic readings of texts and our intrinsic desire to name, define and circumscribe that which names, defines and circumscribes us.
i'm proud to journey in the company of provocateurs like peter.** moreover, i think peter's focus perspective on homiletical and pedagogical detachment is intriguing.
if you heard peter this week feel free to share your reflections. of course, all other comers are welcome as well.
* in addition to talking at the gathering and harvard div, peter also bunked out at 4 judson for the weekend. even when exhausted, peter is an excellent guest who is quick to share a story, parse a question and share a pint. here's to hoping we'll have an opportunity to host him in the future.
** peter's visit is yet another example of how much the emergent village crew has invested in our cohort and church community over the last couple of years. tony jones has met with us several times, mclaren has connected with our community, will sampson graced us with a visit last spring, karen ward popped in on one occasion and peter has now been here twice. the good folks at emergent village don't simply talk about generative conversation among friends...they incarnate their commitment. our communities has been all the better for it. thanks ev!
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
"Following the image of the kingdom that was spoken of by Jesus, we encounter the idea that while it is still thought of as 'to come' this does not mean that it will one day arrive at the end of a certain period of time, but rather the kingdom is 'to come,' that is, the kingdom is already among us but in a spectral manner that resists our grasp. here the opening created by the eschatological kingdom of God is not an opening into the future but rather an opening into the present that acts much like the portable holes we see in cartoons that can be placed on any solid surface, thus creating a gap." -peter rollins, the fidelity of betrayal, pg. 51.
this passage challenged me to set aside my simple linear conception of God's kingdom in order to contemplate God's kingdom as a depth or chasm that i am sometimes standing on the precipice of, other times foolishly, cartoonishly spinning my wheels above or, in darker times, as likely to find as a artesian well in the desert.
contemplating the dimensions of the kingdom in this manner makes me suspect that when i am struck dumb by the texture of my grandfather's hands or am seemingly called home by the squint in neal's eyes, the Spirit is suggesting that i am near the holy and hidden heart of it all.
the unexpected depth and appearance of the kingdom in our midst, also makes sense of my uncle freddy's suggestion to pay attention my eyes well up with tears, as they have so often lately, or when a lump rises in my throat.
during this holy advent peter's text is reminding me that throughout this season of anticipation it makes as much sense to look down and dig around as it does to lean forward.
by: kevin smith clark
“Could I have been a parking lot attendant
Could I have been a millionaire in Bel-Air
Could I have been lost somewhere in Paris
Could I have been your little brother
Could I have been anyone other than me…”
Dave Matthews, “Dancing Nancies”
Could I have been…miserable in central Kentucky? I had this Zen-like moment on Sunday while walking through the halls of my parents’ church. This was the same church where I cut my teeth on ministry and realized my calling. This was the same church where I met her…the girl I dated before my wife, Amy. And I saw her Sunday morning (I won’t get into details, I won’t slander, but we’ve taken distinctly different paths since June ’97). Then the FLASH of insight (sorry to mix Buddha and Jesus): what if I hadn’t severed the ties of that necrotic relationship? Could I have been anyone other than me?
I’m 99.9% confident: (1) I never venture out of KY for anything, (2) I never get involved in leading worship, (3) I miss out on my relationship with Amy, my two beautiful children, and (4) I don’t meet g13 at Soybean Bible and strike up a friendship that was originally based on two facts: the Dave Matthews Band are gods (we’ve both changed our opinions since then), and Barry Sanders is the greatest running back in history (I’m still steadfast on this, assuming g13 is as well).
Needless to say, I made the right choice…but that Sunday was all the Thanksgiving I needed. Anyone else had one of those moments lately?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
"By 1998 six of the seven largest parachurch mission agencies were World Vision (founded 1950, annual revenues $304 million), Larry Jones International Ministries/Feed the Children (1964, $128 million),MAP International (1954, $85 million), Compassion International (1952, $69 million), Food for the Hungry (1971, $53 million) and Christian Aid Ministries (1981, $43 million). All have been founded since 1945 and all make relief, development, education and health care their primary focus, with evangelism a secondary concern." - Michael S. Hamilton, "More Money, More Ministry: The Financing of American Evangelicalism Since 1945," pg. 118.
"The budget of just one organization dedicated to evangelism - Campus Crusade for Christ ($241 million) - is itself larger than all spending by all evangelical political group, right and left. Evangelicals spend more on summer camps than on politics, more on urban rescue missions than on politics, and more on youth programs than on politics. When we factor in the amounts that evangelicals give to their churches - probably somewhere between $14 billion and $20 billion - there is no doubt that evangelicals devote less than 1 percent of their religious spending to public affairs matters. If we follow the money, it clearly does not lead to politics." - ibid, pgs. 130-131.
these figures are from 1998, but they are still startling. to me anyway.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
submitted by: slowfo
It all started with a simple game of football with his son in the front yard...or at least that's what Wikipedia tells me (and if you can't trust Wikipedia, who can you trust anyway?). On October 12, 2008, then-Presidential candidate, Barack Obama whizzed through an Ohio neighborhood to do a little meet-n-greet and stumbled upon Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka. "Joe the Plumber", and changed history in ways that we still haven't seen the end of yet.
To recap the major events since October 12th, here's Joe's meteoric rise in a nutshell:
- Joe was played like a pinball over the next 3 weeks as the two best options for President of the free world (or at least the best two who actually wanted to pursue the job) would use him in any way, shape, or form for their own selfish, political gain.
- All major media groups picked up the Joe the Plumber story, swarming him for feedback and/or appearances. Fierce competition for ratings continued throughout the campaign and Joe was a major piece to that puzzle. Consequently, Joe became our newest celebrity-next-door.
- Soon after Joe's thrust into stardom (if you can really call it that) Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, had for-her-eyes-only background checks being done to see if he owed unemployment compensation taxes, child support, or received welfare assistance from the state. Jones-Kelley was an Obama supporter who made 14 background checks within 48 hours after the final presidential debate. Now surely a state employee wouldn't immediately abuse their power to dig up dirt on a regular public citizen to hopefully discredit their opinions and assassinate their character for political gain (oops, that last part hasn't been proven yet...I'll bet Ms. Jones-Kelley was a McCain supporter all the way, dontcha think? ;-). Dishonest political powerplays with priveleged information....Joe, meet Big Brother. He's here to tell you a bedtime story that we like to call...Watergate.
- Joe's no fool (altho' time will tell on that one) - he sees opportunity in all of this and so do a gathering crowd of others who are whispering into Joe's ear about how much big money he can make through all of this (don't worry, the whisperers will get their self-indulgent cut of the action too). Joe's planning on sueing the State of Ohio (by the way, isn't it great that the ACLU protects citizens like this?.....what? they haven't called for the lawsuits and firings? they've only admitted that the Jones-Kelley debacle "raises questions?"....geez, what's a white, middle-class male to do to get a little back-up here??). Joe's got a book coming out. Joe's started his own website, watchdog group, and has inquired into cutting a country music CD and has hired his own publicity management agent.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
"Say what you will about Barack Obama, but I love him, if just for one reason. When asked about his favorite baseball team, he said, 'Oh, that’s easy. White Sox. I’m not one of these fair weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren’t watching the game. It’s not serious. White Sox, that’s baseball. Southside.' This is exactly what we Cardinals fans think about Cubs fans. Because it’s true. It’s nice to have someone rooting against the Cubs in the White House." More...
Monday, November 17, 2008
makua and qwest from ringside entertainment stopped by rectangle today and they made a big splash.
over the last several weeks, rectangle has undergone some difficult transitions and the atmosphere among participants, staff and supporters has been, to say the least, incredibly tense.
little did we know that a little professional wrestling was just what the dr. ordered.
when makua and qwest unexpectedly busted up our monday morning meeting to announce that ringside entertainment, yea-uh, is going to host a benefit wrestling event for rectangle on friday, december 13th in everett, ma, yeah-uh, the room erupted. participants who are ringside loyalists called out to makua and qwest by name, the work floor supervisors had goofy smiles plastered across their faces and long-time, well-cultured managers recanted of their previous inclination to reject the event altogether.
in the midst of that meeting there were tears* shed, high fives slapped and many, many autographs given. after the meeting as i escorted the celebrities to their dressing room i couldn't help but think that this must be what the celebration of jubilee felt like.
thank you makua, qwest and ringside entertainment for shedding a little light and sharing a lot of love with all of us at rectangle. your support and philanthropy,** especially at this time in our community's history, means more than you could ever imagine.
* some of which, i am unashamed to say, were mine.
** i mean that in the truest since of the word.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
july of 1996 was a difficult month for me. my grandmother was in the process of dying from heart disease, i had just received my fourth alcohol related citation in six months and i didn't know what i was going to do with my future - though i realized that returning to oklahoma state for a second year of blatant debauchery and academic excellence was not my best option.
during that time i was fortunate to receive guidance and accompaniment from people i knew and loved, such as scott schlotfelt, sean radecki and regina (whitehead) johnston each of whom spent many hours reminding me that, as confused as i was, i was still loved and i had a strong community supporting me.
however, during that time, i was also fortunate to receive encouragement and accompaniment from an unexpected source. namely, the lcc dayspring group. this crew traveled throughout the region that summer singing songs about Jesus, encouraging young adults to attend bible college and blessing those they came across. at sean's insistence, i helped them unload their gear into the church, i attended their charming, if a little cheesy and formulaic, performance and enjoyed chatting with them after the show.
the next morning sean called me to tell me that dayspring's bus had broken down* and to invite me to hang out with the crew for a little longer. so i did. as that day turned into half a week, guys like joel craig, david drake, john cassetto and, especially, todd zastrow really blessed me with their friendliness** and they encouraged me to explore the possibility of attending lcc instead of simply jumping ship to another state university.
their encouragement tapped into the odd*** affirmations i had received over the years that i would "grow into a preacher" someday and, as a result, i decided to give at least one semester of bible college a try.****
the first semester really sucked, but i received an unexpected call to preach, i stuck around lcc and that calling continues to orient my life until this day.
why am i tripping down sentimental lane and dropping names? good question...
this weekend i remembered the dayspring week because a sort-of similar group from st. stephen's university in new brunswick visited the gathering. this group of eclectic, incredibly talented musicians invited us to experience "the filid," which they described as an experience of celtic liturgy, song, dance, poetry and prophesy.
i didn't know what to expect from "the filid" crew, but when i realized within an hour of meeting them that several of their members were former l'arche assistants and that the whole crew had been profoundly shaped by the life and ministry of jean vanier and henry nouwen, i had a feeling that we would get along famously.
fortunately we did.
their performance was amazing***** - weaving a "deconstruction liturgy" together with contemplative sculpture, quirky, powerpoint entangled proclamation and soaring instrumentals - and afterwards we lingered over many beers and they joyously jammed out versions of marvin gaye's "let's get it on" as well as original tunes such as their bi-lingual, comedic, closer of a love song between canada and separatist quebec.
obviously, i'm too old to respond to their rousing performance by running off to a christian college, but spending time with the st. stephen's crew reminded me of my roots in spiritual theology, gave me a vision of an engaging, mixed media liturgy and, by the strange miracle of grace, provided a provision of much needed bread for the journey.
* which came as no surprise to that crew or anyone who attended lcc during that time period.
** friendship is probably too strong a term. they were recruiters, after all.
*** odd because my language, behavior and contrarian nature have always made me an nontraditional candidate for ministry in the christian churches, churches of christ.
**** against the recommendations of schlotfelt and radecki who discouraged me from attending for rather superficial reasons (that i will not reveal except to say that the "wish book" was involved).
***** i wish i had another superlative, but, um, there you go.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
“The emerging church movement is a sustainable church movement and as the country enters recession, as budgets tighten, and as creativity is ignited, the emerging churches have already learned to start off without a budget, without buildings, without paid professionals and can offer the wider church the gift of their experience—which means that the mission of Christ can still go forward and even thrive, despite the economic woes around us.” - andrew jones
ht: steve knight
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
maybe because there's a november chill in the air. maybe because i'm reading mckibben's deep economy and questioning the viability and value of perpetual growth. maybe because i work for a non-profit which appears to be slowly bleeding from the top and bottom.
for whatever reason, this is clearly a fallow season.
though there are times where i am tempted to despair, there are plenty of other times when i sit and consider how i'm going to turn the soil, rest, save and prepare for the growth that is to come.
during this fallow season, i want to drill down in prayer and see if i can discover some of the unction evidenced by preachers of old. i want to brave the silence long enough to read theology again. i want to slow down long enough to listen to my beloved and others as well. i want to lead my unsuspecting ambition up to moriah and see what gives.
how are you spending this fallow season?
Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
this evening i ran across this excellent piece by steve holt. give it a read.
"A friend of mine and I ate breakfast together today at our favorite cafe, as we do every week. Our part of the neighborhood is seeing an influx of young, urban professionals — “climbing the professional ladder,” as my friend put it. Broadly speaking, these folks are well-educated and left-leaning, with entrepreneurial personalities. They know how to have a good time, and local shindigs — beer dinners, meet-and-greets, and other social events — are frequent.
There seems to be a disconnect, though, in the lip service paid to acts of justice / social action and the direct work they do with their hands. (the mentoring, the tutoring, the serving) I could be missing it altogether, but I haven’t seen it. Lack of time seems to be a major factor here.But almost unanimously, these folks will vote on Tuesday for Obama, whom they believe has the best policies to help the poor. But with the apparent lack of direct service with the disenfranchised, you might call their social philosophy “trickle-down justice.” Read More
Saturday, November 01, 2008
"It started with an idea: Produce a television show filmed by people with disabilities. Five years later, the idea has grown into the multiple award-winning Ablevision program, which celebrated its 20th episode at Anthony’s in Malden with nearly 400 people in attendance.
“The greatest honorees were our cast and crew,” said Jeff Gentry, community relations director at Rectangle in Medford. “They arrived in stretch white limos. There were paparazzi flashing pictures. It was a lot of fun — everything from the red carpet entry to the show.”
read the rest of the medford transcript's article here.
Monday, October 27, 2008
after our first couple of times padding down essex street generated only two blessings, we decided to make our offer more overt. so we went back into the gathering space, scrawled "free blessings" on a second piece of cardboard and headed back into the streets.
the rest of the afternoon was nothing short of remarkable. we had the opportunity to bless women who had just been told they were "hexed" with negative energy, we blessed a family of asian tourists in exchange for their request for a picture, we blessed homosexuals in vampire drag, a group of seven witchy women from sweden and the street preacher who tacks horrible depictions of hell on his a-frame, wears buttons that proclaim "Jesus hates obama" and attends nearly every event of any size in the greater boston area.
if i were to venture a guess, i'd say fifty percent of the individuals really wanted to be blessed, thirty percent expected a joke but got caught up in the moment,
never before has Jesus command to "bless those who curse you,*** bless and do not curse" and henri's oft stated reminder that just like Jesus we are "God's beloved in whom he is well pleased," meant so much to me.
i'm finding it really hard to put the power of this experience into words. if you'd like to know more about it, feel free to join me in offering "free blessings" this weekend in salem.
* each of us offered blessings in our own way. phil blessed people with words of encouragement and, what appeared to me to be, words of insight while ryan and i usually blessed people with a form of the following blessing that i wrote yesterday morning: 'may our feet lead you to beauty, may your hands spark with creativity, may your mind be renewed. in the name of the creator, the liberator and the muse.'
** who joined me for the last hour and took the opportunity to bless visitors, ferrets and many people he already knew in salem
*** i quote this verse not because (many) people were cursing us or because i believe we were being persecuted for our faith. it's just the scripture that i kept thinking about time and again throughout the day. the real test of whether i've submitted to this command will be if, and when, our friends from repent america walk our streets later this week.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
You know how all those young teen couples that find themselves pregnant and claim, "We only had sex that one time. We swear." and a lot of us wonder at the odds of every teen couple getting impregnated the very first time.* You also know how sometimes Scripture mentions one instance as representative of multiple instances? Well, all this makes me wonder about the story of Lot & his daughters**. First, how drunk do you have to be to NOT know you're having sex with your daughter and if you are that drunk does the equipment still work? Second, how does this happen again with the 2nd daughter? And finally, how possible is it that both girls got knocked up the very first time? I know they were scheming to get pregnant but do you really think that the ancient Israelites had the ovulation/menstruation schedule down to a medical science? I doubt they were saying to each other, "Hey, I'm ovulating today. Let's get Dad drunk!" Maybe they did but is there also a possibility that Scripture just mentions the one time as representative of the whole? Just saying.....
*Granted recent films such as Knocked Up & Juno support this idea....
**I have to say that this Bible story perplexes me more than many others.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
last night i told a local minister, my wife and a close friend that my tradition often uses altar calls. in fact, in my childhood a church service wouldn't have been complete without one.
i also told the group, probably with more pride than i would like to admit, that i have never offered a traditional altar call, but i have offered opportunities for christians to react to the call of reconciliation, to bury their hatchets with their brothers and sisters and get on with the mission of Christ.
now that i think of it, i may have offered an altar call or to when i was doing supply preaching in little churches throughout central illinois. but i'm getting off point.
what i unexpectedly realized in the midst of this brief conversation with the aforementioned crew, is that if the altar call focuses solely on calling those outside the church to repent of their sin and come in, and if no corresponding imperative of equal or greater force is placed upon the confessional, cruciform community during the same service, then i think the altar call is a cowardly device that focuses attention on the perceived deficits of those outside of the community and so enables the community to ignore its own inability to walk in the way of Jesus.
that being said, i think that calls to action, altar calls and the like have a place within the confessing community. however, i think that most of these imperatives should be aimed at those of who have chosen to follow instead of those who dwell outside or on the margins of our community.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
although peggy noonan's comment was in response to the palin selection, the same could be said about joe the plumber. you'd think that mccain would have discarded this poorly researched, dang near catastrophic illustration by now. but no, he's still prattling on about the unlicensed, tax dodging, duplicitous plumber.
for such a smart man, mccain sure is running a stupid campaign.
Friday, October 17, 2008
i'm starting to suspect that during this season of economic distress the best way to fight anxiety is to serve others.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
at last night's cohort meeting we welcomed a pastor and first time attender named jeff. at some point in the evening he mentioned that during last sunday's sermon he told the congregation to take a moment and take a good, long look at the people around them because:
"the people you see are your social security. in times of economic hardship and strife our real dependence is not upon the government, but upon each other."
that really struck a cord with me. what a creative way to challenge people to set aside their fear in order to trust God and one another.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
today's slate has an interesting article that explores signs of revitalization in catholic religious life. it's good to hear of new communities such as the clear creek monastery that are able to do more than geriatric care.
in related news, this weekend as i donned a pre-fab habit in order to call, entice and cajole people to attend death by chocolate i couldn't help but realize that i have become something i once denounced. namely, someone who embroiders his internal life on his sleeve.
i cannot tell you how many times i have ridiculed goths and punks for expressing their protest through costly fashion trends. now i eagerly wrap myself in the garb i would have liked to have lived, if marital privileges and mlb all access had been included with the bargain.
i hope that one of these days i can find a form of condemnation that does lead to retribution.
Monday, October 13, 2008
david plotz muses on hollywood apocalyptic, n.r.a. overcompensation and the identity of latter day wolverines!
if red dawn plagued your dreams as a child or you just can't get enough of c. thomas howell chugging blood, be sure to check out today's slate.
* rick bennett also supports this message.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
i had the privilege of co-leading an event called "death by chocolate" at the salem gathering.
simply stated, the event gave people the opportunity to taste delicious, fair-trade chocolate and introduced our guests to the story of chaga, a young boy who was enslaved on the cocoa fields of the ivory coast.
after devouring the chocolate and listening to chaga's story, guests were offered information about the current slavery epidemic (studies suggest that 15% of cocoa field workers are child slaves and a terrifying large proportion of young girls engaged in the sex trade are enslaved as well) and were offered suggested steps for further action.
over 400 people attended the event and we're hoping it inspired a couple of dozen to start buying free trade products and incited a future abolitionist or two as well.
all and all, it was an amazing weekend! many thanks to anita coco and the not-for-sale boston crew for making this weekend happen. thank you for inviting me along for the ride!
Friday, October 10, 2008
this evening, while reading the crunchy con blog, i ran across the following quote from peter suderman concerning "why the republicans are so bad at communicating."
"One of the major problems with the contemporary right, broadly speaking, is that when it comes to communication, it's good at manipulation, but it's not very good at conversation. That makes it fairly effective when it comes to TV ads and speeches, which are one-way broadcast mediums. That's great for telling people what to do, and the GOP, especially in the Rove era, has become masterful at figuring at ways -- usually involving fear, of change, of the other, of political enemies -- to tell people what to do in ways that will actually get them to follow instructions."
now read the quote again, but substitute the term "conservative evangelicalism" for "contemporary right" and "the GOP."
maybe it's just me, but i find the critique fits both the GOP and much of evangelicalism quite well. the second part of the critique, which i've posted below, seems to apply to both groups also:
"But it's borderline catastrophic when it comes to new media, which emphasizes networked interactivity -- which is where the left, online or off, seems to shine. Part of this is the way the right appeals to authority while the left appeals to community. The left's infrastructure has always (and unremarkably) emphasized communal action -- whether in 60s and 70s anti-war protests or in Alinsky-style community organizing . It also has a lot to do with modern conservatism's trouble with doubt: For decades, the right has had trouble with ambiguity (Postmodern Conservatism doesn't seem strange for no reason), and systems without authority and hierarchy -- systems like the web -- are inherently ambiguous."
i'm not trying to throw bombs here. i just think that suderman's critiques are worth considering.
ht: rod dreher
Thursday, October 09, 2008
i have always been particular about my pens. when i was in high school i preferred the uniball onyx micro in blue. everything from my indexed notes on the religious right to the d-quality homework for geometry class was scratched with the exacting point of the onyx pen.
shortly after entering college i developed a penchant for the uniball vision .7mm in black. this medium point, ink profusive pen enabled me to write boldly about my narcissistic struggles with identity, indifference concerning the early or late date of the exodus and my first simplistic, essay inspired sermons.
fortunately late in college, while on a bus bumbling through southern europe, trent seggelke introduced me to the black pilot g-2 .7mm pen. the g-2 produced a line almost as bold as the vision, but it also featured a refillable cartridge and a protective rubber grip. unfortunately the g-2 did not follow the vision by including a clear, plastic, color coded top that was easy to pop off, chew on and suction stick to my inner lip, but in general i considered it an exceptional tool. thus, as the g-2 graveyard in my desk attests, this pen received my unswerving allegiance for the past nine years. i have written completely forgettable exegesis papers and sermons with the g-2, stroked love notes to my former girlfriend and current, remarkably gracious and eternally forbearing, wife, and penned brilliant copy for the faith of george w. bush that produced thousands of dollars in sales for lightway.com.
throughout the years my signature pen has changed, but my penchant for ink has not. i can still remember professor johnson bemusedly remarking that i always completed my greek homework in pen as though i was certain my answers were correct.
i'm not so certain anymore.
in the past few weeks, i've set aside the pen and picked up a pencil, any pencil, that allows me to render my halting, half-believed sentences with an instrument that encourages revision and suggests impermanence. as i've grown a little older my confidence in my assertions, which i've always presented with more certainty than i ever felt, has waned and inking my shifting thoughts and unbelieving beliefs has started to seem a bit hypocritical and very impractical.*
all this is not to say that i am without hope or am ashamed of the gospel that i eagerly serve. i simply realize that life requires an eraser and little that i say is worthy of permanence.
* as attested by the six pair of inked pants that are currently crammed into the corners of my closet
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
the cubs are well on their way to a three and out and friday night lights finally returned to form after a miserable second season.
i won't say much about the cubs getting man-rammed since you can catch the highlights either on the tube or online.
however, as much as i am ashamed to admit it, i am as excited about fnl's revitalization as i was about the final season of the wire. week one featured a blessed return to culturally distressed, football-centric dillon, where quarterbacks lead the most plausible subversions of the status quo, family values fail to escape the election booth and the natural light flows like wine. after a year filled with licentious cna's, murdered lechers and the odd john irving references, the show has once again made a believer** out of me. god bless texas.
* please note: this post will only interest my three readers who watch fnl, have direct tv and/or love to hate the scrubs.
** and, admittedly, a little bit of a doubter as well. questions raised during week one: when is the revitalized oil industry going to revitalize dillion? i don't think that they're importing saudi's to man those derricks that are popping up from tulsa to abilene. billy should already have a job. how does a woman, in west texas, transition from guidance counselor to high school principal? i mean, has this ever happened in recorded history? ever!? where the hell is street and is his, probably not aborted, child as hideous as baby taylor? how did lyla set aside casting crowns and curb her focus on the family man? did she curb him american history x style under the portico at the mega-church? if so, i hope the church's security camera captured the footage. did the galoot graduate? if so, something tells me he didn't get into dillon tech. did applebee's cancel their sponsorship? i can't think of a better way to advertise a shitty american chain than by making it the hub of a shitty american town.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
"do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more." -luke 12:4
"prayer leads us to the knowledge that 'all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'" - julian of norwich
last week i was living in the house of fear. every day it was a battle to keep my browser off of nytimes.com and to control my rising panic regarding the stock market. at present, i have precious little money in the market, but my development job is closely attuned to movements within the market. hence my fear.
on wednesday, in the middle of that dark week, i hurried onto an orange line train at wellington, captured one of the last remaining seats, dug out jesus for president and started to read.
or at least i meant to read.
almost immediately my attention was drawn to the black swiss army briefcase which abutted my leg. on top of the briefcase i noticed multi-colored cards, adorned with beautiful arabic script, that were were being pondered one at a time.
i wanted to focus on my book and harbor the illusion that i am without prejudice.
but i couldn't help myself.
eventually, after five long seconds of inner turmoil, i glanced at the keeper of the cards and noticed that he was middle eastern. i wish i could say that he was arabic, persian or egyptian, but i didn't want to stare.
sullivan square was coming up and i had a decision to make. should i trust that this man's intentions were as earnest as my own as i sat there reading jesus for president? or should i save myself from the minute possibility of being victimized by another madrid, another london?
i got off the train.
i sat in shame.
waiting for the next orange line train to forest hills.
in the days that followed i dug into the scriptures. i sought a fear of God that would strengthen me to serve. i confessed my idolatry of the dollar and my failure to love my brother, prayer partner, image bearer. i preached, with tears in my eyes, looking for the house of love.