Saturday, December 27, 2008

reflections from the road: friday, december 26th

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

reflections from the road: thursday, december 25

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

reflections from the road: wednesday, december 24th

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

reflections from the road: tuesday, december 23

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.