Saturday, November 14, 2009

being graceful about the switch

if you hang around me at all, it won't be long before you hear me talk about the importance of subversion and being a virus to the system. i think the reversals that Jesus talks about - the poor inheriting the kingdom, the last being first, the Messiah coming for the sick instead of the healthy - point towards the holy, hidden heart of the gospel

because of this belief one would think that i would be gracious when my short sighted expectations are upset or when i am confronted with an annoying experience of injustice in a rather ordinary situation. unfortunately, that is far from the case.

when i listened to last week's sublime bait and switch episode of this american life, i was blindsided by my own lack of grace. act one, "neighborhood watch," features a story of an unsuspecting suburban couple who repeatedly report an abandoned car to the local police and are repeatedly rebuffed by the boys in blue. when, persuaded by signs of struggle within the car, they finally dig into the glove box and trunk in an attempt to identify the owner, they are immediately arrested by the same police who ignored their earlier appeals. i don't want to kill the story altogether, but it turns out that the car was bait and the couple was immediately caught on the line.

as the story unfolds, i was overwhelmed by the graciousness of the couple as they were treated like criminals, forced to hire lawyers and compelled to cop to something they did not do. at no point did they refer to the police as farm animals, fully exercise their first amendment rights or, shortly after the belated resolution of these matters, personally call the police to taunt and insult them. i'm not proud to admit this, but these are the type of things i have done in the past and will be tempted to do in the future.

when i subvert others intentions or attempt to change the system, i am stunned when they refuse to respond in a gracious or at least an "adult" manner. yet, when i am the subject of such reversals, i am an insufferable twit. this fundamental hypocrisy blights my character and calls me to repentance.

if we were all at soybean bible college, i would say that this episode will really "preach." i've heard the message and will try to go forth and live out the graciousness that i expect from others.

one final note, the second act includes an interview with jim henderson, who runs the doable evangelism site and is a friend of the gathering. it also has an interesting aside about how evangelicals have sometimes used the expectation of sex and other questionable bait to finagle an audience for the gospel.

Friday, November 13, 2009

rehashing halloween

so i'm way behind on the halloween rehash and i'm disinclined to write at the moment that i have had to bribe myself with the king of kong in order to push this puppy out. so please forgive my errors, failure to praise everyone and any other unintentional offense.

first, it was a remarkable halloween season. on the first saturday i served (10/16) i had my requisite, "oh God, i really don't want to do this!" moment, but thanks to the steady presence of rennie and old practice, i quickly got in groove and enjoyed the season thoroughly.

for the first time, this year a number of our friends and family invested in our efforts. dozens of our friends partnered with us to raise $800 so that we could match equal exchange's gift and make our hot cocoa slave free. that was excellent (and expect the ask will be repeated next year so that we can take our cups down the bio-degradable route)! my own family and close friends donated $1100 in operating support to our little adventure. those dollars came in quite handy during a year when The Gathering has found it difficult to keep our heads above water, much less purchase supplies for the outreach. we were seriously humbled by the generosity of our friends and family. thank you for honoring God by setting us free to serve!

we also had a wonderful, diverse group of friends serve beside us throughout the season. for the first time in six years of serving at haunted happenings several friends from our christian churches, churches of Christ tradition came out to serve beside us. i hope that tim and the sojourn crew as well as jessica from manchester know that their presence meant the world to me. deep down in the part that i don't like to talk about at parties, i think i wrestle with rejection issues, so the distance that has developed between me and the ccoc has often pained me. so the presence of these friends was nothing short of sacramental.

jessie and libby browning and the good folks from their home church in beverly monked up on halloween and spent six hours in the street laying hands on and blessing people they had never met. i didn't have the courage to do anything more than serve hot cocoa during my first experience in 2003, so i was amazed by their boldness! i am also thankful to my hetero-life partner james for reprising his rector* role and accompanying this group for the first couple of hours. james, you are the only one i want wearing my habit.

on hallows eve and halloween the incomparable anita coco and her not for sale crew offered people an opportunity to experience "death by chocolate" for a second year. this was the second year to host this event, we had over 300 guests attend and many, many more folks than last year were interested in discussing fair trade and acting upon what they had learned. extra props to the guy whose name i'm forgetting who made the kickin' sign for this event. it really made a difference.

did i mention how amazing carrie erwin was throughout the whole halloween season? i had no idea how she would take to it, but within minutes of starting she was barking at guests in the street, anchoring the cocoa booth, dancing with strangers dressed as gasoline. seriously, she was amazing.

paul, joyce, jeff c and other first time volunteers were amazing as well. did i mention how impressed i was with carrie erwin?

ben corey, the independent baptist from maine carved an unexpected niche by becoming the master of the Jesus deck and a spot on dream interpreter as well. i wasn't sure how much time he could commit, but he consistently under-promised and over-delivered and we were all so blessed by his presence.

joe riffe, who i think is mortified by the picture above, led a prayer room for us, stepped out of his comfort zone to bless strangers and talk to reporters and provided some of the vital, Spirit-filled energy we needed to make it through the last two days of the season. thankful for him.

my remarkable Friends' friends callid (like "salad) and kristina worked beside us on the big day. kristina works for an organic farmers cooperative in upstate new york so she was a perfect facilitator for death by chocolate. callid has treasures of past experience that i was unaware of - such as performing street magic - so he was a wizard on the streets. for instance, callid composed my favorite bark of the season: "come to death by chocolate. a terrifying experience that will completely change your life! or not." there were a number of small moments, such as kristina's discussion of the almost paramilitary training that activists from the civil rights movement had to go through in order to be assigned to a lunch counter, that i treasure from their visit. they also left us with a bottle of amazing upstate new york wine. please come back soon.

this season i realized, much like i have been realizing at work lately, that my days as a non-stop, hands-on street minister or service deliverer are on the wane and i am being led into more of an administrative role. this transition is bitter-sweet for me - right now it's much more of the former than the latter - since i have grown to love laying hands on strangers**, helping young adults find jobs, finding the perfect h1 n1 pitch that simultaneously repel and attract people to our cocoa booth. however, it is clear that my role is more about training and deploying than about being front line all the time. a friend named tim hawkins recently quoted another friend who said that discipleship, or training up people in the way they should go, is 99% encouragement. if that is the case, and i suspect it is, and administration has any part to play in discipleship, and i think it does, then i have a lot of growing to do.

i could go on, by explaining in great detail what an honor it is to serve beside pastor phil wyman or outlining the many, many unexpected lessons i have learned from my benediction laden brethren from the bridge church and streams ministries, but that is enough for now.

i hope that gives you a little taste of what the season was like. now that we're a couple of weeks beyond it and i've had a chance to rest, i cannot think about october without cribbing little preston: "again, daddy. again!"

* you thought i was going to say rectal, didn't you? admit it.
** that doesn't sound quite right.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

slightly off-center veterans day salute!

ht: bunny suicides; clint eastwood; ryan chandler