a tangled web we weave

Bloged in community, culture, life by rod Wednesday August 31, 2005

Over the weekend, I downloaded a cool widget that searches for the lowest gasoline prices within an area that I designate. I chose 10 miles around my zip code. On Monday evening, the Hess Station on St. Andrews Road was winning at $2.22 per gallon. This morning on my way to work, I drove by and saw that it was $2.59. Tonight, on the way to the gym, lines at the gas stations that still had gas were backed out onto the street. My bike still had about two trips to work left in the tank, so I decided to chance waiting til later, and maybe finding some left over.
When I left the gym I rode around burning gas, looking for gas. I tried about 6 empty stations before I found one with a long line that still had gas at 11:15pm. I inched my way to the pump and payed $3.59 per gallon to fill up my tank. On the way home, I noticed the stations that had emptied earlier today, because the posted prices were so much lower than the ones who’d run out later this evening. Tonight, there is no more gas left in our area. There was no one out on the roads.
I thought about when our electricity went off yesterday afternoon and I heard a generator start up across the way in back of our house. A couple of hours of gasoline consumption for electricity in the middle of the afternoon. A trade off.
So while we’re all griping about the price of the remaining drops of gasoline, and driving slowly only to where we absolutely have to go, folks are being forced out of flooded New Orleans. Many are leaving their lost family members floating in the poison water unfound in the flooded city. Families are ripped apart, earthly belongings stripped away, and I’m sorry I can’t risk a bit of a joy ride under the crystal clear night sky.
This hurricane won’t affect us at all. Maybe we’ll get a bit of wind as it passes through western Tennessee. Maybe a thunderstorm or two.
But who’d have been thinking about how dependent we are on the Gulf of Mexico? Who’d have been thinking that a swift kick to Louisiana could start a wave that would cause us all to share the pain.
No, there is no way that a few days without gasoline could hurt as badly as loss of life and property, but it is a little something that will cause us to remember what has caused our little inconvenience, and therefore, those suffering a great disaster.
Tonight, I’m whispering requests for comfort for the folks in New Orleans.

crossfire

Bloged in community, poems by rod Tuesday August 30, 2005

somewhere, it stormed.
here, we lost power.

ginger bread men

Bloged in church, culture by rod Tuesday August 30, 2005

Poor Allison. She comes over to have lunch with me and she ends up having to listen to me rant. Right in the middle of the day. Friend pointed out to me a new mobile graphic representation of contemporary cultural chrisitanity and look out, here I go. Clones. Cookie Cutter. This is what the ideal of the Christian and the Christian family looks like. What message are we sending to the greater culture? Isn’t this who you want to be? Or do we just assume that is who they are, and therefore are inviting them to join our team.
Of all the cultures and subcultures on the face of the earth, ours should look the least like this. Of course, this is the only way we can know we belong. Look like everyone who does belong. This is the only way I can know that you belong. You look like me. Act like me. Enjoy what I enjoy.
Why, we continually ask, are the 18 to 34 year-olds absent from our churches? Could it be because they don’t look and act like us? And we still expect them to grow up and be us. Sometimes we offer them temporary, age oriented, specialized, stylized enticement ministries to keep them interested until they grow up and dress like us and listen to our music, and process life in the same way as we do. Even these create a narrow swath of culture that is usually designed by outsiders whose expectations don’t entirely jibe with reality. So it ain’t gonna happen. Who among your generation has grown up and then started wearing bobby socks, saddle oxfords, poodle skirts, and listening to the Big Bopper?
And then, right in the middle of my rant, it hit me. Aha! Epiphanissimo! Oh, the irony of the rampant suburban individualism, and the clone, cookie cutter individuals. As long as I look just like you, only a little better and a little happier, I don’t need you at all. (except to measure myself by). The American Suburban Adult practicing life in precisely the same way as the American teenager. In desiring the freedom just to be and express ourselves, we exercise that freedom by expressing a cookie cutter norm that is the same as everyone else is expressing. Who am I? Just look at everyone else to find out. This is fearsomely ironic.
So bring it to the church. The church expresses what Christians look like based on our suburban collective cookie cutter individualism, and so only those cut from the same mold are interested. Of course it is much easier to man ministries if everyone’s perceived needs, desires, and interests are the same. One size fits all. It fits so well that we grow and grow. It fits so well that our diversity and therefore our reach, narrows and shrinks.
Of course it doesn’t matter if this is not really me. It is who I wanna be. You! I wanna be you!
The bigger we get, the more we become unlike what we were supposed to be - various members of the body of Christ. The bigger the body, the more we become like a big foot, stepping all over the legs, arms, hands, and hearts that are intended to be our members.
The more we pretend to have in common in our hidden individualism, the less we realize that what we truly have in common is our need for one another.
So we desperately strive all to look alike, alas, be alike, while needing absolutely no one, but what we desperately do need each other for is our God-given unique manifestation of His image in each of us.

compassion

Bloged in church, community by rod Sunday August 28, 2005

It’s Compassion Sunday. Seem like every moment of the year, in different increments, are claimed by various groups as the official time for something specific. There’s the National Day of Prayer, Women’s History Month, Earth Day, Gay Pride week, Souper Bowl Sunday. This is a very important day in my humble opinion. After each service this morning, the folks were invited to visit one of three tables set up with info and cards representing children in need of “adoption” by supporting families. In all, 50 cards were available today, and all 50 children were “adopted” before the third service began. It was very heartwarming.
Our family supports a young girl in The DR. Her name is Sibelus, and she has 8 brothers. We write to her and send her gifts and she writes to us. We pray for her and she prays for us. Molly, especially, has always referred to her as part of our family, and of course, she has her own family, who via our embrace of Sibelus has also become a part of ours.
Jesus’ love and provision has a way of joining people who would otherwise never even know of one another. It reaches out touches folks in a network that still don’t know of each other, but feel the web of community via our common connection.
Extra thoughts and prayers tonight for the Montero family in the DR.

experience, it’s not a dirty word

Bloged in apprenticeship, church by rod Friday August 26, 2005

“behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and call his name, Immanuel, “God with us.”
That statement was written by a poet, centuries before Jesus. For those who would have heard it, or read it, it required faith, trust, belief, hope and probably lots of other words that I can’t think of right off the top of my head. But in any case, it is a challenge to my intellect, whether to apply any of those words to my thinking, and it was a pretty wild idea that no one had any context to process.
No one had ever heard of a virgin conceiving a child, and no one had ever heard of God being with us, especially in the form of a child. Even in retrospect, I believe or don’t believe this statement, or prediction, based on my theology. My theology and intellect allow or disallow that statements in the scripture are true; they allow or disallow that Isaiah was a prophet of God.

“in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God… and the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.”
That statement speaks to experience. In this statement, Isaiah’s prediction is said to have come to pass. The first part of the statement sets out to establish who Jesus is, the second part establishes that we’ve experienced him.
I may have been told that Isaiah’s prophecy had come true, but received no other information about it. No accounts of the birth, life, or teaching of the child named, Immanuel. All reference to this miracle would be to the Isaiah prediction, and I’d have to depend on my intellect as to what it meant. But John didn’t refer to Isaiah to cause us to understand Jesus, he referred to Jesus’ life. He referred to activities, talks, and happenings in which Jesus participated, interacted with people – people who actually experienced him.
As a matter of fact, John actually states that he tells us of these things so that we might experience him as well. He taught what he taught so that the hearers might experience life in him. At some point along the way, he was taken out of the physical picture, but not before he made some pretty crazy statements, such as, “I haven’t told you everything, but many more things you will learn”, and, “don’t worry about me being gone, because if I don’t go, I can’t send the comforter.” So it sounds like he intended for us to continue to experience him even after he was gone, and not just in the narrative of the stories about when he was here, and not just in the emotions that those stories stimulated, but in his continued teaching and in his current comfort.
It is one thing to experience Shakespeare, to read his plays and sonnets and be moved emotionally by timeless beauty and challenge. But if anything in his work is an expression of him, it would be another thing altogether to actually know the man. It is one thing to experience God through ancient texts and metaphor and written revelation that are all made meaningful by a current spiritual knowledge, but to experience of the same God who wrote the story and recorded it for us to make sense of what we are experiencing of him right now. This is a story that may not have any meaning without the wordless dialogue that is going on in my spirit. A wordless dialogue that may not have any meaning without the instruction book that gives me a context and interpretive understanding. And vice versa… and vice versa.
In retrospect, all the scriptures cease to have any meaning outside of the experience of Jesus. Jesus said it was him of whom all the scriptures spoke.
It seems to me that if you’re a Christian, you either experience him, or no amount of written revelation means a blessed thing. Seems like even Jesus said something to this effect. “you know your scriptures but do not recognize the one of whom they spoke.”

all ranted out

Bloged in apprenticeship, luna see, metaphor by rod Thursday August 25, 2005

tonight after little church at Salmon Springs, the three of us guys who do not live at the church walked out into the yard to our respective vehicles and began solving the problems of the milkyway, while standing directly under it. The night is gorgeous.
Once all the problems had been solved and a plan of action put into place, we climbed in our trucks and headed home.
I drove directly east toward the rising half moon and wondered at its beauty. Some simple metaphoric thoughts played in my head as I admired its misty beauty. There is a line drawn from 10 to 4 on its clockface, below which is lit, and above which is black. The whole thing is set in a mist that brings out a depth that is only imagined at 250k miles away.
As I drove, I thought about how it not only reflects the light of the true light source, but to those of us in the dark, it actually points to where the light is. So tonight, if one were to draw a line from the 7 outward, the line would bisect the sun on the other side of the earth. Its a sort of reflective compass pointing the way to morning.
Anyway, it also occurred to me that I’d just conversed for hours with the very friend who least appreciates my moon affair, and upon leaving him, I began waxing philosophical about it. Ironic, huh?
So I decided to keep my simple philosophical lunar thoughts to myself. So please disregard everything I just said.

what’s it all about?

Bloged in apprenticeship, life, luna see by rod Wednesday August 24, 2005

Well this week really blindsided me. We started official faculty business last Thursday with two days of university faculty workshops. I started the morning on Friday, as I’ve already blogged, with 30 minutes of worship. This required a lot of last week for me.
This week began with a full day Monday of College faculty workshop. Tuesday found me fielding tons of questions from new orienting students who were gung ho and a day early in seeking answers to schedule and course questions - until 6:30 last night.
Bright and early this morning, when I had sat down to enjoy a liesurely cup of Sumatra and a bowl of Wheaties®, and check my email, I discovered that I was 15 minutes late to onslaught of new student advising and registration.
I jumped in my car and sped off into the interstate parking lot of morning rush hour, phoned ahead to apologize to those waiting for me, and arrived to find students lined down the hallway to receive my questionable schedule advice. I saw them one after another until 12:30, at which time I began to review my dean’s evaluation of my performance last year for our meeting at 1:30. I composed a page and half of material that I wanted to discuss with him and rushed off just in time to be prompt for my performance appraisal discussion meeting. It went exceedingly well, and I left feeling wanted, appreciated, and duly stroked.
I rushed back to my office to find the piano tuner had taken over, so I headed to the student center to work on Sunday’s service a day late. On the way there, I passed a colleague who apprised me of Sunday’s sermonizer and sermon content, which immediately brought to mind the music that I should use, so I rushed off to find a soft chair and organize it.
Upon completion of this task, returning students who had been looking for me, had discovered via my admin assistant where I was hiding out and descended upon me at once. I logged onto the student network via wifi and squelched their registration crises and sat and chatted in the easy chairs for some time, before I had to rush off to church to grab charts and prepare for rehearsal. During the return drive through the interstate parking lot of evening rush hour, it occurred to me that one forgets during the summer, what makes his job worth doing. I spend the second half of the summer dreading for school to start - right up to the minute. Right through the pre-semester faculty workshops. Then I walk onto campus, encounter a student and my heart melts and I embrace my job with excitement. Ah, students. Here’s to you, our reason for being here. You have so much to teach me.
I arrived at church, organized the music, and realized I didn’t have a guitar. So I rushed home, grabbed an ax, rushed back, rehearsed my peeps, rushed home again, changed clothes, rushed to the gym, sweated, grabbed a couple cups of joe from B&N, rushed home in time to find Al still barely awake, and conversed with her upon the deck until midnight under the rising half-cornmoon.
She wandered off to bed to prepare for her beginning of semester teaching first encounter to take place at 7:30 this am.
Thus concludes the summer. Thus begins the ‘05-’06 academic year. The corn moon is waning. The harvest moon is waiting. Pray for workers.

common chow

Bloged in church, community by rod Saturday August 20, 2005

Last week as I was preparing to go out and close the service at noon, I went through the kitchen and found our church “hostess” already working on vittels for the evening picnic at the lake following Baptism. What an unsung hero! I had to stop and tell her what an important role she plays in our community. Every week she and her team of community enablers put on a spread for hurried families who don’t have time to go home and eat before activities begin. So instead of inhaling something on the run, they are able to sit with other families and be still and talk and grow closer over a meal.

So I was thinking about God being all complete and wanting nothing, and I thought about him making people. Why on earth would he make people? Surely he couldn’t have been lonely? So when he’d made Adam, and walked with him in the garden, he noticed that Adam was lonely, so he took care of that for Adam.
Then when Adam messed up and ruined his relationship with God, God set about telling a story that stretched over millennia, and included his coming to earth to live with us.
Then I was thinking about how he acted and what he did while he was here. First of all, on the night he arrived, a lot of people came out to see him. We don’t have much information from that point for a while, but the next time we see him, at only 12 years old, he is hanging around a lot of people in the temple. Next time we see him he’s at a wedding reception with so many people they’d drank all the wine. Next thing ya know, he’s out gathering up hand-picked friends to take with him just about everywhere he goes. From then on, we constantly encounter him around lots of people, and a common thing in these gatherings seems to be food. He liked people and he like to eat with people. He couldn’t refuse an invitation to dinner with anyone - Pharisees, tax collectors, his friend Lazarus, and Lazarus’ sisters. He’s in a big field talking to thousands of people and decides he needs to feed them. Of course, he could just make them not get hungry. That would be a miracle, but instead, his miracle consists of feeding them instead.
On the night he died, he sat down to dinner with his friends. He didn’t institute a symbol of the new covenant out of nowhere. He consecrated the very meal that they’d had together so many times before. How could anyone who has ever been fed Christ’s body ever sit down at any meal with any friend and not remember?
Even after the resurrection, first thing he does when he shows himself to his close friends, is fix them a meal (fish for breakfast). Later on, he walks a long way with a couple guys and upon reaching their house, goes in and has supper with them.
And then the biggie, Jesus talked about the big meal both cryptically and straight up. It’s another wedding reception. He started his public ministry at a wedding reception and he’ll bring it all to fruition at a wedding reception. Some things don’t even operate as symbols, but are the thing themselves. There is nothing symbolic about eating and drinking with friends. It is the real thing.
Imitating Jesus is a very difficult discipline. Who can possibly do it? But here is a major aspect of his character and personality that should be no problem to imitate. Share the table with others.

pregnant again

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, metaphor, worship by rod Friday August 19, 2005

A couple months ago I announced to you that I was pregnant. Actually, I was just contemplating whether I might be able to get pregnant.
Last night at house church/small group/ gathering/, or whatever it might be called, (actually, we call it Salmon Springs Community Church, after the couple at who’s house we meet), I was talking about the preparation and process of preparing to lead worship on Sundays. Really I was confessing how totally spent I am on Sunday afternoons and how I find it impossible to sleep on Saturday nights. I likened my feelings, and Saturday night grappling, with being in labor. I said that Sunday morning was like giving birth, painful but beautiful and miraculous, and it all leaves me exhausted and post-partum depressed on Sunday afternoon. I get pregnant again on Monday, and the whole gestation starts over again. This is the ministerial cyclic life of Spirit leading for me. I get pregnant, the child grows through the week until I go into labor on Saturday night and deliver him on Sunday morning.
The biggest frustration is stepping up to give birth surrounded by so many who are utterly uninterested. Many have intentionally chosen to remain childless, many have adopted children whom they love dearly, but they’ve never suffered through labor and delivery. Many have borrowed babies or are babysitting so that they appear to have given birth. All these people who have adopted, or are babysitting, seem completely unaware that babies don’t come from under cabbage leaves, or that you don’t order them from the internet.
Now please don’t hear this as complaining, I’m merely expressing my emotions at the way things are when I get up completely bare and vulnerable before a birth room observation gallery who don’t realize what they are witnessing.
This is clear because usually, after my baby is born, someone expresses disappointment that it was a girl, rather than a boy, or that it had brown eyes instead of blue, or was darker than they’d expected. “You really should have delivered a brown baby, Rod,” they say. To which my heart replies, “do you not realize how I got pregnant, and what labor and deliver are like?”
So last night at Salmon Springs, I was expressing this because I was pregnant for the second time this week. I had to deliver for the faculty at the workshop this morning. I came home and labored all night. At 8:30a, I stood before the faculty and shared with them this little midwific analogy. I told them that we’d sing a Call to Worship, an invocation, and then we’d pray for the rest of the time. When the third song began, I noticed confused looks until, one-by-one, they began to understand what I’ve stood before them and ranted about to no avail. I created a situation in which they had no choice but to deal with what we were doing for what it was. There was no possibility of superficial complaining without self being exposed.
We sang our prayers for 30 minutes and went on with the day. While a few still felt that children should be seen and not heard, and others wished that the kid looked more like its uncle than its daddy, most of the family embraced the child and recognized him. My post-partum exhaustion waned in only minutes and the depression never occurred.
After lunch, a very supportive colleague came to me and expressed that he’d seen an extra dose of what he always sees from me in these situation. There was a clearer confidence this morning. I told him, no matter how much I loved my babies, I’d always worried to some lesser or greater extent about how the rest of the family would love them. Today, it didn’t matter to me, whether anyone else embraced him, because I was given to deliver and that’s what I’d do. I told him that back in June, I’d cremated the Apologetic Prophet. What was born of the burning was a new creature. Out of the ashes had risen the subversive pastor that he’d seen give birth this morning, the Apocalyptic Prophet that would speak when word was sought, and when all ears were closed, who will uncover what is covered so what is there can be seen.

look what we’ve become

Bloged in apprenticeship, church by rod Wednesday August 17, 2005

I’ve had no time today to sit and organize responses to the responses of my previous post, though it has played in my head and frustrated me all day long. I am just going to rattle off thoughts, though and let you help me sort them out if you’re willing.
Yes, I think the problem is our Theology. Especially our soteriology. Or, perhaps, we’re not actually preaching our theology. Surely we don’t believe that practically everything Jesus taught and modeled was untrue, or he was just joking. How can we disassociate ourselves with others when Jesus clearly didn’t, and also warned against it?

Jesus certainly turned life upside down, but I feel that what got turned upside down in Jesus’ teaching was the self-focus. The Pharisees were entirely obsessed with keeping themselves clean and avoiding people that would dirty them. Jesus taught and modeled getting dirty for the sake of other people. It is not what goes in that makes a man dirty, but what comes out of his mouth, for it speaks to the condition of the heart. Jesus, stooped down got some dirt in his hand and spat in it and put it with his own hands onto the blind eyes of another human being. Being very nature, God, he did not regard equality with God something to hang on to, but humbled himself, made himself nothing and took on a servant’s nature. He said he came not to be served but to serve. He said that many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. While Jesus asked us to take up our cross and follow him, we preach that our greatest calling in Christ is to Lead. All these attitudes and behaviors, not only place ourselves as less important than we might want to be, but they also place those around us ahead of ourselves - an attitude and behavior that the God of the Universe was willing to practice.

That’s what my morality rant was all about. We have disregarded Christ’s death as the only provision for our debt forgiveness, and discounted his resurrection as our only means of living a life now in him. So Christians use dos and don’ts in place of both these Jesus things, and disregard the greater morality of behaving like Jesus toward other people and his creation around us. The secular world regards morality as feeding the hungry and pleading for the widow and defending the fatherless, while Christians seem to view morality in a much smaller, more egocentric, self-protecting way.
Our theology drives our methodology to the place that we gather so that it becomes a desired homogenous gathering of people in roughly the same age group, social class, economic category, etc., so that we can teach them to include Jesus in their lifestyle. Often, I feel, it’s a lifestyle in which Jesus doesn’t want to be included. We make our lifestyles define what it means to follow Jesus, rather than allowing our Jesus following to define our lifestyles.
What’s more, we let the replication or our lifestyles determine for us if those around us are Christian or not. If our lifestyles define it for us, then it must be the definitive criteria for them too, so if they don’t look, act and live like us, they must not be Christians.
Our theology has become a VERY narrow, well-defined list of moral behavioral issues. The list is conspicuously void of attitude and heart and service, and it rarely has anything to do with how we impact those around us, only how they impact us.
Answers? I wish. I do have rant-motivated things off the top of my head. We need to spend more time learning from Jesus’ teaching in the written Gospel than from “The Prayer of Jabez”, or “the seven habits of highly successful Christian business leaders” (ok, I made that one up). We’ve baptized our hair-dos, our polo shirts, our Capri pants, our SUVs, our seasonally landscaped lawns, our DVDs, our … and recognize these as Christian because what we’re taught is how to plug Jesus into this stuff. Jesus is relevant to golfers AND skaters because the gospel has nothing to do with golfing and skating. We present Jesus as an attachment onto our lifestyles, rather than allowing him to dictate our lifestyles.
We’ve got to start teaching from the teaching of Jesus and teaching the epistles as interpretations of the teaching of Jesus. We’ve got to start applying the whole of Jesus’ teaching to our beings rather than proof-texting with Jesus snippets as if he’s a quotable quote from Reader’s Digest, and resourcing him as help in making sense of tough business decisions.
But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

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