Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Joy Is On the Horizon...

Literally. My joy is returning!

Unfortunately, it's because her sister Alysa was admitted to the hospital last night with blood clots in both lungs.

Alysa's doctor told her she was the youngest woman he's ever had this happen to (she's only 32) to which she responded, as only Alysa would, "Shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up." Ha ha. Peter says now we have an excuse for her candidness (pain medication) but I don't think they'd actually given her any yet. Typical Alysa.

So Joy and her mom are flying in. When I think about Alysa and pulminary embolisms, I get sad and weepy, but when I think about Joy coming, I can't help but get glad.

Alysa said she can't wait to see Joy's face when she and Potter reunite!

So please pray for healing for Alysa and continued good spirits and for safety for Joy and her mom as they make the long flight from Israel tomorrow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Patio

When mi madre came to visit in February (or was it March? that whole time is a bit of a blur), but when she did, we set straight to work. She was so thrilled by the beautiful 60 degree weather that when I asked her the afternoon of her arrival what she wanted to do, she replied, "Go outside." So I handed her a rake and we headed out back.

We decided that night to put a patio in my backyard!! Whoever said I wasn't spontaneous lied. So after a trip to Home Depot where I yet again discovered that racism exists in Austin and America (Home Depot won't work in my "zip code"), mom and I set out to put in a patio myself. With help from Robert Anderson from church, mom and I rented a tiller...

bought a ton of crushed granite which we shoveled out of Frank's parents' truck into wheelbarrow's (Clarence's) and began to put it into the 3 inch deep 20x20 box in my backyard.

Next came the rocks. Ugh. Heavy. THREE TONS and three trips to the Rock Query (not counting the trip for the granite) and mom and I were really making progress. In fact, on Wednesday, the first day of rock setting, we unloaded half of them and then went to church for Wednesday night activities (yes, I'm a Baptist minister). When we came home we discovered all the rest of the rocks had been unloaded from the truck and placed in the backyard!! Clarence of course.

Every morning mom woke me up around 7 to begin laboring again.

After two days and two and a half tons of hard work mom and I had the patio almost finished! But her flight left Friday and while we had worked our asses off, we hadn't quite finished. But indeed we were quite close!

A couple of weekends later, I found the time and the college students to help me finish with the last half ton. We finished the rock, bought a ton of gravel to pour in between the rocks and put in the lining (?) to create the boundary. And sans Home Depot but with the help of some amazing friends, my patio was finished!!

Merci beaucoup mes amis et ma mere!

I'm Behind.

I know, okay. I'm behind. I'm behind in blogging. Grandma tells mom it's because I must be so busy and that is true, but it is many things. Many things. I'm sorry. I'm just behind...

God Says Yes To Me

by Kaylin Haught. sent to me by my old friend Rebecca Staffon Goldstein (now)

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A bonus

A bonus to following the church calendar means that we get to celebrate Easter for weeks after Easter (until Pentecost). And so, in the not-so-spirit of Eastertide, I give you this nugget of happiness...

Don't send a lame Easter eCard.
Try JibJab Sendables!

Hard Times In Babylon

As the economy continues to drop, our charitable giving should not. For those of us who have enough and also surplus, this is a hard time on charities. I hadn't considered that before, but this article has inspired me to make an extra trip to the grocery store.

Find areas where you can serve or support online or at Cool People Care.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

An Unfortunate Seminar

While Tuesday's experience at Austin's Transforming Culture Symposium was exciting, Wednesday's had a major letdown. More like a let-my-blood-pressure-go-up downer. I went to a break-out session on Preaching and besides it being not all it's cracked up to be (all conferences have so-so sessions - it's inevitable), the man who spoke, Reg Grant, was terribly offensive and for lack of a better word, conservative. I will try and find a better word as I go along so as not to make a blanket statement such as he made throughout the presentation. I will also comment on two areas: one, his content and two, his beliefs about preaching and theology.

Let me preface by stating some of the things I liked...
"If you want to read a good book on preaching, you should just read good literature. It will help you be a better preacher." Agreed!
"Our liberal friends..." Although I do not consider myself liberal (liberal in my opinion is denying the divinity of Christ), I appreciated that he didn't just say, "the liberals" or insert any negative word before liberal but instead called "us" (I'm assuming he would label me as such) friends. That was a nice touch. Although I probably would have just said, "other scholars..."

Now onto content.

He spoke on archetypes in narrative stories, especially movies. Great stuff. If you've ever taken a literature class, you've probably studied some form of what he spoke of. It reminded me of my seventh grade Odyssey class (think talented and gifted program) when we were preparing to read Beowulf. He worked from the ideas set forth by Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey who relies heavily on Joseph Campbell. Reg walked us through several movie examples of this model, then took a couple Biblical narratives and applied it. This exercise proved interesting and insightful though I didn't agree with Reg entirely on who he made the allies and enemies in Ruth, but whatever. People have different interpretations. That's the joy of scripture. He was obviously well versed and had done a lot of research on narrative. He's from DTS (did I mention that? - and no! - I did not know that going into the break-out), so I figured I wouldn't agree with him on everything, but I did figure I could still learn a lot and hopefully be able to dialogue, if not with him or the class, within myself over ideas.

However, his thesis was something along the lines of "all stories follow this basic archetypal outline in some form or another and God is the ultimate Author of this narrative structure and works His [sic] will in dominantly the same way." Okay... a bit heavy on the God stuff about how God works in the world (evidenced by his reference to dispensationalism which he assumed we all agreed with - ugh!) He also asserted that any movies that haven't followed this structure have been blockbuster busts. While this is a good start to evaluating movies and books, at some point Reg's argument breaks down. And some of us in the class pointed this out: our Academy Award winners and nominees this year There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men are perfect examples of this. There is no Resurrection. There is no return with the Elixir. There is no return to Ideal Place or Ordinary Time such as he presented it. So while this is a good, elementary model for understanding narrative, it is, as most models are, not all-encompassing. And certainly not all good movies follow this model. (Side note: an interesting discussion would be, what model do non-traditional movies tend to follow if not the typical archetypal model?)

Now, his ideas on preaching. And this is where I moved from quietly-disagreeing-at-times-but-still-interested into outright embarrassment, shame, anger, and a host of other feelings from being stuck in that room.

The question was asked, "What's an appropriate way to use a movie in a sermon illustration?" Oh I try not to use movie clips in sermons because they upstage you. Movies use excellent writers and famous actors and brilliant cinematography. You as the preacher need to be the best one speaking to the people so they hear your important message and that's hard if you're showing a movie clip. Plus, I never want to be caught endorsing a movie from the pulpit. Even if you say "I don't agree with this movie, but there's a good scene that shows..." you're endorsing the movie.

To which I would respond, "We're at a symposium on art right?" I mean, why spend an hour talking about archetypes and brilliant movies and be asked to teach on "PREACHING - Perspective on Preaching Narratively and Artistically" and veto the idea of using movie clips? Films are art! Art is good! Even if it's produced by people "in the world" (insert ominous voice). Even if it's art created by people who "need our prayers" (when introducing one author, Reg noted that although his book was good, he wasn't sure if he was a Christian and we should pray for him). It's good! Art inspires thought and beauty and is important in a worship setting! You don't have to show a movie clip every week, but you sure as heck shouldn't feel discouraged from using them at all!

Question two: "Who are some examples of good narrative preachers?" Excellent, I thought and began forming my own list. Barbara Brown Taylor, Fred Craddock... Baylor had a study several years ago naming the Top Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the world. Reg didn't mention one of them. He did say this though... Emergent people like Brian McLaren are narrative preachers but their theology is so bad it's difficult to listen to them. I have heard one good sermon by Rob Bell though. (Long pause). It's just hard. Sometimes there is a nugget of good in what they say. And they do reach out to culture and say some good things, but it's layered in bad theology. So... (shoulder shrug). The problem with these narrative preachers is that they tell a really great story and then tack a bible story on the end and expect it to relate. They expect that to make what they just said a sermon. And that's an unbiblical, unsound sermon. (Um... aren't you supposed to be speaking on Narrative Sermon? Why are you saying this? Are you still just reaming on the Emergent peeps?)

Then, in a response to another question about truth-telling he said, You have to give your congregation one thing and repeat it over and over so that they are sure to get it. Make sure they hear and walk away with it. At this point I raised my shaking hand and praying my neck wasn't too red from embarrassment and anger I said, "I heard Barbara Brown Taylor speak last year and she actually said that as preachers we should feed our congregation good food, but not chew it up for them. In other words, present them with thoughts, but let them process. Is that in direct contrast to what you're saying?" No, Reg responded. And then he gave an illustration about his three year old daughter and Easter. She couldn't see the eggs hidden in the grass because she was so small and didn't have the perspective her father did. So he'd lead her to an area, pull back the grass and lo! she'd "found" the egg. She's pick it up and marvel at her discovery. If he had picked it up, they would have had to go find another egg, but because his daughter had picked up the egg where her father had led her and pulled back the grass for her to see, she was excited and proud about her discovery. So too, when he preaches can he lead the congregation to the point where they can elbow their neighbor and say, "I know where he's going with this!" and feel like they figured it out. But the preacher had to take them there, the preacher had to pull back the grass, but he lets the people pick up the egg.

Well, no. Actually, I think those are two different ways to describe preaching entirely. Your congregation is comprised of adults, not children. And they have brains and perspective and don't need to be spoon-fed and get excited about figuring out you've fed them cheerios and not spinich. They can pull back their own grass! Or heck, they can explore the field! They're Baptists! They're encouraged to think on their own and come to their own conclusions, meditate on the scripture, weigh in their experience and reason within themselves about their faith. We may bring a message, but we're not mama birds that we have to chew it up and spit it into their mouths. They can survey the feast of faith and devour it too!

Ugh. I'm tired of writing about this. I shouldn't have perhaps, but lest someone buy the CD's or attend the next Symposium and feel slighted because I gave a booming report the first day - I'm now on record as saying there were some questionable moments, it is true. The choice to bring in this speaker was one of them.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

If You're Around Austin...

Trade As One is coming to Austin to discuss serious social justice issues and to put on fair trade markets in partnership with local churches where everyone is welcome to come and put consumer dollars to work for a noble cause, helping the poorest among us. Trade As One is an innovative fair trade, organization that’s changing the way America shops. It’s founder, Nathan George, is coming to town on April 5th and 6th to conduct a workshop on faith and fair trade, to speak at several Austin area churches and to host a bazaar featuring beautiful international gifts, purchased in the purest definition of fair trade, from around the world.

What is the relationship between faith and consumerism?  What does it mean for believers that half the planet is in dire poverty and more than 30,000 poor die every day?  Is the church called to subvert, reform and redirect America’s economic engine to help the needy? Trade As One presents a forum to discuss these critical questions.

Sat Apr 5, 9am-2pm, Journey Imperfect Faith Community, 3009 Industrial Terrace. Discuss fair trade markets that transform lives and to interact with Nathan, exploring the issues around poverty and commerce and faith.  Hear from those in the Trade As One network.

Sun Apr 6, 8:30am, 9:45am, and 11:15am, Riverbend Church,  4214 Capital of TX Highway. Nathan will be interviewed at each service and will be discussing the work and mission of Trade As One.

Sun Apr 6, 9am-1pm, Market: Riverbend Church 4214 Capital of TX Highway. Purchase fair trade goods. Beautifully made jewelry, purses, scarves, house wares, clothing and more. Tags on the products tell how purchasing the item will help change lives.
Sun Apr 6, 5:30pm, Mosaic Church, 5619 Airport Blvd. Nathan will be speaking on justice issues and the work and mission of Trade As One. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Culture and Faith

Today I attended day 1 of the Transforming Culture Symposium here in ATX. This morning I heard Andy Crouch give this speech... THE GOSPEL: In what way is art a gift, a calling, and an obedience. I thought it pretty much rocked and wanted to share my notes with you... Plus Andy exegeted Genesis which I lurve and he recited one of my favorite poems, The Red Wheelbarrow.

Read Genesis 2:4-15

Culture is what we make of the world in both senses
-the stuff we make from it
-the sense we make of it

Genesis 2 is "creatio ex creatis" - making something of something. The first gardener is God and culture is the first thing God gives to Adam. Culture is God's idea.

"Pleasant to the sight and good for food"... nourishment and beauty.

"the gold of the land is good"... list of precious and natural resources whose only real value is in their beauty. The world is even better than it appears! These are hidden beneath, dormant. Their beauty is seen when someone finds them, pulls them out and does something with them.

to "know good and evil" is NOT to "be wise"... That's not what God said. This is where culture oversteps - Adam and Eve use the world to replace a relationship with God.

"they sewed fig leaves together"... culture (clothing) is now (sadly) used to hid exposure. The leaves become functional - protection from one another, those who once were "bone of my bone" are now cut off from one another...

Following Genesis 3 comes murder, binge drinking, tool-making, etc.

BUT despite this, the Creator STAYS engaged and continues to create from creation, even to the point of becoming creation: he took, he blessed, he broke, and he gave! Bread and Wine are culture, not just creation. They become the sign and presence of God in the world.


Do we believe that culture is a gift, a calling?
Can it be taken, blessed and given?

Art: aspects of culture that cannot be reduced to utility. It is not useless but inutile. Not a means to an end, but an end.

Why use a carefully crafted sentence when a stupid one will work? Why put wallpaper on a wall already there? ART.

Beware religious utility! Religion is not a means to an end. What if the world is a gift? What if God is infinately more invested in us than we are in ourselves? What if we don't sacrifice something to attract the attention of God, but rather God becomes the sacrifice?

Will worship be for us a response to grace or an article of persuasion?

Great questions and thoughts for all engaged in faith and culture or faith and art conversations...