Monday, January 25, 2010

More Freaky Airbrush Scandals

I like this "article" cause it's not exactly an article, rather, pictures of before and after shots of airbrushed celebrities (skinny and plus sized). The article, Unattainable Beauty: The Decades Biggest Airbrushing Scandals, is published by Newsweek and cites some of the models reactions to discovering they'd been airbrushed. Of course, Ralph Lauren takes the cake... again. Gross, guys.

Happy Birthday January 25ers...

There are a lot of you. But just to highlight a few...

Happy Birthday girls! (and happy birthday to my co-worker Kevin and my boss's son Grayson and an old friend from college, Amanda and...)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Friends Are Famous III

Augh! You guys are jealous of me cause I know so many famous people, right? Well, here's another one. This is my friend Ben DeLeon. He won "Big Brother of the Year" award in the United States last year and so in honor of Mentoring Month, he and his "little brother" Anthony were invited to Washington DC where Anthony got to introduce none other than the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! And a good president at that! This of course means that I am now only one degree away from President Obama in the Six Degrees of Separation Game!

So if you've got 15 minutes, here's the White House's appeal for mentoring and here's when Anthony introduces the President (around minute five). And my friend Ben is just to the right of the President and he's wearing a red tie. If you've only got a minute or two, here's an article from our local news.

This was actually a pretty big week for our church truthfully. We had Ben in the White House and Drew Brees heading to the Superbowl. Pretty exciting!!! (P.S. Oddly enough, Ben and Drew graduated together from a local high school here. So I guess here's a shout out to Westlake High for some excellent mentoring of their own students!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Science and Faith

For those of you who live in Austin, or nearby, FBC is hosting a Science and Faith Conference on this Saturday. You'll hear presentations from a geologist/old testament scholar, physicist/string theorist, and a Bapto-Catholic theologian.

So that should be interesting.

If you want to come, you need to make a reservation with Karen in the church office 512-476-2625. It's $35 bucks to attend, but that includes lunch and snacks. If you're uber poor, we have scholarships.

Remember when Trinity Street Players did Inherit the Wind last spring? That was in preparation for this conference (which was originally scheduled for last year).

Maybe we'll see you there...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

James Cameron Acceptance Speech

"If we have to visit another planet hundreds of light years away in order to appreciate this one..."


Friday, January 15, 2010

China Is My Second Biggest Pet Peeve

Finally. Someone's standing up to this oppressive giant. Take note world, and let's fight for freedom from poverty, freedom from war and freedom from ignorance.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Entire Text Here.

Congratulations. You’ve now read the entire book of Obadiah. Add that to your list of books read. When I was younger and I’d get bored during church, I’d turn to the smallest books in the Bible and read them. Then after church I’d think I was really hot stuff cause I’d read a whole book of the Bible or maybe even three!

I was a little off kilter when I was young.

Gloating about Bible book reading must have been a sure-tell sign that I was born to be a biblical nerd or a maybe a scholarly minister but now you too can join our ranks because you too just finished a whole book of the Bible.

Placed between Amos and Jonah, Obadiah serves as a bridge between these Minor Prophets. Other than that, we know very little about Obadiah. Because Obadiah translates, “servant of the Lord,” we don’t even know if Obadiah was the prophet’s real name or if it is just a title. Neither do we know in what time period Obadiah wrote or to what exact situation Israel was experiencing.

In general the prophets wrote during one of four time periods. They wrote during the United Monarchy, to either Kings Saul, David or Solomon. Or they wrote during the Divided Monarchy when God’s people were split into two nations: Israel and Judah. And the prophets during that time wrote to one specific group of people, either Israel or Judah. Or the prophets wrote during the Exile, after Babylon had come along and carted everyone away from their beloved promised land. Or the prophets wrote during the reign of the Persians when the Israelites were allowed to return home after Exile.

Scholars guess that Obadiah was written during the Exile, but there’s no definitive on that, so I feel uncomfortable pinning Obi down on that either.

So if we don’t know who he was or when he wrote or to whom he wrote, what do we know?

We know that Edom and Israel, the two nations to whom the vision or speech is primarily addressed, had a very tumultuous relationship. It started, as you may have guessed, with Jacob and Esau. From Jacob’s lineage we get the people-group of Israel and from Esau’s lineage we get the people of Edom.

Jacob and Esau were born twins and from the beginning they came out struggling. Jacob started it by holding onto Esau’s heel while they travelled from the womb into the real world as if trying to yank Esau back in so he could come out first. Then as teens, Jacob stole the birthright from his brother and later his blessing too. Fearing for his life, Jacob takes off for his mother’s homeland as robbing Esau of all his rights as the firstborn son would surely be tantamount to a death sentence. We don’t hear about Esau again until much later. By the time Esau enters the story again, Jacob’s got four wives, eleven sons and at least one daughter and is terrified to meet up with his brother whose hate for Jacob should have surely boiled to brimming by now. However, instead of a brotherly brawl or worse yet, a war between the two huge families, Esau grabs Jacob in a bear hug and Jacob describes looking into his brother’s eyes as seeing the face of God.

Pretty dramatic.

But potentially five to seven hundred years later, that spirit of forgiveness is gone. Israel has spent much time ruling over Edom, much to Edom’s chagrin, and probably for the not so noble purposes of controlling the port on the Gulf of Aqabah rather than in the spirit of keeping the family together.

So when Assyria conquers the nation of Israel and then Babylon comes in and finishes off Judah, the Edomites are more than ready to help retaliate against their former brothers and sisters.

And that makes God mad.

Sometimes God gets mad at Israel and sometimes God gets mad at Israel’s enemies. It just depends on which prophet you’re reading and who’s been misbehaving. Hyun Chul Paul Kim says that “Edom’s failure to keep kinship solidarity with Israel, especially during the time of calamity, is forcefully portrayed in Edom’s cruel cowardice and atrocities.” But that’s in Obadiah.

Lest you think that God’s only on Israel’s side, let’s not forget why Babylon was able to conquer the Israelites in the first place. The book of Amos clearly states that when “justice rolls down like a might water,” it rolls down against the Israelites. They had been sitting around like lazy old cows, enjoying their wealth, oppressing the poor and not providing for the widows or orphans. And so God lets the Israelites be conquered by Babylon and carted off to a foreign country where they would almost lose all hope and all faith in their God and in their place in the world.

Of course, they don’t lose all hope and despite singing multiple refrains of “Please don’t make us sing this song,” under the Persian rule of King Cyrus, they return to their homeland to rebuild the Temple only now with the understanding that indeed their God doesn’t only live in a Temple, in a certain land, but also lives in their hearts.

In Obadiah though, it’s the Edomites who are misbehaving. It’s Edom who operates with a “who’s in and who’s out” mentality that shuts out those who at one time were their brothers and sisters. It’s Edom who’s forgotten the love of their forefather, Esau towards his disobedient and manipulative brother Jacob. Edom has forgotten their roots.

And now, they’re in big trouble. You can’t be prideful and gloat over your neighbor’s misfortune and expect to get away with it. You can’t go in and take whatever’s leftover after your neighbor has already been robbed. It’s wrong and you will be held accountable. I picture Edom in this text a little like M. and Mme. Thenardie the innkeepers and thieves in the musical Les Miserables. After the battle in the second act, they are found in the sewers stealing the watches and jewelry and boots and gold teeth off the men, even the boys who died. They have no sense of loyalty to one class or another; they’ll steal from anything or anyone who can’t catch them. And that’s what Edom is like. With no sense of loyalty to the Israelites, no sense of right and wrong, they out their neighbors as soon and the going gets tough and then they go on over and steal what hasn’t already been stolen.

We understand that today I think. In general, what goes around comes around. I mean, even Martha Stewart went to jail. You can’t make terrible decisions for yourself or decisions that hurt the people around you and not get busted. And while the IRS may not discover that you cheat on your taxes, or you wife may never find out that you cheated on her with the babysitter, the guilt of what you’ve done will likely give you enough grief to make it not worth it. Passing on to your children a lifestyle of take-what-you-can-now may come to bite you in the pants when you’re old and they’re arguing over which nursing home will cost them less while you’re still in the room. If you do enough finger-pointing, eventually someone’s going to point back. We reap what we sow. Especially with our families. What we teach each other and our children and how we act towards our loved ones changes the course of history. Literally.

What we do and who we are affects the people around us and if we don’t choose to live a lifestyle based on the truth that we are all one in God, then inevitably, we become like Edom: angry, bitter, prideful, deceitful, stab-you-in-the-back no-gooders who would sell out even their brothers.

In ancient cultures, like some of the most primitive instincts in men and women, when they wanted something, they fought over it. They went to war to get what they wanted whether it was land or power or people or access to water or better animals. Like children, they saw and they took. And often they attributed winning to God being on their side and losing to God not being on their side. It seems simple enough, but kind of infantile too.

And so I invite us tonight to look at this story beyond the world of war and justice and God punishing one group or another. I invite you to read the story of Obadiah the way you would read your own family history. Your family tree has lots of branches. Some of them you love and put their fruit or flowers in vases to show off their beauty, others, you’ve just chopped off entirely and thrown in the “burn pile”. Some come straight from the trunk of the tree while others stem of limb and branch and twig. This is how our families work: we privilege some, ignore others and even others we manipulate or cruelly work evil toward for our own prideful reward. This is the story of humanity. This is our story. This is the story of the church fathers and mothers. This is the story of the New Testament church. This is the story of Israel and Edom and this is the story of Jacob and Esau.

What we could accomplish in the world if we quit fighting and getting back at one another and instead fought to love each other with the entire depths of our being. What if we fought to give each other the best even if it costs us the most. What if instead of going to war with Iraq, we showered it’s common people with food and school supplies and medical instruments and education and love? What if instead of fighting over the health care bill, we accepted it and worked to help our neighbors learn how to sign up for healthcare, choose a doctor, eat right and exercise? What if instead of giving money to affluent schools with primarily white middle class children and parents, we gave the same amount of money to every school in the city of Austin? What if instead of name-calling and finger-pointing between nations and states and religions and denominations, we all worked together to see the good that everyone has to offer? What if what if what if… what if we began treating our neighbor like they were our own brother or sister?

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth and God created humanity. Men and women God created them. And God called them very good.

What if we believed that?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Full Disclosure

Apparently it's "de-lurking" week in blogland. I learned this from a reader who wrote me an amazing email responding to a blog i'd posted. Her name's Holly.

So... introduce yourself. If you read my blog and I don't know you or maybe I just know you by a "name" with no blog attached to it that I can read, then now's your chance.

Plus you can introduce yourselves to each other. I mean, I introduced Andee to you once and some people said that was fun to meet her. So maybe they want to meet you too.

Or maybe everyone just wants to remain anonymous. I don't know.

But if you don't, click on comment, tell us who you are and sign it.

And "it's nice to meet you."... preemptively.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

85 Days and The Loneliest Job in the World

I haven't posted in a while about relationships. That's what happens when you give up men for 85 days and counting.

Actually, that's not true and you know it.

Cause we're always still wondering aren't we? When he'll show up? That knight in shining armor. Damn tardy but on the white horse nonetheless. It happens to everyone so when will it happen to us... to me?

My therapist gave me an assignment last week. "I know this sounds a little 'online dating-ish' but bear with me. I want you to make a list of 'must-haves' and 'can't stands.'"


But every time I do this I start to feel guilty because what if my Mr. Right isn't a Christian? What if he's a spiritualist and we're the perfect grounding for each other: me in religion and him in mystery? Or what if he doesn't like the theater and I teach him to love the theater and then he ends up volunteering on the board for the local community theater? Hell, I watch football now, it happens. People change one another.

And one of my main problems with men is that I usually say yes. "Yes I will go out on a date with you." Sometimes my therapist and I practice saying No back and forth to each other just so I can get used to it. But I often say yes to a date because I feel bad judging people. I feel like I shouldn't pre-judge someone on their job or their looks or what kind of car they drive or if they make too much money or how they voted in the last election. I feel like everyone deserves a chance to be themselves without my judgmental eye. So yeah, I go out with a lot of people.

"But Ann," my therapist said, "this isn't the church. Not everyone gets in. This is your bed. This is who you go to sleep with at night and who you wake up to in the morning. Be judgmental."


"I'll probably write a blog about that."

And now I am because tomorrow I go back to therapy and I've only got three things on my Must Have Can't Stand list and none of those even have to do with religion or God. But what my therapist said feels so profound in my heart. I want to make a list, i just can't get out of my head.

And there's no way in hell I'm telling you what the list is because I don't want to be judge by you, blogworld.

"That's so sad, Ann," my friend Jess said the other night when I shared with her my reservations about telling people about my list. "You shouldn't feel bad about saying what you want."

But I'm still not putting it on here.

At least not right now.

Maybe in a few weeks when I get a little more comfortable in my judgmental skin. But until then, I leave you with this poem which I think is lovely...

As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?,
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

The Loneliest Job in the World
by Tony Hoagland

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11... Did You Know?

So for the third year now, today, January 11, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Some of you may have no earthly idea what I'm talking about. Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Yep, it stills exists. But as evil is wont to do, it's made it's way out of the cultural norm (compliments of the Civil War) and into the hidden corners and closets of homes and businesses. Most of human trafficking is sex slavery. But forced labor without pay is another big problem. And this isn't just happening in Eastern Europe.

It's happening in the United States.

And its victims are men, women, college students, teenagers and children. Yep, I said "and children."

This is a website with stories of modern slaves in my own town, Austin, TX. Check it out.

Here's a blog by a friend of mine here in Austin that lists a couple of ways you can help. There's lots of new websites popping up about Human Trafficking too. Keep your eyes open. Keep telling the story. And let's figure out how to stop this atrocity.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I Just Couldn't Let It Go

So my father always taught us never to discuss politics or religion with friends. He's probably developed this mantra because he lives in St. Joseph, Missouri and other than my mother, he's the only democrat in his whole 600 member church. So I get it.

But I also get really riled up about climate change. It is the number one issue that I'm passionate about. And I'm passionate about a lot of things.

So when I saw the following post on facebook, "I'd like to know how that study on Global Warming is going," my father's advice echoed through my head. Then I remembered that I have 1,045 friends on facebook and this is a girl that I apparently went to High School with who married a boy I went to Grade School with. We're not exactly close. So I didn't think my father's advice about "friends" was exactly applicable.

I joined in on the conversation which went as follows...

Amie: I'd like to know how that study on Global Warming is going

Richard: Obviously it is a hoax!!

Jada: ha ha good one aim


Ann Catherine Pittman: actually global warming causes an imbalance in the climate which yes, causes crazy stuff like an arctic freeze to sweep across america. it's actually really scary that it's 20 degrees in texas and that we've managed to destroy our environment to the point that this would happen.

Keli: ...I don't buy it

Kappy: Yes, Ann. That's what I remember from back in the 80's when my science classes were explaining what would happen by the year 2000 if we didn't do something now. Can any of you remember being on tornado warning this fall? I don't think we had one time that we had to head down to the basement. So... who got those tornadoes? Tennesee/Kentucky - places that don't usually see them. Things are a-changing! But I don't miss the tornadoes...

Richard: The scientist have admitted that Global Warming is a HOAX

Kappy: Not according to CNN:

Keli: The media is part of the problem

Janis: do you think global warming is the reason I get hot flashes?

Richard: The media is always the problem

Amie: Janis, I don't think the environment has anything to do with your hormones.... sorry. lol

Ann Catherine Pittman: dear keli and richard, i hate to be blunt about this, but you need to read a science article once in a while. i don't know where you're getting your info from but it is sorely off kilter.

Keli: I am not sure exactly what you mean by "science article". If you are refering to newspaper, magazine or articles you have read on the internet, again...that is the media. If you are talking about actual scientific journals on the subject, you should know that there are just as many scientists that dispute global warming as there are that promote it. Either way, you should not assume that someone is not educated on a subject just because they disagree with you.

Keli: way to go Aim, look what you started!! lol

Ann Catherine Pittman: i'm assuming you're getting your "media bias" information from... the media? be consistent, and if you're seriously nervous about media bias, be sure to be critical of all your media sources... FYI, Fox News is owned by biggest media giant of the world.

Ann Catherine Pittman: i'm sure amie didn't intend for this, but i can't help it. and by science articles, i meant articles publishing the scientists' research - just to clarify.

Michelle: Probably shouldn't assume know what they say!

Michelle: Oh and for the record, here in Texas--it's not "really scary"! I've lived in every corner of this great state, and just because a cold front blows through from Canada doesn't mean we should all panic and bow down to Al Gore! The words "Arctic" freeze your beloved liberal media outlets love to toss around lately are meant to stir up feelings of "OMG, The sky is falling!" Arctic refers to the area the air is coming from---Canada (Look at a globe-for the geography lesson) and freeze, well that sounds so much scarier than cold front doesn't it?

Keli: BTW I get my "media bias" own obsevations, some of us here in America are still able to form their own opinions and are not seduced by fancy rhetoric, idealistic notions and threats of what could happen if we do not conform. oh and thanks for FYI, who would have thought that a national NEWS station would be owned by a media giant, go figure.

Keli: Hope you are staying warm Michelle!

Ann Catherine Pittman: my point about Fox news is that because it is owned by one man, there is no accountability. usually people who talk about media bias watch fox news and consider it newsworthy. whereas if you watch cnn and they report something inaccurately, the new york times will run a better story and if they get something wrong you can get a better scoop from msnbc and we can always check snopes to see if they've done any research and those are just the really popular mainstream news communicators. i.e. there's competition to present the best news. whereas with fox news "fair and unbiased" always comes with a commentary. and usually really ugly, unkind ones about anybody who doesn't think like them. and that's not news. it's like one long opinion page that you have to watch.

Michelle: Does this mean you actually watch Fox news?

Keli: Well it sounds like you have a pretty good plan mapped out for when your news sources are incorrect.....

Janis: will somebody just tell me when my hot flashes will end?

Brad: Ann, you better hope CNN doesn't get it wrong, cuz your fall-back media outlets (i.e. MSNBC and The New York Times) are worthless and on the verge of bankruptcy. It amazing, ann started with an argument on global warming, and now is on a fox news rant, when she is the one that brought up fox news in the first place. I smell a liberal!!!

Ann Catherine Pittman: Amie brought up global warming and Keli brought up the media. I just responded. And i did so without name calling and sarcasm. But I give up. You guys win. This conversation is making my blood pressure go up. And hopefully you're right about climate change... but i wouldn't bet my children and grandchildren on it.

Too bad that's what we're doing...

Here's a picture of what scientists are calling "Plastic Island" an area in the Pacific ocean between Hawaii and California that is a collection of trash that has gathered in one area of the ocean due to currents. You guys, Plastic Island is TWICE THE SIZE OF THE UNITED STATES.

Yes, that's a man in a canoe trying to swim through it.

Most people know that Miami will be underwater by the next century (when your grandkids are in their prime) but even more disturbing is that "the threat is more imminent than was predicted by the Interplanetary Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just two years ago." Instead of the half meter rise in oceanic water levels, so much ice is melting, scientists are expecting a full meter now. So don't buy any real estate that you plan on passing on to your kids in Philadelphia or D.C. either.

Scientists now say that prevention of global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call what is happening to our eco-system, is not even an option anymore. The ball is rolling too quickly. We're now in the coping phases. Mom and Dad got divorced, so how do you adjust to living in two houses? How do we adjust our living to adapt to climate change? How will our habits and houses and jobs and lifestyles change? How will we cope with this new reality? Bubble villages? Head towards the moon? I'm exaggerating, but hopefully you understand my point. No more prevention, only adaptation.

So do what you can. Quit using plastic bags. Get some cool re-usable ones. Quit buying water bottles. Get a canteen or a flask or whatever and refill it. Quit using disposable diapers. There's cloth diapers and fuzzy buns and all sorts of options now. Quit driving an SUV when you're the only one in it. If you live somewhere with adequate public transportation, use it. Plant vegetation and grass that's local so it doesn't use up as much water. If you live in Austin, join Facebook's "Austin's Dirty Little Secret" and write letters and vote about our local coal plant and other ecological issues. For more easy ways to live adapt-ably, buy New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours. Or if you're religious and you're not really buying all this, check out A Greener Faith which chronicles religion and environmentalism and gives a biblical precipice for saving the earth. The cool thing is that changing the things I just mentioned not only makes the earth healthier, but is good for your finances too. Being green doesn't always have to be expensive!

Don't feel guilty, just get educated.

And save the world a little bit each day.

Monday, January 04, 2010

My Friends Are Famous II

This is one of my best friends, Josephine Yearwood (what a name, right?). She is famous. Famously limber. Several years ago she even taught pilates in France. And get this, Johnny Depp even scheduled an appointment with her!! (I don't think he showed up though). Anyway, here Josie is featured in this fitness magazine. Pretty Awesome!

P.S. She's moving to Dallas and needs a job, so Dallas folk... HIRE HER!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The New Years and the Resurrection

Texts: Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24, John 20-21

I read all four resurrection stories last night in an attempt to understand what it means to start over. The new year for me is culturally a time of transition when people make resolutions and, enlightened by the joy of Christmas, really want to make some positive changes in their lives: eat healthier food, quit smoking, be kinder to their parents, stop nagging their children, work out so they can live longer and enjoy life more… those sorts of things. And I think this is a good thing. Resolving to change can be a bit like starting over. Revelations can be a bit like second starts. Like being reborn, I guess.

So that’s why I read the resurrection stories. I started off reading the first and second chapter in Matthew: the story of Joseph, Mary and the baby's trek to Egypt. That’s starting over, I thought. A new culture a new language, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. So I headed toward the back of the book.

Matthew’s resurrection story is short sweet and has the treasured Great Commission. Mark’s is even shorter unless you count the longer ending complete with snake-handling, but most scholars don’t, so I skipped that part. Luke has the great story of the two travelers who get the whole biblical story re-told to them - Moses and the prophets - and interpreted for them by none other than Jesus… man I would have like to be a fly on the headdress of one of those guys. What was the point really, Jesus? But after the men reach their destination and Jesus appears to the other disciples Luke also has the sentence I like even more than the Great Commission, that “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations.” Yeah, I thought. Maybe now we’re getting somewhere. So I turned to John, the longest of all the post crucifixion, resurrection texts with several stories of Jesus’ appearance. Like the others you’ve got the women at the tomb, but also the race of Peter and “the loved one.” You’ve got the breathing on the disciples that Pentecostals like to call the baptism of the holy spirit and they breathe into microphones and all sorts of things to pass that spirit onto us today. And there’s the famous “I’ll believe it when I see it” story compliments of Thomas’ doubt. And finally, an outing at sea. It’s this last story that I like the most.

I find it’s read the least out of all resurrection stories. Perhaps because it’s so peculiar. I mean everyone likes the disciples behind locked doors hiding from the Jews and we like the bold women who get to see Jesus first and the ever delinquent male disciples who have to see for themselves or just flat out don’t believe them. We like revealing of the truth exposed to the disciples like scales that shed off your eyeballs. And we like doubting Thomas probably because we relate to him the most.

Resurrection, really?

And then there’s the story of the fishermen.

After the crucifixion and the appearances of Jesus the disciples return to doing what they know how to do best. Like a kid who finishes Summer Camp and then has to go back to school in August, the disciples return from their journey with Jesus to… their fishing boats. I suppose Luke went back to his hospital clinic and Matthew went back to the IRS office and Peter, James, John and Andrew, I guess, joined back up with their partners and went back out to sea with their nets in tow.

With New Year’s Eve, we too come off the high of Christmas. For some, Christmas is terribly depressing, but usually it’s a time when everyone is a little bit nicer, a little more giving, an a little more repentant. From that we move straight into New Year when our culture offers us a great opportunity to take our repentance and really “do” repentance by making resolutions and changing numbers on the calendar, a constant reminder that we have started something new.

Two Thousand and Ten
Twenty Ten
Two Oh One Oh

It’s not 2009, it’s 2010. And for our culture it’s a time to start over, if you will.

Last year, I needed the transition from 2008 into 2009 so badly that I held a funeral for 2008 in my back yard just to make sure it was good and dead.

This year, I don’t feel quite so traumatized by 2009 and so while I’m glad we’re starting a new year, there were parts of 2009 that I’ll actually miss. It was a great year.

But what happens now? And that’s what the disciples faced after Jesus’ ghostly appearances. What now?

“Well, I guess we go back to work.”

And that’s what happens to us too. We have an encounter with Christ and then we have to go back to work. Our lives don’t change as radically as we feel they should. We don’t get new parents or a new city to live in or a new job or a new body or a new wardrobe. What changes is within us. And when the external parts of our world keep on going and we’re standing there wide-eyed and gape-mouthed, at some point we have to push our jaw back into place and go on with our lives.

And that means going back to work.

“Cast your nets on the other side,” Jesus called to them.

Returning to work after an encounter with Jesus can mean doing things a little differently.

“Come have breakfast with me,” Jesus invited them.

Taking a break in our busy lives for communion with Jesus can be necessary for nourishment.

“What is that to you what I do with your friend’s life?” Jesus asked of Peter.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean making comparisons between you and others in your community, neither does it mean passing judgment on them.

It’s pretty easy to spiritualize this text as I’ve just done. And it’s pretty easy to just leave it alone, write it off as one of those strange resurrection texts. But the disciples had to carry on just like you and I carry on. So how did they do it? How were they changed by their encounter with the risen Christ?

We read some of that in Acts, and we gather information about how life went on from some of Paul’s letters. But other than that, we don’t know.

And in our lives we know that, like the writer of John says at the end of his last chapter, “there are also many other things that Jesus did.” And it’s true. Isn’t that why most of us are here (in Sunday School at church) today? Isn’t that why we got up early on our day off and put on high heels as uncomfortable as they may be. Isn’t that why you attend church and participate in mission projects even though our Austin culture prefers secular humanism to what they see as quaint, Christian religiosity? Most of us could say, yes, there are also many other things that Jesus has done.

And that’s why we’re here, trying to figure out what it means to live in the world after being radically changed by Jesus Christ. What now?

And that’s what New Year’s has reminded me of: to put it in religious terms, my conversion or my continual process of conversion. This time of the year reminds me of what it means to start over in our hearts and minds, but carry on living in the same world as before.

And so I leave you with a couple of questions (just in case resolving to go to the gym every day weren’t enough of a burden).

If you found God (who was there all along) as an adult, what are some of the ways it changed how you lived? This isn’t a “look at what a good Christian I am” opportunity to gloat, but a chance to reflect.

If you chose God again as an adult (grew up in the church but took some time off in college and maybe for a while after), how did that change how you lived? What made you re-choose Christ? How did that affect you?

If you grew up in the church and have never really not known and loved God, how do you distinguish between the world and Christ’s spirit in the world? If you don’t know the world apart from Christ, how does that affect how you live? How do you get energy to keep seeking newness and goodness when you were never really apart from it?