Friday, March 26, 2010

Um... You Were Amazing In Zombieland

I told you Bill Murray was bartending at the joint I went to during SXSW!! Here's proof! It was pretty awesome. I wanted to tell him I had a crush on Venkman when I was a little girl, but refrained. Instead, when he walked by me I just kind of sucked all the air into my lungs as my stomach fell to my ankles and then uttered "That's Bill Murray" to myself like a blathering idiot.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The World's Best Country for Women?...

I'm moving to Sweden.

P.S. The United States ranked 17th! Gulp. Don't worry though, I'm sure it had nothing to do with the readiness of the church to allow women in leadership.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


We will never be a socialist nation, America. Relax...

by Connie Wanek

We used to play, long before we bought real houses.
A roll of the dice could send a girl to jail.
The money was pink, blue, gold as well as green,
and we could own a whole railroad
or speculate in hotels where others dreaded staying:
the cost was extortionary.

At last one person would own everything,
every teaspoon in the dining car, every spike
driven into the planks by immigrants,
every crooked mayor.
But then, with only the clothes on our backs,
we ran outside, laughing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Social Justice Christians

I'm a little slow in responding to Glenn Beck's brilliant assessment regarding Christians and their participation in social justice or economic justice. And truthfully, I'm going to let other people respond: namely, my pastor who addressed it in a sermon last week, a colleague from seminary whose response I like, and, of course, Jon Stewart...


"This past week, the very conservative Fox News Pundit, Glenn Beck, (in an effort to once again label anything 'socialist' that he doesn’t agree with) uttered these words, 'Take a look at your church’s language, listen to the words in your church, if they use words like "social justice" or "economic justice" then flee as fast as you can, they are part of the plot to bring socialism to this country.'

And Jesus said, 'When did we see you hungry?'… 'when did we see you naked?'… 'when did we see you in prison?'… 'when did we see you sick?' 'when you have done it to the least of these, you have done it for me.' Or, back in Luke 4 when he announced his mission, 'I have come to preach good news to the poor…to bring sight to the blind…to set free the captive…to announce the year of the Lord' (which is the year of Jubilee in Isaiah…when all debts are forgiven.) Glenn Beck. Jesus.

President George W. Bush announced his creation of a 'faith-based' social justice network in January of 2000, right here in our building, on the third floor in our youth quad…he met with every major religious leader in this country, sitting up there in our multi-painted youth quad, including the head of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities, the Reform Jewish movement, the Conservative Jewish movement, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Tony Campolo…you name them...they were sitting in that circle. It was President Bush’s expression of what he had come to call 'compassionate conservatism' but I would guess that Glenn Beck and his followers would call George W a socialist. I guess they would call Willow Creek Church in Chicago and Saddleback Church in California, socialist because they proudly, successfully do an enormous amount of 'social justice' for the poorest in this country. As Rick Warren calls them, 'the beaten, the broken, the beleaguered'…Rick Warren, the socialist.

I’m addressing this because this is the conversation going on…this isn’t a 'right/left' issue. This isn’t Republican/Democrat issue. It might not even be a person of faith…it’s a human decency issue. But for those of us who follow Jesus, it is a core part of our faith. Jesus tells us to pray every day for daily bread and he tells us in so many other places what to do with that bread…to share it with ALL God’s children, especially the poor…and to never, ever use the poor as one more weapon to further divide us from each other. Beck’s words are 'anti-Gospel'. To speak such words in the New Testament is to sin against the Holy Spirit…in case you were wondering what that phrase meant." Rev. Dr. Roger Paynter, First Baptist Church of Austin, Texas, March 14, 2010.

“'Social justice' at its broadest meaning, means a just society . It means a society founded on justice and a fair shake for all people, not only the advantaged. It means that no one is forgotten, no one is abandoned, and no one is excluded.

When most churches or individual Christians speak of social justice they mean Biblical social justice . It is, as you would guess, based on the Bible. The Bible speaks of social justice powerfully from the Torah (orphans, widows, and immigrants get special mention, and then there’s the year of Jubilee) to the OT prophets (condemning the corrupt, advocating for the poor) to Jesus to Acts and the New Testament and even Paul (sharing a common meal and raising money to help victims of famine). I can give you verse references if you want, but that would get overwhelming real quick, so I’ll just give you one that I think sums it up nicely “Whoever has the worlds’ goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17

Well, there’s at least two definitions of communism. Theoretical communism proposes a classless, stateless society, in which all property is commonly controlled. But it is not based on the example of or authority of God. It is based on the concept of the pure equality of humanity, and that all people can be equal in the eyes of one another.

So, that kind of communism doesn’t exist. It is similar in theory to the kind of society envisioned by Biblical social justice, but is not at all based on the same foundation.

Which leads us to historical communism , the kind the USSR had and China has, in which the government owns the means of production and has a centrally planned economy. It excludes a belief in God entirely from its system, and though it preaches the equality of all people in theory, it is far, far, from executing that in practice. THAT is clearly not Biblical social justice.

Historical communism is a form of socialism , which is a broad term that in theory means that the public owns the means of production and that there is equal access to resources, but in history usually ends up with government owning the means of production and giving access to resources however it feels like. That was the socialism of National Socialism, otherwise known as Nazism. That Nazism has nothing to do with Biblical social justice is so obvious that it needs no comment.

It is important to note that the vision of a just society of both theoretical communism and socialism would require the end of capitalism. Biblical social justice envisions a just society that could theoretically exist within any economic system. It stands over and above any economic system, because it sees humans as more than cogs in a system, even an equal system. It sees them as children of God.

I think, as far as I can tell from his statements, that Beck is equating socialism and communism with government-run assistance programs. Those, by the way, would fall under the category social democracy , which aims to democratically reform, or lessen the effects of, unjust practices of a capitalist state through state-sponsored regulation and programs. Medicare and Medicaid are examples of social democratic programs. So is TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, commonly known as welfare), Social democracy and socialism are not the same thing." Rev. Patrick Adair, First Baptist Church of Waco Tx, March 12, 2010
And of course, FROM THE DAILY SHOW...

"I'm not saying that believing there should be a minimum standard for how much lead is in our paint might lead to the government having the right to sterilize and kill Jews. I'm not saying that that might be the case. I'm saying that's the case."

"It turns out that progressives advocating for government regulations on toxins in water and our children's toys turns us into China! The very country that has been putting toxins in water and our children's toys. It's so ingenious it almost -- It's so ingenious it almost doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

So Stewart gives Beck a taste of his own medicine. If you take Beckism (which the FOX host usually defines as a mix of conservatism, libertarianism and Christianity) to its logical end, what do you get? Stewart reasons that playing by Beck's rules means that FOX News' idealized nation would be a theocracy. "If you subscribe to an idea, then you also subscribe to that idea's ideology and to every possible negative consequence that that ideology remotely implies when you carry it to absurd extremes. For instance: Progressives, if you believe in a minimum safety net for the nation's neediest, you believe in total and absolute government control. So, if you believe that faith provides a strong moral tent post for a nation's foundation, that could only lead to totalitarian theocracy." Jon Stewart

So, along with aping mannerisms and chalkboard antics, Stewart exposes the speciousness of Beck's "logic." But perhaps more importantly, Stewart points out how insane our political atmosphere has become. Sure, we all have different opinions. But when we're painting each other as total extremists, what kind of conversation can we have? What kind of accomplishments will we be able to count with such divisive madmen running the show? (Summary by

Monday, March 22, 2010

And Why Is This a Bad Thing?

Top 18 Effects of the HealthCare Reform Bill as summarized here...

An End To Pre-Existing Conditions: Health Insurers cannot deny children health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A ban on the discrimination in adults will take effect in 2014.

Small Business Tax Credits: Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering up to 50% of employee premiums.

Seniors Get 'Donut Hole' Rebate: Seniors will get a rebate to fill the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage expenditures over $2,700. As of next year, 50 percent of the donut hole will be filled.

More Young Adults Covered On Parents' Plans: The cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance rises to the age 27.

No Lifetime Caps: Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have will be banned. Annual caps will be limited, and banned in 2010

Adults With Pre-Existing Conditions Covered: A temporary high-risk pool will be set up to cover adults with pre-existing conditions. Health care exchanges will eliminate the program in 2014.

New Insurance Plans Must Include Preventative Care: New plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays. All plans will be affected by 2018

The End Of 'Recissions': Insurance companies can no longer cut someone when he or she gets sick.

Transparency In Insurance Companies: Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead.

Customer Appeals Process: Any new plan must now implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.

Indoor Tanning Services Tax: This tax will impose a ten percent tax on indoor tanning services. This tax, which replaced the proposed tax on cosmetic surgery, would be effective for services on or after July 1, 2010.

Enhanced Fraud Abuse Checks: New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste.

Medicare Expansion To Rural Areas: Medicare payment protections will be extended to small rural hospitals and other health care facilities that have a small number of Medicare patients.

Deductions For Blue Cross Blue Shield: Non-profit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio -- money spent on procedures over money incoming -- of 85 percent or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits.

Nutrient Content Disclosure: Chain restaurants will be required to provide a "nutrient content disclosure statement" alongside their items. Expect to see calories listed both on in-store and drive-through menus of fast-food restaurants sometime soon.

Better Coverage For Early Retirees: The bill establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55‐64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage.

Better Consumer Information On The Web: The Secretary of Health and Human Services will set up a new Web site to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses.

Encouraging Investment in New Therapies: A two‐year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the bill to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatement of diseases.

Baby steps people. Baby steps. Most of this I wish were going into effect immediately and not in 2014. Good God, I'll be almost 36 by then. And I'm so sick of reading about people complaining on FB and other places.

Be thankful for what we've got (even if we want more). And stop complaining that they're making these decisions (you should count your blessings and share the wealth). And as for the argument that now we're socialists... well, that's just so ridiculous and I can't even think of an adequate reprimand.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beresheth Sermon: Lent

I knew in January something was wrong. Usually New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays because I love symbolic gestures for starting over and starting new. I know that nothing monumental really happens in the transfer of minutes from 11:59pm to 12:00am on January 1st. The grandfather clock doesn’t do a little dance or crack open a bottle of bubbly, it just shifts, with a sometimes audible tick and then settles into silence until 60 seonds later it ticks again.

Several weeks after New Year’s though, I began to sense that this was going to be a difficult year.

“No, my heart protested!” I will not have another 2005, not another 2008. I need another good year, 2010 so let’s try and be friends! But alas the feeling of darkness did not lift and within two weeks in February, my best friend lost her job, a friend got lymnphoma with a 40% survival stat, a friend who’s wedding I was to perform in March called and said her fiancĂ© had called off their engagement, and my neighbors’ daughter died.

I cried a lot those two weeks. And then came the imposition of the Ashes.

Dear Lent, I wrote in my diary… No thank you. I don’t care for any this year. Life has already become really hard, I already have a lot to grieve, a lot of service to give, a lengthy wilderness to walk, and I don’t need the church to kill Jesus right now on top of it all.

Because we all kill Christ. It wasn’t just the Jews though they didn’t exactly help the matter. And it wasn’t just the Romans with their fear based God complexes.

It’s you and I every day. With every ugly word we utter to one another, with every jail we fail to visit, with every woman we size up and store in our memory for a later pleasure, every co-worker we step on to get ahead. We too participate in the Death of Christ. And Lent reminds us of that. With every sin we commit we cry out that Ceasar is King that Prosperity is our right, that Individualism is our God.

When in reality, from “ashes [we] have come, and to ashes [we] shall return.”

In reality, we’re each walking through a wilderness and we yearn for the promised land; we yearn for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

So for Lent to force us to examine that Wilderness, to realize that God’s Kingdom is not yet and that it is our job to help usher it in. For Lent to force us to step out of the limelight of Blogs and Facebook and YouTube and American Idol and Survivor and admit that we are nothing without God and no photo tags or comments or like buttons or panel of judges can change that.

Only God can change that.

And sometimes to understand our infinite worth in Christ, we must understand our infinite worthlessness in the world.

Take a hike, Lent, I yelled to no one. I’m already sad. I already know life sucks. Death is already knocking on the doors of people I love all around me. I know life is fragile. I know life is unpredictable. I’m already crying and I don’t want to intentionally go into the darkness any further than I already am!

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”

Except He isn’t with us. On Good Friday, we lose Jesus and we are utterly alone. God has truly died and death has surely won.

But it’s only after death that there can be true resurrection. Only with Good Friday’s Tortuous Death will there be Easter’s Glorious Resurrection.

And so every year as a church, worldwide, we journey into the Wilderness, into the night, into the mourning, hoping and praying that on Sunday light will come again.

It’s like a movie or a good book that we read over and over and each time, we nervously hope that the Bubba won’t die, that this time Batman saves the girl, that this time Celie doesn’t get pregnant, that this time Brute doesn’t plunge the sword, but we’ve seen these movies a hundred times and we know it always happens.

And it has to. You can’t have church that always sings about happiness and love and peace unless the church has known and felt the alternative. You can’t get the resurrection without the death. We can’t know God as fully human if he doesn’t die nor can we know him as fully God if he doesn’t resurrect.

We can’t have one without the other.

And so we have Lent.

Welcome Lent, come on in. There’s an empty seat at the table. While I wish it was Advent’s turn to dinner, I know you’re here to stay. And I’ll eat with you, don’t worry. But in three more weeks, I’ll have to bid you adieu because Easter’s gonna come rolling round and I want to make sure I’m ready. There’s a little chava on the table, help yourself, and tell me what news you’ve got to bring.

There’s gonna be a killin’? You don’t say. Well, I should have known, it happens every year.


Here for a while. But not here to stay…

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Satan's Little Helper's Little Buddy Gets a Bad Rap From the Therapist

"It's a form of torture," she said. "They interrupt people's sleep when they want to get information out of them. They let them sleep for a few hours and then wake them up. It's a torture method."

I'm sleepy all the time. There's many factors for this but one of them is my cat, Potter.

"I love cats," my therapist explained. "But your cat needs to cut that sh*t out."

I had been telling her about how I usually get up three times a night - even if it's just to go out in the kitchen and shake the kitties' food bowl.

"Close your bedroom door!" My therapist said.

"I do, but then he slides his paws under it, and he shakes the door back and forth."

He's really strong.

Usually it's Zorba who gets a bad rap from my adoring public. "Satan's Little Helper," my friends call him. "The Vampire Cat." "Avoid like the plague," they warn newcomers.

But it's his brother, Potter who's falling under scrutiny right now. Precious little night-stalker Potter.

Zorba on the other hand is recovering from eye surgery and getting shaved... again. Here's a pic of him naked with the cone.

That damn eye surgery cost MORE THAN TWICE what I thought it was going to and while I don't blame the cat, I'm also not going out to eat for the next six months of my life. No more dancing, no more organic food... ramen noodles for me.

I'm exaggerating, but not by much.

I adore the cats, I do. Zorba's kneading my stomach as I type and Potter's sleeping, reclined against my hip. (I blame any misspelled words on them). But apparently they're subjecting me to torture which may explain my constant fatigue and lack of energy.

And what the therapist says, goes... usually. So in addition to the ear plugs and sleeping pills (only used on occasion), I'm putting an ice water spray bottle by my bed tonight to squirt Potter with when he wakes me up. My therapist suggested it. It's the only time she's encouraged me towards violence.

"Fight torture with torture;" not usually my motto. But when Satan's Little Helper's little buddy gets a bad rap from the therapist, drastic measures must be taken.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Happy International Woman's Day

JOHN: I'm troubled.

BILLY: You're troubled.

JOHN: My therapist, she knows.

BILLY: She knows... she knows what?

JOHN: They'll eventually lead. The women. They'll lead.

BILLY: Your therapist knows this.

JOHN: And she's telling them.

...from Ally McBeal, Season One.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Imagining the Question

So I attended another conference last week, this one in Nashville. While I admit that I hadn't given the conference a second thought until I heard it was in Nashville (where two of my best friends live), it ended up being a great conference for little blurbs of inspiration and insight into the soul of God.

One such insight came in the form of an activity we were asked to participate in by Dave Odom. We were to write down a question - a question our church should ask or is asking, a question we have of the church - and write it on the top of a piece of paper. Then we pass the paper to the person on our right. They too have written a question and have passed it to the person on their right, and so on. We were told to write a one or two sentence reply to that question. Then we were to fold down the top of the paper so it covered the initial question and only the response remained visible. Then we passed the paper again. Now at person #3, they write a response (or question) to what is exposed on the paper (the initial question being covered up). They write their response, fold the paper down further over the response they read and pass the paper on. You get the point.

The exercise is one for the imagination and was based off of this short video. Skip to minute 1:45 to see how a small lick on the piano can, with a little imagination, change to a beautiful variation.

"The arts are showing us again and again the possibilities for transformation... how things can be, even in this world."

I loved the activity and will definitely be using it with my college students, young adults and senior adults when I get the chance. And if you're curious about how my paper turned out, here it is...

1. (I chose a question our church is or should be asking): How can we maintain our history of "musical integrity" while exploring other creative acts of imagination beyond Classical/Hymnic music in worship?

2. Julie responded to that with... "Try global music - it's harder to critique music of another culture, even though we all know all music is created within a culture; but for some reason there seems to be a greater allowance for "creative acts" within music named from Mexico or Spain or Kenya or Australia, etc."

3. DJ read (only) what Julie wrote and he replied, "Global music also expands theology and ecclesiology , transcending and challenging pre-conceived notions about Congregational Life, God, Holy Spirit and Mission."

4. Lara read DJ's response and wrote her own reaction to his blurb: "What would it be like to just throw it all out - our learned notions of theology and ecclesiology - and start over from scratch from our current context in life today?"

5. A man whose name I don't know read hers and responded with... "Can we/should we throw out people's experiences of God/church from the past just to make it into our image? 'If Jesus were like me...' But it is good to seek to join the good of the past to the new of today."

6. Some lady who did not understand the exercise very well and had to have it explained to her 500 times hopefully only read what guy #5 wrote and responded with: "We can never assume the past is bad and the current/future is good or vice versa. There is richness in our pasts and in the present and future. Take that richness and use it for good."

7. And the CBF church planter guy finished my paper up with a response to Confused #7... "Savor the words from our past. Their richness sustains us for the days ahead."

It's interesting to take the six responses and read them in light of the initial question. But it's also neat to read them just against the context they had, the sentence before and imagine where the conversation was going or might have come from...