Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book Thoughts

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

One of the things I love about youth ministry is sharing books and movies. Loving Husband and I have begun loaning out graphic novels like Plain Janes, Shazam, and Scott Pilgrim. This time, Sam T, movie fanatic that he is, convinced me to watch the extended trailer for The Golden Compass. It is beautiful. So beautiful that, when I went out later that day to grab some dinner, I found myself driving to Joseph-Beth booksellers to pick up the book.

The bottom line is this: excellent book, endearing characters, complex plot and moral.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dreaming in Color

Politics, they say, is the art of the possible. More and more, I'm interested in the possibilities of things. Does that mean I'm a politician? Shudder to think...

A piece of fabric doesn't just sit on the shelf--it jumps up and down, waving its arms and saying "Pick me! Pick me! I've got a great idea for a project!"
A book like The Golden Compass doesn't just sit there all book-shaped and immobile--it gestures seductively saying, "You won't believe what's in here. What I can make you feel and think. Come on in."
A show like Dr. Who doesn't just entertain for a half-hour or so and is forgotten--it pokes me hard in the ribs like the little sister I never had and says, "Live your life! You're good at stuff. There's more cool things right around the corner. Keep looking!"

The current issue of the "Interchange", our diocese's newspaper, lists the Millenium Development Goals along the top banner in bright colors. The images are fun and iconic, the colors leap out at you. It all says to me, "There is possibility here. Changing the world is possible. Making a difference is not a pipe dream."

Friday, August 24, 2007

take forgiveness any way you can get it

by Terence Winch

Father Cahir kept us holy.
He smoked cigars in the confessional.
He had a distracted air about him,
as though he wasn't sure what
he was supposed to do next.

I don't remember what he taught.
History, probably. It was his
liberal attitude as a confessor
that made him a legend.

No matter what you confessed to,
he always barked out the same penance:
"Three Hail Marys and a Good Act
of Contrition. Next!" So we tested
this leniency, confessing
to rape, murder, burglary.

Cahir paid no attention.
He knew we were a bunch
of high school punks.
Puffing his cigar,
he'd issue his standard
penance and absolve all sins,
real or imagined,
with godlike aloofness,
his vast indifference to
or total acceptance of the darkness
within the human soul
exactly how I hope the deity
regards us. Take forgiveness
any way you can get it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Book Thoughts

34 On Mexican Time by Tony Cohan

Memoir of an American writer living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with his Japanese-American artist wife. Have read from this genre before and have read better examples (Peter Mayle comes to mind). Still, it made me want to repaint our house in garish colors and grill corn and tamales.

"Mexican time" refers to the cultural attitude of unhurriedness in Mexico. Folk say manana which means tomorrow but can mean sometime soon or eventually or whenever. Siesta is a national past time and "getting things done" requires a relaxed attitude completely foreign to our rat-race culture. It's certainly not all fun and games given the huge rates of poverty and corruption. Nobody's perfect after all. I want to remember "Mexican time" here, though. When I get overwhelmed with plans for the program year or parishioners' worries, plans, or anger, I need to remember that there is space to think and breathe and let it go.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Book Thoughts

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Fourth in the Thursday Next series about time travel, toast, literary detectives, croquet, corrupt and fictional politicians, Neanderthals, slapstick, and social commentary. Hilarious throughout but primarily for Fforde's depiction of modern politics and media--painfully honest and ridiculously pointed. After a heated exchange on the show Evade the Question, the host clarifies the two politicians' standings from the debate:
"At the end of the first round, I will award three points to Mr. Kaine for an excellent nonspecific condemnation, plus one bonus point for blaming the previous government and another for successfully mutating the question to promote the party line. Mr. van de Poste gets a point for a firm rebuttal, but only two points for his condemnation as he tried to inject an impartial and intelligent observation." (p. 50. New York, NY: Penguin, 2004.)

The only issue I'd bring up is Fforde's tendency to give exposition several times for the same character or event. Three-quarters of the way through, I was being given information on a character I not only remembered from previous books but had been brought up to speed on at least once already. Ultimately, only mildly annoying, though.
Good stuff.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Book Thoughts

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Several short stories re-telling classic fairy tales in a much more gruesome and odd manner. Actually, probably not more gruesome than the Brothers Grimm, but more modern, more weird, more feminist, more wordy. Really more wordy. Loving Husband loves Angela Carter precisely for her wordiness and word choices--she uses words you you never hear and in combinations that make your head feel thick. Honestly, I didn't like it. Reminded me of Dickens who also needed a good editor. But the stories are good and interesting and it's a quick read.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I'm Hungry

Bruce preached this evening on St. Dominic and, in part, on the collect of the day: "Make your church, dear Lord, in this and every age, attentive to the hungers of the world." He called the five of us present to be aware of what the people around us are hungry for, conversation, meaning, justice, food.

What am I hungry for? I mean, really hungry, not late-nite-I'm-bored-so-I'll-eat-this-junk-food. And, lest I forget dramatic tension and the struggle of faith, what hungers do I fill in this world? It's not about me, you know. Just 'cause I have my own blog doesn't mean I'm a megalomaniac. Who is hungry around me who I can satisfy? What emptiness needs to be filled?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Book Thoughts

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Trends, social change, crime, marketing, suicide--they're all epidemics. They all begin with something seemingly insignificant and rise (or shrink) exponentially until they "tip." Kind of like water reaching the boiling point. The concept of a social epidemic makes a lot of sense to me. Christianity would not have caught on except for some contagious behavior by a few people. Groups form around ideas because of the contagious behavior of cool, connected people. Look at the Crocs trend if you don't believe me. A few beach bums wore them on the West Coast and now suddenly everyone and their sister has a pair.

Gladwell talks about the people who effect these changes: Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen. He talks about Stickiness--how to get your message to stick in people's minds and behavior. He talks about Context--people do or don't do things based mostly around what their environment looks like, not rationality.

Fascinating book and well worth the read. I'm still marinating on it but here's the thing: it's true. Like Johnny Cash sings the truth. Like you feel at the end of Life is Beautiful. I completely resonate with Gladwell's points, and I can't help thinking how to leverage them into my ministry.

Monday, August 06, 2007

True Fact

Hershey's Dark Chocolate Syrup--essentially liquid chocolate bar--is quite possibly the most awesome thing ever created.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Another Triumphant Return

Hah! I'm back from our exotic mission trip to far off Cincinnati, Ohio. "But you live in Cincinnati" I hear you saying. That, my friends, is what made it awesome.

I wasn't sure if the junior high youth I had with me would think it was lame or not and I'm pleased to report they thought it was great. The church where we stayed (with 100 youth from across the country) was literally 7 minutes from Redeemer. We loaded up in the rented van, and set off on an epic journey around I275. That's right, we drove 1 1/2 hours on the interstate through three states to get 7 minutes down the road. It was fantastic. We stopped on our way into Distant Cincinnati and took a touristy photo at the University of Cincinnati. We talked about the town as though we were from elsewhere. We remarked on how the air smelled cleaner, the people seemed nicer, and the accommodations more foreign.

Our actual volunteering time was split between the nursing home and the Community Land Co-op. The first was lovely but the second is where the kids really shone. It was hard, dirty, disgusting labor. We went to several abandoned and condemned houses to begin cleanup so they could be rehabbed into fabulous affordable housing. The before and after photos they have at the office are just amazing--from burnt-out disaster to suburban clean. In the first house, the dank basement was lit only by a couple flashlights and an extension light where we stood calf-deep in garbage and debris. Crackheads had stolen the copper pipes a month earlier, flooding the basement. We spent a couple hours hauling out damp and degraded wood, dolls, clotheshangars, bottles, tires, window screens, and a vast amount of Undetermined Crap. It was horrible and hot and exactly what I wanted out of a mission site for these kids. The next house had both live roaches scurrying about and dead roaches crushed in the edges of the refrigerator door. The next one smelled of Something Dreadful covered up by the smell of Pine Sol.

Seriously, these teens have seen what conditions can be like in their own town. They've never even conceived of how bad things can get. And now they want to raise money and volunteers for the co-op. I'm so proud. It could not have gone better.