Friday, October 26, 2007

celebrating in the rain

I am surprisingly calm and well-adjusted today.

The internets were broken for about 24 hours and I had to foray into IT-Land. Calm.
The house needs a new furnace and the patio removed. Well-adjusted.
The world is crazy and hurtful. Calm.
I don't really know what I want to do with my life. Well-adujsted.

This summer has fed me in ways I didn't notice at the time.
-At Outdoor Adventure Camp we were deluged by rain two nights running. At 8pm, we were debating whether to have Eucharist in the cramped and cold dining tent or continue to play cards until bedtime. We opted for Eucharist. So, wearing jeans soaked to the skin and someone else's poncho, I celebrated with 35 damp teenagers by flashlight. It was a transforming experience for everyone involved.
-I went on retreat with Mayumi Oda and resisted it up until I actually got there. I was not prepared for sitting meditations half-an-hour long. I was not prepared for so much silence. Yet it was in the silence that I began to breathe.
-Our bishop spoke at Redeemer this week and referred to the Anglican Communion as "an ambitious experiment." How freeing and affirming to see this huge connection as a work-in-progress, as something other than an idol, as creative.

So I'm calm. I'm content in this moment.

Book Thoughts

Soul Graffiti by Mark Scandrette

Evocative look at how to be a person of Spirit. Mr. Scandrette is a young, thoughtful, and welcoming Christian (or, in his words, a Follower of the Way). He writes about "experiments in truth," taking action based on a wholistic and loving understanding of scripture. Basically, stop talking about it and live it. And, lest you think he's another zealous and conservative evangelical who means "condemn" or "act self-righteous" when he says "live it," what he actually means is talk to your neighbors and hear their stories and their pain. Help clean their houses or mow their lawns. Offer dinner to the people you wouldn't be caught dead with out in the world. Meet people where they are. And be met in return. It's fantastic. Perhaps my favorite part is when he talks about a ministry his house church has developed called the Jesus Dojo. How cool is that?

Even if you don't read the whole book, check out the chapter that's linked from the title. (yes, I already linked it but it's worth the click-through) Made me weep with fear and joy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Book Thoughts

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot

In my late-night, not-yet-ready-to-go-to-sleep, need-a-book haze last week, I pulled this off the shelf. I read it once way back in the day and remembered it fondly. It's every bit as good as I remember, if perhaps more obscure. Luther Arkwright is a pretty obvious Christ-figure whose first death and resurrection is beautiful and moving and sexy. His second reads as a bit of an afterthought. I've maintained for several years now that bringing people/characters back to life negates the sacrifice of their deaths. And yes, I am aware of the irony.

That said, it's a cool take on parallel universes in peril and the fight between good and evil. There's a sequel that I also remember as being good.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

from Exotic Florida

Greetings, readers! (I realize, there may be fewer than the hundreds or thousands of readers that I once hoped. Are there, perhaps, dozens?)

I'm writing from sunny Oveido, Florida, home of man-eating alligators and mosquitoes that could take your arm off. Really, it's happened already this week.

This is a great conference--we're doing a lot of in-depth conversation about physical health (including stress and priorities), spiritual health (including Sabbath), and financial health (how do you spend your money, what the heck are all those retirement options?). Are you asleep yet? It's actually really cool. What makes it cool, I think, is that I am surrounded by 30 other priests under 40. That doesn't mean we're all the same--far from it. But we have a similar perspective on things. We're going bowling tonight, which is not hugely popular among our set as we all want to go dancing or to Gatorland, but we'll take it. It's good to get away from the scripts I feel like I have to follow at home. Thank you for letting me go.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On the road again

Leaving for CREDO tomorrow morning. Don't know my flight information. I know I had it here somewhere...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Scenic Lexington

Loving Husband and I are on vacation in scenic Lexington. Our hotel is lovely. It doesn't smell of smoke. It has wifi and a pool. Is in walking distance of a Waffle House. The bed has six pillows. We have a stunning view of the parking lot. It has cable so I can stay up late watching documentaries about BBQ.
We've a bottle of Cabernet to drink, friends to visit, and enough books to last us several weeks. In short, everything we could have hoped for.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Anatomy of a Sermon

It's that time in my week, gentle reader, when I should be committing my wisdom to paper and writing my sermon for tomorrow's service. What do you think I'm doing instead? If you guessed wasting time on the Internets, then you'd be right. See, the sermon-writing process is not as straightforward as it may seem at first glance. I have, for your convenience, created a bullet-pointed list to clarify:

-Monday: read the lessons for the next Sunday, contemplate their import, begin reading commentaries, write complex journal entries exploring their subjects...or work all day and forget that you're preaching the next week.
-Tuesday: re-read the lessons, discern which one God is calling you to expand upon, continue reading and contemplating, journaling, exploring...or get caught up in email and administrative meetings and forget that you're preaching next week.
-Wednesday: panic because you've just realized you have to preach tonight at the mid-week service in addition to two coffee dates, preschool chapel, and mission trip deposit deadline. Notice a niggling doubt that perhaps there's something you've forgotten.
-Thursday: Day Off. Do laundry, watch movies, eat cookies.
-Friday: suddenly remember that you're preaching on Sunday, read the lessons, develop an ulcer, make serious plans to write in the afternoon, then get distracted by something shiny.
-Saturday, 9am: sleep in.
-Saturday, noon: over breakfast/lunch consider how best to attack the lessons, come up with a possible idea, go do something fun secure in the knowledge that it won't be so bad now that you've got an idea.
-Saturday, 3-5pm: begin writing, by which I mean format the Word document, make a vague outline, doodle, and remember how difficult this really is.
-Saturday, 6pm: finish first draft, ball up and throw away as it is complete crap.
-Saturday, 9pm: wonder where it all went wrong.
-Saturday, midnight: finish writing final draft of what will be either (1) the worst sermon in the history of religion or (2) the Word direct from God.

Straight from the horse's mouth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All New! All Better!

Ok, so it's not actually all new, but I have just spent an hour adding in new links to old posts, fixing links that no longer work, and generally making this blog the Best Blog on the Internet. Or something. Please do check out older posts--on books, on salvation, on toast--it might just be worth your while.

Monday, October 01, 2007

the Dreaded "E" Word

That's right, boys and girls, it's time to talk about Evangelism. This post brought to you by the number 3 and the Evangelism Marketing Board: try some yesterday, today, and tomorrow!

Some new statistics came out today about church attendance which have the clergy in a tizzy. That's right, I said "tizzy." Google it. "We've got to work on evangelism," we're saying over email. "Why are the numbers so bad?" we lament. This should come as no surprise as the 90s were supposed to be the Decade of Evangelism, according to the national church. Some of us have put forth the radical notion that sharing our passion for the faith and the relationships we form at church is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations." [Notice I did not suggest getting them to come to church or fill out a pledge card...]

Regardless, my father had the following to say about the whole thing and I think it worth reprinting:

"The hard thing to do of course is to know, well, what to do. You
know there are some who attribute or have attributed our decline to advocacy of women rights, civil rights, approval of gay clergy and marriage and 'abandoning Biblical ethics.' Others think we have declined because we have too much 'happy clappy' music or not enough. Or projections screens or whatever.

"For what it is worth, I lay the blame [that is the American game is it not] on the people of our generation who decided church was no longer important for them or their children. Thus we have a generation of people, now in their 30s who have never been to church or never seen it as important. The culture too works against all of us - bigger, better, faster, more and easier is the mantra of America and Western Europe.

"What I am saying is that the decline of the church all over western culture is not entirely the fault of those of us who work in the church. Still there is much we can do. I think this fits in with Bishop Breidenthal's desire to emphasize 'formation.' Let's work at teaching church members first that talking about religion and faith outside the walls of our building is acceptable and mandatory. Then let's teach them how to do it.One on one evangelism is the way to go."

What I've asked the youth of Redeemer is, "What do you love about this place?" What event do you love? Who can't you wait to see when you come here? What are you excited about doing? Now invite someone to do it with you.

The Parable of the Decent, Suburban Neighbor

In junior high formation yesterday, we talked about Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. We've all heard sermons asking us to contemplate, "Who is your neighbor?" with the inevitable answer being one of the following: (1) someone you can't stand, (2) someone you never think about or notice, or (3) everyone in the whole world. All perfectly good answers. I was in a soul-searching mood, however, and I came up with a very specific list. (Of course the world is neighbor to itself, we should strive for universal goodwill, etc. I'm talking about specific people who I have not been neighborly towards.)

These are people I don't understand, don't like, or don't appreciate, in that order. So how do I act like they are my neighbors? Pick up the darn phone and call them. Be in relationship, physically and emotionally. Listen. Do not ignore them. Do not judge them. That last one's a big one. It is so easy to sit in my mentally-stable, middle-class, extrovert chair and say, "get over it." It just doesn't work that way. And there is no room for compassion in that chair, that's for sure.

What stops me from acting like they're my neighbors? Clearly disdain and annoyance for some, my own self-interest for others. Most telling of my marker-scribbled notes is the last line, written semi-unconsciously: "fear of intimacy."

I talk a lot about how relationship is key to the Kingdom. Intimacy (not sex, mind you) is necessary for any real decision or connection or understanding or progress, no matter how you want to define them. And that intimacy is what I fear. If I connect with one of these folks, make myself vulnerable, what demands will he make on me? What uncomfortable but necessary situation will I find myself in? I just read a book excerpt about this guy's attempts at relationship with a homeless and mentally unwell man. It brought tears to my eyes. I long to be in such a relationship--not because I want to condescend and "work amongst" the poor but because intimacy is what we all need. Yet it scares me to think what could be asked of me.

The thing is, the realization of this fear came at the same time as the desire and strength to overcome it. This isn't poor me time but a fresh challenge.