Monday, April 28, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Life You Saved

I've mentioned my best friend Lindsey a few times before. She's in the Philippines, counseling young women who are abandoned, orphaned, sold into sex slavery, or have suffered other serious abuses from friends and family members.

How she does it day after day.... only God can give a person that kind of strength. She sent a particularly moving story to me this week that I put up on her site. Everyone should read it.

The Life You Saved.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Heartbeat

You Who Never Arrived
Rainer Maria Rilke

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me-- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods-
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house--, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,--
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening...

Mighty to Save

For Kansas Bob...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Enterprise Rent-a-Car

Poor Carlos.

We all have a story about horrible customer service, don't we? This one is pretty bad. Enterprise Rent-a-Car should be ashamed of themselves. I didn't have any trouble renting a car with Enterprise when I was in Seattle. And I don't have a Washington driver's license. Duh. Why would I?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Grrrrr

Click here. Listen for 54 seconds. Then come back.


















WHO IS THE PRODUCER OF THIS SONG? What kind of music professional allows a song to be recorded with the vocalist singing "tuh" instead of "to"? Especially when it's in the title of the song!!?!! Bad. Bad. Bad.




Grrrrr.

Pop Culture Quote Monday

I'll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama on Faith



In the wake of the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I thought I would resurrect an old idea I had for a post back in January: Obama on Faith.

The Audacity of Hope is not a fast or easy read by any stretch. Some chapters flew by, and others took a while for me to get through. He is a highly educated man with a very idealistic point of view. But the "political-speak"... well, it's just not my bag. I've never cared too much for politics, and this election year is the one I've taken the most interest in. But it's honestly just because of the ground-breaking nature of it. And while there are still so many political issues that I have yet to find myself on sure footing, at least I am working through that, which is more than I've done. Ever.


So when I decided to read The Audacity of Hope I realized it was the first time I decided to read a book by a politician. I searched for McCain's and Huckabee's book that same night in the bookstore, but had no luck. I knew that I should read them all if I was going to read one, to make sure I had the all the information I should have. If I get the chance, I might try before election day. But judging by the growing pile on books on my nightstand and bookcases, it probably won't happen.

So: Obama on Faith. He dedicated a chapter in the book to his journey and how it affects his job. I found it the most engrossing chapter of the book (surprise, surprise) but I also felt as though it left me with a lot of questions about his faith. Fewer than I had when I began, but there are still questions nonetheless.

This section lead me to a deeper understanding of what he experienced as a childhood more than anything I knew, heard or read about him:

Her [Obama's mother] own experiences as a bookish, sensitive child growing up in small towns in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas only reinforced this inherited skepticism. Her memories of the Christian who populated her youth were not fond ones. Occasionally, for mt benefit, she would recall the sanctimonious preachers who would dismiss three-quarters of the world's people as ignorant heathens doomed to spend the afterlife in eternal damnation... She remember the respectable church ladies who were always so quick to shun those unable to meet their standards of propriety, even as they desperately concealed their own dirty little secrets; the church fathers who uttered racial epithets and chiseled their workers out of any nickel that they could. For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

It was this experience as a child that lead Obama's mother to view "religion through the eyes of the anthropologist... it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well". Obama's biological father was raised a Muslim, but was a confirmed atheist by the time he met Obama's mother. Obama's stepfather was skeptical like his mother. He grew up in Indonesia, a country with Hinduism, Buddhism and other animist traditions. So the people who shaped him the most had a huge and well-diversified catalog of experiences with religion to pull from. But exactly how Obama himself came to the Christian faith is not talked about. (It's eluded that he talks more throughly about it in his first book, "Dreams From My Father")

He spends most of the chapter on the idea of the journey of faith. How his mother took him to church on Christmas Eve and Easter, but also to Buddhist temples, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial site. "...I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part - no introspective exertion or self-flagellation." I found this an interesting read, and it doesn't hurt that Obama does have some mad skills in the writing department.

Some facts that many of you might find interesting:

  • Obama thinks that a literal reading of the Bible is folly.
  • He is not a creationist (which is implied by the above fact.)
  • He believes faith and reason operate in different domains and involve different paths to discerning truth
  • (This isn't exactly a "fact... just an interpretation) It's implied he does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture
  • This guy knows his scripture. He quotes some obscure verses, using them in a sentences that aren't really about faith or church or the bible. (And he doesn't site them, so unless you are pretty familiar with scripture, you might not know he was quoting the bible. It's almost like they are second nature to him...typical in his vocab. But they are not common scriptures you hear quoted.

My favorite quote from the chapter? "...I was reminded that no matter how much Christians who oppose homosexuality may claim that they hate the sin but love the sinner, such a judgment inflicts pain on good people - people who are made in the image of God, and who are often truer to Christ's message than those who condemn them. And I was reminded that it is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus' call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history. I don't believe such doubts make me a bad Christian. I believe that make me human, limited in my understanding of God's purpose and therefore prone to sin. When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations - whether they come from a lesbian friend or a doctor opposed to abortion."

Side note: he begins the chapter with a moving story about an email he received from a doctor opposed to abortion and an encounter he had with some pro-lifers protesting one of his campaign rallies.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A New Design


My best friend Lindsey is serving as a missionary over in the Philippines. I created a website for her last summer and this weekend did a major overhaul of the design.

She's doing amazing work over there, and I thought y'all might want to take a look. (And let me know if anything looks wonky.)

Living by Faith

Pop Culture Quote Monday

A play and a movie:

This is my sister we're talking about. We're not gonna let her die just so you can have one of your moods.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Funny Ha-Ha?


I took this at 3:30 this afternoon. This is what our parking lot looks like.





Our building has solar panels - this is a side view.

Mother Nature's Cruel Joke?

(...I think it's a little funny. Notice I said "a little".)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Recommendation

I stumbled upon this little gem today. It's hilarious.

Stuff Christians Like.

Scott - #128 is for you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Waitress: A Review

If I had two words to sum up the movie: surprising and redemptive. Oh, and quirky. (I'm a sucker for a little quirk.) But this not really a feel-good type of movie, because ultimately this movie is about domestic abuse. Yet the movie tried to hide under a thinly-veiled version of a romantic comedy. Did I laugh? A few times. But I was also horrified, angry and disappointed... experiencing that many different emotions in the span of 2 hours might just make the movie good for some people, but what made the movie good was the performance of Keri Russell and the scenes she had with Andy Griffith. They were priceless.

The overall plot of the movie mostly revolves about Jena (played by Russell) who a young woman in a bad marriage. She creates delectable and creative pies based on her feelings. The "I Hate My Husband Pie..." has bittersweet chocolate made into a pudding drowned in caramel, for example. There are loads and loads of moments like these in the movie, adding to the quirk but also reminding us of the reality of her situation. The movie is a strange mixture of fantasy and reality, and when I found myself removed from the fantasy it sometimes jerked me back, and not in a good way. Sometimes you just want to be entertained when you go to the movies. If that's the case, I wouldn't recommend renting Waitress. But if you want to be reminded of how hard it is to break the human spirit, and that sometimes "redemption has stories to tell" than this movie is for you. (I'll give 10 points to the first person who knows what that last quote is from.)

There's been some talk about how Hollywood "went pro-life" in 2007 with Waitress sighted as one of the examples. While it's a nice thought, I don't really buy it. Abortion is rarely glorified in the movies. But what I appreciated about the "pro-life" part of the movie was how it showed the perspective of a woman who didn't want to get pregnant, and never once felt a change of heart in the duration of her pregnancy. She didn't bond with her unborn child. She didn't want to be a mother, and that's not a issue you see as plot points for movies often. As someone who's never wanted to have kids, it was an interesting plot to watch unfold.

Note of Trivia: Adrienne Shelly, who plays one of Jena's best friends in the movie, was also the writer and director. She was found murdered shortly after the movie wrapped in 2006.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pop Culture Quote Monday

Who is FICA and why is he getting all my money?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Jacob's Well

Photo courtesy of the Jacob's Well website.

I've been itching to visit Jacob's Well church in Kansas City since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. It's often linked with the "emerging church" movement, and according to this article the pastor and founder is considered one of the "founding members" of this movement. It's connection to it is one of the reasons I wanted to go - the chance to see a church that defines itself as one in action. But I also heard the words "lovely and creative worship" from someone or somewhere (I can't recall). And I'm always looking for something inspiring and creative to incorporate into our worship time.

I got something cool: a surprise.

It's a funny thing to visit a church when you are so used to being at your own. When you're a staff member of a church it's hard to get away on weekends, so when the opportunity arises to get away I try to visit a church I can learn and be inspired by. I usually walk away with good and bad things in my head, and I rarely have the desire to go back, partially because I know I can't, but also because it was nothing special.

This was not the case with Jacob's Well.

I felt completely at home at Jacob's Well. I felt comfortable without feeling complacent. I felt inspired missionally without feeling guilty. I worshiped without noticing everything else around me.

After reading the articled I linked to above, I was shocked to find out they have 1,000 members. We attended the 9am service and the sanctuary was nearly full, but I would guess with less than 200 people. Everything about the feel and mood of the service was modern, but it never felt like they were shunning the past. This is partially due to the building where they meet - built in 1930 it still has several beautiful stained glass windows, a vaulted ceiling, wood pews, and the like. On the surface, a cynical Christian (ahem... like me.) might walk into this church and worry (read: judge) the pretentiousness of an "I'm too cool for an evangelical church" appearance. But that is not what I felt at Jacob's Well at all. As a church attender since birth - with lots of crazy and wild church experiences in college - I've seen a lot of interesting stuff happen at church services. So it's takes a lot to surprise me. But Jacob's Well did that.

Can I even put my finger on it? Not really. I think that's why I'm so surprised... and having a hard time writing this post.

The light were dimmed and the cloudiness of the day added to the dark feel in the sanctuary. Candles covered the alter, which remained in the center of the platform up front. The band was spread out to the side and around the alter. A carving into wood of the Lord's Prayer just behind the alter was highlighted with a small light .

Large projections screen were on either side of the sanctuary, the worship music was loud (maybe a little too) with a light-grunge style (is that a style?), but truly authentic and not "concert-like". The first song was in completely in the wrong key because, not to brag, but if I can't sing it a normal person couldn't either. And that is just not the way worship should be led. But the rest of the worship music was good and sound theological stuff (no "Jesus is my best friend or lover" sugar-coated crap that I can't swallow) and in the right key. The song Psalm 145 - which I'm guessing was written just for the sermon - was spot-on and really powerful.

The preaching was sound, engaging, interactive, enjoyable and all-around awesome stuff. The service ended with communion, more music and a benediction where we crossed the isle, all held hands and prayed a blessing song over the community. (Which I really dug.) 95% of the people there were my age and younger. It's in mid-town KC, away from suburbia, with people of many culturally-diverse backgrounds. Suzie, my friend who came with me, told me she could absolutely see herself going there while she lives in Kansas City. I could also see myself calling Jacob's Well my home church... if I lived in there. Maybe when I make my trips home to Nebraska after my move to St. Louis in the fall I will have the chance to go back. It will certainly be worth the detour.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Creative Chaos

Updated 4/4/08. Carlos over at Ragamuffin Soul is asking people to blog about a recent creative idea we've used in a worship service. I'm bumping this up per his request.
_________________________________________________________________________

Originally posted 3/20/08
In my effort to build a Good Friday service with the theme of "by his stripes we are healed", I have hit a dilemma.

Here is my order of service:


Video “Resurrection”
Reading of Isaiah 53
Crimson (Vocal Solo)
Reading: John 18: 1-18
#302 Lamb of God 1, 2
Reading John 18: 19-40
#323 Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed 1, 2, 3, 5
Reading: John 19: 1-16
Love Song (Vocal Solo)
Reading John 19: 17-42
#324 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross 1, 3, 4
Video “A Better Way”
Cross Painting/Communion
Prayer

All of the readings have music in the background, mostly stuff from "The Passion" to create a mood of sorrow and awe at the same time. Both vocal solos are focused on Jesus very intentionally, as are the videos.

For communion, my idea is to have a small bucket of paint sitting at the foot of the cross. As we all come forward for communion, we will have the chance to paint a stripe on the cross, to remind us of the price Jesus paid, the "stripes" if you will. During that time, I want to have music, specifically something with words to add to the mood. I originally planned "Healed" by Nichole Nordeman. But after further reflection, I am really falling in love with the idea of "Ten Thousand Angels" by Caedmon's Call/Derek Webb.

Both songs emphasize healing, but Nichole's song is a little more accessible than the other song.

Any opinions? If you don't know the songs, you can google for the lyrics in a heartbeat (in order to help a girl out.)

____________

Click here to read all the comments from the original post.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

#8

Kinetic Church in Charlotte, NC had something interesting happen. 75% of their church gear was stolen, gear that was inside a trailer.



These are all around town, with different words, but similar to this one... but this is what really intrigues me:

Seeing God

This was a weird week for me for a number of reasons. I won't get into it all, but I sit down tonight, writing this post to flush out the spiritual lesson that's there. Somewhere.

Today I buried another uncle. As I thought back to the last 5 years, I realized just how many funerals I've attended, and the number was high. Too high. All but three were quite sudden and four of them were people entirely too young to die. My cousins, who knew for two years their dad would die young, handled themselves well today. Better than I would if I lost my father... (and that is just something I can't think about.)

Then tonight I had a joyous reunion with a dear old friend from college. We're were next door neighbors in the dorm, acted and sang on the same stage together, cried in the hallway together, prayed for each other and encouraged each other. It was so good to see her. It was good to see how far we've both come. We were just kids back then, and we thought we were the ****. Now we know better. Part of me wishes I knew better back then. Part of me wouldn't touch those memories for the world.

These kinds of ups and downs are simply a part of life. And for me it's much easier to find God in the upside of things. We know God is good. We understand that he only wants the best for us. "If God is good, why do bad things happen?" is a question for the ages. This seemingly unanswerable question is the reason so many refuse to believe in a higher power. Why bad things happen is not I question I ask myself anymore. My faith is past that point, and for that I am thankful.

So where I am at right now is looking for God IN the bad stuff.

It sounds weird, but stay with me. I think I have a point.

I can always find him after I've gone through the muck and come out a little dirtier, and a little wiser. It's easy for me to look back and see where God moved, how he used the bad to make "all things good". But while I'm rolling around in the muck? Not so much. I look to myself, my family members and friends for perspective during those time, relying on my strength and their strength. I look at what is right there in front of me - the actions, the words spoken, the feelings we all experienced. But rarely do I look for God in there. But after today, I know he's in there.

I know he's in the bad stuff just as much as he is in the good stuff. He's not missing, I'm just not looking for him. To quote a line from what is quite possibly my favorite TV show:

Joan: Do you always go around appearing to people?
God: Minor correction. I'm not appearing to you. You are seeing me.


Are you seeing God? Is your view of him large enough for you to be able to say "yes"? I worry that mine isn't.