Tuesday, October 28, 2008

what is it for?

last sunday in journey's worship gathering i said that my fellow journeyer mike lawrence had suggested in a journey somethingorother some time back that the right question always to ask, about every decision, about everything you or i feel led to do, or want to do, or are already doing, is: What's it for?
as i live intentionally, and with attention to what i'm doing and why, i find that this question is more and more satisfying to ask. i like it. i mean, i DON'T like it when what i find is that there's really no good reason to do something ... or, that there's every reason NOT to do something i like doing.
  • journey i.f.c. exists and operates, for over 4 years now. what's it for? what does it accomplish? why is it here?
  • marriages exist. what're they for? what do they accomplish? why do they continue? why put effort into them?
  • there's a friendship. what's it for? what does it accomplish? how is the world different because it exists? what if it didn't exist?
  • your business, where you work - what's it for?
  • your house, or apartment, or mansion - what is its purpose? how are you using it, and for what?
  • the way you eat, or drink, or read, or play, or ride a bicycle, or knit, or garden, or watch movies or tv - why? what does that pattern accomplish?
  • your money, and what you do with it - what's it for? what does it produce? what does it achieve?
for me, this goes more and more and more to the real issue, which is awareness. consciousness. attention. i don't know everything about why i do what i do, but i can learn more and more. sometimes when i look back at certain decisions in my life, or patterns, they might be things that for years i saw as train wrecks, and now i see that they meant something. if i hurt someone or hurt myself, it may have been that my soul was trying to work something out. that's what it was for. i can go back, and make amends, and forgive myself and others, because i don't need for that decision to be anything other than what it was.
there are other negative or hurtful things i've chosen, and i don't see any redemption in them at all ... what i see is that i wasn't in awareness when i was in the middle of it. i was hurting, so i was hurtful. can i learn from that, and make different decisions next time? yes. i hope so.

jesus was all about awareness. he was a mirror. a mirror with god in it, but a mirror nevertheless. he'd ask people, "What do you want?" and then he'd say, "Your faith/trust/hope/guts brought about your healing." you were willing to look deep into what you have been choosing, and why you've been choosing it, and decide. and you decided healing and hope and possibility. you chose to get up and walk. you chose to trust something bigger than yourself.

what's it for? god asks us. like god in the garden of eden, after adam and eve had done the thing god told them not to do, and god says, "Adam, where are you?" god asks me, "What are you doing? why?"
when i am strong and patient and compassionate with myself and others, i can look honestly, and own whatever it is, and what it produces, and what it's for ... and ask, is this a good thing?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

well, you'll still need a tray

here is the brilliant, wonderful eddie izzard, as interpreted by Thorn2200, who ... makes lego characters of eddie izzard's funny stories.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

growing up with the boys

the men of U2 and i are the same age. there is something powerful about shared cultural experience. gigantic shifts in what happens to a generation. there's identity there. a way to see. larry, adam, bono, and the edge have shared theirs as they've gone along, and a few zillion people have sung and danced to the music. but it's more than that for lots of us, and for me: these men are in lots of ways telling my story back to me.

our early 20's: we looked GREAT in the early 80s, when we were just getting up on our wobbly young-adult legs. christians. late 20's: we began to feel our power in the late 80s, and direct our passions toward meaningful things. still christians, but not so sweet.
but we were disillusioned in our 30s, and asked, something's wrong but what is it? and we sang about it. we realized it's a mystery - and a mixed bag at best.
we felt like just checking out at a few points. tired. laughing. but not. where's god now? whatever.
and then, in our 40s, our hearts woke back up. partly because of our pain. and we rediscovered joy. and there was god. but not a cute god - deeper than that. now, as we leave our 40's, we're more deeply passionate than we ever were - still pissed off, still hopeful, but breathing and not anxious. i would wonder what's next, but there's only this moment - and now that's fine.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

high school reunion stall phone call re dog

my wife and i went this past weekend to dallas, for my wife's 30th high school reunion. it was really fun. my wife looked like THE BOMB! beautiful in a shiny red dress. i dressed up in a suit i bought just last week. it's the first suit i've had since high school. it was, believe it or not, fun to dress up. as long as i don't have to dress up like that every day, or even every sunday. ugh.
we stayed with my wife's college roommate, sharon, a single mom who is hilarious and has a beautiful heart.
i got to meet a bunch of people i've heard about for years. plus, i got to see my awesome friend greg and meet his friend valerie. that rocked.

so i'm standing at the urinal in the men's room at one point during the party last night. this is happening at a country club in dallas, very fancy. beautiful rest room, with an entryway with cushy chairs. clean rest room, too. and as i'm urinating, i hear a man speaking pretty loudly behind me. i realize he's in a stall. i wonder if he's sitting down, or talking on his cell phone while standing, which can be done, but it's challenging.
anyway, imagine an accent like jeff foxworthy's. not horribly countryfied, but a texan/southern voice. i don't quite know what he's talking about at first. it's just disorienting. i can't see him. and the voice is sort of echoing. i hear something about mama. it sounds like he's talking to a friend. about a dog ... he says he'll come and take care of it ... he says something about "put to sleep." he chuckles.
is he a hit man?
then i hear him saying, "yes, mama. i know. you've had him a long time. he's been a good dog." and then, "you need to put him down. i know. it'll be alright." then something about "the cats" and then "sister" and "i don't like 'em."
i'm finished peeing now but i can't stop listening to this. it's fascinating. and weird. oh - and the country club wallpaper i was looking at was very nice.
he then adds, "hey, laurie lawrence [i made that up; i don't know whose name he said, but it was one of the people at the reunion] says hi. laurie and her husband, billy [or whatever her husband's name was] says hi too. you remember them. don't you remember? she was a senior ..."
and then i zip, flush, and leave. i allow a quick look to the left, and sure enough he's sitting in the stall; i see his feet. maybe he's avoiding the reunion. maybe it's a girl who broke his heart. or someone he broke up with. or maybe his wife wanted to come to the reunion more than he did. or maybe it's a digestive issue - but the bathroom smelled so nice and country-club-recently-cleaned, probably not. maybe it's just that his mother's needing help with this sick-dog dilemma.
as i'm washing my hands, he's still talking.
i think about staying outside the men's room, just to watch who comes out. (i'd do it looking aside, like a detective in the movies.) but i don't. who knows? maybe it's one of my wife's favorite friends, and i'd hate to tell her his mom was putting the dog down.

Friday, October 17, 2008

son of jor-el and joe the plumber's dad mix it up

go watch obama and mccain make fun of themselves and each other.
i know it's a corny thought, but i believe it's a healthy thing for rivals to be willing to joke together.
that's something i value about this country.

i have hope that, even in some small way, that could be a reminder of what we americans want to see happen in washington and beyond: get over it, focus on what the needs are, and do some good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

hooked in the leg: Poverty in Austin

a friend and i were on our way to go fishing some time ago and as we're carrying our poles and gear toward the lake, i hear him say "oh. crap." i turn around and there's a large lure with two treble-hooks near his leg. turns out, one of the treble hooks was stuck in his leg. there followed a few hours of various possible solutions -
  • cut the hook? where? do we have any wire-cutter pliers? i didn't bring my tools. shit.
  • maybe we can detach the hook itself from the lure. that'd help. can you get your fingers between the lure and the hook?
  • why'd i do that? why did i leave that lure on the rod? why didn't i put it in the tackle box?
  • i need a beer. we bought beer, right?
  • oh, shit. i shouldn't chugged that beer. i'm light-headed now. i may throw up.
  • does anybody around here have any wire-cutters? hey - let's ask that guy.
  • that guy doesn't have any. what about the guy up the hill?
  • (there was a guy, with a g.p.s., and a phone that can do this cool little find-businesses feature, and we spent 20 minutes while this guy tried to find the little local 24-hour-minor-emergency clinic, and he couldn't figure it out, and it was his own phone.)
  • i guess let's drive back to town to the hospital. which one? which way?
  • the guy with the g.p.s. said it's over to the right in town. (it wasn't.)
  • wait, you figured out how to detach it from the lure? cool. now what?
  • does it hurt?
we drove to town, went to the little local 24-hour-minor-emergency clinic. it took an hour for them to get what was left of the hook out of his leg, and give him a tetanus shot, and bandage him up.
at that point, what should we do? screw it. let's just go eat.

based on what i know from listening to my homeless brothers and sisters, and my students when i taught college english classes years ago, and the people who slump into my office at journey's warehouse and look like they've been beaten up, and my own brokenness and feeling of lostness, i think that poverty must feel like having the hook stuck in your leg.

what i did for my friend, as i recall, was to stand with him, and listen, and not jostle stuff, and drive him to the clinic, and carry his stuff, and not say anything about what happened, and eat supper with him, and keep asking "how's the leg?" and ask people for wire-cutter pliers. he and the hook had their own relationship; i was just there to be a friend, and to help as i was able, and to bear witness. it all turned out okay; we found resources; his arm hurt for a while because of the tetanus shot but it was worth it.
and even - or maybe especially - if it hadn't turned out okay, i'd still have been needed as a friend, to help as i was able, and to bear witness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

hammering thoughts into unity

I'm a little ... tired. I think August/September just wore me out. my daughter applying to UT was a huge amount of work. Lots of paperwork, applications, worrying over this and that, essays, etc. etc. etc. But it's worth it, because going to UT is her dream.
Start of school was also exhausting. So was start of ministry year at JIFC, officer elections, etc. And the worship unit JIFC is doing now is hard work; it takes great intention and attention and focus.
And, I'm working to finish my book proposal and I have this deep sense that the book is just wrong. but i'm wrestling it into submission. okay, that's not quite right - we're talking to each other. 2 years ago when i started it, it was about the same things McLaren and Phyllis Tickle and the emergents have written about since then: the world is changing, Christianity is changing, the former things are passing away, and that's a good thing. it was actually a rant at first. but in the 2 years i've been working on it, and we've all been building JIFC, i don't have the need to rant anymore. i'm not interested in reforming organized Christianity; it's irrelevant to where we live out on the frontier. that was the first part of the book anyway; the second part is the part i like, which is basically what we're about at JIFC theologically, philosophically - orthopraxy as well as orthodoxy, god is at work in all things, follow Jesus and shut up, etc. my theology? all jesus was talking about was/is love, god is love, the rest is bullshit.
every morning when i work on it i feel ... odd. partly afraid, partly stupid, partly "this is all old hat by now and you have nothing to say. it's all being said already."
but then, i remember that what we are doing and saying and living as journeyers is making a difference in the world, and that matters. and maybe it will help some folks out there.
so, pray for me at 6 a.m. each morning when i head to the man-cave and write and stare and scratch my head. pray that i don't sit there and sort itunes instead of, as yeats said, "hammering my thoughts into unity."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

change one thing, then ...

i've been experimenting with blog templates. i have no idea how to BUILD one from scratch; i've just been browsing around out there for templates that say they go with blogger. it's a crapshoot. i just felt like rearranging - i'm finishing my book proposal, it's fall (my favorite time of year), and it just felt like a fun thing to do.
however, like remodeling, you do one thing, then you realize there's about fifteen other things that need to be done too. there's no changing one element on your blog template - they all go together.
i tried to find a template that's all kinds of things all settled and lovely, and just plug my stuff in with the click of a mouse, but so far, no luck. so, i'm experimenting.

this of course is like the spiritual journey.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the great emergence is official now

the bible is translated into lol cats language.
this, like other translations of the bible - for instance, into tolkien's elvish, and star trek's vulcan - is as significant as luther translating the bible into german in the 1500s. seriously. this is another sign that we are living in the next great reformation of a new christianity which is emerging all around us and within us.
what was the property of the few scholars becomes accessible to everyone who wants it. it was the clergy; now it's the blogger and author and reader and conversation partner.
in the 1500s, the technological leap used was the printing press. now it's the internet.
in the 1500s, it was the rise of the middle class and what would become democracy; now it's globalism.
the reformers threw out the pope and the big church stuff (and then built their own); now, we meet in warehouses and coffee shops and living rooms and on laptops.

god is now "ceiling cat." ceiling is heaven.

let it be. it's all good.

ps, here are the beatitudes: (the happiest thing in the lol cat world is a cheezburgr)

Wen he seez lotz kittehz, he climbz tree. His BFz climbz tree too. He sez hai and he teaches teh kittehs, he sez:


Cheezburgrz 4 teh n00b kittehs, theys can has teh Ceiling.


Cheezburgrz 4 teh sad kittehs, theys can has petting.


Cheezburgrz 4 teh m33k kittehs, theys can has teh urfs.


Cheezburgrz 4 teh kittehs who sez "I can has gud, plz?", theys can has it.


Cheezburgrz 4 teh kittehs dat no pwns, Ceiling Cat no pwnz0rz thems.


Cheezburgrz 4 teh kittehs wiff purr in hartz, theys can sees Ceiling Cat.


Cheezburgrz 4 teh kittehs dat sez shhhhh!, Ceiling Cat is liek "u mai kittehs."


Cheezburgrz 4 teh kittehs dat gets pwned by otehrs fur haz gud, theys can has teh Ceiling too.
Cheezburgrz if otehrs be liek "DO NOT WANT" 2 u, an liez abt u, coz of meh. B teh happys n party, coz u can has cookiez n cakez in Ceiling. Iz liek wen theys been liek "DO NOT WANT" to all teh holee kittehs b4

Friday, October 3, 2008

dad, it's just a stereo ... laptop ... washer ... external hard drive ... itunes collection ...

in no particular order:
laptop wouldn't do much; too much music on it; bought external hard drive
external hard drive starts well but then crashes, wakes back up, then won't talk to laptop, then just goes dark
my gigantic itunes collection, with album artwork and multiple kinds of data i've added so it'll be pefect, is also crashed b/c it's in the external hard drive
laptop then won't turn on. nobody has any suggestions
the truck cd player quits completely, as opposed to working half the time. i try to take out and install, and blow fuses and make it worse. i take it to the shop and they install one - and it won't eject a cd when i'm done with it. i feel my brain start to work its way into my neck and shoulders
the clothes washer at our house makes horrible noises when it spins, and then won't drain.

three thoughts:

1. in each case, i've attempted to fix the problem myself to save money and time. i do not have expertise in repairing any of these machines/systems. sometimes it works - the laptop problem was just a little strip where the power button is, and i just pushed it back in place - and sometimes it doesn't - in taking out the truck stereo i think i made everything worse; i took the control panel off the washer yesterday and had no clue.
lesson? be cautious before ripping out wires, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

2. i got mad at god a number of times in the last 2 weeks while all these appliances were falling apart. Why are you doing this to me? What do you want? Why do you hate me? What are you trying to teach me? What, am i not a good person, that you have to punish me like this? ... that sort of thing.
then, in each case, when i would stop being so absolutely pissed off (because i was afraid - get it?), i would settle down, and breathe, and realize it's not god doing this. shit just breaks. that's just how it is. machines don't work forever, and sometimes they don't work from the beginning. my truck is 7 years old; its cd player had been rode hard and put up wet. worn out.
god doesn't do this stuff to us - in fact, it's not being done to us at all. it's not personal. your washer doesn't give a damn about whom it's serving, and when it's washed your socks and jeans and towels about ten million times and its belt is worn out, it just stops.

3. this is, however, a great opportunity to learn about myself. (that's why it feels like god doing it TO me, when i believe instead that god is in it WITH me.) pay attention. why am i so freaked out? what's triggering this? why, when i tell my daughter in consternation that this particular appliance has stopped working, does she say to me, as if i'm a moron, "dad, it's only a --" and fill in the blank.
but she's right. it's only a bunch of songs on itunes. you've got them all on cd. you can just load them while you watch " heroes." it's only a laptop. okay, so you have to have it serviced? is the problem that you don't want to invest the time or the money? well, that's part of owning and using machines. sorry.
why is that upsetting you? are you worried about money? time? being smart? having it all together? are you running behind in a relationship, or at work, or on your life plan, and there's no room to spare?

btw - laptop's fine today.
i'm gonna take the external hard drive back to the store and ask them what we should do about it.
i'm going to rebuild my itunes - by putting about 1/3 as much music in as i did before. like clothes - "have i worn that in a year? why is it taking up room in my closet???"
got the truck cd player installed. it sounds great. it ejected cds just fine this morning.
the washer repairman gets here between 11 and 1. until then, i think i'll work on my talks for sunday morning.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

letting it go, following up

so, some friends gave me a cd/radio player for my truck since the old one won't play cd's anymore. i put off installing it for over a month, since i don't know shit about how to do it. then i got a little set of instructions, and got out the new stereo, and the diagram, and it took me 2 hours just to get the factory-installed stereo out of the dash, and then i looked in and saw the snarl of wires waiting to be coherently matched - and they didn't match the nice new wires sticking out of the back of the new stereo.
i tried connecting some things with the same colors and blew a few fuses on the truck. now my windows won't open. but the truck still runs.
so yesterday i downloaded some wiring diagrams online and tried again last night, this time armed with information about what wires coming from the truck are what. i got all the speakers correct. i think. maybe. but the power and ground and antenna?
to drive to and from the jifc warehouse every day with no radio? no cd playing? no nothing? no clock? i would say i'm totally fucked, but the whole thing's really funny.
that's how i know i'm starting to let go.
STARTING to, now, mind you.
(the guy at the car audio place said they'd be happy to install it for me for $75. i'm going to a. shop around for a better quote; b. replace the fuses and try again; c. laugh.)