Sunday, September 27, 2009

break-taking

i'm taking a break from blogging - i didn't realize i was, but i am - because it's time for me to get serious about a book proposal i'm preparing.
i'll post from time to time but for those of you who follow this blog, that's why there are only going to be a few posts here and there.
say a prayer ...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

go to failblog

this is the funniest thing i've seen on the internet in forever. thanks caitlin for the recommendation!!!

failblog

oh, and this is not a fail - it's a win!

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

the beauty of really awfsome things

have you heard the term "awfsome?" as in, that is so awful that it's awesome.
but it's not enough to be awful. something has to be SO awful that it heads all the way around to awesomeness.

thanks to sr. mexicant's blog, i have some truly awfsome album covers to share with you. enjoy! i hope you have a super-great day!


Monday, August 31, 2009

fun with quentin, hitler, and the bear jew

is he a goober? yeah. big nerd. big-chinned big nerd.
is he a cut-and-paste borrower/mash-up d.j. of films and genres and language? yes.
can his films contain elements that are cute and self-referencing? yes.
does he just plain like violence and blood? yeah, the man does. sometimes i get grossed out.

but quentin tarantino can tell a story. and enjoy it. and bring audiences into it. and inglourious basterds is a really, really well-told story. and it's, i dunno, quieter than some other tarantino films. which i think is good, a mature sign; the movie isn't in any hurry - because as it goes along, there is a cliff ahead, and so why rush? the whole thing is headed over the edge anyway; but i felt like i was in good trustworthy hands as i was tumbling. which is all i ask for in a movie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

here's one of my very very very favorite poems

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty

and scared. Don't open the door to your library

and begin studying. Pick up your musical instrument.


Let the beauty we love, be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.


- Jelaluddin Rumi, 13th-century Persian poet and mystic, and all-around Jesus-y man

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It Was An Honor, You Crazy Girl


Olivia, the Tiny. then, Olivia, the Shy Cat. then Olivia, the Sassy. then, Olivia, the Queen. Olivia, the Old Lady. Olivia, the Slow But Still A Badass.
and now - Olivia, in cat heaven. we were with her for 15 and a half years. i brought her home, one of a litter of kittens cared for by a friend from our then-church. when our kids were six and three. now they're 21 and 18. olivia wasn't named yet; my wife named her. she said she didn't know why "olivia" fit her - but it felt right.
from the beginning, olivia was shy. which is tough when you're a kitten among big expressive people like the Diamonds and the folks who'd come by. olivia would act like she was just sniffing you, then pause, then hiss and swat at you. and the she'd run off.
we're not sure what the kid in the famiy who gave olivia to us had done with the kittens born in his house, but the story we heard was that he, also a very young child, had tossed the kittens against the walls. so, there's that. but, she was just shy. kept to herself.
didn't come and get in your lap if you called her. didn't do ANYTHING if we asked her to. no tricks, no obedience. but she wasn't wild, or mean. she was just her own girl. so, we often called her the queen.
but it was funny because she was little and skinny.
she loved bling; she wore a collar. when her collar would get worn out, and we'd get her a new one, she'd stretch out her neck and let us put it on her. like a rock star being dressed for a show.
but when she wanted to be close to us, or when she was cold, she'd walk over casually, and jump up into our laps, and allow us to pet her. and, depending on whom she'd decided to sleep next to that month, when it was bedtime, she'd jump up into that person's bed and snuggle tight up against them.
she hissed, we figured, because she was scared. if you'd been tossed against walls in your deeply formative years, wouldn't you be? so, she didn't like strangers. but she liked us.
she didn't make messes or tear things up; that'd be beneath her. but she would jump up on the kitchen counter if there was chicken or whipped cream.
last week there was whipped cream.
she'd felt bad for a few years; turns out that, like many older cats, her kidneys weren't good. the vet suggested a canned food that helped cats' kidneys work easier. he said she wouldn't live that long. but she didn't die. just a tough old girl.
then she leaped up to sneak some whipped cream, and fell off the counter, and broke her leg. turns out she had bone cancer. we didn't know. she must've been in pain, maybe a long time.
so we took her to the vet and decided to euthanize her - the other option was to cut off her leg. but the vet said she wouldn't heal.
we told our college-age children to come say goodbye if they wanted to, and they did, and then we took her and held the queen. and said goodbye. she went quickly and quietly. she was ready.
so, we miss her. we kept her latest collar. and lately when i look up at clouds, i think they are whipped cream, and queen olivia doesn't have to sneak bites of it anymore. although she probably does because it's more fun.
but olivia mellowed out, too.

Monday, August 17, 2009

off we go

it's a strange and sad and beautiful and joyful thing to launch my daughter into the world of college and young adulthood. i am remembering having the same experience with my son three years ago; i wanted him to be safe, to be happy, to adjust, to make friends, to settle in, to do well, to feel good, to find his way. i also knew that part of that process is in the bumps and bruises that will show up. they do. that's part of it. i know that, too, about myself, and my own continued launches into the next thing i'm to learn or to experience, the next lesson, the next joy, the next bump, the next loss, the next awareness, the next misstep, the next epiphany. i thought at some point i'd acquire some level of "there-ness." as in, okay, i'm there. but that's a foolish thought. it's not the truth. it's not real. even though i know there's a part of me - and all of us, i think - that seeks that sense of having figured at least SOMETHING out.
here's the beauty: when i stop and breathe and relax, i realize that i have figured many many many things out. i've accepted a lot. i know how to do some things. i even know sometimes when to rest in something and feel confident and peaceful. and yet - i still want to learn. to grow. to lose some things and to gain some things. it doesn't stop. nor should it. the road goes ever on and on. and that's good.
so, that helps me as i watched my daughter meeting her new roommate, and settling into her dorm, and meeting her R.A., and walking around the campus, and becoming a Pirate. it felt ... right. it felt good. it's time.
that doesn't mean there's not huge sadness in my heart, because of course there is, just as when my son left for school, just as when i let one thing go in order to become something else. but it's not loss; it's a passing; and it's good; and it's time; and whatever comes will be part of her path, and my path.

and, too, it's fun. as my wife and daughter and i were hanging out yesterday afternoon in her now-decorated-and-moved-into dorm room, the suitemates next door came in and asked our daughter, "Do you want to come hang out with us?" and she said, "Okay, y'all can go. I'm going to go hang out with the girls." and it was a good launching. we weren't just launching her; she was launching us.

off we go!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

i have a total crush on flo



the progressive insurance girl.

is that wrong?


Monday, August 10, 2009

if you don't know about landover baptist church .org - you're missing out on some beautiful satire ...


Source: www.landoverbaptist.org
God once shaved every single hair off the bodies of his female followers without using a razor because some gals in town were wearing bells on their toes and walking funny.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

little baby steps into a big thing

i'm having blood drawn in the morning. i don't mind. the place i go has great people who take a few vials prettypainlessly. and i've got big veins. big fat ones. so, i'm lucky. one phlebotomist years ago told me i'd make a good junkie since my blood vessels are so easy to stick with a needle. so i've got that goin' for me, which is nice.
i've been watching what i eat for many months now, and have kept my weight pretty stable, though i still don't really watch out, and i can feel it when i eat a bunch of crappy food. no good.
i started exercising in the mornings seven weeks ago and THAT was AWFUL. i have never - and i mean never - exercised before in my life. no athletics in high school or college. p.e. class in high school, but we didn't exercise - just did basketball or track randomly. i took intramural badminton as a p.e. class, but that doesn't count. and i don't guess my college bowling class counts either.
throughout my adult life i've tried a couple of times to "get into shape," which is a before-you-even-start-you're-doomed thing to say - i mean, what does that even mean? it's not exactly a measurable goal. but i always quit pretty quickly anyway. i always hated running. i hated doing pushups and all that.
but i just have felt for a long time - with much encouragement from people who care about me - to start moving my body. i was scared. but i finally, finally, finally signed up at the little fitness place on the corner of our neighborhood, and a friend joined too, and another friend had just joined not long before that - and now we're there early in the mornings. it was awful that first couple of weeks. i hated it.
now i love it. something broke through. it FEELS good - in my body and in my soul. i sweat. i push myself. i hurt. it's good.
but it was so so so so so scary to walk into that gym the first time.

i think this is what happens with people who are afraid to do spiritual work. it seems overwhelming - god? jesus? church? getting spiritually fit? the bible? completely intimidating. i grew up going to church so it's never been that big a deal to me - sort of like the people who grew up physically active, for whom working out or running or whatever isn't scary.
it makes me happy, then, that i'm part of a faith community that welcomes people on purpose - not a passing of the peace but a serious effort to help people feel at ease, not just when they walk in the first time, but that they are welcome as they are, with all their questions, whether they know jack shit about the bible or doctrine or anything like that, or they don't, or they don't even care.
we're not a bunch of people showing off how buff our souls are.
we're much more like the schlubs at Average Joe's ...


anyway, i hope when i have my checkup with my doctor, my cholesterol is better. should be ... but either way ...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

smells like central texas


growing up, we moved all over texas. but the roots that i always connected with a home i never had, were in my mother's hometown of
lampasas. lampasas is up highway 183 from austin by an hour and a half or so. it's a small town. much smaller in the 60's when i used to visit my granny. my blood-grandfather died in world war II; granny, my mother's mother, remarried a few years later. that man, don, was the granddady i knew. he died when i was eight or nine or ten. so granny had a boyfriend after that, though she wouldn't get married. i think she was superstitious. her boyfriend from then on was johnny, who lived on a big ranch outside lampasas.
i remember a zillion things about lampasas, and granny's house, and johnny's ranch. but all those years we moved around, and then for all the years until we moved to austin, there was one thing that took me back instantly to granny's house, and johnny's ranch, and granny's back yard, and hancock park. big oak trees. and sycamore trees. hot sycamore trees. summertime sycamore trees have a specific smell. powerful. beautiful.
(granny's garage had a very specific smell, too, which was great - she was a neat freak and her garage was very clean. but it had the smell of her lawn mower, and her ford ltd and cigarettes. cool.)
(i also loved the smell of a skunk on the road - not because it smells good, but because i smelled it so many times driving between granny's house and johnny's ranch.)
central texas soil has a specific smell too. and the air does. and it's good. even in crowded, ever-growing cedar park, north of austin, where our house is, the smell of the air is specific central texas. beauty.
through the years, as we moved from north texas to outside houston to far south texas to the coast to the plains to east texas, when i'd come back anywhere near lampasas, i'd breathe deeply and feel like my soul was home. i'd remember instantly. i'd see. i'd relax.

we've lived in austin for eight years this month, and when we first moved here, i would just step outside and breathe. smell central texas. i'd smell the live oaks and the mesquites and the scrub cedars and, around the corner, the sycamores.
but ... i find that i now keep forgetting. i'm used to it. it's just life. i've got errands to run and things to do. i step outside and realize i need to mow the lawn or take out the trash or get the mail. i don't have time to - well, you get it.

i remembered, a few days ago. i walked outside, with other things on my mind, and stopped. i breathed. it's hot right now and i felt it. i remembered. i smelled the air, the air all around my house and my neighborhood and my suburb. and i relaxed. the lampasas river and granny's back yard with perfect grass, and a skunk on the highway, and hot sycamore trees, a beautiful morning listening to doves. i remember cowboy hats and horses, and granny's jersey from her Medarts Service Station softball team, and the cold water in the city spring-fed pool, and white-limestone dirt, and mamaw and granddaddy milo's old white clapboard house, and pecan trees, and storm's drive-in ... and i feel my heart again ...

breathe.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

i see the entire situation perfectly clearly; why do you ask?



These contractors are installing the steel pillars in concrete to stop vehicles from parking on the pavement outside a Sports Bar downtown. They are now in the process of cleaning up at the end of the day.
....... How long do you think it'll be before they realize where they parked their truck?

thanks maria for sending this ... it's a good reminder ... get out of your own way ... how hard are you looking at the situation and not even seeing what's going on? are we so focused on what we think is the task at hand, that we don't see the larger picture?

Friday, July 17, 2009

climb off the dead horse already

here's a post from a website "change through action," which helps businesses. my sister sent me the post and i cracked UP! so did she.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. But in modern business (and education and government) because heavy investment factors are taken into consideration, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including the following:

  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Threatening the horse with termination.
  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living-impaired."
  8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
  10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.
  11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
  12. Declaring that the dead horse carries lower overhead and therefore contributes more to the bottom line than some other horses.
  13. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
  14. And, as a final strategy: Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
aaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa

SO ... what are the live horses you're riding - and what are the dead ones? and why aren't you jumping off and getting on with it? i know, i know - you've invested a lot. you have identification with what the dead horse was like when it was alive. it's hard to give up the dream. it hasn't turned out the way you wanted, and you think if you just hang in there, or work harder, or somehow reinvigorate things, it will be alright.
is it a dead horse? get off of it and get moving some other way. and maybe it's only a dead horsefor you - and for other people it's still just right - okay then. let them do their thing. you do your thing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

i think i'll just say, See this movie.



alright. I'll add this:
to discover what it is that we're called to do, is difficult enough work. blocking out all the other voices in the world and in our heads. stepping up. listening.
but carrrying out what we're called to do, when it's a challenge - that's truly hard.

for me, that's a huge part of what this movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is about - at least, for me. (It's also about teenage love, and growing up, and all that stuff.) What does it mean to serve one's calling? what does it mean to do what is right? what does it mean to stand up to what destroys and harms people, even at the risk of one's own safety?

go see it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

some excerpts from the guide to life, “How Not To Follow Jesus”

#5:

Say prayers that sound important.

#99:

Worry that you're not the absolute beloved of God.

#108:

Worry.

#2:

Refuse to trust that Jesus knew what he was saying when he told us to look at flowers and get some perspective.

#38:

See other people as objects.

#239:

Know Jesus' story about how the fool said to himself, 'I will build a bigger barn' … and build a twenty-million-dollar worship center anyway.

#41:

Speak with hatred or disgust about, or to, a human being. As in, “God hates fags” or “Terrorists deserve to rot in hell” or “That bitch!” or “I’m a fuckin’ loser!”

#4:

See other people as “the” whatever – “the poor,” “the homeless,” “the enemy,” “the rich,” “the conservatives,” “the Christians,” “the Muslims,” “the hypocrites.”

#809:

Belong to a church and be an asshole at the same time.

#410:

Act with cruelty or selfishness toward things or people that you perceive as weaker than you are. Children, old people, animals, family members, “those less fortunate.”

#9:

Hoard.

#504:

See yourself as less than.

#70:

Make it all make sense.

#26:

Refuse to throw the net on the other side of the boat. Even when – or especially when – you’ve caught nothing all night. And you know all about fishing. Or life management. Or whatever you think you know all about.

#190:

Give up wrestling with the question about what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.

#59:

Believe that what you own will make you happy.

#792:

Refuse to believe that your birth was miraculous.

#6:

Give up. (Not to be confused with Letting Go.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

postsecrets

one of the greatest websites ever is www.postsecrets.blogspot.com. it fills me with so much joy and pain and beauty and compassion. people send in their secrets - whatever they choose - on postcards, anonymously. the coordinator/originator of the site, frank warren, then photographs/scans their messages and posts them on the site. people share little snippets of their souls, some of which are funny, and some of which are painful to read, and some of which are tiny moments of awareness that each woman or man is passing along.
many of them are things that "good christians" would never talk about. hence, my being not a good christian - because as john wesley said, the world is my parish, and these are real people in this world who are dealing with real life. and, too, these are things which the people i know - good christians or not good christians or not christians at all - all feel and experience in one way or another. in secret.
i emailed frank warren a few years ago and thanked him for the site, telling him that i'm a pastor of a funked-out faith community in austin texas that has no idea what it's doing except encouraging people to be real with each other and with god. frank warren is not a christian - but i assured him that his website is a beautiful example of the sacrament of confession and pardon.
in 2007, i posted a video someone had made about postsecrets. the website just gets better and better.
here are a few samples:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

i can't tell what i think about this ...


is jesus strong? hella strong.
if jesus is a bodybuilder with a sacred heart superhero emblem on his chest, that's just weird.

or, this is just that jesus is a badass, in which case, hallelujah.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

not really more than meets the eye

i don't have any interest in discussing whether Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a good movie in cinematic terms. i think it's best to assess a film based on what the film is attempting to accomplish. a small dramedy can be brilliant and still be small. it's not Titanic; it's not trying to be. (for a brilliant small dramedy, by the way, go see Away We Go.)
a popcorn movie can be just a popcorn movie, brain candy, escapism, whatever, and that's fine. it's fun!
of course, it's possible to be a popcorn movie and also be intelligent, and interesting, and have great character development, and a story that holds together, AND be lots of fun. as in, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Batman Begins or Titanic or Notting Hill or 3:10 to Yuma or Amelie or Pirates of the Caribbean [only the first one] or ...

here's what i want to note about Transformers 2.

1. there are no strong female characters in it. at all. Megan Fox plays the bimbo hot girlfriend ho-bag. there's the mother, who's ditzy and funny and looks crazy most of the movie, and she's endearing, like a 21st century Lucille Ball. so, she's not powerful. there's the temptress girl at college who is, of course, another ho-bag.
that's it. no women in leadership in the military or in politics. no female autobots that i saw, and if there are any, who can tell? no women professors at college. no women soldiers. (well, i did see one. she has one line.)

2. there are virtually no people of color who are strong. there's the african-american solider played by Tyrese. but no leaders in the military or politics. no one powerful enough to serve as a significant presence. there's the college roommate, who's hispanic, but he turns out to be a goofball.
there ARE two autobots who are ostensibly african-american. what's their job? comic relief. one is step-it and the other is fetch-it. or, one is amos and the other is andy. they're hollywood stereotypes of the silly, dumb black guy.

3. it's all about dicks. what are robots' giant arms and legs and rockets and missiles and lasers and swords and cars and trucks and jets and helicopters? what are the giant guns of the soldiers? what is the car that turns into a weapon? they're all phallic symbols, all the young-man's-disease of 21st-century hollywood showing off its adolescent culture's desire for empowerment. like teenage boys (and lots of grown men who are still just teenage boys inside) who are constantly swinging their machismo around, and engaging in the ancient ritual known as dick-stomping (mine's bigger! look at this stick/staff/sword/gun i carry! look at this car/jet/truck/boat i drive! look how far i can hit/throw/kick this ball! look how fast i can run/drive/aim and shoot! i'm bigger than you are! you're a jerk/nerd/loser! look at me! i'm a big boy!)

and that's why there are no strong women in the movie. the energy of the boy is intimidated by the energy of the strong woman. and, sadly, that's why the men of color are reduced to stereotypes and stooges: it's all about white adolescent boy energy. which, when the game is for white boys only, is wrong and anti-american.

i am all for good masculine running and playing ball and driving. i, in fact, drive a truck. and i love fishing and shooting guns and playing softball and golf and poker. those things of themselves are not the point.

the point is, this is a movie that has nothing to offer but adolescent white boys dick-stomping vicariously through gigantic toys. and it's not exactly what i hope 21st century culture is learning about what really matters, and what is worth living for.
however, if that's what you're into, go for it.

my wife and i saw it yesterday afternoon and it was fun. a little boring, but the robots were cool. and lots of shit blew up. so that's entertaining. although, after the hundredth explosion, which in this case would be the first five or six minutes, it can get a little old. and the movie is 2 1/2 hours long. just fyi.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

this was my first favorite michael jackson song.

the year i graduated from high school. come on! it's awesome!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

patient

all some people want and long for is a fairly simple answer with a clear right and wrong. they want borders. and they want to accept those answers and borders, and be at peace.
that's alright. jesus said that we must become like little children, who trust with simplicity.

all some people want and long for is to continue to chew on their faith and questions and answers, and to brood over them and watch them and question them.
that's alright. the name "israel" means "wrestle with god."

and it happens, too, that sometimes the desire for simple faith isn't so genuine. sometimes that desire for simplicity and clarity is really about fear and shadow, the reluctance to step out into mystery.
and it happens, too, that sometimes the desire for wrestling faith isn't so genuine. sometimes that desire for complex, wrestling faith comes from fear and shadow, the reluctance to trust.

god can work with any of that. because that's where we are. and how we got where we are is sacred. and this moment is sacred.
we got where we are because of our choices along the way - about what to do with the tools and roles we were given, and chose, and about how to face and deal with our pain, and about how to respond to what we were learning.
and god is in all things.

for decades i believed that god is thwarted by our refusal to be open and learn - the "hard heart." that this exercise of free will is the only thing god cannot penetrate.

but i think now that god knows that everything is temporary. and that the process of learning and healing and liberation does not ever have to end.
i know some doctrines say that god is not going to wait forever. but i don't believe that. i believe that god and love are neverending; it is we who do not want to wait forever.

and god is patient.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

what we do and what we think and what we become

this is a video of A. J. Jacobs talking about what he learned in his experiment detailed in his book The Year of Living Biblically. even if you don't have 17 minutes to watch it, let it run while you're working on something else and listen for what speaks to you. what spoke to me was his assertion that what we do with our actions and words has a huge effect on who we become, and how we think and feel. which is of course living as jesus talked about it - forgive, love, serve, pray, fight injustice ... even if you don't feel like it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

people people

i really genuinely like people. i find human beings fascinating and interesting, and the older i get, the more and more compassion i feel for every person i meet. even the assholes. they're just broken hopeful children of god, like everybody else. like me.

i draw a lot of energy and feel happy and in my power when i'm teaching and connecting to people, in large groups or small. it's what i was born to do, gifted to do. when the light goes ding in someone's head as they see or realize or embrace something that will give them insight and freedom, that's as good as it gets for me.
and yet, i don't really like talking on the phone much. and i don't like sitting in my office at the warehouse just to make small talk. part of that may be that the job i have is one that demands a lot of time and a lot of mental and emotional focus; it's not a 9 to 5 job; it doesn't have set hours at all; it's free-form and i have to be responsive to people and their needs as it comes up.

so maybe that's why i have to have time during the week and during each day just to be quiet. to read or do emails or listen to music or drive by myself. pray. breathe. not be available to anyone else - or to my own to-do list.

so, am i not a people person? i think i am. cuz i love 'em. but i have to be balanced or eventually i just hate people and want everyone to die.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

why america chose kris allen over adam lambert, or, we're still a bunch of nice puritan pioneers

here's a quick note in the washington post's online news update this morning, regarding why kris allen won american idol over adam lambert. adam lambert, who is not like other human beings; he's at the level of the great gods of rock and blues, already, at least in terms of his power as a performer and arranger. adam lambert, who is really in some ways beyond american idol's level. adam lambert, who ... didn't win. or did he? because - he's now the guy who "didn't win and when he's successful it's going to be great vindication." and, he will rule the world, so that's good.
anyway, re the reason kris allen won and adam didn't? here's the quick blurb in the post, and i think there's something to this.

Headlines: Kris Allen is your new American Idol, having won in an upset over the flamboyant rockerdude Adam Lambert. Lambert was so good that when he and Allen sang "We Are the Champions" with QueenFreddie Mercury's enormous shoes. And Mercury was only one of the all-time greats among rock-and-roll frontmen. Allen, on the other hand, could maybe fill Jack Johnson's flip-flops. He's got that light, easygoing style, sort of like Jason Mraz, who was one of about a bajillion guests on the show. He did a duet with Keith Urban, who seems like a heavyweight next to Allen. Lambert did his duet with KISS and just killed it. So what happened? Allen had the cute thing going on, whereas Lambert had guyliner and black nail polish on. Allen, the pride of Conway, Ark., is married to somebody who looks a little bit like Reese Witherspoon. The L.A. dude Lambert is, you know -- flamboyant. Allen seems like the kind of guy who'd help your grandmother with her groceries. Lambert might scare the bejeez out of nana. Never discount the power of the senior vote! And maybe the music-loving GOP strategist Todd Harris was onto something when he said yesterday: "You've got these more liberal elites who live on each coast, represented by Adam, and then Kris represents what those on the coast refer to as the flyover states." Though, you know, that John Mayer-ish brand of breezy pop-rock plays on the coasts, too. America loves the mellow. Anyway, the look of disbelief on Allen's face in the photo above says it all; he's as shocked as the rest of us. Or maybe he's just reacting to Queen Latifah's bodysuit during her duet with Lil Rounds or, perhaps, Fergie's hooker get-up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eddie Izzard on which animals made it

Eddie Izzard is one of our absolute favorite actors/comics/thinkers/historians/social commentators. Here's part of his retelling of the Noah and the Ark story. His question? How do you know which animals weren't good enough to be put on the ark?
This man is wonderful. Brilliant. Smart. Gentle.
and, yes, he's a transvestite. Which makes him even cooler.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

this is what journey is all about. and it's true for your tribe as well, whatever it is.

you may not have 17 minutes to watch this - although i wish you'd try to at least watch some of it - but even just skip through and see if there's something in here that reminds you of the tribal movements that matter to you - and the ones that, well, don't.
move from factory, to tv, to tribe. journey is a tribe with many tribes. and it's a movement. hallelujah.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

that awareness helps. a LOT.

so, i'm an ENFP. but that's not the only way to understand or categorize who i am as a person.
i'm also a native texan. i'm a male. i'm a first child. i'm a first grandchild. i'm a first son. i'm a product of families with patterns of addiction, emotional illness, sexual abuse, depression, borderline personality disorders, and dysfunctional dynamics. i'm a child of divorced parents. i was a child in the 1960s. i'm an american. my parents were both raised in texas. i have a younger sister. i have had one stepmother, three stepfathers, and more stepsiblings, seriously, than i can remember or name. my lineage includes stoneworkers, carpenters, farmers, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, engineers, and manual laborers. both of my parents were raised southern baptists. i am heterosexual. i lived in 18 different homes by the time i graduated from high school.
and so on.
all of these are factors that psychologists and personality tests and psychiatrists and self-help tools would take into consideration.
none of these are factors that a biblical understanding of the human experience would be aware of.
none of these are factors that would be apparent to someone just having a conversation with me.

i didn't see how a number of these factors had worked together in my childhood and youth and young adulthood had contributed to the person i was becoming. i didn't know birth order had an effect on the kind of person i would become. i didn't know emotional illness and depression and addiction in my ancestors had an effect on the kind of person i would become. i didn't know that it was part of an ENFP to want to learn everything, and not to process details, and to avoid conflict, and to be naturally adept at interacting with people, and to be prone to internalize negative feedback.
but throughout my adulthood i've been learning more and more how these things aren't just pieces of data, but that each one had an effect on my work habits, or the way i saw myself in relation to girls or boys, or how i handle stress, or how i understand love and sex and ambition and illness.

i just thought i was responsible for everything that i felt, and everything that i chose, and that when i failed or made mistakes - or when i FELT i had failed or made mistakes - it was because i was (and my labeling or understanding at the time depended on what phase of my life i was in) a sinner, lazy, a fuckup, weak, stupid, ADD, male, not working hard enough, or just not getting it.
i'm aware, now, that there are an uncountable number of components that contributed to the the kind of person i've become, many of which i had no control over, and many of which told me things that weren't true.

and that awareness helps. a LOT.
i don't feel so crazy. i don't beat myself up so much. i mean, i still do, but not nearly as much as i did for years and years.
and knowing these same sorts of things about my wife and about other people helps me see them not through the lenses of my experience and models and expectations, but as people with their own lists and their own models and their own stories and their own truths. and so i honor them, and seek to understand them, and have compassion for them.
which comes from honoring and understanding and having compassion for myself.

you have your own list like this one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

from the blog called Inhabitiato Dei

i really like what this very committed christian has to say.

Dave Horstkoetter has plunked up a disturbing YouTube video of a neocon hack opining that Christianity and torture are just all hunky dory with one another. No surprise there of course. What is surprising is the fact that the whole discussion over there has turned into a goofy little kerfuffle about whether or not it’s really “Christian” to denounce endorsing torture while…uttering the F-word.

Leave it to us Christians to make conversations like this.

However, in the interest of settling this debate once and for all, I have a syllogism for us. Given that nearly all Protestants and certainly all evangelicals affirm Luther’s theological genius, especially his famed “theology of the cross”, let’s start there. Thesis 21 of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation states that “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.” I’m sure we can all agree on this point. Thus…

P1: Theologians of the cross ought to name things, events, and persons in accordance with what they actually are.

P2: Some things, events, and persons can only be truthfully described as fuckdragons and assclowns.

C: Ergo, the use of profanity is not only permissible, but essential for anyone who claims to be a theologian of the cross.

ENFP

so, you've maybe heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? there are a zillion different personality inventories out there. body humors. four temperaments. DiSC. lion-beaver-otter-golden-retriever. and on and on and on. i am fascinated by, and convinced that it's important to understand, ways to understand human beings' personalities. if there are at least some general trends or observations that can help me get a handle on how someone works or what tendencies s/he will have in the way s/he communicates, or makes decisions, or processes emotions and experience? hell yes, i want to know.
my favorite quote related to my life's mission is from thomas jefferson:

"i have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the minds of men [and women]."

for me, when i become more self-aware, without judgment, with compassion, and i am therefore able to be more present not only to myself but to others, the universe is already more healed, more whole, and more able to create good and peace and courage. my work as a teacher is to awaken other people to awareness - about themselves, mostly, and also about the world around them. to the beauty within and around them - and to the systems, or institutions, or fears, or attitudes, or machines, or paradigms, or practices, that are designed as enemies of beauty and wholeness and healing.
so, if i can know more about myself and other people? hell yes, i want to know.

i'm an ENFP. finding this out was absolutely no shock to me whatsoever.

my wife is an INFJ. when she and i read the descriptions and data around INFJ personality types, it was fascinating to see how we both opened up to what we'd always known about her, but weren't sure how to put it into words, or see it in any objective sense. INFJ is a complex personality type. but she and i have been married 25 years this coming july - and we are still learning about each other, and how to be together in healthy and healing and creative ways that enrich ourselves and each other and the world around us.

the point for me is that learning about myself and other people gives me more ability to care about them, understand them, accept them. the same goes for my self-care, self-understanding, and self-acceptance. it's all about learning and seeing. awareness. and then there's even more ability to fight against anything that tyrannizes the minds of men and women. set 'em free.

it's funny - i just realized we did, for some months this Spring and during the season of Lent, a personality-typing experience together at journey ifc.

as our therapist janettee henderson says, it's all about awareness, acceptance, and then action.
here's to awareness.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

holy holy holy

here are some images from the journey easter prayer vigil. two journeyers who went into the prayer space on their turn have chosen to share part of what they experienced.

don't hurry.

theaustinoriginal's

simplegestures'

happy post-easter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

breaking the fast


i decided in december 08 that i would fast from buying clothing for the first three months of 09. it wasn't that big a deal - i don't buy many clothes, and never anything very fancy. but it helped me notice - which is what fasts are for.
i like to go by walmart or old navy and see if there's something on sale. i like to have a few extra pairs of blue jeans (since that's pretty much the only pants i wear). i like to have plenty of white socks (since that's pretty much the only socks i wear). i like to have plenty of boxers. i also like fun long-sleeved shirts to wear at journey worship gatherings. but i never buy anything very fancy, and never anything very expensive. so, again, it's not as if i fasted from, say, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. THAT would be difficult.
and yet it was fascinating to me for those three months to notice that i was doing something different with that energy, and attention, and time, and money, rather than buying clothes - albeit simple clothes.
i'm not even sure what i did instead. except that after a week or so of noticing that when i went to walmart, i didn't browse through the clothes or shoes, and i didn't go by old navy to look in their clearance section.
and i noticed how much i like the clothes i already have.
and i noticed that there were a lot of clothes that i don't like, and don't wear or don't wear very often, so i gave them away. without even minding for a moment.
this spring at journey we're doing something called "journey 2.0," in which we're all looking at how we follow jesus together as a faith community and as individuals. and giving up stuff is part of that process. i mean, seriously, we're the richest nation in the world - maybe in the history of the world, even with adjustment for inflation and cultural developments. do we really need all this shit we own? absolutely not.
it felt really, really good to let go. travel lighter. go easier.

and then it was over, and it was april 1. and it was time to buy some clothes. my wife said, "do you need to buy clothes? you haven't minded getting rid of clothes. are you sure you need to do this?"
i wasn't even interested in buying anything. i had no desire. but i believe it's important to break a fast. to celebrate the time i've spent in attending to that decision. and then to interrupt the pattern.
more attention.

i went to a store for some other errand. i walked around the men's clothes. i could've gone to the mall - to drive the point home to myself, because i hate going to the mall - but i decided to take a simple step. it was a store i was going to anyway. but i had it on my mind to buy something.
i bought a shirt. a short-sleeved shirt that would be good to have this summer. i didn't want to buy anything - but it was a good shirt, it was on sale, and it was a smart purchase.
i let it sit there on the chair in our bedroom for a day or two. showed it to my wife. looked at it.
it's just a shirt. but it meant something. attention. awareness. openness. letting go. pretty much all that's required for following jesus.

i now am going to be looking for some workboots with steel toes to replace the ones i've had forever, with torn-open toes that aren't as safe as they should be when i'm working outside or building stuff.
no hurry.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

hope is the thing with feathers

because emily dickinson is wonderful - and because she was such a badass, and had hope, even in the midst of life just not being tidy or easy. and when i forget to hope, because i am tired or all up in my head, or angry, or sad, and not letting myself feel or be awake, here is emily, a reclusive spinster genius whose times did not acknowledge her absolute genius as a poet and thinker and whose suitors didn't stick and whose family didn't understand her ...
and we live in what feels like a "sore storm" and yet the bird keeps singing if we listen. and it won't ask a crumb.

254

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of Me.


"god and nature - i neither knew" she wrote. but she was lying.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

honestly, i don't get it

i was born and raised, and have made a living and raised my children, and built a life, in the richest country in the world. the richest country by far. maybe the richest and most materially successful country ever, including throughout history - even if adjusted for inflation, technology, etc.
i have absolutely no way to understand this.
i've been to, and worked in missions and relief work in, very poor places.
i care deeply about issues of social justice and care for the oppressed.
i know that rampant materialism and consumerism and greed are incredibly toxic.

i am frustrated by the wireless internet at my house cutting in and out while i'm reading something on the internet. i get sad that my children's choices in which colleges to go to are complicated. i'm overwhelmed by my to-do list of shopping and errand-running.

my wife and the women's study groups at journey are reading Three Cups of Tea; she was telling me a few days ago about how the men and women in this story, who live in Pakistan, are very willing to suffer and live what we would consider an unimaginably hard life ... and yet, they persevere, and have joy and hope, and work extremely hard. as in, carrying building supplies uphill all night, singing as they go, to help with the construction of a school.

i'm not romanticizing simplicity or the good old days. ask anyone who was there; the good old days weren't particularly cute or easy. and contemporary culture has given us modern medicine. and mass communication. and travel. and literacy. and awareness around mental and emotional illness, and family dysfunction, and abuse.
it's not an either/or. i'm not even saying the culture in which we live isn't healthy.

what i'm saying is, i grew up here. i don't know how to appreciate it fully. i want to. i want not to miss what a miracle it is. even though it has huge flaws and drawbacks - i live in the richest country in the history of the world, with the most resources, and the greatest possibilities and options. i want to pay attention to what an awareness of that, even a small one, can help teach me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

we must be doing something pretty right

check out this post from a person who goes to churches in the austin area, in cognito, and experiences their worship - and then writes about impressions, feelings, insights, etc.
here's what this person said about a recent visit to journey worship.

austingospel.blogspot.com re journey ifc worship

Thursday, March 12, 2009

my sweetie

sometimes it's just nice to look at pictures of people you love.
here's my wife.
yeah, she's beautiful.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

beautiful and terrible


for a few weeks, i've been looking at this painting of an angel speaking into joan of arc's ear. i'm not sure what it is about the painting that is so moving to me, but it speaks into my ear. there are artists whose work do this to me - 20th century southern fiction writer flannery o'connor; bach (thanks dave madden); 20th century american painter georgia o'keeffe; irish rock band u2; 19th century american poet emily dickinson; the biblical books of Genesis and Jeremiah and Mark. when i read, or look at, or listen to, this art, I can feel it: something mysterious is happening, and this art is so honest about the human experience that it's no longer just human. the poem, or short story, or painting, or song, slips into a place where the spiritual, the beyond-this-world, the god-in-this-moment, is present.

what is it about this painting? is it that we know joan's story, and she ends her life burned at the stake by a fearful political-religious empire? or is it that we can see that she is, in this moment, no longer anchored in the life in which the rest of us live? or is it that we’ve sensed that it’s both beautiful and terrible to be whispered to by the angels? or maybe it's knowing that i've felt those moments, too, and that they always fuck my life up and invite me into those beautiful and terrible spaces, and i'm never quite safe again?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Everything is amazing, nobody is happy...

everybody must watch this! we need some perspective! hello!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

because kate winslet is perfection

i was so, so, so thrilled that kate winslet won the oscar sunday night. i watched in a bit of a stupor, as i had returned from the journey men's retreat only a few hours before that, and the academy awards is a long show. (this year's, by the way, was one of the best ever - the production design, the way the acting awards were presented, hugh jackman as host, etc. So, that helped me stay awake. but barely.)

but kate winslet - heavens. just perfection in "the reader." even though melissa leo was strong and powerful in "frozen river," and anne hathaway was brilliant and scary in "rachel getting married," and angelina jolie was strong and not-very-movie-glamory in "changeling" and meryl streep is - well - meryl streep, kate winslet is an actor who can do about a zillion things, and in all of them, radiate vulnerability and hope and loss and complexity all at once.
look at her other oscar-nominated performances, all of them different, all of them complicated, all of them powerful:
"sense and sensibility"
"titanic"
"iris"
"eternal sunshine of the spotless mind"
"little children"
and now - "the reader." and that's not counting the roles for which she's won other awards, including this year's "revolutionary road," which i just haven't been able to make myself watch yet. "finding neverland." "quills."
yeah, i've got a big crush on her - which is entirely sanctioned by my wife. and a bit shared by my wife, actually. although my wife's girl-crush is natalie portman.
let's all accept it: kate winslet is the total shit.
David Edelstein of New York Magazine hails her as "the best English-speaking film actress of her generation."

here is the hilarious video of kate winslet on "extras" ...

Monday, February 16, 2009

someone to watch over me

i think it must be true that all human beings are, in some ways, deep down scared. why? because in all the storytelling and mythologies, including our own in 2009, there are stories that include:
  1. innocent/powerless/small people;
  2. boogeymen/monsters/murderers/thieves;
  3. protectors who look after us.
the protector stands in the scary in-between place, on behalf of the people.
there are lots of other kinds of stories - this is just one kind of story, but human beings keep telling it over and over and over in millions of iterations. if you started to list the movies and tv shows and books and fairy tales and comics you know, how many would you come up with? (post 'em if you want and we'll compare notes.)
in "taken," liam neeson is the protector. his daughter is abducted. he goes to rescue her.
that's pretty much it.
so why do we care? because look at this poster:


i'm sorry, but that's just HOT. it makes me happy inside. i want the man or woman, god, friend, whatever, who has agreed to protect me, to bring that kind of clarity and purpose and resolve.
plus, liam neeson isn't someone to be trifled with. don't kidnap his daughter.

whether it's westley in "the princess bride," who refuses to let go of true love and fights for it, or beowulf or king arthur who fight for the good of the people, or clint eastwood fighting for the little band of misfits at the end of "the outlaw josey wales," or clarice starling in "the silence of the lambs," or batman and superman. or the woodsman who comes and kills the wolf that's eaten little red rider's grandmother. or the smart and upright town marshall in the old west.
(i would name the person who kills Freddy Krueger or Jason or Michael Meyers but i don't watch those slasher movies so i don't know who kills them - but then, it isn't working, with all the sequels, so why honor him/her?)

whoever it is, the protector does something those around her/him cannot do: be willing to sacrifice her/himself for the good of those being protected. and there are parts of me that feel strong, parts of me that feel secure, and parts of me that feel terrified, or stuck, but what will i do, god? i'm facing terror and challenge and uncertainty.
Well, god says, tell me a story about that part of yourself that is strong. make it look like you.
and so we create the story of the hero.

the protector's job is to give us hope. we read the story and the boogeyman seems less imminent.

when we're young, we need bigger people than us to watch over us. but as we grow up, it becomes time for us to step up into our own power. some days we do, some days we don't. we can remain victims forever, and rely on protectors or circumstances or money (another protector!) or control to keep us insulated from danger. but thre is, ultimately, no avoiding danger, or loss, or death, or weeping. and superman can't be everywhere.

so, it's up to me. that's maturity. that's growing up.
the tribal hero/protector/my-own-personal-jesus/triumphant cowboy-woodsman-knight-avenger is ultimately not a symbol of anyone else; it's a story told about what is inside me, waiting to be grown up enough and strong enough to take the job.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

one's own creation

Here's a quote from the Dalai Lama.
the opening, about gossip, is only an example for his main point. read it and reel with head-expanding energy.

If you know that someone is speaking badly of you behind your back, and if you react to that negativity with a feeling of hurt, then you destroy your own peace of mind. One's pain is one's own creation. One should treat such things as if they are wind behind one's ear. In other words, just brush them aside. To a large extent, whether or not one suffers pain depends on how one responds to a given situation. What makes a difference is whether or not one is too sensitive and takes things too seriously.

that can't be right, can it? my pain is my own creation, when it's connected to being so sensitive that i take things too seriously? i gotta go think some more ...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Harry Potter and the Brokeback Goblet

I'm sorry but this just made me laugh my ass off.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Read this. What are you and I doing with what we have?

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity International along with his wife, has died, officials said Tuesday. He was 74.

With his wife, Linda, Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity International in 1976.

The Alabama native rose "from humble beginnings" to become a "young, self-made millionaire," according to his biography on Habitat for Humanity's Web site. He and a college friend began a marketing firm while still in school, "but as his business prospered, his health, integrity and marriage suffered," the biography said.

"These crises prompted Fuller to re-evaluate his values and direction. His soul-searching led to reconciliation with his wife and to a renewal of his Christian commitment," it said.

The Fullers sold all their possessions, gave money to the poor and began searching for a new direction. They found Koinonia Farm, a Christian community near Americus in rural southwest Georgia, the biography said.

Along with Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan and a few others, the couple initiated several enterprises, among them a housing ministry that built modest homes on a no-interest, nonprofit basis and made them affordable to low-income families.

Homeowner families were expected to use their own labor to help defray costs on their home as well as homes for other families. Money to build homes was placed into a revolving fund, enabling more to be built, according to the biography.

In 1973, the Fullers moved to Africa to test their housing model, the biography said. Their project was launched in Zaire -- now the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- and was a success. "Fuller became convinced that this model could be expanded and applied all over the world," the biography said.

When Fuller returned to the United States three years later, he met with a group of associates to create Habitat for Humanity International. According to its Web site, Habitat has provided shelter for more than 1.5 million people in more than 3,000 communities.

"I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need," Fuller once said, according to Habitat's Web site.

Former President Jimmy Carter, a key Habitat supporter, fellow Georgian and a close friend, said that Fuller "used his remarkable gifts as an entrepreneur for the benefit of millions of needy people around the world by providing them with decent housing. As the founder of Habitat for Humanity and later the Fuller Center, he was an inspiration to me, other members of our family and an untold number of volunteers who worked side-by-side under his leadership."

In 1996, President Clinton awarded Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, calling Habitat "the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the United States."