30 December 2008

Schrödinger's hat

When my brother Sean and I were at our Mom's place in Charlotte over Thanksgiving, Mom brought out a few of Dad's things for us to take home, if we wanted. (Dad passed away this past April.) So I now have a small collection of items whose value is undoubtedly only sentimental - one of Dad's badges from work; a couple of Roman Catholic devotional medallions that were apparently given to Dad by a (high school?) girlfriend - along with a couple of items which may have monetary value, but which I have no intention of selling - Dad's dress watch; a ring with what might be an aquamarine stone.

But Mom also brought out a simple brown herringbone tweed cap, made in Ireland, which she had bought for Dad within the last few years. Dad really liked the cap. He wore it often, and it suited him - gave him a rather roguish look, actually, with his white goatee and the smartass twinkle in his eye.

So Sean and I had pretty much zero trouble deciding who should take any of the other items, but we both left the cap for last. When we got to it, we each tried it on. It fit us both perfectly. It looked good on each of us. Mom asked, If we had it, would we wear it? We both answered honestly: Yes.

So Mom suggested that we revisit the issue later, and we both agreed, and I didn't think much more of it beyond the ride home after Thanksgiving.

Then, on Christmas day, when all the other gifts had been opened, Mom brought out two identical-size, identically-wrapped boxes. She gave them to Sean and me, and we each opened one at random. Each box contained an identical brown herringbone tweed cap. Mom had bought another one from the same place where she'd gotten the original one for Dad. She'd weathered it using some secret, arcane, Moms-only weathering techniques. And she'd given one cap to each of us - with neither she, nor either of us, nor anyone else knowing which is the "real" one.

I suppose if we were to carefully examine them side-by-side, we might be able to make a strong guess. But we aren't going to do that. Barring that, it's kind of like "Schrödinger's hat": in absence of the paradox-resolving observation, the two mutually exclusive possibilities are both true: Sean has Dad's cap, and I have Dad's cap too.

And I think that's awesome. And I think my Mom so totally rocks. (And when we opened the boxes and I realized what she'd pulled off, I was pretty thoroughly overcome, but I covered it up by giving her a long bear hug and she didn't even know - but I told her later.)

And I really, really like my hat. Thanks, Mom, and thanks, Dad. Love you both.

I'm in ur interwebs hackin ur life

So this is another thing that I'm the last person on earth to find out about, but a big tip of the hat to Tony for pointing me at Lifehacker, o great font of wisdom that it is.

In just the last day or two that I've been following it, I've found all kinds of good ideas. To pick out just two, which I'm now using in a satisfied manner:

I heart Digsby. Bye-bye Pidgin (which is going the way of Trillian and AIM before it).

I heart foobar2000. Bye-bye WinAmp (following Windows Media Player and iTunes before it - though I still use both of those sometimes).

Lots of other good stuff there too, much of it non-computer-related. Check it out!

23 December 2008

WUMPSPASMs, gay folk, and Rick Warren


There's a big part of me that feels like I should just STFU when it comes to issues of oppression. Why? Because I am the oppressor. I'm a member of just about every privileged class there is. In college, because I realized that "WASP" doesn't begin to cover it, I even made up a new acronym for folks like me: WUMPSPASM. White, Unchallenged (Mentally and Physically), Straight, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon Males. Since then it has occurred to me that I could easily keep adding to that list, and always end up on the "Screw alls y'all, I got mine! Hee hee!" side of the equation. Nationality? American Empire. Check. Socio-economic class? The Haves. Check. Techno-empowered? Utter dweeb. Check. Etc., etc. You could maybe argue the "unchallenged (mentally)" because I have bipolar disorder, but it's managed by meds...so nope, I'm still among the privileged.

So who am I to say anything to my gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/queer sisters and brothers - and the progressive folk who stand in solidarity with them - about how they should react to President-Elect Obama's choice of Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration? Effin' nobody. Seriously, I get that. Who am I to ask them to reject the tools and methods of the oppressor - shunning, silencing, exclusion, etc. - in favor of the extension of grace and inclusion, even to a guy who uses those tools on you? I'm nobody, and worse than nobody - I'm a guy who was born with full access to those tools and more. It's easy for me to say, "turn the other cheek" - mine isn't bloodied. I'm the bloodier.

Still, FWIW, I'm grateful for Melissa E. and her approach to this difficult issue.

HT: The bald wise guy.

09 December 2008

The Great Emergence

I've never recycled my own tweet as a blog post before, but here, I think, is the best I can do in summing up the Great Emergence. That's the conference I just returned from. I'm pretty sure it changed lives. And I'm willing to go with Phyllis's intuition that it was a significant milepost in a phenomenon that, whether we like it or no, is changing the world.

Anyway, here's my tweet:

Mike asks, want to know what the Great Emergence is? See John 13:34-35, http://tinyurl.com/youtubestandbyme and http://tinyurl.com/moffshope

If you want to know more (and there is much more), email me or let's go out for coffee or beer or something. But that, I think, is the essence. From where I'm standing, anyway.

Peace, peace,
Croghan

photo from Doug Pagitt

29 November 2008

Pigs and chickens

This post is sort of a follow-on to my last one. It's a bit more on the organizational structures that I'm seeing emerge in both my day job and my church world (and how much they have in common), and it also explains why the comic strip at the top of my last post starred a pig and a chicken. In case you were wondering.

There's a software development methodology called Scrum. It's named after a play in rugby matches. I like it. I believe it works well, in some contexts. It's possible that some of those contexts have nothing to do with software development.

One Scrum concept is the idea of "pigs and chickens". The idea comes from this joke:

A pig and a chicken are walking down a road. The chicken looks at the pig and says, "Hey, why don't we open a restaurant?" The pig looks back at the chicken and says, "Good idea, what do you want to call it?" The chicken thinks about it and says, "Why don't we call it 'Ham and Eggs'?" "I don't think so," says the pig, "I'd be committed but you'd only be involved."

I've been reflecting on this in relation to church polity/leadership issues, and have come up with some tentative thoughts.

The first thought has to do with why I'm a dyed-in-the-wool congregationalist. I've long known that I feel strongly that church congregations ought to have very broad freedom in determining just about everything for themselves. One reason why I feel this way is this: the folks in the local congregation are "pigs", when it comes to issues of worship, leadership, ministry, discipleship, mission, etc. for that congregation in particular. Bishops, presbyteries, external trustees, denominational executives - anyone who aren't active members of the congregation - are inevitably chickens. And, well - screw you, alls y'all chickens. Not that I don't want to hear your voice - I do. You're welcome to be "involved". But the reality is you're only involved. The people living this thing every day are (hopefully) committed.

My next thought has to do with one reason I'm not a fan of "lay"/"clergy" distinctions. Take a congregation of 100 people. Let's say three of them are full-time paid clergy, and the rest are lay people. Three people (who happen to be the folks expected to lead this thing) are depending on everybody else for their livelihood, to put food on their family's table, not to mention their sense of vocation. They have a very vested interest in leading the congregation in such a way that ensures said food keeps heading toward said table. As for everybody else - well, they'll keep participating as long as it makes sense to them to do so. Now who's pigs, and who's chickens?

I'm just a big believer in two things, I guess: power to the pigs - and everybody in the barnyard is invited to put their bacon on the table.

photo by Kevin Hutchinson (rights)

25 November 2008

Self-organizing teams

Just a few words about self-organizing teams. This is the world I swim in: on my day job (especially singe we've started experimenting with Agile Software Development practices) and on my church life in the "emerging church" milieu.

As this article says, leadership is not obsolete in self-organizing teams! It's different, though, in that leaders are chosen by the team. Probably not democratically, either; instead, it's something more like consensus. Also (and this is key!) the leaders must be held accountable by the team. If they aren't needed in that role (or if they're even harmful to the team), they need to know it, and either adjust their patterns or find a different role. I can't emphasize enough how important that team accountability smackdown is to making this work.

And it's only under certain conditions that such a team dynamic is possible:
  • It needs to be a culture that truly values humility and service; not a highly-competitive culture.
  • It needs to be a culture in which the average team member truly feels empowered and envoiced.
  • It needs to be community of exceptionally high "quality" members. By "quality", I don't mean some kind of fundamental worth - all humans are made in God's image and likeness and hence are fundamentally of the very highest quality imaginable. I mean it in a very specific, utilitarian sense: people who are capable of making a real contribution to "the business at hand" ("BAH"), whatever that is. I would break that down even further to mean people who are:

    1. Gifted in ways that can directly contribute to the BAH.
    2. Not apathetic about the BAH - in some sense, they find it interesting and worth their while.
    3. Not completely self-centered; rather, they are concerned at some level with the common good.
I'm crazy-blessed that, in my church and work lives, I'm surrounded by people who are extremely high-"quality" in these ways, and part of cultures that very much meet those other criteria - cultures of humility and empowerment. It's dawning on me that I thrive in an environment like this, and would probably FAIL spectacularly in a different environment.

But just to say: not every culture, context, and environment is suited for Scrum, or for "emerging church". Not yet, anyway. Not until we take over the world. Muhahahahaha! ;-)

Code = Poetry


I was just reflecting on the strong commonalities between these two art forms: poetry, and code (i.e., computer programs). (If you don't think code is an art form, either you aren't a coder, or you are a coder and consider "art" to be a somewhat pejorative term.)

Both are, ideally, elegant and powerfully expressive applications of language.

Each form values both beauty (simplicity, elegance, etc.) and "correctness" (i.e., conforming to practical rules), though probably to differing degrees. A poem may perhaps be valuable if it is beautiful, but conforms to no rules. A program, in theory, may be valuable if it's correct, but ugly. I believe both cases are very rare.

Both are, by virtue of the process that creates them, greater than the sum of their parts (i.e., their words and characters). A good program accomplishes some practical task; a good poem evokes some emotional or spiritual response.

And other stuff, too.

That's all I have to say about that, today. :-) Here are some Perl poems, including:

# Perl Haiku by Bob Meyers

use strict; my @love;
my $wounds = open(FLAME, "of_passion");
foreach () {
push @love "fully";
}

And you can buy the shirt up top right here.

15 November 2008

Nexus

Likely this will fascinate nobody but me. But it fascinates me.

I probably have too many Facebook friends. I've made it a practice to accept friend requests from anybody who "friended" me, unless there was no discernable non-commerce-related reason why they would do so. For the most part, folks whom I don't know who friended me have been one degree of separation away, and part of the "emerging/missional church" conversations in some way shape, or form. It's seemed, well, unfriendly to ignore those friend requests, and so I haven't.

But over time I've gotten more requests from folks who are not just friends of friends, but friends of "friends", if you know what I mean - i.e., two or more degrees of separation away, connected to me only by other folks I don't really know that well, if at all. Still, I've tried to err on the side of "friendly", and it's actually been pretty interesting - seeing, through the status updates of folks I don't really know, what's going on in the Church in a wide variety of contexts. And also seeing frequent updates from chatty folks who rave or rant about things I really just don't need to know about. (Sorry. Luckily, Facebook has ways of regulating that without necessarily un-friending people.)

Anyway, now I have lots of "friends", intersecting with the rather more significant blessing of many real-life friends, many of whom are not, alas, on Facebook. But I'm fascinated with exploring how my Facebook friends relate to each other. Who are they friends with? What do they have in common? How do clusters of friends from different "spheres" of my life intersect? Who are the "bridge" people in my life? The picture afforded by Facebook is very imperfect, what with all the "friends" on FB that I don't really know, and all the dear friends in real life who aren't on FB. And also, lots of people who know each other in real life aren't the Facebook sluts that I am, and haven't necessarily friended one another. But anyway. This fascinates me.

And aiding in my fascination is this cool tool called "Nexus". Here's the link to the interactive version. I think you can access that without being me, my friend, or even a Facebook user, but in case I'm wrong, here's a less-enlightening flat version (click to embiggen):


And here's the flat version, annotated to mark out "clusters" of my friends:


See? I told you I was going to find that a lot more fascinating that you do. But if you use Facebook, you might find it interesting to generate your own graph.

10 November 2008

Wisdom

So like most of us us who were there, I think I'm going to be processing this past weekend in Philly for a while. But two of the things I'm chewing on most of all are these two quotes.

The first, from our guest of honor, the inimitable Peter Rollins (roughly paraphrased - who could keep up with the man's words?):

Whenever a circle is drawn defining insiders and outsiders, us and them - the Christian is the one who always steps outside that circle to identify with the outsiders.

(If anyone can improve my remembrance of that idea, please help. There will be a podcast, I think.)

The second quote is from Bob, our gracious host (we crashed at his house), a wise and unbitter escaped pastor:

Money almost always presupposes control.

I keep turning over and over those two ideas. Maybe eventually I'll make something of them.

DC Emergent Cohort - tomorrow, Tuesday the 11th

From Sara at the Cohort blog:
Hey - We will meet at 7pm at the Front Page Resturant on Dupont Circle in Tuesday November 11 to get the low down on the Emergent Mid Atlantic gather that took place over the weekend in Philly. Yours truly was not able to go, but I'm hoping that those of you who did (hint, hint) would be willing to give us and update of what happened, what was said, etc.

That "hint, hint" was partially directed at me, so if you attend, you may get to see me attempt to re-create the experience by imitating a manic, fast-talking, wildly gesticulating Irishman with more mind-bending, life-changing theological brilliance than two continents' worth of tweed-bound systematic theology profs.

But probably not.

06 November 2008

On having little to say


I used to blog a lot. March '08, not so long ago, was a banner month for my blogging output, in fact.

Now I don't blog so much. I was thinking, this morning, about why that might be. I think it's mostly because my thoughts of late - about church, theology, community, culture, etc. - are muchly in a swirl of speculation, and rarely seem to crystallize enough to warrant a blog post. It's been like this:
  • I do what I do (church stuff, family stuff, day job, etc.).
  • I think I perceive a pattern or something.
  • I have some conversations about it with friends.
  • I realize that the reality is more complicated than I was thinking.
  • The pattern grows indistinct.
  • I do not blog it. Return to first bullet point.
I think this is good. There's nothing bad about this. I'm learning, and listening, and tentatively experimenting. I've had phases like this before, and I feel like with all the cultural change that's swirling about us, this sort of thing is pretty appropriate right now. If you're paying attention, it becomes clear that "paying attention" is a good game plan these days. Or so it seems to me.

In other news, I switched feed readers. Sayonara, Bloglines - you've served me well. I may come back to you one day, but for now I'm lured by the siren call of Google Reader, with its much superior mobile interface, integration with Blogger, and general feature set.

Also, I'm proud of my country right now. I don't think I have crazy expectations, but it doesn't feel bad to indulge in some smile for this deeply flawed, idealistic human enterprise we call the USA, with its huge potential for good, as well as evil.

Peace.

02 November 2008

Next Northern VA Cohort gathering - tomorrow (Monday) night in Falls Church

From the NoVA Cohort Blog:

Time:
November 3, 2008 at 8pm
Location: Starbucks at Falls Plaza
Organized By: Northern Virginia Emergent Cohort

Event Description:
So we're hoping that we can get a good showing this coming Monday night for a conversation. Our friend Mike C. has proposed a couple conversations and I think one of them is perfect for this coming Monday.

"The Emerging Church in [McCain/Obama]-led America"


We are changing locations to hopefully draw a few more people. We will be meeting at:

Starbucks at Falls Plaza
1218 W Broad St, Falls Church, VA‎ - (703) 534-3111
8pm, Monday, November 3, 2008

Orange Line Accessible - West Falls Church Station

16 October 2008

Evangemergent


(Note: The diagram above, IMHO, is BS. I love it when people draw "orthodox Christianity" in such a way as to exclude the VAST majority of Christians who would fit traditional definitions of orthodoxy. But it is BS that was helpful to someone, so yay.)

(Note #2: OK, Stav, fine, here's the blog post you made me promise to write.) ;-)

So: lots of folks in the Emergent world have been a-twitter over the new network being formed by some folks who have been active participants in Emergent Village and the wider "emerging church" conversation. The concern, I think, has been along the lines of: "Why? Why a new network? Why not stay committed to the one we've got? The diversity of the existing conversation is its strength!"

But to me, it just seemed like a natural thing. In many ways, the new network seems like it's just "Evangemergent". It's a network of folks who are, de facto and by association, part of whatever this "church that is emerging" is becoming - but who don't want to give up on some of the cherished distinctives of their traditional background.

In that sense, it's like the denominational networks that Phyllis Tickle calls the "hyphenateds", such as Anglimergent (Anglican and Emergent), Presbymergent (Presbyterian and Emergent), Luthermergent (g'wan, guess), etc. Just as the folks in those networks are part of this emerging thingamajig, but don't want to give up on the structures, organizations, and traditions of their denominations, the folks in this new network will (it seems) be part of the broader conversation while remaining committed to some of the core distinctives of the evangelical tradition (notably: the primacy of evangelism, and a commitment to doctrinal statements - in this case, the Lausanne Covenant.)

Though I have somewhat mixed feelings about the "hyphenated" networks, I'm an active participant in Anglimergent, and in general I think these networks serve a valuable purpose in widening and broadening the conversation. On the other hand, it is worth noting a difference between this new evangelical network and the other "hyphenateds": in rallying around the Lausanne Covenant, one strongly suspects that this new network is at least partly motivated by a desire to connect with evangelicals who would explicitly divide with folks who do not affirm a proper evangelical doctrinal statement. This is different, I think, from the networks that affiliate with the more mainline denominations: though those denominations might (due to lack of knowledge or competing priorities) have little interest in engaging with the "emerging church", they would, generally speaking, not draw their "circles of orthodoxy" in such a way as to exclude it. (See, in contrast, the diagram above.)

But really, I think that's fine. Folks like Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball have stated that they intend to maintain their connections and friendships within the existing "emerging" conversation. And if they do that while also engaging with folks who would be leery of connecting with some "emerging" folks due to a perceived lack of doctrinal clarity, then yay. The conversation has been widened, and broadened. And that's fine with me.

13 October 2008

DC Emergent Cohort - tomorrow, Tuesday the 14th

This just in from Sara and Jason:

Are YOU ready for the election??
The DC Cohort will meet TOMORROW Tuesday October 14th at 7pm at the Front Page. Jason Mack will lead us in a discussion about the politial times and the church. Seeing as the election for our next President: Commander and Chief is around the perverbial corner, we thought it would be good to flesh out what everyone is thinking about the state of things as it relates to the church.

Our next gathering (November 11th) will take place after the election so at that time we will really be able to take stock and talk about what the future might hold.
We hope to see each of you at the Page at 7pm TOMORROW night, Oct 14th.

(The Front Page is across the street from the Dupont Circle Metro. We are the motley crew with the large table in the corner)

peace and grace,

Sara and Jason

Mortgage monster

Is it ever OK to demonize someone? How 'bout if it's not a specific someone but just a vague class of people, not including anyone you actually know? No? How 'bout if that class of people is fairly objectively responsible for an awful lot of pain and heartache among your friends and neighbors? Still no? How 'bout if it's Halloween?

Probably not, I guess. But when Whitney pointed me at this Monster Maker from the San Antonio Express News (See? Newspaper websites do so make a valuable contribution to our culture!) - well, this is just what jumped out. I didn't set out to make him, but kinda like the golden calf - shazzam! There he was.

I'll get to work repenting now.

02 October 2008

Hollywood calls YOU to responsibility as a citizen of Empire



The Hollywood pantheon has spoken. It's cute and cheeky, and frames issues in a very liberal-entertainment-wing-of-the-Empire sort of way, but I have to say I agree with the basic message: to fail in this fundamental exercise of civic responsibility is to deny our complicity in the heartless and horrible acts that Empire commits in our name.

13 September 2008

9/11 and the emerging church

I haven't been through what Fred Burnham's been through, but I found his story moving in the extreme. Please watch this video and listen to the story.

This is why I'm a part of the "emerging church" movement. It's why I'm passionately and whole-heartedly committed to a particular community within that movement.

There are communities that embody the loving relationships and self-organizing faithfulness that Fred describes. If you're not a part of one, brother or sister...find one.

(Embedded video below.)


9/11 and the Emerging Church from Steve Knight on Vimeo.

09 September 2008

DC Emergent Cohort - tonight!

Re-posted from Sara's email:

Join us TONIGHT September 9 at 7pm at the Front Page in Dupont Circle as we try to answer the question:

Church Leadership and Governmental Structures: How can we become more post modern?

What will leadership look like in our churches and denominations as the church begins to live into a more emerging, first century model??

Mike Croghan and Mike Stavlund will lead our discussion. We look forward to seeing you all there! For more info go to the blog http://www.dccohort.blogspot.com

Also: Update on the Emergent Mid Atlantic Conference. It is now a one day event, Saturday November 8 - still in Philadelphia and Pete Rollins is still the speaker. For more information and to register go to http://emergentmidatlantic.com/

NEW: Emergent Southeast Gathering 2008 will take place in Birmingham, AL Oct 31 - Nov 2 Come spend All Saints Day with like minded Christians! For more information and to register go to http://emergentsegathering.pbwiki.com/


See you tonight!!
Blessings! Sara and Jason

27 August 2008

My legs, they keep moving!

So tonight I jogged about 3.7 miles (about 6 km) without a pause. I guess that means that if I can keep at roughly this level of conditioning, I could "run" a 5k. This may not sound very impressive to you, but never before in my life have I had reason to believe this was the case.

(I put "run" in quotes because what I do is definitely jogging - it took me just over 45 minutes to complete that course, which means my average speed was not quite 5mph. But it ain't about the speed for me right now, baby. At no point did I stop, or walk. Though when I did stop, all four limbs felt like jello.)

(BTW, I measured my course using this. Handy. I did this course and this course, concatenated together as a single run. I mean "run".)

Now if I could stop eating so much fried and fatty crap, I might be on the road to healthyville!

I'm 37! I'm not old!

I sleep now. Er, after a shower.

26 August 2008

Quotes


I have decided to make a blog post out of my "Favorite Quotes" entry from Facebook. Because I thought you might find them amusing and/or enlightening. Let me show you them.
"Not every need is a call" - Amy Moffitt, Amy's friend, Amy's friend's therapist, and Francis Schaeffer (not necessarily in that order)

"Belief, for me, is a stake in the sand." - Deanna Doan

"Personally, I don't have the guts to follow Jesus, so I often settle for being a Christian." - Rick the Sushi Addict

"I've done everything the Bible says - even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!" - Ned Flanders

I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. - Dwight Eisenhower

The best is the enemy of the good. - Voltaire

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. - Chinese proverb

No matter how far down the wrong road you have gone, turn back now. - Turkish proverb

Opposites are not contradictory but complementary. - Niels Bohr

All models are wrong. Some models are useful. - George Box

Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it. - Walter Chrysler

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. - Peter Drucker

Always listen to the experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it. - Robert Heinlein

There are two kinds of fool. One says, "This is old, and therefore good." And one says, "This is new, and therefore better." - John Brunner

Good theology and other idols

I've been mulling over a thought for (at least) a couple of weeks, since a friend said to me, "The theology behind 'X' is sound." The "X" she was referring to happened to be something that had caused people I love (and me too) some not-inconsiderable pain, in the real world. But she was right. The theology behind it is very sound. It's excellent theology; right and good and joyful theology. Which makes it all the sadder, from my point of view, that we turned it into a damned idol.

So here's my thought. It's not all that original, but it's been taking up space in my head:

GOOD theology, when codified, legislated, and ossified, can very easily shackle, choke, or smother the gospel. This is idolatry, and the devil finds it delightful.

This happens all the time. Allllll the time. In "liberal", "mainline", "high church", etc. contexts, the ossification is typically in the realm of structure and practice (but also doctrine). In "conservative", "evangelical", "low church", etc. contexts, the ossification is typically in the realm of doctrine (but also structure and practice). Charismatic-types typically have a mix of practical/doctrinal idols, and all kinds of permutations occur all over the Church (including the "emerging church".)

In so many of these cases, the underlying theology is good. It was good, contextual, appropriate God-talk driven by sound, faithful interpretation of scripture, tradition, and Spiritual inspiration in a particular place and time.

But then we dumb monkeys did what we always do: we made an idol. We started thinking not like Christ, but like Caesar, and decided to do our fellow members of (some segment of) the Body, present and future, the enormous favor of deciding stuff on their behalf, and putting in place structures to guarantee that they would not have to bear the burden of re-thinking that stuff. (Of course, we spared them not only the burden, but the freedom to do so.)

So we made doctrinal statements, and confessions, and canon law, and constitutions, and books of [prayer/discipline/whatever], ensuring that the firm foundation of our real, good, wise wisdom (or, more likely, that of the generation or two just preceding us) would not just be available to future generations, but constrain them. Like the grasping stone hands of a centuries-old graven image.

* * *

A frequent criticism of the "emerging church" is that we're too critical: we're too much about what we're against, not what we're for. We live too much in reaction to the past, not in hope for the future. Frankly, in my experience with this "emerging" conversation, that is sometimes, but not generally, a fair critique.

But quite honestly, I do feel like this is a needed calling within the Church: Pointing out these idols we've created, gently opting out of their grasp, and by that example showing that they are indeed idols, not "real" gods, however good and true and helpful the theology that birthed them.

And, paradoxically, I think it's hopeful. Freedom from these calcified statues of theologies past is a good thing. It opens up all kinds of possible futures for the gospel and the kingdom. And, it doesn't have to mean abandoning the richness, the wisdom, the goodness of the theology at the core of these artifacts. It gives is the freedom to build on those theologies, or to cultivate new growth from their soil. It's not just hopeful, it's, like, giddy-hopeful.

But it's painful, too. We love our church-idols. They make us feel safe and secure. A lot of the time, we don't even know they're there, but they are; they surround us. Breaking free of them seems almost always to be a cause of suffering. It takes a lot of love and grace. A lot. More than we've got. Loving God, help us.

And Loving God, please guard us "emerging" monkeys from the idol-making that we too find ooooh-so-tempting.

Amen.

Image credit: zen (rights)

19 August 2008

The new me

I've been seeing these icons/avatars all over, so I figured out where they come from and created myself one. Beware, though: the technology on their site sort of sucks. Your user experience may suck too, particularly if you use Linux.

Still, the icons are cute.

18 August 2008

Wordle is cool

I made a Wordle (above) from my semi-recent "What I Really Think" series of posts. (From March, when my blog was on fire. Contrast with August, when my blog is on sedatives. Or something.) Anyway, the Wordle. It's cute.

HT: My FB-friend Alissa.

Credit: http://wordle.net/ (rights)

09 August 2008

restless church

Hey all! If you're in or near the Washington, DC area (or just want to tune in to what's shaking), we'd love for you to get involved in a new church network just launched by a whole bunch of friends in various local churches and communities. Rooted in active discipleship and grassroots ecumenicism, we're calling this thing:
restless church

We are diverse members of the Body of Christ in the Washington, DC area who find ourselves unable to rest in "it's always been done that way." We find ourselves unable to rest within our separate silos and divisions within the Body. We feel called to get up off our butts, come together, and find new ways to love each other and God's world as Jesus loves us all.

If that describes you, please join us. Whatever Christian traditions and tribes you call home - mainline and evangelical, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic and all flavors of Protestant, established and "emerging", living-together communities and coming-together communities, old-monastic and neo-monastic and not all that monastic at all, houses and churches and seminaries and ministries and individuals - you are welcome to the conversation!
Peace!

07 August 2008

DC Cohort meeting - Tuesday 12 August

From the DC Cohort Blog:
Hi all - we had a bunch of fun at the Church Basement Roadshow Thursday evening July 31. A really "hooten-nanny"! Come and hear about the event and reflections from those who were there. There is also an interesting post at the Las Vegas Cohort's blog "The depressing art of ru(i)nning a church" that could be a good jumping point off point for discussion as well.

So come on out - The Front Page Restaurant at the Dupont Metro

August 12, 2008
7pm

Blessings,

Sara and Jason

30 July 2008

I'm 37! I'm not old!

(There's a Monty Python video embedded below, FYI, for those reading from the feedreederz.)



(I must admit, I kinda feel old.)

17 July 2008

Another World Is Possible


Another World is Possible
Living Into God's Jubilee Economy

Servant Leadership School
July 19
10am-4pm
Suggested Donation $10 (includes lunch)

--

Global warming. Widespread hunger. People pushed out of their homes. Full-time jobs that don't even pay the basics. The world is not working; we've got ourselves a system that devastates the planet and exploits the majority for the benefit of a few.

What does our faith have to say about all this? How did the people of Israel and Jesus respond to the systems of economic domination they experienced in Egypt and Rome? How can Jesus’ followers and justice seekers live differently today?

Together, we'll collaborate on ways to embody a just and sustainable world now and transform our present structures. Another world is possible—and our faith calls us to it.

--

Cry Jubilee! The Biblical Paradigm of Alternative Economics
Jan Sullivan, Co-director of Ministry of Money

Why Jubilee? Created Crises, Current and Coming
David Hilfiker, Author of Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen

Do Jubilee! Workshops Include:
Redistribution Circles with Relational Tithe
Local Alternative Economies with Anacostia Hours
International Debt Activism with Jubilee USA
Challenging Gentrification with Empower DC
Community Investing with David Hilfiker
Talking Money in Church with Ministry of Money

--

Servant Leadership School
1640 Columbia Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20009
www.slschool.org

Register by calling 202.328.0072

16 July 2008

Not for the faint of heart

This little piece of dramatic art from Canadian filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe is heart-wrenching. It's also wise. I won't tell you what teaching(s) (of Jesus, and many others) I think it illustrates, because, well, that would be telling. But please be warned: don't hit "play" if you find disturbing images and situations hard to take. Seriously.

07 July 2008

Cohorts!

Reminder: NoVA Cohort tonight!

Monday, July 7, 8 pm (Look for Cohort signs at the tables)
Glory Days Grill
3059 Nutley Street
Fairfax, VA 22031
Phone (703) 204-0900
http://www.glorydaysgrill.com/locations/fairfax/index.htm

AND: DC Cohort tomorrow night!

We will meet Tuesday July 8 at the Front Page at 7pm. We will debreif on Shane Claiborne's Jesus for President tour, get updates on the Church Basement Road show that will swing through DC on July 31at 7pm at American University and otherwise carry-on.

Hope you can come out!

The Front Page is located at Dupont Circle http://www.frontpageresturant.com/

Y'all come!

01 July 2008

Politics

Seeing as how it keeps coming up lately (and seeing as how I just attended a subversively wonderful rally on such topics), I thought I'd say a few words about my ever-evolving perspective on secular government. My thoughts on this have been shaped by such practical theologians as Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw, a monkey named Mojo (whom I understand is nothing more than a mouthpiece for Walter Wink), Matt Pritchard, and Marguerite Welton St. Lawrence.

Here's where I stand these days, more or less. Biblically speaking, secular government is Caesar, or Babylon. God really didn't want God's people to have kings, but we insist on having them. Our governments are never going to save us. They are not going to be kingdom-oriented. If we are faithfully following our Lord, we will probably get in trouble with government at one point or another - God knows Jesus and his original followers did.

We should concentrate on following in the way of Jesus, serving and blessing everyone we meet, and stop waiting for laws and policies to make life the way God dreams it could be. And we Christians should be, at the very least, deeply suspicious of any power that uses force (violent force or merely legal, authoritarian force) to compel behavior, no matter how desireable that behavior. That's the way of Caesar. It's not the way of Christ.

Does this mean I completely equate the US government with the Roman or Babylonion empires? Absolutely not. The US is a republic. Whether our democratic process works well or not, there is a very real sense in which our government acts on our behalf, in our name, if we are US citizens. There's a very real sense in which the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of Western soldiers has happened in our name. There's a very real sense in which the torture of countless "enemy combatants" has happened in our name.

That's why I believe that US citizens, even Christians, really do have a responsibility to some minimal involvement in the political process: damage control. Caesar is always going to be Caesar. He's never going to be Christ, and quite honestly, he's never going to be someone who follows closely in the way of Christ. (He'd get fired.) But a Caesar who does not condone torture is hugely preferable to one who authorizes, commands, and defends the torture of unnumbered children of God in my name. It is worth spending an hour in line at my local polling place to try to pick the lesser of two evils, because we have seen how evil the greater evil can be.

Caesar always sucks. My hope is not in Caesar. But in a republic, we do not have the luxury of claiming that this is not our problem.

And that's what I think about that.

Certainty and control

I concluded a recent post with the following question: If I feel that God is calling me and/or my community (present or future) to emerge into a radically different way of being and doing Church, what am I willing to lose?

You may ask, "So, Mr. Rude Armchair, exactly what do you suppose this rhetorical 'I' might have to give up?" (No-one did ask, truth be told, but in my benevolence I'll tell you anyway.)

I think a lot of the answer boils down to two things (which may actually be one thing): certainty and control. But that works itself out very differently for folks with different stories. For a lot of folks from a more evangelical background, the biggest difference in the "postmodern" or "emerging" space is the letting go of certainty regarding our "perfect" understanding of matters of doctrine. This shift can be extremely stressful, as is obvious from the history of the emerging church conversation.

And for folks from all over the established church (but especially, I think, folks like me from a more "mainline" background), the biggest difference might be a letting go of certainty and control regarding matters of church structure, polity (church leadership), and career-related issues. Postmodern folk are frequently no too keen on stuff like hierarchy, positional authority, lay/clergy divides, and regularly scheduled stewardship beg-a-thons that are necessary to fund a model where professional clergy make 100% of their living from their job as a pastor, priest, bishop, apostle, or whatnot.

This means that if you are one of those professional clergy, and you feel called to move in an an "emergent" direction, then I honestly feel that one of the questions you must ask yourself is, "how will I feed my family and pay the mortgage?" Because the traditional answer, "From my church paycheck, of course", is going to be less and less tenable in an emerging context. I know many people who have unhappily discovered this.

There are many ways to creatively answer this question, even for folks who feel like they have no other marketable skills than those of a pastor. (I guess that's one good aspect to traditional churches expecting pastors to be omnigifted - pastors need to be able to do all kinds of things, many of which can be sources of secular income.) And there are ways for couples and communities to plan creative ways to make sure that everyone gets by - smplicity, sharing (Acts 2), entrepreurial ventures, etc.

I would also go so far as to give this advice to folks feeling the call to ministry in an emergent context, but doing something completely different now: don't plan to go to seminary, get ordained (if that's something they do in your tradition), and then expect to support your family going forward on a pastor's salary at an emerging church. I'm not saying that's impossible - it's entirely possible - but I am saying that it's hard, and will (I believe) get harder as more people step out into the wild, uncertain freedom that is emerging.

As much as I suspect that failure might be a necessary step in emergence, don't set yourself up for that kind of failure, that "OMG, my whole plan for supporting my family is totally not working - now what do I do?" kind of failure. Yes, if you step out into the land of uncertainty and having to find creative solutions to such problems, you run the risk of that very thing happening anyway - but I think it's important to expect it, as opposed to expecting that a traditional church structure, a traditional pastor's role, a full-time paycheck, etc. are a certainty, and that you can control the emergence of your community in such a way as to gaurantee the viability of those things.

So what do you get when you give up certainty and control? You get things like freedom, risk, constant change, and hope. It's not a simple either/or, of course, but it's important, I think, to pray hard about what sort of context God is calling us to.

photo by sgs_1019 (rights)

30 June 2008

Next NoVA Cohort gathering: Monday, 7 July in Vienna



Hey y'all! You're invited!
Our next gathering is going to move out to Fairfax (since that is where everyone was from anyway). We'll meet near the Vienna Metro station at (walking distance):

Monday, July 7, 8 pm (Look for Cohort signs at the tables)
Glory Days Grill
3059 Nutley Street
Fairfax, VA 22031
Phone (703) 204-0900
http://www.glorydaysgrill.com/locations/fairfax/index.htm
Subscribe to the cohort's blog feed for all the latest news.

13 June 2008

Success is not an option

This is something I've been thinking a lot about for the past week or two. My thoughts are still quite preliminary, so maybe there will be more of them later.

The question on my mind is this:

Is failure - i.e., critical crisis; death with optional resurrection - a necessary and unavoidable step in authentic emergence - at least in the realm of human social institutions like the Church?

I'm not talking about setbacks - I'm talking about major, life-torpedoing failure that makes it blatantly obvious that if life can go on at all, it will go on in a radically different fashion than before. I wonder about this in the journey of the individual, but even more right now I wonder about it in the shared journey of a community.

My wondering has been shaped by a number of high-quality nodes, including some recent good stuff from Grace, but much more from conversations with genius friends like Dee, P3T3, and Amy, and reflection on the journey-stories of various people and communities I know (including my own). For some theoretical/practical reasons why I fear this might be the case when it comes to communities, see here: The Practices Must Support Each Other.

If this is true (and I have no way of knowing whether it is or not - but I have to tell ya, I have a strong intuition that it's at least mostly true) - if this is true, then several other questions follow, it seems to me:
  1. Are "emergent" books, conferences, etc. leading folks to believe that they can shortcut this process - this death and resurrection? That it's possible to read some books and say "Yeah, baby! That's where it's at!" and then just go thou and to likewise?
  2. If so, is that necessarily a bad thing? Or is that setting folks up for the failure which is, perhaps, a necessary stage in the journey?
  3. This, to me, is the biggie. Unlike the others, it's not the least bit rhetorical. To the contrary, it's extremely concrete and personal, and it's one that I sort of feel like every person who feels called to "emergence" needs to seriously wrestle with (like, don't walk away without a dislocated hip and a blessing):
If I feel that God is calling me and/or my community (present or future) to emerge into a radically different way of being and doing Church, what am I willing to lose?

08 June 2008

DC Cohort meeting this Tuesday

This just in from the DC Emergent Cohort:

The DC Emerging cohort is meeting next June 10 - 7pm at the Front Page in Dupont Circle.
We will be discussing emergent; who were are, where we are going and how we worship. We would love to hear your prespective, so come on out.

Indeed, come on out, if you're in the DC area!

07 June 2008

Two stories

My brother Sean is getting married this year, which I couldn't be more thrilled about. I'm not sure I could recommend either of these two remarkably similar, yet markedly different, methodologies for creating the guest list for the reception....

The modern story.

The ancient story.

Kinda makes you think a bit...about gifts and hospitality and reciprocity and relationships. Also about fashion - both in terms of "dressing appropriately" (toward the end of the second story) and "trends".

Further adventures in suburban gleaning

So around 10:30 this evening, I got a voice mail from our church's Dive Team Captain saying she was headed for the [ESTABLISHMENT NAME REDACTED] near us to see what's the what, dumpster-wise, and did we want to join the expedition?

So we said yea verily, and headed over to the [REDACTED] parking lot, consolidated into one vehicle, and dove. (Dived? Huh - apparently it depends on where you are.) There were two bags with what appeared to be worthwhile stuff in them: one with a variety, the other with just some oranges. We ended up with the oranges, some strawberries, figs, little pita breads, and a whole lot of hamburger rolls that we really didn't want, and thus returned to whence they came. ([REDACTED] throws out a lot of those this time of year.) All in all, pretty slim pickins. But we could tell the store employees were still restocking and de-stocking shelves in there, and there were a whole bunch of shopping carts full of who knows what sitting in the store near the entrance, so we figgered we'd stake it out for a while, hoping for the big dump.

We chatted for a while, and then the Captain stated that further waiting would require fuel, so we went to the nearby [FAST FOOD ESTABLISHMENT] and got a couple of shakes (and fries for Tina - OK, LARGE fries to share.) We were now in danger of having spent more on gas and junk food than we had saved through our paltry take.

We also noticed that there seemed to be someone sleeping on the front porch of the abandoned restaurant next door to [FAST FOOD JOINT].

We went back to [REDACTED] and waited a while. While we were waiting, someone got into the car we'd parked next to in the mostly-empty parking lot, drove down to the dumpster, put on the flashers, and futzed around a while there. We were pretty darn curious, I must say. Was this competition?? When he'd gone, we spun back down there and checked it out. Nope, turns out he was making a deposit, not a withdrawal: there was a new bag of garbage in there, and it wasn't [REDACTED] products. Used diapers and such. "Dude," we thought self-righteously, "that's illegal." ;-)

We gave it a little more time, but now it was midnight and we were turning into pumpkins. So we headed back toward the Captain's van, which took us by the abandoned restaurant where we'd seen someone sleeping out front. That person seemed to be awake now, so at the Captain's suggestion, we decided to go say "Hi" and see if he or she would like some food. She turned out to be a very nice lady who was camping out there where there was a bit of shelter. We introduced ourselves and explained where we'd gotten the food, and she seemed happy to accept all of it. We chatted a bit more about the weather and [REDACTED]'s food disposal habits, and then said farewell and headed home. She was cool. We'll definitely keep an eye our for her when we return.

This is fun. Y'all should do it. As I've offered before, if you email me, I'll be more upfront about details and esoteric dive-fu (though due to my relative lack of experience, your mileage may vary).

02 June 2008

Northern VA Emergent Cohort - TONIGHT!

Well, this is pretty late notice, but better late than never. A Northern Virginia Emergent Cohort is forming! If you live in NoVA and are free, why not join us? Here are the deets (plagiarized from the NoVA Cohort blog):

Everyone is invited to our first cohort gathering on:
Monday, June 2, 2008
@ 8 pm

Ri Ra Arlington
2915 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
(3 Blocks from the Clarendon Metro)
________________________________

We'll be gathering for our first time to meet some folks and talk about what this cohort could look like. Hope you can make it and feel free to invite anyone you think may be interested in such a gathering where conversation about church, theology, friendship, philosophy, and culture are the order of the day.

Hope to see you there. Email me with any questions @
novacohort@gmail.com

Tom

30 May 2008

TOE jam


(Parenthetical word to the wise: I definitely do not recommend doing an online image search using the term "toe". Most of the results are really gross, in a fascinating variety of yuckness.)

So P3T3 is in search of TOE's (Theories of Everything). He says (unless I misread him): physicists know they lack one, and are seeking one fervently; fundamentalists act as if they've got one, but don't; evangelicals sort of have one, yet leave key terms undefined (kinda wise, if you ask me); and emergentingishlicalian Christians ought to be seeking one to avoid divide-by-zero errors such as classic pitfalls surrounding hell, the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus, and the (excellent) question, "Does God hate brown people?"

Now, I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of TOE's (apart from the 10 fleshy ones that most of us have - this despite having just now seen about 100 disgusting online photos of said digits). They sort of strike me as the epitome of hubris. I'd much rather just admit I don't have that level of clue, and probably never will.

HOWEVER, I do recognize that it's impossible to do really authentic, quality, high-level, big-picture thinking without edging into the territory of TOE's - and that TOE's are, by definition, theories. (You know - "just" a theory - like evolution, or gravity.) This means that any TOE, no matter how comprehensive, is by definition provisional. I'm pretty sure that the physicists burning the midnight oil trying to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics realize that their success (should they succeed) will one day seem rather limited and perhaps even naive, however useful it might be in its time, place, and conditions.

I think Physics learned that one long about the time time the last ivory-tower holdout said, "FINE. You win. There's no such thing as aether. Are you happy now?? Gorram kraut Einstein." - and then picked up his toys and went home.

(Religion, I fear, hasn't learned that lesson yet, by and large.)

So with that in mind (that this is provisional, limited, speculative, and in all likelihood simply full of crap), I'll take a stab at a vaguely TOE-like line of reasoning that has helped shape my thinking around some of Pete's emerging-church divide-by-zero errors. Here's what I think, based upon my personal "three-legged stool" of Scripture, community, and experience:

God is Love, and God is the Father of all creatures. God loves each and every creature - certainly including each and every human being ever born - to a degree that we can't grasp. Every human being: Pharoah, Judas, Nero Caesar, Hitler, Pol Pot - everybody.

I very strongly suspect that God never gives up on that love for any one of us. Admittedly, this suspicion is based largely on the third leg of my stool, "experience" - but also on my reading of the character of Jesus in the New Testament. My personal understanding of God and God's character makes it pretty much inconceivable to me that a God who is Love would ever give up that love for any child of God. Therefore, I disagree with those who interpret Scripture to say that one's eternal fate is sealed upon the moment of death: that doctrine, IMHO, places limits on God's love.

Does this make me a universalist? Maybe. Quite honestly, I don't really care one way or the other about that label. But though I don't admit the possibility of God giving up on any of us, I do admit the possibility of us giving up on God, and never repenting of that desertion for all eternity. Frankly, this seems unlikely to me, but I admit that it's possible. Just as I hesitate to place limits on God's love, it seems unwise to place limits on the extent to which we talking monkeys are capable of thrusting our heads up our asses.

So that's part of my personal TOE: I think that God is Love, and that God loves all God's creatures, and that God never, ever gives up on that love.

Which leads me another thought. I sort of feel like there's been a tendency, through the ages, of people within the Church equating "the Church" with "the set of people who are loved by God". This equation has sometimes been explicit, but often seems to be an unstated assumption. It seems implicit in the culture of consumer Christianity: churches must not expect much from churchgoers, because they must be places for everyone who has decided to say "yes" to God's love.

It's widely known that deciding to follow Jesus with one's whole life and be obedient to God's risky call is a different thing from simply deciding to give mental assent to God's loving reconciliation in Jesus Christ. But (the thinking seems to go), the Church consists of all those who love and are loved by God, whether they choose to try following in the dangerous footsteps of Jesus or not - and our churches, therefore, must be comfortable places for those who don't make that choice.

But what if the set of people who are loved by God is not the set of people called "the Church", but instead the one called "everybody"? Then what is the Church? My thought - and it's a rude one, I admit - is that "the Church" is actually the set of people who are earnestly trying to respond to Jesus' invitation, "Take up your cross and follow me." This set of people may have (and does have) a WIDE variety of interpretations of what that looks like - from the most fundamentalist to the most liberal, to mention just one possible "axis" of opinion.

But the reason I say this is a "rude thought" is that this implies (IMHO) that there are an awful lot of folks who are members of churches but who are not members of the Church, and probably never will be - because there's no expectation that "the Church" is anything other than "those who are loved by God and know it".

My suggestion is that God's love is for everyone - it's an enormous, immense, incredible gift of grace for every human being. But God has other gifts too. God's Son has a yoke that is good, and risky, and dangerous, and joyful, and surprising, and demanding, and maybe a little bit nuts. Not everybody wants that yoke - and that's OK! God doesn't love those who try to follow Jesus one iota more than those who don't. But following Jesus is an enormous gift, and when we confuse that gift with the gift of God's love, given freely to all, we do no one a service.

So I think that's how I, personally, do-si-do around P3T3's divide-by-zero.

Hell? Maybe - if we can be stubborn enough in our hatred to outlast God's love - which means holding onto it until the end of time.

Exclusivity? No way, if you're talking about the love of God - but yes, obviously, if you're talking about following Jesus. It's a matter of obvious fact that not everybody tries to follow Jesus - not every human, and not every churchgoer - and that may be because they're not aware of the option. (Though many people who have never heard of Jesus - or who have heard of him, but have been put off by Christians or their doctrines - choose to live much more like him than I do!)

God hating brown people? Well, I sure as hell hope not. I admit I'm still a little weirded out that the enormous gift of following in the way of Jesus is something that needed to spread by word of mouth from a single point in time and geography.

But that's the undeniable pattern of history, and of every historical gift from God - including so many that have come to us at times and in places where brown people live. It's weird, when you think about it - but peculiar distribution of gifts is a lesser matter, I guess, than excluding some of God's children from the very love of God.

And that's as far as my TOE's have carried me today.

Photo: "Big Toe goes to Dharamsala" by Qaanaaq (rights)

23 May 2008

Wooo-hooo! Toward a more balanced life

So I get to start my Memorial Day weekend on a high note. A long-standing dream of mine (OK, "long" means maybe two or three years, but still) has finally come to fruition: this will be my last Friday at the day job until further notice. (The actual arrangement will be a little more flexible than that, truth be told.) I have the official letter in hand: starting next week, my hours are dropping from "full time" (which to USA TODAY means 37.5 hours per week, or five 7.5-hour days - but which in practice for a salaried position means "whatever it takes") to 30 hours per week (or, typically, four days in the office). My bosses are being much more insistent than I am about ensuring that when I make this change, the company keeps its side of the bargain, and that they don't want me monitoring work email, working extra hours, etc., beyond my 30.

Speaking as someone who is trying to make my life work as a "tentmaker" (i.e., giving quite a bit of volunteer time to the little "emerging" church I'm a part of - in addition to other ministry and missional activities - while drawing income from a secular job), I have to say I'm over the moon.

I've worked full-time constantly since college, and I'm (hopefully) not whining about that - of course most people in this world have to work way more hours for way more years than me to make ends meet. But I found myself in the uber-blessed position of feeling strongly that I need that time more than I need that income, and of having an employer, a spouse, and other key relationships that are willing and able to enable that tradeoff.

And in the interest of transparency, I ought to admit that it wasn't a trivial thing for Tina and me to figure out how to take the primary breadwinner's salary and cut it by 20%, or to decide that this was a good thing to do. But we did it!

I don't intend to use the one day in seven that I'm getting back in my life to do more "church" work - I sorta feel like I tend to do plenty of that already. Instead, I have two initial goals and a meta-goal. The two initial goals are:

1) To be a more equal partner in my marriage. Since I work what typically ends up being the equivalent of a full-time day job plus a part-time volunteer church job, Tina ends up doing way more than her fair share of the housework, etc., even though she works full-time (plus) too.

2) To get some more "sabbath" time in my life. Certainly Sundays are a sacred day for me, and worshipful, but I'm often so busy (with good, hopefully God-given work) that I don't get much time in my life for reading, writing, contemplative prayer, podcast-listening - all that good stuff that's helpful for formation and a healthy relationship with God and with the inside of my own head. I'm hoping to get some of that back.

The meta-goal is to teach myself how to uni-task. I have multi-tasker's disease, really bad. I need to learn how to vacuum, and just vacuum. Or read a book (for more than 20 minutes before I fall asleep at night) and just read. Maybe with some awareness of God, and of what a gift it is to be able to do these things. Brother Lawrence, help me out here.

Beyond that, I think I may pick up the guitar again. And we'll see what happens down the road.

But for now, I'm rejoicing in this gift. Yeee-haw!

P.S., Deep gratitude to my dear friends Dee and Pete, who helped me to realize that this was even a possibility, and to my kickass employer and particularly to my bosses (Erik and Steve) and my team there (Raul, Jeff, and Alon) for making this possible. And especially to Tina, who is amazing beyond words. And I'll shut up now, 'cause I sound like I just won a freakin' Oscar. :-D

photo "part time" by ubiquity_zh (rights)

20 May 2008

Clay Shirky on the brokenness of one-way content flow



This brief (16-minute) presentation (by Clay Shirky at the Web 2.0 Expo SF 2008) is must-viewing. If you're bored (and you shouldn't be), at least fast-forward to the 11-minute mark and watch the last 5 minutes.

Choice quote (at 11:35): "'I could do that too!' - this is something people in the media world don't understand." Just strike out "media" and substitute "church", and it's equally true. Another quote at 14:45: "Here's what 4-year-olds know: a screen that ships without a mouse ships broken." Watch it, and think about the implications.

HT: Len Hjalmarson.

17 May 2008

Good stuff on the day job: a new USATODAY.com

I don't tend to blog much about my day job, but I have to say that I think the redesign we launched this morning for USATODAY.com looks right spiffy. And it's faster, and more convenient, and puts more of the info that folks seem to want in front of their eyeballs. I can claim very, very little credit for this, but I am proud to be part of a crack team of designers, editors, programmers, and business folks who do fine work and have a good time doing it.

Check it, y'all.

P.S., it's also an awesome place to work, from a values/culture/flexibility point of view. Join us! ;-)

08 May 2008

Len on tentmaking and paid ministry

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Len Hjalmarson rocks. And another thing: I'm so glad he's Canadian. Why? Because my friend Tim keeps reminding me that he thinks my strong preference for non-hierarchical forms of leadership and organization is more an expression of American individualism than it is of identification with the postmodern cultural shift. But when Tim says this, I can point toward Len and say, "But Tim, what of Len? Len's not American. He's Canadian."

;-)

(Actually, a lot of the most interesting folks that I'm aware of who are thinking about and practicing new forms of ecclesial leadership and organization seem to be from Canada. So there.)

Anyway, today Len posted an excellent blog post on paid church work and "tentmaking" (the practice, named after the livelihood of St. Paul, of doing the work of God while earning one's income from some secular source). If you do God's work - whether you get paid for it or not - I encourage you to read it, think about it, and maybe even pray about it. It's good.

UPDATE: Len just posted a follow-up. It's also excellent. Give it a read!

05 May 2008

Caption contest

The winner will receive, well, I dunno, prolly several dozen LOLz from amused readers of this blog. Here's the photo:


I would certainly accept Biblical chapter and verse references as captions, but Matthew 4:18-20 and John 21:4-6 are already taken. However, feel free to (mis)quote from those passages, or any others, at will.

Ready...steady...go! :-D

HT: My day job pal Ed, who supplied the Buddy Christ, the little plastic fish, the gorgeous beach photo from his native Cape Cod, the camera that took this shot - heck, everything but the blog. I am merely a conduit for Ed's genius.