Friday, December 09, 2005

Aslan on the Move

Of course he's not safe! But's he's good.  Posted by Picasa

You may be wondering about the "Purr and Roar" in this blog's title. It's all about lions. I have this unhealthy affection for the lion. And while I will sometimes have occasion to pontificate roaringly, most times I'm just purring.

I'm not sure where or why my affection for lions began, but I know that said affection got a huge boost when I re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis way back in the eighties. Now with the release of the movie, I've written my review.

My friends and family are well aware of my obsession. More tragic is that my poor unsuspecting grandson, Damon, is equally obsessed with lions, since I’ve accidentally trained him to be. Funny how we inadvertently pass on values to those we love. Incidentally when Damon roars, it sounds more like a purr... or a gargle.

I think Miss Perkins, my fourth grade teacher, must have loved her students. I know that she was a Christian evangelist, although I have no real evidence that she was a Christian. When I look back at all that I’ve learned in school that I still retain I often find myself back at Cheney Elementary in Ft. Belvoir, VA.

Among the values Miss Perkins passed along were a love for good literature and the learning of virtue through that literature. I do not know how intentional she was in this teaching, but I remember the two books she read to us as a class. The first was a Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. The second was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe By C.S. Lewis.

Both books scared me nearly to death. My 9-year old mind was still able to imagine vividly and my young heart was still vulnerable to deep feeling. These days I welcome any deep feeling and I stray away from imagining. Then imagination and feeling were second nature. Fortunately the same vulnerability that allowed me to fear the evil in the stories also opened my psyche to the truth (in both books) that sacrificial love is the strongest power in the universe.

Both books stayed with me. In college I re–read them and also began reading nearly everything these two authors have written.

While I can’t exactly trace the beginning of my lion obsession to Lewis’s books, the books clearly re-invigorated my affection. Aslan comes through the Narnia books as powerful, mysterious, compassionate, sacrificial, wise and good–- attributes I’d like to bottle and drink daily.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lib'ral Who Worships

When Amy Grant was still in grade school, before there was "Contemporary Christian Music," when "Gospel Music" was largely relegated to one of two insular communities or to novelty presentations in the secular world, when some of that Gospel Music was just getting heard alongside rock and roll (I'm ignoring Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, early Staple Singers, early Curtis Mayfield, as well as a host of country artists led by Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, not to mention Elvis Presley), when Edwin Hawkins was about to get a hearing with O Happy Day, and the Staple Singers with I'll Take You There and Respect Yourself, when Aretha was just working up to her Amazing Grace album, long before Bob Dylan's "Christian" albums and way before the commercial success of "Christian artists" or "Worship Music," a liberal Canadian folk singer was worshipping God and getting his worship played on the radio.

I've been a Bruce Cockburn fan since the release of Inner City Front back in 1981. But he'd been at it for several albums by then. This week I've immersed myself in Cockburn music again, occassioned by my discovery of several more "Deluxe Editions" (Are you tired of these quotation marks yet?!) of his classic discs.

Mostly I've been replacing my old discs with these new remastered versions, which also have at least one bonus song each. But my greatest joy has been the discovery of gems on a couple older offerings that I've never owned. Lot's of great music on these discs, but I want to mention only one song from each.

Amongst the love ballads (never pop-y or syrupy) and the social commentary (often angry), Cockburn never fails to worship God. He has known, like all wise believers, that there's really no separation between our social, personal, and spiritual lives. In the Falling Dark opens with "Lord of the Starfields," a praise song without the selfishness that dominates much of today's praise in worship--It's all about the Lord, not about what the Lord has done for me.

Ironically Further Adventures Of presents another worship song, this time MORE personal than most of today's praise and worship, but still it seems a fitting tribute to Jesus Christ "Can I Go With You" begins

When you ride out of the shining sky
to claim the ones who love you,
can I go with you?
Can I go with you?

How personal, but how worshipful is that?!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Africana Worship

Just finished my first installment for the African American liturgy project I'm contributing to for work. The overall site is at But if you want to go directly to my first submissions, you can find them here.

I've dragged my feet on my parts of this project, despite my great belief in it. The feet dragging just comes from the work it takes to write liturgy (interestingly, I've learned that the word liturgy means "work"). It's not the natural way I think or write. But I've been thrilled with the opportunity to train my mind in this way, to reclaim my Black Church heritage, and to mine that heritage for the benefit of the Reign of God.

I like this project because I have come to renounce the idea of a disembodied Gospel. Along these lines, Anthony, the postmodernegro has been posting some provocative thoughts here and here.

From my perspective, while our cultures can certainly distort the Good News of Jesus, any truly Gospel message will come culturally contained. We should be careful not to confuse our cultures or our ideologies with the Gospel, but we need not be ashamed of culturally-influenced constructions of the Gospel. All constructions, even biblical ones are culturally-constructed anyway.

End of today's sermon.

Emergent, United Methodist Youth, and Blogs

Went "home" this week to my old haunt at the United Methodist Publishing House for a sort of consultation on the Emerging Church and United Methodist youth. It was actually a pretty fun discussion for me. Though brief, it reminded me of the conversations I loved at this year's Emergent Convention.

Even more fun than the discussion was catching up with my old friends: Crys, Jenny, Sheila and Keely. 'Twas also great getting to hang with Gavin, Jonathan and Josh (Gavin and Jonathan helped me with my rookie blogging questions), and meeting Clark in person, after visiting his blog.

You can find pics of the day at Gavin's site here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Dinah's Dad Rocks

The land is now littered with rocks, thanks to Dinah's dad, Jacob. I've made the list now. I don't want to miss any; I want to leave no stone unaccounted for.

As we've walked through Genesis in our Sunday morning Bible study, we've lamented (or celebrated) how human all these "heroes of the faith" are, and how slow they are to learn. Dinah's father, Jacob, is the best example so far. A schemer, a manipulator, a cheater from birth; he seems only to mature into a schemer with less will. His sons are increasingly out of control, and he doesn't seem to know what to do.

His obsession with one wife (to the exclusion of three others) and his devotion to one son (to the devastation of 10 others, not to mention at least one daughter, our Dinah) demands a modern-style addiction intervention.

But there is another side to Jacob--a side that seems to be showing signs of growth, of spiritual formation, of connection with the God of Universe, the God of Dinah's grandfather and great-grandfather.

Jacob marks his spiritual formation, his encounters with God, by building altars periodically throughout his life. He marks times and places, and he names the places for his God-encounters. So he's got "House of God" (Bethel, Genesis 28:22), "heap of witness" (Genesis 31:45), "two camps" (Genesis 32:2), "face of God" (Genesis 32:30), "God of Israel" (Genesis 33:20), "God of the House of God (Genesis 35:7, 14), and finally the "pillar of Rachel's grave" where his mother died between Bethel and Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19).

What do we do to mark our encounters with God? Do we pay attention to them? I believe that God is always with us. Sometimes God is that silent figure beside me who keeps me sane. Sometimes God makes me feel insane. But I believe any good that comes from me comes from God. Any good that comes TO me comes from God. Any time I sense grace, love, forgiveness, strength, wisdom, inspiration, rest, God is its source.

I need some rocks.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Back from Vacation

Hey, is this thing on? Purrs and roars are back now that we've returned from sunny FL.

My Emerging Church friends are roaring with new decisions every day. The question of whether these are good or bad decision remains to be seen, but a prayer wells up within me:

Lord, don't let this be another thing we talk about in theory. Don't let us get bogged down with whether it's a program, a movement, or a conversation.

Don't let us get stuck defending a right to exist and to call ourselves Christian.

Don't let us argue to hear ourselves talk or even to gain agreement. But don't let us settle for less than Christian truth.

Don't let us be so enamored with our lack of form that we shun all form, and don't let us bow too easily to formulas without thinking.

Don't let us stick with old physical structures, communal structures, or philosophical structures that keep us from following Jesus. But don't let us throw out the old just for the sake of the new.

Help us, Lord, to keep the main thing the main thing: Jesus is Lord, and we are here to love and serve God and to love and serve the world.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Entertaining Angels?

Here's something that doesn't happen every day. I'm home alone on Saturday; Laura and the boys have gone to Target. There's a frantic knock at the front door. I open the door, and there stand two teenage girls and a teenage boy. (Their names have been changed even though they're innocent). They're looking for my 15-year old. And they're full of energy like they're on an adventure. When I tell them that my son is not home, they want to wait for him. They travelled over an hour to get here. I ask how they know him and they say they met him online on Myspace. I gather that he had no idea they were coming. I invite them in and call my boy to come home(Thank God for cell phones). I offer them a drink. Only Jamie takes one.

Then I say "Until he gets here, you have to talk to me." "Okay!" is the response.

TDad: So you met my boy on Myspace? What exactly do you do on Myspace?

Jamie: Well, you make friends. You post pictures, and your friends comment on them. You talk about stuff.

TDad: Do you all have a Myspace page?

Jamie and Carrie: Yeah.

Derek: I hadn't gone to my page in a long time. I signed on and there were all these people there that I didn't even know.

TDad: So do you then go visit these people, like you're doing now?

Carrie: Yeah, I have.

Jamie: No, I've never done this before.

TDad: So what's the deal with my boy? What made you come and visit him?

Carrie: Ask Jamie, I just came for the ride.

Derek: I just came 'cause they needed a car.

Jamie: Well he seemed like such a nice guy.

Carrie: I don't even live around here. I live in Utah. But I'm not a Mormon!

Jamie: So are you having a nice summer?

TDad: Well I don't really get a summer like you guys do. I still have to work.

Jamie: Well, what do you do?

TDad: I work for the Methodist Church. I edit books and do some other stuff.

So how do you guys know one another?

Jamie: Well Carrie and I met at church. She came to spend the summer with her mother who lives around here. She lives with her dad in Utah.

TDad: So what church do you go to?

Jamie: Well, it's the LDS church, but I'm not a Mormon. I'm a Christian. It's just that my parents make me go to the Mormon Church.

Carrie: Yeah , my dad and stepmother, too. My dad is like the stake president, but I'm not a Mormon.

Jamie: So, are you Baptist or Methodist? Your boy said you guys go to a Baptist church, but didn't you say you work for the Methodist church?

TDad: I'm a Christian. I try to follow Jesus. That's what's important to me. My Baptist friends might think I'm a little too Methodist. My Methodist friends might be afraid I'm Baptist. I just care about trying to follow Jesus.

So how does that work for you? You have to go to the Mormon church, but you don't agree with it. What don't you agree with? And what happens when you go?

Jamie: Well, basically no-one talks to me cause I look like this. I like to dress kind of goth. And, like, right now this sleeveless top, I couldn't wear there and you're supposed to have only one earpierce in each ear. I just don't think you should force people into those beliefs.

Carrie: Yeah, my parents force me to go to church, and I don't think you should do that. I think people should be allowed to decide for themselves what they believe.

TDad: We make our boy go to church.

Jamie: Yeah, I heard that.

TDad: Well, I agree with you. People should be allowed to make up their own minds about what they believe. No-one should try to force them to believe anything. Actually no-one can. We know that. I have no desire to force my kids to believe anything. But I do hope that they live Christian lives. As along as they live with us and until they are 18, we make them go to church. As parents we want to train them that way. But we know we can't make them believe anything.

About that time Laura and the boys come home. I leave the teens to their own conversation.

What's your theological worldview?

Here's my score on the notorious quiz
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical






created with

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Posted by Hello

I'm feeling tense. There's a churning in my stomach, a restlessness in my bones. And my mind is alternately single-minded and scattered. Why? because we bought three avocados in the last few days, they've been trying to ripen for guacamole. I finally decided they were ripe enough, and I gathered all my stuff. But I could only find two avocados! I REALLY wanted three.

I know what happened. "Somebody" (he's about 15 months old) thought the avocado was a "ball" and played "Put It in the Cabinet" or "Put It in the Drawer" or "Throw It over There." No one was watching him that particular moment, and now somewhere in our house an avocado is rotting.

I know: one out of three avocados shouldn't have that much power in my life. For your information, I don't really think it was the avocados. I think it was Moby's CD "Play" (actually it's the two-CD set). Before I started looking for the avocado, I started looking for the CD. It was an all-day search (suddenly coins, sheep and lost boys come to mind, but especially the coins. See Luke 15). I was actually looking for Moby for a work project. No, really. Since I have CDs both at work and home, I looked all day both places. Whenever I didn't have to think about something else my mind was working on where Moby could be.

I asked all four of our kids--those who live with us and those who don't. They all let me know either by words or tone that they're not that crazy about Moby anyway. Not the point.

And, again, one CD out of... well... a lot ought not to churn me up like this. Chalk it up to anthropologically residual fight or flight response or something like that, but it just IRKS me that I can't find this CD! (Did I mention that it's the two-CD set?)

Maybe it's in that black bag I've carried back and forth from work. Maybe it's in that box, or that one, or that one, or the closet I've already looked in four times. Finally I told Laura, if it's not in that black bag (wherever THAT is), I give up. I'll have to save my pennies and order another one. I found the black bag. It's not there. I give up. The churning lessens.

I shift gears and start cleaning up my ongoing mess in the computer room. Too much stuff, I know. Cleaning up a little clutter might de-clutter my mind. Just empty this box and I can get rid of it. There, it's emptied. And what's this behind it? Oh Moby!

Now how did it get there?! Oh, yeah, "Somebody"! Now if we could only find that rotting avocado.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Family Times

Damon and Grandpa Posted by Hello

This picture is here by accident, but I'll take the opportunity to pontificate on my love for this Baby Boy and his apparent love for me. Damon might be discovering that Grandpa looks a little different from everyone else in his life, but he doesn't care. For him, love is thicker than blood.

Is Christian love or, or as my new cyberfriend (he doesn't even know me) Anthony might put it, is the Eucharist thicker than blood or race?

EmbRACE-ing Church?

Yes, It's true. This year's Emergent event in Nashville was even whiter than last year's. After the "Embracing Church" CCC, I was sitting with Glandion Carney, who got out the convention booklet. We leafed through it and found that he and I were the ONLY nonwhite leaders pictured. And we led a CCC which ended before the actual convention began. I know that Jen Lemen added non-white leadership to her CCC as well, but their leadership, too, ended.

In fact, the not-so-progressive National Pastors Convention showed greater diversity both in its leadership and overall participation.

This is the description. What does it mean? What, if anything, should be done about it?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Real Star: A Mini-Tribute

Kim and Mom out back Posted by Hello

This week, I've been moved to tears twice.

When I left home for college (another life ago), it's kind of wierd, but I prayed a very specific selfish prayer. I asked God to give me the ability to cry. I felt cold and wanted to learn to feel a little more. Almost 30 years later I have since learned to DULL my feelings in a number of ways, but that's another story.

The second time I was moved to tears this week was yesterday morning when, at our company worship service (what a perk of the job!), Psalm 42 was read. The scripture alone moved me to tears. I mean real water-dripping. That was an answer to the almost-30 year old prayer.

The first time I cried this week was occasioned by our Little Girl, who is now in college. We visited her at her college apartment 45 minutes away, then went out to lunch with her, her brothers, her Drew, and her nephew. At lunch she announced that her last presention in her speech class was to be a tribute. I sensed where she was going with this and would have been disappointed had I been wrong. I wasn't disappointed. Kimberly said "I have to back it up with resources, so you'll probably be getting a phone call." Then she turned to Laura, her mother, and said "I'm doing it on you." That's when the tears started. Even now they're welling up again. You see, I know my wife. I know her faults better than probably anyone. But I also know how deserving she is of this tribute.

I got the phone call the next day. Kimberly said she was going to speak about her mother's forgiveness, compassion, and giving heart. She wanted me to comment on forgiveness. I won't tell you everything I said, but mainly I tried to convey that forgiveness was not only a ready quality in Laura (from which I have benefited greatly) but that it is a quality she has inspired in others, including me.

And as I write I am reminded of that Bible passage in the letter to the Hebrews (10:24). I keep quoting it these days: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Perhaps Laura doesn't consider, but she definitely spurs. That's why she's a Real Star to me and to her kids.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Real Stars

Started re-reading Eugene Peterson's Run With the Horses this morning (as if I'm not already reading enough books). He begins the book lamenting how badly we live. "Not so wickedly, he says, "but so inanely. Not so cruelly, but so stupidly." He goes on to say "We have celebrities but not saints. Famous entertainers amuse a nation of bored insomniacs." This book was written in 1983! How much truer is it today than it was even then? We don't even apologize for entertainment celebrity anymore. We accept it, indulge it, draw (phony) strength from it.

I don't want to lump well-spoken, well-meaning, mission-oriented, Spirit-filled (let it mean whatever it means to you) Christian celebrities with the vapid celebrity of image, but I am grateful for people in my life who can be real stars without celebrity. And I'm grateful for "conversations" at Emergent with regular folk trying to figure out and live this Jesus-following life.

Jeff and his wife, from right here in the Nashville area for, instance. I approached Jeff in the bathroom (I have no shame) and asked about his church community. Jeff and wife (don't remember her name) are not your traditional Southern Baptists, but true to their SBC heritage, they are mission-oriented. Jeff's frustrated with empty tradition (not that tradition is necessarilly empty), and for his frustration and conviction he's been ousted from his congregation.

But from that bathroom conversation (and the outside-the bathroom-conversation with his wife and two friends) we had said enough to set a breakfast appointment for the next morning. Jeff didn't want to talk about his ousting congregation. He was concerned about the Scripture conversation in the learning community. I hadn't experienced that Scripture discussion yet, but it concerned Jeff. It seemed a litttle TOO open for his taste. If the church is emerging, to what is it emerging? And what is our touchpoint of authenticity, of Christian integrity? If Scripture is not that (I think it largely is), what can we rely on?

I won't bore you with my thoughts on the topic. I'll save that boredom for a later post. This one is about the joy of conversation with Jeff. Since we're local, I'm hoping we can get together to hash this stuff out together.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Why I Want an Embracing Church

My family 1986. front row: Dad, Timothy, Mom, nephew KC, son Charlie, son Thomas. back Row: sister Marcia, niece Rena, daughter Kimberly, Laura, Me, sister-in-law Michelle, brother Keith. Missing brother Carl and nephew Shaun Posted by Hello

We introduced our Embracing Church course with personal reflections on why we were there. Here’s a version of my comments:

"My crisis of faith began when I was in graduate school studying Christian education. I was serving as a junior high minister at a large church in Nashville. This church was born out of a rather restrictive heritage, but had experienced a charismatic awakening several years earlier. They were now at the forefront of the charismatic movement. From my assessment they were beginning to become as restrictive about their charismatic experiences as they had been in the past with other issues.

But I’m in graduate school, studying theology and Bible at one of the country’s most progressive divinity schools. I didn’t agree with many of my professors’ biblical conclusions. But I tried to show my understanding of the issues while disagreeing with the conclusions.

While few of the issues were new to me, I hadn’t anticipated that the tension would affect me so profoundly. I hadn’t accounted for how my livelihood and my spiritual life depended on my making some sense of this church and this academic experience.

One reason I hadn’t anticipated the tension was that I was used to living with diversity. First, I’m African American. And as WEB DuBois put it, we Black Americans all live with twoness.

Second, I was nurtured in the Protestant Sunday Schools on military bases, where denomination meant close to nothing.

Third, I had lived for the longest time in my life in Hawaii, where the cultural salad bowl meant than everyone knew exactly who they were ethnically regardless of the mixes, we were proud of whatever we were, and we were continually learning to live together.

Which leads me to the other reason I am here. Nothing has grieved me in the Christian church as much as the lack of unity. I saw it most blatantly when I moved to Nashville 20 years ago and looked for a multiracial church. In this city of churches, multiracial congregations are still hard to find. And while the reasons for such are complicated, I still long for the reality of unity."

I didn’t mention the rest of the story evidenced by my family picture above. The pic’s almost a decade old. My dad has since left us. My kids, nephews and nieces are a lot bigger. And (depending on your accounting) we have added one, four or six grandchild(ren) to the picture.

Since the racial embracing is obvious, let me make clear that Laura and I did not marry to make a point. It was (and is) pure love, but it was a hard-fought decision, trying to anticipate possible problems for us and our children. In the end, hard-fought (not mushy) love won out. The hard-fighting hasn’t ended, though I think we’d both say it is mostly internal, along the lines of the theological tension mentioned above. The love of God and one another, and the shared mission to follow Jesus have sustained us.

Who I saw at Emergent 05

Baby Girl Becca and her mama, Jenni Posted by Hello

Funny how people want to know "Who was there?" when you go to these conventions. But at this event my strongest memories are ongoing conversations with nobody-you-would-probably-know. Still I'm not immune to star-gazing, so here's my rundown on actual connection with "stars."

Of course, I co-led the Embracing Church thing with Glandion Carney, Lillian Smith, Jay Voorhees, and Brian McLaren. I'll let you decide for yourself which ones are stars.

After our course, I was debriefing over coffee and tea in the hotel restaurant with Glandion (His Upper Room book on Job, which I edited is A Hard-Fought Hope). We're sitting there, and these two guys are staring in the window, waving frantically. Turns out it's Richard Foster of Renovare Ministries and his son Nathan. Glandion does some work with Renovare. They join us and talk about movies (mainly Kingdom of Heaven) and about Richard's crazy antics while producing serious Christian teaching videos through the years. It's family reminiscing for him and Nathan. I also commented on Richard's intro to his new Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. I was inspired to order the Bible later.

I think it was Thursday when I walked to lunch by myself. I stepped into Provence, and walking in the other door were my friends Becca and Jenni (see above). They're stars in our lives (I'm Grandpa Tony to Becca). I opted for Subway instead of Provence and ended up running into Philip Yancey who had just spoken at the Natonal Pastors Convention where they gave out his new book, Rumors of Another World. The two of us walked two or three blocks back to the convention together. I don't remember exactly what we talked about. I was thinking about the report back to Laura who's a big Yancey-fan.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Trying to Love (Jesus and Laura) Well

TDadPete (Tony) and Laura in Florida 2004 Posted by Hello

I’ve said it before, but should probably repeat my words about me and Laura. I guess I hesitate to speak alone because I believe in community. And as a married guy, I’m fortunate to find sweet community with my wife. I know I’m fortunate. And it’s no false humility to say that I don’t deserve the patience and grace she has given to me. But if it’s all about deserving, she doesn’t deserve my grace either. Still Laura is easy to love. Not so easy to love well. Easy to love with, not easy to keep up with in love.

But my real point is: we want to follow Jesus. Yes, we too are caught up in the culture of the age. We probably watch way too much Law and Order, and spend too little time living truly to follow Jesus. But Jesus-following is never far from us. And we are not ashamed of Jesus' good news. We are simply unworthy of it. Thank God, we are not measured by our own merits.

Harp 46 at Emergent 05

I had every intention of returning to the IKON worship Wednesday night, but when I heard that Harp 46 (who I loved last year) were leading a jazznight/with spoken word type service with Brian McLaren, I had to check it out. Thank God! No one grooves like Harp 46! And at the risk of sounding racist, who’duvthunk a white girl on HARP and and a coupla Asian guys on percussion and bass could sound so funky? If it’s true that there'll be harp-playing in heaven, please, please, please let it be Harp 46!

Brian Mclaren's spoken word beat-poet opening was likewise suprisingly groove-y. From that opening he traced the Biblical story in various poetic segments. We interspersed his readings with community credal recitiations. You can find a version of Brian's creed on his site. We also followed Harp 46's inventive jazzbased arrangements of mostly familiar hymns.

Fact is this was what worship should be: so overwhelming in some way or another that it points to the worth of the Creator. These co-creators mixed sense with the sensory, intellect and emotion, teaching toward Christian formation. The teaching was healing as it drew us out of ourselves to meditate on the Creator, the creatures, the creation, and the story we find ourselves in.

Embracing Church Re-Loaded

Jay Voorhees has re-launched the Embracing Church site. The new version includes links to those of us who participated in the Critical Concerns Course at Emergent 05-Nashville. The site includes a link to Brian McLaren's provocative slides on how to discuss divisive (particulary homosexuality) issues.

Here's Jay's description of the Embracing Church site.

"For much of the history of the church we have attempted to ignore the richness of God's creation as we have banded together with folks just like us. Yet, no matter how much we try to see no difference, hear no difference, or speak no difference, we continue to exclude persons from the party.

This website is dedicated to the belief that God has created all, and welcomes all into God's midst."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Presence of Absence

Back to the Emergent Convention. The candles at the IKON service were more than ambient. This was a Tenebrae Service (reminded me of Bach's "Christ lag in Todesbanden," and Palestrina's "Tenebrae Factae Sunt," both of which we sang in the choir at Willamette University). "Tenebrae" is Latin for "shadows," and our hosts explained that this service was a remembrance of Holy Saturday, that shadowy day between Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection. The symbol is of near-total darkness. The candles were all extinguished, save one. The white canvases were progressively painted fully black (during the service!) We were eventually invited to participate in the service by lighting and extinguishing our own matches, which we took home as icons.

Most meaningful to me was the poetic discription of God's presence in the absence. When I left that night, I was eager to get home to discuss the experience with Laura. I didn't get to that night, because she had more improtant issues on her mind. My need to wait made the eventual description to her that much more meaningful. You see, I was so eager to tell her about my experience that she was very present to me as I drove home anticipating the conversation. Likewise she was looking forward to me coming home to help with her more serious matters. I was present to her as she waited for me. When I actually got home, I was so focussed on what I wanted to say that I wasn't very poresent to her. So I was more present to her in my absence than I was in my physical presence. Sad, I know. But it is a way we might look at God's "absence" during Holy Saturday, not to mention all those other times we don't sense God's clear presence. Sometimes God is more present because of perceived absence. You know that Hebrews 12 passage that says "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Maybe it's the substance of things longed for, the presence of God's absence.

More About Parental Sins

Any parent worth their title feels that tinge of guilt whenever they correct a child for a transgression that they themselves struggle with. Should a father with an explosive temper never correct his son who displays the same malady? Is that father hypocritical to correct? Of course not, but we hope he will correct with the humility of a fellow struggler.

Perhaps at the end of Genesis 34, Jacob's babbling about his reputation and fear of retribution is actually a veiled admission of guilt that he has inadvertently trained his sons to react deceptively to any difficulty in their lives.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Sins of the Fathers

Dinah's dad, Jacob, makes a point to wait before reacting to the whole "violation" thing. Maybe it was that he didn't care. But maybe he cared enough to not want to react too quickly. Here's a man well versed in scheming, who eventually grew to bargain with God and then to actually be humble before God. Perhaps at this point he's humble enough to be silent before acting. Meanwhile his impulsive sons have learned well from their dad's conniving ways to get things done. So while Dinah's dad is slowly trying to act wisely, her brothers are conjuring up revenge. Poor Daddy Jacob/Israel. Just when you begin to learn a lesson, you realize that your children are following your past foolishness more ahan your current wisdom.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Is it Christian?

Night One of the Convention I missed all but the last words of Phillis Tickle’s first talk, but I made it to the IKON worship service held at Downtown Presbyterian. We walked into an ambiently dark room lit by candles and dim overhead lights. The sound of worshipful techno bathed the room. A DJ stood elevated front and center where you might expect a full choir. Also up front but on the floor were three white canvases. On the middle one was painted in black handwriting the words "Lord, If You exist, Come Among Us" (or somthing close to that) Also on the floor were two screens on which were projected scenes, perhaps from some movie of the life of Jesus. The scene faded and re-appeared. Sometimes in color, sometimes in black and white, often in negative.

After some time, a speaker introduced the IKON group and the service. I have to admit that to my North American ears, the accents of the speaker added to the mystery in the service. First the speaker clarified that IKON is not a church, that ehy are a collection of people coming togetehr to see what it might mean to follow Jesus. They hope to one day be a community and perhaps be willing to call tehmselves a church.

Then the story. A prominent Christian personality attended an IKON experience. Afterwards he was quite complimentary. He said that he enjoyed the service, but asked "Is it Christian?" The response? "Probably not, but we're trying to be."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Where's God?

My friend Jon points out the other glaring absence in Genesis 34. All this commotion going on and no-one even mentions God. Dinah's dad, Jacob, who's constantly bargaining with God, erecting stones as God-altars, and naming places for God (El- this and that), doesn't seem to consult or refer to God at all in this episode. What if he had?

A Roar for Dinah

Am I obsessing over the invisibility of Dinah? Perhaps. But I'm a dad (well, a stepdad), and I love my Little Girl, so I wonder why Jacob seems so detached from his one girl out of 12 kids. I get the cultural stuff, but culture isn't affection. Laura (my wife) wonders if Dinah is likewise rejected by her mother, Leah. I mean Leah's busy counting sons to make sure she wins the man-heir contest with her little sister, Rachel. She probably doesn't even see her daughter.

Hey Dinah needs a voice. She needs to roar. So I'm gonna try something. What if we begin to refer to everyone in this story by their relationship to Dinah. The players are Dinah's mother, father, brothers, half-brothers, "co-mothers" (what do you call the other mothers in a polygamist family?) , grandfather (Isaac), and grandmother(Rebekah), and uncle (Esau). Let's just see what happens when we let Dinah roar.

I remember when I first heard the episode that comes later in the story when Dinah’s brothers show up in Egypt years after attacking their half-brother, Joseph, and leaving him for dead. Joseph survives and has risen to the top of government. Dinah's brothers and half-brothers come to Egypt where Joseph recognizes them but they don’t know him. He sends them home to get their (his) father. As insurance, Joseph insists that one brother stay back. They choose Simeon one of Dinah full-blood brothers. When I first heard this story I felt for Simeon who got thrown in a dungeon waiting for his brothers to come back. He doesn't know that his captor is his own half-brother Joseph. What must it have felt like to wait, knowing that your brothers are rather unscrupulous anyway? Poor Simeon. But he did have memories of a moment when he and full-blooded brother Levi avenged the rape of their sister, Dinah.

The Embracing Church

We wanted our conversation on "The Embracing Church: A Spiritual Retreat on the Expansive Kingdom of God" to be bathed in worship. Lillian Smith made it so, beginning and ending each day with focus on God in community. The opening worship led us through Micah 6:1-8 from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament Beatitudes from Matthew 5. Here's our prayer response from 21st Century Africana Liturgy Resources: Worship Resources for January 30, 2005 — Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany" copyright © 2005 the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, PO Box 340003, Nashville TN 37203-0003.

Prayer Response
Give us, O Lord, an eye for injustice — for it is only when are able to recognize injustice and feel its awful sting that we will be moved to make things right.

Give us, O Lord, a tender heart — sometimes we are too hardhearted to recognize when we have been uncaring, unfeeling, or unkind.

Grant us, O Lord, the ability to view life from the dust — all our lives we have been taught to make others proud, to be proud of ourselves, to hold our heads high, all the while missing the virtues of being poor in spirit.

Teach us, dear Lord, to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. Amen.
Based on Micah 6:8

Each of us then introduced ourselves and told why we were there. We invited participants to do the same in small groups. A few reported back. My favorite: "When I heard 'The Embracing Church,' I was intrigued because, although I'm a youth minister, I have to go outside the church to feel embraced. I'm in a recovery group and that's where I feel embrace."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dinah Who?

Of course, that whole slaughter for Dinah's sake is ironic since there is no hint of Dinah's feelings or presence in the chapter. It's about her, but she isn't present. Her brothers and father posture and scheme with her boyfriend/rapist's father and brothers, but true to the form of her life, Dinah is invisible. Back in Chapter 32, after her dad, Jacob, wrestles the angel/man/God, we're told that he (Jacob) took his wives, maidservants, and eleven sons on his journey. What about baby girl Dinah? Some versions say "eleven children" instead of "eleven sons," but that won't work 'cause Jacob has TWELVE children. Poor Dinah. Always invisible, but still able to cause a war.

Shechem's in the kitchen with Dinah

Got in trouble in Sunday morning Bible study this week. I guess I have some sympathy for (not true identification with) Shechem, whom we meet quite unpleasantly in Genesis 34. Right off the bat we hear that he violates Dinah. Depending on your Bible version, the forcefulnes of this violation is ambiguous. And in all versions the confusion intensifies immediately when we're told that Shechem loved Dinah and spoke tenderly to her. I suggested in class that perhaps the violation was against Dinah's family (father and brothers), since he didn't ASK PERMISSION before having his way with her. Perhaps this was consensual but considered a "statutory" vilolation. Glad I raised the question, I think it caused my fellow class members to see this story in more alive ways. But I'm probably wrong. More accurately, I think Shechem did force himself on Dinah (the most accurate word-for-word translations seem to suggest so. But, my sympathy for Shechem (as long as he lives) remains. I think that after the violent act, he experienced an immediate change of heart. he turns out to be a sweet guy who would do anything (including spending money, speaking tenderly, and well... agreeing to painful surgery) to gain the woman he desires. Yeah, he eventually pays with his life (not to mention the lives of his kinsmen). Am I that passionate about anything?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Emergent 05

So, about the Emergent Convention. Lots to say. Mostly conversation. My week began co-leading the Critical Concerns Course on "The Embracing Church." I WAS there, although I guess I kept a low enough profile not to be mentioned in most reports of the event. Still I was glad to be a part of that exploration of "How open should we be?" Or as my firend Cass put it "Who is the wrecking ball to an embracing Christian community?" Who is excluded?

Susie Albert Miller gives us a mention at Sojourn Stories. For comprehensive notes on the course, see Gavin Richardson's blog. (but don't expect to see any evidence of my presence there!). To be fair, my co-leaders: Glandion Carney, Jay Voorhees, Lillian Smith, and Brian McLaren had more content responsibility. I focussed on process. All in all I was pleased with the worshipful, gracious tone of the conversation.

Grandpa and Damon Posted by Hello

Grandpa Tdad and Damon Posted by Hello

Damon's second party, first birthday Posted by Hello

Beginning to Roar

Hey. This is all new for me. Went to the Emergent Church Convention in Nashville last week. You Emergents inspired me to get blogging. So here goes.

Purr and Roar. Well, it's all about lions. Mostly the image of lions more than their actual substance, but I hope to unleash with some substance here and there.

For now, I'm posting pictures of me with my grandson, just to get started. Stories, musings, probings, questions, and massive opinions to come. Grace and Peace.