gentry13

Archive for August, 2005|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on August 31, 2005 at 7:57 pm

unexpected sacrament

“Let’s write a story of a tidal wave
We run out of luck, we run out of days
We run out of gas a hundred miles away from a station
There’s a war and a plague, smoke and disaster
Lions in the coliseum, screams of laughter
Motherless children, a witness and a bible
Nothing but rain ahead and no chance for our survival

Just before the flood comes
Just before the night falls
Just before the blood runs
Into the valley…
Just before my eyes go
Just before we can’t go no further
Love throws a line to you and me

Love throw a line…” ~love throw a line by sister patty griffin

In Uncategorized on August 31, 2005 at 5:27 am

“this stage is a confessional, you kneel and then begin. oh you cross yourself those three times, and step into this skin”

i can’t sleep. i don’t want to say that God woke me up because it sounds crazy, but it is the truth all the same. so here i am, feet on the windowsill, full glass of wine, hoping that this exercise in disclosure will solidify this unsettled mind. the ying in me says that i shouldn’t be blogging at such times, but the yang argues otherwise. let’s drink to the yang.

a half-hour or so ago, a piece of my life seemed to fall into place. somewhere in the midst of my dreams, which were troubled by katrina’s horrific scenes as well as one another of kellie’s simple yet brilliant schemes, my vocation seemed to come into focus. the feverish, half-baked revelation is this: i am a community organizer, not a preacher.

i realize that many of you who are close to me probably already realize this, but i’m just beginning to understand, so bear with me.

i think that this means that i am called to equip the saints for ministry rather than try to shape them with my ideas. God has not called me to simply be a conduit of sanctified information, but to help people incarnate the truth they find in Scripture and follow the path the Spirit of God has stretched out before them. i said earlier in the week that i feel more like an accompanier than a leader. that is part of it. my greatest joy comes from not simply helping people understand the gospel, but rather helping people be the gospel to others. all joking aside, when i see alex setting aside two hours to listen to mikey, loving him enough to hope for a better life for him and believing God enough to think that such a catalytic event is possible, i am much more satisfied than i am after preaching the most powerful sermon. moreover, when i read about becky’s absolutely ingenious attempts to invite high school students to fall into God’s story, i feel more satisfied than i have ever felt after completing an outline for a teaching or an agenda for a meeting. since accompaniment is the way that i can most effectively equip the saints for ministry, i am deeply committed to it. i am deeply indebted to jean vanier for this understanding of ministry. for more on this approach check out community and growth.

a couple of weeks ago i lamented the fact that i am behind the times in regards to understanding the catastrophic social injustices that currently blight the globe. although i am interested in increasing my knowledge in this area, i am also strangely warmed by the fact that i have helped give birth to a community full of people who are passionate about a number of these issues and are currently advocating and acting on behalf of the poor. for instance, i am overwhelmed by the fact that craig is enabling our community to invest in the university education of a young Ugandan man. moreover, i am so thankful that james and brooke have been trying to teach me for years that my consumption patterns can either bless or blight the people of the world. on a more personal note, i have been overwhelmed by kellie’s suggestion that when we begin to work through the process of adopting (as an adopted kid, i think that it is important to pass on the blessing) we should explore the possibility of adopting a handicapped child. as difficult as that commitment would be, it would provide me with an opportunity to continue living out a love for the disabled that stretches back to my youth and would, in a sense, be a continuation of the experience that first bound kellie and i together. in the end, i think right now i need to stop looking for a new issue to embrace or a cause to commend, so that i can walk and work with my brothers and sisters as we seek to address the issues God has placed upon their hearts.

i know that as one who once was considered and considered himself a preacher, i am supposed to offer you another point and a poem. but that’s all i can unravel at this point. as i turn my attention to my half-full glass of wine (yes, dr. james, this glass is gentry-sized) and set out to pursue the best way that our community can participate in the ongoing hurricane relief (rick, et. al, if you have any ideas here, let me know), i would like to affirm that my heart is full and i am incredibly honored to help lead a community of God. peace be with you.

In Uncategorized on August 29, 2005 at 2:56 am

somewhere between intuition and cognition the school of life is still in session

a couple of days ago a close friend asked an interesting question concerning vocation. he wanted to know whether most Christ followers had a definitive understanding of how and where they were to serve Christ or whether
understanding was more partial in scope. furthermore, he wanted to know whether their understanding of their vocation was revealed to them in a single experience or whether their understanding developed over a longer period of time. i think it is almost impossible to answer such questions in an objective way, since our personal experience always impinges upon our understanding of what vocation actually is and how it shapes our lives. for instance, i would have a hard time believing that one’s vocation is revealed in an ecstatic experience, since mine has clearly evolved throughout my life (i.e., as a young child our preacher told my grandmother she had to “watch out” or i would become a preacher, yet both my adolescent years as well as some of my current behavior and thought patterns seemed to suggest otherwise). frederick buechner once quipped that your vocation is where “your gifts and the worlds greatest needs intersect.” since my understanding and use of my gifts is always evolving and i live in a world that, from all appearances, is constantly changing as well, my lack of definitive understanding in this area does not surprise me.

that is a long and poorly thought out way to introduce a post that consists of half-baked, poorly formulated ideas. all i wanted to do was to tell you what i have been learning lately. now that i have told you what i am going to tell you and told you that i am going to tell you, so i guess that it is time for me to finally tell you. ugh.

lately i have been wondering whether God has wired me to be a leader or an accompanier. I know that this is poor, bi-polar thinking (since Kellie has already hinted as much), but that hasn’t stopped me from wondering. i don’t think that my greatest gift is fashioning a vision of what our community is going to be or laying out the strategic steps that will lead us to the aforementioned, indeterminate future. rather, i think that my calling is to walk with, or accompany, people as together we seek to love God, live the gospel and incarnate his compassion in this particular place. i don’t deny that i serve as a leader of this community, but to merely identify my understanding of my particular strengths.

i have also been learning what it means for a leader to be lead by his people. i have posted before about how others are revitalizing my passion for social justice and leading me into leading a more holistic life (i even think that this latter part will some day require that i give a damn about what i eat and what kind of java i drink, but please keep that part between us). henri taught me long ago that my leadership would eventually give way to being led by God and by His community. however, i didn’t think that this reversal would take place this early in my life (sidenote: this might sound like a ringing endorsement of the intelligence, generosity and compassion that characterizes our community as well as the individuals who are a part of our community. that is exactly what it is).

i have also been exploring ways in which i can reinvest myself in my ecclesiological tradition. although i grew up in the a Christian Churches/Churches of Christ congregation and studied at their finest bible college, i have not had a strong connection with one of our churches, nor have i had an interest to be involved in their efforts in new england for several years. initially my indifference was fueled by my thoughts of swapping denominations (for the record: i still think i am either a displaced episcopalian or non-celibate franciscan friar at heart) and my unhealthy anger towards some…okay one…of the ministry leaders in our area. however, after years of hearing neal windham’s admonitions to “study and experience broadly but always come home,” i finally decided to heed his advice. so although i had little interest in either working in a traditional setting or being a part of one of their church plants, i began looking and praying for opportunities to reconnect with my tradition. fortunately that is one prayer that has been answered. within the past two weeks i found out that aaron and tracy monts were moving to the area to be a part of new church plant tentatively titled “the boston project” (let’s pray for a new name), kellie and i had dinner with tim hawkins and his beautiful family who have recently moved to the area in order to work with impact campus ministries and in the lunch room at lifeway i ran into landis brown, who went to a Christian church bible college and has worked with Christian churches in the area (one of which was a home church!). so, landis and his family have now become a part of sinners and saints, i am looking forward to working beside tim and his team as they plant the campus ministry and am excited about working with aaron and tracy when they move out here next summer. i don’t think church unity rose or set in alexander campbell’s mind, i am not crazy about a church that often adorns itself with an oxymoronic title (every now and again they’ll…er, we’ll…refer to ourselves as the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.) and when the winds of doctrinal inquiry blow i lean more towards a reformed than an arminian theology. but that being said, i am quite grateful for this new development in my life.

i have been learning that it is foolish, if not abjectly sinful, to underutilize the gifts that i have been given. i don’t have anything more to say about that, but would like to thank craig for the admonition.

i have been utterly overwhelmed by how judgmental i am and how much work i have to do in this area. for a wonderful example of my short-sited judgmentalism, read my previous post about how short-sighted the evange-teens are in their pursuit of sexual morality and then read anna broadway’s perceptive post from august 26th. i’m not taking back everything i said, by any means, but rest assured, dear reader that the truth is always more complex than i am able or willing to admit. more on the judgment issue to follow (maybe. someday. if i’m feeling really honest).

i have been constantly reminded of what a beautiful, life-sustaining partner i have in kellie. she has helped me become a more centered and passionate person. moreover, with her by my side, i think i will be able to persevere upon this windy road that i am currently walking. i thank God for her.
i know that many of you are not interested in a lot of the stuff i talked about in this post. if you’ve read this far, i’d like to thank you for listening anyway. if you get a chance, say a prayer for New Orleans and the surrounding environs tonight. it sounds like they are in for one hell of a tempest.

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2005 at 12:46 pm

”excuse me while I whip this out.”

last friday morning, around 7:15, i read an article entitled the young and the sexless in rolling stone (props to pastor rick for the recommendation). the article focuses on a group of tragically hip evange-kids in new york city who are smart, sensual and sexless.

after reading the article i flew into an absolute rage that produced a couple of bad haikus and carried me far into the afternoon. i didn’t know whether i was angry at the author, who at times seems to eschew any measure of objectivity (i.e., somehow i do not think that this particular group of evange-kids is reading john hagee), or the masturband (the livestrong inspired tool that indicates one’s ability to master auto-eroticism) wearing evange-kids, who seemed to be utterly enthralled with the idea of displaying their acts of righteousness before men. although i found a number of things about the article troubling, i’ll only clue you into a few.

the evange-kids commitment to virginity was so extreme that their interest in all things sexual seemed to border on obsession. these kids talk sex, blog sex, eschew and scrutinize sex to such a degree that sex seems to overwhelm their horizon. i found it particularly troubling when one of the evange-kids in the article insisted on referring to sex as “communion.” while there is a intimate, communal element of sex, his linguistic choice seemed to confound sex with the one of the highest ordinances (in baptist language) or sacraments in the Christian tradition. while i appreciate the reverence with which he treats the act, i fear that he is setting sex on a far too lofty pedestal from which it cannot help but fall. although the Bible has a good deal to say about sex (no unsuspecting calves, brothers!), it does not obsess upon sex to such a degree. in fact, such an obsession seems to have more in common with canaanite and greek mystery religions.

second, if i walked into a church and saw dozens of twenty-somethings giving one another “chaste side hugs,” i would hit the exit quicker than you can say hot karl. in my opinion, such practices do not help one properly order sex so much as it enflames our scantly repressed desires. legalistic practices such as these remind me of paul’s teaching about the purpose of the law. the law does not restrain sin, paul tells us, but it illustrates the remarkable extent of our brokenness and prepares us to receive God’s grace. as horrible as it sounds, i almost found myself wishing that these kids would just do the deed, so that they could come to terms with their brokenness, set aside their virginal pride and allow grace to reshape their developing sexuality.

third, i felt like a couple of the evange-kids who were interviewed were being less than honest with themselves. one of the boys confessed that a year or two before his girlfriend gave him a blow job and he felt absolutely horrible the whole time it was happening. i don’t want to judge, but i have an extremely difficult time believing that (in fact, my original response was “liar. liar. liar.”). i have little doubt that a shitload of guilt followed the experience, but in the moment i think that he felt a little more ecstatic than he was willing to admit. at some point, evangelicals need to come to terms with the fact that disordered sex and many other forms of sin are quite fun. we may choose to abstain from such practices for very good reasons, but to misrepresent the experience itself seems a bit dishonest.

fourth, the brief discussion about evange-kids infiltrating liberal organizations at u.c. berkley so that they could proselytize more proficiently made me want to puke. maybe its just because i’m a flaming liberal, but i do not think our calling is infiltrate and deconstruct the structures of this world so much as it is to actively incarnate the love and compassion of Christ and call people towards a more beautiful, good and true way of life.

okay, so i’ve bitched enough. i would love it if you would read the article and then do what i have failed to do here. namely, suggest healthier ways that Christians can maintain the sexual practices that are set out for us in Scripture and affirmed by the overwhelming majority of our traditions, without setting legalistic standards, becoming sexual isolationists and teetering towards damndable self-righteousness. basically, i want to think through this more clearly and eventually espouse a more holistic and healthy response. in order to do so, i could use your help.

i’ve also been reading a lot of articles on killing the buddha lately. i think this site is absolutely spectacular and would like to contribute something meaningful to them at some point in the future. if you only read one article, read a slut for faith. if i worked in a more traditional church, i would have every unknown couple who asked me to sanctify their secular contract read this article before proceeding. i think you’ll love this site.

that’s it for now. i need to strap on the masturband and get to work. er, i mean i need to wax my rocket. no, i meant…

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2005 at 3:21 pm

i never claimed to be a promise keeper

unfortunately i have yet to write the review of doug pagitt’s preaching re-imagined that i promised. however, i found a fairly interesting interview with doug that was posted at christianbook.com.

please note: neither i, the management of musings, nor lifeway endorse the consumer-driven, subtly liberal, crypto-communist website that this interview was posted on. peruse this site at your own risk.

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2005 at 12:58 pm

happy haiku friday!

i spent the morning

lamenting hypocrisy

while chewing a pen



while we serenade

God’s love and Christ’s compassion

He responds with rage

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2005 at 12:13 pm

undone

yesterday, in the midst of categorizing a stack of books, i stumbled across the reprint edition of the faces of Jesus by frederick buechner. after reading the copy on the front jacket flap i flipped the pages en masse so that i could see if there was an author photo featured on the back.

fortunately there was a photo. upon seeing it i was almost undone. buechner has always been incredibly photogenic, as the covers of his little autobiographies attest, but this photo pierced me so deeply that i almost wept. in this photograph, buechner looks old and bemused. his h-frame mouth is open just enough to offer a sympathetic smile and his eyes bear witness to a lifetime full of tightly clinched, discerning squints that were occasionally overwhelmed by wide-eyed wonder. as i scrutinized uncle freddy’s liver spots and last wisps of hair, i realized how grateful i am that my life has overlapped with this liberal, literary prophet and how utterly afraid i am of the day that he finally departs.

so many of uncle freddy’s words have opened my heart to the Word and his constant reminders to “listen to your life” have helped me salvage a few remnants of sense from this shipwrecked, chaotic world. as odd as it sounds, i hold him as close as i hold family and, as pagan as it sounds, i pray that when he passes God will grant me a portion of his spirit.

is there an author that simultaneously helps hold you together and enables you to hold out hope for the future? if so, i’d love to hear about it.

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2005 at 2:30 pm

“look kids! It’s a…it’s a…it’s a rocket ship!”

i haven’t been there yet, but i would still be willing to bet that hell is a lot like bolivar, missouri. it was there, on the unsuspecting stage of baptist bible college, that i revealed my adolescent indulgences to three hundred, hormone-driven teens.

we had been doing hand motions for three days, i was ready to kill one of the other sponsors and was dying for a cigarette. so to say i was sick of c.i.y. was an understatement. on wednesday afternoon, killing time before the alternative alleluia band was supposed to play kevin greer decided to stage a mid-afternoon timewaster. as he began to hand-select the objects of his ridicule from the crowd, i began to feel sick. he was going to pick me. i knew he was going to pick me and all of my self-determined denials wouldn’t do me a damn bit of good. i was right.

as i made my way backstage, barely bottling my rage, the stage manager directed me to a sound-proof green room where i received my assignment. “when you get on stage,” the pimple popping ozark intern told me, “make-believe that you are taking off in a rocket ship.” “is that all you have to tell me,” i asked. “oh yeah, one more thing,” he said, “there’ll be a black chair on stage that you can use however you want.” so there i sat, cursing my fate and awaiting my fifteen seconds. although i couldn’t hear kevin from the green room, i could hear the crowd roaring. in that moment, i knew i was being set up. i was right.

when my moment came, i swept the curtain aside as inconspicuously as possible, tried not to look at the six hundred eager eyes that were staring at me and made my way to the chair. i immediately tipped the chair so that its back was resting on the stage, sat down in the chair so that my back and legs were parallel with the stage, clasped my hands together and put them right below my crotch. then, at the word “go” i trembled violently, made thundering rocket ship noises and rapidly adjusted the imaginary yoke between my legs.

after fifteen seconds of my antics, i was overwhelmed by the roar of the crowd. when i stood up, straightened my shirt and looked in kevin’s eyes, i could see that they were filled with tears. when i looked out at the crowd, i saw my youth minister on his knees laughing. i immediately began to panic.

after i made my way off the stage, flush red in the face, i asked my youth minister what the set up was. he told me in a rushed, hyper-ventilating voice that i was mimicking “what i did in the bathroom.”

that was the last time i waxed my rocket ship in a public setting. and that, my friends, is yet another reason that i am not a youth minister.

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2005 at 8:19 pm

amidst the atmospheric “pop”

after diagnosing spiritual schizophrenia
he said

    prayer is the prescription
    the community provides counseling

why do i feel so fragmented
if i was created to be whole?

amidst the firing synapses
is there room enough for soul?

perhaps this is the result
of exchanging absolutes for ambiguity

    and getting a quarter on the dollar

or rather an expression of humility
of contemplation outstripping capability

    let us pray for the latter

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2005 at 3:11 am

memorandum from captain random

it’s 9:37p.m. i’m drinking my second cup of reheated coffee, seriously considering a glass of wine and committed to defraging my spirit for the next sixty minutes. i thought for some odd reason you might enjoy seeing my blue screen incrementally overtaken by the little white boxes of underdeveloped thoughts.

9:42 p.m. – regardless of how this series unfolds, i am incredibly proud of the way the cardinals have played over the last six weeks. since the all-star break four of our regulars (molina, walker, rolen and sanders) have been injured and they have gone 16-10. i had hoped they could play .525 ball during this stretch, so obviously they have surpassed my expectations. if we can just treat water until mid-september, get molina/walker/sanders (rolen appears to be d-u-n) on track and perhaps get some bullpen smoke out of reyes, we might be able to make a strong run in october.

9:45 p.m. – life lessons i have learned from baseball:

  • slow the game down
  • play a hard nine
  • replicate your mechanics
  • candlesticks always make a nice gift

9:54 p.m. – the cardinals are showing some life, mark prior does not appear to be the god i once thought he was and i would like to recommend a superb cardinals blog to you. it’s called viva el birdos, which i think is spanish for the cardinals are the shiz-nite, and the author’s attention to detail and analysis are excellent. even a summary perusal of the posts will show you why i am not a full-time baseball blogger (i.e., i have neither the time nor the statistical ability to develop such sophisticated proposals).

10:00 p.m. – if the cardinals had as much organizational talent as the cubs and did as little with it, i would be on psychotropics by now. over the past three years i have been constantly mystified by their inability to dominate the central.

10:04 p.m. – that is the nicest thing you will ever hear me say about the cubs. speaking of that glass of wine, i would like to thank alex for providing me with such a generous portion. i wish he was here to enjoy it with me.

10:06 p.m. – several years ago, i thought of myself as mr. social justice. i challenged apparent evangelical indifference towards the urban poor, parroted jim wallis and spent my vacations serving with the l’arche community in downtown toronto. now, although i am actively engaged in social concerns on the local level, i am remarkably ignorant about darfur, the developing famine in niger and a million additional concerns i am unaware of. the upside of my current situation is that i have a number of friends, especially dr. james, rick and craig that are constantly reminding me of these concerns. in this area i set out to be a leader, but am now being led. i think i’m ok with that.

10:16 p.m. – i have been reading moby dick over the past couple of days in an attempt to reintroduce myself to american classics and start preparing for the secondary ed. prep exam that i’ll be taking next spring. anyway, i have found melville’s sense of humor striking and his religious thought unexpectedly progressive. would you like to hear a few quotes? i thought you might…

  • “heaven have mercy on us all – presbyterians and pagans alike – for we are all somehow directly cracked about the head, and sadly need mending” (pg. 90).
  • “i know what he is – a good man – not a pious good man, like bildad, but a swearing good man – something like me…” (88-89)
  • “if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves, and it is in disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists” (48)
  • “yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow” (45. wonderful quote, eh? too bad i don’t believe it)
  • “better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken christian” (26. yeah, it’s a bit reductionistic and derivative, but i like it)
  • “what of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? what does that indignity amount to, weighed, i mean, in the scales of the new testament?…who ain’t a slave? tell me that” (6)

10:32 p.m. – over the past week or so another new character has been given a reoccurring role on the gentry show. his name is ken and he’s a twenty year old magician, student and all around nice guy. ken grew up in colorado springs, where he was turned off by megachurches, humored by evangelicals who would approach his mohawked brother in restaurants only to say things like “god is right there in your hands” and briefly employed by focus on the family as an extra in a movie who’s plot he described as “non-christian teenage parties are bad, christian teenage parties are good.” anyway, for reasons both obvious and unknown, ken is not committed to living in the way of Jesus. however, our conversations this weekend have touched on the church more often than not. why the rambling narrative, you ask, good question…here’s the rub. ken is obviously interested in our church or at least continuing to be a part of our community, but i have yet to directly ask him to “come to church.” early this afternoon he asked me what time we met (the fact that i spent all day sitting on my ass reading tipped him off to the fact that we didn’t read on sunday) and when he stopped by for dinner this evening he asked what a regular service was like, but i still did not invite him.

i’ve invited him to join us before, but he seemed uninterested. now, i’m going to leave him to his own initiative. i hope this intuitive approach is wise.

10:45 p.m. – so i’ve broke the sixty minute mark. sue me. you’re the one who is bored enough to read this shit. as the allusion in the previous snippet was intended to suggest, i’ve been reading nick hornby this weekend. if you enjoy his rapacious wit, have been charmed by his humorous, humane novels and/or prefer to read about reading literature rather than actually reading it yourself, you’ll love polysyllabic spree.

10:55 p.m. – i think the crumbling discus thrower anti-steroid ads would be much more effective if they provided virile young men with an image of how steroids de-values the family jewels. i don’t think that the demise of their calves is going to weigh on the future “physical education” and “recreation science” majors of america. but irreversible shrinkage? that’ll keep a few of ’em up late at night.

11:00 p.m. – i just heard that tracy “tickner” monts, one of my favorite people in bible college, and her husband aaron are moving to boston next summer. from what i’ve heard so far, it appears that they are planning on staying and serving with a new church plant for a defined amount of time. however, i am already hoping that they decide to stay in the area of become a part of our community after their enlistment in the boston project is up. a boy can hope.

11:05 p.m. – this is the sound of me spell-checking. good night!

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