Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

My All-Time, Top-Five High Fidelity Quotes

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

I was watching Justified – one of the best extended meditations on anger and father issues that I’ve ever seen – the other night and I realized that I knew the actress that played Ava from somewhere. One of the favorite tv games in my family was “where have you seen that actor/ress before” so I couldn’t stop thinking about it and, for some odd reason, not imbding it, for the rest of the episode. Finally, in the midst of a sermon the next morning, it hit me.

“You know I didn’t have sex again until I got out of college. That’s when you’re supposed to have sex Rob. In college!” She was none other than Penny Harwick from High Fidelity. The girl that was, “in Rob’s charming expression, tight.”

No wonder I recognized her. Although I’ve seen scores of finer films since I first saw High Fidelity with a then ex-girlfriend in 1998, few films have more clearly captured my journey from long-delayed adolescence to halting adulthood. Judging by the shared fandom of a few of my closest friends, I think it hit the mark for many of us.

So, since you asked, I’m going to share my all time, top-five High Fidelity quotes and quick reflections.

1. Rob: “Yes. I am a fucking asshole.”

Rob’s L train confession about his tone-deaf response to Laura’s schmasmortion and the role his own infidelity played in the advent of Ian, rings true to about, oh, 7% of my daily thoughts. Eight ago my friend Rick, who was roughly the same age then that I am now, talked about how often he realized he had the wrong take on biblical texts in the past or how much he regretted now regretted doing or saying something in the past. At the time, I thought, “I don’t think my exegesis is that far off, that often and it’s rare that I spend time lamenting the past.”

Shit I was stupid. Now, barely a day goes by that I don’t audibly grunt about, to take only one example, spewing a cancer joke in the presence of a young cancer survivor’s husband. My fourth grade friend Kari was right, my foot usually resides in my mouth. That awkward alignment is mirrored by the fit between the good intentions of my heart and my oddly shaped, ill-considered actions. Those intermittent, painful “ughs” inspire questions from the Pix and, on my better days, make me more dependent upon grace.”

2. Rob: “Some days I am tempted to throw the Country A-K rack out in the middle of the street and go work for a Virgin Megastore.”

I cannot count how many times I’ve muttered this sentiment to friends and, on a couple of occasions, even typed it in this space, as I’ve struggled with my failures as a bi-vocational leader in small, relational churches and thought longingly – and yes, occasionally enviously – of friends who are free and fairly well compensated to minister in the big box shops that I am sometimes grateful for and always critical of. Like Rob, I bitch about being on the margins even though, if given free access to and ability to navigate within the mainstream, I would quickly return from whence I came.

3. Rob: “Hey, I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I’m certainly not the dumbest. I mean, I’ve read books like “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”, and I think I’ve understood them. They’re about girls, right? Just kidding. But I have to say my all-time favorite book is Johnny Cash’s autobiography “Cash” by Johnny Cash.

I wholeheartedly resonate with the initial self-assessment, though I must add that I could also stand to spend far less time calculating how dumb or smart that I am. Although I’ve never delved into Latin American fiction, I also think “Cash” is an almost perfect memoir.

4. Rob, In reference to Charlie’s annoyingly arty friends: “Sure I want their money and clothes and jobs and opinions. And I’d like to have advice on jet lag, but that’s not it. I mean they’re not bad people and I’m not a class warrior, it’s something else.”

Sorry, Rob, have to part company here. Working and living beside people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations for the last four years has made me a bit of a class warrior. Other people have power and resources that – my community, the community I serve, the underserved, can’t find the right term and not sure how to identify without disempowering – desperately needs and I am out to help them secure.

5. Rob: “I’ve started to make a tape… in my head… for Laura. Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that make her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done.”

It’s taken me more than three decades, but I’m finally learning that serving others is, in the best sense, self-serving, since it often makes life more beautiful, meaningful, and true for both parties. I don’t make mix-tapes, since my musical tastes are woefully pedestrian. But over the past month I’ve been trying to do a little cleaning on a daily basis, something that the Pixie likes, and it seems to be bearing, at worst, slightly blighted fruit.

I hope in the years to come that I can find the grace to invest in more of the things that my family and friends like as well (except for cards, games, american idle and apple picking) so that we can be surprised by the joy found in fellowship.

5a. Laura: “You’re making something. You – the critic, the professional appreciator – put something new into the world. And the second one of those things gets sold, you’re officially a part of it.”

After spending adolescence and most of college feasting on roast preacher and deconstructing faith communities, I finally led a church, albeit of the boutique, home church variety, of my own and had the privilege of helping lead another beautifully quirky community. Those experiences were profoundly humbling. I’ve never been able to get quite as lathered up about a sketchy sermon again (excluding sermons focused on the prayer of jabez, why Jesus the poverello wants to bless us with piles of money, or while implicitly critiquing the roman empire of the first century asserted or assumed that our fake empire is grrrrrreat!).

This movement from cultural critic to culture maker is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, due in no small part to andy crouch’s great book on this practice. I’m learning that there is a definite holiness that can be discovered by moving beyond constant critique and walking beside him who “makes all things new.”

So, that’s my slightly extended all-time top-five. I suspect that High Fidelity also has the added benefit of helping more than one of ex process through the relational rubble left behind by a neurotic, even if Jesus bent, narcissist. But, of course, I can’t speak for them.

If you have an all-time, high fidelity top five, I’d love to hear it.


Tuning Through the Static

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

the other day, while “cleaning” my desk, i picked up my esv study bible* and it felt foreign in my hands. over the last three months i’ve been leafing through the bible, but i haven’t seriously studied a text or said the word pericope once. there have been moments in the past where i didn’t think i could stand outlining one more text, pulling little kittel off my shelf, or bumbling through bibleworks’ greek nt. but now that i have some distance from my somewhat studious study practices, i miss it.

ok, i’ll be more honest, i miss a lot of it. i haven’t preached in three months. i miss wrestling with the text, listening for the Word, and reporting my paltry findings on sunday mornings. i miss presiding over the eucharist and feel a little bit envious of the marvelous priests at christ church who have that privilege every sunday. i miss playing a more active role in the sunday morning as together we wrap words around the Word and wait for the Spirit to turn that dialogue inside out. i don’t miss the coffee hour challenge of struggling to hear people’s stories and longings over the intermittent static issuing forth from post-sermon exhaustion and self-condemnation concerning my listening skills,** but what longing is ever unmixed?

fortunately, in this sabbatical season filled with long, sermonless weekends, God is leading me into intersections of unexpected connection and offering opportunities to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

for instance, two weeks ago, before a presentation at work, a community partner asked me about my faith and revealed that her own grandfather had been an adventist pastor – not of the seventh day variety – on the south shore. she mentioned that while she was less explicit about her faith, the spirituality of her family informed her practice on a daily basis. as we continued to talk another collaborator joined us at the stained cafe table, spoke of camp experiences in her youth and, for a moment, it felt like the conversational rotation that incites many a small group meeting. then, as abruptly as it started, we adjourned for the previously scheduled meeting.

a couple of days later, i received an all company email that one of our long-time community members had died. as i was expressing slight shock, our hr director mentioned that we were fortunate that charlotte was involved in the grieving process because she alone had thought to take the longtime partner and housemate of the deceased to the hospital so that he could say goodbye to his beloved. when i first met char, i didn’t know what to make of her manic energy – in a one hour period she can call me with a request to research the gates foundation and hit me again with a demand to listen to her radio friend sound off in the elephant echo chamber – or her spiritualist faith. however, when i heard that she had set aside her, normally wisely boundaried, private time to walk our mutual friend through the grieving process, i was overcome. quite literally. i left the hr director’s office and immediately set off to find char. when i found her, i embraced her in gratitude for her great kindness and realized, for the first time, that in a very vital sense our calling is shared.

so, there’s that. and there is also the everyday privilege of laying my hand on the moppy brown or humidity curled hair of my son and daughter and saying a blessing. in those moments i often feel like buechner’s vision of godric, an utterly unworthy conduit of grace whose hands and prayers can sometimes bestow blessings all the same.

maybe this season is about tuning into the rhythms of every day ministry – which include pleasing my wife by doing things like “cleaning” my desk in circumstances that cannot be labelled duress – and reducing some of the static that renders me a remedial pastor. one can hope.

at the least, as i itch for the pulpit and look longingly at the altar, i’m aware that at the cafe table, on sorrow filled tuesday mornings, and beside my beautiful children, God is still working and willing in accordance with his good purpose.

* though restless, i am neither young nor reformed, but i appreciate the translation and am sold on the study notes and maps.

** forgive me, st. rogers, for my reflective listening skills are for shit.

The Half (The what? The Half. The what?)

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Submitted By: Kevin Smith Clark

“I don’t have that orange thing.”  That’s when you know you’re not a real runner.  About a year ago, I ran two consecutive miles for the first time in my life (at age 33), in preparation for my first 5K.  By the end of it, I thought, “I have to run another 1.1 for this to add up?”  But I persevered.  I got up early.  I ran, and I ran, and I ran…I ran so far away…I couldn’t get away.  I did the 5K…slowly.  I did another…less slowly.  I decided I wanted to try longer runs, so I tried a 10K in October…tough, but I finished.  The encore: what if I try for a half-marathon in the spring?  Who is this crazy person talking?  I’m reminded of this exchange from Back to the Future III:

TOWNSPERSON: If everyone in the future has one of these auto-whatsits, does anyone ever walk or run?

DOC BROWN: Only for recreation or fun.

TOWNSPERSON: Run for fun?  The hell kinda fun is that?

This was 13.1 miles we were talking about, to a life-long slow poke.  Is this my “Third-life crisis” (provided I live well into my 80s)?  But the registration had been sent, the money paid, the training book bought.  On May 7th, 2011, I would participate in the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio.   Three months of really good, followed by one month of really lousy, training later, I found myself in the car, headed to the race, getting all my “gear” ready.  Two miles from our hotel, I realize, I don’t have it.  The orange thing.  It wasn’t there.  Bibs and clocks aren’t enough when you have 6000 participants…you have to have the orange thing: the electronic timing device you strategically thread a shoelace through that will give the accurate time of your race.  And it was sitting in the hotel room.

So back we go.  Amy whips the car around, I get my orange thing (curse you, orange thing), lose a valuable eight minutes that I needed to get to downtown to get ready (not to mention use a toilet).  Then strike two.  Ooooh, traffic jam, got more cars than a beach got sand.  Suck it up, suck it up, Clark.  I get out of the car two blocks from the starting line.  “Five minutes, runners,” from the loudspeaker.  I really need to go nowI won’t make it the first mile.  There’s a toilet…yeah that one…with the long friggin’ line behind it.  “Two minutes!”  Okay, stretch now…get ready in line.  Do something while you’re doing nothing.  “Ladies and gentlemen, our national anthem.”  Sorry, I can’t put my hand on my heart, I have to stretch my Achilles. 

By the time I get through the potty line, the race has started, and the first two corrals gone.  Good thing I knew I was slow enough to be in Corral D.  Another four minutes, and we were off.  What a surreal feeling, to be moving with a pack of strangers, yet we were all for each other.  I didn’t look at the person ahead of me and think, “I want to beat you.”  Those comments were reserved for my own body.  “I beat my body and make it my slave,” First Corinthians 9:27, slightly taken out of context, but nonetheless, my mantra.

If any reading this ever consider a half or full marathon, let me encourage you to pick one that goes through a city.  It’s a terrific distraction.  I couldn’t imagine running one where I live.  Look there’s a field of corn…and there’s a field of soybeans…and there’s a field of corn.  People asked me on Sunday what I thought about over 140 minutes of running.  The truth: there were so many pleasant, welcome distractions I didn’t have time focus on how I felt, what Amy was doing, when I would hit the wall, etc.  There were literally, hundreds (if not thousands) of people lining the streets, clapping for us, cheering us on…some even calling me by name (our names were on our bibs).  What an encouragement…in some ways I feel like the church should take notes on community from runners.  I saw signs reading, “You all look Kenyan to me,” “Humpty Dumpty had wall issues,” and one Big Lebowski fan on High Street held a sign that read, “F*** it, let’s go bowling,” to which I yelled at him, “The Dude abides!”  Welcome distractions.

The night before, I tweaked my run playlist.  Again, I’m not a real runner, so I must have a soundtrack to keep me going.  I knew I was going to run slower than my 12.31.10 registration estimate, so I tried to anticipate when I could finish to Sigur Ros’ “Festival”…you know, the good part…where it picks up.  That scene in 127 Hours after Franco’s just hacked through his arm, and he finds the hikers, and the helicopter comes for him…awesome, chill-bumpy, Danny Boyle dramatics (if you need to YouTube the song, go to the 4:37 mark)!  I did it!  I’ve been rescued from my body and this race!  Except, I kept up way better than I’d imagined and finished only five minutes off my prediction, so I had to settle for the first part of Bright Eyes’ “Road to Joy”…which still worked thematically.  I’m wide awake, it’s morning.  And there’s my biggest encouragement…that tall, hot brunette in the red shirt, just before the finish line, waving at me.  Big smile on her face.  It was all worth it.  Even the orange thing.

KSC’s Official Half Marathon Playlist (5.7.11)

“Road Outside Columbus” – OAR

“Black Sheep” – Metric

“The Cave” – Mumford & Sons

“99 Luft Problems” – Jay-Z & Nena mash-up (bootleg, if you’d like a copy, let me know)

“Never Hear Surf Music” – Free Blood

“Lovely Day” – Bill Withers

“We Are Sex Bob-omb” – Scott Pilgrim sndtrk

“Awaken” – Dethklok (the new Finland National Anthem, for you “Metalocalypse” watchers)

“Is There a Ghost” – Band of Horses

“Revisited” – OAR

“Wonderful” – Gary Go

“Brothers Gonna Work it Out” – Public Enemy

“Diablo Rojo” – Rodrigo Y Gabriela

“Touch the Sky” – Kanye West

“We Want Eazy” – Eazy-E (sometimes, you just need some old school hip-hop)

“Flashlight” – Parliament

“Bold as Love” – John Mayer – (it’s the guitar solo that does it for me in this)

“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition my Condition was in)” – Kenny Rogers (cf Big Lebowski)

“I Wish” – Stevie Wonder

“All These Things That I’ve Done” – The Killers

“Little Lion Man” – Mumford & Sons

“Bleed American” – Jimmy Eat World

“Ca Plane Pour Moi” – Plastic Bertand (I have no idea what these guys are saying, but I like it)

“The Nearness” – David Crowder* Band

“Mausam & Escape” – AR Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire sndtrk)

“Knights of Cydonia” – Muse

“Leave Home” – Chemical Brothers

“Roll Your Stone Away” – Mumford & Sons

“It Takes Two” – Rob Base

“Weapon of Choice” – Fatboy Slim

“Dareh Meyod” – OAR

“Mombasa” – Hans Zimmer (Inception sndtrk)

“Jai Ho” – AR Rahman (Slumdog sndtrk)

“Road to Joy” – Bright Eyes

Stumbling Along

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

This morning I’m sipping black coffee out of my Soberfest® mug and thinking about the journey. This spiritual practice of sipping and reflecting is so central to my life that numerous communities I’ve served have sent me forth with both blessings and new mugs. When I left Riverglen in Milwaukee, years ago, I not only carried out the AA approved mug I’m using now, but I was also gifted with a beautiful steel tumbler that served me well for several years. Similarly, when I left L’Arche I was given a ceramic coffee mug that bore the names, in wonderfully diverse script, of core members and assistants who have been inscribed upon my heart forever.

But I digress. Probably because talking coffee is easier than opening a vein about the journey.

These last couple of post-Gathering months have been hard. Since I started following Christ intently when I was 19, I have always been aspiring towards something, whether it was a positions as a theology professor, a church planter, a preaching provocateur, or, perhaps most absurdly, a pastor. I still carry scraps of those dreams with me, but currently I’m a layman who is learning to fall back in love with God, while desperately trying to embody the love of Christ and incarnate the compassion of Christ on a daily basis.

In one sense, I’m fortunate. As Kellie reminded me last night, for four years I’ve had the privilege to walk beside the differently abled on a daily basis and watch them navigate, and sometimes overcome, barriers that would have long since brought me to my knees. I would never say that my daily work is pastoral work, but it is inspired by my belief that the whole life that the members of my community are pursuing is not all that different than the holy life that Christ followers aspire to.* Sometimes the work we do cuts so close to the core of what it means to be whole, and perhaps holy, that it has driven me towards fasting and prayer. The IMPACT:Ability comprehensive violence prevention program** that is contingent on funding we hope to hear about today, is definitely one example of an initiative that has rent my heart.  I told Kellie the other day that I like I’ve actually developed emotions*** throughout process of advocating for IMPACT:Ability and awaiting to hear about potential funding. When we hear about the foundation’s decision today – if we hear about the foundation’s decision today – I think that, regardless of the outcome, I am going to cry and need a couple days off. So I’m thankful for meaningful work.

In other senses, I’m fortunate as well. Even in these dry times, I’m being nourished by the life and worship of Christ Church in Hamilton Wenham. Throughout the week I find myself singing the liturgy internally or aloud, and I am grateful to sit under the preaching of Father Patrick Gray, who is one of the most gifted weekly preachers I have ever heard. I’m also playing on the Christ Church’s Crushing Crozier’s – feel free to ridicule – softball team. In so doing I have met a number of men from the church and finally made peace with the fact that my bat speed is gone and I never could hit. I’m having fun in the midst of my suck and that is quite an accomplishment for me.

Almost two weeks ago, our family had the privilege of accompanying our dear friends Callid and Kristina Keefe-Perry on a Quaker Retreat at the Powell House in New York. In addition to the blessing of spending time with Nahar, their daughter, during the retreat, we both had the opportunity to participate in Quaker worship and learn to listen to the Spirit who is constantly shaping us into disciples. Both Kellie and I found the worship invigorating. At one point I was overcome by the image of the burning bush and reminded that God’s revelation is ongoing and his presence cannot be consumed by my busyness, ignorance, or brokenness.

I’m also reading Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor. Peterson is clearly a true poet and spiritual pilgrim who is worthy of emulation. I’m tempted to provide numerous reflections on the book, but for the sake of space will simply say that his narrative has reminded me that as I stumble through this unknown landscape I cannot step outside of my calling.****I don’t know if I can lay claim to the function***** or the title of Pastor, since my gifts and practice have always aligned much more closely with Preacher. Nevertheless, I can hope and pray for the development of the former function and I have much to learn from Eugene’s journey.

That’s where I am at the moment. I’m not discouraged by this leg of the journey, just a bit baffled. If you’re the praying sort, I wouldn’t begrudge a petition for my direction. But you can rest assured that I am blessed as I continue along the way of living up and into the grace and calling which God has given me.

* Mrs. Riggs, I apologize for ending the sentence with a preposition. Sometimes it sounds so right.

** If you want to read another pastoral perspective on that project, check this amazing post out.

*** In addition to anger, which I’ve long cornered the market on (Sorry again, Mrs. R!).

**** Which is a gift, not an aspiration.

***** Which is always the vital thing, isn’t it?

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