Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The 200th Post

And here we are, post number 200. A little longer than I thought it would take, but thanks for hanging with me.

From a mind at play

This drawing is from the mind of Gilles Trehin, an autistic 28-year-old Frenchman. It is one of the many drawings he has rendered of his imaginary city of Urville, which he has been meticulously drawing and describing since he was 12.

I have long wondered about the connection between the mind and the soul; what "are" we when our minds do not operate "normally"?

Anyway, I have little to add other than to suggest that you stop by his site and marvel at what a mind at play can create.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lots to do, nothing to say

This blog and my podcast have been silent for weeks, I know... "too busy" is an easy answer but it doesn't fit. Fact is that my heart right now is in getting some meaningful results out of my job (more sales, more pay, etc.) so that I can feel that at least one of the ridiculous number of moving parts in my life is somewhat nailed down. Mrs. Zeke knows how much I hate instability and yet it seems that I have nothing but that in my life. I absolutely must bring more income in, and fast. I occasionally think of something other than that, but not much. Even getting a normal night's sleep has become almost impossible.

By nature I am a pretty monastic and reflective dude; I do just fine wandering in the hills half the day preoccupied with a thought. But lately I have been so absorbed in action and urgency that I feel as if I haven't had a useful thought to share. So I'll just share that little truth instead.

In the meantime, I am trying to learn patience (especially with my mom, who needs a lot of help and asks for more) and to learn to be OK with chaos and uncertainty.

So this is where I'm at in case you were wondering.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

True fasting

Thanks to Rick at A New Life Emerging for an excellent post about "Yaweh-style" fasting. He reminds us of the purpose of fasting, as expressed in Isaiah 58:

1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Thanks, Rick, for putting it back in perspective. It's so easy to ask God for "just decisions" and to ask him to "come near," not so easy to take on poverty and oppression. Especially when we are called to "spend yourselves in the behalf of the hungry" and to "satisfy the needs of the oppressed." That's a taller order than to just do something. Isaiah 58 sounds to me like real commitment. It's about sacrificing meals not to get God's ear, but to go without so that others can have.

What podcasting is all about

My friend Craig Bob at Out of Fellowship, who I've referred to often, has posted a podcast of his reflections on his empty nesting experiences of the last several months. In its honesty, poignancy and emotional richness it represents the best of what podcasting can be: not amatuer radio, but a new form of communication that lets us to grow closer to one another thanks to unfiltered radiance of thought. The pains some podcasts make to sound "pro" by imitating commercial radio are made increasingly irrelevant by the courage of podcasters like Craig Bob who resolve simply to speak honestly and then engage with their listeners who share their commitment to open exchange.

I think that the true impact of podcasting has yet to even be felt, despite the content explosion. As more podcasters awaken to the potential of a gifting economy among themselves, that they can step up and soothe an itch for intimacy and honesty that commercial radio can never scratch, we will all benefit in ways that can't be measured by revenues and market share.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A few words about pastors

Prompted by a conversation with my wife, I thought about pastors today. I thought about Pastor Eddie Thompson, an old friend of ours, close as a brother to my wife, struggling in the hospital with pneumonia. I thought about Dan Burchett, pastor of Open Door, ministering to the unique needs of gay Christians. I thought of the pastor of the Calvary Chapel that I "grew up" in my faith in, who taught me exegesis and who left quietly under circumstances I still am not clear about. I thought of my own most recent pastor of seven years, moved to Texas to start something new. And yes, I even thought of ex-pastors I've come to know through my online travels.

I fear, terribly, that what I've said and done here might have wounded them. If any of them read this blog, it wouldn't be difficult at times for them to see themselves the target of a sharp comment or a pointed question.

I fear that in my carelessness I wound without just cause. To a man, each one I've mentioned is passionate about caring for God's people. Perhaps even those I've accused of being corrupted by money, blinded by ignorance or led astray by anger and hate. To take up the pastor's call is to bear a cross that precious few could handle.

So if I am to question anything, let it be that we may have created in the office of pastor a burden that no single believer was meant to bear. Let me only question the wisdom of our vesting power and responsibility in the hands of one man who we then--all too often--leave to his own devices, cut off from intimacy with his fellow believers. It's not pastors' fault that they strain under the weight of the burden that was not theirs to carry alone.

I have no answers for any of this. None. All I can say, humbly, is that something isn't working and that I hope by talking about it we will find a way to make things better.

On the Nightstand: The Secret Message of Jesus

I came back from my business trip to find an advanced copy of Brian McLaren's new book The Secret Message of Jesus, courtesy of the publisher. They've elected to send copies to some bloggers for reviews, an approach I appreciate. The world is changing, and bloggers are starting to be recognized as a force of influence. Maybe I can get Brian on Godscrum to talk about the book in the next few weeks.

I'll have a review up about this time next week, when the book is officially released.

First Encounter of the Emergent Kind

Relatively early on since starting this site, I became exposed to emerging church thinking through A Different Perspective, the podcast of actor and blogger Alan Hartung. I've spent the months since then trying to figure out what in the world emerging/Emergent actually was, which isn't easy.

Through my buddy Craig Bob, I finally got an invite to a gathering of emerging-types for a house concert of his friends Ryan and Holly Sharp down in the Mission District of San Francisco last Saturday night. The house itself as it turned out was an old Victorian row house owned by Innerchange, a Christian poverty order that ministered to the local neighborhood, and the top floor was reserved for gatherings. The striking view north from the flat took in all of downtown... quite a lovely setting.

Most of the attendees were directly or loosely affiliated with Innerchange and Reimagine!, a San Francisco missions organization headed up by Mark Scandrette. This is a group of people that Craig and his lovely wife Lora have been spending time with for a while now, and his invite gave me a chance to experience for an evening some of the distinctives of an emerging gathering (or "cohort" as they're commonly called).

First of all: they're young. Craig and I were probably the oldest ones there. No big surprise.

Second, we shared pitchers of mojitos. That was a pleasant surprise.

Third, notably absent was Christianese (is there a Wikipedia article for everything?). Whether consciously or unconsciously, this group seems to have scrubbed their language of pretty much every trace of church-talk, which I found fascinating. It got me wondering if that was intentional or if it was a natural outgrowth of just doing things differently. Either way, I found it totally refreshing.

Fourth, there was a palpable sense of something happening, like being present to significance. This wasn't in any way haughty, and it may entirely be a construct of my imagination. I just got the feeling like God was up to something out there in the culture (of which emerging is a manifestation), and I wasn't the only one making that comment.

Fifth, these were just really cool people. Mark made a great host and I felt him to be a very charismatic man (to the point that I found myself thinking, "this is a charismatic man" even--something I very rarely do), and he and his friends were relaxed and friendly in a way that went way beyond their serving mojitos. I would say it was both comfortable and exciting to be among this crowd, and I'm looking forward to more.

(Hat Tip to Jeff from Demerging for the "Acquaintance of Emergent" logo.)

A Sick Friend

A good friend of our, Pastor Eddie Thompson, is in the hospital in Louisiana with pneumonia. Please take a few moments to petition God for his recovery. Thanks on behalf my wife and me.