Thursday, September 28, 2006

Day at the Races

Originally uploaded by elimaines.
Last Saturday we went to the races and people-watched more than watched the races. Great characters.

Another One of Those Nights


The boys are out picking up Church's Chicken as I write this.


Captain's Log - Star Date 09282006

Inspired by Katherine's post on The Princess Bride . . .

For about two weeks now, (thanks to my brother's gift of Netflix for D's birthday this summer!) the three of us have been slowly making our way through the Star Trek movies. It has been so fun to introduce the 8-year-old to the world of Star Trek.

In many ways, Monk is really my fantasy/sci-fi buddy. When he was three, we read through the Chronicles of Narnia twice in one year. At the same age, we also read Wizard of Oz. When he was seven, he devoured all of the Harry Potter series. And he loves A Series of Unfortunate Events. Last winter we read The Hobbit and watched all three Lord of the Rings over the winter holiday. And, as of two days ago, he finished reading Fellowship of the Ring entirely on his own (in just over seven days. Not bad for a third-grader)!

I've always known that it would only be a matter of time before we dove into the world of Star Trek. And so I was delighted when a couple weeks ago after I suggested it, he jumped at the chance. I've never been a trekkie, mind you. Closest I ever came was a short-lived love of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the early nineties. But I have a deep affection for the series--and simply love, always, to get lost in other worlds--as does my boy.

We're watching them all in order. The first one was unbearably artsy-fartsy. Long, drawn-out scenes of spaceships docking while lush music plays. Clearly very influenced by the film 2001, the first Star Trek seemed to imagine itself to be quite grand in those days. But as the series goes on, it gets increasingly light-hearted. One of our favorites was Star Trek V in which the crew has to travel back in time to 1986 San Francisco in order to save humpback whales from extinction. Except for some pretty atrocious acting by a supporting actress, the movie tripped lightly and humorously through its storyline. Glimpses of William Shatner's irony-laden character that he plays today on Boston Legal shone through in moments. The series seems to come to life when it stops taking itself so darn seriously!

The other night we watched Star Trek VI: The Final Frontier, in which the crew of the starship enterprise encounters "God" who has gotten stranded on a planet in the center of the universe. Our whole family groaned aloud--Monk included--when we heard everyone referring to God as "he." Then when they depicted "God" as an old, white man with a long, white beard, our heads fell into our hands. The next day, though, while talking about the movie, Monk reflected on how they had portrayed God in the film--and how it conflicted with his own image of God. Very cool.

With any luck, tonight we'll be watching Star Trek: Generations, the seventh in the dynasty--and the first one to say farewell to the old crew and welcome in Patrick Stewart to the role of captain. (Ahhh, Patrick Stewart.)

It has been truly such fun to introduce my dear son to Star Trek. But last night, I pulled him close to me and apologized: "I'm just loving watching these movies with you," I started out, "But I'm awfully sorry if I'm turning you into a total nerd in the process."

"Aw, it's alright, Mom." He said, "I haven't told anyone at school that I've seen 'em." Wise beyond his years.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wallis Report

Since I've gotten a couple requests for a better update on dinner with Jim Wallis, I thought I'd take a minute and tell you a bit more about what that was like.

It might be good to point out that I honestly have some pretty conflicted feelings around Jim Wallis and his enterprise. Not least because the left evangelical movement has never succeeded at including women in integral ways to their project; it remains a white male dominated world. I've heard a few women who have worked with Wallis speak about his arrogance and their frustration at not being heard. I've also been saddened over the years that Sojourners has consistently failed to take a welcoming and affirming stance for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people. This has continued to be the case among the Call to Renewal folks, at least as far as I can tell. I believe that justice for all people is necessary--and that seeking justice for GLBTQ folks is not a distraction, but integral to shalom.

There is also no small part of me that gets very suspicious of anyone who claims to be (or is assumed to be) The Voice of a movement. Call me a Gen-Xer is you must--I hear it is one of our traits--but my gut tells me to trust grassroots movements before trusting booming voices. And the way Wallis was introduced at the event where I heard him speak (it was on September 11, earlier this month), played into all of my misgivings. The woman who introduced him lamented that he was "the only Jim." And talked about how we had all come that day because we were "fans." She asserted that we came because we needed to be inspired by him and because we needed him to give us hope, purpose, and faith. Maybe that is why some folks were there. But to be honest, that feels a lot like a cult of personality to me. As if the desire is merely to be close to greatness rather than to be an active member of a community involved in a movement toward justice.

Wallis's speech that night failed to measure up to his hype. My partner, who has heard Wallis speak on a number of occasions, as well as encountered him in much smaller settings, commented afterward that he's heard Wallis be much more inspirational when talking about much more mundane things. I think he may have simply had an off night, or was tired, or felt constrained by the night's theme of commemorating September 11, 2001.

Whatever the reasons, Wallis's remarks were rooted in the past. It was a "woulda, shoulda, coulda" speech--with no great vision for what we oughta be doing today. I left the event feeling disappointed. And I was a bit baffled, given that this was the first I'd ever heard him speak, about how Wallis had managed to garner such a loyal following.

It was at the dinner afterwards, though, that Wallis was able to shine. He spoke in that more informal setting about some very hopeful things that are happening on a grassroots level around the country. In this sense, Wallis was much less the Booming Voice and much more a representative of hope and ideas-in-action. Among the most hopeful things he mentioned was the awakening of evangelicals to the centrality of economic justice in scripture. Rick Warren was chief among the big, evangelical names he mentioned who has come to perceive the eradication of poverty as a moral value. This fills me with hope! What might it look like to begin to build coalitions among people of faith all across the spectrum in which together we seek the eradication of poverty?

And yet, my questions remain around the involvement of women and GLBTQ people in meaningful leadership positions in these coalitions. I feel very certain that we can not dice up oppressions as if some are important and others are not.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


A couple moments today I just want to be able to remember: Driving to church this morning, as I sat in the passenger seat I caught a glimpse of Monk in the back seat. He was chewing bubble gum with loud smacks. Then he hooked a piece of the gum around his forefinger and twirled it round and round 'til it wrapped his finger completely. Then he stuck the whole thing in his mouth and started chewing again. It's a nothing moment, I know. But it felt joyous. Peaceful. Through-and-through kidlike. My boy.

Then, just a little while ago, D and Monk went across the street to the park to throw a football together. I missed most of it, buried in my own work. But I turned around near the end and watched them for a while out my big window up here on the second floor. D kicked the football in Monk's direction. He didn't catch it, but collected it from the ground and took off running toward D--who managed to sweep him up and take him decisively, if wonderfully gently, to the ground in a tackle. Then the two of them lay there, flat on their backs, Monk tucked into the nook of his dad's arm. Again--joy, peace, fun.

This morning the cat came home around 6. I heard his meow at the front door. When I opened the door, he trotted happily in. And there behind him was another cat gazing up at me with great inquisitiveness. Clearly the two of them had been hanging out together. This is the second cat Felix has brought home with him. I have a cat who makes friends with other cats and brings them home with him! I can't get over this.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Seeing the Day

How could things have possibly gotten to the point that sleeping 'til 7:00 on a Saturday feels like sleeping in?! I've seen so many pre-6:00 a.m. wake-ups in the past few weeks, I hardly recognize myself. But the thing is, early morning has started to feel like found time. You know all the times you hear someone wish for more hours in a day? Well, now I know where they are. They're the hours before sunrise.

It is another beautiful day here. And we've seen the parrots fly over once already. So they're still around. Such a joyous feeling. Feels like grace.

Monk is on my computer right now. (I'm writing from D's desktop, which feels so cumbersome compared to my laptop!) He's talking on Skype with his friend in Israel. Their conversations are full of disjointed nonsequiters as they dance through topics from video games to life in third grade. I love that they can talk for free--so we don't have to weigh each word in the price of gold.

Today is a work day for me. Preparing for class on Tuesday. We've put together a nice selection of readings on worship and social justice. I'm excited to teach the class after last week's introductory session on postmodernism. It was evident to me that folks were feeling concerned about how the church can have a prophetic voice in a postmodern world. So to set this session right next to the previous one will, I believe, produce some great thinking.

D and Monk are talking of going to the baseball game this afternoon. (Though Monk is wavering on the idea. He's a homebody--and he comes by it naturally!)

Whatever we all decide, though, it feels like it's gonna be a good Saturday.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Life These Days

I sure didn't expect to be dropping down to writing maybe once a week or so. But there you have it. I figure I'll do what I can. It's all I can do. :)

This morning, after finishing up Sunday's bulletin, I headed off for my spiritual direction appointment. I'm amazed I've been three times already. Unfortunately this is the second time in a row that I was almost fifteen minutes late. Both times I got terribly lost on the way to the place in our neighboring City--clearly a City I haven't learned well enough yet! Argh! Both times, if it hadn't been for my partner, and computers and cell phones--well, I hate to think. I suppose I might still be driving around now! Instead, after it became clear that I'd gotten myself good and lost both times, I called him up, gave him the address where I'd pulled over, and he googled my location! Then, as I talked on the phone with him (something I never do), he guided me through the streets of the City 'til I got there. I figure there has to some rich metaphor in this that I could unpack in spiritual direction! :)

I knew that once my job at the church was expanded to planning worship each week as well as providing adult education and spiritual growth opportunities, that I would need to ground myself through spiritual direction again. It has been exactly the right thing for me to do. And just knowing that feels good.

This week has been great, though we've also had some hard days or moments in there. We've gotten into some headbutting moments with the Monk. (Not literally, mind you. But the feeling has been rather like rams crashing together.) After the third major argument in one day, I soon had the distinct feeling that things were not working anymore. That is to say, what used to work was not working and we were on the cusp of a change again. We decided that Monk needed to be given more responsibility around here. Because he was balking at being told to do something he didn't want to, for some reason I could sense that what he was saying is that we don't give him enough to do overall. It feels paradoxical, but that's one of the reasons I can tell it's probably right. :) So now we're going to be working out the chore schedule again, get him doing some more around the house. A good thing.

It is a windy, beautiful, blue-sky, giant cloud day. And we've recently had some new visitors! Some wild parrots have been flying around our little neighborhood the past couple days. (Though today a hawk showed up, too. So I sure hope it remains safe enough for them to hang around.) It feels like magic to have them chattering up a storm right outside our window. By the way, if you haven't seen The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill yet, you really ought to!

Last night we signed on for a two-week trial to Urge--the Windows version of itunes. So now we're just loving listening and downloading tons of albums and songs we can't otherwise afford! It's truly joyous. As I've been writing this, I've been listening to Henry Mancini's Pink Panther soundtracks. Last night I downloaded a couple old Cowboy Junkies cds. This morning before heading off to school, Monk listened to a hip hop version of Metallica's Enter Sandman. :)

Finally, for those who are curious: our meal with Jim Wallis was very interesting. After hearing him deliver a flat and uninspired speech, (after which I was truly worried about what the heck I was going to talk with him about), he ended up speaking to our much smaller group in a way that was hopeful, forward looking, and inspirational. There were maybe about forty people gathered. I guess because our University was one of the bigger sponsors, though, we got to sit right at the table with Jim. But to be honest, I didn't feel compelled to engage him much. I let others do that instead. Besides, I can't hear a bless-ed thing when I'm in a room full of people talking like that. I'm afraid I've got my Mama's hearing ability (or lack of it).

So, I think this is it for me now. I need to start trying to get something down more often. I'll try and do better. A little busy these days.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Christian Century, Postmodernism, and a Dinner

How cool to discover that Susan Olson from Yale Divinity School wrote an article on blogging in the current issue of Christian Century in which she mentioned the RevGalBlogPal webring! Check it out here!

I've been drenched this past week in some great readings on postmodernism and the emergent church in preparation for our class tomorrow. (The class I'm teaching, not simply taking. Still a big celebration in my life.) One of the readings by Stanley Grenz says the following:
The advent of 'the screen'--whether the movie, the television, or the computer screen--epitomizes the postmodern blurring of the traditional contrast between the subjective self and the objective world. The screen is not merely an external object that we look at. What happens on the screen is neither wholly 'out there' (merely on the screen), nor wholly in us; rather, it seems to occur in some space between the two. The screen brings us into its world just as it enters into ours. As what happens on the screen becomes an extension of ourselves, we become an extension of it. The screen thus becomes an embodied form of our psychic worlds"
I kid you not--the moment I finished reading this paragraph on Saturday morning, Monk came into the living room and flopped on the couch next to me. He said, "Mom! I just noticed I wasn't playing, so I checked my stats and saw that I'm out for four to six weeks." He was talking about his Playstation hockey game in which he's created a player with his own name.

"Why are you out?" I ask him.

"I broke my leg!" he declared. Then hopped off the couch and headed back in to keep playing. I couldn't help but think of Playstation's slogan: "Live in your world. Play in ours."

That's a glimpse into postmodernism for you right there.

Finally, D and I are having dinner with Jim Wallis tonight. Thanks to srf who managed to get us an invite to the rather intimate affair. So what questions do you think I should ask him?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Simple Pleasures

This week's Friday Five with the RevGals is beautifully simple. Exactly what I needed to get myself back to the empty page here after a week away. My week has been phenomenally busy. Ironically enough, not a moment to spare to write about what turned out to be a beautiful service celebrating Sabbath-Rest last Sunday! So, without further ado, here are five things I enjoyed this past week:

1. Meeting the students I'll have in my course this semester. I'm so excited about the semester with them!

2. My little Monk kissed me goodnight last night, then said, "Mom, you're the prettiest girl I've ever known." I guess that means he's forgiven me for my hair cut.

3. Talking with my friend Amy about my old seminary. She's visiting there soon and I HOPE she chooses to attend there! In fact, take a minute to visit her blog and give her some encouragement as she enters that turbulent, exciting, nerve-wracking time of discerning her call!

4. Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers win last night. I'm not really a Steelers fan. I'm just so happy it's football season again.

5. Planning this Sunday's service. We're using the Mark 7 text where Jesus says, "Ephphatha!" meaning, "Be Opened!" And we're using sea anemones as our image on the bulletin (the picture included with this post). I'm going to put together a little slide show for the opening moments of worship featuring pictures of anemones, too. They're beautiful.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Rock On, Monk!

First, let me say that I have settled on a blog name for my eight-year old son. I can't believe it took me this long to realize what it should be. I have been calling him by the nickname "Monk" since he was the tiniest boy. Part of it is simply short for Monkey. But the other part is that he came weekly to spiritual direction with me for the first ten months of his life. And he was the most peaceful, contemplative baby during those hour-long sessions that one could ever hope for. So, Monk it is. :)

So, Monk was in his second day of third grade yesterday. His teacher asked the kids to fill out a survey. One of the questions was focused on music: What songs would you like for the class to learn this year?

Here's Monk's answer, in order:

1. Clocks by Coldplay
2. Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers
3. Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
4. Lithium by Nirvana
5. Vertigo by U2
6. Rebel Yell by Billy Idol

That's our boy!

The Gifts of Sabbath

We are planning a worship service for Sunday with the theme of rest or sabbath. I suppose it coincides intentionally with the Labor Day weekend holiday, but more than that it is what we hope might be the first in a number of worship services around this same theme.

The idea comes out of a pastoral recognition that many of the people in our congregation are overworked, overtired, overextended--too busy for our own good. When asked the other week at a meeting if folks had had a restful summer, there was great scoffing and harumphing. So much so, that I had the feeling if someone had experienced a restful summer, there would be a sense of shame in admitting so.

The service we've designed is intended to allow people to experience a sense of rest, a feeling of sabbath in the midst of worship. Its form is inspired by a Lessons & Carols service--with lots of singing interspersed with brief words and some silence. As we repeat these Sabbath Sundays (as I've taken to calling them), we will slowly and gently lengthen the silences as we learn to keep silence together without experiencing heightened anxiety.

This year ahead, our church is going to be engaging in some processes of and exploring questions around self-definition. I realized, as we prepared for this service, that the theme of Sabbath is intimately related to the questions of self-definition. We will not be able to ask the difficult questions, engage in difficult conversations without learning how to be still, how to give up what is not in our control, how to listen, how to hear God's still, small voice in our midst. These are the gifts of sabbath.

I am truly looking forward to Sunday's service. Already, I feel God's presence in it.