December 11, 2009


Another year, another playlist...

+ a couple of other songs (to make the total of 36) that weren't on

"I was born in the season of quiet and cold...
Year of the Ox the 7 and 3, indeed, the history"
Happy Birthday, Mos Def.

A few notes on the playlist:
#6 I just put OK Computer back on my Mac recently I was struck by how powerfully I associate it with living in 213 E. Market in Iowa City (and for some strange reason, washing dishes in that old house).
#7, #14, #27, #31 What can I say - I am sucker for a good cover song. J. Colton's take on "Baby Got Back" is particularly inspired.
#13 Had a chance to see Bruce this fall. I'm not a big fan of huge stadium shows, but I got to admit Bruce can bring it - it was a solid (and amazing) 3hr performance.

December 10, 2009

process vs. events

Seth Godin offers these thoughts on social media:
The reason social media is so difficult for most organizations

It's a process, not an event.

Dating is a process. So is losing weight, being a public company and building a brand.

On the other hand, putting up a trade show booth is an event. So are going public and having surgery.

Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul. (From Seth's Blog)

I think he is right in terms of social media - using it as a tool to connect means that it takes time to develop and build those meaningful relationships. But I immediately started asking about how we do "church" in regard to this process vs. event framework. How often do we approach the work of the church as an event instead of an ever-evolving process? Within United Methodism we have this concept of "sanctifying grace" and "moving on to perfection" by which we understand discipleship as a process, but too often I think we are still locked into an event mentality - where people are perfectly content to keep coming week after week (to the "event" of public worship), with no meaningful transformation or growth in their lives. Are we offering a process or just a series of events? It's a good question to wrestle with.

P.S. After I had posted this I came across Julie Clawson's most recent blog post which is a somewhat tangential take on the same question. In it she offers this thought:
" amuses me that the faith tradition that taught me to pity and ridicule those that say “I’m a good person, why do I need to follow Jesus?” are now the one’s saying “I’ve said a prayer to Jesus, why should I follow him?” Fully embracing the Incarnation means that we actually let it transform us – not just in some brief moment of salvation but in the entirety of our lives. A flesh and blood incarnate Jesus calls us to follow him in tangible flesh and blood ways. Plastic figures and cheezy slogans are insubstantial next to this incarnate God. This transformation makes us the hands and feet of Jesus in such a way that we can no longer ask why we should bother caring but instead accept that this is the only possible way we can live as true Christ followers. Incarnation isn’t a cheap decoration that adorns the veneer of our lives, it’s earthy and messy and complex and demanding. The incarnate Jesus grabs hold of our lives and wakes us up from our complacency."

December 1, 2009


Donald Miller - from the Relevant Magazine website
"We are a conflict avoiding culture. One of the things I love about our source text as Christians, the Bible is that it teaches us not to avoid conflict. And it teaches us that before the fall of man, in Paradise, there was conflict. God wants conflict to be a part of your life. Most churches don’t teach that. "

November 13, 2009

music for a friday afternoon (bruce edition)

i'm off to spend some time with the boss this evening so a few songs this friday with that in mind.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

the hold steady do a cover of "atlantic city" you can find it here
one other one that pretty good is dan bern's song "talkin' woodie, bob, dan and bruce" (live version)

November 9, 2009

getting boring

"As an organization grows and succeeds, it sows the seeds of its own demise by getting boring." - Seth Godin
Is our focus on being innovative and remarkable, or just avoiding the pitfalls? Read the full article here. What does this say about the institutional weight and structure of the UMC?

November 5, 2009

contemporary worship

"Think of your sixty-eight year old, pot-bellied uncle Joe dressing up in tight disco clothes (thinking these are “cool” and “hip”) with his shirt unbuttoned to his naval, crashing a college party — this is what much that we Baby Boomers call “contemporary” or “praise” worship looks like to young adults." - Dan Dick

The quote comes from a larger, but great article about facing the "statistical apocalypse" with a new perspective. Check it out here.

October 30, 2009

music for a friday afternoon

it's well past afternoon, but i thought i'd try for another music post for this week.

first up - derek webb. after i wrote the post on fred phelps, my friend carl gladstone directed a tweet to derek to check out my blog, which i was honored (and a little freaked out by - i tend to be a little like a schoolgirl when it comes to interacting with those i admire). back in the late '80s i tried listening to contemporary christian music (a few tapes by the likes of stryper, one bad pig, michael w. smith, etc.), but it was a quickly passing phase. the music seemed pretty bland (or too much like a cheap copy of the popular stuff on the radio), and theologically shallow; not to mention i began discovering music like primal scream, they might be giants, and depeche mode. so i pretty much abandoned the contemporary christian scene, even though i'd heard rumors that it had gotten better in recent years. it really wasn't until i stumbled upon derek webb's mockingbird that i had a new appreciation for artists working within the specifically identified "christian" genre. this song has generated controversy for webb, and probably shouldn't be heard by the easily offended. (derek - if you do stumble upon this blog - thank you for your amazing music).

derek webb - what matters more

god help the girl is a project from stuart murdoch (from belle and sebastian). both belle and sebastian and god help the girl are worth checking out.


"To understand the Christian Right, you need to understand not what they think or even what they believe. You need to begin by discovering what they are afraid of."

-Tom Sine, from Cease Fire: Searching for Sanity in America's Culture Wars, quoting himself in the Nov. 2009 issue of Sojourners.

October 28, 2009

grace above maryland?

it was a couple weeks ago - a saturday morning, when i found myself in the kansas city airport. i had just gotten done with the leadership institute at the church of the resurrection and was en route to a friend's wedding in baltimore. i had just sat down near the gate when i noticed three women - two were in their late teens, the third (presumably their mother) in what i would guess to be in her 40s. what was striking about these three were the brightly colored t-shirts they were wearing - all advertising websites in large, bold letters. the girls' shirts said "" the mom's shirt was "". knowing they probably weren't promoting m. night shyamalan's movie from a couple years ago, nor did they seem to be prince fans, i decided to look up their site on my phone, fully expecting it would point to something a little crazy (like biblical proof that president obama is the antichrist.

what i got was a little more than what i expected, as my phone's web browser immediately pointed to westboro baptist church. for those who don't know westboro baptist is a small church in topeka, kansas led by fred phelps, known for its protests, most notably at funerals, where they condemn individuals, families, denominations, and the nation for associations (however tangental) to homosexuality. now, regardless of where you might stand on the issue, my hope is that most people who stumble across this blog can agree that the particular tactics employed by fred and his family members are about as far from christ-like-ness as you can get.

to say the least i'm not a big fan of fred, and if fred knew me - my theology and politics - he'd be condemning me to hell along with just about everyone else he meets. i knew these women weren't going to be busting out their signs mid-flight and start protesting, but i couldn't help but reflect how strange it felt to be on a flight with a group of people whose theology was so diametrically opposed to my own.

we were flying southwest - i'm a fan of their cheap flight and open seating - but on this occasion i didn't arrive early enough to get in an early boarding group - meaning i was bound for the back of the plane when it was my turn. the westboro women were seated near the front which was fine, because in my mind i was already considering scenarios where we would be seated together and they would take it upon themselves to convert/condemn me.

but the flight has a stopover in chicago before moving on to baltimore, and as all the chicago bound travelers left the plane, i moved closer to the front, and without realizing the westboro women were also traveling on to baltimore, sat myself two rows behind them. in chicago, the flight crew also changed, and it was fascinating to see that the new flight crew was mostly male, including the head flight attendant. as southwest flight crews are prone to do, the head attendant began to sing as the plane pushed back from the runway - doing his best tina turner impression - "big wheels keep on turning, this airplane is rolling; rolling, rolling, rolling down the runway." he then encouraged everyone else on the plane to join him in singing, to which the young women from topeka immediately take him up on. afterwards the flight attendant compliments them on their singing, and throughout the flight they begin this rapport.

sitting two rows back i can't help but think how bizarre this whole flight has become. while i'm obviously not certain about the head flight attendant's sexuality, he stuck me as a little effeminate, and certainly had a proclivity for channeling tina, so i was assuming he was among the folks fred is convinced "God hates". (i remember seeing an episode of airline where they were interviewing a flight attendant and he said something to the effect of "i'm an unmarried man in his mid-30s working as a flight attendant - you do the math"). again, i'm making a huge assumption here but as this plane is drawing near to baltimore (not far from the glbt march for equality taking place in washington dc that weekend - where i'm pretty sure the westboro women were headed to protest), it really seems that the westboro women are completely unaware of this man's (likely?) sexuality, and he (naturally) knows nothing of their politics or theology.

and then just as the flight begins it's descent - just moments before the captan gives the "buckle your seatbelts and put the tray tables in the upright position" announcement - the girls ask the flight attendant if he'll sing another song with them. the four begin harmoninzing, singing:
precious Lord, take my hand
lead me on, let me stand,
i am tired, i am weak, i am worn,
through the storm, through the night,
lead me on, to thy light
take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home

it was a moment that struck me as completely crazy and totally beautiful. a taste of what the kingdom will one day be like, when differences are placed aside, when our common need for grace can be affirmed, and God might be praised. it was a reminder for me that music has the power to unite, that even i need to be careful whom i choose to vilify. because even those wrapped up in a theology of hate can (unknowingly) send a message about inclusion and love.

October 23, 2009

music for a friday afternoon

to me there is something wonderful about driving around on a friday afternoon (especially in the fall) listening to music. it was also on fridays that i had my college radio gig, which i still get a little nostalgic for from time to time, so today just a couple videos to entertain.
They Might be Giants:

The Mountain Goats:

August 20, 2009

Circuit Rider

Good stuff in this month's Circuit Rider -

From Nathan Kirkpatrick:
"Too often, when young leaders are discussed in meetings it is with a certain institutional desperation, as if clergy under 35 will fix all that presently ails the insitiution. Given the tone and tenor of many of these conversations, it would be understandable if young clergy came to see themselves as either the emerging leaders of an intitiution that is limping into its last days or as those who must change everything about the church if there is hope for its survival...

"It is tempting for young clergy to believe that we will make our 'real' contributions to the church's life when we are serving as the senior pastor of the big steeple church, as a district superintendent, as a staff memeber of a general board of agency, or as a dean of a seminary. After all, these are the people we have been taught to see as 'having power in the insitiution,' and in many ways, these are the people who do have power. Often they feel more like bosses to us right now than partners with us. Yet, if we as young leaders believe the myth that the only meaningful change happens at these levels in the life of the church, we delude ourselves and abdicate our responsibility" (emphasis added)...

"Finally-It is essential that we have communities of accountability and support as we lean to lead in our own ways."

And from Sara Thomas:
"I desire a church that claims our connectedness, embodies organic systems, and continually cultivates opportunities for people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. We have a network buit into our nature as a connectional church; unfortunately, we do not use it well. I see every opportunity to create meaninful networks of churches, collaborating as teams to leverage influence for the kingdom. A tension exists when the competition with the church down the road becomes our primary connection. While healthy competition competition can motivate uswithin our connection creates both accountability and kingdom opportunity. I am not willing to sacrifice either.

August 17, 2009

what is the church for?

i've started reading N.T. Wright's book Simply Christian and have already come across this gem:
The point of following Jesus isn't simply so that we can be sure of going to be better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life. We're called, here and how, to be instruments of God's new creation, teh world-put-to-rights which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus' followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents. (from Introduction pg. xi)

July 29, 2009

social networks

Seth Godin on social networks:

His key point is that social networking (ie facebook, twitter, etc) is only valuable to the degree that it fosters real relationships; if it's not building conversation, trust and a willingness to serve and do for others it simply becomes a meaningless time waster.

This summer I've also been reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and came upon this quote:
"We don't often talk about love when trying to describe the public world, because love seems too squishy and too private. What has happened, though, and what is still happening in our historical moment, is that love has become a lot less squishy and a lot less private. Love has a half-life too, as well as a radius, and we're used to both of those being small. We can affect the people we love, but the longevity and social distance of love are both constrained. Or were constrained - now we can do things for strangers who do things for us, at a low enough cost to make that kind of behavior attractive, and those effects can last well beyond our original contribution. Our social tools are turning love into a renewable building material. When people care enough, they can come together and accomplish things of a scope and longevity that were previously impossible; they can do big things for love."
One small example of how I've recently seen this at work was in a simple status update my friend Jeff posted on facebook a couple weeks ago. He made a quick reference about meeting a homeless family in the park, and asked if anyone knew of some resources that might help them. People came through, and within 48 hours the family was in a hotel room. It was a quick appeal on Jeff's part a few years ago getting that kind of support might have meant spending a few hours on the phone; now all it took was a simply status update (2-3 minutes of his time). But also, the response was based on this network of people who actually know Jeff and know his judgement and insight can be trusted, leading them to step up and assist this family. There is beauty and power in social networking, but we must always be careful that the medium always be a medium for that larger work of love - helping others and changing lives, instead of becoming an idol of love unto itself.

July 14, 2009

seven things ted cambell hates about the umc

ted was at garrett after i had graduated, so i never had the chance to meet him, but he has some pretty interesting things to say here. in particular pay attention to: too many words, procedure for organizing a new congregation, and the "welch republic".

June 20, 2009

edifice complex

mike slaughter has some good thought on "church as building" here

May 20, 2009

a multitude of caring people

"You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way."
-Paul Hawken, graduation address at the University of Portland (via)

May 12, 2009

the church needs heritics

seth godin's latest ted talk on tribes is now out, and worth viewing:

in addition my friend, scott, recently reviewed douglas rushkoff's latest book, below are some of the key points he highlighted:
  • self-sufficiency was part of the myth of the self-made man in his private esate, so community property, carpools, or sharing of almost any kind became anathema to the suburban aesthetic 51
  • conformty shouldn't be confused with solidarity. the houses and families within these subdivisions were equal but separate. 61
  • going into debt, distancing ourselves from our neighbors, and striving for conformity became equated with freedom 63
  • the more disconnected people became from one another, the more easily they could be manipulated... and more dependent on central authorities to create both value and meaning  89
  • the invention of the printing press turned reading, lit, and bible study from a group activity to an individual one 92
  • if the oats were bad, you'd know where to find the man responsible. you knew his face... if his oats were bad he's lose more than a customer, for you lived and worked in the same town... had had more at stake than your business. you were more than just one another's customers; you were interdependent members of a community 98
  • christian branding turns a religion based in charity and community into a personal relationship with jesus -- a narcissistic faith mirroring the marketing framework on which it is now based 142
  • kids want to be bill gates or to win american idol without wanting to be sw engineer or caring about singing ... the money & recognition they envision for themselves is utterly disconnected from any real task or creation of value 181
  • adam smith's theories of the market were predicated on the regulating pressures of neighbors and social values 182
  • credit card companies market credit as a lifestyle of choice 183
  • things can feel -- or be made to feel -- novel or revolutionary, even though they still consistute biz as usual 193
  • we'd rather send a donation to a middle east peace fund than engage directly with violence-endorsing extremists at our own place of worship 229
  • the surest path to global change in a highly networked world is to make an extremely local impact that works so well it spreads... shared with or copied by other groups in other communities around the world 235
  • by restoring our connections to real people, places, and values, we'll be less likely to depend on the symbols and brands that have come to substitute for human relationships.
  • the best reason to begin reconnecting with real people, places and value is that it feels good. happiness doesn't com from the top down but from the bottom up.... real people doing real things for one another -- without expectations -- is the very activity that has been systematically extracted from our society 244

March 11, 2009

it's personal

Gavin has some great thoughts on tech in worship here. His point about having a personal relationship is something, I've been thinking a lot about. On Twitter, I initially tried to limit myself to following friends - people I have real-life connections with. But, about the same time I started following Wil Wheaton's blog, and soon after began following him on twitter. I enjoyed his blog, and figured I'd also like to see what he has to say on the other platform. From there I began to follow other "celebrities" - Greg Grunberg, John Cleese, LeVar Burton, and Rainn Wilson.
I began to follow them because something about their careers interested me (which is why I didn't follow people like Britney Spears or Shaq), and I noticed by reading their updates I became more interested in what they were doing, because I felt like I had some sort of "inside scoop" to their lives. But soon the novelty began to wear off and I paired down my celebrity twitter following to Wil and Greg - Wil because he's pretty funny and someone I relate to, and Greg because he consistently puts up interesting stuff (ie behind the scenes photos on the set of "Heroes").
All of which is to say that Gavin's right on in his analysis of social media and ministry. There has to be an initial "pull" beyond the medium itself - people aren't looking for a podcast from a church in Grand Rapids, they are looking to hear Rob Bell, as he points out. But the media, if used properly can help deepen and develop those relationships (ie I first found out about Rob Bell through the Nooma videos, and from there started listening to the podcasts, but because of the podcasts, I'm more invested in the videos).
As he puts it:
truth is, if you are wanting to reach out, what you are generally only doing is 'speaking out' and with todays cultural and generation values, that just doesn't cut it anymore. no one cares to get involved in a one sided conversation.

so when you are talking up or talking about how to use technology to reach out of your church. remember these thoughts. just taking what ever is created within your church walls and then broadcasted out for people to hear is just lame. figure out a way, commit to doing, some things that truly engage people in a conversation.

March 5, 2009

you've freed me from me

Blessed are you, O Lord, for you have not chosen to put my judgment in others’ hands, nor even in mine, but have reserved that for your own, and you’ve freed me from me, and from needing to sit in judgment on myself (which judgment, forced from my own intellect, could be nothing less than condemnation)—but you have reserved me to your mercy, because you love me more than I can love myself.
—Sor Juana InĂ©s de la Cruz (1648-1695), A prayer within her defense of her right, even as a woman, to debate theology.