Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why Owen matters

I've always been a big fan of Owen Wilson. Have been since Bottle Rocket. So it was with great shock and sadness that I heard of his suicide attempt. I just came across this open letter to Owen in the Chicago Tribune, written by a fellow blogger who has apparently recently provided a visitor to my blog. Anyway, here's the letter. It describes pretty well what I think about the man too.

Open letter to Owen Wilson
This is a bit of a departure for me, as I’m not in the habit of writing fan letters.In fact, the last one I sent was a bubble-lettered note to the actor Jon Cryer about 20 years ago in the wake of his earth-moving (for a 16-year-old alt-chick from the suburbs) portrayal of Duckie Dale in “Pretty in Pink.”But under the circumstances, I thought it was OK to err on the side of sycophancy. So …Thank God you’re still with us, brother.Please don’t try that again. We need you.And by we, I mean the world.As you well know, these are precarious, fraught times we live in, and the one thing we cannot bear to lose is our sense of humor.To paraphrase that great celluloid shaman Elwood Blues, you, Mr. Wilson, are on a mission from God.
Just a ‘TV friend’Laughter is carbonated holiness, and you, therefore, are a holy man, at least according to the theology of Anne Lamott. She’s my favorite writer, a funny lady who is as acquainted with melancholy as she is with humor.I once asked Annie whether she thought we — people — could be grace for one another. “I think we can hold space for other people,” she said.
In that way, you have been grace for me. On certain overwhelming days, when it’s hard to catch my breath and bleakness curls around my heart like a purring cat, I can reach for any of your films — “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Life Aquatic” or “You Me and Dupree” — and laughter liberates my soul. Your words, written or spoken, sometimes provide the space for joy where it felt like there was none.Thank you for that.Now, I don’t know you from Adam. You’re just a “TV friend,” as they say. Still, I can’t help but believe that the common thread in your character portrayals — whether it’s whacked-out-on-mescaline Eli Cash, self-effacing fatherless Ned Plimpton, or tiny-cowboy-with-a-Napoleon-complex Jedediah — is the inherent you. The Owen-ness. It’s a certain empathy — profound tenderness, really — that makes the ridiculous compelling and buoys tragedy to comedy.
Seeing with God’s eyesIt is precisely because of your wounded-ness and the visible cracks in your veneer that your characters transcend two-dimensional clownishness.You are the ne’er-do-well we root for in spite of himself (and our own judgementalism). You bring out the best in us and make it easy to forgive setting the living room on fire or crashing our wedding (or funeral). You are the mensch, the fool for the Lord, the stranger whom we let in, the divine comedian.One blogger, a journalist who apparently knew you in Austin, Texas, back in the day, described you recently in a heartfelt essay as “a human sunbeam in the abyss.”I’m guessing, given recent events, that kind of description may seem laughable to you. Still, that’s how many folks perceive you even if you can’t see it yourself. And sometimes strangers can see us far more clearly than we are capable of seeing ourselves. If we’re really lucky, they might see us with God’s eyes.I had to chuckle at one of the news reports about your hospitalization that breathlessly reported you had visited a Santa Monica church the Sunday before the incident, “either out of desperation or devotion.'’ Really, I can think of no better reasons to go to church. After all, to quote Annie again, the best two prayers one can offer to the Creator are: “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”Should you find yourself back at that church or another, please know it is meant to be a shelter in the storm, the place where brokenness is the only prerequisite for membership, and where grace is shared by the bucketsful.Know that you don’t struggle alone, that you have kind company during dark nights of the soul, that you are lifted in prayer by those who know and love you best, as well as by those who only know you as the voice of Lightning McQueen.Please let others hold space for you until the encroaching shadow of despair passes. And it will.And when your contagious laughter bubbles to the surface and overflows once again, know that you are in the presence of the holy.
We need you and the peals of holy laughter you inspire

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hooray for Doug Pagitt, sticking up for Yoga

From time to time, I feel my comment on another person's blog is worth recollecting on my own. So here's a link to Locust and Honey, or you can just watch the video he posted right here, followed by my comment. Actually, I'll point you to the youtube site so you can lament with me that all the comments are supportive of John MacArthur. It's this kind of thing that makes me sad for Christianity.

Here's my comment:

Word up Dan. John McArthur said something like this in the interview: "Christianity is filling your mind with Biblical truths." It is this kind of perspective that is damaging to the faith. The Shema (which Jesus kind of liked) said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength." (The New Testament adds mind). But, needless to say, Christianity isn't a "brain game" it isn't just about saluting doctrines and bowing down to almighty "truths." What are the "truths" that MacArthur is filling his mind with? Doug Pagitt did a good job of commanding the debate, too bad they ended on MacArthur's nonsense. If yoga is the way people are getting their bodies into worship, then hooray yoga. If you think Christianity hasn't borrowed from other religions from the start (Acts 17:28), then you need to look a little more closely. I practiced yoga for awhile and it is great exercise. I felt rejuvenated after doing it. There is no "worshipping Hindu gods," or whatever. I’m sure you could find a yoga practice that offers that, but most in this country don't. Also, with the stupid reference to the dictionary definition of yoga, that is because yoga is the Hindu word for discipline, or pathway. It is a term that refers to the many paths to God within Hinduism. Adherents of Bhakti Yoga (the largest segment of Hinduism) find God through the expression of devotion to a god as a "face of Brahman." Brahman (nominative brahma ब्रह्म) is the concept of the supreme spirit found in Hinduism. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this universe. Sound familiar? Did you read that Acts passage? You also have Jnana Yoga (the discipline of intellectual worship), karma yoga is the discipline of action, raja yoga is the discipline of meditation, and hatha yoga is the discipline of body and breath, which we commonly call yoga. The broadcaster, being ignorant of eastern religions, looked up the wrong word to find the definition of what he was talking about. John MacArthur was speaking about something he proudly stated he had never participated in. Why do people buy into such drivel? The paths of yoga are profound and worth looking into. Maybe, as Christians, we'll learn something.

Brian McLaren says he's an atheist!

Well that got your attention, didn't it methoblogger? You might want to push pause on my little LastFM radio that comes on whether you want it to or not. (I could have set that thing to only come on if you asked it too. Is it rude that I didn't?)

Anyway, here's a new hymn that kind of chafes at first, but then grows on you. Kind of a hypnotic melody, written by "Mr. Emergent" himself

Well, nevermind, the embed thing is messing up over at youtube, just click here to go there

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I hope this works!

COMMENTARY: Let’s streamline ordination now Rebekah Miles, Aug 27, 2007

Rebekah Miles “Any sufficiently advanced bureaucracy is indistinguishable from molasses.” —Anonymous

By Rebekah Miles Special Contributor I disagree passionately with the recommendation of the 2004-08 Ministry Commission that General Conference not act on petitions that will “affect the ordering of ministry,” referring them all to a 2008-2012 Ministry Commission. General Conference delegates in 2008 will have a chance to consider ministry legislation that is critical for the future of our church and its mission. We should not discourage delegates from doing the work for which they were elected. The Commission’s report includes many proposals that could revitalize our church. I would like to focus here on one. At its final meeting, Commission members agreed unanimously that our church needs to streamline the process leading to ordination. Many of our leaders acknowledge that we desperately need more young pastors as well as pastors from new and growing ethnic minority groups. Streamlining the long, complex process leading to ordained ministry would help us attract those pastors. A few days ago I asked two young pastors to tell me what they thought about the process leading to ordination in the United Methodist Church. They contacted some of their friends, and within less than 24 hours I had received a dozen e-mails—many of them stretching four to eight pages long and almost all of them brimming with frustration. They wrote that a key obstacle for young people considering ordained ministry is that the current process leading to ordination is “bureaucratic,” “rigid,” “frustrating,” “long,” “discouraging,” “complicated,” “daunting,” “tedious,” “repetitive” and “labyrinthine.” They mentioned friends who had decided not to go into ordained ministry because the process was so “convoluted.” Here are two quotations from their e-mails: · “The length and the rigidity of the present system are the two greatest contributors to the young adult clergy shortage. If we do not change the present system we are only going to lose more young adults to other professions where they feel that they can live out their calling in an authentic and purposeful way.” —The Rev. Gena Anderson, Central Texas Conference · “I feel incredibly confident that God has called me into ordained ministry. However... [f]or a person my age (21 years old) the last thing I want to do is deal with a huge, long and frustrating process.” —Ani Trejo, Rio Grande Conference We have put into place a long, bureaucratic process with loads of paperwork, saying all the while that we want to attract more young adults to ordained ministry. Yet young adults (between 21 and 35) are members of two generations that tend to share several things in common: their deep dislike of bureaucracy and red tape, their suspicion of large, centralized institutions, and their frustration with hierarchical systems based on seniority and not merit. If we were to set out to design a system that was unattractive to Generations X and Y, we would have a hard time coming up with anything worse than the system we have now. As a church, it’s tempting to tell young adults, “We expect you to adjust to fit the system as it is.” In business articles about young adult employees, a common theme emerges: If managers tell young adults in their organizations that they need to get used to the current system, saying in effect, “It’s my way or the highway,” more often that not, young adults will take the highway. That is exactly what has happened in our church. Just over 20 years ago, our church had 3,200 elders under 35; now we have only 850. We’ve gone from 15 percent of all United Methodist elders being under 35 to less than 5 percent today. In an upcoming book based on surveys of young United Methodist pastors, Lovett Weems and Ann Michael write, “Forty percent said they had considered seeking ordination in a different denomination at some point during the candidacy and ordination process. When asked why, reasons having to do with the length of, and frustration with, the ordination process exceeded all others.” Elsewhere, Dr. Weems has called young clergy, “United Methodism’s endangered species.” If we do not fix the problems that put young pastors on that list in the first place, we as a church will also be endangered. Let’s not wait four more years to enact measures that would help keep our church and our young clergy off the endangered species list. Matthew Johnson, a young pastor in my conference, said, “My prayer is that I will listen to the concerns of younger clergy when I am 50, better than they have listened to me and my peers while in our 30s.” If General Conference decides to establish yet another study commission (the 15th study in 17 quadrennia), let’s try something new and ask that at least one-third of its members be under 40. At 47, I was the youngest member on the current commission. That’s a sad and telling fact. Friends, let’s listen to younger pastors and let’s be willing to change so that we can bring them more fully into our shared fellowship. Young pastors, we are listening. Dr. Miles, clergy delegate to General Conference from the Arkansas Conference and associate professor of ethics at Perkins School of Theology, is a member of the Commission on the Study of Ministry. She and six other Commission Members signed the minority report.

Rebekah Miles

For what it's worth--I got a call today from a guy in the district who wanted to give me his spot on a commission to revitalize the orders in the Oklahoma conference. It has been my experience that the older generations are willing to share the reigns, but I think my generation is reluctant to step out and let our elders know we are ready and willing to take them. My DS has enthusiastically responded to my messages to her that I'm interested to do things like being placed in the pool of nominees for General and Jurisdictional commissions. Young adult clergy generation should step up to the plate. IF there's only 850 of us, we are likely going to be in high demand!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Little pleasures

1. Buying the Star Wars stamps and making sure my quarterly tax statements are mailed to the gub'ment with either a Sith Lord or Storm Troopers.

2. Using the word "besmirch." As in, "I wouldn't besmirch the Yoda stamp by putting it on the US Treasury envelope."

3. Football season--in effect.
4. Getting to hear Fred Craddock and Barbara Brown Taylor preach next weekend.

3. The new mohogany speedboat stamps.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My question to Dr. John Cobb about Process theology and assurance, brought on by Mother Theresa's inner void.

I sent in the following question to Process and Faith's monthly "Ask Dr. Cobb." It made it for the Sept. 2007 featured question. I believe I bit off more than I could chew. Cobb's answer made my ears ring I was concentrating so hard.

I just finished reading the Time cover article about Mother Theresa's letters to her confessors that are shedding some light on the inner darkness that she experienced for the duration of her ministry. Does Process Theology offer anything to explain why the most beloved person of faith of the 20th century felt such a deep and painful yearning for a sense of connection with the divine? The same question would apply to Jesus' heartwrenching "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthanai. Does Process Theology posit a "blessed assurance" when we are following the Divine Aim?

Here's what he said

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Between the A and the T

I picked up Wesley the other day from the Creek Nation Daycare, and he asked, "Where's" It was like the "at" was tacked on at the end of the sentence like he was developing a more sophisticated way of communicating. I had to choke back the urge to correct his grammar. It sounded horrible. I was thinking, "where in the hell did he learn that at?"

(J/K) I was thinking, "where in the hell did he learn that?" I rephrased the question--"Where's mommie? She's at work, son." I did the same thing for the youth on the mission trip, except I was more direct.
Youth: "Where's the hammer at?"
Me: "It is superfluous to ask, 'Where's the hammer at?" "Where's the hammer?" works just fine, doesn't it?"
Youth, in her own mind: "What is superfluous?" or "Whatever."
Me, in my own head, imagining what she is saying in her own head: "Wow, he's right! I think I remember that from some 4th grade English class. Maybe I'll start valuing my education by actually using it in day to day life!"
I wonder if my own personal mission to help the youth speak English stuck with them. It is such an epidemic--and I don't think it is just regional. I remember it in L A too. I think it is just people becoming lazy with their speech. It drives me nucking futs!

Of course, on the other hand, I don't speak or type perfect with perfect grammar either, and it is really annoying to hear people correcting other people's grammar. One of my favorite quotes I think is from designing women, and Suzanne I think is being corrected by Julia. Suzanne says something like, "where's my makeup brush at?" and Julia lets her know she sounds like an uneducated something or other for ending her sentence in a preposition. So Suzanne retorts, "Okay, where's my makeup brush at....beeeiiitch!"