Monday, February 28, 2011

please bear with my American Idol enthusiasm :)

OK, the first thing I have to say is that I love love LOVE Steven Tyler.  Who knew?  I had "Crazy" on my mixtapes in high school, but I think I always thought he was a little weird.  But him as a judge on Idol?  I could watch him all day long.  He just really loves music and people singing well, and it totally shows. 

In general, he and J. Lo. are a breath of fresh air, and they make Randy a gentler judge as well.  I am SO excited about this season.  

I usually hate the auditions portion of Idol.  I skipped group night, but I caught up on some of the solo performances and Beatles night, and I have got to say without any reservation that this group is SUPER talented.  There wasn't anyone I was listening to that made me go "whhaaaaaa?"  and there were so many that I listened to that made me go "YEAH!"

So, without further ado, my three favorite guys...

1. Jacob Lusk.  OMG listen to this guy sing this song.  He's not just singing, he's sanging, with his whole self.  And he's a goober who wears shiny sneakers and goes to church.  Love him.

look at the judges' reactions here -- THAT'S why I love them. Also, my mom loved him, but that is probably because this song talks about God.

2. Paul McDonald.  Love his funky, raspy voice. 

Also, he's cute :)

3. Casey Abrams.  This dude brought a BASS on American Idol.  Who does that?  I'll tell you.  People I love.

and my three favorite girls...

1. Naima Adedapo.  I saw her audition and loved her then, and now I love her more. She's a mom, who cleans toilets for work, she can really sing, she's totally gorgeous, and she has the best earrings in the whole competition.

2. Thia Megia.  She's 15, but she sings and talks like she's 30.  She has a GREAT style..there were so many girls who were wearing tight booty shorts and/or leather miniskirts.  But she wears jeans and Cosby sweaters. 

3. Rachel Zevita.  I can see how her personality can get a little grating, but her voice is really interesting.  She has a nice low register, and I love a girl with a nice low register (what's up Tracy Chapman)

So who's ready for season 10?!? I am!

Friday, February 25, 2011

and that settles it, except when it doesn't (3.5 down, 22.5 to go)

‎"The only way that the Bible can be regarded as straightforward and simple is if no one bothers to read it" -- Jennifer Knust

In seminary I had to write a paper responding to the phrase: The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. This is simple and succinct. It will fit on a car bumper. You can throw it out in a discussion and it sounds authoritative and like it should stop all conversation.  That's settles it! We're done here! There's no need for questions, because what the Bible says is what the Bible says, right? If you were holy and righteous, you'd agree.

But from the time I really started digging into the Bible, just after high school, through Intervarsity and the Christian ministry I worked in after college, through my time at seminary until now, I've decided that the above pithy conclusion is not as helpful as it seems.  It's one of those six impossible things that Alice in Wonderland believed before breakfast.  What we should actually say is: The Bible says a lot of things, some not as clearly as others, and I'm left to wrestle and pray and listen with the Spirit and a lot of other people who have a lot of questions too.  That doesn't really fit that well on a bumper sticker.

I'm coming at this from an evangelical perspective.  I love the Bible, I respect it, I view it as authoritative, I look to it when I am challenged or confused or discouraged or joyful.  I use it as a guide to my life and believe that the Holy Spirit reveals Godself and God's plan for creation through it.  But that doesn't mean that I automatically always understand everything I read,  and that doesn't mean I haven't changed how I view some things that I've read in the Bible.  The Bible says it, and I try to understand it, and sometimes I believe one way and then am challenged by other passages in the Bible or a sermon or a friend or a dream or a prayer or a song, and nothing ever settles it, not even remotely (also too long for a bumper sticker).

Part of this thought process has been spurred by the recent conversation in our denomination around sexuality, and some reading I've been doing as a result.  I am halfway through Unprotected Texts by Jennifer Knust, a very interesting book with the central thesis that there is not one consistent Biblical ethic on sexuality.  This is right after reading a few other books/articles whose authors would say just the opposite.  It doesn't seem to me that any of the authors I have read want to abandon Scripture, rather they all handle Scripture very carefully and with great respect.  They are scholars and pastors, and (it seems) people of great and earnest faith.  So how is it that they have come down on different sides of the conversation?

It leaves me with two questions:

Can two people equally uphold the authority of Scripture, equally seek to love God and neighbor in all that they do, and still have different interpretations about what the Bible teaches?  And if so, what are we supposed to do about that?  

I think the answer to the first question is yes.  The second question is one that has not yet been settled.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

come help me study the Psaaaaaalms

A single youth pastor finds her students much invested in her love life.  Once about a year and a half ago I brought some students to a sandwich shop and had an approx. five minute conversation with the guy who took our order.  An elaborate love story was concocted from that brief conversation, and this guy would pop up in conversation all the time.  I would say, "I'm going to to NH this week," and they would say, "with Dave from the Real Deal?" and I would say, "No......."

Every guy who has ever come with me to church they have asked about (and almost every time the answer has been "No, just friends" -- an answer they are very disappointed by). 

For the most part, I find it endearing.  Most teenagers are natural matchmakers, and ultimately, they just want to see me happy, which is sweet. With all this investment, however, comes advice, good, bad, and ugly. 

Just the other night, I had this conversation with a young adult.
Her: If you like someone, you should just tell them that you like them.
Me: Just like that.
Her: Yeah, like 'I like you.'
Me: And then what if they don't like you back.
Her: Then you're salted.  I mean, you're really sauced. Your feelings are really, really hurt.  But then it's over and you don't have to think about it.

I had no response to that because it was so wise and yet also the scariest thing in the world.

Him: You should go down to the [Boston] Common if you want to meet someone.
Me: OK, so I go to the Common and then what?
Him: You just go up to someone and say, 'Do you have the time?' and then start a conversation from there.
Me: But what do you talk about after you ask the time?
Him: If you don't know how to talk to people, I can't help you...want me to go with you?
Me: NO.

Somehow, the idea of walking around the Common asking guys the time with a teenage wingman just doesn't seem like it's going to bear much fruit

Her: What's going with the boyfriend situation? It should be easy -- it's not even like you want someone cute, you don't care if they're ugly, they just got to be godly...just ask them to come help you study Psaaaaaaaalms.   *eyebrow waggle*

Enough said. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

for Valentine's Day

because that last post wasn't very Valentine-y, and I actually really like Valentine's Day.

This scene embedded Duckie in my affections. I would have a hard time turning down any man who would lip sync for me :)

Why I love Anne Lamott and a story of failure (3 down, 22 left to go)

I love Anne Lamott.

I just finished Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, which is the third book I've read by her.  I love how honest she is, how willing she is to say when she doesn't understand something, or doesn't do something well, or struggles with her faith.  I love how completely she trusts in God's grace.  I love how she says things that other people think but would be to afraid to say.  I love the utter vulnerability in her writing, not looking for sympathy, not running herself down, not getting caught up in her failures, doing nothing less than truth telling.  We all have said mean things when we're angry, we all have been unforgiving, we all have wanted to be right more than we've wanted to be kind, we all have felt uncomfortable or anxious in our own skin, we all have been ungrateful, we have all doubted God or God's goodness -- it's just that so few of us want to talk about it.

Once at a pastor's meeting we were asked to share a moment of failure.  It was a bold request -- we didn't really know each other well enough to trust each other with our most difficult moments.  Some pastors responded with successes masked in failure language ("I am too was a time when I gave too much of myself").  Some responded with funny stories about minor mishaps -- more embarrassing moments than failures.  Some responded with serious stories -- failing out of school, marriage difficulties. Then it was my turn.

When I was in NJ, I was running a summer program for jr. highers in the inner city. At the end of the day, I was usually tired.  Probably not more tired than my staff, but I was the leader and that came with perks, one of which was waiting upstairs for the bus while my staff watched the kids downstairs.  Part of me told myself it would be better for me to be downstairs with the kids, but the other part of me whispered "You have worked hard.  You're in charge."  So I sat on the steps upstairs, waiting for the bus to pick up the kids from outside the neighborhood.

I was on the steps one day as C's dad showed up. It was her third day of camp; she was a girl with slight special needs and so her parents didn't want her walking home by herself.  They told me they would pick her up.  "Oh," I said, "she's downstairs."  He nodded and smiled and went downstairs.  I leaned back against the doorframe.

C's dad came back upstairs.  "She's not down there."

I went back down with him, my face beginning to flush.  "She must be" I thought to myself. But my staff shrugged their shoulders.  Her father was very quiet; I knew his heart must be pounding worse than mine.  I ran into the bathroom, which was empty. I stayed in there an extra second, wishing her feet would appear under a stall. I dreaded going back out and facing her father with my hands empty.  I started justifying things in my head, asking why my staff had been slacking, why they hadn't paid more attention to her, but I hadn't told them that her dad picked her up, that her parents were worried about her walking home, that they should generally keep a better eye on her. Even as I tried to pass off blame in my head, I felt it resting on me, heavy as a stone.

Her father and I got in his car, and started driving slowly around the city. I said nothing. I couldn't look at him. I prayed in my head, and every part of my body was burning and frozen at the same time.  When we drove by her grandmother's house, he stopped suddenly, because she was standing in the doorway, smiling.  I smiled too, like it changed what I had done, like her safety made my mistake smaller.  I said, "Thank God," and told her father I was sorry, but he said nothing in return, just dropped me back off at the program.  She never came back to camp.

That was my failure story.  It didn't get any laughs.  If you have seen me run a summer program now, you know I am constantly counting kids, looking for kids, checking on kids.  I spend my time on field trips with my arms crossed, eyes moving back and forth.  I am much more vigilant when I'm in charge of young people.  That lesson has been learned.  What I am still learning is how to accept and admit mistakes, to say, "It was my fault," full stop, with no excuses or qualifications.  In some ways, that was, and still is the harder lesson.

I think we get scared to admit our failure because failure inevitably has consequences, and because one of those consequences might be that people stop loving you and starting thinking bad things about you, and maybe even God gets upset at you and stops loving you.

I love Anne Lamott because she can say "I did a dumb thing. It was stupid or dangerous or wrong, and it was my fault."  I love her because she can say that, facing the inevitable consequences, and still believe that she is totally loved by God.  Because she is!  We all are, no matter what we do -- nothing is so bad that God stops loving us. That's a lesson the church, especially pastors, have to do a better job of teaching.
"You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child. God loved you no matter how crazy you felt on the inside, no matter what a fake you were; always, even in your current condition, even before coffee. God loves you crazily, like I love a slightly overweight auntie, who sees only your marvelousness and need."  --Anne Lamott

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beauty: a post about the book that sort of spirals out of control (2 down, 23 to go)

This story was mildly entertaining, but not nearly as creative or interesting as Gregory Maguire's stuff (Wicked, The Ugly Stepsister). It doesn't create a whole new world, it more fleshes out the existing world of the fairy tale.

The thing I liked the best was that Beauty is the character's name, but not a descriptor. She's short, plain, and tomboyish, especially compared to her willowy sisters. She's rough around the edges and is more interested in her gigantic horse than she is in meeting. She and the Beast were both Beasts, in a way, both having to overcome the beastliness in each other to fall in love

(SPOILER)! Until the end, when it turns out she was beautiful all along, she just didn't realize. Silly girl. And the Beast was in love with her from the beginning, before he knew her, because she was so beautiful. If you couldn't tell, I did not like this plot twist.

I have a funny relationship with beauty. Like most people, there are days when I feel like nothing is going right with my face and hair, and there are days when I feel quite lovely. There are days when I start off confident and striding down the street like I'm on a catwalk and I end up wanting to curl up into a little ball. Once I was telling a friend that I would rather someone like me for my intelligence rather than how I look, and he said, "But you're basically born with your intelligence, too. So you're just exchanging something genetic that you can't control for something ELSE that's genetic that you can't control."

To which I said, "Shut up, Friend'sName."

There's a lot that could be said about the nature of beauty. More than I have the brain power to think about now. But Angela Chase (main character in my all time favorite show, My So Called Life) sums it up nicely:
Sometimes it seems like we're all living in some kind of prison. And the crime is how much we hate ourselves. It's good to get really dressed up once in a while. And admit the truth: that when you really look closely? People are so strange and so complicated that they're actually... beautiful. Possibly even me.

Monday, February 07, 2011

In the bleak Midwinter

I've been in Chicago for the past week, at a pastor's conference and then vay to the cationing at a friend's. Yes, I was here for the BLIZZARD TO END ALL BLIZZARDS! I left the hotel for dinner Monday night and then did not breathe fresh air again until Friday afternoon. On Friday afternoon I ventured to my friend's house and saw first hand the havoc the blizzard hath wrought. As a Bostonian who has lived through at least 4 significant snowstorms (5?) since Christmas, I was not impressed with the unplowed streets and the snowy sidewalks. I smiled wryly at the lawn chairs and cardboard boxes holding people's shoveled- out- spots. 'Mayor Menino would kick your butt for those offenses!' I said to myself.

Oh the conference? It was good. The best part for me is always sitting around late at night hashing out theology and ministry with friends. It makes me nostalgic for my time in seminary, when we would have those conversations everywhere, around the dining room table, over coffee in the seminary lounge, in the basement kitchen, in the computer lab. Every block had a classmate or a colleague or a professor. I knew at the time it was a temporary community, that in time we would be all over the country in our own ministry settings, but this annual conference brings me back.

I also went to two excellent seminars and the morning session speaker was very good. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

From John Perkins, Monday night:
"God loves us. Conversion is our attempt to love God back."

"The darker the night, the brighter the light"

From Al Tizon, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning:
"I believe in evangelism despite evangelism."

"If we want people to believe the words we say, nothing gives us more credibility than advocating for the poor."

"Justice is what love looks like in public" --Al quoting Cornel West

From Jay Phelan, in a seminar on eschatology:
"The church is the taste on the tongue of the kingdom of God."

"[The church] has gone from a community representing God's promises, to a group of individuals experiencing God's presence"

From Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom and Doug Wysockey-Johnson, in a seminar on moving from consumerism to stewardship (doing more with less)

"God comes to us disguised as our lives." -quoting Richard Rohr (I'm still unpacking this one)

Finally, on Thursday night, there was a forum, not affiliated with the conference or the with the denomination. In this forum, three pastors from the denomination shared their stories, two of being parents of gay sons, and one gay himself. The conversation of the church's relationship with the GLBT community, in our denomination at least, has not been very public or open, and it was painful to hear the stories of people who felt shut out because of their sexual orientation, or their child's sexual orientation. It wasn't a theological forum, it was a listening forum, a story forum, because while we can argue theological points, we can't argue with people's stories or experiences or feelings. My denomination is wonderful in many ways (having an annual conference to refresh and renew pastors is one of those ways), but learning how to dialogue well about homosexuality, without fear or division, is a growing edge for us. This forum was a good start.