Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesdays with Emily

I'll admit it... I like the enigmatic Emily Dickinson and her idiosyncratic poetry. And here's a cool thing. Lots of Dickinson's poems can be set to tunes because of her use of common meter. I think you'll have fun singing the following poem to the tune of Gilligan's Island. When you're done, share your thoughts on the last stanza!

THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

(And there's lots more where that came from! Check out her complete poems here.)


Monday, January 29, 2007

On the bookshelf...

I recently finished Walter Wink's The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium and found it to be a "mixed bag".

On the PLUS side, I gained some new insights in the chapter, "Jesus' Third Way". Wink explains the advice to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, etc. within the cultural context of the 1st century. What emerges is not a passive, doormat response. "Jesus is not telling us to submit to evil, but to refuse to oppose it on its own terms. We are not to let the opponent dictate the methods of our opposition. He is urging us to transcend both passivity and violence by finding a third way, one that is at once assertive and yet nonviolent." The book is worth reading for the info on the cultural context (e.g. 'going the second mile' when explained in terms of Roman military code infractions sends a far different message than one would expect if just reading with our 21st century eyes)!

On the MINUS side (for me) was the chapter on prayer. The talk of Powers and spiritual warfare was a litle "woo woo" for my taste. And, I'm not sure I agree with some of his statements. For example, "We will recognize that God, too, is hemmed in by forces that cannot simply be overruled... Prayer in the face of the Powers is a spiritual war of attrition. When we fail to pray, God's hands are effectively tied." Hmm. Dunno 'bout that. This would make for great discussion, though, especially over a cold Hefeweizen.

Anyway, here's the link for the book.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Idling in Everett

Another road trip to Bellingham this weekend (#1 offspring could have picked a closer college!)... and another metaphor emerges!

On the way up, we hit a major traffic tie-up in Everett and languished in the frustrating stop-and-go mode for 30 to 40 minutes. Yeah, I know, it wasn't THAT long! But I'm really not the most patient person with traffic jams. Maybe it's due to growing up in the wide open Dakotas. In any event, I can actually feel my muscles tighten, breathing get a little more shallow, etc. However, the road further north (safely out of the jam) had the opposite effect on my physiology. Driving down the open road and seeing the expansive green fields with mountain backdrop, I felt my muscles relax and breathing deepen.

And then the parallel hit me. The fact that I love driving but hate traffic jams reminded me of 'church'. My recent experience with LPC -- which I'm sure is typical of many mainline churches -- was like being in a traffic jam. Long time members create road blocks by insisting things be done the way they've always been done. Folks with hidden agendas on committees purposely move slowly in an attempt to prevent things from moving forward. Frustrating!

Since there was no end in sight to the LPC traffic jam, I took an exit -- one might say a frontage road! I'm not sure where this road will lead, but at least I'm finally moving forward, and feeling a sense of relief, freedom, and adventure.

I can't help but be perplexed. Why do so many people seem to prefer the traffic jam to the open road?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lucy Means Business!

(Why go to bed when you can play with lucy & microsoft digital image suite instead?!)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Buddha, Billy, and the Bible

Our first go at "making Midrash" at The Portal went well! In fact, I'd say weaving together Hesse's Siddhartha, Billy Joel's River of Dreams, and the Biblical story of the prodigal son was pretty stinkin' cool!

I'm really looking forward to future topics -- It's going to be fun to see what people come up with. And, it should get our brain cells firing!

One "easy" resource book of Midrash ideas is Judith Kunst's The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish Midrash. You can find it here.

Inexplicably, I couldn't find a picture featuring Buddha, Billy, and the Bible together, so the artwork in this post is: Meandering River of Dreams by Yellow Sorsdahl Phase.


Saturday, January 20, 2007


Today I enjoyed seeing the movie: Pursuit of Happyness ... I always love seeing true stories of people who rise above all obstacles. An additional treat in watching this one was knowing that I was in the Glide Memorial congregation the Sunday morning they filmed that segment (I was on vacation, visiting my alma matre, SFTS, the wine country, etc., and chose to go to Glide for worship, since I had long wanted to see this place that I had heard so much about (didn't know they would be filming that day). Anyway, this is a good movie, as is Freedom Writers, which I got to see last weekend. If you haven't seen them ~ I encourage you to treat yourselves and go.

Random comments

Responding to my friend, Barb's comments regarding Harry Potter: There are no explanations for so many people and how they choose to spend their time and energy trying to control what others think and read. God has told all of of us who believe that God's word has been given to us in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, that it's not what we take in (food, books, etc.), but what we put out, that we need to worry about ... that it's not the speck in the other person's eye, but the log in our own ... that we are to forgive one another and leave the judging to God, etc. etc. But, just as the "religious folks" in Jesus day were the first and worst violators of this teaching, so "Christians" continue the tradition! Frustrating!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Of Harry and Heavy Bags

A Georgia mother of four is fighting the presence of Harry Potter books in school libraries and classrooms. She believes the witchcraft found in Harry Potter is "an abomination to God", and "the Lord" wanted her to appeal the state's decision to let the Potter series stay in the schools. (Full story here.)

It's interesting to me that "the Lord" didn't want her to fight poverty. Or homelessness. Or global warming. Hmm.... Well, I guess a children's book of fiction is a much bigger threat to mankind.

I really do try to reign in my feelings of antipathy towards righteous "god-personally-told-me-to-say-and-do-this" people. But it ain't easy. Not only do I find antics like these embarrassing for those of us who are not 'that kind of Christian', but I think this type of crap is why so many people want nothing to do with us.

I've always maintained there's a lot of baggage associated with Christianity. When I read articles like this one, the bags seem a bit heavier.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

ah, where's the inspiration?

Yeah, as soon as I see something, I'll be blogging...

(Found the cartoon here)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

religious preference

Wow! This post Presbyterian pastor hadn't thought about how to answer that question! I can't answer that question! Right now my preference is no religion, thank you very much ... but what I really mean is no church, thanks anyway.

So, religious preference .... I'm stumped too! I like our image of being people on The Road. Jesus' first follower's were people on The Way. Are we "Road Runners"? or "Spiritual Explorers"? And, our religious preference is ?? Protestants were "protestors" of the Roman Catholic doctrine. We are "protestors" of the modern model of the protestant church. Are we Post Modern, Post-Protestants???

Good stumper, Barb!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stumped at the E.R.

Not long after The Portal on Sunday, David dislocated his shoulder (mega-ouch!), so we spent part of the evening at the E.R. After the doctor manipulated the shoulder back in place (mega-ouch, part II), they took him to x-ray. While David was getting his shoulder imaged, a hospital clerical-type worker had some papers for me to sign and asked me some questions. Of course, the questions aren't designed to be real "stumpers", but one had me flummoxed!

Hospital Guy: "What is your religious preference?"
Me: Long pause. "Umm..." Another long pause (with quizzical, searching look on my face).

I wanted to answer, "My religious preference would be for a church that is relevant, authentic, inclusive, and one which embraces mystery and creativity. But there isn't one like that in town, so we are doing a small group."

Instead, I ended up saying, "Umm... Protestant??" (which came out as a question and not an answer).

OK, I'd like to be better prepared next time I'm asked for our religious preference, but for the life of me I can't think of an accurate yet succinct answer. Sigh.

song for the day

Well, I like to drive too, usually what comes to my mind when driving are songs ... today it was a song from my childhood that sprang up ... one that I haven't sung for a long time ... but there it was: "I've got a river of life flowing out of me ... makes the lame to walk and the blind to see ... opens prisons doors, sets the captives free. I've got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring up oh well, within my soul; spring up oh well, and make me whole; spring up oh well, and give to me that life so full, so free!"

So, that's my song for the day. I'm praying for the well to spring up ... 'cause I'm feeling dry!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Robert Frost's View from the Road

Have I mentioned I like to drive? (Yeah, thought so.) Part of the attraction of driving is that it gives one a chance to let the mind wander (except for paying attention to the road of course.)

This latest drive up to Bellingham and back was really nice. As I was enjoying the view of all the trees covered with snow, one of my favorite Robert Frost poems popped into my head. (I kid you not.)

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

In addition to the imagery, I love the balancing of and tension between the two 'worlds' (the woods and all they represent vs. "promises" and all they represent). Theo discussion (including midrash) potential here!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Go Blog Team!

The Portal blog has come on over to join Views from the Road, so you can enjoy the blogging efforts of Serena and Barb all in one place! (We'll sign our individual posts so you'll know who's who!)

So stay tuned as we journey on and share our... views from the road!

p.s. To view The Portal archives, click HERE

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Here's a Head Scratcher!

I ran across something interesting on entitled Pastor Tries Inauthenticity. The brief article is about a pastor in Bend, Oregon who gave up trying to be real since "nobody knows himself well enough to be fully authentic, and trying to self-divulge all the time breeds shallow relationships because it denies the complexity and mystery of human personalities."

In defense of his new inauthenticity, the pastor makes the point that Jesus himself "wasn't 'constantly open and frank' and didn't even speak plainly to his disciples until the Last Supper." In addition, "Jesus also spoke in parables and obscured his messianic identity for three years"!

OK, people, let's weigh in! What's your take on this? You go first!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sadly familiar...

Hmm... Might this sort of thinking be one of the problems of mainline churches today? (Notice how I am restraining myself and not singling out any particular congregation or denomination?!)

Sigh. Big sigh.

Got the cartoon from here.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!

I love road trips and I love movies, so imagine my unabashed delight at a movie about a road trip! If you haven't seen Little Miss Sunshine, check it out! (It's out on DVD, and the movie is up for some SAG awards.) Anywhooo, the film is about a dysfunctional family--aren't we all?! but this one is particularly so--who sets out on a road trip to get the young daughter to a beauty pageant. Of course, much wackiness ensues, but there are poignant moments as family members confront fears, failures, and flaws and learn how to support one another. This film would also make for some good theo discussion...

Monday, January 1, 2007

here's my word cloud has a program that scans words from your blog and puts them in a 'word cloud' ... cool, huh?!