Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Curridge - Courage Connection Was Not Lost on Me

I just finished Lisa Samson's latest novel, Quaker Summer. I had not previously read anything by Samson and heard about this book on her hubby's blog, Willzhead. When the book arrived I noticed it was a "Women of Faith Novel of the Year." OK, I gotta be honest. That made me cringe a bit. I attended a Women of Faith conference several years back and found it too theologically conservative for me. And somehow too "polished" or "tidy". I wondered: Could a novel endorsed by the WOF be something more than fluffy Christian chick lit?

As I started reading, the answer "Oh yeah, it's more" appeared early on. Samson is good. Really good.

The novel centers around the character of Heather Curridge, a woman who, on the surface, seems to have it all. However, she is miserable, realizing she is missing something and trying to fill the void with mindless consumerism. This consumerism is just one topic Samson tackles in the novel. She also takes on bullying, volunteerism, poverty, the drug culture, the nature of friendship, and the meaning of "church". Whew!

A couple of parts of the novel really resonated with me. Like Heather, I have way too much stuff. (But with my current de-junking of the house, I am working on it!) Also, like Heather's family, my family is struggling to find a church with relevance and meaning. At one point in the novel, Heather visits a church with her friend, Lark. As she watches people file into the choir loft, Heather thinks, "I watch with little expectation because, heaven help me, church hasn't done it for me for years." Yep, I hear you.

One particularly cool aspect of the book is the humor and wisdom Samson weaves in along the way. I was hooked early in the novel when Heather discusses poetry with her friend Laney:

Heather: I haven't read a good novel in fifteen years! Not since Will was born.
Laney: I read poetry.
Heather: Me too, Laney. All the bang in less than five minutes...

Bottom line: Good book! Heather makes some difficult, courageous choices which lead to significant character growth (and get the reader thinking about their own choices).

Personal bottom line: In the future I will be more careful about judging a book by the endorsement on the cover. Could it be I need to cut the WOF some slack as well? Sigh.


p.s. There are reading group guide questions at the end of the book. One possibility would be to blog them and do a cyber discussion...

Friday, February 23, 2007

let's play theoblog!

Our web pal Rodger Sellers at The Portico is hosting a Lenten Theoblog, centering around discussion of McClaren's book, Church on the Other Side.

Since this is a book we Portal people (or should I say erstwhile Portal people?) have already read and talked about while trying to help Longview Pres get to the "other side", I think it would be great if we would participate! Our "crash and burn" experience at LPC might lead to interesting insights! In any event, the discussion could prove meaningful for all of us during this lenten season.

You can get to the Lenten Theoblog HERE.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ash Wednesday and Cosmic Connections

I didn't attend an Ash Wednesday service yesterday. Work was crazy and it would have been a scramble to get somewhere. Plus at this point in the 'dechurched process', I don't know where "somewhere" would have been! I did sort of miss it though... I like the reflective nature of Ash Weds, the quiet turning inward that allows for self-examination. I also like the tactile experience of having ashes marked on one's forehead; and, hearing "you are dust and to dust you shall return" has a way of putting things in perspective. Big time.

But, sitting at home, I decided the ol' carbon on the forehead would have to wait until next year. Carbon... Maybe it was the brain fry from a long day in clinic, but the word got me thinking. That same carbon present in the ashes is present in every cell of our bodies. When you look at life on Earth in general, it's all fundamentally (molecularly) the same kind of life! And looking out to the cosmos...yep, carbon there too! To quote Lily Tomlin's The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe, "Seems like there's some kind of cosmic crazy glue connecting everything to everything."

Yeah, it's all about connections... Actually turned out to be an ok way to start the Lenten season.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Pondering V-Day

This past weekend, my hubby and I drove up to Western Washington University in Bellingham to attend the Vagina Monologues, since #1 offspring, a theatre major, had a role. (I had no idea there were so many different words for 'vagina', but I digress.) This year's theme was V-Day: Reclaiming Peace, and the focus was on women in conflict zones.

There was a statement towards the end of the performance I found particularly thought provoking. I can't remember the exact quote, but the gist of it was that countries which wage war indirectly condone violence in the home as well. (I guess one could look at it as the country setting a bad example for its citizens with conflict resolution.) The women then made a plea for all governments to find a new way and seek peaceful solutions.

While they were talking, I was reminded of Walter Wink's The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium . In this book, Wink talks about the "Myth of Redemptive Violence", which "enshrines the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, that might makes right. It is one of the oldest continuously repeated stories in the world."

Wink then points out that Jesus "never succumbed to that perspective... He totally rejected complicity in violence." Wink writes that Jesus "drew a line in the sand and asked if we would step across--step out of one entire world, where violence is always the ultimate solution, into another world, where the spiral of violence is finally broken by those willing to absorb its impact with their own flesh. That new approach to living is nonviolence, Jesus' 'third way.'"

I wanted to raise my hand and share that Wink's book totally agreed with what they were saying, but thought such action might be frowned upon... In any event, as we were leaving the performance, it struck me: Sometimes I get my "churching" in the most unlikely places.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Lone Blogger

With Serena's move to Seattle (and her new blog related to that), I'm back to being the "lone blogger" at Views from the Road. What can I say about the last couple of years? We felt called (and worked hard!) to help Longview Pres become a passionate, relevant faith community, but it just didn't happen at LPC. Putting it in the nicest way possible, I guess we (and our small core group) were just on a different page than everyone else there. I know our small core group had hopes that The Portal would then fly, but it looks like that was a case of "good idea, bad timing".

In any event, the journey continues. (It's just looking different than I ever pictured.)

Hi-Ho Silver, Awaaaaaay!


Thursday, February 15, 2007


While I was in seminary I realized that this generation of pastors were being called to be "transitional pastors" ... all of us "interims" ... to help the church move from its "modern" way of being, to a community that is relevant in the "postmodern" culture that surrounds us. For us Presbyterians that means living into our "slogan" = "reformed and always being reformed by God."

After serving as an interim associate in greater LA area, where I had lived all my adult life, I received a call back to the area of my childhood ... the midwest (which, for me, is a good place to be from). There I served a congregation that grew from 30 to 70 in worship each Sunday morning, that dug in and repaired all the damage of years of deferred maintenance, and, for the most part, welcomed "new" ways of being. (And, I got to see continued growth when I visited a couple of years later)

Then I accepted a call back here on the west coast (the good news), where I served a congregation that was totally resistent to anything "new" ... to looking at "postmodern" culture and how they might be relevant ... even to being an authentic "community" (the bad news), with the exception of my website partner, her family and one other family.

Thus, my retirement from PC(USA), and upcoming move to Seattle, where I plan to get involved with nonprofit agency(s), sharing the journey with underprivileged, marginalized, abused, women and children for their better health, education and welfare, improving their lives and thus the world God has given us for a home.

All this to share one of the reasons I have been silent on this site. It is good for you to also know that I do not enjoy being online nearly as much as my website partner, nor am I as proficient with surfing and downloading pictures, etc. (In fact, I'm not at all proficient ... total beginner) Once I'm moved (March 3) and settled into my new home I will attempt to be more "present" here on the web on my new site: "Serena in Seattle" where I will share my views from the harbor, as my post-presbyterian partner, Barb, continues to share her views from the road on this site.

Meantime, I want you all to know that I am praying for you, and reading your sites here, and on our links. Praising God for all God's faithfulness (knowing church survives only because of that faithfulness ... in spite of all human destructive behavior) ... I send my wishes for God's Shalom.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

a vintage valentine

Definitions of vintage:
(a) representing the high quality of a past time (e.g. vintage cars)
(b) old-fashioned or obsolete (e.g. vintage jokes)

So, which definition do YOU think best describes the above valentine?

(I promised myself I would not draw any analogies with a certain church... even though it is tempting and would be oh-so-easy.)

Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

"ask me" about church

I like William Stafford for the same reason I like Robert Frost. Both wrote poems which, if taken at "face value", appear quite simple. Yet, a closer look reveals complex, thought-provoking works. (In fact, the poems can keep buzzing around in your brain for days. Trust me.)

Here's my favorite William Stafford poem. I am currently thinking about what meaning it might have for me as it relates to my experience with... (cue dramatic music)... the church.

Ask Me
by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Wouldn't this be cool to discuss over a _______ (fill in your beverage of choice)?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paul Re-thunk

Hard to muster up warm and fuzzy feelings when you think about the Apostle Paul? It's a common malady. But if so, you might want to check out What Paul Meant. Author Garry Wills makes the case that "what Paul meant was not something other than or contrary to what Jesus meant, but that we can best find out the latter by studying the former. His letters stand closer to Jesus than do any other words in the New Testament. They were the first to be penned..." Laying the foundation for his defense of Paul, Wills' states that modern scholars now only accept 7 of the 13 letters attributed to Paul as authentically written by him. When one takes that (and other Wills' insights) into account, Paul's jerk factor decreases dramatically!

As an aside... one cool passage in the book deals with the Golden Rule. "The belief that all the Brothers [and Sisters] are members of Christ leads to the corollary that they are members of each other. ... This is the deeper meaning of the Golden Rule--not simply that you should treat others as you would be treated, but treat them as if they were you (because they are)." Whoa! Good point!

Anyway, decent book... check it out and let me know what you think!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Can We Be The Flying None?

I used to LOVE The Flying Nun. Yeah, I know… but give me a break! When the show debuted in ‘67, I was 11! Sally Field played Sister Bertrille, who discovered that the combination of her light weight, her wing-shaped cornette (what I called “nun hat”), and strong winds allowed her to fly. How cool was that?! So I was a little bummed to learn in a recent Entertainment Weekly article that Field hated that sitcom! Field disses the show because “there was nothing real” about it. She says, “In the midst of the ‘60’s, when the war was happening and people were taking their clothes off, dropping acid, and changing culture in a big way, she was just out there, flying around.”

Hmm… ok… good point…

I guess Sister Bertrille could be the poster child for many churches and their approach to culture today. We’ve got the war, a meth epidemic, global warming, etc. etc. etc. Culture is indeed changing in a big way, but many churches remove themselves from it. They choose irrelevance and just “fly around”, not being “real”. Admittedly, there are daunting challenges in our current culture, and avoiding them is tempting. But Jesus didn’t avoid the culture; he engaged it. If we take seriously our call to follow him, we must be willing to ditch the funny hat.
p.s. Thanks Rodger Sellers for the logo I so artfully inserted into the Nun pic above.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

playing with einstein

Jan Edmiston recently did a post on her blog entitled "Everything Must Change". She addressed how the church must change "the way we worship, prepare new members, spend our resources (& especially our time), train seminarians, run middle judicatories." [Umm...whatever middle judicatories are!]

Rodger Sellers sent the nifty Everything Must Change logo you see above. I love how the logo is a visual play on Einstein's E=mc² (where energy = mass x the square of the speed of light in a vacuum).

The famous physics formula proposes that when a body has a mass, there is a large amount of energy associated with that mass. How do you get from mass to energy? You need the conversion factor, c².

Looking at our "church" formula, one might also ask how to get from our mass (or church body) to energy. Appropriately, you need a conversion factor! Of course in our church formula "c" isn't the speed of light; the "c" stands for "change". And I think the change needed is pretty radical. In fact, I think we also need c² (change squared!) Therein lies the problem (change can be painful), yet therein also lies the reward (tremendous energy!)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

diasporic thoughts

I'm reading a book about Paul (more about that in a future post), and I came across the word diaspora. Of course we generally associate that word with the scattering of the Jewish people after the Babylonian captivity. However, the broader definition (thank you includes:

*any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland
*any religious group living as a minority among people of the prevailing religion

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yep. We have met the diaspora, and they are us.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Super God!

So we Portalians shared super food and fellowship while viewing the super bowl with all its super ads ... only to hear the winning team claim God gave them the win! Super God! Amazing! Don't even know what to say about that kind of theology! So, guess I won't say anything.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

I'm freakin' awesome!

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Gee, it's hard to be humble... OK, granted lots of the questions were obvious and easy! Take the quiz and let me know how you do. I promise not to gloat if you get less than 100%. Well, not much anyway.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Daily Snippets

Here's something potentially cool! Heard from a friend (thanks Cindy) how you can read books by e-mail. The folks at DailyLit send you snippets of books and you read them message by message until you've got the whole book finished. Of course it will probably take weeks and weeks to finish a book, but might be fun to try! (Either fun or frustrating as hell!) Anyway, if you try it, let me know what you think!

Friday, February 2, 2007

"all dressed up and no place to go"

I followed the recent Mainline Emergent/s conference mostly through the blog of Jan Edmiston, and I find it hopeful that “mainliners” are increasingly part of the conversation addressing new ways of being the church in our postmodern culture. Unfortunately, the phrase “mainline emergent” remains oxymoronic for most of the country. As one recently burned by a congregation that was/is superficially "progressive" yet 1950's mindset at its core, I can't help but feel frustration about this. The vast majority of mainline churches simply aren't an option for spiritually hungry postmoderns.

On the Presbymergent site, someone had e-mailed questioning where they might find a PC(USA) church in northern Indiana involved in the emergent conversation. There were three answers given (at the time of this writing): One suggested a NCD in Lafayette (but that’s the central part of the state), one person grew up in northern Indiana and didn’t know of any emergent PC(USA) congregations there, and another – John Shuck — suggested looking at his blog’s list of PC(USA) churches “that are progressive or nearly progressive” as a starting point in the emergent search.

Shuck’s list made me curious. Were there any congregations in my area that would be possibilities? Imagine my consternation (yet not surprise) to find good ol’ LPC listed as our area’s “progressive” congregation. Another possibility within reasonable driving distance was a church in Olympia. Unfortunately when visiting that church’s website, I found that the pastor is one of the folks who had been part of the COM “help” (and I use that word facetiously) for LPC. He definitely did not strike me as an emergent or even very progressive guy when he was part of the LPC conversation.

So the dilemma continues. Sunday (or pick a day) comes and I’m “all dressed up – albeit for me that is jeans and a sweater – and no place to go.” Wonder how many people are in my category? I’m thinking I’m the tip of a very large iceberg (even with global warming). So for now, small group is my answer… but what about so many others out there with no place to plug in?