Because life is a series of edits

Archive for April, 2007|Monthly archive page

The Postmodern Wave

In Humanity, Places & Spaces, Sports, Thought on April 26, 2007 at 3:26 pm

pomo-waver.jpgGoing to a baseball game with seminarians is an interesting experience. While they appreciate the nuances and gentle rhythms of the sport, the real fun is the discussion between pitches. Personal, cultural, and theological conversation is what seminarians live for, and watching baseball live is especially good for this kind of interaction.

Take, for instance, my conversation with my friend, Rob. Rob and I sat next to each other for the entire game, remarking how low Cardinal batting averages were of late, watching our kids consume large amounts of popcorn and peanuts, and enduring the volume of the group of middle-schoolers sitting in the row behind us.

The middle-school group’s leader was desperately trying to start The Wave (in the second or third inning, no less; baseball etiquette really frowns on this before the seventh). The guy was genuine in his attempts (and his kids loved him for it), but not too many other folks (including us) were all that interested (though we played along so as not to seem rude).

Of course, if you’re at all seasoned in the fine art of watching professional sports live, you know that, for The Wave to really catch, it has to be started in the lower seating sections so those sitting above can see the effort and join in; no one’s really all that interested in what us schmos up in terrace reserve are doing.

Anyway, as Rob and I were watching this guy get increasingly frustrated with the 40,000 or so people in the stands who weren’t standing up, we started talking about the nature of groups and why this guy would have the expectation that people would actually have the desire to stand up and do The Wave just because he was trying to get them to do it.

And that’s when it happened: randomly and without warning, Rob stood up and did his own personal Wave – “The Postmodern Wave” I later dubbed it – as if to say that no one can tell him when and why to do the The Wave; rather, as a child born into postmodernism, he would do The Wave (or not) when he felt like doing The Wave (or not), and no one could or should try to convince him otherwise.

It is this spirit of the age that you see in the pic above (aptly captured by Ben Porter). Notice all the people sitting behind Rob not doing The Wave; observe Rob’s detached (almost bored) look as he stands and raises his hands in some expression of exultation that doesn’t match anything going on in the game (as evidenced by the aforementioned crowd looking in the complete opposite direction); take note of Rob’s faded cap and green shirt, neither of which contributes to his support of the home team (even despite his preference for the Redbirds).

Obviously, this deconstruction of modern sports cheering practices was a significant moment in the ongoing history of postmodernist thought that needed to be recorded somewhere; thus, in the spirit of philosophers Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, I do so here.

(As a follow-up to my previous post, it didn’t rain on us, Megan and her mother took one for the team by taking the girls to Build-A-Bear, and the Cardinals won 5-2 – only their second win at home in nine games. Good time had by all.)

Take Me Out to the Build-A-Bear

In Family, Places & Spaces, Sports on April 25, 2007 at 9:02 am

We, along with 50 other friends and acquaintances who benefitted from Megan‘s Ticketmaster-like talents (minus the service charge) are due to go to our first Cards game of the year tonight. Unfortunately, I’m concerned rain may spoil our fun: there’s a 40% chance of precipitation forecasted for both today and tonight, and while that’s less than 50/50 odds, it’s in situations like this that we always and inevitably come out “winners”.

The girls are pretty pumped to go, and Megan’s parents are in town from Tulsa to go with us as well. We’ll take the Metro in to avoid traffic and feel urban, as well as cart in all the drinks and goodies we can to avoid spending anything at the stadium (though I’m not a beer drinker, the principle of an $8.50 Bud Light is immoral, so this is our family’s little personal protest).

In addition to taking in the game (or the rain – whichever we get to watch), the girls have gift certificates from the grandparents for the Build-A-Bear Workshop that they’ve been holding on to since Christmas and plan to redeem to “build” their very own “Cardinal Bear” (which seems more than a little confusing in terms of the scientific classification system of animals).

As you might be able to tell, I’m not all that excited about the prospect of four more stuffed anythings in the house (you’d think I’m a taxidermist with as many stuffed animals as we have around here). But, at least they’ll be enduring symbols of the little ladies’ pre-pubescent loyalty to the home team (or that’s what they’ll tell me when we’re standing in line for half-an-hour missing the one inning in which the Cardinals actually score a few runs…).

Monday Musings

In Pop Culture on April 23, 2007 at 10:53 am

Just a couple quick thoughts this morning on a few news items of the day:

Have a good start to the week, everyone.

The Interview

In Calling, Family, Westminster on April 19, 2007 at 7:13 pm

For those following along, my interview at Westminister (the high school, not the seminary) went well. The initial meeting with the headmaster and the four other administrators around the table was probably the toughest part – not because of them, it’s just awkward to walk into a room and wax eloquent about yourself with men you’ve never met before. I probably did too much waxing (I have no idea whether it was eloquent) and felt my answers were too long, but no one stood up and said, “Thank you, that will be all,” so I took that as a good sign.

The next interview was with L.B. Graham, the chair of the Bible department. A fellow writer born the same year I was and with many of the same interests and passions, he and I hit things off from the start, and that time was a little more comfortable than the previous meeting, probably because it was just us and I purposely kept my answers to his questions shorter.

After that meeting, L.B. took me upstairs to the class I would teach: ethics. I faced 22 sophomores I’d never met before and, though you would think those first three minutes would be the most agonizing of all, they (and the rest of the class time) went smoothly. I cracked a few dry jokes (the only kind I can tell), asked them to tell me their individual names, and then had them tell me one thing I needed to know about each of them (which I used against them later) before I got started. The ice was broken and we were off and swimming.

The prep I had done on the Eighth Commandment (“you shall not steal”) came together well during the time, and there was some good interaction and more than a few laughs (which is always important). At the end of my allotted time, the students actually applauded, which L.B. says never happens, and I took that as another good sign. From there, we walked back to his office, I asked a few more questions about the school, and he then walked me out as he headed for the headmaster’s office to process the afternoon and…

Just got off the phone with the headmaster (seriously – he just called while I was writing this). His words (in summary): “We’re recommending that you receive a contract to teach Bible and ethics for next school year.” I won’t go into detail, but what this means is that I have one more meeting with the school’s education committee on Monday for their final stamp of approval; assuming that goes well and they follow through on the administration’s recommendation, they’ll extend a contract for the 2007-2008 school year to teach Bible and ethics.

All I can say (doing my best Keanu) is “Whoa.” Megan and I need to take the weekend to pray and process the possible implications of all this for the future. Oh, and I still have to find a job for summer, which apparently still begins in June.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who prayed, especially to those dozens of you who contacted me personally to tell me you were praying this afternoon. Thanks, too, to my seminary buddies (Rob, Mitchell, Ronnie, Tom, Josh, Eric) who seemed as or even more excited than I was about the interview today. All of this support means a lot and humbles me beyond words (which would have been helpful in that first meeting I redundantly talked my way through this afternoon…).

Grateful to God and feeling very blessed this evening.

Tragedy Capturing

In Internet, Thought, TV on April 18, 2007 at 11:20 am

My friend, Travis, has a good (but too short) post on both his disgust at the shootings at Virginia Tech and the media’s Pavlovian dog-like pantings in covering it all, live and on location. My own impression was similiar to Travis’ – when I finally got home Monday evening and turned on the news, I found myself actually talking back to Brian Williams on NBC, begging him to stop posing for the camera and over-dramatizing his lines while he interviewed students who had almost lost their lives in the horror of the day.

I’ve since limited my following of the story to the Internet (though part of ABC’s “special” with Diane Sawyer – complete with cross-fading pictures of victims set to slow, dreary music – almost snuck in before my nightly X-File last night). Reporting the news has sure gone beyond reporting the news; it’s all about “tragedy capturing” now.

Thinking about some of this, I remembered a point along these lines made by former (and now deceased) professor/media theorist Neil Postman in the opening chapter of his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. After a quick search of the library, I found the book and the quote:

“The information, the content, or, if you will, the ‘stuff’ that makes up what is called ‘the news of the day’ did not exist – could not exist – in a world that lacked the media to give it expression. I do not mean that things like fires, wars, murders, and love affairs did not, ever and always, happen in places all over the world. I mean that lacking a technology to advertise them, people could not attend to them, could not include them in their daily business. Such information simply could not exist as part of the content of culture.

This idea – that there is a content called ‘the news of the day’ – was entirely created by the telegraph (and since amplified by newer media), which made it possible to move decontextualized information over vast spaces at incredible speed. The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination. It is, quite preciesely, a media event. We attend to fragments of events from all over the world because we have multiple media whose forms are well suited to fragmented conversation. Cultures without speed-of-light media – let us say, cultures in which smoke signals are the most efficient space-conquering tool available – do not have news of the day. Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist.”

Or, to make the point more crassly (but succinctly), don’t forget this Don Henly ditty from 1982.

Which is a poorer commentary on human nature: the VT murders or our fascination with them?

April Opportunity and Update

In Family on April 16, 2007 at 2:00 am

This coming Thursday, April 19th, is a big day, as I've been selected as one of three finalists for a Bible teaching position at Westminster Christian Academy here in St. Louis. My interview is all afternoon, during which I'll meet for interviews with their headmaster, the Bible department chair, and the school's education committee, before teaching 18 unsuspecting sophomores for 50 minutes on the ethics of the eighth commandment ("You shall not steal"). Though I'm not sure how much "pull" they have, the sophomores have the potential for being the most fun of the day.

Anyway, Thursday's interview is important for several obvious reasons (full-time job, livable salary), as well as for other interesting ones (because the position is full-time, we'll have to get creative as to how/to what degree I continue seminary). In some ways, the job could help with school as Westminster helps pay toward continuing education in its teachers' fields of study, but the timetable of getting through seminary in four years would most likely get extended.

So, if you pray, would you ask God with us that:

  • We would not make an idol out of this opportunity, but rather continue to trust Him for His provision
  • I would be faithful in preparing and presenting my lesson, not with the goal of impressing but of inspiring those I teach
  • We would be creative in how to continue my seminary education in the midst of whatever happens (our financial support raising ends after May)

For those interested in our family and pray occasionally for us, thanks.

How We Know We Are Loved

In Theologians, Young Ones on April 15, 2007 at 7:23 pm

My kids are always amazing me with what they understand about life. Here’s an exchange my three-year-old and I had this evening while cuddling (a favorite activity for all involved):

Daddy: Do you know I love you?

#4: (smiles and laughs, almost embarrassed) Daddy…

Daddy: No, really. How do you know I love you?

#4: Because I said ‘yes’.

The theology here is profound.

An Emphasis of Synthesis

In Church, Seminary on April 12, 2007 at 10:40 pm

Not sure where this week has gone, other than into the paper I had to write for my Developing Lay Leaders intensive weekend class I took two months ago. The paper was due on Monday, but I had to ask for an extension as the project demanded more attention than I probably should have given. Nevertheless, I turned the thing in on Wednesday and was pretty happy with it as it’s different from your typical seven-page seminary paper.

The assignment was to serve as a vehicle for future pastor-types to put down on paper their thoughts on how to develop people and their leadership within the church. Between my twelve years with The Navigators and the past year’s work as an intern at Memorial, I came up with a few things to say that I had never really written on before. Here’s an excerpt:

“The challenge of leadership goes beyond leaders just missing the ‘forest’ of the big picture for the ‘trees’ of the details (or vice versa); the real problem is missing both due to a lack of ‘synthesis emphasis’ in understanding, training, and practicing what biblical leadership is.

Leaders (and as a result, those they lead) often suffer from a disconnect between calling and design; between vision and mission; between the strategic and the tactical; and between follow-up and feedback. The result is inevitably frustration and fruitlessness for God’s Kingdom.

What is needed is not a new calling or vision (which are often the enemies of the existing calling and vision); nor do we need more mission(s) or giftedness to accomplish the work we already have to do. What is needed is a bias for developing leaders in the Church who can lead with an emphasis of synthesis in their leadership of others.”

Though taking longer than I anticipated (largely because of the graphic design I packaged it in for my purposes at Memorial), I enjoyed writing again on a topic I’ve had some practical experience in (pure theology papers are hit and miss for me in terms of pleasure). Of course, the big thing missing from the paper are all the stories that would serve to illustrate my points, but I guess I’ll save those for the book…or something.

In application of what I wrote (just in time), I’m off this weekend to teach Memorial’s fourth and final Adullam leader retreat of Cycle A. Have a good weekend.

Learner’s Church Plant

In Thought on April 10, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Learner said today that, if he ever planted a church (which he has little desire to do), he would name it Mos Eisley (denomination) Church.

When asked why “Mos Eisley,” he quoted Obi-Wan Kenobi of Star Wars: “Never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.”

Oh.

Happy Easter

In Church on April 8, 2007 at 2:00 am

He is risen…

God’s Friday, part 3

In Church on April 7, 2007 at 2:00 am

What about the part about Jesus praying to “the one who could save him from death?” The biblical gospels and secular historians like Josephus and Tacitus all record that Jesus died on the cross, so is this a mistake? What “death” is Hebrews referring to that God saved him from? The answer, of course, is that God saved him from eternal death, the same kind of death he saves us from because Jesus died on the cross. That’s what we’ll celebrate on Easter – God the Father’s resurrection of Jesus the son.

Which brings me back to the point that Good Friday is Good Friday because Good Friday was God’s Friday. It didn’t belong to the Pharisees, or to Judas, or to Peter or to the other disciples. It didn’t belong to Satan. It didn’t even belong to Jesus who, in his humanity, asked for special consideration as to whether there was another way to satisfy God’s wrath because of man’s sin.

No, Jesus surrendered his agenda to the Father in order to free us who are captive to our agendas, so that we might be free to surrender our agendas to the Father. Jesus died on the cross to deal with the sin in our opportunist hearts – and not just our sins of power and scheming and manipulation and dishonesty, but all that accompanies our sins – guilt and shame and sorrow and hurt as well – so we can experience the same love of the Father that Jesus always has.

Good Friday is not about being good. Maundy Thursday is not about being good. Holy Week is not about being good. Lent is not about being good. Life is not about being good – and that’s good, because none of us can be good enough. Life is about being surrendered to God and what he says is true about us (that we all like sheep have gone astray; that each of us has turned to our own way; that all of us have fallen short of his glory), and to embrace the love God still has for us despite what he says is true about us.

But this call to surrender is difficult. For those of you who may not believe in God, you need to surrender what it is – your pride, your will – keeping you from the reality that you are so desperate for peace. Those impure motives you can’t confess; those painful experiences you don’t know what to do with; the unquenchable desire you have for love – real love – these will not go away until you surrender yourself to God to be forgiven and accepted – even in your brokenness – because Jesus was broken for you.

For those (like me) who claim to know God and his love (though mostly on our own terms), we need to surrender our preoccupations with being good – our reputations, our behaviors, our “better than thou” mentalities – and come to trust the fact that we’re surrendered enough because Jesus surrendered for us. When we don’t read our Bibles every morning, when we forget to pray, when we choose – yes, choose – to sin, is Jesus’ surrender on the cross enough for us? It was enough for God; who are we that it’s not enough for us? When will we stop praying, “Oh, Lord, beat me so I’ll feel better,” and start trusting that we who are in Christ can never be more or less righteous in God’s eyes than we are right now? On my worst day, folks, I am still “Christ in Craig Dunham.”

Who wouldn’t want this kind of assurance? Who wouldn’t want this kind of peace? Who wouldn’t want this kind of grace? We’re all opportunists at heart, right? The difference is, this is not an opportunity we take but an opportunity we surrender to.

As you go home this evening, and even come back to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Sunday, let us leave tonight, yes, sorrowing over our sin and our tendencies – like the Pharisees, like Judas, like Peter, like the disciples – to be opportunists with agendas. But let us not leave hopelessly. Jesus surrendered his will to God and went through that agony for us. And God saved him from eternal death, which is the same salvation he offers each of us by way of Jesus’ surrender and sacrifice.

What’s good about Good Friday? Good Friday is Good Friday, because Good Friday was God’s Friday. As we consider this reality, may we surrender to it as well.

God’s Friday, part 2

In Church on April 6, 2007 at 2:00 am

But then we come to Jesus in Luke 22:39:

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

They had just had the Last Supper and had gone for a walk on the Mount of Olives, into the Garden of Gethsemane. Probably because of their disturbing discussions earlier, Jesus warned the disciples about falling into temptation – not resisting sleep, but resisting humility; not failing to stay awake, but failing to stay surrendered to God.

Sound familiar? It should: these were the things Jesus prayed for himself in the Garden.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Why would Jesus need to pray for these things (or even at all) if he was the Son of God? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jesus was on the verge of skipping town, but I would suggest there’s a whole lot more within Luke’s recording of Jesus’ prayer of “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” than we might consider.

What’s my clue? There are a couple: 1) The Scripture says that an angel appears to strengthen him, which is similar language to when Jesus was physically exhausted after resisting Satan’s three temptations in the desert earlier in the gospels. And 2) Luke says that Jesus was “in anguish,” and that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” as a result. Blood or like blood, that’s not the point; the point is Jesus’s prayer was more than a calm, cool, and collected “Thy will be done.”

Jesus – in his humanity – was looking forward to being crucified about as much as you or I would be. More than that, Jesus knew he would be separated from the love and fellowship of the Father he had always known in his deity from before time began. Neither of these options seemed pleasant ones, which is why he asked the Father if there was another. There wasn’t.

Luke tells us that when he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep. What did Jesus say to them? The same thing he had said before: “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Again, I think this makes the point that Jesus was not so much concerned with the fact that they were sleeping – if Jesus was warning them about falling asleep, why would he tell them again when they already had?

I think these words were as much for him as they were for them. Could it be that, because of his humanity, Jesus knew that he could resist humility; that he would need to pray to stay surrendered to God? Does this sound too doctrinally dangerous, as if Jesus could have skipped town and ruined God’s plan of redemption? Am I making Jesus too human? Listen to chapter 5 of the New Testament book of Hebrews:

7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Loud cries and tears? Learning obedience from what he suffered? You mean Jesus didn’t just happily let himself be killed because it was the right thing to do? No! The agony Jesus suffered in the garden was real agony because he knew that the sin he was about to bear was real. The pain he knew he would experience wasn’t just the crown of thorns in his head or the nails in his hands or feet; it would be being forsaken by the greatest love anyone could ever know, only to be the object of the fiercest wrath anyone would never know (thankfully) because of his sacrifice.

God’s Friday

In Church on April 5, 2007 at 2:00 am

(As mentioned a week ago, I'm giving the homily at Memorial's Good Friday service tomorrow evening (7 p.m.; here's a map). As I've been working on what I'm going to say (and as this is Maundy Thursday), I thought I'd divide my manuscript over the next three days before Easter as an opportunity for folks to consider Christ and the Cross.

About the manuscript: I never "read" sermons, but try to write things out in manuscript form so as to get my thoughts down on paper (I always do better if I can speak from what I've "heard" myself think). My plan is to preach from minimal or no notes, as I always prefer speaking extemperaneously (I think people prefer listening to that more, as well).

Those qualifiers out of the way, here's part one, starting with a quote for the bulletin.)

God's Friday
(Luke 22:39-46)

“The Crucifixion and other historical precedents notwithstanding, many of us still believe that outstanding goodness is a kind of armor, that virtue, seen plain and bare, gives pause to criminality. But perhaps it is the other way around.” Mary McCarthy

Perhaps like some of you, I grew up thinking Good Friday was the day I had to be really, really good. Good Friday was, after all, when Jesus died for my sins, and wouldn’t it add insult to injury after the fact if I sinned more than normal on this particular day? That’s what Lent was all about, too – strengthening my “good” muscles in preparation to pump some serious “good” throughout Holy Week and especially on Good Friday.

We even had a pre-Good Friday warm-up in Maundy Thursday, which I always thought of as a short “evening practice” before the big day. I thought that if Jesus was crucified on the cross, and Good Friday was when we observed that redemptive-historical event, then surely I needed to be at my best and worth dying for at least one day out of the year.

You laugh, but you can see how this rationale could make sense; after all, what else is really “good” about Good Friday? Think about it: our Creator – incarnate as human – comes to earth, lives a perfect life, and is unjustly accused by a less than innocent bunch of corrupt government officials, power-hungry religious leaders, and one far-too-easily swayed populous. He is mocked, tortured, and crucified between two true criminals, dies and bears the full brunt of God the Father’s justice and wrath against man for his sin and complete and utter wrecking of all he had created. Honestly, just what is “good” about any of this?

When Pastor Stulac asked me several months ago to speak as part of this Good Friday service, I figured this was my opportunity to get to the bottom of this obvious misnomer. Being the brilliant seminary student/intern I pretend to be, here’s how I would sum it up: Good Friday is Good Friday because Good Friday was God’s Friday.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s clever; a little bit of a word play. Linguistically speaking, our ears like the alliteration, and the philologist in all of us appreciates the fact that the phrase “Good Friday” could clearly (and probably did) come from the phrase “God’s Friday,” just as “goodbye” comes from “God be with you.” “Good Friday” as “God’s Friday” – it works (especially for a homily title to put in a church bulletin).

But reading the passages and examples from Luke 22 that we’ve read so far tonight, it sure doesn’t seem it was really “God’s Friday” at all. Actually, it seems like it was anything BUT God’s Friday. Why? Because everyone involved had an agenda for what the day we have come to know as “Good Friday” would be. For instance, Luke tells us:

  • how the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for an opportunity to kill Jesus (Luke 22:2)
  • how Judas took advantage of the hot betrayal market of the day to sell Jesus out (Luke 22:3-6)
  • how the disciples kick-started their campaigns as to which of them was or might be the greatest (Luke 22:24)
  • how Simon Peter took the opportunity to show off in front of the others with a boisterous, dramatic oath of loyalty to Jesus (Luke 22:33)
  • how the rest of the disciples (probably egged on by Peter’s promise) vowed their allegiance to defend Jesus to the death, so much so that Jesus finally had to rebuke them and tell them “Enough already!” (Luke 22:38)

The point is everybody was an opportunist; everybody had a plan. And this did not stem from merely an “immature jealousy” in the case of the Pharisees; or a “well-intentioned taking of matters into his own hands” in the case of Judas; or a “noble (if naive) declaration of loyalty” in the case of Peter; or an “innocent misunderstanding of greatness and servanthood” in the case of the disciples (he had just washed their feet, for crying out loud, modeling what he was teaching – how could they miss that?).

No, these attitudes of opportunism – and the actions that followed – stemmed from a deep, calculating sin nature whose idols were power, control, being first, and being praised. Everybody had an agenda.

Irony

In Pop Culture on April 4, 2007 at 2:00 am

Driving to the seminary this morning, I saw a bumper sticker that read "Trees are the future."

Ironically, the bumper sticker was on a wood chipper.

On Storytelling

In Books, Humanity on April 2, 2007 at 9:18 pm

“The greatest religions convert the world through stories.”
– Ben Okri

Dan Allender’s book, The Healing Path, is a good reminder of what we’re not called to do with our hurt and heartache – that is, to stuff, squelch, or suppress it. Avoiding the other extreme, Allender does a good job of going beyond any “express yourself” storytelling for one’s own sake; rather, he explains (albeit melodramatically at times) how stories – good, bad, and sometimes very ugly – are ours to tell for others and for the glory of God.

Of course, this kind of clichéd “sharing” can often bring to mind those early-Tuesday morning Bible study devotionals or long-winded campfire confessionals, all endured in the name of graciousness and friendship. Allender, however, does not try to merely encourage the generic sharing of a prepared testimony of faith; rather, he encourages the messenger to understand that who he or she is – as a personal embodiment of God’s larger story – is what we should be sharing in real and tangible ways. He writes:

“I am the network of all my relationships present, past, and future. And my conscious grasp of who I am revolves around the stories of those relationships. We never define ourselves in abstract (I am a pastor, a homemaker, a student) without also associating those labels with myriad stories remembered and forgotten. Our identities are suffused with narrative. I am a confederation of stories, relationships, and memories.” (61)

That I am such a confederation is good for me to remember, as I repeatedly forget I am a flesh-and-bone, heart-and-soul image of God and not just a container for the knowledge of God. The difference in mindset may seem a case of mere semantics, but the distinction (and its implication) is profound: if I’m a container, I can only hold what I know about God; as an image, aspects of who I am actually help me understand who God is.

This is why Allender is so intent on encouraging his readers to stay on the healing path of storytelling by not burying their pasts, numbing their presents, or fearing their futures. Instead, he prescribes a fierce and biblical clinging to hope, for

“Hope takes the experience of loss and powerlessness and uses it as the raw material for writing a new and unexpected story. When we lose hope, we stop remembering and telling stories that arouse our desire and anticipation. Our thoughts become narrow, focused on loss rather than on what will one day be sure and true.” (137)

For me, I think, my desire to write is a symptom of my greater desire to share with others not just what I think, but also who I am. And yet, as much as I enjoy writing (and have the sense that others enjoy reading what I write), I recognize that writing can be a noble discipline that – despite the appearance of transparency and vulnerability – still maintains a safe and comfortable distance between others and myself. Do people want to know what I think, or know who I am? Which do I really want them to know? Hmmm.

The same set of questions applies in person, as even though most people tend to like me, I’m told I’m hard to get know. I don’t mean to be, but then again I don’t mean to be a lot of things (selfish, prideful, and easily-frustrated come to mind, among others) that I am. There again, though, shifting the source of my stories from that of what I know to that of who I am could help, as the act of sharing myself with others would require a lot more from me than just regurgitating what I know (or think I know). To that end, I like Allender’s definition of accountability a lot more than the normal evangelical one:

“Accountability is storytelling in a round that brings each voice into play, ultimately forming a chorus that sings in praise of forgiveness, glories in the harvest to come, and rests in the gratitude of a day done.” (254)

Accountability as storytelling (and not just declaration of guilt)? A chorus that sings of praise, glory, and rest? I’m for that (as long as somebody else goes first while I warm up).

Opening Day 2007

In Sports on April 1, 2007 at 2:00 am

ball-glove.jpg

Baseball opens today, April 1st (no foolin'). Cardinals host the Mets tonight at Busch. Glory. In honor of the occasion, here are two favorite quotes about the greatest game ever invented:

Terrence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams:

"Ray, people will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. 'Of course, we won't mind if you have a look around,' you'll say. 'It's only twenty dollars per person.' They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in their shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."
Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) from The X-Files:

"I'm reading the box scores, Scully. You'd like it. It's like the Pythagorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947. It's like the numbers talk to me, they comfort me. They tell me that even though lots of things can change, some things do remain the same."

If those aren't enough to get you excited about 162 games between now and October, read artist Makoto Fujimura's experience with Cardinal baseball last summer (it's kind of long because of the Yankees references, but be sure to read to the end for the Redbird redemption).

Play ball!