Soapbox

8 07 2009

I’m a-gonna get on mine for a moment.  Feel free to tune out if you’d like.

And I’ll state up front, I’m definitely the pot calling the kettle black, or white, or silver, or whatever color your kettle is.  Who has a kettle these days anyway?

I don’t get the Michael Jackson mania.  Actually, I do get it.  It’s just another instance of how screwed up and backward our priorities have gotten in this world.

The man had talent. He was an artist.  Sure he had a questionable character and offbeat lifestyle.  Name a celebrity who isn’t put under pressure each and every day.

But the thing that gets me is the celebrity-worship we’ve developed in this country.  We eat, drink, sleep, breathe celebrity.  It’s the American Dream–anyone can be someone, and guess what, they were just like us!  Television force feeds us with so-called “reality” television, which is actually code-speak for “cheap to produce” television.  Case in point, the 10th or 11th edition of a show called Big Brother is about to premiere on CBS on Thursday.  The object of this show?  To sit around in a house with a bunch of other “houseguests,” compete in “challenges,” and vote people out to narrow it down to someone winning 500,000 buckaroos.  On the one hand, it’s somewhat educational into strategic gameplay and human interdynamics.  On the other, it’s exploitative (not truly, everyone volunteers to play for advancing their fame), and mind-numbingly insane to watch.

If that’s not enough, reality “stars” are recycled from one series to another, popping up on all kinds of new and stupid shows.  And we watch.

Now I have a bone in this argument, because I actually have a degree in Radio/Television, with an emphasis in management and sales.  Not that this is doing anything for me in seminary, but still.  One of my favorite classes I took in college was called “Programs and Audiences.”  Mind you I was in school from 93-98, to set a time frame.  In techno-speak, it was at the end of television as it had always been (30 minute situation comedies, 60 minute dramas, the dawning of the impact of the expansion of cable networks, etc)  In this class, we discussed how stations/networks decide what to air, who their target audience is, and why.  It was here that Dr. Pitts first told us about this show that had been pitched to a network about a group of people deserted on an island with a film crew, with all their daily activities filmed, competing in challenges, or a sort of game show.  I thought it was ridiculous.  Who would do this?  Who would volunteer?  Little did I know that this genre would spawn evil offspring that would eventually take over the face of television.

But I started talking about Michael Jackson, didn’t I?  My main complaint is this:  We’ve become a society of celebrity-worshippers who are narcissistic enough to want to become one ourselves.  The sacrifice for all of this is a loss of true community.

Community is a buzz-word that’s thrown around fairly flippantly lately.  I mean it in this sense–Michael Jackson’s death didn’t unite the world in community–it just became the most watched television event in history.  His memorial service put money in someone’s pockets.

You want community?  Get to know your neighbors.  (Self-revelation and foot in mouth coming) At the end of this month we will have lived in the house we live in for 2 years.  My neighbor on one side’s name is Jim.  He’s married, drives a volkswagen and a motorcycle that are both really loud and shakes our house when he starts them up.  We speak when we meet at the mailbox.  His dogs are sometimes in the backyard, and sometimes aren’t, and they always bark at me and scare my daughters, even though they’re little yippy dogs that I could easily squash.

My neighbor on the other side is a young guy and girl, recently married.  They moved in this spring.  His dad also either lives there or stays a lot.  The dad’s name is Norman and he’s worked hard to clean the place up.  He has cleared out the fence row in between our houses, and cut up 3 dead trees that had fallen in my yard that neither I nor my landlord had gotten to.  He even mowed my backyard once when he thought we were out of town.  We made them some cookies.  He has a weenie dog named Samuel J. Dog.  He barks at us and growls and scares the girls too, but I like him.  I like Norman–he went out of his way to meet me and my family.  At first, it was a little creepy–who is this guy and why does he want to know me?  We are conditioned to be private and protective.  Where we lived in Cincy for 6 plus years, we never knew the names of the people on either side of us, only giving them nicknames like “woman with a lot of kids” or “pharmacist sisters” or “mom with druggie son.”

I don’t know the people across the street from me, yet I could probably name all of Michael Jackson’s siblings and children.  I think one of the people across the street died last fall, but I didn’t know them, so it wasn’t my business.

I don’t want to live like that.

I don’t want to minister like that.

I don’t want to become so disconnected that I mourn a man who made music more than the person who lives across the street.

I’m gonna take Norman’s example and introduce myself to my neighbors.  They’ll think I’m strange, but if I do it in the right way, maybe I can minister to them and be the man God called me to be.

I wanna live where I am, and not in some reality show or sensational celebrity tragedy.





Story

7 07 2009

I’ve past the halfway point of seminary.  I have finished 4 semesters, with 3 and a summer to go.

Lyrics that are speaking to me right now come from Rich Mullins (as they often do), and from a song of his that I usually skip over.  It’s slow.  It’s from the Jesus Record, which isn’t actually him singing all of them, but other artists interpreting his demo recordings of the songs.  It’s entitled simply, “Jesus.”

I was driving to church last night with the redhead, and had been battling her (she’s only 2, for heaven’s sake!) over whose cds we would listen to.  I won.  She has these 5 or 6 cds we got out of Happy Meals from McDonald’s, and they’re her cds.  There are only 5 songs on each, but if you put them in randomly, she can tell you which color cd it is by the song.  Yet another reason I believe that I’ve sired a genius.  But I digress.

I won the battle, and I’ve been kinda dry spiritually lately, and I needed a pick-me-up from my good buddy Rich, so I stuck in his “Jesus Record.”  You might know this one, it has “My Deliverer,” which itunes tells me is his most popular download.  It’s good, but really?  The top Rich download isn’t “Awesome God”?  Anyway it has “He Did Not Have a Home,” which is one of my favorites.  And the closing “That Where I Am, There You May Also Be,” which is a big favorite of mine as well.

Needless to say, I was paying more attention to the ominous clouds than the music.  It hasn’t rained (substantially) in Central Texas for a good month now.  We’re parched.  We’re dry and cracked.  The sticker burrs are taking over my yard, and taking out the trash usually results in a yelp or two from a stray burr I’ve tracked in.  But the music was playing, and I wasn’t listening.

Until it hit the chorus which was sang by Ashley Cleveland, and it goes like this:

Jesus

Write me into your story.

Whisper it to me.

And let me know I’m yours.

I think it’s the line, “Write me into your story,” that got me.  It’s been stuck into my head ever since.

What does it mean to ask Jesus to “write me into your story”?

Am I spiritually dry because I’ve written myself out?  How is my discipleship?  Where has my focus been?

This is my prayer for today:

Jesus

Write me into your story.

Whisper it to me.

And let me know I’m yours.





Kids say the darndest things…

26 05 2009

The following exchange took place as I dropped off the kids at daycare this AM:

LJ: “Look at the birdie, Daddy!”

Me: “I see that birdie, LJ.”

LJ: “There’s two birdies Daddy!”

Me: “There’s two now?  That’s great. What are they doing?”

LJ: “They’re eating, Daddy.”

Me: “It’s good to eat.”

LJ: “One birdie gone.”

Me: “Where did he go?”

LJ: “He went (to) Target.”

Me: “He went to Target?”

LJ: “Yes. He went to Target.”





Twitter

4 04 2009

I’ve started to tweet. I’m trendy like that.
Follow me @blueashtj on twitter.com





Meditation

13 03 2009

I found this while doing research for a paper.  It speaks well.

 

And Everyone Has His Own Isaac

Edward J. Farrell

 

I want Abram for my friend, said God.

 

I would make him a people great,

more than sea-sands, a people

and a new land

and a blessing.

I will give him Isaac, said God.

 

And Abram, looking up, loved back.

I will build altars in the land you gave me, friend.

an altar at Sichem

an altar at Valley of Clear Seeing.

Move on.

an altar east of Bethel, west of Hai

So Abram built the altars.

 

And Abram moved his tent by Mambre

at Hebron built an altar to the Lord.

 

Then God took Abram out of doors.

My childless friend, said God,

Look up at the countless stars.

And God said,

Abram, I am going to pluck a son from you,

a son to give you sons.

You’ll have more sons than stars, said God,

before we’re through.

 

So Abram put his faith in God

and it was reckoned virtue.

 

But God left Abram waiting,

Gave him time

Time almost to count the stars.

 

But one day God called Abram, remembering the 

stars, and said,

Abram, you shall have a new name.

And God called him, “Father of Many Nations”

God, taunting, called him Abraham.

 

And friends have covenants, said God,

and we will have one, too, He said.

I am your God and you are my own Abraham.

The sign is in your flesh.

 

Later God thought:

I cannot leave him counting stars forever.

Already Sara laughs at me.

It is time.

It is time I gave him Isaac, said God.

 

And Abraham became the father of a son, of Isaac.

A hundred years of unspent fatherhood

he poured all out on Isaac.

And laughing Sara’s breasts grew warm and full.

Themselves they gave to Isaac.

 

There was no more counting stars for God’s poor

friend.

He had the seed for all the flowers of the earth.

God had given Abraham his Isaac.

 

And God watched Abraham with love.

Watched him as he played with sheep and land.

And later on, He spoke:

 

I am the Pack-Rat, God, said God.

and now, Abraham,

I want Isaac.

 

But we are friends and you gave Isaac, Abr’am said,

 

I know we are, said God.

But I want Isaac.

 

Till Abr’am cried,

The stars so countless and the many sands

and would you take my one son Isaac?

 

And God would only answer back:

I want Isaac.

 

And Abraham, because he was a friend of God’s 

said, God,

Take Isaac.

 

Farrell, Edward J, Disciples and Other Strangers (Denville, NJ: Dimension, 1974), 147-8.





Love/Hate

10 02 2009

I have a love/hate relationship with blogging.

On the one hand, I believe sometimes I have thoughts and insights that would be valuable to share with the world.

On the other, I am humble enough to keep my opinions to myself.

But I also believe in the freedom of expression, whether it be via speech, religious practice, assembly, bearing arms, you get the drift, the whole Bill of Rights thing.

But I also believe in the responsible use of said freedom of expression, such as limiting hate speech. 

This all being said, I would love to blog more, but most of what I think I have to say, just isn’t that interesting or thought provoking enough for me to think anyone else out there would want to read it.





I never paid much attention to the moon

2 02 2009

I never paid much attention to the moon until my eldest daughter came along.

We never go anywhere at night (or sometimes during the day) when she fails to lift her eyes skyward to scour the heavens in search of that big reflective ball of dirt we call the moon.

It’s probably because of the amount of times we’ve read Goodnight Moon.

It’s probably because anytime we read a book near bedtime she points out the moon in the nighttime pictures.

It’s probably because it’s something she can easily find and identify.

But my daughter loves the moon, and now I do too.

Each night/morning, I find myself gazing up to the heavens looking for that celestial body, so I can help my daughter find it, take notice, and smile with an affirming, “There’s the moon!”

I have become hyper-aware of the moon’s phases and positioning in the sky–knowing where to look to find it in the mornings and where it might be in the early evenings, too.

From a sliver of a new moon, to the half-moon’s eery outline, to the majestic robust full moon–whenever and however it appears makes my daughter smile and laugh, and makes me happy, too.

I know a famous preacher has extolled the virtues of the sun, as opposed to the moon.  He encourages us to “Be the moon, and reflect the sun, because all the moon does is reflect the light given it by the sun.”

But I also think you could say that the moon is like God.  

It’s always there in the sky somewhere.

It might be hiding.

It might be small and hard to find.

It might be mysterious.

It might be lighting up the night sky.

But it’s there.

Just like God.

I AM.

So I look for the moon in places and times you wouldn’t normally look.  

As as I do, I think of God, and how I find God in places I wouldn’t normally look.

I look at the moon in all its splendor, taking into account the delicate way it cycles itself in and out of history.

And I think of God’s guiding hand throughout history.

And I smile, and laugh, and point to the sky and say to my daughter,

“Look, honey, it’s the moon!”

s_full-moon