Saturday, April 29, 2006

show me the way

although i graduated with a bachelor's in economics, with a concentration in marketing, i wish i could have studied graphic design. even when i interned at an ad firm in philly, in the research and marketing department, i was always hanging around the design folks.

from a modernist perspective, some of the marketing things i learned can be helpful in building churches (e.g., precise demographic studies, statistics & number crunching, etc.)... but i think the postmodern in me sees the effectiveness of the "i" in leonard sweet's epic formula (experiential, participatory, image-driven, connected)... as the old cliche goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

graphic design can be something like stained glass windows or church architecture... a visual narrative of our faith, adding sight to the sounds of our songs & sermons. it's part of why i love passing out t-shirts for church events... it acts as a kind of visual, physical stamp of the life of a church community at a particular moment in time (not to mention that everyone likes free stuff)...

above is a design i made for an upcoming children's day event for our church. whether by plane, train, or automobile (well, school bus), jesus wants all of his children to come to him. my favorite detail is the guy kickflipping the bus, shredding his way to christ :)

Friday, April 28, 2006

push it along

back in high school, i couldn't stay focused long enough to take physics for more than three weeks, but i could keep track of all the bands that ian mackaye had been a part of (let's see... there was minor threat, embrace, egg hunt, pailhead, fugazi...).

for someone, like me, who enjoys indie rock and memorizing useless bits of trivia, it's always fun to connect the dots between different bands. one can create analogies: for example, joy division : new order :: bauhaus : love & rockets. or, we could perform addition: members of far + texas is the reason + chamberlain = new end original.

lately, i've been enjoying maritime. they feature members from seminal post-punk groups the promise ring and the dismemberment plan. while some of my favorite music came from the mid-90s midwestern post-punk genre (e.g., christie front drive, braid, mineral, promise ring, etc.) i have enjoyed the musical progression the members of maritime have made. it is always interesting to hear the future direction of a past favorite. jawbox > > burning airlines... christie front drive > > antarctica > > the 101... mineral > > the gloria record > > pop unknown...

something about learning from the past and adapting for the future...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

rescue me

the phony in me puts on the appearance of strength, but with less than satisfactory results.

it does not require close inspection to realize that although our man "el gigante" is very tall, he is wearing a suit with the muscles drawn in. and randomly placed shag carpet. i'm sure this struck terror in the hearts of his opponents, but probably not in the way he intended.

putting on appearances, play acting, pretending.... it's such a ridiculous endeavor. and yet, i often find myself carefully putting on my muscle suit, ready to parade around the ring, hoping no one will notice. i need to be rescued again and again from the charade.

i long to find true strength. christ in me, the hope of glory. maybe something a bit more like this >>
no pyrotechnics, no flashbulbs. just accomplishing a task that seems impossible, reaching for something beyond me. not literally, of course (although being able to rip a phone book in half or break a bunch of cinder blocks with my nogging would be pretty great), but the inner transformation from fear to courage, from apathy to passion.

becoming an easter person. alive. strong. maybe even pulling a tractor or two along the way.

in between days

so much of life is lived somewhere in between...

with a nod to tony campolo, good friday was yesterday and easter sunday is coming tomorrow... and here i am, on this holy saturday, reminded of how this day represents so much of what life is like. waiting. uncertainty. hope, but not yet fulfilled. (here are some meaningful reflections on this theme)...

i want to celebrate the joy of easter without seeming like a phony used-car salesman. i want to know the reality of His resurrection. i have grumbled so much recently, grousing about ungratefully about how things *should* work out. i want to be able to wait on God without tapping my foot nervously & annoyingly, anxiously checking my watch and clearing my throat just loud enough for Him to know that i am unhappy with the delay.

we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body - 2 corinthians 4:10

further up & further in!

Friday, April 14, 2006

i ran (so far away)

one of the great things about our neighborhood is the local community center. there are classes for our daughter, a pretty good workout equipment area, and a gym. i have been dropping in to play pickup basketball lately.

it is amazing how competitive some of these old fogies can get. (for our purposes here, "fogie" can be defined as anyone more than four years out of high school)... i've seen name-calling, venting & cursing, pushing & shoving... sometimes it seems more like the kidwatch babysitting program than a group of working professionals. after one particularly contentious exchange, one guy wandered off into a self-imposed timeout.

a brief aside: i am reminded of my first pickup game at seminary. somehow, i ended up being the second-tallest person on the court and ended up guarding this dude who was about six foot three, and very athletic. his first move to the hoop was a two-handed tomahawk dunk. as the realization that my only defense against this dunkitude was a slow-motion lunge, this scene repeated itself many times throughout this game, usually followed by a grin and a shrug. it was months before i mustered up the courage to play again.

anyhoo... i was playing earlier this week at our local gym, and i ended up jamming my ring finger something good. i should have listened to the voice in the back of my mind telling me to take off my ring finger to prevent unnecessary swelling. by the next morning, my finger had become more of a purplish hotdog than a proper human digit. and, sure enough, my ring was further squeezing my swollen finger.

i had these paranoid thoughts that i would need to be rushed to the e.r. "put that man on a gurney! i need thirty cc's of epi... stat!" (i'm just trying to remember any of the word-sounds i've heard on tv's e.r. before)... my biggest worry was that they would have to cut off my wedding band in order to treat my injury.

when i look at my wedding ring, i am reminded of how lucky i am to have married the love of my life. i also have this strange tendency to turn it around in circles around my finger when i am worshiping God through songs. i'm pretty sure it's more than just a nervous habit. i don't know when i became conscious of this action, but i realized that i do it because my wedding ring also reminds me of love that came down, filled with eternity and rescue. through the loud and quiet, the applause and jeers... the loving commitment of God endures...

thankfully, no rings were harmed in the healing of my finger.

when my anxiety starts kicking into gear, i imagine all kinds of worst case scenarios. it's not enough to end up in some kind of emergency, but i imagine being on one of those tv newsmagazine expose-type deals... "you'll never guess what surgeons left inside this man's guts... three rolls of surgical tape!" or getting some kind of horrible staph infection afterward...

in a bit of doctor humor, my brother-in-law has always wanted to print retreat counselor shirts that read "event staph" on the back. *grin & shrug*

Monday, April 10, 2006

bigmouth strikes again

we signed up our daughter for a toddlers' tumbling class, which began this morning. afterwards, in celebration of this special day we went to mcdonald's for breakfast. it was there that we picked up the morning paper and came across this article.

it is troubling the lengths to which some believers will go in order to define and defend the boundaries of their faith. the visigoths (in this case, tolerance and/or homosexuality) are closing it - quick, bar the gates! strike pre-emptively! sound the alarm and circle the wagons! if you are with us, then get on board - and if you're against us, look out!

there is certainly a place for truth. following Christ always includes the call to holiness.

however, it is wrong to put grace and truth in opposing corners, in some kind of either/or deathmatch. when the word became flesh, he came into his world full of grace and truth. i don't imagine grace and truth were like a jar of goober grape, as some might imagine - the peanut butter of grace and the grape jelly of truth co-existing in the same jar side-by-side, but easily separated and never co-mingling. some christians would make it seem as if the only way to take a stand for truth is by becoming belligerent or contentious because grace makes you into an anything-goes welcome mat on which others will trample.

there is also a place for outrage in our faith. there are things that should cause us to get mad, to yell and curse, to pull our hair out. children sold into sexual slavery. people dying of entirely curable illnesses. the socioeconomic disparity revealed by katrina. genocide in places like darfur.

it is regrettable that the angry street preacher-types are the ones with the best soundbites. rants about who God hates play well in the media. nuanced discussions characterized by grace, respect and understanding don't make for good tv. perhaps this is why scripture tells us to let our gentleness be evident to all - broadcasting the character of Christ over our personal politics and preferences.

there might be some faint glow of truth in this argument against tolerance. but the answer is not to become some kind of intolerant jerk. in the workplace and on the campus, there probably needs to be some kind of standard for interpersonal relationships in the community. however, for God's people, mere tolerance sets the bar too low. we're not called simply to put up with or endure those who are different from us. there is the impossible call to love our enemies. and, whether we are right or wrong about who we consider actually to be our enemies, we are still called to love them.

this can only be accomplished through Christ in us, and that through much hard work, earnest prayer and self-sacrifice. not flippant, virulent shouts or slogans, nor through the mentality that we alone are the True Defenders of the Faith (as if God were to greet us in eternity with, "boy, i was really in a bind with that whole homosexuality deal. i'm really glad you distilled my word into obnoxious bumper stickers and hateful t-shirts. well done, good and faithful servant!")...

to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us...

i don't want to become the kind of believer who is defined by how i criticize other believers. that's just as bad, maybe worse, than the above. i want to love mercy, to do justice and to walk humbly with my God and His people.