Keeping my day job
September 29, 2008, 7:42 am
Filed under: family

Yeah, so, Michelle is contemplating a new tattoo, but wanted to play with size and placement.  My way of “helping” was to bust out a cone of henna, and do a quick mock-up of something similar to what she wants to have done.  Here’s the result:


I’m guessing my future as a henna artist – check that – ANY kind of artist is in serious question.  Those things in that circle are supposed to be horses . . . or eels, you know, whatever works for you.

Beautiful Day – Compassion Unleashed
September 27, 2008, 10:59 pm
Filed under: friends, school, social action

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce my blog audience to a good man, named Jon Talbert.  My life immediately got better a couple of years ago, when I met Jon as a member of my doctoral cohort at George Fox Seminary.  I shared a hotel room with him in downtown Portland, walked the streets of that amazing city with him, and got a chance to see him in his “other” profession – you see, he’s a “pastor by day, and a stand-up comic by night.”  I’m sworn to secrecy on the actual events of the open mic night he performed at, but I’ll just say that he’s got a great act.  He’s got a special gift of engaging any group of people with a genuine caring demeanor, and an ability to make people smile and laugh.

I wanted to bring him to your attention for two reasons.  First, he’s getting more and more famous all the time, and I heart name-dropping.  Second, I’m a huge fan of his talents as “a pastor by day.”  Jon is the Compassion Pastor for a very large church in San Jose, CA.  Normally me and megachurches don’t get along so very well, but his church has given him freedom and encouragement to do some unconventional things, primarily through an effort he started called Beautiful Day.  They’re committed to being in their community in a way that demonstrates Jesus’ love and compassion.  One of their first efforts when they started in 2004 was to partner with a local HIV/AIDS group.  That group was skeptical, for good reason, but when Jon explained that they really did just want to serve and love them, not badger and preach at them, a great friendship began.

On Sunday, October 19th, the Silicon Valley AIDS walk will take place, and team Beautiful Day will be out in force.  They’re skipping church to be a part of this event.  I’ve been following their Twitter updates, and have learned that team Beautiful Day is the largest group of people walking, and they’ve now raised the most money of any group involved.  That says huge things to the community.  Big props to Jon and his team.

Jon, like the rest of us in the cohort, is busy writing his doctoral project right now, which will likely turn into a book to be published by a major Christian publisher.  I’m really looking forward to reading it, and being challenged. Check out the Beautiful Day website to learn more about who they are, and how to get personally involved in compassion projects where you live.

Personal Responsibility & The Empire of Greed
September 26, 2008, 9:47 am
Filed under: culture, money, politics, sabbath

Almost as soon as I hit the “publish” button on yesterday’s post, I was already thinking that I needed to write a follow-up.  So here goes.

First things first, I’m big on citing my sources, and I just wanted to say that when I write things that refer to consumerism as patriotism, that means I’m ripping off my good friend Jason Evans.  He’s a really good example of how I try hard in life to surround myself with people that are smarter than me.

Speaking of people smarter than me, my dear wife, Michelle, commented on yesterday’s post with some of the very same thoughts I had in mind for my follow-up, so let’s jump in now.  Among other things (some of which she and I may have to agree to disagree on), she noted that we have participated quite heavily in this financial empire, and we’ve certainly benefited from it.  Confession time: since 9/11/01,  we’ve purchased two new vehicles, bought a home when we moved to the Northwest, and have indeed overspent on consumer goods.  Mind you, we’ve done so without the use of credit card debt and we didn’t take out a ridiculous mortgage for a house we couldn’t afford, but still, we have definitely participated in the empire – sometimes with embarrassing enthusiasm.

But that points to the main issue I wanted to cover today.  Over the past few weeks, as we’ve watched the financial market roller coaster, watched major banks and investment firms go down in flames (including my own bank, in the past 24 hours), and see our politicians wrangle over bailout options, it’s been very interesting to me that everyone in the media is pointing blame on corporate CEOs and their greed, government oversight agencies that fell asleep at the wheel, and the economic policies of the presidential administration.  I don’t spend hours and hours in front of the financial news networks, or any news networks for that matter, but in all the reports I’ve read, watched, and listened to, I’ve never once heard anyone even hint at the responsibility of the USAmerican consumer in all this mess. 

Is it true that banks are getting hammered now because they made irresponsible loans to people who couldn’t afford them?  Of course.  But who did they loan that money to?  A lot of people who probably shouldn’t have been trying to buy a house at the time.  And who helped fuel the out-of-control housing market growth that is now experiencing its correction?  A lot of real estate investors who tried to make a fast buck by buying houses, putting minimal money into “improvements,” and then flipping them for a massive profit.  And when I say “real estate investors,” I’m not talking big tycoons, I’m talking about those people on the TV shows that are so popular on TLC.  Every business venture carries significant risk with it – but we collectively drank the Kool-Aid that convinced us that making piles of cash was easy, fast, and automatic.

We’re the ones buying the HDTVs.  We’re the ones buying the new cars.  We’re the ones counting the equity dollars in our houses.  We’re the ones that are sucked into marketing messages.

This post is not meant to be calloused to people who have struggled financially – I do have compassion for people who have fallen behind due to job loss, illness, natural disaster, and yes, corporate greed that ended up collapsing their retirement accounts.   But it’s absolutely irresponsible for us to point fingers of blame at corrupt corporations if we’re not also willing to own our complicity in falling for some of this stuff.  We share the blame.

This is why it’s up to us who follow Jesus to increasingly live a counter-cultural lifestyle.  For starters, it’s counter-cultural to admit blame.  It’s counter-cultural to settle for the ten year old sedan when that zippy hot rod is well within reach.  It’s counter-cultural to live within your means and give yourself and your money away to others.  It’s counter-cultural to say “Jesus is Lord, and the president is not, the Chairman of the Fed is not, my portfolio is not.”

Too many words spent here already, so I’ll shut it down now.  Pursue peace this weekend – via Sabbath, generosity, hospitality, and simplicity.

The Empire of Greed
September 24, 2008, 8:22 pm
Filed under: money, politics

It’s nice to know, in the middle of a presidential election campaign, who/what is really in charge around here.  The almighty dollar.  For years, we’ve been told to drink from the fountain of never-ending economic expansion – “buy more houses and cars and HDTVs for more money, but with less money. Don’t quit spending, whatever you do, because (wait for it, you know what’s coming . . .) if you stop spending money, the terrorists win.  Those nasty fascist religious wingnuts hate our consumeristic decadence, do they?  Well they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  We’ll prove exactly how much more consumeristic and decadent we can get.”  Why?  Because it’s the patriotic thing to do. 

I”m proud to be an American* / Where at least I know I’m free**.”

I sat in my car today yelling at the radio as the Speaker of the House gave an absolutely idiotic interview blaming all that’s wrong with the economy on the President and his failed policies, as though her Congress and her party’s previous President had no complicity at all.  An hour or two later, I sat in my car a second time (different car trip, thankfully) and yelled at the radio as the President tried to convince me that too many people bought too many cars and houses they couldn’t afford, so our economy went into the tank . . . never admitting for a minute that he’s the one that told us incessantly to keep spending.

Regular readers of this blog are likely sick of reading my rants against the false hope of the current presidential candidates.  I’m sorry, really.  I just don’t want myself, or those that give a rip what I think to get lulled into the illusion that we’ll be stunningly better off come January.  Why anyone would expect that there will be no negative consequences for our gluttonous consumption is beyond me.  The only thing that surprises me about any of this economic meltdown stuff is that so many people ARE surprised by it.  I’m no genius, but I can add – I’m just sayin’.



*”American” refers strictly to full citizens of the United States of America, and NOT the pseudo-American countries of Canada, Mexico, or all those other crazy cocaine-factory countries below Mexico.

**Free offer based on credit approval.  Offer not valid in all 50 states, regions along the Mexican border, or Native American reservations.  Some restrictions apply, including future foreclosure and/or repossession, long term high interest credit debt, and “economic stimulus recapture” enacted on your children and/or grandchildren and/or great-grandchildren should the Republic survive.

Still on the fence re: The Born Again Church Tour?
September 23, 2008, 9:15 pm
Filed under: conference, Seattle

I just got the following word from the good folks at Off The Map:

Want to come to Off The Maps Born Again Church Tour in Seattle on October 10-11th ?

Waited too long to buy a ticket?

No worries!

Since you’ve been to other Off The Map Events we’re guessing you’d really like to come.

Now you can!

Here’s a special offer just for you.

Buy one Get one free – (good until this Sunday at midnight)

Buy one full price ticket for $99 and you will receive a second ticket for free/nada/zip/zero.

Hey split the cost with your friend and you pay only $49.50 each.

What a deal!

Buy your ticket(s) here

Offer expires this Sunday at Midnight

Pass the link around – Let your friends in on the deal – Take advantage of us.

That’s a crazy good deal . . . you might just want to jump on it.

Willful ignorance
September 17, 2008, 7:14 am
Filed under: culture, family, inter::mission, Seattle

I’m feeling really out of touch right about now.  With the start of the new school year at UW only a week away (which means move-in for inter::mission only two days away), I’ve been sprinting to get lots of last minute projects and details done.  Good meetings with students and staff, heaving furniture up The Purple Door’s tight and winding staircases, getting keys cut, and plotting out our fall series of teach-ins.  While all that’s going on, my parents flew in for a quick visit over the weekend.  It was the most time Michelle and I have had with them in a long, long time, so we enjoyed it.  Oh, and I’m still buried in my dissertation these days.

All that has added up to me almost completely ignoring the fact that the world is moving along rapidly without me.  Other than seeing Twitter updates from people who lost power, I know very very little about Hurricane Ike and the destruction that caused.  I heard about more financial signs of the apocalypse, and the stock market losing 500 points in a day, but not much more than that.  I’m pretty sure there’s still a presidential campaign going on, but I’ll have to verify that to be sure.

I just checked my RSS reader, and from the four (supposedly) respectable news sources I track, there are over 1700 unread items.  By the time I catch up, I’ll be out of touch again.

This sense of not knowing what’s up in the world has me thinking a lot about how willful I often am when it comes to my ignorance.  The truth is, despite all I’ve just written, this state of being is actually quite normal for me – it’s just that I usually ignore different things than I’m currently ignoring.  Rather than being unaware of the daily details of the news cycle, I’m unaware of homelessness in Seattle.  Rather than not hearing the latest polls about who the latest imperial figure head will be, I don’t hear about how subtle (and not-so-subtle), but insidious forms of racism continue to hold back the bride of Christ from being more beautiful.

Willful ignorance may sound like a harsh term – I don’t mean it as super negative.  In fact, it’s actually quite normal.  People choose to be ignorant about things – whether it’s the NBA, the music scene, news from other parts of the world, news from across the street.  This information age we’re in has made it impossible to keep up with everything, and all we can do is choose our categories of ignorance.

It’s just that if I’m going to be ignorant, I’d sure like to be ignorant about some things that don’t matter so much.  Whether it’s fashion trends, the entertainment industry, global terror, or the debate over emerging church terminology (please don’t get offended at my choices of examples), I have the power to walk away from things that add nothing to God’s kingdom.  Instead I can be well informed on a better set of information.

So, what about you?  What are you an expert in that you might better be ignorant about, or vice-versa?

On being a pro-life voter
September 12, 2008, 1:05 pm
Filed under: politics, social action

Over the past couple of weeks, paying even a little bit of attention to the political conventions, speeches, vice presidential nominations, etc., I have done an unusual amount of thinking about the whole abortion debate.  Especially since one candidate’s running mate, in particular, seems to have been chosen based largely on this issue, it’s been in my brain.

I’ll say that in all of my political thinking that’s shifted around a bit in the past ten years or so, one of the bigger reasons I’ve maintained a soft spot in my heart for conservative politics is because of this issue.  I won’t go fully into my position on “when life begins,” because, well, it’s not anything you haven’t heard before.  Let’s just say that with advances in medical technology that push the age of viability of premature babies earlier and earlier, I’m pretty opposed to ending that life.  Oh, and for the record, I am opposed to the death penalty based on the same logic – if it’s alive, don’t kill it.

But I’ve come to a realization that I’d like to test out here.  Feel free to push back if you think I’m naive, uninformed, or wrong – I may be all of the above.

I’m no longer a pro-life voter. 

The anti-abortion people would have us all believe that if we could just elect conservative presidents over the next 10-15 years, we could significantly reshape the Supreme Court such that Roe vs. Wade would get overturned.  The pro-choice folks, of course, are using the same arguments to appeal to their constituency, but obviously in the opposite direction.  But I’m thinking this is a bit of a smoke screen on both sides. 

Let’s say for the sake of argument that they’re correct.  Roe vs. Wade gets overturned.  Does that mean that abortion will indeed be illegal in all 50 states?  I find that very hard to believe.  If anything, I can see the issue being thrown back to the states to decide.  So basically there will be an “abortion” map of the U.S., which looks will roughly look like the red state/blue state political map.

So in a pragmatic sense, I just don’t see myself prioritizing my position on abortion.  If things “go my way,” they still won’t change much  Meanwhile, we could be spending a lot more of our attention and resources on other “pro-life” issues, like poverty, prevention of teen pregnancies, and care for the mothers who choose to not have abortions when in difficult circumstances.

O.k., fire away, and tell me I’m stupid, or tell me I’m whatever.