Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tell me that you love me more...

I'm not a fan of Apple but they sure do have some wonderful commercials. I'm also pretty far from the cutting edge or even trailing edge of music these days so I was thrilled to see the new Ipod commercial and then track the song down. I love the song and I love the video. 1234 by Feist feels like the innocent, fun, folkie material that I knew from New England and the video implies a lot that makes me enjoy music - it creates community, allows the inner child to come out, and is just fun. So... here's the entire video for the song.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

these and these

I don't know very much about the tradition of wisdom from the Rabbis, but the little I've read is extremely attractive to me. One of the speakers at the Spirit and Nature conference I mentioned in an earlier blog was Rabbi Rami Shapiro. He was inspiring and challenging and was very conversant with Christianity.

At one point during his presentation he quoted his tradition... "Elu v'elu d'vrei Elohim Chayyim" which he said basically translates as "these and these are all the words of the Living God." The interpretation of the saying is that if God is truly infinite, then ideas about God must be plentiful and even paradoxical. Just because two ideas contradict one another does not mean that one must be wrong. It is necessary to hold the two contradicting ideas and find truth in both of them if we are to begin to truly encounter God.

As a Baptist, that doesn't feel like a foreign idea to me. As I understand my tradition, there was always room left for the conflicting opinion because there was always the possibility that God was, indeed, speaking through it. It is built into the very fabric of Christian theology. We begin with a paradox... Jesus is fully human and fully God. How can that be? And we go on from there.

At the same time, it is not a comfortable position for many Christians who see the world in a very mechanistic terms. It certainly is not a popular way of thinking among Baptists even if it is central to our tradition. No, many Christians have a theology of syllogisms: If A is true and B contradicts A, B must be not true. It makes for a predictable and comfortable god, but as the Rabbis would remind us, a god too small to be God. Paul reminded us that "now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known." Our ideas about God must always be couched in humility. We do not know everything about God, what we do know may be contradictory, and what we think we know may in fact be distorted... So for now, we look for the words of the Living God in these... and in these.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


We need a drummer at our church... so if you know anyone in the general Santa Barbara, CA area, send them our way.

(graphic came from musicmasterpro... hope they don't mind me using it)

What would you give up?

I attended a part of a conference on spirituality and the environment last weekend. One of the break-out groups began with a question... "What would you have to give up for this vision of the world to come to pass?" It felt like a good question to consider in the larger context of the kindom of God...

Immediately I began to make a list... It including questions regarding my retirement account, the possibility of ever owning a home, cutting back on electronic toys (like the laptop I'm writing on), travel, my lust for guitar related things, etc. etc. etc. As I was writing my list I had a breakthrough. I realized that those things are not the real problem. The real problem for me is that I have a picture of the world. It includes all of those things and more. The real problem is that I have a picture of the world and have difficulty imagining one that is different. Any foray into this new world is a step into the unknown... and I am filled with anxiety and lack of trust about that unknown world. What I need to give up is my fear.

Of course, Jesus talked a great deal about these things. He spoke of trusting God for the future and worrying only about the day in front of us. And 1 John spoke of perfect love (God's love) casting out all fear. What do I have to give up? Fear. What do I gain? Everything. What do you have to give up?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rest in Peace Joe

We were traveling on Tuesday so I didn't hear the news that Joe Zawinul died of cancer on Tuesday in Vienna at age 75. I've never been much of a jazz fan but Joe Zawinul has made some of the most sublime music that I've ever heard. His work with Weather Report changed the musical world as he and saxophonist Wayne Shorter gathered the cream of the crop to produce a fusion of jazz, rock, and world music. He played with Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuna, Herbie Hancock and scores of other great musicians. To learn more about his work and hear some of his tunes go to NPR.
His son Erich commented..."Joe Zawinul was born in Earth time on 07 July 1932 and was born in Eternity time on 11 September, 2007. He, and his music, will continue to inspire!" Amen.

I just had to add this video off of youtube... The song is Birdland performed in '78 and that is the amazing, late Jaco Pastorius on bass.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

you can't go home again

A little over five years ago we left Albany, NY to head to another planet - Santa Barbara. Albany had been our home for 14 years and Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1 block from the capital building, was our faith community. John was born in Albany and Alexis spent the most important formative years of her early life there. We had a fantastic house. My spouse, Cheryl and I worked together and found our relationship both stretched and challenged by spending that much time with each other. The Emmanuel community taught us more than I can even begin to say about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They played a critical role in shaping who I am now.

It is a church with significant ministries in the city. Together with 1st Pres, Westminster Pres, Israel AME, Trinity Methodist, and MCC of the Hudson Valley, they form the FOCUS churches of the Capital Hill. Those 6 churches feed over 100 people a day in their winter breakfast program, run a food pantry that serves hundreds of families a month, do important advocacy work, and have played a central role in virtually every important social issue that has faced the city of Albany.

EBC is a diverse congregation. It is racially, culturally, and economically mixed. Seeing the variety of colors sitting in the sanctuary or sharing at table is a wonderful reflection of God's kindom.

Leaving Emmanuel was one of the most difficult moves that I have ever made. I loved the people, enjoyed the work, and felt as if we were accomplishing good things there. It truly was our home. Still, it was time to leave. There were tasks that needed to be done that I could not lead.

This past Sunday we went back to visit Emmanuel for the first time since we left. A number of older members had died and were conspicuously absent. There were new faces including a number of children. There were old friends whom I deeply love and miss. It was bitter sweet but it was good. I see that God is at work and the current pastor has led the congregation in directions that I could not. Seeds that we had planted are growing and new directions were evident.

I also saw that I have gone in new directions and that the time in Santa Barbara has helped me to grow in new ways. My children have both discovered new directions and Cheryl has taken on a new and deeply moving ministry as a chaplain in a hospice organization. And we all have new friends whom we love.

It is said that you can't go home again. I guess it is partly true... Emmanuel is not my home any longer and at this point it wouldn't be good for them or for me if it was. Still... you can visit... and the visit was wonderful.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Stephanie & James

Weddings are not my favorite events. There is too much pressure to "keep up with the Joneses," the couple are often in this fog that keeps them from being truly present in the moment, and just about everyone has unrealistic expectations. So usually, I'm not crazy about them. And if it involves planning or conducting the service with someone else, it drops another notch or two or ten on my satisfaction meter.

We're in upstate NY for a friends wedding and it had every possibility of being a mess. It was hot and humid. Nobody involved lived where the service was taking place. It was a joint service with a Roman Catholic priest (the theological and liturgical differences can be insurmountable). Family came from all over the world and had competing expectations. The couple recently moved from Santa Barbara to D.C. for work and had their own mix of tensions.

Because nobody was from the place where the wedding happened (long involved story there), folk were imported for just about every piece. The priest and I both came from Santa Barbara, CA. The gospel singers in the wedding drove down from Albany. The musicians at the reception came from Boston. The florist was local and the caterer was local. Parents came from Florida and London. More & more possibilities for something to go wrong...

At the same time, James and Stephanie are wonderful people, mature enough to know what they're doing, and, even though they are as different as they could possibly be, they fit together like hand in glove. Their relationship had been tested by James being in Afghanistan for a year and had come out stronger and more solid than before.

Well... it was one of those wonderful weddings where everything fell in place and the service, with all of its disparate parts, worked. The bride glowed but it wasn't the glow of ignorance, it was the glow of love tested and found true. James looked into her eyes and was lost in the joy of commitment and discovery of a future filled with wonder, surprise, and grace. The choir was wonderful. The liturgical traditions connected well. It was a wonderful celebration for friends and family as we came together from all over the world and poured out love and support for the couple.

Congratulations James and Stephanie! May your life together be filled with love and may all of the hopes and dreams you hold and we hold for you be filled full.