Culture

Q LA Day One

If only you could see me now. I am sitting, staring, watching my computer screen do nothing. My mind looks like it has turned to mush, but it hasn’t. Perhaps a better metaphor would be this: my mind is whirling the multi-colored wheel of overload that you see on your Mac sometimes. In my past experience that wheel of “death” as we call it in our house comes just before a major system shut down. Yes, that’s an accurate metaphor. I’ll need a major system shutdown before long.

Q does that to you.

Today my brain has reengaged with Bobette Buster on the development of story, learned about systems and chaos as applied to artwork, pondered what works of art will be trophies laid down at Jesus feet and learned why the question of same-sex marriage is really the wrong question to be asking in the first place. I’ve learned that more and more people choose “none” to describe their religion of choice, and also learned that as a woman it’s finally appropriate to speak in terms of callings. I’ve pondered mental illness and the role of friendship in overcoming it. And all that before lunch.

I’ve met people transforming culture, transforming poverty, transforming our responses to both culture and poverty. In fact, everyone seems to be transforming something at Q. Perhaps Bobette was right when she said that every good story is about reinvention or redemption.

In the middle of it all, my city was bombed. The spot where I bring my visitors to see the finish line, where we joke about finally crossing the marathon line.

It’s all a little much to process today. So perhaps I won’t. Instead…here you can read some of my favorite quotes from the day.

“At the time of his death, 2/3 of Steve Job’s fortune was made from Story. Silcon Valley was just landfill.” — Bobette Buster

“Art comes from freedom within limits.” — Linnea Spransey

“From an economic standpoint, society can not afford the breakdown of the family.” — Dale Kuehne

“Secrets lose power when they exit the dark.” — Rebekah Lyons

“Story is the most powerful thing we possess. Story leads to awareness. Awareness leads to attitude change. Attitude change leads to action. Never say it’s ‘just an awareness campaign.’” — Jason Russell

“What if what we’ve been led to expect out of life — the New American Dream of realizing perfection — is false? What if the people who told it to us are wrong? Is there more to life?” –Tim Chaddick

“Have we exposed the country to such a weakened virus of Christianity that we’ve vaccinated them instead of infecting them?” — Richard Sterns

“The most dangerous word in the gospel is TODAY.” — Margaret Feinberg

“Go visit the holy sepulcher. But then get out. What are you going to do where He is not?” — Father Elias Chocour

“What if…the church were to participate in the creation of the best of everything? What if….we realized that the future is the integration and coming together of human will and Divine art?” — Erwin McManus

“Realize that others will never care about your vision the same way you do. And that’s OK.” — Brad Lomenick

Book Review: Dreaming with God by Bill Johnson

Collaborating with God to change culture

Last year I probably read over a hundred books. But I stopped doing something important. I stopped blogging and reviewing them. In the process, I lost the opportunity to share the “voices” God used to shape me last year. So in the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, I’m promising more frequent book reviews!

This Book, Dreaming with God by Bill Johnson, inspired me to get creating. Why? Here’s the theme that hit me.

Satan can’t create anything. Only God and those made in his image can create.

Wow! Want to read that again? Does it make you want to run out and create a fingerpainting, a pie recipe, a song, a new game? It should! Think about it! The creativity of God can best be expressed through the lives of believers. And living in that reality day by day is the only way to truly transform culture.

Coming on the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, this truth moved me. We can cry all we want about needing cultural transformation. We all know that there is something wrong, and that mankind can’t fix it on his own. Evil is evil. But there is one thing that we can do to bring about transformation: live in the image of our creator.

Create.

Create new movies, new videos, new words that bring life and healing rather than death and destruction. Create new spaces where people can be loved. Create new relationships where the lonely are surrounded by family, and God’s love is poured out to overflowing.

None of this is easy, and that’s one of the central messages of Bill Johnson’s book. There is a mystery to life that requires us to embrace the unknown.

It is right there, on the razor-thin edge of faith and knowing, walking and hearing, that creativity and cultural transformation is born.

Why read this book

  • You long to hear God speak through creative acts
  • You are dealing with people in culture that is moving away from God and wish to change that
  • You feel a tug to create
  • You need wisdom in how and what to create and need God to speak




There’s still shampoo left in the bottle

A year or two ago I bought some amazing organic shampoo from my stylist. It was the same product she used in the salon, and I loved what it did for my hair! So optimistically, I shelled out the price for the lovely product and brought it home.

You know this part of the story: I used the shampoo and loved the smells, the feel. I loved the shine in my hair, even though I couldn’t quite make my hair do what my stylist could do. Great — expensive — shampoo.

On the second day I looked at my new shampoo and conditioner and thought “Wow…I paid a lot for that. Today I will use my regular stuff, and make sure I don’t run through the shampoo too fast.” So I did. And my hair looked pretty much the same…like my hair.

Fast forward a year or so. There I am standing in my shower reaching for my normal shampoo when I saw “The Expensive Shampoo.” By now those words were written in capital letters. I rarely used it. But this was an important day of some sort (can’t remember now), so I reached for my organic shampoo.

It had died. The cream had separated into components. The lovely organic ingredients didn’t smell happy anymore. In fact, it was such an icky experience just getting that stuff out of the bottle that I rinsed it down the drain and threw out the whole bottle. I hated watching that bottle go away. I had never even used it! All that potential was left to rot in the bottle.

Not long ago I bought some other, different expensive shampoo, this time recommended by my sister-in-law. And on that second or third day, when I was tempted to skip over the bottle in order to save it, I remembered my lesson. I remembered the nearly full bottles in the trash. Shampoo has only one purpose: to clean your hair. If you don’t use it, there’s no reason to keep it. I vowed to use every last drop of that expensive stuff, and so far I have.

Life is pretty much the same way, isn’t it? God gives us talents. He gives us creativity, insights, stamina, relationships, love. And he gives it all to us so that we will use it. But sometimes it’s easy to hold some back, to want to save for a rainy day. Like the Israelites trying to hoard daily manna, we don’t allow ourselves to be emptied.

We stay in the bottle.

Lately I’m trying to remember that my true life is outside the shampoo bottle. I don’t want to hold back what can’t be kept. I don’t want a container of moldy manna or ugly shampoo. I believe that God is able to refill that jar, able to refill me.

I believe it. Now it’s time to act on it.

So I guess today I raise my theoretical glass in a toast to those who venture outside the bottle with me!

Random thought process with iPad and Corkulous App

I have spent the better part of two weeks recuperating fromnthe major allergy attack from Chicago. It has actually been a great two weeks reading, praying and yes…playing with my iPad. My goal with the iPad is to lighten my travel load. I have already found that i leave all but one book at home, but can I leave my computer behind? To do that I need to be able to do two things: keep track of my digital/real world life and write.

Keeping track of real life just got a whole lot easier with an app called Corkulous. It is, indeed, a cork board. I have started cork boards for daily life as well as for various writing projects. Check out the screen shot below. I just love the random possibilities of the board! It sets my old Creative Memories scrap booking juices flowing.

Writing is still problematic, though the external keyboard should help with that. Somehow my “voice” changes on the iPad.

Oh well, just a random update from a formerly sidelined couch warrior! And yes…I think I may be able to survive this latest attack. If only my hearing would come back!

Do you know what speed you are going?

speed_limit

“This is the problem with living at 150 miles per hour. Life becomes a blur of images. I see it all go by, but I lose the plotline, the narrative, even the dialogue.

Really, I lose life.”

Being honest, I think we can all identify with this quote from Vince Antonucci, especially at this time of year! Even though David and I have made a commitment to participate in the Advent Conspiracy this year, it is still tempting to speed up so much that we lose sight of the beauty of life, the joy of the journey. Antonucci goes on, in his book  I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy T-shirt, to quote from theologian Kosuke Koyama. It is the antidote to our hurry disease. It is how we rediscover the plotline to our life.

God walks “slowly” because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed…It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice it or not, whether we are currently hit by storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk,and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks.

Vince Antonucci picks up from there:

This is what is holding me back from living the Jesus life. I’m going 150, but God moves at 3 miles per hour. So I need to slow down and walk at God’s speed. I need to move at the speed of love.

Did you catch it? The speed of love.

That’s my prayer for myself and you today: that we would all move at the speed of love, no faster and no slower. In this season which is so emotionally laden for so many people, I want to slow down enough to be fully present with the people I love and the people I haven’t met yet. Isn’t that what the incarnation — Jesus’ birth — really is? His opportunity to BE with us? God with us?

I don’t need a single present for Christmas this year, and you probably don’t either. Not really. But what we all need is the hope, encouragement and faith that comes from being WITH each other.

Today’s Advent Conspiracy challenge, for me, is to slow down to the speed of love.

Speaking the language of community: Faith and Pop Culture review

faithandpop

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you realized the other person did not speak the same language as you? Perhaps it was while traveling overseas, or in South Florida! Or, oddly, it might be while trying to explain Facebook and blogs to your grandmother or parents. There’s no communication because the other person doesn’t understand even the basics of the words you are using. In order to communicate, there has to be a shared language.

This is the premise of a small group study offered by Christianity Today called “Faith and Pop Culture.” I was sent this book to review as part of the Thomas Nelson bloggers program, and spent several happy afternoons on my back porch soaking in the research, quotes, and thought-provoking questions. Just reading the chapter topics alone gives you an idea of the content and the direction of this study.

  • Session 1: Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet, and … Rocky? Are movies the art form of our day? And if so, how do they connect with Christian faith?
  • Session 2: When Literature Leads us to God How can great books pave the road to faith?
  • Session 3: Finding God in Sports Do we take sports seriously enough?
  • Session 4: The Television Dilemma With hundreds of channels screaming for our attention, how do we decide what — or whether — to watch?
  • Session 5: Cover your Eyes! Must all entertainment Christians enjoy be “family friendly?”
  • Session 6: Jesus and Shot ‘Em Up Can violence be entertainment for Christians?
  • Session 7: Hollywood Disciples Can Christians influence the entertainment industry?
  • Session 8: Entertain me! It’s the cry of our culture, but is it compatible with a life of faith?

The format of each session gives the group members a thought-provoking article to read before the meeting, and then ice breakers and discussion questions for the meetings. One thing I really appreciated about this series is the fact that the authors did not take the easy routes out of the sticky questions. While fully acknowledging theological issues, they also left room for legitimate discussions based on both sides of the cultural question. For instance, you will not find a quote in this book saying that Christians should never watch TV or a rated R movie. Instead, you’re likely to find a set of questions that help you clarify your own opinions, as well as find new insights that you may have overlooked before.

The end result of this study, in my opinion, is teaching people who are — let’s face it, folks — sometimes culturally illiterate Christians the “language” of the people we live with, our culture and our commuity. It gives you reasoned answers for discussions that center around spiritual themes in the culture, as well as inspiring examples of others who have used culture as a springboard for life change. But be prepared…there are very few easy answers here.

Afraid of the future?

One sign of the interesting times we are living in is the increase in “chatter” out there in the community. Like the increase in friendly speculation on the approach of a hurricane, today people are wanting to discuss the economy, job market, election and the future. For some people the future seems to be a large, scary unknown, and they are looking for reassurance in the face of it. I firmly believe this represents an amazing opportunity for those of us hanging out in third places trying to connect with one another.

From Peter Block’s book, Community:

To feel a sense of belonging is important because it will lead us from conversations about safety and comfort to other conversations, such as our relatedness and willingness to provide hospitality and generosity. Hospitality is the welcoming of strangers, and generosity is an offer with no expectation of return. These are two elements that we want to nurture as we work to create, strengthen, and restore our communities. This will not occur in a culture dominated by isolation, and its correlate, fear.

There it is, our opportunity: people are going to willingly leave their isolation in order to seek comfort. There is so much fear in being all alone that I believe we are going to see a huge swing towards making connections with each other. And notice the two qualities that this business author says are the antidote to isolation and fear: hospitality and generosity.

This morning as I was thinking about this quote I tried to think of a few ways to entice people out of their isolation. None of them will surprise those of you who read this blog once in awhile!

  • Leave your house with the intention of making one or two meaningful connections with someone each day. For me, this means heading to the coffee house and building enough time into my schedule to at least take a few sips sitting at a table and making eye-contact with the people around me. Stop to really look at the salesperson in the mall, walk out and actually get your mail directly from the hand of your postal carrier, say hello to the person on the next treadmill over at the gym. The list of connection points is infinite, but you have to be intentional to use them.
  • Consider picking a “usual” spot to facilitate repeat connections. For me, there are two Starbucks’ I go to and one Barnes and Noble cafe that I refer to as my Office. Anytime I’m meeting someone for coffee or take some time away from the house, I choose to be available in one of those three places.
  • Take a few things off your schedule. The absolute greatest hindrance to the kind of connections we need is busy-ness. And yes, I’m guilty. But I’m working at being intentional in this area. By the way, a side benefit of being less busy is often saving money: time to cook, less gas used, less stress on clothing needed and so on.
  • Pray and ask God to make you aware of the moments you might otherwise skip. It’s a kind of dare: God will always give you a chance to make good on your promise!
  • Enjoy the moments when God puts someone in your pathway just for you! The tables do get turned once in awhile, and a total stranger may be ministering to you.
  • Save some resources to share. I am not just speaking about money here. We need to save extra food to give away, time to share, energy to sink into a project, relational capacity to really care about a person.

And now, while my day is still somewhat free, I’m off to find out how God is going to test me in this today. He always does. If I write about it, He throws it at me. So pray for my path today!

Why I am looking forward to Halloween this year

For the first time in many years I am planning a Halloween party with excitement and anticipation. I’m searching out fun recipes, hunting for decorations that aren’t creepy but aren’t cheesy: not an easy combinatino to find. We’re creating music playlists and telling kids to bring their guitars or instruments to put a rocking band together (hopefully?). I’m even calling it a Halloween party without too much condemnation.

Why the transformation?

The financial crisis in the markets. You see, eventually a Wall Street crisis becomes a church budget crisis. Which means that this year there is no fall festival to supervise and manage at church. Volunteers and families like me are free to — wait for it — throw a party at home and see if the neighborhood shows up! Just think about it: what other time of year has the whole neighborhood either walking through the streets or sitting at their front door ready to practice hospitality? This year our yard is open for the party. I’ll let you know what happens.

ABC and National Stay at Home Week! No, I’m not kidding.

Yes, it is National Stay at Home Week!! I saw the ABC ad while watching TV and laughed, like everyone else, at the cheekiness of declaring National Stay at Home Week during premiere week. On the other hand, I actually liked the idea of having an excuse to stay at home and watch all those premieres (though not necessarily only on ABC…tough break for them!). “Sure times are tough,” says the official ABC website for National Stay at Home Week, “But hey, ABC has great TV!”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. Tired of traveling, tired of driving here and there and longing to connect with friends here in my own house, I jumped on board. Yes, I’m confessing right now. I’m celebrating a fictitious, consumer-driven holiday. I am staying home every night this week.

Except for church on Wednesday, because it’s a Worship Encounter and I don’t want to miss that!

And church on Saturday, because even though I can watch it live (by clicking through on this site to Christ Fellowship), nothing compares with being in my regular seat.

And Monday, when I drive to Atlanta. (Go Catalyst!!).

Good thing there’s TIVO.

Happy National Stay at Home Week, friends.