Walking home from a film viewing tonight David and I saw a homeless (?) man going through a garbage can on the street corner. He looked pleased as he pulled a book from the trash. It was a Q group study booklet. The title was "Engaging Culture in a Post-Modern World." He put the book in his backpack and wandered off. There was something surreal about the moment. I'm still wondering what he thought about the message of the book.
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
It was classic New York City: crossing the bridge into the city and watching the magnificent skyline against the perfect fall sky. I couldn’t have scripted the ride any better. I pointed out a few of the landmark buildings to Kylie and Jillian, even though both of them had been here before and were pretty much ready to roll their eyes in my direction at any minute. They do that once in awhile when I’m being, well, Mom.
“Over there, to the left…do you see the construction lights?”
I was startled by our cab driver jumping into the conversation. David found the lights he was pointing out.
“That is the Freedom Tower. At Ground Zero.”
It was obvious that the driver was proud of the tower. Having just watched Rising (a documentary about the tower project), I was, too. So thrilled to see it start to take its place in the iconic skyline. I pondered the tower. To me it represents the God-given drive in humans to create, and recreate, their world. It represents the refusal to let evil triumph. It represents the global community that coalesced around the project, and the people who lost their lives in that spot. It also represents the people who are giving their lives to healing. Healing the people, healing the city, healing the skyline. The Freedom Tower. What a great name.
The driver wasn’t quite finished yet.
“I’ve been wondering,” he said after revealing he was from Pakistan, “about the difference between some of your words. Can you explain to me the difference between Liberty and Freedom?”
Not as easy as it sounds at first. David and I both took a crack at it, and the conversation filled the ride to the hotel. It turns out that our Pakistani driver had a master’s degree in American History, a degree he earned back in Pakistan as he anticipated moving to America. For just a few moments we were able to see New York City through the eyes of this man, the eyes of a man who worked hard and sacrificed everything to point out the construction lights on the floors of the Freedom Tower.
I think that’s what I love about New York City. Things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes the epiphany — the moment of blinding insight — comes from the most unlikely sources. An epiphany can be around every corner. Probably is. If you look for it.
We were heading to a conference on using “Story” to create epiphanies. David and I would spend days learning from experts how to create compelling stories. It was amazing and overwhelming and full of useful information.
But the epiphany moment of our Qideas Epiphany Workshop was delivered by a Pakistani driver crossing the bridge into a city he couldn’t wait to show us.
just a quick resource for those who have been following the Q updates. The amazing Q team sent out an email with all the reources, links and ideas for follow up from Q. I would be happy to forward that email to anyone who wants it. Just leave a comment and I will forward it to you.
What a great resource…thanks Gabe Lyons and all the Q team!
Jonathan Merritt – “Creation Care and the Gospel”
I really enjoyed Jonathan’s presentation, which began with the premise that there were three relationships broken in the garden: our relationships with God, each other, and creation. Restoring the latter, our relationship with creation, is Jonathan’s passion. He has written a book, Green Like God, Unlocking the Divine Plan for our Planet. I’ve already downloaded it on my phone and can’t wait to read it! You can go here to learn more about Jonathan and his latest book.
Phyllis Tickle – “Rediscovering the Ancient Practices”
The ancient practices, by the way, are really disciplines. We’ve substituted the word practices to make it easier to approach! To begin with, remember that we are all dual citizens of both heaven and earth. The practices are given to us to remind us of this.
The Seven Ancient Practices (the first three govern our body, the last four govern our time):
- Tithing, fasting and the sacred meal (which is the most intimate thing we can do with each other in community) are the first three.
- Fixed Hour Prayer – governs our day. Join with people all over the globe who pray in a cascading gathering of prayer in each time zone.
- Sabbath – governs our week.
- Liturgical Prayer – governs the year.
- Pilgrimage – once or twice in a lifetime. We have lost the sense of faith incarnate, the sense of journey to a holy place.
Phyllis spent some time further describing Fixed Hour Prayer, which is a habit from the earliest days. Every three hours you pray through the Daily Office, joining your voice with all the unseen Christians in your time zone. As you finish your prayers, the next time zone is soon to begin them. it rings the globe and draws us all together.
Matthew Sleeth – “Observing the Sabbath”
Rest just doesn’t happen in a 24/7 world unless you plan for it. But if you observe a Sabbath day, over the course of a lifetime you will gain an average of 11 years with the Lord! The intent of the Sabbath is to save us, to refresh us. To figure out what counts as work, figure out what feels like work to you and don’t do it. Liberating! Matthew has a new book, entitled 24/6, coming out soon.
Dr. Alistair McGrath – “Overcoming the Faith and Science Divide”
The bottom line of this presentation was that Christians need to interact more with the sciences and scientists.
- Christianity makes sense in itself, but it also make sense of everything else.
- Simple messages, such as the “God Delusion” by Hawkins, get heard. We need to counter that with the message of the Gospel.
- We need apologetics – identify areas of concern and work out how we discuss them.
- We need to empower Christian sscientists and help them to build a vision for how they can make a difference.
- Begin by making the point that science is not complete.
Tyler Wigg-Stevenson – “The Two Futures Project”
Fear and love can not coexist. Transform fear to courage. This presentation focused on the eliminaton of nuclear weapons and included a preview of the documentary Countdown to Zero.
Sean Womack – “Don’t Eat the Food”
“I was fired from my position as a high-ranking WalMart executive because I had an affair with my boss.” This was how Sean Womack began what was undoubtably the most powerful presentation of the day. Sean ended up separated from all that made his life rich: his wife and children, his job. In the midst of this difficult time, Sean’s wife chose not to let him go. Instead, basing her faith on Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days, she decided to fast and pray with her children for him for 52 days. And then came restoration. Sean had the scales drop off his eyes. The Lord showed him the little moments, little decisions, that led to the implosion of his life. That was the beginning of rebuilding the walls.
During this time, the story of Daniel in Babylon was crucial to Sean. Using that story, he made several points.
- Daniel didn’t do it alone – he had friends willing to go into the furnace, even without him.
- Daniel didn’t eat the food, knowing it would defile his heart. Are we eating the food of the culture around us?
- Daniel didn’t bow down to the foreign gods.
Mike Foster – “People of the Second Chance”
Broken people are beautiful. People of the Second Chance’s brand is failure, pure and simple. Grace is Christianity’s killer app. We are called to show radical grace to each other. In society, failure is what makes the news. We live in a culture of judgement. Grace is scarce…which makes it a great opportunity to show it! It can transform everything.
“We don’t drift into better behaviors.” (Bill Hybels) We need to be intentional.
1. We need to GIVE a second chance. Don’t hoard grace! It is supposed to come in and flow right back out of us. We all need grace.
2. We need to CHASE the prodigals. There are too many men and women standing on the sidelines. Their story does not — should not — end in the valley. We can either be part of the judgement culture or part of the grace solution.
Richard Florida – “Resetting the Creative Economy”
Every human being is and should be creative! The communities that harness the power of that creativity will prosper. We have lived through a huge generational shift in the last two years. In the past we worked with our bodies, the golden age of opportunity. Now we work with our minds. Shared creativity makes us human.
The old order valued material success. It was the American Dream. Now we no longer define success by material goods. Instead, we want three things:
- Meaningful, challenging, purposeful, engaging work. And we want control of our day to day work life.
- Social relationships. We want to live in a connected, engaged community of more than just family members.
- Being in a place, a community, that we love. We want it to be walkable, human sized.
Gabe Lyons wrapped up this session by reminding us that all the elements Richard Florida listed for human happiness and meaning can and are found within the body of the church.
Richard’s new book: “The Great Reset.”
Until I sat down to write just now, I didn’t recognize the theme of my past two days. But God knew…it leaped out of my facebook pages and google readers, my twitter account and my website history. It came telephoned by my daughter at college and it came disguised by my youngest, dripping in teenage-ish-ness.
It’s so easy to lose sight of who you are!
The course of life alternately seduces us with success or beats us up with some form of failure. We allow ourselves to believe lies about ourselves. Sometimes the lies are “good” lies, enticing, encouraging us to daydream. Once in a blue moon I have one of those moments on Coffee Shop Journal, moments when my readership spikes for the day and I suddenly feel worthy. “I am a writer, I am worthy.” The spike fades and I’m left with wondering if this means I’m unworthy, wasting my time.
Neither lie is true, of course. My worthiness certainly does not come from my readership on any given day, or even a month of days. It comes driectly from who I am: the apple of God’s eye. Even on the natural level, my life’s total work does not consist of the hours I put into this blog or any other writing project I have going. There are so many relationships, tasks, thoughts that make up the sum total of who I am.
We all fall to this lie…I believe it is one of the enemy’s greatest tools in derailing the kingdom. My daughter in college believes the lie or feels unworthy depending on her latest grade or the gang of kids she has to sit with at dinner. And my daughter at home? Well let’s just say that we all remember high school and leave it at that.
God’s kingdom calls us to a different standard of living, however. I read today about Brother Lawrence. I remembered again that he was a dish washer in the kitchens of the monastery. A dish washer who knew God. Do you suppose Brother Lawrence ever looked at all the cool dudes — the ones that are probably jetting from the Exponential Conference to Catalyst West before heading to the Q conference — and wished that he could go too? I’m guessing he did, until he remembered Who it was who washed the dishes and moved through his days with him.
It’s just one of those weeks. I want to go to Catalyst. I desperately want to go to Q. I want to be interviewed on the radio like my friend whose new blog is enjoying amazing (and deserved) success. But that’s not where God has called me during this season. Today I need to help mend a broken teenage heart and prepare for a trip to a reirement village to find a safe place for my mom to happily live. I’m washing dishes today, and like Brother Lawrence I need to remember who is washing them with me.
People are spending more and more time trying to make themselves a replica of what they see on TV. This is where you see “you can be anything” and reality collide — right at the intersection of anxiety and depression.
Jean M. Twenge “Generation Me”
I’ve been reading Generation Me this past week, and every sentence has pierced my heart. Twenge is a researcher and also part of Genertation Me — defined as anyone older than a child and younger than a Baby Boomer. I’m on the bubble of this Generation Me, and I have characteristics of both Boomers and Generation Me’ers.
The premise is simple: Generation Me (the most wanted generation ever) is also prone to over-simplifying their dreams (of course I can be a movie star), being cynical about the national process (voting doesn’t change anything…everyone is pretty much crooked) and that they can accomplish anything they want individually but relatively nothing collectively. Most of the research is based on college surveys from the 1950′s until now.
It could be a dismal outook, because the author is right on so many levels. We have allowed television to set the standard of living for ourselves. And yet reality is usually something quite different. This sets us up for disappointment in a lifestyl most of the world would love to have. It keeps us discontent in whatever state we are in, not content as the apostle Paul would like us to be.
And yet I believe the author — not a Christian as far as I can tell — has missed the hopeful signs that are springing up in the next generation everywhere you look. Yes, they (we?) do things differently than the Boomers. They wear jeans and consider themselvs dressed up. They listen to different music, tattoo and pierce themselves with abandon, choose excentric career paths assuming a degree is not necessary.
But they also have heart, compassion, justice. This next gen is leading the way in a return of the church to social justice, to keeping the essence of Christ’s kingdom message. They are kicking our rears when it comes to getting out of the four church walls and impacting the community. They are gathering together in places like Catalyst and Q and IdeaCamp and other conferences and teaching each other how to make a difference in the world. They take theology — dry and sometimes academic — and turn it into action. They buy shoes for bare feet, dig wells for thirsty people, rescue girls in sexual slavery and harness the power of social media to create mass movements.
It may have started out as Generation Me, but I’m betting that it’s turning into Generation We even as we speak. And I’m proud to be on a tiny edge of it.
I’ve been watching a conference in California off and on this weekend. It is called Idea Camp, and it is a free (free!) conference to share ideas for impacting the kingdom. Charles Lee brought together some amazing speakers, and I’m sure that a few of them will be showing up here in the days to come! If you read this before the end of the day Saturday, you can watch the live feed here.
As one little idea to ponder this weekend, watch this video of a project called Laundry Love. I’d heard about this initiative at Q last year, but this video is amazing. Wait for the quote from the homeless lady at the end of the clip. Talk about an attitude adjustment!
Simplicity of Christmas.
Two words that belong together and yet are seldom experienced.
Since writing my last post I’ve been flooded with “Me Too” comments on the blog, facebook and email. Apparently we are all being steamrolled by the season this year! But before we give up on the year, let’s stop and take a deep breath. There are signs of sanity returning everywhere. I shared my discouragement with you yesterday. Today I will share why I am encouraged.
I am encouraged by all the churches choosing to do the Advent Conspiracy. I have to be honest with you: I’ve probably been on the leading edge of a consumer Christmas. But slowly over the past year, a new consciousness has been dawning all over the country, the world. It’s not good enough to give to ourselves anymore It never was. The Advent Conspiracy is a great step toward righting that wrong.
I am encouraged by the opportunities that keep flooding my email inbox, opportunities to change the world. Young creatives (and maybe a few older ones, as well!) are starting to break the biggest, most dire problems down into achievable, bite-size pieces. And I want to bite off a few pieces to change the world! One example is charity:water. I learned about this organization at Q this past spring. This year, for all those “extra” gifts I am giving a bottle of water from charity:water. Each bottle of water purchased represents clean water for one person for 20 years. I believe that will do more to impact the world than a box of chocolates or another bag of Christmas blend. Pretty radical statement from me, that part about Christmas blend. And yet true. It encourages me that there are opportunities like this everywhere I look this Christmas season.
I find it completely encouraging that I have spent this evening in my neighborhood. David and I wandered next door to our neighbor’s fire pit for a few precious, kidless moments of conversation. That heart-to-heart time was worth more than any gift, any fancy party, any planned activity. Then we came home for a movie marathon with our oldest daughter and one of the student ministries staff members from our church. Our other daughter, Jillian, and her friend Holly are busy creating new videos to post on their website, the Liesl and Holly Show. Quiet night, holy night. Encouraging night.
I am encouraged at the online world at my fingertips. I sense more power in my computer to change the world than nearly anywhere else. After hearing for so long about the myriad dangers lurking in the internet, it is a pleasure to also begin hearing about the fellowship, ministry, re-kindled faith of people out there. I have learned of an online “church” that meets over facebook. I participate in our own internet campus whenever I am out of town. I have had amazing discussions with so many friends from so many different parts of my life in just the last week. This brings the feeling of accountability and completeness that I imagine was found in multi-generational villages once upon a time. I don’t know if they are reading this post, but this week I’ve connected with everyone from a much-loved high school teacher to a Continentals Tour Director of mine (yes, that’s another post) to old friends from home, to college room-mates to all the people I’ve only met online or at a conference this past year. Wow. When you put all those disparate eras of your life together, you begin to feel like your life has been made up of one piece of fabric. And that encourages me.
I am also encouraged by the freedom I’ve found — through your comments and through my own discussions with friends and family — to simplify. Simplify it all. What we get done for Christmas, we get done.
Finally, I’m encouraged by my God’s timing. He put the right words into me yesterday to illuminate the dark corners of my Christmas blues. He gave me sympathy for friends whose mood doesn’t – or can’t — lift so quickly. And he let me know that sometimes it’s ok to STOP. Again.
Yes, I might flipflop again tomorrow. But for now I’m at rest and encouraged. And off to watch the next installment of the movie marathon: Horton Hears a Who!
I thought it would be fun to take a tour of some of my cyber friends. A little link love for a change. I know it’s weird to call people I’ve never met friends, but I do. Here are some of mine, and what I have learned from them.
Boo Mama writes a fun, lighthearted and zippy blog.
- What I’ve learned from Boo Mama: be yourself! People enjoy your personality, miss Boo Mama, and that’s what keeps them coming back and back and back.
Big John Scott is a friend from my Q conference back in April. Nope…never met him! Well, not strictly true. I did ‘Bump’ into him at the door when he was acting as badge checker and bouncer.
- What I’ve learned from John: even “professional” ministers have to be intentional at connecting with people. John is a master at staying culturally literate, meeting people in his community, and — especially — walking through life with the people he calls friend.
Biscuet is an American living in China.
- What I’ve learned from Biscuet: his blog title says it all. “I live in China. I teach. I blog. I love people.” I’ve enjoyed following Biscuet as he teaches English, gives tours of apartments, adapts to life in a foreign country. I love seeing the impact of his life multiply.
Catalyst Space/Catablog is the official blog for the Catalyst Conference.
- What I’ve learned from Catalyst Space: if there is a trend in church-world, Catalyst finds it and presents it. Presents it well. Go here to find Christmas presents, conferences, speakers and podcasts.
From the Stack on my Desk is written by Larry, another Q guy. Nope, haven’t met him either.
- What I’ve learned from Larry: it isn’t enough to take information in. You have to apply what you have learned to your own life, your own church, your own community. Reading Larry’s life has inspired me to live mine with more accountability.
Bring on the Joy is one of the blogs of a group of people in Edinburgh, Scotland. I met them through Duncan, who writes a brand new blog called Fourth Space. He used to write one of my favorites, What’s Your Point, Caller, but recently changed focuses. Anyway, Bring on the Joy has inspired me.
- What I’ve learned from Bring on the Joy: add value to the people in your life. She is always willing to jump in on a conversation on a friend’s blog, give encouragement, ask advice and generally be real. I love the attitude that BOTJ shows in her writing and commenting.
Musings of a Koala is another blog from the same group. Love them!
- What I’ve learned from Brunette Koala: live your life on purpose. All of it has a purpose, and God is willing to reveal it if you search long enough. Walking with BK through that journey has taught me so much that I would have missed if she were not my friend.
An Unfinished work is a new friend of mine. I’m still discovering her, but so far am thrilled and challenged!
- What I’ve learned from Dianne: be encouraging, be honest and learn to look at life in a new way.
Oh, there are so many more. I have posted links to some of them before, and will post more links again, but for now you have a nice little sampling!