28 July 2009
Blood Done Sign My Name. Timothy Tyson’s story of growing up during the height of tension in the Civil Rights Movement. His father, a Methodist minister, stood for equality and dialog when it wasn’t popular or kosher.
The Elements of Style. A classic on the basics of writing well. It’s stood the test of time.
Writing to Change the World. A little bit of everything, this books dares you to imagine writing as a form of changing hearts and minds.
How Not to Speak of God. Written by a new favorite author (Rollins)—I love the way in which he holds the world in one hand, and the story of God in the other. If you are not into philosophy, don’t touch this book.
On Writing Well. Another classic, this is the gold standard for the basics of writing.
Bird by Bird. This book is written by Anne Lamott, need I say more?
This I Believe. A collection of short essays, This I Believe captures core principles people live their lives by in five hundred words or less. Excellent stuff.
An Altar in the World. Part-mystic, part post-modern description of spiritual disciplines—BBT has written another provocative book.
Justification. N.T. Wright’s latest work in which he responds to John Piper’s critique of his overall theology. Why Piper wants to spend his last best days of ministry going after Wright, I can’t understand. Piper represents a group of neo-Calvinists (which includes Marc Driscoll) who want to take on the emerging church and other post-modern expressions of Christianity (as if you can do church outside of culture). Scot McKnight sums up Wright’s work in a powerful way: “Tom Wright has out-Reformed America’s newest religious zealots—the neo-Reformed—by taking them back to Scripture and to its meaning in its historical context. Wright reveals that the neo-Reformed are more committed to tradition than to the sacred text.”
The Unlikely Disciple. The best surprise read of the summer, this memoir chronicles an Ivy League students’ journey to Falwell’s Liberty University. Fantastic read. A must for any young adult serious about their faith. Or any person seeking to minister to the young adult demographic. There's enough in this book to offend you, no matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum of church doctrine.
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Interesting book (in a line of other books put out by Zondervan) providing rich historical background per the Jewishness of Jesus. There are others, better written, but this is excellent popular level reading.
24 July 2009
21 July 2009
The Detroit News did a little story on the work we've been doing in Cass Park for the last four years.
19 July 2009
Others who study this story say that the Samaritan in this story represents the minority person/group in a given culture. The Priest becomes the “conservative Christian” and the Samaritan becomes the “gay man some love to hate.” Or the Levite represents the “rich” and the Samaritan is the “homeless woman in
Something deeper is going on in this story. One Jewish thinker has opened up this parable in drastic ways for me. She writes, “To understand this parable in theological terms, we need to see the image of God in everyone, not just members of our own group. To hear this parable in contemporary terms, we should think of ourselves as the person in the ditch and then ask, ‘Is there anyone from any group, about whom we’d rather die than acknowledge, She offered help or He showed compassion?’ More, is there any group whose members might rather die than help us? If so, then we find the modern equivalent for the Samaritan,” Amy Jill-Levine in The Misunderstood Jew (149).
17 July 2009
13 July 2009
Tiger Stadium sits at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in downtown Detroit.
Old as World War II, worn-down tennis shoes and my grandfather’s nylon mesh General Motors hat. In America, we know what to do with old things. At least we think we know what to do with things that pass their prime. We destroy them. We abandon them until they look shabby enough to justify our destruction.
“Build a mall,” we scream. “Some condos would look nice.” “We could put a highway right there,” says another. “What this city needs is a new skyscraper.”
The wrecking ball rips through the right field wall where all of baseball’s greats once stood. The ground near home-plate—where Cobb, Horton, Greenberg, Cash, Kaline, Gibson, Trammel, and Fielder planted themselves before launching little white balls to the moon— is desecrated because of a city council plan to make condos.
Something’s missing in Detroit. Life is concentrated around work and home. Mundane universes often revolve around job titles, salaries and what’s happening with a son’s third grade science project. This is not bad. Having a job that is meaningful is life-giving and increasingly rare in today’s economic climate. Focusing on one’s family is also good because it’s a core responsibility.
But we don’t have a lot of other places. Church used to be an other place. Starbucks poses as one though I doubt its longevity. Tiger Stadium is a sacred space to so many not merely because of the games won (and lost), the athletes, the drama, and the great hot dogs. Tiger Stadium is a space where, for a few moments on a warm summer afternoon, men not known for their ability to share hopes and dreams were able to hope and dream together. Something to cheer about. Something to grieve. Something to look forward to next year.
The wrecking ball tears the walls, fences, cement, structures of Tiger Stadium. They not only tear what is visible. They also tear the things that are invisible. And, of course, it’s the invisible that is often more real than the visible. It’s the invisible that lasts beyond any of us.
I don’t know the answer. I only know that when our other spaces go down, we are never the same. The park, the library . . . or even Tiger Stadium. When we destroy—whatever it is we destroy—we are never the same. Today, that’s what I believe.
09 July 2009
Tiger Stadium. As I write this, Tiger Stadium is slowly evaporating.
I remember sitting in the right-field bleacher seats with my grandfather and twin brother when I was twelve or so. The Yankees were in town to play the beloved home team, the Tigers. Throughout the course of the game, my brother and I derided the Yankee right-fielder wearing the number twenty-one which had been stitched into the back of his jersey.
“You’re not good enough to have your name on the back of your jersey,” we repeated over and over again. Passionate we were, knowledgeable we were not. It would be at least three more years before I learned of the Yankees tradition to omit last names on the back of jerseys as a nod to the significance of the name of the front of the jersey over and above the name of the back of the jersey. This is a lesson almost completely missing from the modern professional landscape in which baseball players have their names on their jerseys, gloves, and even (depending upon your status) engraved into the wristbands resting on one’s forearms.
On the way home, my grandfather delivered some important news. “Boys, do you know who plays right field for the Yankees?”
“No. All we know is that he does not have his name on his jersey so he must not be that good.”
“His name is Paul O’Neil. He’s one of the best hitters in the game today.” A silence fell over the car. A silence not too different from the silence of a principal entering a classroom in which the substitute teacher has had it, relinquishing all authority to The Principal.
“Oh,” was all I remember offering in response to my grandfather. I made a mental note to myself that I would, at least when it came to sports, do my homework before I would make grandiose claims. By the way, I recently went back and looked up O’Neil’s stats from this year—he won the A.L. batting title.
Humble pie. A big ol’ slice of it.
08 July 2009
06 July 2009
05 July 2009
During his class Rushford traced the history (Paul Harvey style) of well-known hymns. We followed his teaching by singing stanza's from each hymn.
I've noticed a shift in many of our students at Rochester College over the past few years. The ones who seem to be engaged on deep levels with the teachings of Jesus and his mission for them in the world--they are not satisfied with simply grabbing an emotional experience on Sunday morning. They view worship as part of their lives of confession. When they sing, for instance
O to grace how great a debtor.
Daily I'm consigned to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above!
. . . these students are connected to all the lips who confess God's presence in the precise incarnation of these words. If the church forgets where she comes from she will be a widow in the present and an orphan in the future.
Rushford ended his class with this remarkable line, "When the church flaunts here contemporaneity and disavows her roots with the past, she often limps when she was called to run."
01 July 2009
1. Time with Otter Creek Church. Between meals with staff and elders, worship on Sunday, we felt a great sense of peace about the family we are joining and the mission of being the church together. I still have important work to do in Rochester over the next six weeks, but I'm eagerly anticipating joining the OC Leadership Team. I will be writing much more about this new adventure in the coming weeks and months.
2. Lowry Family. The Lowry Family hosted us while we were in town. They truly embody the gift of hospitality. My favorite moments were the passionate times of story in the family room while we devoured ice cream. The Lowry's vision for Lipscomb is palatable and exciting. I can't wait to see what the next several years look like at DLU.
3. Christian Scholars Conference. In addition to spending time with Otter Creek and house-hunting (more in a moment), I attended and participated in the Christian Scholars Conference. I'm biased, because Barbara Brown Taylor teaches where I'm doing my doctoral work, but her presentation on "The Power of Story in an Age of Twitter" was incredible. I have a writing class with her next week at Columbia Seminary. Needless to say, sending the pre-course writing assignments was the toughest e-mail I've sent in a long, long time.
I presented on a panel tackling the topic "Theological Education as Spiritual Formation." The discussion was lively and challenging. I'm still processing the implications of what it looks like for professors, in the words of Earl Lavender, to shift towards thinking of themselves as "missional coaches."
4. Tokens. Thursday night allowed us the space to finally be a part of Lee Camp's creative genius known as Tokens. Part Prairie Home Companion . . . part social commentary . . . set to incredible blue grass music . . . I describe Tokens as unassumingly subversive. Lee's interview with noted historian Hubert Locke was one of the highlights for me (Locke is from Detroit).
5. House Hunting. Let's just say we saw 31 houses. The house we got was the 31st house we walked through. Sara Barton was our arbitrator through this process. It was exhausting but worth it.
Soon, I'll write a blog about Jerry Rushford's class at Otter Creek Church on the role of hymns in our modern church experience. Powerful material.