Thursday, December 29, 2011

Keys

What began as the promise to a new day with coffee and A chocolate croissant in my new home away from home quickly turned into an hour long search for the key that would enable me to get to my caffeine refuge. It's interesting that one little piece of a specifically carved alloy can determine one's destiny. When you find the right one you can open closed doors, move inanimate objects and begin a journey to a destination that you didn't even realize was possible before turning it. I can, in a sense, become the legendary "key master" of Ghostbusters fame.
So I'm looking on a new year with a sense that there are many destinations possible by the end of it and I hold the keys to many of them. I, like many of you, travel in circles where I, depending on the keys held, can influence the destinations of many lives beyond my own. As a Pastoral Artist responsible for the direction and leading of a community o' faith, the keys I choose to turn or not turn can influence hundreds. As a husband, a father, and a "pop pop" there are more precious lives influenced by the keys that I hold, just as I am affected by theirs.
You can fill in your own blanks as to whose keys you hold and who holds yours. Some are delusional in their thinking that they create their own destiny. Not so...you are certainly the main influencer, but someone out there holds at least one of your keys. I'm not sure how you may feel about this, but for me it makes life so much more interesting and engaging. It keeps me from sitting on the bench. I am part of the story. I can turn a key and change course forever. I can open a door to unknown place or start the car to an unknown destination. That ability is very appealing, however knowing that it's not just me thrust through the door or launched on a journey is also very sobering.
This past year has been one of the most engaging along my journey so far. But I still have many keys, and a whole new year in which to use them. I just hope that I take better care of them than my car key.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Conflicted

Ok... So I've been enjoying the relative peacefulness here for what, 3 weeks??? Guess who just showed up? If you've read my earlier posts you know the answer to this one. That's right... A new group of retired "women" walkers are now holding court in my upstairs sanctuary. Nice...merry Christmas to me. The week just keeps getting better and better.
A few days ago our source of video fulfillment decided that it couldn't do "It's a Wonderful Life" one more time. The little red light just blinked mockingly in the void. Experience told me an the manual validated that it was time to call the Sony service man. Right...like that's going to happen. What it really means is check the papers for the best sale on a new one. There will be no repurposing, reconditioning, or redeployment for the beast. I call it the " beast" because it literally is. Lets face it, when you need a chain hoist to get it up the stairs and then a mini crane to load it on the truck, it qualifies as a beast....and no I'm not exaggerating, that is what it took to get it out of our family room and onto a truck. It was one of the original Sony HD flat screens that weighed in at 480 pounds, give or take a hundred.
I share all this to get to the point of this, which is to say I'm now conflicted. A big part of me has been looking for ways in which we can cut back on the runaway train of luxury costs to be able to put more resources in play for things more meaningful and possibly eternal. I'm wondering how much of what I have is really meant to be "mine" anyway. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking socialism or any of that...its just that there is so much more that could be done with whatever I can turn loose to the source of it anyway...that being the Creator.
Another part of me has these collections of very cool movies that should never be viewed on anything smaller than a hi-def 42 inch screen. I have arguements debating all day long. I can get a new unit so cheaply now. In 27 years of marriage we've never bought a new one of our own. Even the "beast" was given by a friend. I'm entitled aren't I ? Doesn't that qualify me from some exemption? But still... The money we'd save on our satellite alone could provide for 2 more children in a developing country. Neal Postman once declared that we, as a culture, were/are entertaining ourselves to death. I think that's true, and not only to our death, but while others are dying.
I just need a sign...something to guide me...I was intending to pray about it this morning in my new found refuge...that is until the "walkers guild" showed up for their morning meeting. Maybe I'm supposed to give up coffee too? Now there's some serious resources.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Occupied

So it's now week 3 here and I'm pretty much settled in on my new place of inspiration. The final push has been made this morning as I finally succumbed to the chocolate croissant...exceedingly good plan. My intent for these next several weeks is actually to simply post things from the past as I wander through my archives and edit along the way for an attempt at a book during 2012. However, the spirit of the season has begun to mesh with the spirit of protest and I'm beginning to get more and more unsettled about how this is all beginning to be played out in the realm of influence that I have, that being pastoral artist.
Since I live in a city where the occupy movement has had a significant presence, I am perhaps more enmeshed in these thoughts than others of my profession in other areas of the country. The best way that I can process is to write, and so I've set out to write down some of my thoughts. Many are not going to like and or agree with me and that's entirely ok. We can still be friends.
Here's the basic conflict for me. I am having an increasing number of conversations with people of my faith persuasion who are trying to get me to identify with the movement because, in their opinion, if Jesus were here he would be marching with the protesters. I'm sorry, but some well thought out people have tried to sway me that way but I just don't buy it. I have no doubt that Jesus would be amongst the people serving and loving them in some way, but the Jesus that I read about in the Book of Books was not the one to join in protests. He was not the political subversive that many liberal scholars would have us believe. In fact, his general opinion that's recorded for us is that, in the realm of government, you have to play the cards you've been dealt. That's my interpretation of "give to Caesar what is Caesars". That same sentement is supported throughout the rest of the story as well. The reason that so many have come to this Jesus as political/social subversive ideology is that they read scholars who have that ideology and naturally convey it through some very talented and convincing writing. My encouragement...go back to The Book. The only institution Jesus was concerned with subverting is the religious institution. Don't accuse me of being anti scholar or oversimplifying. If I thought that way I wouldn't have spent thousands of dollars and years of my life on graduate seminary studying these and other writers. I'm sorry but the reality of it all is at it just isn't there. Jesus yielded to the ruling systems of the day, hence a crucifixion.
Now don't get me wrong on this. God and therefore Jesus are absolutely concerned about poverty, oppression, and justice. He absolutely wants us to speak for those without a voice. I believe that this passionate belief on this subject, which I also share, is what leads many down the road of spiritualizing the protest process. Here's the thing though, and this is where I fall at this point in my journey. He is so desperately opposed to that for those who are created in His image that he wants the others of us, created in the same image, to stop talking, stop marching, stop whining, and do something about it. I mean really physically go and do something about it. Stop deconstructing and start reconstructing. People of my faith are so good at observing all that is wrong with the established communities of faith, but they are terrible at being part of the rightness. They would rather stand on the outside and find fault when what we really need is that same passion engaged in the solutions. Yelling loud enough to convince someone else to do it for you is getting us nowhere fast. I think the same thing is happening here in the occupy process. We want to yell and block and march and occupy. The motives are pure but the methods are not really helping those who we claim that we are fighting for. Don't believe me? My challenge is that if the very same people, expended the very same energy, not to mention the economic demands that these protests have incurred, on the very real people really living very real stories of poverty and want, then you would see change in those people's lives. But know this...it is change that happens one life at a time. We want sweeping, instant change to processes that are hundreds of years in the making. I am obviously biased. I am in the fight for clean water access for all people. Do you know what I see in the Occupy movement? I see millions of dollars that could really be invested in the fight against poverty being needed for crowd control, law enforcement, sanitation and everything else. I see resources that could flow to people dying of water born diseases being flushed down the toilet to uphold people's right to free speech. So in the end, our free speech is upheld, but very few have bothered to personally connect and use our own speech and presence to serve these people. You want to find Jesus in this? It just might be that he's been left behind to care for the "least of these" because the rest of us are pre"occupied".

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmas and Sand

Week 2 in my new neighborhood...I have to say that I'm still liking it. It starts off slowly and then gets busier as the morning progresses...then it's time for me to leave. It's a perfect arrangement...economic success and sanity for me all in the same morning session. As the season marches on I am trying to be more creative in finding the right mix of social and personal time. In the land of pastoral artistry, there is precious little "personal" time, yet at the same time it is essential to my role. It's a paradox of sorts.
I'm sitting here in the loft area of my newly adopted hangout and contemplating the greenery of the season. I'm wondering who the first person was that thought it was a good Christmasy thing to do to hang some form of green stuff to bring out the spirit of the season. I'm sure that Wikipedia could give me some clues, I'm just too lazy to investigate. I mean really, for my own heritage remembering the birth of "The Baby", wouldn't something in the browns or tans work better communicating the real thing? We spend a good deal of time effort and cash on providing snow for the occasion, wouldn't sand be more appropriate? One of the curiosities that my wife and I have seasonal discussions about is the tradition of "flocking" Christmas trees that takes place on tree lots here. If you don't know what that is, basically it's a christmas trees version of a spray on tan. It doesn't naturally have snow that stays on the branches, unless you live in the fields, so you can get spray on snow that will stay. To a native of the northeast and snowy Christmases, this is just wrong. I'm told it makes it more authentic. Authentic to who? Jesus wouldn't recognize your noble fir sprayed with the magical white stuff.
In the quest for a more authentic Christmas feel, I believe that for next year I am going to investigate some new options. For one a ban on flocking will be put in place. I am proposing a repurposing of all the flocking equipment. It seems to me that the white crap that gets spewed all over the greenery could just as well be sand. Out here you can get your trees imported from the Blue Ridge of North Carolina through Williams-Sonoma. I am considering opening up a lot with trees imported from Israel. I'll provide the sand

Friday, December 02, 2011

Inspired

So this morning I have finally clawed my way out of the routine and familiar and am exploring a new possible source of morning inspiration. I've left The beauty of the beachfront for the early morning serenity of a neighborhood. It's a new place actually that I've had my eye on for the past few weeks as I've driven past on my way to the familiar land of corporate caffeine. There is great promise here. The din of the countless groups of retiree's has been replaced by the friendly chatter of the baristas. The corporate bakery has been replaced by some local ventures. There are no big comfy chairs but their is a library like loft to enjoy. It seems as if most people wandering through the doors at is time of day are neighborhood people on their way to other morning destinations. Gone is the frantic rush of commuters trying to replenish for the day before the bus leaves the stop. Gone are the high school girls seeking social coolness with their frilly iced drinks on a December morning. Gone are the polite, yet rushed acknowledgements of the staff...replaced by actual conversations.
While I'm still in a chain, it has a local feel...quiet and peaceful...and did I add good coffee to go with it.
It occurs to me as I have been considering my move to a more peaceful place that I have put on my consumer filters. That pains me to say, considering that, as a pastoral artist operating in the spirituality of consumerism, I really tend to push back on it....when it adversely affects me that is. The honesty of this quest is that I left my previous environment because it was successful. All of the signs of success, the noise, the lines, the chaos, were the
things that I've become tired of. What I seek is a quieter, more peaceful existence and in the land of retail, that generally indicates or inevitably leads to failure. If not failure, it's at least not as beneficial to the bottom line. Don't get me wrong...it's of course in by best interest to see this place succeed...just not too much. I may have to move on. It is after all, as a good consumer, all about me.