Sunday, November 02, 2008

I've Moved

I've decided that for a number of reasons, it's time for me to migrate the blog over to Wordpress. Just giving a heads up to the tens of readers who keep track of this little site or have me in their blogroll.

A Conservative I Can Live With


Last night some folks from MBCC went and checked out Bill Maher's film entitled "Religulous." In it, Bill combines wit, sarcasm, film clips and interviews to support his two main theses:

1. Doubt is good.
2. All religion is detrimental to society. If society is to move forward then religion must be done away with.

I'm good with the first one, and less good (depending on how one defines "religion") with the second one, but I found the film an overall interesting, bordering on positive experience.

Things I liked/found interesting:
1. Bill is open about calling himself agnostic and admitting he doesn't know. Unfortunately, the so-called "Christians" he interviewed acted as though asking questions was the worst form of blasphemy. Some of them walked out on his interview and refused to speak to someone that would have the audacity to question their faith.

2. Bill seems to have a soft spot for Catholicism in general and Jesus in particular. He was often countering some of the responses and attitudes he saw with the words and actions of Jesus and he was dead on.

3. The scene with the trucker church. He spoke with a group of men who were passionate about their faith but who blinked a lot when asked the more difficult questions. However, and this probably has to do with editing, Bill was silenced when one man spoke of his personal experience of conversion to Christianity from being a Satanist priest. Try as you might, you cannot argue with personal experience. When Bill was leaving the truckers he thanked them for being "Christlike" and allowed them to pray for him. It was an oasis of vulnerability in a sea of derision.

Things that I didn't love, but didn't necessarily hate:
1. With a couple of exceptions, he only interviewed Christians who'd checked their brains at the door, which, in my experience is at least half of them (mostly the evangelical half). Particularly horrifying was "Jesus" from the Holy Land Experience Theme Park in Florida (that hot mess is a post unto itself). Bill came at "Jesus" with very valid questions and "Jesus" answered with standard Sunday School cliches that wouldn't stand up to even the most gentle questioning from an eight-year-old. The few interviews he had with intelligent, reasonable Catholics were cut very short, I'm guessing because there wasn't room in his argument for that. He stayed in the Bible belt and interviewed Southern, dyed-in-the-wool Christians who have probably never had to defend their faith because the culture is so churched, and he didn't speak to any mainline or progressive Christians. It is his documentary, and as long as he's not under the impression that it's journalism, he's allowed to only support one point of view. But I'm also allowed to not like it.

2. Bill is as intolerant of people who disagree with him as he believes the religious people to be of him. Got that? He was open with his distaste of Orthodox (particularly anti-Zionist) Jews and his negative views of Islam were thinly veiled if at all.

3. One thing he did, which I have a tendency to do, is that he used his intellect as a blunt instrument on those less intelligent. When he spoke with Catholic scholars he was gentler with his questioning than he was with the Bible-belt Christians.

4. Bill constantly interrupts people. He walked out on the one person who wouldn't let him interrupt. Rude.

Like I said, it was a pretty good film. While I am on board with Bill's doubt and questioning, I disagree with his method of finding people to support his thesis and then use that lop-sided "evidence" to make general proclamations about eliminating all religion from society. I think we need to eliminate stupidity, intolerance and recalcitrance, but those things don't only exist in religious contexts. There's a lot of hubris in anyone who says their way/interpretation is the only way and Bill is one of those people. Last I checked, the only person who had the corner on the way, truth and life is Jesus. There are a lot of us who are doing our best to follow Jesus and we would do well to admit that we do it imperfectly and could learn from those who have different views.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Boss's Day

Me: Do you think that since today is Boss's Day I have to take God out to lunch?

Boss Man: She would probably appreciate a cocktail. Perhaps a bloody Mary?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sabbath Experiment

I'm just about done reading Mudhouse Sabbath and the chapter on sabbath held some interesting ideas on the concept of true sabbath. The quote in the chapter that inspired my experiment was from the patriarch of an Orthodox family. When asked why it matters if someone were to microwave a frozen dinner on the sabbath, he responds, "When we don't operate machines, or pick flowers, or pluck fish from the sea...when we cease interfering in the world we are acknowledging that it is God's world."

Today I'm going to acknowledge that it is God's world by not seeing my free Saturday as a day to get done what I need to get done. I'm going to use today to be mindful of God's presence in the world and in my life. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Open on Sunday....but only after church

Mom and I are in line to pick up lunch on Saturday. A bald, gregarious Baptist pastor turns around and thanks me for singing and asks if I'm part of the church where the conference is being held. I say no, that I'm just in town for the conference and helping out where I am needed. He asks where I'm from and I tell him, San Francisco. His response:

Well, that's a pretty secular culture, isn't it?

NO, YOU MORON, IT'S NOT, is what I say in my head. Not out loud, of course. I'm growing. He's only been once, years ago. I don't really get to explain why not because we are interrupted with people crossing the line, asking a question, or something. He continues chatting with mom asking where she's from and we find a connection from the church where I grew up. He asks if I work in a church and I tell him Mission Bay. I take the opportunity to also tell him that I feel fortunate to be in the first healthy church situation in my life, because prior to that I'd been in Baptist churches. I haven't grown that much.

He looks genuinely remorseful on behalf of his people, and asks what was the most difficult thing about it. I say, it's a boy's club where all the decisions are made on the golf course. He shakes his head again and looks squarely into my eyes and offers a deep apology and I am a little stunned. He considers himself a moderate Southern Baptist, if there is such a thing, and if he's not SBC, he's probably CBF. We joke about the incongruency of women being able to say many things in church, as long as they're not standing behind the "magic block of wood." He mentions the need for many to have a "spiritual gut transplant" and I counter with the greater need of a brain implant. We laugh, and I assure him that things are fine with me, because I left the Baptists and went where I could use my gift. We part ways.

First of all, I am guilty of stereotyping. I saw this obvious former football player, heard the accent, heard that I apparently live in a "secular culture" and immediately he went into a category: chauvanist, idiot, bombastic, narrow-minded, Republican, dumbass, etc., and those are the printable things. I am growing very little, in fact.

The truth is, he's a product of his culture and I'm a product of mine. He's alredy stepping out of his paradigm by being "moderate" and going to a Renovare event. He's doing his best to follow Jesus. Yes, we had just heard about how the sacred/secular divide is nothing but gnostic heresy, but he is from a land where the car dealerships are open only after church on Sunday. He's doing his best. I will try to do mine.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


For nearly the last two weeks (roughly 80% of them) I've not consciously been aware of any anxiety. There have been some poor eating habits in the last week, but I chalk that up to the work people continually bringing in food for other people's birthdays. I've known in theory that I should have some level of anxiety and today it hit me. I'm a bit scared of what will be on this mammogram. I know that the chances of it being nothing are, well, 80%, so that's good. But today, with about 20% of those 2 weeks to go, I've gotten nervous. I've never had a mammogram before, let alone a diagnostic one with an ultra-sound because there's something in there that maybe shouldn't be there. I've been practicing though - lying on the ground and allowing the garage door to close on me. I'm told it's very similar.

Our church is relocating and today was our last day in the space. Such change can be disconcerting for some and so I chose songs about God being constant and holding us regardless of changing circumstances. A lot of our folks are dealing with personal upheaval as well as our community transition, so I hope the song choices were as comforting for them as they were for me. The songs, with my favorite parts of them were:

The classic Psalm 105
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
God's mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning, new every morning
Great is Your faithfulness, Oh Lord
Great is Your faithfulness

The Solid Rock - my favorite verse is:
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

Your Love is Deep by Jami Smith

Your love is deeper than my view of grace
Higher than this worldly place
Longer than this road I've traveled
Wider than the gap you filled

In Your Hands by Reuben Morgan
I'm so secure, You're here with me
You stay the same
Your love remains here in my heart
So close I believe You're holding me now
In Your hands I belong, You'll never let me go

Because I'm a church musician I automatically go to music for identification and comfort. These are just a few of the many that I love. I spent the rest of the day madly working to organize my room, putting out a sizable donation for Salvation Army to pick up tomorrow, baking peanut butter cookies and getting myself ready for the day tomorrow. The anxiety has lessened somewhat but it's still there. I would appreciate your prayers (although, given the sensitive nature of this issue, there will be no laying on of hands). I have my dear friend Lilyan coming with me to my appointment. She and I have been friends since sixth grade and she lives in LA. She happens to be up here for a few weeks for work, so it's worked out great. I know that on Tuesday I'll go in, it will all be fine, and I'll see them next year. All good. I just want to know NOW. Until then, I know that I can rest in the stability and covenant love of God that will never let me go.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Johnny Appleseed Friday Five

Raise your hand if you know that today is Johnny Appleseed Day!

September 26, 1774 was his birthday. "Johnny Appleseed" (John Chapman) is one of America's great legends. He was a nurseryman who started out planting trees in western New York and Pennsylvania, but he was among those who were captivated by the movement west across the continent.

As Johnny traveled west (at that time, the "West" was places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois) he planted apple trees and sold trees to settlers. With every apple tree that was planted, the legend grew. A devout Christian, he was known to preach during his travels. According to legend, Johny Appleseed led a simple life and wanted little. He rarely accepted money and often donated any money he received to churches or charities. He planted hundreds of orchards, considering it his service to humankind. There is some link between Johny Appleseed and very early Arbor Day celebrations.

So, in honor of this interesting fellow, let's get on with the questions!

1. What is your favorite apple dish? (BIG BONUS points if you share the recipe.)

I like a good old fashioned apple pie.

2. Have you ever planted a tree? If so was there a special reason or occasion you can tell us about?

I've never ceremoniously planted a tree. One year we got a live Christmas tree and then planted it in our yard and it was ginormous.

3. Does the idea of roaming around the countryside (preaching or otherwise) appeal to you? Why or why not?

I love the idea of roaming around the countryside - I think it would be great fun. Preaching would make it all the more enjoyable, but not in a Great Awakening sort of way (not that there's anything wrong with that). I just love the Bible and love sharing its truths with people.

4. Who is a favorite "historical legend" of yours?

I don't know if I have a favorite "historical legend" but I have a favorite historical person about whom there are many legends - Teresa of Avila.

5. Johnny Appleseed was said to sing to keep up his spirits as he traveled the roads of the west. Do you have a song that comes when you are trying to be cheerful, or is there something else that you often do?

I sing all the time and often don't realize it. I sing when my spirits are up but not to keep them up. My spirits are rarely down, but if they are, it's usually a mani/pedi, walk in the park or a light comedy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weekend While You Wait

Last weekend was the best one I've had in recent memory. It was an intentional effort on my part to have a great all-about-me weekend that came on the heels of some...well....interesting news from my doctor. It seems as though in my physical she found a lump. The standard procedure is a mammogram and a consultation with a surgeon and those things are on the books, but I have had to wait a bit to get in for those appointments. I'm genuinely not worried about it because these things are very common and are much more often nothing than something. The good news is that if I did need a mastectomy, they can reconstruct using fat from various parts of the body. Now that's what I call a win-win. However, I felt it necessary to ease my waiting time with some great time over the weekend that would make my two-week wait a bit more palatable. Here is the breakdown by day:


I have the best work crew imaginable. I've mentioned how great the boss is, but the rest of the team is brilliant as well. I've told them about the mutinous boob in case I end up needing to be gone from work any more and they've been great about it. Friday afternoon they presented me with a gift card for a spa day. Very sweet. It got a little less sweet when Boss Man Spa Nazi emphatically noted that it WASN'T TO BE USED FOR SHOPPING AND WAS TO BE USED THAT WEEKEND. Easy there, killer - got it. I had already made an appointment with Cynthia, facial lady extraordinaire, so now it was covered.

Friday evening my friend AM came over and I made a chicken and corn chowder for dinner. If I may say, kids, this is an amazing chowder. It's quick, warm, comforting and filling. For dessert I made this cherry-crumble-type thing that is an old family favorite. It's called Mix-Mix-Mix but oddly, there's no mixing. It's more assembling than anything else. It's a can of cherry pie filling, a Jiffy (b/c it's a small box, or half of a regular one) white cake mix, dry and sprinkled on top of cherries. Then cover with a cup of oats and then melt a stick of butter and drizzle over it all. You can sprinkle on some pecans if you're so inclined. Then you bake the whole think at 425 for about 30 minutes. I can't describe how satisfying this is. I served it with chocolate ice cream and it was amazing.

As we ate our dinner we watched Children of Men. Interesting. Lots of spiritual overtones. Clive Owen is hot. Those are my take-aways.


I woke up at my leisure (although I was excited about my day so I didn't sleep too long) and made pumpkin biscuits for breakfast. This is a fall favorite of mine and a traditional breakfast on Thanksgiving day for my family. I have a Saturday morning ritual of making breakfast and watching The Soup from the night before, then I showered and went to get a mani/pedi. Following my nail time I went up to Marin to see Burn After Reading at my favorite movie theater. It seems as though it was See Your First Coen Brothers' Film day at the Corte Madera theater. About 2/3 of the way through the film a woman behind me whispered to her companion, "This is really kind of strange." Mmmm hmmm. Yeah. Then in the restroom, a lady was discussing the film with her friend and her recap was, "It started out funny, then it got cynical and then it got really dark." IT'S A COEN BROTHERS' FILM. And, for them, this was pretty "radio friendly." There were only 2 murders, and only one of them was particularly grizzly. Really, it was Coen Brothers' Lite. Brad Pitt was HI-larious in it and John Malkovich played his desperate former intelligence agent to self-indulgent perfection.

Following the movie I did a little errand running/shopping and then headed off to my facial appointment at 4. Got home around 6:30, had some leftover chowder for dinner and got to work on some church stuff.


Did church in the morning and I have to say it was a blast. I was leading worship and the songs were fun, the band was fun and it all just went really well. Following our Town Hall meeting regarding the move to OAPC, I went and met Annelies for brunch. We went to Brenda's which is a French soul food restaurant. It is, in a word, foodgasmic. Brenda herself was there cooking and I told our server, who told her, that if I were on death row, this would be my last meal. I had the fried catfish eggs benedict with Creole hollandaise sauce and hash. The biscuits are beyond description as is the homemade strawberry preserves. It was altogether fabulous.

After brunch we headed over to the Opera Plaza cinema for TransSiberian. Interesting suspense thriller with some plot holes, but overall a good flick. After a stroll through the nearby bookstore and some grocery shopping, I headed home. The Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers (in Lambeau Field!!!) rather handily and then I watched the Emmys.

It was truly the best weekend ever and so very needed. I'm looking forward to the upcoming swirl of activity and it will all be made much easier by last weekend's relax-a-thon.