A Communion Parable

There once was a man who had a neighbor. The neighbor invited him to a great party. Food was shared. Everyone cared for each other and the man went home happy. He was surprised that the next week, his neighbor invited him over for another great party. He attended again and loved it again. The third week in a row, the neighbor invited the man to the party and the man became suspicious. “How can he afford to throw so many parties? Perhaps he is trying to trick us into doing something. I’ll not go. Besides, I’m tired of parties.”

But the man noticed that week after week, the neighbor continued to throw parties for whoever came. Often there were people there he did not recognize. Week after week, the neighbor invited him to parties. The man pitied his neighbor and started calling him names behind his back.

Then one day, the man took sick, lost his job, and could not afford to buy himself food. When his neighbor invited him to the party, he thought to himself, “what choice do I have? Besides, I want to see whether the parties are any good anymore.” When the man joined the party he found food and neighbors caring for each other just as he did at the first party. Tears filled his eyes as he realized he had been wrong about the neighbor.

Without anything to contribute, the man asked his neighbor how he could help. “You can’t,” he said, but instead gave him all the leftovers from the meal. “It’s too much,” said the man. The neighbor simply said, “Then, that’s how you can help.”

Music Ghosts

When you make music, you call up a lot of ghosts. American music no less than any other.

This country may be new, but its people are ancient. When you play its music, you’re responsible – if not to them, then for them.

If your melody waxes nostalgic for Dixie, then your words better talk the ghosts down.

Phrases that are Always Lies

  • “The more, the merrier.”
  • “Be my guest.”
  • “No offense, but …”
  • “It’s not a threat; it’s a promise.”
  • “No pun intended.”
  • “Nothing to see here, folks.”
  • “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”
  • “People always ask me …”
  • “I’m not a racist, but …”
  • “Not to brag, but …”
  • “Well, I’m sorry that you …”
  • “… literally …”

Multitasking Considered Harmful

Clay Shirkey banned laptops in class even though he is a proponent of technology. But distraction is like secondhand smoke: it hurts us and the group. Our basic urges follow distraction down rabbit holes before we even have time to stop it. He now seems himself working together with students against these tendencies by banning devices.

Attention is precious in our faith. The church should also work together, when appropriate, to limit distraction without demonizing technology.

Prayer for Depth

My mom recently told me that when I was born, she sincerely prayed for me to have to particular qualities that would help me in my life.

It’s funny because when my son was born, I also felt a deep desire to pray for something in particular for Henry. It’s hard to want something for someone who will have to eventually become his own person. I agree with Merlin Mann that the absolute best you can do for your child is allow them to be messed up in their own way. So I worry: if I pray for Henry to be calm, is it just because I don’t like noise? If I pray for him to be artistic, am I already trying to live vicariously through him?

So here’s my prayer as I hold him in the hospital. I want him to know depth. I believe the world and every part of it is deep. I want him to just know that whatever he stands on, there are tectonic layers and plates stretching through time and space and all resting on a molten core that infinitely provides energy for everything he does.

As much as I can avoid passing along fears, inadequacies, and all sorts of shortcomings, I want him to know that deep down, underneath his own quirks, that he is not alone. That there is a richness to the soil he is planted in and to never stop drawing from it.

Richie Havens

When I was pretty young I read an article in Guitar Player about Richie Havens. Thirty years after the world saw him in the film Woodstock, he was still touring the country and playing threehundredsomething shows a year. You gotta respect the work ethic, but for someone who had been around for a while with many albums under his belt and connections with various organizations…why would he continue to tour almost nonstop?

A couple years later, I was working stage crew in Clearwater and Richie Havens was playing. Before he went on, somehow he found out that my friend Jeff and I were fans. I guess it touched him that he had fans that were only like 15 years old. He closed the door to the greenroom and played a couple songs. For an audience of two. I figured out how he could keep up his touring schedule: he just loved to share the music.

I thought about this story about two days ago. Richie Havens died today. If that sounds like a coincidence, it’s not. I think about this story about once a week anyways. Probably always will.

Four Reasons Why I Procrastinate

The Obvious One

I just don’t want to do it.

Solution: Just do it.

The Pernicious One

I’m feeling guilty about not completing the task yet, but I would rather avoid it then deal with that feeling and the consequences. This one usually makes itself worse.

Solution: Forgive myself for the delay. Then, just do it.

The Narcissistic One

I need the last minute pressure of the approaching deadline to force me give up on my silly perfectionism and accept less-than-perfect work from myself.

Solution: Manage expectations about what kind of time and energy I can put into a project/task, then just do it.

The Cynical One

I’m nursing the task in my own task list because it keeps me in control of the project, instead of putting the ball in someone else’s court where it belongs.

Solution: Sharing is caring, and I’m in the caring business. Let someone else do it.

Clint Eastwood and Mass Culture

On the movies of Clint Eastwood, by The New Yorker:

“Mass culture is a machine for showing desire,” Roland Barthes wrote. It’s also a machine for expressing resentment, a frustration of desire. Harry Callahan is lonely, hard, intolerant. Eastwood became popular, in part, because he allowed people to dream that they could be effective without being nice.

What does our mass culture desire today? Winning arguments and passing judgment according to cable news and reality television…

Free Speech, Free Will

Legally we have free speech, but in reality, it’s anything but free. Our public communication is captive to sin and it cannot free itself, even on the web—which is touted as the most democratic system of communication invented. But by human nature, our communication always bends towards evil.

Sound dramatic?

When anonymous feedback is allowed on heavily visited sites, it doesn’t take long for the racism, bigotry and Hitler references to appear—buried just beneath the main article. More subltly: a church’s commitment to articulate a particular moral belief might end up alienating those most in need of its support. In other words, we invariably fail to communicate perfectly. The multiplication of tools for communicating online doesn’t reduce the risk, it increases the risk that we fail to live up to our name—at a larger scale. Let’s be honest about this…

Our gift, then is editing, moderation, and most importantly: forgiveness!

Message and Medium

We can use the growing resources of electronic communication to bring the gospel message to many who have not heard. But we need to investigate the message and the medium. Because this isn’t about producing electronic tracts. That would be called spam. This is about real connections that draw us to real relationships that, put together, represent God’s work in this particular place, in this particular time.

We can’t pretend the Internet doesn’t exist. It does; at least for those people living in developing nations. We also can’t assume that Christians have a monopoly on this new medium, as we did with past technological advances. We don’t. And thank God that Christendom is over. But between naiveté and arrogance, Christians are called to engage these new electronic tools and work that they may be used justly and effectively.

We may even have something to say about how our new tools should be used for the better. But first we need to learn what it all this means for doing ministry—the same ministry that the church has always done.

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