Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Elephant Baby

I just beat the elephant in being the land animal with the longest time of being pregos. Yup, my three years (plus) of gestation out does their wimpy 22 months hands down, and yesterday my colorful 14 p. 3 hr. cuddly baby finally saw the light of day. We’ve had a name for a few weeks now, and if you’ve kept up, you’ve gotten the “birth announcements” in advance of the big day and know that we our calling our latest offspring “Brunch-n-More, for body and soul."

Fourteen of us ages three to 43 gathered in rooms we are renting from the CVJM at 10 am yesterday for a continental breakfast, good conversation and a messy adaptation of musical chairs. Everyone got to mix his/her own unique color of choice (no two people could have the same color) and choose a painting utensil (bottle brush, paint brushes, basting brushes etc.). We each started off at a blank Din A3 page and after putting our name on it, had about 5 minutes to begin a picture while music was playing in the background. Each time the music stopped, we rotated to the next picture and painted for a couple of minutes. We did this until we each made our way around to all of the pictures.

As you can see, the pictures are bright, colorful and unique. What one might not see at first glance, however, is what the pictures and indeed the process tells us about our social interactions, the fact of life that we are not an island, not solely responsible or “in-charge” of what ends up on the canvas of our life, and that, whether we want to be or not, we are sometimes major, sometimes minor contributing artists on the canvas of other people’s lives. This was frustrating for Charis, soon to be 12 yrs, who started off with a pretty concrete idea of what she wanted her painting to look like. When little Constantine came and painted a big blue blob on top of her little pop art people, she felt that her picture was ruined. For me it was no new revelation that Charis would have the hardest time of everyone “letting go” of control and finding beauty in something outside of her own narrowly defined objectives.

It was interesting to see that some chose loud colors which they used plenty of, some quieter, warmer colors, which they used more sparingly. Some responded more to what they were presented with in the painting already, choosing to “fix,” enhance, react to, continue something that was already going on, while other’s contribution was an object or pattern carried out through each painting. I believe this says a lot about who we are and how we interact with others.

It was also no surprise to see that the smaller/younger the children were, the less concrete their contributions were and the more “space” they took up on the page, the more likely they were to ignore whatever else was going on, and seemed intent on just getting as much of their color out there as possible. And I have had my years of my “painting” being dominated by the blue blobs!! It takes a real artist to work with those, find the balance of letting the blue blobs fill up space, and helping them to notice the beauty of the other colors and that those other colors need some space too without suffocating the artistic exuberance of the blue blobbers. That takes a lot of creativity and Grace, a lot of grace.

I just finished Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, which I was in the thick of Sunday afternoon after we got home from Brunch-n-More. I have to quote one of the many cool things she says in trying to describe her understanding of Grace. She writes, “Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.” Thank you Ms. Lamott for that bit of color, that brush stroke which describes so well what I’m hoping Brunch-n-More might be. People coming out of isolation, learning to “paint” with each other, give each other enough space to be, but not too much space to monopolize and become mono-color. I guess we do the best we can and hope that when the music stops, we will all get to take a very bright, colorful and unique painting home with us.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Open Letter to Jonathan for His Confirmation

Dear Jonathan,

Because you didn’t want me to give a long sermon during the confirmation celebration, I had to leave out some of what has been stirring in me in regards to this momentous step you’ve taken, but I would like to share those thoughts with you none the less.

We just celebrated Easter exactly one week before you confirmed your baptism this past Sunday, so the timing for our theme verse is just perfect. After Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to the still disbelieving disciples, Mark 16:15 and told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.” A lot could be said about the verses that follow this one, but actually, this one short verse captures well what my deepest longings for you are.

“Preach” is the very center of the verse- the verb, without it the whole sentence falls apart. I think for too long I was made to think that, “to Preach the Gospel (Good News) meant to tell people the 4 spiritual laws and get them to sign a religious document, and swear them into our “group.” But that is not what Jesus did when he was on earth. Some might think, that “preaching” is something that only pastors or youth pastors, or only men can do, but that is not true. I don’t think Jesus is talking about giving a well crafted monologue to a group of passive listeners. I believe if we follow Jesus’ example, then “preaching” means that our whole being becomes a message of life, liberation and creation. “Preaching” means choosing to become a Channel of God’s Shalom as we live dialectically in this beautiful but often gruesome world. And that is what I deeply long for your life to be, Jonathan: a channel of God’s, creative, nurturing, protecting and liberating power, which offers others an alternative to enmity, abandonment, greed and violence.

Much more than just an excuse to use the colors Mint and Chocolate-brown as a decorating theme (which was more fun than anyone can possibly imagine:-), the pillars of this verse couldn’t be more relevant or more necessary to our present day if they had first appeared in the news paper yesterday. “Into all the world.... to all creation.” This is very simple, but immensely profound: There are no boundary markers, which delineate that God’s love and goodness has gone far enough! (“if I go to the far side of the sea, even there your love will find me. Ps.). There are no borders that can deny God’s death defying power passage. No one, no country, no ethnic group, no religion and no race has any claim to a monopoly on either God’s alternative to enmity and death or to God’s benevolent nurture and protection from oppression. My deep longing for you Jonathan, is that to the extent that you experience freedom and nurture, forgiveness and grace that those things never end at your borders, never end at your comfort zone, but spill over to your family, your street, your neighborhood, your school, your city. That you not only bring God’s love across the border of your city to your country, but that you break through the boundaries of your culture and have eyes of compassion for the “other” that seems so foreign and distant. God’s love is even not limited to our species! The good news is for all of creation, for every living thing. We are intrinsically connected, not only to each other, but to all of creation. If one part suffers, we all suffer. So, my prayer for you, Jonathan, is that God’s offer to live free of condemnation, alienation and destitution never runs up against any constraints in your life, but instead finds a free passage “into all the world... and to all creation”, because no one should be excluded from the goodness of God.

Only one teeny-tiny word I still want to chew on!


Unfortunately, too much of the message last weekend was “stay!” “Find a comfortable niche in our church, serve here, stay with us!” Jesus does sometimes say stay... but always only for a short time, to pray, to wait for direction, marching orders. Here he is saying a very clear GO! The Good News is not a group we invite people to, but something we bring with us everywhere we Go! Jonathan, you chose this year to “confirm”, reaffirm your child baptism. Baptism is an initiation right, it marks an entrance into something. Not an entrance into faith, faith in Christ is what led to the decision to be baptised/confirmed. But it is also not an entrance into a “group”! Not the “group” LKG (our local church), not the group “Christians,” and certainly not the group with the “stars upon thars!”

You have been confirmed into a MOVEMENT not a club! A movement that is scheming and plotting creative and alternative ways of spreading God’s freeing, nurturing and protecting love to everyone and every living thing everywhere! It is not something that we do as a hobby in our spare time, on Sundays or one night a week at band practice. It is a mighty, rushing river, and once we have put our foot into it, it grabs us with its full force and takes us on a white water adventure that will never bring us back to the same river bank from where we started. There is no “in part.” God doesn’t just toss us His spare change as He is passing by. He identifies Himself in solidarity with all of humanity; He invites us into deep communion with himself; and He invites us to share in all of His wealth! Your baptism was with water from this rushing river, and symbolizes your entrance into a Movement of people who have chosen to channel and translate God’s solidarity, His offer of communion and His divine wealth through every aspect of their being toward the whole world and all of creation without exception!

So what about the subject of this sentence? Gospel: Good News? That is a question I want to leave you with. As you watch this presentation, as you later move through our world, ask yourself, “What is good news for this world?”

Most of the information in this video is taken from the book "Everything Must Change," by Brian Mclaren.

Music is from Ben Harper ; Ben Harper and Jack Johnson
pictures are mostly stolen off the net, but many are from our time in PNG