Monday, February 22, 2010

Pastors wives

Recently I was at work, well, glamorous as it might sound, making copies, when one of my co-workers asked another co-worker and I about the definition of a religious term. Remember, for the purposes of this story, we all work for a church and we are all women. I gave my definition while the other co-worker gave an answer that varied greatly from mine. None of the three of us was anywhere near a computer so “googling it” was not an option. My co-worker found herself stuck – whose definition was she going to endorse?

She decided to go with the other woman’s answer because, and this is the part that almost breaks my heart, she is a pastor’s wife. And as a disclaimer, I don’t mean to poke fun at the pastor’s wife in this story because I am really quite fond of her, but really? Is this 2010 or 1950? I suppose in certain circles sleeping with a pastor really makes one more qualified to speak on religious terms than a graduate degree in theology.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Life in France by Julia Child

Taking a little break from my true love of fiction, I recently finished My Life in France by Juila Child. Like everyone else, I rediscovered Julia Child with the recent release of the movie “Julie & Julia.” I loved the movie very much as it combined many of my favorite things – cooking, blogging and misguided souls discovering their purpose in life later than most. I only wish I would have thought of the idea to cook through Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blog about it. Who knows, it could have been Jen & Julia.

My Life in France was on the whole a good book; engaging at times and slow at others, I mean really there is only so much you can read about butter. And I do really love butter. But a few things surprised me about Julia Child. For starters she was a wonderful writer. I believe big sections of the book were adaptations of her letters written to various people over the years. Secondly, she was thirty-four when she married which in 2010 isn’t exactly unheard of but in 1946 was almost scandalous no less to a man ten years her senior whom she had met while they both were in the O.S.S. serving in Asia during WWII. The last surprising thing and my biggest “take away” is that Julia Child did not start cooking until she was thirty-seven. Imagine such a delay in finding one’s true calling? There is hope for me yet.

I would be amiss to not mention Julia Child was born and raised in our own faire Pasadena. I need to follow the lead of so many of my fellow bloggers and visit her house. Maybe I could leave a stick of butter on the mail box like Amy Adams’ character did at the Smithsonian.

Next up, just in time for spring training, Vin Scully’s Pull Up a Chair.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

“Sitting through” Sermons

Recently, I heard a story about a youth pastor telling a group of students that the last thing they need is to “sit through” another sermon. This immediately struck me as funny, clearly the aim of the story teller. But the more we joked about it, I couldn’t help but find truth in the sentiment that may or may not have been poor judgment in sharing to teenagers under the guise of spiritual formation. Alas, I have “sat through” many, many sermons in my life, some great, some breathtaking, some formative, some challenging, some inspiring and some, well, awful. For the record, at present, I “sit through” many an eloquent, intellectual and finely-polished sermon administered with a fair dose of charisma. What is that adage about not biting the hand that feeds you?

But alas back to the pastor’s seemingly counter-pastoral instruction, indeed I wonder if our contemporary construct of church has put too much emphasis on sermons? Is this some vestige of modernism we can’t seem to shed? I suppose this argument could be made for the whole of our higher education system as there is very little difference between a lecture and a sermon if you really think about. Perhaps pre-literate cultures required oral traditions for the masses to understand the basic tenets of Christianity, but I wonder if we post-moderns might be better inspired by a different means other than the traditional sermon? Or to throw in a dash of Rob Bell, are we simply preaching the wrong kinds of sermons?

And/or how much of the actual goals of discipleship can be learned through a one-sided forum like a sermon? Isn’t applying scripture to our lives best accomplished through didactics with other Christ followers or through acts of obedience and service to others? Add on the layer, was Christianity ever intended to be head knowledge? Instead aren’t we told to live out our beliefs as they form the foundation for our lives (okay that is the Jen Hicks paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mt.)?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Just under the wire, what can I say, I have been super busy with life, work, fighting off a cold, planning a trip to Peru and other misadventures that I simply forgot this morning.

But without further adieu, here is this week’s question:

How will you observe Lent?

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent. Some traditions put a significant emphasis on this six week period before Easter while others do very little. I know I am on the far end of the spectrum where we do nothing to anticipate Easter, so perhaps I am curious what others do.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yertle the Turtle

The other day I read Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle with an eight-year-old. Yertle the Turtle tells the story of a tyrannical turtle king who humiliates his subjects by having them form a stack of turtles to serve as his throne. The turtles comply, first a stack of ten, then bigger, bigger and in classic Seuss style the stack grows to an alleged multiple hundreds allowing Yertle to be king of ever more things. Finally, however, one meager turtle, Mack, complains. He is at the bottom of the stack – he has been there the whole time, he is hungry, tired and imaginably uncomfortable. Yertle will not budge and instead calls for more turtles so he can be king over even the moon. Finally, Mack at the bottom of the stack, well, burps causing the pile of turtles to topple.

I first heard the story of Yertle the Turtle at a chapel at Fuller. The speaker, whose name escapes me, called Seuss by his given name, Theodore Geisel prefacing him as a great theologian known for tackling injustice, the frailties of human leaders, the lure of power and, well, you get the point. Eventually, he revealed Geisel as Seuss and simply read Yertle the Turtle. Years later, I think the brilliance of this simple lesson on leadership and theology still rings true.

Meanwhile, for a variety of reasons not the least of which is my recent admission to a leadership institute, I have been wrestling with what it means to be a Godly leader. And smack in my face, Yertle the Turtle teaches me more than the volumes of Bill Hybels type literature I’ve been wading through. Indeed, the answer to the question – ‘what is the best book on leadership you’ve read?’ will now and forever be Yertle the Turtle.

And double meanwhile, especially as my turtle kingdom is quite small, I long to find leaders who unlike Yertle care about those they lead not lumping them together like lemmings whose sole value is at most to bring them ever so higher. Remember, the more turtles in the stack, the more power for Yertle. Yertle was unfazed by Mack’s honest complaints – hunger, exhaustion, discomfort as they no doubt interfered with his power grab. Something I know quite well, is bad leaders don’t like the Mack types whom I happen to love!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dead Batteries

The other day my car battery died. While this is not that monumentous and really not all that surprising considering it was the factory issue battery, the scenario created a funny little slice of my life I imagine/hope my loyal readers will, well, get a kick out of. To set the scene it is important to know it was a rainy day and after finishing dinner with friends, I stopped by Star Video (a local wonderful video store) where after much perusing I opted to rent the most recent version of “Pride and Prejudice.” What can I say; I was in the mood for 18th century England.
I left the shop, only to discover my car wouldn’t start. I was able to discern in my limited expertise of things automotive that the problem was related to the battery. I tried to call my friends, but as I have figured out with the intersection of Washington & Allen before, to no avail as it is a dead zone (try very hard to not script a cell phone commercial). Because I frequent the video store, I am pretty chummy with the staff there so I re-entered to ask if I could use their phone. I know, very 1996 of me.

They happily consented but insisted only 626 numbers. I first called Triple A only to find out that my policy had lapsed. Well can I just pay the fee? No, the membership office is closed for the night. Remember it is raining. Okay, I call one of my friends. Ordinarily, I tend towards calling the friend or person I was most recently with but in this case, Stacy has an out of area number. In fact, a great number of my friends had to immediately be eliminated by virtue of their area codes. I called two different friends with the right area codes only to be screened. Of course, they didn’t recognize the Star Video Number and opted to screen. I would have done the same thing if I were in their shoes. Finally, I got a hold of Sharon and Cole who were so curious as to why Star Video would be calling they couldn’t resist answering. Thank God.

So the twenty-first century lesson when it comes to cell phones is that they have some draw backs. For starters, dead zones. But also, because we all have grown so accustomed to programming in our friends and screening unknown numbers, there will be times when getting a hold of a friend will be tricky. We didn’t have either of these problems in 1996 did we when screening was at best a luxury? But the last weird thing and I think most of us have to admit when push comes to shove, we like to have a phone number that pays homage to our former lives before moving to the 626. Proudly, we hold onto those out of area area codes as markers of our more exotic heritage beyond the San Gabriel Valley. Except of course for me who has only ever had one cell phone number and it was issued in the San Gabriel Valley as a 626 number. Rue the day when I have to change it.

Ironically, a truth I have observed over the years of having car break downs is that passerbys will often give you their two cents. Sometimes, the advice they give is out of nowhere and you know in your gut you should just smile politely and ignore it. But there are other times, when you know in your knower that they are right and honest and possibly angels sent to help damsels in distress. That was the case with my battery as my loyal friend tried with no luck to jump it, just as we had given up and were unhooking the cables and calling it dead, a warm-hearted passerby claiming to have been a mechanic for thirty years insisted on giving it a try. And just as I have seen in many other instances like this, he was able to get the car on the road again.

Ring in Wednesday – February 3, 2010

Simple, straightforward, the question you’ve been asked all week –

Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?