Sunday, April 30, 2006

What Makes the Fries Taste So Good

I was chopping crabgrass out of the front lawn at 0 dark thirty this morning, thinking on things. Like that Jonathan and Beth's high school, TAG, is this week being rated by Newsweek the number one public high school in the country. That was presumably just about as true several weeks ago when financial aid decisions were being made and Jonathan didn't get much (--I mean on merit: we are at a favored spot in our life, and didn't expect a lot of need-based). But still: Beth's immediate response was I'm putting this on my college applications (20 + months from now!), which is encouraging...and sad, that kids have to think that resume-padding way.

Also was thinking about multiplication, and how in LGBC's case, praise God alone, it has not come about through division, as much church multiplication does. So the Rudds did their Lowest Exposition Greenville Park thing, and now are in San Francisco, connected to the Scandrettes and looking around for what is there and what is next. And so Vince and the Fabs are in Denton, where...something...will happen, in the right time and way for there and them. And so Heather and Scotty find their footing and find their calling more or less simultaneously, which is no bad thing. And so of course none of it looks just like church multiplication is supposed to look--but what would I expect? None of what we have done has looked very much like anything anyone expected, even though it was all about fidelity to the tradition in the context of relevancy to the culture (or was it vice-versa on that?). And so---and so that's all right, that's what it is.

And was thinking about how in an incarnational life it is not about balancing family life and ministry--do this for a while, and then do that; X amount of ministry and then you need to take a break for family time. That happens, at a crude level, of course. But it is much more about conducting family life as ministry and living ministry as family life. Not in the creepy no-boundaries-on-intimacy sort of way--that's a counterfeit of the real thing. But in a way in which you demodernize ministry enough to where it isn't primarily an activity or a job, but one of several ways interested outsiders might describe your life, analyze what you are doing. But you are just doing what you're doing: being yourselves in full view of others.

In that sense, ministry identity is under the same rubric as ministry methods are. In the latter case, a marketing expert can always come in and analyze from a marketing point of view whatever it is that an individual, group, or organization does, regardless of how they do it. So we were very intentional about avoiding marketing entirely in developing LGBC. Yet of course a marketing guy would come in and say, well look, in this population, which is overtly anti-marketing, you'd have to market by word of mouth and by noncorporate, cooperative, community-based methods (like the message boards Whole Foods used to have), and position yourself as anti-marketing. And Mr. Marketing Expert wouldn't be wrong in his analysis, even though that does not mean that "really" all along we were hypocrites who "really" were doing marketing. We weren't...doing marketing, and vis-a-vis that, weren't hypocrites. But insofar as marketing is a way of looking at the world, an analyst can think that way even if those he is analyzing really didn't.

Just so, a human resources type can come in and say, how do you guys do it? how do you do this and maintain your (relative) sanity and your marriage and so on? And they would partly say, I'm sure, wow, look how much effort Dawn puts in to keeping a balance in what's going on, what's getting attention, etc. And yet we rarely think of it that way: we just do what we think needs doing.

George Hunter said in Celtic Way of Evangelism that he feared that the emerging church (not yet the term used, and so not in his book, though that was what he meant) would have a lot of irreproducible charismatic leaders, and a lot of nonreproducing intuitives. I don't want to be the latter, and am not, by the grace of God, the former. All the more impetus to put this stuff which we largely did, in fact, intuit, into accessible form. Which brings up, and, in particular, the vexed question of why I can't have

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

That's Some Pig

Every few days I get a couple of days older. But then Vonnie (sp?) comes along with this one: how do I know that these are my chips? Because they nacho chips.

More reasons to go on living.

Some old friends from Zambia are in the States. Wouldn't that be a trip if Jonathan at graduation were able to see people here who knew him there, just as he was starting kindergarten?

The standard church line is that the church is like Noah's ark: if it weren't for what's outside, no one could stand the smell inside...and the latest Christianity Today is full of...odors. More unnecessary Southern Baptist policy odors. More odoriferous ministerial sexual predilections. Do people really think 'theirs don't stink'? Mine does, sorry for sharing, but at least, as Socrates said, I know it. On the other hand, South Korean missionaries in Darfur totally rocks.

I went into an Applebee's with an Indian woman who's a friend of ours last weekend. Her Sri Lankan husband was doing something and we were going ahead and getting a table and so on. And the waitress (I use the word intentionally) was one of those tough-saucy middle-age types--with the I-probably-hang-with-bikers look on her, all gruff and kind. And she automatically treated us as a couple. This was silly: I'm 15 years older than Naseem, and but for phenotype I could pass for her dad. But both of us felt so good about it, like Please God hasten the day when everyone is as race- and color- (and age? surely not, yet...) blind as this woman. Being conformed to the image of his dear Son does not mean that God will make us more and more like each other. Becoming more and more like Jesus is instead precisely about each of us looking more and more like ourselves. And both that unity in Christ and that diversity among ourselves are beautiful things, and intended to be so by God.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Said the Spider to the Fly

We're going to try to wait and not put the house on the market for a while. We'll see how it goes, with the whole making money-paying bills thing, in the meantime.

Anybody know any cool Seattle stuff I could pass on to Jonathan?

Abortion tonight at ethics group. We'll see how it goes.

What do you call a group of frozen guys? Blue Man Group.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Historic Preservation

Yeah and so Curran and I took the siding off one of the pillars holding up our front porch, only to find inside that there was nothing holding up the pillar...the pillar base was hollow, and great effort had been taken to make it hollow...for no reason, since putting a solid core (like a 4x4) in the middle and surrounding it with whatever looks nice is easy and standard. And so then we took off some floor boards on the porch, which from previous experience we had deduced were put down by epileptic baboons, and found out, sure enough, everything was floating on everything else, nothing was actually attached or actually based on anything else. Um.

Okay so fine, we figured out a strategy and Curran went at it. Meanwhile I went upstairs to relieve stress by breaking down a partition wall...only it wasn't one, exactly. It was solid wood, through and through, except...the middle, where there had been originally a wall, which was cut through for a doorway, and then boarded (ineptly) back up. The cool aspect was that there was original wallpaper under the (lousily mounted and ickily plastered) drywall.

I go to Kansas City again tomorrow, this time for Steven Allen and Sarah Morrison's wedding. That'll be fun, and I'll get to see Naseem and Ruben, who're flying in.

Topic of the day:
Is Lower Greenville an 'emerging church'? Well, lots I could say about that. But for now just this: aspects of Christian identity and practice keep on emerging there. Such as this past Holy Week, which was already "de-Mark-ated" before it began. I had my parts (immersing Sarah Owens, leading Walkabout, helping with Maggie's seder), but they were my contribution as a member (sorry, potato), and not Me The Leader in action. God's leading in and through Paul and Julie is clear, and I'm glad to see it keep unfolding...emerging.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Call Me Husky

Jonathan chose: the Honors College of the University of Washington at Seattle!

congratulations, even if I am biased in your favor...

Monday, April 17, 2006


There are things you pray for and it just doesn't seem to matter or make any difference. And all the while you're struggling with that and griping about it, other things you think of as little side prayers, or just wishes, brief forays into the optative mood, not really prayers at all, are being answered in droves. And of course one of the larger life questions is, what do you do with these gratuitous divine teases: denigrate them for not being the issues you prioritized, or accept God's gifts, even if you think he's poking a little gentle fun at you in the process?

And so, vis-a-vis me and my optatives, the Rudds called during Peep Jousting (won, incidentally, in fine form by Kent) at Lower Greenville's 13th (!) annual easter brunch. And so, just as the Celtic Tenebrae service was beginning on Friday evening, Jon and Abigail walked in, teleported magically from St. Louis, unannounced and most welcome. (And then to brunch they brought the (poo-flinging) Sam for whom this series of three posts is named.) And thus as I was rooting through the vermin housing proj--er, woodpile behind my shed, whaddayaknow, the hammock frame I had not been looking for but had been wanting. (Props to Amber for foreseeing that I would find one.) And so, just as I was despairing of my kids ever having again, on my watch while they were at home with us, an adult baptism to witness, Sarah and Adam call up, and say she wants to be baptized. And sure enough, microbiology be damned, she was, right there in fetid and teeming White Rock Lake, Sunday morning around 7:30am. And so Scotty and Heather returned from what had been home, and said their main discovery was that this was home, and was where they were supposed to be.

None of these were my prayer priorities. And none of them were, actually, about me--they were about developments in the lives of Joshua and Kristen, Kent and Gail, Jon and Abigail, Heather and Scotty, Sarah and Adam. And yet: how can I hear and see them except as "I love you" valentines from a God who loves me, who loves us, in detail?

Providence will out. The Big Things I pray about will get dealt with. Money stuff will be made to work, somehow--as the guy in "Shakespeare in Love" said, I don't know how, but it'll probably involve a bit with a dog. Jonathan will end up at a great school, cuz there are no sucky ones on his list. Sarah and Steven will get married this weekend, and first Lauren and Danny and then Sarah and Adam will get married this summer. I / we will get to stand by watching, holding their coats and looking on approvingly. I'll get a teaching job somewhere...or end up tossing boxes at UPS or something. I'll doubtless present some papers and get some rejections. I'll get published or I won't. I might have more impact if I don't, who knows. We'll sell the house or we won't, and if we don't, we'll either find a way to keep living in it and affording it, or we'll lose it to The Man and go live in the proverbial 1971 Ford Gran Torino up on blocks. And we'll be fine. Because providence will out: God--the one you get to know via getting to know Jesus--is a god who plans things that are for the good of his people, and not evil. And not because we're so nifty, but because he's that good and that creative, that good thing he plans for us is, minus the losses due to our own idiocies, just what we will get.

Praise, indeed, God, from whom all blessings, desired and undreamed of, flow.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Hm. Since last we spoke, we've just about finished the driveway; pruned the big rose in front; cut down the other soapberry tree; weeded, trimmed, edged, mowed, sprayed, fertilized, etc., like you wouldn't believe. The garage apt is in process paintwise, and work's being done on our bedroom also. Nice bonus for the week: a woman in our community, Angela, prayed about God providing a hammock for me (figuratively speaking: a way to relax and destress). Well, cleaning up an old woodpile in back, lo and behold, a moveable lawn hammock frame. Amber had given me a hammock,'s hammock time!

Seder was at Maggie's last night, and it went pretty well. I like leading them, although I was a bit saddened that so many people we've shown how to do stuff have gone do stuff elsewhere, of course, which is good, but I miss a lot of people this time of year. This morning props go to our dog Dixie, who woke me at 3:30am just to make sure I didn't miss my 4:15am alarm, and to the Chinese donut shop in our 'hood, which had 2 dozen chocolate glazed ready to go at 4:45am. Walkabout went pretty well; I am psyched about Mark and Magnificent Mandy's new baby-about-to-be, but I'll have to wait a year for Mark to maybe take on some of the walkabout leadership role. In the meantime, I got the patrol cop from heaven, who actually got what I was calling for when I called up to explain to the night shift desk that young persons would be skulking nefariously about lower greenville in the wee hours, but not to worry.

this evening, vince did a good job on tenebrae--although and can it be is one hymn that doesn't need a new tune--but the joy of it all was that jon and abigail appeared out of the sky from st. louis, unannounced, just when I could use seeing them. go, God.

peace to you where you are, doing what you're doing this eastertime.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


So in the books rather than the movies, it's Sam who says, He knows what he's supposed to do. He's just afraid to do it.

Well. As Stephen King says, what a rejection means to a writer is, I actually got something out the door (otherwise, of course, no one else could have rejected my work).

More to come on this front for me.

Amazingly, when Jesus took his turn to ask the intellectuals critiquing him in the temple during the last week of his life, he did not ask them about their authority or right to do what they were saying and doing. Even though all their questions to him were insinuations that he did not have the right to say or do what he was doing. So it's all the more interesting that when it was his turn to ask a question, he asks the same sort of question: who am I, and where am I within my rights given who I am, to say or do X or Y? It's a rhetorical move, in multiple directions, of course. He shows that this very question, in a less nasty and tactical key, is in fact a good question. He shows that he himself has given real thought to this--he isn't just riding along on the crest of events, or just randomly picking up justifications for what he's doing as he goes along. And he shows that they haven't really penetrated very far into the critical issues about authority. Sorting out what town and family "real" authority is authorized to come from solves only the population distribution problem. Figuring out what real authority is and what it's for--which is taken for granted by Jesus's opponents, as is typical--is a much harder issue. And then, the kicker question, am I the sort of person to exercise this sort of authority?

I wonder about my own, of course. I make, and have made, no pretense to being without sin, let alone without temptation. People in my own community have, many of them, an idea, general to specific, as to what those are, as do my accountability partners scattered across the country. I find that Dawn and I do have some amount of some kinds of authority with some people, whether we would have it or not. Some of that is based on experience, some on competency, some on qualifications, some on role or position. Jesus's question is, okay, fine, so that's the case. How much of which of these are true to me given who I really am? What kind and amount of authority accrues to me in virtue of the sort of person I actually am? By definition, this is the kind that I cannot be pharisaically hypocritical about, which may be why it is so important. After all, if I claim authority based not on a skill or role but on who I am, then that just is what it is with people. I cannot fake who I am with others: to them I am who I am to them.

This may seem a rather high-falutin' version of what would Jesus do. But more and more I find myself wrestling with What would Jesus be? If you want to say that this is because I'm an INTJ, so be it. In any case, we'll see what comes of it.

In the meantime, Holy Week will be full of decisions this year: work, school, home. Hm.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Dawn and I (with some key help from Jonathan and Beth) moved three tons of "medium Ozark" gravel today from Custom Stone Supply to our very own driveway, which is moving along towards being better. Got to drive a modified Ford F-350 to haul it all.

Me dusty.

Heard a radio deal on emerging church. If I hadn't been driving a ton of gravel, I would've called in.

Palm weekend coming up: I do like this time of year.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Reinventing the Wheel for over Ten Years


A personal post, this.

Jonathan is in at:
USC (the west coast one)

He is in the honors college at:


We are still waiting to hear about two other honors college admissions.
And we've heard very little about financial aid.


In regards to which:

I am told that the actual gummint policy is that each person in a family living at poverty level needs 14,000 and change. I f a family is serious about edjewkayshun they should live at the poverty level in order to put junior through. So anything you make above $14K x number of family members should all go to education. Hmmm. Not a totally realistic policy, number one. That this would mean that, say, a family of four would be below poverty level if they make less than $56K/yr., which also seems...wrong...yet...

Anyhoo, the oh-fish-ul parent's financial contribution expected of me and Dawn is breathtaking.

Let me be clear. This is, insofar as it's a personal psychological/spiritual issue, about being content with much, and the consequences of that. We have certainly been content with little: I found our first tax return as a couple, and we together made like $13,000 our newlywed year. That be livin' on luv. But God, who was good to us then, has continued to be so, and we are, as they used to say of the Quakers, not only doing good but also doing well.
So in no way are we persecuted or falling apart. However, everyone's challenges are their own. Imagine Bill and Melinda Gates trying to raise normal children. May I never whine.
Yet, we are faced with starkish realities, even if we have the wherewithal to take advantage of them.
Hence, we are moving toward trying to sell the BabySwiss. The recommended asking price according to the realtors is ludicrously high in terms of what housing should, in my humble opinion, cost. But by the time we pay off our mortgage, get out of other kinds of debt, get in another place to live, and do our part to help Jonathan in school...the enormous maw of demands on us has consumed the absurdly high markup on the house. So, financially, a no-brainer. Particularly since my consulting income from Baptist sources looks like it's coming to an ignominious, whimpering end, and none of my philosophy job applications has elicited so much as an interview.
Nateurlich, the burden of this tends to gravitate towards Dawn, who has a real job, and would like to have less of it, but feels under the gun to have more of it. All the more so as it seems the time for her mom to move down from Kentucky and move in with us is approaching with all deliberate speed.
Sooooo...upshot? No gun at our head yet, so we can ask for and wait for our price for a while. But oh my, not what I wanted Jonathan's parents to be dealing with his senior spring.

Those who pray might put the Iraq situation and the ongoing shame of Katrina non-recovery and such like well ahead of me and Dawn. But should you make it down the list and still have some time, throw a thought or two heavenward in re:

Steven's final charge towards graduation
my job applications (esp. here in town at SMU, UD, and Eastfield)
my relationships among the Baptists
the possibility of regularizing some of my informal groups
Dawn's mom's evolving situation
the right place for us to live: either the resources to stay here, or a place convenient for Dawn, pleasant for Beth, safe for Dawn's mom, and affordable in a way that frees us up considerably
Jonathan's honors college admits
his financial aid
his final decision
Dawn and my relationship amidst the sturm und drang of all this
that God would exercise sufficient ingenuity to gain some glory out of this morass of middle-class lifestyle epilepsy
that somehow Dawn and I could see clearly God's direction for us as it emerges from these changes