Saturday, January 27, 2007

Following who?

At this moment a "Christian" version of American Idol is on TV. In my worship class at George Fox we have been lamenting the fact that so much of contemporary worship music is driven by pop culture, and here is yet another example of Christianity being shaped by culture.

Doesn't it seem that a Christian American Idol is an oxymoron? Is following Jesus supposed to be about attaining fame? About competing with others for a music contract?

Are the Buddhists creating a Buddhist American Idol? Is there a Muslim American Idol?

I understand that the unique thing about Christianity is that it is worked out in every culture. But are there some things about culture which it should not imitate?

Mystery bird

Today we saw a bird we couldn't identify. It was feeding from our upside-down suet feeder and had a yellow head with a black cap and black bar across the eye. I couldn't find anything that looked like it in our Audubon book or in a search engine I found online.

We also have a hummingbird that likes to hang around.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Walking With Angels

Last weekend I went to our church's women's retreat at Cannon Beach. Our topic was "angels."

I believe that there are spiritual beings called "angels," but being a highly pragmatic person, and not recalling ever interacting with such a being, I wasn't sure how much I would get out of the retreat. I thought, "Oh, well, I'll just hang out with the beach angels."

Of course, when you get a group of women together and let them talk, there is a kind of collective wisdom that is shared, and it was highly enjoyable getting to know better a number of the women at our church.

But the joke was really on me. One of the first things our retreat leader invited us to do on Saturday morning was to take a meditation stone and go out on the beach to meditate. As she passed out the "meditation stones," they just looked like flat, oval metal disks, but when I turned mine over, there was the impression of an angel. My "beach angel" after all.

So I took my angel and my camera for a walk during the meditation time, and then again later in the day. You can find images from my journey through our church website, then by clicking on "Women's Retreat" and then clicking on "here."

So no, I still haven't knowingly encountered a heavenly being, but I think I got an angelic message just the same. It was a great retreat.

(by the way, the slide show will deconstruct in a few weeks)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Growing up Christian Reformed

Today a topic at Scot McKnight’s blog is “Trumanist” Christianity. The term comes from the movie The Truman Show, in which Jim Carey portrays a man who is unaware that he exists in a completely contrived world.

I, too, grew up as a Trumanist Christian, and like in the Southwestern Baptist Seminary article that McKnight references, in a denomination convinced it had the monopoly on the truly true Truth. (I wonder if there is anything to the title The Tru(e)-man Show, or if I am reading too much into it.)

I remember hearing several stories of how, when some scholar or another questing person seriously studied the Bible, he (it was always he) was convinced that the Christian Reformed denomination (sorry, SBC) was the one most Biblical.

We knew we were right, and that God had elected us so. So many churches had given up their Sunday evening services, but in our thanksgiving we could continue to faithfully dedicate that time to the Lord. And there were so many other kinds of church folks who broke the Sabbath, using it for pleasure and frivolity (and even yard work!) when the Lord had commanded we set it aside for study and rest.

Those poor Baptists who didn’t have their babies baptized--they had to agonize so much about the eternal fate of a child should it die, while we had the assurance that the Bible taught that the children of believers are holy.

No, the Christian Reformed Church held the keys to the way, the truth, and the life, and joyful were the elect who found their way into the true fold.

Among many of its members, the attitude still exists, along with a general fear of relocating anywhere outside the CRC "map."

I am very thankful for the Christian training I got growing up Christian Reformed, and I hold to Reformed theology quite strongly. But it's been wonderful to get out of the bubble (and it's not even politically correct to claim you have a bubble when you are Presbyterian[USA]) and meet my Baptist, and Methodist, and Disciples, and pentecostal, and charismatic, and non/multi-denominational, and Catholic, and emerging brothers and sisters.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Discovering Portland Food

When Paul's mom was out over New Year's weekend, we paid a visit to Bob's Red Mill Store. We had lunch there and made a few purchases. We have especially enjoyed their Spice Apple Cake Mix. Yum!

Recently we were also introduced to New Season's Market. Lot's of organic foods and things you won't find just anywhere. We were happy to be there for curry sampling day. I'm sure we will be making many future purchases at both of these places.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Scavenging for Identity

A couple of weeks ago we did a mall scavenger hunt with our youth group. I, a couple of youth volunteers and a couple of others all donned disguises and went wandering through the Clackamas Town Center while three teams of youth (who had pictures of how we looked "normally") tried to find us.

Although I have dressed up for Halloween and have gone to costume parties, I don't know that I have ever worn a disguise in as "undefined" a place. I felt like a character without a story, without a context, and I found myself feeling extremely self-concious. I didn't know who I was.

Which brings me to a post at marko's blog today. It seems that teens discard their virtual identities as easily as I pulled off my wig and washed my face after I was "found." And if teens are trying on different identities as they mature anyway, this would only make sense. (By the way, I did go to the original post and there are responses from teens who have kept their names and passwords for years.)

The author is apparently somewhat concerned about this trend, as she argues that the "answer" is not to help teens remember passwords. On the other hand, she compares shedding sites with changing clothes, and sees value in it as well.

I would disagree that teens don't care about losing something that they've spent hours building; maybe teens see these sites more as conversations and less as products. Can you lose a conversation? While a teen may have "lost" a site or password, she hasn't lost the relationships and experiences associated with that site (unless losing some of the relationships is part of the point.)

This is an intriguing article, but I'm not sure it offers radically new insights. It does provide us with one more illustration of teens trying on identities and context in the mall of our disconnected society. I could say more, but I'll close for now.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

You saw it here first

Tonight, just for giggles, I googled the term “missional teen.” I couldn't find those two words next to each other on a Google, Yahoo, Windows, nor on a Blogger search.

You will find the term “missional youth” on a Google & Blogger search, and I found a few vision statements and a list of what missional youth was not, but I found nothing on “how to get there from here.” (Maybe I didn't look hard enough.)

If I remember correctly, I was introduced to the term “missional” in my ecclesiology class with Brian McLaren at George Fox Seminary. The book I read that especially articulated that term for me was Darrel Guder’s Missional Church.

Anyway, “missional” is a term that gets heavy rotation in the emergent world, and for a few months at least, I have been wondering what it might look like to have a missional youth group. And related to that, what would it look like to be a missional teen?

I haven’t figured this out yet, and if anyone has experience in taking youth from non- to missional, they haven‘t posted the step-by-step illustrations on it. Right now I have a lot of questions like, can you even have a missional teen? Considering where they are developmentally, is it even possible? I think you can, because teens can certainly be “missional” about volleyball scholarships, customizing their vehicles, or even adding to their handbag collection.

But assuming a teen can be missional about their Christian faith, what would that look like, say, in sophomore biology class, or in calculus, or on the football team? What would it look like on their My Space page? I’m not sure it looks like the kid in the Christian t-shirt who shows up every year for “See You At the Pole,” but I don’t think it excludes that kid, either.

And then, what does it take to create a missional teen? What kind of rocket fuel do you need to empower a kid to escape the pervasive gravitational pull of our self-centered, consumeristic, even toxic pop culture? Can you provide that fuel if you can’t immerse the kid in a consciously missional community? (Perhaps your youth group is part of a congregation without a missional identity.) Can you provide that fuel in one contact hour a week (which isn‘t fully devoted to “teaching,”) and if not, what kind of contact hours does it take?

Why would a kid want to be missional, anyway? What would be the catalyst for that desire? How do you get the parents/session (church board)/rank-and-file membership on board?

Would you want to have a heavy emphasis on healthy relationship skills? You can’t really be missional while being a jerk. What else would you have to emphasize? Assuming you have a limited time per week, what do you cut out of your youth program?

I’d love to hear from someone who has moved in the missional direction with their youth group, and what that has looked like, and what steps were involved.