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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Battling Personality

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As Anderson Cooper and friends continue to propagate our televisions with discussion around the cause of Jackson's death, his relationship with Bubbles the Chimpanzee, and his strange relationship with the media I am stuck on a simple sentence shared at today's memorial service.

In a prerecorded voice over Michael Jackson said, "But I must confess, it feels good to be thought of as a person and not a personality."

Michael was a man objectified by many, known by few, and understood by fewer. Strange. Eccentric. Greedy. Haunted. Perverted.

And maybe some of those "personalities" are true of Michael. That is not for me to judge. But it's odd how often we play into these personalities. As we are objectified. We get defensive. We isolate. We act out. We play into the names thrown at us. I believe Michael did just that.

And yet today at the memorial service there was story after story sharing the beauty of this man's life. Today his friends talked about the person. The generosity. The smile. The child like laugh. Today we saw the person, minus the personalities.

I believe that San Francisco, like Michael, is a place fighting its own personality (or personalities). Objectified as liberal, gay, and obnoxious. Named disrespectful, greedy, crude, and weird. Yet appreciative of beauty in both nature and humanity. Home of new ideas. A city full of generosity. San Francisco, I don't know your person yet. But I want to. I want to know more than your personalities. I want to hear more than your protest and frustration. I want to know where the passion comes from. The story that birthed this desire in you. SF, I can't wait to get to know you.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wright on Interpretating Scripture (and Fantasy Baseball Trades?)

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“When people see themselves in zero-sum relationship with other people — see their fortunes as inversely correlated with the fortunes of other people, see the dynamic as win-lose — they tend to find a scriptural basis for intolerance or belligerence...When they see the relationship as non-zero-sum — see their fortunes as positively correlated, see the potential for a win-win outcome — they’re more likely to find the tolerant and understanding side of their scriptures.”

- Robert Wright, The Evolution of God

Saturday, June 13, 2009

San Francisco: More than a Job

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In January, while Taryn and I were in NYC, I was miserable. I hated my job, the weather, and being so far from friends and family. At work, during those difficult evenings, I opened a word document and scribble down some dreams. Dreams for my family. Dreams for my city. Dreams for my career. During one of those evenings I wrote this:

I think I am supposed to be a pastor. Not pastor as you may know pastor. Not the guy in the suit beating his Bible and taking your money. Not that there is anything wrong with that person, I am just not that guy. I think I am called to create positive environments that bring people together so that they may feel loved by God and one another. I believe that I have a God given ability to call/send/direct people towards intimacy. That sounds like a pastor, doesn't it?

But then there are moments, days, even months where I think I have "more" to offer. I think there is more to my calling then the church I have known. More than meetings about sermon series. More than arguments over worship style and theological position on natural disasters. More than the building, the strategy, and the marketing materials. More than membership policies and small group sign up sheets. More than efficiency and numbers.

I hope for a room full of people. All in love with one another. Knowing that they can ask anything of anyone and it will be done. I imagine honesty about our pain and 199 person-sized shoulder to cry on. I imagine mourning with them and knowing their death so that they may better understand life. I imagine a faithful group. Faithful to one another and the convictions inside themselves. I imagine this to be a welcoming place. A place that invites others to relationship without coercion, indoctrination, or violence. I imagine something new and infectious. I imagine art on the walls and ideas fueling our conversations. I imagine risk and yet safety. Boldness yet humility. I imagine both social and personal change. In short, I imagine redemption for many through a love for all.

Tomorrow I put the hypotheticals to rest. No longer can I just prose about what I hope for. Tomorrow I begin the hard work of organizing a community of people to serve the city of San Francisco.

I don't believe that vocational ministry is something you choose. It often chooses you. This has been one of those instances. I am humbled, thrilled, and scared to death of beginning this work but know that it is the grand experiment that I am supposed to be a part of at this time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

San Francisco: A Decision in Context

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"In other words, an action, or for that matter a decision, is simply unintelligible separated from the rest of one's life/story narrative and one's cultural context because its not capable of being mad sense of. Apart from a context, a decision will appear to be an arbitrary act made on the spur of the moment for short-term immediate gain with little long-term consequences. Decisions all alone, therefore, isolated from our stories carry dubious value. They are unintelligible."

- David Fitch

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

San Francisco: Next

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Three months ago we had no idea where we were going to live.

We had it boiled down to Chicago and Los Angeles. One had our friends. The other a place that we could start careers. We stayed in this binary decision for a loooong time with no hope in site. LA most days. Chicago some others. Cubs. Dodgers. Sunshine. Seasons. Friends. Brother. Cosmetic surgery. Chain smoking. Traffic. Face chapping wind. We just couldn’t decide. Nor did we feel like there was one that we were “called” to.

It was at this time that we made some very desperate calls for others to intentionally engage this decision with us. We called mentors in Seattle. Friends who know our dreams and desires. Family members who were willing to offer opinions. We prayed. They prayed. We asked questions. They asked questions.

After much patience and the use of some roll over minutes we decided to chase our dream.

Three years ago, two dear friends and I sat at Macaroni Grill and discussed what it may look like to live the gospel in the context of San Francisco. While both of them have fallen in love with their own city, Taryn and I have remained transient and with a vision for living life in San Francisco. When we talked about where we saw ourselves in 20 years we both said San Francisco. Our dream was to be in SF.

After a brief visit to SF and some networking efforts things began to come together. Within a 72 hours span I was offered a job, Taryn received two interviews, we had affordable housing for the summer, and someone to split a moving truck with. We were moving to San Francisco!

Over the next two weeks I hope to unpack some boxes and some of the lessons that Taryn and I have learned through this formative decision making process. We are thrilled for what is next and I hope that our story will somehow connect with yours.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Christian Bale on Acting (and pastor/therapist?)

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"I watch so few movies. I didn’t get into this because I love movies. I got into it because I love putting myself in other people’s shoes and investigating."

- Christian Bale in this month's GQ

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Off Broadway: Done

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Taryn is done.

We are done.

We now sit in Phoenix, Arizona while our belongings travel just north of us in Colorado somewhere. We have been asked if we are sad. Yes we are sad. We have been asked if we will miss New York. Yes we will miss it.

But we are excited for the future. More to come on that...