Monday, November 5, 2007

A Call to Collaborative Storytelling

I just recently saw a special screening of the movie Juno with my wife. The movie was incredible--real, hilarious, touching, everything I could want.
This morning I was thinking about what goes into creating a movie, and it occurred to me that movies are a form of advanced, collaborative storytelling.
There are so many people telling the same story, creating layers upon layers that congeal into one final work made of many moving parts. There are writers who spell out the story, but then you have directors and others who determine how to tell the written story through the lens. Moreover, you have actors who each have one piece of the story to tell and yet to look deeply into their part is to find an entire subtext to be explored. In the end, all these people come together and impact the world, even if it's just in the way that the masses come willing to shell out nine bucks to the box office, but more often the audience is impacted because they enter in and become one with the story.
This collaborative storytelling made of many moving parts that form a unified whole, which ultimately impacts the world by drawing it into the very story itself--isn't that the true work of the Christian community?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Is this why we are obsessed with busyness & noise?

When Jesus goes off into the desert toward silence and solitude, that is where he meets the accuser.
So also when we look with God deeply into ourselves: there comes the accuser, and yet there also comes the healer.
Whose word to us will we heed?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Web & Life Design

Recently I have been learning how to write html & css to do some web design, mainly so I can revamp my work's website. For some this kind of coding is easy and comes natural, but it's been pretty difficult to learn. It's taken a lot of coding and then recoding and then recoding again...trial and error and fix...
This is a lot like my life.
I am trying to do a deep search into myself to discover who I am at my deepest. What is my identity? Why do I behave the way I do sometimes? Especially why do I behave in the negative ways I do sometimes? Where does this all come from?
How do I change how I act? How do I let God change me at my core?

Well, I am finding that this search for inner discover and change is a lot like coding a web site. I examined our (then) current web site to look at how it looked and behaved and held up under scrutiny. I found all the things I didn't like about it and searched for answers as to why they didn't work the way I wanted. Afterward, and more importantly, I did a much more fruitful, deeper search into the heart of the identity of the website, asking questions like why does this website exist, what was it made for, how should it interact with others and others with it, what impact could/should it make on the world, how might it operate if it were all that it could truly be.
These questions of website identity provided much more fruit into discovering the heart of what the Parish website should be, much more so than just looking at the flaws provided; yet looking at the flaws also gave undertones of comprehension.
And then, I set about the difficult work of learning html & xhtml & css coding using tutorials and other guides on the Internet. While I read an incredible amount of material on web design technique & philosophy & processes, when it came time to write the web site, even though I knew a ton more and a lot more about what I wanted the site to be, it was still very difficult to translate my dream into reality.
I then began a complicated process of practice and trial & error. One time I actually thought everything was working perfectly and that I knew how to do everything--the website was looking perfectly like my dream. That is, perfect in Safari, my Mac's web browser.
Then I looked at it in Firefox. Crap.
Then I looked at it in Internet Explorer. Crap.
What I thought was working beautifully as I "healed" the website wasn't yet working at the Core. Rather than give up or burst in anger, two things I might have done long ago, I took the time to learn more, to examine the errors in my coding, and to recode the website to the best of my abilities.
Today, I have a website that I am really proud of as my first one. I know it is still full of errors. Imperfect. I've already found and fixed some things since I first released it to the world. I tried a web validator to check my code and it was full of errors, but the typical web browsers are forgiving enough to overlook the particular errors I have encoded right now, and I don't yet know how to fix them.

Yet, this is my life. I am walking through life with some pretty screwy coding in me. I act the way I wasn't originally designed to act and I don't act the ways I was designed to act. Yet I am searching out the heart of my identity, what I truly could be at my best as a human being, and I'm finding all the little errors in my coding and where they originally come from. And I'm working with my designer to rewrite the code. And it doesn't always work the way I want it to--just when I think I'm finally changing perfectly and being the man I want to be, I look at myself from another perspective and find out I still look all screwy. But I don't get pissed. I don't give up.
No, I take the time instead to learn more about myself and who I was made to be, and to examine the wrongs in my behavior and their sources, to work with the my designer to the best of my abilities and to the best of his that I might be healed and be the man I should be.
Today, I am a man who is proud of his identity. I know I am still full of behavioral errors that sometimes reach down into the core. Imperfect. Yet the people I love are forgiving enough to not let these get between us, and instead they walk with me to bring change and to help me recode my life to be a good man. And while I have already identified some problems I don't yet know how to fix, I am confident that I will steadily grow into the man I was made to be. I trust my designer.

So tell me: how's my website? Check it out ( Parish Student Ministries)
Please don't be afraid to let me know if you find any errors or if you think something looks a little screwy. I need your help to change it into what it truly could be.
And, I think obviously, the same goes for me..

The Product of the Teaching Trifecta

The Product of the Teaching Trifecta

I’ve just been thinking over the last day about some scripture I read. The teacher and the student inside me are fighting to get out, so I think I’ll indulge them.

I was reading 1 Timothy last night. When reading Paul’s instructions regarding sound teaching (and especially rebuking those who teach false ideas), this verse took hold of my mind. The words are: “The goal of this command is love which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1:5). The punctuation really seems to matter, so I considered two ways to read it (there is no punctuation in Greek, so we have to make it up anyway):
1. The goal of this command is a)love which comes from a pure heart, b)a good conscience, and c)a sincere faith.
Or 2. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart [AND FROM] a good conscience [AND FROM] a sincere faith.
Reading #1 lends itself to an idea that love, conscience, and faith are all equal ends of teaching/rebuking, whereas Reading #2 creates the image of love being the final completion which stands upon the tripod-foundation of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, all three of which are equal legs that uphold love.
While they are remarkably similar readings (yet markedly different) and while I like the potential outcomes of Reading #1, I think common grammar leans toward Reading #2 especially with the three traits all having a parallel structure (adjective + noun); plus, I checked the Greek and due to the case of the words, I now have little doubt that Reading #2 is the correct version (if you must know the reasoning, all three traits are in the genitive case which makes them linked in a prepositional phrase to “from”, so it would be a fair translation to spell it out by saying “love comes from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith”.
So what?
Teaching/rebuking should produce sincere faith which leads toward love. Teaching/rebuking should produce a good conscience which leads toward love. Teaching/rebuking should produce a pure heart which leads toward love. Teaching/rebuking should equally address our faith, our heart, and our conscience, and these three legs should naturally extend into the fruit of love.
This is important for teachers and students alike. Teachers should consider what they are teaching based on these parameters. Students should consider what they are being taught and allow sound teaching to bear the fruit of a pure heart (cleansed by Christ through his word and deed); the fruit of a good conscience (both having been made righteous concerning our sins of omission and commission as well as doing the good God has set before them); and the fruit of a sincere faith (empowered by the Spirit to put our lives in God’s hands, trusting in his way and his truth and his life) all of which should ultimately produce expansive love in the life of the student.
The Greek tells us that love is the telos—the end, the completion, the perfection, the ultimate goal. Love is where all the teachings and even rebukings of Jesus will ultimately lead us—that we are loved and we are to love. To let ourselves be shaped by the teaching of Jesus will tap us into a life of incomprehensible love. Love that sacrifices. Love that remains vulnerable. Love that lets go. Love that forgives. Love that defends. Love that pursues. Love that endures. Love that changes this world. To pursue such a life of love, to submit ourselves with gratitude to the teaching & the way of Jesus Christ is to walk with God.