I don't intend to use this e-bully pulpit to do a lot of bragging about my little old church, but...
Paul does say something about "provoking one another to good deeds." And since Church Out of Church (COOC, as it's affectionately known..) was someone else's idea, I feel like I can be Clay the Proud Pastor. So here goes my ecclesial provocation:
Each time there's a 5th Sunday in a month (like, say, today - November 30th) the good folks of my church gather for a short worship service then head into the community, to be Church (people) Out of Church (building). We rake leaves, clean gardens, prepare emergency food bags - all kinds of stuff that reaches out beyond our walls.
We do other stuff on other days as well, but COOC does two things, methinks. Uno, it reminds us that we are called to be more than really holy people holed up in a really holy place. Stained glass is nice, but grass-stained knees are better. Two-o, it invites our folks to think about places they can serve throughout the year. What begins on a 5th Sunday builds into something larger, mehopes.
Just thinking aloud, but what if every church did something similar - once a quarter (month? week? day? Holy carp! When would we have time for meetings?) we went and served our community - no gimmicks, no obligations, no donations accepted? Glitzy commercials and billboards for church might be important, but.... well, who knows? I'm sure Jesus would be all for gltizy commercials.
Since Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, I had been doing the obligatory thinking about what I'm thankful for: family, friends, a nice home, good people to be Church with, mashed potatoes, blah blah blah. But as I was Digg.com'ing I came across a link to this video.
This may be one of my favorite moments from Muppet-land ever. I hadn't thought about it in a while and have no idea why it shows up on Digg.com today. But there it was.
In the light of a world that is starving for compassion, terrorists who profane the name of God and so many heart-breaking and heart-breakingly common tragedies of the human condition, this is pretty unimportant. But it makes me smile every time I think about it.
And I am thankful that the human condition is not just the tragedy and the horror that we see in the news, but that it is also joy and love and simple compassion (even for a felt frog!) that makes me think that maybe God really is at work behind the scenes, even when the ugliness seems to blot out the beauty.
We are fallen people in a broken world. But we are also people made in God's own image, living in God's own creation. Thanks be to God for that.
Way back when I first started this blog (ummm, last week?), I made reference to the fact that I haven't ever owned a cell phone and hope to never own one. Most of my friends and colleagues (including my VBFFITWWW Johnny Flemmons) think that (1) this is strange and (2) this is because I want to feel morally superior to all of the sheepishly consumeristic masses who are brainwashed into chasing after the newest techno-sparkly i-thing.
About that second part:
It is true that I like feeling morally superior. It's like warm chocolate chip cookies and cold milk for the ego. The fact that my cell-phone-non-ownership is the only morally superior leg I have to stand on with my colleagues notwithstanding, I like choosing to do something different than our culture expects.* (It also makes me identify with my Amish brothers and sisters a wee bit more: plain folk represent!)
But here's the dirty secret about why I don't own a cell phone: if I did, I would be the most cell-phone-using, text-message-sending, phoning-while-driving-and-bored, app-downloading, 3-G-i-phone-debut-anticipating, waiting-in-line-to-buy-it dude what ever did stride across God's green earth. My technophobia is intended to be antidote for my highly geeky propensities. (That's right, I said "propensities;" and I said "stride" a few sentences back; I also use semicolons with abandon. What of it?)
Since I staked my claim to this tiny little corner of cyberspace, a few funny things have happened:
I blog about 10 times more frequently than I expected and about 50 times more frequently than is really morally (or even comedically) justified. I have checked daily (hourly, half-hourly, quarter-hourly!) for comments; I'm like a kid peeking out the window waiting for grandparents to arrive for a Christmas visit. I have downloaded and installed a bit of sotfware from Google to count visitors and compile statistics. I have waited with bated breath for my first statistical report. (11 unique visits yesterday, in case you weren't curious.) I have mulled themes for other blogs I could write. I have had conversations with my wife about my "followers," especially the mysterious "kt" who is the only one I don't know personally; or, at least, I don't know if I know "kt." (Bless her, my wife Jen is patient and mostly finds me amusing in my geeky moments.)
Worst of all, I have realized that I have entered that self-reflective/neurotic/narcissitic zone that (very rarely) produces great writing but almost always produces the sort of self-involved, not-that-interesting-or-amusing-or-unusual tripe that I had pledged to avoid. Oops.
Anyway, that's at the heart of why I don't have a cell phone. Because if I weren't slightly anti-techno-stuff (like with cell phones), I'd be over the top techno-OCD (like with el bloggo). And the world's a better place as things stand.
And maybe, just maybe, part of the reason we have such a hard time hearing God these days is that a voice that speaks in sheer silence chooses not to compete with the damnable Bluetooth shoved in our ear.
Thanks to my beloved friend Eilidh for the inspiration.
much peace, much love, etc. Clay
*This is an awkwardly written, unnecessaily long setence. And it uses "stand" and "notwithstanding" in close proximity, which is irksome. But I'm leaving it. Take that, Junior High English teachers!
Maybe I've just been feeling Jesus-y lately, or maybe having a blog has made me look at news stories differently, but I saw two stories today (on Fark.com - a great website, by the by) that, when read side-by-side, seem like a parable.
Jesus said, "There was a surgeon who dedicated her life to helping people live healthier, fuller lives. She was greatly admired and rich. She also loved her dogs, who provided companionship and love for her. So, taking some of the money she had earned, she built them a house.
"There were also two young boys who illegally sold junk food to their fellow students. They enjoyed their life of semi-illicit fame among their fellow students, but they were not rich. What little they made, they gave to charity. Which of these, do you think, was part of God's Kingdom?"
Seriously, I love my dog and all, but a $2 million dog house? And, in the interest of fairness, the two junk-food dealers seem pretty cool, but I think this quote might be a bit over the top: "These men here, these brave superheroes, they've raised money for Children's Hospital and it's going to help us build a brand new hospital."
We (the popular culture of the good ol' US of A) are good at hero-worship and professional athletes garner a fair bit of our lavished praise. ("Look how skilled he is, how competitive, how very inspiring to young people who want an athletic career!") But this is something else.
OK, so Tony Romo can afford to pay for lots of homeless guys to see movies. He could buy them lots of dinners, as well.
But here's what I like about what El Quarterback de Los Vaqueros de Dallas did: He treated "Doc the Homeless Guy" like Doc the Person. Bought Doc a ticket and invited him to sit down and watch a movie. When Doc was worried about smelling bad, Tony said not to worry about it, he was used to locker rooms.
Tony the Famous Quarterback treated Doc the Homeless Guy like a friend.
We have enough money in the world to solve the problems of homelessness and poverty. The problem is not a lack of money. The problem is that we see the poor and the hungry as Other. Problems. Inconveniences. Not Like Us.
Money we have, compassion we lack.
No, taking a guy to the movie won't solve all of his problems, let alone the world's. But maybe this is a glimpse of how the world's problems might get solved. Not simply with money but with compassion and relationship.
I think that this might be a parable.
Jesus says, "The Kingdom of God is like this: a multi-millionaire, famous quarterback took a homeless guy to watch a slapstick movie. They sat together, ate popcorn and they laughed like friends. Oh, and the movie they were watching? It was called Role Models."
I've been thinking for a little while about starting a blog. And then today, my VBFFITWWW Johnny Flemmons sends an email saying, "Hey check out my new blog!" And, obviously, I want to be like Johnny Flemmons, so this was more than enough for me to actually start a blog for my very own self.
So, I signed up at blogspot, picked a blog format (from a wide variety of, like, 8!), and now I have a blog. Which is weird.
I have never owned a cell phone and I hope to die having never owned a cell phone. (Although, honestly, this seems unlikely. I suspect that the day is coming when we no longer think of them as "cell phones," but as just "phones." There won't be any other kind: "Wires? Why would you have a phone attached to wires???")
I don't Twitter, I have an abandoned MySpace page for our Campus Ministry (someone else is keeping it up now, I think...), and I don't have any kind of PDA/Crackberry. I don't own an i-Anything. I have a slighly anti-technology/Luddite bent. (Although, I am on Facebook, which is also weird, so maybe I'm not as anti-tech as I like to think: "Oh-hoo, look who knows so much! As it happens, your friend is only mostly-Luddite..."*)
And on top of that, I'm a pastor at a church, which means once a week I stand up in front of people and get to talk at them for 10 or 15 (and sometimes 20....) minutes. I write a monthly newsletter that gets sent to something like 170 homes. In church meetings, I get the privilege of speaking most often and with the most authorty. (I'm not sure it should be that way, but it is.) People sometimes call me and ask me what I think about an important issue in their lives. As a pastor, I have plenty of opportunities to communicate my thoughts to any number of people.
So why does technological skepticism + already ample opportunity for self-expression = "I need a blog?"
I wish I had a good answer. But the best that I can come up with is this two-fold stab in the dark: (1) maybe I can blog about stuff that doesn't fit into sermons or newsletters and (2) maybe this will connect me with folks that aren't in my somewhat geographically-and-worldview-limited circle. I hope that if I do connect with folks outside of said circle, it will be conversationally rather than monologically. (Yes, monologically. "Check out the big brain on Clay!"**)
So, I'm going to blog and see what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe a world-wide revolution for peace, love and sarcasm, with my writing providing both the inspiration and the idealogical underpinnings. Probably (hopefully) something in between.
I have a blog and a Facebook page. Can a cell phone be far behind? Dear Lord, I hope not.