Posts Tagged 'Hugh Hollowell'

Losing My Religion

Last month I had the privilege of joining Callid Keefe-Perry, Jules Kennedy, and host Pastor Nar for the Losing My Religion podcast – outdoor edition!

We were at the beautiful campus of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC, at a truly singular event emceed by Steve Knight, communicant extraordinarine at Halogen: TransFORM – East Coast.

This conversation is like a small tasty morsel of the feast that was this ‘conference.’ I use air quotes because, truth be told, I didn’t attend too many of the actual sessions; raging ADD aside, there were just so many people I’ve known for years online, whom I was able to meet in-person for the first time. It was like a “family reunion in heaven” – people whom you’re simultaneously meeting for the first time, but whom you’ve also known forever. (I also had a great time with my Atlanta and Cobb Emergent Cohort peeps, and even a lovely Augusta representative – getting to see them is too long and far-between!) It was a rag-tag conglomeration of emergents and outlaw preachers and missionals and mainliners and meditators and Wild Goosers and Big Tent-makers and organics, all coming from every denomination (or lack thereof) under the sun – lots o’ variety in God’s great big family.

This event was very well-timed for me, personally. I’m at something of a crossroads, both vocationally (great developments, some of which I’ve already shared, as well as some scary-awesome challenges!) and health-wise (I really will get to posting about this in the near-term future); during large swaths of TransFORM I felt quite literally like I was going nuts. And yet the warmth and unconditional presence of the TransFORM folks carried with them the distinct aroma of Jesus. There was a palpable sense of Christ and his Kingdom throughout the weekend, on display in the kindness and dizzying diversity of those present – women and men; black, white, Latino and Asian; Quaker and Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Catholic, Baptist and Reformed.

TransFORM: The Event is but a subset of TransFORM: the Network – a collection of church-planting and pneumatic-community enthusiasts who color outside the lines. If this is you, you should connect with us. As I like to say, there’s more than meets the eye with TransFORM. (Cue groans)

Okay, without further ado, here is the free-flowing conversation, with gentle provocateur Pastor Nar at the helm!

And a little namesake R.E.M. – why not?

Finally – and most significantly – a TransFORM blog-post roundup (If I’m missing some – and I probably am – please put ’em in the comments section below; I’ll list ’em up here):

Adam Moore

Anthony Smith

Brandon Mouser

Callid Keefe-Perry

Chris Rosebrough (note: Chris, from Pirate Christian Radio & Fighting for the Faith, is not a fan. He’s more of a loyal critic, and drove all the way out from Indiana for the main purpose of critiquing. But we love him anyway!)

Darren Rowse (yes, the accliamed ProBlogger was with us via video link from Australia!)

Doug Pagitt

Drew Tatusko

Hugh Hollowell

Jonathan Brink

Joy Lynn- Schroeder

Julie Kennedy

Kathy Escobar

Liz Dyer

Lori Wilson – Part I and Part II (a very thorough recap of the actual sessions!)

Marcus Gibbs

Pete Rollins

Phil Wyman

Shawn Anthony

Sivin Kit (joining us via video from Malaysia!)

– Trans4m in the Twitterverse

‘All Will Be Well’ – Polyanna Platitude or Responsible Mystical Theodicy?

I tend not to blog about large-scale disasters. It isn’t that I don’t care, but rather that there’s usually an excess of ‘care’ in the blogosphere around such times (in the form of words, words, words), and really, what else is there to say? I had nothing to say about the earthquake in Haiti besides this…until now.
Shaun King is an intriguing cat. He started this multi-ethnic Courageous Church in Atlanta about a year ago; is a student at Candler Divinity School at Emory…right after the Haiti earthquake he blasted to his social network, essentially “Let’s go to Haiti! Right now! Don’t wait for someone else…go!”
I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this seems like sage advice:

How Not To Help With Haiti: Don’t go to Haiti. It’s close to the US, it’s a disaster area, and we all want to help. However, it’s dangerous right now and they don’t need “extra hands”. The people who are currently useful are people with training in medicine and emergency response. If all you can contribute is unskilled labor, stay home. There is no shortage of unskilled labor in Haiti, and Haitians will be a lot more committed than you are to the rebuilding process. If you are a nurse or physician, especially with experience in trauma, and you want to volunteer, email Partners in Health – volunteer@pih.org – and offer your services. Or submit your details to International Medical Corps. They’ll take you if they can use you. Do not go to Haiti on your own, even if you are doctor. You’ll just add to the confusion, and you’ll be a burden to whoever ends up taking responsibility for your safety.

On the other hand, someone whom Shaun encouraged to go did, and he Tweeted this:

Setting out my SoapBox. About to step on it for a few tweets. 1st my opinions then quotes from leaders on the ground in Haiti –

ALL OF THE EXPERTS ARE DEAD WRONG…When the earthquake 1st hit, thousands of you immediately wanted to go and help BE the solution, be the hands & feet of God… But you were told by the experts NOT TO COME. You were told to wait until some magical time when things were much better…
The experts were wrong. Some probably meant well because they didn’t want you to get hurt or be in the way, but let me tell you what is missing in Haiti -passionate, hard-working, unskilled, loving, non-experts. They are in SHORT SUPPLY. I mean RARE.

Consequently, the MAJORITY of supplies are sitting unused & the teams of unskilled non-experts I am advising are regularly…9 days later, regularly the first people to have ever visited orphanages and disaster sites. They ALL tell me that we should have IGNORED the experts.

Let me tell you a story that will kill you: The caretaker of the Notre Dame orphanage told @SpenceNix She heard dozens of dying babies trapped in the rubble scream & cry for 5 whole days before they all died. 55 babies died. Nobody ever came….

One more tweet from me then I want to type you a quote from our team on the ground…It is NOT TOO LATE. If you feel CALLED to go to Haiti GO. GO! GOOOO! It is tough work, but GO! I will help you. Next tweets are direct from our teams on the ground:

“The growing feeling here in Haiti is that the BIG ORGS & government don’t really care. It’s like they are here b/c the world is focused here. If they care, little passion is ever displayed. Seems like a job or obligation. Even my sponsoring organization [name of large Christian org] pretty much just set up a tent, gave us a vest and stickers and said go. No support. No passion. No questions. Large amounts of supplies are just sitting in boxes everywhere. I have seen them there for days while hurting people & doctors need them. This has opened my eyes wider to the wastefulness of large charities and benefit of small, nimble, passionate groups..”

“I have been in Haiti for 6 days and I still have not seen one large Red Cross presence. I honestly think social media has saved more lives since the earthquake than all but 3-4 great organizations here now. Passion. Relationships. Technology has changed the game. We saved so many lives today and it was just us doing it bro.” <<<End of quote.

Shaun King: Thanks for listening.

No doubt the debate can still go on – properly-trained specialists vs. American can-do. But if you’re like me, the debate ended, was wholly sidetracked, by the story of those dying babies. The horror – the insanity. The sense of helplessness. I imagine – no, I know – that those who work in ‘care’ vocations (nurses, prison reform advocates, friends to the homeless) know this far more than me.

One such friend of mine mused, wisely yet perhaps despairingly,

Fragility and morality huh? Isn’t that part of our daily experience?

Indeed. And sometimes, we give and give and give – like poured-out drink offerings – and the gaping maw of humanity displays its thirst anew, unquenchable in every moment. When will the suffering end? Am I deluded to think that there’s meaning here?

Lately I’ve been meditating on the words of Julian of Norwich, a 30-year-old woman who lived during a time of unparalleled plague and persecution. She is famous for her ‘Showings of Divine Love‘ and her mystical encounters with Jesus. This excerpt summarizes her central insight well:

HUMAN SUFFERING

For Julian, Christ is both the symbol of human suffering and the sign of divine triumph over suffering. The meaning Julian derives from her first visitation is not that humans are destined to suffer (though we are), but more important that we have been given a sign through the Passion of Christ that we will ultimately triumph over the frailties of the flesh:

For [God] does not despise what he has made, nor does he disdain to serve us in the simplest natural functions of our body, for love of the soul which he created in his own likeness. For as the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the trunk, so are we, soul and body, clad and enclosed in the goodness of God. Yes, and more closely, for all these vanish and waste away; the goodness of God is always complete, and closer to us, beyond any comparison. (186)

But the philosophical problem still remains. If, as Julian insists, God resides in us and is “present in all things” (197), how can this goodness share divine space with the presence of evil? Julian states the difficulty of the case with characteristic directness:

Our Lord God . . . is at the center of everything, and he does everything. And I was certain that he does no sin; and here I was certain that sin is no deed, for in all this sin was not shown to me . . . . For a man regards some deeds as well done and some as evil, and our Lord does not regard them so, for everything which exists in nature is of God’s creation, so that everything which is done has the property of being God’s doing. (197-198).

Julian seems to imply here the heterodox view that sin has no reality whatsoever, the acts we label “evil” being merely products of our faulty perception. But a still, small voice within Julian is troubled by this explanation, this act of abolishing sin by linguistic fiat. Inspired both by humility and by curiosity, she presents an argument for the reality of sin from the human perspective:

It seemed to me that if there had been no sin, we should all have been pure and as like our Lord as he created us. And so in my folly before this time I often wondered why, through the great prescient wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented. For then it seemed to me that all would have been well. (224)

The answer she receives to this childlike query is enigmatic but reassuring: “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well” (225).

Julian, however, is not quite ready to let go her persistent questioning. After contemplating this reassurance, she again asks “with very great fear: Ah, good Lord, how could all things be well, because of the great harm which has come through sin to your creatures?” (227) Again she receives a measure of condolence: “You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well . . . . Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fullness of joy” (232).

There’s more in this analysis, but here’s what this means to me.  In the past few years I’ve  either been involved with or been close to those involved with human trafficking eradication, ‘people who live outside’ (as my friend Hugh more humanely refers to ‘the homeless’) and the global ‘persecuted church.’ Even more recently, I’ve focused my professional energies and graduate studies to the gargantuan hydra that is our contemporary system of growing, preparing, delivering and eating food. All the greed, systemic evil, seemingly random and senseless acts of barbarism and tragedy can be tough to deal with, to say the least. Stories like the 55 babies dying in Haiti within earshot of people just too busy to do anything about it can be enough to knock the winds out of the sails of Mother Teresa, never mind the rest of us. For those of us who engage this kind of stuff on a regular basis, it can be despairing. We’re supposed to be the healers, the encouragers; where do we go when we need healing or encouraging? To our peer networks – the NGOs or churches or intentional communities that we serve and live with? As most readers of my blog likely know first-hand, they can be some of the most messed-up people in existence…they’re as bad off as you, if not worse! To God? The same God who, it is rumored, stands idly by and allows all these things to happen? Sometimes its easier to be an atheist in aid and social work – that’s one less unsolvable dilemma on your plate (“Why does a good God allow so much misery and suffering?”).

But yet…in the midst of the composted messiness of God, our communities, and ourselves, I’m discovering a deeper equilibrium in the universe, a deep sanity and ‘okay-ness’ that dances on the edge of communicability and wordlessness. It’s not unlike Julian’s divine communication –

All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well. You will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well…Accept it now in faith and trust, and in the very end you will see truly, in fullness of joy.

It’s as though energy is neither created nor destroyed; nothing is ever truly lost – not a tear, not a laugh or bullet wound or orgasm…it’s all saved and cherished. It’s not that good and evil are illusions, but rather that they’re not the final word on what living is about – there is a deeper life that transcends and includes them both – tapping into this Life here and now (and not merely relegating it to the sweet by and by) is the key to our being healers today, what Burke and Taylor call ‘mystical responsibility.’ But – and this is crucial – the superstructure of the kosmos is Grace; heaven and earth to not rest squarely on our own backs and sweat equity. It all depends on us, yet none of it does. Everything is both at the doorposts of our hearts, and beyond our grasp like gripping a fistful of sand. We can relax – we have infinite momentum behind us. It is accomplished. All will be well.

Weird Oscars Dream

https://i1.wp.com/www.babble.com/CS/blogs/famecrawler/2008/01/oscar_statue-award.jpgSo last night we had a fun low-key Oscars party – thanks to Hugh, Renee, and everyone who came out! We were happy that Slumdog Millionaire just about swept the Oscars – it’s a great film about inner-city India, despair & hope if you haven’t seen it. (For a much more erudite take, listen to Jet Loe & Gareth Higgins’ The Film Talk podcast – their show in general is really a must-listen if you haven’t heard yet) I don’t pay any attention to when most films are released (for some reason, I can tell you about a ton of 1999 releases, but that’s about it) and know next-to-nothing about how the Oscars process works, so can somebody tell me if City of God would’ve been eligible this year? Ah yes, that’d be 2002. I’m disappointed it wasn’t in the running – (was it in 2002?) it’s Slumdog-esque, but decidely more depressing (though still hopeful at the end). I’ve probably answered my own question as to why it didn’t place.

Anyway, for some reason, I had the strangest dream last night following the Oscars. My wife Jasmin & I were actually there, as well as our little girl Jubilee. https://i1.wp.com/www.aolcdn.com/ch_kids/kca-2008-jack-black.jpgThere was a minister there too, from my past – though instead of having wiry white hair, he’d died it jet black and hat it nearly shaved. His mustache was dark too – made him look decades younger. After the awards were over, Jasmin & I got separated – I was in the car waiting for Jasmin, then I realized she wasn’t coming so I parked it and looked around. Adjacent to where the awards were was this huge coliseum-like structure, made of clay or grey concrete or something. I went inside looking for Jasmin, and it was some kind of coercive cult disguised as a radical labor movement. Most of the crowd – and there were tens of thousands – were working class people, blue-collar on “up.” From the center of the coliseum the speaker was talking about workers’ rights and organized labor and dignity, but there were blue-uniformed policemen at all the doors, preventing people from leaving. But then it got more bizarre; there were lots of kids in the crowd too, and they were encouraging the kids to make ‘scary’ sounds; I think training them for whatever they might be doing once let out of the structure. While most of the people there were ‘ordinary’ workers, there were Hollywood types in the crowd too (just being the Oscars and all). Jack Black was there, sitting in one of these stone-hewn rows, with lots of kids surrounding him – he seemed to be leading some of the scary-sound-making.

https://i2.wp.com/www.celebrity-exchange.com/celebs/photos56/hugh-grant.jpgI still couldn’t find Jasmin, but I had Jubilee with me; I wanted to find an escape route, and I’d also left some stuff at the Oscars nearby apparently. so I went up to an exit and asked to leave. “Why should we let you leave?” the security officer asked. “Because I left some stuff out there…look, I’ll back: You see this baby? Her mom’s still in here. You don’t think I’d leave & try to raise her by myself, do you?” This seemed thoroughly convincing to the officer, and he let me go. When I got outside, Brittian Bullock was also there – he had apparently witnessed the bizarre goings-on inside and got out too. We were trying to figure out how to leave the whole complex – and grab my things – when Hugh Grant joined us. He seemed to be in the same boat as we were, disheveled and frazzled by the indoctrination/brainwashing going on inside. He urged us to go back in so we could find Jasmin. Once we got back inside, the ringleader – I think his name was Richard (Gere perhaps? Or Simmons?) – was recounting how this group got its start a decade ago as a role-playing game that went awry; what began with a board and dice and some nerds never actually ended, and it grew into this. Then Richard said that the founding member was Hugh Grant. We looked at him, stunned. He gave a guilty shrug – “I’m afraid it’s true, boys.”

And then I woke up.

Does Anyone Have a ROM?

https://i2.wp.com/sswhsle.com/ROM/002_Front.jpgNo, not ROM Spaceknight, you comics aficionado sillies; ROM as in the über-high-end 4-minute workout machine that just screams Range of Motion (hence the acronym). I found out about it one night whilst venturing into the back pages of my Atlantic Monthly, something I rarely do for fear of being pelted by the conclusions of articles that have already taxed my ADD-addled attention span to the limits, arranged between ads for the Belgian Waffle Pro and custom-crafted leather bookbinding. I know, it’s what I get for subscribing to The Atlantic (and Harpers, and Mother Jones, and other magazines that make me what my friend Gareth calls ‘a certified member of the liberal white guilt intelligentsia’).

So anyway. I was flipping through the mag when I came across this ad, headlined in all caps EXERCISE IN EXACTLY 4 MINUTES PER DAY. I used to be a copywriter for a living (I still maintain some clients, but I mostly do my publishing consulting stuff nowadays), so I’m always a tough critic for ads like this. The sheer audacity of what comes next drew me in:

The typical ROM purchaser goes through several stages:

1.     Total disbelief that the ROM can do all this in only 4 minutes.
2.     Rhetorical (and sometimes hostile) questioning and ridicule.
3.     Reading the ROM literature and reluctantly understanding it.
4.     Taking a leap of faith and renting a ROM for 30 days.
5.     Being highly impressed by the results and purchasing a ROM.
6.     Becoming a ROM enthusiast and trying to persuade friends.
7.     Being ignored and ridiculed by the friends who think you’ve lost your mind.
8.     After a year of using the ROM your friends admiring your good shape.
9.     You telling them (again) that you only exercise those 4 minutes per day.
10.     Those friends reluctantly renting the ROM for a 30 day trial.Then the above cycle repeats from point 5 on down.

Take a look at this thing:

ROM machine

It’s, like, totally Zen. And it carries a $14,615.00 price tag. Holy Guacamole, Batman! And yet they have these 15-year warranties, and I’m adding up gym costs plus gas costs in my head, plus (of course) time costs – which are the biggest one for a certified-ADD father/husband/student/small business owner/author. Their ad concludes:

From 4 minutes on the ROM you get the same results as from 20 to 45 minutes aerobic exercise (jogging, running, etc.) for cardio and respiratory benefits, plus 45 minutes weight training for muscle tone and strength, plus 20 minutes stretching exercise for limberness/flexibility.

O. Really?

Well, I’ve poked around the internets, running keyword searches like “ROM scam” and “ROM ripoff” – nada. Instead, I see testimonials from people who really seem to be losing weight, building muscle, feeling better, and having more time on their hands. For someone who’s never been into sports (or athletics of any kind for that matter), I’ve gotta admit: four minutes a day is appealing.

So here’s what I’m thinking.

I just turned 29 last month. Less than one year from 30, I’ve been taking a lot of inventory of my life. In my Foresight@Regent courses, we learn a mode of personal and organizational learning called Systems Thinking – popularized by Peter Senge of The Fifth Discipline fame. The gist is we’re always creating the life we live; we’re always designing it. The problem is, most of us design it by default, unconsciously, and often in self-sabotaging ways. Bringing life-design to a conscious level is a skill set we humans are just developing. (Hence the rationale for Strategic Foresight, btw) This ‘intelligent design’ happens on societal levels of course, but also personal. These past couple of years I’ve been privileged to have some wonderful people in my life – mentors, life coaches, and even (gasp!) therapists and counselors who are helping me work through my ‘shadow’ sides and interact with reality in a more healthy and whole manner. I guess what I’m seeking is integration, a whole life well-lived for myself and others. Isn’t that what we all want? https://i2.wp.com/www.christianitysite.com/IMG_0292%20fence%20flower%20edit%20a.jpg

So: A friend of mine, Drew, was recently reading Integral Life Practice, edited by Ken Wilber and published out of the Integral Institute. The Integral folks are always fascinating, what with their map-making theories of everything and all. It turns out they have a great programme for ‘whole-life cross-training’ involving our physical, mental, and spiritual selves. Taking a cue from ILP (I’m still reading my own copy of the book), I’ve decided: I want to develop a doable life-rhthym, one that incorporates Centering Prayer, maybe some Yoga or DoxaSoma, and – of course – physical training. True, the apostle Paul said (in perfect Elizabethan English) “bodily exercise profiteth little,” but hey: that guy built low-cost dwelling for a living. I’d like to see him sit behind a computer all day and tell me that! (Plus at four minutes a day, I’d like to think even Paul would approve.)

In short, by the time I’m 30 I’d like to:

  • Engage in centering prayer daily – ’cause we can all use more of the conscious fellowship of the Godhead in our lives.
  • Practice Yoga – seeing as I have the grace and flexibility and in-touch-with-my-body-ness of a dried-up turnip
  • Exercise my body – because I need cardiovascular health; I want to keep up with my little girl; I like natural endorphin highs; I like to concentrate on my work; I need to lose 50 pounds this year

…and I want to do all this in about an hour a day. Because I want to delve more deeply into my studies, love my family more, spend more time with my neighbors, and hang out more with my friend Hugh Hollowell and his homeless friends downtown. Stuff I think I could do with some whole-life cross-training.

What If…

What if I could somehow procure a ROM? (I have my ways) Would any of you, dear readers, be interested in charting my progress with me? I’m thinking I’d blog about what it’s like for a time-management-challenged guy like me to engage in some ‘intelligent life design,’ how it feels to make positive, healthy, & consistent changes, and if this ROM thing really does what it says. Since workouts are ostensibly only four minutes long, I’m thinking that once a week I’d actually record my entire workout and put it on YouTube or Vimeo or something. It might not be as funny as Will It Blend?, but I’m thinking a pasty white guy like me working out could provide some of you with catharsis or comic relief.

Please comment if…

  • You have experience with the ROM or some kinda similar exercise equipment
  • You’d get a laugh out of seeing some ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics and workout vids along The Countdown to 30
  • You have stories of your own whole-life rhythms and lifestyle design you’d like to share
  • You want to make fun of me.

Update 12/10: I’m getting a ROM!


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