Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rob Bell is coming to town!


(My hero with the hipster glasses is coming to the ATL! Wanna join me?)

If you’ve read Velvet Elvis, watched a NOOMA, or listened to Mars Hill Bible Church teachings online, you may be interested in hearing Rob Bell speak in a city near you.

Bell's 'Everything is Spiritual' tour launches on June 30, 2006 in Chicago and will be in a different city every night through the end of July.

All proceeds from the tour will go to WaterAid.

July 18 – Atlanta, GA
Earthlink Live
1374 W. Peachtree St.
Door: 7:00 pm
Show: 8:00 pm
Order Your Tickets Online: Ticketmaster

Redemption

"I'm an inerrantist -- I believe in the word of God -- I'm just not mad about it," Page said in a post-election news conference.

These words come from the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Getting Poems Out Of My Head


Hope is a thing with feathers
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickenson

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Audrey, Butterflies, and Finding Home

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” found me when I was a teenager. That classic film introduced me to Holly Golightly, the offbeat heroine of the Capote tale, portrayed by Audrey Hepburn. Even though Holly suffered from too many vices and sought desperately to find herself, Holly possessed some sort of magnetism that drew people to her. She even drew me, a teenager forty years later. Holly’s ability to wear oversized black sunglasses under a large black hat, all accessorizing the iconic little black dress, mesmerized me. Who else receives $50 for the powder room? Years passed before I realized that everything about Holly Golightly was not beautiful.

Holly told of her cat, the “poor slob” without a name. She explained, “I don’t have any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to someone. . . . I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like. . . . It’s like Tiffany’s.”

How do we find our way home anyway?

A friend told me a story about monarch butterflies. Those little creatures that light on my zinnias in the summer are astounding. Born in Nova Scotia, the butterflies launch out on a grand adventure when they find themselves strong enough. They fly over the Great Lakes, head south, then follow the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the Transvolcanic Plateau of Mexico. Most monarchs travel 3,100 miles. As many as 300 million butterflies spend their winters there.

When spring arrives, those beauties decide to return home. The butterflies take a northeasterly route. Many tagged butterflies have landed on the exact branch that once held the cocoon from which they emerged.

When I graduated from high school, the only guarantee I had in my life was the certainty that I would go faraway to college. We packed my little Honda and drove seven hours to Asbury College. After college graduation, my big brother and I stepped into a moving van towing that same Honda and drove to Los Angeles, my new home. This little butterfly desperately wanted to spread her wings. I flew into a culture desperately foreign to my own, and I realized that the Kingdom of God lived in South Central Los Angeles too.

After a few years, the yearning to migrate back to my home, my branch, began to ache somewhere deep in my soul. My brother caught a flight out, and we migrated back home.

Holly Golightly was searching for a real place that made her feel like Tiffany’s. She loved the “quietness and proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.” Holly wanted a home, but all she could find was a jewelry store.

As so many continue to journey away from this town that I call home, it sends me to Scripture. How does God define “home”? He sent Abraham and Moses on journeys away from their homes. However, Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son, and it is clear that his move away from home was marred in rebellion. People keep coming and going throughout the Bible for all the wrong and right reasons. Recently, a wise man told me to never move away from something; only move towards it.

Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God. In fact, it was his most common topic of conversation. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God is within you." I am home already, no matter where I sleep, receive my mail, or make my neighbors.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Invisible Children" Screening



Dear friends,

Three years ago, three adventure-seeking college guys from Southern California, decided they would make a film that tells the story of the atrocities currently happening in Africa. They headed off with virtually no film or travel experience and found themselves in Northern Uganda.

Those three guys stumbled upon the thousands of children who live in fear of abduction. The rebels of the LRA, the Lords Resistence Army, are forcing the children to become child soldiers to help fight their ongoing war.

The film is called "Invisible Children." It tells the story of the children in Northern Uganda. This rough cut film has been seen by over a million people in the last few years. Oprah helped tell their story, and it was the spark behind the Global Night Commute, where thousands upon thousands of us gathered in our cities to sleep outside and raise awareness for the Invisible Children of Northern Uganda.

Finally, we are finding ways to help make a difference on behalf of the persecuted.

Join us tomorrow night, JUNE 21st, at Conyers First United Methodist Church (921 N. Main Street, Conyers, GA, 30012) for a free screening of "Invisible Children."

A Free Dinner will be served at 5 p.m. and the show starts at 5:45 p.m.

The Sting of Pain

While I was mixing Miracle Gro in my red watering can on Monday, a bee decided that he would interrupt my day and sting my arm. His decision derailed my plans for the day. With a homemade baking soda paste on the sting, I immediately began re-working my schedule. The inconvenience made me angrier than the sting.

Pain introduces me to unwanted parts of myself. When I was in high school, my mother’s industrial strength hot glue gun left a second-degree burn on my leg. I instantly screamed, “I’m gonna have a scar! What will I do about wearing shorts?” In that moment of pain, the intense vanity hidden in my heart reared its face.

Twelve years have since passed, and the scar has almost faded. Has the vanity faded as well? Judging from the size of my make-up box and the assortment of eye shadows inside, vanity unfortunately still seems to have a place in my life.

C.S. Lewis coined pain as “God’s megaphone” that “removes the veil” between God and humanity. This megaphone blasts and my hands cover my ears for protection.

Why must we have pain?

Everyday I pray for my friends earnestly hoping for a baby. They are healthy, young couples who desperately want to get pregnant. The husband to one of my most respected friends now lives with cancer. Last year, a young husband lost his wife as she died suddenly with a blood clot. Her death brought a void into all of our lives. The pain blares in our souls. Will it grow so loud that we break?

George MacDonald represented God speaking to men by saying “You must be strong with my strength and blessed with my blessedness, for I no other to give you.” God can give us nothing outside of Himself. He pours out His divine blessing from His own heart. Why do we ask Him for something else?

Instead of stepping out of our lives to look around, what happens if we dive into the reality of our lives and start swimming? There we find God.

Pain, a part of our lives and humanity and existence, pulls us towards God and into each other. Pain exists as a rope between us, not a cruel punishment that crushes us.

The bee sting urged me to contact a friend for advice. He told me to put snuff on it or go and buy a cigarette a Robinson’s Superette and rub the tobacco on the wound. My mom advised me to run and to see Ronnie Brown at Conyers Pharmacy. He fixes everything. She called later in the day to tell me that she loved me.

That blasted bee pulled me back into the reality and the strength of my support system that I usually cannot see. The small flicker of pain caused by a summer sting shouted to me that I am loved.

Still, telling someone “my bee sting hurts” is much easier than confessing that “my heart is broken”, “my loneliness keeps me up at night”, or “my fear is drowning me.” The pain must be heard.

Luke, a Christ follower, wrote about a woman who encountered Jesus. She had been bleeding for twelve years and no one could stop her pain. Luke 8:47 tells “When the woman realized that she couldn't remain hidden, she knelt trembling before Him. In front of all the people, she blurted out her story—why she touched Him and how at that same moment she was healed.”

She, like us, cannot remain hidden in her pain. Blurt out your story. God will hear you.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Catching The Big One

We sat on the boat off the edge of the buoy line on Lake Oconee. Our boat, encircled in fishing poles, prepared for a catch coming from any direction. The baitfish, which Dad caught with the cast net in his top-secret location earlier in the day, tempted the granddaddy of all Largemouth Bass swimming directly underneath us.

At thirteen years old, my secret ability to catch big fish remained hidden to most of my friends, especially the boys in my class at Conyers Middle School. My glitter fingernail polish covered nails filed down by spinning fishing lines.

My dad spent hours teaching me to cast my Zebco, bought on blue light special at K-Mart. I could hit a designated spot halfway across the cove. My brother was born a champion angler, but I could hold my own while standing on the dock late at night catching brim and catfish.

That day, however, presented a challenge unlike anything I had known before. One of our poles whistled as it bent over and kissed the water. Dad motioned for me to take the fishing pole. I grabbed the pole, planted my bare feet in the boat, buried the pole in my stomach, and pulled. This one was mine.

Dad coached me through the catch. He told me, “Reel it in, girl. Now back off. Steady. Easy. You got ‘em.” As the sun set and the lightening bugs flickered over the lake that summer night, I reached into the net and held up the biggest fish I had ever caught.

“Caroline, you just caught a 9 ½ pound large mouth bass!” We whistled, cheered, and danced our way back to the cabin. To this day, you can find a picture of one Southern eighth grade girl with braces and a bad haircut holding a huge fish beside her sitting on my dad’s desk.

That fish qualified me for my dad’s secret society, known as “The 8 and Above Club.” Only the rare few who had either caught an 8 pound fish or killed an eight point deer could join. I earned my camouflage trucker hat with “The 8↑ Club” printed across the front. I would bet that I am the only member who wore the hat while painting her nails Flamingo pink and wearing Lipsmacker lipgloss that was flavored like Dr. Pepper.

How do fathers shape little girls into who they will become?

Brad Pitt states in People, that “little girls, they just crush me. . . they break my heart.” The birth of his new daughter caused an international stir as the world turned to see how the World’s Sexiest Man would treat his new daughter. No one knows what to expect anymore when it comes to men and daughters. We have lost our standard from which we measure.

As so many of my childhood friends seek husbands or watch the love of their life instantly become the father to their child, the need for a standard arises. As young girls, we needed dads to tell us we were beautiful, dance with us in the kitchen, and take us with him to catch a big fish. Now as young women, we still seek men who will give that to us.

However, only our heavenly Father can give us love that restores and heals. In Zephaniah 3:17, Scripture tells “He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love.” I thank my heavenly Father for a dad who demonstrated that kind of love for me. I also thank my earthly Father for helping me get quiet for a moment to catch a big fish.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Come On Down

Ryan Seacrest, the host of “American Idol,” mentioned that over 63 million votes came in the night before the final show. He stated that more people voted that night than in any presidential election. A radio show reported the next morning that more people voted for “American Idol” that night than the entire population of Hispanics and African Americans in our entire country.

Everyone loves that show. My grandmother, my mother, and even my 2-year-old niece watch it. They know everyone's names. Very few friends of mine would ever go and see a band that plays the songs they covered on the show, but the entire nation is busting to watch it.

When I visited Los Angeles for the first time, my friend, Jen, and I decided to go and see a taping of “The Price Is Right.” They did not select either of us to be contestants, but we were in the live studio audience. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

All guests and contestants must wait together for hours before the show starts. While waiting outside the studio, they casually opened the doors of the warehouse that stored the boats, campers, cars, washing machines, and golf clubs. Everyone began to salivate. Then, they sent out a winner screaming, "I JUST WON A MOTOR HOME!" The psychological crescendo overwhelmed all of us.

When they send the intern around with the price tag nametags, it made us cry with excitement. It was better than just meeting Santa Claus; Jen and I felt as if we just received our tickets into the North Pole toy factory. We entered a dream world filled with Rod Roddy, Bob Barker, Plinko, and spinning wheels.

The energy in that small studio was astounding. When we started shouting out prices and witnessed someone that we stood beside all day make a bid for a showcase showdown, we desperately wanted to see victory. Everyone should make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of all game shows. The entire experience was so much more than I ever dreamed it could be.

Where is the wizard behind the curtain determining how our entire culture is entertained?

All sorts of theories are floating around about what makes a hit. America relates to the “average Joe” winning it big or striking it rich. Everyone feels a personal connection with Taylor Hicks. We all have seen the vitamins from “The Price Is Right” in our own grocery stores. Yet, so many people secretly wait to hear their name called to “come on down!” or be declared the “Next American Idol.” Does it take a Bob Barker or Simon Cowles to determine our significance?

Press pause. Hold still for a moment. Freeze.

In the middle of the chaos of the showdown and final episodes, God whispers to us. “Be still and know that I am God.”

Phyllis Tickle says that “reverence becomes in time a being, a state of whole and quiet knowing, and an enjoying of the bounds of creatureness.” God holds up my life, and He is not judging me or randomly picking names off a winner’s list. His grace does not come to me by chance; He poured it out in love. Why do we seek the whimsy of luck to determine good fortune? Grace is all around us. Friends, please stop looking around the corner for your big day. Your day has come.

I often wonder about Moses. God lit a bush on fire to catch his attention. Do we have burning bushes around us? Stop, look around, and see if God is speaking to you now.

GRUPS

"Grups" seem to be the new cultural trend, according to New York Magazine. The term comes from a Star Trek episode about a planet where the children refused to grow-up. This article is a bit frightening, considering my last post. :)

If NY Mag is on to something, how does this play out in our churches?

*How does a mistrust of "the man" affect people's ability to commit or align themselves with a church?

*Does this prohibit individuals from becoming leaders in spiritual communities?

*Are our churches just by-products of culture, once again?