Tuesday, March 13, 2007 

my new, more adult blog

Well, after more than a year, I am leaving blogger for typepad. You can check out my new blog at dweston.typepad.com/transitions. Not much there yet, but soon there will be.

Bye, blogger. You've been good to me. Well, except for not posting a couple of videos, but whatever.

Thursday, February 08, 2007 

When the boss says "blog", I say "how high?" pt. 2: how my playlists reveal the fact that I might have multiple personality disorder

If you are wondering where part 0ne of this series is, it is on the MBCC blog which you can access here.

As I mentioned in my last post, I received an Ipod from my awesome older sister. It has greatly enhanced my ability to check out from reality, but more importantly, it gives me an opportunity to one of my favorite things (listening to music) while I do the other things I have to do (like exercise or study for ordination exams). I've been doing a great deal of self-examination lately (most away from the blogosphere) and looking at the playlists I have created on my 'pod I am beginning to wonder if the voices in my head are unusually loud or if eveyone has as eclectic a mix of music in their collection. To illustrate this point, let me breifly highlight some of what I have recently downloaded and some of my favorite songs of the moment. Oh, I might as well also tell you what I'm listening to as I type...

(Air Force Ones, David Banner)

Jazz: I recently purchased three jazz albums that I probably should have already had: Cookin; with the Miles Davis Quintet, Song for My Father by Horace Silver, and Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Between these three albums, there are at least a half dozen jazz standards. I love jazz. I appreciate that to play jazz, you both have to know the rules and know how to bend them (without breaking them). I've also recently downloaded a ton of latin jazz. I'm not much of a dancer, but latin jazz sets off a party on the inside of me.

(Speaking of which Our Routine by Eddie Palmierei... I type slowly).

As a person who owns a bass, I appreciate the bass lines of latin jazz. They are usually repetitive, but interesting and they keep the tune driving. It is fun to have that constant beat while so much is changing with the improvisation in the melody. Maybe that's why I like playing bass. I like being the stable thing while things around me are changing. That was deep!

Anyway, I have wanted to catch up on some of the standard jazz collections. You have to know your history, after all. It amazes me how creative some of the jazz pioneers were! There are a series of Miles Davis Quintet albums out there if you are looking for an onramp to jazz. Workin', Cookin', and Relaxin' are three that I own. It amazes me at time that John Coltrane and Miles Davis played together. I don't know how one room contains that much cool.

Rap: I often have to go backwards to find rap that I like. The mid-90's was a pretty good time for rap. I think a lot of the rap out now is awful. There are however a handful of good musicians out there in the rap world.

(Glorious Day, David Crowder Band...party shuffle is a wonderful thing!)

One rapper whose stuff I really like is Talib Kweli. A lot of his stuff is really socially conscious and political. He is also a very clever lyricist in my opinion. He has a great song called Drugs, Basketball and Rap about how young black men are reduced to these three things in our culture. It is pretty profound.

(I was looking for some of his lyrics on line and Flash Gordon came on. How about that! I'll give you the skinny like Ally McBeal...dated, but still clever)

(Battle of the Heroes from Star Wars Episode III by Mr. John Williams...are seeing a pattern? If you do than you are crazier than I am!)

I have come to realize that for me to enjoy it, rap either has to have some sort of conscience or the lyrics need to be clever (even if the message isn't great). A lot of stuff that is coming out now fails on both counts. However there is something else I really enjoy with rap...

Hybrids: I own alot of what I would call hybrid rap.

(Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G. - clever not positive)

One rapper I like is Guru. He has done several Jazzamatazz albums mixing jazz and hip hop together. He has a song with Herbie Hancock called Timeless that I really love. I also have Jay-Z's unplugged album that he did with The Roots. I've actually really been drawn in by Jay-z's "hybrid" efforts. Along with the Unplugged album, I also recently got his "Collision Course" album that he did with Linkin Park. It is a pretty fascinating mash up (as the kids say) of Jay-Z's rap with Linkin Park's own rap/rock hybrid style. I like the best of both worlds approach.

(Step Right Up by Tom Waits...I type really slowly!)

Alternative Rock: Up to this point I have yet to compromise my blackness. That all ends now. I own alot of alternative rock music. It is great to work out to! For some reason angsty white guys amuse me. I guess I have always been sympathetic to the plight of the overprivileged.

(Right on cue, Aeroplane by the Red Hot Chili Peppers... I couldn't make this stuff up!)

Besides the relatively mild stuff like the Chili Peppers, I also own things from Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold. The band names alone should give you a hint into the tone of their music. Like I said, it is good to work out to. I think it is also a little cathartic for me to listen to really angry sounding music. It is almost a way of externalizing my own anger. Almost. I do use music for mood control sometimes. I think that is one of the biggest blessings of music, how deeply it can be felt and experienced.

(Stunt 101 by G-Unit, okay the other reason I listen to some rap is that I like the beat and/or the production. Stunt 101 is neither socially conscious or incredibly clever).

Sometimes the emotion in a song can communicate what I'm feeling better than my own words can, for better or for worse. That brings me to...

Christian: Okay, I own very little Christian music. I am somewhat embarrassed by that. I am also somewhat embarrassed by how much Christian music sucks. (I'm excluding Gospel from that description. Most Gospel is good). The majority of the Christain music that I own is of the "praise and worship" variety. I am particularly fond of the David Crowder Band. Some of Crowder's lyrics are trite. Still, the musicianship is particularly high quality and I love the passion that he sings with.

A particular favorite song is Beautiful Collision on his album A Collision:

The breaking makes a sound
I never knew Could be
so beautiful and loud
Fury filled and we collide
So courageous until now,
fumbling and scared
So afraid You’ll find me out
Alone here with my doubt
Here it comes, a beautiful collision
Is happening now
There seems no end to where You begin and
There I am now You and I collide
Something circling inside
Spaciously you fly,
infinite and wide
Like the moon and sky,
Here it comes now

The collision, I imagine, is that of the human experience with the Divine, perhaps both in our own condition and also in the incarnation. I don't know if that's what DCB had in mind, but that's how I interpret it.

Anyway, that's a brief look into my musical world. It is possible that I am insane, but we all have different sides and sometimes we need different sounds to represent our sides.

My next post on the MBCC blog will be When the boss says "blog", I say "how high?" pt. 3: A book you just might need to read if you are an American Christian. See you then.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

another long post...

I know, I know. If I would blog more often, the posts wouldn't have to be so long. One of my friends called me (and her husband) out on our blogging, saying that we're trying to find community here because we don't have enough of it in the real world. It is possible that she's right. It is also possible that she's just jealous. Yep, that's it.

Oh, before I go, I should refer you over to the Mission Bay Community Church (MBCC) blog. For those of you that don't know. MBCC is my internship church. I have posted a couple of times over there. The last one on "faith and addiciton" has started a bit of conversation.

Let's see, where to start...

The Steelers ended their season at 8-8. They were a game away from making the playoffs. Oh well. It is also weird that Bill Cowher has retired. He has been the coach of the Steelers as long as I have been a football fan (which I guess is now fifteen years). The jowl will be missed. I'm hoping for a Chargers/Saints Super Bowl. I'd root for the Chargers, but I either team winning would be a great story.

I received the following things for Christmas: a beautiful watch from my beautiful wife, an ipod nano from my sister (yea!), season three of "Family Guy"and best of all a shoulder dolly from my mother in law so that I don't hurt my back as I'm moving stuff out of my apartment. Hilarious! My in-laws throw not so subtle hints that they are excited for Marnie and I to move back to the 'burgh. Which is fine because we're excited to move back. Have you ever gotten a shoulder dolly for Christmas? I bet not.

The trip home for the holidays had its share of ups and downs. We flew into Pittsburgh on Christmas day. It was sad to see how many other people were flying that day. It just seems wrong. When I summarize the trip for people, I tell them we drove and ate. Obviously, that is an oversimplification, but we ate a ton and it seemed like as soon as we finished eating, we were driving to another place to eat. (That's not a complaint) I got to catch up with alot of friends. The weather in Pgh was still better than the weather in Nor-Cal.

Unfortunately, my family was a bit of a downer. There is a lot of stress between my folks and my siblings and there were moments where folks were hard to be around. I had a moment or two of asking myself if this what I am moving back to Pittsburgh for. In some strange way it is. While it was hard to be with my family in this time of high stress, it is harder to be far away from them and feel totally helpless. When I move back I'll still be helpless, but I'll be close.

On a lighter note, I have restarted a workout program for the new year. The last two times that I have gone home, I have gotten on the scale and discovered that I had reached record weights for myself. I know it is weird for people when I say I feel fat. I am only fat by the standard in my head, but that is the standard that screams the loudest.

I've been thinking alot lately about sanctification. It is an idea that is really only talked about in an academic sense at my seminary. I think sometimes our notions of grace stop us from doing that work that will allow us to be continually formed into the image of Christ. As I'm thinking about things I want to do this year, one of the major ones is to refocus on living a holier life.

Along with that has been an awareness that I have gotten through most of seminary with little to no accountability. I think part of living a holier life is having folks in your life who will call you out when you aren't living up to your spiritual potential and will do so in a loving way. I've been trying to identify some of those folks in my life and I think that will be beneficial for me as I finish up this last semester.

...my last semester. Praise be to God!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 

Easter Environmentalism

I know it is advent, but I had to write a homily for my Foundations of Social Theology class and I chose to do it on Easter. FST was taught at the Franciscan School of theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkely. It was a great class and quite interesting to be one of the minority protestants in the group. Anyway, the Catholic lectionary for Easter began with Genesis 1, which I found fascinating. I decided to do an Easter homily without any direct Easter texts. Unfortunately, I did not get to deliver the homily. I tend to think of preaching as an oral artform which is typically why I don't post my sermons here, but since I didn't get to deliver this homily I thought I would post it. I'm not sure how successful this was so I'd love some feedback.

[The following homily is for an Easter morning worship service. The intended audience is an urban, multi-racial congregation. The theme being dealt with is the current environmental crisis. While environmental issues are oftentimes discussed (or at least more acceptable) in affluent communities, such issues are rarely discussed in urban centers where the effects of the environmental crisis can most acutely be felt. This homily is an attempt to deal with these issues in that context. This homily would have to be given in a parish where the preacher has some comfort and familiarity with the congregants. ]

Texts: Genesis 1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Romans 8:18-27

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I know what you are thinking: this is Easter. Where is the Easter text? Where is the story of the resurrection? Where is the empty tomb? The angel? Where is the Risen Lord in these passages? How can you have an Easter message without those things? Well, I’m experimenting a bit with you all, because I know you all know the story. I know you all know that Christ was crucified and three days later rose from the dead. I know that you know that through this miraculous event, God offers us new life and it is the topic of new life that I want to talk about with you today.
We began this morning with the creation story. The creation story is central to the Judeo-Christian worldview. We tend to look at it as if God is playing a symphony, beginning quietly with the creation of light, gradually building to the separation of the land and water, crescendo-ing through the formation of stars, moon, sun, plants, fish, birds, and animals, until finally God’s masterpiece reaches its thrilling climax with the creation of humanity. We tend to look at things as if humanity was the ultimate fulfillment of all for which God had created, everything was merely to set the stage for the grand arrival of the human being. And yet, science has illumined us to a fact that our anthropocentric traditions have often ignored. God was not simply setting up scenery in which humans would enact their drama. Rather, God was creating a system, a network, if you will. A series of interrelated connections that would make life possible, each component feeding into the next, every piece dependent on the others. Humanity was simply a piece in the puzzle. And yet, we are more than that, because we are blessed with the ability to see how the entirety of the puzzle can come together. We are gifted with the imagination to see what the puzzle can look like in its completeness. We are also charged with the knowledge of what the system looks like when all of the pieces are not in the right places, when the network is broken and the system is compromised. On Good Friday we get the ultimate reminder of what the broken system looks like as the creation commits the definitive act of rebellion against its creator. And this morning we celebrate, as the Creator restores Creation and brings it into new life.
Paul tells us in II Corinthians that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. We’re also told in our passage from Romans this morning that all of creation has been groaning, awaiting the new life that will be proclaimed through the children of God. God in Christ was re-creating the world. God was renewing the world, restoring the original perfect design to wholeness. We all know that. We’ve heard it a million times. The problem is that we tend to stay with our old understandings of the Gospel. We tend to use language like our own “personal” savior. Sometimes we get enough out side ourselves to say that the grace that was shown through the death and resurrection of Christ is for all who believe, all who have been saved, or all who were predestined to be saved. Sometimes we even get enough outside of ourselves to say take the Gospel seriously when it says that God loved the world enough to give the son as a sign of that love. But what if there is more to it than that? What if salvation has more to do with just Christians or those who believe and think a certain way? What if salvation has to do with more than just humanity? What if salvation is about the renewal of a system, a new way for all of creation to be in relationship?
When we look at the creation story in Genesis, we see that one thing after another was proclaimed to be good by God: the dry land was good, the sky was good, the sun, moon, and stars were good, the plants were good, the animals were good, and yes, humanity was very good. The question for us this morning is ‘why would God want to abandon God’s good creation?’. Many of us, myself included, were raised to believe that God would, in some predetermined “end time” do away with God’s good creation for something better, something heavenly. We’ve been trained to believe that God will carry us away from this world and this created order, and so this world in which we dwell is of no consequence. It is just a temporary stopping ground. But God in Christ was making all things new. Paul’s new creation talk is not a hope for the future. The new creation begins with the resurrection. God in Christ was restoring all things to the way they should be. God was making all things good again and restoring the relationships of the created order. God created all things and God declared all things ‘good’. Paul says that the whole creation is crying out, going through birth pangs. It was a labor that began Easter morning with the resurrection of Christ. Matthew’s gospel tells us that when Jesus died, all of creation reacted; the sky turned dark and the earth shook. It is fitting, then, that creation should be invited into our conversation about the resurrection. The resurrection means new life for creation as well as for us. It means a life where the creation is valued based on its original goodness and not simply the good that it provides for humanity. It is a life where we as moral agents recognize the inherent goodness of all of God’s creation. It is a life where we recognize that the tree, the bird, the land, the water, the fish, and the deer are as much apart of the Creator’s design as we are.
It is easy to take creation for granted in our urban centers. In the city we can oftentimes become detached from the natural world around us. Yet it is in the city where our lack of unity with the created order has the direst consequences. If you need a vivid example of that, just look at last year’s hurricanes. While it is easy to focus on the government’s inadequate response to the tragedies of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we overlook all the other factors that went into decimating one of America’s great cities. New Orleans was made increasingly vulnerable by the fact that the wetlands outside the city were not protected. Our destruction of nature in the name of “progress” ended up damaging more than just fish, birds, water, and plants of the wetlands, but it jeopardized human life as well. There is also a great deal of evidence that the human activities that are contributing to the phenomenon of global warming will also lead to more unpredictable and destructive weather patterns, meaning more coastal cities could face the level of threat that was posed to the gulf coast region. To bring the issue a little closer to home, think of the ecological condition of many of our urban centers. Think about the quality of the air, the quality of the water, the scarcity of plant life. Think of the ways that our lifestyles affect the world around us and how they affect the least in our communities. Studies have shown an increase in asthma and other respiratory illnesses in urban, low-income African American communities. It is no coincidence that poor air quality and poor health go hand in hand. It is because of relationships, our relationship to the entirety of God’s creation, a relationship where the things we share in common are our finite natures and our mutual co-dependence.
Friends, we need an Easter environmentalism. We need an environmental strategy that is based on the good news that God in Christ makes all things new. The liberation we experience in Christ is liberation not just for humanity but for all of creation. It is creation’s liberation from being subordinated to the will of the powerful and wealthy. It is creation’s liberation from being exploited for the sake of progress. It is creation’s liberation to be seen on equal terms, as companions on the journey. Just as we would hope those things for our brothers and sisters who are oppressed, exploited, and objectified, if we are ever to have an ecological future we must hope those things for all of creation. We must see the world around us as the Creator originally intended; a good, orderly, system of relationships where all is valued not as a commodity but as an inherently good piece of the Creator’s puzzle, created out of God’s infinite love.

Friday, December 01, 2006 

breaking the silence (the important stuff is at the top)

Sorry I haven't blogged in so long. It isn't because there is nothing going on. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My life is actually so eventful right now, that I rarely have time to stop and process it all. Here are just smoe of the things that have been on my mind:


Well, let's get this over with. The Steelers are in the crapper. At a pitiful 4-7, a couple of other teams would actually have to fall off the planet for us to make the playoffs. I haven't had to do this very often in my football fandom, but I now have to start thinking about the post-season and whic team I next want to jinx with my support. Right now, I'm leaning towards the Chargers. They have been on the verge of great for years and have, in my opinion, the best athlete in all of football (LaDainian Tomlinson) on their team. My second pick would be the Colts for the same reasons (only replace the word "athlete" with "quarterback" and "LaDainian Tomlinson" with "Peyton Manning".

Anyway, I'm real disappointed with the Steelers, and especially upset with the current ambiguity over Bill Cowher's future with the franchise. I hope his pride keeps him from leaving the team after such an abysmal season.

Next topic:

The "N" word

By now, everyone has heard the whole "Kramer" thing. it will certainly be awhile before I watch Seinfeld again. In any case, I ended up reading a ton of things about the situation because when it initially happened, Marnie was obsessed with it. What has been interesting has been the people who have come to Michael Richards' defense. What I have read most commonly is the argument that black people refer to themselves and each other as nigger (nigga...so different!) all the time. It was if people were saying "come on, let us use your secret password without any thought of the contextual baggage that comes along with it. Please!!!" While I think that response idiotic, I do have to say that from a logical standpoint, it does hold water. I personally hate the word, whether it is used by a black person or a white person. It carries with it the connotation of degradation. it is a word that communicates that some one is beneath another. I think that many african americans argue that we have somehow "reclaimed" the word, but it was never ours to begin with. The fact of the matter is that we keep it in circulation. In recent decades we have made the distinction between a nigger and a respectable black person. I recently read an article (in Esquire magazine, a topic for later) about the difference between "ascendent modern blacks" and niggers. The writers thesis was pretty much that the ascendent blacks should leave the niggers behind in our dust (the fact that I associate myself with the ascendents further highlights the problem). I think that is harmful thinking, and though the author never claimed any his arguments based on any particular religious thought, I think his thinking is also completley contrary to most moral standards and especially biblical standards of justice. I don't think we in this country can afford to further alienate those we deem to be beneath us for any reason. We either all succeed together (definition of "success" pending) or none of us succeed at all.

In conclusion: no, white people, it is not okay to use the "n" word. and black people, lead by example and don't use it either.

next topic:

My trip to Pittsburgh

For some reason right now, Pittsburgh is having better weather than Northern California. 'm sure it won't last, but it made coming back to Cali, a little harder. Ihate being a visitor in my home town. I went back on a very short trip from Tuesday night to Thursday afternoon. First my flight.

So my plane was about a half hour late taking off from the run way because of a leaky faucet. Yeah, okay. So once we are in the air, a guy a few rows in front of me starts to have some kind of seizure. The flight attendents, who obviously had no idea what to do, got on the PA and asked if there were any doctors or nurse on the plane. Fortunately, the flight attendent was swarmed by about two doctors and maybe three nurses; one an er nurse, pretty much took the situation over. I was amazed by the outpoouring of concern for the guy. It was an annoying distraction. They had to reroute us to Salt Lake City and pretty much everyone, self included, missed their connecting flights out of Atlanta. Still, no one grumbled or bitched. People seemed genuinely concerned for the health of the guy having the seizure who seemed to have had a blood sugar issue. people did get alittle antsy when when we were delayed again in Utah for yet another mechanical issue. And then we were forced to watch "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" which was surprisingly mediocre.

Anyway, I went to Pgh to handle Presbytery stuff. I am now officially an inquirer (if I'm an inquirer now, what the "bleep" have I been doing out here for 2 and a half years?!) and I also got permission to take the ordination exams in january. Kinda like getting permission to have paper cuts applied to every sensitive part of your body. That's where my excitement level was. In any case, the Presbytery executive did apologize for my process being as horrendous as it has been. it was nice to hear.

Beside doing Presby stuff, I also checked into a couple of possible job opportunities for post-seminary. One is at the Pittsburgh Project. if you haven't heard me talk about the Pittsburgh Project, then you haven't heard me talk in the past seven years. I love the place. I love what it is about. I love the people, many of whom feel more to me like family than my actual family (one actually is family). I love what God is doing there. It is weird to be offered the job I thought I always wanted. it's not that I don't want it now. It's just...well, how many people actually get offered the job they have always wanted? A few years ago, I would have been out of my mind with excitement. Now...I'm hesitant.

Some of the hesitation is knowing that there might be other things out there for me. It is exciting, but it putting me in this cautious mode of not wanting to make the wrong choice about my and my family's future. Still, even with the hesitation, I am humbled and flattered about what is happening in my life right now. It helps me understand grace. I certainly don't deserve the good things that are happening right now.

One more thing about my trip. My nephew James is the coolest human being alive! He will be three in December. He's awesome! He makes me laugh. He is fun to play with. He makes me think about what it would be like to have a son...

next topic:

The Sermon Series

so I recently finished a three part sermon series at my internship church. I felt like it went well. The first sermon was on forgiveness, the second on racial reconciliation, the third was on the church in society. It was well received. The hard thing about preaching is that you (well, I at least) never feel like I have said all I want to say on a subject. I suppose if I want to do that, I should write books instead of preaching. What has been cool is that we have set up message boards to discuss my sermon topics and people's feedback has helped my own thoughts to develop more fully. I really appreciate that. I hate the "talking head" nature of preaching. I like for their to be feedbak at least, discussion at best. As preachers, I think we need to be called out on our bullshit(which, hopefully, is minimal). I also think people need the opportunity to articulate what they think and feel. I have grown considerably from the insights that people have shared with me from my sermons.

One of the things that draws me to non-profit work (like the Project) over church work is how draining the preaching process is for me. I never sleep the night before I preach. Don't get me wrong, I love to preach and I think I'm pretty good at it. But I'm an introvert by nature and preaching drains the life right out of me. I always want to curl up into a ball afterwards. Fortunately, so far I have not.

final topic:

Men's Magazines

Okay, so as I mentioned above, I read an article in Esquire magazine. That is because I receive Esquire magazine. At the moment, I get both Esquire and Men's Health. I don't know why, but right now I am becoming a little addicted to men's magazines. I even bought a copy of GQ in Atlanta to read for the flight back to Oakland. It was the men of the year one with Jay-Z on the cover. I was trying to find out if GQ was better than Esquire. Turns out it is not. It is, in fact, the poor man's Esquire, "poor" being a rather realtive term in this scenario.

A little bit of self analysis: for most of my life I have not cared too much about how I look. I certainly didn't care about fashion at all. As I've gotten older, two very important realizations have occurred: 1) with a little effort, I'm a pretty good looking guy and 2) appearances say alot about you. Sometimes you feel better when you look good. People respond to you differently when you are well put together. I'm not saying that's the way things should be. It is the way things are. When I think about "professional" Derrick, I think about a guy who is both amiable and respectable. I think that should be communicated both in my demeanor and in my appearance. Now does that mean that I would spend $150 on a shirt? Hell no! I would however accept a $150 shirt as a gift! (my b-day is January 12th). You don't have to spend alot of money to look good. I think it is just a matter of dressing your age and dressing your goals.

Not that men's magazine's only tell you about clothing. They also tell you about booze and gadgets, two things I also have an appreciation for. Again, probably never going to buy a 150 dollar bottle of whiskey, but January 12th is right around the corner. Besides booze and gadgets, men's magazines tell you how to be successful and attractive to the ladies. These are important things, folks! They tell you stories of guys who have already attained the level of manness that the rest of us simply dream of. They come with recipes for big slabs of meat (usually cooked in booze). They tell you what kinds of cigars you should be smoking (none, if you're me). Men's magazines give us the theology of metrosexuality.

...And with that, I should stop writing.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 

faith in democracy...slowly returning...and a somewhat immature perspective on Ted Haggard

So since I have been old enough to vote, I have been slightly disillusioned with the whole voting thing. This has had mostly to do with guys I voted for losing. Sure that's shallow, but it sucks when you vote for someone (well, actually against someone) twice and things don't go your way. It is also hard to watch the country go in directions that seem...questionable. So I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with yesterday's election results. It makes me feel like the system isn't quite as faulty as I have felt it is. It seems very likely all of a sudden that the entire congress will go for the democrats, thus restoring that whole "checks and balances" things that's been missing for six years.

I also have to say that I am pretty shocked at how quickly after losing congress (at least the House) that Bush decided to dump Rummy. It might be the first bite of humble pie for the Bush administration to start chewing on. Last week Mr. Bush was pretty pro-Rumsfeld. Maybe that was just gas. I do hope that the word "bi-partisan" becomes more than just a catch phrase for the next couple of years. It would be great to see our government actually work for the people who elected them in more than a nebulus "protecting you from the terrorists" kind of way.

So I wanted to comment on the whole Ted Haggard thing. If you want to read a healthy black man's response to the whole situation. Go to postmodern negro's blog. Go ahead. I'll wait. Done? Good. Now for my less healthy take: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahha!

Okay, sorry. one of my biggest ministry fears is making self righteous, graceless statements in public. The mantle of a pastor/preacher comes with heavy responsibility. using your power to ostracize homosexuals from the community of faith is despicable. Even more so when you have certain skeletons in your own closet. I think as a minister we bear the responsibility of holding the truth of sin, including our own, against the light of Christ. When we take positions of moral superiority, we set ourselves up for big falls. I know that from experience and I have been humbled by it. I hope that this becomes a teachable moment for Rev. Haggard and for all of the big mainstream evangelicals who tend to hold themselves up in a place of moral superiority. I do hope that after some counseling, Haggard can return to a life-giving ministry that opens the door to all God's children. I also hope he is cautious about whom he asks for a massage. Hehe.

More soon, including my eulogy for the 2006 Steelers...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 

2-4, football diatribe, sickness, praise, and Obamamania!

You know, before I came to SFTS, I didn't know people who were fans of teams other than the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins (and Panthers in NCAA stuff). Pittsburgh doesn't have an NBA team (which is a travesty!) so folks are all over the place in terms of basketball. It is good to know fans of other teams. It keeps me humble. I have also been incredibly spoiled by the Steelers since I got out here. My first year of seminary they were 15-1. Last year, well, you know. The whole Super Bowl thing. It is taking some time to getting reaccustomed to watching the black and gold lose. That being said, I still have every confidence that the Steelers will turn this season around. Why? Here's why: 1) their passing game. The Steelers have discovered over the past two weeks that they can throw the ball. Hines Ward (pictured left) had an amazing game on Sunday! They have probably the best receiver core that I can remember the team having (although Ward, Randle El, Burress was pretty good). If they can start using the pass to set up the run instead of the other way around, they have we an offensive juggernaut on our hands. The last two games Ben has thrown for 5 td's and no interceptions. Batch added two at the end of Sunday's game (more on the qb situation later). 2) the tough schedule. Now you may be thinking, isn't the tough schedule a bad thing? Well, kinda. Here's the thing, in my opinion the two toughest divisions have to play each other this year, those being the NFC South(CAR, ATL, NO, TB) and the AFC North (PIT, CIN, CLE, BAL). The toughness of schedule for the rest of our division is going to allow smoe good teams to cancel each other out. 10-6 or even 9-7 might win our division this year. That might seem optimistic, and this week with CIN beating CAR that didn't shake out as I had hoped, but I think towards the end of the season we're going to see some leveling off and the Steelers are money in November and December. Just you wait.

Two things are killing the Steelers right now: turnovers and the QB situation. At the beginning of the season, the problem was Ben throwing interceptions. He seems to have fixed that. But we've now fumbled two punts this season. That is unacceptable. We've had a couple of monster fumbles. Fumbles suck. Even the word makes you feel like an idiot if it is attached to your name. The Steelers surprisingly are tied for first place in interceptions. If they can keep creating turnovers without turning the ball over they will be fine.

Okay, now onto the QB thing. I'm worried about Ben. I hate to say this, but I hope someone is talking to him about retiring as an option. I don't want that, but it has to be a serious consideration with two concussions in a short span of time. Football is a game. Granted it is his job, but no job is worth scrambling your brain for the remainder of your life. I just think it should be on the table. For now, no matter how Ben is, Charlie Batch should probably start Sunday. It is a very winnable game against the Raiders (anyone got tickets?) and Batch can handle it while Ben gets ready for Denver, which will be tough the way their D is playing. (Tenacious D, some might call it).

I could just blog about football for the rest of the morning, but maybe I should talk about real life too. Right now, I am getting sick. I've been fighting it for a couple of weeks, but as soon as I get a chance to stop, the sickness catches up with me. That is what is happening now. Which sucks because it means being sick during my break. Right now it isn't too bad. My head is kind of fuzzy (on the inside) and I'm really drained. Other than that...ah, I'll stop my whining and suck it up.

God is good! I've been thinking about that alot lately. It is impossible to rationalize feelings of peace when life is turbulent. I am in a reflective mode alot these days and as I look back I really see that God has been doing some work on me here at good ol' SFT to the S. (sorry!). I don't get God. I thought seminary would help me 'get' God. It hasn't. God has become bigger and more mysterious. God is unpredictable, but faithful. A weird combination indeed. Anyway, I won't gush, but I am very aware of the fact that God has carried Marnie and I through alot in these past couple years and I am grateful. I am particularly grateful that Marnie is a two and focuses alot of her twoness in my direction! (enneagrams are fun!)

Speaking of my lovely life partner, she gets to have lunch with Barack Obama tomorrow. Okay, not exactly, she's going to hear him at a luncheon tomorrow, but she'll be at a close table. She will also get an autographed copy of his book which is awesomely title The Audacity of Hope. Needless to say, I am extremely jealous, but I think Marnie and the students she is taking to hear the senator from Illinios will have an amazing time.

If you watched the news at all on Sunday, it was hard to avoid Mr. Obama. He made an "announcement" on Meet the Press with Tim Russert that he was considering running for president in '08. It was all any news show could talk about Sunday late afternoon and evening. Barack was on Larry King, Oprah, the cover of Sojourners and MTP all in one week. I couldn't turn around without hearing about Barack Obama. Personally, I don't trust the guy. Obama sounds an awful lot like Osama. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

Seriously, though, I think Barack Obama is exactly what the country needs, but not yet. I think we need a four year lame duck President that will de-polarize the country. Then Barack could run in 2012. Alot of the current thinking around Obama is that he should strike while the iron is hot. I think that might be political suicide right now. He hasn't been in the senate that long and quite frankly, I don't think we know how good of a senator he is.

on the other hand, he seems like a big idea guy. A visionary. Our country needs that. He might be able to depolarize the country himself. My in-laws, who are big Fox News watchers, really like him. It might be time for a popular young president with fresh ideas.

I guess my other worry, as an African American, is the popular conspiracy theory that the first black president will be assassinated in office (or before they get into office). Maybe the world isn't like that anymore, but I suspect it is. I don't want to have to celebrate Barack Obama day until twenty years after the end of his two terms and we are all really grateful for what he's done for our country. I don't want it to be a memorial for a great man who died before his time.