ec05 day three blur
another just-about-perfect day yesterday. everything at the event ran smoothly. 99% of the people here are saying the learning communities are totally working this time around (the addition of an extra half-hour in the scheduled time for each has made a massive difference). and, a very telling indicator, people have continued to come to the LCs and general sessions, even as the week has worn on. we usually see a more significant drop-off than we’ve had this week.
so. some highlights:
- i hosted the “leading organizations” forum. about 6 were ready to go, when the “urban” forum decided to join us (which, in the end, made total sense, since the 3 from that forum were all in organizational leadership roles). we avoided Jack’s for crowding, and ate at Rippy’s accross the street. food = OK. service = not-so-good. there’s this almost tangible sense that every waitress in nashville is only biding time until she can get into the dixie chicks. but the forum had some really good people (and some reasonably good discussion). i enjoyed connecting with josh, a great youth worker; two fun and wild female pastors from the same church, in mt. pleasant, mi; a wonderful older pastor from a normal suburban church who attended EC (not NPC) all by himself; d.j. chuang (who’s comments were consistently insightful), shane mullin, and others. the question of power came up again (maybe i brought it up? i don’t remember). ok, so i suppose when a subject seems to come up 43 times in one week in different contexts, i’m supposed to notice, right, God?
- had an afternoon of meetings (good ones, though), and then went to dinner with my wife and sister (different people, not one-and-the-same!). it was the first time i’ve been farther than two blocks from the hotel since last sunday. it was great to get way off site, and enjoy talking about the week, while eating great food at an outdoor cafe. i’m bummed that lori (the sis) has to leave today (instead of the originally-planned tomorrow). but it’s been so fun having her around this week. i’m proud to be her little brother (FOUR years younger, i might add).
- wonderful, wonderful, wonderful last talk from phyllis tickle. just her last 3 minutes was worth the trip down to the room: she mentioned the prayer (i don’t remember what it’s called) that episco/anglicans “do” before reading scripture in church. the current version (since the reformation) is a quick touch to the forehead (i couldn’t tell if there was a small crossing taking place there, or just a touch), with the words “god be in my mind, and in my thinking”; a quick touch to the lips, with the words “god be in my mouth, and in my speaking”; and a quick touch to the heart with the words “god be in my heart, and in my loving.” but she went on to tell us that prior to the reformation, the prayer was different (and she brilliantly explained the implications). then she taught us the pre-reformation version, and we all stood and “did” it:
- touch to forehead - “god be in my mind and in my understanding” (notice difference)
- touch to eyes - “god be in my eyes and in my seeing”
- touch to mouth - “god be in my mouth and in my speaking”
- touch to heart - “god be in my heart and in my thinking” (notice difference)
- hands at sides, palms open - “god be in my life and in my leaving”
- went to solomon’s porch as my worship option last night. i’ve been friends with doug and thom and many others from sp for years now, and have almost attended there so many times. great time. wish i had that church in my neighborhood. i actually thought, in the middle of the service, if it weren’t for ys, i could almost see moving to minneapolis to be part of a community like that. it was also a time when i was completely able to remove my “president” and “event guy” hats, and just enter into worship.
- then, as usual, came my favorite part of the day - the 30 or 40 or 50 (they came and left) who were in my suite at one time or another. good friends, wild mix of people with beautiful stories, a gift of macallen 12-year from my friend houli, laughter. my favorite piece of those late night revelries is when i’m not talking to anyone and i can look around the room and watch people i know connect with one another — people who are from very different backgrounds, with different reasons for being here, but enjoying one another. that’s the good stuff, baby.
EWLI/Mars Hill lunch
the dominant feature in my day yesterday, here at EC05, was a 3 1/2 hour invitation-only lunch and discussion hosted by mars hill graduate school and the emerging women’s leadership initiative (which, having known about for over a year, and have typed a hundred times in emails, was surprised to find is now being referred to phonetically as “you-ly” — or, maybe that should be “ewe-ly”). about 25 of us gathered to listen and dialogue, obstensibly around the idea of how we can encourage women leaders in the emerging church. i was pumped to be invited to this gathering, and have felt for some time now that YS has a mantle to both serve women youth pastors and be prophetic about this issue into the church.
let me get my frustration(s) out of the way first, then i’ll get to the good stuff:
- i only knew about 8 - 10 of the 25-ish people there, and there was absolutely no opportunity to even have introductions. i still have no idea who most of those other people were. it’s really hard for me to sit in a 3 1/2 hour meeting, with that few people, and not know who they are, what the context is for their comments.
- a bigger, and certainly more subjective, issue: Jen Lemen very wisely encouraged me a day earlier, when we were chatting about my “ys and women” stuff, not to create a ghetto for women. yesterday’s lunch wasn’t promoting a ghetto, but it felt like a cul-de-sac. it felt like the same questions and ideas (with a few exceptions, of course) that have been raised in every you-ly meeting so far (to be fair, i’ve not been part of these — and i’m only speaking here from 2nd-hand knowledge). but even the fact that my lunch-time discussion partner (we were asked to pair off — one female and one male — for the actual lunch 1/2-hour) was rachelle (one of the high-lights of my time, see below); and when we were asked to start our dialogue by sharing “what we used to think about women in ministry” and “what we think now about women in ministry”, she sighed a heavy sigh, and said she was so tired of this exercise, having done it so many times. all this to say, i’m not sure this is getting anywhere. the time was valuable for ME. but i think that’s only a portion of the goal. i really, really, really wish kara powell (theologian, professor, center director at fuller, small business owner, mother and wife, junior high ministry volunteer, author) and jeanne stevens (emergent convention planning team for two years, learning community lead tour guide, student ministries pastor at willow with multiple men under her leadership, wife and soon-to-be-mother) and karla yaconelli (active owner of youth specialties) had been there — three of the amazing women in leadership i know ((who are all here with very visible roles at the event) who have no time for being frustrated that men aren’t giving them power, because they’re too busy leading.
- while the time was “feminine” in it’s artistic elements, i was surprised by how controlled the “dialogue” was. luckily, i really came with the idea that i needed to listen, so wasn’t frustrated too much by this; just more surprised.
ok - but, there was really good stuff too:
- a simple one first. i’m not in very many meetings where i don’t have a significant role. it was really good to be in a 3 1/2 hour meeting where i only spoke about 4 - 6 sentences (other than my lunch chat with rachelle).
- i’ve heard about rachelle mee-chapman for a couple years, and started reading her blog a while back, after she was recommended as a seminar leader for the EC, and she and i had e-dialogue about her being at both events. but i’d never met her face-to-face. so i asked if she would be my lunch partner. i really (truly) enjoyed hearing rachelle’s story. she strikes me as a very healthy and whole person, comfortable in her skin, and confident in her calling and abilities.
- i know hearing stories of struggle is important; but i most enjoyed hearing the story of a woman (dang, can’t remember her name! — she has the best hair at the entire event: white-blonde dreads, pulled back into a rasta-librarian thing) who is one of the pastors of a church in portland (i think it’s called bridge). there was ease in her story — not that it was easy; but it had room to breathe. it was, after all, a story of where we should/could be going.
- power was a theme throughout — maybe not for everyone else, but for me. this first came up in my time with rachelle, and i took strong notice of it, since it’s an issue we’ve been addressing at ys in the last 6 months. at ys, the power issue isn’t gender-related, it’s employer/employee, or heirarchical. we realized (duh!) about 6 months ago (thanks to a killer organizational psychograph of our company) that power was the biggest hurdle to us realizing the dream of the organization we’d like to become. when i mentioned to rachelle that we’re proactively thinking through how to “divest power”, she connected with this language, which was a good confirmation for me. but, i continued to ask myself, through the next few hours, “how can i actively divest power to women who can lead?”
- much of the group seemed to talk about power in terms of position (job) or role. in the outside ys world (as opposed to our staff), it seems that power is most clearly displayed in “platform time”. doing seminars, or even moreso, speaking at a general session, or being on our CORE team — those are the places of power (i’m saying this in a neutral way). but the reality is, ys moved beyond tokenism in having women in those “places of power” long ago. so, not that this is perfected by any stretch of the imagination, but i started wondering what the step after divesting power would be.
- oh, and on tokenism. i’m enjoyed hearing rachelle say she’s a fan of tokenism, as long as it’s chosen for a noble outcome (my words, not quite hers).
- one of the guys (a friend, but i’ll withhold his name as his comment was so personal) made a very interesting observation. in the discussion of power, he said (with great emotion), “it seems to me that many of you women are assuming that all of us men have spent our entire lives in places of power due to a patriarchal societal structure; but, i think you’re missing the fact that many of us — maybe even most of us — spent a significant portion of our lives, extremely formative years, under the power and control of a woman (our mothers). and for many, this is still the case. and this has implications to this dialogue.”
- i have a sense that ys is to play a role in doing two things in the specific area of women and youth ministry: first, we need to move forward in serving female youth ministers more specifically; and, second, we need to be more of a prophetic voice to the church about the validity of women in youth ministry.
on being honored
Thursday May 19th 2005, 12:37 pm
Filed under: personal
i’m not a surfer, really. but i have surfed. mostly, i’ve struggled to get out past large waves about to crash on me. so i have a bit of first-hand knowledge of being on the wrong side of a wave. just at the moment the lip is coming over, and the wave is beginning to curl over, there’s a puff of air and a small sprinkling of moisture that shoots out.
when doug p was standing on stage last night, talking about blessing one another with thanks, he glanced over at me, and had emotion in his eyes, and i caught the puff of air and small sprinking of moisture. and it stopped me cold (or warm?). and (this is stupid, but i’ll risk it anyway), the overwhelming feeling (it was more of a feeling than a thought) was this: i didn’t think they knew. i didn’t think they knew how much i’d loved this ride and sweated and bled for it. in hindsight, it’s absurd. of course they knew. but i never expected to be thanked. and never expecting it, i certainly didn’t expect it to be public.
i received deep hugs. gentle kisses (though it was a blur, and, later, when i asked chris seay if he was there, he touched three places on my face and told me they were the three places he’d kissed me). beautiful words. a long and moving applause. seeing my wife stand next to me crying. the emotion on karla’s face. the smell of cedar that revealed the gift tony so lovingly chose for me before i saw it. and i knew exactly what tony meant when he said, “through bad times and good times”. and i knew that he knew.
after, a middle-age man came up to me with tears in his eyes. he said he stumbled into this convention three years ago not knowing how he could go on in ministry, or even with his faith. he told me how it has changed everything for him. he told me how the change in him has provided a new path for his daughter’s faith and a way for her to be in ministry. his thanks and handshake was one of the richest i’ve ever received from someone i don’t know.
i said i don’t have many words for this experience (in my previous post), and i suppose my rambling here shows that’s not quite true. god, let my words be few. help me to soak in this, not quantify this, or pack it away, or objectify it. help me hold onto the feeling of being blessed.
first full day blur
- coffee with john raymond (our partnership dood at zondervan). told the story of the last week and a half of hills and valleys in YS land.
- all learning community tour guides, theologians and presenters gather for lunch in my suite (uh, pizza). what an incredible group of people.
- antsy build-up to the opening orientation session. always an intense bit of waiting for me.
- orientation general session runs fairly smoothly, other than a couple missing tour guides when they were supposed to be there (the kincade-hater — a few of you who read too many blogs will understand that).
- learning communities are off and running. i sit for 10 - 20 minutes in each to get a feel of them. it’s good.
- first seminar time. as it’s clear things are running smoothly, i head up to my room to do email and get my feet up for a bit.
- zondervan author dinner. normally a bit forced, i really enjoyed it this time, as (either by luck or design), the table with my place-card was all emergentYS authors or zondervan peeps i know. sat across from brian and grace, next to john raymond. good people. and a surprizingly yummy fried thing of chicken with some mustardy chutney or whatever. mmm.
- first evening general session (these are the mini general sessions, before everyone splits off to “multiple choice” worship). after the opening stuff, phyllis tickle got up to talk. the room was full. and 3 minutes into her talk, something dawned on me. when we have a different speaker at each general session, people still return after a lousy one, because they’re willing to give the next one a chance. but i realized in that moment a risk we’d taken without realizing: if phyllis sucked in this opening session, that room was going to be so freaking empty the next two nights! ah, but she so did not suck. wow. wow. listen — those who aren’t here. i’m pretty certain her general session talks are being recorded by the company that does that for our events. after the event is over, you can go here (click on the “youth specialties order form” button at the bottom, and then go to the NPC/EC event recording list) and buy any of the convention CDs you want (seminars, whatever). but i strongly encourage you to listen to phyllis’ blessings. ooh. can’t wait for tonite.
- at the end of the session, doug p is supposed to lead an interaction of some sort each night. he (and the rest of the emergent clan) blindsided me by having the first one be “blessing each other with thanks”, and bringing me on stage (and my wonderful wife, and the wonderful karla yaconelli) to publicly thank me for three years of emergent conventions and eYS publishing. i don’t think i have words for this yet. it will be with me for years to come.
- i went to two of the three worship experience options: primarily, i sat with my wife and sister and claudia at the Ikon service at downtown pres. it was very much what i’d hoped it would be — which is, to mean, it was what i’ve experienced as the amazing worship experiences offered by a multitude of alt.worship churches at greenbelt in the UK each august. i have a burnt match in a tiny cello bag next to me as i write this — and “icon” we created in that service last night to medidate on tenebrae. the service was centered around a wonderful proposition, and a wonderful question. the proposition was that “the absense of god”, possible, is something that should be seen as validation in our lives that god has been present — that only we who love god will recognize the absense. and in that thought: we got present with the notion of the saturday after good friday, and the question, “would you still love jesus if you didn’t know about the next day?”
- i also popped over to the justin dillon/matt slocum song-set at mckenree umc (next door). also wonderful, and so different. both packed with people. my feeling: this is exactly what we’d hoped and dreamed it would be. i hear the taize service (a few blocks over at christ cathedral) was wonderful also.
- back to my suite, i chilled and talked with new and old friends. this is the best part of conventions for me. it’s church. church broke up around 1:30am.
questions are better than answers
Tuesday May 17th 2005, 3:53 pm
Filed under: faith
this statement (”questions are better than answers”) is one of the CORE values we came up with a few years back, as part of our one-day CORE training for youth workers. it was one that brought with it much heated discussion with the CORE team. there were those on the team who weren’t happy with this as a statement by itself, saying that while Jesus certainly raised lots of questions, he also provided many answers. some lobbied for a modification, along the lines of “questions can be as helpful as answers” or “questions are sometimes better than answers” or something of that sort.
but sitting here at the emergent convention seems to be a good place to ruminate on this tension. and all i can do is fall back on the statement itself. frankly, i do not find answers all that helpful. i suppose the primary reason for this, in my life (and i think this is reasonably universal), is that the “answers” we think we have are almost always temporal, or situational, or — at the very least — lead to new questions.
for some, this seems to be a very frightening thought: how can i know anything, if i can’t settle on an answer? but this very question (ooh, a very helpful question in and of itself) is built on such a faulty set of assumptions. sure, i “know” that God is characterized by love (let’s just use this as a sample “answer”, since christians of all stripes would agree on it). and i “know” that is true, as opposed to it’s theoretical opposite: God is characterized by hate. but while the answer gives me a road sign, it doesn’t give me a destination. so, last year i might have responded to that “answer” with a certain set of new questions, this year (today) it brings with it a whole new set of questions. and this does not leave me in a place of fear; it leaves me in a place of wonder, a place of exploration, and a place of humility. and these places are exactly the places God wants me to be! God does not desire for me to be in a place of conclusion.
just yesterday, someone asked me what a defining mark was about the emergent crowd. i thought for a minute, and the best answer i could come up with was: they (we) are not afraid of any question.
so, in the spirit of the emergent convention, i re-affirm this statement, and would even add stronger language to it:
questions are always better than answers
i’m in my room in nashville, and doug pagitt and john franke are in the adjoining suite, using lots of theological words that i’m only semi-familiar with. here we go!
bittersweet trip to the EC
i’m home from camping, overly ready for a shower, ready to pack and sleep and catch a 6:30am flight tomorrow to nashvegas for the last emergent convention. i believe this event will re-emerge, and will be stronger for having done so (i’m hoping it’s a metamorphosis — nothing wrong with a caterpillar, it’s just that what follows is, in many senses, better).
the emergent convention has been a true labor of love for four years (including the planning time before the first one). serving it and nurturing it and coaxing it has been one of the harder and most enjoyable things in my life. i hope to be involved, in some way, in whatever re-emerges (in 07?) — or, at the very least, attend. but my time as host is ending. i’m not writing this to ask for thanks or sympathy or anything else. it’s just that this coming week will be very bittersweet for me: full of more wonderful friends, new and old, than i’ll be able to spend time with; full of inquiry and new questions; full of opportunities to encourage those slugging it out in the trenches of the emerging church. and, for me (and maybe only a few others?), full of a keen awareness that we won’t be “here” again (”here” can be defined in multiple ways).
not that things should stay “here”. they shouldn’t. and it’s absolutely the right time for emergent (or some collective of friends) to take this baby and run with it. i think those of us who have been at the core of planning for the past three years have seen the value of the event being tied to an organization (institution?) like YS for this phase of its life. it needed initial structure and, even, services that would have been difficult otherwise. but now there’s great momentum (i’m not claiming responsibility, in good or bad ways, for the momentum of the emerging church movement; just some responsibility, good and bad, for the momentum of a national event with this focus).
and what a way to go out. this week is pregnant with the possibility of being the best one we’ve ever hosted. and it’s fresh with some new experimentation that could prove wonderful or frustrating — but, either way, helpful to future events.
if you’ve read other posts on my blog about my year, you know i’ve become an emotional wad of something (not sure what word to use) lately — at least compared to who i was 18 months ago (shoot, my son and i saw Will Farrell’s new movie — Kicking and Screaming — today, and i cried!). So i anticipate a few choked-up moments. Just knowing i’m losing my prime excuse for seeing people who’ve become such valued friends on a regular basis is enough to make this bittersweet.
but i’m ready to enjoy the time and embrace this truly lovely and noble gathering one more time.
geez. that was dramatic. sorry.
Fiesta Island, here we come!
Friday May 13th 2005, 3:00 pm
Filed under: personal
tonite, my 7 year-old son, max, and i head off to “fiesta island” for a cub scout camping trip. fiesta island sounds substantially more festive than it is: it’s a small island (connected by a causeway) in the middle of mission bay, in san diego, with no treees whatsoever. just sand and scrub-brush. and 7 year-olds.
books that didn’t make the 2004 bestseller list
the newest issue of The Wittenburg Door has a great sidebar called “books that didn’t quite make the 2004 best-seller list”. some highlights:
- The Da Vinci Crossword, by Dan Brown
- Chicken Soup for the Vegan Soul, edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson
- The SUV-Driven Life, by Rick Warren
- The Gospel According to Sex in the City, by Chris Seay (this one cracked me up!)
- The Prayer of Jabez: Sudanese Language Edition
- The Five People You Meet in Hell, by Jack Chick
- An Unfortunate Series of Poorly Written Books #1: The Deadly Dull Dispensationalist, by Lemony Lahaye and Junky Jenkins
a few more to add, of my own design:
- Actually Thinking About Youth Ministry (see, i’m afraid this wouldn’t be a bestseller)
- The 101 Best Youth Ministry Game-Variations of the Egg-in-Armpit Relay
- Stop Calling Us Emergent!, by Doug Pagitt
- 101 New Names You Might Consider Calling Us Other Than Emergent, a companion book, by Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and a token female author
- The REAL Reason YS Won’t Be Hosting the Emergent Convention After This Year: the unauthorized biography of mark oestreicher
wanna add any to the list??
Thursday May 12th 2005, 10:43 am
Filed under: personal
i’m in whiplash days. you have them too — those days that have (at least seemingly) opposite extreme emotions in the same short period of time. one of these random days is enough to leave me pretty spent (as i was last night), but i’m gonna have at least two in a row, if not three.
yesterday, i came into work at the butt-crack o’ dawn to prepare for an all staff meeting (tired, but feeling OK — a little stressed with the importance of the task); then, the all staff meeting was wonderful, and i left feeling woozy with vision and a sense of accomplishment. early afternoon, discovered a bit of a budget problem (knot! in stomach! denial!). stepped into a management team meeting that was supposed to be 2 hours, but went 4. it was extremely hard work — but, also rewarding, because the team really worked as a team. left just before 7 to go re-count the one life revolution money (see post below), and got home at 9, totally spent.
today: in early again, getting some things out of the way. weight of the budget stuff barking at me from the corner of my office. encroachment of next week’s emergent convention barking from a different corner. another 4 hour management team meeting planned for this afternoon.
BUT — tonite is the season finale of The Apprentice, which, next to 24, is possibly the best thing on TV. we have a handful of friends coming over for a finale party.
see? whiplash days. i’m not whining, or asking for sympathy. just stating the reality of my disorienting day. i suppose there’s good in having the extreme good on the same day as the extreme difficult (or stressful, or bad, or hurtful, or whatever). a bit o’ grace, maybe.