lunch with scot
Wednesday February 22nd 2006, 9:26 pm
Filed under: church, emerging church

had a great day popping into the NPC. i had a distracted breakfast with my friend john raymond from zondervan (we were seated in a busy spot and were constantly interrupted), then sat in the back of the emerging church CCC for a bit. i came back at noon and took scot mcknight to lunch at a waterside bistro in la jolla. i’d known scot mostly from his blog, and a small amount of email correspondance, but had never met him. we had a wonderful two hour lunch, talking about everything from our stories to the emerging church to atonement to publishing and agents to blogging. what a great guy.

after lunch, i had a great short chat with dan kimball — always good to catch up with him. and then sat by the pool and enjoyed a life catch-up with shelly pagitt (doug’s wife).

tonite i get to see my 6th grade guys small group for the first time in 5 weeks, and i can’t wait. i’ve really missed them.

NPC this week, missing EC
Wednesday February 22nd 2006, 10:54 am
Filed under: church, youth specialties, emergent

the national pastors convention is in san diego this week. this used to be a YS event, until this year, when we decided to refocus on youth ministry alone, and gave it to our partners, zondervan. but since zondervan has never run an event before, we’re helping to facilitate it — which means our reg dept did all the reg, tic planned most of the event (and is mc’ing the general sessions), and about 10 of our staff are helping to run it onsite. i have zero responsibilities there, but dropped by yesterday to reconnect with YS staff and see people. there’s a very cool emergent track, including an emerging church critical concerns course being lead by an amazing and varied panel of speakers: tony jones (moderating), doug pagitt, dan kimball, leron shults, scot mcknight, ryan bolger, and . i wish i’d planned to attend it. it also made me a bit misty-eyed, realizing how much i miss the emergent convention, which would have been (in the past few years) running concurrent with the NPC right here and now. it was good to see doug, tony and dan, as well as other friends. i’m looking forward to having them over to my house (along with chris seay, who comes in today) for a bit of hot-tubbing on friday night. i’m taking scot mcknight to lunch today, which i’m pumped about — i learn so much from his blog.

british invasion
Wednesday February 22nd 2006, 10:53 am
Filed under: personal

a couple months ago i got a nice email from a youth worker in vancouver, talking about his need for a good vacation with his wife (his first in three years), and his desire to come to san diego. but he was short on cash, and wondered if i had any suggestions of where he could stay for a week. i offered our house. probably wasn’t exceedingly wise of me, since i’d never met the guy in my life. they arrived saturday, while i was in tampa speaking at a youth workers event. and they’re here all week. luckily, they’re totally cool — from england, connected to soul survivor, and we know many of the same people from vancouver and england. i suppose i dodged a potential bullet on that one — they coulda been axe murderers.

books i read on my sabbatical, part 3
Tuesday February 21st 2006, 6:23 pm
Filed under: books

and, finally, books that disappointed for one reason or another:

, by dan brown. after reading the prequel to this book (angels and demons, see part 1 of this series), i had huge expectations. and i couldn’t have been more disappointed. in angels and demons, i thought the author treated people of faith with respect. but in this book, it seemed like he had an axe to grind against us, portraying us as non-thinkers with only political motivations. everything about the church and scripture was treated as a lie and a false front for political motivations, and that this portrayal was indesputable fact. then, in a parallel fashion, the alternative explanation provided in the book was also treated as indesputable fact. if he had done what he did in angels and demons, and treated both with a bit of reserved respect, a bit of distance, it could have been a wonderful book (of course, the mystery part of the book is good). it was really hard for me to buy into much of it, and even left me a bit freaked out (i had a hard time sleeping after reading the book). i know it’s just fiction, and i don’t have a problem with an author weaving a tale that has some unorthodox views in it — but the fiat positions taken about both “sides” really left me in cold.

, by kevin anderson. this is an interesting concept: little poems for meditation that are “nested”. first one line, followed by that line and a second into a couplet that slightly changes the meaning of the first, followed by adding more lines, which continue to nuance or shift the meaning of the overall. my spiritual director gave this to me — and i really like the concept. and a few of the meditations were really beautiful (maybe i’ll post one seperately). but the book was way too inconsistent for me to connect with. meditations about his wife were thrown in next to meditations about God or solitude or peace.

, ed. by chris ware. so i love those illustrated books. and when i saw dave eggers’ conglomerate, mcsweeney’s, was issuing one of their quarterly concerns compilations on cartooning and graphic novels, i thought it would be the best thing since amway. but i was wrong. to its credit, the book is gorgeous to look at — so many styles of cartooning and illustration, so varied. amazing. but most of the bits are excerpted from other works, and don’t have a complete story. i got so tired of reading partial stories. then there are just some really, really odd little pieces here and there that i didn’t ‘get’. finally, the book is peppered with articles (mostly on the history of stuff like this), set in about an 8 point font, i swear. i almost went blind reading the thing. big, big disappointment.

, by paul feig. paul feig is the creator of the amazing (but short running) television show, freaks and geeks. and he wrote an almost perfect, hilarious account of growing up called (a must read, especially for youth workers). this is the sequel: subtitled, how i became a 24-year-old virgin. there were certainly funny bits. but overall, i just got really tired of his obsessions and whining and addiction to self-disclosure. dude, you can only tell us so many times about your masturbation obsession. stop with the exhibitionism already.

books i read on my sabbatical, part 2
Tuesday February 21st 2006, 12:45 pm
Filed under: books

now, onto books i enjoyed reading, but didn’t make my “best books” list:

, bill bryson. i’ve always loved bryson’s witty travelogue writing. but this was a very different animal: 500+ pages of the history of science (including stuff that was very newly being discovered at the time of the writing, a couple years ago). he’s still a travel writer, really, and admits that in the intro. so the book is really a bit of a travel diary through the history of science (and the history of the earth), complete with interesting and/or funny stories about the real people who did things scientific. i really enjoyed most of this, and learned a ton; but in general, i would have enjoyed it more if he’d trimmed it back an additional 100 - 150 pages. a few less rabbit-trails would have kept my attention more.

, by marjane satrapi. i stumbled onto satrapi’s illustrated autobiographies, and , a year or two ago, and really enjoyed them. they tell the story of the author/illustrater’s childhood in iran, the cultural revolution there, and eventually (as a teenager) being sent off to france. the second book tells of her return to her family in iran. so, when i saw she had a new book, i ordered it. this one is completely different — it’s an illustrated account of a single conversation between satrapi (as a young woman), her mother, her grandmother, and various aunts and female family friends (about 8 women or so), about intimacy, marriage and sex. ha! kinda caught me off guard! but, really, it’s a rare glimpse into a real discussion between real women (surprisingly helped along by the illustrations) in a completely different cultural context than our own. it’s a very quick read, and worth it.

, by patton dodd. a friend who works at jossey-bass (the publisher of this book) gave me this when it was hot off the press, and it’s been sitting on my shelf since (in fact, i think i have two copies of it). i didn’t only want to read fiction on my sabbatical, and throught this spiritual memoir would fit the ticket (it made me wish i had a copy of russell rathbun’s book post-rapture radio, but, alas, i didn’t and don’t have a copy — how can that be? i approved a book release party for that book at the emergent convention a year ago, and everyone got a copy, but i don’t have one!). i almost put this book in the “books i loved” category above — because i truly did enjoy reading it. dodd’s story is summed up as: became a christian as an older teenager, became a rabid charasmatic putting in major hours on church/faith/religion, went off to oral roberts university, got disillusioned, left and started searching for a new kind of faith. personally, i don’t have the charismatic piece in my own story, but there were enough parallels in here (as there would be for many of us who grew up in evangelicalism) to hitch a ride on dodd’s emotions and thoughts. i’ve been pleased to see the emerging church start to define itself more by what it wants to be, rather than what it isn’t. but, as much as i did actually enjoy reading this memoir, the book leaves us pretty much limited to the parts of his story that define what he no longer wants to (or can) be, without going to the new promised land. still worth reading, though.

, by steve ross. my friend bob carlton, one of the most generous people on earth, sent this book to me as a gift recently, knowing my love of illustrated books. it’s a comic, in every sense except the binding — a modernized telling of the gospel of mark (get the title?). i TOTALLY dig this guy’s illustration style, and really enjoyed some of the ways he re-envisioned the gospel story taking place in a more modern (though totalitarian) context. probably my only disappointment (and what kept it off my “books i loved” list) is the ending, where the resurrection is symbolized by the springing up of a large sunflower. the gospel of mark clearly includes the resurrection story, so this ending was a bit of a let-down, and maybe showed a theological bias of the author.

, by sue monk kidd. i read sue monk kidd’s about a year ago, and loved it. jeannie and i have had this newer book sitting around our house for months — so last week i grabbed it. i’m 3/4 through it now — so don’t know the ending yet. i’m conflicted (which, i suppose, might be exactly where the author wants me to be 3/4 the way through the book). i’m fairly doubtful the book is going to resolve in a way i’ll be happy with — two possibilities being just too sappy, and a third (more likely) being one of those “see, our lives are all really messy and that’s why i’m ending the book with this mess” kind of endings. her writing — both her sentences and word choices, as well as her storytelling ability — are so excellent. she reminds me of a humorless anne lamott at times. i’m not comfortable with her (implied) proposal that the path chosen by the fictional narrator is — while admitadly destructive to her husband and others — also somehow good and right (and even unavoidable). so i’m enjoying the book, but am a bit uneasy about it.

books i read on my sabbatical, part 1
Tuesday February 21st 2006, 12:28 pm
Filed under: books

during my 11 days in hawaii, i voraciously read 13 books. i am NOT a fast reader, so this says something about how much time i spent reading. in the following two weeks at home, i read two more (well, 1 3/4). it was an odd sensation to read more than a book a day for almost two weeks, then slow down to a more normal pace — it was actually frustrating to not be finishing books!

i put a couple strict guidelines on my reading for this time. the main guideline was that, in order to disconnect from thinking about ys as much as possible, the books could have nothing to do with youth ministry, church strategy, leadership or business. culling books from my “to read” pile before i left, this guideline eliminated many of the books i want to read right now. but the result was good for me, as i really did find myself disconnecting in a way that has left me very energized as i now return and dive back in.

i’ll break this into three categories: books i loved, books i thought were ok, and books i didn’t really enjoy.

let’s start with the great ones — books i loved:

, by anne rice. i’m sure you’ve all heard of this, so i won’t go into much detail. but it was probably my favorite read of the whole lot. rice’s attention to historicity and accuracy, combined with her ability to paint a scene so clearly that you can actually see it made this both devotional and un-put-down-able. her author’s note at the back of the book, telling her own spiritual journey, and the approach she took to writing this book, is worth the price of the book in itself.

, by dan brown. this is the prequel to brown’s bestselling da vinci code (see part 3). i figured it was time i actually read these (i bought them in hawaii, after running out of the books i’d brought). friends had told me they like this first book better than the da vinci code, and i couldn’t agree more. a massive thriller, i read ’til my eyes were blurry (i woke up one morning with the open book sprawled next to me on my bed). one of the things i really loved about this book was that, in a mystery involving a tension between science and faith, both were treated with respect. there were characters who were convinced in science alone, and others who were convinced of religion alone, and a few who were passionately in the middle. i wish this book were the bestseller, not it’s sequel.

, by phyllis tickle. ever since her first (and solidified by her second) presentation at the emegent convention, phyllis tickle has become one of my favorite people on earth. she wrote the four little books in “the farm in lucy” series as a wonderful storytelling way of talking about the church calendar. they are spiritual memoir meets high church meets farming with a family. i started with this volume, and will definitely be reading the other three very soon. i could not recommend this more highly.

, by christopher moore. when i read moore’s a couple years ago, i was blown away. it’s not quite fair to call him a humor writer, because he’s a talented novelist. but i read this book because i wanted to laugh. it’s a crazy story of whale researchers discovering a ridiculously funny (almost science fiction) reason for whales’ singing. as a fun bonus for me as i read it, the story takes place about 5 miles south of where i was staying in hawaii (which i had no idea when i brought it), and gave me all kinds of insight into the real local (not tourist) culture of maui’s west coast. no great impact on my life with this one — just a truly enjoyable read with multiple opporutunities to laugh out loud.

, by david anthony durham. i’d picked this up some time ago after reading about it in a time magazine “best books you probably missed last year” article. it’s the fictional story of an african-american teenager living in the “wild west” of america during the mid-1800s. gabriel, the boy, runs away from the homestead his newly married mother has just re-located to (away from city life) and joins up with a band of outlaws who take him all over the southwest. it’s a beautiful, and sometimes harrowing, account of another time period, told from a perspective not seen before. the only annoying thing was that the book used font changes to indicate change in story location — and i hate reading long passages in italics!

, by ian caldwell and dustin thomason. i got this book for christmas a year ago from a cousin, and had forgotten about it until i was packing for my trip. it’s a mystery in the vein of angels and demons or the da vinci code, but centers around an ancient manuscript called the hynerotamachia. there’s enough real stuff in the book to make it extremely interesting, and the writing has the same effect on me as watching an episode of 24 — i just have to read a bit more; ok, just a bit more. dinner can wait.

sim church
Monday February 20th 2006, 1:26 pm
Filed under: church, humor

pretty funny stuff. wish it were a real product!

(ht to jim hampton)

back to reality
Monday February 20th 2006, 12:48 pm
Filed under: personal

my sabbatical is over, and i’m back at my desk. funny thing, i didn’t realize our office was closed today for the holidays until my wife mentioned it last night! but given that i’d had a whole month off and was planning on coming in, an extra day didn’t quite seem necessary. so i’m here at YS alone — a great catch-up day!

i made it, by the way, without looking at email, turning on my cell phone, or even once connecting to the internet.

my time in hawaii was perfect. i read 12 books in 11 days (and two more in the following two weeks). i took daily walks on the beach and contemplated my life and its direction, and journaled all my thoughts. i hardly talked to anyone, and cooked (well, heated up) all my own meals in my condo. i got three massages and one tattoo.

so, i’ll be back to blogging furiously, i’m sure — i’ve really missed this outlet. i’ll blog about my reading later today.

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