Thank you for reading his words.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
All five of you who read this blog from time to time know that I have three wonderful daughters, whom I love and adore. They are all equally talented and gifted, albeit in mostly different, but specific arenas of life, unlike their dad who is mostly a "Davy of all trades and master of none". Hannah is my middle daughter and from the time she was toddling, she was entertaining the world. She loves people...and I don't mean it in the Charlie Brown speaking to Linus way, "I love mankind...it is people I can't stand"...Hannah really loves people. We would walk into a restaurant, even one we had eaten at before, and Hannah would say, "I don't want to eat here...let's go somewhere else." When quizzed as to her reason, she informed me that there weren't enough people at the joint...she didn't care about the food, she just wanted to be where there were lots of people around. Hannah would tell you herself that her academic career in high school was not stellar. She was a good student, but she wasn't a straight "A" student either. She loved being at school, but it was not the insatiable desire for knowledge (that did come a little later as she went to college) that pulled her back there everyday...it was people. Hannah loves people.
As she entered her senior year in high school she and her friends were exploring their college choices. Hannah came to me that fall and expressed a desire to delay the beginning of her college career to apply to be a part of the Mission Year program. This is a wonderful ministry begun by Bart Campolo (inspired by his dad, Tony) out of Eastern University in St. David's PA (near Philly) that placed young adults 18-28 in groups of six to live for a year in some of America's most impoverished and dangerous inner cities. Their job was not to evangelize or proselytize, but to live in community with the poor and love like Jesus. The motto of Mission Year is "Love God...Love People...Nothing Else Matters." I was a youth minister by profession who felt like his calling was to call God-given uniqueness out of students and challenge them to live and love dangerously in the world. Now, my 17 year old daughter was telling me that she believed God was calling her to go live among the poor and take a year of her life devoted to loving the folks in the fabled "Lower Bottoms" area of West Oakland. I struggled and prayed and worried, but in the end I had to put my parental money where my ministerial mouth was and trust Hannah's sense of calling and purpose. She did, indeed, spend her first year out of high school living with five other young adults ages 22 and younger (Hannah was the youngest at age 18) and they all worked in inner city schools (Hannah was a teacher's aide in a kindergarten and 1st grade class) and the year changed her life. She was still compassionate and tender-hearted toward the suffering of the world, but she became tough and wise as well.
As that year drew to a close she began to research again where she would go to school. Belmont University in Nashville rose to the top of the list, she was accepted there and began her studies in the fall of 2005. In her freshman year the President of Mission Year came to visit and speak at Belmont, and while there he asked Hannah to speak at a chapel assembly and share her experiences with MY, which she did, like a pro. Wanting to continue to serve as a part of her studies, she went downtown to sign up to volunteer as a Big Sis with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Nashville. and after looking at her resume, her interviewers asked her to become the liaison on the Belmont campus for BBBS. Later she and several others helped establish a BBBS's chapter on the Belmont campus, the first such chapter in the state of Tennessee. At the end of the year at a university assembly she was presented the annual outstanding freshman service award. In the years that followed Hannah continued to work with BBBS, but also longed to, in some way, replicate the Mission Year experience on the college campus. In her sophomore year the university responded to her requests and put Hannah and three other female students in a house off-campus for the purpose of living in community with the neighborhood. They called it "Service Year". That program is still in effect today.
On September 12th Hannah flew out of Austin headed for London, and eventually Bangor, Wales where she is continuing her social work studies in the Study Abroad program. She will be there through the end of the semester, and is loving seeing a new part of the world (that's getting to be a habit for her these days) learning all her pretty little head can hold and doing what she does best... meeting and caring about people. She is scheduled to graduate from Belmont in May. To say that I am proud of her goes without saying...what I am most proud of is that she is her own beautiful, compassionate, funny and God-listening woman, charting her own course and making, literally, the world a better place.
If you want to follow her journey in Wales, and see some of her lovely photography, you can check out her blog, Observation Full and Felt.
Journey on Hannah...I love you!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Can I just say that generally speaking, I avoid movies made by Christians about Christianity. It is not that I don't appreciate the attempt to redeem the arts and give a talented individual a venue for using his or her gifts. I don't even fault them for using film as a way of espousing a particular theological or philosphical viewpoint...filmakers and screenwriters do that all of the time...as do musicians and authors. I guess that my beef has always been not that it is Christian film-making, but that it is bad film-making. I remember back in the 60's when Pat Boone starred in "The Cross and the Switchblade". Then in the late 70's and 80's there was a rash of rapture/second-coming movies. The "Left Behind" book series spawned an equally insipid movie, and then there have been a few more in recent years that have been more universally appealing and higher quality. I'm not saying that you have to have a big producton budget to have a quality movie. Independent films and documentaries have proven that is not always the case. Last year our friend Justin Dillon did a marvelous job with limited resources and donated talent to make a startlingly beautiful and compelling rockumentary, "Call and Response", addressing he issue of human trafficking in the world.
Well another such noteworth effort by a Christian just trying to raise the valid question about the state of the church and its ineffectiveness in meeting the needs of the world it professes to love is documented in Dan Merchant's wonderful documentary openin in austin this weekend, entitled, "Lord Save Us From Your Followers - Why the Gospel of Love is Dividing America!". I had coffee with Dan a couple of weeks ago as he was making a whirlwind pass through Texas trying to get some inertia for the opening of the moving in the Christian community. The Portland native is funny, down to earth, refuses to take himself too seriously, and has a deep passsion for helping the followers of Jesus rethink the way they relate to culture and to the needs of the world. He began his pilgrimage to engage people on he street with discussing the their perceptions of Jesus, God, followers of Christ and the Church by standing in Times Square wearing a garish jumpsuit (Sorry Dan, you looked like my Grandpa Tony ready to roll up on a creeper under a jacked-up 51' Chevy pick-up) decorated with bumper stickers carrying varous Christian sayings and messages. He gets some interesting and insightful responses, as you would guess. He also interviews talking heads from both sides of the theological and political aisle like Tony Campolo, Michael Reagan, Sister Mary Timothy, Al Franken, and many more.
I believe Dan's movie raises some valid questions about the way we has followers of Jesus are hurting the cause of Christ and not helping. I urge you to take some time to see it this weekend if you are here in Austin (Gateway Regal Cinema)or to check the movie website to find out if it is playing in your area.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I'm not sure exactly when Ariele got her copy of Judi and Ron Barrett's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. She was either one or two years old, but she says "I don't ever remember not having that book." I would put her to bed each night and not only would we read the book from cover to cover, she always wanted to play the "Show Me" game which meant that I had to pick out some obscure object or person on a particular page, and it was her job to locate it. It was kinda like our own personal "Where's Waldo" game. It was easy and fun to do with this book because there was so much going on with every page. The tradition continued as both Hannah and Calla got old enough for me to read to them at bedtime as well, and that old book became worn and tattered as the years passed. Several years ago at Christmas, with all three girls in college, I got each of them a brand new copy of the old book we had all loved, and gave it to them in their stockings at Christmas.
It was spring of this year when, Ariele heard the rumor that there was going to be an animated movie based on the book. We were, of course, excited until we saw a brief trailer. The animation didn't look like the illustrations in the book at all, and it was obvious there were major plot changes in the storyline. Our hearts sank. This summer when Calla and Ariele and I were at the midnight show of the latest Harry Potter movie installment, they ran the theatrical trailer for the Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs movie, and again we were disappointed in what we saw. There was also that same night a trailer for the amazing children's classic "Where the Wild Things Are", and not only were we blown away, but the trailer got a round of applause when it concluded...yup, the trailer...I was shocked... and still disappointed that CWACOM was not going to make the grade.
Well here we are in September and the movie opened here in Austin and around the country to decent reviews. It was actually the highest grossing film in the country last weekend, so I couldn't help it...I went tonight to see it. Not only was I not disappointed, I was delighted. Yes the storyline doesn't look much like the book's, and the animation is completely different than the illustrations in the book...and it is in 3-D. It may come across as a little preachy on the subjects of relationships to parents, taking care of the environment, wasting food, and world hunger, but this film was cleverly written and voiced, and those are all messages children and adults in our world can't hear often enough. Even the 3-D worked to enhance the experience and not detract from it.
But...mostly the movie tonight was a trip down memory lane for me, as I remembered those nights at my children's bedside, reading and laughing and ending the day in a way that no mom or dad can get enough of. As parents, we have worked all day long, either at a job or as a caretaker at home for our kids (sometimes both), but those few, precious moments are cemented in their hearts, and in ours, for eternity.
Keep reading, keep talking, keep praying with and for you kids,
Monday, September 14, 2009
I know in my head that big rap stars, tennis champions and congressmen are all just people, and they lose their cool like I do... all of the time, but somehow I still get surprised when folks like that pop off, make fools of themselves, and in the process, their sport or vocation. It is an embarrassment for them and others to be sure, but the part that bugs me the most is the arrogance to think that you can say anything you want anytime you want...with the direct and collateral damage ending up being the intended targets of your spoken diarrhea. Last week during President Obama's address to Congress, Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, heckled the President in the middle of his speech with a boisterous, "You lie!". My guess is that particular criticism could be yelled at any of us at different times in our lives, as well as Barack Obama, but to choose to do so in the middle of a nationally televised presidential address was both disrespectful and rude. Wilson did apologize, but has also gotten significant political mileage out of the incident, seeing a boost in fund raising and fan mail.
I've been watching the U.S. Open Tennis tournament with interest, as there have been several compelling stories running throughout the tournament. First the skyrocketing interest in 17 year old American Melanie Oudin was a delightful story as this spunky, tenacious 5' 5" ball of energy defeated four consecutive Russian, highly seeded opponents on her way to a spot in the quarter-finals. She would fall there to a young Danish player, but it was an inspiring run. The other intriguing story was with Belgian player, Kim Clijsters, who retired from tennis after winning the U.S.Open in 2005 at the age of 22 (there were injuries and she wanted to get married and have a family) who had returned to competitive tennis earlier in the year. She indeed had married in the years that followed and now has a beautiful one year old daughter. The Open was only her third competitive tennis tournament back, and frankly no one considered that she would be a threat to compete for this major championship (or any other for that matter) anytime soon. Yup...So much for assumptions...Sunday night Kim Clijsters, the wife and mother, defeated that same Danish teenager who eliminated Melanie Oudin in the quarterfinals in straight sets to take the Championship. That is not what surprised me. In the semis Clijsters was facing the powerful, experienced, and heavily-favored Serena Williams. Kim played well...Serena did not... and after taking the first set, Serena was serving to stay in the match at 15-40. On the next serve she was called for a foot fault, which just means that the line judge, observed that Serena's lead foot touched or crossed the baseline as she was serving. The rule is, in fact, that the server must not touch the line with his or her foot until the serve crosses the net, BUT it is very rarely called, and almost never at this stage of an important match. That meant that Serena had one more serve chance to put the ball in play, but instead of serving she chose to approach the line judge and threaten to cram the ball down her throat, with several F-bombs inserted. It was a little scary and a lot bewildering that Serena chose this time to completely meltdown emotionally. The chair judge then assessed a point penalty to Serena, because she had gotten a warning earlier in the match for slamming her racket to the court, which meant she lost the point, and as a result, the match.
Last night at the VMA awards, 19 year old country music phenom, Taylor Swift won a video music award for female artists and in the middle of her acceptance speech, Kanye West walked on the stage, took the microphone from Taylor and proceeded to insist that that Beyonce's video should have won the award. Interestingly enough, when Beyonce actually did win something a little later, she chose to call Taylor back on the stage and gave her part of her own acceptance time to finish her speech. To his credit, Kanye later apologized.
Tonight on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Conan quipped that NBC was piloting a new show starring Kanye, Serena and Joe Wilson, entitled, "America's Got A-Holes".
He's right, we do, but I still get surprised. Maybe I should be surprised that I still get surprised...or not.