Monday, July 28, 2008

The New Old Slavery

I attended a screening tonight for a documentary to be released to theatres this October entitled "Call and Response...The Concert to End Slavery". It is a project of love for a friend I met a little over a year ago, Justin Dillon, from Oakland, CA. Justin is singer/songwriter who had this issue of human trafficking almost dumped in his lap and he responded by putting together this truly amazing body of work that has to be seen to be appreciated, addressing this reality of 27 million people in slavery around our world TODAY! To see an articulate insight into the film see Shelton Green's wonderful perspective in his blog post (In Reformation) tonight. Justin is headed to Nashville on Wednesday and Washington DC on Thursday and Friday to pave the way for the film's release with screenings similar to tonight's. If you have any interest in this grassroots, open-source movement then visit the film website at As Dr. Cornnell West says in the filom, "justice is what love looks like in public"! Pling...Pling... dg

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Broken Bread and Vanishing Saviors

Several weeks ago I wrote about an amazing trip to Colorado with my friend Sam Vaugh. In the post I mentioned that each night after dinner, in the blissful absence of television and Internet, we both read for several hours. Sam was reading an unfinished manuscript that a local Southern Colorado author had let him preview. I was reading a book recommended by my friend Bob Carlton, "Take This Bread", by Sara Miles. Sara Miles grew up in a home where her parents, partly as a reaction to devout missionary parents, partly a response to the lack of relevance of the mainstream church to the pressing social causes and needs of the 1950's, raised their children as practicing agnostics. When Sara reached adulthood she spent time as a chef in New York City, and then as a respected writer and reporter who spent much of the 1960's living and reporting in Latin America during that incredibly volatile, but culture revolutionizing decade. She gave birth to little girl while she was in Latin America, then when the violence became too risky for her daughter she moved back to the US settling in the San Francisco area. One day while walking down the street in her neighborhood, she passed the open doors of an Episcopal Church, a particularly intriguing one architecturally, and she decided to go inside to see more. When she entered she found that they were observing Communion, the Eucharist, The Lord's Supper. She was somewhat familiar from readings about religion, but she had never experienced it personally. She got in line and curiously, and apprehensively approached the ministers who were serving. One of them broke off a piece of bread, whispered to her that this bread was the "body of Christ". She watched as the person in front of her dipped the bread in the chalice of wine as the next minister said, "and this wine is the blood of Christ shed for you". Sara Miles says that in that moment of hearing and tasting, she was transformed. She didn't know anything about what had happened or what it meant, she just knew that when she left that room...she was a different woman. Because she had no frame of reference for what this was supposed to mean she began to ask herself, and in a desperate need for some answers, this God that she had always assumed did not exist, for help. The only thing she could come up with was that, her experience as a cook taught her that food has a deep, primal, and spiritual connection to the soul. She thought that this experience was telling her, God or no
God, she was supposed to feed she began a food pantry for the homeless and the working poor out of that same Episcopal church. I won't ruin the rest of the fascinating should read it yourself...but the other thing Sara Miles discovered was that just when you get a handle on what God wants from you, he seems to get a little harder to box up and pin down.

I'm reminded of the post-resurrection story in Luke 24 that tells of the now-you-see-him-now-you-don't nature of keeping up with Jesus. He appears to two fringe believers (Cleopas and his companion)early Easter morning. They see him and don't recognize him, hear him speak and don't recognize him, listen to him exegete the entire of Hebrew scripture that has to do with the coming of the Messiah, and don't recognize him. Now my hunch is that they are crazy numb with grief and are in the throes of emotional shock. They even say that they had so pinned their hopes on Jesus being the promised Messiah, only to watch him die and be be buried. Loss will do that to you...disappointment with do that to you...betrayal will do that to you...fear will do that to you...the crush of failure will send you to a place where you wall yourself off from anything that has the slightest potential of dealing out more pain. It is also significant to me that according to my less than stellar mathematical abilities, Jesus made five appearances after his resurrection (not counting the ascension). They were all to people who already believed. If I had been put in charge of the post resurrection public relations campaign of the Messiah...I do things a little differently. I get him on Larry King and Oprah. I get him to throw out the first pitch at the World Series and I get him to be a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. Oh...and he is in both an iPod and a Geico commercial. But I was not in charge and God chose not to scare, frighten, or overpower our human will or our have to come to faith with your head, your heart and your willing volition.

So... Jesus has walked the several hours-long trek to their home village and they still are clueless, and yet...they have enough sensitivity to the needs of a stranger to invite Jesus in to eat and spend the night. They sit down to eat, asking Jesus to bless the food and when he prays and breaks the bread...they suddenly recognize him. Now what was it in the breaking of bread that revealed his identity when seeing him face to face, hearing his voice and hearing him teach failed to do the trick? I don't know but I think my friend, chef Milton (Don't Eat Alone), and Sara Miles, have it right. The power of breaking bread and sharing a meal together opens doors to the soul that stay slammed shut and resist the most adept lock pickers. Then, of course, just when you are ready to systematize and quantify the magical experience you had with God he vanishes, and you are left with a holy heartburn ("didn't our hearts burn within us as he explained the scriptures to us along the road") and not even a Polaroid snapshot for the scrapbook. He is illusive and don't put him in a choker collar and leash, get him to roll over and play dead, and follow obediently at your heels. That's not the God of Creation... that's Lassie...

So take a bite outta that...



Monday, July 14, 2008

Wilcox and Ariele

Worship at Journey had many notable elements last Sunday, including Dave Madden singing Cake's "The Palm of My Hand", listening to Nicole Nordeman's "What If", hearing excerpts from NPR interviews with noted scientists and opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum, Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins, Rick being brilliant as usual; and, a talk-back time with the community that asked them for questions they always felt were not allowed in church that got responses like, why do we talk about love and still live like bigots, why do we fell it necessary to still consider God masculine, why are we so afraid of homosexuality, why does God allow children to be abused and neglected, among many more. The highlights for me though were a great David Wilcox song, "Beyond Belief" sung by Judi Sawyer (check out Wilcox performing it himself on the youtube video) and Ariele (you can see her work at Saint Vespertine) poetry she wrote specifically for this service and sent it on to us.


I’m the question Mister; no more answers for the breadth of mortals
still unsure that something somewhere pale and mild will arrive to save
this day, tomorrow, eternity. Concerning the care with which you query,
there is no more hope than heart for this flesh foundry calling out
with carefully-crafted throats, thrush muscles mastered by hands neverseen.

Or how true is it?
Am I
Are we,
All is love and tragedy.

(And though chance’s cruel schooling
may convex our spines with sickly greenstick precision,
we’ll not contemplate stopping, stalking
sanctuary back-aisles, cellars and bell spires,
pressing tenderly the walls of these hallowed places to our palms--
with heads hanging bent, but hearts calling up,
we splinter-souled Quasimodos of hope.)

...There’s a place for you within my heart marked
with curlicue catastrophes, where cacophony
builds quickly like Babel, then collapses
in cool blue pools of neverknowing

Just another Sunday at Journey...



Sunday, July 6, 2008

Into the (Mild) Wild

I mow the grass...I play a little tennis...I even occasionally make a run by the batting cages to take a few cuts...and every night my trusty canine companion, Cleveland, and I take a stroll around the block. But even with that impressive list of outdoor activities, no one has ever accused me of being a woodsy, musky mountain man...until last week. My friend Sam Vaugh, on the other hand, is equally at home orienting an obscure mountain trail, shooting the rapids in an open kayak or sleeping under the stars at 13,000 feet on the side of a craggy peak ascent. Last week, Sam invited me to go with him to hang out at a mountain cabin beside the rushing Canojes River in Southern Colorado. Sam's family,(Bev, Matt and Hannah)usually accompany him every summer, but they had other commitments this summer so I got to go along. In addition to being a wilderness wizard, Sam is legitimately one of the kindest, most gentle men on the planet, so it was a genuine treat to get to spend a few days with him, period.

We rose every morning at 5:30 to ride down to the reservoir to fish for rainbow trout. We managed to catch plenty every morning to have fresh fish to eat every night. I am not a hunter...haven't picked up a gun to hunt since I was in college...It is not for particularly noble justification...I'm not very good at it, and getting up at the crack of dawn to freeze in the woods while I waste bullets didn't seem particularly fulfilling for me. I do enjoy fishing does seem a bit more sporting and I love to eat fish. We would return to the cabin, clean our catch and then have breakfast. The first morning after breakfast we put in our kayaks just near the cabin and floated several miles through moderately turbulent waters...I was exhausted after the run (Sam didn't even break a sweat) but even though I'm not much of a water guy, and the river kicked my butt, it was a blast. We ate lunch and then went for a 4 hour hike that challenged my wind and my terribly abused knees, but again a wonderful day. We had fish for supper, both read until around ten pm (no television, Internet or cell phones) and went to bed, marking the first time in recent or otherwise memory that I have been to bed that early.

We rose early to fish the next morning, returned to clean fish and eat breakfast as usual, packed a day pack with lunch and headed up the mountain for the waterfall. It was supposed to be a 5 hour hike. Unfortunately it has been a spring with high winds and many many trees were down blocking the regular trails and the addition of snow still on the paths made it difficult to follow the trail, even for a veteran hiker like Sam. We had left the cabin at 9:30 a.m and hit the head of the trail up the mountain about 10 a.m. Because of alternative routes and a particular side trek that left us several hundred feet above where we were supposed to be and the subsequent back-tracking necessary, it was about three when we finally reached the waterfall. I was gasping for air and favoring my knee. Sam asked about aborting several times to go back but I am pretty stubborn about such things so we pressed on until we made it. The view was spectacular. No... I mean really spectacular...and worth every wheeze and hobble. We arrived back at the foot of the trail around 6 p.m., turning this 5 hour hike into an 8 hour marathon. When we got back to the cabin I couldn't move. I haven't been this sore or exhausted since high school football and Sam was apologetic about the extended route and offered to let me have all of our remaining fish for supper and the very last beer. I, of course, didn't let him do that, mostly because I was too whipped to move. We had talked about another long hike the next day on our way out before we headed home, but I convinced Sam that I was a wimp and couldn't force my body to hike another mountain trail, so we agreed to drive back through Sante Fe and look for Green Chile enchiladas...which we did.

So...I had a great time, caught and ate some beautiful rainbow trout, abused my feeling-older-by-the-minute body, and and got to spend some wonderful days with one prince of man in my friend Sam Vaugh. All in was a pretty good week... the trout we consumed might disagree, but it will be one of those experiences that I will treasure for a long, long time...and Cleveland is about as wild a creature as I want to face for a little while. And thanks, is a privilege to be your friend...