Brokenhearted Theology, California, Equipping, Leadership, Meaning, Narrative, Ramblings

Sol LeWitt and the ReCreation of the World

The other day we had the chance to slowly move through the SFMOMA, one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area.

I spent a while sitting in proximity to a few different pieces by Sol LeWitt, an American conceptualist.

LeWitt’s work appears deceptively simple, using little or no color and simple geometric shapes and patterns.

“By repeating and varying a single principle, he created sculptural structures that were aesthetically satisfying even as their internal logic was pushed to the edge of irrationality.” (SFMOMA)

SFMOMA has a room filled floor to ceiling with several of LeWitt’s wall drawings, intersecting lines emanating out from several loci in bold primary colors.

These drawings are simple and they are beautiful.

But what struck me most was LeWitt’s conviction that the true art lay not in the product but in the idea or concept. The piece of LeWitt’s art I was looking at (Wall Drawing 273) was an original LeWitt, and yet at some point the wall would be painted over and a draftsman (following LeWitt’s instructions) could recreate the art on a different wall without losing the originality of the art.

Although it would resemble Wall Drawing 273 as I saw it (LeWitt’s instructions dictate the number of lines, the number of locus points, the color of the lines, etc.), the shape and size of the wall, the lighting of the space, etc. would all change the dimensionality and feel of the next iteration of Wall Drawing 273.

Again from SFMOMA’s bio on LeWitt, “each of these impermanent artworks consists of a set of the artist’s instructions, something like a musical score, with the actual execution carried out by someone else.

Unbelievably beautiful.

And now for some theological reflection…

I couldn’t help but wonder if this isn’t the pattern of creation and recreation that we find in the Christian Scriptures:

impermanent artwork: Genesis 1’s depiction of Eden isn’t static or sculpted; the garden is meant to flourish, multiply, grow, and change.

set of the artist’s instructions: not a blueprint or schematic, but a coherent yet loose invitation into the ongoing (re)creation of the world

something like a musical score: LeWitt’s concept for Wall Drawing 273 isn’t beautiful in and of itself, although it is, in some sense, the art. But when the instructions are drafted onto a wall, the art takes a shape and form that can inspire awe, breathlessness, wonder, reflection, inspiration, etc.

actual execution carried out by someone else: This is perhaps the most profound, the openness and willingness of the artist to invite other’s into the recreation of their art (not as the artist per se, but also not not as the artist). Every iteration of Wall Drawing 273 will be different, but they can all be true.

The entirety of the Christian Scriptures invites humanity into the project of (re)creating the world with a coherent invitation into the shape and form and concept yet with an unbelievable freedom to expand and innovate and adapt within the conceptual artistry.

 

 

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Brokenhearted Theology, California, Contemp Culture, Meaning, Narrative, Ramblings

The Slow Suicide of Donald Draper

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From the first season, the opening credits of Mad Men told us how this story would end.

Our eyes are drawn to a silhouette slowly falling to his death. Even with the dishevelment of gravity, the silhouette is incredibly well-kept, almost calm. Slim-fitting suit, neat tie, a graceful free-fall past the icons and idols of advertisement and consumption.

So calm, so graceful that you almost forget the silhouette is falling.

Almost.

Mad-men-title-cardThe credits close with the same figure, cigarette lazily at his side, no longer falling, simply an observer. Waiting for the inevitable to occur. An object in motion stays in motion, a body falling continues to fall until it hits rock bottom.

Much has been written (eloquently, thoughtfully, truthfully, beautifully) about the closing of Mad Men’s story. I love a story that leaves room for our own. The best stories are so intricate and true that we find ourselves inside of them, leaving us wondering how much, if any, distance there is between fact and fiction. I love the thick, stubborn nature of redemption – that even in the most tragic characters, even in the most tragic circumstances, there lies the potential to find hope. So I’m grateful for those who saw redemption in Mad Men.

But the silhouette is falling and, in Mad Men’s closing scene, Donald Draper hits bottom.

The bottom isn’t the concrete of a New York sidewalk or the barrel of a smoking gun or the bottom of an oft-filled tumbler.

That’s what I expected. That would have been too obvious.

The bottom is a return to the thin illusion of happiness.

The bottom is a return to the suicide-in-progress that has slowly unfolded since the opening credits of Episode 1.

The writers saved us the dignity of watching the gruesome end.
Our cigarettes can still hang lazily from our fingers as we watch the fall with a curious ambivalence.
We can hum a catchy jingle while waiting for the train.

But don’t we all know how this story ends?

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California, Global, Meaning, Narrative, Peacemaking, Ramblings, Urban

Hollywood, Your Neighborhood, and The Great Material Continuum

My wife, Krissy, is in the midst of a beautiful writing project which is giving voice to stories and lessons and joys and heartaches from the last few years of our life. She wrote this piece last year while we were living in Hollywood and it resurfaced for her this week as she’s been processing through #TheLentProject Extras Purge this week with our friends at Open Door.

The Great Material Continuum (Krissy Kludt)

When I was younger, I bought few clothes, and I kept them forever. I still had clothes in college that I had worn in middle school. I had a closet full of things at my parents’ house that I never wore, but kept just in case they would come back into style. Sometimes things do: in high school, Nikki and I gave my dad the hardest time about his too-tight jeans, begging him to get something looser; ten years later, jeans got skinny again. As my dad put it, delighted, “I lapped myself!”

When we moved to Hollywood, I found a new system for clothing. Trends change more quickly here, and thrift stores have an abundance of (almost) current fashions. In Wisconsin, Goodwill has mostly XXL T-shirts; in LA, it’s full of Forever 21, H&M, and Urban Outfitters. Angelenos acquire more often, and they get rid of things more often. I found myself inheriting clothes from friends all the time, many days wearing entire outfits that were cast-offs of Abby’s or Bethany’s. Rather than “keep forever, never buy,” my new motto was “hold all things loosely.” I, too, acquired things more often – at yard sales or thrift stores or from friends – and I got rid of things I stopped wearing, trusting that I wouldn’t regret it.

Dave and I have our geeky moments, and in one of them a couple of years ago, we watched a whole lot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. If you are less geeky and therefore less familiar with Star Trek, you may not know about the Ferengi aliens and their pseudo-religious belief in economics. The closest they have to a god is their belief in the Great Material Continuum. They call it the “Great River,” believing that all places have too much of one resource and not enough of another, but that all material things flow in the “Great River,” eventually ending up where they are needed. (Ideally, of course these material things flow through the Ferengi and provide them with plenty of cash along the way.)

I have started to believe in the Great Material Continuum. I cannot tell you how many times I have needed something, asked for it (or not asked for it), and waited until it came to me. I needed clipboards for school, but not badly enough to go out and buy any. (This was in our early Fuller days when we lived and paid for Dave’s school on my new teacher’s salary, and cash did not feel particularly abundant.) One day we helped some friends move, and they were throwing out a box of clipboards. I’d wanted an old wooden chest for years, and one day one appeared at a yard sale next door to HomeState. Dave needed more pants, and one day he found a pair of H&M jeans on the sidewalk in his size. It happens to us all the time. I am starting to believe that what you need will come to you if you are willing to wait.

One of my (Dave's) favorite sidewalk finds

One of my (Dave’s) favorite sidewalk finds

There is an economy in East Hollywood of which we were once completely unaware, but we began to observe it and participate in it. There is an economy beyond that of cash and credit cards, when you begin to look.

A few weeks ago there was a family sitting outside of Burger King across the street from us with several large suitcases. They had two small children with them. It is unusual to see homeless kids in our area, so I assumed they had some other story – ended up in our neighborhood off the metro, waiting for a ride from friends, something like that. It turns out they had just gotten off the Amtrak from West Virginia, and were waiting until Monday (this was Saturday) for the homeless shelters to open for intake.

I brought them diapers and a few groceries, sat on a suitcase and chatted with the mother. Their son wore the same sized diapers as Everett. My heart broke for this mother. Our instinct to take care of our children is so strong, and this family was struggling so much to do so. I prayed with them. While I sat with them, one man gave a few dollars to the little boy, a woman dropped off cereal and juice, and another man called the police for them, assuring them that the police department could probably get them into a shelter that night. These people were strangers here, and so alone, and yet their most basic needs were being met by the people walking by.

The next night we went to the Manna Room after our church gathering. The Manna Room is a food pantry that brings in and sorts almost-expired, dented and otherwise unsellable Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s food, and it opens for the church on Sunday nights. After Everett was born and I left my job, we were tighter on money than we had been in a long time, and we were grateful for this abundant provision. Some weeks we found more in the Manna Room than others; some weeks we needed more than others. On this week, we had bought groceries for several people besides ourselves. That night, the Manna Room was overflowing, full of things that were on my list for the grocery store, where I was headed afterward: pesto and goat cheese and diced tomatoes and fiber cereal for Everett. I was full to the brim with gratitude.

We live in an economy of grace. Somehow, our needs continue to be met, again and again, in the most unexpected ways. When I worry I’ve overspent our food budget for the month, the Manna Room happens to have everything we desire. Just when I think I don’t have energy left to make it another few hours until Dave gets home, Everett decides to take a three-hour nap. When my house is a disaster and I haven’t had a moment to think and Everett doesn’t seem to want to ever nap again, one of our housemates shows up and plays with him in our yard so I can do the dishes and sit down for a few minutes.

An economy of grace is an economy of abundance. When we live out of abundance, like the loaves and the fishes, what we have multiplies. We have enough time, enough food, enough money. We have more than enough love.

Am I the woman – the mother, wife, child, friend – I wish I were? Not even on my best days. But I live in an economy of grace, an economy of abundance, and in that economy, by owning my own insufficiency, I become enough. When I choose to live in the economy of grace, when I do the hard work it takes to believe in abundance, joy grows within me, sending roots down deep into gratitude. I have enough. Roots soak in nourishment from that fertile soil and send stems skyward. I have more than enough. Leaves unfold, open to the sky. By grace, I become enough. There will be space enough for growth. There will be room enough for love. There will be time enough for revelation.

One day I stopped to chat with a homeless woman named Amariah who lives in the park up the street. She told me she needed toenail clippers and a jacket, and asked if I had either to spare. She told me her story. Then she pulled me over to her pile of belongings and asked what I needed.

“I don’t need anything; I have enough,” I said.

“How about shampoo? Do you need shampoo? When I get it I pour it out into smaller bottles and give it to the other women in the park. I asked the salon over there if they needed it, but they said no. I gave it to them anyway.”

I smiled, “That’s ok, I really don’t need anything.”

She started rummaging through a suitcase. “Here,” she said. “Take these.” She handed me a pair of jean shorts.

“Really, you don’t have to. I don’t need anything.”

“Take them. They’re nice – they’re Lucky brand. If you have two, you’re supposed to give one away, so that’s what I’m doing.”

I didn’t tell her that I was walking back home from Goodwill, where I had tried on several pairs of shorts without finding any that fit.

“We’re neighbors, you know,” I said to Amariah as I hugged her goodbye.

“No,” she shook her head. “We’re sisters.”

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Brokenhearted Theology, California, Church, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Eucharist, Global, Leadership, Meaning, Ministry, Narrative, Peacemaking, Pedagogy, Prayer, Ramblings, Resurrection, Spirit, Urban

Poetry and Place: Listening to Your Neighborhood’s Voice (Part 2)

Last fall I spent a week in the Mission District of San Francisco and spent time exploring and listening to that neighborhood. Part of that week was spent learning to

hear the sounds of the streets

listen to the voices of the people

taste the city’s flavor

see the sights of everyday life

feel the sidewalks, the fabrics, textures, the pain and the beauty of a place

recreate the voice of the neighborhood with a bit of poetry.

The product of that experience was a poem – the colors scream – but also a desire to recreate the experience and invite others to listen to their neighborhood’s voice in all its beauty and brokenness.

This month, I’ve been meeting together with a group of friends who are exploring and experimenting with our neighborhoods and our role as a neighbor in that place. Our “homework” the first week was to map our neighborhood/place and spend time listening, exploring, and creating some kind of artistic response to what we heard/saw/tasted/smelled in that place.

Here’s a poem I wrote inspired by my place:

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walk up, time to see the day
the neighborhood awaits our presence
in its beauty and in its pain

vacant lots, echo chambers
locked up toys and runners
runners in pink, runners in green
big runners, small runners
costumed runners, laughing runners
all just passing through

‘the spirit of God is upon me’
her voice cuts through
the runner’s drone and the drum’s resound
her words call out, I am recognized
‘be careful,’ a Siren sounds

to protect my child or 
protect this stranger?
the cruelest of choice
a Siren sounds, ‘be careful’
our wheels roll on
my heart lingers

the lilies of the field
the lilies of the field
and the birds in the air
will they be okay?
will she be okay?
will we be okay?
a Siren sounds

East Hollywood, California // April 2014

 

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Brokenhearted Theology, California, Contemp Culture, Global, Green, Meaning, Narrative, Peacemaking, Prayer, Ramblings, Resurrection, Travel, Urban

Poetry and Place: Listening to Your Neighborhood’s Voice

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I spent the last week in San Francisco for an intensive week of study and experience (and food and coffee!) for my doctoral program.

Part of our “homework” was to spend a few hours exploring a neighborhood in order to

hear the sounds of the streets

listen to the voices of the people

taste the city’s flavor

see the sights of everyday life

feel the sidewalks, the fabrics, textures, the pain and the beauty of a place

recreate the voice of the neighborhood with a bit of poetry.

So we paired up and dove into exploration mode. And it was awesome! Temples and tastes. Artwork and addictions. Pirates and playgrounds.

Here’s the poem of place, hope, and presence that emerged from my exploring.

The colors scream there is hope and beauty in this world
The colors scream there is no hope and no beauty in this world
Who made the colors? Who made hope? Who made beauty?
And who am I and who are we?
We are the colors and the hope and the no hope.
We are the no beauty and the beauty.

The colors scream and ice cream. Bourbon and cornflakes.
Child’s play, sweet dessert and healthy start.
Shattered bottles, shattered lives.

If this then what? If Flannery’s Christ-haunted South then what?
What haunts this place and what haunts my place?
Where are the local haunts and who are the local specters?

The colors scream and I scream.
Where are you? I am here? Where are you?
Two voices. Then one.
Where are you? I am here.

The colors scream.

Mission District, San Francisco // October 2013

What do you hear in your neighborhood? What do your streets speak?

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Bivocational, Books, Brokenhearted Theology, California, Church, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Homiletics, Leadership, Meaning, Ministry, Narrative, Pedagogy, Ramblings, Reading Reflections, Teaching, Urban

A Eucharistic Imagination for Los Angeles: A Bibliography

I’m rounding the bend into my second year of doctoral studies in the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller. The DMin program is a practice-oriented doctoral program (whereas a PhD is most often a research-oriented doctoral program). Not to say the DMin doesn’t involve research and the PhD doesn’t involve practice, but they are different programs of and approaches to study.

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My first seminar was focused on ecclesiology with an outward focus: extending the core practices of the church into the cultural situation the church finds itself in. My post-seminar project centered on the Eucharist (Communion or the Lord’s Supper) as a paradigm for ministry in my context of northern Los Angeles/Hollywood.

I’m going to post over the next few weeks a few snippets from my project…but thought it’d be fun to start from the end (“It opens at the close”) and pull the curtain back on the project bibliography.

Let me know if you have any thoughts. While the project is finished and feedback has been received, this is a practical work in progress and hope to continue thinking, reading, writing, and practicing in this area of study.

Banham, Reyner. Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

Bauckham, Richard. Bible and Mission. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

Borgman, Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Vintage, 1998.

Cavanaugh, William. Torture and Eucharist. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1998.

Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Dacre Press, 1949.

Fee, Gordon. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.

Fitch, David. The End of Evangelicalism? Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011.

Fitch, David and Holsclaw, Geoff. Prodigal Christianity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage, 1995.

Hall, Stuart. Doctrine and Practice. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.

Hauerwas, Stanley. A Community of Character. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991.

Leland, John. Hip: The History. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.

Metzger, Paul Louis. Consuming Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Mohr, Melissa. Holy Sh*t. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Kindle Electronic Version.

Purdy, Jedediah. For Common Things. New York: Vintage, 2000.

Smith, James K.A. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.

______. Desiring the Kingdom. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Yoder, John Howard. Body Politics. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992.

_____. “Sacrament as Social Process” in The Royal Priesthood. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1994. Kindle Electronic Version.

Websites

Green, Hank. Interview with Bill McKibben. http://www.ecogeek.org/ecogeeks/730 (Accessed June 1, 2013).

Holland, Gale and Quinones, Sam. “California Demographic Shift: More People Leaving than Moving In.” November 27, 2011. Available http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/27/ local/la-me-california-move-20111127 (Accessed June 1, 2013).

The Eastsider LA. “It’s Official: Silver Lake is America’s ‘Best Hipster Neighborhood.’” http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2012/09/its-official-silver-lake-is-americas-best-hipster- neighborhood (Accessed June 1, 2013).

Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “A Bold Beginning.” http://www.lachamber.com/webpage- directory/about/aboutchamber-125thanniversary-past/ (Accessed June 1, 2013).

Los Angeles Times. “Mapping L.A.” http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-­‐la/neighborhoods/ (Accessed June 1, 2013).

The Outsiders. “Morley – I Don’t Make Sense Without You.” http://www.theoutsiders.net/exhibition/86,morley-i-dont-make-sense-without-you (Accessed June 1, 2013).

Pollak, Richard. “Homeless in Hollywood.” http://www.thenation.com/article/158838/homeless- Hollywood (Accessed June 1, 2013).

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Brokenhearted Theology, Church, Family, Food, Meaning, Narrative, Prayer, Quotes, Ramblings, Resurrection

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (book review)

There are too many books written and marked as “Christian – General” or “Christian Inspiration.” I have read a good number of these books, and I used to like many of them. But eventually you realize that many of them are rather boring, unoriginal, and poorly written. My co-pastor Greg and I like to quote Tolkien when we talk about preaching: “Sermons – they are bad, aren’t they?”

And I feel the same about Christian books. Most of them are bad, aren’t they?

But every once in a while I’m gratefully surprised to encounter a truly good book that’s both Christian and inspiring (though I still cringe at the thought of calling it “Christian Inspiration”).

Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine arrived at my house on a Tuesday and I write this on a Wednesday after setting aside my other pile of reading to finish Bread and Wine.

It’s really good.

The book piqued my interested after seeing the trailer (how silly is it, that books have trailers? Maybe not so silly, I guess, since I watched it and was interested in reading the book.). I’m in the midst of a writing project focused on the Eucharist along with some church discussions about the role of food, hospitality, and sharing meals together so I figured a book focused on food with eucharistic undertones in the title might be interesting on multiple fronts

Niequist writes about the importance of meals in developing and maintaining relationships, celebrating life’s joys and processing tragedies, loss, and sadness. Her writing is honest and beautiful. I marked up more pages than I anticipated and shared several parts with my wife and friends.

Parts of my own life feel fragile and delicate right now, and sharing several sections of the book with my wife, we both found ourselves a bit choked up and teary-eyed at the way Niequist links food, family, and the roller coaster of life’s emotions. She’s right that food is not just about food – it is a window into the way we go about loving and living and celebrating and grieving. Food is obviously physical but undeniably spiritual.

A few snippets to share with you:

I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see thesemlves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful plan, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room. I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bite of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious. (98)

Food matters because it’s one of the things that forces us to live in this world – this tactile, physical, messy, and beautiful world – no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals. Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness. (250)

I want all of the holiness of the Eucharist to spill out beyond the church walls, out of the hands of priests and into the regular streets and sidewalks, into the hands of regular, grubby people like you and me, onto our tables, in our kitchens and dining rooms and backyards. (252)

One final thought: this book is marketed for a female audience, maybe more than I wish it had been. You’ll see it and feel it looking at the cover, flipping through the recipes woven through the book, and in some of the language used (you probably won’t catch me reading this in the bathtub, despite the back cover’s invitation!). That said, food and hospitality and the messiness of life are hugely important for people of faith and I think this book does a terrific job engaging and challenging readers on those topics. I hope the book is read by men and women alike!

Note: An early copy of the book was sent to me by the publisher and I have done my best not to let that impact my review.

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