Brokenhearted Theology, Contemp Culture, Leadership, Meaning, politics, Quotes, Ramblings, Resurrection, social

Be as Uninteresting as You Can Be? (Thoughts from David Foster Wallace)

I stumbled across this David Foster Wallace interview from almost 15 years ago.

A few of my thoughts are at the bottom after the snippet.


DFW: No one is asking questions about the connections between how we live, what we drive, and the things that are happening [in the world].

INTERVIEWER: Are there means of rebellion [from the status quo]?

DFW: There are people doing it all over the place…The people I know who are rebelling meaningfully don’t buy a lot of stuff and don’t get their view of the world from television and are willing to spend 4-5 hours researching an election rather than going by commercials.

The thing about it is in America, we think of rebellion as this very sexy thing that involves action and force, and my guess is the forms of rebellion that will change anything meaningfully will be very quiet and very individual and probably not all that interesting to look at from the outside.

I’m now hoping for less interesting than more interesting.

Violence is interesting. Horrible corruption and scandals and rattling sabers and talking about war and demonizing a billion people of a different faith in the world – those are all interesting.

Sitting in a chair and really thinking about what this means and why the fact of what I drive might have something to do with how people in other parts of the world feel about me isn’t interesting to anybody else.


Here’s the full interview.

Whether you agree with DFW or not, it seems strikingly applicable to our world, perhaps particularly this week.

Parts of it also strike me as complexly-privileged, specifically the ability to “wait it out” with quiet, uninteresting, rebellion.

But I am especially struck by the gravity of the “interesting” and how it plays out in the stories of our world.

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

I (do not) believe in the god named Scarcity.

I like to think I don’t believe in the god named Scarcity, but the last few days have reminded me that my subtle allegiances to Scarcity are surprisingly strongly-held.

Scarcity peaks around a corner when all the wrong lights flash on my car’s dashboard (you know those lights – the ones you have to flip through your manual to find out what they mean and they say “stop driving your car right now and take your car to the dealership,” even if you’re not sure how to get to the dealership if you stop driving your car).

The whisper of Scarcity is heard when bills (even expected bills) all show up on the same day.

Scarcity doesn’t strictly operate in cash but shows up in the deluge of meeting requests, pressing deadlines, and wasted minutes or hours of a long commute.

Scarcity laughs at the seemingly-endless buzzing drone of notifications, pop-up reminders, and unread messages in your email inbox.

Scarcity says the water is rising and you’ll never find dry land again.

Scarcity’s song’s melody begins with “There is not enough. You do not have enough.” and rises to the refrain of “You are not enough. You will never be enough.”

Scarcity invites me to surrender to fear, to give up, to prey on myself and others.

I rarely, if ever, have strong, mountaintop, “Come to Scarcity” moments.

But the draw, allure, and movements of Scarcity are more subtle than that.

Some days I actually do believe in this god I don’t believe in.

Standard
Uncategorized

The World Doesn’t Need Good Pray-ers

A few weeks ago as we closed out our journey on prayer at Open Door East Bay, I said that the goal of life with God is not to be a good pray-er.

The disciples didn’t ask Jesus how to pray because they wanted to pray well; they asked him how to pray because his life shifted expectations and at every turn tilted orbits toward a better world, and they wanted to live that kind of life.

The world doesn’t, ultimately, need good prayers or good pray-ers.

The world needs people who walk in the Way of Jesus – which is to say people who step courageously toward justice, are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others, and tilt orbits toward a better world.

Prayer can be a means to that end, but it is not the end.

So pray, yes, pray – not as the satisfaction of responsibility (“I’ve prayed, that’s all I need to do.”) but as an onramp to action (“what must I do? give me the courage to do that. (and then, what’s next?)”).

Standard
Brokenhearted Theology, California, Contemp Culture, Crazy Bible, Meaning, Ministry, Ramblings

“But, are ya still preaching the gospel?” and other solicitous questions

We just moved and, apparently, with moving comes solicitors.

no-solicitors-allowed-1444909We’ve had people come to the door asking about everything from security systems (You do plan on protecting your family, right?) to cable television (With us, you’ll get a bazillion channels!), and, tonight, we had a visit from bless-their-hearts church people that just wanted us to know they are starting up a new gospel preachin’ church in the neighborhood and, if you don’t attend a gospel preachin’ church, would you like to come and visit?

They handed us a tract covered in stars, stripes, regal eagles, and “God Bless America”s.

Between the move, toddler-dom, less-than-ideal-sleep, and 25% of the adult ankles in our house sprained, all amidst the piles to unpack and organize, I feel like my energy and interest in engaging solicitors has been minimal.

Tonight, we were having post-dinner family time – dancing, laughing, and listening to records (Gershwin) – as the solicitors approached.

Hi, we’re just here to let you know about our new church.
Oh, hi.
Do you have a church you go to?
Uhh, yeah, actually, I’m a pastor.
Oh, where are you planting your church?
It’s been around for a while, it’s called Open Door.
Oh, you get a lot of young folks, then?
Yeah, I guess.
But are you still preaching the gospel?
Uhh, yeah.
What is it?
What is what?
The gospel.
Oh, I think we both have answers to that question.
Only by the blood of Jesus!
[Tired smile.]
And no works, right? You don’t preach works, do you?
Sorry, we were having family time, so I think we’re actually going to go back to that now. Have a good night.

There’s all kinds of commentary to add here – about my response and what it should or could have been, about door-to-door church invitations, about the strange-but-all-too-common bedfellows of patriotism and religion.

I sometimes wish I had more energy to enter into constructive dialogue with these solicitors (their questions, how we might differ on our understanding of the gospel and where we might agree, how there is more about Jesus than his blood that is good news, etc.).

But, at the end of the conversation, I decided I would rather spend my energy dancing with my family than picking theological nits with strangers (err, brothers and sisters in Christ?).

Thoughts?

Standard
California, Family, Meaning

Your Blood or Mine?

The elevation was increasing as the snow continued to fall. The freeway slowed as we approached the chain restriction check point.

We pulled off to the side of the expanded shoulder, a parking lot of slush and semi-trucks. A small army of men in fluorescent-orange and -yellow snowsuits with vests reading “Chain Installer” moved about, diving into the slush and stretching odd assortments and varieties of metal over the wet, slippery tires of sedans and mini-SUVs.

I dread tire chains. I dread putting them on and I dread driving with them on, not so much because of the speed restriction (which is annoying) or the constant hum and vibration (which is annoying) but because they represent the risk of driving in unknown conditions: the roads are terrible; put metal spikes in your tires and maybe you won’t drive off the cliff.

I rolled down my window to ask one of the jumpsuit soldiers where I should pull in to install my chains.

Doin’ it yourself?

Yeah.

Then I don’t care. Over there, out of the way.

Oh. Of course. Jumpsuit guy is there to make some cash, not to help out of the goodness of his heart or some great initiative funded by my tax dollars.

I pull over next to my friend whose white SUV still carries what looks to be a foot of snow packed on the roof of his car.

From the backseat: their car needs a haircut!

The SUV doesn’t need chains, but my friend knows I’m dreading this and he offers to help before we head over the mountain pass back home.

As I step out of my car into the slush, I’m grateful to not be alone amidst the hazard lights, fluorescent jumpsuits, and stench of idling eighteen-wheelers.

When’s the last time you did this?

A long time ago.

Me too.

We each take a side, unrolling my cheap bought-them-on-the-internet-for-twenty-dollars-on-sale-used-once-and-returned tire chains, which are not so much chains as they are small little discs of metal attached to a thin wire that may or may not fit around my tire.

I am not convinced these will actually help in snow and ice, but that is not why I bought them. I bought them to get me past chain restriction checkpoints. I am confident they will do the trick.

A fluorescent jumpsuit: You sure you have the right size?

I am sure of very little at this point, and I perceive the sneer and constant eye of the jumpsuit footmen, ready to take a short stack of cash in exchange for my dignity.

For a moment I consider it. At least it would be finished quickly.

But I remember my three-year old, who is straining in the car seat to get a view of his dada putting chains on the tires so our little silver hatchback (the “adventure car”) can brave the mountain pass.

In his imagination, which is only thinly separated from reality, this is just another part of our hero’s quest. This is a great adventure and, while he is told to stay in the car, I am his proxy, preparing our car to slay the dragon.

I cannot abdicate my duties and, while I am not sure what is at stake here, I sense it involves a curious and potentially volatile mix of honor, pride, ego and self-respect, so I squat down near the tire and try to figure out how to put these damnably-frustrating contraptions on.

I recall the conversation I had in the front seat ten minutes prior, in anticipation of this side-of-the-road ordeal.

I wish I had gloves.

You have some right there. Won’t those keep you warm?

No, I don’t care about being warm. I just need to be able to grip and use my fingers.

Oh. That makes sense.

I unroll the chains by the driver’s-side tire as my fearless friend does the same on the opposite side.

They go on the front tires, right?

Yeah.

For a moment, I slip out of my body and survey the scene from above. I have this odd realization that I am a grown up. A man. A husband. A dad. I am terrified and thrilled at the responsibility and weight of this.

I slip back into reality as both my friend and I fumble around on our respective sides, occasionally peeking over to see how the other is doing. I call him over to my side, to see if together we can tightly fasten this twisted necklace of metal to my tires. My hand slices across a sharp edge on these high-economy-low-functionality tire chains of mine. A patch of red instantly paints across my slushy hand and drips onto the slushy roadside below.

My interior monologue grows increasingly loud and deprecatory.

You look like an idiot.
You have no idea what you’re doing.
Those guys are laughing at you.
Why didn’t you buy decent chains?
Why are you trying to drive your Prius across a mountain during a blizzard?
Don’t you know you’re going to drive your family off a cliff?

I have to back up the car a few inches so we can attach the chains, and I hop into the car.

From the backseat: Dada! Are our chains ready to go?

Not yet son.

From the frontseat: Oh, I see why gloves would be nice.

Yeah.

We finish up my tire and move across the front of the car to the other side.

My friend kneels down, pulling the chain taught so we can fasten it and finish the job.

I notice the blood on his hand.

You too? I’m glad it wasn’t just me. I’m sorry about this.

It’s okay. I’m actually not sure if it’s my blood or yours.

Standard
Advent, Brokenhearted Theology, Meaning, Ramblings, Spirit, Worship

Growing Impatience in a Very Odd Advent

Advent has always been a season of reflection for me (which usually results in more writing, as evidenced by all these past Advent thoughts).

This has been an odd Advent. Instead of writing and reflecting on waiting, I’m just waiting.

There are always things I’m waiting for. Longings, anticipations, expectations. Usually, though, these things are a bit vague and conceptual – I’m waiting for a deeper sense of internal rhythm, I’m waiting for resolution of a large story in progress, I’m waiting for peace on earth.

This year we’re waiting for a baby to be born. Jesus, yes, but also our own. We’re within spitting distance of the due date of our second child, but I think both Krissy and I anticipated having this child born already.

But the baby is staying put. So we’re waiting, waiting, and still waiting.

And the impatience is growing.

Impatience because this thing we expected to have happened already hasn’t happened.
Impatience because our anticipated timeline is not our actual timeline.
Impatience because life goes on even as we wait.
Impatience because we are not in control and there is so very little we can do.

As I survey the state of my soul, I’ve sensed a subtle (and sometimes less subtle) snippiness, dissatisfaction, and dis-ease, a proclivity towards distraction more than life-giving rhythm. In a world of on-demand, express-shipping, fast-food, I am recognizing in myself an atrophied patience.

This Advent at Open Door, we’ve been making our way through a journey Toward the Approaching Light. I’ve loved that imagery because it speaks of multi-faceted movement. It is not simply that we are journeying toward Christmas one week at a time, but that the Light itself is approaching.

Advent-Facebook-Cover-00

And that’s been a helpful reminder for me in this season of impatient waiting.

Even in the midst of a world in turmoil, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of unfulfilled longing, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of unexpected frustration, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of distraction and delay, the Light itself is approaching.
Even in the midst of growing impatience, the Light itself is approaching.

Even in the midst of yet another Advent season where we join the chorus of two thousand years of waiting, the Light itself is approaching.

Standard
Brokenhearted Theology, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Eucharist, Global, Meaning, Narrative Theology, Peacemaking, Ramblings

Guide Our Feet on the Path of Peace

This past Sunday’s lectionary reading from Luke had us hear the words of Zechariah, a man whom I imagine was familiar with personal longing and societal brokenness.

As a priest of an exiled people, I imagine he was weary and tired of infusing hope in desperate and exhausting circumstances.

I imagine he regularly faced those who invoked fear and violence and rallied for exclusion of the other and the call to take up arms as the biblical and Godly way of faithfulness.

I imagine he himself wavered between succumbing to fear and holding on to hope.

And I imagine he experienced both trembling and relief as “he was filled with a fresh wind from God” (Luke 1:67) and proclaimed with prophetic confidence that God’s good news would “guide our feet on the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).

The path of peace, not the path of war.
The path of peace, not the path of self-defense.
The path of peace, not the path of retaliation.
The path of peace, not the path of exclusion.
The path of peace, not the path of violence.
The path of peace, not the path of fear.

Not the path of Christian university presidents.
Not the path of politicians.

The path of peace
following the Prince of Peace
who would welcome the stranger as family
before casting them away and closing the door,
who would lay down his life
before ending the life of another.

Standard