Monday, September 29, 2008

When your kids hurt...at the hands of another church

I got the call this morning. Our daughter is living and teaching in Atlanta. She is trying to reconnect to a church and found a large Presbyterian Church with great music and classic architecture. She goes alone, but has been pretty faithful. She recently became engaged and asked me to officiate. I said "YES" and asked them both to find pre-marriage counseling somewhere in Atlanta, since it is nearly impossible to do it at a distance and as a dad.
Yesterday she got up the gumption to ask the pastor of the church in Atlanta. She had to wait for him after the service. A woman asked if she was new to the church. "No" she said, "I've been coming for a year." And with that answer the woman turned away from Liz (she found out that the woman was the official greeter for the day!). When the pastor turned to Liz, she told him that she'd been attending there for a year, was getting married to a man who did not attend church, and her father would officiate at a service in California. She explained how I, as a pastor/father, requested that they get pre-marriage counseling in Atlanta. Would he be available to do counseling with them. Long pause, "Hmmm" he said, "You'd better give me a call at the office this week and we'll have to think about it." And with that he blew her off. She called my wife Sunday afternoon in tears. She had been evaluated and found extraneous. There was nothing in it for that church. She was a bother and an interruption. And, in spite of its excellent music and architecture, she's never going back.
Clearly, the dad in me is angry. But the pastor in me is angrier and sadder. In a day when young people have an already tenuous relationship with organized religion and churches, it takes precious little to send them back out the doors. On paper this church has it all, but in practice it is cold. She asked me to help her look for a new church in Atlanta. Too bad for them.


Our church secretary made the diagnosis in a late-night email to me. "I think what you have is nomophobia; no mobile phone phobia." She's right. Being without a cell phone now for the sixth day in a row is very different. I'm not always reaching for that appliance to put in my pocket or on the desk. I can't just talk with someone when I'm out and about, between hospital visits or walking into or out of a store. I do fear how many voice mails will be piling up until the phone comes back. And I do want to get the iPhone back in my hands (not to drop again). But this period without a cell phone is a teaching occasion for me. I form attachments to things and routines pretty deeply, and not always for the best. It's a good thing I still have access to coffee!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Square Dancing

Saturday night events are problematic for me. I value my quiet routine on Saturdays of reading, blogging, watching TV and getting to bed earlier and quietly, so I can be up early Sunday ready to go. So I routinely decline wedding receptions and dinner parties for Saturdays. Plus, I have little rhythm and have never learned to dance. It's penalized Martha over the years that I'm not nimble on my feet like she is, and especially like our daughter Liz is.
So when the Adult Committee at church proposed a Saturday night Square Dance, I inwardly groaned. I don't like Saturday night events, I don't dance, and I think Square Dancing is kind of old-school. I'm not the hippest person I know, but I consider myself hipper than square dancers. But...I went because it was at church, the adults holding it are friends, and it's next door to our house (I cannot avoid it).
About 20 people showed up. The caller was a young guy with a dry sense of humor and played his music from his lap-top iTunes. It wasn't the square dancing music I thought I would hear, it was a techno beat, even "Mission Impossible" theme. Martha and I danced almost the whole night, though she switched out and I danced with two other women from church. The caller had fun with us and I did not feel stupid or embarrassed. We laughed till we cried. My only regret was that more weren't with us. But then, maybe if I had better excuses I would not have showed up...and had so much fun.
The thing I've been learning here in California is that I can enjoy things I never thought I'd enjoy. So I wonder what's next...polka?

The Mind of Christ

Philippians 2:1-11 is the text for Sunday. The imagery of Jesus not grasping equality with God, but emptying himself, taking on the form of a slave, obedient to death, death on a cross. It's there in the tall Christ candle and the waves of outpouring down over the rocks onto the floor, for us.

Whisper Gift

Pastors get lots of comments. Some comments are positive and some negative. Comments and feedback revolve around programs, facilities, staff, worship and music. I like positive comments. Everyone likes a compliment. I filter criticisms by asking who is making the complaint and if the issue is really the issue (often it is not, but something deeper is going on). When I receive a comment about a particular program, I ask if the person making the comment has talked directly to the staff person involved. When that has not happened, I urge people to talk directly to each other, and try to help make that happen.
This week a good friend took the risk to talk to me about me, about how I was coming across in a particular area. It was accurate and it was not good to hear. My friend's assessment was right. He came to me quietly and with love. It was risky on his part, but it was a gift to me. Now I need to do some adjusting of behavior because of this gift of a whispered word.
In talking with another pastor this summer, we talked about this very issue; how many voices there are all around us but how isolated pastors can become, not having a circle of trusted friends who can "whisper" into their lives. Who whispers into your life? Whose voice do you trust to bring both the compliment and the critique? Whose life do you whisper into?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Cell Phone

When I dropped the FedEx box in the mail box yesterday, sending my iPhone off to get repaired, I did not realize what that would do. No cell phone is connected to me right now. That is new. I have had a cell phone close to me since 1992, sixteen years. Oh, I've traveled to other countries for times without a cell phone, but never while working. I've always been reach-able and always able to reach out, until now.
You notice addictions when you take them away. This is strange space to not have a cell phone going. It's almost like a fast. What would happen if church leaders gave up cell phone use for Lent? Could you go 40 days without using a cell phone? It's a lot quieter in my office today.

Monday, September 22, 2008

iPhone Woes

Don't drop your iPhone! My sons bought me a nice little iPhone a couple of weeks ago. I love it! It is so much more than a phone! But because I am techno-cluncky, they also purchased AppleCare for me, because I break things. And I did. It slipped out of my shirt pocket on the driveway and the screen cracked. I felt sick. But Isaac said not to worry, that's what AppleCare is for. He paid big bugs to add it to the cost of the phone.
So I went to the Apple Store in Thousand Oaks and they said, "No" accidental damage like dropping it is not covered. They will not repair it. The local Apple repair store won't touch it because then it would void the warranty. When I asked the Apple guy what I should do, he said either buy insurance on it (and then claim it fell after 30 days of the insurance taking effect(...isn't that lying?), live with the cracked screen, or buy a new phone for $400 (since AT&T subsidized the cost for new customers).
What a rip-off! The screen is basically the one thing that can be broken and neither Apple nor the support stores will touch the screen. Oh I can buy screens and try to disassemble the phone myself and then insert a screen (yeah, right!).
But Isaac found a place in Kansas City that will send me a mailer and repair the screen in 24 hours for about $150. That seems the best deal so far.
For a company I have loved for its service for many years, this has been deeply disappointing. Shame on you Steve Jobs!

Skunky Monday!

The bain of all gardeners is the attack by various animals; whether slugs, rabbits, deer, raccoons or skunks. Martha will survey the garden with disgust at the latest eating, digging or violating of the flower beds. So we asked the landscape crew to help us an they brought out some live traps a couple of months ago, with no good success other than one angry cat one night.
So we moved the traps out front to be picked up and removed this weekend. I awoke this morning early to the sounds of crows yelling. When I looked out from our front porch, there was a trapped and very angry skunk. So I left word for our secretary to inform the yard service people that a skunk was caught and needed to be removed. Only then did they tell us that they did not remove the trapped animals, Animal Control personnel had to be called. So we did that and were informed seriously that live traps were illegal and someone would come out soon to "talk with" me.
By 9:00 am a nice man from Animal Control came and gave me a wry smile. He said yard service people know the rules and readily remove raccoons and possums, but always call them for the skunks. Carefully he approached the caged skunk with trash bags as a visual and chemical shield for him. The skunk got edgy...then he said "Uh, oh, I got sprayed!" The smell was incredible. It filled the parking area, the courtyard, the church grounds...and slipped into our house. The skunk was released and we helped him wash up with soap and water, laughing as we did. But I just went home a few minutes ago....what a lingering smell for a Monday!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Anduze Surprise!

Finding a birthday present for Martha's birthday is always a challenge. Being an artist and very particular about colors and designs, I have been skunked on a number of occasions. But today I hit a home run. This summer in France we (she) fell in love with a particular style of outdoor pot called an "Anduze Pot" made in the town of Anduze for the court of Louis the XIV. They are only made in that community. But shipping home some heavy pots (much less carrying them as carry-ons) would have been impossible. So I found an importer and bought two. She's happy! It's a good birthday.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pietism's Weakness?

A couple had a conversation with me about our church's stance (or lack thereof) on a variety of social, ethical and political issues. When I explained my pietistic orientation, one that focusses primarily on the interior and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ as an historic reaction to Swedish Lutheran State Church control and American fundamentalism and its endless legalisms, they understood my quietism better.
Every election cycle I get particularly quiet and they called me on that. How can I be quiet about clear moral issues that do not just pop up every four years? What about the killing of 1.1million babies every year through abortion? Does my pietistic relationship with Jesus tell me to be quiet about that or say clearly that it's wrong? Has the issue of the sovereignty of personal choice removed both abortion and homosexual marriage from the range of issues that bear on being a disciple of Jesus Christ?
When the discussion translated into the realm of my teaching confirmation to 7th and 8th graders, I had no problem being clear and explicit with my ethics: Premarital sex? not a good idea. Pornography? bad deal. Racism? no. Bullying? not! Violent video games? bad stuff for the brain. Homosexuality? not God's planned way. On confirmation retreats the students have a time to pepper me with just those sorts of questions and I have no problem shooting back short and, I hope, accurate responses based on the Bible. But in all things, over all issues, and to all people we must reflect first and foremost the love of Jesus for us and through us.
While pietism's deep love of fellowship and preservation of the community is wonderful, sometimes we sacrifice speaking truthfully about the big issues and let us go our own ways. Maybe it's being reticent to go back to legalism. Maybe it's because we recoil from partisanship. Maybe it's because we just don't want to rock the boat. Is it time for pietism to get more muscle?

On Singing

Two weeks ago I went to the Friday Chapel at Westmont College and sat in the back. The worship band led a set of songs, some very new and others remixed old hymns. What I noticed was how few of the students actually sang. Some sang enthusiastically, with hands in the air and almost dancing in praise. But others stood (the only posture for chapel singing I've witnessed) with arms folded in silence.
I wonder if the same is true at church on Sunday? Being up in front and not facing the congregation on the chancel (like I did in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota) I do not see or hear who is not singing. Is singing going away? Do people not sing as much anymore and replace it with intense listening? With the proliferation of digital music and iPods, music is everywhere and all the time. Young people I know dread silence. They have some sort of music playing all the time. But do they sing? Do they sing together?
The Bible, and particularly the Psalms, strongly encourage believers to sing together, corporately, gathered in worship. Why? Jim Hawkinson's recent post in his blog "rooted wings" expresses it well:
"We, with the psalmist, must learn ever to sing in community, Lord—the community of your people, gathered not only in our place and time but in all ages before us and yet to come. We are not strong enough to sing your praise by ourselves. The fount of our song is in you and in all the people who belong to you—past, present, and future."
I'm not strong enough alone to praise God the way God expects to be praised. I need the help of others. My words are too shallow and my energy is too weak. I get distracted and discouraged. I get stuck in the ruts and routines of my language and cannot get high enough to praise God. That's why the old hymns and classic poetry work; they transcend the immediacy of today's issues and trends and speak about those things that endure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Under God's Generosity

Jonah 3:10-4:11 & Matthew 20:1-16 are the texts for Sunday. Both address how hard it is for us to live in the presence of God's generosity and grace. Jonah hates it that God is so merciful, he just wants to die! Klyne Snodgrass's "Stories with Intent" new commentary on the parables of Jesus says it best (and most painfully) that "we dress up as justice what is in reality jealousy or we use justice as a weapon to limit generosity." (p. 378). The truth of the Gospel is that envy robs us of the energy of grace to others. We must live under the gracious shade of the vine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Beach Wedding

They are both from Toronto and both believers. They wanted a simple Santa Barbara beach wedding. And they found me on the internet.

Darryl and Sarah and I had a good time getting married today!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Prayer of Intercession

The "pastoral prayer" was a weekly responsibility I loved and anticipated. I would write the pastoral prayer either late Saturday night or in the early hours of Sunday morning before anyone came to church. Not so in Santa Barbara. Here there is a practice of rotating the intercessory prayer among lay persons who volunteer to pray for the church. At first I felt robbed of this privilege, but over the years it has become true joy. Each week a different person with a different voice and different words puts the needs and concerns of the church before God. There are some Sundays when I am tempted to stand up after the prayer and offer the benediction and send everyone home.
On Sunday September 14 Dr. Paul Willis, member and professor of English at Westmont College led the prayer of intercession. I was so moved by that prayer that I asked Paul if I could share it with you. He agreed and it is posted below.
Paul Willis
14 September 2008
Montecito Covenant Church

Prayer of Intercession

Here we are, Lord. Another pretty nice day here. We get used to them—these nice days—we have so many in Santa Barbara. As we think about Carla’s fiancé, it is hard to imagine being attacked by snipers in Afghanistan.

And yet this business of shooting at one another is not hard to imagine after all. Because, as usual, we are disagreeing about lots of things. And when we disagree, we do not like each other, not very much. It’s election season, and that has a way of bringing some of our disagreements to a head, and of personalizing our disagreements.

Help us to get through this season by your grace. Help us to listen to one another, to love one another—and when we offend, as we often do, to forgive each other.

Help us to speak carefully, to be charitable in our understandings of one another, to assume not the worst but the best.

Help us to admit when we’re wrong; help us not to tell each other so when we’re right. Keep before us the strange way in which you, Jesus, got it right—by getting yourself nailed to a cross. Help us to take up that cross on behalf of one another. Help us to trust that you will help us carry that cross, because you already carried it when it carried you.

Every day, Lord, every day in Santa Barbara, in Afghanistan, we are still crossing the Red Sea with the Israelites of old. And you are holding back the waters on the left and on the right, and we don’t even know it. And you are interposing your pillar of cloud between us and our enemies, and we don’t even know it. We trudge along, pushing and shoving, complaining that our fellow travelers are too fast, too slow, and yet you clog the wheels of the chariots that so hotly pursue us.

Why is it that you even bother? What is it that you like about us? Why is it that you died for us when we are so busy assassinating one another in person and in reputation? What manner of love is this, Lord, and how might we learn it from you?

Forgive us for being such poor neighbors. Thank you that you yet remain in our neighborhood. Remain with us still, Lord. Abide with us. The evening hastens. Abide with us.

We pray in the name of Christ and for his sake. Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sobriety & Stewardship

It's Fall again and, like most churches, we are examining our 2008 giving to budget performance and looking at 2009. It did not help this weekend to see the crashing economic news about Lehman Brothers and AIG. I confess that I got a bit panicky, wondering if giving will remain strong at the church if a lot of people have their net worth tied to investment portfolios. We initially applauded ourselves for not buying real estate in California when the market began to slide, instead, investing it in a balanced fund. But that too is dropping along with everything else.
Then it hit me that stewardship is like sobriety: it's a day-by-day decision to trust God. The alcoholic lets the conditions around him/her determine drinking: got fired? drink. Got a raise? drink. Feeling blue? drink. Feeling happy? drink. Bored? Yes, drink. Exhausted? drink. Sobriety is a choice a person makes for right now and today. Today I will not drink. Today I will not get drunk. Today with God's help I will be sober. I have so many recovering friends who have taught me so much good theology in AA.
Stewardship works the same way. For those prone to not give, to not be generous, everything is a reason to not give. Got a raise? hold on to it. Got fired? hold on to what you have. Like the church? hold on to it. Dislike the sermon/music/youth program/etc. hold your money back till they perform better. If the markets are uncertain? better not give till things even out. If the markets are performing? Hold on to your money till they top out.
Stewardship and tithing is choice I make Sunday by Sunday, irrespective of the conditions surrounding me. I choose to give to God even, like the widow, when I feel like I have nothing to give. I choose to be generous even when it seems so little. Today I choose to give.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Memorable Wedding

It was a memorable wedding in many ways. The young couple is active at the church, teaching Sunday School to 1-3rd graders and just plain sweet! We had a great time meeting and planning the wedding. The wedding was on Sunday afternoon (which is a unique time) and at the Firestone Vineyard in Los Olivos, about 45 minutes West of Santa Barbara. The weather was perfect, the string trio played elegantly, and the bride was gorgeous. Parents smiled and wept and all went well.
They service went without a hitch until it came to my meditation on Phil 1:8-11 about how to let love overflow. I was speaking extemporaneously from my heart to the couple when it happened: a cell phone began to ring one of those old fashioned rings. We all quietly began to look around at who the offender was, until I realized it was ME! My new iPhone that I thought was set on vibrate-mode was chirping like a farmhouse wall phone. After three terribly long rings it went into voice-mail, and I became instantly sun-burned. Gratefully the bride and groom were gracious and laughed at me, glad it was my error and not theirs.
Guess who won't ever carry a phone into a wedding service again?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flying with Isaac

Some guys hold up strings of fish, or prop up a dead deer head. Others pose with golf clubs or tennis racquets. I get to hold up a wrecked body of a radio-controlled airplane Isaac crashed while dog-fighting with other rc'ers in Wisconsin last week. What fun!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Forgiven Forgivers

I'm very forgiving....towards those I like. I have regularly forgiven people I like and admire who have hurt me or disappointed me. I am pretty quick to forgive my children, wife, and friends. It's those jerks that make me crazy! You know who I mean. The person who is so chronically whiny, or the one who make bold promises to do things, but never gets them done and we have to bail them out. The tough ones are the addicts, the ones who feel remorseful for their issue, but do it again and again and again.
Jesus has some words about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-25 that Diana is preaching on Sunday. It's about 70x7. The table above has 70 votives and 7 taller candles, but one, large Christ candle.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flying on 911

There was a distinct quiet in the Minneapolis Airport this morning as I arrived early for my flight. It wasn't until I got through check in and security that I sat with my Caribou coffee listening to the memorial service from Ground Zero. Then the news commentator stopped and said that this was the very moment 7 years ago when the planes hit....and there was silence on the TV and silence in sitting area around our gate.
How our world has changed since that Tuesday morning 7 years ago, just as the Salem preschool parents were dropping off children and workers were well underway with the church expansion. Not being a super-patriotic person, I walked our American flag out to the front sign and planted it on the corner. Then came the...and then the...and then more of the....and our world has changed, morphed, matured, lost its innocence, cried, blamed, polarized and globalized.
Our 757 was filled with loud and boisterous Ohio State fans decked out in bright red going off to do battle on the gridiron at USC on Saturday. The young man behind me loaded up on three mini-bottles of whiskey to get the weekend off to a buzz, but filling our area with his sweet stench of inebriation.
I remember the silent skies in the Twin Cities and the stories from my brother in the Washington DC area, of battle groups and fighter planes making sorties. As we loaded into the plane, I remembered. As we took off up through the clouds and rain, I remembered. As we settled into our flight and getting ready for our beverages, I remembered.
And when we touched down finally in Santa Barbara and I got into the car with Martha for our uneventful ride home, I remembered.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An Evening in the Air

I'm in Minnesota for two reasons: to spend extended and quality time with my parents at Colonial Acres in Golden Valley and to spend time with my son Isaac in South Minneapolis. I never anticipated the backlog of emails between Monday night leaving Los Angeles and Tuesday evening in Minneapolis.
But seven hours with my parents was so good! I needed the "face-time" with them; to see their room, to hear their voices, to watch their faces, to laugh together and be silent together. I've never been more grateful for Covenant Retirement Communities than now, watching the big net surround and support them in their most vulnerable times.
Then at 4 pm I left to pick up Isaac and we drove to "Freedom Field" in Wisconsin just across the river. A single guy owns a large field dedicated to radio controlled flying of airplanes. It's one of the last Tuesdays for the field before closing for winter and maybe fifteen to twenty fliers were there, doing loops and arcs, low passes and acrobatic maneuvers. But when the picture was taken, eleven guys with identical planes were up in the air doing combat! It was so exciting to watch the planes loop and dive in dog-fighting moves. Isaac crashed into one guy and both planes careened into a field. They picked them up, glued them back together and relaunched, laughing as they did. It was an air-ballet of guys from various walks of life out playing.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Amazing Grace!

It was a warm and humid night in Santa Barbara. We had two worship services, an adult Sunday School class between services, and an all-church taco-dinner honoring our Children's Director. A 6:30 jail service was the last thing I wanted to do. The sermon from the morning (Ezekiel 33:7-11 "Watchman") seemed rushed and not as full of life as I would have liked it to be. I was hurried and distracted. So I was grumbling to myself on the way to jail.
But 23 guys in blue jump suits and orange socks and shower slippers were waiting for us eagerly. We were herded into an adjacent classroom and they began choosing songs to sing from the song-book with an accompanying music track. They were contemporary praise and worship songs graciously recorded and provided by Calvary Chapel here in Santa Barbara. At the end of the song time, one of the guys asked to sing "Amazing Grace." We did not have the mp3 player that we normally use for the 3 hymns selected. So I suggested we stand and sing it a capella.
The 23 guys stood, some with hand up or open, with eyes closed and sang at the top of their lungs all six verses. But when they came to the stanza that begins "When we've been there ten thousand years..." And I looked around at this rough group of guys and realized I would be singing with them for the next ten thousand years! I got a brief glimpse of eternity as I watched and listened to them sing together. When we were done I said that I'd better learn to love them now because we were going to be hanging out together for a long, long time!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Should Pastors be Interviewed?

In Saturday's New York Times there is an extended article from the front page on Sarah Palin's spiritual life. Those sorts of articles really interest me as both a pastor and voter. They interviewed and quoted both her former and current pastor and other staff persons at the Bible Church she attends.
As I read the article I had a twinge of unease. Should pastors be talking to the press about members' lives when they are now celebrities? It's a relevant question for me because occasionally a well-known person or very affluent person will attend Montecito Covenant. And as celebrity impressed as I can be, something inside says that they are in church to worship, not be observed and commented on. If I were to talk to the press about my impressions of why so-and-so came to our church, that would be a breech of pastoral confidentiality. What do you think?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pay Attention!

Ezekiel 33:7-11 is the text where God tells Ezekiel that he is appointing Ezekiel as God's "watchman" (or sentinel) over Israel. A word like "watchman" is a hazardous word to mull around and take with you into any and all situations: What am I watching here? What am I missing? Who is watching me? What do others watch about me? What sorts of things do I like to watch? What sorts of things do I hate watching? How alert am I? How easily distracted am I from watching? What's the difference between watching and browsing? How come I like to watch others, but get irritable when others watch me...especially when they point out some of my many faults? What's the difference between watching and criticizing? Where is the good news in the watchman's task?


Well, it happened. Last night during a dance event in Atlanta, Liz received a proposal and ring from Jeff Camozzi. She said "yes" and now we are entering a new arena of preparing for a wedding. This will be fun!

Martha Ensign Johnson

Being married to an artist is an adventure. Martha is a highly self-disciplined person, who devotes hours each day to her solitary pursuit of making art. At times I pop into the studio to look around at what is new. At other times she invites me in to comment on a particular piece. But for the most part, she works alone, with alternative music streaming from a favorite Minnesota station.
Yesterday was a treat to see all her recent work hung and lit in the Reynold's Gallery on the campus of Westmont College.

Martha was invited to give an "artist's talk" on the meaning and themes of her work three times: to a class of students and then twice to opening attendees. I will not attempt to summarize her words, except that her themes have to do with paradoxical notions of paradise, time, chaos and order.

Following the opening, Martha and I were invited to an Art Council member's home with a number of friends for a gracious and sumptuous meal as the sun set over Santa Barbara

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Martha's Opening

Postcards From Paradise: A New Perspective In Printmaking
August 26th, 2008
Westmont’s Reynolds Gallery opens the academic year with “Language Skills: The Art of the Expanded Print,” new work by Martha Ensign Johnson, on display September 4 through October 25. An opening reception Thursday, September 4, 4-6 p.m. is free and open to the public.
An internationally know printmaker, Ensign Johnson is also a new faculty member in the Westmont art department. Trained in the southeastern United States and in Italy, she has been a printmaker for 35 years and exhibited work across the United States and abroad. She came to Santa Barbara three years ago when her husband, Don Johnson, became pastor of Montecito Covenant Church.
The work in “Language Skills” explores cultural ideas of paradise by weaving together images of industry, nature and pop culture in multi-layered compositions. Ensign Johnson uses etching and woodcutting techniques to print on papers that are connected in what she calls “expanded prints.” Regarding her process of sewing or hinging prints together, she says, “It is a practical solution for a conceptual problem.” Reconciling disparate ideas and images is a prevalent theme in her work.
When she moved to Santa Barbara she was struck by how often the area is called “paradise,” and determined to examine that idea further. “There is a French saying, ‘For every postcard of paradise there is a backside.’ That inspired the postcard-sized etching plates used in this series.” Ideas of structure and chaos began to emerge in her research, with images of cranes, trestles and other means of controlling our surroundings. “The process and the ideas are very connected; there is always a
tension between structure and chaos in printing.”
The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. For directions to campus, visit the college Web site at www.westmont.edu. For more information, contact (805) 565-7140 or nprice@westmont.edu.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What a gift to Kenya does!

Two years ago Martha and I went to Kenya and to teach at a pastors' conference. One of the local pastors working for SIM, Pastor Oloo, impressed both of us as a model pastor. His church is in Eldoret, where his church was burned during the post-election fighting. After a long struggle to get banking details, we were able to send him $700 US and below you can see how he spent it in the orphanage he manages, and he sent us the receipts!! Talk about honorable!


Monday, September 01, 2008

Third Rail Season

Every four years our country enters into the pastoral season of the third rail. If you don't know about the third rail, it comes from subway systems that run their electricity through a third rail that pad skim along. When people touch third rails, they are electrocuted and/or severely. Third rails are not safe places to play around. But they are so tempting.
At lunch this past Sunday a young student entering the American college system from Kenya asked me probing questions about Conservative and Liberals and why some issues were more important than others. Then, in a pause, she said "So who will you vote for?" The eyes and ears of others caught the question; conversation stopped and they looked at me. It was a third rail.
I told her that I have never told anyone but my wife who I vote for. It's not because I do not have strong opinions, but that my role as a pastor needs to be focussed on caring for the congregation God has given me that includes people of integrity who will vote differently. These tantalizing topics are not salvific, and Christians of integrity take opposing stands. Therefore I have chosen to be non-partisan, and that's hard for me, especially when there are so many great targets of conversation.
Where I can and should speak is to areas that the Bible addresses, and not just selectively: the poor, the right to life, anger, pride, care for the oppressed, stewardship of the land, air and water, making peace, striving for justice. Topics are more central than personalities (though poking at personalities is so much fun!)....but it's a third rail.

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