Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Darkness is Where We Are

F. Buechner in Listening to Your Life, Dec 1st.
"Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility: that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal."

All the paradoxical themes of Advent are compressed into that handful of words: Christ coming at Christmas time in great humility and again at the end of time in glorious majesty - Christ coming as a child to save us and as a king to judge us - mortal life, immortal life. They clatter against each other like shutters in the wind with all their points and counterpoints. They all but deafen us with their message at one and the same time of sin and grace, justice and mercy, comfort and challenge. "Cast away the works of darkness," they say, and put on the "armor of light." Maybe those are the words that best sum up the paradox of who we are and where we are. Somewhere between the darkness and the light. That is where we are as Christians. And not just at Advent time, but at all times. Somewhere between the fact of darkness and the hope of light. That is who we are.

"Advent" means "coming" of course, and the promise of Advent is that what is coming is an unimaginable invasion. The mythology of our age has to do with flying suacers and invasions from outer space, and that is unimaginable enough. But what is upon us now is even more so - a close encounter not of the third kind but of a different kind altogether. An invasion of holiness. That is what Advent is about.

What is coming upon the world is the Light of the World. It is Christ. That is the comfort of it. The challenge of it is that it has not come yet. Only the hope for it has come, only the longing for it. In the meantime we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are.

"Disturbing Voices" AIDS Conference Underway

For a great blog report from the conference visit Eric Swanson.

For news coverage check out Google news.

Sketches after Sargent

I have a tendency to accidently chop of the bottoms of the paintings I'm copying. In this one, called Fumee D'Ambre Gris, there's supposed to be an incense burner at the girl's feet.

In the painting, called Carolus-Duran, the subject is seated and bracing his right arm on his right leg. But, once again, I ran out of room. If you think the the hair-do and neck tie are a blast from the past you should have seem the shirt cuffs!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Inside Out has Wrapped Up

I was there for What a Ride (the 15th), Life by Life (the 20th), Chapter 2 (the 25th) but none of those compare to the 30th anniversary celebration, Inside Out. The United Center wouldn't even have fit this party! 30 days of neighborhood service to celebrate 30 years of Willow Creek Community Church. Four major serving blitzes (for each of the four areas around the South Barrington campus) with 347 additional local serving projects.

Last week was Elgin's blitz and we found out today how it went -
  • 700 Elgin area families participated
  • 310 bags of groceries were donated
  • 690 care packages for incarcerated youth were donated

I think everyone has loved this experience and I bet we're going to see a lot more of these things in the future.

So let's go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is - not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This "insider world" is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let's take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus' name. Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship - a different kind of "sacrifice" - that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.

-Hebrews 13:13-16 (The Message)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday's Random Ten (iTunes version)

  1. You Do All Things Well - Chris Tomlin (arriving)
  2. Undignified/You Alone - David Crowder Band (Can You Hear Us?)
  3. The Bird That I Held in my Hand - T Bone Burnett (T Bone Burnett)
  4. O Evangeline - Emmylou Harris (Stumble Into Grace)
  5. Don't Let It Bring You Down - Annie Lennox (Medusa)
  6. The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles (1)
  7. No Love at All - T Bone Burnett (T Bone Burnett)
  8. Child of the Wind - Bruce Cockburn (Nothing But a Burning Light)
  9. By Your Side - Ben Harper (Fight for your Mind)
  10. Circle of Error - Sixpence None the Richer (This Beautiful Mess).

This list is dedicated to the Nano that has not yet arrived. Come home to me. I love you.

Fibromyalgia in the News

There is a new study out showing that a drug approved for treating Narcolepsy is effective at treating pain and sleeplessness caused by Fibromyalgia. All the recent studies, from the brain studies to the Parkinson drug study and now this, seem to be supporting the new theory that Fibromyalgia is not a rheumatolgical disorder (as it has been treated for years) but actually a nuerological disorder. I hope this shift in thinking will help get the folks in the lab coats more interested in studying, and thus finding the best treatment for, a disease that seriously impacts the quality of life of MILLIONS of Americans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An American Priest in Lundwood

What do you get when you mix an American Vicar, a Yorky mining town, a marketing firm and a camera crew? The BBC's new reality tv show, Priest Idol.

Christianity Today has a great interview with James McCaskill about the experience.

And what do you know, Willow even pops up in the conversation:
The filmmakers brought in a marketing firm to help you sell the church to the town. Was this a positive experience?

It really was. The marketers—a firm called Propaganda—were very respectful and sensitive. They brought a fresh perspective from the world. I don't think it was selling out to the world. I think it was a way of learning what is going on in the culture, what does the immediate society want, how do they view church? I don't know the story very well, but I wonder if Bill Hybels used a similar approach when he went knocking on the doors around Willow Creek, asking what folks would like to see in a church. The most positive thing this did was to raise the profile of the parish in the community, to say, "We're here and open and alive."

What would you say to those who argue that the church does not need to market itself?

I would say that we did not take a secular approach and put the label 'Christian' on it and therefore redeem it. What I would say is that we used a tool available in Western society and used it in such a way to produce something that is worthy of the church. For instance, the marketers challenged us to say, "What is special about the Christian faith?" It was a challenge for us to articulate it; in fact, the congregation was not able to articulate it. By taking a sales point of view and asking, "How are you are you going sell this place, if you can't tell people what's great about it?" the marketers weren't asking us to make things up; they were asking us to genuinely examine ourselves. It sounds pathetic that the congregation was not able to articulate those things already—this is our faith we're talking about, after all—but obviously it wasn't happening.

What do you think the airing of Priest Idol can accomplish?

It tells a really positive story about our particular church and about the church in general. That was one of the concerns of the bishop. He thought that if this was a success, it would be a success not just for Lundwood, but for the Christian church in the UK. It shows hope, it shows excitement, it shows people rallying around a church. It shows a church willing to take risks. It raises a lot of issues for churches to think about how, why, and to what extent they can reconnect with their communities.

Sounds like fascinating TV, maybe it will make its way across the big pond some day!

Favorite Things Continued!

Guess what came out today!? We haven't finished it yet, but so far the Electric Co performance and the awesome Chicagoans have already made it better than the Elevation Tour in Boston DVD of a few years ago.

Monday, November 14, 2005

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

Brand new NB 658 walking in puffy white clouds!

We'll be there with all the kiddies on Friday!

It's in the mail, and when it arrives the earbuds are going in and staying in!

"Love" -F. Buechner

One of my favorite books is Listening to your Life by Frederick Buechner. It features some of the Buechner's best writings in handy little daily increments.

The entry for November 15th is called "love."

The love for equals is a human thing - of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing - the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing - to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy - love for the one who does not love you but mocks, thereatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pride and Prejudice cont.

We saw Pride and Prejudice last night and I'm still smiling. With all the glowing reviews out there I hardly need to throw in my two cents, but I will tell you that if you're trying to decide whether to see it now or wait for the DVD, go now! It's not everyday that you can sit in a room with 200 strangers and all sigh and giggle at the same wonderful things. The book, despite its uncomfortable observations of human behavior, makes you feel closer to the rest of the human race, so being able to experience the story with a large group of people is a rare treat.

As for the '95 vs '05 debate...I'd say that this film replaces the '40 version and complements the '95 version and that is good news for all Austen fans!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday's Random Ten (on time for once!)

Thanks to my lovely brother-in-law I've got dsl in my room now - this changes EVERYTHING, mu-ha-ha!

  1. It's Alright Doctor - Vigilantes of Love (Driving the Nails)
  2. Bass Player - Justin Dillon Stevens (Hotel Melodramatica)
  3. Listen for the Laughter - Bruce Cockburn (Anything Anytime Anywhere)
  4. The Only One - Caedmon's Call (Long Line of Leavers)
  5. I Will Always - The Cranberries (Everybody Else is Doing It...)
  6. The Tourist - Radiohead (OK Computer)
  7. Fire and Water - Buddy Miller (Universal United House of Prayer)
  8. Here Comes the Night - Van Morrison (Best of...)
  9. Hardstone City - Hothouse Flowers (Home)
  10. Squabs on the Forty Fab - Squeeze (Picadilly Collection)

    Picadilly always reminds me of Lord Peter Wimsey. Did you know that in her very first Wimsey mystery, on the very first page, Sayers describes Peter like this - "His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola." Um, what?

Willow Creek Community Church in the News

"I can't imagine losing everything," Zeiss said. "I've been to African refugee camps; (Waveland) had the same kind of feeling."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

So the new Pride and Prejudice movie comes out on Friday. When I first heard about this movie I was outraged. How could someone try to remake Pride and Prejudice while Colin Firth is still alive? I mean, if they wanted him to reprise the roll as a forty year old Darcy I think we'd all be game, but to have some sniveling little Alan-Rickman-wannabe try to fill those shoes just ten years after Firth ... the hubris!

But it's been a couple months since I first received the shocking news, and I've calmed down enough to admit that I'm genuinely curious to see Knightly as Elizabeth (I was never too impressed with Jennifer Ehle's performance) and Judy Dench as Lady Catherine. Plus, I'm always up for a little Jane Austen, no matter what the form.

So far the reviews aren't bad. I hope I can see it this week and I'll let you know what I think.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Twenty Random Things

I've been tagged. Twenty things about moi coming right up...
  1. No amount of cajoling, crying or cursing from my mother could keep me from playing in the Fox River.
  2. I haven't painted in a month and I feel like I'm going nuts.
  3. I had a dream once in which Bono and the Edge were a crime fighting duo and I helped them rescue a kidnapped girl. That was pretty cool.
  4. "Lost the Plot" by the Newsboys always makes me weepy.
  5. I'm peeved that Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers won't be publishing any more novels.
  6. I believe in ghosts.
  7. If I could learn any new skill, I would learn to play the piano.
  8. I chop off all my hair about once every three years. I can't help it, it's like a law of nature.
  9. Physics is my favorite science. Torque is an awesome word.
  10. Reading is my favorite escape.
  11. I would love to tour civil war battlefields. And someday I will.
  12. I'm tickled pink that I managed to be descended from the likes of Pocahontas and Governor William Bradford.
  13. I hate my Traynor nearsightedness and lisp.
  14. But I hate my Sherman Fibromyalgia even more.
  15. Love the canines and moles, though. Wouldn't trade them for the world.
  16. When I was born the sun was in Cancer, the moon was in Leo, and Virgo was ascending, so that explains it all.
  17. I've delivered many, many kittens.
  18. If I could, I'd eat breakfast three times a day.
  19. I love people, but I love being alone. What's a girl to do?
  20. The move is over. Let the good times roll!

Fridays Random Ten

So I think I beat everybody again for latest entry of Friday's Random Ten. Go me.
  1. Free Falling - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits)
  2. Little Daughter - T. Bone Burnett (T. Bone Burnett)
  3. Sing - Jars of Clay (Who We Are Instead)
  4. Tempted - Squeeze (Picadilly Collection)
  5. Jacqueline - Franz Ferdinand (Franz Ferdinand)
  6. Home - Hothouse Flowers (Home)
  7. Til The Day I Die - Third Day (Wire)
  8. Tornado - Sara Groves (All Right Here)
  9. All Creatures of Our God and King - David Crowder Band (Can You Hear Us?)
  10. Thing Called Love - John Hiatt (Bring the Family)

One of the bright spots of last week (week of the closing from HELL) was discovering that my old Hothouse Flowers CDs (which look like they've spent a wild night with a brillo pad) play in my desktop's disc player. So I got all nostalgic loading them into the computer and pulled out a box of old CD's to see what other treasures lay forgotten in the closet. Stroke 9? Eve 6? Creed? Savage Garden? What the....!?

It was like listening to old mix tapes - that's always a revelation.

No Vigilantes on this list...otherwise it's pretty good. I love John Hiatt...Jars of Clay's Who We Are Instead is their best since the debut... "Home" is perfect for those blue days.
Now my spinning head is slowly slowing down
At least my lonely bed is in my favourite town

I guess that would be Elgin. We do have have a kick ass library (currenlty filled to overflowing with plaster dinosaurs.) I checked out some John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, and Sufjan Stevens CDs today. And bought a used copy of Presumption of Death.