Monday, June 29, 2009

A Creative Re-Mix

My favorite musical artist over the past 2-3 years has been Mat Kearney. He's a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville but is originally from Oregon. He has an incredible voice, plays some great guitar, and his lyrics have been deeply meaningful to me. The following video is a creative rendition of his great song "Closer to Love", the highlight of his new cd "City of Black and White." Enjoy!

A Night Well Spent

Mandy and I saw a movie this weekend that I am officially recommending to all of you. We watched "The Soloist" on Saturday and both loved the film. Jamie Fox plays a schizophrenic, homeless musician who attended Julliard at one point but was forced to quit because of his mental illness. His primary instrument is the cello, but as the movie begins he is playing a beat-up violin with only 2 strings. The plot unfolds around an LA Times columnist (played by Robert Downey Jr.) writing an article about the man, and the friendship that ultimately forms between both men. Downey's character gets the man off the street and playing cello again, serving to greatly influence his life and health.

The movie offers much insight into the life of extreme poverty in a major city. We see homelessness constantly in Seattle, but it is nothing compared with the sort of poverty displayed in "The Soloist." Each day is a struggle to survive both the pangs of hunger and the threat of physical harm. The film also helped me better understand how terrible schizophrenia must be. There is a scene in the middle of the movie where the audience can almost physically feel the confusion and annoyance that must be constantly present with this awful disorder. Overall, the movie had great acting, a compelling story, taught me so much about life on the streets, and left me inspired to seek change for the people I encounter each day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Tragic End for the King of Pop

I debated whether to add yet another Michael Jackson post to the blogosphere, but I couldn't help but unload a few thoughts. I grew up idolizing MJ. I can remember sitting on our basement couch with my best friend Ryan listening to the "Bad" cd for hours. I can remember my amazement at seeing the "Thriller" music video for the first time ever, captivated by Michael's dance moves and creativity. I even dressed as Michael for Halloween one year in grade school, white glove and all (sorry no picture included...but I'm sure my mom has it somewhere).

Michael Jackson served as a pioneer in the music and entertainment industry. Without his innovative breakthroughs, popular music in its current form would cease to exist. Without MJ, you have no Justin Timberlake, NSync, Backstreet Boys, and so many others. I'm not sure you can watch a Jackson music video and not tap your toe and think dancing is cool. He has meant so much to so many people.

The tragedy of the story, however, seems to be in the inward, mental, and emotional battles Michael must have been waging. Maybe more than anyone we've ever seen, he wore this war outwardly, as we all watched his physical appearance morph throughout different seasons of his story. Its hard to imagine that a man admired and emulated by so many could feel so inadequate in his own skin. The following video seems to capture well these battles he was waging. My thoughts are on MJ and his family today as they grieve this terrible situation.

Michael Jackson from taynjaymyangels on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Irony of the MHGS Location, Pt. 2

As promised, the second strange irony of the location of the school I attend comes in the street it is on. In the midst of the greatest financial crisis our country has faced in over 60 years, I find myself studying at a school squarely resting on "Wall Street." That's right...Mars Hill Graduate School, on the corner of Elliott and Wall.

I recently heard some statistics about the city of Detroit, that: they have a 23% unemployment rate, that 30% of the city is on food stamps, and that 1 million people have already left the city. While these numbers are certainly inflated due to problems in the auto industry, they do help us see the crisis our nation currently faces. It only seems fitting that while New York's Wall Street is frantically searching for answers to life's problems, we sit on Seattle's Wall Street dreaming of new ways that the world might find redemption and restoration. It seems that America's predominant story of individualism and greed has finally proved itself inept and it appears time that a new story, a counter-narrative of community and self-sacrifice, spring up in its place. I count it a blessing to have this opportunity to study and dream, to wonder about how the Kingdom of God might invade this world.

As people scramble for any way to feed their families, the church must become a place of refuge, a place of hope, a place to find real, tangible answers to life's real, tangible problems. As the elders of our community prepare for retirement but are forced to realize that this is no longer an option because their 401k has tanked, communities of faith must step into their God-given roles of being a voice for the voiceless and the marginalized, the widow and the orphan. And as our country is faced with an onslaught of doubt about the future, followers of Christ must balance the tension between being sympathetic to these real fears while being hopeful and proactive about creating a new future for this world, a new heaven and a new earth here in this place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Irony of the MHGS Location, Pt. 1

The school I attend, Mars Hill Graduate School (MHGS), sits in a beautiful area of downtown Seattle, just one block from the water, overlooking the Puget Sound. I couldn't be happier that its location allows me to walk the streets of Seattle each day, taking in the diversity a downtown metropolis has to offer. Until a few years ago the school was located in a business complex in Bothell, a suburb of Seattle. I cannot imagine studying in any other building than the one we are currently in. It would just not be the same.

At the same time, too, the location has a number of different ironies that make it an intriguing place to do seminary (more on the second irony in an upcoming post). Mars Hill sits sandwiched in location between an upscale hotel and a non-profit organization that reaches out to Seattle's homeless and poverty-stricken population. To our west we are faced with the wealth of our country, and to the east, the poverty. We find ourselves in the middle, trying to navigate life in this ever-increasing gap.

This is definitely an interesting tension to have to balance. As I spend these three years preparing for a life of vocational ministry, I must be willing to step into this often awkward tension that has been created in our society. As a pastor, will I be willing to walk this tightrope? Will I not let the rich of my congregation sleep easily in their greed and selfish ambition, but be strong in calling them to new levels of devotion to God, especially monetarily? With the poor in our community, will I be gracious and compassionate, but yet strong in calling forth hard work and dedication in producing sustainable living for themselves and their families? And most importantly, will I help lead the kind of community where both sides of the coin (pun intended) feel welcomed to the conversation? Will we produce dialogue amongst us that asks challenging questions and seeks hard answers, but ultimately leads to an active pursuit of justice and peace in our world?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Are We Doing?!?

I don't talk about sports much on this site, but they really are quite an obsession for me. NFL football has become a deep passion of mine over the past few years, but I am nervous about the coming season. As a long-time, die-hard Denver Bronco fan, this offseason has been absolutely, incredibly terrible. Coming off the disappointment of last season, where we lost the last 3 games of the season to blow a 3-game lead in the division and miss the playoffs, I was hoping for a promising offseason of rebuilding. I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

The changes started quickly with the firing of long-time head coach, Mike Shanahan, and the hiring of rookie coach, Josh McDaniels. The blockbuster of bonehead moves came soon after with the trading of Pro-Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. A few weeks later the team wasted all the great picks they received in the Cutler trade by having a terrible draft, and now they are on the verge of trading away their best wide receiver, Pro-Bowler Brandon Marshall.

I cannot believe the breakdown that has happened within the Bronco organization and I am preparing myself for the weekly devastation I will experience as I watch my team getting slaughtered by each opponent they face. Needless to say I'm worried about the weekly depression I will sink into on Sunday afternoons. Why do the Broncos feel the need to ruin my Sabbath (and my life)?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Creating God In Our Image

When I saw this cartoon I instantly thought of the quote I've heard a number of times before that "God created us in His own image and we repaid the favor." I think this happens far too often, that we create a god in our own image, asking Him to be whatever we want him to be, rather than who Scripture says he is.

Who Gets Blessed?

A large piece of my practical theology is that the people of God, the church, are called to be a blessing to the world. With that in mind, as I enter the world with the desire to further the Kingdom of God, I often find myself asking what it looks like to be a blessing in that specific situation. The people of God often fail to be good news to the world and must once again make this a priority in its ministry.

While this posture of engaging the world is incredibly important, the draw back to this line of thinking is that it tends to emphasize that I am the one one doing the blessing, and never the one being blessed. I was reminded of this yesterday as I rode the bus. As I engaged in conversation with the woman sitting next to me, I was the one who ultimately felt loved and cared for. She seemed to actually care about who I was on a deeper level than just what I do. Her example of care and concern for others has deeply impacted me.

While it is incredibly important to enter the world with a desire to bless, I pray that God would continue to open my eyes to the myriad of things He wants to teach me. As I dialogue with others, may my heart and mind truly be open to learning from and being blessed by the other and much as I desire to teach and bless them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not As Handy as I Thought

For a number of days now I have noticed the awkwardness of trying to get into the refrigerator in our pro-shop at the rock climbing gym I work at...the door swings the wrong way. I have had to switch the way the refrigerator door swings in almost every home we have lived in (they have always been easy to switch), so this morning I took the initiative to change ours at the gym. Needless to say, the project was more than I could handle.

It took me getting the entire door unmounted to realize that I had bitten off more than I could chew. This project was going to take far longer than I thought it would, but since I was this far already, I proceeded. After getting the door remounted the opposite way, it would not completely close. No matter what I did I could not get the door to seal. So, to make a long story short, I was forced to undo everything I had done and put the door back the way it was in the beginning. I even had to cut a little piece of plastic off the door to get it to work right again.

I like to think of myself as pretty handy, but I proved my incapabilities this morning. In the words of another co-worker who helped me out in the process of reassembling the fridge, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Good advice I guess.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Funny Commentary from Colbert

While watching the Colbert Report this morning, Stephen was once again brilliant in his comedic and prophetic way of drawing attention to the world's news. Enjoy this clip from the show.

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