Saturday, May 15, 2010

transFORM mash-up, Round Two

Still thinking, still living a full life, still slow to blog. Nevertheless, anxious to keep at it.

I'm not much of a sermon-listener...there are worse ways to spend a morning, but I can't think of too many. However, Anthony Smith made me reconsider my categorical opposition to the practice. The wisdom & hope he presented, coupled with an impassioned and artistic delivery, held my attention for...well, for the whole time. (I actually have no idea how long he spoke!) He described the Kingdom of God as "not something we build or create, but something we enter." In the process, we are fundamentally transformed: "to see and enter the Kingdom of God is to become genetically predisposed to lovingkindness." He spoke about the early American slaves, and their hope for the future of God's Kingdom. Their longing for freedom, expressed in song and prayer and action, was a very real participation in God's future. Anthony invited us, as well, to look for the future of God in the world (and in the Church) around us, to participate in it--and to "look for hope to the slaves, who ultimately saw God's future come to pass."

In "Stories that Compost", Melvin Bray & Russell Rathbun encouraged us to read Scriptures with an eye to stories that bring life. Stories that might be re-told with a new twist, so they might bring new life in their re-telling. Our group together read the opening verses of Exodus 1, noting elements we'd missed before, or questions that grew out of our reading. We then spent 6 minutes - yes, just six - writing stories inspired by these observations. The breadth of perspectives was remarkable, and I came home telling the stories to anyone that would listen. A guiding question to continue this practice might be: "How can I tell stories so that others don't have to re-traverse the territory I've already covered?"

Mark Scandrette talked about starting a Jesus Dojo. Dojo means simply "place where you learn the way", so he's talking about learning the way of Jesus. For him, it's a deeply communal process, ongoing and practice-oriented. The question that guides is "What is my next step [or my next risk] into the ways of Jesus?"

Mike Stavlund bravely facilitated a discussion about failure, one which I'll remember each time I do yardwork. He described a job that included the [potentially intimidating] task of maintaining a garden, to which he was introduced with this invitation: "This place is what's left after 20 years of my mistakes. Pure trial and error. So you won't be able to mess this up. We can always dig stuff up if we need to, and if you prune anything back too far, it'll grow up again." Anything that survives in my garden is bound to be resilient and fairly self-sufficient -- and I'm delighted in a surprised sort of way each spring when I see plants growing back. Our conversation created the occasion to think about more of life from this sort of paradigm, in which I patiently trust and wait and accept that I can't make everything flourish.

Given the fact that this is a mash-up, I get to stop writing now, without any sort of neat wrap-up or parting wisdom. But with much gratitude, and inspiration.

Friday, May 7, 2010

transFORM mash-up

Still getting my feet on the ground after last week's conference in DC. I've been itching to blog, knowing that much of my processing (and remembering) happens only in the context of writing. So I've finally managed to catch up on (read: delay) the urgent things, brew a cuppa, and sit down with my [unusually extensive] notes.

First, let me just say what a privilege it was to meet so many folks who are intensely committed to action. We were all at transFORM to learn and think and discuss, but I don't think I've ever spent time with a more implementation-oriented crowd. Everyone seemed almost impatient to get home & roll their sleeves up. Second, Steve Knight pulled together a remarkable crew of insightful folks. Every workshop I attended was outstanding, and I heard the same from others. Not one "dud". How often can you say that after a conference?!

So, down to brass tacks. Turns out there wasn't any one specific take-away. The weekend got my mind going in so many different directions that I've decided to take a different tack w/ my next few blog entries. I'll just go through my notes, highlight some of the ideas that stuck, and post them here, with or without context or commentary. If you're curious, let me know - I can always add (or invent) more detail. So, without further ado:

Jonathan Brink, "Constructing an Emerging Theology":
intrinsic mobilizing story: how do we understand and tell our stories in such a way that they get us off our pews and into active, transformative engagement? (for more on this, I'm reading Made to Stick. Also, see upcoming post on Stories that Compost)
Pride: can be understood as the human attempt at self-validation, trying to validate something that's already been validated.

Samir Selmanovic, "Learning to Love the Other in God, Self, and Society":
Holy Awkwardness - the discomfort we feel when we stand before someone entirely alien to us, while recognizing in them the image of God. A discipline crucial to truly loving humanity is to "practice my ability to not understand the Other." And finally, to those who have influenced our lives--in any way at all--"we owe a tribute--we owe our selves to them."

Peter Rollins invited us all to accept and even internalize our doubt with this: "To believe is human; to doubt is divine." Do we use our faith as something to hide behind, something to shield us from suffering? Or do we stare into the hard questions, and cling to God and God's body anyhow? "We find God in our midst. God is among us. As we doubt God up there, we pray, we weep, we long for God in our midst, in our actions." And then he stepped aside and let the the music of the prophet Jeremiah speak. (around 1:20:20, warning: strong language) We ended the evening in heavy, hope-filled silence.