Head First: September 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

OK, So Bitching Isn't Futile!

I have a couple recessed lights above the kitchen counter. I've habitually purchased these DuraMax flood lamps from Philips, mostly because I happen to be in Home Depot when I think of it, and that's what they carry.

The thing is, they advertise that these bulbs last for a year and a half, but I find myself changing them every couple months. So, on Monday, I sent an email to the good people at Philips' Lighting Division, politely explaining my discontent. Three days later, Fedex shows up with a case of lightbulbs, compliments of Philips, and a letter addressed to "Ms. Dorsey Marshall" (they must've seen my profile), thanking me for bringing this deficiency to their attention.

I scratch my head a little. I mean, I'm happy to get $60+ worth of lightbulbs for nothing, and it's much easier to prepare my morning bowl of grits when I can see 'em. It's just that I was kind of enjoying being pissed off at the big faceless corporation. I mean, they didn't say they were working on making their lightbulbs better, just "here's some more." I feel not so much satisfied as neutralized. I'm not sure if that says more about them or about me.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Thank thee, sir, mayest I have another?

A post on KC's site reminded me of an account I heard not long ago of the European Anabaptists in the 16th century. Anabaptists were the forerunners of what is known today as the Mennonite Church (often confused with the Amish, although some Amish are Mennonites). These believers were persecuted by Rome with a particular vengeance, and even made some reformers uneasy because of their radical view of the nature of the Church, community and Christian ethics. As such, it was not necessary to commit a particular heresy to warrant execution. It was made a crime simply to be called an Anabaptist. Thousands were martyred across Europe. Even the few who recanted were still executed, so great was the hatred towards (or fear of) them.

It was easy for Inquisitors to identify Anabaptists—all they had to do was ask them directly. They would willingly face death before they would intentionally lie. And, at one trial in particular, when asked to present the evidence against them, the prosecutor replied, "When we came to arrest them, they were polite and behaved with graciousness towards us. They did not resist us at all. Throughout their incarceration and despite rather difficult interrogations, they have made habit of encouraging one another gently and with meekness. Further, they have cooperated with us fully and not attempted any speech or action which might contradict our charge that they are, indeed, those most vile Anabaptists."

THAT was the evidence against them??? That they loved each other?

I got to find me a Mennonite Church.

No, I couldn't do that to 'em.

In all things show them how to live by your life and by right teaching. You should be wise in what you say. Then the one who is against you will be ashamed and will not be able to say anything bad about you. —Titus 2:7,8

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bitching is Futile.

"Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different." —Roger von Oech

So began today's Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional (Hey, if Chastain can go to Saddleback and enjoy it, I can own up to this). Yes, I signed up for it a long time ago. I keep it because I like the way John Fischer (the usual author) keeps looking for ways to illustrate the Christian life outside the walls of church (I found his series on the Church at St. Arbucks particularly amusing).

I guess most of us have read Ecclesiastes. It's been pretty well established that there is nothing new under the sun. We keep trying to fool ourselves into believing that we're on to something that's going to change the world forever (see Emerging Church), but every new promise of reformation ultimately results in a return (to some degree) to the thing we intend to reject (see Emerging Church). Even Luther's reformation, with it's desire to return to scriptural Christianity, retained the pagan-inspired top-down structure that had corrupted Catholicism in the first place. From all appearances, inasmuch as it has been adopted, that model hasn't work so well for Protestants, either.

Do you ever have a thought that you can't quite put into words? You can't even call it a thought, really...more of a feeling. It just sort of lingers beneath the surface, listless, indistinct, unable to be pinned down. And when someone else articulates it, the lights go on and you say, "That's it!" Well, that's sort of what happened to me while listening to Steve and Josh on the Etcetera podcast last week. At somewhere around the 57-minute mark, Steve said that, after expressing all this angst over the problems with the church, "...maybe the show needs to turn a little bit towards hope."


I hit the |<< button on my iPod and listened to it again.

Maybe it has to do with the ignominious resolution of the situation at my church and the timing of my subsequent desire to get on with things, but as I heard the words again, it clicked. It's easy, and quite necessary to talk about what's wrong. I've been doing that forever. Ask anyone who knows me—it's my gift. But I think it would be pretty useless (and cowardly) to engage in nothing more than a gripe-fest. There must be something to learn here.

Which brings me back to the opening quote...looking at the same thing and thinking something different.

Discovering what Christ intends his people to be may well be accomplished in this way. But it has to be more than looking at what we've done and just saying, "This sucks. I'm out." That's weak.

More later...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Accidental Shrink

After my wife took my older daughter to youth group last night, Julia, my six year-old, helped me do some chores in the yard. Once we finished, in the cool of twilight, I built a small fire in the pit on my patio. We sat around and had a chat. After some small talk about the first full day of school, Julia turned to me. "I don’t know enough about your life, daddy." she decided, "Tell me some of your adventures."

I hadn't expected that, but after a little thought I began to tell the story of the first time I met mommy. Then I told about the time my best friend and I canoed down Dividing Creek into the Pocomoke River and to my house, at night. I talked about how we were well underway before we realized that the trees that had fallen across the creek were popular hangouts with water mocassins and snapping turtles. We arrived at midnight to be met by my dad, who was certain I had been lost to the depths. Julia stopped me often with questions, eager to absorb every detail of my story. At bedtime, she thanked me for sitting with her. I walked out on a cloud. A hundred hours of therapy could not have benefited me more. Leave it to a little kid to drag you to a better place.

Not much has changed in the other situation. Since I refused the idiotic ultimatum, I have received a call back, suggesting that attempts at resolution should continue. I guess I'll consider it, but today, it just doesn’t seem so important. I'm more interested in tonight's fireside chat.

Friday, September 02, 2005

It Really Does Roll Downhill...

Perhaps I should take a deep breath and count to ten a few hundred times, but I need to write.

It's easy to use words like perseverance, patience, longsuffering when you think that things will ultimately work out the way you want them to. Quoting the first chapter of James works great when you still believe that "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men." But what happens when ground under you gives way? What do you do when propoganda triumphs and the truth takes one in the rear from the very guy charged with its safekeeping?

My struggle at church appears to have ended several hours ago, with a rather unceremonious ass-covering McCarthyite ulitimatum. They say that history is written by the winners. As such, the official version will now be a delusion, passed on in whispers, the product of one man's paranoia, insecurity and macho bullshit.

Added 09/02/05, 8:12 pm EST,

I probably should have disabled comments on this post. It wasn't my aim to start a discussion. It would be totally inappropriate to give details publicly. But it was 3:00 in the morning and I needed to get this off my chest so I could get to sleep. I appreciate the encouraging words I've received.