Head First: September 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dorse, the imperialist dog.

Did you know that New Jersey is one of two remaining states in the union that does not allow self-service gasoline? Nope. You are not allowed to pump your own gas in the Garden State. The only reason I can think of is that they want to prevent the spread of germs by keeping people from drinking straight from the pump. I mean, you never know where that's thing has been.

Anyway, regular was $1.97/gallon this morning. This was the first tank of fuel I can remember that cost me less than $35. So, as I sat in my SUV while someone else filled my tank this morning, the little red Dorsey-in-a-devil-suit sat on my right shoulder and said, "Y'know, if only this war really was about oil, I might support it."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where I went to church this Sunday.

I received an email yesterday from someone I care deeply about who is starting to talk about her own dissatisfaction with organized religion. Parts of my reply echoed some recent posts:

"I don't know what the solution is, but for me, Church is going fishing with my friend, or getting together with some online friends and raising over $4,000 for an orphanage in eastern Europe, or going for a long motorcycle ride in the country with my daughter, or discussing God with a buddy over a beer. The kingdom of God is measured by our relationships, not our attendance at a weekly meeting. I find it ironic that religious people are often the first to break relationship when someone disagrees with them or fails to live up to their standard of performance. Didn't Jesus say that people would know his disciples by their love for others? I guess He was right."

Maybe I'm more aware of it because I tend to work alone in my job, but I just love getting together with my friends. I wish I could fully articulate the sense of connection I experience when we're together. I know a lot of people hate the word "fellowship," but for me, it's rich with meaning. Look up "fellow." It alludes to our shared interest and the common ground between us. Shaking hands in a crowd with someone you barely know is not fellowship. The most profound sort of friendship, a deeper element of relating occurs with the understanding that we have partaken of similar experience, to become "fellows" with one another.

It is in that sense that I refer to "my Church." That sense of fellowship to which Jesus referred when he said:
"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father." (John 15:11-15, The Message)

It's the idea that "I've let you in on everything," that makes such friendship so dear. "I'm no longer calling you servants," or, in other words, "I don't base your value on what you can do for me. In fact, I value your life above my own."

Man, that's hardcore.

Anyway, I started this post to tell you about the awesome bike rally I went to on Sunday with my friend, Paul (I wish I had taken a camera, sorry). There were somewhere between 1800-2200 bikes on a gorgeous 65-mile run through the still-gardeny part of the Garden State. We had a great time riding, talking, hanging out. The weather was perfect, and the countryside was magnificent. The whole earth, indeed, declared the glory of the Lord. It was the best church I've been to since, well, my fishing trip the week before.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lovin' the YouTube.

As a non-cable-having person, I am aware that I miss a lot. But if I ever do get cable, Stephen Colbert will likely be the reason.

This is stinking funny:

It's funny because it pokes fun at the logic we often use to "prove" our faith.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Head-Clearing Exercise...and Some Food for Thought.

You've likely seen the t-shirt: "A bad day fishing is better than a good day working."

I'll add this: A GOOD day fishing is better than almost anything. Actually, it doesn't even have to be fishing. Just being on the water is enough for me. If it's salt water, then consider me completely at home.

A couple friends (from church) invited me out on the Delaware Bay last weekend for a little amateur angling. It was a great day. The weather was perfect, the waters relatively calm. We caught the tide just right, and in four hours, caught over a hundred fish between the three of us (we didn't keep that many, but if it enters the boat, it counts). I caught two fish at once (I was using two hooks), and then caught one fish on both hooks! Hilarious. We shared a lot of laughs and some good conversation. We talked about fishing, we talked about movies, and we talked about Jesus. My ever-cluttered mind was washed clean, for a while, at least.

I know a lot of people who left church have found themselves ostracized and ignored by their old "friends." I've lost contact with the vast majority of the people from my church, too, but since I became, um, congregationally disaffiliated, there have been a number of people from the congregation who have been a little relentless (far more than I have, I admit) in their efforts to keep our friendships alive. Unexpectedly, most of them aren't maneuvering to try to steer me back into the fold. Much like Steve's friends, they're just looking to hang out, enjoy some company, be amigos. A guy (again, from church) called today to see if I'm available to go to a motorcycle rally next Sunday. I'm definitely in.

Scott, over at ironicobservances put up this post, suggesting some possible reasons that people go to church. I considered some of the reasons usually given for congregating on Sunday: worship God, learn God's word, pray, give, encourage and support each other, etc. Pretty much all of these things can (and should) be lived out each and every day by someone who follows Christ (ok, by me, at least. I won't judge you, godless sodomites.). But there's little that compares to the dynamic of doing those things together, with people I love. I have to admit, I miss that.

Now, I'm not ready to go back and drink the Koolaid, but I'm seeing the critical value of those relationships, and I submit that, while a lot of relationships in the church are contrived and meaningless, some of them are real. And church, at least, gave us a convenient opportunity to get together. But instead of using the institution as the starting point to engineer "fellowship," we must begin to see our relationships as the basis of what the Church (capital C) is meant to be.

I don't know what form it should take, but I want to be more intentional about living out community with people I care about.