30 January 2007

Rock On

Another poem accepted: Rock and Sling will publish "Bradenton's Relic" in their next issue! I learned about this mag when Lindsay Terrell and I perused their booth during last spring's Festival of Faith and Writing. Somehow the subject of hiking came up and I recommended Wainwright's Coast to Coast to the editors, so when they asked for submissions, I had to send some. Of course, if they were worth half their salt, they requested submissions from every dolt Dick and janky Jane who passed their table, but who could pass up sending poems to a mag whose editors might one day walk across England as you had? I mean, really now.

28 January 2007

Diverse Unity, and Other Oxymorons God Loves

In a recent Christianity Today article entitled "Exit Interviews," Edward Gilbreath (no relation, so far as I know, to my Aunt Vicki) pokes an honest finger at white and black Christians who aren't proactive about pursuing the diverse unity that God seems intent on creating in the Church. Gilbreath suggests a scenario that probably too few church members have found themselves in: facing their own ignorance and uncomfortable fidgeting while trying to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Other.

Sometimes that Other isn't so other after all, but a few shades different in skin color and we might as well live on separate planets. So Gilbreath asks bold questions we should all truly ask ourselves. Then he concludes by observing the real difficulty as well as real urgency we ought to feel about this business:

"To break out of the monochromatic status quo of today's evangelical movement, we must confront hard truths about ourselves and about the things that truly drive our institutions. If we don't, we'll never find ourselves in that place of total freedom and faith and unity that allows us to be used by God in radical ways."

I guess Gilbreath and John Piper are channeling each other, because the latter just wrote a wild proposal (called "How and Why Bethlehem Pursues Ethnic Diversity") that aims to enact exactly what the former proposed. In an effort to purposely diversify the staff and elders at Piper's church, those who are already staff and elders want to practice affirmative action when selecting future members. Of course, biblical standards of doctrine and practice will not be compromised in this effort, but the church wants to look more like the Church, not just wish for it.

Wow. Where Gilbreath provides cultural criticism, Piper provides practical application, and both make bold calls for real problem-solving and love. As much as both had me on the edge of my pew, though, I never did get up.

That's partly because I'm joined at the hip (well, not literally any more) to my seven-week-old. But Noel won't serve as an excuse. Too many mothers use their children as excuses to not do ministry outside their homes, and they're doing their children (not to mention the more-important Church and world at-large) a disservice in the process. Perhaps more on that later. In the meantime, may God have mercy on us so that our home and hands might become more active in ministry now that Noel has come into the world.

But my not-getting-up problem also reflects the complexity of the issue itself. That's part of the point Gilbreath and Piper are making, after all: this stuff is tricky.

Last semester, I confessed to one of my African-American students my chagrin that our church looks very little like our neighbors. We began as a neighborhood church, and the middle-class whites that raised their children there have now grown into the oldest generation at our church. But those white flew away into more affluent neighborhoods, and they sold their houses to the working-class poor who are (at least here) primarily black. Our neighbors regularly visit the church . . . on Monday nights for basketball and Bible study, or during the summer when the gym opens daily for the same. But that's mostly it.

The upshot: we have conducted neighborhood ministries for more than a decade and only folded a handful of those Others into our white pews. My student said that she didn't think we could ever expect more.

Of course, in the end, we can only do faithfully what God calls us to do and trust Him for whatever fruit He will bring. If that means laboring long in a neighborhood that always looks unlike us, then fine. But the very notion of an "us" and "them" seems antithetical to the Kingdom. Since the beginning of a people He called His own, God has been grafting in Others: Rahab the prostitute, Ruth the Moabite, the Ethiopian reader, Onesimus the slave, to name a few famous ones. Today, we need more Rahabs and Ruths and Onesimuses, not just as members of the global Church but as integral components in our local congregations.

So let's start by honestly answering Gilbreath's hard questions. And let's continue with practical plans to overcome our monochromatic lives so that we might really display love for and likeness with Jesus. I applaud Piper's staff and elders for making a bold move in that direction. But such clapping will hardly do any good in and of itself. Something serious needs to change in this chick and in her church. Not just a nice round of applause added onto a rather pale life. In odd diversity God's fame will shine brightest.

17 January 2007

Now, I love Jesus, but I do drink a little.

This morning, Ellen Degeneres called an 88-year-old woman named Gladys in Austin, TX, because Gladys had earlier called her and left a voicemail recommending that Ellen redecorate the set by moving a spiky plant from behind her head. And Gladys, who is either spry of the mind or else in that funny stage of dementia, told Ellen all manner of hilarious things, not least of which was "I love Jesus, but I do drink a little" as an excuse for some odd behavior she then described. I can't even remember how the rest of the story went because the introduction was just too funny.

16 January 2007

I'm drooling.

Seriously. Are there any better places in the world than libraries?

15 January 2007

Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink. / The very deep did rot. . . .

Yesterday, a friend came to visit Noel, and then she drove south to Lafayette for a night with her parents. When Ashlie walked into the house, her mother informed her that she'd been thinking of me all day because she'd earlier heard of a Jennifer Strange who died in a "how much water can you drink without going to the bathroom" contest. So, Ashlie left me a voicemail to this effect and I later researched the facts.

The BBC version of the story indicates that this doppelganger was only a year younger than I, though with three kids and a desire for a Wii. Thus, she entered a radio contest offering a free Wii to the contestant who drank the most water without a visit to the WC.

I can hardly believe that this radio station had the idiocy to concoct such a contest. In a day when the dangers of drinking too much water are a standard component of anti-hazing Greek governance (frats had taken to replacing beer-guzzling with water-guzzling for their underage members, but that only made undergrads die from water toxication rather than alcohol poisoning) and marathon training programs (because when you sweat that much, you must replace not only water but also electrolytes), one would think that someone at that station would have better sense.

As I understand it, the chemistry lesson basically goes like this: the cells in our bodies have an amazing balance of electrolytes and water, but if you take in too much water at once, you throw that balance off and the cells swell. But your body doesn't like swollen cells, so it shuts down.

Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't drink water. I, for one, drink lots of it every day because I enjoy the privilege of autothermoregulation and general hydration. We drink so many sodas and caffeinated beverages that we don't realize how thirsty we really are. But everything in a balance: we need salty foods too so that the water can stick to our bones (as it were).

Just because "wee" is a homophone with "wii" doesn't mean wit can compensate for good sense. Still a dumb idea, but better if they had been drinking Gatorade or beer or soda. That's what my teary-eyed husband suggested after hearing the story, just before he insisted I quit telling him about it because it was just too horrible.

08 January 2007

Noel is a Genius

Lauren's comment on my last post reveals she's a good sleuth, and it's worth confessing in a real post: we're going with cloth diapers, having ordered our supply of Bumgenius 2.0 just the other day. They're en route (well, minus the butternut color, which is on backorder and will come in a couple weeks). Woot!

So far, we're convinced that that these cloths are as easy as disposables: an extra load of wash per day (depending on how many you buy, but Tracey Carrin reports this only means $2 more per month on the water bill) but no trash (which suits our recycling pinko-commie selves), and way cheaper (these one-size-fits-all diapers aren't much bulkier than disposables right now, but they get sleeker as he gets bigger, and they should last until he weighs 35 pounds).

We'll let you know if we do or don't stay so rosy about them, but so far we're pumped. . . .