Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion #3

My most recent article in the November issue of DisciplesWorld magazine - an overview of the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians Overview


Shameless Self Promotion #2

My book review of "Asphalt Jesus" by Eric Elnes:

Asphalt Jesus Review

Shameless Self Promotion #1

My overview article on Galatians in the October issue of DisciplesWorld:

Galatians Overview

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Fires...

Time Lapse Satellite Imagery of San Diego Fires (October 23, 2007)

Please keep the over 500,000 people who have been displaced in your prayers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Braced for Action

OK - my dentist gave me a choice. Lots of teeth extracted and a bridge plate for my lower teeth in the not-too-distant future or my bicuspids extracted now and braces for the next 18 months.

Given the discomfort I know others experience wearing bridge plates I decided for option 2. At 38 I'll have the joy of sharing orthodonture with my soon-to-be 14 year-old son.

The "fun" started today with the extraction of tooth #21 and #28. First the dentist cranked away for a while - no luck. Then to the oral surgeon - wow! They are out, I'm doing fine. My lower teeth were so crowded that it is hard to tell there are two teeth missing.

I was a little loopy or I would have asked to take pictures of my extracted teeth or taken them home with me. Suffice it to say, they have REALLY long roots and are hard to pull out - total tooth length was over an inch!

Let the fun begin - the wires arrive on the 27th of this month...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

100,000 For Peace

Join the UCC as it collects 100,000 signatures to take to Washington D.C. demanding an end to the Iraq war and the establishment of policies of peace!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why Worship Together Anyway?

I've been following this the discussion on this blog with great interest. The blog entry started with a reflection on a service that was held at Nexus Church where I am pastor. I wasn't leading the service that day, our Minister of Spiritual Formation Deb Wiggins, was. It was a great time of sharing in a very intimate setting.

Brian Smith, the blog's author, is a member of Nexus Church and a huge source of great ideas in our community. He is de-churched (my term). His experience with the churches he had encountered had almost turned him completely away from God [correction: from church attendance, not God]. I am pleased to know that he finds a safe place to find community and be in communion with other believers.

In our discussions on the topic I offered Brian my understanding of what communal worship is:
“The theological position I find most helpful is that communal worship is where we experience God as 'the body of Christ.' It’s where we let our guard down and explicitly (and sometimes uncomfortably) enter into a communal experience of God. It is where we embrace the power of Christ’s gospel as a people – and sometimes that has individual implications, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t have personal implications it always affects the community. That can’t happen if one is isolated from 'the body of Christ.' At its best communal worship should lead us toward an understanding of God’s will for us, (re)vitalize us to be the people of God, and help us find practical ways of communicating the good news – again, all of this in light of 'the body of Christ.' When the 'we/us' in the previous sentence becomes an 'I/me, worship is merely entertainment or self-actualization.”

Now, communal worship doesn't have to happen on Sunday morning – it just happens to be the time that most people in our society have set aside for that.

What is so threatening about that definition? The threat is in letting go of individualism to earnestly strive to find the will of God with others. That is a terrible and frightening thought to those who have been injured by the church – told that they are worthless in the eyes of God, told that they don't fit in with other “Christians”, told that they need to measure up or they will go to hell, told that who they are as a person doesn't matter...

(I'm typing this with my own hands, can't you see that I'd rather by TYPING IN ALL CAPS!!! - Gal 6:11)

My heart grieves when I encounter people who have been through that sort of abuse in the church. The thought of being in community is so dangerous to them because in that abusive relationship they were told they had to subsume to the community to be “righteous.” What has that produced? I'm afraid it has produced a generation of (in clinical, not accusational, terms) narcissistic untrusting cynics – and that makes me terribly sad. The uber-individualism displayed by this generation is a reaction to the pain of abuse. The thought of giving up that individualism within a group context (any group, not just the church) is terrifying.

The point of Christian (or Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim or etc.) communal worship is to explore what God is doing among the gathered people. It isn't to provide 'individual spaces' where people can get their spiritual groove on. On the other hand, when the church forgets that as a people it needs to encourage complimentary times, places, or events where people can have that sort of individual retreat it has forgotten the power Jesus found in solitude. It is another 'both/and' that is such a requirement to be 'a church' in the postmodern era.

Autonomous fellowships, denominations, and national organizations have failed to be authentic community when they have not provided space for individuals. Home fellowships, small groups, retreats, workshops, and other means of self-exploration are needed because we can only be true to a group if we are brutally honest with who we are. It is only when someone has gone through that level of heart-wrenching honesty that they are ready to fully contribute to a group/corporate setting. In my experience, anything short of that level of personal development in abused populations leaves victims with a sense of protected isolationism.

To that end I believe the organized church needs to step forward and specifically call out to and offer nurture and healing to those believers who see no need for church. I've encountered Fundamentalists Anonymous – people recovering from the abuse of literalism and legalism.

Maybe it is time for De-Churched Anonymous – a safe place for those still struggling with the pain of controlling church communities, ego-maniacal pastors, and doctrinal/dogmatic certainty. A place to talk about that pain. A place to heal. Mostly, a place to rediscover the grace and hope found in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ – and the ability to hear God within the assembly of believers. I've seen people come through this before – and like steel that has gone through fire they come out stronger, more certain of themselves AND more certain of the power found by being part of the Body of Christ.

Peace to you on your journey...

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Thin Places"

The peace of Iona whispers to many. Iona has been described as ‘a thin place’, only a tissue paper separating the material from the spiritual. Many people have tried to express the experience – and have come back again and again.

The experience of ‘thin places’ or ‘liminal places’ is one that continually intrigues me. The author of the above passage, Ron Ferguson, is relating to his experiences on the island of Iona off the Scottish coast. It is the place where the original Irish missionaries to Britain based their monastery and activities.

These types of experiences remind us of places and times when closeness to God and the spiritual are especially present. The ‘tissue paper’ separation is truly no separator at all. The word ‘liminal’ provides a metaphor of the threshold, or doorway, between the spiritual and physical; psychological and physiological. It is a gateway for some of self-understanding. For others it is God understanding. For many who strive to live in the sense that ‘all is God’ – it is an always present reminder of the Divine with us. We open our eyes and there is God – as best as we can understand. Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives – “take this cup from me” – is noted by many as an example of a liminal time.

My most vivid understandings of ‘thin places’ has come from relationships. The ‘tissue paper’ understanding of division is especially pertinent to that experience – we can’t cross over the threshold or truly enter into relationship if there is a wall of separation. It happens when we are gathered in conversation, in worship, and in prayer. It happens when we are at church, when we are at the grocery store, and when we are at lunch. It happens best when we see God reflected in the people around us. It makes us aware of the shared human need for relationship with others and with God.

Yes, there are unique places and events that remind us of the spectacular presence of the spiritual. The challenge of the spiritual life is to keep that threshold always near and to recognize God all we do, see and experience.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sleep Deprivation Moment - #152

Our 18mo old was up for 2.5 hours in the middle of the night. After my workout and shower I was about to put a little gel in my hair and realized I was pouring mouthwash into my hand instead. Minty fresh hair...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The UPS Guy

Has anyone seen the MADtv skit where Phil Lamar plays Jaq, the "UBS Guy"? It is a spoof on the "UPS Guy" - brown uniform, delivering packages, etc...

What is so great about this comedy characterization is the enthusiasm that Jaq puts into everything he does. His hyper-kinetic energy puts him into situations where a simple delivery or dialog turns into a sequence of hilarious scenes.

I was reminded of this character by our real-life UPS Guy - he's a little like that. Happy, energetic and seems to love his job. Wouldn't it be great if everyone was so happy with the work they do - or even when they see the dentist.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sleep Deprivation Moment - #147

I backed into my bro-in laws car tonight. Knew the car was there - at the end of driveway but totally spaced as I eased out of the garage. Our Saturn view had no damage but his Nissan Versa has a nice crunch over the rear wheel.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Linux is for Losers

Thought that title might get your attention...

Yep, Linux is really best suited to those who have been shut out of purchasing commercial operating systems and applications. As I thought more about the trials and tribulations of installing Linux on my NEW laptop that came fully loaded with a valid OS license and lots of applications (MS Works, etc.) for only $749 I realized that I am of the fortunate set.

While others who are as fortunate financially may love to use Linux systems, they are still at the “tinkering” stage. Sure, you can make the OS and applications work, but there is almost always a compromise.

The things I couldn't compromise were sound and music. While I'm no huge audiophile, my computer needs to be able to play, record and edit sound/video without too much tinkering. Sure there are Linux applications that allow you to do these things but they really didn't work all that well on my system without a bunch of kernel tinkering. Not worth it.

Others without the financial means to have a valid Microsoft/Apple OS will undoubtedly be happy with these systems. As far as I can tell, there is no huge difference between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. For my usage, OpenOffice is much nicer in many ways.

Does Linux offer an advantage outside the cubicles of "tinkering" technocrats? Sure – in certified systems for those who can't afford a licensed OS and applications. I just checked an online PC configuration tool and without knowing the compatibility of all the components a fairly powerful “bare-bones” AMD/Intel machine can be assembled for under $400. I'm sure with volume pricing that could be much less.

So where would this free OS machine work best? Underfunded school districts, community centers, job training sites, etc. Would it be bleeding edge, no. Would it do 95% of what Macintosh/Microsoft systems can do – I believe so. As mentioned above, open source applications are awesome and I believe that certified systems would allow them to work without kernel tinkering which would put them on par with the big OS manufacturers.

For a radical experiment in open source computing and cheap systems see the One Laptop Per Child project.

So for now I'll stick with my statement that “Linux is for Losers.” But those who have been left behind by the sheer economics of entering the information age will soon catch up as open source systems become more available.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Vista to Ubuntu

I have a secret. It's one I don't let many people know. Like most secrets, I keep it to protect myself. So here I go, just like at the meetings - deep breath... “Hi, I'm Gregg and I'm a NERD.”

Yep, that's right a certified nerd (thrice certified if anyone is counting – by Cisco, Network Solutions and Sun/Java). Prior to my current career as a pastor I was a software product engineer in the digital printing industry. I was led into that field through a business I started in the early 90s called subZero Data Solutions – an Internet consulting firm. We mainly helped companies connect and secure their internal networks to the Internet. We also did a lot of development and sold software relating to network maintenance.

In those days a turf war was brewing – you were a “Microsoft Shop” or you were a “UNIX Shop.” We were the latter variety, installing and maintaining a number of UNIX type systems including the burgeoning Linux environment. We built custom firewall systems and network monitoring consoles using the free and effective Linux operating system, thereby reducing costs and introducing our clients to the wonderful world of Open Source software. Free software is good but as subZero and our clients found out, there is a cost to maintaining unsupported software. My nerd status was firmly established and a career in IT followed.

Fast forward fifteen years to 2007. Linux has advanced beyond anyone's wildest imagination and is really giving Microsoft a run for their money on the desktop and especially in server systems. A few companies (Red Hat, Debian and Ubuntu) have risen to the top of the heap as companies who provide maintenance for their Linux distributions, or vendor specific installations of Linux. Linux is still free, but companies like those mentioned package them into free installers and provide paid support for their distribution. It seems like the best of both worlds – a free operating system with lots of free software and a bail-out of fee-based support if you get stuck.

Back to the 90s again and the platform war – Microsoft vs. UNIX. In the UNIX community a strong loathing developed for Microsoft. They were monopolistic, their software was bug-ridden and vulnerable to hackers, they were slow to adopt standards, they didn't support their software well, they were predatory toward innovative technology companies. Microsoft became a pariah within serious Internet circles and only those who were forced to use their systems (Fortune 500 companies) would actually do so. Any self-respecting technologist chose anything but Microsoft when able.

A lot has changed in fifteen years. Microsoft dominates both the desktop and server markets in the US. Apple has come through with very strong desktop systems and wonderful operating systems although their market share is still fairly small. More recently Linux has moved out of the server room and on to the desktop with new distributions from Debian and Ubuntu.

Now a dilemma is upon those with a general disdain for Microsoft. One the one hand we can pay a 75-100% premium for Apple hardware. While I'm glad to “Think Different” - paying twice as much for a desktop or laptop system with the same specifications that a major PC manufacturer offers is just too different. Another option is to buy a PC and install one of the new and slick Linux distributions – thereby thumbing our noses at Microsoft and all the ills that Redmond represents.

So that is just what I did when it came time to buy a new laptop. I found a decently equipped HP Pavilion DV2415NR system and installed the desktop version Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) for AMD64 bit processors.

That isn't entirely true. I first tried out the install on my old laptop – the boat anchor 17” widescreen HP Pavilion ZX5180US. This Pentium 4 based system required that I use the x86 version of the Ubuntu system but in all other regards was the same. I searched the Wiki documentation regarding running Ubuntu on this hardware and found only one issue with the wireless networking card. No big deal (I thought). Just find and install the updated driver and away we go. How quickly we forget. In the UNIX world drivers are often embedded in the kernel – the core of the operating system.

After four hours that I didn't have to spare, multiple attempts at installing the Windows XP driver with the ndiswrapper utility, and a whole lot more online searching I found the answer on page 53 of 57 of the Ubuntu Pavilion ZX5000 support forum. I needed to obtain the fw-cutter application which would then be able to install the correct wireless Broadcom driver. (If all of that seems like it was written in Sanskrit to you, you are not alone. The documentation and support forums pretty much assume you are a UNIX programmer. Having a little experience in that field I wasn't so intimidated, but it is still really confusing.)

Success. My old system was working with few problems. It wouldn't play DVD movies but I assumed that was due to a codex problem, something that is common to Windows and Apple systems as well. Firefox, OpenOffice, Skype, Picasa – all working as expected.

Now to my new system. First of all, the HP DV2415NR is a sleek machine. To a nerd, one might even say sexy. Smooth lines, shiny case, aluminum trim – sweet! It too is reported to have similar issues with the wireless card so I prepare for some modifications. Run the Ubuntu installer disk and set it to completely destroy the Windows Visa installation that came with the computer. It formats the disk, installs the software and then reboots. Yep, no blue light on the wireless switch.

Back to the Ubuntu support forums. This time the issue with the wireless card is a little different. It turns out my HP computer thinks it has Dell wireless networking hardware. I'm directed to the Dell support site to download the correct drivers, compile from scratch the ndiswrapper utility, and then install the driver. This time ndiswrapper works as expected and the computer finds all the wireless routers in my neighborhood. I put in my WEP key and then am prompted to secure it with a secondary password for its “keyring.” Seems redundant since all user accounts have passwords but I enter it anyway.

Reboot. The computer connects to the wireless router flawlessly (after entering in my keyring password) and starts doing what I want it to. I saw someone mention the “automatix” installer as a way to easily add software to your Ubuntu system. After downloading it I see that most of the software I would like is listed – Skype, Picasa, etc. But they are not native 64 bit (AMD64) applications so will have to run in 32 bit (x86) mode. No problem, right? I also see that automatix has a heap of multimedia codex files to install. I grab them all along with the applications.

Assuming everything is ready to go I pop in a DVD – Simpson's Season Five, Disk 2 – and prepare to give it a watch. What's that you hear? Nothing! There is no sound. None from the external speakers or from the headphones.

Back to the Ubuntu support forums. I have to obtain and compile a set of drivers and libraries from “alsa” to have the Nvidia controlled sound on this system perform correctly. No problem, do as the FAQ says and sound works after a quirky negotiation of shutting down the system and restarting it with the power cord unplugged. Plug the headphones in to give a private listen and the external speakers don't mute. Sound is coming out of both interfaces.

Back to the Ubuntu support forums. Nothing. To the Wiki articles. There is one obscure reference to the need to use the latest “alsa” drivers but in their BETA state – RC4, or Release Candidate 4. OK, using the same FAQ instructions as before I download, configure, compile and install the RC4 drivers. Reboot. Sound is still coming out of the built-in speakers when I plug in the headphones.

A minor inconvenience I know, but in addition to that there are a number of other issues. Picasa crashes and burns when directed to pull images from a SD card. Skype won't even log me in. The DVD playback is sluggish. Banshee, the supposedly iPod compatible iTunes replacement, doesn't really work. If the built-in camera is activated the system hangs and necessitates a reboot – a cardinal sin in the UNIX world where systems are said to be stable enough to resist crashing applications.

I have another secret. I reinstalled Windows Vista on my laptop and completely wiped Ubuntu 7.04 from my system. I'm really glad I didn't destroy the “HP_RECOVERY” partition to make way for Ubuntu.

Everything works perfectly. OK, I did need to obtain an updated wireless network driver from HP. It installed seamlessly with utilities already included in Vista and I didn't even need to follow a three page FAQ. No crashes, the sound works correctly, the camera performs as intended, the track pad isn't hyper-sensitive, and movies play smoothly.

Don't get me wrong – I'm still a fan of open source. My office suite is OpenOffice. My browser, Firefox. Picasa will continue to manage my digital images. iTunes stores and organizes my music collection. I'll keep in touch with friends around the world with Skype while fearlessly using the built-in video camera on this system.

Did I sell out to He Who Must Not Be Named in Redmond? Maybe. I hope not. It's so confusing.

My estimation is that computer manufacturers essentially give away the operating system with their machines anyway. I made a point to uninstall every piece of included software that HP bundled with their system that wouldn't cause a system failure. At this point Vista is merely a shell for running the mostly free and Open Source applications that allow me to work better.

Another estimation. If time is money, the time I spent trying to get Ubuntu to work on these two systems (yes, I reinstalled XP on my old laptop after it failed to play DVDs) was probably worth the price difference that would have allowed me to buy a Core 2 Duo Macbook. Next time. I know there will be a next time because “My name is Gregg ('hi Gregg') and I'm a NERD.”

Friday, August 03, 2007

DisciplesWorld Article

As a follow-on to the photo-essay I did on the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Warren County (Ohio), I was asked by DisciplesWorld Magazine to do an article that showed how families were doing after they "graduated" from the IHN program.

The feature article is here and it was the cover article in the August issue highlighting poverty in America so has been posted to the web as free content.

I'm really happy with the look of the print edition and glad to continue to raise awareness of a great organization.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I don't get it...

The Bush administration beats its chest and thrashes about like a gorilla on the cause of "National Security."

Yet when one of Bush's buddies covers up the exposure of a CIA agent, someone tasked with managing national security, it isn't called treason - rather, the sentence is commuted. If anyone outside of Bush's "old boys club" would have done the same they would have been branded an unpatriotic traitor and thrown the book.

I'm disgusted. This is not a republican/democrat issue - this is an issue of consistency. If Bush and his buddies are "tough on terrorism" why is it that one of their own goes free when he threatens the very "security" scare they seem intent upon whipping Americans (and the world) into fearing???

(I have a quick answer: CYA...)

Monday, June 25, 2007

UCC General Synod Speakers

Here are two GREAT presentations from the United Church of Christ's 50th celebration and 26th General Synod (all church, national gathering.) Both speakers are UCC members and I'm sure you will recognize their names. Great testimonies, relations of faith to civic life, and the prophetic power of faithful people.

Moyers is especially good at describing the threat of INACTION by people of progressive and inclusive faith...

Bill Moyers

Barak Obamma
-- Text of Senator Obama's speech --

Monday, June 18, 2007

Too poor to pay attention...

I received Bono's book On the Move for my b-day a few weeks back (thanks Ellen!) and in addition to the interesting graphics and images it contains most of the text of Bono's speech at the February 2, 2006 National Prayer Breakfast.

I highly recommend giving it a read or a listen... Bono speaks as a person of faith to those who are gathered together, calling themselves faithful.

His main point is that poverty, whether around the world or around the corner, is a destabilizing force. It pulls families apart, causes a very visible divide in the "fabric" of society, and is ultimately a prevailing cause of political and religious extremism in our world. The affects of AIDS and other diseases only accentuate the chasm between those who have, and those who don't.

Bono ends by challenging the leaders of America and the Western world to increase their foreign aid budgets by 1% in an effort to address poverty, hunger, agricultural development and disease control (hence the ONE Campaign.) He also challenges our notions of justice and equality - asking how greatly they are influenced by race and economic opportunity...

The "rock star" comments are a little tiresome but overall there have been few better speeches/sermons on the issue of AIDS, poverty, and western ambivalence.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mission Minded Moneyed

We talked a bit about Acts 8 and the disciples being thrown out of their comfort zones this last weekend. We were challenged to find the "borders" we need to cross for the cause of the gospel. Here is some great satire as a funny follow-up.

Please remember - it is satire...

Compare with the Vrettos/Barton mission team.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cortney Haley in Greece and Turkey

Good friend, and Nexus Church member, Cortney Haley was part of a tour group last month (March '07) that went to the Mediterranean and followed Paul's missionary journeys. She has posted photos and comments of her trip HERE.

I especially LOVE the shots of the baptismal pool at Philippi! So much symbolism - the running water, the steps down and back up, the narrowing/widening channel... (OK, so it turns my crank as an Early Church historian - YMMV.)

Thanks for sharing Cortney!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Article on John's Gospel

In conjunction with some freelance writing I have been doing for DisciplesWorld Magazine I was asked to offer reflections on a few books of the Bible. Their project began in Genesis and has been going on every month for a few years. April's edition highlights the Gospel of John and mine is the second reflection on this page. An overview article and two summary articles are offered for each book. It is a really interesting series - you can go back and browse old issues too.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Homeless Families in the US

Two of my latent passions are photography and journalism. I finished high school (20 years ago!) looking toward a career in this field but was diverted by joining the Navy to become a machinist on a nuclear submarine. (Huh?) Yeah, a big divergence.

I've done some writing for religious journals recently and have stayed active in photography but haven't pursued them together.

On March 21, 2007 I had the opportunity to take part in a "24 hours" project for photography. I turned the occasion into a self-assigned photo essay on homeless families. The full story and selected photos can be found HERE.

I'm grateful to the people and leadership of my congregation, Nexus Church, who graciously gave me the day off to pursue this opportunity. I am blessed to have the support of these people in documenting the needs and work of social justice in our communities as part of my ministry.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Roots of learning

One morning last week I was watching my one-year-old, Gus, as he explored his room. He made his way over to the spring-ey door stopper mounted on the wall.

He pulled it to the side - "thwoongggggg" - it bobbled back and forth. "Thwong... thwong... thwong thwong thwong thwong thwong." OK, Gus processed, "When I pull this thing to the side it goes back and forth for a while then stops."

Next he pushed the door against the stopper - "bump!" - but no "thwong."

So back to pulling the stopper to the side - "Thwong... thwong... thwong thwong thwong thwong thwong."

Another shot at pushing the door against the stopper - "bump!"

And so it went for about two minutes. Finally, he grabbed the stopper and pulled the spring straight out and let it spring back - "bump." Then to the side, "thwong." Then straight again - "bump." Then to the door again - "bump!"

Aha! Gus figured out how springs work - when forced from the side they "spring" when pulled straight out and released they return to their original place.

The next thing he did totally amazed me - Gus crawled to his crib and compressed one of the springs on the rail stopper and let it go - "bounce!" up the metal rail and back down. He did this again and again - and then back to the door - "thwong" - "bump."

Two springs, similar but different responses. The neural pathways have started to fill in through this amazing experience of physical properties.

Is this not the "essence of learning" based in experience and cross-reference? It made me realize that sometimes we believe a lot without ever really learning it for ourselves. So much of what we are taught as "truth" (i.e. dogma and doctrine) has been certified from the outside but has no expression in reality and no root of experience or self/group learning.

Sometimes you have to crawl around with the babies to learn something essential.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sick and sicker

Excuses for not blogging are many and varied. My most recent reason is that for the past two weeks I've "caught my death" with a terrible cold. I realized it was bad when I didn't have the energy to open up the bubble-seal on the cold relief caplets. A few entries will follow that I saved up while convalescing. Easter season is an inconvenient time for a pastor to be sick...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nexus and Crosswalk!

Last week I reached out to Eric Elnes, the author of The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity and founder of Crosswalk America. I sent an email explaining how we had used the Phoenix Affirmations in our small groups and that we were just concluding a worship series focused on the Affirmations. He called a few days later and we talked a lot about the possibility for curriculum based on the Phoenix Affirmations - including a video series that introduces Christianity from a progressive perspective. He was very encouraging about the opportunity to have more resources so we'll see what we can do!

Well Eric blogged about our call an how EXCITED he is to have a church start-up that used the Phoenix Affirmations as its springboard. It is really a great blog entry - read it HERE.

(NOTE: Some of the info Eric wrote in the blog is the result of cell-phone communications - "can you hear me now?" The administrative location of our Springboro PO Box is listed - we'll have to fix that soon. I mentioned that we had seen about 65-75 faces at Nexus, including the 40-50 regular attendees which got translated into 65 regular attendees. The small group involvement is also overstated - where I think I said about 1/3 of the regulars were in small groups but nearly everyone had picked up a copy of the Phoenix Affirmations...)

What a great shot of energy and connectedness. Eric was a very down-to-earth person and supportive of our efforts and what we have accomplished in a short period of time.

Thanks to everyone - keep up the faith and great work!

Friday, February 23, 2007

El Gato

So we got a cat today! A mouse in the house was freakin' my spouse. Cy (cyber) was her name from the friends who have "loaned" her to us. We need a more ferocious moniker so we have renamed her "Xena - Warrior Cat" for the time being.


Living next to a field has its advantages - and its disadvantages... Mice, voles, moles, poison ivy, etc, being the major disadvantages.

Xena (Cy) had been adopted by some friends about two years ago. Seems she was left by her family when they moved and became a neighborhood cat. Our friends called her "the garage cat" because their own house cats were too territorial to let her in. No problem here, she just has to put up with a one year-old.

Xena is a pretty tortoise-shell cat with black and brown/red markings. If she had white blotches she would be a calico. So far so good.

Nothing like a cat in the house to let you know who is boss. We expect great hunting stories to follow...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Newbingin and the Camera Saga

A parable: Even if I believe that a camera is going to suit my needs, and everything I read about it or see in the test results indicates it will be OK, it does not always equal my perceived truth. I will need to keep searching until I find an acceptable camera that captures reality as I perceive it.

That parable pretty much summarizes Lesslie Newbingin's "The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society". Our culturally conditioned view of truth more often than not limits our ability to perceive other truths - it is a filter we use to discern belief from truth (or truisms) and fact. Belief = Jesus fully embodied God for humanity. Truth = the Bible says Jesus told his followers that the meek, merciful and peacemakers are blessed. Fact= no one can prove Jesus said this.

Our truth is conditioned by the relevance we put on fact. Our beliefs are conditioned by the relevance we ascribe to truth.

OK, I had a few $$$ from a refund that happened through PayPal so I decided to get a new compact digital camera. I ended up getting the Panasonic DMC-LX07. Unfortunately the images were not acceptable to me - when I blew them up to 8x10 they were soft and had a lot of noise in the dark areas. I REALLY wanted to like this camera as a carry around shooter but it has been returned. Not as a replacement for my Nikon D70s or Leica, but just for something to keep in my bag. Some of the images from the Panasonic, when the sharpening was adjusted, came out looking as if they were watercolor paintings!!! One of my other purposes was to have a camera to capture images for a few worship-arts projects I'm working on. Again, I'm really sad this camera didn't work out because it had a great Leica lens that went from 28-105mm, it was small, it had image stabilization and it was QUIET. Bad images can't make up for great styling though...

After some more searching I've ended up ordering the Canon A640. Again this isn't to replace my film rangefinder or dSLR, it is a convenience carry-around camera. This camera isn't as sexy but my understanding is that it produces some of the nicest images available in a compact camera. It also has a stellar macro mode which I make use of a lot.

Fact: Photographs capture reality (infinitely small and sometimes abstractly...)
Truth: I need images that accurately represent what I perceive
Belief: The Canon A640 will deliver these images (conversely, the Panasonic DMC-FX07 did not)

Newbingin in a nutshell.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad blogger...

Yep, I'm officially a bad blogger. Life got busy and I dropped out of blogging for a while. I'll do my best to get back on the wagon.

I'm reading Lesslie Newbingin's "The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society" and it is really compelling. The difference between "truth" and "belief" and the process by which "belief" becomes "truth" under certain circumstances. Deep...

For progressive Christians this concept is especially interesting - how do we avoid contextualizing "belief" without dogmatically insisting it is the one and only exclusive "truth?" I'm going to keep reading and thinking on that one.

On an artistic note I'm becoming more and more dissatisfied with film imaging. I've been a ardent Leica M6 user for a long time - love the camera (its a lovely tank), love the lenses (smooth and contrasty at the same time) but film is driving me nuts! No matter where I go I'm having trouble with development/scanning. I have a dedicated film scanner but re-scanning film from the lab is a huge hassle, especially if there are a lot of "snaps" that you want to use. Even when I develop my own B&W it can lead to an entire day of scanning. Fortunately the setup only takes a few minutes for each frame and I can continue to work on other things while the scanner does its 5 minute hi-res scan of each frame.

Not sure what I'm going to do here but I do have digital cameras - a Nikon D70s SLR and a compact P&S digital. Not having to scan and retouch every image would be a beautiful thing. But I really love my Leica, it is a piece of art unto itself: