Month: May 2007

Grey’s Deconstructing Relationships … Rhimes intrigues …

GreysFrom the first episode to sometime this season I have been a fan of "Grey’s Anatomy." The intrigue for me revolves around the complexity of human relationships exposed by writer Shonda Rhimes. I have written quite a bit in the past (noting something that struck me in the first two seasons). This season was different. I missed too many episodes and lost the continuity I felt from those first seasons. While I did manage to catch them on Tivo, I still felt disconnected. You could say I lost my bearings in the vicarious relationship with Rhimes.

In fact, I was so out of sync I found the Finale lacking. I complained to my daughter Kimberly. Now Kimberly found the same connection with Grey’s as her daddy. She took it to levels I neither had the time nor inclination. Often Kimberly would tell me what she read on the Grey’s blog written by Rhimes. We talked after the Finale and I told her I may have watched my last episode. I just could not make the connections necessary to want to stay hooked. Then, Kimberly did it. She printed off Rhimes blog post from May 17.

Not only did this help reconnect me but piqued my curiosity for next season.  What made the difference? Two things. First, we often need to take apart some things about us, deconstruct, in order to move ahead. Second, reading Rhimes telling the stories of the various characters and their "mirrors" fascinated me. I got the feeling had I given more time to watching the show as I had the first two seasons, I just may have seen some of what Shonda intended without the necessity of reading her post. Nonetheless I am glad to have it.

The cultural implications of the show extend beyond the apparent shallowness of physical intimacies that dominate from time to time. In fact, it may well be Rhimes intent to show the depth of the characters moves beyond the normal proclivity to see in the physical intimacies the goal of all human relationships.

I do see comparable moves in the life and ministry of Jesus to move people beyond the stereotypical assessments of particular groups – tax collectors and prostitutes, women and foreigners. Marked as hopeless and beyond the pale by those who sought to exert their conscience on these by ruling them incorrigible presented Jesus with a poignant opportunity to point out just how we get to see ourselves through His eyes rather than those who assume to control access to the Kingdom of God. Grey’s could well be something of a modern day parable for just such actions. "Burning down the house" means getting people to see ourselves as we should rather than through propped up images of self-preservation or via the lens of self-seeking ne’er do wells.

Could be a stretch. But, Rhimes has intrigued me … I will be watching …

Corn, ethanol and greater pressure on the poor …

CornLinda works at one of the local convenience stores where I buy fuel. She told me early last week she heard a gallon of gas would rise to $3.75. Fortunately news broke of a better than expected supply of oil and the price actually retreated from $3.29/gallon.

I recall a Wired magazine article suggesting the price per barrel points at which the search for alternate fuel sources would accelerate. The article did not suggest what kind of consumer pressure would be brought to bear if the price per barrel remained low but supply pressures gave cause for increases at the pump.

We all witnessed the variations on alternate sources – wood chips, cooking oils and a greater percentage of ethanol mixed with traditional fuels among others. The matters are certainly complex.

Today I read a brief in The Christian Century. Our attempts to search for alternate fuel sources will invariably affect the poor. For example, in the short piece, "Cornucopia" a piece taken from Foreign Affiars May/June notes the rise in a bushel of corn from $2.80 to $4.20. The impact is felt in Mexico where corn flour is used for tortillas. It seems that in 2006 the price for this flour doubled. Here is the effect,

"Several studies have concluded that the caloric consumption of the world’s poorest people drops by half of 1 percent for every 1 percent increase in the price of major food staples."(Christian Century, May 29, 2007, p.6)

Another milestone becoming …

Pic0011 Tommie,

Your name fits! We recall the stories of teachers who scratched their heads learning "Tommie" was a girl. Even recently one of our relatives listed your dad as having a "son." Can’t be too close to us if they did not know you were our second daughter. The response is nothing new for you. Sometimes you took people in stride. Other times we could tell your irritation.

Over time you have made for yourself a name. Whimsical. Dreamer. Edgy. Flower child. Hippie. Some of these descriptions come from those who understand we should live into who we will become rather than that into which another would as soon mold us. Your creativity shows up in your hair, your "style." your art and your dreams. What some refer to edgy is in many ways a discovery of a day gone by. Some of those "styles" your mother and I recall as what was "in" for us. If "hippie" points to your willingness to challenge the norm then so be it. Yet, never be different for the sake of being different, in that there really is no purpose.

One of the things we have hoped to fund and to fuel is how you think. Now we do not always see eye to eye but one thing is for sure, you are a thinker. You don’t mind questions – and often realize we may not have an answer. You have developed a passion like your mother and sister. Your desire for justice in this world is honorable.

You are not what you will be. You are becoming. Mark graduation as one more step in that process. Celebrate the accomplishment. Continue to dream. Nurture that big heart. Speak with both love and boldness. Doing so will continue to illustrate both in you and for others what it looks like to follow Jesus.

We love you …

Listening Past Each Other … Keeps us Talking Past Each Other … When Talking Heads Get in the Way …

Reading over at the BHT led me to this article in The Christian Century by Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary. Quite a conversation broke out after the posting of the link to this piece. For some time I have been convinced we do not hear what it said in many controversial conversations. For example, I was reading the other day and the writer summarily dismissed someone for "sounding" like they had read Barth. Rather than listen to what is said and engage the person on conversation the accuser dismissed his would be conversation partner out of hand. I felt this way when my friend Spencer attempted a conversation with D.A. Carson over Carson’s remarks in Becoming Conversant with Emergent.

We tend to process what we hear in ways that work within the bounds of our own categories. So as Mouw’s piece attempts to point out it may be we do have significant disagreements, but it sure helps to be sure we are talking about the same thing. Evidently Mouw got the picture even clearer when those who read the piece began to take him apart over its assertion. He wades back in to clarify with another illustration.  I appreciated the attempt to help paint an even clearer picture.  I was left thinking we too often listen past each other and that keeps us talking past each other. Maybe we can be like the two ministers at the end of the illustration. We may still disagree but at least we will disagree about the same subjects rather than talking about different things because our "buttons" were pushed over a given topic.

Not for Sale … Where is Wilberforce When You Need Him? …

We sat captured by their voices. In what was surely and all Anglo "congregation" we were stirred by the young boys from Zambia. Imagine my disbelief thinking we supported the global slave trade a number of years ago right here in Oklahoma! Yes, David Batstone gave details of the sordid story in Not for Sale. I found this at Christianity Today – wished I had not missed this in February.

Frankly I would not have known about this issue had I not received an e-mail from Mike Morrell. I  immediately ordered Batstone’s book and could not believe it. We made reference to this issue yesterday in the context of Ascension Sunday. Jesus charged the disciples to tell the story – be witnesses. I could not help but think of Luke 4 where Jesus declares the Good News he brings is for those who are poor and captive. It is shocking what people will do to dehumanize another under the pretext of "helping" those who are poor. Nearly 30 million people and maybe $32 billion a year! Quite lucrative to trade in people.

On our sign we asked, "Where is Wilberforce When  You Need Him?" We refuse to "get involved" and in doing so fail to give credibility to the very life work of Jesus. My "growing up in the church" years helped me ignore these issues as certainly Jesus’ words should be spiritualized. After all, we are talking about those who are poor spiritually and captive to sin. So we absolve ourselves of action because everyone is poor spiritually and captive to sin. However, when it comes to churches we would rather bring Good News to the wealthy among us. Somehow we looked beyond Matthew 25

Our concern is for old hymns but we do not connect the story of Amazing Grace with Wilberforce and the work of the abolitionists. Newton’s hymn inspired Wilberforce. Today the hymn only conjures a personal nostalgia. The move to privatize our faith means it unnecessary  to inspire modern day Wilberforce’s.

Batstone’s book inspires us with the stories of modern day abolitionists. What would it take for you to be inspired. Get the book and read it. Become aware of where you eat, what you buy and those trafficked in your area. Jesus said, "when you saw me naked … when you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me."