Excursus: Learning Parties (Soularize) and the Scary Other (In the Hallway)

Soularize Ten – or Soularize 2011 – will be held in San Diego next month. Ironically, my first venture into the hallway with those scary others took place in San Diego. If there were approved reading lists for those of us huddling in our (Southern) Baptist room along C.S. Lewis’ hallway, we also had acceptable conferences to attend. These Pastor’s Conferences were often sponsored by high profile Southern Baptist Pastors at very large churches who viewed the event as if they were Paul encouraging young Timothys. The only other acceptable conferences were of the pragmatic variety often associated with some angle on church growth.

A friend called and said, “How about going to the National Pastor’s Convention (2001) with me in San Diego?” He sent me the information, the link, and expressed his intent to go. Who would not consider San Diego in February? Warm weather. Golf. Old Town. The Piers. First ever stop to a Krispy Kreme. Read More

Soularize 10 Years Later – Glad for Friends

The beginning of “the edge of the inside” dates back more than ten years ago. Back then the first iteration of this website was on Blogger under the name, Just Todd.

It would take some time to tell the story, but participating in a seminar led by Grant Lovejoy on narrative communication at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary led to my introduction to Walsh and Middleton’s, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be. The event was the now no longer, Scholar’s In Ministry Week. Those with graduate degrees were invited for extended times of learning and interaction.

A few years later I took an online course with Grant titled Chronological Bible Storying and was introduced to N.T. Wright’s, The New Testament and the People of God. There were other texts, but this one is worth noting.

Eager to continue learning, I responded to an invitation to participate in a new learning community. Spencer Burke, who founded, extended the invitation. One of the learning opportunities was to attend and participate in Soularize held in Minneapolis in 2002. Read More

Late Friday Photo … Oops it’s Monday

We never leave a place unchanged. It may be we are changed. It could be the place we visited was changed. An art project by a local artist included items given by participants at Soularize. During the last main session the artist took the items and turned them into a mobile. I found the relationship of the rock with “hope” inscribed on it and the “Save Darfur” bracelet moving. Yes, I took off my Save Darfur bracelet for the first time in almost two years to leave a part of me – a commitment to the Gospel as “whole.” That is, a message of setting “everything” right – even the atrocities of malevolent dictators. I pray for an end to the genocide in Darfur with great hope.

My New Friend Jim Palmer

jimpalmer.jpgMark Scandrette, poet, pastor, catalyst, and friend , coined a phrase this past week – “My new friend Jim Palmer.” We spent the week as “condo” mates while working at Soularize in Nassau, Bahamas. One of our “condo” mates was Jim Palmer.

On Wednesday as we were making rounds and taking care of details I shared a seat in the van with Jim. He told me some of his story. I distinctly remember him telling me of his work at International Justice Mission. Jim shared the horrors of what I would refer to as the slave trade of young girls into prostitution in Asia. He was involved in something of an undercover meeting that eventually led to the freedom of many young girls. The experience took an emotional tole. Jim writes about the experience in his first book, Divine Nobodies.

During Soularize Jim served as interviewer extraordinaire.

Jim gave me a copy of Divine Nobodies. I read it on the plane home as we narrowly escaped the effects of tropical storm Noel. My plans were to read a chapter or two from Miami to Dallas. Early trips to the airport on consecutive days left me tired from staying up way to late to get up that early – 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

After the first introduction, yes Jim noted he broke a writing rule or two, I was gripped. I read the entire flight and forgot about my fatigue. By the time we landed at Will Rogers I only needed another thirty minutes to finish. Wednesday morning I got up early and finished. I laughed. I cried. I shouted for joy. I shared pain.

One endorsement suggested Jim may be the next Donald Miller. No disrespect to Donald, but I liked Jim’s book a bit more. It may be Jim’s experience as pastor and the oft disillusioning effects of working toward a practical theology. It may be feeling the pain of working through our own dark sides and coming out learning not only much about ourselves but about God. It may be the recognition we have too often ignored the mystical aspects of our spirituality ignoring the visible intersections of God in our world. Maybe it was connecting my own experiences with “divine nobodies” that kept “ringing the bell” for me.

I found a new friend. My new friend Jim Palmer is not just worth reading, he is worth getting to know. Despite his own misgivings about what he may be able to contribute to the Church and the Kingdom of God, Jim has been for me a refreshing “Divine Somebody.”

Order Divine Nobodies. Read it. Cry with it. Laugh with it. When you get up from reading keep your eyes open and your heart sensitive and see who God crosses your path with – these divine nobodies.

P.S. – I am looking forward to Jim’s next book, Wide Open Spaces.