Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pocket Gods (a story i wrote, and told, christmas eve 2009 for the people of westwinds)

Imagine a world where people carry around gods in their pockets, using them like charms to get what they want, be who they wish, and live however they like.

That’s our world, tonight.

Matthetes smiled as he jingled his new gods, jumbling them in his pockets like a potpourri of coins and marbles.

His Dad had given him his first god when he was thirteen – just a man. His first god was Ambition. Ambition had served him well, making him first in his class and head of school, landing him great job opportunities and a bright future.

But Ambition didn’t keep you warm at night, so Matthetes had run out and – with the help of a slender woman named Porneia – purchased Flesh. Flesh was a much better god than Ambition – more fun, more easily sated in the short term – but more difficult to manage. Flesh and Ambition didn’t always get along well, so Matthetes kept them – at first – in separate pockets.

Now, however, he felt like he should keep all his gods together – so Flesh and Ambition wrestled in his pants pocket with Media (to keep him informed), Fitness (to keep him healthy), and Downline (a demi-god that was supposed to temper Ambition with Relationship).

Matthetes had a full compliment of divinity with him at all times, and it paid off.

He was successful, contentented, fit, young, and eager.

He had it all.

At least he thought he did, until he met Rab. Rab was perched on a park bench drinking tea when Matthetes stumbled into him blindly.

Apologizing, Matthetes took the opportunity to introduce himself to his accidental companion.

Pardon me.

No problem at all, friend.

Really? I’m terribly sorry…name’s Matthetes.

Rab – the pleasure is all mine.

I was just coming back from the office, en route to the health food store before a stop at the gym, a nip at the bar, a short session at the studio, and then home for bed with Cindi…sorry, Kandi.

I was just thinking.

Pardon?

Thinking. I was appreciating this life and how grateful I am to be living it.

Matthetes had never heard anyone put it quite like that.

Me too. Would you like to join me?

At the store, the gym, the bar, the studio or with the confusing woman at your house?

Why…I guess any of it.

No thank you.

Suddenly curious: do you mind if I ask why not?

I have no need.

But won’t your gods be angry?

Ha! No. My God is not angered by a lack of busyness.

It’s more than just busyness, you know.

I know many things, but in that regard I confess an ignorance. I have traded my knowledge of Ambition for something sweeter. I have given up my understanding of the Fast Lane for the Narrow Way.

What are you talking about?

I am talking about God.

I know all about the gods…

No – you keep trinkets in your pants and call them divine. They are not. Just as you are not. Long ago I gave up my pocket gods and had God Himself put inside me. I’ve never since been the same.

That sounds….strange. Was it worth it?

Oh yes – it has been the most wonderful thing.

Then I shall have it done, too.

Oh no – my friend – I would not let you do that so recklessly. The process is called an Invitation – some combination of surgery (for it is invasive), and ritual (for it is mystical), and alchemy (for it is transformational) – is awful and painful and I shake to think of it still.

But you said it was worth it.

And it so was. It is. It ever more shall be. But I would not advise you to have God put inside you on a whim. He is too big for that.

Big?

And jealous. And greedy. And he grows.

With that, and a smile, Rab excused himself and walked off singing.

Matthetes reached into his pocket to play with his gods, eager to comfort himself after this strange exchange…but his gods were gone.

He had been robbed.

Scoundrel. He thought. Rab has robbed me, distracted me with cleverness and stolen my gods from the pockets of my pants, all the while binding my mind with his spell.

Rotter.

Matthetes skipped the health food store and the gym, but made up for it with two extra drinks with Cindi and Kandi. He woke up feeling stone-headed.

He went and got himself new gods on the way to work.
Truthfully, he had gotten tired of Flesh and Ambition was killing him,
so he grabbed Media and Downline
and Diet (Fitness was too expensive, but Diets were on sale)
and added Economy (because it was so focused)
and Novelty (because Flesh was too focused)
and spent the week trying them out.

He gave himself fully to the gods in his pocket but worried that something was wrong.

They didn’t work anymore.

He had minor success with his Downline, but couldn’t ever get his Diet to work. His Economy was always hampered by his love of Novelty – which seemed to deteriorate into Flesh anyhow.

He begged Media for an explanation, but he got an explanation for everything so he couldn’t remember the thing he had asked about.

Matthetes became disillusioned with his gods, then, and threw them all away. All his life he’d wanted, then got, then lost, then got, then been disappointed by, his gods.

And now they were gone.

And he felt no differently.

So he went to get the new God put into his heart.

It wasn’t as bad as Rab had made it out to be.
The surgery was invasive, but didn’t hurt as much as he’d anticipated.
The ritual was spooky, but it was the good-spooky
(more mystical, less haunting).
The alchemy was almost non-existent, though everyone attending assured Matthetes that a transformation had – in fact – taken place.

All in all, Matthetes was quite happy with his new God.

And he noticed a positive difference in his life right away. He felt more generous – giving away some of the money he’d squeezed and hoarded cheerfully – and he felt more loving – giving up girls who’s names sounded like Disney characters for a new gal he’d met, named Suzanne (she was a grad student, and an artist) – and he felt more…well, happy.

He was just plain happier.

This bliss lasted for a time, a season, who knows really how long it was…but then abruptly went away.

It was the oddest thing. Matthetes could feel God in his heart. He knew the God-in-his-heart was still there. Just as he had felt the God-in-his-heart alive and growing inside of him while being generous and loving and happy, so now he felt the God-in-his-heart even more alive and growing even larger inside of him.

But his life was going very poorly.

His job seemed meaningless and his friendships felt shallow and unfulfilling.

But still the God-in-his-heart continued to grow.

Suzanne was fantastic, but every time Matthetes was around her he felt sad and conflicted.

And the God-in-his-heart grew inside of him.

It felt like the God-in-his-heart wanted Matthetes to be living a completely different life – like nothing less would make the God-in-his-heart happy – and so Matthetes, instead of invoking the God in his heart like he’d conjured the pocket gods – felt like all he could do to satisfy God was completely change everything about him.

Because the God-in-his-heart was getting bigger inside of him.

So he quit his job, realizing that Ambition had given it to him and that the job itself was only a reminder of how empty he’d felt while petting the Ambition in his pocket.

And he distanced himself from his friends, because he knew that his Downline was still meddling in the purity of his relationships and he didn’t want his friends to be exploited anymore.

And he finally, sadly, even broke things off with Suzanne because she felt like Novelty but didn’t deserve it, and he treated her like Flesh even though she was more to him than that.

Matthetes, he tried to explain to them all, had to do this. It wasn’t even really him, but the God in his heart that had compelled him to act.

And, of course, all of this was so confusing because the pocket gods – the ones everyone had and everyone understood – always did what you wanted whereas the God in Matthetes heart had control of him and could never be used or employed to simply do what Matthetes wanted.

Everything was backwards now.

And the God-in-his-heart grew bigger still.

The God-in-his-heart grew – and Matthetes sold everything he owned and gave it to the poor.

The God-in-his-heart grew – and Matthetes went back to every person he’d ever wronged, or deceived, or cheated and made amends.

The God-in-his-heart grew – and Matthetes went on a journey, a pilgrimage, into the wilderness to (re)discover who he was and why he was alive.

It was miserable.

It was profoundly difficult.

Matthetes had lost it all.

He had nothing.

And the God-in-his-heart continued to grow inside of him.

As he was completely emptied out of all his Ambition,
his love for Flesh,
his addiction to Media,
his fantasy of Fitness and Diet and Novelty;
as his need for the pocket gods vanished Matthetes was left with only one certainty in all the world.

The God in his heart would always continue to grow.

And from that central truth he took strength.

The God-in-his-heart grew – and so would he.

That was the turning point – working together with the God-in-his-heart, cooperating with the God-in-his-heart,
Matthetes began to learn about achievement without pride,
love without lust,
pleasure without novelty,
health without anxiety,
economy without greed,
friendship without agenda…

His whole life was different.

He returned from his journey a new man.

The first person he went to see was Suzanne.

Suzanne – I was just thinking about this life, and appreciating it. I have traded my knowledge of Ambition for something sweeter. I have given up my understanding of the Fast Lane for the Narrow Way.

Would you like to join me?

It won’t be easy to have God inside you, but I can tell you it will be worth it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 days of christmas: day ten (gifts from uncle jeff and auntie amber)

1,000 True Fans

(found this great article from kevin kelly, via michael hyatt on twitter...loved this)


(also, see seth godin apply this theory to business here)


The long tail is famously good news for two classes of people; a few lucky aggregators, such as Amazon and Netflix, and 6 billion consumers. Of those two, I think consumers earn the greater reward from the wealth hidden in infinite niches.

But the long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices. Unless artists become a large aggregator of other artist's works, the long tail offers no path out of the quiet doldrums of minuscule sales.

Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?

One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans. While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.


To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly. Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans.

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day's wages per year in support of what you do. That "one-day-wage" is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let's peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.

The technologies of connection and small-time manufacturing make this circle possible. Blogs and RSS feeds trickle out news, and upcoming appearances or new works. Web sites host galleries of your past work, archives of biographical information, and catalogs of paraphernalia. Diskmakers, Blurb, rapid prototyping shops, Myspace, Facebook, and the entire digital domain all conspire to make duplication and dissemination in small quantities fast, cheap and easy. You don't need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.

This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans. These folks will not purchase everything you do, and may not seek out direct contact, but they will buy much of what you produce. The processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans. As you acquire new True Fans, you can also add many more Lesser Fans. If you keep going, you may indeed end up with millions of fans and reach a hit. I don't know of any creator who is not interested in having a million fans.

But the point of this strategy is to say that you don't need a hit to survive. You don't need to aim for the short head of best-sellerdom to escape the long tail. There is a place in the middle, that is not very far away from the tail, where you can at least make a living. That mid-way haven is called 1,000 True Fans. It is an alternate destination for an artist to aim for.

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It's a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

A few caveats. This formula - one thousand direct True Fans -- is crafted for one person, the solo artist. What happens in a duet, or quartet, or movie crew? Obviously, you'll need more fans. But the additional fans you'll need are in direct geometric proportion to the increase of your creative group. In other words, if you increase your group size by 33%, you need add only 33% more fans. This linear growth is in contrast to the exponential growth by which many things in the digital domain inflate. I would not be surprise to find that the value of your True Fans network follows the standard network effects rule, and increases as the square of the number of Fans. As your True Fans connect with each other, they will more readily increase their average spending on your works. So while increasing the numbers of artists involved in creation increases the number of True Fans needed, the increase does not explode, but rises gently and in proportion.

A more important caution: Not every artist is cut out, or willing, to be a nurturer of fans. Many musicians just want to play music, or photographers just want to shoot, or painters paint, and they temperamentally don't want to deal with fans, especially True Fans. For these creatives, they need a mediator, a manager, a handler, an agent, a galleryist -- someone to manage their fans. Nonetheless, they can still aim for the same middle destination of 1,000 True Fans. They are just working in a duet.

Third distinction. Direct fans are best. The number of True Fans needed to make a living indirectly inflates fast, but not infinitely. Take blogging as an example. Because fan support for a blogger routes through advertising clicks (except in the occasional tip-jar), more fans are needed for a blogger to make a living. But while this moves the destination towards the left on the long tail curve, it is still far short of blockbuster territory. Same is true in book publishing. When you have corporations involved in taking the majority of the revenue for your work, then it takes many times more True Fans to support you. To the degree an author cultivates direct contact with his/her fans, the smaller the number needed.

Lastly, the actual number may vary depending on the media. Maybe it is 500 True Fans for a painter and 5,000 True Fans for a videomaker. The numbers must surely vary around the world. But in fact the actual number is not critical, because it cannot be determined except by attempting it. Once you are in that mode, the actual number will become evident. That will be the True Fan number that works for you. My formula may be off by an order of magnitude, but even so, its far less than a million.

I've been scouring the literature for any references to the True Fan number. Suck.com co-founder Carl Steadman had theory about microcelebrities. By his count, a microcelebrity was someone famous to 1,500 people. So those fifteen hundred would rave about you. As quoted by Danny O'Brien, "One person in every town in Britain likes your dumb online comic. That's enough to keep you in beers (or T-shirt sales) all year."

Others call this microcelebrity support micro-patronage, or distributed patronage.

In 1999 John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier published a model for this in First Monday, an online journal. They called it the Street Performer Protocol.

Using the logic of a street performer, the author goes directly to the readers before the book is published; perhaps even before the book is written. The author bypasses the publisher and makes a public statement on the order of: "When I get $100,000 in donations, I will release the next novel in this series."

Readers can go to the author's Web site, see how much money has already been donated, and donate money to the cause of getting his novel out. Note that the author doesn't care who pays to get the next chapter out; nor does he care how many people read the book that didn't pay for it. He just cares that his $100,000 pot gets filled. When it does, he publishes the next book. In this case "publish" simply means "make available," not "bind and distribute through bookstores." The book is made available, free of charge, to everyone: those who paid for it and those who did not.

In 2004 author Lawrence Watt-Evans used this model to publish his newest novel. He asked his True Fans to collectively pay $100 per month. When he got $100 he posted the next chapter of the novel. The entire book was published online for his True Fans, and then later in paper for all his fans. He is now writing a second novel this way. He gets by on an estimated 200 True Fans because he also publishes in the traditional manner -- with advances from a publisher supported by thousands of Lesser Fans. Other authors who use fans to directly support their work are Diane Duane, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and Don Sakers. Game designer Greg Stolze employed a similar True Fan model to launch two pre-financed games. Fifty of his True Fans contributed seed money for his development costs.

The genius of the True Fan model is that the fans are able to move an artist away from the edges of the long tail to a degree larger than their numbers indicate. They can do this in three ways: by purchasing more per person, by spending directly so the creator keeps more per sale, and by enabling new models of support.

New models of support include micro-patronage. Another model is pre-financing the startup costs. Digital technology enables this fan support to take many shapes. Fundable is a web-based enterprise which allows anyone to raise a fixed amount of money for a project, while reassuring the backers the project will happen. Fundable withholds the money until the full amount is collected. They return the money if the minimum is not reached.

Fundable

Here's an example from Fundable's site;

Amelia, a twenty-year-old classical soprano singer, pre-sold her first CD before entering a recording studio. "If I get $400 in pre-orders, I will be able to afford the rest [of the studio costs]," she told potential contributors. Fundable's all-or-nothing model ensured that none of her customers would lose money if she fell short of her goal. Amelia sold over $940 in albums.

A thousand dollars won't keep even a starving artist alive long, but with serious attention, a dedicated artist can do better with their True Fans. Jill Sobule, a musician who has nurtured a sizable following over many years of touring and recording, is doing well relying on her True Fans. Recently she decided to go to her fans to finance the $75,000 professional recording fees she needed for her next album. She has raised close to $50,000 so far. By directly supporting her via their patronage, the fans gain intimacy with their artist. According to the Associated Press:

Contributors can choose a level of pledges ranging from the $10 "unpolished rock," which earns them a free digital download of her disc when it's made, to the $10,000 "weapons-grade plutonium level," where she promises "you get to come and sing on my CD. Don't worry if you can't sing - we can fix that on our end." For a $5,000 contribution, Sobule said she'll perform a concert in the donor's house. The lower levels are more popular, where donors can earn things like an advanced copy of the CD, a mention in the liner notes and a T-shirt identifying them as a "junior executive producer" of the CD.

The usual alternative to making a living based on True Fans is poverty. A study as recently as 1995 showed that the accepted price of being an artist was large. Sociologist Ruth Towse surveyed artists in Britian and determined that on average they earned below poverty subsistence levels.

I am suggesting there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom. Somewhere lower than stratospheric bestsellerdom, but higher than the obscurity of the long tail. I don't know the actual true number, but I think a dedicated artist could cultivate 1,000 True Fans, and by their direct support using new technology, make an honest living. I'd love to hear from anyone who might have settled on such a path.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 days of christmas: day one (gifts from flash)

cancer...thankfully, Carmel doesn't have it

it's been a pretty bumpy fall for us michigan mcdonalds...i'll say no more about all of that in general, but i will mention the most recent bump: carmel's cancer scare.

i'll also skip over the months of uncertainty, moments of fear, weeks of anxiety, and evenings of paranoia and jump straight to a scary-yet-perfectly-executed surgery followed by early-and-superlative news.

no cancer.

C-mac was very brave, very godly, and we're all very relieved that our christmas tree won't need to be decorated with pink ribbons this year.

more than ever, though, our hearts go out to those who will.


thanks be to god for his protection and security during all of this...it feels good to be on team jesus.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (by Wendell Berry)

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

lyrics: a king and a kingdom

love this tune by derek webb:



Who's your brother, who's your sister
You just walked passed him
I think you missed her
As we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'Cause we married in to a family of immigrants

My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It's to a king & a kingdom

There are two great lies that I've heard:
"the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die"
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

But nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we've got one, sure as hell
But he may be living in your house
He may be raising up your kids
He may be sleeping with your wife
Oh no, he may not look like you think

Validation

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

writing on the incarnation

i love writing.

i just had a realization this week that my job is great precisely because it allows me - encourages me! - to write.

i think if i were all alone in the world, with no certainty that anyone who ever read what i have written, i would still write. i feel god's presence when i create something, or (re)create something (as is the case with the current work i'm doing on the incarnation).

i'm deeply gratified at how many thousands of people have read our westwinds' teaching atlases. it feels good to know that the thing i love has a residual payoff.

but honestly, i've been writing (and writing music, and drawing, and photographing, and mixing, and designing) ever since i could hold a pen...

and it felt just as good then as it does now.

thanks, all, for being a part of one of my life's great joys.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TEDxDetroit video: D Blair performs 'Detroit (while I was away)'

TEDxDetroit video: Poet D Blair performs 'Detroit (while I was away)'












Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ha!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

top 10 ways in which the Centre is different than the Cue

since we recently began our new mid-week experience, folks have been asking us "what's so different about the Centre?"

they want to know how the-wednesday-stuff is different than the-sunday-stuff

well, here's a quick list to give you a picture about why the centre is one of the most meaningful and engaging spiritual venues we've ever had.

10 ways in which the Centre is different than the Cue


10. greater freedom for spontaneity
9. giving 100% of our offering to Missions
8. welcoming young kids to participate in the service
7. emphasis on prayer
6. more intimate atmosphere
5. great access to Westwinds’ staff and elders
4. more congregational worship music
3. additional opportunities for community both before and after the service
2. highlight scriptural tools and integration
1. teaching only the words of Jesus

Friday, September 25, 2009

Archetypes FAQ: what about pastors and the gift of pastoring at ww? (PART TWO)

Archetypes FAQ: what about pastors and the gift of pastoring at westwinds? (PART ONE)

Archetypes FAQ: are the archetypes "made up?"

Archetypes FAQ: what about doing something you're not necessarily gifted at?

Archetypes FAQ: how can i tell if it's a spiritual gift or a natural ability?

Creation via Twitter

(found this juicy gem online...enjoy)

Day One

Let there B-lite. OMG! Or shld I say Oh Me! It’s so much easier 2-C now. WTF was I thinking B4? Spent the rest of the day dividing lite from darkness. It is good. :-)


Day Two

Made a firmament (sort of a dome thing) to divide the waters under firmament from the waters above. Assigned firmament the file name . +<:-)


Day Three

Gathered waters and let dry land appear. Dry land tagged , waters tagged . Uploaded grass and herb-yielding seed into folder. GR8!


Day Four

More lighting wk. Installed 1 great lite to rule day [] & lesser lite to rule night []. Beta tested them & everything seems to work. It is gd. :-D


Day Five

Bushed from tweaking fish & fowl files. They wouldn’t be fruitful and multiply until I found it’s a simple command. >:-? Thank Me It’s Friday.


Day Six

Created 2 humans, file names and . At last - I now have 2 Twitter followers! Tweeting just to myself is sooo Day One. LOL! ;-)


Day Seven

[no tweets]

Monday, September 21, 2009

the best of jackson (which happens to be pretty awesome)

when Carmel and I first moved to Jackson, MI from Surrey BC we knew there would be an adjustment period. we didn't, however, anticipate that the most acute part of that adjustment would be the loss of such great eats as Earl's, Milestones, the Keg, etc. There just aren't the same casual dining restaurants stateside (let alone in the blue collar machineworks of Jackson) as there are in the Great White North (insert koo-loo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo here).

however, having spent 4 and a half years in Jacktown, we've come to identify some pretty spectacular spots.

here, then, are my absolute favorite places to eat in the fine city of Jackson, my home:

Daryl's Downtown - this is our one truly nice place to eat. Great food. consistent. baked rolls that - i'm sure - had a part to play in the assassination of archduke franz ferdinand. this is the place to take people to show them our town has class.

The Oak Tree Lounge - this is the best dirty bar in town, with the best blue cheese burger, and a staff that is still courteous and kind. other dirty bars (the westpoint, for example) have sentimental value to long-term jacksonites but (let's be honest) are so gross that i'd probably rather stab my own eyes out that go there on purpose.

Klavon's Pizzeria and Pub - great atmosphere, great pizza, best spot (just outside of) in town.

Hinkley's Bakery - Hinkley's makes doughnuts out of angel's kisses and magic sugar. nothing in the world tastes so good as a freshly baked (still warm) hinkley's doughnut hole.

Schlenker's - i know the actual restaurant is a health inspector's worst nightmare, but there is not a better hamburger/french fry combo in the universe.

The International Dog House - i resisted going here for a long time...because it looks and sounds like a dissentary ambush, but this is the only place in Michigan where you can get a hotdog large than 1/8" in diameter and tasting like anything other than old macaroni water.

On the Ave - the food's a little light and a little froo-froo-shee-shee for my tastes, but they've got the best brewed coffee in the state

Giglio's - great italian food...a fun date night

The Parlour - this place actually has decent food, you'll just have to wait about an hour to get any of it. best stick to the ice cream, which is terrific.

the Roxy Cafe - this was my first "oh - my - gosh - i'm - in - heaven" spot, discovered shortly after moving here. the roxy is the single greatest hole-in-the-wall ever in existence. i'd go there for breakfast everyday, just to be a better man.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Suggested Authors

Today in the Cue we spoke about being an Intellectual (one of our 12 spiritual archetypes). If you consider yourself an Intellectual, here are some writers you may consider reading:

Greg Boyd
Rob Bell
Mark Driscoll
NT Wright
Jeremy Begbie
Len Sweet
Peter Rollins
J. Richard Middleton
Walter Brueggemann







So far, so good

We're sitting in the Atlanta airport, 1 hour from our flight to Johannesburg, and everything is going swell no far.

No infections
No nausea
No faux pas
No cultural awkwardness
No "oops...my bad" moments

I've finished two books (the trouble with Paris, by mark Sayers and Jesus: the final days by Craig evans and nt wright) and eaten two dinners.

Feel full in my belly and brains.

Next? A 14 hour trip into awesomeness.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

south africa: day 8

more reading...

i've finished a few other tomes and texts in the last couple days...

"the phenomenon of man" by pierre teilhard de chardin (a famous paleontologist, who was also a jesuit priest deeply concerned with reconciling faith + science)...this book was amazing, though a little beyond me on the science end. i've already gone back through a re-read much of it, and am increasingly amazed at his profound faith and sense of commitment to God (the "omega"). i'll undoubtedly use this in the future.


"transforming the difficult child" by howard glasser and jennifer easley...this is a great book about parenting that has deeply influenced ben's current teaching in fusion. it was recommended to me by my friend greg gallagher, who has recently been asked to implement the principles as a means of keeping discipline in the michigan center school district via the 'nurtured heart approach.' greg will also be giving some seminars on the material at the winds (for a hefty discount, i might add) and i strongly urge every parent to attend.

"from eternity to here" by frank viola...i liked this book, though - similar to frank's other book (pagan christianity) i felt like the ways in which the author takes theological liberties really hurt the overall credibility of the book. there are times when he makes it seem like things that could be true (given the right circumstances and hermeneutical lens...and still allowing for different truths to simultaneously coexist) are ABSOLUTELY true. they're not.

"unleashing the power of rubber bands" by nancy ortberg...this is a great leadership book that i've asked norma to order for all our staff. it's easy to read and has some fresh insights. my one criticism is that the author references max depree about 10 times too often. he was a mentor for her, and an important leader, but it was a bit much. still, the book is fantastic and i would highly recommend it to anyone.

"the postmodern organization" by william berquist...this is a book i should have read 15 years ago but which is now, sadly, about 15 years out of date. too bad. i read it because it's always listed as a "classic". it would have been timeless if i'd read it at the right time :)

"unleashing the scripture" by stanley hauerwas...i bought this book because hauerwas is keen to make sure we (americans, in particular) resist the urge to make everything in the bible that's about israel about america instead. everyone should know that. he does a good job with it, but it gets a bit boring about halfway through. short version: the bible is not about america. that is all.




Friday, August 21, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So far, so good

We're sitting in the Atlanta airport, 1 hour from our flight to Johannesburg, and everything is going swell no far.

No infections
No nausea
No faux pas
No cultural awkwardness
No "oops...my bad" moments

I've finished two books (the trouble with Paris, by mark Sayers and Jesus: the final days by Craig evans and nt wright) and eaten two dinners.

Feel full in my belly and brains.

Next? A 14 hour trip into awesomeness.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

the giant particleboard wiener of los angeles (my favorite tidbit from the upcoming teaching atlas)

When I was a kid, I always thought that being a good Christian meant wearing suits to church and having a Bible cover that doubled as a doily.


When I got older, I thought that people who looked that way weren’t Christians at all, just posers.


I was equally wrong both times and for the same reason.


It takes all kinds.


The church is like particle board, a million bits of odds and ends shoved together and glued.


The church is like a wiener (of the Oscar Meyer variety, that is)—you love it more if you don’t take too much time to dissect all the parts inside.


The church is like L.A.—don’t ask where the weirdo’s came from or how they got there, just accept that they’ve all got a part in some upcoming pilot.


Like you.

And me.


We’re the giant particleboard wiener of Los Angeles.


Listen, I know that seems disturbing but it’s the truth. You and I, together with the mass collection of snowflake Jesus-people have been bound together for one simple reason: to heal the world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paris Hilton targeted in CD prank

Paris Hilton targeted in CD prank
Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton's album entered the UK chart at number 29 last week
Hundreds of Paris Hilton albums have been tampered with in the latest stunt by "guerrilla artist" Banksy.

Banksy has replaced Hilton's CD with his own remixes and given them titles such as Why am I Famous?, What Have I Done? and What Am I For?

He has also changed pictures of her on the CD sleeve to show the US socialite topless and with a dog's head.

A spokeswoman for Banksy said he had doctored 500 copies of her debut album Paris in 48 record shops across the UK.

She told the BBC News website: "He switched the CDs in store, so he took the old ones out and put his version in."

 It might be that there will be some people who agree with his views on the Paris Hilton album 
HMV spokesman
But he left the original barcode so people could buy the CD without realising it had been interfered with.

Banksy is notorious for his secretive and subversive stunts such as sneaking doctored versions of classic paintings into major art galleries.

His spokeswoman said he had tampered with the CDs in branches of HMV and Virgin as well as independent record stores.

He visited cities including Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and London, she added.

A spokesman for HMV said the chain had recovered seven CDs from two Brighton shops but was unaware that other locations were affected.

Artistic leeway

No customers had complained or returned a doctored version, he said.

"It's not the type of behaviour you'd want to see happening very often," he said.

"I guess you can give an individual such as Banksy a little bit of leeway for his own particular brand of artistic engagement.

"Often people might have a view on something but feel they can't always express it, but it's down to the likes of Banksy to say often what people think about things.

"And it might be that there will be some people who agree with his views on the Paris Hilton album."

A spokesman for Virgin Megastores said staff were searching for affected CDs but it was proving hard to find them all.

"I have to take my hat off - it's a very good stunt," he added.

Monday, July 27, 2009

test-run: intro to archetypes atlas

People are like snowflakes, 

individual, 

irrepeatable, 

unique.


So listen up, Snowflake, your individuality isn’t just something for you to feel good about, it’s a key component of your identity and mission in this world.


That’s right – who you are, in large part, will help you understand what you’re supposed to do.


God made people to look after this world, and to look after one another, and to look after ourselves in relationship to Him.  God designed us as stewards – like butlers for the Earth-mansion – and our primary task in this life is to be obedient to God and His designs for our lives.


What – specifically – are those designs?  Well, we get to choose.  

Based on our personality, 

our experience, 

our learning style and our kind of intelligence, 

based on our spiritual gifts and our sacred pathways, 

we choose what we want to do 

to cooperate with God 

in healing the world 

we choose what we want to do 

for work 

or play 

what our hobbies and our interests are 

who we will love 

and what we will wear.


We get to choose a lot.


But to be good – to be good stewards, good lovers and followers of the God who made us all – every choice we make should be in service to this one ideal: 


healing the world.


The world is sick, 

hurting, 

starving, 

fighting, 

dying, 

deceptive, 

confrontational, 

manipulative, 

commodifying, 

depersonalizing, 

commercializing, 

ugly, 

foul, 

vulgar, 

coarse, 

and icky.


In short, it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.


It’s not the way God made it.


That’s where you come in.


Snowflake.


Your unique gifts and abilities, 

your singular perspective on this world, 

in this life, 

with those around you 

has been given to you by God 

so you can cooperate with Him 

in healing the world 

in setting everything wrong back to rights 

big and small 

near and far 

noticeable and unnoticed 

but present nonetheless.


So this book, Archetypes, is designed to help you figure out who you are and what you should be doing to be obedient to God, to your calling as His steward, and to love every minute of it.


So get crackin’, Snowflake, the world’s going to hell in a hand basket unless you decide to dive in and do your part.  Good news is, once you learn your part you’re gonna love it, you’re gonna rock it, and pretty soon it’ll be you who gets to poke and prod, provoke and plague the newbies about their need to get in the game too.


Cheers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Americans know this will end in schism

Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving the family

In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.

Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.

Of course, matters didn’t begin with the consecration of Gene Robinson. The floodgates opened several years before, particularly in 1996 when a church court acquitted a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals. Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.

That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of “identity” parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the “gay community” much postmodern reflection has turned away from “identity” as a modernist fiction. We simply “construct” ourselves from day to day.

We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to “homosexual clergy” and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may “love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise”. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel.

The question then presses: who, in the US, is now in communion with the great majority of the Anglican world? It would be too hasty to answer, the newly formed “province” of the “Anglican Church in North America”. One can sympathise with some of the motivations of these breakaway Episcopalians. But we should not forget the Episcopalian bishops, who, doggedly loyal to their own Church, and to the expressed mind of the wider Communion, voted against the current resolution. Nor should we forget the many parishes and worshippers who take the same stance. There are many American Episcopalians, inside and outside the present TEC, who are eager to sign the proposed Covenant. That aspiration must be honoured.

Contrary to some who have recently adopted the phrase, there is already a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”. It is called the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is now distancing itself from that fellowship. Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level.

Tom Wright is Bishop of Durham