I have this new theory. I think that traveling sets off a strange chemical reaction in the laboratory of our shoes that emits a stronger-than-normal-foot-odor. Or maybe I just need to throw away my favorite "travel shoes." Either way, my post-travel stank is really amazing.
I've just returned from a renegade 3-day trip (back) to Pasadena to help out Christian Associates do some recruiting at Fuller's Missions Fair. I spent two full days talking with seminary students about the spiritual needs of Europe, and how they might take some risks with their future. I really enjoyed it, especially because I got to meet folks at my school that I normally miss in my online classes. The whole deal was a totally unexpected gift of a trip, especially to stay with the amazing Klein family, and see the Borden's one last time before they are Tanzania-ified.
Doing the recruiting-stuff gave me some inklings for a possible fun part-time job with CAI in the fall. (Here's a rad quicktime movie that gives of snapshot of CAI's vision for church-planting in Europe.) Pray, pray, and we'll see.
In the meantime I'll be asking myself the question: "Why, oh why, do my traveling feet stink?"
(Thanks for the photo of baby Gabby, B K & G.)
Thursday, March 29
Friday, March 23
Here's an update on my CNBC million dollar challenge. My portfolio says that in the last 12 days, my (faux) stock holdings have increased over $50,000! 5% gains in less than 2 weeks. And all that from only the companies I use and believe in. My Dad keeps congratulating me on how well I've invested/traded my fake money. If only it were this easy with the real deal. I can't wait till I'm totally debt free and free to give more away.
Our church staff is reading The Purpose Driven Church together, and, regardless of my thoughts on church, I keep thinking of how cool it is that Rick Warren gives away 90% of his income, after making all that dough on his books.
The Nelly will now be giving fair-trade stock advice for the small price of buying her a cup of good coffee. (Charles Schwabby, eat your heart out.)
(Thanks to Flickr lady P.Mitchell for sharing the Nasdaq photo.)
Wednesday, March 21
This weekend I drove up to Baltimore for a Young Life staff training day. As a former YL staffer in Portugal, this was a rare treat, 'cause I was invited to teach on contextualizing ministry to a particular youth culture. Humbled and excited, I was also totally knackered/shattered. I arrived completely bleary-eyed on caffeine, having only slept 3 hours the night before (see also: finals week). But sweet Wanda kept handing me lattes, and it was a small enough group that we could really have some dialogue, which also kept me awake. I was encouraged by how eager these folks are willing and ready to take some new risks in ministry. (Particularly because Young Life in America tends to be a well-oiled methodological machine.) Here's what I taught on:
(Re)Imagining Ministry to Lost Kids
1. Becoming artisan leaders means rockin a cycle of Listening, Letting Go, and Learning.
2. We gotta listen for God's Voice like Moses did (Exodus 33:9-18) and insist on His Presence leading us.
3. Listening like Moses did often means waiting and looking like a moron (Exod. 24:16-18).
4. We gotta listen to the voices of kids and empower them to lead, instead of us.*
5. If we don't listen to the voices of kids they'll become our ministry "objects" rather than "subjects." (And that's gross.)
6. We gotta let go of our "golden calves" in ministry. (AKA. Anything we turn to because "it just works," rather than first listening for and waiting on God.) Exod. 32:1-6.
7. We've even gotta let go of our "vain repetetions" in ministry. (Matthew 6:5-13). Though Jesus was talkin' about prayer, perhaps the same Pharisee-thing applies when we get all hyper-methodologized in ministry.
8. We've gotta learn as cross-cultural missionaries of our students' school, listening to "the pulse" of the culture. We've gotta know, "What is good news to these kids?" before we can communicate THE Good News.
9. We've gotta let go of the notion that we're the only ones who want these kiddos to be whole. We've gotta creatively partner with the folks in the community who have a vested interest in these same kids, even if those folks don't follow Jesus.
10. We've gotta learn all over again to dream and take risks with the Holy Spirit.
*I showed this gorgeous Sigur Ros video to illustrate, metaphorically, what it looks like for kids to lead other kids to freedom.
Tuesday, March 20
If you would like to know what I've been working on, here is one thing. I recently finished a project for my class on Ministering to Street Children, and I got the wild idea to submit it as a blog-article, rather than just a boring paper (with an extra-large title...) "Listening to the Marginalized Voices of the Church to Awaken Faith: A Proposal for a Ministry of Love and Power to Street Children in Italy."
It features Heidi and Rolland Baker, yelling-at-Satan-Carlos Annacondia, Bill Johnson, the infamous John Wimber, Chuck Kraft, and my ideas for a new ministry in Naples, Italy. I hope it'll be a work-in-progress. Feel free to skim your favorite sections, and leave any comments if you desire to disagree, or to shout a sweaty, "amen." (I think my professora in Costa Rica would get a kick out of the conversation.)
Thursday, March 15
I just completed a Culture Watchin' assignment with my friend, Ellen, in my Fuller MAGL cohort. I figured it was spicy enough to share a splice of it with you. Our assignment was to "partner up" with someone in our cohort, and follow the news , tracing a theme in culture, and analyzing it according to the changing post-modern landscape, and the implications it may have for the Church. (I appreciate Fuller because they've always taught us to pray with the Bible in one hand, the newspaper in the other.)
Our paper was entitled "The Post-Modern Working Woman in Positions of Power: A Clarion Call to the Church."
Here are a couple of the recent articles we analyzed:
Women Feeling Freer to Suggest 'Vote for Mom'
Washington Post Online Blog Discussion (generating +200 comments!):
Have Women Fared Well or Badly in the World's Religions Down Through the Ages? Why?
(And the one that makes me want to either scream or cry...)
Dallas Morning News: Baptists at Odds Over Removal of Female Professor
To spare you all the bloody details, here is our conclusion:
In the shifting landscape of twenty-first century America, it is clear that our culture is now desirous of women having some part in the systems of power. The emerging independency and power-inclusion of women is evidenced through the political campaigning of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the unabashed motherly persona of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, as well as Sam Rodgers' NY Times report that the majority of U.S. women are now living without a spouse. It seems we are living in changing times in the attitudes of women, and in the acceptance of women into leadership roles. However, when it comes to the question of gender equality in church leadership, articles such as that of The Dallas Morning News and the Washington Post's online blog question on women and religion reveal a growing chasm between Church and Culture. In the present shift to a post-modern world, where partnerships, egalitarianism, and many-layered voices are valued, the American Church must be prepared to reexamine and reform her theology of women in leadership, and the cultural biases that often underscore these theologies. Without such a pointed reformation, the Church risks growing increasingly more irreverent towards women as human beings, as well as being irrelevant to a culture which demands much more equality.
It was especially fun working with Ellen, because she works in a Vineyard church where they freely call her "pastor"!
"This is a historic moment - for the Congress, and for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and granddaughters, today, we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit, anything is possible for them."
-Nancy Pelosi's words from her 2006 acceptance speech
(Betcha didn't know Nancy P. used to be a D'Alesandro! We might be related. Thanks to Wiki for the Pelosi picki.)
My friend, Phil Wyman, is putting on a provacative conference called "God For People Who Hate Church." Phil is that wild pastor man up in Salem, Mass, who is being Jesus to his neo-pagan and witch friends, finding innovative ways to seek forgiveness for how the Church has mistreated those friends.
The gathering will feature the preacher-punk, Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker. (Years ago, when I first saw Jay interviewed on TV I wanted to marry him.) This will not be your typical Christian conference. It will even include open dialogue with atheists and pagans, who'll talk candidly about how Christians have demeaned those they've tried to reach with the Good News. Read more about the conference here.
Tuesday, March 13
Wednesday, the Synchro-blogger team will be writing on the (mysterious) topic of "Alternate Forms of Consciousness as it Relates to Christianity." As I am knee deep in writing for my last week of the winter quarter, I can't participate this month. Had I the time, I probably would write about my supernatural experiences of the Holy Spirit during worship and prayer, and how those experiences altered my consciousness towards God's power.
Check out the Synchro-bloggers' work. It's sure to rock your consciousness in some way.
Shamanic Vision and Apocalyptic Scripture at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Can prayer be an example of Alternate Conciousness? at Eternal Echoes
Better Than I Was [at times], Not Better Than You Are by Mike of Earthsea
emotionalism vs rationalism at Adam Gonnerman's Igneous Quill
Consciousness of the absurd and the absurdity of consciousness at Steve's Notes from the Underground
The Unconscious Christian by Matt Stone
Hypnochristians at Jamie's More Than Stone
The extreme consciousness of the Spirit by Les Chatwin
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me at Mike's Musings
What is reality? by David Fisher at Be the Revolution
Monday, March 12
In truth, I have massive blog envy over Andrew Jones' infamous Tall Skinny Kiwi Blog. He was blogging about important and quirky things in the Kingdom long before blogging became a verb. And he makes me laugh aloud with his occasional photoshopping antics. As a rogue wanderer on his site, I found this cool app called, "Snap." I had to have it.
So now I do. Hello Sez Nelly gets a new (ahem, snappy) dress. Let your mouse do the walking and now be thrilled by getting visual previews for most all of my linkages!
Here's an interesting 21st century personality test. It's all done according to the images that appeal to you. The written analysis was quite on target with me, in a bizarre sort of way. I'm still not sure how I feel about being called an "Escape Artist" (to supplement being a "Rogue Wanderer," I might add...
Sunday, March 11
I am in a strange, adventurous season of preparing to return to Southern Europe. Strange because I do not have a definite return time, yet. Adventurous because it feels the world is at my feet! But, strange because I really have to begin thinking about things such as buying or leasing a car, not knowing how long I may need said car.
So I started doing some proverbial "web research."
I found out that swapping a lease may be a nice way to get a reliable car without a massive down-payment, and reasonable monthlies. Especially if you'll only need a car short-term, but need more confidence than a cheap-o used car might offer. Sites like Swap-a-Lease help you get in or out of a lease, e-bay style.
The last car I drove in America was a hip '90 Volvo 240 Wagon. Oh, the Volvino was so beautiful. But he wasn't so beautiful when his brakes gave way when I was going 40 mph on Highway 301. That was a fright!
I dunno. There's no rush, yet. I'm just in research-mode. I wonder if anyone out there has any short-term car buying wisdom.
Saturday, March 10
So my Dad signed me up to play in the CNBC "Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge." CNBC gives you $1,000,000 in fake money, you spend it on stocks, and then each week they award someone $10k in real cash for having the hottest portfolio. The top dawg wins the real million.
My entry in this game is beyond laughable considering I know far more about making chicken stock than I do about trading NASDAQ stocks. But I must admit, it's a pretty fun game. Especially because it's all fake money.
I'm sure I won't win, because I basically only picked stocks in corporations I support with my business in every day life, and the ones that seem the least exploitive towards the marginalized. In three days, I've made $5k! (Grazie to British Airways and Amazon.com.)
Tonight my Dad is playing in a Texas Hold-em Poker tourney, and he just called to ask us to pray because he made it to the final table. Dad's pretty great at poker. (And when he wins, he shares his winnings with me. He's a sweet Daddy, he is.)
I really don't understand why well-meaning folks condemn things like poker-playing, but pay no issue with the billions gambled away with money piled up in stocks. Particularly when many of the corporations who are winning them gains are doing so on the backs of workers who still cannot earn a living wage.
Wednesday, March 7
Last night I had another incredibly vivid dream. I'm sure part of it was born out of one of my classes at Fuller: Ministering to Street Children.
I was in Italy, sitting on the second floor of an apartment that faced the street. It was a gloomy, rainy day, and I was looking out the window. My eye caught two young girls who'd walked out into the street who couldn't have been older than seven. They were all alone and playing in the puddle-filled street.
Then, in the magical-speed of dreams, the street below began flooding with rain, and water rushed from one end to another. The little girls seemed totally unaware of the danger that they were in. One of them had a toy boat that was large enough for her to sit on, and from the window I saw her motioning as if she was going to try to ride on it for fun in the flooded street.
I looked around the apartment and realized that no one but me saw this happen. So I barreled down to the street, only to arrive to find her being carried away by the stream. I felt helpless. But then as I peered way down the street I could see a small group of adults who were headed towards her to catch her.
I ran over to the girls' friend, who was still street-side, totally unaware of what had just happened. She had a "nobody can hurt me" attitude about her, though she was so very young. She was incredulously drinking cheap beer, even. I tried asking her in (my pitiful) Italian if she thought her friend was ok, but she answered me in English, quite nonchalantly. It didn't seem she even cared.
The group of adults showed up with the girl, and they appeared to be folks about my age. There were four of them, mostly from the States, but one from Asia. They explained that they all ended up in Italy through this one friend of theirs' named, Chuck. So, strangely, instead of giving me their contact info, they gave me his.
And we all ended up at a weird American breakfast buffet that was very strange to find in Italy. Other Americans joined us, but they seemed clueless on how to be polite and quiet in a European country. No one knew how to pay the bill properly, so I ended up doing it.
(Flood Picture from the National Weather Service's article on Flash Floods: Turn Around Don't Drown.)
Monday, March 5
After a long day at Ski Roundtop, the whole mess of us came home happy and injury-free. (Thank you for praying, if that was you.)
What I Learned While Tumbling Down the Icy P.A. Mountain
1. Snowboarding is not at all like skateboarding.
2. I'm far better at snowboarding in my imagination than on the mountain.
3. Ski-pants really are necessary, to avoid getting snow in your crevices.
4. When snowboarding with teenagers, bring extra gloves with you on the lift, because inevitably someone will forget their gloves and need your's.
5. Snowboarding without gloves can cause slightly bleeding knuckles.
On a different note, the illustrustious instrumental band, Explosions In The Sky has just released an unbelievable record that you should own. The Austin-based band must've traced my emotions to entitle the album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. Their fourth album is brilliantly swirling with melodies of wordless hope. Listening to this record today made me feel like Jesus had stuck an i.v. of pulsing joy into my arm. The Explosions boys even added a piano to their post-rockin' line-up on a couple tracks. Oh happy day.
Check out a free mp3 of the record's second track here. All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is available on iTunes, and also here.
Friday, March 2
Tomorrow morning I'll board a bus with about 30 folks from our church youth group to go skiing, snowboarding, and snow-tubing in Pennsylvania. I'm going to play in the snow like a child again! I need it. And our group needs it. Communities that play together stay together.
I've always wanted to snowboard, and in my head I'm really good at it. Maybe because when I was 11 I also thought I was an excellent skateboarder, and I figure it's practically the same thing. (I still only have one move on the skateboard, and it's not really that impressive.)
For you praying-types, we'd love prayer for no-injuries and wild childlike fun!