“The object of a question is to obtain information that matters to us, and no one else.”
- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Stephen Colbert Blasts Bush

Over the weekend, Stephen Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondent's Dinner and held nothing back when roasting Bush and the press. This is funny.

It's Tough Sometimes...

This past week I have been away from my normal routines, away from the typical, and in my element.

For a video project we are working on for an annual conference finance team, we are using the imagery of redwood trees. Other than the tannins in the bark which help fend off insects and the risk of fire, one of the reasons redwood trees are able to grow so large and live so long is found in their roots. Though they are comparatively shallow as tree roots go, the root systems of the redwoods are interconnected which allows them to gather nutrients from across the forest and work together to provide stability and strength to last.

The annual conference was able to meet about 3/4 of their shared ministry goals in 2005 but the local churches that make it up gave around a half a million dollars to the various natural disasters around the country and around the world. Financially speaking, in order to build towards the future, to have strength and stability, it takes some working together and some interconnectedness. It is in those tightly woven places where new life and growth occurs.

So, I was sent out to drive through northern California gathering footage in one of the most beautiful regions of the country. And it was just amazing! Other than carrying a tripod on my shoulder and having a limited amount of time, there was nothing better than hiking through the park with my camera. The stillness. The beauty. The sense of wonder and awe. It was just perfect.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Spring Has Sprung


I am a excalibur!
Find your own pose!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

One Last Push

Back in early January I wrote about Laura's friend Anna who is going to be running the Boston Marathon on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Well, Monday is Patriot's Day in Boston which means that the time has come, once again, for the running of the 26.2 mile race through the city. As of right now, Anna has raised $2,256 of her $3,000 goal, which means there is still about a day and a half to help her out.

Please take a few moments to read Anna's letter and, if you feel moved, stop by her Team in Training page and donate. Since talking to her about it, Anna has graciously offered to run in memory of my grandmother who died of Leukemia about 18 years ago.

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Other Day

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What is "Scripture"?

John over at Locusts & Honey has begun talking about "The Gospel of Judas" and, based on the quoted content of his post and the comment discussion, there seems to be a sense that this document should just be dismissed. Another link from his post even calls it a "document of heresy" but encourages a read.

I first must admit that I haven't seen much about the "Judas Gospel" other than a short segment on the national news the other night, so I have to claim my ignorance on the content. That said, I thought I would pose a question that often runs around in my head:

What makes a text scripture? Who decides? And how do you know they're right?

When I was in college, one of my first religion classes was called Religion in America with professor Stephen Prothero, which took us from the Protestant Reformation through the Enlightenment and the influence of religion on American thought and culture during its formative years. One of the books we read was American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier. The book basically chronicles the thought process and the lives of the founders as they wrote the Declaration and how it has become a sacred text in the canon of America's civic religion. It was an interesting discussion of what makes something scripture and why it has the authority it does in the minds of those who follow it. We talked about age, historical significance, a certain amount of myth (using the definition "A popular belief or story that has become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal") surrounding its origins, and its continuing influence in the present-day. It's been so long I should pull it out and read it again.

I then have a follow-up question:

Even if this document isn't considered scripture, can it tell us anything meaningful? Or should it just be dismissed altogether?

Perhaps it's a bit rhetorical because, in some ways, I think the designation of a text as scripture is somewhat irrelevant to the message contained in that text. Ultimately it is up to the discerning mind and heart of the reader to determine whether or not there is anything meaningful. I mean, certainly a screenplay isn't "scripture" but it can definitely speak universal truths. So can a novel or a piece of art or stillness while sitting in the forest. Not all screenplays contain "truth" - the definition of "truth" could be another discussion altogether! Not all novels, art or quiet moments carry ultimate meaning either. But I think there's something to be said for the subtle signs that point to greater understanding that can be found almost anywhere, even in conflicting accounts.

I don't believe every word of the Bible should be taken literally or given equal weight, yet I still see it as scripture. The same goes for the Qur'an, the Gita, and other sacred texts of the world. But I do believe there is something to be gained from each. I see the common threads of living rightly in our personal lives and in community and treating all others with dignity and respect even, and especially, if they are strangers or enemies. These common themes, and others, point towards the ultimate truths.

I'll end on this question:

Could your definition of scripture include text held to be sacred by faiths other than your own? And, if so, what makes you believe one set of scripture over another?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Vacation Planning

I am a traveler. Day trips. Hikes. Weekends away. Cross country. International. You name it, and more likely than not, I'd be interested.

For about as long as I can remember I've been on the go. When I was younger, many of our summer vacations involved camping or a trip out to Omaha to visit my mom's side of the family with a number of shorter day trips scattered throughout the year. I remember trips to Niagara Falls, down to visit my dad's family a few hours away, to various state parks, the Baseball Hall of Fame, Howe Caverns, and historical locations of all sorts.

As high school came around I would take annual trips to Washington, DC with the CCYM and on college visits along the east coast. In college, especially freshman year, I made the trip back and forth from Boston a number of times. And then, as my senior year began, I was getting on a ship to sail around the world.

After I graduated and moved into my own place I set a goal for myself to travel somewhere amazing every year. My first trip took me to London and Northern Ireland where I visited the town where part of my family is from. And this year, in just a month and a half, I will be heading northwest to Alaska.

Today I sat down to finalize my itinerary. Though I still have some reservations to make with hotels and a couple of tours I've got a full week planned. I'll be flying into Anchorage and driving throughout the central part of Alaska along the corridor from Seward - and the Kenai Fjords National Park and Exit Glacier - Denali National Park, Fairbanks, and up to the Arctic Circle.

I get a rush every year as things start to come together for my adventures. It makes me want to leave tomorrow. I start thinking about future trips; which destination should I start looking at for next year? (By the way, it's a toss up between Antarctica and Australia/New Zealand.)

I've had my ticket for a couple of months now and I'll be heading out the last week of May. I know it's still a little ways down the road, and I'll be flying out to California between now and then, but the excitement is already building for this next big opportunity to travel.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Walk in the Woods

The weather in Central New York is constantly changing, especially in the spring. After some snow yesterday - thankfully nothing stuck - the sun came out and it was warm enough this afternoon for a brief hike down by the river near my apartment. It's been so long since I've been able to enjoy a nice walk in the woods.

It's been a tough winter. Living in the Northeast, I get a little cabin fever during the darker days. A lack of sunlight, fresh air, and just being outside other than huddling against the frigid wind can get to me. I've felt tired, uninspired, and just out of it and not like myself for a long time.

Today, I got out of work a few minutes early and headed for the trails. It was still a little cool but the sun shone through the bare branches and the ground was soft beneath my feet. It was just a nice way to spend an afternoon.

There's something about being out there surrounded by trees and the sounds of birds and rustling leaves. It makes me feel so refreshed. There's certainly a sense of the Divine that lives out there among the greenery of the forest, though, in my busyness and my lethargy I haven't given myself the chance to connect with that sacredness as much I would prefer. Yes, the cold and snow of winter got in the way, as it does, but I think I've gotten in the way some too.

My extended flights to and from Texas a couple of weeks ago really gave me a chance to let go of the usual distractions that so rule my life and allowed me to turn inward for a time. And, for a few moments this afternoon, I was therre again. And it felt really good.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Shot From Today

Monday, April 03, 2006

Death Too Young

This past week two youth, brothers, from a group I help advise were killed in a car accident on the evening of the younger brother's 16th birthday - and just a week shy of the other's 18th.

Both boys were extremely gifted and all-around good kids. The older brother, whom I knew the best, was an inquisitive, observant, artistic young filmmaker who was just accepted to film school in L.A. He wasn't the most popular, but he was a friend to everyone. He was the kind of guy that took life seriously but still knew how to enjoy it. The younger was quiet and still finding his way in the group but on the verge of coming into his own. An excellent pianist and athletic young man, he had everything going for him. I will miss getting to know the men they were becoming.

The memorial service brought many friends and family together to say their goodbyes. The majority of our group came out to support their family and each other as we dealt, and continue to deal, with this loss.

I must say, though, that for me the pastor was pretty ineffective. Though he knew the boys pretty well, the pastor wasn't able, for grief or lack of ability, to offer a voice of condolence or comfort. Other than his obvious emotion, he never really expressed the heart of who they were. I got a better picture of them and found meaning in the legacy they leave through the words of their friends.

I had a hard time, too, with the emphasis on making an alter call of sorts. Maybe it's my own spiritual evolution over the past few years, but it just didn't seem to me to be the right time. To me, it took away from the remembrance of the two young lives that were lost and disrupted the grieving process. It just turned me right off and felt a little opportunistic.

I understand that people find comfort in the notion that their loved ones are in a better place and, for Christians, that means something specific. And I respect that. But the words spoken yesterday left a bad taste. It was as though they went beyond wanting to be there for counsel and support and more like taking advantage of grief as an avenue for conversion.

On an unrelated note, though happening at the same service, just prior to the benediction, another pastor decided to speak to the younger members of the congregation in the form of text messages just in case they didn't hear the Gospel through the way it was spoken before. I don't send text messages but I'm not sure he really spoke to the gathered youth very well - but I'm sure he thought he did...

I just wish that there was a little more focus on the lives lived by the two young men and the memories they left behind rather than talking about what it means to be a "true" Christian and what a "true" Christian is supposed to believe. Talk about who they were, don't try to speak a language you don't understand. If you do that, you will reach people on a much deeper level. If you try too hard, the message gets lost.