Friday, August 27, 2010

I love Relevant magazine.

This is another really challenging gem that I ran across this validity to things I've been thinking for awhile and forcing me to look at my own technology habits and start holding myself more accountable.

"To truly understand the purpose and power of a technology we must identify its innate bias. All technologies come with biases that cause users to naturally prefer certain things. The basic bias of facebook updates and Twitter is that it encourages everyone to share whatever is on your mind in real time; it begs for your thoughts at all times. It's a constant reminder to externalize our thoughts. These updates may be profound, but more often they are mostly a twitch of the brain- a mental fidget adding to the static of the universe.

This inadvertently reinforces the narcissism of the digital age. Twitter helps me believe even my most mundane thoughts are now somehow important and need to be shared. It begs me to step out of the stream of experience long enough to record it. The effect is that we are no longer present in any of our experiences. We are living as unpaid journalists who chronicle life as it passes by.

This may seem insignificant. But our presence matters. Our brief but increasingly frequent moments of absence add up. Imagine a father who flickers in and out of a child's life every time he checks his iPhone. He might be there physically, but he may as well be at the office or on a business trip. People can feel our absence. And it is usually a loss. We become digital nomads glancing around the globe, never fully present. It is a ghost-like condition. It diminishes one of God's greatest gifts to us-a body. There is a reason God made us with bodies. There is a reason God became a body in Jesus. The incarnation is about becoming a body to bless the world through physical presence in the lives of others. To hold the hand of those who grieve, to feed and clothe those who are poor, to love those who are alone by being 'with' them. Many of these technologies create a condition of absence in a world desperate for our presence."
~Shane Hipps
Relevant Magazine

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Repeating on iTunes

Run Forward~ Audrey Assad
Oh won't you show what you're feeling?
Is it too much to ask that your heart be revealing?
Just a little bit oh just a little bit just a little

I don't think I've ever informed you
I love you desperately even though I only know you
Just a little bit oh just a little bit just a little

Oh how'd we get so disconnected?
My heart is shutting down I just can't let it

So I'll run forward and pray you fall back
Grace will come and clear your path
Yeah I'll run forward and you fall back
Come back

Oh you treat your time like you own it
It's slipping fast away and you're not getting younger
Not even a bit no not even a bit no not at all

This love is a battle we're fighting
You've laid your armor down oh and now I can't find it
Not even a bit no not even a bit no not at all

Oh you took your love for granted

But oh it never left you for a second

So I'll run forward and pray you fall back
Grace will come and clear your path
Yeah I'll run forward and you fall back
Oh I'll run forward and you fall back

You make me afraid
Thank you I've got to thank you
'cause now I know His strength
Thank you I've gotta thank you
So please don't run away oh
Don't run don't run

So I'll run forward and pray you run back
Grace will come and clear my path
Yeah I'll run forward and if you run back
Oh I'll run forward and if you run back
Oh I'll run forward and you fall back

Come back i pray you'll come back my love
Come back and grace will come to clear your path
Oh i'll run forward if you fall back
You come back my love come back

Stirring my affections...

This was really encouraging and at the same time really challenging to me today. It's from an article in a magazine where Pastor Matt Chandler was asked, "What does warring against sin look like?"

Sanctification here at The Village begins by answering two questions. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections? Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They're not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn't take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking.

The same goes for following sports. It's not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that's a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him. After a funeral I walked around the cemetery and found a grave of a guy who died when he was my age. I felt my mortality in that moment and it made me love the Lord. It really did. Some types of epic films do that for me, and so does angst-filled music.

We want our people to think beyond simply what's right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus Christ and, as best as they can, to walk away from things that rob those affections—even when they're not immoral.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just so you know...

Starting tomorrow this is how I will be starting my mornings:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Video

So, this is one of those things that I saw on one blog and never watched it. Well then it popped up on another blog and I didn't watch it. Then I saw it on a third blog, unrelated to the first two and was just bored enough that I did. I was quite surprised at how precious it is!

This summer...or even the past couple of years for me...have been like going 90 miles an hour on the highway and now slamming on my brakes. There are times when my heart longs for quiet and solitude and I seek it. There are other times when I don't have much choice. Circumstances are such that alone is a decision I had no part in and I struggle to embrace it.

But either way, it is a gift. A tremendous gift.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Best start to a Friday

Conversation with this little guy:
Amar: Miss Jen! Miss Jen! Can I have a hug?
Me: Always!
Amar: Where were you?
Me: When?
Amar: When you weren't here.
Me: You mean this morning?
Amar: Yeah.
Me: Well buddy I was at home.
Amar: Don't you work here?
Me: Yes. But I have to go home sometimes.
Amar: *Insert confused look* Oh...Did you see the performance last night?
Me: I did see part of it. Just not the whole thing.
Amar: Why not?
Me: I had plans to have dinner with a friend.
Amar: Oh...I'm going to a party tonight! It's at 6.
Me: Really? What kind of party?
Amar: A birthday party. It's a party for my best friend. It's at 8.
Me: Oh at 8?
Amar: Yep.
Me: What are you going to do?
Amar: Hmm...I don't really know.

Amar is the type of kid that is our shining glory after camp. When he came to us he was just, well, little. He cried often. Got in trouble often. Had difficulty staying engaged. But only in the ways that little kids have those kinds of troubles and you have to teach them something different. He was incredibly difficult to discipline...look at that face and tell me that it would be easy to yell at him. :)

But over the course of camp his incidents became fewer. He smiled much more frequently and he started having fun.

One day he was sitting by a wall crying and I asked him what was up. He told me he didn't have any friends. I said, "Well that's silly. I'm your friend."

"You are?"

I said, "Well sure. And I'm in charge of this shindig right?"

And I said, "Well then I guess you're pretty lucky to have me for a friend." His eyes got all sparkly and I think he actually believed that I was someone important, therefore making him important, for half a second. And that was how he stole my heart. He was one of few kids that we see anymore that is a kid. He's innocent and flaky. He's gullible and imaginative. Most of the kids we see aren't like that anymore.

By the end of our time with him he was a very different kid than who we had started with. He still had his troubles. Like the day I found him in the corner with tears rolling down his eyes and we had this conversation.

Me: Amar, why are you in the corner?
Amar: Because I was singing.
Me: You got in trouble for singing? (Those of you that know me from the way back days will find this statement coming from me quite hilarious and understand why Amar and I get along so well.)
Amar: Yes. The teacher told me to stop but I didn't stop singing.
Me: And why didn't you stop when the teacher asked you?
Amar: ...because I really like singing.

But he was obviously different, more confident and comfortable here. He continued into another camp that we were offering here right after ours was over and it has truly been a JOY to watch him in this camp. The other day during their art class he went to go to the restroom and when he came back through the door of the classroom announced, "So what'd I miss!"

It's those kids who make it really fun. Not because he's going to be on Broadway someday. Although, if he doesn't stop singing all the time his career choices are going to be limited. But because I actually got to witness a change in who he was in a very short period of time. I got to see up close how God used this camp to help him mature and grow. And those are the sweetest memories I could hope for.

On that note, one of our counselors literally just came in and said, "Amar's on a roll again."

:) They just don't know him like I do.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Really interesting article

This article just seriously frustrated me. Quite luckily one person in there redeemed it. I have added my own commentary as needed. :-P

(CNN) -- Legs covered in skin-toned stockings, her skirt crisp to the knee, Patty Davis slips on the black heels she has shined for the day.

"Got to look good in the Lord's house," she says as she spritzes her neck with White Diamonds perfume and exits her black Lincoln Town Car.

Davis, 46, of Union City, Georgia, has attended African Methodist Episcopal churches since before she could crawl. She sits proudly in the pew every Sunday for service and is among the first to arrive for bible study each Wednesday.

She moves swiftly, with confidence, a weathered Bible clutched in her right hand, the day's passages dog-eared and highlighted. She's the type of woman who can recite scriptures with ease, her love of faith evident in her speech.

"Every day is a blessed day for me," she says. "Jesus is the No. 1 man in my life and any man who wants me must seek me through Him."

The unmarried Georgia native is a committed follower of the Christian faith, striving to live and breathe the gospel in her daily life. Yet, according to relationship advice columnist Deborrah Cooper, it is this devout style of belief and attachment to the black church that is keeping black women like Davis -- single and lonely.

Clinging to the gospel

Cooper, a writer for the San Francisco Examiner, recently made claims on her blog that predominantly black protestant churches, such as African Methodists, Pentecostal, and certain denominations of Evangelical and Baptist churches are the main reason black women are single. Cooper, who is black and says she is not strictly religious, argues that rigid beliefs constructed by the black church are blinding black women in their search for love.

In raising the issue, Cooper ignited a public conversation about a topic that is increasingly getting attention in the black community and beyond. Oprah Winfrey, among others, recently hosted a show about single black women and relationships after a Yale University study found that 42 percent of African-American women in the United States were unmarried.

Big Miller Grove Missionary Baptist Church, a predominately African-American Baptist church in Atlanta, is holding a seminar on the question of faith's role in marital status on August 20.

"Black women are interpreting the scriptures too literally. They want a man to which they are 'equally yoked' -- a man that goes to church five times a week and every Sunday just like they do," Cooper said in a recent interview.

"If they meet a black man that is not in church, they are automatically eliminated as a potential suitor. This is just limiting their dating pool."

The traditional structure and dynamics of black churches, mostly led by black men, convey submissive attitudes to women, Cooper says, encouraging them to be patient -- instead of getting up and going after what they want.

Nearly ninety percent of African-Americans express "certain belief in God" and 55 percent say they "interpret scripture literally," according to the 2009 Pew Research Center study "A Religious Portrait of African-Americans."

Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and advocate for African-American issues, responded to Cooper's article online. Though he applauded Cooper's courage to voice her opinion , he agreed -- and disagreed -- with her.

"I don't think the church keeps black women single," Watkins says. "But I do agree that some black churches teach women that they must only date a man that goes to church regularly."

Watkins, who is African-American and whose father is a Southern Baptist minister, described his interactions with southern women who are devout churchgoers. "I am a male and I know that I will treat a woman well, but I have been rejected many times because I don't thump a bible with me everywhere that I go."

All in the numbers

One of biggest reasons black women are single, Cooper says, is because of a lack of black men in the church. According to the PEW study, "African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion (16 percent vs. 9 percent). Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation."

Watkins believes the social structure of the church keeps black men from attending. "Those appealing, high-testosterone guys have a hard time getting into the 'Follow the leader, give me your money, and listen to what I have to say' attitude."

"Many of us have a difficult time submitting to the pastor who is just another man."

The male pastor, Cooper says, is the "alpha male" for many black women. Over-reverence for the pastor - or any religious figure for that matter - creates barriers for the black man, she says, because he feels like he must compete for the No. 1 spot in a black woman's heart.

"It doesn't make you more attractive if your life is filled with these 'other' men," Cooper says. "If they feel like they have to compete, you are not going to be interesting because you're not feeding his ego in the way it needs to be fed." [OMG. That's all I'm sayin'.]

Mark K. Forston, son of a black preacher in Forest Park, Georgia, says some black women "put their pastor on this pedestal and have a large amount of faith in him because he is a living source of salvation."

Sometimes women even focus their romantic feelings on the pastor, says Forston. "Regardless if he's married or not, sometimes human desires will transcend beyond certain parameters and that's dangerous territory. Pastors are humans just like anybody else."

The Rev. Renita J. Weems, a bible scholar who holds a degree in theology from Princeton, strongly disagrees with Cooper about why many black women remain single and says she is reinforcing one message: "It's the black woman's fault."

"To claim that women are sitting in their chair getting heated about watching their preacher strut across the pulpit is illogical," Weems says. "The black church is not a Sunday morning sex drama."

Weems, who is African-American and has written several books on women's spirituality, has her own criticisms of the black church. The literal interpretation of certain scriptures can lead to subjugating women, Weems says. However, positive scripture messages, about love and justice, do exist and can be used to empower women rather than keep them "single and lonely."

Weems says Cooper fails to examine deeper threads. "What the black church does and what religion does is helps you create core values for your life and allows you to see what you appreciate in others.

"The reason why black women who go to black churches are not married is because they are looking for certain values in a man," Weems says. "It is not the church that keeps them single, but the simple fact that good values are lacking in some of our men."
[I dont' know who this lady is, but I'm no her side.]

Choose or lose the church

Cooper says her goal is to empower black women. If their strategy for meeting men is failing, Cooper offers two suggestions: Find another church or leave-and go where the boys go: tailgates, bars and clubs.

"Black women need to open their eyes. You want to know the reason why the black man isn't in church? Because he left church to go to the Sunday football game," Cooper says. "Going to these sites is discouraged in the black church because these places are seen as places where 'sin dwells.' But if women are compassionate, as the bible preaches they should be, then they need to be more open about the men they choose to date and where they might meet them." [This is one of the most tragic manipulations of the truth I have ever read.]

"I'm not against religion, or against the church, I'm against women limiting their choices and putting themselves in a box because they do what their church tells them to do," Cooper says.

Weems disagrees. "Telling black women that they should spend their two hours on Sunday elsewhere and drive them away to go to the bar to find a date is not helpful to our communities."

"Black women are the backbones of their community and without them a lot of charitable work would not get done, social justice on the ground would be diminished and outreach to poor people would be severed."
[Preach it Sister.]

Patty Davis, the long time churchgoer in Georgia, says all the arguments over what the church preaches miss the point. What truly matters, she says, are women's motives.

"The real question is: What are you coming to church for?" she says. "To feed your spirit? Or your carnal desires?"

The church's effect on the romantic lives of black women cannot be gleaned from a mathematical equation or a select bible passage, Davis says.

"It is a woman's own actions and decisions that will determine the outcome of her love life, not the church's," Davis says. "Because the last time I checked, the church ain't no dating service."