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Entries in lee van ham (4)


Social Media Serendipity

kelli does a forum on disability and accessibility in the churchKelli at her forumYesterday I went to the Annual Gathering event of the Southern California/Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ. Let's just call it SCNCUCC—they do! It is a two day event and I'll be going today too. Kelli has been a part of the planning committee for three years now, and this is her last term. Just as well, she has served that role for a while but now she has a new job she's looking at, working for a hospice in town that has been eager to get her on the staff, offering her a nice position that finally seems to honor her massive amount of preparation. Anyhow, in the SCNCUCC world, she is not only this organizer figure, but she is gaining some traction as an advocate-educator for addressing disability in church life, working for Accessibility to All (physical and attitudinal barriers being brought down to size or eliminated where they keep people with disabilities from full participation in worship and church life). Today, in addition to the harrowing weeks of preparation for the entire event, she also did a forum on her topic as part of the program itself! Finding that my Canon camera did quite fine work for documenting such an occasion, I set that up for Kelli to use, with the hopes we might get some YouTube footage.

In a neighboring space, Lee Van Ham was also giving a forum on his topic of choice: One Earth Economics and how churches can shape consciousness to get more people to live accordingly. Lee spoke at last year's gathering, and on a couple of occasions he's been to my church to do three-part forums. Unfortunately, Lee and Kelli were talking at exactly the same time in neighboring spaces so I could not fully attend both. But, with my becoming media boy in the last year, I found a way to get each preserved to some format.

A couple days ago I bought a small field recorder by Zoom. H4N is a device that can do great stereo recordings with a built in X pattern set of mic capsules. It can also accept two other wired mics or instruments. Or it can act as a USB audio interface to a laptop. Also in the last few weeks I found that my Canon still camera does a pretty adequate job of capturing both video and audio that can be used in YouTube and quick promotional and library fodder. Armed with both of these and Lee's Macbook Pro, Lee and I drove up to Torrey Pines and set up two spaces.

Lee and I were outside on a patio. A little bit out of the way, I thought, but Lee does talk about stuff that people still have a hard time wrapping their heads around sometimes. And he isn't UCC. Anyhow, the patio was nice and breezy. Sunny. Gorgeous day. We put the H4 on a mic stand and the Mac on a table. It would capture video with the H4 as an interface. Simple stuff. If that didn't work though, it would be a quick and effective recorder that could be downloaded later. But today's challenge was to get good audio and basic video from the laptop's onboard camera. What I think I got was a fine recording of the ambiant noise in the region. (There must have been an airshow because there were prop planes all over.) Maybe I got a bunch of wind noise. Shall see. I sat at the computer and monitored it closely during the whole talk.

So far so good. The ten people in attendance were quite close by. I looked up and saw one Susan Styn. I recognized her last name quickly and her church affiliation was a nearby UCC. I've already written about two of her family members here: her father Caleb Shikels and son John Halcyon Styn. John is perhaps best known for launching Hug Nation with his grandpa Caleb. John has been into internet publishing since the mid 1990s and has developed quite a persona. But with Caleb, he took the power of the web and used it to spread Caleb's amazing life experience and wisdom gleaned from his almost 95 years. Caleb was a close friend of my old church in PB. He used to walk a hilly half mile from his dorm at a senior full-service community. He was always charming and witty, but most of all compassionate and—let me not be ambiguous here—a holy man. Our pastor, a man of letters and of a pastoral heart too, stopped to listen with rapt attention to whatever Caleb had to say. Grandson John got closer to Caleb after Caleb's wife died. Over time, their relationship blossomed and the Hug Nation webcast became a weekly thing that got wider and wider attention. How could it not? The tagline is, "the world would rather hug you than hurt you." John is on the record telling how Caleb realized the vast potential of the web to do social good, especially if you start with good raw material. And his life was that. Even up to his final hours, Caleb was part of Hug Nation. Those late episodes are gripping. The ones that follow his death—almost immediately so—with John reflecting on it all, naked with emotion, is so beautiful. It is among the best uses of the Internet I have seen.

John is a master of self promotion, and quite clever at it all. Video blogs, podcasts, webcasts... you name it, he's tried it. Everything he does involves an insanely loud shade of pink (and probably feathers or latex). As outrageous as he is, you gotta take the guy seriously in his way of being so upfront and candid. A year or so ago I was faced with doing the web work for JEM. Talked podcast and YouTube. We are doing just that now. But I also had to get past myself with regard to media burnout, techno burnout, etc.  Last fall, I happened to be thinking of how John gave Caleb perhaps his most eclectic and largest congregation: the world. It made me want to learn more finally so I could be of some service to JEM. After all, I've had time to learn and be influenced by Lee for a few years now. More than with Caleb, but I can see how me and John are—in gratitude—both trying to turn a bit of energy back into their respective ministries and to multiply their reach.

In a similar way, for me to have suggested and then urged (or nagged) Women Who Speak In Church into existence is an attempt to not let time fly by so fast for Kelli and me. Ever since I discovered the B2 blogging platform in March 2004 (starting this blog in earnest), I had been suggesting some kind of shared project for us to be involved in (since we don't have rugrats, see?). It just took an extra seven years to get there! Having come back to my roots of self publishing, the tools today to build community even in the cyberspace zone are many. The need is there. Kelli and her cadre of friends in ministry are always interesting to listen to. They are a new generation of clergy, sure, but they are also near the leading edge of a larger trend in mainline denominations: more women than men enter seminary now. So, the world of the faithful is statistically more likely to get a woman pastor. Or a chaplain in a hospital or hospice or battlefield will be a woman. WWSIC is one way to help introduce that to people, through the stories of the contributors. To learn how a woman's ministry is different, or rooted in a different paradigm of existence.

Maybe my motivations are coming from different places at once. I do like recording and publishing. There is a neat feeling that follows that kind of work. I want to support my dear wife in her endeavors, or Lee after his pointing the way to new lifeways. But there is a dose of rebellion in this too. In the case of WWSIC, part of the not-so-conscious motivation is to make the counterargument against the voices that think it is preposterous or socially dangerous that women should fill the high level clergy positions. This is not just an abstraction; my own stepmother (an 89 year old woman now) has been drifting farther and farther rightward during my married years. Years ago she was inquiring when I would find a quality wife and settle down. She used to ask me rather often what I though my role should be in a marriage, and what my wife's should be. Feminism confused her. In the early days with Kelli, it was innocent enough. But my stepmom initially wanted to skip my wedding until I begged and pleaded with her that she would be my only family (and not even by blood) who would come to that special day. She did come. But over the years since, she has called into question Kelli's movement into ministry, most particularly the movement toward ordination. She can rattle off biblical texts with the standard issue fundamentalist fervor, but she doesn't seem to understand them. If she did, she would know that God cannot be contained. God cannot be boxed in. God calls all the unlikely suspects. The ones that no one expects. Or if we are true to reality, the ones WE don't want. God works on the outside of our human value system. If God wants Kelli or any other woman on the staff, did God make a mistake? Did Kelli accidentally pick up the phone when the call was for a penis-bearing human?

I think the world knows what a couple thousand years of male-shaped church life has gotten us. Maybe if this God is so big, so vast, so in control, maybe it is time we admit that it is time for women to be given their rightful place in the balance of things, and that we might have to face that God has something to do with it all. Maybe God is sending the message, 'move over, I'll drive!' Maybe my stepmom will curse and stamp her feet, but I am perfectly happy to be married to "a nice church girl" who also happens to be the baptizing, Lord's supper serving pastor too! And in supporting her against all adversaries, I have to be ready. But in a less defensive posture, I could bring to mind a favorite quote that Lee cites to illustrate how this work to change things should be approached. Buckminster Fuller said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change things build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." I don't have to wreck the male establishment to advocate that women should preach. It isn't a zero-sum game here. Of the women I hear in Kelli's world, they speak of being incorporated into the mix, not taking it over. If any self-respecting fundamentalist really believes the Bible is inerrant and should be taken by the letter, then really he has to contend with Paul's illustration of the Body of Christ, with many members. And the body of Christ is probably made up of a bunch of penises either! Or he has to deal with the Pentecost event that animated people of all stripes and led them to break into evangelism to all sorts of people. If God wants to call and send the Spirit to animate people, then that is not something that some narrowminded second guesser of the divine should be commenting on. God's strategy always seem to skirt expectation. Clever, eh?

That last bit most clearly took a swipe at the stance of my step mom, but for me to leave the male side of things out is to miss a big chunk of what animates me. It seems both my step mom and my old man are put in some kind of disorder at the presence of Kelli in my life. Both think she has come between me and them. Both do their little form of protest and estrangement, or both drop their condescending comments that we have largely chosen to shut out. The fact is, Kelli, cute and cuddly as she is, is a force to be reckoned with. She appears young but is initiated in life by all manner of pain, disappointment, and loss. She has a brilliant theological mind that sometimes leaves peers in the dust. Her academic sense is spot on and she typically is ahead of her class. She has served seniors, K-2 kids, middle school students, dying patients, hospital patients, church congregations as Xtian Ed. director and Sunday School teacher, and has been a disability rights advocate and educator. She is a poet and book maker. We recorded a CD together. She is also yet to be 35! Anyone is foolish to diminish her. Warm of heart, sharp of tongue, she is. I plan to defend her against all comers, even family. Especially family. I married a nice church girl. Get over it, already! I also say, the problem with persecuting Christians is that they become...more Christian!

But more than as an act of defense, WWSIC is a way to live the Bucky Fuller lesson. JEM is too. Both keep me focused on moving forward somehow. One way I understand my own brand of Christian resurrection is that so much energy now goes to supporting these causes—energy that once went to supporting mine and feeling closer to death with each passing day. John Styn helped me find myself with relation to the role of technology, and myself was really to do some good for others. Funny then I would run into his mom at the very same time as I was recording for both Lee and Kelli. Sometimes you just get little clues along the way that you're on the right track.


If You Gotta Know

I've been turning out some videos for JEM and WomenWhoSpeakInChurch. I happened to find that my Canon S90 still camera captured some rather useful stuff the other night at a young adults gathering with Lee Van Ham as our guest. If I had turned a half dozen ceiling fans off and had control over a children's theater production going on in the hallway and neighboring rooms, the audio might have been nicer. But for a camera doing a second job, this wasn't too bad. I was happy to cut the footage into pieces for the sake of practice. Quicktime Pro is a handy tool for this quick and nasty stuff, saving a lot of workflow and extra file space for not having to reencode at so many stages.

Doing a bunch of social media cross posting has taken its time too. That much I do have plenty of.


Some Days...

Some days it just pays to wake up in the morning.

Today started with only a job interview planned. I went to that a little early like I tend to do for most engagements if I have enough control over such things. It was an interview for Adventure 16, an outdoors and sporting goods store. I don't have any real connection to it; I just answered an ad for truck driver and warehouse hand. The pay didn't appear to be horrible, and the shift was full time. At least it's not as bad as at the AV shop which has not had me in but for fourhours in the last three weeks and more. The interview on this morning was rather short. I met with the warehouse boss, the manager and one other. The place was sort of homely. Far from being the cold gray setting that pervades all things at AV land. The woman who I met with at A16 was motherly, about 58 or so, and didn't come off as cold and gray, so I was able to relax. The atmosphere was generally more down-home than businesslike. In the interview, I was able to be candid that I was concerned for how scheduling would work. I told them enough about the AVC predicament I was in, trying to balance personal time with work, and clashes happening on time that was technically "mine." I didn't dwell, but I did make a question to help me discern whether that would be an issue again, and it seemed that it would not be—business hours are 7-3:30, therefore, it wouldn't be an issue if I did schedule things on weekends and evenings. Amen to that. I have to give them my DMV printout, so I will return on Monday with that, and then start to cross my fingers. The pay is roughly the same as at AVC. At least it would not be too great a loss. In fact, even working a regular part time shift would be a gain at this point! Also, I don't suspect that the business of moving product would be as brutal as the things I had to move at AVC. Some of that was starting to feel dangerous.

Anyhow, that's too much about my temporal pursuits for one post!

lee van ham looking sharp in 2010Lee Van Ham of Jubilee Economics MinistriesBy far the rest of the day came alive starting once I took that hat off and put on my spiritual sojourner hat. Actually, I changed shirts, not hats, and then I was off to see Lee Van Ham for the third time in about two weeks. Early on, when I originally met him, he had the probing questions that made me think, and it was clear, even about ten months ago or so that he was someone that would be good to be near. Subsequent meetings, still centered around "my" project of peak oil awareness had me deepen my mission based on things Lee said. And, maybe in another post, I will detail out some of my feelings about his birthday party this past December. These days, the recent meetings have come about because in my quasi-employed state, I was looking for ways to spend time growing in some way, and so I wrote and asked to meet with Lee, which we've done a few times now.

For today, the third meeting was at his office at the Methodist church. The original intention to chat in the first meeting is morphing into creating a guided spiritual formation effort that would probably bring benefits to both of us, but I have a feeling that with his 65 years and half a life in ministry, I would be able to learn a thing or two and be led to other levels of awareness about life in general, but particularly as a budding Christian in the age of much stress around the world. I guess I am finding it's time to finally understand the Bible as a force for change and development. With Lee's interfaith awareness and practices, I find that he's a great source of inspiration for meeting the challenge of the world today, with a spiritual underpinning that was lacking from my issues-only approach last year. With dear wife Kelli being immersed in her studies of theology, philosophy, and all the other great things in life, I have found myself drawn into her wake, and interestingly, her entry into the field has pulled me in too, but for me, there is no particular framework, even at my church, for diving in deeper. Over the months, encounters with Lee have been the ones that have challenged me or left me feeling like 'yeah, that's who's shadow I need to stand in!'

Today we discussed how this little forum might take shape and what it might seek to accomplish. Part of what I have been feeling compelled to do is to actually get out of the book so that some meaningful work might be done. I have ideas of doing things that would somehow accomplish this, but am too tentative to carry them out, or too willing to let my daily life make an excuse for not doing so. I also want to deepen my awareness of the Bible and really any other text that compels me to awe and wonder, but hopefully action. Really, I fancy myself a sponge now, but one that needs to be drawn away from material toys (computers, primarily) and into the "real world" of books, face-to-face engagements, and other real experiences. Meeting with Lee can achieve that first by ensuring that I meet and talk to a real human. And our little mission now is that we will study and reflect, and find a way to manifest this into existence. The basis of what he does is delightfully subversive. For such a soft spoken gentle man (sic), he preaches some great mind-bending sh*t! So, however it comes to me, I hope that these encounters will lead me to being more alive, more feeling, less programmed by the prevailing society. I think meetings of this sort will lead me to reckon better my relationships with my dad (or at least be less damaged by it), to deepen my marriage (which I feel is the cornerstone of one's relationship with society as a whole), or to just be a more sensitive person to the needs of others, and again, society. Having read Parker Palmer's book about vocation, Let Your Life Speak, I found that as much as anyone might like the great heroes like Gandhi, MLK, and others of their stature, none of us could be them. However, what one can strive for is the inner-groundedness that they had to have in order to meet the challenges before them. So the point is not striving to be the leader, but having the tools to lead when they are needed. And I think they will be needed. And I think meeting with Lee will be a significant step in working toward such a goal. Lee sent me away with a book that is the basis of much of the work he does now, teaching the ethical implications of the biblical sabbath-jubilee. Though I had known of his work for several months now, today was the first time I think I understood it enough to repeat it back to someone. After I left, I went and read a section of the book. On the first page, it came alive–something was said about "we read the gospel as if we are poor, but live as if there is no gospel at all." That pretty much stripped away any pretense. Reading that immediately got into me like an arrow and spoke to me in a way that underscored everything I think is important to getting out of our predicament today.

But, the day was not over. Lee reminded me of a movie showing on the subject of food, and announced it was at an "intentional community down on Hawthorn" street. Intentional community? On Hawthorn? Well, it turned out to be an old house that was shared by four parties. I got there just before 6 pm and met Jason and Brooke who lived in the front house. I spotted books or authors that I recognized: Buber, Bruggemann among the most readily visible ones; some stuff that lines the walls of Jerry's library, and more and more, Kelli's library. I felt at home rather soon. I could tell we had some progressive spiritual minds here. It was a cozy place that smacked of intelligence, compassion, and friendship. People filed in, more and more—a number of couples among them. By the time dinner was served, it was about 20-25 people, almost all between about 25-35, with Lee being the elder of the group, but absorbing it and mingling as if he was new to it all. He also proved to be the anchor of a small pack of us who were there because of him. Aside from the good group of people there was a delightful dog that seemed to like me, so I got a chance to pet her.

The movie itself was The Future of Food, which was quite in line with the stuff I would show at an EONSNOW showing, but on this evening, it was a delightful house party with fresh vegitarian food prepared on the spot by folks who obviously know about this stuff. The movie, as all these sorts of movies are, was pretty horrifying (I only watch this type of movie now, it seems) and there were times I swear I wanted to spit and curse at what I heard. Sometimes, there were collective gasps as it was revealed exactly how diabolical corporate practices can be.

But the real clincher for the whole evening was the discussion afterwards. Oh, I would have loved to have had this sort of discussion at one of my shows, but rarely did it ever reach as deep as this. Most of the people who started the evening stayed to the end, and a good thing. By the end, we had had some deep experience that was tangible and unifying. We did a round of introductions which took a while, but was always interesting. After seeing the movie and having a discussion, it was really fascinating to see how people arrived here, what they did, their sense of mission in life. It was diverse without being scattered. I think one that that was sparked was reverence. The night took on a spiritual dimension that I never could have imagined. People, crowded into a small 1920's living room, perched on chairs and sitting on the floor, all eating pure food that was carefully prepared. I had a vision of Jesus and the disciples in communion, but in this case, we were all Jesus, and all disciples just the same. It was magical in a way. The shared experience of eating together, even with total strangers as they all were to me (except for Lee, but he and I didn't end up in the same conversation for long at any time during the night) took on a holy dimension. And, to deepen the experience, we were gathered because we needed to learn about a common threat to this food supply, the most fundamental thing for each of us assembled.

People introduced themselves, each telling about some work they do in organic farming (even as new practicioners), counseling, volunteering, education, and even ministry. It was just a remarkable bunch of people who have their hands in so many interesting things, and the spirit was there it seemed that moved each to offer their knowledge and passion. I think the real victory of the evening was that everyone was saying that this group must reconvene. That was sort of the point anyway, to gather folks for a program led by the lady who presented the movie, but it went beyond that.




I would like it if we could meet up sometime soon, and possibly on some ongoing basis. I'm doing some searching for something. I think I'm needed somehow, for something, but don't really know what just yet. I've been feeding my soul a little better lately, and things are basically good, but I want to have some other guidance toward whatever it is I should be.

The short intro is that I'm really getting fed up with material stuff and want to somehow break my habit, or to put it in its place. I talk about selling all my stuff so I can get clarity, maybe for the first time. Computers, musical gear, all this extra stuff is not what the brochure said it would be. On the other hand, I own it, I can do something with it, but what would I do for it to do the most good?

I'd just like to have some good talks that leave me feeling charged, and I get the sense you are at least one of the people who would have that effect.

I will tell you this. In the past six months, there have been three different occasions that I've found myself in, and each was to commemorate someone's life. The first was a memorial service for one of the elders at our church whom I knew a little when I was younger and less so when I returned in 2002. But his memorial brought him to life for me as many folks got up and told their stories, and the reception continued to bring more stories, and when his children sang a couple songs on that cool and cloudy fall afternoon, they literally sang the sun out from behind the clouds! I kid you not. The songs were "Blue Skies (Nothing But Blue Skies)" and "I Can See Clearly." The sun actually came out for the few minutes they sang these songs and then it retreated afterwards. The next event was your birthday party a few weeks later where some similar magic happened. I was sort of a wallflower that day because I didn't know anyone, but I felt at home, like among people who would be great friends. And again, hearing what your kids had to say to you just hit me where it counts. And most recently, Jerry Lawritson just marked 20 years at our church, and there was a bash just two weeks ago where people I've known and some I did not know got up and put in their reflections on Jerry's ministry and friendship. Again, this whole event just got into me where it counts. This time I was at least able to put my two cents in, and nodded to Jerry's huge role in my life, being the one who talked me down from some ledges.

So I've taken a little joie de vivre from these events—birthday, anniversary, memorial—they all just resonate for me. Though, to be honest, in each case, I wonder about something tremendously personal and how I can confront it when the time comes. In each of these events, a good sized crowd gathered around some men of integrity, passion, and other admirable qualities. And in each case, their kids got up and spoke or otherwise added to the choir of voices that gathered around to help make the day special. And in each case, the nagging voice in my mind provoked me to wonder if such a thing would ever happen not for me and my good, but for my father. My father is a few years shy of 65, probably many more years shy of his memorial service, and the same age as Jerry, sans professional tenure. Men of his age begin to reach the significant milestones of age, profession, character development, etc. I find myself wondering what I can do, or even if I can do anything for my father. He is a man who has done everything within his power to alienate people from him. He has successfully done that to everyone in his life. I was the last one to be chased from a stucco and wood box that he owns. I was the last one to be reduced to a hindrance to his financial life, or a fly in the ointment of his conscience. The man is a product of the same generation as you, but turned out so vastly different. He refutes God. He refutes all the things I want in life, mainly because what I want is a life that he can't weigh, measure, and otherwise quantify. This is more than the 29 year generational gap. This is a paradigm gap between he and I. I've already been married longer than he was to my mother (and I haven't been married two years yet). I've made some progress to being unlike him, and still have more to do. But what concerns me is how to separate from him without totally abandoning him, which would seem to be an unChristian thing to do. Still, I can barely tolerate five minutes of talk with him, even months apart. His mind is one of materialism, quantification, sarcasm, inflated ego, selfishness, and a host of other things that are generally dehumanizing, at least to me. I'm sure he has other qualities that maybe are so dormant as to appear dead, but they hardly register anymore and who knows what it would take to awaken them. I was thinking the awful conflict we had last summer would have jostled something. Nope, he hunkered down.

I find myself pondering what sort of 65th birthday he'd have if I didn't make any effort. Would it be him, the TV, and a day spent in the garage making some recycled engine cough and sputter? Who would fill a room to celebrate him, whether he was alive and well, or a memory? I don't think he has quite the life giving presence that would invoke such a response. I would feel bad totally abandoning him, but as such, I know its just a leech on my energy to try to maintain much with him. Even a small batch of real honest and heartfelt letters to him have seemingly disregarded. He says he didn't even read the most essential piece I wrote to him. Or maybe he was lying to avoid facing truth that I was born to him, I am not of him.

Anyhow, this is something that resonates in me now, as you see. There are other things that I'd love to just explore with you. I've sort of shelved my peak oil awareness effort for now while I indulge life this way. Peak oil is a crisis to be dealt with, sure, but right now, I am getting off on the "why" to deal with it. If you can find some time, I would be greatly appreciative. The quieter the better. I have rather large chunks of the next two weeks off from work.

I hope you are well.