Monday, December 27, 2004

Jesus Cupcakes

Lilly is my niece. She is beautiful. She is smart. She, of course, is my new best friend. I'm going to miss her as Barb and I leave Missouri and head back to California. Barb, Lilly and I went to the play park and played hide-n-seek for about an hour. She's quite sly for a three year old. I'm sure she will get a scholarship to an Ivy League school. She might even have scouts now.

Family has become more and more important to me as I have been spending most of my twenties away from family in Mississippi and now my extra family in Missouri and Texas. I'm looking forward to starting a family of my own and laughing at my kids.

My other niece, Amy, who is now twenty gave birth to her son, Max about nine months ago. Michael, my other brother, and his wife, Amber, will be having a child in about three months. The Elder clan is expanding. I think that I've excelled at uncle and am getting the hang at being a great-uncle and now I think I might, just might be ready for a shot a being in the majors--fatherhood. I think that working at a hotel and Starbucks has prepared me a lot for that--yes, that was just a grande cup of sarcasm.

On Christmas day here we all made birthday cakes for Jesus--cupcakes with icing and sprinkles. And after that Barb, Liily and I gathered around the ole upright piano (or umpaphone as Lilly calls it--okay, she is meaning to call in a xylaphone, which in her mind is a piano) and sang songs. Lilly made up a few new songs: "Jesus loves the little man," set to the tune of "Mary had a little lamb." Let's see, ah, yes, the clincher, "Jesus Cupcakes." Sing along, now, "Jesus Cupcakes, Jesus Cupcakes, Jesus Cupcakes, Yeah!"

Well, I'm off to play with flying tractors.


Friday, December 24, 2004

strawberries and monkeys

One of the things I really enjoy is listening to someone yell a tale, or even a story from their own life. A particular person can take a run of the mill kind of thing and just make your day. Bil Smith, or One L Bill as his fellow dormies used to call him, was one of those kinds of people. He could take a trip to Taco Bell in Marin City be a limelight event. My uncle, Windel, can do the same thing. I never get tired of hearing him or my dad tell me of the time my Papaw Elder and his brothers got in a fight at a saw mill and about the time when I think one of Papaw's brothers got into the sauce and jumped on a mule and pulled its tail up to its ears. Hmm.

Well, the other night here on Birch Avenue Bill Dorsy, a long-time neighbor and acquaintance of Barb's family came over. His brother lives in the EastBay and so we were able to talk about the California scenery, the coast and bits of Oregon. He is a large man especially after being wrapped up for sub-freezing temperature. He was very precise and calm with his measure of speaking. Somehow we got on the topic of him working freight. Oh, we were talking about the fresh vegetables and fruit that comes from the valley of California. Apparently Bill had worked for an air freight company in the MidWest.

One day they received a freight from California. The first half was full of strawberries and the second half was filled with monkeys. It was 95 degrees where he was unloading the freight. Bill said, "MMM, when you opened that door all you could smell were those fresh California Valley strawberries. And then the wind whipped around and you caught the monkeys. The strawberries were headed to the MidWest for the market and the monkeys were headed to Chicago for the polio vaccine. It made you quite hesitant to eat another strawberry or to pet another monkey."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The cold, cold Midwest

Barb and I are "home" for Christmas. We are spending this Christmas with her family in the house and town that she grew up in, Plattsburg, Missouri. It is good to get away from work and such and get a better perspective on things, especially life and my living of it. I have much to mull over and have already found myself discovering my weakest points. I left California with several details undone and have had to spend some of this time patching things up and send an apology email to a friend whose reputation was compromised with a neighbor because of my lack of follow through on a donated vehicle. Details--my achilles, and by being my achilles it often becomes the achilles of others I work with from day to day. This flaw kept me awake for hours last night as I contemplated why I cannot seem to grasp that part of my life. It is beyond frustrating as reflect upon my inability to finish a job completely and thoroughly the first time through.

The worst question (I use that loosely) that anyone could ask me is, "So, you talked to John. What did you guys talk about? What is the book you're reading about?" I will talk to you about details, suprisingly enough, but I may not be able to tell you the overall jist. I have never really been good at that. In literature class I would be called on to summarize a poem or a scene in a play and I could not do it. I could not simply generalize the story. I could elucidate a specific part (one detail) but I could not make them fit together in cohesion. I don't know--a mystery of sorts. Like when I write I write very specifically and hit details, but I get lost in the details and can't get a metanarrative, a story that is above it all.

Anyway, I'm helping Bill, my father-in-law, finish a staircase. He has a toolbox full of patience. Oh, and 15 degrees should never be called "a high for today." I'm beginning to think Santa wears a red down coat.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I'm falling behind and I can't catch up!

So, I suck royally at keeping up pace with the blog thing. It's not heavy; it's my blog. Not that I have a huge readership anyway.

So, my last post I mentioned the petition to make The Passion of the Christ the Viewer's Choice Movie of the Year. I did email the American Family Association and asked them why they thought it was important and what did they think it would convey if the film won or lost. As of today (about 10 days later) I have yet to receive a reply. Que malo! Well, I tried to have integrity and give them a voice.

Last week I was totally drained physically and couldn't hit the side of a barn with anything. I think I am approaching exhaustion, but Barb and I will be taking a nine day vacation over the Christmas holiday. We will be visiting her family in Plattsburg, MO. I will definitely have to write about Lillian and Conrad.

Last Friday I was at a friend's birthday party in the city. Annelies is a creative, charming, energetic think ball who is tons-o-fun. Her blog is Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Peace unto you, Jason

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I just voted for the presidency, now this?

I just got an email from a friend west of the Rockies and south of Oklahoma. It was an email asking me to make my click count and to "make The Passion of the Christ" the CBS Viewer's Choice Award's Best Movie of the Year" or something like that. It was a forwarded message that was sent to not only me but to many others by this same friend. Now, I must tell you something that you should expect if you send me a forward. If you send me a forward that is at the same time sent to others, then when I respond I respond to the others at the same time. I think that that is the beauty and the power and the built in accountability of the internet. During the sleeze campaign for the United States Presidency I received numerous emails trashing the other candidate and I responded to those emails in the manner I mentioned above. It pissed a few people off, but I think that if a fact is incorrect or is falsely stated or is misleading then it is my duty to bring it to the attention of the sender. And since I don't think most senders will forward my counter-response to the others who have already been sent the false information I just simply respond to everyone. I try to have integrity like that.

Anyway, I started thinking, "Why are Christians having a Get-Out-The-Vote over a trivial topic?" I didn't not say that the movie was trivial. My question is pointed at the fact that apparently some Christians think that it is extremely important that this movie wins the best movie of the year award? I wonder. Do we think that God is not going to be honored if Mel Gibson's movie doesn't win? Do we think that if Mel Gibson's movie doesn't win then another key hill has been taken in this supposed "cultural war"? Who won the award last year? Is it true and yet sad that only Christians or whoever will know who won the 2004 View Choice Award for Best Movie of the Year? I just don't think that winning an award is what it's about.

The group sponsoring this is the American Family Association. Here is a link for you to follow if you care. I checked it out to make sure it was legit and so I would have an idea of who these people are. Anyway, the site stands on it's own and don't imply that I agree with the message or their method until you hear it from me:

Today's new term: slacktivist. This is a person who is too lazy to actually do something positive in the world and by clicking their mouse their conscience is alleviated.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

20 days to think of this

What is it inside of me that compels me to get out of bed every morning to face a day of daring and/or boring decisions? To get out and to feel the breeze on my face or to see the needles on the ground or to hear the noise of impatient drivers? What is it that sits down and even cares to blog this or any of my thoughts? What is it that made me reach out for help in conventional ways when I was contemplating suicide?

I don't know, or maybe, I do know but at this time it seems a bit too complex to type out a formulaic expression. Perhaps in the upcoming installments I will seek to peck it out on this keyboard.

A quick question or three: have you ever been listening to a song and the certain way the guitar clangs or strums or how the cymbals fade out in the midnight of the ear and you have this inexpressible emotion that makes you want to cry or to wail to scream or to write a magnum opus yourself? Have you ever been reading a book and the book is a bore up to a certain point but then you read a quote and the quote screws itself tightly into your head to where the quote itself constitutes the book and all of the sudden the book is no longer a bore? Have you ever been in a church "service" and during the sermon you drift off and you find yourself moved beyond the every day and start chasing those new thoughts that bring surprise and joy and although the thoughts did not come from the sermon or sermon-giver you know that they were from God? Me too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The heart of/is the matter

Symptoms--my last post was about me recooping from an illness, from which I am still trying to run free of, but at this point I am still reduced to hacking like an old man. All I'm lacking is a nice and shiny spitoon and it'd be a little more bearable. I remember last year I was sick for about 2 months. And then a few months before that my allergies were terrorized by the fall pollen of NoCal. I learned a lesson, even though my counseling professor, Dr. Thom, used to say in class, "Drugs are rugs--they cover but don't cure." I really didn't care about that pithy little piece of wisdom literature. The symptoms of sniffing, blowing and sneezing were so bad that my nose was raw, my side ached and my throat was so sore. I decided to go to the grocer and get some kind of allergy medicine. Yes, the next day I was a new man, barring the cloudiness of my thinking and the sluggishness of my actions. I knew that sneezing was not the problem; it was a symptom. The problem was the layers (literally) of yellow pollen that draped the parking lot booth I was working at during that time.

Perhaps this doesn't translate as well as I hoped, but I'd like to write and hear what you think. A few days ago after "church" (or the service formally known as "church") a friend came up to me and spoke with my candidly about how their spouse was doing. Their spouse was hesitant to come to church because of certain feelings of rejection because of some current happenings within their particular area of ministry. Their spouse was feeling quite misunderstood and was also feeling like they were not welcomed. Their spouse had also met with the people involved and the persons who could right the situation.

My friend was very honest and that is what I really appreciate about this friend. At one point though my friend said, "I'm sure it's nothing and that it's over-reacting." I said, "Let's talk about this some more."

Basically I felt compelled to discuss with my friend that the problem was not the feelings of their spouse--that was merely a symptom. When people within our lives tell us certain things it actually tells us that something is wrong, that something needs to be corrected. In church I have witnessed differing responses to a person sharing their feelings. Usually it is silence or no reply and the desire to "just see it go away." I have also seen the issue ridiculed as "immature." However, I have also seen this issue be recognized, evaluated and appreciated. It could be a multi-pronged problem that is at hand: perhaps there is something with the system that needs to be fixed (not just tinkered with); perhaps the person who is coming forward has some issues of hurt. Either way it is okay, all we have to do is simply acknowledge and walk the road of correction together.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

There is a season

Ah, back at the controls. I've been under the weather for several days but seem to be fairing a bit better. With a cough like this who needs cigarettes?

About ten or so days ago I attended a conference on how to lead a group through change. I spent several days trying to pack it down to a brief summary. I realize that that is one of my weak points (summarizing), so here is my synopsis:

Leading a group through change is about making sure that everyone has the same understanding about the vocabulary being used. This is called "mental models." I say, "What we really need is leadership that is accountable." And you and I may have different opinions of what leadership is or constitutes and we may also have differing thoughts about the essence of accountability. We also run across this with music that we use for worship, even "worship" itself. Do we really need music to worship? Hmm.

Further, it is about being pliable and being considerate and thoughtful about the learning process of yourself and others. What? Others don't look at the world the same way I do? The Presidential elections proves that 32 million others (approximately) see things differently, no matter who we voted for.

Vulnerability: we need to provide an emotionally safe atmosphere for everyone.

Openness to change: in our debriefing time a co-attender said, "What I've come to realize is that I'm going to have to get used to change, rapid change for the rest of my life." 'Tis true.

That's that for now. I hope to get back into the swing of thangs soon with this.....

Peace be unto you, Jason

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

That Which Happened Once

She twists and turns away from me and her shadow shifts from my arm to the hallway floor. Down the staircase goes my love and down into my gut goes my heart. The heels on the floor and the hand on the brass nob are the rhythm of a world suffocating. Years together couldn't prepare me for the first night alone.

I step past the full and tilted coat rack and stand shivering on the front step listening to the pattering of the drops of rain. Around me the front light casts a weak and dirty yellow aura and she steps beyond the half-life of all that we've ever known. She disappears and reappears under every street light with silver ribbons of rain falling around her. And me; I stand.

Why am I still here? Is part of it surrender, of letting go of the heart of clay or the kite of childhood? Is it my pride? I find my heart and mind are ill-equipped for all of this and I step back closer to the portal. Am I so prideful to try to hold onto something spiraling away from me or am I too ignorant and deficient to break free beyond indecision and expereince and to run after her? To catch her by the hips and to face my love and my fear in the eys . . . .

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

And when all the people saw it, they also praised God

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

That was the cry of a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. His days were filled with wondering and begging. He sat on the road side hearing the gravel crunch under the feet of the passers-by and what is it in the distance? A group, a clan? He asked them, "What's going on? What's happening?"

Jesus is passing by.

He apparently knew of Jesus and his reputation for changing lives and life styles and so he starts screaming, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Within the entourage there were those who told him to keep his mouth shut, but he refused to go silently and to remain in the darkness.

Jesus was indeed passing by, but Jesus also stopped.

"What is it that you want me to do for you?"

"Lord, I want to see."

"Then receive your sight, your faith has healed you."

After having received his sight he followed Jesus and along the way praised him. When all those within the entourage saw it they also praised God too.

"Lord, I want to experience the antithesis of all my weaknesses and all my failings. I want to know steadfastness, boldness, consistent love and compassion. There are many who desire me to shut my mouth, but I have heard of you before and I know that you will not leave me the way that you have found me. I just want to see and by asking to see I am saying I believe, so I will follow and praise you, though sight unseen."

Luke 18:35-43

Monday, October 11, 2004

Jesus said that a person's life consists of more than what belongs to them. It's easy to get caught staring through the looking glass thinking, if I was found in there I would be among the living. Yet, I'm hidden within my own pile of "stuff."
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Saturday, October 09, 2004

dark chocolate, red wine, and stairwell conversations

Before I moved out to California in August of 99 to study theology at a seminary just north of San Francisco a friend came up to me one day and said, "Jason, my prayer for you is that God will put you around revolutionary people." Funny, at that time I was also praying for the people I would meet, the friends I'd gel with and whatever else that was of concern to me. . . .

Last night my friend, Stacey, had a birthday party. She's 30 and is one of the most passionate, stirring, and genuine person I know. We had red wine and chocolate in this shared house on 23rd and Lake in the city, just off of Park Presidio. After an hour or so of mingling and so-whatcha-up-to-these-days we all (about 25 of us) gathered for worship. Pablo played guitar, Elijah keyboard and Brian djembe. I looked around the room at one point and here were over twenty of the greatest people in the world. People who had done service in work in Africa with people with AIDS. Some are involved with community development, mentoring, and changing the city in which they live. Most are artists who have a vivacious passion to excel in their personhood and how God created them. About ten to fifteen within that worship gathering had spent some time outside of the States doing some kind of work that was intented to bring relief, understanding, prayer, and good news to the visited people.

At the end of that last paragraph I was going to put, "Revolutionary indeed." However, after some thought I realize that that is what life is about--reaching out beyond ourselves, coming to terms with how God created us (strengths and all) and then excelling in letting that glory, that original glory be known to the world. So, I guess what I'm getting at is this: being revolutionary might really mean that we just need to be ourselves and by being ourselves we are subversive.

Peace be unto you,

Friday, October 08, 2004

One of the greatest people to influence my life is Barb. I'm very blessed to have a partner who is on a genuine pursuit toward Christ. She is a personification of forgiveness and unconditional love and models Jesus to me.
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Emerging Me

After speaking with a close friend of mine, Robert, I decided that I needed to start a blog, to publish my thoughts and interact with others who are trying to live out what it means to be a person of good news. I am currently reading The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. I hope to capture some of my thoughts as I read through this book and see if I can add some points of reference for my life. So this is the beginning....