Mysterious Ways

Johnny take a dive with your sister in the rain
Let her talk about the things you can’t explain
To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you want to kiss the sky 
Better learn how to kneel
- U2’s “Mysterious Ways”

A couple Sundays ago, I was walking into the 9 am service at my church (I typically think of the 9 am service as the “grown up” service, because the people that go to that service no longer care about sleeping in.  Since I’ve turned 30, I’ve become “those people”.  I’m also contemplating taking a bus to work periodically.  I think this is my mid-life crisis.), minding my own business, saying hi to some friends, and looking forward to being just another “seat filler” for the service.  (I spent my time doing some ministry work earlier this summer, I was ready to just sit back and hear about God!  Cut a 30-year old some slack, okay?)

Memorial Day for the Disappeared

Memorial Day weekend offers an opportunity to honor fallen soldiers, those who fought on our behalf.   But what about those who’ve been caught in undeclared wars, who were never officially in battle, but perished nonetheless?  How might we properly remember civilians caught in political crossfire?

I was in Buenos Aires this week for Pepperdine University's new faculty conference.   The most moving moment in my Argentine experience occurred on a Thursday afternoon.     The Mothers of the Disappeared have been gathering at the Plaza de Mayo for over thirty years.   Each Thursday at 3:30pm, they march behind a banner to demand justice, to seek answers, still longing to know what happened to their children.    Closure remains elusive.

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U2 and the Unfashionable Cross...

It seems like everyone I know has been to, or is going to, hear u2 live in October.  They're out on the west coast, doing a tour and so Christians between 20 and 40 are making the pilgrimage.  Before I continue, I'll offer the caveat that I love u2.  I just returned from running stairs and Bono was my companion because, after the 10th set of sprints it's true:  I still haven't found what I'm looking for.  Their music, lyrics, and leverging of fame for social good are all inspiring and exemplery.  Still.... 

My concern resides in our age old tendency to reshape the gospel so that it matches our own personal ideals and passions.  Right now social justice is fashionable.  There's good reason for this, and it's a welcome swing of the pendulum from the old days, when missionaries would (at least according to missiological legend) hand out tape recorders, the Bible on tape, and tracts, before handing out food, "just in case someone perishes without knowing Christ."  We've come a long way from that, but just as that was fashionable then, wells in Africa are fashionable now.  

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PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC FAITH

Here at Conversant, we explore how faith connects to everyday life.  But what happens when our personal beliefs crossover to the public square? Jesus warned us not to display our faith for others’ affirmation or praise. So should faith remain a private matter? Jesus also took his teachings into the public arena, from the Sermon on the Mount to the marketplaces of his ancient Judea.  We must examine our motives, examining why we air our faith.

Perhaps the question should be, “Can we discuss our values with those we disagree with in a civil way?”  At Conversant, we hold a public conversation about our personal beliefs.  We must be free to our convictions without fear. Yet, we must do so in a humble and respectful manner—as active listeners.

On a recent tour of Australia, my friend, Geoff Broughton, introduced me to the Center for Public Christianity. We crossed over the dramatic bridge to north Sydney for an afternoon of conversation at the nexus of faith and culture. I was pleased to meet like-minded colleagues Greg Clarke, Simon Smart, and Hugh Clark. They interviewed me during a memorable afternoon. They’ve produced a podcast and a videoblog from our conversations that you can find on Vimeo here.

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Life, Love, and Chipotle Burritos

"Grace makes beauty out of ugly things." - U2


That is one of my all time favorite lines from one of my all time favorite songs.  Truth be told, I'm not the world's biggest U2 fan, but I do enjoy their music.  Despite that honest admission of truth, the song "Grace" is one of those few songs that always stops me in my tracks and demands I listen to it in it's entirety.  The song has always captured my interest - but my interest in it grew exponentially when my then-wife and I were dreaming about starting a family.  In the throws of newlywed bliss, we talked about our future.  It was a future that optimistic - we’d own a house, have great friends, work jobs that we loved AND paid well, and start a beautiful family.  That family, we discussed, would include a daughter.  And maybe, just maybe, we'd name her Grace.  

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What are we fighting for?

It’s finals week on the campus where I work which can only mean one thing: summer break is 48 hours away.  To me it means quiet, rest, and a slower pace, but it also brings with it space for reflection and planning.  I’m entering into a reflective mode this week as students wrestle with, “What’s next?” and I find myself asking the same question.  One student said yesterday she has been asking people who she sees as “settled” in their careers if this is where they thought they would be when they were in college.  She was surprised to find out that for most, life’s journeys took them in directions they could not have even begun to imagine.  They love where they are at, but would have never predicted it.

As I thought about it, I began to think of people I know who are “settled” in their careers.  This year more than any other I have felt like a “grown-up” as I settle into my career, gained a mortgage, have been married for 4 years and the honeymoon is over (I mean this in the sense of now we know what for better or for worse means and in sickness and in health – even though I still get butterflies when I pick my husband up from work), no one knows what Jem and the Rockers were, and recently I was told that U2 is classic rock.  (I’m sorry what?)  This was a year when huge decisions were made for our family and I am choosing who I want to be.  Of course this comes with job choices, communities joined, and passions to pursue, but life always throws some curve balls in there and I’m learning every week what “pick your battles” means more and more.
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U2 Breaks Early Over the Horizon

It feels like Christmas in the music world right now. Radio stations, blogs, myspace pages, newspapers, and magazines are all chomping at the bit preparing for the official arrival of U2’s long awaited new album, No Line on the Horizon. Facebook statuses were a flutter early last week with fan opinions thanks to the full stream made available on U2’s myspace as well as various mp3 leaks…

… and the buzz keeps building.

So how good is No Line on the Horizon? While Rolling Stone gave it a rare impressive five star rating, some fans still say the verdict is out as they consider just how much change they can take from the iconic four piece.

Aided by long time producer, Brian Eno (tack Eno onto any project and it’s bound to sound better), No Line grooves and punches more than Atomic Bomb managing to balance that fine line between preserving an iconic sound and emerging with something fresh.  Adam Clayton’s bass lines are distinct, creative, and shine boldly among the other three members. The Edge plays a little with the fact that his once-scoffed-at textural style has become the pop norm copied by countless amateurs and professionals alike. He mimics himself on tracks like “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” and “Moment of Surrender,” classic throwbacks to the days of Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Bono’s vocals are at their rawest, most honest, most powerful level on every emotion-driven track. After all, if any one is in a position to take risks it’s him.
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GRAMMYS: Mama Power!

In an effort to combat audience indifference, the Grammys pulled out a vast array of stunts. Artists threw twists into the most basic songs possible. From Jay-Z riffing on Coldplay’s “Lost” to the USC Marching band backing Radiohead’s “15 Steps,” the Grammys begged for our attention. U2 urged us to “Get On Our Boots,” to dance our troubles away. Memphis natives Al Green and Justin Timberlake rallied for “Let’s Stay Together,” an ironic substitute for a bruised Rihanna allegedly battered by her boyfriend, Chris Brown. A fruity Katy Perry went all Carmen Miranda for her faux outrageous hit, “I Kissed a Girl.”  But Katy's desperate bid for attention paled in comparison to a very pregnant M.I.A. channeling Mama Power.   The avalanche of performers threatened to overwhelm the original reason for the season: the awards themselves.

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