Saturday, September 27, 2008

Story Arcs, Sitcoms, and Shifts in Theology

Several years ago, Jim Kumorek introduced John and I to Babylon 5. Months of watching every season sequentially gave us a great appreciation for the series. Babylon 5 was groundbreaking because it was the first "long format" television series (though it took through Season 1 to hit stride).

Now people like JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, and the writers of Heroes and 24 have become masters of the genre creating huge hits. The challenge is that you have to watch every episode and the story arc takes time to unfold to completion. (Thanks to Netflix and TiVo, this is not a problem.)

Contrast that with the hour-long drama or sitcom. It makes sense to me that this was the popular format up through the mid-90's. After all, it is difficult to be able to see all 22 episodes in order year after year. Entertainment had to be bundled in neat packages with minimal character development resolving all loose ends in the timeslot with nice, neat bow.

It occurs to me that long format television is somehow more satisfying. You know the characters better. You actually care what happens to them. And maybe something in us resonates with longer, more complex story arcs.

This morning it hit me that I grew up with "short format" theology. Small problems were solved with 3 point sermons. And the macro story went somthing like: "You are lost. Ask Jesus into your heart. Life is perfect. And if it is not, we will all be bailed via resurrection shortly."

It is easy to see how that type of theology results in short-term thinking. eg) cram tracks down people's throats and bully them to convert, write off lost causes, no concern for the environment because it is all going to blow up anyway.

In an odd way, Babylon 5 has made me aware of a better gospel. The "good news" isn't the short format version of praying a prayer to get bailed. The good news is that the God who made the world loves it. That He has spent all of human history reaching out to Man. That there is a very desperate, very real battle between good and evil for the souls of mankind.

Those of us that call the planet Earth home are living in a sort of bondage. Despite human progress, we can't seem to solve the rule of evil in the world. Genocide and descrimination abound, slavery still exists, death and disease afflict us all...deception, cruelty and abandonment cause untold pain on small and grand levels.

It would appear that "the Gospel" is large-format. That one man, Jesus, stepped into the middle of human history living out the character of God, then sacrificed His life. And something about that sacrifice changed everything. Not in a sitcom sort of way, but as part of a much larger story arc. One that results in the defeat of death. Not just for Himself, but for all of us.

That type of theology produces a much different result. It produces hope and not synthetic perfection. It produces love, because that is the power of the One who is saving us. It produces peace. Because as characters are unexpectedly killed, or change sides, or fail abysmally...the story isn't over.

And that resonates.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Odd timing

Because of a random delay and detour, I wound up following my dinner
to my house.

Fireproof this Weekend

Jim Kumorek put a movie on my radar that I plan to see this weekend. It stars Kirk Cameron (used to love Mike Seaver!) and focuses on the life of a fireman and his crumbling marriage.

The movie is Fireproof and the tagline is "How far would you go to keep a promise?"

The movie is in limited release, so I want to make sure I catch it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

People as Stories

At the Echo Conference, Donald Miller told the story of the screenwriters who wanted to make a movie out of his book, Blue Like Jazz. For him, it was an odd experience to meet with people in front of a white board to talk about his life as a story. (He also went into how they had to change parts of his life to make him interesting enough to be a movie!)

As Don spoke, I captured the major thoughts. Here, a month after I've heard them, they are still interesting to me to read and think about.

A character is what they do. You are out of what you do.

The hero can't think more of himself than of others.

What does the character want? What we want matters.
Best ones? Dire consequences if they don't get what they want.
Best, best ones? The hero has to sacrifice to get what he/she wants.

What we want determines the quality of the story.

Ask yourself, if this character dies what dies with them?

The more you have sacrifice the more you love.

What the character wants has to be so beautiful that it is worth sacrificing for. Worth experiencing pain for.

Story is the only thing that changes us. Pain is the only thing that changes the characters.

Jesus never gives the moral to the story.

Mother Teresa said, "I sir have never had clarity. What I have had is trust."

"Don't fear" is the most common command given in scripture.

In the movie, Friday Night Lights, the team didn't win. We don't have to win to create a good story. The writers chose to write the tragedy version saying that in the year this team lost, the team sacrificed more and that was why the story was so beautiful.

People are drawn to the better storyline. Characters who want something noble draw people to them who want to improve their own stories.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Of Journeys and Stuff

Back when John and I were a young family with young kids, we would take trips to New Mexico (10 hour drive) that went something like this:

"John could I stop for--"


"But I really need to--"


"Wait, there's a--"


John told me years later that he had to reframe how he viewed the trip. Instead of viewing it as a goal to get to his parent's house in New Mexico it was a trip to have lunch in Sweetwater. With a stop for Dilly Bars in Amarillo. And a pause to check out the Allsups at....well, you get the picture.

Like John, I am typically goal oriented. Plot a course. Set trajectory. Focus on the destination.

But the Crosspointe thing has given me a different framework. Sometimes the best journeys are when you don't exactly know the destination. Oh, you may have a rough idea of the terrain, but there isn't a map. Just a sense of calling and a general idea of how to move forward. It occurs to me that those journeys are best shared with friends.

Last night, we went to the "Estate Sale" of all of the furnishings from Crosspointe's old space. (I was excited that I got to purchase the two candlesticks from the Candles and Cords post and three purple coffee cups from Acoustic Cafe.) I expected to feel sad, but didn't. In fact, it really struck me how much of it was all just "stuff."

What I did feel was a sense of belonging. As we walked through the rooms of "stuff" and laughed about things with Vicki, Kim, Jim, Nancy C, Angie, Margaret, Charity, Mark, we helped Jody load her the Oxygen crowd drifted over to Steve's and made pizza in his kitchen chopping things with David-the-Artist-Pastor and putting the pizzas on the grill (weird, but good)...I felt part. This was church. Not a building or "stuff" but living life and sharing faith with others.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lunch with Steve and Kay

Years ago, Nancy and I went to IAAM. We weren't really sure what we were doing.

Our first event was a mixer at Phillips arena and Nancy and I walked in--unsure what we were really supposed to be doing. After all, we didn't know a soul.

There were very few places to land, and we were excited to find an empty space at a standing table. We asked the nice looking couple if we could join them, and as it turned out, they were from our own backyard. Steve and Kay Selby were from UNT.

We spent the evening getting to know each other and Steve and Kay became our favorite people each year to run into at IAAM. Best of all, Steve helped me with my education in assembly management simply by sharing insights into what it was like to run a big events center like the Coliseum.

Now Steve and Kay are retired (though rumor has it that Kay moonlights as a bounty-hunter and as you might have guessed Steve is onto a second career).

Today, they came down from Denton to join us for lunch. As a bonus I got to introduce them all to bubble tea. It was a wonderful reconnection. So cool when professional relationships grow into personal ones.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cool Discovery

I love discoveries.

Now that Crosspointe is without a permanent space, we are having to find new real estate to land in. And all of it temporary. As it turns out, this nomadic existence is actually turning out to be pretty fun.

John and I weren't sure what to expect when we landed at the Crossroads Winery for the LLC Meeting on Tuesday night. Though we had directions, we passed it twice. It was a little metal building on a two lane road in the middle of a few other metal buildings without much of a sign.

But, when we stepped inside, it was gorgeous. Large casks of wine. Little twinkly lights.

There is something wonderful meeting in a beautiful place with friends we know well with whom we share a common purpose.

The laughter, hope and excitement were tangible things.

Ron did a great job of casting a vision of "what could be." And David-the-Artist-Pastor and Magical-Kylie-and-David have definitely put in the sweat equity to make it all happen. So as it turned out, Tuesday became a bit of a celebration of our new adventure.

In case you haven't been tracking the Crosspointe story, it is an experiment in what church would be like without buildings. Something that is more about the people than places. About service more than services. About something you are more than something you go to.

As it turns out, I am really enjoying this new adventure in church.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Great thought today...

Competence is not the same thing as imagination. --Seth Godin

Creating Environments

Through my day job, I've learned a lot over the past twelve years about creating environments. (It is a key part of what we do.)

Physical space evokes emotion. It also facilitate or hinders the activities that take place in it. With those two concepts in mind, I find myself focusing on the experience people have when they walk into a room and the core purpose of a space.

When John and I moved into our new house, we had the experience/purpose conversation about our dining room. We aren't big Sunday dinner people. However, we do have a lot of mixers/parties. We liked the idea of setting up a space for casual laughter and interesting conversations. This led to the "bistro" concept. We wanted people to walk into our house and get the feeling you get when you enjoy time with friends at an outdoor cafe.

Originally, we had a big fountain in the corner. However, the fountain proved to be high maintenance and we recently had to kiss it goodbye. (This was failed fountain #2, so I decided not to go for #3.)

Interacting with environments invokes all of your senses. Sight, textures, scents, sound... The loss of the fountain changed the sound. And, I missed it. A lot.

So, you know the kiosks in Target/Walmart/World Market where they sell music you wouldn't choose on the radio, but sounds wonderful as background music? We rearranged a bit and put a stereo in place of the fountain. As it turns out, ambient music is actually proving to be an acceptable substitute.

The best part? I no longer have to clean lime scale!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

3 Things

I was tagged by TheDeeZone, so here are my three things:

3 Joys
When John reads to me.
Sending Bethany a funny picture of the dog asleep on her pillow via MMS.
Poking Chase on Facebook.

3 Fears
Really, really, really messing things up.
Being surrounded by people who just don't get me.

3 Goals
Celebrating my 50th anniversary.
Publishing in hardback.
Living every single day of my life to the fullest.

3 Current Obsessions
Dirt Poor Robins
Bubble Tea
Painting with my fingers. (Sounds cooler than "finger painting.")

3 Random/Surprising Facts
(I got stuck on this one and asked John who asked..."Random facts about you? Or just random facts. He then, started spouting things that were "surprising" but not "facts.")
I was a blonde for the first 30 years of my life.
I served as mayor for a community.
I am a huge Joss Whedon fan. (Which John says is random, but not surprising.)

Okay, I now tag: The Hon. Mrs. Cobbey (who really should change her name to the Hon. Mrs. Sra. Cobbey); Happy; the Crazy Rambling Red Head; and SuperMom.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Now I can show you

Last Saturday, I was able to spend the most wonderful day painting and creating. But, I couldn't show you the mixed media piece I did for Nic and Nikki until AFTER I gave it to her at her shower.

It is always a bit dicey to give art to someone. Especially something you created.

Luckily, the piece was well received.

Sunday with Girls

Yesterday, we had Nikki-the-Lurker's shower at my house.

After church I threw together a pizza and salad meal as Kylie and Courtney skewered little pieces of fruit. Soon Angie and Kathy-of-the-Mom-Bows arrived and began adding their touches. Then the house was filled with women and there were stories, laughter, and opening of presents.

I totally cracked up as Courtney had us go around the room and share our silly, romantic stories. Loved that Nancy told about meeting Peter as an RA because of "the dead girl in the shower" (she wasn't really dead); cracked up over Christi H's totally botching Tim's romantic plans so he wound up proposing at Olive Garden because it was the only thing open at ten at night; loved Christy V's story about the week-long unintentional thwarts to Alan's romantic attempts at proposing.

After the final guests trickled out, Christi H. and Kimberly lingered behind and we wound up in deep conversation, which led to dinner which led to more deep conversation.

There is something amazing about spending a day in the company of women. Of hanging out in the kitchen around the table and talking. Really talking. Little things. Big things. But most of all, common things.

It is somehow inordinately comforting to have a "sisterhood."

It was a truly wonderful day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"The Only Thing Worse than Beating a Dead Horse is Betting on One"

That is the title of a Reliant K song whose lyrics--like most Reliant K songs--are insightful.

Just listen to the politician
wishing his position wasn't missing
everything his heart would like to say
and a constant in the constitution
is that there can't be one solution
it'd be so far from the truth
and we would hate it anyway
opinions are immunity to being told
you're wrong
paper, rock, and scissors
they all have their pros and cons

I am among the undecided voters. Of which we have many in this country. And I'm okay with that....after all, I still have two months to complete my research and make a choice...however what I am not okay with is the things that are currently influencing me.

I have a problem with the fact that McCain doesn't use e-mail. Not using e-mail or learning computers is a choice to hang onto an old world rather than joining the rest of us.

I have a problem that Mrs. McCain recently wore an ensemble estimated at $13,000.

I have a problem with Obama's preacher.

One of the things I am grateful for is the incredible availability of information in this election. Places I can go to find out about where the candidates stand on constitutional rights, health care, immigration (for the record I am for a documented worker program), the environment and energy.

My friends tend to be fiercly divided. In fact, last night, anytime the conversation even touched on something that might lead to politics, warning bells were sounded and we all steered away to lighter topics.

We laugh in our office that we have the "Rush Limbaugh's" and the "NPR's."

I wonder where the "Relient K's" are supposed to fall.

Products that Work

I tried Aussie's Volumizing shampoo today. It works. Also test driving
mobile blogging with this post to see if it works too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dramatic Chipmunk

I read somewhere that this was the best 5 second video clip on the internet. And, they were right! (Sidebar: it is only funny with sound.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home Movies

John has been digitizing some of our home movies. We found this short one of Chase as a little boy from back when we lived in Panama. So cute!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Magic of Metaphor

One of the things that I've noticed about writers is that they tend to choose their music based on the lyrics over the guitar rifts.

Track 13 on DPR's The Cage says, "Pick up your map. Lay down your gavel."

Great metaphor.

I've been mulling on it for days.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Coffee Tomorrow

Once Dr. Carl Raschke gave me one of my favorite introductions ever. He said, "Cathy is one of those people that if she invites you to coffee, you should go."

Carl set up coffee in the morning for me to meet Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, authors of The Tangible Kingdom. In preparation for my meeting tomorrow, I'm reading the book. I am moved by the deep humility with which the book is written. The candid figuring-it-out of it all. I had to pause to share a passage.

Not long ago, we all grieved as Ted Haggard, the senior pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches, fell morally within a homosexual relationship. This pastor was also the leader of the largest evangelical association in America. Known for his active lobbying with Congress to suppress the homosexual agenda, this man now quickly and quietly resigned for failure in the same realm he once publicly opposed. We all interpret these types of events in different ways, but one reality was made clear: Christians struggle with the exact same issues, vices, and sins as those outside our ranks. We had better stop trying to keep the hostiles out and start identifying ourselves with them and allow Christ's redemption to flow over all.


I must now go back to reading...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bangs or Botox

While for the most part I've enjoyed being in my forties, I have noticed something. Lines. On my forehead.

Back when we were in our twenties, John and I used to make fun of them on one of the All My Children characters. We actually called them "Jack Lines." Now, eeeek! I have them too.

I know that botox is an option, but the idea of paying someone to inject deadly toxins in my forehead has always freaked me out. (A lot.)

So, today I decided to test-drive bangs. I'm still trying to figure out if I like them.

I'll let you know.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Yet more thoughts on love...

We just got news of yet another set of friends ending a 15+ year marriage this week.

Again, it's one thing when someone drops a loser spouse. It is quite another when two incredible people decide to pick up their keys and call it quits.

John and I talked last night and found three recurring themes in all of the scenarios...

The first theme is annulment. The spouse who wants to go uses phrases like... "married too young" "never really was in love" "wanted different things". It is easier to leave if you can somehow void all that has gone before. In fact, then it becomes sort of noble because you are righting the wrong and now finding the right path.

Denial that another person is playing a role in the decision. The weird part is that in most of our friend's cases there hasn't been an official affair, but there has been someone of the opposite sex that highlights all of the things they are unhappy about in their current life and gives them promise of something better that draws them.

Personal growth in one of the spouses that isn't shared by the other. Whether this is a woman who has put her life on hold for the marriage and suddenly wakes up one day and realizes she is a person with goals and dreams who wants to feel beautiful or a husband who is grappling with growing older and not really happy with the man he's been and wishes he were something more, there is a deep personal awakening in one which comes as a complete surprise to the other spouse who is busy living the day-to-day.

So, what is happening?

I have a guess, and I'm forming thoughts as I'm typing--always dangerous--so who even knows if I'll agree with this tomorrow.

What if the "other person" is actually a fated event that serves as a catalyst to highlight needs and dreams you've ignored? The wake up call that gives you a picture of what could be? What if the solution then, isn't to chase after that "other" but to pour energy into the life you have? To allow the other person to simply be a catalyst and not an end result. In contrasting the friends who have gone for the split and the ones who have stayed, the ones who have stayed gearshifted into the more. The ones who split are still trying to heal, because at the 15+ year mark, separating lives is like separating Siamese twins. Painful. Full of loss. And, with an awful lot of collateral damage.

Sam Phillips (also recently divorced I just learned) has a line in a song: "If true love never did exist, how could we know its name?"

In my own life, true love is a whole lot of work and the journey has no clarity whatsoever. The cool thing is, God has this lovely habit of meeting us on whichever path we've chosen and I do trust His desire and ability to lead us to the "something more."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cute little bit of nostalgia...

One of the reasons my house looks amazing most of the time is that I have help. The idea of a woman being able to 'do it all' doesn't work for me. I can't have a career, then come home and be June Cleaver. So, many years ago John gave me the best Christmas gift of all time...a cleaning service. (Hey, it is cheaper than Prozac.)

They do everything. In fact, I love coming home on Thursday evenings because everything looks so perfect.

Today, when I walked into my perfectly clean bedroom with vacuum lines on the floor and a pristinely made bed, I noticed this. The Black Ranger on my desk. (He used to be Chase's and now lives in a box with his friends in our closet waiting for visiting kids.) How cool that he is once again hanging suspended in some adventure.

So fun to me!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Learning to Make Bubble Tea

I've recently acquired a new addiction...bubble tea.

I first discovered it at Escape, then Fat Straws. And, I have to say, Starbucks has nothing on this...

At almost $4 a pop, I realized fairly quickly I was going to have to learn to make this at home. So, John and I went to the asian market on Saturday and purchased supplies. Since all of the directions are in Chinese(?)I've had to wing this. Here's what I learned.

1) Purchase the "bubbles" (tapioca pearls). The ones I bought are done in 5 minutes. I think the regular ones take 20. (There is a slight difference in taste to the ones at the bubble tea shops, so maybe it is like instant oatmeal and oatmeal.) Basically, you boil them in 10 cups of water--think stock pot.

2) Make Bubble Tea syrup. This was the part I left out when it came to the first batch which I threw out. Boil 2 cups water and add 1 c white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar. Bring to boil stirring constantly, then remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.

3) Drain the bubbles and mix with the bubble syrup. You can store this mixture in the refrigerator for up to a week.

4) Make iced tea or juice. This part is easy and you have a wide variety of options. I made Celestial Seasoning's blueberry tea then poured over ice, but you can use green or black tea, then mix in either the bubble tea syrup to sweeten or mix with a flavored syrup that you pick up at the Asian store like mango, plum or lychee. (If using an herbal tea that is a bit sweet on its own like the Celestial Seasonings blueberry or the White Goji Blossom I purchased at Fat Straws, you won't need additional syrup.) You can alternately skip the tea and go with juice mixed in a blender with ice. (It is still called "bubble tea.")

5) Add the bubbles. Once the tea is over ice, add the bubbles. (I did a ladle full.)

You will also need to pick up a package of fat straws made specifically for bubble tea. The effect is great. Mildly sweet ice tea with bubbles that slide up the straw that you chew. (Yes, I know it sounds odd, but once you try it....mmmmm....)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Good Place to Be Right Now

I just finished the redesign of my professional blog and turned my computer screen around for John to see it because I wasn't completely happy with the results. (I was also at a point where I was unwilling to sink any more time into it.)

John said something profoundly encouraging. "It's a good place to be right now. You don't have to stay there."

It occurs to me that "a good place to be right now" is a wonderful framework for looking at a lot of things. Things bigger than a blog design.

Baby, I'm glad we had this conversation.