Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year, Happy Anniversary

New Year's Eve - usually that means a quiet night at home. Over the past ten years, I think Michelle and I have been to about three, maybe four NYE parties or gatherings with friends. Most of them - including the Y2K roll over - we slept through. Last year, though, was a different story. One year ago today we completed a two day road trip from Southern California to Kirkland, WA. We walked into a completely empty house with a dog, a cat, a few changes of clothes, and an air mattress.

Hard to believe, but we've called this place home for a full year now. And a wacky year it was. Between the two of us, we've had five different jobs. This year I spent time behind the counter of Starbucks, behind the heavy locking doors at King County Correctional Facility, and under the sometimes leaky roof of the Purple Door. I got to meet some awesome folks in each of these places.

We do enjoy living here. Some things have happened for us here that are brand new. Some weird stuff related to the way we practice our faith in community. It's been a lot of fun to watch God surprise us in several ways. We're looking forward to the challenges of a new year, but know that they will definitely challenge us. More to come later.

posted by Steve at 1:18 PM
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Friday, December 30, 2005

The million dollar web page

I'm thinking of supplementing my income, with a little advertising. Heck, it worked for this guy.

posted by Steve at 10:17 AM
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Speaking from silence

I got a chance to spend a little time with NT Wright this morning, reading The New Testament and the People of God. He writes about the difficulty we have in assessing the historical record of the very early church - primarily because there is very little for us to work with.

"Yet it was in the first generation or so that the crucial moves were made which determined the direction that Christianity would take from then on. This, obviously, is why so many have laboured so long to produce what the vagaries of time have denied us, namely, a history of the development of the Christian movement between Jesus and Justin Martyr, or between Paul and Polycarp. Much of this attempt, unlike the attempts to write the history of Judaism, is sheer if unacknowledged speculation."

As I read this, it occurred to me that perhaps this lack of writing between AD 300 and 135 represents God leading his people by not speaking at all. If we had a wealth of literature in addition to the scriptural gospels and letters, and if it told us about the worship and lifestyle practices of the early church, it may very well have resulted in a rigid formation of spiritual practice around those practices. We are often so oriented toward tradition that we lose the meaning behind it. Perhaps God prevented us from doing this by giving us precious little information to work with.

I realize that this is wacky, unsupportable speculation. But silence does often make an eloquent teacher. Any thoughts or pushback?

posted by Steve at 2:55 PM
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What to do when you wake up at 3am . . .

. . . start working on a new blog template . . . or at least, start hacking someone else's to make it your own.

posted by Steve at 5:16 AM
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sitting here in a very quiet office, in a very quiet building, in a very quiet part of town. We're still in the middle of Winter Break in the University District, and everything is just kinda mellow. In one sense, it's a good thing, and gives me a chance to catch up and get a lot of work done. In another sense, it's a little eerie, and motivation isn't automatic. I need to get some music going here pretty soon - that'll help.

My apologies to those of you who may have come here over the past few days to see a warm Christmas greeting from my heart. I had pretty limited time to go online. Here's a super quick (hopefully non-boring) recap of my holiday.

Friday - got up a little ahead of 4am to print boarding passes, finish packing, grab Michelle and get out the door to fly to San Diego. Landed in SoCal at about 9:30am, where my parents grabbed us and took us to breakfast at The Sea Lodge (pictured here) - mmmmmm. Lots of surfers out in the water trying to catch the perfect Christmas wave. Then on to my parents' house for a while, and then to do a little shopping, then Michelle's parents house for a while, then to meet some friends for dinner. It felt kind of like four days by the time that one day was over.

Christmas Eve - breakfast with my folks at home, and then to Michelle's folks' place for the rest of the day. Big open house Christmas Eve party there every year. We saw good friends we hadn't seen for a long time, and hung out until well after midnight.

Christmas Day - woke up early to gather some final thoughts and words, then to my parents' church for worship. I was asked to give the talk, so I spoke about the Kingdom come, in the form of a baby. At the risk of bringing a somber note to Christmas day, I talked about how the birth of this miraculous baby brought about the death of other children and disruption (I think I was more aware of this aspect of the story after reading Anne Rice's book). And then I talked about how Jesus didn't ask his followers to remember his birth at all - but that we should remember his death. And so we, the Christmas worshippers of Jesus, gathered ourselves around the Lord's table for a mysterious and beautiful meal in remembrance of that death. We had a family time that evening at my sister's house with kids running around us.

Monday - hanging out with both sets of parents, some last minute squeezes for our nephews and neice and then off to the airport to fly home. Got home late and in bed at about midnight.

The weekend was good, but hard, too. We were trying hard to be available to multiple sides of our families.

posted by Steve at 12:10 PM
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wow, Christmas is comin' in a hurry around here. Weird. Our Christmas decorating consists of a table top tree that Michelle's mom had sent to us. It's cute, with little white lights and pine cones. We've done a bit of shopping, but it's definitely a challenge, given that on Friday morning, we have to take all these gifts with us on an airplane to San Diego. Oh, and we're trying to avoid checking luggage. We'll see if we get away with that one.

I've been fighting a migraine most of the day today. After I got home from a meeting this afternoon, I thought I'd curl up in bed with a book, and try to sketch out some thoughts for my speaking gig on Christmas morning in my parents' church. I could barely see straight to read, though. Slept a bit instead. Thankfully, the head is clearing up a bit.

I'm clearing out the rest of my 2005 reading list and starting to build a new one for 2006. Any suggestions out there?

posted by Steve at 8:14 PM
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Monday, December 19, 2005

O.k., so I hardly ever ever ever talk about sports here. But yesterday Michelle and I went out of our way to watch the San Diego Chargers play the undefeated Indianapolis Colts. We had to go to a sports bar to see it. We actually had to request that one of the 436 televisions in the place be tuned in to see the game - almost all the rest were on the Seattle Seahawks game. Unlikely as it may have seemed, the Chargers got the win. Made me happy for all the folks back home in SoCal. The Chargers may not even make it to the playoffs this year, but that win will make the long off-season feel a bit better.

Now we will cheer for Indy to win the Super Bowl. We always liked Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy before, but we've made good friends with a few folks from Indy land this year, which makes it even more fun now.

posted by Steve at 8:06 AM
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

I was kicking a few thoughts around yesterday morning about the whole conservative vs. liberal thing that I posted about a week or two ago. I was reminded of a statement I heard back when I was in college - "If you're not a liberal when you're young, you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative when you're old, you have no brain." I was laughing because I may be the Oz equivalent of the Tin Man and the Lion combined. Just about everything about me has shifted toward a more liberal direction since I graduated from college. Now, I'm sure I still occupy a pretty moderate position, all things considered, but thing sure have changed.

But the sentence I came up with after this little thought process was something along these lines:
"I aspire to be as liberal as my brain will allow, and as conservative as my heart will allow."

posted by Steve at 4:42 AM
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Friday, December 16, 2005

A hack attempt at a book review . . .

Up until a few weeks ago, my choice for favorite book of the year would have been a no brainer – The Shaping of Things to Come by Frost and Hirsch. Outstanding thinking, crystal clear illustrative metaphors, and strong arguments. But then on a relative whim, I picked up Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Yes, Anne Rice, the vampire lady. This new novel is the first in what will be a new series on the life of Christ.

I’ll try not to spoil too many details here, because, really what you need to do is e-mail Bill over at Bean Books and order a copy for yourself. Basically, the book is written in the first person – the story is told by a seven and eight year old Jesus. It begins in Alexandria, Egypt and details his family’s move back to Nazareth after the death of Herod. We see the boy Messiah struggling with his identity, which he hasn’t been told about, and yet he senses that something is very different about him.

One of the big reasons that I enjoyed this book so much didn’t really hit me until I was about three-quarters of the way through it. It’s a nice story, imaginative, but not fanciful. But here’s the deal – it is completely believable, almost too believable, in the sense that so many of the details of time and culture seemed pretty mundane to me. But then I realized that the reason things appear mundane is that the author got the culture and the context of the story right. I’ve become so familiar with the biblical texts and cultural descriptions that this story fell right into place. I realized that this was a deceptive sort of “falling right into place,” though. It took serious work for Rice to develop such a “mundane” and believable story.

After I came to this thought, I began reading things more carefully – the nuance of the descriptions of buildings, and familial circles, and Temple worship. As I continued, I kept thinking over and over, “Anne Rice must have read N.T. Wright in her research.”

At the end of the book, there’s a somewhat lengthy Author’s Note, in which Rice describes her journey of faith. Truthfully, this little section is worth the price of the book. I saw that it was there early on, but disciplined myself not to read it until after I had completed the novel – because after all, isn’t that why she put it at the end instead of the beginning? Well, my question was answered – she did in fact read and learn from N.T. Wright . . . as well as many, many others (heck, she even credits D.A. Carson!). Her level of scholarship in preparing this book is truly impressive. And the conclusions she comes to after having read a full range of opinion on scripture and its implications.

I don’t read many novels (do McLaren’s New Kind of Christian books count as novels?), so I’m really not qualified to give a credible literary opinion. Also, I guess I should mention that I’ve not read any of Anne Rice’s prior 25 or so books. But this story is interesting and compelling. It comes to a climax at just the right time and place. And true to its serial nature, it leaves you wanting more. I don’t know what Rice’s intended publishing schedule is, but I will definitely follow this one.

posted by Steve at 3:42 PM
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ever wonder if you're really part of the emerging church scene? A new, scientific, and reliable instrument has just been developed to help you find out. Go here. It will put your mind at ease, or disturb you greatly - take your pick.

posted by Steve at 9:40 AM
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

So, this movie I've never heard of, Brokeback Mountain, today received seven Golden Globe award nominations. Apparently, it's a love story involving two cowboys - yes, cowBOYS, as in gay men. In this article, a conservative critic, David Kupelian, had this to say:

By utilizing two of the most attractive and popular young Hollywood actors for these roles in such a compelling story, they have created characters people can identify and sympathize with to sway the public into believing this is natural behavior," said David Kupelian, author of "The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom.

Just to clarify, the above quote is a negative review of the movie. Apparently we can't have attractive and popular stars in compelling stories, playing roles that people can identify and sympathize with. Hear that Hollywood? Gay characters must only be portrayed by ugly, poorly liked actors that are completely unbelievable. I mean really, we can't all go around believing that real gay people could be attractive or popular, or have real stories worth telling, right?

It just struck me as funny, because this negative quote actually does a really good job of making it sound like it deserves the critical accolades it has received. I guess there really is no such thing as bad press, eh?

posted by Steve at 6:48 PM
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Friday, December 09, 2005

Sooo, in looking around at the various expressions of the Advent season, a big, slick, mega-churchy marketing idea struck me. Many in the Christian faith practice Advent according to various themes. Some go through a weekly progression of hope, peace, and joy. Others focus on things like angels, shepherds, Mary. And then there are the masses of churches (non-Catholic types) that don't do anything at all. Except, a lot of those are now in a big marketing thing around a certain new movie that hits theaters today. And so I humbly propose a new approach to Advent, in which we light candles for Edmund, Lucy, and Aslan. It's been way too long since I read the book, so I can't suggest the deeper nuances of this practice, but it ran through my brain, so I thought I would share. Perhaps I should have thought twice. Oh well. And please don't crank on me for blasphemy, and just smile a little, o.k.?

posted by Steve at 1:50 PM
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Quiet week on the blog, eh? That's o.k. by me, but my apologies to the regulars that stop in here - both of you, really, I'm sorry. I've actually done quite a bit of writing this week, but it has been actual writing . . . like hand-writing . . . like with a pen and paper . . . like with no hyperlinks to other journal entries, books, etc. Amazing. I actually used to do that kind of writing a lot. I filled a big lot of journal books up . . . and then one day I threw them all in the recycle bin, and away they went forever. The process of writing is an interesting one for me. In a way, when I write in a private journal format, I do it just to help me put sentences together, to help me process things that are happening in my interior world. And once those verbs and nouns and adjectives have been put together in a (mostly) coherent way, I don't need them any more. Before throwing them away, I had actually gone back to read some old entries, and basically what I found was that I was bored by it. I wasn't struck by the profound words of a young man trying to find his way. More than anything, I think I was embarrassed by the silliness of most of it. And so, in order to prevent anyone from reading them, I did away with them. But I did put them in a recycling bin, so you know, in the recycling process, it's quite possible that they were turned into newspapers, and have actually been read by millions. Don't laugh - it may actually represent my best hope for being widely published.

This morning, I participated in a computer software study at a company you may have heard of. I did it, in part, to study the way they would study me. It was interesting, and they sent me away with some fabulous door prizes to thank me for my time. Cool enough. And now it's back to work. Next week is UW finals week, so things will be pretty quiet around the Purple Door. That'll give me some extra time to work on inter::mission stuff, and catch up on some reading that I've been wanting to do.

I hope your Advent season is going well. It's a good time of year. Not the most important, mind you, but important.

posted by Steve at 1:33 PM
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Monday, December 05, 2005

I mentioned a few posts back that I've been thinking/planning to re-incorporate spiritual disciplines into my daily and weekly rhythm. I was thinking about this today, and realized that a discipline I haven't read much about (perhaps because it's a bit vague) is moderation. Usually when we talk about disciplines, it brings up thoughts of fasting or silence or practices in which we eliminate something in order to devote ourselves to prayer, meditation, and quieting our souls. I don't know if I'm alone in this, but moderation is actually a more challenging discipline in some ways than abstaining from something. Moderation isn't black and white the way fasting is. It requires consistent attention and self-monitoring. It means enjoying things, without being controlled by them. It means placing proper value on things - as well as the giver of those good things. This is the kind of practice that shows up in everyday life - and not just during certain days or seasons in which certain disciplines are commonly exercised. When it does show up in life, and becomes habitual, it is more difficult to practice intentionality with the discipline, but I believe it will also create more time and space for God and others.

posted by Steve at 2:56 PM
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Friday, December 02, 2005

I've had a couple of conversations recently with people I respect, who are older than I, and hold some different perspectives of theology, culture, and politics than I, but are willing to engage in discussion with me about where I'm headed with all my talk of progressive faith and Kingdom and mission. I've been in conversation with these folks for a long time, and for the most part I've made arguments that would put me in a place of being more "liberal" than they are. And yet, the other day, in a larger group context, one of them described me as being someone who says things that concern people and raise questions about my theological soundness, but in reality I am actually quite conservative. The inference was that I'm theologically conservative, but wacky enough to take this stuff about the Kingdom of God seriously, and allow it to shape my life.

Artificial categories like conservative and liberal aren't very helpful most of the time. Mainly because they are typically used in a way of defining an otherness. We objectify people and positions when we find a way of labeling them (I do mean "we" here - all of us do it). And yet the Kingdom of God is a completely other kind of otherness. It is so inclusive that it is often difficult to sort out its boundaries. It is so exclusive that it becomes frustrating to describe. It defies categorization.

The beauty and mystery of the Kingdom of God says that only a mystic who retreats from the noise of the world is able to taste small pieces of it after deep and quiet meditations. But the mystic who leaves the world to do this, is leaving a vital aspect of the Kingdom because it is often found within the very noise he/she is seeking relief from. Paradox is everywhere in the Kingdom. Salvation so often appears in the darkest places. In a sense, being too far from sin (or at least the knowledge of sin) is being too far from the grace that saves us fromit. Most of the time, it comes down to intentionality - we must make ourselves available to the Spirit of the Kingdom in order to experience the Kingdom. We must submit ourselves entirely to the Lord of the Kingdom in order to enter our brotherhood with him and become joint heirs. We have to decide that the ways of the Kingdom are for the sake of our King, and not a system designed to make us feel better about life.

Finding a way through the paradox without becoming frustrated by it can be as fun as it is frustrating. Sometimes it just makes sense when it makes sense, and doesn't when it doesn't. All we can do is shrug our shoulders and keep walking. If I were to give myself over to piety in anything at this point, it would be the piety of intention. Taking every thought captive is another way of saying it.

Sorry for the ramble there. Probably didn't make much sense. I'm just trying to make sentences out of some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head lately.

posted by Steve at 1:37 PM
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Our little northwest winter wonderland. Here's our dog, Maui, enjoying a bit of the white stuff that's been falling on our house for the past few hours. We don't get much snow, but it's fun while it lasts . . . unless you have to drive in it (which, as I type, Michelle is doing).

posted by Steve at 3:57 PM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me:

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

i blogged it

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