Nov 28, 2006

The Road To Thanksgiving

Early Tuesday morning, Larry, my brother James and I drove to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I grew up in Southern California, but home base is now Sedalia, Colorado, a little town half way between Denver and Colorado Springs. My sister Nancy, her husband Phill, and their four kids moved there in 2003, and my mother lives with them.

Larry and I are going to Salem, Oregon, to celebrate Christmas with his family, so this would be the only time we could be with my side. Finances are still an issue, so we decided to drive. Plus, Larry and I love road tripping. So does my brother James. But it's 1100 miles from West LA to Sedalia, Colorado, so the three of us were on the road by 5am in hopes to make it to Sedalia by midnight.

With no desire to head through the oppression of the Inland Empire, we decided to take the 405/5 to Palmdale, cut across the north side of the Angeles Crest Mountains, and hook up with I-15 at Victorville. From there it's straight through Vegas to the I-70, where you head across the Utah plains, through the Rockies, and on into Denver.

The first thing I noticed was the shocking stream of headlights coming south into LA. Cars streaming in, not just from the San Fernando Valley, but from Santa Clarita, Agua Dulce, Canyon Country (aka "tract homes in the middle of the desert"), and as far north as Lancaster, 70 miles north of West LA. There was that stream of white headlights, already thick and slowing by 5:30 am. This is the morning commute to LA.

When I was growing up, we used to trek out to Lancaster to see my uncle and grandmother. The space between Van Nuys and Lancaster was empty. Agua Dulce was nothing but a small outcropping of farms in between the arid nothingness.

Now the arid nothingness is jammed with tract homes. People can't afford to buy in LA or work in the desert. So they live in the desert, work in LA and commute up to 2 hours EACH WAY. You think that's bad? Think of the alternative: living in a 1960s building on Venice Blvd, or in one of those stucco 70s beehives abutting the 405, the ones with the neon banners boasting, "if you lived here, you'd be home now."

We cut over to the two-lane Pear Blossom Highway, which runs along the north side of the Angeles Crest Mountains. Quickly the scenery changes. There are still tract homes going up, but they're spotted between the spaces of the old life here: cowboy buildings: barn and ranch places, feed stores and old filling stations. Some just the foundation is left, as if the owners quit when the traffic started taking the interstates. There's a joint selling cactus jerkey and date shakes and snake skins. There are crosses with dead flowers along the road, indicating a place where someone died. It's only a two lane highway but the drivers have faster and bigger cars, and even bigger egos.

I used to drive this highway as well. There's a Benedictine abbey out here, and one summer I fancied myself a Benedictine, I drove out and told the monks my ideas and strange dreams. But that was back when I was just thirty years old, and my life stretched out in front of me.

We get into Las Vegas by 9:30. We hit a bit of traffic and mercifully move on. I hate Vegas. Hate it. All yellow lights and distraction. Vegas looks creepy in the daylight. It's just big buildings and slot machines. Gross.

The time is going by quickly. Larry and I love road tripping. And once we get past the eyesore of Vegas, it's just gorgeous territory, so there's plenty to look at. That, and the fact my brother keeps talking. Jim jockeys between facts about the road we're on and whatever else flows over the transom of his mind. Jim's IQ is off the charts, and his brain has kept track of everything he's heard. He's a walking encyclopedia of facts and factiods. He talks about Gnosticism, the pool chlorine that sweat out of him when he was doing yoga; where the wood for clarinets comes from. It's all fascinating, but after a while I long for silence. I put in my orange ear plugs, lie down and take a nap. When I wake up again, Larry and Jim are exchanging stories about dating women with "borderline personality disorder."

We reach the I-70 and head across Utah. The terrain turns otherworldly. Rocks jutting up, weathered and rounded over the millennia. Jim says one section is an ancient barrier reef that was once underwater. We talk about the fundamentalists who think the earth was created in seven days, starting 7,000 years ago. And we decide these people must not really take a good look at what's out here.

The sun is setting over the ancient barrier reef, the dust and the rocks turn colors, and the Rockies are looming in the east. I look out at the rock formations, the shades of red and green in the rocks and dust. I notice the way that the tectonic plates have shoved one over the other, millions of years ago, and I start to feel something I haven't felt in a while.

I feel awe.

That's the thing about us self-proclaimed sophisticates who live in our 1960s cubist blocks off of the 405 freeway. We're so caught up in tracking our ebbing careers and the Nielsen ratings, that we miss those things that the idiot commuters come home to every night. Beauty. Beauty that exists quite apart from Hollywood and commerce and man's piddly attempt to be immortal.

Jim points out that we are in the great western desert, that these little outcroppings of old horseshoe stores and curios are much more a part of Vegas than they are of LA. They are part of the culture of the Great American West. I am glad Jim and all his facts are along for the ride.

I'm also glad because I don't get to spend all that much time with my brother. Sure, we meet for yoga once and a while, or he calls to talk about this trip we are now taking. But right now it's my brother, with whom I share a history stretching back into my past; and Larry, with whom I'm forging a road into the future. Larry has heard me talk about aspects of my history, but now Larry gets to hear it from my brother's point of view. Larry gets to listen to Jim and I talk about it, parse it out in jokes and phrases and memories that are part of the Isaacs lexicon. Short hand words like "lonely childhood" and "lost opportunities" and regret.

After transversing a 100-mile stretch of no gas or food or lodging, we stop in Green River, Utah to get gas and coffee. The Sinclair Trucker Center has showers and laundry services, and a Burger King with big screen TVs. It also caters to the professional trucker, and as such sells all sorts of gadgets you can plug into a cigarette lighter: coffee makers and mini TVs and a small oven. Jim jokes about buying the oven and getting a head start on that Thanksgiving turkey.

When we were kids we did a lot of road trips with our dad. He took us on long family vacations, trips where we'd be in a car all day for three weeks. Dad said it was to show us the world, but I think he was trying to hang onto a time when he was God and we all still loved him. Sinclair will always remind me of Jim. When he was young, he loved the Sinclair mascot, a green dinosaur, and he fought to get my parents to buy him one of those green dinosaur stuffed animal. Maybe he was trying to hang onto a time when my father pretended to love him.

We hit Vail, Colorado by 9 pm, which means we should get into Sedalia by 11pm. The last two hours are long, and I try to nap.


My sister Nancy and her husband Phill moved to Colorado in 2003. A few families from their church in Northern California had already moved there. Phill is an accountant, and he went out to Castle Rock, Colorado to do one of those friend's books. I remember Nancy talking about it then, that she had the sense she should be ready to move. And sure enough, right before Thanksgiving 2003, they moved to Sedalia, with their four kids, two cats, my mother and my mother's two aging fox terrier dogs. They left to escape high home prices and the insanity of American pop culture, in hopes to find a simpler, more innocent way of life.

Sedalia proper is only about two square blocks of old west style storefronts, a filling station, and a mini mart. They've only got two traffic lights, and those are only there to reinforce the trains ... make sure those cowboy ranchers don't drive their pickups around the crossing arms when the 10-car coal trains come through.

The rest of Sedalia extends for several miles to the west. It's mostly ranches and farms, or homes with a little land so the owners can play rancher or farmer. Nancy and Phill bought a modest home on 5 acres, and they've got a barn with two goats and a chicken. They had four chickens earlier this year, but three of them got picked off by coyotes, like their cats eventually did. While we were driving out there, Phill, his dad, and their oldest son Matthew were digging a trench out to the barn to bring electricity and a motion detector to the barn, so their lone chicken could have a heat lamp and a running start in case another coyote came looking.

But we didn't get to see that until the next day. We arrived in Sedalia at 11:15 pm. The street that promised to take us from the highway to their house was blocked by a coal train. The northbound and southbound trains had ended up on the same track and were stalled in a Mexican standoff. We drove a few miles north and met Phill on a frontage road, handed my brother and his luggage off to Phill. Larry and I headed in to Castle Rock. Mom had bought Larry and me three nights at the Comfort Suites. Which was a good thing. As much as the Ericksons were anxious for us to spend Thanksgiving with them, the house could only hold so many people. And as much as Larry loved my family, he was also an introvert. So retreating to a motel with a mini fridge and free wi-fi was perfect for us. We checked in, took hot showers, caught up on our emails, and fell into bed.

We were awakened at 7:30 AM by a terse conversation outside our room. I peered out and saw a security guard having a discussion with the tenant of the room opposite ours. Something about who did what when. I shushed them and went back to sleep.

We were up for a slice of the Wild West. Just, not at 7:30 am.

Nov 23, 2006

Gratitude List

People in AA talk about having an "attitude of gratitude." used to bug the crap out of me, usually because it was preached by some low-bottom drunk gone sober, like the leather-faced ex-meth dealer, who parrotted AA catch phrases like they were oxygen. "One day at a time! If it ain't broke, don't fix it! God won't reveal what he cannot heal." And of course, "practice an attitude of gratitude!" Shut your cliché hole, would ya? But then I noticed, he was a lot happier than I. They were his oxygen, and he was a lot more rosy cheeked that I was.

I went through a turbulent time in which I lived 17 places in 24 months. Then I finally landed in a guest-house above a two-car garage. Two people can't move around in the kitchen at the same time. But it was mine, and I was home. I was so grateful for it.

My sponsor encouraged me to write a gratitude list every day. So I did. And know what? I started to feel grateful. I started to feel more happy and upbeat.

So I guess all those dorky AA catch phrases and bible proverbs work.
as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he
Whatever is good, whatever is true and right and beautiful, think about those things.
Have an attitude of gratitude.

I was grateful when Larry came along. We've even lived pretty well together in that little guest house. We're leaving it in a couple months, but we've been grateful for it.

But I haven't kept up on my gratitude list. And I've gotten a little pissy in places.

So now here we are at Thanksgiving. I's time to make a gratitude list.

I’m grateful for

Larry: for his open heart, goofy sense of humor, his openness and vulnerability. And his really cute hiney. Yeah that too. I love him because he loves God and hates religiosity. Because he's walked through spiritual crises and disillusionment, and got a better faith in the bargain. I love the fact that the things he cares about are writing and spiritual growth. I love that he surfs the net looking for ... NOT for stocks and politics and Playstatione, but Christianity Today and The Emergent blogs and social issues and writing. My sister put it well last night: "he's a perfect fit for you." He is.

Larry's family: his mom Joy; His sister Dianna, her husband Tony and their son Joe. I inherited a great second family.

My own family: Mother Marian, brothers Rob Jim, sister Nancy, her husband Phill Erickson, their four kids Matthew, Emily, Jonathan and Elisabeth. My cousins and aunts and uncles. We are all healthy and alive.

Friends: I have been blessed with so many great friendships over the years. Friends who live close by and friends far away. The few close friends who know me, ones I know through writing or church or the 12 steps. And the new friends I've inherited through Larry.

The list goes on and on. I know I'll forget some, but here's a start: Mim Abbey, Sibyl Gardner, Christopher Myers, Matthew Corozine. Meredith Stephenson, Kim and Brian Godawa, Michael and Rebecca Corwin. Terrie Silverman, Mary and Jeff Cellers, Cameron Taylor, Jeannie Gaffigan and Tony Hale and Todd Wilkerson. Bonnie Eslinger, Aimee Umidi, Anna Hansen. My friend Carole Kealoha and I have known each other since 1985. I recently started going to study and write at the library she works at, and it's been so wonderful just to reconnect with her and go get coffee and talk. I'm so grateful just to be able to see her again and hang out.

And there are my friends who we used to live in the same city, these friends were such an inextricable part of my life. But now they live in other cities, and we don't get to talk regularly. But when we do, we pick up where we left off and it's like there was no time or distance between us. When I hang up the phone I feel a profound sadness, because I wish they lived next door.

And I get this overwhelming longing for us all to be together, and I decide that heaven must be just like that: a place where we are all doing our art or our lives, but together. And I decide that heaven must be a row of brownstones on the Upper West Side, with a media lab in the basement, meeting rooms on the ground floor with cushy chairs and an undending supply of good coffee and PG Tips tea, and our own apartments above. With Central Park on one end of the block, and the Rockies on the other.

Nov 17, 2006

Atheist Fundamentalists

This article has been floating around the internet for the past few days, and Larry sent it to me today. It's disturbing on so many levels. But let's just look at it a minute...

Atheist Fundamentalists
From Investor's Business Daily, Posted 11/13/2006

Intolerance: Rock star Elton John's wish to "ban religion completely" may be dismissed as the hyperbole of a famous eccentric. But militant atheism has become more fashionable than ever. And it's targeting your children. The flashy singer of "Crocodile Rock" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," who recently "married" his longtime male partner, told Britain's Observer Music Monthly that "religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays."

"Organized religion doesn't seem to work," he said. "It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." John concluded: "From my point of view, I would ban religion completely."

Uh, hold up. Sir Elton has had public cat fights with Princess Diana, Madonna, and recently with his own record label. Let's look ...
"Nobody would know my new album has been out since. My record label isn't doing anything to help. Fuck Universal. Please drop me. I'm 58 and I don't care anymore."

On accusing Madonna of lip-synching: "I'm not afraid to speak my mind. I'm not going to mellow with age. I get more enraged about things as I get older."
I don't think the increasingly enraged Elton should judge others for being hateful.

Further, religion turns people into hateful lemmings? Mother Theresa, Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama and Ghandi don't strike me as hateful lemmings. Or did Theresa go to the Calcutta slums because "everyone else was doing it."

If you check the money flowing to the starving and orphaned children in Africa, it's the religious nonprofits lead the way.

Elton has a point, because gays have suffered a lot from religious people. (read Blogger Chris Campbell. But Hitler also exterminated gays. And Hitler wasn't a Christian. See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, exterminated at Ravensbruck, who opposed Hitler and led the Confessing Church during Nazi Germany. He also partook in a failed plot to kill Hitler. That hateful lemming Dietrich! Anyway, back to the Investors business daily article...
Amazon's second-best-selling book at the time of this writing is an Oxford zoologist's venomous 400-page diatribe against "the vice of religion." In it, he insists that "even mild and moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes." And he wants parents forbidden from raising children by their beliefs.

"Our society," writes Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, "has accepted the preposterous idea that it is normal and right to indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them — 'Catholic child,' 'Protestant child,' 'Jewish child,' 'Muslim child,' etc." Those "labels" are "always a form of child abuse," said Dawkins, who concludes: "Maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents."

... Dawkins has called on the United Nations to extend human rights to gorillas and orangutans. He extols Princeton's notorious "professor of bio-ethics" and animal-lib poster boy Peter Singer, who advocates the killing of handicapped newborn babies, as "the most eloquent advocate of the view that we should move to a 'post-species-ist' condition."
If Sir Elton has anyone to fear, it's this psycho who advocates killing handicapped babies. Because they're substandard? That was Hitler's excuse for exterminating gays and Jews! Forget Hitler, evolutionary theory on animal homosexuality is that it's "nature's way of eliminating the weaker of the species." How terrifying is THAT?

Irony of Ironies: Dawkins is MORE fundamentalist and intolerant than the religions he condemns as being intolerant. His drive to exterminate religion is right there in his manifesto. The Bible doesn't teach hatred or suppression of speech. Jesus was the guy who said "turn the other cheek," and "my kingdom is not of this world." And there's that whole "blessed are the meek..."

But back to IBD's article...
No. 11 on Amazon is another atheist screed — "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris. Harris' 2005 attack on religion, "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason," got a prestigious award from the PEN literary association and still ranks No. 33 on Amazon. Harris is as eager as Dawkins to kidnap your kids and bring on the day when "the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Muslim or Jewish be widely recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is."

Religious Americans shouldn't be alone in fearing the popularity of these modern Mein Kampfs. Imagine the government forcibly preventing you from inculcating your children with your values and convictions, and substituting its own instead. Even when it's Darwin — instead of Hitler or Mohammed — being worshiped by the state, fascism is fascism.
YIKES! But before Christians get their panties in a bunch, these accusations come with foundations. There has been a lot of violence committed in the name of religion. But also in the name of Atheism (see Pol Pot, Stalin, Ghengis Kahn). A lot of the poeple who are hateful toward gays are just hateful people. Like Neo-Nazis. There are probably atheists who hate gays, but they don't stand with signs saying, "gays are going to hell." My friend Alicia's uncle was an abortion doctor. WAS. He was murdered, not by an atheist, but by a fundamentalist Christian psycho.

Harris and Dawkins say that science is the ONLY way to prove anything. Which means ONLY left-brained analysis. Say goodbye to women's intuition. Harris and Dawkins are eliminating a fundamental way that WOMEN apprehend truth. Maybe they're misogynists as well.

The ONLY information they want to recognize is that which the current scientists can prove (and sign off on) at any given point in history.

To quote that scientist, Albert Einstein:
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
And to quote that dangerous subversive, Alexsandr Solzhenistyn:
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhlemed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

Nov 16, 2006

Library: the Noisiest Place On Earth

Writers will do anything to find a good place to write. A place free of distractions, noise and frustration.

That rules out your own home, where the phone, fridge, family and cats keep you away from meaningful work. And for the past few days, my husband's computer is out being repaired. He has never asked, but when I see his downcast face, I offer to let him check his email from my laptop. Gives me an excuse to attend to the other distractions.

When looking for places to write, I used to go to Starbucks, where only the sound of the cappuccino machine, panhandlers, and uppity Venti Iced Mocha drinkers could distract me. But they always keep the room so cold so you're forced to buy Venti HOT mochas to stay awake.As long as the place stays loud, you can tune it out like white noise. But then it quiets down and an uppity Venti Iced Mocha drinker returns and complains that the ice wasn't icy enough.

The Library! Why, of course, the library is quiet! That's the place as a child, I'd get reprimanded if I as much as unwrapped a Jolly Rancher inside the door.

In the last week I have gone to LA City Library's Mar Vista branch, where it's relatively quiet ... until the junior high school around the corner lets out at 2pm. That's when all the under-16 kids show up and wait for the computers so they can log onto myspace. Which they're not supposed to be on if they're under 16. But the librarians can't do anything about that.

So the kids hover, trying to intimidate the current user with icy, plucked-brow stares, gum snapping and cell phone ringers. Yesterday, a couple of 14-year old Latinas sat down at my table, chattering in Spanish and kicking their legs, like young victims of Restless Leg Syndrome. They seemed set on driving me from my table. but I had a weapon: ear plugs. I could only hear the inflections of Spanish insults. They finally left, and then my friend Sibyl miraculously showed up and took the seat opposite me. But by then, my resolve was broken, so I came home and took a nap.

Today I went to the Santa Monica library. It's not around the corner from a junior high, and I'm not on the floor where the free computers are, and where uppity pre-teens and the computerless sit and wait to log onto porn websites.

However, I am sitting next to a couple of senior citizens who are hearing-impaired and speak loudly. Not even my ear plugs can block them out.

Another elderly gentlemen has taken it upon himself to move every stray newspaper to the go-back cart. Then he decides to move the newspapers to a different cart. One page at a time. I realize he's just trying to be of service. Good for him. But he is wearing cement shoes. CLUMP CLUMP CLUMP he walks, like Frankenstein tramping up the Matterhorn.

Maybe the "Friends of Santa Monica Library" can suggest that volunteers wear crepe soled shoes. Meanwhile, I squeeze my earplugs in further.

I'm also downwind from the children's section and sitting right across from the DVDs. CLACK CLACK CLACK go the plastic DVD carriers as patrons check out the titles.

A LOUD CLACK and a SCREAM. A tantrum-prone girl has grabbed a DVD and is screaming at her mother. "I want this one Mommy!! GIMME this one!"
"Patterson," the mother coos softly, "Patterson. I've got My Little Pony."
Yeah, a girl named Patterson.
"NO NO! I WANT THIS ONE!!!" The beast-girl screams with abandon, and she stomps past me.

I see she is holding a DVD of "The Three Tenors."

I'd be less distracted at home, where my husband is waiting for the DHL truck. Yesterday DHL tried to deliver his computer to the wrong house. Thank God for "signature required." Today DHL promised a delivery between 8AM and noon.

It's now 2:45 pm.

Maybe I can get Patterson to scream at DHL Dispatch.
Hold on, I can hear her across the library. I'll just put her on Speaker Phone.


Nov 7, 2006

Jesus Jargon: The List

I ranted a while back about Christian Clichés.

You can't really get away from clichés. Clichés arise because someone says something clever or smart, and it works. Or it's just a way to explain a complex idea in simple terms. Nothing wrong with that. But then the phrase gets overused, and eventually it gets said by a white guy on a commercial (i.e. fat white guy on Dominos Pizza says "that's what I'm talkin' about!"). Even "jump the shark" has er, jumped the shark.

I just don't like Christian cliches. Burnside Writers Collective editor Jordan Green and I think that a dictionary of Christian clichés would make a fun book. So we are compiling a list. This isn't a complete list because, well, we'd love to publish it as a book and for you to buy it! Or ask me for a free autographed copy to wow your friends.

If you'd like to contribute your idea, please send a comment below. here are some of our worst offenders...


Many Christian clichés originated from Bible verses, such as "born again" (John 3:7). But if you don't know the Bible, the phrase means nothing. Or worse: it conjures up scary images of blue haired ladies, or Debbie Boone. Some of the oldest Old School clichés go back as far as the Oakie Tent revivals, or as recent as, well, Debbie Boone.

  • Blessed, or blesséd. (we're not sure if it needs the accent aigu) God-ordained luck?
  • Fellowship: sometimes called "The Christian F-Word." (See Sugar's comment below)
  • Brethren: Or Sistren, depending on the group. The friendship or community of believers. This is usually coupled with "do not forsake the brethren." Meaning, "get your butt in the pew!"
  • Go before, come before: to get in front of. To address or approach. Often coupled with just ... as in
  • "Lord we just…" meant to show humility, but ends up sounding wimpy and waffly. Lord we just wanna praise you. Lord we just wanna come before you. Lord I just want Paris Hilton to convert so I can date her."
  • In the word: reading the Bible.

Same Poo, Different Day. In reaction to fundamentalism, many Chrisitians wanted to present Christianity as intellectually sound and uh, relevant to, um, the culture (i've already used two). These phrases below probably started out well, but now the user can appear like he's TRYING too hard to sound credible, relevant, or at least cool.
  • Authentic: real
  • Community: Group of friends
  • Authentic community: Real group of friends, I guess
  • Authentic lives: Living really? Really living? (Michael Corwin)
  • Life-on-life: A creepy way to say real (Rebecca Corwin)
  • Having an authentic life-on-life experience with someone: "a creepy way to say we're friends." (Rebecca Corwin)
  • Engaging the culture: getting involved in secular society? I can't help but think that the culture is out there idling like an old VW and someone needs to pop the clutch and engage it.
  • Unpack: Examining something to the Nth degree. At Redeemer Church in New York City, they can go overboard and unpack the announcements. "We are dismissing the kids for Sunday school. Dismiss is from the Greek "desmedoudas" which means to let go, or loosen … JUST SHUT UP AND LET THE KIDS LEAVE ALREADY!
  • Faith-based: A euphemism for religious. Often used in fields where religion is suspect, ie entertainment. A faith-based music label. According to Entertainment Weekly's Chris Willman, faith-friendly is coming into use. Aren't we lucky.
  • God showed up: Often used at charismatic hip churches.
  • live that out: Um, to follow through. Replaced "walk the talk."
  • Purpose filled, Purpose-driven. From Rick Warren's best seller. I wonder if there's a purpose driven coffee house as of yet? Or the Purpose Driven desk calendar.
  • Redemption or redemptive: Often used in terms of creative ventures, such as filmmaking and storytelling. This can often be stretched to the point of incredulity. "Despite the gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity, The Sopranos is a redemptive story… (John Fox)
  • Relational: Related; connected. In kinship with. The newest "Next Big Thing" church in LA recently held a seminar on small groups called "VELCRO: Creating Relational Stickiness." This is so bad I can't even talk about it yet.
  • Relevant: Meaningful, pertinent to the time or issue at hand. Overused to make Christianity meaningful and valuable in the current culture.
  • Transparent: Honest. I hope it's not the Christian version of Scientology's "Clear."
  • Transparent on the pulpit: Pastor with a "past" spilling guts about all the sordid things ue used to do before he became a Christian. Either to look cool or to get free therapy (Tina Slenk's brother-in-law)
  • salt and light: being a good example. This one is often used in entertainment industry, like, "it's great you're being salt and light in the industry." (Jeff Raycher).
    I wonder if you can be "salt and light" doing a horror-torture movie? Or a soap?
POMO (Post Modern, Emergent)

The post-modern, emergent church has recently uh, emerged? Well, read the Wikipedia entry on the emergent church. I really love what the emergent church is doing. But like any new thing, the verbiage which springs up around it can get over-used. Here are some buzz words of the Emergent Conversation. (No, not a movement. They don't want to categorized or organized). Hey, I'm 'all about' the 'emergent conversation.' Just not the language.
  • Creating a space
  • Doing life together
  • Intentional
  • Missional
  • Organic and raw
  • Witness worker: Takes the sting out of "evangelist," the way "Sex worker" takes the sting out of "hooker."
  • The conversation: As opposed to teaching dogma, we're having a conversation about faith. Sometimes combined with "having a conversation around this." or "being in the conversation."
  • Tribe: a Po-mo way to say community.
  • Creation-Care: a pomo way to talk about environmentalism. Olivia Mather brought this one to my attention.
  • See the Postmodern Essay Generator to really unpack the above

  • "What can I say" a line from a worship song played at a new hip church. It went something like
    You made a way, what can I say? or
    You turned night into day, what can I say?
    These lyrics are gay, what can I say?
    As I've said before: Dear Lyricist: If you have to write "What can I say?" Please, move way from the pen, ask yourself "what CAN I say?" When you have an answer, come back and write it. Until then, don't put it in a lyric. And don't make me sing it.
  • European music has no place in a multicultural church." Quoted in the LA Times by the pastor of church above. But there is a place for "what can I say?"
  • "Don't nobody do me like Jesus." Becca Bennett said that the worship leader in her college wrote this song, and they were forced to sing it at chapel.
  • I'm coming into the heart of worship, and it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus. This song tries to affirm that worship is about Jesus, not us. But it sounds oh so much about ME.
  • "You see me and my insecurities." I heard this at a church recently. I don't remember what they rhymed with insecurities. Maybe Maimonides, or Euripides or heebee jeebees. Or maybe the song just gave me the heebee jeebees.

Taking intransitive verbs and making them transitive, coopting speak from other areas like business, technology, rock n roll... The first usage of such often induces a knowing chuckle from the audience. If the word is arcane or "inside," it invokes an exclusive, knowing chuckle. But like any good joke, when overtold, becomes its own cliché.
  • Impact: don't they mean make an impact? What, is it a wisdom tooth? (Phil Oosterhouse)
  • Grow the budget. I think you grow food and flowers.
  • Bandwidth: The pastor doesn't have enough bandwidth to see everyone.
  • Download: I just got this download from God ... Some tech head just have said this and caught on. I'm sorry but I can't help think of download as a euphemism for taking a dump. As in "downloading brownware." See also "unpack."
  • VELCRO: Creating Relational Stickiness: the same hip church's title for a seminar on small groups. How can I express how bad this is? This from the church that disses the hymns as "irrelevant European music" but sings "You made a way, what can I say?"
  • BTW: I have several friends who go to this church; I've heard the pastor's sermons. He's terrific. So are my friends. This church is doing a lot of good stuff.
  • God told me that (Maria DeAngelus, Phil Oosterhouse) Brian Godawa points out they often add, " 'Not in an audible voice, but he spoke to my heart with a strong impression.' Summarily existentialized so you can’t challenge it."
  • Hope: Christian hope. "Christians don't have a monopoly on hope. Plenty of people have hope: hope in success, money, fame, family. The only hope Christians really can claim is the hope of eternal life. (Michael Corwin).
  • Let's see what God wants: not taking responsibility for human decision. (Maria DeAngelus). God wants me to marry you. /Really? I've never seen you before in my life.
  • Rightfully His
  • Consumed By the Call
  • In His Grip
  • In his Grasp (like In His Grip, but for girls?)
  • Under The Mercy: This one is not yet under arrest of being a cliche, but it is a 'person of interest'
  • Amazed by Grace: Pastor Joel Pelsue first used this, but then everyone else copied him. I've thought of a few others so you don't have to plagiarize Joel...
  • Gobstopped by Glory
  • Flummoxed by Faith
  • Agitated by Adoration
  • Joyfully Jargon-free (Mark Kellner)
  • Jesus is my homeboy
  • Body piercing saved my life (picture of Jesus on the cross)
  • In case of rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned!
  • Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven
  • His pain, Your gain
  • Honk if you ARE Jesus: Explains all those honking egomaniacs on the road

Things we know will become cliché because they're so good
  • Life-on-life: Authentic. Rebecca Corwin brought this one up and it's ripe.
  • Appreciate your ministry: My brother James' euphemism for "get out of my face"
  • Stop dating Jesus: Pastor Tim Keller's exhortation to make a commitment to Christ
  • I love you with the love of the Lord, ONLY: a diss I got from Matthew Corozine and used in a comedy sketch
  • Post-church others: A PC way to say non-christians, coined by James Isaacs

If you'd like to contribute your idea, please send a comment below.

Nov 4, 2006

Boys logged onto Myspace at the library

I'm at one of the LA County library branches in Mar Vista. It's a new building, great perks. Like free wi-fi, big tables with computer outlets, Perfect for a writer like me who needs to get away from it all to write.

Except I'm here on a Saturday, and there are kids. Lots of 'em. Kids who are screaming and squealing. Until the librarian comes over to tell them to please be quiet. Because librarians have the authority to do that: Tell someone to be quiet.

At the table in front of me are two kids with their skateboards. Probably between 11 and 13. They're logged on to the free computers where they get 15 minutes access at a time. They've been there the entire hour I'm here. Which is fine. No one is waiting so they can keep logging on.

But I'm right behind them and I can see they're on myspace. You aren't supposed to be on myspace if you're under 16. Also, one of the kids is on a myspace page and the background wallpaper is a dismembered doll head. The other is looking at a myspace page with pics of girls, probably his classmates, with captions like "this is me looking sexy." Another is of a girl reclining on her bed, legs spread open a bit. She doesn't need the caption.

I asked a librarian about it But 1) unless the kids' parents are there, they can't do anything about it. It's not the library's job to parent children, and in fact they can get in trouble. 2) It's public access, freedom of information. They don't censor.

Unless it were an adult looking at sexy pictures of minors. Then they can step in. But 12 year olds? No.

Well, unless the kids were being loud. Then the librarian could tell them to be quiet ... while they look at their classmates' soft core kiddie porn.

A friend of mine had two nieces with myspace pages. The girls were 10 and 14. Their father was OK with it. Which I guess is OK if you're there to monitor the kids. But what about when you're not? Under-age kids, mostly girls but boys as well, are being lured by "16 year old boys" in their area to some hang out. And they end up being old men predators. I was so worried about those nieces I emailed myspace. As far as I know, they never did anything.

Librarians in another state have filed suit against allowing patrons to browse porn sites at the library. They claim sexual harrassment: they're trying to do their jobs checking out books and they have to see hard core porn on computers. "Free speech," though.

Isn't there some common sense to apply here?

I love the fact I can come here to the library and use the facilities. And yes, and we have to protect the freedom of information and access. In some countries you're not allowed to have a Bible. Maybe it'll get like that here some day. Until then, I still get to read the Bible and log in and use the county's electricity. And 12 year old boys on skateboards can look at their classmates reclining on their beds with their legs spread.

I don't know about you, but that's not sexy. That's sad.