Nov 30, 2010

Norwegian Humor

There's this myth that Scandanavians aren't very funny. True, Ingmar Bergman didn't do much to dispel this myth, but Bergman was Swedish, not norwegian. Okay, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch didn't either. But there's Garrison Keillor who's been finding the funny in Lake Wobegone for years.

Well, if you haven't seen this, you must. It's from a Norwegian sketch comedy show, and one of the most inventive comedy sketches I've seen. The kind that begs the question. "Why didn't I think of that first?" Well, because the Norskes did.

Nov 26, 2010

Christmas Gift Ideas

It's Black Friday! Are you going shopping?
Me neither. I would rather participate in the Advent Conspiracy. More on that next week.

But the December consumer season is upon us, and I can't stop you. So I thought I would offer some timely advice for those would-be shoppers out there.

Nov 17, 2010


Nov 16, 2010

Flash Mob, Hallelujah Style

The day before Halloween, the Opera Company of Philadelphia did their own flash mob and invaded Macys.  Kinda takes the commercialism out of shopping, eh?

I SO want to do this in LA!!

Nov 12, 2010

One act can change a life

As part of the Permission to Speak Freely book tour, we are stumping for Compassion International: A child sponsorship program that gives children in dire poverty the physical emotional, educational and spiritual tools that change their lives.

The young men and women in this video were sponsored as children. Now they're being sent to college because of Compassion. One of the guys here was sponsored because a family decided to forego a second home phone and sponsor him instead. Now he's going to college.

One Act from Compassion International on Vimeo.

I went to El Salvador with Compassion and I've seen the program up close. I've met the staff, I've met the students.

I can't watch it without feeling compelled to act, without wanting to shout to everyone I know, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING. YOU CAN DO SOMETHING FOR ONE PERSON.

Nov 8, 2010

Permission To Speak Freely

I’m out on a mini tour with author Anne Jackson and musician Solveig Leithaug to support Anne’s new book, “Permission to Speak Freely.” Her book was borne out of a question she posted on her blog a couple years ago: “What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” Within a week she had over 500 responses. People wrote about their addictions to porn, alcohol and food. They were afraid to talk about homosexuality or poverty or social justice. A man said after his wife divorced him, his church rejected him too.

The response to Anne’s blog was so tremendous that CNN picked up the story. (Apparently it’s news to the world that church people don’t feel safe in church. Is it news to you?)

It got her thinking more deeply, and so she decided to turn it into a book. She asked readers to send those secrets on cards, art, however they felt led. And so her book, Permission to Speak Freely, became a compilation of original art, poetry and stories. Not just Anne’s stories but those who wrote in.

And now we are on the road, turning that groundswell into a live event. In the first half, Anne, Solveig and I share our dirty little secrets: sexual abuse, spouse’s addictions; alcohol, porn and food addictions; divorce and depression. The longer we hid, the sicker we got. But when we got honest, we began to heal. In the second half we hold a Q & A for the audience to ask questions.

We’ve only had two events so far: one at a modest church in a working class town, another at a wealthy church in an über-rich suburb. The attendees may have looked different from the outside, but their inner lives were so similar.  I know because of what they’ve shared during Q & A. One teenage girl said her cousins had stolen her ‘innocence’ and she wanted it back. A woman shared how, when husband abandoned her, she went on a sex-spree to numb out. Four young women from a 12-step program showed up, including a 23-year old who had been a prostitute to support her meth habit. A man told the crowd he was the abusive, addict spouse we’d talked about. Another man shared he was in recovery from porn, but it had cost him his marriage. It was astounding to hear people open up and get free. It’s a privilege to witness it, and I pray this kind of honesty becomes commonplace in church.

But why isn’t it? Why don’t we feel safe in church? I doubt we are afraid of telling God our secrets: he already knows them. Maybe we are we afraid of other people: those people who show up to church all scrubbed-holy and put-together. Maybe they do have it all together; maybe they just act like it, or maybe we just think they do. It’s easy to compare their outsides to our insides, and think, “if they knew the real me, they’d reject me.” And sometimes they have rejected us. But church, of all places, should be the one safe place where we can own the sick truth about ourselves. Jesus said he came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

I learned a phrase in 12-step meetings: “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” In other words, if you can admit your secrets to someone, you can heal. Wouldn’t it be great if church looked like one big S.A. Meeting? Sinners Anonymous? I don’t mean we should lie around, wallowing in our brokenness and using it as an excuse not to get better. (I’ve been to that church). We need to move on from that and become productive members of society. But it starts with bringing those secrets into the light.

I also learned another thing in the 12 steps: don’t share your secrets with someone who doesn’t understand them. Share them with someone who’s been there, done that and doesn't lord it over you but says, "oh yeah, me too.”

Last Sunday our church had a 12-step forum after the service.  Those of us in Program talked about what we got out of it, and how it differed from church. For me, confessing my sins didn't zap me into heaI had to walk that out in my life and my behavior. I liken it to this: you want to lose 15 pounds. What works better? Telling yourself you’re fat and need to lose weight, or making up a food plan that you can follow? That’s how the 12 steps have worked for me: working with a sponsor who has been there too, and helps me work through the specific steps.  I don't to a 12-step meeting and expect them to believe what I believe or practice how I practice. I go to program for program. I go to church for church. I need both.

So could we speak freely and openly at church? Yes and no. I don’t think the Sunday morning service would work as a communal confessional. The Sunday service is about turning our attention to the divine, not ourselves.But that doesn’t mean we can’t create a safe place at church for people to open up. Our church does have a midweek healing service that is intimate, safe, and we have a time to share with each other. Many churches have adopted the “Celebrate Recovery” program, a program like the 12 steps but with a specific Christian spirituality. I haven’t done CR. I like the original twelve steps, and I like interacting with people of all kinds of faiths. But some might prefer the CR program.

In any event, the Church needs to become a safe place to speak freely. We need to allow people to come: dirty or clean, healthy or sick, holy or messed up. It’s the sick that need a physician, not those who are well, or who act like it.

“A bruised read he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

For more information on the tour visit the Permission to Speak Freely website. To book the tour at your joint, contact Jim Chaffee at Chaffee Management

Nov 4, 2010

The Renewed Mind vs. The Soup

Just in case you didn't see Monday's video, here is Joel McHale on "The Soup," giving his own commentary on the same.

Preach it, Joel

Nov 3, 2010


A month ago Larry and I got to see our freinds Dave and Heather. Dave is a book editor. He spends a lot of time working on books that don't exactly inspire him. Dave is a casual, humble guy. He never toots his own horn. But he did say he edited a book called, "Radical," that challenges us to rethink the American Dream, and ask ourselves if it squares with the gospel. He said it was something he was really proud of, and he hasn't said that often.

A friend just mentioned it on facebook, so I went looking for it. I found this video.

Radical by David Platt on Vimeo.

This made me think about what we've been hoping in these elections - what we expect government and politicians to do for us.  I disagree with the Tea Party movement, but I sure understand people's frustrations over taxes.  We shouldn't expect the government (or big business) to hand us our lives on a platter. I think most of us want to work hard and get something out of it.  We want to put food on the table, raise our kids in a safe world, do something important, or at least satisfying, in the world. But how easily our dreams turn into anxieties, and we can find ourselves hoarding what we've got.

Last night my friends Anne Jackson and Solveig Leithaug did a show as part of Anne's Permission To Speak Freely tour, promoting her book of the same name.  We shared the stories we didn't feel safe to talk about in church. Then the audience shared theirs. It was spectacular, the way people opened up.

Afterward, a gal named Meeshee gave the three of us a handbag. We loved them. Then she told us the story behind the bags. Four years ago, Meeshee went to South Africa and visited a township, crippled by poverty and AIDS.  She had a dream to create some kind of work for them: work that could give them even a fraction of what we have.  

She started The Tag Bag: handbags made by the people of this township, created from used South African license plates and inner tubes!  The journey wasn't easy; the manufacturer pulled out of the endeavor, and production halted. But recently Meeshee found a new manufacturer. So the bags are back in production.

They're fabulous bags. Check out all the styles here.  And if you buy one, you do more than just get yourself a stylish handbag. You employ a township that needs the work. You give them the opportunity to feed their kids. Even then, they'll have only a fraction of what we have. 

So that's what was on my mind on Election Night: not gloating or moaning about who's in and who's out. But rethinking the American Dream. And doing something radical.  

So have you had any radical dreams recently? A germ of an idea or a hope for someone other than yourself?  I get caught up in my dreams for myself or Larry or my family.  I need to rethink my American Dream. 

Nov 1, 2010

Your Monday Morning Horror Video

So Halloween was yesterday, but here's where the real terror lies.