Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday: A Gift of Grace?

It's Black Friday. That means you can get great deals on things if you're willing to brave the many other people who will also be out shopping today. Cheap TVs, movies, toys, etc. There's something for everyone. It's a great time to buy Christmas or birthday presents for friends and family. But Black Friday isn't celebrated by everyone.

It's also Buy Nothing Day. This is a movement that was started to encourage people to avoid shopping on Black Friday. Why? To protest consumerism. When we were in college, we thought this was a great idea. We refused to shop on Black Friday. In fact, we often did things in our dorm in order to avoid being seen outside - and having people mistakenly think we were shopping. We were very self-righteous about it. Just the thought of other people shopping on this day made us feel morally superiour. And we didn't stop there. We became evangelicals for Buy Nothing Day. We put bumper stickers on our car and told everyone we knew about it. But Buy Nothing Day is not celebrated by everyone either.

It's Black Friday, after all. That means you really can get some of the best deals of the year on stuff. And some people need to save all the money they can. They can't afford not to shop on Black Friday. It's a way for them to afford the gifts they want to give to their freinds and family. For some people, Black Friday is a gift of grace in a tough economy. Thankfully some thoughtful people and articulate articles woke us up to this reality. They reminded us that Buy Nothing Day is a luxury that not everyone can afford.
Eugene Cho had a similar expereince and quoted one of the people who woke him up to the grace of Black Friday. An African American friend of his said to him:

"Buy Nothing Day is basically a thing of and for white folks and comfy middle class and rich folks who have had the privilege of consumption their whole life. And now, they can afford to start things like Buy Nothing Day. True, it speaks to the issue of overconsumption, but how much of it is to appease their guilty consciences? I’m also very skeptical and cynical of Christians who’ve jumped on this bandwagon...Stuff like this sickens me because it has completely no idea about the plight of the poor, low-income folks, and some minorities that are just trying to survive."
Powerful stuff. And yes, stuff like this did dampen our self-righteousness when we saw people shopping on Black Friday. While we celebrate the protest of consumerism, we also celebrate any time the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden are given a break in our dog-eat-dog world. These are the exact people Jesus asks us to stand with and stand up for. So perhaps, all the hype and self-righteousness of Buy Nothing Day can be exchanged for the compassion and empathy of the Way of Jesus. Eugene Cho sums it up well:

"Black Friday shopping means different things for different folks. For many of us, it’s a game, a sport, a blog topic, and an event we mark, but for others it’s a matter of necessity. This is why I have reservations about Buy Nothing Day. Perhaps the majority of us should sincerely adopt Buy Nothing Day and let those who truly need the 'doorbusters' be the first in line — for a change."
Didn't Jesus say something about letting the first be last, and the last be first? Perhaps Black Friday is a time this can actually happen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Keeping Christ or Being Christ this Christmas

Robb McCoy over at the Fat Pastor blog, shared this interesting picture:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks to Brian McLaren

Thanks to Brian McLaren for his inspiration and support. His article, "Open Letter To Worship Songwriters," helped to inspire our first album, "On The Way." Plus his books (especially Naked Spirituality and Secret Message of Jesus) have had a big impact on our music. His writing is practical yet deep, which is a delicious theological treat! We also appreciate his shout-outs to our CD on his blog here, here, and here. Cheers to McLaren for being a thoughtful writer, gracious supporter, and nice guy! If you're familiar with him, you probably already like him. If you're not familiar, check out one of his outstanding books. Good stuff!

Michael Kinnamon resigns as leader of NCC

Dr. Michael Kinnamon has announced his resignation as the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. Kinnamon has faithfully and boldly lead the NCC since 2008. However, due to health concerns - and warnings from his cardiologist - he needed to reduce his stress and travel.

Kinnamon has served as a professor and leader at Christian Theological Seminary, Luxington Theological Seminary, and Eden Theological Seminary. He has also served as an Executive Secretary for the World Council of Churches. Plus, he has a long list of speeches, sermons, articles, and books about Christian ecumenism.

Kinnamon also is just a nice guy. He was one of my professors at Eden Theological Seminary. He cared deeply about helping students understand the importance of engaging in mission and respecting the differences of others. Even though he was a national and international leader in the ecumenical movement, he would still make time to meet with students one-on-one. I frequently reflect on the insights, wisdom, and passion that Kinnamon shared with the Eden community.

Plus, Kinnamon is a family man. He has raised two daughters, Anna and Leah, with his wife Katherine.

Prayers of gratitude and prayers for healing go out to Michael Kinnamon and his family.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just for the Fun of It (Jazz)

Sara likes to sing jazz because of the freedom and soul of the music. Every person in a jazz band is given the freedom to improvise and be led by the spirit of the music. But, at the same time, everyone meshes together in a way that honors the boundaries of the original song and the talent of the other musicians. It takes communication, collaboration, and finesse to play in a jazz band. All of which makes it fun to do. So when Sara isn't playing her folk music, she sings with The Sugar Daddys Jazz Band. Here they are playing "Lullaby of Birdland" by George Shearing and George David Weiss: