Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

I'm only in the intro, but two themes stood out to me.

"...a woman's right to define the sacred from a woman's perspective."

"... [A] struggle to wake up, to grow beyond old models of womanhood and old spiritualities that no longer sustain."

I cannot shake the conviction that the vitality and vibrancy of women, our stories of women, and women's authentic voices in the church, arts, politics, etc is deeply essential to my hope and future as a man.

To quote the Dakota Fanning version of Lily Owens, in all of it's 14-year-old drama, "My whole life's been nothing but a hole where my mother should have been." A hole where the strong feminine should have been. The "wholeness women have lost within patriarchy" (Sue Monk Kidd's intro again) was devastating to me as a boy and haunts me as a man.


I really enjoy this story. And I appreciate the kindness in Pen's telling it. The thing is, I'm not sure I entirely agree with Pen. It seems like his logic breaks down. I recall giving the same runaway truck metaphor to a friend when I was a teen, and I remember how much harm it felt like it did to the relationship.

I don't think Jesus gives a spiritual equivalent of tackling someone. There's also the tiny detail where I don't think eternal life is anywhere near the main point. How much would you have to hate someone to have been invited into being fully human, fully yourself, growing and awaking to a kind relationship with your Creator, yourself, and your neighbors, and to not extend that invitation onward?

We can't live in a diverse culture if everyone tackles everyone else in the path of their own subjective trucks. It seems like the deeper challenge is the creativity and spiritual sensitivity to dream of ways that Jesus' invitation could be both good and new for our neighbors. What is it about the Gospel that inherently offers grace and life to Pen as an atheist? I'm pretty sure it's not "concur with my theological positions and abandon your own hard-won integrity." I guess I hear this story, and I find the part where the Bible-guy is enjoying Pen and is present with him as a clear, calm, voice of kindness, and I intuitively sense the Kingdom is on the move. When the proselytizing and Bible enter the picture, it feels cold, dead, lifeless. It feels so hard to offer a packaged religious plan that isn't really just personal colonialism. My worldview is better than your worldview and I'll tackle if I have to.

Peter Rollins talks about being an enticing aroma to the world as being about arousing hunger. He points out that we particularly live in a time when people believe they are full. I wonder about evangelism as hunger-inducing, rather than feeding. I wonder about evangelism as asking, rather than telling. What would it mean to come alongside our neighbors with questions that invite them into re-imagining their understanding of themselves and God, rather than answers.

Friday, December 26, 2008

How (Not) to Speak of God, 13 of 23

"The relationship we have with God cannot be reduced to our understanding of that relationship." p. 20

-Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God

The Shack

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

rating: 2 of 5 stars
The father as Papa, the heavy-set African-American woman, Jesus, the mid-eastern man, and Sarau, the out-of-focus Asian woman as the Holy Spirit gripped me at a visceral level. The names and characters got me in a primal way. Mother God's kindness and gentleness caught me off guard. I was, again, deeply convicted of the heartless, male, distant God that fills so much of my expectations about God. All of my intellectual notions about God's immediacy, tenderness, and enjoyment of me translate so thinly into my actual experience of my world on a day-to-day basis.

But, beyond the personification of God, what actually fills this book left me cold and bored. Endless god-talk by God. An endless series of pithy pop-theology platitudes, eaten up by a jaw-dropped, golly-gee-whiz protagonist. The author is able to assume the voice of God, dropping an incongruous, quilted-together theology composed of listening to a lifetime of clever Evangelical sermons. The reader is relegated to the dumbfounded, uncritical protagonist's passive-viewer seat. 250 pages of the author's theological observations put into God's voice, offered to a dumbfounded, elated protagonist-reader.

At the core of my being, I hope that a weekend with the Trinity wouldn't be theological Q+A. At the core of my being, I don't believe that propositional, theological statements (from "God", or anyone), are an important venue for healing and redemption.

William P. Young obviously had nothing but the best intentions in writing his runaway best-seller. He is a kind and hopeful author. But I have to hope for so much more in a contemporary re-imagining of the Trinity.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Cards

This is from the (now defunct?) web comic Perry Bible Fellowship. Despite the name, and this sample cartoon, I can promise you that it's not workplace appropriate. Or mom-and-dad's computer appropriate. However, the link I included is, 'cause it's a Wikipedia link :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Font Companies send out emails and catalogs to advertise their fonts. Now, I know that to normal people, the prospect of buying a font seems mind boggling. But, for design snobs, keeping up with the latest fonts is like keeping up with the latest fashions. You don't want to be using a font that is so last season.

I'm typographically challenged, but I love getting my FontShop emails. Most of their fonts they highlight are gorgeous, but, more importantly, the way they use their fonts in their ads makes my head hurt. To add sprinkles on top of the frosting, they also choose brilliant, wonderful contextless snippets of poetry, sayings, quotes, and product specs to use in their examples. Some even as terrifying and exhilarating as this snippet (the paragraph in the middle):

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008


All I want for Christmas...

This is a local photographer. Who's 15. She was on the front page of the PI today. Insane. JT says I'm too old to be a prodigy now.

I want to paint like this

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thoughts on Beauty

From Barbara Nicolosi's talk at the Transforming Culture conference this spring, as recorded by Livingpsalm

The Polish philosopher, artist, poet and actor who had another name, Pope John Paul II, spoke about the call of some of us to pursue on behalf of the rest what he called new epiphanies of beauty. Epiphany means revelations of the beautiful. Aristotle’s definition of the elements of the beautiful are wholeness, harmony, and radiance.

Wholeness means nothing’s missing; that all of the parts are present and there is a sense of completeness. No one looks at The Pieta and says, Yeah, you know, she needs just a little more fringe around her veil. Oh, well. They don't listen to Mozart's Ave verum and say, Hmmmm, it needs another G. There's something about these works that suggest completeness. [This reflects the truth that] we are made for the One. We are made to cleave to the One. When we experience completeness we have the sense of being at home. The sense that we can rest.

Aristotle's second element of beauty is harmony. Harmony means that all of the parts relate to each other in complementary, not domination. So every part brings out the best of the other parts. They perfectly complement each other. Harmony brings us a sense of joy because we are called to be in community. We are made by a triune God who lives in community and we were called to community. This is our destiny to be in perfect community. We get a sense of joy when we are reminded that we can dwell together as one without being crushed.

So the beautiful makes you feel rest and it makes you feel joy.

And, finally, the third element of beauty is radiance. Radiance means that something profound and, often, beyond language is communicated. Think about a sunset. When you see a sunset you experience it calling to you personally. When you experience some pieces of artwork, it's like you're standing in front of it and suddenly it's personal -- like you, yourself, are being called personally. And you think about the artist and you want to meet the artist because he or she said something to you personally. Radiance says I know something and I’m sharing it with you. It fulfills in us the desire to learn. We are made to learn, and so radiance gives us a sense of fulfillment in our nature....

So, now, I've told you what the beautiful is -- wholeness, harmony and radiance. I want to state unequivocally what the beautiful is not -- just in case you're not clear.

It’s not cute.
It’s not easy.
It’s not banal.
It’s not silly.
It’s not facile.
It’s not sweet.
It’s not non-threatening. ...

The Church has gotten in trouble in the twentieth century by reaching to other ends for art than the simple goal of seeking new epiphanies of beauty...

One use we demand is political. We've made the purpose of art political. I don't mean left or right, I mean statement-making. The goal in the political is not to share radiance but to manipulate, to coerce, to propegandize and to change behavior.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"There are two kinds of people in the world: people who are artists and people who are supposed to support them. So, figure out which you are and do it with vigor." -Barbara Nicolosi


Friday, October 24, 2008

Karina VS Raisin Female

When we were in middle school, my friends and I thought our other friend Karina looked just like the girl/woman/lady on the raisin box. I still associate the two. For the record, it was deemed a positive association :)

natalie dee

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The God Delusion

Or, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, for Atheists.

I'm several chapter's into Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, one of the handful of Atheist texts coming out to much publicity lately. In Darkins' defense, I was warned it wasn't a great book. I want to be open to critique of my theism, but I'm going to have to find it elsewhere.

Dawkins sets up the books premise by asking that we imagine a world without religion, a world with no 9-11, no crusades, no Taliban. But thus far, it doesn't feel that he's compelled by a moral revulsion to the holy war and patriarchy that seems so deeply embedded in theism (and a message that would get easy sympathy from me). He seems to be more motivated in his writing by the pathetic idiocy of anyone foolish enough to believe. His sneering contempt for religion feels driven by his contempt for stupidity and intillectual weakness, rather than his concern for the well being of the rest of us.

In all sincerity, I can't remember the last time I read a work this objectifying and stereotyping of any group of people. As a religious person, and a religious leader in particular, I feel Dawkin's loathing of me on every page, for my participation in the Taliban's suicide bombings and the Televangelists fleecing of millions. Any hope of being seen for who I am seems lost in this text.

I was struck by how the Washington Post review of God is Not Great (another book, which I have not read), applies seemlessly to Dawkin's work as well:

"Hitchens claims that some of his best friends are believers. If so, he doesn't know much about his best friends. He writes about religious people the way northern racists used to talk about "Negroes" -- with feigned knowing and a sneer. God Is Not Great assumes a childish definition of religion and then criticizes religious people for believing such foolery. But it is Hitchens who is the naïf. To read this oddly innocent book as gospel is to believe that ordinary Catholics are proud of the Inquisition..."

Dawkins' nievite about the role religion plays in the world seems best summed up by an odd editorial oversight in his introduction. While he's inviting us to imagine a world without religion, he invites us to "Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues." He seems sincerely unaware of the broad implications that without religion, there would be no ancient (Buddhist in this case) statues to blow up.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

With or Without You

"The lyric is pure torment. One of the things that was happening at the time was the collision in my own mind between being faithful to your art or being faithful to your lover. What if the two are at odds? Your gift versus domestic responsibility?

I had always been the kind of person who would sleep on everyone else's floor, the eye of the traveling rat, a natural tinker. I would just wander off and be very happy. So now I have this person in my life whom I love more than my life but I'm wondering if the reason I'm not writing is because I'm now a domesticated beast. I'm wondering if I'm house-trained? If I meet somebody and I want to go off with them, to find out what their world is like, I can't because I'm a married man.

It's not even about sexual infidelity. I just remember thinking: 'Is this the life of an artist? Am I going to have kids and settle down and betray my gift or am I going to betray my marriage? It was a very difficult thing in my head. I had met a couple of people on the way who had taken advantage of my naivete, is the best way I can put, and I realized I knew so very little about this world and now, the future looked like I was going to know even less. You can learn about politics, culture, but your emotional life also has to be developed.

I think in some senses mine wasn't, and I was going through all this kind of uncertainty. I was at least two people: the person who is so responsible, protective and loyal and the vagrant and idler in me who just wants to run from responsibility. I thought these tensions were going to destroy me but actually, in truth, it is me. That tension, it turns out, is what makes me as an artist.

Right in the centre of a contradiction, that's the place to be. There I was. Loyal. But in my imagination filled with wanderlust, a heart to know God, a head to know the world, rock star who likes to run amok and sinner who knows he needs to repent...

If I had cut loose, what would have become of me?"

-Bono, U2 on U2

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I can't begin to tell you about the layers of meaning this has for me. At the deepest level, the caustic overtone of comparing Barack to Christ is lost on me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Saving Paradise

"Once Jesus perished, dying was virtually all he seemed able to do."

We were over at Wendy and David's house tonight and he passed me a book from his bookshelf. I was so caught by the dust jacket blurb on the book. It made me feel aware again of this awkward seem I'm on between one way of following Jesus and another. The thesis of this book resonates so strongly with me, but I know if wasn't that long ago that it would have been impossible for me to hear their critique.

Dust Jacket:


When Rita Brock and Rebecca Parker began traveling the Mediterranean world in search of art depicting the dead, crucified Jesus, they discovered something that traditional histories of Christianity and Christian art had underplayed or sought to explain away: it took Jesus Christ a thousand years to die.

During their first millennium, Christians filled their sanctuaries with images of Christ as a living presence in a vibrant world. He appears as a shepherd, a teacher, a healer, an enthroned god; he is an infant, a youth, and a bearded elder. But he is never dead. When he appears with the cross, he stands in front of it, serene, resurrected. The world around him is ablaze with beauty. These are images of paradise—paradise in this world, permeated and blessed by the presence of God.

But once Jesus perished, dying was virtually all he seemed able to do.

Saving Paradise offers a fascinating new lens on the history of Christianity, from its first centuries to the present day, and asks how its early vision of beauty evolved into one of torture. In tracing the changes in society and theology that marked the medieval emergence of images of Christ crucified, Saving Paradise exposes the imperial strategies embedded in theologies of redemptive violence and sheds new light on Christianity's turn to holy war. It reveals how the New World, established through Christian conquest and colonization, is haunted by the loss of a spiritual understanding of paradise here and now.

Brock and Parker reconstruct the idea that salvation is paradise in this world and in this life, and they offer a bold new theology for saving paradise. They ground justice and peace for humanity in love for the earth and open a new future for Christianity through a theology of redemptive beauty.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recycle Me

natalie dee

Maroda or Winner?

Karen Maroda | MHGS | SHOW SOME EMOTION: Completing the cycle of affective communication | Oct 10, 7-9:30pm


Lauryn Winner | Quest Church | Faith and Gender | Oct 10, 7-9pm

What are the odds? What would Jesus do?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

At the Risk of Being a Corporate Tool

My friend Molly argues that the commercials during the Olympics are better than the commercials during the Super Bowl. I'll have to take her word for it, as I think Regan may have been in office the last time I saw more than a snippet of the Super Bowl.

I do have to say that this may be the most romantic commercial I've ever seen.. Which, admittedly, there's not a big pool to draw from.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

How (Not) to Speak of God, 11 of 23

"Revelation is often treated as if it can be deciphered into a dogmatic system rather than embraced as the site where the impenetrable secret of God transforms us."

-Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


"A person who says he doesn't understand art doesn't know himself very well."
-Sophie's World

Art. Subconscious. Theism. 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How (Not) to Speak of God, 10 of 23

"Revelation ought not to be thought of as either that which makes God know or as that which leaves God unknown, but rather as the overpowering light that renders God known as unknown. This is not dissimilar to a baby being held by her mother - the baby does not understand the mother but rather experiences being known by the mother."
-Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God

Friday, August 1, 2008

How (Not) to Speak of God, 9 of 23

"Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those with the emerging conversation are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess... This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather on that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs."
-Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God

Monday, July 28, 2008

Missions Brainstorming

MIPC has a kick-ass missions department, and I've been brainstorming on a logo for them. Their biggest project is probably partnering with schools in poorer nations and providing tuition for students k-grad school.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


This week I was driving to work when I suddenly realized I was behind the largest pickup truck on earth. Now, I know what you're thinking. Redneck, monster truck, lift kit. But no, that wasn't it at all. I finally had to pull into the lane next to it to try and figure it out. I don't think it was actually this truck, but it looked roughly like it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What I do All Day

I've heard (second-hand) a complaint recently that I don't ever actually blog about Zera here. Which is true. And probably not likely to change very soon. However, I would like to keep posting screenshots of the sort of stuff I do at MIPC.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bible Stories, Illustrated

So, here's a little more illustration work. These are for a certain children's home, who has a church youthgroup coming in a few weeks, and the chaplain wanted to put them to work painting the Easter backdrops (some serious foreplanning). Rather than stage a play, this home uses costumes to stage the children in the scenes and photographs them as artifacts of their presence there.

They'll just use my line art to project onto their backdrops, and then I included these colored versions as a color guide. The Last Supper is my favorite, because it puts Jesus and 2 disciples at the head of a real table, so the kids can sit around it.

I also had fun trying to keep Jesus poly-racial.