Monday, January 12, 2009

Asking YOU to Out-Give Flip Video

Ever since local designer and young adults pastor Adam Walker-Cleaveland managed to get a free Flip Mino HD for review on his blog, I was filled with an unusual optimism that I could do the same.

Review of Flip minoHD from Adam Walker Cleaveland on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, I was dead wrong: it took less than 24 hours for the request to come back, eviscerated. Here's their response, in its entirety:

Thanks for your interest in Flip Video. We get dozens of requests each day from media outlets, organizations and other users for review units and unfortunately do not have the resources to fulfill your request at this time.

Warm regards,

[Name Withheld]

So now I turn to the public, the Hoi Poloi, and ask you: can you out-give Flip Video? I've added the model we're looking to acquire to my wish list on the sidebar -- and to the person or group that finds it in their hearts to be so generous, I will offer with gratitude your choice of:

- free advertising (contingent on our willingness to be associated with the brand/product/group, of course) on every produced video for the year 2009

- a personalized Haiku

- any combination of the above items

So who's up for some philanthropy? I anxiously await your reply.

considering the ecology and economy of God

Reading in Genesis 22 today about Abraham's symbolic sacrifice of his only son Isaac, I was struck as if reading for the first time his words to his son. Isaac had asked his father a practical question regarding the sacrifice they were about to offer: where's the sacrificial ram?

In his teaching, Jesus spent a lot of time telling stories about the local economy and the local ecology, as a way of describing the character and nature of our Creator and what he intends to create through us. It is fundamentally different than the systems of this world.

In the economy of the world around us, our felt needs and desire for security necessitate acquisition, even at the cost of others' needs and security. It's what drives the free market and the black market, it's what transforms the Middle East into a war zone, it's what keeps East Oakland's flatlands seemingly locked up in crime and poverty.

In the ecology of the world around us, scarity drives up costs and directly influences our peace.

Abraham realized that on this trek, Yahweh had requested he sacrifice his only son -- a direct affront on his sense of personal security and long-term needs. Here are Abraham's words to Isaac:

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

Perhaps our soteriology (how salvation works) can obscure the nature of its' very soul: a God who loves, and calls his subjects to love as he does. When Abraham obeyed Yahweh, he was placing his and his son's life completely in the hands of God. Too often, I fear, we simply gloss over the passage and claim it as a foreshadowing, pointing to the eventual sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. I agree wholeheartedly, however, that reality shouldn't lessen the weight of what God is calling Abraham, and by extension you and I, to embrace: the relationship between love and sacrifice. Abraham was esteemed by God -- not because he had a correct theology -- but because he didn't withhold what was most precious to him. This released the provision of God. Do we see it? Do we see what possesses us and keeps us from a trust relationship with God?

I was driving to work this morning and praying, "Lord, teach me the posture of true leadership." I am convinced that Jesus modeled true leadership by taking the servant's towel and washing his disciples' feet. Power that flows from the ecology of God doesn't hold on selfishly to position, rank or wealth; instead, it becomes a conduit of that blessing by investing it into others.

Interestingly enough, when I landed at work this video from Michelle Obama was waiting in my e-mail inbox.

It bodes well for our future First Family that they place a very high priority on the nature of true leadership -- and my prayer is that the leadership they exhibit domestically and project across the span of the globe is reflective of the ecology and economy of God.

In Review: Simple Spirituality by Christopher L. Huertz

"Mine is the story of a blind man receiving sight."
This is how the author and International Director of Word Made Flesh Christopher Huertz begins this slim but moving series of vignettes about learning to embrace certain core values during his experiences living and working among the poor in Calcutta, India.  He relates these core values to the five smooth stones David used to slay in the biblical narrative of his battle with Goliath: the way of Humility, Community, Simplicity, Submission and Brokenness.  

A rule of life to be shaped more than a set of values to be upheld, Huertz provides gripping, real-life stories and draws on those experiences to embolden the words of Scripture in ways the developed world has largely forgotten.  This book is different from other treatments of the Spiritual Disciplines that I've read in the past.  Far from an academic autopsy or a high-minded idealism, Huertz describes a simple spirituality based in following Jesus.  

Taking the smooth stone of Humility in our hands with the author, we are reminded that the poor have much to teach the wealthy, and that, to paraphrase Mother Theresa, we may actually need them more than they need us, and that our humble acceptance of God's graciousness actually frees us from guilt and into a position to be instrumental for his purposes.

The smooth stone of Community challenges us to identify with people unlike us by calling into question our relationship with possessions.  In an empire of acquisition, "I am what I have" blinds us to the realities of our interconnectedness with the world's poor.   We must keep up our end of the bargain as people who have been blessed with tremendous resource.

Simplicity points out how "stuff" blocks our clear vision of the world as it is, and how the prophetic presence of the poor -- our willingness to create access and exposure of our lives to others of lesser means -- holds us accountable to God for our duplicity and greed.

The smooth stone of Submission is surprisingly light and points out ways the idea has been abused and deformed from a liberating blessing for all, into an oppressive yoke, particularly for women.  

Finally, Brokenness is the smooth stone that reminds us of the significance of the Eucharist and points to a pathway of responsiveness to the brokenness of our world, allowing our very lives to be radically influenced by the suffering of others -- and by doing so, liberates us from the smallness of our protected and distracted existence.

This was an important book for me to read: during a time of civil unrest at home with the Oakland riots over the New Years' BART shooting, in the midst of aggression in Gaza and in hot spots around the world, it is far too easy a shortcut for people like me to think that having a comfortable armchair conversation about these terrible realities is the same as doing something about them.  Huertz leaves no luxury in this brief but powerful volume -- what he is proposing is nothing short of a lifestyle transformation by way of loving and serving the poor and marginalized.

Upon reflection, and if I were to classify Simple Spirituality, I'd suggest it is a hybrid between a book on spiritual disciplines and a reflection on the socio-economics of the kingdom, or ecosystem of God.  More than a book on spiritual disciplines, it's an invitation to communal disciplines: if Huertz is successful at anything with this book, its' the gaping hole he puts in the tendency for Christians to have a merely devotional relationship with God and an ideological relationship with the world outside our comfort zones.  We are in communion with the world's poor, abused, neglected, and forgotten; and we are separated from them only by a thin veil of consumerism and cynical indifference.  Loving and serving in the Name of Jesus lifts that veil and reveals God's image and beauty in others.  Christopher Huertz illustrates this beautifully in his book, and I recommend it to anyone who is, in the words of Shane Claiborne in his endorsement, "ready to see."