Monday, January 25, 2010

The Saints - Living in a Larger Story

For the majority of people in the world a job is just a job, just something to pay the bills, a necessary evil that gets in the way of life or for some the only reason for living. However, there are rare occasions when we come across people who live in a larger story where employment is not simply a means to an end but part of a larger vocation. These people see something sacred in their work and live in such a way as if something larger is at stake than mere survival or even the rewards of success. They work, not with their own selfish desires at the center of their motivation, but in a way that considers others, that lifts others as they succeed. While it is rare to meet folks who live in a larger story or to even glimpse them from afar, when we do, we will walk away different and inspired to live differently. These are people who are freed from the tyranny of riches and fame and who live passionately from the heart. These rare individuals arise in all kinds of different fields from business to religion to politics to rock n roll but wherever they appear, they are as a cold splash of water that awakens us to live for something bigger. One such group of individuals who exemplify this rare trait to me right now is the New Orleans Saints.

If you were not living in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina wrought devastation to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast it is hard to imagine just how desperate things were. Those were very dark days. In just a matter of days the world that I was living in completely changed. I remember driving in with a relief convoy a week after the hurricane seeing helicopters flying over a darkened city sky, national guard troops holding machine guns, city streets that had just days before been filled with traffic and people that were suddenly replaced with an eerie stillness. It was the same city but it felt completely foreign—like the war torn third-world nations I had visited in years before. The emotions were a mix of shock, fear, and sadness. Would things ever be the same again? Could anything good ever come out of such amazing destruction?

Truth is things haven’t ever been the same again and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have seen this area come alive as only those who have come back from the brink of destruction can—the food tastes better, the music sweeter, the relationships stronger and richer. There is a newer, clearer perspective that has come from this watery trial. Sure many of the same old problems with government and infrastructure are still here but it is a new day.

Nothing has come to symbolize this new day for New Orleans like the New Orleans Saints. As countless others, I cannot help but getting emotional thinking about the game last night. There in that Superdome which had become the symbol of everything wrong in the aftermath of Katrina, in that place of human suffering and tragic loss, there in that place where the government failed, where we saw the worst of human suffering, there in that same place last night we saw a picture of redemption and restoration as they Saints finished strong.

Sure everybody loves their hometown football team so what makes this any different? I suppose you could make the case that I am just trying to spiritualize my love of the Saints but I feel that this is different and that there is something bigger going on here than a mere football game. I am not the only one who feels this way. When you listen to the players talking they talk as if what is going on here is bigger than football. The truth is that there is something different about this team under the leadership of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. They play as though they are fighting for the city. And when they are off the field they live as though they are fighting for the city. While winning is no doubt important, the drive to win isn’t fueled simply by the need for success or greed or ego so common in professional sports. Brees and company are truly living in a larger story, a story about seeing this banged up and beaten down city restored.

In two weeks the Saints will face the Colts in the Superbowl, going far beyond any other Saints team in franchise history. That is no doubt amazing in and of itself. But whether they win or lose this final game, they have certainly won a bigger battle by lifting the hearts and minds of the people in the New Orleans area who are making their way down the path of restoration. They have inspired us to live and work in a larger story. God bless you boys!

-Crispin Schroeder

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gardening Video Blog Pt.1 - Research

2 weeks ago I challenged the folks at Northshore Vineyard to take a different approach to new year's resolutions. The idea is to take more of a narrative approach to the things we want to see changed in our lives instead of simply trying to throw our lives into random good things without some sense of context. The challenge was to imagine a climactic scene or great high point for the coming year and then to begin working the story towards that place (much thanks to Donald Miller!)

As I have pondered these things myself I have landed on a compelling scene for the year ahead. It goes something like this...

I come home from work on a Friday. We are going to have some friends over for dinner. I ask Dina if she has picked up any of the ingredients for my homemade salsa from the store. She says, "No dear." So I then walk into the back yard and pick some jalapenos, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro out of my garden. I then bring the ingredients inside and combine with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Later that evening our friends show up and we enjoy a great meal with fresh salsa from ingredients in my garden.

This may sound like a silly high point for the year to come but I have never grown a garden in my life. So in the coming months I will embark on the journey into the world of gardening. We will document this journey with video blogs from time to time. We shot this video which documents our research into how to get started.

Friday, January 08, 2010

To Be More Apathetic in 2010

My name is Crispin, and I am a recovering newsaholic. This may sound like an odd addiction to fess up to but it is true and every bit as much of an addiction as one can have to any substance out there.

It all started out innocently enough. I would watch a little of the Today show before going to work in the morning or occasionally catch the local news in the evening. No big deal. I was more of a social news watcher, staying up on events just enough to be able to add my two cents to a conversation. As news went I was a complete lightweight in the beginning, not able to hold my news very well. But even in those early days I liked the feeling of watching the news. It gave me a sense of empowerment to know what was going on the world – a sense of control. However as the world has changed so has my addiction to news.

The one event that probably kicked my addiction into high gear more than anything was the September 11 attacks. As millions of other Americans, I found myself glued to the television day and night wanting to know where the next terrorist threat was going to come from. However, long after the attacks, an insatiable desire to stay informed remained. “Insatiable” really isn’t too strong of a word because this need for news really could not be satisfied. And it only got worse when Katrina happened. 9/11, scary as it was, happened pretty far away from Louisiana. It was a national disaster but it still seemed a little far removed. But when Katrina rolled through it was a different story all together and it fueled my need for news like no other event in my life.

I remember waking up early to watch the news in the morning and then listening to the news on the radio all day only to catch a few more hours of news in the evening before going to bed. The addiction was spilling into every facet of my life as addictions do. When I wasn’t watching the news I was thinking about the news I had watched or when I would be able to watch news again. And just as with the 9/11 attacks my increasingly out of control addiction to news lingered long after the rebuilding of New Orleans was well under way.

Newspapers never did it for me. I preferred much more concentrated and refined forms of news which lead me to try internet news sites, blogs, and even podcasts in addition to my daily regiment of cable news channels and radio talks shows. This only strengthened the hold of my addiction because now I could get it anywhere, anytime, and for free.

But last Spring something happened. We downgraded our cable. No more CNN. No more Fox News. No more MSNBC. For the first time in years I was cut off from my news pushers. The first few months were the hardest – the early stages of withdrawal. I found difficult to go to sleep without watching a little Anderson Cooper and how much anxiety I had when I couldn’t wake up with Fox and Friends. I was forced to go back to regular old local news which, by this time, just didn’t pack the same punch. But a strange thing began happening… I noticed that I was feeling less depressed more often, less anxious, a little more settled even. It was kind of like coming out of a fog… a news fog. As I walked away from my news pushers I found that there were actually others who were in recovery from news addiction as well and that I was not alone. By last Summer my recovery was well under way. There were days when I hardly watched the news at all, when I just checked the internet occasionally for the headlines and instead of listening to endless radio talk shows discussing news I began to listen to music again, and audio books, and non-news related podcasts. It’s as if I was beginning to experience new life that was there in front of me the whole time which I was just too distracted to see.

I confess all of this because I find myself again in a rough spot. After our recent move to the Northshore we had our cable installed and unfortunately the most basic package cable company offered included 3 cable news channels. I have been doing good so far. I don’t want to go back to the out of control life I was once living but it’s so hard when you have 24 hour access in your own home.

I have found that there is an upside to apathy, that you can know too much for your own good, that simply watching a lot of news doesn’t make you any more caring, more empowered, or even equipped to change things. So this year I want to be a little more apathetic, to not care so much about all of the things in the world that I can’t change but to be present to the things that I can change and make better. The truth is that at the end of the day I’ll still be informed. I’ll get the news without even trying to because now news is basically everywhere you look - they even show news stories on the Weather Channel (the last refuge for folks trying to escape the onslaught of cable news). So here’s to being a little more apathetic (in a good way) in 2010. Anyone want to join me on my journey into apathy?

Friday, January 01, 2010

So… What do you do for a living?

“So… what do you do for a living?” This question used to not bother me much when I played music as my main job because pretty much everyone likes music. So as careers go being a musician is a pretty non-confrontational kind of answer and usually gets a conversation going in a good direction. But now I’m a pastor and the reaction is a little different when I mention what I do for a living. Truth be told, most of the time I actually hate answering the question because all of the sudden the person who asked starts acting noticeably different like apologizing for having just said a curse word moments before or for smoking a cigarette in front of me or feeling like I need an explanation for why this person hasn’t been to church in a long time. Other times when I answer this question I will get a very antagonistic response as if I have suddenly become the enemy in our brief conversation because the person does not have a very fond view of the church or religion.

So I have tossed around ways of answering this question so as to disguise the fact that I am a professional Christian or at least framing it in a more hospitable light. One pastor I met has business cards that say community organizer. I liked that one but I am afraid that folks would then feel I was being less than sincere if they found out that what I meant by community organizer was simply – pastor. I’ve thought about the term spiritual guide but it sounds a bit too new age (which would work well if I wore my snuggie around more. One lady referred to me as “The Dancing Preacher” after one message I gave several months ago where I came out dancing to “If I was a rich girl” (you had to be there to understand… really… it seemed cool at the time… really) and I thought that might make an interesting business card (it might pose all kinds of other problems though).

Well once again this question came up last night at a party one of our neighbors was having. After a brief internal cringe I answered the question with “I'm a pastor” and a discussion about Baptists and Catholics and singles groups and alcohol and bingo ensued. Actually the conversation wasn’t all that bad and no one was antagonistic or defensive. I guess sometimes I would like to be normal or at least be able to have a normal answer as to what I do for a living but I guess that’s like Hollywood actors complaining about how everybody is always watching them and how it is hard to have a private life (Would you like some cheese with that whine?). Maybe this is simply the struggle that all people of faith have about going public with who they are, what they do, or what they believe. Any thoughts? I would love some insight on creative ways to answer this question or how you’ve struggled in answering similar questions yourself.