30 May 2010

Day IIII: the colorful city

I spent the morning of the fourth day at the odgen museum of southern art. From the get-go I realized two things: the difference use of color in southern art and that the narratives of the pieces were the narratives of poor people. I was introduced to artists I had never heard of and subjects I had not thought of before. I realized how word-centered my sermons and thinking had become. What pictures have I created? When I looked at the vibrant kids art I realized how little I develop a sermon with the energy of kids in mind.

After three hours I hopped back into the semi-mature German engineered sedan and headed up the avenue to the Loyola University Library to begin processing all of the artifacts, notes, and ideas I had accumulated.

27 May 2010

Outdoor Baptisms

The other day on facebook a reporter asked if anyone had any stories about outdoor baptisms. Boy did I, so I wrote the reporter a few of them and viola they ended up in an article!

Go here for the article.

26 May 2010

Day III: The Joy of Being a Liturgical Free Agent

I optioned to spend day iii of my bespoke continuing education program at the library of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. B/C the church I serve had a historic relationship with the seminary I receive borrowing privileges at this institution (I do not, however receive a card - instead I tell them my name and they allow me to check out 5 books at a time).

I took my file folder box, sermon idea box, and my brief case into the reading room, found a big table, and spread my stuff out. It is a good place to study (nothing will ever take the place of the reading room at CRCDS). It was quiet for the most part, except when a dude came in to talk to the dude in some office. I heard fantastic (not really) tales of what is really going on with the BP spill. Other times folk would walk by, see my big pile of stuff, and make quizical remarks like "that guy has a lot of work to do" or "man look at that" and other well thought out responses. But the afternoon got kicking when a mob of golf shirts and khaki panted men along with short shorted cowgirl boot wearing females swarmed into the reading room sometime after lunch. They came in, commandeered most of the tables, took volumes of reference books and started, get this...researching. I tried like the dickens to figure out what they were up to but was unable. Although i may be nosy, i'm more of the disinterested nosy type.

Every time I go to the library I am more impressed with the collection and the friendliness of the staff.

My biggest surprise, however, came at the flow of ideas that emerged from dedicated and undistracted time. Ideas were gushing out so fast it was all I could do to write them down fast enough. I had mapped out on Monday my sermon ideas for the Fall, but it became apparent by 10:00am on Wednesday that my initial idea would not do. (How many times have I preached a first draft sermon or wasted time researching a first draft idea?) Instead of following the lectionary in the Fall I elected to develop a series of sermons based on the parables in Luke. This is where being a Baptist comes in handy; no one can send in a unit of liturgical cops over to rough me up and make me follow the lectionary. I am liturgical free agent and can move around, or not all, in the lectionary as I please.

With my texts and Sundays in hand I set about locating appropriate parable resources. But something happened by the time I got back to the table with my stack of books. Was the parables i chose and the order I chose them the best possible idea? I allowed my thoughts to percolate some more before arriving at an unsatisfactory answer. So I went back to work on the texts. Came up with a better order (third draft).

25 May 2010

Day II: Artifact Collecting

The day started with some beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, no line - only about 2/3rds full. As the powered sugar collected on my shirt and shorts I listened to a Latin guitarists play Johnny Cash and my mind went began filling with ideas. Next I moseyed down to the National Historical Park New Orleans Jazz site. I hoped it would be an interactive museum; nope. It was a room with some brochures and a stage. Oh well. So I went to the US Mint (on the way got hit up four times for spare change - to my knowledge the irony police did not issue any citations).

After that a stroll up Chartes Street to the other parts of the Louisiana State Museum and the St. Louis Cathedral. Lots of metaphorical artifacts gathered here: dates, visuals, historical happenings, and books I need to read (like Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution by Eric Foner).

With that my museum time ended. I reviewed my thoughts at the Napoleon house at the bar with a Pimm's Cup and that was that.

Day III: Chalmette Battlefield & National Cemetery , some library time, and recollections.

24 May 2010

Bespoke Continuing Education

It seems after every Continuing Education event i have attended I always leave with the selfsame feeling: why did I sign up for this? I always end up looking at the bill for travel, food, and lodging only to imagine a week on the beach or in the mountains, or at home drinking coffee and going to museums in the afternoon. Then I always feel guilty leaving my family behind. Rather than do this again I decided on a week of sermon preparation, a full week of exegesis. But not the normal kind, my best ideas come from interaction with culture, both high and low.

This year I decided to tailor my own continuing education week. It began this morning on the dining table. I parked my bible, the official RCL book, my calendar, LSU football schedule, the Saints schedule, and my own eclectic assortment of dates. I then started plowing through to assemble my sermons for the remainder of the Summer, Fall, and into Advent. The idea is not to write sermons but to write down my ideas so I have adequate time for study, reading, and further investigation as I am trundle along. Day one completed and I feel good.

The rest of the week: museums, battlefields, cultural venues, sights and sounds of New Orleans. I will have my camera and my notebook scouring for ideas, pictures, metaphors and inspirations. I will also spend a day or two going through my box. That's right my box. I am notorious, in Lori's eyes at least, for cutting out newspaper articles, ripping out paragraphs from magazines, and scribbling down lyrics to songs on scraps of paper. In order to save my marriage I dedicated a special box for all of these collections. The box is quite full and need of having a look-see. Now that I have my major ideas down for sermons I can start matching stuff from the box with future sermons.

I doubt anyone will issue me a certificate for this, but come this Fall I will thank myself over and over for doing this when I did. I dont even want to confess how many sermons have been delivered knowing more could have gone into them, or wishing i had thought to read blank title or listened to such and such recording, or looked at this or that painting...

02 May 2010

Spoiled Rotten: The Musical Overhaul of New Orleans Music

Due to a great friend, Dan, the VOR and I were able to obtain tickets to the 41st Annual New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival. The morning began a little nutty: I first had to pick-up my tickets/credentials for Mayor Landrieu's interfaith service, swearing-in, and gala; next I went to a little league mandatory safety clinic. While at the clinic I asked some other coaches to give me a primer for the fest. Roger and Skip provided me with excellent advice, especially when they suggested that we ride our bikes.

After the morning rounds I arrived back at the rental chateau and prepared for the afternoon. We mounted our street cruisers and pedaled our way up to the Fairgrounds. Once there we were thrilled to find not only a designated bicycle parking area but also the nicest lady who guarded our bikes the entire time (lucky thing because in my rush to get into the event I simply wrapped the lock around the VOR's bike and not mine). We moseyed into the event, got the lay of the land and headed over to watch The Rebirth Brass Band.

We were up close and got a great feel for the music. How the dude in the gray suit did not pass out from heat exhaustion I'll never know. While we were taking in the sounds a peculiar and familiar smell wafted over in our direction. The VOR looked at me and I confirmed yeah it was what she thought it was. For the record I never did touch, inhale, or taste the brownies with the "stuff" in them. But my next door neighbor (if you can call two houses out of five on the one mile of dirt road where I grew up "next door") was surely into "the stuff." Anytime he walked by there was a cloud of the stuff around him, he also grew it over the hill and sometimes would burn it, thus creating a huge inhale party for all of his buddies. I suppose his weird behavior turned me away from ever trying the stuff. Sad to say he committed suicide a few years back.

We then decided it was time to get something to eat. Me, the quail and andouille gumbo; her, the chicken and tasso over creole rice. Both were amazing!

Next it was off to see Allen Toussaint. Now here is it where it starts to get interesting (from a musical standpoint). A.T. was fantastic. He was in the WWOZ Jazz Tent which had a small pipe across which secreted a find mist of water to cool off the crowd. The mist created an auroa around the music which made it mystical. But we left his set early so we could make it back to the Acura stage so we could see Pearl Jam. I've always wanted to see them but I'm not a big concert kind of dude. After three songs I was a little ticked off which caused me to bluntly ask, I left A.T. to see this? I waited too long to see PJ, they peaked in the late 90s! Eddie Vedder's comments could have been said by Rod Stewart, they were predictable, plain, and stale. Yet, just a few yards away a career musician was playing his heart out and playing fresh music.

This post is a warning - watch out the music here can spoil you!

A good friend and classmate from divinity school was also in the crowd but we could not reach each other, but we did meet up in church this morning. During my first year at CRDS, Lawrence gave me my first introduction to Jazz, specifically with A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. It was interesting to have Lawrence in the congregation this morning for I really feel if he had not gave me that introduction I don't know if I would have ever been turned onto jazz or, thusly, onto New Orleans for that matter.