Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yesterday's Jesus, Today's Poor

Shane Claiborne says:

If you ask most people what Christians believe, they can tell you, "Christians believe that Jesus is God's Son and that Jesus rose from the dead." But if you ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way.

Before you scoff at another young hippie, think about it: Banks and coffee shops in churches. Evangelists more about t-shirts and bumper stickers than the poor. TV hosts ignoring Galatians' call for unity. What percentage of the material-based middle class families that you know would profess to being Christians?

But I don't mean to point fingers here. I'm part of the problem myself, no different than anyone else. Claiborne also says that in a survey he did for his undergraduate thesis in sociology, nearly 80% of Christians said Jesus spent time with the poor (have the other 20% ever picked up a Bible???) but less than 2% acknowledged spending time with the poor themselves. There's a big difference between writing some group a check and giving an individual a hug - and it's been a long time since I saw the inside of a soup kitchen.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

AP: Dartmouth Students a National Model for Haiti Response

I'm really proud of Dartmouth after reading this AP article:

Two days after the Jan. 12 quake, seniors Frances Vernon, Maura Cass and Alexandra Schindler stayed up until 6:30 a.m. developing a campus- and community-wide strategy to raise money for Partners in Health, an organization co-founded by Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim that has operated in Haiti for decades. Given Kim's connections to the group, the trio knew Dartmouth would send a medical team to Haiti and wanted to match that effort with the same intensity.

"We might not be trained medical professionals, we might not have the financial resources to mobilize and be on the ground in Haiti, but we have time and we have brain power," said Vernon.

What emerged from that Thursday night spent making lists and sketching diagrams on huge sheets of paper tacked to the wall was a strategy to bring together students, faculty, staff and community groups. By Jan. 16, they had signed up leaders for eight committees ranging from monetary collection to communications, and by Jan. 17, they were ready to hand out assignments to 300 volunteers who showed up at a kickoff rally...

Mark Arnoldy, a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said he relied heavily on Dartmouth's model in helping create the fundraising campaign he and other student leaders are about to launch. While Dartmouth has an advantage given Kim's background with Partners in Health and the quickness with which he sought to get students involved in the relief effort, Arnoldy said he is confident his school will reach its $100,000 goal...

At Northwestern University, senior Peter Luckow said he's been impressed that Vernon and other Dartmouth students are looking beyond the immediate disaster and thinking critically about long-term issues in Haiti as well. His school has surpassed its more modest fundraising $8,000 goal and is looking to increase its goal soon.

According to the Partners in Health's Web site tally of personal donations, the $133,000 raised by Dartmouth as of Monday afternoon far exceeded the next highest total -- $51,000 raised by FACE AIDS, a Stanford University group.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Help the St. Bernard Project

I got this message on Facebook last week and am just now remembering to pass it along. :(

My name is Lisa Martin and I came across your site looking for a helpful Katrina recovery blog group. I admire how much your blog has grown from such a wonderful cause. I work for the St. Bernard Project and we rebuild the homes of Hurricane Katrina victims in the St. Bernard and Orleans parishes. So far, we have rebuilt 257 homes with more than 18,000 volunteers and with the help of countless donors.

We are in need of a shout out -- the St. Bernard Project is a finalist in Chase Bank's Community Giving contest on Facebook. The winner of the contest wins $1 million. We have beat out nearly 100,000 other nonprofits and are now competing against 99 others to win the grand prize. We are the only nonprofit from the Gulf Coast region, as well as the only rebuilding/Hurricane Katrina recovery organization to make it this far.

It would be tremendously helpful and amazing if (after checking us out) you shared our story with your readers/members in hopes that they will vote for us at The contest is only one week long, starting Jan. 15 and ending Jan. 22. We are really hoping to win this and use the money to put 66 families back in their homes, employ 21 veterans and local underemployed individuals, and extend the hours of our Center for Wellness and Mental Health by 2,000.

We'd be happy to send you a shout out on our Facebook and/or Twitter profiles, telling everyone to visit the post and vote. If you're interested in helping, simply copy this link and tell people we need their help to win!

Additional links that may be of interest:
Twitter account:
St. Bernard Project video:
Facebook page:

All the best,
Lisa Martin
Rebuilding the Lives of Katrina Survivors, Family by Family
The St. Bernard Project provides relief work for Katrina survivors.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Potentially Blasphemous Question

Jesus was 100% divine, but also 100% human. He had completely human biology. That means that He passed gas, and that it was smelly. Good, this helps me identify with Him.

But here's a question: did He ever bear false witness - ie, lie - about it? What I mean is, did He ever stink up the room and then deny it, or even blame someone else (I'm looking at you, Judas)?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Coco's Classy Exit

There's one more chapter to be written in the Conan-Leno saga - where Conan ends up next - but otherwise, this long and sordid story came to an end tonight with Conan O'Brien's last episode as host of "The Tonight Show." And I must say, Conan's farewell speech at the end of tonight's show was one of the classiest, most gracious things I have ever witnessed. He said some very kind things about his 20-year association with NBC, and was far more generous than I think I could have been in a similar position. I mean, talk about loving your enemies. These guys changed everything about his life, giving him only money when he already had that but ripping up emotions and families, and did the same to dozens of his friends, and yet he stays classy. I was expecting f-bombs and middle fingers like we saw from Robin Williams last night, and yet it's almost Biblical, the way Conan passed up on revenge. He kept the focus on the positive, was visibly emotional and on the verge of getting choked up, and gave only good advice to young fans and upbeat things about his own position in life. Here he is, encouraging his younger viewers (people like me) not to get cynical at a time when few have more reason to be cynical than he. If anyone's got a right to be cynical in the entertainment business, it's Conan O'Brien, and yet he's the one saying chin up. What class.

I know some of my more cynical readers - those readers that are still left after my long stint of no real blogging, anyway - will say of course he was positive, he's getting over $30 million. I reject that position. It's a position that says money is the only thing in life that matters and anyone who has money should be happy. BS. Money can't buy happiness, and all that - sappy but true. The fact is, here is a man, a human being, who after 15 years of chasing it, was finally given his dream job. He and dozens of other people, people not a tenth as rich as he, uprooted their families and their lives across an entire continent only to have the rug pulled out from under them. NBC rogered them, and rogered them hard. Jeff Zucker rogered not only them, but their young children, and Jay Leno did too. I don't care how much money you're getting, that's a tough emotional state for the human psyche to be in, and my hat is off to Conan O'Brien for being such a class act through it all.

Since I started watching late night in high school, it's been a toss-up for me between Letterman and Conan, and lately I've been digging CBS' Craig Ferguson, but with that speech I think Coco may have won me over. What a fundamentally decent thing to do; I do believe his farwell will live in the annals of entertainment history. And also, Conan, Will Ferrell, and ZZ Top rocking out to Free Bird? Awesomeness. Pure awesomeness.

I'm looking forward to whatever Conan winds up doing on Fox (one presumes that's what will happen), and am hoping against hope it comes on 30-60 minutes before Letterman so can catch both monologues.

Once the video is embeddable, I'll post it, but for now watch it at Huffington Post and read CNN's transcript here:

"There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want. And what I want to say is this: between my time at "Saturday Night Live," "The Late Night Show," and my brief run here on the "Tonight Show," I have worked with NBC for over 20 years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we're going to go our separate ways, but this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.

"Walking away from the "Tonight Show" is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult," O'Brien continued. "This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian dreams of hosting the "Tonight Show" and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I've had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun.

"Finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the Internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. "

Although O'Brien did not end up winning the late-night battle, he remains optimistic about his future, he said, and hopes his fans do the same.

"All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere," he concluded. "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I like winter... not as much as I like fall, to be sure, but I do like it... that said, the city is 100% over budget on snow removal with no money left for filling potholes, and I could really dig some sun right now...

There's this priest I know, he's on a Mediterranean cruise right now. There's another priest just back from two weeks in Hawaii, and I've got two friends vacationing there now. But me? I'm sitting here in OMAHA wishing like hell it was a hot July day and I was floating down the Moyie River with some good friends and a cooler of beer. Which I'm not sure is quite what Raffi was going for, but hey, those kids have to grow up sometime.

I was gonna go to the gym, but maybe I'll just take a novel and check out a new coffee shop instead.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Future of Country Music?

"Highway 20 Ride," the fourth single from the Zac Brown Band is nothing short of amazing. After years of country music trying too hard to be sentimental or family oriented but just winding up transparent and sappy, this message from a divorced dad to his son manages to really nail the extant emotional side of an American life. Brown's clear vocals and De Martini's soft fiddle do a great job of following up three wonderfully fun (but potentially novelty) songs with a serious ballad. This effort cements the Zac Brown Band is the best new country group or duo since at least Brooks & Dunn, maybe even Alabama. If their follow-up effort is even half as good as their album "The Foundation" and if they can keep the band's line-up together for a few years, then without a doubt they are, along with Brad Paisley and Josh Turner, the future of true country music.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Musical Monday: Rich Mullins

It's a shame he's known for his simple stuff. The music from "The Jesus Record" and "A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band" is some of the most moving music I know.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Just helped with a funeral for a 97yo parishioner. Lay-read, served as pallbearer, and corrected errors in the service. It was a nice service and well-attended, but I was saddened by the fact that the oldest people there were in their early 80s, that she had no living family, and that all the photos of the deceased were from the past 15 years. Nothing about her early live whatsoever. Maybe I do want children after all… and maybe I DON’T want to live past 85… things to think about.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Faith & Climate Change in Omaha

On Saturday, February 27 from 1-5pm, Repower America is sponsoring the event “Sustainable Faith: An Interfaith Forum on Climate Change and Clean Energy” at the College of St. Mary in Omaha. The forum will be held in the college’s Gross Auditorium (Science Building) and will feature speeches from local clergy, a panel discussion on getting involved, small group discussions, and a screening of the documentary “Coal Country.” We will discuss the Scriptural, spiritual, and scientific issues surrounding climate change, look at what Nebraska churches are already doing to address the problem, and learn what more we as persons of faith can do to improve energy efficiency in our churches and energy policy in our nation. The event is free and light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome; please RSVP to and join the event's Facebook page.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Winter in Nebraska

They said it would be a mild winter in Omaha this year. It was fifteen below as I drove to work this morning, we've already had two blizzards and one unforecasted storm, we're going to get 3-7 more inches and 30mph gusts tomorrow, and the high on Friday will be zero. They said it would be a mild winter in Omaha this year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

How am I not myself?

How am I not myself? Because I am you, and I am Jeff Bagwell, and I am the baker down the street, and I am the governor of the state, and they are not me, so thus in being them I am not myself. However, because I am them, than they are me, and by being them, I am myself. So being myself requires not being myself. Not being myself creates being myself. They are simultaneous states, they are different and they are the same and those two concepts cannot be separated from each other lest they be destroyed.

We are all connected. Everything is connected, and that creates harmony, unity, and oneness, all wonderful things - so if the path creates wonderful things, we can focus on the beauty of it and nothing more, right? Wrong. Because when we say EVERYTHING is connected, we do mean EVERYTHING – people, energy, books, museums, music, love, and laughter, yes, but also suffering, pain, grief, war, disease, heartbreak, and tears. That’s all part of the everything, too. But ultimately that connectedness, that blanket of everything, which includes the good and the bad, is good, because as I said it is harmony and it is unity. By starting and ending with oneness and sameness, we come full circle in goodness – but only if we acknowledge and confront the darker elements within.

This isn’t just some philosophical mind game. It is theological. The message of Christ starts and ends with a blissful personal relationship with the loving God, but that doesn’t mean we can focus on the beauty and ignore the pain. To connect our lives to God’s in that beautiful way, and to connect the earthly teachings of Christ with the other-worldly resurrection, we have to acknowledge and confront the crucifixion. I am reminded of a Good Friday sermon I heard last year from the Rev. Dr. J.D. “Guy” Collins in New Hampshire – the crucifixion is hard to understand; there are many theories of exegesis around it. And that’s okay, because Good Friday isn’t about us understanding the crucifixion. It is about Christ understanding us, about His feeling even deeper depths of pain and despair than we go through. That awful pain brings Him closer to us, using darkness to bring together two lights, using suffering to ling a beautiful life with many beautiful relationships.

And there's the heart of it. The beginning and the end, and thus the full circle, is beautiful, but only if we acknowledge and confront the darker elements and pain of existence that are indeed inside the circle. Infinity and eternity are beautiful things, but they are only themselves if nothing is left out, and that includes both the good and the bad, the light and the dark. You cannot leave anything out. You cannot have the beauty of joyous infinity without the un-beautiful things because at that point it is no longer infinity.

“There are no remainders in the mathematics of infinity.”

(So, guess what movie I just saw for the first time?)