What's Next? Back, back to Cali!

In the words of Biggie/LL Cool J, we’re going, going, back, back to Cali!*

*We still don’t call it Cali though. 

After a three year hiatus in the Peach State, we are excited to announce that we will be serving in ministry in the Bay Area.

We have accepted positions to pastor with an intentional living community/residential internship program called The Possibility Project. We will also coordinate compassionate ministry and youth ministry leadership on the Northern California district of the Church of the Nazarene. Our move is prompted by Sophie's graduation from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology with her Masters of Divinity.

Our first visit to the NorCal district ignited a spark that surprised both of us, prompting us to wonder if we could move there. After speaking at NorCal district camps and retreats, our connections with this community deepened. Jared has been working on a collaborative book project with the interns. This past summer, we realized that working with an intentional living community could combine our passions for spiritual formation and mentorship, hospitality, community life, social justice, and creativity. We began some conversations with Jeff Purganan about the needs of the district and the opportunities to serve together. 

Under Jeff’s creative leadership, the Sunnyvale Church of the Nazarene re-organized and launched a new ministry. The Possibility Project is a two year leadership development program designed for Christians who desire to live and work in the Bay Area. Participants share in life together, preach and serve in local churches, and develop their own ministry projects. 

FAQ:

You both have jobs?
Yes! Together! Sophie is hired full time and Jared will work half time, while he continues to create films, write, and speak. 

What is an intentional living community?
Quite simply, a group of people who choose to share life together based on similar values. It looks different for every intentional community. The Possibility Project is a more loosely structured intentional community, a.k.a we’re not sharing our incomes (as some of you have asked), but we will share life together and support each other’s growth through intentional communal rhythms, like regular meals and book studies. 

Will you live with other people?
We will live in our own house, but we will live near the two community houses and Crossroads Church in Palo Alto.

Can I join the community?
Yes! We might have more applicants than beds this year, but part of our role will be facilitating the expansion of the program. It is typically a two year commitment, beginning in August. Check out the website here or email to let us know you’re interested so we can have a conversation. 

When will you start?
Sophie graduates on May 8, and after moving, we'll begin working in mid-June. 

Is this where you're from?
Jared grew up in Lodi, CA which is in Northern California but about two hours from where we will be living. Before moving to Georgia, we both lived in San Diego, CA. We're excited to be in California again, but living in the Bay Area will be a completely new experience for us.

Are you going to miss Atlanta?
Of course! We’ve really enjoyed our three years here. We imagine we’ll be back for some BBQ and biscuits, to visit our friends and maintain our connections with the Atlanta Film Society, where Jared is still serving as a filmmaker-in-residence.

Are you going to be a nun/priest?
Okay, you’re probably not wondering that but Sophie gets that question A LOT when she tells people what she is studying. 
 

Our Weekend with Shane Claiborne

On a Friday night, we sat around the table eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate, and talking with our houseguest...Shane Claiborne. Shane is an author, activist, and founder of The Simple Way, an intentional community in Philadelphia. 

We first came in contact with Shane’s work through his book The Irresistible Revolution. For Sophie, the book brought together her faith commitments alongside her concern for social issues, giving her more clarity on what to study in college and encouraging her to adjust her daily living to reflect these values. For Jared, the book served as a missing piece in what Church was currently offering and painted a picture for what fully dedicated Kingdom-living might look like now. He had the youth staff at San Diego First Church read the book. For the both of us, Shane’s work was both inspirational and challenging, and helped us shape the values of our marriage around simplicity, hospitality, and justice. 

So, why was Shane sitting in our house? Sophie will take it over…

During my first year in seminary, the state of Georgia scheduled an execution date for Kelly Gissendaner. Though I had advocated for the California proposition against the death penalty in 2012, regularly scheduled executions weren’t a regular practice there, so I hadn’t given much thought to the issue. But this execution was different. People in my community knew Kelly. They had served her communion. They had taught her in theology classes. They had written letters with her. They had received ministry from her. Her story was compelling, because I was learning about a prisoner as a real person. Flawed, yes. Guilty, yes. But also forgiven and transformed. Kelly’s story of grace highlighted for me the absurdity and barbarity of the death penalty. 

Despite a groundswell of support, including a petition of over 92,000 signatures, including many of yours as well as a letter from Pope Francis, the state of Georgia executed Kelly in September 2015. She died singing “Amazing Grace.”

Shortly thereafter, I met Shane at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference, where he told a few of us Candler students about his upcoming book focused on the death penalty, called Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us. Shane told us when he did a book tour, he didn’t simply want to come read passages and sell copies. He wanted to highlight the way the death penalty affects real people, and bring alongside family members, ex-felons, and policy makers who deal with this daily. As he said, he chose to advocate against the death penalty, but for other people, the death penalty chooses them. 

Our Candler community had been affected by the death penalty, and situated in Georgia, a state that had the highest number of executions in 2016, we knew it was affecting more communities. Furthermore, because it is our tax dollars and elected officials that enforce this punishment, we realized we were all implicated. As a seminary and students training to go into churches, we were convicted by Shane’s explanation that the death penalty has not existed in spite of Christians, but because of Christians. Situated in the Bible Belt, we wanted to have a discussion about theology, ethics, law, and the personal impact of the death penalty. So we invited Shane to a three city speaking tour called Executing Grace in Georgia: A Faithful Conversation About the Death Penalty.

As we traveled to 3 cities in 30 hours, I saw that this movement is building, and despite the continued operation of this death machine, I have hope. As Shane said in the final event, “Before every movement, they say it’s impossible. After every movement, they say it was inevitable.” Change seems unlikely. Change seems daunting and impossible. Yet we are committed to hope. As Kayla Gissendaner, Kelly’s daughter, said at the panel, “I never gave up hope because my mom deserved every ounce I could give.” If Kayla can maintain hope, so can I. If Kelly can die with Amazing Grace on her lips, we can trust that grace will indeed get the last word. 

(click photos for slideshow)

Sometimes Shane gets dismissed for being too idealistic or too outrageous. But spending a weekend with Shane, doing regular things like driving around Georgia and sharing meals, just revealed to us a person who is all in for Jesus. Shane sees injustice in the world and engages it with his whole self. Hearing about his family and his neighborhood, and the creative ways they are building a world they want to live in, reminded us that what he preaches is possible. More accurately, what Jesus preaches is possible. Shane is, simply, is doing what we’re all called to do as disciples of Christ. Shane is fully committed to loving God with heart, mind, body, soul -  and wallet, neighborhood, and vocation. He’s not special, he is faithful. May we all find more ways to be faithful to our calling. 


The reasons Christians should stand for life and stand against the death penalty are abundant. You can read them in Shane’s book much more eloquently stated than I could recount here, or watch this video series with Shane by our new friend Rex Harsin. And I don’t need to recap the full event - you can watch the keynote and panel discussion at Candler here. To get involved with this movement for grace and life, check out the resources + action steps we recommended at the event.

I Watched 244 Movies in 2016

We are living in a Golden Age for original creative content. But how do we choose what to consume?

This year I made it my goal to watch over 200 feature films (not including short films and television shows). I had hoped this mission would push me beyond my comfortable "go-to" genres and into the strange corners of cinema. Many movies I had seen in previous years still stand the test of time.

Top Old Favorites You Should See:

  • The Game
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Amelie
  • Into the Wild
  • The Truman Show
  • Wall-E
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Dear Zachary
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Adaptation
  • Forrest Gump
  • Inside Man
  • Honorable Mention: Goon, American Ultra
2016 Top Films

I am a big believer in “hype.” The expectations we carry into a film, when/where we see it, how we are feeling that day, and the issues we are dealing with in “real life” all have incredible influence over how a movie resonates. This list isn’t trying to be objective to rate the “best” movies of 2016 for all people. It is a list of my Top 10. Each film includes a “Suggested Pairing.” These are other films that will resonate on similar themes and make for a more well-rounded film viewing experience.*

#10 - Rams 

Gorgeous and slow Icelandic film in which two estranged brothers are forced to interact for the first time in 40 years when their sheep get sick.

(Suggested Pairing: The Lobster, a dystopian critique of singleness and the degradation of social skills.)

#9 - The Barkley Marathons

Microbudget documentary following a quirky old man and the ultramarathon he invented following a prisoner’s escape route.

(Suggested Pairing: Tower, a rotoscoped retelling of the 1966 shooting at the University of Austin. Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal trying to find level after the unexpected death of his wife.)

#8 - The Big Short

Revolutionary to be both so informative and entertaining. Adam McKay establishes himself as a talent across genres.

(Suggested Pairing: The Accountant. I really enjoyed the unique perspective on thriller/drama/action movie through the lens of an autistic man.)

#7 - The Revenant

A beautiful moving picture. The film is a slow burn, but it’s a cinematic triumph. Know you’re in for a very long, very slow, very stunning film.

(Suggested Pairing: Moonlight. Many people will have this film as their top for the year, and for good reason. I think hype was the downfall for this film for me. Going into the theatre I had been told it would be the best film I’d have ever seen. Moonlight deserves every single award it will get this year, and you should see it.)

#6 - Spotlight    

This film had me gasping and cheering for justice out loud in the theater. Amen for films that pursue truth and justice, giving voice to the powerless and persecuted. In this story, the journalists seeking to expose the truth are far more Christ-like than the Church, as it protected itself instead of the children it was wounding. I am grateful for shedding light on this still dark time/topic in the story of the Church.         

(Suggested Pairing: Holy Hell, a terrifying documentary recounting the twenty years spent in a cult as told by a survivor. How do these things still happen? Presents wonderful and timely critique of power and what it means to be complicit in evil by our silence.)

#5 - La La Land

I haven’t had this much fun in the theater for awhile. I had goosebumps and was dancing along in my seat for much of the film. Hollywood is swooning for this love letter to itself, layered with a tasteful nostalgia for jazz while commenting on the challenges of pursuing your dreams.

(Suggested Pairing: Tap dancing out of the theater, and watching old classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Singing in the Rain, & White Christmas. Also, if you haven't seen the writer/director's Whiplash, see that now.)

#4 - Captain Fantastic

Wow. This film hit perfectly on the struggle of growing up inundated with technology and what modernity has brought. How do we rebel against thoughtlessness? What would raising a child be like in this society?

(Suggested Pairing: Spend time reflecting on your upbringing. What are some things from your family of origin you want to emulate in your current life? What are some things you’d like to do differently? What is your current relationship with technology? Where are some places that it might be hindering genuine relationship?)

#3 - Arrival

This could easily be my #1. Amy Adams is a linguist tasked with making contact with a new species visiting Earth. Arrival is stunning, creative, fresh, and well-acted.

(Suggested Pairing: Dr. Strange. I saw these both the same week, and sharing what themes they have in common would ruin the films, but they complemented each other very well.)

#2 - The Hunting Ground

A documentary exposing the epidemic of rape on college campuses. This film should be mandatory viewing for all college students, administrators, teachers, and high school students, church youth groups, and parents of students. This is not an easy film to watch, but it is tastefully done and is terrifyingly relevant.

(Suggested Pairing: I was so devastated from The Hunting Ground that it was interesting what balance my next few days of film watching provided. As someone is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds in the USA, art and storytelling are important to tell their stories as well as to celebrate how beautiful life can be. How do we hold both tragedy and beauty at the same time? It is not “either/or” but “both/and.”  First Monday in May shows the process of the Met Ball fashion fundraiser. The Drop Box tells the story of a community in Korea who collects unwanted babies through a drop box and raises them. Can we hold rape, art, and hope at the same time?)

#1 - The Act of Killing    

Members of the 1960’s Indonesian death squads reenact the murders for which they are heros. The film takes time to develop, but it pays off as you watch the transformation of the main character. By the end of the film I was crying and almost threw up. I can’t remember a film that has moved me so much.

(Suggested Pairing: Take some time to reflect in silence. Maybe go on a hike without your phone? Ask: What are the stories I am telling myself that are untrue? Where have I wounded people and have not yet seen the truth of my actions? What does forgiveness look like? What are some steps I can take to reach reconciliation?)

What were your favorites?


*Please use discernment when viewing all the films listed. You know your own standards for language, drugs, and nudity in art/media. Please research the ratings of each film if you are sensitive to more explicit content.

 

 

 

 

An Election Day Reflection

On the whole, I’m not the most emotional person. But when I walked out of my polling place, I found myself choked up. I didn’t cry because I was thrilled to vote for a particular candidate, nor did I cry out of fear of another candidate. 

I cried because when I looked around, I realized that Jared was the only white male in the room. I cried because I realized that despite the claims that our nation was founded on liberty and justice for all, none of us in that polling place were guaranteed a right to vote in 1776.

Because until 1870 the color of your skin determined whether you were really a man. 

Because until 1920 by my gender I wouldn’t have been considered worthy to make an informed vote.

Because until 1965 most of my neighbors here couldn’t go to the polls without intimidation and attack.

I cried because an out-of-business Men’s Warehouse in a mall became a tiny testimony to equality and civil rights and we still have so much work to do.

Because I am mindful some people can’t vote, like those in my neighboring refugee community or our undocumented brother and sisters or my friends still in the the citizenship process or minorities who are suppressed by voter ID laws or amazing women I’ve met who have spent time in prison. 

I never want to take for granted that I get this chance to participate in the process. My vote for President won’t necessarily make a difference in the outcome, but still, my vote matters. 

Happy Election Day. Make your voice heard.

3 Movies Worth Watching

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

Spotlight  (narrative, lingering in some theaters/VOD) 

I cried, shook, and cheered when watching this film in the theater. As members of the Church, this is an important film to watch as a reminder of what we are when we are at our worst. The establishment became more concerned with preservation of the status quo than it did with seeking truth and justice. The true Church in the film are the journalists who sought to end the violence and sexual abuse against minors. Amen for their efforts to bring an end to suffering. They sought to bring the things that happened in the dark into the light. This is an important movie, and I am glad it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. 

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

The Barkley Marathons  (documentary, streaming on Netflix) 

When was the last time you did something difficult? When was the last time you set out to do something that is impossible? "The Barkley Marathons" has runners trying to complete 5 marathons back-to-back-to-back while running through trails, thorn bushes, over mountains, all without a clear path or map of where they are going. The film is very well edited and paced, and has you nervous right to the very end. It is a beautiful film about dancing to the beat of your own drum and challenging yourself. I loved it. 

Click to watch trailer

Click to watch trailer

The Act of Killing  (documentary, streaming on Netflix) 

I know I am a bit late on this film, as a couple of years ago it won every documentary film award possible, but holy cow. This is an important film about the psychology of our actions, and how we can convince ourselves that what we are doing is normal or right. The documentary follows former mass murderers as the reenact their killings while making a movie about what they did. There are multiple moments captured on film that are just out of this world. The Act of Killing is terrifying and convicting at the same time, as the film asks questions about guilt how we record history. 

 

Worth Mentioning:

  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Big Hero 6
  • Sophie is watching the show Parenthood – and it is pretty great. 

What are you watching? 

 

Jared & Sophie Email List

We have decided to send out an email update every 8 weeks. If you would like to receive those, click the link and answer the 3 questions. Cheers!                

  LINK HERE

I am the Mass Shooter

Thich Naht Hanh's calligraphy.

Thich Naht Hanh's calligraphy.

My Voices of Nonviolence class continues to be poignant and relevant, mainly for the sad reality that violence continues to happen. Today as we discussed Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, we also learned of another mass shooting, the second one today. In my anger and hurt at today’s news, at a time when I feel like I can’t take any more bad news in the world, I began thinking of how to understand the suffering of both sides, and wrote my own version of his famous poem.
 

Hearing Both Sides

I am the child who went to school today. I am the adult with autism who went to a job skills class. I am the office manager who went to work for the day. I am the victim, the dead, the person who won’t come home tonight.

And I am the mass shooter. I am shunned and ignored, belittled and shamed, until my rage emerges. I am unstable and misguided, thinking my actions are necessary, and I don’t yet know the fullness of love.

I am the teacher who is learning emergency drills for how to shelter my students when the tragedy strikes my school. And I am the social worker, who chose a sacrificial career to help adults with disabilities find a better life, never expecting those lives would be threatened in my center of safety and care.

I am the police officer, the SWAT team, who has been trained carefully to manage my weapon, who regretfully must use it to eliminate the threat to my community.

I am the reporter, who can’t find new words to tell a story that’s already been told over 300 times this year. And I am the politician, who voted down gun control laws, trying to accurately represent my district and be faithful to my constituents, many of whom own gun related businesses.

I am the activist, who decries the accessibility of weapons and the power of lobbyists to keep it that way. And I am the NRA, who represents millions of Americans and is trying to defend a way of life protected in the U.S. Constitution.

I am the gun-owner, who is continuing a family legacy of hunting and feels threatened by these political conversations. I am the woman who lives alone, keeping a handgun in the bedside drawer because there have been multiple break-ins, burglaries, and assaults on my street and I can’t sleep at night feeling unprotected. I am the man who utilizes open carry laws, so I can be ready to stop an attack when it happens near me.

I am the citizen, who watches each unfolding story and wonders when it will happen in my community. I am the friend, who waits eagerly for an update and prays she doesn’t recognize the names of the dead. I am the pastor, who must bring a word of peace again, and again, and again, and again.

I am the Muslim man, who gets labeled a terrorist. I am the Black man, who gets labeled a thug. I am the White man, who gets labeled a lone wolf.

I am the parent who received a tragic call today, who has given all my energy toward protecting my child from harm and couldn’t extend that power far enough. And I am the parent, who realized with the news today that the child I tried to raise with love has acted with violence and hatred to take the lives of others.

_____________________________________________________________________

Thich Nhat Hanh challenges each of us to listen to both sides, to understand the suffering of all people. Written in 1986, this quote still carries so much power:

“The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of a citizen of the Soviet Union, we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous - we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don't do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”

We spent the last moments of class meditating on his poem “Please Call Me By My True Names.” (read it here ) and a similar one written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat after September 11.

This practice, personally, was fruitful and challenging...particularly as I realized I still wanted to put my own spin on “the other side” and their perspective. I still want to think I am right. I still want to condemn gun violence and advocate for more gun control. Still, to work toward reconciliation, I must listen, I must pay attention to every side. I can condemn the violence and still be listening. 

Giving Thanks for Transforming Moments

printable from One Artsy Mama

printable from One Artsy Mama

[Every Thanksgiving, my family marks the day with a tradition we call the “Gratitude Tree.” Each person in our extended family brings an ornament to represent what they are grateful for. Whether you are are 4 or 80, you get to hang it on a Christmas tree and share your reflection. This year I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in Atlanta, so as my family hangs my ornament for me, I will share my reflections here.]

Since last Thanksgiving, I have been increasingly grateful for my academic and faith community at Candler School of Theology. My mom gave us a theme this year, and asked us all to reflect on one moment we can’t forget from the last year.

I remember prayers, laments, and praises. I remember actions, vigils, and protests. I remember discussions, lectures, and chapels.

I remember holding hands in prayer after the Ferguson non-indictment. I remember my classmate hugging her nine year old and crying because she was afraid for him to grow up as a black man in this culture. I remember lying on the ground outside our chapel for a “die-in” as students from across Emory’s campus proclaimed Black Lives Matter, lamenting the violence against black and brown bodies.

I remember tears of joy when a snowstorm, and then cloudy drugs, postponed the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. I remember vigils at the Georgia Capitol and calls to the governor to ask for mercy and true justice. I remember tears of grief as our community mourned the state’s decision to kill Kelly, despite her beautiful example of redemption and despite the damage the death penalty causes to all of us. 

I remember students, staff, and faculty signing their name to urge grocery chains to treat the farmworkers who pick our tomatoes with dignity. I remember so much joy and celebration when we learned all of our friends could marry the person they loved. I remember professors giving us space in class to lament and process recent terror attacks and discuss a Christian response of love. I remember each time the news portrayed attitudes of fear, hatred, xenophobia, and hostility, my Facebook page was filled with the voices of my community, calling for peace, non-violence, love, and hospitality in the name of Christ.

This community has been a safe place to learn and process. This community has lifted up diverse voices. This community has challenged my comfort. This community has encouraged me to speak up.

I don’t always know how to speak when our public discourse is so filled with division. The media favors the extremes and we too often feed into that polarizing rhetoric. Too often I remain silent to avoid this.

Yet my silence is a sign of my privilege, because no matter if I speak or not my life stays safe and comfortable. While I am quiet, others are suffering. And I realize I am being transformed by God through this community and this unique academic experience. I’m being shaped to go into the world and proclaim the gospel. So I must speak up to share what I'm learning.

I’m learning from my classmates - different denominations, races, and identities. I’m learning from my church - mostly white folks who are loving their refugee neighbors. I’m learning from my professors - people committed to the church and its ongoing vitality.

So I’m grateful for all the moments that have transformed me this year - the moments that have challenged me, inspired me, and encouraged me and are shaping me to go into the world and proclaim the gospel.

I’m grateful to be surrounded by a community that reveals God to me.

...The God of love, peace, mercy, and justice. The God who calls us to love our neighbor and our enemy. The God who made each of us in God’s divine image. The God who is always on the side of the hurting and the vulnerable. The God who desires flourishing and abundant life for all people.

...The God who dwelt among us as in the person Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Jesus, who taught us not the way of vengeance or violence, but of turning the other cheek and giving up your life for others. Jesus, who ate meals with the marginalized and had no place to lay his head. Jesus, who was born during a genocide, fled as a refugee, and was executed as a criminal by the government. Jesus, who rose again to give hope and new life.

...The God who remains present among us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in all of us, who prays for us when we lack works, who comforts in suffering, and who is making all things new.

Mother and Father God, Savior Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer...I pray that You will continue to transform me every day, so I might serve you and live according to your will.

- Sophie Callahan