Friday, September 28, 2007

Aslan Tattoo

"Who is Aslan?" asked Susan.
"Aslan?" said Mr Beaver. "Why, don't you know? He's the King. He's the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father's time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment...

I'll admit it, I've been putting off writing this post. Not because I'm ashamed (I'm not) but because I don't know what my parents will think. Some of you might pointedly ask me how old I am. (I'm 30) Some of you may even make jokes about a full grown adult still being afraid of his parents. But that's not it, not exactly. The thing is, I respect my parents and I care deeply about what my parents think, and this is one of the few places where I am forced to say that my thought probably differs from both my mother and my father. But honestly, they both brought me up to be a critical thinker and I know they still love and respect me even when I end up in a different place than they are.

Over a year ago, I wrote a post about how I was considering getting a tattoo of Aslan on my left shoulder. I'd been considering a tattoo for many years, since my early days of college, but I clearly remember my brother an I talking about tattoos in front of my mother. Mom's reaction to the idea was not favorable. I'm very close to my Mom, and her opinion matters.

However, after much soul searching, praying, and consideration, I decided to go through with it. My opinion concerning other people's tattoos has for a long time been that they should be absolutely sure that the image they choose is something they are willing to have on their body forever. I think something that's going to be perminant should have a great deal of meaning to you. And I think the placement of the tattoo be someplace appropriate to your profession. (For example, a lawyer probably shouldn't get a tattoo on their face. Circus performers can, if they really want to.)

I was inspired by the artwork on the cover of my copy of the collected Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. As most of you know, Lewis' classic work has deeply influenced me over the years. The titular Lion, Aslan, is a vibrant characterization of the Christ as He would appear if there were a world of talking animals such as is found in Beatrix Potter or Kenneth Grahame. Just like Potter and Grahame, Aslan is a part of my childhood. Aslan is a part of my first thundering epiphany ("You know those books are about the Gospel, right?"). Aslan represents my first struggles with anything resembling an organized theology. Aslan is tied up in one of my first projects in my first full time position as an ordained minister, and one that was very successful. Aslan is a concrete example of how popular culture and faith do not have to be separate, which has always been a mainstay of my personal theology.

Once I'd made my decision, I asked one of my parishioners where she got her tattoo done, and she referred me to the good folks at Sleepy Hallow Tattoo. I e-mailed them, explaining who I was and what I wanted done and included the picture you see at the top of this post. I was excited by the response, which showed me that they not only understood what I was looking for, but also that they knew who Aslan was in all his complexity! So I made the fateful appointment...

When my wife dropped me off the day I got it done, I found a framed page from a tattoo magazine on their wall that put into words something that I hadn't been able to yet. It was a quote from a famous tattoo artist called Spider Webb.
“Tattooing when understood in its entirety must be seen as a religious act. The human being brings forth images from the center of the self and communicates them to the world. Fantasy is embodied in reality and the person is made whole.”

Here, in plain English, was what I was feeling about the process as I was in the midst of it! I found the fact that the folk at Sleepy Hallow had it up on their wall very encouraging.

I was further encouraged by the drawing Brandon had done for the design of my tattoo.

I had the whole thing done in a single sitting, but it did go on for hours. Luckily they had a little DVD player for me to watch. I brought in the multidisk set of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, of course. I got all the way through the movie and most of the way through a full length film of Lewis' life before we were done. Yes, it did hurt, but it wasn't unbearable. Some parts of my shoulder hurt more than others. Afterwords it felt very much like a bad sunburn.

But it looked like this!

I was sent home in a gauze bandage that carefully came off in the shower the next morning. I washed the tattoo and put on anti-bacterial ointment three to five times a day, and after a few days (I forgot to count, sorry!) the top layer or two of skin peeled, again, like a sunburn.

Click the picture to make it big enough to see how it looked like the tattoo was coming off! And it was really hard not to pick at it!

Eventually it stopped hurting and stopped pealing, just like a sunburn. Can you tell that I've been sunburned enough to know? Anyway, it's all healed up just fine now, and I think it looks pretty good!

So, Aslan stays perfectly hidden away, even under a short-sleaved shirt. He's not a secret, but he's not out where people could potentially be offended by him. And he's beautiful. And I'm happy to have him. And even though he's not what my parents would have wished for me, I hope that they can be happy for me, too.

Honor thy Father and Mother,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Aslan is Coming

"They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Brother!

Hey! It's my brother's birthday! It turns out that he's still younger than me. And since he wrapped my iPod until the package was about a foot cubed, I made him work for his present this year. A blast from our past resurfaced. Pirate Pete! Pirate Pete used to hide the goodie bags for our birthday guests and leave behind a trail of clues to follow to their location. A wonderful treasure hunt! I'm sure my parents held their breath the whole time, as kids pounded hither and yon... Anyway, Pirate Pete made off with my brother's present, and he had to follow the clues to get it!

I don't think he had to work any harder than I did to get through that stacking doll style wrap job at my birthday. Then again, he's threatened me with duct tape for my next present. Sigh... let this be a lesson in escalation, boys and girls.

Speaking of escalation, here are some wicked cute pics of my bro:

I don't remember that railing, but that has to be the house we initially moved into when we first came to the state. I hardly remember that tricycle, either, but he seems to be enjoying it, doesn't he?

I don't remember those jammies, but that has to be the same house as before. The hat is our father's (I think we still have it somewhere) the ball and bat saw quite a bit of use, even though neither of us became anything resembling athletes. Oh, and Mr. Potato Head's mouth and glasses were never quite the same again!

All cuteness, kidding, and escalating wrap-jobs aside...

Happy, happy birthday, Brother. We love you.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh
092207 (birthday)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Something Serious

By now any loyal reader of my blog knows where I stand on the subject of censorship of all kinds. In a recent New York Times article, the world became aware that the Federal government (Yes, OUR government.) has decided that it has the right to systematically purge the chapel libraries in the federal prison system.
This purging does not only target texts with a violent philosophy, because the government didn't have the wherewithall to actually read all of the titles that were already in the prison chapels. So they created a very limited list of "approved" texts and are removing all other titles from the shelves. In the article, a professor of law, Douglas Laycock, summed up the situation this way:
“Government does have a legitimate interest to screen out things that tend to incite violence in prisons,” Mr. Laycock said. “But once they say, ‘We’re going to pick 150 good books for your religion, and that’s all you get,’ the criteria has become more than just inciting violence. They’re picking out what is accessible religious teaching for prisoners, and the government can’t do that without a compelling justification. Here the justification is, the government is too busy to look at all the books, so they’re going to make their own preferred list to save a little time, a little money.”

Please take the time to read the Times article, and then go here to e-mail the appropriate federal official and tell our government that ours is a country of religious freedom!

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I've been really struggling with the question of whether or not to include in my links list the blog, Queersighted, which I would describe as an editorial blog from a GLBT perspective. I keep running into it, I think through my AIM page that pops up when I get on. (My handle is revjosh211, by the way.) In any case, it does deal with issues of sexuality, which makes it kind of PG13 reading. However, the perspective is always interesting, and I imagine it would help straight folk get into the heads of real GLBT folk, as opposed to those swishy stereotypes that have been so thoroughly integrated into our popular culture.

Besides which, I simply had to share with you this scam that I just read about on Queersighted. Apparently there's a website that claims to be able to scientifically test whether or not your baby is gay. You just make your child lick a piece of paper and then send it in to them. And then they "test" the saliva on the paper to see if your baby is gay, and send you the results. Oh yeah, and they charge you 20 bucks for it. Please, for your own sake, do not give such people money. First of all, I don't think there is any such test. Secondly, in my opinion, it's a lot healthier to just let your child grow up as he or she will. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be a good parent and raise your child right, but... geeze, there are so many more important things to be concerned about when it comes to your baby, ok?

"No, Mom, don't make me lick the paper!"

Finally, I ought to mention that our church is going through the Open & Affirming (or ONA) process. This is an opportunity for the church to learn and grow in their faith and understanding through a great deal of dialogue and discussion around issues of sexual orientation as it relates to the church and issues of hospitality and welcome in general. I have created a links list for Open & Affirming, and I have tried to be very even-handed so people can use them all to make informed decisions.

I'm afraid I do have one more "socially liberal" link than I do "conservative" (yar, we need better nomenclature) because I thought I ought to include PFLAG. So if any of you know of something that's like PFLAG from the "other" perspective, feel free to let me know, and I'll include it!

And if any of you know of a way I can have these conversations with fewer words in "quotes" feel free to tell me that, too.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Monday, September 10, 2007

Keepin' On Keepin' On

Quote of the Day

"Hey, Smart-Athletic-Son-of-Parishioner, what did you think of the new service?"
"It was awesome!"

I can't say it any better than that. It went well, I did use the long hyphonated string from the previous post in my welcome, and it got applause! Gasp and surpise! Although, later on one parishioner did tell me she had problems with my use of the word "boring." I've considered that, and the fact is, most of the teens, preteens, and childlings I work with do find the traditional service to be excruciatingly boring. *shrug* Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone who helped (and will continue to help) make this service run so well! And I'd like to thank Elizabeth for her comment on my last post. Maybe it's just a little shallow, but it's always nice to get some praise and thanks for hard work accomplished!

Well, Senior Pastor is taking the last of his vacation time, so I'm in charge. Lots of writing to be done...

Be good to each other.
Rev. Josh

Friday, September 07, 2007


Ok, so, apparently I'm really not capable of posting every day. Which I think makes the past couple of days the fastest lapse ever. In any case, I've been working really hard on a Power Point presentation for our brand—spanking—new—right—out—of—the—box—some—assembly—required—informal—experiential—experimental—multimedia—alternative—to—the—same—boring—old—Sunday—morning—worship—service service. And now I'm totally going to have to try to remember that whole huge thing for the welcome Sunday night.

Anyway, I've been using a lot of stock photos from stock.xchng for this project, I'd I thought it'd be nice to show you some of my personal favorites...

Absolutely gorgeous sky, what else is there to say?

Speaking of experiential, this young woman looks like she's caught up in the Holy Spirit, doesn't she?

I wonder if anyone who will be at the service has ever seen an icon of Christ before?

I was looking for an image that says, "Dancing in the Light of God." I think I found it.

I'm really excited about this new service, I'm sure it's going to be sparsely attended to start off with, but I also believe that if we stick with it, it will grow. (And so will the church.)

Be good to each other!
Rev. Josh