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It's raining here today, just like it did yesterday afternoon. Started around 2pm, now ninety minutes and probably an inch and half later and it's just now letting up a little bit. That's a good thing for the most part, since we (a) need the rain, and (b) it cools things way down in the sultry humid sweaty nasty Midlands of SC. We're going to "chill out" at friends' tonight, letting the kids bring some DVDs and the Gameboy, letting us just sit around and enjoy one more weekend evening before school starts back and the end of summer leads into the busyness of this fall.

I wrote in my wirebound notebook this morning that I'm seeing things from a different perspective right now. It's overwhelming that there's so much to do, and it's overwhelming that there's no real overwhelming pressure from anyone other than myself. I want to do a good job, want to design and implement and deliver on what's expected - and I'm the one who's pressuring myself to do just that. I'm hoping it's a form of ownership for the project, not a delusional need to please. Naah - can't be that.

I'm reading by Rob Bell - man, I wasn't ready to get blindsided like that. In chapter two ("movement two", if I'm following correctly), Bell is writing on interpretation and the need for community to look at what's written in the Bible and determine how that's to be lived out in real life. I've wrestled with some of this already, so I was reading and not really paying attention when he got to the point of wifely-submission-to-husbands. "What about the verse that talks about women having authority over their husbands?" (p. 043) - what? I never knew there was a verse that said that, so I looked it up per the reference, and there it is: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Cor. 7:14, nas). It's not that I thought we didn't already have a healthy idea of what the passages in Ephesians 5-6 meant in terms of mutual submission in relationships and in the marriage relationship in particular, just that I'd never put the one passage side by side with the other, including the same author and the same Holy Spirit doing the inspiration of these seemingly paradoxical paragraphs. I think the "broadside" was just that here's another example of "black and white" being alot more grey than we're usually comfortable with. It's only together, in marriage and together as a group of like-minded and challenged-to-grow Christians, can we hope to make sense of what God's given to us in His Word.

Looks like the rain has slowed to a slight drizzle, and the temperature is in the low 70s rather than the upper 90s as it has been this past week. For now, the deluge might be this post, more than the rain that's still streaming down the gutters out on the street.

[photos from WISTV.com]


Poll #6

#6 - or ?

Poll #5

#5 - Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse?

Poll #4

#4 - In regards to FOOTBALL: NFL, NCAA or weekend shopping?

Poll #3

#3 - 70s, 80s or 90s?

Poll #2

#2 - Who wins in a battle? Batman or Spider-Man

Poll #1

Blog-block - lots going on, but writing is blocked up. So for an inane Saturday evening, here's some polls. Woo hoo.

#1 - coffee, tea, soft drink, water?



Photo Friday: Somber

Snapped on my drive this morning, just after sunrise. Quiet and overcast, actually a very peaceful and thoughtful kind of morning.



The trailer for looks like a freaky future philosophical psychological treatment of life and culture - and looks really cool with animation drawn over live action. I am such a geek.

Evening Commute

   John reached up to turn off the flourescent lights around his cubicle, dousing the white light that had been bothering his eyes all day, especially the one with the slight flicker on the left. His PC was shutting down, his notebook was closed for the day, and he was just looking forward to getting out of the building. Good day, but a long day, and it was going to be nice to leave on an up-note for a change.
   He switched off the monitor, grabbed his bag and this morning's travel mug, pushed his chair under the desk, and headed down the aisle towards the security desk in front of the elevators. "Good night" was all he said as he walked by mostly empty cubes and two or three co-workers still trying to shut down for the day. He waved at the security guard and got a pleasant, "Have a nice evening", for that - you can tell he doesn't mind doing what he does, John thought to himself, even as the guard was thinking much the same thing.
   He walked out into the twilight, sunset about fifteen minutes in the past and the moon just beginning to rise above the trees to the left. His car was further than normal from the building - he'd been early this morning for a conference call so the primo spots had been ripe for taking, but he'd decided to park in the shade and walk a little further, let others have those spots if they wanted. He appreciated the walk right now, allowing him to enjoy the early winter breeze and the rustle of the leaves across the parking lot. He might've been humming as he walked, or at least looked like he should be.
   As he got to his car and unlocked the doors, opened the backseat for his bag and then the front driver's side door for himself, he took in the smell and the sounds and the feeling of the wind on his face one more time. And he smiled. Settling into the car, he smiled at no one in particular. And as the car came alive for the drive home, he closed his eyes and thanked God: I've known You have loved me, but thank You for making sure I really felt it today. He turned off the news talk radio station - fun enough this morning but out of place in comparison to the steadiness and firmness in his heart right now - and he drove home.


A/C, Books, GLC Hatchbacks

It's hot down here in the sunny south, but I think it's mainly because we've been pampered with relatively mild summers the past few years. It rarely got above 90F last year, much less close to 100F, so I'll stop complaining.

Besides, thinking back to those wonder years of growing up, all I can remember is how hot it was in my Mazda GLC. Little four-door-hatchback, with black vinyl seats and 4/55 air-conditioning (roll down the four windows and hit the interstate at 55mph to cool off). We took that car with its great mileage on a trip to Texas one summer - ten hours a day, stops along the Gulf Coast, in the middle of summer. Did I say there was no a/c? And we survived the heat, along with the pestering going on in the backseat between my brother and I, and the constant country twang coming from the radio.

No DVD player, no Walkman or iPod, no Gameboy - well, we might've had a couple of those handheld Radio Shack football games or something. And books, because I used to read alot and could knock out a whole novel on those trips. I read Shogun by James Clavell on one trip, either to Texas or a weekend to Convington, GA - about 1200+ pages, more than my Bible, and I thought I was something else (yeah, a book geek). Those were the days. The sweaty, nasty, sticky, kick-your-brother-back-to-his-side-of-the-backseat days.

Speaking of which: would someone go on out and start my car, turn on the A/C before I have to leave the building? It's 99F, and ninety minutes might be enough to cool it off a touch before my evening commute. Thanks.


My wife complimented me on my choice of shirts this morning, noticing that the short-sleeved button-down had more orange than she realized. All I knew was that this looked better with the burnt orange comfy tshirt than the lime green one did. There's orange in there? It's a good thing men have wives. Keeps us from embarrassing ourselves in plaids and stripes (which you can tell when guys get themselves dressed for early tee times at the country club!).



Jesus had wrinkles.

Specifically, smile lines and frown lines. Jesus had facial features, and by the time He was thirty-three he had to have had some lines around His eyes, some creases where He alteratively smiled and wept in the presence of people and in the interaction of lives. I don't know why that struck me particularly cool today - something between what I was reading and what we were discussing in this morning's , along with the travel conversation to and from the Charleston area.

One of the "entries" in the blog book is God commenting on facial features, how He pleasures in seeing the expressions our faces come up with in response to life's happenings. And in having a body and a face, the fact the Jesus had these facial features, too - that's just cool. Jesus laughed, Jesus cried - his face had wrinkles because He lived life like the rest of us.


Learning Day

I'll be in Mt. Pleasant today, spending time at Seacoast Central to learn what's going on, how to promote the upcoming series recruit and retain volunteers at church. It's already muggy outside, but I'm hoping the breeze off the water will cool things down there. I'll also try to take some snapshots of the new bridge in Charleston, see what all the fuss is about.

UPDATE: Donna's right - no sea breeze cooling anything off down here! But the time is well-spent, and it's good to get away and get motivated to do what you do better. More later.



The hopeful author sat down to go through his notes, through his journals, through a few personal websites to see if there was anything worth running with, anything likely to tag the notice of a potential publisher. Over the years, his writing had been undisciplined, unacclaimed, and largely unpursued as a viable career path. From the first doodles and devotional thoughts in small, spiralbound notebooks from the eighties, to the updated and upgraded possibilities of blogs and online journals, he knew that the only person really impressed was himself, and that if anyone else enjoyed it... well, they're probably just as scatter-brained and undisciplined as he was. But at the suggestion that he write a book or publish some of his work, he was intrigued enough to at least sift through the years, looking back at life as it had been penned.

He'd been writing off and on for over twenty years - mostly on, rarely away from a pen and paper or from a keyboard for a month or two over that time. He'd documented screwy high school dilemmas, difficult tests and papers in college, trials and tribulations growing up in the church, and his own thoughts on living life and growing in Christ. Looking back at it all now, some of it honestly stood out as very mature for someone who didn't have a clue; but most of it was still drivel, still clueless, still pompous and sarcastic. He tried to recall what was going on in "real life" as he'd written many of these words - what party had gone wrong, what job had gone right, what test had been failed, what life had been wasted, what was God saying then and there?

Blank pages or a blank screen - whatever was going on in life had been a writing prompt, with a few writer's blocks thrown in for good measure. Right now, though, it seemed to be all bottled up, locked up and unable to move forward for its own weightiness and carelessness. How much time had been wasted writing down life, instead of living it? How much life had been lived that was, as a consequence of not paying attention and doing it right, in the end unworthy of being memorialized? He couldn't shake the thought that his best years, and subsequently his best writing, might never have materialized for a lack of understanding the full weight and risk of a life lived well.

He was hopeful, but realistic, too - knowing that quantity didn't equate to quality, and only the one living the life written down faithfully for so many years would be able to add to its chapters anything ultimately redemptive and inspiring. As he paged through his writing, flipping through the chapters on so many college-ruled pieces of paper - he thanked God that there was still more paper, still more to be written, still more ink in the pens and space on the websites to make something worthwhile. If anyone else wanted to read - they would enter the process at their own risk, no promises from the aspiring author.


Why does Monday morning have to come so darn early? It's going to be hot here today, projected hottest days so far this summer, oh joy. So my shower and morning coffee will be the comforting highpoints of the day, followed by a slow and steady melting from now to bedtime tonight.
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
- John 15:13, NIV

"This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends."
- John 15:13, MSG



Today's a day for us to reflect on who we are in Christ, what we're about as Christians, how we're to live as life has been dealt. This morning's sermon on the sixth commandment, "Don't kill", dealt with anger as well as murder, using Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount on how speaking down to others is just as bad. When anger rips through our relationships, it's murderous - that's weighing on me this afternoon. We're going to see some friends tonight, folks from our old church who've stayed in touch. Much that happened was hurtful and painful on my part, and having the sermon bring a reminder this morning was kinda nuts.

UPDATE: We had a wonderful time Sunday evening, playing with all the kids in the pool and generally enjoying being with friends. We've lost touch over the past year; not having the connection of seeing someone each week at church, you just don't hold onto the relationship in the same way. But these folks are good friends, and life moves forward, doesn't it?


Up, Up and Away

Saw this posted at the Brandon Routh website. He's playing in the upcoming film, and I'm getting my expectations way way up there. After Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men have proven to be the cream of the crop so far in superhero flicks, and even Fantastic Four, Daredevil and some of the others doing an okay treatment of the genre - I'm hoping Superman exceeds expectations and brings a good story to the screen. If it doesn't, at least the insignia and the marketing will be cool, won't it?

Not-So-Deep Response #4

The "gospel" as it's presented most of the time in the controlled witnessing environment that passes for "evangelism" in the western church is basically, "trust God or go to hell." While there might be truth in that statement, it isn't the Good News as Jesus preached, and it tends to turn people into Christians out of fear rather than a real passion and repentance before God, and it gives us a license to sin because "once saced always saved - at least I'm not going to hell."

The gospel is so much more than escaping future eternity in the lake of fire. It's about living life now in Christ, living as a Kingdom-citizen as described in Matthew 5-7. It's about loving God and loving others, asking questions and teaching others, maturing together and personally getting to know God better. When we scare people into believing Jesus, we lose the power of His love to make even more radical changes in their lives. And that's a real problem, with so many personal and community-level changes needed in our lives and our worldview.



Clouds on my evening commute.

Deep Question #4

I think we're on number four, but it's been a vacation-time since I posted at any length on this (scroll through the July archive for previous questions). Here's my last question, the one that really got things juiced over the past few years on what it means to follow Jesus, to love God and love others, to witness and evangelize and love your enemies.
Is this the gospel we want to spread to the unsaved world? "God loves you and has a plan for your life, but sin has hindered that plan. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and God will work His plans through you because He loves you so much. Or, ignore Him, and suffer indescribable eternal death in hellfire. Have a nice day."


Photo Friday: Attractive

If I were to own a Mustang, it would be an old one. This is a '66, taken earlier this week at the Antique Car Museum at Stone Mountain Park. Great color, great lines - and as long as it can have a/c added I won't need the convertible model. These cares have changed over the years, and I don't like the new ones as much. But I'd take this one off their hands right now.


H-E-Double-Hockeysticks Hot

Here's a screencap from my WeatherBug screen this afternoon, 2:10pm - 93F with 103F heat index and 52% humidity:

Can you say "eeewww muggy", boys and girls?

Google This

While the shot in the last post is cool, and goes the next step in looking at the world and finding where you are, where you're going - is radically cool. Here's a shot of Stone Mountain, with "terrain" on to show the rock's altitude, rotated and tiled to show the Inn (bottom left corner), the Crossroads area where the kids played most of the vacation-time (bottom right side), and the field in front of the mountain where everyone crowded in for the evenings' laser shows. Most big cities are in high-resolution, and even when it's not that clear it's cool to see the terrain, find the landmarks around town, spin through the parking lots at the mall, mouse through the Main Street districts. You can turn on "buildings" to see the skyline in New York or Atlanta or any other metropolitan areas, again adding to the real fly-over feel of the program. It's a free download (fee for the plus-version, but I haven't seen a real need for it yet), and will hopefully help out with our kids' school geography stuff later - not to mention help us in planning next year's vacation excursion.


One Giant Leap

Today's the anniversary of the first manned moon landing, 36 years ago. I don't remember what was on TV in our house that day (I was just a couple of weeks past one year old), but I'm sure someone was paying attention. Google is throwing their own tribute here.

Marriage Vows

I wanted to cuss. But I didn't. Dang it.

I'm reading through some blogs this morning, seeing what I've missed in the lives of friends, and following through some links and comments and stuff. I came across the blog of someone going through some really troubling marriage troubles. At the same time, my wife told me of a high school friend who's also having issues with her marriage. In the case of the blog, it wouldn't surprise me to see that it's a fictional account of something done for the drama of a writing exercise - but it also wouldn't surprise me to be real. As for my friend, I know they're real, and that real people have real issues and real problems and real frustrations. I know it takes work to be married, to stay married, to love the one you've vowed your life to, to be lovable, to be the person you're expected to be and to be forgiving and forgiven when expectations go unmet.

I know I don't live up to those expectations all the time - just ask around. But I try, we try - because it's worth it to love and honor in the midst of the ups and the downs. Stories like this make me want to hug my wife, to ask if there's anything I can improve on, to see if I've left anything out. I hope I won't take any of this for granted, and that I remember it's us together, not us separately, working through the big times and the junk.

is celebrating 70 years of marriage. He's 93 yrs old, been around a little longer than most of us. But I think he'd say that if they can do it, anyone can. I'm not so pollyanna-ish to think that all marriages should and will be able to work out, but that at least should be the goal when things start out. I don't know - better pre-marital counseling to "count the cost" before making the commitment? better counsel from friends and family, passing along images of parents loving each other and staying together to the next generations? Getting the couple to start talking, start forgiving, realize what they've signed on for and where they can go if they try?

Abuse is terrible. Adultery is terrible. But "irreconcilable differences" is just an excuse. "I don't love her anymore" is an excuse and a license to drop your pants on a new bedroom floor. "He just doesn't understand me" usually means you've found someone who does while you were looking for "understanding" in the wrong places. You put too much of a burden on your significant other, and when they don't measure up, you quit. Justification is as easy as it was on the playground in kindergarden: "you're not my friend anymore."

Dang it.

Shhhh - Witnessing

Up too early this morning, but the only time really when I've got some quiet to myself before the kids wake up. So I'm blog-surfing and catching up on the news, and I was prompted by this post on Tana's blog to recall a story from a few years ago.

Friends of ours own a Wings & Ribs place close to town. They're Christians, and one of their waitstaff was a very smiley bouncey Christian young woman. One of the bar regulars one night, out of the blue, asked her: "Why are you so happy all the time?" She smiled and responded, "Because I've got the love of Jesus in my heart" (big smile). To which he replied, "Oh-kay" - and left. You could argue that the exchange planted a seed, that she was loving in her bounciness and did share the love of Jesus in her response. I think that's what she did, but I also think there could've been more.

My friend, co-owner of the establishment, wanted to be more "out there" with her faith, "witness" like that to people. She was actually disappointed that she didn't think she would've responded like the server did in the same situation. In trying to encourage her, I wanted to show a different way of "witnessing" that's brought different and longer-lasting results and conversations over the years. Here's the way I would've played out the same scenario:
    Customer (C): So tell me, why are you so happy all the time?
    Server (S): Excuse me?
    C (asking again): Well, you smile all the time, and I've never seen you get upset even at jerk customers in here. Why are you so happy all the time?
    S: Why am I so happy all the time?
    C (re-stating again): Yeah - why?
    S: I can't tell you.
    C (???): Huh?
    S: I can't tell you. It's a secret.
In the actual conversation, giving the "answer" so quickly just about killed the moment. We're primed to jump all over someone asking questions like that, instead of engaging them in a real give-and-take relationship.
    C: It's a secret?
    S: If I told you, I'd have to kill you.
    C (chuckling, hopefully): Heheheh, okay - tell me your secret, and I'll take my chances.
    S: I don't think you're ready for that.
    C: Why not?
    S: It'll change you life forever, like it did mine. I don't want that kind of pressure.
    C (intrigued): What is it? Herbalife?
    S: Ok, but I warned you that this might change your whole life. Here it is - I know Jesus.
    C: Wha-?
    S: Jesus. He has me completely. He's made such a huge change in me that you've noticed, too.
Who knows where it goes after that, but I've had variations on that theme over the years with people who "see me everyday". I've just found that there's a deeper relationship to be built with a little playfulness and a smile rather than taking ahold of the conversation and having to turn it into a "witnessing moment". After exchanges such as this, I've had more follow-up chats, more real friendships, more lasting relationships than I feel I would've if I'd been more "Jesus is the Answer" in responding to questions.



We got home this evening around 6:30pm. Long drive, but the kids were super and we all enjoyed our summer break at Stone Mountain. Thinking back, we figured that we've vacationed in Atlanta in some shape or form about four times over the last seven years. Time to select a new destination for next summer, but we'll highly recommend the Park, or Six Flags, or the Braves.

Tomorrow, it's early pre-humidity-pre-heat-index yard work, and taking care of laundry from the post-trip fallout. Other than that, one more day off before going back to work on Thursday. I'm hoping to finish 1776 (it's not looking too good for the American Army right now, but I'm holding out hope), and overall just relaxing and detoxing from the drive. It's been a good week, with lots of neat memories.

Deeper blogposts later in the week. I'm on vacation.


Ohmigosh It's HOT

Here in the sunny & humid South, it's just plain ol' HOT. Almost 90 in Stone Mountain Park today, and the a/c is barely able to keep up. At least the pool has been refreshingly cool, and the kids are enjoying the waterpark as an escape from all this dreadful sweat-inducing heat.

I've posted my two favorite snapshots so far from the trip - all of the pictures are up, cellphone photos at the Flickr site, and digital snaps are loaded up at the Fotopages site (a little schizophrenic, don'tcha think?). The kids and I went to the top of the mountain Monday afternoon and went immediately to the fence protecting the don't-go-here-or-you'll-slip-off-and-die zone (Vicki hates going down that low, but the kids loved it - imagine that!).

We also enjoyed the laser show Monday night (Sunday's show was mostly rain and lightning), and today we've made a trip to the Antique Car Museum. I also want to take Trace into the museum building where the sculpture is explained, along with some of the history of Stone Mountain - I think he'll enjoy it.

Packing up and leaving for home tomorrow, so we're trying to squeeze alot into today and tomorrow morning. Just really thankful for in-room a/c right now, but mostly thankful for good well-mannered non-embarrassing children - very important when it's so dang HOT.


Sunday, Stone Mountain, Starbucks

I did a little homework before leaving town: find the nearest establishments for our stay. A store-finder page and a Google Earth excursion later, and I found a Super-Target with a Starbucks inside. Nice. Picked up a morning , got back to the inn by the time everyone else was waking up, and now getting ready for the Park Attractions.

Coffee snobs, unite. Enjoy this beautiful Sunday - the breeze and the right-now-this-morning lack of humidity and the sunshine.


Are We There Yet?

I don't mind driving, as long as I can rest when we get where we're going. That was the plan, starting out this morning from Augusta, GA, and Fort Discovery, driving the afternoon towards Atlanta before taking the beltway north to Stone Mountain, and getting in to kick back while Vicki & the kids hit the waterpark. Dinner and a Laser Show, anyone? Keep checking back here and at the Flickr site for photos and updates and overall frivolity.

Now, a nap or some book-reading, stretching the toes out before dinner.


Deep Question #4 - Weekend Edition

So here we are, having posted over the past few days on what I think of "original sin" and sin and sins and all that. My take on sin is basically "anything that's done or thought without regard for God" - and it's that lack of reality that messes up the world as we know it, as we strive to live in it.

So my next big question is: What is "salvation"? The most-used topic for evangelism is a sinner's destiny in hell, but is that enough? Is that all "being saved" is all about, escaping hellfire judgment? And if it's more than that - then what is it?

Love the Smell

Ah, I love the smell of new books in the mail. I just got a shipment of some new offerings from Multnomah Publishing:Planning on taking these three, along with 1776, along with us to Stone Mountain. Part of getting away is the chance to get quiet and read - and it's nicer when new books come in the mail to be added to the backpack. I'm hoping to find some nice quiet backporch non-humid (yeah, right!) time to relax with sweet tea or a coffee.

I'll catch up on my reading, and maybe instill a deeper sense of that in our kids, too. I used to read alot more than I do now - never a very fast reader, but I'd have time during the summer to read a few long novels, and keep a book with me all through the school year, too. Even now, I've always got at least one book in my saddlebag for any moment that might be clear enough to read a few pages, a chapter. The challenge of a good story, or good godly thoughts to stretch my life, or laughing at someone else's troubles and being thankful they're not mine - that's fun. And that smell - heh heh heh, not much of a smell on new books actually. But it would smell like a coffeehouse if I had my way.


Photo Friday: Silky

Well, some time after having kids, trust me: everything silky gets a bit less shiney, a bit more cottony, and alot more comfy. That's a snap of my pajama pants this morning, making a very nice composition of lines and wrinkles, which also come with having kids.


Gamecube, 2hrs Later

Last night, I went up to change clothes and to play Gamecube with my 9-yr-old son - something I'd been promising, something I'd been putting off. I enjoy video games, and the system is "mine" anyway, but he's into far more than I have ever been, and I know he'd just kick my tail in anything we'd play. But he had a new game rental, I had "nothing better to do", and knew that I could enjoy a little time before getting some work-at-home work done later in the evening.

Two hours later, and it's after 9pm, and it's almost bedtime, and I've still got a couple of hours of work (why I was posting so late/early), and... and I enjoyed playing a whole party game with him. He told me about all the creatures, the mini-games he'd played already, how to do the practice rounds so we'd do okay in the real battles (Mario Party 5). He was in his element, and I thoroughly enjoyed just being there - and getting my tail kicked. Very humbling to have a job, a college degree, a mortgage - and still get beat by your kid in a game. Very cool spending time, quality and quantity, with my boy. I'll need more coffee next time, though.

"Rick is..."

Got this idea from Donna's site - take your name and search on "Name is" (use quotes to keep the phrase together), and see what you find. So, here's "Rick is" to the rest of the world:

  • Rick is right (well, duh!)

  • For those who don't know, Ask Rick is your chance to submit a question to Rick. Submit your questions for Rick today! View the entire Ask Rick Archive here... (where's my royalty check for this?!?)

  • Rick is leading the fight in Jefferson City to preserve the sanctity of your family dining hour. (pass the biscuits, please)

  • Think Rick is ethical? Here's some evidence to the contrary... (hey, wait, I can explain)

  • Rick is not dead. Rick is very much alive and will continue to be that way for quite some time now. (Most days. Not Mondays)

  • Rick is also the founding pastor of Saddleback Church... (that's another Rick, got his own set of problems)

  • Rick is for children ages 7 and up. (I actually play better towards the preschool demographic!)

  • Rick is always responsive to your needs. (if "responsive" means "slow and dim-witted", then yes, I agree)

  • From hospitality suites to night clubs, weddings to trade shows;Rick is a talented, fun loving entertainer. (show me the $$)

  • Rick is one of only 20 participants of full-contact jousting... (gotta go to work - someone bring my lance, alright?)

  • Deep Late Response #3

    Let me go ahead and throw out a response to that one, since I'm not sure if it makes sense or not. We are NOT saved by anything we can do or have done on our own. Being "saved" needs to be re-thought, and eternal destination isn't the only part of this that needs to be addressed.

    "Saved" for most evangelicals means "saved from the penalty, power, and eventually presence of sin", or "saved to spend eternity in heaven instead of hell". Being saved means a get-out-of-hell-free card from Jesus, all according to His death and atonement on the Cross. But it's got to be more than that, at least according to scripture. We're "saved TO" something even more than being "saved FROM" the burning sulfur of hell. In Jesus, we're "saved TO" be used, saved to being able to approach the Father, saved to new life and new meaning. More than once-saved-always-saved, we're saved towards a life that honors and brings renown to the name of God.

    All of this is the work of God - our righteousness is filthy rags, meaning that the best we can hope to do in our own strength, which I've come to define as "sin" in previous posts, is nasty grungy mucky goopy oily stained towels. So no, there's nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven, and there's nothing we can do under our own oomph to live rightly right now.

    But - are our sins what really keep us from God? Do our sins condemn us? If we're not saved by works, are we then condemned by them? I'll post "response #3.5" when the sun comes up. And after some coffee - it'll take a good strong cup, I'm sure.

    Deep Question #3

    Getting kinda deep around here. Please watch your step, and be sure to wipe your feet. I'm up way too late, so all bets are off on whether or not this makes sense.

    Are we saved by works - meaning, can we do the right things and say the right things and be "good enough" to live in heaven with God? Or maybe, is that even the right question to be asking? And if you'll allow me a follow-up question: if we're not saved by works, are we then condemned by them?

    Keep in mind that for me, "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable response.


    Deep Response #2

    As usual, most good answers should lead to better questions. When I started questioning "original sin", and then how Jesus addressed sin in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), it struck me that "sin" was more than making a mistake, more than "missing the mark". A broader sense of sin is that it is a worldview or mindset or stronghold that discounts God's place, that leaves Him out of the picture. Sin is anything that is outside the influence of the Spirit.

    "Sins", individual and particular shortcomings, are actions and thoughts that would usually fall into these categories:
    • Ignorance - just didn't know; I don't know how accountable anyone is in this area, except to say that biblically there's instances where there's just no excuse
    • Selfishness - we put ourselves ahead of God, ahead of others, willfully standing up for our own "sovereignty"
    • Defiance - much like selfishness, making choices and actions based on what we want instead of God's will
    • Half-heartedness - I take that phrase from the description of Caleb in the book of Joshua as being "wholehearted"; this comes when we actually do the right things for the wrong motives or wrong reasons, and much of the Sermon on the Mount deals with, "you're doing the right thing, but your heart is far from Me"
    There's something more intentional in sin, where we intentionally disobey or we intentionally disregard the Father and others, that makes it more destructive than simply "doing the wrong thing". It throws all relationships to the curb, since we've lifted ourselves above any other relational factor. We're separated from God because we've separated ourselves from God. Our "condemnation" has been our choice in the matter. He is holy and perfect and knows best overall - and when we step away, we're asking for that responsiblity.

    So what are the next questions? I'll work on phrasing that in the morning. Thanks for reading this far.

    Deep Question #2

    So if "original sin" is based on the thought that we wanted a "knowledge of good and evil" outside of relationship with God (read the account in Genesis 3 and see how Eve processes the serpent's promises of god-ship), then what is sin now? What is "sin" and what are "sins"?



    My friend James in Seattle - we've been friends for over twenty years, high school buddy living the family life in the Pacific Northwest - is falling off and on the the blogging bandwagon. Very prolific, very witty, just needs to post more often, alright?!? Anyway, he's posting again at his Pacific Grits blog, and I'd encourage you to clickthru and see what's going on. And Blake G, he's been looking for you for some Bond/007 recommendations.

    Deep Response #1

    From the previous post...

    Most often, we think it's because God needed some arbitrary command in order to give man "free will" - there had to be a rule to break, so we could choose to not break it, or we could choose to disobey. In that line of thought, this is mostly an arbitrary rule. It could've been "don't eat blue paint", or "don't step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back". From scripture, I think we can discover that God doesn't work in arbitrary rules and characteristics, though. So there's got to be a reason, something behind the warning to not eat of this particular tree. Most literally, the warning to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil means that the fruit of that tree is itself bad, harmful, fatal to us as human beings.

    So the next question follows: "What's wrong with the Knowledge of Good and Evil?" - why would that be a bad thing? It's not a bad thing, unless it's something attained outside the relationship we have with God. Why do I need to know right and wrong if I'm in right standing with the Father? There are things we'd call wrong that are completely right in His eyes; and there are things we'd say are super-Christian tasks, but done outside of the empowering grace of God they're totally disobedient. There's the problem - we think we know best, and because we've eaten of the Tree, we don't need to listen to God's take on reality. We tend to judge others from our store of The Knowledge, and we judge ourselves as "not so bad" in our perspectives of Good and Evil.

    Deep Question #1

    Why did God tell Adam to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
    (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-3)

    Part of my "challenge" this week to serve Christ wholeheartedly is a self-inquisition to find out what I'm living, what I'm thinking, what I'm learning as I grow in Christ. I've posted before on previous blogs about "my stand" on sin and salvation, but I wanted to revisit. I think it's beneficial to step back and find out why I believe what I believe, why I think the way I think. And since I've come to find that it's in community that we discover what God's saying to us - checking each other, ministering together, asking questions - I'm going to ask a "deep question" in the morning and come back in the evening after work to field the responses and questions, see what others are saying together.

    [If you've heard my "answer" on this question, hold off 'til later and let others jump in first. If you don't remember my former answers, I need to be a better writer!]


    Why I Don't Live in Florida

    This is one reason why I don't live in Florida. Another reason is the humidity and the tropical moist climate. But I could live with that if I had to - not hurricanes. It's a magnet-zone for these storms. Praying that this one will fizzle before it forms even around Puerto Rico, that it'll steer into the shipping lanes and mess up someone's vacation rather than destroy lives and livelihoods. This new one could be before the end of the day. Not fun.

    Choose You This Monday

    How's this for a Monday morning challenge?
    But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
    - Joshua 24:15, niv
    Starting a new week, starting my next year of existence, opening myself up for self-inspection and finding where I fall short of the goal, I was already thinking of this kind of thing before receiving Dylan's lyrics in my email this morning. I want to be faithful to the call, faithful to follow hard after Christ - and to do that, I'm gonna have to serve somebody. Even more than the lyrical dichotomy of serving the devil or serving the Lord, I need to serve somebody, because it's in serving others that we show ourselves faithful. It's in serving others that Jesus gets to know us (Matt 25:41-46), and that we begin to know Him and the sufferings and joy of His calling.
    Serve Somebody - Bob Dylan

    You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,
    You may be the head of some big TV network,
    You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,
    You may be living in another country under another name

    You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride,
    You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side,
    You may be in a barbershop,
    you may know how to cut hair,
    You may be somebody's mistress,
    may be somebody's heir

    Might like to wear cotton... might like to wear silk,
    Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
    You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
    You may be sleeping on the floor, or in a king-sized bed

    But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You're gonna have to serve somebody.
    It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
    But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

    [from Daily Dig email, 07/11/2005]


    What Hurricane?

    Found this photo at Yahoo! News, watching a caffeinated human braving the elements to satisfy that itch. Hurricane Dennis has made landfall as a Cat3 storm - but who cares? Where's my latte'?

    Easy Like Sunday Morning

    My wife asked me to get up to let the dog out this morning. That and a bathroom break were the only things that would get me out and keep me out of bed. Slept really well, dreamt a little - did I really dream that I was the fifth member of the Fantastic Four? - but now I'm awake and ready for my morning coffee.

    Watching coverage of , praying that lives will be spared and that homes will be protected. Storms like this bring such destruction, and there's no one to blame, no "war on hurricanes" to fight. I flew around Hurricance Frances last year, coming back from Puerto Rico after that storm missed the island. I saw so many blue-tarp-covered homes while flying over Orlando and the east coast of Florida. The pictures on TV aren't so bad when watched from the comfort of my living room. Seeing it is worse, and I don't have anything to compare it to since I've never actually lived through anything like that in "real life".

    At church this morning, the current series is going to hit on the fourth commandment, "Keep the Sabbath". I'm looking forward to the sermon, because this is one of the ten that's very easy to get legalistic about, or to completely lose sight of God's intentions. Keeping the day "holy", making sure there's real rest, and still honoring God is tough to nail down most of the time. We're inclined to think "you can't do this or that because it's Sunday", rather than the more positive "here's how you can honor God" type of outlook.

    Coffee's ready, time for a shower, paying attention to what's going on today, what the Spirit is saying to those with ears to hear.


    Fantastic Movie Night

    Ok, I just couldn't help myself with the post title. It's not , but was a very good film. Very much like , for me it was driven by the relationship issues. I only really got into DC Comics growing up, and the only titles I paid attention to were Spider-Man and FF, so I've got some history working with the characters. I appreciated how they discovered themselves somewhat through the tragedy-to-destiny change that altered them to their superhero status. Interacting as friends and family, even as they tried to work together as a team, was the result of a decent story and what I thought was really good dialogue. What was said fit the moment and the character speaking, especially Johnny Storm's quick and sarcastic wit (why did I get into that so much more?).

    BATMAN BEGINS is good enough to deserve an Oscar nomination in my opinion, and FF doesn't fit that same mold. But it works as a heroic story on its own, and I'm looking forward to the extras that are bound to fill the DVD.


    Got a new watch for my birthday. Very nice, and my son is impressed that the hands glow in the dark. Thanks, Sweetie!


    Four times Nine plus One

    HBD 2 me.

    Mom's taking me out to breakfast this morning, Vicki & the kids are coming home from the mountains this afternoon, and the is on the agenda for tomorrow. Not a bad way to celebrate thirty-seven years of breathing in and breathing out.


    Photo Friday: Candid

    Don't remember why everyone was mad, but it probably made me laugh.



    Oh no. is starting tonight. Not a reality tv junkie at all, but I can watch this one at the beginning to see the players and personalities, then watch the last few weeks to get the winners. Kinda like the NBA, huh?


    "It is important that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world."
    - [via HughHewitt.com]
    The problem is that it doesn't take mush determination at all to "cause death and destruction to innocent people", and a great deal of fortitude to press on in spite of the opoosition and attacks.

    War & Peace

  • A problem with the is that the opposing sides have different agendas. USAmerica and "the free world" wants to ulitmately "save" the terrorists, bringing perpetrators to justice and evangelizing the people groups towards capitalism and democracy, showing them the error of their ways and that there's a better solution to living life, to finding success. We want to propogate the , hopefully opening new markets and creating more wealth to spread around (or to hoarde, take your pick).

    The terrorists, on the other hand, want everyone else dead.

    It's not a debate; it's not a ideological discussion. It's one side arguing for peace, and the other side shooting. We have our weapons, too, and "fighting for peace" is an oxymoron of the highest degree. But it's the reasoning behind it all that backfires on us, that determines our tactics and our resolve. We want them to like us and to be like us; they want us dead.

  • 7.06.2005

    Holy Crap

    I only wish I'd written this. Many similar instances back in the day...

    Golf Bubbles

    Playing on the third hole's fairway, blowing bubbles before lightning bugs came out.

    In Vain?

    Change Your Name

    A man in the Army of Alexander the Great who was also named Alexander, was accused of cowardly actions. He was brought before Alexander, who asked what his name was. He replied softly, “Alexander.”

    “I can’t hear you,” the ruler stated.

    The man again said, a little louder, “Alexander.”

    The process was repeated one more time, after which Alexander the Great commented, “Either change your name or change your conduct.”

    Source unknown, linked @ bible.org
    I usually have at least one take-away from each week's sermon. This past weekend's topic in the series titled "10 Simple Rules" was the third commandment: "you shall not take the Lord's name in vain" (Exodus 20:7). Mac Lake, one of the teaching pastors at Seacoast, really broke it down for me when he took apart the meanings of the words. Literally, God is charging His people to not take up or carry "His name" in a manner that damages His reputation or diminishes His character. More than just avoiding using the names of God in cussing and such (the middle name of Jesus Christ is not "H.", and that sort of thing) - there's more the feeling that we represent the Father here on earth, and that representation should bring Him honor and renown. Too many times, Christians take it upon themselves to stand on opinions and on political platforms. Instead, I need to be about showing His truth, His love, His grace & mercy to those around me.

    I wonder how many times I take God for granted, "taking His name in vain" and bringing dishonor to His name? I wonder how many times He is pleased that I carry His name, loving others in truth and being the salt & light He's made all of us to be? Midweek thoughts to chew on, meditating on His name.


    Strange Bedfellows

    ABC has cancelled "Welcome to the Neighborhood" amid controversy over the display of bigotry.
    "Anger about the series even united the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (which found it 'really disturbing' to watch privileged couples vote out families they don't like) with the Family Research Council (which worried that conservative Christians would appear like overly judgmental buffoons)."
    - CNN.com, "What was ABC thinking?"
    Christians looking "like overly judgmental buffoons"? Nyaah - no way. This show had no chance, but at least it brought people together - unifying enemies in a common goal to not look stupid or be embarrassed.


    July Fourth

    I'm the first one up this morning - just the way I like it. I would probably enjoy sleeping in, too, but I'll take peace and quiet when I can get it. I think I'll haul this book around with me today - by David McCullough. Got it for my birthday, and it seems appropriate today to read about the men who committed treason, wanting something more than the status quo for their families and this land.

    Last summer, I read Joseph Ellis' , looking at the relationships between people as they made decisions (and put off decisions) in giving birth to a new country. I liked the narrative of the personal letters between friends and between foes, seeing that these men treated each other as gentlemen for the most part - a welcome sight when going through last year's mudslinging political campaigns.

    We live in a country that has been given much, and from which much will be required. "God Bless America" and "God Bless the USA" really needs to be replaced with a heartfelt desire to be a blessing to the rest of the world. It seems like we try to do just that, but somewhere in the mix capitalism and let's-make-money-on-this-ism kicks in and we lose sight of the goal: blessed to be a blessing. I think the "founding fathers" would be proud of a lot of things, and would just shake their heads at many more. We can do better, and I'm praying that we will.

    That's my prayer and my rant for the day. I'm going to start a pot of coffee, enjoy my book while watching the morning news, and look forward to BBQ and peach ice cream later on in the heat & humidity that is summer in South Carolina. Hope y'all have a great fourth.



    In one of her front-porch sermons spoken from the pulpit of her rocker, Miss Ella had told him that if anger ever took root, it latched on, dug in, and choked the life out of whatever heart was carrying it. Turned out she was right, because now the vines were forearm-thick and formed an inflexible patchwork around his heart. Tucker's too. Mutt was bad, but maybe Tuck's was the worst. Like a hundred-year-old wisteria, the vine had split the rock that once protected it. (p. 7)
    The reader is introduced to Miss Ella in the lower-cased Roman numeral pages of the preface, and she continues to speak to her young charges throughout the narrative. , by Charles Martin (copyright 2005, WestBow Press), takes us into the troubled South and chews us up on the scenery, the dialect's drawl, the humidity of late October. Mutt and Tucker Mason are raised in their father's home by Miss Ella, a young (in the beginning) black woman hired as a housekeeper but expected to be their nanny. She takes the responsibility as she seems to do everything else: doing her best, pleasing the Lord, teaching them from her own experience and from those who've taught her. The boys' father, Rex Mason, is evidently rich and important, inferiority feeding self-indulgence and greed - too rich and too important to be expected to live at home raising young'uns. When he is home, his own demons get the best of him, and anger and alcohol lash out at everyone in the house, Miss Ella included.

    With a style that flowed as two parts Grisham and one part Faulkner, Martin draws the reader in with first person narrative for Tuck, flashback chapters, third-person observation of other characters and a very descriptive and engaging prose. His descriptions of Clark's, a typical southern creekside seafood joint, actually made me hungry while laughing at how I've been in places just like that. New characters are introduced for story-flow, but the main thread of Mutt's escape from the mental hospital and Tuck's journey back through his own repressed memories, along with Miss Ella's steady guidance even years after passing away, is what feeds this story and keeps the reader turning pages.

    Martin's first novel, The Dead Don't Dance, has already been adapted for a Hallmark movie to be broadcast in the future. This second novel would make a good solid movie, too, if not a two-night mini-series. The reader is drawn to the characters, drawn to the scenery, drawn to the unfolding story - all that's needed for a deep and challenging summer novel.

    Morning Breath

    After yesterday's loooooooong waaarrrrmmm day, waking up this morning was tough. My watch was set to go off, and kept going off and kept going off before I got up to throw it across the room. My ankles hurt - I wore sandles yesterday, and when it's hot and sweaty out my feet slip around alot, so it feels like I twisted it all day.

    Our cats are going nuts right now. I'm going to hop up and limp into the kitchen, make some coffee, and get ready for church. I'm looking forward to this morning, and then to just chilling out for the afternoon and finding a quiet place to nap somewhere sometime after lunch. I've got a book to read and a review to post later, too.

    Good to be me. Painful at times, but good.



    The worldwide concert is cool. Poverty and injustice in this fallen world are not cool, and are as much a moral issue as anything else we'll face in this world. Even during the yard sale, we've got the XM Roady inside tuned to . Very cool listening to Bono and Paul McCartney a bit ago, and Coldplay coming up next in London.

    UPDATED: my favorite quote of the day, reported at CNN.com -
    "On Independence Day weekend in the United States actor Will Smith, host of the Philadelphia show, said people had united for a "declaration of inter-dependence."

    "Today we hold this truth to be self-evident: We are all in this together," Smith said."

    Yard Sale Follies

    Here's some photos of this morning's yard sale:

    Last night, most of this stuff was in our living room. Hopefully we'll take the initiative to clean up the attic after all this, but none of it is going back up there. Trust me.

    We started putting stuff out before sun-up,filling up the driveway. Who knew it would get so damp after a night of rain and 100% humidity?

    Vicki told me to go inside or at least keep my mouth shut. I'd be giving this stuff away just to get it out of the house, and she's actually hoping to make some $$$.

    The "sale" was listed as starting at 7am - meaning that people started pulling up in the dark at 6:30am. I tried to tell everyone that prices were doubling at 7am, that the early bird special was over. No luck.

    See anything you like? Make us an offer, and come pick it up, and its yours. Unless someone carts it off to the flea market before you get here.

    Lemonade, 25c - and a smile if you're lucky!

    UPDATE, POST-FRIVOLITY: Well, we didn't make as much $$ as we wanted, but it's all gone. We took three truckloads to a local charity and got receipts for the write-off. On the way there, we passed a store that'll sell your stuff - and one lady who bought quite a bit was there re-selling. More power to her.



    Photo Friday: Used

    Here's my 1999 Honda CRV - bought it used, just flipped 108K miles, and sepia-toned because I thought it looked cool.